May 20, 2005

Movie Economics:

The new Star Wars movie opened with a record-setting $50 million day (including midnight screenings). It is showing in 3,661 theatres domestically (US and Canada), but the number of prints distributed is over 9,000, or well over two per theatre. In turn, multiplexes can show movies on even more screens than they have prints if they shuttle reels from auditorium to auditorium (e.g., start Reel A playing at 7:00 pm in auditorium 1, then carry it to auditorium 2 and start it playing at 8:00pm). Once a famously snoozy job, being a projectionist has become much more demanding in recent years as multiplex owners have figured out how to maximize their use of prints.

35mm prints are extraordinarily expensive: about $1,500 apiece. Because "Revenge of the Sith" is longer than usual, I'd guess that about $15 million has been invested just in domestic prints. Obviously, it will soon make more sense to distribute movies to theatres digitally on reusable hard disks or on stacks of DVDs, but that's an open invitation to piracy. (There's plenty of piracy already, but the awkwardness of analog to digital copying slows things down a bit.)

One thing that drives me nuts is when the sound slips out of sync with the pictures. That must happen 10% of the time. It must not bother other viewers as much because I'm usually the first person out of his seat to alert the projectionist. (They almost always fix it immediately.) After 78 years of talkies, you'd figure they wouldn't still have this problem, but they do. Projectionist used to be a cushy union job, but as the owners made the job harder, they also got rid of the union veterans and brought in kids to run the projectors, so the quality dropped despite all the technological improvements.

Thinking about projectionists reminds me of the story about the man who went to see a psychiatrist:

"Doc, I haven't had a date in years."

"Perhaps it's that odor that you seem to exude."

"Yeah, that's probably it. See, my job is shoveling up after the elephants in the circus, and it would take weeks to scrub the smell off me."

"Perhaps you could look for a different job?"

"What?!? And quit show biz???"

Jerry Seinfeld tells the story about the time a private plane carrying Benny Goodman's band crashlands on a stormy winter night in a field. The musicians clamber out in their tuxedos, grab their suitcases, and trudge off through the mud and darkness. After a mile or so, the bedraggled bunch comes to a cozy farmhouse. Two musician looks in the window at a family happily playing board games in front of the fireplace, mom bringing hot chocolate, the faithful family dog curled up by the hearth. The saxophone player turns to the trumpet player, shakes his head, and says, "Man, I just don't how people can live like that."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Which Book Should I Write? Reader Recommendations Requested:

I'm soliciting your suggestions for what should be the topic of my first book. Please think about: What would you buy? What would the public buy? What would get published? What would get reviewed and publicized on TV?

E-mail me

A reader replies:

If you want to sell your book, ask yourself, what do people want to believe? I remember reading about this Japanese author who wrote a book claiming Japanese brains were hard-wired differently and so had great difficultly learning foreign languages. It was a run-away best seller. But complete nonsense of course.

But it ingeniously fed two things Japanese want to believe. 1. Japanese are exceptional 2. It's not your fault that you can't learn English (Japanese are atrocious at learning English).

I know this is cynical advice, but....gotta sell your book.

Now you just gotta figure out what people here want to believe that doesn't compromise your integrity too much. Your only problem is that you specialize in telling people exactly what they don't want to believe.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The Catch 22 of Nation Building:

A reader writes:

Nation building depends on the kind of nation that is being targeted for reconstruction. Most of the ones the US will have a strategic interest in are in a complete mess, which is why they have become a threat in the first place. Therefore the kind of nations the US wants to build are exactly the kind of nations you don't want to get involved with. Kind of a Groucho Marx affiliation problem [Groucho said of Hillcrest Country Club: I don't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.]

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Gullible Skeptic:

Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic Magazine, provides in the Los Angeles Times another example of Google-free reviewing of Freakonomics:

Levitt's most controversial computation involves the dramatic 1990s drop in crime rates. The reason, he says, is not tougher gun control laws, capital punishment, decreasing unemployment or a stronger economy. It is Roe vs. Wade. Research shows that children from impoverished and adverse environments are more likely to become criminals. After the 1973 court decision made legal abortions possible, millions of poor, single women aborted unwanted fetuses; 20 years later, the pool of potential criminals had shrunk, as did the crime rate. (The solution isn't more abortions, he says, but "better environments for those children at greatest risk for future crime.")

Of course, correlation does not always mean causation, and explaining the causes of crime is a complex, multivariate problem. But Levitt also shows that the five states that legalized abortion two years before Roe vs. Wade saw a drop in crime earlier than the other states. Further, those states with the highest abortion rates in the 1970s experienced the greatest drop in crime in the 1990s, and the entire decline in crime was among the age group born after 1973, not among older groups.

It's amazing how many reviewers don't bother even typing "abortion crime" into Google.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

May 19, 2005

Wealth and IQ

A reader writes:

I recently heard on television a college professor and author speaking enthusiastically in favor of affirmative action. When asked about disparity between white and black I.Q.'s even when family household income is controlled for, he replied something along the lines of "You are controlling for the wrong factor. If instead of income you control for family household wealth black and white I.Q.'s are identical." Without any specialized knowledge or training, I have nonetheless followed the affirmative action controversy over the years and don't ever remember hearing this before or hearing this particular tack taken by any of its proponents Do you know if it is true?

This comes up now and then, so let me try to explain how this sleight of hand works:

The implication is that wealth serves as an environmental effect that changes IQ by 15 points (the one standard deviation difference between whites and blacks). But, there's no evidence from any adoption or separated twin study that says that net worth has much impact on adult IQs, so the alleged causal mechanism is not true. Indeed, most of the environmental variation in IQ does not appear attributable to anything measurable in the environment -- it might have more to do with random infections or bumps on the head or developmental differences.

What he's trying to do is find a selection effect where he can select blacks who are, say, two standard deviations above the black mean for IQ and compare them to whites who are one standard deviation about the white mean and then, hesto presto, discover that they are equal in IQ.

Net worth is particularly suited to playing this game. Blacks have a much harder time than whites accumulating wealth (they inherit less, their houses don't appreciate as fast because they tend to live in crime-ridden black neighborhoods, and they save less of their income), so blacks with high net worth are much more elite relative to other blacks than whites with the same positive net worth. So, that's how you get them as having equal IQs.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

It Must Be a Cold Day in Hell

The political tide on immigration is definitely turning when the Wall Street Journal's online opinion page, normally virulently opposed to anyone who questions the sacred right of employers to cheap labor, runs a pro-Minutemen / anti-illegal immigration op-ed called: "Minutemen Are People, Too: Arizona rednecks win a round against the ACLU."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

May 18, 2005

Class and IQ:

The NYT and the WSJ have been writing about the lack of change in class status, but Mickey Kaus wonders if they'll mention IQ:

The NYT's Intelligence Test: The big question about the New York Times' Big Deal "Class Matters" series is how it will treat the role of genetically inherited traits--including but not limited to "intelligence"--in reducing mobility and perpetuating an aristocracy of the successful. Let's hope they do better than the WSJ's David Wessel, who blew off the genetic vector in a single unsatisfactory, buried paragraph:

Why aren't the escalators working better? Figuring out how parents pass along economic status, apart from the obvious but limited factor of financial bequests, is tough. But education appears to play an important role. In contrast to the 1970s, a college diploma is increasingly valuable in today's job market. The tendency of college grads to marry other college grads and send their children to better elementary and high schools and on to college gives their children a lasting edge.

The notion that the offspring of smart, successful people are also smart and successful is appealing, and there is a link between parent and child IQ scores. But most research finds IQ isn't a very big factor in predicting economic success. [Emph. added]

The r-squared of IQ and income is around 10% and it's a common error to think that's not a "very big factor." The problem with this line of thought is that Life Is Very Complicated, which means that a huge number of factors contribute to determining income. Relative to the multitudinous other factors, IQ plays a sizable role, so that the average income difference between people with IQs of 115 and 85, say, is very large. Here, for example, is Charles Murray describing his study of 710 pairs of American siblings for the Times of London:

"Each pair consists of one sibling with an IQ in the normal range of 90-110, a range that includes 50% of the population. I will call this group the normals. The second sibling in each pair had an IQ either higher than 110, putting him in the top quartile of intelligence (the brights) or lower than 90, putting him in the bottom quartile (the dulls). These constraints produced a sample of 710 pairs. How much difference did IQ make? Earned income is a good place to begin. In 1993, when we took our most recent look at them, members of the sample were aged 28-36. That year, the bright siblings earned almost double the average of the dull: £22,400 compared to £11,800. The normals were in the middle, averaging £16,800." [IQ Will Put You In Your Place, Charles Murray, Sunday Times, UK, Day 25, 1997]

The Washington Monthly's blogger Kevin Drum takes a stance similar to Mickey's:

Ever since World War II, the United States has done a phenomenal job of sorting people by talent. Not a perfect job, but an astonishingly good one nonetheless. All four of my grandparents, for example, would almost certainly have gone to college if they had turned 18 in the 1960s, but that just wasn't in the cards for any of them a century ago. Today, though, as a matter of deliberate policy, the vast majority of people who have the talent to succeed in college get the chance to try. As a result, they moved upward into the middle and upper classes decades ago, and their children have followed them.

But there's only a moderate amount of sorting left to be done. Random chance, both in nature and nurture, will always play a role in life outcomes, but that role has gotten smaller and smaller as the sorting has progressed. The result is that life roles have become more hardened. While incomes of the well-off have skyrocketed over the past 30 years, working and middle class incomes have stagnated. At the same time, the incomes — and jobs — they do have are far more unstable than they were a few decades ago. And as recent research indicates, most of them are increasingly stuck in these grim circumstances: every decade, fewer and fewer of them — and fewer and fewer of their children — have any realistic chance of moving up the income ladder.

This makes a lot of sense, but I want to urge caution: There's still a lot of IQ variation found between siblings raised in the same home. I haven't done the math necessary to figure out how much impact assortative mating would have had by now.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Villaraigosa elected mayor of LA:

A reader writes:

Villaraigosa won, so billionaire developer Eli Broad and the other Westsiders got their man in the job. Villaraigosa could serve them for the next 20+ years, much as Bradley was a useful asset during his long service in office. So much is going to be made of this victory, but little good for the city will come of his election.

The mayor can't fix the totally messed up LAUSD. Traffic problems are a joint concern of CALTRANS, the MTA, AQMD, and other I can't think of right now. Does the city even have the money to fix it's own rotten streets?

A handful of Latino consultants are going to become rich(er) as a result of this victory. Latino pride types will boast of their time having come. Beyond braggin' rights, the average Latino is not going to get squat from this election.

The big losers in all of this will be the local black leaders. The value of their voting block diminishes each day. They may not have the numbers to swing the election in 4 years.

In 4 years Villa will get to claim the credit for new Police Chief Bratton's work, denying Hahn any legacy.

Los Angeles has a "weak mayor" form of government stemming from the Progressive Era of almost a century ago. The Progressives were mostly northern Midwestern Protestants, as was the population of LA at the time, who despised the corruption in immigrant-dominated cities with machine-dominated politics, such as Chicago, where votes were traded for jobs and services. So, they invented a system that would be harder to corrupt and would rely upon the civic-mindedness of the citizens.

Well, today, LA, like Chicago before WWI, is an immigrant city with an uninformed and uninterested electorate. We just don't have the civic virtues anymore to make the system work the ways the Progressives intended. So, control has fallen into the hands of the only people interested and informed: a coterie of a couple of dozen ultra-rich Westside developers like Broad and former mayor Richard Riordan, both of whom backed Villaraigosa.

Under the circumstances, LA would probably be better off with traditional corrupt machine politics. Chicago is doing better with a strong mayor machine system under King Richard II than LA is doing under its old Progressive structure.

Of course, you'll never read about how the new immigration has undermined the Progressive reforms that liberals were once so proud of.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Black Rednecks or Black Africans?

A reader responds to my VDARE article:

This is a really superb piece of commentary on Thomas Sowell, who is also one of my heroes--as Grady McWhiney [author of Cracker Culture] is one of my old friends and was once a colleague here at U of Alabama. I think you make a very important point about the residue of African culture in the behavior of present day blacks. I hope Sowell sees your argument, which seems to me to be correct and compelling.

I also think you are right to distinguish between redneck and what I call hillbilly culture in southern whites. Here in Alabama, the hillbillies (mostly Scots Irish in ancestry living in the northern part of the state) did not own slaves and in some cases refused to join the Confederacy to fight for the institution. A couple of hillbilly counties even seceded from the state when it seceded from the Union. The rednecks from the southern part of the state, where land is flatter and richer, are more often English in ancestry and became shareholders after the civil war, raising cotton formerly raised by slaves. The difference was typified in the last half of the twentieth century by the contrast and conflict between federal judge Frank M. Johnson, an enforcer of civil rights law, and redneck rabble rouser George Wallace, both Alabamians and both graduates the same year from the UA school of law. Johnson was from northern, Wallace from southern, Alabama.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

"Revenge of the Sith"

-- I'm all Sithed-out.

What I don't get is why George Lucas felt so compelled to step back into the director and screenwriter roles, even though 1980s' great "Empire Strikes Back" -- where he hired Irven Kershner to direct and veteran lady screenwriter Leigh Brackett and hot young talent Lawrence Kasdan to write (based on Lucas' s story) -- showed the advantages of delegation. Can you imagine how much better the three prequels would have been if Lucas had hired, say, Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings) to direct and gotten a competent screenwriter to work up his story, such as Steven Kloves, who has done a good job adapting the Harry Potter novels?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

May 17, 2005

The LA Mayoral Election:

All the local big shots have endorsed challenger Antonio Villaraigosa, but the irony is that if Mayor Jim Hahn loses today, it will because of the single best thing he did during his term: hire superstar Police Chief William J. Bratton, the reformer who shook up the somnolent NYPD under Rudy Giuliani. He was fired by Giuliani because he was so popular he might have become a political rival.

Unfortunately, for Hahn, to give LA the police chief with the best reputation in the country, he had to not reinstate Bernard Parks, who was black. Angering the black vote unraveled the weird blacks and Republicans coalition he'd put together to beat Villaraigosa in 2001. The loss of the blacks made Hahn's re-election unlikely, which led to everybody who was anybody jumping on the Villaraigosa bandwagon.

So, while Hahn wasn't a terribly good mayor, he at least can take some bitter pride in losing for the one thing he did that was deserving of getting himself re-elected.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Six Degrees of Crimethink Alert!

From the NRO Corner:

PAT PILES ON [John Derbyshire]
Excellent we-are-doomed-doomed talk from Pat Buchanan here.

OH, DERB, DERB, DERB... [John Podhoretz]
...Beware praising those who have placed themselves outside the bounds of civil discourse. Really.
Posted at
11:53 AM

The thuggishness of Pod the Lesser is something to behold.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Evolutionary Function of the Female Orgasm

The NYT is on an evolution jag:

But in a new book, Dr. Elisabeth A. Lloyd, a philosopher of science and professor of biology at Indiana University, takes on 20 leading theories and finds them wanting. The female orgasm, she argues in the book, "The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution," has no evolutionary function at all.

Rather, Dr. Lloyd says the most convincing theory is one put forward in 1979 by Dr. Donald Symons, an anthropologist.

That theory holds that female orgasms are simply artifacts - a byproduct of the parallel development of male and female embryos in the first eight or nine weeks of life...

Nipples in men are similarly vestigial, Dr. Lloyd pointed out.

That always struck me as plausible. But Geoffrey Miller's 1999 book on sexual selection "The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature" makes a good qualitative case for the female orgasm evolving to show women to whom they are most attracted.

More research is necessary!

Also in the NYT: "New Theory Places Origin of Diabetes in an Age of Icy Hardships:"

When temperatures plummet, most people bundle up in thick sweaters, stay cozy indoors and stoke up on comfort food. But a provocative new theory suggests that thousands of years ago, juvenile diabetes may have evolved as a way to stay warm.

People with the disease, also known as Type 1 diabetes, have excessive amounts of sugar, or glucose, in their blood.

The theory argues that juvenile diabetes may have developed in ancestral people who lived in Northern Europe about 12,000 years ago when temperatures fell by 10 degrees Fahrenheit in just a few decades and an ice age arrived virtually overnight.

Archaeological evidence suggests countless people froze to death, while others fled south. But Dr. Sharon Moalem, an expert in evolutionary medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, believes that some people may have adapted to the extreme cold. High levels of blood glucose prevent cells and tissues from forming ice crystals, Dr. Moalem said. In other words, Type 1 diabetes would have prevented many of our ancestors from freezing to death.

I know it's standard for bloggers to sneer at the NYT, but for those of us with interests beyond partisan politics, the fact that you can read all this science coverage for free is a real blessing.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Gregory Cochran's "New Germ Theory" Vindicated

"More Diseases Pinned on Old Culprit: Germs" says the New York Times:

A report issued last month by the American Academy of Microbiology paints a much more complex picture of infectious disease. Germs, scientists are learning, are probably the cause of many illnesses that were never thought to be infectious, and determining exactly how a germ contributes to disease is no longer simple.

Unfortunately, the February 1999 cover story in the Atlantic Monthly on the "New Germ Theory" of Cochran and his research partner Paul Ewald is no longer online for free. Here, though, is the big paper written by Cochran and Ewald in 2000: "Infectious Causation of Disease: An Evolutionary Perspective." This lays out their critique of the venerable "Koch's Postulates" about how to determine if a disease is infectious that were largely accepted by the American Academy of Microbiology.

Here's my never-before republished 2000 article on Paul Ewald: "Biologist Paul Ewald Says Germs, Not Genes, Cause Most Killer Diseases." And my 2001 article touching on Cochran and Ewald's work is here.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Larry Summers Gives Away Other People's Money and Opportunities:

Back in the winter, I wrote in The American Conservative regarding the Larry Summers brouhaha:

Invented by Jesse Jackson, this public ritual -- an authority figure commits a "gaffe" by telling a bit of truth about human diversity, and then immediately hands over other people's money and opportunities to the offended special interest -- has become so familiar that nobody else asks why the fix is always in.

Today, unsurprisingly, the NYT announced:

"Harvard Will Spend $50 Million to Make Faculty More Diverse"

Dr. Summers said in a telephone news conference yesterday that Harvard's hiring record last year had been unacceptable. "We have to do better," he said. He called the $50 million an "initial commitment" and said he expected that the university would ultimately devote more resources to attract and retain a more diverse faculty.

You can read my full American Conservative story on The Education of Larry Summers. Or my National Post essay "We're Different. Get Over It." Or my articles The Larry Summers Show Trial and Why Some Men Don't Support Larry Summers.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Professor Bainbridge

Across Difficult Country Commends Professor Bainbridge:

UCLA professor of law Steven Bainbridge observes that without illegal alien serfs, wealthy gluttons like himself would have to pay more to get drunk on California wine. Bring this up the next time you encounter some pathetic slob who doesn't know Merlot from Pinot Noir complaining about illegal aliens ruining his children’s schools or driving up his costs of buying a home. It should shut him up.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Abortion and Crime: Sailer Responds to Steven "Freakonomics" Levitt's Response

Having gotten softball reviews from the national press, Steven D. Levitt's hometown newspaper, the Chicago Sun-Times, finally called his bluff on his abortion-cut-crime theory. Perhaps that's why he has now deigned to answer some of his critics.

Levitt makes no attempt to defend his battered "wantedness" theory of how abortion is supposed to cut crime, but instead merely restates his interpretations of the historical data.

Let me answer Levitt's initial arguments:

First, let's start by reviewing the basic facts that support the Donohue-Levitt hypothesis that legalized abortion in the 1970s explains a substantial part of the crime decline in the 1990s:

Right away, Levitt tries to rig the deck in his favor by defining the question as whether legalized abortion caused in large measure the drop in crime in the 1990s. The answers to that question can be either "Yes" or "No." Neutral observers tend to react to disagreements by splitting the difference. So, in this case, the natural assumption of people who don't want to wade through all the arguments would be: "It had probably some effect on cutting crime." And that means Levitt is seen as being more or less right.

In reality, however, we should be looking at the more general question: "What was the effect of legalizing abortion on serious crime from the 1970s onward?" The answers to this question can be "It cut crime," "It had no effect," or "It increased crime." Given those three options, observers are likely to split the difference and say: "It had no effect." So, Levitt cleverly tries to narrow the focus to where he'll be given the benefit of the doubt.

1) Five states legalized abortion three years before Roe v. Wade. Crime started falling three years earlier in these states, with property crime (done by younger people) falling before violent crime.

Actually, it's much more complicated than this because ten other states "liberalized" abortion laws in 1970. But, for now, let's just look at those five that outright legalized it. Two of those states are Hawaii and Alaska, which are hardly representative of the rest of the country, and a third is far-off Washington state. The big two early legalizers were California and New York. Yet, Levitt admits in another place in his response:

The homicide rate of young males (especially young Black males) temporarily skyrocketed in the late 1980s, especially in urban centers like Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, DC...

And Washington D.C. largely had de facto legal abortion from 1970, too. So, according to Levitt, those three cities are where, purely by coincidence, the teen crack wars broke out about 17-18 years after abortion was legalized. Now that correlation between legalizing abortion and increased teen violence isn't proof of anything, but it obviously raises the question of whether or not legalized abortion contributed to crack killings. But that's not an issue Levitt wants to touch.

No, what Levitt wants to talk about is not what happened about 17-21 years after abortion was legalized, but what happened about 22-24 years later. The longer the lag between the effect and the hypothesized cause, the more Dr. Levitt trusts it!

Of course, that's terrible science. If abortion has an effect, it should show up earlier in life, before more adult experience has intervened. Similarly, the effect of legalizing abortion is most trustworthy earlier in history, before too many intervening changes have gotten in the way of a clean read.

And the violence grew fastest among the demographic group with the highest abortion rate: blacks.

Levitt also claims "with property crime (done by younger people) falling before violent crime." Look, property crime apparently began falling in the mid 1970s, probably due to "target-hardening." Property crime statistics are less reliable than violent crime statistics because the victims frequently don't get a look at the perpetrator so we don't know the age, and the cops vary tremendously over time and place in how much they care about catching property criminals .

The FBI provides much better quality data on homicides (which cops care about a lot) and serious violent crimes (which "includes rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and homicide") from the annual crime victimization survey. So, that's two totally different methodologies measuring two kinds of crime, but they agree closely on the history, which is that the first generation born after legalized abortion were the most violent teens in the history of American crime statistics.

Levitt is misleading when he implies that younger people don't commit much violence. The worst year for serious violent crime by ages 12-17 was 1993, when this cohort (all born after abortion was legalized) committed 27% of all serious violent crimes. (1994 was a bad year too). Moreover, children under 18 accounted for over half of the big increase in serious violent crimes between the mid-1980s and 1993.

I'm going to lump the next three of Levitt's arguments together:

2) After abortion was legalized, the availability of abortions differed dramatically across states. In some states like North Dakota and in parts of the deep South, it was virtually impossible to get an abortion even after Roe v. Wade. If one compares states that had high abortion rates in the mid 1970s to states that had low abortion rates in the mid 1970s, you see the following patterns with crime. For the period from 1973-1988, the two sets of states (high abortion states and low abortion states) have nearly identical crime patterns. Note, that this is a period before the generations exposed to legalized abortion are old enough to do much crime. So this is exactly what the Donohue-Levitt theory predicts. But from the period 1985-1997, when the post Roe cohort is reaching peak crime ages, the high abortion states see a decline in crime of 30% relative to the low abortion states. Our original data ended in 1997. If one updated the study, the results would be similar.)

3) All of the decline in crime from 1985-1997 experienced by high abortion states relative to low abortion states is concentrated among the age groups born after Roe v. Wade. For people born before abortion legalization, there is no difference in the crime patterns for high abortion and low abortion states, just as the Donohue-Levitt theory predicts.

4) When we compare arrest rates of people born in the same state, just before and just after abortion legalization, we once again see the identical pattern of lower arrest rates for those born after legalization than before.

Data by state is extremely tricky because women travel across state lines to get abortions. New Jersey is a classic example. Arrest rates vary by state and change over time too in all sorts of ways.

Further, states like North Dakota are largely irrelevant to national crime trends.

Here, I'm going to turn to a not-yet-published paper by Ted Joyce, an economist with the National Bureau of Economic Research and Baruch College, City University of New York. In this paper, Joyce tries hard to remove the effects of crack crime from the data. Here's part of his abstract:

In this paper, I conduct a number of new analyses intended to address [Levitt and Donohue's] criticisms of my earlier work.

First, I examine closely the effects of changes in abortion rates between 1971 and 1974. Changes in abortion rates during this period were dramatic, varied widely by state, had a demonstrable effect on fertility, and were more plausibly exogenous than changes in the late 1970s and early 1980s. If abortion reduced crime, crime should have fallen sharply as these post-legalization cohorts reached their late teens and early 20s, the peak ages of criminal involvement.

It did not.

Second, I conduct separate estimates for whites and blacks because the effect of legalized abortion on crime should have been much larger for blacks than whites, since the effect of legalization of abortion on the fertility rates of blacks was much larger.

There was little race difference in the reduction in crime.

Finally, I compare changes in homicide rates before and after legalization of abortion, within states, by single year of age. The analysis of older adults is compelling because they were largely unaffected by the crack-cocaine epidemic, which was a potentially important confounding factor in earlier estimates.

These analyses provide little evidence that legalized abortion reduced crime.

And here is the abstract of the not-yet-published paper by economists John R. Lott and John Whitley replying to Levitt and Donohue. They find that abortion increased the murder rate:

Previous empirical work linking abortions and crime [i.e., Levitt and Donohue's] has assumed, with the exception of five states, that no abortions took place prior to the Roe v. Wade decision in January 1973. In fact, abortion data from the Centers for Disease Control indicate that states which allowed abortions prior to the Roe v. Wade only when the life or health of the mother was in danger actually had higher abortion rates than some states where it was legal. The use of data from the Supplemental Homicide Report also allows the direct linkage between the current age of the murderer and the abortion rate when those murders were born.).

One more abortion per 1,000 females age 15-44 (i.e., about four percent of the average) is associated with between a 0.12 to 0.9 percent increase in murders in any given year. Similar estimates are obtained using abortions per 1,000 live births. Linear estimates indicate increased annual victimization costs by at least $3.2 billion.

One of the differences between Joyce's approach and Lott-Whitley's approach is that Joyce assumes the crack war of the late 1980s and early 1990s waged in sizable measure by urban teens born soon after the rise in urban abortion rates in the early 1970s was an "exogenous" (independent) event while Lott-Whitley are assuming the legalization of abortion and the subsequent growth in the murder rate during the crack wars might be related.

Both Joyce's and Lott-Whitley's approaches seem defensible ways to explore a hugely complex social phenomenon. What's not reasonable is Levitt's cherry-picking approach, in which he assumes that legalizing abortion isn't responsible for any of the increase in murders at the beginning of the crack wars but is responsible for some of the decrease of murders at the end of the crack wars. That's called having your cake and eating it too.

Levitt continues:

5) The evidence from Canada, Australia, and Romania also support the hypothesis that abortion reduces crime.

So that's why Russia, which had such an enormous abortion rate during the Soviet years, has no problem these days with criminals!

One of the weirder passages in Freakonomics is the section where Levitt implies that if only Romanian leader Nicolae Ceaucescu hadn't outlawed abortion he'd be ruling still, instead of getting overthrown by all those unruly unaborted criminals.

May I point out that Canada, Australia, and Romania are not the U.S., and differ from America in some obvious ways relevant to crime? And are these foreign studies of a higher quality than Levitt's, or just imitations of his work?

6) Studies have shown a reduction in infanticide, teen age drug use, and teen age childbearing consistent with the theory that abortion will reduce other social ills similar to crime.

And studies have shown an increase in venereal disease, illegitimacy, and a decrease in adoption due to legalizing abortion.

And do Levitt's examples even hold water historically? He claims abortion reduces teen age drug use, but when the first generation born after legalization reached their teen years, we had a crack epidemic. And the sharp decline in teen childbearing didn't happen until the 1990s, when we also had a sharp decline in abortion rates.

So, Levitt hasn't gotten very far beyond where his slapdash original theory back in 1999 had got him. If large claims require large evidence, then he's still a long, long way from meeting the burden of proof.

P.S. Some clever analyst should figure out why so many commentators desperately want Levitt's theory to be true.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

May 16, 2005

Was Her Career Written in Her Name? From an NYT report "A Backspace Key Can't Fix Everything" on the error-correcting liquid white-out industry:

At BIC USA in Milford, Conn., Ellen Iszczyszyn, the national product manager for Wite-Out, the closest competitor to Liquid Paper, said the more prosaic uses of correction fluid include covering mistakes on letters, memos and envelopes, and updating information on Rolodex cards.

Perhaps Ms. Iszczyszyn found early the need for white-out in correcting misspellings of her name?

Where are the Iszczyszyns from? Kyrgyzstan?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

May 15, 2005

Thomas Sowell’s “Black Redneck” Theory

My new column: Thomas Sowell’s “Black Redneck” Theory -- Ingenious, But Insufficient

That Thomas Sowell hasn't yet won the Nobel Prize for Economic Science reflects more poorly upon the economics profession's infatuation with mathematical formulas than upon Sowell's lifetime achievement.

Personally, I've learned more from Sowell than from any other living economist, with the possible exception of his old teacher, Milton Friedman.

Now in his mid-70s, Sowell's latest book of essays, Black Rednecks and White Liberals, doesn't break much new ground. But it forcefully summarizes many of his recurrent themes in a half dozen extended meditations on historical issues of great relevance to the contemporary world.

For example, in "Are Jews Generic?" Sowell outlines the tendency of the masses to persecute "middle-man minorities" such as Jews, Armenians, and the Overseas Chinese, precisely because of the value of their contributions to the economy.

In "Germans and History," he defends that much maligned nationality against insinuations, such as in Daniel Goldhagen's bestseller Hitler's Willing Executioners, that German history should be viewed as inevitably leading up to the Nazis.

Sowell concludes, with his characteristic concern for the universal fallibilities of mankind:

"The racial fanaticism of Hitler and the Nazi movement … were not historically distinct characteristics of Germans as a people. On the contrary, the rise of such a man as the leader of such a people should serve as a permanent warning to all people everywhere who are charmed by charisma or aroused by rhetoric."

Unfortunately, the title essay, "Black Rednecks and White Liberals," is the most questionable in the book.

Yet it still features many acute observations. For example:

"By cheering on counterproductive attitudes, making excuses for self-defeating behavior, and promoting the belief that 'racism' accounts for most of blacks' problems, white intellectuals serve their own psychic, ideological, and political interests. They are the kinds of friends who can do more harm than enemies."

The central conceit of the essay: blacks' troubles today in large part stem from their having absorbed the self-defeating culture of poor Southern whites. As Sowell wrote in the Wall Street Journal (April 26 2005):

"The redneck culture proved to be a major handicap for both whites and blacks who absorbed it. Today, the last remnants of that culture can still be found in the worst of the black ghettos, whether in the North or the South, for the ghettos of the North were settled by blacks from the South. The counterproductive and self-destructive culture of black rednecks in today's ghettos is regarded by many as the only ‘authentic’ black culture—and, for that reason, something not to be tampered with. Their talk, their attitudes, and their behavior are regarded as sacrosanct."

But when examined closely, Sowell's theory exhibits major problems. Indeed, I suspect Sowell is really trying to get blacks to reject ghetto gangsta culture as not authentically black, but a borrowing from poor white trash instead. When I explained to my wife what I thought Sowell was doing, she replied: "Hey, if it works, I'm all for it." [More]

After discussing problems with Sowell's "Black Redneck" theory, I write:

Oddly enough, Sowell curtly dismisses the least-remarked but most distinctive influence on African-Americans: that they are Americans from Africa.

I then track similarities in family structure between Sub-Saharan Africans and African-Americans, and explain their roots in tropical agricultural systems. [More]

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Mexican President Vicente Fox on Blacks

President Vicente Fox on African-Americans: The AP reported:

President Vicente Fox came under criticism Saturday after saying Mexicans were willing to take jobs "that not even blacks want to do in the United States."

Fox's remark Friday came a day after Mexico announced it would formally protest recent U.S. immigration reforms, including the decision to extend walls along the border and make it harder for illegal migrants to get driver's licenses.

I've been writing about the economic clash between African-Americans and illegal immigrants for years:

Who? Whom? Mass Immigration vs. African-Americans

Presumed Alliance: Black vs. Brown

Black vs. Black, but not Black vs. Brown, at Harvard

You may find my article on the genetics of Mexicans and, particularly, on the apparent disappearance of African-Mexicans, "Where Did Mexico's Blacks Go?," of interest.

My three part series from 2000 on the whites and Indians in Mexico is, in the view of number of Mexicans who have sent me emails thanking me, the first clear explication of the central conundrum of Mexican political and social life: Why after almost 500 years of interracial marriage is Mexico's ruling class still so European-looking? Fox, for example, is about seven inches taller than George W. Bush and close to a foot taller than the average Mexican:

Part 1: Mexico's Corrupt White Elite

Part 2: Mexico's Insidious Color Continuum

Part 3: How Latino Intermarriage Breeds Inequality

Also of interest might be:

Will Vicente Fox be Dubya's Yeltsin?

Free Marketeer Fantasies about Fox

Mexican White Elite's Smoking Gun Found

Mexico's Talleyrand: Fox's First Foreign Minister

A Marshall Plan for Mexico

Let's Nation-Build in Latin America, not MidEast

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Why Don't Democracies Fight Each Other?

First, there haven't been that many wars since democracy became widespread, so the sample size is small. But that's largely for technological reasons: cross-border war is too damaging to be attractive, as compared to the 18th Century when mercenary armies could fight gentlemanly battles to redraw borders. Meanwhile, food production per acre of farmland has been growing faster than the birthrate, making wars for lebensraum, like Germany's and Japan's in WWII, pointless.

And, actually, democracies do fight: the Union vs. the Confederacy, Britain vs. the Boer Republics, NATO vs. Serbia, the American Revolution, and Israel vs. Lebanon in 1948. You have to raise the "democracy" bar awfully high to explain away all those away. And WWI certainly represented the will of the people in most of the combatants, including Germany, where the legislature supported the war.

Further, there are examples of wars of aggression instigated by democracies, such as the Suez Crisis of 1956, Iraq in 2003-?, and the Mexican-American War. Mexico was rapidly shifting back and forth between dictatorship and elected governments at the time, but it's ridiculous to think that an elected Mexican government would have given up the Southwest without a fight.

I think, though, that the main reason democracies don't fight each other much is because if the objective situation makes war likely, democracy is unlikely too. Notice that Britain simply suspended its constitutional requirement for a General Election in 1940 for the duration of the war to prevent democracy from interfering with the more important business of winning the war.

Similarly, if a country has disputed borders and a restive minority, democracy is unlikely. For example, Croatia was a dictatorship during its war with Serbia over the Serbs who wanted to break away from the Croatian break-away state. It didn't let Serbs, or anybody else, vote. In 1995, however, Croatia won its war and ethnically cleansed the Serbs out of Croatia (with American backing). Once it became a mono-ethnic state with an undisputed border, it rapidly turned into a democracy.

So, democracy is more likely in comfortable countries that don't need to gird their loins for desperate battle, which is why they haven't gotten into wars with each other.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

War in Error: 1956 and 2003 - ?

Simon Jenkins writes in the Times of London:

CONSIDER the following. A British prime minister is so obsessed by a Middle East dictator that he screams “I want him destroyed” and declares war on him. He concocts a “threat” to British security and seeks to inveigle Americans and others to join him. The dictator has tweaked the lion’s tail. He and others like him must be taught a lesson. Besides, there is oil to consider.

The Americans are appalled. The dictator, replies the president, is no threat to world peace or to anyone but his own people. War would destabilise the region and propagate anti-Western sentiment among the Arabs. It would breach numerous treaties and be seen as imperialist. Besides, what of the United Nations? It must be given time to consider Britain’s case. That is what it is for.

The British prime minister will have none of this. The UN, he says, is for wimps, a place of stallers and cowards. America should understand that the world has moved on and faces new threats. The dictator is so monstrous that treaties and laws no longer hold. America should remember Mussolini and Hitler. It should be more concerned for the security of Israel.

If Washington lacks the guts for war, Britain will go it alone. The American president demurs. “From this point onwards,” he says, “our views diverge.”

I have immersed myself in the Suez crisis — such being the above — through reading the remarkable 1955-56 correspondence between [Prime Minister] Anthony Eden and Dwight Eisenhower... Although fragments have been used in histories of the period, the complete letters have not appeared before. They show an astonishingly precise role reversal between Europe and America then and now. Eden might be Donald Rumsfeld. Eisenhower might be Kofi Annan.

Eden pleads with Eisenhower to understand the threat represented by the Egyptian, Abdel Nasser, who has just nationalised the Anglo-French Suez Canal Company (albeit with compensation). To Eden Nasser is Saddam and al-Qaeda in one, “active wherever Muslims can be found . . . from the Persian Gulf to Nigeria”.

Nasser is out to dominate the region, unseat friendly sheikhs and threaten Israel “to the point where the whole position in the Middle East will be lost beyond recall”. Nasser is the “greatest hazard facing the Free World since 1940”.

Eisenhower is incredulous. In among references to wives and holidays he chides Eden for grossly overstating Egypt’s importance. War is not acceptable just “to protect national or individual investors”. There can be no question of the “legal rights of sovereign nations being ruthlessly flouted”. Nasser was not threatening oil supplies or ships in the canal. Britain’s sabre-rattling was rallying support for him across the Middle East, which was far more destabilising. Eden, in other words, was behaving like an old imperialist out to prove his virility. As for Eden’s constant references to Hitler and appeasement, Eisenhower clearly felt they insulted his intelligence...

Desperate not to seem the aggressor, Eden colluded with the Israelis [and France] to get them to attack Egypt, so Britain could invade apparently to “protect the security” of the canal. It was a tactic that involved grand diplomatic and intelligence deception. To a furious Eisenhower, it “violated our pledged word” under a 1950 treaty that the West would act in the Middle East only in concert. Eden’s response was pure Pentagon. In the face of Nasser, he said, treaties and agreements were “past history”. Britain’s UN Ambassador was told to block Eisenhower’s attempt to stop Israel from attacking Egypt. Britain was the champion of Israel’s expansion.

I have never encountered modern history so laden with irony. Every one of Eisenhower’s warnings proved right. Eden may have been under pressure at home, but it was from a public hysteria he had himself generated. Like George Bush (and Tony Blair), he craved an enemy abroad, one he could exaggerate by rhetoric and against whom a crusade would rank him with his warlike predecessors. At that point alliances, laws, the UN, even the improbability of success, did not matter — only “conviction”.

Eisenhower emerges from the Suez letters as a counsellor of maturity and judgment, distressed to see an old friend embarking on disaster.

Eisenhower made Britain, Israel, and France withdraw.

France, too, attacked Egypt, in collusion with Israel and Britain. The French government mistakenly believed that Nasser was the driving force behind the Algerian rebellion, which was actually extremely indigenous, nationalistic, and almost xenophobic. The French have actually learned some useful lessons from the Algerian War. Chirac, who fought in it as a young officer, tried to explain to Bush that the occupation of Iraq was going to be painful, but our President felt he didn't need to know anything more about the situation.

The neocons have tried to flush the Suez Crisis down the Memory Hole because, out of the four wars Israel initiated (the only one of its five wars where Israel didn't strike first was 1973), 1956 was the least defensible. The situation in 1947 was so desperate that Israel's pre-emptive attack is readily understood. Israel's Pearl Harbor-style attack that launched the 1967 6 Days War at least had a theoretical casus belli in the supposed (and untested) Egyptian blockade of the Gulf of Aqaba. Ariel Sharon's 1982 invasion of Southern Lebanon is understandable as an attempt to eliminate short range rocket attacks on Israel, and if he had stopped there it probably wouldn't be counted as a war, but his decision to push on to Beirut was a disaster for all concerned.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Oops! Bush's Democracy Campaign Backfires

The WaPo reports:

Widespread resentment over a government campaign against alleged Islamic extremists in the Central Asian republic of Uzbekistan exploded into violence Friday when protesters stormed a prison and released thousands of inmates.

Many of the freed prisoners joined in an anti-government revolt in which at least 12 people had died by day's end. The clashes in the eastern city of Andijon climaxed with troops opening fire on protesters in a central square and storming a nearby government building where a number of police officers were being held hostage, according to news reports, government statements and telephone interviews with residents.

Uzbekistan, a former Soviet republic that hosts a U.S. air base used in the war in Afghanistan, has an authoritarian government that has tried to suppress all but officially sanctioned Islamic groups...

Facing one of the most serious challenges to his 15 years of rule, President Islam Karimov flew to Andijon on Friday, apparently seeking to prevent the unrest from spreading, reports from Uzbekistan said. Karimov has yet to appear in public in the city.

The riots were sparked by the prosecution of 23 local businessmen on charges of membership in an illegal group called Akramiya, which supports jailed Islamic leader Akram Yuldashev. Uzbek authorities also charge that the businessmen had ties with a larger radical Islamic network called Hizb ut-Tahrir, which seeks the restoration of the Caliphate, or a super-Islamic state.

The government has linked Hizb ut-Tahrir to a series of bombings last year in Tashkent, the capital. Activists with the organization insist that they reject violence, although they propagate vitriolic anti-Western and anti-Semitic views...

Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, Uzbekistan granted American forces rights to establish an air base, which has been used to support the Afghan war. The United States also maintains close counter-terrorism and intelligence cooperation with Uzbek authorities. The Bush administration has praised Uzbekistan for its cooperation in the war on terrorism.

Human rights groups have documented widespread cases of torture and abuse in the country, which they say have generated anger against the government of the largely Muslim country.

If our dictatorial ally in Uzbekistan is overthrown by pro-democracy, pro-terrorist Islamists, well, that wouldn't be all that bad. I mean, it's just Uzbekistan. But if that turns out to be a dress rehearsal for the overthrow of our dictatorial ally in the War on Terror in nuclear-armed Pakistan by pro-terrorist Islamists, well, uh oh ...

Meanwhile, in other anti-American rioting:

Angry [Afghan] mobs ransacked government offices and relief agencies and clashed with police in several provinces Friday in a fourth day of growing anti-American demonstrations. The violence left at least eight people dead and raised the death toll since Wednesday to about 15, officials said.

The demonstrations represent the most widespread expression of anti-American sentiment since U.S.-led troops ousted the Islamic Taliban militia in late 2001. They have caused growing worry for the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai, who is due to visit Washington later this month.

The protests erupted Wednesday in the eastern city of Jalalabad and have now spread to the capital, Kabul, and four other areas. Demonstrations also took place in other Muslim countries Friday, although no serious violence was reported. Protesters gathered in several cities in Pakistan, as well as in Indonesia and the Palestinian territories.

The protests were sparked by a May 9 report in Newsweek magazine that interrogators at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had placed copies of the Koran in bathrooms and flushed one text down a toilet.

I don't have a good feeling about this... You know how at the end of The Man Who Would Be King (my review here), Sean Connery wants to help the people of Kafiristan (northeastern Afghanistan) progress into the modern world, but he blunders unknowingly into a catastrophic error because he doesn't fully understand the customs of the people he is ruling? Do you have the feeling we're all that much more on top of things than old Sean was?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer