Notes From All Over (15/03/2014): Poles, Plutocrats, and Population Genetics

A collection of articles, essays, and blog post of merit.

I have been much busier these last few weeks than expected. I did not have time to compile one of these lists back in February, so a few of these readings were published all the way back in January.


The Play is the Thing But the Blood is the Trumpet
Lynn Rees. Zenpundit. 5 March 2013.

Lynn Rees. Zenpundit. 26 February 2013. 

Every Mountain Dew Has Its Mellow Yellow
22 February 2013. Zenpundit. 23 February 2013.

Pole Position
Lynn Rees. Zenpundit. 5 March 2013.

Lynn Rees is one of the most talented historical essayists (and one of driest wits) on the internet. He writes sparingly, but when his pen is put to paper brilliance spills forth. He has a rare skill for finding  relevant parallels to 21st century concerns in obscure historical figures and events. Two of these essays are a perfect case in point, centering on Jozef Pilduski and his attempt to create a Polish state. The third essay deals with the much better known figure of Winston Churchill, while the final essay is a discussion of America’s strategic priorities in Ukraine in the year 2014. 

 In the three weeks since this essay (“Feckless”) was published, I have not found a better treatment of the Crimean Crisis or a more sound set of policy prescriptions than the ones given by Mr. Rees here. As always, his writing is strongly recommended.

Unified China and Divided Europe
Chiu Yu Ko, Mark Koyama, and Tuan-Hwee Sng. Social Sciences Research Network. 20 January 2014.

I had hoped to devote a post to this paper and its conclusions, but I fear I simply will not have time for it anytime soon. I am quite sure I will reference it in the future, however; Mr. Ko and company some how manage to touch on every single subject discussed here at the Stage: measuring premodern economic growth, the way China’s geography has shaped its history, the relationship between nomadic societies and agrarian civilization, the causes of the ‘great divergence’ — if we have blogged about it here, then it is found in this study!

(Warning: For those not mathematically inclined parts of the paper will be a bit dense, but the equations can be skipped without fear of losing their central points.)


Essay: Anatomy of the Deep State
Michael Lofgren. 21 February 2014.

During the time in 2011 when political warfare over the debt ceiling was beginning to paralyze the business of governance in Washington, the United States government somehow summoned the resources to overthrow Muammar Ghaddafi’s regime in Libya, and, when the instability created by that coup spilled over into Mali, provide overt and covert assistance to French intervention there…. Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose. My analysis of this phenomenon is not an exposé of a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day. Nor can this other government be accurately termed an “establishment.” All complex societies have an establishment, a social network committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation. In terms of its scope, financial resources and sheer global reach, the American hybrid state, the Deep State, is in a class by itself.

See also: Breaking up the NSA,” Bruce Schneier, Schneier on Security, 25 February 2013.

H/T to Michael Kennedy at Chicago Boyz.

 “Social Liberalism as Class Warfare
 Ross Douthat. New York Times. 29 January 2013.

… is it just a coincidence that this self-interested elite holds the nearly-uniformly liberal views on social issues that it does? Is it just random that the one idea binding the post-1970s upper class together — uniting Wall Street’s Randians and Harvard’s academic socialists, a left-leaning media and a right-leaning corporate sector, the libertarians of Silicon Valley and the liberal rich of the Upper West Side — is a hostility to any kind of social conservatism, any kind of morals legislation, any kind of paternalism on issues of sex and marriage and family? Is the upper class’s social liberalism the lone case, the rare exception, where our self-segregated, self-interested elites really do have the greater good at heart?

….But if we’re inclined to see our elite as fundamentally self-interested, then we should ask ourselves whether the combination of personal restraint and cultural-political permissiveness might not itself be part of how this elite maintains its privileges. Waldman, for instance, makes the (completely valid) point that just telling a single mother to go get married to whomever she happens to be dating isn’t likely to lead to happy outcomes for anyone involved. But is that really just because of wage stagnation and the truncation of the potential-mates bell curve? Or could it also be that the decision to marry only delivers benefits when it’s part of a larger life script, a way of pursuing love and happiness that shapes people’s life choices – men as well as women — from the moment they come of age sexually, and that exerts its influence not through the power of a singular event (ring, cake, toasts) but through that event’s place in a larger mix of cues, signals, expectations, and beliefs?

….And following our hermeneutic of anti-elite suspicion, let’s ask: If the path to human flourishing still mostly runs through monogamy and marriage, who benefits the most from the kind of changes that make that path less normative, less law-supported, less obvious? Well, mostly people who are embedded in communities that continue to send the kind of signals that the law and the wider culture no longer send.

Related: The Post Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America,” Joseph Bottum. The American. 22 February 2014.

Millennials in Adulthood: Detached from Institutions, Networked with Friends
Pew Research Center. 7 March 2013. 

Those pressed for time need only read the executive summary


A Genetic Atlas of Human Admixture History
Garrett Hellenthal1, et. al. Science. Vol. 343, no. 6172 (14 February 2014), pp. 747-751

See Also: The interactive map published with the paper, and Razib Khan’s summary “Tracing Historical Genetic Leap-Frogging,” Unz Review, 16 February 2014.

Tipping Point Revolutions and State Breakdown Revolutions: Why Revolutions Succeed or Fail
Randall Collins. The Sociological Eye. 20 June 2013

The Germ Theory of Democracy, Dictatorship, and All Your Most Cherished Beliefs” 
Ethan Watters. Pacific Standard. 3 March 2014.

H/T for both of these to Isegoria

On the Ancient State: Some Hittite Legal Cases
Al West. West’s Meditations. 1 January 2013.


Signal, Noise, and Jack Bauer.”
Adam Elkus. Rethinking Security. 8 March 2013.

[This] is a perspective that leads to “incremental” and “dull” analysis and better fits the temperament of the accountant than the romantic.  When it comes to much of what we regard as politics and punditry, the lack of passion and romanticism that soberness necessitates is a feature, not a bug. Many are drawn to politics because they are romantics, full of passion and aesthetic verve rather than statistics books or “dull” and “incremental” scholarship about the stuff of both domestic and intentional affairs….

[Thus a] serious divide looms — between those who see politics in “dull” and “incremental” terms and those who view politics as a sort of literary romance. Unlike Andreesen’s divide between the technical-trusters and the people/institution-trusters, this one is harder to bridge. There isn’t necessarily an natural or obvious intersection between the two camps. There is very little romanticism in R scripts, Bayes, or prediction models. The lyrical and passionate Nassim Nicholas Taleb of “Black Swan” fame seems to be the exception to the rule, but an exception nonetheless.

 The State, The Clan, and Individual Liberty
Panel debate with Mark Weiner, Arnold Kling, Daniel McCarthy, and John Fabian Witt. Cato Unbound. March 2014.

The Slate Star Codex Political Spectrum Quiz
Scott Alexander. Slate Star Codex. 8 March 2013.

This is the only political quiz I will ever direct any of my readers to. This one is worth it.


How America can Survive–Even Prosper–in the 21st Century
“Fabius Maximus Editor.” Fabius Maximus. 16 February 2014.

 “The Fight Tearing the Country in Two
Chaiyot Yongcharoenchai. The Bangkok Post. 9 February 2014.

If you only ever read one article about the ongoing crisis in Thailand, this should be it.

In Thailand, the Cost of Overfishing is Trafficked Human Beings
Gwyinn Guilford. Quartz. 5 March 2014.


A better indicator for standard of living: The Gross National Disposable Income
Clara Capelli and Gianni Vaggi. VoxEU. 6 March 2014

China’s Credit Nightmare Explained in One Chart
Tyler Durden. Zero Hedge. 14 March 2013.

What Jobs Will the Robots Take?
Yves Smith. Naked Capitalism. 30 January 2013.


Deterring the Dragons… From (Under) The Sea
Victor Vescovo. Proceedings Magazine. Vol. 140, No. 2. February 2014.

Related: Clock is Ticking-Taiwan Could Resist a Chinese Invasion For Just One Month
Kyle Mizokami. War is Boring (Medium). 15 March 2013.

The Failed Pacific Pivot
John Feffer. The Nation. 28 January 2013.

 “On MRAPs; or Protecting Our Troops and Eroding Local Support in Baghdad
 John Amble. War on the Rocks. 3 March 2014.


 “Women Should Embrace the B’s in College to Make More Later
Catherine Rampell.  Washington Post. 11 March 2014.

…Goldin looked at how grades awarded in an introductory economics class affected the chance that a student would ultimately major in the subject. She found that the likelihood a woman would major in economics dropped steadily as her grade fell: Women who received a B in Econ 101, for example, were about half as likely as women who received A’s to stick with the discipline. The same discouragement gradient didn’t exist for men. Of Econ 101 students, men who received A’s were about equally as likely as men who received B’s to concentrate in the dismal science.

See also:There is no Gender Gap in Tech Salaries” 
 Cynthia Than. Quartz. 4 March 2014.

 “The Shortage of STEM Workers: Another Bogus Crisis Crafted to Benefit the 1%.
“Fabius Maximus Editor.” Fabius Maximus. 28 February 2014.


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