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Ethnic Nepotism

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From the New York Times:

In a Transition Game, David Stern Is Passing the N.B.A. Commissioner’s Hat to Adam Silver 


David Stern stepped into a conference room through a side door from his office. He carried a can of soda and a small plate of tortilla chips. 

“My lunch,” he said on a recent weekday afternoon as he settled in to be interviewed jointly with Adam Silver, who will succeed him Saturday as N.B.A. commissioner. 

… Stern, 71, was, in the 1970s, a rising star at the New York law firm Proskauer Rose, which provided legal counsel to the N.B.A. and created a way inside the sport he followed growing up across the Hudson River from Manhattan in Teaneck, N.J. 

Silver, 51, spent much of his youth in Rye, north of New York City, the son of a Proskauer partner. …

After graduating from the University of Chicago Law School, Silver seemed to be following in the legal footsteps of his father. “I loved basketball, but I never dreamed about playing in the N.B.A. or certainly working for the N.B.A.,” he said. 

The credentials and connections couldn’t have hurt after he wrote a letter to Stern seeking career advice. Silver joined the league in 1992 as Stern’s special assistant and subsequently became chief of staff, the senior vice president of N.B.A. Entertainment, and the deputy commissioner when Russ Granik left that position in 2006. 

“We’ve been working intensely close for 22 years,” Stern said. “I’ve been giving him advice and he’s been giving me advice for over two decades. It depended upon the owners ultimately, but I thought he was the logical successor.” 

Such is the rebuttal to the social media chatter about the commissioner’s office being too New York-centric, or even too Jewish. Support for Silver, according to league insiders, was widespread. … 

On average, as Bryant Gumbel has suggested, NBA team owners aren’t exactly all that different demographically from Stern and his protege Silver.

But when Stern said, “We think alike about a lot of things — not just about basketball, but about life,” he was stressing a more essential point that N.B.A. owners seemed to grasp. 


(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Ethnic Nepotism, Sports 
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From the NYT:

Scientists Square Off on Evolutionary Value of Helping Relatives

Why are worker ants sterile? Why do birds sometimes help their parents raise more chicks, instead of having chicks of their own? Why do bacteria explode with toxins to kill rival colonies? In 1964, the British biologist William Hamilton published a landmark paper to answer these kinds of questions. Sometimes, he argued, helping your relatives can spread your genes faster than having children of your own.

For the past 46 years, biologists have used Dr. Hamilton’s theory to make sense of how animal societies evolve. They’ve even applied it to the evolution of our own species. But in the latest issue of the journal Nature, a team of prominent evolutionary biologists at Harvard try to demolish the theory.

The scientists argue that studies on animals since Dr. Hamilton’s day have failed to support it. The scientists write that a close look at the underlying math reveals that Dr. Hamilton’s theory is superfluous. “It’s precisely like an ancient epicycle in the solar system,” said Martin Nowak, a co-author of the paper with Edward O. Wilson and Corina Tarnita. “The world is much simpler without it.”

Other biologists are sharply divided about the paper. Some praise it for challenging a concept that has outlived its usefulness. But others dismiss it as fundamentally wrong.

“Things are just bouncing around right now like a box full of Ping-Pong balls,” said James Hunt, a biologist at North Carolina State University.

Dr. Hamilton, who died in 2000, saw his theory as following logically from what biologists already knew about natural selection. Some individuals have more offspring than others, thanks to the particular versions of genes they carry. But Dr. Hamilton argued that in order to judge the reproductive success of an individual, scientists had to look at the genes it shared with its relatives.

We inherit half of our genetic material from each parent, which means that siblings have, on average, 50 percent [1/2] of the same versions of genes. We share a lower percentage with first cousins [1/8], second cousins [1/32] and so on. If we give enough help to relatives so they can survive and have children, then they can pass on more copies of our own genes. Dr. Hamilton called this new way of tallying reproductive success inclusive fitness.

Each organism faces a trade-off between putting effort into raising its own offspring or helping its relatives. If the benefits of helping a relative outweigh the costs, Dr. Hamilton argued, altruism can evolve.

The idea wasn’t exactly wholly new. J.B.S. Haldane liked to joke in the 1950s when he was asked if he’d give up his life for his brother: No, but maybe for 2 brothers or 8 first cousins.
Dr. Hamilton believed that one of the things his theory could explain was the presence of sterile females among ants, wasps, and some other social insects. These species have peculiar genetics that cause females to be more closely related to their sisters than to their brothers, or even to their own offspring. In these situations, a female ant may be able to spread more genes by helping to raise her queen mother’s eggs than trying to lay eggs of her own.
Wilson didn’t like Hamilton’s theory the first time he heard of it either. In his delightful autobiography Naturalist, Wilson described how he wrestled with Hamilton’s epochal papers during an 18-hour train ride in 1965:

“Impossible, I thought, this can’t be right. Too simple… By dinnertime, as the train rumbled on into Virginia, I was growing frustrated and angry… And because I modestly thought of myself as the world authority on social insects, I also thought it unlikely that anyone else could explain their origin, certainly not in one clean stroke… By the time we reached Miami, in the early afternoon, I gave up. I was a convert and put myself in Hamilton’s hands. I had undergone what historians of science call a paradigm shift.”

Zimmer continues:
But as the years passed, Dr. Wilson’s enthusiasm for the theory waned. “It was getting tattered,” he said. Many species with sterile females, for example, do not have the strange genetics of ants and wasps. And many species with the right genetics have not produced sterile females. …
A number of scientists strongly disagree, though. “This paper, far from showing shortcomings in inclusive fitness theory, shows the shortcomings of the authors,” said Frances Ratnieks of the University of Sussex.

Dr. Ratnieks argues that the Harvard researchers cannot rule out kinship as a driving force in social evolution because their model is flawed. It does not include how closely related animals are.

That would seem to be a big factor. 
Read the rest of the article here

To see some of the more interesting implications of Hamilton’s theory, see my 2004 article.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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From the Washington Post:

Despite peace, Belfast walls are growing in size and number
The Associated Press

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — Lee Young, 8, and Cein Quinn, 7, live barely 200 yards apart, but they have never met, and maybe never will.

Lee is Protestant, Cein a Catholic _ and their communities in Belfast’s west inner city are separated by a wall called a peace line. It’s nearly 40 years old and 40 feet high.

Ten years after peace was declared in Northern Ireland, one might have expected that Belfast’s barriers would be torn down by now. But reality, as usual, is far messier. Not one has been dismantled. Instead they’ve grown in both size and number. … Instead, for dozens of front-line communities of Belfast, fences still make the best neighbors.

“The Troubles” began at these sectarian flashpoints in the late 1960s, and survive today in a legacy of mutual fear and loathing. The rate of sectarian killings has fallen to virtually zero thanks to cease-fires underpinned by IRA disarmament, and the feeling on both sides is that the barriers help keep that peace. …

In this city of 650,000, roughly half Catholic and half Protestant, only the university district and upper-class streets, chiefly on the south side, bear no clear-cut tribal identity.

There’s something quite similar in Beirut, where the one street open to all ethnicities runs by the American University.

A lot of ethnic struggles aren’t driven so much by mass hatred as by thugs, most of them young, who get into scrapes with the other side. In the meritocratic uplands, it all seems irrelevant. But down in the lowlands, where social ties are less determined by having unusually high IQs or particular talent, but by blood and neighborliness, the young thugs are nephews and cousins and neighbors’ nephews and cousins. While they may be sons of bitches, they’re our sons of bitches.

Catholic colleagues on occasion have invited him across the wall for an after-hours pint at their pub. He won’t go. “You’d be afraid that they might recognize you’re from the other side. Am I too tight in the eyes?” he said, referring to a stereotype of Protestant eyes supposedly being closer together.

That’s the first stereotype I’ve heard of Belfast Prods and Taigs being even theoretically distinguishable by sight. I’ve always described the Northern Irish troubles as a classic racial struggle between two partly inbred extended families. They haven’t been separated long enough to undergo much selection for different looks, but so what? Thinking of them like this helps you understand the situation better.

People tend to look at me like I’m crazy when I say this because everybody knows that race is only about skin color. So therefore, the Troubles have to be about religion (even though most of the active participants in the Troubles are too hung over to make it to church on Sunday morning).

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Ethnic Nepotism 
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Because I have one of those $9.97 subscriptions to the New Republic, I can’t tell if Steven Pinker’s cover story in the August 6th issue, which does such a fine job of summarizing a lot of my approach to thinking about humanity (with one obvious exception), is available to nonsubscribers. Can you get to the full article from here? Or, how about from there?

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Ethnic Nepotism 
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Free Content: The Washington Post publishes economist Paul H. Rubin’s op-ed “Evolution, Immigration, and Trade” explaining why all us patriotic Neanderthals aren’t as intellectually evolved as him and his fellow transnationalist economists:

Our primitive ancestors lived in a world that was essentially static; there was little societal or technological change from one generation to the next. This meant that our ancestors lived in a world that was zero sum — if a particular gain happened to one group of humans, it came at the expense of another.

This is the world our minds evolved to understand. To this day, we often see the gain of some people and assume it has come at the expense of others …

[O]ur evolutionary intuition is that, because foreign workers gain from trade and immigrant workers gain from joining the U.S. economy, native-born workers must lose. This zero-sum thinking leads us to see trade and immigration as conflict (“trade wars,” “immigrant invaders”) when trade and immigration actually produce cooperation and mutual benefit, the exact opposite of conflict.

In the Comments on EconLog, Mark Seecof unloads:

Mark Seecof writes: Rubin shows how desperately some economists wish to reinforce their ideological position by borrowing ideas from other disciplines. Sadly, Rubin shows that stealing a few buzzwords from another discipline isn’t the same as drawing real understanding from it.

Rubin wants to hitch his no-borders wagon to evolutionary psychology, but hasn’t read much of it–or he would have learnt that humans are capable (have evolved to be capable) of a variety of more or less selfish or cooperative behaviours. He would also have learnt that groups of humans scattered around the world are very different in capabilities, attitudes, and behaviours and that many of those differences are genetically mediated (that is, they cannot be altered much by economic education).

Rubin’s supposition that a world with little sociological or technical change must be one of zero-sum economics is false. All of recorded history abounds with examples to the contrary and anthropologists will testify to the eagerness with which many peoples have traded with outsiders–even in eras of “little change.”

Equally false is Rubin’s supposition that everyone is really the same, so people viewing others as members of (in- or out-groups) is arbitrary. Evolution depends on differences–it cannot act without them–so any economist who wishes to draw on evolutionary theory must acknowledge and account for real differences among people.

At the same time, evolutionary pressures (almost certainly) cause people to vary their amount of cooperation with their degree of kinship. Cooperative phenotypes act on socially-mediated pseudo-kinship as well as actual genetic kinship. It’s not hard to get people to cooperate, if you persuade them to treat each other as kin. In fact, that’s the point of the Golden Rule.

Look, Rubin’s own discipline can explain why many people want to restrict trade. Those who wish to restrict trade are those who expect, personally, to gain by such restrictions! Economists often call them “rent seekers” and they include producers and merchants more often than “common folk.” Does the term “Corn Laws” mean anything to you? Rubin’s op-ed falsely suggests that the prejudices of ordinary voters result in trade restrictions, but anyone who looks into the matter will discover that industrial interests drive lawmaking in this area. Virtually every restriction on trade in the USA is a triumph by rent-seeking incumbents in some industry.

We can theorize both “classical economic” and “evo-psych” reasons why people would like to restrict immigration.

For the first, people who will personally suffer from immigration (that is, to a first approximation, workers rather than employers) would like to restrict it. This is not irrational, because (Rubin’s purely ideological assertion to the contrary notwithstanding), economic gains from immigration are not evenly distributed. (Note that demands by particular industries to import cheap labor, regardless of externalities, may properly be regarded as a form of rent-seeking.)

As for the second, evo-psych predicts people would be wary of immigration, because most immigrants are not kin (note that this theory perfectly explains the special case of people favoring immigration from their own ancestral regions). Evo-psych predicts, on a very strong basis, that people would rather preserve the economic bounty where they are for their own kin.

Even an economist must agree that (a) immigrants themselves only move because they expect to be better off in their new homes than their old, and (b) once they arrive they will compete with natives for existing economic resources. To genes competing in evolution’s rat-race, there is no reason to help immigrants better themselves, and every reason to discourage local competition from immigrants.

It’s true that immigrants may help expand economic resources–in a society where greater availability of labor fuels economic expansion. However, the notion, oft-repeated by economists, that labor availability necessarily fuels industrial expansion is obviously false (if it were true, Bangladesh would be rich).

History shows that industrial economic growth depends on high-IQ labor, and is retarded where chiefly low-IQ labor is available no matter how cheaply. Since IQ is at least 60% heritable, only an ideologically-blinded economist would suppose that unlimited immigration by low-IQ people would certainly fuel economic expansion. In fact, there are strong economic reasons to think otherwise, because in the presence of many low-IQ people, society diverts the labor of many high-IQ people from industry to simply managing (or exploiting) the low-IQ crowds.

An economist who really wants to reconcile his discipline with evolutionary psychology should ask “why should people follow abstract theories rather than behave in the ways that promoted the survival of countless generations of their ancestors?” He should then return to Rubin’s notion of education, but educate people to discern rent-seeking proposals and oppose them.

As for immigration, once the economist clears his mind of the notion that all immigration is an unalloyed blessing, he can promote a rational policy of encouraging immigration only by people who would promote the industrial economy. Those people could/would be accepted as “kin” and so engage our evolved capacity for cooperation.

The one area of economics which has been pretty-much zero-sum from ancient times right up through today is competition for land.

Even if you slept through everything else I wrote you should agree that to the extent immigrants compete for land, they really are zero-sum competitors and a rational economic actor would seek to exclude them, the more vigorously as he cared more about land. In former times when many people depended directly on their own land for their own and their family’s subsistence, both “economic” and “evo-psych” reasons would teach them to oppose immigration.

Only those parts of our modern industrialized economy for which land is not a major factor of production can look upon immigration with complacency. You shouldn’t expect (reasonable, as opposed, say, to Marxist) “economic education” to persuade other people to irrationally favor immigrants entering a zero-sum competition for land. This is probably why people readily see non-kin immigrants as “invaders.” For all time, a bunch of non-kin moving into the area meant greater (zero-sum) competition for food, because food was directly proportional to land. So immigrants are invaders.

Today a bunch of immigrants means zero-sum competition for pleasant suburban homes. This is why rich people who want low-wage immigrants to serve them favor immigration and everyone else in America rationally opposes it.

• Category: Economics • Tags: Ethnic Nepotism 
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Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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