Time to Invest in Polish Real Estate?

DISCLAIMER: I am probably the last person you should listen to for advice about major investments. Please do lots and lots of your own research before buying anything big. Please take this post in the entertaining thought experiment style it is intended.

I’d like to start with an interesting story about Poland’s most famous daughter, Marie Curie, and her family:

1927 Solvay Conference. Marie is in the first row, between M. Planck and H. A. Lorentz

Marie was born in 1867 in what was then the Russian part of partitioned Poland. (Russia, Prussia, and Austria had carved up Poland into pieces back in the 1700s.) Her mother, father and grandfather were teachers–unsurprisingly, her father taught math and science. When the Russians decided to shut down science laboratories in Polish highschools, her father simply brought all of his equipment home and taught his kids how to use it instead.

Because of the Russian occupation and interference in the local schools, the Poles began operating their own, underground university known as the Flying University (there’s a name for you). As a woman, Marie couldn’t attend the official colleges in Warsaw, but was accepted to Flying U.

Marie’s sister wanted to study medicine in Paris, but unfortunately their parents and grandparents had lost all their money supporting Polish nationalist uprisings, and the girls were left to support themselves. So Marie and her sister had an agreement: Marie would work and send money to Paris while her sister studied, and then her sister would work and send Marie money while she finished her education.

Marie went to work as a governess for some distant relatives, and fell in love with one of the young men of the family, Kazimierz Żorawski, future mathematician. Unfortunately for the starry-eyed couple, his parents rejected the match on the grounds that Marie was penniless.

Żorawski went on to become a professor of mathematics at Krakow University and later Warsaw Polytecnic. Marie went to Paris, married Pierre Curie, won two Nobel prizes, and founded the Radium Institute at Warsaw Polytecnic. A statue of Marie was erected here, and as an old man, Żorawski would come and sit before the image of his young love.

You didn't seriously think we'd make it through this post without a polandball comic, did you?Poland has had a rough couple of centuries. According to Wikipedia:

An unsuccessful attempt at defending Poland’s sovereignty took place in 1794 during the Kościuszko Uprising, where a popular and distinguished general Tadeusz Kosciuszko, who had several years earlier served under Washington in the American Revolutionary War, led Polish insurrectionists against numerically superior Russian forces. Despite the victory at the Battle of Racławice, his ultimate defeat ended Poland’s independent existence for 123 years.[57]

Poland was unfortunately situated for both WWI and WWII, losing 1/5th of its population in the latter. The aftermath–occupation by the Soviets–wasn’t much better, as Ian Frazier recounts in his book, Travels in Siberia:

As Russia retook Poland, many Poles once again wound up in the gulag. Some who had lived through the Nazi occupation said Hitler was nothing compared to this, and they now wished they had fought on Hitler’s side. A prisoner who had survived Dachau hanged himself when he was shipped to Kolyma. Gulag prisoners who knew the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin regretted that fate had put them in thsi time and place, and not in slavery in the American South, a hundred years before. As Negro slaves, they reasoned, at least they would have lived someplace warm, and would have been whipped and branded but not worked to death outright. In 1945, news reached the camps that the United States now possessed the atomic bomb. According to Solzhenitsyn, this unexpected development gave hope to many prisoners, who began to pray for atomic war.

But despite all of these troubles, Poland remains one of the world’s better countries–it’s ranked 36th out of 188 nations on the Human Development Index, and has an average IQ of 99, the same as its neighbors, Germany and Finland.

Despite this, Poland is ranked only 68th in per capita GDP ($27,700, lower than Puerto Rico, which isn’t even a country,) and has had a net negative migration rate (that is, more people have left than arrived) for most of the past 60 years. (Poland lost a net of almost 74,000 in 2015, most of them to other EU countries.)

In sum, Poland is a country with high human capital whose economy was probably artificially depressed by Communism, but has been steadily improving since 1990.

Net immigration increases the number of people in a country*, putting pressure on the local housing market and raising land prices. Net emigration decreases pressure on housing, leading to lower prices.

*Assuming, of course, that fertility rates are not collapsing. Poland’s fertility rate is slightly lower than Japan’s.

Poles have emigrated to countries like Germany and the UK because of their stronger economies, but if Poland’s economy continues to improve relative to the rest of Europe, Brexit goes forward, etc., Poland may become a more attractive employment destination, attracting back its migrant diaspora.

All of which leads me to suspect that Polish land is probably undervalued relative to places with similar long-term potential.


Happy 500 posts! (We’re having a party) Open Thread

tjnsqlmNot counting a couple of guest posts, nor a few regularly scheduled posts that I haven’t written yet but will go up between the writing and the reading of this post, I believe I have just finished my 500th post!

(That means we are halfway to 1,000 posts!)

Since this blog would be a much duller place without my great readers and commentators, tell me about yourselves:

Where did you come from? (How did you find my blog?)

Which posts here do you like best? Like least?

What would you like to read more of?

Do you read any similar blogs (if so, which?)

Tell me something else about yourself!

In interesting links from around the web, we have:

The Oldest, most Complete Bible on Earth is in Ethiopia:

The world’s earliest known illustrated copy of the Gospels, the Garima Gospels, has been saved for centuries in a remote Ethiopian monastery.

Experts believe the Garima Gospels are also the earliest example of book binding still attached to the original pages.

Experts believe the Garima Gospels are also the earliest example of book binding still attached to the original pages. …

Legend says he copied the Gospels in just one day because God delayed the sun from setting so the monk could finish his work. The incredible relic has been kept ever since in the Garima Monastery, near Adwa, in northern Ethiopia at 7,000 feet.

Incidentally, Ethiopia also claims to have the Ark of the Covenant.

c2tuujzxeaamu3jMapping the Spread of Mounted Warfare, by Turchin et al.

Look at their map! Isn’t it great? Yes!

Does selection for short sleep duration explain human vulnerability to Alzheimer’s disease?

Compared with other primates, humans sleep less and have a much higher prevalence of Alzheimer ’s disease (AD) pathology. This article reviews evidence relevant to the hypothesis that natural selection for shorter sleep time in humans has compromised the efficacy of physiological mechanisms that protect against AD during sleep. In particular, the glymphatic system drains interstitial fluid from the brain, removing extra-cellular amyloid beta (eAβ) twice as fast during sleep. In addition, melatonin – a peptide hormone that increases markedly during sleep – is an effective antioxidant that inhibits the polymerization of soluble eAβ into insoluble amyloid fibrils that are associated with AD. Sleep deprivation increases plaque formation and AD, which itself disrupts sleep, potentially creating a positive feedback cycle. …

unicorn sheep
unicorn sheep

And A Meta-Analysis of the Self-Control-Deviance Link:


A random effects mean correlation between self-control and deviance was Mr = 0.415 for cross-sectional studies and Mr = 0.345 for longitudinal ones; this effect did not significantly differ by study design. Studies with more male participants, studies based on older or US-based populations, and self-report studies found weaker effects.


Substantial empirical support was found for the main argument of self-control theory and on the transdisciplinary link between self-control and measures of crime and deviance. In contrast to Pratt and Cullen, but consistent with theory, the effect from cross-sectional versus longitudinal studies did not significantly differ. There was no evidence of publication bias.

c17gyrmuoaallvaOn to Comments of the Week! (Gosh, this is hard, because you guys have left some excellent comments this week!)

August Hurtel in Democracy is America’s Religion:

But I also think it is a true observation. Democracy is damaging to Christianity. it does function like an idol.

I would have trouble with a response to ‘convert me’ too, though. Much of evangelism you see I think is caused by democracy and a sense of free resources. This idea that a sudden revival would be great- meanwhile, the average local church doesn’t have enough of an economy to handle it’s own children. Kids need to grow up and see a productive path forward, get married, and continue the church in time. Modern Christians don’t understand this, for some reason. Churches shut down due to lack of ability to think inter-generationally. Of course, this is a problem for much of secular America too. …

imnobody00 in the same thread:

Very close, but false. Democracy is not our religion. Our religion is the Enlightenment religion, which is a polytheistic religion.

The main god of this religion is the Self. The highest good is doing what the Self wants to do (instead of doing what God wants, what tradition states, what the community wants). The next god is Pleasure (derived from Self).

There are a row of second-tier gods: liberty, equality, relativism…

I also liked the other comments in this thread, but that’s enough quoting.

Over in Creationism, Evolutionism, and Categories, August Hurtel notes:

If we pay attention to the history of science, we would see that it includes a huge chunk of time wherein in Christians said ‘God did it’ and then they went about trying to figure out how God did it.

This really wasn’t much of an problem until the 1800s as the revolutions supplanted what was left of the nobility, and we became stuck with bureaucrats at the apex of our societies. Now, suddenly, what you believe or don’t believe is so ridiculously important. …

and Anon opines:

I think the “race is a social construct” people are 100% right, but for the wrong reasons. Unless you’re an essentialist (which is basically a type of creationism), categories do not exist in a mind-independent way. In other words, they are socially constructed. You may cleave at the joints, but you’re still cleaving. The issue isn’t social construction, it’s whether a the construct is arbitrary or based on reality.

You say the Answers in Genesis approach to species is unobjectionable. And it is. But this just highlights the socially constructed nature of the scheme. It’s easy to think of other approaches that yield different results and are also unobjectionable. A chihuahua and a great dane can’t breed (in vivo), but it’s not due to incompatible gametes..what do we do in that case? Depending on the situation, we may wish to group dogs and wolves together, or split each into their own group, or treat dog breeds separately. …

Open Thread: International Solidarity

polandballworldOne of the things I find interesting about the online community I find myself more-or-less in (that is, you guys who comment here, the folks who link to me and their commentators, folks on Twitter, etc.,) is the sense of, shall we say, international solidarity.

This is all rather novel for me.

picture-2Those of us in America have been expressing concern about events unfolding in Britain and even Sweden. I have received (for the first time in my life!) kind words about America from from French people. And I like to think that with Trump’s election, the Russian people have been reassured that not all Americans want to go to war with them. (Just Hillary Clinton.)

t3_5g2114One of my long-standing issues with the left is the sheer negativity; they don’t call it a circular firing squad for nothing. “Call-out culture” is very toxic, cultish, and poisonous. (How exactly SJW ideology functions like a cult is a long post for another day, but it does.) So here we have, on what, the right? an emerging belief that one’s culture is unique and worth having and respecting the fact that other people love their own cultures and want to preserve them, too, without going down that path where Americans end up attacking confused Japanese women for wearing kimonos at an art exhibit about kimonos.

I don’t know enough about foreign politics to comment much at all on it. I don’t know who would be the best leader for this or that country. But that doesn’t stop me from appreciating other countries and wishing the best for their people.

Hrm, on to the (hopefully) interesting links section of this post:

Iberian Bell Beaker teaser (Roth 2016) :

Before we get to chew on the Bell Beaker behemoth, probably early next year if not sooner, here’s an appetizer on a similar topic…

Genome-wide analyses for personality traits identify six genomic loci and show correlations with psychiatric disorders:

The first genetic dimension separated personality traits and psychiatric disorders, except that neuroticism and openness to experience were clustered with the disorders. High genetic correlations were found between extraversion and attention-deficit–hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and between openness and schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.


I hear Anomie, Anime, and the Alt-Right is good, though I haven’t read it yet.

The Genetic History of Horses:

The oldest successfully extracted DNA came from the skeleton of a wild horse that lived in the Yukon between 560,000 – 780,000 years ago. Such samples are especially important because there are very few wild horses left alive, and modern horse breeding practices have obscured the genomic signature of early domestication qualities like geography. Thanks to data from ancient DNA, geneticists have learned that a previously unknown group of now-extinct wild horses were also ancestors to modern horses.

Remarkably, the majority of Y-chromosomes carried by modern domestic horses can be traced back to just a few stallions. This could be because only a few males were originally used in domestication, but it could also result from carefully controlled modern breeding practices where a single male sires a huge number of offspring. The ultimate cause of this very low Y-linked diversity is still debated, but strict selective breeding has almost certainly contributed. In contrast, a much larger number of females than males contributed ancestry to domestic horses. According to Librado and colleagues, it seems that wild mares were continuously introduced into human-controlled herds throughout the process of domestication.

And a map of Roman Londinium around 200 AD

Comment of the week goes to N8 N3K:

“How do you get states to start forming so that criminals can be punished and revenge spirals halted?”

Criminals compete with each other. Everything some other criminal steals is something you can’t steal yourself. And the theft discourages production in general. So it might make sense for a gang of criminals to eradicate all others and to fund a state to protect their monopoly on violence. …

and Sam J:

Here’s a video made in 1922, American silent documentary film by Robert J. Flaherty about the Eskimos and their way of life. I liked it. Might interest your kids.

Nanook of the North


And now I’m opening up the floor to all of you. What’s everyone thinking about today?

Americans have been trying to get OUT of wars since 1945


Americans have a reputation for being loud, rude, warmongers–basically some of the last people you might want to have nukes.

And while we are definitely loud and probably rude, ironically, we’ve been trying to get OUT of wars since at least 1945.

Remember Truman? He succeeded to the presidency on Roosevelt II’s death in ’45, then was narrowly defeated by Dewy in ’49. Then, after 20 straight years of Democrat rule, the Republican Ike (whom everyone liked) was elected in ’53.

Truman oversaw the surrender of Nazi Germany (on his birthday, no less,) the conclusion of the Pacific war (by dropping atomic bombs on Japan,) and America’s return to peace. Nonetheless, his popularity plummeted from 85% (in 1946) to 22% (1952)–making him possibly the least popular president in history (even Nixon had a 24% approval rating when he resigned.)

Truman had a genuinely rough job: he had to oversee the end of a colossal war, then the demilitarization of the US and its economy and the return of our troops, and navigate an entirely novel role for the US, as one of the world’s two remaining superpowers. Should we prepare for nuclear war with the Soviets? Would communism consume Europe and China? Should the US help Europe and China rebuild? What about Turkey? And on top of that, North Korea went and invaded South Korea.

For the first century or so of America’s existence, such an invasion would have been none of our business–indeed, the average American likely would have heard nothing about it. Now, as the world’s only counter to Soviet hegemony, Truman thought we had to do something–and so began the terribly unpopular Korean War (1950-1953.)

Ordinary people understood very well why we entered WWII–the Japanese bombed us, an event that is still seared into our national conscience, and then Germany declared war on us. But the North Koreans weren’t attacking us–they just wanted South Korea. Yes, you can make some intellectual justification about stopping the spread of communism, but as far as the average Joe is concerned, Koreans ain’t us and their war was, therefore, none of our damn business.

When the war began, 78% of Americans approved of Truman’s decision. By 1952, only 37% agreed. The war only received the support of half the American people again when it ended.

The war’s unpopularity was Truman’s.

Eisenhower ran against the Korean War and won with an electoral margin of 442 to 89, (though the popular vote was closer.) In ’53, he brought the war to an end. According to Wikipedia, “Since the late 20th century, consensus among Western scholars has consistently held Eisenhower as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.”

All went well until Kennedy (’61-63.) His term opened with the disastrous, CIA-run Bay of Pigs invasion. By the Cuban Missile Crisis (’62,) fallout shelters were common, schools were running nuclear attack dills, and people were convinced there was a very high chance we were all going to die. (The state of Florida was particularly terrified.)

Kennedy almost immediately changed Ike’s policy on Laos & Vietnam, and one month after the Bay of Pigs went south, formally committed America to a more active role in Vietnam.

In ’63, Kennedy was assassinated by a homegrown communist and Johnson took office. Kennedy has been glorified because of his death; it is hard to speak ill of a man who was murdered by your enemies for trying to defend you, even if his policies were not the greatest.

Johnson enjoys no such halo. He increased the American presence in Vietnam from 16,000 non-combat advisors in 1963, to 550,000, mostly troops, in 1968. Crime (which people tend not to like) also soared under LBJ’s tenure, due to scaleback in policing and general integration of African Americans into US cities.

1968 is known as the year America went crazy. Students at Stanford rioted, striked, burned down buildings, torched the president’s office, and fought with the police:

April 29: Cambodia invasion protested… a day-long sit-in at the Old Union erupts into a rock-throwing, club-wielding battle between several hundred students and more than 250 police.

April 30: ROTC, Cambodia protest… demonstrators demanding immediate elimination of ROTC battle police… Property damage for the moth is estimated at $100,000, with 73 injuries in the past two nights.

Say what you will for student protesters, draft dodgers, or Marxists, America had no business being in Vietnam (we could barely scrounge up a single American who spoke Vietnamese to translate for us!) I have multiple relatives who were drafted or volunteered for service in Vietnam and one who died there, so I have opinions on the matter.

Oh, and a Palestinian Christian assassinated Kennedy’s little brother, RFK, for helping the Israeli military.

Despite Johnson’s electoral victory in ’64, his ratings tanked in ’68 (down to 35%,) and he decided not to run for re-election. Wikipedia relates:

One of the most tumultuous primary election seasons ever began as the Tet Offensive was launched, followed by the withdrawal of President Johnson as a candidate after doing unexpectedly poorly in the New Hampshire primary; it concluded with the assassination of one of the Democratic candidates, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, just moments after his victory in the California primary. …

Nixon’s Democratic opponent in the general election was Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who was nominated at a convention marked by violent protests.[112] Throughout the campaign, Nixon portrayed himself as a figure of stability during a period of national unrest and upheaval.[112]

He stressed that the crime rate was too high, and attacked what he perceived as a surrender by the Democrats of the United States’ nuclear superiority.[115] Nixon promised “peace with honor” in the Vietnam War and proclaimed that “new leadership will end the war and win the peace in the Pacific”.[116]

Nixon came into power, ended the Vietnam War, ended the draft, and opened peaceful relations with China (a major pivot from America’s previous stance.) He was reelected in one of the largest landslides in US history, before the WaPo and Judge Sirica decided to destroy him.

After the Nixon fiasco, Americans elected Carter, one of the peaciest of peaceful guys ever to peace in the White House. Carter, though well-liked as a person, had, shall we say, bad luck: the oil embargo, Iran hostage crisis, economic troubles at home. He was replaced by Reagan, who, despite his tough rhetoric got the Iranian hostages released and negotiated nuclear arms reduction treaties with the Soviets.

Bush I, Reagan’s VP and successor, won handily in ’89 and oversaw the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. He entered into a new kind of warfare, the UN-backed, fast in-and-out, minimal American death removal of Saddam from Kuwait. Americans do not mind wars so long as they are fast, relatively bloodless, and we win.

Bush got done in by economic troubles and lost to Clinton, who oversaw prosperity at home and tried to broker peace abroad, from the Oslo Peace Accords to UN “peacekeepers” in the former Yugoslavia. Clinton was popular despite Republicans’ best efforts to sabotage him.

Clinton was not eligible to run in 2000, but the Republican candidate, Bush II, positioned himself in opposition to Clinton’s “nation building” and advocated for a more isolationist, less interventionist American foreign policy.

Bush turned out to be a liar. He was just telling people what they wanted to hear, and then he went and spent trillions of dollars and got thousands of Americans killed in Iraq.

Yes, Americans supported the war in Afghanistan, because they blamed Afghanistan (or at least people in Afghanistan,) for the attack on 9-11. But support waned quickly for the Iraq War II, Bush II became hugely unpopular, and the current Republican candidate, Trump, is running on his opposition to the war vs. the Democratic candidate’s support for it.

Obama ran on “Hope and Change”–a promise to pivot foreign policy away from Bush’s disastrous wars. His campaign was so successful, he was almost immediately awarded a Nobel Peace Prize (though by Swedes, not by Americans.)

In our current election, people on both sides of the political aisle are concerned that the other side’s candidate is a war-monger who will get us into another war. Trump’s supporters are concerned about Hillary’s history/support for violence in Libya, Benghazi, and Syria, not to mention her aggressive stance toward Putin, leader of the world’s other nuclear superpower. Not to put too fine a point on it, I’m concerned about Hillary starting a war with Russia, something Americans have been trying to avoid since 1945.

And the pro-Hillary side is concerned that Trump is a violent hothead who will send US troops to Syria, get embroiled in a bunch of costly wars like Bush II did, and maybe launch off some nukes just for the fun of it. And they’re concerned that he’ll put illegal immigrants in concentration camps and make Muslims wear yellow crescents on their clothes.

Regardless of which side you think is right, both are trying to avoid being killed in yet another stupid war that has nothing to do with our actual interests.

America might fight a lot of wars, but we sure as hell don’t want to.


Oh, and apparently you can buy countryball plushies.