Monday, April 13, 2015
Why is Northeast Asia poorer than the USA?
The statistics make it clear as crystal that IQ is a major determinant of national wealth. Poor countries tend to be dumber, much dumber in some cases. So it is interesting that a massive and statistically very strong article by Anatoly Karlin has just come out that asks why the USA is such an outlier. American exceptionalism really does exist in the wealth statistics. According to their national average IQs, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan should be richer than the USA -- but they are in fact significantly poorer. That's a puzzle.
The easy answer to the puzzle is to say that special factors are at work in each case but that is a bit of a cop-out -- though it may be true. Karlin considers a wide range of factors that might help America and it is clear that some of them are indeed involved. Relative size of market, more Jews in the USA etc.
Something that deepens the puzzle is that Northeast Asia is also less socialist. Socialism, depending on its extent, clearly has a dampening effect on wealth creation. Britain's millions of NEETs sponging off welfare are an example of how socialism can take a significant slice of the population out of the workforce. Now that the Tory government has done a modest crackdown on "dole bludging", there has been a big increase in the size of the active workforce. So semi-socialist USA should be poorer than the NE Asians, not richer.
And natural resources are not the answer. Karlin has some statistics on that but there are plenty of examples of resource-poor countries doing well.
I think inherited traditions and RACE are major factors, though not perhaps in the way that one might think. As it is less incendiary, I will mention traditions first.
Yankees tend to be, to be blunt about it, self-righteous, know-it-all bastards. And they are still a substantial fraction of the US population -- and are certainly an influential fraction of the US population. Their ancestors left Europe and Britain in rickety wooden boats absolutely convinced that they would create in the new world a religious utopia -- as soon as they threw off the silly customs and conventions of the old world. A third of them had to die of starvation before they decided that their communism was a crock and that the silly ways of the old world were not so silly after all. And their descendants today are not much different, still convinced of their own righteousness and wisdom -- which is why New England is the great redoubt of the American Left. Being a Republican in Massachusetts requires some fortitude.
And we see something similar in Australia. The first white settlers there made a much longer journey in rickety wooden ships of the Royal Navy. Most of them were convicts. Two of them were my ancestors. And they HAD to become settlers. Returning to England would get you hanged at Tyburn. But convicts were not keen workers. Their attitude to their jobs tended to be relaxed. And that still exists in Australia. Australia is the laid-back country. Nobody really expects to get any job done right the first time. Even if it takes three times to get something done that is fine, normal, even. But such relaxed attitudes are inefficient economically. Having three goes to get something done is wasteful. It does however make Australia a cheerful, friendly place, which the world could surely do with much more of. It takes Muslims to make Australians riot.
So what we see is the surprising influence of the founders of a society. Traditions once set up are amazingly persistent. So it is to American traditions that we should to look for at least a part-explanation of American exceptionalism. And whatever else they were, the Pilgrim Fathers were exceptionally enterprising and brave. They took on a big challenge with scarcely a second thought. They knew the risks and were prepared to face them. And that is very characteristic of American business to this day. American wealth is created by American business. And as we recently saw, what is bad for General Motors is bad for America. American entrepreneurs are a large part of America's success.
Now we get on to what I believe is another powerful factor: RACE. But I am NOT going to say that Americans are particularly superior racially. Not at all. We can see that by considering the cases of Australia and New Zealand. Both those countries are very similar to America racially -- and in other ways too. You don't even have to press "1" for English there. Yet Australia and New Zealand are clustered with the NE Asian countries in terms of wealth per capita. Despite the great similarities between the USA and the ANZAC countries, America is clearly richer. So it is not the racial composition of the majority population that makes the difference. It is the minority population that is the key.
OK. Let me now say something that just about every American knows but which it is social poison to utter these days: Blacks are a HUGE problem for the white population. They run fast and sing well but those are just about the only good things you can say about them. So American whites are in general pretty frantic to minimize their contact with blacks. Living among them is just too frightening for most whites.
But how can whites minimize their contact with blacks in the present climate of political correctness? There is really only one way: White flight. You have to move to places where blacks don't want to go if you are to find safety for your family. And, since their income is generally as low as their IQ, blacks are mostly poor. So it is in the more expensive suburbs and exurbs were you are safest from them. So being able to spend big money is the only way to safeguard yourself and your family. So American whites have to struggle frantically to make as much money as possible. And they do. To an outsider it looks like money is their God. But in a capitalist economy the best way to make a lot of money is to deliver a lot in goods and services. And white Americans do. Their spurred-on efforts produce America's wealth.
Japan and Korea, by contrast, are among the world's most racially homogeneous societies. Unaccompanied women walk through the streets of Tokyo at night without fear -- somewhat different from NYC, one might say. There is a story here about Japan that sometimes makes me sob. I remember that it was once like that in the small Australian town where I grew up long ago. Not all Japan's strengths are monetary.
So I think that the high money-motivation produced by America's racial tensions is the main driver behind America' unusual wealth. I am glad I am not American. I give most of my modest income away. Radix malorum cupiditas est
UPDATE: A reader has commented that there are many places in the USA where blacks are largely absent so there is no pressure to avoid them. I think however that overlooks the importance of the big cities -- e.g. NYC and L.A. The big cities are a large part of America's economic dynamism and there ARE lots of blacks in most of them. So the people there ARE driven towards affording a refuge.
Forgotten Civil War atrocities bred more carnage
George Orwell wrote in 1945 that “the nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.” The same moral myopia has carried over to most Americans’ understanding of the Civil War. While popular historians have recently canonized the war as a practically holy crusade to free the slaves, in reality civilians were intentionally targeted and brutalized in the final year of the war.
The most dramatic forgotten atrocity in the Civil War occurred 150 years ago when Union Gen. Philip Sheridan unleashed a hundred-mile swath of flames in the Shenandoah Valley that left vast numbers of women and children tottering towards starvation. Unfortunately, the burning of the Shenandoah Valley has been largely forgotten, foreshadowing how subsequent brutal military operations would also vanish into the Memory Hole.
In August 1864, supreme Union commander Ulysses S. Grant ordered Sheridan to “do all the damage to railroads and crops you can…. If the war is to last another year, we want the Shenandoah Valley to remain a barren waste.” Grant said that Sheridan’s troops should “eat out Virginia clear and clean as far as they go, so that crows flying over it for the balance of the season will have to carry their provender with them.” Sheridan set to the task with vehemence, declaring that “the people must be left nothing but their eyes to weep with over the war” and promised that when he was finished, the valley “from Winchester to Staunton will have but little in it for man or beast.”
Because people lived in a state that had seceded from the Union, Sheridan acted as if they had automatically forfeited their property, if not their lives. Along an almost 100-mile stretch the sky was blackened with smoke as his troops burned crops, barns, mills and homes.
War against civilians
Some Union soldiers were aghast at their marching orders. A Pennsylvania cavalryman lamented at the end of the fiery spree, “We burnt some sixty houses and all most of the barns, hay, grain and corn in the shocks for fifty miles [south of] Strasburg…. It was a hard-looking sight to see the women and children turned out of doors at this season of the year.” An Ohio major wrote in his diary that the burning “does not seem real soldierly work. We ought to enlist a force of scoundrels for such work.” A newspaper correspondent embedded with Sheridan’s army reported, “Hundreds of nearly starving people are going North … not half the inhabitants of the valley can subsist on it in its present condition.”
After one of Sheridan’s favorite aides was shot by Confederate soldiers, Sheridan ordered his troops to burn all houses within a five-mile radius. After many outlying houses had been torched, the small town at the center — Dayton — was spared after a federal officer disobeyed Sheridan’s order. The homes and barns of Mennonites — a peaceful sect that opposed slavery and secession — were especially hard hit by that crackdown, according to a 1909 history of Mennonites in America.
By the end of Sheridan’s campaign the former “breadbasket of the Confederacy” could no longer even feed the women and children remaining there. In his three-volume Civil War history, Shelby Foote noted that an English traveler in 1865 “found the Valley standing empty as a moor.” The population of Warren County, Virginia, where I grew up, fell by 11 percent during the 1860s thanks in part to Sheridan’s depredations.
Historian Walter Fleming, in his classic 1919 study, The Sequel to Appomattox, quoted one bedeviled local farmer: “From Harper’s Ferry to New Market, which is about eighty miles, the country was almost a desert…. The barns were all burned; chimneys standing without houses, and houses standing without roof, or door, or window.” John Heatwole, author of The Burning: Sheridan’s Devastation of the Shenandoah Valley (1998), concluded, “The civilian population of the Valley was affected to a greater extent than was the populace of any other region during the war, including those in the path of Sherman’s infamous march to the sea in Georgia.”
Unfortunately, given the chaos of the era at the end of the Civil War and its immediate aftermath, there are no reliable statistics on the number of women, children, and other civilians who perished thanks to “the burning.”
Abraham Lincoln congratulated Sheridan in a letter on Oct. 22, 1864: “With great pleasure I tender to you and your brave army the thanks of the nation and my own personal admiration and gratitude for the month’s operation in the Shenandoah Valley.” The year before, in his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln had justified the Civil War to preserve a “government by consent.” But, as Massachusetts abolitionist Lysander Spooner retorted, “The only idea … ever manifested as to what is a government of consent, is this — that it is one to which everybody must consent, or be shot.”
Some defenders of the Union military tactics insist that there was no intent to harshly punish civilians. But, after three years of a bloody stalemate, the Lincoln administration had adapted a total-war mindset to scourge the South into submission. As Sheridan was finishing his fiery campaign, Gen. William Sherman wrote to Grant that “until we can repopulate Georgia, it is useless to occupy it, but the utter destruction of its roads, houses, and people will cripple their military resources.” Sherman had previously telegrammed Washington that “there is a class of people — men, women, and children — who must be killed or banished before you can hope for peace and order.” Lincoln also congratulated Sherman for a campaign that sowed devastation far and wide.
The carnage inflicted by Sheridan, Sherman, and other northern commanders made the South’s postwar recovery far slower and multiplied the misery of both white and black survivors. Connecticut College professor Jim Downs’s recent book, Sick from Freedom, exposes how the chaotic situation during and after the war contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of freed slaves.
Ironically, a war that stemmed in large part from the blunders and follies of politicians on both sides of the Potomac resulted in a vast expansion of the political class’s presumption of power. An 1875 American Law Review article noted, “The late war left the average American politician with a powerful desire to acquire property from other people without paying for it.”
The sea change was clear even before the war ended. Sherman had telegraphed the War Department in 1863, “The United States has the right, and … the … power, to penetrate to every part of the national domain. We will remove and destroy every obstacle — if need be, take every life, every acre of land, every particle of property, everything that to us seems proper.” Lincoln liked Sherman’s letter so much that he declared that it should be published.
After the Civil War, politicians and many historians consecrated the conflict and its grisly tactics were consigned to oblivion. The habit of sweeping abusive policies under the rug also permeated post–Civil War policy towards the Indians (Sheridan famously declared that “the only good Indian is a dead Indian”) and the suppression of Filipino insurgents after the Spanish-American War. Later historians sometimes downplayed U.S. military tactics in World War II that killed vast numbers of German and Japanese civilians.
The same pattern is repeating with the Vietnam War. The Pentagon is launching a major effort to commemorate its 50th anniversary — an effort that is being widely denounced as a whitewash. The New York Times noted that the Pentagon’s official website on the war “referred to the 1968 My Lai massacre, in which American troops killed hundreds of Vietnamese civilians, as the My Lai Incident.” That particular line was amended but the website will definitely not be including the verdict of David Hackworth, a retired colonel and the most decorated officer in the Army: “Vietnam was an atrocity from the get-go…. There were hundreds of My Lais. You got your card punched by the numbers of bodies you counted.”
The failure to recognize how wars routinely spawn pervasive brutality and collateral deaths lowers Americans’ resistance to new conflicts that promise to make the world safe for democracy, or rid the world of evil, or achieve other lofty-sounding goals. For instance, the Obama administration sold its bombing of Libya as a self-evident triumph of good over a vile despot; instead, chaos reigns. As the administration ramps up bombing in Syria and Iraq, both its rhetoric and its tactics echo prior U.S. misfires. The proclaimed intentions of U.S. bombing campaigns are far more important than their accuracy. And the presumption of collective guilt of everyone in a geographical area exonerates current military leaders the same way it exonerated Sheridan’s 1864 torching of Mennonite homes.
Since 1864, no prudent American should have expected this nation’s wars to have happy or uplifting endings. Unfortunately, as long as the spotlight is kept off atrocities, most citizens will continue to underestimate the odds that wars will spawn debacles and injustices that return to haunt us.
Oh, Look, a Squirrel! Obama Denounces Conversion Therapy
Besieged by criticism for his disastrous deal with Iran, Barack Obama sought a shiny object to distract — even for just a moment — from more pressing concerns. Thus, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett issued a statement on conversion therapy for the gender disoriented.
“The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm,” the statement said, also warning of “potentially devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual and queer youth.”
Therefore, “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”
Recall that until a couple of years ago, Obama was (ostensibly) opposed to same-sex marriage. Now, however, he’s riding a political wave of growing support — or should we say tired and coerced concession — to the homosexual agenda. (Oh, and by the way, the White House will now feature an “all gender bathroom,” too.)
This isn’t to evaluate conversion therapy one way or the other, but why on earth would Obama need to offer his opinion other than as a political distraction?
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Posted by JR at 12:31 AM