Felons and Labor Force Participation

How hard is it for a felon(or “ex-felon,” they retain the title after their release, indeed, many were never incarcerated in the first place) to get a job? There’s no clear answer, but the effect seems to be considerable, going by the proportion of employers who won’t hire felons. Felons have a low labor force participation rate, and while much of this is due to unwillingness to work, no doubt some of it is due to them simply not being able to find jobs. This has contributed to lower male labor force participation rates and is an effect that will remain invisible to most of the upper-middle class, who can point to the fact that their 16 year old got a McJob easily and thus there’s “no problem.” This decline in labor force participation has masked the effect of automation, which allowed it to occur with no obvious “labor shortage.”(Ignore the corporate propaganda, any real shortage of something will lead to an increasing price.)

What to do about it? At MR commenter “Lieutenant Leftout” suggests:

(…)So let me end by suggesting extremely provocatively that the wisest thing to do with and for this overflowing population of convicted felons, incarcerated or on welfare, undeniably a drain and source of present or future unrest and dysfunction, is to give them a compulsory work building a wall on the border with Mexico. This would be cheap labour, below the minimum wage (por supuesto hombre!), but the remuneration would be better than welfare, with the possibility of bonuses for the strongest or most productive and diligent workers. Incarcerated fellows would have something they currently lack, a method of creating savings and work ethics in the long term, possibly also work skills, preparing for the moment of their eventual release. I certainly don’t claim any originality for this idea. It’s as old as the hills .. and the ills.

The problem with this plan is that, if you’re an unemployed guy with no criminal record, you want a job building that border wall. If you are employed in a low-skilled position, you want the option to quit your job and go work on that border wall. Increased demand for your labor increases your wage. One of the main reasons forced prison labor was scaled back(it still exists) was because the labor unions saw it, correctly, as competition. It was phrased, of course, in more humanitarian terms.

And that’s why any proposal to put them, or other groups such as the homeless, to work in cases of sub-market pay will be massively unpopular. From the perspective of American workers, there is a shortage of paid work. This “shortage” will still be percieved even if unemployment rate, on paper, is low, and will continue until working class Americans start seeing some real wage growth

So, any proposal for creating more jobs would have to create them at market(or above market) rates and hope that the benefits “trickle down” to the felons. It may not at all, if the increased demand attracts non-felons back into the workforce, or leads existing workers to work more hours, and thus cutting ahead of the felons in competition for jobs. To be sure of success, it would have to increase demand(or reduce supply) considerably. Reducing immigration to zero would do it. Creating a few tens of thousands of jobs on infrastructure projects would not.

Most likely, nothing will be done. The status quo will continue, and many felons are fine with it. “Sure, mom, I’d love to work but no one will hire me because of my record.” The people who suffer most are not the felons but their families who they are “forced” to leach off of.

Posted in Crime, Economics

Trump Should Keep Talking About Israel

The American swing voter, overwhelming, sympathizes with Israel rather than with the Palestinians. Yet, he also doesn’t like to hear about Israel. Why? He knows why American politicians talk about Israel. Hearing about it reminds him of his impotence in the face of the Jewish lobby he knows about but whose existence he can’t even acknowledge. This is true whether his is a white nationalist, an American nationalist, or simply a voter who asks “which candidate cares about me?

Trump, however, is immune to the above response. When people hear him talk about Israel, they don’t hear him pandering to billionaires, they hear him speaking his mind, saying the same kinds of things they would. It also helps neutralize the “racist” attack line. Thus, while I would advise any other Republican to ignore Obama’s Israel provocation, Trump should continue to attack him about it, emphasizing how it shows he is a sore loser.

Overall, I am quite happy with Trump’s performance so far. Trump has played it masterfully. The swing voter doesn’t know the difference between Taiwan and Thailand, but seeing the media attack Trump for calling the leader of (what they see as an) independent country, out of “respect” for a communist dictatorship, certainly makes them sympathize with Trump and his condemnation of the elite’s “weakness.” About the media’s Russia-baiting, I think this has stuck in swing-voters’ minds as a negative, but by the time of the next election, they won’t see it that way anymore. Instead, they’ll see Trump as having improved relations with Russia and the media as trying to sabotage it. There’s little inherent negative feeling toward Russia by the American people apart from residual association with communism, and Trump is immune to that association.





Posted in Israel, Uncategorized

*The Remnants of War*

This book by John Mueller, published in 2004, posits that war:

“is merely an idea, an institution, like dueling or slavery, that has been grafted onto human existence. It is not a trick of fate, a thunderbolt from hell, a natural calamity, or a desperate plot contrivance dreamed up by some sadistic puppeteer on high. And it seems to me that the institution is in pronounced decline, abandoned as attitudes toward it have changed, roughly following the pattern by which the ancient and formidable institution of slavery became discredited and then mostly obsolete.”

While this may look at first glance like cultural anthropology nonsense, Mueller emphasizes the distinction between war as an institution, fought between state sponsored professional armies, and various forms of violence in general. The tribal violence that ruled human society before agriculture thus is not “war.” There is certainly some truth to this theory, as the past fifty years have seen great peace between the great powers, none of which have fought one another. Mueller cites the example of the Yugoslav wars to show this “decline of war.” The Yugoslav wars were quite unlike Europe’s wars earlier in the century. The politicians were willing to wage war, but young men were reluctant to show up. They eventually were forced to turn the war over to groups of thugs, mercenaries and even criminals released from prison in exchange for service. “The remnants of war” refers to these type of wars, wars fought by “criminalized” regimes and armies of mercenaries and thugs. Mueller emphasizes that these wars are entirely capable of creating great human misery, but they cannot hope for victory against professional armies, those in “criminalized” forces are rarely willing to die for any “cause” and they are usually poorly-trained. The book’s cover photo was taken during the Yugoslav wars:


Mueller’s theory focuses on differences in culture and attitudes toward war, rather than economic and military factors, to explain this decline in war. It is here that I believe his thesis fails.

In 1914 the rulers of France, Germany, and Russia honestly believed that the war would be a short one, and there was no specter of destruction of cities. Many really did believe the war would be over by Christmas. Suppose the rulers of the Soviet Union and China, circa 1970, had believed that their disputes with the West, or with each other, could be solved in a half-year long war with no damage to the homeland’s cities. Would they have gone to war? It’s quite possible. If our rulers are much more inherently averse to the use of war than those of the past, it is, I believe, a development that has occurred much more recently.

Mueller calls the process whereby nations drop out of “the war system,” where they avoid maintaining large armies and rely on their neighbors’ respect for their neutrality for protection, “Hollandization.” In pre-modern times, such behavior was suicidal,(unless you pay tribute to some other state for protection) but it became possible gradually in Europe from the 18th century on, with first the rightful claims of monarchs, than the sovereignty of “states,” assuring the independence of smaller territories amid giants such as France and Germany. European nations were much less likely to respect the sovereignty of non-European states, thus you saw wars of aggression and colonization. Nevertheless, one can observe a process of Hollandization there as well. There’s a spectrum between, on the one hand, the tributary state, a common situation in antiquity, and the modern Hollandized state which is fully independent but hosts American military bases. Many nominally independent states which we see as having been “colonized” fell along this spectrum. Examples include Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Kuwait, Iran, and various Indian “Princely states.” Typically, colonizing states did not demand tribute payments but did demand access to the “colonial” market, and sometimes meddled in colonial affairs in order to assure repayment of loans or protection of foreign missionaries or domestic minorities. These states became “Hollandized,” they did not maintain militaries beyond what was considered necessary for internal policing, and, when their “colonial protector” went to war, they remained officially neutral, in some cases, even if they were being invaded. While the great powers were sinking huge budgets into warships, bombers, ect, these states often maintained armies that were smaller than they had in previous generations, even as these countries were relatively wealthier.

The center of this Hollandization was in the Middle East. During World War II, as Italy, Germany and Britain were fighting in the Egyptian desert, the Egyptian state remained neutral, no Egyptian troops took part in the fighting. The French protectorates of Morocco and Tunisia had a similar experience. In Iran, the Iranians refused British-Soviet demands to intern the German population, but once the Anglo-Soviet retaliatory invasion started, there does not appear to have been any resistance to the invasion. Only in Iraq was there widespread fighting, they lost the war against Britain within a month.

Another area where a type of Hollandization started to occur was Latin America. Though it featured often brutal civil wars, there were few interstate wars after 1900.

The fact that Hollandization occurred in areas outside Europe, areas which were not very culturally modern and whose people never read the anti-war European intellectuals, tells me that it was the absolute military dominance of the Great Powers, not cultural change, which lead to Hollandization.

The Perils of Hollandization

Hollandization is good, in some respects. War is hell, as a famous general said. But whether a nation will have a pleasant experience with it will depend on what kind of neighbors it has. Hitler planned to annex the Netherlands into his “Greater Germanic Reich” which would mean the end of the Dutch state and the eventual drafting of Dutch males to fight in Germany’s future wars. Luckily, Britain and France had no such designs. But what if all your neighbors are predatory, or if the non-predatory ones won’t defend you? The Greeks and the Arabs are two nations which partially Hollandized and saw long-term defeat as a result.

It was largely because of this “withdrawal from the war system,” that the Arabs would lose modern-day Israel. At the time of the 1949 Israel-Arab war, the Jews had not more than 750,000 people in Palestine. Egypt had 19 million, Syria had 3.2 million, and the Palestinians themselves had 1.2 million. Israel drafted everyone they could. By the end of the war, they had ~110,000 men[[Edit: women too]] in arms. The Arab side, at their maximum, could field just 60,000 men. A revealing anecdote about this failure to harness their potential was recorded by the British ambassador to Jordan, Alec Kirkbride. After thousands of Palestinians were expelled from the towns of Lydda and Ramle, the refugees fled to Jordan. Some confronted the Jordanian King:

“A couple of thousand Palestinian men swept up the hill toward the main [palace] entrance … screaming abuse and demanding that the lost towns should be reconquered at once … The King appeared at the top of the main steps of the building; he was a short, dignified figure wearing white robes and headdress. He paused for a moment, surveying the seething mob before, [then walked] down the steps to push his way through the line of guardsmen into the thick of the demonstrators. He went up to a prominent individual, who was shouting at the top of his voice, and dealt him a violent blow to the side of the head with the flat of his hand. The recipient of the blow stopped yelling … the King could be heard roaring: so, you want to fight the Jews, do you? Very well, there is a recruiting office for the army at the back of my house … go there and enlist. The rest of you, get the hell down the hillside!” Most of the crowd got the hell down the hillside.

One can’t help but think of the current “refugee” crisis, able bodied Syrian men fleeing to Europe, proclaiming that there is nothing they can personally do to fix their country. Had the Arabs drafted much larger proportions of their population, say, 750,000 troops, they would have stood a very good chance at winning. The Jews in Israel(they weren’t “Israelis” yet) did not have an advantage in technology or weapons. Not all Israeli troops were veterans, and, as they say, quality has a quantity of its own. It’s doubtful that the “international community” wouldn’t have done anything about it.

Hollandization failed the Arabs, and, in the 1967 war, they learned from it, deploying a total of 240,000 troops, giving them an advantage in men on the battlefield over the Israelis. They would have deployed more, had they had time to do so.  In the 1973 war, they deployed even more. Egypt, which had sent just 20,000 men to Palestine in 1948, was able to get 200,000 men across the Canal in their ultimately unsuccessful attempt to retake the Sinai Peninsula. But they had waited too long, and now faced an organized state. In this relatively even battlefield, the Israelis were just a lot better at fighting. Today, much of the region has gone back to the pre-1948 “Hollandized” pattern of army whose goal it is to keep internal order, with no ability or inclination to fight outside its own borders.

The Greeks and Turks had seen a history of wars which ended in 1922 after the Turkish victory, with the expulsion of almost the entire Greek population of Turkey and a smaller number of Turks from Greece. This had followed earlier expulsions, mainly of Turks, from the new Christian states in the Balkans. The one area where this process of “population exchange” did not take place was Cyprus, it was ruled in 1922 by Britain. Greeks had roughly 80% of the population, they wanted the island to unify with Greece, Turks wanted the island to be partitioned. A partition would be difficult as the Turkish majority areas were scattered throughout the island. An independent “inclusive” state was created which satisfied neither side.


Greeks in yellow, Turks in purple, British military bases in red

After World War II, Greece became “Hollandized,” despite the fact that it was richer than Turkey, the latter, with a larger population, spent more on its military and by 1974 possessed obvious superiority.  That year, following a coup by nationalist Cypriot Greeks, the Turks simply invaded the island, expelled Greeks and created their Turkish state on the northern 34% of the island.


Cyprus divided

Had they invested more in their military in the preceding decades, they could have fought and had a chance, but they didn’t, and ultimately made no resistance to the Turkish invasion. The Greeks today have succeeded in isolating North Cyprus internationally, but this has not gotten the Greek Cypriots their land back.

Kuwait was an example of a state where Hollandization almost failed. There were many in America, like Patrick Buchanan, who opposed the Gulf War. Had America not intervened, the state, with it’s large oil reserves, would have been annexed to Iraq. Though I count myself as a non-interventionalist, I feel that that kind of unprovoked interstate aggression should not be tolerated.

The example of the Greeks and the Arabs are exceptional, in general, Hollandization has worked well for most countries which have tried it. Still, laying back and relying on appeals to “international opinion” won’t always get you the best deal possible if you are faced with an enemy like Turkey, a medium sized state with a strong enough military to beat you and avoid being pushed around by the great powers.

The current situation in Ukraine reflects these themes. On the one hand, the War in Donbass is a quintessential “remnant of war.” One way you can measure this objectively is look at the population of soldiers fighting and compare it to the total population, then compare this ratio to that of the powers who fought in WWI or WWII. In modern times, it should be possible to draft an even larger percentage of the population into the army. Yet look at the Ukrainian army fighting in Donbass. Ukraine has about 46 million people and, in Donbass, an estimated 64,000 are fighting. In WWI, Italy had around 36 million people and had around 5,600,000 soldiers. These comparisons are never airtight, with the distinction between drafted and deployed, and between those fighting at one time and those who fought over the entire period of war, nevertheless, the disproportion is so large, 2 orders of magnitude, that it wouldn’t make much of a difference. The Russian/Donbass side is similarly small compared to its potential. Among the fighters of both sides, mercenaries and wackjobs are well documented. And yet, in Crimea, it is the professional Russian army that is occupying the place. They took it with no resistance and there seems to be little hope of its return to Ukraine. The Ukrainian army can’t hope to fight back. It is partially Hollandized, having given up its nuclear weapons in a decision they now surely regret. The US and UK were supposed to guarantee Ukraine’s territorial integrity. How is that working out for them?

Russia hasn’t completely gotten away with it, the sanctions have stinged. And Crimea isn’t a great benefit to Putin or the Russian people. It has no oil and was poorer than Russia, imposing a burden on the Russian economy to bring it up to the Russian level. I am skeptical of the claim that Putin wants to restore some type of “Eurasian” neo-Soviet Union. Maybe he thinks in a perfect world that would happen, but look at Belarus. Many Belorussians want to join Russia, they already largely speak Russian, yet it appears to me that Putin has not done anything serious to facilitate this. Belarus, like Crimea, is poorer than Russia, containing no oil. Why, then, did Putin annex Crimea? His hand was forced by the need to save face after the Ukrainian coup revolution.

The lesson that Ukraine, Cyprus, and Palestine teach us is that if you have a competent enemy, you shouldn’t Hollandize and them provoke them into attacking you. “International law” won’t save you. But for most of the world, Hollandization works fine and will continue to do so. The first half of the 21st century is likely to continue the late 20th century pattern of mostly “remnant” wars. There’s not much to fight over and men seem reluctant to fight. Peace will reign outside Africa and the Middle East. I don’t forsee the Ukraine crisis getting any bloodier.


Posted in Israel, War | 1 Comment

Retiring the ‘alt-Right’ label

It was a good label while it lasted, short and to the point. But unfortunately, being a “big tent” label proved to be its undoing, as the nutter branch, with eager help from the MSM, has seized the label for themselves. Greg Johnson at Counter-Currents understood the original definition:

[T]he whole point of the “Alt Right” is to be a broad umbrella term for ideological tendencies that reject mainstream American conservatism. The Alt Right is thus defined in terms of what it is not rather than in terms of what it is. It has no “essence,” so what is the point of arguing about what it “really” is?

Yet, paragraphs later he understands the value of fully appropriating the term:

(…)Today’s White Nationalists need to take the same strongly proprietary attitude toward the Alternative Right. It is a vehicle of White Nationalism, and we will give it the Howard Roark treatment if it is hijacked from us. Full stop.(…)

The only reason the term even got any traction is because the “moderate” faction who the radicals hate started using it, people like Steve Bannon. Had its use been restricted to The White Stuff types, the media would simply have called its members their usual terms: “white supremacists” and “neo-nazis.” It was only because it could be used to smear Trump that the MSM started noticing the term. Indeed, with their “mission accomplished,” some in the media have already stated they will abandon use of the term.

I do think having a term is desirable. Without one, our enemies are allowed to argue that we are a small group of people united only by a grudge against National Review. We can’t really call ourselves “the Right,” even with Trump in office, we still have most of the “conservative” establishment hostile to our ideas. The Republican Party should still be thought of as a likely enemy, one whose short-term strategy will be to use Trump to advance their traditional Republican agenda through their “advisers.” My hope is that Bannon will counter their influence.(It’s as if the days of court politics have returned.) For the same reason, I’m afraid that “nationalism” and “populism” are too broad, too vulnerable to being hijacked by Glenn Beck types who will argue that “nationalism” means an aggressive foreign policy and being “colorblind.” “Neoreactionary” would be too associated with monarchism and opposition to democracy. “The Red Pill” or any variations will be too associated with the PUA/Game stuff.

My suggestion is “reactionary.” Like “alt-Right” it’s short and to the point, and has been used, sporadically, by some in the wider “alt-Right.” We don’t want it to become some narrow ideological club, on issues such as economic policy, governmental structure, abortion, ect, there should be no litmus test. The general idea will be an opposition to “1960s ideology” of feminism, race-denialism, Balkanization is our strength, ect. Like “alt-Right” it will be a big tent label, but I don’t think the problems that doomed “alt-Right” are likely to recur, they never would have done so had Richard Spencer explicitly told the 1488ers to go away.(There is little they like to do more than attack people for insufficient radicalism.)

Posted in Uncategorized

Yale Professor Makes Midterm Optional Because of Trump’s Victory, Lies About It

Via MR, Yale Economics professor Steven Berry claims that the notion of college kids as “snowflakes” is a media myth. He bases it on his experience teaching one class at one university, but his Microeconomics class is no doubt perfectly representative of his institution and American higher ed in general. His class, he says, is “graded on a strict curve.” MR commenter “Anonymous” replied:

“I’m sure you do. But in Yale itself, the average GPA is estimated to be a 3.6. This isn’t unusual among elite colleges, at Harvard “The median grade in Harvard College is indeed an A-. The most frequently awarded grade in Harvard College is actually a straight A”



In Berry’s telling, he originally scheduled a midterm exam for for November 9, 2016. On election night, it suddenly occurred to him that maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to schedule a midterm for the day after an election.

Economists like clever solutions, and I thought I had one. Every time I teach the class, I offer students in some personal difficulty the following “standard offer.” If they are unable to take the second midterm for personal reasons, I will transfer the weight of that exam entirely onto the upcoming final exam, which also covers the material on the midterm. In light of historic events and the poor timing of the exam, I made a quick decision to make a version of my standard offer to everyone, Trump’s late-night celebrants included. As it turns out, Harvard Professor Greg Mankiw, Republican economist and former adviser to President George W. Bush, made a similar offer to his introductory economics students.

No mention of this Yale Physics professor’s decision to make the midterm exam a “take home exam:”


Look, it’s fine to make fun of me. But my students aren’t snowflakes, they don’t melt at the mere thought of opposing ideas, do they? I looked out at the near-empty classroom. Shouldn’t the students be arriving by now?

The doors burst open and students who had been studying notes in the hallway outside flowed into the room. Almost all the students were there. Their heads bent over the exam, all math and graphs, with little jokes and tricks embedded in the questions. It was hard and most students took the full 75 minutes. No crying, no whining, no excuses. As the students flowed out, a few paused to talk. “Your offer meant so much to me,” one said.

We old folks have plenty to answer for. The next generation is going to have to be tough. Luckily, I was right: my students don’t melt.

How touching, the students were offered an opportunity to get out of an exam, “almost all of them” rejected the opportunity. You see, they were offered “coddling” and rejected it! The problem with the story is that it isn’t true. His true offer was very different from his portrayal in the Washington Post article:

“Almost all” of the students arrived to take the exam because they knew it couldn’t hurt their grade to do so.  It could help some a lot, perhaps that’s the reason Berry got the heartfelt thank-yous. Whether or not they showed up for the exam, the students benefited from his action. They were “coddled.”

Are the students “special snowflakes?” Not the students at Yale. If they made it into Yale, they know how to handle stress. I don’t blame the students at any of these universities. Of course students are going to try to get out of taking exams. Any generation of students would. The problem is professors like Steven Berry who, even if they don’t personally agree with it, appease the SJW agenda. That he lied about what he did shows he’s probably somewhat embarrassed about it. He doesn’t want to be made fun of when he goes to the economics conference and finds himself alone with his fellow White Males. So he chooses the “compromise:” lying. You get a lot of that in an environment where people are effectively prohibited from criticizing an ideology that they do not believe in.

Posted in Education | 1 Comment

The White Gender Gap By State

Mapped is the White gender gap for the states where CNN has exit polls. The measurement I used was the percentage of White females who voted for Trump divided by the percentage of White males who voted for Trump. I created other graphs, for Clinton’s share and using the more common method of subtracting the percentage of male voters who voted Trump/Clinton from the number of female voters who voted Trump/Clinton. The pattern was basically the same regardless.

There’s a weak pattern of a lower gender gap in the South and Southwest, where racial identity among Whites is more salient. The biggest gender gaps are found in the industrial Midwest and the most cucked states like California and New York.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Burden of Proof and Automation

A debate at the Soho Forum between Robin Hanson and Bryan Caplan was held on the subject of whether robots will eliminate most of the jobs. Hanson argued for, Caplan argued against. Here is the video:

Starting at minute 18:00, Caplan made an interesting argument: that the burden of proof lies on those who claim the unemployment will occur, not on those who deny it. It makes sense. The burden of proof should be on those who argue that some great change will happen. And so if the claim is that self driving cars will replace human drivers, the burden is on those making this argument. But in most cases, those who argue against automation-caused mass unemployment don’t argue with this part of the argument. They don’t argue that self-driving cars or robots are impractical. The libertarian-types who are making this argument, they tend to be techno-optimists, convinced that technology will always advance so long as the market is ‘free,’ and resistant to the arguments of Mark Steyn and Tyler Cowen that the rate of technological advancement has decreased.* Rather, the argument is that all these “new jobs” will be created. When they give examples of the new jobs, I find them unsatisfying, like the celebrity butcher example. They are jobs of which there will be few and which will require intelligence and/or social skills that most people do not have.

I argue that the burden of proof is on those who believe a large number of new jobs will be created, not those who deny it.

I’ll conclude by quoting John Derbyshire:

The assumption here is that like the buggy-whip makers you hear about from economic geeks, like dirt farmers migrating to factory jobs, like the middle-class engineer of 1960, the cube people of today will go do something else, creating a new middle class from some heretofore-despised category of drudges. But… what? Which category of despised drudges will be the middle class of tomorrow? Do you have any ideas? I don’t. What comes after office work? What are we all going to do? The same thing Bartleby the Scrivener did, perhaps, but collectively and generationally.

What is the next term in the series: farm, factory, office…? There isn`t one.(…)”

*I personally disagree with this argument. Much of it is a matter of opinion, how much do you value air travel rather than the internet? Which is cooler, computer programs or aircraft engines? Do you value effect on society or some other yardstick like ability to navigate space? I think the internet and mobile phones are a pretty big deal, allowing instant communication with anyone in the world and allowing people to bypass regimes of controlled or biased media. When the history of technology in 2500 AD is written, the internet will have a central place. Air travel is convenient, but mostly because it is simply faster than the alternatives, travel by train, car, and ship. The upper classes in the early 20th century enjoyed widespread, comfortable international travel on trains and ocean liners. But there was nothing like Facebook or WordPress in 1950, no matter your wealth.

Posted in Technology | 2 Comments