April 14, 2007

Elites

A friend emails:

My own idea about elites runs something like this:

[1. Social evolution is largely unintentional.

[2. Social subsystems (politics, economics, demographics, cultural, etc) evolve rather independently of one another. This from Niklas Luhmann.

[3. Nevertheless, there are overlaps among *people* at the apex of these elites, as seen in boards of directors, cocktail parties, etc. To join this overlapping consensus of respectability, you can't criticize other subsystems to vigorously, e.g., you can't denounce modern art as a fraud.

[4. Power very largely consists of being able to define what criticisms are off the wall, over the top, and out to lunch. Racial differences in intelligence and certain aspects of U.S. foreign policy (past and present) are two examples that come to mind. This is a negative or Calhounian veto power. Those who wield it do not "run the world." Rather they can block significant changes that reduce their power.

[5. Nevertheless, what is regarded as respectable over time evolves, again, largely outside the intentions of the gatekeepers. Thus, Tom Wolfe can lambast modern art and still get invited to the right cocktail parties. And libertarians now have a seat at the table, though not a full seat. This depends on the seat: libertarians have no place at a table made up of the Education administrative blob.

[6. Organizations evolve with a logic of their own and getting into an organization elite requires displays of loyalty above anything else.

[7. There once was a "power elite," chiefly made up of business, government, and military, but such a consensus has been replaced since the 1950s if not before by what Luhmann calls functional subsystems in a plural elite model.

[8. The respectability elite continues, and Bill Gates has managed to become a full-fledged member by mouthing the right opinions. But Gates, while his company has changed the world, has no power to change the respectability consensus about the goodness of public education or any other respectability shibboleth. His alleged power, outside of Microsoft, is really gaining applause for himself. In fact, the respectability elite is more of an inner circle of pretense than a group that can significantly change things.

[9. There can be a wide divergence between mass and elite opinion. Examples are the Lone Nut Hypothesis of who shot JFK (all the elite, 20% of the public), continuing to ban school prayer (ditto), and allowing unlimited immigration (not quite all of the elite, but again 20% of the public). There are less drastic divides over strange phenomena and evolution (few of the elite against, but smaller portions of the masses) and over unorthodox medicine (more of the elite but not as great as of the masses). The reasons for this divide vary quite a bit and are well worth inquiring into.

[My model, in short, is that intentions matter little, that a plurality of elites represent functional subsystems, and that there is a respectability consensus that rewards those who refrain from making off the wall, out to lunch, and over the top pronouncements.]


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

April 13, 2007

Surowiecki and Sailer v. Galt and Cowen

Back when I was taking economics courses, during Alfred Marshall's heyday, economics professors drilled into us that financial markets were efficient, and therefore you should just put your money into a no load mutual fund because even professionals can't beat the market. Being a trusting soul, I believed them and went into marketing research. My classmates at MBA school in the turning point year of 1982 paid no attention, went to Wall Street, and got rich.

Now, we are told, it's the "efficiency" of the modern financial markets that is allowing a few thousand players to get richer than Croesus, while the rest of us putter along.
At Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen quotes Jane Galt in The Economist:

To the extent that the superrich are pulling away from the rest of us...the most parsimonious explanation seems to be the massive increase in the efficiency, and size, of American capital markets.

Clearly, I don't know anything about getting rich, but, I responded:

"Shouldn't a more efficient financial market mean that the ROI gap on the investments of the rich and non-rich should narrow, not widen? In 1907, it helped to be as rich as J.P. Morgan to profit reliably in the financial markets because the cost of monitoring one's investments to make sure you weren't being ripped off was so great. Now, the friction cost of investments for small investors should be less prohibitive. So, I don't see this as much of an explanation."

For example, why have the giant endowments of Harvard and Yale been generating roughly a 5 percentage point better return on investment for the last decade and a half than the average college's endowment?

James Surowiecki, the New Yorker's business writer, added:

"Steve's right: a more efficient capital market is one in which there should be a smaller, not bigger, role for intermediaries. So it seems peculiar to argue that the greater efficiency of capital markets is responsible for making all these intermediaries incredibly rich."

Some fairly illuminating comments follow from people who know much more about the subject than I do, although I still don't understand how the old efficient markets theory with its glamorization of no load mutual funds can be reconciled with the fashionableness of hedge funds with million dollar minimum investments and huge fees.


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

April 12, 2007

Vincent Carroll on Duke

From the Rocky Mountain News:


The most remarkable fact about the Duke lacrosse fiasco is not that it took nearly a year for obviously flimsy charges to be dropped against the players. That’s a long time, but it was only in January that the North Carolina attorney general took over the case from the corrupt Durham County district attorney.

Nor is it the fact that District Attorney Mike Nifong would so crudely exploit stereotypes of well-to-do white male athletes in order to entice black votes in a re-election campaign. Race-baiting is a time-honored political tactic, although one deployed more frequently decades ago — and then mostly against blacks, of course.

The most remarkable feature of this legal debacle isn’t even the cheerleading for the prosecution that could be found in such major media as The New York Times. As biased and credulous as many reports were, a few were first-rate. For example, the late Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes deftly demolished the prosecution’s case in a report last fall.

No, the most astonishing fact, hands down, was and remains the squalid behavior of the community of scholars at Duke itself. For months nearly the entire faculty fell into one of two camps: those who demanded the verdict first and the trial later, and those whose silence enabled their vigilante colleagues to set the tone. (More)


One minor bit of good news is that Duke was one of the few private colleges not to see a big boost in applications this year, falling 1%. The Common Application website has made it so easy to apply to up to 20 private colleges without re-entering facts that most colleges appear to have enjoyed double digit increases in application this year.


"The schools that traditionally have been a little less selective than the most selective schools ... Claremont, Pitzer, Colgate, Hamilton, Skidmore, Trinity, Middlebury ... just went bananas," Reider said. "Colgate is now where Dartmouth was. Dartmouth is where Amherst was. Amherst is where Brown was. Brown is where Stanford was. Stanford is where Harvard was, and Harvard is all by itself, taking 9 percent. ... Things like that are crazy."

Pitzer College, which has about 960 students and is east of Los Angeles, is one of the private campuses that has seen a huge jump in interest from students and subsequently has become much more selective.

Ten years ago, it accepted 65 of every 100 applicants. This year, it took 26 students out of every 100, down from 38 in 100 just last year. Its average SAT score has increased, too, from 1,206 last year to 1,323 this year.

"It is huge," said Pitzer President Laura Trombley. "In a way it is kind of affirming. When you are this selective, people begin to certainly rethink their conception or perception of the institution."


In other words, we must be doing something right here at Pitzer (one of the Claremont Colleges) because more 17 year olds think we're cool. Pitzer is benefiting from the worst house on the block strategy popular among lazy homeowners for prospering from a gentrifying market. It got so hard to get into the other four Claremont Colleges (Pomona, Harvey Mudd, Scripps, and Claremont McKenna) that Pitzer has gotten pulled along in their slipstream.

Come May 2, a lot of colleges will likely find that they had fewer enrollments than they expected based on past experience, and will be desperately dialing their waiting lists. I suspect Duke will lead the list.

Still, as I've pointed out over and over, undergraduate college reputations just don't change much over the decades, no matter how badly the school screws up, so Duke will still be golden. For example, the Claremont Colleges had their own hate hoax in 2004, when a professor tried to frame her white male students in the trashing of her car, which she actually did herself. I described it here in the American Conservative. But applications to Claremont Colleges soared this year.


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

Retiring Tony Blair unloads unPC bombshell:

From the Guardian:

Political correctness not helping, says PM · Community leaders react angrily to comments

Patrick Wintour and Vikram Dodd

Tony Blair yesterday claimed the spate of knife and gun murders in London was not being caused by poverty, but a distinctive black culture. His remarks angered community leaders, who accused him of ignorance and failing to provide support for black-led efforts to tackle the problem.

One accused him of misunderstanding the advice he had been given on the issue at a Downing Street summit.=

Black community leaders reacted after Mr Blair said the recent violence should not be treated as part of a general crime wave, but as specific to black youth. He said people had to drop their political correctness and recognise that the violence would not be stopped "by pretending it is not young black kids doing it".

It needed to be addressed by a tailored counter-attack in the same way as football hooliganism was reined in by producing measures aimed at the specific problem, rather than general lawlessness.

Mr Blair's remarks are at odds with those of the Home Office minister Lady Scotland, who told the home affairs select committee last month that the disproportionate number of black youths in the criminal justice system was a function of their disproportionate poverty, and not to do with a distinctive black culture.

Giving the Callaghan lecture in Cardiff, the prime minister admitted he had been "lurching into total frankness" in the final weeks of his premiership. He called on black people to lead the fight against knife crime. He said that "the black community - the vast majority of whom in these communities are decent, law abiding people horrified at what is happening - need to be mobilised in denunciation of this gang culture that is killing innocent young black kids".

Mr Blair said he had been moved to make his controversial remarks after speaking to a black pastor of a London church at a Downing Street knife crime summit, who said: "When are we going to start saying this is a problem amongst a section of the black community and not, for reasons of political correctness, pretend that this is nothing to do with it?" Mr Blair said there needed to be an "intense police focus" on the minority of young black Britons behind the gun and knife attacks. The laws on knife and gun gangs needed to be toughened and the ringleaders "taken out of circulation".

I look forward to the Prime Minister's pilgrimage to the Al Sharpton radio show to beg for absolution.


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

Kurt Vonnegut, RIP

John Updike aptly wrote of the author of Slaughterhouse Five: "There is in Vonnegut a fine disdain of the merely personal." His works "have a pre-sexual, pre-social freshness; he worries about the sort of things - the future, injustice, science, destiny - that twelve-year old boys worry about."

Updike, who devoted his stupendous literary mastery to memorializing exurban adultery, could have used a little of Vonnegut's boyish disdain for sex. In this, Vonnegut resembled Mark Twain, whose best books -- Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, and the first half of his memoir Life on the Mississippi -- reflect an innocent youthfulness. While Twain found his one great topic -- the Mississippi -- Vonnegut had his -- Dresden -- thrust upon him.


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

Duke Lacrosse Hoax Is Finally Over:

From the NYT, which did so much to try to frame the athletes:

Former Duke Players Cleared of All Charges
By DUFF WILSON

RALEIGH, N.C. April 11 — All remaining charges were dropped today against three former Duke University lacrosse players who had been accused of rape more than a year ago, North Carolina’s attorney general announced, concluding a three-month investigation of a racially charged case that polarized and outraged many in the state and nation.

An independent investigation “showed clearly that there is insufficient evidence to proceed,” Roy A. Cooper, the state attorney general, said at a televised news conference. “ We believe these individuals are innocent.”

He said the accounts of the events given by the woman who made the accusations were so inconsistent that they were not credible. “She contradicts herself,” Mr. Cooper said.

“In this case, the inconsistencies were so significant and so contrary to the evidence that we have no credible evidence that an attack occurred in that house on that night,” he said.

The decision brings to an end a 13-month ordeal for the young men, two of whom were dismissed from Duke because of the charges.

And here's my VDARE.com article from April 2006 showing how this frame-up of the Great White Defendants was anticipated 19 years before in Tom Wolfe's famous 1987 novel Bonfire of the Vanities.

A reader writes:

I think the Don Imus "scandal" is made up, to distract from the dismissal of the Duke non-rape charges.

Perhaps a tad paranoid, but, still ...


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

Great moments in the history of counter-insurgency warfare:

Perhaps President Bush could take a lesson from the strategy followed by President Mobutu of Zaire (Congo) in his successful resistance to rebels in the breakaway Shaba (Katanga) province in the "Termite War" of 1977-78. From Time, May 2, 1977:

"Mobutu also unveiled a remarkable secret weapon in the war: pygmy power. Some 150 "expert pygmy bowmen" —as a Za├»rian official described them —were sent to Shaba to infiltrate enemy lines. The diminutive tribesmen (average height under 5 ft.) were praised by one government newspaper as "formidably efficient units who can move silently and well against the enemy." Although they were issued rifles, most pygmies prefer carrying home-made bows that shoot arrows whose tips are coated with a lethal drug (derived from local plants), which kills the monkeys that they hunt for food. Skeptical foreign correspondents could not resist joking that the rebels had suffered "a bay of pygmies," and that the tiny warriors had skewered the enemy from their hiding posts in clumps of crabgrass."

I read somewhere long ago, probably in The Economist, that this was actually a highly effective psychological weapon. The pygmies probably never even got to the front, but the airport photo op that Mobutu staged with the pygmies and their blow guns apparently scared the rebels no end. Who knows the real story, though ...


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

April 11, 2007

The No-Man's Land of the White Comedian

There are two general orthogonal rules about who is allowed to speak about race in contemporary American polite society: blacks and comedians have vastly more freedom to tell it the way it is than whites and serious thinkers. So, there's a grid of acceptability in who is supposed to discuss race, with the most favored corner being black comedians such as Dave Chappelle, who gets a $50 million contract to make fun of blacks and whites. In contrast, a serious, judicious, data-driven thinker like Charles Murray is in the opposite corner. He becomes persona non grata and is subject to horrific slanders.

The ambiguous corners belong to the serious black thinkers such as Thomas Sowell and the white comedians such as this Don Imus radio fellow who is being condemned by Al Sharpton, arbiter of all that is right and holy.

You'll notice that The Simpsons are totally terrified of anything having to say about blacks. The show has a completely stereotypical Asian Indian, Apu, but no continuing characters who act recognizably black. The upper-middle class Dr. Hibbert is a parody of Bill Cosby's Dr. Huxtable character, not of a real black. Meanwhile, the show's creators telegraph to viewers that they are avoiding joking about blacks by creating two black characters who behave indistinguishably from their white partners. There are Homer's co-workers Lenny and Carl; and there are the cops Lou and Eddie. After 15 years of watching, I still have no idea whether it's Lenny who is black, or if it's Carl. The same goes for Lou and Eddie. If there was just one ambiguous duo like this, it might be an accident, but having two pairs indicates the writers are making a joke about their pusillanimity in the face of race.

Imus doesn't show this caution, so, either now or later, he will likely go the way of most such white males as they age and get crotchetier and lose their self-control. Eventually, he'll say something and the Great and Good will turn on him. I was happy that the magnificent Chicago columnist Mike Royko had the good fortune to drop dead of a heart attack at around 65, while still on top. He was a curmudgeon and a drinker, so his eventual humiliation over saying something politically incorrect was inevitable if he had lived long enough.

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

April 10, 2007

Question of the Day

My son wants to know:


"What happens if Al Sharpton won't forgive you, but Jesse Jackson will?"


Whose sin-forgiving superpowers are stronger?


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

Advice for single women

Single women should to learn to distinguish between expenditures on looks that help catch a husband and those that merely impress their single women friends. Spending money to snag a good husband can have a huge return on investment, but not all spending on fashion and beauty has equal payoffs.

Women spend a lot of money in attractiveness arms races against other women in areas that men pay little attention to. For example, spending on your nails doesn't have much payoff in attracting a good man. Nails are the kind of thing that other women pay attention to, but most men only subliminally notice.

Similarly, while buying high heels is a good idea because they make women look more curvaceous, buying and lots of lots of shoes is a waste. Men don't really care whether you have the latest fashion in shoes and whether they perfectly match your dress ... well, some men care, but they are generally not the kind of man who will be the father of your children.

You'll notice that most men think that the fact that Imelda Marcos owned 3,000 pairs of shoes condemns her without appeal. Yet, women I've talked to about this find it reasonable once they do the math: two pairs per week for 30 years of public appearances. Seems pretty thrifty to most women! Still, you can see ways to economize.

Of course, once a woman is not single anymore, her husband would prefer she think more about impressing other women than other men ...


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

Iraq After Four Years: The Death Gap

It's widely assumed that American minority soldiers are suffering a disproportionate number of deaths in the current war. Yet, according to iCasualites, 74,4% of all American fatal casualties in the Iraq war have been suffered by non-Hispanic whites. In 2004, non-Hispanic whites only made up 67% of the total population, and, more relevantly, only 61% of the 25-year-olds, which might be about the representative age of the fatalities.

So, young whites are dying in Iraq at a per capita rate 86% higher than young minorities. If you are wondering about how I calculated that, it's:

(74.41% / 61%) / (25.59% / 39%)

Even among journalists who can divide in their head, few keep in mind that you have to divide the rate for the majority by the rate for the minority. Instead, they tend to divide the rate for the majority by the rate for the national average: "Okay, 74% divided by 61% is, well, not that much greater than 1.00, so there's no story here." Of course, the rate for the majority will generally be fairly close to the national average, but that's not what people are interested in. They want to compare Group X versus Group Y, and so you have to divide by the minority rate, not the national average.

A big reason for the Death Gap is the use of IQ test cutoffs by the military, which used to be at the 30th percentile up through 2004. That disqualified a large fraction of blacks and about half of Hispanics from enlisting. The average IQ of enlistees was above the national average.


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

Unlocking the barn door after the horse is gone:

One of the little remarked national trends is the economic cleansing of African-Americans from the liberal cities of Blue State America, with many blacks heading toward more Republican areas with cheaper housing and better job growth. San Francisco provides a classic example. From the San Francisco Chronicle:


S.F. moves to stem African American exodus
Critics say effort to reverse longtime trend may be too late
Leslie Fulbright, Chronicle Staff Writer

Joseph Blue has lived in San Francisco for 20 years and toughed out the drastic decline in its black population, a phenomenon that persists despite being recognized for decades as a problem. Neighborhoods that once thrived with African American culture and black-owned businesses have all but disappeared.


Well, I doubt that there were any thriving African-American business districts in San Francisco in 1987 when Mr. Blue arrived. They pretty much disappeared across the country in the 1960s when the coming of integration allowing ambitious blacks to get out (although they have made a slight comeback since the end of the crack era). For an indelible portrait of black neighborhoods in San Francisco in the late 1960s, see Tom Wolfe's Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers.


"San Francisco no longer has a viable black community," said Blue, an African American who lives in the Western Addition. "The middle class is gone, and what we have left is underprivileged, uneducated, poor black folks."

San Francisco officials are now calling the thousands of black people who have moved away "the African American diaspora," and the mayor's office is putting together a task force to figure out what can be done to preserve the remaining black population and cultivate new residents.

San Francisco's black population has dropped from 96,000 -- or 13.4 percent of the city -- in 1970 to an estimated 47,000 in 2005, about 6.5 percent of city residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. African Americans make up about 12.1 percent of the nation's population overall.

"The decline is phenomenal," said Hans Johnson, a demographer with the Public Policy Institute of California. San Francisco is not alone. From 1995 to 2000, Oakland and neighborhoods of Los Angeles lost tens of thousands of black residents. Not one West Coast city made a list of the nation's top cities for African Americans compiled last year by Black Enterprise magazine based on income potential, the cost of living, proximity to employers and housing costs. Most are in the South and most -- coincidentally or not -- have black mayors.


In other words, they tend to be black strongholds in Republican states, most notably Atlanta in Georgia, where the city can live off the surrounding prosperity.


"We don't even have any black leaders," said Blue, who unsuccessfully ran for supervisor in 2004. "When I moved here, there was a vibrant and enthusiastic black culture that brought its own ethnic mix and vitality. Now, the culture and the political influence have evaporated. The population is so low that it is beyond saving."


How did I know the word "vibrant" was going to appear in this article?


But Seattle and San Diego, which have reputations for being predominately white, had higher percentages of African Americans than San Francisco in 2005, according to the Census Bureau's American Community Survey. In recent years, San Francisco's black population has dropped faster than that of any other large city in the United States.

Though San Francisco is still often seen as diverse, it was 53 percent white and 33.5 percent Asian in 2005, with Chinese Americans accounting for about two-thirds of Asian residents.


San Francisco's strict environmental and historical preservation laws have put a tight lid on the housing supply, making San Francisco hideously expensive, driving out blacks and forcing the Hispanic immigrant service workers who replaced them to live elsewhere in the Bay Area and make long commutes. This leaves San Francisco itself as a predominantly white-Asian theme park of Disneyfied Diversity, which is just the way San Francisco liberals, such as the Speaker of the House, like it.


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