America’s approaching multiracial nightmare

As I mentioned before, when a blogger is on vacation he has the bizarre feeling that readers back home will be interested in his political/social/economic musings about his new location.  A few weeks ago we had a family vacation in Bermuda.  I took notes.  I was reminded of this trip when I saw Matt Yglesias’s recent post showing a golf course on the coast of Bermuda.  Even before I visited Bermuda I knew that it had once been ranked the richest country in the world (it has recently slipped to number three, below Qatar and Liechtenstein.)  Naturally I wondered why.

Yes, I knew it had to do with some offshore tax haven business.  But that still doesn’t quite answer the question.  There are dozens of places like that from the Isle of Man to British Virgin Islands to Cayman Islands, Jersey Island, Panama, Gibraltar, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Luxembourg, etc., etc.  Why was Bermuda so successful?

Let’s start with the fact that Bermuda is about 55% black.

Then consider that Bermuda only has about 65,000 people.  That fits my “small is beautiful” in governance hypothesis.

Then recall that Bermuda is about 55% black.

Bermuda has the longest continually serving legislature in the world.  That supports my view that democracy is great, the more the better.

Then recall that Bermuda is about 55% black.

Bermuda has no income tax, and I was told that people who don’t work aren’t given much welfare.  Even the recent socialist-leaning government didn’t impose an income tax.  Top rate: ZERO.  Take that Saez.  It’s a supply-sider’s paradise.

And did I mention that Bermuda is about 55% black?

OK, let’s stop dancing around the issue that everyone is thinking about—race.  What can we make of the fact that the richest country in the world around 2008 was a majority black country?  Maybe nothing.  But I think there might be a few tiny lessons:

1.  I’m told that the blacks in Bermuda were a mixture of slaves and free workers.  But even the slaves were put to work in more skilled jobs (like shipbuilding) than the farming plantation slaves in the Caribbean or the American South.  So I suppose that provides mild support for the view that some of the problems faced by blacks today are somehow related to the legacy of slavery.  It seemed to me that the blacks in Bermuda now fill lots of pretty highly skilled jobs.  But that’s just casual empiricism.

2.  Bermuda’s economic model is obviously not scalable.  A Bermuda with 65 million people would not do anywhere near as well.  Nonetheless I don’t think we should dismiss their success with a wave of the hand.  They have done better than other island nations with similar populations.  Someone should try to figure out why it’s so well-governed.

Indeed I’d go further, and argue that every unusually successful nation is a sort of natural experiment. None of them should be dismissed as a “special case.” That doesn’t mean we should blindly copy everything they do, but places like Switzerland, Sweden, Singapore almost always offer us at least one useful lesson.  So do even lesser regional successes like Chile, Botswana or Dubai.  The Chinese understands this, which is why they are allowing Hong Kong to conquer China, one village at a time.  (Qianhai is next up.)

In Bermuda they’ll deny they are rich, pointing to high prices.  Don’t believe them.  People in my home state of Massachusetts will also deny we are rich, pointing to lots of poor and working class people.  But Massachusetts is one of the richest places on Earth, and so is Bermuda.  There are no slums in Bermuda.  How many majority black (or majority white!) countries have no slums?  The housing stock is extremely attractive.  These pastel colored homes on the water are being built as a low income public housing project!

Screen Shot 2013-08-08 at 10.14.16 PM

I was told that the semi-socialist party that ruled Bermuda in recent years has slightly damaged the economy by sitting on their laurels, and that meanwhile other islands like Bahamas were copying their model and catching up.  However the pro-business party was returned to power last year.

Perhaps I should have gone to the Bahamas.  It’s much bigger than Bermuda (360,000 people) and is 90% black.  And it’s roughly as rich as South Korea.  So maybe Bermuda is worth emulating.

David Deutsch likes to sum up his philosophy as:

1.  Problems are inevitable.

2.  Problems are solvable.

I think problems are inevitable where different races with different cultures live in close proximity.  And I also think those problems are solvable.  Let the immigrants come.

PS.  The title was a reference to fears that immigration will turn America into another Guatemala, or another Philippines, or another Haiti.  Why not another Bermuda?

PPS.  Massachusetts is actually the richest political entity on Earth containing more than 6 million people.

PPPS.  The American “state” with by far the highest percentage of blacks is Washington DC (about 50%).  It’s also by far America’s richest “state.”  Call it “America’s Bermuda.”



61 Responses to “America’s approaching multiracial nightmare”

  1. Gravatar of Pietro Poggi-Corradini Pietro Poggi-Corradini
    14. August 2013 at 16:42

    Possibly relevant:

  2. Gravatar of marcus nunes marcus nunes
    14. August 2013 at 17:30

    “Problems are inevitable but solvable”. Unfortunately many non MM economists are “Doomsayers”:

  3. Gravatar of CMOT CMOT
    14. August 2013 at 18:04

    Look at the map and then remember, it’s the tip of the Bermuda Triangle! In some Bizzaro parallel dimension Ben Bernanke is flying a helicopter dropping money, but it gets sucked into the Triangle and comes out in our Bermuda! In this dimension, Bernanke knows about the Triangle, but in the Bizzaro one, he doesn’t.

  4. Gravatar of BRD BRD
    14. August 2013 at 18:06

    I think you mean that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has 6 *million* people

  5. Gravatar of benjamin cole benjamin cole
    14. August 2013 at 18:49

    I wonder if Bermudans originate in Ghana, always noted for the industriousness of her people.

  6. Gravatar of marcus nunes marcus nunes
    14. August 2013 at 19:02

    I couldn´t pinpoint their origin but this may be useful:
    Bermuda’s history records the arrival of the first blacks, the first English law passed to control the behavior of the “Negroes,” and the creation of ninety-nine-year indentures for black and Indian servants. When the inevitable reality of slavery took hold in Bermuda, slaveholders realized that they, like their slaves, were not free. Slavery dictated and strained the relationships between whites and blacks, but in this smallest of English colonies it differed from slavery elsewhere because of the uniquely close master-slave relations created by Bermuda’s size and maritime economy.

    At only twenty-one square miles in area, Bermuda saw slaves and slaveholders working and living closer together than in other societies. The emphasis on maritime pursuits offered slaves a degree of autonomy and a sense of identity unequaled in other English colonies. This groundbreaking history of Bermuda’s slavery reveals fewer runaways, less-violent rebellions, and relatively milder punishments for offending slaves.

  7. Gravatar of Kgaard Kgaard
    14. August 2013 at 19:09

    Yes … this question comes up a lot. Rhodesia was a very successful country, as was South Africa. The issue is not so much the make-up of the populace as the make-up of the RULERS. So who runs Bermuda? It’s not an independent country — it’s a British overseas territory with a 400-year history of effective British rule (albeit with a lot of local autonomy).

  8. Gravatar of TravisV TravisV
    14. August 2013 at 19:19

    This is interesting. I haven’t looked at the evidence yet but I’m rather surprised……

    “David Rosenberg Announces Big Change Of Mind On Perhaps The Most Important Economic Question Of Our Time”

  9. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    14. August 2013 at 19:33

    As Thomas Sowell has pointed out in many articles and books, the culture of American plantation slaves comes from the whites who ruled them in the South. Itself imported from the ‘Celtic Fringe’ of what is today the UK.

    The culture of the Bahamas, Bermuda and other Caribbean colonies was English and more like what New England experienced. West Indian blacks in the USA have a very different experience from blacks descended from Southern plantation slaves. Colin Powell, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier are descendants of West Indians.

    It isn’t black v. white, it’s redneck Scots Irish v. English.

  10. Gravatar of Antipodean Antipodean
    14. August 2013 at 19:34

    26% of Australia’s population was born overseas. In the US it’s more like 12%

    Multiculturalism is not the problem!

  11. Gravatar of TravisV TravisV
    14. August 2013 at 20:22


    OK, I read most of Rosenberg’s analysis:

    I think it’s total BS. He’s essentially saying that if the Fed achieves faster NGDP growth, we’ll get faster inflation and a slower real growth rate than we have currently.

    Why On Earth would stagflation happen now when it didn’t happen during the Reagan Recovery of 1983 and 1984? I’m mystified.

    We have an improving supply-side picture. Awesome energy discoveries are happening regularly. So how could stagflation possibly be a threat???

  12. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    14. August 2013 at 20:30

    Scot, I like the way you argue, by experienced counterfactuals. I like to do that too so it really cracks me up.

    Sadly (since I like the post) I see one strong and scientifically justifiable quibble. Actually, two. One, the law of large numbers. Two, mean reversal.

    The law of large numbers applied to, say, the results of autocracy vs democracy, or small school quality vs large school quality, as seen recently in the US, means that small entities are likely to be more extreme – more successes, more failures, vs. large entities. If you only pick the good examples without considering the whole statistic, you’re setting yourself up. Not that Bermuda isn’t a good story, it is, but to become a policy recommendation you need the statistic, not just one story. We have to throw in Sao Tome and Principe, Comoros, Cape Verde in the mix too. All very small island nations with abysmal GDP data and politics.

    Mean reversal: you said yourself before that the existence of a few Warren Buffets or long term successful fund managers doesn’t disprove the EMH – just wait long enough. In a similar logic, a few Bermudas or Singapores, in the very long run, might just… revert to the mean eventually.

    To try and destroy the points I have just made: I believe the variance we see in statistics really is due to real differences, and so my above points could be restated to say: Bermuda, Singapore, Warren Buffett, some small schools, for a while, really did something right and worthy to be emulated. The real trouble is to find out what exactly that is, because once you accept that “individualist” line of thought, you evidently can’t resort to statistics to prove it.

    PS: in your linked income stat I see that Utah has nearly the same per capita income as Mississippi. Take that, legend of the hard working mormon…

  13. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    14. August 2013 at 20:31

    Pietro, Note that Barbados is smaller.

    Marcus, That’s an understatement.

    Marcus and Patrick, Thanks for that interesting history. Those factors may well play a role.

    Kgaard, Good point. But it’s still interesting that places like HK and Bermuda didn’t adopt Britain’s crummy economic policy, but rather a far better policy regime. Surely they could have done much worse with their home rule option. (Maybe HK is a bad example, as it wasn’t democratic.)

    Antipodean, It’s both a problem and a solution. But I’d say the “solution” aspect of multicultural society trumps the problem aspect.

  14. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    14. August 2013 at 20:31

    Scott. Seems I’m losing my t’s !

  15. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    14. August 2013 at 20:38

    Travis, Obama perhaps? I don’t want to oversell the problem, as right now it’s mostly demand side. But Obama’s policies have been poor from a supply side perspective. The energy boom is nice, but doesn’t come close to offsetting the effects of bad policy in DC.

    mbka, The “problem” in Utah might be their very high birth rate. The adults probably are hard working.

    I agree about the small country effect, I don’t have enough data. And large countries still have some advantages of scale, as we aren’t yet in a completely free trade world. But I think things are moving in the direction of small countries.

  16. Gravatar of Geoff Geoff
    14. August 2013 at 20:38

    “Even the recent socialist-leaning government didn’t impose an income tax.”


    “I’m not going to call anyone a “socialist” as it reminds me of when foolish young bloggers call conservatives “racists,” but I will say that some of the tweets in the twitter discussion remind me a bit of Summers’ comments.”

    Well that didn’t last long.

  17. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    14. August 2013 at 20:41

    mbka, I’d add that if Singapore reverted to the mean in the long run, it would be good news of a sort. Because if the top countries never reverted to the mean, the bottom countries could not either. That would mean they have no hope, and there is no point in them even trying to learn lessons from Singapore. So let’s hope Singapore does eventually revert to the mean.

  18. Gravatar of TravisV TravisV
    14. August 2013 at 20:53

    OK rightwingers,

    Now I need you all to provide me a list of the most harmful things that the Obama years have done to the supply side of the economy.

    Please list them in order.

    #1 is that a large fraction of the workforce has lost its skills due to long-term unemployment, right?

    #2 is the extension of unemployment benefits?

    What are #3, #4 and #5?

    (By the way, if #3 is the increase in the capital gains tax rate, I’m not very worried at all)

  19. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    15. August 2013 at 00:01

    Scott, agreed on mean reversal for the benefit of the poor!

    The better thing would be though if academia, politics, and public opinion, got a grip on why exactly some countries get in the sweet spot at some particular point, and some others don’t. I fear there are many partial theories but no good consensus. Democracy, autocracy, high or low taxes, liberal or illiberal immigration, large or small country, black or white, natural resources or not, over- or underpopulated, constitutional origins and what not, none seem to be cure-alls if taken in isolation, none seem to be complete deal breakers. It’s almost as if, if you wait long enough, every country gets its lucky break, or the opposite**. But that doth not make a policy.

    ** I mean, Germany was a politically splintered up basket case before Bismarck. North Korea may be a victim of its politics but you could just as well say it is a perpetrator of its politics. What if Washington had been shot in the revolutionary war? Or if Lincoln had been shot a bit sooner – what if the South had won? etc. In other words, how much depends purely on contingencies, path dependency etc, and how much is systemic inevitability?

  20. Gravatar of ChrisA ChrisA
    15. August 2013 at 00:04

    On the question of why colonies, such as Hong Kong and Bermuda, seemed to have better policies than the ruling UK one a few points;
    1. Economic populism is bad news for economies, the Governor of Hong Kong did not have to worry about being re-elected, so could follow non-populist policies.
    2. The British tradition was that colonies were money making exercises, as soon as they started to cost money, there was a strong sentiment in the UK that they should not be supported. (Unlike the French where it is more about prestige). So business friendly policies were followed as a matter of course, i.e. very strong enforcement of property rights, low taxes etc.
    3. On the black/white thing, Bermuda has a really long history, has there perhaps been more mixing of races than in the US?

    I also second the comment about sample size. Consider that Singapore had very good policies from Lee Kuan Yew, but he was basically a dictator. But they could have easily had someone like Mao or Pol Pot. I think everyone would agree than on aggregate strong leaders have been bad, even if you can find examples where they have been good. So any country should focus more on ensuring that bad leaders can’t do significant damage, than trying to get the best leader they can.

  21. Gravatar of Ben J Ben J
    15. August 2013 at 00:41


    I think you might have try making the distinction between when someone uses a word as a pejorative (“ignore him, he’s just a socialist”) and a non-pejorative adjective (“the government is socialist leaning compared to the opposition”). You might find such a distinction useful when planning your next ‘gotcha’.

  22. Gravatar of Ben J Ben J
    15. August 2013 at 00:43

    Have to try*

    Excuse me.

  23. Gravatar of Julian Janssen Julian Janssen
    15. August 2013 at 04:51

    I remember a while ago, yoy wrote about how the interest on excess reserves may be a factor holding back monetary policy’s effectiveness. It occurred to me that an alternative to lowering that rate of interest or even charging for excess reserves, could be found in fiscal policy: to either tax excess reserves or to provide a small loan subsidy to offset the interest earned on excess reserves. Of course, either would have to be not counteracted by monetary policy… Obviously the idea of taxing excess reserves almost gets you into helicopter drop territory and subsidizing extra loans would be exceedingly expensive. What do you think?

  24. Gravatar of Boston Rob Boston Rob
    15. August 2013 at 06:12

    Bermuda has seemed so very… well…. “British” to me when I’ve visited. I’m tempted to make more of the legacy of colonialism (it is still a British territory formally) and all that brings than either the virtue of democracy or race. There’s apparently a socio-political narrative that explains Bermuda too. It can be constructed through an interpretation of Wikipedia. Something like….

    Civil war in England in the 17th century produced the expulsion of political dissidents in Bermuda, which then was consolidated as something of a forward naval base for the British. “Undesirables” emigrated to the Carolinas and the Bahamas.

    With an early military industrial complex as a base, Bermuda then was among the first in the new world to transition from agriculture to trade – particularly ship building. Bermuda participated as a British combatant in the war of 1812, but, over time, the need for a British base to launch attacks on the US lessened. Because of its role in US/UK relations and the fact that it was safe and orderly, tourism became an important industry.

    As the economy developed and blacks from the West Indies began to immigrate, the provincial government took steps to legally preference the immigration of more “desirable” blacks from the US and Canada. Ultimately, gentrification was institutionalized as a polite democratic system that is a pleasant stage for all kinds of tourists. Businesses there insure a lot of boats. The end!

  25. Gravatar of Coleton Stirman Coleton Stirman
    15. August 2013 at 06:16


    Didn’t know you were joining the band “blind faith” when you get back from Bermuda. Haha Mr. Woodhill has some work to do on MM.

  26. Gravatar of Floccina Floccina
    15. August 2013 at 06:21

    Another great post! you are even better on non-monetary subjects than on monetary subjects.

    Barbados is another black majority country that does very well.

    Peter Blair Henry of Stanford University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about economic development. Henry compares and contrasts the policy and growth experience of Barbados and Jamaica. Both became independent of England in the 1960s, so both inherited similar institutions. But each pursued different policies with very different results. Henry discusses the implications of this near-natural experiment for growth generally and the importance of macroeconomic policy for achieving prosperity.

  27. Gravatar of Floccina Floccina
    15. August 2013 at 06:36

    One note on the other sides blacks do very bad in Massachusetts, in fact they do better in Mississippi and Georgia than they do in Massachusetts.

  28. Gravatar of Wonks Anonymous Wonks Anonymous
    15. August 2013 at 06:41

    I’ve heard that it’s similar to Mauritania, with Indians running lots of stuff. Though I could be conflating Bermuda with Trinidad & Tobago.

    Unusual nations should not be dismissed, but nor should similar outcomes be expected. Take “the outside view”.

  29. Gravatar of dwb dwb
    15. August 2013 at 06:59

    “approaching” multiracial nightmare??? well, that’s a little incendiary.

    First, America has been a melting pot for centuries (all two of them). I am from a city where a lot of immigrants came to work in the steel mills at the turn of the century. There was a time when they did not get along, but after a generation or two you see a lot of bi-ethnic or bi-racial couples. If my sister had admitted to my parents that she dated a black man, they would have been apoplectic.

    Nowadays, its like so what. I ran into a very nice couple on the trail the other day.

    I think that the real issue with racial disparities in this country has nothing to do with people getting along. Is a function of welfare, and the drug war (hispanic and black gangs control the drug flow). You get more of what you subsidize, and its become ok to have children in single parent homes collecting a check. I think that people respect people who work hard, but unfortunately “minority” has become synonymous with someone on a government paycheck, and a picture of the local gang leader. People don’t get along with freeloaders and criminals. Want to fix racial tensions? Have fewer freeloaders and criminals.

    I actually do know some undocumented workers, all of them are hard workers, and frankly i’d rather deport the freeloaders in Baltimore who don’t even take advantage of 12 years of free school I pay for. Keep the undocumented workers, most work harder than I do. Not one of them wants an entitlement. They just want to be legal, and free. If someone wants to come here in a sweltering truck to to yard-work 12 hours a day, let them stay and kick out the budding gangsters in Baltimore’s most dangerous schools. And, btw, a lot of them have “papers” and have been paying taxes and social security under false names, for years. So, i don’t know how this whole back tax issue is going to work.

  30. Gravatar of Neal Neal
    15. August 2013 at 07:04

    Scott, to your PPS: NYC 2012 GDP was 1.2 trillion and its 2012 population was 8.3 million.

  31. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    15. August 2013 at 07:12

    Travis, The biggest problem is that Obama hasn’t done any pro-supply-side policies (Unlike Clinton and Carter who did a bunch) US policymakers have to run fast (reform fast) to stay in the same place, due to the relentless build up of bad supply side policies over time. Casey Mulligan has a whole book that discusses recent examples.

    mbka, Obviously there is an element of luck, as you say. The two Koreas are a near perfect example. And obviously no simple model will work here, we need to weigh a wide range of information, and be very judicious in our counterfactuals.

    ChrisA, I strongly agree with your point about dictators and luck, and indeed have often made the same point. That’s why I’m so pro-democracy.

    Ben, Geoff is not capable of those subtle distinctions. I actually know nothing about the government, it’s just that the locals called it semi-socialist, I presume social democratic is a better term.

    Julian. Yes, that might work. I believe my very first or second blog post advocated a tax on ERs.

    Boston, Yes, that’s probably part of it. But Britain has lots of colonies, why is Bermuda so much richer than the others? The black immigration you mentioned is interesting. BTW, Oprah owns a house in Bermuda—I bet she has no problems shopping there!! (For non-Americans Oprah is a black female billionaire.)

    Coleton, Does America need more Forbes bloggers? (I turned down an offer.)

    Seriously, Louis is a good guy, but I don’t agree with him.

    Floccina, Thanks, but do you have a link on the Mississippi/Massachusetts comparison?

    Wonks, Yup.

  32. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    15. August 2013 at 07:17

    dwb, I was being sarcastic.

    Neal, The data I saw suggested incomes in NYC were lower. GDP is different from income, as there are lots of profits in NYC owned by outsiders. But I looked at several sources for household income that didn’t agree with each other, so perhaps I am wrong.

    Does your data include suburbs? That would push it to 2.5 trillion, which seems too high.

  33. Gravatar of brendan brendan
    15. August 2013 at 09:32

    From a bird’s eye view: Country IQ near 100 + not atrocious government= rich country, almost w/ out exception. The Asian Tigers populaces (lots of Chinese) always scored well, even when country was poor and horribly governed.

    For some reason Bermudan blacks are a positive outlier compared to blacks around the globe when it comes to IQ testing:

    If you could come up with some sort of environmental explanation for their high scores, that’d be enormous news, because there is precious little good evidence that environment fully explains the IQ gap.

    I know nothing of Bermuda, but the hereditarian guess would be either that white admixture is underestimated in the Bermudan black population, or as a commenter previously noted, there’s been selective immigration for smart folks. Neither of those causes are duplicable on global scale.

    Anyway, point being, don’t ignore a factor w/ a GDP correlate near 0.80. High Bermudan black IQs are the real interesting thing.

  34. Gravatar of Jeff Lim Jeff Lim
    15. August 2013 at 09:34

    “So I suppose that provides mild support for the view that some of the problems faced by blacks today are somehow related to the legacy of slavery.”

    As a legal immigrant from Asia, I am constantly surprised by how White America of every political stripe (from very conservative to very liberal) gives credence to this “legacy of slavery” nonsense. The opportunity cost of obsessing on and blaming events from centuries past has to be inadequate attention to and implicit undervaluing of the opportunities of the present. Blaming the past is such an expensive crutch that no culture should ever indulge in for fear of cultural rot. Why whites and blacks in America continue to indulge in this game is befuddling? One is inundated with this in America, it seems.

    An “off-the-cuff” reaction/rant but I guess to think this way makes me a racist?

  35. Gravatar of sourcreamus sourcreamus
    15. August 2013 at 09:44

    A couple of interesting things about Bermuda is that the poverty rate in 2000 was 19% which was 7% higher than the US. The average wage for someone who works in the international business sector is almost 4 times as high as those on the island who do not work in that sector.
    It seems like Bermuda is a place with a large sector of rich people and a large number of poor people. I imagine that they can maintain social cohesion due to the small population.

  36. Gravatar of brendan brendan
    15. August 2013 at 09:45

    Jeff, agreed. A detrimental “legacy of slavery” is the idea that a “legacy of slavery” exists. No doubt anger and pessimism correlate w/ low achievement. So regardless whether ongoing anger over slavery is justified, it is still moronic to encourage it- yet we systematically do. Again, this isn’t about morality, right and wrong- it’s simply about the real consequences of telling people they’re victims. Maybe Bermudan’s don’t see themselves as victims.

  37. Gravatar of Scott Sumner Scott Sumner
    15. August 2013 at 10:32

    Brendan, Interesting that the IQ scores are high. If that was selection bias there’d be regression to the mean. It would be easy to test.

    Jeff, I don’t think you are a racist, but I do think you are poor at logic. I don’t hold any of the views that you attribute to me. To say X is correlated with Y is in no way saying “X is an excuse for Y.” That’s just bad logic.

    To take an extreme example, does anyone deny that the high murder rate for males is somehow related to being male? Yet no one excuses men who commit murder.

    Sourcreamus, That’s almost certainly biased by the very high average income in Bermuda. Yes in a relative sense there is poverty, but in an absolute sense there is very little poverty, and no real slums. That’s a great achievement. It has very high living standards, especially compared to other majority black countries.

  38. Gravatar of Aidan Aidan
    15. August 2013 at 10:54

    Do you have a better source for the Massachusetts claim in the PPS? The link just goes to US states data.

  39. Gravatar of Pietro Poggi-Corradini Pietro Poggi-Corradini
    15. August 2013 at 15:12

    “Pietro, Note that Barbados is smaller.”

    Scott, I think it’s the other way around:

    Bermuda: 20.6 sq mi and 65K pop

    Barbados: 166 sq mi and 275K pop

  40. Gravatar of Jeff Lim Jeff Lim
    15. August 2013 at 16:28

    Scott, I have learnt a lot about market monetarism from you, so your logical prowess could possibly be superior to mine. In any case, the fault is all kine as I clearly didn’t make my point well enough. What’s befuddling and frustrates me greatly is why the whole notion of associating slavery with the current problems of blacks is not generally or simply laughed out of the room; laughed off as a joke; an unserious argument. It seems to me the pertinent issues could be better addressed were that the case.

    Although I was reacting to your statement “…provided mild support for the view…” I wasn’t really thinking of you specifically or talking about you viewing or supporting the notion of slavery as an excuse for current problems, which of course you weren’t doing. No, I didn’t think I’m a racist either.

  41. Gravatar of Jeff Lim Jeff Lim
    15. August 2013 at 16:31

    Scott: my typo above–“mine” not “kine”

  42. Gravatar of Geoff Geoff
    15. August 2013 at 16:49

    Ben J:

    “I think you might have try making the distinction between when someone uses a word as a pejorative (“ignore him, he’s just a socialist”) and a non-pejorative adjective (“the government is socialist leaning compared to the opposition”). You might find such a distinction useful when planning your next ‘gotcha’.”

    I think it is more useful to notice that not only do I not call Dr. Sumner a “socialist” in the pejorative manner of which you describe but actually as (what I consider to be) an accurate description, but there is no mention of these caveats. There is “I’m not going to call anyone a socialist…”, and then there is calling people socialist.

    I think what you meant to say is that Dr. Sumner isn’t going to call someone who agrees with his socialist desires a “socialist”, but rather a “pragmatist”, whereas he’ll call those more socialist than him “socialists”, so as to distinguish his socialism from their socialism, without explicitly conceding his own socialism.

    Nobody really likes to be called a socialist, other than of course banner-waving avowed socialists. But I am not in the business of making intellectuals feel good about themselves by catering to their desires for rhetorical anti-rationalism. I am in the business of truth at the expense of pride.

    If I see someone point their gun, or desire coercive territorial monopolists to point their guns, in order to coerce innocent private property owners, which of course is antithetical to laissez-faire cooperation, then I will think in my mind, correctly, that this person is a socialist.

    In terms of “socialists”, I do not distinguish between a socialist who believes himself justified in “allowing” others to brush their hair the way they want, but nothing else, and a socialist who believes himself justified in “allowing” others to produce and utilize their own currency without coercion, but nothing else. To me they are both socialists who lack omnipotence and so are necessarily incapable of planning other people’s lives completely, only partially.

    I would also consider it expected if, for the two hypothetical individuals above, one insisted the other is a socialist but not themselves, whereas the other believed the other is a socialist but not themselves.

    Socialism is centralized (government, state, etc) ownership and/or control of the means of production.

    If anyone favors the state owning/controlling a means of production, say the means to produce money, then that person is a socialist to that extent. The more they want the state to control the means of production, the more socialist they become.

    The only person who can legitimately call themselves anti-socialist is someone who, of course, is against socialistic behavior, that is, against people exerting territorial monopoly coercion against private property owners who live/work in that territory.

    You can’t be in favor of socialist policies like central banking, and claim to not be a socialist, and do so honestly. It is a butchering of the meanings of socialism and laissez-faire.

  43. Gravatar of Geoff Geoff
    15. August 2013 at 17:14

    One of the biggest lessons that everyone on this blog ought to learn, is that to be absolutely against initiations of coercion does not imply that one fails to recognize that there are people in the world who initiate coercion, nor does it imply that one is somehow predicting a universal end to it within the next generation or whatever.

    All it means is that it is a principle one lives by. We all live by principles. We differ in terms of which principles we adopt as both guides to our behavior and as what is justified behavior in others.

    I am proud to be called a “dogmatist” and “ideologue” by socialists such as Dr. Sumner, monetarists in general, Keynesians, the whole lot of them. It means they recognize that living according to principles is not only possible, but something worth defending and intellectually spreading throughout society. If it weren’t for principles, civilization would collapse into a free for all war of all against all. Some folks along the Stirner-Tucker philosophical approach favor this, but for myself, I cannot live as a murderer or rapist. I chose the non-aggression principle.

    The irony is that while my behavior matches my professed ethical principles, Dr. Sumner’s contradict. He claims to support various ethical norms that he himself refuses to act in accordance with. For example, Dr. Sumner supports progressive taxation as ethically justified. But he himself won’t actually go out and behave in accordance with that. He won’t go out and point his guns at innocent property owners and take lots of money from wealthy people and a little money from poor people.

    In other words, and this might give Dr. Sumner a psychological/mental heart attack, Dr. Sumner is a practising “dogmatic anarchist libertarian ideologue.”

    Dr. Sumner behaves in the exact way that he professes to ridicule and condemn.

    You likely are too, if you don’t violate other people’s property rights (coercion). Even my most dreaded intellectual opponents on this blog are likely all practising “Geoffists”, despite their babble. After all, actions speak louder than words.

    The main difference between myself and Dr. Sumner is that he isn’t willing to accept who is IS as an individual actor, whereas I am, and I am proud of who I am. Dr. Sumner isn’t. He thinks it’s more important to appear to others a certain way that differs from how he himself acts, and he tries to convince others of this by his words on his blog posts. He wants others to believe he isn’t a dogmatic ideologue who hates initiations of violence.

    But I know better. I look at his actions, the lack of violent crimes, the lack of socializing other people’s means of production, the lack of practising socialism. He’s a goddamn anarcho-capitalist Rothbardian, just like me. That’s why I give him a hard time. It’s really to help him realize who he is, so that he can teach others about how good it is to be that person.

  44. Gravatar of Jeff Lim Jeff Lim
    15. August 2013 at 18:05

    Brendan: Yes, agreed. It is a terrible distraction. Unfortunately, the left-liberal black leadership favored by the mainstream media pulls out this argument every so often and increasingly so these days. And we are all, at some point or other, reflexively drawn into addressing it–instead of simply laughing it off….

  45. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    15. August 2013 at 20:52

    Brendan, Jeff Lim

    IQ is related to development, and the causality runs backwards: it is development that raises IQs in a given population. This is borne out by natural experiments with genetically identical populations. Example, East Germans at the time of reunification had a full 17 point IQ gap with Western Germany. Even more telling, the gap has since narrowed by 7-9 points. This is taken from: (very worth reading the whole thing, as they say).

    I also recommend Flynn’s 2007 book, “What is intelligence?” for a really nice sum-up of a lot of the issues. One thing he notes is that IQ as measured, largely measures abstract manipulation of symbols. And practice in abstract, symbolic thinking is tied to wealthier, more modern, more abstract, more science heavy, more literate societies. The Flynn effect (historical rise in IQs over time in a given population) is closely related to that: as countries develop they become more tech heavy, schooling and work becomes more abstract and less hands on. Due to the more intense life practice in abstract symbolic manipulation, measured IQ rises.

    Lest you cite twin studies to counter the gist of the argument, Flynn (2007) also offers a good discussion, not 100% conclusive in my eyes, but a worthy attempt to dissolve the remaining contradictions in IQ research.

  46. Gravatar of brendan brendan
    16. August 2013 at 06:03

    1) of course environment affects test scores too.
    2) test error is a fact of life. the evidence you cite is evidence to be digested w/in the context of other evidence.
    3) i find the breadth of different sorts of evidence pretty convincing that psychological differences have some genetic component. for instance, brain size correlates w/ IQ and differs between populations. poor US whites outscore rich US blacks. twin/adoption studies demonstrate the limited impact of a wide range of environments. Jewish achievement in math/physics. the fact that all sorts of physiological (size, speed, strength) and medical differences (anti malaria linked sickle cell) evolved means you shouldn’t put too high a burden on the idea that groups differ a bit innately. put aside IQ, do we really believe that asian men and black men are born w/ the same average personalities? i don’t need science to tell me that’s false.

    i actually assume you’re aware of all this. but some folks have such high priors against innate group differences that they end up weighting evidence very strangely.

  47. Gravatar of brendan brendan
    16. August 2013 at 06:07

    and mbka:

    the evidence you actually cite says east germans scored 90, west germans scored in a range of 99-107 on various tests. modern IQ tests put northern euros around 102, so assume that is correct. and we’re left w/ the fact that east germans scored 12 points lower than expected. throw in some commie environment and some test error…

    and that’s the big anomaly that shows the hereditarians are wrong?

    absurd weighting of evidence.

  48. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    16. August 2013 at 06:46

    Brendan, I am aware of a lot of the evidence you added but I come to quite different conclusions in my personal weightings. If whole populations change their IQ over time while developing economically, but not their genes (time scale too short), and if genetically identical populations with different economic regimes also first come across as different, and then later converge, and if this is true not just for Germany but for other countries too (in the linked article and in FLynn, 2007), then this tells me that the causality is not running from IQ to GDP, as a rule. I mean, as discussed in the article: do you really think the US excels economically because historically it attracted the smartest? What happened to “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” etc etc.

    The fortunes of nations and entire continents waxe and wane, sic transit gloria mundi, and using IQ as some kind of main determinant is just another pseudo-scientific story of mistaken historical determinism.

  49. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    16. August 2013 at 07:17

    Aidan, Well Massachusetts is definitely richer than any country of more than 6 million (in PPP terms). How about regions within countries? I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure I’m right.

    Hint, American is richer than any country of at least 6 million, and Massachusetts is considerably richer than America.

    Pietro, I meant smaller than Jamaica.

    Jeff, I don’t find the hypothesis to be “laughable.” And if true, I doubt if it has any public policy implications. I can’t think of any.

  50. Gravatar of brendan brendan
    16. August 2013 at 08:22

    mbka, the core of the mistake in reasoning that you and others who agree with you make can be boiled down to 2 pts:
    1) strawman: you act as if hereditarians deny environment matters and thus you “disprove” their position by showing that it does. but hereditarians maintain that both genes and environment matter.
    2) failure to look broadly, failure to recognize that data is noisy and failure to recognize the power of an idea that explains MANY MANY (too many to list) diverse phenomenon.

    Market Monetarism and hereditarian views on group differences are similar in that they’re 1) non-mainstream and thus ignorantly dismissed, 2) blatantly correct once you’ve detached yourself from your priors and 3) explanatorily powerful.

    But whatever. If Keynesians want to keep getting surprised by economic strength when austerity meets monetary expansion, fine. And if your model of the world is continually surprised by the failure of various interventions to close racial gaps- and why Asian countries burst thru the mid-income trap, whereas Lat-Am ones don’t- that’s fine too. Your loss.

  51. Gravatar of Floccina Floccina
    16. August 2013 at 08:55

    Scott asked:

    Floccina, Thanks, but do you have a link on the Mississippi/Massachusetts comparison?

    I am busy at work but I will try to get the links when I have some time.

  52. Gravatar of Reverend Moon Reverend Moon
    16. August 2013 at 10:22

    1/5 of the population living in poverty so I’m not sure what your point is. Love that since you saw none you think there’s no slums there lol. But the secret sauce you’re trying to explain is British rule and by extension British institutions.

    by the way you sound like a racist

  53. Gravatar of Reverend Moon Reverend Moon
    16. August 2013 at 10:36

    The Bermuda government is the largest employer on the island. No income tax but high property taxes.

  54. Gravatar of Reverend Moon Reverend Moon
    16. August 2013 at 11:00

    2012. October. It was revealed that 10,000 residents “” or more than a quarter of the Bermuda workforce “” are either unemployed or underemployed. That is the stark finding of a survey published by the Department of Statistics, which reveals more about the impact of business closures and downsizing in a shrinking economy.

  55. Gravatar of Tom Stringham Tom Stringham
    16. August 2013 at 12:35

    Just want to throw out a point about small jurisdictions in general–they tend to be urban. Both Washington, D.C. and Bermuda are virtually 100% urban. No large jurisdiction gets to this level of urbanization. GDP per capita in urban areas is nearly always higher than nearby rural areas, for obvious reasons. I don’t think this explains the whole story, but it has got to be part.

  56. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    16. August 2013 at 21:33

    Reverend Moon, Well if I sound racist to you then I’m sure I am a racist. Regarding slums, it’s a tiny country and I visited all 9 parishes. I also talked to lots of locals of both races. There are no slums in Bermuda. You may be very disappointed to hear that, but it’s true.

    I actually addressed your other points above, but you don’t seem to have bothered to read my previous comments.

    Impressive cult you have, BTW.

    Tom, That’s often true, but Bermuda is actually not any more urban than many other developed countries. It has small farms. But it’s much richer.

  57. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    16. August 2013 at 22:20


    you obviously have a chip on your shoulder about these issues. I don’t. Sorry if I accidentally stumbled into a live firing area between “hereditarians” (??) and “others”. I am an innocent civilian.

  58. Gravatar of Floccina Floccina
    17. August 2013 at 05:43

    Here is one link where you can see that the rate of non-Hispanic black males ages 10-24 being the victim of a homicide 64.3 in 100,000 in MA and 38.4 in 100,000 in Mississippi. To me that is very big.

    I have read that blacks do better educationally in Mississippi but i am still working on a link.

    I wonder about employment and PPP income also but have not heard anything on that.

  59. Gravatar of Floccina Floccina
    17. August 2013 at 18:12

    A report released today by the Urban Institute says that Black people are better off living in small to medium-sized Metro areas in the South and West than in the Midwest or Northeast.

    According to the study, Blacks and Latinos are “more likely to have jobs, live in better-off neighborhoods and attend better-performing schools” in these regions, although specific cities differ for each group.

  60. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    18. August 2013 at 14:24

    Thanks Floccina.

  61. Gravatar of Is Decentralization Overrated? | Pileus Is Decentralization Overrated? | Pileus
    13. September 2013 at 09:39

    […] Second, Treisman argues that decentralization doesn’t make government “closer to the people.” He points to anecdotes of intimidation at Vermont town meetings and to corrupt local governments like that of Chicago. People might learn political vices, not virtues, from participation in government. When it comes to listening to voters, representatives in a centralized system can do just as well, so long as electoral districts are small. (But how small can electoral districts be in a large country? I wonder.) I basically accept his claims here. There is no evidence that small countries are “better” or “more democratic” or “more efficient” than large countries, for instance. (Contra Scott Sumner.) […]

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