September 2008

I tore through Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America pretty quickly, but frequently found my eyes glazing over his Old and Regime and the French Revolution. It’s an interesting and important topic which he has an unusual theory on (he sees the Revolution as a continuation of changes the recent monarchs had enacted). Part of that was due to copious details about how many livres were raised through the taille but I think part of it was explained by the first book I mentioned. He discusses how eager Americans are to hear what foreigners have to say about their country, full of a sort of narcissism. That’s likely why that book has been so popular in America. I couldn’t get as interested in the discussion of Frenchmen.

Some advance praise for Walt & Mearsheimer’s Israel Lobby: At the top of the page in the endnotes is says “NOTES TO PAGES [NUMBER]-[LARGER NUMBER]”. That makes it really easy to find the ones you’re looking for, rather than flipping through to see where notes for your current chapter begin. I think more books should use that system.

I’ve always been perplexed at the hate that some people have for suburbs (and a more intense version of that hate for gated communities). Much of the time the complaint seems to boil down to them being just too darn swell. They remind me of John Horgan praying for a new Great Depression. Fuck you, John. I hope you personally experience a financial catastrophe while everyone else rides high on the hog. I’ve always disliked cities when I spend time there, which I suppose means I agree with Sartre that hell is other people. I guess I can’t give as informed a judgment of country life, but in my opinion less developed places are alright to visit in order to shoot animals but not great to live in. I was afraid that employment would be concentrated in urban areas and require me to at least spend a good deal of time downtown, but fortunately I found work in a suburb of Chicago rather than the Smelly Onion itself, so I won’t have to leave the wonderful artificiality (like American cheese) of suburbia. A debunking of some myths about suburbs that holds them in esteem even as it sees good in New Urbanism is in Allan Carlson’s “Bailey Park” or “Greater Pottersville”?: The Natural Family in the 21st Century Suburb. A cosmotarian defense of Pottersville AGAINST Capra’s ideal is here.

The other day I was helping somebody flip over a boat he was building so he could work on the bottom. One of the other folks helping was a black guy who had his young son with him. I was a bit surprised to see him as we’re talking about some middle-class white surbubanites that don’t gain any hipster cred from having minority friends and would be unlikely to have such friends. It all made sense when I heard his accent and name, indicating that he was an immigrant rather than an African-American (his darker-than-usual skin tone was an initial indicator, but not as sure). That did not seem as improbable and so would be less surprising. Think about that for a second. African-Americans make up about 10% of the population. African immigrants likely make up a tiny portion. Those odds on the surface should reverse the surprise I would actually experience. Those odds overlook the complicating factor that all the African immigrants I’ve encountered are basically like Mormons. I got to thinking why it is they seem more compatible as friends than the average African-American. One obvious possibility is that there are very strong selection effects on immigrants from Africa. Only the most educated bourgeious types that can deal with a modern bureaucracy like the one that oversees immigration get let in and so they are very unrepresentative of their countrymen (I should also add that I’ve disproportionately encountered immigrants from a few African countries like Ghana). Another is that in America there is a history of conflict between The Man and blacks that results in a culture that explicitly rejects the ways of the dominant middle class. Right now I’d place more importance on the selection effect but I’d like to hear the thoughts of others.

The Myth of Natural Rights and Other Essays

The Myth of Natural Rights and Other Essays

I’ve trumpeted the impending release a number of times, but I swear this is my final plug. I’ve got a copy sitting on my desk as I type so I can say with complete confidence that it turned out great. The Man Who Say His Own Liver was alright, but it was a pretty simple slim volume withot the fancy folding jacket and word-art. Rollins’ old essay and my preface only occupy a relatively small portion of the book. There are 303 pages of subversive goodness in there. I recommend especially the “updated abridgment” of Lucifer’s Lexicon, but even the acknowledgments and bio are funny. Nine-Banded Books announced the release here, the Hoover Hog did here. If you haven’t done so already, buy a copy. Amazon has gotten resupplied and should update their page in a few days, but until then you can use paypal (look on the side of the screen under “BOOKS”) or e-mail Chip. If you have a pathological fear of the internet I don’t know how you’re reading this, but in a week or so it should be available in such stores as Quimby’s, Atomic Books, Germ Books and See-Hear.

Mencius Moldbug recommended a number of books in this post, and I’ve just gone through a few of them. First was Michael Burleigh’s Earthly Powers. I read in its preface that it was part of a two-volume effort. The first covered the clash of religion and politics from the French Revolution to the Great War. The second, titled Sacred Causes, was continued the story through the 20th century and the War on Terror. Liking what I read of Earthly Powers I got it’s companion as well. I was disappointed to find that the closer to the present Burleigh went the less his writing was like history and more like an especially snarky editorial from the Daily Mail (UPDATE: Apparently that was not a fluke). I still recommend the first volume. Read the second if you have a large appetite for Catholic apologism (though he makes an exception for Northern Ireland). He apparently wrote a very well regarded history of the Third Reich, so if you want his take on that aspect of the 20th century you are advised to check it out. He admits to have tired of writing about Nazis since then.

As I read both of those I switched back and forth with Mark Moyar’s Triumph Forsaken, which covers America’s involvement in Vietnam from 1954 through July of 1965 and the introduction of large numbers of American combat troops deemed necessary to save South Vietnam. On beginning it I found that it was also part of a two-volume history. I would have liked to read the next volume right after, but unfortunately it hasn’t been written yet. Mencius Moldbug also recommended Hilaire du Berrier’s Background to Betrayal for a contrasting view, but the reach of John Birch Society affiliated publishers is a good deal less than a just and loving God would demand, thus proving his nonexistence. Hilaire was a South Dakotan son of French Huguenots who adopted monarchism early in life and served as an aide to Vietnam’s Emperor Bao Dai. His work serves as a defense of the Emperor and the French colonialists that criticizes Diem. That could serve as a valuable corrective, as Moyar holds the French and the colonial-era officials that had served under them (and were weeded out by Diem over time) in contempt and much of his book reads like a hagiography of the late Vietnamese nationalist. I personally didn’t care that Ho Chi Minh only pretended to have never married while Diem was the real deal, but Moyar seems to have found that very important. The closest he comes to admitting a failing on Diem’s part is when Moyar notes that he had intentionally fragmented the intelligence services and that impeded their effectiveness. It’s possible he had a good reason for doing so, but no explanation is given and I don’t think Moyar considered it all that important.

Moyar is openly revisionist, though at least this book does not take the old Rambo “do we get to win this time” tack as it doesn’t focus on American soldiers. He has a lot of “orthodox” histories in cross-hairs. One of them is America’s Longest War, which I had lots of complaints about (including the title, offering the war of independence as a longer war that was truly America’s) when I wrote a book report on it years ago for a high school history course, though I don’t remember much about it today. His thesis was that Vietnam was vital to American interests and could have been saved. Optimally his hero, Diem, would not have been overthrown and assassinated in a military coup and would have continued his successes in crushing the Viet Cong and strengthening his government, assuring victory in a relatively short time-span. After his overthrow the U.S could have sent ground forces to the Ho Chi Minh trail to block infiltration rather than just bombing it to little effect, blockaded and mined North Vietnamese (and also possible Cambodian) harbors to prevent supplies reaching the Viet Cong and also possible crippling the enemy’s economy, as well as very heavy airstrikes against the North much earlier in the war to show them we meant business.

As an isolationist, I have a much narrower view of America’s interest. I have further disagreements with the author though. South Vietnam did in fact fall to the communists (along with Laos and Cambodia), but the dominoes stopped short. It seems doubtful to me that Japan or Australia were ever in any serious threat of falling to the red tide, especially if the U.S had encouraged the former to scrap the anti-military clause of its imposed constitution and rebuild its old strength. The largest prize up for grabs was the extremely populous archipelago of Indonesia were Sukarno was indeed a problem threatening to get worse, but he was removed from power from Suharto as early as 1965, followed by tremendous massacres that quashed the communists. Perhaps other southeast asian nations would have fallen if the U.S had given up on Vietnam. But considering the great importance Moyar places on the U.S backing down and disheartening anti-communist allies, didn’t being kicked out of Saigon while refugees tried to grab onto our helicopters serve as a larger loss of face than anything that preceded it and should have provided an impetus to further communist gains?

I think Diem did a pretty impressive job and should be commended, but I was skeptical toward many of the claims made for him. The Viet Minh were no slouches, having booted out the French before attaining their own state, confounding American forces and then toppling the South Vietnamese government after which they overthrew Pol Pot and fended off a Chinese invasion (though Moyar dismisses those who placed importance on tensions between the Soviets, Chinese and North Vietnamese communists earlier in the war). I don’t think Diem’s victory was assured. There were a number of coup attempts before the final one which Diem was lucky to survived. If he had dodged that bullet it’s quite possible a later one would have gotten him. Moyar also likes to dismiss the claims that Diem was unpopular, but when expression of dissent is limited (obviously self-serving though portrayed as the only thing them gooks understand) to armed uprisings it’s hard to gauge. He is also contradictory in asserting that Americans misjudged the Vietnamese for thinking they’d like liberalizing reformers that concede to demands when they really respected authoritarian strong-men who cracked down on dissidents, and then later faulting the Americans pushing for reforms by saying the Vietnamese don’t respond well to bullying rather than friendship and accommodation. It seemed to me his analysis of the Vietnamese character places great weight on whose ox is being gored.

The book did succeed at least in convincing me that ambassador Lodge was a major tool. Kennedy was an idiot to appoint him and not remove him. Lodge’s behavior may best be analogized to an inmate who wages his own private war with the institution through flinging and smearing his feces everywhere. It’s not some great political coup to appoint the possible Presidential nominee of the opposing party to a position if he thinks he can act without any constraint due to political fallout and may even relish causing problems for you. Lodge did at least learn he was mistaken in the later part of his time in Vietnam and I wonder if he ever issued any sort of mea culpa. I have argued with Mencius and others whether the State department can be said to be waging a civil war with Defense or even to have the capacity, and Lodge would be their best example. While not a career pin-striped Foggy Bottomer (he was actually the first Senator to resign his seat and serve in the Army since the Civil War, and after returning resigned again to serve with distinction and single-handedly capture a four-man German patrol) he can be clearly seen as a rogue ambassador acting against the direct orders of his President, as well as those in the CIA and military that tried to keep him in line. I don’t know what power he had though. Ambassador Durbrow well before him repeatedly echoed the same idiocies only to be ignored, after him Taylor pushed for more sensible courses of action on the head of state, coup-formenting generals and militant Buddhists all to no avail. I similarly argued over the power of reporters, especially the New York Times. A claim I find incredible is that the Vietnamese trusted the NYT and even took it to indicate the position of the U.S government, even as it reported dissension among Vietnamese generals it supposedly influenced that (according to Moyar) they would have known to be non-existent and contradicted itself in its coverage of Vietnam in different articles right next to each other. The administration should certainly have been able to make its position known so people wouldn’t assume it was something else, even if they had to resort to publicly announcing it. That would have gotten the message to benighted orientals that the media may hold different from the government rather quickly. Getting the administration’s point of view across to select officials would admittedly be difficult when your ambassador disobeys your orders and lies repeatedly, but this was discovered soon enough that he could have been neutralized. I sometimes wonder why he was not removed by another American through a bullet to the brain as the Vietnamese were doing to inconvenient officials, but at the least sending someone to perform his responsibilities seems to me an obvious move.

It occurs to me that there isn’t a definite “formalist” position on the coup against Diem. In hindsight it clearly worked out terribly, but “don’t make the mistakes” is hardly helpful advice. On the one hand replacing a civilian leader with a shaky hold on power with the military that actually wields power through force of arms is in accordance with formalising informal property (and Mencius has in fact called on many coups in both America and England as well as the post-colonial world, which he expects will improve things). On the other hand it is rebellion against authority that results in disorder, which should be a definite no-no for any goodthinking reactionary.

I was really annoyed when Moyar scoffed at Thomas Schelling’s game theory. There is no quote from Schelling anywhere, and his portrayal of it seems completely contradictory to the one I read in Pinker’s How the Mind Works. Most of Pinker’s explanation is about how irrational behavior was evolutionarily adaptive because obstinate irrationality can make sense in game theory, with removing the steering-wheel in a game of chicken being such a perennial example I would have expected anyone whose heard of game theory to be familiar with it. Moyar thinks Schelling was an ivory-tower academic egghead limited to thinking in civilized rational behavior and failing to appreciate “that men often act irrationally” and can effectively deter by “brandishing a broadsword and howling a battle cry”. I’ll say with a high degree of confidence that Moyar has not actually read Schelling or made himself familiar with what game theory actually says.

Seeing as how Vietnam actually did fall to no great loss to America, it doesn’t seem like that big a deal that Moyar’s advice in hindsight was not taken. Does that mean it’s pointless to even discuss it? I wouldn’t say so. I don’t expect anything I say here to really change anything important, and so I feel free yack about things that are irrelevant but interesting.

I found a good post at SB GNXP pointing out how full of crap Thomas Frank is. I didn’t want to forget it, so I linked to it in a comment at a dead UR thread. Turned out it wasn’t quite dead and got a response. My response to that kept bloating to the point that, taking after Hopefully Anonymous, I figured I should make a post out of it at my own blog. Here goes:

The truth does better fit with the 5-caste framework (which I prefer), but MM has just ditched that for 3 castes. Even back in the 5 caste system he talked about how the New Deal state was built through the support of working class Vaisyas, who ditched the Ds when they realized that the government wasn’t working on their behalf. Not the case. Among whites possession of a college degree has become less important while having lower incomes has become a greater predictor of voting D. Among whites being working class is a predictor of voting D within every state. It is weakly predictive at a national level, but the correlation is still positive. Universities do not churn out liberals, college grads tend to the right (people that never want to leave college are a different story). The “religious right” or extreme conservatives tend to be well educated and with high incomes. Not only are the religious more happy, but people who “cling” to guns are the opposite of bitter, and also tend to be well off. Support for Ds among those with advanced degrees is primarily due to public school teachers (so notorious as to spark the phrase “teachers unions of the right“). Their support among the educated is strongest among those with incomes under $75000 “the incomes of teachers, social workers, nurses, and skilled technicians, not of Hollywood stars, bestselling authors, or television producers, let alone corporate executives.”. Rather than intellectual elites, those in education have the lowest standardized test scores. Steve Sailer once explained how Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fight with California public sector unions failed as being because the white middle class identified with them. If someone wants to take on the Minotaur, that’s who they’ll have to deal with (and it will be ugly) not a gaggle of hipsters and journalists (the latter of whom not unlikely in the employ of GOP voters).

MM likes to harp about how “Brahmins” are an elite that look down on Vaisyas and Vaisyas aspire to be and with reference to Ayers says that the “super rich” are very liberal even if the upper class more generally is conservative. But even in Manhattan the richest are more right-wing than the more moderately rich and Yankees fans are to the right of Mets fans (that’s relatively speaking, NYT is still quite liberal). Even the conservatism of the active duty military is due to officers rather than “proles”, and among veterans any correlation dissappears if one controls for the fact that they are older males. The big realignment in politics in the second half of the 20th century was the end of the one-party era of the Solid South, not any sort of rejection by Vaisyas of the New Deal state. Racial attitudes play a big role in MM’s world view, which he claims fall on the latte-sipping Volvo-driving windsurfing vs Bible-thumping flag-waving deer-hunting divide, but Bartels shows that attitudes toward government aid to blacks is best predicted by views on government supported full employment and worst predicted by cultural views. MM accepted my paraphrase of him saying “the Polygon recruits minorities as their Stasi” but Caplan found the more educated blacks are the LESS likely they are to support affirmative action (as I mention in that link, education also predicts less support for more environmental regulation). You’ll note that I make a lot of references to data others have analyzed. If you don’t do that you end up spouting David Brooks style pop sociology, which in Brooks’ case was also flat wrong. MM has similarly made much of distinctive consumer choices of Brahmins, backed up with “Trust me, I live in San Francisco, I know what I’m talking about”. David Brooks is a Manhattenite, but he didn’t know what he was talking about.

BELATED SECOND UPDATE: I had been looking for a much older post at Volokh showing higher support for the GOP among the college educated but failed. A recent one reiterates, links and elaborates.

BONUS UPDATE: A commenter on partisanship gets mocked at Volokh for their ignorance of evidence. What “Just. Does. Not. Happen.” Just. Did.

Bryan Caplan calls for the end of state-intervention in marriage. Or close to it. He does this in part from a Men’s Rights perspective, trying to reverse changes feminism has made. It’s unlikely to get anywhere as when I proposed such a thing supposedly “traditionalist conservatives” deemed it insane. UPDATE: I just came across this old post from conservative Austin Bramwell arguing for my position against “libertarian” Ryan Sager. Of course it’s tricky saying Bramwell’s “for” anything, as most of his writing his simply critical of the conservative movement, the conservative canon and even paleocons (the only ones willing to publish him). That makes him more interesting than most to me.

On a completely different note, a long time ago I heard a song on Pandora that was the most remarkably miserable sounding country/Americana I’d heard. I forgot who it was and would periodically rack my brain trying to remember. Just now it got played again. It was Johnny Dowd.

Via the Exile. I’ve mentioned before, though possibly not at this blog, that while attending milquetoast mainline Protestant churches that were still too enthusiastic for my tastes (less standing and singing, more fire and brimstone!) I independently came to the same ultra-Calvinist conclusions that pastor Phelps did. It just seemed to follow logically once you accepted the Christian premise that the Bible is accurate and God is the absolute unquestionable authority.
UPDATE: I’m kicking myself for not earlier linking to the WBC’s surprisingly well-produced videos like Your Pastor is a Whore (which even atheists can watch while nodding their heads) and the song God Hates the World. They’re also in the camp of those snooty blue-staters that like to remind the religious right that God Hates Divorce.

I often reference an EconTalk podcast with Bruce Bueno de Mesquita where he explains why communist dictatorships are well known for their health-care and literacy. I could never remember though whether that was in his first or second podcast. I decided to go back and check when making a comment to this post at Gene Expression about the difference in development in East and West Germany. It’s the first podcast, starting at about the 34th minute. It’s also the one that discusses the difference between King Leopold’s personal fiefdom of the Congo Free State and how he ruled the constitutional monarchy of Belgium.

For admitting that his political biases caused him to contradict himself on a point about epistemology. Ilya often contributes to Critical Review and is cited in Caplan’s Myth of the Rational Voter. Speaking of which, I never got around to reading all of that old CR issue and now that my harddrive is gone I’m glad it’s online.

There’s a debate between Joshua Muravchik and Stephen Walt (co-author with John Mearsheimer of the Israel Lobby) at the National Interest over the merits of neoconservatism versus realism. As an isolationist (or non-interventionist) I should be completely out of the bounds of discussion, but Muravchik refers to isolationism (for which he blames WW2) as an extreme form of realism and points to Bob Taft as a representative enemy of the liberal internationalism that would later find a home on the right as neoconservatism. Something isn’t quite right though. Both Joshua and Stephen agree that realists see more worth in international institutions like the U.N and NATO, but isolationists like Taft wanted the U.S to withdraw from both. Realist Republicans were generally moderate internationalists, part of the “Rockefeller” wing hated by Taft’s conservatives. Elsewhere Muravchik points to Jeane Kirkpatrick as evidence of neoconservative influence on Reagen the Great, while Walt notes that her doctrine of accepting authoritarian (as opposed to totalitarian) dictators is the sort of self-interested ethical relativism decried by democracy-promoting neocons today.

It seems to me that the neoconservatism of the past was simply more realist. The reason George Kennan went from unseemly Cold Warrior as Mr. X to object of hawkish scorn (and Daniel Larison’s esteem) and Francis Fukuyama went from neocon contrast to Samuel Huntington (who himself went from being a conservative Democrat to emblematic paleo) to “Wilsonian realist” is because we keep reaching new heights of crazy. Why, I ask, would anyone want to associate themselves with Wilson, as Muravchik proudly does? Doesn’t he deserve more blame for the rise of Hitler than Henry Cabot Lodge? Wilson’s own man, Walter Lippmann was able to reject his old boss to join the Mont Pelerin Society and promote free enterprise. I don’t see Walt or other realists attacking Wilson. That job is left to libertarians and monarchist paleos. The reason the realist-leaning National Interest (founded by neocon godfather Irving Kristol) assumes an alliance with those sorts is because they now represent a marginal position and their points of contention with their even more marginal allies aren’t mainstream enough to even be a subject of debate. We have choke down some aid being given to authoritarian dictators like Saddam as well as liberal democracies like Israel because at least it’s better than an invasion or air attack. Even the alliance of libertarians with paleoconservatives seems odd, as the classical liberals were considered to be on the political left against the old order (Bastiat sat with Proudhon and debated economics with him). Keith Preston is fond of pointing out the the Jacobins were bourgeois and still believed in private property (indicating how similar they were to today’s neocons), but they were the Bolsheviks of their day. With the defeat of communism we now see the radical left more dominated by socialist anarchism (rejected by Marxists as too left wing, which is why Lee Harris’ Intellectual Origins of America Bashing is off the mark). Even within the anarchists the trend is away from Murray Bookchin’s Social Ecology to the radical Deep Ecology of Green anarcho-primitivism (which Robert Lindsay touts here, despite rejecting anything left of Stalinism). I don’t know much more extreme it can get than that or what loathsome characters I might find on my side of the barricades in the future calling me comrade.

UPDATE: GNXP has a post up. Watch for comments there. Henry Harpending says the interview was “terrific” and likes Ferguson’s attitude compared to other cultural anthropologists.
John Horgon has a diavlog with cultural anthropologist Brian Ferguson, sometimes called a “neo-Rousseauian” who says warfare is much less common than the conventional scientific wisdom claims and is more subject to specific circumstances than genetically hardwired. He repeats the claim of James Scott I noted earlier that primitive societies today are unrepresentative of the past (horse-backed nomads are right out). He says Napoleon Chagnon’s statistics don’t really support the claim that killing leads to higher reproductive success and leaders of empires like Genghis Khan are relatively modern. He also disagrees with archaeologist James Keeley, author of War Before Civilization, about the archaelogical evidence for ancient warfare. He disagrees with Wrangham (whose book I reviewed here) on chimpanzees, saying the incidents of violence are unusual and likely the result of humans reducing the resources available to them (I think he excuses too much). He says he’d be less surprised by violence among bonobos because he doesn’t think they’re that different from chimpanzees. Stephen Pinker’s Hobbesian optimism is also discussed. If you don’t feel like sitting through the video, this article from Horgan covers basically the same ground. You can read some of Brian’s papers here. Two topics covered in the diavlog but not the article are controversy over anthropologists hired by the military and the high intelligence of the Ashkenazim, specifically referencing Cochran’s article. Ferguson has a 70 page paper attacking it, but it won’t be up at his site for about a week.

In Consilience E. O. Wilson points to anthropologists and sociologists as the social scientific stronghold against Darwinian (or “sociobiological”) explanations and scientific consilience. His tower of disciplinary resistance to general scientific principles has sociology at the top, followed by anthropology then primatology and finally sociobiology. Some exceptions of sociologists amenable to Darwinism are the University of Washington’s Pierre L. van den Berghe (the one name of the list I recognized, even if I don’t remember how I heard it), Minot State’s Lee Ellis, University of Texas’ Joseph Lopreato and Princton’s Walter L. Wallace. In the diavlog Horgon characterizes the running theme of Ferguson’s writings to be resistance to Wilson’s sociobiology. I haven’t read his work myself, but I did not detect the same sort of epistemological resistance to consilience found among many cultural anthropologists (and Mencius Moldbug). Wilson cites Robert Nisbet in claiming that sociology’s roots are as an art rather than a real attempt at science. It was, to use a term MM intends positive connotations for, “literary”. Wilson sees Gary Becker style economics as much more amenable toward scientific consilience and resembling population genetics even if it falls far short. In case the other social science discipline left out I’ll leave an awful quote from the awful Woodrow Wilson. “I do not like the term political science. Human relationships … are not in any proper sense the subject matter of science. They are the stuff of insight and sympathy and spiritual comprehension”. And as a final dig at sociology, a rather p.c theory of gangs is discussed in this OrgTheory post and I mock it in a comment.

On a completely unrelated note, a huge argument began between the leftists and libertarians at TAOTP when Roderick Long accused Noam Chomsky of being a fake anarchist and really a social democrat.

UPDATE 2: Here’s what Greg Cochran has to say:
I read an earlier version of it last year: I was not impressed. One issue was our fault, in that we were unclear: he somehow got the idea that we thought that all of the IQ-boosting was caused by the effects of disease-causing mutations in heterozygotes, mutations like Tay-Sachs That’s not what we think. Strong selection for intelligence would have changed allele frequencies at many loci: the disease mutations are, we think, only a well-studied tip of the iceberg. Ferguson agues that non-genetic social factors had a strong effect on who was rich: we never said otherwisr. Our point weas that genetic causes of even a _small_ fraction of the variance in income were enough to drive selection. For there not to have been any kind of evolutionary change in personality or cognition among the reproductively isolated Ashkenazi Jewish population, which had a _unique_ concentration in white-collar jobs, intelligence would have had to have almost completely decoupled from economic success. It is not so much we were arguing that IQ is all-important in economic success, it is more that Ferguson argued that it makes almost no difference at all. For that to be the case, people with IQs of 85, one standard deviation below average, would have had to be reasonably good at being moneylenders, traders, and estate managers. Today people with IQs of 85 are not successful at comparable jobs, or for that matter very many jobs at all.

Judging from his article, he doesn’t understand quantitative inheritance, population genetics, or general human medical genetics.

He also seems to think that success in a job like moneylending is driven by access to capital: it is of course, but it’s easy to _lose_ that capital if you make too many mistakes. Seems to me that we might be able to think of some contemporary examples, yes? He also thought that Jews could enforce debt collection: that was not always the case, and in fact it was often catastrophically reversed, with debtors helping spark and man pogroms.

Our model suggests that much of the notable achievements and high social status acquired by the Ashkenazi Jews in the United States are the results of innate biological advantages – advantages in the context of this kind of society. This means overrepresentation in bridge tournaments, Putnam exams, as well as corporate CEOs (20-25% Ashkenazi Jews.). Given the structure of the society, we’d say that this success was meritocratic, more or less. It’s hard to see how a bunch of tailors living in East Side tenements pulled this off without native smarts: it’s not as if they were ushered directly from Ellis Island into the Social Register.

He talked about linkage disequilibrium, quotes a source that thought it was higher among the Ashkenazim, a sign of recent founder effects. But we now have enormously more info now (from SNP chips) and we know, for sure, that linkage disequilibrium is almost exactly the same among the Ashkenazim and Northwest Europeans.


I suppose we’ll have to write some sort of response. This is boring: Ferguson doesn’t know his stuff.

I apologize for not posting material from Consilience earlier, but nothing really jumped out at me at first. One passage however grew on me over the days and is unlike anything else in there, so here goes:

Ever since our ancestors, the macrotermitine termites, achieved ten-kilogram weight and larger brains during their rapid evolution through the late Teriary Period, and learned to write with pheremonal script, termitic scholarship has elevated and refined ethical philosophy. It is now possible to express the imperatives of moral behavior with precision. These imperatives are self-evident and universal. They are the very essence of termitity. They include the love of darkness and of the deep, saprophytic, basidiomycetic penetralia of the soil; the centrality of colony life amidst the richness of war and trade with other colonies; the sanctity of the physiological caste system; the evil of personal rights (the colony is ALL!); our deep love for the royal siblings allowed to reproduce; the joy of chemical song; the aesthetic pleasure and deep social satisfaction of eating feces from nestmates’ anuses after the shedding of our skins; and the ecstasy of cannibalism and surrender of our own bodies when we are sick or injured (it is more blessed to be eaten than to eat).

I would call this a “bleg”, but I hate that neologism. I used to have a plugin for firefox that let me read pdf files inside it. I could switch between html and pdf pages through tabs rather than an entirely separate window. I’ve tried downloading plugins to accomplish that purpose like pdfescape or pdfdownloader but none were what I was looking for. Is that feature just not available for Linux?

Firefox usually has no problem playing embedded media files like EconTalk or Flash videos. However, usually media files in Totem get stuck at 0:00 though it says their playing. As of right now that has reversed, with Totem playing a file just fine (that it couldn’t yesterday) but youtube playing without sound (the video portion runs) and sometimes skipping quickly over segments. Has anyone else had this sort of problem or know how to correct it?

Comments got turned off in a marginal revolution thread just as I was about to post mine. It’s not that significant a comment, but it seemed a waste to type it up and then throw it down the electronic memory hole just because some people got freaked that Tyler mentioned Steve Sailer. So here it is:

I came out in favor of legalized full-blown infanticide here.

McCain is like a worse version of Bush. He was the neocons’ favorite in 2000. He has no conservative credentials when it comes to small-government, pro-market stuff (Dave Weigel Matt Welch’s Myth of the Maverick has a lot on that) and pissed off the base of the party with his idiotic campaign finance bill. So he kept trumpeting his support of the President on Iraq. For most of us, Iraq is the worst thing about Bush. His chief foreign policy advisor is a former paid lobbyist for Georgia. So how in the world is McCain an improvement?

Hitler did have intelligent things to say on the manipulation of the masses (though much of that may have been from Goebbels) and he is frequently quoted on it. Of course, most people take his “Big Lie” notion to refer to his own lies rather than those of his opponents, as he intended it.

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