Yearly Archives: 2012

Crony Capitalism and Nirvana

There’s several scenarios out there on how a Fall-of-Rome redux collapse of modern Civilisation would pan out. Mad Max, Blade Runner, you name it. All quite surreal. Still reality still surpasses fiction.

The Rothschild’s own paper, the Cathedral’s weekly has an awesome post on infrastructure in Mumbai. The writing is surprisingly good, if only because the subject matter pretty much writes itself.

Just some quotes:

Rush-hour trains get so crushed that a phone or pair of glasses carried in a breast pocket will smash under the pressure of bodies. Every year perhaps 500 people perish after falling off trains in the city and 6,000 die on the tracks.

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A ragged family are smashing reinforced concrete rubble. They say they get about a dollar for every two kilos of steel inside—roughly the cost of a one-way Sea Link ticket. Nearby, dogs and feral pigs sniff around abandoned machinery as Girish, aged 52, hits the bottle with his colleagues. The pals work nights in a call centre selling Americans an erectile-dysfunction drug. “You get a quick recharge,” is the sales pitch; the most common response, they all agree, is “Fuck you”.

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The bridge was commissioned in 1999 but took ten years to finish, instead of the planned two and a half. Ajit Gulabchand, the boss of HCC, the construction firm that won the contract to build it, says the project was “a Kafkaesque struggle”. He describes himself as a “south Bombay boy” and drives a Bentley through the city to his office in the north-east (he does not use the Sea Link because there are no good connections between the west and the east).

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other hurdles were peculiarly Indian. In a 107-year-old house in the fishing village the bridge passes over at its southern end sits Vijay Worlikar, one of the “nine Patils”, or clan chiefs, who in effect run the area. He is a Koli, an aboriginal people who have been there for centuries; he has childhood memories of Iranian boats sailing to the village to trade pistachios for dried fish. “This land is our land,” he says.

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To grow fast India needs lots more infrastructure. But lately spending has been falling. The central bank thinks that the value of envisioned projects dropped by 52% in 2011-12.

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the toll-booth system has become a slapstick affair, with a maze of concrete chicanes prone to collapse, complex cash fares and overstaffed booths. Usually receipts are printed, but occasionally they are hand-stamped on the kind of paper used for bingo tickets. Accusations of graft swirl. An electronic swipe system has apparently been introduced but seems to be available only to VIPs. After a suicide jump in August it emerged that the CCTV system to help stop terrorist attacks was not working properly.

That’s diversity + democracy for ya.

On Attrition

I wasn’t really planning on making a series on Chinese proverbs. But it happens that every time I start writing a post I can think up of a proper Chinese expression to introduce it. Such is the vastness of the language.

何苦?

This is not a proverb actually, but it is an idiomatic expression inherited from the Classical Chinese. Word-by-word it means “what bitter”. Which is pretty ungrammatical. But Asian languages in general have quite flexible grammars, and Chinese more so. The expression usually translates as “why bother?”, “why make things so hard”? Bitter is the Chinese word for hardship, hence Coolies 苦力 “bitter force”.

It is a very frequently used expression, because Chinese have this habit of making things harder than they need to be.  For all the talk about HBD having its future in the practical-minded Asian countries, East Asia is very much about effort. At least since Confucius, the key to success in China has been relentless self-improvement. There’s two kinds of humans, “small people” 小人 and Gentlemen 君子. They key to being a Gentlemen is having a good education. Fast-forward 2500 years and you have the Banzai-charges of Japanese army troops against the mechanised Soviet batallions in Khalkhin Gol. They lost, and didn’t learn from it. This year there was a report on some US advisors to the Japanese army saying that their performance sucks because of a lack of fatigue management. They won’t give the soldiers a break.

The obsession of Asians with pointless effort has become a popular topic of discussion with the increasing numbers of Asians in the US, and the  ensuing bitterness for all the other kids who have to compete with them. Everybody hates those Asian kids in cram school getting straight As in topics they don’t give a shit about. Just when people were starting to notice it, Amy Chua had her book, and the infamous article on the WSJ. Really exquisite timing. All in all it was a very interesting book. It’s not often that Asians explain their own culture in proper English. And doing so in a conflicted tone, that one of someone who has properly assimilated to a Western culture, and can explain it on Western terms.

Still for all her explanations, the consensus is that she’s a heartless bitch who mistreated her children, and all Asians parents are freaks. I won’t comment on that. Moralising is cheap. I think you should judge things by their results. So what was the result of Amy Chua terrorising her children for a decade? Did she produce smart, polite, humble and tasteful kids?

nope

Nah, she produced a run-of-the-mill overbearing, loud and full-of-herself liberal bitch.

Go check out yourself. Lotsa pics of the chick in short skirts. The writing is impossibly annoying but the pics are nice. And very telling.

Amy Chua spent 15 years of her life filling her family life with fights and shouts and sheer unpleasantness… to produce yet another narcissistic liberal. Confucius would be proud.

Socialism qua Entropy watch

Let me continue with Chinese proverbs.

We have established that the Chinese love eating, and they celebrate everything with a big feast with family and friends. So it’s not surprise that gatherings with food are the metaphor for a good time. A famous saying (also vernacular) says:

天下没有不散的筵席

Which translates as: there’s no feast where people don’t leave in the end. Meaning basically, all good things must come to an end. I think there’s a better, more funny way of saying that in English, but I can’t remember right now. Any ideas?

I thought of this proverb after reading this news on Singapore’s leading newspaper, the Straits Times.

Two workers from China charged for criminal trespass after crane protest

You can find the news at Youtube too:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOIzpmm5y4I]

The fact that the poor foreign workers have been detained and will probably be deported sounds like business as usual for Singapore. The Rule of Law. Everybody likes Singapore, right? Well look at the comments on the Straits Times piece. It has pearls such as this one:

Looking at the blank and dejected faces of the two Chinese workers, our heart cries for them.   In the eyes of the law, maybe they have done something wrong but then if we are in the same shoes as them, we will equally be frustrated and embittered after coming so far away to slog and toil hard for a meagre salary, they are being cheated of their income.  When they think of their family back home in the deserted rural area who is waiting for their monetary support to survive, their emotion distress will start to overwhelm them leaving them with no choice except to protest in public.

The worst to come is seeing them being charged for criminal offense.   Has Singapore law becoming so inhumane, so merciless and unforgiving that we have lost our touch of human compassion and humanity?   Is a warning letter sufficient enough to settle such trivial issue taking into consideration this is their first offense and they are not harming anybody as far as we know.

This smells of… socialism! In Singapore? But it can’t be! Singapore is a well-run place, right? It has rational governance? It has abolished politics, right?

You can never abolish politics. It’s like abolishing sexual desire. For better or worse it’s here to stay. Now you may say that I’m being specious, and many comments are for arresting the guys and kicking them out. I didn’t go through all of them but I’d say the both sides are pretty even.

One thing that those pinnacles of civilisation, Singapore and Dubai, have in common is a reliance on cheap labor from abroad. Which works OK while you have an effective system to take the workers back once they cease to be useful. But you have to be careful with that. See another piece of recent news from Singapore.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uU-40YU8gqI]

Two pieces of labor unrest in little less than a week must be quite disconcerting for the usually uneventful Singapore. But most disconcerting of all must have been that this news haven’t been ignored in the drivers’ homeland. From the China Daily’s opinion page:

Singapore must stop ill-treating migrants

The Singaporean authorities, companies and the public have a lot to learn from this case. But more than that, Chinese workers who seek to work abroad should learn more about the country they go to and know how to get legal aid when they face problems.

The Chinese government now pays special attention to protection of Chinese citizens abroad. The Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Commerce have expressed concerns over the strike incident, and the Chinese embassy in Singapore has communicated with the Singaporean authorities and workers.

The recent Report of the 18th Party Congress said: “We will take solid steps to promote public diplomacy as well as people-to-people and cultural exchanges, and protect China’s legitimate rights and interests overseas.” This case has highlighted the need for the government to take all necessary steps to protect the rights and interests of Chinese citizens working overseas.

Singapore has been able to withstand Cathedralist pressure against its legal system because nobody in the West cares or has any incentive to mess with it. But if China starts flexing its muscle and meddling with what it regards as its sphere of influence, well, things are going to get interesting. Singapore survives, and this was explicitly declared by Lee Kuan Yew himself, by leeching Chinese talent to offset the flight of its own talent to the US and Australia. But Singapore might not be able to secure it’s newly leeched talent’s loyalty if Mother China doesn’t let go.

The best designed governance doesn’t mean much if you don’t have the power to enforce it. What can’t continue will stop.

Stuff White People do

The Chinese in their ancestral wisdom, have proverbs for every single situation. In fact one of the hardest parts of learning the language is their reliance on idioms, which tend to be verbatim quotes of classical works. 3000 years of writing in the same language means there’s a vast pool of wise insight and sharp wit to choose from, but the old language isn’t intelligible as such, so you have to memorise the idioms by rote. Once you do though, you literally have a comeback for everything. Read more »

Babies like stuff, researchers shocked

The 60 minutes show on the Yale University Baby Lab has been doing the rounds on the internet, and it has caused quite a stir. And rightly so. It’s important that people are putting the resources to try to test nature vs nurture. And it’s important that they are ready to admit that nature exists too.

And admit they do, but it’s very funny how bewildered they are when nature shows herself. Shocked, shocked! I tell you. Babies can tell friend from foe! Well no shit. One of the best things of having been to Moldbug’s is you get to identify the American elite as the Puritans they descend from. So I imagine those peasant protestant fanatics of the 17th century, and they look a lot like these people on 60 minutes.

BREAKING: Do babies have a sense of morality? (self-important voice tone)

I can find a thousand ways of framing psychological experiments on babies. Baby cognition is a fascinating subject. But of course our priestly elite doesn’t care about cognition. They care about morality. That’s all that matters in the whole damn world. Are you good? Are you holy? Are you holier than me? No, I’m holier than thou. See how in the end all they talk is about applying the findings to “eradicate racism”. That’s all they care about. Ivy League researches will develop fusion power, grapheme mass-production and genetic load curing, but it will only be used if it can help “eradicate racism”. Oh God. If only the southern colonies hadn’t imported African labor, imagine all the crap we would have been spared. We would have had fusion by now.

In the end all the experiment shows is that babies can tell friend from foe, which is a pretty basic concept. Very useful too, and not really that surprising. The most “shocking” point on the experiment is how babies decide who is friend and who isn’t. In the experiment is by taste. This fella likes cheerios, he gets it, he’s my pal. The other guy has no taste at all, screw him. The priests look positively horrified. You can’t screw a guy because he doesn’t like cheerios!

Have this people never been in primary school? I remember ganging up with kids for the lamest reasons, forming big coalitions until the class was neatly divided in two, then fight. Every 3 months or so the group was dissolved and rebuilt on some other lame reason, and the process repeated itself. That’s what people do. Are elite boarding schools in the American school any different? Researchers have bad memory I think.

While the findings are very interesting, besides the widespread horror at the ability of babies to deduce their interests and make friends accordingly, there’s a datum that hasn’t been given enough attention. In the first experiment, 75-80% of the kids prefer the as yet unmet nice puppet over the mean one. The conclusion, fairly enough, is that ceteris paribus people prefer kind peopel to mean people. But what about the remaining 20-25%. They had a choice to make friends with a nice puppet and a mean puppet. And they chose the mean one! Now I’m sure the researches concluded the kids were simply mistaken, baby cognition being a mess. But what if it isn’t?  20% is a lot of people. Are they masochistic? Or just wanna join in the fun? And what’s the distribution? Did baby girls choose more mean puppets than boys?

Also see the later experiment on older kids. So they learn to be generous later on. Do all of them do? How many are still stingy little fuckers? The ugly fat pretentious girl who chose green should be tracked to see if she also develops generosity. For further challenge they should change the chips with cupcakes.

Now that would be really interesting, groundbreaking data. But that doesn’t help eradicate racism so they probably won’t even collect the data. Alas.

The Brain Drain Trap

People who complain that European civilisation has decayed into an uncultured, soul-less, commercialised mess, should come to China. Oh yeah. Asians have this natural superiority in math ability, and it shows. It’s all about the numbers. Damn, the servants here can calculate faster than I do. And I’m pretty good.

Anyway the talk in the town for the last months has been the “middle income trap” that China is approaching. In Development Macroeconomics (no I’m not taking the cheap chalupa’s course), there’s this funny concept called the “poverty trap”, which is a magical situation where poor people don’t have money so they can’t invest money to make more of it. Because we all know that without capital you can never make money.

That situation describes a whole lot of the world, but of course not all of it. Between the trapped in poverty and the rich white fucks, there’s a mysterious group of countries which have been stagnant for decades in the middle. The middle income trap. Which describes places like South America or SEA. Which are ok, people don’t eat albino babies or kill wives for the dowry. But still pretty lousy.

Now many of those reading this might point out that the middle income countries have a lot in common besides their economies. Something pretty obvious.  Namely this. But of course that doesn’t apply to China, so it’s safe from the middle income trap. In fact it’s self-evident for most connoisseurs in the West that China is just plain awesome and will take over world leadership in about 10 years. But the Chinese themselves aren’t quite so sure.

I am a fond reader of Michael Pettis, a smart looking fellow who says that China’s growth engine is pretty much over. Double digit is gone, and even 5% is gone. High growth is going to hell because:

  • The low hanging fruit of investment has run out. Infrastructure is pretty awesome right now, and there’s little to invest on, that could give good returns. Sure they can keep on paving roads and building airports, but those are done with credit, which has to be serviced. If nobody uses the airport, the debt doesn’t get paid, so there’s no real growth there.
  • Export growth is dead because Europe and the US have lost purchasing power, political enmity is growing,  and the global trade machine is slowing down for many reasons, political and economical.
  • And China can’t rely in internal consumption because the political system is rigged against giving money to the masses. Chinese growth has been mostly on investment, which the Communist Party likes because it entails concentrating money on the state, which you can then funnel to your cronies. Giving people back to the people basically means pissing off the 80 million party members who got there to make money.

Pettis had this bet with The Economist, over whether growth was going to stall or not. I don’t pressume to know, but looking at that mangina employee of the Rothschild making such a stupid and half-assed non-argument, I guess it’s fair to think that Pettis is on to something.

Of course Pettis is not saying that China is going to collapse. He’s just saying that growth will stall to around 3% until the political system dismantles it’s anti-consumption bias. There will be pressure, so it’s going to be slow. Decades slow. The way the whole Chinese economy is structured is that almost all profitable industries are occupied by huge state-owned conglomerates. The huge rents those companies make, (plus the credit from the state banks that they monopolise) aren’t given away on wages, but stay on the company, and the directors basically live on the corporate expenses account. Small business owners have been putting their own meals on corporate expenses forever, but in China you get millions and millions on “research projects” and whatnot. So people end up buying their kids a Ferrari on Wuhan Steel’s budget (just made the name up but you get what I mean)

Still the alternative to dismantling the system is recession, so the shift to internal consumption will happen, according to Pettis. And when it does, China will grow into a high income country.

I wonder though. I understand his idea, the economy’s only solution is to raise internal consumption, and you do that by increasing the purchasing power of the people. You can do that in many ways: raising wages, lowering taxes (which are stupidly high over here), cutting corruption, etc.

Of course giving money back to the masses would be awesome, but there’s a problem. China today does have some people with money, both in the public and private sector. But they don’t spend the money on consumption. They save it to get the hell out of the country and emigrate. And this happen both with private businessmen and public officials. There’s even a word for civil servants who have already sent their kids and wife overseas (ostensibly planning to join them once they lose a political power struggle and get convicted for theft). They’re called “naked officials”, and a whole bunch of regulation has been drafted lately to address them (they can’t get promoted to boss etc.)

Everybody with money is leaving the country. And those who don’t dream of making some so they can leave too. They are leaving because China sucks. The air sucks, the food is good but probably poisoned. And the people suck.

The main problem in my opinion, it’s just plain full of proles. While Chinese proles are orders of magnitude less dumb and on-your-face than white, let alone black proles, they’re still very annoying. Dirty, crass, loud, uncouth, being around these people stresses the hell out of you. There’s just too many of them. And they’re fucking everywhere, constantly moving, working, thinking of new schemes to scam you.

Years ago, while travelling in China, I was shocked at the sheer hate that smart people had for the proles.  They are smart, hardworking fellas just trying to make a living. Why the hate? As a passer-by they seemed quite salt-of-the-earth, likable people to me. Of course part of that was not understanding well the language. But after staying here for a while I’m starting to resent them too.

Steve Sailer had a post last week explaining why rich Americans like the Mexican immigrants better than low-class whites. His point was that people are more comfortable with servants of a different race than with servants of their own. There’s many reasons for it, and he didn’t get into that, probably because he doesn’t have servants.

I don’t either, but I think I understand. In the absence of a legally enforced class system, there’s something deeply disturbing about having poor people of your same genetic stock around. They sort of remind you of where you come from, and where you might go back. When I see all those smart enterprising Chinese working their asses for 200 dollars a month, I feel uneasy, that they might some day replace me, or I’ll end up like them. Prole co-ethnics are the personification of downward mobility. And downward mobility is the most pure source of fear in the world. It’s fear itself. It’s the cause of anxiety, depression, mental disease. It’s the cause of most suicides.

High growth societies are generally very socially mobile. It’s cool at the beginning when everybody is getting wealthier, but after a while the downward pressure comes in. People get scared, and they leave. I think that a big part of the middle income trap is simply that once people reach a middle income they just get the money and beat it. Brain Drain.It’s been said that most of 100+ IQ Indians have already migrated to the US or England. Russians who make it abroad swear to never go back. SEA has a steady flow of migrants to Australia and the US, and now it’s China’s turn.

So I think that Chinese policy makers face a very hard dilemma. The economy needs consumption, it needs higher disposable income. But the people who get it first choose to use it to leave the country. And they do so for very deep psychological needs that the government can do little about. Countries who avoided the middle income trap did it because leaving wasn’t really worth it, i.e. migrating to the US in 1910 wasn’t as pleasant as today. Or they are deeply ethnocentric and would rather die in their land than flourish abroad; say, Japan.

Either way China seems to me to be in deep shit.

On Deserving

Moldbug has a new post, where he says:

 when Maistre says that every nation gets the government it deserves, I believe him

Seriously?

‘Deserving’ must be the most useless and obfuscating word in the dictionary. It’s bad philosophy, bad morals and bad manners in general. It’s cheap fatalism, escapism from debate, intellectual sloth.

What does it mean anyway? Asian languages don’t have the concept, and sometimes doing translation it’s very hard to explain. In the end it must be derived from Christian catechesis. In videogame terms, the idea that humans through they daily behaviour earn moral points (let’s call them MP), according to which especial events (which happen often during the game) end up being advantageous or disadvantageous. When the self-perceived total MPs and the effect of a random event don’t match, we call this not deserving the outcome.

That’s a very common view, but it’s patently wrong. For one there’s no such thing as moral points, and the outcome of especial events has little relation with one’s moral character. It’s funny, because most people think of most life events as kinda random, but at the same time they think there’s a direct casual link between one’s MP level and the goodies one gets from life.

But it doesn’t work like that, although there’s a certain plausibility over individuals having MPs. But even if it were true at the individual level, and people did deserve or not deserve things, it’s certainly nonsense to apply the same logic to big groups of people.

It also happens very often though, but as I said, it’s intellectual sloth. It’s refusing to research the causes of events, and attributing them instead to a societal MP level. It’s an old conservative tradition, watch how Moldbug is channelling De Maistre. There’s another version of the same argument, made by Burke or A.J. Nock, that virtuous people precede virtuous country. Meaning of course that the causal arrow leads all to the MP of “the people”, who themselves are uncaused, uncreated, and just plain nasty.

How stupid is that? If good government comes from virtuous people, where does that virtue come from? Spontaneous generation, huh? So the Romans deserved Attila, the French deserved Robespierre, the Americans deserve Obama. What does that even mean?  It means that you are conservative, and as such, always the political loser. You are pissed, and want to know why you lost, why the culture you care about is dying. You have some ideas, but none is quite right, when you blame people they tend to get pissed, so you end up giving up and going abstract: it’s the people’s fault. Yeah, they got no virtue. Those fuckers.

As much as I hate the dismal science, there’s a profound truth behind it, one that comes from basic psychology: incentives matter. People’s behaviour isn’t free, it’s subject to many constraints, one of the biggest being societal pressure. Today that is done through media and government. Apply sufficient pressure and the people’s virtue can change a lot. Singapore was a nasty place full of opium smokers and communists. Today they are virtuous. They didn’t deserve Lee Kuan Yew, now they do. Americans used to shame homosexuals. Now they are cherished as the best of us.

Who deserves what? Any understanding of politics that doesn’t begin and end in who?whom? is idiocy. It’s enabling the forces of chaos.

 

The only path for eugenics

The deep sense of crisis one gets after knowing of HBD comes in two flavours. Let’s call them macro and micro.

Macro is the danger of race replacement. Millions of migrants from sub-90 IQ populations have been moving massively into areas with super-100 IQ populations, namely the West. You don’t need to have a tribal allegiance to your people to feel very uncomfortable about that.  For 20 years we have been hearing about how Eurabia will happen during this century, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Hell you don’t even have to understand HBD to feel very uncomfortable with the prospect.

Still there are indications that immigration is slowing, the migrants already in place have stopped breeding like rabbits, and the native populations are starting to get pissed with this whole thing about being replaced. The wonders of the economic downturn. Miscegenation has also never been very high, so the prospects of the effective disappearance of the white race don’t seem quite as certain. I used to get very worked out about all that, but recently I’ve reached the conclusion that it’s going to be ok. Whites aren’t going the way of the Romans or the Manchus.

But that doesn’t mean that everything is ok. We still have the micro crisis. And that’s not even close to being ok.

The micro demographic crisis is the differential birth rate between high IQ and low IQ, in all races. Remember the prologue of Idiocracy? Well that’s it. Smart people worldwide are having less children than average, and the dumbest and most dysfunctional people are pumping out kids like rodents thanks to generous welfare benefits. The consequences must be, of course, a general dumbing down of the population.

That’s a problem in all populations of all countries. Whites are getting dumber, Chinese are getting dumber, American Blacks are getting dumber, even Arabs are getting dumber. The fact that different peoples all over the world are experiencing the same problem means that it’s not about religion or culture. There’s something deep going on, and nobody knows how to fix it. Well in most places PC forbids people to even notice or care about the issue. But even Singapore is having trouble with it. See this article on how the uber-realist Singapore government is utterly incapable of getting smart people to have kids. And not for lack of trying.

But of course it’s not that hard to understand the reasons behind the differential birthrates. People are just obfuscated. Governments are basing their policies in supplementing couple’s income, when the dirt poor Afghans are having 7 kids per woman.  It’s obviously not about money. It’s about hypergamy. Even the UN (!) admits as much. Smart women don’t have more children partly because they’re busy working, but mostly because they don’t want to. Not with a beta.

Giving women an education gives them money, status and independence, so they can follow their instincts more freely. And while not all of them are hell-bent on riding the alpha cock carrousel, it’s quite natural that they don’t want to settle down with an average chump. Let’s face it, most men suck. Even Mencken will tell you that. The average man is a mediocre animal. Of course the average woman isn’t all that cracked up either. But a college educated woman has spent 15 years of her life reading bullshit about how nice, pure, smart, and just plain awesome women are, and how they deserve everything they wish for. It’s not even their only fault, their friends and families pretty much enable them too, setting unrealistic standards for the men they should marry. Hell, I’m the voice of reason, yet I also think my sister’s boyfriend is an undeserving chump and she should try better. Settling with mediocrity is psychologically tasking.

It’s not about bitchy fatties voting themselves freedom to chase alpha tail. That might be the case in the US but the poor leftover Chinese women and Arab spinsters haven’t been riding anything at all. I once met a smart, outgoing,  good looking Chinese lady who was a virgin at 31 (don’t ask me how I know). There’s nothing wrong with this people, they just have unrealistic standards about how life is supposed to be. A hundred years of romance novels, soap operas and romantic comedies of course don’t help. The sheer size of the bullshit broadcasting machine that has been running for the last decades makes it amazing that people still bother to marry and have children at all.

So you see, it’s quite obvious that dysgenics isn’t really caused by economics at all. It’s a lifestyle choice, a choice by women. And you can give them all the money you want, yet they won’t change that choice. It’s biologically determined. What you can do, though, is restrict the choices women can make. That works like a charm. In fact is has been working like a charm for millennia. And that’s what China has just started to do.

The New York Times reports how Chinese universities have just started to require higher test scores to women than to men for entrance. Well the report is not about that administrative fact, it’s about how many female students are angry and complaining about it. The article tries to be damning but the sheer reasonableness of the college administrators is just too overwhelming. Girls are encouraged not to go into careers like criminology, engineering or Arabic. Because experience says they won’t end up liking the jobs they would get. The government is encouraging students to think on the long term. The horror!

The second half of the article is a reminder of a fact that is being publicised heavily lately, that women are surpassing men as students and in some sectors of th economy. I won’t comment on the issue itself and its causes, as Roissy and many others have already done so pretty well. Still articles like that show how things that almost everybody agrees are good things, like meritocracy, can and in fact do become destructive when taken out of their proper context. So women get better test scores. Right. So they deserve status and access to the system. But why? What does “deserve” even mean? Why not think on the long term consequences of encouraging women to spend their most fertile years in competing with men?

Academia robbed us of our vaginas

Given that women are hypergamous, and there’s nothing we can do about that, it necessarily follows that the only way of encouraging reproduction is ceteris paribus giving less status to women than to men. Feminists talk often about the old stereotype of housewives chained to their kitchens, made to walk barefoot. Well that’s exactly the point. High IQ females by their own nature are annoying enough, and lack in many qualities that men seek after. Giving them status, therefore narrowing their mating pool, only makes the matters worse. It’s not fair of course, but that’s how life is. I understand life sucks for a smart but plain looking woman, who can tell unworthy men better than anyone else, but whom worthy man ignore because she lacks in what men really want (looks). But the solution is not to give her a high paying job or an academic loudspeaker so she can write feminist books and feel happy about herself. What we have to do is get her married early and get those nice smart genes into the next generation.

And the only way to do that is to restrict women’s access to education. Of course the new regulations in China are a tiny, infinitesimal step towards that goal. I hadn’t heard of the news before, but googling I found a chinese article from July, with the hilarious title: “The different entry scores for some college majors are suspected of being gender discrimination”. Suspected! No dear, they are the very definition of gender discrimination. It is interesting that it is China the first to officially discriminate against women. The Communist revolution also brought wholesale Soviet feminism into China, and women have more privileges and are a bigger part of the workforce than any other Asian country. I guess the unprecedented rise in women’s social status, plus the demographic crisis caused by selective abortion hasn’t gone unnoticed by the government. Chinese culture is obsessed with cognitive power, and IQ is widely (if not universally) understood to be genetic. The Shengnü epidemic is a threat to the nation, so the government is timidly pushing for eugenics. The best and most effective eugenics policy. Let’s wish them luck.

A chat with Mr. Land

Last month I had the pleasure to meet in person with Nick Land in a small classy bar in Shanghai. It was quite surreal to talk about this matters in person, meeting for the first time. At first it was the two of us alone loudly discussing Moldbug this Moldbug that, but after a while the place got quite crowded. Shortly we were surrounded by rich kids with outrageous hairdos and high voices wooing teenage girls in short dresses. All while we were dead serious talking about the future of human society. Read more »

Tribes and Cults

So Sunmyung Moon has died. No Moonies in the Old Continent, so I first knew of the Unification Church in Japan, where it has a sizable following and is quite famous for its ties with some rightist politicians. Only then I knew that for decades there were thousands of ‘Moonies’ in the US, and all that comedy about mass weddings. Amusingly there’s little else weird about the Moonies, except that Moon made a lot of money which he used to buy politicians in the US and North Korea. The Unification Church is the owner of both the Washington Times and Pyeonghwa motors. Moon was as comfortable with US congressmen and with Kim Il Sung. I don’t know if he’s the Messiah, but he proved the farce which is modern politics.

Europeans have a hard time thinking clearly about religion. We have a strong bias towards thinking that religion is about truth (if you like it) or about power (if you don’t). We used to have a Universal Church, which then splintered into state churches. Religion meant tradition, continuity, order. It was structured as pretty much part of the state bureaucracy. Most people seldom put much thought on the thing, and combined an utter disregard for moral precepts with an eager enthusiasm for the yearly rituals.

The conventional wisdom over here is that religion is dead because science has made us all rational and we don’t need blind faith. Of course that assumes that religion is about truth. But is it? Undoubtedly it was so for some people. There were always a few curious people who really wanted to know what the world is about, and where do moral precepts come from. In as much as religion is about truth, well then it is certainly dead. The same people that went in droves to medieval universities to debate about universals or angels dancing in pins, today are atheists teaching Marxism in the same universities. The average age of pastors and nuns all over Europe is over 65.

This is a nice narrative telling the story of how religion died when people realised the truth. But there’s the little detail that religion isn’t really dead. At the same time the state churches of Europe declined, Americans, Koreans and Japanese had the Moonies. And dozens of other different cults, each with its own palette of wacky articles of faith. If religion were really about truth, those cults wouldn’t have arised in the first place.

So it follows that religion is not about truth. It mind sound obvious to my American friends, but it wasn’t for me. Not until a while ago kind reader pointed me to this podcast in EconTalk where they interview Laurence Iannacconne, who is a scholar on the economics of religion. Which means that he treats a religion as a good, subject to the laws of demand and supply. A good traded rationally according to the utility given to its consumers. To a believer it’s the closest thing to sacrilege to be seen in an academic paper. But it got me hooked. In both good and bad ways.

The basis of his research is that there are two kinds of economic systems of religion. There are Command economies (Europe) and free markets (the US). Command economies tend to decide production according to political principles, and not consumer preferences. So once government power stops enforcing conformity, people stop giving a crap. Free markets on the other hand have to compete to attract consumers, to give people what they want.

Iannaconne, as a good American, loves to talk about the US as the free market of religion. And he goes out of his way to stress that cults or sects or religions (I’ll call them cults for convenience) attract people of any sort, that most have an above average education (although US averages are multiracial and thus not very accurate), and are totally functional in society. But that can’t be true. A sane person can’t possibly go and dress in orange robes to chant Hare Krishna in the public square. Or believe that John Smith was a prophet. Or that Mr. Moon is superior to Christ because he believes in marriage. Or whatever stupid made up piece of crap the cults sets up as ‘revealed truth’.

It makes little sense, until it does. Iannaconne points out that wacky believes and unreasonable behavioral restrictions aren’t a bug, but a feature. A feature whose purpose is to solve the free-rider problem. People join cults because, in the Prof’s words, there are some things that can only be achieved in groups. So people join cults to feel part of a group, groups where people work and do chores for each other. This is cool while everybody works, but there’s always free-riders. By making people forsake alcohol, or wear orange robes, or worship some sleazy old dude, you put a barrier against free-riders, which in a sense are the most rational people of them all. The wackier the cult’s beliefs, the higher the commitment of the people who agree with them. No pain no gain. A guy who is known in his hometown for singing Hare Krishna is creeping out most people outside his cult, so he’s likely to stay in the cult. He has nowhere else to go.

The biggest problem with all these is what exactly do people get from joining this cults. “Some things that can only be achieved in groups”? Like what? The prof doesn’t specify. He can’t really. When pressed to answer he inevitably rambles in abstract terms: a sense of community, love and affection. But he never goes further, but he defends the American cultish culture, and you can here in his tone of voice how he passionately thinks that the religious free market is superior. How it makes people happier. How people, when allowed to choose, will always flock to cults.

Then it struck me. Cults aren’t “groups”. They’re ersatz tribes. People evolved in tribal groups. Tribes are where people are comfortable. That’s why when left to their own devices, humans will always try to coalesce intro tribes. It doesn’t matter what makes the tribe stick together, what matters is that there’s some mechanism to make a group of 20-100 people join regularly and live in community. And everybody does that. See how the Econtalk host Russ Roberts openly says he belongs to some cult and is also a sports fanatic. Modern sports are the most stupid and irrational waste of time since Justinian. But he isn’t ashamed of it. Because it’s his tribe. Or one of them.

Robin Hanson this week had an awesome post describing more concrete benefits of religious belief. But watch also how he notes that his family is also religious. If genes mean anything, Hanson’s family must be very smart, so that’s all for the idea of religion being comfort for weak minds. It’s goes deeper than that.
American academics have this funny thing to them, in which they are the only people on earth to are able to accurately analise their own culture, but 90% of the time the conclusion is that America is superior. That’s how Iannaconne is able to conclude that religion isn’t about God or salvation or transcendent truth. Religion is about building tribes and the psychological comfort they give. And that’s a good thing! But is it? One of the biggest reasons for my abandoning libertarianism was the irritating idea economists have that demand is always morally good. The Free Market gives people what they want, and people getting what they want is a good thing, so the Free Market is the closest thing to Paradise. That’s like saying that obesity is cool because people want ice cream and cupcakes, and hipergamy is awesome because women demand alpha badboys. See when Iannaconne touts the superiority of American religion because it allows people to form tribes without (not much) government interference.

But forming tribes is not a good thing. It’s devolving into the state of nature. It’s breaking the history of order building by organised states since the dawn of civilisation. Europe didn’t evolve national churches for nothing. It was the only way of asserting government authority, of breaking up clans and produce a cooperative culture where large-scale endeavors could be possible. Tribes produce tribal countries. Over time, they produce Afghanistan. That is not a good thing. Go by hbdchick’s to check out how tribes are formed and destroyed. It’s not pretty.

Of course the US is not Afghanistan, and cults aren’t real tribes. They are ersatz tribes. Except when they aren’t. The Mormons are a real tribe by any working definition of the term. An ersatz tribe becomes a real tribe when it enforces endogamy, and Mormons do. The US government understood that Mormons were a tribe (and such an enemy of federal authority) and consequently war ensued. Going back to the start, the Moonies made themselves famous for their mass weddings, but there’s little else about their cult. They don’t wear orange robes nor have any especial article of faith besides the worship of Mr Moon. But of course mass weddings are sufficient to make a tribe. Endogamy from the start. The fastest and most efficient way of ethnogenesis.

Religion has two basic components: a set of rules and rituals, and the metaphysics that justify them. The metaphysics, the faith, is only of interest to a small subset of smart people interested in ‘truth’. But most people don’t really understand nor really give a shit about theology. What’s really important is the ostensibly unintented consequences of the theology and the ruleset: the group. The tribe. What people really care about is belonging to the tribe. And they will only follow the rules as much as necessary to maintain their membership. Because people crave tribes.

Now the demand curve for tribal association depends on many factors. Many new cult members are young people who really need the group support that the tribe provides. Jobs, contacts, companionship. Many join just to find a spouse, a demand that Moon exploited with great savvy. I myself am on the record for saying that we need a new religion. That was based on theology-centric model of religion, which is clearly flawed. Not that the Antiversity followers couldn’t use a committed tribe for group support, but let’s face it, most of us aren’t here for the sense of companionship. We care about truth. But there’s not much of a market for that.