Wednesday, May 31, 2017

American patriotism versus German patriotism

There is a large Quora thread on the above comparison  here. It says just about all that could be said on the subject but I was rather fascinated by a rather cutting comment from Jens Böttiger.  I reproduce it below:

"In America you show patriotism by attaching a full size US flag on your pickup truck (Or confederate flag for alternative patriotism), singing the anthem before every baseball game, and sending 18 year olds to Iraq so you can later thank them for their service when they roll by you in their wheelchair in Walmart.

"In Germany we show patriotism by voting for higher taxes on ourselves to make healthcare and college tuition universally accessible to our less fortunate fellow citizens, and by picking up after one another to keep public spaces clean and nice for everyone."

Has he got a point?  He might have if it is patriotism that motivates German acceptance of high taxes.  But is it?  Might it not be that Germans have a high need for security and predictability?  A welfare state does provide that. So I think that Jens Böttiger is kidding himself about patriotism being the motive.

His second point is that Germans look after their public spaces better. But might not that be the result of a very German need for order?  I think a need for order is a good thing but let us not confuse it with patriotism.

His point about American patriotism being very public is undoubtedly true.  There is nothing like that in Australia or Britain.  But I see it as being just one example of a much more extroverted society.  Compared with other countries Americans are much more open and "out there".  Americans even talk to one-another in elevators!  Though maybe not in NYC. In Britain NOBODY talks in elevators. And I see the American way as a rather joyous way to live.  Americans greatly ENJOY their patriotic displays.

Australians and British people tend by contrast to be rather embarrassed by patriotic expressions.  Which way is better? Where do the different ways lead?  I don't think they lead in different directions at all.  The obvious comment is that American patriotism is behind America's many wars.  Yet there is not a single major American war in the 20th century that Australia did not participate in too.  Compared to American exuberance the Australian style is laconic but I suspect that the inhabitants of both countries are equally proud of what their country has achieved and become.

Jens Böttiger's final point about America refers to the suffering that America's troops often undergo.  He implies that the suffering is inflicted by patriotism.  But is it? Most of America's wars abroad are indeed a product of American exuberance but that is not exuberance about America so much as an exuberant conviction that America can help other nations with their problems.  Americans have a conviction not that they can conquer but that they can do good. I think that is rather admirable even if it is sometimes misguided.

So I can understand that Jens Böttiger is out of sympathy with American patriotism but I think his arguments are fallacious.  They have a Goebbels-like plausibility but in the end are just propaganda.  It is clear however that he is himself a patriotic German.  He even defends the reputation of Hitler's Luftwaffe in another post.  So it is amusing that he actually lives in America -- JR.


A sad choice for the British general election

By Sean Gabb (an English libertarian)

For the avoidance of doubt, I still intend to vote Conservative in this dreadful election. And, if Labour seems to be catching up in the opinion polls, so, I suspect, will enough people to give the Conservatives a decent majority. The general election is a rerun of last year’s Referendum. There is no other consideration that ought to sway anyone who is looking beyond our present circumstances. We vote Conservative. We leave the European Union. We hope and work for a realignment in British politics. Except for this, however, I would be dithering between another vote for UKIP and a spoiled ballot. Except for Europe, the contest is between an authoritarian hag and a Fenian scumbag.

Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have made their responses to the Manchester Bombings. According to the BBC,

Theresa May has urged world leaders to do more to combat online extremism, saying the fight against so-called Islamic State is “moving from the battlefield to the internet.”

What she has in mind is outlined in the Conservative Manifesto:

[W]e  will  establish  a  regulatory  framework  in  law  to  underpin  our  digital  charter  and to  ensure  that  digital  companies,  social  media  platforms  and  content  providers  abide by  these  principles.  We  will  introduce  a  sanctions  regime  to  ensure  compliance, giving regulators the ability to fine or prosecute those companies that fail in their legal duties, and to order the removal of content where it clearly breaches UK law. We will also create a  power  in  law  for  government  to  introduce  an  industry-wide  levy  from  social  media companies and communication service providers to support awareness and preventative activity to counter internet harms, just as is already the case with the gambling industry.

If this hardly needs translating into Plain English, I will make the effort. The Conservatives are proposing to censor the Internet. Anyone who, in this country, publishes opinions or alleged facts the authorities dislike will be prosecuted. If these are published abroad, access to the relevant websites will be blocked. Internet companies will be taxed to pay for a Ministry of Propaganda to go beyond anything now provided by the BBC.

We are supposed to think the main targets of censorship will be the radical Moslems. I have no doubt some effort will be made to shut them up. The main targets, however, will be on the nationalist right. These are the ones who will be harried and prosecuted and generally threatened into silence. The only person so far to have lost a job on account of the bombings is the LBC presenter Katie Hopkins. She made a sharp comment on air about the Moslems, and was out. Other than that, we have had a continual spray of propaganda about the Religion of Peace, and how its core texts have nothing to do with suicide bombings or mass-rape or disorder.

In Britain, in Europe, in America, there are powerful interests that are itching to censor the Internet. It is the Internet that has made us cynical. It is the Internet that is giving us the probable truth. It is because of the Internet that the authorities are being held to account. Never let a good atrocity go to waste. Get the people ready for censorship while the bodies are still being reassembled.

Jeremy Corbyn, I grant, has been slightly better. He sees Islamic terrorism as a response to our endless wars of aggression in the Islamic World. He says:

[M]any experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services, have pointed out the connections between wars that we have been involved in, or supported, or fought, in other countries and terrorism here at home.

There is some truth in this. I will not quote the relevant news releases from the Islamic State. But their consistent line is that, so long as we drop bombs on their women and children, they will blow themselves up among ours. Bearing in mind the scale of the chaos and bloodshed they have unleashed since 2001 in the Islamic world, our leaders are in a weak position to complain.

Even so, if they have been at least unwise, these wars cannot be regarded as the whole cause of what is being done to us. There have been major terrorist attacks in Spain and Germany and Sweden, countries that have not been to war in the Islamic World. There have been attacks in Thailand and India and the Philippines, and in many other countries that stayed neutral. I believe that we should withdraw all our forces from Iraq and Libya and Afghanistan. We should leave the Syrians to sort out their civil war. We should, so far as possible, vacate those parts of the world. I believe we should do this for our sake and for theirs. But I do not believe this would stop the terrorists from blowing our people up or from running them down. Remove one excuse – another would be found.

There is a weak correlation between Islamic terrorism and whether a country targeted has been to war in the Islamic World. There is a very strong correlation between Islamic terrorism and the presence of a large Moslem population. Thailand had no part in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. It has Moslems. It has had terrorism. Slovakia was in the “Coalition of the Willing.” It has almost no Moslems, It has had no terrorism.

Let us suppose Tony Blair had found the common sense to tell the Americans to invade Iraq on their own. There might have been less Islamic terrorism in this country. But do not suppose there would have been none. The wars we fought in Iraq and elsewhere were wrong in themselves. They failed in their stated ends. But the true cause of the mess we are in is unlimited immigration of people who mostly cannot be assimilated, and who have been allowed to establish a demographic and cultural hegemony in large parts of the country. When our ancestors turned up in North America, they formed exclusive enclaves, and felt no obligation to conform to the ways of the aborigines. They thought they were better, and they would have been scandalised by any advice to paint their faces and join in the tomahawk dance. Once their initial colonies were secure, and once their population had sufficiently grown, they took over. Why should it be very different when we are the colonised? Terrorist violence is connected with what we have done to their countries. Much more, it is part of marking new territory and pre-empting opposition.

I could move to discussing what solutions may be available to this problem. But I will not. Instead, I will return to the May solution. If every terrorist outrage we have known in this country during the present century was committed by Moslems, terrorism is not the worst problem we face. I do not wish in any sense to minimise the horror of what was done earlier this week in Manchester. I am not saying this for form. It was a shocking and a disgusting act. But I will quote the words of Lord Justice Hoffman when he struck down an anti-terrorism law in 2004:

In my opinion, such a power in any form is not compatible with our constitution. The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these. That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve.

Terrorist violence, on whatever scale, affects those individuals who suffer it directly. A police state harms the nation as a whole. It may be said that we need a police state to fight terrorism. It is better said that terrorism is presently seen by the authorities as an excuse for the police state they have long wanted. There was no Islamic terrorism in this country before the beginning of the present century. There had been a declining level of Irish terrorism before then. There was no credible reason to suppose that any terrorists were using the Internet to further their ends. All the same, the 1990s saw a steady drumbeat of claims that the Internet needed to be censored, and that the normal rules of justice should be replaced by the rules of a police state. The excuse then was drugs and child pornography. At the end of the 1980s, I recall Margaret Thatcher’s claim that we needed identity cards to deal with violence at football matches. I believe that, if every Moslem were to leave this country tomorrow, the authorities would pause to draw breath, and, the day after that, continue demanding censorship, and detention without trial, and identity cards, and mass-surveillance – this time to save us from global warming, or Russian spies, or an impending asteroid impact.

And now to my final words on Mr Corbyn. If our present rulers are in a weak position to complain about terrorism, Mr Corbyn is in a very weak position to call himself a man of peace. I carry no torch for Israel, but Mr Corbyn has, throughout his time in politics, openly sided with the enemies of Israel – which, whatever can be said against it, is a liberal democracy of sorts. It is reasonable to presume that he opposed our wars in the Islamic world less because they were wars than because they were with his friends. Far worse than this, he has been a consistent supporter of Sinn Fein/IRA. I shall think better of his opposition to our wars in the Islamic World when he finally denounces the campaign of armed terror directed by his late friend Martin McGuiness.

But Mr Corbyn will almost certainly not be asked to form a government the week after next. Mrs May will keep the one she has. I will vote to keep her in office. But I take no pride in this. We live in a country with a more degraded public life than the average dystopian novel of forty years ago was likely to imagine.

Yes, I will pinch my nose again the Thursday after next, and vote Conservative – in the hope, and perhaps in the belief, that I shall have a better choice in 2022.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both 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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Tuesday, May 30, 2017


The last 12 hours have been very tearful for me. After a long battle, Chris Brand has just passed away.  Chris and I were born on opposite parts of the world but we could well have been twins. We were the same age, we both had a classical education (though Chris acquired his in  circumstances much more distinguished than mine) and both of us were very self-confident and independent and thought very similarly.  To defy all the nonsense that is taught in our society we had to be very self-confident and independent.  Both Chris and I waged an unrelenting war on political correctness.

Sadly, I never met Chris in person but I am pleased I had a proxy with him up to the end. My stepson Paul and I had always got on exceptionally well.  Paul too is very independent and there was a time in his teens and early 20s when I was the only person Paul would listen to if any kind of advice was being offered.  So when Paul moved to Edinburgh for business reasons I was greatly pleased that I could send him a friend very much like myself.  And Paul did indeed develop a great friendship with Chris.

Something that upsets me about Chris's death is that I could have prevented it if I had known earlier what I know now.  He died in an NHS (government) hospital of hospital-borne infections. He got one after another, progressively weakening him until he had nothing left to fight with.  NHS hospitals are riddled with hospital borne infections and Scottish NHS hospitals are said to be worse even than English ones.  Private British hospitals are however usually free of such infections.  With the benefit of hindsight I would have asked Paul to put Chris in a private hospital very early on.  I could have funded it and he would be with us today.

Curse and goddam the NHS!

It is however a comfort that Chris's wife, Dr. Shiou-Yun Fang [] sat with him to the end.  Perhaps in deference to a Chinese custom she even sat with him for some time after he died.  She is from Taiwan and is a distinguished art historian. Those who enjoyed Chris's thoughts in life may wish to comfort her in her great loss by sending her your condolences and prayers and recollections of Chris's wisdom. I will leave his blog in place for as long as Google permits it. It is IQ & PC.


Trump and the Prime Minister of Montenegro

A report below.  The media made much of this incident, portraying Trump as a rude boor and as a childish seeker of attention.  When I first heard of what Trump had done, my reaction was: "He must think he is President of the United States".

And that really is the nub of the incident. Trump's manners probably were poor in the incident but he reminded us, probably inadvertently, that we don't have to abide by the Leftist gospel that all  men are equal.  It is quite reasonable for the President of the United States to expect special treatment and special priority.

Other Presidents would undoubtedly have abided by the Leftist convention that you avoid any references to inequality. You should pretend where possible that all men are equal.  Other Presidents would undoubtedly have treated other national leaders at the meeting as if all leaders there were equal.  In other words, Leftist assumptions have become good manners.  But now Trump has called that into question as he has called into question many other Leftist assumptions. He has made visible an invisible assumption.

It would probably get Trump further in the short run if he did observe conventional manners and I am, I suppose, regretful that he is not always "Presidential", but his implicit and explicit violation of so many conventional assumptions is a real lesson in how much our culture has become a Left-dominated one. JR

The prime minister of Montenegro, who became the inadvertent star of a viral video of President Trump pushing him aside during a gathering of world leaders, called the incident "inoffensive."

“This was an inoffensive situation,” Montenegro's Dusko Markovic told reporters, according to the Washington Post. “I do not see it in any other way.”

The moment, which shows Trump appearing to shove Markovic while the group of North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders were getting together for the "family photo," made quite a stir on Thursday. Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said he did not see video of the incident, but explained the president was getting into his pre-determined position.



The Biggest Revelations From New Obamacare Study

A report released Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Services shows a significant hike in the average cost of individual plans since 2013 in 39 states.

In 2013, the average annual cost of a premium for an individual health care plan was $2,784. By 2017, the average annual cost for a premium for an individual health care plan on was $5,712. Thirty-nine states use

Twenty-four states had Obamacare premiums in 2017 that were double the average individual premium in 2013.

In three states, the Obamacare premiums are now triple the average individual premium in 2013.

President Barack Obama promised premiums would go down under Obamacare.

“You should know that once we [have Obamacare] fully implemented, you’re going to be able to buy insurance through a pool so that you can get the same good rates as a group that if you’re an employee at a big company you can get right now—which means your premiums will go down,” Obama said in 2012.

Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, a public policy research organization, told The Daily Signal in an email that Obamacare is flawed.

“The key promise the Obama administration made to Americans in the health reform debate was that their premium and health costs would go down,” Turner said, adding:

But year after year, families have seen their premiums soar. This new HHS study, looking at premium costs before and after Obamacare, proves that the law has failed dramatically to fulfill its promise.

Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, said in a statement that “This report proves what Republicans have been saying for years—Obamacare was sold on lies that failed to deliver for the American people.”

Bob Moffit, a senior fellow and health care expert at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal in an email that he is not surprised by the findings of the study.

“Obamacare has literally wrecked the individual market with skyrocketing premiums, crazy deductibles, restrictive physician networks, and a radical decline in plan participation and competition,” Moffit said. “The roots of the current crisis were baked into the law from the beginning, [along with] costly benefit mandates and inflexible insurance regulations.”

Drew Gonshorowski, a senior policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, who studies Medicare and Medicaid, said he is also unsurprised.

“This study shows something that we’ve already known about the exchanges for some time now–that premiums have and continue to rise drastically,” Gonshorowski said in an email to The Daily Signal.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said the law cannot sustain itself.

In a report released Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Republican Obamacare replacement plan, the American Health Care Act, will reduce budget deficits by $119 billion from 2017-2026.

Under Obamacare, the number of uninsured is estimated to be 28 million in 2026, according to the report, which estimates that number would rise to 51 million the same year if the American Health Care Act became law.



Trump Is Not Pro-Russia, Despite What the Media Says

Politically, no story is hotter than the one about President Donald Trump and the Russians.

Last week’s appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the election keeps the story alive.

But abroad, Trump hasn’t helped the Russians. In fact, he’s opposed them.

Like many Americans, I completely rejected candidate Trump’s praise for Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin. The fact that President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton had also sought to get on Putin’s good side didn’t make Trump any less wrong.

Americans need an alternative to the mainstream media. But this can't be done alone. Find out more >>

By and large, Trump ran as an opponent of recent U.S. military interventions, including those in Iraq and Libya.

But he made an exception for U.S. action against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and he appeared to believe that the Russians were intervening in Syria to join that battle on the U.S. side.

That was a serious error. Russia’s goals in Syria were to prop up Bashar Assad’s regime and to support Assad’s regional patrons, the Iranians.

Putin’s airstrikes didn’t target ISIS. They targeted the rebels that we were ineffectively trying to support.

And that leads to the phony scandal about Trump’s sharing of intelligence with the Russians.

First, all the Americans in the room have rejected the claim that any secrets were shared.

But even if they were, this isn’t a crime. The collection and sharing of intelligence is an executive branch job, and the president has the right to make his own decisions in this realm.

Yet the fact that something’s not illegal doesn’t make it a good policy decision. Intelligence sharing with allies is smart, and we do it all the time.

The Russians, though, aren’t our allies, no matter how much Trump believes we’re both opposing ISIS. Even if we’re not giving them any secrets, we’re not going to get them to play ball by giving them Oval Office meetings.

But look at what the Trump administration has done in the rest of the world. It hasn’t acted like it believes in being buddies with Russia. Not at all.

There were concerns that Trump would try to buy Russian cooperation against ISIS by lifting the sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Those sanctions have remained in place.

What’s more, the Trump administration has done what the Obama administration wouldn’t do: launch a cruise missile strike on the Russian-supported Syrian regime.

It also called out Russia for arming the Taliban and got Montenegro into NATO—a move the Russians opposed.

Earlier this month, Trump signed a bill prohibiting any U.S. funds from being used to support the Russian occupation of portions of the nation of Georgia.

He also offered “full support” for Georgia’s territorial integrity in a cordial meeting with Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, while Vice President Mike Pence backed Georgia’s accession to NATO, defended its sovereignty, and supported its economic reforms.

The Obama administration’s ill-fated “reset” with Russia in 2009 was an effort to back away from the Bush administration’s belated recognition, after Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008, that Putin wasn’t a good guy.

So Trump’s support for Georgia isn’t just about opposing Russia. It’s a rejection of Obama’s effort to sidle up to Moscow.

If the Trump administration is supposed to be colluding with the Russians, they’re doing a terrible job of it.

They’ve opposed Russia in Europe, Afghanistan, Georgia, and Syria, while trying—and this is where the Oval Office meeting comes in—to get Moscow to oppose ISIS.

Trump’s effort to win over the Russians testifies to the emphasis the administration is placing on the war against the Islamists. That effort isn’t going to go anywhere: The Russians will play their own game in the Middle East.

I wish the Trump administration would recognize this. But I’d rather have an administration that tries to cooperate with the Russians on ISIS alone than one—like Obama’s—which tries to cooperate with them everywhere.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both 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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Monday, May 29, 2017

Another blow to the Statin religion

A study of nearly 3,000 older adults found that giving them statins did not extend their lifespans nor did they get fewer  heart attacks.  Since old people are the high risk group, we have to ask if they do not benefit from statins, who would?

Effect of Statin Treatment vs Usual Care on Primary Cardiovascular Prevention Among Older Adults

Benjamin H. Han et al.


Importance:  While statin therapy for primary cardiovascular prevention has been associated with reductions in cardiovascular morbidity, the effect on all-cause mortality has been variable. There is little evidence to guide the use of statins for primary prevention in adults 75 years and older.

Objectives:  To examine statin treatment among adults aged 65 to 74 years and 75 years and older when used for primary prevention in the Lipid-Lowering Trial (LLT) component of the Antihypertensive and Lipid-Lowering Treatment to Prevent Heart Attack Trial (ALLHAT-LLT).

Design, Setting, and Participants:  Post hoc secondary data analyses were conducted of participants 65 years and older without evidence of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease; 2867 ambulatory adults with hypertension and without baseline atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease were included. The ALLHAT-LLT was conducted from February 1994 to March 2002 at 513 clinical sites.

Interventions:  Pravastatin sodium (40 mg/d) vs usual care (UC).

Main Outcomes and Measures:  The primary outcome in the ALLHAT-LLT was all-cause mortality. Secondary outcomes included cause-specific mortality and nonfatal myocardial infarction or fatal coronary heart disease combined (coronary heart disease events).

Results:  There were 1467 participants (mean [SD] age, 71.3 [5.2] years) in the pravastatin group (48.0% [n = 704] female) and 1400 participants (mean [SD] age, 71.2 [5.2] years) in the UC group (50.8% [n = 711] female). The baseline mean (SD) low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels were 147.7 (19.8) mg/dL in the pravastatin group and 147.6 (19.4) mg/dL in the UC group; by year 6, the mean (SD) low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels were 109.1 (35.4) mg/dL in the pravastatin group and 128.8 (27.5) mg/dL in the UC group. At year 6, of the participants assigned to pravastatin, 42 of 253 (16.6%) were not taking any statin; 71.0% in the UC group were not taking any statin.

The hazard ratios for all-cause mortality in the pravastatin group vs the UC group were 1.18 (95% CI, 0.97-1.42; P = .09) for all adults 65 years and older, 1.08 (95% CI, 0.85-1.37; P = .55) for adults aged 65 to 74 years, and 1.34 (95% CI, 0.98-1.84; P = .07) for adults 75 years and older. Coronary heart disease event rates were not significantly different among the groups. In multivariable regression, the results remained nonsignificant, and there was no significant interaction between treatment group and age.

Conclusions and Relevance:  No benefit was found when pravastatin was given for primary prevention to older adults with moderate hyperlipidemia and hypertension, and a nonsignificant direction toward increased all-cause mortality with pravastatin was observed among adults 75 years and older.

JAMA Intern Med. Published online May 22, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.1442


The Best Trump Budget Cuts, Part V: Less Foreign Aid

President Trump’s new budget is getting attacked by politicians and interest groups in Washington. These critics say the budget cuts are too severe and draconian.

My main reaction is to wonder whether these people are illiterate and/or innumerate. After all, even a cursory examination of Trump’s proposal shows that the federal government will expand over the next decade by an average of 3.46 percent every year, considerably faster than inflation.

For what it’s worth, I’m sure most of the critics actually do understand that government will continue growing under Trump’s budget. But they find it politically advantageous to engage in “Washington math,” which is when you get to claim a program is being cut if it doesn’t get a sufficiently large increase. I’m not joking.

That being said, while the overall federal budget will get bigger, there are some very good proposals in the President’s budget to terminate or reduce a few specific programs. I don’t know if the White House is actually serious about any of these ideas, but some of them are very desirable.

* Shutting down the wasteful National Endowment for the Arts.
* Defunding National Public Radio and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
* Terminating the scandal-plagued Community Development Block Grant program.
* Block-granting Medicaid and reducing central government funding and control.

Today, let’s add a fifth idea to our list. The Trump budget proposes a substantial reduction in foreign aid (for numbers, see line 18 of this OMB excel file).

I hope these cuts are implemented. In part, I want to save money for American taxpayers, but I’m even more motivated by a desire to help the rest of the world. Simply stated, foreign aid is counterproductive.

The great paradox of government-to-government aid transfers is that they won’t work if recipient nations have bad policy. Yet we also know that nations with good policy don’t need handouts.

In other words, there’s no substitute for free markets and small government. That recipe works wherever it’s tried.

My colleague at the Cato Institute, Marian Tupy, embraces the idea of less foreign aid in a Reason column.

President Donald Trump is said to be considering large cuts to foreign aid. Those cuts cannot come soon enough. And he explains why in the article. Here’s the passage that caught my eye.

Graham Hancock’s 1994 book, The Lords of Poverty: The Power, Prestige, and Corruption of the International Aid Business, is still worth reading. As the author explains, much of foreign aid is used to subsidize opulent lifestyles within the aid establishment. “Only a small portion of [aid money],” Hancock writes, “is ever translated into direct assistance. Thanks to bureaucratic inefficiency, misguided policies, large executive salaries, political corruption, and the self-perpetuating ‘overhead’ of the administrative agencies, much of this tremendous wealth is frittered away.”

The problems are not specific to the United States. Foreign aid also is used as a scam to line the pockets of contractors in the United Kingdom.

The British aid contracting industry has more than doubled in value from £540 million in 2012 to £1.34 billion last year. The proportion of every pound of taxpayers’ aid money that is spent on consultants has risen from 12p in 2011 to 22p. …Budget breakdowns showed the public being charged twice the going rate for workers. One contractor on a project had a margin of 141 per cent between staffing costs charged to Dfid and the cost at market rates.

By the way, one study even found that foreign aid undermines democracy.

Foreign aid provides a windfall of resources to recipient countries and may result in the same rent seeking behavior as documented in the “curse of natural resources” literature. …Using data for 108 recipient countries in the period 1960 to 1999, we find that foreign aid has a negative impact on democracy. In particular, if the foreign aid over GDP that a country receives over a period of five years reaches the 75th percentile in the sample, then a 10-point index of democracy is reduced between 0.6 and one point, a large effect.

Last but not least, Professor William Easterly explains in the Washington Post that foreign aid does not fight terrorism.

President Trump’s proposed budget includes steep cuts in foreign assistance. Aid proponents such as Bill Gates are eloquently fighting back. …The counter-terrorism argument for foreign aid after 9/11 indeed succeeded for a long time at increasing and then sustaining the U.S. foreign aid budget. …the link from aid to counter-terrorism never had any evidence behind it. As it became ever less plausible as terrorism continued, it set up aid for a fall. …the evidence for a link from poverty to terrorism never showed up. …studies since 9/11 have consistently shown that terrorists tend to have above-average income and education. Even if there had been a link from poverty to terrorism, the “aid as counter-terrorism” argument also required the assumption that aid has a dramatic effect on the poverty of entire aid-receiving nations. Today’s proponents of aid no longer make the grandiose claims of aid lifting whole societies out of poverty.
Heck, foreign aid keeps societies in poverty by enabling bigger government.

Yet international bureaucracies such as the United Nations keep peddling the discredited notion that developing nations should have more money to finance ever-bigger government.

The bottom line is that people who care about the world’s poor people should be advocating for freedom rather than handouts.



Secular Ecclesiology
Ecclesiology is the study of the church. That includes the forms of church government, its leadership, how it worships, its relationship to the people of God and even its sacraments. In modern American evangelicalism, ecclesiology is needed more than ever. With fly-by-night churches built around a single charismatic leader, corruption of church leaders, and community churches spreading like Southern kudzu, evangelicals are losing perspective on the role of churches, their relation to churches and the proper oversight of both church leaders and laity. The lack of sound ecclesiology in many Protestant churches is one of the big reasons many conservatives are migrating towards Catholicism and the Greek Orthodox Church.

Meanwhile, on the political Left, a secular ecclesiology is cementing. In an age where members of the Democratic Party could boo the inclusion of God in their platform and Barack Obama could proclaim the state is the only thing to which we all belong, government is replacing God, abortion is becoming the chief sacrament and tax paying is tithing. The Left is sorting out how government will stand in for the church and, like the Spanish Inquisition, the left-wing Torquemadas will burn at the stake any who dissent. Conservatives are the new heretics.

This is on full display with President Trump’s budget. Under Barack Obama, Congress never actually passed a budget. Through a series of continuing resolutions, the Congress just adjusted funding. President Trump wants to actually govern as intended by preparing a budget and submitting it to Congress for passage. He is dealing with several realities inconvenient for left-wing orthodoxy.

The nation’s debt now exceeds $20 trillion. Barack Obama raised the national debt. If Republicans were to give Democrats all the tax increases they ever wanted, there would still be a deficit and the national debt would continue to grow. Interest payments will continue increasing, depleting money for other things.

Something has to be cut. Waste, fraud and abuse along — presuming they could be eradicated — would not close the deficit. Programs must be cut. The left-wing desire to cut the military is an increasingly irresponsible aspiration considering events like the suicide bombing in Manchester, England. Something, though, must be cut.

As secularism takes on the form of religion in this country, one religious tenet is that the more people dependent on government, the better life is. Mick Mulvaney, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, is challenging that religious tenet. He thinks the appropriate measure for a government program is how many people the government can elevate out of poverty and off government dependence.

Jesus said, “The poor you shall always have with you.” Mick Mulvaney and conservatives believe that means we will always have a class of poor people who must be helped. Secular progressives believe it means we will always have the exact same people poor who will never be elevated out of government dependence. The idea of getting people off welfare and decreasing dependence on government is anathema to people who have come to believe dependence on government is akin to dependence on God.

As a result, there is a newfound hysteria among secular progressives. They are convinced Republicans are going to kill people by consolidating, eliminating and streamlining government programs. If one is convinced greater government means more salvation, a reduction in government means more damnation. This is akin to Christian concerns about saving and losing souls.

Likewise, as abortion becomes the chief sacrament of the Left, letting government cut Planned Parenthood is akin to denying a church of its funding. Conservative areas of the country give more to charity because they have maintained a distinction between charitable aid and government program. Liberal areas of the country are the least charitable because secular ecclesiology has eliminated that distinction and any reduction in funding to any program is an attack on the liberal church.

This leaves us, as a nation, unable to proceed with civility. If one really believes Republicans want to starve old people and throw grandma off the cliff, hysteria and violence are the logical outcome. So too is bankruptcy. The president’s budget is a compassionate budget because it seeks to elevate the poor into the middle class, not keep them dependent. But to the Left, that is heresy.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both 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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Was Hitler right?  Are Germans a Herrenvolk?

My heading above is of course exceptionally and deliberately provocative so I think I had better go into damage-control mode straight away.

Anybody who shows any awareness of racial, ethnic or national differences is normally excoriated by the Left as a "white supremacist".  So I think I should point out that I am in fact a N.E. Asian supremacist.  We now have an abundance of evidence that the N.E. Asians (Japan, Korea, China) are on average roughly a third of a standard deviation more intelligent than the average European.  And a third of a standard deviation is a lot, particularly at the upper end of the distribution.  See here for full details on that.

And we don't need IQ scores to conclude that this century will be the century of China.  The economic strides they have already made in recent decades make that an obvious inference, I think.

And although my own ancestry is wholly British, I am quite happy about all that. I see N.E. Asians as patient, hard-working family-oriented people who already have a huge influence on the world so we can know pretty well what the world will be like once they realize their full potential.  I am even prepared to concede to China their nine-dash line. I would object if a N.E. Asian nation showed signs of wanting to conquer some other nation but I think that the dreadful events of WWII have convincingly shown both Europeans and Asians the great folly in that.

With that bit of throat-clearing, I think I can now go on to what I initially wanted to say here.

There is here an extensive article accompanied by a profusion of maps which locates the main sources of economic, cultural, scientific and technological advances in recent centuries.  And it shows something that every schoolkid once knew: That the evolution of modern industrial civilization traces back to innovations made in N.W. Europe, principally in  Britain and Germany.  Other European nations have contributed -- France, Italy and Russia -- but their influence has been nothing like the influence of N.W. Europe.

The article I refer to above is from an anonymous author on an anonymous site.  And you can see why.  N.W. Europe is in fact a euphemism.  What is in fact being referred to is the Germanic countries.  The author has shown not that the Germans are a master race but that the Germanic people generally are a master race of sorts.  They have given us the modern world and the rest of the world has hastened to follow in their steps.

Hitler's term Herrenvolk is  not ideally translated as "master race".  A "race of masters" or a race of Lords would be  better translations.  And that is what Hitler had in mind -- a people who lorded it over a great mass of inferior people.  Each German would be the master of an estate worked by inferior races.  And as a libertarian, that whole idea is anathema to me.

But in English, "master" has another meaning -- meaning someone who is very good at something, a master craftsman, for instance.  And I think it is very clear that Germans, broadly speaking, continue to be master innovators.  There is actually more German ancestry among Americans than there is British ancestry so the combination of those two Germanic nationalities makes the USA still a largely Germanic nation despite the large movement of other peoples into the USA. And the fact that Yiddish is a German dialect is evidence of how strongly Jews have been absorbed into Germanic culture and continue to participate in it.

And that makes Israel a Germanic country too -- bitter though that thought may be. And Israel is not only Germanic culturally but to an important extent also ancestrally.  You don't have to walk for long among the Ashkenazim to see a lot of people who look distinctly Northern European. Ever since Ruth, Jews have always been only weakly endogamous, much to the grief of many a Yiddisher Momma in NYC.  The tendency of Irvings and Sheldons to get into bed with "shicksas" is often deplored by the mothers of the Irvings and Sheldons concerned.  The strength of the feelings involved may perhaps be revealed if I disclose something not normally disclosed:  The literal German meaning of "shicksa".  It means "prostitute".

So I reject Hitler's claim that Germans ("Deutschen") are a master race.  But I think a similar-sounding claim is true:  That Germanic people ("die Germanischen") are master innovators. And combine a Germanic culture with the high IQ of the Ashkenazim and it becomes plain why Israel is a hugely innovative society in scientific and technological matters.

I think that everything I have said so far is entirely factual but no doubt some Leftist will find in it some reason to call me a racist. They called a sentimental Christian gentleman named George W. Bush a Nazi so they live in a world of the borderline insane.  The classic test of insanity is loss of reality contact and that seems pervasive in the words of the American Left.

Now we come to the interesting part, the speculative part:  WHY are Germans innovative? The anonymous author I refer to above has an elaborate answer to that but I think I can give a much simpler answer.  But to do that I think we first have to look at some history.  We have to go back to the time when the Saxons  were a South Baltic people.  They were a very hardy people who normally won their battles with the Scandinavians -- and the Scandinavians were no pushover.  Vikings anyone?  So the Scandinavians got the less hospitable lands North of the Baltic while the Saxons and their allies got the more hospitable and promising land South of the Baltic.

But the Baltic Germans, the Saxons, were restless. Germans always were.  They struck South right down into Italy even during the days of the Roman Republic.  And the Romans had the Devil of a job repelling them. The expansion of the Roman empire stopped at the Rhine. Strikes across the Rhine ended in disaster.

But the Romans had a sort of revenge on the Germans.  They civilized them. The only way the Empire could effectively guard its borders was to co-opt the German tribes adjacent to those borders.  The Romans made Germans into "limitanei", border guards.  And they incentivized that by giving the Germans land for farming.  So Roman ideas spread gradually North to the extent that most Germans took up farming and abandoned their previous lifestyles as hunter-gatherers.

And note that the great Roman defeat at the Teutoburger Wald was at the hands of German tribes led by a ROMANIZED German. Arminius was actually a Roman citizen.  So there had long been a Roman influence on Germans near the borders of the empire.

But the further North and East you went, the less was the civilizing effect.  And when you got to the Baltic, the Germans there, the Saxons, were the genuine originals, not at all softened by civilization. And, like other Germans before them, they too got itchy feet.

So they moved  into lands already occupied by others.  To the South were lands occupied by a mix of Celts and "softened" Germans and to the West was Britannia, the land of the Romanized Celts which we now know as England.  And they came to dominate both those places.  To this day we speak of the predominant people of England as "Anglo-Saxons" and a large and rich part of central Germany today is Saxony. Many people reading this are probably descendants of Saxons. I am.

So it is striking that the two great fountainheads of modern civilization, modern Germany and Britain, both came to be dominated by South Baltic German tribes.  It is to those original South Baltic Germans that we have to look if we want to understand the rise of modern civilization.  It was their descendants who created modern day civilization.

At this point however we can only move into speculation.  We can prove nothing.  Arguments can be more or less plausible only.  So I offer an argument that is much simpler than the one offered by our anonymous friend above.  And under Occams razor that argument has preference.

I think the starting point for an explanation is that the Saxons remained primitive culturally for thousands of years after the beginnings of civilization in the near East.  The ancient civilizations of the Near East required a high degree of group effort for the purposes of irrigation and that fostered a very group-oriented civilization.  And that was copied by others. The Indo-Europeans were originally hunter gatherers but gradually adopted a Near Eastern lifestyle.

But that near-Eastern lifestyle had very important political consequences.  We need to understand what was lost by that. The hunter-gatherer lifestyle was one that did NOT require much co-operation for survival.  The hunter fed himself and his family without being accountable to anyone.  It fostered a very independent frame of mind.  There were occasional needs for co-operation but getting such people to co-operate could not successfully be done except by consultation and agreement. Hence among such people there were frequent consultative assemblies where decisions were made by consensus. It was democracy, in short.

The tribe was governed as much by a "witangemot" or assembly as by a king.  If there was a king he could even be deposed, usually without bloodshed.  Ultimate authority resided in the whole people, as led by their elders.  We do much the same today.

Interestingly, though, sparks of the old hunter-gatherer lifestyle did survive in Europe for a while.  The various city states of ancient Greece and the early Roman republic were substantially democratic, which means that ultimate respect was given to the whole of the people, not to a king-emperor.

So the whole of the European people were originally hunter gatherers with a democratic method of government.  But the Eastern model of government gradually encroached to cover much of Europe, with even the holdouts of democracy in Greece and Rome eventually coming under the control of tyrants.

But up near the Baltic the Near East is not so near and the Saxons were among the few representatives of the old way. The personal independence fostered by a hunter-gatherer lifestyle lived on there.  But the fact that it survived there suggests that the South Baltic was a sort of "goldilocks" environment for supporting the old ways.  It was midway between the crushing winters of Scandinavia and Russia but not lush enough for an agricultural lifestyle.  There were enough juicy animals to hunt and kill for food but never enough for much of a surplus.  The hunt had to be almost daily but it was enough.

So we come to an independence of mind as the key feature of the Saxons.  The whole of Europe had it once but it never succumbed in them.  They were the last survivors of the old ways but it was enough to give rise to something remarkable under the right circumstances.

And what those circumstances were is not very mysterious.  They moved to rich agricultural lands and the easier lifestyle that implies. And being the fierce warriors that they were, nobody could either resist them or push them out.  So they retained their old culture of respect for the individual and the independence of mind that comes from that.  And because they were now prosperous they had time to think. And independent thinking has enormous potential, as we see from that time on.

The process of asserting independence was however hampered by the attractions of civilization.  City life had much to entice one and from top to bottom Europe gradually became civilized. But civilizations has its burdens too -- particularly the need for some form of permanent government.  So the Saxons and other Germans did accept the rule of Kings but it was not to their liking.  Something that helped such acceptance was the church.  The church was itself a heavily centralized institution and it supported the rule of Europe's kings and emperors.

So along comes Luther.  Luther was not the first man to lead a movement hostile to the church.  Predecessors such as John Huss, Giordano Bruno and Savonarola come to mind.  But all the European rebels before Luther were eventually put to death and their movements erased.  So how come Luther survived?  He survived -- wait for it -- because he was a Saxon.  The people of Saxony loved his message of independence.  Even the King was on his side. And that was crucial.  When the whole of Europe was out for Luther's head King Frederick "The Wise" of Saxony hid Luther in his remote Wartburg castle.

So the Germanic spirit of independence emerged in a form of Christianity that suited Northern Germans, a form that put power and responsibility for salvation right back on to the individual, with no intervening priest needed.  We call it Protestantism.  The emergence of Protestantism is proof that the old Germanic independence of mind survived into relatively modern times -- initially in Saxony and fairly rapidly in all the Northern German lands.

And something similar happened in England, that other  great home of Saxon genes.  I refer of course to Wycliffe and the Lollards.  Wycliffe was over a century before Luther in fact. Luther wrote his "Ninety-five Theses" in 1517 whereas Wycliffe  was officially condemned in 1377 by Pope Gregory XI.  Wycliffe  was a great critic of the church and advocated most of the things that we would now recognize as Protestantism.  But he never left the church.  He wanted to reform the church not destroy it.  But his criticisms were swingeing and the church hated him for it. They would have loved to have killed him.  But, again, it was the people and their king who mattered.  Wycliffe was very popular not only with the common people but even with the King and his court.  So Wycliffe survived.  He eventually collapsed in church while saying a mass and died a couple of days later.

Wycliffe did not give rise to a movement that long survived him but he had awakened the old rebellious spirit and that spirit was the principal support for the actions of King Henry VIII.  When Henry dispossessed the priests, the people loved him for it.  They supported their King, not their priests.  Wycliffe had lit a slow-burning fuse that eventually gave rise to an explosion. And that fuse kept burning for so long because it was founded on a Saxon independence of mind among the people.  Wycliffe died in 1384, Henry became king in 1509.

I have more or less come to the end of my tale here.  The next question is why was there a considerable latency between the Protestant reformation and the Industrial revolution?  Why did not one lead directly into the other?  There is much to be said on that topic but I will have to leave that for another day.

But it seems clear that independence of mind, not only in the individual but also in the society as a whole, is the major precondition for continuing innovation. So the respect for the individual that has always been part and parcel of that is both a normal part of daily life and an instinctive driver of political thinking among Germanic people  -- still to this day most noticeably in Britain, Germany and the USA.

The centralizing tendencies that characterize most of the rest of the world are always there too and ready to horn in but it seems unlikely that they will eventually take over

My big article on Anglo-Saxon conservatism includes an extensive history of respect for the individual, starting with my notes about Disraeli -- JR


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both 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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Friday, May 26, 2017

Muscular men less likely to support social and economic equality, study suggests

So conservatives are muscle-bound bullies?  That is what the authors would undoubtedly wish us to believe.  But as for proving it: Nice try but no cigar.  Their measurement of physical strength etc. was carefully done but their measurement of attitudes was naive.

They used two sets of questions ('scales') to measure attitudes.  The first was the Social Dominance Orientation scale principally associated with Jim Sidanius. It is rubbish, hopelessly multifactorial. So scores on it could mean many things or nothing.  See here for a detailed rundown of that scale.

The second scale is about redistribution of the wealth but I could find no answers to the things that psychometricians normally want to know about a scale:  Reliability, validity, internal consistency, factor loadings etc.  For present purposes however it suffices to assume that it was a well-constructed scale.

So the only findings of interest in the research are the correlations between the socialism scale and other variables. The academic journal article is "Is sociopolitical egalitarianism related to bodily and facial formidability in men?" and the research findings are in their Table 1. And we see there only a barely significant correlation of .19 between bodily formidability and support for redistribution.  That means that bodily formidability was only the most minor contributor to anti-socialist attitudes.

And when we note that the research was not conducted on any kind of representative sample but was based on an available group of students, we have to conclude that no generalizations from it at all can be justified.  The study proves nothing

Physically stronger men are less in favour of social and economic equality than weaker men, new research from Brunel University London indicates.

Dr Michael Price and colleagues assessed 171 men aged 18-40, collecting information on height, weight, waist size, flexed and relaxed muscle circumference, hand grip, and arm and chest strength.

They also surveyed participants on how often they go to the gym, their wealth, whether they support the redistribution of wealth, and whether they approve of the idea that some social groups should have dominance over others (‘social dominance orientation’).

As well as focusing on bodily signs of perceived dominance, the researchers also focused on facial appearance: they had groups of independent raters view participants’ faces and rate whether they saw the men as dominant and attractive. They also used software to analyse faces in terms of the masculinity of their shape.

Prior research has shown several aspects of face shape and appearance, such as height-to-width ratio, are linked to ability to compete for resources in the modern world.

The results showed a significant correlation between those with higher bodily formidability and the belief that some social groups should dominate others. These men were also much less likely to support redistribution of wealth.

But contrary to predictions, there was no correlation between being considered attractive, as measured by waist-to-chest ratio and various facial measures, and whether or not the men supported ‘social dominance orientation’ or redistribution.

The study showed that more muscular men were less egalitarian, and the number of hours actually spent in the gym was also linked to having less egalitarian socioeconomic beliefs.



Good policy favors the small property-owner


The Financial Times and the Economist have recently taken to issuing fatwas against the Trump Administration’s economic policy, indulging in repeated bouts of “Two Minutes Hate” against the man himself, combined with denunciations of “populism.” Yet “populism” is a term that covers a multitude of sins. In pandering to the prejudices of their journalists and readership, both publications have lost sight of the bedrock of sound economics: strengthening and furthering the interests of the small property-owner.

As I discussed a few months ago, the meaning of “liberalism” as defined and lauded in the FT and the Economist, has shifted in the last quarter-century. Immediately after the fall of Communism, when it appeared that history had indeed ended, a “Washington Consensus” grew up that relatively unfettered free markets worked best, and that policies should be set to give such markets as much play as possible.

The Washington Consensus was not truly liberal in the 19th Century sense; it failed in two respects. First, it was silent on the size of government, although it suggested that deregulation was optimal – hence the reforming governments of Central and Eastern Europe were not sufficiently slimmed down (except in a few countries like Estonia that went beyond the Consensus). Second, the Consensus paid insufficient attention to private property rights and the well-being of small property-owners, the bedrock of any capitalist system. Being determined by governments, international institutions and Establishment opinion-formers, the Washington Consensus was always too kind to the big battalions and the special interests, as well as to government itself.

After 2000, the Washington Consensus was attacked from two sides. From the emerging markets themselves, it was denounced as “neo-liberalism” as statists like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez rejected its market orientation. In this respect, it was unfortunate that the Consensus had been imposed during a period of low commodity prices, so that commodity-based emerging markets in Latin America derived little benefit from it, their populations growing even more impoverished. Conversely, when commodity prices rose after 2000, the benefit of the rise was received and wasted by thoroughly unpleasant statist regimes in Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil.

The attack from emerging market leftists was perhaps to be expected. What was less forgivable was a movement in the world’s rich countries away from even the Washington Consensus version of free markets, beginning with the 2000-02 downturn and becoming more intense with the 2008 financial crisis. Balanced budgets were abandoned in favor of permanent Keynesian “stimulus,” while monetary policy prohibitions against central banks buying government bonds and against negative real interest rates were abandoned in an orgy of money printing.

Extraordinarily, the international institutions, the FT and the Economist, which would rightly have condemned such economic apostasy as recently as 1995, fell in completely with the new consensus and urged on the money-printers and budget-busters. What is more, instead of the mild support for free markets they had previously given, they instead favored an orgy of regulation, especially in finance and environmental areas, where they were seduced by the chimaera of global warming. Against all the evidence, they claimed that lack of regulation rather than misguided monetary policy and uncalled-for social engineering in the housing sector had been responsible for the 2008 financial crisis. Against all the evidence, they claimed that the planet was warming uncontrollably, so that infinite numbers of wasteful regulations and boondoggles must be imposed on the global economy to stop it.

Now the rise of Donald Trump and the British vote to leave the EU have led the usual suspects to condemn “populism” and to call for a return to the degraded leftist policy consensus they have been pushing since 2008. This is a clever piece of mis-labeling. Intellectually, one is inclined to reject anything called “populism,” remembering the half-baked socialism of the 1890s populists and the populist impulses behind such genuinely dangerous movements as Nazism. Yet when the new movement is examined closely, it bears only a modest resemblance to historic populism. Instead, it is mostly a long-overdue corrective to the follies of the Washington Consensus and its loathsome offspring, pushing us back much closer to true free-market capitalism.

Classical economics, as propounded by Adam Smith in 1776, depended on the individual, operating on a limited scale. By matching small-scale providers of goods with individual buyers, the market optimized the performance of the economy. By matching individual savings and resources with small-scale needs for capital, the resources of the economy were directed in an optimal direction. Smith was deeply suspicious, not only of government, but also of large scale enterprises like the East India Company; he regarded them as cesspits of corruption and resource misallocation.

Smith would also have been deeply suspicious of large investment institutions, had there been any in his time (even the Bank of England was tiny in the context of the overall economy.) He would have seen them as vulnerable to subornation of their officers by those seeking funding, and as very unlikely to allocate their capital optimally.

For Smith, therefore, the keys to a successful market economy were the small business and the small property owner. Capitalism could only work properly if their property rights were protected, and if they were given a fully equal chance against larger competitors on the playing field of the economy. Government’s principal function was to protect the rights of small investors and small businessmen against the politically well-connected.

The genesis of the Industrial Revolution showed the Adam Smith version of capitalism at its finest. Jean-Baptiste Say, visiting Britain in late 1814, was astonished at the prevalence of steam engines in the economy, each of them replacing the hard manual labor of a dozen or more workers. These new machines were mostly owned by businesses that were tiny in a modern context, with capital in the low thousands of pounds and under 100 employees.

Economic growth was further boosted after Say wrote by the profits to small savers, about 70% of GDP, from the rise in British government “Consols” in the decade after 1813, as peacetime capital market conditions were restored. (During the war, 3% Consols had been issued at a big discount, rather than issuing higher-interest bonds at par, so savers got a big capital gain when peace returned.) In real terms, given the deflation surrounding the 1819 return to the Gold Standard, savers who held on and reinvested income quadrupled their money in the decade 1813-23. This flood of new capital combined with technological innovation to produce a step-up in economic growth rates to levels never before seen, forming the self-sustaining “take-off” of the Industrial Revolution.

After Smith, technological progress seemed to make some of his prescriptions obsolete. While factories in Britain remained relatively small in the nineteenth century, in the United States over 1850-1950 giant corporate behemoths grew up. In the first three quarters of the twentieth century, giant investment institutions also increasingly came to dominate capital markets. When I went through business school in the 1970s, we were taught that the giant multi-divisional corporation was the most efficient form of capitalism and that funded final-salary pension schemes were becoming by far the most important players in the capital markets, dominating corporate governance.

Since 1990, undetected by the Washington Consensus believers, we have returned to a more Smithian economy. The behemoth corporations increasingly seem like dinosaurs, as their size and bureaucratic spread stifle innovation. Instead, new technology is produced in much younger and smaller companies, akin to the innovators of 1800-50. The big pension funds never came to dominate the capital markets, as final-salary pensions disappeared; instead, capital is provided mostly by wealthy individuals, often through small hedge funds and private equity funds, with institutional capital increasingly sidelined.

In such an environment. Adam Smith’s version of capitalism is again the model we should follow. The nexus of cozy arrangements between Wall Street, the corporate behemoths and the government must be broken up, to clear the way for new and more innovative companies and to restore Smith’s desired “level playing field.” Above all the private savers must be nurtured, not punished, which requires a revolution in both monetary and fiscal policy.

In monetary policy, interest rates must be raised well above the inflation rate, to provide decent real returns for savers and small capitalists. In fiscal policy, the government deficit, both visible and invisible through entitlements must be eliminated, to reduce the government’s drain on the economy. Taxes on capital must be slashed, in particular the death tax, which prevents the accumulation of wealth over multiple generations. Conversely the corporate tax, reducing which favors corporate behemoths over new and innovative businesses, can remain as it is, and must be applied on a worldwide basis so that the behemoths cannot simply evade tax by parking money offshore.

President Trump has not proposed an Adam Smithian capitalist economic program; his current proposals are an amalgam between his populism and traditional corporatist Republicanism. However, the focus of his policy, on the individual saver and small businessman, ignored by previous post-Reagan administrations both Republican and Democratic, is highly salutary. The pro-government pro-regulation quasi-Socialism of the Financial Times and the Economist is no longer a viable economic policy, and should be swept away in favor of a brighter populist future.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both 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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Thursday, May 25, 2017

More genes linked to IQ

Because IQ is linked to so much else, psychometricians have long expected it to be polygenetic: Many genes have an input into it.  I have always favoured the view that a high IQ is simply one aspect of general biological good functioning.  The brain is just another organ of the body, after all. So if that is the case, the number of genes linked to IQ should be very large indeed.  So the work below is just a first step.

Various reports of this study distort its results --  with the NYT in the lead on that.  So let me answer them here:

The NYT says: "These genes do not determine intelligence, however. Their combined influence is minuscule".  That is exactly the opposite of what the study found.  I append the journal abstract below so readers can check for themselves.  The authors found that their 52 genes explained 5% of the variance in IQ.  That per cent of variance explained is about normal in psychological research and has been used to support many claims of causality.  And the 5% will rise as more genes are analysed.

Other reports misunderstood the links to Alzheimers and Schizophrenia.  The study found that people with high IQ genes had LESS Alzheimers and Schizophrenia, not more.  It is interesting, however, that high IQ genes are associated with autism.  As is well known, autistic people often have extreme mental abilities in some fields, so the finding is not too surprising.  Most high IQ people are not autistic, however.

I liked the finding that high IQ people are tall, thin and unlikely to smoke. I am an example of that.  I am 5'10", was very skinny in my early life and have never smoked. 5'10" is not that tall these days but when I was born 73 years ago it was. The average male height in Australia has increased 3" in the last 50 years.

Intelligence is one of the most investigated traits in humans, but so far, only a handful of genes have been associated with the trait.

Now, researchers have made a major advance in understanding the genetic underpinnings of intelligence, uncovering 52 genes for the trait, 40 of which are new discoveries.

In particular they found that many people with these genes are more likely to have other traits, including being tall, thin and unlikely to smoke.

Scientists hope the findings could provide new biological insights into brain function and understanding, and help to define the genetic component of IQ.

The findings also turned up a surprising connection between intelligence and autism that could one day help shed light on the condition's origins.

"For the first time, we were able to detect a substantial amount of genetic effects in IQ," said Danielle Posthuma, a researcher at the Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research in Amsterdam, and the main architect of the study. "Our findings provide insight into the biological underpinnings of intelligence," she told AFP.

An international research team led by Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam studied genetic data from over 78,000 individuals. The data included information on DNA genotypes and intelligence scores, which led the team to discover new genes and biological routes for intelligence.

Despite high heritability estimates of 45 per cent in childhood and 80 per cent in adulthood, until now, only a few genes had been associated with. But the new study uncovered 40 new genes, most of which are mainly expressed in brain tissue.

Professor Posthuma said: 'These results are very exciting as they provide very robust associations with intelligence. 'The genes we detect are involved in the regulation of cell development, and are specifically important in synapse formation, axon guidance and neuronal differentiation.

'These findings for the first time provide clear clues towards the underlying biological mechanisms of intelligence.'

The results showed that people with the genes were more likely to have high educational achievements, and were also likely to be taller, not to smoke, and to have autism spectrum disorder.

In contrast, people with the intelligence genes were less likely to have Alzheimer's disease, depressive symptoms, smoking history, schizophrenia, high body mass index, or obesity.

Dr Suzanne Sniekers, who also worked on the study, said: 'These genetic correlations shed light on common biological pathways for intelligence and other traits.

'Seven genes for intelligence are also associated with schizophrenia; nine genes also with body mass index, and four genes were also associated with obesity. 'These three traits show a negative correlation with intelligence.

'So, a variant of gene with a positive effect on intelligence, has a negative effect on schizophrenia, body mass index or obesity.'

The researchers stress that future studies will be needed to clarify the exact role of these genes in intelligence in order to gain a more complete picture of how genetic differences lead to differences in intelligence.

Professor Posthuma added: 'The current genetic results explain up to five per cent of the total variance in intelligence.

'Although this is quite a large amount of variance for a trait as intelligence, there is still a long road to go: given the high heritability of intelligence, many more genetic effects are expected to be important, and these can only be detected in even larger samples.'


Genome-wide association meta-analysis of 78,308 individuals identifies new loci and genes influencing human intelligence

Suzanne Sniekers et al.

Intelligence is associated with important economic and health-related life outcomes1. Despite intelligence having substantial heritability2 (0.54) and a confirmed polygenic nature, initial genetic studies were mostly underpowered3, 4, 5. Here we report a meta-analysis for intelligence of 78,308 individuals. We identify 336 associated SNPs (METAL P < 5 × 10−8) in 18 genomic loci, of which 15 are new. Around half of the SNPs are located inside a gene, implicating 22 genes, of which 11 are new findings. Gene-based analyses identified an additional 30 genes (MAGMA P < 2.73 × 10−6), of which all but one had not been implicated previously. We show that the identified genes are predominantly expressed in brain tissue, and pathway analysis indicates the involvement of genes regulating cell development (MAGMA competitive P = 3.5 × 10−6). Despite the well-known difference in twin-based heratiblity2 for intelligence in childhood (0.45) and adulthood (0.80), we show substantial genetic correlation (rg = 0.89, LD score regression P = 5.4 × 10−29). These findings provide new insight into the genetic architecture of intelligence.

Nature Genetics. (2017) doi:10.1038/ng.3869


Morally Challenged: Attitudes Liberals Promote Engender Behaviors They Deplore

Two fascinating Gallup polls have been released this month on the subject of morality. I will address the sexual issues that were surveyed.

Americans believe the following are morally acceptable: birth control (91%); divorce (73%); sex between an unmarried man and woman (69%); gay or lesbian relations (63%); having a baby outside of marriage (62%); abortion (43%); sex between teenagers (36%); pornography (36%); polygamy (17%); extramarital affairs (9%). These findings were posted May 11.

These percentages were never higher for birth control, divorce, gay or lesbian relations, having a baby out of wedlock, pornography, and polygamy. The one piece of good news is on abortion: 49 percent say it is morally wrong.

Findings from May 22 show that 81 percent of the public says the state of moral values is "only fair" or "poor." Is the state of moral values getting worse? According to 77 percent of the public, the answer is yes.

"Even liberals," Gallup says, "who seemingly should be pleased with the growing number of Americans who agree with their point of view on the morality of prominent social issues, are more likely to say things are getting worse than getting better."

There are a number of things going on here that command our attention.

Americans are increasingly non-judgmental about sexual relations between consenting adults, but they are not happy with the state of moral values. This paradox suggests that more Americans are morally challenged than ever before.

To cite one issue, it is one thing to say that having a baby outside of marriage is morally acceptable, quite another to say it is a good thing. There's the rub: Most Americans know someone who is in that situation and don't want to appear condemnatory, but they also recognize that this is not a good condition to be in, either for the mother or the child.

We need to be mature about this. If we want more of something, we offer rewards and incentives; if we want less, we employ negative sanctions and stigmatize. This is a sociological truism.

For example, we don't have a problem stigmatizing smokers, and as a result fewer are smoking today than was true a half century ago when smoking was socially acceptable. We want to reduce out-of-wedlock births, but we don't want to stigmatize the mother or the child (the father usually escapes sanctions). The result is we have a higher rate of out-of-wedlock births than we did a half century ago when such a condition was socially unacceptable.

It is our immaturity that accounts for our morally challenged condition. As long as we reject the stick of stigma to curb conditions that we deplore, there will be little progress in stemming them.

Liberals are the most morally confused of any segment of the population. They are delighted that their "tolerant" views on sexuality have caught on with most Americans, but they are nonetheless unhappy with the state of moral values.

They want to have it both ways—more liberal attitudes on sexuality and less moral problems—but they cannot. Not until they connect the dots and realize that the attitudes which they promote engender the behaviors  that they deplore, will progress be made. As usual, liberals get it wrong.



Exposing Obamacare’s Big Lie

In a recent op-ed at Forbes, Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman and co-author Linda Gorman take on the latest Big Lie put forth by advocates of Obamacare: the notion that repealing the 2010 health law would kill 24,000 to 43,000 people a year. The claim has been made by various pundits, but it comes from a few studies that have repeated a mistake first made in a medical journal article published almost 25 years ago, Goodman and Gorman explain.

The false equation of health coverage and health outcomes has a long pedigree. In 1993, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article that compared results from a survey in 1987 with those of a survey of the same people conducted in the early 1970s, and came to an ominous conclusion about the relationship between health coverage and death. The authors concluded that being uninsured raises the likelihood of death by 25 percent. But their inference was erroneous; they carelessly assumed that auto fatalities, suicides, and gun deaths resulted from the coverage status of the deceased. A 2002 report from the Institute of Medicine took the erroneous 25 percent rate and used it to calculate a new estimate of deaths-by-absence-of-coverage. A 2008 study by the Urban League made the same mistake, and so on.

In contrast, a careful estimate from the respected economists June and David O’Neill “concluded that uninsured people with lower incomes were only 3 percent more likely to die over a 14-year period than those with health insurance,” Goodman and Gorman writes. The uninsured in other income groups had no statistically significant greater chance of dying than the insured. “Later studies support this finding,” Goodman and Gorman write. The 2008 Oregon Health Experiment, for example, found no differences in common clinical health outcomes between low-income people who won access to Medicaid through a state lottery and those who did not.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both 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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Trump and Israel: Their enemies

The United States is sailing in uncharted waters today as the intelligence-security community wages an all-but-declared rebellion against President Donald Trump.

Deputy Attorney-General Rod Rosenstein’s decision on Wednesday to appoint former FBI director Robert Mueller to serve as a special counsel charged with investigating allegations of “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” is the latest and so far most significant development in this grave saga.

Who are the people seeking to unseat Trump? This week we learned that the powers at play are deeply familiar. Trump’s nameless opponents are some of Israel’s greatest antagonists in the US security establishment.

This reality was exposed this week with intelligence leaks related to Trump’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. To understand what happened, let’s start with the facts that are undisputed about that meeting.

The main thing that is not in dispute is that during his meeting with Lavrov, Trump discussed Islamic State’s plan to blow up passenger flights with bombs hidden in laptop computers.

It’s hard to find fault with Trump’s actions. First of all, the ISIS plot has been public knowledge for several weeks.

Second, the Russians are enemies of ISIS. Moreover, Russia has a specific interest in diminishing ISIS’s capacity to harm civilian air traffic. In October 2015, ISIS terrorists in Egypt downed a Moscow-bound jetliner, killing all 254 people on board with a bomb smuggled on board in a soda can.

And now on to the issues that are in dispute.

Hours after the Trump-Lavrov meeting, The Washington Post reported that in sharing information about ISIS’s plans, Trump exposed intelligence sources and methods to Russia and in so doing, he imperiled ongoing intelligence operations carried out by a foreign government.

The next day, The New York Times reported that the sources and methods involved were Israeli. In sharing information about the ISIS plot with Lavrov, the media reported, Trump endangered Israel.

There are two problems with this narrative.

First, Trump’s National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster insisted that there was no way that Trump could have exposed sources and methods, because he didn’t know where the information on the ISIS plot that he discussed with Lavrov originated.

Second, if McMaster’s version is true – and it’s hard to imagine that McMaster would effectively say that his boss is an ignoramus if it weren’t true – then the people who harmed Israel’s security were the leakers, not Trump.

Now who are these leakers? According to the Washington Post, the leakers are members of the US intelligence community and former members of the US intelligence community, (the latter, presumably were political appointees in senior intelligence positions during the Obama administration who resigned when Trump came into office).

Israel is no stranger to this sort of operation. Throughout the Obama administration, US officials illegally leaked top secret information about Israeli operations to the media.

In 2010, a senior defense source exposed the Stuxnet computer worm to the New York Times. Stuxnet was reportedly a cyber weapon developed jointly by the US and Israel. It was infiltrated into the computer system at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor. It reportedly sabotaged a large quantity of centrifuges at the installation.

The revelation of Stuxnet’s existence and purpose ended the operation. Moreover, much of Iran’s significant cyber capabilities were reportedly developed by reverse engineering the Stuxnet.

Obama made his support for the leak clear three days before he left office. On January 17, 2017, Obama pardoned Marine Gen. James Cartwright for his role in illegally divulging the Stuxnet program to the Times.

In 2012, US officials told the media that Israel had struck targets in Syria. The leak, which was repeated several times in subsequent years, made it more dangerous for Israel to operate against Iranian and Hezbollah forces in Syria.

Also in 2012, ahead of the presidential election, US officials informed journalists that Israel was operating in air bases in Azerbaijan with the purpose of attacking Iran’s nuclear sites in air strikes originating from those bases.

Israel’s alleged plan to attack Iran was abruptly canceled.

In all of these cases, the goal of the leak was to harm Israel.

In contrast, the goal of this week’s leaks was to harm Trump. Israel was collateral damage.

The key point is that the leaks are coming from the same places in both cases.

All of them are members of the US intelligence community with exceedingly high security clearances. And all of them willingly committed felony offenses when they shared top secret information with reporters.

That is, all of them believe that it is perfectly all right to make political use of intelligence to advance a political goal. In the case of the anti-Israel leaks under Obama, their purpose was to prevent Israel from degrading Iran’s nuclear capacity and military power at a time that Obama was working to empower Iran at Israel’s expense.

In the case of the Trump-Lavrov leak, the purpose was to undermine Israel’s security as a means of harming Trump politically.

What happened to the US intelligence community? How did its members come to believe that they have the right to abuse the knowledge they gained as intelligence officers in order to advance a partisan agenda? As former CIA station chief Scott Uehlinger explained in an article published in March in The Hill, the Obama administration oversaw a program of deliberate politicization of the US intelligence community.

The first major step toward this end was initiated by then-US attorney general Eric Holder in August 2009.

Holder announced then that he intended to appoint a special counsel to investigate claims that CIA officers tortured terrorists while interrogating them.

The purpose of Holder’s announcement wasn’t to secure indictments. The points was to transform the CIA politically and culturally.

And it worked.

Shortly after Holder’s announcement, an exodus began of the CIA’s best operations officers. Men and women with years of experience operating in enemy territory resigned.

Uehlinger’s article related that during the Obama years, intelligence officers were required to abide by strict rules of political correctness.

In his words, “In this PC world, all diversity is embraced – except diversity of thought. Federal workers have been partisan for years, but combined with the rigid Obama PC mindset, it has created a Frankenstein of politicization that has never been seen before.”

Over the years, US intelligence officers at all levels have come to view themselves as soldiers in an army with its own agenda – which largely overlapped Obama’s.

Trump’s agenda on the other hand is viewed as anathema by members of this powerful group. Likewise, the notion of a strong Israel capable of defending its interests without American help and permission is more dangerous than the notion of Iran armed with nuclear weapons.

Given these convictions, it is no surprise that unnamed intelligence sources are leaking a tsunami of selective and deceptive intelligence against Trump and his advisers.

The sense of entitlement that prevails in the intelligence community was on prominent display in an astounding interview that Evelyn Farkas, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense, gave to MSNBS in early March.

Farkas, who resigned her position in late 2015 to work on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, admitted to her interviewer that the intelligence community was spying on Trump and his associates and that ahead of Obama’s departure from office, they were transferring massive amounts of intelligence information about Trump and his associates to Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill in order to ensure that those Democratic politicians would use the information gathered to harm Trump.

In her words, “The Trump folks, if they found out how we knew what we knew about the Trump staff’s dealings with Russians… would try to compromise those sources and methods, meaning we would no longer have access to that information.”

Farkas then explained that the constant leaks of Trump’s actions to the media were part of the initiative that she had urged her counterparts to undertake.

And Farkas was proud of what her colleagues had done and were doing.

Two days after Farkas’s interview, Trump published his tweet accusing former president Barack Obama of spying on him.

Although the media and the intelligence community angrily and contemptuously denied Trump’s assertion, the fact is that both Farkas’s statement and information that became public both before and since Trump’s inauguration lends credence to his claim.

In the days ahead of the inauguration we learned that in the summer of 2016, Obama’s Justice Department conducted a criminal probe into suspicions that Trump’s senior aides had committed crimes in their dealings with Russian banks. Those suspicions, upon investigation, were dismissed. In other words, the criminal probe led nowhere.

Rather than drop the matter, Obama’s Justice Department decided to continue the probe but transform it into a national security investigation.

After a failed attempt in July 2016, in October 2016, a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court approved a Justice Department request to monitor the communications of Trump’s senior advisers. Since the subjects of the probe were working from Trump’s office and communicating with him by phone and email, the warrant requested – which the FISA court granted – also subjected Trump’s direct communications to incidental collection.

So from at least October 2016 through Trump’s inauguration, the US intelligence community was spying on Trump and his advisers, despite the fact that they were not suspected of committing any crimes.

This brings us back to this week’s Russia story which together with the media hysteria following Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey, precipitated Rosenstein’s decision to appoint Mueller to serve as a special counsel charged with investigating the allegations that Trump and or his advisers acted unlawfully or in a manner that endangered the US in their dealings with Russia.

It is too early to judge how Mueller will conduct his investigation. But if the past is any guide, he is liable to keep the investigation going indefinitely, paralyzing Trump’s ability to conduct foreign policy in relation to Russia and a host of other issues.

This then brings us to Trump and Israel – the twin targets of the US intelligence community’s felonious and injurious leaks.

The fact that Trump hass come to Israel now may be a bit of fortuitous timing. Given the stakes involved for Trump, for Israel and for US national security, perhaps Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can develop a method of fighting this cabal of faceless, lawless foes together.

How such a fight would look and what it would involve is not immediately apparent and anyways should never be openly discussed. But the fact is that working together, Israel and Trump may accomplish more than either can accomplish on their own. And with so much hanging in the balance, it makes sense to at least try.


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both 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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)