In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Seattle Squeeze: New Urban Living
  2. Checking In
  3. Ben Aronson's Representational Abstractions
  4. Rock is ... Forever?
  5. We Need the Arts: A Sob Story
  6. Form Following (Commercial) Function
  7. Two Humorous Items from the Financial Crisis
  8. Ken Auster of the Kute Kaptions
  9. What Might Representational Painters Paint?
  10. In The Times ...

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« Dangnabit | Main | Shooting in Public »

April 10, 2007

Roberts and Easterbrook

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I've been taking a break from audiobooks and indulging in some podcast-listening instead. God, how I love a good interview.

Say what you will about the Library of Economics' Russ Roberts as an interviewer (and I have, perhaps overemphatically), but he talks regularly with very interesting people, and at generous length. Here he chats with Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen, who proves to be as thoughtful, respectful, and open when he speaks as he is in his blogging. And, good god, is Tyler Cowen one heroic culture-consumer.

In this interview, Roberts and Greg Easterbrook yak about the sunny side of economic developments: about how life has gotten better in many ways in terms of health, pollution, money, etc. Easterbrook -- the author of "The Progress Paradox" -- is a suave, articulate, and loose interviewee who has equipped himself with a lot of interesting facts. On pollution, for example: All forms of pollution except greenhouse gases have been in decline since the 1970s.

Roberts has hold of some great facts of his own. For example: How much richer are we now than Americans 100 years ago were? (OK, OK: It's impossible to make an exact comparison. But why not try the experiment and see what comes of it?) Roberts reports that, when he asks his students to guesstimate, they generally figure we're 50% richer than Americans were in 1907. In actual fact -- and depending on how you shuffle the numbers, of course -- we're somewhere between 700% and 3000% richer than our great-grandparents were.

Easterbrook responds with a few illustrations. In the 1950s, the average new American house was 1100 square feet. It contained 4.5 residents and one black and white TV. (Hey, that's a description of how my family lived in the 1950s.) The average new American house these days is 2300 square feet. It's inhabited by 2.5 residents and four color TVs.

In the midst of the usual flurry of sky-is-falling headlines, it can be restorative to be reminded of these kinds of facts.

I want to highlight two things from the interview. One is Easterbrook's evocation of how filthy, painful, and hungry life often was in the past, even in America, and even as recently as a century ago. A passage from Easterbrook's book is read by Roberts:

In the first decade of the 20th century, city air in the United States was thick with choking smoke from unrestricted coal-burning; pigs roamed the streets of New York City and Philadelphia eating garbage that was thrown out of windows; there were three million horses drawing carts within city limits of American cities, meaning horse manure was everywhere. In Chicago, elevated trains pulled by steam engines rained sparks and cinders on pedestrians.

In pleasantly pastoral small towns, only two percent of dwellings had running water, causing many women to be little more than serfs to the carrying of water or doing of laundry.

Which reminds me to link to this piece about what a filthy place England was in the 17th and 18th centuries. (Link thanks to Arts and Letters Daily.) An evocative passage from it:

Nowhere was sacred. Westminster churchyard was always full of offal too, local butchers blithely dumping the 'soyle and filth of their Slaughter houses and hogstyes' on the very graves of their ancestors. There were the disgusting animal-fat by-products of the tanners and soap-boilers also contributing to the 'gungy pottage' of the city streets. To deal with it, there were whole teams of 'Gounge fermours' ('gunge farmers') labouring to keep the streets of the capital passable, taking away cartloads of 'the most Turpitudinous, Merdurinous, excrementall offals'.

And if that doesn't set modern life in a bit of salutary perspective ...

Something I often wonder about: How did anyone manage to find anything romantic or beautiful in such stinky and icky settings? During the millennia of filth, painful teeth, and permanent rashes that humans have lived through, how did we manage to reproduce ourselves? Present-day Americans may well overdo the aversion to bad smells -- and what's that about anyway? But people from the 16th or 18th centuries? I don't think I'd have wanted to get within an arm's length of them. They must have looked and smelled as crusty and greasy as today's bums.

The other passage from the interview that I want to highlight has to do with the consequences of our current immigration policies. What can I say? I'm an immigration-policy buff. Anyway, Friedrich von Blowhard and I often wonder how the U.S.'s indicators would look if it weren't for the heaps of of mostly-poor people whom this country has taken in during recent decades.

(Interesting fact from Easterbrook: "In each of the last 16 years, the U.S. has accepted more immigrants than the entire rest of the world." Are we a gloriously generous nation, or one that's a wee bit foolhardy?)

How about economic inequality, for instance? The usual debate consists of lefties working themselves into hysterics about how awful inequality is, and righties either denying that it's bad or saying gruffly, "Tough, live with it." What interests me somewhat more than yet one more go-round of this over-familiar wrestling match is another question entirely: whether the inequality stats that we have would look like they do if it weren't for the poverty of many recent immigrants. We have tens millions of 'em, after all. Tens of millions has got to have an impact, right?

Easterbrook has been struck by some of the same questions. He thinks they're important too:

Bear in mind how we don't factor immigration into these equations, and we should. If you accept very large numbers of immigrants, most of whom are entering the country at below the median wage of the nation, you're going to hold down a lot of statistical barometers. One is median household growth. You're gonna produce scary-sounding statistics on the percentage of the population without health insurance.

If we didn't have a very liberal, open immigration policy, median household income would be rising a lot faster than it is. The percentage of the population without medical or health care insurance would be much lower than it currently is. School scores would be rising faster than they are.

By the way, these aren't the ravings of some camo-suited Montana-militia paranoid. Easterbrook (like Russ Roberts) is a fervently open borders guy.

Takeaway lesson: If you're in favor of our current immigration policies, then you're advocating policies that are leading to very rapid population growth (500 million, here we come!), to a persistent inequality problem that's unlikely to go away, to stresses on our health-care system that may not be resolvable, and to more or less inevitable ethnic strife and upheaval.

You may well think these are great things. You may also think that they're unfortunate, but worth enduring for the sake of immigration's benefits. (Easterbrook's and Roberts' attitude, I gather). Me, I generally prefer to avoid traffic jams that can be spotted from miles away. But the facts, in any case, aren't about to be denied. To close with a bit of Easterbrook:

Now, I think we should have open borders. But if you're going to have open borders you're going to have to accept that bringing in large numbers of immigrants tends to hold down economic statistics.



posted by Michael at April 10, 2007


Easterbrook is waaaaaayyyy over the top in his description of how the average person lived prior to the twentieth century. Few people as a percentage of the whole population, lived in cities. I've got lots of photographs of my 19th century ancestors, and they looked neat and clean. One shows my great-great-great grandfather in front of his country home looking very distinguished, though he was only a yeoman farmer. Going further back, it's pretty obvious from literature and art that some people were more hygenic than others. (Intelligence was a factor then as now.) But that's also true today. It is a libel on our ancestors to refer to them as dirty bums. They were every bit as intelligent as we are and probably as clean back then as you could reasonably expect a person to be in those circumstances. Let's not judge all humanity by its lowest common denominators no matter what period of history we're looking at.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on April 10, 2007 3:10 PM

One of the reasons not mentioned for the reduction in pollution in America is the shipping of our factories overseas beginning in the sixties. Our country is cleaner, but we have a titanic trade deficit which will catch up with us soon.

Is what we are experiencing economic progress or simply the benefit of better technology? I don't think the two are necessarily the same, although many economists like to confuse the two to paint a rosier scenario than is actually the case.

I think both Cowen and Easterbrook are crazy for advocating open borders. More than likely neither of these guys lives near an ethnic ghetto, and their academic ability to prefer theory over reality is an additional stumbling block. I guarantee neither interacts with the bulk of our poor and poorly eucated immigrants and illegal aliens much beyond getting their groceries sacked. More insanity from the supposedly highly educated. And neither one is telling truth as to why we have an open borders policy, because it is highly unpleasant.

Posted by: BIOH on April 10, 2007 3:15 PM

Are we better off now than we were "back then?" I had an aunt who used to speak of the past, her own growing up time, to me when I was growing up. And what I remember most about her reminiscences was a remark, which she made many times, that there had been a gaiety back then, a gaiety which was missing now. Her growing up time was the thirties and forties: the great depression; WW II. And yet what she remembered was gaiety. And, you know? she may well have been right. I think there was a more generalized sense of being at home in the world, a world of certain verities that could be relied on, a world, that for all its hardships, could be counted on, "back then." Call it Norman Rockwell sentimentality if you like, but millions had it then -- comparable millions don't have it now.

Posted by: ricpic on April 10, 2007 4:21 PM

Ricpic--Sure, people remember gaiety from the time they were kids. They were _kids_. Your aunt probably is on to one thing, and that's the relative lack of two-parent families and dinner table conversation these days. That, and when people aren't at work and can't find jobs, they are much more relaxed in certain ways. Ask the French.

But it's like people reminiscing about how stable the 1950s were, when there were in fact many more strikes, race riots, layoffs, recessions, and an extremely nasty war. It's just that people didn't have to deal with this when they were kids because they were kids.

Posted by: Chris on April 10, 2007 5:31 PM

"In each of the last 16 years, the U.S. has accepted more immigrants than the entire rest of the world." What a remarkably silly claim: no-one knows. Unless "accepted" is a weasel word designed to make the sentence refer to officially recorded, legal immigrants without actually saying so.

Posted by: dearieme on April 10, 2007 5:35 PM

My favorite podcasts are Studio360 and Real Time with Bill Maher - you lose almost nothing without the visual part of Real Time (n.b. - I've just provided a hole as big as the Grand Canyon for making a snide remark about Maher - but I like the show).

Easterbrook is wrong about pollution on at least two counts. First, as someone has already said, he's only talking about inside the borders. And you don't have to go to China to find more pollution. Just step into the ocean. The pollution of the seas, and the fish that swim in them, is a very serious problem for our food supply.

Second, our catalytic converters create their own pollution. You can sweep up the metals they create, for example, on any heavily traveled street. What you sweep up is toxic.

Posted by: john on April 10, 2007 7:07 PM

Or the gaiety that she spoke of was just the typical reminiscence of an older person looking back on their youth.

Posted by: grandcosmo on April 10, 2007 7:09 PM

I don't think most people in past centuries smelled like bums; they smelled like you and me after a few days of wilderness camping. That's to say, they didn't bathe very often, but they washed at a basin fairly regularly.

The very poor smelled bad, because they didn't have many changes of clothing. Samuel Pepys, who was a rising civil servant in the 1660s, had clean shirt once a week, but a pauper might wear the same cast-off army uniform year-round. (Pepy's shirt would have been one of those loose-fitting linen jobs; maybe it got less clatty than a modern, tighter cotton or - God forbid - polycotton one.)

Anyway, there's a period in Pepys' diary where Pepys' wife discovers baths. She loves them! And insists on having one every day, and insists on Pepys having one every day. But: they backslide, and after a few months it's back to twice twice or whenever you fell down in the mud, or whatever normal standard was.

Posted by: Intellectual Pariah on April 10, 2007 7:33 PM

Easterbrook's actually more nuanced than I've made him out to be. He isn't saying there's nothing to worry about, he's just emphasizing that in many ways a lot of progress has been made.

As for stinkiness ... I dunno, I once spent a couple of weeks backpacking out in the wilderness, and by the end of it I certainly smelled like a bum. Does it take more than that to turn a person into something greasy and unappealing? And I've read accounts of life at Louis XIV's Versailles that make it sound worse than backpacking. People pissing and shitting behind the curtains, dousing themselves with perfume to mask the fact that they bathed once a year ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 10, 2007 8:20 PM

Michael, those accounts of aristocrats defacating all over the place at Versailles were sheer revolutionary propaganda. Ample toilet areas were readily available and kept clean by an army of servants. The place was kept spotless while the kings were in residence. Louis XIV took three baths a day with a complete change of clothes. Most of the wealthy in France who had the time and patience to bathe regularly, did so. Read "The Sun King" by Nancy Mitford. You'll get a much better idea of the hygenic habits of the time.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on April 10, 2007 8:47 PM

MB:...or why so many aristocrats on beautiful portraits are shown with small animals. Strangely, this Wiki article does not mention that furry companions were carried as a magnet for very common flees and other household insects.

Posted by: Tatyana on April 10, 2007 8:57 PM

Hm, how interesting.

Certain individuals complain about "inequality," which seems to be some statistic produced by the Labor Department.

They tell us that, if "inequality" is allowed to persist, we will all be slaughtered in our beds. By the justly (oh, so justly!) enraged proletariat.

Then they advocate - advocate? No, that's the wrong word. Then they impose, without even the whiff of their venerated "democracy," with nary a poll or a man-on-the-street interview to be found, a policy which clearly, predictably and indubitably increases said "inequality."

Then they abuse and ridicule anyone who disagrees with this policy, to the point where mentioning it is definitely a bad idea for almost anyone's professional or academic career. Okay, you can probably still say something if you're, like, a truck driver, and you don't have the CB on.

And what is their solution for this "inequality?" Well, it's not exactly clear. But it certainly seems to involve installing them in positions of authority.

I mean, am I dreaming, here, or something? I keep pinching myself, but all I get is this big bruise.

Posted by: Mencius on April 11, 2007 2:53 AM

I think that it's obvious that, especially in the U.S., we have become astonishingly rich, that life is great and only likely to get better.

What really interests me is the innate pessimism of the intellectual/artsy class. Why are these people so heavily invested in obsessing about the negative aspects of life? My life takes me routinely to Manhattan and Woodstock, enclaves of the perpetually worried left, and to suburban Jersey, home of the satisfied and unconcerned middle class.

Manhattan and Woodstock are always involved in some sort of a crusade... the latest being global warming. These intellectual crusades seem to take the place of religion in the lives of leftists. In the view of the crusading left, we are sinners who are despoiling the earth, and our only redemption seems to be to cease to exist. The anti-Walmart crusade comes to mind as the epitome of this mindset. Throughout my life, the crusading left has contended that the world is coming to an end unless we cease enjoying middle class American life.

Not all immigrants are net losses. We can use all the Filipino immigrants we can muster. Filipino are usually well-educated, usually in medical service fields. They make great nurses, LPNs, etc. (even the men). Most of the Filipino immigrants I know are making six figure incomes. Of course, they are eminently practical and modest people. Few of them go into the arts or humanities. They tend to deliberately seek employment in a technical field.

White American kids, on the other hand, fill the useless humanities courses that focus more and more on imagined grievances (gay, black, female). After educating themselves in a field that offers no prospects of employment, these same white kids become embittered grumblers. This world is not good enough for them. Every one of them wants to be a genius, world saver or celebrity. All but a few fail and spend the rest of their lives bitching that the world isn't fair.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on April 11, 2007 8:04 AM

It should be fairly easy to get a rough estimate of the actual effect of immigration on the economy and on crime and government spending - but I repeat myself. Why not produce the real stats for non-immigrants and show those separately? I suspect the reason these stats are not easily available is that they would show an almost unimaginable prosperity. I do remember seeing the statistic that the average household net worth in the US was something incredible like $400,000, most in home equity. Then I wondered how much that would be if immigrants were excluded. But such speculation is as disfavored as pondering the violent crime rate among Americans of European extraction and how closely it matches that in Europe.

Posted by: Robert Speirs on April 11, 2007 9:36 AM

The left! The left is the problem!!

The left is a problem, but so is American culture right now, and not because of the left. On New Jersey, try reading James Howard Kunstler's The Geography of Nowhere. Jim's a centrist.

Posted by: john on April 11, 2007 11:35 AM

Liberalism is not a religion, but it is an irrational belief system like a religion. Since liberalism is at war with the natural order (all the while, paradoxically, worshipping it materially)it is perpetually exhibiting its seige mentality. War on Poverty and Inequality--hahaha, I'm splitting my sides right now! What's that, you're morally superior but pointing a gun at my head for a "donation"? Where did the chants for liberation go?

Don't ever think that America is rich because of what you see--America is far less rich than you think because of what you don't see--debt! The most titanic amount of debts ever accrued anywhere ever. You'll see the consequences soon enough. People tuned into this have seen it for a long time, but you'll see it in spades in just 3-5 years.

Immigrants work hard here initially because its such a step up from where they come from. But for the second generation that grew up here, working at a regular job is not such a step up. The real test is the second and third generations. Look at those to read the tea leaves.

Posted by: BIOH on April 11, 2007 12:52 PM

Some surveys actually do take immigration into account. They survey a whole bunch of people, then keep track of them and survey those same people again years later.

Obviously, this controls for immigration. But, it has various difficulties - different parts of the population change differently, there's some selection inherent in who you can keep track of, it's a lot more expensive than regular current population surveys,...

Also, there's some empirical reason to believe that economic inequality itself has negative economic and social consequences - a town with the same mean income (or wealth) but higher GINI may have worse public health outcomes, higher real estate prices, and various other issues. Now, the cure may well be worse than the disease here, but it may not.

Posted by: ptm on April 11, 2007 1:52 PM

Shouting Thomas,

I am not sure if you are being ironic when you write, "I think that it's obvious that, especially in the U.S., we have become astonishingly rich, that life is great and only likely to get better."

What do you mean by "rich"? Yes, the average newly built house may be larger than ever and have marble countertops (although in most new subdivisions there will be little or no lawn or backyard, and a space of about three feet from the adjacent house); and without question, Americans today have more electronic gadgets than anyone could have conceived of 50 years ago.

But "rich" means, or used to mean, having lots of money. That, Americans don't. The national savings rate is a negative number — we spend more than our incomes. I just read that the average family's credit card debt is about $10,000. This hardly seems to be a life that is either great or guaranteed to get better, even if we limit the discussion to material terms.

I'll second your observation about the obsession with threats of all kinds. For the most part, these come from leftist institutions and individuals who welcome any reason to box the ears of the hated middle class and tell them they must adopt a meager life style.

"Not all immigrants are net losses." Oh, come on, man, don't set up a straw man to knock down. Not all of anything is anything. Many immigrants are nice people, a few make a genuine economic contribution; so what? We're dealing with something like 30 million illegals in the country right now, and a loony president who wants to expand the already high number of legal immigrants.

The thought of half a billion people in this country in 30 to 50 years doesn't give you pause? If not, I venture to guess you live in New York or some other highly concentrated urban area, where people think of crowding as a virtue (a sign of "vitality," as though numbers are vitality).

"Of course, they [Filipinos] are eminently practical and modest people. Few of them go into the arts or humanities." Well, Thomas, since you obviously think the arts and humanities are a waste of time and manpower, I can understand better why the notion of quality of life doesn't seem to figure into your calculation of benefits vs. drawbacks of open borders. Who needs quality when we can have all the quantity we want along with a low-wage servant class to wipe the tables and wax the cars of the real masters, the Technicians?

Posted by: Rick Darby on April 11, 2007 1:59 PM

I don't think that the arts and humanities are a waste of time. I am an artist, specifically a musician and multimedia developer.

I am fortunate enough to have gone through undergraduate school before the curriculum was trashed in the humanities. I received the old fashioned, classical education in music, literature and art. That's a great thing.

I'm just tired of the arts as a vehicle for grievance mongering and the dumbass and completely predictable Marxist crowd. There are still areas of the arts that are free from this crapola... notably the blues and country music.

And, if you noticed, I said that my Filipino acquaintances are all making six figure incomes. They are hardly part of a "low wage servant class." And, they seem remarkably in charge of their own fates. I don't see anybody pulling the strings.

One of the truly remarkable aspects of Filipino culture is that few Filipinos subscribe to the view that service work is demeaning. In fact, Filipino culture tends to elevate service to a distinct virtue, and Filipinos do not believe that being of service to others diminishes the self. I have to say that I love being around this. Even the Filipino gay guys I know seem to believe that their first priority in this life is to serve others and to make others happy. And, they don't seem to believe that this is likely to make them unhappy. Quite the contrary.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on April 11, 2007 2:39 PM

Rick Darby,

When a person is decently housed, fed, clothed, and on top of that has the discretionary income to spend on not infrequent travel, not infrequent meals eaten out, not infrequent attendance at movie theaters, sporting events, concerts, legitimate theaters, museums, depending on his bent, and owns electronic gizmos of every type and stripe that deliver an oversupply of entertainment and information...did I mention a car? an average car, which by historical standards is an engineering marvel...well, when a person has all that, and in America the overwhelming majority do have all that, that person is rich and that person lives in a rich country.

Posted by: ricpic on April 11, 2007 3:44 PM

"Liberalism is not a religion, but it is an irrational belief system like a religion. Since liberalism is at war with the natural order (all the while, paradoxically, worshipping it materially)it is perpetually exhibiting its seige mentality. War on Poverty and Inequality--hahaha, I'm splitting my sides right now! What's that, you're morally superior but pointing a gun at my head for a "donation"? Where did the chants for liberation go?"

I'll see your War on Poverty and raise you a War on Drugs.

Posted by: the patriarch on April 11, 2007 3:52 PM


Everything makes sense if you think of the people you're talking about as a power caste.

A pleasantly simple definition of this caste can be obtained by the Russell Rule (originally noted by Freda Utley about Bertrand Russell): the ruling caste are the people who say "we" when they mean "the government." The ruled castes always say "they."

This caste likes "obsessing about the negative aspects of life" because, like all two-legged apes, it likes power. Power in human societies is inseparable from responsibility: you gain power by demonstrating to others that you are sincerely concerned about solving problems. No problems, no power.

And indeed the artsy caste is sincerely concerned. No one who has spent any time with these people can doubt their sincerity.

This doesn't imply, however, that the solutions they propose are effective. In fact, natural selection tends to favor the ascent of ideologies which not only are ineffective, but actually iatrogenic. In other words, the solution is actually causing the problem it purports to be trying to solve.

(For example, who hasn't suspected that the peace process is actually the cause of the Palestinian problem? Don't you ever wonder what would happen in that part of the world if everyone just decided to ignore it for a while?)

With this perspective, it's easy to see what replaced your classical, "old-fashioned" training in the arts.

In a society where scholars are the ruling caste, actual scholarship tends to disappear. The classical virtues of craft, originality and curiosity may have seduced our parents and grandparents, but they are now obsolete. None of them is any use at all in the essential task of capturing and expanding the state. In fact they are often counterproductive. They leave little or no time for the organizationally valuable tasks of maintaining doctrinal purity, expelling dissenters, and last but not least, watching each others' backs.

Universities are no longer institutions of scholarship. They are revolutionary seminaries. Their product is cadre. Of course you can still get a good education in science or engineering, but it is increasingly impossible to escape indoctrination entirely. Racial "struggle sessions," for example, are fast becoming inseparable from the freshman experience.

(I got a letter from Ruth J. Simmons, president of Brown, just yesterday - that fine institution, or its fundraising flacks, somehow having tracked me down despite all my wanderings - in which the phrase "world stage" appeared in the first sentence. Well! Forty years ago, when my parents were at Brown, its purpose was to keep young men from raising absolute hell before they became stockbrokers, teach them to tie a tie and maybe a little Latin. But now it's on the "world stage." Whee.)

Ethnic minorities are ideal as cadre, for the same reason that the Ottoman Janissaries selected and reared mainly Christian boys. Children of the powerless classes have no reason to defect. They will be your most loyal warriors. This is why, if you're young, smart and black, your ticket in life is written.

And indeed, the cadre phenomenon is most visible in the "ethnic studies" programs, which are the heart of the university power system. Since, with the assistance of ghetto mobs and gangs, they captured the university system in the '60s and '70s, no faction which has come into conflict with these groups has won. Most of them have not even survived. Witness Larry Summers.

As you see, the left has no monopoly on negativity. It is only social convention that prevents today's so-called right wing from mentioning these obvious and extremely unpleasant facts. This convention, whose final endpoint is the utterly content-free "compassionate conservatism" of a Bush, Cameron or Schwarzenegger, is probably not long for this world. It is a product of the broadcast era. Such a mealy-mouthed meme simply can't compete on a peer-to-peer network. And there is no reason to think its demise will be nonviolent. So if you're not armed, you probably should be.

Posted by: Mencius on April 11, 2007 3:53 PM

There's at least some evidence (look here)that immigration lowers crime rates.

That average incomes (and other average measures of economic activity) might not grow as fast as they otherwise would doesn't seem to me a serious consequence. Now, if it could be shown that non-immigrant incomes were adversely affected--grew less quickly or, worse, declined--that would mean something.

Posted by: Mike Snider on April 11, 2007 4:17 PM

Mike Snider,

The Harvard profs offering the ridiculous idea that illegal and legal immigration is dropping crime rates focus on the crime rates of America at large, instead of hard data on the crime rates amongst immigrants and illegal aliens which is actually available, and shows that these illegal aliens and immigrants do indeed commit more crime.


Another brilliant post! Of course! How can an irrational belief system pursue rational inquiry and debate? It can't, it must revert to dogma and censorship!

Posted by: BIOH on April 11, 2007 5:39 PM

"A pleasantly simple definition of this caste can be obtained by the Russell Rule (originally noted by Freda Utley about Bertrand Russell): the ruling caste are the people who say "we" when they mean "the government." The ruled castes always say "they."

This caste likes "obsessing about the negative aspects of life" because, like all two-legged apes, it likes power. Power in human societies is inseparable from responsibility: you gain power by demonstrating to others that you are sincerely concerned about solving problems. No problems, no power."

This is interesting as most of the negative comments on this site come from, by far, those who would consider themselves part of the "ruled caste." This caste as represented on this site is anti-immigrant, anti-modernism, anti-homosexual (to varying degrees) and seems to have major problems with the way public schools are run. I could go on for quite a while listing subjects I've seen railed against on this site, in both the blog and comment sections.

I think both sides of the fence have their share of vitriol and negativity, just directed at different targets. Sweeping statements like "one side is this way, the other that way" never seem to pan out.

Posted by: the patriarch on April 11, 2007 6:18 PM


The way it typically works, I think, is that most of the ideas held by the ruling (scholar) caste are simply bad, whereas those held by its primary political competitor (the red-state bourgeoisie) are either surprisingly sensible or profoundly awful.

Thus, any attempt to replace the bad ideas with their sensible counterparts inevitably becomes associated with the awful ideas and the low-status people who hold them. The result is a stable disequilibrium in which nonsense defeats sense. It's quite an ingenious design.

Not that anyone designed it, of course, any more than someone designed, say, the aorta. But I think we can still be impressed.

I was certainly raised as a member of the scholar caste, but I tend to sympathize more with the bourgeois caste. However, this is just because I have a bad temper and I live in San Francisco. Move me to, say, Fort Worth, and I guarantee in six months I'd be snarling epithets at Bush and driving a Prius.

Posted by: Mencius on April 11, 2007 10:02 PM


You're flat wrong. Robert J. Sampson specificlly mentioned data pertaining to cities (San Diego, New York, and El Paso in the linked article) where immigrant populations were unusually large and growing rapidly. His own work was done in Chicago--no lovely linkage to the actual data sets, I'll grant you, but Google points to lots of available pdfs, if you;re willig to take the timme.

Posted by: Mike Snider on April 16, 2007 10:55 AM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?