What have stupid people done lately?

April 29, 2011

I decided to comb through my neighborhood listserv for the past week (Monday through Thursday) to look for examples of how my neighbors have been affected by stupid people. Keep in mind that were talking about an expensive neighborhood – I’m guessing that no one posting has a house that’s worth less than $500,000. Here is what I found:

1) One person’s kitchen constantly smells like urine because people keep peeing in the alley directly behind his house.
2) Several bikes were stolen.
3) Two people are being driven insane by their neighbor’s dogs barking constantly for 10 hours at a time. The neighbor is apparently breeding pit bulls in his house (the typical yard in my neighborhood is not much bigger than 100 square feet).

4) While standing at a bus stop, one women was yelled at to, “fucking go away” and “move on, bitch” by a friendly neighbor. (Incidentally someone on the listserv told her that this might have been due to “cultural differences.” No doubt the person who said this believes that all cultures are equally good).

5) One neighbor watched as some guy broke into a house across the street.

That covers all I could find this week.

James Taranto has a long-running feature in which he quotes a story which describes something terrible that happens in a government-run healthcare system. He then quotes a Paul Krugman editorial in which Krugman says that horror stories about bad things happening under government-run healthcare systems are false.

I’m tempted to start a long run series of these things and then link to Aretae and Caplan saying that such things don’t happen. Unfortunately, it would probably be a full time job.

Randoms of the day

April 29, 2011

Professor Bainbridge does an unintentionally excellent job of explaining the problems of free trade. Basically he’s complaining that China continues to act in its own interests instead of properly subjugating its interests to the common good.

Divorce is for dumb people.

You can be too alpha.

Ulysses on marriage. I also have a lot of trouble writing about the good stuff. I’m not sure why this is. Partly, I think the things that make me happy aren’t the things that make other people happy – especially when it comes to women. For example, I’ve always been attracted to ambitious women. The stuff that works for me, then, doesn’t necessarily work for everyone else. Nevertheless, Ulysses has done a great job summing up the important stuff.

Devin and Aretae are in a back and forth (here, here, here and here) on authority. The more I read libertarians defend libertarianism the more the whole philosophy seems divorced from any realistic assumptions about what people are actually like. Granted, if I was allowed to re-make people, I’d make them in such a way that libertarianism would be best form of government. But that doesn’t mean that libertarianism is the best form of government for people as they are.

Matthew Yglesias has apparently not heard of the ’70s (this is a great use of a chart to lie, by the way. The chart starts just when stagflation ends).

Megan McArdle thinks that the good old days weren’t that good for women. Unfortunately for today’s women, most of them don’t have jobs as cool as hers and they still want to have kids. I’m guessing that today’s deal which forces more women to work in crappy jobs and not spend time with their kids is worse for the average woman. Even for above average ones, it’s not clear to me that many wouldn’t prefer raising their children.

Suck it, plebes.

A critique of pure exit

April 29, 2011

In a couple of comment threads lately, I’ve been pummeled with the concept of exit.

Basically, I argued something like: I don’t like being hit in the head, regardless of whether I’m being hit in the head by a person who is employed by government or a person who is not employed by government.

The response has basically been: You have no choice about whether or not you’re going to get hit in the head by the person who is employed by government, so that’s bad. The other sort of getting hit on the head is not bad, because exit from it is easier.

I’m highly unpersuaded by this response.

If you follow the link in the first line of this post, you’ll be directed to my review of the book that introduces the concept of exit. Basically, people have two ways of expressing their frustration with another entity (be it a person, a corporation or a government): 1) voice (e.g. complain, vote, etc.) and 2) exit (e.g. leave, don’t buy a product, etc.). Voice and exit are means for achieving desirable ends (e.g. better government, good products, etc.).

Note that voice and exit are not moral concepts. They are two potential means for achieving desirable results. If such results were obtainable in other ways, voice and exit are not useful or good. If you lived in heaven, voice and exit would be absurd. In other words, there is nothing necessarily moral about voice and exit.

My first problem with the response above is that it turns exit into something moral. It may be true that – all else equal – making exit easier will improve the quality of governance. However, this statement no way implies that if exit is impossible (a highly debatable assertion anyway), an entity’s actions become necessarily immoral. If there was a perfect government but exit was impossible, such a government would not be immoral.

My second problem is that exit – at root – is a cost, and all costs are subjective. It’s therefore impossible to discuss the cost of exit, as it differs for everyone. Let’s say that you really don’t like USG. Can you exit? Of course you can – I’ve known several people who have moved out of the US. To return to my initial argument about being hit in the head, there’s no way for anyone to know whether the cost to me of exiting the USG head-hitting is higher or lower than the cost of exiting the non-USG head-hitting.

I don’t mean to suggest that exit is not a useful concept. I do, however, mean to suggest that it’s not nearly as useful

Left libertarianism

April 29, 2011

I’ve been thinking a bit about left-libertarianism lately.

As I understand it, like libertarians, left-libertarianism don’t like government. However, they also don’t like other powerful non-governmental groups. The only ones they can generally think of are corporations and since lefties don’t like corporations, you get the “left” part of the left-libertarian. Also like leftists, and as a consequence of not liking power, they tend to wield the poor as a weapon with which to club their intellectual opponents.

I don’t consider myself a libertarian anymore. However, if people were like I wanted them to be instead of how they actually are, then I would agree that libertarianism would be the best form of government.

My problem with left-libertarianism is that my conception of what a libertarian world would look like is not leftist. If people were really free, there would be large companies. Certain people are really good at things, think Steve Jobs or John D. Rockefeller. In free competition with other people, they would win. They would therefore concentrate power. These concentrations of power might not last long, but I think it would take a lot of force (i.e. a lot of unlibertarianism) to prevent this from happening. Similarly, in a more libertarian world, I would seek to live near people more like me and to keep other people. All experience indicates that this is how people act. So, a more libertarian world would be a more discriminatory world. This doesn’t fit with left-libertarianism, so again, force would be necessary to ensure equality – or whatever word they prefer to use that means basically the same thing.

To put it as simply as possible: I don’t see a way of making the world more leftist, without using a lot of force.

Perhaps the problem here is that – as I said – libertarianism is not a realistic way to govern humans as they are but only if humans were as we would like them to be. Perhaps in imagining the type of beings that could live under a libertarian system of government, I’m simply not going far enough to imagine the type of person that could live under a left-libertarian government.

Randoms of the day

April 27, 2011

Dennis Mangan links to a study which finds: "The genotypic IQ decline will ruin the economic and social infrastructure needed for quality education, welfare, democracy and civilization. DRDS is currently unopposed politically, so existing fertility differentials may eventually lead to Western submission or civil resistance."

Democracy and lying.

A lot of free market types have spilled some ink on Roger Goodell’s op-ed in the WSJ yesterday defending the NFL’s current organizational structure. For example, here is Professor Bainbridge calling Goodell a commie. I think this is a really bad argument for libertarians. Baseball works in a more libertarian manner . . . and it sucks. Same for the NBA. Blasting the commissioner of the NFL because he wants to keep his product from sucking seems like a losing argument to me.

While I’m on the subject of bad arguments from libertarians, Radley Blako is having IRS problems. That sucks. But it sounds no different than any interaction with a large company.

I regret not keeping a list of all the things I’ve heard that will "destroy the financial system" since I’ve started working at a financial agency. In my head, whenever I hear that "policy X will destroy the financial system" I substitute "policy X is a good idea."

Kalim Kassam linked to this interview with Lee Kuan Yew a few times, it’s worth a watch.

John Derbyshire on libertarians.

Radical Democracy Punishes and Eliminates Beauty

Jim on democracy in the Ivory Coast:

The Ivory Coast illustrates the two great problems of democracy: The fact that bids for votes have no limit, since the politicians are bidding with the promise of stolen goods, and the propensity of governments, pursuing a cheaper vote, to elect a new people. A government composed of people native to the ivory coast elected a new people, a people not native to the ivory coast, and that new people, in turn, elected a new government, a government of tranzis in place of a government of people native to the Ivory Coast.

More on stupid people

April 27, 2011

In response to my last post, Aretae says:

Fundamentally, the Caplan claim is…as a rich person, what anyone else does to me is LARGELY within my control. Unless they’re some asshole government bureaucrat who relies on gun-wielding thugs to collect their salary in a rich part of town. Apart from those folks, your choices are your own.

There are lots of problems with this argument.

First “rich person” isn’t defined. It seems that no one who uses this term ever defines it. I’m partial to the claim that it’s basically a meaningless term in the US for all but a very few people (so few that they’re not really worth considering in situations like this one). Individuals’ incomes fluctuate during their lives and measurements of wealth are hard. As the WSJ notes today, we’re all a lot poorer now than we were 10 years ago if wealth is measured in gold. In general, I try to avoid using the term (though this could be a side effect of working in DC, were wealth is less valuable than power).

Second, I think the claim is wrong. By most people’s measures, my family is rich (our income is well over the President’s threshold of $250,000). If anyone is willing to spend their money to avoid stupid people, I am. So far I haven’t found any ways to get totally away from stupid people.

For example, I have to buy food. Going to the grocery store around my home is an adventure in stupidity. In general, I try to have as much of my food delivered as possible, but still, the delivery guy isn’t a rocket scientist and if too much stuff is left outside my house during the day, some dumbass will steal it.

Also for example, crime has negative externalities. Even if I can afford to protect my family (arguable), I can’t control it’s effect on my property values. The list goes on and actually impacts virtually every area of my life. No man is an island, so to speak.

Third, the argument consists of two sentences. The first tells me that I shouldn’t mind having my wealth effectively used up by the stupid people around me (implicitly, it suggests that the way I can cope with stupid people is by spending money to avoid them). The second tells me that I should mind having the government effectively use up my money. What’s the difference? In both cases, stupid people are making it so that I have less money. Why should I care if one set of the stupid people works for the government?

Finally, I can’t resist pointing out that the Caplan/Aretae claim is totally reasonable for someone living in Fairfax, VA or San Luis Obispo, CA (there, it’s true that you can generally avoid the one idiot in the village), but not for someone living in DC. Frankly, I find it pretty annoying that people who have moved as far away from stupid people as possible are tell others how easy it is to live around stupid people. It’s trivial to suggest that it’s easy to avoid stupid people when you don’t live near any.

What have dumb people done to me?

April 27, 2011

Bryan Caplan asks: “What did stupid people ever do to you?”

Steve Sailer points out that Professor Caplan is the one who wrote a book about how our political system doesn’t work if voters are stupid . . .

But leaving aside that obvious, humorous, and devastating re-tort, I think there are some additional answers to the question.

For example, unlike Professor Caplan the government entity that employs me is not located in Northern Virginia. Therefore, I am not allowed the opportunity of staying entirely outside DC on a daily basis (DC is filled with more people of a low IQ than Northern Virginia). So, stupid people force me to make a choice: 1) get a different job; 2) commute long distances in a car; or 3) live near stupid people. Most people that defend stupid people, like Professor Caplan, don’t live near them. I chose option 3), so I do.

My house is worth about $800,000. It would easily be worth over a million if it weren’t for stupid people who commit crime in the immediate areas around my house and who send their stupid children to the local schools thereby making them useless to non-stupid kids. I have additional costs associated with living around stupid people, which include payments on a security system, having to drive a crappy car, higher taxes for terrible services, etc.

Rarely does a day go by in which I don’t waste a significant amount of time waiting for a stupid person to do their (incredibly simple) job. Service in DC is run by stupid and they’re not very good at it.

At work, my office has a secretarial staff that is completely useless. It’s gotten to the point than I never ask them to do anything for me.

I long for the distant days in which my job would be relocated to a location in which the stupid people all lived far away and customer service was run by college students . . . unfortunately, those days have not arrived yet. At least for me.

Randoms of the past week

April 26, 2011

Sorry for the lack of content. I had a work trip last week (Florida) and then I a wedding last weekend. Frankly, the weather has also been pretty nice and I’ve spent some time enjoying my family. Nothing’s better than a good family life. In that post OneSTDV says, "The ironic thing is I do not plan on becoming a father – primarily because I don’t foresee myself being a good one. I know that’s a rather harsh admonishment of myself, but we deal in honesty at OneSTDV." I can’t speak from much experience – since my kid isn’t very old – but Iv’e taken to fatherhood much more quickly than I expected. To be honest, I expected to be unhappy with fatherhood until the kid(s) were about 4. Fortunately, it’s been great from the start.

Steve Sailer’s review of Bryan Caplan’s new book was the best thing I read all week.

Mr Roach:

The bane of our age is the popular view that we can think about politics in one way, contradict that thinking in our religious beliefs, act entirely differently in the realm of parenting or business, and then have artistic or music tastes that have no relation to any of the above.

School funding by race.

I should probably say something about that McDonald’s beating that happened last week. I found it pretty hard to watch. Imagine all those people standing around watching that happen. I’ve written about the interaction between gays/transgenders/whatevers and blacks before. They interact a lot, since the gays are generally the first to re-civilize urban areas that have been destroyed by large black populations. I find the interaction fascinating. I’ll be watching to see if this beating is considered a hate crime.

More reasons to act like a man.

Jim on the survival prospects of democracy.

On Saturday morning, I was looking out my front window. The first person to walk by was a black guy wearing a do-rag walking a non-neutered pit bull. The second person was a skinny young white guy pushing a unicycle. Gentrification is a strange process.

I a larger percentage of Koch’s employees vote Democratic than any Federal agency’s staff votes Republican.

The correlation between Presidents’ wealth and how much they’re liked by progressive scholars is -0.33. That’s a pretty solid correlated indicating that progressive scholars generally like wealthy Presidents.

The McDonald’s around me is pretty similar it has about 50 signs saying that they charge more money if customers want extra sauces.

Tino on "the rich."

According to the OECD, the top ten percent of American income earners pay 45% of taxes (this includes payroll taxes). In Sweden, the corresponding figure is only 27%, and in France 28% .

Keith Preston on the aristocratic left.


In Britain we have completely lost sight of the proper place of vulgarity in the moral and cultural economy. We have made it king when it should be court jester. It is funny and valuable only when it mocks pretensions to gentility and recalls cultivated people to the limitations of their earthbound condition. Without a contrast with something else, something that is not itself vulgar, it becomes merely unpleasant, crude and stupid. In these circumstances it exerts a corrosive effect on minds and manners because, while it takes no effort at all to be vulgar and unrefined where vulgarity and lack of refinement are almost universal, it takes effort to be urbane and refined.

Randoms of the day

April 19, 2011

Aretae on economists and engineers. As someone who was educated as an economist and an engineer, I have to disagree. Both disciplines teach you that life is about trade-offs. That was the fundamental lesson that one should take away from both. Unfortunately, modern economists now teach you that you can solve all your problems using "science" by which they’re referring to statistical analysis. You could make a strong argument that the financial crisis was caused by economic models and therefore by economic PhDs. These people are not characterized by their skepticism of their own ability to understand complex systems. If engineers built bridges like economists built models, people would regularly be falling through broken bridges.

OneSTDV asks if we’re all liberals now. As you know, my answer is "yes." Matthew Yglesias also links to a study which finds that the North fought to protect its manufacturing interests.

Steve Sailer wonders how SWPLs will keep black kids out of their schools (I’m paraphrasing). This has already started happening in my neighborhood in DC – but only at the elementary level. The biggest problem around me is increasing the critical mass of white people. If all the SWPLs actually sent their kids to the public schools, the public schools would probably be fine. DC allows kids to get into schools outside their immediate neighborhood through a lottery, so if you can get all the white kids in the neighborhood to actually attend the local school, you can keep others out. It’s taken about seven years of work, but the elementary schools around me are now usable for upper middle class kids. The parents that took over the elementary school just started taking over the middle school last year. Frankly, property values do most of the work of getting smart kids in the district. The next step is to draw specific boundaries for each school. The next step is to enforce the boundaries (a lot of kids whose families live in MD attend DC schools via a relative, b/c DC has free day care – getting the cops to crack down on this is hard work). The next step is convincing enough white people to send their kids to school.

A Stephen King short story in The Atlantic is actually pretty good. Some interesting thoughts on class too.

Lots more on authority

April 18, 2011

There’s been some serious blogging on authority going on in my favorite corner of the blogosphere. I’m going to try to react to all of it in one post – we’ll see how this goes – but if you only have the stomach for one response, read Devin’s and Why I am Not’s not mine. AMcGuinn also makes the point that I’m going to try to make below – our government has solved the same problems in particularly bad ways.

Aretae responds to my post. I’ll re-state and address his arguments below:

First, he argues that authority is unnatural:

Life in hunter-gatherer tribes is profoundly anti-authoritarian, and violently so. The closest picture we have to our Evolutionarily Stable Environment (modern hunter-gatherers) is one in which a tribesman attempting to take authority is a worse evil than patricide.

He always makes this argument and I don’t understand it. Life in hunter-gather tribes was also totally devoid of privacy, filled with murder, filled with rape, short, chaotic, violent, characterized by zero economic growth, etc. If it’s true that authority was absent in these societies, I would count that as a positive for authority. Also, I’m not sure there was no authority in these societies. I’ve been parts of lots of small groups and they all develop unofficial leaders. I’m prepared to state that no group of people throughout the history of time has every worked together completely equally. Nor do I see why it would be good if they had.

Second, he lists two big problems for the pro-authority side:

  1. Advocating more independence for group (a) that I belong to, and less independence for group (b) that I don’t belong to is properly seen as self-delusion 99% of the time, such that a rational person may well stop listening once he hears the conclusion…because the time to figure out how someone is convincing himself of why he should get preferential rules is just not worth it.
  2. It’s worth noting that in the near future (10 years?), it is likely that automation will catch the middle of the bell curve, just as it’s caught the left. Once that happens, all the arguments currently made for lack of authority for the lower IQ types also apply to the vast majority of the population. (Quick calc…Middle 2/3 + left 1/6 of the curve…about 83%). Arguing to free men that folks should be obedient only works when you’re talking about other people.

I don’t understand why an authority couldn’t treat different people differently. It’s really only in the last 40 or 50 years that anyone has seriously believed that government should treat everyone absolutely equally and even during this time it has specifically not do so (see affirmative action, for example). It’s not hard at all to treat different groups differently. Again, I would be willing to go to the other extreme and argue that no actual historical authority has ever treated all groups of people over whom it has authority absolutely equally.

This concept of "free men" has stopped making sense to me. People – as a mass – don’t really want to be free. There are exceptions here and there, but generally men want to be obedient to those they perceive as their betters. You can wish this isn’t so all day long, but if you can’t account for it in your theory of government, you’re theory will remain theory forever.

Why I am Not also responds. I agree with all of his post expect the beginning:

An authoritarian policy of crushing dissent is a weakness, not a strength, because it means that if visible dissent does occur, the regime’s legitimacy is threatened. Whereas by allowing dissent, liberal democracy defangs it, and normalises discontent. The anti-cuts protests in London would have brought down most governments in the Arab world; here in England, they are a blip on the radar.

If you want to have an authoritarian state, like the formalists and reactionaries, then you have to be willing to do more than just crush all obstruction to the smooth working of the state – you have to crush all visible expressions of dissent. This is where the costs are huge. That is why authoritarian states tend to be either brittle (succumbing to coup or revolution in times of trouble) or backwards (the huge costs of suppressing all dissent stifling all growth).

First, not all Authorities crush dissent. We think of modern America as a place in which dissent is tolerated, but we delude ourselves. You can’t criticize minorities while attending a university or holding most jobs. You don’t get shipped to the gulag if you speak "inappropriately" but I think it’s a stretch to argue James Watson or Larry Summers didn’t have their dissent crushed. I think a strong case can be made that all stable societies need to believe certain lies. Lies give rise to dissidents. Stable societies much crush the dissidents. The only tolerant societies are dead societies.

Again, I don’t think this problem is unique to reactionary or formalist societies. Think of the enemies of progressivism. In three wars, the Civil War, WWI and WWII the enemies of progressivism were destroyed at massive costs. Apparently, the costs of maintaining a "tolerant" society are also huge.

Aretae then responds to Devin by trying to draw a distinction between authority (which I guess he limits to the situation in which a government passes a rule) and something else which happens outside of government. So apparently, a boss has no authority over his subordinates because everyone can sever the employment agreement. I don’t get the distinction, to be honest.

Aretae then responds to Why I am Not by arguing that there in the modern system, it is not possible to exercise authority over rich people in very liberal places. As a rich person in a very liberal, I can assure you that this is not true (if only!). In fact, in the context of DC, he’s almost perfectly wrong, when he says: "90-99% of laws in NYC have no impact whatsoever on a rich liberal." The poor in DC are totally unaffected by laws, while the rich have to put up with schools that go from being decent to shitty, onerous historical preservation laws to contend with, crime, etc.