Quote notes (#71)

F. Roger Devlin reviews Gregory Clark’s latest book The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility at American Renaissance:

China, which saw enormous social upheaval in the 20th century, provides yet another perspective. Under Mao, much of the country’s elite was killed or exiled. The rest were subject to discrimination and excluded from the Communist Party. During the Cultural Revolution, Mao tried to turn the social scale upside down by shipping prominent people to the countryside to work in rice paddies. If political intervention can create higher social mobility, it would have done so in China.

Yet once discrimination against “class enemies” was abolished shortly after Mao’s death, those with surnames characteristic of the pre-communist elite quickly began to rise again. Today, they are greatly over-represented even in the Communist Party. Those descended from the “workers and peasants” favored under Mao have quickly seen their status erode. Recent social mobility in China has been no greater than it was under the Emperors.

Anyone who doesn’t find their presuppositions shaken by Clark’s work is probably not paying attention. If those out here in the NRx think it conforms neatly to their expectations that heredity is strongly determining of social outcomes — are they comfortable proceeding to evidence-based acknowledgement that socio-economic regime-type seems entirely irrelevant to the (uniformly low) level of social mobility? Clark himself draws the curve-ball conclusion: so why not be a social democrat? It’s not as if rational incentives make any difference anyway.

(I’ll be looking for the opportunity to dig into this stuff at least a little, as soon as I catch a moment.)

April 7, 2014admin 18 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Discriminations , Political economy


18 Responses to this entry

  • Scharlach Says:

    Because social democrats are always just a few economic crises away from going full Maoist. And per the Maoist example, there does come a point at which regime-type does matter. If class-discrimination had continued, and the hereditary best and brightest had stayed in the rice paddies, China would not be the emerging global power it is today.


    Handle Reply:

    Hey man, check your email quick!


    Posted on April 7th, 2014 at 3:12 pm Reply | Quote
  • MW Says:

    Society is a racial construct.


    Hurlock Reply:

    Can we make this into a T-shirt slogan pls?


    Posted on April 7th, 2014 at 3:20 pm Reply | Quote
  • RiverC Says:

    It seems plain sense that if you simply elevate peasants to high positions and put noblemen in low positions, they will gradually return to their old positions, provided there is no law preventing it by force. My instinct here is that a lot of being glossed over to reach ‘why not be a social democrat?’ If you have a functional elite that is merely suppressed, they should rise up in due time within most regime parameters. But what if you need to create a new one from scratch? And also, IQ tells us that while it’s impossible to raise innate IQ in an individual, you can lower it or damage it in various ways through poor incentives.

    Also, isn’t it a simplification to simply say what is wrong is bad incentives? You need both good incentives and good people; they form a feedback loop for certain, but bad people make bad incentives more desirable, and bad incentives make people worse.


    Posted on April 7th, 2014 at 3:57 pm Reply | Quote
  • Quote notes (#71) | Reaction Times Says:

    […] By admin […]

    Posted on April 7th, 2014 at 6:06 pm Reply | Quote
  • Lesser Bull Says:

    His first book answers the curve ball question posed by his second.


    James James Reply:

    “Clark himself draws the curve-ball conclusion: so why not be a social democrat? It’s not as if rational incentives make any difference anyway.”

    1. Because social democracies pursue dysgenic policies.

    2. While Clark’s first book demonstrates that Smithian institutions are not sufficient for growth, it does not demonstrate that they are not necessary. Social democracy undermines institutions like property.


    Lesser Bull Reply:



    admin Reply:

    Of course I agree — but a brief moment of luxuriating in discomfort felt like a tempting indulgence. (OK, that’s over …)


    Posted on April 7th, 2014 at 6:16 pm Reply | Quote
  • Konkvistador Says:

    It seems it falls to me to say the obvious for the benefit of the less acute: Of course you can’t keep the competent down. I’m pretty sure North Korea’s ruling class is quite competent. Incentives influence what they use that competence for.


    Posted on April 7th, 2014 at 7:26 pm Reply | Quote
  • Konkvistador Says:

    This has fascinating consequences for affirmative action which is in this regard Western Maoism. As soon as it is lifted, except the marginal white elites to jump right back up, the nonmarginal are where they have always been. And while it isn’t lifted, expect white people with homeopathic traces of African or Amerindian ancestry, foreign Indian and even African elites taking advantage of it.


    Posted on April 7th, 2014 at 7:30 pm Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:

    Thought provoking.

    Perhaps the most level playing field is the one with the least rules and fewest referees.


    Posted on April 7th, 2014 at 7:57 pm Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:

    Other than Western Maoism=Affirmative Action, this still doesn’t explain fully American Governance. Which is in fact highly competent predators surrounded by a bodyguard of moronic Vogons. The predators are also highly incentivized, more wealth than for instance exists in the world – on paper.

    Paper that must burn.

    Gracious. I sound positively Red.


    Posted on April 7th, 2014 at 8:03 pm Reply | Quote
  • Hurlock Says:

    Clark is forgetting that discrimination against the previous elites is a crucial part of the maoist socio-economic order. His argument doesn’t really hold, he is jumping to conclusions.
    Yeah, sure, when you change that part of the system which is keeping group A in position X instead of position Y where they would be under system B, when you modify system A to make it more like system B in precisely that regard, said group will now occupy position Y.
    The system was changed (*cough* Xiaoping *cough*) and only then did the elites get back at their previous positions.


    Posted on April 7th, 2014 at 9:40 pm Reply | Quote
  • 5371 Says:

    Clark is factually challenged. Surnames are few in China and none are really “characteristic of the elite”. Come to think of it, even English surnames don’t mean what he thinks they do.


    Posted on April 8th, 2014 at 6:08 am Reply | Quote
  • spandrell Says:

    Well obviously the commercial elite of pre-Communist China is back again after only 30 years of oppression.

    What’s a stretch is to say that extends over centuries. Of course Chinese surnames are quite different from Western ones. But you don’t see the great patrician families of the Song Dynasty overrepresented in today’s elite. Not even close.


    James James Reply:

    Clark says it takes about 300 years for the correlation with your ancestors’ position to disappear. However, his English example surnames all look suspiciously Norman to me.


    Posted on April 8th, 2014 at 6:35 am Reply | Quote

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