The Prussian

If you’d asked me what I think about The Prussian yesterday, I’d probably have assumed you were talking about Frederick the Great. Today I’m seeing his stuff mentioned all over the place (at least, by Bryce on Twitter, and Scott Alexander at his place). The two pieces being especially recommended share a tack (interesting) and a tone (impressive). The Outside in response to both is unsettled, but already uneven. At the very least, they initiate a conversation in a way that is unexpected and worthy of respect.

The highlight for me was this (to repeat the second link):

… when differences in African and Caucasian distributions of the ASPM gene that is involved in brain development, racialists jumped to argue that this was the long looked for basis for white cognitive supremacy (Derbyshire’s line). Unfortunately for them, it turned out that the variation does not affect IQ, but does affect the ability to hear tones, and is associated with a lack of tonal languages.

To be honest, this is a lot more interesting than any IQ mumbo-jumbo; that Indo-European languages (‘Aryan’ languages to use the term correctly, and not in the disgraceful way it was used) are non-tonal is one of the big puzzles, and may be a reason why civilization got started in these regions. This is a variant of Joseph Needham’s hypothesis of why China ‘got stuck’ at a certain level of technology. Needham argued that the Chinese failed to make the break to the conceptual level of science that the ancient Greeks did, and part of this is to do with the concrete-level of Chinese vocabulary. By contrast, the reduced sound range and hence, reduced word range available to Indo-European languages may have played a crucial role in making that initial great breakthrough.

Has the case just been made for a clearly identifiable genetic predisposition to digitization? It sounds that way to me.

ADDED: Theden gets serious on the genetics of tonal language.

ADDED: A critique of the Anti-Racialist Q&A at The Right Stuff.

April 19, 2014admin 56 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Discriminations


56 Responses to this entry

  • spandrell Says:

    This is the best example ever of Sailer’s dictum.

    PC makes you stupid.

    I’ll add it makes you completely retarded.

    FWIW Punjabi is tonal. Medieval Chinese had 3 tones, ancient Chinese probably none.

    Whites can hear tones pretty well if raised on them. Some even manage the feat learning as adults.

    It seems that ignoring everything that Scott Alexander praises might be a good heuristic to avoid getting pissed by smart people wasting their brains in producing BS.


    admin Reply:

    The Dediu and Ladd paper looks interesting to me.


    David Reply:

    “…affect the ability to hear tones, and is associated with a lack of tonal languages.” Read.


    Erik Reply:

    For example, Norwegian is a tonal language and is about as white as you get.

    The word pronounced “bønner” means beans (singular: bønne), prayers (singular: bønn) or peasants (singular: bonde, plural: bønder) depending on tone.


    nydwracu Reply:

    Norwegian has three tones? I thought it was only two.

    I don’t think there are any languages in Europe that wouldn’t be considered pitch-accent languages by someone who believes in pitch accent as a category worth distinguishing from both tone and stress (and I’m not sure I do) — that is, I don’t think there are any languages in Europe where tone can occur on more than one syllable per word. But I could be wrong.

    Same for languages with over three tones, and Latvian is the only one I can think of with three. Many dialects reduce it to two.

    Erik Reply:

    “Bønner” is a bit of a special exception. Can’t think of anything else with three readings like that, plenty with two. You could fairly say that Norwegian has two tones and one funny word, which many people just pronounce in one of two tones anyway. It would be vaguely similar to how the language mostly lacks the funny letter C, using that only in a foreign names and a few recent loanwords to Norwegian, older loanwords like “chocolate”, “juice” and “chauffeur” have been Norwegianised into “sjokolade”, “jus” and “sjåfør”.

    Posted on April 19th, 2014 at 1:21 pm Reply | Quote
  • B.B. Says:

    when differences in African and Caucasian distributions of the ASPM gene that is involved in brain development, racialists jumped to argue that this was the long looked for basis for white cognitive supremacy (Derbyshire’s line). Unfortunately for them, it turned out that the variation does not affect IQ, but does affect the ability to hear tones, and is associated with a lack of tonal languages.

    The Prussian is rather unfair to Derbyshire and other unnamed “racialists” to say that this is their “basis for white cognitive supremacy”. I should note that the infamous scientific racist John Philippe Rushton was the primary author of a paper disputing ASPM’s influence on general mental ability. Michael Woodley, et al recently published a paper defending an ASPM/IQ link. Time will tell who is right. Though as far as the matter of white cognitive supremacy (aka the hereditarian hypothesis) is concerned, most of the evidence marshaled in it’s favor has little to do with any single gene of small effect, Chuck of Occidental Ascent has written one of the best summaries of the matter which makes little recourse to specific genes. The Prussian is similarly unfair to Jared Taylor on the MAO-A issue, implying he believes it entirely explains group differences in homicidal behavior.


    Posted on April 19th, 2014 at 1:36 pm Reply | Quote
  • Konkvistador Says:

    A German Objectivist that considers Nelson Mandela a hero is pretty much the posterboy of Libertarian pwnedness. He needs Moldbug long and hard.


    Konkvistador Reply:

    Islam Any Rand I Have A Dream Racist Think One Gene We Are Gonna Win … did a bot write this essay?

    This type of pseudo-rightist I often see among Central European Liberals (the word meaning Libertarian here).


    admin Reply:

    The Mandela eulogy was a low point (among several). The Tutsi stuff was nice though.


    Konkvistador Reply:

    Being a fan of the Tutsies I agree.


    Posted on April 19th, 2014 at 3:29 pm Reply | Quote
  • MW Says:

    Except Ancient Greek is tonal…


    spandrell Reply:

    It’s not, it has pitch accent, not phonemic tone.


    MW Reply:

    I’m not a linguist, but if we’re using a binary of tonal vs nontonal, it would seem to me like restricted use of tone to convey meaning would edge something closer to “tonal” than not. If we go further back: “Proto-Indo-European (PIE) is reconstructed to have a pitch accent system that is usually described as a free tonal accent. This means that at most one syllable in a word was distinguished by height (rather than prominence), and that the place of accent (tone) was not predictable by phonological rules.” (…

    So I don’t know, as an explanatory mechanism for why “conceptual breakthroughs” happened in IE areas and not others, the author’s contentions seem like a non-starter. At best, it’s a possible explanation for things like why Mandarin developed tonality, and many European people lost it over time (which is what the paper the author cites is suggesting if I understand it correctly).


    Posted on April 19th, 2014 at 3:43 pm Reply | Quote
  • The Prussian | Reaction Times Says:

    […] By admin […]

    Posted on April 19th, 2014 at 4:33 pm Reply | Quote
  • nydwracu Says:

    Tone thing looks wacky to me, though I haven’t looked into it yet.

    There are two major locations in the world for tonal languages: sub-Saharan Africa (where pretty much every language is tonal, and some have >10 surface tones, but it remains to be seen how many of those exist on an underlying level and how many are allotones of others) and East Asia.

    Tone has been in sub-Saharan Africa for pretty much forever; in East Asia it’s a recent development, and given that tone appears to have developed in non-Chinese languages due to influence from Chinese, it was probably absent from the region 3000 years ago unless Middle Chinese developed tone under influence from other languages — which strikes me as implausible. They could have come from the Tai-Kadai languages, but how much influence has there been in that direction, and does that even make historical sense?

    The generalization used in the literature is that African languages have register tone whereas Asian languages have contour tone — so Sango contrasts 11 33 55 whereas Mandarin contrasts 55 35 214 51. Tone in Asian languages tends to be realized in part by phonation/voice quality, like in Vietnamese, which contrasts 33 21ʱ 35 3ˀ2ʔ 313 3ˀ5, and that’s less common in Africa — though there are breathy-voiced ‘depressor consonants’ in languages like Zulu which contrast with other consonants in part through their lowering effect on the tone of the following vowel. (Korean also has depressor consonants.)

    This generalization doesn’t quite hold, however: there are register-tone languages in Asia (Nuosu) and contour-tone languages in Africa (many of the Kru languages, I think, but Wikipedia is down for me so I can’t check.)

    This also ignores the minor tonal areas. Some of these are pretty insignificant — like Scandinavia and the Great Plains, which have two-tone languages (Scandinavia has contour tone of the Asian type, right down to the phonation thing in Danish stød) — but some aren’t, like Papua New Guinea. The Iau (capital i) language of PNG has eight tones, and allows ‘tone clusters’ (from elision of medial /r/ from Proto-Lakes-Plain /d/ followed by vowel coalescence + maintenance of both tone contours IIRC) of two tones on one vowel; there are many of these tone clusters that are permitted, though only three on noun roots, and verb aspect marking is done entirely through tone so they’re kind of important.

    The paper says: “ASPM-D reaches high frequencies in Central and Western Asia, Europe and North Africa, as well as in Papua-New Guinea (but there are reasons to suspect contamination; see Discussion) and very low frequencies in East Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Americas (see map in ref. 36). MCPH-D is very frequent in Asia, Europe, and the Americas, moderately frequent in North and East Africa, South-East Asia, and Oceania (see comment on Papua-New Guinea), and very rare in Central, Western, and South sub-Saharan Africa (see map in ref. 37).”

    If ASPM-D is frequent in non-tonal areas like Central Asia, Europe, and North Africa, and infrequent in tonal areas, why are there such heavily tonal languages in PNG? I’m not sure what they think is going on with MCPH-D — that seems like it’d correlate better, since contours and phonation would heighten the tone contrast.

    But it seems to me that this would predict that there would be an absence of whistled languages in genetically non-tonal areas like Europe, and that’s just not what we see. Maybe there’s a correlation there, but that’s a much weaker claim than the Prussian’s one about inability to hear tone.


    E.Antony Gray (RiverC) Reply:

    As a musician this always confuses me. My wife is Vietnamese and I can hear the tonality (almost ‘sing-song’ in some phrases) though I’d be hard pressed to replicate it properly. As I understand it, there are primarily two things at stake: pitch and timbre. The first is a matter of frequency and my listening to Vietnamese tells me they use pitch relatively, that is to say, pitch may be inferred from the different timbre generated by pitching up or down from one’s resting pitch, which might mean isolated sounds are harder to parse (or must be in some cases un-parse-able.) In general though it seems you start a lot of words at resting pitch and change pitch accordingly to shape the word properly. Timbre seems to have the same use as it does in English, for emotional quality, at least as used directly (as opposed to the general rule of timbre modulation when pitching up or down with the voice.)

    Is it that tone-deafness is more common in those non-tonal-language areas? Because most people I know sure can hear the tones. My intuition is that the causation is backwards – tonality is dropped as advances occur, freeing up room to emulate other languages’ words and making it simpler to write things.

    Obviously, in linguistics ‘tonal’ has a particular meaning (it is a term of art); but this is very counter-intuitive to people unfamiliar with it, since all languages use tone. For example, the phrase “Run faster” if spoken in a different tone in English has different meanings. (we may indicate this by putting punctuation on the end, i.e. ‘?’) But in English tonality doesn’t affect spelling – but if you literally couldn’t hear tone, you would not know if someone was asking a question.

    What does ‘inability to hear tone’ mean?


    nydwracu Reply:

    I think your ‘pitch’ means ‘tone’ and your ‘timbre’ means ‘phonation’ here.

    Inability to hear tone / tone-deafness strikes me as unlikely. What it could be is diminished perceptual salience — I read a paper a few years ago about how there’s a genetic defect in about 20% of the aborigines of Australia that dims their ability to hear certain high frequencies, and how this affects their language to avoid relying on those frequencies (no voice contrast, no fricatives) — or, to put it the other way around, augmented perceptual salience like with supertasters. Or it could affect the linguistic regions of the brain directly; who knows.

    Vietnamese tones are one thing — there are six of them, and three are distinguished by phonation. Tones in Iau are another. There’s no phonation contrast as far as I know, nor offloading of contrast onto the consonants, which is surprising since there are only six of them. So the only way to distinguish be2 “father-in-law”, be3 “fire”, be21 “belt”, be43 “path”, be24 “thorn”, be23 “flower”, be34 “eel”, be243 “tree fern”, be21.34 “fill up”, be21.3 “finish filling”, and be21.23 “partially fill up”, or tai2 “be pulling to”, tai3 “has been pulled off of”, tai21 “might pull”, tai43 “land on”, tai24 “fell to the ground”, tai23 “is falling to the ground”, tai34 “is in the process of pulling off”, tai243 “falling to the ground for a certain amount of time”, tai21.34 “pull”, and tai21.3 “have pulled”, or da2 “ate”, da3 “has been loaded into”, da21 “dog”, da43 “wash”, da24 “has eaten it all up”, da23 “is eating it up”, da3.23 “mountain” is tone. (There are eight tones and eleven tone clusters.) It’s made easier by the fact that the average word length as spoken is 400ms, or almost half a second, but it’s at least more difficult than Vietnamese.

    But my impression is that Iau is more of a counterexample to their thesis than an example of it. Who cares? It’s an excuse to mention it. A language with more vowels than consonants and more tones than vowels!


    nydwracu Reply:

    Also, confusingly, a synonym for ‘phonation’ in the sense of appearing on vowels to heighten the perceptual salience / increase the contrast of tones is ‘register’…

    E.Antony Gray (RiverC) Reply:

    Odd, still seems like English uses both, though it is not a tightly coupled language (in coding terms:) word definition is handled without reference to ‘tone’ or ‘phonation’ though both get used to contextualize the words and phrases. Autistic and aspergers people tend to have flat or incorrect phonation / tone, which makes me wonder if atonality is not more related to the rate of autism? (Indeed, as Ben Stein would exemplify, ‘flat’ tone and phonation are themselves a form of communication as well.)

    Mai La Dreapta Reply:

    My degree is in Linguistics, and I was going to storm in here and point out that the Prussian’s speculations about tone and genetics are pretty much bollocks. But you seem to have covered that well, so receive my thanks from the Sacred and Mystical Order of Reactionary Philologists.


    Posted on April 19th, 2014 at 5:55 pm Reply | Quote
  • Daniel Schmuhl Says:

    I’m not very impressed by his anti-racialist Q&A. It seems incredibly amateurish, even by blog standards. I’m starting to think that most people really don’t read very far into the literature. They’re getting their info from Youtube videos, blogs, and forums instead of reading the actual scholarly literature with care. When he talks about the Flynn effect it seems like he doesn’t even realize that IQ is a measurement. IQ measures general cognitive ability and specific cognitive abilities, but he seems to think it’s the thing being measured itself.

    As someone has already pointed out, there is a paper out by Woodly et al. showing a correlation between ASPM and IQ at the national level. The racists/racialists might not be wrong about this one after all.


    peppermint Reply:

    IQ measures g, and g is measured by IQ. Whatever it is, it clearly exists, since it is measurable, and it is clearly important, since if it was not it would no longer be measured because certain demographics of low socioeconomic status are generally known to have less of it.

    IQ measures g by taking a bunch of tests. It does not measure specific cognitive abilities. Such a thing has never been measured or shown in any way to exist. Lots of people want to believe in it, and not believe in g, including myself, because the notion that IQ is all there is to say about cognitive ability is weird, like we all have these huge brains, and vary so greaty in cognitive ability, but that isn’t the fault of IQ.


    Posted on April 19th, 2014 at 6:24 pm Reply | Quote
  • E.Antony Gray (RiverC) Says:

    The first essay is okay, I get his idea of “respect for free speech is enshrined in the constitution, but the constitution cannot defend free speech if we use social pressure to destroy it.” I also agree generally interpreting free speech as ‘my right to hear interesting, useful and unusual opinions and words’. However, he is downright promiscuous here, showing no particular discernment, as though you just read all of these people without it causing problems. Does the fact that some authors tried to structure their work to actively *hurt* the reader mean anything? Do we actively seek out stuff that tries to deceptively undermine our rational axioms? What people deem as ‘unreadable’ is as much about ‘phobia’ as it is about true concern for breaking the intellectual apparatus.

    The second one (which is linked wrong right now, admin – you missed your protocol string) is awful, I couldn’t finish it. It’s such a mess I can’t tell if or when he’s strawmanning/steelmanning and given his intelligence I would assume this is intentional; the essay is structured to confuse.


    admin Reply:

    Thanks, fixed.

    “… given his intelligence I would assume this is intentional; the essay is structured to confuse.” — In confusion lies opportunity.


    Posted on April 19th, 2014 at 9:16 pm Reply | Quote
  • Karl F. Boetel Says:

    The key question for me (which I have answered to my own satisfaction) is this: does the ‘Anti-Racialist FAQ’ seem like it’s a document produced by a guy who was genuinely interested in understanding race, and so was willing to question his own assumptions and look at things from another perspective?

    Or does it seem more like: ughhhhhh, these stupid racist white people keep going onnnnn and onnnnn about “facts” and “genes” and other gay bullsh*t and it’s starting to make them look good to other stupid racist white people, so I *guess* I can waste a couple hours proving them wrong forever. (For extra credit, use the term “steel-man.”)

    What do you get when you install a rationally indefensible official ideology?

    You get clever people wasting a lot of time and energy defending it.


    admin Reply:

    Sure, I was marking on a curve.

    It still strikes me as a symptom of something worth noting — the plates are shifting.


    Handle Reply:

    I am more pessimistic. The internet is doing many thinks to the market for intellectual content, and one of those things is fractal-descent into some sub-sub-niche, epistemic closure, and the weakening of the market for ‘made me reconsider my opinion’ and the strengthening of the confirmation-bias market.

    Just look at the Piketty nonsense, I’ve read half the book and it’s “A few slights of hand that no one on-side is going to point out, something something, so grab the wealth of those rich bastards!” The average progressive, “Oh, yes, I always wanted to grab the wealth of those rich bastards – especially those nasty Libertarian billionaires – and I’ve had a lot of pent-up demand for some professional, scholarly looking argument (that I’ll never read or understand, but which Klein and Yglesias at Vox will give me a FAQ for) to help me feel as if there is some transcendental, rationalist reason to justify my desire to grab and redistribute and make me feel a little less like a member of a common thieving mob.”

    Even very sloppy products like these ‘FAQs’ serve the purpose of putting tempted, somewhat queasy people “Gee, I don’t know, maybe these evil wackos have a point, I mean, it seems to match all my personal experience, but I’d really prefer not to believe it and be associated with those low-status, radioactive losers” – back on the straight-and-narrow of mainstream orthodoxy.

    The Salem Witch Trials put off a lot of Puritans (many of whom later converted to Quakerism or other sects because of their disgust and disillusionment), but one can imagine early on that the early wavering doubters who didn’t want to be doubters, but couldn’t help noticing things, were given copies of Increase Mather’s, “Cases of conscience concerning evil spirits” and thought, “Oh, yes, spectral evidence should be admissible, of course. You know, the Devil can take the form of innocent people, after all.”

    When I read things like this, I try to imagine, “What’s the big point of all this?” To me, the big point is that my entire government, and nearly the entirely of the wealth-power-influence elite of my society are absolutely committed to insane policies (i.e. immigration, diversity) and coercive crusades based on the claimed principle that the correct attribution of the origins of various observable human disparities (where they aren’t actively denying that certain huge disparities even exist) has no significant genetic component strongly correlated to ancestry, which is an obvious untruth. And that if the crusades to ignore or level those disparities through unjust interventions weren’t enough, they also insist, sub poena, that everyone loudly proclaim their fanatical devotion to this untruth, or else.

    So, the only way to argue against this insanity is to somehow attack the underlying false proposition, but anyone who does that directly with things like argument, logic, and evidence immediately becomes a stupid, evil, radioactive unperson who should definitely never have a job, or a moment’s peace from the mob should he ever try to raise his head in polite society.

    Instead, we get a ‘FAQ’ which says, “Something something, Flynn Effect. Yadda yadda, philosophy of linguistics and semantics of biological classification problems. Ergo: Nothing to see here, don’t let your confidence in your insane progressive orthodoxy and the wisdom of your government’s policies be disturbed, feel free to point to this FAQ and then just go about your business comfortable in the notion that the people burning really are evil witches and totally had it coming.”

    So, no, I see no tectonic plates shifting. I see another spanning beam has been bolted on the fissure to make it more stable than ever, having evolved a new plasmid of resistance to the latest promising antibiotic.

    Here’s an example of logical sloppiness that evidences my ‘foregone conclusion of dismissiveness’ claim.

    The Prussian says:

    1. Hey, Derb likes Nicholas Wade’s book.
    2. Instead of talking about Whites like that evil Charles Murray does, he says there are Caucasians which is a historical term that is defined as the several billion people from Tromso Norway to Marrakesh Morocco to Calcutta, India
    3. These people are so diverse, there’s nothing useful you can say about them except they are all bipedal primates with hemoglobin.
    4. Also, Africa is pretty diverse, so ‘black’ is a pretty lame word too.
    5. Therefore racialism is hypocritical, inconsistent, and stoopid. QED.

    So, we’re not going to talk about DNA and gene loci and decades of work identifying how population groups differ from each other, and how these differences matter hugely for gene expression? Instead we’re going to use word games and arguments that leap from ‘applauds’ to ‘judges to be perfect’? Really? Question: Does anybody actually believe Derb thinks this pre-modern-genetics definition of Caucasian is meaningful for the big questions and issues I mentioned above? Nonsense.

    When one reads something as silly as this, one knows (1) what one is dealing with, (2) that there are no tectonic plates shifting, (3) that this is not a person trying to better understand his world but instead trying to shut down a certain kind of discourse by providing an excuse for people to think they can ignore it, and (4) it is absolutely pointless to try and engage such a person in polite debate where one can correct or refute arguments, because they will just throw more gibberish like this at you at you battle, like Gandalf and the Balrog – down an infinite rabbit hole, and anyway, they will never ever change the ‘FAQ’ under any circumstances.


    Konkvistador Reply:


    Ken Brockman Reply:

    insane policies (i.e. immigration

    Maybe I lack the requisite information, but I find it difficult to judge whether the typical policy on immigration is relatively sane, or insane because it restricts so much human movement, or insane because–perhaps–it rarely serves the interests of the existing population.

    I also have difficulty judging what the administrative elite believes about immigration, or why.

    My current belief is that this question is difficult to answer, because to do so would require a level of honesty and critical thought that the modern structure can’t sustain. It’s the question of whether government ought to be in the interests of “the people”, or in their meta-interest in not having their extrapolated volition enacted; and whether the people in question should be defined according to nationality, or some other Schelling point, ideal or convenient criteria.

    Karl F. Boetel Reply:

    I have to agree with Handle here. S. Alexander’s ‘Nutshell,’ e.g., was encouraging; his ‘FAQ’ and this one he’s recommended are not.

    admin Reply:

    “… this is … a person … trying to shut down a certain kind of discourse by providing an excuse for people to think they can ignore it.” — That’s not at all obvious to me. It looks more like an acknowledgement that the previous defensive lines have become untenable.

    Karl F. Boetel Reply:

    @ admin: Could be both. We’ll see where it goes from here…

    For comparison, I’ve found that the *typical* internet prog, on its own turf, follows this flowchart in any given conversation about race:

    Stage I: You commit thoughtcrime by stating some hate-fact or hate-theory about race. They call you ignorant and stupid. There is a 75% chance of proceeding immediately to Stage X (below).

    Stage II: You sketch an explanation of why you are right. They say “omg racis.” There is now a 90% chance of Stage X.

    Stage III: You explain, in mind-numbing detail, with citations, why your factual claims are unquestionably true. They, with much “ugh”-ing and “sigh”-ing, offer a Counterargument. The Counterargument will be just utterly, ridiculously, comically fallacious. You will have heard it a thousand times before. There is now a 95% chance of Stage X.

    Stage IV: You will attempt to explain why the Counterargument is wrong. They say “omg racis.” Again. There is now a 100% chance of Stage X.

    Stage X: They ban you for “racism.” For extra credit: they delete all your comments. For extra-extra credit: they delete your comments, but leave the “anti-racist” “rebuttals.”

    I once made it to Stage IV over at Sociological Images (hate-fact: race differences in crime rates), for instance, but am now permanently banned. They went with the extra-extra credit solution.

    Konkvistador Reply:

    @admin: If you think this is a retreat from indefensible lines… are you impressed by early 2000s Western European Pro-free Market Anti-Islamism? I assume not. I see nothing new at all conceded by “The Prussian” to reality that wasn’t by say the mainstream cloud of people of the type you saw at that time on the Gates of Vienna blog.

    If anything he is very hysterical about Islam, like they sometimes are. As a result I am sure he will moderate his position exposed to Progressives who will point out it is hysterical with good arguments.

    Which will then make him a moderately Pro-Free market Central European Liberal. Which makes him completely unexceptional and a strain of thought that has been around as a minor political force in Western and Central Europe for 20 years or so.

    admin Reply:

    “… are you impressed by early 2000s Western European Pro-free Market Anti-Islamism?” — I’m not exactly allergic to the stuff.

    Handle Reply:

    @admin; @Karl F. Boetel, In Re: ‘Stage X’

    One thing I like to do is figure out whether there is, in fact, any open-mindedness in my interlocutor, and whether they are arguing in good-faith, and willing to change their opinion upon exposure to evidence and logical counterargument. A good way to ‘test for the inevitability of Stage-X’ is to start out by asking “Tell me what it would take to change your mind.”

    Usually you can’t get a clear answer. Which is strange.

    I can very easily and readily tell you what it would take to change my mind – some high-variance test that had equal means. Or even, a high degree of variance-in-the-disparity-between-means as one compared different communities. If, say, controlling for every other variable, an evil Mississippi school showed a 3-SD ethnic difference, but a right-thinking Yankee school showed a 0.5-SD ethnic difference, that’d be great evidence that the evil Mississippi school is using its witchcraft black magic against these poor kids! I would expect such a result to be broadcast daily at the NYT with the volume knob turned to 11. But no, ~1SD everywhere you look.

    Am I wrong to presume that when I can’t get an equally clear answer out of my counterparty that it’s because they are trying to avoid having their own BS exposed?

    Sometimes I get something like, “A peer-reviewed paper in a top journal written by a top, credentialed PhD teaching at an elite University” And then I can show them the list of the references you kindly link to in your excellent articles.

    And then there is the strange ‘moving of the goal-posts’. Well, well, but is that the consensus? Is that what everybody thinks?”

    And I ask, “Well, wait a minute, what’s with this moving of the goalpost? Your standard of evidence for something that supports your view is one paper. You asked for something like that. When I produce several, they’re not enough. What’s enough?”

    And the final answer is basically the near-complete consensus of the entire Academic Establishment.

    When you say that there isn’t a single paper out there that gives results like the kind we would gladly change our minds were we to discover them, they start plunging into the depths of the dark forces of unfalsifiable excuses related to unmeasurable social influences.

    You need some way to do bets or wagers and have people put their money where their mouths are.

    At least with counting votes for elections, two parties that completely distrust each other can still agree to send their representatives to double-count – and watch each other count – every single ballot, with their lawyers present, and at the end come to almost exact agreement on the accurate result.

    But there’s no way to get these people to agree to the rules for any process that would be the equivalent of ‘let’s put our cards on the table and settle this thing like men once and for all’.

    vinteuil Reply:

    The Prussian’s critique of Radish 1.3 (Slavery Reconsidered) isn’t very good, but at least he’s trying. He’s even read some of the relevant contemporary literature (a bit of Darwin, a bit of Dickens, &c). Sooner or later, I think he’ll be one of ours.


    Posted on April 19th, 2014 at 9:54 pm Reply | Quote
  • Contaminated NEET Says:

    It looks like “steelmanning” has quickly acquired a negative connotation around these parts. Good. It’s one of the worst ideas the Less Wrong crowd has ever come up with; how anyone who has ever interacted with humans could possibly think steelmanning could be anything but a bitter joke is a mystery for the ages.


    Alrenous Reply:

    Proving someone wrong is weak tea, for socially-defined definitions of ‘prove.’ The Prussian thinks he did it, and you(plural) are just as vulnerable to this overconfidence.

    Learning something new is worthwhile. A good source of new truth was steelmanning the hell out of everything I read. I only stopped because the internet started repeating itself. For example I have already steelmanned the arguments the Prussian raises, there’s no point in doing it a second time.

    But, for sub-example, 1.5 the argument about corruption. There is a real argument about corruption, though the Prussian doesn’t know it, and his evidence…needs work.

    British corruption is too sophisticated to show up on that survey. America is more corrupt than Latin America, not less. (The map:”A bunch of American say America isn’t corrupt and other places are.”) Having the best liars is not exactly something for whites to be proud of.

    Often a true steelman goes flagrantly off-topic, and this is a good example. The best point to make about world variation in corruption is not a racialist or anti-racialist point.

    Indeed it’s more like the best point is that ideologues are bad at logic.* Corruption is different in different places, therefore, what? Therefore…we don’t fucking know, to be blunt. Certainly not, ‘therefore, the British should conquer the world again.’ Not, ‘therefore, immigration.’ Not, ‘therefore, whites should all kill themselves.’ Therefore, we need to hold constant a value system and then figure out why we care about corruption. Do it twice with different reference frames to see how robust the conclusions, and for kicks.

    *(The Prussian wants you to think he cares about truth, arguments, rationality. He cares about you buying his ideology, and his methods reveal this. Of course I also care about you buying my ideology, but my ideology is actually truth…not that I expect to have proved this, and therefore you shouldn’t, in general, believe me.)

    Very important to be explicit about your value system. Otherwise it’s exactly like doing physics without defining the origin. Second, to err is human and it’s important that readers can check for equivocation on the value system. Third, to lie is human and intentionally equivocating on the value system is perhaps more common than not; for example, so that other value system holders can confuse yours with theirs and be convinced even though they shouldn’t be.

    I could go on, there’s lots more here, but doubtless I’ve already gone far past the accurate parts of my map of my audience; I’m probably deftly explaining the obvious and assuming knowledge of the obtuse.


    Handle Reply:

    “America is more corrupt than Latin America”

    Come on, are you joking?

    I’ve invested in several companies that do medical research in Latin America and in the US and Canada, and I notice two things.

    Every Single Time we do something in Any Latin American Country, we are shook down for bribes by Every officer in the bureaucracy assembly line in extraordinarily explicit ways. It’s just ‘the cost of doing business’, don’t you know. There’s just a strange line on the accounting ledger for ‘shrinkage’ where the rate is one or two orders of magnitude higher than in North America, because you can’t say what it really is without running afoul of the FCPA.

    Not Even Once has that Ever happened in the U.S. or Canada. Your best efforts to get something ‘expedited’ (that is, treated specially and not equally with every other application) for even the most legitimate reasons have to go through the most ‘sophisticated’ convoluted and indirect channels because everyone is terrified of the mere appearance of undue influence, for which the FBI can crush you forever in the blink of an eye.


    Peter A. Taylor Reply:

    There was an article in The Economist years ago on the difference between corruption in the USSR and post-USSR Russia. The USSR had corruption, but it was disciplined, Communist corruption. You might have to pay a bribe to get something done, but the person you paid actually had the authority to do what you wanted, and would do it. In recently post-USSR Russia, it was chaotic. The amount of corruption on some quantitative measures might not have been any higher, but authority was muddled, so you might have to pay more people, and still not get your job done.

    I think Alrenous’ point was that it isn’t clear what we should think of as being “corruption”. There is a saying, “In complexity lies deceit.” The US tax code is very complex. You can look at the way the tax collectors, et al, (mostly) follow the law and say that it’s not corrupt. There is a great deal of “juicing” and “campaign contributions” being made, but it is done in such a way that it (mostly) conforms to the letter of the law. So do we say that it isn’t corrupt, or do we say that the corruption is disciplined and has even been formalized? As a voter and taxpayer, I feel that my representatives are acting in bad faith in all kinds of ways, but I don’t know how to quantify it. Can I justifiably call it “corruption”?

    I get into arguments with libertarians about whether tax breaks for special interests are improvements (reductions in coercion) or worsenings (increases in some sort of evil). I think it would be nice to have a shadow budget in which every departure from the maximum tax rate imposed on anyone in the country shows up as an expense, maybe with a penalty factor for opacity.

    Handle Reply:


    I understand and agree with your point, and yes people use the word ‘corruption’ in all kinds of ways – not all of which capture every possible manner of ‘undue influence’, but sometimes meaning simply ‘unfair’ – all of which creates a lot of confusion.

    But now we’re into word games where anyone can make any point about anything if they choose their favorite unconventional or sophisticated meaning, and that just makes a statement like “America is more corrupt than Latin America” even more suspect.

    When it starts getting hard to tell whether a certain category of activity can be properly characterized as ‘corruption’, that doesn’t imply that we should presume corruption isn’t there, but neither should we presume that it is.

    For the purposes of the FCPA, or when they do these polls around the world, they ask ordinary people about corruption in the usually understood meaning of the term – being encouraged to pay illegal bribes personally to ordinary government workers so that either (1) they will actually do the job they are supposed to do, (2) not abuse their discretion and do something costly to you (‘juicing’), or (3) they will abuse their discretion in your favor by deviating from their job’s formal standards of fairness and impartiality (‘special favors’)

    When you ask these ordinary people about their ordinary interactions with agents of their governments, they think ‘how much bribery is going on in general’ when asked about ‘corruption’, and that’s a completely legitimate way to interpret the question

    Alrenous Reply:

    Handle, the entire education system is a scam. $70 billion dollars, all of which not only fails to educate anyone, but actively makes ignorance and misinformation worse. More than half of it is spent on pointless administrative positions, in case anyone wants to argue that nobody could do better.

    In Latin America, you could bribe your way out of it. In America, who do you bribe? It’s not like there aren’t exceptions. Some citizens do escape. But you can’t.

    No, it’s all aboveboard. The government takes your money and lights it on fire for shits and giggles quite legally.

    Why don’t I think AIACC is effective? Because a much stronger red pill would simply be a true accounting of where all these money firehoses are spraying. It’s still not strong enough. Many if not most Americans are aware that school administration is mostly sinecures…but god help me if I suggest they find an alternative to sending their kids there. Individually questioned about individual institutions, they will complain all day. DMV. Bank bailouts. Attempt to draw the connection? Attempt to show that if you think each institution is individually corrupt, then perhaps the system itself is corrupt? Impossible. They resist mightily. Coincidentally, this latter question is what was on the corruption survey.

    Generally this mental pressure is captured by a honeypot. Capitalism. Democrats. Christianity. Maleness. Immigrants. The military-industrial complex.


    Bribes? Really, bribes? I’m sorry, I can’t even take that seriously. The American system has evolved far beyond mere bribes.

    Handle Reply:


    Dude, I feel your pain. I agree with you on a lot of what you say. Education is an enormously wasteful mess of indoctrination, credential-signalling, and social-desirability bias. 90% of the entire federal budget is redistribution and welfare and interest on the debt, not like it matters, because society is shaped via the regulatory code and enforcement apparatus, which is relatively cheap in that it has a huge impact in terms of negatively distorting behavior for a comparatively tiny cost.

    But you said Latin America was less corrupt than the US. That’s just not true, and you’re reaching and stretching way out into the province of word games.

    I am somewhat sympathetic to Peter’s point. Corruption in a society can take a variety of forms. I like to think of it in ‘ecosystem’ terms of ‘little predators eat little prey’ and ‘big, apex predators prefer big prey but also eat little predators’.

    The rule in most of the world is ‘little predators eat little prey’. That is, ordinary people going about their ordinary business frequently interact with petty government officials and get preyed upon in unfair ways unsanctioned by the formal legal system. In some places, this frustrating experience is so common it is, if not a ‘culturally accepted practice’ still basically a way of life. People in those countries don’t think it’s not a big deal, they persistently claim their wish that the government would do more to crack down on the problem.

    One of the great accomplishments in much of the developed world is the suppression of this little-little activity into near absence. That is something that is true, and for which we ought to be thankful.

    As for big predators and big prey, especially the ones that operate in the shadows or in more sophisticated, nuanced, and obscure ways ‘in the light of day’, that is a different kind of corruption problem, that most people never see or experience directly. Does it happen in the US? Certainly. I haven’t seen much evidence that it doesn’t happen everywhere to some degree – after all, it’s hard to measure ‘plausibly deniable undue influence’. Hell, it’s hard to even define.

    But I certainly see no evidence that the big-big phenomenon is somehow an especially USG phenomenon, and doesn’t present in at least as serious a problem in Latin American or other countries. In my Middle Eastern experience, I can tell you for certain that America and the UK simply cannot be compared to the levels of corruption in those countries, of any type and at any level.

    It’s fine to point out serious problems, but let’s not exaggerate.

    Alrenous Reply:

    Citizens notice Spanish style corruption. This creates backpressure to keep it in check. Citizens do not feel British style corruption, It doesn’t mean they don’t get hit by it. It does mean it accelerates without limit. Displacing corruption is not an accomplishment.

    When corruption is illegal, the definition is easy, but when legal, there is still the same kind of mismatch. It can’t be called waste when it is on purpose.

    Let’s take the limit. In the limit, which is worse, bribes, or British style legal corruption?

    In Latin America, the social security programs are not going to destroy the government. They will simply reneg or ask bribes so expensive it’s hardly worth it. That sort of thing.

    In America, the social security programs are going to destroy the government unless something else gets there first.

    It’s not as if American leaders are unaware of this problem. I had several reports of them being told. They simply don’t care. They could 180 public opinion just like they did on gay marriage, most likely. (Caveat: it is perhaps impossible to brainwash people to be more mature about things – there may be an immaturity ratchet.) Don’t, though, and won’t even try.

    Yes, let’s not exaggerate. Spanish corruption annoys voters. British corruption risks TEOTWAWKI.

    But perhaps the limit is misleading?

    Mortgage crisis. British corruption causes recessions. Almost everyone involved knew it was a scam, they were just trying to find a more gullible sucker. Eventually British style corruption will bugger the price system entirely.

    But perhaps it’s a nice ride until then?

    They knew thalidomide had issues and approved it anyway. Stuff like that happens all the time. See also: mercury-containing vaccines. In these cases, it’s not even definitely legal. See also: selective enforcement of laws on whites. (Except in New York.)

    Returning to schools, do you know how textbooks are chosen? Legal bribes, mostly. That’s why they’re so expensive. As per government SOP, the more they spend on them, the less useful they are.

    The point of public sector unions is to fund the Democrats. Most private unions too.

    In terms of dollars, probably even in terms of %GDP, American spends more for purposes other than their public justification than any other nation. Except maybe Greece? Because they get to spend Germany’s money instead of their own?

    Do you know about the Democrat insider trading problem? Sadly I lost the reference, but they get something like ten times the return as the market as a whole. (Republicans get merely three times.)

    Have you had a drink with an entrepreneur recently? Doing business is illegal. At least, profitably doing business is illegal. The single most important skill for any entrepreneur, by far, is government connections so they’ll favourably interpret the regs for you. But you can’t bribe them to do that! That’s nice, I guess. What was Bill Gate’s antitrust suit about? He forgot to grease the right palms. Or perhaps he foolishly thought we still have rule of law. Fixed that right quick, he did.

    Literally every institution I have data for is mainly corruption.

    At least it’s predictable corruption. I don’t have to guess how much I’ll be jacked for, because it’s all aboveboard. Sort of. Except when I’m being jacked by proxy and it’s a 50-50 chance I’ll even notice. How much of the price of Windows is due to Gates’ bribes or submission rituals? It’s natural to blame the company when most of the time, it’s not the company’s fault at all.

    It’s a good example of Moldbug’s anti-libertarianism principle. The king hates bribes too – because the want all that lucre for himself. In Spain’s empire, he was never strong enough to seize it. In Britain, his authority’s descendents have succeeded, that’s all.

    Posted on April 20th, 2014 at 5:53 am Reply | Quote
  • Alan J. Perrick Says:

    Agree with “Konkvistador” and Mr. Boetel that this blogger is pretty far away from a healthy pro-white mentality.


    admin Reply:

    I’m not going to pretend that’s a deal-breaker for me.


    Posted on April 20th, 2014 at 6:32 am Reply | Quote
  • Alrenous Says:

    Since we seem to have agreed this is a false alarm, I feel it’s worth repeating that the documentation and collation is worthwhile. We won’t be able to see a pattern without it, if one exists.

    I should probably be blunt: I want to see every false alarm. Even, perhaps especially, if it will turn out to be no pattern but noise in the system.


    Posted on April 20th, 2014 at 1:20 pm Reply | Quote
  • Lesser Bull Says:

    That was not the quality your description led me to expect.


    admin Reply:

    I’m probably too easily won over by an absence of moral hysterics.


    E.Antony Gray (RiverC) Reply:

    I feel like in his case (the Prussian) it’s more of a disability than a virtue


    Posted on April 21st, 2014 at 2:29 pm Reply | Quote
  • neovictorian23 Says:

    It was foreseeable that almost all the commentary here has been to attack The Prussian’s “racialist” piece. Getting into the weeds of tonal languages was not an especially useful direction, either. There is quite a bit to dispute about his specific points like Kenyans adding IQ points (really?) and exactly what the Flynn effect is measuring, but overall, the piece radiates a certain mental flexibility, even, dare I say, sanity. As Professor de la Paz said in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, “I can deal with a Randite.” There’s a basis for discussion using things like the Law of Identity, unlike with anti-logic Progs.

    The Prussian’s “free speech” piece is useful and welcome on a broader scale:

    So, here is what you should do: you should specifically seek out those whose views contradict yours. If you are a feminist, you should read the MRAs, the Red Pillers, and the anti-suffragettes. And if you are a Red Piller, you should read the very best feminism has to offer; you should watch A Secret War, and read A Vindication of the Rights of Women. If you are a dedicated anti-racist, you should read all the arguments of the modern day racialists, of those who think that the racial struggle is over, or the out and out racial supremacists. And if you are someone who thinks political correctness is all completely overblown when it comes to the subject of race, you should be reading Black Like Me, Nelson Mandela, W.E. DuBois and Dr King. If you are a socialist, you should read Ayn Rand, von Mises and Hayek, and if you are a libertarian, you should read Marx, Lenin, Trotsky and Gramsci. And we wouldn’t have people talking unrestrained bullshit about what the jihadis motivations are, if they would just read what the jihadis write and listen to what the jihadis say.

    I couldn’t agree more; also, “steelmanning” is an important intellectual exercise. Since 98.025 percent of the population doesn’t do it, even a little bit, including almost every “elite” Cathedral journalist and think-tanker, it puts you in a position to kick their asses.



    Posted on April 21st, 2014 at 5:42 pm Reply | Quote
  • Chuck Says:

    My Nick, what a silly piece. But something there must have wet your pussy. Perchance:

    “I, however, am truly Nietzschean in this. I take no joy in seeing crimes and failures of anyone. I would much, much rather contemplate the best in every people, and take delight in their glory…”

    [Oh, is that how the Pathos of Distance worked?]

    “I’m perfectly happy to cop to the ‘supremacist’ charge”


    “It is the racial bit that I loathe”



    admin Reply:

    Try to rein back the vulgarity, if you don’t want to end up in the trash.


    Posted on April 22nd, 2014 at 1:48 am Reply | Quote
  • Karl F. Boetel Says:

    here’s your shining beacon of rationality:

    see because i tweeted something it means i have no rebuttal to his IRON LOGIC… or something

    don’t miss the last line:

    “Unfortunately for them, they weren’t just dealing with the mainstream. They ran into me.”


    Alrenous Reply:

    Paging Dunning and/or Kruger.


    Posted on April 30th, 2014 at 5:45 am Reply | Quote

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