Wednesday, 30 July 2014

"I'm a Boy!": Why New Gender-neutral Pronouns Are Moribund

Having recently written about the impotence of words, I find this news, reported by Russia Today, to be very well-timed, indeed. The 2015 edition of the Swedish Dictionary is set to include a gender-neutral pronoun (hen, pronounced, I believe, like the fowl), apparently rather a new word, to be used, if one wants, instead of the Swedish versions of 'he' and 'she'. More specifically, the article reports that:
"In the dictionary, the pronoun will have two uses: for cases when the gender is unknown or irrelevant, or if the information is viewed as irrelevant."
In my aforementioned blog post from earlier this month, I referenced the legendary H. L. Mencken's report in his great book The American Language (a book that is certain to feature again on this blog) of a similar episode in the English (American) language when the word hesh was proposed to mean he-and-she about a hundred years ago. The book contains other such attempts; the word thon (originally meaning yonder in Northern English) and thon's for he-or-she and his-or-her, respectively, for instance. So one may think of the new Swedish pronoun as corresponding to thon.
Notice the two uses of the new Swedish pronoun: the first says that the word is to be used when the gender of the person is unknown, the second that it is to be used when the information is irrelevant. Trans-gender people and individuals fitting into the "third legal gender" introduced in Germany last year would therefore be certain thons. Persons viewing themselves as male or female are thus apt to feel offended if referred to by thon. The presence of persons with one clear gender (i.e. most people) would drive down the use of the new Swedish pronoun. Perhaps down into oblivion. After all, thon was in Webster's New International Dictionary as recently as 1934 (Mencken, p. 460 n.), but who uses it now? Who even remembers it now? does not recognize it.
At least I know I would feel offended if referred to by a word used to indicate (even if only by some small probability) third-gender and trans-gender individuals. This is not because there is anything wrong with those people. There is not. But if people think I have uncommon preferences, it will adversely impact my opportunities in the marriage market. I would think most people reason similarly, so my small "model" above should hold: The presence of men and women and the relative fewness of individuals in-between drive out the use of third-gender or gender-neutral pronouns. The prediction which comes out of this model is clear: languages which have ever had established gendered pronouns will remain that way and never see gender-neutral pronouns; languages with gender-neutral pronouns may evolve into gendered-pronoun languages, but will not necessarily do so.
This is actually a testable hypothesis. The word son from the French language is a gender-neutral pronoun (third-person singular genitive). I don't know Latin, but French comes from Latin, so if Latin had gendered third-person singular genitives, my hypothesis fails. There are many other languages to consult for yet more evidence. This is something I will keep in mind.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Do Immigrants Import Bad Institutions?

One of the best arguments against laxer or no immigration restrictions is that third-world institutions may rub off their flavour on first-world policies. For instance, a person may be interested in how the presence of more immigrants as a share of a state's population impacts that state's general level of "freedom", such as defined by researchers William P. Ruger and Jason Sorens in their "Freedom in the 50 States" project. From their website and from the Migration Policy Institute, I collected data to make a small graph depicting the percentage-point change in immigrants' share of each state's population between 2000 and 2012, and the same state's change in the freedom index between 2001 and 2011 (the years do not match exactly due to limited data availability).

Before proceeding, I should point out that, while data on freedom may not be of much concern to everyone, they should help inform the present case, since changes will reflect what has happened to policy in general. Thus, if nothing jumps out from the data, immigration might not impact policy much. So, without further ado, this is what I found (click to enlarge):
In case the quality is too poor for the graph to be informative, there is a slight tendency for states which have declined in terms of freedom to have had an increase in immigrants' share of total population. But this tendency is slight indeed; Nevada, New Jersey and Maryland are the three points farthest to the right which have seen declines in freedom. Remove them and no trend is visible at all. However, these states also happen to be the ones which have had the greatest increase in immigrants as a share of their populations, so one should not speak with too great certainty.
One might suspect that the origin of the increased share of foreign-borns matters. In Maryland, persons born in Latin America were 40.1 per cent of all foreign-borns in 2012, up from 34 per cent in 2000. The corresponding numbers for Europeans and Asians are 10.5 and 16.8, and 32.5 and 35, respectively (i.e. decreases for both groups). African-born individuals were the only major group to join the Latin Americans among those increasing their shares, being 15.4 per cent in 2012 and 12.1 in 2000. Perhaps there is something fishy about Latin American and African institutions?

However, the share of Latin American-borns in Nevada declined over the same twelve-year period (from 61.4 to 58.2), and Africans' share increased only a little bit (from 1.6 to 2.3). Asian-borns were the big relative gainers, up from 22.9 to 29.1 per cent. New Jersey, the third state to have had much immigration and a sizable decline in freedom, offers further heterogeneity; its biggest changes were a decline in the Europeans' share from 23.9 to 15.9 per cent, and an increase in the Asians' share from 27.8 to 32.1 per cent. The other groups did not change much. More detailed data are available here.
Which leads me to conclude that,  in the main, the thing that is really conspicuous about my graph is that nothing stands out. Now I would be a fool to make any grandiose claims based on this unsophisticated little exercise, but it is some evidence that immigrants' impact is not too great. Increases in shares of the population by several percentage points over just twelve years are not associated with any general changes in Ruger and Sorens' Freedom Index, so maybe fears of imported third-world institutions are overblown?

Friday, 25 July 2014

What Really Causes National Homogeneity?

In recent column, America's favourite jingoist Pat Buchanan laments the lack of national unity in America (Noah Smith adds thoughtful comment, although I disagree with his main point). Now I am a sceptic when it comes to nations. I do not believe they really exist in any moral sense, so when Noah Smith speaks favourably of nationalism of the "being one unified people instead of just a collection of unrelated individuals who happen to live in the same geographical space"-variety, I object that we really are a collection of individuals who happen to live in the same geographical space!

Nations do not make decisions, only individuals make decisions. Is it not a criterion for moral value that one can make a decision, or at any rate could, provided that certain impediments (such as crippling disease or infancy) be overcome? In principle, I can see nothing that could make nations capable of deciding anything. This may not sound very inspiring, but maybe it is the truth? Alex Tabarrok of Marginal Revolution has a timely post on this theme. Thus, "unity" is apt to mean some individuals' treating society like their doll's house, but people plainly are not dolls and have wills of their own.
But this post is not really about the moral value of nations. In his column, Buchanan starts by perpetuating common stereotypes about immigrants (how about his assertion that "millions from Mexico exploited his [George W. Bush's] magnanimity to violate our laws, trample upon our sovereignty, walk into our country and remain here"?) and then proceeds to talk about the "good old days":
"[The immigrants] came later. From 1845-1849, the Irish fleeing the famine. From 1890-1920, the Germans. Then the Italians, Poles, Jews and other Eastern Europeans. Then, immigration was suspended in 1924. 
From 1925 to 1965, the children and grandchildren of those immigrants were assimilated, Americanized. In strong public schools, they were taught our language, literature and history, and celebrated our holidays and heroes. We endured together through the Depression and sacrificed together in World War II and the Cold War. 
By 1960, we had become truly one nation and one people."
And here is Buchanan on the present "mess":
"We are from every continent and country. Nearly 4 in 10 Americans trace their ancestry to Asia, Africa and Latin America. We are a multiracial, multilingual, multicultural society in a world where countless countries are being torn apart over race, religion and roots.
We no longer speak the same language, worship the same God, honor the same heroes or share the same holidays. Christmas and Easter have been privatized. Columbus is reviled. Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee are out of the pantheon. Cesar Chavez is in."
Estimates have it that immigrants' share of the US population is presently around 12.5 per cent, which is well more than a doubling from 1970, but comfortably short of historical peaks around 15 per cent in the late 19th century. So the share of immigrants alone is unlikely to explain Buchanan's perception of increased heterogeneity.

Total per-capita spending on education has increased since 1960, so Buchanan's "strong public schools"-point makes little sense to me, nor do his remarks about "enduring together" a bunch of wars and times of uncertainty; if these events tend to create a sense of unity, it did not happen during the Vietnam War, nor (particularly) in many European allies in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which certainly caused a great deal of discord. Maybe an enemy is required that is clearly evil and worth fighting, but then some other country must suffer under such a tyrant. That is hardly worth it to create "unity".

So if Buchanan is right about heterogeneity being on the rise, he must still be wrong about the causes he suggests. So what else has happened since the 1960's? Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society, the Vietnam War and the Hippie movement, Inflation, Ronald Reagan, Welfare reform and September 11th, 2001 may be the biggest factors. If there is any trend in these things that may be supported by the data, it is one towards a bigger role for government (which increased even under Reagan). If immigrants are to be part of the explanation, maybe this is an indication that heterogeneous populations are (especially?) bad at governance?

On the other hand, I find Buchanan's points to hold up so badly, that maybe the US is actually more homogeneous now than ever before?

Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Futility of Advocacy

Many stories are themed in a way such that two (or more) sides are in a struggle for local or world domination (Star Wars and even Björn Kurtén's terrific award-winner Dance of the Tiger come to mind). I wonder why the "good guys" should get so much credit; what reason is there to think they will act differently if in power? After all, if conditions are a certain way under the "bad guys", that is proof that rulers can make things go bad. Maybe the protest songs are right and successful rulers are all the same?

Of course, absent music, there are also other stories which purport to illustrate the difficulty for putatively powerful men to accomplish change. For instance, Robert Graves' I Claudius and its sequel Claudius the God depict the stuttering Roman emperor as a surprisingly cunning Republican, who nevertheless fails to resurrect his cherished system.
The reason Claudius failed to change the system is that "power" is demanding, a theme I have touched upon earlier on this blog (and here, too). To get it means to be obsequious to the right individuals, in particular to those individuals whose support, if withdrawn, does the most damage to one's continued sway. Those supporters, in turn, probably depend on other individuals, and so on. Everyone in this system has certain things he wants out of those in charge. As long as the dominant wish is not policy that is based upon clear-headed reasoning, this means that advocacy has the odds against it from the beginning.

Advocacy is tricky because all the individuals who exert even the tiniest pressure on politicians - which is to say everyone who adjusts his behaviour to public policy, adjusts his behaviour to others' adjustments to public policy, or votes, or just plain "everyone" - have next to no incentive to find out what good policy really is, and about the same incentive to follow their politicians' actions to make sure they adhere to good policy. This is because doing so will have no positive effects on one's own well-being, since one person is rarely going to be pivotal in collective decision-making. Time is scarce, so the individual had better spend it on things which might have some impact.

Thus, the door is opened to interest groups to control public policy. This does not have to be bad, but compared to a universe in which logic and evidence get full respect, policy will suffer. But even without interest-group pressure, rational biases (such as those explored by Bryan Caplan in his book The Myth of the Rational Voter) can help explain democratic shortcomings. 

There are many issues on which logic and evidence provide rather clear policy recommendations, on many consequentialist as well as deontological grounds. Yet, policy repeatedly fails to respect advice based upon such logic and evidence. For instance, minimum wages destroy bargaining options and kill jobs, compulsory military service (even disregarding its ethical shortcomings) is costlier than is a professional army (or no army) and free trade beats restricted trade.

Imagine devising a really clever argument in favour of, say, free trade. It is so clever that anyone who spends two seconds listening to it is instantly swayed forever. That still does not do away with the fact that it is in the self-interest of very few people to make sure that elected politicians follow good policy, and it still does not do away with the fact that many voters - even while convinced of the general beneficence of free trade - have a special interest against free trade in their particular sector.

The world is usefully thought of as being in equilibrium. It is not all bad, because it means we have a fairly stable business environment and of course many things are hunky dory on Tellus. But to change an equilibrium requires changing the rather mighty pressures which bring it about, and advocacy appears ill-suited at that. Perhaps the best one can do is to vote with one's feet. Maybe seasteading will improve migratory choices?

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Hypotheticals, Again

The venerable Professor Scott Sumner has criticized anti-utilitarian hypotheticals very many time lately, writing, in but one instalment, that:
"If opponents of utilitarianism are forced to come up with implausible examples involving cognitive illusions to make their point, then that suggests to me that utilitarianism is a quite useful system."
I have written here before that the criterion for hypotheticals to be valid is that they not be impossible by the standards of science. So if something is at all possible, it may be safely used in thought experiments.
Harvesting organs from one person in order to give them to many other people, thereby saving many lives on net, is certainly possible on a small scale (it is likely impossible on a large scale due to the fear and concomitant disutility which widespread harvesting would induce). Thus, the utilitarian conclusion must be that a doctor should occasionally kill his patients (particularly if they are unhappy and have no friends). But rather than really tackling this issue, Sumner instead argues for organ markets, which of course would be a lot better than killings, but what can the individual doctor do to make that happen? Moreover, some patients in need of organs might not be able to come up with the necessary funds.
Ignorance of utility-reducing facts stands opposed to Truth, another valuable thing which one may not want to trade off for (just any small amount of) utility. For instance, a man whose wife is unfaithful has been raising a number of kids who are not his own. If the wife tells him, he might be unhappy for the rest of his life. Of course, a consistent policy of honesty and non-cheating may do more for utility, but once these things have happened, utilitarianism seems to sacrifice a great deal of Truth for utility. This leads into the discussion about Robert Nozick's Experience Machine, in which no lived ideas are really true.
In a comment to Professor Sumner's post, I wrote that "homosexuals are a very small fraction of the population and are also quite unpopular in certain parts. One does not have to imagine death camps to make points against utilitarianism - would additional taxes be justified so as to compensate the heterosexual majorities for "putting up with them" (or perhaps discourage the activity)? More lenient sentences for crimes against gays than for crimes against others?" This is another instance of a plainly-not-implausible scenario in which utilitarianism's failure to acknowledge the individual's dignity is exposed. So why slough over it rather than engage in the hypothetical?
Here is another short hypothetical: A person, call him A, finds a perishable good in a place where no-one will set foot in weeks or more (by which time the good has gone bad). Maybe he is hiking in the Himalayas or is in Chernobyl just before the 1986 disaster. Anyway, A could consume the perishable good or leave it for absolutely no-one (it rots or becomes poisoned). A would gain a little bit of utility by consuming the good, and if he abstains (global) utility will remain unchanged. If one considers this an "implausible" hypothetical, try many "minute-wise, hour-foolish" strategies instead and notice the plausible prevalence of sacrificing own utility.
According to utilitarianism (and Ayn Rand's philosophy known as Objectivism), A is behaving immorally if he does not consume the good. Non-consequentialist moral theories, on the other hand, would claim that A's decision lacks any moral importance. The same holds whenever a utility-increasing action is abstained from which would have no impact on anyone else. Now of course there would be a very strong tendency for individuals not to abstain or to be "hour-foolish", but why should that be considered immoral? Is it not their prerogative?
However, the best arguments against utilitarianism come, I believe, from introspection. If a fixed amount of utility in a lifetime truly can be distributed in any way, then perhaps nothing but utility matters, but from introspection I believe many individuals would not be indifferent; for example (1, 1, 1) may be thought better than (103, -50, -50). Perhaps these non-indifferent individuals are wrong. In that case, does it follow that public policy should force them to act differently?
Now it is clear that none of this refutes utilitarianism. But perhaps this blog post manages to show that hypotheticals arguing against utilitarianism need not be extreme or implausible and may anyway be worthy of more respect than they frequently get.

Monday, 21 July 2014

"Independence" for the Scots?

There is presently a lot of talk about the Scottish referendum in September to determine whether it shall become a nation independent from the rest of the UK. I believe the Union has a lot going for it; English-Scottish ties are legion in people's professional and social lives with a lot of intermarrying and cross-border migration, so in those respects two separate nations with concomitant border-control nonsense could only make things worse (though need not necessarily do so; of course). There is in fact nothing too distinctive that separates Scotland from the rest of the Union. It is North Britain, really, and England and Wales are South Britain.
Yet, there are advantages to an increasing number of nations in the world. Since there is only so much surface on Tellus, more nations means smaller nations. Small countries should tend to be more open, because relying on domestic production is more difficult. Also, migration to "competing" political jurisdictions should be easier the smaller is the "own" jurisdiction, encouraging good policies to be adopted.
I can think of a couple of secessions which were followed by neat developments: Hong Kong (though I believe it took a while to really prosper) and Taiwan became much richer than Red China. Finland grew healthily after its independence from then-revolutionary Russia. Other cases are perhaps not so clear, though the amputated countries may not have done much better either (Eritrea, the Republic of Ireland may be examples of secession being followed by relative non-prosperity, although I am not an expert on these countries, particularly not Eritrea).
The new states after the Soviet break-up have been a mixed bag, but I am not sure there is one among them that has fared much worse relative to its initial position. And others have done very well. I know much too little about Pakistan and Bangladesh to be able to judge those cases, but maybe there is a slight tendency for secessions to be followed by positive developments (but are there adverse consequences for the amputated countries which cancel out the good things?).
In the particular case of Scotland, competition with Westminster will likely intensify due to the presence of Diasporas, both south and north of the border, easing transitions for Britons voting with their feet. Technically, a more decentralized Britain could accomplish the same thing sans any secessions, and what has been known as "Devolution" (essentially more "home rule") has meant small steps in this direction. Devolution currently means, as far as I can understand, that Scotland presently gets money to spend from Westminster without having to worry about how to raise it (I think the Edinburgh Parliament can adjust (some?) Scottish tax rates up or down by three percentage points). This is of course an unfortunate arrangement, but again does not technically require secession to be solved.
I am ambivalent about the issue. As I say, the Union has a lot going for it and secession is by no means logically required in order to have some things that would benefit Britons (and indeed everyone) today. Yet, it is possible that secession would be a good way of bringing them about. More radical and real Devolution would be my preference, but if that is off the table I am not sure what to think.
(PS. "Independence" is in quotation marks in the title of this blog post because no Scot would really be independent whichever way the majority votes in September; they will still be forced to pay taxes and obey rules imposed by third-parties which no Scot might choose for himself. The only difference is that the third party would then be a different government.)

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Schumpeter's Calculation and the Present State of Things

In his great book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, Joseph Schumpeter envisioned further economic growth eliminating "want" (an unfortunate choice of word, since wants are really limitless, but what is meant is destitution or something like that) in just a few decades. The kind of economic growth which would achieve this immense feat would have to be in line with the growth numbers which had been seen during the past century or so up to his writing the 1947 edition of the aforementioned book. On page 67, for instance, Schumpeter notes the availability of modern dentistry to workmen which Louis XIV would not have obtained even if he had spent all his wealth. On page 69, Schumpeter continues:
"Now if the system had another run such as it had in the sixty years preceding 1928 and really reached the $1,300 per head of population, it is easy to see that all of the desiderata that have so far been espoused by any social reformers - practically without exception, including even the greater part of the cranks - either would be fulfilled automatically or could be fulfilled without significant interference with the capitalist process. Ample provision for the unemployed in particular would then be not only a tolerable but a light burden."
The emphasis is in the original. According to the BLS's inflation calculator, $1,300 in 1928 is $17,963.80 in 2014, well below even half of the American GDP per capita. So by the Great Austrian's reckoning, spending on transfer payments should be a very low fraction of GDP, indeed. Yet the welfare state consumes a lot more today than it ever has before. For instance, Charles Murray's Coming Apart cites the figure $1,500,000,000,000 (called a trillion and a half in America; I wonder if numbers have ever got this big in the UK, but Britons would call the figure one and a half billion) spent purely on income transfers in America, and throughout the West, total government spending as a share of GDP is typically around 40 per cent.
Now consider the $1.5 billion (or "trillion") figure and relate it to what Schumpeter had to say about eliminating want. It comes to almost $5,000 per American (of whom there are almost 320 million according to the Census Bureau), which is not that much less than one third of the $1,300 per-capita GDP in 1928 that Schumpeter nicely argued would suffice for wants to be eliminated "without significant interference with the capitalist process". But almost a one-third of per-capita GDP being spent on transfers is surely significant interference. Yet there remains poverty, although it is incredibly rare by world standards. What gives?
These facts indicate to me that the welfare state is not really about helping poor people. Moreover, there is the suspicion that there are laws in social science which make it incredibly difficult for welfare programmes to fulfil their ostensible purpose. One such candidate is Director's Law, named after University of Chicago Law Professor and Economist Aaron Director. It is not really a "law" as much as a vast and coherent set of empirical findings, for instance that tuition at fancy universities is often subsidized even though college students typically come from fairly affluent families.
However, there is some logic to Director's "Law", independent of observation. If a welfare programme is designed to help the poorest decile (say), it is plain that this is paid for mostly by persons far richer that that. The poorest decile is not a very useful group for office-seeking politicians, who must seek the approval of many more people than these in order to gain power (besides, people this poor tend not to vote much). Consequently, the winning proposals will have money shifted from fewer people than 90 per cent of the population, and to more people than just the poorest decile. Programmes specifically directed at the poor will tend to go unfunded.
What about expanded programmes? Everyone wants to be a beneficiary of such programmes, so they might easily grow a great deal, but once they have grown enough, the bottom ten per cent may no longer be such a valuable part of whatever coalitions form. Expanded programmes are palpably more attractive to interest groups than are narrower ones, and so those who can organize politically will tend to secure the benefits for themselves. Thus, farmers and other small and non-poor groups appropriate a lot of transfer money by good lobbying. Again, the poor folks lose out.

In addition, the poor may tend to be disadvantaged in utilizing whatever programmes for which they qualify. To get good health care, it helps to be articulate and to already know a bit about the system (for instance, by having friends within it), traits which the poor may well possess, but perhaps not as much as middle-class individuals. Services directed at poor areas may also be at a disadvantage when it comes to attracting talent to provide them. I can imagine good teachers shunning schools in poor areas. Raising the salaries in those schools will attract better talent, but as has been shown, this is politically difficult to do.

Schumpeter's calculations were surely correct and, on merely technical grounds, poverty could be eliminated today even with a much smaller government. It just happens that that is not how politics works.

Friday, 18 July 2014

The Moral Infirmity of Sanctions

When I lived in Edinburgh (in Old Town, though very close to New Town), I enjoyed the occasional stroll across beautiful Princes Street Gardens to buy some Thornton's toffee or ice cream. Suppose the head honchos of Old Town, my part of Edinburgh, went to neighbouring West End one fine morning to beat up some random stranger or maybe to commit theft. As a result, the yobs-in-chief of New Town decide that I may no longer cross Princes Street Gardens for delicious Thornton's treats.

More generally, suppose A does something of putative moral blameworthiness, and that B, who is not immediately affected by the reprehensible act and has not had a hand in its doing, is under A's jurisdiction. B is doing business with C. Now because of A's morally reprehensible act, D tells B, that B is no longer allowed to do business with C. If D nonetheless catches C doing business with B, D can punish C very severely.

This is about what the sanctions enacted on certain Russian firms by the EU and the US do. If these actions sound crazy and unfair (to me and Thornton's and to B and C, respectively), it is because they are. Of course, it will be argued that they are enacted in order to influence important people in Russia to support peace (even though it does not take two to get peace; one will suffice). What the sanctions also accomplish is to reduce the opportunity cost of war. Less trade, less to lose. Certainly, less exchange also means less cross-cultural understanding. The immediate goal of the sanctions may also fail to be realized, since Russians may not direct their displeasure at the Kremlin, but instead lower their opinion of the West (according to the thought experiment above, this would be without justification unless restricted to Western leaders only).
When the effects of an action are theoretically uncertain, some consequentialists are brash and choose to believe that some felicitous mechanisms will dominate, which - since the ends justify the means - indicates to them that unsavoury actions must be countenanced (many revolutionaries belong to this crowd). Other consequentialists recognize the fact that we are too ignorant to tell whether happy results will follow, and conclude that unsavoury actions are clearly to be avoided.
Alas, the brash folks in Washington and Brussels have now besmirched their moral record as far as deontology goes. The individual may only hope that Providence sees to it that the good consequences outweigh the bad ones.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Protection of Self?

The recent unruliness around the Gaza Strip has had several commentators stressing the "need" for the parties involved to "protect themselves" (while hoping for the conflict to end). Presumably, this means that if a political jurisdiction is under attack, it may legitimately protect itself, just like, if someone comes up to me in the street and says "your money or your life", I would have the right to protect myself, by force if necessary (I also have the right to yield - that is my prerogative).
The trouble is that these situations are not at all analogous; if a political jurisdiction attacks another political jurisdiction, there is no way it can defend itself without recklessly endangering many civilians who would have preferred not to resist. Nations do not decide; only individuals can decide whether to resist or not. To reify nations in the way people do when they talk about their right to defend themselves is to try to perpetuate a most unfortunate illusion.
But if nations cannot decide, what is one to do when, seemingly, a collective decision must be reached? If protection is really what one is after, the general answer seems to me to be unconditional surrender. Why would the other side kill one's fellow citizens if they do not fight? Every military conflict would end immediately if at least one party just gave up. The reason some conflicts last a long time therefore has to be that the leaders of the combatants prefer it that way.

Perhaps the terms of unconditional surrender are so bad that fighting is still preferable, but I don't see much evidence in favour of this proposition. Politics appears to me to be about a quest for relative superiority among people, and, as I have explained before, there are reasons to doubt why one territory's getting a different set of leaders should significantly change the internal politics of said territory.

If self-protection is really important, every side in every conflict should surrender now. Alas, the reality is that the leaders in every conflict probably just want the conflict.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Patriotism or Prosperity

Patriotism, defined as a national loyalty which does not extend farther than peaceably wanting what is best for the political jurisdiction of one's passport, is seldom the recipient of any scorn and rarely argued against, yet a well-known result in trade theory clearly indicates that patriotism of precisely this variety makes the world poorer.
The well-known result is that restricting exports of something not widely produced in the rest of the world can benefit the home country, and it is easily explained by analogy to the textbook treatment of monopolies. A monopolistic firm earns profits by restricting supply, so that its reduced level multiplied by the higher price minus costs comes to something more than does the same calculation for higher output, lower price, and a different cost structure.
So, if a country happens to be the sole (or a really big) producer of something that is valued in the rest of the world, its politicians' restricting the country's (competitive) firms' exports to the outside world makes its citizen-"monopolists" richer. But just like consumers would gain more surplus than the monopolist loses in the textbook treatment, if supply and prices were at perfectly competitive levels, the world as a whole loses from this restriction in free trade.
So, if one gets behind the statement that a good dash of patriotism - in the sense of "merely" wanting what is good for the political jurisdiction issuing one's passport - is only sound, one must also stand for this sort of restrictions in trade and concomitant reductions in worldwide prosperity. If this is what it means to be a patriot, then being a patriot means to be against general prosperity. I have never seen a more harmless definition of patriotism anywhere; if this is the kindest definition possible, it stands to reason that patriotism is actually quite pernicious.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

The Level Playing Field

Some trade Economists occasionally argue in favour of a "level playing field" in international trade. What they mean is that, if foreign competitors to domestic industry receive subsidies (say, in the form of an artificially-depressed currency or tax breaks), it is a good idea for the domestic government to have institutions in place to raise the stakes sufficiently to match their actions. Such, I gather, is the idea behind the topical Export-Import Bank, much ballyhooed by the otherwise venerable Larry Summers, which offers credit to American companies looking to export their products.

Summers' tag-line for his Financial Times article reads "a failure to engage with global economic issues is a failure to mount a strong defence". The "engagement"-part is to some extent about the Export-Import Bank, and the "failure to mount a strong defence"-part recurs later when Summers likens its elimination to "unilateral disarmament". The thing is, though, that unilateral military disarmament may well be a good thing! At the very least, Summers should not treat a negatory answer as self-evident; many prominent intellectuals have outlined strong cases for pacifism.
But why should a playing field be level, anyway? My playing field is certainly not level enough for me to compete with, say, mechanized farmers, let alone unmechanized ones. I have neither land nor skills. Yet who wants to give me a subsidy? I am guessing what is really meant by a "level playing field" is that, if I were to take up farming, government-imposed distortions affecting comparative advantages ought to be corrected, if need be by other government-imposed distortions ("corrections").

Of course, in a way I may be able to "compete" with the farmers even absent government assistance, albeit in a rather a more indirect fashion. With my economics (and my side business), I can do my best to create higher value for certain consumers than does marginal farm output; "a good book is worth a meal", as they say. Furthermore, others' engagement in farming means that they raise my chances of success in my field, for while they still compete with me for the favour of the consumer in a world of scarcity, they could have chosen to offer much closer substitutes for my services. Since they did not, I find it somewhat easier to survive in my business. Importantly, I should think I am more able to find competitive business ventures in the absence of costly tax-financed enterprises than in the case in which I have to co-fund them.

Now speaking of costs, Summers actually says that the Export-Import Bank operates "at no cost to the government", but this must be nonsense. Are there no alternative ends for what money the government can obtain? It is true that the Bank has an incredibly low default rate at (recently) less than two per cent of lending, but this means that borrowers should tend to be creditworthy and have no problems raising money elsewhere. The low default rate is also indicative of borrowed funds being mostly in the hands of well-established firms spending resources to gain influence useful in obtaining favourable credit conditions.

If foreign companies are advantaged (by their versions of hidden subsidies from their versions of Export-Import Banks), this means that other foreign markets, operating sans these privileges, find it harder to grow. It follows that American companies are advantaged in these markets. So if my playing field may still be judged to be level with the world's best farmers as per my example above, surely the world market is a level playing field even in the presence of foreign governments' subsidising foreign industries. For a subsidy to industries in one sector is an impediment to the growth of industry in others.

The thing that changes is not the differences between competitors in terms of some being on higher levels than are others. Rather, the overall level for everyone is a bit lower due to the costly rent-seeking activities which entities like the Export-Import Bank encourages.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Brave New Auctions?

A Swedish glass manufacturer has recently held an auction in which heart rates and how much one sweats when viewing an object were measured. It then awarded the object to the person judged by these measures to "like" it the most. This news made me think of topics in my recent review of Professor Richard Layard's old book Happiness. If the goal is to maximize measurable happiness, this seems to me to be the way to go. It also seems to me to be a profoundly bad idea for whole societies to adopt (except on this small-scale and voluntary basis).

In my aforementioned review, I did not touch upon a critique of utility (as well as of happiness) due (as many other profound insights) to the late Robert Nozick, but it fits well here. The critique goes as follows: what if some person is found to have intense positive feelings about a great many things, even after already possessing a great deal of wealth? Such a person would be treated like a god in a society run by the auction's principles, exactly like the Nozickean Utility Monster.

A society run along these principles would neglect every individual (even if it happens to be every individual bar one) who cannot muster the same positive feelings as can the utility monster. This of course violates the dignity due to the individual and his rightfully obtained property. Imagine going shopping only to find the clerk reluctantly handing out your favourite breakfast cereal to a needy individual whom you would immediately outbid in a standard auction.

Fortunately, the chances of the emotion-based auction's principles actually being implemented as legislation are low. This is because objects are costly to produce and it plainly pays more to produce them for those most willing to pay (although a high willingness to pay would probably overlap very frequently with a great intensity of positive feeling). The system would quite palpably be commercially inferior to a vast array of alternatives, and the stationary bandits in charge of nations care a lot about commercial success.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Pricing away the Braess Paradox?

Here is an interesting "commons"-type problem: Imagine that it takes one hour to travel on Route 1 between Point A and Point B, and that the road goes via the fair town of Middlemarch (from George Eliot's eponymous novel), in a way such that the segment A-Middlemarch takes 40 minutes and Middlemarch-B takes 20 minutes if fewer than Y motorists travel on it, and 30 minutes otherwise. There is an alternate road, Route 2, which goes between Points A and B via nearby Coketown (from Charles Dickens' Hard Times), where the segment A-Coketown takes 20 minutes if fewer than Y motorists choose it and 30 minutes otherwise, and segment Coketown-B takes 40 minutes regardless. In total, there are fewer than 2Y potential motorists who could travel between Points A and B.

The individual motorist makes up his mind thusly: "If more motorists are likely to take Route 1 when I want to travel, I choose Route 2 to save on time, otherwise I choose Route 1." Since we are all individuals, the outcome is that travelling from Point A to Point B takes one hour. The situation is illustrated below (click to enlarge).

Now Coketown and Middlemarch are fairly close to one another, and an expressway is constructed between them which takes only five minutes to drive, so that one can combine the segments from the two routes in novel ways. What is the outcome with respect to time it takes to travel between Points A and B? The answer is that the new road, an option which nobody is forced to take, lengthens the average travel time by five minutes, from one hour to one hour and five minutes!
Queer as this sounds, it is perfectly logical. This is because the longest time it takes to drive the 20X-segments is 30 minutes, which is always less than the alternative, 40-minute, segments. Consequently, individuals are always better off driving on the 20X segments. Traffic on the 40-minute segments will die completely.
I wish I could take credit for this fun application of strategic behaviour, but it is actually a fairly well-known phenomenon referred to as the Braess Paradox, whose possibility was first proved by German mathematician Dietrich Braess and I can imagine many people have written about it before. However, since I have not seen the example in a long while, I thought I would share it here.
A question that remains is how common the Braess Paradox is in the real world. Notice that a properly set toll for using the Middlemarch-Coketown expressway will ameliorate the situation; the motorist then chooses, as before, between a 40-minute segment or a 20X-minute one plus the five-minute drive on the expressway, and takes the 40-minute segment if the time saved is valued at less than the toll.
Interestingly, if the motorist's decision happens to push the time it takes to drive the 20X-minute segment down to 20 minutes, other motorists are willing to pay much more for the expressway, since it now saves ten minutes more of their time. A high-enough toll that makes just fewer than Y motorists take the 20X-minute segments therefore seems to be optimal in this case: those motorists drive between Points A and B in 45 minutes and the other motorists in one hour. Of course, if a lower toll turns out to bring in more revenue, this situation will not arise, but it is possible. In conclusion, even more choice (so that the road's owner may charge people for using it) may lead to improved outcomes; choice in moderation (no toll but an expressway) is bad.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Happy, Pappy?

In a book brimming with interesting findings and lines of research, Professor Richard Layard of the London School of Economics sadly offers a travesty of the utilitarian case for happiness. His book, Happiness: Lessons from a New Science, is appallingly tendentious, especially on philosophy. I don't recall when I last read a case for anything that so poorly represented opposing arguments. The strange thing is that I still do not regret reading it, even though, ironically, it was far from a happy experience. I will deal with an assortment of nit-picks before I get to my substantial criticisms, which concern philosophy.

Picked Nits
The case for happiness which Layard presents is insufficiently dynamic. He argues that more wealth is unlikely to make the happiest among us substantially happier, and that "we" should therefore focus our energies not on production but on softer ends, such as leisure. However, if maximal happiness is truly the goal (which I will contend below that it is not), it would make a lot more sense to move quickly now to take away a lot of unhappiness and thereby create a much-improved position into which our descendants are born. For instance, on the issue of immigration, Layard opines against it on the grounds that stable communities promote happiness. But if anyone were free to move anywhere, communities would stabilize over time, just like they stabilize within closed countries. Even if that took a couple of generations, I don't see how anyone could doubt that the "happiness" gain to the immigrants today and their descendants is vast enough to defeat any other arrangement. Similar cases could be made that more work now can help produce innovations in health care which reduce misery tomorrow.

Layard is of the respectable opinion that the marginal utility of the millionth dollar of wealth is lower for a millionaire than the marginal utility of the first dollar is for someone of less wealth, but talks about it as though it were a well-established truth. In fact, his case is rather weak. On page 51, he writes that survey research "confirms [his] belief" and for a big part of his evidence refers his readers to an online annexe on the measurability of happiness, but when I go there to look, the relevant section (p. 17) is blank, but for an annoying note reading "[TO COME.]", this on a page which was last updated in 2005. Busy decade? As I have argued before, why can it not be that a millionaire decides to try to get rich simply because the millionth dollar gives more happiness to him than even the first dollar does to persons of more conventional wealth? We are nowhere near being able to compare "happiness" across individuals and utility is yet more difficult (see below for a distinction between happiness and utility).

I am left with the impression that Layard contradicts himself when he laments the "commonplace" maximizer's fallacy of focusing too much on tomorrow while agreeing with behavioural economists in their concerns that people are insufficiently forward-looking. Are these just different groups of people? Who has the right priorities? Elsewhere, in a hapless lapse of judgement, he refers to the existence of positional goods and fashions as indicative that individuals' preferences change (p. 139), when every economist should know the ease with which one can have stable preferences which incorporate social concerns: e.g. a utility function can be written which gives utility only when consumption of some good is above average.

Before proceeding to more substantial criticisms, it is worth pointing out that those respectful of public choice will be annoyed by Layard's assertions, whenever he talks about policies with which he is in agreement, that they are in place because thoughtful politicians have realized that they increase happiness. Rather, it may be that they are in place because politicians have gained from this legislation. If they should happen to be socially valuable, that is an incidental by-product of the politicians' self-interest (of course, this is not to say that most policies are wrong-headed, only that Layard's writing will seem naïve to students of public choice).

More Substantial Critique
"Happiness", first of all, is a poorly chosen word for a concept which is to permeate a whole book. it is easy to show that many people care about other things beside happiness, and consequently that Layard's assertion that, "unlike all other goals, [that of happiness] is self-evidently good" (p. 113). In a terrific meditation on happiness, Robert Nozick, in his book The Examined Life, asks whether one is indifferent as to when one's happiness comes over a life-time of fixed length, provided that the quantity of happiness is unchanged under any stream. Many people I have asked seem not to be indifferent, which sufficiently shows that individuals care about other things beside happiness.

Now I tried to do the same thing as did Nozick with utility rather than happiness on this blog last month, but that is a lot more difficult, because utility is what our actions strive to achieve. Had Layard substituted utility for happiness, it would have been harder to argue against his thesis. But he did not, so it is not.

However, even if Layard had written about utility rather than happiness, it is still easy enough to argue against his thesis. Remarkably, he must be familiar with some famous arguments, as he briefly mentions some of them in the book, but they seem somehow not to have registered with him, for he mostly sloughs over them like trivialities. The book would not have left me with this impression had it given fairer hearing to opposing arguments. Case in point: As noted, Layard believes more happiness (or utility, as I will now call it) is self-evidently good. In a foot note on page 113, he takes care to highlight that he wants maximum "good feeling" rather than "desires" (which may result in long-run unhappiness), but then Layard must tell us what causes "good feeling". My bet is that he will pick things which are not "self-evidently good" and leave out stuff which some people feel should be in.

Layard's own values are imposed when he talks about "fairness" and he argues that poor folks ought to have greater weights when policies are evaluated according to their effects on happiness. This already shows that the maximal attainment of happiness is not "self-evidently good". Relatedly, Layard sloughs off Nozick's brilliant example of the Experience Machine on the grounds that "it is a weak test case" because it is "far removed from our reality" (p. 115). All assertion and no argument. On the contrary, engaging in thought experiments of this kind is extremely rewarding. The thought experiment is that the Experience Machine will improve upon our happiness, but Layard feebly tries to change the terms ("maybe the machine could not be trusted?") rather than engage with the argument.

Later, Layard handles the issue of consequentialism really badly, claiming misunderstandings by critics of consequentialism because the action is itself factored into the consequences (pp. 119-120). By this criterion, Layard would have to argue that, in a world of racists, a judge convinced of the innocence of a differently-coloured man should still sentence him to death since failure to do so will likely result in unruliness and fatal street-violence by indignant bigots. Now some consequentialists bite the bullet and claim this is what should happen, but it is hardly uncontroversial and Layard does not even mention this consequence of his ethics. Layard must argue for the death of just one man to save others, for "[p]ublic policy has to deal with human nature as it is" (p. 153).

To repeat, this is a really terrible thesis set in a book of many interesting findings. Time after time, Layard lays out a poor, easily-destroyed case for opposing views, and then proceeds to the façile task of doing so. Because the negatives of this book form such a crucial part of its overall thesis, it is unavoidable that the book as a whole must be regarded as a bad one. This is unfortunate because it is also possible to greatly enjoy its many interesting presentations, such as the evolution of happiness within many countries, or its erudite exposition on anti-depressant drugs. To read this book is like searching for pearls in the Augean stables before Heracles rerouted the rivers to clean them. Some of the pearls are extremely valuable, so it will be well worth it for many people, but they should be warned, for the big thesis represents the accumulated filth of thirty years of unhemmed bovine excretory practices.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

The Role of Social Science in Moral Philosophy

EconLog's wise Bryan Caplan had a few interesting thoughts on hypotheticals while I was travelling recently (here and here). Like him, I believe hypotheticals are of vital importance to understanding the world in situations in which reality is too complex for understanding to be reached in any other way. This post is to clarify one point of contention which I believe prevents sound thinking on the issue, namely when "obviously unreal" assumptions may be used in a thought experiment. In short, the assumptions must not themselves imply logical contradictions, or imply other things which make them impossible or prevent an assumed outcome from being reached.
Hypotheticals are to be used when they establish logically equivalent or near-equivalent scenarios in which morally (im)permissible courses of action are more easily seen. For example, if it is permissible for two consenting homosexuals to live together in a romantic relationship because they both so desire, why is it not permissible for two people to engage in a business transaction which they both desire? This example serves to isolate the aspect of consent. To argue against the implication that the business transaction should still be subject to regulation while the former should not - or that the former should be subject to the same set of regulations - requires that some aspect other than the one of consent be found which may differ between the cases.

However, hypotheticals must not violate the laws of logic or of social science (or any other established set of laws - i.e. natural laws as opposed to legislation). Just like one cannot assume that it neither rains nor does not rain (for one of them must be true), one must not assume things that are known to violate laws of science, social or natural. For example, it is not permissible to reason that, since the "dole" (or "resources") is available to anyone, all have a moral right to be fed by it sans working. This is in error because it requires that scarcity not be a feature of the world, but scarcity is an established fact of economics (and of commonsense, really). Incidentally, this is a problem with positive rights in general. Similarly, one cannot argue that prices in markets are more or less "just" (except for fraud), due to the workings of supply and demand.

If the last point is not clear, here is another example: Some might reason that it is permissible to fend off threatening individuals such as armed robbers by use of force even though resultant stray bullets may hit innocent persons, and that, by analogy, it is permissible to join the cause of some freedom fighter and use force - which could spill over unto innocent civilians - in order to remove a (sufficiently) bloodthirsty tyrant. However, as I have argued many times before on this blog (see, for instance, here, here or here, but here for some doubts), it may be a fact of social science that political outcomes are fairly robust because maximizing leaders tend to be sensitive to the underlying conditions of the political jurisdiction and are therefore required to pursue a particular set of policies. If so, the reasoning by analogy is false: joining the revolution is not permissible because nothing comes out of the revolution except more of the same and endangering innocent civilians is thus the only effect of the action.

Sometimes, there is no knowledge about whether the premises of hypothetical examples violate laws or not, and sometimes - as in the aforementioned example - the evidence is a little short of conclusive. Here, an example is offered by John Rawls' innovative Theory of Justice, which asks us to imagine ourselves behind a veil of ignorance where we do not know which position we are to take in society. I would say that we do not choose into which circumstances we are born (which maybe comes sufficiently close to Rawls' premises), but, on the other hand, perhaps the reincarnationists are right and those circumstances are rewards or punishments for what we did in previous lives (though maybe one did not choose before the first life?)? Or maybe we were "spirits" but forgot about it at birth?

One may wonder what happens to hypotheticals if social science becomes so advanced that its laws expand to include (almost) any social phenomenon. I believe such developments will never reach a stage in which accurate predictions can be made, but if society were found to function deterministically, no hypotheticals regarding society-wide phenomena would be allowed. However, hypotheticals would and should still be used to inform individuals of their morally optimal behaviour.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

The Impotence of Words

It is intriguing that the noble Daniel Klein is pursuing a quest to reclaim the original, anti- rather than pro-government, use of the word "liberal", but he annoys me when he says, in an interview, that the word is "powerful". What evidence is there for this proposition? It is used in the original sense, or in a sense somewhat close to the original one, in countries like France and Sweden, whereas in the US it has, of course, acquired in many ways the opposite meaning. To define "liberal" as pro-welfare state is profoundly illogical to me and I wish Klein luck in his endeavour, but since France and Sweden are arguably quite a bit less liberal (in the classical sense) than the US, why would Klein claim the word is "powerful"? It has not made its original users more market orientated.

Casual evidence from other contexts suggests to me that words mean very little, indeed. In some countries, such as Finland and Iran, the dominant language does not distinguish between the sexes in its pronouns. H. L. Mencken's wonderful The American Language tells me (in a footnote on p. 175) that the third-person pronoun hesh was suggested in America around a hundred years ago to mean "he or she" in everyday usage. It evidently never took off, but that is how Finnish and Farsi work. So one way of estimating the effect of words on society is to look at how the gender-neutrality of pronouns might result in differences in how men and women behave in these countries compared to comparable ones. If language impacts how one views the world - as claimed by the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis - men and women speaking Farsi and Finnish should behave differently than those speaking, say, English or French.

I strongly doubt the differences are significant here, if they exist at all; for instance, while women make up a high 40 per cent of the members of the Finnish parliament, the corresponding figure for Sweden is almost 45 per cent. Wikigender reports that the share of female members of corporate boards is also lower in Finland than it is in Sweden. Now there are certainly also studies indicating that gendered pronouns do influence how people think. However, to the best of my knowledge, the studies which support the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis are of the variety that they ask subjects to read a text in which the gendered pronoun is prominent, then ask about career prospects, alternatively ask whether a man or a woman comes to mind.

Frankly, I cannot see why anyone would take these things too seriously. They offer some evidence, but it is very weak. If the image of a man, rather than that of a woman, comes to mind when using the pronoun "he" generically, and this has lasting consequences for one's attitudes or career choices or anything else of actual substance, then I believe one is so deficient in ability to reflect and make important life decisions that one simply does not exist; I cannot believe any human is that stupid. I hasten to add that this is far from my field and readers familiar with more evidence than this are welcome to contribute in the comments.

There are, of course, some studies in economics which look at attitudes and language. Guido Tabellini has claimed that usage of the second-person singular pronoun, rather than the plural, to address others, as well as capitalization of the word "I", are related to levels of respect, and a recent article in the Journal of Law and Economics links gendered pronouns to lower levels of maternity leave, but it seems to be sensitive to the inclusion or absence of just one or two countries, and neither of these articles includes - as far as I can recall - very many countries.

Some words begin to take on a pejorative meaning, such as nigger, cracker, kike and red-skin. Those may be powerful (although whether decent folks should avoid them is another issue - their using them might conceivably destroy their evil power?), but in these cases other words take on the original meaning of the pejoratives, so that what is really meant can still be expressed. I like the word liberal in its original sense and wish Klein and associates every bit of luck as I tend to use liberal to mean "small government". However, I would like to see some good evidence that the word is really as powerful as Klein claimed.
HT: Econlog's David R. Henderson

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The 1964 Civil Rights Act

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a piece of legislation which ended discriminatory procedures for voting applications and made it illegal for local (i.e. state and municipal) governments, and agencies receiving federal funds, to deny access to public facilities because of race and to use race as a criterion for employment, respectively. A lot of what ended the Jim Crow laws was in this act. The act also granted positive rights such as racial segregation in schools and places of work, content with which some people will legitimately take issue (e.g. "why not just abolish mandatory discrimination rather than also mandate specific hiring practices"?).

I don't expect any respected and coherent philosophy or social science to deplore the greater ease of voting (except insofar as poor people may be less informed about policy and blacks are poorer than are whites, and except also for the possibility that voting may not actually change policy outcomes) and the greater possibilities for blacks to use public resources. While I do not personally care about my right to vote, the end of any mandatory discrimination is certainly something I celebrate. As noted, one may take issue with remaining bits of the Act.

However, if one compares the Black-White income gap over time, one finds that it was closing much faster during the several years leading up to the Act than it was during the several years after its implementation. Why this is so is a great puzzle. Alas, I have no link to data, but I believe Census statistics will back me up if anyone cares to search for sources. The aforementioned mandated hiring practices may absolutely encourage tokenism, and labour-market nonsense such as minimum wage legislation will hurt blacks disproportionately more than they hurt whites. However, I know of no really good explanation for the dismal performance of African Americans. (The minimum wage was introduced in 1933 as part of the Recovery Act and so is not immediately connected to the income gap, but I believe it reached its historical all-time high in constant dollars in the late 1960's and remained quite high long thereafter, which is why I include it among "small" explanations.)

These trends suggest to me that the Act could not have been an important step towards race equality. What gargantuan affliction would have happened to the black population of the US that was prevented because of the Act? If anything, its being passed in a democracy is indicative that at least popular opinion may have become friendlier to the racial minority. A great calamity would have had to have been avoided, because absent that, surely progress should have sped up rather than slowed down.

Not knowing what caused the slow-down in progress, I am also at a loss to suggest remedies. Not that one should expect groups to have similar outcomes, but I have never seen anything to suggest to me that blacks should have any inherent incapacity to do as well as do whites. The best I can do is to continue to favour abolition of minimum wage legislation and special favours directed to blacks, and to support market competition. Another thing to do is to legalize the drug trade, which is presently ensuring the imprisonment of many, many blacks while denying individuals the right to do what they want to themselves.

Those suggestions are mostly in a classical liberal direction. One authoritarian measure which would surely work if it were ever implemented is the enforcement of interracial marriages and production of "mixed" children. That way, there would no longer be any distinguishing features between races and consequently no more income gap. However, equality would only be achieved rather slowly as many non-mixed persons would take a long time to die off. If I am right about the unpalatability of many parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, maybe this could be a proper Act for this year?