Roving Bandits in the Wild Fields

Why is corruption so bad in Eastern Europe? And what can be done about it?


First off, I don’t know to what extent it can be reduced. According to the hbdchick’s theories on the Hajnal Line, ceteris paribus, Southern and Eastern Europe will always be more corrupt than the countries of “core Europe” because they did not undergo its centuries of selection for beyond-kin altruism.

Despite decades of institutional convergence under the aegis of European integration, Italy and Greece remain considerably more corrupt than Germany, Britainn, and Sweden. Poland has improved greatly since the 1990s, but reached an asymptote at around Italy’s level; Romania, at Greece’s. From the outset, this implies that Eastern European countries should keep their ambitions realistic, regardless of the policies that they choose to pursue.

Still, political economic factors do play a large role.

The main concept that I would draw upon is Mancur Olson’s distinction between “roving bandits” and “stationary bandits.”

In unstable polities, the elites can be replaced at any time, often through unpredictable and lawless methods such as coups, or “people power” driven “color revolutions” if the new gang are more pro-Western. The elites know this. As such, they have an interest in maximizing their thievery in the here and now, with corresponding disincentives to large, capital-heavy investments that will only pay in the long-term. Most likely, they will not be around to enjoy the fruits of their labor a decade or two down the line. But a Mayfair apartment and British Virgin Islands cash stash won’t go anywhere.

This describes Ukraine, and Russia in the 1990s.

In polities where the system is more stable, “roving bandits” start to settle down – they become “stationary bandits.” There are relatively greater incentives for long-term investments – if you steal less today, your pie will be greater tomorrow. Although corruption still exists, and may even remain systemic, the more predictable nature of the tariffs levied by “stationary bandits” enables corporations to account for them in their business plans. It’s not even so much the degree of corruption that’s important as its predictability. Furthermore, the bandits at the very top have greater incentives to clamp down on their underlings, since if they get start getting too greedy it will bite into their own profit margins. This in turn can pave the way for the emergence of institutions that can upgrade the war on corruption from manual to semi-autonomous mode.

This describes countries such as Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. (China would also fall into this category).

industrialized-transitionThese ex-Soviet countries, ruled by “stationary bandits,” have been far more successful at economic recovery (and growth) than Ukraine. For all the “Gabon with snow” jokes, Ukraine is still an industrialized country with a well educated population and a respectable average IQ of perhaps 95, with considerable natural resources, access to the sea, and Russian gas subsidies that have totalled approximately $200 billion since independence.

So the Ukrainian economy should be doing MUCH BETTER, given the huge gap between potential and reality (perhaps the biggest gap of any country in the world). But as of 2015, its inflated-adjusted GDP was a mere 60% of the UkSSR’s in 1990 (Russia: 110%; Belarus: 180%), and is now in a neck-and-neck race with Nigeria in terms of Internet penetration.

Telling example: One of the few genuinely bright spots in the Ukrainian economy has been the IT sector. In particular its presence on the video game scene is rather impressive in relative terms – Cossacks, Stalker, Metro 2033.

Why? Because that is what you get when you combine roving bandits with a high IQ population. Few people are willing to build anything substantial like a multi-billion dollar factory. Hence, so far as heavy industry goes, it just continues to coast on the ever depreciating Soviet legacy.

How much capital do you need to launch a middle-sized video game studio? Can’t imagine it’s much more than $100,000. Most of the value is in the brains, and you get some of the best cognitive bang per dollar in the Ukraine. You can sell your game on Steam, and should instability strike, you can just bugger off to someplace warmer and more civilized, like Cyprus or Malta (like 4A games, the creators of Metro 2033, did in 2014).

Incidentally one can see the same thing (if to a significantly smaller extent) in both Russia and Belarus.

How to solve – or at least mitigate – corruption follows naturally from the above observations.

(1) The roving bandits need to be settled down. (Replacing one gang with another under the cover of a color revolution doesn’t do anything – as Ukraine has already proven, TWICE).

In Ukraine’s case, that means it needs to put an end to its never-ending internecine struggles. Broadly speaking, both Novossiya supporters and Ukrainian nationalists have the right idea, even if they are otherwise diametrically opposed. (Nadia Sevchenko represents a curious convergence of these two streams: A Ukrainian nationalist to the core, she has negotiated with LDNR authorities in contravention of official Kiev policy while suggesting that Ukraine needs a period of dictatorship to get itself sorted out).

(2) East Asia furnishes many several examples of non-Hajnal societies that have successfully solved the corruption problem. One approach is greater criminal penalties for corruption (“kill the chicken to scare the monkey,” as the Chinese proverb goes); another is to richly compensate civil servants, so as to reduce the relatice incentive for additional thievery (Singapore government ministers are paid like the CEOs of big corporations, and in tandem with harsh punishments and wealth, this has helped Singapore become one of the world’s least corrupt societies, despite traditional China’s penchant for corruption).

In practice, neither of these is practical for Eastern Europe. European human rights regulations preclude the killing of chickens; and East Europeans themselves are far too populist and demotic to tolerate elitist-technocratic policies like CEO-scale salaries for bureaucrats (with the result that said bureaucrats will unofficially continue to compensate themselves at CEO levels anyway, but with huge markups).

(3) The removal of roving bandits will enable faster economic growth, and greater tax receipts allow you to pay more to develop institutions, while greater per capita wealth leads to money floating about for the development of an indigenous civil society. It also makes e-government, which makes far less demands on face-to-face interactions between citizens and bureaucrats, with all their associated potential for corruption, far more realizable.

(4) To be sure, it can be very frustrating to live in a country that is visibly and strikingly more corrupt than the fairylands of core Europe. It is understandable that people, especially young people without much life experience, want change, and they want it quick. More often than not, the result is a cargo cult approach to combatting corruption, which results in spectacles such as Anti-Corruption Forums to which the participants show up in Mercedes and Lexuses (a most apt metaphor for Euromaidan).

From this perspective, an understanding of the deep gene-cultural underpinnings of corruption might not lead you to forgive everything, but it will at least imbue you with a sense of realism as to what is and what is not possible. A slow, steady convergence over two or three decades to Italy’s or even France’s level of corruption – entirely possible, even likely. A new Sweden overnight through the power of mass lustrations and Lenin statue topplings? Nope.

Going ahead will only set you up for eventual disappointment, but in the meanwhile, you’d have wrecked your own country.

Finally, don’t worry. In the end, corruption just isn’t that important to economic growth! Just compare Chile and China: One by far the cleanest country in South Americat; the other one is far more corrupt, but a standard deviation higher in average IQ. Which of those two is the economic steamroller, and which one has nothing to write home about? Exactly. And corruption tends to diminish with increasing wealth, as the power of institutions and civil society increases. Just don’t smother your economy with regulations and central planning, don’t allow roving bandits to pick the place clean and stymie all long-term development, and the problems should ultimately resolve by itself without any particular further effort on your part.

PS. Daniel Chieh comments: “These days, modern China has moved significantly from executions to pressuring corrupt officials to commit suicide: possibly a return to honor suicides that was the norm in Asia and perhaps part of the entire initiative for Xi’s “return of traditional Chinese virtues.” Honor suicides just doesn’t seem to be a thing in East Europe, that I know of, anyway. Human rights law in Europe in theory wouldn’t stop all methods of “killing the chicken” as there are a number of other “greater criminal punishments” that don’t include capital punishment – which is rarely used these days, to be honest. Mass social shaming, prohibitions on future job-seeking, reduced status opportunities and unfavorable associations that spread even to the family all work just as well.The life of a pariah can be worse than death, imo.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Daniel Chieh says

    kill the chicken to scare the money

    A quibble. Its 杀鸡儆猴. “Kill the chicken to scare the monkeys” and is reference to using highly publicized cases to make an example of violators, in order to deter other potential violators. Its a Legalism tactic, and works well on a temporary basis.

    The idea is to occasionally use spectacular punishments, such as executions, against even financial crimes to make a point that at some point, it isn’t acceptable anymore.

  2. Daniel Chieh says

    If you could add this to the above post, would be great:

    These days, modern China has moved significantly from executions to pressuring corrupt officials to commit suicide: possibly a return to honor suicides that was the norm in Asia and perhaps part of the entire initiative for Xi’s “return of traditional Chinese virtues.” Honor suicides just doesn’t seem to be a thing in East Europe, that I know of, anyway.

    Human rights law in Europe in theory wouldn’t stop all methods of “killing the chicken” as there are a number of other “greater criminal punishments” that don’t include capital punishment – which is rarely used these days, to be honest. Mass social shaming, prohibitions on future job-seeking, reduced status opportunities and unfavorable associations that spread even to the family all work just as well.

    The life of a pariah can be worse than death, imo.

  3. The idea is to occasionally use spectacular punishments, such as executions, against even financial crimes to make a point that at some point, it isn’t acceptable anymore.

    Sure, though it’s not a specifically Chinese thing; that is essentially what the USSR did, and in general all states that wanted to reduce corruption but did not have the effective and impartial institutions to reliably punish transgressors. The latter is generally acknowledged to be more effective (inevitability of punishment over severity of punishment).

    Honor suicides just doesn’t seem to be a thing in East Europe, that I know of, anyway.

    That is certainly true.

  4. Hajnal Line is bunk.

    Let me modify that. The line is real but’s obviously downstream from economic geography, i.e. things like average crop yields. Look at what happened after the economics got disrupted by the technological revolution. Family structures changed in a blink of an eye.

    The conclusions made from this line of thought are largely bunk as well. The idea that the English exhibit higher levels of “beyond-kin altruism” than the Poles, or the Greeks, etc., will cause gales of laughter anywhere outside the self-congratulating Anglosphere.

  5. I laugh every time someone from the Anglosphere tells me that their countries are somehow less corrupt than those in Southern and Eastern Europe.

    Bank bailouts?
    Rigged bidding processes or even worse, no-bid like Haliburton in Iraq?

    Petty corruption is still present in parts of the former Soviet Bloc and Balkans but for the most part are getting better.

    Big ticket corruption happens across the board and in places like the Anglosphere its legalized and people tolerate it much more due to the higher standard of living meaning that the theft is less noticeable since it is a smaller hit percentage-wise to your wallet.

  6. I laugh every time someone from the Anglosphere tells me that their countries are somehow less corrupt than those in Southern and Eastern Europe.

    There’s some legitimacy to these critiques, and I have frequently mentioned it myself at times, but denying something that virtually all indices of corruption agree on is pure svidomism.

    Petty corruption is still present in parts of the former Soviet Bloc and Balkans but for the most part are getting better.

    I agree and have in fact been pointing it out for years.

    It is however a long and gradual process, and I would be extremely surprised if these countries will ever converge with Britain or Sweden (though I will be less surprised if Britain and Sweden “deconverge” to East/South European levels as population replacement proceeds apace).

  7. I think that Core Europe is real, has been in pretty much those same borders for more than a thousand years. And trust towards non-relatives is a big part of its success.

    However, I don’t know if hbdchick’s theories about the causes of this are correct. I think she claims that marriages between relatives, blood feuds, narrow tribalism, etc. were common in Core Europe up until the late Dark Ages and that the Catholic Church’s prohibitions on cousin marriage made the difference? I don’t know about that. Haven’t read enough to judge.

    Does she have evidence of cousin marriage in Core Europe 1,500 or 1,200 years ago? So little is known about that period.

    The ancient Greeks and Romans trusted each other enough to form republics. Most European peoples had popular assemblies in antiquity. Was the ancient Greek family structure different from the later Core European one? Not that I know. And the thing is that for pre-Roman antiquity Greece is the only part of Europe we know much about. Maybe all of Europe, or a big part of it, was already like that then in that respect.

    Family structures changed in a blink of an eye.

    I’ve seen maps of the frequency of adults living with their parents. It’s dozens of times higher in Spain and Italy than in Scandinavia. So some differences in family structures persist.

  8. Scandinavians are the most egalitarian people on earth. And Europeans in general are more egalitarian than Middle Easterners, East Asians or South Asians. And this has been true for a very long time. Ancient Greeks were more egalitarian than Egyptians, Mesopotamians or Persians. When Alexander started calling himself a God, and generally lording it over people, the Greeks said that he was aping Persian customs, turning native.

    The Aztec and Inca empires were far more primitive than Spanish society, yet at the same time less egalitarian.

    Etc., etc.

    This is probably related to trust towards strangers, family structure, Europe’s and Core Europe’s success and lots of other things.

    But my point is that it’s older than the Catholic Church’s prohibitions against cousin marriage.

    I’m guessing that this egalitarianism, as well as most other things that set Europe apart, was a product of farming in high latitudes. The farming belt extends much further to the north in Europe than in East Asia.

    Thousands of years of living on isolated homesteads instead of in villages – I’m guessing that’s the key.

    Nuclear families instead of extended ones, a preference for dealing with the inanimate forces of nature, which eventually bore fruit in the scientific and industrial revolutions, a lower ability to get their way in politics because there was no politics on an isolated farm, trust towards strangers (no strangers to distrust for miles around you), egalitarianism (no complex social hierarchies as there would be in a village), etc.

  9. One can add the high frequency of social awkwardness among northern Europeans. All ethnic groups above a certain IQ level produce some nerds. East Indians, Chinese, Jews, southern Europeans. But they’re normally a small minority.

    What you have in the stereotypical Finnish or, to a lesser extent, British behavior, is some nerdy traits among a huge slice of the male population. That’s unusual. And I’m guessing that also comes from this isolated-homesteads period, which did happen in Europe.

  10. Oh, and the reason for isolated homesteads, which were a real thing that I’ve read about, not a figment of my imagination, and which, I think, gave way to villages by the Dark Ages if not before:

    Very simple. The northern climate could only support a low density of farmers with the technology of the time.

  11. I’m somewhat skeptical of the Hajnal line in two ways.

    Firstly, I’ve often wondered what data it could possibly be based on. For example, take Ireland – most surviving parish records only go back to about 1850, civil registration for Catholics only began in 1864. All the censuses from the 1800s were mostly destroyed.

    Secondly, I’ve come to observe that many countries ranked with a low level of corruption, could be said to be extremely corrupt. The leaders in many Western countries are intentionally replacing their own populations, while promoting a massive racial spoils industry. A lot of legislation is written for special interests, like the recent healthcare bills in the USA. Seldom is anyone held accountable, like Hillary with her private server.

    I’m a whole lot more optimistic about Eastern Europe than Western Europe.

  12. Anonymous says

    It would certainly be interesting to see Nadia Savchenko (with an a – the surname is misspelled in the article) become Ukraine’s Pinochet… I mean, President. There were whispers of such a possibility in Kiev as late as six months ago but they have since mostly died down.

    Savchenko, unlike Poroshenko or Saakashvili, seems to be the type that would get along better with Trump (or, for that matter, Putin) than she would have with Hilary. What is certain is that American Feminists would have a major puzzle on their hands if she assumed power.

  13. This is how I first became aware of Savchenko’s existence:

    I was kind of obsessed with the coverage of the Donbass war. So I used to read and watch everything I could about it. One day a video popped up of some POWs being interrogated. They all said that they never shot at anyone, only cooked meals at the base, painted fences for the Ukrainian army, were dragged from their homes against their will by recruiters, never meant any harm to anybody, etc.

    This monotonous stream was broken up by a crazy, angry guy talking about the Ukraine. He was fighting for the Ukraine when they got him. The interrogator looked at his documents, muttered something about the POW’s grades in basic training or whatever, and said “well, Nadezhda Victorovna.” And I thought “OMG, that’s a girl?”

    That’s how I first became aware of her existence.

    Who knows, you may be right about the presidency. The Ukrainian public is now overdosing on crooked politicians, so they’ll eventually want the utter opposite. And she seems sincere.

  14. Drapetomaniac says

    “The life of a pariah can be worse than death, imo.”

    Well covered by Richard O. Hammer at:

    Gateway to an Altered Landscape:
    Law in a Free Nation

  15. To a large degree, definition of corruption is culture-dependent, so “objective” corruption indices would be biased toward the index issuer.

    Is giving money to government a official in order to expedite your case corruption? How about giving plum government jobs to your relatives and friends? For a long time no one in the world saw anything unusual in that. How about the old American practice of patronage? It wasn’t considered corruption until, suddenly, it was.

    Practices that seem natural to you will appear corrupt to people from other cultures. I had a discussion once where someone denounced the old English legal institution of plea bargaining. I was startled at first but then I thought about it and I started see how this could be viewed as corruption. Imagine someone includes that definition in a corruption index. The English speaking countries won’t fare so well anymore.

    Basically, corruption is defined as whatever practice is considered bad at any given moment in a given society.

  16. I think Greek egalitarianism vs. Egyptians or Persians hierarchy had less to do with family structure or whatever and more to do with the fact that the Near Asian societies were much older and so much more advanced toward centralism.

    The Greeks were initially barbarians on the edge of civilization. The quickly mastered the arts of civilization and later contributed to it (did they ever) but in some respects they remained behind. Greece was a patchwork of city states – quite similar to Egypt before the First Kingdom or to Mesopotamia before Sargon of Akkad. I bet those petty Egyptian and Mesopotamian rulers were pretty egalitarian. But once you start to centralize there is a certain logic to how these new superkings must carry themselves. I think Alexander realized that; it’s unlikely that he just suddenly grew vain for no reason.

  17. Some of the ways in which the Greeks surpassed the older cultures of the Fertile Crescent by the time of Alexander’s conquest:

    Greeks developed realistic art around the 500 BC – 480 BC period. Egyptians went in that direction earlier, but never as fully.

    The Greeks started proving theorems sometime in the 5th century. I don’t think anyone tried to do that ever before.

    They started striving towards objectivity in the writing of history in the 5th century. Thucydides was an Athenian, but he tried to describe the Peloponnesian War in an unbiased way. I don’t think this was ever done before the Greeks. It’s very rare to this day. The Chinese started writing history a couple of centuries later.

    By Thucydides’ time Greek historians got rid of Gods’ will and Gods’ wrath as explanations for historical events. This was an unprecedented breakthrough in human thought. They explained away their Gods as mortals about whom their ancestors told tall tales.

    I’m sure I could come up with many other ways in which the Greek society of 333 BC was far above contemporaneous societies of the Fertile Crescent.

  18. All pre-Greek historical writing was wall-to-wall God’s will. Not just the Bible. Sumerian, Assyrian, Egyptian stuff. The supernatural was everywhere. All explanations of what we now think of as natural phenomena relied on the supernatural. All political discourse was mostly about the supernatural. What Gods want. This was how rulers explained why they ruled, how tax collectors explained why they collected taxes, how conquerors explained why they killed and plundered. And Greek culture started that way too – Homer is all about Gods’ meddling in human affairs. But at some point in the 5th century the Greek intellectual elite saw past that. That was an enormous achievement.

  19. One more thing:

    As Greek culture declined, became simpler in the later Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods, it became less egalitarian. I’m guessing this was because the Greeks mixed with the peoples whom they conquered.

    Classical Greece (5th and 4th centuries BC) had a very complex culture, unrivaled until Renaissance Italy, yet it was quite egalitarian. Byzantine Greece was despotic (actually this is where the word despot comes from), yet had a much simpler culture.

  20. Yeah, yeah, but there is such a thing as the lifecycle of civilizations. They all start out wild, energetic, and egalitarian; but eventually they create great empires (if they are lucky) and turn into something else. The Romans followed the same path a few centuries later.

  21. I’m sure you know this, but none of the theories originate with hbdchick or anyone else on the internet. They just apply them in a disturbingly mechanical and absolutist way.

  22. There was nothing the least egalitarian about those rulers.

  23. To a large degree, definition of corruption is culture-dependent, so “objective” corruption indices would be biased toward the index issuer.

    Well to some extent, sure. But “has a government official demanded money for a service that should be free in the past year?” is pretty clear yes/no corruption in Sweden, the US, Russia, China, and Nigeria (and provides an objective measure of it, like Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer and the World Bank’s Enterprise Surveys).

  24. Classical Greece was also the first society in the history of the planet to attain “craftsman literacy” (~10%).

    The rest of of the region was stuck at “priestly literacy” (1-2%). Only the Phoenicians may have (speculatively) been a bit higher.

  25. However, I don’t know if hbdchick’s theories about the causes of this are correct. I think she claims that marriages between relatives, blood feuds, narrow tribalism, etc. were common in Core Europe up until the late Dark Ages and that the Catholic Church’s prohibitions on cousin marriage made the difference?

    Yes, that, plus the manorial system, which pushed for the nuclear family and moved people about a lot.

    I really recommend you read hbdchick’s 101 on this:

    Then we can debate specifics.

  26. It might be worth considering that Russia’s and, by extension, Kazakhstan’s and Belarus’, bandits are still in a transitory phase between roving and stationary. Political stability and predictability, while a staple for over a decade and a half, are still dependent on one man who is, at the end of the day, only human. Consider what Russia would look like if Putin were to suddenly become incapacitated, step down, or otherwise stop being president. While much capital has been invested in the creation of institutions, one which has not been created is a viable political system that would allow for an orderly transfer of power.

    Russia still suffers from a dearth of investment by Russians themselves. Furthermore, the bandits are quite intent on holding a large portion of their assets outside of the country, even with the risk of sanctions and confiscation hanging over their heads. Money is still being spirited out. I think it will take at least one more peaceful transfer of power, from Putin, before Russia’s bandits feel comfortable enough to become stationary.

    Otherwise, the concept that corruption will take time, decades and generations, to root out is very important. I often point this out to impatient Russians who want the country to become Switzerland overnight. To me, a good example is driving (road) culture, which has improved considerably over time (the 90s was something truly resembling Mad Max). This is a result of imperatives from, and interaction between, both the authorities and society. So it is with corruption.

  27. I think there’s more legitimacy to this than people realize. For one thing, a lot of the things that are considered corruption in Russia are totally legal in the Anglosphere – the whole “lobbying” thing, for example. This actually goes to Karlin’s point about “stationary bandits”. In the West, the bandits have been stationary for so long that the banditry has become institutionalized, legal and acceptable. When I visited Russia 2 years ago and told people how our political process works, they were genuinely shocked.

    It’s like the statistic about Sweden having the world’s highest rate of rape – because they consider even small transgressions to be rape. I don’t know how much that applies to the “corrupt” countries, but probably “some”. Perhaps it simply means that their polities are less stable and their laws are therefore not as well attuned to their society’s natural inclinations of behaviour, whereas the less-corrupt countries are like Terry Pratchett’s Ankh Morpork – there’s not much illegal behaviour because murder, thieving and prostitution have all been legalized, regulated and taxed…

    The other thing about “corruption” is that it can be a good thing, if the government is bad at its job and the bribes are reasonable. All corruption is, perhaps (at least, if we’re talking about local, small-scale corruption, not deep-state type corruption), is a devolution of power from the centre to the periphery. That’s not always bad; it all depends on the type of people who use that power.

    In my visit to Russia, I noticed a greater willingness of public workers to ignore the rules if it seemed to make sense to them – for example, letting someone on a bus who didn’t have enough for a full fare, but obviously badly needed to get on. In my home country, I’m used to public officials sticking to the letter of the law carefully even if it makes little sense, as they’re afraid for their jobs. The worst of them will maliciously apply rules to the letter as an acceptable way of self-expression. It’s not always a good thing.

  28. I was going to say “I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of ‘Core European’ peasants lived in villages during the Middle Ages” but I guess you’ve explained your statement here. So the claim is that the pre-Christian pattern of isolated homesteads evolved a certain pattern of behavior that persisted during the Christianization period, when population grew and farmers congregated in villages? It’s an interesting thesis, though I wonder why the new living patterns didn’t in turn evolve new patterns of behavior. Do you have a source for this idea?

  29. You could say that bribes simply reflect the true price of the services in question. Of course, it’s not a genuine market-pricing mechanism, since the government officials can use force against you (while the assumption behind market pricing is that neither buyer nor seller can resort to force in the transaction). But I agree that to a large extent the uncorrupt countries have simply institutionalized and regularized the thievery and extortion. You can then argue that it’s still better because costs are now predictable, while corrupt officials seem to be capricious and unpredictable in the costs they impose, but you rightly point out that relying on bribes may introduce needed flexibility into the system.

    I think that, rather than corruption per se, it’s better to focus on things like social trust. While Danish officials can sometimes be heartless and mean-spirited, reflecting the worst character features of the conscientious bureaucrat (and also reflecting lack of trust in the transaction), the Denmark I knew was still a high-trust society where you didn’t need to mediate most social transactions through an impartial, inflexible and rule-bound bureaucracy. So Denmark is great despite its high level of bureaucracy, not because of it. A lot of that I believe is due to those centuries of culture-gene coevolution that Anatoly and hbd chick are talking about.

  30. I agree with this.

    I too would sooner classify Russia as transitional between the two states, but decided against it so as not to make the argument too convoluted.

  31. ussr andy says

    I say, fix human and national mentality failings with technology.

    Somalia don’t have landlines but the decentralized mobile networks work just fine.

    I’m imagining something along the lines of Wikipedia coupled with public-key encryption, logging every tiniest thing plus algorithms that detect irregularities etc.

  32. You have a real knack for getting things backwards, glossy.

    Konstantin Leontiev (1831-1891):

    “Social science was hardly born when, ignoring the experience of centuries and the examples of nature they respect so much, people refused to see that there was no logical relation between the egalitarian-liberal forward movement and the idea of development. One can even say that the egalitarian-liberal process is the very antithesis of the process of development. In the case of the latter, the inner idea holds the social material in its organizing, despotic embrace and sets a limit to its centrifugal and disintegrating trend. Progress, which is hostile to every kind of despotism – the despotism of classes, workshops/factories, monasteries, even wealth, and so on – is nothing but a process of disintegration…”

    “The phenomena of egalitarian-liberal progress are comparable to the phenomena of combustion, decomposition, the melting of ice (water less free, limited by crystallization); they may be likened, for example, to the phenomena of the cholera process, which gradually transforms originally rather diverse people into more uniform corpses (equality), then into almost completely comparable skeletons (equality), and finally into free elements (relatively so, of course), such as nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, and so on…”

    “In these processes of decomposition, combustion, melting, the progressive movement of cholera, one perceives the same phenomena.”

    “1.The loss of the peculiarities which till then distinguished the despotically formed whole tree, animal, whole texture, whole crystal, etc.

    2.A greater resemblance in the component parts, a greater inner equality, a greater uniformity of the structure, etc.

    3.The loss of former, strict, morphological outlines,; now everything merges, more freely and uniformly.”

    “Whichever of the states, ancient or modern, we may examine, in all of them we find one and the same thing in common: simplicity and uniformity in the beginning, greater equality and greater freedom (at least de facto, if not legal freedom) than there will be later…glancing at a plant sprouting from the soil, we do not yet know what it will become. There are too few distinct features. Afterwards we note a greater or lesser assertion of power, a more profound or less sharp division of classes, a greater variety of life and diversity of character in the regions.

    “At the same time, the wealth increases, on the one hand, and poverty, on the other; the resources of pleasure become more varied, on the one hand, while, on the other, the variety and refinement (development) of sensations and needs gives birth to greater sufferings, greater grief, greater mistakes and greater undertakings, more poetry and more comedy; the exploits of the educated – of Themistocles, Xenophon, Aristophanes, Alexander – are on grander scale and more appealing than the simple and crude exploits of Odysseus and Achilles. Then a Sophocles appears, an Aristophanes appears, the ranting heroes Corneille appear, the laughter of a Moliere resounds…Shakespeare or Goethe.”

    “In general, these complex, flowering ages are dominated by some kind of aristocracy…The\ eupatridae of Athens, the feudal satraps of Persia, the optimates of Rome, the marquises of France, the lords of England, the Spartans of Laconia, the dvoryane of Russia, the pans of Poland…”

    “At the same time, because of the inner necessity of centralization, there also exists a tendency towards absolute monarchial power, which, either de jure or de facto, always asserts itself in an age of flowering complexity. There appear on the scene remarkable dictators, emperors, kings, or, at least, demagogues and tyrants (in the Hellenic sense) of genius, such as Themistocles, Pericles, and so on.”

    “Between a Pericles and a lawful hereditary ruler and religiously consecrated sovereign, there is a whole ladder of diverse personal rulers, who are needed everywhere in complex and flowering ages in order to unify all the component parts, all the real social forces, full of life and ferment…”

  33. ussr andy says

    the Denmark I knew was still a high-trust society where you didn’t need to mediate most social transactions through an impartial, inflexible and rule-bound bureaucracy.

    or clan elders (3rd World). or a lawyer caste (America.) …

    many wannabe mediators of social transactions.

  34. I’m assuming that this isolated-homestead period changed some of the genetics that govern personality. You only need a few thousand years to do that.

  35. Daniel Chieh says

    While I rarely agree with your posts, I did very much enjoy this quoted passage and have another writer now to read about. Thank you!

  36. Thank you. Nineteenth century Russian reactionaries can be fun. The nobleman Leontiev was interesting – in one of his essays he had compared Dostoyevsky unfavorably to the obscure Russian/Ukrainian folk-writer Maria Vilinskаya . Liberal commoners such as Belinsky, in contrast, wanted a uniform culture and were opposed to “Little Russianism.”

  37. There wasn’t the same “manorial system” over the whole area where delayed marriage became the norm, or anything like it.

  38. It’s an interesting passage, but I’m not sure the argument entirely fits together. He starts by claiming that “progress” is a process of decay and equalization, but then starts speaking about the original simplicity of everything, suggesting that progress can also lead to greater complexity. Does he clarify the connection between these ideas in the original text?

  39. Hm, well, you know what they say about assuming. 😉

  40. TheJester says

    The effects of Islamic immigration into countries within the Hajnal Line — France, Sweden, Germany, etc. — show how fragile a culture or country can be that is based on beyond-kin altruism. Throw in a certain percentage of lower-IQ aliens who only know clan-based or tribal social arrangements and you get a general decline in social conditions.

    In short, diversity might have its merits when the people imported have higher IQs and/or are acculturated to beyond-kin altruism … but the contrary appears to have a fatal downside. Indeed, it might be the case that a successful advanced industrial/information society requires a certain quotient of population acculturated to beyond-kin altruism because that society requires a certain level of trust and transparency that are not possible in clan-based societies.

    Anatoly, if this makes sense, do you have any ideas regarding what that immigrant quotient might be that can throw a beyond-kin altruistic society into decline?

  41. Philip Owen says

    I totally agree about the driving, at least in an urban environment but on main roads between cities it is still a very wild place.

  42. Philip Owen says

    The House of Lords is a great example of absorption of the potentially corrupt. Instead of leaving the powerful and wealthy outside the system of creating law, you bring them inside. The need to lobby MP’s is greatly weakened when the chairman of the defence contracting company is a Lord who can ask for an amendment of a bill in Parliament directly.

    This system has declined recently. Fewer heads of PLCs (and Trades Unions) are being made Lords. Retired politicians are an increasing share. It is “democratic” even socialist thinking. It’s wrong. Outsiders bring expertise not just wealth and power to the process. The Commons is there to keep an eye on the money. Absolutely the last thing the UK needs is a democratically elected Lords.

    Russia tries to make Duma Deputies give up their business interests. This simply results in a requirement to deceive from the outset. Put the rich and powerful in plain sight. Removing the Monarchies and Aristocracies of Southern and Eastern Europe removed a check on corruption – no knighthood for you you naughty boy.

  43. Daniel Chieh says

    In short, he equated civilization lifecycles to those of living lifecycles. From the beginning, we are simple, undifferentiated cells and grow to become entire human beings with specialization; then it begins to gradually go downhill, taken down by attacking foreign bodies or internal cancers, until finally we return to a state of nonliving simplicity.

  44. Dan Hayes says


    Some day when you get a chance I would request that you discuss the recovery of Poland vis-a-vis the Russian Federation after the break up of the Soviet Union. Perhaps a few things you might discuss:

    Was the Polish recovery that successful? Everyone in America says it is, but how come the European landscape is still littered with Polish economic refugees? (I know that is still the case for Ireland.)

    Was Poland subjected to the same shock therapy as Russia? Or did the shock therapy differ? Was the shock therapy successful in Poland as we are constantly told of in the West?

    Was there an absence of Polish plutocrats who would have otherwise economically raped the system? If so,what accounts for their absence?

  45. “I think that, rather than corruption per se, it’s better to focus on things like social trust. […] the Denmark I knew was still a high-trust society where you didn’t need to mediate most social transactions through an impartial, inflexible and rule-bound bureaucracy.”

    Not sure if this applies to your point, but… I found it easier to make both friends and enemies in Russia. Back home, I can generally expect politeness, tolerance, and good social etiquette from those I meet, but am often left feeling uncertain about people’s real thoughts. Which one of those counts as “social trust”? I trust to have polite and civilized interactions with people at home, whereas in Russia I trusted in it being easier to find how people really felt (which in my case was a positive, because I seem to be not very good at social signal detection and need all the help I can get).

    On the other hand, I went hiking through Scandinavia some years back, and they had an honour system – there was nobody at the overnight “huts”, you paid for your stay by writing down how long you stayed and how many people, and slipping money into a wooden box, then cleaned everything before you left. Russians said that such a system could never work in Russia. That is certainly one type of “social trust”, but I’m unsure if it’s the only one…

  46. #Dan Hayes Poland is the biggest receiver of european budget funds, they receive billions from polish migrants remittances and from factories that move to exploit cheap polish labour and tariff free trading with other european countries.

  47. anarchyst says

    Let’s not forget the Katyn Forest massacre, in which the “chosen” communists murdered the Polish intelligentsia (and unsuccessfully tried to blame it on the Germans) to keep them from subverting Stalin’s plan for that part of the world. It is possible that things would have been very different (and more difficult for the “chosen” communists) if the Polish leadership had survived.
    It is interesting to note that Germany and the Allies got together to ascertain the truth about this Soviet-planned and imposed massacre.

  48. Does “chosen” mean “Jewish”?

    The Katyn order was signed by Stalin, Molotov, Mikoyan, Kaganovich, Voroshilov, and Kalinin. That’s three Russians, one Armenian, one Georgian, and one Jew. It was as much Armenian or Georgian communists as Jewish ones that were responsible.

    Incidentally, the Katyn Forest Massacre was a massacre of soldiers — specifically the officer corps – not intelligentsia. But you’re correct — they were Polish.

  49. krollchem says

    Many of the advances ascribed to the Greeks were previously invented by the Assyrians..

    To be honest, the Assyrians may have acquired some of their advances from other groups they conquered.

  50. They were reserve officers from the intelligentsia, not some sort of career soldiers.

  51. A few remarks about Poland:

    1. Poland is the oldest parliamentary democracy in
      modern Europe (i.e., since AD 800, time of Charlemagne).
      Already in 1433 Poland had Neminem Captivabimus, i.e.,
      due process, about 250 years before the English Habeas
      Corpus Act of 1679. About 10-12% of the citizens were
      eligible to vote in the Polish-Lithuanian Res Publica
      (“Lithuania” included Belarus and western Ukraine), the
      federal republic usually known as the Commonwealth.
      This level of voting eligibility wasn’t reached in France or England
      until the early 19th century. In the U.S., for example, only 10-15%
      were eligible to vote until 1850. Rule of law, respect for private
      property, early form of stock exchange have existed for centuries.

    2. What is hard for Russians to understand is that Poland began as
      a Western country, along with Bohemia, and the Polabian Slavs. These
      3 entities originated around AD 850-900, and evolved together for hundreds
      of years. All three were part of Western Christendom. Then, as a result
      of the German Drang Nach Osten and Ostsiedlung (eastern settlements),
      Poland was pushed east and began to look like an eastern European
      country. The early connection with Denmark and the Vikings was lost.
      Today even when I travel to Lodz (Łódź), a mere 100 miles west of Warsaw,
      it feels more Western than the capital despite Warsaw’s cosmopolitan
      status. In western Poland people look more German and have a German
      work ethic. Polabian Slavs (Sorbs) still remain in Lusatia (Łużyce), a region
      which straddles the German-Polish border. The northern Sorbs in Germany
      speak a dialect which is very close to Polish. The southwestern part of Poland
      (around Lubań) is the oldest part of Poland. In AD 623-658 it was already part
      of the oldest western Slavic state, Samo’s Empire. Thus historically, Poland
      has been part of the western trinity of nations: Bohemia, Lusatia, and Poland,
      in close contact with Italy and France since the 9th century.

    3. By about 1550 80% of the world’s Jews lived in Poland, i.e., Polish-Lithuanian
      federal republic. If you don’t believe me, visit the new Polin Museum in Warsaw.
      The reason was that the Jews were expelled from W. Europe and were banned
      from settling in Russia. As a result of the Warsaw Confederation (1573), religious
      tolerance was extended to nobility and free persons – first such document in Europe,
      and while the western Europeans were butchering each other during the religious
      wars, Poland was peaceful, and in fact became known as a “state without stakes,”
      an early form of the United States, that attracted thousands of people from all
      over Europe who sought religious freedom in a vast land where they could
      live in peace. Parliamentary democracies, however, don’t fare well when surrounded
      by absolute monarchies like Prussia or Russia, and so this utopian state
      went into decline, but only after 800 years of relative success (and I’m not
      minimizing excesses of democracy like “liberum veto” but that’s a whole other

  52. “Poland is the oldest parliamentary democracy in
    modern Europe (i.e., since AD 800, time of Charlemagne).”

    Hilarious. The tribes which lived in what was not yet called Poland in 800 AD would have had tribal assemblies (veches in Slavic), but so did every single European tribal people: Germanics, Celts, Finno-Ugrians, etc. The Germanic assemblies, for example, were called “things”.

    These tribal assemblies were not parliaments. A parliament is formed when people elect representatives. A popular assembly is just tribesmen meeting at a forest clearing.

    Almost nothing is known about not-yet-Poland in 800 AD because it was completely illiterate, in contrast to what’s now Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Spain, etc. It didn’t even have runes like what they used in Scandinavia. Moreover, the literate peoples of Western Europe had so little interest in what was going on in that corner of the world at that time that they hardly recorded any information about it. The written history of Poland really starts with Christianization, which introduced writing into an illiterate society in the second half of the 10th century.

    In comparison, France, for example, became majority Christian in the 4th century AD. Its elites have been literate since Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul more than 2,000 years ago. Most large French cities were founded by Romans, the ones on the Med coast by ancient Greeks before them. THAT’s the historical difference between Eastern and Western Europe.

  53. LOL, your entire comment is based on the fact that you failed to understand what “Anon 2” wrote.

  54. Even if he didn’t claim that Poland was a parliamentary democracy in 800 AD, but simply that it was the first one to appear in Europe after 800 AD, that’s still not true.

  55. On to the Wikipedia:

    “Until 1468, sejms gathered only the high ranking nobility and officials, but the sejm of 1468 saw deputies elected from various local territories”

    “The Model Parliament is the term, attributed to Frederic William Maitland, used for the 1295 Parliament of England of King Edward I.

    This assembly included members of the clergy and the aristocracy, as well as representatives from the various counties and boroughs. Each county returned two knights, two burgesses were elected from each borough, and each city provided two citizens. This composition became the model for later parliaments, hence the name”

    To repeat, “two burgesses were elected from each borough”. In 1295. However, Italy had so many republics going back to before 1000 AD, and especially in the 12th century, before they started swallowing each other up, that I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them had elected representatives even before the English.

  56. You misunderstood me. AD 800 referred to roughly the time when
    modern Europe arose from the Dark Ages (which by the way
    were not so dark but that’s a separate topic), i.e., reign of
    Charlemagne. The parliamentary system in Poland had its
    beginnings in the Middle Ages, and was in full swing by
    the time of Neminem Captivabimus (1433)

  57. Of course, all sorts of assemblies have existed for centuries but they had no real power. That came only with Habeas Corpus as a counterweight to the power of the king, and that’s when parliamentary democracy effectively began. Poland had an early version of Habeas Corpus before anyone else in Europe.

    Morally speaking there is nothing great about Western Europe unless you think of colonialism, slave trade, and the plunder of resources in America, Africa, India, etc as morally unsurpassed in human history. Just one example, Jules Verne, the great French sci-fi writer, admitted at one point that his family got rich from slave trade. Maybe you admire that, I don’t

  58. That’s great, it’s what you should have written the first time.

  59. Bulgaria has an unelected dickhead prime-minister. Romania just got rid of its thirs similarly unelected dickhead. They are equally useless, but, as a bouns, they are so widely disliked, they never get past 10% if they choose to stand for election. (Similar to Monti in Italy.) So why the hell would any Bulgarian or Romanian want to increase the salary for Merkel’s unelectable viceroys?

    Also, in the last year, in Romania, two rich businessmen (Vonica and Condrea) who made money by overcharging the state healthcare system committed suicide very rapidly after hearing they will be probed. They weren’t even accused of anything. Sounds very similar to what the Chinese do. I wouldn’t call it honorable suicide, but they were removed nevertheless, by means that would theoretically horrify Westernophiles.

  60. “The worst of them will maliciously apply rules to the letter as an acceptable way of self-expression.” – This made me think of Czechia.

  61. “Removing the Monarchies and Aristocracies of Southern and Eastern Europe removed a check on corruption ” – Excellent point. Aristocracy and Monarchy monopolized corruption. Note that (except for Spain) no Catholic monarchy survived in Europe. All monarchies that are are in Protestant countries.

  62. “In western Poland people look more German and have a German work ethic. ”

    But isn’t it that in Western Poland population is actually from Easter Poland, i.e., from what now is Ukraine and Belarus? Do you by look mean physiognomy? Would that mean that Poles looks changed by living in formerly German lands that have a better infrastructure than anything available in 100 km around Warsaw? How do you explain these changes?

  63. It’s good to see Olson get a mention. My understanding of his book “Power Prosperity Outgrowing Capitalist Dictatorships” was through the hunting/farming analogy.

    Hunting (Roving Bandit) is a viable way to survive, but farming (Stationary Bandit) potentially gives richer rewards. Put a fence round the animals, look after them, and you have a larger and more reliable source of food.

    Olson relates the size of the surplus to the organization of the “farm”. Medieval aristocrats “farmed” their serfs (usually through payments in labour and produce) while modern Democracies (and Dictatorships) “farm” the population through taxation and (frequently) excess monopoly pricing .

    He sees property rights, contract law and free markets as the keys to a larger taxable farm.

    And he makes a contrast here. Lively Third World street markets are “self-regulating” with a short time horizon (simultaneous payment for and delivery of goods) whereas advanced Democracies have interesting “NON self-regulating” markets i.e. what he calls “socially contrived markets” that allow much greater predictability and long time horizons based on contract law, state protected property rights, with long-term capital investment, stock markets, complex manufacturing and banking.

    Another big theme is how Special Interests tend to subvert Democracy, in fact acting tribally (at a corporate or ethnic level) to redirect the surplus to themselves, while retaining sufficient structure to keep the “farm” producing (he covers this aspect in greater depth in his worthwhile but difficult book “The Rise and Decline of Nations” ).

    It’s really about Special Interests (corporate and ethnic) and finding ways to keep them out of the administration of modern Democracies.

  64. LondonBob says

    Always think it is silly to compare the level of corruption you get in Russia to that of Western countries. Sure we do get corruption, the DC swamp or Peter Mandelson’s miraculously acquired wealth on a bureaucrats salary etc., but it is an order of magnitude worse in Russia.

    In my experience I was warned of day to day corruption, stopped by police to see a passport then have to pay a bribe etc., but I never once had a problem. Perhaps perception takes time to catch up with reality. The concern of losing your whole business is realistic concern, I suspect again not such an issue now but given the size of the potential loss something to be concerned about. I know a friend who spoke to a Russian-Israeli oligarch in the steel business who made sure he kept as much money outside of Russia as possible, but then others I knew who just kept a rainy day fund outside Russia. Of course Russia is major exporter of raw materials so for the current account to balance money must necessarily flow out of the country, shouldn’t always be termed capital flight.

  65. LondonBob says

    There was a Japanese student at my school whose father committed suicide after being caught up in a very minor bribery scandal, hung himself rather than seppuku, but then he was ethnic Korean.

  66. There could have been some German peasant-settlers, whose descendants assimilated, to those parts of Poland in the middle ages.

  67. What about the really big ones?

    9/11, War on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc.

    Anglosphere corruption is huge. It is just so big it flies over the radar and is never recognised as such.

  68. Astuteobservor II says

    beyond-kin altruism

    this is the perfect way to describe how the problem of corruption is almost impossible to wipe out for most countries.

  69. Mass social shaming, prohibitions on future job-seeking, reduced status opportunities and unfavorable associations that spread even to the family all work just as well. The life of a pariah can be worse than death, imo.“

    “To ostracize” is the most powerful social tool – it is rational – non-violent – and most effective.

    Peace — Art

  70. The world corruption map is interesting – it shows clearly that the lowest corruption rate, across the globe, is in the Anglosphere countries .
    What can that mean, lads ?

  71. I’ve had the thought for sometime that driving and it’s relationship to a body of defined conventions/laws for behavior on the road are related to the level of beyond-kin altruism (great phrase, by the way) in a country or region or even just a city.

    I personally observe in my city a fairly consistent disregard of traffic laws, mostly speeding. The regard for the law (or convention) is higher where the penalty is higher and immediate, like an accident. So there is not much running of red lights, but consistent speeding, at levels of 15-25 mph over the posted limits. The north-south freeway is posted for 65 mph, but there is a consistent traffic stream moving at 80-90 mph and weaving across lanes in a effort to keep the speed up.

    There are certainly a number of factors at work here and the driving is just a symptom, but driving one’s car is a public showcase for ego, intelligence and altruism.

    One factor is that the overwhelming number of laws and regulations of US society, I think, tends to swamp personal attention to any of the laws. This is sort of off-topic, but the first time I’ve seen driving mentioned in a cultural setting. I think respect for law is generally diminishing in the US.

  72. Veritatis says

    If I understood the main argument correctly, corruption will be reduced when you exchange roving bandits for stationary bandits, because that permits medium-term planning from all actors and thus sufficient wealth creation (if IQ is amenable).

    Respectfully, while that sounds scientific enough, and you can get numbers to back it in part, it sounds to me like having an after-dinner conversation with a very intelligent fellow who can give a very theoretical general explanation for something that nevertheless eludes him.

    How can such a view be enriched? By including common sense knowledge of human nature.
    Abuse of power and cruelty are two recurring human passions. Hard to quantify in surveys but easy to see in practice. Corruption is abuse of power. The specifics, its evolution, will depend on the specific character of the individuals involved.

    In my experience (Mexico), stationary bandits have been in power for the last hundred years. No overt US regime-change during that time. Corruption changes according to the personality of those in power, particularly the president (not a dictator, but pretty powerful), and according to economic opportunity. The more corrupt those on top, the more they steal. If they are high IQ, they do a “better” job at hiding it, and a generally better job at governing. If a president is less personally greedy, corruption will diminish, maybe be overtly punished.

    That is why some dictatorships (Pinochet and Franco, for example) have been linked to low corruption, but it does depend on their specific character/values. Otherwise, look at the African dictators.

    As to corruption being negligible in economic terms… Well! Very easy for a corrupt government to crash a country given any other contributing factor (lower commodity prices, to give a common example). It is hard enough to govern when you are not constantly taking your eyes off the ball.

    Finally, the Chile/China comparison. Chile has been growing for the last couple of decades at around 6%, (yes the 2008 crisis hit them, and Bachelet’s not good news), and life for the middle class is very good. The lower classes choose not to have more than 2 kids because they want to give them a good education. The upper classes belt out more than 5. Rich or poor, many fine, cultivated people. I know rich spaniards who have chosen to settle there because of the quality of life. I believe that by GDP per capita, they are at developed country levels or close.
    Of course, 15 million people or so, how can it possibly compare to China’s economy?

    China, I’ve never been, but from what I gather from the media, it seems a very unpleasant place to live if you are not quite wealthy. And is there any higher level of central planning of the economy than the 1 child policy?

    Numbers help us to see the reality of what is, but for richer explanations, or for policy proposals, human nature must be taken into account. Genes are very important, but character formation equally, even more. That is why the history of preferred ideas within a group is so interesting.

  73. Anonymous says

    The level of corruption is directly related to the legal heritage of an area. The rise of capitalism and the rise of “egalitarianism” are also a result of the law system. The law system in Western Europe (particularly English Law) arose through a series of compromises between the competing aristocracies. This is the key. The centuries of aristocratic warfare gave rise to the legal system eventually balancing the power of the monarchs, and the landed gentry. The Lords then would “shield” their peasantry from the excessive demands of the monarch or central authority. This ultimately resulted in a relatively evenly developed agrarian economy over most of Western Europe. Then the ground was laid for widespread capital accumulation and the protection of private property, essential elements to reduce the natural human tendency of corruption.

  74. anony-mouse says
  75. What can that mean, lads ? – Anglos defined the metrics for corruption.

  76. jacques sheete says

    What can that mean, lads ?

    That anyone who takes it at face value has been duped, again, for probably the umpteenth time?

  77. Colleen Pater says

    maybe there’s some work that if i can remember correctly says something like chinese are shame based and euros guilt based so how you feel might not work in europe assuming your asian

  78. Only parts of what is now western Poland were resettled in the late 1940s by migrants from other parts of Poland, including former eastern Poland.

    The main part of western Poland is Wielkopolska, or Greater Poland, and despite being part of Prussian Germany for a couple hundred years, it was home to a Polish majority ever since the Polish state formed.

    There was never any major population shift in Wielkopolska.

  79. Chile is doing great, by far the most successful country in South America…..Meanwhile, the tribalism and corruption of Eastern Europe has discouraged the acceptance of 3d world immigrants, especially moslems, and may well save those countries from the apparent fate of the more trusting West European countries. So what is wrong with clannishness, again??

  80. I laugh every time someone from the Anglosphere tells me that their countries are somehow less corrupt than those in Southern and Eastern Europe…Big ticket corruption happens across the board and in places like the Anglosphere its legalized and people tolerate it much more due to the higher standard of living meaning that the theft is less noticeable since it is a smaller hit percentage-wise to your wallet.

    I strongly endorse this perspective, and the problem with some of the international analyses is that they fail to distinguish between what I would call “micro-corruption” and “macro-corruption.” The former reflect the culture/behavior of the local masses, while the latter is determined by the local elites, and they can be entirely different. Since those international rankings seem to focus almost entirely upon the first, they are often less than useful, even if rather gratifying to various macro-corrupt elites.

    I discussed some of this in my China/America article from a few years ago:

    However, although American micro-corruption is rare, we seem to suffer from appalling levels of macro-corruption, situations in which our various ruling elites squander or misappropriate tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars of our national wealth, sometimes doing so just barely on one side of technical legality and sometimes on the other.

    Sweden is among the cleanest societies in Europe, while Sicily is perhaps the most corrupt. But suppose a large clan of ruthless Sicilian Mafiosi moved to Sweden and somehow managed to gain control of its government. On a day-to-day basis, little would change, with Swedish traffic policemen and building inspectors performing their duties with the same sort of incorruptible efficiency as before, and I suspect that Sweden’s Transparency International rankings would scarcely decline. But meanwhile, a large fraction of Sweden’s accumulated national wealth might gradually be stolen and transferred to secret Cayman Islands bank accounts, or invested in Latin American drug cartels, and eventually the entire plundered economy would collapse.

    Anyway, thanks to all for producing this very interesting comment-thread.

  81. JohnnyWalker123 says

    You’ve obviously not interacted with Indian-Paki subcontinentals. They must be the most awkward people I’ve ever encountered.

    Jews and Asians are often sterotyped as awkward, but maybe not to the extent of Indian subcons.

    …a stalwart of the ant-racist industry, Omar Ali made television for, by and about minorities.
    The ‘Pakis’ had always been considered socially awkward, badly dressed, weirdly religious
    and repressed. But being gay, Omar Ali was smart enough to know how hip and fashionable
    minorities – or any outsiders – could become, with the right marketing, as they made their
    way up the social hierarchy. (Something to Tell You 243)

  82. Wizard of Oz says

    I have just searched this thread for “fairness”, “efficiency” and “equity”. The second, only, is there and then only in the quote from Ron’s earlier article. So I proffer the suggestion that the problem of corruption might usefully analysed – with an attempt to attach meaningful numbers – with reference to efficiency costs and (sense of) fairness. I am not sure that would help overcome the discomfit of those who are pretty sure tbey need to bribe but worry about the consequences if it doesn’t occur smoothly and discreetly. But I would guess that the petty corruption of India would no longer provoke more than a yawn.

  83. JohnnyWalker123 says

    There’s an extreme level of macro-corruption (in America), in which much of our GDP is covertly stolen by oligarchs, war profiteers, lobbysists, politicians, cheap labor pushers, and the banker cartel. Our economy is also structured to disproportionately benefit financial&real estate speculators, corporate execs, corporatized hospital groups, and various types of rent seekers.

    Economic incentives also aren’t aligned with the social good. For example, a Math PHD can make $200-500K/yr as a quantitative analyst on Wall Street. It’d be better for society if he went into R&D or healthcare, but unfortunately the compensation package is far less generous. So many of our PHDs end up working for hedge funds. On net, a loss for society, but beneficial to a small number of financiers and elite grads. This strikes me as a system designed to benefit a few, while not helping the masses or even the national economy.

    Actually, the situation may even be worse than that. According to a study I saw, financiers destroy more wealth than they create. So, on net, the PHD Wall Street quant may be producing negative value.

  84. JohnnyWalker123 says

    In China, elite grads become industrialists that build factories, produce goods, implement new technologies, and increase China’s trade surplus. In America, elite grads and also retired politicians go to Wall Street (i-banks, hedge funds, private equity, asset management), management consulting, or BIG LAW.

  85. Ron, my part of NE Ohio is still home to “micro-” and “macro-” corruption running in tandem. A massive FBI operation a few years back swept up dozens of judges who’d been selling justice retail, plus the Ohio Attorney General is expected to seek the indictment soon of city officials who’d signed off on a fantastically brazen scheme (or so it seems to me) to improperly transfer water department funds to a private developer in the form of outright grants and pre-forgiven loans. (Water department funds misused? Think Flint, Michigan. That’s what has the Ohio AG seeing red.)

    The mayor of our largest city copped a plea in an influence peddling case. He’s running for re-election and is expected to win. I know several talented people who’ve declined advancement because they fear they’ll be “turned” by corrupt superiors. They’d rather stay clean by staying small, and they are generally left alone to do their jobs.

    The upshot? I know to a certainty that businesses shun my area because they don’t trust that the rule of law operates here. When they do locate here it’s because of the very low labor costs, and because state and federal development moneys are made available to them. So, I’d guess corruption operates as some sort of a noxious tax here, but I can’t be more precise.

    Still and all, I sort of agree with Esn above and several other commenters that small-scale corruption can actually solve problems created by unworkable bureaucratic rules.

    BTW-my local Podunk Tech’s affiliated foundation parks its money in the Cayman Islands. I don’t have a clue.

  86. ThatDamnGood says

    About comments that USA’s brightest goes to Wall Street, I suspect the 2nd Tier ones do. Hours are long and the competition is cut throat.

    I would think the really really smart ones would rather go make and sell weapons.

    The blog details incredible profit margins!

    The crumbs for the stakeholders should be good and probably the hours are better.

  87. Have possibly Christian ethics had some greater contribution to a lower level of corruption in the ‘Core Europe’, to higher “beyond-kin altruism”, than marriage patterns?
    In those times of darkness they seemed to believe (and live accordingly) that:
    32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:32-36).
    They believed also that stealing was a great sin (not only because it was severely punished) and making a profit at other people expenses a shameful act.

  88. I take it you are not the Jack O’H that I was thinking of .

  89. Anonymous says

    My opinion is that the countries that are given in the article as examples of having less corruption, are in fact as corrupt if not more than the examples of those nations that the article calls most corrupt. The difference being in the two different types of corruption existing in these countries. The so called “less corrupt” countries have institutionalized corruption or what I call undemocratic corruption, because its benefits are only available to the wealthy. In the “less corrupt” countries the corruption is organized, less visible and run by the political parties, you have to make a substantial political contribution (bribe) in order to get access to favors from the government. In the countries listed as “corrupt” in the article, corruption is decentralized, visible, and available everywhere and to everyone and at a very reasonable price, therefore a very democratic form of corruption. In other words in a “less corrupt” country you can not fix a $200 traffic ticket with a $20 bribe on the spot, but if you make a $100,000 political contribution (bribe), you can obtain a very lucrative contract worth millions of dollars or even an ambassadorship nomination to some obscure country.

  90. The idea that the culture of Classical Greece was more complex than the culture of Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods is simply… simplistic.
    The great intellectual achievements occurred in a period of less than 100 years, were not the ‘product’ of democracy and have been developed and fructified in the following periods by the intensification of contacts with the older cultures (which are at the origins of the ‘Greek miracle’). Plato’s philosophy was not a product of Athenian ‘egalitarianism’, but of an intellectual aristocracy, opposed to the demagogic egalitarianism of the sophists. Aristotle was the tutor and mentor of Alexander the Great and he was most influential promoter of the concept of despotism (for the benefit of the Greeks, of course). Science made great strides during the Hellenistic period. The Roman legal system (with its concept of ‘res publica’) was not the product of any clannish egalitarianism.
    ‘Realistic art’ is not ‘per se’ any great achievement, neither is ‘atheism’ and ‘agnosticism’ (the voluntary exclusion of the higher realms of reality from human inquisitiveness and endeavor).
    The exaltation of Greek culture’s superiority over the ‘Rest’ is an expression of the lingering prejudice that ‘Higher culture’ is the product of the bearers of a certain ‘haplogroup’ (preferably north-western ‘European’), ironically the same which pushed Europe into the ‘Dark Ages’ and then reinvented all sciences and culture by themselves, thanks to their ‘haplogroup’.

  91. “farming (Stationary Bandit) potentially gives richer rewards.”

    Not necessarily. What farming does is allow a much denser population and thus a larger number of fighters to defend a territory, while at the same time giving that population a major incentive to defend it because they have so much labor and capital invested in non-movable assets.

    Hunter-gatherers can just pick up and move to avoid trouble. Farmers have no option but to fight or leave and then starve.

    Nomadic pastoralists are an interesting combination. Many more assets than hunters, but those assets are easily movable (and stealable). Thus they tend to become warlike and predatory, since the abilities necessary to defend your own property in this environment are equally useful to take that of others.

    The nomadic pastoralists are the true original of the Roving Bandit, not hunter-gatherers, who are usually (not always) a relatively peaceful bunch.

  92. Anatoly, it’s not the first time you cite that pseudo-science theory (“the Hajnal line explains everything”) from that loony blogger. I still cannot believe you are taking her seriously. How that utterly unskeptical could you be? Too disappointing, really. I have had a better opinion of your critical thinking.

    Though I must agree that your other argumentation about two sorts of “bandits” has a point. But for me it does not sound like something new or revealing, just what everybody knew for centuries, just terms are different. Simply put, countries with stabilized political elites and countries during or after a political turmoil.

  93. In other words in a “less corrupt” country you can not fix a $200 traffic ticket with a $20 bribe on the spot

    I wouldn’t dare to try to bribe the traffic police in America or the EU, but you reminded me one old movie. “Mean Streets” (1973) by Scorsese with De Niro as a protagonist. In one scene he and his gang started a brawl in a bar over a debt, police was called but then bribed by the underworld criminal owner of the bar (note the cop was black). So that made me think that petty corruption was much more widespread at least in America than we are used to think if it was that routinely depicted. I also saw similar depictions of petty and grand-scale corruption in dozens of Western/American movies or read in books (detective novels, mainly).

    but if you make a $100,000 political contribution (bribe), you can obtain a very lucrative contract worth millions of dollars or even an ambassadorship nomination to some obscure country.

    In Russia this is thought to be as widespread, or even more so than petty corruption. Contracts and positions are being sold and bought. Russian corruption in the upper echelons is exactly of this sort.

  94. Classical Greece (5th and 4th centuries BC) had a very complex culture, unrivaled until Renaissance Italy, yet it was quite egalitarian.

    I cannot imagine less egalitarian society than that where slavery is institutionalized and is the basis of the whole economy.

    Byzantine Greece was despotic (actually this is where the word despot comes from), yet had a much simpler culture.

    From the Oxford dictionary:

    mid 16th cent.: from French despote, via medieval Latin from Greek despotēs ‘master, absolute ruler’. Originally (after the Turkish conquest of Constantinople) the term denoted a minor Christian ruler under the Turkish empire. The current sense dates from the late 18th cent

    I like when linguistics ruins some superficial theories.

  95. Thousands of years of living on isolated homesteads instead of in villages – I’m guessing that’s the key.

    I always thought that Western Europe was densely populated from early on, so that forced people to live in more compact and densely populated settlements that is villages. Unlike Eastern Europe, where the density was very low until recently. So the Hajnal line must have the opposite outcome than it is given by you or AK.

    Very simple. The northern climate could only support a low density of farmers with the technology of the time.

    You just explained early Russia. So your explanation does not fit into the Hajnal line megatheory.

  96. Classical Greece (5th and 4th centuries BC) had a very complex culture, unrivaled until Renaissance Italy, yet it was quite egalitarian. Byzantine Greece was despotic (actually this is where the word despot comes from)

    In theory, the Emperor was absolute ruler, “equal of the apostles”. Few of them really had such power, but usually, in practice, Emperors were removed, exiled, or killed when they displeased the army, noble families, Church or even the city mob.

    Byzantine Emperors were more likely to be overthrown than modern American Congressmen, of whom 90% are regularly reelected.

    yet had a much simpler culture.

    How you measure it? Was Greek pagan religion more complex than Byzantine Orthodoxy, and Greek philosophy more complex than Byzantine theology?

  97. Polish boasting, very interesting. But very funny. Poland is stronk!

  98. This assembly included members of the clergy and the aristocracy, as well as representatives from the various counties and boroughs. Each county returned two knights, two burgesses were elected from each borough, and each city provided two citizens. This composition became the model for later parliaments, hence the name”

    Very interesting. This is literally the system of early soviets!

  99. I suppose “Roving Bandits” could be straightforward animal hunters or some kind of bands of thieves attacking other humans but they are both a form of hunting.

    It’s true that settled populations become larger, better organized and more powerful such that they can easily resist most roving bands (at least until the roving pastoralist Genghis Kahn comes along – but he was the last).

    Olson is thinking more along the lines of “internal” banditry, where the concentrated wealth of a city can be looted through Special Interests working with political leaders – and he suggests (“The Rise and Decline of Nations”) that this is the biggest (potentially fatal) threat that a mature Democracy can face.

  100. Hey Boris, you make some decent comments from time to time. That said, how about you let Natasha comment sometimes.

  101. Seraphim says

    You will like it even more if you know its real origin (it’s all in Wikipedia, which many times have really good and informative articles and should be consulted before engaging in controversies):

    “Despot (from Greek: δεσπότης, despótēs, “lord”, “master”*) was a senior Byzantine court title that was bestowed on the sons or sons-in-law of reigning emperors, and initially denoted the heir-apparent. From Byzantium it spread throughout the late medieval Balkans (Bulgarian and Serbian: деспот, despót), and was also granted in the states under Byzantine influence, such as the Latin Empire, Bulgaria, Serbia, and the Empire of Trebizond. It gave rise to several principalities termed “despotates” which were ruled either as independent states or as appanages by princes bearing the title of despot, most notably the Despotate of Epirus, the Despotate of the Morea and the Serbian Despotate. In English, the feminine form of the title is despotess (from Greek δεσπότισσα, despótissa; Serbian and Bulgarian деспотица, despotítsa), which denoted the spouse of a despot, but the transliterated traditional female equivalent of despotes, despoina (δέσποινα, “lady of the house”), is also commonly used.
    The term must not be confused with its modern usage, which refers to despotism, a form of government in which a single entity rules with absolute power. The semantic shift undergone by the term is mirrored by tyrant, an ancient Greek word that originally bore no negative connotation, and the Latin dictator, a constitutionally sanctioned office of the Roman Republic. In colloquial Modern Greek, the word is often used to refer to a bishop….”

    • Literally “master of the house”, from PIE *dṓm-, “house”, and *pótis; cf. Greek pósis and Latin, Sanskrit pátis, “lord”. Despoina, i.e. “potnia of the house”, is a feminine counterpart to the word. Despot is thought to be attested — on the PY Tn 316 tablet — in Mycenaean Greek Linear B as, do-po-ta
  102. Who’s Natasha?

  103. Thanks. My actual point was the current negative meaning has nothing to do with Byzantium, whatever it might be, so I thought citing a general dictionary was quite enough. Glossy’s aversion to Byzantium is of some sort of the “zapandik” heritage, as I remember it was Chaadaev who first put the blame for everything bad in Russia on Byzantium.

  104. Sorry, mistaken identification, wrong Boris.

  105. Here are some pictures of coins of the Hellenistic period:

    Byzantine coins:

    If you were asked to draw two pictures in these two different styles, which would you find more difficult? Which one would take more time, more attempts? Which one of these two looks more like modern children’s drawings?

    “Was Greek pagan religion more complex than Byzantine Orthodoxy

    Roughly the same level of complexity, but in the classical period the Greek intellectual elite moved away from its ancestral religion. They explained away their Gods as mortals about whom their ancestors told tall tales.

    and Greek philosophy more complex than Byzantine theology?

    Yes. In the modern world, where are you more likely to find supernatural explanations for everyday events, in prisons or among university faculties? Today, who is more likely to invoke God’s wrath, heaven and hell, personal salvation: a janitor or an engineer?

    This is separate from the question of whether or not religious belief improves behavior. It does, but what kind of minds does it appeal to on average, simple or complex?

    “Few of them really had such power”

    There were no democratic institutions. Popular assemblies, urban self-government. Those declined in the Hellenistic period and died before the start of the Byzantine era. I posted some pics of Hellenistic coins above. In Classical Greece coins never had the faces of rulers on them. They had symbols of the city instead. An owl in Athens’ case, for example. Think of the modern rulers who’ve put their faces on currency: Turkmenbashi, Mobutu Sese Seko. Is that a sign of despotism or egalitarianism in the modern world?

  106. The links to Byzantine coins stopped working after I posted them, but you can search for “Byzantine coins” in Google Images to see what I mean.

  107. The Greeks philosophers have done away with the ‘gods’ (theoi) but not with God (ho Theos).

  108. Not the first time. Propably I might have chosen a more unique nickname, but it’s too late to change it, I got accustomed to it. Or propably I rather do not like unique nicknames because I do not want to be tracked through search engines. But I’ve become curious who is the other Boris with Natasha?