linkfest – 05/20/12

Finding the First Americans“When and how did the first people arrive in the Americas?”

They don’t f*** you up, your mum and dad: they do their best to, but they can’t“Humans, and indeed all mammals, are pretty good at raising their children, because they have evolved to do it over several hundred million years. If our ancestors were not good enough parents to see their children through childhood and to child-rearing age, they would not have got to be ancestors.”

What Makes Countries Rich or Poor? – heh. this is really entertaining. jared diamond (heh) reviews Why Nations Fail (heh). lulz! the inimitable dennis mangan reviewed the review. (^_^)

Larger Role Found For Genes In Personality“[T]he research team found that identical twins – whose DNA is exactly the same – were twice as likely to share traits compared with non-identical twins.” – from parapundit.

Abundance of rare DNA changes following population explosion may hold clues to common diseases“The abundance of rare variations across the human genome is consistent with the population explosion of the past few thousand years….”

Who’s Afraid of Affirmative Action? – @those who can see.

Atheism and crime – oops! agnostics are just a bunch o’ criminals! i just knew i wasn’t to be trusted. (~_^) from the inductivist.

Religion is a potent force for cooperation and conflict, research shows“Moralizing gods, emerging over the last few millennia, have enabled large-scale cooperation and sociopolitical conquest even without war….”

bonus: Crows know familiar human voices“Crows recognise familiar human voices and the calls of familiar birds from other species, say researchers.”

bonus bonus: Was Columbus secretly a Jew?

bonus bonus bonus: Hitting snooze on the molecular clock: Rabies evolves slower in hibernating bats

(note: comments do not require an email. want! but in dark chocolate.)


not the revolution they’re looking for

now (that the annual week-and-a-half of eating dark-chocolate easter eggs is over) where was i?

ah yes — i was saying that, even though i haven’t read Why Nations Fail, i don’t buy the authors’ explanation because, from what i can gather from the contents of the book and the snippets available online, they don’t appear to consider any biological reasons for the successes of some nations. acemoglu and robinson (a&r) think that nations fail because said nations lack the right institutions; i think nations fail because the populations of those nations lack the “right” happy combination of genes for all sorts of things like iq and altruistic behaviors, etc., etc. sure, the right institutions are important, but first of all you have to have the “right sort” of people who can build those right institutions.

a&r think that the glorious revolution in england established the right kind of institutions there — i presume they’re thinking of the english parliament’s bill of rights of 1689 presented to king billy as the conditions he would have to accept if he were to be allowed to invade ascend to the throne of england. and, yes, this was the point that constitutional monarchy was formally established in england; but i would argue (and i don’t think i’m alone in thinking this) that there was a long-term trend toward constitutional monarchy in england and that, really, the “revolution” that brought that about was the civil war (or civil wars) that happened thirty to forty years before the so-called glorious revolution. and even those wars don’t explain why the english (and anglos pretty much everywhere) established all the institutions that they did and suceeded in the ways that they did.

steve sailer and dearime didn’t like the glorious revolution as the answer to why england succeeded either. steve says that the people who benefited the most from the glorious revolution were oligarchs and not the common men of england — i don’t know about that, but knowing how “revolutions” often play out it sounds pretty plausible. dearime thought i was off my rocker with my comments about the events of the glorious revolution (bad writing — sorry), but what i think really happened is that there wasn’t any revolution at all in england like the one a&r have envisioned — a revolution in which:

“People fought for and won more political rights, and they used them to expand their economic opportunities.”

not any single revolution, anyway.

what i think happened in england is that the changes towards making that society a more individualistic one based on the rights of individuals (and not extended families or clans or tribes) happened gradually over several hundreds of years (see here and here and here). (those changes are biological, btw.) like i said in the previous post, i think a&r are looking for a single anglo revolution of indepedence which established the “right” institutions ’cause they want to sell their idea to whomever believes that events like an arab spring will somehow result in flourishing liberal democracies with modern capitalistic societies based on trust. ’cause, you know … all you need is one little revolution that establishes the “right” institutions to release all these untapped human resources in any population anywhere. only that’s not how it happened in england.

and whatever did happen in england (i think it was, comparatively speaking, lots of outbreeding over an extended period of time which resulted in changes in “genes for altruism” in the english population) happened unevenly across the country. from what i have gathered so far — and note that these conclusions of mine will likely change as i find out more about historical mating patterns in england/britian (and maybe i’ll find out i’m wrong altogether!) — the greatest degrees of outbreeding occurred in the east of england — east anglia and kent, for example — and, to a somewhat lesser degree, in areas of wessex. greater amounts of inbreeding continued until fairly recent times in areas of western britain — wales and cornwall (i think) and western scotland, as well as in the anglo-scottish border areas. (there are a couple of areas in britain for which i haven’t got a clue about the historical mating patterns — they include eastern scotland and northern areas of england like yorkshire. i’m working on those!)

so, very broadly speaking, there’s an east-west divide in england (britain?) between outbreeders in the east and inbreeders in the west … and another kinda/sorta north-south divide in england between places like essex and wessex and northumbria. these mating pattern differences were, back in the medieval period, paralleled by different family types present in different regions of england/britain.

and, afaics, the english civil war(s) between parliamentarians and royalists was just a war between eastern individualistic outbreeders and western and northern group-oriented inbreeders. think of the eastern association: essex, hertfordshire, norfolk, suffolk, cambridgeshire. in other words, the most outbred of the english. at the outset of the civil war, it was them vs. the inbreeders:

anonymous is not convinced that all the peoples of western britain have historically (well, throughout the medieval period) been inbreeders. he pointed out that the scots convenanters were not royalists and they were located in sw scotland, so if my inbreeding-outbreeding theory is right, they should be outbreeders.

i don’t know what the historic mating patterns were for large parts of scotland, but i intend to find out. i’m pretty sure that the populations of the western isles — the areas that had been part of the kingdom of dál riata — and the highlands must’ve been inbreeders (like the irish) until quite recently since (like the irish) they have been more clannish than other scots until quite recently. while the covenanters of the sw (where exactly?) were not royalists, the more inbred highlanders were. i need to find out more about the historic mating patterns of the scots. i’ll let ya know when i’ve done so.

anyway, to conclude — i think that acemoglu and robinson are looking for an english revolution that didn’t happen — not at any specific moment in time anyway.

oh, and the eastern english outbreeders and western and northern english inbreeders fought a couple of civil wars against one another: once (or a couple of times) in the seventeenth century, and again a couple of hundred years later, but that time on a different continent.

biological differences die hard.

previously: why nations fail and but what about the english? and english individualism and english individualism ii

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why nations fail

thomas friedman likes the explanation of acemoglu (that’s turkish armenian!) and robinson:

“Nations thrive when they develop ‘inclusive’ political and economic institutions, and they fail when those institutions become ‘extractive’ and concentrate power and opportunity in the hands of only a few.

“‘Inclusive economic institutions that enforce property rights, create a level playing field, and encourage investments in new technologies and skills are more conducive to economic growth than extractive economic institutions that are structured to extract resources from the many by the few,’ they write….”

uh huh. ok.

so, how you gonna get these “inclusive” institutions up and running in a place like … oh … egypt? in other words, how do you get from point a (‘extractive’ institutions) to point b (‘inclusive’ institutions)? a&r suggest ‘just build it and they will come’:

“Why is Egypt so much poorer than the United States? What are the constraints that keep Egyptians from becoming more prosperous? Is the poverty of Egypt immutable, or can it be eradicated? A natural way to start thinking about this is to look at what the Egyptians themselves are saying about the problems they face and why they rose up against the Mubarak regime…. Egyptians and Tunisians both saw their economic problems as being fundamentally caused by their lack of political rights….

“To Egyptians, the things that have held them back include an ineffective and corrupt state and a society where they cannot use their talent, ambition, ingenuity, and what education they can get. But they also recognize that the roots of these problems are political. All the economic impediments they face stem from the way political power in Egypt is exercised and monopolized by a narrow elite. This, they understand, is the first thing that has to change….

“In this book we’ll argue that the Egyptians in Tahrir Square, not most academics and commentators, have the right idea. In fact, Egypt is poor precisely because it has been ruled by a narrow elite that have organized society for their own benefit at the expense of the vast mass of people. Political power has been narrowly concentrated, and has been used to create great wealth for those who possess it, such as the $70 billion fortune apparently accumulated by ex-president Mubarak. The losers have been the Egyptian people, as they only too well understand.

We’ll show that this interpretation of Egyptian poverty, the people’s interpretation, turns out to provide a general explanation for why poor countries are poor. Whether it is North Korea, Sierra Leone, or Zimbabwe, we’ll show that poor countries are poor for the same reason that Egypt is poor. Countries such as Great Britain and the United States became rich because their citizens overthrew the elites who controlled power and created a society where political rights were much more broadly distributed, where the government was accountable and responsive to citizens, and where the great mass of people could take advantage of economic opportunities. We’ll show that to understand why there is such inequality in the world today we have to delve into the past and study the historical dynamics of societies. We’ll see that the reason that Britain is richer than Egypt is because in 1688, Britain (or England, to be exact) had a revolution that transformed the politics and thus the economics of the nation. People fought for and won more political rights, and they used them to expand their economic opportunities. The result was a fundamentally different political and economic trajectory, culminating in the Industrial Revolution….

ok. i haven’t read (or, rather, listened) to this book — and i probably ain’t gonna — but i’ll betcha (*hbd chick rummages through her purse*) 98¢ and a bus token that these guys haven’t tried to figure out WHY in the seventeenth century the ENGLISH (note not ALL the peoples of britain) “fought for and won more political rights” which they then used “to expand their economic opportunities.” what was it about this particular group of people at this particular time that enabled them to join together en masse to demand greater political rights and freedoms for ALL the people (men) in the country?

why should the english in england and later in the americas behave so unlike nearly every other group on the planet and become all hot and bothered about the rights of individuals in society? why should they start to have screwy notions like ‘everybody is created equal’ and that each man (and, later, woman) is endowed with ‘unalienable rights’? and how on earth are we going to get the egyptians … and the north koreans and the sierra leoneans and the zimbabweans and everyone else … to act like the english? to rise up and demand political rights and to create all these inclusive institutions? to ALL work TOGETHER towards a COMMON goal.

because, surely, that must be the order required: to find out what made the english do what they did and then recreate those circumstances in all these other places.

apart from all the usual sorts of hbd characteristics required to produce an advanced society (like intelligence), you all know what i’m gonna say is needed. and my solution is not something that will work overnight.

and egyptians are a long, long way away from being anything like the english in terms of genetic relatedness to one another. nope. they are much more like the people in iraq who anthropologist robin fox described thusly [pg. 62]:

“For a start, there is no ‘Iraqi People.’ The phrase should be banned as misleading and purely rhetorical. Iraq as a ‘nation’ (like the ‘nation’ of Kuwait) was devised by the compasses and protractors of Gertrude Bell when the British and French divided up the Middle East in 1921. We know well enough the ethnic-religious division into Kurd, Sunni, and Shia. People who know very little else can rehearse that one (even if they do not really know the difference; the Kurds are Sunni, after all). But what is not understood is that Iraq, like the other countries of the region, still stands at a level of social evolution where the family, clan, tribe, and sect command major allegiance. The idea of the individual autonomous voter, necessary and commonplace in our own systems, is relatively foreign.

voting in egypt — also a society based on extended-families and clans — runs along clan-lines, too:

“‘Tribe, family, and religion—this is how people vote here,’ said Micheil Fayek, a candidate in Fayoum governorate, which includes Tomiya, for the liberal-leaning, but pro-military Wafd Party….

“‘Egyptian Election is based on individuals with strong tribal and family connections rather than on ideologies or programs of parties, and the only exception to this is the Islamist voters,” said Mr. Mahmoud, the head of the Hurriya Party, which includes ex-Mubarak regime members from around the country and who is also a candidate from a prominent family from southern Egypt. “It doesn’t it matter if I was a part of the ruling regime. Even if I was a member of the Israeli Likud, I would still win.’”

a&r’s solution to poverty in egypt is to simply get the egyptians to create inclusive institutions, but this will not work because, as things stand today, egyptian society is not structured on inclusive institutions. it is structured on exclusive families and clans which, unlike a rotary club, you can’t just join — you’ve got to be born into them. and egyptians are not going to give these up any time soon because they are just too inbred. oh, there are probably some rather outbred egyptian urbanites in cairo who are ready for a modern society based on liberal democracy (for what that’s worth), but most egyptians are not those people.

and most of the rest of the world is like iraq and egypt in one way or another. almost everywhere except, due to some curious twists of history, northwest europe.

most economists just don’t get it ’cause they don’t think of humans as biological creatures. i’m gonna write a book one day and i’m gonna title it: Why Economists Fail.

see also: Egypt’s families remain electoral forces to reckon with — really, don’t miss it!

previously: “hard-won democracy”

update 04/14: see also not the revolution they’re looking for

update 04/15: An association between the kinship and fertility of human couples

(note: comments do not require an email. eg. the abaza family of egypt.)