Monthly Archives: August 2014

А у вас негров линчуют

Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement was practically a federal government project. Its roots may have run deep, but its impetus came from the Supreme Court decision of 1954 and from the subsequent attempts to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. The students who braved a hell to accomplish this goal are well remembered. Sometimes forgotten is US government’s almost spectacular determination to see that federal law was respected. Eisenhower sent, not the FBI, not a bunch of lawyers, but one of the best and proudest units of the United States Army, the 101st Airborne, to keep order in Little Rock, and to see that the ‘federalized’ Arkansas national guard stayed on the right side of the dispute. Though there was never any hint of an impending battle between federal and state military forces, the message couldn’t have been clearer: we, the federal government, are prepared to do whatever it takes to enforce our will.

This message is an undercurrent throughout the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s. Though Martin Luther King still had to overcome vicious, sometimes deadly resistance, he himself remarked that surprisingly few people were killed or seriously injured in the struggle. The surprise diminishes with the recollection that there was real federal muscle behind the nonviolent campaign. For a variety of motives, both virtuous and cynical, the US government wanted the South to be integrated and to recognize black civil rights. Nonviolence achieved its ends largely because the violence of its opponents was severely constrained. In 1962, Kennedy federalized the National Guard and sent in combat troops to quell segregationist rioting in Oxford, Mississippi. Johnson did the same thing in 1965, after anti-civil rights violence in Alabama. While any political movement has allies and benefits from favorable circumstances, having the might of the US government behind you goes far beyond the ordinary advantages accompanying political activity.



An overabundance of labor

Unless other forces intervene, an overabundance of labour will tend to drive down its price, which naturally means that workers and their families have less to live on. One of the most important forces affecting the labour supply in the US has been immigration, and it turns out that immigration, as measured by the proportion of the population who were born abroad, has changed in a cyclical manner just like inequality. In fact, the periods of high immigration coincided with the periods of stagnating wages. The Great Compression, meanwhile, unfolded under a low-immigration regime. This tallies with work by the Harvard economist George Borjas, who argues that immigration plays an important role in depressing wages, especially for those unskilled workers who compete most directly with new arrivals.

Immigration is only one part of a complex story. Another reason why the labour supply in the US went up in the 19th century is, not to put too fine a point on it, sex. The native-born population was growing at what were, at the time, unprecedented rates: a 2.9 per cent growth per year in the 1800s, only gradually declining after that. By 1850 there was no available farmland in Eastern Seaboard states. Many from that ‘population surplus’ moved west, but others ended up in eastern cities where, of course, they competed for jobs with new immigrants.

This connection between the oversupply of labour and plummeting living standards for the poor is one of the more robust generalisations in history. Consider the case of medieval England. The population of England doubled between 1150 and 1300. There was little possibility of overseas emigration, so the ‘surplus’ peasants flocked to the cities, causing the population of London to balloon from 20,000 to 80,000. Too many hungry mouths and too many idle hands resulted in a fourfold increase in food prices and a halving of real wages.


But don’t the economists disagree?


Suspicion of disaster as a possibility sometimes succeeds in breaking through the outer shell of social complacency, but in curious self-disarming ways. The acute concern at the recent turn of the century over the “Y2K” computer-programming problem offers a case in point. All sorts of panic-stricken predictions hung on the belief that on 1 January 2000 every computer in the world would shut down causing the infrastructure of the industrial nations to grind to a halt. The “Global Warming” hysteria has something of the same character, with its predictions of a rising ocean inundating Florida and millions of people dying from heat stroke, as even the temperate zones become uninhabitable. To the list of doom-scenarios one could add fear of plague (AIDS, it used to be, or nowadays “bird flu”) or anxiety about a giant-meteor impact of “Dinosaur Killer” magnitude. Such apocalyptic fantasies characteristically elide the most probable cause of any impending systemic collapse of civilization.


Eric Hoffer on intellectuals

Hoffer’s hostile attitude toward what he called intellectuals is complicated, even contradictory. On the one hand, he admired well-educated, articulate people, corresponded with them, and wrote down hundreds of quotations from their books. On the other, he despised those he identified as “men of words” and expressed contempt for them and their followers

In the usual sense of the word, Hoffer himself was an intellectual. He read books and wrote them. But he had no desire to teach others, he said, and this made him “a non-intellectual”. For the intellectual is someone who “considers it his God-given right to tell others what to do.”

What the intellectual craves in his innermost being is to turn the whole globe into a classroom and the world’s population into a class of docile pupils hanging onto the words of the chosen teacher.

“Even in a union meeting of more or less unlearned longshoremen, I never have the feeling that I know best, that I could tell them what to do”, Hoffer pleaded. He had faith in the competence of ordinary Americans to solve their own problems. …

One target was Herbert Marcuse, a Marxist political theorist who taught at Brandeis University. America suffered from “repressive tolerance”, Marcuse believed, and many leftist radicals of the day (such as Abbie Hoffman and Angela Davis) admired him. Hoffer called Marcuse “a shabby would-be aristocrat”. …

Hoffer at one point defined an intellectual “as one who saw himself as born to teach, lead and command”; later as “a literate person who feels himself a member of … an intellectual elite.” He began to develop these ideas even as he was writing The True Believer. Mass movements are generated by non-creative men of words, he believed. …

He viewed them as a dangerous species. They scorn profit and worship power; they aim to make history, not money. Their abiding dissatisfaction is with “things as they are”. They want to rule by coercion and yet retain our admiration. They see in the common criminal “a fellow militant in the effort to destroy the existing system”. Societies where the common people are relatively prosperous displease them because intellectuals know that their leadership will be rejected in the absence of a widespread grievance. The cockiness and independence of common folk offend their aristocratic outlook. The free-market system renders their leadership superfluous. Their quest for influence and status is always uppermost.

A free society is as much a threat to the intellectual’s sense of worth as an automated economy is a threat to the worker’s sense of worth. Any social order, however just and noble, which can function well with a minimum of leadership will be anathema to the intellectual.

All intellectuals are homesick for the Middle Ages, Hoffer wrote. It was “the El Dorado of the clerks”—a time when “the masses knew their place and did not trespass from their low estate”. Intellectuals enjoyed their first taste of blood when they started the French Revolution. Writers and revolutionaries had a new sense of their power. “They knew that the world was vulnerable to the potency of thought and that they were the new makers of history.”

But the nineteenth century had been a big disappointment. The workers had shown unwelcome signs of wanting to join rather than rebel against the bourgeoisie. The members of the intelligentsia, pushing too openly for revolution, had overplayed their hand and were discredited in the failed European revolutions of 1848. They didn’t return to the stage of history until the Russian Revolution.

Unless they are consulted and flattered, Hoffer argued, intellectuals constitute a destabilizing force in society. When a prevailing order is discredited or overthrown, it is often “the deliberate work of men of words with a grievance”. Even a vigorous and meritorious regime is likely to be swept away if it fails to win the allegiance of the articulate minority. When we hear of widespread disaffection within the society it is really the intellectuals who are disaffected. On the other hand, where that minority lacks a grievance, the prevailing order—however incompetent or corrupt—is likely to remain in power.

The modern faith in education as the solution to society’s ills had only made matters worse. Shortly before The True Believer was published, Hoffer noted that if it is true that “…the most rabid fanatic comes from among the non-creative men of words, then it is obvious that a spread of education and a reverence for creativeness is likely to multiply the number of those thwarted in their attempts to create.”

Possibly, then, “the diffusion of literacy in the Western world … has created a reservoir of fanatics of the most virulent kind.”

Educational efforts in Asia had kindled more resentments and grievances than solutions, he thought. “Many of the revolutionary leaders in India, China and Indonesia received their training in conservative Western institutions.”

— Thomas Bethell, Eric Hoffer: The Longshoreman Philosopher

The future belongs to those who show up for it

Although the strictly Orthodox sector is growing rapidly, it is still too small by itself to account for the large size of Israeli Jewish families. There is also evidence that fertility rates correlate not just with religious intensity but also with nationalism. Right-wing Israeli women, even secular ones, have large families.


Cultural distance

For the most part, such transactions do not actually happen at all. This is in a sense the “missing trade” in the world. It is most visible at the level of countries. As Pankaj Ghemawat shows in World 3.0, the cultural distance between countries is a very strong predictor of bilateral trade levels, and the strength of border restrictions between two countries can be measured in terms of missing trade: the trade that would exist if the border didn’t exist. If I recall correctly, Ghemawat estimates that the missing trade across the US-Canada border (the strongest economic bilateral relationship in the world, grounded in very deep cultural affinity) is missing several trillion dollars.

When they do happen, there is usually a trader-mediated market in the middle, one of whose primary functions is to create a certain amount of anonymity, by obscuring the origins and destinations of goods and services in order to preserve the fictions on either side.

This allows, for instance, ideological foes to trade things like agricultural produce, oil and minerals.

It is no accident that things traded via intermediary trader markets are typically commodities. It is much easier to obscure the origin and destination of things like oil than things like movies. To the extent that a product or service is not  a commodity, it carries with it the values of the producer culture.


I’m not convinced that the US/Canada cultural affinity is that deep. The two seem pretty different; and after the revolution, when the monarchists were chased out of the States, most of them went to Canada.

Also, is the operative thing here really cultural distance in general, or is it cultural distance between elites? The latter is more relevant in things like war: consider that Washington entered America into two wars for the purpose of siding with Britain to crush Germany. (The main reason the Anglosphere didn’t knock Germany back to the Stone Age after WW2 was that USG worried that, if they did that, it would go Communist.) The elites were Anglophiles, but many of the common people were Germans.

Ideographs and shriveled grapes

T: “We’ll make more money if we throw out the king. But how do we sell it? We must argue for the freedom of the people to choose their own government.”

T+175: “Government is inefficient, wasteful, and easily co-opted by our enemies. It’s obvious. But how do we sell it? We all believe that people have the freedom to choose their own government; let’s say that people should also have freedom from government.”

T+240: “No one should ever disapprove of my life choices. But how do I sell it? We all believe that people have freedom from government; let’s say that people should also have freedom from being shamed. (As long as they like my life choices; if they don’t, they’re shaming and infringing my freedom.)”

Prohibition propaganda

Everything in this country that is pro-German is Anti-American. Everything that is pro-German must go. The German press. The teaching of German in the elementary schools, at least. German Alliances and the whole German propaganda must be abolished. A great American patriotism is essential to national existence. Any alliance that weakens it, is an enemy and should be treated as such. The brewers and allied liquor trades that back such an alliance should suffer the same penalty.

If Prohibition is so obnoxious to this class of Germans as statements indicate, they will either be compelled to change their habits and adjust themselves to the new environment, or else find some beer-soaked, Bacchus-dominated spot in the fatherland and go there. Americans are too patriotic to harbor an enemy of the public good within her borders, when by prohibiting it they can better carry out the purpose of government and promote the general welfare.

No patriot can defend the brewers and allied trades in this unpatriotic act. How can any loyal citizen, be he wet or dry, help or vote for a trade that is aiding a pro-German alliance? The time is here for a division between unquestioned and undiluted American patriots, and slackers and enemy sympathizers. A German Alliance that carries on a propaganda for Germany or a brewers’ association that backs it, has no claim on a patriot. The challenge to every 100 per cent American is to strike the hyphen from the German-American Alliance and make it an American alliance or destroy it. That task cannot be completed as long as its partners in disloyalty, the pro-German brewers and their allies, are allowed to gather money from the people to betray the government. The most patriotic act that the Congress or any Legislature or the people can do … is to abolish the un-American, pro-German, crime-producing, food-wasting, youth-corrupting, home-wrecking, treasonable liquor traffic.


There is no white nation


When the white people who make up your ethno-nationalism have spent the past 60 plus years voting in progressively more anti-racist bullshit, have elected a black man because he is black, and spend their time persecuting each other for anti-racism – exactly how are you going to get them to act in their own ethnic self interests?

They are acting in their own perceived self-interest; it’s just that ‘white’ isn’t the relevant category.

Among Brahmins, ethnic self-interest remains in the background: it would be possible to construct a fairly accurate explanation for their politics that doesn’t invoke it. (Rational irrationality, status hierarchies, unknown unknowns, etc.) But that doesn’t mean they have no thedishness amongst themselves. Brahmin attitudes toward Vaisyas range from mocking contempt to genocidal hatred: Brahmindom is monoatheistic, and Vaisyas are clearly on the outside of that, are clearly elthedish to Brahmins. It follows from this that they can’t be considered to be in the same group, insofar as groups are relevant.

One potential solution is to cultivate a new Brahmindom from the Vaisyas, one that’s aware of the proper duties of their caste. The role of Brahmindom is to produce the art, the poetry, etc. for the culture. (Brahmins don’t listen to folk music; they listen to ‘folk punk’. This is a symptom of the underlying disorder.)

Total collaboration of the castes is as unlikely as total collaboration of the classes, but it does not follow from this that the current Streicherism is inevitable.

In America, ‘priesthood’ would be more accurate than ‘Brahmindom’, and ‘missionary caste’ would be more accurate still.

On Chesterton’s fence

Chesterton’s fence does not necessarily mean that a social norm implies a process of deliberate engineering toward that norm in order to solve or prevent a specific problem — though sometimes it may, as with the Catholic Church’s engineering of norms against close cousin marriage.

Notes toward similar concepts to Chesterton’s fence — perhaps drawing on some level from Steve Sailer’s ideas about the British, emergence, and evolution (and golf):

1) Civilizations are rare. Why? If civilizations arise wherever the resources exist — but can this explain civilizational cycles within the same area? If civilizations arise wherever there is a great leader to unify the people and found an empire — but why did some empires collapse shortly after their founding? Korea demonstrates the importance of social technology in civilizational maintenance/flourishing; certain other areas may also, like southern Italy, but then there’s IQ as a confounding factor. (But how do those areas compare to others of similar IQs?) hbdchick makes a good case that a certain type of social norm (marriage patterns) has far-reaching effects; if there’s one, there’s likely to be others. This field isn’t well-understood at all, but its importance should be obvious, since the collapse of empires is well-attested in the historical record. And if norms play a significant role in the maintenance of civilizations, isn’t the existence of a norm in a successful civilization evidence (weak but existent) that the norm is important? (That’s a question — I don’t know, but it seems like it. There are probably statistical methods for dealing with this sort of thing, but I don’t know them.)

2) Norms can emerge organically through mass responses to obvious conditions, without deliberate engineering of the sort likely to leave easily-noticed written records.

3) Human universals or near-universals: what is the reason for their existence? There are imaginable ways of organizing society that aren’t seen in the world; is this due to pure historical chance, or? Since they exist, it’s probably a bad idea to devote resources to them without at least trying to figure out why the fence is there.