Instinctive sleeping and resting postures

Sunday, January 19th, 2020

Michael Tetley presents an anthropological and zoological approach to the treatment of low back and joint pain, based on instinctive sleeping and resting postures:

If you are a medical professional and have been trained in a “civilised” country you probably know next to nothing about the primate Homo sapiens and how they survive in the wild. You probably do not know that nature has provided an automatic manipulator to correct most spinal and peripheral joint lesions in primates. In common with millions of other so called civilised people you suffer unnecessarily from musculoskeletal problems and are discouraged about how to treat the exponential rise in low back pain throughout the developed world. Humans are one of 200 species of primates.1 All primates suffer from musculoskeletal problems; nature, recognising this fact, has given primates a way to correct them.

The study of animals in the wild has been a lifelong pursuit. I grew up with tribal people and in 1953-4 commanded a platoon of African soldiers from nine tribes, who taught me to sleep on my side without a pillow so that I could listen out for danger with both ears. I have organised over 14 expeditions all over the world to meet native peoples and study their sleeping and resting postures. They all adopted similar postures and exhibited few musculoskeletal problems. I must emphasise that this is not a comparison of genes or races but of lifestyles. I tried to carry out surveys to collect evidence but they were meaningless, as tribespeople give you the answer they think you want. They often object to having their photographs taken, so I have demonstrated the postures.

Tetley was born in Kenya, where he encountered much worse Mau-Mauing than what Tom Wolfe described:

Mike, who was born and raised in Kenya speaking its native language Swahili, was conscripted to command indigenous troops in the King’s African Rifles as unrest began to spread throughout his homeland.

It was after Mau Mau militants ambushed a police truck that a battle erupted between the rivals.

A clash Mike so vividly recalls as it marked the last time he could appreciate the gift of sight before it was lost.

Remembering the battle, Mike said: “One of the Mau Mau threw a grenade at me and it landed by my foot. I jumped away from it and threw myself on the ground hoping that when it went off I wouldn’t get hit.

“The next thing I remember I was running flat out and I got a bullet in my right ear which came out of my right eye.

“My dad always said I didn’t have anything between my ears and now he’s got definite proof.

“The next thing I remember I fell over and as I picked myself up everything went black. I sat down and I can’t remember much more than that — not in a logical sense anyway.”

Dissatisfied with blasting their victim with a rifle — nearly killing him — the Mau Mau rebels returned armed with machetes to cut up Mike, who lay helpless on the ground nursing his wound. Powerless to defend himself, Mike has always owed his survival to an ally soldier, Reguton — with whom he still has regular contact — who shot dead the seven rebels.

“I was on the ground and they came forward with guns and knives and they tried to cut me up,” he said “Reguton had his gun and shot them and killed them. He killed seven of them from 25 yards — that’s very good shooting, particularly when you’ve only got 28 bullets in a magazine. From 25 yards he would have had three bullets for each person until they were on top of him — I’m very indebted to him.”

For Mike, vivid scenes of massacre and torture remain poignant in his memory. Images of bloodshed to which Mike was repeatedly exposed before he lost his sight have proved impossible to dispel from his mind.

More than 1,800 Kenyan civilians are known to have been murdered by the Mau Mau. Many of the murders of which they were guilty were brutal in the extreme and Mike recalled just one of the savage killings.

“I was walking back to my tent and there was a 12-year-old girl in the middle of the road with her throat cut. There was a note next to her which read ‘We’re not frightened of you, we’ll take you on, the army and the police. It was signed Corporal Kanwemba of the Mau Mau.”

Mike was transferred to a military hospital in England after the attack where he received the devastating news that he would never see again.

He enrolled in a physiotherapy course with the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) — which brings us back to his paper:

Figure 1 shows a mountain gorilla lying on the ground on his side without a pillow — a position in which I have also seen chimpanzees and gibbons sleeping — and a Kenya African in a similar position on a palm leaf mattress on a concrete floor. Note how he uses his laterally rotated arm as a pillow and can listen out for danger with both ears.

Sleeping Figure 1A Kenyan

Sleeping Figure 1B Gorilla

When lying on one side you do not even need the arm as a pillow: when the lower shoulder is fully hunched, the neck is completely supported. I think the neck should deviate towards the ground as gravity then shuts the mouth, preventing insects from entering, and a little traction is applied to the cervical spine (fig 2, top). When the head is down, the vertebrae are stretched between two anchors and every time the ribs move through breathing the tension is increased, the vertebrae realign themselves, and the movement keeps the joints lubricated. Current thinking is to keep the spine straight by use of a pillow. Has anyone ever seen a gorilla shinning up a tree with a pillow? Note also the plantar flexed foot. A dorsiflexed foot rotates the knee and alters the Q angle (between the resultant pull of the quadriceps muscle and the patella tendon), producing uneven wear and, in time, pain.

Sleeping Figure 2B Side Lying Modified

Sleeping Figure 2A Side Lying

Tribal people do not like lying on the ground in the recovery position while wearing no clothes as the penis dangles in the dust and can get bitten by insects. When the legs are in the reverse recovery position (fig 2, bottom), the penis lies on the lower thigh and is protected. In this position the Achilles tendon of the leading foot can be inserted in the gap between the big toe and the first lesser toe to help correct a bunion.

When sleeping in the open in very cold climates and when the ground is wet, humans often resort to sleeping on their shins, like the Tibetan caravaneers photographed by Peter, Prince of Greece and Denmark, in 1938 (fig 3). Nature has not covered the anterior border of the tibia and the medial border of the ulna with muscle, so in this position there is only skin and bone in contact with the cold ground and heat loss is reduced. The body is also folded to conserve heat; both ears can listen for danger, be it lion or terrorist; and when the head is down gravity shuts the mouth and it is impossible to snore.

Sleeping Figure 3 Tibetans

Figure 4 shows the “lookout posture,” another position using the arm as a pillow to reset shoulder, elbow, and wrist: accessory joint movement is regained because the weight of the head resting on the arm is at right angles to the line of movement, producing a lateral glide. I have seen Howler monkeys using this position in Costa Rica

Sleeping Figure 4 Lookout Posture

Quadrupedal lying (fig 5) is ideal for stretching collagen fibre throughout the body. In the penis protect position, with the pelvis locked, the spine is rotated and flexed. With the elbows out sideways and the chest on the ground, many spinal lesions can be corrected gently using nature’s automatic manipulator. Animals are clever because they use the radiant heat from the sun to encourage relaxation of their muscles when they adopt this posture. In this photograph note that the dog’s sternum is in full contact with the ground but that of the human is not: this can be easily corrected by rotating the right arm medially to lower the sternum. It has been noted that guide dogs working in towns breathe the same pollutants as humans yet do not have asthma. Could this be because when they lie on their chests the kickback from the upper ribs keeps the corresponding vertebrae mobile, allowing the sympathetic system to work efficiently?

Sleeping Figure 5 Quadrupedal Lying

Arabs in the Sahara will sit in the position shown in figure 6 for hours and it keeps the forefoot aligned on the hindfoot, as the ischia rest directly on the calcanea and the feet point straight backwards. People who sit like this do not seem to get much osteoarthritis in their knees in old age. Cross legged sitting prevents arthritic hips. A flying doctor from Kenya remarked to me that over the years as local tribesmen became more civilised he more often saw arthritis of hips and knees.

Sleeping Figure 6 Sitting on the heels

The full squat, with the heels on the ground (fig 7) resets the sacroiliac joints; takes hips, knees and ankles through the full range; and can be very useful in treating backs. To start with, some Westerners have to hold on to a door frame.

Sleeping Figure 7 Full Squat

Largely anecdotal evidence has been collected by “old timers” for over 50 years from non-Western societies that low back pain and joint stiffness is markedly reduced by adopting natural sleeping and resting postures. This observation must be recorded to allow further research in this direction as these primitive societies no longer exist and the great apes living in the wild are heading for extinction. All we have to do is to be good primates and use these preventive techniques.

(Hat tip to Gwern.)

The most intriguing unpredictable election process was probably that of the medieval Venetian Republic

Thursday, January 16th, 2020

The Venetians had a somewhat tedious way of combining voting and randomness, Nick Szabo explains, that reduced blackmail and pay-to-play political donations:

If would-be purchasers of political favors cannot predict who will win, or even who might win with substantial probability, they cannot purchase any favors prior to an election. A perfectly unpredictable election would be bribe-free.

We can’t make elections perfectly unpredictable, but we can get pretty close. There are historical and even contemporary precedents. For example, we choose jurors by lot from a pool much larger than the twelve jurors selected. This prevents wealthy plaintiffs, defendants, or governments from buying jurors through the selection process. (After selection, there are a number of legal and physical sequestering mechanisms that can be used to isolate a jury from contact with favor purchasers. As for political office, this article deals only with bribery during the selection process).

In ancient Athens, not only juries but many office-holders were selected by lot. But the most intriguing unpredictable election process was probably that of the medieval Venetian Republic. This republic helped turn a secure island into Europe’s wealthiest trading empire. In Venice, many political offices were selected by a repeated cycle of lottery, vote, …. lottery, vote. The final lottery and vote, at least, were held one after the other in the same room, giving favor purchasers no time or privacy to do their business.

I’ve mentioned unpredictable elections before, but sortition came up recently.

This “shadow ban” is very real

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

While sharing his best writing from 2019, Greg Ellifritz also provides a little “behind the scenes” look at his numbers:

Only about 23% of my visitors come to the site directly or read my posts via email updates. The vast majority (76%) of my readers arrive at my site from either a social media link or a search engine.

The social media giants are notoriously anti-gun. The largest search engines are regularly directing searches away from websites with lots of firearms or self-defense related content. This “shadow ban” is very real.

My website pageviews peaked in the year 2016. In that year, I had 5,120,608 page views. Coincidentally, that was the year that search engines and social media sites began their effort to “de-platform” content they don’t like. My site is filled with content that the large social media giants hate.

I went from over five million pageviews in 2016 down to 2,981,315 pageviews in 2017 despite releasing more and better content. Since 2017, my page views have continued to plummet. In 2019 I had 2,347,144 pageviews.

I intentionally created 22% more content in 2019, hoping the additional articles would boost my readership. It didn’t matter. Page views continue to slowly decrease year after year. Despite writing more than 50,000 more words (half a fictional novel) in 2019 as compared to 2018, I lost half a million readers.

This kingpin strategy increased homicides by 80 percent

Wednesday, January 8th, 2020

The record shows that removing leaders often leads to more chaotic violence, Max Abrahms points out:

In January 2016, Mexican marines captured Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the longtime head of the Sinaloa Cartel. Taking him off the streets made the gang bloodier than ever before. Not only did the amount of violence increase, but the target selection expanded to include innocent bystanders. A gang member who worked for a contemporary of El Chapo compared the type of cartel violence before and after the arrest: “If we wanted to kill you and you turned up with your wife and children, we couldn’t do anything. We couldn’t touch you. Now, they don’t give a damn … If they see you in a taco stand, they’ll come and shoot it up.”

More systematically, the economists Jason Lindo and María Padilla-Romo examined the effects of targeting high-ranking gang members on Mexican homicide rates from 2001 to 2010. This “kingpin strategy,” they found, increased homicides by 80 percent in the municipalities where the leaders had operated for at least one year.

Many militant groups have also become less restrained toward civilians after the death or imprisonment of senior figures. In 1954, the British launched Operation Anvil to stamp out the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya. Capturing leaders around Nairobi initiated a period of uncoordinated, rudderless violence. South Africa’s African National Congress also became less tactically disciplined when its leadership was marginalized. In 1961, the ANC established an armed wing called Umkhonto we Sizwe, which came to be known as the MK. Leadership stressed the value of “properly controlled violence” to spare civilians. For three years, MK members complied by studiously avoiding terrorist attacks. After Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, however, young men in the ANC engaged in stone throwing, arson, looting, and brutal killings of civilians. The political scientist Gregory Houston observed that “the removal of experienced and respected leaders … created a leadership vacuum” that empowered undisciplined hotheads. When Filipino police assassinated the Abu Sayyaf founder, Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, in 1998, the group devolved into a movement of bandits that preyed on private citizens. When Nigerian police summarily executed the Boko Haram founder, Mohammed Yusuf, in 2009, the terrorist organization also turned ruthless against civilians. And the al-Qaeda–linked rebel group Ahrar al-Sham became even more radical after a 2014 attack on its headquarters, in the northwestern province of Idlib, Syria, took out its leadership.

The theory that removing leaders results in worse violence is supported by more than mere anecdote. In a couple of peer-reviewed studies, I’ve tested whether killing the leader of a militant group makes that group more tactically extreme. Across conflict zones from the Afghanistan-Pakistan to the Israel-Palestine theaters, my co-authors and I found that militant groups significantly increase their attacks against civilians after an operationally successful strike against their leadership. Vengeance is not the main driver, as the overall quantity of violence changes less than the quality does. So-called leadership decapitation does not elicit a paroxysm of violence, but makes it more indiscriminate against innocent civilians.

Leadership decapitation promotes terrorism by empowering subordinates with less restraint toward civilians. In empirical research, I’ve demonstrated that militant groups fare better politically when they direct their violence at military and other government targets rather than civilians. Unlike guerrilla attacks against government targets, terrorist attacks against civilian targets tend to reduce popular support, empower hard-liners, and, most important, lower the odds of government concessions. But lower-level members, compared with their superiors, are less likely to grasp that attacking civilians does not pay.

[...]

Of course, not all militant leaders appreciate the folly of terrorism or possess the organizational clout to prevent operatives from perpetrating it. To a large extent, the effects of targeted killing thus depend on the type of leader killed. As I predicted in October, the death of the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, did not increase the group’s terrorist attacks, because he had favored maximum carnage against civilians and exercised limited control over his subordinates, particularly “lone wolves” who simply declared their rhetorical allegiance to him. Leadership decapitation is most likely to increase terrorism when the leader understood the strategic value of tactical restraint toward civilians and imposed his targeting restraint on the rank and file. A salient example is the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which ramped up their terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians when their leadership was crushed during the Second Intifada.

California’s mandated background checks had no impact on gun deaths

Wednesday, January 8th, 2020

A joint study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of California at Davis Violence Prevention Research Program found that California’s mandated background checks had no impact on gun deaths:

In 1991, California simultaneously imposed comprehensive background checks for firearm sales and prohibited gun sales (and gun possession) to people convicted of misdemeanor violent crimes. The legislation mandated that all gun sales, including private transactions, would have to go through a California-licensed Federal Firearms License (FFL) dealer. Shotguns and rifles, like handguns, became subject to a 15-day waiting period to make certain all gun purchasers had undergone a thorough background check.

It was the most expansive state gun control legislation in America, affecting an estimated one million gun buyers in the first year alone. Though costly and cumbersome, politicians and law enforcement agreed the law was worth it.

The legislation would “keep more guns out of the hands of the people who shouldn’t have them,” said then-Republican Gov. George Deukmejian.

“I think the new laws are going to help counter the violence,” said LAPD spokesman William D. Booth.

More than a quarter of a century later, researchers at Johns Hopkins and UC Davis dug into the results of the sweeping legislation. Researchers compared yearly gun suicide and homicide rates over the 10 years following implementation of California’s law with 32 control states that did not have such laws.

They found “no change in the rates of either cause of death from firearms through 2000.”

Respectable enough to be invited to all the dances

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020

The genteel poverty of the Little Women in her book — respectable enough to be invited to all the dances, but too broke to be the belles of the ball — reflects the remarkable upbringing of Louisa May Alcott, Steve Sailer expains:

Back before Mark Twain, American literature was kind of a who-you-know business, and the Alcotts knew everybody who was anybody in the author industry. Ralph Waldo Emerson lent her family the money to buy their house in Concord, Henry David Thoreau told them it was haunted, and they eventually sold it to Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Considered a genius by America’s leading intellectuals, Louisa’s improvident father, Amos Bronson Alcott, was a figure out of a Mencius Moldbug essay about how WASPs are the real communists.

As Louisa recounted in her satire Transcendental Wild Oats, in the summer of 1841 her father founded a utopian commune called Fruitlands whose inmates were required to eat a vegan diet and not wear cotton (because it was picked by slaves), leather, or wool (because dumb brutes could not consent to be exploited). They could only wear linen, which was pleasant in summer, but not, as it turned out, in winter.

Nor could these animal rights activists employ beasts of burden to pull their plow. By December, with starvation held back only by Mrs. Alcott’s ceaseless labors, Mr. Alcott called the whole thing off.

Louisa was a more sensible soul than her father and enjoyed making money off her writing. So she eventually gave in when her publisher asked her to write a book for girls, even though she complained that she only identified with boys. In her semiautobiographical Little Women, the girls’ father is much improved upon by being rewritten as a beloved paterfamilias who is far away serving as a chaplain in the Union Army.

White officers are not more likely to shoot minority civilians than non-White officers

Monday, January 6th, 2020

A recent study published in PNAS looked at officer characteristics and racial disparities in fatal officer-involved shootings:

There is widespread concern about racial disparities in fatal officer-involved shootings and that these disparities reflect discrimination by White officers. Existing databases of fatal shootings lack information about officers, and past analytic approaches have made it difficult to assess the contributions of factors like crime. We create a comprehensive database of officers involved in fatal shootings during 2015 and predict victim race from civilian, officer, and county characteristics. We find no evidence of anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparities across shootings, and White officers are not more likely to shoot minority civilians than non-White officers.

Odds of Civilian Being White vs. Black or Hispanic

Instead, race-specific crime strongly predicts civilian race. This suggests that increasing diversity among officers by itself is unlikely to reduce racial disparity in police shootings.

The low chance of war with Iran

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

Richard Fernandez discusses the low chance of war with Iran:

With everyone wondering if Iran and the US will go to war it’s pertinent to understand both nations are already in an undeclared conflict going back more than 40 years. “And often, it’s been a war that our political and intelligence elites have denied exists.”

It began on November 4, 1979, when “radicals” loyal to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran … On April 18, 1983, a suicide bomber drove a truck full of explosives into the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon … Iran has also targeted U.S. soldiers on the battlefield, killing more than 1,000 U.S. troops with specialized improvised explosive devices in Iraq, placing a bounty on U.S. service personnel in Afghanistan, and most recently targeting U.S. forces in Syria.

The obvious question is why this conflict, which has claimed thousands of lives has remained in a state of limbo and why elites are at pains to deny it exists. One possible answer is that the combatants prefer it that way. Iran for its part is heavily engaged in proxy war with Saudi Arabia in far flung theaters including Syria, Yemen, Iraq, the Bahrain uprising, Lebanon and even Afghanistan. It can scarcely afford the additional cost of open conflict with the United States if it is to escape over-extension. It is in Iran’s interest to keep its war with America undeclared so that it can pick and choose when to engage.

For analogous but different reasons Washington preferred it secret too. Undeclared conflicts are the only way to fight “forever wars” where the object is not the destruction of the enemy but rather its management and containment in such a way that the global public and markets don’t notice.

Intelligence and character aren’t the same things at all

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

The problem with meritocracy, T. Greer notes, isn’t the meritit’s the ocracy. He cites some passages from Andrew Yang’s book, of all places:

Intelligence and character aren’t the same things at all. Pretending that they are will lead us to ruin. The market is about to turn on many of us with little care for what separates us from each other. I’ve worked with and grown up alongside hundreds of very highly educated people for the past several decades, and trust me when I say that they are not uniformly awesome. People in the bubble think that the world is more orderly than it is. They overplan. They mistake smarts for judgment. They mistake smarts for character. They overvalue credentials. Head not heart. They need status and reassurance. They see risk as a bad thing. They optimize for the wrong things. They think in two years, not 20. They need other bubble people around. They get pissed off when others succeed. They think their smarts should determine their place in the world. They think ideas supersede action. They get agitated if they’re not making clear progress. They’re unhappy. They fear being wrong and looking silly. They don’t like to sell. They talk themselves out of having guts. They worship the market. They worry too much. Bubble people have their pluses and minuses like anyone else.

[...]

In coming years it’s going to be even harder to forge a sense of common identity across different walks of life. A lot of people who now live in the bubble grew up in other parts of the country. They still visit their families for holidays and special occasions. They were brought up middle-class in normal suburbs like I was and retain a deep familiarity with the experiences of different types of people. They loved the mall, too.

In another generation this will become less and less true. There will be an army of slender, highly cultivated products of Mountain View and the Upper East Side and Bethesda heading to elite schools that has been groomed since birth in the most competitive and rarefied environments with very limited exposure to the rest of the country.

When I was growing up, there was something of an inverse relationship between being smart and being good-looking. The smart kids were bookish and awkward and the social kids were attractive and popular. Rarely were the two sets of qualities found together in the same people. The nerd camps I went to looked the part.

Today, thanks to assortative mating in a handful of cities, intellect, attractiveness, education, and wealth are all converging in the same families and neighborhoods. I look at my friends’ children, and many of them resemble unicorns: brilliant, beautiful, socially precocious creatures who have gotten the best of all possible resources since the day they were born. I imagine them in 10 or 15 years traveling to other parts of the country, and I know that they are going to feel like, and be received as, strangers in a strange land. They will have thriving online lives and not even remember a car that didn’t drive itself. They may feel they have nothing in common with the people before them. Their ties to the greater national fabric will be minimal. Their empathy and desire to subsidize and address the distress of the general public will likely be lower and lower.

Does this mean that Hollywood movies actually reduce crime?

Saturday, January 4th, 2020

Bryan Caplan discusses the social conservatism of Hollywood:

The message of all this cinema: Follow the path of bourgeois virtue.  Work hard, keep the peace, abstain from alcohol, have very few sexual partners, and keep your whole family far away from anyone who lives otherwise.  Think about how many fictional characters would have lived longer if they never set foot in a bar.

Is this the message the writers intend to send?  Unlikely.  Instead, they try to create engrossing stories — and end up weaving morality tales.

[...]

Does this mean that Hollywood movies actually reduce crime? I doubt it. The viewers most in need of lessons in bourgeois virtue are probably too impulsive to reflect on the moral of the story. They’re captivated instead by the gunplay and machismo. Yet if you’re paying attention, the moral of these stories remains: Unless your parents are criminals, listen to your parents.

Hyperindividualized freak flags became the national uniform

Friday, January 3rd, 2020

Nick Gillespie of Reason says, Thank you, Ram Dass!

Ram Dass, the psychedelic pioneer once known as Richard Alpert and notorious for getting fired by Harvard after giving undergraduate students drugs in the early 1960s, died at age 88 a little more than a week ago. So passed one of the figures who helped make postwar America vastly more individualistic, libertarian, weird, and wonderful.

Ram Dass’ journey from being the wealthy, repressed homosexual son of a railroad baron to a conventionally promising academic psychologist to the author of bestselling hippie bibles to the leader of a Hawaii-based New Age community was very public and extreme. But it neatly traces the arc of a square, buttoned-down Organization Man country into a place where hyperindividualized freak flags became the national uniform and the pursuit of spiritual and psychic wisdom became legitimate. Without figures such as Ram Dass — relentless seekers who challenged the boundaries of common decency and bourgeois respectability — we’d all be living in much duller, grayer world.

Richard Alpert’s father was the president of the New Haven Railroad, and the future Ram Dass grew up rich and entitled. He eventually made his way to Harvard as an assistant professor of psychology, where he crossed paths with Timothy Leary and helped create the “Good Friday experiment,” which catalyzed the nascent psychedelic movement. In short order, he and Leary were kicked out of Harvard and ended up living in a commune in upstate New York where they, along with Ralph Metzner (who himself died earlier this year), published an acid-drenched version of the Tibetan Book of the Dead that inspired the Beatles, among others.

In 1967, Alpert migrated to India and came back to the United States a few years later as Ram Dass. His 1971 book Be Here Now, cheekily dedicated to “the one eye love” and subtitled a “cook book for a sacred life,” helped introduce America to the now-ubiquitous term namaste and other Eastern mystical concepts. He eventually landed in Hawaii and created the Love Serve Remember Foundation.

I’m not sure I’d rate their contributions to society a net positive.

A strong state is distinct from a very large or tyrannical state

Thursday, January 2nd, 2020

Tyler Cowen suggests that smart classical liberals and libertarians have, as if guided by an invisible hand, evolved into State Capacity Libertarians, which he defines via these propositions:

1. Markets and capitalism are very powerful, give them their due.

2. Earlier in history, a strong state was necessary to back the formation of capitalism and also to protect individual rights (do read Koyama and Johnson on state capacity). Strong states remain necessary to maintain and extend capitalism and markets.

[...]

3. A strong state is distinct from a very large or tyrannical state. A good strong state should see the maintenance and extension of capitalism as one of its primary duties, in many cases its #1 duty.

4. Rapid increases in state capacity can be very dangerous (earlier Japan, Germany), but high levels of state capacity are not inherently tyrannical. Denmark should in fact have a smaller government, but it is still one of the freer and more secure places in the world, at least for Danish citizens albeit not for everybody.

5. Many of the failures of today’s America are failures of excess regulation, but many others are failures of state capacity. Our governments cannot address climate change, much improve K-12 education, fix traffic congestion, or improve the quality of their discretionary spending.

[...]

6. I will cite again the philosophical framework of my book Stubborn Attachments: A Vision for a Society of Free, Prosperous, and Responsible Individuals.

7. The fundamental growth experience of recent decades has been the rise of capitalism, markets, and high living standards in East Asia, and State Capacity Libertarianism has no problem or embarrassment in endorsing those developments.

[...]

8. The major problem areas of our time have been Africa and South Asia. They are both lacking in markets and also in state capacity.

9. State Capacity Libertarians are more likely to have positive views of infrastructure, science subsidies, nuclear power (requires state support!), and space programs than are mainstream libertarians or modern Democrats.

[...]

10. State Capacity Libertarianism has no problem endorsing higher quality government and governance, whereas traditional libertarianism is more likely to embrace or at least be wishy-washy toward small, corrupt regimes, due to some of the residual liberties they leave behind.

11. State Capacity Libertarianism is not non-interventionist in foreign policy, as it believes in strong alliances with other relatively free nations, when feasible. That said, the usual libertarian “problems of intervention because government makes a lot of mistakes” bar still should be applied to specific military actions. But the alliances can be hugely beneficial, as illustrated by much of 20th century foreign policy and today much of Asia — which still relies on Pax Americana.

The hot spots on the suicide map and the hot spots on the homicide map would coincide

Tuesday, December 31st, 2019

BJ Campbell points to geographic evidence that gun deaths are cultural:

I was recently pointed to a pretty amazing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) project hosted by The Oregonian, which uses CDC data and population rate data to determine the gun death rate, gun homicide rate, and gun suicide rate within the country on a county by county basis. [...] Deaths are expressed as rates per 100,000 population, and above average rates are red, while below average rates are blue.

Gun deaths per 100k people

We hear a lot of banter from the “anti-gun” media that these problems are gun problems, and they’ve concocted this “gun deaths” number in order to lump these into the same problem and gloss over the differences. But if the problem were “guns,” then the hot spots on the suicide map and the hot spots on the homicide map would coincide, and would be related to gun ownership rates. There are only a few places where they overlap. Most of the hot zones for suicide have low homicide rates, and most of the hot zones for homicide have low suicide rates.

Gun homicides per 100k people

Gun suicides per 100k people

Poor black folks have a gun homicide problem, while poor white folks have a gun suicide problem.

American Nations Today

The break between systemic firearm suicide and sporadic firearm suicide within the south is almost directly foretold by the boundaries between Greater Appalachia and the Deep South.

Be an accidental moderate, or be mediocre

Monday, December 30th, 2019

There are two distinct ways to be politically moderate, Paul Graham argues — on purpose and by accident:

Intentional moderates are trimmers, deliberately choosing a position mid-way between the extremes of right and left. Accidental moderates end up in the middle, on average, because they make up their own minds about each question, and the far right and far left are roughly equally wrong.

You can distinguish intentional from accidental moderates by the distribution of their opinions. If the far left opinion on some matter is 0 and the far right opinion 100, an intentional moderate’s opinion on every question will be near 50. Whereas an accidental moderate’s opinions will be scattered over a broad range, but will, like those of the intentional moderate, average to about 50.

[...]

Nearly all the most impressive people I know are accidental moderates. If I knew a lot of professional athletes, or people in the entertainment business, that might be different. Being on the far left or far right doesn’t affect how fast you run or how well you sing. But someone who works with ideas has to be independent-minded to do it well.

Or more precisely, you have to be independent-minded about the ideas you work with. You could be mindlessly doctrinaire in your politics and still be a good mathematician. In the 20th century, a lot of very smart people were Marxists — just no one who was smart about the subjects Marxism involves. But if the ideas you use in your work intersect with the politics of your time, you have two choices: be an accidental moderate, or be mediocre.

By virtue of their superior ambition and energy but also by default

Sunday, December 29th, 2019

Richard Rhodes’ The Making of the Atomic Bomb is also a history of European Jews:

The operators of those mechanisms [of capitalism and industrialization], by virtue of their superior ambition and energy but also by default, were Jews, who represented about 5 percent of the Hungarian population in 1910. The stubbornly rural and militaristic Magyar nobility had managed to keep 33 percent of the Hungarian people illiterate as late as 1918 and wanted nothing of vulgar commerce except its fruits. As a result, by 1904 Jewish families owned 37.5 percent of Hungary’s arable land; by 1910, although Jews comprised only 0.1 percent of agricultural laborers and 7.3 percent of industrial workers, they counted 50.6 percent of Hungary’s lawyers, 53 percent of its commercial businessmen, 59.9 percent of its doctors and 80 percent of it financiers.