How Piketty misses the point

 

Thomas Piketty is a French economist who obsesses about the distribution of wealth. Deirdre McCloskey is an economist and philosopher who emphasizes the moral and ideational aspects of how we became so wealthy over the last several centuries. She calls it the Great Enrichment. She chastizes her fellow economists in how they have failed to explain the most salient feature of human existence since 1700: why is it that humans are sixty times wealthier than they were in 1700? Why is world poverty falling? This, she says, is the vital question. Economists who fuss about income inequality are missing the vital point.

McCloskey is the author of Bourgeois Dignity and many other great books.

Here she is on Piketty:

 

The most fundamental problem in Piketty’s book, then, is that he misses the main act. In focusing solely on the distribution of income, he overlooks the most surprising secular event in history: the Great Enrichment of the average individual on the planet by a factor of 10 and in rich countries by a factor of 30 or more. Many humans are now stunningly better off than their ancestors were.

This includes a gigantic improvement of the poorest — your ancestors and mine. By dramatic increases in the size of the pie, the poor have been lifted to 90 or 95 percent of equal sustenance and dignity, as against the 10 or 5 percent attainable by redistribution without enlarging the pie.

What caused the Great Enrichment? It cannot be explained by the accumulation of capital, as the very name “capitalism” implies. Our riches were not made by piling brick upon brick, bachelor’s degree upon bachelor’s degree, bank balance upon bank balance, but by piling idea upon idea. The bricks, BAs, and bank balances were of course necessary. Oxygen is necessary for a fire. But it would be unenlightening to explain the Chicago Fire of 1871 by the presence of oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere.

The original and sustaining causes of the modern world were indeed ethical, not material. They were the widening adoption of two new ideas: the liberal economic idea of liberty for ordinary people and the democratic social idea of dignity for them. This, in turn, released human creativity from its ancient trammels. Radically creative destruction piled up ideas, such as the railways creatively destroying walking and the stage coaches, or electricity creatively destroying kerosene lighting and the hand washing of clothes, or universities creatively destroying literary ignorance and low productivity in agriculture. The Great Enrichment requires not accumulation of capital or the exploitation of workers but what I call the Bourgeois Deal. In the historical lottery the idea of an equalizing liberty and dignity was the winning ticket, and the bourgeoisie held it.

That even over the long run there remain some poor people does not mean the system is not working for the poor, so long as their condition is continuing to improve, as it is, and so long as the percentage of the desperately poor is heading toward zero, as it is. That people still sometimes die in hospitals does not mean that medicine is to be replaced by witch doctors, so long as death rates are falling and so long as the death rate would not fall under the care of the witch doctors. It is a brave book Thomas Piketty has written. But it is mistaken.

Deirdre N. McCloskey, “How Piketty Misses the Point”, Cato Policy Report, 2015-07.

“The idea of equalizing liberty and dignity” – emblazon that idea into your memory, and save it for your next argument with some twee leftist.

 

 

 

 

Evolution is rapid and happening now: everyone take a valium

 

 

Chris D. Thomas is an English biologist. His book, “Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature is Thriving in an Age of Extinction”, takes a line wholly contrary to that of eco-catastrophists. His argument is particularly effective because he adopts the orthodox view that humans are causing significant global warming. It makes no difference to your appreciation of this book whether you may be a skeptic of or a believer in anthropogenic global warming.

His argument is simple and based in plenty of observations. Animals and plants adapt by moving. Humans assist that movement greatly. Animals and plants hybridize, interbreed, form new variants, new species, new ways of living. This adaptation is happening right now, all over the world. For every species we have wiped out – usually predators and prey larger than us – we have assisted the creation of many more new species and hybrids. This is what nature does, and we humans are powerfully assisting those processes.

Thomas believes that we are living through the most rapid period of evolution since the aftermath of the extinction of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. “We are living through a period of  the rapid formation of new populations, races and species” (at p.197)

He justly derides most efforts of humans to stop “invasive” species. He says there is no reason to believe that species should stay frozen in place where they were when Europeans “discovered” them in the 17 and 18 hundreds.

What applies to plants and animals, applies to us humans. As we spread across the world, we separated into different races, bred with Neanderthals and Denisovans, and became more different from each other, not less.  (Your genetic make-up is most likely to be about 2.5% Neanderthal if you have not recently been African).

“This separation into many different species could have been our destiny, had it not been for the torrent of human movement around the world that we have seen in recent times, the consequence of which is that the world’s human genes are ending up back in one big Pangean melting pot.”

Later, at page 213:

“We must contemplate life as a never ending sequence of events, not as a single fixed image of how it looks today. This dynamic perspective of life on Earth allows us to put aside most of our doom-laden rhetric and recognize that the changes that we see around us, including those that have been directly or indirectly engineered by people, are not fundamentally better or worse thanthe ones that went before….We do not need to fix things simply because they are different.”

In a curious way Thomas is saying much the same thing as Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending did in The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution”, which was published in 2009. Harpending and Cochran dealt with human evolution exclusively, and asserted that it had to be accelerating as population densities increased.

They wrote:

The explosion is ongoing; Human evolution didn’t stop when anatomically modern humans appeared, or when they expanded out of Africa. It never stopped – and why would it? Evolutionary stasis requires a static environment, whereas behavioral modernity is all about innovation and change. Stability is exactly what we have not had. This should be obvious, but instead the human sciences have labored under the strange idea that evolution stopped 40,000 years ago.” (p.226)

The argument of Chris Thomas is that humans have had, and continue to have, irreversible effects on nature, and that there is no place on earth where our influence has failed to reach. More importantly, there is no “ought to be” in how species move, adapt, die out, hybridize, or prosper. Thomas warns against  the common attitude of many biologists that humans are uniquely responsible for trying to arrest the millions of changes by which plants, animals, and humans adapt to the changes we are working on the planet.

‘No change’ is not an option when we contemplate the future: our choices are all about the direction and speed of future change. (at page 219)

More Google Bias detected

 

 

Google’s search bias against conservative news sites has been quantified

This is a posting in Watts up with That by Leon Goldstein.

Google Search is found to be extremely biased in favor of climate alarmism and against climate realism.  The PGSTN ranges for climate realism and climate alarmism do not even overlap!  Some of the most important climate realist domains, including low-controversial judithcurry.com, have such a low PGSTN that they can be considered blacklisted by Google.

Google Search is found to be biased in favor of left/liberal domains and against conservative domains with a confidence of 95%.  Further, certain hard-Left domains have such a high PGSTN that their standing raises suspicions that they have been hand-picked for prominent placement.  Certain respected conservative domains are blacklisted.

And Google wants us to trust their results? Gosh, I get all googly at the thought, entrusting the categorization of all knowledge to a bunch of PC wankers in Silicon Valley.

In Praise of the British Empire

The British Empire

While it is fashionable to denigrate the British Empire, especially among the ranks of the chattering classes and the fatuous pseuds that pollute our college campuses, it’s worthwhile remembering some salient facts about the civilizing effects of the British Empire (see here)—facts you are unlikely to hear about in schools, the Fake News Media and the dead tree press. Watch this vid from Prager U—facts always cause liberal heads to explode.

Enjoy.

Rebel Yell

Calls to end identity politics

 

 

A left wing writer called Anis Shivani has written a piece in Salon which I commend to your most serious attention. It is entitled “Time to give up on identity politics: It’s dragging the progressive agenda down”. Salon is not normally my preferred reading, but Shivani puts his fingers on some very large issues and says some quite interesting things that have helped me understand the Left’s strange behaviours.

His contention is that the Left’s obsession with identity politics occurred during a period when the owners of this planet got away with the most massive concentration of wealth in their hands, and that this identity obsession was a futile distraction from the real business of politics.

 

….identity politics, wherever it has manifested, has been absolutely devastating to the cause of liberty.

  1. It privileges culture, instead of politics. My first point is that when you fight for identity, you’re giving up politics in favor of culture. And that’s exactly where neoliberalism wants you, fighting for your culture (or what you imagine is your culture), rather than the arena of policies, where the real consequences occur. You may gain some recognition of your identity, but you may also have to pay the price of losing everything else that makes life worth living.
  2. Not only politics, but economics is taken out of the equation. It’s astonishing, even after living under the principles of neoliberalism for around 40 years, how few liberals, even activists, are able to define our economic system with any sense of accuracy. They keep acting as if the fight is still on between the old New Deal liberalism (laissez-faire economics slightly moderated by some half-hearted welfare programs) and a right that wants to shred those welfare mechanisms. In fact, both parties are committed to slightly different versions of neoliberalism, and their transformation proceeded apace with the rise of identity politics. Politics was freed to take its course, because culture became the site of contestation, and this meant an unobstructed opportunity to redefine economics to the benefit of the elites.What identity politics has done is to take the shine off the political process itself. This is more than a consequence of identity politics. It is because identity politics has garnered so much attention that political reform, which needs to be ongoing and consistent, has stalled for nearly 30 years. Instead of campaign finance reform of the McCain-Feingold brand, which sought to make a little advance toward taking money out of politics, we went, during the period of identity politics’ ascendancy, to the total capitulation of politics to money. The same process has held true in every arena of policymaking. Even issues like climate change are framed in cultural terms — i.e., as identity politics, because today culture cannot be spoken of without being defined by identity politics — and therefore overwhelmed by paralysis.
  3. Identity politics always breeds its equal and opposite reaction. Identity politics is in fact the father, or the Great Mother, of white nationalism, rather than white nationalism being an independent force that has arisen from quite different sources. At root, both share the same particularistic, extralegal, extra-constitutional, anti-democratic, metaphysical, folkish impulse. Whenever a misguided movement tries to alter people’s thoughts and intentions, rather than limiting itself to people’s performance and action in the transparent democratic arena, then totalitarianism is the necessary result. Even when we dream of an anarchist utopia, we do not try to alter people’s souls, we aim to alter economic arrangements in such a way as to allow people the maximum possible room for freedom. We cannot be readers and interpreters of people’s hearts and minds; such a venture has no business in politics. (emphasis mine)
  4. Identity politics is not winnable. The idea of the nation, in a post-Cold War world, as my generation imagined for a moment, should have led to a redefinition of the concept in rational, empirical, scientific, utopian and ultimately anarchist terms. The founding principles of the Enlightenment were available all over again, in that brief moment, to be recharged with potent liberal energy, extending across the globe. Instead we got neoliberal globalization, dedicated entirely to consumerism and shallow identity politics, working in sync to enervate democracy to the point of nonexistence.

It pleases me to read a leftist who is clearly NOT a totalitarian engineer of souls, who thinks the entire leftist project of the current time (identity politics) is fundamentally mistaken. Of course, if you reduce politics to tribes, you end up in a sort of Afrikaner state, with the dominant tribe being – guess what? – whites. This is not Enlightenment politics; this is a form of polity we thought we had escaped from centuries ago.

Another interesting read is a book by Mark Lilla, The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics, which was based on an article in the New York Times  of November 2016 from which I quote here.

“But the fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life. At a very young age our children are being encouraged to talk about their individual identities, even before they have them. By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good. In large part this is because of high school history curriculums, which anachronistically project the identity politics of today back onto the past, creating a distorted picture of the major forces and individuals that shaped our country. (The achievements of women’s rights movements, for instance, were real and important, but you cannot understand them if you do not first understand the founding fathers’ achievement in establishing a system of government based on the guarantee of rights.)”

Precisely.

Oliver Traidi reviews Mark Lilla’s book in Quillette, here.

 

Shivani thinks that young people have been so indoctrinated in identity politics by thirty years of unceasing propaganda that it cannot be broken out of, except by economic or foreign policy disaster. I am not so pessimistic. I think electoral defeat at the hands of Republicans will cause the Dems to rethink a great deal.

It also explains to me why the Left has been branding Trump a racist and a fascist and so forth: since identity politics is the way they conceive what they are doing, then all political opposition to their project looks like identity politics of a different tribe. As always, the Left projects onto the Right – really, all forms of opposition – what is on the minds of the Left; it sees only itself.  It reminds me of a thought from a book written by David Horowitz, the son of two American Communists, that he did not actually find freedom of discussion until be broke with Leftism, whereupon he discovered that all sorts of conservatives exist, few of whom agree with each other about anything. Horowitz’ Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey is  a must read for all those who are curious about the strange mental prison which is Leftism.

Further prison breakouts may be expected soon.

 

Let’s blame the victims, shall we?

More realistically, and more precisely, let’s admit the limits of whites to do anything to remedy American black social pathologies. We can not take the existence of racial disparities as the evidence for white  oppression.

Professor Amy Wax presents a useful perspective on the ban on “blaming the victim”, in which the group suffering the harm is the only one that can undo the harm caused to him.

There is no way around it, the victim must help himself. But there have been injuries to human capital. These are the most enduring traits of the African American situation, and there is little white society can do about them. So says Professor Amy Wax, in the most rational way.

Monopoly power is always the same

Some people are starting to notice the power of Google and other web giants to suppress points of view. The firing of their own engineer James Damore for pointing out the biological basis for women and men differing in their desires to be engineers was, it seems, only the beginning.

Now the repression appears to have widened. The Open Markets section of the New America Foundation concerns itself with  monopolies and abuses of dominant position: all very econometric geeky stuff. The head of Open Markets, Barry Lynn, issued a notice congratulating the European Commission for fining Google for economic crimes related to dominant market position. He was removed from the New America Foundation. It seems to have been the result of Google’s Eric Schmidt quietly expressing displeasure, as corporate titans are wont to do when underlings make trouble.

Matt Stoller, who belongs to the Open Markets group, wrote the following in the Huffington Post, US edition.

In response, Google had our group kicked out of our parent think tank, New America. Ken Vogel at the New York Times did the story on the specifics of how this happened. The combination, of the misbehavior in the search market and the attempt to suppress research into how Google operates, shows that the actual issue at hand is one of political power.

This moment matters. It matters because it shows that monopoly power, and Google itself, is a threat to the free flow of ideas upon which our democracy depends. It matters because it proves that if we do not stand up to monopolists, they will keep our public institutions quiet about their growing power. And it matters most of all because it shows that we can reclaim our democracy if we try.

At Open Markets, we obviously do not like the attempt at undermining our work, but on another level, we see this as a backhanded compliment by Google on how effective our work has actually been. After all, if we are worth silencing, then our words and research carries power.

Monopoly is a political problem. It is time to stand up for our rights. It is time to say, enough. And as we’ve seen, when we do tell the truth, the monopolists cannot abide.

Google’s tactics will not work. Our organization, Open Markets, is going independent. And we are launching a campaign called Citizens Against Monopoly, where we will ask Google’s CEO to stop this manipulation of our public commons. Join us.

I urge readers to stay on top of this story. Freedom is threatened as much by private economic power as by state action, frequently because private market power is exercized without recourse to standards of fairness that states are bound to. The portrait of Google  that emerged from the Damore story revealed a place dominated by leftist groupthink. The biological was an excluded category of truth; reference to it as an explanatory cause for why women did not participate in the ranks of elite engineers was the sin of “stereotyping” and a firing offence.

This kind of mental phase-locking would have no importance if Google made physical objects. It matters supremely when the company aspires to record, catalog and make findable all human knowledge. Because the same power to make findable can make things unfindable. The power to control the past is the power to control the future.

_________________________

Speaking of which, here is an example:

https://pjmedia.com/trending/2017/08/31/google-issues-ultimatum-to-conservative-website-remove-hateful-article-or-lose-ad-revenue/

With monopoly or market power, you can now be made to disappear.

Here s the stated policy which the site offended. How much would Barrelstrength offend, if it came to our Internet overlord’s attention?

“As stated in our program policies, Google ads may not be placed on pages that contain content that: Threatens or advocates harm on oneself or others; Harasses, intimidates or bullies an individual or group of individuals; Incites hatred against, promotes discrimination of, or disparages an individual or group on the basis of their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or other characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization,” the email stated.

You can drive an armoured division through that one.

 

Banana peel in a tree leads to emotional collapse

Good grief! Is this for real? How are these people going to function in the real world?

The University of Mississippi cut short a fraternity retreat this weekend when a participant threw a banana peel into a tree, which was perceived by some students as a racist act, the Daily Mississippian reported.

“To be clear, many members of our community were hurt, frightened, and upset by what occurred at [the retreat]… Because of the underlying reality many students of color endure on a daily basis, the conversation manifested into a larger conversation about race relations today at the University of Mississippi,” Alexa Lee Arndt, interim director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, wrote in a letter Monday to the campus’s Greek life community.

Student Ryan Swanson, said that he put the peel in a tree near one of the cabins when he could not find a trash can.

Black students said they came upon the peel after leaving a Saturday morning session on race relations at the university.

Arndt, who was on the trip, convened an open forum that afternoon to discuss the incident, and Swanson took responsibility after a member of the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha demanded someone fess up.

The meeting then began to unravel—some participants left the room crying—and students departed from the campsite as they no longer felt “welcome” or “safe.”

The remainder of the retreat was officially cancelled that night.

Swanson apologized in a statement to the Daily Mississippian. “Although unintentional, there is no excuse for the pain that was caused to members of our community,” he said. “I want to thank my friends in the [National Pan-Hellenic Council] for their candid and constructive conversations that we have continued to have. I have much to learn and look forward to doing such and encourage all members of our university community to do the same. We must all keep in mind how our actions affect those around us differently.”

He did not respond to the Washington Free Beacon‘s request for comment.

Makala McNeil, president of Alpha Kappa Alpha and one of the students who happened upon the peel, told the student paper, “You see how much fear and how much anger you incite in black people just from an unintentional image.”

In May, bananas were found hanging from noose-like ropes in three areas around the American University campus, some marked with AKA—for Alpha Kappa Alpha—and with the word “Harambe,” the name of the gorilla who was shot in an Ohio zoo last year. In September 2016, a black student at American reported that white students put boxes of rotten bananas outside her dorm room.

Katrina Caldwell, the university’s vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement, has reportedly been working on a university response by “talking to people on campus who have some experience working across diversity to help the students process what happened.”

The Free Beacon has contacted Arndt and Caldwell for comment. Members of their respective offices said they could not speak about the incident.

Why Russia is anti-communist

 

No people suffered as much from Communism as the Russians, though the Poles might come close. Hence the Russians recognize what Communism is and reject it. They are not yet freed from authoritarian government, but they know and hate Communism.

Thus they have a well-developed sense that global warming catastrophism is merely the excuse for the re-imposition of an inefficient and dictatorial form of state planning, ecological ruin and impoverishment, all of which is justified by the idea that it is “good for you”.

Read Christopher Monckton’s notes on his recent attendance at a conference in Moscow on “alternative energy”.

One has become so inured to the relentless indoctrination of young people in our own schools and universities that it was a glorious delight to discover that in former Communist countries such as Russia that dismal species of totalitarianism, even when artfully dressed up in environmentalist fig-leaves, no longer holds the slightest attraction for young people. What they want, whether the UN likes it or not (and it doesn’t), is a climate of freedom. And, if the speeches of the Academicians are anything to go by, they’re going to get it. Climate Communism? Ex-Communist Russia just isn’t buying.

 

The anthropologist discusses race and his white grandchildren

 

In which the learned and well meaning professor tries to explain why, when polite people have been taught to be colour-blind, events cause people actually to talk about race. Which is not supposed to exist, right? Race is simultaneously supposed not to exist, and exists nevertheless. And he has white grandchildren.

“Ethnicity is essential to identity”, he says, and to suppress discussion of race is to handicap our children.

Ten points, sir, for honesty and truth.

Except, in my view, for the idea that race does not exist. Which is the grand denial of biology.