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January 31, 2004



God(s) & state

Found this Scott Martens post via Jonathan Edelstein (via Randy MacDonald). Titled The Secular Itjihad, the post is a rumination on the relationship between the secular state and the various religious traditions that exist as subsets within it, with a specific focus on Islam. I highly suggest Conrad Barwa's "brief" (his words) comment on Martens' post!

Additionally, Martens notes asserts that:


Another thing I've learned from what I have managed to read of Islamic thought: It is so varied that it actually makes Marxism look like a tightly-knit coherent movement. Whatever it is that someone says is Islamic, you can find some significant community of Muslims somewhere who will tell you the exact opposite.

Quantification is crucial here. There are a non-trivial number of Muslims who fit in well within the liberal order in the United States. And there is a wide diversity of opinion on a variety of topics in Islam. But one must not pretend as if the spectrum is populated by groups of roughly congruent size & influence. My personal opinion is that the Muslim liberals in the form of Irshad Manji are a vanishingly small minority in the Dar-al-Islam, perhaps, small enough perhaps to be discarded from the equation. On the other hand, though the radical Salafi fundamentalists are a minority as well, I do not believe that they are trivial enough to be discarded from the equation. In a similar fashion, Christian Reconstructionists have views that would make a Salafi radical proud, but they are such a small minority within the Christian community that they can be discarded from the equation when characterizing Christianity.

If Western liberals favor the liberals within Islam, as I believe they should, they have the possibility of changing the function that characterizes Islam appreciably. In such a fashion, they are influencing and offering their opinion on how Islam should be interpreted, at least indirectly, even if by justifying a liberal order by appealing to the liberal form of Islam as substrate.

Also, I point to this review of Irshad Manji's book The Trouble With Islam by a Canadian Muslim woman who has a Ph.D. in Chemical Physics from Harvard. If you read her right, dhimmis had special rights, the same rights, but not all the responsibilities, as Muslims. I agree that Manji's personal experience with Islam and her lesbianism allows her to tap into some anger-but this comment about dhimmis (which the woman repeated when interviewed with Manji) is pretty hilarious. If all the barbarism (speaking from a Western perspective) is simply because of the cultures that practice Islam, not Islam itself, I still find it peculiar as to why Islam was so successful in converting these peoples to the One True Faith.

Posted by razib at 08:26 PM | | TrackBack


Evolution in Georgia

Evolution is in the news in Georgia right now.

I find it interesting that the Republican governor of Georgia is trying to strike a moderate pose on this issue. Jimmy Carter has also weighed in, reaffirming his status as a liberal evangelical by opposing any erosion of the teaching of evolution. As I've noted before, evolution is not a controversial subject at the elite levels, and populist politicians tend to quell the debate on this topic so that they don't have to show their non-popular hand....

There are many bloggers talking about this so I'll leave it at that.

Posted by razib at 07:58 PM | | TrackBack


The blood of the nomads

I have alluded several times to the possible selection pressures that dense post-neolithic life might have induced in various populations. But I realized that I make it seem like there is a constant environment after the introduction of agriculture in any given population. There are various post-neolithic lifestyles, with the farmer vs. nomad dichotomy foremost in the minds of many. But, how often did farming populations practice nomadism, and make the switch back, or perhaps revert to hunter-gatherer lifestyle when marginalized?

Posted by razib at 05:12 PM | | TrackBack


Breaking it down....

I just had a stray thought the other day.

When it comes to issues that I feel are scientifically (natural science in particular) tractable I'm a big fan of reductionism, breaking it down into its parts, examining it in detail, demystifying it. I tend to have a negative reaction when people talk about "holism." On the other hand, I have an aversion of excessive deconstruction and analysis when it comes to softer disciplines. I don't see the benefit in laboring over every single sentence in a piece of literature, examining, breaking it apart, reconstituting it, contextualizing it, and so forth. Isn't art supposed to be about the gestalt?

Posted by razib at 03:22 PM | | TrackBack

January 30, 2004



Praise God & pass the dollar

Research Around the World Links Religion to Economic Development. I need to read this paper they published before I comment, but there's part of what they say....


"This is a revised view of the Protestant ethic," he continued. He noted that many mostly Protestant, wealthy countries were now more interested in quality of life, and that many Eastern countries were now more focused on economic growth — with some populations even converting, as Mr. Barro noted, to Christianity and specifically to Protestantism.

"Confucian countries are now the most Protestant countries on earth, in terms of a moral imperative to work hard, save money, to do well," Mr. Inglehart said.


One of the researchers works at The Hoover Institute. Has anyone found any evidence that a right-wing American think-tank in the past generation has published anything unflattering toward religion?

Update: Here is an abstract of a previous paper published by the authors on this topic. Note:


Barro and McCleary suggest that higher rates of religious beliefs stimulate growth because they help to sustain aspects of individual behavior that enhance productivity. They believe that higher church attendance depresses growth because it signifies a greater use of resources by the religion sector. However, that suppression of growth is tempered by the extent to which church attendance leads to greater religious beliefs, which in turn encourages economic growth.

Yeah, OK....

Update II: OK, here's the some papers in PDF by these two. Will comment in extended entry later....

Godless comments:

This is why sociology is to social science as astrology is to astronomy. Culture is important, but you can't study humans while entirely neglecting human biology. Instead of copious regressions, contradictory conclusions, and Thernstromian circomlocution about "Confucian Protestantism", GNXP invites you to consider a more parsimonious hypothesis: a strongly negative religiosity-IQ correlation:

coupled with a strongly positive IQ-GDP correlation:

Note: (Figure 2. Per capita GDP by racial group. "White" here means European white; "East Asian" means the racially homogenous polities: Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Japan. ) [Godless notes: The above graph has several incorrect values. The GDP-per-capita for Taiwan and South Korea is substantially higher than has been indicated, and Singapore has been excluded. I will do a reproduction of this graph with 2002 GDP-per-capita data soon.]

One doesn't need any "Confucian Protestants" or bizarre separations between church-attendance and religious belief to explain the GDP data. This pair of researchers seems cast in the Thernstrom mould: resolutely anti-biological explanations of phenomena that must - in part - be viewed through the lens of h-bd.

Posted by razib at 08:33 PM | | TrackBack


Little piece of news
Posted by razib at 04:07 PM | | TrackBack


States I've visited

Zack gave me the idea of filling this form. Below are states I've visited (includes walking around).

Posted by razib at 04:02 PM | | TrackBack


Asian phylogenies

Godless' previous post brought up some questions/assertions about the genetic heritage of East/Southeast Asians. Here a few relevant articles in PubMed.


Mitochondrial DNA diversity in Southeast Asian populations
.

The Emerging Limbs and Twigs of the East Asian mtDNA Tree.

Phylogeographic Differentiation of Mitochondrial DNA in Han Chinese.

Y chromosomal DNA variation in east Asian populations and its potential for inferring the peopling of Korea.

Three major lineages of Asian Y chromosomes: implications for the peopling of east and southeast Asia.

Much more in the "related articles" function of PubMed.

Personally, I believe that recent social norms are important in the development of skills and predispositions suited to a modern economy, the "northern" Han and the "southern" Han (assuming they are two disparate groups) have both gone through governance by the "Mandarinate" for about the same time period (the later sinicization of the south is compensated by the dominance of barbarians in north China for long periods). Phylogenetic relationships determined through studies of neutral genes might be less important than we might presume. A comparison of the g of Cantonese with Outer Mongolians might be used to test this hypothesis.

Posted by razib at 02:30 PM | | TrackBack

January 28, 2004



Energy important for complex life?

OK, a while back we mentioned how one biologist thinks that the evolution of vision was the cause of the Cambrian Explosion. Well, it turns out that oxygen [aerobic respiration] was also important for the development of complex eukaryotes (select the PDF if you want to see the full article). Perhaps I'm being a carbon-based aerobic metabolizing bigot, but did anyone really imagine that anaerobic metabolism could yield enough energy for complex life? Well, at least it would have been an interesting premise for a science fiction short story-a world of short sprints perhaps?

Posted by razib at 02:44 PM | | TrackBack


"Lost" civilizations

I saw the NOVA documentary about the Maya kings for the second time last night. It was kind of a strange coincidence since I recently went to an art opening that turned out to be a front for a cult that bases its beliefs around the Maya calendar. But I also began to wonder about the issue of "lost" civilizations.

In The Human Web the McNeills talk about a network of information that slowly spread over the whole world. As the network spread it became more durable and resilient from the periodic crashes that might afflict individual civilizations (nodes).

When we look at the Maya, with their advanced mathematics and literacy we often wonder "what went wrong?" We neglect the continuance of a less spectacular lowland Maya civilization, but nonetheless, the decline in organizational complexity and centralization is notable. I think that the fact that the Maya period spans the middle of our first millennium is important.

After about 500 BCE the Eurasian network of civilizations underwent a turning point. It became progressively more translocal, and the spread of "world religions" helped stitch the various polities together ideologically as well as economically.

But we should think back to the period between 2000 BCE and 1000 BCE. Several literate civilizations simply turned the lights off after hundreds of years of success. Mycenaean Greece, Indus Valley India and Hittite Anatolia are the big examples of civilizations that went into decline. There are lesser known lights, such as the city of Tartessos, that could no doubt populate a constellation of "lost civilizations." But even around 1000 BCE, the nadir of the old world network at that point, Egypt managed to keep a semblence of order and Assyria rose to fill the power vacuum with the decline of Babylonia and especially the Hittites (this is also the period that the Israelite kindgom is supposed to have had its glory years). India and Greece both "re-discovered" literacy thanks to the stimulus of Aramaic speaking peoples, so the redundancy of the network was crucial.

Looking to the Maya now, we see that there simply wasn't a large enough informational network to stimulate them to rise to the same heights that they once achieved. There is no "mystery" of why the Maya fell (shit happens), there is only the reality that they had few sister civilizations in close proximity that could spur a second age of greatness through cultural diffusion. There is surely a reason so many ancient peoples had a cyclical view of time, because decline seemed inevitable, it was only after 500 BCE that the corner was turned, and even then there were downward oscillations.... (the Roman Empire and Chinese Empire both collapsed after 300, but in contrast, India was going through its "Golden Age" of the Guptas).

Posted by razib at 01:43 PM | | TrackBack


You are too smart?

Everyone has heard about the police department that rejected very intelligent applicants (higher turnover from this subset). But if this is true, it's really bizarre.


I was a Rhodes Scholar nominee, inducted into the Mensa society in May 2001, named to the National Dean's List for three consecutive years, successfully competed in intercollegiate forensics and served as student body president.
...
Recently, I interviewed with a school in one of the metro Atlanta counties, only to receive an e-mail from the principal stating, "Though your qualifications are quite impressive, I regret to inform you that we have selected another candidate. It was felt that your demeanor and therefore presence in the classroom would serve as an unrealistic expectation as to what high school students could strive to achieve or become. However, it is highly recommended that you seek employment at the collegiate level; there your intellectual comportment would be greatly appreciated. Good luck."

What was that about role models ?

Posted by razib at 12:36 PM | | TrackBack

January 27, 2004



Outsourcing - From The Shill's Mouth

This article on outsourcing is a skillfully crafted work of fact and fiction.

Let's do a little deconstruction and not let The New Republic do our thinking for us.

But, like the fears that surrounded NAFTA, those around offshoring are mostly baseless.

This is where the spin starts. The author hasn't presented a case yet he's reached a conclusion.

While offshoring is definitely an economic trend, there is no statistical evidence pointing to the massive employment drain activists call the "coring out" of America's best jobs.

There is however statistical evidence of an overall reduction in these outsourced jobs. Note the author uses the qualifying term "massive." This allows the gullible reader to misunderstand the argument and go into battle with the protectionists with false armor. No, the trend thus far doesn't show massive job reduction, but taking a snapshot of a trend in the beginning gives you absolutely no accurate predictive capability for how the trend will develop over time.

In fact, recent studies show that the opposite is true: While offshoring may displace some workers in the short term, in the medium and long terms it represents a net benefit for both domestic businesses and their workers.

The unstated proposition is that the conditions of previous studies will hold true for the current situation. The author hasn't addressed this premise at all, so the recent studies haven't been shown to be relevant. I'll address some of the remaining assumptions later in the post.

In fact, the greatest threat from outsourcing is that its opponents will use it to force a new wave of protectionism.

Here the author speaks of a very real possibility. Whether it would be the greatest threat is a value judgement, but the fact that protectionism reduces economic efficiency is well understood in economics.

"There's just a lot of anecdotal evidence." Some point to the jobless recovery as evidence of offshoring's impact, but the lack of jobs is just as likely the result of booming productivity and the economy's (until recently) anemic pace. "I think people are confusing the business cycle with long-term trends," says Daniel Griswold, an economist at the Cato Institute. "People are looking for someone to blame. They say, 'Aha, it's because our jobs are moving to India.' If you look at the late 1990s, though, all these globalizing phenomena were going on." In other words, it wasn't that offshoring practices changed; it was that the economy slowed.

I'd agree with this statement. There are disincentives to staffing if you don't fully maximize your personnel. There is still plenty of slack left in the system with existing personnel and the safer bet is to use them to their fullest before the necessity and expense of hiring additional staff must be incurred. Job creation is a lagging indicator.

The hysteria about outsourcing makes for good drama, and thus political theater. As the article points out, it is still too early to tell what the trend is and what the impact will be.

What's more, economists don't even agree on how such data could be collected--for example, many offshoring moves represent not a direct shift of a given job overseas but rather its restructuring, which in turn might create a new job overseas as well as a new job, with a new job description, in the United States. Such restructuring is particularly prevalent in high-tech fields like software and data management--for example, an American employee might be tasked with the design, implementation, and testing of a software program; under restructuring, his employer might hire an Indian, at one-tenth the cost, to do the implementation and testing and then hire an American to do the design work.

First off, the point about how to measure this phenomena is quite valid. Disaggregating the labor data is most likely impossible. Perhaps an academic could study the process at some selected companies and extrapolate a projection for the economy as a whole but the validity of the extrapolation would pretty much be equivalent to voodoo.

The author is being quite disingenuous when he states that an employee that used to do the design, implementation, and testing of a software program and loses his job to outsourcing could be counted as gaining a new job dealing strictly with the design work. First off, if someone is performing 3 interdependent tasks as part of their responsibilty, then they cannot perform only one task at full capacity. Either the firm has outsourced 1,000 similar jobs and now needs 300 new full-time design engineers (having made 700 engineers redundant) or it creates a job for a design engineer and hires additional staff in the outsourcing country, or the design engineer is underutilized.

In answering the critics of outsourcing the author has quite correctly pointed out that they lack data to support their case, yet he has no qualms about blowing smoke up our ass with unsubstatiated scenarios like the one above. He too lacks data, so this part of his argument is pure spin.

IBM, for example, plans to offshore 3,000 programming jobs this year. But, at the same time, it will also create 5,000 jobs in the United States. Does that count as jobs lost, jobs gained, or both? "[Offshoring is] going to lead to individual job loss," says Gary Burtless, an economist at Brookings, "but that does not mean it will lead to aggregate loss of employment in the United States."

Here the author spins a story that should quell the critics. Look more jobs will be created than lost. He notes that type of jobs that will be lost - programmers -but gives no details of the jobs to be created. We'd hope that they would be at IBM labs where the former programmers can go after upgrading their training and there they could be put to more productive use. For all we know they could be creating 5,000 call center jobs that would clearly be a step down for the programmers.

Gary Burtless is correct when he points out that the causality between individual job loss leading to an aggregate job loss hasn't been established. By placing the comments of Gary Burtless within this paragraph the author seeks to lend support to his example. The two strands of the paragraph are completely unrelated.

We can pretty much disregard the hypothetical example used, and take Mr. Burtless at his word that he doesn't know what will happen. Heck, I don't know what will happen either.

Even if there were a short-term loss of jobs, the losses would likely have a more muted effect on the economy than the factory flight of the 1980s and '90s, when most factory workers had to undergo intensive retraining in order to find new jobs. White-collar workers tend to be, both in terms of skills and career perspective, more capable of moving on to other jobs.

This is an acknowledgement of cognitive talent. A very good point but don't neglect the fact that new jobs that are created for these people could also be created in the outsource countries. For those jobs to be created in the US, the employees would have to be better trained than their foreign competition. Didn't they just lose their jobs because their training was equivalent to their foreign competitors? Keep in mind that if they can retrain, so too can the outsource competitors.

Also many of those who have lost their jobs are well into their careers and the distortions within the labor market make hiring workers over the age of 50 very unattractive because of the health insurance issue. This is but one example of external forces acting on market forces and I'll go into this more towards the end of this essay.

The subset of unemployed workers that could benefit would be those who could, and do, seek retraining, and are fortunate enough to have made the prescient decision of choosing the correct field of training and further, to be hired by a company that is breaking new ground in that field.

That employee is now on the coattails of a company that has a comparative advantage over its foreign competitors, in large part because of the employee's unique skill sets.

For this paragraph I'd say the author is spinning the case once again for he's not saying anything substantive but just trying to reassure his audience of the purity of the ideological message sans facts.

Another mitigating factor is the wide dispersal of high-tech jobs throughout the country; unlike manufacturing, which tends to clump hundreds or thousands of jobs in the same factory or town, high-tech work can be done anywhere. For example, one of the job sectors frequently cited as "offshoring prone" is medical transcription. Although it's a $15 billion industry, medical-transcription work is almost always farmed out to small firms around the country; even if all of them closed, the impact on any one community would be small.

He's reaching with this one. A new frame of reference is introduced - the community. Previously we were discussing individual dislocation but now we're relieved that the individual dislocation won't be concentrated within one community. This does nothing to the aggregate dislocation and because whole communities are affected, the dislocations will be more difficult to politicize.

Yes, his argument does mitigate against concentrated job loss but does not explain away the aggregrate job loss. In the end, this is a moot point.

"The lower-level jobs, the programming jobs, a lot of them will not be done in this country," says Stephanie Moore, an outsourcing expert at Giga, an economic research firm. In their place, she says, "New jobs are going to be created.

I don't necessarily disagree. This could very well be the case, however her statement is one of pure faith. If the reader is prone to persuasion by appeal to authority, then the quote will be reassuring, otherwise it's just hot air.

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, for every dollar a U.S. company spends on offshoring to India, the U.S. economy gains $1.14, thanks to a number of factors: savings from the increased operational efficiency, equipment sales to Indian outsourcers, the value of American labor reemployed to higher-wage jobs, and repatriated earnings by U.S. companies that own Indian outsourcing firms.

Did the writer get paid by the word? Is that why he's filling with this vacuous quote?

savings from the increased operational efficiency - Very true.
equipment sales to Indian outsourcers - no dependency established
American labor reemployed to higher-wage jobs - too presumptuous
repatriated earnings by U.S. companies that own Indian outsourcing firms - data too fluid

"The choice isn't outsourcing or keeping jobs here," says Griswold. "It's outsourcing or going out of business. Which isn't good for jobs. This is an absolute necessity for many companies." If companies were somehow prevented from shipping jobs offshore, they would likely turn to other methods of reducing labor costs, such as technological upgrades--a process that has resulted in job loss since the birth of capitalism.

Very disingenuous rhetoric. "It's outsourcing or going out of business." Consider this extreme example - I need to firebomb my competitor or I'm going out of business. Clearly, such behavior is illegal. Illegaility puts a course of action out of the realm of possible alternatives. If outsourcing is not an option, for whatever reason, then it isn't an option for all of the firm's competitors either. If competitive pressure to outsource is at the root of the dilemma, then absent such pressure the dilemma doesn't exist. Bad argumentation on the author's part. Pure spin.

As for the secondary argument that technology would simply replace outsourcing, this too is on weak ground. The case was much stronger for manufacturing, but it is difficult to have technology replace a programmer or an engineer. Moreover, if technology is developed that increases the productivity of an engineer or programmer, then at least the displaced professionals can marginally increase their training to once again be proficient in their field rather than retraining for an entirely different field that can staunch the assault of lower waged-similarly skilled foreign competition. Here as well, the author fails to adequately make his case.

But, while offshoring-related protectionism may stifle economic development and unnecessarily force business closures, its biggest impact may be longer term. That's because, as the baby-boomers move into retirement, the size of the working population will decline precipitously, by 5 percent by 2015, according to the McKinsey report. Without a readily available source of high-quality, young labor--i.e., the sort provided by offshore outsourcing--the country could find itself in a sort of economic sclerosis.

They're pulling every skungy rabbit out of the hat. This argument isn't even coherent. The young labor provided by offshore outsourcing provides absolutely no benefit for the US social safety net. These workers wouldn't be paying into Social Security nor paying US income tax! This is conflating the situation to make it appear as though the outsourced labor were actually in the US and thus helping alleviate the US demographic timebomb. Failing grade on this point.

Growth could be permanently hamstrung by the high labor costs and booming social spending that have turned Germany, where it's extraordinarily difficult for companies to lay off employees, from an economic engine into a plodding giant.

The author hasn't established a causal relationship so this conclusion can't be attributed to the preceding argument. However, constraints on markets do inhibit growth and they are obstacles to efficiency. That doesn't though, excuse the sloppy reasoning skills employed in this argument. They should work on this argument and tighten it up some more. Failing grade, but with potential.

Nevertheless, the fact that there are benefits to offshore outsourcing doesn't mean we should sit back and let it ride. At the individual level, job loss is a painful process, and there is no guarantee that even a relatively mobile white-collar worker whose job is outsourced will be able to find a new one, let alone at the same wage. The response, however, isn't to fight against offshoring but to find ways to alleviate its negative effects. One approach--advocated by Lori Kletzer, a senior fellow at the Institute for International Economics, and Robert Litan of the Brookings Institution--is to require companies to purchase "outsourcing insurance," which would cover a portion of displaced employees' salaries for a fixed period of time in the event their jobs are outsourced. Not only would this help alleviate the pain of layoffs, but it would force companies to internalize the economic cost of their outsourcing decisions. The McKinsey report, which also favors this approach, argues that, "as offshoring volumes rise, the insurance premiums will increase, cutting into the gains from offshoring and, thereby, making offshoring less attractive to companies in periods of high unemployment."

Outsourcing insurance is just a market contaminant. It is a legislative salve. It is an external cost imposed by society. In essence it is a chimera, for while it pays heed to market forces and allows companies the choice of whether they wish to incur the cost of purchasing insurance in order to outsource, it is no different than forcing a company to incur a cost of maintaining employees by prohibiting outsourcing. Both approaches serve to reallocate costs; the former does so my market forces, while the latter does so by fiat.

This is an interesting alternative that the author raises but let's recognize that it is a market distortion just as an outright ban on outsourcing would be.

Consider the case of outsourcing from a different perspective. Foreign pharmacies are performing a service cheaper than American pharmacies. The response of American pharmacies is not based on market principles but is directed to legislative redress. I realize that I'm stretching the comparison, but we seem to always rail against welfare for individuals but never put up the same effort to curtail corporate welfare.

Yes, I know that price caps have been instituted in foreign countries to limit the price of drugs and that is why these foreign countries have a competitive advantage but, and this is an important but, no one is forcing the drug companies to sell their products in those countries. Yes, I know, the companies fear that if they stopped selling their drugs that the foreign patent laws would be amended which would prematurely push the drugs into generic status.

The point for my whole essay is that we often forget to account for the fact that economic systems are fictional creations which are subsumed under the operating conditions society imposes. Just like one cannot fire-bomb a competitor, companies must also operate under economic conditions that are arbitrary.

The foreign price caps imposed on drugs are a market distortion. Rather than letting the American consumer benefit from the lower prices, the pharma industry is trying to ban importation and if that fails, they will exert pressure for the foreign countries to harmonize their laws to ours. The critics of outsourcing could use the same tactics and seek to harmonize foreign conditions to our own. Hey, they already are - that's the whole FAIR TRADE platform. Depending on which side of the ideological chasm you stand you might be inclined to deplore the other side's tactics. I'm saying that neither side is pure here and the tactics have frightening similarities.

There is much efficiency yet to be gained within the economic system if we find more opportunities to outsource. The often unconsidered point is whether the goal is to to achieve a higher state of economic efficiency (which efficiency seek ing and outsourcing do) or to serve the country's best interests (the debate is just starting on whether outsourcing helps on this issue). The two are not always the same and the linked article, as I hope I've demonstrated, is simply advocacy for a position, and weak advocacy at that. At most it seeks to reassure an audience that is predisposed to receiving a comforting message.

Spin, and little else.

Update from Razib: Wired has put this month's cover article about outsourcing to brown-land online....

Posted by TangoMan at 10:07 AM | | TrackBack

January 26, 2004



Transnational analogies

I recently read several books on race relations in Brazil. They shook me,because some Brazilians of African ancestry sometimes espouse a very individualistic ethos, but seem to take rational discrimination from whites for granted. In any case, I was thinking of Brazil's similarities with India, another nation that is racially diverse, but attempts to mold its identity as a unified whole based on a common civilizational mythology.

But the analogy just didn't work in my head. Dalits, unlike Afro-Brazilians, have been active in pushing for group rights for 50 years, like African Americans. Indian society is explicitly segmented, with various caste-groupings overlaying individualistic values and undergirding the national identity. In some ways, it resembles the end-state that the United States seems to be evolving toward.

Then I thought of an better model-Pakistan!. Muslims Pakistanis reject caste on principle, and are apt to assert that they are a casteless society. This is true de jure, but South Asian Muslims do have their own forms of caste, and some have asserted that foreign ashraf Muslims have used the myth of Islamic unity to mask their domination of the indigenous converts.

Any comments from Pakistani readers?

Posted by razib at 11:09 PM | | TrackBack


Concurrent evidence

A reader sent me a link to this article which concludes: "This contrasting pattern of diversity in Ashkenazi populations is evidence for a reduction in male effective population size, possibly resulting from a series of founder events and high rates of endogamy within Europe." Fine and dandy, but I just keep recalling this article in Discover from 1995 which made many simlar points, it pointed out that the majority of Hungarian Jews in any given generation were paupers, and that wealthy mercentile and rabbinical families were the ones that had high fertility rates and perpetuated the Jewish people (through historical research of records). In other words, a small effective population size....

Excerpt below....

Update: Henry cautions me about relying on one locus (the Y chromosome). I guess I will make my assumption explicit for readers-when I post links to papers like this, I don't expect them to be definitive, rather, over the years, the multitude of studies will form a composite understanding of the history of various parts of the genome (especially nonrecombining regions like the Y & mtDNA obviously). The current methods of historical genetics just keep getting better, when I was in college I remember reading papers that talked about the problems with distinguishing between the Irish and Norwegians, as the noise overwhelmed the ability to distinguish the two groups statistically. This isn't true anymore it seems. Those who have ideological axes to grind will cherry pick from the studies to "prove" their points, that's not my intention, rather, each study is just another data point in a portrait that is only beginning to be clear.

Admixture estimates
Table 6 shows the haplogroups with the highest frequency differentials between European non-Jewish and non-Ashkenazi Jewish (Hammer et al. 2000) parental populations (see above) and a summary of the admixture estimates for AJ populations. Among the western AJ populations, haplogroups J-12f2b* and R-P25 were the most diagnostic for distinguishing the parental Jewish (P1) and the parental western NJ European population (P2W) components. Among the eastern AJ populations, haplogroups J-12f2b* and R-M17 were the most diagnostic for distinguishing the parental Jewish (P1) and the parental eastern NJ European population (P2E) components. All other haplogroups had values below 20% (data not shown). When these diagnostic haplogroups were used for analysis, the m y value was 8.1%±11.4%, suggesting an even smaller contribution of European Y chromosomes to the Ashkenazi paternal gene pool than in the previous study by Hammer et al. (2000). Because of the apparently high level of admixture in Dutch Jews (m y value of 46.0%±18.3%), we repeated the admixture calculation excluding the Dutch sample and found a lower estimate of admixture (~5%). Although not statistically significant, there was a higher level of admixture in eastern AJ versus western AJ populations. This is similar to differences in the levels of mtDNA introgression observed in western and eastern AJ populations (Behar et al. 2004).

[. . .]

Discussion
This survey of variation at 32 binary (SNP) and 10 STR markers in a sample of 442 Ashkenazi males from 10 different western and eastern Europe communities represents the largest study of Ashkenazi paternal genetic variation to date. In a previous study by Hammer et al. (2000), a set of 18 SNPs was typed in a diverse Jewish sample that included 113 Ashkenazim from the US (the European provenance of these samples was unknown). This AJ sample was characterized by nine haplogroups that were also found in several other Jewish populations. Similarly, studies by Nebel et al. (2001) and Thomas et al. (2002) have included a modest Ashkenazi sample (i.e., <80 Y chromosomes) typed with a small set of SNPs (i.e., 13 and 10, respectively), and a set of six Y-STRs. The results of all three of these earlier surveys concur that Ashkenazi Jews (1) have been relatively isolated from host European non-Jewish populations, and (2) are closely related to non-Ashkenazi Jewish communities and some non-Jewish populations from the Near East. The phylogenetic resolution of these earlier studies was partly limited by the relatively small number of markers typed. For example, the identification of additional highly informative sublineages within the two most frequent Ashkenazi clades (E and J) was not possible because many recently discovered downstream markers were not available. The recent publication of highly congruent human Y-chromosome trees (Hammer et al. 2001; Underhill et al. 2001) and a standardized nomenclatural system for the resulting binary polymorphism-based consensus tree (YCC 2002) has provided an opportunity to understand paternal population origins, relationships, and dispersals with more phylogenetic and geographic resolution than was heretofore possible. Analyses of the higher resolution dataset presented here provide a better opportunity to infer the composition of the founding Ashkenazi paternal gene pool and to distinguish lineages that may have entered the Ashkenazi population after their arrival in Europe.

Origins of Ashkenazi NRY lineages
Based on the frequency and distribution of the 20 haplogroups observed in AJ and NJ populations, we subdivided Ashkenazi Jewish lineages into the following three categories: major founder haplogroups, minor founder haplogroups, and shared haplogroups. The first two categories include those haplogroups likely to be present in the founding Ashkenazi population (and that now occur at high and low frequency, respectively). The latter category is comprised of haplogroups that either entered the Jewish gene pool recently as the result of introgression from European host populations, and/or that were present in both European and Jewish populations before the dispersal of ancestral Ashkenazim into Europe. We acknowledge that such categorization is complicated because current haplogroup distributions are the culmination of many past events. For example, haplogroups such as R-M17 and R-P25 that predominate in European populations today (see below) may have also been present in the Near East as part of the ancestral AJ gene pool. Similarly, haplogroups that predominate in AJ may have entered the European gene pool before AJ populations dispersed into Europe.

Paragroup EM35* and haplogroup J-12f2a* fit the criteria for major AJ founding lineages because they are widespread both in AJ populations and in Near Eastern populations, and occur at much lower frequencies in European non-Jewish populations. Because they have similar distributions as these major founder lineages, albeit at lower frequencies, we suggest that haplogroups G-M201 and Q-P36 are minor AJ founding lineages. Although J-M172 is also found at high frequency in AJ populations (and probably migrated to Europe with the original founding Ashkenazi population), its presence in European non-Jews at a frequency of 6% may reflect a more complicated history of migration to Europe (i.e., both before and during the Jewish Diaspora). This migration may have been mediated either by the diffusion of Neolithic farmers from the Near East between 4,000 and 7,500 years ago (Semino et al. 2000) or by sea-faring peoples in the Mediterranean region (Mitchell and Hammer 1996). Interestingly, M35+ chromosomes (E3b*; or their evolutionary precursors E* and E3*) were previously hypothesized to have migrated to Europe with farmers in the Neolithic (Hammer et al. 1997; Rosser et al. 2000; Semino et al. 2000). However, because M35* chromosomes are rare in Europe, we instead hypothesize that the derived lineage, E-M78 (E3b1), is the more likely haplogroup reflecting Neolithic demic diffusion. Similarly, we suggest that G-P15 with its better representation in Europe, rather than its evolutionary precursor G-M201 (which is found mainly in AJ populations), is a better candidate marker for Neolithic migrations of farmers into Europe.

The best candidates for haplogroups that entered the AJ population recently via admixture include I-P19, R-P25, and R-M17. These haplogroups are thought to represent the major Paleolithic component of the European paternal gene pool, expanding from refugia populations after the Last Glacial Maximum more than 10,000 years ago (Rosser et al. 2000; Semino et al. 2000). Because haplogroups R-M17 and R-P25 are present in non-Ashkenazi Jewish populations (e.g., at 4% and 10%, respectively) and in non-Jewish Near Eastern populations (e.g., at 7% and 11%, respectively; Hammer et al. 2000; Nebel et al. 2001), it is likely that they were also present at low frequency in the AJ founding population. The admixture analysis shown in Table 6 suggests that 5%-8% of the Ashkenazi gene pool is, indeed, comprised of Y chromosomes that may have introgressed from non-Jewish European populations. In particular, the Dutch AJ population appears to have experienced relatively high levels of European non-Jewish admixture. This is apparent in the MDS plot and by virtue of their elevated frequencies of haplogroups R-P25 (>25%) and I-P19 (>10%). These results are not surprising in view of the longstanding religious tolerance in this region. However, Dutch Jews do not appear to have increased levels of European mtDNA introgression (Behar et al. 2004), suggesting that admixture in this population is mainly the result of higher rates of intermarriage between Jewish woman and non-Jewish men.

Posted by razib at 10:42 PM | | TrackBack


Reverse Affirmative Action

An oft-cited benefit of eliminating affirmative action is that the non-Asian/Jewish minority members who are admitted would no longer be suspected to be "affirmative action admits", of lesser expected competence.

I was shocked a few days ago when I realized that eliminating affirmative action does NOT in fact accomplish this!

To illustrate the problem, suppose all undergraduate institutions graduated all applicants with IQ greater than the mean, and no others. Surely, being easily identifiable as a member of a group X with mean IQ one standard deviation below the mean (and, as another simplifying assumption, let's say this subpopulation's IQ distribution has standard deviation identical to that of the majority, and the population as a whole as well) would no longer be disadvantageous as long as you could also demonstrate you were a college graduate?

WRONG. Members of this group X would tend to be "barely good enough", while everyone else would tend to exceed the minimum requirement by a greater margin. Specifically,

~31.7% of graduates in the general population would exceed the mean by at least one standard deviation. Only ~14.4% of group X graduates would. This is a greater than 2x difference.
~4.6% of graduates in the general population would exceed the mean by at least two standard deviations. Only ~0.8% of group X graduates would. This is almost a 6x difference.
In ANY interval above the mean, group X graduates would cluster toward the bottom of the interval more than the graduate population as a whole.

Thus, it would be rational for any employer incapable of measuring IQ perfectly, and with greater use for people with higher IQs than lower IQs, to discriminate against group X. Even if they can estimate IQ, if they can't do so perfectly, knowledge that you're a member of group X gives them additional information that would cause them to adjust the estimate downwards, if they were behaving perfectly rationally. (Griffe discussed this in the past in his post on differential cutoff.)

The corollary: to make race next to worthless with respect to making hiring decisions, colleges would need to APPLY AFFIRMATIVE ACTION IN REVERSE, not just eliminate it! To make the mean IQ of group X graduates match that of the graduate population as a whole, the bottom ~42% of qualified group X applicants would need to be rejected, while all other qualified applicants were graduated. To make the overall IQ distribution of group X graduates emulate that of the overall graduate population, even more qualified group X members would need to be rejected.

In other words, this is essentially an unattainable goal. Barring extensive genetic engineering or the like, the informational content of race and other visible attributes can only be reduced (which elimination of affirmative action would accomplish), not eliminated.

Godless comments:

As "minority" is inaccurate (since there are numerically significant minorities with high achievement statistics), I have made the minor edit of replacing "minority" with "group X" where group X has a trait one SD below that of the population. Note that this substitution is very relevant when it comes to the actual composition of elite institutions like Microsoft and MIT. Consider, for example, the demographics of MIT:

(MIT stats)
8% of MIT's undergrads are foreign
27% of MIT's undergrads are Asian.
20% are black/Hispanic
Hillel counts another 10% as Jewish.
That leaves 35% white gentiles

Subtracting the blacks/Hispanics gives about 80% of the seats assigned on a merit basis. Of the 72% that went to Americans, slightly more than half (37%) went to Jews and Asians, while the rest (35%) went to white gentiles. Again, Jews and Asians only make up 5-6% of the population, while white gentiles make up 69%. In other words, a tiny fraction of the population beat out the largest group in the population for the merit-based seats at arguably the best engineering school in the country (alongside Caltech and Stanford).

Note that this assumes there to be no negative discrimination against Asians and Jews, which is not necessarily a valid assumption. Lowell High School in San Francisco had quotas on the number of Asians for quite a while, and elite universities still intentionally set the bar higher for Asians.

Posted by Dog of Justice at 05:06 PM | | TrackBack


Days of Ice & Awe

A group of scientists claims that multiple factors (via Dienekes) led to the extinction of the Neandertals. The title in The New Scientist asserts that the "Big chill killed off the Neanderthals." But upon closer reading, it seems that the arrival of a new human culture (Gravettians) and the concomitant cultural explosion swept aside a very low basal population of Neandertals, and, the Aurignacians! As noted in the article, it is latter point is interesting, because the Aurignacians were anatomically modern humans, and creators of the famous cave art that indicates a qualitative change in our cultural history. Nonetheless, the article indicates that the Neandertals and Aurignacians co-existed in diminished numbers until the arrival of the new toolkit.

The moral of the story is that first aproximations always hide a great deal of nuance and subtlety. This research might be unsupported by later studies, but let us assume it is correct. The idea that there was a "Great Leap" 40,000 years ago in mental capacities of human beings that allowed them to engage in symbolic abstraction and consciously develop new and innovative cultural motifs is seductive. Researchers, assuming that language was a crucial part of this leap, are already on the hunt for genes that might have arisen during this period and altered our hardware so that it could run more powerful software. Anthropologist Henry Harpending asserts that the "Great Leap" did not seem to impact the material culture of all anatomically modern humans at the same time (a series of hops, not a leap?).

I also believe that the recent history of our species, especially since the period from around 500 BCE, might have instilled in us preconceptions of the Eternal March of Human Progress that allows us to disregard possible epicyclic deviations from the arrow of change. For instance, Tasmanian Aboriginals, isolated from the mainland for 10,000 years, suffered degredation in their toolkit. The Bronze Age Greeks and Indians both forgot their native literate traditions after socio-cultural decline, and literacy was revived through cultural diffusion from the Middle East. Joseph Needham documented the engineering genius of the Chinese civilization, but he also noted that some discoveries were left fallow, and mechanical wonders forgotten, only to be re-introduced by Europeans!

The Out-of-Africa scenario that posits an expansion of modern humans ~50,000 years ago is seductive in its parsimonious elegance. The genetic evidence points to some form of this. Nevertheless, I think that the simplistic beauty of this model has convinced some anthropologists & paleontologists to brush aside the details in specific locales and points in history and pre-history.

Back to the thrust of the above article. The modification of the "standard model" of Neandertal extinction is not extreme, instead of extreme climatic conditions + the presence of modern humans facilitating the demise of the Neandertal, climatic conditions + the presence of a modern human subculture might be the root cause. But the implication is that the "Great Leap" was just the first step, that human cultural superiority was not created ex nihilo from the DNA.

Posted by razib at 01:53 PM | | TrackBack


Fat farm in Africa?

This story on the BBC about fat farms in Mauritania is hilarious. The point is to make little girls fat so they are desirable. Click "Watch & Listen" and you can hear the Jabba-the-Hut voiced "fat coach" talk about how she makes her charges stuff their faces day & night.

Posted by razib at 12:41 PM | | TrackBack


The Social Contract Is Almost Broken

In a follow-up to my previous post I thought I'd eleaborate on why I think that the social contract between generations in this country is being broken.

This article details the trevails facing those on their quest for higher education and the institutional responses to the costs that grow faster than inflation.


To stay alive, these schools are firing personnel, increasing class size, snuffing courses, limiting enrollment and cutting out some majors. But most of all, they're hiking their tuition and fees. Tom Mortenson, a higher-education policy analyst, calls this "creeping privatization." If the public can't or won't pay enough for state schools ("no new taxes"), then the students must.

Within the ideological spectrum of debate there are some who would say that these institutional responses are entirely appropriate as free-market responses. That's all well and good if we render the social contract null and void and release the students from further financial obligations to the elder citizenry of the country, but rather than doing so, we're burdening them and their children with ever increasing future obligations. The social contract is becoming a one-way street and the obligations are borne by one generation with the benefits flowing to another.

Now of course there is an ideological debate in this country on the scope and role of government and on redistributive tax policies. What strikes me as shortsighted and hypocritical is the different policy prescriptions accorded to Medicare/Prescription Drug Coverage and Education. It's clearly evident that these two programs serve two distinct demographic groups seperated by decades of life span.

I consider the disparate levels of commitment to these programs to be hypocritical because the success of Medicare is dependent on the success of Education and to shortchange the latter is to further jeopardize the viability of the former.

You can see it in the numbers. In 1973, 40.5 percent of the students receiving federal Pell Grants (for the needy) attended four-year public schools. In 2001, that portion was only 31 percent. More of the needy went to community colleges instead.

Before I contiinue my analysis of why funding to assist students in their education should be enhanced, let me first take a moment to examine what such an endeavor would entail.

Let's take the 1973 level of 40.5 % of students receiving Pell Grants attending 4-year institutions as the goal for today's generation. Thus a further 9.5% of students would need increased financial assistance to attend a 4-year institution.

Tuition hikes have reached double digits. Two-year publics raised their charges by an average of 13.8 percent last year (to $1,905), according to the College Board. That brings the increase to 53 percent over the past decade—nearly twice the inflation rate. Four-year tuitions were up 14.1 percent (to $4,694—and $10,636 including room and board). That's an 85 percent jump over the past 10 years.

So 30.5% of students are able to meet the $10,636 4-year expense and I'm going to asssume that the 9.5% shortfall of students we're targeting are enrolled in community colleges but would rather be in a 4-year institution.

Here is data on Pell Grant allocations. Here is data on the characteristics of recipients and the institutions attended. Here is more data from the 92-93 fiscal year.

Federal aid doesn't buy nearly as much education as it used to. When the Pell program began, the maximum grant, for the poorest students, covered 84 percent of the cost of a public four-year college. Today, at $4,050, it covers only 39 percent. The maximum federally subsidized student loan hasn't risen in a decade.

I'm going to look at two scenarios. The first is to make up the difference in tuition that separates the community college ($1,905) from the 4-year institution ($4,694), which amounts to $2,789 per year. The second is to restore Pell Grants, for the poorest students, to the point where they can cover 84% of the cost of a 4-year institution, rather than the current 39%, and this amounts to ($10,636 * 0.84) $8,934 per year.

In the first scenario, the student would expect an increase in aid of $11,156 for a 4-year educational program. In the second scenario, the poorest of students, would expect to receive in increase of aid amounting to $35,736 over 4 years.

Both are big aid increases. Are they worth it? Let's see.

I'm going to do some back of the envelope calculations rather than a completely sound methodological study. I'm going to assume that this increased aid to the student will be taxed back over a 30 year period so it would be appropriate to use the 30-year T-Bill rate that is currently at 5.38% and I'm going to treat it much like a mortgage.

In the first scenario, the monthly payment due would be $62.51. In the second scenario, the monthly payment due would be $200.22.

Now that we have an idea of the costs involved in expanding access to higher education let's go back to the issue of why a society should make these opportunities available to those who can't afford them.

Here is some data on Median Annual Income by Level of Education. In the year 2000, men with an Associate's Degree earned a median income of $41,952 and those with a Bachelor's Degree earned a median income of $56,334. Women with an Associate's Degree earned a median income of $31,071 and those with a Bachelor's Degree earned a median income of $40,415

Because this is a back-of-the-envelope exercise I'm just going to assume that this level of income will remain constant over the person's working life and that salary differentials due to experience are already factored into the statistic.

The income differential, averaged between the sexes, amounts to $11,863 per year. The marginal tax rate for a single filer would be 28%. This would result in $276.80 per month more tax revenue. Furthermore, there would be an increase of $61.29 more in Social Security taxes and $14.33 in Medicare taxes per month.

All told, there would be an increase of tax revenue amounting to $352.42 per month for the entire working career of the individual. This compares to a cost of $62.51 for the first scenario mentioned above and a cost of $200.22 for the most generous assistance to help the poorest students attain a 4-year degree at the same level of sacrifice as that found in 1973.

In the first, modest scenario, the additional revenue generated via tax receipts, over a 30 year period, discounted by the T-Bill Rate is equal to a present value of $5,388.66. In the more generous second proposal, the present value is $2,829.00. Clearly, in both cases there is a compelling financial argument to be made for increasing access to higher education by easing the financial burden.

It's unfortunate that students don't have the voting clout of seniors for the case they can make for more financial aid is one that would actually contribute to the fiscal health of the nation. Seniors, on the other hand, do have voting clout and politicans are known to fear the wrath of this demographic. Unfortunately for all of us there are limited financial means to maintain the entitlement programs that are so dear to many of our fellow citizens and politicians have to make allocation decisions.

Under extreme pressure from the elderly they repeatedly have expanded entitlements for seniors without adjusting the acturial foundations for those programs.


The reason I like this blog and am pleased to be invited to post here is because the readership is willing to accept for discussion many topics that are difficult to raise in other forums for fear of being shouted down. Here all arguments are accepted if they are made with care and accuracy, no matter how many sacred cows are attacked. As I stated in my earlier post, the senior lobby is selfishly looking after its own interest to the detriment of their collective children and grandchildren. Imagine trying to argue this in another forum!

Maybe you don't accept my thesis yet. Let me continue on with my analysis.

Consider this fact:

In Michigan, annual Medicaid services cost $907 per child but $9,615 per elderly adult. As the number of elderly who qualify for the program grows, so will the cost.

Consider how entitlement programs start. Usually they make financial sense, but mission creep and demographics turn them into tails that wag the dog. When Social Security started the worker to recipient ratio was 42:1

The very first recipient of Social Security in the United States was Ida Fuller, a legal secretary who retired in 1940. Before retirement, Miss Fuller and her employer had paid only $45.08 in Social Security taxes. By the time she died at age 100, she had collected more than $20,000 in Social Security benefits. The year Ida Fuller retired, there were 42 workers for every retiree. That's why the tax rate needed back then was only 2 percent on the first $3,000 of wages. By the time Miss Fuller received the first cost-of-living increase in 1951, there were 16 workers for every retiree. And by the time she died in 1975, the ratio had fallen to 3.2 workers for every beneficiary. For the future, things look bleak. By the middle of the next century, the ratio is expected to fall still further, with only 1.5 to 2 workers for every beneficiary. That means each worker will be supporting two-thirds of the cost of an elderly person in addition to all other taxes and all other family responsibilities.

So the concept began modestly and the social contract between generations was quite tolerable to bear, and for the amount of suffering the entitlement alleviated, I'm sure that society thought it had done well. Unfortunately, a dependency and sense of entitlement developed and people expected more and more enhancements but were unwilling to pay for such enhancements themselves.

This process led to Medicare and now that same clamoring for more enhancements has led to this situation:

In recent years, there have been proposals to lower the Medicare-eligibility age and allow others—the uninsured and those aged 55–64—to buy into the program with a $300–400 monthly premium. Others have proposed raising the eligibility age, from 65 to 67, but many believe that the idea failed because it is unpopular with the elderly, who are a powerful lobbying force and tend to vote regularly and in great number.

You'll note that a $400 monthly premium is $4,800 per annum and this is less than half of the expected expense of $9,615 per adult in the Medicare system. Unlike the Educational Aid, which returns a net present value to society, most proposals that are directed at expanding Medicare are a direct drain on society.

The earliest data I can find on US population distribution is from 1950. Here is the population pyramid for that year. You'll note that there were only 12,398,000 citizens over the age of 65, and they accounted for 8.1% of the populace and 14.12% were over 80 years of age.

Compare the situation in 1965 when Medicare received legislative approval. Here is the population pyramid. Now there were 18,451,000 citizens over the age of 65, accounting for 9.5% of the populace and 16.55% were in the over 80 age grouping.

In 1973, when the Pell Grant information noted above, enabled 40.5% of students to attend a 4-year institution, the population pyramid looked like this and there were now 21,523,000 citizens over the age of 65, accounting for 10.1% of the populace and those over the age of 80 accounted for 19.57% of the senior cohort.

Today, the population pyramid looks like this and there are 36,251,160 citizens over the age of 65, accounting for 12.4% of the population and those over 80 accounted for 28.71% of the senior cohort.

Here is more census data going back to 1900 (See page 170.)

Here is a lot more data on Medicare for 2001.

As should be evident, the proportion of the population drawing drawing Medicare is growing, and the over 80 group is growing as well. I've drawn particular attention to the increased longevity of our seniors for they incur a disproportionate share of Medicare expenses.

The social contract that was formed between generations never envisioned that Social Security and Medicare would grow to such gargantuan proportions, squeeze other programs which are directed at younger generations, and continue to grow to the point where 2 workers will be required to support each retired citizen.

Because Medicare funds rely on employee payroll taxes to pay for recipient services, the ratio of those employed to those drawing on Medicare benefits is crucial to maintaining future solvency. Currently, there are 3.7 workers for every person receiving Medicare benefits. HI Fund trustees calculate that there will be 2.4 workers for every retiree in 2030 and only 2 workers per retiree in 2075; each individual employee will be responsible for a far greater share in supporting each recipient.

With fewer workers to support Medicare recipients, one of three things will have to happen -- either payroll taxes on the working population will need to be increased, or the government will need to pay a greater share, or the government will have to limit or change benefits.

As it is structured now, the cost to keep Medicare running will increase by 5.9 percent in 2003 and then 6.8 percent annually over the next ten years. Considering Medicare in the broader picture of the federal budget, the CBO sees Medicare costs increasing from 2.5 percent of the 2002 GDP to 9.2 percent of the GDP in 2075.

Now Medicare has been expanded to include Prescription Drug Coverage and:

For the period 2004 through 2013, CBO estimates that spending for prescription drugs by and on behalf of the Medicare population will total roughly $1.8 trillion, or nearly 50 percent of the projected $3.9 trillion in Medicare outlays over that same period.

The drug coverage will be an unfunded liability of nearly $2 trillion. Look here for more information on future Medicare obligations.

So let me be blunt in my conclusion. The social contract that was formed in the New Deal, and when Mrs. Fuller received the first Social Security benefit in 1940 has been transformed into intergenerational theft. As a society we are avoiding some very difficult choices on our ability to have it all. The voting power of the senior lobby is impressive and afterall, who among us wouldn't fight for benefits if our lives and quality of life were at stake. As Alexis de Tocqueville noted "The American Republic will endure, until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money" and our politicians are hard pressed to manage our affairs in a fiscally responsible manner.

By avoiding making some hard choices, benefits will continue to flow to the senior-aged demographic, thus robbing us of vitality in the younger generations and inhibiting the development of the very wealth producing qualities (i.e. education and child health care) that could lessen the trauma we will encounter in future years as we support our elderly.

As Governor Richard Lamm has already pointed out, the elderly have a duty to die. This of course is a hard concept to realize because the social contract is still maintained and our seniors do not conceptually connect their demands for more entitlements to the robbing of other, more productive, and fiscally responsible, programs.

If our social contract wasn't depersonalized via the social welfare model, and instead there was a life-long savings program or family support for our elderly, then the extreme costs and sacrifices that the children and grandchildren had to make on behalf of the elderly would be plainly evident. When it is your grandchild who can't afford to go to college because you need a expensive medical treatment regime after your heart transplant, then the sacrifices become more real.

No one is advocating some cruel policy to neglect the health and well-being of our respected elders, but when our elders show no shame in their blatant demands for more of our taxes and are thus sapping future generations of their potential, then this activity has to be called to everyone's attention. We can't afford to have it all. There have to be limits and sometimes those limits mean that we can't afford to offer a medical procedure which is available. The elderly have had full lives. The future belongs to their grandchildren and they deserve the best start in life that we can offer them.

Posted by TangoMan at 07:42 AM | | TrackBack


Infanticide Versus Abortion

From Chris Brand--

EUGENIC INFANTICIDE SUPPORTED   One of Britain’s top bioethicists endorsed infanticide in the case of infants born with previously unsuspected genetic problems or brain damage (Sunday Telegraph, 25 i; Scotland on Sunday, 25 i; Sunday Times, 25 i; Times, 25 i). In a debate organized by the House of Commons, handsome young Professor John Harris, a member of the British Medical Association’s Ethics Committee, said there was no detectable ethical difference between abortion and infanticide undertaken for serious conditions, and added that there should be more openness about the fact that such infanticide was “a very widespread and accepted pratce in most countries.” ''People who think there is a difference between infanticide and late abortion have to ask the question: What has happened to the fetus in the time it takes to pass down the birth canal and into the world which changes its moral status? I don't think anything has happened in that time," he said. The Manchester Uni philosopher’s remarks infuriated pretty young ‘pro-life’ campaigner, the Reverend Joanna Jepson, curate of St Michael’s Church in Chester, best known for her determination to outlaw abortions for cleft palate (with which she herself had been born). Julia Millington, the political director of the ProLife Party, said: “It is frightening to hear anyone endorsing infanticide, but it is shocking when that person is responsible for teaching others.” Professor Harris, Oxford-educated and a founder of the International Association of Bioethics, had fifteen books to his credit on the ethics of genetics. The professor had in the past supported people being allowed to sell their organs for transplant operations and being allowed to select the sex of their babies. A spokeswoman for the British Medical Association tried to dissociate from Professor Harris, saying: "These views of Prof. Harris are personal views and do not reflect the views of the Ethics Committee or the BMA, which is utterly opposed to the idea of infanticide." But socialist groups were expected to resist the enforced pregnancies on which ‘pro-lifers’ were determined, and thus to support the relaxed attitude about infanticide (at least by mothers) that had developed in 20th-century Britain.

"People who think there is a difference between infanticide and late abortion have to ask the question: What has happened to the fetus in the time it takes to pass down the birth canal and into the world which changes its moral status? I don't think anything has happened in that time."

True, that.

Posted by Thrasymachus at 07:42 AM | | TrackBack

January 25, 2004



East Pakistan

Over at Muslim Under Progress there has been a series of posts by a "traditionalist" (my words) Pakistani visiting the mother country. His post on East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) is interesting. More below....

Observations, and family hearsay....

1) the old people (my grandparents' generation) mourned the passing of Pakistan. They remembered when Hindu bhadroloks ("gentlemen") dominated Bengal. As Haroon (the poster linked to) notes, the Muslim League started in Bengal, and that was where its strength lay. The 1870 census which showed that Muslims were the majority in Bengal shocked many people. The Bengali elite was Hindu. The Muslim elite in Bengal were Urdu speakers, or if they were of Bengali origin assimilated to that culture. The 19th century saw the rise of a Bengali & Muslim middle and upper-middle-class.

2) my parents, like many Bangladeshis, don't seem to have much animosity toward Pakistanis for the "genocide" of 1971. That topic never came up during all the social events that my family attended where Pakistanis were a significant presence, though they would object whenever someone asserted that Urdu should be the lingua franca of Muslims. My mother herself was shot by mistake during the war, but I've never heard her say many negative things about Pakistanis-aside from their practice of over-creaming their tea, which she finds disgusting. I know many Bangladeshi's born & raised in the US are marrying Pakistanis born & raised in the US.

3) my parents admitted that the "Biharis," Urdu speakers from India, behaved as if they were the ruling caste in East Pakistan. My mother told an acquaintance once how Biharis would always insist on sitting at the front of buses, and start shouting at people in Urdu whenever they were irritated. Pakistan refuses to admit many of these people, and the Bengali populace has negative feelings toward them, at least according to what I've read (think of them as the Sudetanland Germans). But within my own family this does not seem to be prominent. My own paternal grandfather came from an Urdu-speaking family (though he was Bengali identified by his death, and his children picked up Urdu from school, not home). Several of my relatives have married Biharis, though they speak perfect Bengali, and mention of this only comes up obliquely and without any negative connotation[1].

4) I can believe that West Pakistanis were racist, because many Pakistanis seem to express racism today. It is subtle and not explicit, but I remember hearing several times of the "vigor of the northern races" at parties, about how 1 Pakistani equals 10 Indians. Of course, Bangladeshis are to the east and south of Pakistan, so the implication is clear. There is also a perception that Bengalis are "less Muslim" than Pakistanis (I think somewhat rightly), and sometimes people would joke about Bengali jadhu ("magic").

Postcript: OK, I have to add that I find the contention that the genocide targeted Hindus plausible. The reason my family evinces little resentment of the 1971 killings is likely because they felt little direct repercussions. My mother does recall that Hindu servants were specifically sought out-and one of my mother's nanny's (she was pretty muched retired by this time) was shot in the head because she was excessively disputatious when Pakistani soldiers tried to figure out who the Hindus were in my grandfather's employ (this is what I have heard).

fn1. My family's mixed origins might explain of their lack of hostility toward various ethnic groups that dominated Muslim Bengalis. My father is by ancestry half Bengali Brahmin (his mother's father converted to Islam) and half non-Bengali Muslim. But, he is probably a far more vocal Bengali Muslim nationalist than my mother....

Posted by razib at 03:46 PM | | TrackBack


The Failure of Sex Reassignment After Cloacal Exstrophy

NEJM just published an article concerning research that should be familar to all those who read Bailey's The Man Who Would be Queen. Here is the link: Discordant Sexual Identity in Some Genetic Males with Cloacal Exstrophy Assigned to Female Sex at Birth

Here is a news report:

In a new twist on the age-old question of nature vs. nurture, Johns Hopkins scientists following 14 boys who were surgically altered as infants and raised as girls found that the majority grew up identifying strongly as males.

Some of the patients spontaneously took on boys' names and began wearing male clothing before anyone told them the circumstances of their births - while others decided to live as boys once they found out.

Warning against sweeping conclusions about the foundations of gender identity, the researchers noted that the study was limited to boys who were "assigned" to the female gender because of a severe birth defect involving the abdominal organs and penis.

But the doctors said their finding casts further doubt on a theory, made popular in the 1960s by a Hopkins sex researcher, that gender is largely a function of how you look and how you're raised....

As a group, the patients ranged in age from 5 to 16.

Five of the patients were happily living as girls when questioned. Three were unclear about their sexual identity, though two had declared themselves as male. The remaining six had reassigned themselves, taking on boys' names and dressing in masculine clothes.

"Even though mom and dad had told them they were girls and they had girls' names, they still always felt they were male," Gearhart said. In two cases, the patients had begun to live as boys before their parents told them the truth.

One child who had grown up feeling like a boy fought the doctor who tried to inject him with estrogen, a treatment designed to spur development of breasts, soft hair and other feminine traits.

"They tried to hold her down but that wasn't possible," said Reiner. "The endocrinologist was exasperated and said, 'Why are you making it so difficult to give you these estrogen shots?' "

"I'm not a girl. I'm a boy," was the patient's reply.

Posted by Thrasymachus at 03:43 PM | | TrackBack


Human migration map

This should be good, check out this press release, HUMAN MIGRATION TRACKED IN STANFORD COMPUTER SIMULATION (via Randall Parker). A picture is worth a thousand words, an "Atlas of Genes," would be real cool (perhaps 10 years on when we have many more studies out).

Here is the abstract over at PNAS, though the press release is more fleshed out....

Posted by razib at 03:09 PM | | TrackBack


Jew who?

Hey, check out this site that lists famous Jews. The weird thing, under "Science & Engineering," there are 2 Jews listed under "Programmers" (a new field) and "Engineers & Inventors," as opposed to several dozen under "Math & Philosophy" and "Researchers."

(for purists, half-Jews are included)

Posted by razib at 02:48 PM | | TrackBack


Privilege & intellect

I know of a guy who got his undergrad degree at Portland State University, his medical degree at Imbler Health Sciences University (class rank #1) and now is doing his residency in anesthesiology at Harvard. Though he is an extreme case, I know plenty of people like this. What interests me, what about the people who move down in prestige? I think that this sort of transition is a good clue as to how important being a legacy, or person of privilege, is. Note below that New England blue-bloods Dean & Kerry went to one of the elite institutions in the country as undergrads, but made the transition for graduate level (professional) work at schools of lesser status. Contrast this with Wes Clark, who went from the US Military Academy (good) to Oxford (great). Edwards went from NC State (OK) to UNC (good). Lieberman, unlike Kerry or Dean the product of public schools, went to Yale, but stayed on to get his legal degree from Yale Law School.

John Kerry
Undergrad: Yale
Law School: Boston College

Howard Dean
Undergrad: Yale
Med School: Albert Einstein

Wes Clark
Undergrad: US Military Academy
Master's: Oxford

John Edwards
Undergrad: North Carolina State
Law School: University of North Carolina

Joe Lieberman
Undergrad: Yale
Law School: Yale

Posted by razib at 02:36 PM | | TrackBack


Follow-up of "More Medical Experts"

A month ago David B posted More Medical Experts, which detailed the problems with one famous doctor who gave overblown testimony that has distorted the legal process. A friend tried to post a reply, but the "8 day period of posting" has expired, so I have cut & pasted his response below (must read if you hate a certain profession)....

A warning not to treat doctors as infallible or to treat medical or
other experts as always right doesn't go far enough. The real scandal of the criminal trials in which Meadow's evidence was critical is that the
legal profession - solicitors, barristers, prosecution and defence and judges - are all so poorly educated or lacking in elementary logical ability and independence of mind that they could not use the rudiments of statistical probability to question Meadow's gross but persuasive fallacy.

Apparently hundreds of parents of children who died of unexplained causes were given no proper protection by cross-examination of the phoney expert or by the calling of competent statisticians or biologists to give corrective evidence. I get the impression that one might do better - or worse - in America. If one had enough money for a full blooded defence you would have a good chance that your lawyers would find almost every intellectual hole in the prosecutions case and attack it.

One wonders what the average lawyer would say if you took him to a
two-up game where the spectators bet against the coin tosser on whether the two coins come up odd or even heads or even tails. You hand the coin tosser two coins to toss and twenty times running the coins fall as two tails. Would the lawyer conclude, as the juries in England were effectually invited to, that the coin tosser was cheating? Or would he at least speculate that you might have handed him coins which had tails on both sides? You shouldn't have to be a biologist to wonder whether the genetic lottery or some other common factor was often to blame for unexplained infant deaths.

I am, in a representative capacity, defending a case which, as I conceive
it, involves a good deal of actuarial type reasoning. Fortunately I am
able to call on the kind of counsel that wouldn't have been available
in Australia when I began practice myself over 40 years ago. E.g. a
former nuclear physicist, fellow of an Oxbridge college, turned to the law and now a leader of the Australian intellectual property bar. Curiously the English bar and bench used to have a good sprinkling of Oxford and
Cambridge mathematics graduates in the late 19th and early 20th
centuries.

Now???

Posted by razib at 01:46 PM | | TrackBack


Opportunity knocks!
Posted by razib at 01:30 PM | | TrackBack


The Recipient Class

Randall Parker of ParaPundit linked to an interesting (and troubling) article called "The Recipient Class."

Troubling is the fact that single mothers (in addition to unskilled immigrants and the elderly[1]) are a growing population and a substantial net drain on the tax system, and their being a net drain goes beyond that they are more likely to be uneducated, poor, and have low IQs.

Interestingly, Asians contribute more in terms of taxes paid minus benefits received ($1730 per capita) than whites ($651 per capita), in spite of lower per capita incomes[2] and only marginally higher household incomes. The main reason for this seems to be that Asians are less likely to be single mothers than whites, in spite of having slightly lower incomes.

To me, our whole system seems unsustainable. In addition to importing huge numbers of dependent unskilled workers (and GWB wants to import more), we are subsidizing unwed motherhood and promoting its growth, and Congress just passed a Prescription Drug bill when we already know that taking care of the elderly is likely to be a major burden down the road even without any new benefits.

[1]I am not bashing old people here or suggesting that there should be major cuts in benefits, but old people are a growing portion of the population and are dependent. Also, Bush and Congress have made the problem worse with the Prescription Drug bill. I think old age benefits, and our welfare state in general, would be perfectly bearable were it not for the constant expansion of benefits, as well as mass unskilled immigration and perverse incentives such as rewarding unwed motherhood. Unfortunately, George W. Bush has been spending irresponsibly, promoting mass unskilled immigration, and has vastly expanded old age benefits...and the Democrats want to spend even more than Bush does and want an even more liberal illegal alien amnesty plan than Bush's plan.

[2]It is often stated that Asians have higher incomes than whites, but their per capita income is lower than that of whites.

Posted by bb at 01:15 PM | | TrackBack


South Asian typologies

For South Asian readers, I suggest this article on the nuances of caste, culture and history (yes, I know it is on a site that promotes Hindutva, but whatever the intent of presenting this article [Hindu unity], the facts, or at least the caution thrown over age-old preconceptions, seem correct from my readings of history & genetics).

Posted by razib at 01:15 PM | | TrackBack


Kerry and Vietnam

I missed Vietnam by a few years, so I am clueless on this, but it struck me as interesting. Peter Robinson recently posted to NRO's Corner:


VIETNAM REDUX? [Peter Robinson]
From a reader:

"Watching Kerry respond to the throwing of medals question turned my stomach. I know there are ten times the number of Vietnam War vets who wholly disagree with him. I believe that if he is nominated the country will, and should, 're-fight' the Vietnam War. This time, however, the left has not a monopoly on the media, and the outcome will be different, as well as truthful."

This hadn't occurred to me before, but of course the reader is absolutely right. This Corner, Rush, Fox News--we'll all be around this time to argue a) that our undertaking in Vietnam was born of a noble impulse, not some sort of twisted imperialist dream, b) that we lost only because of a failure of national will that John Kerry, among others, helped to precipitate, and, c) that despite its ultimate failure the war repesented a holding action that helped to make possible the rise of the "Asian tigers," including Thailand and Taiwan, whose example even Vietnam itself is now attempting to follow.

The debate will be different, all right.

Posted by Thrasymachus at 09:49 AM | | TrackBack


Return of the King

Unlike what seems to be the rest of the world, I thought that the Return of the King movie was fairly boring. It is hard to find reviews by people who felt the same way. (The above has some links to David Elliott's reviews in the middle of the text. Here is a review that Kunstler just put up.) Rotten Tomatoes gives Return of the King a 96%. I have the sneaking suspicion that there are more heterodox views out there than have made themselves known. Then again, maybe I am just crazy.

Posted by Thrasymachus at 09:39 AM | | TrackBack


Blogger Animal House Casting Call

Head over to Paddy O' Tater-tot to cast your vote for your favorite bloggers in the Blogger Animal House casting call.

Posted by TangoMan at 07:23 AM | | TrackBack


Helping you with your Presidential Choice

Here is an interactive guide to help you determine which Democratic or Republican candidate best matches your preferences. Fun little tool.

Posted by TangoMan at 07:04 AM | | TrackBack