Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Ayn Rand Uses the Term 'Altruism' With the Same Definition As the Man Who Coined It

Stuart K. Hayashi

A charge commonly leveled against Ayn Rand, especially by conservatives and libertarians, is that she uses the term altruism inaccurately.  Ayn Rand says she opposes altruism because the idea behind it implicitly -- when not doing so explicitly -- calls for the individual's peaceable right to survival and happiness to be subordinated to the ostensive well-being of "others."  No, say the conservatives and libertarians, altruism simply means being beneficial to parties other than yourself.  After all, following the lead of game theorist Robert L. Trivers, evolutionary psychologists like Richard Dawkins frequently speak of "reciprocal altruism," sometimes even referring to commercial exchange as one form of it.

Here is an example.  John A. Allison IV, the former president of BB and T bank, went on libertarian Russell Robert's EconTalk podcast in 2007.  As Allison is influenced by Ayn Rand, he explained his opposition to the altruist doctrine.  Every time Allison did this, Russell Roberts insisted on "correcting" Allison: "That's not altruism."

But if the person who coins a term has a role in deciding its definition, then altruism is indeed about demotion of the self to others.

The ideas of self-sacrifice and social collectivism are ancient -- possibly going back to the era of hunter-gatherer clans -- but the expression altruism is relatively new.  The philosopher Auguste Comte coined it in the 1800s to describe his collectivist “Positivism” ethical theory. Altruism, he explained, is about the committed subordination of the self to Society as a whole, abiding by the motto “Live for Others.” As Comte articulates in System of Positive Polity,

Standing in direct connection with the fundamental principle of [Comte's] Positive synthesis [of ethical philosophy], the doctrine of innate altruism alone enables us to establish a systematic morality...  
Thus we see how the altruistic discipline gives completeness and system to the [moral] purification of human nature, begun under the egoistic [that is, primitive humans start off as egoistic and therefore immoral, and then evolve into truly moral beings: altruistic beings]. . . .  
It follows that, from every point of view, the ultimate systematisation of human life must consist above all in the development of altruism.   

Precisely, Comte says that altruism is the general principle that a perfectly moral society would work towards, and social Positivism is his name for the set of specific rules that must be implemented to achieve that.  He is for altruism in general and Positivism in particular. Note that despite his making a rather technical distinction between the terms altruism and Positivism, for the most part, in a more general context, those terms can be used interchangeably for Comte's theory of what constitutes a moral system of society (which Comte would say is definitely not a laissez-faire commercial society).

Comte’s associate, John Stuart Mill, was one of the first persons (if not the first person) to introduce altruism to English-speaking readers. When Mill explained Comte's philosophy to his readers, he wrote very approvingly of it and exhorted his readers to be altruistic in the manner that Comte demanded. Herbert Spencer, who knew Mill but not Comte, also adopted altruism, but was one of the first writers (if not the first writer) to conflate altruism with anything you do that benefits parties other than yourself. Despite their many avowals that they reject Spencer's philosophy -- when's it all too clear they didn't read him first-hand for comprehension -- it was Spencer who paved the way for evolutionary psychologists to  be able to get away with saying that reciprocal exchanges can be exercises in "altruism."

Ironically, the majority of writers who mention Spencer only know him from secondhand sources that stigmatize him as a “social Darwinist,” and thus inaccurately denounce Spencer for rejecting altruist ethics. As an example, this is from Michael Shermer's book The Mind of the Market:
Yet the single most common myth found in objections to both the theory of evolution and free market economies is based on the presumption that animals and humans are inherently selfish and the economy is like Tennyson's memorable description of nature: "red in tooth and claw." After the Origin of Species was published, the British philosopher Herbert Spencer immortalized natural selection in the phrase "survival of the fittest," one of the most misleading descriptions in the history of science and one that has been embraced by social Darwinists ever since, who apply it inappropriately to racial theory, national politics, and economic doctrines. . . . 
It is a matter of balancing these dual currents of selfishness and selflessness, competition and cooperation, greed and generosity, mutual struggle and mutual aid. That this view of life [which Michael Shermer says is the correct view, in contrast to Spencer's] was eclipsed by that of Spencer and [Thomas Henry] Huxley probably has to do with where they were developed: the more competitive economy of the United Kingdom versus the more egalitarian economy of Russia [in which Spencer opponent Petr Kropotkin grew up].
From what Shermer wrote of Spencer, one would get the false impression that Spencer condoned the idea of people being "selfish" and not altruistic. Anyone who bothers to read Volume 2 of Spencer's Principles of Ethics will see Spencer repeatedly exhort the reader to practice "altruism" (using that exact term) and his condemnation of "selfishness" (the exact word Spencer uses). Shermer's mischaracterization of Spencer is deeply puzzling and troubling to me, as Shermer got his Ph.D. by writing about the philosophy of Alfred Russel Wallace, who was strongly influenced by Herbert Spencer (Wallace even named one of his sons Herbert Spencer Wallace).  An accurate understanding of Wallace's philosophy ought to imply an accurate understanding of Spencer's.

Speaking for himself, Comte said that his altruist ethics -- which he formally called Positivism -- precluded any hope for “reciprocity.” Reciprocity is the term that Richard Congreve used in his English translation of Comte. Had Comte heard evolutionary psychologists speak of “reciprocal altruism,” this would have confused and likely angered him, especially when “reciprocal altruism” is used to refer to commercial transactions.

Again, note that when Comete says Positivism, it has the same general meaning as altruismFrom Congreve's translation of Comte's Catechism of Positive Religion:

All honest and sensible men, of whatever party, should agree, by a common consent, to eliminate the doctrine of rights.

Positivism only recognizes duties, duties of all to all. Placing itself, as it does, at the social point of view, it cannot tolerate the notion of rights, for such notion rests on individualism. We are born under a load of obligations of every kind, to our predecessors, to our successors, to our contemporaries. After our birth these obligations increase or accumulate, for it is some time before we can return any service. Where then, in the case of man, is the foundation on which we are to rest the idea of rights? That idea, properly viewed, implies some previous efficiency. However great our efforts, the longest life, well employed, will never enable us to pay back more than a scarcely perceptible part of what we received. And yet only to our condition of complete payment could we be authorized to require reciprocity of services. Rights then, in the case of man, are as absurd as they are immoral [italics are from the Congreve translation of Comte; the boldface is mine].

Congreve's is not a loose translation of Comte. Laure Olmedo, a philosophy student in France, found the original French text for me. In the original French, it says "réciprocité [reciprocity] des [of] nouveaux [new] services." That is, in the original French text, Comte says réciprocité, the close French equivalent to the English reciprocity. Comte stated, in the original French, that one cannot expect réciprocité if one is trying to be altruistic.

Laure Olmedo took this screen shot and highlighted "réciprocité des nouveaux services" -- "reciprocity of new services."

According to what he wrote in A General View of Positivism, had Comte been alive today he would especially object to those who say that voluntary trades constitute "altruism" -- "reciprocal" or otherwise:

Morally, the contrast between the [proletarian] workman and the capitalist is even more striking.  Proud as most men are of worldly success, the degree of moral or mental excellence implied in the acquisition of wealth or power, even when the means used have been strictly legitimate, is hardly such as to justify that pride.  . . .  
The life of the [proletarian] workman, on the other hand, is far more favourable to the development of the nobler instincts.  ...it is in the exercise of the higher feelings that the moral superiority of the working class is most observable. . . . It will hardly be disputed that there are more remarkable instances of prompt and unostentatious self-sacrifice at the call of a great public necessity in this class [the working class] than any in any other [italics mine]. 

As far as Comte is concerned, altruism cannot be reciprocal; it consists of services that must be performed unilaterally.  That does not mean that other people may not provide their own services to you; you need not reject every gift.  But it is to say that for your actions to be altruistic, you must serve others without any expectation or yearning for them to return your favors.  Hence, in Comte's writings, "altruism," "Positivism," "morality," and "self-sacrifice" go together.

By Comte's standards, Ayn Rand is using the word correctly -- Comte's writings demonstrate that he intended for the idea of altruism to be associated with self-sacrifice, and that that is what Comte considered the moral ideal. If the person who coined a term has any say in what its definition is, then “altruism” precludes a desire for reciprocity. For Comte, "reciprocal altruism" is a contradiction in terms.

Yes, what scientists such as Dawkins call "reciprocal altruism" is a very real phenomenon. It commences not only between separate human beings but also in the wilderness among separate species.  One instance is of large predatory fish allowing much smaller "cleaner shrimp" to go into their gaping mouths and pick off parasites.  The large fish could easily close its mouth and swallow the shrimp.  But in terms of cost-benefit, it is more to the large fish's benefit, health-wise, to allow the cleaner shrimp to live, and that is what happens most often.  Both the cleaner shrimp and the predatory fish receive a net gain from this relationship.  But given that Comte's use of altruism placed the emphasis on self-sacrifice, a more accurate term for these natural exchanges is not reciprocal altruism but one that Ayn Rand employed: mutual profit.

Cleaner shrimp working on the mouth of a moray eel; image from Wikimedia Commons.

On June 20 and June 21, 2017, I continued revising this piece subsequent to publishing it, including the block quotation in the beginning where Comte says "...the ultimate systematisation of human life must consist above all in the development of altruism." On June 21, 2017, I added the part about the original French text and I added Laure Olmedo's screen shot of it. On June 21, 2017, I also added the section about cleaner shrimp and "reciprocal altruism" in the wilderness.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Encouragement of Anorexia or Other Morbidity in Persons With Histories of Self-Harm Isn't Free Speech

Stuart K. Hayashi

The act of tacitly encouraging a mentally-ill, self-harming person to continue self-harm does not count as free speech. The reason is that when Person X transmits speech to Person Y, whether that transmission counts as free speech must hinge upon Person Y (a) consenting and (b) having the contractual capacity to consent in the first place. For example, if someone called your telephone landline a hundred times every day without your permission, that would not be free speech, as you have withheld consent to receive the message. You are able to offer or withhold consent because you retain contractual capacity.

When someone repeatedly and visibly self-harms, that person indicates that she or he is contractually incompetent in some important respects. For example, suppose there is plausible reason to believe an able-bodied, physically healthy young man is on the verge of suicide, and his girlfriend tells him "Go ahead and do it!", and then he does it. That man lacked the contractual capacity to judge for himself whether that was sound advice, and therefore he was not in a position to consent to it. It is comparable to having a person sign his estate over to you when he is drunk.

If you see an angry crowd and tell the crowd "Go beat up that Person, T, over there!” and then the crowd does beat up Person T, that is an incitement to violence and it counts as an initiation of the use of force. Likewise, telling an able-bodied, physically healthy, suicidal person to kill himself is to incite a person to perform violence upon himself when was not in a position to offer or withhold genuine consent.

There are actually websites and Facebook groups that advocate anorexia as if it were a legitimate lifestyle choice. This is not free speech. The reason is that, qua anorexic person, the person suffering from anorexia is not contractually competent enough to offer genuine consent to the pro-anorexia message.

One might counter that it is unfair to say that anorexics are contractually incompetent in this context, as they appear to hold capacity in most contexts where contractual capacity is necessary. For example, anorexics often hold normal jobs and make long-term, high-stakes financial decisions such as going to university and purchasing cars or homes or parking garages. If such people are not competent to consent to receiving pro-anorexia messages, then would that not mean that they are not competent to make these other big decisions -- decisions that involve long-term commitment and come with great financial risk -- that require contractual capacity?  The answer is that contractual capacity can be context-based. You can be fairly considered contractually competent most of the time but contractually incompetent when you are drunk. Likewise, it can be fairly stated that an anorexic person is contractually competent in most contexts but should still not be considered contractually competent as far as this eating disorder is concerned.

Now, I must address this frequent equivocation: "Obesity is unhealthy too. If you think that pro-anorexic speech should not be called free speech, then the same standard must apply to any expression that might promote obesity." That is an absurd conflation. Anorexia is physically dangerous in a way that obesity is not. Leaving aside the morbidly obese (who also have a psychological issue), someone who has been overweight since adolescence -- and has remained obese consistently -- can often still live into his or her sixties. By contrast, someone who is consistently anorexic in her teens seldom lives to reach age 40. A twenty-year-old who is overweight has several decades to change her lifestyle; a twenty-year-old anorexic does not. There is a greater physiological urgency in addressing anorexia, and therefore people should stop conflating the two conditions. (For information on the greater urgency of addressing anorexia, see this, this, this, this, this, and this.)

John P. McCaskey points out that contract breach and fraud are both forms of the initiation of physical force wherein the perpetrator manipulates the victim into taking the physical action that harms the victim. The same logic applies to reinforcing and encouraging the morbid gestures of someone who has a history of self-harm. Insofar as self-harm is concerned, the self-harmer is not contractually competent to evaluate the merits of someone's encouragement or reinforcement of the self-harm. Thus, reinforcement and/or encouragement of the morbid gestures is manipulation of the victim no less harmful than is fraud.

Some years ago, I knew someone who had a history of threatening suicide, and who later began uploading disturbing pictures of herself wherein she was photoshopped as a corpse. Those morbid gestures were clearly related to the years of suicidal ideation. Upon making this context known to the group of Norwegians encouraging the uploading of the corpse imagery and other morbid gestures, those Norwegians brushed off such concerns; the morbid gestures went on being reinforced. Those reinforcers of those suicidal gestures were engaging not in free speech but contributing to someone's self-harm.

Friday, April 21, 2017

No, Stefan Molyneux, Ethnic Diversity in a Neighborhood Doesn't Necessarily Cause Social Distrust

Stuart K. Hayashi

The man, the myth, the Molyneux:

Stefan Molyneux and other critics of liberalized immigration policies are fond of citing Australian anthropologist Frank Salter and Bowling Alone author Robert D. Putnam in proclaiming that immigration should be restricted. It is on the grounds, they say, that when immigrants pour into a neighborhood that had previously been ethnically homogeneous, the new heterogeneity fosters more social distrust among everyone in the long run. Molyneux and other opponents of immigration even go on to say that Robert Putnam and Frank Salter prove that if you live in a diverse neighborhood, such a circumstance even reduces your trust in people of your own ethnicity.

The argument is: if I, a man of Japanese ancestry, dwell in a neighborhood where everyone is of pure Japanese ancestry, we will all get along fine. However, if we live in a mixed neighborhood, with blacks and whites and Latinos and Pacific Islanders living near me, I am going to mistrust all of them. Worse, this diversity will cause me to distrust other people of Japanese ancestry.

Molyneux quotes Putnam as saying that "it's not just that we don't trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don't trust people who do look like us."

Although both Salter and Putnam make similar arguments, I should clarify that their political positions should be distinguished from one another. Putnam is quite mainstream and comes across as being more politically center-Left. By contrast, Salter is an unreconstructed ideologue for the alt-right. Citing the famously racist Murray N. Rothbard, Frank Salter proclaims,
Unrestricted migration would harm Australia’s national interests in ways documented by scholars in economics, sociology and related disciplines. Much of the harm is predictable from what is known about the dysfunctions of diversity. ...one can add to Rothbard’s excellent reason for defending the cultural integrity of nations. All the benefits of relative homogeneity (and thus of assimilation and prudent immigration) documented above belong to nations, not to multi-ethnic states. . . . This is what Rothbard was getting at.

But, as Kenan Malik notes, data contradict Putnam, Salter, and those who cite them to vilify liberalized immigration, such as Molyneux.

More recent research has...questioned [Robert Putnam's] conclusions. The latest such study, led by Patrick Sturgis, director of Britain’s National Centre for Research Methods, investigated the relationship between diversity and trust within London. It discovered the opposite relationship to Putnam. Once the researchers had allowed for social and economic deprivation, they found that “ethnic diversity is ... positively related to social cohesion, with significantly higher levels of cohesion evident as ethnic heterogeneity increases.”

The paper Malik cites is Patrick Sturgis, et al., "Ethnic Diversity, Segregation, and the Social Cohesion of Neighbourhoods in London," Ethnic and Racial Studies vol. 37 (no. 8, 2014): 1286-1309.

At the end of my first major blog post about Stefan Molyneux's fanaticism, on November 29, 2015, I wrote, "I am familiar with the argument that people have an easier time getting along when they're all the same ethnicity; I think there might be an empirical basis for that descriptive evaluation." Today I retract that; there was not even an adequate basis for making any concessions to Molyneux's demagoguery on this count. On this conclusion, Putnam was erring at best, while Salter and Molyneux have put forth this falsehood as part of their attempt to rationalize their bigotry.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Normalization of Taxation; or, Why It's NOT Obvious That Taxation Is Theft

Stuart K. Hayashi

In libertarian and Objectivist circles, I have seen memes circulating on Facebook announcing "Taxation is theft" and providing no elaboration on how such a conclusion was reached, as if such a conclusion is obvious to anyone with common sense. Even when delivered in a facetious tone, such memes fail to persuade anyone not already under the apprehension that taxation is theft -- that is, the memes are unpersuasive to most of the population. Worse, as far as most people are concerned, your choice to share such memes on Facebook are interpreted as being indicative that you are just some kook; to your friends, it would make just as much sense if you went walking around wearing your pants on backward.

What shall become of you if you do not fork over your taxes? Armed men will come after you and toss you in their dungeon -- and if you physically struggle against them, the level of violence will escalate. What justification do the armed men provide for this action? If these armed men do not take your money at gunpoint, the result would be that society would plunge into chaos, and then just about anyone could take your money at gunpoint.

You need these armed men to take your money at gunpoint, so that they can stop armed men from taking your money at gunpoint!

Therefore, if I go around telling everyone taxation is theft, everyone will understand immediately, right? Of course not. The truth is that most people are more afraid of gangs and random thugs than they are of the IRS -- and I can empathize with their reasons.

I Feared That Mugger More Than I Did the IRS
A few years ago, a relative of mine suffered a mugging right in front of her house (yes, that even happens in Hawaii). A man took her purse and, though she struggled not a bit against him, he punched her in the stomach, putting her in the hospital. As you can imagine, this gave my whole family a scare. Since, around this time, I was going around telling everyone "Taxation is theft," I had to face that this incident had me much more afraid than any of my encounters with tax collection agencies and more afraid than I was when police had pulled me over. I had to ask myself why.

The reason why most people are less afraid of the IRS than they are of regular extortionists is that the IRS is supposed to be more predictable and behave with greater regularity.

If a random mugger comes upon you, you do not know what will happen next. Should you hand over the loot, the mugger might still punch you, as one such thug did to my relative. The mugger might rape you.

By contrast, every year, you know what time is tax time. When you deal with the IRS -- even if it audits you -- you can expect the IRS to follow certain rules. While the IRS also threatens violence against you should you refrain from complying with its demands the very facts that the IRS is somewhat predictable, and that it gives you some idea of what to expect, likewise give you more of a feeling of control than a random mugger does. Hence, the IRS incites less fear.

Definitely, this cannot morally excuse the threats of extortion that the IRS sends out. Here is an example I use: suppose that tribute was being extracted you regularly from the mafia, and yet the mafia, for the most part, told you what to expect from it. And then the mafia followed through on everything it promised. The mafia told you it would expect you to hand over ten percent of your income on the first of every month. And if you got into a dispute where some loot-collecting agent said you had not paid him, whereas you insist you did cough up the cash, you could actually take this up with a higher-up in the mafia. You would still fear what the mafia could do to you as punishment, but the very fact that the mafia had deliberately made itself so predictable would lessen your fear a bit over time. On a perverse level, you could become accustomed to this. I call this the Rationalization Through Normalization.

Yes, I know there are horror stories where the IRS has behaved unpredictably. There are cases where some IRS employee simply got annoyed by someone and therefore behaved vindictively. There are a whole string of U.S. presidents -- Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton -- who used the IRS as as political tool, siccing it on critics. But, for the most part, the IRS still behaves with regularity and predictability -- sometimes IRS agents who behave in a vindictive, unprofessional manner are caught and disciplined.

Moreover, most Americans were "taught" in civics class, just as I was, the Hobbesian Social Contract Theory. It is, as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, that the price of civilization is that you fork over a portion of cash, on a regular basis, to a man threatening to put a gun to your head. People genuinely believe that if not for this extortion, there will be no roads, no schools, and no police to protect you from extortionists.

And when people say that we need compulsory taxation so that we are protected from extortionists, they are not being fully hypocritical. The difference is that if there is absolute chaos, the private extortionists who threaten you are not bound by any Due Process rules; they are much more unpredictable and can do what they want: after getting your money, they could still punch you or rape you. Most people would rather deal with an extortionist agency that is expected by the Constitution to behave with regularity, predictability, and transparent rules, than deal with violent thugs.

Helping People Understand They Don’t Need This Extortion
Therefore, when I talk with most people -- people who believe compulsory taxation is the price we pay for civilization -- it is not helpful for me to reproach them for their apologia for theft and extortion. For them, that makes just as much sense as my telling them that mushrooms have wings and fly. No, in lieu of issuing moral condemnations against compulsory taxation at this point, it helps to inform these people that the one difference between the governmental sector and nongovernmental sector is that the governmental sector is supposed to derive its enforcement powers through the threat of violence, whereas the nongovernmental sector is expected by law not to be violent. Anything that can be done with threats from armed men, can be done without governmental intervention.

You can point out how, throughout the nineteenth century, private citizens and entrepreneurs were the ones who financed and built the roads: such privately financed roads connected entire cities, such as from Lancaster to Philadelphia. You can point out to them that it was private volunteer fire departments that got the job done, and that private associations made public libraries.

Once people are made more aware that they don't need everything to be financed by governmental extortion, they become less afraid that everything will fall apart without it. Then they are more amenable to the ethical arguments, and the explanation of why, if the IRS behaves with more regularity and predictability than do random muggers, that does not morally justify the extortion involved. This is important context that is not provided in humorous memes that simply say "Taxation is theft." If it were obvious to people that taxation is theft, we would not having to make the case that we make.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Yes, Virginia, a Compromise on Moral Principle Is a Compromise Between a Healthy Body and a Monotonic Toxin

Stuart K. Hayashi

Virginia Postrel

When discussing the folly of compromising on moral principle, Objectivists are fond of saying, "In a compromise between food and poison, only death can win." In a paragraph wherein she ridicules Objectivists and other free-marketers she accuses of being too narrow-minded, the writer Virginia Postrel, the former editor-in-chief of Reason magazine, offers this smug riposte to the claim that one cannot survive a compromise between food and poison: what you said is "news to toxicologists."

Technically, that's correct. In the cases of most substances, what makes something toxic to you or not is the dosage level. You need oxygen to live, but a high enough dose of oxygen will make the oxygen poisonous to you; it will kill you. A high dose of lead will kill you, but if it is diluted enough, it won't. A high dose of chlorine, by itself, will poison you, but if a small enough dose of it is in a swimming pool full of water, it can protect you.

In a compromise between food and dioxin, death won't win if the dioxin is diluted enough.

By contrast, something is a monotonic toxin if even the tiniest dose of it has the same overall adverse effect as a larger dose. An example would be a malignant tumor or HIV.

A compromise with a malignant tumor would involve cutting out but a portion of it. Removing half a malignant tumor won't reduce your chances of mortality by fifty percent. Likewise, in a compromise between a healthy body and HIV, a greatly increased chance of mortality is what will win.

Corruption is a malignant tumor -- cutting out half the corruption won't stop the corruption from growing. Psychologists have scientific evidence of this. Erica Goode writes in the New York Times that once someone tells a small lie, that precedent makes it easier to compound the lies.

The finding, the researchers said, provides evidence for the "slippery slope" sometimes described by wayward politicians, corrupt financiers, unfaithful spouses and others in explaining their misconduct. 
"They usually tell a story where they started small and got larger and larger, and then they suddenly found themselves committing quite severe acts," said Tali Sharot, an associate professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College London. She was a senior author of the study, published on Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience. . . .

Participants in the study were asked to advise a partner in another room about how many pennies were in a jar. When the subjects believed that lying about the amount of money was to their benefit, they were more inclined to dishonesty and their lies escalated over time. As lying increased, the response in the amygdala decreased. And the size of the decline from one trial to another predicted how much bigger a subject’s next lie would be. 
These findings suggested that the negative emotional signals initially associated with lying decrease as the brain becomes desensitized, Dr. Sharot said.

Check out that paper on Google Scholar over here.

When you dabble in "just a little bit" of an activity you consider corrupt, just that "little" dabbling helps normalize the activity for you, and thus makes it easier to continue at a more intense level.

When a healthy body compromises with a monotonic toxin, that's a net loss for that healthy body.  A compromise on moral principles is a compromise with a monotonic toxin.

The title of this post originally said "Healthy Body and HIV."  Later I felt "HIV" being in the title was too sensationalistic; on April 21, 2017, I changed it to "Healthy Body and a Monotonic Toxin."

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

If Trump Imposes a 15% Tariff, What You Pay in Taxes for an Import Will Be More Than 15%: Here's Why

Stuart K. Hayashi

If Donald Trump imposes a 15 percent tariff on items imported from China and Mexico, you will actually pay more than 15 percent in import taxes on each item.

The reason for this is that the tariff is not a tax that the customer, at the retail level, pays directly to the government. Rather, a vendor on the supply chain is the party that pays the tax directly to the government. In turn, that vendor passes the cost of that tax onto the customer. When the customer pays the tax indirectly, through the intermediary of a vendor, what the customer pays in taxes is in excess of the stated tax rate.

The difference can be explained by the difference between sales taxes and Hawaii’s general excise tax. A sales tax is charged only at the retail level, and the customer -- not the vendor -- pays it directly. Suppose you go to the store and pay for a one-dollar item, and the sales tax is 15 percent. You, as the customer, give $1.15 to the store. The store owner takes $1 for herself and then logs the 15-cent tax in a separate book.

Hawaii is different from most states in that instead of a sales tax, it has a general excise tax (GET). This is charged not merely at the retail level but on every level of the supply chain. However, even if the GET were charged only at the retail level, a 15 percent General Excise Tax would still cost the customer more money than would a 15 percent sales tax. This is precisely because the GET is paid directly by the vendor instead of the customer, and therefore the customer pays it indirectly.

Suppose I am a store owner and I want to obtain $1 for an item that you purchase from me. If I charge you only $1 for it, I will be taxed 15 cents on it and be left only with $0.85 for it. I want to obtain all of the $1. Therefore, I charge you what is called the rollover rate. When you want to purchase a $1 item from me, I charge you $1.18 for it. When I pay a 15-percent tax on that $1.18 I obtained from you, I pay 18 cents in taxes and keep the $1.

Thus, we see the following: if you as a customer are charged directly a 15 percent sales tax, you pay 15 cents in tax for a $1 item. If the vendor is charged directly a 15 percent tax, you pay 18 cents to account for the tax on a $1 item.

Because it is a vendor on the supply chain who pays the 15 percent tariff -- as opposed to the customer at the end of the supply chain paying it -- the customer will end up paying more than 15 cents on each dollar for the import.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Deranged Derogation Toward Single Moms from Alt-Right Propagandists Stefan Molyneux and Onar Åm

Stuart K. Hayashi

Stefan Molyneux on one of his better days...

The alt-right propagandists Stefan Molyneux and Onar Åm have made campaigns where they have dehumanized single mothers, in general, in an especially disturbing fashion. Many figures on the Religious Right have expressed discomfort with single mothers in general -- including mothers who have custody over children following a divorce -- as these Religious-Right figures cite single motherhood as a breakdown of what they call the traditional family. However, Stefan Molyneux and Onar Åm are not merely uncomfortable with this; they have taken this to a frighteningly ugly level.

I do think that, everything else being equal, most children would prefer to have their parents stay together and raise them as a team. I am not one to say that fathers are useless or obsolete, that men are no better than sperm donors. Ceteris paribus, I believe that, as a general rule, it's good for a child to be raised by both her father and mother simultaneously; having them together makes it easier for them to balance responsibilities.

But I must part ways with Stefan Molyneux and Onar Åm in that I don't think that, in every case other than the mother being widowed, single motherhood is necessarily wrong. I cannot say that it is always wrong for parents to divorce. Sometimes it is the case that one spouse is abusive and it's better for the non-abusive parent to raise the children alone. There are also cases where neither parent is fundamentally at fault but, due to their having become incompatible with one another, it's best for the children that the two parents live separately.  (I don't always take the mother's side in a custody dispute; either mother or father could be the more abusive side in a relationship.)

Stefan Molyneux's Grievances Against Mothers
In various podcasts he did from 2006 to 2010, Stefan Molyneux spoke extensively of his continuing resentment toward his own mother, who raised him single and who had a long string of boyfriends whom Molyneux calls "low-rent, idiotic boyfriends." Molyneux projects this rage upon single mothers in general, proclaiming that women, in general, prefer "assholes" over truly nurturing male partners (ostensibly because Molyneux's mother consistently chose "assholes," those "low-rent, idiotic boyfriends"). Hence, Stefan Molyneux proclaims that if a woman marries an abusive man, has a child with him, and then divorces the abusive husband to protect herself and their children from him, then this is still largely the fault of the woman. The reason why it is still largely her fault, proclaims Molyneux, is that a truly responsible and moral woman would have refrained at the outset from partnering with an "asshole."  If a woman is ethical, Molyneux asks rhetorically, she wouldn't have shacked up with an abusive man, would she?

Joe Rogan provides a reply to Molyneux that happens to be knowledge common to everyone but Molyneux and his followers: in many cases where a person falls for and commits to an abusive partner, it is seldom obvious from the beginning that the partner is abusive. Normally in the dating process, the abusive person is able to hide most of the abusive qualities. It is after one has come to trust and commit to an abusive and manipulative person, that the abusive and manipulative person feels safer about exhibiting his or her abusive qualities; once there is commitment and children in the picture, there is less of a risk of the abusive partner facing reprisal. This dynamic is at play in the very relationship between Molyneux and his fans: initially, Molyneux's fans are seduced by his voice and seeming confidence; it's only after disowning their parents and siblings, and then joining Molyneux's cult, that the fans come to confront the fact that they were seduced by a highly manipulative man.

Molyneux would have you believe that if you fall in love with a man who is not obviously abusive, have children with him, and then endure the man's abuse during the marriage, somehow you are the bad guy if you finally divorce the scoundrel and raise your children without him. After all, says Molyneux, if you weren't such an evil whore, you wouldn't have fallen for a Molyneux-esque manipulator in the first place. Thus, Molyneux subjects us to this tirade, which tells us more about his own psyche than that of single mothers:

Single moms are terrible, terrible parents as a whole. Statistically, there is no single better predictor of a negative or terrible outcome for a child than if he was raised by a single mother -- it’s worse than being in a [racial] minority, it’s worse than being poor, it’s worse than living in a disadvantaged neighborhood. The single most negative factor for a child’s outcome is to be raised by a single mother. Single moms are terrible, terrible, terrible parents. They consume massive amounts of resources. They’re entitled, they tend to clamor for more [resources], and their offspring tend to cause a lot of social problems. They have much higher rates of delinquency, crime, drug addiction, abuse characteristics, promiscuity, and single mothers reproduce like bacteria in a petri dish because they produce children who tend to become single mothers as well. Basically, they are a blight and plague upon society, which is why, until the welfare-state society put a huge amount of resources into trying to prevent the formulation of single-mother households...

Now, it could be true that single dads are equally toxic to children, but there are so few of them, that hasn’t really been studied. But single motherhood is the single most dangerous environmental toxin for children to be around, so she [any hypothetical single mother] is not a great mom, because a great mom has a father for her children. That is called being a great mom. What you found is a woman who has had sex with a man who is bad as a parent. She has chosen the wrong guy to have children with, because there is really only a couple of possibilities -- don’t talk to me about widows; widows are functionally the same as dual parents when it comes to how their children turn out -- a single mom means someone who is not married or [is] divorced, and not cohabitating with the father of her child. 
So either it’s a "great woman" who chose a really bad man, in which case she can’t be a great woman, because she chose to have children with a really bad man, thus exposing those children to the environmental toxin known as single motherhood; or she’s a really terrible woman who chose a terrible man, in which case, hey, if you get involved with her, there’s going to be a creepy violent ex floating around who’s going to be really angry you’re the "new dad" to his difficult children; or she is a terrible woman who chose a great guy, in which case he can’t be that great a guy because he had kids with a terrible woman. Basically she’s just a very bad decision-maker.

And why is that? Well, um, because if you have kids and married, your IQ is about 101, which is above average. If you’re divorced or separated, 97.8; and if you’re unmarried your IQ is a whoppingly low 93.6 -- that’s for men. For women, it is pretty much the same. Married women: 101.3. Divorced/separated: 98.7. Unmarried women: the same as unmarried men who are parents -- 93.6. So a good reason not to date a single mom is that they’re not very smart, which is why they’re single moms to begin with. And given that intelligence has a significant genetic component, that means that her kids, and any kids you have with her, are likely to be a little bit below the curve as a whole. There are exceptions -- I myself was raised by a single mother [whom Stefan Molyneux has made no secret of despising personally] [Stuart added the boldface to emphasize particular statements of Molyneux's; the italicized parts indicate where Molyneux placed emphasis as he spoke].
Molyneux goes as far as pronouncing that if you don't have a husband, it is your moral duty to give up your children to adoption. Why? Molyneux answers, "If you don't have a husband -- if you chose the wrong guy [to have children wit] -- to keep the child is abusive, almost always."

For such reasons, Molyneux dogmatically asserts, as if this is some Categorical Imperative, "Society is currently dying on the altar of single motherhood. Children need a father. . . . If you just married some completely unrepentant crazy, you’re putting your needs above your future children’s needs." No, Molyneux: when a sane person marries an unrepetant crazy, it's usually because it wasn't obvious by the wedding day that the partner would be revealed as an unrepentant crazy. (If this were obvious, no one would be beguiled by the manipulative propaganda of Stefan Molyneux and Onar Åm in the first place.) And, for that reason, there are cases where, everything else being equal, children would be safer being raised by their mother alone than they would be if stuck in the same household with both the mother and the father.

What Do the Data Evince About Molyneux's Claims?
Molyneux's assertion, "Statistically, there is no single better predictor of a negative or terrible outcome for a child than if he was raised by a single mother," contradicts the findings of scholars who have studied the phenomenon scientifically. Howard University psychology professor Ivory Toldson explains,

...as a single variable, household composition [single-mother household vs. two-parent household] carries little weight and appears to serve as a proxy for more serious issues, such as teenage pregnancy and incarcerated parents. In analyses, a myriad of co[-]variants (e.g. parents' education and parent practices) nullify the effects of household composition on academic progress cited in the previous section. For example, in my analysis of the High School Longitudinal Survey, a black student from a two-parent household with just one parent who dropped out of high school was three times more likely to repeat a grade in school than a student from a single-parent household where the primary caregiver had an associate's degree or higher.

Citing Christopher Jencks and Sarah McLanahan, a Washington Post piece by Emily Badger notes,

Here McLanahan and Jencks are clear: None of these findings mean that children would necessarily be better off if their biological parents married. 
That's because children of unmarried moms are more likely to have a father in prison, or who's unemployed, or who sells drugs or abuses his partner. "Furthermore," McLanahan and Jencks write, "even when a child’s absent father is a model citizen, the mother often has problems that marriage cannot solve." She has less education than married moms, or she's more likely to have mental health challenges.

Adds Katie Roiphe in the New York Times, "And Professor McLanahan’s findings suggest that a two-parent, financially stable home with stress and conflict would be more destructive to children than a one-parent, financially stable home without stress and conflict."

It's not so much that an increase in the rate of single motherhood is the primary driver contributing to poverty and crime in low-income neighborhoods.  Rather, it is more so that poverty and crime in low-income neighborhoods contribute to the likelihood that a female resident of that neighborhood will end up as a single mother.  One might argue credibly -- that is, not argue in Stefan Molyneux's manner -- that there is a positive feedback mechanism at work, where the poverty and crime contribute to the increase in the prevalence of single motherhood, and then the increase in the prevalence of single motherhood, in turn, makes it likelier for the next generation to fall victim to poverty and crime.  But the point here is that Molyneux said, point blank, that single motherhood is the main factor causing all of this -- "The single most negative factor for a child’s outcome is to be raised by a single mother" -- and the data contradict that. It is definitely not a factor as strong as Molyneux would have us believe: University of Maryland sociologist Philip Cohen points out that between 1990 and 2011, as Washington, D.C.'s rate of single-mother households remained steady, the rate of murder, rape, and other violent crimes sharply decreased.

Onar Åm, His Demographic-Winter Rhetoric, and His Slurs About Single Mothers
Given that there is a bigoted clique in Norway that claims to be Objectivist and yet reveres Stefan Molyneux instead, it is no surprise that a thought leader of this clique, Onar Åm, echoes Molyneux's dehumanizing generalizations about single mothers.

As I once did, many Objectivists mistake Onar Åm for being a writer sympathetic to Objectivism; he is actually a eugenicist who repeatedly cites racist pseudoscientists Richard Lynn and J. Philippe Rushton about IQ (for info on the racism and eugenics of Lynn and Rushton, see this). Consequently, the same Liberalistene-endorsed and crankish Norwegian alt-right anti-immigration page, "Libertinius," which approvingly recommended Stefan Molyneux's eugenicist videos, has from 2011 to 2015 created whole shrines to Onar Åm and his pontifications. For years "Libertinius" went on touting Onar's eugenicist blog as "Norway's best blog" (shrines also here, here, and here). Nor is it surprising that Onar Åm cites back the Stefan Molyneux-boosting "Libertinius" page that flatters him this way (here, here, here, and here).

Consistent with the same eugenics promoted by Stefan Molyneux and Richard Lynn and J. Philippe Rushton, this Onar Åm pushes the Demographic Winter/White Genocide scare, a trope of eugenicist rhetoric that I explained in detail here. The Demographic Winter/White Genocide narrative goes, All the low-IQ rabble out there [people who make this argument usually mean poor people in Third World countries] are out-breeding people on our side, and it's really people on our side who need to catch up at least; therefore, people on our side have a duty to have more children, as our children will be better for the human race than all those low-IQ riffraff.

As I showed here, Stefan Molyneux pushes that Demographic Winter/White Genocide trope and endorses white nationalist Richard Spencer besides. Onar Åm peddles his own version of this, as you can see in the enclosed photo from late 2016. Of special note is the evaluation that Onar Åm throws in of single mothers:

The second and fourth paragraphs toe the Demographic Winter/White Genocide eugenicists' party line.  But the third paragraph injects venom that even many eugenicists would wish to avoid:

The number[-]one cause of social ills today is the single mother.  If you could choose between being born to a single mother and having cancer, you should probably choose cancer.

I know people who were raised by single mothers; no one says that that is easy or that the absence of another parent is not felt. I also know people who were raised by abusive fathers who wished their mothers would divorce and get them out of the environment the abusive father created. And I have known people who have contracted from, and died of, cancer. Onar Åm's slur about single mothers is foolish at best.  As one well-known Objectivist scholar put it to me, Onar's slur is "disgusting."

By the way,  Onar Åm actually cribbed that line about "cancer" from then-Alt-Lite-superstar Milo Yiannopoulos, who "asked [sic]" his fans whether they would rather their child "have feminism" or "have cancer." As Milo put it, "It is easy to compare feminism’s effect on women to leukemia. It often affects the young, and once it appears it quickly spreads throughout the entire bloodstream. On the other hand, whenever you see leukemia patients in commercials for charities, the kids are always so cute… Have you EVER heard of a cute feminist?"  Not only is Onar Åm too much of an unimaginative hack to come up with own insults toward his opponents, but he pitifully picked an insult that was trite to begin with.

Please Stop Reinforcing Stefan Molyneux, Onar Åm, and the Rest of Their Bigot Brigade
One would hope that such callousness on Onar Åm's part is a mere fluke, a rare and momentary lapse of judgment.  But such hope is in vain.  July 22, 2011 was the day on which Anders Breivik murdered other Norwegians.  First Breivik bombed a government building and then he opened fire on adolescents attending a socialist party gathering.  After he heard about the bombing, but before he heard about the shooting, Onar Åm told this to his fans:

News flash:  Terror attack in Oslo, near the government. 8 people are reported injured.  Let's hope that they were tax bureaucrats and not innocent people.

As you can see, 14 people, such as Onar's sycophant Anders Amdal Taftø, clicked "like" on that. Only one Norwegian libertarian reproached Onar Åm for his callousness and, perversely, it was that Norwegian libertarian who ended up apologizing to Onar. After the news came out about Breivik shooting those adolescents at the socialist party assembly, that Norwegian libertarian, still angry with Onar, demanded to know if Onar approved of that as well. Onar replied that he did not, because adolescents are still minors and cannot be held responsible for attending a socialist party gathering. Then Onar added pointedly that he still wishes violent death on Norwegians who work for the government because, as far as he is concerned, they have it coming to them.

I don't agree with Religious-Right conservatives such as Kay S. Hymowitz in the crude and condescending manner whereby they paint single mothers with a broad brush.  But even Kay S. Hymowitz exercises some tact and considerateness; most conservative commentators still know better than to let on to the uninitiated that they harbor contempt for single mothers in general.  That tact is absent from Stefan Molyneux and Onar Åm -- the unmitigated and pathological hostility comes through.  Those who continue to go along with Stefan Molyneux or  Onar Åm as if this sort of fanaticism is acceptable, ought to mull over whether this alt-right bigotry is really something they want to live with.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Which University Department in the USA Was the First to Spread Anti-Capitalist Propaganda? You Might Be Surprised...

Stuart K. Hayashi

Source:  Wikipedia Commons.

We have heard the horror stories about left-wing propaganda being disseminated through universities, where now there are “safe spaces” and student try to shout down guest speakers with whom they disagree. We know about the shabby manner in which Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Christina Hoff Sommers and the Ayn Rand Institute's Elan Journo have been treated. According to a 2005 study by Daniel B. Klein and Charlotta Stern, the most consistently left-wing university discipline is sociology, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a ratio of thirty to one. The most right-wing discipline in economics, where Democrats outnumber Republicans only three to one.

Given all this, you might wonder how this trend of political indoctrination began. Can you guess which university department in the United States was the one that galvanized this trend of indoctrinating students about what their political opinions should be? Was it in a humanities department? Was it in the liberal arts? Was it at a law school? No. It was at a business school -- the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Moreover, this was largely a direct consequence of what the Wharton School’s founder, Joseph Wharton, had explicitly intended, even if, had he lived on to 1919, he might have agreed that the school’s faculty had gone too far in the indoctrination.

This is probably a surprise to people who are not Objectivist, or to Objectivists who have not attended business school. As someone who studied business on both the undergraduate and graduate level, I can tell you what business school consists of. They teach something like this:

Back in the Gilded Age, when the robber barons ran roughshod over everyone, people held onto their antiquated notion that a for-profit business rightfully belongs to its stock-holders. Today, we have a more enlightened view: the for-profit business really belongs to its stake-holders. And who are the stake-holders? Everyone in society except the stock-holders!

Then the instructor takes out a web chart showing which parties the stakeholders consist of. The stakeholders include “labor unions,” “consumer activists” (such as Ralph Nader and Michael Moore), and “the environment” (yes, “the environment,” in general, meaning the wilderness, is treated as a conscious entity with its own interests).

At the time, I was under the impression -- perhaps it was wishful thinking on my part -- that when industrialists established the first business schools, their main intention really was to teach students the skill of making a profit peaceably. I imagined that what must have happened was that, around the late 1960s or so, hippie-dippie Marxians infiltrated the business schools, and that that is the reason why business schools are paradoxically so anti-capitalist today. But no. That business schools would impart anti-capitalist propaganda was actually the explicit intention of the industrialists who started them. Had these industrialists been able to come back today and hear what was being espoused, they might well declare that the indoctrinators had gone too far. Still, what is presently being espoused is merely the logical extension of the statist doctrines that these industrialists themselves had injected into the curricula.

Why Joseph Wharton Wanted His Not-for-Profit Business School to Replace the Nineteenth Century’s Burgeoning For-Profit “Commercial Colleges”
Education on how to become a successful businessperson is something that began long before the establishment of today’s business schools. Throughout the nineteenth century, there were two avenues whereby someone could gain an education on how to run a business.

The first avenue was the one taken by the very man who started the first business school, Joseph Wharton. That would be apprenticeship. If human learning is primarily inductive, then it makes sense that one mostly “learns by doing.” The conventional avenue was what Wharton did -- he apprenticed at an accounting firm, which were then called “counting houses,” of Waln and Leaming.

The second avenue was what were called for-profit “Commercial Colleges,” which were distinct from today’s business schools. As Cailtin Rosenthal explains in the Bloomberg View,

In the late 19th century, the variety and availability of for-profit education skyrocketed.... Commercial colleges offered practical instruction in bookkeeping, penmanship, stenography and surveying. They operated mock bank offices and stock exchanges, teaching clerks to prepare the many notes and financial instruments that greased the wheels of the growing economy. Future steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie attended night school at a commercial college to learn bookkeeping. John D. Rockefeller studied accounting, penmanship and banking at Folsom’s Commercial College in Cleveland, which survives today as Chancellor University.

I think that sounds quite good. Since bookkeeping and accounting are the languages of business, it makes sense that an institution focused on teaching students how to do business would focus on these two skills. But, according to Caitlin Rosenthal, a common complaint at the time was that Commercial Colleges were not uniform in quality -- some were better than others, and the best ones were vastly superior to the worst. As far as I am concerned, that is to expected. It is just human nature that not every party will perform as skillfully as others. Once you learn you are not getting the best service from one party, you stop purchasing that party’s services and you seek out a better one.

Still, iron industrialist Joseph Wharton had other reasons for objecting to commercial colleges. He complained that commercial colleges were insufficient because they only taught a man the basics of profit-making and that there had to be more to do business than that. He had wanted to establish a school that would help businesspeople obtain the same sort of professional prestige as doctors and lawyers.  He surmised that for businesspeople to reach that vaunted status, they must also learn the art of civic engagement. For that reason, explains Wharton School research associate Steven A. Sass, Wharton “quite justifiably, complained” that the for-profit commercial colleges “trained men to become clerks, not business leaders.”

As is common for people, especially businesspeople, Joseph Wharton assumed that if there was some nonviolent problem plaguing society, then the one solution would be for the State to intrude and initiate the use of force to alter people’s peaceful behavior. For that reason, as is normal for people, Wharton concluded that being civically engaged is nearly synonymous with demanding more governmental intrusions into people’s private and peaceful affairs. As with many other Pennsylvanian industrialists in this time period, Wharton was staunchly protectionist, and he was distressed by the idea that so many people outside of Philadelphia were not. The economics professors of Boston, for instance, were much more sympathetic toward free trade, and Joseph Wharton wanted to rectify that. One of the first items on the agenda, then, was for Wharton to specify that because a true business leader prioritizes the well-being of the nation of the whole above his own petty cost-cutting, the students of his business school be taught the importance of protectionism.

He thus wrote a letter to the trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, explaining that he would be willing to provide a substantial endowment on the condition that it start a new school in his name, one for the teaching of finance and political economy and which made it a point to impart his understanding of civics to the students.

In the matter of commercial education there was formerly a system of instruction practiced in the counting-houses of the old-time merchants which may fairly be compared to the system of apprenticeship to trades. Comparatively few examples of this sort of instruction remain, nor is their deficiency made good by the so-called Commercial Colleges, for however valuable may be the knowledge which they impart it does not suffice to fit a young man for the struggle of commercial life, for wise management of a private estate, or for efficient public service. . . .

Evidently a great boon would be bestowed upon the nation if its young men of inherited intellect, means, and refinement could be more generally led so to manage their property as, while husbanding it to benefit the community or could be drawn into careers of unselfish legislation and administration.

As the possession of any power is usually accompanied by taste for its exercise, it is reasonable to expect that adequate education in the principle underlying successful business management and civil government would greatly aid in producing a class of men likely to become pillars of the State, whether in private or in public life. . . .

These considerations, joined to the belief that one of the existing great Universities, rather than as an institution of lower rank or a new independent establishment, should lead in the attempt to supply this important deficiency in our present system of education, have led to the suggestion of the project herewith submitted for the establishment of a School of Finance and Economy as a Department of the University which you now control, and which seems well suited to undertake a task so accordant with its general aims. . . .

To commemorate a family name which has been honorably borne in this community since the foundation of the city, I desire that the School shall be called "The Wharton School of Finance and Economy." [Emphases added.]

Elsewhere Wharton mentioned that economics professors who explain the benefits of free trade are a “fungus…which healthy political organisms can hardly afford to tolerate.” For that reason, writes Steven Sass, Wharton made sure that within his own educational institution “he dealt firmly with this piece of college foolery.”

The Normalization of Civic Indoctrination at the University Level
Around this same time was the emergence of what came to be called the German Historical School. As chancellor of the unified Germany, Otto von Bismarck established a managed economy where the State organized members of various industries into cartels. Bismarck also established the first Social Security system and remarked that he was not embarrassed about anyone thinking that this made him a socialist. Such German intellectuals as Georg Hegel, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Johann Gottfried Herder, Friedrich List, and Francis Lieber, all became influential arguing that the well-being of the social collective must supersede any rights of the individual in the individual’s peaceful pursuit of profit and self-interest. Many American intellectuals, such as John Dewey, visited Germany at this time and were impressed. Some of them attended the University of Halle and were taught by Johannes Conrad. Upon returning to Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, these American intellectuals decided to adapt the German system to the U.S. political system. These American intellectuals are called the German Historical School by today’s historians; they were also the founders of USA’s political Progressive movement, voicing agreement with the Grangers and the Populists who came before them and joining in on their activism.

This trend of the university being used as a vehicle for anti-capitalist indoctrination preceded the Russian Revolution by more than a decade; all this was going on before the professors became enamored with Marxism. Indeed, it was not that they fell in love with Marxism and then started the anti-capitalist indoctrination. Rather, they had already received anti-capitalist indoctrination and that is what made it easier for them to embrace Marxism when they came upon it later. As the anti-capitalist indoctrination preceded the popularity of Marxist-Leninism and was largely inspired by nineteenth-century Germany, the trend that continues today of left-wing indoctrination on campus is less Marxian than it is Bismarxian.

Joseph Wharton just loved the phenomenon of American intellectuals adopting the statist philosophy coming out of Halle -- these sorts of American instructors were exactly what he looked for. He wanted the business leaders of tomorrow to be imbued with the same sort of civic spirit as the statists of Germany. Their conspicuous protectionism especially didn’t hurt them in his eyes. Among one of the Wharton school’s first hires was Robert Ellis Thompson to teach political economy. According to Steven Sass of Wharton, Robert Ellis Thompson preached an early version of “Third Worldism” and Dependency Theory -- he said that free trade is evil because it allows rich countries like the USA to exploit the poor countries and keep them poor. As Steven Sass summarizes,

In his second line of attack on free international trade, Thompson sounded much like a modern "third-world" critic of the market economy. He argued that such commerce generated an ugly tributary system rather than an ongoing exchange among equals. According to his reading of economic history, trade accelerated the division of the world into what we today call "core" and "periphery" areas, with all the wealth, power, and skilled industry, all the extensive division of labor, concentrated in the core. . . . These shattered [poor] nations of the periphery, Thompson concluded, could now obtain industrial products only from the core, in exchange for huge amounts of toil and raw materials.

Quoting Robert Ellis Thompson himself, “The rich nation becomes richer, for a time at least, richer by the exchange; the poor nation permanently poorer.”

The Wharton School became even more politically radical upon hiring Edmund James and Simon Patten, respectively its first director and Wharton’s eventual economics chairman, both of whom had been Professor Johannes Conrad’s students in Germany. Patten considered civic engagement to be so much of a greater priority than moneymaking that, starting in 1899, he had this business school teach courses on Social Work. In fact, Simon Patten , Edmund James, and the Wharton School of Business itself were major contributors to making Social Work into an academic discipline.

Together with Richard T. Ely, with whom they had taken classes from Johannes Conrad in Germany, Simon Patten and Edmund James founded the American Economic Association . At first it might seem that the AEA was started for the purpose of helping objective scholars and scientists share objective data with one another. But to quote from a document that Simon Patten and Edmund James wrote together, the AEA’s real purpose would be to “combat the widespread view that our economic problems will solve themselves and that our laws and institutions, which at present favor individual instead of collective action, can promote a better utilization of our material resources.” Here, they brazenly acknowledge that they are trying to use an association within academia to advance what is really their ideological opinion.

All the while this was going on, Joseph Wharton affirmed his approval, especially due to Patten’s staunch protectionism. Writes Steven Sass, “Patten’s defense of the tariff gratified the school’s founder [Joseph Wharton].”

Scott Nearing was a student of Patten’s at Wharton, and then became an instructor himself. As explained by Thomas C. Leonard in his 2016 book Illiberal Reformers (and in a paper he makes available online here about how the "social Darwinism" label has historically been a package deal that Richard Hofstadter used to conflate free-marketers with eugenicists), Ely and Patten and Nearing were all politically Progressive eugenicists who favored statutory increases in the minimum wage, and they stated explicitly that they wanted this wage increase imposed for eugenicist purposes. They said that southern and eastern Europeans are genetically and racially inferior to WASPs who were the majority of the USA’s population, and the problem was that these southern and eastern Europeans insisted on migrating to the USA to seek unskilled labor. This, said Patten and Nearing and Ely, resulted in these immigrants marrying each other and having kids on U.S. soil or, even worse, marrying native-born WASPs and having mixed-race children. Either way, the conclusion was that the immigrants were polluting the USA’s gene pool. These immigrants made up for the lack of skill by agreeing to work for low pay. They would then learn on the job and gain skill, and then move on to compete against native-born WASPs for higher-paying jobs. Ely and Patten and Nearing pointed out that if the mandated minimum wage is high enough, that will price these immigrants out of the market and they won’t be able to find any jobs.

The Wharton School is not embarrassed about how its purpose has always been civic indoctrination. The history I am currently presenting comes mostly from The Pragmatic Imagination: A History of the Wharton School, 1881–1981 by Steven Sass. The book itself was published by the University of Pennsylvania -- the Wharton School’s home -- and, as I mentioned earlier, the author was a Wharton research associate when this was written and published.

Eventually, while teaching at the nation’s first university business school, Scott Nearing proclaimed, “private enterprise capitalism has created a distribution system that was unethical and anti-social.”

It was not until around 1919, years following Joseph Wharton’s death, when the school’s businessman trustees admitted that Simon Patten and Scott Nearing had gone too far, and that a business school’s main purpose should to teach students, ya know, how to make money. In his history of Wharton, Steven Sass writes disapprovingly of how the trustees got rid of Nearing and replaced Patten with a new dean, Emory R. Johnson. Then, according to a disappointed Sass, dean Johnson had the nerve to decide that the business school should place less emphasis on political science and Social Work and more emphasis on . . . business. The Wharton would not go on disappointing Steven Sass forever, though. Once Joseph Willits became Wharton’s dean, he brought in Professors Rexford Tugwell and Simon Kuznets and Lawrence Klein. Tugwell would go on to be a member of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Brain Trust. As for Kuznets and Klein, they were instrumental in persuading important people in the U.S. government to adopt Keynesian economics; Klein was a pioneer when it came to arguing in mathematical form for Keynesianism.

Thus Leaving Us Where We Are Now...
Throughout the country, other universities would open their own business schools, modeling themselves after Wharton. Not surprisingly, the template of Progressive political activism was copied in those business schools as well. As most of these universities were tax-funded, it became more and more difficult for the for-profit commercial colleges to compete. Hence, despite their proliferation throughout the nineteenth century, being able to help the likes of Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, Sr., they went into decline. Thanks to the efforts of John Sperleng and Carl Barney, for-profit universities have made something of a resurgence. It probably won’t surprise you that while attending business school, I heard many business professors speak condescendingly of the entire idea of for-profit colleges. It is fitting that, much as with the founder of the Wharton School, they don’t much appreciate competition.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Stefan Molyneux's Go-To Source on 'r/K Selection Theory' Also a Race Eugenicism Propagandist

Stuart K. Hayashi

If you have been reading this blog regularly, you have probably noticed my series exposing Stefan Molyneux's propaganda for eugenics and government-imposed racial segregation. In his propaganda, he frequently cites a self-published book titled The Evolutionary Psychology Behind Politics by Michael Trust, then calling himself "Anonymous Conservative." You can read a 29-page summary by the author himself over here.  What I have written in this blog post should not be misconstrued as a review of the book. Rather, it is a review of Molyneux's repeated citations of it and also of Michael Trust's online writings to supplement the book's theme.

 Yes, r/K Selection Theory is a legitimate model that biologists have consulted for explaining different routes that different types of species take to procreate. Unfortunately, some racist eugenicists -- who now call themselves "race realists" and explainers of "Human Bio-diversity (HBD)" -- misapply r/K Selection Theory to their asinine stereotypes about different human demographics.

What r/K Selection Theory Really Is
r/K Selection Theory has two models for how different types of species transmit their genes from one generation to the next. r-selected species go by this particular route: they are in an environment that causes a high mortality rate among them. Due to the high mortality rate, members of the species reproduce relatively early in their life cycles and have many spawn at once. Rabbits are r-selected.

By contrast, K-selected species are in an environment that is safer and more stable. The mortality rate is lower. K-selected species are able to procreate at a later stage in their life cycle and to have fewer babies. Thanks to the safety and the low mortality rate, reproducing later and having fewer babies does not pose a significant disadvantage to the species's ability to secure its long-term genetic legacy. Before they were extensively hunted for their ivory, elephants were generally K-selected.

Propagandists' Misapplication of r/K Selection Theory to Score Political Points
According to his own promotional material for the book, Michael Trust proclaims that r/K Selection Theory is applicable to human society in that some demographics of human beings behave as an r-selected species whereas other demographics behave as K-selected, and he classifies them according to his stereotype views of the sort of people who hold particular political views.

 He says that left-wing people are r-selected, and then he attaches this stereotype view that left-wing people are all mooches on welfare who only consume resources. After all, we hear the stereotype about young single (black) mothers on welfare having more and more babies to collect bigger checks. By contrast, goes this argument, right-wing people place greater value on a stable environment. Because they are more responsible, they have fewer children and tend to postpone sex until they have reached a time in their lives where they are able to take care of children.

The real point, as can be discerned from the online summaries the author supplied, is that this is Michael Trust's way of saying that left-wing people are bad guys and right-wing people are the good guys; that's pretty much it. 😑

Michael Trust's characterizations are insipid for several reasons. First, an entire species is r-selected or K-selected; the purpose of the model is not to say that some members of a particular species are r-selected whereas other members of that same species are K-selected. Secondly, the stereotypes about left-wing people and right-wing people barely apply. Many rich people who had their children very late in life -- allegedly conservative in their domestic lives -- are politically left-wing; Bill Gates is an example.

Thirdly, I don't want people to come to the fallacious conclusion that the nascent discipline of evolutionary psychology/sociobiology is about promoting old-fashioned eugenics or racism. The luminaries of evolutionary psychology have an open letter explaining that "race realism"/"Human Biodiversity" is inapplicable to what they study; evolutionary psychology is a discipline that should not be confused with this political propaganda.

Michael Trust is not the first person to misapply r/K selection theory for a right-wing statist (yes, statist, not laissez-faire) agenda. He was preceded in this by the explicitly racist eugenicist J. Philippe Rushton, who served as president of the eugenicist Pioneer Fund until his death in 2012. Indeed, Anonymous Conservative follows in Rushton's tradition in more ways than simply misunderstanding and abusing the prestige of r/K Selection Theory.

That Anonymous Conservative fails at science does not stop cranks from citing him to bolster their cases for having the State forcibly obstruct immigrants from poor countries from entering the United States, other rich Anglophone countries, and Western Europe. Together with Bill Whittle, Stefan Molyneux has made Evolutionary Psychology Behind Politics his go-to book to cite -- that is, when he is not citing the Pioneer Fund directly.

The stupid "CONFIDENTIAL" label on the thumbnail is an amusing touch.

Michael Trust Has the Same Talking Points As Stefan Molyneux
Amazon.Com lets us take a sneak peak inside the book over here. Right below the cover is the page with the usual legal disclaimers. Mr. Trust provides us his URL so that we can obtain more information about his works: www.anonymousconservative.com

The URL www.anonymousconservative.com is underlined in red on the bottom. Click on this image to see a larger version with the text more clearly visible.

All right, let's take a look at [www.anonymousconservative.com]. This shouldn't surprise you at this juncture: on this website Michael Trust, the not-so-anonymous Anonymous Conservative, makes the same eugenicist claims about race and IQ that his ideological student, Stefan Molyneux, does:

Migrants From Muslim And African Nations Are Mentally Retarded
I love this link. It rates the IQ’s of various nations. It is a guaranteed SJW [Social Justice Warrior] trigger all by itself [he means it offends people who pride themselves on being politically correct and left-wing]. . . .
According to it, at an IQ of 68, the average Somali is well into the mildly mentally retarded range. Given the fact that the smart Somalis who throw the Somalian IQ curve are probably smart enough to meet their needs and be comfortable in Somalia, I would imagine the migrants are well into the moderate to severely mentally retarded stage. I mean if you look around a country of imbeciles, and feel like you are holding the shit end of the stick, you aren’t going to be the Einstein of the group. . . . Equatorial Guinea doesn’t even make it into the sixties, and that is the average, propped up by the smart Guineans. You know it is the losers and the morons who are flooding into the west. What are their IQ’s? 40? 35? What are they going to do in the first world beyond eat newspaper and find creative places to defecate that nobody would ever think of? No wonder they are all shitting on top of the toilet seats in Europe. ...once resources grow scarce, society begins to tighten its purse strings, and the third world scum begin to victimize the innocent, the urge to purge will be undeniable. I only hope the purge includes all the SJWs [pro-immigration, left-wing Social Justice Warriors] who fought to import all these migrants at the same time.

Note the blog post's convenient failure to acknowledge that when the living standards of formerly impoverished people improve, there is a corresponding increase in the IQ scores of their children and grandchildren.

And then Anonymous Conservative/Michael Trust has this follow-up:

When Resources Are Free -- Importing Retards Edition
Think allowing low IQ third worlders to travel here on their own dime is a bad idea? [No, it's not a bad idea at all. --S.H.] Now we’re going to pay their travel costs...
We are paying the travel costs to reimport these mental retards and psychos. . . .
Rabbits [here, Michael Trust/Anonymous Conservative means left-wing people, whom he says are r-selected, as rabbits are r-selected] are actively seeking to import two types of individuals. Psychos who will enter into conflict with real Americans, thus degrading the competitiveness of real Americans, and mental retards and idiots who will never pose any threat to the r-selected liberal’s status in the country. . . . [However, Michael Trust/Anonymous Conservative here offers what he considers a silver lining:]  Once resources snap back and people begin wanting to win out over others who are seen as taking our “stuff,” the desire to import retards and imbeciles will abate significantly.

Actually, people from poor countries coming to the USA peaceably on their own dime, and supporting themselves after that, is a wonderful phenomenon that already occurs and should continue.

I have seen a very foolish right-wing propaganda page on Facebook promote Stefan Molyneux's misuse of r/K Selection Theory; that includes linking to the ridiculous Molyneux video I embedded above, and then recommending it enthusiastically.  Promoting the work of Stefan Molyneux, Michael Trust, or both, is the promotion of bigotry based on race.