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Stuff I was wrong about!

A friend of mine was talking about which public intellectuals change their mind, and which do not. It turns out most don’t seem to.

To be frank I don’t count myself as a public intellectual…but since some people have much looser criteria than I do, I thought I should review things I’ve changed my mind on since 2002 when I started writing on the internet.

– I used to think group selection was totally incoherent, but now think that is very useful in understanding cultural evolution, and perhaps in some other contexts. I probably fundamentally changed my mind between 2010 and 2015 when I looked more deeply at the cultural evolution literature.

– I no longer believe in a “cognitive great leap forward” 50,000 years ago in human evolution. I don’t know what I believe, but I think gradual and cumulative processes are probably more important, and the roots of human uniqueness as quite ancient. My views began to change around 2010, with evidence for archaic introgression.

– I am not sure I quite believe “Out of Africa” in as clear manner as I did in the 2000s. Everything is very muddled now.  Africa seems central to human evolution. But there are lots of specifics which are unclear to me.

– The neutral theory of molecular evolution was useful in its time, but I am much more of a selectionist now when it comes to genomic phenomena.

– My views in relation to religion were close to what was for a while termed the “New Atheism.” I don’t hold that view anymore. Around 2004 I moved away from this position and came to believe that the roots of religion were cognitive, and the social and cultural complexity required deeper analysis rather than plain dismissal.

– Connected to an earlier point (group selection), I think that some of the functionalist explanations of religious phenomena are probably not totally wrong. That is, religions may have adaptive value (I came around to this after 2010).

– On economics, I am far less of a neoliberal/libertarian than I used to be in the early 2000s. I would have laughed as “industrial policy” in 2005, but I’m not so sure in 2015. Rather than a new view on the right policies, I’m just uncertain about a lot. The neoliberal critiques of government direction and planning are persuasive to me, but 1999 did not usher in the age that we were expecting.

– The period between 2002 and 2004 made me much more skeptical of foreign intervention. Barring something major, I’ll probably be an isolationist for the rest of my life.

– I am far less sure that the liberal democratic consensus will persist in the American republic today than I was in 2015.

– Related to the last point, until the 2016 election I had assumed that the elites of both parties could keep a lid on populist energies. I was wrong.

– I was more bearish on Bangladeshi economic performance in the 2000s than what we see today (at current rates of growth Bangladesh may surpass India in per capita GDP in the late 2020s).

– I believed that the post-modernist fad would fade. I was wrong. Post-modernism isn’t talked of much today, because its general manner of analysis pervades our “discourse.”

– I would have been willing to bet a lot of money in 2002 that China would go through a major correction within the next 10-15 years. At some point, I will be right, but I think the robustness of the Chinese economy is greater than I would have guessed.

– I underestimated how “complex” complex traits were. I wasn’t totally wrong, but the factor was off.

– Like many people, I put too much credence in fMRI-based cognitive neuroscience. Should have ignored it.

– I was wrong about how much salience ‘racial politics’ would have in our public debate. The key here is debate and discussion. I think we’re arguably less racist as a country. But we are more conscious of racism.

– Did not guess that socialism would make a comeback. This relates to a misjudgment of how much elites knew and understood, and how much control they had.

– I accepted the stuff about the “Great Moderation.”  I specifically remember telling someone I knew all about it right before Lehman Brothers blew up.

– The “Frog Nazi” cultural moment ~2015-2016 was a total surprise to me. Inexplicable.

– Reading Bryan Ward-Perkins The Fall of Rome transformed my views on this question. From agnosticism, I now believe that Rome did fall in a consequential and disruptive manner.

– Related to the above, I believe that some sort of complex ethical religious system was going to become dominant in the Roman Empire at some point. If Arbogast had won the Battle of Frigidus I think ultimately Christianity would still have become dominant within the empire (see the resistance to Buddhism in Tibet to envision a possible scenario).

– Migration and admixture in the Holocene are much more important for patterning of human population genetic variation than I would have thought.

– The north and south Chinese are much more similar genetically than I would have thought.

– I thought I would have stopped writing/blogging by now.

– I am far less of a certain Whig about human progress. I think regression is far more likely than I would have thought in 2002.

– I accepted evolutionary psychology in a classical sense (massive modularity, etc.) in the early 2000s. Not sure that the full package is necessary.

– Did not anticipate electric vehicles and how much cheaper solar is getting.

If there is an overall theme, I think I was more optimistic about the future in 2002 than how the future has actually turned out. And I’m more pessimistic about the future in 2019 than I was in 2002 by a longshot.

What did you change your mind about?

51 thoughts on “Stuff I was wrong about!

  1. I think I agree with a comment you once made, to the effect of (if I’m paraphrasing my remembrance incorrectly apologies): “I have long thought Western Civ would collapse into dictatorship with a boot stomping on a face, but I think it more likely now than in the past that my side will be the boot and not the face.”

    Not sure if that qualifies as optimistic, pessimistic, or just plain realistic.

  2. Congratulations for not having stopped learning and for most of the results. I remember similar experiences.

    As a European socialdemocrat I still hope that you’ll end taking the postmodernist ‘salonliberal’ thinking and behaviour of U.S. academic and political life as something belonging to the Left. It’s true, center left parties worldwide have been hijacked by this, but it will not endure. A political Left without scientific realism is a no go.

  3. I was overly optimistic about the ability of US voters to choose wise leaders. Not only Trump but poor leaders from both parties. There seems to be an overall lack of critical thinking most evidenced by the rise in the number of those who romanticize socialism.

    On the other hand, this blog is one of the few that continues to be interesting.

  4. Several things have changed for me.

    First, after all our endless, unwinnable, and unjustified wars, I have become an isolationist. I would bring all our troops home and shut down all our foreign bases.

    Second, I put no credence whatever in any statements from our leaders, civilian or military, nor anything in the mainstream media, nor statements from the great majority of academics and scientists.

    Third living in Ohio and experiencing the ongoing de-industrialization of the Midwest, I have become a trade protectionist and support policies that force industry back to the US. I fully accept the argument that that will raise prices, but I think the obvious negative social effects of free trade have to be removed.

    Fourth, I am now pretty much an atheist. As a former cradle Catholic (lapsed since 1960 or so), I found John Paul a seductive character, but with his death I reverted to agnosticism/atheism.

    Fifth, I am an extreme pessimist about the future of democracy in the US. Turchin and the Fourth Turning and Long Wave people have pretty much convinced me we are heading for a wreck.

  5. My changes:

    1) I have a much more jaundiced view of the power of reason and debate to change minds. The main reason I arrived at this position was my experience in residency (Internal Medicine). It is oftentimes a struggle to get people to do simple things like take their lactulose or let their loved ones die with peace and dignity. I’d like to chalk it up to me being bad at persuasion, but my attendings run into the same roadblocks.

    The other thing that moved me in that direction is the Damone fiasco. It was disheartening to see so many ostensibly intelligent people descend into shrieking and anathematizing over it, and abandon all pretense to reasoned disagreement.

    2) I’ve become much less libertarian economically. Studwell’s “How Asia Works” was the rock on which libertarian economics broke, at least for me. You can’t still be a libertarian when you have evidence of decidedly in-libertarian things producing good effects.

    3) I am much more bearish on India, and I am coming around to the view that it is constitutionally incapable of achieving reform and industrialization (to even get to Brazil/Mexico levels. Forget ever joining the top tier of nations.) The capability is there, but the hunger for reform just isn’t.

  6. Brexit, Trump, the Iraq war, the 2008 crash, Syria and China in Xinjiang exploded a lot of my assumptions about the onward, unstoppable march towards Whig utopia.

    That being said there has been a lot of quiet progress and prosperity spreading out across the world. The growth of the internet, social media and e-commerce has made exchange of ideas, access to knowledge, keeping up with friends and family, enjoyment of entertainment and buying stuff far easier and more enjoyable than I would have ever hoped.

  7. * I was wrong about the war in Iraq. I claimed that given Saddam’s history, there must be WMD in Iraq. I didn’t focus on nuclear weapons, and I was looking more for a casus belli than I was concerned about Saddam having a nuclear weapon ready anytime soon. But it didn’t matter. As it turned out, Saddam didn’t have any stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons, either, and I thought he would have them. So I was wrong. To my credit, I admitted I was wrong within two to three months of the invasion, once it became clear we were not going to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

    * I was also wrong about the occupation. I was never a supporter of long-term nation-building in Iraq or anywhere else, nor did I believe Iraq would follow the post-WW2 trajectories of West Germany and Japan, and I argued against people in 2002 and 2003 who did believe in that rosy scenario. But I did feel confident about the positive uses of American military might. I did feel the U.S. would make Iraq a marginally-enough better place that it would justify the war. I was wrong.

    * As a consequence of my two errors in thinking above, I have become much more wary about advocating the use of American military power. I’m not an isolationist, but I’m much more respectful of isolationism than I once was. I was also never a Neocon because I couldn’t stomach their constant moralisms (I was more of a Jacksonian in foreign policy), but I listened respectfully to Neocon arguments before 2003 and still tried to engage their arguments for the rest of Bush’s first term, even if to dispute them. Now I just think they’re idiots, and I can hardly believe I ever linked to a Max Boot article without guffawing.

    * I was wrong about Trump’s election chances. I’m one of those few people who was – and is – highly sympathetic toward most of Trump’s agenda. I want to curtail immigration; I want to reorient our trade away from China (and I want the U.S. to manage trade more than it has been managed in the past for both economic and national security reasons); and I don’t believe Russia is a major threat to us. But I never took Trump or his election chances seriously. Back in early 2015, when a Republican acquaintance of mine said we needed to put down Trump’s candidacy before it got rolling, I laughed. Why worry about it, I told him. Trump’s never going to win the GOP presidential nomination, and if he somehow managed to win the GOP nomination, then he would never be elected president. I maintained that stance all the way to Election Day 2016. I was wrong.


    I don’t think we should include a change of mood as an error in thinking. One can be much more pessimistic about America than one was fifteen years ago, for example, but that’s not an error in your earlier thinking unless your later pessimism is confirmed, which I don’t think it has been yet. I’ve changed my mind in many ways over the last twenty years, but some of that has little to do with my previous mistakes and has more to do with getting older.

  8. > I moved away from this position and came to believe that the roots of religion were cognitive

    What could the roots of religion be if not cognitive? I’m not sure what you mean by this/not sure what New Atheists believe that is different.

    Like you I became much, much less neoliberal/libertarian in the last 10 years.

  9. It’s interesting 2004 was the year your views on religion shifted – that’s the year it seems New Atheism actually exploded into mainstream discourse. Sam Harris I think was the one who set things off with his book End of Faith which came out that year, and then later we got Dawkins’ God Delusion and Hitchens’ God is Not Great, all three big New York Times best sellers. Then in 2008, Bill Maher’s mockumentary Religulous came out, released by a major motion picture studio, which would have never happened 10 years prior. 2004 – 2009 was a high-water mark for New Atheism in popular consciousness – I remember seeing all the aforementioned figures (and other like-minded folk) on everything from MSNBC, CNN, Fox News discussing their works and ideas about religion, and just openly denigrating religious beliefs and traditions in a way that I don’t think would have been comprehensible even just a decade prior in the 1990s.

    The 2010s seem different, though. Even as American society seems to be getting more secular (but not really stridently atheistic), I don’t really get a sense that that brand of secular humanism from the 2000s seems to have as large of a niche in the public sphere now. I think some of it has to do with the reputational hit that Harris, Dawkins, and Maher (I have no doubt that Hitchens were he still alive would be shit on mercilessly by the Twitterati as well) have all taken this decade because of their perceived adjacency among the chattering classes to controversial topics like Islamophobia, racism, sexism, etc. And maybe the terrible economy post-Great Recession made people less inclined to expend their intellectual energy on metaphysical questions about God, and more worried about actually having a job and not losing their house. And as this decade has progressed, there are plenty other bug bears out there to get people fired up – economic inequality, police violence, immigrant rights, marijuana/drug decriminalization, racism, white supremacy, transgender rights, student debt, high cost of housing, high cost of child care, healthcare reform, whatever else – religion just doesn’t command as much attention.

  10. right. i was a ‘new atheist’ before new atheism was a thing. but when 9/11 happened i started thinking about religion more deeply, and reading more widely. and i realized that my understanding was not very deep.

    What could the roots of religion be if not cognitive? I’m not sure what you mean by this/not sure what New Atheists believe that is different.

    rather than an ideology or cultural innovation (“mind virus”), i think supernatural intuitions emerged naturally as byproducts of other cognitive processes. e.g., agency detection.

    the way i explain is that some ppl including new atheists conceive of gods as theories about the world. i think that that’s superficial. i think they are deep intuitions, which eventually feed into the theories (i seem to lack those deep intuitions btw).

  11. Razib, I know you grew up in 1980s rural Oregon in a mostly Christian milieu, but do you recall meeting any other atheists back then? Obviously rural areas across the US tend to be more “For God and Country” than urban or suburban areas, but the Pacific Northwest has I think always had a higher percentage of religiously unaffiliated people than the rest of the country (New England is up there now, but I’m not sure when secularization really took off among the descendants of English Puritans and Irish and French Canadian Catholics over there).

    I assume when you went away to California for college, you met a lot more self-consciously atheistic people, even in the 1990s?

  12. mick, it was 1990s. and yeah, i knew a few others. not a trivial number. though religion was still normative (one of my teachers was a closeted atheist who pretended to be a mainline protestant for his wife’s sake).

    by the 2000s when i shifted to california religion faded away in my social circle.

  13. I have a much dimmer viewpoint regarding human nature at age 40 than at age 22.

    I was in my youth a fairly small-state socialist verging on anarcho-syndicalist. I fervently believed that if you gave people more direct democratic control over their lives in all aspects, then you would eventually end up with an optimal outcome. There might be some bumps along the way, but as people saw the consequences of their actions policy would modulate until the ideal outcome was reached.

    Now I understand a lot more about the foibles of human decision-making, both on an individual and collective level. I have a lot more value these days for institutions, bureaucracy, and even see the logic in shades of paternalism. This hasn’t translated into any greater interest in conservative philosophy on my own part however, because even if the ruling class (particularly in a meritocracy) tends to be somewhat smarter, they are just as flawed and susceptible to cognitive bias as the rest of us. Possibly the best possible outcome for us as a species is if we invent a (non-murderous) AI which takes over as much of the messy business of governing as feasible, allowing us to concentrate instead on our own individual flourishing.

  14. “I accepted evolutionary psychology in a classical sense (massive modularity, etc.) in the early 2000s. Not sure that the full package is necessary.”

    Let’s hope EPers don’t catch on to your dissent… Aside from that, I think this point about the cognitive revolution is important. Seems to be repeated more and more by a number of popularizers who have based entire books around the concept at this point. Shameful.

    Are there any of these you could see yourself changing again in the coming years? I wonder sometimes about a soft comeback for neutral theory and whether or not this new paradigm is going to stick.

  15. I assumed that the US would insist on military bases and a major long term presence in Iraq after the war, to counter Iran. I was wrong.

    I thought the weird racists/anti-Semites/nativists that I first encountered in the early 2000s on razib’s blogs and Isteve were a minor groupuscule, never to amount to anything. I was spectacularly wrong.

    I believed in the march of liberal democracy, the end of history, and the last man. I was sadly wrong.

    I felt that blogging was obviously superior to twitter, which was stupid and would never take off. I was disappointingly wrong.

    I argued, in the early 90s, that the Internet’s power to allow every person to self publish their own opinion, without a filter, guardian, or editor, would democratize opinion, sharpen the marketplace of ideas, and lead to better, smarter, outcomes. Boy was I wrong!

  16. ikram, you also thought the USA was in a massive religious revival in the early 2000s when it was actually going through rapid secularization.

    you also were also a principled and uncompromising supporter of liberal individual rights on one blog, but admitted elsewhere that in india you thought that individualistic liberalism wouldn’t work so well.

    you were also the person who termed something being “50% heritable” a genetic deterministic position. lol.

    but hey, you’re just an economist.

    though congrats on dialing down the reflexive bad-faith on my other blog. i’ve noticed it.

  17. also, while i’m at it, remember when you made fun of my nonexistent gf? i would rub my 3 kids photos in your face, but who knows where you’d post it on the dark web 😉

    [please notice that in all these years i have never uttered your real name on the web despite the fact that i know it]

  18. I remain more optimistic than Razib and most of the other commenters here. I still think Churchill’s comment about democracy being the worst system except for all the others is true, but I’ve changed in believing that it’s a closer call than I used to think. I track developments in Tunisia and Ukraine as my current natural experiments on that issue (moderately pleased by Tunisia, and shocked at how unserious Ukraine has been in the face of existential threats).

    I’ve changed in now believing in the importance of climate adaptation. Past promoters of climate adaptation were saying to do it instead of taking actions to limit emissions, so I had overreacted in opposition.

    I now support long-distance transmission lines, a shift also done by many other environmentalists too as a way to move surplus renewable energy between regions.

    I now think political correctness on my (leftish) side of the political spectrum is more of a problem than I used to think. Still think the right side version of pc and science denial is far worse, though.

    I now oppose using individual Social Security funds for stock investments, and support Senate blocking of bad presidential nominations. Those are easy things for me to do however, lining up with my political tribe, so I should question those new beliefs.

    Long ago I used to think my agnosticism was a psychologically unstable position. Yet, here I am in the same spot. Does that count as a change?

  19. The Great Moderation is still in place, even accounting for the impact of the GFC.

  20. 1. I supported both the Invasion and occupation of Iraq. I now see that to be folly because of the nature of the people that live in that part of the world.

    2. I no longer believe in universalism and find it to be a part of the W.E.I.R.D. mindset.

    3. Charter schools will not solve anything. What makes high achieving schools are high achieving students.

    4. I thought the Cubs would never win the World Series.

  21. I thought the price of oil would be a lot higher by now.

    I am more skeptical of trade agreements. Watching Lori Wallach and Carla Hills argue on C-Span about the agreements influenced my views on this.

    I am more skeptical secret government intelligence claims after the Iraq WMD debacle. Iraq also made me aware of how strong tribalism is as I saw many people denounce any criticism of the war effort when it was going poorly starting with the retreat from Fallujah in the spring of 2004.

    I am more supportive of Social Security after watching so many people put their life savings into internet stocks of companies that never made a profit in the late 1990s.

    When I watched Trump’s campaign launch I thought he had no chance of winning.

  22. What did you change your mind about?

    I thought that bowling alone was okay. I enjoy bowling alone, and I thought that it was of no consequence to anyone else and of no importance. I can see that I was wrong.

  23. The odd thing is that this matches my starting positions and ultimate evolutions fairly closely

    Suggests to me these are broad intellectual currents

    Makes me less confident that I am out there figuring stuff out for myself, vs picking these things up in sub-cultural intellectual zeitgeists….

  24. I was wrong that allegations of racism being levied against an increasingly wide range of attitudes and behaviors would create some sort of inflationary pressure whereby the charge would lose its bite. It seems instead to have morphed from “that’s racist, you shouldn’t do it” to “that’s racist, therefore you are a racist and anything racists have, whether social standing, employment, etc., can be justly taken”.

    I have grown much less confident that secularism can reign forever as the default mode or that secular societies are always better. It may be better in some ways to live falsehood together than live truth alone.

    I have gained more sympathy for idea of historical cycles as it seems the rule for societal and cultural trends is acceleration.

  25. tbh the secular left is so moralistic today that i really feel bad for how hard it was on the religious right in the 1990s and early 2000s. they were kind of annoying and crazy, but they didn’t evolve so fast in what they were moralistic about.

  26. “I think I was more optimistic about the future in 2002 than how the future has actually turned out. And I’m more pessimistic about the future in 2019 than I was in 2002 by a longshot.”

    The fact that you are older in 2019 than you were in 2002 is not a co-incidence.

  27. I agree with the comments of Misha above that the changes here seem to mirror my own.

    I also now see global capitalism (multinationals/tech companies) as antagonistic to democracy/free speech (since so many instances where they actively try to undermine both), whereas before saw them as compatible to some degree. This has made me much more pessimistic about the future, and fearful that we will collapse into global tyranny.

    Just generally disappointed by how conformist people seem to want to be, and that our ability to form stable relationships with other people seems to be declining.

  28. Haven’t changed my mind much at all in comparison to almost everyone on this blog, but I’ll attribute that to the fact that I grew up in India, a congenitally pessimistic country, and that my worldview only properly started to form in my early 20s when I started grad school in the States (early 2000s.)

    I’m a lot sourer on popular democracy than I used to be earlier. Though I’ll echo Brian Schmidt above (and Churchill) in believing that it’s the best of bad alternatives.

    I’m still a libertarian/neoliberal on economics, but that’s easy for me compared to you all because I live in a country that depends on foreign trade to have a prayer of growing economically. Also, I see the downsides of state control over commerce on a daily basis in India. Overall, globalization, free market economics and free trade have been responsible for lifting billions of people out of poverty.

    I predicted Trump in the mid-2000s; just surprised it took so long for him to emerge. OK, I mean some serious politician holding his policy positions (like Pat Buchanan), not the joker that he is. I’ll attribute that to my perennial trolling of internet message boards, and having encountered the budding alt-right over a decade before American elites did. Also, I sensed when I was very young that people who are insecure think and vote differently from people who are secure and optimistic about their future. There’ve been a number of Trump-like politicians in India for ages (Bal Thackeray in Bombay being a prime example.)

    I thought after the BJP’s electoral defeat in 2004 that it would become a more stridently Hindu nationalist party, and that some sort of soft-Hindutva would gain wide acceptance in India sooner rather than later. I think this decade has proved me right.

  29. I used to dismiss post modernism as a fad. Its persistence is surprising.

    I used to be a lot more pro-electric and anti-carbon emissions. Now I think there are deeper problems in switching from oil and gas. Instead more interested in addressing other part of the problem.

    I was completely wrong about rise of Netflix in India. It was surprising how quickly the newer generation is used to prosperity. There isn’t the same attitude of “saving” as last generation middle class.

  30. Upon further reflection, I’ll add that I have changed my mind on social media. I was never enamored of it to begin with when it sprung up in the early 2000s but I thought it would have benign uses (people sharing baby pictures, remaining in touch after moving, organizing meetings, etc.) I just did not foresee the scale of misuse that it could be put to, nor did I imagine that it would completely displace conventional media (as it has in poorer countries like India.) I now consider it to be the bane of the internet and of popular democracy.

  31. Science and Tech: I’d say I was wrong about the pace of change in biotech and AI and new energy sources – slower than I thought. I was closer to Singularitarianism than I am now – sci-fi positing fast tech growth like Charlie Stross’s Accelerando and Stephenson’s Diamond Age seemed like only somewhat exaggerated futures to me then, and outlandishly ridiculous today.

    Politically: I thought that a shift to a Tory government in the UK would be more effective in quietly bringing down migration numbers than it has been and there would be more a consensus on slowing the pace of migration driven social change. I didn’t see the young-old divide and university-secondary divide emerging (certainly not as quickly) and thought that young+university were politically closer to old+secondary only. (Particularly blindsided by the sheer number smug,”Social Democratic”, intellectually contemptuous young male IT techs it seems are actually there as a sort of defined and common personality type). I thought that once data blogs were out there, there would be much more a secular right than there is (it barely exists, and what there is tends to be socially liberal and doctrinaire free market conservative). Obviously I didn’t foresee either the mid-teens heyday of the Social Justice Warriors, or their opposite number, but no one did!

    Economically: I didn’t certainly did not foresee ongoing housing cost growth at the clip it has seen in the UK, and thought that the market would stablize at a far lower level.

  32. Ah, but @Numinous, why support neoliberalism for India when you can today support a strategy of neoliberalism for thee, but not for me?

    Why settle for mere open markets when you can get open markets for high value exports, closed markets for products that could undermine maturing high value national champions, and any pushback against use of IP and ‘industrial policy’ is considered “Kicking Away the Ladder”?

    When you’re small, actions can justified as necessary for a poor country improving living standards. When big, claim you’re too strong for anything to be done by others without them ‘committing an act of economic self harm’.

    All worked for China. And given that precedent are there reasons, today, to argue that any other country should settle for mere neoliberalism?

  33. @Matt, I understand your bitterness, but I’m genuinely for free trade and libertarian economics. The Indian government is highly protectionist (it practices, as you put it, neoliberalism for thee but not for me) but I disapprove of that. I have no influence over my country’s economic and trade policies, I’m afraid. Over the longer term, I believe such protectionism will only keep us backward.

    Believe it or not, I’m on Trump’s side when he criticizes India for its high tariffs on American goods and companies (like Harley or Amazon.) I’d also like India to do a better job of IP protection and set ourselves high environmental standards. If we want low tariffs from the US, we need to reciprocate. Though I question his judgment about airing dirty laundry in public. Such matters could have been solved in private discussions, but now we are in a mini-trade war because governments don’t like being seen as succumbing to public threats.

    The one exception I may make is to allow for protection against Chinese dumping (which they do a lot of), but I haven’t done any research on that, so I’m willing to keep an open mind.

  34. From what i understand you seems to have changed your mind about Caste atleast 2 times – 1. After N. Dirks Caste of Mind 2. After seeing the genetic results confirming the prevalence of Endogamy among Castes but what you did not seems to have ever done is to de-link the Hinduism from Caste, why is that ?

  35. @numinous: Partly bitter irony, though mainly directed at the Western centrist consensus that normalizes these options for some countries and not for others. Partly simply trying to wryly make the point that it’s unlikely to expect various other nations to take seriously or steer to a prescription which China flouts, is given a pass on flouting for political reasons mostly relating to ideas they’d bad stuff if they weren’t given a pass (“Otherwise they’d institute serious communism! And we wouldn’t want that!”), and which seems to work for them to flout. Perverse incentives.

    On my personal opinion on free market economics, I tend to think that purist free market economics may be the most optimal strategy to develop the global economy and probably the most stable in the sense of not degenerating into trade wars (unilateral disarmament is good like that), but I tend to doubt that it’s optimal to focus that development on any particular national economy that’s backwards from the world frontier. Your Mileage May Vary.

  36. From what i understand you seems to have changed your mind about Caste atleast 2 times –

    you don’t seem to understand much. dirks did not change my mind. the genetic evidence was already there.

    no idea what you are talking about, but thanks for being concise.

  37. Things that I was dead wrong about, in no particular order:

    1. 7 to 8 years ago I thought Razib was a flaming right winger that was overly and unfairly paranoid about the progressive left and their reach in the life sciences. Now I’m not only completely “enlightened” on where he was coming from, I wonder how the hell he’s able to still be so calm and collected even now, considering just how cancerous the prog. left (and now SJWs) have become in the ensuing years.

    2. With the election of Obama in 2008, I thought not withstanding the Kenyan Muslim slurs of that year, racial affairs and ethno politics will gradually recede and morph into something that reflects the brown(ish) mixed race person on that Time Magazine cover from 1993: complex, low stakes, and only moderately tribal.

    3. With the quasi-2nd Great Depression of 2008-2009, and then the rise of the Tea Party, I anticipated the greatest civil conflict sundering apart U.S. politics in the 2010’s will be how to steer the political economy, disburse the national budget, and either strengthen/dismantle the welfare state.

    4. With the rise of Occupy Wall Street in 2011 and rising alarm over Silicon Valley Technogarchy c. 2013-2014, I thought some kind of random violence will be used against the elites by anarcho-left groups by 2019, and possibly even a low level terrorist insurgency targeting bankers or tech execs.

    5. I had good confidence 10 years ago those calling themselves liberals or progressives will be able to maintain their high principles and stance on reasoned debate compared to ignoble right wingers, even during choppy political waters

    6. 10 years ago I also believed the internet + social media + social networking will generally work to “better” the social and cognitive impulses of the average person, to be more circumspect, reflective, nuanced, and have more equanimity towards those disagreeable. Perhaps my most fatal assumption and belief

  38. [i’ll ban you next time. you don’t ask me questions in a badgering presumptive manner on this blog. because if you do, i will delete the question. long-time readers know that offering up your interpretation of my beliefs or positions is a good recipe to get banned. -razib]

  39. Now I’m not only completely “enlightened” on where he was coming from

    just say you are “woke.” that’s what we say 🙂

    and yes, i’ve noticed the change in the tenor of your comments. you always used to navigate the line right up to pissing me off, and now you seem more freaked out than i am.

    re: “calm.” i’ve given up like jon haidt

    some time in the 2016. i still remember having hope that the ‘old ways’ of liberality could maintain themselves in 2015.

  40. I guess we both piss off each other in someways, I was trying to use ‘tongue in cheek’ response but it seems to have rub you wrong way so i am sorry. I am still waiting for your response regarding Caste & Hinduism question i.e. Why do you link both ? As this has been essentially done historically to negate the social evolution {Political, Economic etc.} of Indian subcontinent & force laws upon whole population entirely based upon Caste identity, thus increasing it’s relevance permanently.

    Yes you can say i am ‘woke’ as i have always been a pessimistic rather than an optimist & i have always accepted that. I am sorry if you think i am freaked out, maybe because English is not my first language & so i may have been making mistakes in conveying my arguments.

    As you said on your other blog why you like to discuss Caste but if you are going to discuss it then you need to acknowledge it in full i.e. the historical processes & their effects in it’s evolution & formation of modern caste system as well as common misconceptions about it as they exist frequently.

  41. The problem is when you use a term with such historical baggage & processes it tends to leave out a lot of details & helps in further entrenching the prevailing misconceptions about the phenomenon. That’s why i have asked you to address or atleast acknowledge the problem regarding Caste discussions.

    Also i raised the topic here as we are discussing the evolution of your views thus i wanted to know your understanding of Caste. I hope i am not interpreting your response wrongly this time & i hope that you will address the issue regarding Caste.

  42. DB, restate in a paragraph your question about my views. also, state it in a way where i can answer yes/no in some cases.

    i have likely written 100,000 words relating to some of these topics over the years, so i don’t know what you have/not read.

  43. Yes you have written a lot about Caste but my specific question is why do you link Caste to religion than to Politics, Periods & Contexts and Economics ?

    This needs to be addressed because Social Justice policies in India measure backwardness i.e. Education, Economic & social {which differs from region to region & community to community} but uses Caste identity as Divine marker {i.e. Caste gets linked to Birth – Various Supreme court orders} as the reason for backwardness which creates a confusing dichotomy i.e. People who discuss Caste issue from Backwardness perspective {Which may include many arbitrary parameters like community specific practices in the name of social backwardness} while another groups who keeps discussing the issue from religious & Purity-Impurity perspectives.

    Backwardness measurement & it’s history in 1 chart –

    This creates confusion & hence internationally Caste is conveniently gets discussed as Hindu social system stripped of all other Identity markers.


    It is not a yes/no question but if you want them as yes/no then –

    1) Do you believe that Caste system is intrinsically linked to Hinduism ?
    2) If yes, how or If No, why ?
    3) Don’t you think focus should be on backwardness parameters {i.e. Education, Finance etc.} rather than Identity markers to resolve the social Justice issue ? For e.g. The decline of rascism in most part of the world can be linked to the spread of prosperity among majority of Western world but as inequality is increasing the claims over resources as well as Race based claims are also increasing.

  44. but my specific question is why do you link Caste to religion than to Politics, Periods & Contexts and Economics ?

    religion is less protean than politics, periods & contexts and economics. the genetic data indicates varna stratification at least 2,000 years BP (though most likely somewhat earlier in many cases).

    This needs to be addressed because Social Justice policies in India measure backwardness i.e. Education, .

    yeah, i don’t know about all this stuff. i know in the generality, but i don’t care too much. i oppose caste reservations in principle, but i’m american, so it’s abstract and really not my business.

    1) Do you believe that Caste system is intrinsically linked to Hinduism ?


    2) If yes, how or If No, why ?

    there are hindu groups outside of india without caste (e.g., in east java). the caste among the chams and bali is very attenuated.

    Don’t you think focus should be on backwardness parameters {i.e. Education, Finance etc.} rather than Identity markers to resolve the social Justice issue ?

    no. i’m conservative. i general oppose what people call ‘social justice.’ i think the ‘caste problem’ will be solved through economic development and urbanization.


    reading your comment it’s pretty clear you have no idea where i’m coming from, which is fine. but that’s why can barely understand your questions unless you unpack them: you are presuming i have commitments and beliefs which don’t have.

    if brahmins are 25% of india’s engineers but 2% of the population, if it’s done meritocratically just don’t care.

  45. // if brahmins are 25% of india’s engineers but 2% of the population, if it’s done meritocratically just don’t care. //

    It happens because certain communities have moved in urban centers & lived there for longer periods which has resulted in disproportionate representation of them in certain sectors although i am not sure if the statement you mentioned is true or false.

    Thanks for the short yes/no replies atleast it clarifies your position to these questions but you seem to discuss the issue differently at many other times hence the confusion.

  46. but you seem to discuss the issue differently at many other times hence the confusion.

    If he doesn’t ban you for this comment, civilization will immediately collapse.

  47. Over the years I have changed from “something must be done” on intervention in wars/civil wars to “lets stay out of it” unless there is a clear way to encourage peaceful change. Usually there isn’t. Syria was probably the country that finally confirmed the non-intervention approach is best when one year there were arguments for supporting one group and the next year the arguments were for supporting the opposition as the least worst option.

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