Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A nation is "tired" when it ceases to want things fervently.

From The Passionate State of Mind by Eric Hoffer.

There is a deprecating attitude toward desire among moralists and idealists. They see it as a rushing into "nonentity, absurdity, valuelessness and childishness." Still, the triviality of desire need not impair its value as a motive of human activity. There is no reason why humanity cannot be served equally by weighty and trivial motives. It is indeed doubtful whether it is well for a nation that its people should be so reasonable and earnest that they refuse to set their hearts on toys. The pressure of desire in a population manifests itself in a sort of vigor. There is restlessness, recklessness, sanguineness and aggressiveness. A nation is "tired" when it ceases to want things fervently. It makes no difference whether this blunting of desire is due to satiety, reasonableness or disillusion. To a tired nation the future seems barren, offering nothing which would surpass that which is or has been. The main effect of a real revolution is perhaps that it sweeps away those who do not know how to wish, and brings to the front men with insatiable appetites for action, power and all that the world has to offer.

Avenue Cherrier by Jeremy Price

Avenue Cherrier by Jeremy Price

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Colonization as a catalyst for modernization

While their conclusion is likely true, the findings are way outside the Overton Window of the academy. From The European Origins of Economic Development by William Easterly and Ross Levine.
Although a large literature argues that European settlement outside of Europe shaped institutional, educational, technological, cultural, and economic outcomes, researchers have been unable to directly assess these predictions because of an absence of data on colonial European settlement. In this paper, we construct a new database on the European share of the population during colonization and examine its association with the level of economic development today. We find: (1) a strong and uniformly positive relationship between colonial European settlement and development, (2) a stronger relationship between colonial European settlement and economic development today than between development today and the proportion of the population of European descent today; and (3) no evidence that the positive relationship between colonial European settlement and economic development diminishes or becomes negative at very low levels of colonial European settlement, contradicting a large literature that focuses on the enduring adverse effects of small European settlements creating extractive institutions. The most plausible explanation of our findings is that any adverse effect of extractive institutions associated with minority European settlement was more than offset by other things the European settlers brought with them, such as human capital and technology.

Doctrinaires of discontent

From The Passionate State of Mind by Eric Hoffer.

"More!" is as effective a revolutionary slogan as was ever invented by doctrinaires of discontent. The American, who cannot learn to want what he has, is a permanent revolutionary. He glories in change, has faith in that which he has not yet, and is ready to give his life for it.

Stoop by Jeremy Price

Stoop by Jeremy Price

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Monday, June 18, 2018

The Reader by John Koch

The Reader by John Koch

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There is radicalism in all getting, and conservatism in all keeping

From The Passionate State of Mind by Eric Hoffer.

There is radicalism in all getting, and conservatism in all keeping. Lovemaking is radical, while marriage is conservative. So, too, get-rich-quick capitalism is radical, while a capitalism intent solely on keeping what it already has is conservative. Radicalism itself ceases to be radical when absorbed mainly in preserving its control over a society or an economy.

Which they are.

From The Political Impact of Immigration: Evidence from the United States by Anna Maria Mayda, Giovanni Peri, and Walter Steingress.

From the Abstract:
In this paper we study the impact of immigration to the United States on the vote for the Republican Party by analyzing county-level data on election outcomes between 1990 and 2010. Our main contribution is to separate the effect of high-skilled and low-skilled immigrants, by exploiting the different geography and timing of the inflows of these two groups of immigrants. We find that an increase in the first type of immigrants decreases the share of the Republican vote, while an inflow of the second type increases it. These effects are mainly due to the local impact of immigrants on votes of U.S. citizens and they seem independent of the country of origin of immigrants. We also find that the pro-Republican impact of low-skilled immigrants is stronger in low-skilled and non-urban counties. This is consistent with citizens' political preferences shifting towards the Republican Party in places where low-skilled immigrants are more likely to be perceived as competition in the labor market and for public resources.
It's just one study but consistent with my long held hypothesis. Attitudes towards immigration are shaped more by the affect of immigration on one's quality of life (including economic quality of life than it is by preexisting opinions about immigration policy, attitudes or hypothesized racism, xenophobia, etc.

The party aspect is of less interest except as a proxy for encouragement of immigration as an unalloyed good (Democrats) and a more cautious and utilitarian consideration (Republicans).

If you are wealthy and socially established, it is likely that high-skilled immigrants increase the quality and variety of your professional experience and low-skilled immigrants reduce the cost of semi-luxury items such as construction, landscaping, lawn services, etc. For this elite, immigration is a positive.

For everyone else, those who are financially or professionally precarious, the young starting careers, the poor and unskilled, high-skilled immigrants have a marginal impact on quality of life and unskilled have a detrimental impact.

I suspect that some of the revolt of the masses across the developed world is in part a product of the consequences of the multiculturalism/open borders policies of the 1980s and 1990s in Europe and the US. The wealthy and socially established experienced a marked improvement in quality of life from these policies while everyone else had no benefit or a detrimental experience. It is not about xenophobia and racism - that is just one of the bigotries of the elite towards their own fellow citizens.

Whether you have more or less open boarders is not really the issue. It is more about how many and what are their impacts on whom. Average impacts for the whole system are one thing but individual experiences are another.

If a small elite benefit significantly and everyone else suffer a little and a small number suffer a lot, you can a small average system benefit while the bulk of the population have a decline in quality of life.

I don't know that that is what is happening but that is what I suspect is happening and which the elite are not attuned to, appearing out-of-touch and disrespectful of their fellow citizens. Which they are.

If the counter-party is constrained by confirmation bias, can there be a valuable dialog?

I was initially skeptical of this study as a reverse biased case subject to weak controls and structure. And it might be but I think it illustrates a larger issue which I have been mulling.

The study is Equalitarianism: A source of liberal bias by Bo M. Winegard, Cory J. Clark, and Connor R. Hasty. From the Abstract:
Recent scholarship has challenged the long-held assumption in the social sciences that Conservatives were more biased than Liberals, contending that the predominance of Liberals in the social sciences might have caused social scientists to ignore liberal bias. Here, we argue that victims’ groups are one potent source of liberal bias. We contend that many Liberals are cosmic egalitarians, that is, they believe that demographic groups do not differ (genetically) on socially valued traits (e.g., math ability, IQ). This, coupled with a sacred narrative about protecting victims’ groups (e.g., Blacks, Muslims, women), leads to bias against any challenge to cosmic egalitarianism that portrays a perceived privileged group more favorably than a perceived victims’ group (Equalitarianism bias). Eight studies support this theory. Liberalism was associated with perceiving certain groups as victims (Studies 1a-1b). In Studies 2-7, Liberals evaluated the same study as less credible when the results concluded that a privileged group (men and Whites) had a superior quality relative to a victims’ group (women and Blacks) than vice versa. To rule out alternative explanations of Bayesian (or some other normative) reasoning, we used within-subjects designs in Studies 6 and 7. Significant order effects for Liberals suggest that Liberals think that they should not evaluate identical information differently depending on which group is said to have a superior quality, yet do so. In all studies, higher equalitarianism mediated the relationship between more liberal ideology and lower credibility ratings when privileged groups were said to score higher on a socially valuable trait.
Yes, the academy is left leaning. And yes, the social sciences, in particular sociology, psychology, and anthropology, are especially prone to the bigoted, racist, hateful biases of postmodernism/multiculturalism and the other neo-marxist philosophies. And yes, people can go overboard proving that to be the case. And finally, yes, confirmation bias afflicts everyone.

Because that seems all this is. The academy is left leaning and the social science research is generally conducted by those steeped in postmodernism with its rejection of the Enlightenment and reason and evidence and natural rights and rule of law, and equality under the law, etc. They see only what they want to see. They know that they should "not evaluate identical information differently" based on whether it supports or conflicts with their ideology. They know that and yet do it
anyway as this research confirms.

Stepping away from the specifics of the research and the particulars of confirmation bias, there is a larger issue I have been mulling.

Time is limited. There are people who are so steeped in a belief system (such as postmodernism and its ilk) that there is no conceivable way that time invested in discussion will bear any fruit. You will not convince them of anything at variance with their faith-based ideology.

You might also be so-blinkered, which you have to take into account, but assuming that you are willing and able to recognize the instances where either the evidence is on their side or where it is insufficient to resolve a question one way or another, should you engage with such a party?

If your time is limited, you understand their position and they are unable to comprehend a different wold-view, is there any value to such a conversation? Instinctively the answer seems to be yes. But I am not so sure. If your objective is to maximize the return of acquired knowledge or insight from conversations and interpersonal interactions, there are some that won't pass muster. I think that is true and yet it goes against the grain.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Emergent order rather than Deep State conspiracy.

An interesting observation from The Deep State Is an Organism, not a Conspiracy by Charlie Martin. I think he is more right than wrong but still not quite right. The Deep State is not a conspiracy. The Deep State is not an organism, The Deep State is a manifestation of emergent order, arising from systemic biases unconstrained by oversight or checks and balances.
Of course, this notion of a single grand conspiracy is overblown, but it leads to counter-arguments, like Erick Erickson's recent tweet about the FBI inspector general's report:
There is no coup. There is no sinister deep state. There is no dark conspiratorial force. It’s incompetence, idiocy, bureaucratic self-aggrandizement, and partisan hackery all the way down.
Since there are no risible meetings of a Secret Cabal, it follows (for people like Erickson) that there's no Deep State at all. This is a fallacy that is so widespread it's endemic, part of the popular wisdom: a complicated system has to have a Boss, someone to wave the baton and a bureaucracy to follow the Boss's orders, or it won't work at all.

But this is a fallacy. There are plenty of systems we look at every day that have no boss: there is no tree sprite telling each tree how to grow, no homunculus in our head tripping switches and turning knobs with wild abandon trying to keep our bodies working. Instead, there are complicated feedbacks that respond to changing conditions more or less automatically. Blood pressure regulation, body weight, blood glucose concentration, sexual arousal, all happen through stimulus and response, impulse and regulatory counter-impulse.

One fascinating example is the body's response to wounds. You cut yourself, and platelets flow to the wound site with the blood flow, rupture, and cause clotting and then scabbing. They're followed quickly by white blood cells that excrete other chemicals that cause the wound to close and then heal. But there is no "manager" orchestrating this -- it's just chemical responses.
The biological is a good counter-example to the fact that there does not have to be a command-and-control hierarchy in place for there to be a conspiracy. But biological functions (including wound response) are an evolved and predictable response to an organism in an evolving world. I don't think there is much in the Deep State phenomenon that is pre-programmed.

I think what is happening is in some ways much easier to understand and does not necessarily involved command-and-control or even conspiracy. What we see, and what some attribute to conspiracy, is, I think, a spontaneous and emergent order.

Our system of governance is structured to ensure that there are checks and balances and that ultimately, all government functions are accountable to the citizens of the nation. The theoretical simplicity of the original model with three levels (local, state, federal) and three branches (executive, legislative and judicial) has been eroded over the years as our economy and our modern society becomes more complicated. The legislative cedes power to the executive. The judiciary tries to reinterpret the legislative. The executive delegates to independent agencies. None of it is done explicitly but wide swaths of government now functions with no clear or transparent linkage to the wishes and needs of the citizenry.

This is exacerbated by the fact that the clerisy and policy setting class within the government who manage the whole process no longer look like or experience life as the typical American citizen. The bureaucratic clerisy is localized in a few geographic locations, with educations from a few selective schools, with world views dramatically deviant from the norm, career experiences different in degree and kind from most Americans. They are making unsupervised decisions for Americans with whom they are unfamiliar about lifestyles with which they are unfamiliar and are often anathema to their own prejudices and preferences.

As the citizenry rises up against the sheltered clerisy in America, Britain, Germany, Hungary, Sweden, Italy, Spain, France,
the EU, etc., I suspect they are not so much rising up against the established political parties (though there is an element of that). I think they are rising up against the State interests who act independent of the interests and oversight of the citizenry.

So when outsiders campaigning against the establishment are elected in America, France, Hungary, Germany, Italy, etc., the State itself is in some ways more threatened than the establishment parties themselves. Political parties at least nominally compete with one another. Hidden agencies twelve layers deep in a bureaucracy are not accustomed to the sunshine sought by the citizenry. No wonder they flinch.

I think much what we are seeing with the IRS, and the FBI, and the CIA, and the EPA, and the NSA, and the DOJ, and the (insert preferred three letter agency) is mostly a defensive retaliation against unexpected and undesired oversight. Because it is happening across agencies and because there are common patterns of response, doesn't mean that they are coordinated. It is a spontaneous order not a conspiracy. I suspect.

Sure, there are occasionally micro-conspiracies of one sort or another among individuals with shared interests and goals - as there are in any complex enterprise of any magnitude.

There is a Deep State but it is not a controlled entity but an emergent order of unconstrained special interests usurping the authority and function of the State.

When you think about the fundamental lessons we have learned from the shock of the modern (500 years ago) and the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment (250 years ago), we pretty much know what are required of the state, the community and the individual in order for there to be productivity growth, innovation and prosperity.
At the state level - light taxes, low regulation, rule of law, property rights, natural rights of speech, assembly, religion, etc., narrow but consistent enforcement of the law, representative/participatory democracy, etc.

At the community level - social norms which emphasize tolerance, laissez faire, respect and trust, etc.

At the personal level - Bourgeoise values which emphasize saving, low time discount, valuing education, competition, encourage trust and openness, etc..
We know these elements work for everyone, everywhere and they work best when all elements are present at the same time.

The irony and the paradox is that the prosperity which arises from combining these golden elements also require larger government and, more critically, more complex governance. And when you get more complex governance, you end up with government entities, individuals, and agencies dissociated from the citizenry and self-anointing themselves as better or more knowledgeable than the citizens who are in fact their bosses. When the citizenry call them to account, it looks like an attack on government and the special interests respond in predictable defensive fashion. Because it is a shared, predictable and common response, it is easy to see it as a conspiracy by the "Deep State" and/or see it in political terms.

I suspect that for the most part, that is incorrect. The "Deep State" is really a term for the unbalanced state or the unconstrained state. This unconstrained state has interests which subsist through the coercive power of government and which are not constrained and experience little oversight, control, regulation, or public authorization. That the public desire that governance delegated to special interests should at least be transparent if not also constrained by checks and balances as originally intended is not a rejection of the State. It is a rejection of the Hidden State, the Unconstrained State, the Unaccountable State.

While it might appear anarchic if you are a special interest, or an attack if you are within the Deep State, or a conspiracy if you are the citizenry, it is not quite anything of those things. It is an unbalanced system of governance requiring greater transparency and more checks and balances, and that is not a bad thing.