Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Giving something away for free is not a sign of it having value

The progressivist push against citizenship took another big leap forward with the British Labour Party decision committing the Party to giving the vote in general elections to all UK residents. As things reveal their nature (and importance) in their history, a quick trip through citizenship's backstory helps to see what is going on.

Origins and decline
Citizenship originally dates back to the city-states of Ancient Greece. The basic idea was that if you took the risks and effort of fighting for your city, you got a say in the politics of your city-state, your polis. Political citizenship was therefore male, but legal and social citizenship extended to all members of citizen families. 

Eventually, one citizenship-polity, Rome, managed to work out how to scale-up citizenship and, coupled with a very effective military system, conquered the entire Mediterranean littoral. Civil war then culminated in replacing the Republic with the Empire. The Republic itself being conquered from within by the march of Roman imperialism.



Roman Emperors did not need people to vote for them, and had a (relatively) small professional army, so the link between taking risks for your polity and getting a say steadily weakened. The offer of Roman citizenship could entice outsiders into serving in the legions, and cities were still largely self-governing. But the trend was against any strong notion of citizenship.

Eventually, citizenship was universalised in 212 by the Constitutio Antoniniana to all freeborn folk in the Empire. This is usually written up as a noble act, but it expressed what limited value citizenship had by then. The division between honestiores (respectables) and humiliores (lessers) had already developed, indicating how citizenship itself had lost status.

Rather predictably, even citizenship's one remaining status claim within the Empire (a citizen was a free person) declined with the development of coloni, who became tied to their states, so a type of serf. 

Revival
The revival of citizenship in medieval cities also had an implication of readiness to fight for your city, helping to create tough urban militias which were a feature of medieval and early modern Europe. The later, post-American and -French Revolutions, revival of citizenship also had some flavour of fighting for your country (hence the infamous Second Amendment). 

But citizenship became more tied to being who the state was committed to defend and to serve. The term "to protect and to serve" invokes protecting and serving a community of citizens. The ultimate expression of citizenship became having the vote. But it had already been connected to all sorts of other freedoms. Indeed, it had those connections before the vote. One could easily be "a free born Briton" but not have the vote. (This applied especially to women, of course.)

As is so often the case, the UK had somewhat particular history, in this case with the notion of a British subject, but that became trumped by citizenship.

The structure of citizenship flowed from all of this. You got it from being born in the country, because that established you had lots of links and connections and so could be reasonably presumed to have strong attachments within the society that the state was supposed to be serving. You could become a citizen, but only by long enough residence that you could be reasonably presumed to have built up such attachments. Continued residence was a strong signal of commitment. You were committing to the society that the state was supposed to be serving. Some states insisted on unitary citizenship, others permitted dual attachment.

Social bargaining
The history of the spread of the suffrage, of the right to vote, throughout Western societies is the history of the expansion of the ability to participate in social bargaining about the policy and laws of the state. That votes determined who held office at the peak of the state (apart from any monarch) made votes matter. Hence the importance of voting mechanisms and electoral systems. For these affect how much voter concerns have had to be paid attention to, that being what makes voting "real". The legitimacy element involved in the practical and expressed consent of the people is a consequence of the power it gives to participate in social bargaining in this way, it is not a driver of the significance of voting.

After all, totalitarian states hold elections. But they are mere rituals of dominance, forcing mass participation in rituals of legitimacy. It is the ability to vote in and out people who make decisions that matter that gives the vote its power. Provided, that is, there is some genuine bargaining element involved, which requires that there be genuine alternatives, both offered in the public space and adhered to by serious competitors for office. In particular, that voters have the capacity to articulate their concerns, and have them heard.

This is why the old centre-left, back in the days when they overwhelmingly represented (and their candidates and activists often came from) people of low income, assets and education, were stalwarts of democracy. The vote was by far the most important social lever that their voters had. It is also why such voters now dominate (pdf) the increasing proportion of non-voters in societies with voluntary voting: an increasing, and largely accurate sense, that the political class is indifferent, or even hostile, to their concerns.

Undermining citizenship
For things have changed profoundly for progressive politics. Modern progressivism has been mounting a multi-level attack on citizenship. This is because, as French economist Thomas Piketty has documented in his revelatory paper Brahmin Left v Merchant Right: Rising Inequality & the Changing Structure of Political Conflict (Evidence from France, Britain and the US, 1948-2017) (pdf), left-of-centre politics has become dominated by a human capital (i.e. educated) elite. And the way an educated elite turns its human capital into a position of social dominance is by controlling public language within the society; by setting the limits on who can express what, when and how, on whose concerns will be deemed legitimate or not. By controlling what is to be legitimate for any social bargaining to be about, thereby determining what social bargaining (if any) will be permitted. Eric Weinstein's Four Quadrant model provides a useful heuristic.


In other words, social dominance is achieved by controlling the Overton window and by undermining any area of social bargaining it cannot dominate and control. Piketty's use of the term Brahmin Left is inspired because being secular Brahmins, the folk imposing rules and taboos, is an excellent description of what they are increasingly about. (How Left they are is another question, hence I will refer to them as Brahmin progressives.) 

Any strong concept of citizenship gets in the way of this strategy of social dominance. Moreover, it does so comprehensively. 

For instance, the notion "I am entitled to say that, I am a citizen" has to go. Hence the enthusiastic adoption of the Stalinist concept of hate speech. "Hate speech" is a conceptual and rhetorical device used by Brahmin progressives seeking to gain control over who can say what. Thus the use of terms of reputational aggression ("racist", "homophobe", "misogynist", "islamophobe", "transphobe" etc) to police speech and destroy reputations. It sets up the mechanisms for dominating public discourse by controlling legitimacy. As does, of course, calling lots of people fascist or nazi

The ostentatious and intense moralising Brahmin (i.e. diversity) progressives engage in is ideal for this strategy of social dominance. First, because morality is trumps; to say something is moral is to say it is what you should do. So, intense and ostentatious moralising mobilises that trumping value of morality for the strategy of social dominance. Second, because it hides from themselves and others what they are about. They are, of course, not trying to impose their own social dominance, they are just being moral, they are just doing the right thing. This is a classic example of social psychologist Jonathan Haidt's point that morality blinds and binds.

It is important to understand the selection processes here. People seek to economise on information, minimise reputation risk and maximise status. A set of received opinions which denote being a good, even morally superior, person does all this. But it only works if the opinions being used as moralised markers of status generate moral prestige, and they only do that if dissent is morally retrograde. Indeed, the more morally reprehensible dissent is, the greater the moral prestige. Hence the “pile-ons”: people are protecting their investment in moral prestige.

Once these mechanisms are in play, then a structure to generate and enforce social dominance has evolved. One, moreover that both gains strength the more organisations and institutions it dominates and also fosters colonising said organisations and institutions. (Inconveniently principled believers get in the way, as they elevate some other consideration above the prestige-and-dominance game: see the current use of trans activism and the war on biology-affirming feminists.)

The power and status implied in citizen-as-voter gets in the way of this sought social dominance. So the vote becomes hemmed in by judicial power, by an expanding administrative state, by supranational authorities. All increasingly run by people like them, according to their attitudes and serving their social dominance. The Brahmin progressives are, therefore, overwhelming pro-EU because it is such an excellent vehicle for all that. (The old working class Left was always much less keen, as is still true of their remnants.)

The vicious and continuing attacks on the 52% of voters participating in the UK's 2016 referendum who voted Leave is all about Brahmin progressivism--what UK writer Ben Cobley called the system of diversity in his very useful book The Tribe: The Liberal-Left and the System of Diversity--seeking to re-establish their control over the public discourse and keep the UK tied to supranationalism, hemming in the power of voting and the status of citizenship. No revolts are allowed. Especially not revolts that celebrate and elevate citizenship. 

Considering citizenship in terms of the history of its role and functions is the only way to understand the implications of undermining or eliminating it. That way, any trade-offs with various moral principles can be understood in context. If, however, one simply ignores the purpose, and consequent structure, of citizenship then those trade-off considerations are eliminated, so any infringement of some declared moral principle becomes a simple infringement of morality or consistency, and so illegitimate. It becomes easy to make "knock down" criticisms of citizenship (as is done, for example, here [pdf]).

But, of course, for Brahmin progressivism, it is precisely those purpose and functions which are the problems. Even more, that their moral lessers (those xenophobic, race-cursed, heteronormative, insufficiently educated modern humiliores) become people who politics should be about and the state should be in service of. For, whatever else Brahmin progressivism, or diversity progressivism is, it is urgently concerned with elevating the status of the Brahmin progressives, with boosting their sense of moral prestige against, and their social dominance over, their fellow citizens.

That term
The attempt to control the public space by controlling what is deemed legitimate to discuss, and how it is deemed legitimate to discuss it, brings us to that fraught term political correctness. In particular the two uses that essayist William Deresiewicz discusses in his essay, “On Political Correctness: Power, class, and the new campus religion”.

There is political correctness-as-verbal-civility:
the expectation of adherence to the norms of basic decency, like refraining from derogatory epithets.
This is the cover usage, the one that those who wish to dismiss any concern over political correctness invoke. What Deresiewicz is concerned with is:
the persistent attempt to suppress the expression of unwelcome beliefs and ideas.
The longstanding campaign to undermine any use of the term political correctness is all about hiding that attempt to suppress behind a fog of morality. Though, more recently, with the term free speech itself becoming an object of criticism, of diminution, held to be a block to progressivism, even treated with punitive derision, there is rather less hiding, and even more puffed up moralising.

Deresiewicz is well aware of, and invokes, the history of the term political correctness:
The term political correctness, which originated in the 1970s as a form of self-mockery among progressive college students, was a deliberately ironic invocation of Stalinism. By now we’ve lost the irony but kept the Stalinism—and it was a feature of Stalinism that you could be convicted for an act that was not a crime at the time you committed it. So you were always already guilty, or could be made to be guilty, and therefore were always controllable.
People suddenly finding they are catastrophically on the wrong side of a norm that they did not know existed, or did not know would be applied in that way, has become almost commonplace. The world of Young Adult fiction has recently provided several examples, but they are just instances of a much wider trend.

Cultural Stalinism
Brahmin, or diversity, progressivism, can be reasonably described as operating as cultural Stalinism. Not because it is inherently Marxist, though there are certainly some Marxist antecedents. The term cultural Marxism is way over used, given that most folk involved are not Marxists, are not aware of how much of the ideas they are using or actively or passively endorsing have Marxist origins and that genuine Marxists are often quite hostile to contemporary diversity politics. Not surprising, as actual Marxists are Enlightenment universalists, and identity politics/diversity progressivism's creation of a series of sanctified, versus various tainted or demonised, identities based on what are often innate characteristics involves a clear rejection of Enlightenment universalism.

The point is not that Stalinism was a manifestation of Marxism, but that it was a strategy of political action and dominance. In particular, it was the attempt to apply Leninthink to operating in liberal democratic societies. Consider the characteristics that Brahmin/diversity progressivism and Stalinism have in common.

(1) Endorsing and using the concept hate speech. As noted above, it is a Stalinist concept used to arrogate to Brahmin progressives the right to decide who can speak, how and about what.

(2) Use of the terms fascist and nazi as a standard term of rhetorical abuse. Fascism was an early C20th ideology characterised by expect rejection of democracy, belief in the purifying effect of violence, extolling of military virtues and organisation that sought to attain and impose complete national unity of purpose. With a few exceptions, such as the Golden Dawn in Greece, fascism is nothing but a reviled fringe in Western politics. Which is why movements that have fascist antecedents have had to work to shed them. (Even the Golden Dawn denies being fascist, though it fairly clearly is.)

The use of fascist and nazi as standardised terms of rhetorical abuse against people who simply are not fascists, or versions of fascists, shrieks of the ambition to control public discourse, to determine who is, and who is not, a legitimate participant in the public space. It is also a classic characteristic of Stalinism (for, of course, the same reason).

(3) Internationalist. The denigration of ethno-cultural identities, the contempt for nationalism, the sense of belonging to a transnational elite practising transnational politics, is bog-standard Brahmin/diversity progressivism, hence the use of the term globalist by opponents. Also a classic characteristic of Stalinism.

(4) Know, and are working with, the proper direction of history. An obvious feature of Brahmin/diversity progressivism; all that talk of where the arc of history bends and being on the right side of history and how their opponents are against modernity. Also a classic characteristic of Stalinism.

(5) Dogmatic. The Brahmin/diversity progressives are a highly opinion conformist group. The dogmas may keep shifting, but that Brahmin/diversity progressivism is dogmatic, at times viciously so, is an obvious feature of it. Also a classic characteristic of Stalinism, including there being precipitous shifts in dogma.

(6) Unlimited in social ambit. There is no part of one's life that the strictures of Brahmin/diversity progressivism do not reach, because they want to impose their norms and taboos on all language everywhere. There is no such thing as exempt private speech or exempt social action. Again, a classic characteristic of Stalinism.

(7) Unlimited in action. Any level of destruction of people's lives--sacking, destroying their business, career, livelihood--will be engaged in. Maximising reputational risk is a great way to enforce conformity. 

The major existing limit at the moment is actual violence, except that Antifa is breaking down that limit. But, again, this is replicating Stalinism in the West, which also had limitations on its ability to use violence. Except that Brahmin/diversity progressivism has penetrated Western institutions far more thoroughly than Stalinism ever did, so can range much more widely in the destruction of people's careers, reputations, public standing ...

(8) The inconvenience of principled believers. Even the split with serious Marxists replicates Stalinism, because as Gary Saul Morson points out in his Leninthink essay, serious believers in Marxist ideology were targeted under Stalinism, as they might hold the leadership to account according to Marxist principles. Contemporary Marxists who think that concern for the working class is a bedrock of being on the Left are definitely not what is wanted within Brahmin progressivism. Sneering at, and lauding over, the citizen working class is so much of the point of Brahmin progressivism, whose politics reek of contempt for their fellow citizens. Which is epitomised by stripping of them of status of citizens, and giving them no status markers that sets them over the romanticised newcomers, newcomers treated as economic saviours with lots of desirable traits (e.g. initiative) and no taint of the oh-so-awful Western past.

A salient example of this "true believers not wanted" phenomena is the anathematising of biology-affirming feminists such as Germaine Greer and various radical feminists (the infamous TERFs). The whole trans madness being Brahmin progressivism displaying its social dominance. It both selects for reliability (who breaks ranks?) and expresses dominance (how much can we force people to acquiesce in things they do not believe?).

There is so much overlap between Stalinism in the West and Brahmin/diversity progressivism (far more than there is between fascism and almost anyone currently being accused of it) that Brahmin/diversity progressives are clearly practising what can be reasonably described as cultural Stalinism.

Nor is this overlap surprising. Both Brahmin/diversity progressivism and Stalinism are about a human capital elite striving for social dominance in mass communications and mass politics societies. It is hardly surprising that the new wave of such would adopt the most apposite available strategy they can pick up. Even more so, as similar aims and constraints lead to similar selection pressures.

The convergences between Stalinism and Brahmin/diversity progressivism really are no accident. A process of both adoption of available strategies and of convergent evolution is in play.

Divide and rule
The level of institutional penetration is such that we can reasonably talk of a diversity imperium, and any imperium knows the importance of divide-and-rule. Which brings us to multiculturalism. Or, as political scientist Eric Kaufman nicely expresses it, asymmetric multiculturalism, which elevates (and, indeed, romanticises) the cultures of newcomers while ignoring or denigrating the culture of the heritage citizens. Thus, a Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh or Hindu festival is "multicultural". A Christian event is not. One cannot say that London is no longer an English city, because there is no English identity except living in England.

In his excellent The Road to Somewhere, David Goodhart makes the observation concerning multiculturalism that:
But by cordoning off minorities in their own districts with their own leaders and social centres and often making their progress dependent on white advocacy, white liberals were merely continuing the colonial heritage with a smiley face pasted on. (P.167)
Indeed. Citing Goodhart's previous book, The British Dream, Ben Cobley, in The Tribe, notes that:
The figure of the colonial administrator, presiding over, accepting representations from and giving favours to various different groups under his purview, has a lot in common with contemporary administration of multiculturalism and diversity. For a start it is an elite role; it oversees and directs its politics through group or tribal leaders, giving them access to higher power. It also stands apart, not interfering with the representatives’ relationships to their group members, thereby outsourcing power over what is good and bad within those groups and conferring political power on to the representatives it favours. As the first waves of mass immigration came in from former Empire countries, colonial-style multiculturalism effectively allowed Britain’s governing elites to pick up where they had left off in the Empire—slipping into old ways that were familiar to both administrators and many of the immigrants themselves. Goodhart says that ‘in the 1960s this translated easily into the cosmopolitan manners of a new liberal elite too—allegiance was now to tolerance and openness instead of the monarch, to England’s “genius” for multiculturalism.’ He adds: ‘The core members of this new elite, according to [the sociologist] Geoff Dench, were “policy-makers and the public servants responsible for carrying out social policy but it extends widely into the educational establishment and liberal professions… and their role is to stand impartially above and integrate different elements of the population.” This is what both imperial and multicultural elites do. (Loc 1087.)
Quite so. Imperial systems are naturally multicultural: it maximises the number of their subjects while dividing them from each other. One certainly can't have some strong notion of citizenship bringing them together.

Importing people of a different cultural background to improve the local economy was a standard device of colonialism. Academics have had no trouble identifying it as a divide-and-rule technique. Except, of course, when it is people like them doing so to serve an imperial cause they support.

Resentment and condescension 
It is not as if the general public, the general citizenry, have not noticed. When asked in polls, huge numbers define pc as a problem. Across all ages and races. Of course they do, attacking their ability to express themselves about matters social and political assaults the bedrock of their citizenship quite directly. 

Citizenship defends the status of the somewheres (those rooted in a sense of place and community) against the endless vote-trumping social imperialism of the Brahmin progressives, acting as the vanguard of the anywheres (those not so rooted). Citizenship, and its implications, gets in the way of the mobility and status claims of the anywheres. 

And they are typically mightily offended by any notion of serving their moral lessers. In his The Road To Somewhere, David Goodhart cites some revealing conversations:
The first conversation took place at an Oxford college dinner in Spring 2011. When I said to my neighbour—Gus O’Donnell, then in his last few months as Cabinet Secretary, the most senior civil servant in the land—that I was writing a book about immigration, he replied, ‘When I was at the Treasury I argued for the most open door possible to immigration … I think it’s my job to maximise global welfare not national welfare.’ I was surprised to hear this from the head of such a national institution and asked the man sitting next to the civil servant, Mark Thompson—then Director-General of the BBC—whether he believed global welfare should be put before national welfare, if the two should conflict. He defended O’Donnell and said he too believed global welfare was paramount. (Pp14-15)
The global welfare they see themselves as serving being what looks like global welfare to people like them. Which, strangely, will tend to reflect the perspectives of people like them. Global welfare is grand enough for such moral paragons, while serving their fellow British citizens is clearly not. Even better, taking such a lofty view also releases them from any constraints the concerns or actions of said citizens involve that they deem incompatible with said global welfare.  

In their combination of moral arrogance and feckless irresponsibility, the above-quoted sentiments are perfect Brahmin progressivism. The globe does not give feedback, but the voters do. But that feedback can always be ignored in the name of the greater global good. They are both morally ennobled, and freed from burdensome responsibility, all at once.

Brahmin/diversity progressives just know the direction of history. They own morality. They collectively possess the power to punish any public dissent. Even what the migrants, those romanticised outsiders they are so solicitous of, might want does not matter. Just ask Israel Folau. So, there is "nothing to see here" when it comes to migrant attitudes and outlooks. Besides, those migrants can be expected to (mostly) vote the correct way.

The Brahmin/diversity progressives replacement for citizenship, for voting that matters, for the social bargaining that is the very stuff of democratic politics, is their own moral dominion; their right to decide what people are permitted to say and what concerns they are permitted to express and how. So, it does not matter how socially conservative the romanticised newcomers are or may be, the Brahmin diversity dominion, the diversity moral imperium, will control all.

No matter how many newcomers turn up. Even if one has created a massive extra incentive to just turn up:  as if enough of you do, you get to dominate the political system. An effect that obviously depends on what level of filter there is for simply arriving: open borders says none at all, except the willingness and ability to travel.

As economist George Borjas says:
Our immigration policy—any immigration policy—is ultimately not just a statement about how much we care about immigrants, but how much we care about one particular group of natives over another.
Yes, and the statement is being made loud and clear.

Devaluing their inferiors
It is entirely appropriate that the decision of the British Labour Party to hand out the right to vote as a reward for getting off the plane was matched by a commitment to open borders. Migration is a key element in the future direction of any society, and Brahmin progressivism has been fighting a long battle to remove migration from the ambit of social bargaining. An open and complete commitment to open borders (any opposition to which is, of course, "racist" and "xenophobic") just cements that removal.

After all, our new Brahmins are far too morally lofty to be dictated to by mere shudras. Citizenship implies that politics is about serving their moral inferiors. Clearly, it has to go. And for it to go is clearly the plan. The British Labour Party conference has told us so.

Handing out the vote merely because you have arrived while putting no barriers to arrival does not represent the peak of democracy, it represents the trumping of it. It does not represent the apotheosis of broad social bargaining, but its effective elimination, its reduction to whatever minimal ritual form suits Brahmin/diversity progressives. The British Labour Party wants to bury citizenship, to empty it of status and content, and in so doing bury any chance of the citizen working class having a serious say in its future. 

Whatever that is, it doesn't look very Left. Not in any sense that Keir Hardie, the first Labour Leader, and those who built the Labour movement, might recognise. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Readers wanted

I am writing a book on marriage for Connor Court. It would be very helpful to have some "beta readers" to run a critical eye over drafts of the chapters (and appendices) of the book.

So, if you are interested in being such a reader, say so in the comments.

The chapter plan is set out below. Feel free to nominate sections you may be particularly interested in.


Prologue: A society without marriage

Introduction: The problem of marriage

Part 1: The patterns of marriage

Chapter 1: What is marriage and where did it come from?
Appendix 1.1: Rationality and utility

Chapter 2: Of cousins, cults and clans

Chapter 3: Paths to patriarchy

Chapter 4: Caste and other household matters

Chapter 5: Why the state
Appendix 5.1: China, Rome and cycles of empire.

Chapter 6: Polygyny and social aggression
Appendix 6.1: Migration and social aggression

Part 2: Marriage and Western Dominance

Chapter 7: Classical monogamy and political diversity
Appendix 7.1: Republics outside the classical world
Appendix 7.2: Empire as a territorial equilibrium 

Chapter 8: Christian monogamy and supercharging cooperation
Appendix 8.1: Patterns of political bargaining

Chapter 9: The triumph of monogamy and the end of a civilisational cycle
Appendix 9.1: Sacredness and structure

Part 3: The Present and Prospects of Marriage

Chapter 10: Marriage at the margin

Chapter 11: Violence and victims

Chapter 12: Biology and culture
Appendix 12.1 Same sex attraction

Chapter 13: Conclusion

Afterword: Catastrophising and cultural flux
Appendix 1: Abstraction and Uncertainty
Appendix 2: Connection and Information


(Will update this post if and when chapter plan changes.)

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The urban rural divide in the US and other complexities of polarisation

Former libertarian, now progressive, Will Wilkinson has a report up on the rural urban divide in US politics (pdf), connecting the concentration of economic production in a service economy in megacities, sorting by migration and internal movement, and cognitive patterns (particularly pertaining to Openness to Experience and, to a lesser degree, Conscientiousness) to the drift in the US to being a collection of one-Party jurisdictions largely sorted by population density.

Econblogger Arnold Kling raises some reasonable quibbles about Wilkinson's analysis referring to Colin Woodard's American Nations analysis and the divide between college-educated women and non-college educated men. Kling also makes a powerful point about cultural dynamics:
But I would point out that the government office buildings in our nation’s capital house technocrats who almost all share an urban progressive outlook. Inside those agencies, the urban majority is closer to tyranny than to impotence.
Indeed, as discussed below, Wilkinson gets a key aspect of the cultural dynamics of political polarisation in the US quite wrong.

Regarding "race"
Wilkinson examines issues of "racial" resentment and "racial" polarisation. As ever in US matters, the question of whether we are looking at "race" cues or ethnic cues is one that is mostly ignored. Yet, Woodard's analysis in particular suggests that cultural cues and differences are central to regional political patterns in the US. Writer John Wood Jnr provides a powerful personal illustration of the importance of cultural cues.

As I have explained in a recent post and elsewhere, I am very much against using "race" as an analytical frame. It is, at best, a clumsy and inaccurate framing for cultural patterns. It is particularly misleading if we want to understand why violence (and particularly) homicide is so much higher in African-American urban (but not rural) communities than is the US norm. That disparity in rates of violence in urban communities is a factor in "racial resentment" that is, as is very common (particularly among progressives), completely ignored in Wilkinson's analysis.

Something that is also ignored by Wilkinson in his paean to how diverse and productive the megacities are is how badly run a lot of them are, a point noted in the comments to Kling's post. Many of them are standing examples of the problems of political monopolies, of one-Party dominance. Though, to Wilkinson's credit, he understands the dynamic nature of an entrenched two-Party system, and how demographic change is likely to force the Republican Party to seek a broader electoral coalition.

Indeed, his report actually points to possibilities for such a broader coalition that would turn a lot of US political analysis on its head. In his report Wilkinson makes the following observations:
Rising housing costs in urban cores have shifted the black population (and other less wealthy city dwellers) away from dense city centers toward the suburbs. (p.27)
This means, for example, that black Americans are just as likely to be low in Openness, and to be temperamentally socially conservative, as white Americans. (p.38)
At this point, it won’t come as a shock to hear that ethnocentrism and racial resentment both strongly predict negative attitudes toward immigration. Kinder and Kam find that, among whites and blacks, a high level of ethnocentrism strongly predicts support for reducing the rate of immigration, and it does so more strongly than other variables, such as a high level of “moral traditionalism” or a low level of “egalitarianism.” (p.52)
If the Republicans want to explore wider coalitions, conservative African-Americans in (badly run, high crime) northern cities could be unexpectedly fertile ground. One that could turn them, if they could pull it off, into the natural majority Party in US politics.

There is already some structural basis for such an alliance--the biggest single element in the congressional gerrymandering that Democrats like to complain about is drawing boundaries so as to maximise the number of majority African-American congressional districts. And, as Wilkinson's analysis notes at various points, African-Americans have a lot of similarities with the Republicans Euro-American rural base.

Cultural polarisation
But it is the institutional structure of the cultural dynamics of political polarisation where Wilkinson's analysis is most lacking. He accepts as a basis for his analysis that the Republicans are more ideologically consistent and further from the centre than the Democrats. Based on the notion developed by political scientists Matt Grossmann and David A. Hopkins that the Republicans represent ideological politics and the Democrats interest group politics.


First, Pew Research polling data shows that the presumption of Republicans being further from the centre with greater ideological narrowness compared to the Democrats is simply no longer true. The Democrats are now the ideologically more concentrated and further from the political centre Party. Indeed, they are now more so than the Republicans ever were.  All that highly educated productive megacity ethnic diversity does not seem to be having the broadening effect that Wilkinson presumes.

Second, by only looking at Party polarisation, Wilkinson misses a much more important underlying dynamic, one that Kling alluded to in his comment about the internal views of the administrative state.

If one looks an industry and occupational political patterns, as revealed by political donations, then it is clear that four key industries are much more intensely and narrowly progressive than any such group is conservative. The four key "cultural production" industries (media, entertainment, IT, academe) form a highly ideologically conformist grouping.

Source: Crowdpac analysis, 2014.
A rather more nuanced way of looking at the dynamics of polarisation in the US, is that these industries became thoroughly progressive-dominated. This had an alienating effect on conservative Americans, particularly in the rural "heartland" and gave an "in" to Fox News to cater to what had become a large, neglected, sector of the media market and then, as access capacities expanded, to Breibart and other operations.

The shift in concerns among their voter base, along with the sorting effects Wilkinson identifies, helped push the Republicans in a more consistently conservative direction. The perspectives of these culturally-central progressive-dominated industries then came to increasingly dominate the Democrats, a shift that the Pew reports show was underway well before the election of The Donald in November 2016, though that result does seem to have had an intensifying effect (pdf).

This is part of the wider pattern, identified by French political economist Thomas Piketty, of the profound change in democratic politics in the US, UK and France whereby centre-left politics has become increasingly dominated by a new form of elite politics (pdf), the politics of the highly educated (what Piketty calls the Brahmin Left). As centre-left Parties effectively abandon working class voters (and particularly regional working class voters) they either increasingly don't vote (pdf) or become "up for grabs" by a Trump, a Brexit, a Le Pen or whatever.


So, progressive elites take over key "cultural" industries, this causes a reaction among more conservative Americans, affecting the Republicans. Partly as a result of that shift, but more because of the spreading domination of the progressive-educated elite, the Democrat Party has now shifted considerably more to the left than the Republicans did to the right. As the late Andrew Breibart used to say, politics is downstream from culture.

This pattern, of conservatives being more diverse in outlook than progressives, even shows up in the US Supreme Court, as in this mapping of the judicial ideology of the current Justices. The recent Hidden Tribes report found that those it identified as the Progressive Activists were the highest income, most educated and most opinion-conformist group among the identified US political groupings.

So left-of-centre politics has not only become elite-dominated, but dominated by a high income, high conformity elite whose most direct path to social power, given their dominance of education, academe, most of the media and IT, is the anathematisation of alternative opinion. Hence "political correctness" getting ever more draconian in its restrictiveness and its public mobbing of dissent.

It is also true that the two Parties have become more coherent and "national", so more distinct. A process largely kicked off by Newt Gingrich and his successful in 1994 insurgency against Democrat dominance of Congressional politics. While that has affected political polarisation, it is at best a minor factor in the wider socio-political polarisation. It made US party politics more "normal democratic". It is cultural politics which has driven the wider and more intense political polarisation.

Not that one can leave Republican Party politicians completely off the hook. Having a voter base that was increasingly culturally uncomfortable, even feeling somewhat beleaguered, but still supporting key aspects of the welfare state, was somewhat awkward place to be for an allegedly small-government Party, most of whose key figures had significant congruences in views on migration and similar matters with the Democrat elite. It was particularly awkward if one was prone to small government rhetoric that one did not actually mean and fighting cultural politics that one does not entirely share. The common response was to ramp up the rhetoric to cover the lack of effective action or a functionally coherent political direction. Certainly nothing that was likely to be useful in addressing the economic stagnation and cultural despair within the Heartland that voted for them.

Migration and leaving the provinces to rot
Not that they are alone in this. Wilkinson is so busy characterising low population density Heartland US as economically stagnant and politically retrograde that it is easy to not notice that he has no solutions to the problems of the Heartland except to make sure political structures do not give them "too much" of a say. In other words: they are demographically declining, culturally reactionary and economically stagnant, so the really important thing is to make sure the other bits of the US get to have the dominant say.

Which is the flip side of the concentration of population and economic production in urban megacities. The combination of mass migration, regional sorting and voluntary voting means that the commercial, bureaucratic and cultural elites can leave the provinces to rot. And they do. (And then get very angry when the provinces push back.)

These patterns are very much alive and well in Britain and the Brexit vote and in France and the "yellow vest" protests. Indeed, the most extreme manifestation of leaving the provinces to rot was the grotesque and systematic failure of British elites to do anything about, or even notice, years of predatory rape and enforced prostitution gangs preying on thousands of underage girls. Though the rise of man made "deaths of despair" (pdf) in the US Heartland is an even larger scale problem. In all three countries, their actual migration policies tend to increase the scarcity premium for capital and reduce it for labour.

As for hostile neglect, it is, for example, now pretty standard urban-coastal politics in the US to attempt to block major infrastructure investment in the Heartland. Such as pushing back against fracking and seeking to block pipelines.

It is also pretty standard urban-coastal politics to weaken marriage and undermine fatherhood, further weakening social capital among vulnerable groups (notably African-Americans and now Heartland US). As unmarried and divorced women (pdf) are very solid Democrat voters, less marriage and pathologising fatherhood electorally works for them. (Divorced women have been a key element in the voting gender gap in the UK [pdf] as well.) In some cases it is done quite intentionally. The more powerful factor is that is the direction the electoral mathematics selects for and so pushes them in. The creation of state bureaucracies with incentives to pathologise fatherhood is part of this. ("Deadbeat Dads" are mostly a myth, but provide an excellent stick for middle class bureaucracies to make a living imposing utterly unreasonable levels of child support payments on lower class males.) Conversely, Euro-American women who have kids and stay married have a strong tendency to vote Republican/conservative.

If commercial elites were forced to rely much more on Heartland labour, rather than just importing labour from elsewhere, one suspects that there might be rather more attention being paid to their skills and prospects and social stagnation. As it is, the urban-coastal push is to deny the Heartland any say in migration at all, thus speeding along their marginalisation.

The decline in geographical mobility within the US is surely partly driven by the rising shelter costs in the migrant-receiving megacities. Since the benefits of migration overwhelming got to holders of (various forms) of capital plus the migrants themselves, the migrants are typically willing to put up with less living space in said cities than many the bulk of the citizenry are, because they are still much better off. Conversely, having to pay much more for much less shelter is a major deterrent to movement from regional centres to the megacities. In a real sense, geographical mobility within the US is falling precisely because global mobility to the US has been as high as it is.

The economic literature generally indicates a net positive effect to resident workers from migration, but not a very high net positive effect. Add in rising shelter costs and it likely a different story. (And not examining the effect of migration on shelter is a serious analytical failure, given that there is, as Lyman Stone points out here, a considerable economic literature of restricting the supply of land for housing imposing major economic costs and having lots of housing market entrants being non-citizens makes it much easier to restrictively regulate land use.) Add in the regional distribution of benefits, and it is almost certainly a different story. As it is, the economic literature on the (highly uneven) benefits to migration becomes yet another grounds to justify marginalising the provinces, and particularly regional workers. (For the problems with the economic literature on migration, see this post.)

As an aside, these patterns apply far less in Australia, because Australia was already highly urbanised when postwar mass migration began and has compulsory preferential voting. Compulsory voting means there is no gain in driving people away from the polls and preferential voting means Parties of government have to aim for 50% +1 of each electorate they need to win. So policies have to broader in their appeal and you cannot import solid-vote-for-you groups to compensate for alienating voters who simply disengage from voting.

Not us guv'
One of the key patterns of the institutionally culturally-dominant progressive elite is that nothing is ever their fault; they are never in the wrong, they are purely morally motivated and so problems and difficulties are always someone else's fault and would go away if everyone just agreed with them. (Even though what constitutes agreeing with them continually shifts precisely so they can "ahead" of the moral curve.) Of course, every system of moral bullying and dominance in human history has claimed to be defending moral decency. But if one takes a step back, the cultural and social dynamics become rather clearer.

The progressive elite regard migration as their great success issue, the firm demonstration of their moral and intellectual superiority. But it is also a weapon for cultural and political dominance that makes it so much easier to leave the provinces to rot and then get self-righteously superior when the provinces bite back.

ADDENDA Another factor Wilkinson left out of his report: those wonderful economically vibrant migrant attracting megacities are either driving away families or frustrating their fertility because it is too expensive to raise kids there.


[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]

Monday, July 8, 2019

Silver is the monetary metal with proven historical resilience

This is based on a comment I made here:

Milton Friedman suggested that the pre-1873 mix of silver standard, gold standard, and dual standard countries was possibly more stable than having almost all the major countries on the gold standard.  I think he is correct: that international monetary order certainly lasted a lot longer.

Athenian "owl".
The notion that all of monetary history somehow peaked in 1873-1913 (the "classical" gold standard era) and it has been downhill ever since does not make much sense. Historically, silver was a much more important monetary metal than gold, and silver-dominated eras lasted centuries longer than "the" gold standard.  Even if one just sticks to coins, Eurasia was essentially on the silver standard from around 500BC (the beginning of the Athenian tetradrachm) to the crisis of the C3rd, where every major Eurasian state except Rome collapsed. A crisis that was predominantly driven by the collapse of Roman silver production knocking a key prop out of the Roman-Han trading system.

Leaving out the steppe trade routes, as is sadly common.
The Eurasian-come-global trading system was on the silver standard (based after 1497 primarily on Spanish silver dollars/pieces of eight/peso: the first world currency) from the (re)invention of the suction pump and liquation (copper-silver smelting process) in the mid C15th, which brought to an end the Great Bullion Famine, followed by the looting of the Aztec and Incan empires and then discovery of the Potosi silver mountain and other silver mines until the collapse of the Spanish Empire in the Americas in the 1820s and subsequent failure of coins minted in the former empire to retain their silver content consistency. (A consistency the Spanish crown had managed to essentially maintain from 1497 until the 1820s).

From the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella.
If you want to go with historically proven resilience, the silver standard makes more sense than the gold standard. It was true that medieval rulers were more likely to debase their silver coins (used internally) than their gold coins (used more for international trade) but states where the branding value for their coins of consistent silver content was sufficiently high could manage such consistency for centuries.

And, while history does not repeat, it does rhyme.  China exported lots of goods in return for American-minted Spanish coins from the early 1500s to the 1820s (which is why Spain conquered the Philippines--to get a base close to China.) Possibly about a third of American-mined silver went to China.  Now China exports lots of goods in return for lots of printed portraits of American presidents.

BTW the suggestion that the Chinese "disdained" Western goods is mostly just silly. China produced about a third of world output but much less of its silver and used silver bullion as its main medium of account. The European economies were (by comparison) "flooded" with mined-in-the-Americas silver. Of course goods flowed to where they were exchanged for more silver and silver flowed to where it was exchanged for more goods. Having even the occasional esteemed economic historian (I am looking at you Douglass North) repeat this economically illiterate canard is sad.

[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]

Friday, July 5, 2019

Save us from historically tone deaf academics living in intellectual bubbles

The Evolution Institute wants to apply up to date Darwinism to politics. In their own words:
The Federalist Papers sought to convince the citizens of New York to adopt the newly written American Constitution. This would create a UNION (a word that they capitalized) capable of accomplishing more than any state alone and would showcase America’s Enlightenment experiment as an example for the rest of the world.
Today, that UNION is in such disarray that effectiveness of democracy itself is being doubted. Everyone knows the system is broken but no one seems to know how to do better.
Until now, and from an unexpected source: The current incarnation of Darwin’s theory of evolution.
So far so good. Lots of people are concerned about the level of polarisation and political alienation in US society.

However: 
Many people link evolution with Social Darwinism, the idea that competition is the law of nature and deserves to shape human society. This view misses the point that cooperation is often the fittest strategy. In The Descent of Man, Darwin described how we, as a social species, survived only in interdependent cooperative groups, not as individuals. He wrote: “Selfish and contentious people will not cohere, and without coherence, nothing can be effected.”
A science of society built on the biological necessity of cooperation can be called “socialism” in the truest sense of embodying our inalienable social nature. Hence, we call the toolkit of ideas outlined in these papers “Socialist Darwinism”. Historically, the Socialist Darwinian focus on cooperation actually preceded the Social Darwinist focus on competition, and the former fits the latest evolutionary science better.
How historically tone-deaf do you have to be, to offer the world another version of "scientific socialism"? Karl Marx explicitly thought he was applying Darwin to the social world. Look how well that worked out.

As economist Bryan Caplan correctly points out, the term socialism has become a provocative equivocation. Adopting the term utterly unnecessarily alienates large numbers of people, across a wide range of the political spectrum, from your project. In what sort of intellectual bubble do you have to be living to not even twig that you will be doing that? Or, if you do, not caring?

Historically tone deaf folk living in an intellectual bubble. What an awful start to what could be a worthy project.

[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Clades not clusters: about the folk theory of race

A clade is a group of organisms with a common ancestors. Identifying clades in human genetics maps out the ancestry of human groups. Like most genetic analysis of human populations, it is based on identifying alleles, patterns of variation in human genes.

As far as I am aware, the most complete study currently available identifying the structure of human clades is here. Entitled: Human population history revealed by a supertree approach and compiled by two researchers from the University of South Bohemia, the 2016 study incorporates the following chart.



The geographic mapping of large clades obviously has some connection to our current folk notion of race, but is hardly a close match. While it is true that cluster analysis can get us to groupings of human populations something like the folk notion (pdf) of race, such as in this 2002 study (pdf), cluster analysis simply looks at similarities while clade analysis is based on identifiable underlying causal structure (specifically, ancestry). 

In the 2002 study, Genetic Structure of Human Populations, by biologists from a range of institutions and countries, a relatively mathematically robust grouping was found at K=5 clusters, which does match the folk notion of race quite well. But mathematically robust groupings were found at various numbers for K. As the authors conclude:
The challenge of genetic studies of human history is to use the small amount of genetic differentiation among populations to infer the history of human migrations. Because most alleles are widespread, genetic differences among human populations derive mainly from gradations in allele frequencies rather than from distinctive “diagnostic” genotypes. Indeed, it was only in the accumulation of small allele-frequency differences across many loci that population structure was iden- tified. Patterns of modern human population structure discussed here can be used to guide construction of historical models of migration and admixture that will be useful in inferential studies of human genetic history.
Which is what identifying clades does much more directly. 

So clades, not clusters. If the human biodiversity folk are intellectually serious, they should base their analysis on clades, not on whatever clustering seems otherwise convenient. While the folk notion of race is not entirely silly (self-identification matches genetic ancestry quite well [pdf]), it is nowhere near analytically robust enough to be of use to analyse well, anything, really. 

In particular, classifying people by race strips them of their cultural and civilisational legacies, which are much more important collections of causal factors than genetic clusters than match patterns of ancestry fairly poorly. As the authors of the 2016 study note:
The linguistic classification fits rather poorly on the supertree topology, supporting a view that direct coevolution between genes and languages is far from universal.
Thus, for example (links added): 
The poor fit of Macro-Altaic and the families that constitutes it (especially the Turkic) is in agreement with the fact that there is only a weak unifying genetic signal for the Turkic-speaking populations across Eurasia. The expansion of Turkic languages has probably been largely mediated by language replacements rather than demic expansion.
We are the cultural species. A basic reality that race talk both ignores and gets in the way of understanding. Even ancestry is at best a partial match with culture. 

Race talk is pretty dreadful for analysis of social patterns but remains good for one thing: racial stigmatisation (brilliantly analysed by economist Glenn Loury). Which all sorts of people have found race talk useful for, and still do, but that is not remotely a recommendation for race talk. Indeed, it remains true that implicit or explicit racial stigmatisation is by far the dominant reason for the use of race talk. Hence, the best way to understand race talk is to look for the patterns of stigmatisation that underlie it. 

So, clades not clusters and even clades don't get us all that far, analytically speaking. 


[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]