The Gray Lady is clueless on what is to be done. What is most notably wrong with this picture?
She shares a crowded, mouse-infested room with her parents and seven siblings, who sleep doubled up on torn mattresses.
By the time Mr. Bloomberg was elected, children made up 40 percent of shelter residents.
Does it ever occur to NY Times reporters and editors that really really poor people shouldn't have 7 kids? [edit: 8 kids] That's the most glaringly obvious fact that ought to merit comment. I mean, just what happens in the minds of the reporters and editors who work on a story like that one? The "War On Poverty" commenced in the 1960s. How's that working out kids?
If you read the article pay attention to how many government employees pop up in the story. Shelter operators, teachers, shelter inspectors, shelter janitors, teachers, and others. These poor folks are living in deep government of a very affluent and very liberal city which strongly supports the welfare state. How is that working out?
The Left will make no headway against poverty by limiting their use of reason.
Update: There is a pointlessness to most of mainstream political debate because it rarely gets anywhere near the evidence about underlying assumptions. What causes some people to do terribly in life? This has been researched. But the Left doesn't want to know the answers.
The police in Iceland have killed a man for the first time in Iceland police history. How can the violent crime rate in Iceland be so low that police use of deadly force hasn't occurred before? An expert confesses to not have a good answer.
Frankly, there is no perfect answer as to why Iceland has one of the lowest violent crime rates in the world.
Here are some factors that probably play a role.
First off, the small population of 300k people are closely genetically related. All else equal, people who are genetically related feel more loyalty and a stronger bond to each other. Plus, a small population means there is less anonymity. People are far more likely to know each other. The strange other is a less common experience for people living in Iceland.
The closely genetically related small population have a smaller difference in average income partly because the hierarchy is just not that big. So inequality is less than what is possible in a far larger population. Plus, the level of ability varies over a much smaller range than is the case with a genetically more diverse population. The smaller range of innate ability not only decreases economic inequality but also means that more people think at the same level and so have more common views. A genius and a low IQ person are going to have bigger differences in how they conceptualize the world and what they decide is important. Plus, the country can't have many parallel subcultures.
Iceland is a harsh environment and survivng there required substantial planning cooperation for centuries. It seems likely that the environment selected (both genetically and socially) for attributes that enabled cooperation and pro-social behavior.
We need really cheap genetic sequencing done on a massive scale and correlated with behavior to identify all the potential genetic causes of lower crime. But given the large role that biology plays in causing criminality it seems very likely that biology plays a big role in making Iceland a safer place than almost anywhere in the world.
Iceland undermines one popular simple theory on violence: The 90k of guns owned in the 325k Iceland population isn't leading to much killing. Why is that? Hey Icelanders you are messing up a simple narrative on the evil of guns. How dare you!
At 0.3 murders per 100,000 Iceland is still more dangerous than Hong Kong. But 17 countries or islands have at least 100 times the murder rate of Iceland. In a more rational world the search for root causes would be bigger and faster.
My greatest pleasure from reading the Gray Lady is that New York Times articles cover so many topics that are ripe for reframing. Take, for example, this story above a movement for $15 per hour fast food worker wages. Gotta say: great idea! But most of the benefits come from reasons the Gray Lady is not going to mention.
The benefits, oh the wonderful benefits:
- The public health benefit: Since fast foods are harmful higher prices will discourage people from eating them.
- Smaller welfare state: People who make more money will qualify for fewer social welfare programs. We net taxpayers will save money. The Gray Lady's article actually mentioned this benefit.
- The immigration benefit: The average skill level of immigrants will go up when the supply of low skilled jobs suitable for low skilled immigrants gets radically curtailed by high prices.
- The innovation benefit: High prices for labor are a great incentive for innovation. Look at what manufacturing unions did to boost investments in equipment that raises productivity.
- Cheaper restaurants in the long run: The automation of food preparation will ultimately lead to cheaper restaurants (so, yes, the public health benefit will be transitory).
Curiously, I expect a high minimum wage to shift some Hispanics against immigration because a a high minimum wage will reduce the supply of jobs they can do even as it boosts the pay for those jobs. It is less clear to poorly paid people that they are in competition with immigrants. They just know they are paid little. But cut the supply of jobs and suddenly they'll see immigrants as competing with them for the limited supply of jobs.
Ron Unz is putting a $12 per hour minimum wage referendum on the California state ballot. While $12 doesn't deliver as big a benefit as $15 it is a big step in the right direction. So go Ron! He reveals just how low paid Hispanics are in America:
Hispanics would gain the most, with 55 percent of their wage-workers getting a big raise and the benefits probably touching the vast majority of Latino families.
Ron's own op-ed in the Gray Lady avoids mention of immigration . However, Bruce Bartlett points out that back in 2011 Ron made clear the impact of a higher minimum wage on immigration.
Ron's ballot initiative has generated a huge debate which he reports on. If this initiative passes in California my hope is that others will put higher minimum wage initiatives on the ballot in other states. Many Western states allow direct ballot initiatives. Oregon, Arizona, and Colorado seem like obvious candidates for a higher minimum wage ballot initiative.
While the New York Times bills the decline of wages of the lower classes in Europe as the Americanization of European labor policy it totally misses the deeper cause: open borders within Europe have enabled the high wage countries (especially Germany) to brain drain the lower wage and less skilled periphery. The brain drain is going to drive down the periphery much further.
A clever European leader would be someone who can figure out how to make their country the destination for brains. For example, if I was the Prime Minister of Spain I'd be looking at policies that pull in the smartest people in Latin America. Brain drain all the smart Spanish speakers. Portugal should try to do the same with Brazil.
Ireland probably has the best position from which to try this strategy. English language makes it a far more attractive destination for those who already know the international language of business and who do not want to learn German. The Irish should shape their tax and immigration policy to pull in companies that will brain drain the world for top software engineers who want to lower taxes. When I say top software engineers really I mean that. An ideal immigration policy aimed at brain draining should require scoring high on an IQ test (125 IQ at least) as a condition of entrance.
You might think the Irish will want Ireland to remain, well, Irish. Fair enough if that's what they want. But they need to worry about how to avoid getting more brain drained themselves. They need a critical mass of brain workers in order to provide their own native born brains with job prospects. Else their native smarties will go to Britain or the United States. Essential synergies comes from large concentrations of brains.
The country in southern Europe with the best weather (and which one is that anyway?) could try to make their country the best place for high tech workers and companies that do not need to be inside the German economy and who want to avoid the cold winters. But I doubt that any national government will pursue a strategy nakedly aimed at getting high IQ workers.
So if you are a national leader of an EU country how to keep out the migrating dumb workers who are already inside the EU? High minimum wage and no welfare benefits for non-natives. Also, aggressive policing against parasites. Also, tax incentives for low wage service industries to automate. Or just tax low wage service industries out of existence.
Angela Merkel is making a great move by introducing a minimum wage of of €8.50 an hour in 2015. This will reduce the lure of Germany as a destination for poor migrating low skilled workers. I think of €8.50 an hour doesn't go far enough. of €12.50 an hour would be great. Germany would be headed on course toward becoming an even stronger brain magnet. Plus, German industry would do much more innovating to automate low skilled service work.
The current migration “is mostly the skilled part of the population,” said Massimiliano Mascherini, a research manager at Eurofound, a European Union research agency. “It is alarming for the countries that young people are leaving, and it should be a big source of concern for their governments.”
Germany, Britain, and the Nordic countries are sucking in the engineers and doctors.
The birth dearth is catching up the more technologically advanced northern European states with more engineers retiring than are entering the market. While young people in Europe face high double digit unemployment rates the numbers of engineering openings keep growing.
But EURES, the European jobs and mobility portal set up for job seekers in the European Union (EU), which provides job vacancy information in 31 European countries (the EU’s 27 member states and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland), reports that the list of new vacancies for “high-skilled” labor increased significantly in 2012 compared to the previous year, from 18.6 to 24.3 percent.
Any unemployed young European who is smart enough to study engineering but failing to do so is making a big mistake.
Update II: Let me clarify one point: The so-called Americanization of European labor policy isn't really being driven by an influence by America. What's really happening at the bottom end: the demand for less skilled labor is in sharp decline in all industrialized countries. The Europeans can either let wages fall or let employment of less skilled labor decline faster than it already is. Between automation and competition from abroad the old social compact does not stand a chance for low skilled workers except in occupations that can't be moved abroad. At the same time, demand for workers with more valuable skills (notably engineering) is on the rise.
Cato was one of the leaders in the Roman Republic who maneuvered Julius Caesar into a position where his only choices were to either get convicted of a crime by the Senate (thereby losing all power, possibly his life, and with his best outcome a life in exile) or to overthrow the Republic. Caesar's decision was not surprising. His ability to execute on his decision was also not surprising. Caesar was an incredible dynamo, a great leader of men who inspired intense loyalty and devotion in those he led. Cato, by contrast, was a fool. He helped accelerate the death of the Republic.
Caesar not only overthrew the Republic but also governed better than the elected officials and Senators who he marginalized. The outcome was rule by emperors for centuries.
The Republic was corrupt with widespread bribery in court cases and in votes on laws and policy decisions. The Republic's voters were whipped into passions by demagogues. The elected officials and members of the Senate were corrupt, short-sighted, and lacked sufficient virtue.
Cato serves as an inspiration for the modern day Libertarians at the Cato Institute. They look up to a guy who overplayed his hand in a Rome where few deeply shared his principles and views. Cato's views found even less support among the native peoples in most of the conquered lands which the Romans ruled. Does this sound familiar?
Why are open borders Libertarians wrong on immigration? For reasons similar to why Cato was wrong about Caesar: a refusal to acknowledge that pursuit of unachievable ideals can result in worse outcomes.
Caesar, an amazingly accomplished Roman, a huge benefit to the Republic, did not deserve the ruin that Cato wanted to visit upon him. Some Romans (e.g. Caelius) saw that the strategy of Cato and his allies courted disaster for the Republic. But Cato apparently took it for granted that the Republic would survive, rather like modern day Libertarians at the Cato Institute think that an open borders immigration policy will not undermine support for freedom in the domestic population.
What Libertarians can't get their minds around: they are outliers. They are statistical outliers. They support an immigration policy that will make them even more statistical outliers. See figure 4.2 which shows why libertarians are demographic road kill. Immigrants are less libertarian than the native born. So the Cato Institute supports policies that turn libertarianism into road kill.
My fear for America is that as the attributes that serve as the foundations for American exceptionalism continue to fade in the general population America will become less exceptional and less free. The Leviathan will grow and the extent of its control over us will grow as well.
Check out this interactive graph of migrations by state. The Northeast is losing people, with the exception of New Hampshire and Rhode Island. The Midwest is losing. North Dakota is getting a flow into their booming oil shale fields. The Rockies and Northwest have influxes. The outflux from California (thanks immigration) continues. The Southwest (excepting New Mexico) is getting an influx. The Southeast is getting an influx.
Causes: a migration toward warmer weather enabled by air conditioning. A flow toward lower tax and lower cost Republican states. Also, a native flight away from the immigration flood.
The flow toward Republican states will eventually turn many of those states into higher tax and higher cost places. We are running out of places to flee to.
What I'd like to know: where are the high IQ people migrating? Silicon Valley is an obvious destination. Ditto NYC. But are there net migrations of smart native born to these places? Or just migrations at early stages of careers with many eventual migrations to areas with lower living costs?
I would especially like to know whether smart people are concentrating anywhere that has low housing costs and low taxes.
This seems like it matters. Are people getting as much propaganda as they used to? Granted, the propaganda portion of grade school and high school teaching has probably gone up as older teachers die off and younger teachers with education school indoctrination take their places. But people aren't watching as much TV. How to maintain propaganda flow into minds of those who have left school?
Propaganda in situation comedies and other TV shows might have risen in the same period. Can that compensate for the decreased TV news viewing?
It is possible that the level of propaganda coverage in 1980 was far in excess of what was needed. So here's what I want to know: Do you see any signs that the elites are losing control of the range of acceptable views? Are they losing control of the Overton window?
I'd like metrics to measure changes in the Overton window. Which elite positions are losing traction? Which are holding firm or expanding their hold on mainstream debates, law, and norms?
My guess is that smarter people have abandoned the boob tube more than dumber people. Smarter people are out reading articles and blog posts on the internet more. How many of them are reading content that is contrary to the messages the elites want us to believe? How big an impact have heretical information sources had on thinking of the upper middle class?
Americans living abroad are having a harder time getting bank accounts as some banks decide the US Internal Revenue Service reporting requirements on foreign bank accounts are not worth the trouble. This is one of the reasons why the number of American citizens renouncing citizenship has surged. The tax law change is making it harder for US citizens to do work and do business abroad.
In addition to complaints about the reports to the IRS, expats say the law is prompting several overseas banks and financial institutions to close out longstanding accounts of American clients, refuse to open new ones, and deny loans and mortgages to expats rather than face a U.S. penalty if they don’t comply with the tax law.
The Leviathan must be fed. That is the long and the short of it. The Leviathan must be fed. The Leviathan will go to any lengths to get food for its growing ravenous appetite. You really can't argue with the Leviathan. Your only potential option is to escape the impacts it has on you in any way possible. Your circumstances and creativeness will determine your options for partial or full escape.
Many countries do not tax their citizens who are living abroad. US citizenship comes with a heavy (and rising) cost for those who are most skilled and productive. The people who renounce are insulted by the impositions placed on them by a distant government.
I am reminded of Cicero and other Roman citizens fleeing into exile. The same thing happened with leading citizens of Greek city states, sometimes driven into exile by a flurry of lawsuits aimed at cutting them down in political battles. The late Roman Republic especially seems relevant to understanding what is going wrong in America today. We have the same playing to the masses by promising them goodies and the same intensifying competition for power.
We are losing the sense of common identity and interests are diverging as the country becomes more diverse ethnically and in the ability and willingness of its residents to play the role of citizens.
Writing in The Weekly Standard Charlotte Allen has a great (really, read it) piece about how Silicon Valley shows us our future: Silicon Chasm: The class divide on America’s cutting edge.
No middle class, unless the top 5 percent U.S. income bracket counts as middle class.
In other words, what is coming is the “new feudalism,” a phrase coined by Chapman University urban studies professor Joel Kotkin, a prolific media presence whose New Geography website is an outlet for the trend’s most vocal critics. “It’s a weird Upstairs, Downstairs world in which there’s the gentry, and the role for everybody else is to be their servants,” Kotkin said in a telephone interview. “The agenda of the gentry is to force the working class to live in apartments for the rest of their lives and be serfs. But there’s a weird cognitive dissonance. Everyone who says people ought to be living in apartments actually lives in gigantic houses or has multiple houses.”
An important point in the article: America's new technological giants and money making machines employ very few people. A few tens of thousands don't count for much as compared to the hundreds of thousands employed by many American industrial giants when they were at their peaks. Even today GM employs more than the top 5 Silicon Valley companies combined.
What I want to know: Will the shrinking of the middle class and the use of greater quantities of imported labor cause some sort of popular reaction that will move the Overton window and enable changes in policy that will at least slow the decline of the middle class? Or will current trends continue unabated? I have no idea.
While techno-optimists foresee a coming golden age for the masses where robots make us all much more affluent my guess is that the robots won't work for the poor masses and capitalists will move capital and the most skilled workers to smaller nations. In other words, the masses might eventually gain the ability to vote for greater amounts of wealth redistribution. But the people they will want to redistribute from will have decamped for friendlier tax systems by the time that happens.
I think the key challenge for the upper class in the future is to carve out political systems they can control without any threat from mass democracy and in areas which have great weather. They need a place they can control which is like coastal California or Coastal Chile but without much native population. Where can they do this?
Can we teach men not to rape, as some argue? A: You can try to teach people to make ethical judgments. Telling a rapist not to rape? [Laughs] A liberal ideology is out there that people are basically good. It’s a bourgeois version of reality—this idea that the whole world should be like a bourgeois living room and anyone who doesn’t belong, you can retrain. No you can’t! I was raised in the Italian working-class way, which is “watch out!” The world is a dangerous place. It’s up to you to protect yourself, not just from rape, but from anything. The lack of imagination for criminality amazes me. There are people who are evil. The problem here is the inability of women to project themselves into the minds of men.
My guess is that the biggest proponents of diversity would be shocked if they were given mind-reading ability and could find out just how diverse people are in their desires, impulses, and loyalties.
A 71 year old woman in Boston, who was about to move into a shelter because she couldn't afford heating oil, got reprieve from a charity which bought her some heating oil. Her idea of inconvenience to make the heating oil last longer: 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
"I'm trying to be very careful to keep my thermostat low, to around 68 degrees inside," she said.
The idea of putting on lots of heavy clothes and lowering the thermostat much farther doesn't occur to her? The lower classes are increasingly dysfunctional and I expect more bread and circuses.
America is a problem that can not be solved. Parts of Europe are looking that way too. Theodore Dalrymple watches the Paris and London police ignore real crime while they enforce laws of little consequence against the well behaved.
The contrast between the authorities’ alacrity on one hand in preventing innocent filming for a matter of a few minutes (the policeman said authorization was necessary because it might cause a disturbance, and, being kind, I refrained from laughing), and on the other their slow response to a nasty incident that might have ended in murder, was emblematic of the modern state’s capacity to get everything exactly the wrong way around, to ascribe importance to trivia and to ignore the important. There are, of course, many more employment opportunities in trivia, since there is much more that is trivial in the world than is important.
Also recommended: Fred Reed's Notes on the Pussification of America. Will this end at some point?
Also, Education Realist has an interesting essay about the 3 major mainstream positions of school reformers who battle each other. She ends on a very optimistic note.
Finally, this: eventually, all three reform positions will realize that they can’t have what they want, that our schools aren’t failing, that their expectations are ludicrous.
I do not share her optimism. My own version of an optimistic outcome: very sophisticated software will take over more teaching work and this will enable smarter people to get their kids educated at home regardless of what deluded reform movements the tabula rasa believers continue to spawn. Basically, do not expect the quality of governance to improve in America. The most important question: how to escape from the consequences of America's decay?
Francesca Borri, an Italian journalist in Syria who hides her foreign identity under a hijab, says the rebels spend their time battling each other and enforcing sharia law.
Locals here don't refer any more to "liberated areas", but to east and west Aleppo – they don't show you pictures of their children, or of siblings killed by the regime, but simply the pictures of beautiful Aleppo before the war. Because nobody is fighting the regime any more; rebels now fight against each other. And for many of them, the priority is not ousting Bashar al-Assad's regime, but enforcing sharia law.
Read about what sort of society the rebels are enforcing, about the rampant diseases, and other reasons I feel lucky to not be there.
But I see an opportunity for European countries with the Syrian civil war: Give free transportation from European countries to anyone who wants to fight as a jihadi.
A British man in Syria has told the BBC he is fighting for a group linked to al-Qaeda.
Afghanistan is another place where European Muslims who favor sharia law could go to fight. This is a practical way to remove people who are entirely hostile to Western cultures and values. At the same time, the Syrian government could be given aid to fight these jihadis. Also, the Christians who are being massacred could be allowed to move to Europe replace the Jihadis who leave Europe. Or they could be moved into a state carved out of pieces of Syria and Lebanon.
... liberals’ proudest achievement, the modern welfare state, tends to resist, corrupt and baffle their efforts at comprehensive reform.
This was the message of Jonathan Rauch’s book “Government’s End,” which was first published in the Clinton era, and which I’ve recommended before as essential to understanding liberalism’s struggles in the Obama years. Because our government spends and regulates so much, Rauch argued, because its influence sprawls into so many walks of life, because so many clients and beneficiaries and interest groups depend on its programs and policies, the policy status quo is far harder to dislodge today than it was during the Progressive Era or the New Deal or the Great Society.
The policy status quo is rather like a captain of the Titanic seeing an iceberg in broad daylight and holding on a course directly aimed at it. Liberal policy proposals on such issues as medical care and immigration amount to requests to make the propeller spin faster. The correlation of forces is shifting in favor of a faster collision with the iceberg. You can not change that. The course of American society is baked in.
We are not so fortunate that the welfare state serves as our biggest problem. Much more intractable problems are accelerating our decline. Is it good to understand the course and causes of decline? One theory has it that you can become happier by understanding all that could go wrong. Perhaps. I'm trying to work toward being happy in spite of the larger society. I have made much progress in that direction and my happiness has become much more decoupled from the fate of the nation. But I know I'd be happier still if the causes of decline were reversed.
Have you developed a deep enough understanding of human nature that you can say you've taken the red pill? Does this make you more or less happy?
My own reaction to the red pill: I've become very motivated to insulate, insulate, insulate. I want a great life raft. I want a destination for a good escape and a way to do well in a refuge well removed from all that is going wrong in our society.
“It is no accident that the president used the Obama sequester and shutdown to punish the military family,” he said. “It is part of his DNA. In fact it is in the psyche of the entire liberal/progressive establishment – the elite. President Clinton outed himself and this ilk when he declared his loathing of the military. Who could believe progressives/liberals care about veterans and military?”
It would be a mistake for generals, colonels, and the supporters of a strong US military to see the root problem as Obama's value clash with military values. Rather, Obama's actions are sending loud signals about where America's elites now stand in their thinking about the US military and these signals should cause a reappraisal of the devotion that serving officers think they owe to America's rulers and population.
What the serving officers in the US military need to understand: your own loyalties are misplaced. Most of the military missions you get sent to do abroad do not increase the security of the American people. That was true under Bush and is true under Obama. You are being misused and abused even if you are allowed to remain in the US military.
The elites do not feel loyalty to you. Get over it. This is not 1940s or 1950s America. That country has already died. The longer you offer unearned loyalty the further the elites will be able to go in pursuing goals that are incompatible with your values and legitimate interests.
The lowered physical standards in order to allow women to join elite combat units are a sign that the elites do not value US security as much as they value promotion of falsehoods about human nature. By trying to make the US military function in spite of the elites you are enabling the elites to be unrealistic. Don't do it.
Losing billions of dollars per year with future losses as far as the eye can see. Congress blocking necessary severe restructuring. The United States Postal Service starts to show signs it knows it is in desperate straits.
USPS could try to survive by delivering goods same day from local businesses. Delivering information physically is just so pre-internet. They've got to make bigger strides in physical goods delivery or die. However, being a creature of Congress and with a strong union works against their ability to cut costs.
USPS wants to end Saturday mail delivery. They ought to go even further and end, say, Wednesday deliveries and also concentrate home mail boxes in old neighborhoods into central boxes for each neighborhood. Plus, shift most post offices into the backs of department stores like pharmacies.
But the practice of sending checks in the mail is being abandoned as Americans are becoming increasingly comfortable with paying their bills online. As late as 2002, 75 percent of all bills were paid by mail and only 17 percent were paid electronically. In 2012, by contrast, the Postal Service reports that 56 percent of bills were paid electronically and only 40 percent by mail. (The rest were paid in person).
All those billions per year in losses will eventually come out of the pockets of tax payers.
I do not expect the USPS to turn around and do what it needs to thrive. UPS and Fed Ex will make inroads against the post office and I would not be surprised to see Amazon and Wal-Mart to start running their own local delivery services in some areas as their death match gets more intense.