Restoring Brazil’s Monarchy

June 21st, 2016

Royalists say the 49-year reign of Dom Pedro II was the most economically and politically stable period in Brazil’s history:

From 1824 to 1889, Brazil had only one constitution; it has had six in the years since. Many of the wealthiest and least corrupt countries on earth—such as Norway, Australia and Holland—are constitutional monarchies, they say.

The conservative, mostly bourgeois royalists express disgust at Brazil’s current leftist government and the social changes that have moved the country away from traditional Catholic values. “Without anyone to govern them, man falls prey to his own debilities,” said one speaker at the Monarchical Encounter.

“I’ve been a monarchist for my whole life, since I was in school and studied the empire of Dom Pedro II,” said Rodrigo Dias, a 34-year-old physician in Rio. “As a child I could not understand why we changed our way of government.”

Historians are quick to note that Brazil was the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery—Dom Pedro II was overthrown after he lost the support of elites angry about emancipation.

[...]

Dr. Dias and his counterparts believe Brazil would be steadier if its head of state didn’t have to descend into the partisan fray every four years to run for election. The king or queen would stand as a symbol of national unity and common values, while the dirty work of government would be left to a parliament led by a prime minister.

One of the group’s key theories is that a monarch, groomed from an early age to serve the country and all but guaranteed a lifelong mandate, would be less inclined to steal public money.

With many of Brazil’s top politicians ensnared in a corruption scandal, the monarchists don’t see any future royalty among the 35 registered parties. Most say the line of succession from Dom Pedro II leads to Dom Luiz de Orleans e Bragança, Dom Pedro II’s 78-year-old great-great-grandson.

The Bow of the King of Chu

June 21st, 2016

The most fertile era of Chinese intellectual culture was between 550 BC and 200 BC, in what came to be called the Axial Age, when China was divided in many kingdoms, with the same pattern of constant warfare and intellectual life as Classical Greece. It was the era of Confucius, Laozi, and Sunzi.

Spandrell shares the story from that time of The Bow of the King of Chu:

A King of Chu was out in the country on a hunting trip. He had a world famous bow, and the best arrows in the realm. So he was out there hunting dragons and rhinos (real story), when he dropped his bow. Lost it. The precious bow! His retinue was looking for it like crazy, but then the King told them to stop. “Stop looking for it. A Man of Chu lost his bow. A Man of Chu will find it. No need to search for it.”

To European ears this sounds like a pretty awesome king. A great loving king who cares about his subjects. He lost his precious, world famous bow. But it doesn’t matter, because he lost it in his territory. One of his subjects will find it, and use it for the good of his country. King or subject, we are all men of Chu, so who cares? What a great King. The stuff of legend.

The story soon became a cause of commentary across the other kingdoms in China. Every single one of the Hundred Schools had to publish their official stand on this story. What do you think of the King of Chu and his lost bow? It’s kinda like modern journalism, where everybody has to rush to publish their stance on every item of the news. Psychologists call this “common knowledge”, the social phenomenon where everybody is compelled to comment on something precisely because everybody else is doing so. This creates evolutionary pressures to reduce the total amount of information in society so that everything can be common knowledge and thus become efficient gossip, the fuel of human sociability. But I digress.

A modern nationalist would say that the King of Chu was an awesome king. But what did Confucius say about it?

‘The King of Chu is a humane king, but he’s still half-way. He could have said “a man lost his bow, a man will find it”. Why specify “A man of Chu”?’

The King of Chu wasn’t good enough in Confucius eyes because he dared put priority on his subjects, and not be equally nice to all humanity. Because Confucius, of course, was a humanitarian. A universalist. The King of Chu was a petty man who cared about his subjects, not about the entire humanity.

So basically, Confucius today would approve of Angela Merkel and Bryan Caplan. Thanks dude. No wonder he was never taken seriously by any of the dozens of kings of his time, and died a low-class civil servant. His universalism however was catnip for the nascent class of non-aristocratic bureaucrats, who developed it for centuries after his death. They loved this “we are above armies, borders, and that gruesome stuff. We care about righteousness and love, about what is right for all humanity”. This in 300 BC. Do you see now why the First Emperor burnt their books and buried the scholars alive after he unified the Empire?

Low-Road Narrative

June 20th, 2016

Los Angeles failed to keep up with its neighbor to the north:

Unlike the Bay Area, which pursued a “high wage specialization strategy,” Los Angeles, in the interest of social justice, deliberately focused on lower- and middle-tier economic sectors. “Los Angeles’s leaders generated a low-road narrative for themselves, while Bay Area leadership coalesced around a high-road vision for their region,” they write. Such decisions have consequences, many of which are demographic. Had Los Angeles followed the same path as San Francisco, Southern California would have attracted far fewer working-class Latinos. The authors don’t directly state this, but it’s a clear implication of their findings. It’s logical to conclude that any region looking to replicate San Francisco’s success should take an exclusively high-end focus — social justice be damned.

(Hat tip to Battery Horse.)

Korean Islam

June 20th, 2016

Koreans tend to follow no formal religion, but almost a third are Christian. What I didn’t know about was the rise of Korean Islam:

In 2001, there were only 34,000 Muslims living in Korea; today there are more than 150,000. Furthermore, there are over 45,000 ethnic Korean Muslims.

That’s still less than one percent, but, Spandrell notes, that could change quickly:

Given modern transportation, if Korea or Japan opens the gates to foreign labor, it could be filled with 100 million Indonesians or Pakistanis in a matter of weeks.

Keeping out swarms of poor immigrants

June 19th, 2016

The socially acceptable way to keep out swarms of poor immigrants is the Northern Californian liberal way, Steve Sailer explains: “environmentalism, unionism, historical preservationism, NIMBYism — indeed, the whole panoply of Democratic Party policies at the state and local level.”

We need a new religion

June 19th, 2016

We need a new religion, Spandrell suggests:

We sorely need one. And we will likely get one. But we might not like how it turns out.

In 200 AD, the Roman Empire was the largest, richest and most powerful empire on Earth. Roman civilization extended from Britain to Mesopotamia. Vast trade networks allowed for large and advanced industries that provided a very high standard of living, far above anything in the past. Rome was so great it seemed it would last forever.

Then a couple of substandard emperors, a military setback and a mutiny suddenly saw the Empire fracture into 3 parts, hundreds of thousands of barbarians entering the borders, plundering and murdering as they pleased. It took 50 whole years until Aurelian rebuilt the army, expelled the barbarians, and reunified the realm. But it was never the same. Too many people had died. Cities now had to build high walls to defend themselves, trade routes had been destroyed, the whole administrative apparatus had to be rebuilt from scratch.

All that was taken care of, especially by Docletian, who was very much interested in how to run a government. But still, as much as Roman emperors reformed the army and the administration, the virtue of the empire, the real power of Rome, the roman people, that was over. Any Roman of learning knew that. And they all wanted to do something to get it back. To fix Rome, to bring it back to its golden era. Romans used to be virtuous, strong, hard-working, just men. Not anymore. The Romans of the late empire were a fickle bunch, interested in frivolous sex, in sodomy, in spectator sports. We have almost no literary works from the late Empire; the Romans appeared to be uninterested in learning. Nor they cared to breed and form families. The whole society was a wreck.

The few virtuous Romans who noticed that must have wanted to fix this desperately, to use the power of the state to bring the Romans back to their virtuous, frugal and wise past, when men fought for their country, cared to learn about the mysteries of human existence, and took care of their wives and children. But none of those efforts worked.

What happened? A weird cult from the obscure province of Judaea, where people worshipped some countryside carpenter son of an old man with a teenager, who apparently got pregnant without having sex. Then the man started to preach about loving your enemies, rescued whores from stoning, made wine from water, told the poor that after death they’d lord over the rich; and other absurd stuff. The guy was justly executed by the Roman governor as an agitator but his followers believe he then came back to life and ascended to heaven with his mother.

The cult grew by preaching to women, to the poor, to slaves, to all manner of disaffected people. They formed local communities where they read this weird compendium of miracles of this Jewish lord of them. The Roman authorities killed some of them ever now and then but the guys appeared to like it! They called the dead “martyrs”, and some of them appeared to actively seek martyrdom, as they believe it would pay off with privileges after dead. Bunch of provincial weirdos. Even weirder than the Jews they splintered from. That the Empire has declined to such an extent has much to do with this and other weird sects who are fooling the commoners, and even some women of good families! Scandalous.

No offense intended, early Christianity was in many ways a superior lifestyle compared to mainstream Roman life, which had plenty of weird stuff in it. But to any good old Roman patrician, the growth of Christianity, Manicheism and other assorted sects must have looked incredibly weird and threatening. As much as the Empire needed reform, nobody desired this kind of reform. To replace the classics of Greece and Rome with the made up history of some desert goat herders, to give rights to women and slaves, to encourage death and meekness instead of the classical warrior ethos going back for millennia. This is madness.Rome has to wake up. We can’t let this happen.

But it happened. Rome never woke up. Classical civilization kept on with its decline, and eventually Constantine, a pragmatic man who just wanted a stable empire that obeyed his commands, made Christianity into the state religion. It replaced Roman civilization, little by little. Half the Empire died on the process, by the way. The invaders became Christians too, but never Romans.

The Romans of its golden age often said that the secret of Roman success was its religio, by which they mean their piousness, how their discipline was so tight they followed the old religious practices of paganism to the letter, no matter how useless they might have seemed. Worried Romans of the late empire must have thought all the time that Rome needed its religion back. They never got it back. They got a new religion. A pretty horrible one, for anyone who appreciated old Classical civilization. But a religion they got, and it wasn’t that bad. Most of the Western empire still speaks Latin to this day. The Eastern half even kept calling himself the Roman Empire for a thousand years.

Anarchy in the U.S.A.

June 18th, 2016

The United States has been plagued before by immigrant terrorism, Steve Sailer notes, and completely solved the problem:

How? Largely by selective deportations of radical immigrants and cutting back on future immigration.

Immigrant terrorists committed many of the most heinous crimes during the anarchism plague of the first third of the 20th century. Anarchists are largely forgotten today, but they were a spectacular annoyance a century ago.

Even Marxists despised anarchists as childish show-offs who only provoked bourgeois reaction with their vicious antics. When communists and anarchists nominally teamed up during the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s, Joseph Stalin devoted far more energy to murdering his anarchist allies than to fighting the right.

Anarchist terrorists in the U.S. tended to be leftist atheists from either Catholic or Orthodox countries in Southern or Eastern Europe. Shooting heads of state or blowing up banks was known as “propaganda of the deed.”

For example, in 1901 President William McKinley was assassinated by Leon Czolgosz, a second-generation Pole. The last hurrah for anarchist terrorists may have been Giuseppe Zangara’s attack at an appearance by president-elect Franklin Roosevelt in 1933, which wound up killing Chicago mayor Anton Cermak.

The peak of anarchist terrorism in America came soon after WWI in an era of broad nervous breakdown across this country.

In 1919, followers of the Italian immigrant anarchist Luigi Galleani mailed three dozen letter bombs to prominent citizens. When the housekeeper of a U.S. senator had her hands blown off, an alert postal worker recognized that the bomb was the same as sixteen packages that had been set aside in his office due to insufficient postage.

The thwarted cheapskates then set off bigger bombs outside the homes of eight political figures, including Woodrow Wilson’s Attorney General, A. Mitchell Palmer, where an Italian terrorist managed to blow himself up. (One of his body parts landed on the doorstep of Palmer’s neighbors Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.) Palmer eventually responded by deporting 556 leftists, such as Emma Goldman and her former boyfriend Alexander Berkman, who had tried to assassinate industrialist Henry Clay Frick.

Then, in 1920, a couple of Italian-immigrant followers of Galleani, Sacco and Vanzetti, were arrested for murdering two workers in an armed robbery in the Boston area. The innocence of Sacco and Vanzetti became an immense cause célèbre for progressive intellectuals in the 1920s, although, as in so many similar recent fiascos, Sacco was likely the killer and Vanzetti his accomplice.

In September 1920, a huge bomb went off outside J.P. Morgan’s bank on Wall Street, probably as vengeance for the arrest of Sacco and Vanzetti. It killed three dozen civilians, mostly messenger boys and the like.

The Republicans, hugely victorious in the 1920 election, responded to these outrages with immigration restriction laws in 1921 and 1924.

The relevant question is: Did this democratic response drive Italian-Americans and Polish-Americans to new levels of violence, as so many now assume that any attempt to trim the levels of Muslim immigration would lead to even more Muslim domestic terrorism?

No, not really.

In fact, following this assertion of citizen authority over immigration policy, America calmed down rather quickly. The ’20s were less agitated than the teens, and Depression America was remarkably stable. The thirty years from the apparent assassination attempt by an anarchist on FDR in 1933 to JFK’s murder by a communist in 1963 were among the most cohesive in American history.

A country that had appeared to be coming apart at the seams in 1919–20 went on to enjoy world-historical triumphs, with rapid assimilation to American norms by immigrants who were no longer reinforced by newcomers. Rather than answering with rage, Italians and Poles largely seemed to respond to this assertion of leadership by founding stock Americans as right and fitting.

Perhaps this historical analogy is an overly optimistic guide for a contemporary America dealing with a different set of immigrant groups.

But if we don’t try, how will we ever know?

Hot-Air Blimp

June 18th, 2016

N.V. was a freshly minted aeronautical engineer when a famous author, explorer and balloonist, who had made numerous voyages across Africa in helium balloons, asked for his help designing a hot-air blimp:

Your correspondent was soon to learn that it wasn’t a matter of starting with a blank piece of paper. The hot-air blimp’s colourful envelope of polyurethane-coated Terylene had already been sewed up—so pictures could be taken and articles written to help raise money for the planned expedition. The blimp’s long, thin cigar shape would have been fine for an original Zeppelin with its rigid internal skeleton. But it was far from ideal for a non-rigid blimp that derived its shape solely from the slightly higher pressure of the warmer air within the fabric envelope.

Nevertheless, a scale model was duly carved from polystyrene foam, its centre of pressure estimated, and the model set up in a wind-tunnel at Imperial College. A series of low-speed stability tests to measure pitch and yaw quickly determined the size of the control surfaces needed to keep the craft straight and level and pointing in the desired direction.

The results were not encouraging. With no inner structure to brace the enormous cruciform tail-fins and rudder required to do the job, all your correspondent could suggest was to use pressurised hoops made from thin rubber tubing (like the inner tubes of bicycle tyres) attached at various points towards the rear of the envelope. Inflated to high pressure, these would form a reasonably stiff frame for holding the fabric-covered control surfaces in place.

Unfortunately, with no going back to the drawing-board allowed, the design proved much too unwieldy—and the world’s first thermal airship failed to get off the ground. A decade later, Cameron Balloons of Bristol, England, licked most of the problems and is now the most successful maker of hot-air craft in the world, with separate operations in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as well as Bristol.

There are trade-offs between hydrogen, helium, and hot air:

Hydrogen is the lightest of all gases, but has a propensity to catch fire. The Hindenburg disaster in 1937, caught on film and seen by millions around the world, put paid once and for all to hydrogen’s use in commercial balloons and airships. The only reason it was used in the first place was because of the ease with which it could be made (by electrolysis of water).

The next best lifting agent is helium. Though twice as heavy as diatomic hydrogen, helium provides only 8% less buoyancy. Better still, it is inert and a fire extinguisher to boot.

The problem with helium is that there are only 16 plants worldwide for extracting it from natural gas. Meanwhile, supplies are dwindling. Unlike other fossil reserves such as oil and natural gas, which can always be made synthetically if necessary, helium is an irreplaceable, non-renewable resource accumulated over billions of years from the slow radioactive decay of uranium and thorium. The biggest user is NASA, followed by hospitals for their magnetic-resonance imaging machines and flat-panel display makers. The price, currently around $5 a litre, is rising steadily.

Hence hot air. It may have only a third of the lifting capacity of helium, but it costs just a twentieth as much after taking into account the price of the propane burner and fuel for producing the hot air, and the greater overall simplicity of a thermal airship. The downside is that thermal airships tend to be rather large for the modest payloads they can carry. The world’s largest, the 300,000 cubic-foot AS-300 built by Lindstrand Technologies of Oswestry, England, was designed to deposit a pair of botanists onto a rainforest canopy. Fill an envelope that size with helium instead of hot air and it would cost over $40m for the gas alone.

You can’t stop future Orlandos, but you can reduce the chances

June 17th, 2016

Ed West is pro-gun control, but he comes from “the most heavily populated corner of one of the most crowded islands on earth”:

The average American is still very, very unlikely to be killed by Islamic terrorists and in an extremely violent nation the attention given to it sometimes seems odd. Democrats like to cite this fact, including the statistic being paraded until yesterday that toddlers have killed more people with guns this year than Islamic terrorists (alas, no longer), but for some reason they don’t like to get too analytical when it comes to violent crime in the US. Even with all those guns, white America is not that much more violent than the European average; but African-Americans have a violent crime rate that is off the scale in first world terms, and the daily toll of death in places like Chicago and Baltimore makes the fear of Islamic terrorism sometimes look absurdly overblown.

Having said that, three of the seven worst mass shootings of the past 25 years have been carried out by Islamic supremacists, which is quite something, considering America is just 0.6 per cent Muslim.

Not only is America’s Muslim population relative small, but compared to western Europe, they tend on average to be well-integrated, middle class and have a positive view of their country. Islam in America is mostly a success story, because immigration from the Muslim world has tended to be selective.

But the less discriminating immigration becomes, the more likely future events such as Orlando are to reoccur, especially when America welcomes supporters of the Taliban, such as the Orlando killer’s father. There is no need for the United States to block migration from the Muslim world, but it would be in their interests to be more selective, and to choose those who have a worldview similar to the American average.

Yet westerners seem blissfully unaware of how unusual their tolerance is in the world, and how at risk they put it with open borders; migration from societies which are largely intolerant is likely to produce more intolerant migrants, and increase the (admittedly small) probability of individuals who take that intolerance to extreme ends.

Compare America’s Muslim story with Britain and France, countries which have attracted large-scale, much more unskilled populations predominantly from North Africa and South Asia. Both Muslim populations – 5 per cent in Britain, and 9 per cent in France – have high levels of unemployment and ghettoisation, even if we could add a thousand caveats about complex demographics (Indian and Iranian Muslims are very different, on average, to Pakistani or Somali). Meanwhile surveys consistently show non-trivial levels of support for terrorism, and widespread views on homosexuality and Israel that would make your Democrat-voting maiden aunt go pale.

If America had had the equivalent levels of migration as Britain and France it would mean a Muslim population of between 15 and 25 million, many living in isolated areas of high unemployment, and with 10,000 American citizens fighting for Isis. This can be said in a reasoned and non-hateful way, but a country with as many guns as America really, really doesn’t want to allow mass migration from the Muslim world on the scale Europe has. No country can stop things like Orlando happening. But it can take reasonable precautions to reduce the odds.

The Greatest Archimedian Lever

June 17th, 2016

Bryan Caplan explores the value of history — to his sons:

Today my homeschooled sons are taking the Advanced Placement United States History Exam.  I took the exam when I was 17.  They are 13.  Given how often I deride the practical value of history in The Case Against Education, you could fairly ask, “What’s the point?”  Signaling is the easy answer.  Anyone can be homeschooled, but only a select minority can ace an A.P. test.  Strong A.P. scores are especially impressive if you’re years younger than your competitors.

But that’s hardly the whole story.  After all, we could have done other A.P.s instead.  So why history?  To be blunt: While I think history is a waste of time for 99% of people, I think my sons are in the other 1%.  They aren’t just highly intelligent; they’re good students.  More specifically:

1. Unlike almost everyone, my sons are interested in being social scientists.  And while the historically ignorant certainly can succeed in social science, you can’t be a good social scientist without broad, deep historical knowledge.  Can’t!

2. As you age, you lose your ability to master and retain large bodies of facts.  The best way to durably learn history – like foreign language – is to learn it young.  I acquired 90% of my historical knowledge between the ages of 10 and 20.  So age 13 seems like an ideal time for this task.

3. Unlike almost everyone, my sons genuinely enjoy learning about history.  (I was the same way).  As I’ve argued elsewhere, this is the crucial ingredient that transforms otherwise useless learning into a merit good.

4. The APUSH is a fantastic exam.  If a test can teach a person “how to think,” the APUSH is such a test.  If you’ve got 195 minutes to spare, take it.

5. To be honest, I’m not convinced any test actually can teach anyone how to think.  That’s why #4 says If.  Nevertheless, I am convinced that people who will ultimately learn how to think can learn how to think sooner.  How?  By practicing intellectually demanding tasks.  Since my sons are in the select category of people who will ultimately learn how to think, I have sped them toward their potential.

I was a bit surprised by his second and fourth points. I’ve certainly learned far more history on my own, as an adult, than I ever learned in school. And I didn’t realize the AP US History exam was especially good.

Michael Strong doesn’t think so highly of it:

Most AP US History preparatory materials, and often sample exams, propound a straightforward progressive narrative of American history: The robber barons, promoting an evil laissez-faire system, were happily overcome by the muckrakers and Teddy Roosevelt. The rise of progressive legislation saved Americans from suffering and misery. The Great Depression was caused, in part, by inequality. FDR’s activist government saved the US after Hoover’s attachment to laissez-faire almost destroyed us. Etc.

I see the AP US History program as the single greatest obstacle to economic literacy in the US. Many (most?) of our elite students take it in preparation for college admissions. It provides a powerful morality tale that is sanctioned as absolute truth by the College Board.

Later courses in economics, either at university or in summer programs such as those by IHS and FEE, may counteract some of the damage done. But I suspect more students take the US AP exam than take economics courses. Moreover, most economics courses come across as dry problem-solving rather than an inspiring moral narrative. Moreover, they rarely address economic history at all. The number of students who actually take a course in U.S. economic history, to address the many economic fallacies in the progressive narrative, is vanishingly small.

Add to this university history departments that mostly emphasize and elaborate on the progressive morality tale in US history. The result is that most college graduates continue to believe that laissez-faire was harmful to the working class, that heroic reformers improved conditions through legislation, the Great Depression was caused by inequality, etc.

Reform of the AP US History program, if it were possible, might arguably be the greatest Archimedian lever available to libertarians. Imagine a world in which instead of social signaling among intellectuals consisted not of “I’m more progressive than thou,” but rather “I don’t make idiotic mistakes regarding economic history or economics.”

The Swiss System

June 16th, 2016

An old study of Compulsory Military Training explains the Swiss system:

Switzerland has had compulsory military training and service since the thirteenth century. Originally maintained by the separate cantons, her citizen army has been gradually brought under the control of the federal government. Central military authorities were first appointed in 1807, and since 1874 the army has been substantially federalized as it is today. The cantons, however, still have the appointment of officers, subject to federal regulations, together with many important obligations as to the organization of troops and the furnishings and upkeep of personal equipment.

The effect of compulsory military service, both upon the individual character of the Swiss and upon the destinies of the Swiss republic, are too well known to need detailed repetition. Completely surrounded by first-class powers, Switzerland has for centuries maintained her independence, her democratic institutions, and her self-respect. Her army has never undergone the test of modern’warfare, a fact which may be attributed largely to her efficient preparedness, but at the outbreak of the European war she mobilized 200,000 men in ten days, and has an available second line of defense of a quarter of a million more. This with a population of 3,750,000.

Under the Swiss law every male citizen is liable for service from the beginning of the year in which he reaches the age of 20 until the end of the year in which he is 48. So much stress has been laid upon the calisthentic and military instruction given boys in the schools that there is an impression that this is part of the military law, but such is not the case. This military drill, together with the formation of cadet corps, boys’ rifle clubs, etc., is encouraged in every way, but it is not part of the legal military system. It is the natural outgrowth of a system which instills into the mind of every man that he is to be trained to defend his country.

There are practically no exemptions in Switzerland except for physical disability. Every exempted person pays a military tax until he is 40. Criminals are debarred from the army, service being a privilege as well as a duty.

Between the ages of 20 and 32 the Swiss soldier is enrolled in the Elite. His first year’s instruction, the main course, is 65 days of training for infantry, 75 days for artillery, and 90 days for cavalry, During the remainder of his service in the Elite he is liable to be called out for a repetition course of 11 days each year, but not for more than for seven courses if infantry, or eight if cavalry, in the eleven years.

Besides this field training, the soldier is obliged to do a considerable amount of target shooting each year. It is in connection with this that there appears the most distinctive feature of the Swiss system. After the first course of instruction each soldier is allowed to take his rifle home, being responsible, of course, for its upkeep. The effect of this is that at the age when most healthy lads long for a gun of some kind the Swiss boy is given a modern army rifle, with some free ammunition and opportunity to get more at less than cost. His required target practice may be done in connection with some organized rifle club, and prizes of all kinds are offered for competitions.

The result of all this is that rifle shooting is the national sport of Switzerland, and the Swiss are a nation of expert marksmen. Out of eighteen international rifle shooting matches from 1897 to 1914, including Camp Perry, U. S. A., in 1913, the Swiss have won seventeen. They have not lost a match since 1898.

It was at the opening of the Jungfrau railroad that the celebrated conversation with the Kaiser occurred. Thirty thousand troops had been paraded before the German Emperor. “All very well,” remarked the Kaiser to the Swiss officer in command, “but suppose I should lead sixty thousand Germans against them.” ‘In that case, your Majesty,” was the reply, “we should each have to shoot twice.”

Who can say what the realization that this was no empty boast has saved Switzerland?

At the age of 33 the Swiss soldier passes into the first reserve, or Landwehr, in which he remains until he is 40. During this period he is called out once for an eleven-day repetition course. From 41 to 48 he is in the second reserve or Landwehr.

The Swiss system, the outgrowth of centuries of experience, is such a complete answer to many objections made to compulsory service, and is so far ahead of the bungling attempts of our own nation “to provide for the common defense,” that there is small wonder that it evokes considerable enthusiasm among those who have made it a study. Nevertheless there are certain features which might be improved and others as to which it is doubtful if they will bear transplanting.

In the first place, the first training period is too short, even after the thorough preparatory training given by the schools. This is the testimony of the Swiss officers themselves, who have said that, with all allowance for the spirit and physique of the Swiss, the minimum training necessary to prepare a soldier is: Infantry 200 days; cavalry 12 months; artillery 300 days. In the second place, it is doubtful whether the plan of allowing each man to keep his rifle at home would be feasible with our heterogeneous, migratory, and undisciplined population. If not, the plans for encouragement of rifle shooting, as well as for mobilization, would have to be considerably modified. Nevertheless, the adoption of any system founded upon the principle of universal military service would be such a long step in advance that it would be well not to be too captious as to whether it is fully adequate at the start. The country would soon get over its first shock of immersion, find its liberties still unendangered, realize that it was beginning to feel its own strength, and, freed from a lot of sentimental folly, would revise its ideas from a practical standpoint.

(Hat tip to Richard Harper.)

Prison and Mental Illness

June 16th, 2016

Prisons have become a substitute for state-run mental hospitals, German Lopez argues, but Scott Alexander offers a deeper explanation:

Lopez seems to be working off a model where there is a population of mentally ill people who can’t make it in normal society, and so will inevitably end up either in a long-term mental hospital or a prison. Since mental hospitals are good places where people get treatment, and prisons are bad places where people get punishment, we should “catch” these mentally ill people before they end up in prison so that they can be in nice hospitals instead.

Needless to say I disagree with pretty much every part of this assessment.

Between all of this talk of “the tragic collapse of America’s public mental health system” and “the US’s largely gutted mental health system” and “the country pulled back and defunded its mental health system” and so on, you might get the impression that less money is being spent on mental health. This is not really true. The share of GDP devoted to mental health is the same as it was in 1971, although this looks worse if you compare it to rising costs in other areas of health care. There hasn’t been a “gutting of the mental health system”, there’s been a shift from long-term state-run mental hospitals to community care. It hasn’t “left the criminal justice system as the only system that can respond to people with mental illness”, it helped create an alternate and less restrictive system of outpatient psychiatry. In my opinion, this was a positive development, and the share of mentally ill people in prison is not an argument against it. Let me explain.

“Mentally ill people in prison” conjures up this lurid image of psychos who snap and kill their families, followed by “well, what did you expect leaving a person like that on the street?” The reality is more mundane. There are lots of mentally ill people in prison because there are lots of mentally ill people everywhere. Remember, 20% of the population qualifies as mentally ill in one sense or another. If a depressed guy sells some marijuana and gets caught, he is now a “mentally ill person in prison”.

There are disproportionately many mentally ill people in prison partly because people’s illnesses lead them to commit crimes, but mostly because some of the factors correlated with mental illness are the same factors correlated with criminality. Poverty? Check. Neighborhood effects? Check. Genetic load? Check. Education? Check. IQ? Check. Broken families? Check. Drug abuse? Definitely check. The factors that gave that pot dealer depression might be the same factors that drove him to sell pot instead of becoming an astronaut. Treating the depression might help a little, but it’s not guaranteed to keep him on the good side of the law.

In my model, the overwhelming majority of mentally ill people can live okay lives outside of any institution, hopefully receiving community care if they want it. If they commit crimes they will go to prison just like anyone else; if not, we should hardly be clamoring to bring back the often-horrifying state-run mental hospitals and lock them up there.

Institutionalization

What about that graph? It’s very suggestive. You see a sudden drop in the number of people in state mental hospitals. Then you see a corresponding sudden rise in the number of people in prison. It looks like there’s some sort of Law Of Conservation Of Institutionalization. Coincidence?

Yes. Absolutely. It is 100% a coincidence. Studies show that the majority of people let out of institutions during the deinstitutionalization process were not violent and that the rate of violent crime committed by the mentally ill did not change with deinstitutionalization. Even if we take the “15% of inmates are severely mentally ill” factoid at face value, that would mean that the severely mentally ill could explain at most 15%-ish of the big jump in prison population in the 1980s. The big jump in prison population in the 1980s was caused by the drug war and by people Getting Tough On Crime. Stop dragging the mentally ill into this.

Lopez himself wrote a nice piece on how most mentally ill people are not violent, and another nice piece on how most people in prison are there for violent offenses. But put these together, and you get that most mentally ill people do not end up in prison. Most of the people who got out of the mental hospitals during deinstitutionalization are getting by. Some of them are homeless, and that’s bad. But if you want to solve homelessness among the mentally ill, build homeless shelters, not state-run long-term mental hospitals.

Foragers and Farmers

June 15th, 2016

Spandrell shares an interesting tweet by a Japanese academic about foragers and farmers:

History shows that when humans moved from foraging into farming, this allowed for people who did not need to engage in hunting (bureaucrats, scholars, warriors, etc.), which vastly expanded the range of human activity.

Nowadays we force professionals to do sales, to participate in long meetings, to type their own reports and other paperwork, which is the same as forcing everybody to engage in hunting. We are going backwards.

The Cult of Anti-Racism

June 15th, 2016

The smallness of the New Religion is, Z Man suspects, its great weakness:

Religions have always served to fill in the gaps between what man knows about the world and what he observes. As Lucretius put it, “it was fear that made the gods.” The fear of the unknown, the fear of uncertainty, the fear of death, that’s what a proper religion addresses. Fear of being a racist falls somewhere around fear of clowns.

The pettiness of this religion does not make it less vicious in the hands of the believer. In fact, it is the petty religions that are the most bloody. Nazism led Germany to the precipice of the abyss just to be rid of the Jews. Bolshevism murdered tens of millions just to meet the monthly quotas of the concrete factories. The new religion ruins lives on a daily basis for nothing more than a few moments of smug satisfaction by the adherents.

What was made plain with the materialist cults of the previous era is they offered nothing, other than a reason for the strong to exploit the weak. The cultural weirdness of Russia allowed such a system to stagger on for 70 years, but most everywhere else these cults collapse under the weight of their pettiness and pointlessness. They answer no questions and they promise nothing worth having.

Eventually they run out of weak to exploit.

Anti-Fire Stories

June 14th, 2016

John C. Wright asks us to perform a thought-experiment in literary criticism:

Suppose you read a book or saw a film about a firefighting brigade. Let us say there are five main characters, all firemen, who are wakened one night by alarm bells. Donning their gear and sliding down their brass poles to their firetruck, they race, sirens wailing and running red-lights, to the scene of a house ablaze. Red tongues of fire lick at the dark sky, and black plumes and smoke rise up like malignant genii.

In this story, the first fireman is accidentally killed by falling down the brass fire-pole, and the second is flung from the speeding firetruck when it takes a corner too sharply; the third dies when a blast from the hose knocks him from a tall ladder into the coal cellar where all the coal is burning; the fourth is overcome by smoke inhalation because he did not fasten his breathing gear properly; and the fifth is racing up the burning staircase when he sees a wee little butterfly trapped in the stairwell. The butterfly reminds him of his childhood. As he reaches for it, the stairs collapse under him, while the firehose, somehow contrives to loop itself around his neck and the chandelier, breaks his neck, and the flood of water to the hose makes his corpse spin around the chandelier like a grotesque puppet.

Now imagine furthermore, that, in this story, there is no mention (except in ironic mockery) of the people trapped in the burning house the firemen are there to rescue, no mention (except in ironic mockery) of any previous time the fire brigade had saved lives or put out fires, no mention (except in ironic mockery) by any character of the possibility of the fire spreading.

In other words, imagine a story about a fire brigade where the purpose of manning a fire brigade somehow escapes mention.

I’m beginning to wonder if he’s even talking about fire brigades…