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18 Oct 13:54

American Companies' Bad Tax Deal

by Veronique de Rugy

The United States' corporate income tax needs a makeover.

It's not just that Uncle Sam tries to take a piece of all corporate income, including money earned (and therefore taxed) in other nations. It's not just that America's top statutory rate is higher than in all other countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). (According to the Congressional Budget Office, it currently stands at 39.2 percent including state levies; Trump has proposed a significant reduction in the federal rate, but prospects look weak.) It's that over the years, American companies have seen other governments reform their tax systems while the U.S. has done almost nothing to fix ours.

This chart shows the evolution of top statutory corporate tax rates (combining taxes at all levels of government) from 2003 through 2012 in the so-called Group of 20—some 19 developed countries plus the government of the European Union. At the start of that period, a few places had higher rates than the United States. Not anymore.

The consequence is that U.S. companies must compete against foreign entities that enjoy a lower cost of doing business. Those earning income elsewhere can avoid being double-taxed by keeping that income overseas. But this reduces their freedom to make business decisions on the merits, forces them to spend money on tax avoidance techniques rather than investing it, and keeps those dollars out of the pockets of American consumers.

10 Oct 10:35

Lynchpin of teachers union power returns to the Supreme Court - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

by Matt Winesett

Last week, the US Supreme Court announced that it would hear Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). While it is among the biggest cases on the court’s docket next year, it certainly holds the biggest stakes when it comes to public education. The case deals with mandatory union agency fees, which plaintiff Mark Janus, a child support specialist at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, argues violate his First Amendment rights to free speech and free association.

US Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch (top R) smiles as he joins his fellow justices in taking a new family photo including Gorsuch, their most recent addition. Following his appointment, the prospects look pretty bleak for agency fees and the union strength that depends on them. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Illinois state law “compels state employees to pay agency fees to an exclusive representative for speaking and contracting with the state over governmental policies.” In short, non-union employees must pay unions, as the exclusive employee representatives in collective bargaining, to negotiate contracts on their behalf. Janus has long been critical of both the union and forced association through agency fees. He wrote last year in the Chicago Tribune, “The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of association. I don’t want to be associated with a union that claims to represent my interests and me when it really doesn’t.”

Janus targets a 40-year-old precedent set by Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which permits allowing agency fees as a means to avoid a “free rider” problem: non-union members benefiting from union representation in contract negotiations, but not paying for that service. Abood allows agency fees, so long as the fees are limited to the portion of membership dues used solely for collect bargaining, and are separated from funds used for political purposes. Critics argue that agency fees make financially supporting a union, and its politics by extension, a precondition of public employment.

Janus follows Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a 2016 US Supreme Court case that almost brought an end to agency fees. Friedrichs, a public school teacher forced to pay agency fees to the California Teachers Association (CTA), brought suit using a First Amendment argument similar to Janus’s, also targeting Abood. Friedrich’s case made it to the Supreme Court, where a majority of justices seemed ready to rule in her favor and against the constitutionality of agency fees. But things changed when Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly a month after oral arguments. That March, an equally divided eight-member court deadlocked on Friedrich’s case, leaving Abood intact.

A year-and-a-half later, following the appointment of Neil Gorsuch, the prospects look good for Janus, and, as they did leading up to Friedrichs, pretty bleak for agency fees and the union strength that depends on them. The immediate consequence of a Janus victory would be that public sector unions could no longer force nonmembers to pay agency fees. This would cause unions’ revenues to drop in the 20 states that allow agency fees. But that’s only the beginning. Taking away these fees would dramatically increase the real cost of union members’ dues. As I explained in in the context of Friedrichs:

In California, the real cost now is about $350, the difference between $1,000 in dues and the $650 fees. Without fees, the choice would be between $0 and $1,000, so the cost would rise to $1,000. This increase would encourage uncommitted members to leave and discourage new teachers from joining. Without agency fees, union membership would decline in states that now allow agency fees, and they would have far less political power.

The dramatic changes in costs would have outsized impacts on union membership and power. We have seen this play out before. In 2011, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed Act 10, which did away with agency fees. The state’s largest teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), saw a dramatic decrease in membership over a short period of time: falling from about 98,000 members in 2011 to about 40,000 in 2015. But, as the graph below shows, membership declines are only part of this story. WEAC’s annual expenditures on lobbying ranged from half to one-and-a-half million dollars from 2005 to 2010, peaking at $2.25 million during its fight to stop Act 10 in 2011. After 2011, WEAC’s lobbying outlays have remained under $150,000, and hours spent lobbying dropped dramatically as well.

It’s unclear how much of this drop should be attributed solely to the elimination of agency fees, as Act 10 included other measures to curb union power, but the overlap between the states that allow agency fees and union power is evident across the country.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute released a study in 2012 that makes a state-by-state comparison of the strength of teachers unions. Measuring Union strength through numerous variables, they sorted the states into five categories, from strongest to weakest, each containing about 10 states. All ten of the strongest and 8 out of 10 of the strong states allow unions to collect agency fees from nonmembers. The number of states allowing agency fees continues to decline with weaker union strength. Fewer than half of states with average union strength, 4 out of 10 weak union states, and only 1 out of 10 of the weakest union states allow unions to collect agency fees.

If the judicial scales tip in favor of Janus — and it looks like they will — unions will enter a new era, and for them it looks pretty dreary. Losing agency fees would shrink teachers unions’ membership and clip unions’ political and economic wings not only in the 20 remaining states with agency fees, but also in the national headquarters that depend on these states for a disproportionate share of their membership and funds.

Could this be the end of unions? Probably not, but to maintain their power and influence, teachers unions will need to refocus on working on behalf of their members, in order to make a clear value proposition to teachers. Their chief challenge will be making the case to teachers that union membership — and dues — are worth the full cost of membership. Eliminating agency fees will almost certainly shrink unions, but it could also make them more energized, since remaining members would be the truly committed. What will happen to public schools after the most powerful force in the politics of education has its wings clipped? It looks like we are about to find out.

10 Oct 08:48

Gun Control and Homicide Rates

by David Friedman
Some recent comment threads on Slate Star Codex, my favorite blog, have dealt with the always lively issue of gun control. One standard argument is "we know gun control laws work because the U.S., which has relatively few restrictions, has a much higher homicide rate than countries such as Canada or the U.K., which have much more restrictions."

One response sometimes offered is that there are other countries, such as Mexico and Brazil, with both restrictive laws and homicide rates much higher than in the U.S. That then gets into the question of what comparisons are more relevant, in what respects the U.K. is more like the U.S. than Brazil is.

An alternative approach, which I think more useful, is to ask whether the difference in homicide rates existed prior to the difference in regulation. The web makes that question much easier to answer than it would have been twenty years ago. 

In the case of the U.K., the answer is pretty clear. According to the Wiki page on Firearms Policy in the U.K., the first restrictive legislation was the pistol act of 1903, but it had little effect:
The Act was more or less ineffective, as anyone wishing to buy a pistol commercially merely had to purchase a licence on demand over the counter from a Post Office before doing so. In addition, it did not regulate private sales of such firearms.
The first  significant restriction was the Firearms Act of 1920. There were additional acts in 1937, 1968, 1988, 1997 and 2006.

The data on Homicide rates per 100,000:

Year U.S.  England&Wales Ratio
1900 1.2 0.96 1.3
1910 4.6 0.81 5.7
1920 6.8 0.83 8.2
1930 8.8 0.75 11.7
*1946 6.4 0.81 7.9
1950 4.6 0.79 5.8
1960 5.1 0.62 8.2
1970 7.9 0.69 11.4
1980 10.2 1.11 9.2
1990 9.4 1.09 8.6
2000 5.5 **1.71 3.2
2010 4.8 1.14 4.2

*No data for the U.K. 1940-1945
**The figure is for the U.K. rather than England and Wales

Looking at those data, it is hard to believe that the reason the U.K. has a lower homicide rate than the U.S. is restrictive legislation.

My point here is not that gun control doesn't (or does) work. I wouldn't be surprised if some restrictions on firearm ownership reduced the homicide rate, but if so, the effect on the U.S./U.K. ratio is lost in the noise. My point is rather that the sort of factoids that show up in this sort of argument, even when they are true, are rarely as solid evidence as those who offer them claim.

This would be a better post if I had a good example on the other side of the same debate. I don't, but perhaps someone reading this can offer one.

08 Oct 07:40

Foreign Direct Investment in the US: Size and Effects

by Timothy Taylor
Foreign direct investment refers to a situation when a foreign firm invests in an affiliate in a substantial enough way that it gains some voice in the management of the enterprise. This is often defined in terms of having ownership of at least 10 percent of the company. The US is quite open to foreign direct investment from abroad. Michael Cortez tells the story in "Foreign Direct Investment in the United States," published by the Economics and Statistics Administration of the US Department of Commerce (ESA Issue Brief #06-17, October 3, 2017). The quick overview of 2016 sounds like this:
"FDI inflows on a historic cost basis in 2015 were the largest on record at $465.8 billion while 2016 inflows, though slightly lower at $457.1 billion, were at the second highest level on record. FDI in these two years was more than double the average annual inflows of roughly $200 billion for 2012-2014. Increased investment in manufacturing, specifically in chemical manufacturing, accounted for most of the investment gains for both 2015 and 2016.
"The United States had an inward FDI stock of $3.3 trillion and $3.7 trillion, on a historical-cost basis, for 2015 and 2016 respectively. The United States’ FDI stock in 2015 ($5.6 trillion on a current-cost basis) was more than three times larger than that of the next largest destination country. Total inward stock in the United States grew at an average annual rate of 7.8 percent per year from 2009-2016."

A common reason for foreign direct investment is that it helps a company be more confident about its international supply lines. Another reason for FDI in the United States is to take advantage of US-based expertise and R&D, Thus, it's no surprise that US-based firms with foreign direct investment are active in exports and in research and development. Cortez writes:
"Majority-owned U.S. affiliates of foreign entities exported $352.8 billion in goods, accounting for over 23 percent of total U.S. goods exports in 2015 (the most recent year for which this data is available). They are also a catalyst for research and development, spending $56.7 billion in 2015 on R&D and accounting for 15.8 percent of the U.S. total expenditure on R&D by businesses."

Given that FDI emphasizes manufacturing, R&D, and exports, it's not a surprise that the jobs with US affiliates of foreign firms tend to pay well.
"Majority-owned U.S. affiliates of foreign entities employed 6.8 million U.S. workers in 2015, up from 6.6 million in 2014, and provided compensation of nearly $80,000 per U.S. employee in 2015. That is higher than the U.S. average of $64,000 in the economy as a whole for the same year."

07 Oct 11:49

England ended free college—which was great for students - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

by Preston Cooper

Advocates of free college often suggest that abolishing tuition fees would increase access to higher education. But according to a new NBER working paper by Richard Murphy, Judith Scott-Clayton, and Gillian Wyness, the exact opposite happened in England. The end of free college across the pond increased funding for higher education and allowed universities to enroll more students.

Prior to 1998, students paid nothing for tuition in England. Universities instead relied on taxpayers to pay for higher education. During the 1980s and 1990s, however, English universities saw a substantial increase in demand for degrees, partially due to the greater number of jobs requiring college-level skills.

More students placed greater strain on a limited pool of public funds. University funding per student plummeted in real terms, from over £13,000 (US$16,900) in the 1970s to under £7,000 (US$9,100) when free college ended in 1998. Due to funding constraints, universities turned away many students seeking degrees. This increased inequality, since rich students were more likely to attend schools with greater resources: from 1981 to 1999, the share of rich students earning college degrees increased more than 25 percentage points, while the share of poor students increased less than five.

All this led the center-left Labor government to introduce a small tuition fee of £1,000 per year in 1998. Over the following decades, subsequent governments raised tuition in stages. Charges currently max out at £9,250 (US$12,150). This is not a barrier to students of limited means, however. English students do not pay tuition upfront, but rather use government-issued loans to pay back the cost of their education. Loan payments are set according to graduates’ incomes and remaining balances are forgiven after thirty years.

Twenty years later, the reforms look like a success. Higher education funding per student climbed back up after the end of free college, since universities could now lean on tuition fees for revenue instead of just taxpayers (see chart). But higher prices did not reduce access: enrollments climbed after the end of free college, and enrollment gaps between rich and poor students narrowed. Due to tuition revenue, universities could serve more students who wanted degrees, and in 2015 the government was finally able to abolish all caps on enrollment of domestic students.

Source: Murphy, Scott-Clayton, and Wyness (2017). “Graduates” refers to former students paying back the cost of their education through the income-contingent loan system.

Problems remain in the English model. The government student loan system demands little of universities to maintain quality, and the authors note that it may enable schools to charge inflated prices. But overall, the system has dramatically improved in the two decades since the end of free college.

England’s experience highlights a fundamental problem with a government role in higher education: If universities rely more on government than students for funding, the level of investment in higher education hinges on on the whims of politicians rather than the needs of students.

Free college is the most extreme example. Under a market system, greater demand for degrees leads to more resources for universities, since more students pay tuition. But free tuition completely uncouples investment in higher education from student demand for degrees. Since tax revenues and competing spending priorities rarely align with the surges and slumps of student interest in college, governments usually cannot allocate the “right” amount of funding to universities.

This problem can have different consequences. England illustrates one set of repercussions, when government spending cannot keep up with student demand: strained resources, caps on enrollment, and inequality.

However, the consequences can also cut the other way. Free or heavily subsidized tuition may prop up enrollment at poor-quality schools, such as many community colleges in America. At these schools, a majority of students do not earn a degree within six years and a quarter of borrowers default on their student loans. Private colleges are not immune from such distortions: though not directly funded by the state, an abysmal for-profit sector in America has boomed due to loose credit from Uncle Sam. The result of government involvement is that bad colleges prosper and good colleges go underfunded.

Of course, a pure market system would have its own disadvantages, since many promising students might not afford tuition on their own. Innovation in college finance could address this problem to an extent, but a government role in funding higher education is necessary for the time being to preserve equity in access. But expanding the government role in college through free tuition should be out of the question: such a policy will undermine its own goals, as the experience of England demonstrates.

Despite the lessons of history, current Labor party leader Jeremy Corbyn wants a return to free college in the United Kingdom. If he succeeds, he will betray his own party’s legacy of reforming higher education for the better.

01 Oct 11:46

Women earned majority of doctoral degrees in 2016 for 8th straight year and outnumber men in grad school 135 to 100 - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

by Mark Perry

The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) released its annual report today on US graduate school enrollment and degrees for 2016 and here are some of the more interesting findings in this year’s report:

  1. For the eighth year in a row, women earned a majority of doctoral degrees awarded at US universities in 2016. Of the 78,744 doctoral degrees awarded in 2016 (Table B.25), women earned 40,407 of those degrees and 52.1% of the total, compared to 37,145 degrees awarded to men who earned 47.9% of the total (see top chart above). Women have now earned a majority of doctoral degrees in each academic year since 2009. Previously, women started earning a majority of associate’s degrees for the first time in 1978, a majority of master’s degrees in 1981, and a majority of bachelor’s degrees in 1982 according to the Department of Education. Therefore, 2009 marked the year when men officially became the “second sex” in higher education by earning a minority of college degrees at all college levels from associate’s degrees to doctoral degrees.
  2. By field of study, women earning doctoral degrees in 2016 outnumbered men in 7 of the 11 graduate fields tracked by the CGS (see top chart above): Arts and Humanities (54% female), Biology (51.7%, and one of the STEM fields that we hear so much about in terms of female under-representation), Education (69.4%), Health Sciences (69.9)%, Public Administration (77.4%), Social and Behavioral Studies (60.2%) and Other fields (50.7%). Men still earned a majority of 2016 doctoral degrees in the fields of Business (54.1% male), Engineering (77.2%), Math and Computer Science (74.2%), and Physical and Earth Sciences (66.4%).
  3. The middle chart above shows the gender breakdown for master’s degrees awarded in 2016 (from Table B.24) and the gender disparity in favor of females is significant – women earned 57.4% of all master’s degrees in 2016, which would also mean that women earned nearly 138 master’s degrees last year for every 100 degrees earned by men. Like for doctoral degrees, women outnumbered men in the same 7 out of the 11 fields of graduate study and in some of those fields the gender disparity was huge. For example, women earned more than 400 master’s degrees in health sciences for every 100 men and nearly 350 master’s degrees in both education and public administration for every 100 men.
  4. The bottom chart above displays total enrollment in 2016 by gender and field for all graduate school programs in the US (certificate, master’s and doctoral degrees from Table B.13), showing that there is a significant gender gap in favor of women for students attending US graduate schools. Women represent 57.5% of all graduate students in the US, meaning that there are now 135 women enrolled in graduate school for every 100 men. In certain fields like Education (75% female), Health Sciences (77.7% female) and Public Administration (77.1%), women outnumber men by a factor of almost three or more. By field of study, women enrolled in graduate school outnumber men in the same 7 out of the 11 graduate fields of study noted above, with females being a minority share of graduate students in only Business (45.1% female), Engineering (24.7% female), Math and Computer Science (31.5% female), and Physical and Earth Sciences (37% female).

MP: Here’s my prediction – the facts that: a) men are underrepresented in graduate school enrollment overall (100 men were enrolled in 2016 for every 135 women), b) men received fewer master’s (less than 42% of the total) and doctoral degrees (48.2% of the total) than women in 2016, and c) men were underrepresented in 7 out of 11 graduate fields of study at both the master’s and doctoral levels last year will get no attention at all from feminists, gender activists, women’s centers, the media, universities, or anybody else in the higher education industry.

Additionally, there will be no calls for government studies or increased government funding to address the significant gender disparities favoring women in graduate schools, and nobody will refer to the gender graduate school enrollment and degree gaps favoring women as a problem or a “crisis.” Further, despite their stated commitment to “gender equity,” the hundreds of university women’s centers around the country are unlikely to show any concern about the significant gender inequities in graduate school enrollment and degrees, and universities will not be allocating funding to set up men’s centers or men’s commissions on college campuses or providing funding for graduate scholarships for men.

Bottom Line: If there is any attention about gender differences in the CGS annual report, it will likely focus on the fact that women are a minority in 4 of the 11 fields of graduate study including engineering and computer science (a gender gap which some consider to be a “national crisis”), with calls for greater awareness of female under-representation in STEM graduate fields of study and careers (except for the STEM field of biology, where women have actually been over-represented for decades). But don’t expect any concern about the fact that men have increasingly become the second sex in higher education. The concern about gender imbalances will remain extremely selective, and will only focus on cases when women, not men, are underrepresented and in the minority.

To conclude, let me pose a few questions, paraphrasing George Mason University economist Walter E. Williams: If America’s diversity worshipers see any female under-representation as a problem and possibly even as proof of gender discrimination, what do they propose should be done about female over-representation in higher education at every level and in 7 out of 11 graduate fields? After all, to be logically consistent, aren’t female over-representation and female under-representation simply different sides of gender injustice?

01 Oct 11:38

Saw This Coming From A Mile Away: Russia Ads on Facebook Not Necessarily For Trump

by admin

In general, the whole Russia Facebook ad purchase story has been a huge yawner.  In an election where Hillary Clinton and her supporting PACs spent $1.2 billion and Trump spent about half that, are we really concerned about the impact of $100,000 in ad spend on Facebook?  Has there been anyone other than Russia and the Koch Brothers who the media could seriously write stories about manipulating an election by spending 0.0055% of the total advertising in the election? If that 0.0055% really turned the election, please send me the name of their ad agency.

The really interesting part of this story is that absolutely no one has said anything about that $100,000 actually having been spent on Trump.  People talk about the story as if they obviously were for Trump, but perhaps tellingly no one has actually confirmed this.  Certainly if you had asked me to guess in June of 2016 who Russia would have been making ads for, I would not have assumed Trump rather than Hillary was a sure bet.  And then there is this today from CNN

At least one of the Facebook ads bought by Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign referenced Black Lives Matter and was specifically targeted to reach audiences in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, sources with knowledge of the ads told CNN.

Ferguson and Baltimore had gained widespread attention for the large and violent protests over police shootings of black men. The decision to target the ad in those two cities offers the first look at how accounts linked to the Russian government-affiliated troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency used geographically targeted advertising to sow political chaos in the United States, the sources said.

Hmmm.  I guess the apple does not fall far from the tree.  In the Cold War this is exactly the kind of thing the Soviets would have funded.  Though given how tribalized politics are I am not sure that spending money to target a political tribe to reinforce them in their already strongly-held beliefs is a super-productive way to spend money.  More to follow I am sure.

29 Sep 15:22

Women earned majority of doctoral degrees in 2016 for 8th straight year and outnumber men in grad school 135 to 100 - Publications – AEI

by Mark Perry

Women earned majority of doctoral degrees in 2016 for 8th straight year and outnumber men in grad school 135 to 100

The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) released its annual report today on US graduate school enrollment and degrees for 2016 and here are some of the more interesting findings in this year’s report:

  1. For the eighth year in a row, women earned a majority of doctoral degrees awarded at US universities in 2016. Of the 78,744 doctoral degrees awarded in 2016 (Table B.25), women earned 40,407 of those degrees and 52.1% of the total, compared to 37,145 degrees awarded to men who earned 47.9% of the total (see top chart above). Women have now earned a majority of doctoral degrees in each academic year since 2009. Previously, women started earning a majority of associate’s degrees for the first time in 1978, a majority of master’s degrees in 1981, and a majority of bachelor’s degrees in 1982 according to the Department of Education. Therefore, 2009 marked the year when men officially became the “second sex” in higher education by earning a minority of college degrees at all college levels from associate’s degrees to doctoral degrees.
  2. By field of study, women earning doctoral degrees in 2016 outnumbered men in 7 of the 11 graduate fields tracked by the CGS (see top chart above): Arts and Humanities (54% female), Biology (51.7%, and one of the STEM fields that we hear so much about in terms of female under-representation), Education (69.4%), Health Sciences (69.9)%, Public Administration (77.4%), Social and Behavioral Studies (60.2%) and Other fields (50.7%). Men still earned a majority of 2016 doctoral degrees in the fields of Business (54.1% male), Engineering (77.2%), Math and Computer Science (74.2%), and Physical and Earth Sciences (66.4%).
  3. The middle chart above shows the gender breakdown for master’s degrees awarded in 2016 (from Table B.24) and the gender disparity in favor of females is significant – women earned 57.4% of all master’s degrees in 2016, which would also mean that women earned nearly 138 master’s degrees last year for every 100 degrees earned by men. Like for doctoral degrees, women outnumbered men in the same 7 out of the 11 fields of graduate study and in some of those fields the gender disparity was huge. For example, women earned more than 400 master’s degrees in health sciences for every 100 men and nearly 350 master’s degrees in both education and public administration for every 100 men.
  4. The bottom chart above displays total enrollment in 2016 by gender and field for all graduate school programs in the US (certificate, master’s and doctoral degrees from Table B.13), showing that there is a significant gender gap in favor of women for students attending US graduate schools. Women represent 57.5% of all graduate students in the US, meaning that there are now 135 women enrolled in graduate school for every 100 men. In certain fields like Education (75% female), Health Sciences (77.7% female) and Public Administration (77.1%), women outnumber men by a factor of almost three or more. By field of study, women enrolled in graduate school outnumber men in the same 7 out of the 11 graduate fields of study noted above, with females being a minority share of graduate students in only Business (45.1% female), Engineering (24.7% female), Math and Computer Science (31.5% female), and Physical and Earth Sciences (37% female).

MP: Here’s my prediction – the facts that: a) men are underrepresented in graduate school enrollment overall (100 men were enrolled in 2016 for every 135 women), b) men received fewer master’s (less than 42% of the total) and doctoral degrees (48.2% of the total) than women in 2016, and c) men were underrepresented in 7 out of 11 graduate fields of study at both the master’s and doctoral levels last year will get no attention at all from feminists, gender activists, women’s centers, the media, universities, or anybody else in the higher education industry.

Additionally, there will be no calls for government studies or increased government funding to address the significant gender disparities favoring women in graduate schools, and nobody will refer to the gender graduate school enrollment and degree gaps favoring women as a problem or a “crisis.” Further, despite their stated commitment to “gender equity,” the hundreds of university women’s centers around the country are unlikely to show any concern about the significant gender inequities in graduate school enrollment and degrees, and universities will not be allocating funding to set up men’s centers or men’s commissions on college campuses or providing funding for graduate scholarships for men.

Bottom Line: If there is any attention about gender differences in the CGS annual report, it will likely focus on the fact that women are a minority in 4 of the 11 fields of graduate study including engineering and computer science (a gender gap which some consider to be a “national crisis”), with calls for greater awareness of female under-representation in STEM graduate fields of study and careers (except for the STEM field of biology, where women have actually been over-represented for decades). But don’t expect any concern about the fact that men have increasingly become the second sex in higher education. The concern about gender imbalances will remain extremely selective, and will only focus on cases when women, not men, are underrepresented and in the minority.

To conclude, let me pose a few questions, paraphrasing George Mason University economist Walter E. Williams: If America’s diversity worshipers see any female under-representation as a problem and possibly even as proof of gender discrimination, what do they propose should be done about female over-representation in higher education at every level and in 7 out of 11 graduate fields? After all, to be logically consistent, aren’t female over-representation and female under-representation simply different sides of gender injustice?

Women earned majority of doctoral degrees in 2016 for 8th straight year and outnumber men in grad school 135 to 100
Mark Perry

28 Sep 19:54

Life With Nanny Norway

by Bruce Bawer

For thirteen years in a row, Business Insider – citing its standard of living, health-care system, and high life expectancy – has put Norway at the top of its annual list of “best countries to live in.”  The high life expectancy is an objective fact; the other items are a matter of debate. Norwegian health care? It works admirably, unless you require an operation or treatment that the government considers too expensive or for which there's a waiting list. Standard of living? Incomes are high, but so are taxes.

But I'm not here to argue with Business Insider's rankings. I'm here to point out an aspect of Norwegian life that never figures on any of these “best country” lists, whether put out by Business Insider or the United Nations or whomever. I'm talking about statism – the degree to which the state is a palpable part of everyday life. 

Briefly put, Norway is pretty much statism central. I'm more accustomed to it now, but when I was first living here I was acutely aware every single day of the presence of the government in my life. I'm not talking about some abstract, theoretical phenomenon. It's a real, palpable feeling. A feeling of being a bit less of an individual and a bit more part of a collective. An awareness that your eleven-digit “person number” (which includes your birth date) comes up a lot more often than your social-security number ever did back in the U.S. A sense of being covered by an umbrella, but also surrounded by a wall. 

For the last four years, to be sure, Norway has had a supposedly non-socialist coalition government, led by the Conservative Party, with Labor heading up the socialist opposition. In the September 11 elections, the governing coalition was returned to power. But the non-socialist label is deceptive: whichever party or parties happen to be running the country at any given time, the public sector is overwhelmingly dominated by Labor and other leftist parties. While in power, the so-called conservatives may pass legislation signaling a bit more support for business interests or the military, but they never do anything that significantly reverses Norwegian statism.

Now, to live under a statist system is, as it were, to live in someone else's house, and thus to live by their rules. Nanny Norway doesn't think it's good for you to drink. So she doesn't allow anyone other than herself to sell liquor, and makes buying it as costly and troublesome as possible. In my town of 12,000 people, there's one state-owned liquor outlet. Hours are limited. The tax on (for example) a bottle of vodka is 300%. Beer is more than twice as expensive as anywhere else on earth. 

Nanny Norway thinks it's best for you to eat at home, so going out to dinner is also a pricey proposition. Lunch? Almost nobody goes out to lunch. Years ago, in a New York Times article about Norway's high prices, I made casual reference to the matpakke, the modest packed lunch – usually a sandwich or two wrapped in wax paper or aluminum foil – that Norwegians of all socioeconomic levels take to work. After VG, Norway's largest daily, ran an article about my article, I received hundreds of emails and text messages – including death threats – savaging me for insulting a beloved national tradition. 

When I moved to Norway, I was introduced to another tradition: dugnad. If you rent a flat in somebody else's building, he's not responsible for taking care of the property – you are. You're expected to get together with the other tenants every so often and rake the leaves, mow the lawn, wash the stairs, and generally act as if you work for the guy you're paying rent to. 

It's interesting how the people of Norway have been taught to regard various forms of deprivation as cherished traditions. 

For a European country, Norway is very large yet also very thinly populated – which means that people have to drive long distances. But although she is a leading oil producer, Nanny Norway thinks it's bad for you to use gasoline. Hence, while her petroleum fund – which contains the profits from the sale of North Sea oil – is worth just under a trillion dollars, Norwegian citizens pay the planet's highest gas prices.

Nanny Norway has made laws about things you never imagined somebody might think of making a law about. We once considered having our cats declawed. It's illegal. (The vet looked at us as if we were savages for even contemplating it – yet the same vet will put a cat to sleep on request, no questions asked.) It's OK to keep the ashes of a beloved pet in your home – but illegal to possess the ashes of a human loved one. (They have to be buried in a cemetery – but if no relative is still around twenty-five years later to pay a renewal fee, the remains will be dug up and thrown out.) 

One thing has improved. When I moved here, the Web was in its infancy, and the media's ideological lockstep was numbing. The rise of independent online news and opinion sites has made a vast difference. Still, it irks to know that your tax money is helping to subsidize privately owned newspapers – all of which faithfully echo the political establishment's views, even as they pretend to be providing a wide spectrum of perspectives. Even more irksome is the compulsory semi-annual license fee (now $184) that supports the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, a shameless propaganda outfit that critics call the Labor Party Broadcasting Corporation. 

Unsurprisingly, running a small business is even tougher in Norway than in the U.S. To start any small business is, in a sense, to issue a declaration of independence, and that makes statists uncomfortable. So they make it as difficult as possible, piling on the rules, paperwork, and taxes. To work as a freelancer, I had to register as a business. But doing what I do is easy in Norway compared to trying to squeeze a profit out of a shop or restaurant. 

As a writer, I'm particularly aware of laws and practices that affect my profession. Publishing? If your book is being put out by a Norwegian house, there's no use hiring an agent to get you a good deal: everybody gets the same contract and advance. It's the law. Booksellers? If you own a bookstore, you can't lower prices on new books – the government sets the prices, and changing them is forbudt. (That's Norwegian for verboten.) Libraries? Every year, members of Arts Council Norway, a division of the Ministry of Culture, peruse the lists of new books and pick out those that the nation's libraries will be required to order. In a country as small as Norway, making the cut can spell the difference between a flop and a hit. 

Naturally, the fix is in – meaning that writers with friends in high places, or backgrounds in left-wing politics, do well under this system. Favored scribblers get handsome stipends every year or two from the state-supported writers' unions. A few especially favored writers even receive a taxpayer-funded annual income, comparable to a respectable professional salary. Again, the fix is in. 

Are there positive things about Norway? Plenty. Overwhelmingly, Norwegians are civilized, decent, honest, patriotic, down-to-earth, responsible-minded, and family-oriented. The landscape is spectacular, the air salubrious, the tap water excellent, and the products of Norwegian farms reliably tasty and wholesome. The country has a proud armed forces, manufactures cutting-edge defense systems, and pays more per capita on military expenses than any other NATO member. 

We've seen that Business Insider hails Norway's high life expectancy; my sense is that that genuinely impressive statistic has less to do with any welfare-state benefit than with good genes, healthful dietary habits that go back generations, and a tradition of participation in winter sports and other vigorous physical activity well into one's golden years. I could go on. But the bottom line is clear. All these stellar attributes exist in spite of statism – not because of it.  

24 Sep 13:24

Health Care Costs Are the Reason You're Not Getting a Raise

by Veronique de Rugy

Every Labor Day, you can count on seeing a spate of news stories saying that "real wages" in the United States haven't grown since the 1970s. That's true, more or less, but the reason for the stagnation might surprise you. It's a complex story, but it boils down to this: Blame health care costs.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, inflation-adjusted wages have grown by just 2.7 percent in the last 40 years. But inflation-adjusted total compensation—wages plus fringe benefits, such as health insurance, disability insurance, and paid vacation, along with employer-paid Social Security and Medicare taxesincreased by more than 60 percent in the same period.

Wages still make up a significant share of your total compensation: 68.3 percent, according to 2017 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, vs. 31.7 percent that goes to benefits. But that latter piece has grown significantly, in no small part due to the rising cost of health insurance. And that trend is only going to get worse.

This has political consequences, since most workers don't appreciate how hefty the non-wage share of their compensation is, nor do they generally realize just how much of the money their employer is shelling out on their behalf gets eaten up by health care. As a result, they demand that politicians intervene to deliver more raw pay.

To control health care costs, Americans will have to stop relying on third-party payers to cover small, routine expenditures (as opposed to large and unforeseen ones). According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, out-of-pocket spendingcopays and the likewas only 11 percent of all health care spending in 2015, down from 43 percent in 1965.

It's an economic truism that if someone else is covering the bulk of the cost of something, you're likely to use more of itespecially if you don't realize that you're paying for it with foregone wages and higher taxes. This increases the overall demand for health services, which in turn increases the cost. It also creates an incentive for whoever is paying, be it the government or your insurance company, to start putting constraints on which services you can and cannot consume. The end result is that patients have become minor players in many of the financial and medical choices that deeply affect their lives.

Reversing this trend would be hard without a reduction in health care costs big enough to get people to stop expecting their insurance to pay for every little thing. Lower costs would also make it possible to free employers from the responsibility of providing coverage to their workersbecause if quality care is cheap and abundant, you don't need to look to your boss to make sure you can get it. That in turn would reduce the gap between compensation and wages. Controlling costs, then, really is the key.

Easier said than done? Yes and no.

This is, of course, a long-term project. It requires bringing to health care the kind of innovation we've seen in other sectors over the last few decades. And that means reducing the influence of government bureaucrats and special interests, which routinely obstruct new technologies and resist innovative ways for consumers to interact with their doctors.

Introducing novel tools and services can make health care more expensive at first. But as long as the government refrains from setting price controls, costs will eventually go down, just as with consumer goods, allowing ever more people to gain access. And some cost-saving steps can be taken immediately. For instance, why not allow medical tourism, reform the onerous Food and Drug Administration approval process, and end regulations that stop highly trained nurse practitioners and physician assistants from treating patients?

By freeing the health care sector from the grip of government and special interests, we can unleash the kind of innovation that has rocked the world of information technology in the last 25 years. Workers should be all for that.

24 Sep 07:46

The Ninth Circuit's Foie Gras Blunder

by Baylen Linnekin

Foie GrasLast week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a District Court ruling that had struck down California's dumb and unconstitutional foie gras ban. The plaintiffs are already planning their appeal. Technically the ban is back, but the law won't be enforced while the appeal is pending.

"It is unprecedented and unconstitutional that the California legislature can dictate how New York farmers care for their animals, produced in compliance with New York's strict animal welfare laws, and processed under federal inspection," said Marcus Henley, manager of Hudson Valley Foie Gras, a co-plaintiff that's based in New York State, in an email to me this week.

"States have the right to protect their citizens from inhumane and substandard products," said Paul Shapiro, spokesperson for The Humane Society of the United States, which wrote an amicus brief in support of the state law, in an email to me this week. "Rather than continuing to fight a losing battle, foie gras agribusinesses should join the 21st century and accept that the vast majority of Americans find violently force-feeding ducks simply too much cruelty to swallow."

To Shapiro's credit, he predicted this outcome to me in 2015.

While that prediction seems long ago, this case has been winding its way through the courts now for around five years. The plaintiffs, led by an association of Quebec-area foie gras producers and Hudson Valley, had argued that California has no authority to regulate out-of-state and international foie gras producers. But a federal court rejected those arguments, determining in 2012 that such "vagueness, Dormant Commerce Clause, and preemption arguments [we]re 'unlikely to succeed on the merits.'"

Ultimately, a U.S. District Court held in 2015 that the law was preempted by the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA), which governs, among other things, poultry-product "ingredients." The Ninth Circuit decision last week disagreed about the ingredients issue and overturned the lower court's ruling.

"The PPIA prohibits states from imposing requirements on ingredients that contradict federal regulations," Reason's Scott Shackford wrote last week, in a post that nailed the details of the court's reasoning. "But this foie gras ban technically regulates a process, the manner by which the foie gras is made. Therefore, the judges ruled, the California law does not come into conflict with the PPIA at all."

"In our case, there can be no question that California imposes a requirement on the primary ingredient in my clients' USDA-approved foie gras products—i.e., that they may not contain any force-fed foie gras—which is a requirement that is 'in addition to or different than' those under federal law and is therefore preempted," said California attorney Michael Tenenbaum, who represented the plaintiffs in the foie gras case, in an email to me this week.

"The last time the Ninth Circuit tried this—i.e., reversed a district court's preemption finding in an effort to save a misguided state ban on USDA-approved products on the ground that 'states are free to decide which animals may be turned into meat'—it was reversed, 9-0, by a Supreme Court opinion that said (literally), 'We think not,' as it would allow states to 'make a mockery' of federal preemption," Tenenbaum says. (Case link added for reference purposes.)

Tenenbaum and Shackford are correct in their facts and analysis. Ultimately, though, this case isn't about statutory interpretation or ingredients or processes or the PPIA. This is a case—plain and simple—about a farmer's right to raise animals that consumers want to eat, and a big bully of a state working hand in hand with animal rights activists to impose its vague and burdensome laws on other states, and even other countries.

No state should have such power. Thankfully—hey!—the U.S. Constitution ensures no state has such power. But these federal courts have so far missed that point.

In 2015, just after the District Court ruling striking down the ban, I wrote that I was pleased with the case's ends, but not with the court's means of arriving there.

Does the PPIA in fact preempt the California law? I. Don't. Care.

"I believe strongly that even in the absence of a federal law that preempts California from legislating, the state has no authority to regulate interstate commerce," I wrote. "The foie gras ban isn't unconstitutional primarily because Congress has legislated in this area but because California cannot legislate in this area."

Ultimately, I hope a Ninth Circuit panel, the U.S. Supreme Court, or both will decide this case upon this and only this constitutionally sound rationale.

What are the case's prospects on appeal? Foie gras supporters are optimistic.

"We have every confidence that the unconstitutional law will eventually be overturned for good," Henley says.

"I have every confidence that we will prevail again," Tenenbaum tells me.

I do, too.

22 Sep 14:03

New Hillary Emails Warrant Special Prosecutor

It is time for President Trump to keep the promise he made in the presidential debate to indict Hillary Clinton for her crimes.
18 Sep 12:21

Some charts from the Census data released this week on US incomes in 2016 showing impressive gains for Americans - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

by Mark Perry

The Census Bureau released its annual report this week on “Income and Poverty in the United States” with lots of new, updated data on household and family incomes, and household demographics, through 2016. Below are four charts based on the new Census data on household income through 2016.

1. Median and Average Household Income, and Average Household Size. The chart above shows: a) average annual household income in 2016 dollars (dark blue line), b) median household income in 2016 dollars (light blue line), and c) average household size (brown line), all from 1967 to 2016.

Median household income last year of $59,030 was an increase of 3.2% from 2015 and brought median income for US households to the highest level ever, above the previous record level of $58,665 in 1999. The income gain last year was the fourth consecutive annual increase in real median household income starting in 2013, following five consecutive declines from 2008 to 2012 due to the effects of the Great Recession. The last period of four consecutive gains in annual median household income was during the last 1990s at the end of the longest economic expansion in US history (120 months from March 1991 to March 2001).

Although it doesn’t get as much attention as median income because it’s influenced by outliers on the high end, average household income also increased to a new record level last year of $83,143, which was an increase of 3.6% from 2015.

Also notable is the fact that average size of US households has been falling steadily for the last 70 years (or more) and fell to an all-time low last year of 2.53 persons, down from an average of 3.28 persons per household in 1967, and down by more than one full person since the 3.56 average in 1947 (not shown above).

Income adjusted for household size is calculated and presented below, but it should be obvious that it’s not really fair to compare median household incomes over time because the size of US households keeps declining. While median household income has been flat or declining in recent years (and below the 1999 level until last year), it’s important to note that the gains over longer periods of time are quite impressive. The typical US household in 2016 had an annual income of $14,144 more (in 2016 dollars) than the typical household in 1967 – that’s almost $1,200 in additional income every month. And when you consider that the cost of most manufactured goods and many services including clothing, footwear, appliances, electronics, TVs, household furnishings, sporting goods, airline travel, telephone service, computers and automobiles have become cheaper and more affordable over time (relative to increases in overall consumer prices and incomes), along with the increased availability of services that are now almost free (GPS, music, cameras, Craigslist listings, Wikipedia information, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.), that $14,000 annual increase in real household income translates into a much higher standard of living for the average American.


2. Average and Median Income per Household Member. The chart above displays average and median household income adjusted for household size. Both the average and median income per person in the US reached all-time highs in 2016 of $32,863 (in 2016 dollars) for average income per person and $23,337 for median income per household member last year of $23,335. Compared to 1967, the average household income per US household member has more than doubled from $15,300 to $32,862, while the median household income per person has increased by 70.5% from $13,687 to $23,336.


3. Married 2-Earner Households. The chart above shows annual median income from 1949 to 2016 for families headed by married couples with both spouses working. Income for a typical family in this group reached an all-time high last year of $106,000, and the median family income for this group of Americans has been above $100,000 for the last three years. Since 1949, the real median income for married couples with two earners has more than tripled and since 1963 income has doubled.


4. The Disappearing Middle Class. This chart represents what might be one of the most important findings in the new Census data and confirms a trend I’ve highlighted many times before. Yes, the “middle-class is disappearing” as we hear all the time, but it’s because middle-income households in the US are gradually moving up to higher income groups, and not down into lower income groups. In 1967, only 8.1% of US households (fewer than 1 in 12) earned $100,000 or more (in 2016 dollars). Last year, more than 1 in 4 US household (27.7%) were in that high-income category, a new record high. In other words, over the last half-century, the share of US households earning incomes of $100,000 or more (in 2016 dollars) has more than tripled! At the same time, the share of middle-income households earning $35,000 to $100,000 (in 2016 dollars) has decreased over time, from more than half of US households in 1967 (53.2%) to less than half (only 42.2%) in 2016. Likewise, the share of low-income households earning $35,000 or less (in 2016 dollars) has decreased from more than one-third of households in 1967 (38.7%) to below one-third of US households last year (32.1%), a new record low.

Bottom Line: Here are some of the key takeaways from the new Census report on US incomes through 2016:

  • The 3.2% gain in real median US household income last year brought median income to more than $59,000, the highest level ever recorded.
  • The income gain in 2016 was the fourth annual increase and the first period of four consecutive increases in median household income since the late 1990s.
  • Compared to 1967, the typical US household today has $14,000 more annual income (in 2016 dollars) or $1,200 more per month, to spend on goods and services, many of which have become much more affordable today than in the 1960s (or weren’t even available then).
  • Adjusted for household size, which has been falling, real median household income per household member last year of $23,335 was the highest in history.
  • Real median income for married couples with both spouses working reached a new all-time record high last year of $106,000.
  • The share of US households with incomes of $100,000 or more (in 2016 dollars) reached a new record high of 27.7% last year, which is more than triple the share of households in 1967 with that level of income. At the same time, the share of US low-income households (incomes of $35,000 or below) fell to an all-time low of 32.1%
  • America’s middle-class is disappearing but into higher, not lower, income categories


17 Sep 13:53

Canadian Authoritarianism: Prosecuting People With the Wrong Opinions

by admin

This comes to us from that bastion of freedom called Canada, where half of Americans wanted to run when Trump got elected.

It’s like something out of George Orwell’s 1984**.

Canada’s Competition Bureau, an arm’s length agency funded by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to the tune of almost $50 million annually, investigated three organizations accused of denying mainstream climate science for over a year, following a complaint from an environmental group.

The bureau discontinued its 14-month probe in June, citing “available evidence, the assessment of the facts in this case, and to ensure the effective allocation of limited resources”, according to Josephine A.L. Palumbo, Deputy Commissioner of Competition, Deceptive Marketing Practices Directorate.

But it will re-open its investigation should it receive relevant new information from the public.

The complaint was filed by Ecojustice on behalf of six “prominent” Canadians, including former Ontario NDP leader and UN ambassador Stephen Lewis.

It accused three groups, Friends of Science, the International Climate Science Coalition, and the Heartland Institute of making false and misleading claims about climate change, including that the sun is the main driver of climate change, not carbon dioxide, and that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant.

When it launched its complaint in December, 2015, Ecojustice told the National Observer it would press the Commissioner of Competition to refer the matter to the Attorney-General of Canada for “criminal charges against the denier groups”.

**I presume the author is referring to the general understanding of what 1984 was about, rather than Hillary Clinton's revisionist opinion that 1984 was a cautionary tale about the danger of not having enough respect for government authority figures.

07 Sep 13:30

The new Trump Doctrine: ‘Kick your friends while they’re down’ - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

by Matt Winesett

The Trump administration’s calculated leak last weekend that it was considering withdrawing from the KORUS is truly a new low — even for this benighted White House. This is true even if it turns out the president and his trade minions thought this was a slick negotiating tactic right out of The Art of the Deal. With exquisite timing, the president confirmed the story on Saturday, just as word came down that North Korea had detonated an advanced thermonuclear device many times the size of previous explosions.

U.S. President Donald Trump (R) greets South Korean President Moon Jae-in prior to delivering a joint statement from the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 30, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Several basic facts underscore the folly of this proposed action. South Korea has been a treaty ally of the US since 1953 and a model of democracy since the 1980s. It is this nation’s 6th largest trading partner, with two-way trade amounting to $112 billion. Though thriving, it has lived under a constant threat from an unstable, dangerously reckless, North Korean Kim dynasty for decades — now compounded by the murderous and volatile regime of the Kim Jong-un. With the recent escalation of the (thus far) rhetorical war between the Trump administration and the Kim dictatorship, South Koreans are also living with the dire threat of massive casualties and ruinous property destruction.

On the economic front, the South Koreans are also facing large-scale retribution from Beijing as a result of the continued steadfastness in accepting the THAAD anti-missile system as a defense against North Korean missile attacks. China is South Korea’s number one export market, averaging 25% of Korea’s exports over the past decade. Firms such as Hyundai and the Lotte conglomerate have found markets and supply chains disrupted and cut off.

Piling on

Into this fraught situation comes the US bullying attempt to force South Korea to knuckle under US trade negotiating demands — or face immediate withdrawal from KORUS. Understandably, newly elected President Moon Jae-in and his trade negotiators have been reluctant to accede to a full-scale renegotiation of KORUS, particularly given Trump’s economically ignorant (and impossible) demand that a new agreement result in lowering the US-Korean trade deficit. Though USTR Robert Lighthizer is too smart to believe this nonsense, he has played the lackey to this president by pushing the same fallacious tie between bilateral trade agreement and a nation’s trade balance.

The effects of these recent follies are likely to be far-reaching. Combined with the summary withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific trade agreement, cavalierly threatening our stalwart South Korean ally will inevitably bring into question the future of US reliability and leadership in East Asia — and beyond.

15 Aug 11:48

Genetic evidence for self-domestication in humans

by gcochran9

There’s an interesting recent paper on the genetic basis of the changes we see in domestication – and the extent to which humans exhibit similar genetic changes. domesticated species end to have depigmentation, floppy ears, shorter muzzles, curly tails, smaller teeth, smaller cranial capacity, neotenous behavior, reduced sexual dimorphism, docility, and more frequent estrous cycles: the ‘domestication syndrome’. There is reason to think that this syndrome arises from a mild deficit of neural crest cells.

They talk about a number of loci that look to be involved in such changes in in anatomically modern humans, and show evidence of selection (when compared to archaic humans like Neanderthals and Denisovans). They discuss a number of such genes and gene pathways.

I noticed something interesting about one of the genes mentioned [ ERBB4] & the other genes it interacts with. ERBB4 (the neuregulin receptor) negatively regulates ERK, which plays a critical role in neural crest development and regulates neuronal gene expression in both the neocortex and hippocampus. Closely related is BRAF, upstream of ERK. BRAF interacts with YWHAH (selected in dogs), PPP2CA (selected in horses), while ERBB4 shows selection in anatomically modern humans and cattle. Upstream of BRAF, SOSI has been selected in domesticated foxes.

ERBB4 binds with NRG1, NRG2, NRG3, NRG4, and ADAM17. NRG2 was selected in cats, cattle, and dogs. NRG4 was selected in cattle, NRG3 in AMH.

But there’s more: there is evidence for recent regional selection of variants in the ERBB4 pathway [ work from Joe Pickrell] . ERBB4 shows strong signals of selection in all non-African populations, NRG3 shows strong signs of selection in West Eurasian populations, while NRG1, NRG2, and ADAM17 show signs of selection in East Asians.

It is not necessarily the case that all humans are equally domesticated, or became domesticated in exactly the same way. We know that some populations split off as long as a quarter of a million years ago. Although the earliest known AMH skeletons already show signs of the domestication syndrome ( the childlike flat face), their skulls were a good deal more robust than those of any people today. Probably the process has continued over time, quite possibly it even accelerated in dense agriculture agricultural populations in the Holocene. But that wouldn’t have taken the same course everywhere.

Members of populations that have gone further down the path of self-domestication should be easier to enslave.

For all I know, some populations moved into new environments that effectively reversed these selection pressures (feral humans] .

And with rapidly improving genetic technology, we could probably create truly feral humans.

13 Aug 05:48

Tax-credit scholarship programs provide options for parents - A “geoeconomics” approach to China: Hard-hitting economic tools and sanctions

by Grant Addison

Gov. Bruce Rauner has been clear and concise in his assessment of the Illinois school reform bill, reminding everyone that the point of it is, first and foremost, to ensure that every child in the state gets access to the education they deserve, and taxpayers and families get a positive social return from the millions they invest into the system. While the hard part of any political negotiation is to develop solutions that achieve those goals, thankfully a number of families in partnership with education, faith and business leaders are showing us how it can be done. We just have to be willing to listen to what this broad bipartisan, multi-ethnic coalition is trying to accomplish: Breaking the poverty of opportunity in Illinois.

tax-credit school choice

@lambretta1_22 via Twenty20

One way to accomplish this is to use the education funding bill to enact a tax credit scholarship program. Seventeen state legislatures have enacted tax credit laws that allow individuals and corporations to allocate a portion of their owed state taxes to private, nonprofit, scholarship-granting organizations that issue scholarships to K-12 students. These scholarships allow parents to choose to send their child to a private school if they believe that is the best option for their child.

None of these 17 states have had school districts go bankrupt because of the tax credit scholarship program, nor have millions of students been left without a public school to attend. Scare tactics of this nature were used in an attempt to stop the passage of the Illinois Tax Credits for Educational Expenses Program in 1999. Guess what? More than 285,000 parents with children enrolled in private and public schools benefited from this program in 2014.

Tools such as the tax credit scholarship further empower students to gain access to diverse learning environments, which is a good reason why tax credits are the fastest-growing private school choice program in the country.

Research also validates that parents’ decision to participate in a tax credit scholarship program goes beyond test scores alone. In Georgia, where I am a trustee of the largest tax credit scholarship program in the state, a 2013 study found that parents pick private schools for reasons that include more individualized attention, values of the school, class size, safety and learning (the same things public school parents want for their children). This finding is one of the most important aspects of the American parental choice movement: multiple factors matter in the school selection process.

Another important part about the American parental choice movement is that it is not anti-public education. Let us honor the fact that Illinois has some great public schools and teachers. Millions of families rely on them to help students obtain good jobs, prepare them for service in our armed forces, and pursue post-secondary opportunities. But let us acknowledge that Illinois has some great private schools and teachers, too.

Like many states, Illinois now finds itself at a crossroads. Faced with an extraordinarily challenging legislative fight over education funding, lawmakers must decide whether to trust families to choose where to enroll their children, or whether it is prudent to continue down the path of a one-size-fits all education mindset that has proven unable to break the cycle of poverty for all children.

Public and private schools matter to any opportunity society. So do family, educator, philanthropic, business, and nonprofit partnerships. This civil society approach is essential to help more students realize the benefits of a learning-and-earning economy.

Now, the moment is ripe for the Illinois governor and legislature to invent a new future — one that will have a profound impact on generations to come.

10 Aug 14:04

Indian feminism and the role of the environment: Why the Google memo is still right

by Artir

In my previous post here I explained why the Google memo is fundamentally right in its factual claims about the broad population, which in turn explains the proportion of women in Google itself. Here I discuss some arguments against what has already been explained.

The first argument is the

Argument ad Asia

Captura de pantalla de 2017-08-07 18-46-51.png

The argument here is that there are many countries where women are the majority among students in science. Most of these countries are not what one could call gender egalitarian. As I explained in the previous post, if one’s explanation is that the main driver of unequal outcomes is sexism, one would have to expect that the less sexism the more women in science, but we don’t see that.

Still, one can make another point from this chart: that this proves that culture matters. It is not a genetic given that women have to be 40% or less in STEM.

What is more, one can make a stronger

Argumentum ad India

  1. In India, for whatever reason, 43% of undergrads in CS are women
  2. Thus, it is not set in stone that they must be a smaller fraction
  3. Thus the cause for the differences cannot be genetic in nature
  4. Then it is environmental, and adequate policies can change it

Or one can go full gung-ho and make the

Argumentum ad Saudi Arabia

  1. In Saudi Arabia, for whatever reason, 59% of students in CS are women
  2. Thus, it is not set in stone that they must be a smaller fraction
  3. Thus the cause for the differences cannot be genetic in nature
  4. Then it is environmental, and adequate policies can change it

Coming closer home, there is the

Argumentum ad MIT

  1. MIT has a 46% share of females
  2. MIT focuses on engineering
  3. MIT has succeeded in almost equalising the ratios for engineering
  4. Thus, regardless of other factors, good diversity policies alone can unskew the ratios

Argumentum ad Harvey Mudd

  1. Harvey Mudd college went from 15% females in CS to 55%
  2. Harvey Mudd has succeeded in equalising the ratio
  3. Thus, regardless of other factors, good diversity policies alone can unskew the ratios

Argumentum ad Carnegie Mellon University

  1. CMU went from 34.3% to 48.5% females in CS
  2. Harvey Mudd has succeeded in equalising the ratio
  3. Thus, regardless of other factors, good diversity policies alone can unskew the ratios



Why the arguments ad Asia fail

Is it a Western bias?

One could then claim that perhaps the skew is a western thing. A glance at data from other developed nations like Japan, Korea,  Singapore, or Israel confirms that this is not the case:


Captura de pantalla de 2017-08-09 18-35-21.png


Captura de pantalla de 2017-08-09 18-41-42.png


Captura de pantalla de 2017-08-09 19-01-54.png

There is simply no developed country where the pattern (women tend to cluster in education, humanities, bio, and men in engineering, and IT) does not hold.

So then, what in the fact that countries develop makes it so that less developed countries have more equal ratios? It is highly dubious that it is gender equality itself. India is  one of the most sexist countries on Earth:

Saudi Arabia

So then what happens with India or Saudi Arabia? It cannot be that they are more feminist. The reason why that is happening may be of crucial importance. Let us study Saudi Arabia first:

Captura de pantalla de 2017-08-09 19-56-18.png

This may suggest an answer: perhaps it’s not that more women choose computer science. What matters for the ratio of both women choosing, and men choosing.

Interestingly, the OECD reports the same number of males and females attending bachelors. What is interesting is that a large fraction of men, instead of pursuing bachelors, pursue what the OECD calls “Short-cycle tertiary education”. The ratio there is 73.4% male, and 30% of the aggregate men who attend either short cycle education or bachelors are in those short cycle courses. The graph above is for bachelor level. If we look at those short courses in science, mathematics, and computing (Which, it has to be remarked, is not just CS), the percentage of females is 24.2%.

We should ask a different question, perhaps: What do women study? The usual:

Captura de pantalla de 2017-08-09 20-18-36.png

So there’s a potential explanation: a statistical mismeasure. Unfortunately I couldn’t find much more information.

[Edit. I found some extra information here, some bits below]

Arab women are still more likely to study arts and humanities and less likely to study science and engineering than Arab men.


Despite the overall steep increase of Arab female education rates, commensurate increases in Arab female employment have yet to materialize (see figure 2). The Arab world is an aberration to economic theories that assume that increased education of women leads to significant change in their employment levels. In fact, Arab women with post-secondary educations are more likely to be unemployed than women who do not have a post-secondary education.


Arab women’s employment is highly gendered, as women are more likely to work for the public sector, as well as in traditional roles of teaching, administrative and clerical services, and social and welfare services like nursing. In a study on the UAE, researchers found that career choices
were more likely based on societal pressures of what were deemed to be respectable occupations for Emirati women. Here, the public sector was viewed as a respectable work environment with short hours that end early in the day, substantial time off, and oversight by and of fellow nationals. There was greater skepticism and uncertainty about private sector environments with more diverse workforces, longer hours, more work-related travel, and
fewer adherences to conservative customs. As a result of this gendered sorting, the UAE public sector is overwhelmingly female—65 percent of civil servants are women.20



Let’s move on to India. In 2012-13, 43% of the total student population were women. Out of the 9.3 million female students, 34.6% are in science and technology fields. Within that, 19.1% are in engineering. You may wonder where do the majority go. Here’s the answer. Note that this is not the fraction of women within field. This is where women decide to go out of the whole female population.

Captura de pantalla de 2017-08-09 20-35-40.png

Now, within fields, this is the proportion of women:

Captura de pantalla de 2017-08-09 20-38-58

But this is odd. If out of the women who go to university, 10% go to engineering school  how comes 20% are in engineering? (Maybe the 2000 data has changed substantially?) If we also know that women are 40-46% of the total, this means men are going elsewhere. So we need more information. Like this graph here

Source: Education statistics, Ministry of Human Resource Development; figures in %)

Does the pattern reemerge here? It seems so. If one takes into account that there are 12.4+1.9+0.6=14. million women in uni and 14+1.8+1.6=17.4 million men, then one can calculate the gender ratios by degree and make even more plots. Here at Nintil we love plots.




And by field:



So our answer to where men are going is to “Other”. That category is absorbing 20.2% of all males. But if we look at bachelors and masters of technology, the pattern comes back. For some reason nursing is absent from the data above, but the data is available here: the percentage of women is 81%. For bachelor of computer applications, also absent from the above, 43% are women.

If we further zoom into and peruse engineering data for undergraduates, we finally find a key reason:


Captura de pantalla de 2017-08-09 21-51-14.png

Basically, while within engineering the proportions of women in what we might assimilate to CS is higher than in the west, women are MASSIVELY underrepresented in mechanical engineering, which is the biggest branch of engineering in India.

So this is a key part to  solution to the apparent discordance with the international pattern: In the aggregate, women are still preferring “people-subjects” and men are preferring “things-subjects”, but WITHIN things-subjects, preferences are different compared to the West. We might ask this question: Out of the entire set of women who study at university, how many are in computer science in India? And the answer is 3.4%. . If we ask the same question for the United States,  from here we get 5450 female CS ungraduates. From here we get 14 million female undegraduates. A simple division gives us how many female students pick CS. And the answer is 3.9%.

India (II)

I made mistakes in my previous paragraph. I wasn’t careful in picking sources, and I wasn’t careful doing simple math. Turns out I had also chosen total female enrolled population, not number of graduates. I sometimes make mistakes. But I won’t let them uncorrected.

There were 1914 female bachelor graduates in CS (data from 2013-14).  And according to the same data, there were 11306 males. That means that 46% of CS graduates were female. This is odd, given the gap everyone else reports in the US. The gap here is 14%. If we instead consider all the category of “Computer and information sciences and support services”, we get a gap of 18%. In total, 1.068 million females graduated. If we take computer science narrowly defined, 0.18% of women picked it.  If we take computer science broadly defined (including the support services bit), the figure is 0.93%.

Now, for India, we have to go to table 35 of the document linked above, we can get the figures for a variety of categories that sound computer sciencey-. The denominator in this case is 3.2 million women

  • IT & Computer: 2.64% (84660 female students)
  • Computer Engineering: 2.47% (79236 female students)
  • Information Technology: 0.81% (26143 female students)

For completion let’s look at postgraduates too, as for the Indian data there is no item called CS except for postgraduate studies.

  • 11948 female students completed postgraduate students vs 6231 male ones in CS. Thus there are 65% women in CS Masters. In the degrees cited above, the ratio was more equal.
  • Out of the 739150 female students who got a postgrad in India, 11948 picked CS. This means 1.61%.

This it is not a naming conventions issue: contrary to my expectations, women do choose studies in computer science in India in a greater proportion than in the US.

Why? One hypothesis is of course sexism, or perceptions of CS being a male industry in the US, vs being perceived as being perceived as neutral. Testing the sexism hypothesis is difficult. (How would you do it?)

Another hypothesis is that male-female preferences in things vs people oriented tend to be similar, but that, as I mentioned earlier, the distribution is different within those fields, perhaps due to different earnings, or perhaps, yes, because of relative sexism. In other words: Is this higher choice of CS because women choose other STEM subjects less, or because they choose fields like education, nursing, or psychology less?  The relative sexism hypothesis, that CS is less sexist, than, say mechanical engineering in India, would predict that CS is chosen more, mechanical engineering is chosen less, and also that on the aggregate, that women would choose more CS. We have confirmed that women do in fact choose more CS.

Do men choose CS less? In the US, 1.41% of all men chose CS narrowly defined, and 5.66% broadly defined. In India, it was 3.38% for the broadly defined measure. For the narrow measure we have to compare MScs: 0.93% for India and 1.7% for the US. Thus men also choose less CS in India too. Now that we are at it, we can get the numbers for mechanical engineering: 2.65% (US) and 5.1% (India). Almost twice as many in India!

Do women choose less mechanical engineering? In the US, 0.30% of all women chose mechanical engineering, while in India it was 0.284%, similar enough.

To recap until now this dance of numbers:

  • Women pick CS more than in the US
  • Women pick mechanical engineering at equal rates vs the US
  • Men pick CS less than in the US

If we aggregate the US and India data and create STEM (Science, Engineering, and IT&Compute in India and Engineering, math/stats, physical sciences, biosciences, and computational science) and Education and health professions on the other side, we get that:

  • In the US, 57% of students were women. In India, 50%
  • In the US, 35% of STEM students in India are women. In India 41.75%
  • In the US, 18% of engineering students were women. In India, 32%
  • In the US, 84.3% of Education and Health students are women. In India, 63.72%
  • In the US, 10.46% of women chose STEM, and 25.89% of men chose STEM
  • In India, 24.80% of women chose STEM, and 35.43% of men chose STEM

The “choice gap” (Difference between the (gender in STEM/total students of that gender)x(male,female) between men and women was 10.63pp in India, and 15.43pp in the US for STEM, and 6.34pp (India) and 24.49pp (US)

  1. The gap in STEM is, at the light of the data, 6 points bigger in the US than in India.
  2. Women choose less education and health degrees in India, and they choose more STEM
  3. Men choose roughly as much education and health degrees in both countries. In India, they also choose more STEM.
  4. Both genders chose more STEM in India

So I have to admit my argument above was wrong. The lower gap in India still needs an explanation. This explanation should ideally account for the fact that that the gap in STEM is lower in developing countries. As I find extremely unlikely that there is  less sexism exists in STEM in those countries given that they are broadly more sexist, I am confident there has to be another explanation. Another argument against sexism is that if one looks at just the Indian Institutes of Technology, universities that only do STEM and accept only the top 5% students in a national exam, and look at gender ratios, one finds gender shares of 8.8-9.2%.  If STEM is seen as less male-typed, this shouldn’t happen.  But what about CS? I couldn’t find data for CS in the IITs, so I went to some of them, and looked at the gender ratios among staff. At IIT Kharagpur, IIT Delhi or IIT Bombay again almost all of the are male. For students, one has to manually click the student profiles, so I randomly clicked a bunch in each (My time is limited!), and again, most are male.

If the major factor holding back women in CS were sexism, and some people argue this doesn’t exist in India, why the IIT population look like it does? Partly because few women apply (17% of total), and then out of the women who sit the exam, 15% qualify, while 24% of men qualify.

This is consistent with the differences-in-the-tails hypothesis, and/or males being more competitive.

Let’s return to OECD data. Maybe these differences are driven by different methodologies?


Captura de pantalla de 2017-08-12 11-10-34.pngIndia is the most gender-egalitarian of all the countries in the OECD, and certainly there are more women in STEM in India than in the US, and a bit lower than the OECD average. Countries with the lowest gaps in STEM were Italy, Poland, Arentina, Iceland, Greece, Brazil, Costa Rica, Denmark, and Indonesia. Countries with the biggest gaps were Austria, Finland, Lithuania, Netherlands, United Stated, Germany, Chile, UK, Canada, Norway, Japan, Ireland, and Switzerland. Smallest at Poland (38% women), largest in Japan (12.5% female)

Captura de pantalla de 2017-08-12 11-21-11.png

India doesn’t appear in this table, but at glance we can see that except in the US, Indonesia, and Turkey, in every country more than 20% men study engineering, manufacturing and construction. In no country more than 20% of women study engineering.

Education follows a more interesting pattern. In no country more men studied these fields more than women, although Northern Ireland and Turkey come close.  In most contries, the gap is of a similar size, and the gap seems to be smaller when less people choose those fields, except in Turkey.

Curiously, the US, along with Indonesia and Turkey, has the smallest gap between the % of men who study engineering and the % of women who do. The pattern here seems to be that the lower the absolute number of people studying engineering, the smaller the gap.

One reason could be that the this is not taking into account the science, mathematics, and computing category(SMC). The US is the country with the highest SMC to engineering, manufacturing, and construction(EMC) ratio. (Table A15).

One possible explanation is differences in pay. For teachers, for example, there is a correlation between how much male teachers earn relative to other university educated males, and the % of male teachers (r between 0.5 and 0.6). If females are less financially driven, we would expect a lower correlation for females. If so, then we would also expect that in countries with a higher ratio of teacher pay to the average, we would see less women. An this seems true to some extent. From OECD Figure D5.a, for primary education and this, countries with the lowest pay ratio for males were as follow (parenthesis are the % of female teachers) Hungary (96.95%), Italy(95.88%), Czech Republic(92.83%), the US(87.16%), and Norway(74.79%). Countries with the highest ratio, Luxembourg(74.5%), Finland(79.49%), Belgium(81.71%), Denmark(69.14%), Sweden(77.17%), and Slovenia(96.94%). Low pay ratio countries average 89.6% female. Countries with high pay ratio average 79.82% female. This lends some support to the idea that pay differentials are driving the observed choices of fields.

In the US, median earnings of tech workers were. Median bachelor salaries were $54k in the US. A ratio of 1.5.

In India, ICT services workers had a median gross hourly wage of 341.8 . For all bachelors, it was 274.6. So the ratio is 1.24. This is some indication that perhaps relative effects are at play?

Oone can also look at the field of IT itself 30% are women. Just like in the US. So what are those women doing with their titles? Or according to other study, 26.6%, again, like in the US

Captura de pantalla de 2017-08-12 14-13-20.png

If anything, this raises the question of Mexico and Russia. But India seems to have the same proportion as the US.

So where are those women going after they graduate? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Maybe they marry. One final hypothesis is that parents push daughters into STEM so that they are better positioned in the marriage “market”. This dynamic wouldn’t apply to the IITs, as as much as parents want to push their daughters into them, the exams are selective. This explanation also could make sense of why other developing countries have a higher rate of females in STEM. But is it true?  Maybe they emigrate en masse?

I honestly don’t know at this point. The only possible way forward now is to go cross-country and look at what explains the overall pattern. This will have to come in a future post.

But the fact that there is a gap in STEM in India, especially in engineering, and a substantially bigger gap, even in CS, at elite tech universities still stands (Would the sexism theory explain this). More women choose CS, but also less men choose CS, and more choose mechanical engineering. On the aggregate, women choose STEM more than women choose STEM in the US. This is consistent with the overall pattern about developed and developing countries. Within STEM, why CS? It could indeed be that it is indeed more friendly to women. Or maybe these results are mismeasurement. If IT broadly speaking is seen as more women friendly, but then IT companies are discriminatory (And, as we have seen, the % of women in IT does not reflect the number of female graduates), why would they study it in the first place? To finish off this section, one last look at OECD data, if you still doubt the robustness of crossnational patterns:

Captura de pantalla de 2017-08-13 10-07-30.png




Why the arguments ad colleges in the US fail


For the case of MIT, the issue with the argument is that first, if one disaggregates that data and looks at specific majors (I’ll focus on the bigger ones), you can see that the pattern is still there: people and life related majors tend to be populated by women, and the reverse for men.


Harvey Mudd

So we have this

Captura de pantalla de 2017-08-09 22-13-44.png

And we can furthermore add this

Captura de pantalla de 2017-08-09 22-15-53.png

I have one minor and major comment to make. The minor one, that this result still makes sense if preferences are driven by our human nature. Given a fixed preference for CS, for example, if all colleges make the same effort in attracting women, all will get an equal share. If some colleges make more of an effort in attracting women, they will probably accomplish attracting more women. But this “pull” will come at the expense of other unis. Thus the overall ratio will stay the same, while it will show an increasing trend in some colleges, and a decreasing in others.

My major comment is that Harvey Mudd is a comparatively small college. In 2014, 21 male students and 15 female students graduated from there. In comparison, for Berkeley the ratio was 17%. , with around 300 students. Could it be noise? With such a small number of students, it is plausible. If this is correct, we would expect that universities with a larger number of students in CS will have a smaller variance in their gender ratio. Think of this as doing a meta analysis: Each college can be taken as an estimate of the “true” ratio, plus noise. We can plot the gender ratio and compare it with the number of students. Data from here. And indeed, that is what we see:


Carnegie Mellon University

According to the data just shown, CMU had a gender ratio of 18.7% in 2014 and 23% in 2015. Total student population for CS was 256 and and 274, respectively.  Carnegie Mellon has data for first year students here. It shows ratios of 34.6% in 2013, 40.6% in 2014, 31.3% in 2015, and 48.5% in 2016. Their population was 136,138,147, and 165. Look at where they fall in the scale above, and you may get an estimate as to the why their ratio is what it is. Last year people wouldn’t have been able to use the CMU argument, so this is not very solid.

What would be a good critique of this argument? To show that the strength of prevalence of diversity programmes is correlated with an increase in the future number of female students. This would still leave open the question of whether it is possible to increase levels of female students in STEM, especially CS, at an aggregate level.

A better critique would be to show that diversity encouragement policies works in the largest institutions, or to show that there is a correlation between having more women friendly policies and an institution being smaller. Doing that is left as an exercise for the reader.


The arguments put forward against the view that it is preferences (or other factors that cut across cultures such the fact that intelligence has ) that drives the distribution of women in STEM fails. One could present more arguments, but I don’t gave high hopes for them succeeding. One could point to Malaysia or something, or keep pointing to any single country where the ratio is over 45%  and ask me to explain it, but my time is not unlimited. But I am willing to bet that it is possible to find an explanation for all those cases.

The environment and culture matters, as do economic incentives. But how do they matter? First, it matters if it is institutionally forbidden for women to study in university. Second, it matters if women have been made to think that they are not apt to study in university, when they are obviously apt. It also matters what majors are more likely to lead to higher salaries in the future, or the sort of industry that exists in the country. It also matters if the choice of majors is limited and one has it difficult to choose psychology or English literature. It also matters if your family pushes you to study a career that you may not want, but that you are socially expected to have. And so on.

Regardless, one thing is clear: If you progressively remove all of that and let people express their preferences naturally, what you see is what you get: a skewed gender proportion in university degrees.

This is not to say that those forces are absent in Western developed countries, this is to say that they are there to a lesser extent than in developed countries. Also, this doesn’t mean that you can undo the situation just diversity courses, or a stronger emphasis on outreach to get more women in STEM. That will change things on the margin. It is not pointless to do; we have some biases in preferences, that is not good or bad, it is what is is. They need not be left as they are. Young men are also more violent on average than young women, and that is a preference (for aggression) that we all think should be reduced in intensity.

For education one can still make a case for exerting pressure on those preferences, but it is not as easy: Everyone comes to accept violence as bad over time and to think that those teenage fights were just fruit of testosterone playing funny tricks. But no one thinks choosing medicine over CS is immoral.

What would it take in terms of culture and institutions to achieve equality? Here you have some policy proposals that I don’t endorse, but that are useful for that end:

  • Banning or restricting men from certain degrees
  • Setting quotas for women by degree
  • Brainwashing men into thinking that they are not apt for university, in the same way that women thought they were not apt back decades ago
  • Increasing taxes in those sector of employment with more men

You probably don’t endorse this either. (I hope). But this is what it takes to close the gap in STEM if you want to play with culture and institutions. Reducing sexism and encouraging women to join STEM I see as a good thing (Who wouldn’t?), but one shouldn’t delude oneself that just because there are still vestiges of discrimination around, removing then will achieve equality in the distribution of university degrees. Maybe there is convincing quantitative evidence for the huge relevance of discrimination. But I haven’t seen it. Because, most likely, it doesn’t exist.



07 Aug 14:40

There really is no ‘gender wage gap.’ There’s a ‘gender earnings gap’ but ‘paying women well’ won’t close that gap - Discussing bailouts for elected officials and the stagnant health care debate: Miller on WWL AM 870's 'Live, Local Talk' • AEI

by Mark Perry

Here’s Tim Worstall writing in Forbes today (“Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg Wrong Here – Just Paying Women More Won’t Close Gender Pay Gap“), emphasis added:

The idea that we can close the gender pay gap just by paying women more seems reasonable enough, as Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg (pictured above) has intimated on BBC radio. Sadly though this isn’t in fact the correct answer. The gender pay gap does not exist because men and women are paid less for the same jobs, it exists because men and women tend to do slightly different jobs. When equal jobs being done out there is reached then we will have gender pay parity. Because, as before, we already have the same pay for the same job.

This thus is wrong, or at best an incomplete understanding of the issue:

Fairer pay for women must be backed up by stronger policies at work, according to Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. But the firm’s chief operating officer, in an interview for BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, said the first step is to “start paying women well.”

That’s rather to put the cart before the horse for the company of course. Why would anyone just want to have to pay more wages? But it’s also to miss the actual construction of the gender pay gap itself. It simply is not that a woman and a man doing exactly the same job get different pay because of their genders. Quite apart from anything else that is illegal and in a society as litigious as ours if it were happening on any scale we’d never be able to use the courts for anything else. Half the legal profession would be taking such cases on contingency fees.

What does happen is that men and women slightly end up doing different jobs and more than that there’s a large difference in the number who climb the greasy pole to the top. It isn’t that, say, female senior managers are paid less than male senior managers it’s that there are fewer female senior managers than male. This hugely skews those average figures like the 77 cents per dollar that are bandied about.

Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, told BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs on Sunday she believed job openings should be contested by equal numbers of women and men.

“We need to start paying women well and we need the public and the corporate policy to get there,” she said. “Certainly, women applying for jobs at the same rate as men, women running for office at the same rate as men, that has got to be part of the answer.”

The other half of that proposal is absolutely correct given the above analysis. As and when there are equal numbers of each gender doing the same sorts of jobs to the same sort of level then there will be no gender pay gap.

MP: It’s an important, but overlooked point that there really is no gender wage gap, rather, there’s a gender earnings gap and that pay gap has almost nothing to do with gender discrimination. That is, there is almost no evidence that men and women working in the same position with the same background, education and qualifications are paid differently. Whether it’s the Target Corporation, Facebook, the University of Virginia, the United Way, the White House or McDonald’s, there is almost no evidence that any of those organizations have two pay scales: one for men (at a higher wage) and one for women (at a lower wage). Of course, that would be illegal, and if that practice existed, organizations would be exposed to legal action and “half the legal profession would be taking such cases on contingency fees” as Tim points out.

What certainly does exist is a well-documented gender earnings gap when the unadjusted median earnings of men and women are compared without correcting for any of the dozens of relevant factors that explain the natural differences in earnings by gender. For example, it’s been a verifiable statistical fact that a gender earnings gap has existed at the White House for as long as those salary records have been available (since 1995). Although men and women at the White House get paid the same for the same job, there are always more men than women in the highest-paid positions and more women than men in the lowest-paid, and that’s the case for both Democratic and Republican presidents. So while there’s likely no gender discrimination and no gender wage gap at the White House, there IS a gender earnings gap that persists year after year, regardless of the president or party. And the gender earnings gap at the White House, like the gender earnings gap that exists for most organizations and throughout the entire US economy, reflects the fact that men and women “do slightly different jobs” as Worstall says. Actually, it’s more accurate to say that men and women mostly do much different jobs, and labor market data show huge gender differences by occupation.

Therefore, if the goal is to close the gender earnings gap, Sandberg’s solution “to start paying women well” will fail – men and women are both getting paid well when they both work in the same position and have the same job qualifications. For example, women who work at the White House are already getting paid well, and receive the same wage as their male counterparts. To close the gender earnings gap at the White House would require that more women remain in the labor force and acquire continuous work experience to qualify for the highest-paid, senior-level positions. Currently, there are just apparently more men than women with the extensive and continuous work experience, who are willing to work long hours under demanding conditions to be hired for the senior White House positions – and that was the same for Bush II, Obama, and Trump.

To close the gender earnings gap — assuming that is even a desirable goal — wouldn’t involve closing a gender wage gap that doesn’t even really exist, it would involve closing lots of other gender gaps that do exist and lead to gender differences in earnings. Below are 20 gender gaps that reflect gender differences in the labor market, and are gaps that generally favor men and help explain why men earn higher incomes on average than women. (Most of the gender differences below are discussed in Warren Farrel’s excellent book “Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap — and What Women Can Do About It.“)

  1. Men disproportionately gravitate towards higher paying occupations in technology and hard sciences (e.g., petroleum engineer).
  2. Men disproportionately choose higher-risk, higher paying occupations with greater safety risks for occupational injuries and fatalities (e.g., oil field worker, roofer, and logging).
  3. Men are more willing to work outdoors in uncomfortable, physically demanding work environments (construction, oil field workers, commercial fishing, logging).
  4. Men are more willing than women to choose demanding, intense jobs where you can’t check out at the end of the work day (e.g., corporate attorney, senior White House staff).
  5. Men select jobs with higher pay but with lower personal fulfillment (tax accountant).
  6. Men select jobs with higher financial and emotional risks (e.g., venture capitalist).
  7. Men are more willing than women to work the worst shifts during the worst hours.
  8. Men often choose higher paying subfields (e.g., surgery and anesthesiology).
  9. Men are more willing to work in dirty or unpleasant environments with minimal human contact (e.g., prison guard, steel worker, truck drivers).
  10. Men work longer hours per week than women on average.
  11. Men more frequently than women invest in updating their skills with greater financial payoffs (e.g., master’s degree in computer technology vs. master’s degree in education).
  12. Men are more likely than women to have more years of continuous experience in their current occupation.
  13. Men are more likely than women to have more years of recent, uninterrupted experience with their current employer.
  14. More work more weeks during the year than women, on average.
  15. Men are less likely than women to be absent from work (e.g., doctor’s visits, sick days, taking time off when children are sick, etc.).
  16. Men are more willing than women to tolerate longer commute times.
  17. Men are more willing to relocate, especially to undesirable locations at their company’s request.
  18. Men are more willing than women, on average, to travel extensively on the job.
  19. Men are more willing than women to take the risk of a variable income, e.g., to be paid by commission vs. a fixed salary.
  20. Men often produce more output, e.g., scholarly research articles for university professors.

Note: None of those gaps above apply universally, but reflect overall gender differences that apply in general and on average.

Bottom Line: To close the gender earnings gap, women have a lot of gaps to close and Sheryl Sandberg at least partially recognizes that. Women have to be willing to work more hours per week, more weeks per year, work more in higher-risk jobs and be more exposed to occupational injuries and fatalities (e.g., be willing to experience 50% of workplace fatalities instead of the current 7%), work more in jobs that are physically demanding in more hostile work environments, be willing to commute longer distances, take less time off work for family reasons, take fewer sick days, be willing to accept higher-risk variable incomes like commission-based compensation, be willing to travel more and relocate more often, accept jobs with less human contact, sacrifice job-related personal fulfilment, etc. To paraphrase Worstall, unless and until there are equal numbers of each gender working in the same occupations, for the same number of hours and with the same years of continuous experience, commuting the same times, suffering the same number of occupational fatalities, etc., there will be a  gender earnings gap. The only way to close that gap is to get to a point where men and women are completely interchangeable in their family and work roles, and getting to that outcome is probably impossible; and an outcome that even women apparently don’t want, given their current demonstrated preferences for career options, work hours, commute times, and family responsibilities.

02 Aug 13:09

Trump Budget Full of Spending Increases

by John Stossel

Remember President Trump's "terrible" budget cuts?

"Promises Little but Pain," warned The New York Times.

"Harsh and shortsighted," cried The Washington Post.

Then Congress passed a budget. President Trump signed it. Do you notice the "pain"?

I follow the news closely, but until I researched this column, I didn't know that Congress actually raised spending on the very agencies Trump wanted to cut.

Trump called for a $4.7 billion dollar cut to the Agriculture Department. Congress increased the department's appropriation by $12.8 billion.

He called for a $15 billion cut to Health and Human Services. Congress instead gave them $2.8 billion more.

Trump wanted a $6.2 billion cut to Housing and Urban Development. Congress gave HUD a half-billion-dollar increase.

Trump wanted the Commerce Department's budget cut by $1.4 billion. Congress made no cut.

And so on.

Why wasn't that news? Because in Washington, and in the media's eyes, spending increases are expected. And cuts are always "terrible."

America continues on its road to bankruptcy.

What will those departments do with their new money?

The Agriculture Department says its mission is to "promote agricultural production that better nourishes Americans." Politicians claim we need the department to guarantee an adequate food supply.


Because of the free market, agricultural entrepreneurs provide plenty of food. Fruit and vegetable farmers rarely get subsidies, but there are ample supplies of fruits and vegetables.

We don't need an Agriculture Department any more than we need a Hollywood Movie Department or iPhone Department.

Most of what the department does is corporate welfare. America's richest corn and grain farmers collect most of the money.

Politicians eagerly give money to people who visit their offices and pour out tales of need.

Corn and grain farmers visit and whine because they have millions of dollars at stake.

You don't visit because each subsidy costs you just a few bucks.

So the corporate welfare continues.

Members of Congress might stop the wasteful spending if they spent their own money. But they don't. They spend ours.

Congress ignored Trump's request to cut the Commerce Department, too.

Commerce's biggest program is NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA pushes climate change alarmism, producing PSAs that warn Arctic ice is "thinning at an alarming rate!"

If that's a serious problem, NOAA's spending won't stop it. NOAA's bureaucrats got caught buying a $300,000 yacht—and using it to go fishing.

The department says what they do is "critical." They fund "centers in every state that consult with companies facing technological problems."

Government is good at fixing tech problems? News to me.

The department claims "every dollar of federal investment ... generates around $30" because each "$2,400 investment" creates a job.

I'm sure they help some politically savvy companies, but their claim ignores the good things your money would have done had it stayed in the private sector. That's the unseen cost of funding every department. We'll never know what our dollars might have done had they not been taken from us by government.

Maybe a new Steve Jobs would have invented a...

I don't know. We'll never know, because government grabbed the money.

President Trump seems to understand that government wastes money, but after proposing cuts to some departments, he was eager to increase military spending. So Congress did. The military got the biggest increase.

Defense, at least, is a proper role of government. Government should keep us safe. But our current military is wasteful and involved in needless foreign entanglements.

We spend as much as the next seven countries combined—eight times more than Russia spends. Many of the missions our politicians give the military—interventions in places like Iraq, Libya and Syria—made us less safe by destabilizing the Middle East and creating new terrorists.

Congress should cut spending to the military and to the departments Trump wanted to cut.

But politicians almost never cut. Despite all those headlines about "harsh," "painful," "terrible" cuts, government increased spending again.

We are going broke. Later this year, the national debt will reach $20 trillion. Yet Congress appropriated more—a Republican-majority Congress.

Politicians sure are generous with other people's money.

One small positive note: I'm told the city government in Toronto is bringing down the price of that $65,000 staircase I wrote about last week to $10,000. Keep cutting.


31 Jul 08:14

Caught Red-Handed: Google Search Suppresses Climate Realism

by Leo Goldstein
Claims that Google Search improperly downranks some websites are frequent but not always correct, and they’re hard to prove even if they are. But the latest available (May 2017) Google Search Quality Evaluation General Guidelines provide conclusive proof of intentional, severe, and malicious suppression of climate realist views.  A quote: “High quality information pages on…
29 Jul 13:00


by pseudoerasmus

I just noticed Tyler Cowen had blogged a Boston Globe article about the number of loanwords in various languages (is there something from the press Cowen will not blog ?), and his own take was to ask, which major language has the lowest percentage of foreign loanwords ? He seems to think Chinese could be one, but many people in the comments section (correctly) reject the suggestion. Here I talk about “Japanese-made Chinese words”.


There are two basic kinds of loanwords amongst languages : the “conventional” one where both the meaning and the form of the word are borrowed simultaneously ; and the other where the meaning is borrowed but the form is “translated” into indigenous roots — or “calque“.

In the “conventional” loanword, the borrowing is usually apparent because the original form hasn’t changed too much. English, a world champion importer and exporter of words, contains tens of thousands of Latin and French borrowings whose appearance is only slightly modified, such as guarantee and importance. In more recent borrowings, English hardly bothers even with perfunctory transformation, e.g., tsunami and angst. Likewise, languages like Turkish and Indonesian don’t invent new words for “electromagnetism” ; they only modify the word to reflect the local difference in pronunciation and spelling standards.

But in calque languages, the loanwords tend to be invisible. An example is the Russian самолёт (samolyot “self-flight” or airplane), which looks and sounds purely Slavic. Both Russian and German are abundant in calques, but not as much as Arabic, a language which on first appearance seems to lack any foreign loanwords. In fact its abstract vocabulary is heavily borrowed from classical Greek (and later the modern western languages), but the actual words were calqued from Semitic roots. Sometimes the borrowing first took place in Syriac, which lent to Arabic.

English and the Romance languages normally do not create calques from indigenous roots, but they still have thousands of “classicising” calques — neologisms built on Greek or Latin roots which were not found in the original languages. Thus microscope is created entirely out of Greek parts, viticulture from Latin, and automobile, a miscegenation of Greek and Latin.


Most people are aware that Classical Chinese stands in a similar relation to Japanese and other East Asian languages, as Greek and Latin have stood to the modern European languages. Japanese has borrowed thousands of whole words of Chinese origin, but using classical Chinese roots the Japanese have also come up with calques called wasei kango (和製漢語) or “Japanese-made Chinese”. A pretty basic example is the formal Japanese word for car, or jidosha (自動車 or “self motion vehicle”) — which is almost exactly parallel to the classicising calque automobile. (That set of characters is not used in Chinese to denote “automobile”. {Edit: 29 March 2017: an acerbic commenter says this is not true.}

Since the Japanese were the first in East Asia to adopt Western knowledge and technology on a large scale, they had to find equivalents of new words by the thousands in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A great many of these were “borrowed back” by the Chinese. According to this source,

Chinese reform leader Kang Youwei 康有為 once said: “I regard the West as a cow, and the Japanese as a farmhand, while I myself sit back and enjoy the food!’” Early Japanese translations made large numbers of important scholarly works and concepts from the West widely available to Chinese audiences; the Chinese felt that Japanese was an “easier” language than Western ones for a Chinese to learn. The Qing court sent increasing numbers of students to Japan – 13,000 in 1906. Between 1902-1904, translations from Japanese accounted for 62.2 per cent of all translations into Chinese. The great majority of these works were themselves translations from English and other Western languages..

But because the Chinese language has its own way of pronouncing Chinese characters that’s different from Japanese, the reborrowed words may sound completely different and many Chinese people may not even know these had been first coined in Japan.

Here is a very short list of “Japanese-made Chinese” words which did get exported to Chinese [source]:

  • telephone, train or tram, electron
  • chemistry, physics, biology, astronomy
  • philosophy, history
  • library, art, religion, comedy, symphony
  • system, industry, corporation, market, international
  • communism, communist party, proletariat
  • people’s republic

Notice the word “philosophy”, which may surprise some people because, after all, wasn’t classical Chinese civilisation full of philosophers ? Yes, but beware of anachronism ! We moderns find the similarity, but East Asians, when first confronted with European philosophy, considered it something quite different from Confucius et al.

Basically, a great many modern words in Chinese related to science, technology, government, and commerce, as well as abstract western concepts which may not have had an exact equivalent in East Asia, trace back to late 19th and early 20th century coinages in Japan. An article in a modern Chinese newspaper would be impossible without these Sino-Japanese calques.

In some cases, the Japanese went looking in ancient Chinese texts for words with similar but not identical meanings, and resurrected them by giving them modern, western significance.  These include : society, capital, revolution, economy, law, science, election, heredity, literature, etc. There are also some pure Japanese words written in Chinese characters that were borrowed.

But the “glamour words” are not the extent of it. I was completely surprised to learn that Chinese appears to have borrowed a range of fairly mundane phrases or compounds from Japanese. Some examples include “new products appearance”, “shopping district”, “low birth rate”, and “housekeeping”. The nature of the Chinese character system implies that a new phrase or compound is almost a low-grade invention, because there’s no inevitable way such words must be formed.

(In Korean, the situation is more complicated, since it has heavy influence from both China and Japan. In short, the Korean language has directly borrowed Chinese loanwords, “Korean-made Chinese” words, “Japanese-made Chinese” words exported to Korea, European words converted into Japanese form and then exported to Korea, etc.)

Japanese used to have a lot of Portuguese and Dutch loanwords as a result of contact with traders starting in the 16th century, but most of those are now obsolete. One major survivor is the Japanese word for bread (パン pan), which is derived from the Portuguese pão. I’m convinced, though I can’t prove it, that the knowledge of the Luso-Japanese word pan was the impetus behind the Chinese translation of “bread” as mian bao (lit. “wheat bun”, simplified 面包 traditional 麵包). The fact that bao sounds like pan is pure coincidence, and its character has been used in words referring to various kinds of filled buns for a very very long time. But the main reason I believe in the pan-bao connexion is that in some other Chinese languages (e.g., Wu or Shanghainese, and Min Nan or Taiwanese) the second character would be read as pao or pau. Technically, /b/ and /p/ are voiced and unvoiced variants of the same sound. Vietnamese, I believe, also uses a cognate of mian bao, especially in reference to that headcheese-on-baguette sandwich, whose choice might have been influenced by the French pain. I could be completely wrong, but it would be neat if all this were true !


Speaking of bread… The point of the above is that Japan has been the intermediary for the diffusion of Western modernity in East Asia. And that also shows up in bread, or rather bakery items in general. Anyone who has been to East Asia knows it’s full of bakeries and patisseries just like this (image source):


In such places the delicacies on offer include familiar western staples, like croissant, baguette or strawberry shortcakes, which are western, but with localised taste ; and various semi-traditional pan-Asian buns filled with bean paste or chestnut purée. But there are also many hybrid pseudo-western bizarreries, with no equivalent elsewhere in the world, such as :


The above is Japan’s answer to both China and the West : fried noodles in a hot dog bun. More specifically, the noodles are yakisoba, itself a very modern interpretation of fried noodles dating from the early 20th century, one of whose principal ingredients is … Worcestershire sauce, or, rather, the Japanese version of it. The green bits are dried seaweed flakes (actually algae, but that’s being pedantic). This alarming combination of starches probably emerged after the war with the American occupation, but I’m not sure.

But Japan’s caricature of globalisation is surely the karei pan, or bun filled with Japanese “curry“, covered in breadcrumbs and deep-fried :


The breadcrumbs are panko, the coarse type preferred by the Japanese which has become inexplicably trendy in many western countries. The British pseudo-Indian “curry” was most likely an import along with many other semi-western dishes that are mainstays of Japanese dining today. The Japanese twist on “curry” is primarily that it’s a roux of starch and palm oil, made from dissolving the semblance of a chocolate bar in water, into which miscellaneous detritus are then introduced.

Bakeries like the above are ubiquitous in East Asia, and they are imitations of the Japanese bakery model, so to speak. It would also seem, the Japanese preference for ultra-refined white flour for making breads and pastries has been transferred to the rest of East Asia. The fashionable sort of “whole grain” breads mixed with twigs and birdseed that one finds at trendy locales in western countries, is not yet widespread. (Though brown rice is making a comeback in Japan.)

Speaking of both loanwords and food, one Japanese word that’s not European-derived but was coined in response to industrialisation and later imparted to Chinese is ajinomoto (MSG powder ; Japanese 味の素 lit. “principle of taste”, Chinese 味之素). A Japanese scientist early in the 20th century had isolated umami, one of the fundamental tastes, and this was the basis of a major international food corporation, Ajinomoto, the world’s largest supplier of MSG as well as aspartame. Since so much of East Asia’s cuisines are based on exploiting and intensifying the naturally occurring glutamates in their ingredients, Japanese MSG played a major role in Asia’s enormous processed food industry.

The history of MSG and its extremely widespread use in global food processing is something I consider a synecdoche of Japanese industrialisation, but that’s a topic for another day.

Filed under: East Asia, Food, Languages Tagged: calques, Chinese, Chinese borrowings from Japanese, Hanzi, Japanese, Japanese-made Chinese words, Kanji, loanwords, wasei kango, 和製漢語
21 Jul 08:25

Grade Inflation is Worse Than We Thought

by Jason Willick

American high schools are giving out higher and higher grades even as real academic ability stagnates. USA Today reports:

Recent findings show that the proportion of high school seniors graduating with an A average — that includes an A-minus or A-plus — has grown sharply over the past generation, even as average SAT scores have fallen.

In 1998, it was 38.9%. By last year, it had grown to 47%.

That’s right: Nearly half of America’s Class of 2016 are A students. Meanwhile, their average SAT score fell from 1,026 to 1,002 on a 1,600-point scale — suggesting that those A’s on report cards might be fool’s gold.

The erosion of intellectual standards is worse at the elite level: “the upward creep is most pronounced in schools with large numbers of white, wealthy students. And its especially noticeable in private schools, where the rate of inflation was about three times higher than in public schools.” This is probably explained at least partly by the attitudes of overbearing parents whose children are in the Ivy League rat race: Giving out anything less than an A is likely to lead to email protestations and parent-teacher conferences with mom and dad.

It’s also significant that even as high school grades become less and less meaningful, pressure is building in the educational establishment to de-emphasize or dumb down alternate measures of achievement, like the SAT, which are supposedly unfair to the poor and disadvantaged, and class rankings, which create too much rancor and competition. In the long run, though, this will only help boost the fortunes of elite students even further: Without a strong objective component in the college admissions process, quickly-inflating GPAs will help rich students roll their competitors from below.

The post Grade Inflation is Worse Than We Thought appeared first on The American Interest.

21 Jul 07:44

How Humans Reached Australia 65,000 Years Ago

by Erik Shilling

Archaeologists said Wednesday that they have evidence that humans were in Australia around 65,000 years ago, or about 18,000 years earlier than previous evidence showed. These humans, who made and left a variety of stone tools excavated from a rock shelter called Madjedbebe in northwest Australia, would have been among the first to leave Africa, where modern humans originated before migrating across the globe.

Why Australia? Sixty-five thousand years ago was the middle of a glacial period. The path to Australia, across the Middle East, through India and Southeast Asia, would have been a temperate alternative to exploring frosty Western Europe.

It still wasn't an easy journey, and not all of it was on foot. As the Sydney Morning Herald reports, "The discovery also confirms that Australian Aborigines undertook the first major maritime migration in the world—they had to sail a minimum of [55 miles] across open sea to reach their destination whatever route they took in their long journey out of Africa."


They might have made that crossing through the waters pictured above. At the top there is Timor, and at the bottom the northern tip of Western Australia. At the time of this early migration, sea level was low, since a lot of water was tied up in glaciers. So it may not have been very far from the island of Timor to Sahul, the landmass that included Australia and New Guinea, as seen below.


Fifty-five miles may not sound like a lot, compared to a journey that covered thousands, but imagine setting off in a prehistoric boat, perhaps seeing only the horizon and open water, and thinking that you'll probably die, but then doing it anyway.

20 Jul 10:56

Not quite Forgotten Treasures: Part 2, Cahokia

by evolutiontheorist
Illustration of Cahokia Mounds, Illinois

It took almost 400 years between Columbus’s arrival in the New World and the complete military domination of the USA by the invaders–but it happened.

The Americas before Columbus arrived were a place of amazing contrasts–from the igloo-dwelling, hunter-gathering Eskimo to the literate, city-building, cannibal Aztecs. At the southern tip of of Patagonia lies the Tierra del Fuego–so named because the nearly naked locals opted to cope with their frigid climate by carrying fire everywhere.

The oldest still-occupied towns in the US are the Acoma and Taos Pueblos of New Mexico, built nearly a thousand years ago (though today the vast majority of residents live in newer housing with electricity and running water built nearby the historic pueblos.) But the oldest overall is Cahokia, occupied between 600 and 1400 AD:

Cahokia was the largest and most influential urban settlement of the Mississippian culture that developed advanced societies across much of what is now the central and southeastern United States, beginning more than 1000 years before European contact.[5] Today, Cahokia Mounds is considered the largest and most complex archaeological site north of the great pre-Columbian cities in Mexico. …

Cahokia became the most important center for the peoples known today as Mississippians. Their settlements ranged across what is now the Midwest, Eastern, and Southeastern United States. Cahokia was located in a strategic position near the confluence of the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers. It maintained trade links with communities as far away as the Great Lakes to the north and the Gulf Coast to the south, trading in such exotic items as copper, Mill Creek chert,[13] and whelk shells.

Mill Creek chert, most notably, was used in the production of hoes, a high demand tool for farmers around Cahokia and other Mississippian centers. Cahokia’s control of the manufacture and distribution of these hand tools was an important economic activity that allowed the city to thrive.[14]Mississippian culture pottery and stone tools in the Cahokian style were found at the Silvernale site near Red Wing, Minnesota, and materials and trade goods from Pennsylvania, the Gulf Coast and Lake Superior have been excavated at Cahokia. Bartering, not money was used in trade.[15]

Although it was home to only about 1,000 people before c. 1050, its population grew rapidly after that date. According to a 2007 study in Quaternary Science Reviews, “Between AD 1050 and 1100, Cahokia’s population increased from between 1400 and 2800 people to between 10,200 and 15,300 people”.[16] an estimate that applies only to a 1.8 km2 high density central occupation area.[17] Archaeologists estimate the city’s population at between 6,000 and 40,000 at its peak,[citation needed] with more people living in outlying farming villages that supplied the main urban center. … If the highest population estimates are correct, Cahokia was larger than any subsequent city in the United States until the 1780s, when Philadelphia’s population grew beyond 40,000.[18]

Monk’s Mound, Cahokia

Like many early cities, Cahokia has distinctive, flat-topped pyramids, (here called “mounds”)–probably not because pyramids are magical or because the Cahokians were in contact with Egyptians or aliens, but because it’s the easiest large shape to build. The Cahokians lacked good stone build with and draft animals to haul materials over long distance, so Cahokia’s 120 mounds were built largely of compacted earth:

To achieve that, thousands of workers over decades moved more than an “estimated 55 million cubic feet [1,600,000 m3] of earth in woven baskets to create this network of mounds and community plazas. Monks Mound, for example, covers 14 acres (5.7 ha), rises 100 ft (30 m), and was topped by a massive 5,000 sq ft (460 m2) building another 50 ft (15 m) high.”[4]

Monks Mound is the largest structure and central focus of the city: a massive platform mound with four terraces, 10 stories tall, and the largest man-made earthen mound north of Mexico. Facing south, it is 100 ft (30 m) high, 951 ft (290 m) long, 836 ft (255 m) wide and covers 13.8 acres (5.6 ha).[24] It also contains about 814,000 cu yd (622,000 m3) of earth.[14] The mound was built higher and wider over the course of several centuries through as many as ten separate construction episodes, as the mound was built taller and the terraces and apron were added.[24]

Since the mounds are made of dirt and it rains in Illinois, erosion is an issue.

Excavation on the top of Monks Mound has revealed evidence of a large building, likely a temple or the residence of the paramount chief, which would have been seen throughout the city. This building was about 105 ft (32 m) long and 48 feet (15 m) wide, and could have been as much as 50 ft (15 m) high. It was about 5,000 sq ft (460 m2).

A large flat plaza located adjacent to Monks Mound was a place where games and public rituals took place.

Reconstructed piece from Etowah Indian Mounds, Georgia

The Cahokians (and Mississippians in general) had mastered the art of copper working, producing fine ritual art like the dancing warrior to the left. Copper can be worked and shaped while still cold; the Mississippians had not learned how to make bronze nor smelt iron.

The Cahokians also built a Stonehenge-style “Woodhenge”:

a ceremonial area with a 412 feet (126 m) in diameter circle of 48 upright wooden posts.[1] Archaeologists date the placement of at least one of the posts to approximately 950 CE.[2] Archaeological research has shown that four of the posts were at the cardinal locations of north, south, east and west, the eastern and western posts marking the position of the equinox sunrise and sunsets. Four other posts in the circle were shown to be at the summer solstice sunrise and sunset and the winter solstice sunrise and sunset positions.

Woodhenge, Cahokia

If you make your sundial big enough, it can double as a clock–a useful trick for a society with a priestly class that wants to do special ceremonies on specific dates.

Woodhenge was eventually dismantled (and moved elsewhere), and the site converted to a cemetery. Some of the burials were of wealthy individuals–perhaps rulers–but most appear to be victims of mass human sacrifice:

A large rectangular pit was dug into the southeast corner of the mound and a mass burial of 24 women was made in it….

A small platform was constructed near the southeastern ramp and four young males with their arms interlocked and missing their hands and skulls were laid out on the platform.[6] Some researchers have concluded that the four men may represent the four cardinal directions.[11]

In a pit excavated next to these four men were placed the bodies of a large group of young women. This mass grave contained the remains of 53 females ranging in age between 15–30 years of age, arranged in two layers separated by matting.[4][6][8] The young women show evidence of having been strangled before being arranged in neat rows in the pit.[11] Analysis of bones and dental traits of these women have led archaeologists to believe these individuals were not from the same social class and ethnic group as other individuals interred in the mound. …

Next to this mound to the southwest another mass burial was made.[4] This burial is the most grisly found at the site, containing 39 men and women who appear to have been violently killed. … The victims were then killed and thrown over the edge of the pit. These people showed signs of meeting a violent end, including several being incompletely decapitated, some with fractured skulls and others with fractured jawbones.[6] The evidence shows that some of these individuals were buried alive: “From the vertical position of some of the fingers, which appear to have been digging in the sand, it is apparent that not all of the victims were dead when they were interred – that some had been trying to pull themselves out of the mass of bodies.”[4] The presence of arrowheads in the back of some of these victims, coupled with the beheadings and other evidence of violent death, has led some researchers to conclude that these victims show evidence of warfare or were even the losers of a rebellion against the rulers of Cahokia … On top of them were the remains of 15 elite individuals laid out upon litters made from cedar poles and cane matting .[6] Radiocarbon dating of the cedar poles used for the litters in the top layer burials in this pit determined that this burial was made approximately 100 years after the woodhenge circle had been constructed, or in approximately 1030 CE.[4]

Lovely people.

Since the Mississippian culture had not entirely disappeared by the time European chronicles arrived in the area, we actually have an account of a royal Mississippian burial accompanied by ritual sacrifice. According to Wikipedia:

Upon the death of “Tattooed Serpent” [of the Natchez,] in 1725, the war chief and younger brother of the “Great Sun” or Chief of the Natchez; two of his wives, one of his sisters… his first warrior, his doctor, his head servant and the servant’s wife, his nurse, and a craftsman of war clubs all chose to die and be interred with him, as well as several old women and an infant who was strangled by his parents.[14] Great honor was associated with such a sacrifice, and their kin was held in high esteem.[15] After a funeral procession with the chiefs body carried on a litter made of cane matting and cedar poles ended at the temple (which was located on top of a low platform mound); the retainers with their faces painted red and accompanied by their relatives dressed up in their finest garments, were drugged with large doses of nicotine and ritually strangled. Tattooed Serpent was then buried in a trench inside the temple floor and the retainers were buried in other locations atop the mound surrounding the temple. …[14]

Artsist’s conception of Watson Brake

Cahokia is only one of the Mississippian people’s many settlements–at least 85 similar sites have been discovered, and that’s just the Mississippians. Other cultures also built mounds, such as the Watson Brake site in Louisiana, built around 3500 BC. (Perhaps these were really all the same culture, but archaeologists classify them as different ones.) The Mississippian sites are generally distinguished by:

  1. Earthen pyramids or mounds
  2. The development of large-scale, corn-based agriculture
  3. Shell-tempered pottery
  4. Large trade network extending from the Rockies to the Atlantic, Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico
  5. Social hierarchy and centralization of political power, with cities like Cahokia dominant over smaller towns
  6. A particular style of art and artifacts, reflecting Mississippian religious beliefs and lifestyles

Though Cahokia itself was abandoned around 1300 AD, Early European explorers such as Hernando de Soto encountered other Mississippian peoples and made records of them:

De Soto observed people living in fortified towns with lofty mounds and plazas, and surmised that many of the mounds served as foundations for priestly temples. Near present-day Augusta, Georgia, de Soto encountered a mound-building group ruled by a queen, Cofitachequi. She told him that the mounds within her territory served as the burial places for nobles.

But like Etzanoa, by the time the Europeans returned, the settlements had been abandoned, most likely due to diseases caught from the French and Spanish.

18 Jul 12:54

The emptiness of life will save us from mass unemployment

by pseudoerasmus
I don’t I have much to add to the debate about the dystopian robot future scenario envisioned by many people. But I do think the nightmare scenario is less mass unemployment than a kind of revamped neo-mediaevalism. I’m not predicting … Continue reading →
18 Jul 12:22

Slaughtered Christians “A Viable Target”?

by Raymond Ibrahim

Reprinted from The Gatestone Institute.

Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. 

The uptick in often lethal persecution of Christians in Muslim regions has caused many Christian leaders to appeal for aid. Canon Andrew White, the prominent minister known as the “Vicar of Baghdad” told Fox News in March, “If there is anything I can tell Americans it is that your fellow brothers and sisters are suffering, they are desperate for help,” he said. “And it is not just a matter of praying for peace. They need a lot – food, resources, clothes, everything. They need everything.”

White also went as far as to say that Christianity in Iraq, where it has been since the times of the apostles, is finished.

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As Fox News reported:

“Thirty years ago, there were approximately 1.4 million Christians in Iraq. The number dwindled to around 1 million after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, and a year ago it was estimated that there were less than 250,000 left. Numbers have continued to decline as families flee, and today even approximate figures are difficult to obtain.”

According to a Vatican Radio report, Nigerian Catholic Bishop Joseph Bagobiri responded to “the recent atrocities of Fulani [Muslim] Cattle herdsmen…, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Christians and the destruction of property worth millions of Naira,” by calling on all Christian denominations to implement counter measures against the “systematic elimination of Christianity in the northern part of Nigeria.”

One source said that in one of these assaults, two of the victims “had their eyes plucked out.” A survivor of another said, “The sad thing is that these Fulanis have been attacking our communities, and no one is doing anything about it.”

Commenting on the “horrific attacks” on Coptic Christians in Egypt between December 2016 and March 2017 — during which 40 “innocent children, women and men had their lives brutally and tragically ended for no other reason except that they are Christians” — Coptic Bishop Anba Angaelos of the United Kingdom said the slaughter has “gone largely unnoticed by the international community.” He continued:

“In our fast moving world that is filled with so much news of tragedy, war and death, it is all too easy for atrocities to become ‘incidents,’ and for individuals suffering them to become mere statistics, very quickly pushed aside by the next item of news. In the eyes of the perpetrators they are a viable target, and in the eyes of the world they become a regrettable phenomenon; yet what is actually left behind is traumatized individuals, families and communities that have lost loved ones, living the reality of themselves being targeted.”

report released in early 2017 by Open Doors — a non-denominational mission supporting persecuted Christians in over 60 countries — reveals:

• “Islamic extremism” remains the dominant force responsible for the persecution of Christians in 40 of the 50 worst nations;

• Nine out of the 10 worst nations for Christians have a Muslim majority (with North Korea being the only non-Islamic exception);

• In the 21 (18 of which are Muslim-majority) worst nations for Christians, “100 percent of Christians experience persecution”;

• 1,329 churches have been attacked, damaged, or destroyed, mostly in Muslim-majority nations;

• Muslim Somalia is now the second worst nation for Christians, who are executed instantly if their faith is discovered, or even rumored;

• In Nigeria — where more Christians have been slaughtered by Muslims than possibly in any other nation — the killing of Christians went up by 62 percent;

• The nation where the most violent and sexual attacks on Christians take place – Muslim-majority Pakistan — rose to the number four spot on the list of the worst countries for Christians.

Accounts of widespread Muslim persecution of Christians to surface in the month of March include, but are not limited to, the following:

Muslim Slaughter of Christians

Nigeria: A Christian mother and her three children — aged four, five and nine — were “hacked to death by unknown assailants within a church premises” in Muslim-majority Lagos State. The incident occurred around 3 a.m., “when the woman and her children had gone to the ‘Holy Land’ part of a Cherubim and Seraphim church. Their bodies were seen “in a pool of blood by some worshipers,” who arrived at the church later in the morning. The three children died inside the church. Their mother died an hour after making it to the hospital. Police said they were still seeking a motive.

Somalia: Assassins dispatched by the militant Islamic group Al Shabaab — “The Youth” — invaded the home of a clandestine Christian family during the night, and murdered the 35-year-old wife and mother, along with her 11-year-old son, as they slept. The 38-year-old husband and father was shot in the chest and survived. His three other young children escaped through the back door of the house and also survived. According to the account of the man of the house, the four gunmen shouted “Allahu Akbar” [“God is great”] and said they “cannot allow the defiling of our religion with a foreign, Western religion.”

Somalia is widely considered the second worst nation for Christians. There, the mere suspicion or accusation that someone is secretly living as a Christian can lead to a public execution.

Pakistan: After refusing to work on Sunday, as his Muslim employer demanded he do, a 20-year-old Christian sanitation worker was killed in a drive-by shooting by two assailants on motorcycles. The victim’s family attorney said that the employer had warned the worker that he would face “dire consequences” if he did not comply, and threatened to “cut off his legs and riddle his body with bullets” for defying his order. “Many Muslims find it hard to accept refusal by a ‘lowly’ Christian,” a Christian rights activist said. “This is not the first time a Christian sanitary worker has been killed or subjected to violence for refusing to comply with unjust demands of persons from the Muslim majority.”

Muslim Attacks on Christian Missionaries and “Apostates”

Philippines: A 70 year-old Irish nun living on the island of Mindanao — notorious for its separatist, extremist Muslim population — was attacked by a masked assailant who beat her so badly that she required surgery. Sister Kathleen Melia, who has spent more than 30 years serving the Philippines, was locking up her convent on March 1, when a masked man covered her mouth with his hand, and began to punch her.

Uganda: A Muslim who discovered that his 21-year-old daughter had converted to Christianity beat her up and threw her out of the house. When she fled to her pastor for sanctuary, her father contacted the police and accused the church leader — a married father-of-six — of having abducted her and turning her into a “human sacrifice.” Police immediately arrested the pastor, a former Muslim and well-known sheikh, who embraced Christianity in 2003. Since then, he has lost his job; his first wife left him; his extended family beat and disowned him; an aunt tried to poison him with insecticide; and one of several Islamic attacks on his home left one of his daughters dead. During his interrogation, the pastor explained that the girl he allegedly “sacrificed” was not only still alive, but taking a tailoring course. When located by police, the young woman confirmed her pastor’s version of events, saying that her father had vowed to “fight hard until we destroy everything [the pastor was] doing.”

Iran: Two Christian converts, a mother and son, were arrested in their home and taken to an unknown location. During the raid, bibles and other books on Christian theology were confiscated.

Another convert to Christianity, imprisoned since 2013 for working in a house church and orphanage, has been denied urgent health care a heart defect, “drastic” weight loss, weakness and depression.

A five-year prison sentence issued to a Christian convert — for allegedly “forming a group in order to disrupt national security” — was confirmed by the Revolutionary Court. Human rights activists involved in his case say, however, that the convict “is in prison only for his [Christian] beliefs.”

Malaysia: A pastor accused of attempting to convert Muslims to Christianity — a crime in Malaysia — was abducted in what was seen on closed-circuit TV to be a professional job, and is feared dead, due to no ransom having been demanded, and despite the family’s offer of reward money to anyone with information on the case.

Muslim Attacks on Churches

Central African Republic: Muslim converts to Christianity were attacked by a Muslim mob while worshiping at a Central Africa church. Brandishing swords and iron bars, the mob shouted “Allahu Akbar” [“Allah is the greatest”], while destroying the church and ripping off its roof. They then stabbed the pastor and beat up members of the congregation. This was one of at least three Muslim attacks on churches in the Central African Republic between January and March of 2017.

Indonesia: The government shut down three churches, two Protestant and one Catholic, on the grounds that it “cannot guarantee their safety” after intimidation by a radical Muslim group. “We are struggling for our right to worship,” a church leader lamented. Possibly emboldened by the government’s action, hundreds of Muslims demonstrated in front of the Santa Clara Church in Bekasi, and called on the mayor to revoke the church’s permits. After the mayor said he would not do so, “even if I am shot,” protesters hurled rocks and bottles at the police, and tried to force their way into the church. Police used tear gas to disperse the mob. This violence is part of a reportedly growing trend of intolerance, particularly against Christians, in Indonesia.

Iraq: A church in Mosul was turned into a religious police base by ISIS, which desecrated it with Islamic graffiti and damaged the stone cross above its front door. According to a report by NDTV:

“Not a single crucifix, or statue of Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary has survived in the building’s nave, from which all mark of Christianity has been methodically removed… Terrorists have scribbled their noms de guerre on the church’s walls, and a large chandelier has been dumped in the yard.”

Kuwait: A Muslim man dressed in traditional thobe and armed with a long kitchen knife burst into a Catholic church in Kuwait City during mass, went straight to the officiating priest, and demanded “to see the Pope.”  He then walked to the podium and “tried to seize the microphone from the priest,” says the report. Several ushers managed to remove him from the church premises and hand him to police, which are always stationed outside the church during service hours.  Kuwaiti authorities later stated that the man “suffers from mental health issues” and “denied involvement of any terrorist organization or threat to the church or its parishioners.”

Muslim Discrimination against and Hostility towards Christians

Egypt: A Muslim man sexually harassed and attempted to slit the throat of a Christian woman on a busy street, in broad daylight. Passersby intervened, holding the perpetrator until authorities arrived. The woman was rushed to a hospital and survived.

In addition, the brother of an 18-year-old Christian girl who was abducted earlier this year learned that his sister had been given a new Muslim identity and was being held by security services. When the family approached the national security headquarters and demanded that she be set free, authorities denied knowledge of her whereabouts. As family and friends proceeded to protest, singing Christian hymns, the police responded with violence, wounding several participants.

Nigeria: According to a report in the Christian Post, Christians displaced by Islamic attacks at the hands of Boko Haram terrorists are being denied food and vital assistance at camps run by local Muslim organizations. As many as 1.8 million people in Nigeria are currently facing starvation. Bishop William Naga, who fled his home in the Borno state, said, “They will give food to the refugees, but if you are a Christian they will not give you food. They will openly tell you that the relief is not for Christians.” A human rights activist elaborated:

“Christians often get pushed to the back of the line. Because Muslims are the majority there, even non-extremist Muslims, some of their neighbors are typically going to get preferential treatment by those providing food and assistance because of their Muslim faith.”

Pakistan: A Muslim family falsely accused their 15-year-old Christian maid and her father of stealing, after the girl fell ill with appendicitis and could not work until she recuperated. The father and daughter were arrested and are now engaged in a legal battle to prove their innocence.

A Pakistani government want-ad for street sweepers states that applicants must be Hindu, Christian or Shia — anyone but the dominant Sunni Muslim population – illustrates the way in which minorities are prevented from earning a living wage. When minority groups protested, officials responded by saying the word “Shia” was added by mistake, as they are still considered Muslims.

A Pakistani prosecutor reportedly has been blackmailing Christians facing trial — over the lynching of two men suspected of bombing two churches – to convert to Islam in exchange for their acquittal. One lawyer said that the prosecutor’s office has used this tactic before, but that it was “simply ignored.”

United States: A sophomore at Rollins College in Florida was suspended for challenging a Muslim professor’s assertion that the crucifixion of Jesus never took place, and that his disciples never believed he was God. After the incident, during a Middle East Humanities class, the straight-A student was graded an “F” on a major essay. When he confronted the professor about this, she filed a complaint with the school, claiming he made her feel “unsafe.”

The student recounted that one day, the professor led a discussion about the application of Sharia Law, and a Muslim in the class said gays and adulterers should be beheaded. No action was taken against that person, however.

A week after the student contacted a lawyer, his suspension was lifted.

About this Series

The persecution of Christians in the Islamic world has become endemic.  Accordingly, “Muslim Persecution of Christians” was developed to collate some—by no means all—of the instances of persecution that surface each month. It serves two purposes:

1)          To document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, if not chronic, persecution of Christians.

2)          To show that such persecution is not “random,” but systematic and interrelated—that it is rooted in a worldview inspired by Islamic Sharia.

Accordingly, whatever the anecdote of persecution, it typically fits under a specific theme, including hatred for churches and other Christian symbols; apostasy, blasphemy, and proselytism laws that criminalize and sometimes punish with death those who “offend” Islam; sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam;  theft and plunder in lieu of jizya (financial tribute expected from non-Muslims); overall expectations for Christians to behave like cowed dhimmis, or third-class, “tolerated” citizens; and simple violence and murder. Sometimes it is a combination thereof.

Because these accounts of persecution span different ethnicities, languages, and locales—from Morocco in the West, to Indonesia in the East—it should be clear that one thing alone binds them: Islam—whether the strict application of Islamic Sharia law, or the supremacist culture born of it.

Previous Reports:

February, 2017

January, 2017

December, 2016

November, 2016

October, 2016

September, 2016

August, 2016

July, 2016

June, 2016

May, 2016

April, 2016

March, 2016

February, 2016

January, 2016

December, 2015

November, 2015

October, 2015

September, 2015

August, 2015

July, 2015

June, 2015

May, 2015

April, 2015

March, 2015

February, 2015

January, 2015

December, 2014

November, 2014

October, 2014

September, 2014

August, 2014

July, 2014

June, 2014

May, 2014

April, 2014

March, 2014

February, 2014

January, 2014

December, 2013

November, 2013

October, 2013

September, 2013

August, 2013

July, 2013

June, 2013

May, 2013

April, 2013

March, 2013

February, 2013

January, 2013

December, 2012

November, 2012

October, 2012

September, 2012 

August, 2012

July, 2012

June, 2012

May, 2012

April, 2012

March, 2012

February, 2012

January, 2012

December, 2011

November, 2011

October, 2011

September, 2011

August, 2011

July, 2011

14 Jul 00:23

Dadaist Science

by Nathan Cofnas

Earlier this month Stephen Hawking declared: “We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible.


11 Jul 14:02

Remy: People Will Die!

by ReasonTV

Remy channels his inner Elizabeth Warren to vilify the other side.

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Reason is the planet's leading source of news, politics, and culture from a libertarian perspective. Go to for a point of view you won't get from legacy media and old left-right opinion magazines.

Written and performed by Remy
Music mastered by Ben Karlstrom
Video by Meredith Bragg


People need kidneys, it's sad but decreed
yet this Senator's hoarding one more than she needs
I offer this bill and I hope you'll vote "aye"
Unless, of course, you just want PEOPLE TO DIE!

Traffic deaths have many crying with fear
Over 30,000 people are dying each year
this modest change I propose must be applied
Unless, of course, you just want PEOPLE TO DIE!

Alcohol deaths are exceeding comparisons
Black people, white people, Native Americans
We need to ban alcohol, it can't be denied
Unless, of course, you just want PEOPLE TO DIE!

Murders are bad. They have no defenders
yet many are committed by repeat offenders
I say lifetime in prison, whatever the crime
unless, of course, you want PEOPLE TO DIE!

So I don't have a bill, or a groan to detail
I just need a short clip for my donor email
That good? Cool. Tim, dinner at five? Yeah.

These car deaths I mentioned are terrible stuff
It just doesn't seem that one seatbelt's enough
Either vote for my act so that fewer will cry
Unless, of course, you just want PEOPLE TO DIE!

The carbs. The container. We cannot ignore
Whipped cream's killing more people than ever before
This bill would be passed and be ratified
if those people there didn't want PEOPLE TO DIE!

Why not weigh all the costs, the effects, the results
Empathize with each other as if we were adults
Use our brains to craft arguments--not vilify
See that freedom's a trade-off--YOU WANT PEOPLE TO DIE!
11 Jul 00:32

Newspaper Publishers Want Congress to Bail Them Out of Bad Investments

by Ira Stoll

It's the sort of brazen move that might ordinarily trigger a front-page news story or an outraged editorial—a bunch of very rich individuals asking Congress to write them a law that would give them better negotiating power against other rich individuals.

Yet in this case, the rich individuals wanting special treatment are the newspaper owners themselves. The Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos (worth $83.9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire's Index), The New York Times largest shareholder Carlos Slim (worth $61.1 billion), and Buffalo News owner Warren Buffett ($76.9 billion), publicly pleading poverty, are asking Congress for a helping hand in their negotiations with Google, controlled by Sergey Brin ($45.6 billion) and Larry Page ($46.8 billion).

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, the Bezos-Slim-Buffett front man, David Chavern, president and chief executive of the News Media Alliance, complained about what he called "an economically squeezed news industry." The Times, in a column sympathetic to the effort, likened the news providers to "serfs." Maybe Serf Bezos should have considered the economics of the news industry when he bought the Post, or Serf Slim when he bought his stake in the Times. The idea that Congress needs to roll to the rescue to bail "serfs" like Messrs. Bezos, Buffett, and Slim out of bad investments just doesn't pass the laugh test.

In respect of the Times, it's particularly comical, because, as an editorial matter, the paper generally favors stricter antitrust enforcement. The newspaper that less than two years ago was editorializing that Congress "should also study whether there are ways to strengthen the antitrust laws," now is backing the move for what its own columnist describes as "an anticompetitive safe haven," "a limited antitrust exemption."

One of Robert Bork's great scholarly insights was that if there's any logic to enforcing antitrust laws or enacting them in the first place at all, it is with a eye toward protecting consumers. The publishers make a case that news is a kind of special case because consumers are harmed by a decline in news quality. Or, as the Times quoted Chavern, "If you want a free news model, you will get news…But it will be garbage news."

I'm a paying, seven-day-a-week print newspaper subscriber who earns a living as a journalist primarily on the basis of people's willingness to pay for news. So I sympathize on some level with what Chavern is saying. But even I can see that his argument is, to use his own term, "garbage." Some excellent news—the CBS Evening News in its Walter Cronkite heyday, "60 Minutes"—is and was "free" to consumers, who paid with their willingness to be subjected to commercials. In this past election, the prediction model of the expensive, paid New York Times was just as wrong as that of the free Huffington Post. Nate Silver had a better prediction over at ESPN's free website.

Even if you buy the questionable idea that more expensive news automatically equals better news, it's a further, and even more tenuous, logical leap from that idea to the notion that Congress ought to interpose itself on one side of a set of business negotiations to make it easier for the publishers to make their news more expensive to consumers, or their ads more expensive to advertisers.

If publishers want to permit competing suppliers to negotiate prices and terms on a cooperative basis, then let them support changing the law to allow it in every industry, without special treatment for journalistic enterprises.

The Google-Facebook world has taken advertising and subscription revenue dollars out of publisher pockets. But it's been a huge boon to marketers and to readers. Advertisers can now reach targets more efficiently at a fraction of what they used to pay for print ads, and readers can now get news from a variety of sites and editors and journalists, from Matt Drudge to Mike Allen to Glenn Reynolds, rather than having to rely on the judgment of their one hometown newspaper editor. Not even Congress has the power to turn back that clock to the old days. Nor would anyone with any sense want it to, other than someone lucky (or unlucky) enough to have inherited a newspaper, or foolish enough to have overpaid for one.