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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Chart of the Day: Education and Spending

Since the topic in one of the comment threads has turned to education, I thought I'd put this chart up.  I may have used it before, but I can't remember.

Yes, yes, yes, I know, careful dissection of the data behind this chart coupled with alternate assumptions and premises could lead one to conclude this chart is an exaggeration, but education spending and actual educational outcomes have been at least somewhat decoupled for a half-century.

That delta $100,000+ in spending also should give us pause. Many of the recipients would likely, in my opinion, be better off with that money invested for them rather than spent trying to educate them.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Smug

A recent Jonah Goldberg column contained the following:
I don’t know who first said, “Behind every apparent double standard lies an unconfessed single standard” (and as far as I can tell, neither does the Internet), but whoever did was onto something.

What looks like inexplicably staggering hypocrisy from the conservative perspective is actually remarkably consistent from the liberal perspective.

Well, “perspective” is probably the wrong word because it implies a conscious, deliberate, philosophical point of view. What is really at work is better understood as bias, even bigotry.

If you work from the dogmatic assumption that liberalism is morally infallible and that liberals are, by definition, pitted against sinister and — more importantly — powerful forces, then it’s easy to explain away what seem like double standards. Any lapse, error, or transgression by conservatives is evidence of their real nature, while similar lapses, errors, and transgressions by liberals are trivial when balanced against the fact that their hearts are in the right place.

Despite controlling the commanding heights of the culture — journalism, Hollywood, the arts, academia, and vast swaths of the corporate America they denounce — liberals have convinced themselves they are pitted against deeply entrenched powerful forces and that being a liberal is somehow brave. Obama, the twice-elected president of the United States, to this day speaks as if he’s some kind of underdog.

A later column titled Blaming America First  had these additional points  :
In reality, the liberal ideological comfort zone is incredibly narrow. If an issue can’t be turned into a critique of America (or: white privilege, the religious Right (variously defined), capitalism, the GOP, or some other float in the parade of horribles that is the legacy of those horrible Pale Penis People who gave us so much of Western civilization), then the conversation must be pulled in that direction. It’s simply where their minds go. Rhetorically they have to fight every fight on home turf.
 So what happens when events and facts make it impossible for liberals to change the subject to more convenient topics? They figure out how to make the villain or problem at hand “conservative.”
 All of the nonsense about microaggressions and hate speech, all of the namby-pamby self-esteem boosting, the elevation of feelings, the paranoia of offending people, the thousand flavors of political correctness including informed-consent for every romantic overture: They did it. Them. All by themselves. And they are still doing it. Conservatives aren’t behind any of it and libertarians certainly aren’t.

But the moment it becomes impossible to ignore the huge frick’n mess they created, what do they start calling it? Conservatism.

This is all part of the narrative and political branding.  Plenty of bright people are so trapped in the bubble that they can't see this at all.

Later in the same column he continues:
The Left loves wars of national liberation. The Left loves self-determination against colonialism. But when such nationalism becomes a problem, out come the smug lectures about how nationalism is right-wing.

 And that’s the point. Once something becomes too terrible to ignore, it must be labeled “right-wing” or “conservative” somehow. If you don’t believe me, find the smartest liberal you know and ask him or her to list all of the really bad things done by the Left. Odds are you’ll get silence. Or you might get “Well, I don’t believe in labels . . . ” (“Don’t get him started on that again, people!” — The Couch). But what you won’t hear is much of anything about the American eugenics movement, or the internment of the Japanese, or the Black Panthers, Weathermen, the manifest failures of the New Deal (economic and non-economic alike), etc. That’s because liberalism, by conviction if not definition, is never wrong.

Kevin Williamson in a column titled The New Royals :

Other civilizations are big on karma, arete, martial codes of honor, virtus, etc.; we Americans have “Work hard, live well, enjoy good stuff,” which might be sneered at by philosophers and warlords but is nonetheless the best and most humane organizing principle a human polity has yet discovered.

I miss the days when the important status symbol could be something so simple as a Cadillac.

Tinkering with the organic, spontaneous orders of human society is a tricky business. In the 1960s, the Western world got it into its collective head that traditional social arrangements, especially family arrangements, were an instrument of oppression that needed to be torn down. And we set about tearing them down, without giving any thought to what would replace them. We were confident that whatever came next inevitably would be better, and about 80 percent of our current domestic-policy initiatives are in one way or another aimed at dealing with the fact that what came after wasn’t better — that it was brutish and frequently cruel — without ever being so gauche as to notice that that’s the case.

Similarly, the old status symbols — the nice house, the car, the sensible two-week family vacation — might have been bound up with a brand of unthinking and insalubrious materialism, but they were also bound up with some important virtues that we are in the process of rediscovering: thrift, frugality, delayed gratification, etc. That is, in fact, why status symbols work as status symbols: It’s not just having the Cadillac or the gold watch — it’s being the sort of person who earns them.
 As in the case of the princess in Hans Christian Andersen’s 1835 story, so sensitive that she could feel the pea under 20 mattresses and 20 featherbeds, acute dissatisfaction with the tiniest, most ridiculous little details of life is how 21st-century progressives communicate to the world that they are indeed the new royalty, with sensibilities finer than those known to mere commoners.
 There is a term for this that is uncharitable but cannot be improved upon: status-whoring. The old status symbols may have been shallow; the new ones are shallow, destructive, and a great deal less fun to drive.

And they don’t even require you to work particularly hard in school.
 But there is an important distinction between political-correctness-as-status-symbol and Cadillac as a status symbol. The Cadillac, at least as presented by Neal McDonough, is a symbol of what you have earned; hashtag-activist foie-gras phobia is, like the princess’s sleepless night, an expression of who you are — or who you are pretending to be. Anybody can be dissatisfied; it requires no real expenditure of effort. All you have to do to be a member of the new aristocracy is to convince the prince (or some gender-neutral equivalent) that you belong.

Which is to say, our progressives have progressed right back to 1835.

 These examples are presented in support of what the late Andrew Breitbart described as the frequent practice of the left to exhibit an "unearned moral and intellectual superiority."  This kind of posturing is an attempt to always claim the high ground in all matters.  It's as phoney as heck and it's all pretend even if many of practitioners don't realize this.

This Afterburner video with Bill Whittle explains this Coin of the Realm.

Once matters get beyond modest complexity, there are no shortcuts to acquiring the requisite knowledge and achieving sufficient maturity and wisdom to make sound judgements about right and wrong and to then have sound ideas about what might follow.  That is what I told my youngest child, who is a junior in college.  All that has comprised this post was part of an attempt to give him an explanation of and a vocabulary to describe and deal with an attitude he senses on campus which he calls "The Smug." 

Cost of this effort: some time; look on his face afterwards: priceless!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Chart of the Day

(HT: Cafe Hayek)

I'm not sure what the caption should be though. I was thinking one of the following:

More people, more wealth

Exploding towards Malthusian disaster

The rich get richer and the poor get richer

The rich get richer and the poor get relatively poorer

Yet another chart whose meaning is in the eye of the beholder

Or something else. What do you think?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Great Guys Announce a Major Staff Realignment

As a result of output both shabby and sporadic, from a place people care so little about that it isn't even in the right place on most maps, the Great Guys Board of Directors announces with some relief that Hey Skipper will in the near future be spending more time with his family.

In Germany.

Where he will continue his output both shabby and sporadic.

War of the Sexes: Part 8 - In Defense of Non-Monogamy

There are several things to consider when humans choose their own monogamous partners. One of those is assortative mating:
Assortative mating is a nonrandom mating pattern in which individuals with similar genotypes and/or phenotypes mate with one another more frequently than would be expected under a random mating pattern.
Assortative mating almost certainly happens:
The old saw notwithstanding, opposites do not really attract when it comes to love and marriage. Likes attract. In one of the classic papers, originally published in 1943, two sociologists studied 1,000 engaged couples in Chicago, expecting to find at least some traits in which opposites did indeed attract. But out of fifty-one social characteristics studied, the sign of the correlation was positive for every single one. For all but six of the fifty-one traits, the correlations were statistically significant. [...] 
Of the many correlations involving husbands and wives, one of the highest is for IQ. [...]
Christine Schwartz and Robert Mare examined trends in "assortative marriage," ... from 1940 to 2003. They found that homogamy has increased at both ends of the educational scale -- college graduates grew more likely to marry college graduates and high school dropouts grew more likely to marry other high school dropouts. [...]
In 1960, just 3 percent of American couples both had a college degree. By 2010, that proportion stood at 25 percent. The change was so large that it was a major contributor to the creation of a new class all by itself. [...] 
Bit increased educational homogamy ... inevitably means increased cognitive homogamy.
I'd like to go beyond just considering cognition though. Imagine all successful people across all human endeavors. Leave out those that are successful overwhelmingly due to luck. Consider all positive traits that are more common among those successful people than the general population. Those traits no doubt have at least some intersection with cognition and the "fifty-one social characteristics" above and might include things like perseverance, impulse control, drive, learning ability, creativity, curiosity, ability to work in teams, leadership, followership, etc.

Let's call that suffectiveness. Suffectiveness is a combination of "success" and "effectiveness" or those human traits that are generally effective towards achieving success given the current state of civilization. It ignores specific characteristics that are useful in specialized endeavors. Ability to play brass instruments would be an example of a characteristic which is good but not part of suffectiveness.

If mating were completely random, the distribution of suffectiveness would likely resemble a bell curve. If suffectiveness is at least partly heritable and if assortative mating occurs to some extent (which it does), the distribution of suffectiveness would change.

Is suffectiveness heritable? To some extent, very likely. For example, IQ is likely at least partly related to one of the sub-traits of suffectiveness and IQ is very likely at least partly heritable:
The general figure for heritability of IQ is about 0.5 across multiple studies in varying populations.
I decided to do some modeling. There's no way to completely accurately model the suffectiveness of a human population, so I made some simplifying and extreme assumptions.  The model population is 100,000 for each generation, with each female having exactly two children. Each individual has 23 pairs of chromosomes, coincidentally the same number of chromosomes that humans have. On each chromosome, there are arbitrarily 12 gene complexes that add to the suffectiveness of the individual if present. The total suffectiveness of the individual's genotype is the sum of all present suffective gene complexes across all of the chromosomes.  I'm not considering dominant and recessive genes for this model. Since there are 46 chromosomes (23 pairs), and 12 gene complexes per chromosome, there can be a maximum of 552 suffective gene complexes present.

Each individual is able to exactly tell the suffectiveness of another individual just by observation, except that a small random amount of suffectiveness is added to the sum of the suffective gene complexes. The small random amount for these trials had a mean of zero and a variance of 2.76 gene complexes. This was added mostly to keep the curves smooth but the original reason was to keep the sorting from be too rigid and to provide a distinction between genotype and phenotype. I call the total suffectiveness including the random addition the phenotype suffectiveness.

The first model is an assortative monogamous mating model. Each generation is sorted by phenotype suffectivness. One of each of the 23 alleles is taken whole (no chromosomal crossover) from each paired male and female when generating the chromosomes for the offspring. The following graphs show the phenotype suffectiveness for generations 1 (the original), 2, 3, 9, 33, 129, and 257.

Assortative Mating - Original Distribution

Assortative Mating - Generation 2 Distribution

Assortative Mating - Generation 3 Distribution

Assortative Mating - Generation 9 Distribution

Assortative Mating - Generation 33 Distribution

Assortative Mating - Generation 129 Distribution

Assortative Mating - Generation 259 Distribution
The variance of suffectiveness increases each generation, though it changes little after about the 100th generation as this seems to be the point where the distribution of chromosomes can't be improved upon without chromosomal crossover.

In the model above, no chromosomal crossover was allowed. In other words, alleles were never allowed to be formed by mixing any of the gene complexes. In real life, some crossover does take place. In the second model, I allowed an extreme version of chromosomal crossover, where any of the suffective gene complexes were randomly allowed to crossover intact.
The results did not differ noticeably for about 30 generations, where the changes in distribution from selection of entire chromosomes was such a large factor that crossover had relatively little effect. After the 30th generation or so, the differences relative to the first model became more apparent. The following graphs show the suffectiveness for generations 33, 129, and 257, 513, and 1025.

Assortative Mating with Crossover - Generation 33 Distribution

Assortative Mating with Crossover - Generation 129 Distribution

Assortative Mating with Crossover - Generation 257 Distribution

Assortative Mating with Crossover - Generation 513 Distribution

Assortative Mating with Crossover - Generation 1025 Distribution
Chromosomal crossover enables further concentration of the suffective gene complexes (and lack thereof) leading to an even wider variance and more extreme distribution of suffectiveness. Perhaps in enough generations, these two extremes will resemble H.G. Wells' Morlocks and Eloi?

The two models above were monogamous mating models. Even without the genetic drift shown by the models, assortative monogamy still leads to inequality. Even with wealth redistribution, there will still be a radical inequality of suffectiveness per household. At one end, Ph.D.'s marry Ph.D.'s, at the other end, unemployed sewer workers marry part-time barmaids. Not that there's anything wrong with sewer workers and barmaids, but the point is that the two households will have nothing in common and will hardly even be able to talk to each other. It will likely only get worse over time even with no genetic component. I believe that this sort of inequality will be both an inherent feature of monogamy going forward and that this inequality is far more destabilizing than mere wealth inequality.

Many societies in the past and present are not monogamous and as I've pointed out in other posts, monogamy is becoming less popular now in the United States (and the rest of the world) as well. Monogamy has many good points and was, in my opinion, very likely necessary for civilization to have made it this far. But here we are, and it's not clear to me that it makes sense going forward because it will inherently lead to a particularly destabilizing sort of inequality.

Lets' go back to models. This next model models female hypergamy, which, for the purposes of this post is defined as the natural desire for females to mate with someone of higher status, perhaps or hopefully much higher status. It's debatable to what extent that desire is present in human females, but that's the assumption for the next model.

This model is just like the first model except that only the top fifth of suffective males are used to generate the next generation of offspring. In the first model, each male and female had two children. In this model, each female still has two children. However, each of the top 20% most suffective males has ten children, two with each of five females.

In the graphs from the previous two models, the axes were identical. For this model, the Y-axis expands as the distribution narrows. The following graphs show the suffectiveness for generations 1, 2, 3, 9, 33, and 129 from the female hypergamy model.

Hypergamy - Generation 1 (Original)  Distribution

Hypergamy - Generation 2 Distribution
Note that by the 2nd generation (1st iteration), there is already a significant shift of suffectiveness in the positive direction.

Hypergamy - Generation 3 Distribution

Hypergamy - Generation 9 Distribution

Hypergamy - Generation 33 Distribution

Hypergamy - Generation 129 Distribution
The genetic distribution of suffectiveness moves rapidly in the positive direction every generation until it maxes out what the genome can support without mutations (after about the hundredth generation, there's not much change). Note that these results are without chromosomal crossover. With crossover, the results are pretty much the same, they just happen faster and are even more extreme.

As I mentioned before presenting these models, there are many simplifying and extreme assumptions incorporated into the models. The point is not that the above is a reflection of reality, or to the extent it is a reflection, it's a very, very distorted one. The point of modeling is to get an idea of how potential factors might affect the trajectory of society.

Each person interprets the ideas and information available differently. My interpretation is that monogamy will probably lead to a more unequal society over time and that the particular type of inequality (inequality of suffectiveness and status) will be destabilizing and may more than cancel out the advantages of monogamy, and that women seeking out much higher status males to get them pregnant may not be such a bad thing if we can survive a few generations of that, especially if the other 80% of men are happy to go their own way each generation and play video games and watch porn.

Friday, January 09, 2015

War of the Sexes: Part 7 - Civilization

One of the problems of anthropology and other sciences that look back in time is that there are a lot of "just-so" stories. Especially in anthropology, there are such huge holes in the data that lots of narratives can be created to fit the evidence. As a result, many of those narratives are little more than educated or sometimes wild-ass guesses. On the bright side, while not at all an expert in anthropology, I do consider myself an expert in wild-ass guessing, so I fit well in that field. I cheerfully admit that the rest of this post is nothing more than guessing by me and various experts in the field.

The first humans and proto-humans were monogamous hunter-gatherers. The just-so story goes that since they were often hunting animals much larger and faster than they were, they needed the whole tribe to rally, especially the males, in order to bring the mammoth (literally) beasts down. They also needed to defend the tribe against predators. To keep all of the males maximally engaged in a tight and large tribe, the males and females paired off in monogamous relationships, and they lived happily ever after. In the 20th century, 10 different remote hunter-gathering tribes were discovered, and they were indeed mostly monogamous.

Then herding and agricultural were invented and it all went to hell for a number of reasons. The male teamwork required for hunting was no longer needed for survival. Women were able to do farm work and were more than self-sufficient so they didn't need men to hunt for them.  In addition, people started having possessions and wealth disparities were introduced, so that a "rich" or alpha male could afford and/or entice multiple women.  So monogamy went out the window and was replaced by polygamy in primitive herding and agricultural societies. Once again, a number of remote tribes of these varieties were discovered in the 20th century and were mostly polygamous.

Unfortunately, the polygamous cultures didn't live happily ever after. Humans, regardless of mating patterns, go to war over resources. One of the problems of polygamy is that one resource is always in short supply: women. If the men at the top have multiple women, the men at the bottom have zero women, and even the men at the top would prefer more women, always more, more, more. As a result, these tribes are often in a state of continuous warfare: they are at war every day and have been at war as long as anyone can remember. The most famous of these tribes is the Yanomamo discovered in the mid-1960s by Napolean Chagnon:
According to Chagnon, when he arrived he realised that the theories he had been taught during his training had shortcomings, because contrary to what they predicted, raiding and fighting, often over women, was endemic. ... As Chagnon described it, Yanomamö society produced fierceness, because that behavior furthered male reproductive success. According to Chagnon, the success of men in violent interaction and even killing, was directly related to how many wives and children they had. At the level of the villages, the war-like populations expanded at the expense of their neighbors. Chagnon's positing of a link between reproductive success and violence cast doubt on the sociocultural perspective that cultures are constructed from human experience. An enduring controversy over Chagnons' work has been described as a microcosm of the conflict between biological and sociocultural anthropology.
There are a number of possible problems with large groups of men with no access to women. At best, they just sulk off on their own but have no interest in supporting or defending society. At worst, they turn on society and damage or destroy it. In the right hands, they can be used as a resource to attack other tribes, to loot and plunder, or possibly to jihad against infidels. All of these have happened many times throughout history with polygamous societies.

You may have noticed that advanced, stable, prosperous societies from the far east to the far west are usually mostly monogamous (at the very tippy top of the ruling class, there're often mistresses, concubines, slaves, etc. but it's monogamy for the vast majority of the people). Somehow, we got from pathological polygamous societies back to monogamy. Anthropologists have lots of just-so stories about how that happened, but given the success of monogamist societies relative to non-monogamous ones, it seems that getting from primitive agriculture to the industrial age was not hindered and possibly aided a lot by the stability provided by monogamy.

But now we're transitioning from the industrial age to the information age and I wonder if there are some parallels to the transition from hunter-gathering to primitive agriculture. The engagement of males was required for hunting for hunter-gatherers and industrial age males were likely required for a lot of the heavy lifting required for factories and the more advanced high-production agriculture required to support all those workers in the factories. On the other hand, full engagement of males was not required for primitive agriculture and now is not required for the vast majority of jobs in the information age. The transition from hunter-gathering to primitive agriculture was accompanied by a transition from monogamy to non-monogamy. Is there any reason we should be surprised by a similar transition from monogamy to non-monogamy going forward?

It's already happening at a rapid rate. For example, 72.3 percent of non-Hispanic blacks are now born out-of-wedlock, with the black mother often having multiple children, each with a different alpha (to her) father. It's pretty much a perfect example of a non-monogamous mating system. Other ethnicities are behind in the polygamous revolution under way, but they are catching up.

Fortunately, with the availability of ever more immersive entertainment, most of the displaced males (Men Going Their Own Way), will hopefully just sulk off and not cause any major damage.

Too Busy to Loot, Rape & Pillage
Unfortunately, they may not be much interested in supporting the culture that's pushing them away. For example, they may work a lot less, making just enough to support themselves, which could reduce the tax base. That may be a problem: one reason that the 72.3% of blacks born out-of-wedlock is not a catastrophe is that the mothers and children are able to get support from the safety net if needed. If there's not a large enough tax base, that safety net may be difficult to maintain.

Competition and attack from other societies may also be a problem. A culture where a large number of males are disengaged is not going to be competitive with a culture that keeps the males involved. Will men rise to defend America if they've gone their own way? Will women be able to defend America if the men won't?

I suspect civilization will survive just fine in some form or other but time will tell.

Monday, January 05, 2015

War of the Sexes: Part 6 - Male Entertainment

In the article "Shock study: Marriage rate declines with porn use, threatening economy, society," we learn that:
Pornography is replacing the desire among young men for marriage, according to a new study that finds males are chasing “low-cost sexual gratification” on the web over a wife and family.
There we have our answer.  Men are going their own way because of porn. Case closed!

Or maybe not. While the authors make a herculean effort to show causality, a closer look at the actual study finds the following in the conclusion regarding porn causing a decline in marriage rates:
... the causality likely runs in the direction that we assert. We stop short of saying that we have accurately identified the magnitude of the causal effect.
In other words, they're only guessing which way causality, if any, runs. So never mind. We still don't know if porn lowers marriage rates, lower marriage rates cause increased porn usage, or they're just coincidentally correlated.

Indeed, from table 4 in the study, it seems that any Internet usage (for example, viewing financial sites) by men correlates with lower marriage rates except for viewing religious sites (there's that religion thing again). I'd also be willing to bet that increased use of sports facilities, watching sports TV and TV in general, watching movies and other entertainment, playing electronic games, and probably even working crossword puzzles all correlate with reduced rates of marriage.  In other words, if men aren't married, they're going to fill their extra time with something.  And perhaps, just perhaps, if they spend their time doing stuff they find enjoyable, they won't bother getting into the dating game and marriage. What a surprise! Shocking even, eh?

So clearly, we should ban not only porn, but also sports, TV, movies, games, etc. for men. Indeed, we should ban all activities that males might possibly find enjoyable so that they can focus on women. I'm sure that'll eliminate the "shocking" threat to society of falling marriage rates. Unless, in their spare time, the very bored and frustrated males instead decide to destroy civilization, pillage and rape (increased use of porn correlates with lower rates of rape, for example).

If it is true that porn (and games, movies, etc.) reduce marriage rates, then it will probably only quickly get worse. Movies, games, and porn are rapidly co-evolving with each other and virtual reality to become ever more realistic and immersive. Female (and male) actors won't even be needed for porn or probably even movies in general in the not too distant future. Porn games will probably be created to be customizable active porn movies with perfect 10 virtual stars whose actions will be directed by the gamer. Once there are no humans involved in the entertainment, it will be really hard, if not impossible, to regulate and/or ban.

Men who go their own way will have an ever more realistic virtual reality to retreat into and perhaps they will indeed by happier there.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

War of the Sexes: Part 5 - Young Female Fantasy Fiction

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a young woman who got into a spot of trouble. She was rescued by a prince and they got married and lived happily ever after. The End.

Oh. You've heard the story before? Yeah, never mind the lack of detail, I might be a few dozen millennia late for that to be an original story.  Indeed, that story and a few variations (knight in shining armor instead of prince, for example) have been told over and over again, I think probably since shortly after language evolved enough complexity to tell it.

I have a number of alternate plots.  She could've been saved by the big-hearted pauper and then gone on to starve on the streets.  She could've been saved by the kindly serf farmer and then died from infection after giving birth to her second child.  She could've been saved by a courageous merchant who then fell afoul of the king and was beheaded forcing her into a life of prostitution to stay alive.  All of these would be much more realistic (and in my opinion better) stories, but no, the big favorite is that she's saved by, and then marries, wealth and power, and then lives happily ever after. Yeah, right, like that ever actually happened. Nonetheless, that's the favorite fantasy of the ages.

True love's first kiss usually makes a showing as well. How can anyone feel true love at their first meeting? Well, the prince is such a better catch than anyone else in the kingdom that I'm sure the young woman did indeed feel true love.  For the prince, it was probably true lust.  Close enough for government work.

In the modern age of feminism, you would think stories like that would be banned or at least rewritten.  They are, to some extent.  For example, Disney's Tangled is a rewritten version of Rapunzel to have the savior be a reforming thief, rather than a prince.  However, books are one area where feminism has had minimal impact.

One of the genres I like to read for fun is Science Fiction/Fantasy leaning towards Fantasy.  Think Harry Potter. Or maybe King Arthur and Merlin.  The Fantasy end of the genre is overwhelmingly populated with the story I told above.  Except it wasn't necessarily "once upon a time" (it's often set in modern times) and instead of a prince, it's a superhuman alpha-male.  Or two.  Or more. All fighting over the girl.

Unlike the young women in stories of old, the young women in these stories have few, if any redeeming qualities.  They're usually whiny, bitchy, weak, incompetent, untalented, and the plot generally is built around her continually doing really foolish and stupid things that puts her in mortal danger requiring repeated rescues by the alpha-male(s) at great cost to them.  She sometimes has agonizing difficulty deciding whether or not to be in a "relationship" with the alpha-male hero, and if there's more than one interested in her, it's a heroic struggle on her part deciding which, if either, to commit to.

The alpha-males are not only the strongest superheros ever imagined, they're also intensely loving (they'd give their lives for her), tender, emotionally intimate, incredibly devoted, impossibly patient (they'll wait for her forever if they have to and if she chooses the other alpha, that's okay - they'll still be there for her), and of course handsome, talented, etc.  Even though she has no or few redeeming qualities, they love her because, well, um, just because.  Maybe just because she exists.

One of the most popular fantasy romance is the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer and closely follows the above description.  But it is neither the first nor the last of its kind.  In the sub-sub-genre of paranormal romance, Amazon lists 95,338 titles, most from "indie" authors, and from what I can tell, most of those were written since 2010. From what I can unfortunately tell, over 80% of those follow the above description pretty closely.  I use the term "unfortunate" because so many of the books have descriptions that sound pretty good, so I read (at least part of) them, before becoming frustrated with reading about yet another completely lame young woman.  At this point, if it's a female author and a female protagonist anywhere in the realm of Science Fiction/Fantasy, I won't read the book. Ever.

95,338. That's just paranormal romance and doesn't include other teenage girl romance titles. Hundreds of these books are released every day and hundreds of thousands or even millions (on the days surrounding a popular release) of young women finish reading one of these books every day. Why would any self-respecting female author write something with such a weak and incompetent young woman?  Because it sells, that's why.

This post is an interlude in this series, just a tidbit.  It may be a puzzle piece in the War of the Sexes, it may not be.  If it is a puzzle piece, I don't really know how it fits.  Perhaps it's a primary persistent fantasy of a substantial percentage of teenage girls since the beginning of time/language, which might indicate that the feminist narrative will always find some competition in the female psyche of a substantial part of the population (after all, it's always members of the patriarchy that comes to the rescue). Perhaps teenage girls going their own way (from men) have nothing else to do and are retreating into this fantasy reading.  Perhaps teenage girls are influenced by these books and end up with unreasonable expectations about men fueling the War of the Sexes.

Or perhaps it's just entertainment, though at best, certainly not entertainment of which feminists would approve.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Common Genius: episode ##,###,###

A recent column by Bret Stephens about yet another example of American resilience contained the following:
Imagine an economic historian in the year 2050 talking to her students about the most consequential innovations of the early 21st century—the Model Ts and Wright flyers and Penicillins of our time. What would make her list?

Surely fracking—shorthand for the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing that is making the U.S. the world’s leading oil and gas producer—would be noted.

 Fracking would make a good case study. The revolution happened in the U.S. not because of any great advantage in geology—China, Argentina and Algeria each has larger recoverable shale gas reserves. It didn’t happen because America’s big energy companies are uniquely skilled or smart or deep-pocketed: Take a look at ExxonMobil ’s 2004 Annual Report and you’ll barely find a mention of “fracturing” or “horizontal” drilling.

Nor, finally, did it happen because enlightened mandarins in the federal bureaucracy and national labs were peering around the corners of the future. For the most part, they were obsessing about the possibilities of cellulosic ethanol and other technological nonstarters.

Instead, fracking happened in the U.S. because Americans, almost uniquely in the world, have property rights to the minerals under their yards. And because the federal government wasn’t really paying attention. And because federalism allows states to do their own thing. And because against-the-grain entrepreneurs like George Mitchell and Harold Hamm couldn’t be made to bow to the consensus of experts. And because our deep capital markets were willing to bet against those experts.

Here, then, is the larger lesson our future historian will draw for her students: Innovation depends less on developing specific ideas than it does on creating broad spaces. Autocracies can always cultivate their chess champions, piano prodigies and nuclear engineers; they can always mobilize their top 1% to accomplish some task. The autocrats’ quandary is what to do with the remaining 99%. They have no real answer, other than to administer, dictate and repress.

A free society that is willing to place millions of small bets on persons unknown and things unseen doesn’t have this problem. Flexibility, not hardness, is its true test of strength. Success is a result of experiment not design. Failure is tolerable to the extent that adaptation is possible.

This is the American secret, which we often forget because we can’t imagine it any other way. It’s why we are slightly shocked to find ourselves coming out ahead—even, or especially, when our presidents are feckless and our policies foolish.

We are larger than our leaders. We are better than our politics. We are wiser than our culture. We are smarter than our ideas.

This is yet another example of the Common Genius described by Bill Greene and referenced in an earlier post.  Having read the book back then and recently reread parts, I would say that on balance the author did a fine job making his point.  Reiterating that point with some limited excerpts:
A major theme of these pages is that all historical progress has bubbled up from the bottom—from the actions of common men and women. A secondary theme is that most of history's evils have flowed from the top—from the intelligentsia, organized groups, and soft-science experts who arise in mature societies and are the pied pipers of their decline. In the final chapters, we will examine how the decline of free societies has often resulted from the transfer of authority and leadership from those who built the society to a destructive intelligentsia who arrive after the heavy lifting is done. The arrival of the intellectuals also marks the time when knowledge and decision-making appears to enter a steep decline. The notion that intellectuals are wise and should be listened to is a persistent, recurring, and insidious error that has doomed most past civilizations.

I do not mean to demean all people of intellect—most of them are great assets to their communities. However, there is reason to beware those with little practical experience in any field, who parade their "expertise" before the public, and operate primarily as critics rather than participants.

Throughout history, such leaders have made life as difficult as possible for the bulk of humanity. The expression of man's genius had to be fought for, and opportunities for its release have been restricted to a few brief moments and places in time. Such moments were the "accidents" of history, but there was nothing accidental about what subsequently happened. The achievements were never pre-ordained but arose from a long-term struggle by ordinary people to advance, one step at a time, over thousands of years. But wherever individual men and women got even a little such opportunity, freedom and prosperity followed. They built it piece by piece, not by trying to apply utopian theories, but by solving one problem at a time and moving ever forward.
Now, this is a revolutionary idea and perhaps in a perverse way, will delight most of the average Joes out there who are pestered by those "beautiful people" who want to tell them what to do and how to do it.

Dinocrat concluded a recent post with the following observation:
The US soi-disant intelligentsia and the US average Joes are probably more likely split against each other on some critical issues (95-5 one way, 62-38 the other) — are you de Blasio or a cop, for example. Perhaps the danger Diamond senses but (can)not articulate is in the self-styled intellectual elites losing big for a long time if the average Joes found a guy with a clear mind and strong voice. Pity Walter Williams is probably a little too old to run.

This hints at a future pregnant with the possibility of unleashing much more common genius.  You know - if we had a revolt of the masses against the elites, middle class American style!

(A "revolt against" being a part of this previous post)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Two Newspapers in One!

h/t to Best of the Web. TNiO is a regular feature there highlighting newspapers and magazines that take completely opposed positions on issues. I'm sure BOTW would have been all over this, but the feature is on hiatus until the new year.

New York Times editorial, January 9, 2011:

Jared Loughner, the man accused of shooting Ms. Giffords, killing a federal judge and five other people, and wounding 13 others, appears to be mentally ill. His paranoid Internet ravings about government mind control place him well beyond usual ideological categories.

But he is very much a part of a widespread squall of fear, anger and intolerance that has produced violent threats against scores of politicians and infected the political mainstream with violent imagery. With easy and legal access to semiautomatic weapons like the one used in the parking lot, those already teetering on the edge of sanity can turn a threat into a nightmare.


It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman’s act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members. But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge. Many on the right have exploited the arguments of division, reaping political power by demonizing immigrants, or welfare recipients, or bureaucrats. They seem to have persuaded many Americans that the government is not just misguided, but the enemy of the people.

New York Times editorial, December 22, 2014:

Two families in Brooklyn — and the larger family of New Yorkers and the New York Police Department — are mourning the deaths of two officers who were shot in ambush by a criminal on Saturday. His deranged act has inflamed rifts between the police and Mayor Bill de Blasio and between the police and the public, and it posed a grave test of Mr. de Blasio’s leadership.

The protests for police reform should not be stifled — they should be allowed to continue, and be listened to. The protesters and their defenders, including Mayor de Blasio, need offer no apologies for denouncing misguided and brutal police tactics and deploring the evident injustice of the deaths of unarmed black men like Eric Garner. As Mr. de Blasio noted on Monday, a vast majority of demonstrators are “people who are trying to work for a more just society,” a mission that has nothing to do with hating or killing cops. Those who urge violence are on the fringe, Mr. de Blasio said, rightly denouncing them and urging New Yorkers to report them.

So, NYT Editorial Board, which is it: rank hypocrisy or drooling stupidity?

Hmmm. I may have posed a false dichotomy.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

War of the Sexes: Part 4 - Gamy

In trying to understand the War of the Sexes, I was wondering whether or not we can learn anything from the mating habits of other mammals.  I haven't spent a lot of time researching it, but my current conclusion is: probably not.  The following few paragraphs summarize what I found.

There are plenty of examples of monogamous, polygamous, and promiscuous mating systems found across mammals and primates.  Every single mating system is utilized by some primate or other.  Our cousins the gorilla have "a unimale social system and a polygynous mating system." Our closest cousins, the chimpanzees, are promiscuous with lots of variations within the promiscuous mating system, both within and between species (common and bonobo chimps). Various human cultures have utilized most of the mating systems as well.

Rape or "[s]exual aggression by males toward females is widespread among social mammals."  Non-human females don't seem to be terribly bothered by sexual coercion in that they seem to remain fully functional in its aftermath. Human females may be uniquely fragile in that they sometimes suffer debilitating trauma from unwanted sexual activity.

The difference in human and chimp genomes is 1.23 percent:
the publication of a rough draft of the chimp genome in the journal Nature immediately told scientists several important things. First they learned that overall, the sequences of base pairs that make up both species' [i.e., humans and chimps] genomes differ by 1.23% -- a ringing confirmation of the 1970 estimates -- and that the most striking divergence between them occurs, intriguingly, in the Y chromosome, present only in males. [emphasis added]
The emphasized words could be interpreted to mean that human females are mostly somewhat refined, hairless chimpanzees, while the human male is significantly more evolved from our closest cousins:
As far back as 1972, Elaine Morgan, a feminist, writing in The Descent of Woman, noted that in fact the role of females hadn't changed much from chimp to human. Mothers nurse and care for their offspring in basically the same way chimps do. In terms of social role, there really isn't much difference between human females and other animals. 
What has changed is the role of males. Among chimps, males hang out in groups, form alliances, forage together, and do a lot of bickering over status. They do not participate at all in child rearing. By the time hunting-and-gathering tribes arrive, however, men have been folded into the family. Monogamy predominates and both parents participate in child rearing. The extraordinary innovation is "fatherhood," a role that doesn't really exist elsewhere in nature.
Of course, not all human societies are monogamous.  And with the War of the Sexes, we seem to be moving rapidly away from monogamy to some combination of polygamy and promiscuity. Promiscuous as far as having sex goes, though having sex with the intention of avoiding children may not count as "mating."  As far as having children goes, my guess is that we're moving mostly towards a polygamous society with the alpha males servicing (but not marrying) the majority of females.

Relative to polygamy, monogamy benefits beta males, allowing them to mate.  It also benefits alpha females, allowing them to monopolize an alpha male.  In a species where the females are completely responsible for child-rearing (which is the vast majority of species), polygamy hugely benefits beta females.  In a species that relies on males to help with raising children, and in particular in a species where males will only willingly help with raising their own children, polygamy is substantially less advantageous for beta females.

In the past, when western civilization was much less wealthy and had almost no safety net, it was a real struggle for a single woman to raise children on her own and survive (and have the children survive).  It was far better for her to be stuck with a beta male helping raise the family - survival for her and her brood was much more likely.  Indeed, they might even thrive in good times.  Sure, the children might be genetically inferior relative to having an alpha male as a father, but it was still better than no surviving children at all.

The west is much richer now.  With safety nets in place, survival is virtually guaranteed.  As a result, it's far less imperative that a beta female attach herself to a beta male.  There may still be advantages to being married to a beta male, but having healthy children and being able to raise them through adulthood is not one of them.  Thus, it seems predictable that beta females would become much more demanding regarding which males they would be willing to mate with and they would be willing to leave that male much more quickly if even the possibility of a better opportunity presented itself.  The downside is pretty small, especially with the reasonable, or even favorable divorce settlements that women often get.

My guess is that this female "hypergamy" is the basis for women and men "going their own way."  Beta women are logically choosing to mate above their "station" (where "mating" means having children as opposed to just having sex) and beta men realize they have nothing to offer relative to alpha males and look for alternative ways to fill their lives.  My guess is that the impact on civilization as a whole will be significant, but not devastating, but those are topics for future posts in this series.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

War of the Sexes: Part 3 - Going Their Own Way

When I was growing up, there was a romantic narrative regarding relationships between men and women and marriage.  Men and women were different, yet complementary with different strengths and weaknesses, incomplete without each other, so that a union of a man and woman was greater, perhaps much greater, than the sum of the two individuals - Venus and Mars, the moon and the sun, Yin and Yang, etc.  A husband often referred to his wife as "my better half," sometimes with a little sarcasm, but with the grain of truth that the marriage helped make him complete, made him more than he was alone, made the two of them more than they were alone.

However, modern feminism (specifically of the Betty Friedan variety) has a rather different narrative.  It starts with "the fundamental assertion of feminism is that women are equal to men, and equal not as counterparts to men but in every respect" noting for example that "[f]eminist women refused to suffer a husband’s proud, or ironic, praise as “my better half,” which implied that women (and of course also men) have a natural role making them counterparts of each other as couples." Feminism's primary enemy is the patriarchy and it was the patriarchy that was responsible for the old romantic notions that kept women (and to some extent men) in their place(s).

Under this theory of feminism, a marriage of a man and a woman does not inherently produce a whole that is greater than its parts. In fact, if both partners are completely equal in desires, capabilities, needs, etc., all that overlap may mean that generally the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

In the romantic narrative, men and women inherently had a lot to offer each other.  But what does a man inherently have to offer a woman in a long term relationship in feminism's narrative (and perhaps any modern narrative)?

Not much.

Oh sure, a rich, attractive guy might be good for a fling, maybe even worthwhile to have a short term marriage with in order to have a child or two, followed by a divorce where she gets a great settlement.  But till death do us part?  Don't be silly, how naive and quaint.  And that's just rich, attractive guys.  The rest of us normal mortals? Fuhgeddaboudit!

The instapundit's wife, Helen Smith, has a website that focuses on the, in her opinion, poor treatment of men by women and what she thinks the effects of that poor treatment will be.  Until recently, I've been chuckling because it seems pathetic that men need a woman like Smith to stand up for them and so I hadn't taken her seriously.  She wrote Men On Strike about "Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream - and Why It Matters."

I haven't read her book, but in googling for statistics for this series of posts, I've run into some interesting data that certainly does not contradict her claims.  For example,
Between 1950 and 2010, the rate of marital formation dropped by 39%, with a 17% drop between 2000 and 2010 alone.1 Today, the proportion of men between 25 and 34 years old who have never been married is more than six times higher than it was in 1970. For men between 35 and 44 years old, the increase has been more than fourfold. Marriages that do form are about twice as likely to end in divorce today as in 1950.
Here is a related chart showing the trend of marriage formation for young adults (ages 25 - 34):

marriage rates among yound adults
Note that the above chart is for men and women, so the numbers don't exactly match the previous paragraph but it's easy to see that they are likely consistent.

Also, the share of never-married adults seems to be both rising and possibly even accelerating:

So the data is consistent with young people deciding to not get married in much larger numbers than in the past.  Some of them may be putting off marriage until they're older, but it looks like others will never get married. If the trend continues, within decades a majority of adults will never marry.

In The Sexodus, the acronym MGTOW is used and stands for Men Going Their Own Way.  In a mostly monogamistic society, for each MGTOW there is a corresponding female version (WGTOW).  It's still not completely clear to me whether the MGTOWs or the WGTOWs are the root cause of falling marriage formation rates.  It may not be that men are going on strike, but rather that women have no interest in them so they're simply retreating to alternative lifestyles and activities that they may consider inferior but achievable.

After all, the Friedian Feminist has very little use for men, so they may have no choice but to go their own way.

Friday, December 26, 2014

War of the Sexes: Part 2 - Rape

In the last part of this series we examined the front in the war that is divorce and discovered that the evidence, such as it is, seems to indicate that woman are on the offensive and winning on that front.  A second front in the war is rape.  Who's winning there?

There is no doubt that for all practical purposes we can consider that all rapes and sexual assaults are initiated by males and can be considered a male offensive weapon in the War of the Sexes.  Estimates of the numbers of female victims vary widely and are aggressively disputed.  One camp claims there's a massive epidemic of rape, for example that one out of five undergraduate women at college are sexually assaulted:
Democratic strategist Van Jones said the number of women sexually assaulted on college campuses was "shocking." 
"It’s literally one out of five," Jones said. [...]

The "one in five" statistic is frequently cited by advocates of sexual assault awareness. Both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have repeated it.
Certainly if President Barack Obama said it, it must be true, right?

Others claim the exact opposite:
Because the truth is that there's no epidemic outbreak of college rape. In fact, rape on college campuses is — like rape everywhere else in America — plummeting in frequency. And that 1-in-5 college rape number you keep hearing in the press? It's thoroughly bogus, too. [...]
Sen, Gillibrand also says that "women are at a greater risk of sexual assault as soon as they step onto a college campus." 
The truth ... is exactly the opposite. According to the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, the rate of rape and sexual assault is lower for college students (at 6.1 per 1,000) than for non-students (7.6 per 1,000). (Note: not 1 in 5). What's more, between 1997 and 2013, rape against women dropped by about 50%, in keeping with a more general drop in violent crime nationally.
So which is it? One in five (which is 200 per 1,000) and increasing or six to eight (times 4 years) per thousand and decreasing? Nobody seems to know and nobody can agree.  There are many possible reasons for discrepancies:
  • Definitional - if the definition of sexual assault/rape includes things like a woman being made to feel uncomfortable by a man looking at her a certain way, it will yield much different results than if the definition only includes forced penetration under the threat of violence;
  • Sampling and survey issues - some of the studies that showed the highest numbers were small, local Internet based studies and may have had a bias towards respondents who were raped and also may not be applicable to the whole country;
  • Not all sexual assaults and rapes are reported - the studies with lower numbers may have underestimated the number of unreported rapes and assaults; 
  • Some claims of rape and sexual assault are false - the studies with higher numbers may have underestimated the number of false claims of rape.
  • Etc.
The difference in the extreme estimates is important.  With rape rates at the low end of the estimates, it seems that the criminal justice system should be able to handle it, keeping due process for the accused intact. With rape rates at the high end of the estimates (one out of five!!!), it is pretty much a national emergency, and things like "innocent until proven guilty" or even "guilty until proven innocent" may need to be thrown out the window and replaced with the much simpler "guilty if accused."

There would be nothing wrong with "guilty if accused" if the accuser was always completely honest and never mistaken.  However, in the real world, that's not the case.  Even worse, the range of estimates of the rate of women making false accusations about rape and sexual assault are as large as the variance between the extremes in estimates of the rates of rape and sexual assault themselves:
How many women falsely accuse men of rape? 
A lot of statistics are floating around the Internet: Two percent, say many feminists, the same as other crimes. Twenty-five percent, say other groups who quarrel with the feminists on many issues, or maybe 40 percent. Here’s the real answer: We don’t know. Anyone who insists that we do know should be corrected or ignored. 
The number of false accusations is what statisticians call a “dark number” -- that is, there is a true number, but it is unknown, and perhaps unknowable.
Even accepting the "two percent" estimate, it should, in my opinion, still give us pause when considering throwing due process out the window and going with "guilty if accused:"
Benjamin Franklin thought "that it is better [one hundred] guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer." For "one hundred", substitute N, and probably everyone can find some N, between 0 and infinity, that they feel comfortable with. As one rather amusing essay points out, lots of people over time have put forth different values for N, with the current mean value being approximately 59.72. In other words, in the United States, we believe that on average, it is better for 59.72 guilty persons to go free than to have one innocent punished, but better to have one innocent punished than to have more than 59.72 guilty people go free.
Because even with the two percent estimate, more than one innocent person would be punished for every 59.72 guilty people going free and that seems to conflict with the American sense of justice. But this is a war, and justice is typically redefined or ignored in the context of war, and by redefining justice, women have turned the tables and have captured rape, or rather the punishment of men accused of rape, as an offensive strategy.

There are two main fronts in this strategy and they are related.  The rules put forth to colleges from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) have been around for a few years:
The OCR regulations are stunning in their presumptuousness. They are asserted with the force of law but were not passed by Congress or considered by the courts, nor were they formulated after a legally required process of hearings and comment. Equally stunning is the docility with which they have been received by the universities. Though there are signs of discomfort, not one has opposed an intrusion upon their self-government in a matter of educational discipline that previously has been left to them.
One could go on to explain features of the new OCR policy that make it a danger to civil rights, as indeed has been done in a published petition by a number of Harvard law professors. As to due process, these are rights that will not be protected by the new policy: a hearing, the right to confront or cross-examine witnesses, the right to an attorney, the right of appeal to a neutral party, protection against double jeopardy, the right to a presumption of innocence, the right to have one’s case heard by an impartial arbitrator. The new standard of misconduct requires less evidence than before, as it is necessary only to prove by “the preponderance of the evidence” rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The woman, or rather the complainant, has huge leverage with the man's (excuse me, the "respondent's") due process rights complete eliminated, replaced with an opaque bureaucratic process which metes out punishment with no or limited visibility into the decision making process.

The other front is State level legislation such as California's infamous "Yes Means Yes" law:
Last month, California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, signed legislation requiring colleges in the state to adopt sexual assault policies that shifted the burden of proof in campus sexual assault cases from those accusing to the accused. Consent is now “an affirmative, unambiguous, and conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity.” The consent has to be “ongoing” throughout any sexual encounter.

On California campuses, consent is no longer a matter of not struggling or not saying no. If the student initiating the sexual encounter doesn’t receive an enthusiastic “yes,” either verbally or physically, then there is no consent. If the student is incapacitated due to drugs or alcohol, there is no consent.
The man has to prove the "ongoing" consent, which on its face means "guilty until proven innocent." However, short of videotaping the encounter, such proof is impossible, which means that this and other laws like it are indeed achieving the desired standard "guilty if accused."

So far, the above rules have applied mostly only to colleges, but sensing total victory, women want to extend the law nationwide:
New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of the most prominent lawmakers fighting campus sexual assault on Capitol Hill, said Monday that affirmative consent laws should be made the standard nationwide.
At this point, "nationwide" just means on college campuses nationwide.  But I can't help wondering if the ultimate goal is to make it nationwide, not just at colleges, but everywhere, all of the time, such that any woman can bust any man by accusing him of rape, even if completely false.

The problem is this: if a male and female are seen to consensually wander off together to a private location, she claims rape, he claims consensual activities, and there's no evidence of weapons or violence (not even a bruise), there are really only two choices:  either prosecute all men in that situation under the "guilty if accused" approach, or prosecute none of the men because there isn't guilt beyond reasonable doubt - it's a "he said, she said" situation.  I suspect that Sen. Gillibrand and many others would prefer the "guilty if accused" approach and they might one day have the power to make that the law.

In any case, men are badly losing the war on this front as well.  As a result, it seems that many men might be in full blown retreat, a topic for the next post in this series.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

'Tis The Season for Gobbledygook

From Should you lie to your children about Santa?
Now, one of the most interesting truths about the empirical world is that there are all these powerful systems of myth that are kept afloat by a sort of mass conspiracy, and humans seem disposed to pick one from the ambient culture and take it very seriously. But it can be hard to get your head around the way it all works unless you participate in it. Santa is a perfect and relatively harmless way to introduce your child the socio-psychology of a collective delusion about the supernatural. The disillusionment that comes from the exposure to the truth about Santa breeds a general skepticism about similarly ill-founded popular beliefs in physics-defying creatures.
And on that note, Merry Christmas all!

Monday, December 22, 2014

War of the Sexes: Part 1 - Divorce

In the wake of the UVA gang rape hoax, (and the hoax just gets worse and worse and worse), my concern was not with the hoax or the false accusations or the poor reporting and fact checking, but with the acceptance and enthusiasm for this "fake but accurate" narrative.  I decided to look a bit more into male-female relationships and am baffled, bewildered, and bemused by what I see.

The main problem with any analysis like this is that very few, if any, statements or facts apply to major group aggregations (like all men, for example), and once the group aggregations are broken down far enough (40-45 year old, male, divorced once, protestant, lower middle class, Midwestern, ...), there's not much data and considering the interactions between all of these smaller groups is very, very complex and, at least to me, not decipherable.

So this means that pretty much all analyses of the subject, including not only this post and the related series, but also every other article in old and new media, and I'm betting even most peer-reviewed papers on the subject, are mostly bogus.  Unfortunately, it's also one of the most important topics with major impacts on many aspects of everybody's lives, so that there's little choice but to at least try to get an inkling of what's going on amid the inherent massive uncertainty.

Moving forward, with that background and those caveats, and realizing that each statement and statistic is at least partially bogus (I won't remind you of that again), let's start with divorce, which is the major front in the War of the Sexes.

Who's on the offense and who's on the defense at this particular front?  Clearly women are on the offense since "[w]omen initiate between 66% and 90% of all divorces." One might be tempted to jump to the conclusion that the reason for women initiating divorce more often is that men are philandering, drunken, drug-addled louts forcing women to take drastic action, but there are at least a couple of things that don't fit that narrative.

First, "among college-educated couples, the percentage of divorces initiated by wives is a whopping 90 percent."  It's unlikely that college-educated men are more drunken and drug-addled than the general population of men.  When I first discovered that statistic, I was incredulous. But looking around, I noticed it's true that every single divorce among my group of friends was indeed initiated by the woman, so I'm finding it more believable.

Second, divorce has been significantly higher under "no fault" divorce law. It's when women can initiate divorce without real reason that there are more divorces. (There are more divorces initiated by men as well). If women need a "real" reason to divorce men, it's a lot harder to find.

Divorce is the front in the war where there are real casualties.  For example, "divorced and separated men were nearly 2.4 times more likely to kill themselves than their married counterparts" and "over eight times more likely to commit suicide than divorced women."  Depending on assumptions, this works out to hundreds or possibly even thousands of men dying because of divorce each year from suicide alone.  This is roughly the same number of men in the United States military who typically die in active combat in a given year for the past several decades.  So the war of the sexes is as deadly to men as any other war.  There are other serious health and mortality impacts to men from divorce as well.

And beyond worrying about men, like other wars, this war is causing a great deal of destruction to families, communities, and inner cities. It possibly is even weakening western civilization as it seems that men (and women) are increasingly avoiding marriage and starting families.  So war is not really just a euphemism for the conflict between the sexes as there is substantial death and destruction associated with it.

How about divorce and religion?  My virulently anti-religious friends have long enjoyed pointing out that divorce rates are higher for Christians than for atheists.  Indeed, I had heard this so many times that I came to believe it as the truth.  Well, it is the truth, but it's not the whole truth:
Consider, as a case study, the data on divorce. Earlier this year, a pair of demographers released a study showing that regions with heavy populations of conservative Protestants had higher-than-average divorce rates, even when controlling for poverty and race. 
Their finding was correct, but incomplete. As the sociologist Charles Stokes pointed out, practicing conservative Protestants have much lower divorce rates, and practicing believers generally divorce less frequently than the secular and unaffiliated. 
But the lukewarmly religious are a different matter. What Stokes calls “nominal” conservative Protestants, who attend church less than twice a month, have higher divorce rates even than the nonreligious. And you can find similar patterns with other indicators — out-of-wedlock births, for instance, are rarer among religious-engaged evangelical Christians, but nominal evangelicals are a very different story.
I am mixing a lot of categories here: atheists versus non-religious, conservative Protestants versus Christians, etc., but ultimately, looking at the data, it looks to me that if you want to get married, start a family, and stay married, find someone who is reasonably devoted to a religion and practice that religion with him or her, at least to the point of regularly attending services. Even though I'm non-religious, if I were looking for a wife, I might take that approach - I might not believe the dogma, but attending services is a really small price to pay for avoiding divorce.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Worse than you might think, but...

Having recently addressed an example from the past of how a distorted narrative was employed in the world of arts and literature to misrepresent people and circumstances, let us turn to the world of journalism.

The perceptive Michael Walsh makes the following observation:
The suicide of American journalism, and the “objective” ideal I grew up with as a young reporter, continues apace, as I noted in this space yesterday and the IBD website mentions today:

Media Malfeasance: In less than two weeks, bombshell stories of a vicious gang rape and a millionaire teen investor were exposed as frauds that never would have made it into print but for gross negligence and liberal bias.
There’s a reason that, back in the day, every revolution began be seizing the newspapers and radio stations. The Left understands, far more than the Right, that propaganda is everything — and if it has to kill American journalism to make its points, then so be it.

Over at Sultan Knish, Daniel Greenfield has some typically perceptive thoughts on “Life in Post-Truth America.” Well worth a read.

Worse than the hoaxes and reporting of half truths are the errors of omission.  The neglect of both stories that make their side look bad (as if they should be taking sides) and stories that present the opposition in a positive light.

Excerpts from the column by the prolific Mr. Greenfield include:
The unreliable narrator has crossed over from a fictional device in novels to memoirs, journalism and into politics.
 The device of the unreliable narrator puts truth out of reach. It says that there is no such thing as truth, only various perspectives on an event.
 In the absence of facts, there can be no reality. There is only ideology.
 ObamaCare was an ugly collectivist bureaucratic dinosaur clothed in imaginary stories. The stories about it, about the economy, about the war are still being told. Added to it are new stories about racism. The stories are passionate, compelling and appealing. They are also completely unreal.

Progressives don’t only live in a post-American world; they live in a post-Truth world. A world without facts and without truth is one in which the America that was cannot exist.

America had prospered because of a firm belief in a discoverable and exploitable reality. That was the country that could build skyscrapers and fleets in a year. Post-Truth America has little interest in big buildings because it’s too busy enacting a psychodrama in which the earth is about to be destroyed. And fleets, like horses and bayonets and facts, are 19th century toys that are much less interesting than the manipulation of people through lies and deceit.

Lena Dunham’s Barry and Obama’s Barry are both imaginary creatures. They are the sophisticated products of disordered minds and a disordered civilization whose leading figures lie as instinctively and as shamelessly as any pre-rational culture that could not distinguish between lies and truth. 

The cause for optimism is that two of the redoubts of the left, media and academia, will come under increasing competitive pressure for many years to come.   (see also here and here)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Happy Hanukkah!

I would've missed the first night (not being religious), but the younger daughter remembered and wanted to light candles (my daughters are borderline pyros, so any excuse to burn something is remembered with, well, "religious" fervor).  We muffed the prayers (good thing there's 8 chances, maybe we'll get them right tonight?) but did manage to get the candle lit (and the candle to light the candle lit) and then, most importantly, had a family Happy Hanukkah Hug.

For more serious reading about this holiday, I found A Dangerous Holiday interesting.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

More Manufacturing


As shown in the graph below, manufacturing (real) output (the red line) has finally recovered from the Obama recession and clearly has a lot of momentum in the growth direction.  Of course, also clearly, that "momentum" isn't really momentum at all, and can change nearly instantaneously.

From the Money Illusion comes this somewhat related commentary:
First some international comparisons.  In the US, IP [Industrial Production] is up more that 73% in the past 25 years. In Japan it fell by 1.5%.  Some of that is population, but not all. After all, Japan’s population is higher than it was 25 years ago, and America’s has risen by roughly 30%, not 73%.  America industrializes as Japan de-industrializes. Germany reunified 25 years ago, which might affect the data, but their IP is up only about 30% since 1991.  France is up only 9% in 25 years. (The 35-hour workweek?).   Britain is similar to Japan, down by about 1%.  (Falling North Sea oil output?) Italy is down 11.2% in 25 years.  (Berlusconi spending too much time at orgies?) It’s the US that stands out as an industrial power, at least if the data is correct.
I wrote "somewhat related" because the numbers don't exactly match between countries (various countries slice and dice Industrial Production versus Manufacturing differently and the above commentary is more related to Industrial Production than Manufacturing, but the longer term trends are pretty similar).  So you can get an idea from this, but I suggest not quoting any of the numbers without doing more extensive research to understand what you are quoting.  Or at least put forth a caveat like I just did.

Nonetheless, of all the advanced economies of any size, the United States is actually doing quite well as far as Manufacturing output and Industrial Production goes (Industrial Production looks even better recently than the above chart because of the shale oil boomlet).  Germany is the closest and may possibly be better, but even if so, not by much.

On the other hand, as the above graph also shows, while real Manufacturing output is up 73% over the time period (20 years), the number of jobs has dropped by 30% and as a percent of the workforce has fared even more poorly. A common explanation for the loss of jobs is that they've been transferred overseas, but given the fairly dramatic increase in output, all of the job loss and then some can be explained by increased productivity.

In other words, technology is more the enemy of jobs than foreign competition.  But technology is what makes us all better off over the long haul.