Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Unsinkable EU Titanic!

Given the hysterical outrage over Brexit from Liberals and pro-EU leftists, I think it’s high time for some pro-Brexit humour.

My effort:


Steve Keen on Brexit

In the recent interview below:

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Demographics of Brexit

Some very interesting data here, if it is reliable:
Lord Ashcroft, “How the United Kingdom voted on Thursday… and Why,” Lord Ashcroft Polls, 24 June, 2016.
How did people vote by class?

The breakdown:
Middle Class:
AB: Leave: 43%; Remain: 57%
C1: Leave: 51%; Remain: 49%

Working Class
C2: Leave: 64%; Remain: 36%
DE: Leave: 64%; Remain: 36%

AB: Higher & intermediate managerial, administrative, professional occupations
C1: Supervisory, clerical & junior managerial, administrative, professional occupations
C2: Skilled manual occupations
DE: Semi-skilled & unskilled manual occupations, Unemployed and lowest grade occupations.
Lord Ashcroft, “How the United Kingdom voted on Thursday… and Why,” Lord Ashcroft Polls, 24 June, 2016.
The British working class (C2 + DE) was solidly behind Brexit: 64% of them voted “leave.”

57% of the upper middle class and middling middle class (AB) voted for remain.

The lower middle class (C1) voted to leave by a narrow margin at 51%.

And what about the breakdown by political party?:
Conservative: Leave: 58% Remain: 42%
Labour: Leave: 37% Remain: 63%
Liberal Democrats: Leave: 30% Remain: 70%
UKIP: Leave: 96% Remain: 4%.
Most Conservative party supporters voted to leave: a Conservative party government that does not deliver on Brexit will make its voters very angry.

An important point: it seems 63%, a majority, of Labour party supporters voted to remain (as pointed out here). A strange result?

Not really – because the modern Labour party has long since ceased to be the party of the working class.

As pointed out here, which cites Robert Garner and Richard Kelly’s book British Political Parties Today, Labour lost a great deal of its working class support by the 1990s, and, remarkably, the process had begun gradually from the 1970s and continued in the 2000s.

From the 2000s, New Labour has been a middle class party in a double sense: reliant more and more on middle class votes and run by a middle class elite, with a political agenda of cultural leftism (e.g., identity politics) and neoliberalism-lite (not to mention warmongering). Even in the membership of the party, the middle class is increasingly important.

What were the reasons for voting Brexit? They were as follows:
“Nearly half (49%) of leave voters said the biggest single reason for wanting to leave the EU was ‘the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK’. One third (33%) said the main reason was that leaving ‘offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.’ Just over one in eight (13%) said remaining would mean having no choice ‘about how the EU expanded its membership or its powers in the years ahead.’”
Lord Ashcroft, “How the United Kingdom voted on Thursday… and Why,” Lord Ashcroft Polls, 24 June, 2016.
So Brexit voters, including the majority of the working class, want (1) Britain political sovereignty restored, and (2) control over immigration (in fact, the other evidence that most British people want immigration sharply reduced is pretty stunning (see here, here, and here).

This is also confirmed in the Lord Ashcroft Poll: 80% of those who voted leave thought immigration was “a force for ill.”

It’s no good trying to hide this, or sweep it under the carpet.

A British political party that does not offer Britain (1) political sovereignty from the EU (2) control over immigration is grossly out of touch with what the majority of British voters want, no matter whether its own supporters were pro-Brexit, as in the case of the Liberal Democrats and Labour.

Monday, June 27, 2016

New Labour Tears should be a Joy to the Real Left

In one of the best and laugh-out-loud funny moments of commentary on Brexit:

Yes, Peter, it’s good to know they were in tears – all those scumbag New Labour neoliberals, career politician hacks, and Blairite war criminals. An actual sensible Left in Britain ought to be overjoyed at this development, for the modern Labour party is mostly an arrogant, out of touch, middle class party of neoliberals, regressive leftists and purveyors of poisonous identity politics.

I’m not sure if the Bennite wing of the party was in tears (especially since this is the natural home of the small group of Eurosceptics or even fiercely anti-EU people), but if they were they need to face reality quickly and rethink their whole attitude to Brexit.

Sargon of Akkad does Brexit. Watch for a good laugh:

Bill Mitchell on Brexit

Very nice analysis from Bill Mitchell here:
Bill Mitchell, “Why the Leave Victory is a Great Outcome,” Billy Blog, June 27, 2016.
Bill recounts his experiences after strongly supporting the Brexit vote:
“On Friday morning (Australian time), as it became obvious that the Leave vote would win, I tweeted that it ‘Looks like it will be a great result for UK. Now British labour has to abandon its neoliberalism & provide people with a progressive future’.

I was met with immediate hostility by so-called progressives tweeting that I was ‘delusional’ and that ‘you don’t know the UK very well, do you?’ and that I was a ‘billy goat’ (meaning stupid).

More nasty E-mails followed as the ‘progressive liberal elites’ interrupted their consumption of their cafe lattes and croissants to tell me that the hoi polloi outside of London didn’t have sufficient education to understand what they were doing or they were just mindless racists.

The Remain progressives, were by implication, full of knowledge and wisdom and non-racist.

I wonder how many of these ‘liberal elite’ types with good incomes and stable jobs had opened their well-appointed London homes to the migrants!

But, at any rate, I was told, categorically, in non-elite language, it seems, that anyone who feared for their jobs and opposed a flood of non-unionised workers who would work below minimum wages coming into their local labour markets, were despicable racists who should not be able to vote on these important issues.

Ok! Then who should vote? Certainly not the hoi polloi, it seems.”
Bill Mitchell, “Why the Leave Victory is a Great Outcome,” Billy Blog, June 27, 2016.
You’re lucky you weren’t called even worse names, Bill.

The Left’s ability to calmly and rationally discuss important subjects like this is at a low point, and truly disgusting to have to watch.

The mentality of a lot of university-educated, middle class, left-wing young people now has become this:

Steve Keen talks post-Brexit here:
Steve Keen, “What Next After Brexit?,” Forbes, 27 June, 2016.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Brexit: A Working Class Revolt driving Arrogant, Fantasy-World, Bourgeois Leftists Insane

This is becoming more and more clear now.

And now there is a full scale New Labour revolt against Jeremy Corbyn going on as we speak.

If Jeremy Corbyn is smart, he will now (1) come out as strongly anti-EU, (2) purge the Blairite and New Labour scum from the leadership, and (3) finally reject open borders and catastrophic non-EU mass immigration too, and make a massive bid to win back the working class. But I am not holding my breath on (3).

Free Movement of Capital + Open Borders = Neoliberalism

How many times do you have to have it explained to you?

Repeat 10 times before going to bed:

Free Movement of Capital + Open Borders = Neoliberalism.

In extreme form, it would be laissez faire capitalism of the worst type, which Murray Rothbard, in his heyday, would have salivated over.

There is nothing wrong in principle with carefully controlled immigration, and it is a perfectly good left-wing point of view. The current generation of young leftists educated in Postmodernist, regressive left, open borders nonsense needs to understand this ASAP.

Some of our best, most decent and brilliant left-wing politicians understand the truth, but you just haven’t bothered to listen:

See here:
“Mass Immigration is the Last Fraud of Neoliberalism,” March 24, 2016.

“Marx on Mass Immigration and Capitalism,” November 13, 2015.

“My Question to the Open Borders and pro-Mass Immigration Left,” June 14, 2016.

“Open Borders within and into Europe is a Disaster for Social Democracy,” November 26, 2015.

“Ralph Nader on Open Borders and Mass Immigration,” December 30, 2015.

“A Neoliberal Vision for Europe,” January 22, 2016.

“Murray Rothbard loved Open Borders and Mass Immigration,” February 28, 2016.

“Open Borders in Europe means More Neoliberalism,” January 21, 2016.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Some Left-Wing Reactions to Brexit

Of course, we’ve been flooded by them now. I’m afraid most of the left fails to properly understand Brexit. Yes, the anger at the economic malaise since 2008 has had something to do with it, and no doubt the sense of anger that democracy is being stolen by the EU as well. But there is something missing from the various analyses.

A sample follows.

Yanis Varoufakis, whose pro-EU dream world I have no time for, weighs in here. He says that, while campaigning for the UK to remain, arrayed against him were the UK Treasury and the City.

Umm, what? They were both pro-EU. You were, broadly speaking, in the same camp as them, Yanis.

Matias Vernengo gives his thoughts here, and argues that neoliberalism looks resurgent to him, especially in Latin America.

He states:
“At a minimum the European Union provided an environment in which people could move freely, in which petty nationalism gave way to acceptance of foreigners and immigrants, something particularly relevant with the refugee crisis in the neighboring region.”
The free movement of people by open borders combined with mass immigration from the Third World has not made people in Europe give up nationalism for “acceptance of foreigners and immigrants” – precisely the opposite has happened. It’s the bitter rejection of open borders by ordinary people that was the main issue driving this Brexit result.

Mark Blyth gives his thoughts here:

Well, yes, this is all very well, Mark, but have you not considered that genuinely decent and normal people voted against the EU because they don’t like the terrible economic and social effects of mass immigration?

Over at Pravda – err, I mean the Guardian, that bastion of left-wing, bubble-world, middle-class delusion, we have this piece by Alan Travis, in which he argues that it was only “fear” of immigration that drove the leave vote, but, inexplicably, not immigration itself!

This is the issue that won’t go away. The mainstream Left is so isolated, arrogant and divorced from reality on this issue, it stinks to high heaven.

However, you can already see a change is underway. Over at Counterpunch, which is firmly left-wing, there is this breath of fresh air, which actually goes so far as to state the truth: yes, it’s the immigration, stupid.

Finally, this is some of the finest analysis of Brexit I have seen so far:

Friday, June 24, 2016

Britain votes Brexit!!

What a wonderful day! I have to say that, privately, I was pessimistic and thought “remain” would win, but then this stunning result happened. This is the best political news in years and a savage blow to neoliberalism.

52% of those who voted chose Brexit, compared with 48% for remain.

See the news here and here.

More news as it comes in!

Update 1
It seems that Scotland largely voted to remain in the EU. But it would be madness – sheer madness! – for Scotland to leave Britain now, what with the low oil prices and the failing, vicious pro-austerity EU. Scotland would destroy itself by attaching itself to the EU. Better for Scotland to remain and work for social democratic policies within Britain.

Update 2
An intelligent, badly needed piece of advice for the Left in Britain from Neil Wilson here. MMT and Post Keynesian economics will lead the way in an economic alternative for Europe.

Update 3
It may well be that the next victim of the Brexit victory after Cameron will be... Jeremy Corbyn!, as a rogues’ gallery of (what to me look like) pro-EU Labour hacks or New Labour scumbags blame him for not having persuaded enough of the working class to support an EU whose policies are class war against ordinary people.

Update 4
More serious analysis of possible economic consequences of Brexit here, namely, that currency depreciation might cause inflation of import goods prices and inflation generally leading to a fall in living standards, especially if combined with capital flight causing a balance of payments constraint. This is bound up with the problem that the UK seems to have a lack of trade price elasticities caused by large-scale importation of so many factor inputs, given the deindustrialisaton of the economy since the time of the Thatcher. Thatcher buggered up Britain’s economy by gutting manufacturing and financialising the economy, and its weakness now is a consequence of this. See more here. It will be vital to look at sterling depreciation and UK inflation in the coming years.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Why Keynes would have voted Brexit

If the Master were here...

Just as Keynes condemned the interwar gold exchange standard in 1931, it is unlikely he would have had anything but contempt for the modern EU:

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The EU Titanic!

Time for Britain to get off and abandon ship!:

Jeremy Corbyn’s Fantasy World

In the video below, Andrew Marr asks Corbyn whether open borders has become extremely unpopular with Labour’s working class voters, which is a plain truth (here, here, here, and here).

His answer?

Corbyn’s response: no, it’s all a conspiracy by the right-wing newspapers and (apparently) there are no significant downsides to mass immigration of any kind (such as, for example, overpopulation, soaring housing and rent costs, holding down of real wages, competition for scarce employment, and destruction of a nation’s cultural and social cohesion).

Corbyn is also delusional if he thinks effective Keynesian fiscal policy will be possible in Britain with an open border policy, for the more prosperous a country becomes, the more it will simply become a magnet for mass immigration from Europe, which in the process will defeat the whole purpose of fiscal policies to create full employment.

Corbyn’s defence of free movement of people and capital within the EU is a defence of the worst aspects of neoliberalism, being, as it is, a central plank of laissez faire ideological poison and the destruction of the state’s right to regulate and control capital.

That Corbyn is being passed off as a “socialist” marks the final transition of UK politics into farce. First, it was New Labour that betrayed Britain with its neoliberalism and war criminality (the full extent of the betrayal can be read in Tom Bower’s Broken Vows. Tony Blair: The Tragedy of Power. Faber & Faber, London, 2016).

Now the Corbyn-led Labour party is in favour of devastating policies that will strip Britain of its political independence.

Even worse, Corbyn admits that there is no upper limit to mass immigration into Britain while it’s in the EU, and, once again (apparently), there must be nothing but open borders *forever* in Britain.

Corbyn represents the TINA of the left.

This man’s mad fantasies will ruin the Labour party. In fact, the mainstream left in Europe is doomed if it continues to be run by people like Corbyn.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Frankenstein EU Monster must Go

See also here.

Time to end it before it goes on the rampage again! It’s already destroyed Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy. Who is next?

And the delusional pro-EU left thinks they can “reform” this monster. Good luck with that, Yanis.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Bill Mitchell on the Euro, Austerity and MMT

Nice, short interviews.

Patrick Collinson on Brexit

From the Guardian:
Patrick Collinson, “I like the EU, but I’m voting out,” Guardian, 18 June 2016.
It’s surprising to see something in the Guardian that is both pro-Brexit and anti-open borders, but times... well, they are a-changin’.

Last year I pointed out that open borders is, traditionally, an unhinged anarcho-capitalist and laissez faire libertarian idea (here and here) and mass immigration is the last fraud of neoliberalism (see here and here).
Of course, this is the elephant in the room. Few people on the left want to talk about it, because there is a Stalinist culture of political correctness on the left on this issue.

Quite simply, a viable left in the 21st century must be strongly opposed to open borders, because the issue is causing such voter discontent (and not just in Europe) that people will be driven to the populist right and far right in larger and larger numbers (here, here, here, here).

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Keynes celebrates the End of the Gold Standard

In this rare film of him from October 1931 after the UK abandoned the interwar gold exchange standard (on September 19, 1931):

The Eurozone and EU are the new “gold standard” and “gold cage” of today. If he were here today, I’d like to think Keynes would have been pro-Brexit.

There is also an amusing footnote to this 1930s piece of history.

Ludwig von Mises, prize buffoon of the Austrian school, made a prediction about what would happen after the UK abandoned the gold shackle:
“In September 1931, Ursula Hicks (wife of John Hicks) was attending Mises’ seminar in Vienna when England suddenly announced it was going off the gold exchange standard. Mises predicted the British pound would be worthless within a week, which never happened. Thereafter, Mises always expressed deep skepticism about the ability of economists to forecast.” (Skousen 2009: 286, n. 2).
Mises’ prediction was falsified. By contrast, Keynes was vindicated in predicting that British trade would benefit from abandoning the gold exchange standard and from the currency depreciation that resulted.

Skousen, M. 2009. The Making of Modern Economics: The Lives and Ideas of the Great Thinkers (2nd edn.), M.E. Sharpe, Armonk, N.Y.

Skidelsky on Keynes’ Life

Robert Skidelsky talks about Keynes’ life from his three volume biography, the last volume of which is John Maynard Keynes: Fighting for Freedom, 1937–1946 (vol. 3; London, 2000). Skidelsky here, however, muddles up some of his economic theory and seems to identify neoclassical synthesis Keynesianism with Keynes’ economics.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Steve Keen: Real Media Interview

Nice interview of Steve Keen on the catastrophe of private debt and the rentier economy.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

What just happened in Germany?

The University of Leipzig has recently carried out a survey of 2,240 German people, apparently in an attempt to understand why large numbers of Germans voted for the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the recent state elections back in March of this year.

I am unclear whether this can be defended as a large enough and proper representative sample of general opinion, but see here, here, here, here, and here.

Amongst their findings is: 50% of those surveyed complained that they sometimes felt like “foreigners in their own country.” The percentage rises to 85.9% amongst voters for Alternative for Germany (AfD) (see here in German).

About 40% said people of a certain Third World religion should be forbidden from migrating to Germany.

Of those surveyed, 49.6% said that Roma Gypsies should be banned from inner cities.

11% said Jews “have too much influence.”

Could it be that open borders, the EU, and failed neoliberalism are driving Germans to hold more and more illiberal, intolerant and extreme opinions?

Maybe it’s time to terminate the EU, neoliberalism and mass immigration?

Lexit the Movie: The Left Case for Brexit

Not bad, but pretty poor production values.

And, finally, the left recognises that open borders are catastrophic. Unfortunately, Galloway confused budget deficits with current account deficits, however.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Recent Work on the Genetic History of Europeans

The science of genetics has been coming along by astonishing leaps and bounds in the last 10 years, and you can read some of the fascinating research findings in Gibbons (2014), Allentoft et al. (2015), Günther et al. (2015), Mathieson et al. (2015) and Hofmanová et al. (2016). Many of these studies are based on gene sequencing of ancient DNA in the remains of people who died thousands of years ago.

In terms of its population movements and descent, the facts appear to be that modern Europeans are a three-fold mix of three ancient populations as follows:
(1) Palaeolithic and Mesolithic hunter-gatherers who lived in Europe from c. 45,000 years ago;

(2) Neolithic Anatolian and Aegean farmers who migrated into Europe from c. 6,500 BC–4,000 BC, and

(3) Indo-European-speaking Yamnaya-culture people who swept into Europe from the Russian steppe from 3,000 to 2,000 BC.
We can examine the history of these groups in greater detail as follows:
(1) Palaeolithic and Mesolithic hunter-gatherers from c. 45,000 years ago
These were the earliest members of Homo sapiens in Europe; they were a hunter-gatherer people who lived in Europe from about 45,000 years ago during the end of the last Ice Age (which lasted from about 108,000 to 10,000 BC). They came from the Middle East along a Mediterranean route. But Europe must have been sparsely populated by these people: in essence, the earliest European hunter-gatherers must have been a relatively small population. These Mesolithic hunter-gatherers have contributed to modern European genetics, though to a different extent in different regions.

It appears that some of them interbred with the Neanderthals (who had in turn evolved from Homo erectus populations) (see here). But, even if true, the Neanderthal genetic contribution to modern Europeans is low, maybe as low as 1.5–2.1% (Prüfer et al. 2014). (For a useful family tree, see here).

There also seems to be some evidence that the mysterious Homo sapiens denisova lived in Europe in the Stone age.

At any rate, the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic hunter-gatherers appear to have had dark skin, which lightened by Darwinian evolution over the centuries, but perhaps accelerated by the adoption of farming which involved a reduced intake of vitamin D. Blue eyes may have evolved amongst these early European hunter-gatherers as well (see here and here).

(2) Neolithic Anatolian farmers from c. 6,500 BC–4,000 BC
From c. 6,500 BC–4,000 BC, Neolithic Anatolian farmers from northern Greece and north-western Turkey started migrating into central Europe through the Balkan route and then by the Mediterranean route to the Iberian Peninsula. They brought sedentary agricultural communities and new domestic animals and plants. Modern southern Europeans still seem to have inherited much more of their genes from these people. The original Anatolian farmer phenotype was probably similar to that of the modern people of Sardinia (Hofmanová et al. 2016: 3), and, generally speaking, the swarthy phenotype of southern Europeans is the legacy of their greater descent from the Neolithic Anatolian farmers as opposed to northern Europeans. Genetic analysis of ancient farmers seems to show that after their arrival in Europe the Neolithic Anatolian farmers only mixed infrequently and at low levels with the hunter-gatherers, but increasingly from the later Neolithic period (Hofmanová et al. 2016: 4).

(3) Indo-European-speaking Yamnaya-culture people from 3,000 to 2,000 BC
From 3,000 to 2,000 BC, there was massive migration of people from the South Russian steppe into central Europe, and then into northern and western Europe, and these people were of the Yamnaya culture north of the Black Sea. These people were almost certainly proto-Indo-European speakers (Balter and Gibbons 2015), cattle herders, and probably had a phenotype with brown eyes, pale skin, and taller height. It is also interesting – and not surprising – that the Caucasian Yamnaya-culture people have bequeathed to modern Europeans the trait of persistent adult lactose tolerance (Allentoft et al. 2015: 171). The migration of the Yamnaya-culture people west and east spread the Indo-European languages (Allentoft et al. 2015: 171).
All modern indigenous Europeans (e.g., those not descended from the later invaders from the Eurasian steppe like the Magyars or other later arrivals) have a mix of genes from these three types of ancient people (see here). The distinctive European traits of blue eyes (from hunter gatherers), lactose tolerance (from the Yamnaya people) and fairer skin spread by interbreeding and natural selection (see here and here).

The genetic contribution of the Neolithic Anatolian farmers is important, but admittedly less so as you move northwards in Europe. However, even the Scandinavians have significant descent from the Neolithic Anatolian farmers, and even a marginal population like the Irish do as well (see here).

The further north you go in Europe, it appears the more is the genetic contribution of the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic hunter-gatherers.

And virtually everyone has some descent from the Indo-European-speaking Yamnaya-culture people. Linguistically, this third group is fundamentally important because virtually everyone in Europe now speaks an Indo-European language (apart from the Basques, Hungarians, Finns, Estonians, and other minor people).

The Indo-European Yamnaya-culture people of the steppe had themselves mixed with a population of hunter-gatherers isolated in the Caucasus region, so that the early Yamnaya pastoralists were a mix of Eastern European hunter gatherers and another group of hunter-gatherers from the Caucasus. These people then migrated back into Europe in a mass movement from c. 3,000 to 2,000 BC (Balter and Gibbons 2015: 815). For example, they flooded into eastern and central Europe and created the Corded Ware culture (c. 3100–1900 BC) (see the map here). Their descendants appear to have arrived in Greece from 2400–2000 BC bringing with them the Proto-Greek language that would evolve into Mycenaean Greek and then the later Greek dialects of Classical Greece.

Another fascinating part of forgotten history is how the Indo-European languages have displaced what almost certainly must have been non-Indo-European languages in Europe spoken by the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic hunter-gatherers and Neolithic Anatolian farmers and their descendants.

For example, as late as the early Roman Republic there appears to have been a large surviving group of non-Indo-European languages in Europe as follows:
(1) the proposed Vasconic group of languages, including the extinct Aquitanian language (from which the modern survivor Basque is derived), the Iberian languages, Tartessian, and possibly the Lusitanian language (see the map here);

(2) the Tyrsenian languages, including Etruscan, Raetic, and the Lemnian language;

(3) the Paleo-Sardinian language, the Sicanian language, the hypothetical non-Indo-European German substrate language, the pre-Greek substrate language, and the Eteocretan language, and perhaps the Pictish language.
At any rate, it is now firmly accepted that the ancient non-Indo-European Aquitanian language was the direct ancestor of modern Basque, and Aquitanian was spoken in large areas of south-western France, northern Spain and in the Pyrenees (Trask 1995: 87; see the map here). In turn, it would appear plausible that the ancient non-Indo-European Iberian language in Spain was related to ancient Aquitanian, particularly on the basis of recent evidence relating to the numerals of both languages (and, more speculatively, to Tartessian as well).

These mysterious languages seem to have been the descendants of the ancient language of the Neolithic Anatolian farmers.

Of course, some scholars like Colin Renfrew have proposed the Anatolian hypothesis and argued that the Neolithic Anatolian farmers already spoke Proto-Indo-European and hence brought Indo-European languages to Europe (see Renfrew 2003).

If true, then the Indo-European Yamnaya-culture people must have brought a later offshoot, perhaps a proto-Balto-Slavic language (Balter and Gibbons 2015: 815), and the non-Indo-European language substrate in Europe must have been descended from the languages of the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic hunter-gatherers.

That would make the Basque language a truly ancient language descended from the ancient Mesolithic hunter-gatherer languages of Europe.

The question of the origins and classification of Basque is very interesting indeed. Anyone who has a decent knowledge of European languages can see that Basque is an alien and very weird language, unconnected to any other language in Europe, as, for instance, in a random selection of Basque words:
Arrigorriagakoa (a surname)
Goikoetxea (“high lying house,” a surname)
Etxandi (another surname)
ilargi (“moon”)
arrantzale (“fisherman”)
eguzki (“sun”).
These words look bizarre to the modern European eye because Basque is clearly derived from some ancient non-Indo-European language. (In fact, having myself done some ancient Near Eastern languages, these words remind me of Sumerian or Akkadian).

But recent genetic study of both ancient and modern Basques suggests that they are mostly descended from the ancient Neolithic Anatolian farmers and so their mysterious language may well be derived from the ancient Neolithic Anatolian farmer language of the Middle East (Günther et al. 2015: 11920). If so, this suggests that the Anatolian hypothesis is wrong: the Yamnaya-culture people from the steppe were the proto-Indo-European speakers from whose language all other Indo-European languages in Europe have derived.

Allentoft, Morten E. et al. 2015. “Population Genomics of Bronze Age Eurasia,” Nature 522 (11 June): 167–172.

Balter, Michael and Ann Gibbons. 2015. “Indo-European Languages tied to Herders,” Science 347.6224: 814–815.

Gibbons, Ann. 2014. “Three-Part Ancestry for Europeans,” Science 345.6201 (5 September): 1106–1107.

Günther, Torsten et al. 2015. “Ancient Genomes link Early Farmers from Atapuerca in Spain to Modern-Day Basques,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112.38: 11917–11922.

Haak, Wolfgang. 2015. “Massive Migration from the Steppe was a Source for Indo-European Languages in Europe,” Nature 522: 207–211.

Hofmanová, Zuzana et al. 2016. “Early Farmers from across Europe directly descended from Neolithic Aegeans,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, June 6

Jones, Eppie R. et al. 2015. “Upper Palaeolithic Genomes reveal Deep Roots of Modern Eurasians,” Nature Communications 6

Mathieson, Iain et al. 2015. “Genome-Wide Patterns of Selection in 230 Ancient Eurasians,” Nature 528.7583: 499–503.

Prüfer, K. et al. 2014. “The Complete Genome Sequence of a Neanderthal from the Altai Mountains,” Nature 505.7481: 43–49.

Renfrew, Colin. 2003. “Time Depth, Convergence Theory, and Innovation in Proto-Indo-European: ‘Old Europe’ as a PIE Linguistic Area,” in Alfred Bammesberger and Theo Vennemann (eds.), Languages in Prehistoric Europe. Universitätsverlag, Heidelberg. 17–48.

Trask, Robert Lawrence. 1995. “Origins and Relatives of the Basque Language: Review of the Evidence,” in José Ignacio Hualde, Joseba A. Lakarra, R. L. Trask (eds), Towards a History of the Basque Language. J. Benjamins, Amsterdam and Philadelphia. 65–99.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

My Question to the Open Borders and pro-Mass Immigration Left

Posed on Twitter here.

It is this:

Also, let us say – for the sake of argument – that the Soviet Union had much better GDP growth than it actually had, and was an attractive destination for Third World and First World immigrants. Should the Soviet Union have had an open borders policy that allowed a flood of people to overwhelm its welfare state, its public infrastructure, its housing capacity and social cohesion? Or should the government have allowed huge, unending, yearly mass immigration that effectively would have done the same thing?

No takers yet!!

Why Britain entered the EEC

Sir Humphrey Appleby, from Yes, Minister, explains:

And now the EU is a right cock-up, it’s time for Britain to leave!!* Therefore if you are British, vote Brexit on June 23.

And, moreover, it looks like the “Leave” camp may have taken the lead in the polls.

*P.S. for the blockheads this post is in a facetious spirit – though not the plea to vote Brexit.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Boylan and O’Gorman’s “Kaldor on Debreu: The Critique of General Equilibrium Reconsidered”

Thomas A. Boylan and Paschal F. O’Gorman’s paper “Kaldor on Debreu: The Critique of General Equilibrium Reconsidered” (2009) makes rewarding reading.

Boylan and O’Gorman review Kaldor’s work on general equilibrium in, for example, Kaldor (1972) and (1985), in which Kaldor had argued that the repudiation of Walrasian general equilibrium theory, especially as newly expounded in the models of Debreu and others (e.g., see Debreu 1959), was a precondition for any proper and truly empirical economic science.

More than this, Kaldor thought Walrasian general equilibrium theory was the greatest obstacle to the development of economics as a science (Boylan and O’Gorman 2009: 448; Kaldor 1972: 1237).

Boylan and O’Gorman briefly mention Kaldor’s methodological critique of general equilibrium theory, which has been interpreted by Lawson (1989) as within critical realism.

But that is not their concern. They state the fundamental issue on which they focus as follows:
“In this paper we do not propose to revisit these debates, but rather to engage with an aspect of Kaldor’s call for the ‘demolition’ of general equilibrium theory. The aspect of the problem that arguably troubled Kaldor most profoundly arose from the colonization of economics by mathematics in the neo-Walrasian research programme that arose after the Second World War. According to Kaldor, economists sought to create a ‘mathematical crystal’ (the expression is borrowed from Heisenberg) a logical system ‘which cannot be further improved or perfected’ (Kaldor, 1985, p. 60).” (Boylan and O’Gorman 2009: 448).
This occurred after World War II and involved the application of Bourbakist formalism by Debreu to Walrasian general equilibrium theory, a process which was connected to the intellectual history of the first half of the 20th century and especially the philosophy of mathematics (Boylan and O’Gorman 2009: 448).

Kaldor himself argued that other Post Keynesians focused too much on criticisms of marginal productivity theory to the detriment of other important critiques of neoclassical theory (Boylan and O’Gorman 2009: 450).

Boylan and O’Gorman then turn to Nicholas Kaldor’s marvellous little monograph Economics without Equilibrium (Armonk, N.Y., 1985).

They point out that Kaldor’s critique extended to a fundamental attack on neoclassical price theory, which, when compared to the real world reality of cost-based mark-up prices, is shown to be a fiction. And real world supply and demand, in contrast to marginalist theory, tends to be equated by use of inventory stock and management of capacity utilisation (for a summary of Kaldor’s Economics without Equilibrium, see here).

General equilibrium (GE) theory was invented by Walras, but found one of its major 20th century developers in the French economist Gérard Debreu’s (1921–2004).

At the time when Kaldor was writing, Gérard Debreu’s Theory of Value: An Axiomatic Analysis of Economic Equilibrium (1959) was a notable exposition of the mathematised Walrasian general equilibrium theory. Debreu had adopted Cantorian set theory in his mathematisation and proof of general equilibrium (Boylan and O’Gorman 2009: 452).

Debreu was influenced by the Bourbaki school of mathematics that upheld mathematics as an autonomous discipline essentially divorced from the real world (Davidson 2009: 170). That Bourbakianism had in turn been influenced by the mathematical formalism of David Hilbert (see more on that here) (Boylan and O’Gorman 2009: 453). An interesting point is that mathematical formalism is anti-realist (which means that anti-realists think human beings invent mathematics or construct it in some sense: mathematical entities are therefore not independent of conscious rational minds capable of understanding and perceiving these concepts).

As Kaldor noted, Debreu’s book does not purport to be an empirical description of reality, as, for instance, in describing how prices are actually formed in the real world (Kaldor 1972: 1237).

GE theory is an example of the aprioristic or deductive method in economics: a formal system in which a set of theorems are logically deduced from certain assumptions (Kaldor 1972: 1237). But there is no real attempt to verify whether the assumptions are true, or whether its system of established equilibrium prices has any explanatory power or even relevance to actual market economies (Kaldor 1972: 1238).

As Boylan and O’Gorman rightly emphasise, the axiomatic and deductive method of mathematised Walrasian general equilibrium theory also begins with outrageously anti-empirical axioms (or starting assumptions), which are either unprovable or blatantly falsified by reality (Boylan and O’Gorman 2009: 450).

In this respect, although Boylan and O’Gorman do not mention this, the deductivist general equilibrium method is a type of apriorism. The ultimate end of apriorism as a method – when combined with the epistemology of Kant – is the insanity of Austrian praxeology, whose inferences are totally immune to any empirical refutation of any kind, as Ludwig von Mises (with a straight face) contended:
“Praxeology is a theoretical and systematic, not a historical, science. Its scope is human action as such, irrespective of all environmental, accidental, and individual circumstances of the concrete acts. Its cognition is purely formal and general without reference to the material content and the particular features of the actual case. It aims at knowledge valid for all instances in which the conditions exactly correspond to those implied in its assumptions and inferences. Its statements and propositions are not derived from experience. They are, like those of logic and mathematics, a priori. They are not subject to verification or falsification on the ground of experience and facts. They are both logically and temporally antecedent to any comprehension of historical facts” (Mises 2008: 32).

The theorems attained by correct praxeological reasoning are not only perfectly certain and incontestable, like the correct mathematical theorems. They refer, moreover, with the full rigidity of their apodictic certainty and incontestability to the reality of action as it appears in life and history. Praxeology conveys exact and precise knowledge of real things.” (Mises 2008: 39).
Was the formalist program of Hilbert (as passing into the Bourbaki school of mathematics and Debreu’s mathematised Walrasian general equilibrium theory) any better than the praxeological epistemology of Mises?

That is a tricky question, but at least Mises thought his starting axioms were true of the real world because he thought they were synthetic a priori – whereas mathematical formalism holds its axioms and derived theorems as an “empty or meaningless, purely formal system” (Boylan and O’Gorman 2009: 453).

In other words, this is an analytic a priori system with a purely abstract or imaginary character (even for starting axioms), whose application to the real world is not even actively asserted – let alone proved!!

A case in point was the use of the concept of “Cantorian actual infinity” derived by Debreu from Cantor’s set theory (Boylan and O’Gorman 2009: 455–458). This was used by Debreu to prove his general equilibrium solution, but Cantorian actual infinity is the very definition of a totally abstract, anti-empirical, and imaginary concept. It’s 100% pure mathematics which always, epistemologically speaking, remains an analytic a priori system.

Boylan and O’Gorman conclude:
“… there is no justification for this economic interpretation of Debreu’s ingenious piece of Cantorian pure mathematics. Debreu’s proof does not support this economic interpretation. Debreu’s so-called economic equilibrium exists only in the domain of Cantorian actual infinity, which transcends any process limited to socio-historical time. More precisely, since the method of the proof of existence is inherently non-constructive, i.e. cannot be carried out in a finite number of steps taken one at a time, Debreu’s equilibrium cannot be given either a finite or a potentially infinite interpretation. Debreu’s equilibrium point is merely shown to exist in a non-temporal, actual infinite Platonic domain, which cannot in any finite effective way be realized in the socio-historical world in which economic agents operate. Alternatively, in the language of the
Hilbertian formalist, there is no evidence to support the assumption that the logical possibility, established by Debreu’s proof of existence, could be realized in any socio-economic system where real historical time operates.” (Boylan and O’Gorman 2009: 458).
That is to say, Debreu’s equilibrium solution has validity only in the world of pure mathematics, nowhere else (Boylan and O’Gorman 2009: 459).

Clearly, this won’t do. In fact, the whole mathematical formalist program as spun out by Debreu as the foundation of modern Walrasian general equilibrium theory won’t do either as a method for an empirical science – it belongs in a lunatic asylum.

As Kaldor complained, such “pure theory is not [sc. even] intended to describe reality” (Kaldor 1972: 1238).

It is not often you discover an epistemological method more half-baked than Mises’ praxeology, but there you go.

But, to return to Kaldor, he identified the major unverified and plainly unrealistic assumptions of neoclassical theory as follows:
(1) that producers maximise profits;
(2) the existence of perfect competition;
(3) linear-homogenous and continuously differentiable production functions;
(4) impersonal market relations;
(5) information communicated by market clearing prices; and
(6) perfect knowledge of all relevant prices and perfect foresight. (Kaldor 1972: 1238).
Another delusional assumption is that real economies can approach, or are close to, a state of equilibrium (Kaldor 1972: 1239).

Yet another is that a convergence to an equilibrium state is governed by exogenous forces such as essentially unchanging production patterns over time (Kaldor 1972: 1244). But the reality is that important sectors are subject to increasing returns to scale (Kaldor 1972: 1244), as Kaldor’s teacher the Marshallian Allyn A. Young at the London School of Economics (LSE) had taught him (see Young 1928 and Sraffa 1926).

Once increasing returns to scale are assumed, a dynamic system has endogenous forces that can drive it away from equilibrium.

Kaldor rightly rejects all these neoclassical assumptions as untrue, and concludes that the main theorems of neoclassical theory “cannot possibly hold in reality” (Kaldor 1972: 1240). Boylan and O’Gorman (2009: 454) agree and charge that “Debreu’s Theory of Value, seen as a work aimed at attaining the highest standards of logico-mathematical rigour and precision, is a purely formal uninterpreted system having no connection whatsoever to any branch of reality in general or real economic processes in particular.”

The upshot of all this, Kaldor argued, is that an empirical economic science needs to be built on realistic starting assumptions such as “stylized facts” (Boylan and O’Gorman 2009: 451–452).

The subsequent fate of Walrasian general equilibrium theory was to construct models so bizarrely contrary to the real world that one can only stand in awe at its ability to be disconnected from reality in its insulated madhouse (for example, no real world money in its models!).

But this also has a long history in the West, and can be best described as Platonic mathematical mysticism – an intellectual tradition which thinks that the beautiful and eternal truths of mathematics or geometry reveal the true nature of reality, whereas the world of woe and pain we live in happens to be just an imperfect reflection of the Platonic Realm of the Forms. That is to say, mathematics is truth; everything else is just a pale reflection of it (as pointed out here).

(Admittedly the Platonists were mathematical realists, and mathematical formalists are anti-realists, but let us put this arcane point aside.)

If the real world does not work in the way that a neoclassical model predicts, then – for the committed neoclassical theologian – the real world economy must be wrong. If the real world does not conform to the beautiful and eternal truth of Walrasian theory, then it must be evil government intervention, or villainous trade unions, or inflexible wages and prices, or labour market regulations, or price controls, or something – anything that pollutes the truth of the model.

At any rate, Kaldor’s insightful complaint was “equilibrium theory has reached the stage where the pure theorist has successfully (though perhaps inadvertently) demonstrated that the main implications of this theory cannot possibly hold in reality, but has not yet managed to pass his message down the line to the textbook writer and to the classroom” (Kaldor 1972: 1240). Has anything really changed today?

Further Reading
Pilkington, Philip. 2012. “Divine Mathematics – Neoclassical Economics as Spiritual Meditation,” Naked Capitalism, August 21, 2012.

Syll, Lars P. “Axiomatic economics — the Bourbaki-Debreu Delusion,” 21 January, 2016.

Boylan, Thomas A. and Paschal F. O’Gorman. 2009. “Kaldor on Debreu: The Critique of General Equilibrium Reconsidered,” Review of Political Economy 21.3: 447–461.

Davidson, Paul. 2009. John Maynard Keynes (rev. edn.), Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.

Debreu, Gerard. 1959. Theory of Value: An Axiomatic Analysis of Economic Equilibrium. Wiley, New York and London.

Kaldor, Nicholas. 1972. “The Irrelevance of Equilibrium Economics,” Economic Journal 82: 1237–1252.

Kaldor, Nicholas. 1985. Economics without Equilibrium. M.E. Sharpe, Armonk, N.Y.

Lawson, T. 1989. “Abstraction, Tendencies and Stylized Facts: A Realist Approach to Economic Analysis,” Cambridge Journal of Economics 13: 59–78.

Mises, L. von. 2008. Human Action: A Treatise on Economics. The Scholar’s Edition. Mises Institute, Auburn, Ala.

Sraffa, P. 1926. “The Laws of Returns under Competitive Conditions,” Economic Journal 36: 535–550.

Young, A. A. 1928. “Increasing Returns and Economic Progress,” Economic Journal 38: 527–542.

Pro-EU Leftists are now: The TINA of the Left!!

This much should be very clear if you have bothered to engage them at length, as was clear to me in a recent debate on Twitter.

The Pro-EU left is now the TINA of the Left!

These people are beyond contempt.

Why can’t European states return to national political and economic sovereignty with reformed parties of the left?

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Chomsky versus Feminism

He rarely criticises it, but this is surprisingly blunt:
“Each time labor has been attacked—and as I said, in the 1920s the labor movement was practically destroyed—popular efforts were able to reconstitute it. That can happen again. It’s not going to be easy. There are institutional barriers, ideological barriers, cultural barriers. One big problem is that the white working class has been pretty much abandoned by the political system. The Democrats don’t even try to organize them anymore. The Republicans claim to do it; they get most of the vote, but they do it on non-economic issues, on non-labor issues. They often try to mobilize them on the grounds of issues steeped in racism and sexism and so on, and here the liberal policies of the 1960s had a harmful effect because of some of the ways in which they were carried out. ....

The same has been true of women’s rights. But when you have a working class that’s under real pressure, you know, people are going to say that rights are being undermined, that jobs are being undermined. Maybe the one thing that the white working man can hang onto is that he runs his home? Now that that’s being taken away and nothing is being offered, he’s not part of the program of advancing women’s rights. That’s fine for college professors, but it has a different effect in working-class areas. It doesn’t have to be that way. It depends on how it’s done, and it was done in a way that simply undermined natural solidarity. There are a lot of factors that play into it, but by this point it’s going to be pretty hard to organize the working class on the grounds that should really concern them: common solidarity, common welfare.”
It’s a pity Chomsky never calls out modern identity politics and the regressive left, since, as I have pointed out here, in his heyday he was absolutely brutal on French Poststructuralism and Postmodernism and all their rotten ideas from which the modern regressive left has emerged.

He knows the history of the movement too:

Friday, June 10, 2016

Hating Whitey

Some people on the left are screaming with horror at the rise of Donald Trump and utterly unable to explain his popularity.

Well, perhaps they should look at certain bizarre sections of the regressive left infecting the universities. In its obsession with Postmodernism, extreme social constructivism, anti-racism, Postcolonialism, diversity and identity politics, we have people like this:

This is Noel Ignatiev, a left-wing professor at Massachusetts College of Art, and co-founder of a journal called Race Traitor, whose motto is “treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.”

The journal describes its goals as follows:
“The white race is a historically constructed social formation. It consists of all those who partake of the privileges of the white skin in this society. Its most wretched members share a status higher, in certain respects, than that of the most exalted persons excluded from it, in return for which they give their support to a system that degrades them.

The key to solving the social problems of our age is to abolish the white race, which means no more and no less than abolishing the privileges of the white skin. Until that task is accomplished, even partial reform will prove elusive, because white influence permeates every issue, domestic and foreign, in US society.

The existence of the white race depends on the willingness of those assigned to it to place their racial interests above class, gender, or any other interests they hold. The defection of enough of its members to make it unreliable as a predictor of behavior will lead to its collapse.”
Asked to explain what he means by calls for “abolishing” whiteness, he explains:
“When we say we want to abolish the white race, we do not mean we want to exterminate people with fair skin. We mean that we want to do away with the social meaning of skin color, thereby abolishing the white race as a social category. Consider this parallel: To be against royalty does not mean wanting to kill the king. It means wanting to do away with crowns, thrones, titles, and the privileges attached to them. In our view, whiteness has a lot in common with royalty: they are both social formations that carry unearned advantages”

“The goal of abolishing the white race is on its face so desirable that some may find it hard to believe that it could incur any opposition other than from committed white supremacists. Of course we expected bewilderment from people who still think of race as biology. ….

Every group within white America has at one time or another advanced its particular and narrowly defined interests at the expense of black people as a race. That applies to labor unionists, ethnic groups, college students, schoolteachers, taxpayers, and white women. Race Traitor will not abandon its focus on whiteness, no matter how vehement the pleas and how virtuously oppressed those doing the pleading. The editors meant it when they replied to a reader, ‘Make no mistake about it: we intend to keep bashing the dead white males, and the live ones, and the females too, until the social construct known as “the white race” is destroyed—not “deconstructed” but destroyed.’”
So, in other words, this is social constructivism gone insane. He wants to abolish the idea of “whiteness” because he thinks everything is socially constructed. This is essentially a kind of conspiracy theory that holds that virtually every major problem of humanity would be solved if only people would stop thinking of the “white race” as anything but a fictional, non-existent thing that has been invented by racist oppressors.

But what average person has the time to examine the minutiae of some regressive left social constructivist lunacy?

When conservatives and your average person hears this man speak, it feeds into paranoid right-wing conspiracy theories that the left is actively planning to commit a white genocide, which is now a popular meme on the far right and so-called “Alt Right.”

And this kind of thing is only the tip of the iceberg of how insane the regressive left has become in its hatred of white people (here and here).

At some point, this kind of unhinged left-wing anti-white ideology was going to cause a horrible backlash of some kind. Are you really that surprised at what is happening in politics as of 2016?

Why Full Employment and High Wages for Men are Important

From Catherine Hakim’s Feminist Myths and Magic Medicine: The Flawed Thinking behind Calls for Further Equality (Centre for Policy Studies, London, UK, (2011):
“One indicator of women’s lifestyle preferences is found in patterns of educational homogamy: whether women choose husbands with equal levels of education, or prefer a better-educated and higher-earning spouse.

Women’s aspiration to marry up, if they can, to a man who is better-educated and higher-earning, persists in most European countries. The Nordic countries share this pattern with all other parts of Europe. Women thereby continue to use marriage as an alternative or supplement to their employment careers. Financial dependence on a man has lost none of its attractions after the equal opportunities revolution. Symmetrical family roles are not the ideal sought by most couples, even though they are popular among the minority of highly educated professionals. It is thus not surprising that wives generally earn less than their husbands, and that most couples rationally decide that it makes sense for her to take on the larger share of childcare, and use most or all the parental leave allowance. This is just as true of the Nordic countries as elsewhere.”
Hakim, Catherine. 2011. Feminist Myths and Magic Medicine: The Flawed Thinking behind Calls for Further Equality, Centre for Policy Studies, London, p. 24.
In other words, many women prefer better educated and higher-earning husbands, and this is how many men can attract wives so they can start families. If true, this is a natural fact of female psychology.

In essence, good education, full employment and high wages for men are not just good for men, but good for society in general, since this is how many men can attract wives.

But under neoliberalism many men have been subjected to mass unemployment and their real wages savagely attacked.

What about some sympathy for the men?

Muhammad Ali’s Real Opinions on Race

The man was a great boxer and athlete and who would doubt it, but have people ever listened to what he actually thought about race? You listen for yourself; you decide for yourself.

Of course what we have now is a flood of liberal and left-wing people rushing to praise Muhammad Ali while airbrushing his – umm, somewhat controversial? – opinions out of history. If only Christopher Hitchens were still alive, since he was wonderful at deflating our modern cult of celebrity and liberal hypocrisy.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

What are the Fundamental Causes of a falling Birth Rate?

Is it the collapse of socially-conservative religions?

Just a quick survey of the specialist literature on population dynamics suggests to me that, in addition to increasing wealth, the biggest causes of falling birth rates – no matter how religious a society is – are as follows:
(1) women’s education and participation in the labour force, and

(2) access to birth control.
Both of these factors seem to overcome most conservative religious attitudes to high birth rates.

What is more, even highly conservative countries with fundamentalist governments have been quite happy to impose state-sponsored family planning (see the case of Iran).

Furthermore, a crucial cause of fertility decline is the shifting of women’s first childbearing to older ages (Sobotka 2004; Kohler, Billari and Ortega 2002; Hwang and Ha Lee 2014).

That shifting of childbearing to later years seems to be correlated with higher levels of women’s education and employment in young adulthood (see Martin 2000 and Rindfuss et al. 1996).

Moreover, if women go back to work after their first child, this will drastically decrease their chances of having a second child. By contrast, a woman who does not return to the labour force after a first child and who has a husband with a job that can support a larger family will tend to have more children.

This seems to be true of a developed East Asian nation like South Korea (Ma 2016) (where Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism and secularism exist), or a Third World country like Ghana which has a high degree of conservative religiosity.

The study of Sackey 2005 comes to this conclusion on Ghana:
“To participate in the labour market or not to participate appears to be an issue of survival for women in the Ghanaian economy. Parallel to the rising trend in female participation rates, there has been a tendency towards a decline in fertility. At the core of these patterns has been the schooling factor. This study uses data from the Ghana living standards surveys with demographically enriched information to estimate female labour force participation and fertility models. We find that female schooling matters in both urban and rural localities; both primary and post-primary schooling levels exert significant positive impact on women’s labour market participation, and have an opposite effect on fertility.” (Sackey 2005).
And it turns out that Ghana has quite a conservative religious population: it is 58.8% Christian and 25.9% Muslim (see here), but fertility rates are falling because of women’s education and labour force participation.

And what about the Saudi Arabia?

Despite being an extreme religious fundamentalist society, Saudi Arabia’s birth rate per woman has been falling for decades:
Year | Fertility Rate (births per woman)
1981 | 7.1
1982 | 7.0
1983 | 6.9
1984 | 6.8
1985 | 6.6
1986 | 6.5
1987 | 6.3
1988 | 6.2
1989 | 6.0
1990 | 5.9
1991 | 5.8
1992 | 5.6
1993 | 5.4
1994 | 5.2
1995 | 5.0
1996 | 4.8
1997 | 4.6
1998 | 4.4
1999 | 4.2
2000 | 4.0
2001 | 3.8
2002 | 3.6
2003 | 3.5
2004 | 3.4
2005 | 3.3
2006 | 3.2
2007 | 3.2
2008 | 3.1
2009 | 3.0
2010 | 3.0
2011 | 2.9
2012 | 2.9
2013 | 2.8
2014 | 2.8
What caused this? Well, it turns out that the explanations above proposed by population researchers seem also to apply to Saudi Arabia, despite it being so religious.

Basu, A. M. 2002.“Why does education lead to lower fertility? A critical review of some of the possibilities,” World Development 30.10: 1779–1790.

Bloom, D. E. D., Canning, G. F. and Finlay, J. E. 2009. “Fertility, female labor force participation, and the demographic dividend,” Journal of Economic Growth 14.2: 79–101.

Hwang, Jinyoung and Jong Ha Lee. 2014. “Women’s education and the timing and level of fertility,”International Journal of Social Economics 41.9: 862–874.

Kohler, H.-P., Billari, F. C. and Ortega, J. A. 2002. “The emergence of lowest-low fertility in Europe during the 1990s,” Population and Development Review 28.4: 641–680.

Ma, Li. 2016. “Female labour force participation and second birth rates in South Korea,” Journal of Population Research 33.2: 173–195.

Martin, S. P. 2000. “Diverging fertility among U.S. women who delay child bearing past age 30,” Demography 37.4: 523–533.

Rindfuss, R. R., Morgan, P. S. and Offutt, K. 1996. “Education and the changing age pattern of American fertility: 1963–1989,” Demography 33.3: 277–229.

Sackey, H. A. 2005. “Female labour force participation in Ghana: the effect of education,” African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) Research Paper No. 150, African Economic Research Consortium, Nairobi.

Sobotka, T. 2004. “Is lowest-low fertility in Europe explained by the postponement of childbearing?,” Population and Development Review 30. 2: 195–220.

Falling Birth Rates: Quick Thoughts

I recently had a conversation about this, and some important points seem to emerge from looking at the data.

The fertility rate (birth per 1,000 women) and birth rate per woman in the Western world started falling in the 1960s after the post-WWII baby boom.

See the data for the United States here.

Most notably, this largely happened before the loss of full employment and job security in the neoliberal era.

But once we take a longer-run historical view, we can see that birth rates have been falling since the late 19th century. For example, look at the Canadian birth rate per woman here.

I’m sure there must be a vast technical literature on this subject, but I regret I haven’t bothered to look at it.

Intuitively, it seems to me that the explanations are essentially as follows:
(1) the wealthier people become and as infant mortality falls with modern science-based medicine, the less children people have;

(2) as cultural attitudes to birth control (condoms and the pill) changed, and such birth control become readily available and cheap, this has been a major cause of falling birth rates;

(3) education of women, women entering the workforce and the influence of feminism which encourages female reproductive choices reinforce (1) and (2).
However, as we have seen, it is also clear that the birth rate was dropping even from the 1870s to 1914 in the Western world.

And, in an even broader historical sense, all the social and economic consequences of industrial civilisation mean a falling birth rate (see here and here).

It seems to me that – in reality – the post-WWII baby boom was a sort of aberration: a short-term reversal of a long-run falling trend.

The long-run falling birth rates have also happened in the Third World, and even in socially and religiously conservative Third World societies. See here, here, here.

This can be seen even in Muslim societies, where a Pew Research Center report notes the following:
“– Fertility rates in Muslim-majority countries are closely related to women’s education levels. In the eight Muslim-majority countries where girls generally receive the fewest years of schooling, the average fertility rate (5.0 children per woman) is more than double the average rate (2.3 children per woman) in the nine Muslim-majority countries where girls generally receive the most years of schooling. One exception is the Palestinian territories, where the average fertility rate (4.5 children per woman) is relatively high even though a girl born there today can expect to receive 14 years of formal education.”
“The Future of the Global Muslim Population,” January 27, 2011
And even a country like India isn’t immune to the trend.

India is a highly rural society with a rural population percentage of 68% of total population.

India also has a large socially and religious conservative Hindu population, but despite all this the fertility rate per woman has dropped from 4.8 in 1981 to 2.4 in 2014.

We must remember that a birth rate of 2.1 is the replacement rate needed to create a stable population. So even the birth rate in India has fallen towards a merely replacement level rate.

All in all, falling birth rates seem to be a civilisational thing.

Do we in the West need to get our birth rate back up to replacement level?

Maybe we don’t at all, and all the doomsday predictions about falling populations are hysteria. In any case, open borders and mass immigration most decidedly are not the answer either (see here, here, here, here).

But assume – for the sake of argument – that it would better to get the Western birth rate back up to 2.1 or something like 2.5.

It would be far better to do the following
(1) end neoliberal policies;

(2) return to full employment and a high wage economy, where people have job security;

(3) bring down the price of housing and fix the problem of excessive private debt;

(4) shift to family-friendly policies by governments and encourage young people of working age to have more children, by a combination of methods, e.g., tax breaks, subsidies, housing grants, etc.
Unless it’s tried, you can’t know if it would work.

And, frankly, if we had a baby boom in the post-WWII years because of economic and social reasons back then which was basically an exception to a long-run trend, why not a mini-baby boom again by the 2020s and 2030s? For example, maybe when many more men have secure jobs and high-wages, the female labour participation rate might fall too, and the economy and society more conducive to larger families.

And, in any case, even it fails there is reason for optimism.

The Illusionist in the comment below correctly points out that this has a lot to do with culture. I partly agree.

But culture is malleable.

What’s more, it’s not possible just to blame “Western individualist culture and the demise of religion” for supposedly convincing “people that they should live for themselves and not for their species.” As we’ve seen above, the Western birth rate was falling even in the 19th century when our societies we’re basically religious conservative.

As I have pointed out, this trend of falling birth rates is happening in the Third World too in highly religious and even fundamentalist societies.

Take Iran. The Iranian fertility rate (births per woman) fell from 6.5 in 1981 to a stunning 1.7 in 2014, which is below replacement level.

In fact, it is lower than Sweden’s birth rate of 1.9 in 2014!!

Yet Iran is a country in the grip of fundamentalist theocracy – but their birth rate has still plunged! Did Western individualism and atheism cause the plummeting birth rate in Iran?

Clearly not. Something else did it.

It’s absurd to lay the blame for falling Western birth rates mostly on the collapse of conservative religion.

But to return to the cultural issue. No doubt this is partly to blame in the West.

But culture is malleable. I don’t see why governments – if they want higher birth rates – can’t try to shift cultural attitudes.

Recently the Danes are trying to shift cultural attitudes and get their people to have more children, and as part of this a private company (obviously for reasons of its own) came up with this amusing ad.

Of course I bet people will immediately laugh this off. But not so fast: see here and here.

As I said, people’s social and cultural attitudes can change. If people are encouraged to have more children for their nation’s future as a civic virtue on a big scale and given the economy and social programs to do it, I’m not convinced this couldn’t have a bid impact.

In that spirit, enjoy another one of those Danish ads.

And for the Danes – do your duty for Denmark!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Is Western Culture the most Racist in the World?

The modern regressive left would have us think so, but it’s rubbish.

What about the bigotry and prejudice of non-Western cultures? The evidence is overwhelming that the non-Western world contains plenty of this.

Take this actual Chinese advertisement for Qiaobi laundry detergent:

As even the BBC noted here, the Chinese seem to have, err, – shall we say? – a bit of a problem with coloured people.

But here in the West we have a regressive left that has essentially abused the word “racist” to the point where it has been grossly devalued and emptied of meaning: now good grammar is racist, yoga is racist cultural appropriation, and “culturally insensitive” Halloween costumes are racist.

This is, quite frankly, a pretty grotesque insult to people through history who have suffered genuine irrational racial discrimination.

And for the modern regressive left, *everything* is racist, sexist, and homophobic.

But it seems strangely restricted to the Western world, with a discreet veil drawn over the non-Western world.

Average per capita GDP Growth Rates: The Post-WWII Bretton Woods System versus Neoliberalism

Here are the figures from the World Bank for the two relevant periods by region:
Average Per Capita GDP Growth Rates 1960–2010
Region | 1960–1980 | 1980–2010

sub-Saharan Africa | 2.0% | 0.2%
Latin America and the Caribbean | 3.1% | 0.8%
Middle East and North Africa | 2.5% | 1.3%
East Asia and Pacific | 5.3% | 7%
Developed Nations | 3.2% | 1.8%
(cited in Chang 2015: 25–26).
Note carefully: in every region except East Asia per capita GDP growth rates slumped under neoliberalism.

There is one exception: East Asia. Was neoliberalism pursued here? Well, to some extent in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan from the 1990s (think East Asian financial crisis and the Japanese lost decade), but not in China, which is where the really spectacular growth occurred in the 1980 to 2010 period.

Also note well: Japan, South Korea and Taiwan from the 1950s to the 1970s pursued (and to some extent into the 1990s) massive anti-free market, state-directed industrial policies combined with access to Western markets. They industrialised and were very successful.

China from the 1980s has been following a similar playbook with a mixed economy and state-directed industrial policy and neo-mercantilism. The success of China is not – repeat not – because of neoliberalism (see here). Nor was the success of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, before the 1990s.

But we’ve known all this for years.

The late Angus Maddison was widely recognized as a leading scholar on the history of rates of economic growth. In 1995, Maddison published a study called Monitoring the World Economy 1820–1992 (OECD Development Centre, Paris, 1995), the first authoritative study on the effects of globalization and neoliberalism on growth rates in the developing and developed world, as compared with the Bretton Woods era.

Maddison compared growth rates both in terms of real GDP and real per capita GDP in seven major regions of the world from 1950 to 1973 with those in the early era of globalization (1974–1992). He found that there were significant declines in the average annual growth rates in six of the seven areas: in fact, the average annual rate of growth of world GDP was only half of what it had been under Bretton Woods. That is, world economic growth was about 50% lower than in the Bretton Woods era.

The only region that showed an increase was East Asia, precisely the region dominated by the protectionist state-led model of industrialization, led by Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and (from the early 1990s) China.

Maddison’s study can be supplemented by the following research:
Mark Weisbrot, Dean Baker, Egor Kraev, and Judy Chen. 2001. Scorecard on Globalization 1980–2000: 20 Years of Diminished Progress, Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Chang, Ha-Joon. 2015. “The Failure of Neoliberalism and the Future of Capitalism,” in Satoshi Fujii, Beyond Global Capitalism. Springer, Tokyo. 19–34.
Weisbrot et al. (2001) and Chang (2015) confirm the findings of Maddison. The era of globalization was a disaster for much of the Third World.

Of course, even neoliberalism delivers some poverty reduction because per capita GDP growth was still positive, and it is correct that global poverty has fallen over the last 20 years: but the overwhelming number of such people are in China and East Asia, and above all in China where the government largely rejects the orthodox policy prescriptions of neoliberalism.

So which system was better for the Third World: (1) the Bretton Woods era of import substitution industrialisation that gave a space for economic nationalism or (2) neoliberalism?

The answer is (1). The system also avoided the endless economic crises and instabilities of neoliberalism as well.

We live in interesting times, however. Even the IMF is starting to admit – even if in coy and embarrassed terms – that neoliberalism has failed.

Chang, Ha-Joon. 2015. “The Failure of Neoliberalism and the Future of Capitalism,” in Satoshi Fujii, Beyond Global Capitalism. Springer, Tokyo. 19–34.

Weisbrot, Mark, Baker, Dean, Kraev, Egor and Judy Chen. 2001. Scorecard on Globalization 1980–2000: 20 Years of Diminished Progress, Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Boris Johnson on Brexit

It’s shocking when Boris Johnson, more or less, makes more sense than some leftists on the European Union.

Even a leftist like George Galloway is saying many of the same things as Boris Johnson: