April 30, 2005

Police Murders are More Dangerous to Society

Posted by TMLutas

Michael Williams muses on a huge investigation he ran into over a LAX police officer's slaying. He's wondering if all that fuss is worth it. I believe it is.

Criminals generally understand that if they kill a police officer, their chance of making it alive to trial just dropped considerably. Their chance of getting a fair trial went way down as well. Their chance of surviving prison is not too good either. All of these things are simple reality but what is the effect on our society?

Criminals, if they were as unafraid of killing police as they are of killing anybody else, would simply target police with a terror campaign just like they target everybody else. Without police protection, chances are that wide areas of municipalities, even entire municipalities, could realistically be taken over by criminal gangs. Criminals do not do this in the main because they fear the consequences of killing police officers, and rightly so. This reduces the number of times that we have to impose martial law on municipalities because they no longer are able to provide a republican form of government.

The prohibition on police murders puts the criminal class perpetually on defense. That makes their depredations ultimately manageable by local civil authorities. No matter how good a criminal organization becomes, the continued existence of the police spells its eventual doom.

I wonder how often criminals kill police in latin american countries that often slip into martial law. I also wonder if police there impose the same sort of "don't ever kill a cop" rules on the criminal class in their country.

April 29, 2005

Apple Tiger: launchd

Posted by TMLutas

I'm going through Ars Technica's Tiger review. The first thing that surprised me (in a good way) shows up on page 5, launchd. This really shows the benefits of Apple arrogance and anal retentiveness as applied to longstanding Unix world problems.

Launchd does just that, it manages startup of the various system services in a unified fashion instead of the "patch on top of patch" system that Unix has lived with for decades. As somebody else described it late last year "Launchd is kinda init, mach_init, xinetd, cron, System Starter (seems very nice indeed, drop XML files into a dir saying I want to receive network connects on this port, start at this time, when load is so low etc)". Launchd is represented in the article as an open source project but I couldn't find it. It should be available as part of Darwin, though so the fact that it's not listed separately is not very important.

The absolute arrogance of thinking that you can swim against the tide and change something that basic and functional to the operation of Unix and get enough people to go along with you is breathtaking. It's also a core differentiator and competitive advantage of Apple.

April 28, 2005

Stratfor Predicts PRC Crash

Posted by TMLutas

Out of e-mail, Stratfor's weekly freebie notes that the PRC is signalling that it won't be able to make good on its WTO commitments to open up its banking sector starting in 2007.

The revelation came April 27, when a China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) official said leaders are examining ways to protect the country's banking sector against foreign competition, while -- at least for now -- still honoring its commitments under the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Though Shi Jiliang, the vice chairman of the CBRC, was careful to emphasize that China's WTO commitments are not in doubt, his discussion of achieving "an appropriate level of protection for Chinese banks" and taking efforts to "reduce excessive competition between foreign and Chinese banks" could hardly be lost on Beijing-watchers waiting for the government -- which faces a crisis of legitimacy on multiple levels -- to signal its next move.

The bad loan portfolio flowing from state-owned government banks to is, according to Stratfor, between 1/3 and 2/3 of the PRC's GDP of $1.5 trillion (which is the best I can figure is the PRC's current exchange rate GDP). That means that keeping the PRC elite on top of their powder keg society has put them in the hole somewhere between USD 500 to USD 1000 billion.

If they sold off their entire USD currency reserves, they might be able to cover their bad debts but even then, they wouldn't have a banking sector left. That means a hard crash, mass unemployment (those SOE behemoths are still losing money hand over fist and would die without regular loans that nobody expects to them to pay back), and a hard crash that leads to the classic fragmentation/warlord scenario.

Nobody wants the PRC to hit a hard crash because nobody really wants to bet that the resulting warlords running splinters of China are all going to be reasonable about whatever nukes fall into their hands. I think, therefore, that Stratfor's a bit on the pessimistic side. People will throw them a lifeline, extend their WTO transition, lend them money, whatever it takes to avoid the possibility of a nut with a nuke.

We're often reading stories about how this or that government is willing to tariff the PRC in order to keep out their "unfair" competition. It's useful to read about it coming from the other side too.

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April 27, 2005

Something Stinks in the UNSCAM Investigation

Posted by TMLutas

Why have two principal investigators resigned on principle? Why have their resignations been characterized in segments of the MSM as being resignations because their work was complete?

Something stinks. No matter where you stand on the UN generally, the UNSCAM scandal is a huge blot on the organization's reputation and with investigators resigning because they were not permitted to investigate properly, things seem to be taking a turn for the worse.

April 26, 2005

Russia Implosion Survey

Posted by TMLutas

It seems like the Russians themselves fear national disintegration as a major issue for them. In other words, it's not just me. While a large percentage think that there are outside forces at work, trying to promote Russia's disintegration, less than 1% of the 52% who identified a cause of disintegration said that "western influence, external influence" will be the actual cause of the disintegration that they fear is approaching. Social problems/social inequality is the top issue (9%) followed by economic strife and war/peace issues (both 7%).

It's a remarkably pessimistic sentiment. Fortunately, we're not likely looking at a renewal of external scapegoating anytime soon as >1% is just not politically useful to even the most dedicated demagogues.

Letter to the Paper ILIII

Posted by TMLutas

Publius Pundit is puzzled by Putin mourning the Soviet Union This isn't the first time that Putin has done it. It's also not surprising that he is doing it as Putin is failing at the most important task he has, finding a proper replacement for the USSR in the imagination of the people. Below is what I put in comments on the thread.

For good or ill (and in my opinion almost entirely ill) the USSR was the image that most Russians had of their civic identity and. You take it away and the replacement had better be at least as good.

Today's Russia isn't as good for civic identity purposes. What's inspiring about it? Why is it worth dying for? It's a new flag that echoes but does not bring back their czarist past. It's a recycled Soviet anthem with new words that seeks to identify with ancient peasant wisdom and territorial grandiosity (see the words). Unfortunately for Russia, ancient peasent wisdom isn't going to cut it on its own and territorial grandiosity is just setting yourself up for humiliation. Russia is a brand new political system, without any cultural roots that could be changed at any time.

What Putin is mourning, IMO, is that hollowness at the core of Russia today. A better economy will not cure this problem, nor will political liberty because while political liberty is an animating force worth dying for, it is not in the russian social matrix, at least not for enough people to create a self-sustaining cultural template.

The only cure is to create that self-sustaining template and, in the meantime, dodge the bullet of totalitarian/authoritarian shortcuts.

April 25, 2005

Waiting for Papal Heraldry

Posted by TMLutas

Pope Benedict's web page is up. In contrast with his predecessors his coat of arms has not been put up yet. No doubt, they're still working on it. This is a sign that it's not something he's just going to slap together just so his stuff can be differentiated from other popes' writings and objects. When Pope John Paul II picked a coat of arms whose saliant feature was a big M for Mary on it, it really meant something, that he was going to elevate Mary and push forward her style of femininity as a model for women. It's quite likely that Pope Benedict XVI is considering exactly that sort of symbology as well, we'll see. It's just another of those objective signs to look out for to see where this Pope is heading.

April 24, 2005

Checking Barnett

Posted by TMLutas

In a recent roundup Dr. Barnett, of Pentagon's New Map fame, reiterated his pessimism on the election of Benedict XVI

That's why my discomfort over Benedict as pope remains: to me, it's totally a fear-the-Gap call--a circling the Core wagons mentality displayed. Catholicism isn't all about "us" anymore, and hasn't been for a very long time. I had a bit in BFA I thought I would have to rewrite with John Paul's death. Now I just need to jack up the wording to make it more pointed.

I think that Benedict is going to be a very good transitional Pope, one that is going to make the 1st "Southern" or "Gap" pope much more effective when he's finally elected. Right now, the College is disproportionately concentrated in historic dioceses that have lost their faithful but not the tradition that a red hat goes to the local bishop. That has to get fixed.

As someone who has been the doctrinal enforcer for JP II for so long, Benedict is going to be able to shift the red hats around to a far greater extent without protest than someone from the South/Gap would. Nobody's going to worry that Benedict is going to revive liberation theology by sprinkling Latin America with new cardinals. There might be more concern if it were a pope from that region doing it. Suspicion of region favoritism is not a good way to maintain peace in the College.

So here we have an objective measure, something that you don't need to be an insider to see. If Benedict is truly a "circle the wagons" pope then he's not going to increase the representation of Africa/Asia/Latin America. If he isn't, he'll do it in order to realign power in the hierarchy with people in the pews and make a transition so that the next time around, the Conclave will have an awful lot more diversity and the old European power bloc will be weakened.

There are likely other objective measures to watch for but this is a big one. If the College simply shifts out of eurocentricity under Benedict XVI and becomes more distributed, it will be a worthwhile papacy as far as Gap progress is concerned.

What Would you E-mail the Pope?

Posted by TMLutas

Pope Benedict XVI has email (benedictxvi@vatican.va). So what would you write to the Pope? Would it be a request, a complaint, a joke? Does it matter how you can reach him? Does papal e-mail make a difference at all?

I have to confess that it does make a difference for me. It makes me much less reluctant to contact Rome. If I were to use the address, it would most likely be in the form of a cc: or bcc: in the case of something that I felt strongly about. I'd also probably send him an e-card for his birthday and when he inevitably has health problems, a get well card.

I don't delude myself that he answers all his e-mail personally. Heads of state have staff for that. I'm sure that like everybody else at that level, he gets exceptional pieces forwarded to him and summaries of ordinary correspondence that got shuffled off to the appropriate subordinate (or /dev/null for the wacky stuff).

I really hadn't thought of papal e-mail until I read that Benedict XVI has it. It very much modernizes and humanizes the man in my eyes. I wonder how many other techno-geeks are thinking the same thing?

HT: Catholic Light

April 23, 2005

Adding to NAFTA

Posted by TMLutas

What if, instead of waiting for Latin America to get its act together and sign a hemisphere-wide free trade treaty, the US were to offer NAFTA entry to it's next closest neighbor after Canada and Mexico? That neighbor isn't who you think, though, it's Russia.

In one fell swoop, the bloc calculations of most of the world's diplomats would be overturned. Russia would be immeasurably strengthened vis a vis the EU. The PRC would have to give up any dreams of moving north into Siberia. Best of all, the Russian psyche would be stroked in a way that is likely to be very healthy for world peace. Instead of viewing themselves as being encircled, they become part of a huge economic bloc where their huge resources would give them a large say in what goes on but the mostly economic form of the relationship means that they won't have to worry about being swallowed up politically. This is something that EU membership negotiations would run into and it would be a formidable problem.

The very idea would draw huge controversy on a scale that would be reminiscent of "Seward's Folly" the purchase of Alaska. In fact, it would probably dwarf it. The results, however, would likely be similarly beneficial in the long term. In fact, it would probably turn positive even quicker than Alaska because of the purely economic nature of this new relationship.

Our nearest non-contiguous neighbor deserves at least as much consideration as Honduras, Belize, or Paraguay as a potential free trade partner and realistically a great deal more. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be getting it. That's a real pity.

Drawing Catholic Maps

Posted by TMLutas

I'm a great fan of Thomas PM Barnett and I think that his idea of drawing Gap and Core maps are very useful in analyzing the political and economic world. In the case of politics and economics, the maps are very congruent. Generally political connectivity and economic connectivity go hand in hand.

Not everything follows the same map lines. Religion can draw the same sort of map, where thriving areas and challenged areas are marked out all over the globe. The maps can be very different even inside a faith. As far as roman catholics are concerned, Chicago is chock full of churches, so many that some must be weeded out. They are too dense on the ground in some spots. For Romanian Byzantine Catholics, the metropolitan map looks very different with two parishes in Aurora, a parish in E. Chicago, and only a lone mission up on Fullerton inside the city proper.

Taking this insight into the Church in general, the election of a German cardinal takes on a different cast. Where is Germany today in the map of the Catholic Church? Is it inside the Core? Is it inside the Gap? is it in a seam state between the two?

Certainly, the infrastructure is there. There are hierarchs galore but not too many actual people sitting in the pews on Sunday. There aren't all that many vocations either, as far as I can tell. A vibrant, powerful church in Germany is simply not a reality today. It would be interesting to know how much of the FRG is considered "mission territory" today.

It would be entirely proper if some of the European cardinals are simply not replaced when they pass away or retire, leaving their seats vacant. The red hats can go to areas where there are more faithful, where the Church has been more successful. This is not likely to be monitored much in the international press but it would signal a realignment of power inside the Church to better reflect reality and would also increase the chance that the next conclave picks a pope that is entirely out of Europe.

The press will notice when they tote up the red hats and find that there aren't as many europeans any more and will trumpet the news around the world. If we're a bit more observant, we can do better than that.

Doing Important Business

Posted by TMLutas

Ken Salazar believes that we shouldn't delay important business in the Senate by talking about judges that are controversial and will be filibustered. I think it's disingenuous but there's a legitimate point buried in there somewhere. The Senate is not normally a 24/7 shop. Simply add an hour on to Senate operating hours for every hour the Senate debates judges. That way the Senate will not overly delay other business by considering judges. If there were a shred of legitimate concern in this complaint, this measure would relieve it. I don't think, in the real world, that anybody on the left would be particularly happy if this compromise were offered.

Sovereignty Contraditictions

Posted by TMLutas

Fareed Zakharia spots a problem with conservative defenses of sovereignty. They are generally political in nature and ignore the economic sovereignty compromises that an awful lot of international institutions like the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO, et al.

Zakharia ignores two things. First, economic sovereignty is simply not on most conservatives' agendas. Free market liberalism, a tremendously powerful current in american conservatism, is ultimately an internationalist current. It's not surprising that economic internationalism is OK in most conservatives' eyes. Ultimately, economic internationalism is a system of voluntary arrangements.

The same is not true for political internationalism. Since governments are inherently institutions that make rules backed by force, political sovereignty has a distinct character that is unique. In the ideal westphalian system, each state has a monopoly on violence. When you give up sovereignty, you risk tyranny. There must be feedback loops for the control of the highest political class so that ultimately the people are in charge, not some micro-elite accountable to nobody.

The feedback loops for international political organizations are horribly inadequate. Pedophiles in the military extorting child sex for food, sexual slavery rings that feed into prostitution houses across the first world, graft, theft, extraordinary fiscal malfeasance on top of a willingness for too much of the world to sell their UN vote and you have a mess that would trigger Thomas Jefferson's right of rebellion if these world government wannabees were actually in charge.

Jefferson affirmed that individuals have a right to rebel against tyranny. His motto was "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God." From the Declaration of Independence: "Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established, should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience [has] shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce [the people] under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security." Later in 1776 he declared: "The oppressed should rebel, and they will continue to rebel and raise disturbance until their civil rights are fully restored to them and all partial distinctions, exclusions and incapacitations are removed."

Under stress, conservatives return to first principles. President Bush is replaying the Radical Republicans present at the founding of the Republican party. The world clearly is discomfited by this. If we were ever to come under rule by the jokers who staff the political internationalist elite, the UN crew and company, we'd go back to Jefferson and the world would tremble.

Instinctively all conservatives know this and they know that political sovereignty must be maintained so long as the replacement is inferior. There is absolutely zero prospect of a superior political system emerging out of the international system as it is currently constituted. We're going to go through at least one more major upheaval in the system, on the order of replacing the League of Nations with the United Nations, before we have a realistic chance of getting something sufficiently good to consider political sovereignty as even on the table for discussion. To be honest, I don't think just one round will be enough.

April 21, 2005

Something Good From Canadian Medicine

Posted by TMLutas

Essence of Marijuana approved for sale under the brand name "Sativex" under the standard of "safe and effective". I do wonder whether the 30 day rule will come into play here.

Not only should this provide a real opening for the medical folks who would like to use marijuana to properly treat pain and nausea but it should also provide a useful lever for the agricultural hemp growers who would love to be able to add a billion dollars a year to the agricultural sector of the US economy by using hemp for fiber, paper products, oil, and other legal uses.

The hemp ban is particularly stupid but there's very little that's smart about US marijuana policy.

April 20, 2005

The Advantages of Polygamy

Posted by TMLutas

I've long worried about the problem of marriage, that the reasons for it being what it is have long been untaught, unexamined by society. This made any defense of marriage hollow because we really hadn't worked out why the thing was useful to start with.

There was one exception I encountered pretty early on in my own life, a long ago (1993, I now know) magazine article in an issue devoted to the subject whose cover was "How Polygamy is Good for High-Status Men and Low-Status Women". For an influential conservative magazine, that was awfully provocative and it did its job. I've remembered that title line for over a decade.

I finally got around to finding the darned thing.

By special arrangement with National Review, I've gotten permission to reprint that article. Without further ado, here is "Monogamy and its discontents; challenge to western sexual values" by William Tucker.

Why sexual morality, apart from religious edict? As both the highest and lowest strata of our society demonstrate, a culture abandons monogamy only at its peril. "It is remarkable that, little as men are able to exist in isolation, they should nevertheless feel as a heavy burden the sacrifices that civilization expects of them in order to make a communal life possible." --Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion AMERICA IS in a period of cultural crisis. For as long as we have been a civilization, monogamy, heterosexuality, legitimacy, and the virtues of marital fidelity have been givens of nature. The major religions have sanctioned them, as do four thousand years of Western history. Out-of-wedlock births, homosexuality, and other forms of sexual "deviance" have always existed, but have never laid claim to the mainstream.

All this is now coming under challenge. Part of it may simply be cultural exhaustion--the foolish confidence that the major battles of civilization have been fought and won and that it is now time for a little self-indulgence. Or it may be that the taste for the exotic and forbidden, usually confined to a small minority, has at last become available to the average person.

All this must be tolerated. In a free country, you can't stop people from doing what they want, especially when they have the money and leisure to do it. The situation is complicated, however, by the existence of a vast American "underclass" that does not generally share in the affluence, but is daily exposed to the sirens of self-indulgence. While the abandonment of cultural norms may have an exotic quality for the affluent, it is a palpable threat to the upward aspirations of the poor.

On the matter of single motherhood and illegitimacy, members of the underclass--particularly those of African-American origin have proved peculiarly susceptible. Single motherhood has virtually become the norm in African-American society. (Over 65 per cent of black children are now born out of wedlock.) The failure to adhere to monogamy and two-parent child-rearing now forms the single greatest obstacle to the advancement of America's underclass.

Yet to speak in favor of monogamy, sexual modesty, fidelity, restraint, and two-parent families in the current cultural climate is to find oneself subject to the charge of being a bigot, a religious nut, or just hopelessly out of touch. The common assumption, particularly among the intelligentsia, is that all the traditional arguments for monogamy and two-parent families are religious and that everything that could be said in their favor was spoken centuries ago.

Monogamy Misunderstood

I CANNOT AGREE. For as much as monogamy has been sanctioned by Western culture, I do not believe that its function as the center of our civilization has ever been completely understood. There is in everyone a vague awareness that monogamy produces a peaceful social contract that is the framework for cultural harmony and economic advancement. Yet this subconscious recognition has rarely been explored at any great length. There is never any real articulation that monogamy is an ancient compromise whose breakdown only lets loose antagonisms that society has long suppressed. Monogamy, after all, is only one possible outcome of the age-old sexual dance. There are others, whose characteristics may not be quite so appealing.

Yet like all hard-won compromises, monogamy does not produce a perfect outcome for every individual. When examined closely, it proves to be the source of many private dissatisfactions, which form a nagging undercurrent of discontent in any monogamous culture. Ordinarily, these disaffections remain a form of "deviance," generally suppressed and disapproved by the vast majority, although virtually impossible to eradicate. Only when the core ideals of the culture come under attack--when people begin to celebrate these discontents and embrace them within themselves--only then does the underlying architecture of the social contract come into stark relief.

The question that we face today is how much free rein we can give the discontents of monogamy before we risk overturning the central character of our culture. Society, of course, is not without its defenses. The longstanding, almost universal dislike and disapproval of child-bearing out of wedlock, of sexual infidelity, of easy divorce, of public prostitution and pornography, and of widespread, blatant homosexuality--these are not just irrational intolerances. They are the ancient, forgotten logic that holds together a monogamous society. As long as these attitudes remain unexamined, however, they can play little part in the current debate and will be easily dismissed as mere prejudices.

What we need, then, is a defense of monogamy based on a rational understanding of its underlying principles. Here is an attempted beginning.

The Arithmetic of Reproduction

LET US START with some basic arithmetic. In any reproducing population, the laws of chance dictate that there will be about the same number of males and females. There are thus three ways in which the population can arrange itself for mating purposes: 1) polyandry, in which one female collects several males as mates; 2) polygyny (often called, less precisely, polygamy) , in which one male collects several females; and 3) monogamy, in which each female and each male mate with only one other individual.

Of the three possibilities, the first--polyandry--is the rarest in nature. An understanding of the basics of reproduction tells us why.

In nearly all species, the female role in reproduction is the "limiting factor." This has to do with the differences between eggs and sperm. Sperm are small and motile, while eggs are large and relatively immobile. The egg generally comes wrapped in a package of nutrients that will feed the fertilized ovum until "birth." Because eggs are more complex--and therefore harder to manufacture--a female generates far fewer eggs than a male generates sperm. (Among mammals, a single male ejaculation often contains more sperm cells than a female will produce eggs in her lifetime.) Since there are always more sperm than eggs--and since it takes one of each to produce an offspring--eggs are the limiting factor to reproduction.

As a result, females have generally gone on to play a larger role in nurturing offspring as well. The principle that determines this responsibility has been identified by biologists as the "last chance to abandon." Here is how it works.

When fertilization of the egg takes place, one partner is usually left with the egg in his or her possession -- often attached to or within his or her body.

Most often, this is the female. This leaves the male free to go and seek other mating opportunities. The female, on the other hand, has two basic options: 1) she can abandon the egg and try to mate again (but this will only leave her in the same dilemma); or 2) she can stay with the egg and try to nurture it to maturity. The latter is a better reproductive strategy. As a result, females become "mothers," caring for the fertilized eggs, and often the newborn offspring as well.

The few exceptions prove the rule. Among seahorses, the fertilized egg is nurtured in a kangaroo-like pouch on the male's stomach. This makes the male the limiting factor to reproduction. As a result, the sex roles are reversed. Male seahorses become "mothers," nurturing their offspring to maturity, while females abandon their "impregnated" sexual partners and look for new mating opportunities.

The logic of reproduction has produced another universal characteristic in nature, called "female coyness." Males can spread their sperm far and wide, impregnating as many females as possible, while females may get only one mating opportunity per season. Therefore, females must choose wisely. In almost every species, males are the sexual aggressors, while females hold back, trying to select the best mate. Often the male is made to perform some display of strength or beauty, or go through some ritual expression of responsibility (nest-building) before the female agrees to mate with him. With seahorses, once again, the roles are reversed. Males are coy and reluctant, while females are the sexual aggressors.

It is for these reasons that polyandry--one female forming a mating bond with several males--is uncommon and unfavorable. Even though a single female might consort with several males, she can only be impregnated by one or two of them. Thus, most males would be unsuccessful. Moreover, the attachment of several males to one female would mean that other females would be left with no mates. The outcome would be a very slow rate of reproduction. In addition, any male who broke the rules and left his mate for an unmated female would achieve reproductive success, making the whole system extremely unstable. For all these reasons, polyandry is very rare in nature.

Polygyny, on the other hand--the form of polygamy where one male mates with several females--is universally common. (Although " polygamy " can refer to either polyandry or polygyny, it is generally used interchangeably with polygyny.) Polygamy is probably the most "natural" way of mating. It is particularly predominant among mammals, where the fertilized embryo is retained within the female's body, reducing the male's post-conception nurturing to near-zero. Given the differences in size, strength, beauty, or social skills among males, it is inevitable that--in an unregulated sexual marketplace-successful males will collect multiple mating partners while unsuccessful males will be left with none. A successful male lion collects a pride of seven to ton female lions, mating with each of them as they come into heat. A male deer mates with about six to eight female deer. A silverback male gorilla collects a harem of five or six female gorillas. Biologists have even determined that the sexual dimorphism in a species--the size difference between males and females--is directly correlated to the size of the harem: i.e., the bigger the male is in relation to females, the more females he will control. On this scale, we are "slightly polygamous," with male humans outweighing females enough to collect about one and a half mates apiece.

Polygamy's Winners and Losers

POLYGAMY CREATES a clear social order, with distinct winners and losers. Let us look at how this works. A dominant male wins because he can reproduce with as many females as he can reasonably control. Thus, he can "spread his genes" far and wide, producing many more progeny than he would be able to do under a different sexual regime.

But low-status females are winners, too. This is because: 1) Even the lowest-status females get to mate; there are no "old maids" in a polygamous society. 2) Nearly all females get access to high-status males. Since there are no artificial limits on the number of mates a male can collect, all females can attach themselves to a few relatively desirable males.

The effect upon high-status females is approximately neutral, but the clear losers are low-status males, the "bachelor herd" that is shut out of the mating equation. In some species, like elephants, the bachelor herd forms a dispirited gaggle living relatively meaningless lives on the edge of society. In others, like various monkeys, the subdominants form all-male gangs that combine their efforts to steal females from successful males. In a highly social species, such as baboons, the bachelor herd has been incorporated into the troop. Subdominant males form a "centurion guard" that protects the dominant male and his harem from predators. Among themselves, meanwhile, they engage in endless status struggles, trying to move up the social ladder toward their own mating possibilities.

Altogether, then, polygamy is a very natural and successful reproductive system. Since all females mate, the reproductive capacity of the population is maximized. There is also a strong selective drive toward desirable characteristics. As the operators of stud farms have long known, allowing only the swiftest and strongest males to breed produces the most desirable population.

Yet despite the clear reproductive advantages of polygamy, some species have abandoned it in favor of the more complex and artificially limiting system of monogamy. Why? The answer seems to be that monogamy is better adapted to the task of rearing offspring. This is particularly true where living conditions are harsh or where the offspring go through a long period of early dependency. The task is better handled by two parents than one. Quite literally, a species adopts monogamy "for the sake of the children."

Among animals, the most prominent example is birds. Because the fertilized egg is laid outside the female's body, a long period of nesting is required. This ties the male to the task of nurturing. Most bird species are monogamous through each mating season, and many mate for life.

Once mammalian development moved the gestating egg back inside the female's body, however, the need for "nesting' disappeared. With only a few exceptions (beavers, gibbons, orangutans), mammals are polygamous.

Yet as human beings evolved from our proto-chimp ancestors, the record is fairly clear that we reinvented monogamy. Present-day hunter-gatherers--who parallel the earliest human societies--are largely monogamous. Only with the invention of horticulture did many societies around the world revert to polygamy. Then, when animals were harnessed to the plow and urban civilizations were born, human societies again became almost exclusively monogamous. This wandering pattern of development has been the cause of much confusion. When monogamous Western European civilizations discovered the primitive polygamies of Africa and the South Seas in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, they assumed that the earliest human civilizations had been polygamous and had later evolved into the "higher" pattern of monogamy. It was only with the discovery of monogamous hunter-gatherers that the mystery was finally resolved. Rather than being an earlier form, polygamy is actually a later development in which many cultures have apparently become sidetracked. Both the earliest and the most advanced (economically successful) human civilizations are generally monogamous.

What has made monogamy so successful a format for human cooperation? First and foremost, monogamy creates a social contract that reduces the sexual competition among males. The underlying assumption of monogamy is that every male gets a reasonable chance to mate. As a result, the do-or-die quality of sexual competition among males abates. When one male can collect many females, mating takes on a deadly intensity. With monogamy, however, a more democratic outcome is assured. The bachelor herd disappears.

Second, because monogamy assures the possibility of reproduction to every member of the group, a social contract is born. One need only consider the sultan's harem--where male guards must be eunuchized--to realize that a society that practices polygamy has an inherently non-democratic character. No offer can be extended to marginal or outcast members that entices them to be part of the group. Under monogamy, however, society can function as a cohesive whole.

This is why, under monogamy, other forms of cooperation become possible. Males and females may pair off, but they also maintain other familial and social relationships. Both males and females can form task-oriented groups (in primitive societies, the line between "men's" and "women's work" is always carefully drawn). As society becomes more complex, men and women frequently exchange roles and, although there is always a certain amount of sexual tension, males and females can work together in non-mating settings.

Other social primates have never reached the same level of complexity. Gibbons and orangutans are monogamous--but almost too much so: mated pairs are strongly attached to each other, but live in social isolation, rarely interacting with other members of the species. Gorilla bands generally ignore each other--except when males raid each other's harems. Baboon troops are more organized and task oriented, often encompassing as many as fifty to a hundred individuals. But behavior is rigidly hierarchical. Females are kept at the center of the troop, under close supervision of the alpha male and his associates. Subdominant males guard the periphery. Only the alpha and an occasional close ally mate with females as they come into heat.

Perhaps the most interesting attempt at creating a more complex society is among our closest relatives, the chimpanzees. Chimps practice a polymorphous polygamy, where every female takes care to mate with every male. Sex takes place in public and is relatively noncompetitive. When a female comes into estrus, her bottom turns bright pink, advertising her receptivity. Males queue up according to status, but every male, no matter how low on the social ladder, is allowed to copulate.

This creates its own social harmony. For males, it reduces sexual rivalry. Within the "brotherhood" of the tribe, there is little overt sexual competition (although it persists in other subtle ways). As a result, male chimps cooperate in establishing territories to exclude other males and occasionally hunt smaller animals such as monkeys.

The system also creates an advantage for females. Within a polygamous social group, one of the greatest hazards to child-rearing is male jealousy. The male owner of a female harem constantly guards against the possibility that he is wasting energy protecting the offspring of other males. When a new male lion displaces the former owner of a pride, he immediately kills off all the young in order to set the females to work reproducing his own offspring. The heads of polygamous monkey clans do the same thing.

But with chimpanzees, things are different. By taking care to mate with every male, a female assures each male member of the troop that he might be the father of her offspring. By "confusing paternity," females create a safe harbor for themselves, within which they are able to raise their offspring in relative tranquillity.

These techniques of unrestricted sexuality and indeterminate paternity have been tried from time to time in small human societies, notably among small religious and political sects. However, they have generally been a failure. The difficulty is that we have eaten too much of the tree of knowledge. We are too good at calculating which progeny are our own and which are not. (Child abuse and infanticide are most common when a man doubts his paternity.)

Rather than living in collective doubt, we have developed complex personalities that allow us to maintain private sexual relationships while sustaining a multilayered network of relatives, friends, acquaintances, associates, co-workers, and strangers with whom our interactions are mainly non-sexual. The result is the human society in which we all live.

The Price of Monogamy

HUMAN MONOGAMY thus holds out distinct advantages. Yet these advantages--as always-are bought at a price. Let us look at where the gains and forfeitures occur.

The winners under polygamy, you will recall, are high-status males and low-status females. Under monogamy, these parties lose their advantages, while compensating advantages are gained by high-status females and low-status males. High-status females no longer have to share their mates with low-status females, a particular advantage where long periods of child-rearing are involved. Low-status males, instead of being consigned to the bachelor herd, get a reasonable chance to a mate.

Perhaps we should pause here a moment to define what we mean by "high" and "low" status. High status usually has to do with desirable characteristics-- beauty, strength, swiftness, bright feathers, or intelligence-whatever is admired by the species. In agencies where males fight for control of females (elk, lions, kangaroos), size and strength are usually the deciding factor. In species where females exercise some choice, physical beauty tends to play a greater role. As Darwin first noted, the bright plumage of the male bird is solely the result of generations of female selection.

In almost every species, youth is considered a desirable quality. In females, it implies a long, healthy life in which to raise offspring. In males, youth and vigor also suggest a wide variety of resources for child-rearing. Among the more social species, however, age, intelligence, and experience can play an important role. The alpha baboon is usually quite mature and sustains his access to females not through sheer strength or aggressiveness, but through the skillful formation of political alliances.

Under monogamy, another crucial characteristic is added--the willingness of the male to be a good provider. Yet this creates a dilemma for females. Unfortunately, the two favored characteristics--physical attractiveness and willingness to be a good provider--do not always come together. In fact, they often seem mutually exclusive. The peacock, the most beautiful of male birds, is notoriously a philanderer and a poor provider. With polygamy, females can ignore this problem and attach themselves to the most attractive males. With monogamy, however, females find themselves caught on the horns of the dilemma. Juggling these competing demands becomes a vexing responsibility--one that, at bottom, most females would ultimately like to escape.

Alternatives have always been available--at least covertly. In the 1950s, a research scientist began a routine experiment concerning natal blood type, trying to figure out which characteristics were dominant. To his astonishment, he found that 11 per cent of the babies born in American hospitals had blood types belonging to neither the mother nor the father--meaning the biological father was not the male listed on the birth certificate. The researcher was so dismayed by these findings that he suppressed them for over twenty years. Even at a time when monogamy was an unquestioned norm, at least 10 per cent of American women were resolving the female dilemma by tricking one man into providing for the child of another.

The Sources of Discontent

WITH ALL this in mind, then, let us look at where we should expect to find the major points of dissatisfaction with monogamy. First and foremost, monogamy limits the mating urges of high-status males. Everywhere in nature, males have an underlying urge to mate with as many females as possible. Studies among barnyard animals have shown that a male that has exhausted himself mating with one female will experience an immediate resurgence of sexual desire when a new female is introduced into his pen. (This is dubbed the "Coolidge effect," after Calvin Coolidge, who once observed it while making a presidential tour of a barnyard.)

"Hogamous, higamous, men are polygamous. Higamous, hogamous, women monogamous," wrote Ogden Nash, and the experience in all societies has been that the male urge to be polygamous is the weakest link in the monogamous chain. This has become particularly true in America's mobile culture, where status-seeking males are often tempted to change wives as they move up the social ladder. "Serial monogamy" is. the name we have given it, but a better term might be "rotating polygamy. " A serious op-ed article in the New York Times a few years ago proposed that polygamy be legalized so that men could be compelled to support their earlier wives even as they move on to younger and more attractive women.

Marital infidelity, the lathering of illegitimate children, the pursuit of younger women, the "bimbo" and "trophy wife" syndromes--all are essential breaches of the monogamous social contract. When a Donald Trump deserts his wife and children for a woman almost twenty years his junior, he is obviously "wrecking a home" and violating monogamy's implicit understanding that children should be supported until maturity. But he is doing something else as well. By mating with a much younger, second woman, he is also limiting the mating possibilities of younger men. One swallow does not make a summer, but repeated over and over, this pattern produces real demographic consequences. In societies that practice polygamy, competition over available females is always more intense.

The problems with male infidelity, then, are fairly clear. What is not always so obvious is that women's commitment to monogamy is also somewhat circumscribed. The difficulties are two fold: 1) the general dissatisfaction of all women in being forced to choose between attractive males and good providers; and 2) the particular dissatisfaction among low-status women at being confined to the pool of low-status men.

In truth, low-status people of both sexes-or perhaps more significantly, people who are chronically dissatisfied with their status form a continuing challenge to any monogamous society. Unless there is an overwhelming cultural consensus that marriage and the joint raising of children forms the highest human happiness (which some people think it does), low-status males and females are likely to feel cheated by the relatively narrow pool of mates available to them. Their resentments and underlying desire to disrupt the rules of the game form a constant undercurrent of discontent in any monogamous society.

For males, one obvious way of by-passing the rules is rape. Although feminists, in their never-ending effort to repeal biology, have insisted that rape reflects some amorphous "hatred against women," the more obvious interpretation is that it is a triumph of raw sexual desire over the more complex rules of social conduct. Rape overwhelmingly involves low-status men seeking sex with women who are otherwise inaccessible to them. (Rape is even more of a problem in polygamous societies, because of the more limited options for low-status males.) If "hatred" is involved, it is more likely to be general resentment of monogamy's restrictions, which inaccessible, high-status women may come to represent. But this is all secondary. The basic crime of rape is the violation of a woman's age-old biological right to choose her own sexual partners.

The other avenues for low-status males are prostitution and pornography. Each offers access to higher -- status females, albeit under rather artificial circumstances. Individual females may benefit from pornography and prostitution in that they are paid (however poorly) for their participation. There is always a laissez-faire argument for allowing both. But when they become public and widespread, pornography and prostitution become another nagging reminder of the dissatisfactions some people will always feel with monogamy. In other words, they disrupt "family values."

Female dissatisfaction with monogamy, on the other hand, is not always as obvious. Yet the restrictions put upon females--particularly low-status ones--will always be present and, in their own way, form their own undercurrent of discontent.

The principal female dissatisfaction is the dilemma of finding a mate who is both physically attractive and a good provider. As many and many a woman has discovered, it is much easier to get an attractive male into bed with you for the night than to keep him around in the morning.

The Murphy Brown Alternative

THERE IS, HOWEVER, a practical alternative. This is to return to the greater freedom of polygamy, where females can choose the most attractive males without regard to forming a permanent bond. This, of course, is the essence of "single motherhood."

The rise of single motherhood is basically the expression of female discontent with monogamy. Rising female economic success makes it more practical (social scientists have long noted that marriage becomes more unstable as females become more economically independent). This undoubtedly accounts for the rising rate of divorce and single motherhood among affluent Americans.

But the emergence of almost universal single motherhood among the black underclass undercuts the purely economic argument (except, of course, to the degree that female independence has been subsidized by the welfare system). Black women are not opting for single motherhood because of rising economic success. What the availability of welfare does, however, is enable them to dispense with the courtship rituals of monogamy and choose the most desirable man available to them, regardless of the man's willingness or ability to provide domestic support. It is this dynamic of liberated female sexual choice and not just the greater economic support offered by welfare that is driving black single motherhood today.

The essence of single motherhood, then, is status -- jumping. By dispensing with the need to make a single choice, a woman can mate with a man who is far more desirable than any she could hope to retain under the artificial restraints of monogamy. The same dynamic is even more obvious among single mothers of the middle and upper classes. When asked to justify their choice, these women refer with surprising regularity to the unavailability of movie stars or other idealized males. ("I know so many women who were waiting for that Alan Alda type to come along," one unwed mother recently told Newsweek. "And they were waiting and waiting.") Yet when these women get themselves impregnated by otherwise unattainable men-or artificially inseminate themselves with accomplished doctors and lawyers, talented musicians, or Nobel Prize-winning scientists -- what are they practicing but a contemporary form of high-tech polygamy?

The rebellion against monogamy, then, is being led by men dissatisfied because they cannot have more women and women dissatisfied with the choice of available men. (As an aging divorcee, Murphy Brown, despite her attractiveness, had a very limited pool of mating possibilities.) Yet each of these rebellions is driven by the most powerful human sexual dynamic--the desire of every living creature to produce offspring with the most desirable possible mating partners. Monogamy limits those desires.

The Homosexual Alternative

WHERE DOES homosexuality fit in all this? At its core, homosexuality is driven by a different dynamic. In every society, there is a small nucleus of men and women who feel uncomfortable with their sexual roles. For whatever reasons; biological, psychological, or a combination--they find it difficult or impossible to play the reproductive role dictated by their bodies and to mate with the opposite sex. This does not necessarily constitute a challenge to monogamy. Homosexuals and people with homosexual tendencies have often played important social roles. Priests, prophets, witch-doctors, artists, entertainers, cultural leaders--all have often been overtly or covertly homosexual or tinged with an undercurrent of ambiguous sexuality. All this forms no great social problem so long as homosexuality remains largely covert and marginal. The difficulty comes when it breaks out of the underground and becomes a mainstream alternative, particularly to the point of recruitment among the young. (Socrates, remember, was condemned to death for luring the youth of Athens into homosexuality.)

Once again, simple arithmetic begins to assert itself. When male homosexuality becomes widespread, it creates a dearth of eligible young men. This is particularly visible in urban environments. The growing population of male homosexuals in New York and other cities during the 1980s created the widely reported "man shortage" for young women. In the end, this large homosexual population seems to have induced an equally large lesbian population.

Are all these individuals really biologically determined to homosexuality? It seems doubtful. Rather, what seems to be happening is that homosexuality is becoming an acceptable form of protest for both men and women who do not like the choices offered to them by monogamy.

Once again, the problem is most pronounced with low-status people. For example, although there are undoubtedly some very attractive lesbian women, even a casual survey of the population reveals a very high incidence of members whose mating opportunities are obviously limited under monogamy. Moreover, the men who are available to them are themselves likely to be bitter and resentful over their choice of mates--in other words they "hate women." One need only read the melancholy chronicle of Andrea Dworkin's experiences with a string of sadistic, self-loathing men to realize why this woman has become one of the nation's leading exponents of lesbianism. The professed ideology of both these groups is that they "hate" the other sex. Yet it would be much more correct to say that they hate the members of the opposite sex to which monogamy has confined them.

(I sometimes think the high point of America's commitment to monogamy came around 1955, the year that Paddy Chayevsky's low-budget Marty was a surprise box-office success and winner of the Academy Award. The story told of two plain people who, after numerous personal rejections, discover each other at a Saturday -- night dance hall. The message of the movie, as articulated so often during that era, was that "For every girl there's a boy and for every boy there's a girl.")

Despite its disruptive nature, homosexuality as a rebellion has little permanent impact until older biological urges begin to assert themselves and homosexuals want to have children. For men, there are few options. Apart from a few highly publicized cases, there are few homosexual men raising families. But for women, once again, we are back to single motherhood. Numerous lesbian couples are now having children, and lesbians have organized the most sophisticated sperm banks. How these children will react ten or fifteen years down the road to the realization that they are the children of anonymous sperm donors is anybody's guess. But it seems likely they will have difficulty forming monogamous unions themselves and their resentments will only add to the sea of dissatisfactions.

Polygamy in Our Future?

TO SUM up, then, let us admit that no system of monogamy can ever bring complete happiness to everyone. Given the variability among individuals and given the universal desire to be paired with desirable mating partners, there will always be a sizable pool of dissatisfaction under monogamy. The real question is: How far can society allow this pool to grow before these private dissensions begin to rend the social fabric? In short, what can we expect society to look like if the monogamous ideal is abandoned?

It isn't necessary to look very far. Western and Oriental cultures form a monogamous axis that spans the northern hemisphere (Orientals are far more monogamous than Westerners are), but a large part of the remaining world practices polygamy.

Polygamy is tolerated by the Koran--although it should be recognized that, like the principle of "an eye for an eye," the Islamic law that allows a man four wives is a restriction from an earlier practice. The Koran requires that a man support all his wives equally, which generally confines the practice to wealthy males. In most Moslem countries, polygamous marriages are restricted to the upper classes and form no more than 4 to 5 per cent of all marriages.

In sub-Saharan Africa, on the other hand, polygamy is far closer to the norm. In parts of West Africa, more than 20 per cent of the marriages are polygamous. Marriage itself is rendered far more fragile by the practice of matrilinearity--tracing ancestry only through the mother's line. In West Africa, a man may sire many children (Chief M.K.O. Abiola, of Nigeria's Yoruba tribe, a self-made billionaire and chairman of ITT Nigeria, has 26 wives), but the paternal claim he can lay upon any of them. is far more tenuous than it would be in Oriental or Western societies. In West Africa, women can take their children and leave a marriage at any time, making the institution extremely unstable. In these tribal societies, Christianity and Islam which teach marital fidelity and permanent unions--are generally regarded as progressive social movements.

What qualities do we find in societies that tolerate polygamy? First, the shortage of women usually leads to the institution of the "bride price," where a young man must pay a sizable sum of money to the bride's family in order to obtain a wife. (The "dowry," in which a sum is attached to an eligible daughter to make her more attractive, is purely a product of monogamy.) This makes wives difficult to obtain for men who come from less well-to-do families.

The numerical imbalance between eligible males and females also forces older men to court younger women. Girls in their teens are often betrothed to men ten and fifteen years their senior. In some South Seas societies, infant females are betrothed to grown men. These strained couplings make marriage itself a distant and unrewarding relationship, far different from the "peer marriages" of Western and Oriental cultures.

Finally, polygamy tends to produce a high level of male violence. Because low-status males are not assured any reasonable chance of mating by the social contract, they are essentially impossible to incorporate into the larger work of society. Instead, they form themselves into violent gangs or become the foot soldiers of extremist political groups. In Pakistan, the recent news has been that the country is being overrun by these violent gangs, which have become the competing "parties" in the country's turbulent political system. The head of one of these factions was recently accused of raping dozens of airline stewardesses.

Yet even where polygamy is openly sanctioned, childrearing is always built around the formation of husband-and-wife households--even if these households may contain several wives. Only among the American underclass has polygamy degenerated into a purely polymorphous variety, where courtship is forgone and family formation has become a virtually forgotten ritual.

In a recent issue of The Public Interest, Elijah Anderson, professor of social science at the University of Pennsylvania, described an on-going acquaintance with a 21-year-old black youth whom he called "John Turner." Anderson described the social milieu of Turner's neighborhood as follows:

In Philadelphia, . . the young men of many individual streets organize informally bounded areas into territories. They then guard the territories, defending them against the intrusions and whims of outsiders ...

Local male groups claim responsibility over the women in the area, especially if they are young. These women are seen as their possessions, at times to be argued over and even fought over. When a young man from outside the neighborhood attempts to "go with" or date a young woman from the neighborhood, he must usually answer to the boys' group, negotiating for their permission first...

At twenty-one years of age, John was the father of four children out of wedlock. He had two sons who were born a few months apart by different women, one daughter by the mother of one of the sons, and another son by a third woman.

This mating pattern is not uncommon in nature. It has recently been observed in dolphins and of course bears a strong resemblance to the structure of some primate tribes. Yet what works for these species is no longer plausible for human beings. Once again, we have eaten from the tree of knowledge. We have too much intimate knowledge of the details of sexual connection and paternity to be satisfied with this vague collectivism.

Thus "John Turner" explains how his efforts to put some order into his life by creating a bond between two of his sons resulted in his being jailed for assault: Well, see, this girl, the girl who's the mother of my one son, Teddy. See, I drove my girlfriend's car by her house with my other son with me. I parked the car down the street from her house and everything. So I took John, Jr., up to the house to see his brother, and we talk for awhile. But when I get ready to leave, she and her girlfriend followed me to the car. I got in the car and put John in. Then she threw a brick through the window.

The unavoidable consequence of polymorphous polygamy among humans is a tangle of competing jealousies and conflicting loyalties that make ordinary life all but impossible. The central institution at the axis of human society--the nuclear family--no longer exists.

Unfortunately, while such a mating system virtually guarantees child abuse (usually involving a "boyfriend"), internal turmoil, and rampant violence, it is also extremely reproductive. While their social life has degenerated into extreme chaos, the American underclass are nonetheless reproducing faster than any other population in the world. This follows a well-known biological principle that when populations come under stress, they attempt to save themselves by reproducing faster, with sexual maturity usually accelerated to a younger age.

The culture of polygamy is also self-reinforcing and self-perpetuating. If men feel there is nothing more to fatherhood than "making babies," then women will feel free to seek the most attractive men, without making any effort to bind them to the tasks of child-rearing. As a cultural pair, the footloose male and the single mother, if not held back by the force of social convention, can easily become the predominant type. The result is a free-for-all in which human society as we know it may become very difficult, if not impossible.

Back to 'Family Values'

THIS, THEN, is the essence of "family values." Family values are basically the belief that monogamy is the most peaceful and progressive way of organizing a human society. Dislike and distaste for anything that challenges the monogamous contract easy divorce, widespread pornography, legalized prostitution, out-of-wedlock child bearing, blatant homosexuality-are not just narrow or prudish concerns. They come from an intelligent recognition that the monogamous contract is a fragile institution that can easily unravel if dissaffections become too widespread.

What is likely to happen if we abandon these values? People will go on reproducing, you can be sure of that. But families won't be formed ("litters" might be a more appropriate term). And the human beings that are produced in these litters will not be quite the same either. If marriage is a compromise between men and women, then the breakdown of monogamy can only let loose the natural egocentrisms of both.

It is probably not too alarmist to note that societies that have been unable to establish monogamy have also been unable to create working democracies or widely distributed wealth. No society that domesticates too few men can have a stable social order. People who are incapable of monogamy are probably incapable of many other things as well.

As a basically limiting human compact, monogamous marriage is bound to produce its peculiar difficulties. As with any compromise, each individual can argue based on present or previous deprivation, real or imagined-that he or she should not be bound by the rules.

Yet it should also be clear that, beyond the personal dissatisfactions we all may feel, each of us also retains a permanent, private stake in sustaining a system that creates a peaceful social order and offers to everyone a reasonable chance of achieving personal happiness. If monogamy makes complex demands on human beings, it also offers unique and complex rewards.

© 1993, by National Review Inc., 215 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10016.
Reprinted by permission

April 19, 2005

Habemus Papa

Posted by TMLutas

God Bless Benedict XVI, nee Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, our new Pope. He's moved from chief prosecutor of the Church to the top job, a career path that is quite familiar in an awful lot of free societies. May God bless him, keep him, and guide him in the maintenance and improvement of the world's oldest continuous bureaucracy, the structural skeleton called the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. May he provide an inspiration and guide the spiritual formation of the faithful to greater fidelity to the Divine Plan and greater wisdom among us all.

Habemus Papa
Avem o Papa

April 18, 2005

The Scandanavian Model is Dead

Posted by TMLutas

Even the NY Times finally gets it. Scandanavians are no model for an economic future. They're not even a model for Europe.

In late March, another study, this one from KPMG, the international accounting and consulting firm, cast light on this paradox. It indicated that when disposable income was adjusted for cost of living, Scandinavians were the poorest people in Western Europe. Danes had the lowest adjusted income, Norwegians the second lowest, Swedes the third. Spain and Portugal, with two of Europe's least regulated economies, led the list.

Europe itself is generally poor compared to the US and falling behind.

All this was illuminated last year in a study by a Swedish research organization, Timbro, which compared the gross domestic products of the 15 European Union members (before the 2004 expansion) with those of the 50 American states and the District of Columbia. (Norway, not being a member of the union, was not included.)

After adjusting the figures for the different purchasing powers of the dollar and euro, the only European country whose economic output per person was greater than the United States average was the tiny tax haven of Luxembourg, which ranked third, just behind Delaware and slightly ahead of Connecticut.

Longtime readers might remember that I made mention of the study last July in an article on maternity leave.

This leaves "progressives" in something of a pickle. Who will they point to as an example now? Soft-socialism hasn't installed a gulag but it has installed high poverty (by our standards) and large brain, ambition, and hard work drains. Who would ever want that?

Without an external model to point to that works, progressives have only the history of their own initiatives to fall back on and that isn't a very good record. It is domestic failure of "progressive" programs that led to the reliance on pointing to external "successes" in the first place.

The US political model relies on two poles fighting it out in an adversarial process, improving each other's work so that the country can benefit. The economic pole on the left has disintegrated to the point that the NY Times can no longer deny that the economic ideal it has pushed for decades leads to drastic increases in poverty. This implies huge changes on the horizon.

Update:VodkaPundit has a great take observing how Bernie Sanders used the "but it works there" technique on Alan Greenspan back in 2003.

April 17, 2005

Japan Inc. Redux

Posted by TMLutas

Thomas Bleha must love the movie Rising Sun. There's an awful lot of Japan envy in that film, with bumbling Americans always one step behind the wily Japanese. There was a lot of that sort of thinking in the 70s and 80s. Japan was cleaning our clocks, their bureaucrats were promoting key industrial players, managing competition, and increasing efficiency. We were doomed to play second fiddle to the land of the rising sun.

It didn't work out that way.

Here's an article that fits right in with those pessimistic times. The Japanese are picking winners, subsidizing broadband, and will reap the fruits of all that fiber in the ground to gain a new broadband future with lots more economic growth. And you know what? He might be right. The managed competition method, like a stopped clock, does work every once-in-awhile. The benefits of the model are and have always been highly visible. It's the costs that are hidden and remain hidden.

The costs of subsidizing bandwidth vary by population density and the US has one of the lowest population densities of the entire 1st world. Australia beats us out but nobody really talks about their amazing broadband national coverage and it's for the same reasons.

Aside from a throwaway line ("The United States' vastness no doubt complicates the task, but it is no excuse for not undertaking the job") the problem of wiring the US remains largely unexamined. Canada has the happy circumstance that its population is largely concentrated in a band on its southern border. US population is concentrated in several noncontiguous megalopoli, the NE corridor that starts around Boston and runs along the coast to around DC, the West Coast Megalopolis that runs largely between San Francisco and Los Angeles, The Great Lakes megalopolis starts in Wisconsin and stretches all the way to western NY. There is also a South Florida one and several other wannabees like the emerging Texas "Triangle Cities" one.

With clumpy population separated by large distances, the cost of wiring a national infrastructure goes up while the relative benefit goes down. Network effects mean that the larger your network, the better your results. We're trying to cover 10 times the area to gain twice to three times the population node connectivity of Japan. That means that the cost to benefit ratio is somewhere between three to five times better for them.

The natural result of this is that we're going to lag. We're going to wait for costs to drop and use cheaper networking methods as they arrive as our . Goosing progress by dumping money into a national network infrastructure initiative is not only risky in that it will tend to give us bad habits, it is also going to cost us more for less benefit.

The geography of our nation, the distribution of our population, all mean that we're forced to play the "second mover advantage" game when it comes to broadband, at least until we figure out how to take a couple of zeroes out of lift costs per kg or some other sort of way to get data networking platforms up above us cheaply.

We can go expensive now or we can adopt a multi-platform competitive approach and try to encourage new entrants so that they quickly improve the cost to deploy and maintain bandwidth infrastructure. This, essentially is our current position with the FCC trying to spur innovation so that a national broadband rollout makes sense. Waiting patiently has never been a US strong suit but we're doing it now and actually playing the game pretty well. It would be a shame to ruin things and merely imitate solutions that do not scale to our particular density profile.

April 16, 2005

Increasing Ownership

Posted by TMLutas

James Pinkerton is horrified at the possibility of . He thinks that Republicans are behaving badly, contrary to the interests of their party. They may very well be but reform is absolutely in the interests of the country and should go forward. The huge mortgage industry in this country will survive the end of Fanny/Freddie's government guarantee. In fact, both institutions will likely remain in business, if at a more modest scale.

What will be gone will be the systemic risk of institutions that have grown too big being able to take down the entire market by their past, present, or future bad behavior. New competitors will enter the market. They will take market share to a certain extent and by doing so increase the probability that home ownership can be sustainably expanded in future. This is important because the positive effects of homeownership are effects that are felt over the long term. It makes no sense to goose the market for 15 years and suffer a crash, creating a crisis of confidence in the entire system. The Freddie/Fannie nexus threatens to do exactly that.

There is no "right" numeric percentage of homeowners to renters. All things being equal, homeownership is better than rental. But when home prices spiral out of sight while rental prices barely budge, the cure is to cease enticing people into expensive homes with below market rates and let the market balance itself out. It is the balance that must be preserved to maintain market sustainability.

Mexican Revolution?

Posted by TMLutas

Harold Meyerson is really pushing the hypocrisy charge past all reason. He claims that Mexico City's PRD (hard left) mayor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is being shuffled out of contention for the presidency in 2006 by ginned up corruption charges. It's a wonder that Mr. Meyerson thinks his own credibility is worth muddying up due to his support of such a dubious figure.

If the Mayor's finance minister blows $3,000,000 on Las Vegas casino's the Bellagio is in league with Mexico's president and an international list of conspirators to take the mayor out of contention for the presidency. This is the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy writ large, with lots of hot rhetoric and no evidence whatsoever despite repeated promises.

If Mayor Obrador decides he doesn't like a judicial decision, he seems to have a regrettable tendency to just ignore it, whether it's to build a road that has an injunction in place against it or detaining Spanish workers putting up street kiosks under a legal contract Mayor Obrador doesn't like. The full Wikipedia entry has an entire section devoted to these and other controversies. Apparently, the federal prosecutor delayed prosecution until he, himself was at risk of indictment for obstruction of justice and asked for Obrador's immunity to be lifted.

So here we have some sleazy little land seizure deal, a prosecutor unaccustomed to actually prosecuting government figures on illegal expropriation of land, and Harold Meyerson makes it an international case of hypocrisy that President Bush hasn't protested the indictment of a personally popular mayor who is fond of spinning wide conspiracy theories and surrounding himself (at the very least) with corrupt figures who have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

That's just sad.

April 12, 2005

Safeguarding the Republic

Posted by TMLutas

Leftist sneers about chickenhawks and the "fighting 101st keyboarders" are way over the top. For the past couple of days, I've been looking at a Jonathan Fund article that shows how wrong they are. You can't have a republic without proper elections and the governorship of Washington state was decided in a way that, frankly, stunk. The number of dubious votes far outweighs the margin of victory and they are overwhelmingly concentrated in areas controlled by Democrat partisans.

It would be just another example of a bad election were it not for SoundPolitics.com who has kept the issue alive, done extensive original research, and generally served as a rallying point for people who want their elections decided by the people, not by hacks willing to break the rules. That's a real defense of the republic. It's also something that really isn't the domain of our uniformed fighting forces.

The US has been accused of slipping away from a republic and becoming an empire in all but name. As long as we have honest elections, we will never actually lose the republic. The consequences of empire are too ugly to long endure. As long as citizens have enough tools to gather together and speak out, resisting the traditional tools of transitioning republics to principalities/empires we'll keep the republic that the founding fathers gave us.

April 10, 2005

The Flattening World

Posted by TMLutas

Thomas Friedman has a good article on how technology has made the world, or at least the competitive playing field, flat. There's an awful lot of truth to what he's saying, including the problem of our educational system shortchanging the next generation of US workers. The problem is that he misses a significant upside. As the PRC, India, Russia, and all of the rest of the 3 billion people added to the playing field of global competition start creating their own design houses et al, they're going to need more labor than they can manage to scare up at home for manufacture, support, et al. At some point the direction flows of outsourcing will stop going one way and become multi-directional with some work being outsourced to North Dakota because Shanghai's wages are just too high to do it locally.

Friedman is right when he says ''Girls, finish your homework -- people in China and India are starving for your jobs.'' It's only that he's missing the flip side of it. We won't be left with no jobs. We'll just get the ones that they're doing right now, the low paid, hard, dirty jobs to fit our standing in the new global meritocracy. It sucks to be poorly educated.

April 07, 2005

Unspinning McClellan

Posted by TMLutas

This article complains that Scott McClellan has stock responses to an awful lot of questions regarding Iraq and that he sticks to the script instead of letting himself make news by veering from administration position. In other words, he's doing his job and doing it the way he's supposed to.

Instead of bemoaning the fact, they might consider asking new questions that nobody has written a stock, scripted answer for. Here are five to start:

1. The world's underlying foreign policy assumption of national sovereignty was set in 1648 at the signing of the Peace of Westphalia. Tony Blair has explicitly called for us to move beyond Westphalia. Does the administration agree and when are we going to start the national conversation on what chucking aside 350 years of rules means?
2. Since the UN utterly depends on the mediating between sovereign nations, does Prime Minister Blair's (and the administration, if they've answered question 1 that way) "beyond Westphalian" talk utterly destroy the rationale for the UN as it is currently constituted? Is it time to do to the UN what happened to the League of Nations, cherry pick out the good parts and wrap them up in a superior framework? If not now, how bad do things have to get before it's time?
3. Lots of law enforcement agencies find that neighborhood watch programs can do wonders for crime rates of all types but that they work best when coordinated with the relevant law enforcement groups. What is administration policy on neighborhood watches and how would you plan on coordinating with volunteers if they wanted to set one up on our southern border?
4. What is administration policy on the admission of new territories and states to the United States?
5. What is the administration policy regarding the PRC's new anti-secession law were it to apply the law to Tibet, Xinhian or somewhere other than Taiwan?

It took 20 minutes thought to think up five questions that are unlikely to involve rote repetition of previous talking points. It wasn't that hard and given an hour that I don't have I could probably come up with another five. If I were doing this for a living I'd probably go through the federal code and come up with one per Title and rotate through them. I'd do that because I believe in informing people, not in taking part in a stylized kabuki interrogation.

I think that the press has created Scott McClellan, or at least his job description. If he had a wide variety of questions, he wouldn't be so drilled in repeating the same answers to the same questions over and over again. The public would be better informed, the chance of actually breaking news would be higher because no human being can be briefed on everything that the executive is doing. The government's grown too big for that.

The problem with my style would be that you wouldn't have so much "pack" journalism and that would mean that it wouldn't lend itself to partisan baiting and ideological combat but rather to really informing the public on a great deal more of what's going on. Wait a minute, that's a feature, not a bug.

Republican Schiavo Idiocy

Posted by TMLutas

Well, it looks like the Democrats didn't plant the Schiavo "talking points" memo. As soon as the fellow confessed, he resigned. Good riddance. It's sad that Mel Martinez couldn't get competent staff straight out the gate but hopefully he'll pick himself up, dust off, and do better with Brian Darling's replacement in future. I would be very surprised to hear the name Brian Darling associated with Republican politics in the future.

Captain's Quarters is an excellent blog (and where I found the Schiavo memo story) and I recommend that anybody but Canadians look around for its excellent commentary on a wide variety of issues. Canadians should consult the Gomery Commission and their legal counsel before proceeding to view such jury pool tainting stuff.

[self-censorship note: I originally had a link to CQ's front page around the word "proceeding" but deleted it because it might be too provocative.]

April 06, 2005

A Great Start at Looking at Marriage

Posted by TMLutas

I've been in search of this article for years. It takes a simple, profound look at marriage as an institution and builds up a reasonable way to look at marriage, why the state should discriminate among different forms of sexual relations, and how libertarians shoot themselves in the foot when they support sexual libertinism. It's a very good read and should be part of the foundation of any serious discussion of marriage policy.

Democracy Fantasists

Posted by TMLutas

I'm going through the Democracy Corps March 2005 polling where this ugly piece reared its head and bit me

But even before that, in our March survey, we showed Bush and the Republicans quite vulnerable to a serious challenge. As a start, the Clinton family defeats the Bush family on who should lead the country in the years ahead. In a race between Senator Hillary Clinton and Florida Governor Jeb Bush for president, the Democrat wins by 3 points, 50 to 47 percent. She runs particularly well with young voters, women, including white women, college and unmarried women, and even holds a narrow advantage in the rural areas. She beats Bush by 7 points among independents and takes 11 percent of Republicans (greater than Bush’s vote with Democrats).

The second sentence is simply nonsense to me. "[T]he Clinton family defeats the Bush family on who should lead the country in the years ahead" is just so abominably wrongheaded and anti-republican that it's breathtaking. It's the politics of clans, of aristocracy that is behind that phrase and that leading Democrat pollster/consultants said it says something truly sad about the current state of the Democrat party. Democrat, Republican, or other we all should be concerned about the fate of the republic because there is a natural anti-republican tendency that goes along with being number one for so long. We have to stay sharp and strangle any impulse to aristocracy, to elitism, to the birth of an empire or we will, at long last, finally have lost what the founding fathers have given us. In Benjamin Franklin's famous turn of phrase, we have "a republic, if you can keep it". We need to keep it and keep it strong.

French Legitimite

Posted by TMLutas

French legitimacy has been much on my mind of late and here's an article showing how it's playing out in the real world. Essentially, the problem of legitimacy came to a peak in 1939 when a hollow France unexpectedly collapsed. De Gaulle took the duct tape of meritocratic elites rising via examination and the baling wire of a large European Union (of course guided and dominated by France) and renewed French legitimacy enough to keep France alive if never really healthy.

The corruption scandals and the trials it is producing in France are unraveling the elite's legitimacy and the European Union has grown too large for France to be a dominant force in it even when their proposed constitution is written by a frenchman. Eventually, the acid drip of convictions (and no doubt bought pardons) will eat away and reduce the duct tape of the legitimacy of the elite to insignificant binding power.

The voters of France are poised to say "non" to the constitution on May 29th in a referendum and the results will be catastrophic to the continued integration of Europe if present trends hold. When that happens there goes the baling wire. At best we will enter a holding pattern where further integration will be stymied by institutions that will tend to work against progress and, more likely, europe will start to backslide.

When finally, either now or later, legitimite has completely eroded and the France of 1939 makes its full reappearance, do we have any idea what to do? Will we just ignore it until the smallest little wind blows down a completely rotten France and establishes some new European insanity? Or will we engage France, challenge her to reestablish herself on some sustainable basis?

April 05, 2005

Should Oil Wheeling be Illegal?

Posted by TMLutas

Imagine three people in a line, A, B, and C. A and B both have a commodity that C wants. A has three units and needs to use one, B has one unit and needs to use two and C has zero units and needs one. Let's further say that it's cheaper for B to sell C his unit and buy two from A than for C to buy from A and B to buy from A. Should B be allowed to make the more efficient deals?

Illegalizing that sort of trade seems to be what Sen Ron Wyden is after. The US can sell Alaskan oil to Japan for less money than Japan can get it from the Gulf. The US then increases imports from Venezuela to make up the difference, saving on net shipping costs. Japan saves money, the US makes a small profit on the deal, and Venezuela sells its crude closer to home instead of shipping to further off customers.

No doubt, if we were to get into some sort of national crisis, we'd keep our oil home and the Japanese would have to pay the Gulf States' "Asia premium" of up to three dollars on each barrel. So who should get the extra money? Gulf producers or should US oil companies split the money between them and worldwide consumers?

Unfortunately it takes 2-3 paragraphs to explain why such trades are a good idea and only one sentence or two for demagogues to argue that they're against the national interest, crying economic treason.

Don't Trust WEP

Posted by TMLutas

The FBI demonstrated how long it takes a competent team of crackers to enter into a WEP secured Wi-Fi network. It took them about 3 minutes to break in. Don't even think of trusting your data security to WEP.

There is an alternative to WEP, called WPA. Unfortunately, for key lengths under 20 characters, it too is vulnerable (in WPA's case, you can make a dictionary attack). It looks like I'm going to be investing in a RADIUS server after all.

Canada Corruption Scandal Censorship

Posted by TMLutas

I had a dry little note about the Canada corruption scandal and the Gomery Commission. There wasn't much original work to it, merely a link to where you could get the skinny. Since I'm in the US, Snappingturtle.net server is in the US, and I have little respect for foreign censors, it seemed to have little down side for me. Right before I hit submit, I remembered. Bruce Rolston, the fellow who set up this little corner of the web for me is Canadian. After a quick phone call, I found out that the fellow whose information is on the whois record of the domain is also canadian.

As a courtesy to my hosts (on request), I won't post the link here. As a courtesy to my readership, I will always talk about episodes of censorship and self-censorship that pop up in my writing. The Google search term "Gomery Commission" provides all necessary background information on the publication ban so those of you who legally can access Google (probably not the KSA, PRC, or possibly Canada) you can educate yourself there. I am not a lawyer and apparently you should consult one before you search the web these days on what your particular jurisdiction's legal requirements are.

God help us all.

April 04, 2005

China Peak

Posted by TMLutas

It looks like the labor threat from the PRC is peaking. If we can just survive a few more years, rising wages will reduce the threat from the PRC and US manufacturers will no longer be swimming against impossible competitive conditions.

I've lived this story before. In the 80s it was the Japanese who were supposed to do us in with their unbeatable system of a manic workforce with industrial planning from the MITI led top. The Japanese threat receded, the PRC threat is about to. All that is left is greater creativity, greater production, lower prices, and a more varied culture commercially available all over the world.

Before I shuffle off this mortal coil, I expect to hear this story again but the PRC and India were the big ones. No other possible rising power can swamp globalization by putting so many money starved workers on the world market and caused the developed economic Core to recoil in horror, replicating the pre-WW I withdrawal from globalization's promise.

It's a very good year.

April 01, 2005

Pray for the Pope

Posted by TMLutas

It looks like the Pope may be in his final moments. I think that his final work may come to be seen as one of personal example, one of how to die a proper death. May he have success and may we all grow in wisdom from his witness.

Best 404 message ever

Posted by TMLutas

just go there

Scary EuroSoc Fact of the Day

Posted by TMLutas

The Telegraph, writing about the EU's sad joke of a process to liberalize service employment buries this bombshell on paragraph 13

Last Monday, Sweden's largest trade union admitted that the official 5.5 per cent unemployment rate is hiding a "real unemployment" of 20 to 25 per cent, which includes those claiming long-term sick pay or having taken early state retirement.

I can't even begin to imagine what a 25% unemployment rate would do to this country. This is depression level unemployment in any normal context but for Sweden, it's just another day of eurosocialism business as usual.

The really infuriating part is that you can still find people that, to this day, claim that Sweden is a model society pointing the way towards a peaceful implementation of socialism.

25% unemployment, amazing.

HT: Marginal Revolution

A product of BruceR and Jantar Mantar Communications, and affiliated contributors. Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's half-informed viewpoint on the world.

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