Daily Data Dump – Friday

Have a good weekend.

Death of A Language. Since I started being more pro-active about my general lack of respect for modern American cultural anthropology I’ve gotten a lot of response. On the specific question of whether linguistic diversity is inversely proportional to economic growth, I’ve gotten some mixed-responses, and find all the conclusions inconclusive (I’ve had some r-squared results sent to me privately). Here’s A Replicated Typo reviewing a paper which tentatively supports my theoretical inference empirically. As I said, looking at the correlations are now in my “stack” of “TO-DO”’s. But more broadly the normative gap between myself and my critics remains. So in the post I point to here, the author paraphrases a linguist as saying: “The languages spoken on the islands are considered to be almost 70,000 years old and are theorized to have African roots.” My comments about this sort of stuff are dismissive, and this experience only reinforces my disrespect for the “discourse” which linguistic anthropologists are introducing into the public domain. There are intellectual reasons to be interested in linguistic isolates not part of the big language families (e.g., Semitic, Indo-European, Niger-Kordofanian, etc.), but no language is “70,000 years old.” The Andaman Islanders are not black-skinned elves, immortals who brought their culture in toto from the ur-heimat of Africa, genetic and cultural fossils who have been in total stasis. Cultural anthropologists presumably understand that all humans are equally ancient, derived from African ancestors, and that all languages and peoples are African (or at least 95% so within the last 100,000 years), but their communication to the public confuses the issue and presents some groups as “pristine.”  As it is, Andaman Islanders have a major issue with high mortality levels due to being exposed to Eurasian pathogens. Language death is a relatively secondary issue for a group which had to be forcibly separated from Indian settlers in the 1960s for their own survival as a biological group.


‘Petite’ woman thrown off plane to make way for obese teenager who needed two seats. The source is a British tabloid, so take with a healthy dose of skepticism. But the general issue of obese people and airline flights is something that the obese and non-obese have to confront regularly. As a non-obese person I’ve had the discomfort of obese people using my own space as “overflow” to become more comfortable. The weirdest thing that has happened to me was on a trans-Atlantic flight where an obese man came and sat next to me in what had been an empty seat. Thirty minutes before the flight landed he went back to his seat, so I got up and saw where he’d come from, and it seems that he was sitting next to another obese person. It must have been uncomfortable for both of them, but still. Looking around there were a few other empty seats on the flight, but I was the slimmest person adjacent to any of them, so I strongly suspect that I was “targeted” for my co-passenger’s comfort. It must really be stressful to be obese on a long flight, but I really hate being penalized for being thin enough that I don’t “use” all my space.

The rich are different from you and me. One issue is that if there’s a huge wealth differential between two people there’s always the tension of the poorer person asking the wealthier one for money at some point. It makes wealthier people more guarded and less compassionate because they’re no longer in a plausible situation of reciprocity. They start seeing everyone as a utility maximizing rational actor trying to work an angle. Those with relatives in poor countries probably know what I’m getting at in terms of how fiscal imbalances distort personal relationships.

What Makes Humans Unique ?(III): Self-Domestication, Social Cognition, and Physical Cognition. Humans, the self-domesticated animal? Or perhaps some humans domesticated others?

Did emotions evolve to push others into cooperation? Rationality is bounded by emotion. Proximate individual behavior dictated by general intelligence is one dimension of humanity, but heuristics grounded in non-rational elements of cognition are evolutionarily informed and ecologically useful (or were).

Koreans, not quite the purest race?

ResearchBlogging.orgPLoS One has a paper out on Korean (South) population genetics and phylogeography, Gene Flow between the Korean Peninsula and Its Neighboring Countries:

SNP markers provide the primary data for population structure analysis. In this study, we employed whole-genome autosomal SNPs as a marker set (54,836 SNP markers) and tested their possible effects on genetic ancestry using 320 subjects covering 24 regional groups including Northern ( = 16) and Southern ( = 3) Asians, Amerindians ( = 1), and four HapMap populations (YRI, CEU, JPT, and CHB). Additionally, we evaluated the effectiveness and robustness of 50K autosomal SNPs with various clustering methods, along with their dependencies on recombination hotspots (RH), linkage disequilibrium (LD), missing calls and regional specific markers. The RH- and LD-free multi-dimensional scaling (MDS) method showed a broad picture of human migration from Africa to North-East Asia on our genome map, supporting results from previous haploid DNA studies. Of the Asian groups, the East Asian group showed greater differentiation than the Northern and Southern Asian groups with respect to Fst statistics. By extension, the analysis of monomorphic markers implied that nine out of ten historical regions in South Korea, and Tokyo in Japan, showed signs of genetic drift caused by the later settlement of East Asia (South Korea, Japan and China), while Gyeongju in South East Korea showed signs of the earliest settlement in East Asia. In the genome map, the gene flow to the Korean Peninsula from its neighboring countries indicated that some genetic signals from Northern populations such as the Siberians and Mongolians still remain in the South East and West regions, while few signals remain from the early Southern lineages.

I can’t comment too much on the inferences they make from the results because I’m not familiar with the geography of South Korea, or particular historical details. But more generally the genetics of Korea are of particular interest for social reasons:

South Korea is one of the most ethnically homogeneous societies in the world with more than 99 per cent of inhabitants having Korean ethnicity…The Koreans call their ethnic homogeneousity of their society using the word, 단일민족국가 (Dan-il minjok gook ga, literally means the single race society.)

Korean racialism has recently gotten the spotlight in works such as The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters, articles in The New York Times about South Korean prejudice against dark-skinned people, and the rise of mixed-origin Koreans nationals due to the large number of Vietnamese brides in rural areas. Here’s an interesting comment on South Korean race consciousness, Western Mixed-Race Men Can Join Military:

Western mixed-race men can join the military beginning next year.

Currently, Asian mixed-race men, dubbed “Kosians,” are subject to the country’s conscription system, but “Amerasians” or “Eurasians” are exempted from the mandatory service.

The parliamentary approval of a bill proposed by Rep. Yoo Seung-min of the governing Grand National Party has paved the way for them to join the military.

Western mixed-race men, who have distinctive skin colors, had been exempted because they could have experienced difficulty mixing with Korean colleagues in barracks, the defense ministry had said previously.

The article was published in January of 2010. And that’s not the weirdest idea to come out of the Korean peninsula. With all that in mind, the distinctiveness, or lack thereof, of the Korean nation as adduced from scientific genetics is of particular curiosity, as it is a clear example of the intersection of science and culture. First, here’s the figure which shows where in Asia & South Korea they got their samples from:

journal.pone.0011855.g001

And here’s a detailed breakdown of samples:

journal.pone.0011855.t001

One point to note is that there seem to be some mixed-nationality individuals in the sample; Korean-Japanese, and Korean-Vietnamese. Here’s a MDS plot showing the relationship between the various East Asian groups:

journal.pone.0011855.g002

And Structure (remember K = putative ancestral populations which contribute quanta to the genome of individuals):

journal.pone.0011855.g003

I think it is important to note that their Chinese samples were all north Chinese; Beijing and Manchurian. Fujianese and Cantonese would span the Vietnamese and Chinese cluster. The outliers are probably due to the moderately cosmopolitan nature of the Beijing HapMap sample. The Han Chinese are less diverse than Europeans as a whole, but not inordinately so (using pairwise Fst’s a measure). There is an asymmetry when talking about China and any other East Asian nation because it is feasible that Han groups from various regions of China are more genetically similar to non-Han groups which are geographical neighbors. This is what L. L. Cavalli-Sforza found in History and Geography of Human Genes. The northern Chinese clustered with northern Asians, while the southern Chinese clustered with Southeast Asian groups. There have been conflicting results since that initial finding, but I think that points to the sensitivity of some of the inferences to the geographical and linguistic biases of sampling (different dialect groups in Guangdong may be very genetically distinct).

With all that said it’s pretty clear from the above figure that the Japanese and Korean samples are close enough that you need to zoom in on them specifically. So here you go:

journal.pone.0011855.g004

KB_Japanese = Kobe Japanese. In the paper itself they’re testing a few historical hypotheses. So I’ll leave it to them for the interpretation:

The gene flow events of the three selected models for SW, MW and SE Korea can be assessed using the genome map. The populations in Model I (SW Korea) are closer to Mongolians than are the other two regions in the genome map (Fig. 2B). Historically, some of the loyal families and their subjects in the Goguryeo Empire moved to this region and formed the BaekJae Empire in BC18-22. This region also showed connections with populations in Tokyo (JPT), as illustrated in Fig. 4. Certain outliers in Model II (SE Korea) display some similarity to the people of Kobe, a port city near Osaka, indicating that there may have been links between the two regions. In addition, considering that the SE Korea region has some connections with Siberian lineages, with respect to grave patterns and culture, it is possible that the outliers in the GU and Kobe (KB) populations could be of Siberian lineage. On the other hand, the GR and US populations showed average signals in the Korean Peninsula. Historically, the Kaya Empire, with its southern lineages, was formed in the GR region and then the Shilla and Kaya Empires became united around AD532. Very recently, the US region became one of the rapidly developing regions, and people from other provinces moved to this region. This might explain why it shows an average signal in South Korea. Model III (MW Korea): the Middle West area formed a melting pot in the Korean Peninsula because populations moving from South to North, North to South, and from Eastern China, including the SanDung peninsula, to the Middle West in Korea all came together in this region. In the genome map, the signals for MW Korea are also close to those for Peking (CHB) in China. The overall result for the Korea-Japan-China genome map indicates that some signals for Mongolia and Siberia remain in SW Korea and SE Korea, respectively, while MW Korea displays an average signal for South Korea.

The connections between coastal southern Korea and the western islands of Japan are well known. It seems like that the Yayoi people, who probably contributed the preponderance of the ancestry of modern Japanese, arrived in Kyushu approximate ~2,500 years ago. And were originally a group within the Korean peninsula. Over the past 2,000 years Korea has gone through a process of ethnic-linguistic homogenization during the ethnogenesis of the modern Korean nation, but it seems possible that the original group(s) which gave rise to the Yayoi existed in southern Korea to facilitate contact between the islands and the peninsula into the historical era.

Citation: Jung J0, Kang H, Cho YS, Oh JH, & Ryu MH (2010). Gene Flow between the Korean Peninsula and Its Neighboring Countries PLoS ONE : 10.1371/journal.pone.0011855

Finland, still going its own way

Dienekes points to a new paper which highlights genetic variation in Fenno-Scandinavia (or in this case, Finland, Sweden and Denmark). A two-dimensional plot with the variation is pretty illustrative of what you’d expect:

leunordicdb

Finns are genetic outliers in Europe, to some extent even in comparison to Estonians, who speak a very similar language. But, I wonder if the situation will change a bit when we have more samples from Finnic populations of northern Russia. Remember that the nature of these representations is sensitive to the variation which we throw into the equation in the first place.

Reader survey results: politics

Since the reader survey is topping out in response, I though I’d report some of the results. Since I’ve been doing these surveys my readership has exhibited a few patterns, and I was curious as to any changes since moving to Discover. Not too much has shifted. Instead of 15% female, as was the case for years, the readers are now 25% female. It looks like ~10% of the readers know this website only through Discover. Feel free to browse the results yourself.

I think the most interesting aspect for many is the political diversity. Generally the readership is split between Left liberals and libertarians. Though there are a small number of conventional conservatives, it is very rare to find those who are socially conservative and fiscally liberal. These “populists” tend not to be as intelligent as the other combinations, and so I suspect that’s why they’re not well represented on the web, among my readership, or the political elite of the United States in general (for what it’s worth, I’ve been moving in a more populist direction over the years, starting from a libertarian stance).

First, a few summary statistics. I asked readers their index of liberalism, with 0 being as conservative as possible, 10 as liberal, and 5 in the middle. I asked on two dimensions, social and economic.


Social:

Median – 8
Mean -7.4
Standard Deviation – 2.48

Economic:

Median – 5
Mean -5.01
Standard Deviation – 2.74

The correlation between social and economic liberalism was 0.37. Here is a chart which illustrates the different distributions:

survey0

I’ve smoothed a bit, but it’s clear that while there’s several modes in the economic liberalism distribution, there’s a strong liberal slant on social issues. Not that surprising. But I wanted to look at the combinations, so I created some bubble plots. The size of the circle is proportional to the weight of the particular political combination within the set (or subset).

First, the whole data set.

surve1

You see four quadrants. The plural majority of readers are liberal, followed by libertarians, then conservatives, then populists. Remove the centrists (those who selected 5 on either social or economic responses) and summing up the numbers in the quadrants, here are the percentages:

Liberals – 40%

Libertarian – 28%

Conservative – 11%

Populist – 3%

(the rest are in the borderline zones)

Now let’s look at the subsamples and how that impacts distribution.

surveyfem

Female readers tend to be more liberal.

I’ll just leave you with the rest of the bubble charts with minimal comment. But if you want to know something about the data, ask in the comments. Doing the analysis isn’t usually that hard, but I don’t know what people want to know (virgins are young, but not different than the rest of the readership).


















Daily Data Dump – Thursday

If you are a regular reader, and have not done so, please take the Summer 2010 Gene Expression survey. N = 300, so I’ll stop buggin’ now and start posting results in the next day or so.

Ancient iceman’s gene map underway. Does anyone have any inside dirt on Otzi? His mtDNA was an outgroup to any modern Europeans, but we know that there’s sometimes a disjunction between mtDNA and autosomal results.

Protecting consumers from their own genetic data will come at a cost. Regulations have costs. Sometimes those costs are worth it (and result in long-term gains due to buffering of short-term volatility and such).

Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Arterial Stiffness in Black Teens. There has been some concern about supplementation in colored people based on studies with whites, so this is important. Many people with darker-skins, including me, have been diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency and have started to take supplements. Anecdotally many of us report a decrease in respiratory infections and such. But it will be good when we have more rigorous studies.

Study says Amish expanding westward. Amish future!

Ancient DNA Identifies Donkey Ancestors, People Who Domesticated Them. Any surprise that domestication was a bottom-up, not top-down affair? Command economies are good at increasing factor inputs, but not necessarily driving innovation.

The Anglo Revolutions

51TZ-cnJTrL._SS500_Over my lifetime in the United States there has been a shift toward a set of values which emphasize diversity, understood as being expressed along a few particular parameters: racial, sexual and ethnic. Part of the project is obviously concrete: increased representation of various segments within American society at the commanding heights of institutions and in positions to operate levers of power. But part of the project is intellectual and didactic. In the domain of history the past is reshaped and mined to create myths which serve as foundations for our understanding of how we got here, and why we value what we value. It is true that some reject the Founding Fathers as “Dead White Males,” and repudiate the history of the United States, and damn America. But others see in aspects of the founding project, and in the lives of the founders of the American republic, the roots of the modern liberal democratic order. Even the progenitors of multiculturalism. I would say that the latter position, of reappropriation and reinterpretation, is the dominant mode. But it is clearly myth-making. Those who repudiate the foundation of the American republic as a project of white supremacy, Eurocentrism, and ethnocentrism, have a great deal of reality to draw upon. The personal correspondence of men who were self-identified and perceived radical liberals for their time, such as Thomas Jefferson, attest to this reality.


And yet one can go too far in emphasizing this component of 18th century America. One hundred years ago, in 1910, the Zeitgeist was very different from that of today. The American founding was seen as a project of the unfolding arc of evolution, the fruition of the genius of the Nordic race. In this reading America was a fundamentally white Protestant republic rooted in the supremacy and domination of the white race over the colored races. Again, this goes too far, and reframes the late 18th century American elite as proponents of a scientific view of racial competition which derives in part from a post-Origin of Species inflected perception of the nature of things, and the rising tide of white supremacy which peaked in the years after 1900 with the apogee of colonialism. Certainly the American founders would have been understood to be racist today, but as outlined in works such as What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848, the reality is that an explicitly race-based republic crystallized in the first half the 19th century in North America with the rise of democratic populism. As states removed property qualifications for voting, they enacted racial bars which had not existed prior. It is an interesting comment on the complexity of changing norms in this period that Martin van Buren’s vice president, Richard Mentor Johnson, was known to have had a common-in-law wife who was mixed-race (and two daughters by her whom he acknowledged). Van Buren’s Democratic party was the primary driver of “white male suffrage,” which expanded voting rights to those males who were without means, but barred voting rights in many states from non-whites. It helped transform the self-conception of the American republic to that of the American democracy. These two dynamics, the broadening of suffrage to most American males, combined with a more explicit and legally sanctioned commitment to white supremacy, causes interpretive tensions for 20th century American liberal historians. This seems clear in works such as Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s The Age of Jackson, which attempted to trace American liberalism back to this period. So it is somewhat uncomfortable for him that it was among some of the older aristocratic conservative Federalists that one could find objection to a binary republic where color was one’s passport to equality. This is not because the conservatives favored racial equality as such, but rather preferred a more complex hierarchy and a set of values which included race, class, education and breeding, as the judge of a man. Such old republic conservatives may not have accepted a black man as an equal on the grounds of race, but they may not have acceded to the contention that all white men were superior in nature to all black men. They would not have necessarily fallen under the class of whites which Malcolm X referred to in regards to their attitudes toward blacks with education. David Cannadine covers the same attitude on race among the British masses in Ornamentalism, but in this instance the aristocracy managed to retain more cultural influence, and race did not overwhelm class. The maharajahs of India may have been black, but they were still aristocrats who were of a particular elevated station which demanded respect, if not necessarily deference.

All this is to highlight the fact that we perceive of history is filtered through the light of our normative frameworks, and in the process we miss much of what once was. Modern perceptions of white American racism are so strong that I suspect Richard Mentor Johnson’s private life would surprise us. As would the fact that Herbert Hoover’s vice president was nearly half Native American in ancestry. This is the sort of thing which I refer to as the “dark matter” or “dark history,” dynamics and phenomena which echo down to our age, but are forgotten because of the presuppositions which we promote today because of ideological preferences.* In the context of the United States of America one of the most important and overlooked threads of dark history are the separate Anglo-Saxon streams of settlement in the American colonies prior to independence. As outlined in Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America they were the Puritans of New England, the southwest British gentry and their retainers in the lowland South, the Scots-Irish in the American uplands, and finally, the polyglot mix of Midlanders and other Europeans in the Middle Colonies. The thesis is that these patterns can explain much of the details of American history after the Revolution, and down to the present day. I have suggested that differences between Mormon and Southern white political conservatism can be traced back to different attitudes toward communitarianism on the part of New Englanders and Southerners. Mormonism was at its root a Yankee religion, with most of its early acolytes and followers derived from New England or Greater New England (western New York and the Western Reserve of Ohio).

This sort of detail of distinction is lost in our discussion of American ethnicity. The idea that whites, or at least “non-ethnic” whites, “have no culture,” gets at the root of it. What is assumed, what is background, what is default, is not deemed worthy of history. When it comes to Anglo history and culture the commanding heights remain of interest, William Shakespeare, the King James Bible, the Magna Carta, etc. But much of the more mundane detail is of little general interest compared to the more salient identities of race, religion, and such. I believe this causes real pragmatic problems. White Angl0-Americans from the North may find Southern whites of an alien kind, lacking community spirit, belligerent, but they have no essentialist explanation which can explain this as a product of a different historical experience, because this aspect is not emphasized in our minds. But the greater propensity to violence by Southern whites was noted by Northerners as far back as the 1840 Census, where the data were fertile fields from which Northern polemicists drew in frame their attacks on the morals and character of the Southern states. Northern whites may seem to be liberals driven to bizarre and irrational flights of fancy to Southerners, but this is nothing new, as far back as the early 19th century Southern observers noted the Northern fascination with “-isms.” Many of the deep chasms in American history go far back indeed, and impact those of us whose families arrived far later. As a South Asian whose formative understanding of American history was derived from a Northern perspective, it is peculiar to talk to South Asians who grew up in the Deep South who have a more “nuanced” view of the Civil War (taking my hat off of objectivity, the descendants of those who arrived in the South after the Civil War, and are not black, do not always understand that the Southerners were traitors, and that the side wearing blue were the Good Guys).

But why be Americo-centric? We can widen the canvass out far more. America was not the only settler society. Canada, Australia and New Zealand were also settled by British. South Africa and the highlands of Kenya were also settled by the British. The differences and similarities between the British settler societies can tell us a great deal about the history of the English-speaking people, and therefore the history of the world up to this point. That is the subject matter of Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo-World, 1783-1939. This is a history of migration, of migrants, and of the rise of the Anglo-Saxon civilization. Numerically in 1780 there were 12 million English speakers. In 1930 there were 200 million! Obviously not all of that was due to demographic growth, but much of it was. In New England we know that the vast majority of the ancestry of the hundreds of thousands who were alive on the eve of the Revolutionary War were descended from the 20,000 or so who arrived in the 1630s. The fecundity of New Englanders was legendary in the 19th century, as they spilled out of the east and overran western New York, and later the Great Lakes region. This was the long boom of the Anglo peoples. But it was also the era of the busts. And it was the era of equilibriums.

The core thesis of Replenishing the Earth is that the rise of the Anglo societies has been characterized by a series of booms, busts, and often-times recoveries from those busts as regions and populations settle into a quiescent phase. In this the author, James Belich, suggests that the Anglo people prefigure the dynamics which are operative in the world today, the post-Malthusian reality of presumed & expected economic growth, of sunny futures, and a Whiggish sense of the possibilities of what could be ,what will be. He describes nothing less than a revolution of imagination, which subsequently drove the material changes we see around us.

A bigger context which hangs over this are debates about the economic lift-off (sometimes termed the “Industrial Revolution”) which has characterized much of the world over the past 200 years. The noncontroversial part is this: some societies over the last 200 years have developed to the point where they are not characterized by uniform subsistence, and have some level of mass affluence. Before 1800 no society had mass affluence, and all societies were Malthusian. Yes, wealthy people existed, but generally they lived off the labor and output of the productive masses, who managed to barely get by. In Replenishing the Earth the author notes that some economic historians believe that all of Europe as a whole engaged in this lift-off simultaneously, while others suggest that Britain was first, with Belgium second. He favors the idea that Britain was first, and that other European societies were later additions to the club of wealthy nations. Like Greg Clark in A Farewell to Alms James Belich indicates that there was something special about Britain, and England in particular, and like Clark he rejects purely institutional explanations. Additionally, he also seems skeptical of the idea that England’s position near North America (resources and land) along with its strategic coal reserves can be the total explanation for its lift-off. Though the description of the phenomena which led to the Anglo-world is crisp, a series of booms, busts and static phases in sequence, the root of the historical dynamic seems rather vague. The best I can come up with is that the English were the first society to reconceptualization the possibilities of the future, and engage in settlement activities which might seem irrational or foolhardy in the past.

The extent of the booms shocked even me, in part because I was only aware of the American experience. In Replenishing the Earth there is a distinction between incremental endogenous growth (e.g., New England in the 17th and 18th century), and explosive booms driven by exogenous migration (e.g., New England in the 1840s and 1850s). I had not thought in detail about the difference between these two, but the distinction is important in hindsight. One of the more surprising things to me about American history before the independence of the colonies and the emergence of the United States of America is that it was not always easy to draw migrants to the New World. Now, one might not be surprised during the initial decades, but throughout the 17th century the flow of migration was halting, and generally low. The massive burst into New England in the early 17th century was famously driven by religious conflict in England, as an anti-Puritan faction was ascendant. Much of the migration actually reversed with Oliver Cromwell’s victory, as many Puritans removed themselves back to the motherland, but enough remained to serve as the core of a growing set of colonies who slowly pushed themselves into the frontier through native population growth. The situation in Canada was famously more difficult, as attracting settlers was nearly impossible. Part of the reason was probably that unlike Great Britain the French banned the emigration of religious dissenters. The large enterprising French Protestant minority in the 17th century probably would have left for the New World if they had had liberty to do so, but settlement in Canada was limited to Roman Catholics. As it is, many French Protestants settled in the British colonies. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s mother was from such a French Protestant family. They had settled in Calvinist New Netherlands early on.

After independence, and to a lesser extent in the decades before independence, many immigrants did come to the United States. But note how variant the numbers were by year.

fig1

Many of these variations correlate with economic booms & booms. But one of the most fascinating hypotheses proffered in Replenishing the Earth is that migration and population growth often preceded economic booms we read about. An example of this is the California Gold Rush. The author asserts that migration had already increased in the years before, and that the resource driven attraction only emerged after the initial stream had become established. It seems here that he’s positing a sort of positive feedback loop: more people results in more opportunities and perceived opportunities. In the case of asset speculative bubbles these gains may be illusory, but when it comes to concrete natural resources the increased population naturally has a better prospect of detecting or utilizing them. Once mines are discovered a chain reaction can occur whereby word gets back, and a massive wave of migration ensues. But even here quite often the migration will continue after resource exhaustion. California may have run out of gold, but its climate and population was such that other economic activities filled the vacuum. California firms raised fruit and created a demand for orange juice in the rest of the United States once transportation and preservation were up to snuff through a proactive marketing campaign.

It is here that the rise of an Anglo international order is critical. The colonies in North America, Australia, New Zealand, and lesser extent South Africa, were dependent on the mother to buffer them during the collapse, and support their faltering economies through export oriented growth. The United States was an empire in itself, so that California could look to New York and the east as its own motherland. There is a fair amount of economic literature that in reality colonies do not usually pay for the home country. Rather, quite often the colonials depend on the military power, and economic demand pull, of the motherland. Prominent colonial lobbies emerge and engage in an ideological, nationalistic, appeal to the tax-payers of the motherland. It is often said that much foreign aid today is a transfer from the middle classes of developed nations to the elites of developing nations, and in some ways this is analogous to what is argued for colonies. Speculators, promoters, and incipient elites are strongly invested in as much transfer of wealth from the mature motherland to the frontier. During the first age of globalization around 1900 the United States was a debtor nation which absorbed a great deal of cash from the United Kingdom. This illustrates that even despite the fact that the USA was no colony, ties and affinities of nationality, combined with the idea of explosive returns during boom times, attracted British investors. Apparently the econometric literature indicates that in fact British investors would have done better investing in the home country, rather than in the USA or the colonies.

In Replenishing the Earth the argument is repeatedly made that these national affinities, ramping up of pre-industrial technologies and industrialization, and a particular shift toward an expansive, dominionist ideology, all aligned together to produce an Anglo breakout.  Other nations had had extensive colonies, and even non-trivial settlement, such as Spain. But all had stabilized at a far lower, less explosive stationary state. It may be that England’s growth was a matter of happenstance, that the technological and ideological conditions were not ripe during the age of Spanish colonial expansion for them to transform their domains into anything more than a pre-modern empire, such as the Romans, Arabs, and Chinese had had. Incremental, ideologically dominant, but not explosive and revolutionary.

But revolutions come to ends. The most surprising fact I encountered in Replenishing the Earth was that in 1890 Melbourne was the second largest city in the British Empire, after London, with 500,000 people! This was at the peak of a massive speculative boom, right before a bust. Over the next 50 years Melbourne grew only another ~50% in population! During boom-times prognosticators asserted that Australia was destined to have 100 million by 1950. That New Zealand was destined to match the mother country in population within two generations. These hopes were dashed by reality. It seems clear that Australia had ecological limits which were reached, as agriculture could only be so productive in the Murray-Darling basin. Britain’s own demographic expansion abated, so it could no longer provide so many migrants. And so forth. Linear projections fail more often than not. The future is full of surprises.

For me one of the interesting points was reading about past manias and bubbles, engendered in part by more efficient information technology, expectations of constant future growth, etc. It is likely that much of the Replenishing the Earth was written years ago, but many of the English-speaking nations went through irrational property bubbles in the 2000s. The USA and Britain predictably shared home-related television shows. James Belich warns repeatedly about excessive reliance on rational choice theory, and the assumption that the market price is an accurate reflection of all information. History repeats itself over and over, the information is clear in the record, and yet human optimism overcomes. To some extent this optimism, Whiggish, may have been necessary to sustain the economic productivity growth. But in some sense it was profoundly irrational, as all of human history teaches that one can never escape the iron laws of natural constraint.** Once the first boom-bust cycle occurred, the pattern was set in motion. Fortunes were to be made and lost, and those who had relocated, migrated, and uprooted themselves, were far more likely to do so in the future, or inculcate in their offspring the ideology whereby such migration was acceptable, expected, and meritorious.

Finally, the rapid change, and the stasis, in culture, economics and political order, makes me thinl of biological analogs, in particular evolutionary ones. We hold it as a matter of faith that nature is real, that in some sense the laws of the cosmos are bound as one, with each specific instantiation a reflection of some underlying principle. The peculiar similarities which a macroeconomist may feel when reading R. A. Fisher’s The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection is one case. The rise and fall of frontiers, with epidemics of manias, the cycles of enthusiasm, migration, and population growth, remind one of the shape of Lotka-Volterra equation. Replenishing the Earth may be a dense work of economic and cultural history, but in some very important ways it gives us a window into general phenomena which percolate through the order of things.

* Here’s a case of inversion: in the early 20th century ideologues turned the roots of all civilizations into examples of Aryan/Nordic superiority. Today from what I can tell the mainstream sentiment is to not comment or inquire too deeply into the Afrocentrist fiction that St. Augustine, Hannibal or Cleopatra were black. A fiction which from what I can tell has spread widely within the African American community. How the pendulum has swung!

** I understand that some readers feel we are facing those laws now, fair enough. The point is that much of humanity had nearly a 200 year respite, which is not trivial.

Daily Data Dump – Wednesday

Another reminder, if you are a regular reader, and have not done so, please take the Summer 2010 Gene Expression survey.

Assortative mating, regression and all that: offspring IQ vs parental midpoint. Very sad: “For n = 3 (parental midpoint of 145) the mean for the kids would be 127 and the probability of exceeding 145 less than 10 percent.”

On individuality, stochasticity and buffering. I think this is relevant at higher levels of organization than cell biology as well.

How far will the homeownership rate fall? This is not necessarily a disaster. People are less rooted, but that means there is more fluidity in labor mobility.

Get a Blazing-Fast Computer for Free. I’ve been using Ubuntu (dual boot) for years. I think perhaps it is ready for “prime time” in relation to ease-of-use for your grandmother. At least if she likes to perform BIOS upgrades!

Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. We’re a social animal. I think that the methodological individualism at the heart of American politics, liberal, libertarian, and conservative, may not be rooted in human nature. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But good to know.