Saturday, June 04, 2011

Disease Causes Autocracy?

One of the best established facts in economics is that a reduction in government power and control leads to an increase in economic prosperity. See post-Thatcher Britain or Post-Deng China for obvious examples. And because the loosening of control PRECEDES the prosperity we have good grounds for saying which one causes the other.

In the "research" below however we have no such clear causal arrow. All they have to report is correlations. They show an association between autocracy and poverty and arbitrarily assert from that that poverty causes autocracy. But they have no evidence to support that assertion. It could be the other way around.

Since the good causal evidence we have from (say) Britain and China points to the arrow of causation working the other way around they are really pissing into the wind. Not only is there no evidence FOR their assertion but there is clear evidence AGAINST it!

But why should I point that out? Why should I argue against the claim that autocratic people are poor, stupid, unhealthy and worm-infested? I suspect that the researchers below mean to imply that it is conserrvatives who are autocratic but the truth is of course the reverse. All the great autocrats of the 20th century, from Lenin, through Hitler to Mao and Pol Pot were socialists! So if the research shows anything, it shows that Leftism is produced by poor health, worm infestations etc! And it is certainly true that the poor and worm-infested countries of Africa are almost aways dictatorships.

You will however note in the report below a lot of emphasis on ethnocentrism and xenophobia -- and that is the old Leftist race-card again. Leftists are sure that conservatives are racists so the fact that autocratic societies tend to be suspicious of foreigners makes them conservative! But is there any parallel in conservative-run countries to the Russia's mass murder of Kulaks, Hitler's mass-murder of Jews or the late Soviet regime's discrimination against Jews? There is none. Leftist talk the talk about the "fear of others" but they don't walk the walk. Conservatives just get on with judging people by their individual merits.

So it's all rather fun below but proof of anything it is not

A group of researchers led by Harvard University economist Jeffrey Sachs recently noted that a billion people live on less than a dollar per day and “are roughly as poor today as their ancestors were thousands of years ago.” Why?

The researchers suggest that high disease burdens create persistent poverty traps from which poor people cannot extricate themselves. High disease incidence lowers their economic productivity so that they can’t afford to create the resources needed to improve sanitation and medical care, which in turn leaves them vulnerable to more disease. And so it goes.

University of New Mexico anthropologists Randy Thornhill and Corey Fincher pushed the disease thesis further with their “parasite hypothesis of democratization,” arguing that disease not only keeps people poor, but it also makes them illiberal. The two researchers test this hypothesis “using publicly available data measuring democratization, collectivism–individualism, gender egalitarianism, property rights, sexual restrictiveness, and parasite prevalence across many countries of the world.” The idea is that the lower the disease burden, the more likely a society is to be liberal.

Thornhill and Fincher argue that the risk of infectious disease affects the willingness of elites to share power and resources, the general social acceptance of hierarchal authority, and the openness of innovation. Their central idea is that ethnocentrism and out-group avoidance function as a kind of behavioral immune system. Just as individuals have immune systems that fight against pathogens, groups of people similarly evolve with local parasites and develop some resistance to them. People who are not members of one’s group may carry new diseases to which the group has not developed defenses. “Thus, xenophobia, as a defensive adaptation against parasites to which there is an absence of local adaptation, is expected to be most pronounced in regions of high parasite stress,” assert Thornhill and Fincher.

In another study, they find that where disease prevalence has been historically high, cultures tend toward collectivist values such as ethnocentrism and conformity. Why? Because these inward-looking cultural values inhibit the transmission of diseases.

Using prevalence data for 22 diseases, the researchers find a correlation with a number of cultural values, including democratization, property rights, gender equality, and sexual liberalization. Where disease prevalence remains high, autocracy reigns, property rights are weak, women have fewer rights, and sexual behavior is restricted.

Disease prevalence lessens the further one gets away from the equator. Thus, Thornhill and Fincher argue that it is not surprising that the development of democratic institutions began in high latitude Western Europe and North America. In 1820, Britain’s average life expectancy of 40 years was the highest in Europe; France's was 37 years and Germany's 32 years. (Britons and American colonists had more available calories per capita which also boosted their ability to fight off disease.)

Furthermore, Thornhill and Fincher assert that more recent advances in medicine and public health are similarly implicated in the post-1950s wave of liberalization that swept over the United States and Western Europe. The advent of penicillin, polio vaccines, the elimination of malaria, chlorination of drinking water, and the reduction in foodborne illnesses all combined to dramatically reduce disease prevalence.

The authors suggest that if people actually experience few infections as they grow up, they perceive strangers and novel ways of life as safe. Tolerance and the embrace of social, economic, and technological innovation follow. They note that areas of the world in which disease rates remain high have not experienced this trend toward liberalization.

A new study led by University of Maryland psychologist Michele Gelfand published last week in Science looks at the “differences between cultures that are tight (have many strong norms and a low tolerance for deviant behavior) versus loose (have weak social norms and a high tolerance for deviant behavior).” In this case, Gelfand and her colleagues consider a wider number of possible threats including disease prevalence, but also population density, resource scarcity, and territorial conflicts.

Again, adversity correlates with higher levels of social conformity, autocratic rule, religiousness, and media control. Of the 33 countries in Gelfand’s survey, Pakistan scored highest on tightness (12.3 points) while the least tight country was Ukraine (1.6 point). The United States scored a pretty loose 5.1 points.

Disease causes autocracy, in turn causing poverty, resulting in more disease, producing continued autocracy, and so on. However, if Sachs, Thornhill, Fincher, and even to some extent Gelfand is right, then reducing disease burdens in a country would promote the rise of liberal institutions. In fact, Fincher and Thornhill explicitly conclude, “If the parasite hypothesis of democratization is supported by additional research, humanitarian efforts to reduce human rights violations and to increase human liberties and democracy in general will be most effective if focused on the most fundamental causal level of infectious disease reduction.” Unfortunately, ignorant ethnocentrism has gotten in the way of eradicating diseases like polio.



If A Liberal And A Tea Partier Had Been Aboard The Titanic

Tea Partier: Alert the captain! There's a huge iceberg up ahead and we're headed straight for it! If we don't turn the ship aside now, we're doomed!

Liberal: Well, that's not a very popular message. I mean, turning the ship aside would require interrupting the shuffleboard tournament.

Tea Partier: The whole ship is going to be shuffling off to the bottom of the ocean if we don't change course!

Liberal: You're probably just saying that because the captain's black.

Tea Partier: What? That's crazy!

Liberal: That's exactly what a racist would say in this situation.

Tea Partier: What does not wanting to hit an iceberg have to do with hating our captain because he's black?

Liberal: For someone who doesn't hate black people, you sure do talk about racism and the captain being black a lot....

Tea Partier: But, I was just defending myself from you....look, nevermind. Do you know what that iceberg will do to this ship? It will sink us to the bottom of the ocean! We've got to steer around it.

Liberal: Sink us? That's so overblown. I mean, conceivably it could sink us, but it would probably just scratch the paint.

Tea Partier: Hitting an iceberg? Scratch the paint? Do you know that...okay, forget that, you admitted it could conceivably sink us. So, you agree we need to do something about it now?

Liberal: I don't know. People have really been looking forward to that shuffleboard tournament.

Tea Partier: Are you crazy? What happens if the iceberg sinks us?

Liberal: It would all work out. Somebody would take care of it.

Tea Partier: Who? Who would take care of it?

Liberal: Somebody or another.

Tea Partier: We're in the middle of the ocean. There's no one around to help us. Even if there were another ship nearby, we're so big that other ships couldn't handle rescuing us.

Liberal: It would have been nice if you'd mentioned this before. You know, back when the ship had a white captain.

Tea Partier: I did! I pointed it out over and over again and when no one would listen, I got louder about it. Then, when we got closer to the iceberg and speeded up instead of slowing down, I started really trying to get people to do something.

Liberal: Oh, yes, how convenient. Right when we got a black captain, you conveniently got upset about it. You worried this big old ship will hurt your WHITE iceberg?

Tea Partier: Are you out of your mind? That iceberg is going to tear this ship in half.

Liberal: I'm not very comfortable with the violent language you're using. "Tear this ship in half" -- I mean, what if somebody overheard you and that language got their primitive psycho brains all excited?

Tea Partier: Let me repeat this very slowly so that you'll understand. We're. Headed. For. An. Iceberg. If. We. Hit. It. We'll. Sink. We've. Got. To. Change. Course.

Liberal: Okay, okay, let's call the other passengers over. (Yells) Everybody come on over here. We've got a bit of a situation.

Crowd of Passengers: We're here. What's the problem?

Liberal: This guy I'm talking to here? Yes, him. He hates black people, he hates shuffleboard, and he's trying to incite violence, all for no reason whatsoever.

Crowd of Passengers: That's terrible!

Tea Partier: Wait a second -- none of that's true. Folks, we're headed towards an iceberg! The ship is going to sink. We've got to change direction right now if we don't want to hit it. Even he admits that we're in trouble!

Crowd of Passengers: An iceberg? On no! Maybe we better do something!

Liberal: Hey, everybody, there's nothing to worry about and we don't want to miss the shuffleboard tournament, do we? If there was something to be alarmed about, surely I wouldn't be acting as if it were no big deal, would I? Tell you what, drinks are on me at the bar! Let's go have the night of our lives! (Everyone except the Tea Partier goes to the bar. He heads to a rowboat)

(2 hours later, the liberal and the Tea Partier are sitting on a rowboat)

Liberal: Wow, I can't believe that iceberg sunk the ship! If only someone could have seen it coming...

Tea Partier: I SAW it coming. I tried to warn you.

Liberal: Yes, yes, we all agreed that icebergs could be a danger. But, everyone wanted to play shuffleboard instead of dealing with it.

Tea Partier: No, YOU wanted to play shuffleboard! I wanted to change course!

Liberal: Come on, change course? That was completely impractical.

Tea Partier: No, it wasn't impractical. We could have done it. If you'd listened, the ship would be fine!

Liberal: Wow, in a situation like this, you're looking for someone to blame? That's terrible. How about we set aside politics, stop pointing fingers, and start figuring out how to deal with this disaster?

Tea Partier: Well, I guess we could...

Liberal: Besides, it's obvious the corporations are responsible for this. They build a boat, they cut corners to make more obscene profits, and who gets screwed? The little guys! We need more regulations to prevent this sort of thing and obviously we have to sue.

Tea Partier: Sigh...while you're planning that out, let's go pick up those women on that wreckage over there.

Liberal: That's not something we should do personally, is it? I mean, that's really more of a job for the crew, isn't it?

Tea Partier: Well, since you dressed like a woman to make it on this lifeboat, it seems fair that we should actually pick up some real women in distress, doesn't it?



Unemployment Hits 9.1%: "The unemployment rate increased to 9.1% in the month of May. “There should not be any remaining doubters that Obama’s big government spending and the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing policies are two of the most disastrous economic policies in American history. “Almost 14 million people who want a job can’t find one, as the number of unemployed jumped by 167,000 people in the past month. Almost 20 percent of the workforce is either unemployed or working part time when they want a full-time job. Obama’s economic plan has been tried and has failed.

Obamacare’s Big Brother: Accountable Care Organizations: "Suppose President Obama declared he would tackle rising food prices by forcing everyone to eat at government-supervised restaurant chains. Small restaurants would be nudged to merge with national ones. Bureaucrats would monitor menu items and prices. Restaurants would record orders in a central database to ensure meals adhered to federal nutrition guidelines. Most Americans would be outraged at such infringements of their basic freedoms. Yet this is precisely the approach the Obama administration is taking by pushing doctors and hospitals into government-supervised Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs)."


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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