Monthly Archives: January 2017

Debunking the 90% Eisenhower Income Tax Myth

From Unz: The Trump Bubble

The author, Mike Whiney, cites a study that the US economy did better when income tax rates for top earners were at 80-90% during the Eisenhower administration, compared to around 34% today.

“A study from the Congressional Research Service — the non-partisan research office for Congress — shows that “there is little evidence over the past 65 years that tax cuts for the highest earners are associated with savings, investment or productivity growth.”

In fact, the study found that higher tax rates for the wealthy are statistically associated with higher levels of growth…

The CRS study looked at tax rates and economic growth since 1945. The top tax rate in 1945 was above 90 percent, and fell to 70 percent in the 1960s and to a low of 28 percent in 1986.
The top current rate is 35 percent. The tax rate for capital gains was 25 percent in the 1940s and 1950s, then went up to 35 percent in the 1970s, before coming down to 15 percent today — the lowest rate in more than 65 years.

Lowering these rates for the wealthy, the study found, isn’t aligned with significant improvement in any of the areas it examined…

There is one part of the economy, however, that is changed by tax cuts for the rich: inequality….

The share of total income going to the top 0.1 percent hovered around 4 percent during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, then rose to 12 percent by the mid-2000s. During this period, the average tax rate paid by the 0.1 percent fell from more than 40 percent to below 25 percent.” (Study: Tax Cuts for the Rich Don’t Spur Growth, CNBC)

This oft-cited study by the left is easily debunked on several fronts:

To assume high taxes spurred growth is confusing correlation with causation. It’s possible GDP growth would have been even higher had taxes been lower.

Although the top .1% have seen their wealth grow more than the bottom 90%, the top.1% produce economic value relative to the total size of the economy than they did decades go, due to factors such as globalization and technology. But also, declining long-term capital gains taxes also plays a role, since the wealthiest tend to derive their wealth from capital, not income and wages:

There a good article by Misses that debunks the 90% tax rate myth. The highest tax rate, 90%, only applied to those earning over $3,425,766 (when adjusted for inflation), which was pretty much no one:

In 1958, out of 45.6 million tax filers, only about 10,000 reported incomes subject to the 81% rate or above. This means only .02% of filers had any income taxed at the 81% rate, let alone the 91% rate! (note: the 81% bracket was from $140,000-$400,000)

Reliable data concerning what top income earners actually paid in taxes during the 50’s is hard to come by, but ironically, Thomas Piketty (who is best known as the French economist promoting progressive tax rates) compiled data estimating tax rates in 1960, when the top rate was still 91%. According to his data, shown in the chart below, the top .01% of income earners paid an effective 31% income tax rate in 1960, compared with a rate of 25% in 2004. While slightly higher, it’s fairly similar considering the huge variation in marginal rates (91% vs 36%). Piketty does claim the rich were more affected by corporate tax rates in the 50’s, as shown on the chart, but the Manhattan Institute has a good rebuttal to that finding in this paper.

Also, one would assume with taxes so high, that tax receipts as a percentage of GDP would also be much higher, but they weren’t:

This is partly because there were much more generous tax deduction loopholes decades ago, such as being able to deduct significant capital losses from income (instead of just $3000/year). Or the ability to offset income taxes by buying a home and then gradually depreciating the home every year, but while also collecting rental income on the home (to cover the mortgage). Tax reforms of 1964, 1969, and 1986 gradually patched these loopholes.

But what was probably the biggest lost deduction for wealthy individuals was the elimination of deductions on passive investment losses on real estate. Before 1986, wealthy individuals would often buy real estate with no hopes at all of it cash flowing. That wasn’t the point. The point was that real estate is depreciated every year in the eyes of the IRS. Even though in the long run, properties usually go up in value, the IRS assumes that every twenty-seven-and-a-half years a property’s value will depreciate to zero.

This “loss” can be written off. So, for example, say a man earning $100,000 a year buys a property worth $275,000. He rents out the property and breaks even on it. The tax code allows that person to write off $10,000 as a loss which he can count against his income for that year. So now he only has to pay taxes on $90,000. If he owned ten such properties, his income would be zero, at least according to the IRS.

Many decades ago, the IRS actually considered real estate to be a depreciating asset. Not anymore:

When the income tax rates were cut under Reagan, this loophole was mostly closed in exchange under the Tax Reform Act of 1986. Only the mortgage interest deduction remained for real estate for most taxpayers. Under the current code, if a lawyer earns $500,000, they can only deduct $3,000 in all losses, no matter how real or large.

Why Choose Pacifism

Pacifism is not about giving up or conceding – it’s about perspective, in picking and choosing your battles wisely, as well as maximizing one’s present situation with the resources at his or her disposal. The failure of conservatism over the past 40 years to halt–let alone reverse–leftism, is evidence of the failure of activism as a means for effecting change. Activism plays into the hands of our foes. This doesn’t mean pacifism is the best approach, but it’s better than what has already been done. Marx, who didn’t do anything anything besides create the intellectual groundwork for an ideology that proved so maleficent that even Satan was probably impressed, is evidence of the power of ideas over action. It can be hard to accept pacifism, because of how history is conventionally portrayed (in school, TV, books, and media), in that that battles and other pivotal events are led by ‘great men’ (such as George Washington), who get all the attention, in a vacuum separate from the underling philosophies that motivate such action and ‘greatness’.

Trump and the Alt-Right: A Return to ‘Localism’

The alt-right is new, but it’s intellectually descended from the John Birch Society and Pat Buchanan brand of conservatism, which failed to gained wide acceptance. It ended when Reagan, who promoted a message and policy of unity, won twice by significant margins, changing the course of American national politics from one of identity to one of all-inclusiveness (or what some call a ‘globalist agenda’). Clinton continued on the path of inclusion where Reagan left off, also winning by large margins. Globalization cannot be fixed with nationalism alone, because globalization is both a mindset and a from of policy. The rise of the internet and mass media has contributed to the former, by making international events as important, if not more so, than local ones. To end globalization, one must literally disengage from the rest of the world. This could explain why sports, celebrity gossip, and reality TV are so popular – not only is it escapism, but such things are very local. 911 was ‘local’, and as awful as it was, it brought the nation together. Globalism can cause anomie and ennui because it’s hard to develop a social or personal connection with it, but also the powerlessness in trying to change it. Donald Trump, who is a reality TV star, is refreshing to so many, and why he won, because he’s the first American president exclusively for Americans, in a long while.

The Long Peace, and the Slowdown

In an earlier post Our Less Participatory Times, I discuss how political blogging, by in large, peaked in 2012-2013, and I still stand by that. Part of the problem is pundits, bloggers, commentators, and writers in the ‘political sphere’ are starved for ‘something to happen’, so we have to either go in circles, invent or breath life into ‘un-provables’, invent ‘paradigm shifts’ where none exist, or repeat sound bites to fill the void of silence, similar to Parkinson’s law which states “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,” except it’s the media that is doing the filling. Although things have been slowing down since late 2014 or so, they have slowed markedly since early 2016, and even Trump’s win hasn’t been enough to reverse it.

In diagnosing the problem, the slow news cycle [1] (save for Trump’s win), stands out as the chief culprit. Second, the US economy, which has transitioned from a boom-bust cycle to a perpetual, monotonically-increasing ‘boom’, albeit a slow one, is party to blame. Third, the ‘long peace’ as described by Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature, remains intact despite Isis, the deterioration in Syria, the European refugee crisis, and other problems. [2] All three of these tie in with the trend towards increasing stability of large, interconnected systems–the opposite of the entropy some say exists.

Fourth, since 2014, the increased importance and discussion of immigration, border, and nationalism, as a consequence of the European refugee crisis and Trump’s campaign. Although these are important issues, sometimes it gets repetitive and predictable. Nationalism and ethno-interests are never going to be ‘highbrow’ no matter how much you dress it up in intellectual prose, because by definition such things tend to be populist and collectivist, in contrast to right-wing elitism such as neoconservatism. Libertarianism [3] is fun in terms of debate and theory, but like a sitcom or other work of fiction, is fundamentally detached from reality. Nationalism, borders, and culture is less fun and more serious, because it’s practical and less theoretical. Between 2012, when NRx was first conceived, to around early 2014, there were themes of libertarianism, technocracy, and Nietzsche, but the 2014-2015 European refugee crisis pretty much ended that, because it became apparent that civilization could not be saved by theorizing and individualistic self-interest–but rather by forging a ‘collective identity’ united against obvious external forces that threaten it. You have to get out of the comfort of the ‘ivory tower’ and take a stand. From Against the Ubermensch:

In the past year or so, we’re seeing a re-branding or transformation of NRx…less Nietzsche’s ubermensch as embodied by John Galt (and the Californian ideology) and more like Oswald Spengler or Pat Buchanan. Maybe the old, pre-2014 NRx may have put too much emphasis on capitalism, individualism, and technology and not enough on culture and identity politics, as man lives not within his mind but as part of a social order and culture. Maybe this is a step in the right direction to broadening the appeal of NRx

[1] this depends on how you define something as ‘eventful’ – I define it as something that changes the way people fundamentally understand the world and the human condition. The 2008 financial crisis qualifies, although barely. 911 does, as does the fall of the USSR, and certainly the second world war. But there is also tendency in retrospect to see events as being pivotal, whereas in the present as they are unfolding, to be less so.

[2] Such, problems although they fill headlines, have not had any negative effect on the US economy, although it has hurt Europe to some extent due to increased terrorism (abetted by incompetent leftist policy in much of central and northern Europe).

[3] As in ‘pure’ libertarianism, not minarchism, partial-libertarianism, or anarcho-monarchism, whereby personal autonomy is maintained in high-trust societies. I generally remain sympathetic to libertarian ideas, but I can understand they have fallen out of favor in the wake of the increasing threat of Islam against Europe.

Inaction and Indifference as Rebellion, and the Decline of the Culture Wars

Activism includes but is not limited to telling people what to do or what to believe. By that definition, mainstream liberalism and conservatism is activist. There is an authoritarian and conformist tone to it that implores the subject to do something; for example, for the left, ‘you must spread your wealth and check your privilege’, as part of a collective ‘good’. But, especially since 2013, both the ‘left’ and ‘right’, particularly millennials, are tired of having to ‘do’ things, to have to ‘believe’ things, or to have strong convictions about things. With the exception of SJWs and, to a lesser extent, the alt-right and Trump, millennials are tired of action and dogma, preferring inaction and indifference. Decades ago, young people rebelled through action (protests, Woodstock, drugs, cross-country motorcycle rides), but now ‘rebellion’ is through inaction: staying home and watching Netflix instead of partying, going MGTOW, abstaining from drugs and alcohol, minimalism, personal finance, learning coding, and eschewing careerism.

As part of the post-2013 rise of ‘introspection culture’ (which is related to intellectualism culture), where ‘boring’ has become the new ‘hip’, naval-gazing and introspective articles, such as the widely-shared personal account of someone disconnecting from the internet for a month How I Got My Attention Back, frequently go viral, as every personal observation, no matter how small, has suddenly found a captive audience. In terms of clicks and viralness, even attention-grabbing headlines about major pubic figures such as Donald Trump find it hard to compete against seemingly mundane and contemplative topics, such as the articles In Defense Of A Boring, Comfortable Life and Why are Adults so busy?, both of which went viral.

With the decline of activism and the rise of introspection, which is individualistic and to some extent self-absorbed, the ‘culture wars’ are dying, as far as millennials are concerned. The post-2009 bull market (which is officially the longest ever), the post-2009 economic expansion (also the longest ever although the GDP growth is still sluggish), as well as a culture, economy, and society that celebrates and prizes individualism (such as taking pictures on Instagram), has also made culture wars less relevant. People see headlines about surging stock prices, stratospheric web 2.0 valuations, and Chinese buying up all the expensive estate estate in America, and we want a piece of the action instead of missing out (FOMO)–but also headlines about social security dwindling, the bad labor market, or how deficit spending threatens social programs, and millennials realize that while culture wars may be a sort of ‘bonding experience’ between like-minded people, no amount chest-thumping about social issues will change anything as far as policy is concerned nor provide financial peace of mind in increasingly uncertain economic times (such saving for retirement, paying for healthcare and education, covering the mortgage, or getting a job). Because of the aforementioned social, cultural, and economic factors, the culture wars ‘lost’ in the ‘court of pubic opinion’ or the ‘marketplace of ideas’, because the ‘generals’ failed to provide a sufficiently compelling case for why people should keep fighting when other issues seem more pressing.

As further evidence of this capitulation, particularly among the millennial-right, in 2016, Peter Thiel’s RNC speech, in which he proudly proclaimed being gay, was met with raucous applause. Such an ebullient response would have been inconceivable even as recently as a generation ago. Additionally, Thiel implored the ‘right’ to focus less on culture war issues (such as the controversy over same-sex bathrooms) and more on entrepreneurshi and innovation. However, conservatism in the individualistic, Randian sense (capitalism, private property, ‘ownership society’) is thriving, which is why Peter Thiel, who is a business and investing genius, not a culture warrior, is beloved by many millennials on the right. Same for Elon Musk.

With the exception of condoning obvious criminality that violates the non-aggression principle, such as the exploitation of minors, taking a moral ‘high ground’, in recent years, has become an untenable position in our era of moral ambiguity. For one, it’s a lost cause. For decades, spanning four presidential administrations, as well as talk radio and TV, the ‘right’ has nothing to show for its efforts, as American culture and society has inexorably moved ‘left’. Also, wrapping yourself in a cloak of moral sanctity and piousness leaves one exposed to charges of hypocrisy should one’s own indiscretions come to light. Rather than pressing judgement, it’s easier, but also more robust, to just not care. Moralizing, which includes SJW-activism, is sometimes an unwanted imposition that goes against one’s capacity for self-determination and self-regulation. ‘Our’ values, as in the ‘right’, are the bedrock of civilization, and leftist values are anathema to this. But to have strong values at all, from throwing in the towel on the culture wars or the rise centrism is, in and of itself, becoming an anachronism.

Idiocracy in America? Probably not

Anatoly Karlin’s article A Short History of the Third Millennium went massively viral, being read by thousands and getting almost 200 comments. Online, especially, there is considerable interest in ‘weird’, speculative topics such as futurology and existentialism, and these are issues that may have dramatic ramifications for the future of humanity: is radical life extension possible? How about whole brain emulation? Or creating super-human intelligence through gene modification and embryo selection? Will artificial intelligence render all jobs obsolete, or possibly even threaten to enslave us? Will humanity see the singularity and the transition to a type-1 and beyond civilization, or will it kill itself first? Are we destined for greatness or doomed to perish under a dysgenic dystopia?

Human genetic editing is banned by government edict around the world, to “protect human dignity” in the religious countries and “prevent inequality” in the religiously progressive ones. The 1% predictably flout these regulations at will, improving their progeny while keeping the rest of the human biomass down where they believe it belongs, but the elites do not have the demographic weight to compensate for plummeting average IQs as dysgenics decisively overtakes the FLynn Effect.

The good news is, historically, the trend has been towards towards the expanded use and adoption of new technologies, not restrictions. It cost $3 billion and over a decade just to sequence the human genome, let alone do much with it. It doesn’t make any economic sense for companies to spend so much money and time developing technologies, only to intentionally restrict the usage of such technologies to only an ‘elite’. By making technology readily available, it lowers costs and spurs further innovation. Now it only costs $1,000 to sequence a human genome.

It’s like the belief that elites have secret cancer cures that they are keeping themselves. Again, this is bad economics considering that there is huge demand (millions of people get cancer) and cancer drugs cost hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars to develop, creating an economic need to make these treatments available to as many people as possible, in order to recoup the costs. In a free market economy, if a company or entity were to a hoard a technology, another entity will eventually develop a cheaper and better version and make it available to more people, likely putting the first entity out of business.

An obvious counter-example are sports cars and private planes, which are still only available to elites. This is because the technology doesn’t exist to make private planes as cheap as a Honda. Another factor is branding, which is why Nike shoes and Rolex watches are so expensive even though their underlying technologies are not revolutionary. The reason why cancer treatments, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, are made available regardless of ability to pay is because the government has deemed it a ‘public good’. It’s possible genomic modification will become another luxury item and not a pubic good. It’s possible offshore embryo modification labs will be created for ultra-high-worth clientele who want their children to be endowed with traits that auger well for socioeconomic success, such as having a high IQ.

FLynn effect of environmental IQ increases is petering out across the world, especially in the high IQ nations responsible for most technological progress in the first place (Dutton, Van Der Linden, & Lynn, 2016). In the longterm “business as usual” scenario, this will result in an Idiocracy incapable of any further technological progress and at permanent risk of a Malthusian population crash should average IQ fall below the level necessary to sustain technological civilization.

However, even if current trends persist, the movie Idiocracy becoming reality is unlikely, as I discus in more detail here.

Even if the FLynn effect is tapering off, that doesn’t mean it will reverse. Anther possibility is that early gains in IQ are attributable to environment, and now that essentials such as food, shelter, sanitation, clean water, electricity, and literacy are much more common, the ‘low hanging’ fruit has been picked, putting more precedence on genetic factors, which are much slower to evolve than environmental ones, which is why it may seem like the FLynn effect is reversing.

For global IQs to keep falling without a bottom, there has to be some sort of environmental selection pressure to favor increasingly low IQs.

Just as the human population rose tenfold from 1 billion in 1800 to 10 billion by 2100, so it will rise by yet another order of magnitude in the next two or three centuries. But this demographic expansion is highly dysgenic, so global average IQ falls by a standard deviation and technology stagnates.

Even if this happens, the growing world population will mean more total smart people, which seems to be the case right now. Russia, Europe, and East and South Asia have billions of people and produce thousands, if not millions, of geniuses each year by virtue of the normal distribution of IQs. Even populations with a mean IQ of less than 100 still produce geniuses. Furthermore, smart people are more likely to procreate with other smart people (assortative mating), resulting in ‘enclaves’ of high-IQ, even as the rest off the world regresses.

The best and brightest from all over the world flock to America’s most prestigious universities and companies, which is why I’m skeptical of the America ‘Idiocracy’ scenario. As further evidence against ‘dumbing-down’, the number of research publications on Arxiv, a pre-print repository that specializes in physics and math papers, has surged in recent years. There is also no evidence yet of technological stagnation either (for example, genome sequencing is becoming cheaper). Like a fantasy sports team that gets the best players from all the teams, America is getting the best and brightest from all over the world. This is a major reason why the US economy has proven so resilient and strong in recent years whereas other economies have struggled with falling currencies, high inflation, falling stock markets, corruption, and slow growth. It’s a testament to these smart people that America is as functional as it is given all the forces of decay by leftism.

What matters most, however, are the total number of genetically ‘smart people’, not the proportion of smart people relative to the overall population size. Similar to how only a single human can oversee an entire ant colony, you don’t need many smart people to manage large populations.

By ‘genetically smart’, I mean people who have non-adjusted IQs above 130 or so. If the world were to become less intelligent, IQ tests would be adjusted to be easier, in order to keep the ‘mean’ IQ score still at 100. A century from now, an IQ of 130 may only be the same as a score of 115 today. But it’s still possible to have many people with biological IQs still at 130.

As the world population swells, it’s imperative that the population of smart people at least remain constant and undiluted. As far as America is concerned, the obvious answer is eugenics and restricting immigration by IQ and country, to keep such enclaves from becoming contaminated. Silicon Valley, perhaps the greatest IQ enclave ever, needs to be made aware of the threat of low-IQs to it homogeneity and stability. But if not for the sake of boosting IQ, we need restrictions for the sake of preserving civilization and civility against the hordes that threaten it, for without civilization, high IQ is useless.

Never Apologize to Liberals

It’s been two months since Tim Urban updated Wait But Why, his last post being a mea culpa of sorts for not being sufficiently aware of his ‘white male privilege’. Either he’s working on another epic post or he’s still shell-shocked from the backlash wrought by his last two posts.

From the comments of Tim’s November 9th ‘It’s Going to Be Okay’ post, on the morning of Trump’s win:

He was right…there were incidents of racism and violence following Trump’s win–against white Trump supporters perpetrated by blacks. Of course, we can’t let such details get in the way of a narrative that Trump voters are literally the KKK.

But anyway, Tim’s biggest mistake was believing that liberals would respond to facts, logic, and reason–but that’s not how far-left liberalism works–it never has and never will. Far-left liberals care about winning and ideological purity, above all else. Like a cancer, virus, zerglings, or termites, they are ruthless and single-minded and will stop at nothing in their pursuit of power and control, destroying their host in the process if need be. You think you are in control, but one wrong move and it’s over, like a tiger turning against his hapless trainer.

SJWs swarming a comments section

Cancer dies when it’s deprived of glucose. Likewise, the way you defeat SJW-liberalism is to starve it of the attention and chaos it seeks–ignore their pleads for you to check your privilege. They want your contrition–never capitulate and give it to them. First, it won’t work: it’s too late. The scarlet letter is irrevocable. Second, by caving in, you’re only emboldening them. Third, you’re not alone: the rest of the internet (such as Reddit and 4chan), including even other liberals (as the example above shows, being a liberal does NOT make one immune to the SJW piety mob–not by any stretch of the imagination), hate the SJW-left, so you have many allies that you can turn to for support. Fourth, of course, is that being a white heterosexual male is nothing to apologize about.

Why Choose Traditional Publishing Over Self-Publishing

The Two Choices, by M.T. White

If you have the talent, something to say, and are persistent enough but don’t have a large brand, traditional publishing (which includes indie publishers) is almost always the way to go. Just do a Google search for almost any traditionally published fiction title and you’ll see hundreds or even thousands of ‘Good Reads’ reviews, indicating thousands of sales. You cannot get that kind of volume self-publishing unless you are either very lucky, have a large personal brand, or are extremely good at networking. Yeah, traditional publishers take a big cut but they can also bring in big volume. Stephen King would not be worth as much as he is had he done it alone. The odds of success at publishing increase dramatically if you have a high-IQ (yeah, IQ is important for success at writing, no way around this), are persistent enough and put in the necessary work, and if you write how-to books instead of fiction (STEM books, despite the difficulty of the subject matter, sell a surprisingly many copies and command a much higher price than fiction. This is because traditionally published physics and math textbooks are quite expensive ($50-150), so if you can sell you own textbook for half the price and undercut the major competitors, you can still make a lot of money per sale.)

To get an idea of how substantial traditionally published books sales are, here is a list of the bestsellers 2015, with the number of copies sold for each book:

Top 15 best-selling books of 2015 revealed – how many of these blockbusters have you read?

#1-3 sold a combined 2.08 million copies.

M.T. White writes:

Notice, you’re not writing your book to appeal to readers. You’re writing your book to appeal to agents and acquisition’s editors. Naturally, they are looking for product that will sell, but to them it is just product—to you it will be a book written full of compromise…maybe. No matter what, you have to appeal to THEM first before your book hits shelves. And THEY might have very different tastes than you. They live in a different city (probably New York), while you might live in rural Texas. They might have polite sensibilities, while you have vulgar ones. You might find someone who is in alignment with you but as I stated above, there is a 99.9% you won’t. You have to appeal to THEM before your book even makes it to the press.

Not sure how much of this is true. Although with traditional publishers you relinquish some creative control, imho, publishers care more about selling books than political correctness, and I imagine well-written books tend to sell better than poorly-written ones. If the author is already famous (such as by being a celebrity), quality may be secondary. Consider Milo Yiannopoulos’ book, Dangerous, which is obviously not politically correct but is still being published by a major publisher, Simon & Schuster (specifically, Threshold Editions, a subsidiary of Simon & Schuster). Major publishers will take chances if they can get good sales volume. For example, Ann Coulter’s latest book Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome! is punished by Sentinel, a subsidiary of Penguin that specializes in conservative books.

But the reality for self-publishers is pretty bleak when you crunch the data. The median number of sales for the typical self-published books is zero, literally indicating no copies sold. This means if the author paid for editing, formatting, and cover design, he or she lost money. The mean is higher, due to the couple hundred or so outliers that sell thousands of copies, inflating the overall average. Or to put it another way, if Bill Gates enters a bar that has 50 patrons, the mean wealth for each patron is $1 billion, but the median wealth is still around zero.

Only 40 Amazon self-publishers have sold a million e-book copies the past five-years:

40 self-published authors “make money”, all the others, and they number in the hundreds of thousands, don’t. This interesting statistic, recently revealed in a New York Times article, applies to the Kindle Store, but since Amazon is in fact the largest digital publishing platform in the world, it is a safe bet that self-published authors are not doing any better elsewhere.

“Making money” here means selling more than one million e-book copies in the last five years. Yes, 40 authors have managed that, and have even gone on to establishing their own publishing house, like Meredith Wild. Her story is fully reported in the New York Times, here, and well worth pondering over.

The number of books on the Kindle marketplace meanwhile has exploded:

The digital market is indeed scary, primarily because of its dimension: over 4 million titles today in the Kindle Store, compared with 600,000 six years ago (again, the data is from the same article). This means “book discovery” has become the number one problem. How can your book stand out in such a vast crowd?

The somewhat depressing reality is, as discussed in Pencil Pushers and the Miracle of Capitalism, the creative arts, which includes writing, doesn’t pay well relative to the rarity of talent and IQ required to succeed at it. Same for much of entertainment, such as acting and singing. The top athletes, musicians, and actors ‘only’ make about $100 million (yeah pity them lol) but the top businessmen make hundreds of millions or even billions. Only one musician has ever made a billion dollars, Sir. Paul McCartney, I think.

But back to writing, a ‘success’ at publishing, both traditional or self-published, is to make $30,000 a year pre-tax. A six-figure contract is considered a ‘big success’. For example, if you sell 3,000 books on Amazon for $15/each and keep $10 per sale, you’ll earn $30,000/year, which puts you in the top 1% of all authors (traditional, indie, and self-published).

According to a research report, by my guesstimate, only 100 Kindle publishers make over $50k year:

Unfortunately, despite an exhaustive Google search I was unable to determine the total number of Kindle publishers, so these numbers are hard to statistically quantify.

Indie publishing also has similar barriers and quality control as big-5, but sales volume is predictably lower. Indie publishing caters to a near-infinite number of genres, from math books, youth fiction, and history.

But such success likely also requires top 1% of IQ and talent. But according to the US Census Bureau, the median annual personal income for all workers over age 15 is $30,240, and a mean personal income of $44,510–which only requires top 50% of talent and IQ to attain, versus top 1% talent. You have to have been the smartest in you class (straight A’s on all the writing assignments and a near-perfect verbal score on the SAT) to have a shot at making $30-50k a year with fiction writing. If not IQ, then top 1% of work ethic and determination. Or top 1% of social networking. No matter how you look at it, in the arts, you need to be exceptional to make an unexceptional income. Selling books is hard. Like painting, you can’t do it for the money, but rather out of a love for the process, and any windfalls should be treated as surprises. Milo’s $250,000 advance is a such a big deal because for authors that’s a large amount of money, which is the same annual salary as a mid-level nobody from a medium-sized firm. Milo has top .001% recognition (a Google search for his name reveals over 4.3 million results, making him one of the most visible people alive) to make a salary obtainable by 2% of the general population.

Some say you have to build a brand to self-publish, but what does that entail? Writing blog post or a book typically involves a typical formula: plot, characters, theme, protagonists, antagonists, and a beginning, a middle, and an end. How does one even begin to self-promote? It’s so vague and the brevity of such advice belies the great difficulty of applying it. Going the traditionally punished route seems easier, because then you can focus most of your energy on writing the best possible book you can, rather than promotion and building a brand, which is the job of the publisher. The major problem is that there are to many self-published books, and major inflencers are inundated with paid review requests, meaning that the typical book will get very little exposure and the turnaround time will be very long. The odds anyone, myself included, can build a personal brand big enough to sell at least 100 books is close to nil, even if you work hard at it.

But overall, compared to self-publishing, traditionally published offers a bigger average and median payout (both terms of the advance and, if it sells enough copies, the royalties) but also there is more time and work involved. If you get traditionally published (which includes smaller indie firms), even if the book doesn’t sell more than a few thousand copies, it opens up a lot opportunities and recognition that makes the slog worthwhile, that self-publishing typically does not provide. You’ll start getting a trickle of ‘Good Reads’ reviews…people will start ‘Googling’ your name, and after maybe three or so books, you’ll develop a decent-sized following, which increases the odds of subsequent books being a success, as well as larger advances. Self-publishing: less time and work (although still a lot), smaller average payout (most books sell less than a dozen copies) and less recognition.

Related: The Stark Realities of Self-Publishing

Black Lives Commit More Crime

From Marginal Revolution Black Lives Matter

As many have already noted in the comments, Tyler ignores how blacks also commit disproportionate more crimes than whites and are more likely to engage in deadly force against officers.

Related: There is No Systemic ‘War on Blacks’ by Police

From the comments:

Do White Police Officers Unfairly Target Black Suspects?

2015 statistics on murders and police killings in USA: Police killings: 986. Of these, 495 of those killed were white (50%), 258 were black (26%), 172 were Hispanic (17%). Murders: 15,696 total, of which 52% of victims were black, and in these cases over 90% of the perpetrators were black.

“Do White Police Officers Unfairly Target Black Suspects?” Abstract: “Using a unique data set we link the race of police officers who kill suspects with the race of those who are killed across the United States. We have data on a total of 2,699 fatal police killings for the years 2013 to 2015. This is 1,333 more killings by police than is provided by the FBI data on justifiable police homicides. When either the violent crime rate or the demographics of a city are accounted for, we find that white police officers are not significantly more likely to kill a black suspect. For the estimates where we know the race of the officer who killed the suspect, the ratio of the rate that blacks are killed by black versus white officers is large — ranging from 3 to 5 times larger. However, because the media may under report the officer’s race when black officers are involved, other results that account for the fact that a disproportionate number of the unknown race officers may be more reliable. They indicate no statistically significant difference between killings of black suspects by black and white officers. Our panel data analysis that looks at killings at the police department level confirms this. These findings are inconsistent with taste-based racial discrimination against blacks by white police officers. Our estimates examining the killings of white and Hispanic suspects found no differences with respect to the races of police officers. If the police are engaged in discrimination, such discriminatory behavior should also be more difficult when body or other cameras are recording their actions. We find no evidence that body cameras affect either the number of police killings or the racial composition of those killings.”

And also:

There were 6,095 black homicide deaths in 2014—the most recent year for which such data are available—compared with 5,397 homicide deaths for whites and Hispanics combined. Almost all of those black homicide victims had black killers. Police officers—of all races—are also disproportionately endangered by black assailants. Over the past decade, according to FBI data, 40% of cop killers have been black. Officers are killed by blacks at a rate 2.5 times higher than the rate at which blacks are killed by police. Some may find evidence of police bias in the fact that blacks make up 26% of the police-shooting victims, compared with their 13% representation in the national population. But as residents of poor black neighborhoods know too well, violent crimes are disproportionately committed by blacks. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, blacks were charged with 62% of all robberies, 57% of murders and 45% of assaults in the 75 largest U.S. counties in 2009, though they made up roughly 15% of the population there.

The Sweet, Boring Middle

Don’t read Marginal Revolution much anymore-find it kinda boring (too much economics minutiae and trivia)-but that reflects a deficiency of my own attention span and intelligence to appreciate it, not the inability of Tyler Cowen to be interesting. And evidently, his website is very interesting judging by the immense amount of traffic it gets, so my opinion is obviously an outlier. And again and again, as I discussed a month ago regarding Scott (both Scott Adams and Alexander), the greatest growth in the ‘intellectual middle’. The middle is the ‘sweet spot’, by courting both sides without having to have opinions that are ‘too extreme’ as to dissuade too many people from reading or sharing. For those on the ‘extreme’, how many would compromise some principle for a lot of traffic? I imagine many would, as that is the economically rational thing to do. Contrary to Daniel Kahneman and Michael Lewis who insist everyone is irrational, most people become rational decision makers when faced with easily quantifiable choices like choosing more money (or clicks, social status, etc.) versus less.

As part of the post-2008 ‘Cambrian explosion’ of intellectualism, Tyler’s blog is much more popular now (along with other ‘smart’ sites such as Slate Star Codex, Bryan Caplan’s Econ Log, Ribbonfarm, Wait But why, Scott Adams’ Dilbert Blog, and many, many more) than as recently as a few years ago, in agreement with this trend. But it gets even better–by pulling out ‘intellectual passport’, one who is in the ‘intellectual middle’ need not have to ideologically conform or compromise to be accepted, but rather be granted entry and be accepted into various ‘extreme’ but high-IQ groups (such as most of the alt-right) by virtue of being smart and authentic. That goes against much of social theory convention that says one must conform to be accepted. By being authentic, even if such views are counter-narrative, you gain more respect. Dissembling one’s motives and perceived pandering, even if one is ideologically close, has a repulsive effect, which explains why the alt-right has so strongly repudiated a handful of individuals, who despite otherwise agreeing with the alt-right on many things (such as being pro-Trump, pro-immigration control, anti-SJW, etc.) were perceived as only being involved ‘for the money’ and appropriating the alt-right ‘label’ for personal gain.

Regarding Tyler Cowen and Bryan Caplan, both unapologetically support open borders but oddly enough are highly respected by various alt-right and reactionary groups, their articles frequently cited. This has to do with intellectualism (both Tyler and Bryan are very smart) and authenticity (neither of them compromise or pander (and they don’t need to given how popular their sites are), and such steadfastness is respected), as discussed above–but also various shared narratives play a role, specifically a shared dislike of majoritarian systems, as described in Intellectual Solvent, Part 3:

Both smart left-wing and smart right-ring bloggers can relate to be ill-served by majoritarian school systems, that neglect the talented in favor of bringing the slowpokes and troublemakers up to speed. The same also applies to work settings, of the talents of smart employees being underutilized and or unappreciated, and this frustration crosses political lines. Both sides agree that incompetent people seem to be ‘running the show’, not the best and brightest, although in achieving opposite desired goals.

There comes a point where your’re so competent, pandering and compromising is unnecessary, and echoing Heidegger regarding authenticity, I think that’s what everyone should aspire to. George Carlin never had to compromise his angry, nihilist message to be accepted: audiences of all political makes found him funny, because, ultimately, he was a good comedian. When you read Paul Krugman or even Ann Coulter, there is the sense of desperation “I need to be accepted…I need to be edgy, funny, and partisan”, and that histrionic, excitable style of internet writing doesn’t work anymore [1]…better to be competent, even if that means being sightly ‘boring’, like Tyler Cowen.

[1] It works if you already have a huge audience that you built in the 90′s and early 2000′s as in the case of Ann Coulter and Paul Krugman, but not in the post-2013 era.