Bloody shovel

Don't call it a spade

Monthly Archives: November 2012

Babies like stuff, researchers shocked

The 60 minutes show on the Yale University Baby Lab has been doing the rounds on the internet, and it has caused quite a stir. And rightly so. It’s important that people are putting the resources to try to test nature vs nurture. And it’s important that they are ready to admit that nature exists too.

And admit they do, but it’s very funny how bewildered they are when nature shows herself. Shocked, shocked! I tell you. Babies can tell friend from foe! Well no shit. One of the best things of having been to Moldbug’s is you get to identify the American elite as the Puritans they descend from. So I imagine those peasant protestant fanatics of the 17th century, and they look a lot like these people on 60 minutes.

BREAKING: Do babies have a sense of morality? (self-important voice tone)

I can find a thousand ways of framing psychological experiments on babies. Baby cognition is a fascinating subject. But of course our priestly elite doesn’t care about cognition. They care about morality. That’s all that matters in the whole damn world. Are you good? Are you holy? Are you holier than me? No, I’m holier than thou. See how in the end all they talk is about applying the findings to “eradicate racism”. That’s all they care about. Ivy League researches will develop fusion power, grapheme mass-production and genetic load curing, but it will only be used if it can help “eradicate racism”. Oh God. If only the southern colonies hadn’t imported African labor, imagine all the crap we would have been spared. We would have had fusion by now.

In the end all the experiment shows is that babies can tell friend from foe, which is a pretty basic concept. Very useful too, and not really that surprising. The most “shocking” point on the experiment is how babies decide who is friend and who isn’t. In the experiment is by taste. This fella likes cheerios, he gets it, he’s my pal. The other guy has no taste at all, screw him. The priests look positively horrified. You can’t screw a guy because he doesn’t like cheerios!

Have this people never been in primary school? I remember ganging up with kids for the lamest reasons, forming big coalitions until the class was neatly divided in two, then fight. Every 3 months or so the group was dissolved and rebuilt on some other lame reason, and the process repeated itself. That’s what people do. Are elite boarding schools in the American school any different? Researchers have bad memory I think.

While the findings are very interesting, besides the widespread horror at the ability of babies to deduce their interests and make friends accordingly, there’s a datum that hasn’t been given enough attention. In the first experiment, 75-80% of the kids prefer the as yet unmet nice puppet over the mean one. The conclusion, fairly enough, is that ceteris paribus people prefer kind peopel to mean people. But what about the remaining 20-25%. They had a choice to make friends with a nice puppet and a mean puppet. And they chose the mean one! Now I’m sure the researches concluded the kids were simply mistaken, baby cognition being a mess. But what if it isn’t?  20% is a lot of people. Are they masochistic? Or just wanna join in the fun? And what’s the distribution? Did baby girls choose more mean puppets than boys?

Also see the later experiment on older kids. So they learn to be generous later on. Do all of them do? How many are still stingy little fuckers? The ugly fat pretentious girl who chose green should be tracked to see if she also develops generosity. For further challenge they should change the chips with cupcakes.

Now that would be really interesting, groundbreaking data. But that doesn’t help eradicate racism so they probably won’t even collect the data. Alas.

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The Brain Drain Trap

People who complain that European civilisation has decayed into an uncultured, soul-less, commercialised mess, should come to China. Oh yeah. Asians have this natural superiority in math ability, and it shows. It’s all about the numbers. Damn, the servants here can calculate faster than I do. And I’m pretty good.

Anyway the talk in the town for the last months has been the “middle income trap” that China is approaching. In Development Macroeconomics (no I’m not taking the cheap chalupa’s course), there’s this funny concept called the “poverty trap”, which is a magical situation where poor people don’t have money so they can’t invest money to make more of it. Because we all know that without capital you can never make money.

That situation describes a whole lot of the world, but of course not all of it. Between the trapped in poverty and the rich white fucks, there’s a mysterious group of countries which have been stagnant for decades in the middle. The middle income trap. Which describes places like South America or SEA. Which are ok, people don’t eat albino babies or kill wives for the dowry. But still pretty lousy.

Now many of those reading this might point out that the middle income countries have a lot in common besides their economies. Something pretty obvious.  Namely this. But of course that doesn’t apply to China, so it’s safe from the middle income trap. In fact it’s self-evident for most connoisseurs in the West that China is just plain awesome and will take over world leadership in about 10 years. But the Chinese themselves aren’t quite so sure.

I am a fond reader of Michael Pettis, a smart looking fellow who says that China’s growth engine is pretty much over. Double digit is gone, and even 5% is gone. High growth is going to hell because:

  • The low hanging fruit of investment has run out. Infrastructure is pretty awesome right now, and there’s little to invest on, that could give good returns. Sure they can keep on paving roads and building airports, but those are done with credit, which has to be serviced. If nobody uses the airport, the debt doesn’t get paid, so there’s no real growth there.
  • Export growth is dead because Europe and the US have lost purchasing power, political enmity is growing,  and the global trade machine is slowing down for many reasons, political and economical.
  • And China can’t rely in internal consumption because the political system is rigged against giving money to the masses. Chinese growth has been mostly on investment, which the Communist Party likes because it entails concentrating money on the state, which you can then funnel to your cronies. Giving people back to the people basically means pissing off the 80 million party members who got there to make money.

Pettis had this bet with The Economist, over whether growth was going to stall or not. I don’t pressume to know, but looking at that mangina employee of the Rothschild making such a stupid and half-assed non-argument, I guess it’s fair to think that Pettis is on to something.

Of course Pettis is not saying that China is going to collapse. He’s just saying that growth will stall to around 3% until the political system dismantles it’s anti-consumption bias. There will be pressure, so it’s going to be slow. Decades slow. The way the whole Chinese economy is structured is that almost all profitable industries are occupied by huge state-owned conglomerates. The huge rents those companies make, (plus the credit from the state banks that they monopolise) aren’t given away on wages, but stay on the company, and the directors basically live on the corporate expenses account. Small business owners have been putting their own meals on corporate expenses forever, but in China you get millions and millions on “research projects” and whatnot. So people end up buying their kids a Ferrari on Wuhan Steel’s budget (just made the name up but you get what I mean)

Still the alternative to dismantling the system is recession, so the shift to internal consumption will happen, according to Pettis. And when it does, China will grow into a high income country.

I wonder though. I understand his idea, the economy’s only solution is to raise internal consumption, and you do that by increasing the purchasing power of the people. You can do that in many ways: raising wages, lowering taxes (which are stupidly high over here), cutting corruption, etc.

Of course giving money back to the masses would be awesome, but there’s a problem. China today does have some people with money, both in the public and private sector. But they don’t spend the money on consumption. They save it to get the hell out of the country and emigrate. And this happen both with private businessmen and public officials. There’s even a word for civil servants who have already sent their kids and wife overseas (ostensibly planning to join them once they lose a political power struggle and get convicted for theft). They’re called “naked officials”, and a whole bunch of regulation has been drafted lately to address them (they can’t get promoted to boss etc.)

Everybody with money is leaving the country. And those who don’t dream of making some so they can leave too. They are leaving because China sucks. The air sucks, the food is good but probably poisoned. And the people suck.

The main problem in my opinion, it’s just plain full of proles. While Chinese proles are orders of magnitude less dumb and on-your-face than white, let alone black proles, they’re still very annoying. Dirty, crass, loud, uncouth, being around these people stresses the hell out of you. There’s just too many of them. And they’re fucking everywhere, constantly moving, working, thinking of new schemes to scam you.

Years ago, while travelling in China, I was shocked at the sheer hate that smart people had for the proles.  They are smart, hardworking fellas just trying to make a living. Why the hate? As a passer-by they seemed quite salt-of-the-earth, likable people to me. Of course part of that was not understanding well the language. But after staying here for a while I’m starting to resent them too.

Steve Sailer had a post last week explaining why rich Americans like the Mexican immigrants better than low-class whites. His point was that people are more comfortable with servants of a different race than with servants of their own. There’s many reasons for it, and he didn’t get into that, probably because he doesn’t have servants.

I don’t either, but I think I understand. In the absence of a legally enforced class system, there’s something deeply disturbing about having poor people of your same genetic stock around. They sort of remind you of where you come from, and where you might go back. When I see all those smart enterprising Chinese working their asses for 200 dollars a month, I feel uneasy, that they might some day replace me, or I’ll end up like them. Prole co-ethnics are the personification of downward mobility. And downward mobility is the most pure source of fear in the world. It’s fear itself. It’s the cause of anxiety, depression, mental disease. It’s the cause of most suicides.

High growth societies are generally very socially mobile. It’s cool at the beginning when everybody is getting wealthier, but after a while the downward pressure comes in. People get scared, and they leave. I think that a big part of the middle income trap is simply that once people reach a middle income they just get the money and beat it. Brain Drain.It’s been said that most of 100+ IQ Indians have already migrated to the US or England. Russians who make it abroad swear to never go back. SEA has a steady flow of migrants to Australia and the US, and now it’s China’s turn.

So I think that Chinese policy makers face a very hard dilemma. The economy needs consumption, it needs higher disposable income. But the people who get it first choose to use it to leave the country. And they do so for very deep psychological needs that the government can do little about. Countries who avoided the middle income trap did it because leaving wasn’t really worth it, i.e. migrating to the US in 1910 wasn’t as pleasant as today. Or they are deeply ethnocentric and would rather die in their land than flourish abroad; say, Japan.

Either way China seems to me to be in deep shit.

On Deserving

Moldbug has a new post, where he says:

 when Maistre says that every nation gets the government it deserves, I believe him

Seriously?

‘Deserving’ must be the most useless and obfuscating word in the dictionary. It’s bad philosophy, bad morals and bad manners in general. It’s cheap fatalism, escapism from debate, intellectual sloth.

What does it mean anyway? Asian languages don’t have the concept, and sometimes doing translation it’s very hard to explain. In the end it must be derived from Christian catechesis. In videogame terms, the idea that humans through they daily behaviour earn moral points (let’s call them MP), according to which especial events (which happen often during the game) end up being advantageous or disadvantageous. When the self-perceived total MPs and the effect of a random event don’t match, we call this not deserving the outcome.

That’s a very common view, but it’s patently wrong. For one there’s no such thing as moral points, and the outcome of especial events has little relation with one’s moral character. It’s funny, because most people think of most life events as kinda random, but at the same time they think there’s a direct casual link between one’s MP level and the goodies one gets from life.

But it doesn’t work like that, although there’s a certain plausibility over individuals having MPs. But even if it were true at the individual level, and people did deserve or not deserve things, it’s certainly nonsense to apply the same logic to big groups of people.

It also happens very often though, but as I said, it’s intellectual sloth. It’s refusing to research the causes of events, and attributing them instead to a societal MP level. It’s an old conservative tradition, watch how Moldbug is channelling De Maistre. There’s another version of the same argument, made by Burke or A.J. Nock, that virtuous people precede virtuous country. Meaning of course that the causal arrow leads all to the MP of “the people”, who themselves are uncaused, uncreated, and just plain nasty.

How stupid is that? If good government comes from virtuous people, where does that virtue come from? Spontaneous generation, huh? So the Romans deserved Attila, the French deserved Robespierre, the Americans deserve Obama. What does that even mean?  It means that you are conservative, and as such, always the political loser. You are pissed, and want to know why you lost, why the culture you care about is dying. You have some ideas, but none is quite right, when you blame people they tend to get pissed, so you end up giving up and going abstract: it’s the people’s fault. Yeah, they got no virtue. Those fuckers.

As much as I hate the dismal science, there’s a profound truth behind it, one that comes from basic psychology: incentives matter. People’s behaviour isn’t free, it’s subject to many constraints, one of the biggest being societal pressure. Today that is done through media and government. Apply sufficient pressure and the people’s virtue can change a lot. Singapore was a nasty place full of opium smokers and communists. Today they are virtuous. They didn’t deserve Lee Kuan Yew, now they do. Americans used to shame homosexuals. Now they are cherished as the best of us.

Who deserves what? Any understanding of politics that doesn’t begin and end in who?whom? is idiocy. It’s enabling the forces of chaos.