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Sapiens - Part Two: The Agricultural Revolution 
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Post Re: Sapiens - Part Two: The Agricultural Revolution
geo wrote:
I do think you’re right that Harari is implying agency where perhaps none exists. I’m reminded of Jonathan Haidt’s idea that a “lawyer” in our brain makes up post-hoc rationalizations to explain our (mostly) impulse-driven actions.
I agree with DWill that this is a good analogy. On the other hand, I am not exactly arguing for lack of agency in "mythologizing" the way things are done - only arguing that a lot of our abstract systems are "carts" to explain the "horse" of practical arrangements. The explanations can be quite impressive in their inventiveness.

I was doing some thinking about changes of whole systems of explanation. Some are relatively easy to describe and even to invent because the purpose is fairly clear. So when the French Revolution wanted to substitute democracy and liberty for aristocracy, everyone understood what these were to do: to "rule" or "govern", i.e. to make laws and policy and put them into practice. But if we Progressive Christians want to substitute different idea structures for the traditional one, we run into the problem that it is not clear what the new order is supposed to be better at. The definitions of goals like "worshipping God" are themselves up for grabs.

This mattered a lot at the time of the Protestant Reformation. Calvin was a lawyer and saw himself reforming the system of making rules for people's lives, and so we get the Calvinist strict rules about the Sabbath, about plain clothing (among the Roundheads who overthrew Charles I, for example - they were Calvinists) and even about such things as dancing. The Puritans were Calvinists.

Luther was more of a theologian, and wanted people's understanding of salvation to change to rid Christianity of materialist abuses such as the sale of indulgences. Thus Lutherans went down a rather different road with structures (there are Lutheran bishops, for example, but no Reformed bishops).

What interests me the most about this is that they had to have a theory for what was supposed to be happening in order to revise how it was to be done. In both cases they wanted an alternative to the church hierarchy, and the Bible had to serve as the alternate authority. Then the implications were developed over time, in dialogue with each other and with moderates like Erasmus of Rotterdam.

geo wrote:
The slavery example illustrates very well what I was trying to to say. In that case, the myth is the cart, not the horse.
Out of the blue today it occurred to me to wonder how different the U.S. would have been if Lincoln had not been assassinated. He wanted to bind up the wounds - would he have allowed the Democrats of the South to reenter more easily and thus, perhaps, not interfered as much in their society as the Radical Republicans did? Might he even have accepted local decision on citizenship and voting rights, rather than passing the 14th Amendment? If the white Southern rebels had re-entered easily, they could have blocked some of those reforms we treasure, and the South would have been even more oppressive than the Jim Crow system that evolved after the 1876 election travesty and the Plessy v. Ferguson case. It's an odd thought, that John Wilkes Booth may have been responsible for the 14th Amendment.

It was a revolutionary moment (or perhaps one should say "liminal"), when the system was changing drastically. Black people in the North were certainly free of being kidnapped as supposed "property", but their status was anything but settled. And so people had to debate what was the "right" way to organize things, with the previous way having been discredited but, again, the goal itself up for debate.

It's conceptually much simpler to say we are going to change the types of cars we drive, to cut out internal combustion, or even to change voting to ranked preference to eliminate the tyranny of extremism, than to figure out, as the Supreme Court is now trying to do, what is the purpose of protection of free speech. Is anything involving any political expression protected from compulsion, as the recent decision on public sector unions implies? Since there is no consensus on what freedom of speech is meant to achieve, the question of what political view it protects has become the determining factor in legal reasoning about whether particular types of expression are protected, which is a disturbing trend. (Of course conservatives might argue that things were already decided that way, as the decision in Citizen's United implies.)

I think such cases of open-ended goals being revised might explain some of the bizarre conflation of fact-claims with political opinions these days. Since an argument for the other "side" of an issue carries implications about which values should be attended to, fact claims become part of a dispute that is larger than the dispute about the facts themselves. As much as we might wish that the fact issues would be separated out and addressed independently, in politics this was never treated with the respect it deserved. McCarthy was repudiated not because he was lying, but because he started lying about the Army, an institution seen as fundamental to security (and not plausibly Communist).

geo wrote:
In fact, the general attitude is that we need better common-sense gun laws. But the paranoia on the right seems to sabotage any kind of meaningful dialogue.
These myths suggesting that the second amendment is about to be abolished—perhaps propagated by the gun industry—seem more of a horse than a cart.

Yes, I think this might be worth thinking about along these lines. The paranoid imaginings about what the other side is "up to" are more likely, and more likely to catch on, when the point of our institutional arrangement is still not settled or well understood.

Liberals are plausibly trying to "re-think" the Second Amendment, to at least help in drawing clear balancing tests of its priority against other competing priorities. But this opens the door to conservatives imagining what conclusions might be arising in liberal minds, some of the imagined results being realistic and others not. It's a "theory of mind" about the other, when we are called on not just to imagine chess moves from the perspective of the other, but the whole set of mental connections and how they arise.

Well, trying to sift this down to a conclusion, I'm not sure unclear purposes are a hornet's nest when we are re-thinking our abstract systems, but they do seem to be a complication. Arranging new institutions without a clear consensus on what the purposes should be, of either the old or the new institution, is almost guaranteed to be very "cart-like" with an absence of "horse".

I always consider "explain the purpose" to be fundamental to good communication. (Giving reasons for orders may not be the only criterion for a good manager - but it is an important one, at least outside the military.) Ironically, the Constitution does explain the purpose of the Second Amendment - in fact it is virtually the only part of the Bill of Rights that supplies reasoning. Yet people are ignoring that anyway.



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Mon Jul 09, 2018 4:39 pm
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Post Re: Sapiens - Part Two: The Agricultural Revolution
In the last section of Part Two, Harari details how the imagined orders that Sapiens cooked up always resulted in raw deals for many of the people living under the regimes. Thus, "there is no justice in history." This is obviously opposed to a Christian view that despite appearances to the contrary, God has been working his plan of justice all along, difficult for us to see though it is. The Hindu caste system and the racist theories that underpinned slavery are good examples of the stronger imposing an order on the weaker, with no basis in fact. Harari also wants us to see the dominance of males in the same light, but I think his analysis is weaker there. He's correct that that there was never any justification for women to be treated as badly as they have been, but the origins of that aren't as mysterious as he says. He could cite male dominance in other primates; the role of greater male size and strength, especially in throwing; the relative scarcity of polyandry vs. polygamy; hormonal differences between male and female; the need for the mother to care for babies; and so forth. There were, in other words, biological differences that formed the germ around which social inferiority became established. The latter lasted long after the point at which the male attributes had become unimportant. Today in liberal democracies, women are judged to be able to fill any role that males occupy, with the possible exception of combat fighting. We are entitled to call this moral progress, even if it actually resulted from material change such as labor-saving technology and harnessing energy sources.



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Post Re: Sapiens - Part Two: The Agricultural Revolution
DWill wrote:
In the last section of Part Two, Harari details how the imagined orders that Sapiens cooked up always resulted in raw deals for many of the people living under the regimes. Thus, "there is no justice in history." This is obviously opposed to a Christian view that despite appearances to the contrary, God has been working his plan of justice all along, difficult for us to see though it is.

Having finally finished this section, I do want to respond a bit to your observation. First, not all Christians who see God at work conclude that human affairs are moving toward greater peace and justice, as Pinker would argue. Ross Douthat, the NY Times columnist "representing Catholicism", scoffs at this "arc of justice" claim and seems to see humanity as pretty hopelessly mired in sin, as evidenced by the Red Guards and the rise of one-party China, by the deterioration of Russia after the collapse of communism, by the acceptance of abortion and pornography, and, well, one could go on.

Second, as an arc of history believer, I tend to think that the greater levels of education, better management of reproduction rates, and improved communication that have come with technological advance (and fostered it) have made it more difficult to sustain just the types of oppressive vicious circles of misperception that he tells about. Is that due to the spirit of love in operation? Well, of course. But that doesn't mean there is a plan, or a planner. It may instead be the slope of the "ground": as humans get better at cooperating, cooperative values become more and more appealing. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin seems to have been the first to lay this out in a sort of theological anthropology of progress, arguing that Christ is the "Omega point" toward which human affairs will tend.

But that hardly means, as Fukuyama proposed in "The End of History", that we are out of the woods and no longer in danger of losing it all.

DWill wrote:
The Hindu caste system and the racist theories that underpinned slavery are good examples of the stronger imposing an order on the weaker, with no basis in fact.
Well, military dominance is hardly "no basis in fact." What he seems to have in mind is the growth of claims, or inferences, that are based on what people see but ignore the violent history behind those appearances, as well as the blatantly mythological elements such as the curse of Ham or the claim that Brahman created the different castes from different body parts.

Those separate strands are worth looking at independently. Purity judgements are pretty widespread in human culture, suggesting that the reasoning may involve fair amounts of imagination but also have some evidence base.

The post-exilic Jews seemed to be incredibly sensitive about biological mingling (read Ezra 9-10 sometime if you like Biblical scandals) and the term "adultery" refers to adulterating the bloodline, akin to adding unhealthy substances to meat or wine to disguise bad flavors. Some of this concern with impurity may come from experience with disease, and with odors or other warnings to avoid potentially toxic material. Harari covers that base.

And of course, the current New York City resistance to desegregating schools is from the same pattern; Harari has analyzed such situations. People may conclude, quite rationally, that if their neighborhood or their children's schools include more racial minorities, the quality of their education may go down. (And equally rationally, may note that richer, more educated Whites use their options to move away, while they have to stay and fight.) It is easy to rule out "irrational" judgements about individuals, but people in the middle of cultural fault lines may be racist from the same motives of fully rational self-interest that are extolled at the level of economic policy.

As a side note, I have never considered Haidt's analysis of "missing dimensions" of morality among liberals to be legitimate. For Haidt, any moral judgement has the same status as any other moral judgement, and if people think mixing linen with cotton is disgusting and classify it as a "should not" then he is willing to class it with other moral rules. I can see how they may take up the same part of the mind of a person who feels that way, but moral emotions (Haidt's "elephant") are all mixed up with things like status judgments and elaborate interpretations that a person overhears, and so reason tends to guide an evolution of these emotions over time.

The fascinating story of Derek Black, the white supremacist who was invited to shabbat dinner, is perhaps the most revealing example of this process that I have ever seen. Cultural evolution on fast forward.
https://onbeing.org/programs/how-friend ... t-may2018/

I am suggesting that purity judgments are a confusion of moral emotions, but one that does tend to reinforce social stratification.

The other part I think worth reflecting on is the way such purity rationales tend to be used to obscure the original violent source of the stratification. The overlords know that their rule is not legitimate, that it is based on naked power. The discomfort with this situation leads them to substitute stories that contain an element of rationality, one might even say an "evidence-based" rationale.

Purity rules, in this case, will take on the added value of making people disgusted by any "experiment" such as allowing a well-bred minority member to go to university, or allowing intermarriage between races. By nipping the problem in the bud, purity culture heads off larger battles further on when some tipping point is reached.



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Post Re: Sapiens - Part Two: The Agricultural Revolution
DWill wrote:
Harari also wants us to see the dominance of males in the same light, but I think his analysis is weaker there. He's correct that that there was never any justification for women to be treated as badly as they have been, but the origins of that aren't as mysterious as he says. He could cite male dominance in other primates; the role of greater male size and strength, especially in throwing; the relative scarcity of polyandry vs. polygamy; hormonal differences between male and female; the need for the mother to care for babies; and so forth. There were, in other words, biological differences that formed the germ around which social inferiority became established.
I also thought his treatment of this question was too shallow. Maybe he felt he had nothing useful to report, since there is no consensus on this question. Maybe casting it as a mystery seemed like the most interesting and provocative point he could put out there.

This idea that the dominance started with biological differences and ran away from there seems like an obvious call. But maybe we should back up a step further - patriarchy is hardly ubiquitous. There are many matrilineal systems of descent, and in many of these (and some patriarchal) the brothers of a wife are in charge of enforcing good treatment for her.

My guess is that it started with a combination of physical proficiency at killing along with the sociobiologists' observations of the differences in incentives for number of progeny and the problem of managing rape. And that a big part of the inertia was bonding between women.

Rape interferes with a woman's ability to mange her reproductive fitness. Instead of forming a bond with a male, who will continue to contribute food and protection, etc. for his children, rape sets up a situation in which the father is a sneak and/or brute, and likely to be less fit than someone of her choice, and so not welcome in a long-term household. The importance of culture probably has to do with the evolution of hidden estrus in humans, and along with it, a male role in protecting his wife from rape. But that puts a premium on strength, cunning and ability to persuade other males to join in policing. None of this would work as well in a system of common policing by women, which Harari suggests is used by some apes. That is, nobody has as strong an incentive as the woman's mate to help her police rape.

Once agriculture got going, the dynamics would be further tipped by the ability of a successful patriarch to impregnate many women. Women's reproductive fitness is inherently limited by the fairly small number of offspring she can successfully nourish. It is necessary to get less successful males to buy into this before it can be used to enforce a system of segregation in the division of labor, but economists have had good success with models of "tournaments" to explain why big prizes for a single winner can be acceptable to all the lesser lights. If you grant the point, then there is a good likelihood that the biology of the tribe or clan would come to have a high proportion of genes of men who push hard for dominant positions. And why include women in the tournament, who have much less to gain by winning?

But on a completely separate line of analysis, I think Harari's version understates the challenges of "women's work" and the rewards to cooperation within it. Even leaving aside medicines and other herbal "lore" there are important things to be known about cooking, cloth-making, cleaning and other occupations that are commonly allocated to women. Thus in a system of culture it saves tremendously on the investment costs if people are sorted by occupations according to roughly equal time requirements. Women don't have to learn to hunt and fish, men don't have to learn to sew and deal with colicky infants. Thus each subculture can get better at what it concentrates on. Is it too radical a suggestion that men who wanted to do women's work or women who wanted to do men's work would be treated as a disruption to an effective arrangement?

And finally, of course, women have not always been excluded from leadership and power. Zenobia, Boadicca, Queen Elizabeth, Catherine the Great and Cleopatra are prominent examples of women who wielded power effectively in the spotlight. Behind the scenes were any number of other women who wielded power through men. Intelligence and subtle understanding have always had a way of translating into achievement, at least when circumstances made it possible.

DWill wrote:
The latter lasted long after the point at which the male attributes had become unimportant. Today in liberal democracies, women are judged to be able to fill any role that males occupy, with the possible exception of combat fighting. We are entitled to call this moral progress, even if it actually resulted from material change such as labor-saving technology and harnessing energy sources.

Moral progress is, as far as I'm concerned, the main point. I don't think "quotas" will ever be a good idea, but this is the point in cultural evolution when they have the most leverage, I would say. The overt barriers have broken down. Quotas can push that further by pushing back against unconscious barriers.

But material circumstances have clearly changed since the traditional rules were set. And if we can't do the right thing when the material conditions favor it, we are in truly sorry shape.



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Post Re: Sapiens - Part Two: The Agricultural Revolution
Harry Marks wrote:
Having finally finished this section, I do want to respond a bit to your observation. First, not all Christians who see God at work conclude that human affairs are moving toward greater peace and justice, as Pinker would argue. Ross Douthat, the NY Times columnist "representing Catholicism", scoffs at this "arc of justice" claim and seems to see humanity as pretty hopelessly mired in sin, as evidenced by the Red Guards and the rise of one-party China, by the deterioration of Russia after the collapse of communism, by the acceptance of abortion and pornography, and, well, one could go on.

I think you're right that Douhat's view would be closer to the mainstream. It makes some sense, too, in that if justice depends humans acting justly toward one another, it is only their sinfulness that stands in the way of a truly just world. (I'm not hostile to the concept of sin.) Further in the back of my mind, I was thinking of the attitude that whatever bad thing happens, it must somehow be in the creator's plan; we just can't know his mind. Somehow, it all sorts out in the divine scheme. This might apply especially to the problem of evil, or why bad things happen to good people. Justice isn't involved when it comes to babies with Zika virus or thousands killed by a tidal wave. Why would God let either of those things happen?
Quote:
Second, as an arc of history believer, I tend to think that the greater levels of education, better management of reproduction rates, and improved communication that have come with technological advance (and fostered it) have made it more difficult to sustain just the types of oppressive vicious circles of misperception that he tells about. Is that due to the spirit of love in operation? Well, of course. But that doesn't mean there is a plan, or a planner. It may instead be the slope of the "ground": as humans get better at cooperating, cooperative values become more and more appealing. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin seems to have been the first to lay this out in a sort of theological anthropology of progress, arguing that Christ is the "Omega point" toward which human affairs will tend.

That's the naturalistic pathway to progress, and I would agree that it's more likely than a vaguely directed providential ascent.
Quote:
But that hardly means, as Fukuyama proposed in "The End of History", that we are out of the woods and no longer in danger of losing it all.

Does Fukuyama get the Most Premature Declaration of Victory Award, or what?

Quote:
The post-exilic Jews seemed to be incredibly sensitive about biological mingling (read Ezra 9-10 sometime if you like Biblical scandals) and the term "adultery" refers to adulterating the bloodline, akin to adding unhealthy substances to meat or wine to disguise bad flavors. Some of this concern with impurity may come from experience with disease, and with odors or other warnings to avoid potentially toxic material. Harari covers that base.

And of course, the current New York City resistance to desegregating schools is from the same pattern; Harari has analyzed such situations. People may conclude, quite rationally, that if their neighborhood or their children's schools include more racial minorities, the quality of their education may go down. (And equally rationally, may note that richer, more educated Whites use their options to move away, while they have to stay and fight.) It is easy to rule out "irrational" judgements about individuals, but people in the middle of cultural fault lines may be racist from the same motives of fully rational self-interest that are extolled at the level of economic policy.

With immigration, too, it's easy to make the charge of bigotry or xenophobia against people who who object to allowing many immigrants into a country. Easy if one doesn't have to deal with that problem at all, as I don't.
Quote:
As a side note, I have never considered Haidt's analysis of "missing dimensions" of morality among liberals to be legitimate. For Haidt, any moral judgement has the same status as any other moral judgement, and if people think mixing linen with cotton is disgusting and classify it as a "should not" then he is willing to class it with other moral rules. I can see how they may take up the same part of the mind of a person who feels that way, but moral emotions (Haidt's "elephant") are all mixed up with things like status judgments and elaborate interpretations that a person overhears, and so reason tends to guide an evolution of these emotions over time.

I see his moral foundations theory as useful in drawing Western attention to aspects that we don't moralize much, but other cultures do. I think many of us would hold that attitudes on the purity, sanctity, and authority dimensions aren't in the moral realm at all, so certain are we that morality comprises only fairness and care. It's good to realize that that really isn't true, but it's not to deny that multiculturism must have its limits within the framework af nationality. Is it reasonable for France to forbid full facial coverings, to cite only one example? I'd say perhaps so.
Quote:
Purity rules, in this case, will take on the added value of making people disgusted by any "experiment" such as allowing a well-bred minority member to go to university, or allowing intermarriage between races. By nipping the problem in the bud, purity culture heads off larger battles further on when some tipping point is reached.
We have a very unfortunate recent example of disgust arising from purity violations, with our prez lamenting immigrants infesting our country. He also is said to be a germ phobe, which indicates a real visceral reaction regarding the wrong kind of immigrants. Norwegians carry no germs.



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Post Re: Sapiens - Part Two: The Agricultural Revolution
Harry Marks wrote:
Rape interferes with a woman's ability to mange her reproductive fitness. Instead of forming a bond with a male, who will continue to contribute food and protection, etc. for his children, rape sets up a situation in which the father is a sneak and/or brute, and likely to be less fit than someone of her choice, and so not welcome in a long-term household. The importance of culture probably has to do with the evolution of hidden estrus in humans, and along with it, a male role in protecting his wife from rape. But that puts a premium on strength, cunning and ability to persuade other males to join in policing. None of this would work as well in a system of common policing by women, which Harari suggests is used by some apes. That is, nobody has as strong an incentive as the woman's mate to help her police rape.

I wasn't even thinking specifically of rape when I mentioned bad treatment of women. Rape opens up a dynamic I've never really thought about in historical terms. I'm tempted to say that through most of history rape wasn't classified as a crime,which would be fairly mind boggling. But I don't have facts on that. If it is the case that rape has been properly criminalized only recently, in contrast to previous raping with impunity, I'll surely join you on the moral arc of history side.
Quote:
Once agriculture got going, the dynamics would be further tipped by the ability of a successful patriarch to impregnate many women. Women's reproductive fitness is inherently limited by the fairly small number of offspring she can successfully nourish. It is necessary to get less successful males to buy into this before it can be used to enforce a system of segregation in the division of labor, but economists have had good success with models of "tournaments" to explain why big prizes for a single winner can be acceptable to all the lesser lights. If you grant the point, then there is a good likelihood that the biology of the tribe or clan would come to have a high proportion of genes of men who push hard for dominant positions. And why include women in the tournament, who have much less to gain by winning?

But on a completely separate line of analysis, I think Harari's version understates the challenges of "women's work" and the rewards to cooperation within it. Even leaving aside medicines and other herbal "lore" there are important things to be known about cooking, cloth-making, cleaning and other occupations that are commonly allocated to women. Thus in a system of culture it saves tremendously on the investment costs if people are sorted by occupations according to roughly equal time requirements. Women don't have to learn to hunt and fish, men don't have to learn to sew and deal with colicky infants. Thus each subculture can get better at what it concentrates on. Is it too radical a suggestion that men who wanted to do women's work or women who wanted to do men's work would be treated as a disruption to an effective arrangement?

I found that intriguing. Your suggestion sounds reasonable to me. Feminists have probably been conflicted on whether to extoll "women's work" or to downplay it so that barriers to traditional men's professions could fall.
Quote:
And finally, of course, women have not always been excluded from leadership and power. Zenobia, Boadicca, Queen Elizabeth, Catherine the Great and Cleopatra are prominent examples of women who wielded power effectively in the spotlight. Behind the scenes were any number of other women who wielded power through men. Intelligence and subtle understanding have always had a way of translating into achievement, at least when circumstances made it possible.

Harari says those figures are exceptions that prove the rule, which seems a correct way to look at that. I've watched two seasons of "The Handmaid's Tale" and am a little under the influence of Atwood's gender dystopia. That world seems conceivable, however extremely unlikely it is, in a way that wouldn't apply if Atwood had put the males on the bottom.



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Post Re: Sapiens - Part Two: The Agricultural Revolution
DWill wrote:
(I'm not hostile to the concept of sin.) Further in the back of my mind, I was thinking of the attitude that whatever bad thing happens, it must somehow be in the creator's plan; we just can't know his mind. Somehow, it all sorts out in the divine scheme.
I think I see how this fits with your earlier statement. I am focusing on the "signal" that may be discernable amid the noise of random events, while you are focusing on its hiddenness (that may be an indication of its absence, like Michael Shermer's tiger).
Kushner, in "Why Bad Things Happen to Good People" brilliantly applied relational theology. Regardless of which "theory" appeals to you, your communication to those suffering will be harsh if you choose the "God is all-powerful but we can't see how this fits the plan" option over the "God's power is limited against the chaos of nature," option. In the second option we are invited to join God on the side of the suffering, while in the first, we must "explain" a God too distant to let us in on the supposed plan.
The revolution of relational theology, now subsumed under "incarnational" theology for Progressive Christians, continues. Want to know what God is like? Look at the sociological phenomenon.

DWill wrote:
Does Fukuyama get the Most Premature Declaration of Victory Award, or what?
Well, a friend once was kibbitzing in a FreeCell game I was playing, and said, "Look, if you put that over there, you can move these to the main stack and you're done." I admonished him that there were still a number of knots to untie and that I had, in fact, failed at games that had reached the degree of organization he was claiming was "done." It may be that Fukuyama was just looking further down the road than I can see, or was focusing on the really thorny problems while those that remain are second-order. More likely, though, he was just premature.

DWill wrote:
With immigration, too, it's easy to make the charge of bigotry or xenophobia against people who who object to allowing many immigrants into a country. Easy if one doesn't have to deal with that problem at all, as I don't.
That happens to be one of the oddities of economic analysis. We actually don't usually believe that greater immigration will hurt the country, and there is quite a bit of evidence that it doesn't even lower standards of living for the unskilled.

There are strong a priori reasons for thinking that more immigration will expand the pie rather than increasing competition for a share of a fixed pie. Essentially the way to think of it is that the economy is a big network of work patterns, and adhesion to the network by a new worker makes a slight improvement in the effectiveness of everyone else. The empowerment created by an efficient network makes the value of one more worker greater than the pay necessary to compensate the worker for not choosing alternative options. That's a sketchy version and there are hidden assumptions that may no longer hold, but in terms of past performance it has done pretty well.

The case is stronger for free trade, and much better understood, and we seem to have fumbled not only explaining that one but implementing it as well. So, economists are getting humbler these days, despite what reading Krugman's columns would indicate.
DWill wrote:
Quote:
As a side note, I have never considered Haidt's analysis of "missing dimensions" of morality among liberals to be legitimate.

I see his moral foundations theory as useful in drawing Western attention to aspects that we don't moralize much, but other cultures do. I think many of us would hold that attitudes on the purity, sanctity, and authority dimensions aren't in the moral realm at all, so certain are we that morality comprises only fairness and care. It's good to realize that that really isn't true, but it's not to deny that multiculturism must have its limits within the framework of nationality. Is it reasonable for France to forbid full facial coverings, to cite only one example? I'd say perhaps so.
I am open to arguments from reason that we have over-individualized analysis of morality, and that purity, sanctity and authority have a place in a proper moral order with a more communitarian focus. But I haven't heard any.

I have emotions in all three categories: purity, sanctity and authority. I just process them through a different cognitive lens, rather than "morality," because I accept Western thought. For me they have value, and meaning, and can fit in a sensible social order. But that doesn't mean to me that I have a duty to uphold these values or have violated the community's rights if I don't.

Whether or not I am correct, I think it makes sense that our ideas about right and wrong and morality evolve over time, and that reason is the main force determining how new factors will be incorporated. If the categories of moral reasoning begin to affect the modes of moral emotion that can be discerned, why should anyone be surprised?

It's interesting to watch the processing of esthetic or competitive evaluations, as to whether they begin to take on a moral dimension. So we have a fairly new category that has arisen in the last 50 years, of someone who "tries too hard." This has emerged from the ethos of authenticity that erupted in full force in the 60s, with "Catcher in the Rye" and Jack Kerouac, et al, coming into their own. Think "Me and Bobby McGee." A try-hard has the odor of a fake, but that isn't exactly the criticism. The sense that the person is being manipulative has receded behind the competitive, status-oriented evaluation that the person has to try hard because they lack something that could make them more secure in themselves. A similar idea to a "Napoleonic complex" over being short. I predict that it will gradually lose its "fakery" connotation over time, because people want moral evaluations to really be about moral issues, so they will gradually become more and more uncomfortable with using it as a morally meaningful label. Other labels, like "fake" or "phony" will be preferred for the person who is being manipulative.
DWill wrote:
We have a very unfortunate recent example of disgust arising from purity violations, with our prez lamenting immigrants infesting our country. He also is said to be a germ phobe, which indicates a real visceral reaction regarding the wrong kind of immigrants. Norwegians carry no germs.
Good comparison. Among people who perceive that "Norwegians carry no germs" (there will be no poisoned Anders Breivik among the Skittles) this sort of thinking will continue to look reasonable, but it doesn't hold up well over time. Generationally, if not faster, the old perceptions fall to evidentiary considerations.



Fri Aug 03, 2018 7:04 am
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Post Re: Sapiens - Part Two: The Agricultural Revolution
DWill wrote:
I'm tempted to say that through most of history rape wasn't classified as a crime,which would be fairly mind boggling. But I don't have facts on that. If it is the case that rape has been properly criminalized only recently, in contrast to previous raping with impunity,
A recent column observed that until recently a man could not be said to rape his wife, because rape was considered a violation of the family that "owned" her procreative abilities, rather than of her personally. Women were property, to put it succinctly. This is apparently still the case for billions of people in the world.

I was trying to imagine myself into a "pre-patriarchy" world order, presumably hunter-gatherer style, to think about what might have caused things to go from a Goddess worldview to the one we have today. There is an interesting hint in "The Horse, The Wheel and Language" to the effect that myths about brothers run deep in Indo-European cultures (Cain and Abel being a prominent example) because the critical acquisition of cattle herding put a premium on relations between brothers as a protection against raids on the herd. I forget the details of the argument, which I recall being interesting, but the main idea was that your brother was a much more reliable ally against cattle rustlers than just any other clan member. It doesn't take much of a push, I think, to turn physical strength and independence from the hearth into the dividing factors controlling access to power. It would start out as "coordination" roles, and these would evolve into become judge, chief or warlord.

I think Harari does well to distinguish between the original basis for a system, e.g. the caste system in India, and the myths and confirmation biases that perpetuate it. He overstates the case to assert that the original basis is "accidental" or "arbitrary" but he is right in one sense: it could have been the other group that found itself in the dominant position, but the post hoc justifications that are presented invariably obscure or even deny that possibility by attributing the dominance to the observable results of domination.

DWill wrote:
Quote:
Thus in a system of culture it saves tremendously on the investment costs if people are sorted by occupations according to roughly equal time requirements. Women don't have to learn to hunt and fish, men don't have to learn to sew and deal with colicky infants. Thus each subculture can get better at what it concentrates on.

I found that intriguing. Your suggestion sounds reasonable to me. Feminists have probably been conflicted on whether to extoll "women's work" or to downplay it so that barriers to traditional men's professions could fall.
The only conflict I have seen is that women tend to hold that men should take an equal share of the child care but also tend to hold that moms should have the decisive voice in how it is done. This was observed by Brazelton back in the 80s. He called it "gatekeeping."

In general, one part of feminism has been the argument that women's traditional contributions should be taken seriously, and in Europe this has often taken the form of more support and protection for child care rather than more push for women in the traditionally male workplace. Both versions seem appealing to me, and I would like to see things arranged for expanded opportunities in both directions.
DWill wrote:
I've watched two seasons of "The Handmaid's Tale" and am a little under the influence of Atwood's gender dystopia. That world seems conceivable, however extremely unlikely it is, in a way that wouldn't apply if Atwood had put the males on the bottom.
I have to say I see your point. A similar example was in the news recently with one "analyst" arguing that the Pompeo/Trump version of foreign policy is "We're America, bitch!" Somehow it doesn't convey the arrogance to say, "We're America, bastard!" The inferences run deep.



Fri Aug 03, 2018 7:44 am
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