Monday, April 06, 2015

There are TWO elephants in Acemoglu's bedroom

Why are some countries rich while others are poor?  The answer to that is not far to seek.  With apologies for the army expression, the major differentiating factors stand out "like dog's balls".  The factors concerned, however, challenge basic Leftist beliefs so Leftists do their usual trick of ignoring the elephant in the room -- seeking more politically acceptable explanations.  So the theses put up by the absurd Leftist economist Daren Acemoglu have been eagerly seized on by the Left. Sadly, however, Acemoglu's theories are as full of holes as a Swiss cheese -- as I have already pointed out.  I would have failed his thesis as a Ph.D. dissertation.  There is however a saying that bad theories are driven out only by better theories so  I think it is incumbent on me to spell out what the obvious factors are.  I attempt that below

Acemoglu has addressed the "geography hypothesis", which points to the rather striking fact that poverty mostly seems to  be concentrated in the tropics and their immediately adjacent area.  So is climate the key to wealth and poverty?  Having myself been born and bred in the tropics, I hope not.  Acemoglu rejects the hypothesis in favour of his own tale about governmental institutions but makes a pretty thin argument of it.

His chief counter-argument is the prosperity of the Inca and Aztec civilizations prior to the Conquistadores.  And it is certainly notable that those civilizations were in the warmer parts of the Americas.  One swallow doesn't make a summer however and no statistician would let pass a generalization based on a sample size of one.

Furthermore, I think that what actually went on is fairly clear.  The areas where the meso-American civilizations arose are very fertile agriculturally and easily produced the food  surpluses that are needed for civilization to arise.  Whereas in what is today the USA and Canada, European farming technology was needed before large agricultural surpluses could be produced.

So I think the geography hypothesis is pretty good.  It fits almost all the examples.  Though we could argue about Tasmania, I suppose. But the interesting question is why.  How come that climate makes such a difference?  My answer to that is a very old one.  To oversimplify, in the tropics you just have to pick fruit off a tree to survive whereas in the cold climates you have to lay up food months in advance if you are to survive the winter.  Putting it generally, survival is much harder in cold climates so you need to be smarter to do so.  You have to use a mental model of the future for a start, and that sort of abstract thinking is what lies behind a higher IQ.

So IQ is the first elephant in Acemoglu's bedroom.  You need information about IQ in order to understand relative wealth and poverty. It is high average IQ that produces wealth-creating behaviour.  Even within modern countries, there is a correlation between low IQ and relative poverty. And, as is now I think well-known, Lynn and Vanhanen have shown a strong correlation between average national IQ and national prosperity.  The catastrophically low average IQ of Africans corresponds closely with the pervasive  dysfunction of African societies -- and indeed of African populations everywhere.  If you want evidence that IQ tests measure what they purport to measure, Africa is very strong evidence that they do.

BUT:  IQ is not the sole foundation of national prosperity.  It suits Leftists like Acemoglu to use simplistic single-factor explanations for everything but most of the world is more complex than that.  China is the obvious counter-example.  The average Chinese IQ appears to be very high (though studies of IQ in China have mostly been confined to coastal areas) and China has long been very poor.

My favourite example however is South India.  South India is very warm and yet the average IQ there appears to be high.  It was South Indian mathematicians and engineers who were behind India's recent remarkable Mars shot. In one bound India leapt to near parity with other space-exploring nations.  And South India is well and truly in the tropics.

How South Indians got so smart I will have to leave for another day but the continuity of civilization there has to have a lot to do with it.  Tamil Nadu claims to be the only place where a classical civilization has survived into modern times. And the constant wars between South Indian states probably also had a eugenic effect.

The interesting question, then, is why, like China, South India has long been poor.  And in both cases the answer is blindingly clear:  Socialism.  It is particularly clear in South India, which is the land of envy. All the States have been very socialist for a long time and Kerala for a while even had the distinction of having the world's only freely elected Communist government.  Even the present government is very Leftist.

And the same of course goes for China.  It was the virtual relinquishment of socialism under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping  that allowed the recent breakout into prosperity by China.  No matter how smart the people of a country are, socialism will impoverish them.  We saw that also in Russia.  Russia has made great strides since it abandoned Communism. And even India's recent surge was fired up by the big attack on the "Regulation Raj" in the 1990s.

There are of course numerous other examples of the economic benefits of winding back socialism:  Margaret Thatcher's privatizations and Ronald Reagan's tax cuts both ushered in long booms, for instance.  But let me mention another example that might otherwise go largely unheeded:  New Zealand.

New Zealand had some pretty socialistic governments during the 20th century (even the nominally conservative Muldoon regime was a big government regime) while Australia had long periods of conservative rule (including the market-oriented but nominally Leftist Hawke regime).  And that meant that New Zealand was always a poorer country than Australia. Recently however New Zealand has almost completely caught up.  Why?  Australia recently had 6 years of a vastly wasteful socialist government (the Rudd/Gillard regime) whose only notable legacy was a mountain of debt -- while New Zealand has now for over five years been under the prudent premiership of the conservative John Key.  The results were predictable.

So that is the second -- and presumably most unwelcome -- elephant in Acemoglu's bedroom:  Socialism.  High IQ makes you rich and socialism makes you poor.  You need the right combination of those two factors to have prosperity  -- JR.

John Key. It's rarely mentioned but Key is New Zealand's third Jewish Prime Minister. He is apparently not religious, however


Let's Recognize Who the Real Haters Are

By David Limbaugh

One may reasonably wonder whether the militant left in this country is solely dedicated to manufacturing issues to keep the nation in a constant state of uproar, angst and disharmony. We're seeing lots of negativity and intolerance from those so concerned that we all love one another.

Their most recent cause for hysterical urgency is Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The left has gone absolutely bonkers attempting to paint that legislation as a license for Christians to discriminate against gays for sport and is smearing anyone who supports it as a reactionary bigot.

Don't you long for those days when words had meaning? Now we have propagandists whose principal job is to deceitfully distort word meanings to promote their causes.

A few examples in the context of the issue at hand are "hate," "homophobe," "discrimination" and "anti-." People who oppose same-sex marriage do not fear or hate people who are gay. They are not advocating discrimination against them, and they are not against them.

These calculated distortions have had an enormous impact on our culture, infecting even people who should know better. Now enshrined in our popular culture, these misrepresentations affect the way people think (which is the whole point, of course) and lead to imputed motives with no basis in fact.

Consider U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's unfortunate language in his opinion in the Windsor case, in which the court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional.

Kennedy said the government's refusal to recognize same-sex marriages imposed a "stigma," codified a "separate status" into law and "humiliate(d)" a certain group of people. He said, "The principal purpose and the necessary effect of this law are to demean those persons who are in a lawful same-sex marriage."

Those were grossly unwarranted accusations. In fact, Kennedy's reckless language could cause the exact harm he professed to be condemning, for he flagrantly stigmatized, humiliated and demeaned proponents of DOMA in presumptuously imputing motives to them they don't possess.

Somewhat similarly, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, in walking back his position on Indiana's law, said, "No one should be harassed or mistreated because of who they are, who they love or what they believe."

That was a profoundly regrettable choice of words that only lends credence to the dishonest activists who are attempting to vilify people who support a law that protects one of this nation's most basic and sacred freedoms, the freedom of religion. Under no reasonable construction of language can business owners' refusal to perform services or sell products for events that celebrate causes that violate their religious beliefs be considered harassment.

The only people being harassed on this issue are the business owners, because of their religious beliefs.

The Indiana law doesn't authorize businesses to deny services to gay people at will. Neither the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act nor any of the state RFRAs have been used as a license for merchants to refuse to do business with gays. But there is a qualitative difference between refusing to serve gays in general and declining to provide services for the very event that solemnizes their legal marriage.

We should expect better from Kennedy and Pence, but not White House press secretary Josh Earnest, who said the Indiana law "could reasonably be used to try to justify discriminating against somebody because of who they love." That incendiary language completely distorts the motive of those who don't want to service same-sex marriage ceremonies, and he knows it.

Leftists also want to marginalize Christians who support such legislation as hateful kooks and outliers, but the truth is that Christianity sanctifies marriage as between one man and one woman, and that is not only in the Old Testament. Those who claim that Jesus never condemned homosexuality should know that he did affirm marriage as between a man and a woman. Reciting Genesis, he said, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?" (Matthew 19:4-5).

Let's not forget what the federal and state RFRAs, as construed by the courts, do. They seek to balance sometimes-conflicting interests. They say the government can't force people to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs unless it can prove it has a compelling interest in doing so, and only then if it does so by the least restrictive means.

Again, RFRAs recognize potential disagreements and provide for a reasonable balancing of those interests. But the ugly truth is that opponents of RFRAs don't want there to be a balancing test. They don't believe that the religious convictions of Christians on same-sex marriage deserve any protection. They are the extremists in this conflict, not the Christian merchants who choose to respectfully decline performing services for a very minute fraction of transactions involving gays.

What people should keep in mind is that any real hatred involved in this latest hot-button issue is emanating from the people who are falsely claiming to be victimized by hate. The nasty, mean-spirited rhetoric, the desire to harm people for exercising their religion and the efforts to smear a certain group of people are coming from leftist activists against Christians, not Christians against gays. Those are the facts.

The question is, will our Republican politicians have the backbone to stand up for what is right on this issue and vindicate religious liberty?



Huckabee on Indiana Law: 'This Is a Manufactured Crisis by the Left'

 The furor over Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act "is a manufactured crisis by the Left," former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) told Fox News's Megyn Kelly Wednesday night.

"If they manufactured as many products as they do crises like this one, which is an utterly phony attempt to create some kind of division, 92 million Americans who are jobless would have jobs.

"I've never seen anything so utterly off the mark in my life as trying to pretend that the RFRA law is actually discrimination. It is most certainly not. It simply gives you access to the court. And there's no guarantee that you're going to win when you go."

Huckabee spoke one day after Arkansas, the state he once governed, also passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which the current governor wants to change. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) wants the state law to precisely mirror the federal RFRA signed in 1993 by then-President Bill Clinton.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) also has asked the Indiana State Legislature to make changes, following an "avalanche" of criticism that the Indiana law is a license to discriminate against homosexuals.

"There's nothing in the RFRA that in anyway says a thing about homosexuality, gay marriage," Huckabee told "The Kelly File" on Wednesday.

He said it's important to differentiate between discrimination and discretion: "Discrimination is if when someone comes into the pizza place, they're turned away because they're black or because they're female or because they're gay, although I don't honestly know how you would know someone is gay just because they walked in and ordered a pepperoni pizza.

"But discretion is something that every American should have the right to exercise. Which is that if you come to my place and order cupcakes or a donut, I'll serve you. If you want me to show up and deliver a cake with two men on top of it, because I'm a Christian, because I believe the biblical definition of marriage, then I'm not going to be able to do that. That's not discrimination. That's discretion. And there's a difference."



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


1 comment:

C. S. P. Schofield said...

The problems with the poor parts of the world predate Socialism by a long shot, though Socialism certainly doesn't help. Various sections of the world are wealthy to the degree that they have embraced the ideas of private property land capitol, and opposition to those ideas goes back to antiquity. Even nations that superficially embrace "free markets" often fail at a base level because the issue of who owns the land is so tangled. If the State can take away your factory, farm, or warehouse on a whim, you have no sound basis for any loans you might need to start a business,a nd the only successful businesses will be those who are "in" with the State.