Review of “From Third World to First” by Lee Kuan Yew

April 30, 2012

Lee Kuan Yew was arguably the best statesman of the 20th Century. Lee’s claim to the title of best statesman of the 20th Century rests on his transformation of Singapore from a third world country into one of the world’s richest and most civilized countries and into a new type of political entity. But this obvious transformation in some ways masks his two larger contributions to statesmanship.

Everybody loves multiculturalism, but the dirty little secret of the multicultural society is that no one has any idea how to govern one. Lee’s Singapore is the first attempt to create a system of governance that seriously attempts to deal with the problems associated with a multi-racial/ethnic/religious society (hint: the answer is not more democracy). Lee’s solution is particularly interesting, since Singapore was a British colony and thus has the same basic legal foundations of other common law countries. To manage life in a diverse society, Singapore eliminated certain cornerstones of common law – including trial by jury and a free press. In short, many of the principles that we believe "protect liberty" may only do so in a homogenous society – jury trials and a free press, for example, in a diverse society may serve mainly to manufacture or highlight racial strife.

Lee’s second important contribution to statesmanship is that his Singapore served as a specific and very important purpose in the rise of China under Deng Xiaoping. Lee’s Singapore is wealthier than many Western countries (and it grew much more quickly). Lee had seemingly found a way to take the good bits of Western governments – particularly their economic dynamism – without taking the bad parts – particularly the high and unsustainable levels of welfare payments and the consequent moral degradation and disorder of society. In short, Singapore took a bunch of illiterate Chinese fishermen and created one of the wealthiest countries in the world and it did so without undermining values that are important to Chinese (and other) cultures. Deng saw something worth emulating, and China has subsequently grown at a dizzying rate. In Lee’s own words:

Confucian societies believe that the individual exists in the context of the family, extended family, friends, and wider society, and that the government cannot and should not take over the role of the family. Many in the West believe that the government is capable of fulfilling the obligations of the family when it fails, as with single mothers. East Asians shy away from this approach. Singapore depends on the strength and influence of the family to keep society orderly and maintain a culture of thrift, hard work, filial piety, and respect for elders and for scholarship and learning.

I stressed that freedom could only exist in an orderly state . . . In Eastern societies, the main objective is to have a well-ordered society so that everyone can enjoy freedom to the maximum. Parts of contemporary American society were totally unacceptable to Asians because they represented a breakdown of civil society with guns, drugs, violent crime, vagrancy, and vulgar public behavior. American should not foist its system indiscriminately on other societies where it would not work.

Very little of Lee, the man, emerges from this book – all we hear about is Singapore. There is a bit on his family in the beginning and the end, but he breezes through these sections as if he was required to write them by his editor. Throughout the book, Lee might take a few subtle jabs at Western political correctness – I couldn’t quite tell. For example, in the introduction he notes that the editor "also made me politically gender correct. Wherever I wrote ‘man,’ he has become ‘person’ or ‘people.’ I thank her for making me appear less of a male chauvinist to Americans." Is this just a statement of fact? Is he making fun of Americans for being so sensitive? I’m guessing the latter because there are several statements like this throughout the book, but it’s subtle enough that I can’t tell. If he is making fun of Americans, he also has a sense of humor similar to my own.

Lee took power in the largely-Chinese Singapore at a time when it was merging and then later splitting with Malaysia. Soon after the split, the British pulled out hastily from Singapore. Lee inherited a piece of land that was not really a country, that was populated by a mix of Chinese, Malaysians and Indians, that was Confucian and Muslim, and that was precariously positioned in a region that was succumbing to pressure by Communist forces. Other than that, everything was pretty good though!

The first thing Lee did when he took over was build a defense force. To do this, Lee turned to Israel and Switzerland for examples of how a small country should go about defending itself. The next think he did was ensure the safety and security of the country and provide a stable legal system.

Then next thing he did was introduce protectionism:

In 1965, a few months after independence, an economic planner whom the Indian government had seconded to us presented me with a thick volume of his report. I scanned the summary to confirm that his plans were based on a common market with Malaysia. I thanked him, and never read it again.

Lee had no intention of trading freely with anyone at first. He wanted everyone in Singapore employed (so they wouldn’t riot, among other reasons) and he didn’t want them competing with low-cost Malaysian labor. Singapore specifically protected cars, appliances, consumer electronics and other consumer goods. The protections were all phased out later, as national industries matured, the population got richer and better educated and other sources of employment became available.

Lee’s economic positions are hard to describe using labels. For example, he refers to himself as socialist several time: "We believed in socialism, in fair shares for all" ("Fair, not welfare"). Yet he goes on:

Watching the ever-increasing costs of the welfare state in Britain and Sweden, we decided to avoid this debilitating system. We noted by the 1970s that when governments undertook primary responsibility for the basic duties of the head of a family, the drive in people weakened. Welfare undermined self-reliance.

. . .

For nearly four decades since the war, successive British governments seemed to assume that the creation of wealth came about naturally, and that what needed government attention and ingenuity was the redistribution of wealth. . . . We have used to advantage what Britain left behind: the English language, the legal system, parliamentary government and impartial administration. However, we have studiously avoided the practices of the welfare state. We saw how a great people reduced themselves to mediocrity by leveling down.

. . .

The foundations for our financial center were the rule of law, an independent judiciary, and a stable, competent, and honest government that pursued sound macroeconomic policies, with budget surpluses almost every year. This led to a strong and stable Singapore dollar, with exchange rates that dampened imported inflation [the Singapore Dollar was always backed by 100% foreign currency reserves].

From there, Lee’s goal was to create the best organized country in the region:

Visiting CEOs used to call on me before they made their investment decisions. I thought the best way to convince them was to ensure that the roads from the airport to their hotel and to my office were neat and spruce, lined with trees and shrubs. . . . Without a word being said, they would know that Singaporeans were competent, disciplined, and reliable, a people who would learn the skills they require soon enough.

Indeed, Lee’s descriptions of the places he visits are often limited to the trip from the airport to his hotel room. By the time he gets to his room, he knows everything he needs to know about the country he’s visiting. Lee’s vision is still in effect in Singapore. In Singapore, you exit the plane, take short walk through an airport that looks brand new to a very efficient immigration counter, you get right in a cab that moves quickly down a beautiful road (the road looks impossibly well-maintained and the plants around the road look impossibly well-groomed yet I’ve never seen anyone maintaining either the roads or the plants – the city is also incredibly safe and I never saw a policeman or heard a siren).

Next, Lee dealt with the press. Around the time that Singapore separated from Malaysia, there were some race riots in Singapore. From then on, Lee was wary of the media. He seems to have believed that a totally free media would stir up racial animosity while providing little benefit. Obviously that’s not the case in the US media! The Communists were particularly active in sowing discord across groups, so he banned their publications.

A Singapore with a totally free press would have in the best case scenario been plagued by ethnic or racial or religious violence and in the worst case become an actual Communist country. Instead, it became what it is today and everyone is immensely better off.

Lee defends his policies by noting that totally free presses are highly over-rated. Lots of countries with free presses still have high levels of corruption. He also noted that in his dealings with the press, USG (specifically State) would get involved quickly. This made his suspicious.

Next, Lee focused on his population. I wrote more on that here. The short version is that it’s not an accident that Singapore is high on this list.

One of the reasons Lee was so successful was that he changed his mind quickly if something he tried didn’t work. For example, he instituted several programs to try to scatter people of the same race. However, no matter what he tried, the groups eventually recongregated. Instead of mandating desegregation, the Singapore government eventually changed election laws so that some minority representation was required and, for similar reasons, got rid of jury trials. This system combined with some geographic quotas on concentrations seemed to work.

The rest of the book turns to foreign policy, another area in which Lee was particularly adept. Lee seemed to find the US a frustrating ally. At times he seems to be openly mocking the apparent randomness of American foreign policy. He was also frustrated by American heavy-handedness. He sums up his view of Americans as follows:

I viewed Americans with mixed feelings. I admired their can-do approach but shared the view of the British establishment of the time that the Americans were bright and brash, that they had enormous wealth but often misused it. It was not true that all it needed to fix a problem was to bring resources to bear on it. Many American leaders believed that racial, religious, and linguistic hatreds, rivalries, hostilities, and feuds down the millenia could be solved if sufficient resources were expended on them.

. . .

They [i.e. American professors] were too politically correct. Harvard was determinedly liberal. No scholar was prepared to say or admit that there were any inherent differences between races or cultures or religions. They held that human beings were equal and a society only needed correct economic policies and institutions of government to succeed. They were so bright I found it difficult to believe that they sincerely held these views they felt compelled to express.

. . .

I learned to ignore criticism and advice from experts and quasi-experts, especially academics in the social and political sciences. They have pet theories on how a society should develop to approximate their ideal, especially how poverty should be reduced and welfare extended. I always tried to be correct, not politically correct.

Lee supported US involvement in Vietnam. Even following the war, he defended it, since it bought time for other Asian nations to build up their own defenses against the Communists

Perhaps the most interesting chapters in the book are Lee’s comparisons between Singapore and other countries. There are two that I will particularly remember: Ceylon and Hong Kong.

Ceylon and Singapore became independent commonwealth Commonwealth countries and both are island nations. Anyone looking at the two countries at independence would have bet that Ceylon had the brighter future. However, both countries had diverse populations and Ceylon pursued a more democratic route following its independence. Lee sums up the results: "During my visits [to Ceylon] over the years, I watched a promising country go to waste. One-man-one-vote did not solve its basic problem," which was ethnic conflict.

Lee’s contrast of Hong Kong and Singapore was also interesting. Hong Kong was in a position that prevented it from becoming an actual nation – doing so would have threatened China. Singapore, on the other hand, had not choice but to become a nation to avoid being swallowed by Malaysia. And it certainly did become a nation.


Randoms: backlog

April 30, 2012

Accountable government (if you like this blog’s one sentence message, you’ll like this article)

– You’ll also enjoy Sonic Charmer on regulation

Technology and crime

Dalrymple:

The people who want to flee Britain are not economic migrants. It is not high taxes that they object to (many want to move to France, where taxes are not low), but barbarism. They are cultural refugees in search of a more civilized homeland, where fewer people are uncouth or militantly vulgar.

– A gold standard may be coming. Look at it this way, you should buy gold to keep your savings safe from thieves.

Vox:

What we’re seeing here is the last desperate gasps of democracy as the new aristocratic age struggles to be born.

– The NYT discovered that WalMart does business in Mexico. My guess is that this same article could have been written about any company that does business in countries like Mexico. My wife’s old company specifically set aside money for bribes in Russia, for example.

This seems to match my own experience.

– Charlton on affirmative action.

– AnomalyUK on employment

Random thoughts from OneSTDV

Studies discovers that poor people aren’t very smart when it comes to eating healthy. I’m shocked. I wonder if poor people are also not smart in other areas of life.

– "I just discovered I might not be Hispanic, do I have to give up my benefits?" No. (Passed along by Percyval, who digs up a nice Trotsky quote here.)

– In unrelated news, I just discovered that I’m Hispanic.


To go mainstream or not to go mainstream

April 30, 2012

There was a bit of a dust-up recently (hat tip) about whether alt-right bloggers should go mainstream in reaction to Chuck’s recent move to the more mainstream, which itself was the consequence of his excellent coverage of the Martin-Zimmerman affair. I’m firmly in the "don’t go mainstream" camp.

I do everything to keep my readership at about the level that it’s currently at. If it gets higher, I stop blogging for a while, or I publish a bunch of posts at one time instead of spreading them out, etc.

As I’ve written elsewhere, with mainstream status comes a politically-correct muzzle. There are simply certain things you can’t say when you become mainstream. I’d prefer to be able to say what I want. I have no desire to get Derbyshired. With a few notable exceptions (e.g. Steve Sailer) I trust pseudonymous bloggers more than people that blog under their real name – you’ve got to be a little bit crazy to blog under your real name if you don’t censor yourself.

I always have and still do like Chuck’s website, but he recently engaged in some comments on white nationalism that highlight the concern associated with going mainstream. I happen to agree with Chuck’s points. I believe Chuck really believes his own points as well. I don’t mean to pick on Chuck at all. But, since he’s gone mainstream, I couldn’t help but wonder: If Chuck liked white nationalism, could he say so?


Randoms of the day

April 17, 2012

– Yglesias and Cheap Chalupas are having a pretty (unintentionally) hysterical back and forth (start here and go backwards) to try to determine who has higher SWPL status. It’s too close to call.

QOTD: "It will be this goddamn ‘Who Whom?’ question for the rest of your life, then you die."

– Larison on the democratic peace theory.

– Unamusement channels Carlyle


Randoms

April 16, 2012

Sweden is fscked up

So is Britain:

Case One concerns Caroline Pattinson (pictured above), an abuser of heroin, which is supposed to be illegal but isn’t in practice.

Pattinson, 34, has committed 207 crimes in 20 years.

These include 108 convictions for theft, many for cruel frauds on pensioners. But until last Tuesday she had never been sent to prison, except on remand.

Now that she has, she’s not worried. Why should she be?

On being sentenced to 30 months (of which she will serve at most 15 months), she mockingly called out: ‘Cushty! Easily done!’

Beyond Democracy (HT)

Heartiste: "In a future post I will explain why intelligent men need to learn game and start marrying and having kids with dumber but hotter chicks in order to save Western civilization." The Hilary Rosen thing was interesting, in part, because all the feminists were suggesting that only rich women can afford to raise their own children. However, feminism is the reason that most women have to work these days. This means that feminists argued that only rich women can escape the ravages of feminism, which is true but it’s a weird argument for a feminist to be making.

Vox interviews Derb.

Chuck thinks we should have debates: "I suggested on Twitter that I’d love to see a debate between John Derbyshire (or Steve Sailer) and someone like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jelani Cobb, or Toure." I don’t think that will work. A representative from the former group would actually make substantive points, while a representative from the latter group merely demand that – for making substantive points – the representative from the former group should be forced out of his livelihood. Debates about religious matters between non-believers and believers always degenerate into the latter group screaming "heretic!"

A scandal in the media

The IQ gene?

– Real science does not operate by rules like this. Real science, however, is apparently racist.

– "Heretics, Kulaks, and Witches:"

Soviet science took an odd turn that we today may find amusing. We shouldn’t.

According to [Soviet-approved biologist] Lysenko, there is no intraspecies competition, that is, there is no class struggle between members of the same species. On the contrary, all members of the same species "help" each other: "There is not, and cannot be, a class society in any plant or animal species. Therefore, there is not, and cannot be, here class struggle, though it might be called, in biology, intraspecies competition." (2)

It is to laugh? Sociologist Ann Morning, 2007:

Evolutionary biologist Joseph Graves (2001:5) claims, "Today, the majority of geneticists, evolutionary biologists, and anthropologists agree that there are no biological races in the human species," and reports that two American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) panels of philosophers, biologists, and social scientists have reached the same conclusion. (3)

Oops!


Randoms

April 11, 2012

Cheers to you, good sir

Activism vs. politics

– The Civil War was worse than we thought

– Here’s a long article on democracy that’s worth reading

The Deep Throat myth

Christianity is leftism

– A defense of excluding women (btw, since when did Forbes become the thought police?)

– Tyler Cowen has some thoughts on Singapore and Hong Kong


On mainstream economics

April 11, 2012

Aretae notes that "ALL" economists agree that "Gold standards are substantially bad for some important things."

In the trivial sense, this should be true. A good economist (like a good engineer) should acknowledge that everything has tradeoffs. The more interesting question is what we should conclude from the fact that virtually all mainstream economists vehemently oppose a gold standard.

My suggestion would be that we should conclude nothing.

– Mainstream economists get to choose other mainstream economists and support of the gold standard, by definition, means that you’re not qualified to be a mainstream economist. So, the fact that mainstream economists don’t like the gold standard is akin to the discovery that Catholic priests don’t like Martin Luther.

– Economists should be skeptical of counting heads. It’s much more interesting to look at how much someone’s opinion is worth. The average econ-blogger’s opinions on the gold standard costs $0. Jim Grant’s cost about $1000/year. I’m with Grant.

– As I understand mainstream economic thinking on fiat currency, mainstream economists believe that if a country has a fiat currency and issues debt only in said currency, the country is immune from default. In a trivial sense, this is true – reality doesn’t work that way though. (It’s also interesting that mainstream economists believe in the importance of independence of central banks, but they don’t see rising debts as a threat to central bank independence).

– For a decade or two, free market economists were on the ascent. The current mainstream faith in fiat currency has effectively reversed this ascent. If central planners can effectively manage the money supply, they should be able to manage anything. Apparently the Soviets only failed because they lacked fast computers and really good economists.


Sitting aside history, shitting our pants

April 11, 2012

That’s the motto of Rich Lowry’s National Review according to Heartiste. I can’t improve upon that.

What follows is likely to be a long post with some assorted thoughts on the Derbyshire affair.

1 – The affair is most interesting for what it tells us about the mainstream right.

We already know that the mainstream right is – by nature – ineffectual. Allow me to indulge in a few Moldbug quotes. In the first one, feel free to substitute "National Review" for "Cato Institute" (I don’t believe anything is lost, especially if you substitute "The New Republic" for "Brookings Institute" and "Taki Mag" for "LvMI"):

The permanent civil service is much larger than it looks. It is best defined as everyone involved in setting and implementing USG’s policies. When we realize that this includes the press, the universities, and the NGOsphere (the brilliant Richard North of EU Referendum, one of the few bloggers who really understands how the modern state works and has not been psychically shattered by the awful truth, describes a typical rat’s nest of EU NGOs here), we start to realize why the battle plays out as it does.

An excellent way to describe any system is to outline its fringes. A fine example of an entity on the fringe of the Polygon, but still within it, is the Cato Institute. Somewhere I had gotten the idea that Cato accepts government funds, but in fact it does not – its main sponsor is, of course, billionaire Charles Koch. (I thank Will Wilkinson for the correction.) But when you compare Cato’s homepage to that of the liberal Brookings Institute, a classic Beltway bandit, I think you can see how I was confused. I think an alien who understood English could eventually figure out the substantive difference between Cato and Brookings. But it would have to be one pretty sharp alien.

When we look at the homepage of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, which will be on the Orange Line just as soon as the Metro extends out to Alabama, we can see the difference. The purpose of LvMI is to propagate ideas. The purpose of Cato is to impact policy. Ie: to wield power. Power, of course, can be wielded for good as for ill. But Tolkien knew something about that.

I like Brookings’ motto: Quality, Independence, Impact. If anyone in Washington would sacrifice the third for the first two, ten others are ready to take his place. Impact is the true currency of DC. The social status of a Beltwayite corresponds directly to his impact. I suspect this is the real reason that LvMI is in Alabama: it has no impact, and hence no power. And its employees would constantly feel humiliated and scorned, like nerds at a jock party. This might not affect LvMI’s mission, but it would be distracting. Besides, Alabama is really cheap.

What Cato sacrifices for its impact is that the set of ideas it can propagate is, by any serious historical standard, enormously narrow. As we’ve seen in l’affaire Paul [and now l'affaire Derb], the great fear that haunts the Catonians at night is the fear of losing their legitimacy. Their impact would go with it. DC has no pity for cranks and crackpots. The result is a school of thought that can fairly be characterized as pro-government libertarianism [and pro-government conservatism].

Sadly, we have no reason to think that this Schlesingerian "vital center" has any correlation whatsoever with reality. The center defines itself in political terms, not intellectual terms. It is the belief of the average voter. Since the civil service invests most of its energy in managing public opinion, also known as manufacturing consent, the outcome is quite clear. As the center drifts inexorably leftward, fueled by nothing more than the raw personal ambition of a thousand thousand Brookingsites, the likes of a Cato [and National Review] must drift with it – or be excluded from the policymaking process. Cato has minimal cognitive independence, unless of course it confines itself to today’s goodthink.

This is why we see the level of raw hatred and arrogance that the Orange Line Mafia aims at its redneck rivals. Progressives can be debated with. Paleoconservatives are dangerous cranks who must be ostracized. Cato regularly features progressive essays on its Cato Unbound series. You will never see an LvMI paleo there – let alone a real live racist, like Jared Taylor – and if you did the progressives would vanish at once. As would the impact. The invisible procession, going by.

Whereas the cranks over at lewrockwell.com – and there is a lot of serious craziness and pure stupidity that appears there, on a daily basis – can think and say whatever the hell they want. Defend the Confederacy? Why not? Probably no one at Cato wants to defend the Confederacy. But in their hearts, they know that even if they wanted to, they couldn’t. And this has got to burn.

I mean, how long has Jeff Davis been dead? What sensible person could possibly care? How can you carry around an emotional attachment to a 150-year-old war? Talk about lunacy.

The really sad thing is that the Orange Liners can only feel like they have impact because DC, being utterly sclerotic and impossible to change, has defined impact down to levels derisory to anyone outside the bubble. On Cato’s impact page, they list precisely one success: school vouchers in Washington, DC. [as you can tell, this is a bit out of date, as this "impact" has since been undone]. Well, knock me over with a feather. But really, by Beltway standards, this is not bad for 30 years and 100 million dollars – especially when the product you have to push is an inherently nasty and pointless one, like small government. It’s hard to sign people up for abolishing their own jobs.

More analysis will follow, but it’s all basically just a footnote to this piece.

Like Cato, National Review wants power – it wants to impact policy. The official debate, however, is limited by terms laid out by progressives. Therefore, for National Review to retain some tiny morsel of power, National Review must essentially become leftist. Allow me one more quote:

The left is one vast alliance – proverbially, a leftist sees no enemies to the left, and no friends to the right. So doesn’t the rightist see no friends to the left, and no enemies to the right? The left has a party line. Doesn’t the right? The left is full of people who have obviously mortgaged their souls for power. But isn’t the right?

For example, it’s very easy to excuse the relationship between Bill Ayers and Barack Obama, when you realize that Dick Cheney is a longstanding personal friend of Klaus Barbie.

If you actually know anything about the American right, you realize that it is a tiny pimple on the ass of the American left [if this pimple had a name, it would rhyme with Lich Rowry]. For one thing, the right has no Rockefeller or Carnegie or Guggenheim. (It had a Pew and a Ford, but the money was stolen.) On the right, the most blatant acts of desperate corruption, extracting the most grudging of contributions from the most disreputable of sources, yield a tiny, sporadic creek of cash, like the dribble of an 85-year-old man.

Whereas on the left, heaven pisses money like an African bull elephant. You’ll see this pattern whenever you compare the two apples-to-apples – for example, compare the funding for anti-green research to the funding for pro-green research. Or compare the political affiliation of celebrities, a fine proxy for the feelings of the ultra-rich.

The official, mainstream conservative (I prefer the term court-conservative) is therefore an extension of the left. Rich Lowry does not operate by the same principles in reverse that Richard Just operates by, Rich Lowry operates by exactly the same principles that Richard Just operates by. This is a perfect recipe to ensure that Rich Lowry is permanently ineffective. If Lowry didn’t exist, Richard Just would have to invent him.

2 – Another fun exercise would be to take Moldbug’s questions for orange line libertarians and apply them to court conservatives. What’s the New York equivalent of the orange line? Anyway, here are the questions, it’s pretty easy to see how they apply to the present situation. I’ve edited them to apply in this case (my apologies to Moldbug for destroying his text). So, here are questions for Rich Lowry, whoever runs Breitbart, etc.:

1. Which is worse, racism or socialism? Why? [Do take a minute to read Wilkinson's response in Moldbug's comment section.  Apparently the comment is actually Wilkinson and not someone attempting to parody his own thought.  In short, he refuses to answer this question.]

2. Can you imagine living in a world in which socialism was politically incorrect? In other words, in which any comment which even hinted that socialism might be a good idea instantly reminded the listener of the Holodomor, and exposed the commenter to social ostracism, professional destruction, civil and perhaps criminal liability?

3. Define "crimethink." Do you find this concept useful? Do you believe that it should apply to racism, socialism, neither, or both?

4. Which government was worse: the Soviet Union under Stalin, or the Republic of South Africa under P.W. Botha? [Or Zimbabwe when it was Rhodesia and not starving] Why?

5. Who knows more about human genetics? You, or Francis Crick? Discuss.

6. Do you believe that intellectuals, such as yourself, should write and debate under the theory that American public opinion [I'm taking American public opinion to mean official public opinion] is generally right until proven wrong? How do you reconcile this with the fact that American public opinion generally sees [conservatives], such as yourselves, as a bunch of freaks, cranks and nutcases? Do you consider changing this perception the primary objective of your efforts? Does this ever conflict with just saying what you think? And if so, which wins?

7. Do you find the term "[court conservative]" at all pejorative? If so, with what term would you prefer to describe yourselves? Would "responsible [conservative]" do? If so, do you find anything odd in the fact that so many responsible [conservatives] work for the US government or institutions it sponsors?

8. Do you agree or disagree with this quote from Georgi Arbatov?

I pay tribute to the courage and fearlessness of those who, like Andrei Sakharov, risked taking an uncompromising stand… These people were heroes, even martyrs. And if they had not done what they did, I think the changes in our country would not have gone forward so quickly. But had it not been for the many hundreds and thousands who worked inside the system, fought routine skirmishes, tried to stop the pressure of Stalinist conservatism, and defended and promoted the ideas of democracy and peaceful economic reform, the process of revitalization would not have been possible at all.

9. Do you expect that, if the present American system of government is ever defeated by a [conservative] movement, you will find yourself, like Arbatov, perceived as a "spokesman at best and toady at worst for the regime"? Or do you expect to be praised and feted for your work inside the system?

10. Do you [write all your columns from the suburbs]?

3 – Another fun exercise would be to troll the interwebz for posts that are functionally equivalent to the one that Derbyshire wrote but that didn’t cause hysterics on the left. I’d start with this one.

4 – Conservatives like to mock speech codes at universities. However, it’s now pretty clear that mainstream conservatives operate by speech codes. It’d be a useful exercise for someone to write down the speech code of court-conservatism. At least progressives at universities have the balls to explicitly state the ways in which their thought processes are limited – court conservatives should do the same.

5 – Ariston asks, "Would any paper today hire an H.L. Mencken, despite a Mencken–like mastery of the English language, if his views were just as divergent from the norm as Mencken’s were in his time?" The implicit – and correct – answer is "no."

6 – I’m not enough of a dick to be a progressive.

I disagree with the vast majority – well over 99% – of things written on the internet. I think much of it makes the world a worse place, as most of it is designed to limit serious discussion or signal the status of the writer (or both). Despite this, it’s never crossed my mind to wish that the writers of such drivel were fired and barred from practicing their trade. As has been said elsewhere, "it used to be that if someone expressed an opinion you didn’t like, the proper response was to endeavor to refute it." I guess in this area, as in so many others, I’m hopelessly behind the times.

When I read Nineteen Eighty-Four, I thought the discussion of thoughtcrime was creepy. Apparently most people thought, "that’s a good strategy."

7 – I should write less about race

In my daily interactions with people, I have a certain amount of immunity on racial issues. People who spend long periods of time in traffic to cross multiple natural barriers to leave the city can’t really call me out on racial issues since I live in a very diverse neighborhood. Very politically correct people will often say that they couldn’t live where I live because of the crime (apparently their internal translators don’t work like mine). My kid has a black nanny who’s basically a member of our family at this point. I work with lots of black people every day. We have family friends that are in mixed marriages, etc.

Unlike many race realists, I do not believe that the only solution to racial strife is separation of the races. I think we can, indeed, all get along. It’s just not going to happen in the leftist-fantasy-land sort of way. It’s only going to happen when we all accept the basic realities of the situation, which would require a transition to a much more judgmental and hierarchical society.

Anyway, my immunity doesn’t necessarily transfer to online writing. If people wanted to believe retarded stuff, I don’t really care. People have believed retarded things for a long time and nothing I say will ever change that. Derbyshire has been awesomely unwilling to back down, but I have no desire to martyr myself for truth. Mencken was right when he said: "The truth, indeed, is something that mankind, for some mysterious reason, instinctively dislikes. Every man who tries to tell it is unpopular, and even when, by the sheer strength of his case, he prevails, he is put down as a scoundrel." The more I think about it, the more I can’t come up with a good reason not to just lie like everyone else – at least outwardly.

8 – One of the more serious refutations of Derbyshire’s piece was this post from Noah Millman. First, he argues with Derb’s stats:

To be a good application of statistical common sense, it’s not enough to know that, for example, crime rates (on average) are higher in majority-black neighborhoods. You’d need to know that the disparity was large enough, and the variance around the average small enough, so that following such a rule would actually be a decent heuristic; not to mention that there were no more finely-grained heuristics available and that the cost of applying such a sweeping heuristic in terms of the loss of experience of life and its manifold pleasures was not prohibitive.

I think Derb linked to data that would allow you analyze variance, etc. I wonder why Millman didn’t bother . . .

There’s a housing project in my neighborhood (it’s 100% black as best I can tell). A few years back, they put bars on the outside of the project. The bars are designed to keep people out. In order to get in, you have to go to one of two gates. Crime dropped dramatically after they put up the bars and clearance rates went way up. After a crime is committed, cops no longer bother to chase suspects, they just go to the two gates and wait. Almost all the time, the criminal(s) eventually shows up. Millman’s welcome to walk by the project a few times to see how long it takes for him to get hassled, if he wants to test his theory though.

Millman also notes that he doesn’t live in a majority-black neighborhood (see below). If he really believed that criminality in black-neighborhoods wasn’t worse, why wouldn’t he live in a majority-black neighborhood? They’re cheaper and in lots of cities they’re centrally located. Generally, these neighborhoods are cheaper "because of the crime." If Millman has spotted a market inefficiency, it’s sort of odd that he didn’t try to capitalize on it, no?

Still, it’s pointless to debate these theories. If Millman’s right, these maps wouldn’t the way they actually look. If Derbyshire is right, they’d look exactly the way they’d look.

Later Millman says:

I live in Brooklyn. I love living in Brooklyn. Do I live in a majority-black neighborhood? No. But there’s a large, majority black neighborhood right across the park from me. We share the park. Derbyshire’s advice to me and to my son is, effectively: don’t go to the park. Or, alternatively, don’t live in Brooklyn. But why? Does Derbyshire know what the crime statistics are like in my part of Brooklyn these days? Is he really that fearful?

His characterization of Derbyshire’s advice is wrong (his actual advice is to leave the park if the park is filled with an unusually large number of blacks that Millman doesn’t know – I’m willing to bet Millman would follow such advice).

I do live in a (slightly) majority-black neighborhood. Millman should have the decency here to admit that our neighborhoods (which are similar) aren’t normal by any standards. If the average house, for example, costs more than half a million dollars you’re not exactly in a normal black neighborhood. My kid plays with black kids in the park all the time, but if you look at the statistics, the sort of black kid who walks across the street from his $650,000 house to play with his biological father in the park isn’t exactly representative of statistical averages.

9 – Read the interviews of Derb here and here

10 – One thing that most everybody (other than perhaps here) has missed is that it’s possible that only a foreigner would be surprised by the reaction to the article, as Derb apparently was. Americans are uniquely squirmy about race. I hang out with Europeans regularly, and it never takes long for a racist comment or two to be slipped into the conversation. No other Europeans flinch. Americans react like Rich Lowry.


Randoms of the day

April 7, 2012

– Happiness studies suggest that being Amish makes you just as happy as being a billionaire.

– More on The Talk (this post puts the article in context in a helpful way)

– Totally unrelatedly, here’s a list of offensive stuff Marion Barry has said. That list leaves off my favorite: "Outside of the killings, DC has one of the lowest crime rates in the country." (In addition to being absurd, it’s completely not true).

– If I understand this correctly, then "voice forensics" is basically bullshit, is that right?

Monarchy news round-up


Further proof that democracy is retarded

April 7, 2012

According to democracy, Vodka is the dominant spirit. I would have agreed . . . until I turned 17 and discovered other drinks besides Mountain Dew and vodka.

If you’re starting a bar, all you really need is gin and scotch. If you want something else, add Rye or Bourbon. As for liqueurs, all you need is vermouth – both sweet and dry. Spend the money for the nicer vermouth.

And for God’s sake, if you have vodka in your house, donate it to some thirsty high-schoolers.