Unlikely

September 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

Fifth Philosopher’s Song

A million million spermatozoa All of them alive;
Out of their cataclysm but one poor Noah
Dare hope to survive.

And among that billion minus one
Might have chanced to be Shakespeare, another Newton, a new Donne
—But the One was Me.

Shame to have ousted your betters thus,
Taking ark while the others remained outside!

Better for all of us, froward Homunculus,
If you’d quietly died!

—Aldous Huxley (1920)

Somehow the humor of this ditty when juxtaposed against Masha Gessen’s essay for NYRB titled The Dying Russians produced such a mixture of dread and pseudo-profundity, that made concepts like selection pressure and extended phenotype melt into a bitter tasting brew.

This thesis linking the ability to hope to people’s willingness to have children had intuitive appeal for sure. But of course nowadays  it only takes a day or two for such an appeal to be challenged by data. Courtesy of Mark Adomanis contributor to Forbes it appears the stats do not support the assertions of the essay.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/markadomanis/2014/09/03/8-things-masha-gessen-got-wrong-about-russian-demography/

Poor Gessen went on to reply in a postscript calling Adomanis a useful idiot for Putin’s regime. Which made it all more interesting since he restricted his response to data points and didn’t slip into ad hominem remarks.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/markadomanis/2014/09/09/russian-demography-and-useful-idiocy/

I see the point in his counterargument that :
“…a country’s demographic trajectory has nothing whatsoever to do with its liberal credentials or its government’s “ability to inspire hope.” Some of the most demographically unstable countries on the planet, places like Germany and Japan, are social democracies with robust welfare states, democratic elections, and clean and transparent governments. And some of the most demographically ascendant countries are horrible dictatorships like Saudi Arabia or chaotic failed states like Iraq. There are many ways in which one can gauge the goodness or badness of a government or a country, but looking solely its long-term population projections might very well be the worst.”

But it could be the highly religious societies stated as counter-examples do not really rely on state for inspiring hope …and no matter how miserable things get, belief in after life being a mighty “fitness producing meme” cancels the impact of present doom.

To stretch this thought into a more politically incorrect domain, if the contested assumption is a correlation between a thinking primate’s idea of control over future and its willingness to procreate, what would be the impact of a climate of misandry. A tour of white nationalist forums and odd blogs on the web often provides fierce critiques of what they either term “Cultural Marxism” or “Multiculturalism” which in their usage tends to include feminist thought. These are blamed for emasculating say the men in Nordic countries via education which blames and inculcates in boys feelings of guilt. This they believe has disadvantaged the white resident populations. Also the tournament attributes of the foreign males are often rewarded more despite the cultural hegemony of the pair-bonding ideal.

Statements such as the following from Chateau Heartiste are not uncommon  “If you listen carefully and follow to the letter your women’s rambling feminist inanities, you get Sweden, land of the castrated men who repulse their own women”. Rather bogus this image of castrated vikings except maybe in a Lacanian sense of symbolic lack of an imaginary object.

The blog Nonrhotic has an amusing summary of contradictions arising from such gender engineering. I have selected below a few of the amusing headlines the blogger lists exemplifying this project/agenda:

  • The elementary school system in one Swedish city mandating that for one week all male children had to wear dresses to school to help break down stereotypes.
  • A feminist group at Stockholm University is campaigning to ban all urinals from campus, and one Swedish elementary school has already removed them based on the “logic” that a man standing up to urinate is deemed to be triumphing in his masculinity, and by extension, degrading women.
  • Last year after the Pirate Bay file-sharing trial, Annika Qarlsson, a female member of Sweden’s parliament, wove a meandering web of “logic” that went something like this: Since most of the people sharing files are boys, and they support the right to share files, then they are protecting their privacy, and most Swedish woman who are raped are raped by people they barely know, if the woman barely knows the rapist then the rapist is protecting their privacy, therefore Pirate Bay supporters are rapists. ““I realize that my earlier post can be interpreted to mean that I’m accusing all Pirate Party supporters and all young men of being rapists.” she later said.
  • Tiina Rosenberg, a professor of gender studies at Stockholm University, and the brain trust behind Sweden’s politically influential feminist movement who boldly asserted that “women who sleep with men are traitors to their gender.”

All surely too random to constitute much except for the fact that none appear as symptoms of a climate of hope in the sense used in the article on Russian demographics. What self respecting male would want to contribute to such a system/society if it were as portrayed by these sources.

For the sake of argument if we assume that there is any substance to such critique can it be that reluctance to procreate is an instance of dysfunction in what Tim Tyler terms “memetic immune system” in his comment on David Sloan Wilson’s suggestion of a cultural system dysfunction hypothesis.

I think such a proposal requires, to start with an analysis of cues which may frighten various primate males into a state of reluctance.
 Back in 2007, read a curious post on K-punk which contained the following:

“… when an orang-utan was presented with pornography, it ceased to show any sexual interest in its fellow apes and spent all day masturbating. The orang-utan had been inducted into human sexuality by the ‘inhuman partner’, the fantasmatic supplement, upon which all human sexuality depends.”

Does all this permit speculation about a “memetic cocktail” best suited to inspire a will, to procreate, in the absence of which the system is derailed. Not sure it does nevertheless, the word derailed gives me some room to share the following Limerick:

There once was a man who said “Damn!
It is borne in upon me I am
An engine that moves
In predestinate grooves;
I’m not even a bus, I’m a tram.”
—Maurice E. Hare (1886-1967)

Externalities, Two Riffs from Libertarian Extremes

September 1, 2014 § Leave a comment


Myth of efficient distribution/allocation of resources and goods
Under certain assumptions a free market will lead to a pareto-optimal outcome
if there are no externalities
if every market is perfectly competitive
if every participant has perfect knowledge
if all the markets are in equilibrium
(not likely to hold)

“only if ” and that to just get an efficient not a fair outcome

In what percentage of our markets do we have these externalities …where are the empirical investigations/dissertations
on the significant externalities?
Karl William Kapp – Social cost of private enterprise

market cost of energy made using coal compared to negative external effect – people are undercharged by 70%
electricity generated by natural gas off by 19%
heat production ny natural gas off by 42%
yet fossil fuel industries in United States are the largest recipients of subsidies
if you don’t get the prices right you wont get efficient outcomes
Policy correctives for externalities …how high to put the Pegovian tax or subsidy

When it comes to assumption 2 of perfectly competitive markets the trend demonstrates decline of anti-trust action

Regulatory capture – not realistic given the degree of lobbying power

5-16 % unemployment is a clear indicator of inefficiency in labor market – fiscal stimulus – govt should buy more in a recession

(unions, minimum wage, progressive taxation)

all external parties are disenfranchised and transaction cost of collective consumption is left out of equation


Approaches to the problem of coordination
how to fix rules such that I bear both the costs of benefits of ventures
individual has incentive to avoid cost to larger group ~ pollution

absence of infinitely wise & benevolent central planner

Pegovian tax ~ In most cases we don’t have information needed
to accurately assess damages

Coase ~ In a world of zero transaction costs, bargaining would produce an efficient rule
to limit externalities

laissez faire in population ~> More people less of every thing
A child is not born with a deed so with resources that are private property
it’s not negative externality rather the parents have to work for providing for the child therefore they are enriching
say the landlord or some seller or some employer
but what of the commons …??
positive externalities more people more tax payers # sounds like bull how can you tax an impoverished mass

Net effect of carbon cap trade – we can’t even predict the sign of impact on externalities ???
It is taken for granted that change is bad

Nordhaus – if you only look at the clearly predictable effects it’s not a large negative that would justify X policy/action/effort/cost but there are many ways the outcome can turn out to be worse
Odd asymmetry in Nordhaus is the inclusion of low probability high cost scenario of allowing global warming without calculating high cost low probability estimate of not allowing

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