Grades and test scores should be top factors in college admissions

Thursday, August 18th, 2022

The U.S. public continues to think that grades and test scores should be top factors in college admissions:

More than nine-in-ten Americans (93%) say high school grades should be at least a minor factor in admissions decisions, including 61% who say they should be a major factor. Grades are, by far, the criteria the public says should most factor into admissions decisions. This is followed by standardized test scores (39% major factor, 46% minor factor) and community service involvement (19% major, 48% minor), according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted March 7-13, 2022.

Nearly half of Americans (46%) say someone being the first in their family to go to college should be either a major (18%) or minor (28%) factor in admissions decisions, while a similar share say athletic ability should factor into these decisions (9% major, 36% minor).

By comparison, nearly three-quarters of Americans or more say gender, race or ethnicity, or whether a relative attended the school should not factor into admissions decisions.

The relative importance of each of these factors is unchanged since 2019.

Crime’s costs are even higher than we thought

Tuesday, August 16th, 2022

How bad is crime?, Ben Southwood asks:

In the paper, whose calculations were done in 2006, Americans were willing to pay $25,000 to avert a burglary across their society, $70,000 to avoid a serious assault, and nearly $10m to avoid a murder.

A more practical situation comes when juries award money to ‘make people whole’ for physical injury, pain, suffering, mental anguish, shock, and discomfort that they have experienced due to some illegal action. For example, one 68-year old lady was shot through the spine in a drive-by shooting, and left paraplegic — a jury gave her $2.7m in addition to her medical costs.

If you combine these awards, in a large sample, with separate ‘physician impairment ratings’ — basically how bad doctors think the injury is compared to death — then this is another method of estimating the statistical value of a life, something we have hundreds of estimates for, which typically comes out somewhere above $5m, depending on the wealth of the country and the methodology.

[...]

Their central estimate is that crime costs America $2.6 trillion annually, mostly coming from violent crime. This is about 12 percent of US GDP. By this metric, it would be, in GDP terms, one of the US’s biggest problems, on par with housing. For a country like the UK with a murder rate about five times lower, the problem is probably about five times smaller.

I actually think the American problem is considerably bigger than this estimate, because this study only includes the costs of crimes that actually get committed. However, people try their damnedest to avoid being the victims of crime. This leads to many extremely socially costly behaviours.

What are some of these extremely socially costly behaviors?

For example, one study by Julie Cullen and Steven Levitt finds that when crime rates across the city rise ten percent, city centre populations fall one percent — with people generally moving to the suburbs. One crime tends to push one person out of the city centre, on average.

Quantifying this in terms of a real world city, the roughly 400 percent increase in New York City’s murders from 1955 to 1975 (from around 300 to over 1,500 per year) would have been expected to empty the densest parts of the city out by about 40 percent, assuming that other crimes rose in line with murder. And indeed, the population of the centre city — Manhattan — fell about 35 percent over that period, while the population and physical extent of the suburbs grew rapidly.

Murders in New York City peaked in 1990 at over 2,000 per year, roughly as population reached its nadir in the city centre. They have cratered by over three quarters, to about 300. This would have likely driven city centre population up massively, much moreso than it actually did recover, but building restrictions have prevented this happening anywhere near as much as it might, meaning that it has driven up prices instead.

So this story implies that crime in city cores drives people to the suburbs, creating urban sprawl. If so, then crime’s costs are even higher than we thought.

Your name goes on your…

Thursday, August 11th, 2022

Rob Henderson explains social class through the example of where your name goes:

Working class: Your name on your uniform
Middle class: Your name on your desk
Upper middle class: Your name on your office door
Upper class: Your name on the building

When people arrive at the same policy recommendations but shift to the opposite rationale, it seems fair to doubt their objectivity

Tuesday, August 9th, 2022

There are two carbon calculation problems, Arnold Kling explains, and they are interdependent:

One problem is to figure out the optimal amount of carbon emission reduction. That means making a judgment about how much harm carbon emissions cause (and this relies on unreliable models) and comparing this with the cost of the carbon-emission reduction measures. The other problem is to figure the optimal carbon-emission reduction measures, which will in turn help you to calculate the cost of those measures.

When someone makes a specific proposal, such as changing fertilizer use, I want to say: Show Your Work. That is, show the assumptions and calculations that you made in order to arrive at this proposal. Otherwise, it may not even be true that your proposal would reduce carbon emissions.

In the economy, central planners face a well-known calculation problem. Even when they are sure that the market is getting things wrong, they usually lack a way to measure the degree of correction needed.

To a first approximation, the best way to have a sustainable economy is to let the market work. In order to determine sustainability, markets perform a complex calculation problem. If a firm’s output sells for more than the cost of its inputs, then its production process is sustainable, and it remains in business. If it sells for less, it experiences losses, and it goes out of business. No public official has knowledge that can enable a regulator to outperform the price system.

But there are costs that the market does not count. One cost that is on the minds of most policymakers today is the cost of carbon emissions, which add to greenhouse gases and hence to global warming.

Markets can still help in addressing the carbon emissions calculation problem.

[...]

As an aside, I should point out that animosity toward gasoline-fueled automobiles and “smokestack” industry long preceded the focus on global warming. Fifty years ago, one concern was air pollution. This was a fair concern, and I would say that the regulators who mandated filtering systems probably got it right. Certainly, the air in Los Angeles is cleaner because cars no longer spew as much pollution. And the air in Pittsburgh is cleaner because it no longer is a steel town.

Also fifty years ago, there was a concern that we would soon run out of fossil fuels. This motivated President Carter and Congress to create the Department of Energy, tasked with developing alternative energy sources in what Mr. Carter called a “moral equivalent of war.”

The global warming issue shifted the rationale for opposing gasoline and “smokestack” industries. The concern that fossil fuels were subject to scarcity was replaced by a worry that they are too abundant. When people arrive at the same policy recommendations but shift to the opposite rationale, it seems fair to doubt their objectivity.

Dr. Raymond Kuo shares the Statecraft and Negotiations simulations he created for his class

Monday, August 8th, 2022

Dr. Raymond Kuo created a Statecraft and Negotiations course when he was a professor, and he has shared his Statecraft and Negotiation Simulations:

I created about a dozen original simulations that:

  • Could be played in ~1 hour or less.
  • Examined 1-3 concepts at once (I find the commercially available sims too sprawling and pedagogically confusing).
  • Could be scaled for many different class sizes, but with teams no larger than 4.
  • Ideally don’t use points.

They are listed and linked below. You might need WinRar to open the zipped files. A few notes/caveats:

  • Please attribute them to me.
  • If you modify the design, please let me know! I’m not a professional game designer, so many things need improving. I’d love to see what you’ve done and would be happy to host new, better versions here.
  • They are purely a teaching aid. Feel free to substitute fictional countries if you’d like. I think (?) the learning goals and teacher’s guides are in the negotiation packages, but please let me know if not.

Aid and Development
Three players (USAID, USTR, DRC) negotiate an aid package for the DRC. Explores aid conditionality.

Electoral System Design
Design an election system for an ethnically fractionalized country emerging from civil violence.

Human Rights
Acting as specific countries, players create the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Negotiate over wording and try to exclude certain rights to align the declaration with your domestic political, legal, and economic systems.

Nuclear Weapons
Go nuclear! Or try to mutually disarm. But don’t get tricked. A simple game requiring only 1-2 decks of cards for the whole class.

War Initiation
Can the players avoid starting World War 1? My largest sim, 5-6 countries, ideally represented by teams, not individuals.

War Termination
Companion to “War Initiation.” Players relive the Versailles conference, attempting to end World War 1 on the most advantageous terms. Can you do better than the real diplomats?

COIN and Laws of War
A four-stage tactical decision game that requires some instructor moderation/adjudication. Can you defend a town without violating the laws of war?

Trade
NOTE: A couple of my students designed this simulation, and I think it’s better than my trade sim. Negotiate NAFTA!

Passenger trains generally travel on the same tracks as freight trains

Saturday, August 6th, 2022

Modern American passenger trains take longer to travel the same routes than trains used to take:

First, Amtrak trains often have to make more stops than their pre-Amtrak counterparts. (Abrams didn’t go into detail why, but as a quasi-government corporation, Amtrak sometimes makes more stops along a route to please Congressional representatives who need to authorize its funding, unlike the private railroads that existed before Amtrak’s formation in the early 1970s.) As an example of the added stops Amtrak now makes, Abrams pointed out the 1959 New York Central’s New York-Chicago route took 16 hours and made eight stops, whereas Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited along the same route takes 19 hours 10 minutes making 18 stops, including a lengthy pause in Albany where train cars coming from Boston are linked up.

The second reason has to do with track priority. Passenger trains generally travel on the same tracks as freight trains. When the passenger and freight trains were owned by the same company, they typically prioritized passengers. Now, in the Amtrak era, freight rail companies no longer operate passenger train service but still own, operate, and maintain the tracks, which Amtrak uses. Although the law requires them to prioritize Amtrak trains, in practice they rarely do, resulting in an escalating beef between the freight companies and Amtrak.

[…]

One of the few places Amtrak does not have to contend with freight rail is along the Northeast Corridor from Washington, D.C. to Boston via New York. Either Amtrak or regional commuter rail systems own those tracks. And it is one of the few routes with noticeable time improvements since the Eisenhower Era and the only stretch with anything approaching high speed rail service, saving riders some 45 minutes between New York and Washington when compared to Olden Times. And New York to Boston on Acela — until recently the only stretch of track in the U.S. with true “high-speed rail” — is 21 minutes faster than the fastest train in 1952.

The Amish have been breeding themselves for plainness

Thursday, August 4th, 2022

The Amish population doubles every 20 years:

The North American Amish population grew by an estimated 195,710 since 2000, increasing from approximately 177,910 in 2000 to 373,620 in 2022, an increase of 110 percent. The Amish population doubles about every 20 years.

[…]

The primary forces driving the growth are sizable nuclear families (five or more children on average) and an average retention rate (Amish children who join the church as young adults) of 85 percent or more.

The Amish probably won’t pass 10 billion in the early 24th Century, Steve Sailer notes:

I wrote about the Amish in 2013, including the Cochran-Harpending theory that one reason their retention rate has gone up over the generations is because they have been boiling off Amish-born individuals with genomes that don’t put up well with the Amish lifestyle, that the Amish have been breeding themselves for their favorite trait: “plainness.”

In 1820, Harvard paid lip service to meritocratic virtues while producing aristocrats

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2022

America’s elite universities have long fused the myth of meritocracy with the reality of aristocracy:

As early as 1820, critics accused Harvard — then a bastion of the Boston upper-class — of elitism, a charge to which administrators responded by introducing difficult entrance exams. These tests did not change the institution’s makeup, and deliberately so. From Latin and Greek to political philosophy, Harvard’s faculty selected themes and questions that no one but students from a handful of preparatory schools could address. In fact, the function of the new admissions process had little to do with access, and much to do with legitimacy. Hiding behind the convenient veil of meritocracy, Harvard could claim the mantle of equal opportunity while remaining exclusive.

Every time public schools managed to adapt and prepare their middle-class students for the entrance exam, the university would change the test’s structure to make it impossible for commoners to compete. In 1850, the exam lasted eight hours; by 1865, it lasted three days and covered twice as many subjects. Harvard justified these changes by re-affirming their desire to become more meritocratic. Far from a gatekeeping tool, the ever-changing exam would prevent the undeserving sons of the elite from corrupting an institution wherein achievement alone prevailed—or so the administration claimed. Of course, the leaders of the college knew that Harvard would remain as aristocratic as ever. But they understood the need to use the meritocracy narrative to protect the university from attacks in the name of democratic consistency.

[…]

On paper, every institution of elite production is accessible to all who deserve access. But the players who control the definition of merit and the metrics of achievement have evident incentives to limit the democratization of status. There lies the genius of meritocracy as we know it: the public mind does not grasp that a handful of institutions shape our perception of merit, that the selection processes change to protect dynastic privileges, and that meritocracy at-large consists of little more than a legitimating mechanism by and for elites. Dressed in the garb of equality, meritocracy allows hidden bastions of aristocracy to thrive in democratic societies.

[…]

Obsessed with erasing distinctions in rank, we run the risk of elevating mediocrity, failing to produce distinguished statesmen to steward the political order, and thereby endangering our own success.

The founding generation understood this inescapable tension. For them, aristocratic institutions were the best allies of democracies. To aspiring elites, the likes of Harvard provided a positive view of the good life, a sense of noblesse oblige, and a stellar education in the humanities. More than factories of statesmen, bastions of aristocracy served as a counter-cultural force, preserving sophisticated traditions of excellence against the vulgarization of popular culture. The hereditary character of these institutions facilitated their insulation. Responsible for the transmission of aristocratic virtues among a select set of families, elite universities ensured that a distinctive, functional approach to stewardship survived the corrosive entropy of time. Liberated from the pressures of society-at-large, distinguished colleges would act as incubators of elite creativity and talent.

[,,,]

In 1820, Harvard paid lip service to meritocratic virtues while producing aristocrats. In 2021, Harvard pays lip service to aristocratic virtues while producing meritocrats.

[…]

The managerial class’s relentless credentialism, obsession with expertise, disdain for leisure, unwillingness to marry before the age of 30, and workaholic disposition all constitute facets of a broader way of life.

[…]

Like the American framers, Confucians realize that functional elites integrate talent from non-elite circles, balancing functionality with continuity. Still, the frame of virtue politics departs from the liberal tradition in one central respect. Where liberal philosophers build systems to restrain the power of potentially vicious rulers with strict procedures, theorists of virtue politics elevate the selection of rulers over the restriction of their power.

The Confucian legacy still underpins many of China’s institutions, where the ideal of functionalist aristocracy often translates into an imperfect form of functionalist meritocracy. For centuries, Confucian theorists worked on a stack of institutions—selective examinations, evaluation by peers, modes of promotion, and so on—whose main objective was not to restrain state power, but to elevate the right people to wield it. In a post-communist China shaped by the intellectual influence of Mao, Confucians have not yet managed to impose an aristocratic model in which the system selects for real character virtues, as opposed to mere competence. Still, Confucian thought provides a roadmap for reform towards functionalist aristocracy, one from which both China and America would benefit.

[…]

Historically, functionalist meritocracies emerge in uncertain times during which the state’s survival demands raw efficiency. The British navy, for instance, began to select for hyper-competence when hereditary cadres could no longer preserve the empire on their own. Similar situations explain the rise of meritocracy in Napoleonic France and Imperial China. In every case, the urgent needs of the moment—be it a war, an expansionist foreign policy, internal conflicts, or the management of complex societies at scale—lead sclerotic ruling classes to open their ranks to the competent few. These systems are functionalist insofar as meritocrats justify their political power by their contribution to the common good, but they remain non-aristocratic since meritocratic institutions select for brute-force competence, not refined character.

Conversely, while desert-oriented systems can be meritocratic or aristocratic, they inevitably accompany times of decline. When aristocrats can no longer justify their privileges by pointing to the ways in which their superior character serves the common good, they construct narratives of desert — divine rights, hereditary titles, and so on — that hide their lack of virtue, tame popular discontentment, and delay the emergence of revolt.

Immigrant-founded companies are valued at $1.2 trillion

Monday, August 1st, 2022

Immigrants are 80 percent more likely than native-born Americans to found a firm, according to a study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but this might not be so impressive if the businesses are laundromats, nail salons, and gas stations:

According to the NFAP, a nonprofit that researches trade and immigration, immigrants have started 319 of 582, or 55 percent, of America’s privately-held startups valued at $1 billion or more. Over two-thirds of the 582 companies “were founded or cofounded by immigrants or the children of immigrants,” notes the NFAP. For comparison, approximately 14 percent of America’s population is foreign-born.

Together, the immigrant-founded companies are valued at $1.2 trillion and employ 859 people on average. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has the largest valuation at $125 billion, employing 12,000 workers; Gopuff, a food delivery service valued at $15 billion, has 15,000 employees; Stripe, a payment platform valued at $95 billion, employs 7,000; and Instacart, a grocery delivery service valued at $39 billion, has 3,000 workers.

These findings are notable, the NFAP points out, since “there is generally no reliable way under U.S. immigration law for foreign nationals to start a business and remain in the country after founding a company.” A large share of the immigrant startup founders came to the country as refugees, on family-sponsored green cards, or through employment-based pathways for other companies.

“Our employment-based pathways for immigrant entrepreneurship are so poorly designed, migrant businesses are often associated with non–employment based pathways,” points out Sam Peak, an immigration policy analyst at Americans for Prosperity. Peak notes that refugees “have the highest rates of entrepreneurship of any other immigrant group,” and family-based migration, “especially among siblings, is also strongly tied to new business formation.”

Their bloated administrations are the shock troops of the culture war

Monday, July 25th, 2022

There are two kinds of revolutionaries, Balaji Srinivasan argues, technological and political, and there are two kinds of backers, venture capitalists and philanthropists. There aren’t term sheets between philanthropists and political revolutionaries, with “exits” to the tune of billions of dollars, but impact certificates could fix that, Scott Alexander suggests.

Arnold Kling doesn’t want that “fixed”:

Profit-seeking investment is driven ultimately by what consumers want. Philanthropy is driven ultimately by what donors want. Unless you think that donors are morally superior to the rest of us, you should not be rooting for more philanthropy.

One can speculate that one of the causes of increased social tension is the rise in philanthropy. Our “cold civil war” is funded by George Soros, Peter Thiel, Tom Steyer, and the like. Universities are among the most popular “charitable causes,” and their bloated administrations are the shock troops of the culture war.

We are better off with Soros speculating on currencies and Thiel trying to take businesses from zero to one. We are better off when university alumni invest their money in search of profit.

[…]

A lot of philanthropy goes to colleges and universities. Much of this goes to fancy new buildings. I think that Scott would agree that this does not help poor people. But were the donors who funded buildings trying to help the poor but lacking skills at effective altruism? Obviously not.

The challenge is not to make philanthropists more efficient at getting performing-arts centers and sports complexes built on campus. The challenge is to change the focus of donors toward something more worthwhile.

On the other hand, over the years Wal-Mart has hired many low-skilled workers and lowered the cost of living in many poor rural areas. Wal-Mart did not set out to help poor people, but that was the result.

More generally, markets have been shown over time and across countries to reduce poverty. The market does not produce the results of a benevolent omniscient quasi-deity. But donors themselves are neither benevolent, omniscient, nor quasi-deities.

I think that there is too much money to be made nowadays in non-profits dedicated to causes. Think of people making money as “activists.” I worry that “impact markets” could lead to even greater investment in arms races between opposing advocacy groups.

There were standards of politeness that people followed

Saturday, July 23rd, 2022

One factor driving Wokeness, Virginia Postrel notes, is a desire on the part of young people to be polite, and Arnold Kling doesn’t quite agree:

Calling people by their preferred pronouns and avoiding micro-aggressions can be seen as an attempt to be polite. Of course, by my standards these forms of politeness are not admirable, and the activists on Twitter are anything but polite.

Some more of my thoughts:

If you go back to the 1950s, there were standards of politeness that people followed. You were not supposed to use four-letter words. Men went to baseball games in white dress shirts. Nobody went to the theater or went on a plane trip in blue jeans.

We boomers treated these norms of politeness as at best unnecessary and at worst hypocritical. We threw out the whole concept.

But maybe there is a human longing for standards of politeness.

I’m reminded of Neal Stephenson’s defense of the (Neo-)Victorians against accusations of hypocrisy in The Diamond Age:

“We take a somewhat different view of hypocrisy,“ Finkle-McGraw continued. “In the late-twentieth-century Weltanschauung, a hypocrite was someone who espoused high moral views as part of a planned campaign of deception — he never held these beliefs sincerely and routinely violated them in privacy. Of course, most hypocrites are not like that. Most of the time it’s a spirit-is-willing, flesh-is-weak sort of thing.”

Most regimes would have great difficulty killing large numbers of people quickly and procedurally

Sunday, July 17th, 2022

The “hogtie, throw to the ground, and shoot in the back of the head” approach to killing people was popular with both the Soviet Cheka and Nazi Einsatzgruppen:

The innovation that the CCP has adopted is to involve a large proportion of their police and judiciary in the process as directly as possible. […] Western governments generally take great care to insulate law enforcement personnel from state-sanctioned killing. The environment and process of an execution is controlled, clinical, and highly restricted. Very few cops ever see the inside of a death chamber. In PRC the opposite is true.

When the CCP decides to kill you, they usually do it outdoors, and often in semi-public places. Regular judicial personnel handle identity confirmation and terminal legal dispositions. Multiple officers are required to wrestle the victim to the ground and hold them there. Then another officer walks up with a gun, and bang, lights out.

Once the deed is done and the victim is deceased, or wounded badly enough that death is inevitable, they are often harvested for their organs. The medical personnel who do this are usually conscripted and not told in advance what they’ll be required to do.

At every step of the process the maximum number of personnel from the mainline police and judicial system are used to carry out the killing. Why? It spreads out the complicity by making sure that everybody who could have blood on their hands does. It’s insurance for the CCP.

The CCP knows that the biggest threat to its continued rule is members of its security apparatus deciding not to do their jobs anymore. One of the best ways to ensure that ordinary cops toe the line is to make them a crucial part of your killing machine. The logic is pretty straightforward: if a substantial fraction of your armed police have directly participated in “social cleansing” of undesireables like petty drug abusers, liquidation of badly-behaved members of minority groups, or outright political murders of people within the CCP hierarchy, it’s not particularly difficult to convince them that regime change would result in them being afforded the same treatment by whomever seizes power.

It’s also a technique for building a certain kind of very evil state capacity. Most regimes would have great difficulty killing large numbers of people quickly and procedurally, but not the CCP. They have a paramilitary police force that can conduct executions at scale. There’s no dedicated roving death squad, no group of commandos drugging people and dropping them out of airplanes, no warehouse-sized gas chambers, no mass graves. Just cops, judges, Maoist collective action, small arms, and crematoria.

Routine, in other words.

The national holidays of the US, Mexico, and France all celebrate rather different events

Thursday, July 14th, 2022

Back in 2004, Jerry Pournelle described the original Bastille Day:

On July 14, 1789, the Paris mob aided by units of the National Guard stormed the Bastille Fortress which stood in what had been the Royal area of France before the Louvre and Tuilleries took over that function. The Bastille was a bit like the Tower of London, a fortress prison under direct control of the Monarchy. It was used to house unusual prisoners, all aristocrats, in rather comfortable durance. The garrison consisted of soldiers invalided out of service and some older soldiers who didn’t want to retire; it was considered an honor to be posted there, and the garrison took turns acting as valets to the aristocratic prisoners kept there by Royal order (not convicted by any court).

On July 14, 1789, the prisoner population consisted of four forgers, three madmen, and another.  The forgers were aristocrats and were locked away in the Bastille rather than be sentenced by the regular courts. The madmen were kept in the Bastille in preference to the asylums: they were unmanageable at home, and needed to be locked away. The servants/warders were bribed to treat them well. The Bastille was stormed; the garrison was slaughtered to a man, some being stamped to death; their heads were displayed on pikes; and the prisoners were freed. The forgers vanished into the general population. The madmen were sent to the general madhouse.  The last person freed was a young man who had challenged the best swordsman in Paris to a duel, and who had been locked up at his father’s insistence lest he be killed. This worthy joined the mob and took on the name of Citizen Egalité. He was active in revolutionary politics until Robespierre had him beheaded in The Terror.

The national holidays of the US, Mexico, and France all celebrate rather different events…

(This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned thus.)

More than three-quarters of released drug offenders are rearrested for a nondrug crime

Wednesday, July 13th, 2022

Contrary to the claims in Michelle Alexander’s 2010 bestseller The New Jim Crow, drug prohibition is not driving incarceration rates, Rafael A. Mangual explains:

Yes, about half of federal prisoners are in on drug charges; but federal inmates constitute only 12 percent of all American prisoners — the vast majority are in state facilities. Those incarcerated primarily for drug offenses constitute less than 15 percent of state prisoners. Four times as many state inmates are behind bars for one of five very serious crimes: murder (14.2 percent), rape or sexual assault (12.8 percent), robbery (13.1 percent), aggravated or simple assault (10.5 percent), and burglary (9.4 percent). The terms served for state prisoners incarcerated primarily on drug charges typically aren’t that long, either. One in five state drug offenders serves less than six months in prison, and nearly half (45 percent) of drug offenders serve less than one year.

That a prisoner is categorized as a drug offender, moreover, does not mean that he is nonviolent or otherwise law-abiding. Most criminal cases are disposed of through plea bargains, and, given that charges often get downgraded or dropped as part of plea negotiations, an inmate’s conviction record will usually understate the crimes he committed. The claim that drug offenders are nonviolent and pose zero threat to the public if they’re put back on the street is also undermined by a striking fact: more than three-quarters of released drug offenders are rearrested for a nondrug crime. It’s worth noting that Baltimore police identified 118 homicide suspects in 2017, and 70 percent had been previously arrested on drug charges.

Not only are most prisoners doing time for serious, often violent, offenses; they’ve usually received (and blown) the second chance that so many reformers say they deserve. Justice Department studies from 2000 through 2009 reveal that only about 40 percent of state felony convictions result in a prison sentence. A Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) study of violent felons convicted over a 12-year period in America’s 75 largest counties shows that 56 percent of the offenders had a prior conviction record.

Even though most state prisoners are serious and serial offenders, nearly 40 percent of inmates serve less than a year in prison, with the median time served about 16 months. Lengthy sentences tend to be reserved for the most serious violent crimes — but even 20 percent of convicted murderers and nearly 60 percent of those convicted for rape or sexual assault serve less than five years of their sentences.

Try thinking of your culture and society as a battered wife

Tuesday, July 12th, 2022

Curtis Yarvin (Mencius Moldbug) asks ordinary Americans who aren’t power-hungry (“hobbits”) to try thinking of their culture and society as a battered wife:

If your husband hits you, your job is not to hit him back.

Winning a battle in the culture war — as in today’s Current Thing, the repeal of Roe v. Wade — is not like leaving your abusive husband. It is certainly not like finding a new husband. No — it is like hitting your husband back.

0% of domestic-violence educators recommend this strategy — at least not till it is time for Plan E and your actual murder feels imminent. In which case it will probably not work anyway. But why not try.

On the level of physical violence, your husband — a bear of a man — will always prevail. But the cops can easily hogtie him like an animal. If they want, they can make it hurt. If you are thinking like a general, not like a frightened mouse, you reason backward from the assistance of such allies.

Unfortunately, there is only one United Nations, and that one is not much help to such battered ones as we — but this is a type of idea — the strategic idea. In a situation of weakness, the only possible reversal must come from strategy rather than struggle.

Hitting your husband back is struggle. Setting a hidden camera before you talk to your husband about his drinking is strategy. Calling the cops is strategy. And in a dangerous situation, strategy is your job.

So if your husband stole something that belonged to you — do you steal it back? What if he literally stole it 50 years ago? Stealing it back is struggle, not strategy.

Since you are in the right, it is the court’s job to be on your side, and it is your job to make the court’s job as easy as possible. Stealing it back is your natural impulse and your moral right — which is exactly why it is such a dangerous trap. It is not your job. And it certainly does not make the court’s job easy.

Of course, the culture war is a sovereign conflict and there is no court to appeal to — only God’s court, in which might makes right — the ultima ratio regum.

Aggressive defense in a culture war is not a bad strategic idea because it displeases some mysterious higher power. In this case, there is no such power. Aggressive defense is a bad strategic idea for other reasons.

It is a bad strategic idea because it makes the problem harder to solve. It is a bad strategy because it is a trap and it always sucks to fall in a trap. Please do not bite at the bait and trip into the wire. Please circle back and try to get behind the trapper.

If you have limited energy and a limited number of possible wins, it is important to focus your limited energy on one kind of win: wins that make future wins easier. By definition, these are the kinds of wins that augment your power. These are real wins.

There is another kind of “win,” wins which expend your power in order to achieve some result you want. These are sometimes called “Pyrrhic victories.” Pyrrhus took the battlefield, but after the battle his chances of winning were reduced. His tactical “victory” was a strategic defeat.

Among those who believe that an unborn baby is a human life, of course, the result of preventing an abortion is saving a life. So the results of this win are lives saved.

This is a weighty argument to set against strategy — but this is war, in which such weights are often balanced, and must be. The battle is important. So is the war.

And how many such lives, really, are saved? Are there really that many American women who want to get an abortion, but can’t afford an $89 ticket to Oakland? We’ll see mobile abortion death vans lined up like taco trucks at the taxi stands outside all major California airports. A girl in trouble won’t even need a reservation… she may not even need to exit the secure area — major airlines now planning to staff their executive lounges with on-demand abortionists, also expert in Swedish massage… abortion tourism as a whole will blossom… specialized abortion spas… abortion bachelorette parties… abortion gender-reveal ceremonies… abortion with dolphins… “our constitution,” per John Adams, “was made only for a moral and religious people.” Does not Pres. Adams’ data point argue strongly for a new constitutional thinking?