The Fault in our Tongues: Tablet, Spencer, and Political Deafness

Tablet Magazine recently ran an article about Richard Spencer’s slightly less recent interview on Israel’s Channel 2: Richard Spencer Says He Just Wants ‘White Zionism.’ Here’s Why That’s Malicious Nonsense.

Spencer I regard as somewhat like the Boogeyman: journalists like to pull him out when they want to scare someone. He doesn’t represent the Alt-Right inasmuch as the Alt-Right is mostly a vague collection of people/groups on the internet who don’t fall into mainstream conservatism, rather than a coherent entity with a single leader.

I am not personally well-acquainted with Spencer’s work–if I’ve read any of it, I’ve forgotten it–but he is famous enough that I am familiar with the gist of it.

According to Tablet:

…alt-right luminary Richard Spencer declared himself to be a “white Zionist.” Just as Jews want a state of their own, the Charlottesville far-right organizer argued, he merely seeks a state for white people.

“…you could say that I am a white Zionist in the sense that I care about my people. I want us to have a secure homeland that’s for us and ourselves just like you want a secure homeland in Israel.”

So far, so good: this sounds a lot like things Spencer has said elsewhere, eg, Wikipedia says:

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Spencer has advocated for a white homeland for a “dispossessed white race” and called for “peaceful ethnic cleansing” to halt the “deconstruction” of European culture.[19][20][58] To this end he has supported what he has called “the creation of a White Ethno-State on the North American continent”, an “ideal” that he has regarded as a “reconstitution of the Roman Empire.”[59][60]

The white nationalist wants a white nation. Sounds tautological. But this is where Tablet gets interesting:

It’s an analogy with superficial plausibility. It’s also a malicious lie, and a deliberate one. …

Essentially, the alt-right maliciously appropriates the deeply held values of liberals and minorities in order to attack them. This is not because the alt-right shares those values, but because it wants to troll those who do.

This is quite the claim! It’s one thing to claim that someone has appropriated a cultural item, such as a white person performing a style of music invented by black people or an Asian person wearing a Mexican hat. “Cultural appropriation” is a logical mess in practice, but at least it rests on the somewhat coherent idea of “this is my culture, we do and make these things, therefore these things belong to us.”

What does it mean to appropriate someone’s values? “You can’t be an environmentalist, only people whose ancestors were environmentalists are allowed to care about the environment?” “I’m sorry, but since Freedom of Speech was not originally enshrined in your country’s laws, you’re not allowed to want it.”

But if we read the paragraph again, it becomes clear that Tablet doesn’t really want to accuse Spencer of appropriating liberal values, (which it thinks he does not hold) but instead the logical arguments used to support liberal positions.

And for what purpose? Here Tablet’s answer is simple: to troll them:

This disingenuous dynamic of using liberal values to troll liberals has been documented elsewhere by journalists who have followed the alt-right. … As Jean-Paul Sartre wrote in his 1946 treatise Anti-Semite and Jew:

Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. … they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert.

Spencer’s doing it for the shits and giggles, folks.

To be fair, the alt-right is full of trolls and jokers, and many of them are anti-Semitic. Spencer himself is probably anti-Semitic, or at least anti-people-who-write-for-Tablet, but anti-Semitic trolling of the frogs-and-gas-chamber-memes-variety doesn’t appear to be his primary concern. He seems to be primarily concerned with promoting white nationalism. (It’s almost as though “alt-right” were a vague, poorly-defined term that includes a lot of people who might not even believe in the same stuff besides a general dislike of both the mainstream left and right.)

If Spencer is just trolling you, then what is his real intention? In this case, we have nothing–nothing but sound and fury, blustering for no reason. What’s the point? Does Spencer have secret reasons for promoting white nationalism other than white nationalism?

In my many years of trying to figure out why people believe and advocate for the politics they do, I have observed two things:

  1. People often ignore each others’ arguments, respond to arguments their opponents didn’t make, assume their opponents are lying, or lie themselves about their opponents’ arguments
  2. People I disagree with make more sense if I assume they are generally trying to be truthful

For example, in a debate about abortion, one side might argue, “We think women should have the right to control their own bodies,” and the other side might argue, “murdering babies is immoral,” and then side A responds, “You hate women and want to force them to be breeding cows,” and side B shoots back, “You hate babies and want to murder them.”

But it actually makes more sense to assume the anti-abortion side is opposed to baby-murder than that they’re interested in using women like cattle, and it makes more sense to assume the pro-abortion side is more interested in controlling whether or not they are pregnant than in maliciously murdering people.

Interestingly, conservatives tend to understand liberals’ motivations and reasons for their political beliefs better than liberals understand conservatives’. As Haidt reports in The Righteous Mind, (quoted on The Independent Whig):

In a study I did with Jesse Graham and Brian Nosek, we tested how well liberals and conservatives could understand each other. We asked more than two thousand American visitors to fill out the Moral Foundations Questionnaire. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out normally, answering as themselves. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out as they think a “typical liberal” would respond. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out as a “typical conservative” would respond. This design allowed us to examine the stereotypes that each side held about the other. More important, it allowed us to assess how accurate they were by comparing people’s expectations about “typical” partisans to the actual responses from partisans on the left and the right.)’ …

The results were clear and consistent. Moderates and conservatives were most accurate in their predictions, whether they were pretending to be liberals or conservatives. Liberals were the least accurate, especially those who described themselves as “very liberal.” The biggest errors in the whole study came when liberals answered the Care and Fairness questions while pretending to be conservatives. When faced with questions such as “One of the worst things a person could do is hurt a defenseless animal” or ”Justice is the most important requirement for a society,” liberals assumed that conservatives would disagree. If you have a moral matrix built primarily on intuitions about care and fairness (as equality), and you listen to the Reagan [i.e., conservative] narrative, what else could you think? Reagan seems completely unconcerned about the welfare of drug addicts, poor people, and gay people. He’s more interested in fighting wars and telling people how to run their sex lives.

I find this holds among people I know in real life: the conservatives tend to understand what liberals believe, while the liberals tend to despair that they live in a country full of evil psychopaths who voted for Trump.

There has been a lot of debate (and public marching) lately about Free Speech, especially whether people like Richard Spencer should have free speech. It seems that some people see even their political opponents as basically honest and well-meaning, their political opinions therefore something a good person might believe if they had different life experiences or were just working with different information.

By contrast, some people see other people as fundamentally dishonest and malicious, their “opinions” as just justifications or deflective cover for being a bad person. (Would you debate the ethics of murder with a serial killer?)

If you fall into the first camp, then the principle of Free Speech makes sense, because knowledge and experiences can be conveyed. But if you fall into the second camp, then there are positions that you think are not honestly argued nor susceptible to logic or debate–in which case, there’s no point to extending “free speech” to such ideas.

For example, Donna Zuckerberg, (yes, sister of Mark Zuckerberg,) recently announced some changes to her Classics Magazine Eidolon’s mission statement (h/t Steve Sailer):

Will this shift lead to a less diverse Eidolon? Our writers always have been, and will continue to be, a diverse group. Our writer pool has excellent diversity of race, age, gender, professional status, and sexuality. … we’ve been accused of not being “ideologically diverse.” This charge is a common one, but I think it is misguided, in addition to being morally bankrupt. Making ideological diversity a primary objective is fundamentally incompatible with fighting against racism, sexism, and other forms of structural oppression, and we choose to prioritize the latter.

In other words: liberals don’t think conservatives deserve free speech because they assume conservatives are basically lying to cover up their real agenda of hurting various minorities.

But why are liberals more susceptible to misunderstanding their opponents than liberals? Let’s return to Tablet, which makes two interesting arguments. First:

Thus, [the alt-right] wrenches causes like affirmative action, black pride, and Zionism from their historical and moral context—as defenses of minorities against long-standing majority oppression—and inverts them to serve white supremacist aims against minorities.

Well, I don’t think Spencer mentioned affirmative action in this article, but the rest is sensible.

In general, American conservatives tend to believe that moral principles should be applied universally–to quote Kant’s categorical imperative:

Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.[1]

Tablet is in effect saying that nationalism is not meant to be a universal political value, but particular to specific groups in specific contexts. The universalizable principle is not nationalism, but, “Nationalism for minority groups in order to protect them from majority groups.”

By this logic, American whites shouldn’t be nationalist vis American non-whites, but South African whites would be perfectly justified in nationalism against South Africa’s black majority. This rule does not tell us, however, whether a group that expects to become a minority in the future is justified in pre-emptively trying to prevent this or look out for their future interests.

When does the right to nationalism kick in?

(Incidentally, US infants are already majority non-white, and the entire US will be majority non-white around 2050. NPR also estimates that about 20% of the 2060 US population will be foreigners. By contrast, the nation was 84% white back in 1965, before passage of LBJ’s immigration act.)

“Nationalism for everyone” is at least a clear principle that doesn’t get hung up on such nuances as “Are we a minority yet?” or “Are we sufficiently oppressed?” Unfortunately, it leads to other questions, like “Should Basques have their own country?” or “What about Northern Ireland?”

But to return to Spencer and Tablet, it appears that Spencer is working under the assumption that “nationalism is good” is a universal principle applicable to all peoples, while Tablet is working on the assumption that “nationalism is a defense for minority populations against oppression.”

Tablet unnecessarily muddles the waters by adding:

In this manner, the return of Jews to their indigenous homeland is recast by white nationalists, who are not indigenous to America, to justify kicking Jews and other minorities out of the country.

Whoa whoa whoa. “Indigeneity” is a whole different argument. If anyone gets to be called “indigenous” in Israel, it’s the Palestinians. Genetically speaking, claiming indigeneity based on having lived somewhere 2,000 years ago is nonsense–during the 1,900 years of diaspora, pretty much all Jewish groups intermarried with their neighbors and are now about 50% “non Jew” by DNA (most of that on their mothers’ side, as men are nigh universally more likely than women to travel long distances and then take local wives.) Ashkenazim–the majority of Jews–are about 50% Italian, having taken wives from among the Romans after their expulsion from Judea following the destruction of the Second Temple.

For that matter, I would like to point out that the majority of Jews are genetically “white” and that Jewish culture has been part of European culture for almost 2,000 years. (I don’t know how to politely express just how dumb I think two different groups of whites arguing about “white nationalism” is.) Jews have been living in parts of Germany for almost as long as the ethnic Germans, having been officially invited in during the Ostsiedlung. If Jews are indigenous to anywhere, they have a much better argument for Germany and Poland than Israel.

Luckily for me, I think “indigeneity” is a stupid argument and that countries should exist because there exists some entity with the military power to secure the area. By my logic, Israel gets to exist because it does exist: Israel is the only entity with the military strength to control the area, and denying this would just destabilize the area and lead to more deaths.

Likewise, Americans (whites included) have a right to their country because they are already here and controlling it.

Tablet’s justification for why it thinks Spencer (and the alt-right generally) is lying about being interested in white nationalism, or perhaps that white nationalism is comparable to Zionism, is that alt-righters tend not to like Israel or Jews:

That the alt-right does not genuinely support Israel or Zionism—that “they delight in acting in bad faith” on the topic—is readily apparent from how its members talk about Israel when they are not engaged in trolling.

(Here the article quotes several people from Twitter saying negative things about Zionism or Israel, none of whom, I note, are Spencer.)

But I don’t think Spencer (or any other alt-right spokesman) ever claimed to care about Israel. Just because someone believes in the generalized concept of “nationalism” does not mean they care personally about the national ambitions of all peoples. In fact, I wager a Serbian nationalist and a Kosovar nationalist take pretty dim views of each other. Kurdish nationalists have difficulties with Iraqi nationalists; Northern Irish Catholic nationalists don’t get along with Northern Irish Protestant nationalists. An American nationalist may not care one way or another about nationalist ambitions in Guatemala or Indonesia. And white nationalists are under no obligation to care about Jewish nationalism, nor Jews to care about white nationalism.

Here, I think, is the crux of the matter: the point of Zionism is to benefit Jews; the point of white nationalism is to benefit whites. If white nationalism results in Jews getting hurt, then that’s a pretty big practical difference (from the Jewish POV) between the two ideologies. And this, of course, is why Tablet would prefer that you not use Zionism as a justification for an ideology that is–at the very least–filled with people who are anti-Zionist.

“Nationalism for everyone” is a clear principle, but “nationalism for me but not for you,” benefits me much more. This is true for everyone. The only reason whites probably don’t generally think this way is that we’ve been the majority for so long.

But what’s best for the whole of society? It’s easy to say, “Hey, let’s do what’s best for the whole of society” when your group already is most of society. What about minority groups in that same society? Should they–as in the Prisoner’s Dilemma–cooperate with others for the greater good? Or should they look out preferentially for their own good? And what happens in a multi-ethnic society where no group has a clear majority? Can you convince people to cooperate for the greater good, or does the inevitable presence of some people who prefer to cooperate only with co-ethnics and defect on strangers inevitably drive everyone apart?

Long term, how does a multi-ethnic democracy prevent itself from breaking down into everyone voting for their own tribal self-interest?


To be honest, I’m not feeling very optimistic.


Reminder: They want you dead

There’s nothing compassionate about the left.

Somewhere out there is a little boy who saw this on TV and thought his father had actually been beheaded.

Did Sasha and Malia ever turn on the TV and see their father decapitated? Did Chelsea? Bush II was roundly hated by the left, but even his daughters never witnessed such a horrifying display.

And this message hasn’t gone out to just Trump and his son, but to everyone who voted for Trump–all of his fans, the people who cheered at his rallies or bought his hats–that the Left hates them and wants them to die.

No “side” is perfect. In a nation of 320 million people, you will find bad people on both sides. But the bulk of the political violence in the past year, the running down of people in the street, beating them with crowbars or smashing their cars, has been committed by leftists against Trump supporters.

Meanwhile they scream about “authoritarians” and how Trump is, somehow, going to cause the deaths of thousands of POCs.

And what has Trump actually done so far? Saved a few jobs; deported some people who were living here illegally; withdrawn from a treaty that, let’s face it, most of us knew nothing about two months ago? The wall has not gone up (technically, there already IS a wall on much of the border, where there isn’t a river.) He hasn’t even tried to stop immigration from all Muslim countries (only the 6 countries Obama previously banned immigration from.) He took sides in Syria against the Russians, bombed Assad, and sold millions of dollars in weapons to the Saudis.

I can see why the right might be kind of pissed about all of this, but what does the left have to kvetch about?

The outrage has never been about what Trump actually does or actually says.

It never is.

It’s about the idea of “America First.” The idea of “Make America Great Again.”

Trump’s America might be multicultural. It might embrace gays and straights, blacks and whites, Atheists and Muslims. It might be the best thing for Americans of all stripes.

But to the left, “America” is a white nation. America’s greatness was white greatness, and whiteness must be destroyed. This is the only way to wash away our original sin, racism.

I shall leave you with a quote from Harvard Magazine: Abolish the White Race:

John and I decided that it was time to launch a journal to document that civil war. The result was Race Traitor, whose first issue appeared in the fall of 1992 with the slogan “Treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity” on its cover. …

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. …

Our standard response is to draw an analogy with anti-royalism: to oppose monarchy does not mean killing the king; it means getting rid of crowns, thrones, royal titles, etc. …

Alexei Nikolaevich, Tsarevich of Russia, 1913

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.”

Of course, what starts as revolution does, in fact, end with dead monarchs, as Louis XVI and poor little Alexei know all too well. But perhaps Noel Ignatiev is ignorant of Russian and French history–that would require knowing something about the history of white-on-white political violence, and for the people who benefit from that violence, it mysteriously doesn’t exist.

Just some very quick thoughts

Liberals find repellant the idea of insult*, not because they refuse to be crass or impolite–they are perfectly skilled at being both–but because to say that something is bad and outline the traits that comprise its badness is to say that one thing is better or worse than another thing and that there are certain traits which are, inherently, better or worse than others. Such judgmentalism does not jive with the quest for full equality–equality of spirit, body, and soul.

*except against personal enemies

There’s one strain of thought which holds that liberals (and perhaps conservatives) are a specific ideology that has been transmitted over the centuries, and another that liberality and conservativeness are just personalities that people happen to have.

A related quote:

I'm sorry, I forgot who wrote this. If you know, please let me know so I can credit them properly.
I’m sorry, I forgot who wrote this. If you know, please let me know so I can credit them properly.

I tend toward the personality hypothesis, and that society needs both liberal and conservative personalities for optimal functioning (one side is good at generating novel ideas, and the other side is good at preserving things that shouldn’t be changed,) but this is dependent on both sides recognizing this and letting each other be. (Ideally, this is where something like federalism comes in.)

“The Government is Us”: Brahmin Tic and the Civil War

dead soldiers, from Ewell's May 1864 attack at Spotsylvania
Dead soldiers, from Ewell’s May 1864 attack at Spotsylvania

Looking back at American history, there’s one big group of whites that harnessed the power of the Federal government to oppress another big group of whites, in what was likely the largest of all internal American events other than the conquering of the country itself.

600,000 white people died in the process of one group of whites imposing its values on another group of whites. I happen to agree with the victors that slavery is a great moral evil, but I note that most other western countries managed to end slavery without slaughtering their own people in the process.

Now let me stop and declare outright: I am not a Civil War historian, and I know there are thousands, perhaps millions of people more knowledgeable on the subject than I am. I do know, however, that Southern secession was motivated by fear that the North would outlaw slavery and use the power of the Federal government to enforce it.

1 in 13 Veterans returned as amputees
1 in 13 Veterans returned as amputees

According to Wikipedia:

The war produced at least 1,030,000 casualties (3 percent of the population), including about 620,000 soldier deaths—two-thirds by disease, and 50,000 civilians.[12] Binghamton University historian J. David Hacker believes the number of soldier deaths was approximately 750,000, 20 percent higher than traditionally estimated, and possibly as high as 850,000.[20][208] The war accounted for more American deaths than in all other U.S. wars combined.[209]

Based on 1860 census figures, 8 percent of all white males aged 13 to 43 died in the war, including 6 percent in the North and 18 percent in the South.[210][211] About 56,000 soldiers died in prison camps during the War.[212] An estimated 60,000 men lost limbs in the war.[213]

You might think that all of this was at least for the good for the slaves, but according to historian Jim Downs of Connecticut College, thousands of the freed slaves died of hunger, disease, and exposure in the aftermath of the war:

as Downs shows in his book, Sick From Freedom, the reality of emancipation during the chaos of war and its bloody aftermath often fell brutally short of that positive image. Instead, freed slaves were often neglected by union soldiers or faced rampant disease, including horrific outbreaks of smallpox and cholera. Many of them simply starved to death.

After combing through obscure records, newspapers and journals Downs believes that about a quarter of the four million freed slaves either died or suffered from illness between 1862 and 1870. He writes in the book that it can be considered “the largest biological crisis of the 19th century” and yet it is one that has been little investigated by contemporary historians. …

Downs reconstructed the experiences of one freed slave, Joseph Miller, who had come with his wife and four children to a makeshift freed slave refugee camp within the union stronghold of Camp Nelson in Kentucky. In return for food and shelter for his family Miller joined the army. Yet union soldiers in 1864 still cleared the ex-slaves out of Camp Nelson, effectively abandoning them to scavenge in a war-ravaged and disease-ridden landscape. One of Miller’s young sons quickly sickened and died. Three weeks later, his wife and another son died. Ten days after that, his daughter perished too. Finally, his last surviving child also fell terminally ill. By early 1865 Miller himself was dead. …

Things were so bad that one military official in Tennessee in 1865 wrote that former slaves were: “dying by scores – that sometimes 30 per day die and are carried out by wagonloads without coffins, and thrown promiscuously, like brutes, into a trench”.

So bad were the health problems suffered by freed slaves, and so high the death rates, that some observers of the time even wondered if they would all die out.

re-interring the war dead
re-interring the war dead

The echoes of this moral imposition are still with us. There are those who refer to the government as “we” and “us,” as in “We ought to do something about poverty” or “we should make healthcare a basic right” and then there are those who refer to the government as something alien and outside, as in “the government killed 85 people in Waco.” (By the way, it looks like the Branch Davidians set their own compound on fire.) or “the government is raising taxes on the middle class.”

Or as Moldbug puts it:

Surely one of the most grievously forgotten authors of the 20th century is Freda Utley. In the immortal words of Rutger Hauer, Utley “saw things… you people wouldn’t believe” – she moved to Moscow as a Communist true believer in the 1930s, lost her husband to the Gulag, and never remarried. Her honesty and fearlessness did not make her popular, especially when she spoke out against American abuses in the occupation of Germany, or against Maoism 40 years before it was fashionable. …

Perhaps Utley’s most acute realization in Odyssey, though on a trivial subject, is when she notices that her friend Bertrand Russell always uses the word “we” to refer to the government. She points out that this little linguistic tic is an unmistakable mark of any ruling class.

Apparently this “nostrism” (if I can risk another obscure quasicoinage) was more unusual in the ’50s than it is now. Because, although I have tried repeatedly to break myself of the habit, I use exactly the same pronoun. It’s an unmistakable sign of my Brahmin upbringing. I can’t imagine counting the number of times I’ve heard someone say “we should…” when what they really mean is “the government should…” Language is repetition, and though my considered view is that it’s just as bizarre to define “we” as the US Federal Government, especially for someone who isn’t actually an employee of said entity, as it would be to use the first person plural for Safeway, Comcast or OfficeMax, habits die hard.

Today, Russell-style nostrism is peculiar, I believe, to the Brahmin caste. Certainly Helots, Dalits, and Vaisyas all think of the government as very much “they.” If Optimates go with “we,” it’s probably because they’re so used to having to pass as Brahmins. I find it rather hard to imagine a cardiologist or a hedge-fund hotshot genuinely thinking of Uncle Sam as “we.”

Given that this is Moldbug, this is actually a short quote.

Civil War cemetery, Andersonville, GA
Civil War cemetery, Andersonville, GA

More culturally, there are those who generally think the government is on their side and can be used to solve social problems, (or at least they did before Trump was elected,) and those who think the government is basically against them and creates social problems, and which side you’re on probably has a lot to do with whether or not the government marched in and burned down your great-great-great-grandparents’ farm in 1864. Today the South remains poorer than the North, which they blame on the long-term effects of the war and punitive reconstruction policies. (Which is about as true as the story about Japan being poor today because the US military bombed its cities to smithereens.) Nevertheless, much American politics can be simplified as a continuing conflict between poor southerners and rich northerners.

The group that currently talks a lot about “institutional racism,” “white privilege,” and the importance of using the government to correct social ills through programs like Welfare and Affirmative Action happens also to be on the side that did the marching back in 1864 (even if they are actually just the children of immigrants who only recently moved to the area.)

Let’s take a quick look at poverty in America:

(Obviously poverty is relative and few of us are living in what passes for poverty in the third world, but let’s stay on topic.) So here is the census data (pdf) on poverty rates by race:


Obviously blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans have the highest poverty rates, while whites and Asians have the lowest.

But remember that there are a lot more whites than anyone else in America. When you multiply poverty rates by actual numbers, you get 17.8 million whites in poverty compared to 10 million blacks. (source.)

And as you might have noticed, we still live in a democracy, where numbers matter.

Summary: The side that thinks it imperative that we listen to their ideas for how government should end the poverty of black communities doesn’t understand why the white communities whose ancestors were invaded and killed by that same government, who are actually the biggest community of poor people in the US, disagree with them on the matter.

This might just be coincidence. I’m certain there are other factors involved (including genetics.) But it might also be an important thing to keep in mind when trying to convince others of the importance of using the government to enforce social change.

Conservatives Over-Generalize; Liberals Under-Generalize

This is a theory about a general trend.

Liberals tend to be very good at learning specific, detailed bits of information, but bad at big-picture ideas. Conservatives tend to be good at big-picture ideas, but bad at specific details. In other words, liberals are the guys who can’t see the forest for the trees, while conservatives have a habit of referring to all trees as “oaks.”

Or all sodas as Cokes:


Waitress: What would y’all like to drink?
Lady: Oh, I’ll have a Coke.
Waitress: All right, what kind of Coke?
Lady: Diet Pepsi.

When conservatives speak of general trends among people, liberals are prone to protesting that “Not all X are like that.” For liberals, the fact that one guy might be an exception to a general trend is important enough to mention in any discussion. Liberals who want to un-gender pregnancy discussion, because “men can get pregnant, too,” are a perfect example of this. (See my previous post about TERFS.)

This post was inspired by a friend’s complaint that “Trump keeps saying untrue things,” to which I responded that the Hillary also says lots of untrue things. It seems to me that there is a distinct pattern in the kinds of untruths each camp engages in.


If you ask the average conservative to define the races of man, he’d probably tell you: black, white, and Asian. Give him a crayon and a map of the world, and he’d probably produce something like this:

Ask the average liberal to define the races of man, and he’ll tell you that race is a social construct and that there’s more genetic variation within races than between them.

Diagram of Trans-species polymorphisms, from Evo and Proud
Diagram of Trans-species polymorphisms, from Evo and Proud

Both of these statements are basically correct, (but see here) but in different ways. The Conservative misses the within-racial variety (and may draw the racial borders incorrectly, eg, assuming that north Africans or Australians are Black.) And the Liberal misses that race is actually a real thing, and that the issue of genetic between vs. within also holds true for different species (see: species is a social construct,) and yet we still recognize that “dog” is a useful word for describing a real category of things we encounter in the real world.

Conservatives are prone to saying things like, “Blacks commit more crime than whites,” and liberals are prone to responding that the majority of black people aren’t criminals.

nope-the-claim-trump-says-clinton-acid-washed-her-email-4623517I find that it helps a lot in understanding people if I give them the benefit of the doubt and try to understand what they mean, rather than get hung up on the exact words they use.

NBC perhaps went too far down this path when they claimed that Trump had lied for saying Clinton “acid washed” her email server, when in fact she had used an app called BleachBit. Sure, bleach is a weak base, not an acid, but I don’t think Trump was actually trying to discuss chemistry in this case.

When the newsmedia claimed that the Syrian refugees pouring into Germany would be “good for the German economy,” this was obviously false. Yes, some Syrians are exceptionally bright, hardworking, motivated people who will do their best to benefit their new home. But most refugees are traumatized and don’t speak the local language. Few people would argue that the Syrian educational system turns out grads with test scores equal to the German system. It’s one thing to take refugees for pure humanitarian reasons, because you care about them as people. It’s another thing to pretend that refugees are going to make the average German richer. They won’t.

When Trump says there is so much wrong with black communities, so much poverty and violence, he is, broadly speaking, correct. When Hillary says there is so much good in black communities, like black businesses and churches, she is, narrowly speaking, also correct.

Of course, as Conway et al caution [warning PDF]:

Prior research suggests that liberals are more complex than conservatives. However, it may be that liberals are not more complex in general, but rather only more complex on certain topic domains (while conservatives
are more complex in other domains). Four studies (comprised of over 2,500 participants) evaluated this idea. … By making only small adjustments to a popularly used dogmatism scale, results show that liberals can be significantly more dogmatic if a liberal domain is made salient. Studies 2–4 involve the domain specificity of integrative complexity. A large number of open-ended responses from college students (Studies 2 and 3) and candidates in the 2004 Presidential election (Study 4) across an array of topic domains reveals little or no main effect of political ideology on integrative complexity, but rather topic domain by ideology interactions. Liberals are higher in complexity on some topics, but conservatives are higher on others.

Weight, Taste, and Politics: A Theory of Republican Over-Indulgence

So I was thinking about taste (flavor) and disgust (emotion.)

As I mentioned about a month ago, 25% of people are “supertasters,” that is, better at tasting than the other 75% of people. Supertasters experience flavors more intensely than ordinary tasters, resulting in a preference for “bland” food (food with too much flavor is “overwhelming” to them.) They also have a more difficult time getting used to new foods.

One of my work acquaintances of many years –we’ll call her Echo–is obese, constantly on a diet, and constantly eats sweets. She knows she should eat vegetables and tries to do so, but finds them bitter and unpleasant, and so the general outcome is as you expect: she doesn’t eat them.

Since I find most vegetables quite tasty, I find this attitude very strange–but I am willing to admit that I may be the one with unusual attitudes toward food.

Echo is also quite conservative.

This got me thinking about vegetarians vs. people who think vegetarians are crazy. Why (aside from novelty of the idea) should vegetarians be liberals? Why aren’t vegetarians just people who happen to really like vegetables?

What if there were something in preference for vegetables themselves that correlated with political ideology?

Certainly we can theorize that “supertaster” => “vegetables taste bitter” => “dislike of vegetables” => “thinks vegetarians are crazy.” (Some supertasters might think meat tastes bad, but anecdotal evidence doesn’t support this; see also Wikipedia, where supertasting is clearly associated with responses to plants:

Any evolutionary advantage to supertasting is unclear. In some environments, heightened taste response, particularly to bitterness, would represent an important advantage in avoiding potentially toxic plant alkaloids. In other environments, increased response to bitterness may have limited the range of palatable foods. …

Although individual food preference for supertasters cannot be typified, documented examples for either lessened preference or consumption include:

Mushrooms? Echo was just complaining about mushrooms.

Let’s talk about disgust. Disgust is an important reaction to things that might infect or poison you, triggering reactions from scrunching up your face to vomiting (ie, expelling the poison.) We process disgust in our amygdalas, and some people appear to have bigger or smaller amygdalas than others, with the result that the folks with more amygdalas feel more disgust.

Humans also route a variety of social situations through their amygdalas, resulting in the feeling of “disgust” in response to things that are not rotten food, like other people’s sexual behaviors, criminals, or particularly unattractive people. People with larger amygdalas also tend to find more human behaviors disgusting, and this disgust correlates with social conservatism.

To what extent are “taste” and “disgust” independent of each other? I don’t know; perhaps they are intimately linked into a single feedback system, where disgust and taste sensitivity cause each other, or perhaps they are relatively independent, so that a few unlucky people are both super-sensitive to taste and easily disgusted.

People who find other people’s behavior disgusting and off-putting may also be people who find flavors overwhelming, prefer bland or sweet foods over bitter ones, think vegetables are icky, vegetarians are crazy, and struggle to stay on diets.

What’s that, you say, I’ve just constructed a just-so story?

Well, this is the part where I go looking for evidence. It turns out that obesity and political orientation do correlate:

Michael Shin and William McCarthy, researchers from UCLA, have found an association between counties with higher levels of support for the 2012 Republican presidential candidate and higher levels of obesity in those counties.

Shin and McCarthy's map of obesity vs. political orientation
Shin and McCarthy’s map of obesity vs. political orientation

Looks like the Mormons and Southern blacks are outliers.

(I don’t really like maps like this for displaying data; I would much prefer a simple graph showing orientation on one axis and obesity on the other, with each county as a datapoint.)

(Unsurprisingly, the first 49 hits I got when searching for correlations between political orientation and obesity were almost all about what other people think of fat people, not what fat people think. This is probably because researchers tend to be skinny people who want to fight “fat phobia” but aren’t actually interested in the opinions of fat people.)

The 15 most caffeinated cities, from I love Coffee
The 15 most caffeinated cities, from I love Coffee–note that Phoenix is #7, not #1.

Disgust also correlates with political belief, but we already knew that.

A not entirely scientific survey also indicates that liberals seem to like vegetables better than conservatives:

  • Liberals are 28 percent more likely than conservatives to eat fresh fruit daily, and 17 percent more likely to eat toast or a bagel in the morning, while conservatives are 20 percent more likely to skip breakfast.
  • Ten percent of liberals surveyed indicated they are vegetarians, compared with 3 percent of conservatives.
  • Liberals are 28 percent more likely than conservatives to enjoy beer, with 60 percent of liberals indicating they like beer.

(See above where Wikipedia noted that supertasters dislike beer.) I will also note that coffee, which supertasters tend to dislike because it is too bitter, is very popular in the ultra-liberal cities of Portland and Seattle, whereas heavily sweetened iced tea is practically the official beverage of the South.

The only remaining question is if supertasters are conservative. That may take some research.

Update: I have not found, to my disappointment, a simple study that just looks at correlation between ideology and supertasting (or nontasting.) However, I have found a couple of useful items.

In Verbal priming and taste sensitivity make moral transgressions gross, Herz writes:

Standard tests of disgust sensitivity, a questionnaire developed for this research assessing different types of moral transgressions (nonvisceral, implied-visceral, visceral) with the terms “angry” and “grossed-out,” and a taste sensitivity test of 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP) were administered to 102 participants. [PROP is commonly used to test for “supertasters.”] Results confirmed past findings that the more sensitive to PROP a participant was the more disgusted they were by visceral, but not moral, disgust elicitors. Importantly, the findings newly revealed that taste sensitivity had no bearing on evaluations of moral transgressions, regardless of their visceral nature, when “angry” was the emotion primed. However, when “grossed-out” was primed for evaluating moral violations, the more intense PROP tasted to a participant the more “grossed-out” they were by all transgressions. Women were generally more disgust sensitive and morally condemning than men, … The present findings support the proposition that moral and visceral disgust do not share a common oral origin, but show that linguistic priming can transform a moral transgression into a viscerally repulsive event and that susceptibility to this priming varies as a function of an individual’s sensitivity to the origins of visceral disgust—bitter taste. [bold mine.]

In other words, supertasters are more easily disgusted, and with verbal priming will transfer that disgust to moral transgressions. (And easily disgusted people tend to be conservatives.)

The Effect of Calorie Information on Consumers’ Food Choice: Sources of Observed Gender Heterogeneity, by Heiman and Lowengart, states:

While previous studies found that inherited taste-blindness to bitter compounds such
as PROP may be a risk factor for obesity, this literature has been hotly disputed
(Keller et al. 2010).

(Always remember, of course, that a great many social-science studies ultimately do not replicate.)

I’ll let you know if I find anything else.

Donald Trump and the Death of White Identitarian Politics

“But wait,” I hear you saying, “Isn’t this the beginning?”

Mainstream American conservatives (perhaps all conservatives) are essentially reactive. Not reactionary, mind. That word has a different meaning in this context. Just reactive.

Liberals come up with new ideas, and conservatives react by opposing them. Liberals are high-class, in-party; their ideas make it into university curricula and influence the nation’s movers and shakers. By the time conservatives (who do not usually run in liberal circles, nor read much from university presses,) notice a liberal idea, it has already become quite widespread. And nothing makes an idea seem old and passe quite like having it suddenly associated with the out-party, the politically low-class and uncool folks who vote Republican.

BTW, if you are the “homophobic uncle” or “racist grandma” at family functions, try to turn this into a secret power: make ideas sound bad just by talking about them. Global warming? Caused by immigrant-driven population growth! Rising wealth inequality? Clearly capitalists would rather hire illegal immigrants than pay blacks a living wage–build the wall! You support Hillary Clinton because she voted for the Iraq war! Etc.

Report back to me if it works. I’m curious.

But back on subject: the upshot of this is that by the time the Republicans notice something and start making a big deal out of it, it is already too late. The trends are already in place and moving inexorably against them.

Back in the ’80s, we witnessed the rise of the “Christian right;” throughout the 90s, “conservative” and “Republican” were synonymous with “Evangelical Christianity.” They ran on platforms that included banning abortion, reinstating prayer in school, replacing the theory of evolution with Biblical creationism in school textbooks, and general opposition to “Godless liberals.”

They have failed pretty spectacularly. While they have made some piecemeal hacks at abortion, it is still basically legal through out the country. Creationism and “Intelligent Design” have both been struck down as unconstitutional due to being blatantly religious. And you probably know the story on prayer in school even better than I do.

(This is a little disappointing coming out of a party that could count among its recent accomplishments normalizing relations with China, nuclear reduction treaties with the Soviets, and overseeing the peaceful collapse of the entire USSR.)

Conservatives of the ’80s and ’90s could tell that the country was becoming increasingly secular, and reacted accordingly by trying to force it back to religiosity. Unfortunately for them, increasingly religious => fewer and fewer people who are even interested in their religious agenda. Despite the fact that abortion is still legal and school prayer is still illegal, even conservatives have moved on to other priorities.

During Bush II, Republicans launched a big push to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The measure failed; gay marriage is now not only legal, but constitutionally protected.

No one bothered with passing an anti-gay marriage amendment back in the ’50s, when Republicans could have actually gotten the numbers necessary to do it. Since the vast majority of people thought homosexuality was immoral, there was no push to legalize gay marriage, and so no one would have bothered with passing amendments against it. Once enough people were in favor of gay marriage to put it on the national agenda, the trends were clear: soon the majority of people would favor gay marriage, and an amendment did not pass.

It was the last, desperate thrashing of a cornered beast.

Today, people have noticed–finally–that America’s demographics are changing.

Of course, the time to do something about this was before the demographics changed. In 1900, the US was about 88% white, 12% black, and <1% Hispanic. Today, whites are 64%, blacks are still 12%, and Hispanics are 16% of the population. (Asians and others comprise an additional 8%.)

According to the census bureau, in 2012, American infants were 50% white and 50% non-white–about 25% of American children are now Hispanic.

The time to care about changing US demographics was 1965, when LBJ and Ted Kennedy’s Immigration and Naturalization Act quadrupled the number of (legal) immigrants per year from 250,000 to 1 million. 1975 and 1985 would also have been good years to start caring.

In 1950, there were 500,000 Hispanics in the US. Today, there are 5o.5 million. Even if you built a wall between the US and Mexico yesterday and deported 11 million illegal immigrants, that would still leave 39 million newcomers and their children whom you cannot get rid of.

By 2050, the US will be less than half white, and American children will be only 40% white.

Interestingly, the last time a Democrat won a majority of white votes was 1964–LBJ. Republicans have been the “white” party–though they may not have realized it–since 1968.

But this does not mean that whites vote overwhelmingly for the Republicans. Even blacks occasionally vote for Republicans–about 5% of them voted for Bush II. As whites near 50%, even 10% voting for the Democrats will consign Republicans to the losers, while an identifiably “white” party will have difficulty attracting non-white voters.

No matter how much effort the Republicans put into attracting white voters (and likely they will put a great deal of effort into it over the next few elections,) the numbers are moving against them.

You can’t maintain a majority with a shrinking % of the population. (Though, of course, we are talking about a process that will take decades.)

But we live in a two-party system, and the system will re-assert itself with a new set of balanced coalitions that can win, perhaps a system that pits Hispanics and Asians against whites and blacks, or some other random thing. (I am not guessing.) But that won’t happen until the Republicans are weak enough that Democrats can safely split.


“I don’t hate minorities, I just hate liberals”

A lot of people are talking about the Trump candidacy “realigning” or “reshaping” the American political landscape and things like that. Like why would traditionally blue-state voters in places like NY vote for a guy who’s also carrying traditionally red-states like Kentucky? Is the whole Albion’s seed-style ethno/political makeup of the nation breaking down after nearly 400 years?


Look, when it comes to politics, conservatives are basically just reactive. There are some smart conservatives, of course–I’d wager they do well in fields like economics, finance, sports broadcasting, and military strategy–but conservatives overall do not dominate the production of new social ideas. It’s the liberals, somewhat by nature, who keep coming up with ideas like, “What if we let women have abortions?” “What if we all took LSD?” “What if we didn’t eat animals?” or “What if we let gay people get married?”

So the conservatives devote themselves to opposing whatever the hell cockamamie scheme the liberals have come up with this time.

During the Cold War, I’m pretty sure the conservative opposed the liberals on the grounds that the liberals were commie peaceniks who weren’t doing enough to ensure that we would win the nuclear war against the USSR.

By the ’80s, conservatives were visibly concerned about shifting national attitudes toward religion, especially as it impacted things like abortion, divorce, the teaching of evolution in schools, whether local governments could make religious displays, etc. “Talk radio” became an important bastion in the “Religious Right,” which by the mid-90s had won a sweeping victory in Congress.

When people talk about how no president has ever been so hated as Obama, I wonder if they remember just how much the right hated Clinton.

And what did they hate him for?

Because he represented degenerate, godless atheism. (Never mind that Bill Clinton is probably actually Christian; that doesn’t really matter.)

Reagan and Bush I may have been religious conservatives, but religious conservatism was not a big part of their campaigns. By contrast, Bob Dole, Bush II, and mildly, Mitt Romney, all ran on the religious right platform, with strong planks based on ideas like “ban abortion” and “make sure gay marriage stays illegal.” Bush II even managed to establish an “Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.”

Meanwhile, though, liberals were changing. The big liberal push of the past 8 years has not been atheism; atheism has largely won already and atheists have wandered off to fight other battles, taking to the streets to protest racism. Thus the campus protests, the Black Lives Matter campaigns, the increasing push for open borders. Today, Germany; tomorrow, the US.  Today’s liberals are, first and foremost, anti-racists.

The Republican establishment–folks like Ted Cruz and Ben Carson–fell so flat with voters precisely because most of them were still harping on religious issues like abortion and war with the Russians that were a concern with Reagan’s and Bob Dole’s voters, not today’s.

Today’s conservatives do not exactly want to come out and declare themselves racist bigots–in fact, the vast majority of them don’t see themselves as racists, and many are quite vehemently opposed to racism. This makes people reluctant to say anything negative about blacks, which gets instantly called out as racist. But you can still say things about immigrants, especially illegal immigrants. There’s just enough plausible deniability (both for others and yourself) to claim that you are not opposed to Mexicans, per se, you are just opposed to people breaking the law and think that if the law exists, then it ought to be enforced or else it is unfair to the people who did obey it. And for that matter, many of them really aren’t opposed to Mexicans; they are just broke and unable to find work and have enough brains in their heads to figure out what a massive flood of low-wage workers does to their chances of finding a well-paying job.

Of course, in the backs of people’s minds, it is not just about immigrants; it is also about BLM protestors, the November terrorist attacks in Paris, and the conviction that if elected, Hillary Clinton will follow in Angela Merkel’s footsteps and invite a million Muslims to the US.

This is why they say, “I don’t hate blacks; I don’t hate Mexicans. I just hate liberals.”


Adoption as Genetic Strategy? Americans, Indians, and the Mongols

If a man adopt a child and to his name as son, and rear him, this grown son can not be demanded back again. …

If a man, who had adopted a son and reared him, founded a household, and had children, wish to put this adopted son out, then this son shall not simply go his way. His adoptive father shall give him of his wealth one-third of a child’s portion, and then he may go. He shall not give him of the field, garden, and house.

The Code of Hammurabi, lines 185-191

This post was inspired by a friend’s question: Can adoption of non-kin be a viable genetic (or memetic) strategy?

The full version of the question was more like, “Liberals are more positive toward interracial marriage, leading to more genetic variation in liberal communities. Could adoption be a similarly viable strategy for Conservatives, by increasing the ethnic diversity of the people who believe in their memetic values?”

Adoption could also work by just increasing sheer numbers of conservatives, even if it does nothing to genetic diversity.

My first thought was, “That sounds a lot like what the Amercan Indians were trying to do when they kidnapped and adopted white children, and I think Genghis Khan did something similar with the children of subjugated peoples.”

These customs stand in contrast to groups that have historically attempted to wipe out their enemy’s children, like the entire rest of the Mongol conquests, so I thought this question worth exploring.

But there’s a lot here that first needs unpacking. For starters, despite what people claim to believe, conservatives actually have very slightly higher interracial marriage rates than whites and are more likely to live in multi-ethnic households.

Let’s get some graphs.

PP-2014-06-12-polarization-3-03 PP-2014-06-12-polarization-3-05 PP-2014-06-12-polarization-3-06 PP-2014-06-12-polarization-3-07 PP-2014-06-12-polarization-3-08 sdt-2012-rise-of-intermarriage-37 sdt-2012-rise-of-intermarriage-36 sdt-2012-rise-of-intermarriage-34

The data is clear: atheists are the most hated minority in the country, followed by gun owners. (I jest; people are actually pretty polite to atheists, and you’re rude to a gun owner at your own risk.)

America’s most prominent ethnic division is actually between “liberals” and “conservatives,” a feature reflected in attitudes toward “gun owners” and “atheists.” Most Ameicans don’t think of this as an ethnic difference (even though it is,) just because they aren’t all that conscious of the different ethnic settlement patterns that influenced the modern political distribution.

Jayman's map of the American Nations
Jayman’s map of the American Nations

Or to put it another way, there isn’t anything magical in the dirt in Massachusetts or South Carolina that has been turning the people there liberal or conservative for the past 300 years or so. The difference is mostly ethnicity–some ethnicities are just more liberal or conservative–but a lot of people (even people who loudly claim that there’s more intraracial than interracial variation,) regard all whites as one great big undifferentiated ethic mass that just happens to hold different opinions in different regions.

The majority of Americans (even the majority of very conservative Americans, however many of those there are,) claim to care more about one’s beliefs (and actions) than about superficial things like skin tone or the geographic origin of one’s ancestors.

This is anti-tribalism.

Tribalism (the human norm,) states that it is morally correct to overlook differences of opinion within your own group, (family, clan, tribe, nation, ethnic group, ethnie, thede, race, clade, take your pick,) and always side with your group against outsiders.

So Americans are perfectly okay with saying that they would not want to marry someone who holds belief they disagree with, but look askance at saying they have an ethnic preference. (Which explains why, even when people say things that are quite negative about outgroup members, they tend to quite vociferously object that they are not “racist” because their objection is not to the outgroup’s appearances, but to their behaviors.)

But what people say and what they do are different matters. According to Volokh:

…among families with step-children or adopted children, 11 percent of conservatives were living in mixed race households compared to 10 percent of liberals living in mixed-race households.

Similarly, 9.4 percent of Republicans living in step- or adopted families were in mixed-race households, compared to only 8.8 percent of Democrats in such families. (Again, this small advantage for Republicans is not large enough to be statistically significant).

And looking at all children instead of non-related children,

  • 11.9% of conservatives live in mixed-race families compared to 11.4% of liberals.
  • 9.5% of Republicans live in mixed-race families compared to 11.2% of Democrats.

Unfortunately, I am having difficulty finding statistics on the exact % of conservatives/Republicans who are in mixed-race marriages vs. the % of liberals in mixed-race marriages–we may posit that there is a difference between an interracial couple with three interracial children and a white person who, on their third marriage, marries someone who already has a half-white child, but just eyeballing the data, I don’t think there’s going to be a huge statistical difference.

(The difference between “conservatives” and “Republicans” in the data is due to may conservative blacks and Hispanics not voting Republican.)

The folks who are most strongly anti-miscegenation tend to be old people (over the age of 65,) and the folks who are most likely to be in mixed-race households, conservative or liberal, are the minorities themselves–many blacks and Hispanics are married to each other.

If you look only at whites, according to Volokh,

2.0% of non-Hispanic white conservatives live in mixed-race families compared to 2.4% of non-Hispanic white liberals. …

2.8% of non-Hispanic white Republicans live in mixed-race families compared to 0.7% of non-Hispanic white Democrats.

Assuming these numbers are correct…

61% of whites say they’re okay with intermarriage, but only about 2% of them have mixed or other-race children, including step and adopted kids. Given the number of minorities in the country + random chance, about half of the whites who say they’re okay with intermarriage ought to have a mixed-race family–30% of whites, not 2%.

Of course, these folks would object that it’s not that they don’t like minorities, they just happen not to be around any they’ve fallen in love with. It’s not about superficial skin tones; it’s just something else that happens to be incredibly well correlated with superficial skin tones, like paying exorbitant rents in order to live in neighborhoods without any minorities in them. But those Republicans, dude, they’re like super racist.

What about the numbers on adoption?

The Wikipedia page on Adoption starts out nicely, then descends into gibbering mush. It has, tragically, very little information on non-Western adoption customs, and not as much as I’d hoped for on historical adoptions in the West. For that, we’ll have to search elsewhere.

But we’re still going to make use of it for the stats:

Australia 270 (2007–2008)[52] 254,000 (2004)[53] 0.2 per 100 live births Includes known relative adoptions
England & Wales 4,764 (2006)[54] 669,601(2006)[55] 0.7 per 100 live births Includes all adoption orders in England and Wales
Iceland between 20–35 year[56] 4,560 (2007)[57] 0.8 per 100 live births
Ireland 263 (2003)[58] 61,517 (2003)[59] 0.4 per 100 live births 92 non-family adoptions; 171 family adoptions (e.g. stepparent). 459 international adoptions were also recorded.
Italy 3,158 (2006)[60] 560,010 (2006)[61] 0.6 per 100 live births
New Zealand 154 (2012/13) [62] 59,863 (2012/13) [63] 0.26 per 100 live births Breakdown: 50 non-relative, 50 relative, 17 step-parent, 12 surrogacy, 1 foster parent, 18 international relative, 6 international non-relative
Norway 657 (2006)[64] 58,545(2006)[65] 1.1 per 100 live births Adoptions breakdown: 438 inter-country; 174 stepchildren; 35 foster; 10 other.
Sweden 1044(2002)[66] 91,466(2002)[67] 1.1 per 100 live births 10–20 of these were national adoptions of infants. The rest were international adoptions.
United States approx 127,000 (2001)[68] 4,021,725 (2002)[69] ~3 per 100 live births The number of adoptions is reported to be constant since 1987.

America has about 3 times the adoption rate as the rest of the West, and 15x Australia’s rate!

What’s up with that?

The most commonly given reason for wanting to adopt is infertility, and one of the big drivers of infertility is being overweight, (the other big one is being too old,) so perhaps Americans are just more prone to infertility.

We probably have a larger population of children in orphanages/foster care than the rest of the West, which might have inspired people over time to be more receptive to adoption.

Or perhaps we have a relatively unique view on the idea that family doesn’t have to be blood-related.

International adoptions, though they get a lot of press, are less than 15% of overall adoptions in the US; in Sweden, by contrast, they are over 99.999% of adoptions. (This may be due to few Swedish children being up for adoption.)

Also, according to Wikipedia, only 1.4% of ever-married American women adopt. (What about unmarried women?) So it sounds like the average adopting family adopts 2 or 3 kids.



Unfortunately for our original inquiry, a 2% intermarriage rate is not going to do much, short term, to white genetics.

By contrast, intermarriage may be an effective strategy for forging genetic/memetic alliances among minorities.

An adoption rate of 3%, even if it were confined entirely to conservatives, isn’t doing much to overall numbers. As a memetic strategy, it is also constrained by the fact that political orientation, in adults, is determined largely by a combination of genetic personality factors and random chance.

The Shakers did an experiment along these lines: none (or extremely few) of the Shakers had children, because they didn’t believe in having sex. However, many Shakers adopted children, raising them in Shaker communities. No one forced these children to become Shakers, but it was certainly hoped that they would.

Most of them didn’t, and the Shakers have died out. (Technically, as of 2012, there were three elderly shakers left in Maine.) You just can’t replace yourself though adoption.


So tomorrow, let’s look at some cases where adoption might have played a larger genetic role: the Mongols, the Indians, and if I can find anything interesting on it, ancient Europeans.

America: State or Thede?

Liberal reactions to the Oregon militia standoff have been more interesting than the standoff itself. My only reaction to the standoff was, “Oh, ranchers in dispute with the Feds? Eh.” After all, Rural Americans’ distrust of and conflicts with the “gummint” and “revenuers” are well-documented and frequent subjects of humor:

snuffy images-1

(The Beverly Hillbillies probably did this gag a hundred times.)

So you may imagine my confusion when I encountered liberal acquaintances (and pundits) calling the militia “terrorists” and “traitors” and demanding that the FBI go in, guns blazing, to put down the uprising.

These are the same folks who’re just fine with the Black Lives Matter folks shutting down streets and bridges in the middle of major cities in their protest against the police (who are, I note, as much government employees as the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management folks the Oregon Militia guys are opposed to.)

The whole affair highlights a crucial difference in the ways liberals and conservatives conceptualize “America.”

Liberals see “America” as a state, a formal, legal, structural governing institution (created, of course, via some form of “social contract,”) possessing a specific geographic area. The American people, therefore, can be anyone at all, so long as they have met the legal requirements.

Conservatives see “America” as a thede, (their thede), that happens to have a government.  Many conservatives see this government as having been imposed from the outside (in the South, this is actually true,) and as being run by people not from their thede (like Obama.)

Conservatives are loyal to their thede; liberals are loyal to the state. One can join a thede (generally by marrying in, converting to the religion, and adopting the local lifestyle,) but the formal process of acquiring US citizenship does not make one a member of the thede. Thus many legal Americans are not thedic Americans by conservative standards.

Liberals see the Black Lives Matter activists as blacks opposed to whites, which they are fine with. But they see the Oregon Militia as whites opposed to the state, which they see as treason.

To conservatives, the Black Lives Matter movement is acting against the interest of their thede, while the Oregon Militia, even if they disagree with it, (note: the vast majority of them disagree with it) is merely opposing the state.

This difference also manifests itself the two sides’ different attitudes toward the Constitution/Bill of Rights. To Conservatives, the Constitution is like the Bible: the founding document of their thede. Its role is mythic, not legalistic. (Without this understanding, Conservative statements about “activist” judges and the Obama administration running roughshod over the Constitution make no sense at all.) And they do have one vaguely valid point: the Constitution doesn’t actually say anything about issues like abortion or gay marriage, and the idea that there can exist no recognized right to gay marriage in the Constitution for over 200 years, and then suddenly one appears, involve highly questionable logic.

From a legalistic standpoint, re-interpreting the Constitution is one of the Supreme Court’s prerogatives (and from a practical standpoint, a necessity, given that new technologies and situations arise over time.) From a mythical standpoint, it’s like saying you’ve found a verse in the book of Mark where Jesus says he’s cool with gays.

Unfortunately, people are often really bad at articulating their points. So you get a lot of nonsense that has to be carefully picked apart before you can figure out where people are really coming from.

My liberal acquaintances seem curiously unaware of the general culture of Rural Americans. Perhaps this is just because I have relatives who live in rural America, and so I am vaguely acquainted with their culture and attitudes toward the government. I know that ranching and farming can be difficult, (especially in the areas that have been hit by droughts,) and yes, conflicts happen over grazing rights or land management, (though of course the vast, vast majority of ranchers pay their fees and obey the laws and generally act with loyalty to both the state and their thede.)

I also find it curious that the same people who recognize that the Black Lives Matter movement involves ethnic conflict do not recognize the ethnic conflict between different groups of whites.

Curious, not unexpected.