August 2012


Americans on the Rich: Smart, Yes, But Greedy Too

Kids Against ‘Crony Capitalism’

Do Academics Have a Liberal Bias?

Drive-Thru Politics: Fast Food Preferences and Political Leanings

FBI’s Most Wanted Domestic Terrorists List Dominated By Women

Americans on the TSA: Not Bad, Not Bad At All

Democratic and Republican ‘Megadonors’ – Who Gives the Most?

‘Run. Hide. Fight.’ Houston PSA Recreates Mass Shooting 

You’ve probably heard the story of Austrian monk Gregor Mendel who experimented with the breeding of wrinkly peas, but whose research was unfortunately ignored for decades after Darwin until their insights were synthesized together in the twentieth century. What you probably haven’t heard is the allegation dating back to R. A. Fisher that he faked his data. Everyone uses his insights, if not the exact values of all his estimates, so not surprising that gets dropped down the memory hole. The page linked from there quotes some authors saying “[F]or the moralist, no distinction can be made between an Isaac Newton who lied for truth and was right, and a Cyril Burt who lied for truth and was wrong””, which I found amusing because I’d always heard that Burt’s heritability estimates match up fairly well with modern twin-adoption studies.

After almost a year’s absence, he does the meta-analysis of Irish IQ data that Lynn didn’t bother to do.

Amanda Marcotte in Slate argues that hardcore punk (at least archetypically) is left-wing, therefore Wade Michael Page was not hardcore. To me, that’s a no-true-Scotsman. Punk is a musical genre, and while some subsets of it like straight-edge have a more normative component, merely being hardcore just indicates the musical qualities. And more ironic than neo-nazi hardcore punks building on the legacy of the Bad Brains (at least they can agree on the gays) is that the skinhead subculture itself began with white Britons imitating Jamaican dock-workers, flocking to reggae acts like Symarip at dancehalls.

Title courtesy of a song by Kill the Man Who Questions, a band I think would have been right up Marcotte’s alley.

UPDATE: Check out Scott Galupo’s elaboration, with some citation of Crispin Sartwell.

Commenter “ThePolyCapitalist” at Marginal Revolution stated that Stephen Broadberry (who I had not heard of before) had given a critique of “Why Nations Fail” that James Robinson was not prepared for. I decided to contact Broadberry and see if his argument was available anywhere online. He sent me a powerpoint, but since there weren’t graphics or anything I think his notes will work fine as text in a blog post: (more…)

Among the gripes to be had about changes in intellectual fashion since the second world war (or particularly since the 60s) is how boring it can be to repeatedly rebut it. That’s particularly the case with Peter Heather’s “Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe”. What Heather calls the “invasion hypothesis” was once the dominant explanation for how parts of Europe shifted from Roman to Germanic or Slavic domination. That particular case is also known as “Volkwanderung”. I was introduced to the book through Razib at Gene Expression, where the term for a maximalist version of that hypothesis would be “population replacement”. The opposite scenario would be mere cultural emulation (perhaps entirely peaceful) or a small elite transfer. The point of Heather’s book is to argue that there were in fact large movements of people (mixed groups including women, rather than just small male raiding parties), but there is such a stigma against the old theory that he repeatedly bends over backward to claim his version is different. Unfortunately he’s far less keen to cite specific examples of the old theory, in contrast to newer ones he argues against, that it comes off as a strawman for the point of triangulation. For example, he repeatedly insists that these were not atomic units like billiard balls, but who said they were? He also emphasizes that these migrating groups interacted with indigenous populations, but wouldn’t even killing off the old population and seizing what was once theirs count as a kind of interaction? (more…)

It wasn’t too many posts ago that I last discussed the “Why Nations Fail” blog but via Cheap Talk I see it has become relevant to the news-cycle. They respond to Mitt Romney’s claim that Israel is wealthier than Palestine (wealthier than Mitt Romney even claimed) because of culture by instead blaming institutions, tying that in with the Israeli occupation. David Bernstein, on the other hand, would point out that the standard of living in the West Bank and Gaza actually improved after the occupation, and that (at least as of 1993) the per capita GDP was higher in those territories than Egypt or Jordan (from which they originally came). Eli Dourado is unsatisfied with either explanation and wants to know the upstream variables for both institutions and culture.

Their response either interrupted or marked the end of a series of posts on post-apartheid South Africa. Daron Acemoglu & James Robinson seemed to be chiefly concerned with inequality, while when I typically read someone worried about South Africa the fear is generally focused on power plants shutting down, HIV epidemics, or a supposed genocide of Boer farmers. They reference the fear of Zuma (and his machine gun song) going the way of Zimbabwe, but they think that the cautious avoidance of frightening the white elite led to insufficient land reform and the co-opting of black politicians. Oddly enough they praise the creation of a “vibrant” democracy even though it effectively seems a one-party state. Singapore is a very well functioning one-party state, and I would have said the same thing of Japan before their Lost Decade, but I don’t put that much weight on vibrant democracy. I’m also confused by their use of acronyms in the last post, I assume “NIC” means “newly industrializing country” but “newly latinamericanized country” makes little since there is a continuation of long pre-existing inequality, and Brazil of the BRIC group is quite “latin american” already in that respect. The comparison with Germany in that post is also off since it was already a fairly wealthy country before the world wars broke out. The original posts can be found here, here, here, here and here, but I figure they should be compiled into one so they can be read in one place and in order. (more…)