*How Asia Works*

How Asia Works is a book by Joe Studwell which contrasts the successful development of capitalist Northeast Asia(Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan) with the “paper tigers” of capitalist Southeast Asia(Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines). He doesn’t analyze India, the middle East, or the authoritarian disasters such as North Korea and Burma. Studwell mentions three key policies that Northeast Asia got right and Southeast Asia got wrong: land reform, industrial policy, and finance.

The main weakness of the book is that it does not consider HBD as an explanation for the differences between Northeast and Southeast Asia.



Richard Lynn’s data on global IQ. Each individual data point should be taken with a grain of salt, but the overall pattern is undeniable

Land Reform

Studwell’s argument is that land reform is essential to increase crop yields, providing the surplus that funds industrialization. Agriculture by farmers who own small plots they work intensively(“smallholders”), is more efficient than tenant agriculture. Why?

According to Studwell, it’s because farmers have an incentive to farm intensively and maximize yields. If they have to pay rent to a landowner, and especially if they have to pay a percentage of their crops to a landowner, they do not have as much of an incentive to produce. It’s the same process that dissuades someone from working if they have to pay a 50% tax rate.(In East Asia, paying fifty percent of one’s crops as rent was not rare.) High rents starve them of capital, preventing them from being able to make investments to improve their yields. With access to capital only at usurious rates of interest, farmers know that the return on any investment they make will go to paying the interest. Wage labor on plantations is also inefficient as the workers have no incentive to work hard.

In Northeast Asia, the data seems to support this, land reform in Taiwan, Japan, and Korea is associated with greatly increased yields. In Japan, yields increased under land reform in the early Meiji period, ceased increasing as land reform was slowly reversed, and then increased during the post war period when it was definitively accomplished. In communist China, yields increased during the early communist period when land was redistributed, then declined once collectivization was imposed.

But would this same process work in Southeast Asia? Studwell claims that the crops in question do not matter, pointing out that sugarcane, a tropical crop, is grown more efficiently in Taiwan than in Southeast Asia despite less favorable climactic conditions. But maybe the people differ, and would respond differently? Maybe, if freed from the burden of paying a high rate of rent to landlords, farmers would produce less? This is where HBD, or, less likely, ‘culture,’ come in.

In the Philippines, a small percentage of land has been redistributed to the tenants, and according to Studwell, the farmers who received redistributed land are no more productive than the farmers who farm rented land.[1] Studwell attributes this to a lack of the kind of governmental support for smallholders which existed in Northeast Asia. Denied capital, they can only turn to their former landlords, who will charge usurious rates of interest. About one place in the Philippines Studwell writes:

“It is hardly surprising that an emblematic image one sees in Negros is the ‘reform’ family that immediately leased its land back to the landowners and now sits around a karaoke TV set bought with the proceeds of the advance. In the absence of any real chance of household farming success, people put their capital into a KTV machine and sing in a shack.”[2]

Although Studwell points to the gradual reversal of land reform in pre-world war II Japan, showing it is not exclusive to Southeast Asia, it is hard not to imagine that there may be an IQ/time orientation explanation for the reform family’s behavior.

There’s also HBD’s effect on whether land reform will happen in the first place. In the Philippines, land reform was supposed to occur, but bribery of officials and violence against farmers often prevented it, while in other cases former landowners negotiated agreements with their former tenants which left the situation de-facto as it was before. While being a high-IQ country is no guarantee that land reform will happen, it will assure that once the government declares it as a goal, it will probably happen.

Studwell points to the higher yields of a certain group of Philippine land reform families which were supported by an NGO, but also says they are “more politicized, better educated, and more articulate than the 250 other families which do not have NGO support.”[2] The direction of causality here is unclear. He points out that across Southeast Asia farmers keep small gardens where they grow food for personal consumption, he claims these are the most productive spaces in the region, but small gardens may not scale up to big farms. The strongest evidence he has is the fact that, in British colonial times, smallholder rubber farming was more efficient than big business rubber plantations. However, many of the rubber workers were ethnic Chinese, who by 1947 were 38% of the Malaysian population, Studwell does not mention the ethnicity of the smallholders.

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Automation: Why It Will Be Different

In the early 1800s, most people were employed in agriculture. Gradually, agriculture went from employing most people to employing ~2% of the population. No mass unemployment resulted. Similarly, advanced nations have seen employment in industry decline as production increases, again with no mass unemployment. Many conclude that even if the large majority of jobs are automated, we’ll find new jobs.

But in what? It’s hard to imagine, but didn’t they face the same problem in 1900? We do have jobs that someone in 1900 could not have imagined such the computer programmer, but most of the jobs people shifted to fall into two categories:

  1. Jobs that existed in 1900 such as restaurant cooks, insurance sailsmen, hotel workers, ect.
  2. Jobs which did not exist in 1900, such as airline pilots, but which serve as a substitute for something which did, as the airplane substitutes for the ship and the train.

Someone in 1900 could have imagined how many new jobs would be required if the working classes were to live like the top 5% in that era. A lot more construction workers would be required to make the houses larger. More cooks would be needed in the new restaurants. More hotels as tourism boomed. Paved roads covering a larger portion of the country. More universities and theaters. More financial institutions to put the newfound wealth.

And that is basically what happened in the 20th century. In some of those things, we got substitutes, TV substituted for theater, airplanes for passenger-transporting trains. There were some totally new products, video games and types of junk food, but the vast majority are working to supply a product or service, such as transportation from point A to point B, which existed in 1900.

Now imagine that same thought experiment today, the working class suddenly starts living like the top 5%. You would see new demand for jobs: larger houses once more, more travel, more universities, ect, but the magnitude of this demand would not be nearly so great. Many of the goods consumed by the top 5% are simply positional goods, no bigger, nor requiring any more labor to produce, than their cheaper alternatives.

So what will the future look like?

In the short term, economies may still see a healthy amount of jobs produced as consumption increases. More people will travel, people will buy larger houses, and more people will go learn useless stuff they will end up forgetting at universities, both creating jobs at universities and taking students out of the labor pool for 3 or 4 years. Government will employ ever more people in jobs of dubious value, enforcing regulations and providing various forms of “help” to the growing underclass. But eventually you will reach the limit of post-scarcity, increased consumption is insufficient to cancel out the effect of automation. At that point, the government will face the choice of employing an unprecedented number of workers at even more useless tasks, restricting automation, restricting work hours, or providing some kind of basic income.

During the transitional period, wages for unskilled people will continue to stagnate. The most marginal among them, teenagers, old people nearing retirement age, and the lazy/criminal/drug addicted will drop out of the workforce. This is already being seen in America with lower labor force participation rates, especially among young men. You will also see regional variation in automation’s effects. Those regions of the country which benefit from increased consumption and/or rent seeking, such as college towns, tourist destinations, centers of government employment, will do well. Those regions which see a high degree of automation, such as those reliant on manufacturing, will become “economically depressed” even as production increases. U.S. manufacturing output is up but employment is down:


Eventually, the whole economy outside of government employment will start to look like that graph.

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The Problem in Turkey Isn’t “Islamism”

The problem with Turkey isn’t really “Islamism” or any ideology that is outright anti-democratic. The ruling AKP is more similar to the Christian Right in America than it is to the Wahhabi fanatics we normally associate with the word “Islamist.” In terms of their political vision for society, the difference between the coup leaders and the AKP isn’t much more than the difference between the Democrats and the old “mainstream” Republicans. The problem is that the people in government can’t restrict themselves to democratic methods in their power struggles. They can’t resist the urge to steal elections and launch coups. Thailand and Ukraine are similar in this respect.


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Who Could Have Predicted This?

The Jewish Daily Forward details how the Bnei Menashe, a group of people from India’s easternmost states who are converting to Judaism and who claim, against genetic evidence, to be descended from the “lost tribes,” have adapted to life in Israel:

According to Malachi Levinger, the head of the local council of Kiryat Arba, a city in the West Bank where 700 Bnei Menashe have settled, including many placed there by Shavei Israel, at least 73% of the group’s youth are considered at risk.

With their parents mostly absent because of their need to work long hours at low-end jobs, teenagers from the community are prone to alcohol abuse, petty crimes and encounters with the police, said Yoni Nachum, coordinator of Bnei Menashe programs for the local council. According to Nachum, the Bnei Menashe, like earlier communities from Ethiopia or Morocco, have seen their traditional family structure and support network upended by their move to Israel.


Once a year, Beit Miriam celebrates Bnei Menashe heritage during a “Roots Night,” but Goita said that his identity now springs from his new hometown in the Judean Hills — an exclusively Jewish settlement near the Palestinian West Bank city of Hebron that has been a flashpoint during the past eight months of Israeli-Palestinian violence. Goita said that his childhood in the West Bank has motivated him to enlist in a military combat unit that he will enter upon graduating from yeshiva.

As the Bnei Menashe celebrate their return to “Zion,” they count teenagers like Goita among their rare success stories.

But for most, while parents often work hard in cleaning or security jobs, “children are hanging out in the streets, smoking, stealing, drinking,” said Hedva Hadida, director of the Beit Miriam afterschool program.

The Israeli Right, people who ought to know better, seem to support this, because at least they aren’t Arabs:

In pushing for the immigration of groups with uncertain Jewish connections to Israel, Freund has cited ideological reasons grounded in demography.

The “others like them” refers to several groups of ‘Jews’ in Africa, Igbos, Ugandans,  and Zimbabweans, who might end up making the Bnei Menashe look tame in comparison. Willingness to practice Judaism will not be enough to “select out” the traits of the wider population.

There really is no reason to have to resort to such measures to increase the Israeli Jewish population. Israeli Arabs don’t have much higher fertility rates that Israeli Jews, which can be seen in the religious demographics of new mothers in 2015, who are 74% Jewish. The Israeli population as a whole is 75% Jewish.* Israel would only be in trouble if it decided to annex the West Bank, something which it would be very stupid to do.

*These two numbers may count part-Jews differently.

Posted in Israel, Jews, Race, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The War on Drugs isn’t Going to Stop

Opposition to the war on drugs is a fashionable opinion among the intelligentsia at present. To some, this means its end is inevitable. But the intelligentsia also went through a long period of opposition to capitalism. But, thankfully, reality and elite self interest preserved capitalism.

“Opposition to the war on drugs” is how its usually phrased. It’s rarer to hear people describe themselves as being for legalization of all drugs and rarer still for people to name specific drugs, heroin, cocaine, ect. People aren’t calling for legalizing drugs, they’re calling for drug dealers to not be punished. Can you “end the war on drugs” without legalizing them? In theory, you can. You could treat it like prostitution, where the government prevents it from taking place in the open but generally looks the other way. The prisons are not overflowing with prostitutes and pimps, and pimps don’t wage massive gang wars against one another.

Monopolizing the market through a massive gang infrastructure, as with drugs, is not profitable in the case of prostitution. It may be a matter of simple economics, the monopoly price for prostitution is low and the monopsony wage for the prostitute is so high that it just isn’t very lucrative to attempt to monopolize the market. It may be that it’s easier to monopolize drugs than prostitutes, a pile of drugs is unlikely to get up and walk out the door because the boss isn’t paying enough. Drugs can’t sell themselves.

If you decided tomorrow that drug dealers wouldn’t be punished, the strong incentive to create a monopoly through gang wars would only go stronger, as you no longer have to deal with the inconvenience of your ’employees’ being sent to prison just because they got caught with drugs. With the gang violence worse than ever, public pressure would be strong to punish the drug dealers, and even if they weren’t punished for drug dealing, they’d be punished for shooting each other. Whether or not they actually pull the trigger, drug dealers can be held accountable as conspirators. You’d have less drug dealers in prison, murder is harder to prove than drug dealing, but the people who have to live in gang infested neighborhoods would end up suffering more. The only places this would work would be in the relatively affluent areas where gang wars do not happen. Thus, “ending the drug war” could end up benefiting most the White hippie drug dealer in Boulder, Colorado.

One hope for “ending the drug war” without legalization is silk road. If under drug legalization silk road like places were not shut down, it could grow to the point where its prices are dramatically lower than those of the gangs and the gangs become unprofitable. But something tells me that Ross William Ulbricht is exactly the type of person law enforcement would like to go after in an environment where drugs are illegal but the laws are rarely enforced.

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Homophobia is No Mystery

A few years ago Jayman wrote a blog post titled “A Gay Germ? Is Homophobia a Clue?“, referring to Greg Cochran’s gay germ theory. Recently, he tweeted about it, among other people, I responded:

Evidently Jayman didn’t like my explanation:

While I think Jayman is usually spot on, in this case I think he’s suffering from a case of WEIRD(Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) bias. It is part of our modern ideology that you leave people alone. If they want to do dumb stuff, you let them. It’s none of your God dang business. But the default human instinct is to meddle in people’s affairs when they do things which are, as homosexuality is, unhealthy and disgusting. Even in America, a relatively libertarian place, we seek to stop the heroin addict from using heroin. If Homophobia is a mystery, so, too, is heroin-o-phobia.

I can think of four reasons why our urge is to meddle has evolved:

1. Simple prosociality. Even the libertarian will try to non-violently convince the heroin addict to quit. We evolved to care about others for a simple reason: those who were selfish jerks faced social rejection. And a great way to show you really do care about others is to meddle in people’s affairs “for their own good.”

2. The clannish and tribal groups of the past relied on other members of the group. If John and Danny die because they were engaging in unhealthy behavior then your tribe just lost two adult male fighters, which could mean the difference between victory and defeat in a tribal fight. The serfs of Europe inhabited a very different world, and perhaps this explains their descendants’ relatively libertarian viewpoint.

3. If your son or brother does have homosexual feelings, you don’t want him to act on it. It is disgusting, and it hurts your reproductive fitness. He’ll be much more likely to act it out if there are open homosexuals around your town.

4. Meddling acts to cement group identity. The kosher laws fostered Jewish identity, ect. This isn’t relevant to homophobia, which appears to be a human universal.

In his blog post Jayman cited Jesse Bering on studies of homophobia:

In his first of four studies, Gallup administered a survey to 167 self-identified straight undergraduate students—males and females—a survey designed to gauge the student’s “degree of discomfort” in interacting with homosexuals who held different jobs. Importantly, these occupations varied along one dimension: the extent to which the job entailed interaction with children. Included were nine sample occupations—three that afforded a high degree of contact with kids (teacher, school bus driver, medical doctor) and six that provided moderate to low contact (lawyer, construction worker, bank teller, pilot, mechanic, sales clerk). As predicted, the degree of discomfort was significantly correlated with the likelihood that persons in these categories would come into contact with children.

Jayman thinks this is evidence for the pathogen theory, people don’t want their kids to get infected. But homosexuality wasn’t all that common in pre-modern societies. There are exceptions, of course, but homophobia is found everywhere we look. Without a large number of identifiable homosexuals around, I don’t know if the selective pressure was there to give people an aversion to homosexuals being around their children. I think the real reason for the aversion to homosexuals being around children is simpler: children are impressionable, parents know this, and so parents rationally want to minimize (perceived) harmful influences. It is the same reason some parents oppose letting their kids play violent video games. It doesn’t prove that video games make children violent.

Jayman again cited Bering, who wrote that:

(…)if it’s all social learning, it’s curious, is it not, that children all over the globe must be explicitly taught not to be homophobic, not the other way around; antigay attitudes in sixth-grade boys seem as naturally emerging as language acquisition in infants. Exceptions are rare; so rare, in fact, that they make national headlines.

In addition to WEIRD bias, there is another bias that we suffer from, it’s so universal we don’t even think about it: adulthood bias. Most of us are “adults” and so when children behave in a way that is alien to us, we think “what is wrong with them?” But children are naturally more openly mean and exclusivist than adults. They bully each other in a way that most adults never would. This is the Occam’s Razor explanation for childhood homophobia.

Posted in Genetics/HBD, Homosexuality | Leave a comment

The Black Market for Marijuana Still Exists Where it Has Been Legalized

An article at the Atlantic reports that the black market for marijuana still exists in states where it has been legalized. Along with the usual anti-White lies, the article attributes the black market to the high taxes on marijuana in the legal market. In Washington, the rate is 43.5 percent, while in Colorado it’s 25.9 percent.

I don’t think the tax issue really explains it. Yes, the legal producers have to pay the taxes, but they have a slew of theoretical advantages over illegal producers, most notably that they don’t have to hide their product or worry about it being seized and their employees arrested. The effective tax rate for the cheapest vodkas is >100% in some states, yet you don’t see a big black market for that.

Rather than taxation, I think the reason why legal marijuana costs so much more is simply because the producers can get away with charging so much more. Demand for legal marijuana exceeds the supply. For now, there are a whole lot of roadblocks in the way of producing more marijuana. Landowners won’t lease land to grow it, banks won’t deal with producers, ect. The Atlantic article cites a (unscientific, as they admit) study of people who report how much more they would be willing to pay for legally sold marijuana, some said they’d pay twice as much and some said they wouldn’t pay anything extra. But a lot of people wouldn’t buy in the black market at all. They have no idea where it is, for starters. If people are willing to pay more, and the product is scarce, the sellers are going to charge more.

My prediction is that fifteen years from now there will no longer be a large “black market” for marijuana in the states where it is currently legal. The roadblocks will have been removed. Big companies will grow, process, and sell it on an industrial scale. A few people will still grow it at home and sell it to friends(growing at home is legal in some places) but, when considering the time and effort required, will not be able to make much money.

Posted in Crime, Drugs, Economics | 2 Comments