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The Paleo Manifesto” by John Durant, published in 2013. Rating: 5/5.

Most books on the paleo diet follow a set pattern: An inspirational story about how the author wrecked his health with junk food or vegetarianism before the caveman came riding on a white horse to the rescue; an explanation of why, contrary to the popular expression, almost anything is better than sliced white bread; a long and exhaustive guide to the do’s and don’ts of paleo with plenty of scientific explanations; and finally, a list of recipes and suggestions for further reading.

Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still get a solid idea of how to eat, move, and live by paleo principles from John Durant’s THE PALEO MANIFESTO. But at its core, this is no diet book.

It is a bold attempt to situate the paleo lifestyle within the “Big History” of human biosocial evolution, which is divided into four distinct “ages”: Paleolithic, agricultural, industrial, and information. Each of these ages was characterized by diets that created new problems, problems that were in turn partially mitigated by solutions specific to the very age that spawned them. This is a narrative that evokes a whiff of historical materialism, though John Durant is far more of a neo-reactionary than a Marxist.

Well aware of its pervasive violence and cultural backwardness, Durant does not unduly glamorize paleolithic life. (Nor does virtually anyone in the movement, strawmen set up by paleo’s detractors regardless). But one can’t escape the physical evidence that hunter-gatherers were far taller, stronger, and healthier than the early agriculturalists hunched over their hoes. An anthropologist shows off a male specimen who was 5″10 (175 cm) tall and weighed 150 pounds (68 kg), despite having a musculature that would put the vast majority of modern humans to shame. Average heights decreased by 5 inches after the transition to agriculture, and tooth and bone health deteriorated drastically.

The Bible tells the story: Man took up farming and began eating bread, and then cities appeared, famine and disease stalked the land, and childbirth became painful and dangerous. But childbirth also became more frequent, and the vast (if low-quality) caloric surpluses from grains enabled farmer populations – armed with metal weapons and commanded by literate elites – to gradually displace the world of Enkidu. That world might never have been paradise on Earth, but it “probably seemed like the Garden of Eden” compared to the lives of early farmers.

Agricultural civilization, over time, evolved sociobiological antidotes to the new ills it had spawned – first and foremost, disease. Wine and hot tea appeared as substitutes for (filthy) water. Spices, which have antimicrobial properties, became a universal staple of southern cuisines. Fermented foods and beverages negated some of the poisons inherent to the new diet. Early fertility cults and promiscuous attitudes gave way to patriarchal structures that enforced heterosexual monogamy – a natural adaptation to the appearance of STD’s.

In a stunning insight, and highlight of the book for me, Durant argues that Mosaic Law can be interpreted as one of the most comprehensive – if unintentional – disease prevention guides in history. Cleanliness was associated with godliness; taboos appeared against cannibalism, and eating (potentially spoiled) meat after the third day; leprosy sufferers were to be shunned. Only virgin women could be captured, while all the others had to be killed (the past is a foreign country). The entire “kashrut” system of “clean” and “unclean” animals rested on a valid scientific basis. Vermin, shellfish, and most insects were disease vectors; pigs, lizards, snakes, amphibians, bird of prey and carrion, and cats – which were worshipped in Egypt! – gobbled the former up. In contrast, no plants are forbidden – even though many of them are poisonous – and nor do primarily plant-eating insects such as locusts, whose consumption would provide a double benefit in terms of both protein and fewer crops destroyed. All these strictures were backed up by severe punishment for transgressors, on both the early and godly plane; disease control was a matter of “life and death for the entire community,” and could only be effectively carried out with the cooperation of the entire community.

Industrialization brought a whole new set of nutrition problems. Sailors died like fleas from scurvy on long voyages; obesity started appearing in Britain in the 19th century as sugar became a staple; rickets increased in frequency as people stayed indoors for longer on what was an infamously sunless island in the first place. Instead of religious commandments, this time it was science and technology that constituted the solution. Limes and lemons were packed on ships in addition to the traditional salt pork and gin; in 1863, a formerly obese Englishman called William Banting published the world’s first diet book, based on restricting sweet and starchy foods (see a pattern?); in 1933, the US government started fortifying milk with Vitamin D to combat rickets, and a few decades later celebrities and sunbeds made sun-tans cool again. “Again, we learned how not do die.”

We are now entering the age of biohackers: The Pareto Principle followers, the fox thinkers, Qualified Selfers, the n=1 experimenters who are seeking novel and individualistic ways of improving their health without waiting for formal science – which advanced “one funeral at a time,” as Max Planck so eloquently put it – to catch up. They try to take a big view of the progress and pitfalls across the ages, and adjust their diets and lifestyle to get the best of all worlds: The paleo diet intrinsic to humans for 99% of their existence as a species; the cultural traditions against disease and recent-adaptations like lactose tolerance of the Agricultural Age; the soaring successes and arrogant foibles of the Industrial Age; and the wealth of individually-tailored data and analytical tools now available on the information highways. For the first time ever, optimal health is within our grasp.

The second and third sections deal with the details of the paleo lifestyle, and as such is much closer to the content of most books on the subject. It’s all pretty much standard: Avoid grains and legumes, eat meat (from tail to tail), vegetables, fruit, nuts, and insects (both the familiar oceanic and unfamiliar land versions). Don’t fear saturated fat; the French Paradox is no paradox. Mimic a hunter-gatherer or herder diet. Follow ancient culinary traditions (experiment with broths, fermented and raw foods, organ meats, etc.) and practices (e.g. fasting). Move naturally – humans are evolved to stand, walk, squat, lie down, and occasionally sprint; they are not evolved to sit or do moderate jogging (check out CrossFit and MovNat). Running was traditionally done barefoot, which enables a more natural and less stressful action; consider that or getting a Vibrams. Do cold plunges and saunas. Don’t fear the Sun – the risks of getting skin cancer from it are negligible compared to the warding effects it gives from depression, other cancers, and a multitude of other ailments.

Nonetheless, we still find some clever insights – as well as controversies. For instance, I liked how he destroys the Whole Foods-shoppers’ worship of organic and whole foods over processed. He points out that “organic sugar is still sugar,” and that the absurdity has even spread to “organic tobacco,” while processed foods can be both very healthy (e.g. cooking, fermentation) or very unhealthy (e.g. Coca-Cola, Mars bars).

He does a good job of defending the ecological role played by responsible hunters – though I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say lion burgers are a good or valid way of advancing an animal preservation cause – and of rebutting vegetarian arguments. These range from the rational-seeming but factually wrong (e.g. the assertion that hunter-gatherers got most of their calories from plants, or references to T. Colin Campbell’s deeply flawed interpretation of the China Study), to politicized absurdities such as Carol Adam’s assertion in THE SEXUAL POLITICS OF MEAT that meat-eating is a mechanism to enforce “patriarchy” (in reality, hunter-gatherer tribes were far less hierarchic and male-dominant than complex, grain-based civilizations). Still, while it might be true that vegetarians are crazier than average, there was no need – no need whatsoever – to go off on that bizarre tangent about Hitler’s vegetarianism. What the hell, dude? If you’re trying to present yourself as a voice of reason against the filthy grain-eating peasants, calling on the curse of Godwin probably isn’t the smartest way to go about it.

But a few quibbles cannot detract from what is, all things said, a monumental contribution to the nutritional canon. THE PALEO MANIFESTO is eminently readable, greased along by Durant’s endearingly morbid sense of humor (he advises against cannibalism on account of modern people having a “much higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids due to their grain-based diets”). There is a consistently fluid command of the relevant medical, nutritional, and anthropological literature, as might be expected of the organizer of the world’s largest paleo Meetup group. Above all, he succeeds at contextualizing the paleo lifestyle within the big story of humanity’s biosocial evolution, and his conclusions – earlier jeremiads against the Standard American Diet and vegetarianism regardless – end up acknowledging the critical importance of integrating lessons from all four of the major nutritional epochs.

Though paleo is the most “natural” way to eat, it eminently cannot feed a global population of seven billion. The agricultural system – that is, local and organic – plays a vital role in maintaining plant genetic diversity, but it probably cannot feed the world either, short of most of us returning to a hardscrabble existence in the fields. The industrial system is the caloric workhorse that feeds the world, but it suffers from “serious health, ethical, and environmental drawbacks.” According to Durant, the most realistic, sustainable, and humane way forward is to keep the industrial system, but mitigate its worst effects by drawing on the best of what the paleolithic and agricultural systems have to offer. Meanwhile, the information system that industrialism enables can continue to push forwards our understanding of optimal health and nutrition through the vision and self-experimentation of the 21st century’s biohackers.

And really, who can argue with that?

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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I am currently (re)reading The National System of Political Economy by Friedrich List (published in 1841), and this jumped out at me:

In no European kingdom is the institution of an aristocracy more judiciously designed than in England for securing to the nobility, in their relation to the Crown and the commonalty, individual independence, dignity, and stability; to give them a Parliamentary training and position; to direct their energies to patriotic and national aims; to induce them to attract to their own body the élite of the commonalty, to include in their ranks every commoner who earns distinction, whether by mental gifts, exceptional wealth, or great achievements; and, on the other hand, to cast back again amongst the commons the surplus progeny of aristocratic descent, thus leading to the amalgamation of the nobility and the commonalty in future generations. By this process the nobility is ever receiving from the Commons fresh accessions of civic and patriotic energy, of science, learning, intellectual and material resources, while it is ever restoring to the people a portion of the culture and of the spirit of independence peculiarly its own, leaving its own children to trust to their own resources, and supplying the commonalty with incentives to renewed exertion. In the case of the English lord, however large may be the number of his descendants, only one can hold the title at a time. The other members of the family are commoners, who gain a livelihood either in one of the learned professions, or in the Civil Service, in commerce, industry, or agriculture. The story goes that some time ago one of the first dukes in England conceived the idea of inviting all the blood relations of his house to a banquet, but he was fain to abandon the design because their name was legion, notwithstanding that the family pedigree had not reached farther back than for a few centuries. It would require a whole volume to show the effect of this institution upon the spirit of enterprise, the colonisation, the might and the liberties, and especially upon the forces of production of this nation.

So perhaps Gregory Clark wasn’t quite as original as many make him out to be.

PS. I myself am quite skeptical about the theory. As Ron Unz summarized it, “And I agree that Clark’s evolutionary model for England suffers from similar problems, namely that he’s produced an interesting theory explaining why the English are smarter and longer-time oriented than all the other Europeans. Except they aren’t.”

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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One of the books I’ve been reading lately is Steven Pinker’s massive door-stopper The Better Angels of Our Nature. Incidentally, I found it a very interesting read with tons of cool factoids, although it could have done with a third of its text and a tiny fraction of its liberal sanctimonious. But that’s for the forthcoming review; in this post, I will focus instead on a reference I found there to a very fascinating and revealing paper about Antisocial Punishment Across Cultures (Herrmann et al.) – and by extension, its implications for social cohesion.

Power summary: The shrinks got a bunch of university students, divided them into teams of four, and got them to play a “public goods game.” They were given 20 tokens at the start of each of ten rounds, and they were told they could invest any number of them into a pot, with a return of 0.4 tokens to each player – regardless of whether or not he participates – to each token invested in the pot. So if everyone was to contribute all 20 of their tokens, each player would walk away with 32 tokens; on the other hand, if only two players were to contribute all their tokens while the other two got a free ride, the altruists would walk away with only 16 tokens, whereas the free riders would get their 16 tokens plus their original 20 which they had kept back.

no-punishment-contributions

In this version of the game, there were no interesting patterns; across all cultures, contributions plummeted as free riders enjoying impunity undermined the morale of productive contributors. However, that’s not how the game works in real societies, which actively punish many forms of free riding: Tax evasion, benefit fraud, dodging fares on public transport, etc. The game was then modified to include a punishment option, in which any player could choose to spend one token to remove three tokens from any other player of his choosing. The results changed drastically.

punishment-contributions

With the added option of punishment, some societies become very successful and universally wealthy, while others don’t get their act together and remain very poor. In short, the Anglo-Saxons and Confucians start off cautious, but quickly come to trust each other and devote most of their tokens to the common pot; the students of Protestant Northern Europe trust each other from the very start. But the Orthodox Slavic nations remain cautious and suspicious throughout, on average investing only slightly more than half of their tokens; while the Arabs, the Greeks, and the Turks on average invest less than half their tokens per round and don’t come to trust each other either. Below is a graph of the two experiments side by side: The no-punishment version is on the left, the punishment version is on the right.

antisocial-punishment-by-country

Why these marked and clearly discernible cross-cultural differences? The paper’s authors make a convincing case that it is because the students from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Turkey, Greece, Oman, and Saudi Arabia engage in widespread “antisocial punishment.” In a Western or Confucian country, the free riders are punished and shamed into forking out more; in stark contrast, the free riders from the Orthodox, Mediterranean, and Arab cultures are not so much shamed as enraged by being punished for their parasitism – and lash out in consequent rounds against their “do-gooder” tormentors! Remarkably, in Athens and Muscat, there was actually more punishment of good, socially-desirable behavior than of parasitic free riders!

antisocial-punishment

In a society where the saying “no good deed goes unpunished” is literally true, there is much less of an incentive to do good deeds in the first place. What is regarded as normal, socially-beneficial behavior in some places becomes the mark of a sucker or an idiot elsewhere. The results of this “do-gooder derogation” are lower cooperation levels and lower overall wealth generation.

antisocial-punishment-contributions-correlation

The article’s authors cite sociological explanations for these variations such as the greater prevalence of rule of law, shunning of revenge, and individualism (i.e. the social qualities that the HBDsphere associates with out-breeding fertility patterns).

The Arabs come off very badly. They really do have to drastically cut down on their rates of consanguineous marriage which would, a generation or two down the line, have very positive benefits on both their average IQ’s (currently very low) and their levels of social cohesion (also very low, as seen in these experiments). They would also then be able to stop grasping at radical Islamism as the only political/ideological force capable of transcending narrow familial and clan loyalties that drive so much of the corruption and nepotism in the Arab world.

That said the results do throw some spanners into purely HBD interpretations. For instance, hbd* chick tends to be extremely bearish on China, because of its clannish family structures that supposedly cripple social capital in China. There is plenty of support for this in both anecdotes and corruption stories/rumors, but on the other hand, (1) South Korea despite being heavily influenced historically by China has not only become a rich developed country but also one of the least corrupt in the world; and (2) QUITE SURPRISINGLY, the Chinese (and the Koreans too) learn to trust each other and cooperate among each other just like the Anglo-Saxons in this experiment. Of course even Greece has managed to become a rich country despite the chronic, mind-mindbogglingly high cynicism of its people. Basically, my thesis remains that when it comes to successful development, high IQ >> social capital. Digressions about corruption, nepotism, and the familial structures that give rise to them can be interesting and instructive, but they are quite simply not nearly as import as cross-national/cross-ethnic psychometrics.

The results for Russia and the Orthodox Slavic world in general are of course depressing but quite expected. Certainly in my experience Russians are far more suspicious than Westerners and getting any kind of cooperative venture going with them tends to be a fool’s errand. While free riders are occasionally punished, if not with any of the consistency you might expect in the West – when exactly is Luzhkov going to jail? Chubais? Serdyukov? – so are the “do gooders” and whistle-blowers Case in point: Tatyana Ivanovna, a teacher who was dismissed and successfully sued for libel for reporting (credible) allegations of election fraud in St.-Petersburg. It’s not authoritarianism; the story was covered in the Russian media, including the state media for that matter. And the libel case against her was later overturned. What drove the case was the desire for revenge on the part of those she accused of electoral fraud, and the selfish indifference of the fellow teachers who denounced instead of protecting her to advance their own careers. Berezovsky also has a typical Russian mentality (even though he is a Jew). Instead of enjoying his loot in peace, like any respectable thief in the West, he instead beggared himself by waging an irrational vendetta against Putin for his perceived betrayal. Things seem to be similar in Greece. One might think they would appreciate a journalist who gives them information about politicians with Swiss bank accounts; instead they arrest him for violating the privacy of people who are most likely thieves. Of course unlike with Russia, everyone agreed that Greece is at democracy; this is just to make the point that democracy or the lack of it is quite irrelevant to these issues.

But maybe not quite. After all, if the general mass of the population is useless at cooperating and self-organizing to maintain law and order and promote development (especially of the long-term variety that requires high future time orientation, something that is also conspicuously lacking among Russians and Meds) then somebody else has to do it for them. For example, Nordic or Germanic foreigners. With the unfortunate exception of Hitler, they have had quite a good record of keeping Russia in line – see Rurik, or Catherine the Great, or Peter the Great (who though Russian was highly influenced by the Germans and the Dutch). They should also be preferably technocrats. Putin spent many years in the GDR, and though he is not a technocrat, he is highly intelligent and many of his circle are. It could be a lot worse. And, of course, the state should be a strong state. Much stronger than its peers in places like Copenhagen or Boston where social civility is largely maintained by society itself, as opposed to its armed and deputized organs. This is why Russians are quite right to view attacks on their state, including Western attempts to destabilize it, as attacks on their own society and for that matter on themselves. With the exception of their liberal fifth column, Russians are at least far-sighted enough to realize that.

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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In the discussion at the previous post, in which I took exception to Ron Unz’s theory of the East Asian Exception, he alerted me to so additional work on the matter he’d done as a Harvard freshman on Chinese IQ. You can read his summary of Social Darwinism and Rural China as well as Steve Sailer’s commentary on it.

Ron Unz’s Theory of Social Darwinism in Rural China

According to Ron Unz, Chinese peasants lived close to their Malthusian limits for millennia on end. That is correct. Furthermore, Chinese rural life was “remarkably sophisticated in its financial and business arrangements”, far more so even than in England. I do not have the comparative knowledge to offer informed commentary on this, though I would stop to note that such a system may not have been so much a generator of “selective pressure for those able to prosper” under complexity as a reflection of already high IQ’s. After all on most social, economic, and technological metrics China was far ahead of Europe until the 18th century or so (though there were important exceptions). Furthermore, “virtually all Chinese were on an equal legal footing”, with far fewer of the feudalistic or caste distinctions that proliferate in India and pre-Enlightenment Europe. This is also correct.

This environment included a number of mechanisms that promoted a highly eugenic development path for the Chinese population. Ron Unz says that only the relative affluent could afford their wives for their children. This is not quite correct, or should I say permanently correct, as this issue only heavily manifested itself during times of Malthusian stress, when families opted to kill baby daughters resulting in skewed sex ratios. Otherwise, we should note that Europeans within the Hajnal Line married late and that the poor sometimes didn’t marry at all, so this particular eugenic effect was if anything stronger in Europe.

However the biggest, and most specific to China, eugenic mechanism is argued to be the Chinese custom of fenjia 分家, lit. “family division.” So if, say, a wealthy Chinese family produced four surviving sons, each of them would inherit only a fourth of the family land. The brothers would be back to square one and would have to hustle for money again. A couple of the brothers might be successful and build up wealth again; another would fall into poverty, and the last one would fail to even find a wife and have children. The effect was that every generation, “a good fraction of the poor disappeared from the gene-pool.” As reproductive survivors would tend to be more intelligent and far-sighted, or so the argument goes, this selected for such traits within the Chinese population.

The system of meritocratic imperial exams, which enhanced the reproductive prospects of the very brightest who could pass them, was a further eugenic mechanism but one whose overall impact was “pretty small” compared with “the push from the bottom.”

Finally, Ron Unz compares his theory to Gregory Clark’s book Farewell to Alms, which argues for a eugenic mechanism in England in which the wealthy enjoyed greater reproductive success and, over the centuries, “civilized” the proles via genetic drift through downwards social mobility. As such, the traits of the aristocracy became inculcated in the English masses with all its attendant benefits, e.g. plummeting homicide rates. (This civilization doesn’t seem to have lasted very long however if yob culture and football hooligans are anything to go by). :) He notes that these eugenic mechanisms operated in China for far longer than they did in England.

He also compares the selection pressures facing the Chinese with those that produced the famed intelligence of the Ashkenazi Jew. Unlike the latter, the Chinese didn’t only have to be bright and business-savvy; as a peasant, he also had to maximize “physical endurance, robustness, diligence, discipline, energy-consumption.” As such, selection had a less one-sided skew in favor of intelligence.

My Critique

This is a nice and elegant theory. It has no obvious contradictions. He is planning to publish his analysis in a formal manner pretty soon. However, before he does so I hope that he will address some of the following counter-arguments and discrepancies.

Re-The (relatively) complex legal environment selected for intelligence. HOWEVER, the Chinese – as do East Asians in general – only perform significantly (hugely) better than whites on visuo-spatial intelligence. That is good for hunting mammoths in the prehistoric tundra and some aspects of mathematics, but not anywhere near as good for navigating complex legal codes in which verbal intelligence is key. However, Chinese verbal intelligence if anything lags the indigenous peoples of most developed European nations. According to 2009 PISA results, Chinese verbal (reading) IQ was 98, which was inferior to Germany’s 102, the US’ 101 (including Blacks and Hispanics), and Poland’s 100; and equal to that of Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Greece.

Here, ironically, Unz faces an additional dilemma: Either he has to reject his theory of the East Asian Exception (i.e. that the Flynn Effect barely applies to them), or he has to rethink his theory of Social Darwinism in rural China.

Re-The eugenic influence of fenjia. The model he sketches out is plausible enough on the surface. That said he has to account for several possible discrepancies.

Korea appears to have a max. potential IQ of about 107, while Japan is slightly lower. Did they have systems of land inheritance that also favored the development of IQ? I do not know. I hope Unz will investigate this matter. A potential problem, however, is that IF they did NOT have their own equivalents of fenjia, then it would be invalidated as a feasible explanation of why East Asian (including Chinese) IQ’s are so high.

Re-Comparison with George Clark’s theory. I don’t think this is a useful crutch to Ron Unz’s China theory at all. So supposedly England had this intensive genetic drift from the top to the bottom. However, today, UK natives (on PISA) score 101; in other IQ tests, the UK’s average is typically set to 100. These numbers are typically lower than those of the Germanic countries like Germany, the Netherlands, etc. – and equal to the IQ’s of the Nordics, the Western Slavs like the Poles and Czechs, (Celtic) Ireland, and (Celtic-Germanic) France.

Really my critiques boil down to a few main issues.

(1) We need more comparative data on IQ, land inheritance systems in the past, etc. I strongly suspect that for all but a few exceptions (e.g. Ashkenazi Jews) the traits developed in prehistoric times still predominate above all others. After all, pre-agrarian prehistory accounts for 90%+ of homo sapiens sapiens’ existence; and selection pressures back then were FAR stronger because of small population sizes. Noncompetitive tribes got wiped out by hostile tribes or the vagaries of climate with chilling frequency. In medieval times, noncompetitive genes were far likelier to linger on to some degree, firstly because welfare systems – crude and rudimentary as they were back then (e.g. poorhouses; alms, zakat, etc; grain reserves; etc) – were still a league ahead of what can possible exist in a tribal hunter-gatherer society; secondly, because violent as the ancient and medieval periods were, they were vastly more peaceful (and populations were bigger) than was the case in the prehistoric era.

(2) To what extent was fenjia unique to China? Was is common to the East Asian region, or not? If not, why then doesn’t Chinese IQ greatly exceed Korea’s? Did it exist in Vietnam? If it did, why then is Vietnamese IQ substantially lower than China’s? Etc. Also, explain why these mechanisms didn’t result in a particularly high verbal IQ; after all, to understand legal matters, that is really what we need, no?

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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He writes:

These scores are indeed truly remarkable, and completely confirm the apparent pattern of Lynn’s IQ samples, in which desperately poor East Asians tend to score at or above the levels of the most successful and well-educated Western populations… But since the total population is at least well into the hundreds of millions, heavily rural as well as urban, the average PISA score of 520—corresponding to an IQ of 103—cannot be too dissimilar from the overall Chinese figure. And with China’s per capita GDP still only $3,700 and well over half the population still living in rural villages when the tests were conducted, these are absolutely astonishing results… Although opinions may certainly differ, I regard this new evidence as very strong support for my “East Asian Exception” hypothesis.

China isn’t anywhere near as backward as he portrays it.

(1) The urban-rural ratio was essentially 50/50 according to the 2010 Census. Furthermore, rural Chinese don’t really suffer from the absolute destitution common to peasants in Third World countries. They own their own land and it is almost impossible for them to lose it. Malnutrition is now close to non-existent. Slums are now very rare. According to a Gallup poll, Chinese now actually struggle less than Americans to buy food.

(2) Total Chinese meat consumption overtook US meat consumption in 1990, signifying a nutritionally adequate figure (as Americans eat a lot of and perhaps a bit too much meat anyway). Today Chinese meat consumption is half the US level. The PISA 2009 cohort would have been born in 1993, when Chinese nutrition had already essentially converged with the First World.

(3) He uses nominal GDP per capita which is quite meaningless. The PPP level of Chinese GDP per capita is $8,400 and that figure is probably underestimated.

Basically, if we adjust for the fact that in terms of basics (food, education, housing) China is now essentially equivalent to developed countries, it would make sense that its average IQ level is now only about 5 points from its potential maximum.

But really my fundamental problem with the “East Asia Exception” hypothesis is the huge paradox it exposes: Why was it Europe, and not China, that first underwent the Industrial Revolution? And the (initially unrelated) Scientific Revolution, for that matter? If as Ron Unz says the Flynn Effect barely applies to East Asian populations, then what you’d have had five centuries ago is 100mn Chinese, 20% of them urban – with an average IQ of maybe 95; and 100mn Europeans, only 5% of them urban – with an average IQ of 75. Sure Europe had various advantages (as chronicled by Jared Diamond, Kenneth Pomeranz, etc) but surely it couldn’t have trumped the effects of a 1 S.D. IQ advantage? That is why I believe the East Asia Exception to be historically implausible.

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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And no, I ain’t talking of that von Neumann crap. :)

Game theory as developed by Heartiste and Co (1, 2, 3, 4). Before we start, there are two concepts we must avail ourselves of:


Female hypergamy
: Woman’s tendency to mate up the social hierarchy.

Soft polygamy: See picture right, as helpfully illustrated by yours truly.

Back in the “good old days”, i.e. say the 1950′s, life was much simpler. Female labor participation was low, their salaries were low, the Pill had yet to be invented, marriage was a respected institution, divorce and single motherhood were very much frowned upon, and female obesity was very low. There was one guy for every eligible girl and dating was a a sweet and simple affair.

Fast forward to today. Female salaries and labor participation have practically equalized with those of men, thus diluting men’s relative economic power. The Pill and the end of belief in the sanctity of marriage (divorce and single motherhood have soared since the 1960′s) have unleashed the floodgates of female hypergamy; across femdom, chicks are looking to mate up, leaving their now powerless beta providers by the wayside. On the other end of the scale, female obesity – fueled by aesthetic WMD’s in the form of McDonald’s, KFC, and corn subsidies – has ballooned, to the extent that it now afflicts almost half the female population. Nothing destroys a woman’s looks and attractiveness to men quite like obesity. This alone halves the eligible pool of fuckable women.

But then on the other end of the scale (no pun intended) you have the appearance of soft polygamy. This is a natural consequence of the disappearance of those social mores and taboos that in prior decades held female hypergamy in check. With that loosened, alpha males – both natural alphas (e.g. Tom Cruise, Silvio Berlusconi), and betas who learn game (e.g. Neil Strauss, Roosh) – develop harems, ushering in soft polygamy. Women are biologically wired such that they would rather share an alpha with many other women and compete for his attentions rather than tolerate monogamy with a beta. Case in point.

Alphas now have it better than they ever; the world is their oyster as never before with the sole exceptions, perhaps, in the twilight periods of decadent civilizations, or the aftermaths of great wars that rewarded men’s spilled blood with beautiful postwar ratios. Pinned down between the Scylla of female obesity and the Charybdis of soft polygamy, betas face a hellscape of shuffling shoggoths, indentured orbitude to the few remaining classy women, and nightly love-making to the lonely hand.

This no doubt goes someway to explaining the increasing physical manifestations of involuntary male celibacy: Aggressive, in-your-face homosexuality; asexuality; men marrying their cats; men marrying their sex dolls; genital cutting all the way down to penile bisection (if you Google this, I’m not liable for your psychotherapy costs); men cutting off and cooking their own penises; etc. The latter phenomena are indeed the most potent (inverse pun) symbols of male emasculation at the dawn of the new millennium.

Unlike many in the “manosphere”, I don’t bother attaching moral labels to these developments. It’s a waste of time. Besides morality is beta anyway. There are two immediately relevant things to take away from this “game” interpretation of recent American social history:

(1) The importance of learning game for any aspiring lifestyle artist if he is not already a natural; or at the very least, migrating someplace where feminism and female obesity has yet to make major inroads, like Russia, Poland, or Argentina.

(2) For all the possible holes in “game theory” (and I think I can identify a few), it’s still far superior an explanation of the trajectory of American society than anything, absolutely ANYTHING, you will find in your sociology textbooks. The only contender, and it’s more complement than competition, is Murray’s and Herrnstein’s work on cognitive stratification and the IQ bell curve – for which they’ve been made academic pariahs. That is because modern academe embraces cultural Marxism and loathes reality.

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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Now that I’m done with the Necessary Caveats, it’s time we had a look at why exactly HBD/IQ theories are both valid, and relevant to the real world. As I see it, their main import (as interpreted by me) can be distilled into a few logically consecutive, falsifiable statements:

  1. IQ tests are a valid, culturally fair measure of cognitive ability.
  2. It is hereditary.
  3. Race is real.
  4. There are racial/ethnic differences in average IQ that cannot be explained merely by reference to socio-economic or cultural factors.
  5. The US is an excellent “laboratory” to ascertain the average genetic IQ ceiling of different races and ethnicities.
  6. Average IQ influences prosperity, and general living standards.
  7. Consequently, knowing the racial constraints on average IQ’s – i.e., the IQ ceilings – we can estimate the relative development potential of different countries and regions.

All of them have have acquired a great deal of supporting evidence, even though they – or in particular, their linkage – remains taboo for the media and wider public discussion. By the numbers:

1. There is typically a large degree of correlation between various IQ tests, and academic achievement scores (1, 2). Nobody has yet discovered a test which has a negative correlation with a battery of other tests. This implies that there is a common “g factor” behind all types of cognitive ability.

Obviously this allows for very big variations within a single person. But within a group, someone who does well in one test will most likely also do well in another.

The argument that IQ tests are culturally biased is frequently made on the basis that they show differences in performance between racial/ethnic groups. This is a fallacy. In any case, there are IQ tests designed to be culturally fair insofar as they eschew words and test pattern recognition, such as Cattell Culture Fair III and Raven’s Progressive Matrices. These tests have a high correlation with the battery of other tests, i.e. they are valid reflections of g.

2. The scientific literature converges on a range from 40%-80% for IQ heritability. (1, 2) The correlation in scores between twins reared apart is around 75%-80%.

3. Is race a social construct? The commonsense answer is no. Consider that beyond the “my lying eyes” stuff (e.g. skin color/melanin content; epicanthic folds, etc.), there is also evidence of genetic differences in: Physical abilities (west African sprinters; Kenyan marathoners); conformity (Asians); lactose tolerance (whites); alcohol intolerance (Asians); even average penis size (large – Africa; Latin America; small – East Asia). The latter example isn’t nearly as… flippant as it seems, since testosterone levels have a large effect on behavior. There are multiple genetic disorders that only affect certain races or ethnicities, and race specific drugs are now coming online.

But ultimately, this is one of those cases where a picture is worth a thousand words.

This is a genetic map of Europe, superimposed on a geographic map (remarkable how it works out almost perfectly). Note that although there is some degree of overlap between European ethnicities, there are still clear clusters and centers of gravity corresponding to particular nationalities.

Now look at this genetic map (click to enlarge). See that dark blue oval to the center-left? That is Europe. Recall that even within that tiny space there are distinct clusters, with virtually zero overlap between, say, Greeks and Germans. Now note the vast distance that separates Europe from East Asia (center-right), and the three African clusters (bottom).

So it’s really just a minor matter of semantics. Some people shy away from using the word “race”, instead speaking of “genetic clusters”, “population groups”, “groups of common geographic ancestry”, etc. “Race” is short and convenient.PI

4. There is a vast body of global IQ scores (e.g. Lynn). They follow a consistent pattern: East Asian countries tend to score 105, European and Euro-settler countries 100, and sub-Saharan African countries 65-80.

The internationalized standardized PISA tests display the same pattern (as expected, since they load on the same g).

(Internationally, I think the culture argument makes some interesting points. E.g., the Protestant work ethic – reflected even now in the fact that the world’s richest and highest-IQ white countries tend to be Protestant. But there are two problems. First, possible narrative fallacy, e.g. Confucianism, with its connotations of traditionalism and conservatism, was once used to explain why Asian countries lagged behind Europe; but with their success in the past generation, the respect for learning, rule of law, etc. that it supposedly instilled is now sometimes used to explain their success! Can’t have it both ways. Second, what applies in one period can wane in another. Yes, Protestantism fostered human capital development by emphasizing independent Bible reading (i.e. more literacy!), which in turn helped early industrial growth. But today this effect seems to have receded into the past – see the success of south Germany, north Italy, France, Ireland.)

5. The US is an excellent “laboratory” to estimate the average genetic IQ ceiling of different races and ethnicities by virtue of its diversity; standardized education system that produces results that, when broken down by race, are superior to almost every other country in the world; decent equality of educational opportunity; no nutritional deficit among any population group; and post-Flynn effect status.

Within the US, all tests of cognitive ability – IQ, PISA (1, 2), SAT – replicate the global pattern. Though there is variance from test to test, but as a rule, the intelligence hierarchy is as follows: Asian-Americans; whites; Hispanics; blacks. The gaps between Asian-Americans and whites are narrowed than internationally (because Asian-Americans also include medium-IQ peoples like Filipinos and Vietnamese); and the gaps between whites and blacks are narrowed (because, unlike African or Haitian blacks, African-Americans enjoy better nutrition and education.

It must also be noted that whereas most of these tests indicate that Asians closed gaps (in reading, writing) and overtook whites (in math) over the years, there has been no sign of any significant convergence for blacks.

Is it because schools in poorer areas (inner city, where NAM’s cluster) are badly funded? No, per student funding tends to be broadly similar for both inner city and suburban schools. Besides, education funding doesn’t play a major role in results. In Italy, there is no correlation between school funding and performance by province. China gets PISA and IQ results higher than America’s despite spending a tiny fraction of the resources that the US lavishes on each of its pupils. Indeed, it probably doesn’t matter much, as IQ tends to be fixed by the age of the 5.

Is it because blacks come from poorer families on average? IQ is a far more persuasive explanation for why people are poor in the first place. Refer to The Bell Curve (Murray & Herrnstein).

US blacks (85-90) get far better IQ scores than Africans (65-80). These two facts are highly important because in Africa, the IQ’s of many populations are currently constrained by poor nutrition and (in some cases) the different psychologies of pre-industrial and illiterate peoples. In practice, and discounting variation (Africa is the world’s most genetically diverse continent, so it is not impossible that there will be some relatively high-IQ subgroups among them), it seems likely that the average IQ ceiling for African blacks is similar to the actual IQ’s of US blacks. I.e., maybe 85 (lower than 85-90, because US blacks have 20% admixture with whites).

US Hispanics score better than Mexicans or Central Americans, displaying IQ’s (or IQ equivalents) in the low 90′s (Mexico: 88-90; Panama: 84-80). Whites are at around 100. Asian-Americans tend to be in the low to mid 100′s, but there is huge variance (East Asians – higher; South-East Asians – lower).

7. Refer to Education as the Elixir of Growth III. There is a 0.43 correlation between the GDP (PPP) per capita of a country with its PISA/TIMMS scores, which rises to a stunning 0.84 once countries with a post-Communist legacy (low outliers), resource windfalls (high outliers), or offshore financial industries that constitute the bulk of their GDP (high outliers) are removed from the same. (Any correlation of >0.5 is an excellent one in social science). This implies a fairly rigid glass ceiling on GDP per capita for any one country in relation to its IQ. It’s largely invisible, as few people appreciate the importance of human capital to growth, but it’s most certainly there.

At the micro level, the g factor tends to be by far the best indicator of job performance (above grades, interviews, references, etc) – not only in “cognitive elite” jobs such as lawyers or physicians, but also to a significant extent even among menial workers. There is a correlation of 0.9-0.95 between employees in a certain profession and prestige ratings of those professions by the general public. The correlation between IQ and income is around 0.4-0.5.

The importance of average genetic IQ ceilings

We have a fairly strong and convincing (to me anyway) theory that average IQ ceilings depends on race, and that IQ (g, PISA scores, etc) are remarkable closely correlated with economic prosperity. Furthermore, it is almost certain that the causation is largely one way, at least once basic nutritional and literacy problems are solved; otherwise, the Chinese and Koreans would not be outperforming US Hispanics or African-Americans.

Following from the graph of Human Capital Index and income above, there seems to be a point past 450 – about 92.5, in IQ terms – at which (market-based) economies transition from middle-income status, to high-income. If Mexico could raise its human capital to about the levels of their compatriots in the US, this would (going by correlations) enable a massive expansion in its productivity.

Unfortunately, the average genetic IQ ceiling for African blacks is 85, maybe 90 at most. Nonetheless, if Africa could consistently raise it to even the former figure, it would then have a degree of human capital equivalent to today’s Brazil. Though true convergence with developed countries is precluded, reaching Brazil’s levels would be a gargantuan improvement for the living standards of the average African.

In general, it should be possible to construct a “potential IQ” (and corresponding potential GDP per capita level) for each country. They would look something like this (PISA/IQ format):

  • US (500/100) – All racial groups are already performing very close to their genetic potential (Asian-Americans (NOT East Asians) – low 100′s, whites – 100, Hispanics – low 90′s, blacks – high 80′s). The challenge will be in maintaining it (due to Hispanic immigration).
  • China (550/108) – It currently has 103(PISA converted into IQ)-105(IQ), but may still eke out a few more points by totally eliminating malnutrition. Should have no problem in becoming as rich as Korea or Japan with one more generation.
  • India (450/92.5) – Very low (and puzzling) 75(PISA)-82. But also malnutrition is still extremely high, as are endemic diseases; the vegetarianism of a significant portion of the population may also have a negative effect (protein aids brain development). My estimate is that average Indian genetic IQ ceiling is similar to Hispanics, but with huge variance due to caste/ethnic diversity.
  • Russia (500/100) – Moderate score at 95(PISA)-97(IQ). Smaller than ethnically similar Poland (99/100), due to 2 possible factors: (1) Academic focus to exclusion of more general g (Russia does much better on TIMMS, PIRLS); (2) Possible effects of highly prevalent alcoholism on the current cohort being tested. Poland’s score may represent a more accurate “Slavic ceiling.” Natural GDP per capita level would seem to be in between the Germanic countries and the Med, but resource windfall would nudge it closer to the former.
  • Brazil (460/94) – Today at 87(PISA)-85(IQ). Capping off the BRIC’s, the potential is derived by taking the estimated genetic ceilings of US blacks (with adjustment for Brazilian blacks having more admixture) with Med Europe ceiling, and weighing by population ratios.
  • Germanic Europe (520/103) – based on current scores, but will face challenge in maintaining it (due to immigration policies).
  • Med Europe (490/99) – based on Spain, Portugal, Italy results. In a way, one can see the Euro crisis – which is mostly affecting the PIGS – as the invisible hand’s way of bumping down the Med countries to a level more in line with their lower human capital (relative to the Germanic countries).
  • Turkey (470/96) – now at 91(PISA)/93(IQ), but potential based on Greece’s current scores; Turks and Greeks genetically similar.
  • Japan (530/105) – as now, no significant change as immigration is low. But economic difficulties due to debt, negative population growth, ballooning elderly dependency ratios.
  • Israel (?) – is globally irrelevant but a really fascinating case study, complicated by the discrepancy between Ashkenazi Euro-Jewish IQ scores (c.115) and Israel’s mediocre performance of 95(IQ)/94(PISA) which is hard to explain as Ashkenazi Jews still make up more than half of Israel’s population. Also lots of demography has to be taken into account. Deserves a separate post.
  • Australia, Canada (520/103) – as now, but will NOT face difficulties maintaining them because of their Cognitive Elitist immigration policies; as they also enjoy resource windfalls, they will probably do economically better than the rest of the developed world.

Based on the figures above, we can expect that the BRIC’s nations should in principle be able to converge to developed country levels. However, there are two major groups within the BRIC’s. China and Russia are already at a human capital level that enables convergence (China’s is significantly higher, but Russia is already richer, and also has the added bonus of a resource windfall). In contrast, Brazil and India are not currently at human capital levels that enable convergence; however, they do both have the potential to raise them to just the levels needed to break out of the “middle-income” trap and converge. But for that they have to develop their human capital to its full genetic potential. The quantity of the needed change is very significant and, even under rosy assumptions (e.g. +3 IQ points a decade until equalization with genetic potential), the process will take decades. Until they at least the low 90′s, they will remain stuck – especially Brazil, because it is already very rich for its human capital level – with fairly low long-term growth rates.

Whatever their average genetic IQ ceilings, it is highly advisable for all the poorer and low-IQ nations to: (1) improve childhood nutrition (e.g. free vitamin pills at schools seems especially low-cost/high-impact); (2) anti-vegetarian propaganda, where such applies; (3) study the experience of foreign countries, esp. the US which has had a lot of success with maximizing NAM scores, and Finland which (at least on PISA) manages to maximize white scores; (4) explore pharmaceutical and technological means of bridging their IQ gaps with the developed world (e.g. nootropics).

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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Russia is in something of a homophobic fever. Four regions (including Saint-Petersburg) have banned the dissemination of “gay propaganda” to minors, it may yet go federal, and disassociated itself from a G8 statement on gay rights. It’s obviously not like in many Middle Eastern countries where homosexuality is illegal (as in the USSR) but attitudes do resemble those of the US or the UK in the 1980′s.

This got me thinking on another tangent, however. Why would a straight person be homophobic anyway?

From the POV of straight dudes, more gays means less competition for chicks. (Lesbians are mostly bisexual so it doesn’t apply in reverse, and besides, homophobia tends to focus on gays anyway). That is one reason why I don’t mind gays apart from my general live-let live attitudes. The incentives for chicks aren’t as clear-cut as for dudes, as they’d have to try harder to find permanent partners, but upside is they are much less likely to wind up with a closet homosexual.

There are two possible evolutionary causes for homophobia that I see. First, the idea that one’s children will be propagandized into adopting the lifestyle. This may cut off the parents’ genetic tree. This would seem unlikely since most research indicates sexual preferences are set in childhood but the subconscious fear of some parents that this may not be the case is understandable.

Second, it is presumably in the interests of the group to have more males competing for females. The selection process for mating would then be harsher so the average quality of sexually successful dudes is higher. Particularly relevant because gays seem to be more educated and richer than average, and certainly more metrosexual, all of which attracts women. So even though the gays’ absence from the hetero-market would be a boon for all straight dudes, especially the lower-quality ones who are likelier to be displaced by them, the latter nonetheless tends to hate on gays, because at the subconscious level they know that less sexual competition is bad for the group.

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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This may be the article I’ve hesitated longest over publishing. Its subject matter has always hovered as a specter over my writings on the close relation between human capital and economic growth; an obvious but studiously ignored presence*. I am talking, of course, about race and IQ. Of racial differences in IQ, to be precise.

Why now? First, it’s a propitious moment to raise the issue, what with the recent publicity surrounding the Trayvon Martin case and the firing of John Derbyshire from The National Review (for writing an article in another magazine whose recommendations most liberals follow in private even as they denounce it as incorrigibly racist in public). But my purpose isn’t to get attention as such. On these matters, it tends to come from unwelcome quarters, either from the PC police (who regard any discussion of race other than to deny it as crimethink), or from the reactionary White nationalist crowd, who think they’ve stumbled on ideological soul-brethren (thanks but no thanks, or to quote Robert Lindsay, “We’re never getting a boarding pass. Never!”). I suspect being a liberal race realist is somewhat akin to being a Jew before anti-Semitism went out of fashion. You get fired on from all sides. Not fun.

The second, more substantive reason, is that the issue matters. If it was an irrelevance, I obviously wouldn’t bother (though tellingly, most people have no problem discussing genetic causes for relatively unimportant things, such as the preponderance of Kenyan marathoners, or East Asians’ lack of alcohol tolerance). But there is a mountain of evidence indicating that IQ levels have a very real and direct influence on the world, from the life earnings potential of individuals to the wealth and poverty of nations.

This is a futurist blog, and it has never shied away from inconvenient but pertinent observations that go against Establishment orthodoxy, e.g. that the world is finite, and industrial growth in its current form is unsustainable. As regards its distribution, my views on the sources of prosperity would discomfit both left and right; contrary to theorists from both camps, it is mainly determined by levels of human capital, both within nations and internationally (the two major outlier groups, countries with resource windfalls or central-planning legacies, are exceptions that prove the rule). A corollary is that if there are genetically rooted differences in IQ between races that go beyond the power of racism or exploitation to explain, then there would be variegated ceilings on the extent to which human capital can be developed in different nations and different societies. It would also mean that major inequalities in global development are here to stay.

But first, a much-needed definition of terms to clarify why Race Realism (or “Human Biodiversity”) is not coterminous with Racism.

Defining Racism, Race Denial, and Race Realism

In the US, liberals flat-out deny racial differences in IQ (“Race is a social construct,” “IQ tests were invented by racists and don’t measure anything”), and indulge in all sorts of mental acrobatics to explain away why a generation of affirmative action has utterly failed to narrow the academic performance or socio-economic chasm between Whites and NAM’s (Non-Asian Minorities). Conservatives just blame it all on Blacks’ supposed moral defects and the “entitlement culture” that supposedly dominates there, i.e. the precise opposite argument to liberals who decry the plight of Blacks who have to contend with the “privileged” position of the white man (the question of why the Man isn’t keeping Asians down is typically skirted over).

However, mainstream pundits from both camps are united on one thing: Innate racial differences do not, cannot have anything to do with it. Anyone who so much as implies otherwise is a Racist Bigot.

To be honest, there is undeniably a great deal of overlap between Racists and Race Realists. I think there are two reasons for that. First, Race Realism is not a socially respectable position to hold (unlike in pre-1970′s America, or for that matter, practically all of East Asia today). Many Americans who adopt it explicitly – as opposed to confessing to it while drunk, which happens quite frequently – tend to be marginalized whites who aren’t interested in truth and only need some sort of explanation for their low status (e.g. blaming the ZOG, “skraelings”, etc). Second, the uniform hostility that any declared Race Realist runs into – e.g., John Derbyshire, who got castigated by the left and cast aside by his former comrades on the right – no doubt has a polarizing effect. As I mentioned above, being fired on from all sides isn’t fun. Or as Lindsay points out, “only in the arena of reactionary thought are views about race realism allowed to flourish.”

But are Race Realists the same thing as Racists? I do not think so. First, because the association smacks of Lysenkoism (the US justifies its high inequalities by the American dream that anyone can, though self-improvement and hard work, earn enough to enjoy la dolce vita; but if, God forbid, it’s true that racial differences make the goal practically unattainable for large swathes of the population, that kind of throws a spanner in the works. Wrecker! Saboteur! Off to the Gulag Guantanamo with him!). Second, and most importantly, Race Realism does not by and in of itself justify overt discrimination, or Racism; tarring both with the same brush is an association fallacy.

Though Race Realism may induce skepticism as regards the efficacy or fairness of certain leveling policies, e.g. affirmative action, that is a very far cry from calling for a return to segregation, or race war, or whatever. I would even argue that Race Realism is far less paternalistic, insulting and harmful to NAM’s in general and Blacks in particular than the typical attitudes of colorblind conservatives, who attack certain negative perceived features of Black culture (e.g. “entitlements culture”, “anti-intellectualism”, “family breakdown”, “gangsta rap”, etc). In doing so they argue that Blacks as a group fail to achieve what Whites or Asians do in terms of salaries, employment, crime etc. due to their own moral defects, as opposed to it being the result of factors they truly have no control over, and as such need a good dose of discipline, “moral direction” and tough love to find their way (i.e. no affirmative action whatsoever, no social welfare, even more insanely hardline drugs policies, etc).

The liberal Race Realist to the contrary acknowledges these divergent outcomes as a regrettable but inevitable consequence of innate group differences (especially in IQ, which largely determines educational attainment and life prospects), but on the other hand appreciates that it’s wrong and illogical to blame a people for their bad luck in life’s genetic lottery, and is willing to meet them halfway in trying to ameliorate their plight by supporting subsidized housing, education, income redistribution, etc. This is in stark contrast to the conservative reactionary, who would throw NAM’s to the dogs of unfettered capitalism, but for some reason it is still the liberal Race Realist who is the racist.

(There are, of course, also many Conservative / Libertarian Race Realists. Functionally, if not on their theoretical foundations, their stances are similar to those of their Race Denier ideological counterparts. More on classifications later.)

Still not convinced? Here are three Q&A’s that I hope will further reveal the Race Denier / Racist binary for the false dichotomy it really is.

Q1) One national leader is a progressive sociologist for his time and denies there are innate differences in cognitive ability between blacks and whites. Another is so progressive that he even bans IQ tests because they show some races getting lower scores than others. The third national leader believes in a hierarchy of races, with his own at the top, and rules his country with a firm fist. Which of these is the racist?

A) The first leader was Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of South African apartheid. The second leader was Hitler (he banned IQ tests because Germans got lower scores than Jews). The third leader was Lee Kuan Yew, who repressed Chinese nationalism despite his belief in Chinese intellectual and cultural superiority, and transformed Singapore from a Third World slum into a gleaming technopolis.

Q2) One man is a “post-racial” President, while another man is a Presidential candidate who – if recently dredged up kompromat is true – may have associated with racists in the 1970′s. Who is the racist scumbag?

A) Obama also supports the war on drugs that is the single biggest reason why every tenth young Black man is in jail, and launched a war against Libya that ended up with the ethnic cleansing of Blacks from that country and the destabilization of a neighboring Black country. Ron Paul promises an end to the war on drugs and foreign military adventures.

Q3) A racist American schoolboy, reeking of White Privilege, arrogantly claims a prize that should have rightly gone to a black. What a racist, right?!

A) The schoolboy in question was an immigrant from South Africa who applied for a “African-American Student of the Year” at his Nebraska school. Despite being white, he was objectively far more African (by virtue of having lived there) than any of the students there, black or where, who had only lived in the US. The school was not amused and suspended him, proving that when prodded, the Race Deniers – no matter be they liberal or conservative – are in fact very far from colorblind as they claim to be. Who’d’ve thunk?

Towards a new classification

Thus far, I hope I have at least made a halfway persuasive argument that Race Realism and Racism are not coterminous. (The detailed evidence for Human Biodiversity, especially as regards IQ, and its implications for US and global development, will have to await a second post).

In its stead, I suggest another classification, one that takes into account the true range of thought around this subject.

By the numbers:

Race Deniers (PC; diversity police; colorblind; “multiculti” (in racist lingo)): This is the official ideology of the Western Establishment and “respectable” white people take care to at least pay homage to it even if they don’t really believe it (at least when sober). The mainstream punditry, be they liberal or conservative, all aggressively hold to this position – arguably, more so in the US, than in Europe, despite the latter being commonly regarded as more liberal/left-wing. Their slogan is “differences are only skin-deep.”

The failure of NAM’s (Non-Asian Minorities) to integrate and converge to average levels is explained differently on both left (oppression, racism, legacy of colonialism, etc) and right (laziness, shiftlessness, lack of appreciation for capitalism, etc) but ascribing it to genetic or racial factors is a universal taboo. Verboten! You’re safe from prosecution if you do it in a measured way, even in PC Europe, but you certainly run the risk of a good media pillorying and getting fired from your job.

While you may think Race Denial precludes Racism, I do not think that’s the case. Take the case of the South African schoolboy above. Or, arguably – and of infinitely greater import – take Hendrik Verwoerd, who at least in his early sociologist days seems to have denied an innate different in cognitive ability between blacks and whites. That didn’t stop him from setting up a cruel and patently unjust ethnocracy in South Africa.

Race Realism (cognitive elitism, racial particularism, Human Biodiversity, “racists” (to Race Deniers)): The belief that there are innate differences in races on socially meaningful parameters, such as cognitive ability, and based on assessment of the scientific and empirical evidence. Racism does not naturally follow, as that involves calling for overt discrimination based on the aforementioned beliefs (see below).

There are several prominent Race Realist pundits. Robert Lindsay is the foremost Liberal Race Realist (and quite a bit more: He has quite the idiosyncratic portfolio, also including stuff on linguists and pro-Stalinism; make of that what you will). I can’t recommend his fundamental post on the matter, Liberal Race Realism: Clearing Up a Few Things, highly enough, as it jives almost perfectly with my own views.

Here is the conundrum for Left-liberalism:

Just supposing that there are differences between the races that are not caused by oppression, racism, etc. This is painfully obvious to anyone who will look. The Left refuses to look, because the reality of the whole mess is bad for the Left. So we say it doesn’t exist, unscientifically. We wish the reality away. …

Suppose Blacks had the same abilities as Whites, genetically.

All of the problems, including low IQ, were simply due the fact that they are fucking up, often on purpose. If this were true, and strangely enough, this sort of follows from liberal beliefs about genes and environment, I would argue for a harsh response to Blacks. Not necessarily cutting them off altogether, but I would certainly be a bit less likely to help them.

But there’s no evidence that that is true.

If Blacks do have low IQ due to things they cannot control, then, as a socialist, I would argue that there is no reason that the higher IQ group ought to obtain dramatically higher income, wealth, housing, living spaces and health than the lower one.

As much as possible, socialists should try to attempt to more equalize incomes, housing, living spaces and health care access for both groups, the higher IQ and the lower. …

Why should Whites be allowed to become dramatically richer, healthier, better housed, and live in better places than Blacks, simply because of how the genetic dice got rolled?

Answer: They have no such right. If both groups were equal, and Whites got that way by simply trying harder, then we could make the argument that the White position is just.

Why should Blacks be forced to become dramatically poorer, less healthy, worse housed, and live in worse places than Whites, simply because of how they were born, a variable that they had no control over whatsoever?

Answer: This is not right. It is not just. They should not be forced into these outcomes, and that they are is an outrageous injustice.

Steve Sailer is a Race Realist from the conservative side of the spectrum. Half Sigma, from the libertarian. The most significant academic bloggers at the GNXP network. I guess you could classify this blog, AKarlin as a Liberal Race Realist blog from now on. Why should I continue paying lip service to an ideology that I find to be incredible in the literal meaning of the word? It’s simply dishonest.

Satoshi Kanazawa, Richard Lynn, Richard Herrnstein, Charles Murray, Arthur Jensen, Steven Pinker, James Watson are prominent researchers/academics who identify(ied) as Race Realists / HBDers. For that matter, most of the people doing research on population groups, genetic clusters, etc would fit the label.

Closely related (though not coterminous) with Race Realists are “Cognitive Elitists”. These folks believe in the value of a high-IQ society, in that it will have more culture, less crime, more interesting conversations, etc. They are typically high IQ themselves and associate with the “cognitive elite”, i.e. the high-IQ stratum of the population that typically clusters in certain geographical areas (e.g. Shanghai and Beijing in China; Moscow in Russia; Washington, Connecticut/Massachusetts/NY, and the Bay Area in the US). As such, they are strong supporters of comprehensive, well-funded education systems and immigration systems that give priority to skilled workers. Australia and Canada are two good examples of countries that are run by cognitive elitists, even if they don’t identify themselves as such and formally deny IQ and its heritability. Immigration policies give priority to skilled workers, and their public university systems are top notch. I guess one could even call their immigration policies “Deniably Race Realist” because in today’s world, qualified worker typically means East Asian or White anyway.

I would argue the ANC leadership of South Africa has been consistently Race Realist, bizarre as it may sound at first. The blacks had been repressed there by whites for generations (really repressed, not its non-existent form in post-1960′s US). It would have been understandable had they gone down the Robert Mugabe route of confiscations and expulsions. They didn’t. The “price” is that South Africa is now one of the most stratified societies in the world, where the Gini income inequality index is at 70 (higher than under apartheid) and whites and blacks live in separate worlds. The alternative – i.e., Zimbabwe, and its retreat from relative prosperity to complete destitution – would have been much worse for South African blacks themselves.

Lee Kuan Yew was and remains a Race Realist, but gets no flak for it because he isn’t White. I do not think he is a Chinese chauvinist because he cited objective data and scholarly works in support of his views (e.g. IQ scores by race, and Arnold Toynbee’s civilizational history, that argued “hard societies” developed in harsh northern climes where you needed brains to survive), and didn’t refrain from also arguing that Jewish Americans were intellectually superior to the Chinese (citing their disproportionate share of Nobel Prizes). Though immigration policy favored Chinese, on account of their lower birth rates, he also vigorously repressed expressions of Chinese nationalism in Singapore to maintain social unity. Quite clearly he was a Race Realist and Cognitive Elitist, but not a Racist. I can’t say I’m a huge admirer of the Singaporean social model – I’m of the opinion drugs should be legal, not banned under penalty of death (!) – but there is no denying he did a great job for Singapore.

Racism: This starts when one demands overt discrimination based on race. For instance, while Race Realism isn’t Racism per se, it can – admittedly – easily tip over into “Scientific Racism.” Unlike platonic Race Realists, the Scientific Racists are primarily driven by antipathy; indeed, they may have started out as simple Racists, and specifically sought out the science component to serve as an intellectual veneer for their beliefs. As such, they are prone to confirmation bias, and risk degenerating into “Pseudo-Scientific Racism.” Nazi phrenologists and race theorists are classic examples of Pseudo-Scientific Racists. There there are, of course, the simple Racists, who are usually just low-IQ and tend to be unhappy with life. Half-Sigma pegs them perfectly:

What’s the difference between a race realist and a racist? The race realist understands The g Factor, The Bell Curve, and other works of scientific research. The racist apparently thinks that because Barack Obama is half black, it’s impossible for him to have a significantly higher g than John McCain.”

Most of the people at Stormfront are simple racists. There is a lot of pseudo-science and wild conspiracy theorizing there.

Concluding remarks

It would be nice to believe that if only we could raise more aid to the poorest nations, global inequalities could be erased away; and that at the US level, more social welfare and affirmative action for NAM’s (Non-Asian Minorities) could bridge its deep racial chasms in achievement, which have hitherto been stubbornly unyielding. However, the evidence thus far suggests that many of these chasms are substantially rooted in genetics, and as such would be impossible to close under a capitalist system, or indeed, any economic system that offers increasing returns on better human capital (Maoism is the closest one that comes qualifying to that standard, but is probably not the way to go as most would agree). I’d love to be proven wrong but I’m pretty certain it would have to wait for the age of mass genetic engineering or brain-computer interfaces.

As I hope I made clear, none of this means that overt discrimination is justified, or social spending on NAM’s – especially on education – should be reduced (like Race Denying conservative reactionaries would want to). There is ample evidence to support the view that practically everyone benefits from more education, and it’s better than more foreign wars regardless. (Contrary to stereotypes, the US education system actually isn’t doing too bad of a job; though it gets mediocre scores on international student assessments, when broken down by race, its typically near the very forefront). Just don’t expect miracles from social engineering when biology stands in the way.

The next post will take a far more detailed look at the intersections between race, IQ (or g), the effects of environment/culture (which are real but typically overstated), and implications for development.

* Well, ignored by the blog; discussed at length by Lazy Glossophiliac in the comments section.

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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Depressingly fatalist, morbidly truthful, irresistibly Nietzschean. That’s Howard Bloom’s “The Lucifer Principle” in a nutshell: a meandering trawl through disciplines such as genetics, psychology and culture that culminates in a theory of evil, purporting to explain its historical necessity, its creative potential and the possibility of it ever being vanquished. The odds do not appear to be good. For in the world painted by Bloom, peace is submission, social hierarchies are natural, ideas are polarizing, and liberal individualism is invidious to the collective “superorganism” that both oppresses, nourishes and saves us. Fascism really is the “natural state” in every sense of the term.

Bloom, HowardThe Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History (1995)
Category: human society, psychology, history; Rating: 5/5
Summary: Amazon reviews, James Schultz

More S/O material on related topics:

Superorganism, or: The Whole is Greater than its Parts

Bloom starts off by providing reams of evidence on why it is completely logical for nature to be “red in tooth and claw”. Selfish genes need to replicate and it is no great loss if they doom billions of individuals to untimely deaths in the struggle for evolutionary survival. Hence, creatures battle for the “privilege of procreation”. High-ranking gorilla females kill their harem rivals’ offspring. Existence in primitive societies is so brutish and short that it is as if they were fighting World War Two every year and life eternal (the myth of the “noble savage” really is just that). The wellspring of Western civilization, the Romans, have the rape of the Sabines as one of their proudest foundational myths. In short, violence is reality.

cortona-rape-of-sabines

[The Rape of the Sabine Women, Pietro da Cortona.]

One interesting theory he mentions is that of the triune brain, according to which the human mind is actually composed of three brains – the reptilian (stimuli, mating, territoriality), mammalian (loyalty to family and clan) and primate (reasoning faculty). The reptilian component makes creatures nasty and violent, while the mammalian reinforces the power of social groups. It is only the latter that allows man to dream about peace, even as they hack each other to pieces in the waking world.

In the next section, Blooms asks why people commit suicide. He cites a lot of research showing that isolation is the ultimate poison – without social approval, people not only tend to become depressed, but their physiology goes on self-destruct mode, encouraging illnesses, insanity and suicidal tendencies. This is a negative feedback loop because once you are depressed, other people no longer want to be around you or make friends with it (but that, too, works in the interests of the group). He ties this in to the larger idea that just as cells, sponges and ants can only survive as constituent particularly of a greater whole or not at all, so humans are part of a greater “superorganism” that is society.

Paradoxically, the logic of “group selection” encourages loyalty to the superorganism that cares little if at all for the individuals that owe it their fealty. For instance, upon seeing a pride of lions beginning to stalk a herd of gazelles on the African savanna, the beasts that notice the predators begin prancing about in warning. This actually diminishes their individual chances of survival, since lions are likeliest to go for animals that are acting unlike the rest of the herd. The best outcome for the individual gazelle upon noticing the lions would be simply to retreat slowly to the safe center of the herd. However, over the evolutionary eons, groups with many individuals exhibiting these self-preserving tendencies presumably got weeded out, for self-interest is the bane of group interests. Hence in real life we do get a lot of genuinely altruistic loyalty to the group – amongst ants, gazelles, humans.

Humans who are no longer needed by the group really are no longer needed and might as well wane and die (“the Moor has done his duty, he can now go home”). Durkheim suggested suicide was essentially individuals altruistically relieving society of their own burden to it, and I would suggest that this is especially evident in societies like Japan without the traditional Western Christian guilt. I would also suggest that this is the reason why ostracism and exile were so much more fearful punishments in the pre-industrial world than they would seem in today’s global rootless cosmopolitanism. In an age when bonds were strong and essential, but geographically tied to small regions, being shorn of human contact would have been psychologically crippling.

All this of course has a more than passing resemblance to Turchin’s and Ibn Khaldun’s work on social cohesion and Asabiyah. There’s a reason why through the ages soldiers have willingly charged cold steel pikes and machine gun fire for the glory of their nation. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and far more important too – and the superorganism knows this.

gettysburg-battle

[The Battle of Gettysburg. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori!]

Though shalt not kill… but only as long as they’re members of your tribe. Otherwise it’s cool. Note that primitive societies believe “humans” to be only their own tribe or clan (in fact if you look at the etymology, many ethnicities call themselves “the people” in their own tongues). Civilization has expanded the definition of those considered to be human to their own nations: in the case of the Jews, to the Israelites; in the case of later “universal” religions, potentially to all humanity (except inveterate heathen, of course). Even many modern liberals are intolerant of those who don’t share their liberal ideals. Why these divisions? Having enemies is really good for social consolidation (see “castle identity”, “residential fortress”, “siege mentality”); human societies are defined not by what they are, but by what they oppose and hate. Or as Orwell would say, war is peace.

There is always a deep wellspring of frustration in any society. Bloom quotes interesting research showing that fro cells to ants to humans, each unit performs a preordained role. In any ant colony, there are industrious workers and lazy workers, soldiers and queens. Separate the industrious and lazy workers into separate group and new social roles are created as some former busybodies become idlers and former idlers become industrious. In observations of summer campers, it was noted that after a few hours, bunk-mates assumed four specific social roles: dominant “alpha male”, unpopular “bully”, “joker” sidekick and the over-eager “nerd” who is kicked around by everyone.

All human minds possess thousands of unrealized personalities which could have been but aren’t. This results in an undercurrent of frustration, which can be channeled into the hatred of the interloper that binds it together. Early cellular lifeforms discovered that they could dispose of calcium, poisonous in high quantities, by using it to build shells. In similar fashion, common hatreds glue societies together, such “that every tribe regards outsiders as fair game; that every society gives permission to hate; that each culture addresses the demon of its hatred in the garb of righteousness; and that the man who channels this hatred can rouse the superorganism and lead it around by the nose”.

From Genes to Memes, Yet Us vs. Them Always

In another chapter full of worthy insights, Bloom notes that the main vector of evolution shifted from genes swimming through “the protoplasmic soup of the early earth” to memes floating through a “sea of human brains”. Both genes and memes mercilessly exploit their hosts in their struggle for survival and bid to overspread the earth. Though rat broods are normally loving to each other, insert a rodent from a different clan that smells different, and they tear the unfortunate apart – even if he carries their genetic stock (rats tell who is who by smell). Humans are more advanced: they have language, culture and religions that bind closer than any uniform. The Hebrew genocide of the Canaanites was just and splendid, for their ethno-genetic stock was chosen by the LORD God.

Over the millennia of ancient history, memes gradually divorced themselves from the genetic level altogether, appearing in “universal” religions like Zoroastrianism and Christianity after St. Paul. Competing universal religions and ideologies now encompass nearly the whole world. The confer several advantages. First, the effective illusion of control, which is good guarantor of health and mental agility (note that most medical procedures even today are based on getting the patient to believe she will recover and hence doing so). Second, memes help consolidate huge communities, and hence ensure their own long-term survival.

A society is, in effect, a vast, problem-solving neural net – humans are to it like brain cells are to a mind. As a swarm of individuals interact in limited and simply ways (bees, humans), an extraordinarily complex structure emerges (a beehive, the modern economy). One feature of human society is male expendability – from cradle to old age, men have weaker immune systems, are more accident-prone and die quicker. This is especially marked in primitive societies where warfare is brutal and incessant.

polygamy-map The reasons are biologically obvious: whereas one man can inseminate dozens of women, one woman can only reproduce about once a year at most. So Mother Nature can afford to play with men as dice, ensuring that only the fittest survive. Interestingly, life is most brutal and profligate in the south, where resources are plentiful. In the tropics, male birds tend to have bright plumes to attract female attention (which also makes them highly visible to predators); but in the north, birds have grayer colors designed to blend into the surroundings, and their sex tends to be indistinguishable to the human eye. That is because the female needs male help to rear her chicks through the hard winter months of dearth. Likewise with humans, polygamy has been most prevalent in southern cultures – even if many guys die in battles for prestige, territory and slaves, the women can continue the race without most of them.

Most men failed, and died early or had little reproductive success (in primitive societies only 50% of men end up having offspring, compared to 80% of women). But those who made it, like Chinggis Khan, became the biological fathers of millions (King Saud was probably the last such very influential warlord). But as history progressed, memes steadily took center place. The generators of successful memes, like St. Paul, Marx or Sayyid Qutb, took the center place in the lives of millions and billions!

The Pecking Order: Hierarchy is Good

Stalin was right: the weak get beaten. That’s what happens to those at the bottom of the pecking order, the phenomenon observed in the 1920′s where chickens formed a fixed hierarchy that determined priority access to food and shelter. While the top hen was well fed, warm and respected, the one at the bottom was ostracized and pecked by everyone else. Likewise, those at the top are most sexually successful in primitive societies. In a series of experiments in which three male rats and three female rats were brought together in a cage, some 92% of offspring accrued to the dominant male!

Success breeds success, failure breeds failure. Low ranking baboons suffer increased levels of glucocorticoids, a stress hormone that acts as a slow poison, and walk around slouched and defeated. The same thing operates in human societies – being at the bottom of the pecking order is bad for you, as you suffer from increased rates of depression, blood pressure, heart attacks, etc – obviously this also makes you unattractive and entrenches your gutter status. In contrast, higher ranking monkeys people walk upright and their testicles hang down further. (So consequently no wonder that that is the reason why men are recommended Alexander posture and walking with one’s legs wide apart… it is to project the image of the physical aspects of the alpha male; on third thought that would explain society’s dislike for the “pick-up artist”, since their craft essentially cheats the naturally emergent hierarchy by getting men to mimic alpha traits instead of actually being one).

There’s a very good reason for the existence of these feedback loops that reinforce social hierarchy – the alternative to hierarchy, with its inherent, diffuse coercion, is anarchy. This entails a state of constant expenditure of previous, limited energy on banditry and defense. In this situation, the weak and friendless get trampled down even more quickly and ruthlessly than if they were (merely) oppressed within a hierarchic system. So it is actually in the interests of everyone, including even its lowliest members. (The exceptions are, of course, those who believe that their position in the hierarchy is unjustified on the basis of their abilities or beliefs, e.g. the Bolshevik insurrectionist, the Islamist cell member, etc, who would like to level the current hierarchic system in a cleansing purge before rebuilding it in their own image). Bloom notes that “superior chickens make friends”, not only within societies, but within the community of tribes and nations. Just as powerful Yanamamo tribes attracted allies and clobbered the weak and friendless tribes, and Rome maintained coalitions awed by its political and military prowess, so the modern US draws on the loyalty of many of its allies in the West and elsewhere through the visibility of its hegemonic power. (It even gets financial credit at low prices due to an effect called American alpha!)

In the last few chapters, Bloom ingeniously – or in an act of unintentional hypocrisy, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt ;) – shows “us vs them”, memes and hierarchy at work in his own book! He states America’s refusal to support France and Britain in their neo-colonial 1956 endevour to seize back the Suez Canal was morally wrong, proclaims the superiority of the West over the cultures of the Third World and labels Islam a “killer culture” harboring the next barbarians. (Of course, the Islamist crazies promptly did their best to prove him right). No, you don’t need to be a PC-head to realize that in the last hundred pages Bloom strays from his fascinating insights into a morass of opinion(ated) projections of his social theories onto modern geopolitics and the “clash of civilizations”. They can be skipped. The only more or less useful additional point he makes is that giving gifts is insulting, like the World Bank does with Africa, because it created humiliating cultural dependency relationships (e.g. demands to Africans to do things the way armchair economists with no practical experience there want them to). China’s straightforward infrastructure or cash for resources approach is better for Africans, both spiritually and probably even economically.

The Lucifer Principle: Superorganism, Memes & Hierarchy

These elements combined form the Lucifer Principle. The superorganism – be it body, village, nation (“imagined community”) or civilization – curtails your individuality, and has no qualms about throwing your life and health away if doing so would serve the greater good. It can throw you against another superorganism so as to weed out the weak, identify the strong, and consolidate itself internally and ideologically (war is peace). It can – and does – trample your mental and physical health under the social stratification it requires to maintain its own complexity (peace is submission). But it also nurtures and protects you with a love harsh but true… for while you can surmount the burdens and realize yourself (slavery is freedom), without society, that would be impossible… survival itself is impossible (freedom is death). I would say that the essence of the Lucifer Principle is that fascism is the natural state.

people-like-fascists

[The essence of the book in one comic. Translation: "What's the matter, you fat monkey?" "Fuck off, fucking fascist!" "You say 'fascist', as if it's a bad thing. But dude, people love fascists. Have you ever met a woman who fantasizes about being tied up and raped by a *liberal*?"]

Though Rome “had been an oppressor, it was also “the source of nourishment and peace”. It’s end brought not freedom, but death, says Bloom, as roving bandits moved in to pick its carcass. (Though I would make the caveat that by its end the Western Empire armies were themselves no better than bandits). In conclusions: “Superorganism, ideas, and the pecking order – these are the primary forces behind much of human creativity and earthly good. They are the holy trinity of the Lucifer Principle”.

There were several problems with the book. It was tied in loosely with the book and while chock full of fascinating details, many of them did little or nothing to advance or support the argument. The poor organization made writing this review rather tedious. The two chapters at the end, in which Bloom tried to apply disjointed elements of the Lucifer Principle onto modern politics and geopolitics, were largely irrelevant and should have been split off into a separate volume.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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Then you might get something like Peter Turchin’s War and Peace and War, which I’ve finally read on the recommendations of Kolya and TG. Ranging from Ermak’s subjugation of the Sibir Khanate to the rise of Rome, Turchin makes the case that the rise and fall of empires is reducible to three basic concepts: 1) Asabiya – social cohesiveness and capacity for collective action, 2) Malthusian dynamics – the tendency for population to outgrow the carrying capacity, and 3) the “Matthew Principle” – the tendency for inequality and social stratification to increase over time. The interplay between these three forces produces the historical patterns of imperial rise and fall, of war and peace and war, that were summarized by Thomas Fenne in 1590 thus:

Warre bringeth ruine, ruine bringeth poverty, poverty procureth peace, and peace in time increaseth riches, riches causeth statelinesse, statelinesse increaseth envie, envie in the end procureth deadly malice, mortall malice proclaimeth open warre and bataille, and from warre again as before is rehearsed.

Turchin, PeterWar and Peace and War (2006)
Category: history, cliodynamics, war; Rating: 4/5
Summary: Amazon reviews

Ibn Khaldun, Malthus, and Saint Matthew meet up for coffee

1) According to the Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldun, empires only form when a tribe, nation, or religious sect attains a high degree of asabiya, – the ability of a group’s members to cooperate with each other, to maintain their identity and discipline in the face of adversity, and to impose their beliefs, values, and control over other groups. Other similar expressions are social cohesion or “social capital”. As Ibn Khaldun wrote, “royal authority and dynastic power are attained only through a group and asabiya. This is because aggressive and defensive strength is obtained only through… mutual affection and willingness to fight and die for each other”. (To put this in context, this is similar to Lev Gumilev’s theories of “passionarity” / пассионарность (willingness to sacrifice oneself for one’s values) or my own ideas on the sobornost’-poshlost’ / rationalism-mysticism belief matrix, in which a state of sobornost’, of course, refers to a high level of asabiya).

This is not surprising – military cooperation and morale is an important factor in military success. See the stunning successes of the early Islamic armies spreading the revelations of Mohammed, or of Nazi Germany. Later in the book, Turchin references the work of Trevor Dupuy, who showed that the Germans had a “combat efficiency” of 1.45, compared to the British 1.0 and American 1.1, in the battles on the western front of 1944 – in other words, excluding equipment and terrain, each Germany soldier was militarily “worth” 20% more than an Anglo-Saxon one.

Now why do some societies have higher asabiya than others? Ibn Khaldun’s analysis covered the dynamics of the desert / settled boundary in the North African Maghreb. Amongst the desert Bedouin tribes, constant inter-tribal warfare exerts group selective pressure favoring the emergence of tribes high in asabiya. These selective pressures are much weaker in settled civilizations with rule of law. Now these defects are more than made up for civilizations’ greater population density and better technologies, which can normally yield much bigger, better-equipped armies than anything the barbarians can muster. However, should civilization fall into a state of internal strife and social dissolution, it becomes “vulnerable to conquest from the desert” by a coalition of Bedouin tribes organized around one group with a particularly high asabiya. However, as soon as the barbarians become ensconced within their new domains, they gradually assimilate into the urban civilization, the high asabiya of the core group dissipates, and the cycle begins anew.

Turchin extends Ibn Khaldun’s beyond the Maghreb into a general theory of the rise of empires, almost all of which arise along “meta-ethnic frontiers” featuring bloody conflicts between starkly alien peoples. The constant military pressure and hatred for the Other binds the borderlanders together, fostering the relative economic equality, social solidarity, and discipline that will in time build an empire. Examples of this include the conflict of the Roman farmer-warriors against the Celtic barbarians of the Po Valley that melded the Latin peoples into the Roman Empire, the centuries-long struggle against the raiding, slave-taking steppe Hordes that incubated Muscovy’s rise, and the violent frontier wars against the Native Americans that formed the “melting pot” identity of the United States. The entire history of Europe from the Roman Empire to Poland-Lithuania has been characterized by the millennial, north-eastern drift of the meta-ethnic frontier between Rome/Christianity and tribal pagans, a frontier which repeatedly spawned new states and empires (Rome itself, the Caroliangian Empire, and the myriad Germanic and Slavic states.

2) The author notes that Ibn Khaldun’s blaming of “luxury” and “senility” for the degeneration of civilizations is an inadequate explanation, being nothing more than a biological metaphor with questionable applicability. Instead, Turchin lays out the theory of cliodynamics, the “mathematized history” that attempts to provide a comprehensive explanation of the “secular cycles” of imperial rise and fall by modeling Malthusian dynamics, i.e., when a great empire arises the resulting stability and prosperity produce overpopulation, which results in dearth, rising inequality (i.e. the old middle-class shrinks, while oligarchs and the landless indigent veer into prominence), and an intensified struggle for scarce resources that undermines social solidarity. Eventually, a severe shock such as a disastrous harvest, peasant uprisings, civil war, or foreign invasion provokes a full-fledged Malthusian crisis that triggers the collapse of the empire. I’ve already written about cliodynamics in detail here.

(Incidentally, I’ve also connected the decline of asabiya (or in my terminology, the transition from sobornost’ to poshlost’) to the socio-demographic cycles of cliodynamics. The theme of The Ages of Man, in which the bounteous Golden Age of the first dynasties (imperial rise) degenerates into the “immorality” and dearth of the Iron Age (social atomization, Malthusian stress, decline), – finally followed by an apocalyptic “cleansing” and start again (Malthusian collapse, barbarian invasions, Dark Ages, etc), is common to all civilizational traditions. See my Musings on the decline and fall of civilizations and explanation of the Malthusian Loop.)

3) Matthew 25:29: “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath”. In other words, there is a natural tendency for wealth to become concentrated in the hands of the few, called the Matthew Principle. In other words, if a pre-industrial civilization enjoys socio-political stability, has ineffective redistributive mechanisms, no free land / overpopulation, and a social mentality that accepts (or even glorifies – see “conspicuous consumption”) big levels of wealth inequality, within several generatons it will develop prodigal levels of social stratification. Wealth inequality tends to reach a maximum just before a collapse of the entire system: for instance, the Roman Empire fell for the last time just decades after reaching “peak inequality” in 400AD. Similar things can be said about the end of republican Rome, the decline of medieval France, and even Russia 1917 or Iran 1979.

Why does the Matthew Principle operate so strongly in Malthusian settings? In agrarian societies, private property is the normal way of storing inherited wealth. If a family has lots of children, each one will inherit ever smaller plots. To make ends meet, they will be eventually forced to borrow loans; if they can’t, their land is taken over by their creditors, and they now have to hire themselves out as agricultural laborers or drift into the cities where they can try to join a trade (hence the reason why cities expand so much in times of subsistence stress). Meanwhile, those who have land can 1) rent it out at exorbitant rates (since the demand for it is so high in an overpopulated country) or 2) they can sell the grain their tenants or serfs produce at high prices (again because there are more mouths to feed). The resulting accumulation of drifting unemployed are matchwood for social unrest (e.g. see the role of the sans-culottes in the French Revolution).

Meanwhile, on the other side of the social spectrum, the elites or nobility grow at a faster rate than the commoners because they have better access to food and can afford more children, and die less quickly. Those with land benefit from cheaper labor and the rise in rent prices, while manufactures become easier to afford thanks to the increase in trade and urban artisans. However, intra-elite inequality also increases, and there is increasing tension as some poor nobles see peasant arrivistes rising above them in social status. Because the king depends on the nobles for governing his kingdom, state institutions must be expanded to “feed” all those nobles who are left out of inheritances, fostering corruption, aristocratic intrigues, and social stratification. Those at the very top of the social pyramid engage in the most extravagant conspicuous consumption, provoking envy amongst the have-nots. All these widening social chasms reduce the society’s asabiya.

The plagues, wars, and internal violence unleashed by Malthusian collapse tends to kill off most of the top and bottom of the social period. The landless indigent starve to death, or their weakened immune systems succumb to disease, or they get carried away as the cannon fodder in the uprisings that wrack the failed state. The nobles also die fast, thanks to their status as a military caste. Generational cycles of violence and wars and political purges carry many of them off. After the collapse, land becomes cheaper and labor becomes more expensive. Subsistence stress largely subsides and society becomes much more egalitarian. The cycle begins anew.

Criticisms and Consequences

I think Turchin’s book is a good introductory text to the new science of cliodynamics, one he himself did much to found (along with Nefedov and Korotayev). However, though readable – mostly, I suspect, because I am interested in the subject – it is not well-written. The text was too thick, there were too many awkward grammatical constructions, and the quotes are far, far too long.

More importantly, 1) the theory is not internally well-integrated and 2) there isn’t enough emphasis on the fundamental differences separating agrarian from industrial societies. For instance, Turchin makes a lot of the idea that the Italians’ low level of asabiya (“amoral familism”) was responsible for it’s only becoming politically unified in the late 19th century. But why then was it the same for Germany, the bloody frontline for the religious wars of the 17th century? And why was France able to build a huge empire under Napoleon, when it had lost all its “meta-ethnic frontiers” / marches by 1000 AD? For answers to these questions about the genesis of the modern nation-state, one would be much better off by looking at more conventional explanations by the likes of Benedict Anderson, Charles Tilly, or Gabriel Ardant.

Nowadays, modern political technologies – the history textbook, the Monument to the Unknown Soldier, the radio and Internet – have long displaced the meta-ethnic frontier as the main drivers behind the formation of asabiya. Which is certainly not to say that meta-ethnic frontiers are unimportant – they are, especially in the case of Dar al-Islam, which feels itself to be under siege on multiple fronts (the “bloody borders” of clash-of-civilizations-speak), which according to Turchin’s theory should promote a stronger Islamic identity. But their intrinsic importance has been diluted by the influence of modern media.

Turchin has an interesting discussion of the future of the US, China, Russia, and the European Union based on the conclusions of War and Peace and War. In particular, one very relevant point he made is that to become a true empire, the EU requires 1) the development of a European-wide loyalty towards it, willing to shed blood for it, and 2) its core state, Germany, must continue to underwrite it financially. None of these conditions, I think it is safe to say, will be met. Germany is most emphatically not prepared to sacrifice its national interests in favor of a European project over which it does not have direct control; the Germans have their own problems, foremost among them the demographic aging of the population. Furthermore, only 37% of Germans are today prepared to fight for their own country, according to the findings of the World Values Survey*; if that is the case, then how many Germans would fight (and risk death) for the Brussels bureaucracy? 5% would probably be generous. Quite simply the EU does not have any foundations for an imperial future, nor the will to create one; it is very fragile and will start unraveling at the smallest shocks.

Another major problem with the book that makes it incomplete is that although Turchin touches and speculates about the modern world and the future – in particular, he notes that the rising inequality, crime rates, slower growth, etc, of the post-1960′s industrialized world is similar to the traditional symptoms of an emerging Malthusian crisis – he does not connect the dots with the Limits to Growth, the theory that explicitly states that we are being swept into a Malthusian crisis due to global overpopulation and resource depletion. This is a far more important development than the techno-hype he devotes much of the last chapter to.

In the end I gave a 4/5 for this book, although it could have potentially gotten 5*/5. Turchin did valuable work in emphasizing how the material (e.g. the Malthusian) interacts with the spiritual (asabiya) in history, whereas many lesser theorists regard the latter as a “mystical” factor unworthy of serious attention. However, the book suffered from 1) poor writing, 2) too many marginal details that should have been edited out, and 3) unsuccessful application of the theory to the current, post-agrarian era. He should either have left it out entirely, or spent a lot more time doing it better.

* From the latest “wave” of the World Values Survey, “Of course, we all hope that there will not be another war, but if it were to come to that, would you be willing to fight for your country?” I think this question is an excellent way of gauging asabiya in a nation, since it directly addresses the issue of life, death, and self-sacrifice. The results are very interesting.

The Scandinavian countries – limp-wristed feminist socialists that they are ;) – all say a resounding “yes” (Sweden 86%, Norway 88%, Finland 84%). Similarly, for all the problems of the post-Communist transition, Eastern European nations also retain high levels of asabiya (Poland 75%, Russia 83%, Georgia 70%), though Serbia 61% is lower (maybe because they’ve already fought) and so is Ukraine 69% (its Russophones aren’t as loyal as West or Central Ukrainians). Most of the Muslim countries say “yes” (Iran 81%, Egypt 80%, Morocco 77%), including a whopping 97% in Turkey. Iraq 37% is the sole outlier. Similarly, the Asian nations also have high levels of patriotism (China 87%, India 81%, South Korea 73%).

The United States 63% isn’t as high as one might think, and curiously close to France 61%, Great Britain 62%, and the rest of the Anglo-Saxon world. The nations of Latin America tend to have similar figures. The Mediterranean countries, the old countries, and the countries defeated in World War Two are the last willing to put their lives on the line for their nation (Italy 43%, Spain 45%, Japan 25%, Germany 37%).

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.