Material inequity: Why Canadian gun control works better than Mexico’s

I have pointed out to liberal friends that for all the talk about murder and gun control, everyone talks about Canada and Western Europe, no talks about Mexico and Russia.  The Mexico’s gun laws are in some ways stricter than Canada’s.  Here’s the NYT dishonest presentation of it:

Americans look at Mexico and see a country of relentless bloodshed, where heads are rolled into discos, where mutilated bodies show up a dozen at a time and where more than 60,000 people have been killed since the government began its assault on drug traffickers in 2006.

But Mexicans see their northern neighbor as awash in violence, too. They look with amazement at the ease with which guns can be purchased in the United States and at the gory productions coming out of Hollywood, and they shake their heads at the mass shootings last year in Tucson and last week in Aurora, Colo.

Why, Mexicans ask, don’t Americans tighten their gun laws? Doing so, they say, would stanch the violence both in the United States and in Mexico, where criminal groups wreak havoc with military-grade weapons smuggled in from the United States.

Why dishonest? Mexican gun violence is higher than the US.   Nor do all the illegal arms come from the US, they also come from other violent countries in central America, and some of the military grade weapons are left over from both US and Soviet interests during the cold war.  Gun control alone does not explain that, and the unattributed assertions of the NYT do not go with my anecdotal experience talking to Mexicans here in narco-crime truamaized Northern Mexico.  The randomness of US mass killings does shock here in Mexico; however, so does the randomness of the cartel violence.  It is impossible to tell if this is cultural or mass killers just become narco-enforcers–it, however, is not the availability of weapons.

So what’s the difference?  If I had to put money on it: It is relative poverty mixed with inequality.  Canada has a small population and the lowest wealth inequity in North America.  Mexico and the United States have severe wealth inequality, and even though things are improving here in Mexico, much more poverty than the either the US or Canada.

The Week, of all places, seemed to actually get this in an recent article:

But there is an intersection of men and violent crime that is open to immediate political intervention. In their 2009 book The Spirit Level: Why Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett point out what other commentators have re-established in the wake of the Isla Vista murders: violent crime is overwhelmingly committed by young men between the ages of 15 and 29. And, calling upon the expertise of Harvard Medical Schol’s James Gilligan, the author of Violence and Preventing Violence, the authors posit that “acts of violence are ‘attempts to ward off or eliminate the feeling of shame and humiliation — a feeling that is painful, and can even be intolerable and overwhelming — and replace it with its opposite, the feeling of pride.'” This conclusion, too, resonates with the facts of the Rodger case.

I think the Week article misses some of the points.  Most gun violence is not related to mass killings like this.  Most gun violence is suicide, and then a lot of the remaining violence related to intimates engaged in things like the drug trade. All of which are tied to systemic wealth imbalance, but the idea that status competition in addition to out-and-out misogyny could have been involved with Elliot could explain a bit of the why this is so specific to US even compared with countries with awash in weapons.  I still think a hate-monger PUA-worshiping individual like Elliot Rodgers may have killed women anyway as violence against women is older than American hyper-wealth inequity, and was significantly worse even in the recent past.

The implications for gun control are clear though; if the US remains trending towards the same inequality patterns we link to places like Eastern Europe and Central America, reforms like gun control are unlikely to work.  If you reduce the material inequity, however, you are likely to lower the violent crime (which is lowering already for other reasons) anyway with or without gun control.

 

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Anthropologically Unsound: Why Genetic hyper-determinsim is not as scientific as you think…

First, the caveats that are necessary, I am not an anthropologist. I am not a comparative biologist.  I am not a geneticist.  I am writer and as a writer, I read things.   I did study anthropology seriously, but abandoned it for philosophy at the undergraduate level because I knew philosophy+English would be more helpful to getting into law school, and I condensed the anthropology and philosophy courses into a liberal studies specialization.  So I am a educated and informed layman, and you should read me with that limitation in mind.

Second, there has been some misreading  of people being more “human bio-diversity friendly” than I am.  Race in the US does trace to morphology which does have some referent to traits that can be spotted on genetic screening, and it does tie to regional traits.  This has been attempted to be explained by some geneticists who are sociobiology friendly as also tying to cultural traits which are statistically highly heritable and are the outcome of things like criminal execution and sexual selection.  While I am sympathetic to the idea that there are still evolutionary traits developing due to sexual selection, you can see how this can be used, particularly with paired with evolutionary psychology, to rationalize cultural traits as more historical than they are.  The example one often hears is the evolutionary biologist explaining why pink is linked with women, while the historian of culture knows this has only been the case for about 120 years in European and post-European colonial cultures.

Still the second point is important.  I have pointed out that, for example, oxytocin bonding manifests completely differently in different cultures: a study that I have linked to before concerns Korean and US cultures. The more interesting thing about this is that recent sexual selection can’t explain the interaction differences because Koreans raised in the US have many more of the reactions to oxytocin in their friendships you see amongst Americans.   Meaning even if you cannot discount phenotype differences on behavior, the relationship is obviously more culturally primed than most people think. Race-realism predicated on cultural genetic determinism does not only not explain this, but ignores the tons of recent discoveries which complicate it and brackets them out of the question: environmental cues and triggers that effect gene manifestation (see many mental and physical illnesses require both a gene AND an environmental condition to have a higher probability of manifestation), epigenetics developments of traits, cultural priming of genetic traits through cultural management of environmental stressors, and, even the logical fact,  the fact that nature-nurture binaries are a category error predicated on some spurious notions of “nature” and “society” which are not justifiable.

Enter here some thoughts over at a friend of mine’s blog, Vulgar Materials, talking about IQ related theories on race and the current development of “human nueral uniformity” as somehow a type of “liberal or leftist creationism.”   He asks a simple rhetorical question which takes this vague, HBD-esque notion and exposes its problem:

If physicalism is correct, strong AI must be possible, and it is fairly certain that there are hardware layouts upon which would supervene minds vastly superior to our own, and perhaps, some day, we shall devise them. But evolution only ever seeks out local optima. This makes it vastly inferior to human design; every transitional form must pay off in terms of fitness (under whatever environmental conditions it appears;) it knows irrationalities plenty but no speculative bubbles. What if intelligence is subject to such chassis limitations – if the human brain is about as advanced along that dimension as can be given its design constraints? Several considerations make this plausible.

You may ask what could this have to do with intelligence difference between races being genetically innate.  Why not just point out the studies that show that being raised outside of poverty conditions leads to dramatically increased IQ, or that “black” students enculturated as “white” through adoption in mixed race families often show significant increases in aggregate IQ.  The problem with these objections is that they don’t show the problem with the entire question.

So, what are his answers:

First, there does not appear to be much low-hanging chemical fruit available for improvements to intelligence. There haven’t been any conspicuously successful nootropics other than caffeine (which shifts cognitive capacity around in time; the piper must yet be paid,) and large-scale studies have consistently failed to find SNPs that impact intelligence

This is more damning than it first appears. Through dopamine and oxytocin manipulation, which base levels are correlative to gene expressions in individuals, one could actually change both your social and intimate ties. You willingness to give or endure violence for a group one is attached, etc.  There, however, is NOTHING LIKE THIS WITH INTELLIGENCE or even abstract reasoning such as IQ.  We can pharmacologically boast concentration but we are boasting intelligence fatigue in that point, not intelligence overall.  This means we still do not understand what exactly we are describing by intelligence and would have a hard time reducing it anything we could see as a gene manifestation.

His next answer:

Second, intelligence is likely the result of an intra-human arms race, rather than struggle with the extra-human environment. Humans have intelligence enough to kick the ass of (non-human) nature ten times over everywhere on the planet – the myth of the noble savage, living in harmony with her natural environment, is exactly that – but we do have a tendency to get into more nettlesome battles of wits with each other.

This point is more subtle. The HBO advocate can say, “See this is proof of group selectivity as competition is generally between groups.”  That may have been trouble in nomadic, hunter-gather societies which have more complete in-group cohesion and show violence as a trait towards outsiders, but it is NOT true anytime after the development of agriculture or even pastoral nomadism. Class society begins at this time as division of labor is required for agriculture to work. Given proximity, such intelligence battles are not only in-group but often both inter-class (between groups competing for resources) and intra-class (between individuals competing for status and advancement).  Therefore, intelligence should so signs of being related to positions within a culture framework. Those IQ studies on poverty and “racial enculturation” (which is explicitly tied to class) and IQ are far more indicative of this than the hyper-genetic determinism implied in “human nueral uniformity.”

His last point is the one most relevant to anthropology:

Third, humans have unusually low genetic variation; we are a bottleneck species. This point has been emphasized in previous anti-racist arguments; the point here is not just that absolute current variation is comparatively low, but that there is less room for maneuver.

While some scientific racialists have argued that human races amounted to sub-species, this does not stand water.  I have talked about research indicating that hominid sub-species are more like what we view as races, and even then we have to consider removing them as sub-species because products of sexual union between the various hominid groups appear to have been reproductively viable for generations down.  Meaning most biological notions of species do not apply.  This is even more true now because of the bottle neck discussed.  Furthermore, if you remove the African populations from the equation, the bottle neck gets even tighter (as there is more genetic diversity within Africa that in all the areas outside of it).  While HBD advocates like to argue that Asians, then whites, then hispanics and first peoples (North West Asians), then Africans make some kind of human intelligence hierarchy. This does not stand to up to our knowledge of population genetics:  Hispanics are a cultural group, not even a clear race in the reductive HBD definition.  Secondly, Native Peoples have phenotype evidence clearly showing ancient SIberian/Asian ancestry, why the strong difference in IQ?  Why does the sophistication of Meso-American society indicate that perhaps even as recently as 400 years ago, which in biologic time is nothing, Meso-American culture as technologically and culturally advanced as European. IQ studies now explain that?  No. No, they don’t.  Even the recent sexual selection hypothesis doesn’t.    A good recourse on this from a slightly more left-than-me pov can be here.

So the question becomes what do we mean by identity and why does it have these effects?  I used to be a Marxist skeptical of identity theory. Now I am skeptical of both liberal identity theory rooted in stand-point epistemology and classical Marxism, but I think there is a core to identity theories of human relationships that are more anthropologically sound than some of the more abstractified Marxist notions of pure class struggle as the sole “mover of history”. Marx’s critique of capitalism stands and fails on capitalism, and increasingly it is capitalism itself that I realize Marxist did not actually agree on what it is, and manifestations of intra-class racial and ethnic conflict are hard to hand-wave away.  Marx’s theoretical work here was incomplete–he admitted this– and used too many Hegelian terms that actually do not seem to have done the work he wanted (the implied teleology was too simple). I keep going back to Weberian notions of class and identity relationships and conflict as they seem, while primitive, actually more clarifying.

Conversely, the analytic and “scientific” crowd, like what sees around sites like Less Wrong,  one links with sites like have mystique of abstractification.  This mirrors the teleological mystigoguery one sees with Hegelian frameworks, but inverts them. By rooting the notion of reason on analytic logic predicated on sets in math or on subject-predicate equations, the context of the observation is stripped out as is even the possibility of discussing history.  You add this observations from historical sciences like “evolutionary biology” and you have a recipe for hiding all sorts of cavaets, exceptions, and historical differences crucial the claims being made.  Beware the power of “pure reason,”  it is often hiding something.

Steering towards Endstaat: An interview with Keith418

Keith418 and I have had a ongoing conversation on the development of right-wing and left-wing ideological developments, his pessimistic judgement of Hegelian teleology, and why the far left and the far right seem to be more of a release valve for politically marginal people to vent. You can read our other interviews here and here.

C. Derick Varn:  It seems like conservatism in the US  has become completely incoherent in the opposition to Obama.  What do you make of the state of the American conservative movement? Conversely, do you think the observation often made by Paul Gottfried and by Slavoj Zizek that the Eastern Block and the former bastions of Asian communism are far more culturally conservative than any of the capitalist societies that developed in the 19th century.  This seems interestingly true, and even more true when you look at the most liberal bastions in the United States–they are the two coastal hubs of commerce and finance. 

Kieth418: Both liberalism and conservatism are failing – neither has the answers, but the more obvious this becomes, the more people cling to the idea that somehow they have to still provide solutions.

One thing to consider about modern constructivism is how much of it has simply become a business – perhaps the ultimate “pro-capitalism, pro-market” irony. People in conservative circles don’t want to rule – they don’t want to assume power and responsibility. Instead, they want a comfortable living selling stem-winding speeches and red meat to a dwindling, but well-off constituency. The left has this problem too, but it’s more concealed. How many “non profit” left/liberal groups exist solely to employ the people running them? Come on. It’s a racket.

Communism froze many of these societies in Eastern Europe. It’s not surprising to find them more conservative. The dream of many communists was really a kind of democratized bourgeois life. It’s not strange, then, to find these societies in a more conservative state. In addition, many of these countries didn’t organically “achieve” socialism. It was imposed on them – either by the USSR or by a cadre of armed and organized revolutionaries. Why would we expect these people to be radical leftists, when none of the supposed conditions for evolving to that state were ever present?

The “left” in America these days is simply the liberal wing of the managerial elites. Why should we be amazed to find them concentrated near where the wealth is? I have to laugh when people in the Bay Area demand that we “Question the Dominant Paradigm.” The “dominant paradigm” in the Bay Area, for the last 40 years, has been left-liberalism, secular humanism, etc. Do they really want  us to start being skeptical of that paradigm? Or are we not supposed to really notice who is in charge? This is like the left that gets upset about current government scandals and outrages while shielding Obama and his cronies from any blame. Do you know people who do this? I sure do.

Both the left and the right have failed. The right insisted that the market would save us. It has not. Globalism is a mess. The left demanded that governments would save us – but the state is weaker and weaker and clearly no solution. What do people do when both sets of promises prove to be bankrupt? Atheism captures so much attention these days, but when are we going to see ideological, political atheists popping up on the horizon? God may not be the only thing that died…

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Interesting Listening: Rationally Speaking about the Cruel and Unusual

I am going to suggest two podcasts for which  I learned a far amount.  Massimo Pigliucci and Julia Galef deliver one of the only “skeptic” podcasts which is not obsessed with either religion or popularizing science, but understanding rationality, its limits, and its application.   Pigliucci and Galef are often best when they tackle an issue on their own.   I may suggest MOOC podcast for understanding how to parse data and ask the right questions about social and educational policy.  As a teacher and former lecturer, few administrators and policy makers know how to ask these kinds of questions.

Another excellent podcast, which I think may have pod-faded, is Cruel and Unusual .  This is probably the best podcast on looking at the history and development of punishment, particularly in the US, as well as making possible the contextual understanding for policy.   If I may, I will make several suggestions on this:

Sex and Punishment w/ Eric Berkowitz

This episode is particularly interesting at contextualizing modern sex laws in contrast with medieval and early modern laws.

The American Origins of Prison w/ Michael Meranze

The development of the modern prison is actually refined in the US, and gives birth to most of our modern prison system.

The Politicization of Punishment w/ Jonathan Simon

Goes into the problems of polity and policy, including the insanity that is the prison politics of Texas and California.

From Dungeons to Medieval Prisons w/ Guy Geltner

The late medieval prison was actually more humane than the early modern prison and maybe even the modern prison. The idea these were places where people just went to die is actually incredibly misleading and dungeons were privately held.

The Apocalyptic Optimist: Or, don’t tell me to turn my frown upside down

“What people forget is a journey to nowhere starts with a single step, too.” – Chuck Palahniuk

optimism

For years we heard how awesome optimists were, how they lived longer, ate better, had better sex, and were generally blessed with sunshine and rainbows. It looked for a long time that optimism was a force multiplier. I wondered though, optimism always seemed like a big confirmation bias shell game and an invitation to be fooled by one’s own tendency towards the Dunning-Kruger effect.

About three years ago, the tide changed. Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright Sided came out, the economic collapse seemed to call out irrational exuberance, studies on self-conception and depression , and I was smug for a bit.

Now at risk for my own tendency for confirmation bias, the are dangers to both being irrationally optimistic and rationally optimistic. An article for Psychology Today goes into this:

Most Americans are familiar with Norman Vincent Peale and his writings on “the power of positive thinking,” and more recently “The Secret” which posits “the law of attraction.” Basically, this sounds like excellent advice. And indeed, Dr. Martin Seligman, a top-notch research psychologist and a former President of the American Psychological Association, has shown that “optimism” is a key element in emotional well-being.

But there is a big difference between healthy optimism and the Pollyanna pop psychology version of positive thinking. Giddy positivism advises us to look on the bright side at all times. These trite pep talks often tend to backfire and cause resentment and isolation in others.

People who play the “everything-will-be-terrific” game not only overlook real problems and issues that need to be addressed, but they prevent others from expressing grief, pain, anger, loneliness, or fears. It is difficult if not impossible to air your true feelings in the presence of one of these ever-positive thinkers. They often make others feel guilty for harboring bad feelings.

The ingratitude and emotional controlling nature of this kind of optimism is understood now. To be fair and not deny pain, sometimes you have to admit that the situation is, well, shit. Sometimes you have to do that to be a good friend too.

There is no rational reason deny yourself either pleasure or pain, happiness or unhappiness in abstract.   These states of being are feedback,  and while it may be wise to avoid their causes or to avoid reveling in a feedback loop, but, as sentiments guide reason, not being very intimate with your natural disposition seems foolish to this reader.

In a social context, it means a little bit of pessimism is useful, but a hysterical hanging onto disappear seems foolish.  But even that can be a optimistic apocalypticism, and even that is a reason to get up in the morning, as Eugene Thacker says about Thomas Ligotti’s cosmic pessimism:

Above all, Conspiracy is a document of the pessimist’s dilemma: that the worthlessness of life and its philosophical realisation tends to become worthwhile (a ‘no’ becomes a ‘yes’). And in this, Conspiracy might be characterised as a form of ecstatic pessimism, a pessimism that is resolutely misanthropic and without redemption, but that also must constantly bear witness to the failure of thought that constitutes it.

Even the path to nowhere is still walking.

Today’s Interesting Reading: Putin, Reparations, Weakness of Compound Interest, and Materiality, oh my.

Russia to ban citizenship change for adopted children

Fyodorov reported that in connection with this fact he and other Russian MPs had prepared a set of amendments to the current adoptions ban that would restrict the transfer of Russian children from adoptees to other families. The MP also proposes a ban on renouncing Russian citizenship for an adopted orphan until the child comes of age.

Russian officials intend to switch the adoption practices so that they are regulated by intergovernmental agreements between Russia and other nations. Presently there are only two such agreements – with Italy and France, and an agreement with Spain is expected to be signed soon. However, adoption in other countries is still allowed, with the exception of the United States and also countries that allow same sex marriage.

Two caveats: I generally do not regularly cite Putin’s Equivalent to Radio Free Europe plus Pravda Russia Today, and I find a lot of the US liberal anger at Russia to be hypocritical. I mean, Saudi Arabia and Brunei get free passes on much harsher laws than Russia. Still, tu quo que is bad thinking and worse politics. The amount of internal press this adoption scare seems particularly counter productive when taken to this level. (I like the way RT drops that “and also countries that allow same sex marriage” as an afternoon. In this great game styles masquerading in cold-war drag, things are bound to get silly. RT is bound to look a lot more like Russia’s Fox News for foreigners.

Public uninformed & skeptical about party system in Russia

In addition, the chief pollster noted that the recent accession of the Crimean Republic into the Russian Federation had shown that all legislators were unanimous on really important issues and this made people question the role of political opposition.

The political reform benefitting smaller parties commenced about three years ago, during Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency. The changes included reducing the minimum number of party members from 40,000 to 500. A minimum requirement on regional branches was also dropped, however parties must be represented in at least half of Russia’s 95 federal regions.

The reform triggered an invigoration in Russian political life – new parties began to appear and old parties that merged into larger movements started to re-register as independent projects.

I wanted to cite RT for this and not some US source which generally is more motivated in coverage. It is interesting, however, that the dominance of Russia Today has made people down that opposition even matters. I suppose that is a lesson for those American moderates who think having everyone vote in unison on pragmatic grounds would give the process more legitimacy.

Denisovans, Neandertals, Archaics as Human Races – Anthropology 1.11

The 2010 discoveries of Denisovans, the 2012 findings of archaic African DNA, and the additional 2012 genetic sequencing of Denisovans–are part of a longer trajectory dating to the discovery of fossil Neandertals. Ever since the fossil Neandertal discoveries in the 19th century, debates have raged about who they were. Were Neandertals direct ancestors to modern humans? A completely different species? Or a sub-species, like a race? And now what should we do with the Denisovans?

In 2012, anthropology can confidently report that Neandertals, Denisovans, and others labelled archaic are in fact an interbreeding part of the modern human lineage. We are the same species. There has been extensive admixture across modern humans for tens of thousands of years, and at least some admixture across several archaic groups. Neandertals, Denisovans, and other archaics may be the best example of a true human race or sub-species. They are also fully part of the human lineage, with almost all contemporary humans showing genetic admixture with archaics in our genetic signatures.

SSC Gives A Graduation Speech

What of the costs of education? What have you lost out on?

Well, first about twenty thousand hours of your youth. That’s okay. You weren’t using that golden time of perfect health and halcyon memories when you had more true capacity for creativity and imagination and happiness than you ever will again anyway. If you hadn’t had your teachers to tell you that you needed to be making a collage showing your feelings about The Scarlet Letter, you probably would have wasted your childhood seeing a world in a grain of sand or Heaven in a wild flower or something dumb like that.

I’m more interested in the financial side of it. At $11,000 average per pupil spending per year times thirteen years plus various preschool and college subsidies, the government spends $155,000 on the kindergarten-through-college education of the average American.

Inspired by a tweet: what if the government had taken this figure (adjusted for inflation) and invested it in the stock market at the moment of your birth? Today when you graduate college, they remove it from the stock market, put it in a low-risk bond, put a certain percent of the interest from that bond into keeping up with inflation, and hand you the rest each year as a basic income guarantee. How much would you have?

And I calculate that the answer would be $15,000 a year, adjusted for interest. We can add the $5,800 basic income guarantee we could already afford onto that for about $20,000 a year, for everyone. Black, white, man, woman, employed, unemployed, abled, disabled, rich, poor. Welcome to the real world, it’s dangerous to go alone, take this. What, you thought we were going to throw you out to sink or swim in a world where if you die you die in real life? Come on, we’re not that cruel.

So when we ask whether your education is worth it, we have to compare what you got – an education that puts you one grade level above the uneducated and which has informed 3.3% of you who Euclid is – to what you could have gotten. 20,000 hours of your youth to play, study, learn to play the violin, whatever. And $20,000 a year, sweat-free.

$20,000 a year isn’t much. The average mid-career salary of an average college graduate is nearly triple that – $55,000. By the numbers your education looks pretty good. But numbers can be deceiving.

Consider the life you have to look forward to, making your $55,000. The exact profession that makes closest to that number is a paralegal, so let’s go with that. You get a job as a paralegal in a prestigious Manhattan law firm. You can’t afford to live in Manhattan, but you scrounge together enough money for a cramped apartment in Brooklyn, which costs you about $2000 a month rent. Every morning you wake up at 7:45, get on the forty-five minute subway ride to Manhattan, and make it to work by your 9:00 AM starting time. Your boss is a kind of nasty lawyer who is himself upset that he can’t pay back his law school debt and yells at you all day. By the time you get back home around 6, you’re too exhausted to do much besides watch some TV. You don’t really have time to meet guys – I’m assuming you’re a woman here, sixty percent of you are, I blame the patriarchy – so you put out a personal ad on Craigslist and after a while find someone you like. You get married after a year; your honeymoon is in Vermont because his company won’t give him enough time off to go any further.

As a teacher and a uni lecturer who has more than one graduate degree, I hate to admit how much I agree with the gist of some of this. It is hyperbole, to be sure. However, one commenter on the site sums up my critique: “The factors that make upper class children smarter before they start schooling are probably the ones that allow unschooling to work where it works. Which is to say, that they wouldnt generalize to lower class parents.” On that note, one may be tempted to see this as a conservative screed, but Scott Alexander’s anti-Reactionary FAQ makes it clear that is not really here his alliance is.

The Case for Reparations: An Intellectual Autopsy

Like Coates, I have thought reparations were a bad idea, and I still do not understand the exact practicality of it. However, Coates’s argument is almost conservative in its spelling out of the damages. No matter what your opinion is on the topic, I suggest you read this article. It is one of the better things the Atlantic, which generally find to be obnoxiously predictable in its politics, has published recently.

Compound Interest Is The Least Powerful Force In The Universe

Slate Star Codex again, and this is one is directly related to the above. Scott Alexander seems to be want to answer: since the Southern states exploited African labor, why are they still so poor.

There are many many complicated moral arguments for and against reparations. Like Klein, I don’t want to get into any of them except the financial aspect of how much modern whites benefit from the lingering effects of slavery, and how much modern blacks are harmed by them.

I want to make one very loose argument and then one based off of empirical research.

The loose argument is that the best way to determine whether modern whites have gained from owning slaves (and I know Klein’s argument takes into account other forms of oppression beyond slavery, but slaves will be a good first approximation) is to see if formerly slave-owning societies are richer than formerly non-slave-owning societies.

The state with the highest percent slaves before the Civil War was South Carolina, with Mississippi number two. Mississippi is the poorest, and South Carolina the fifth poorest of the fifty states today. Except for Virginia, every single state in the former Confederacy is poorer than the US average.

This is somewhat confounded by the high level of poor blacks in these states, but remains true even when you look only at the income of white residents. For example, if Mississippi whites were their own state, they would be 39th out of 50 in terms of per capita income. South Carolingians would do better but still be below the national average. If all states suddenly became all white, Mississippi and South Carolina would drop right back down to the bottom.

So the whites who had the most opportunity to benefit from a supposed ability to earn compound interest on slavery earnings clearly didn’t do that.

While one could make the argument that the gains from slavery left Mississippi and the Deep South to enrich all whites, this seems a bit forced. The US was much less interconnected in those days. And other places that had no connection to slavery still outperform the Deep South: Italian whites, for example, still do comfortably better than whites from most Southern states.

One could always argue that Southerners would be even poorer today if not from all the compound interest they received on their slavery earnings. But Southern poverty is already a bit of a puzzle. To make them too much poorer would require them to descend into levels of squalor totally unknown in any First World country.

I think we should at least look at an alternate hypothesis: people are really really really bad at passing ill-gotten wealth through more than a generation or two.

I suggest reading the entire thing as the major complication to Coates. That said, even if Alexander is right, the moral argument and the practical argument are actually very different. We rarely seem to speak if that is the case.

An area’s level of poverty or wealth may affect the distribution of cancer types

While I thought we knew this, file this under actual evidence. Poor people get sick differently from the rich, and it is not just healthcare that causes the difference. It is the difference in environment.

Subjectivism in the short run, Classical value theory in the long

My instinct here, as should be obvious, is to deploy this as an apologetic cudgel for Marxism against neoclassicism (or, rather, against non-classical neoclassicism, as classical political economy is a special case of neoclassicism in the same way that neoclassicism is a special case of game theory.) But more objectively, the point seems to be that the appropriateness of different price theories (and, hence, ways of conceptualizing market civilization generally) depends upon the term within which you are asking your question.

Beating marginalism with Marxist theories of value may actually be wrong-headed because they describe almost completely different things, particularly when you are dealing with scales of time.


Yong Zhao: Shanghai May Drop Out of PISA, Not Interested in Being #1

Lastly, I have always been fascinated with Shanghai, which tends to do almost as well as Korea and Hong Kong, but has been much more resistant the the kill-drill, cram night school approach to education one sees in most of East Asia. (I have written many times on how this produces good PISA scores–a kin to Finnland’s who does this by almost the opposite approach than South Korea). Apparently Shanghai is considering opting out.

Shut Up, dude!: Some thoughts on the “discourse” about Elliot Rodgers

I am on the record as being a critic of both safe spaces and trigger warnings: in both cases I feel like what is going on is signaling, but particularly in the case of trauma no one can possibly know what is going to trigger someone’s experience.  So just informing your audience what you are going to talk about and letting their memory take its course is a best policy.  No place is safe because we do not have total control of either the world around us or our minds.  Consider this my warning.

So, dudes, I am speaking to you.  Four out of five closest women in my life have been traumatized by men.  In three out of four cases it was men close to them; in all four cases it was men they knew and saw almost daily.  Given the closeness of my relationship with these women–we are talking about my best friend, my partner, my ex-wife, etc–I sometimes have had to deal with trauma that I invoked that had nothing to do with me in origin.  In the case of my partner, I have to work to control my temper because being angry around her can remind her of things other men have done to her.

Of course, in my insecurity and my love for them, I may want to say “it’s not me. I am different. I will try not to hurt you.”  And you know what, every time I have done this, even lovingly, it is the wrong thing.   Why?  They already know this.  And sometimes, if I am honest, I am doing damage because of carelessness. Forgetting that in the realm of the physical, I have a distinct advantage, and there is actually a rational calculus for responding in a particular way.

Now, this is all in the context of intimate and loving relationships–sexual and not.  This principle, however, seems to come up on the internet a lot. I keep seeing men on the internet say “It’s not all men” or “It’s not all white men” or, I admit I have seen this only once, “It’s not all Asian men.”   Now, the principle I am talking about above applies a thousand times more.

So, dude, listen to me, and shut up.

A writer over at Terrible Minds gets to the core of the issue, and since I don’t feel like speaking for others, I am going to quote it:

I understand that as a man your initial response to women talking about misogyny, sexism, rape culture and sexual violence is to wave your hands in the air like a drowning man and cry, “Not all men! Not all men!” as if to signal yourself as someone who is not an entitled, presumptive fuck-whistle, but please believe me that interjecting yourself in that way confirms that you are. Because forcing yourself into safe spaces and unwelcome conversations makes you exactly that.

Instead of telling women that it’s not all men, show them.

Show them by listening and supporting.

Show them by cleaning the dogshit out of your ears and listening to their stories — and recognize that while no, it’s not “all men,” it’s still “way too many men.” Consider actually reading the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter not to look for places to interject and defend your fellow men, but as a place to gain insight and understanding into the experiences women have. That hashtag should serve as confirmation that women very often experience the spectrum of sexism and rape culture from an all-too-early age. Recognize that just because “not all men” are gun-toting, women-hating assholes fails to diminish the fact that sexism and rape culture remain firmly entrenched and institutional within our culture.

So first off, many of the problems the writer is speaking about are institutional, and, of course, they are not about “all men’s motives” or “your motives” because such structures are beyond your subjective intention.   Even if you disagree with some of the structures, and I sometimes do, saying “its not all men” means you do not get the point enough to really contribute to the conversation meaningfully anyway.   I am not saying men can’t have something to say about this, but derailing the conversation with something like “it’s not all men” or, more perniciously, “women hit men too” is more than useless.

Yes, dude, but that’s tu quo que,  which is a) a logical fallacy, and b) one that the fair heuristic reading is that you are being a git.

But there is a deeper reason for the suspicion, and it the same reason I love dog but approach them carefully.   You see “not all dogs bite people.”  In fact, most dogs that integrated in their community–your family– don’t bite people unprovoked.   Yet there is a thousand years of dealing with wolves and dogs that indicate that you have to show caution at first.  Dogs can rip your throat out.

And, while I know no one likes to be compared to dogs, it comes into play here.  This comment from the above article cuts to the heart of the matter:

My father recently said he doesn’t like the way women “study” men, how we’re always trying to figure out what men are thinking and asking them what they’re feeling. He seemed to have the crazy idea that we do this for fun or because we’re just nMy faturally nosy. I scoffed and when he asked me, “Okay, WHY do women do this?” I responded calmly with, “Because you kill us.” That’s right lads, it’s just a good old fashioned survival mechanism honed by thousands of years of evolution. Being “tuned in” to you is, simply, a strategy to keep you from slaughtering us. Not always terribly effective, obviously, but since we got totally ripped off in the upper body strength department we work with what we have.

Sure, women can be brutal too, and women can be strong.  Furthermore, as my conservative friends like to tell me, guns are an equalizer (however, at equalizer that in mass shootings and whatnot women in general seem to opt not to use). Still, I have known no women living in a city who have not be cat-called.  The number of women who I know have been sexual assaulted in some way is ridiculously high.   Most women know it’s at most 10% of men who would do these things outright.   But let us be honest, there is a physical and social power dynamic here, and neither truly work out in a woman’s favor.

So let’s recap, whenever you feel the urge to say “it’s not all x” where that x is something that  you are, shut up. Everyone actually knows that if they are not bigots or highly damaged–and if either is the case, you can not do much about that by merely asserting something anyway.  You do more for yourself by realizing not everything is about you and meeting people where they are.

And particularly in these issues about violence against women:  there are thousands of years of social and biological forces that are at play here.  Be a grow-up, and learn for a minute, listen.  After you have done that, sure, you can disagree about some theoretical or social point–although really you should probably discuss that at a different time and in a different context.  But face the facts: most violence against women is by men.  Sure, yeah, female culture can be brutal, and honestly women are just as good as perpetuating anti-female cultural traditions as men are at enforcing them. Perhaps even better, but specifically when it comes to violence, it is overwhelmingly male.   Everyone knows that it is not all men;  hell, it is probably not most men.  That is not the point.  Think about the way you approach a predatory animal that is pet that is also a beloved member of someone’s family.  You do so with caution, or, at least, few would blame you for doing so.

We realize that Elliot Rodgers is to women in the USA as to what Anders Breivik to liberals and Muslims in the nordic countries.  Rare and delusional, but symptomatic.

But it’s still not really about YOU except that if you mean what you say about it “not being all men,” be respectful and shut your mouth for a minute.

While we are talking about Elliot Rodgers and PUAs who want to be “Alpha Men.” The MRA/PUA conception of wolf pack hierarchies–which don’t apply to primates who have even more complicated social relations–is wrong.  Sorry, as a friend on the internet pointed out to me, wolves are actually more enlightened than dudes who want to be “alphas.”