Too Much Cultural Divergence Across EU Countries?

Peter Turchin writes a fascinating post arguing that the EU is dysfunctional because it has expanded to include too many countries that lack shared cultural values. Turchin plots countries on a so-called Inglehart-Welzel cultural map. The y-axis measures Traditional vs. Rational-Secular values, while the x-axis measures Survival vs. Self-Expression values.

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The plot leads Turchin to some interesting observations. The original six EU countries–Germany, Benelux, France, and Italy–cluster quite closely in terms of culture. Also in the same cultural cluster is Austria and EU non-member Switzerland. Notably, these countries geographically correspond fairly closely to the historical empire of Charlemagne.

It looks like the “ghost” of the Charlemagne’s empire has more influence on today’s cultural values than such later distinctions as Catholicism versus Protestantism.

Although Turchin does not mention it, Charlemagne’s empire was in fact based on the distinct economic and social system known as manorialism, which the Franks invented and spread throughout their empire. These 8 countries in the core of Europe that even today share cultural similarities are essentially the places where manorialism was practiced during the medieval period.

The other 22 countries of the EU, however, do not cluster together in terms of values.

On the contrary, they span three-quarters of world variation in values. Only African-Islamic countries and central America end up outside the ellipse that encompasses all 28 EU members.

Turchin argues that this divergence of values hinders cooperation.

[I]t is hard to get people to cooperate, especially in large social groups. Successful cooperation requires that people share values and institutions. Values tell us why we want to cooperate: what is the public good that we collectively want to produce? Norms and institutions tell us how we are going to organize cooperation. Mismatched values and institutions may doom a cooperative effort even before it has a chance to get going.

Indeed, we have believed for some time that the EU is too large, and in particular that the Eurozone is far too large. The Eurozone probably should have been limited to just Germany, France, and Benelux.

Venezuela’s Literal Road to Serfdom

In his classic anti-socialist book The Road to Serfdom, F. A. Hayek used the term serfdom metaphorically. Recent news reports, however, suggest that socialism in Venezuela is reducing citizens to serfs quite literally.

A new decree by Venezuela’s government could make its citizens work on farms to tackle the country’s severe food shortages.

That “effectively amounts to forced labor,” according to Amnesty International, which derided the decree as “unlawful.”

In a vaguely-worded decree, Venezuelan officials indicated that public and private sector employees could be forced to work in the country’s fields for at least 60-day periods, which may be extended “if circumstances merit.”

Maybe Venezuela should just bring in Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon to show them how to make socialism work properly.

Our Brave New World

Perhaps the most prescient dystopian novel was Huxley’s Brave New World (1932).

From Chapter 3:

In a little grassy bay between tall clumps of Mediterranean heather, two children, a little boy of about seven and a little girl who might have been a year older, were playing, very gravely and with all the focussed attention of scientists intent on a labour of discovery, a rudimentary sexual game.

“Charming, charming!” the D.H.C. repeated sentimentally.

“Charming,” the boys politely agreed. But their smile was rather patronizing. They had put aside similar childish amusements too recently to be able to watch them now without a touch of contempt. Charming? but it was just a pair of kids fooling about; that was all. Just kids.

“I always think,” the Director was continuing in the same rather maudlin tone, when he was interrupted by a loud boo-hooing.

From a neighbouring shrubbery emerged a nurse, leading by the hand a small boy, who howled as he went. An anxious-looking little girl trotted at her heels.

“What’s the matter?” asked the Director.

The nurse shrugged her shoulders. “Nothing much,” she answered. “It’s just that this little boy seems rather reluctant to join in the ordinary erotic play. I’d noticed it once or twice before. And now again to-day. He started yelling just now …”

“Honestly,” put in the anxious-looking little girl, “I didn’t mean to hurt him or anything. Honestly.”

“Of course you didn’t, dear,” said the nurse reassuringly. “And so,” she went on, turning back to the Director, “I’m taking him in to see the Assistant Superintendent of Psychology. Just to see if anything’s at all abnormal.”

“Quite right,” said the Director. “Take him in. You stay here, little girl,” he added, as the nurse moved away with her still howling charge. “What’s your name?”

“Polly Trotsky.”

“And a very good name too,” said the Director. “Run away now and see if you can find some other little boy to play with.”

The child scampered off into the bushes and was lost to sight.

“Exquisite little creature!” said the Director, looking after her. Then, turning to his students, “What I’m going to tell you now,” he said, “may sound incredible. But then, when you’re not accustomed to history, most facts about the past do sound incredible.”

He let out the amazing truth. For a very long period before the time of Our Ford, and even for some generations afterwards, erotic play between children had been regarded as abnormal (there was a roar of laughter); and not only abnormal, actually immoral (no!): and had therefore been rigorously suppressed.

A look of astonished incredulity appeared on the faces of his listeners. Poor little kids not allowed to amuse themselves? They could not believe it.

“Even adolescents,” the D.H.C. was saying, “even adolescents like yourselves …”

“Not possible!”

“Barring a little surreptitious auto-erotism and homosexuality–absolutely nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“In most cases, till they were over twenty years old.”

“Twenty years old?” echoed the students in a chorus of loud disbelief.

“Twenty,” the Director repeated. “I told you that you’d find it incredible.”

From Die Welt, one of the leading dailies in Germany, June 19.

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Professor: Today’s Students Believe Slavery Existed Only in America

From an interview with Duke Pesta, a literature professor at Oshkosh:

I started giving quizzes to my juniors and seniors…a ten-question American history quiz…just to see where they are, and this has been true for seven consecutive years. The vast majority of my students–I’m talking like nine out of ten in every single class, twenty-eight, twenty-nine out of thirty kids–they have no idea that slavery existed anywhere in the world before the United States…They are one hundred percent convinced that slavery is a uniquely American invention, and that with the Emancipation Proclamation, slavery ended worldwide.

Slavery, of course, has existed for thousands of years, and still exists today, mostly in the Muslim world. That students would believe slavery to be uniquely American says a lot about the extent of Marxist influence in our educational system. But we wonder if it also doesn’t reflect our current post-Christian cultural wasteland. Back in the day, the faith tradition of most kids, whether Christian or Jewish, taught them that Moses led the Jews out of slavery in Egypt. Now kids don’t seem to know that. Sad!

Another Casualty of the Minimum Wage: Old-School Diners

Politicians talk about a $15 dollar minimum wage and it sounds good because they don’t mention any downside. That downside includes higher prices for consumers, fewer jobs, less opportunity, and more crime (committed by youths who can’t find jobs). It also means that some establishments will go out of business, including, as the New York Post reports, old-school diners.

The owner of the four-decade-old, 24-hour greasy spoon, Del Rio Diner in Gravesend, said his place is closing down because he can’t afford to pay cooks $15 an hour, along with rising rents and expensive Health Department inspection fees.

“The minimum-wage law was the straw that broke the camel’s back. We’d need to raise the burger to $9 from $6.45. I don’t want to do that to my customers. They’ve been good to me. These are middle-class people,” said owner Larry Georgeton, 66.

“This is going to kill me to leave. But I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place,” said Georgeton — who has served everyone from movie stars to sports heroes at the fabled neighborhood hangout on Kings Highway near West 12th Street.

[…]

“The outlook for this business model is bleak. If you’re a diner, going automated isn’t an option. Neither is raising prices on your working-class customers — a $20 sandwich isn’t going to work,” said Michael Saltsman, research director at the Employment Policies Institute, which studies job growth. “It’s too bad because it’s these sorts of restaurants that make neighborhoods unique.”

Other old-school Brooklyn diners such as the Vegas in Dyker Heights, the Mirage in Midwood and the Floridian in Marine Park are also at risk, Saltsman said.

Of course, some of the customers of these diners will end up eating at other establishments such as Denny’s or fast food joints, and those establishments will be able to some degree to expand. But without the old-school diners, consumers now have less choice, and life becomes a little more colorless, a little less diverse.

Why do Democrats hate old-school diners?

The Del Rio Diner in Brooklyn. Photo by David L., uploaded to Yelp

The Del Rio Diner in Brooklyn. Photo by David L., uploaded to Yelp

Krugman on Crime: Nothing to See Here!

Paul Krugman is a Nobel prizewinner and pet economist to America’s ruling Establishment. Here’s what Krugman tweeted two days ago.

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Does one have to be a Nobel prizewinner to believe that looking at just one category of crime in just one city can accurately summarize the level of crime for the whole of America?

Even if we stick with just homicide, here’s what we find when we expand the analysis from just NYC to America’s 50 largest cities. From the Washington Post’s Wonkblog:

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The number of homicides in the country’s 50 largest cities rose nearly 17 percent last year, the greatest increase in lethal violence in a quarter century.

A Wonkblog analysis of preliminary crime data found that about 770 more people were killed in major cities last year than the year before, the worst annual change since 1990.

Those data refer to the increase in homicides between 2014 and 2015. Today, just two days after Krugman’s tweet, data were released suggesting that the trend of increasing homicides has continued into 2016.

Today, the Major Cities Police Chiefs Association released data for the first half of 2016. It confirms this trend: homicide rates are rising. If this increase in homicide rates holds, this year will see the largest jump in murders since 1960 with the exception of last year — which saw the largest increase in decades.

Krugman should not be surprised that Americans are concerned about crime. What people care about, understandably, is the crime rate in their particular neighborhood or city–not the nation as a whole. And the fact is that in many places, violent crime in recent years has soared. The trend in crime looks a lot different to someone living in Baltimore or Cleveland than in New York City. Furthermore, violent crime in recent years has exploded in many small cities, like Williamsport, PA, where violent crime had never previously been much of a problem.

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The primary reason crime is much lower now than back in the 1980s is that so many criminals are behind bars. The incarceration rate, in fact, is now about three times as high as in 1980.

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The vast majority of these prisoners are NOT non-violent drug users or white collar criminals. In fact, the vast majority are hardened, dangerous criminals. For the incarceration rate to fall back to historical levels would mean releasing many thousands of violent criminals onto the streets. In that case, the crime rate might easily surge back to the elevated levels of the 1980s.

There is right now a significant movement in Congress, backed by the president, to decrease incarceration. Freeing dangerous criminals is an issue that ordinary people, if not the elites like Paul Krugman, should be very concerned about.

In any event, one would expect that a column by-lined by a Nobel laureate in economics would offer less partisan hackery and more in the way of objective analysis, but here we are.

The Treason of the Bureaucrats

“I do not rule Russia,” Czar Nicholas is reputed to have said, “ten thousand clerks do.” Those words might take on particular significance for Donald Trump, should he be elected president. Like Czar Nicholas, a President Trump might find himself thwarted and undermined by the clerks–the federal civil servants.

Federal civil servants have become a kind of protected nobility–they cannot be fired even for incompetence or obstruction. As a result, the federal bureaucracy has set itself up as an unaccountable, decadent, and partisan 4th branch of government. Since the bureaucrats are relatively unassailable, they have considerable leeway to act in their own self interest, which usually concurs closely with the interest of the Democrat Party. The 4th branch remains perpetually under Democrat control.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The Civil Service Reform Act of 1883 ended the ‘spoils system’ by making it unlawful to fire bureaucrats for partisan reasons. The idea was to create a federal bureaucracy that was competent, professional, and relatively non-partisan. Instead, more than 130 years later, we have a federal bureaucracy that is full of incompetents and viciously partisan.

During the Obama Era, the partisanship and unprofessionalism of the 4th branch has been on vivid display. In one of the more appalling scandals in American history, IRS bureaucrats unlawfully hindered and harassed ‘tea party’ groups in order to diminish their influence on the 2012 election. Then the IRS engaged in a massive cover-up and obstruction of the ensuing Congressional investigation. Most recently, the FBI for political reasons refused to recommend criminal charges against the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee.

Amidst all this partisan, unlawful, and unprofessional behavior, it is worth noting that no bureaucratic whistleblowers have stepped forward, and no bureaucrats have resigned on principle. Apparently, the bureaucrats practice situational ethics–they take ethical stands only against Republican administrations.

And so, the partisan and corrupt federal bureaucracy that bent over for Obama is now preparing to dig in its heels against Trump. According to the Lawfare blog (affiliated with the Brookings Institution), members of the ‘national security’ bureaucracy are experiencing ‘anxiety’ over the prospect of a Trump presidency.

I am not sure I have ever seen this cadre of professionals more unsettled than they are, as a group, today. It is not uncommon to hear people asking themselves whether they could continue in their current roles under Trump. It is not uncommon to hear people ruminate about whether the right course would be to resign or to stay and act as a check—which translates roughly to being an obstructionist of some sort or another.

These high-minded professionals are dreading Trump, but they had no problem with the lawless Obama administration which featured, among others things, a Secretary of State who was running a virtual shadow government, and in the process exposing America’s secrets to America’s enemies in order to keep the truth from America’s people. That self-same Secretary of State is now Donald Trump’s election opponent, but despite her record of reckless disregard for national security she somehow inspires less anxiety among the national security ‘professionals.’ It is to laugh.

Note well the part about the bureaucrats proposing to “act as a check” by “being an obstructionist.” What gives unelected bureaucrats, however, the right to obstruct the president elected by the people? Who do they think they are?

Our constitution does provide a system of checks and balances against executive power. But those checks come from the Congress and the Supreme Court–not the civil service.

Of course, no civil service employee is obligated to follow orders he believes to be immoral or unlawful. If any bureaucrat believes he cannot in good conscience carry out administration policy, he is free to resign, and if he sees fit, to go public with his objections.

But our system of government never intended to set up the federal civil service as a kind of peerage, like the British House of Lords, that can counteract the policies of elected officials and their appointees.

The federal bureaucracy must be brought to heel, but for the longest time we’ve believed that nobody would ever do anything about it. We were therefore surprised and gratified to hear that Governor Chris Christie, acting as Trump’s agent, reportedly discussed the topic of civil service reform with some fat cat GOP donors.

If he wins the presidency, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would seek to purge the federal government of officials appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama and could ask Congress to pass legislation making it easier to fire public workers, Trump ally, Chris Christie, said on Tuesday.

Christie, who is governor of New Jersey and leads Trump’s White House transition team, said the campaign was drawing up a list of federal government employees to fire if Trump defeats Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

“As you know from his other career, Donald likes to fire people,” Christie told a closed-door meeting with dozens of donors at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, according to an audio recording obtained by Reuters and two participants in the meeting.

Christie seems particularly concerned with the practice of ‘burrowing,’ by which political appointees get their status converted to protected civil servants who can’t be fired. But rather than focusing just on burrowing, the GOP should consider replacing the 1883 Civil Service Act in order to finally allow the president to fire bureaucrats for incompetence or obstruction.

The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union in the United States, said while it was concerned about the practice of “burrowing,” current law protected most federal employees from at will firing.

“The federal government is a serious undertaking. It’s not a reality TV show, with ‘You’re fired!'” said Jacqueline Simon, policy director at AFGE.

Most everybody else in America can be fired for not doing their job. Why should you federal employees be different? Why should you be more privileged than the rest of us?

Christie’s comments caused the liberal tabloid Slate to retire to its well-worn fainting couch.

Obviously, some appointees come and go with a new president, and that makes complete sense—you need your people in key positions—but what Christie is proposing resembles more of a witch hunt where federal staffers will be judged by their loyalty to the regime.

But why shouldn’t they be judged on the basis of loyalty? Their job is to loyally carry out the president’s policies. That’s their job and why they are paid. They’re not paid for their disloyal pursuit of their own agendas. Why should the taxpayers pay to employ bureaucrats who are disloyal to the president the taxpayers have elected?

We’re glad to hear that Trump and Christie have at least some awareness of the problem, but in order to secure the political support needed to achieve real reform, they should take their case to the people. Trump should be running against the federal bureaucracy.

Michigan State Discriminated Against Men for 91 Years

Michigan State University, in apparent violation of state and possibly federal anti-discrimination statutes, maintained a women-only study lounge without offering the same accommodation to men. Mark Perry, an economist, Michigan taxpayer, civil rights activist, and former classmate of ours, decided to do something about it.

The University of Michigan-Flint professor filed a complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights over the women-only study lounge at Michigan State, which does not have a similar space for men, MLive reported Monday.

The school claims it hasn’t received Perry’s complaint yet – the agency told the Lansing State Journal it was received July 7 – and says it was already planning to make the lounge coed, after 91 years open to women only…

MSU doesn’t appear to have said anything publicly about this pending change to the lounge  – which is becoming an “all-purpose quiet study area” – before Perry’s complaint made the news, judging by the shocked reactions of mostly women on social media this week.

The State News published a selection of outraged tweets responding to Perry’s complaint. One angry alum even called the addition of a private lactation station to the updated lounge “a bizarre cop-out.”

Predictably, there’s already a Change.org petition with 2,800 signatures, explicitly filed in response to Perry’s complaint, to “take back our study lounge, reinstate the Women’s Resource Center, and the support our Women’s Counsel.”

LOLZ. Tell us again how feminism is about ‘equality.’

In any event, Kudos to Mark Perry. His excellent blog can be found here.

Idiocracy is Real

At least seven different peer reviewed studies have recently found IQs declining in various developed countries, mostly in Europe. In France, for instance, IQ researchers Edward Dutton and Richard Lynn found that over the ten years from 1999 to 2009, the average IQ of the population declined by about 4 points.

Researchers remain unsure as to the reason for the decline. Some of it is probably attributable to immigration. But the most likely explanation for most of the decline is ‘dysgenic fertility,’ specifically, the tendency of lower IQ women to give birth more often than higher IQ women. Indeed, a study by Satoshi Kanazawa of the London School of Economics finds that every one-standard-deviation increase (about 15 points) in IQ decreases a woman’s odds of lifetime parenthood by more than 20 percent.

Kanazawa predicts that dysgenic breeding will impair the long-term IQ of the population.

Because women have a greater impact on the average intelligence of future generations, the dysgenic fertility among women is predicted to lead to a decline in the average intelligence of the population in advanced industrial nations.

Years before Kanazawa published his results, however, Mike Judge presciently anticipated the results of dysgenic fertility in his 2006 film Idiocracy. The film is supposed to be a comedy, but it’s actually more terrifying than any horror movie.

Second look at (voluntary) eugenics?