HBD blogger JayMan has recently made a blog post critiquing me for my “Hajnal denialism.”
Anatoly Karlin recently wrote a post criticizing my and HBD Chick’s attribution of socio-cultural-economic differences across Europe to our old friend the Hajnal line…
Anatoly’s arguments on this matter often rests on his inability to fit some social pattern or another perfectly to the geographic extent of the Hajnal line, as he’s wont to do. This is very much his M.O. on these things, he seems to expect perfect geographic correspondence with every social variable to the Hajnal line.
I really don’t know where the criticism comes from. A quick perusal of my website and Twitter reveals that I do think ancestral family systems, as explored in the works of Hajnal and Emmanuel Todd, has significant explanatory power. Heck, just ask Niccolo Salo.
What I do object to is JayMan’s unremitting attempts to hammer in, Procrustes-like, every social phenomenon under the Sun to fit the Hajnal Line.
1. JayMan claims that East Europeans have a biological propensity towards Communism.
This is true only insofar as Eastern Europe tended to have more exagamous community family systems, which in turn do have a strong relationship with indigenous support for Communism 50-100 years ago.
[Note that this is according to work by Emmanuel Todd, which has nothing to do with the Hajnal Line, except insofar as exogamous communitarian family systems are almost all located outside it. Incidentally, I find JayMan’s constant conflation of the Hajnal Line with Todd’s family systems in general to be questionable.]
Russian Constituent Assembly election, 1917: Bolshevik share of the vote.
However, when one gets down the historical details, it emerges that there were plenty of exceptions and even reversals to the general trend. The most enthusiastic supporters of the Bolsheviks in 1917 were the Latvians, who are half in and half out of the Hajnal Line (though Todd does say they had an exogamous community family system). More of them voted for the Bolsheviks than any other province of the former Russian Empire, and the Red Latvian Riflemen played a critical and indispensable role in consolidating Bolshevik power over the Russian heartlands in spring-summer 1918. Meanwhile, the core of White resistance to the Bolsheviks was in decidedly non-Hajnal southern Russia and Siberia. In the Finnish Civil War, in the exact inverse of the geography of family types, the Reds started off by seizing power in the south, while the resistance was concentrated in the north.
Within the Hajnal Line, there was a series of Communist uprisings and pseudo-states in the aftermath of WW1, such as the Bavarian Soviet Republic (Hajnal, stem family), the Spartacist uprising (mostly Hajnal, stem family), and the Hungarian Soviet Republic (half Hajnal, exogamous community family) – none of which could have appeared without some significant underlying level of support. The Czechs (mostly Hajnal, stem family) voted the Communists into power in mostly free elections in 1946. Throughout the 1950s-70s, greater percentages of French (fully Hajnal) and Italians (half Hajnal) voted for Communists than Russians did in 1917. Indeed, Italy would have probably gone Communist in the late 1940s if not for the CIA interfering in their elections.
Note that JayMan goes so far as to seriously cite HBD differences in Korea to explain the “propensity for Communism” in the northern part. Leaving aside minor and irrelevant details such as Chinese and Soviet military involvement, it’s worth noting that the North had traditionally been more Christian and more collaborationist with the Japanese, while the South had been more nationalistic and xenophobic (according to B.R. Myers in The Cleanest Race). It’s therefore the South that should have sooner gone Communist by this muddled logic.
2. JayMan claims the Iron Curtain can no longer explain anything since it hasn’t existed for 30 years. East Europeans who do that are like Blacks still whining about slavery.
Communism: is there anything it can’t do? It’s like the legacy of slavery for American Blacks. Its effects are felt long after its gone. And in both cases, the legacy is felt before it even existed.
Obviously, the range of things for which Communism can be credibly blamed for is limited, and declining over time. But this presupposes that Eastern Europe was always as backwards in relative terms as in the 1980s.
This is incorrect. In the early 20th century, Eastern Europe was not as developed as the leading North-West European nations, but it was about as developed as the Mediterranean. According to data gathered by Angus Maddison, economic product per capita in the Russian Empire c.1913 – which included backwards areas such as Central Asia and the Caucasus – was higher than that of Portugal and Japan, and similar to that of Greece, though below Spain and Italy; up to the 1930s, Czechia and Hungary were about as advanced as Northern Italy. There was no major category in which they were huge negative outliers. Homicide rates in the Russian Empire, for instance, were similar to those in Italy or Japan, though 5x higher than in the most developed nations such as the UK and Germany (I have a post on this ready to publish).
By the end of the transition from Communism, even Russia – the richest component of the USSR along with the Baltics – could only dream of “catching up” to Portugal’s level (as Putin promised in 2000 at the start of his first term). This was more or less achieved by the early 2010s. Poland is now at least on the level of Portugal, Romania is not that far behind, and Czechia is catching up with Spain and Italy. Institutions, corruption, living standards are much better than in the 1990s almost everywhere in Eastern Europe in not just absolute but relative terms.
So clearly Communism had a negative effect, though one that is being gradually exorcised. (Of course, some things are very difficult to do away with entirely, and will continue draining resources for decades if not centuries. For instance, the USSR built a large number of non-viable towns in the Russian Far North, which would have never appeared under market conditions and which require heavy subsidies to this day, as discussed in The Siberian Curse). If Communism had nothing to do with poor East European economic performance, they would not have started to gain on the developed world in relative terms after abandoning it. This is not say that they will converge all the way up to Switzerland’s level. The most reasonable long-term expectation is that they will regain their relative positions of a century ago, and with few exceptions, that is exactly what is happening. But they might well do even better, thanks to Western Europe’s decision to import masses of unproductive migrants from the Third World (here the East Europeans can thank the Soviet Freezer).
It is good that JayMan mentioned Blacks and slavery in the US because that sooner reinforces my point. Because the true equivalence would have been if Liberians or Haitians blamed their failures on slavery. Blacks in the US got to benefit from living under world-class institutions, which they would have otherwise had to learn, adapt, and master themselves (something that post-Communist East Europeans are doing successfully, if slowly and imperfectly; something that Blacks have at best been able to only maintain, as in South Africa or Jamaica). US Blacks also get to benefit from far higher living standards and education than would have been the case if they had been left to create their own societies. Now if a century hence East Europeans were to still live like they did under late Communism, JayMan would have a point. But he’s already been invalidated on that score.
This doesn’t invalidate JayMan’s point that many East Europeans expressly dismiss the Hajnal Line for emotional reasons. That is true, but I don’t fall into that category – having even made the comparison myself on a number of occasions. However, if military force ratios on the Eastern Front in 1944 are also supposed to ultimately boil down to the Hajnal Line, then I suppose I’m a Hajnal Denier.
3. JayMan claims I expect “perfect geographic correspondence with every social variable” to the Hajnal Line.
This is almost completely incorrect. Now just to be clear, I do think that the Hajnal Line has substantial explanatory power on some indicators, most notably corruption.
[However, while living in non-corrupt countries is generally nicer, it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference to either wealth or scientific productivity (adjusting for IQ + Communism/resource windfalls!!). Indeed, to the extent that there are possibly biologically-determined negative outliers there, it’s with respect to Mongoloids, whose countries are poorer and less creative than might be deduced from their (high) average IQs alone.]
But the problem is that there are so many exceptions that they overwhelm the otherwise relative faint outline traced by the Hajnal Line.
One example that JayMan and Co. keep citing is support for LGBT and gay marriage, which is – Czechia and Greece aside – essentially a map of the East/West division during the Cold War. Meanwhile, despite being half in half out of the Hajnal Line, Spain is as gay friendly as “Sweden Yes”; while the general liberalism of Iberia even by West European standards is somewhat of a puzzle, virtually all the Spaniards and Portuguese I have talked to converge on the opinion that it is a prolonged reaction to their mid-20th century reactionary dictators (i.e. local factors). Now I am not arguing that there are zero “Hajnal influences” – Portugal is less homophile than Spain; Finland less so than Sweden; Greece less so than the rest of Western Europe; Estonia less so than Russia. But the overall picture is obviously dominated by the East/West divide from the Cold War: Estonia is much more homophobic than Finland; the Balkans are more homophobic than Greece.
This should not be so surprising, because social attitudes are very much malleable things. In perhaps the most striking example, even modern East European nationalists can only dream of being as racist and bigoted as mid-century (Hajnal) Americans. The Americans who stormed the beaches of Normandy to “punch Nazis” were themselves hardcore fascists (by modern standards).
Closer to our own time, in Estonia, elderly Estonians and Russians have similarly skeptical views on gay marriage; young Russians and Estonians diverge, spending their time in largely separate information spaces. As late as the mid-2000s, Utahns (fully Hajnal), Poles (half-Hajnal), and Russians (not Hajnal) had similarly skeptical opinions on gay marriage; since then, the West began to strongly normalize and even sacralize homosexuality, while Russia went into the opposite direction, with the result that today they have diverged into almost completely non-intersecting worldviews on this issue. This has gone so far that “Putin’s Russia” is now regularly demonized in the Western media for having 1980’s American-style views on homosexuality.
Support for nationalism and nationalist parties is another factor cited by JayMan in his Hajnal obsession. He often cites the Nazi share of the vote in support of that, and compares it to AfD performance today. But look at it in greater detail and the whole structure comes apart. In 1933, Naziphilia was a fuzzy gradient as you went east, and one significantly confounded by Bavarian Catholics voting for non-Nazi conservative nationalists; it was also notably undermined by Saxony, a proletarian region where support for Social Democrats and Communists was high instead. But today, you have extremely marked demarcation lines, even at the district level. With the exception of Berlin – where the AfD still gets almost as much as in Bavaria! – all the former GDR states give at least 50% as many votes to the AfD as the most pro-AfD West German state, conservative Bavaria. Moreover, the AfD does best precisely in Saxony!
In summary, the more credible explanation for most of these issues is that whatever role the Hajnal Line might play, its effects are very much secondary to that of the Soviet Freezer. Though obviously, now that the Freezer is broken, we may expect its effects to fade away in the next few decades. In that case, patterns may begin to hew closer to that of the Hajnal Line come mid-century. But that is speculative.
If the above comes across as too critical, I will append that I am friendly with JayMan and appreciate the great bulk of his work. So I would ask commenters to refrain from any personal attacks. Nonetheless, I can’t escape the impression that JayMan has taken away one admittedly big and reasonably important idea and ran amok with it, extending it to ever more incredible and even deranged (North Korea!?) directions. This is not adaptive – “fox” thinkers tend to outperform “hedgehogs” at predictive success. I would urge JayMan to take a temporary break from the HBD literature and read up on topics such as economic history and the Russian Revolution.