Thursday, April 11, 2019

Bravado in the absence of order

Areo magazine has published another essay of mine, Bravado in the Absence of Order, which examines why African-American urban communities have such high rates of homicide and other violence. The essay uses medieval history, and contemporary societies other than the US, to illuminate social patterns that are less clear if one just looks at the US in isolation.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Piety Display not Virtue Signalling

I have an essay in Areo Magazine arguing that piety display is often a more accurate term than virtue signalling for what people are typically referring to. The piece then examines the dynamics of, and the reasons for, political correctness. Read it here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Giving more power to entropy in its endless war against order

Merit and competence is often hard to measure. Give a bureaucracy some simpler metric (say, diversity points) and it will grasp it with all its tentacles. The resulting "boiling frog" decline in competence is too slow and removed to override the ease and short-term benefit of the simpler metric. Until the crash, or crashes even. (Another triumph of entropy over order.)

When progressives take over an institution, there is a strong tendency for the institution to slowly decline. First, because progressives typically do not take the problems of achieving and maintaining order seriously. (Hard for them to do so, because that would tend to make them conservatives.)

Second, because they are cognitively intolerant, tending to deem contrary ideas as evil and/or stupid. This creates a double-bubble. A bubble of like-minded people, as they drive away or refuse to hire those who do not ideologically conform (or, at least, appear to do so). A bubble of conformist thought, because contrary ideas are often simply blocked from consideration.

So, when things start to go wrong, they are only really left with doubling down on the original set of presumptions. Which speeds up the decline rather than reverses it. Helped by the fact that the decline often does not contravene their markers of wrongness but doing something effective about it is somewhat likely to.

Iowahawk expresses the above ideas much more pithily.
This somewhat harrowing description of the experience of teaching in the New York public school system shows what working inside the decline feels like. Basically, progressive ideology (particularly identity politics) + soviet mode of production => bad public schools.

Progressive ideology does, after all, tend to create simple metrics for bureaucracies to follow.

ADDENDA: But increased accountability, openness to innovation and a systematised pragmatic concern with what works can turn schools and school systems around.

Friday, January 11, 2019

India v Pakistan v Bangladesh

India is an extremely genetically diverse nation, with considerable cultural, religious and linguistic diversity. So, what are the common features of India?  English, common law and parliamentary democracy: all legacies of British rule.

Pakistan is a nation with considerable cultural and linguistic diversity. So, what are the common features of Pakistan? Islam, English, common law (being nibbled away by Sharia) and (on a it-comes-and-goes basis) parliamentary democracy. The Middle Eastern Islam (pdf) of Pakistan is eating away at its other institutional commonalities.

Bangladesh ('the country of Bengal') is a country with very little cultural or linguistic diversity. For it, Islam, English, common law and parliamentary democracy are part of a dominant ethno-nationalist identity. It seems to be doing somewhat better than Pakistan, but not as well as India, suggesting that the ethno-nationalist identity is somewhat ameliorating the negative effects of Islam. 

This blog has been quiet

This blog has been quiet because I am writing a book on marriage, to be published by Connor Court, and have been composing essays, hopefully for publication.