November 2007


Via my favorite fundamentalist Christian, I have learned of the latest school shooting. It took place in Finland and the young man who carried it out described himself in this way: “I am a cynical existentialist, antihuman humanist, antisocial socialdarwinist, realistic idealist and godlike atheist”. Among the things he hates are “Equality, tolerance, human rights, political correctness, hypocrisy, ignorance, enslaving religions and ideologies, antidepressants, TV soap operas & drama shows, rap -music, mass media, censorship, political populists, religious fanatics, moral majority, totalitarianism, consumerism, democracy, pacifism, state mafia, alcholohics, TV commercials, human race”. (more…)

A little while back Robin Hanson proposed cutting military spending in half. Because of his writings on Iraq, Iran and the U.S military I commented that I would like to hear what Greg Cochran had to say on the issue. Well, ask and you shall receive. Here is an e-mail he sent me:

I look at this more from the ground up than Hanson does: I have no idea what useful purpose most of our military establishment serves. TheWar on Terror is mostly just bullshit: jihadism isn’t exactly a serious strategic threat. I doubt if it’s as dangerous to the country as carbon monoxide poisoning. I can’t see any strategic payoff from Iraq or Afghanistan that’s worth anything like what we’re paying, so I’d quit: we’d save almost two hundred billion a year right there. I wouldn’t expand the Army – if anything I’d shrink it, since our politicians are clearly likely to use it in ways that hurt US interests.
The Navy is far bigger and more powerful than all other navies combined: it was designed to face a Soviet Navy that no longer exists. We’ve cut back from that peak, but probably not enough: we still have over 50 nuclear hunter-killer subs, and what are they for, really? No one can tell you. I _like_ nuclear subs – they’re really cool, and they play a key part in a novel I’m supposed to deliver real soon now – but is that enough reason to keep them around? That many?

I seem to recall someone talking about the economic advantages of our hegemony, like deterring pirates. Well, worldwide crushing of piracy takes about five destroyers. As for the other benefits – as far as I can tell, there aren’t any. Other countries sow and reap without us forcing them to: Arabs will sell oil unless they want to be poor. There used to be some powerful commercial spinoffs from defense research, but that doesn’t seem to happen much anymore. Partly because there simply is less research than there was, more because civilian and military tech have diverged. Once upon a time, the Air Force decided that aerial refueling was the way to go (correctly) and ordered the KC-135: tear out the fuel tank, put in seats, and Boeing had the 707. Military orders (for Minuteman guidance systems) had a lot do with getting integrated circuits going back in the 1960s – but I can’t think of anything really useful along those lines since the end of the Cold War. The last one was probably GPS.

I’d keep the nuclear deterrent: it doesn’t cost much and it keeps the other nuclear powers from getting frisky. And it deters weaker countries.

Looking ahead, the only real strategic threat I see coming is China, when and if they decide to play that kind of game seriously.

Most of that makes sense to me. I would propose is closing down all the bases around the world that were supposed to contain the Red Menace during the Cold War. Boots on the ground can be kept on our own ground unless they really need to be elsewhere. We no longer have the “China lobby” yammering about “unleashing Chiang” and Mao has been replaced by much saner rulers, so I’d drop our commitment to defending Taiwan. They along with Japan (who should go ahead and amend their constitution to explicitly permit a normal military) and South Korea can be left to deal with those issues without our help. I think China is more likely to have the ability to threaten us, but I doubt they will have the inclination. Closer to home is latin america, where we often lend a hand to governments in the War on Drugs. I’d drop that war along with Iraq, which would help to neutralize FARC and the Zetas that so thoroughly destabilize things. I think of Iran now as being something like China in the 70s. We can live with them having nukes and would seem to be natural allies against the largely Sunni and frequently anti-Shiite jihadists in their neighboring countries that we have invaded. All we need is a Nixon to try to pull that off rather than banging on the table for another war. Regarding the current dysfunction in Pakistan, I don’t have any suggestions. I’m more worried about crazies there getting hold of nukes than Iran.

A while back Steve Sailer wrote a print review of Richard Florida’s book. He still links to the website’s paper, even though it can no longer be found there. I have told him about it and asked that he host it on his own site, but he didn’t respond. I found a copy of it though which I will preserve for posterity in case that page also goes down.

Review of Richard Florida’s Cities and the Creative Class

by Steve Sailer

Washington Examiner, Feb. 14, 2005

http://www.dcexaminer.com/articles/2005/02/14/opinion/op-ed/01aadopedcovetcash.txt

On St. Valentine’s Day, a young Washingtonian’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. So how does D.C. rank as a place to find Mr. or Ms. Right? And if you are already in love, is it good for being married?

On the other 364 days, however, a young Washingtonian’s brain heavily focuses on stratagems of politics, so what impact does romance and marriage have on voting?

George Mason U. professor Richard Florida’s new graph and table-laden book Cities and the Creative Class (Routledge, $19.95 paperback, pp. 198) doesn’t concentrate much on l’amour, but does provide ample statistical evidence that the Washington metro area abounds in both highly eligible singles and in classy places for romantic dates.

The general D.C. region ranks high, along with the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, Seattle and Austin, in the kinds of people Dr. Florida believes drive prosperity: the well-educated, software programmers, technology entrepreneurs, and the like. Moreover, Washington offers lots of arts, culture, and ethnic restaurants ideal for dating.

In the District itself, not all the good ones are taken. A study I did for VDARE.com of what made blue states blue revealed that D.C. residents, of whom only 9 percent voted for Bush, were much less likely to be married than the citizens of any state. During the 27 years from age 18 through 44, the average black woman in D.C. could only expect to be married an average of 3.9 years, compared to 5.4 years in the lowest state, Pennsylvania.

Likewise, the deeply Democratic 18-44 year old white women of D.C. average merely 7.4 years of marriage, compared to 12.2 in the bluest state, Massachusetts, and 17.0 in the reddest state, Utah. When D.C.’s white Democrats marry, they typically head to blue Maryland, where youngish white women average 14.0 years of marriage versus 14.7 in red Virginia.

Remarkably, Bush carried all of the top 25 states in average years married among white women.

It’s Dr. Florida’s much publicized theory, which he developed during the Internet Bubble of the late 1990s, that an urban region’s economic success depends on its tolerance level. He argues, “Diverse, inclusive communities that welcome unconventional people—gays, immigrants, artists, and free-thinking ‘bohemians’—are ideal for nurturing the creativity and innovation that characterize the knowledge economy…”

Unfortunately, as a theory of economic development, this book suffers from the same combination of obviousness and obtuseness that plagued Dr. Florida’s first paean to “Talent, Technology, and Tolerance,” 2002′s The Rise of the Creative Class.

Sure, regions with smarter people tend to enjoy higher incomes. But, most high tech centers, such as the Dulles Corridor, develop far out in the suburbs away from the hip parts of town. The nerds who invent the new gizmos and the golf-playing business people who sell them tend to be relatively monogamous and family-oriented, and thus soon wind up in the ‘burbs, with their backyards and quality public schools.

And, sure, booms and bohemians tend to correlate, but who really attracts whom to a metroplex? Do the engineers and salesguys actually pursue the gay art dealers and immigrant restaurateurs, or are Dr. Florida’s footloose favorites more likely to follow the money generated by the pocket-protector boys?

In the 1970s, for example, Houston suddenly became one of the gayest cities in America, even though Houston was not famously tolerant. No, Houston got (briefly) hip because gays, immigrants, and artistes flocked there because OPEC had raised prices, making Houston’s unhip oil companies rich for a decade.

In contrast, famously tolerant New Orleans and Las Vegas (“Sin City”) rank today near the bottom of Dr. Florida’s talent tables because his kind of folks can’t make much money in either. So, he appears to have gotten the arrow of causality mostly backwards.

————————

Steve Sailer (iSteve.com) is the film critic for The American Conservative and the Monday columnist for VDARE.com.

UPDATE: This from the WSJ seems relevant.

UPDATE 2: Steve Malanga in City Journal critiques Florida’s “Who’s Your City?” and his theories more generally here.

Update 3: Excerpts from Sailer’s review of “Who’s Your City?”.

I know I said I wouldn’t be posting for a week, but Kevin Carson finally updated his blog and I found it sufficiently interesting that I decided to go back on my word. Most of my readers are unlikely to read his blog without my pointing it out (they’re pretty much all heartless capitalists, except for that one heartless Stalinist) so it’s not a superfluous post.

Those of you have heard of Naomi Klein’s book likely find it laughable. M. Traven said of its movie “It’s composed of equal parts self-righteousness and cheap emotional appeals, and drowns whatever valid things it is trying to say in questionable sludge. It’s this sort of thing that has driven Mencius Moldbug to the dark side” in a post filed under his “annoying leftists” category. I certainly haven’t had kind things to say about it. To put it simply, Klein is a buffoon. She completely overlooks the clampdowns on markets on the part of the state documented by Robert Higgs in “Crisis and Leviathan”, with a most notable example being the Great Depression leading to the New Deal. She throws around the word “shock” to mix CIA torture techniques with the successful post-Soviet transitions of countries like Poland and Estonia that originally bore the term “shock therapy” (Daniel A. Nagy has criticized this paper on the subject but I’ll link to it again anyway because I found it informative). Her chief villain is Milton Friedman, despite his opposition to the Iraq war and primarily because she greatly overstates his role in Chile (as her fellow-traveler Alexander Cockburn points out she also overstates his role in neo-liberalism and the necessity of disaster in third world neoliberal reforms). What she advocates is more of the state.

To Carson and Sheldon Richman (who is a normal-enough libertarian to edit the Freeman publication Ronald Reagan claimed to love) there is merit in the Rebel Seller. Why? She’s upset by Iraq, Katrina and other Bush bungles. Such people are hardly a tiny enough minority to excuse the nonsense they spill onto the page. I found it especially saddening to see Carson muse about Austrian economists that had fled (I guess for no reason) to America returning to propagandize for a victorious Nazi Germany. I can just see Mises dismissing their burning of his writings while they overlook the minor problem of him being a jew. He does have a point about an Objectivist (they’ve gotten crazier since Rand died) by the name of George Reisman who says some pretty deranged stuff, but to lump all “Misoids” together as apologists for authoritarian (or really any when you come to think of it) states seems to gel poorly with what anyone can see at the Mises blog. Praising Klein while defaming the Mises Institute is like demonizing Kerensky in favor of Trotsky because you hate Stalin.

Carson has engaged in the following equivocation before: “In my opinion, New Deal liberalism and the Reagan-Thatcher model of neoliberalism are like two farmers. The first farmer thinks he can get more work out of his livestock, in the long run, if he feeds them well and gives them comfortable shelter and sufficient rest. The second farmer thinks he can get more work out of them if he works them to death and then replaces them. There’s no question that both “farmers” view us as “livestock,” and that their prime concern is with their own profit. But I know which farm I’d rather live on”, but now he adds another simile to defend the Chavista reaction to the “Washington Consensus”: “Quite frankly, if my only choices are corporate liberalism and social democracy, and a banana republic on the neoliberal model, I’ll take the former any day. If I get to choose between the paternalism of Brave New World and the jackboot in my face of 1984, it won’t take me long to decide”. Sometimes I think it might have been better if Orwell had never written 1984 so people wouldn’t use it to attack regimes (or sometimes just websites that keep track of visits or stores with cameras) that for all their faults are laughably far from both the ones he invented and used as a basis. I notice that Carson has not fled the United $tate$ of Amerikkka like those Austrians did so whimsically. I notice that people from outside keep moving in, including not only the boat people of the Worker’s Paradise of Cuba but inhabitants of relatively social democratic places like Canada. I also notice that even if Bush is as fond as Chavez of subsidies, he has not enacted any Mugabe-esque price controls complete with denunciation of “hoarders”, which even a “free-market anti-capitalist” would be expected to consider a step below neoliberalism, nor has he boasted about how much longer he expects to stay in power and tried to get rid of term limits (I would breathe a sigh of relief about Bush leaving and Cheney not running except that Giuliani is) nor has he changed to Constitution to make his word law (which would actually be more useful if the legislature was controlled by the opposition rather as opposed to full of your supporters) nor has he shut down opposition television stations. Though I don’t know them to be fans of markets, the folks at Three Way Fight seem to have a better grasp of Chavez. Chavez has authority in his country Bush only wishes he could. If Kevin Carson was taking a Keith Preston line of ignoring all faults of the enemy of his enemy because one of them is near/broad and the other far/bounded (which has a certain amount of sensibility to it) I wouldn’t say anything, but he doesn’t do that and has never given off the “pragmatism forever, moralizing never” vibe of the againstpolitics.com people (who I wish I had discovered earlier).

UPDATE: Perhaps enough time has passed that this should be a separate post, but I didn’t feel like doing that to point out some further Klein-bashing. Also, againstpolitics.com is down and can be found at my mirror-site teageegeepea.tripod.com/AgainstPolitics.
UPDATE 2: Jon Chait criticizes the book here. Also, I’ve removed Against Politics, as it’s now hosted at Depressed Metabolism.

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