Keeping up with the FITs, No. 14

Attaining a new Haidt

On Yascha Mounk’s Persuasion substack, Jonathan Haidt writes,

The insistence that the lens applies everywhere means that the preferred remedies must be implemented everywhere. This expansion imperative can explain the otherwise astonishing statement on page 18 of Ibram Kendi’s book “How to Be an Antiracist”:

There is no such thing as a nonracist or race-neutral policy. Every policy in every institution in every community in every nation is producing or sustaining either racial inequity or equity between racial groups.

In other words, if a high school teaches chemistry without discussing race, it is not “nonracist,” it is racist. True believers exert pressure on the leadership of the school to bring race into every part of the curriculum, and anyone who expresses doubt or raises concerns risks being publicly shamed and possibly fired. Monomanics sometimes demand that their focal value be installed as the telos of every organization. 

This brings us to the second major illiberal effect: the incentivization of intimidation and cruelty. Within a group of people competing for prestige on adherence to a belief, one can often gain points by publicly attacking outsiders. This creates an incentive for individuals in the group to attack not just their enemies, who are often out of reach, but innocent people who happen to be nearby. This dynamic may account for the cruelty with which power monomaniacs turn on professors and administrators who try to help them, or who otherwise share their political views but not their monomania. The threat of job loss and reputational damage make everyone else walk on eggshells, and this fearful attitude is incompatible with the success of a liberal society.

But this monomania, as he calls it, is great for asabiya (group cohesion). So a monomaniacal minority can invade and conquer institutions.

Noah Smith interviews Jason Crawford about progress.

is the Great Stagnation over? If we got cheap electricity, supersonic planes, self-driving cars, and a biotech revolution all within the next couple of decades, that would be broad and deep enough for me to say that stagnation was at least temporarily over. But we haven't solved any of the problems that I think led to slower growth in the first place: We still have a burdensome regulatory environment that indulges in a lot of safety theater. We still have a highly centralized and bureaucratized research funding mechanism. And we still have a culture that is skeptical and distrustful of the idea of progress. Without improvement in those root causes, I'm not optimistic that high growth rates will return for good.

Razib Khan addresses the claim that the Indian caste system was imposed by British colonial rule.

modern tools of genomic inference allow us to reconstruct the histories of whole populations. Using these, the resounding conclusion is that al-Biruni and Megasthenes were onto something deep, that caste as we’d recognize it is ancient, and predates the British by millennia, regardless of how much these latter rationalized and systematized it. Indian populations that have lived in close proximity to each other have remained strictly endogamous for thousands of years, not centuries. The “higher castes” are genetically distinct from “lower castes,” and the most marginalized group, the “outcastes”, today called Dalits, are the most distinct of all. A very ancient social structure has been imprinted on the genomes of modern Indians. Whatever the magic spell the British cast over Indian culture, it didn’t include reaching back in time.

On Matt Yglesias’ newsletter, Stan Oklobdzija writes

n practice, Los Angeles has not just the largest unsheltered homeless population in America, but one of the largest homeless populations on planet Earth, putting it in dubious company with cities like Manila, Mumbai and Moscow. It’s also America’s most cost-burdened metro area, with a full 44 percent of all households paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing. And in stark contrast to both Copenhagen and Stockholm, Los Angeles was named America’s worst bike city in 2018. 

The essay is mostly about how LA’s one-party Democratic control is bad, and it includes various structural electoral reforms to try to fix that. To me, it seems like a tremendous feat of cognitive dissonance on the part of Progressives that they can observe how badly a Democratic-run city works and still believe that the left is right about everything.

But I just want to talk about the bicycle issue. For me, riding a bike in Copenhagen would be at best stressful and at worst terrifying. It is so bike-friendly that the bike lanes are filled with bikers (public bike lock stations are double-decker). Everyday riding would feel like you’re in the middle of a bike race.

It’s true that unless you are a masochist there is almost nowhere to ride in LA, and for me that is a deterrent to wanting to spend time there. But I have enjoyed the Ballona Creek bike trail that leads to the path where you can ride along the beach to Hermosa, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica, Venice. . .