Monthly Archives: December 2016

Alt Right Power Struggle

The ongoing alt-right ‘civil war’ is an example how how activism fails in the absence of a unifying cohesive goal and or concentrated power.

Between 2015 and 2016, thousands of anonymous posters on 4chan, Twitter, and Reddit collectively worked on the same goal – getting Trump in office. Although they were loosely organized, they were unified in trying to get Trump elected. Now that Trump won, no one knows what to do. A this pent-up enthusiasm and energy in the weeks since Trump’s victory has been released – on each other. This problem is compounded by the fact that the alt-right, although it’s under the category of ‘conservatism’, is very ideologically diverse. You have alt-White (daily stormer, the right stuff), alt-lite, alt-trad, etc. Some are Christians, some are lapsed, and others are atheists or agnostics. Some seek revolution; others seek self-improvement. Some care about the ‘JQ’…others don’t. Some lean libertarian; others are national-socialists.

A problem with activism is it attracts people who want power, who are sometimes the least qualified, and then it breaks down into a power struggle between warring factions trying to ‘own’ the alt-right, or witch-hunts against those who are not ‘alt-right enough’ resulting in holiness spirals, purity/shit tests, and virtue signaling. This is similar to the Salem Switch Trials, a historical example of an out of control holiness spiral which ended when the governor of the Massachusetts colony, Sir William Phips, upon his wife as being accused of witchcraft, ordered (upon exercising his power) an end to the trials and pardoned the accused. In the absence of some sort of concentrated power or authority, the colony fell into chaos.

Trump’s political campaign ‘worked’, despite being activism, because people were given specific tasks, everyone had the same objective (of getting Trump in office), and the hierarchy – from strategists at the top to the ‘footsoliers’ at the bottom – was inviolable, much in the same way as a large corporation.

Because NRx and the Dark Enlightenment are ideas and concepts, not a movement or political party, no one can claim ‘ownership’ it, thus avoiding the ‘power grab’ problem.

Overall, Baked Alaska came out ahead and Mike was knocked down a peg. The alt-right is not going away, and eventually the in-fighting will end as soon as they find another cause to rally behind or when the excitement dies down.

More Tooleb Nonsense Debunked

Nassim Nicholas Tooleb, the angry flâneur who blocks and insults people on Twitter, continues to demonstrate being the intellectual-yet-idiot that he is, in a recent Medium post Inequality and Skin in the Game:

The author Joan Williams, in an insightful article, explains that the working class is impressed by the rich, as role models. Michèle Lamont, the author of The Dignity of Working Men, whom she cites, did a systematic interview of blue collar Americans and found present a resentment of professionals but, unexpectedly, not of the rich.

It is safe to accept that the American public –actually all public –despise people who make a lot of money on a salary, or, rather, salarymen who make a lot of money. This is indeed generalized to other countries: a few years ago the Swiss, of all people almost voted a law capping salaries of managers . But the same Swiss hold rich entrepreneurs, and people who have derived their celebrity by other means, in some respect.[ii]

Tooleb just pulls this out of his butt, like he does for most of the stuff he writes. This is wrong for so many reasons:

1. The ‘American public’ includes salaried individuals. Its like those liberals who say they want unity but then attack the rich.

2. 60% of American workers are ‘white collar’, and hence typically earn a salary instead of a wage. So by Tooleb’s logic that would mean a lot of workers despise their own success.

3. Again with the overgeneralizing. It is really ‘all’..did he literally poll every single person? The part about Michèle Lamont and Joan Williams of HBR is unconvincing, because Tooleb doesn’t cite percentages or an actual study. Here is the Joan Williams HBR article: https://hbr.org/2016/11/what-so-many-people-dont-get-about-the-u-s-working-class:

Michèle Lamont, in The Dignity of Working Men, also found resentment of professionals — but not of the rich. “[I] can’t knock anyone for succeeding,” a laborer told her. “There’s a lot of people out there who are wealthy and I’m sure they worked darned hard for every cent they have,” chimed in a receiving clerk. Why the difference?

So Tooleb links to an article that mentions a book, The Dignity of Working Men, which gives a single anecdotal example of supposed resentment, yet Tooleb generalizes this to mean ‘all’. The rest of the Joan Williams article is about the 2016 election and Hillary.

4. Tooleb refutes his own argument by mentioning the Swiss vote, writing “This is indeed generalized to other countries: a few years ago the Swiss, of all people almost voted a law capping salaries of managers.” If such a generalization were true, wouldn’t the vote have passed unanimously?

Here are the actual results of the vote:

Swiss voters on Sunday decisively rejected a proposal to cap “fat cat” pay, in a ground-breaking referendum on the issue.

Final results showed that votes against carried the day by 65.3% to 34.7% in favour. David Roth, the president of Switzerland’s Young Socialists and the referendum’s leading sponsor, said: “We’re disappointed [we] lost today.”

So in Tooleb’s distorted world, 35% = ‘all public’. Close enough. lol What a clown. And it was socialists who backed the referendum, further evidence Tooleb is not the libertarian or anarcho capitalist many think he is but rather a liberal or socialist pretending to be one. Even in 2011, when I began writing articles critical of Tooleb, I suspected he was a liberal, and this further confirms it.

5. Many workers aspire to be promoted and to move up the ‘corporate ladder’ to become managers. Why else are there so many books, articles, websites, and seminars about getting raises and promotions?

In addition, someone without skin in the game –say a corporate executive with upside and no financial downside (the type to speak clearly in meetings) –is paid according to some metrics that do not necessarily reflect the health of the company; these (as we saw in Chapter x) he can manipulate, hide risks, get the bonus, then retire (or go to another company) and blame his successor for the subsequent results.

Execs are paid more because they have a bigger responsibility. Execs have skin in the game in the form of stock and stock options. Incompetence is the job of the board of directors to determine, with appropriate action taken if necessary. In some cases such as Enron and Wolrdcom, this fails, but such extensive fraud is uncommon, partially because of severe criminal penalties. Tooleb wants to take this further by turning all executives into civil servants and having the government regulate compensation, which is what Obama tried to do in 2009 with the financial sector. He’s advocating a bigger regulatory role for the federal government but without explicitly saying so.

Continuing on, he writes:

You do not create dynamic equality just by raising the level of those at the bottom, but rather by making the rich rotate –or by forcing people to incur the possibility of creating an opening.

The way to make society more equal is by forcing (through skin in the game) the rich to be subjected to the risk of exiting from the one percent
Or, more mathematically

He subscribes to the belief in ‘finite wealth’, that in order for someone to become wealthy an existing wealthy person must lose his spot, which is one of the most common misconceptions held by people who are naive about economics. It never occurs to him that the total wealth can rise, as has been the trend forever, and hence more people can become wealthy. Liberals want to make the pie equal; conservatives seek to enlarge it.

So instead of ‘spread the wealth’ as Sanders would say, it’s ‘rotate the wealth’. Again, diversion and subterfuge. He wants rich people to forfeit or squander their money on stupid, risky endeavors in order to have ‘skin in the game’.

Also, where is the incentive to create personal wealth if it’s going to go away just as quickly as it came? One of the reasons people accumulate wealth is for peace of mind and stability for both themselves and their families.

Our condition here is stronger than mere income mobility. Mobility means that someone can become rich. The no absorbing barrier condition means that someone who is rich should never be certain to stay rich.

Wrong again. People are getting rich all the time, everyday. Of the Forbes 400 list, 70% are self-made:

Yet Forbes said that wealth in America has become far more meritocratic over time. It said that in 1984, “less than half of those on The Forbes 400 were self-made; today, 69 percent of the 400 created their own fortunes.”

Look at Facebook…in the past decade it has created many millionaires and some billionaires. One example is Jeffrey J. Rothschild, an early Facebook employee:

Rothschild started working for Facebook in 2005.[4] He was the oldest person working for Facebook at the time.[4] He became Facebook’s vice president of infrastructure software.[4] In 2012, he owned 18 million Facebook shares.[4]

In 2015, he was worth an estimated US$1.67 billion.[1] He serves on the board of trust of his alma mater, Vanderbilt University.[12] Rothschild is married, and he has three children.[1] He resides in Palo Alto, California.[12]

With recent successes of Uber, Snapchat, Airbnb, Whatsapp, and Tesla, stories like these are becoming increasingly common. Since 2002, the number of billionaires and total wealth has surged, thanks to the information technology industry and other factors:

Tooleb writes:

For instance, only ten percent of the wealthiest five hundred American people or dynasties were so thirty years ago; more than sixty percent of those on the French list were heirs and a third of the richest Europeans were the richest centuries ago. In Florence, it was just revealed that things are really even worse: the same handful of families have kept the wealth for five centuries.[iii]

Large fortunes tend to dissolve, mainly due to marriage, business failure and mismanagement, divorce, and offspring, eroding the fortune over many generations. A family surname (such as Kennedy, Rockefeller, or Rothschild) may be collectively rich, but the wealth per person becomes very diluted as the family grows and splits over many generations. In fact, I don’t think there are any Kennedy, Rockefeller, or Rothschild decedents on the Forbes 400 list. The Waltons are the only familial clan on the list.

Again, it doesn’t matter if rich people remain rich, because total global wealth is growing, as well as rising standards of living.

Tooleb is lauded as some sort of ‘genius’. On Twitter, he fortresses himself in esoteric-sounding philosophical babble and screenshots mathematics that he passes off as his or as original, creating an aura of intellectual impenetrability around him, but when you actually read his stuff, line by line as I have done, most of the time he has no idea what he is talking about. He’s like a Potemkin intellectual, where there is no substance behind the Twitter facade.

Drugs and Tariffs

I saw this linked from Free Northerner’s blog: An Economist’s Cautionary Note on Free Trade

Targeted tariffs won’t raise consumption. They won’t spur economic growth. They will lead to more expensive goods, and less consumption. David Ricardo was right on all that. Comparative advantage still exists, and be very wary of anyone who talks about free trade without acknowledging this.

But they might also lead to more employment. And this may well be worth it in terms of the quantity that the economist’s social planner is meant to care about, namely total welfare.

It might lead to fewer rust belt whites killing themselves with opiates, because their communities are totally hollowed out with everybody sitting around on welfare without any purpose in their lives.

If steel products cost slightly more as a result, personally that doesn’t strike me as the end of the world.

As I explained a few weeks ago, tariffs both raise prices and hurt employment, hurting the lowest of income earners. The reason is because America exports a lot of stuff, and increasing prices for imports will lower consumer demand for imported goods, but this will also lower foreign demand for America’s own exports, hence hurting American jobs. This is because America trades its exports for imports. Higher import prices hurt American retailers, costing jobs. Also, companies will find ways to evade the tariffs, such as choosing countries that don’t have tariffs.

Here is the cautionary tale regarding tariffs on Chinese tires:

But other trading partners rushed to fill the void. Shipments from South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia doubled in value, more than offsetting the decline in Chinese-made tires.

The Peterson Institute for International Economics reached very different conclusions: The think tank said the duties saved a maximum of 1,200 manufacturing jobs and when factoring in the higher American consumer cost for tires, resulted in the U.S. economy losing about 2,500 retail jobs.

The Smoot-Hawley bill, signed in 1930, is another example of how tariffs can backfire, by making the Great Depression worse:

Eighty four years ago on this day President Hoover signed the now-infamous Smoot-Hawley tariff bill, which substantially raised U.S. tariffs on some 890 products. Other countries retaliated and world trade shrank enormously; by the end of 1934 world trade had plummeted some 66 percent from the 1929 level.

Regarding opioid abuse, the author seems to be making a generous assumption that more jobs will equal less drug abuse in ‘rust belt’ states such as Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Ohio is like the ‘opioid capital’ of the United States, due to the rampant abuse there:

If there were a one-to-one correlation between unemployment and opioid abuse, we would expect unemployment to be highest in those states, but it’s not:

Ohio’s unemployment rate is close to the national average. Look at Oklahoma: low unemployment, lots of opioid abuse.

Although Ohio lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs between 1999-2009, it gained back those jobs in other areas:

This suggests the problem has more to do with drug addiction and welfare than insufficient jobs. Although the unemployed are more likely to abuse drugs, there is more to it than that. For example, there are two questions regarding causality: does drug abuse cause unemployment or are people taking drugs because they are unemployed? I’m skeptical that drug addicts who are on welfare are going to suddenly ‘go clean’ if jobs become available. Another problem is that welfare may be a ‘better deal’ than going to work:

We should be more honest about the difficulty of persuading people on that $12 dole to give it up and work for $8. They are not irrational to find that bargain unappealing, especially when a private-sector economy groaning under the titanic burden of government has a hard time producing good employment opportunities for marginal workers.

Thomas Sowell Retires

Thomas Sowell Retires: My Farewell Column

Dr. Sowell was right about the inferiority of communism and the superiority capitalism (you didn’t have to be a genius to see either, as if mass starvation under communist regimes wasn’t evidence enough it was a bad ideology). But he is almost literally (given his age) a relic of the 60-90′s era Republican party, given his outdated and hawkish views on Russia, his denial of HBD regarding Black vs. White achivement, his support of Cruz during the 2016 election, his idealization of democracy and the democratic process, and his failure to understand the alt-right and European/White identity. Although Dr. Sowell was skeptical of exporting democracy to the Middle East, he never renounced the institution of democracy, instead stressing the importance of informed and literate voters. The GOP won the economic war but lost the cultural one; for the left, it was the opposite. The cynic says that is by design, with both sides agreeing to give up some ground to get half of what they want. Democracy means settling for less. Throughout his long career, he also didn’t have many original thoughts on economics, being mostly an ‘explainer’, not a ‘theorizer’. He is right about minimum wages, but many others also came to the same realization.

Related:

Why Thomas Sowell Never Got a Nobel Prize

Thomas Sowell Ignores Biology

Thomas Sowell on The Bell Curve

Identity, IQ, and Incoherence of the Alt-Right

‘Identity’, which not limited to just politics but also includes ‘BLM’ and the ‘big is beautiful’ movement, gives its members a stake in something, as being a part of a bigger ‘system’ or ‘process’, yet at the same time individualism and autonomy are retained. Identity is a way of signalling unity, with varying degrees obviousness. When taken too far, it can appear narcissistic, vulgar, and self-absorbed, as identity gives cover and justification for anti-social behavior. This is what 3-4th wave feminism has become, especially online.

There is also a distinction between individual identity (example: individualism; identifying as belonging to a specific gender, ethnicity, and race) and collective identity (examples: nationalism; gender, ethnicity, and race as group identities and as part of political and social movements).

Neoconservatives and neoliberals tend to eschew collective identity, in favor of pragmatism and ‘concern’ (in contrast to tribalism, where consensus and loyalty, and ‘collective identity’ are more important). When taken too far, this can seem paternalist, meddlesome, and overbearing, but also emotionally detached, amoral, and disloyal. Like, why do neocons and neoliberals alike care so much about third world poverty when there is poverty in America?

1st and 2nd wave feminism has a strong element of ‘collective identity’. It’s very collectivist and activist-minded, with lots of protests, political involvement, and marches. 3-4th wave feminism is much more individualistic in the spirit of Ayn Rand, who advocated self-determination over collectivism. This includes women prostituting themselves on Instagram. Although 3-4th wave is more vulgar, 1-2nd wave is worse because of the deleterious political and social consequences of suffrage.

Jonathan Haidt, Jonathan Chait, Scott Sumner, Nicholas Kristof, Josh Barro, and Matthew Yglesias come to mind as examples of left-wing or neoliberal pundits who use reductionist narratives, but I don’t mean reductionist in the ‘low-information’ sense but rather in trying to reduce ‘social theory’ to something that is science-like, and who often advocate democracies and committees by elites (elitism) to solve problems. Unlike the far-let, it’s often anti-populist, and like neoconservatism, it’s pragmatic and consequentialist.

Among rationalists and pragmatists, these is also a tendency to scorn those in their ‘tribe’ who are ‘too extreme’ and also to argue on behalf of one’s ideological opponents by ascribing the strongest arguments to them (also known as ‘steel-manning’, in contrast to straw-manning). Playing devil’s advocate signals intellect and open-mindedness to other members of the tribe, who also value those traits, and thus the status one who exhibits those traits is boosted among like members of the tribe. There is a tendency among some in the alt-right and especially rationalists to do this – but this is common in most high-IQ communities, where accuracy and correctness is more important than unanimity. It’s almost a ‘game’ of sorts where whoever finds an inaccuracy, counterexample, omission, or logical fallacy in the article first, ‘wins’ and is awarded with status (this seems common in pro-gamergate sub-Reddits, where there is a lot of ‘concerning’ (to show concern, often excessive or unnecessary, used as a verb), but it’s hard to tell if it’s genuine concern or concern trolling). Less intelligent tribes value unanimity, and status is through seniority and strength, not intellect, correctness, or open-mindedness. In less intelligent tribes, there is a definite hierarchy, and the ‘elders’ tell the initiates what to think, and there isn’t much room for interpretation, and dissenters, no matter how correct or smart they are, are ejected, not awarded status.

Related: I Can Tolerate Anything Except Factual Inaccuracies

Steel-manning is both good and bad: it’s good because by anticipating our opponent’s best possible counter-arguments, we can formulate stronger arguments for our own positions; it’s also annoying at times because sometimes enough is enough..there is only so much charity one can ascribe to one’s opponent without turning coat. It can also come across as virtue signaling. Unless the inaccuracy or omission is really egregious, maybe it’s just best to leave it alone, for the sake expediency instead of getting bogged by minutia and hair splitting, which sometimes results in incoherence and division of the tribe. But debate is generally healthy and should be encouraged.

This dicuss comment thread is an example. Back in 2009-2010 when I used to troll Huffington Post, I recall there was a lot of cohesion (everyone was on the same ‘page’ (cons bad, libs good)), which you don’t see as much in the far-right, even before the whole NPI-debacle.

Speaking of division, a month after the whole NPI Roman salute thing, now this: Alt-Right in Civil War After Prominent Leader Disinvited From Pro-Trump ‘DeploraBall’

And from the discuss comments:

Check the comments out. People should be fucking embarrassed of themselves. Barely edgy news site commentators have the correct instincts and actually understand the basis of politics in distinguishing friend from foe. Meanwhile so many people who tout themselves as hardcore right-wingers throw a bitchfit because they were always just liberals.

This is because people who post on mainstream news sites are, in general, less intelligent those who read and post on alt-right websites and blogs, so in the former there is more unity, as I noticed on Huffington Post for the far-left. When Trump was running, the alt-right could cast aside their differences and unify behind him, but with Trump elected, now what?

This incoherence is due to three factors: the ‘right’ generally being smarter and less conformist than the ‘left’ (more willing to challenge authority, more open-minded, better-educated about history, political science, and philosophy); second, the ‘right’ being more diverse, ideologically, than the ‘left’ (Liberalism is analogous to those 8-color Crayola crayon boxes kindergartners use. Conservatism is like the 100-color deluxe box.); and third, ego, which has less to with ideology and more to do with status-seeking.

The ‘right’ is split between the age-old individualism vs. traditionalism schism, whereas the ‘left’ seem to all agree on things like ‘maximizing individual liberty’ (positive liberties) and ‘promoting equality, fairness, and opportunity’(example: John Rawls Theory of Justice, although there is a small schism between classical liberals vs. welfare and socialist liberals. The former seek equal opportunity, and the latter seek equal outcomes). The ‘right’ promotes ‘negative liberties’ and individualism (example: Anarchy, State, and Utopia, by Robert Nozick), but traditionalism says that man is part of a ‘collective’ – state, family, creed, lineage, nation, religion, etc., so it gets messy in choosing the optimal balance between the two (just compare neoconservatism with paloeconservatism with right-nationalism with libertarianism). ‘Mainstream conservatism’ balances the two, as described by Russell Kirk’s six “canons” of conservatism (which heavily influenced post-WW2 American conservatism):

A belief in a transcendent order, which Kirk described variously as based in tradition, divine revelation, or natural law;

An affection for the “variety and mystery” of human existence;

A conviction that society requires orders and classes that emphasize “natural” distinctions;

A belief that property and freedom are closely linked;

A faith in custom, convention, and prescription, and

A recognition that innovation must be tied to existing traditions and customs, which entails a respect for the political value of prudence.

Krik also opposed the separation of church and state…”that Christianity and Western Civilization are “unimaginable apart from one another”[13] and that “all culture arises out of religion. When religious faith decays, culture must decline, though often seeming to flourish for a space after the religion which has nourished it has sunk into disbelief.”[14]”

Kirk was inspired by Edmund Burke, considered to be the forefather of conservatism. Burke’s views are kinda scattershot, opposing the ‘social contract’ theory but also opposing the ‘divine right of kings’. He opposed democracy, natural law, and the French Revolution but also supported the America Revolution and believed private property as being essential to maintaining ‘social order’.

Liberalism is inherently materialistic (although it does embrace some idealism in its rejection of certain aspects of HBD), but conservatism can be both materialistic and idealistic. Part of the reason why NRx departs from Kirk is because conservatism tends to embrace natural law and puts too much emphasis on individual rights. Conservatism doesn’t hold the monarchy supreme, although Burke was sympathetic to it despite being a Whig and not a Jacobite. Materialistic-variants of conservatism put too much emphasis on economics over the divine. For the ‘right’, man should maximize his economic share through self-determination; for the far-left, the state should assume that role; in either case, it’s still through the lens of economics (Economic determinism).

Both liberalism and conservatism seeks to find a balance between individualism (and individual identity) and collectivism (and collectivist identity), which is what the study of political science and political philosophy is about. The cohesion of the alt-right before Trump’s victory and the small splintering of the alt-right afterward, is evidence political movements and ideologies need a specific ‘thing’ to rally behind (such as a person or specific tasks assigned to members), for cohesion to be possible. Just rallying ‘against liberalism’ or ‘for conservatism’ is not specific enough, because, as shown above, these terms are so broad and hard to define that cohesion is impossible for ‘smart’ ideologies like the alt-right (although it works for mainstream political parties, that have mostly average-IQ voters and supporters).

In Defense of Millennials, Part 2

If you’re on the ‘right’, it’s temping to bash millennials, but it’s worth noting that alt-right millennials, thanks to postings on 4chan, Reddit, and Twitter, swayed voters and the ‘national dialogue’ and helped put Trump in office. Although millennials supported Hillary by a much larger margin than Trump (55% vs. 38%), Trump’s millennial base was far more persuasive despite their smaller numbers. All generations have losers and idiots (for boomers, it’s aged hippies; for millennials, it’s SJWs). But dismissing all millennials as ‘brainwashed liberal idiots’ is falling into the tempting trap of reductionism and overlooks the many millennials who aren’t.

In 2015, I wrote a post defending millennials, and now that millennials helped get Trump elected, maybe I was right to not give up hope on this generation when many others on the right did. In 2014 and 2015, I wrote many posts about the post-2013 SJW-backlash as related to #gamergate, which like the at-right was primarily a millennial-driven movement against far-left liberalism (or as some call ‘regressive liberalism’). And also, many gamergate people joined the ranks of the alt-right, and a lot of the memetic and social networking methods used in gameragte were employed by the alt-right. So gamergate may have laid the foundation for the alt-right, which followed just a year or so later.

There is evidence the latest generation, Generation Z (those born after 2000, and who are often lumped with millennials), may be the most conservative generation since WW2.

Furthermore, there is evidence millennials are more conservative than Boomers or Gen Xers were at their age, according to a study.

In 1976, when Baby Boomers were donning their caps and gowns, 21% of high school seniors identified themselves as conservative. In 2014, when it was the millennials’ turn to graduate, 29% did so, the study authors report.

Meanwhile, the percentage of high school seniors who identified as liberal was 35% in 1976 and 34% in 2014.

The obvious flaw is that terms ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ were different then than they are now. A liberal 40 years ago may be considered conservative or moderate today.

The good news is, by virtue of the normal distribution, there are millennials, perhaps as many as tens of thousands, who care about philosophical inquiry, not what’s on TV or the latest celebrity gossip. NRx and Dark Enlightenment, for example, have a lot of millennials as ‘members’, such as college students, who are curious abut this fledgling intellectual ‘movement’.

A theory as to why alternative ideologies and movements (such as NRx, HBD, rationalism, libertarianism, anarcho-capitalism, alt-right, red pill, MGTOW, etc.), that don’t fall within the mainstream left-right dichotomy, appeal to millennials is because – thanks to the Flynn effect, readily accessible information online, and ‘intellectualism culture’ (this includes culture both online and offline valuing and elevating intellectual pursuits) – millennials are possibly smarter and better-educated than older generations and thus are more inclined to wander off the beaten path to explore these new and possibly taboo ideas, whereas their parents, who may not be as smart or intellectually curious, prefer simper and reductionist narratives (good vs. evil) and activities. (Parents: voting is a civic duty; Millennials: democracy may not be the best solution, because voters may be uninformed, ‘bribed’ by politicians who promise benefits, or democracy doesn’t solve society’s most pressing problems but rather exacerbates them.) This is also related to the post-2013 backlash against ‘low information’, which includes reductionist narratives and media sensationalism. This is both good and bad: It’s ‘bad’ because it spawns SJWs, who suck up Cultural Marxism from the universities and spit it back at society; but as stated above, it’s ‘good’ because we also get the alt-right, as well as #gamergate, as a counterweight to far-left liberalism. It’s like a barbell.

Also, many millennials are struggling, many through little or no fault of their own – a job market that is perpetually anemic despite record-high stock prices and surging profits and earnings. Just telling millennials to ‘suck it up and quit complaining’ is something I would have written years ago, but not now seeing that I understand the issue better. And also, it’s not just liberal arts majors who are having a hard time – even STEM majors are faced with a more competitive economy, student loan debt, and difficult job market. And I have some empathy for millennials who major in history, literature, philosophy, or economics, which may not pay as well as STEM but are still intellectually rigorous and ennobling. There is value in those degrees – the pay may be less than for STEM – but there is value nonetheless.

Millennials assumed that the same advice that worked for their parents, who were serendipitously blessed with four decades of post-WW2 prosperity, would work for them, too. When 2008 came along, all that changed – permanently. Their parents had it easy (good paying-jobs strait out of college or high school), with generous benefits and early retirement. In post-2008 society, where the supply of labor for most jobs vastly exceeds demand, ‘value creation’, not merely ‘showing up’, is valued, and this is much harder. In earlier generations, it was ‘good enough’ to be average; now you have to be exceptional to get your foot in the door, because as stated above, everyone is getting smarter, so that means more competition, in addition to competition by automation and inexpensive foreign labor. Sixty years ago, knowing how to read, write, and do basic math made you ‘above average’; compare that to today where AP-courses are the norm. Many millennials who supported Obama realize that the economic ‘hope and change’ he promised was – as the ‘right’ correctly predicted – a dream or delusion. This disillusionment contributed to the rise of the alt-right and Hillary’s loss. (Hillary won a smaller percentage of millennial votes than Obama, 55% vs. 60%. Also, Trump’s support among minority voters was higher than for Romney.).

Time Management and The Celebration of the Mundane

It’s weird or interesting how certain stories go viral and what such viralness says about the state of American society, media, and culture today. On one extreme, stories about Trump and Aleppo go viral, being shared many times, but these are big stories involving important people and important events; such virnalness is expected. But then on the other extreme you have mundane stories going viral, that don’t involve terrorism or major political figures, such as a recent article by The Guardian Why time management is ruining our lives, which got over 400 comments and was shared on Facebook over 12,000 times, in addition to also going viral on Reddit and elsewhere. The viralness of ‘boring’ stories about day-to-day stuff is in contrast to the excitement of the imminent Trump presidency, terrorism, or ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.

This phenomena of boring stories doing so well is related to the post-2013 anti-democracy movement, and how people are walling themselves from the hype of the mainstream media to focus on their ‘inner circle‘. You have the cacophony of Trump and all this stuff going on, but people have had enough. Democracy and the mainstream media are linked, because they both involve persuading the masses to care and participate; without the participation of the masses, both cease to exist. The media needs your attention; democracy needs your votes. This is also related to millennials choosing to live a ‘boring‘ life of self-sufficiency, self-improvement, and frugality, in contrast to their activist-minded, work-driven, spendthrift boomers parents who want people to ‘get involved’, and also how institutions and conventions such as democracy are being challenged.

As for the content of the article itself, the author conflates time management with efficiency and productivity, but they are not always mutually inclusive: the former is deontological; the later two are quotients (results divided by time). One can be very assiduous about doing calculations with pen and paper, but this is an unproductive and inefficient use of time when computers can do the job in a few seconds. In pre-2008 culture and society, good-paying jobs for mediocre, obedient people were abundant, and as epitomized by Dibert, point-haired bosses ruled, in contrast to today where productivity, efficiency, and quantifiable results (value creation) are more important than diligence and conformity, and the labor market is much more competitive. In pre-2008 society, employees weren’t creating as much value as they thought they were (or that companies wanted), and a lot of overpaid jobs were lost to never return. People were practicing good time management but the were fired anyway. Managing your time is less important than learning how to create value. Too many people are stuck in a ‘pen and paper’ mindset thinking that they can just get by with hard work.

The culture of Silicon Valley, which despite its leftism is on a per-capita basis the richest region in the world, values wily ingenuity over obedience. Elon Musk of Tesla, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and Travis Kalanick of Uber, all from the Silicon Valley and are the antithesis of the pointy-haired boss and are among the most successful and well-respected CEOs and founders alive, don’t care about your time management strategies – they care about results, first and foremost. Uber’s whole business model is about making the transportation industry more efficient. Economic and labor trends suggest that the world is becoming like Silicon Valley, not Silicon Valley resembling the rest of the world. Silicon Valley, which exited the 2008 crisis unscathed, is a role model for the rest of the business world. Hard work and diligence, in and of itself, is not a virtue anymore – value creation and signaled competence is.

Explaining America’s Economic and Social Stability, Part 2

In posts Explaining America’s Economic and Social Stability and The Trajectory of America, I outline a generally optimistic assessment for America as to why it has done so we compared to most countries an will continue to do so. Unlike many on the ‘right’, I don’t foresee collapse or upheaval anytime soon but rather a continuation of America’s global economic and militaristic dominance.

America leads the world in:

GDP growth. America has the highest real GDP growth of all major developed nations, although it’s still not much growth. Germany and France have had close to zero percent compounded GDP growth since 2007.

Academic output in the sciences, as well as intellectual property. This includes leading the world in patents, Nobel laureates, and academic papers.

Currency and bond market: The US dollar is the strongest currency of all developed nations.

The biggest stock market gains of all developed nations, since 1995.

Finally, the strongest profits and earnings growth and expansion of all major countries except perhaps China (which has faster growth).

So why is America so successful and resilient? Here are some additional reasons:

America is magnet for top foreign talent. Elite universities such as MIT, Harvard, Caltech, and Stanford are flooded with applicants by high-IQ foreigners who want a part of the American capitalist dream to start the next Tesla, Google, or Facebook. Having the world’s best and brightest helps the economy, although it creates diversity, which may dilute and displace preexisting cultures. According to a report from the Partnership for a New American Economy, 36% of the top 25 U.S. public tech companies were founded by people born outside of America.

But why are all these smart, talented people immigrating? Because America rewards exceptional talent more so than any other country, both through the free market and a media and culture that rewards individual exceptionalism. Countries like Germany, Japan, Norway Switzerland have much more restrictions and regulations for entrepreneurs, higher taxes, and less prestige and accolades for top talent. Being exceptional in Norway doesn’t bring as much recognition as being exceptional in America. You can immigrate to America, be really smart and successful, make a lot of money, and be super-famous. Nowhere else in the world is that possible quite like in America. Arnold Swartenagger, for example, couldn’t have been who is is today if he stayed in Austria. Unfortunately, because of its welfare state and liberalness regarding immigration policy, America, much like Northern Europe, attracts many unproductive immigrants too.

The free market in America bolsters the economy and takes weight off the political sector. This means there is more redundancy. Redundancy is a crucial reason for America’s stability. Right now there is a tug-of-war between the forces of decay (welfare parasitism, bad politicians, non-productive immigrants, SJWs, etc.) and the private sector (which is productive and funds the parasitic class). If the latter is stronger than the former, which is presently is, collapse can be avoided, and the economy can keep growing. If its equal, the result is stagnation (which is what is happening to Japan, but there are other explanations than parasitism). One reason why China, despite being Communist, has done so well is because of its quasi-private sector. Same for South Korea vs. the despotic wasteland that is North Korea.

IQ matter a lot, too. Countries with social and economic stability tend to have average national IQs of around 100. Low-IQ countries are more dependent on natural resources (for exports), foreign capital infusions, and IMF aid, because these countries are too dysfunctional to create viable industries and self-sustaining economic growth on their own. Their economic growth comes from hyperinflation and foreign credit infusions at super-high interest rates, not self-sustaining, organic growth. Despite a lot of low-scoring groups, America’s national IQ is above 100, as are the Nordic countries and parts of East Asia. It also helps, as stated above, that America poaches top talent from all over the world, but this makes other countries worse-off due to ‘brain drain’.

Private property and rule of law is enforced. This is extremely important, because chaos and socialism equals capital flight. Compare Soviet Russia to present-day Russia to see the stark difference.

Finally, America doesn’t give anyone, including top politicians, much power. The United States government is very big, with many senators, congressmen, and governors, as well as the intricate presidential line of succession and the peaceful transfer of office. Again, this goes back to redundancy. Having many people running things, without much power bestowed on anyone, means the effect of incompetence and or malice for any one individual is lessened. Also, the strong private sector lessens, to some extent, the power and importance of government.

Autocracies are viable and better than democracies if the autocrat is competent, but autocracies can fail if there is neglect and incompetence. This is because it’s hard to depose an autocrat, but also because the autocrat has much more influence over things are run than in an oligarchy or any of other form of government where power is distributed. Some examples:

1. Hitler, who rebuilt Germany after the Wiemar-era hyperinflation and the Great Depression, but was undone by disastrous military campaigns that destroyed the economy and eventually the nation, and nothing could be done about it.

2. Extreme examples include Fidel Castro, Mugabe, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, and the Kim dynasty of North Korea.

3. King Saud, an incompetent Saudi king who was abdicated in 1964 by the house of Faud after a decade of economic mismanagement.

Redundancy means that even the assassination of presidents (such as JFK) have only minimal impact on the overall economy and national stability, whereas assassinations of autocrats can plunge nations into prolonged war and turmoil. Even natural deaths can be problematic, as in the case of king Bhumibol Adulyadej who died in 2016, creating uncertainty for the future of Thailand’s economy.

Ideally, you want the most competent in power, but this is far from reality, and sometimes competent leaders can later become incompetent. The bureaucratic state, much like America’s pubic school system, suppresses exceptional individual talent and is sclerotic, but it also limits potential harm by any one individual. If a country is struggling after a prolonged depression or war, having a competent autocrat can quickly get things off the ground (a business analogy being Steve Jobs, who in 1997 returned to Apple and saved the company) without being encumbered by bureaucracy, but being that America is a superpower, all it needs to do now is just coast along. It doesn’t need the added risk.

No paradigm shifts or changes to status quo

From David Brooks: Does Decision-Making Matter?

It’s not a coincidence one of the world’s most overrated authors, Michael Lewis, is writing about two of the most overrated Nobel Prize recipients, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Behavior psychology is not the equal of a ‘hard science’, and Michael Lewis’ books all have a leftist slant to them, such as The Big Short, in which he blames Wall St. greed and banks for the crisis, not politicians such as Clinton. Between 2006-2012, in the years before, during and shortly after the financial crisis, many ‘pop psychology’ authors and ‘business gurus’ rose to fame by arguing that the financial crisis was evidence of a permanent ‘paradigm’ and ‘status quo’ shift, and that systems and beliefs (such rational/efficient markets) taken for granted before the crisis had suddenly all failed, and that these business authors and gurus had the answers. Examples of such books include Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, Dan Ariely’s Irrational Rational, Nassim Taleb’s Black Swan (and others), Richard H. Thaler’s Nudge, Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit, Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers, and many more. To list them all would be subjecting myself and the reader to more pain than is humanly allowable.

Yes, certain elements of the economy have changed in the aftermath of the crisis. For example, the US economy becoming more efficient and the job market becoming more competitive and difficult, but markets and behaviors have not changed. In retrospect, the 2008 crisis, despite all the headlines and predictions of doom and gloom and the ‘demise of capitalism’, was more like a blip or a speed bump. The US stock market has continued to make new highs year after year. The post-2009 S&P 500 and Nasdaq bull market and economic expansion is the longest ever, and the gains are among the biggest.

And same for America’s economic and foreign policy hegemony, which has only become stronger as of 2008, and a far cry from the ‘post-America’ era many on the left in 2008-2009 had hoped for. As more evidence of the strengthening of the American hegemony, the entire world is transfixed on Trump. You go anywhere in the world and all the newspapers and TVs are taking about Trump…that just goes to show important American politics and policy still are. When Trump was elected, it wasn’t just a national event, but it was the biggest international event, too.

While most economics models assumed people were basically rational, Kahneman and Tversky demonstrated that human decision-making is biased in systematic, predictable ways. Many of the biases they described have now become famous — loss aversion, endowment effect, hindsight bias, the anchoring effect, and were described in Kahneman’s brilliant book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” They are true giants who have revolutionized how we think about decision-making. Lewis makes academic life seem gripping, which believe it or not, is not easy to do.

‘Rational markets’ work because to try to create a financial model that assumes irrationality would not agree with the empirical evidence. Irrational models imply the existence risk-free arbitrage, but no such arbitrage exists. Evidence of market efficiency is further bolstered by the lousy post-2008 performance of active management relative to the S&P 500. If markets were as inefficient as the left says they are, active management would be able to exploit these inefficiencies to consistently beat the S&P 500, but they haven’t been able to so so, suggesting more market efficiency, not inefficiency.

As you can tell I’m not a fan of cognitive behavioral therapy, behavior/social psychology, behavior economics, business ‘leadership’ books, and stuff like that. The entire field was recently dealt a blow by the inability to replicate results that sounded nice in print but couldn’t be reliably reproduced. A lot of post-hoc analysis and data mining. It’s like saying, ‘we want a study that shows people behave irrationally or are subconsciously racist, so lets keep testing until we get the desired results to sufficiency high significance’. Case studies are also rife with selection biases, survivorship bias, cherry picking, and confirmation biases.

For example, Malcolm Gladwell, in 2010, wrote that his ‘greatest triumph’ was winning a 1500-meter race. He’s being too modest. His greatest triumph was convincing millions of people that the ’10,000 hour rule’ is a ‘science’. The book I’m referring to is Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, as well as Geoffrey Colvin’s Talent is Overrated, both published in 2008 and introduced to the public the delusion, inspired by the methodologically flawed work of K. Anders Ericsson in 1993, that ‘deliberate practice’ can overcome biological or innate limitations. Five to six years later, thanks to numerous studies that tried and failed to replicate Anders’ hypothesis, the 10,000 ‘rule’ has been dealt a serious blow, if not outright debunked. Practice only explains a small amount of the variation in individual ability. Genes matter a lot too. The evidence suggests all top performers have certain biological ‘gifts’ (such a superior eyesight or a high level of working memory) that enable them to acquire high levels of mastery quickly, that most people don’t have. The rule could be salvaged, perhaps, by rephrasing it as, ’10,000 hours is the minimum amount of practice someone who is already genetically gifted needs to compete with others who have equal gifts’. Of course, such phrasing won’t be as popular, but it’s more truthful.

But back to the main point, trying to explain why some systems are sustainable and keep getting stronger (such as China and America) and others weaker (almost everywhere else), is difficult. Rather then keep trying to predict paradigm shifts to no avail, maybe it’s more productive to try to understand why trends persist.

Fallacy of Composition

Between 2008-2010, during the depths and aftermath of the financial crisis, pundits envisioned that the ‘old’ status quo would be replaced by a more egalitarian ‘new’ one of less wealth inequality, as well as slower economic growth and asset price stagnation, which some called ‘the new normal’. With the U.S. stock market and and U.S. economy in its eighth strait year of expansion, how wrong they were. All pre-2008 trends are not only intact, but have accelerated, as I predicted in 2011 they would. Had you asked pundits in 2009 that seven years later we would still be in an economic expansion and bull market, the answer would have been a unanimous ‘no’, save for myself and maybe one or two others out of hundreds. But the expansion, already in its eight year, is actually accelerating right now, prompting the fed to raise rates and boost the rate hike outlook for 2017-2019. The fed foresees three rate hikes for 2017 alone, although I doubt more than two will materialize.

The biggest and most common pitfall in predicting the economy, and why so many people got the 2009-2016 bull market wrong, is the fallacy of composition, in which one assumes that a singe single piece of data is indicative or representative the entire economy, when it’s really just predictive of the single data point and not necessarily more. Or in the words of Freud, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

The fallacy of composition arises when one infers that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole (or even of every proper part). For example: “This fragment of metal cannot be fractured with a hammer, therefore the machine of which it is a part cannot be fractured with a hammer.” This is clearly fallacious, because many machines can be broken apart, without any of those parts being able to be fractured.

Weak job data and a low labor force participation rate is evidence of a weak labor market but not necessarily a weak economy, nor does weakness in one area (labor)mean weakness in another (profits and earnings). The United States economy is bigger than the labor market, although the labor market is an important component of it.

Culture, states, politicians, and national and local governments, too, are just components of a bigger conglomeration. The fallacy is invoked again in the assumption that the failure of one component means failure of the entire system. So the question is, how many components must fail before the entire system fails, and when. That is harder to answer.

Related: The Overton Bubble