« September 07, 2003 - September 13, 2003 | Main | September 21, 2003 - September 27, 2003 »

September 20, 2003

Garrett Hardin dead

Ecologist Garrett Hardin is dead (double suicide with his wife). He wrote many books and popularized the term "Tragedy of the Commons." Hardin was a peculiar figure today, somewhat out of place, a Republican who supported Planned Parenthood, and an environmentalist who was also a race realist. If I had to compare him to anyone of more note, it would be Margaret Sanger, whose eugenicist views have been papered over for several generations by Planned Parenthood but which she is always flogged for by pro-life activists. In a similar manner environmentalists are sometimes attacked for being racists, often in connection to the ideas that were popularized by Hardin relating to immigration restriction.

Posted by razib at 02:34 PM | | TrackBack


My earlier post on data from the 2001 UK Census provoked a lot of discussion, so I thought I would dig up a few more nuggets from the Census Report.

One point of interest is the level of educational and professional achievement reached by different ethnic groups. Some of the results may be surprising...

Table S117 in the main Census report for England and Wales gives details of the highest level of qualification achieved by the main ethnic groups, broken down into age groups. For present purposes the most relevant age group is probably 25-34. Most people in this group will have completed their education and started a career.

The most useful figure may be the proportion of each ethnic group which has qualifications at or beyond GCE A-level (roughly equivalent to successful High School graduation in the US). In the jargon of education bureaucrats GCE A-level, along with some other qualifications, is described as ‘Level 3’. Beyond this are ‘higher education’ Levels 4 and 5. Levels 4 and 5 include university degrees and diplomas but also professional qualifications such as qualified teacher, nurse, or accountant. The Census gives the percentage of people who claim to have Level 3 or Level 4/5 as their highest qualification, so to identify the proportion who have reached at least Level 3 it is necessary to aggregate the figures in the Census for Levels 3 and 4/5 (still with me?)

So here are the percentages of people aged 25-34 in the main ethnic groups in England and Wales who have achieved (a) at least Level 3 (i.e. Census figures for Levels 3 to 5 combined), or (b) Level 4/5, in rank order:

Ethnic group.....................Level 3 + ............Level 4/5
Black African....................55.6..................45.4
Black Caribbean..............34.8..................26.1
White British.....................34.4..................25.8

It will be seen that in both columns Chinese, Indian and Black African are in the top three places (in that order), and Bangladeshis at the bottom. For the other groups the rank order varies but the percentages are all quite close together.

The high position of Chinese and Indian people comes as no surprise, but the position of Black Africans (nearly as high as Indians) may be embarrassing to those who believe that Black Africans have an average IQ some two standards deviations below the White norm! Of course, African immigrants to the UK are not a random sample of the African population, and they may come largely from the upper end of the African ability range, but even so, the proportion is strikingly high.

The low ranking of ‘White British’ should not be especially surprising. Young white English working class people have never had much enthusiasm for paper qualifications, and they often prefer to leave school and start earning money (or having babies) as soon as possible. Successive Governments have tried to persuade or bully them to do otherwise, but with only limited success.

Of course, there may be suspicion that some of these figures are inaccurate or misleading. I can’t rule this out, but one way of checking it is to look at the jobs people are actually doing. Table S109 in the Report gives the occupations of people aged 16-74 who were working in the week before the Census date, broken down by ethnic group. I have calculated the percentages of each group who fall into the combined categories Managers and senior officials, Professional, and Associate Professional and Technical. The rank order is as follows:

Black African.........41.1
White British..........39.3
Black Caribbean....35.7

It will be seen that the differentials are narrower than in the first table, and the rank order of White British, Black Caribbean, and Pakistani has changed, but bearing in mind that the figures cover a wider age group, the correspondence is reasonably good. It would also be useful to compare the figures for 25-34 year-olds with those of the preceding age group (16-24), which are as follows:

Ethnic group..................Level 3 + ............Level 4/5
Black African..................35.7.......................12.9
White British...................31.8.......................10.4
Black Caribbean...........24.6.........................8.2

It will be seen that in comparison with the 25-34 age group, the relative performance of Bangladeshis is strikingly better. They have overtaken Black Caribbeans and are not far behind Pakistanis. I suspect that this is because the younger Bangladeshi cohort consists mainly of people born and educated in the UK. In contrast, the relative position of Black Africans and Black Caribbeans in this age group is noticeably lower than in the older cohort.

Although Black Africans are still just ahead of ‘White British’, the gap between Black Africans and Indians is much wider. Three possible reasons occur to me:

- the older cohort of Black Africans, mainly first-generation immigrants, are a
more highly selected ability group, whereas the younger cohort are ‘regressing to the mean’

- the younger cohort of Black Africans have assimilated some of the habits and values of the White British and Black Caribbean groups in their localities (predominantly inner cities)

- Black Africans in fact take longer to achieve their qualifications. There is a comedy stereotype of the African in Britain as an ‘eternal student’ and there is some evidence to support it. Black Africans of working age are the most likely to be currently studying for a qualification (44% compared to 17% of white people and 24% of Indian people). This is mentioned in a useful recent report, ‘Minority ethnic attainment and participation in education and training: the evidence’, by G. Bhattacharyya, L. Ison, and M. Blair. This can be downloaded as a free PDF document - go here and search for ‘Bhattacharyya’.

There remains a puzzle that both Black Africans and Black Caribbeans seem to do better both in higher qualifications and in their careers than would be expected from their school performance. Bhattacharyya et al. note that ‘on average, Black... pupils perform less well than White pupils throughout compulsory schooling’. This may be seen in the proportions of the ethnic groups who achieve good GCSE results at age 16 (5 or more passes at grades A-C):

Ethnic group....................% achieving good GCSEs in 2002
White British...........................46...............57.............51.5
Black African..........................29...............44............36.5
Black Caribbean....................23..............38..............30.5

[* my source does not give figures for boys and girls combined, so I have just taken an average of the two figures. ]

This provides welcome confirmation that young Bangladeshis are catching up, and in fact have overtaken Pakistanis. But both Black Africans and Caribbeans are performing badly. For what it is worth, Black children in the UK also have somewhat lower average IQ than Whites (though the differential is smaller than in the US (see N. J. Mackintosh, IQ and Human Intelligence, OUP, 1998, p. 149). I don’t know of any figures specifically for Black Africans in the UK.

A partial resolution of the paradox is that although more Blacks go on to ‘higher’ qualifications, they do less well at them. Blacks are accepted by universities with lower entry qualifications, they are more likely to be studying below degree level, they are usually attending less prestigious institutions, they take longer to get their qualifications, and when they get them they are of a lower standard. (See Bhattacharyya et al for all this.)

This still leaves the question why people who are relatively unsuccessful at school persevere in seeking higher qualifications, and eventually get them, despite the time and effort involved. Part of the explanation may be that immigrant groups tend to be more highly motivated and ambitious - after all, they or their recent ancestors took the bold step of emigrating from their homelands, and they may transmit their motivation to their children, whether by example, instruction, or heredity. It will be interesting to see how the patterns unroll over the next ten years or so.

Posted by David B at 04:37 AM | | TrackBack

September 19, 2003

Snapshots of life

Yesterday I went to play basketball with a friend. He was a bit late, so as I waited by the courts I noted the approach of 3 individuals:

1-Small blonde girl, circa 3 years of age
2-Pregnant woman with a head-scarf, likely her mother
3-A male trailing them, long beard, "pajama"-like clothes that seemed more appropriate in a madrassa than a 70-degree clear late summer Imbler day

I thought the guy looked kind of like John Walker Lindh, pasty faced eager convert, and as I listened to him speak his speech patterns seemed to be of someone of upper-middle-class background (words used, accent, etc.). I wasn't sure if he was Muslim or a faux-Muslim New Agey type that is endemic to the small town I live in. The woman wearing the head-scarf didn't speak with a Slavic accent, and seemed likely to be a Muslim convert by the shitty way she was trying to be "modest" (I didn't judge her outfit shapeless and unsexed enough-but she's a convert, I'll give her some kufir slack).

So I listened closely, just to see if these really were Muslims, and lo & behold, this is what I heard:

Guy: They're trying to railroad Saudi Arabia!
Girl: Why?
Guy: The Americans are trying to say that they're using Muslim charities to funnel money to terrorists!
Girl: Oh! Is that true?
Guy: Of course not! Ali worked for one of the ones targeted in San Francisco, he's a good Muslim.

And so forth. I almost started laughing, I couldn't really believe it, two Muslim converts, and they're talking about how the Americans are screwing the Saudis! This was in a public place and they weren't being quiet about it. I almost recited the shahada to see if the pink-faced convert would run off out of some deep-seated kufir reflex.

Posted by razib at 11:38 PM | | TrackBack

Handicap the SATs

THE NY TIMES MAGAZINE "idealab" suggests norming multiple variables instead of just race. If you're going to do this sort of thing, adding other variables might be best so that kids don't get stigmatized on such an obvious criteria like their racial background. But the thing that gets me is that the author feigns surprise that "children of parents who have graduate degrees outscore children with parents who didn't finish high school by a staggering 272 points." The article states that the author is "the Paterno Family professor of literature at Pennsylvania State University," I wonder if it was just luck & hard work that got him through graduate school.

Posted by razib at 10:34 PM | | TrackBack

Genetics articles over @ Dienekes

Dienekes Pontikos has posted some interesting abstracts dealing with genetics over at this site:

  • European Levites share common haplotype says this article. Since the Levys are a priestly caste like Cohens this shouldn't be that big of a surprise. What is strange is that the Levites of Europe might have an extra-Levantine origin[1].
  • Another article states that there has been a shift from polygyny to monogamy-the latter is quite obvious, mostly men today are monogamous (officially), while the latter can be gleaned from the genetic data that indicates that a fraction of males of each generation contributed most of the Y chromosomes to the next generation. The abstract indicates that this applies across all continents, though the sample size (46) seems a bit small. Also, you might be curious about this old article inferring patrilocality from the geographic diversity of Y chromosomes & mtDNA as well as a more recent article (full PDF version) dealing with New Guinea.
  • This paper discusses the secular rise in IQ being the result of heterosis. It presents it as a hypothesis to test along with the conventional environmental explanations.
  • This paper claims to have falsified much of J. P. Rushton's theoretical framework & his conclusions about behavior of various races. See my comment for my opinion on the topic in the thread. In sum, I think we need more study, but I've always had qualms about the details of Rushton's r-K thesis, if less anger & outrage at the data that he presented.

fn1. Bizarro world, but right after I typed this, an orthodox Jewish guy walked into Starbucks!

Posted by razib at 02:38 PM | | TrackBack


'tis nearing a sad day. I've tracked Galileo since '95, my freshmen year in college, check out the JPL Galileo site for some pretty pictures....

Also, Cassini is almost at Saturn.

Posted by razib at 01:13 PM | | TrackBack

September 18, 2003

Muscular liberalism

In The End of History and the Last Man Francis Fukuyama argued that the trajectory of political development showed that the triumph of liberal democracy over its rivals was within sight. Though Fukuyama's long-term projection might still be correct, his short-term optimism inspired by the thaw after the collapse of Communism seems to have been misplaced. The emergence of political Islam, the reversion of Russia to autocratic practice if not forms and the continued vitality of the Communist Party of China all argue that the march of liberalism is not proceeding in a steady fashion but halting for a respite[1]. Granted, liberalism is the most vital political philosophy in the world today, in name, if not in fact. One of the hallmarks of liberal thought are axioms about human nature, human rights and human dignity, ideas that are today accepted in principle, though often breached in many polities. Many sophisticated utilitarian conceptions of a liberal political order, for instance that of John Rawls, still have in place inviolable rights which are sacrosanct no matter the general cost vs. benefit calculation methodologies. Rawls' own philosophy, articulated at length in A Theory of Justice, has been criticized by some as overly abstract and lacking in any grounding in the reality of the human condition. Such critiques are as old as liberalism, David Hume criticized the theories of nature used by Locke & Hobbes in the 18th century as well as heaping common sense scorn on abstractions such as social contracts. Contemporaneously in The Blank Slate Steven Pinker castigates modern political philosophy for looking to 18th century works as seminal and neglecting the real contributions toward an understanding of human nature and the nature of early human social life that modern science and history can shed light on.

But this bifurcation between the abstract and the concrete, the organic & the axiomatic, can be excessively rigorous and neglect the inevitable cross-fertilization of definitions, the real and the ideal, that occurs outside of pure math in any human endeavor. Though abstractions by their nature stray from reality, that does not mean that they do not offer a useful lens with which to perceive the human condition. Though I have posted about the problems with allowing rational choice theory to overwhelm what I believe is the reality of human beings as a complex confluence of biological instincts and tendencies, social forces and individual context and choice-I do believe that rational choice theory has insights to offer. Similarly, I think that evolutionary psychology & the life sciences have short-comings when it comes to reducing all of human experience into naturalistic principles and mechanisms (at least for now). Certainly, I tend to lean toward the concept of consilience elaborated by E.O. Wilson, the unity of all knowledge, but as a practical matter we are a long way off from transforming "...history into a branch of human ethology..." Compromise between methodologies is the best solution in the mess of the real world, a total neglect of abstraction leaves one without horizons and a plan of action, while a willful ignorance of the shoals of reality tends to result in disaster when flights of fancy have no limiting parameters.

The seed for this mild diatribe was planted by this interview (5 years old) that I read with Tony Leon, leader of the Democratic Alliance, then the Democratic Party, of South Africa. The Democrats are the main opposition in post-Apartheid South Africa-as they were one of the main opposition parties in Apartheid South Africa. The antecedents of the party begin in the late 1950s as liberal dissidents from the United Party formed the Progressive Party, which was championed by Helen Suzman-a fighter against the illiberalism of apartheid. After the fall of Apartheid some questioned the Democratic Party's "liberal" credentials-noting that it opposed the ANC in its attempts to reverse the discrimination that blacks suffered under apartheid. If you read the interview with Leon, he complains about the ANC's instrumentalist inclinations. Here is a definition for instrumentalism:

in·stru·men·tal·ism-A pragmatic theory that ideas are instruments that function as guides of action, their validity being determined by the success of the action.

Instrumentalism might be characterized as the negative of the position that ideas have consequences, rather, consequences need ideas. Among the principles listed on the web site of the Democratic Alliance are the following:

  • The rights and freedoms of every person - including the
    right to freedom of conscience, speech, association, and movement.

  • The promotion and extension of the rule of law.

  • Equality before the law.

  • The right of all people to private ownership.

With principles like these, it is no surprise that the Democrats are members of
The Liberal International. They speak in terms of rights, universal truths and rational law. They encapsulate liberalism as it is today in a relatively undiluted form. The principles listed reflect the sentiments of the liberal revolution against the old regimes of Europe where order by birth and corporatist conception of rights were paramount. After the fall of Apartheid and the rise of the ANC, some accused the Democratic Party of shifting to the right. Tony Leon generally responds as any politician might-he is standing by his principles, the landscape has shifted, not his party-and so forth, standard political cant. In this case, Leon is probably sincere and accurate in his characterization of the situation and his motives. He is being realistic about the role of his party in the post-Apartheid world. Before 1994 the Democratic Party existed to witness to liberal values, and after 1994 it exists to witness to liberal values. Read the interview above and it is a clarion call toward individual choice as a central tenet of a free society. Some were not as realistic about what the rise of the ANC would entail, note for instance Helen Suzman's disenchantment with the new South Africa. The National Party of the old South Africa is more similar to the ANC than it is to the Democrats. Leon notes that many Nationalists are now joining his party because they see nothing in their old party that can affect change in the new dispensation. He is working to change the world-views of these Afrikaners, to emphasize that he is fighting for universal rights rather than simply the interests of certain communities.

In the early 20th century the South African social scene was marked by a sharp dichotomy between the living standards of the Afrikaners and the English-speaking whites[2]. The National Party served as an vehicle of social advancement for the poor whites. While the English excelled in the private sector with their transnational connections, the Afrikaners received much of the largesse of government employment and so created an urban middle-class to complement their rural base. The loss of power after 1994 sharply reduced the National Party's ability to dole out goodies, ergo its raison d'être, the promotion of Afrikaner well being, had no practical means of implementation. In contrast, the Democrats with their axiomatic liberal philosophy were always in the opposition and had formulated a sharp critique of the communal philosophy of the Nationalists, which they quickly transferred over to the ANC.

The ANC is somewhat of a chimera. Leon admits it when he concedes that some genuine liberals exist within the party. In fact, it may surprise some that the constitution of the new South Africa protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation, a slap in the face to the traditionalist inclinations of many Afrikaners and the social conservative majority of blacks[3]. On the other hand the South African Communist Party has always existed in a amicable modus vivendi with the ANC leadership, and though there is a Pan-Africanist Party, which is the black equivalent of the right-wing Afrikaner parties, it is a minor player and it seems likely that the more moderate politicians who have Pan-Africanist sympathies are embraced under the broad-tent of the ANC. With 2/3 of the South African population supporting them it stands to reason that the ANC would embrace diverse factions just as western political parties do. But South Africa is not a Western nation. Though the white, and to a lesser extent Colored and Indian minorities, live a lifestyle that might resemble that of an OECD nation, the blacks generally live in Third World squalor. This multi-modal wealth distribution was alluded to in World on Fire by Amy Chua-in short, the whites control the capital, and the blacks resent this situation. In the early 20th century the Afrikaners were in a similar predicament. The National Party rectified the imbalance by an aggressive program of social uplift & government jobs for Afrikaners to attain something close to parity with English speakers in quality of life. It seems that the ANC wishes to achieve the same result with the same methods. Unfortunately, there are differences that must be, but are not, acknowledged:

  • The ratio of Afrikaners to non-Afrikaner whites was near 1:1 (though closer to 3:2). The blacks outnumber non-blacks (which includes non-affluent Coloreds & somewhat affluent Indians) by 3:1.

  • The Afrikaner people, though frankly somewhat regressed, emerged out of a literate and industrious substrate, the Calvinist peoples of northwest Europe, and had only to reach the level of the late Victorian British. In contrast, the civilizational gap between the semi-literate newly Christianized black tribes and the modern West is larger[4].
  • The early 20th century economy gave more opportunities for those with fewer knowledge skills. Today's information economy is less forgiving to the un-lettered, and frankly being a government clerk must almost certainly take more intellectual capacity if it is anything more than a "make work" position.

Whether by enacting affirmative action in favor of blacks or implementing neo-liberal economic policies, I believe that the ANC and its elite is neglecting the reality on the ground and wishing the poverty of the black masses away-or at last pushing the reckoning into the future as political elites are wont to do . The Afrikaner model is simply not appropriate. Of course, the black elite has established relationships with ethnic minority businessmen so that they are taken care of-but the simple Western answers probably aren't going to do it in the short term for the masses of South Africans. Tony Leon himself I believe tends to ignore reality-at least for the purpose of pretending (if he is) that the Democratic Alliance can eventually become a broad-based political organization that reaches beyond its bourgeois ghetto. Leon states: .

..The Jews are a sort of liberal model. They make up less than 0.3 per cent of the population here, but they have got on without any favorable legislation: they have just been allowed freedom and have used it. Lots of Afrikaners nowadays see the Jewish Board of Deputies as a way that a minority can legitimately protect itself in the absence of unfair legal protection.

Jews, the Xhosas, Zulus and Tswana are not going to become in the near future. The Jews are a liberal model, while the ANC becomes the preserve for Xhosa princes, the Inkatha Freedom Party represents the Zulus, it seems that post-Apartheid South Africa is following the example of the Afrikaners, not the liberal dissidents that consisted mostly of educated English-speaking whites.

My point in detailing the situation of post-Apartheid South Africa is that it offers a window in the world-where the minority is affluent and living in a consumer culture, but the majority live in relative squalor.[5] I personally believe in the value of liberal principles, while acknowledging that the reality of the world tends to mitigate against its relevance to the lives of many. What would any man choose if you had to pick between human necessities and freedom of consciousness? Contra The End of History, the Chinese middle class is pursuing economic freedom over agitating for political or individual liberties. The conventional thesis is that the middle class, the bourgeoisie, is the engine for liberalism. Even today, most classical liberals seem to be educated individualists, the FDP in Germany is for instance stereotypically the party of professionals and businessmen. In The Future of Freedom Fareed Zakaria notes that "middle income" nations with emerging middle classes are best situated to give rise to a liberal democratic order. He notes that many poor democracies transform themselves into mobocracies if such a situation does not exist, after all, if most of the population are not stake-holders, they have little incentive to preserve individual liberties against the takings impulse of the majority. Amy Chua adds the ethnic dimension, highlighting the undermining influence that differential rates of income growth between ethnic groups has on a liberal democratic regime.

The reality of the situation is that most of the world is excluded from the consumer class, and so do not focus on the finer things of life, do not give much thought to liberty, fraternity and equality, for the latter two are frankly cruel illusions, taunting abstractions. The liberal must face up to the fact that their vision, which by nature is universalist, has to deal with the reality of a world that is defined more by injustice and organically developed constraints on freedom. Within the context of the moderately affluent electorate of white South Africans the liberal message of the Democratic Party made sense as a counter-point to communal/corporatism, but in the multi-racial South Africa liberalism is a thin gruel for the mass of poor citizens who have little care for issues of private property and freedom of speech with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse stalking them. Tony Leon certainly knows the reality of the situation on some level, that liberalism is a lost cause as a broad-based movement, and though he argues in universalist terms, he is truly fighting for his people, the liberal middle-class, of whatever color.[6]

I believe Leon is sincere when he argues for a-racialism, because his constituency would thrive in a meritocracy. In contrast, the ANC is slowly drifting away from the abstractions of liberalism and the utopianism of the Western imported political philosophies and moving toward a communal real politick, attempting to vainly follow the Afrikaner model though the numbers seem not to add up-there simply isn't that much wealth in the modern South Africa to go around. In the OECD liberalism seems to be the reigning philosophy, but I believe that it is only superficially ascendant, and that other movements work within its framework. With the expansion of suffrage in Western Europe liberal parties ceased to be ones of natural governance. The British Liberal Party has disappeared and its successor the Liberal Democrats are in many ways to the Left of Labour! The National Liberals of Bismarck’s Germany could not survive the rise of the Social Democrats while the liberal parties of South America are toothless vehicles in the oligopolies of Latin elite politics. Granted, liberal parties are often in coalition in many European countries, or they exist as factions within larger parties, but the high water mark of undiluted liberalism seems to have been when the franchise was expanded to the middle class, but not the working class.[7] As the society becomes more affluent, a genuine re-expansion of liberalism can occur, as the working class becomes more individualistic, but the synthesis with other tendencies, conservative and socialist, remain.

Though I would not deny the term liberal democracies to most of the developed world, it is in the Anglo-sphere, and in particular in the United States, where I believe liberalism is truly strongest. This of course will come as a surprise to many Americans, but our nation was founded on a revolution (or counter-revolution depending on how you view it), so our conservative party (whichever it may be) has never had a vested interested in the ancien regime like other parties of the Right[8]. The modern day Republican party has a strong & undiluted pro-capitalist libertarian streak, which sets it apart from Center-Right coalitions in France or Germany, where capitalism is viewed with more caution, and as a tool toward achieving social harmony rather than the end itself. In Britain, the Tories have a strong liberal streak, though just like the pro-free trade Democrats the liberal disease has infected Labour as well[9]! Liberal triumphalism in the United States, which is an elite consensus on issues like free trade, high immigration, and de facto acceptance of social libertarianism[10], seems to forget that there are other models out there. Typological problems for instance crop up when Republicans view as "natural conservative" minorities like Latinos. Modern Republican conservatism originates in the fusionism of Frank Meyer, a cease-fire between economic libertarianism and social conservatism in the battle against communism. Libertarians accepted that social conservatism would foster the maintenance of a smaller government while social conservatives were less forceful in trying to use the government to fulfill their social ends. This alliance has been fraying for years, as social conservatives have often clashed with libertarians on immigration, free trade and issues relating to civil liberties.

And yet the logical chain that social conservative = Republican = pro-capitalist seems to have a permanent hold on the Republican imagination. My parents are liberal Democrats. What do I mean by liberal Democrats? They are 1960s Third World socialists. Their views on homosexuality, premarital sex, etc. are far to the Right of the American mainstream, but their discomfort with the free-wheeling capitalism of the American system trumps their discomfort with the social libertarianism. In the best fusionist tradition, they enforce their conservative social norms in the private sphere since they do not see any prospect of having the government legally enforcing their Muslim norms! If Latino immigrants have such strong families and such a hard work ethic, one wonders why they would need government to promote or foster such values? Rather, they might want to get the goodies that the Democratic Party offers. Liberal triumphalism has blinded the American parties to the reality that immigration from the Third World is changing the tenor of the political discourse. Irish immigration in the 19th century resurrected the Jacksonian era tendency toward make-work jobs and largesse given based on connections, but as these ethnic groups were absorbed so the machines that existed to foster social stability & mobility became unnecessary. With the re-emergence of strong ethnic lobbies, the old patterns are coming to the fore-instrumentalism is clearly ascendant in the minds of the new politicos, the key is not how, but what, the ends exist as the primary motive.

New Americans who come with a conservative corporatist mind-set would almost certainly fit better into the more explicitly corporatist streak in the Democratic Party, than the officially individualist Republicans. There is no self-conscious classical liberal faction in the United States (unless you are an extreme liberal like me, ergo, libertarian)-liberalism suffuses the political spectrum. Exogenous political tradition are likely going to destabilize current equilibrium, just as the Great Migration of the turn-of-the-century upset the Gilded Age apple cart (machine politics vs. progressive reaction). The rise of Democratic corporatist party machines driven by Irish & Italian Catholics drove many Jews into the Republican Party when ethnic animus was particularly strong. Today, there is a conflict among the Democrats, simmering though real, between socially liberal affluent whites, and corporatist identity politics minority activists. In contrast, the Republican "crack up" is between libertarians and more strident social conservatives for whom the Market is not a god.

In much of the rest of the world liberals exist among a sea of non-liberals, and there, the illiberal tendencies of the majority are more assertive than the United States, with our axiomatic documents and activist judiciary. Americans who see the world as the City on the Hill writ large make a grave miscalculation, the liberal pattern of neglecting the messiness of reality and taking common axioms as a given become an Achilles' heel. The free play of universalist axioms can only truly exist within narrow parameters seeded by the organic development of a society as it transitions from a pre-modern regime to a bourgeois society. Too often liberals think that just because everyone parrots their values we are in a liberal world. Instead I suggest that liberals acknowledge that communal/racial/religious ties are important, nay, paramount, to the majority of the individuals of our species, rather than viewing them as mere details in the panoply of diversity. Liberalism for these people is purely instrumental and we should always keep that in mind, individual freedoms and universal truths are fine, but so long as they benefit whatever values these people already hold. It can be argued that much of Europe is still illiberal, and certainly it was before World War II as illiberal democracies sprouted all over central & eastern Europe, so it should be no surprise that the forms of liberalism there paper over the realities of the ancient regimes battling utopian demagogues, both groups who liberals have little sympathy with. We should not be surprised if societies as diverse as Russia and South Africa slide away from liberalism, after all, as I have noted, with the expansion of the franchise, liberal parties lost their positions of dominance and dissent to more ends-oriented socialist parties on the Left. In the marketplace of ideas liberalism becomes appealing when some basic necessities are met. Even if those necessities are met it may take several generations for the transition to be made to a post-corporate/communal mind-set to an individualist/liberal one.

When I speak of the rise of a liberal faction, I mean that those of us who are genuine liberals, in practice as well as speech, informed but not restricted by old ways and traditions, should be more self-conscious that we a minority. Too often we are seduced by liberal platitudes in the service of instrumentalism and we tend to lull ourselves into complacency. But I will end this bloviating with some practical suggestions toward one end: liberals in genuinely liberal dominated societies should aim to keep those societies liberal, even by illiberal means if necessary.

  • Liberals in major political parties should attack and object more forcefully to the erosions of liberal principles that illiberal factions demand. In the American context, this means the Republican and Democratic Parties. The trend toward corporatism is clearest in the Democratic Party, as racial and cultural identity politics start to make claims against universalist liberal principles. The rights of women, equality before the law, the recognition of individual not group worth, etc. should be forcefully articulated by liberals within the Democratic party against the corporatists, who consist of identity politics footsoldiers buttressed by elites who prattle on about post-modern relativism. In the Republican party, there are two trends, both mimic aspects of the Democratic disease. George W. Bush and other compassionate conservatives seem to be ceding a great deal of ground to racial identity activists in the interests of inclusion and political expediency. Tokenism is pretty glaring in the second Bush administration, and the tepid responses to the establishment of affirmative action and group rights in American society are further hints that Bush & co. are making their peace with the corporate order, something that makes sense as many of the higher ups in the administration come from corporate bureaucracies that are adept at dealing with unions and other groups where individual identity is minimized for the sake of group advancement. Secondly, some of the traditional religious conservatives are mimicking the rhetoric of the Left identity politics groupings, for instance, the term "people of faith," and making a case for the persecution (read: "oppression") of Christians. Though they are only echoing the hysterical rhetoric and artificial categories issuing out of the Left activist class, sometimes style can lead to an erosion of substance.
  • Universalism of liberal principles should be acknowledged as a
    long term goal, rather than a fait acommpli
    . We live in an illiberal world where we have to deal with thuggish dictators and tyrannical majorities. Too often we try and close our eyes to the reality that not all societies are at the stage of a bourgeois liberal democracy no matter the forms and definitions adhered to. Our foreign policy should be guided by realism, and our relations with non-liberal societies should be less warped by our own view that all illiberal societies are bizarre deviations from the state of nature tamed by a social contract. Rather, we might want to acknowledge that the state of nature is illiberal, that liberalism is a long and arduous march up a hill that is mined with pitfalls, and though we may wish all peoples well on the journey, we should acknowledge that different groups are at different stages in that journey.
  • Though universal rights and principles are not bound by nationality, in reality the organically defined parameters that foster liberalism should be favored, because the former is often contingent on the latter. This is relevant when making the distinction between citizens and non-citizens, and in particular in immigration policy. If liberalism is at its heart a bourgeois middle
    class philosophy
    , than it is the bourgeois middle class that can foster a polity that is a full expression of that way of life. Liberal nations can be imagined as bourgeois clubs and should aim to keep themselves as such. Within the bounds of the nation universal principles and abstract conceptions of rights might rule the day, but a realistic and mercenary attitude toward those who wish to apply must be enforced. Though liberalism in general denies the actuarial attitude that reigns in capitalism and un-restricted utilitarianism, actuarial calculations are important in restricting the citizenry to those who would promote a liberal order. In short, people should be well educated and middle class to become parts of the liberal club. From a purely utilitarian perspective of economics, it might make sense to allow in many with fewer skills so that those with degrees were freed to do more intellectually challenging work, but ultimately this causes an erosion of the liberal order because the bourgeois core is being replaced by a proletarian base and an oligarchy at the apex. One solution of course is to reduce the franchise (which is why liberal parties were powerful in late 19th century Europe where the majority were not middle class), but this starts to erode liberal assumptions even more. I believe the easiest analogy (perhaps because of my life science background) is to imagine a liberal nation as a cell in the blood-stream, which consists of illiberal nations. The natural tendency is for the concentration of a solute to disperse itself equally throughout the solution, but the cell membrane acts as a regulatory barrier. Liberal nations are magnets for human beings because of their high quality of life, and the sum economic effiency of the whole system might be maximized by opening borders, just as the lowest energy state is for the cell membrane to allow the concentration inside to equalize with the concentration of the solute on the oustide, but that equalization will usually result in the dissolution or death of the cell.
  • Liberals must also always remember that the ends must be very important to shift conventional means to justify them. By this, I mean that acturial policies and realism must be tempered by the abstract principles of equality and fairness before the law[11]. To give an example, I believe that an argument can be made that risky, whatever that may be, passengers should be given extra scrutiny by authorities when boarding a plane (since I believe security has been federalized, there is no need to object on libertarian grounds of private autonomy for an organization since the government is supervising said act). The downside (possible death of everyone on the plane) is far greater than the downside to the individual (discomfort, irritation, and possibly missing the flight and of course violation of the principle of equal treatment before the law). I speak as someone who is certainly risky looking. On the other hand, applying acturial methods to drug enforcement strikes me disproportionate to the crime, particular if the case involves plain possession.

I write all this because I see a threat to liberalism in the West today. The threat is both from within because of intellectual and political decay, and without because of mass migration into the West of peoples who do not subscribe to liberal axioms and are not required to make any movement toward such values by the native elite . Depending on where in the West the individual lives, multiple generations have lived through the liberal order, and do not in my opinion place priority on the specialness of the liberal ideal. Intercine political conflict seems to be more important to our political class than a reverence for the shared emphasis on the process over the ends. Our intellectual figures seem too often intent on either deconstructing liberal axioms as unjust, or overemphasizing the organic parameters to the detriment of the liberal framework. I believe that the modern age, the current political consensus, is a good place to shout "Stop!" I invite others to chime in with their suggestions on how best to make the message clearer and resounding.

fn1. Liberalism I will use here in its broadest international sense of an individual rights conception of human relation toward government, not the American definition that tends toward soft social democracy.

fn2. Which included Lithuanian Jews and other diverse elements (Leon is Jewish). The Afrikaners themselves are by origin Dutch, German and Huguenot-though there is likely a non-trivial amount of non-European genes within their population.

fn3. The elevation of positive rights is controversial in liberal circles, most classical liberals (and certainly libertarians) reject it. On the other hand, I think that recognition of the validity of individualist avante garde lifestyles is a good indicator of a non-communal liberal social outlook.

fn4. I highly recommend the book Covenant for a novelization of the history of South Africa, predominantly from the Boer perspective, if not exclusively.

fn5. Never mind that the kings of old might think that the third world poor have magical toys and splendid cotton raiments.

fn6. Of course, a large number of wealthy minority business have gotten close to the ANC leadership and established a symbiotic relationship, but this at the expense of the educated professional middle class, which does not have access to the commanding heights. This is who Leon represents, stake-holders, but ones who can not use the levers of government to tilt the playing field to their advantage.

fn7. There are liberal parties in The Netherlands and Croatia that are often part of government, the FDP in Germany was the traditional party of coalition before the rise of the Greens, while there are elements of the French Right that are liberal. Many European parties use the term liberal, though they are often more reactionary, perhaps an indication of the Leftward shift of the European political spectrum.

fn8. Why the hell do people use French terms & phrases? Yes, that includes me, I can't help it.

fn9. Of course Tory liberalism had to defeat the Wet anti-Thatcherist faction that more resembled Christian Democrats in their accomidating attitude toward redistributionism.

fn10. Republican elites in the United States haven't done that much against abortion aside from token attacks on partial birth abortions (this is different among the masses of course). This is a country where Britney Spears making out with Madonna in 2003 under Bush II is accepted, but Ellen coming out in 1998 under Clinton was a big deal. The march of social liberalism continues onward! On the other hand-Clinton vetoed the ban on partial birth abortion, while acceding to welfare reform! The elite view of social libertarianism & fiscal conservatism is tacitly accepted I believe, though the rhetoric of both parties rejects it. Of course, both terms are a bit odd in their fit, as a libertarian, I don't think the Republicans are particularly fiscally conservative, but that's another post.

fn11. The reductio ad absurdum with actuarial policies is to start applying them within the nation, expelling those less educated, those of stereotypically illiberal ethnic groups or political orientations. Such scenarios are important to examine because they can allow us to evaluate what is important, what is not, and how to achieve the good life. A liberal polity is irrelevant if we imagine the whole world is a part of it and we open our borders, simultaneously, if liberal nations expel all those outside narrow criteria, it also becomes irrelevant on the human scale because its benefits are restricted to a tiny few. A liberal polity can tolerate illiberal groups in its midst, and dissent in fact from the liberal ethos is a good sign of the health of a liberal society, so long as it is restricted enough to be similar to background noise with which to gauge liberalism rather than a rival or threat.

Posted by razib at 05:07 PM | | TrackBack

Starbucks kook

I'm in Starbucks to use their wireless connection and get away from the cavern that is my room and hack some code around other people and I'm being ranted to by an absolute kook that's been kidnapped by UFOs! Pray for me.

Posted by razib at 04:41 PM | | TrackBack

Rainforest civilization?

Lost cities of the Amazon! Well, perhaps not...they might have been large villages. But in any case, the key point is that the perception that any ecosystem is "pristine" needs to be dispelled, after all, the Native American settlement neatly coincided with a megafaunal extinction as did the human incursion into Australia. The great rolling Midwestern prairies were the products of fire as was much of the Australian bush that confronted the European settlers. When white farmers first ventured into the Willamette Valley of western Imbler they were mystified as to why the native peoples of the region left it fallow and un-tilled. Within a few decades most of the region was denuded of forest cover and put to cultivation and the wild past became a dim memory. But recent archaeological research seems to be indicating that the forest that the settlers confronted was a recent re-growth, and the native peoples of the region had been decimated by plague in the 1700s, allowing the reassertion of the natural world.

Posted by razib at 02:17 PM | | TrackBack

Fellowship Baptist Creation Science Fair

Please check out the Fellowship Baptist Creation Science Fair website.

High School Level, 1st Place:  Eileen Hyde and Lynda Morgan (grades 10 & 11) did a project showing how the power of prayer can unlock the latent genes in bacteria, allowing them to microevolve antibiotic resistance.  Escherichia coli bacteria cultured in agar filled petri dishes were subjected to the antibiotics tetracycline and chlorotetracycline.  The bacteria cultures were divided into two groups, one group (A) received prayer while the other (B) didn't.  The prayer was as follows: "Dear Lord, please allow the bacteria in Group A to unlock the antibiotic-resistant genes that You saw fit to give them at the time of Creation.  Amen."  The process was repeated for five generations, with the prayer being given at the start of each generation. In the end, Group A was significantly more resistant than Group B to both antibiotics.

You may also enjoy the Dawkins Watch.

Amazingly, it appears from the comments in the guestbook that less than half of the visitors realized this was a parody.  Terrific!

Posted by ole at 01:04 AM | | TrackBack

September 17, 2003

Online fatwa

Hilarious shit over @ Gweilo.

Posted by razib at 02:09 PM | | TrackBack

September 16, 2003

Ibn Calvin

A few years ago Jonah Golberg[1] got crapped on when he wrote about why Islam needs a Pope. Now, a few weeks ago Aziz Poonwalla tweaked when he noted that another Muslim who supports Dennis Kucinich framed it around whether it was good for the Ummah. This crystallized an idea of mine-Muslims need a Calvin, not a Pope! Unfortunately, the Calvins of Islam tend to be a little wack-but my point is that congregationalism needs to be fostered, not a pan-Muslim identity. Catholicizing Islam under an ecclesiastical elite would only replace the problem of fundamentalism with that of dual-loyalties!

A congregational focus on religious life would diffuse some of the organizing power of a transnational religious international. To me, it is ironic that Islam, which emphasizes the primacy of a unitary god and does not sanction any official mediating structures between the divine and the individual, also fosters a group identity which might trump national loyalties. True, Islam does seem to sanction a mixing of the temporal with the sacred, but, remember that Calvinism began as a theocracy. A tendency that reasserted itself in the New World-but the congregational focus of the Calvinist tradition eventually trumped the ecclesiastical absolutism.

fn1. If you care, though his father is Jewish, Goldberg's mother is of Irish Catholic background, and his wife is a Catholic as well.

Posted by razib at 03:28 PM | | TrackBack


It has become the orthodox doctrine that the end-Cretaceous extinctions which inter alia got rid of the dinosaurs were the result of an asteroid impact, despite the rearguard resistance of a minority of paleontologists who prefer more gradualist explanations.

It now seems that the debate may reopen. Drill cores from the area of the impact crater itself are said to show some marine organisms persisting serenely for long after the impact. For a news report see here.

Posted by David B at 12:40 PM | | TrackBack

September 15, 2003

Not an ONION article

Gray Davis seems to be green-lighting a bill that would give many illegal aliens valid identification. Meanwhile, the United States government is preventing the matriculation of a student who was accepted by Princeton from China. The reason?

University administrators said Wu's visa applications were denied four times by U.S. consular officials in Beijing this summer because officials thought Wu, 20, who comes from a working-class family, would illegally stay in the U.S. after completing her education at Princeton.

There are problems with the current student visa system, but are we really terrified if the first female winner of the Singapore Math Olympiad decides to stay in the United States? Pencil pushers & politicians will be the death of the United States yet....
(via zizka)

Posted by razib at 03:40 AM | | TrackBack

The Last Establishment Boys

David Brooks, "Nice Guy" Neoconservative, praises the old WASP elite as he notes the lineage of both Howard Dean and George W. Bush. The article echoes the sentiments of Fareed Zakaria in The Future of Freedom. Ironically, both Brooks & Zakaria are exemplars of the new dispensation. Some of the other examples that Brooks brings up are weaker, Kerry for instance is Boston Brahmin on his mother's side, but his paternal grandparents were Jews by origin (Kerry ~ Kohn + Catholic conversion)[1]. None of the other Democratic candidates besides Kerry or Dean seem to have a WASP establishment pedigree in the recent past-interesting that these two are the front-runners. Of course, George Bush Sr. was the first WASP establishment president since F.D.R., so I suspect that this is just a diversion for columnists trying to find patterns in coincidences and dazzle their readers.

fn1. Goldwater was of course the first candidate of Jewish origins to run for the presidency after nomination by a major party. His mother was Episcopalian and he was raised in that faith.

Posted by razib at 02:08 AM | | TrackBack

September 14, 2003

Swedes reject Euro!

Swedes reject the Euro by a narrow margin! The importance (at least for me) is not this particular issue-but that a popular revolt against elite opinion actually succeeded. I certainly am not by instinct a populist-but I tend to find that elite obscurantism & obfuscation leaves me with a bad taste, at least next to the plain old honest ignorance that might typify the popular side at the worst.

Posted by razib at 02:44 PM | | TrackBack