July 15, 2006

NRO's Corner -- Where John Podhoretz is the voice of reason! International Man of Mystery Michael Ledeen has been raving about how, to protect Israel, the U.S. must instantly democratize Syria and Iran, a notion so loony that even JPod sounds sensible in contrast:

Like I Say, Michael... [John Podhoretz] ...a wonderful notion, that — America helping to take the lead in destroying Hezbollah and taking down the regime in Syria even as we fight a difficult war in Iraq. Wonderful. And science-fictional.

Isn't it about time for the National Review Board of Trustees to clean house?

The odds are going up, now that Berlusconi has gone down and Ledeen's spook pals at SISMI are under investigation by the new center-left Italian government, that Ledeen will be linked to something bad (something new and bad, as opposed to all the bad things he's been exposed as being involved with in the past). Sure, NR should fire a half dozen people, but if there is something blocking them from getting rid of even Michael Ledeen, then there must be something going on that I don't begin to understand.

Washington, Hamilton, and Madison foresaw the present day clearly in Washington's Farewell Address:

"Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite [foreign country] are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests."

P.S., One of the funny things about the "Islamofascist" Assad dynasty in Syria is that the Assads aren't even genuinely Islamic. The Alawites who rule Syria are considered quasi-Christian heretics by real Muslims. That's why Syria is one of the most religiously tolerant countries in the region. Lots of Iraqi Christians have recently fled to Syria now that Islamic extremism is the norm in the wonderful post-Saddam Iraq we've created. Of course, that's also why the Alawite minority that runs the country brutally can't allow democracy in Syria, because if the will of the voters ever was implemented in Syria, the Alawite heretics would be ripped to shreds.

God, how I hate the Middle East. And how I hate poor naive America being so heavily involved in it, getting yanked around by interested parties (have I mentioned Ahmad Chalabi lately?) for reasons we dumb hicks can't begin to fathom.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

The War Nerd is worried

about the Norks:

Am I the only American who doesn't understand why we didn't zap that North Korean missile on the launch pad? Seems like everybody, liberals and rightwingers, agrees we don't need to worry about Kim's silly ol' ICBMs. Kim's just acting up, trying to get attention.

Well, if Kim was trying to get my attention, it worked. I'm funny that way -- every time somebody aims a nuke-capable ICBM at me, I overreact like you wouldn't believe...

That's why I don't think it's so funny that North Korea's perfecting nuclear weapons and ICBM's at full speed while we waste our manpower in Iraq and our money on anti-ICBM cash-siphons that have way, way less chance of working than the Maginot Line ever did.

I'm not quite as pessimistic about the continued uselessness of anti-ICBM missiles, since the current approach where we try to hit the incoming 15,000 mph missile directly with our own interceptor missile seems kind of nuts, like bird hunting with a rifle instead of a shotgun. Instead, put a one megaton warhead on an ABM and detonate it when it gets somewhere pretty close to where the ICBM will be in a few seconds. That sounds technically feasible, although I certainly am not the man to quote. Of course, testing would be a political impossibility, but we ought to be able to model it on computers pretty well while we continue to test our current hit-a-bullet-with-a-bullet approach.

I wonder what the Israelis are planning...

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

What Israel really needs

The current flare-up in the Middle East, with Hamas elements in the Occupied Territories and Hezbollah in Lebanon provoking Israel, and Israel smashing back with a small, but lethal, fraction of its overwhelming might, has elicited all the usual calls from the usual suspects demanding that the U.S. fight Israel's wars for it by having America attack Iran and Syria, but let's get real. As historian Jim Chapin used to say, the armies of the Muslim countries stand behind the Palestinian people in their confrontation with Israel, hundreds and hundreds of miles behind them. And, as The Superficial might say, strike "stand" from that sentence and substitute "cower."

What Israel needs are more moderately well-armed dictatorships on its borders, like Jordan and Egypt, that Israel, the regional military superpower, can intimidate into suppressing disorderly elements within their frontiers.

The Jordanian government, for example, knows that if somebody within its borders shoots rockets at Israel, the Israeli military will come and break with impunity the shiny war toys that are the symbol and sword of the monarchy's stranglehold on domestic power. So, the Jordanian secret police makes sure nobody in Jordan does anything that will make the big bad Israelis too mad.

Unfortunately, Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon aren't well-established dictatorships like Jordan and Egypt, but semi-anarchic territories, so Israel will be intermittently pestered by organizations operating out of them. This will go on for a long time. As Dave Barry once said:

They can hold all the peace talks they want, but there will never be peace in the Middle East. Billions of years from now, when Earth is hurtling toward the Sun and there is nothing left alive on the planet except a few microorganisms, the microorganisms living in the Middle East will be bitter enemies.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Thank God for the First Amendment

At Untethered, Dennis Dale reports on a horrifying case in the UK making the expression of unpopular political opinions in the context of voting punishable by law:

From the Independent:

A branch of one of the world's biggest banks has been found guilty of racism after a senior member of staff told a colleague she would be voting for Robert Kilroy-Silk [head of the United Kingdom Independence Party] at the last general election because she said he promised to "get rid of the foreigners".

The remark was overheard by another employee, who sued the bank, HSBC, for race discrimination. Ruby Schembri, 35, a Maltese national, reported the remark. This week an employment tribunal ruled the remark could be construed as racist and ordered HSBC and the supervisor to pay compensation. The case is one of the first to find that a comment not directly made to another person can constitute racism.

This is an expansion of Britain's "hate" speech codes because now one can be sued for having been overheard. Note what prompted the surveillance of one citizen by another (emphasis mine):

She said: "Debbie asked Rosemary if she supported the Tory or Labour Party and bluntly stated, 'I am against immigration'. My ears pricked up and then Debbie added 'I hate foreigners'. I was shocked and offended. Debbie made her statement with real conviction." Ms Johnstone had made no reply.
In her witness statement, Ms Jones said that all she had said was that she would vote for Mr. Kilroy-Silk because he would get rid of immigrants. She denied using the word foreigners. But the tribunal considered her contemporaneous statement, made in 2005, when she admitted she had said she would vote for Mr. Kilroy-Silk because he "would get rid of the foreigners". The tribunal chairman said it was reasonable to infer that the remark showed a "substantial dislike of foreigners". [More]

We are somewhat more sheltered in the U.S. by the First Amendment, but this case shows once again that, in practice, immigration turns out to be the enemy of freedom of speech.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

July 13, 2006

You can always count on The Guardian

One step backwards: The World Cup is a marvel of global representation. So why is it getting whiter?
By Martin Jacques

The World Cup is not just a great global sporting event, it is also inscribed with much deeper cultural and political importance. Any evaluation of this World Cup, therefore, should not be confined to the quality of the football (surely a disappointment, with a truly great team failing to emerge) but also deal with its broader cultural meaning. In this respect it has been an even bigger disappointment. With this World Cup, global football has taken a step backwards.

The importance of football has grown in direct proportion to its ability to become genuinely global and not primarily European. Unlike virtually every other human activity - from politics and economics to universities and the military - football has managed to give a growing place in the sun to those who are normally marginalised and unrepresented. The growing importance of Africa and Asia in football are testimony to this.

But, alas, not in this World Cup. In the last sixteen there was only one African side and no Asian. In the last eight, there were six European and two Latin American: the last four was a European monopoly. (Compare this with the last World Cup, where there were only three European sides in the last eight and just one in the semi-finals.) ...

But this feeling of regression is not just related to the over-representation of European sides - linked no doubt to the fact that it was held in Germany - during these championships. It is also about the question of colour. We are now familiar with the incidence of black and brown players in European sides. This traditionally, however, has only been a characteristic of the French, English and Dutch sides. I haven't tried to make any precise statistical analysis of the European sides this time around but it feels that here again there has been a retreat...

But the matter cannot rest there. There is also something else that is deeply regrettable about global football, namely the overwhelming predominance of whites as managers and coaches. Even Brazil - a team invariably with a majority of blacks and browns - always has a white Brazilian manager. The same is always true of all European sides. Alas, it is also generally the case with African sides. Exactly the same state of affairs, of course, prevails in European club football with barely a black or brown manager to be found - yet the manager of the best club side in world football today is Frank Rikaard of Barcelona...

There may be nations and races galore on the field, but racist assumptions continue to imbue and shape football. And this World Cup has been a step backwards.

First, there is a high degree of randomness in the outcomes of individual soccer games due to the low scoring (kind of like if baseball games were determined by who hits the most triples), so drawing cosmic conclusions from a single World Cup is dubious. On the other hand, the same half dozen countries (Italy, Germany, England, France, Brazil, and Argentina) always win, and the runners-up are always the Big 6 plus a few smaller European countries.

Second, is it a white racist conspiracy to keep the black man down? Of course not! ... Well, then again, maybe it is. Consider the strict offsides rule in soccer that drives American viewers nuts with frustration because it prevents a speedburner wide receiver from getting behind the defenders and catching a bomb from the quarterback for an easy touchdown. (Soccer aficionados can convert the positions into soccer lingo.)

If they lessened the offsides rule, every national team in Europe would recruit black sprinters to play forward, the way Slovenia hired the 44-year-old Jamaican Merlene Ottey to sprint for them in the 2004 Olympics because in her dotage she was still faster than any Slovenian woman. And then each European country would need blacks defenders to cover the black forwards, just as every single starting cornerback in the NFL is black.

Or consider the lack of timeouts and lack of substitutions in soccer. The game would be more exciting if the players weren't so tired all the time (and think how listless they would be if they weren't constantly faking injuries!), but these rules work to the advantage of whites over super-fast West African sprinters because whites tend to have more endurance at distance running. (By the way, Brazil had much more of an infusion of East and South Africans than the U.S., where almost all blacks came from West Africa. So, Brazil's blacks aren't as good at sprinting as America's blacks and aren't as bad at distance running.)

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

The Big Picture

A reader writes with Paglian panache:

As a woman educated primarily in the 1950's and someone who did not have a career until her last child was an adolescent, I felt like Sleeping Beauty must have when she awoke, one hundred years later. All the concepts I took for granted (e.g. nature of proof, evidence, hierarchical concepts, necessary and sufficient (parsimony) data, probing for flaws in reason and inference) had been junked in favour of an ideological assumption that nurture/culture trumps everything because nature does not discriminate (lions can lay down with lambs after their jobs have been reclassified).

If you conceive of reality as a four-fold concept with two objective fields (singular and plural/science and systems) and two subjective (singular and plural/aesthetic and cultural norms) you can see that the 50's marked the end of the objective fields' dominance and the beginning of the swing to the subjective side. I equate this transition to that which occurred after the sack of Rome in 1527 and the Mannerist art which dominated until the Baroque era and for similar reasons - the downside of objective thinking, namely the horrors of the two world wars, had seeped into Westerners' consciousness and undermined their confidence in what we might loosely call the masculine mindset.

Women (and gays) rise to prominence under such conditions. To change this and recapture the benefits of objectivity while curbing the costs, it will be necessary to have different debates than those that now prevail - charge, countercharge, show trials, shocked responses and so on. None of this will get us anywhere.

Better, I think to start asking and persisting in asking follow-up questions: "How will you know your concept works" "What will you do if it doesn't?" "What are you personally willing to forfeit if you are wrong?" and so on. In other words the antidote to subjectivity is personal accountability. Once the notion that leaders must have personal integrity (no private life belying the public one) before their ideas can be minted in the public sphere, gains credence, we will see, I think, a new Renaissance that will refashion the Enlightenment to include the spiritual realm.

It isn't science that we need anymore (the singular, objective field) but governance (the plural, objective field). Men lead societies. It is their nature. So, it is they who must figure out how to take the truth of feminism, as repellent as that appears, and use it to forge a new world. After all, it was the Mannerist doubt that formed the basis of Baroque dynamism - what wobbles standing still becomes stable in motion.

Interesting ... The pundits sure don't want to see Joe Lieberman (or themselves) held personally accountable for a little old quagmire of a war.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

The pundits and Joe Lieberman

Have you noticed how most of the pundits just can't believe that Senator Joe Lieberman, the Democrats' VP candidate in 2000 and the leading Democrat cheerleader for the Iraq Attaq, is in danger of losing the Connecticut Democratic primary to an anti-war candidate. For example, Jonah Goldberg dismisses the opponents of Lieberman in his LA Times column:

"For good or ill, there are no grand "big ideas" behind the anti-Lieberman cause. It's driven by a riot of passions, chiefly against President Bush and "his" war. Any ideas are mere afterthoughts and rationalizations used to gussy up animus as principle."

How about this little idea: If you screw up as massively as most Connecticut Democrats believe Lieberman screwed up by helping get us into a disastrous war, why should you get a fourth six year term in the U.S. Senate?

But to pundits like Jonah, the idea that somebody important could lose his job for making the wrong decision about a little trifle like war or peace is, or at least ought to be, unthinkable. If Lieberman loses his job just for being wrong, who might be next to get the axe: Max Boot? David Brooks? Charles Krauthammer? Jonah?

You can see why this line of thought has to be nipped in the bud right away.

P.S., Harold Meyerson makes a similar point:

I am about to become a traitor to my class. Among my estimable colleagues in the Washington commentariat, the idea that Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman is facing a serious challenge from a fellow Democrat over Lieberman's support for the Iraq war seems to evoke incredulity and exasperation. On the op-ed pages of leading newspapers, we read that Lieberman is "the most kind-hearted and well-intentioned of men" (that's from the New York Times' David Brooks), a judgment that cannot credibly be disputed -- though if ever a road to hell was paved with good intentions, it would start with the anti-Saddam Hussein interventionism of pro-democracy advocates and end in downtown Baghdad today.

My colleagues also finger those crazy lefty bloggers as the culprits behind the drive to purge Lieberman from Democratic ranks. (The New Republic's Jonathan Chait recently wrote that in the Los Angeles Times.) They see a self-destructive urge for party purification sweeping over Democratic liberals, to the detriment of Democratic prospects.

Lieberman himself certainly does. My Post colleague Ruth Marcus recently spent some time on the campaign trail with Lieberman and reported on a talk he gave in Danbury. "Are the extremes going to dominate?" Lieberman asked. "Do you have to be 100 percent in agreement with an elected official or it's not good enough?"

Well. I don't blog; I columnize. But count me with the bloggers on this one. No great mystery enshrouds the challenge to Lieberman, nor is the campaign of his challenger, Ned Lamont, a jihad of crazed nit-pickers. Lieberman has simply and rightly been caught up in the fundamental dynamics of Politics 2006, in which Democrats are doing their damnedest to unseat all the president's enablers in this year's elections. As well, Lieberman's broader politics are at odds with those of his fellow Northeastern Democrats. He is not being opposed because he doesn't reflect the views of his Democratic constituents 100 percent of the time. He is being opposed because he leads causes many of them find repugnant.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

A Dutch reader on soccer

Here is something to that will make you laugh: Andrei S. Markovits, an American professor who wrote Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism, recently cried in all German newspapers that he felt so uncomfortable among those European soccer fans. He was shocked, shocked, to learn that European soccer fans are not nice PC soccer moms, but very naughty men who are the embodiment of all bad stuff like racism, sexism (the horror!), xenophobia and beer drinking (how plebeian!).

I think you are deluding yourself when you see the current anti-soccer reaction as a sign of red blooded American maleness. Liberals have plenty of reasons to hate soccer. Didn’t The Weekly Standard publish an article about the awfulness of the game. I rest my case. I think anti-soccerism is the only outlet for expressing American chauvinism that is still allowed by your ruling class, just as soccer-enthusiasm is the only form of patriotism that is allowed in the European Union. My guess is that the boys of The Weekly Standard got very upset when they saw those very German Germans sing their national anthem. They probably thought that all modern Germans were like Siegfried and Roy.

Which brings me to the main reason why many liberals must hate soccer: in spite of all the cheers for The Black Stars of Ghana, all semi-finalists turned out to be the better organized European teams. It must be very painful to them that the Global Game is still dominated by a bunch of white boys. It’s the Winter Olympics all over again! Of the four semi-finalists only France resembles an American Basketball team, but that’s because the French had until recently the same attitude towards soccer as Americans. It was/is seen as an immigrant sport, a ‘foreign’ British sport, unlike cycling (Tour de France). In the 80s, when the French soccer team was mostly white, many players had Italian and Spanish surnames.

The most ethnically homogeneous white team (Italy) is champion of the world. Germany and Portugal had (mostly) white teams. Portugal still succeeds -like England and the Netherlands- to produce many crack white players, in spite of a sizeable black population. Apparently Portuguese, Dutch and English whites are not athletic lotus eaters like you Caucasian Americans, who have yielded all of your sports to ethnic minorities (and of course a few walrus shaped white freaks without necks).

P.S. I promise to be really bored when those American Football matches are on Dutch television in January.

The European club system for organizing sports, where a pro team is often just the summit of a vast local club of amateur and youth teams who compete in many different leagues, means that pro soccer teams are often much more the organic expression of a community than are American college and pro teams.

American colleges used to recruit mostly from their home state, and that's still somewhat true for schools in huge states like Texas and Florida, but the success of UT-El Paso in winning the NCAA basketball tournament in 1965 with an all-black core of 7 players recruited from northern cities (celebrated in the recent movie "Glory Road") showed that coaches had to go where the talent was. When John Wooden, the Wizard of Westwood, was criticized for going all the way to New York City to recruit 7'-2" Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) instead of finding some big California stiff and teaching him how to be a great basketball player, Wooden said, "You can't coach quickness."

The NBA used to have local preferences in the draft, so Philadelphia got Philadelphia native Wilt Chamberlain in 1959 (although Wilt chose to live in New York City, where the girls were hotter, and just drove down to Philly for games), but that disappeared about 40 years ago, so now the draft serves to randomize the geographical distribution of players.

So, American teams are now wholly artificial, with few players who were born in the cities they represent. Soccer teams have gotten much more globalized, but an authentic Liverpool yobbo like Wayne Rooney will still at least start his professional career with a local Merseyside club like Everton before moving on to big Manchester United.

That may explain why American sports have more of a genteel facade than does proletarian soccer. An American football or basketball college player might be a complete thug, but he is still supposed to publicly pretend he sort of almost cares about the opportunity to get an education that his scholarship supposedly affords him. And when he becomes a pro, he tends to see himself much as the corporate warriors who hold the season tickets see themselves -- as free agents who might be in Dallas this year and Chicago next.

So, the club system means that European colleges aren't corrupted by sports, but it also explains why soccer players outside the U.S. tend to be such yobs, as we saw with Zinedine Zidane going all Bob Hoskins on that Italian player, who claims he couldn't have called Zidane a "terrorist" on the quite plausible ground that "I'm ignorant. I don't even know what the word means."

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

July 11, 2006

A classic example of the hole in the center of English-language intellectual discourse.

Niall Ferguson, the Scottish Victor Davis Hanson (i.e., a talented historian who publishes too much in the popular press for his own good) gives a convenient illustration of why the lack of family-centric thinking leaves Anglo-American pundits unarmed for intellectual combat:

We must understand why racist belief systems persist:
Racial differences may be genetically few, but human beings seem designed to attach importance to them

Niall Ferguson
Tuesday July 11, 2006; The Guardian

OK, let me see if I've got this straight. According to this highly publicized historian:

- A. Racial groups don't really exist biologically.

- B. But we "seem designed" to act as if they do exist.

- C. So, apparently, we evolved via natural selection under the pressure of something that doesn't actually exist but still acts upon us physically.

Hmmhhmmhh ... Forgive me for being crass, but wouldn't Occam's Razor be handy here? If you define a racial group as a partly inbred extended family, which clearly do exist, then an explanation gets an awful lot simpler.

A General Theory of Cooperation and Conflict would suggest that the pressures of nepotism and "neposchism" (or sibling rivalry writ large -- i.e., the tendency to contend with one's closest relatives over resources; thus, the French and Germans are more likely to fight over Alsace-Lorraine than either is to go to war with Tibet over yak pasturage) are fairly well balanced, as Hamilton's calculus of kin selection says. You share half your variable genes with your siblings, children, and parents, and half you don't share. This makes family life full of interest!

Thus the the decision over who will team up and who they will fight will depend upon circumstances, and thus will be likely to change over time. As the Afghans say:

I against my brother.
My brother and I against our cousins.
Our cousins and us against the world!

European history in recent centuries is to a surprising degree an account of the struggle to "right-size" the state. Combining small polities, as with the German-speaking principalities up through 1870, makes for larger armies with which to win wars. But too large a polity, as with the Austro-Hungarian empire or recent Yugoslavia, means that the people of the empire don't have their heart in it, feeling exploited by other internal groups.

In European history of the last few hundred years, the key variable in right-sizing has typically been language. Across a medium to large-sized realm, such as France, the development of modern technology in printing, travel, and bureaucracy means that language can be standardized, allowing the inhabitants to communicate with each other conveniently (making intermarriage more likely), thus setting in motion the development of a French nation in the hearts of the French. But across too large an expanse, languages are harder to standardize and thus national sentiment harder to cultivate, and thus polities are prone to fracture, as in the Soviet Union.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

An economist's faith is shaken

Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist (which I reviewed in the NY Post), writes in Slate:

The view that incentives are paramount suggests that if you take a person from a poor, corrupt economy and move him to a richer, less corrupt economy, he will live up to the new system that surrounds him. William Lewis of the McKinsey Global Institute has pointed out that illiterate Mexican workers on building sites in Houston are as productive as any construction worker in the world. The Mexicans are perfectly capable of living up to the potential of the American system.

Uh, sure, as hired hands in blue-collar work, but that won't get you all that far in modern America, especially since the white-collar elite is intent upon driving blue-collar wages down to the global market level. A visit to Mexican-American ruled towns in California won't convince you that the Mexican-American political elite is living up to the anti-corruption tradition of California's Progressive-era heritage. Or take a look at New Mexico, six generations after America too control of it.

That is a mainstream economist's view. An alternative view, popular among the common-sense crowd, is that corruption is a problem in Indonesia because Indonesians are crooks by nature. Poor countries are poor not because of their economic system, but because they are full of people who are lazy or stupid or dishonest.

I disagree out of faith, rather than because the evidence is compelling. But then, what evidence could there be? You would need to take people from every culture on earth, put them somewhere where they could ignore the law with impunity, and see who cheated and who was honest. That sounds like a tall order for any research strategy, but economists Ray Fisman and Edward Miguel have realized that diplomats in New York City were, in fact, the perfect guinea pigs. Diplomatic immunity meant that parking tickets issued to diplomats could not be enforced, and so parking legally was essentially a matter of personal ethics.

Fisman and Miguel discovered support for the common-sense view. Countries with corrupt systems, as measured by Transparency International, also sent diplomats who parked illegally. From 1997-2005, the famously incorruptible Scandinavians committed only 12 unpaid parking violations, and most of them were by a single criminal mastermind from Finland. But over the same period of time, Chad and Bangladesh, regularly at the top of the corruption tables, managed to produce more than 2,500 violations between them. Perhaps poor countries are poor because they are full of corrupt people, after all.

It's a very clever piece of work, but I will not be abandoning my faith in economic incentives just yet. In 2002 the Clinton-Schumer Amendment gave New York City much greater power to punish diplomatic parking violations: Cars were towed, permits suspended, and fines collected from the relevant foreign-aid budget. Unpaid violations immediately fell 90 percent. When it comes to parking violations, personal morality matters, but incentives matter more.

Of course, that doesn't explain how Chad is going to get an honest incentive structure on its own. To understand why Chadians don't feel a moral incentive to follow bureaucratic rules, you have to delve down below the level of abstraction at which economists are comfortable.

This subtly points out a fundamental reason economists tend to be babes in the woods when it comes to multiculturalism. The crucial question that Harford never considers is the economic equivalent of the "level of selection" controversy in evolutionary biology: namely, what is the unit upon which morality and incentives work. Harford simply assumes it is "personal" -- i.e., at the individual level.

And yet, even economists realize that American or Swedish individuals frequently behave not as if they are profit-maximizers for themselves as individuals, but as representatives of nuclear families. And surely economists have noticed that in many cultures, the extended family is privileged over the nuclear family as the focus of loyalty.

In the real world, the answer to the question of where morality and incentives operate is relativistic. Anything having to do with your relatives turns out to be all relative.

To people in extended family cultures, morality demands that they cheat strangers and the state to benefit members of their extended family. That is what a proper person does. If you can steal $10,000 per year by never paying to park in Manhattan, you can support five relatives back home in Chad on a munificent $1,000 per year (while keeping the other $5,000 for yourself, but that's only fair).

In contrast, Swedes assume, with some cultural and genetic evidence, that there isn't much difference between members of their own extended family and members of the homogenous Swedish nation, which is more or less coterminous with the Swedish state, so cheating the bureaucracy is almost like cheating your relatives. This early education in fair play tends to carry over even to treating New Yorkers well.

Dr. Theodore Dalrymple explained African corruption in an important passage, based on his experience as a doctor in old Rhodesia:

Unlike in South Africa, where salaries were paid according to a racial hierarchy (whites first, Indians and coloured second, Africans last), salaries in Rhodesia were equal for blacks and whites doing the same job, so that a black junior doctor received the same salary as mine. But there remained a vast gulf in our standards of living, the significance of which at first escaped me; but it was crucial in explaining the disasters that befell the newly independent countries that enjoyed what Byron called, and eagerly anticipated as, the first dance of freedom.

The young black doctors who earned the same salary as we whites could not achieve the same standard of living for a very simple reason: they had an immense number of social obligations to fulfill. They were expected to provide for an ever expanding circle of family members (some of whom may have invested in their education) and people from their village, tribe, and province. An income that allowed a white to live like a lord because of a lack of such obligations scarcely raised a black above the level of his family. Mere equality of salary, therefore, was quite insufficient to procure for them the standard of living that they saw the whites had and that it was only human nature for them to desire—and believe themselves entitled to, on account of the superior talent that had allowed them to raise themselves above their fellows. In fact, a salary a thousand times as great would hardly have been sufficient to procure it: for their social obligations increased pari passu with their incomes.

These obligations also explain the fact, often disdainfully remarked upon by former colonials, that when Africans moved into the beautiful and well-appointed villas of their former colonial masters, the houses swiftly degenerated into a species of superior, more spacious slum. Just as African doctors were perfectly equal to their medical tasks, technically speaking, so the degeneration of colonial villas had nothing to do with the intellectual inability of Africans to maintain them. Rather, the fortunate inheritor of such a villa was soon overwhelmed by relatives and others who had a social claim upon him. They brought even their goats with them; and one goat can undo in an afternoon what it has taken decades to establish.

It is easy to see why a civil service, controlled and manned in its upper reaches by whites, could remain efficient and uncorrupt but could not long do so when manned by Africans who were supposed to follow the same rules and procedures. The same is true, of course, for every other administrative activity, public or private. The thick network of social obligations explains why, while it would have been out of the question to bribe most Rhodesian bureaucrats, yet in only a few years it would have been out of the question not to try to bribe most Zimbabwean ones, whose relatives would have condemned them for failing to obtain on their behalf all the advantages their official opportunities might provide. Thus do the very same tasks in the very same offices carried out by people of different cultural and social backgrounds result in very different outcomes.

Similarly, in his brilliant novel "The Coup" about an African dictator in a country much like Chad, John Updike describes Col. Ellellou's visit to the French colonial villa that his oldest and most traditional wife had seized, and which was now populated by an entire village of the dictator's extended family from the Salu tribe:

"Nephews, daughters-in-law, totem brothers, sisters by second wives of half-uncles greeted Ellellou, and all in that ironical jubilant voice implying what a fine rich joke, he, a Salu, had imposed upon the alien tribes in becoming the chief of this nation imagined by the white men, and thereby potentially appropriating all its spoils to their family use. For there lay no doubt, in the faces of these his relatives, that through all the disguises a shifting world forced on him he remained one of them, that nothing the world could offer Ellellou to drink, no nectar nor elixir, would compare with the love he had siphoned from their pool of common blood."

This doesn't mean that Chadians are condemned forever to live in a society dominated by extended family mafias. But you can see the chicken or egg problem faced by any individual or nuclear family that chooses to be loyal to the state rather than to the extended family. If you give up the support of your mafia, will the state provide you with justice or will it exploit you for the benefit of the mafias that dominate it?

My guess would be that, historically, the main way that societies have overcome the chicken-or-egg problem is through the crucible of foreign war. People come to realize that their mafias aren't big enough to beat a foreign nation on the battlefield, so they have to team up with their neighbors. The War Nerd claims that this is happening right now in Eritrea under the pressure of wars with the much larger Ethiopia, just as Prussians coalesced into an honest, efficient, self-sacrificing nation-state to defeat their larger enemies.

Also see my VDARE article "Undercover Economist Underperforms on Why Poor Countries Are Poor."

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

The Importance of Inbreeding

Anthropologist / polymath John Hawks reviews two recent news stories about genetic genealogy, the first being Steve Olson's familiar claim that all living humans shared a common ancestor just a few thousand years ago, the other being the claim that lots of people are related to medieval royalty.

Hawks points out that the functional genetic impact of two people having a single common ancestor back before medieval times is negligible:

This means that the vast majority of your ancestral lines more than around 17 generations ago [1150 AD at 25 years per generation] have left no DNA to you whatsoever.

For instance, let's suppose that all humans include a single ancestor-descendant link in their genealogies that happened around 40 generations ago. This number will, of course, vary among people -- for some it might be 35 generations, for others 43, etc. But on expectation, the probability is rather less than one in a million that any single person inherited any DNA from this single link.

So from the point of view of genes, this kind of shared genealogical relationship is fairly trivial.

Then Hawks goes on to make a point that I yammer on about all the time: what matters is the degree of inbreeding (as in "A racial group is a partly inbred extended family"):

What is important for genetics is the extent to which these genealogical lines are replicated by inbreeding. If a single ancestor-descendant link occurs only a single time in anyone's genealogy, then it is likely to be genetically unimportant. But a single link may occur hundreds or thousands -- or even millions -- of times, because many lines of genealogy may trace back to the same few individuals.

This is why what matters is a matter of interpretation. In case we miss it, the AP article bludgeons us with it:

It also means that all of us have ancestors of every color and creed. Every Palestinian suicide bomber has Jews in his past. Every Sunni Muslim in Iraq is descended from at least one Shiite. And every Klansman's family has African roots.

As much as I would enjoy giving Klansmen the shivers, this line of logic doesn't appeal that much to me. You see, these one-quadrillionth portion genealogical links really can be important only under some kind of extreme one-drop-rule. Ha ha, Klansman! We can prove with mathematical certainty that 10-15 of your ancestry is African! Never mind that you have fewer than 1014 cells in your body...one of those cells is one tenth African! You have the curse of Ham on you!

I don't like it. It doesn't offer much in the way of explanation. Does it matter that one of your ancestors helped build the pyramids? Does it matter that you share a long common ancestry with people halfway around the world? Does it even matter that all of us share all of our ancestry before some recent time?

From a genetic point of view, the answer is that it depends. Sure, all people share some recent ancestors, but how many? What proportion of ancestry is shared between different populations? And since their common origins, how have those populations changed?

We don't know these answers, but they are clearly testable in terms of allele frequencies. More on that later, but in a statistical sense, our ability to assess inbreeding using genes is a lot better than our ability to examine genealogies.

I've been talking about inbreeding as a key concept for understanding how the human world is arranged for about 8 years now, but the concept has failed to penetrate the intellectual world. A few supersmart guys like Steven Pinker and John Tierney grasped the implications of the concept in the extreme case of cousin marriage. But the general case continues to be ignored. Perhaps, Americans can only think of inbreeding in the context of that retarded hillbilly kid in "Deliverance," and thus are too emotionally creeped out to think about the general concept.

Perhaps there is a better term? Genealogical redundancy? Maybe, but another problem I've noticed is that "genealogy" in considered in intellectual discourse today merely as a pastime for eccentric hobbyists.

From a cultural point of view, there are two interesting points. The first is that a lot of people clearly do find a cultural utility to a one-drop-rule. That is, after all, why the AP articles are written the way they are. People do care whether they have one genealogical link to medieval royalty, regardless of the likely genetic insignificance of any single medieval ancestor. There is some logical sense to this -- since it is easier to make decisions based on simple yes-or-no facts than on fractional quanta. If the full facts aren't easily processed, people find it easier to assume that a royal link confers some status.

The other interesting point is that maybe culture is designed to provide a certain kind of solution to this genealogical problem. After all, the mathematical realities of genealogy and inbreeding didn't just arise in the Middle Ages; they have been with us forever...

Consider, for instance, that some archaeologists have assumed that hunter-gatherer bands persist with a half-life on the order of a few hundred years -- maybe 10 or 20 generations of time. This value might be an important element in the evolution of modern human behavior -- for instance, if it marks some kind of limit on the effective time period of oral traditions. Now, the potential number of ancestors of people after 10 or 20 generations is anywhere from a thousand to a million. It may make a great deal of difference how those million genealogical ties are organized -- if most of them come back by inbreeding to the same couple of hundred individuals, then the dynamics of groups will be quite a bit different than if they outbreed to several thousand or even hundreds of thousands of people. And if a large proportion of those links ultimately come back to a few group founders, then what those founders do in cultural terms might have a large material effect on their distant descendants.

Is it possible that cultures are mechanisms to facilitate an adaptive level of inbreeding? That they once functioned as cooperative blocs to promote the survival and proliferation of the genes of a few founders? That they may still do so in many circumstances (like the medieval aristocracy, for instance)? People do adopt cultures in ways that tend to reinforce this function -- integrating in ways that promote the chance that they or their offspring will have (in their view) good marriages, material comforts, and social success.

It's more than possible, it's a near certainty. The Old Testament, for example, is obsessed with, in effect, the reproduction with minimal diffusion of Abraham's DNA. The Middle East is full of heavily inbreeding groups, like the Samaritans. I don't think you'll find the same focus among the Chinese, which is why there are 1.2 billion people who think of themselves as Han Chinese, even if there are lots of clinal differences in their gene frequencies across the vast sweep of China. That's a big reason why there are 100 times as many Chinese as Jews and two million times as many Chinese as Samaritans.

One important question why some people behave in ways that will distribute their genes broadly through subsequent generations while other behave to distribute their genes narrowly. My guess would be that in purely Dawkinsian terms of maximizing copies of ones genes in future generations, the outbreeding strategy beats the inbreeding strategy, but I could be wrong.

Perhaps the inbreeding strategy works better in terms of the Darwinian survival and perpetuation of namable cultures than of genes: a survival of the most stand-offish. Abraham's descendents still have a name 3,800 years later, while the Hivites and Hittites of the Old Testament have been reshuffled out of cultural existence. It could well be, however that there was another man alive in 1800 BC who has more copies of his genes in existence today than does Abraham, but because his descendents tended to follow more out-breeding strategies, they have no cultural identity today.

People are agents in this process, acting in what they perceive to be their own interests, but coordinating actions culturally with others. Cultural preferences are not only retrospective (the people who look like this receive special treatment) but also prospective (if you do these things you -- or your children -- will receive special treatment). And a high proportion of doing these things involves placing your own progeny into certain privileged classes (marry the right kind of girl, pay the right brideprice, etc.

This explains a lot of modern American social behavior. Upper middle class Americans spend a fortune to get their children into the right social circles so they can marry well by buying expensive houses in exclusive school districts and sending them to expensive colleges. But we lack a vocabulary for discussing these phenomena, obvious though they are.

For example, I want American immigration policy to allow in people who would make good potential parents for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren and keep out people who would tend to make out lousy potential parents for my descendents. Yet, this is almost unthinkable in current political discourse, even though people think about it all the time in choosing to spend $45,000 per year to send their kid to an expensive college or subsidize a single daughter's rent so she can live in a fashionable neighborhood and snag a good husband.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

July 10, 2006

The World Cup Final

Well, that was kind of a bust, wasn't it?

Each team scored once in the first 20 minutes and then ... 100 minutes of the usual, highlighted mostly by a hilariously stupid assault. The French veteran superstar Zinediine Zidane is known as a good guy and sensible character, but I guess that's relative to all the other players suffering minor brain lesions, because with 10 minutes left in overtime and the score tied, Zidane goes all Bob Hoskins on some Italian, head-butting him in the chest and gets kicked out of the last game of his career. The Italians get a power play for the rest of the game, but don't even try to score, just waiting for the penalty kick tiebreaker, which they win when a French player hits the crossbar from point-blank range.

Americans simply can't watch soccer on TV without making lists of all the ways we'd fix the game to make it better. We're reformers and improvers and tinkerers by nature, and it drives us crazy to see something with the potential of soccer that is mired in primitive rules.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Avast, Matey, Pro-Illegal Immigration Bilgewater Ahoy -- Arrrggghhh!

From the New York Times:

Immigration — and the Curse of the Black Legend

Vineyard Haven, Mass.

COURSING through the immigration debate is the unexamined faith that American history rests on English bedrock, or Plymouth Rock to be specific. Jamestown also gets a nod, particularly in the run-up to its 400th birthday, but John Smith was English, too (he even coined the name New England).

So amid the din over border control, the Senate affirms the self-evident truth that English is our national language; "It is part of our blood," Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, says. Border vigilantes call themselves Minutemen, summoning colonial Massachusetts as they apprehend Hispanics in the desert Southwest....

The early history of Spanish North America is well documented, as is the extensive exploration by the 16th-century French and Portuguese. So why do Americans cling to a creation myth centered on one band of late-arriving English — Pilgrims who weren't even the first English to settle New England or the first Europeans to reach Plymouth Harbor?...

There's another, less-known legacy of this early period that explains why we've written the Spanish out of our national narrative. As late as 1783, at the end of the Revolutionary War, Spain held claim to roughly half of today's continental United States (in 1775, Spanish ships even reached Alaska). As American settlers pushed out from the 13 colonies, the new nation craved Spanish land. And to justify seizing it, Americans found a handy weapon in a set of centuries-old beliefs known as the "black legend."

The legend first arose amid the religious strife and imperial rivalries of 16th-century Europe. Northern Europeans, who loathed Catholic Spain and envied its American empire, published books and gory engravings that depicted Spanish colonization as uniquely barbarous: an orgy of greed, slaughter and papist depravity, the Inquisition writ large....

By then, the black legend had begun to fade. But it seems to have found new life among immigration's staunchest foes, whose rhetoric carries traces of both ancient Hispanophobia and the chauvinism of 19th-century expansionists...

Also missing, of course, is a full awareness of the history of the 500-year Spanish presence in the Americas and its seesawing fortunes in the face of Anglo encroachment. "The Hispanic world did not come to the United States," Carlos Fuentes observes. "The United States came to the Hispanic world. It is perhaps an act of poetic justice that now the Hispanic world should return."

America has always been a diverse and fast-changing land, home to overlapping cultures and languages. It's an homage to our history, not a betrayal of it, to welcome the latest arrivals, just as the Indians did those tardy and uninvited Pilgrims who arrived in Plymouth not so long ago.

Well, that worked out well for the Indians, didn't it?

Good grief.

First, let's note exactly where Mr. Horwitz, a prominent travel author (his "Blue Horizons" book about following Captain Cook's voyages is pretty good) wrote his paean to Hispano-America: not Laredo, not Santa Ana, but "Vineyard Haven" on Martha's Vineyard, which must be the least Hispanic spot in America. For some reason, writing (or reading) books and Mexican-American life just doesn't go together well.

Second, 16th and 17th Century English anti-Spanish feelings were both justified (Spain tried to conquer England in 1588) and enormously productive. English contempt for Spain, with its autocratic rule, cultural decline, economic stasis, and Inquisition encouraged the development of modern English breakthroughs. The subsequent history of Spain and Spanish America shows the overall wisdom of English opposition to all things Spanish.

Third, Horwitz's theory that modern skepticism about illegal immigration is somehow tied to the old English "Black Legend" about Spain is historically illiterate. Horwitz skips over the inconvenient phenomenon of Hispanophilia that entranced Anglo California for close to a century. There wasn't the slightest hint of Elizabethan anti-Spanish legends in California in the 1960s when I was a kid. Instead, the local elites were nuts over all things Spanish Californian.

California's Hispanophilia fever began with the 1884 publication of Helen Hunt Jackson's romantic novel of life in Old California, Ramona, which became a hugely popular annual outdoor pageant starting in 1923.

The cult of Father Junipero Serra, founder of the California Missions, followed. After WWII, William Randolph Hearst paid to have the Missions restored.

Zorro, a nobleman with a secret identity who battles injustice in Spanish California, first appeared in a 1919 pulp magazine, and became a popular (but surprisingly awful) TV show in the 1950s.

The artistic high point of Hispanophilia was the rebuilding of Santa Barbara in the Spanish Mission Revival style following the 1925 earthquake. To this day, the Rose Parade in Pasadena includes numerous equestrian squads with wealthy riders dressed up in fantasy tributes to the lifestyle of upper class Californios of the old days.

Indeed, in California, contrary to Horwitz's theory, Hispanophilia has been a conservative trope, while the Black Legend has been leftist and Mexican. The Los Angeles Lay Catholic Mission notes:

Santa Barbara, with its Old Spanish Days Fiesta, its legally mandated colonial architecture, its mission, and its reconstructed royal presidio, has long been in the forefront of preservation of Spanish heritage in California. In return, in 1954 the Spanish government presented the city with the Order of Carlos III, a knightly order presented to cities as well as individuals — although never before to a municipality outside Spain. While the medal itself is on display in the mayor's office in city hall (and worn by him at his annual formal reception kicking off Spanish Days), all city flags have blue and white streamers floating from the pole, in token of the order. Due to King Carlos III's devotion to the Immaculate Conception, those colors were made the symbol of the order bearing his name.

In further testimony to Santa Barbara's hispanophilia, in 1985 the current Spanish king donated yet another statue of Carlos III to this city. It was placed at Storke Placita, the passage connecting De La Guerra Plaza to State Street. For the next ten years, thanks to the renewal of the anti-Spanish black legend among leftists and would-be indigenists, the statue was urinated on, daubed with excrement, and had various hats, signs, articles of clothing, condoms, and other items draped on it. After a decade of this treatment, the king was removed and replaced with a sundial. He was at last placed by the reconstructed presidio, the Spanish-era fortress, on the corner of East CaƱon Perdido and Anacapa.

The spell that visions of Spanish California cast over Anglo Californians can be seen in the irony that In LA traditionally, Hispanics live in places with Anglo names (e.g., Boyle Heights) while Anglos live in places with Hispanic names (e.g., Calabasas). That's because in the 20th Century, Mexicans moved into 19th Century inner city neighborhoods that had been given WASP names -- e.g., famous math teacher Jaime Escalante ("Stand and Deliver") taught at all-Hispanic Garfield H.S. -- while whites moved out to new areas that were given glamorous-sounding Spanish names in the Hispanophilic 20th Century -- such as El Camino Real H.S. (By now, however, the Hispanic population has grown so large that inner suburbs like Santa Ana have gone all Latino).

Hispanophilia was all pretty silly (California before American-rule was backward, indolent, poor, and not terribly glamorous), but the Spanish Mission architecture (which was revived in the 1980s) was attractive and well-suited to the California climate.

Today, though, the Southern California cultural elite has virtually no interest in anything Hispanic, and is much more obsessed with East Asian and Indian culture. To be frank, Beverly Hills types consider Latino things to be tawdry, boring, and a little depressing. So, what finally brought an end to California's Hispanophilia?

Too many Hispanics moved in.

It turned out, when you got to know them in large numbers, that they weren't dashing and daring Zorros after all.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Clones Seize Control of Government!

The Washington Post reports (From Parapundit via Larry Auster):

A Double Act Takes Center Stage in Poland:
Despite Earlier Promise to Voters, Twin Brother of President Is Named Prime Minister

By Craig Whitlock Washington Post Foreign Service Sunday, July 9, 2006; Page A12

BERLIN, July 8 -- Ever since their party scored big in Poland's elections last fall, the Kaczynski brothers -- identical twin movie stars with equally big political ambitions -- were widely assumed to be running the country in tandem behind the scenes. Now, it's official.

On Saturday, Poland's governing Law and Justice Party voted to name its party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the country's new prime minister. With his brother, Lech, already holding the Polish presidency, there is no longer any doubt that the 57-year-old, chubby-faced twins are in charge of the eastern European country...

Many Poles were skeptical of the official explanation, given the fact that Marcinkiewicz had among the highest approval ratings of any politician in Poland. The Kaczynskis' political enemies, of whom there are many, warned that the brothers wouldn't be satisfied until they were able to vanquish all their rivals.

"Poles are right to fear the concentration of power in the four hands of two brothers," said Donald Tusk, leader of the opposition Civic Platform party and the loser to Lech Kaczynski in last October's presidential race.

The Kaczynskis have been famous in Poland since the 1962, when as child actors they starred in a hit movie, "Those Two Who Would Steal the Moon." As adults, they resisted communist rule and joined the leadership of the Solidarity trade union movement.

Even today, they are difficult to tell apart. Lech is distinguished by two extra moles on his face; Jaroslaw is known as the unmarried brother who lives with their mother.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

"The Pirates of the Caribbean: Shiver Me Timbers"

(or whatever the sequel to the movieization of the theme park attraction is called) made $55.5 million ... in one day! I guess that people still like to go out to the pictures. This reminds me of my all time worst financial prognostication in my review of the quasi-original movie back in 2003:

A couple of American adventure movies set in British Empire days are bringing old-fashioned subject matter back to the theatres. Of the two, Johnny Depp's "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" definitely has the longest title.

It's also better executed than Sean Connery's "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," which always seems about to collapse in a heap, especially during a chaotic car chase through the streets of Venice. Personally, I wasn't aware that Venice had streets. Perhaps the filmmakers got Venice confused with Vienna?

Still, murky as it is, "Gentlemen" somehow keeps its act together well enough to achieve a surprisingly consistent level of mediocrity. At least it's built on a more intriguing premise than "Pirates," although that's not saying much because "Pirates" is inspired by an amusement park ride. A very good amusement park ride indeed, but not something that the world has been crying out to see on screen. [Little did I know ....]

I wonder what's next in this trend of leveraging non-narrative brand names into movies. Maybe "Ralph Lauren's Polo: The Movie," in which Edward Norton plays a young WASP blueblood from the Bronx who lights out for the Wyoming Territory to ride herd on a seersucker ranch? Or possibly "Krispy Kreme: The Artery Strikes Back"? [More]

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer