January 6, 2007

How tall are rock stars vs. country stars?

A reader sends a fascinating message about the heights of rock stars vs. country stars.

The only rock star I've shaken hands with was the late Joey Ramone. He and his mom were standing on a street corner in Greenwich Village in 1982, eating ice cream cones. I'd say he was 6'-5" if he had good posture (which he didn't). I'm 6'4" and Joey looked taller than me. My impression, however, is that most rock band frontmen are bouncy little guys, and the shorter ones on the lists below are probably exaggerating their heights for written accounts by the usual 1-2 inches that is considered acceptable in America.

Randomly watching CMT this morning I started noticing just how big a lot of today's male country artists are compared to rock stars. There are some big galoots out there in country. So I decided to do a comparison.

It's hardly scientific, but as you can see there have been an awful lot of 6 footers on the country charts lately. It wasn't always so. As you move back in time the people like Willie Nelson and George Jones weren't particularly big. I couldn't get a height for Merle Haggard, but he's no monster either. Same for Marty Robbins, another one I couldn't find a height for. And it's not that rockers are particularly short. Most are average to above average and there are Billy Corgans, Chris Cornells, James Hetfields, and Rick Ocaseks out there too. It should be mentioned though that while some like Cornell and Helfield are relatively well-muscled, a lot of the taller rockers like Corgan and Ocasek are "rock star skinny."

Yes, it's interesting how skinny rock stars have traditionally been, like Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, or Ocasek of The Cars, who was supposed to be 6'-4" and 145 pounds. High cheekbones are important too -- that's why Johnny Depp reminds you more of a rock star than a movie star, and why it was so natural for him to play a pirate as if he was Keith Richards' great-grandfather.

In contrast, a lot of today's country stars aren't just tall, they're huge. 6'2 Johnny Cash and 6'0 Waylon Jennings would be on the small side compared to a lot of them. Possible reasons for the discrepancy: 1. Country is a more masculine genre. Though its hard to say its more masculine than metal and metalish hard rock which features an awful lot of people under 6 feet including Ozzy, Axl, Eddie Van Halen, Rob Halford, Bruce Dickenson, the Young Brothers etc. You have to say though that Country music is pretty comfortable with traditional masculinity.

Joe Strummer of The Clash wasn't too big, but he was so All-Guy that he wouldn't even write love songs, which, I suspect, he felt had cooties.

But, a lot of your glam rockers like Jagger, Bowie, Tyler, the hair metal bands of the 1980s, etc. try to put on an air of androgyny. I'm not sure why.

2. Country's star system. Country has something similar to an old Hollywood star system which emphasizes individuals looks. Lets face it tallness is a big part of a man's appeals. Rock stars have a lot of charisma, but let's face it white rockers are famous for being ugly. I would merely add that they are also short.

3. Division of labour. (Related to #2) Rockers almost always write their own material. Country singers often don't. I agree with the rough division between interpreters (singers, dancers, conductors etc.) and creators (composers, writers, painters etc.) and that the later requires a lot more g. Since rockers usually compose their own material they need more intelligence. This means that a rock performers probably have more nerdy tendencies than country singers like Tim McGraw who couldn't write a tune to save his life. But he doesn't have to. The whole Nashville songwriting machine is behind him. Of course some of Country's big galoots do write their own songs, not always to great effect I'm afraid.

A lot of the great country songs were written by somewhat shorter men like Merle Haggard, Willie, Kris Kristofferson. Toby Keith ain't up there.

4. Middlebrowness. (Related to both #1 and #2) Country has been aiming at comfortable suburbanites for quite while now. Its still got its hard partying aspect, but its still a fair ways from Willie smoking weed at the Armadillo. Its sexy male stars are thus more conventional, and conventional male attraciveness includes height. Rock goes for the innovative and its definition of sexiness sometimes crosses over into the downright weird. Short people are probably more welcome there.

Another thing is that rock stars bounce around on stage more than country singers. A lot of rockers jump in the air frequently. It's easier for a little man to get higher off the ground relative to his size than for a big man. And, it's a lot easier on the little man's knees when his 135 pounds comes down than when a 185 pounder lands. That's why drill instructors at Parris Island boot camp aren't the towering fellows like they are in the movies. They are mostly wiry little guys because DIs have to lead the recruits on long runs everyday, and only light men's knees can withstand that kind of pounding year after year.

And it could be that country likes deep-voiced men like Johnny Cash, while rock, especially metal, tends toward more exciting higher voices. There may be a slight correlation between height and length of vocal cords.

I've put the lists in very rough chronological order and I've stuck with white musicians as interracial comparisons might screw things up. I've also tended to avoid including Southern Rock, which well sounds an awful lot like todays country, and also might confuse things. I haven't looked at country music before the rock era.

Joe Nichols 6'2
Eddie Montgomery 6'2
Troy Gentry 6'3
Gary LeVox 6'0
Dierks Bentley 6'0
Trace Adkins 6'6
Brad Paisley 5'10
Kenny Chesney 5'6
Keith Urban 5'8
Toby Keith 6'3
Blake Shelton 6'5
Tim McGraw 6'0
Garth Brooks 6'1
Alan Jackson 6'4
Ronnie Dunn 6'4
Kix Brooks 6'2
Billy Ray Cyrus 6'0
John Michael Montgomery 6'2
Travis Tritt 5'7
Vince Gill 6'3
Clint Black 5'8
Lyle Lovett 6'0
Randy Travis 5'9
George Strait 5'10
Dwight Yoakam 6'0
Steve Earle 5'11
Randy Owen 6'0
Johnny Cash 6'2
Hank Williams Jr. 6'2
Waylon Jennings 6'0
Kris Kristofferson 5'10
George Jones 5'7
Willie Nelson 5'6
Hank Sr. was 6'0

Brandon Flowers 5'9
Scott Weiland 5'10
Julian Casablancas 6'2
Thom Yorke 5'5
Damon Albarn 5'11
Liam Gallagher 5'10
Noel Gallagher 5'8
Billy Joe Armstrong 5'7
Kurt Cobain 5'9
Chris Cornell 6'2
Eddie Vedder 5'7
Billy Corgan 6'3
Layne Staley 6'0
Jerry Cantrell 6'1
Axl Rose 5'8
Slash 5'9
Izzy Stradlin 5'11
James Hetfield 6'1
Michael Stipe 5'9
Rick Ocasek 6'4
Rob Halford 5'11
Brian Johnson 5'5
Angus Young 5'2
Malcolm Young 5'3
Bruce Dickenson 5'6
David Lee Roth 6'0
Eddie Van Halen 5'8
Bono 5'7
The Edge 5'10
Sting 6'0
Elvis Costello 5'10
David Byrne 6'0
Joe Strummer 5'8
Mick Jones 5'10
John Lydon-Rotten 5'8
Joey Ramone 6'3
Johnny Ramone 5'9
Dee Dee Ramone 6'0
Roger Waters 6'3
David Gilmour 5'11
Steven Tyler 5'10
Joe Perry 5'9
Bruce Springsteen 5'10
David Bowie 5'10
Iggy Pop 5'7
Lou Reed 5'5
Tony Iommi 6'2
Ozzy Osbourne 5'10
Robbie Robertson 6'1
Neil Young 6'0
Jimmy Page 5'11
Robert Plant 6'1
David Crosby 5'10
Rod Stewart 5'10
Keith Richards 5'8
Mick Jagger 5'10
Roger Daltrey 5'7
Pete Townshend 6'0
Paul McCartney 5'10
John Lennon 5'10
Elvis was about 6'0

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

January 5, 2007

"Fragmented Future"

Fractured FutureMy long cover story in the January 15, 2007 issue of The American Conservative is now online. Here's an excerpt:

"In the presence of [ethnic] diversity, we hunker down. We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it's not just that we don't trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don't trust people who do look like us." -- Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam

It was one of the more irony-laden incidents in the history of celebrity social scientists.

While in Sweden to receive a $50,000 academic prize as political science professor of the year, Harvard's Robert D. Putnam, a former Carter administration official who made his reputation writing about the decline of social trust in America in his bestseller Bowling Alone, confessed to Financial Times columnist John Lloyd that his latest research discovery -- that ethnic diversity decreases trust and co-operation in communities -- was so explosive that for the last half decade he hadn't dared announce it "until he could develop proposals to compensate for the negative effects of diversity, saying it 'would have been irresponsible to publish without that.'"

In a column headlined "Harvard study paints bleak picture of ethnic diversity," Lloyd summarized the results of the largest study ever of "civic engagement," a survey of 26,200 people in 40 American communities: "When the data were adjusted for class, income and other factors, they showed that the more people of different races lived in the same community, the greater the loss of trust. 'They don't trust the local mayor, they don't trust the local paper, they don't trust other people and they don't trust institutions,' said Prof Putnam. 'The only thing there's more of is protest marches and TV watching.'"

Lloyd noted, "Prof Putnam found trust was lowest in Los Angeles, 'the most diverse human habitation in human history.'"

As if to prove his own point that diversity creates minefields of mistrust, Putnam later protested to the Harvard Crimson that the Financial Times essay left him feeling betrayed, calling it "by two degrees of magnitude, the worst experience I have ever had with the media." To Putnam's horror, hundreds of "racists and anti-immigrant activists" sent him e-mails congratulating him for finally coming clean about his findings.

Lloyd stoutly stood by his reporting, and Putnam couldn't cite any mistakes of fact, just a failure to accentuate the positive. It was "almost criminal," Putnam grumbled, that Lloyd had not sufficiently emphasized the spin that he had spent five years concocting...

But what primarily drove down L.A.'s rating in Putnam's 130-question survey were the high levels of distrust displayed by Hispanics. While no more than 12 percent of L.A.'s whites said they trusted other races "only a little or not at all," 37 percent of L.A.'s Latinos distrusted whites. And whites were the most reliable in Hispanic eyes. Forty percent of Latinos doubted Asians, 43 percent distrusted other Hispanics, and 54 percent were anxious about blacks. ...

The problems caused by diversity can be partly ameliorated, but the handful of techniques that actually work generally appall liberal intellectuals, so we hear about them only when they come under attack. ...

Another untold story is the beneficial effect on race relations of the growth of Christian fundamentalism. Among soldiers and college football players, for instance, co-operation between the races is up due to an increased emphasis on a common transracial identity as Christians.

According to military correspondent Robert D. Kaplan of The Atlantic, "The rise of Christian evangelicalism had helped stop the indiscipline of the Vietnam-era Army." And that has helped build bridges among the races. Military sociologists Charles C. Moskos and John Sibley Butler wrote in All That We Can Be: Black Leadership and Racial Integration the Army Way, "Perhaps the most vivid example of the 'blackening' of enlisted culture is seen in religion. Black Pentecostal congregations have also begun to influence the style of worship in mainstream Protestant services in post chapels. Sunday worship in the Army finds both the congregation and the spirit of the service racially integrated."

Similarly, it's now common to see college football coaches leading their teams in prayer. Fisher DeBerry, the outstanding coach of the Air Force Academy, who has led players with no hope of making the NFL to a record of 169-108-1, hung a banner in the locker room bearing the Fellowship of Christian Athletes' Competitor's Creed, which begins, "I am a Christian first and last." When the administration found out, he was asked to take it down.

Because policymakers almost certainly won't do what it would take to alleviate the harms caused by diversity -- indeed, they won't even talk honestly about what would have to be done -- it's crazy to exacerbate the problem through more mass immigration. As the issue of co-operation becomes ever more pressing, the quality of intellectual discourse on the topic declines -- as Putnam's self-censorship revealed -- precisely because of a lack of trust due to the mounting political power of "the diverse" to punish frank discussion. [More]

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

The Claw of the Lion is back

The pseudonymous La Griffe du Lion, whom I called the Zorro of statisticians, has a new essay:

Intelligence, Gender and Race

General intelligence, its form and how it is distributed in various populations are among the topics covered in this conversation with Prodigy. A new kind of meta-analysis is unveiled, and with it an assessment of the cognitive gender gap. All this and more when La Griffe du Lion interviews a celebrated whiz kid. Volume 9, Number 1, January 2007

Personally, I don't have an opinion on whether men or women have higher average IQs. Lynn, Rushton, and Nyborg say men have higher IQs by a few points. Jensen says they are the same. I asked Charles Murray who did better on the military's highly refined AFQT IQ test, and he found that women had scored a little higher in the 1997 re-standardization.

Whatever the averages really are, they're quite close to each other, so the psychometric issues tend to become highly technical.

At the far right edge of the bell curve, though, it's likely that there are more males, as Larry Summers notoriously pointed out.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

January 4, 2007

Study: 25 million Mexican-Americans failing to contribute to high tech in America

For years, I've been pointing at the dog that didn't bark -- the remarkable failure of Latin American immigrants to contribute to California's high tech industries. Granted, the new much-publicized Duke study finding that 1/4th of technology start-ups are founded by immigrants never gets around to saying that in so many words, but if you check the data carefully, that's what you find. You are going to hear a lot of heehawing over how this study proves we benefit from Open Borders, but what it shows instead is that tens of millions of illegal immigrants have contributed almost nothing to high tech in America.

For example, Graph 5a is "Immigrant Groups Founding Engineering and Technology Companies in California." India is out in front at 20%, followed by Taiwan (13%), and China (10%). This time, Mexico makes the chart, but with only 1%. That's not a lot of return for having 10,000,000 Mexicans in California.

Similarly, Chart 10 shows patent applications by non-citizen immigrants over the last 20 years. Mexicans, who are by far the largest number of non-citizens in America, don't even make the top 20: Chinese & Taiwanese are first, followed by India, Canada, UK, Germany, France and Russia. Heck, Turkey makes the top 20, and there are hardly any Turks in America. But not Mexico (or any other Latin American country).

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

The D.C. press corps and Barack Obama

One thing that gets overlooked in all the national media frenzy over the potential Presidential candidate is how Barack Obama's African name and African father subtly help his image among bigfoot Washington D.C. journalists.

Something I noticed after a number of visits to D.C. is how much white Washingtonians prefer African immigrants to American blacks. One reason is because on average the African blacks are much more obsequious toward whites than the American blacks of Washington D.C., who are far more surly and slow-moving than the American blacks in, say, Chicago. The African-American checkout ladies at CVS drugstores always remind me of John F. Kennedy's saying that Washington D.C. combines Southern efficiency with Northern charm. The African immigrants, in contrast, are much more polite and thus make more desirable servants for our ruling elite. Some of this white preference for Africans rubs off on Obama.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Brad DeLong: "Gladwell seems more than a bit thick here."

There's a new New Yorker article by Malcolm Gladwell entitled: "Open Secrets: Enron, intelligence, and the perils of too much information," in which Gladwell makes a "semi-defense" of convicted Enron CEO Jeff Skilling.

On his blog, Gladwell goes further:

"Can anyone explain—in plain language—what it is Jeff Skilling and Co. did wrong?"

The commenters go to town on this, with economist Brad DeLong leading the charge, and piling on Gladwell even more on his own blog.

I paid a vast amount of attention to accounting arcana from 1988-2000, and very little since, so I don't have anything to contribute to the main question. I do, though, want to mention a potentially useful conceptual distinction Gladwell brings up about the difference between insufficient facts versus inadequate analysis, but, unfortunately, he botches it up in calling the former "puzzles" and the latter "mysteries."

That's largely backwards from how people normally use the words "puzzle" and "mystery," so it's just going to confuse things. Gladwell writes: "Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts are a puzzle. We can’t find him because we don’t have enough information..."

No, that's a mystery, as the term is normally used. For example, in Raymond Chandler's famous murder mystery The Big Sleep, detective Philip Marlowe is hired to find former bootlegger Rusty Regan. Marlowe doesn't have enough information to find him so he goes around searching for clues. Only at the very end does he know enough to figure out where Regan is. Similarly, according to Gladwell, we need more clues to find Osama, so his whereabouts are a mystery, not a puzzle.

Gladwell goes on:

"The problem of what would happen in Iraq after the toppling of Saddam Hussein was, by contrast, a mystery... Mysteries require judgments and the assessment of uncertainty, and the hard part is not that we have too little information but that we have too much."

No, that would be better labeled a "puzzle." Rubik's Cube is a classic puzzle: everything you need to solve the puzzle is right in front of your eyes, but it's still very hard to figure out.

The Big Sleep, like most detective stories, transforms from a mystery to a puzzle at the very end after all the clues have finally been collected and the shamus starts explaining whodunnit.

For example, whether or not Saddam Hussein had a nuclear weapons program in 2002 seemed like a mystery (we didn't have many hard facts before Hans Blix's weapons inspectors got there) , but, in truth, it was a puzzle. Gregory Cochran solved it in October 2002 on Jerry Pournelle's blog using facts from newspapers and almanacs: Saddam couldn't afford it.

As I've suggested before, Gladwell should ask The New Yorker to augment their famous fact checkers with logic checkers who would perform reality checks and point out holes like this in his reasoning before his articles get printed.

New Yorker editor David Remnick should do more to shield his star writer from his own weaknesses. Gladwell has a much more interesting mind than 99% of all journalists; it's just not a very reliable one. There's an obvious positive correlation between having lots of new ideas and having lots of bad ideas, just like baseball sluggers who swing for the fences strike out more. Gladwell is slowly making himself a laughing stock, which isn't in anybody's interest. It's time for Remnick to protect Gladwell's dwindling reputation by subjecting him to more rigorous editing.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

January 3, 2007

White Guilt, Obamamania, and the Reality of Race

My new VDARE.com column: An excerpt:

White Guilt, Obamamania, and the Reality of Race

Sen. Barack Obama is a "wigger."

He's a remarkably exotic variety of the faux African-American, but a wigger nonetheless. He has no ancestors who were slaves in the U.S. Moreover, his upbringing by his white mother and Indonesian stepfather in Indonesia and by his white grandparents in Hawaii, where mixed-race children are close to the norm, was almost wholly divorced from African-American life … except for what he could see and aspire to on TV.

Even genetically, Obama, whose East African descent is apparent in his unusual features, has only a distant relationship to the West Africans who are the ancestors of almost all African-Americans...

But details like these just seem to make this nominal African-American that much more attractive to whites. So why are so many whites, especially in the media, excited about promoting Obama for President in 2008? The Barack Attack is similar to the Colin Craze of 1995...

Supporting Obama for President, like supporting Powell a decade ago, is seen by many whites as the ultimate in White Guilt Repellent.

It's important to understand, however, that White Guilt is very different from, say, Catholic Guilt, which consists of straightforward feelings of personal moral failure. In comparison, I don't recall ever meeting any white person who personally felt guilty for the troubles of African-Americans.

But I've known many whites who want to loudly blame other whites for black difficulties. ... In other words, White Guilt is just another ploy in the Great American White Status Struggle, in which minorities are merely props for asserting moral superiority over other whites. ...

Plus, I suspect there's an even more hidden reason many whites wish Obama is elected President ... [More]

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

January 2, 2007

Occam's Razorette

Ms. Dana Stevens, Slate's film critrix, plaintively wonders:

Why War Movies Leave Me Cold

I'm going to start with a personal confession that I hope will open out onto some bigger questions—not only about this year's movies, but about the ever-scarier world outside the theater. Here goes: I don't like war movies. Worse, I don't seem to get war movies. Even as the lizard part of my brain recoils appropriately from images of young men blasted to bits by bombs, my higher faculties inevitably shut down, and any cinematic subtleties are lost on me. It's as if I myself, as a viewer, were suddenly plunged into a war zone, where the world narrows to the question of sheer survival.

My thought process during your average war movie, if transcribed, would read something like this: God, war is strange. … Large groups of men in uniforms trying to kill other men in uniforms, in service of an abstract concept … How could anything so horrible have happened once in the history of humanity, much less be happening all over the world right now? … I wonder if the American death toll in Iraq has passed 3,000 yet … Oh s***, Giovanni Ribisi is gonna get it now. … Please don't show his guts.

By the way, this kind of dissociative disorder strikes only during the classic boys-in-the-combat-zone movie: a Saving Private Ryan, a Flags of Our Fathers...

What does it mean, this resistance to a genre that, I can objectively acknowledge, has produced so many powerful and moving and important films...?

Hmmhmmmh, that's a tough one ... What could it possibly mean? Oh, wait a minute ... I think I've got it:

It means: You're a girl.

(Also, it's probably particularly related to Ms. Stevens having a baby earlier this year, so the maternal oxytocin hormone is still flowing relatively heavily.)

More generally, why are film critics such idiots? Do they understand so little about human diversity because you pretty much have to be a raging egomaniac to think whether you liked a movie or not is of general importance?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

"The life of the Pathan is thus full of interest" -- W. Churchill.

The Economist surveys the luridly interesting moral code of the largest Afghan tribe:

As a reporter for the Daily Telegraph, attached to the Malakand Field Force, Winston Churchill wrote: “Their system of ethics, which regards treachery and violence as virtues rather than vices, has produced a code of honour so strange and inconsistent that it is incomprehensible to a logical mind.” ...

“Any man who loses his honour must be completely ostracised,” said Sandaygul, a long-beard of the Mangal tribe in Afghanistan's south-eastern Paktia province. “No one would congratulate him on the birth of child. No one would marry his daughter. No one would attend his funeral. His disgrace will endure for generations. He and his family must move away.” In Pushtu, to be disgraced means literally to be an outsider.

There are infinite ways to slight a Pushtun's nang, but most involve zar, zan or zamin: gold, women or land. The search tactics of American troops in Afghanistan, five years after they invaded the country, tend to offend on all counts. By forcing entry into the mud-fortress home of a Pushtun, with its lofty buttresses and loopholes, they dishonour his property. By stomping through its female quarters, they dishonour his women. Worse, the search may end with the householder handcuffed and dragged off before his neighbours: his person disgraced. America and its allies face a complicated insurgency in Afghanistan, driven by many factors. But such tactics are among them.

His honour besmirched—and here's the problem for the Americans—a Pushtun is obliged to have his revenge, or badal... According to a Pushtu saying: “A Pushtun waited 100 years, then took his revenge. It was quick work.”

In addition, the honourable Pushtun embraces two obligations. He will offer hospitality, malmastai, to anyone needing it. And he will give sanctuary, nanawatai, to whoever requests it. Stories of extreme generosity are common in Pushtun places. Near the village of Saidkhail, in the Zadran tribal area of eastern Khost province, a wandering Islamic student, or talib, killed a man with a knife, recounts Mohammed Omar Barakzai, the deputy minister for tribal affairs. The talib knocked on the nearest door and said to the woman who opened it: “I have killed a man. Shelter me.” She let him in. And sure enough, to trim an elegantly told tale, the murdered man was the woman's son. “I am a Pushtun and have given this man refuge,” the woman told her blood-lusting husband and brothers. “Take him to safety.” [More]

And here are some wonderfully horrid Pushtun proverbs.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Category: Things you find out over Christmas

My late father-in-law was a union leader and tuba player for the Lyric Opera who moved the family to a farm outside Chicago in 1968 because his kids kept getting mugged in front of their home on the West Side. My wife just learned from her older brother that, wanting help with the heavy lifting around the farm, their father had been dead set on buying an Asian elephant. He'd even written away for a catalog listing all the used elephants for sale in the U.S. It took a lengthy argument to get him to give up his dream of owning an elephant.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Reasons for Being Cheerful

Science book superagent John Brockman asks his stable of scientific authors: WHAT ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC ABOUT? WHY?

Artificial Intelligence co-inventor John McCarthy is optimistic about:

World Peace

I'm optimistic about the sustainability of material progress, but since I'm known for that, I'll refrain.

Instead I want to express optimism about world politics, especially about world peace. World peace is what we have. There are only minor wars and no present prospect of a major war threatening western civilization and its present extensions to the actually developing countries. Only Africa and the Arab world are in bad shape.

Contrast this with the time between 1914 and 1989, when there were serious attempts at world domination accompanied by at least three genocides.

... As for Arab jihadism, I think they'll get over it as soon as a new generation matures to oppose their parents' slogans.

If not Whatever happens we have got
The Maxim Gun, and they have not.

— Hilaire Belloc, 1898, The Modern Traveller, part 6.

It is important that the political causes of the 20th century disasters, virulent and militaristic nationalism accompanied by letting one man take power, do not exist in major countries today. Communism is dead as a motivator of violence. The green movement is accompanied by occasional minor violence, but a green Hitler or Stalin seems unlikely.

Still, it's hard to predict 100 years ahead. As Stephen Hawking advocates, humanity would be safer if it expanded beyond the earth.

Meanwhile, JONATHAN HAIDT, psychologist, University of Virginia is happy that:

The Baby Boomers Will Soon Retire

I am optimistic about the future of social science research because the influence of the baby boom generation on the culture and agenda of the social sciences will soon decrease.

Don't get me wrong, many of my best friends are boomers, and technically I'm one too (born in 1963). I am grateful for the freedom and justice that the activists of the 1960s and 1970s helped bring to the United States. But if there is a sensitive period for acquiring a moral and political orientation, it is the late teens and early 20s, and most of those whose sensitive periods included the Vietnam war and the struggles for civil rights seem to have been permanently marked by those times. Many young people who entered Ph.D. programs in the social sciences during the 1970s did so with the hope of using their research to reduce oppression and inequality. This moral imprinting of a generation of researchers may have had a few detrimental effects on the (otherwise excellent) science they produced.

Here are two: 1) Moralistic antinativism. The deep and politicized antipathy to 1970s sociobiology produced a generation of social scientists wary of nativism in general and of evolutionary thinking in particular. Nobody these days admits to believing that the mind is a blank slate at birth, but in practice I have noticed that social scientists older than me generally begin with a social learning explanation of everything (especially sex differences), and then act as though it is "conservative" (scientifically) or "liberal" (politically) to stick with social learning unless the evidence against it is overwhelming, p<.05, which it rarely is. But shouldn't we use p<.5 here? Shouldn't we always let nativist and empiricist explanations both have a go at each question and then pick the one that has the better fit, overall, with the evidence? I look forward to the day when most social scientists learned about the astonishing findings of twin studies in their twenties, and very few know who Stephen Jay Gould was. 2) Moral Conformity Pressure. Imagine an industry in which 90% of the people are men, male values and maleness are extolled publicly while feminine values are ridiculed, and men routinely make jokes, publicly and privately, about how dumb women are, even when women are present. Sounds like a definition of hostile climate” run wild? Now replace the words male” and female” with liberal” and conservative,” and we have a pretty good description of my field —social psychology—and, I suspect, many other areas of the social sciences. I have no particular fondness for conservatives. But I do have a need for them. I study morality, and I have found that conservative ideas (about authority, respect, order, loyalty, purity, and sanctity) illuminate vast territories of moral psychology, territories that have hardly been noticed by psychologists who define morality as consisting exclusively of matters of harm, rights, and justice. If social psychology had been a morally diverse field, we would have done a much better job of studying the full expanse of human morality, and we'd be in a much better position right now to understand the morality of radical Islam. Will younger social scientists be more morally diverse than the baby boom generation? Maybe not. But if they make it through their sensitive periods without seeing themselves as part of a revolution, they just might be more open to diverse ideas about the origins of mind, the scope of morals, and the workings of society.

And Greg Cochran wants to unleash on the world (and solar system):

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread"—it has always been that way. Most men have been slaves of necessity, while the few who were not lived by exploiting others who were. Although mechanization has eased that burden in the advanced countries, it is still the case for the majority of the human race. Limited resources (mainly fossil fuels), as well as negative consequences of industrialization such as global warming, have made some people question whether American living standards can ever be extended to most of the human race. They're pessimists, and they're wrong. Hardly anyone seems to realize it, but we're on the threshold of an era of unbelievable abundance.

Within a generation—sooner if we want it enough—we will be able to make a self-replicating machine, first seriously suggested by John von Neumann. Such a machine would absorb energy through solar cells, eat rock and use the energy and minerals to make copies of itself. Numbers would grow geometrically, and if we manage to design one with a reasonably short replication time—say six months—we could have trillions working for humanity in another generation.

You might compare this process to a single cell of blue-green algae, which replicates over the summer until it covers the entire pond. But unlike algae, a self-replicating machine would be programmed and controlled by us. If it could make it its own mechanical and electronic parts, it would also be able to make toasters, refrigerators, and Lamborghinis, as well as the electricity to power them. We could make the deserts bloom, put two cars in every pot, and end world poverty, while simultaneously fighting global warming. It's closer than you think, since the key technologies are already being developed for use in rapid prototyping and desktop manufacturing. Aristotle thought that slavery would only end when looms weave by themselves: we're almost there.

Right now the human race uses about 13 trillion watts: the solar cells required to produce that much power would take up less than a fifth of one percent of the Earth's land surface—remember that the Earth intercepts more solar energy in an hour than the human race uses in a year. That's a lot of solar cell acreage, but it's affordable as long as they make themselves. We could put them in deserts—in fact, they'd all fit inside the Rub' al Khali, the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia. As I understand it, we like depending on the Saudis for energy. [More]

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

December 31, 2006

Where does the greenback go farthest?

The Audacious Epigone has a clever table of potential countries to retire to showing where your American pension dollars would go the farthest.

His methodology was simple:

"To get an idea of how far my money US dollars will take me, I compared the GDP of the globe's nations at the official exchange rate with the US [dollar] to the CIA's best estimate of each nation's respective GDP in terms of purchasing power parity."

The bad news is that you pretty much get what you pay for.

Here's the dozen cheapest. (A $100 dollar Social Security check from America would buy you $1,073.30 worth of the Burmese lifestyle, such as it is.)

Where to get the most bang for your buck

1. Burma -- 1073.3%
2. Zimbabwe -- 801.1%
3. Burundi -- 740.3%
4. Ethiopia -- 734.0%
5. Cambodia -- 720.7%
6. Gambia -- 707.2%
7. Rwanda -- 690.1%
8. Uganda -- 603.9%
9. Nepal -- 588.1%
10. Ghana -- 582.8%
11. Dem. Rep. of Congo -- 555.0%
12. Vietnam -- 537.6%

Hooooh, boy. That's quite a list. I guess I'd pick Vietnam first as a place that's coming up in the world, with maybe Nepal second for scenery, but only if the Maoist uprising ever calmed down.

How about the bottom of the list, which consists of random islands, plus the really civilized countries:

174. Finland -- 87.9%
175. Ireland -- 87.6%
176. France -- 87.3%
177. Qatar -- 87.1%
178. Seychelles -- 86.7%
179. Japan -- 86.3%
180. Palau -- 85.9%
181. Netherlands -- 85.7%
182. UK -- 81.6%
183. Iceland -- 81.1%
184. Vanuatu -- 81.0%
185. Saint Vincent -- 79.9%
186. Marshall Islands -- 79.9%
187. Norway -- 79.5%
188. Denmark -- 77.8%
189. Sweden -- 77.1%
190. Niue -- 75.9% 191.
Tonga -- 73.2%
192. Liechtenstein -- 71.8%
193. Switzerland -- 65.6%

That $100 Social Security check that's worth $1,070.30 in Burma is only worth $65.60 in Switzerland. So, I guess I won't be retiring to the ancestral Sailer realm in the St. Gallen canton of northeastern Switzerland. Similarly, my 1980s dream of someday playing golf everyday in then-cheap Ballybunion, Ireland is now a pipe dream, with the greens fee on the Old Course at Ballybunion up to $250.

Where are the bargains? Well, Costa Rica at 235.7% remains a reasonable value for retirees looking for political stability, a pleasant climate without excessive altitude (around 4,000 feet -- really thin air can be a problem when you are old), a fairly middle class society, and enough other old yanquis to speak English with.

Newly separated from Serbia, Montenegro (214.4%) has Adriatic beaches and some fantastic architecture built by Venetian merchants. I was disappointed that "Casino Royale," although supposedly set in Montenegro, which I've been wanting to see more of, was actually filmed, like so many movies today, in the Czech Republic (186.6%). Prague wasn't destroyed in WWII, so it has great architecture.

Tough Midwesterners who don't mind cold weather might find Poland at 205.2% attractive. Prosperous, uncorrupt Estonia at 191.5% could be a bargain for a summer home when the sun shines 18 hours per day there.

It would solve a lot of problems if Mexico (153.5%) became a major retirement destination for American baby boomers, providing jobs at home in Mexico for people who would otherwise illegally immigrate to America, but the relatively small cost of living advantage at present doesn't look like it's big enough to compensate for the beheadings, dual Presidentes, and other harbingers of chaos. (Malta (151.4%) looks better than Mexico, except for distance from America.) Okay, Fred Reed has moved to Mexico and is very happy there, but most of us aren't as tough as Fred.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer