Feb 28

I like big data and I cannot lie

My friend is I think more pro-immigration than I am. I believe it decreases social cohesion and makes leaders like Trump more likely. I doubt Trump would’ve been able to attain power if the foreign-born population were, say, 5% instead of around 13% in 2016. You might blame racism or nationalism or whatever -ism you’d prefer to cite; I’m not making a normative argument here, but rather observing and speculating about behavior on the ground.

Anyway, she made a good point over here about the foreign-born population percentage during the passage of Social Security legislation and other social welfare state features. I know she’s right about the data because that’s the sort of thing I roughly hold in my head, but I wanted to see how that percentage had varied over time.

I would link to the census data directly, but it seems to have been removed or changed, and I’m lazy, but this seems accurate (sorry, it’s Yglesias).

Here’s the crucial data from that article:

Are there confounding factors? Likely. The number of immigrants as a percentage of the population was on the decline by 1935, when Social Security was first enacted, due to things like this which might have been perceived as turning the tide of immigration. I haven’t studied much about the sociology of that time from this angle, so I don’t know. And perhaps this would’ve been a misperception — it’s unclear to me whether it was that act or the Depression that had more to do with it. Very probably both, to degrees that would be hard to disentangle.

Probably the lesson for me here is that it’s difficult to apply direct relations from history to present times — it’s all too contingent. Studying history is valuable — and one that far more people should do as part of their educations — but it can also reflect like the Mirror of Erised in Harry Potter whatever you want to see.

Historically, though, as foreign-born immigration reaches some high percentage, there is a backlash from the native-born population. I think we’re seeing this again. Now I’m not as convinced that it’ll have such a strong effect on social programs, but I don’t believe history rhymes here strongly enough to tell for sure.

Still, though, I believe the citizens of a country should have a right to determine who should be allowed to live in their country — even if it harms the economy and capital (which reducing immigration mainly harms capital and helps native workers, especially in our current neolib environment). Otherwise, the arguments for a nation-state are much-diminished and without changing society completely and killing neoliberalism, the primary effect of open borders is to make both the country on the receiving and losing end of immigration worse off over time in my opinion, at least as we currently structure our world. Capital wins. (Historically, it has been business that has been hugely pro-immigration. I bet you can’t imagine why.)

Open borders is a nice dream. I like it. I just don’t think it comports with reality as we live it now. Change that reality, maybe I will have a different view.

Feb 28

People are people

This is why I’m very antagonistic towards the modern liberal certitude that states that one should only befriend or be romantically involved with someone exactly the same age, social class and mindset as you. Sounds like a waste of a life.

Yes, it is creepy when men only date 19-year-olds, but if that were the only critique I’d not be writing this now, would I? (That’s the excuse critique. I’ll tell you what’s really going on.)

Two different things are happening. One is that it’s better for consumerism, marketing and propaganda if people only form friendships and relationships with those near the same age and other demographics. Predatory capitalism operates more smoothly if so. People are more predictable. The sharks can feed more easily.

The second is that it’s a way of (for mostly women, but sometimes men too) of reducing competition for partners — restrict the age range of the search space by social disapprobation, the non-logic goes, and you stand a better chance. Like a lot of things in the friendship and romance market (which can be surprisingly similar), it makes little sense but I’m proclaiming what is, not what should be or what would make anyone’s life better.

I’ve been lucky to have dated and befriended people of all ages as I have myself aged: dated older women when I was young, and befriended them, too. One of my closest friends in the army was a guy over 40 when I was 20, as well, though I usually find myself in friendships with women rather than men.

And when I was in my mid-30s living in Florida, I befriended a 19-year-old daughter of one of the women I worked with; talk about seeing things from a different perspective that I was at that point in my life quite far away from. We had fun watching a lot of horror movies together over those few years, and I learned just how different and hostile in many ways the world for young people had become via her direct witness.

There are a whole lot of ways we can resist neoliberalism or at least snub our noses at it. One way is to befriend people who aren’t like you, who are not exactly your same age, your same political beliefs, your same income bracket and your demographic doppelgänger.

I know it makes the pseudo-liberals cry, but that’s all the more reason to do it.

Feb 27

Lies, damn lies, and immigration

Also, don’t believe the lies that deportations will destroy the economy. First if that were true:

1) It already would have happened.

2) Economies just aren’t that linear. If you believe in the DSGE (which most economists claim to), destruction of the economy is not a possible response.

3) It’s a neolib fairy tale so that wages can continue to be suppressed on several fronts. And if you don’t believe neolibs support open borders due to wage suppression, WHY THE FUCK ELSE WOULD THEY WANT IT SO BADLY? That makes me angry, because it is so obvious.

It’s interesting how successfully the neoliberal mindset has co-opted the so-called liberal world, causing universal support for very harmful ideas like open borders and stupid economic models that bear no resemblance to any economy anywhere.

Feb 27

No easy answers

The primary effects of the “open borders” mentality will be to more quickly reduce and eliminate the welfare state, and to decrease even further societal trust and cohesion.

If this isn’t important, or we see it as inevitable, perhaps we should just declare it to be so, open the borders wide and taper off unto elimination Medicaid, unemployment insurance, WIC, CHIP, TANF, SNAP, Medicare and Social Security.

We could try changing human nature but historically that hasn’t worked out so well. Resulted in millions of deaths every time we’ve made a go of it. Want another go? I don’t.

This is just a guess, but I suspect the US could sustain around 5% non-native-born population and still have the political will to maintain those programs. Above that, I doubt it. At around 12% now, there’s absolutely no chance.

I wish these weren’t the choices on offer. But the world is as it is.

This is above and beyond the right that I believe people should have to decide who lives in their own country — that somehow in America (but only in America) we believe immigrant rights should abolish and supersede non-immigrant rights.

Feb 27

Feeling stupid

Realized today that the reason I constantly feel stupid and befuddled is because I unconsciously prioritize reading things I barely understand, that I must struggle to comprehend.

That is not a bad thing, and it means I’m not actually becoming feebleminded.

Feb 27

Big Data

I wonder if in the future 20th and 21st century economics, algorithmic rationalism, and Big Data will be studied in historically-focused comparative religion classes.

Can’t see why not.

Feb 26

Net jobs

Friday I was trying to calculate how many jobs companies I work for or had worked for had eliminated in the past few years. I ended up estimating about 5,000 jobs automated out of existence.

Since the companies who’ve employed me aren’t very large, and not much hiring occurred in lieu of these 5,000 jobs, that means I personally (if you want to map job loss to employees in companies where I work as a direct ratio), eliminated around 11 jobs.

That sounds about right.

This is the way the economy works now. I am the automation you read about and disbelieve is occurring.

One company I work for part time and another I work for full-time is in the process at this very moment of taking on two different large accounts. We are going to automate absolutely everything. Job losses will be around 130 people. They will be replaced with: one part-time employee, one SQL server with some scripts, one good backup system and Azure geo-redundancy.

Net job loss: 129.5.

This is happening all over now. It will only get worse. It’s not some future contingency to deal with. It is the present. When I go into work next week, some people who had jobs doing well-compensated work will no longer have those jobs.

Can’t get more real than that.

Feb 23

Bounded rationality

I know sometimes I seem to be anti-science here. I am not. There’s a reason my fifth grade teacher called me “Mr. Science” and it’s the same reason that I taught most of the science portions of her class that year.*

What I am is against the idea that science has ultimate explanatory power, and that it can be used as a guide to what sort of life to live.

It does not and can not.

At best it can serve an advisory role. What it absolutely can’t do is provide any sort of meaning to life, to determine ethics or morality, to allow one to discern what one should do in any situation.

Too many scientists and engineer types believe that they are the ultimate arbiters and interpreters of rationality and can decide with scientific tools the type of life other people should lead, all dictated by equations (that they’ve written, of course) on a page or in a computer.

The algorithmic rationalist view of the world that has brought us Facebook, mass surveillance, algo-drone bombing and soon much, much worse.

This view is so wrong as to be ludicrous, yet in all too many quarters this pseudo-rationality is the default one. Looking at the world any other way is seen as insane in those same quarters.

I reject this utterly. These people are dangerous, and furthermore they are just as injurious to human flourishing as the most ardent Islamist or Christian dominionist in the long run.

*Yes, I really did teach the science portion of 5th grade for nearly the entire year all while I was myself in 5th grade.