The Racists Aren’t Where the Prof Said They’d Be

A few months late, but worth posting anyway.

racial-tolerance-map-hk-fix (from Washington Post)

The results are based on the latest “wave” of the World Values Survey, a very interesting project that tracks sociological data across countries – and which I will likely post more about in the future.

Interesting observations:

(1) The West in general is the world’s least “racist”* region – regardless of what some ideologues wish to argue. Regarding the US in particular, even many European countries – widely considered to be more “liberal” – would balk at the affirmative action policies in place there.

(2) France is a curious exception, though not perhaps altogether surprising in light of the popularity of the National Front. A far right party enjoying the support of about a third of the population is, indeed, pretty unique for a developed country. Is it something specific about the French? Or have they just had more opportunities to get fed up with multi-culturalism in general?

(3) Rates of consanguineous marriage (and associated clannishness) all correlate closely with rates of “racism.” Compare the map above with the map below of the rate of consanguineous marriage – considering the inherent vagueness of the questions asked in the WVS, the fact that the territories of the former Caliphate, India, and Indonesia are clearly delineated is nothing short of remarkable.

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Translation: It’s All Personal

Russians don’t trust their friends much. But they trust strangers and the state even less, so personal relations predominate in the economy at the expense of clubs, communities, and institutions. Sociologist Pavel Stepantsov paints a bleak picture of Russian society for Vedomosti.

Everything Revolves around Personal Relations

Many of the games we play, and that are studied by sociologists, are built on this phenomenon called trust. Which currency do you keep your savings in? How many people are willing to lend you a small amount of money in an emergency? What is the latest hour at which you feel safe in walking home? How prepared are you to vouch for your friends when they are trying to get a job? All of these mundane and at first glance insignificant questions, not directly related to each other, can nonetheless exert substantial influence on economic and social life.

According to the World Values Survey (WVS) and the study “Eurobarometer in Russia”, conducted by the Center for Sociological Research of the Russian Academy of National Economy in 2012 (directors – Victor Vakhshtayn, Pavel Stepantsov), the level of interpersonal trust in Russia is 1.5-2 times lower than in Western Europe and the US.

In general, Russians are less willing to trust each other than in most developed countries (with the exception of France and Spain). However, levels of trust aren’t evenly distributed within Russia. The lowest rates are to be found in the big cities. And in Moscow, less than 1% of the population believes that people in general – regardless of whether they are acquaintances or not – can be trusted. This is the lowest figure in all Russia.

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Book Review: Xin Liu – The Otherness Of Self

The Otherness of Self” by Xin Liu, published in 2002. Rating: 1/5.

I don’t want to sound overly demanding, but really, unless a writer is the next Kant or Heidegger, he owes it to his readers to make his prose at least minimally engaging. With this book on too many occasions I was under the impression that I was reading something from the Postmodern Essay Generator. Here is a totally random quote I just pulled from THE OTHERNESS OF SELF: “As Carr argues, a solution to the problem of experience is provided by the Husserlian idea of retention-protention as a horizon from which the experience of being experienced at the present moment stands out.

Come again, amigo? About 80% of this book is PoMo-babble, as verbose as it is apparently meaningless – one is under the distinct impression that Xin Liu is padding out a thesis paper with references to thinkers who are not really at all relevant to the putative object of his studies, the Beihai Star Group and South Chinese business culture. It is with this in mind that we come to the actual content, unearthing which expends no small time of energy and sanity.

In this book, the anthropologist Xin Liu argues that “the human experience itself is narrative in character… time is the life of narrative.” By extension, social life is centered around the perception of time as it relates to the past, present, and future, as well as to the sense of “before” and “after”. He analyzes China’s changing society through the prism of its changing conceptions of temporarily as described in three contemporaneous books representative of the time periods in which they were written, as well as his own observations of business life in Beihai.

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Book Review: Arthur H. Smith – Chinese Characteristics

Chinese Characteristics by Arthur Henderson Smith, published in 1894. It is available free hereRating: 5/5.


In rich and evocative prose reminiscent of De Tocqueville’s writings on America, Arthur H. Smith lays out what he sees as the core features of the Chinese character and his values. The tone is bold and fearless, making sweeping generalizations and brusque judgments that many today will dismiss as insensitive or “Orientalist,” if not downright racist. I will say from the outset that this is ahistorical and frankly, misses the point. Humans try to understand the world through simplified models, and stereotypes are an intractable part of this process. This was especially true in Smith’s time, when more objective data, e.g. statistical, was severely lacking in China. Thus, while he carefully acknowledges that “these papers are not meant to be generalizations for a whole Empire”, he nonetheless argues that deriving Chinese characteristics by “recording great numbers of incidents,” especially “extraordinary” ones, and setting down the “explanations… as given by natives of the country,” is an entirely valid and legitimate approach for a popular book on that country.

The “Chinese character” that emerges from his account forms a stark contradistinction to what we might call the “Smithian character,” a category that embraces not only the eponymous author but also reflects the values and assumptions of your archetypical fin de siècle American WASP male. The Chinese character goes by nature’s cycles, and does not have a good sense of either punctuality or even his own age; the Westerner, on the other hand, marches to the chimes of the clock. This “disregard of time” is matched by a “disregard for accuracy” – it is mentioned that the real distance of the Chinese li varies depending on terrain, the prevailing weather, etc. Likewise, the real value of the national currency varies from province to province.

Another major element covered by Smith in relation to China is “intellectual turbidity.” This might seem strange, considering that he also talks of how “all the examination halls, from the lowest to the highest, seem to be perpetually crowded”, but one which becomes much more comprehensible after noting that Smith also says that “education in China is restricted to a very narrow circle”. These observations are confirmed by the historical fact that primary enrollment was at just 4% of the eligible school-age population in China in 1900. (This characteristic, incidentally, seems to be alive well to this day, as evidenced by the immense stress that revolves around the gaokao). Nonetheless, the common folks come off as pretty stupid, and unable to grasp the essence of the questions put to them. For instance, in reply to a query about his age, one man’s answer is said to resemble a “rusty old smoothbore cannon mounted on a decrepit carriage.” Although isn’t asking such a question awkward in the first place? That said, at least we can’t fault Smith for not knowing how to throw in a good turn of phrase!

Another major part of the book concerns Chinese attitudes as regards kin, family, society, and nation. Filial piety is extremely developed; in fact, it is over-developed, to the extent that there have been cases of children willing to sacrifice themselves so as to avoid the death penalty for their criminal parents. (Not exactly a civilization with much in the way of individual responsibility). A less extreme but far more widespread effect of this is the devaluation of the worth of women. While Smith is undoubtedly a man of patriarchal views, he subscribes to the Christian idea of the spiritual equality of the sexes, and supports women’s education. These aims are harder to achieve in a society built around ancestor worship, where the prerogative to maintain the “continuum of descent” is overriding. Social sanctions, such as the ones for harboring criminals or traitors, are collective in nature, and go against the idea of personal responsibility. But it’s not all bad, at least as regards violence: “Human life is safer in a Chinese city than in an American city.” Nor are the Chinese dying out like the French:

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The Farewell To Alms Theory – Older Than We Think

I am currently (re)reading The National System of Political Economy by Friedrich List (published in 1841), and this jumped out at me:

In no European kingdom is the institution of an aristocracy more judiciously designed than in England for securing to the nobility, in their relation to the Crown and the commonalty, individual independence, dignity, and stability; to give them a Parliamentary training and position; to direct their energies to patriotic and national aims; to induce them to attract to their own body the élite of the commonalty, to include in their ranks every commoner who earns distinction, whether by mental gifts, exceptional wealth, or great achievements; and, on the other hand, to cast back again amongst the commons the surplus progeny of aristocratic descent, thus leading to the amalgamation of the nobility and the commonalty in future generations. By this process the nobility is ever receiving from the Commons fresh accessions of civic and patriotic energy, of science, learning, intellectual and material resources, while it is ever restoring to the people a portion of the culture and of the spirit of independence peculiarly its own, leaving its own children to trust to their own resources, and supplying the commonalty with incentives to renewed exertion. In the case of the English lord, however large may be the number of his descendants, only one can hold the title at a time. The other members of the family are commoners, who gain a livelihood either in one of the learned professions, or in the Civil Service, in commerce, industry, or agriculture. The story goes that some time ago one of the first dukes in England conceived the idea of inviting all the blood relations of his house to a banquet, but he was fain to abandon the design because their name was legion, notwithstanding that the family pedigree had not reached farther back than for a few centuries. It would require a whole volume to show the effect of this institution upon the spirit of enterprise, the colonisation, the might and the liberties, and especially upon the forces of production of this nation.

So perhaps Gregory Clark wasn’t quite as original as many make him out to be.

PS. I myself am quite skeptical about the theory. As Ron Unz summarized it, “And I agree that Clark’s evolutionary model for England suffers from similar problems, namely that he’s produced an interesting theory explaining why the English are smarter and longer-time oriented than all the other Europeans. Except they aren’t.”

Antisocial Punishment: Why China Will Defeat Corruption, But Russia And The Arabs Won’t

One of the books I’ve been reading lately is Steven Pinker’s massive door-stopper The Better Angels of Our Nature. Incidentally, I found it a very interesting read with tons of cool factoids, although it could have done with a third of its text and a tiny fraction of its liberal sanctimonious. But that’s for the forthcoming review; in this post, I will focus instead on a reference I found there to a very fascinating and revealing paper about Antisocial Punishment Across Cultures (Herrmann et al.) – and by extension, its implications for social cohesion.

Power summary: The shrinks got a bunch of university students, divided them into teams of four, and got them to play a “public goods game.” They were given 20 tokens at the start of each of ten rounds, and they were told they could invest any number of them into a pot, with a return of 0.4 tokens to each player – regardless of whether or not he participates – to each token invested in the pot. So if everyone was to contribute all 20 of their tokens, each player would walk away with 32 tokens; on the other hand, if only two players were to contribute all their tokens while the other two got a free ride, the altruists would walk away with only 16 tokens, whereas the free riders would get their 16 tokens plus their original 20 which they had kept back.


In this version of the game, there were no interesting patterns; across all cultures, contributions plummeted as free riders enjoying impunity undermined the morale of productive contributors. However, that’s not how the game works in real societies, which actively punish many forms of free riding: Tax evasion, benefit fraud, dodging fares on public transport, etc. The game was then modified to include a punishment option, in which any player could choose to spend one token to remove three tokens from any other player of his choosing. The results changed drastically.

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Translation: A Hell Of Their Own Making

Believe it or not but some people call me a Russophobe. Even more shockingly, perhaps, I plead guilty (at least in the sense that I do not have a very high opinion of the Russian people). There are only two logical alternatives: (1) Claims that Russia really is as good as Western Europe and the US on issues like corruption, social cohesion, etc., which is quite simply implausible to almost anyone who lived there; (2) That the cronyism, bad roads, etc. are all the fault of “corrupt bureaucrats” or even just “Putin”, as if to pretend that they are not real Russians but an occupying force, which is simply bizarre and only believed in by liberals.

The most plausible but rather banal explanation is that to the extent that things are bad in Russia (although, ironically, as I’ve frequently shown here they are nowhere near as bad as portrayed in the Western media) they are bad because of Russians themselves, or more precisely the crook-enabling and general impudent go-fuck-yourself attitudes inherited from the Soviet era. There is no way to quickly change this, least of all by decree, and Putin himself implicitly recognizes this, although as President, he has to sugarcoat things and explain them to the people in a fatherly way (whereas as a blogger I am perhaps a bit blunt about these things).

Anyhow, the following account basically encapsulates the basic thing that is wrong with Russia and, indirectly, the liberal interpretation of the symptoms (that they are the Kremlin’s fault). And while A Hell of their Own Making is set in Ukraine, any Russian would recognize this in her own country; only Ukrainian nationalists would seriously deny that social attitudes in Russia and Ukraine are rather similar.


A Hell of Their Own Making

I live abroad. Once upon a time, I came to visit my mother in Ukraine with my husband. I got the kin together for a barbecue picnic. We decided to go to a place not far from mother’s house – a beautiful valley with a lake and a small forest. During my childhood I loved to wander there among the sweet-smelling grass and wild flowers, and to bathe in the lake.

We came there. The wild grass was now covered with tall weeds, many places were burnt out or filled up with plastic rubbish. I was so disappointed! We could barely find a more or less clean clearing by the lake. We tidied up the trash and cigarette butts so that we could sit, then we started a fire in the mangal grill. The barbecue was delicious, but the sight of my beloved valley depressed me – everything was so dirty, so pathetic… The lake was murky and desiccated. I did not risk swimming in it.

From the start I told my relatives not to throw the trash into the grass and bushes, but to gather it up and put it into a special bag. When we were leaving I checked that we had left nothing behind. For I was very sad about this forest clearing. And I was loudly distraught that people could so comprehensively foul up a place where they themselves went to relax. Is it really so difficult to carry the trash over to the bins that are one hundred meters away at the valley’s end?

When we were preparing to leave, I found out that no-one had the trash bag in their hands. I started asking who had it. And my mom waved it way – we’ve already thrown it away. “How did you do it, where?” I whispered. “There, into the reeds. What, are we garbage men or something? Everyone dumps it there!” It was hard to refrain from swearing out loud. It was impossible to retrieve the trash from there – it had already lodged in the reeds by the cliff.

At that moment I recognized a great truth: They deserve the lives they lead. They deserve their cracked asphalt, broken lampposts, dirty streets, and reeking rivers, and their criminal government, and their miserly wages and pensions. They spit on themselves, so why shouldn’t the government spit on them? They do not respect themselves – so who will respect them?

It is not the government which litters on the streets and trashes children’s playgrounds. It is not the President who steals lampposts and cables. I no longer trust your complaints. My countrymen, it is you who created your own hell, and it’s you who will have to live in it.


Harsh but it rings true. I wonder if any “Russophiles” will now call the author a Russophobe (or perhaps Ukrainophobe) herself? The only thing I have to add is that many Russians – especially liberals, and those who love to complain – really do not realize how their own actions and attitudes (or the lack of them; in a recent poll, only 50% of Russians said they’d report a drunk driver, compared to about 90% in the US and the UK) contribute to problems. It is always someone else who is to blame, like Putin, or the US, or oligarchs, or ethnic minorities. Oftentimes this hatred is expressed in shockingly violent and callous terms to popular approval. They cannot see fault in themselves, so ironically enough, it is the much loathed Russian state itself which is left with the unenviable task of trying to re-inculcate basic moral values and respect for the law into a self-hating and crook-enabling society.

That is why I support it. The words of the liberal-conservative Vekhi are as relevant now as they were back in 1909: “We ought to fear the people and bless this government which, with its prisons and bayonets, still protects us from the people’s fury.”

UC Berkeley Is Liberal LOL

From the rhetoric, you’d think the People’s Republic of Berkeley was a sickle short of Communism.

In reality however the university itself is fairly standard, probably no more radical than any other in the US. I sat in on a political economy class today (full of PE majors who are in general quite leftist) and the professor took a poll. 39% (!) said the banksters deserved a bailout. A stunning 82% would have bailed them out (though granted, not doing so is more of a libertarian – or far left – position than anything else). However, only 12% said that the banksters should have been given bonuses. The feeling against banker bonuses however is so near universal that I don’t think this is much out of the ordinary. (On this point, I have to disagree – the banksters DO deserve their bonuses. If politicians are going to bail you out, with no popular opposition to boot, it is not only justifiable but a moral obligation to take any bonuses you are offered and give the finger to those suckers!).

Also, in response to another question about the nature of the “state of nature”, 7% said man is inherently good and cooperative; 47% the former, but that society corrupts him; and 47% said he was selfish and competitive. Berkeley students are therefore surprisingly realistic. Even a cursory reading of non-politicized anthropology will reveal that – with a few exceptions – primitive societies are extremely violent, competitive, and hierarchical.

And those respondents were for the most part social science people. Engineers and techies at Cal are considerably further to the right. More general freshman opinion polls show that Berkeley students aren’t all that much more radical than the average American population (e.g. opinion on the death penalty is split 50/50). Actually just considering that Berkeley is associated with the likes of John Yoo (the pro-torture lawyer) or Arthur Jensen (the HBD’er) should prove it is no seething, uniformly liberal hotbed. A year ago, the College Republicans organized a “Diversity Bake Sale” in which discounts were given to Hispanics, blacks, and women to protest affirmative action; a liberal attempt to get the university to ban it failed.

The impression I think arises from Cal’s close association with the City of Berkeley which actually is full of politically far left citizens.

Do Drivers Make Way In Your Country?

Alexey Kovalev, a moderate Russian liberal, writes:

“When I left [Russia], each time I crossed the road could have been my last. But now almost everybody makes way. So things are changing.”

You don’t often hear such positive sentiments from liberals, who tend to be negative and critical (which is not always a bad or wrong thing). But that is besides the point.

I think that in general having its drivers make way for pedestrians is a pretty good gauge of a country’s overall levels of civility and even social cohesion. Here is what I noticed:

(1) The Brits almost always make way; the Americans make way about 75% of the time; the Russians made way (last time I was there) about 10% of the time.

(2) That said, road civility was definitely on the decline in Britain when I was there, albeit from a very high base. Young people and immigrants just aren’t the same psychologically as older Brits. As for the US I have definitely noticed a majorly downhill trend even during the few years I’ve been here. It is good to hear from Kovalev that Russia is heading in the opposite direction, albeit from a very low base.

(3) Obviously, there are geographic factors too. People in America are definitely a lot more civil in small towns than in metropolises. I also suspect that Americans inland are somewhat more civil than on the coasts, although I haven’t really spent near enough time in the former to make any definitive judgments.

Quantifying Future Time Orientation

In a 2010 paper on time preferences*, the authors Mei Wang et al. conducted an experiment in which participants could choose either $3400 now or $3800 a month later. Now I would choose the latter option but maybe it’s just because I’m intelligent and have been living in the West for quite a while. In other countries this is not the obvious choice however.

We see the usual correlates. Countries that are richer; more Germanic; less corrupt; more intelligent – they all have more future time orientation. In countries that have a Communist legacy future time orientations are perhaps lower than we might expect them to be otherwise.

This all of not insubstantial relevance because time preference can have an impact on economic structure and social life. For instance, as the paper notes, societies with higher future time  orientation are likely to devote more attention to the environment. They are also likely to devote a greater share of their GDP to R&D.

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