Politics Open Thread, Nov 18-24

Let’s talk politics.  Here’s a starter topic from WCE.

The Working Hypothesis:

…But what if people’s ability to produce matters more than how much they can consume? That ability cannot be redistributed. And what if smaller losses for those at the bottom of the economic ladder are much more consequential to them than the larger gains for those already on top? Under those conditions, rising GDP will not necessarily translate into rising prosperity.

Such considerations have deep implications for society’s longer-term trajectory. Even if gains exceed the costs initially, what happens if the losses undermine stable families, decimate entire communities, foster government dependence, and contribute to skyrocketing substance abuse and suicide rates? Such considerations have deep implications for society’s longer-term trajectory. What if the next generation, raised in this environment, suffers as well—perhaps reaching adulthood with even lower productive capacity? What if, in the meantime, cheap capital from foreign savings has fueled enormous increases in government and consumer debt, while the industrial policies of foreign governments have left the American economy with fewer opportunities to create well-paying jobs for less-skilled workers? Such costs show up nowhere in GDP—at least initially. Sadly, they appear to have been much more than hypothetical, and have proved much costlier than anyone imagined.

The explanation for why economic piety steered the nation off course, and the roadmap to recovery, are encapsulated in what I call the Working Hypothesis: that a labor market in which workers can support strong families and communities is the central determinant of long-term prosperity and should be the central focus of public policy.

Alongside stable political institutions that protect basic freedoms, family and community provide the social structures necessary to a thriving society and a growing economy. Those institutions in turn rely on a foundation of productive work through which people find purpose and satisfaction in providing for themselves and helping others. The durable growth that produces long-term prosperity is the emergent property of a virtuous cycle in which people who are able to support their families and communities improve their own productivity and raise a subsequent generation able to accomplish even more.

full essay can be found here.

The Working Hypothesis


82 thoughts on “Politics Open Thread, Nov 18-24

  1. IN 1999, a trio of economists emerged from a conference at the University of California, Los Angeles, squinting without sunglasses in the unfamiliar sun, and began a slow walk through the hills overlooking the city. The three of them — a Harvard economist-in-training, Daniel Benjamin, and the Harvard economists Edward Glaeser and David Laibson — were reeling. They had just learned about a new field, neuroeconomics, which applies economic analysis to brain science in an effort to understand human choices. Now they were strolling through the taxonomy of midday joggers and dog-walkers in Los Angeles, talking all the while about how people become what they are. Benjamin recalls feeling very out of place. “Everyone was so beautiful,” he says.

    The economists spent the walk discussing what else they could measure across such a wide variety of human beings. By the time the sun began to set, the conversation landed on the very building blocks of life. “If economists are studying the brain,” Laibson asked, “what about studying genes?”

    At that time, the standard method for connecting genes to human outcomes was to look for connections between specific DNA clusters and specific conditions in the lives of people who share those genes. B.R.C.A., perhaps the best-known gene sequence in medical science, is associated with a high risk of breast cancer. The A.P.O.E. sequence seems to have a connection to your chances of developing Alzheimer’s. “We thought we were going to find a few candidate genes that were the critical genes for impulse control or risk taking or cognitive ability,” Benjamin says. But when Benjamin, Glaeser and Laibson began writing to the keepers of DNA databases, asking to partner up, they found the geneticists reluctant to join forces. And matching D.N.A. to social outcomes, like educational attainment or wealth, wasn’t just ethically questionable, it was practically impossible. This was before the Human Genome Project had fully sequenced human DNA, so there just wasn’t enough data to map it to the simplest biological outcomes, much less the subtler behavioral outcomes economists like to study.

    Today, Glaeser is best known for studying cities. Laibson’s work is focused largely on behavioral economics. But Benjamin has remained committed to genes, and in 2007, as genome data became cheaper and more plentiful, a new method for connecting genes to outcomes emerged: genome-wide association studies (G.W.A.S.). With the candidate-gene method, you had to essentially guess which genes might be involved, and usually got it wrong. “With G.W.A.S., you look at the whole genome and let the data tell you where there’s variation,” Benjamin says.

    Once a G.W.A.S. shows genetic effects across a group, a “polygenic score” can be assigned to individuals, summarizing the genetic patterns that correlate to outcomes found in the group. Although no one genetic marker might predict anything, this combined score based on the entire genome can be a predictor of all sorts of things. And here’s why it’s so useful: People outside that sample can then have their DNA screened, and are assigned their own polygenic score, and the predictions tend to carry over. This, Benjamin realized, was the sort of statistical tool an economist could use.

    The first scientists to combine G.W.A.S. and polygenic scores used them to find associations with health outcomes. A 2009 study used polygenic scoring to assess the genetic risks of schizophrenia. Further studies created polygenic scores for everything from multiple sclerosis to height. The scores aren’t individually predictive, and the associations are statistically small, but for geneticists, they’re a powerful tool for studying medical outcomes across large groups.

    As an economist, however, Benjamin wasn’t interested in medical outcomes. He wanted to see if our genes predict social outcomes.

    In 2011, with a grant from the National Science Foundation, Benjamin launched the Social Science Genetic Association Consortium, an unprecedented effort to gather unconnected genetic databases into one enormous sample that could be studied by researchers from outside the world of genetic science. In July 2018, Benjamin and four senior co-authors, drawing on that database, published a landmark study in Nature Genetics. More than 80 authors from more than 50 institutions, including the private company 23andMe, gathered and studied the DNA of over 1.1 million people. It was the largest genetics study ever published, and the subject was not height or heart disease, but how far we go in school.

    The researchers assigned each participant a polygenic score based on how broad genetic variations correlated with what’s called “educational attainment.” (They chose it because intake forms in medical offices tend to ask patients what education they’ve completed.) The predictive power of the polygenic score was very small — it predicts more accurately than the parents’ income level, but not as accurately as the parents’ own level of educational attainment — and it’s useless for making individual predictions. Like other G.W.A.S., this one reveals patterns but doesn’t explain them.

    And with a data set this big, the patterns provide a lot of information. The authors calculated, for instance, that those in the top fifth of polygenic scores had a 57 percent chance of earning a four-year degree, while those in the bottom fifth had a 12 percent chance. And with that degree of correlation, the authors wrote, polygenic scores can improve the accuracy of other studies of education.

    For 19 years, Benjamin and his colleagues were looking for fundamentals. Now, they say, they’ve found them. The genes with which you are born travel during your life through a mediating layer of biology and social experience — racism, puberty, vacations, illness, industrial accidents, sexual harassment, poverty, divorce — that seems so complicated as to be unmeasurable. But their study, part of a field now called “geno-economics,” claims to measure, in part, the degree to which our genes determine who we become. How is that possible? And in an era of dramatic political divisions, predatory companies and systemic inequality, should we really be mapping genetics to social outcomes?

    THE LIST OF authors on Benjamin’s study is like an academic bus crash: sociologists and economists jumbled with epidemiologists, psychiatrists and geneticists. But Dalton Conley, a professor of sociology at Princeton, is perhaps the most personally and professionally complicated jumble of them all.

    “I grew up as a white kid in a largely African-American and Latino neighborhood full of housing projects,” Conley says. “My parents were lefty artists. At a certain point they lied about our address to move me to a public school in Greenwich Village, so I had a daily commute across the socioeconomic landscape.” In his memoir of that childhood, “Honky,” Conley writes that almost immediately he knew that “based on the color of my skin, I would be treated a certain way.” The social power of certain genes was obvious to him, he writes, because “some kids got unique treatment for being taller or heavier than everyone else, but being whiter than everyone else was a different matter altogether.”

    Conley describes his early academic work as “lefty sociology.” His Ph.D. thesis was on the black-white wealth gap and he dedicated his early career to studying the transmission of health and wealth between parents and children.

    At N.Y.U., Conley kept getting into disagreements with geneticists, arguing that their methods were dangerously naïve. It seemed to him implausible that studying only twins — the gold standard of genetics research — was enough to teach us the difference between nature and nurture. But over time, he decided that it wasn’t enough to just argue. Conley is an academic, and even within that tortured group he is something of a masochist. At that time he was a tenured professor, the kind of gig most people see as the endgame of an academic career, and yet he decided to go back and grind out another Ph.D., this time in genetics. He went into his program believing that our social environment is largely the cause of our outcomes, and that biology is usually the dependent variable. By the end of his time, he says, the causal arrow in his mind had pretty much flipped the other way: “I tried to show for a range of outcomes that the genetic models were overstating the impact of genetics because of their crazy assumptions.” He sighs. “But I ended up showing that they’re right.”

    Now he says he’s convinced the benefits of studying polygenic scores are worth the risks. “I still have some queasiness about what can be done with this research, how politically explosive it can be,” he says. “But as someone who wants to drill down into human behavior, I don’t think we can ignore it anymore.”

    Benjamin and his co-authors included a long F.A.Q. document that carefully explained the limits of their findings, not least that they shouldn’t be used to create some sort of half-baked genetics-based educational policy. And the authors I spoke with talk openly about the risks that their work will be misinterpreted or misused, but they also speak of a desire to use polygenic scores to find genetically predetermined social gaps and compensate for them by other means. It’s a theme I’ve heard often in academic circles: If we can measure a gap in society, we can close it. (In a 2017 book, “The Genome Factor,” Conley and his co-author Jason Fletcher even propose the idea that genetics could someday be used to build not just personalized medicine, but personalized policy that takes into account the genotypes that influence whether you and I are receptive to certain methods of instruction, or punishment, or therapy.) But Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society, argues that by measuring these social gaps, well-intentioned academics have in the past inadvertently pointed them out to those who want to exploit the gaps, or even make them wider. “Alfred Binet’s idea was that we were going to use his I.Q. tests to find kids who need special learning environments so we can help them do better,” she says. “But soon, applying I.Q. tests was part of the eugenics movement in the United States. These things have real effects. And right now we’re talking about introducing these ideas in a time of increasingly blatant xenophobia and white supremacy.”

    If what Benjamin’s study claims to measure is controversial, consider what it doesn’t measure. The study only draws on the DNA of white people — Europeans, Icelanders, Caucasians in North America, Australia and the United Kingdom. And that’s in part because only those groups, along with Chinese nationals, have given over their D.N.A. in large enough numbers to achieve the statistical power that geno-economics researchers need. I shared Benjamin’s paper with Jesus Hernandez, an urban sociologist who spent 30 years working for the state of California and at the University of California, Davis, and now runs his own research firm mapping the distribution of things like transportation, housing and education to predict social outcomes. Later, when I reached him by phone, he laughed bitterly. “We always do white people first,” he says, “because it’s easiest. It’s the cleanest bill of goods. They all have more like experiences. When we start testing out how to deliver a transit project, we’ll put it in a white neighborhood first, because we’re going to make sure that it works. Does it meet the needs of a minority neighborhood? Hell no. But we’re going to put it there anyway, because it worked in this neighborhood. This is our thinking, and this kind of thinking perpetuates the scientific view, which is ‘Science is pure!’”

    But even if the same numbers of people from all races provided their data, one group would still have to be excluded from the study: people with recent genetic roots in Africa, which is to say both Africans, African-Americans and many Latinos. This racial exclusion has to do with the origins of modern humans. When a group of people on what is now the continent of Africa decided, some 50,000 to 70,000 years ago, to go see what the rest of the world was about, they formed what geneticists call a “population bottleneck.” The small group that walked off the continent formed the small gene pool from which all non-African people — whether a Caucasian or a Han Chinese — descend. So the genes of people within the much larger, much more ancient gene pool of Africa (including those brought to the United States and elsewhere by slavery) are so much more diverse that researchers would need a far larger sample — at least two or three times as large, Benjamin says — to even have a hope of finding measurable patterns. Benjamin and his collaborators in fact tried applying the polygenic score derived from European DNA to African-Americans and found the method didn’t work well enough to be useful.

    Benjamin says he knows others will be tempted to try to use this method to compare genetic advantages between races, but “that would be a misuse of the data. You just can’t do that sort of comparison.” But the good intentions of Benjamin and others in his field depend on being able to use their method on everyone, or no one. Several researchers involved in the project mentioned to me the possibility of using polygenic scores to sharpen the results of studies like the ongoing Perry Preschool Project, which, starting in the early 1960s, began tracking 123 preschool students and suggested that early education plays a large role in determining a child’s success in school and life. Benjamin and other co-authors say that perhaps sampling the DNA of the Perry Preschool participants could improve the accuracy of the findings, by controlling for those in the group that were genetically predisposed to go further in school. But the participants in that study are black, which means they come from a gene pool that polygenic scoring can’t yet handle. So in the meantime, will only white people’s educational standards be raised by this work? And if so, will the policy benefits for white people measured by geno-economics carry over to other groups?

    EVEN NOW, AS scientists debate the ethics of this early research, the free market is ready to sell whatever it can. The seeming precision of “genetics” is irresistible, especially for those of us facing the stomach-churning uncertainty of disease, aging or new parenthood. This summer, I was approached by the representatives of a fertility clinic seeking to publicize a new product, “the ability for parents to select eye color in their babies.” And soon I was on the phone with Dr. Reza Radjabi, the founder and chief executive of Ferny, a fertility clinic in New York. Dr. Radjabi says he and his colleagues have developed a two-step process to be offered alongside the clinic’s more traditional I.V.F. services. First, with blood samples from the parents, he will tell them what possible eye colors they might produce. That screening will cost $1,200. Second, assuming the necessary variety is present, he’ll reveal which of the available eggs contain a high likelihood of which eye color. That part will be $12,500. What the parents choose next, he assured me repeatedly, is not for him to decide. But the implication was clear. “We had a couple where she had wonderful blue eyes, and he, with dark eyes, said ‘If we have embryos that have blue eyes I’d love to know,’” Dr. Radjabi recalls. “Most everybody wants blue or green eye color.” He says his clinic is currently overwhelmed with demand for the procedure, with more than 200 people signed up for the process.

    Dr. Radjabi’s offering is part of a broader field known as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, or P.G.D., that is almost entirely unregulated. And in 2009, The Wall Street Journal reported that Dr. Radjabi’s business partner, Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg of the Fertility Institutes in Los Angeles, had promised his I.V.F. customers the chance to make “a preselected choice of gender, eye color, hair color and complexion, along with screening for potentially lethal diseases.” Steinberg’s site no longer offers the chance to choose your kid’s skin color, but gender selection is prominently advertised.

    Those products are built on well-understood genetic mechanisms. But if we each begin receiving polygenic scores for social and behavioral traits, what will the moneymaking world do with that? John Hancock, one of the nation’s oldest insurers, recently announced it’s going to write discounted policies for people who wear devices that track their health and fitness. The 2008 Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, or GINA, makes it illegal for insurance companies to discriminate on the basis of your genes, but it might be that group-level predictions, like the ones that polygenic scores make possible, form a loophole in both GINA and the pre-existing condition protections of the Affordable Care Act. Technology simply moves faster than regulations can.

    And will the preselection opportunities of I.V.F. make it an irresistible means of creating the best possible child, the only choice of responsible parents? Who am I to deny my kids any conceivable advantage, no matter how statistically insignificant? If DNA can tell me and my wife which of her embryos has the highest polygenic score, we won’t care whether the improvement is 10 percent or 5 percent or 1 percent. That kid will have a better chance at success. Doctor, we’ve talked it over. We’ll take that one.

    Science has to be slow if it’s going to merit the name: Do the research, compile the findings, publish it, wait for others to attempt the same thing, wait longer still to learn whether they found what you found. But business is fast. And as it becomes steadily faster, it seizes on incremental, unreplicated scientific findings and builds products, brands, whole industries out of them, before anything approaching a scientific truth can be established, and long before society can hash out its implications.

    The geno-economists seem confident that human genes have a measurable influence on human outcomes. But publicizing whatever predictive power does lie in our genes runs the risk of misleading the rest of us into believing that control of our genes is control of our future. They’re adamant that their motives are in forestalling the dystopian implications of the work, in fighting off misinformation and misguided policies. “The world in which we can predict all sorts of things about the future based on saliva samples — personality traits, cognitive abilities, life outcomes — is happening in the next five years,” Benjamin says. “Now is the time to prepare for that.”

    Even so, the researchers themselves acknowledge that it’s hard to think about oneself clearly when subjected to this new tool. Benjamin, Conley and several others in the study went ahead and got their own polygenic scores measured. It was for fun, mostly, and no one was unhappy with their results. “But at the moment I did it, I regretted doing it,” Conley says. “It’s a cognitive trap. I immediately realized that at an individual level, it doesn’t predict anything, but it’s human nature to want to know more about yourself. I don’t know …” He pauses for several seconds. “People parse meaningless distinctions.”

    Benjamin is less conflicted. “I don’t regret doing it,” he says. “But I’m an economist, so I’m trained to always think more information is better.”

  2. Great article WCE!

    Without work—the quintessential productive activity—self-esteem declines and a sense of helplessness increases; people become depressed.

    Without money self-esteem declines, a sense of helplessness increases and people become depressed. I’m not sold on the idea that it’s simply a lack of work.

    IIRC there has been some natural experiments related to this. You have two groups of 55 year old factory workers and one group receives a buyout that will allow them to collect their pensions early and comfortably transition to retirement. The other is left high and dry. The group with money has their level of happiness and satisfaction increase while the group left high and dry is devistated.

  3. Rhett, I interpreted the essay as saying that both production and consumption are important to human well-being. Allowing people to consume (via redistribution) without creating a society in which people can also produce, commensurate with their abilities, is not conducive to full human flourishing. It’s an argument to expand/fund programs for adults with disabilities, for sure, and perhaps to expand our definition of “needy” to include those who need extra support to function in modern society. For example, a now-retired mom of math camp friends is a tax volunteer at her local library and will work quite a bit between January and April 15. (That happens to be a great time to volunteer, weather-wise, in rural Iowa.)

  4. Such observations aren’t persuasive, though, because neither readjusted data nor celebration of gadgetry does anything to improve the reality of deteriorating individual, family, and community health.

    Uh huh. I want some more data on exactly where these deteriorating conditions are. I suspect they’re all in rural red country, aren’t they? Along with all the opioid addicts? So voting for Trump again isn’t likely to help them, is it? And isn’t that what you conservatives types want?

  5. Hartford, Baltimore, Detroit and Cleveland are all cities that came to mind as affected by deteriorating economic conditions. Some cities, like Seattle, experienced industrial decline and have recovered but certainly not all cities have recovered. Probably not all places, rural or urban, will successfully transition away from whatever natural resources fueled their growth.


  6. “Allowing people to consume (via redistribution) without creating a society in which people can also produce, commensurate with their abilities, is not conducive to full human flourishing.”

    Sounds like an argument against UBI.

  7. I think he says as much, Finn.

    The article’s not all bad, and I believe in the dignity of work (to some extent), but he makes really unfounded leaps in his proposals.

  8. Allowing people to consume (via redistribution) without creating a society in which people can also produce, commensurate with their abilities, is not conducive to full human flourishing.

    What if we extended the natural experiments I mentioned and we proved that isn’t true? How would that change your thinking?

  9. Rhett, are you arguing that it doesn’t matter if production matters or not to human well being? Basically, I’m arguing that spending money on expanded EITC/jobs program instead of on money unrelated to work like UBI is better for human flourishing.

    Heck, zoo animals do better if they’re engaged, so we probably don’t need to limit the principal to humans. I agree with what I think is your general principal that a modern capitalistic economy won’t provide a living wage to people with very limited skills, and that’s a problem.

  10. WCE,

    The air conditioning plant automates or moves to Mexico and 52 year old Bob get laid off. Is it vital that he be retrained and that he be subsidized to work at some “make work” job or could he be transitioned into early retirement? Experience shows that the guys getting early retirement do great. Almost all of the problems encountered by 52 year old guys who get laid off without early retirement are related to financial stress.

  11. Rhett, I think the policies could be better structured so that fewer 52 year old guys get laid off. What data do you have for your early retirement argument? I would agree with you for union guys with good pensions (saw some 30-and-out retirees at my first employer who were ~50) but not for modern 52 year olds in manufacturing who have mostly had low wages and so get minimal early retirement.

    In that case, I agree with you that money matters.

  12. “The air conditioning plant automates or moves to Mexico and 52 year old Bob get laid off.”

    How about a different scenario where Bob is 22 and can’t find a job because the AC plant has already moved to Mexico? He has parents who will support him somewhat, and has moved back into their house to save on rent. This seems to support the dignity of work theory more.

  13. How about a different scenario where Bob is 22 and can’t find a job because the AC plant has already moved to Mexico?

    Great aunt Gertrude dies and leaves him a trust that pays him $100k a year. How does he feel then and going forward? Is he still sad, despondent and angry? How much of it is the dignity of work and how much of it is the lack of funds? I’d say 90% of it is the lack of funds (if not more.)

  14. I’ve read some articles and blogs about FIRE early retirees who say one of the hardest adjustments is to not working while most of your social circle is working.

    OTOH, 22yo Bob probably doesn’t have to make that adjustment. With that kind of income, he can get married, move to a low COL area, and have kids with 2 SAHP.

    But then, on the 3rd hand, the behavior they model for their kids probably won’t be sustainable for those kids, unless Bob and his wife live well below their means and/or somehow get their nest egg to grow.

  15. “Great aunt Gertrude dies and leaves him a trust that pays him $100k a year. ”

    This is not reality

  16. Rhett, who should work? In my imaginary ideal world, jobs would be full-time at 30 hr/week, because that’s where I’m most productive and still have time for the rest of life. But desirable jobs have gotten more demanding in recent decades, not less so. I don’t know whether the competition for them is greater or not.

    Maybe we need to think about how to expand leisure for the currently-hard-working upper middle class at the same time we think about expanding the return to employment for the marginally employed.

  17. This is not reality

    But we first need to answer the question. Is paid work required? Do you think it is?

  18. Rhett, paid work is not required (SAHP do well, arguably better than working parents when they have financial security and want to be SAHP), but we have no other mechanism than paid work for ensuring necessary work gets done in society.

    Most people don’t love what they do.

  19. “But we first need to answer the question. Is paid work required? Do you think it is?”

    People need money. If I had $100K a year, forever, I would no longer need money and would no longer work.

    Is paid work required to get money? It depends on the system

  20. If I had $100K a year, forever, I would no longer need money and would no longer work.

    Would you have ever started working? I know 4 people with trust funds and 3 out of 4 work totebag level jobs.

  21. The NYTimes is doing an excellent series on China. The first article is called “The Land That Failed to Fail”. Its point is that the West has expected China to follow the standard model – economic development leading to greater democracy, or else failure, but that hasn’t happened. The article is filled with statistics and graphics and photos driving home how truly astounding their ascent has been. I have to just post the link because it isn’t the kind of article I can just post as text

    If you can get to the NYT, I really recommend it

  22. IMO, all people need some kind of productive activity in order to live a healthy, well-ordered life. It doesn’t have to be paid, but it does have to be meaningful and require at least some effort. And contribute, even a tiny bit, to the well-being of others.

    You can see this play out with little children, who are usually thrilled to be given some small “job” to help their parents or younger siblings.

  23. but it does have to be meaningful and require at least some effort. And contribute, even a tiny bit, to the well-being of others.

    Does that apply to retired people?

  24. Does that apply to retired people?

    They still need a reason to get up in the morning. Even if they worked 43 yrs for Dunder Mifflin in Wilkes Barre office contributing to the betterment of society in some way so they feel they’ve done their part to move the rock forward and retired at 65, after the first x (weeks, months, years) of sleeping in, having breakfast, doing the crossword, taking the dog for a walk, they’re likely to get bored unless they have a friends group to get together with regularly, a volunteer gig where they engage with others, etc. It’s one of my biggest fears.

  25. I have a friend with a trust fund. She had office jobs in her 20’s, but decided to be a travel writer/photographer after that. That fell apart a few years later as it takes a bit of hustle. Now she’s in her 40’s does some volunteer work, throws parties, is on a permanent husband hunt, and is miserable. I think she should get a simple job at a boutique or Starbucks or something just to get out of the house. She thinks it is beneath her. She basically entertains herself by calling friends and her parents all day and monopolizing their time by complaining. I really think you need to work to feel some sort of satisfaction.

  26. unless they have a friends group to get together with regularly,

    Scarlett said they need to feel productive in a way that helps people. I figure a fair number of retired people feel great playing golf and having a few cocktails with the guys a few days a week. Maybe sailing/motoring around Tampa Bay, etc.

  27. I really think you need to work to feel some sort of satisfaction.

    And it gives you something to complain about. And if you’re by nature a miserable person you can blame it for your misery. If you’re rich and you don’t work and you’re a miserable person there is nothing to blame.

  28. I think it’s more a matter of most people needing some structure, and something to look forward to. For a lot of retired people, it might be having coffee or cocktails with other retirees, or golfing or playing tennis or traveling with them, etc.

    For younger people whose friend cohort are mostly working (counting being SAHP as working in this context), it can be more difficult to find that sort of structure outside of work.

    That sort of financial situation would seem to lend well to jobs truly pursuing one’s passion, whether or not such jobs are well-paid.

    This discussion ties well with today’s other thread.

  29. “Does that apply to retired people?”

    That depends. Those who are still reasonably mentally and physically healthy do need something to give meaning to their days, that allows them to interact regularly with others, and also IMO to be productive in some way. Doing crossword puzzles or playing solitaire or reading historical fiction, however enjoyable for a while, isn’t going to cut it all day, every day. What I meant by “being productive in a way that helps people” is that your activities aren’t focused solely on pleasing yourself. That does get old.

  30. Mooshi, that is a propaganda piece if I have ever seen one. China now has an emperor, not even a peoples leader. Human rights are curtailed day by day. Genocide of Uighur muslims gets mind boggling day by day, people just disappear overnight, even high profile ones like former Head of Interpol. Any regime that is halfway scared of being overthrown and has some willingness to work for the country, and has unlimited power, and little regard for environment, labor laws etc. can succeed to an extent like China. And they can only succeed because the Chinese ethnic mental makeup of self subjugation to those in power. China;s success is through use of its own people as slave labor, theft of intellectual property and fueled by a thirst to beat USA.

  31. Dell,

    Are there any democracies that have gone from the third world to the first world? Taiwan, South Korea, China, Singapore, all made dramatic progress as dictatorships. Far more progress that similarly situated democracies have been able to make.

  32. “Singapore, all made dramatic progress as dictatorships.”

    I believe Singapore was a special case that should not be an example to any other country. I’m very much interested in seeing how long they continue in their path without Lee Kuan Yew.

  33. “Are there any democracies that have gone from the third world to the first world?”

    Wasn’t the US originally a 3rd world country?

  34. Rhett, in a democracy you actually have rule of law, no slave labor and some regulatory framework. The opposition parties in any democracy will work to make the sitting govt less successful. Just look at what has happened in our own country. China is successful precisely because its leadership has no constraints. Legal. moral or ethical.

  35. Also, don’t compare India with China. From what I have read, India is democratic-socialist, multi-religious country. That means nothing gets done. Despite that, it has made great progress.

    We have progressed so much over the last two centuries, and at the same time, Europe with its overly socialistic bend is falling back.

  36. Also, how much of that PPP will go away if/when the artificially propped up yuan adjusts? Chinas prosperity is built on being Americas factory. How much will remain once we take it away?

  37. Dell, keep reading the series. It goes all week. I think it is interesting. They aren’t questioning the fact that Xi is increasingly a totalitarian leader. What they are pointing out is that despite the Western belief that totalitarian societies can’t succeed longterm and expand economically, China has been doing it for several decades.

  38. I have read, India is democratic-socialist, multi-religious country. That means nothing gets done.

    Which is what people vote for. To make real progress (like Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, China) you need a dictator to shoot those who would stand in the way. 236 million Indians live in extreme povert 10 million Chinese do. The proof is in the pudding.

  39. “Chinas prosperity is built on being Americas factory.”
    Historically yes, but as China has become a consumer country, it generates its own markets. And there are a lot of consumers in China

  40. ****shudder****
    I’d rather live in india than in China.

    Rhett, it’s not that simple. China has unique makeup. It’s a large homogeneous society. Much more so than any other part of the world.
    And to me, the Chinese appear to be quite subservient to the “man” on the throne- whoever that might be. If you look at Chinese history, you will notice that dynasties have ruled that vast nation for generations. It seems that there wasn’t much of rebellion. This characteristic of Chinese is evident to date and that is why the communist rule has been so successful in China than in any other country- even Russsia/USSR. The Chinese person is obedient of party edicts and has little thought of rebellion. They actually seem to thrive in such environment.
    I doubt China experimented can be successful anywhere else where they value personal freedom and are independent thinkers. Definitely not an example for world to follow.
    And let’s wait and see what happens when more nations see through Chinas hegemonieus behavior and stop trading with it without achieving some sort of balance. The story is not done yet. The BRI – Chinas most ambitious project (economic imperialism) is beginning to face hurdles as nations realize how egregious the terms are for them and how all the benefit is for China.
    I really hope Trump follows through on a China sanctions.

  41. How much can a country progress if its best and brightest citizens continue to flee to the West for higher (or even high school) education and employment?

    “Since the country started opening up in 1978, around 10m Chinese have moved abroad, according to Wang Huiyao of the Centre for China and Globalisation, a think-tank in Beijing. Only India and Russia have a larger diaspora, both built up over a much longer period. The mass exodus of students like those at Lanzhou Oriental is just one part of the story. Since 2001 well over 1m Chinese have become citizens of other countries, most often America; a far larger number have taken up permanent residence abroad, a status often tied to a specific job that may last for years and can turn into citizenship.” https://www.economist.com/special-report/2016/07/07/the-long-march-abroad

  42. Scarlett,

    How much can a country progress if its best and brightest citizens continue to flee to the West for higher (or even high school) education and employment?

    My understanding is these aren’t the best and brightest. A significant number are the children of the rich who didn’t do well on their university entrance exams.

  43. Rhett, that is a current phenomenon. And it totally has to do with the rise of wealthy Chinese. I mentored a Chinese student 2 years ago, who was the daughter of a mom who did lots of business in Southeast Asia and a dad who did lots of business in Africa. This girl was well traveled and wealthy. But the grad students who came in the 80’s, some of whom are still close friends, were the best and the brightest. They represented the hopes and dreams of their families. The thing is, they still keep close ties to China and go back and forth a lot.

  44. The Chinese have a long tradition of sending people out – “overseas Chinese”, they are called. That is why large numbers of people in Myanmmar, Thailad, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc are ethnically Chinese. There is always an expectation that overseas Chinese will maintain ties and loyalty to China.
    I just read that a million Chinese have moved to Africa…

  45. “The Chinese have a long tradition of sending people out – “overseas Chinese”, they are called.”

    Like other repressive regimes, they also have a long tradition of forbidding people to leave.

  46. To some extent. But China is nothing like communist Russia, which tried very hard to keep anyone from even knowing about the West, let alone to visit those countries. There is a lot of freedom of movement in and out of China. Not for dissidents, but they are a tiny fraction of the population.
    If you read Crazy Rich Asians, you will see lots of jokes about mainland Chinese mobbing the best stores in London, Paris, and Singapore.

  47. But China is nothing like communist Russia, which tried very hard to keep anyone from even knowing about the West, let alone to visit those countries.

    Maybe, but when we have Chinese visitors, they generally come with a minder.

  48. “China has unique makeup. It’s a large homogeneous society. ”

    Perhaps more homogeneous than the US, but TMK much less than many other countries. They try to establish homogeneity by moving Han people to areas they’ve added.

  49. I’d rather live in india than in China.

    With a 1 in 4 chance you and your kids would live in extreme poverty?

  50. And to me, the Chinese appear to be quite subservient to the “man” on the throne- whoever that might be.

    Historically the emperors of China ruled with the Mandate of Heaven. So long as things were going well, the emperor could stay on his throne. When things started to go wrong it was time for a new emperor. The Chinese Communist Party rules the same way. As long as the people feel they are doing a good job they can stay in power. When (not if) things go off the rails, it will be time for a new system.


  51. “Maybe, but when we have Chinese visitors, they generally come with a minder.”

    I deal with international students from China every day. We have visitors from China constantly, to give talks, and because we are trying to establish some collaborative ties with schools over there. I have gone to a conference over there, and hung out with Chinese academics and students all day. These are not people who are going to be running around being dissidents, because they just aren’t those sorts of people. But they don’t have minders. I can remember sitting in Nanjing with a bunch of students, asking all about their studies and classes, and being amazed that they just sounded like American students.

    I don’t want to be an apologist for China because I am appalled at some of the changes that have happened in recent years, and because it is certainly an authoritarian government. But I am also shocked at people’s misperceptions of what China is like. This is not Cold War Russia or North Korea. It is a very vibrant, energetic, outward looking country.

  52. India has terrible problems with religious violence, violence against women, extreme poverty, crime, and discrimination based on the caste system. I don’t really want to pick on India in particular, but every country has warts, and I think large, rapidly industrializing countries often have a ton of warts. Brazil is another example.

  53. “They try to establish homogeneity by moving Han people to areas they’ve added.”

    That has definitely been a strategy, but even that doesn’t totally work. Yunnan remains a hodge podge of ethnic minorities, as does the area my daughter is from in Sichuan. And in the Northeast there are lots of ethnic Koreans, one reason why China dances around so much with North Korea. They are petrified that if North Korea collapsed, huge waves of Koreans would enter China. Kind of like they way we fear caravans of poor Hondurans…

  54. Mooshi,
    Per my Indian friends, there is some of that, but most of it is propaganda or hack journalism trying to paint a certain picture of India. Yes there is religious strife, but it seems that it is mostly with Muslims, which happens everywhere.

    Yes poverty is a big issue I guess, but I would rather be poor than be in a golden cage. Chinese who live overseas cannot are always monitored and cannot day a word against current regime for the fear of their extended families being harmed back home.
    Maybe Mooshi is not reading all the scary articles that are published in more internationally focused publications like The economist or the Foreign Policy magazine or even WSJ. The stories are mind blowing. I was really appalled by what China is doing in Australia. Buying politicians, sending a ton of Chinese to settle there and influence policy etc. Same story in other countries in Africa or Asia.

  55. but I would rather be poor than be in a golden cage.

    This isn’t totebag poverty i.e. trying to live in New York on twice the median income. This is $2 a day poverty. I think you’d take the golden cage in a second.

  56. “It is a very vibrant, energetic, outward looking country.”

    That keeps very close tabs on its citizens studying abroad.

    “But those students often bring to campus something else from home: the watchful eyes and occasionally heavy hand of the Chinese government, manifested through its ties to many of the 150-odd chapters of the Chinese Students and Scholars Associations.

    The groups have worked in tandem with Beijing to promote a pro-Chinese agenda and tamp down anti-Chinese speech on Western campuses.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/04/us/chinese-students-western-campuses-china-influence.html

    An American priest I know teaches at a university in Rome that serves seminarians from around the world. ALL of the Chinese students there know that they are under constant surveillance. My Chinese Catholic friends have to show their children’s American passports in order to bring them to Mass when they visit their families in China, because children are not allowed in any churches. It may not be Cold War Russia or North Korea, but it’s a lousy place to live.

  57. India has fastest growing economy, has a robust space program and making advances by leaps and bounds.
    The fee paying Indians are near the top of student force in American colleges. I think they are doing okay and progressing fast. It also has a large middle class, so not everyone is dirt poor.

    Beyond that fact, unlike you who claims to be willing to give up some independence for some security or facilities, inwould need to be truly desperate to live there.

  58. Scarlett, the Confucius Institute is notorious for doing that on campuses. Like they say, every Chinese origin person is potentially an arm of the Chinese apparatus.

  59. “every Chinese origin person is potentially an arm of the Chinese apparatus.”

    How far back does that go? A lot of the people of Chinese descent here trace their local roots to back the days of Sun Yat Sen.

  60. Whoever can be potentially manipulated by Chinese government by threatening their families back home?

  61. Greeley? Huh. I would not have guessed that. Greeley is that place everyone drives through quickly because of the smell.

  62. Except for what RMS says (and I have no personal experience with that), I’d say the patents per capita makes a pretty good indicator of desirable places to live.

  63. Interesting discussion. When things don’t work in the home country, there is often the wanting of a dictatorship and the perceived efficiency that would bring. There was one time when there was a lurch towards dictatorship and the entire country was running scared. However, there was opposition that could not be quelled.
    It is a messy democracy which turns sometimes to the left, sometimes to the right.
    There is religious strife and poverty but in the past twenty years a huge swath of the population has entered the middle class. There continues to be migration because there are just so many people and not good enough opportunities for many of the educated. It will change at some point. There are now voluntarily smaller families, better educational opportunities. Where once overseas populations were seen as the brain drain, they are now regarded as a resource. The progress has certainly not been as fast as China’s but it is there.


  64. The population tipping point in the home country could come sooner. There are quite a few people in the younger generation who don’t want marriage and a family. There are quite a few others with only one child, since having no children is not quite accepted. The ideal is still two kids. My generation is already feeling the impact of caring for the older generation with fewer extended family to share the responsibility and the social structure not having moved to care communities. I honestly have been surprised at this big of a change so fast. In another change, the weddings have gotten grander but the marriages are breaking down faster.

  65. WCE – I saw that link on “top cities rated for tech pop” up on the Facebook page for DD’s university :-)

  66. tcmama — I would really love to find out just how much money the Trumps and the Kushners are getting from The Kingdom.

  67. SSM, not sure how they got a population of 83,000- maybe they included all the students? Census estimate is 58,000. The whole county is 91,000.

  68. Happy to see the Research Triangle on the list.
    Let’s see where DS ends up.
    We need to beef up UNCC and UNC Greensboro. Greensboro/High Point definitely has potential for much more development.

  69. Democrats gain mostly among the wealthiest House districts.

    “Democrats won back the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections thanks to strong gains among the rich. What many pundits have described as a Republican rout in the suburbs is nothing less than the party’s sharp decline among the wealthiest American households.

    Imagine all 435 House districts lined up from richest to poorest according to their 2017 median household income (the latest available data from the Census Bureau), Silicon Valley (CA-18) at one end and South Bronx (NY-15) at the other. Before the 2018 midterms, the richest 15 percent of districts was fairly evenly split between Democrats (38) and Republicans (28), but no more. Sixteen of the thirty-seven seats (so far) flipped by the Democrats are in this strata. In the new 116th Congress, these wealthiest sixty-six districts will be represented by fifty-four Democrats and just ten Republicans (with two races yet to be decided).”

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