Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Why racism is not an issue of "predatory" capitalism

This is a review of "Why racism is an issue of predatory capitalism" by Sam McKenzie Jnr. At no point in his article does Mr. McKenzie define capitalism, so he's not a serious thinker. Nevertheless he deserves a reply, because he wasted my time and must be punished.

 "Capitalism and racism are two systems in the soiled fabric of America’s flag that many agree will never lower or end."

Starting with a mixed metaphor isn't great but perhaps he was on a deadline.

"Until now, I don’t have many words on record about capitalism and how changing capitalism is key to ending racism."

Well you could start by showing that societies that ended capitalism became less racist, or at least didn't get more racist.  Since racism predated capitalism as most historians understand it it would be hard to argue that capitalism caused racism , but again he doesn't define capitalism.  Maybe what he calls capitalism actually predates racism.  Racist stereotypes by the way date back to at least ancient Athens.  

" In addition, the Black middle and upper classes don’t stand on solid ground because racism makes them more likely to fall into lower classes."

Actually we can't say that.  If there is significant racism that's a barrier to black people getting into the middle and upper classes, meaning that those that do achieve it are more capable.  Therefore it might be the case that black middle and upper class people are LESS likely to fall into the lower classes than white people people.  This is really his second claim and his second claim without evidence.

"But for those who fall, capitalism is an accomplice, an accomplice that demands the widest class divisions."

And here we go from unconfirmed claims to outright wrong ones.  The class divisions of capitalism are nowhere near as big as those of North Korea, medieval Europe, Dahomey under the warrior queens or almost any other society.  Capitalism is the greatest negater of class in existence.  There are no capitalist lords who can execute peasants, no capitalist bishops who can be tried only in ecclesiastical courts. When leftists talk about privilege they prove how little privilege there is.  I mean REAL privilege is being able to carry a weapon when no-one else is, or demand trial by combat.   It's not having people not assume you're stealing stuff in a shop. 

"In her book, bell hooks also writes, 'capitalism creates an environment of domination.' "

Before capitalism was there an "environment of domination"?  Hell yes, so clearly capitalism didn't create it.  Did it sustain it then?  Well it depends on what you call "capitalism" and again, because Mr. McKenzie is a professional agitprop producer he didn't.  What we do know about the actual progress of what most people call capitalism is that it eroded domination.  It ended slavery and serfdom in country after country. 

What caused most of the domination during the time when "capitalism" could be said to exist?  Well there's colonialism, which was a massive money loser and therefore not what most people call capitalist.  It was also exclusively empowered by government, not private business, although private business did of course take advantage of opportunities, abusive or otherwise.  There's also war, which again, is a loss-making government endeavor.  So again not "capitalist" as most people understand it.


"Capitalism and racism have an unending collaboration.

This alliance is visible in environmental racism, wage gaps, food sources, housing prices, lending practices, the drug trade, healthcare, the criminal justice system, student loan debt, and even stereotypes."


We will see below that he doesn't show this alliance is visible in any of these.  In fact he doesn't even show that "environmental racism" exists, let alone that capitalism increases it.


"We’ve seen businesses hide under capitalism as an excuse for dumping toxins in Black neighborhoods. It’s far too easy for business executives to say, 'we’re not racists, we’re capitalists.' But for the people on the receiving end of that toxic line, that’s a distinction without a difference."

Ok, firstly when have we seen this?  And what would be the point?  Dumping toxins in neighbourhoods gets you in trouble regardless of the race of the residents.  Even if capitalists did say this why would it not be true?  Do you imagine that someone who dumps dioxin in a black neighbourhood wouldn't do it in a white one?  Why?  


"Many health disparities swell in Black communities from the noxious combination of capitalism and racism that leaves people parched in food deserts with no stocked, affordable, and quality grocery stores."

So are you saying that there are no such stores because people don't want to sell to black people, or because black people don't make such businesses profitable?  Because if capitalism is stopping people selling "quality groceries" in black neighbourhoods where rent is cheaper then racism doesn't come into it.  Capitalists wouldn't open, or keep open, a loss-making store in a white area either.  If changing the race doesn't change the outcome, there is no racism. 


If on the other hand he's saying that "stocked, affordable and quality grocery stores" would make a profit that's worse.  He's saying that there are literally thousands of opportunities for profit and every single one of millions of potential capitalists are so racist they ignore it.  Bear in mind thousands of them are black. 


"For those who wish to grow old in their homes, it’s capitalism that prices out long-time residents."

No it's other people who want to live in those homes.  Why is the desire of one person to live somewhere more important than another person's desire to live there?  He seems to think that staying in a house you neither built nor paid for is somehow a right.  He doesn't justify this implication, or even make it clear, because he's a propagandist not an intellectual.


"That same capitalism allows preying banks to lend without end..."

Again, what does he mean by capitalism?  He seems to be condemning credit expansion here, but that's something government interference in the market creates, not the market itself.  Is he saying the current central bank model is capitalism and no other system is?  Because if you can get rid of the central banks the banks can't "lend without end" and therefore capitalism without central banks doesn't have this problem.  Or is he saying that there are multiple capitalisms and the one we have now allows these practices? 


" and use the most biting and bloodsucking practices."

Such as?  And where is his evidence that it's capitalism, rather than the State that allows these practices?  In a capitalistic system without massive state interference in banking might these practices end?  Might free market competition and a lack of government guarantees persuade bankers to abandon practices that alienate their customers?    Talking about what he refuses to cover takes up more space than what he does cover.


"If we want to talk about the drug trade, capitalism and racism push drug dealers to push drugs."

No drug buyers do that.  Nobody sells drugs because they don't like black people.  They sell them because that allows them to consume more goods and services.  Unless you propose a system where satisfying consumer demand doesn't benefit you that's going to be a constant.  Imagine what that system would be like, if what you produced had nothing to do with what someone wanted.  Still want to abolish capitalism.


"For a pharmaceutical industry, that’s callous with a stupidity and a cupidity for cash, we can blame capitalism for the lack of regulation and access."

There are literally billions of dollars of regulatory hurdles in the drug business.  Satisfying regulations takes YEARS.  If this is what he calls "lack of regulation" what would he be satisfied with?  And how is it capitalism's fault that drugs are hard to access after government adds years hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost of bringing them to market?  This man seems to know literally nothing about the subjects he talks about.


"but healthcare and gaping wage gaps aren’t the concerns for a frighteningly frigid and rigid system of capitalism conjoined with racism."

You have shown literally no evidence for racism in the health care industry.  As for the frigidity and rigidity of the system where is the evidence that's due to capitalism and not the massive interference in the workings of capitalism in the healthcare industry?  Healthcare if probably the second most regulated economic sector in the USA, after banking.


"With criminal justice, capitalism and the criminal justice system are an illicit pair that reproduce unequal brutalization. It’s capitalism that heavily arms police forces as their suppliers get richer. "

No police forces are not capitalist institutions and without capitalism the police would still be armed.  Or do you imagine that police are only given guns so politicians can place gun orders?  Because that's paranoid as hell and provably wrong.

"The prison system has a quenchless demand for more prisoners to fill their ready-made roles because of capitalism."

But the prison system is mostly not capitalist and wasn't capitalist at all for the first century or so of it's existence.  In fact many prisoners are there for being capitalists. 

"But also, it’s class and capitalism that make it easier to avoid jail or get out of jail for the right type and price."

Again, the court system isn't capitalist.  Even the legal system isn't very free market as there are strong government controls to restrict the trade.  Without restrictions on capitalism legal defense against criminal charges would be much cheaper, probably within the means of the poor.  But even that isn't the real problem.  Again the court system is not a capitalist system.  It doesn't have customers and therefore is not constrained to bring cases only against those who people want brought before it.  People who have not aggressed against anyone and owe nobody compensation can be brought in and subject to it's judgement, regardless of whether anyone thinks it's worth spending the money to have this happen.  


"When I think about our schools, I see how capitalism and racism lead and lace them at every level. "

Then you're delusional because the education system in the USA is almost pure socialism.  Tens of thousands of dollars of a product is given away for free, mostly to people who wouldn't buy it for half it's cost and in many cases to people who don't want it at all. 

"Then for Black college graduates, saddled in a rat race with student loan debt much heftier than white students, "

No explanation is given of why that is or if this is after controlling for course selection.  Do black students take more expensive courses?  I don't know, so I can't say if this claim is even meaningful. 

"And as industries either saturate or abandon captive communities, predatory capitalism can engineer stereotypes with its systematic and selective exploitation and exclusion."

None of this means anything.  He doesn't define what "saturating" a community would mean, nor how that community is "captive".  He doesn't say what "engineering" a stereotype would look like.  He doesn't show that "exploitation" has a meaning, let alone a negative one.

"My justice requires restitution for this mess. "

It's either justice or it's not, there's no such thing as "my justice". 

"To see progress and to end racism, we must finger capitalism too.

And with all the ways predatory capitalism attacks us by race, we need many hands striving to change capitalism.

Capitalism and racism are symbiotic, and capitalism finances the system of racism.

Malcolm X rightly told white America they 'can’t have capitalism without racism.'  ”

There is literally no evidence for these claims in the article. 

"It’s clear white America wants capitalism and racism. "

White people have been voting against both for decades.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Eugenics works.

Could eugenics work?


First let's define work as "create a society which is more like the society someone might want". Eugenics is the effort to increase the frequency in a human population of genes useful for a purpose and decrease the frequency of genes harmful to that purpose.


The answer is yes. Thousands years of selective animal and plant breeding has shown that you can alter the gene frequency in a population and achieve desired results. There is no physical difficulty in applying the same methods to human populations, other than potential resistance by the subjects. Obviously humans are better at preventing breeding by direction rather than as they like than dogs are. Of course morally most people have more problems forcing two people to breed or not breed than they have with two horses or wheat plants.

There are limitations on the usefulness of eugenics.
Firstly the effect you want to create must be possible by changing individual humans, even if you're changing a lot of them. Changing genetics will not directly make a society more democratic, so eugenics prevent or abolish dictatorships. It might however change behaviour patterns of people to promote or diminish democratic values, if those values are heritable.

Secondly the quality to be changed must be heritable, although it need not be entirely heritable. Heritability is quantifiable and equals the proportion of variance of a trait in a population that is due to heredity. For instance height is about 80% heritable. If you have a group all of whom have the genetics equal in effect on height their actual heights will vary by about 20% as much as the general population. The more heritable a trait is the more eugenics can be used to alter it. If a trait is only say, 20% heritable you will only be able to change 20% of the variation in the trait at best. Not that heritability talks about the variation in the trait not the trait itself. You can't increase height by 80% because heritability is 80%. You can change it by (at most) 80% of how much it varies. So if humans varied in height from 1m to 2.2 height varies by +/- 120 cm so at most you could change height by 96 cm. In practice that you couldn't change height that much for various reasons.

Thirdly you must be able to measure that trait well enough to guide eugenic decisions. Height is fairly easy to quantify, but suppose you wanted to breed for "niceness". How would you quantify it well enough to make a reproductive decision? Perfect measurement is necessary, but the less accurate the measurement the harder it will be make changes. I will define "proxy usefulness" (u) as the proportion of the variance in a trait that is indicated by the proxy. So instances with the same proxy rating the actual value of the trait will variance will by (1-u) * general trait variance. So for instance if you can measure height very accurately you might have a .99 proxy usefulness for height. That means that the variation in actual height from the height you record is .01 of the variation in height.

A trait high in heritability and with a good proxy to measure it by can be increased over time by eugenic means.

Fourthly eugenics will only work if a way to change reproductive decisions in a particular way. If you can't change who gets born or not born you can't use eugenics, which leads on to the next subject.


That leads to the question, should eugenics be used, and if so by what means and for what ends?
Let's deal with means first. Changing people's decisions about whether to breed is one set of means, technological means to alter the genetics of offspring are another. Let's deal with the former first. There are fundamentally 3 ways of changing a person's actions, force, reward and moral pressure.

Every attempt to use force to achieve eugenic ends has been abusive by definition and has the results you would expect from an abusive system. Those who want to put abusive systems in place tend to want to abuse, rather than solve the real problems of human beings. Therefore they are careless in their pursuit of any aims of actual value. Fundamentally a human being owns themselves, and therefore you have no right to control their reproductive system any more than you have a right to control their vocal chords. It should be noted as well that the Nazis extremely abusive in pursuing their goals and extremely vague about what those goals were. Defining what an Aryan is isn't easy. At least it isn't if you ignore all the actual science and history and make up a mythical ethnicity and call it 'Aryan'. Their efforts to eliminate mental disability were particularly clumsy because they refused to use the best proxies (which of course showed Ashkenazi Jews as smarter than Germans or anyone else).

Rewards are far preferable to force as a means of persuasion, provided the means of reward was not gained by force. This is for the same reason that wages are preferable to slavery as a means of getting cotton picked. Everyone has the right to make decisions about their own body. Everyone else has the right to offer them benefits for using it in ways the offeror would prefer. There is nothing inherently immoral about telling someone "You have a heritable trait that would make society worse if passed on, I will offer you these resources if you don't pass on those genes.". Neither is it immoral to say "I think you have heritable traits that would benefit society, you can have some resources if you breed.". It will be up to the owners of those resources to decide whether it is worth it to achieve eugenic goals.
Moral pressure is simply someone stating that they believe that doing something, or not doing it, is right or wrong. It is simply the expression of an opinion about the appropriateness of an action. If done without manipulation or deception there is no moral problems with this.

Thanks to technology selecting who should (not) breed and with who is only one eugenics method. Potential future individuals can be genetically selected or even improved before birth. An embryo found to have genes that are not beneficial can be terminated, in the case of in vitro fertilizations this can happen before implantation. This is already done with genes for serious genetic problems, but could be expanded to terminate all embryos that have genes for low IQ, or alcoholism. You can even choose to implant only those embryos that have the genes you want. This is not genetic engineering, no genes are being implanted in the embryo, they are only examined and used to determine if the embryo goes to term.

Provided you believe, as I do, that a clump of cells is not a human being then there is no moral problem in terminating it.

All these of course deal with the morality of the means, rather than the morality of the eugenic goals themselves.

Firstly of course the goals should be well-defined and refer to actual things that exist, not for instance the a mythical connection to some supposed past master race. Secondly the goals should actually make people's lives better. For example you could increase the general level of cognitive ability by eugenic means. Cognitive ability seems to have a good proxy in the form of IQ. It helps achieve improvements like better productivity, greater understand of phenomena and lower levels of violence. Other goals might be the reduction of harmful behaviours like addiction, which might have a genetic component.

Some people have claimed that eugenics would lead to problems of inbreeding, but that is unlikely to be a problem. Inbreeding became a problem with sub-species that were very intensively bred for particular traits. In dogs inbreeding became a real problem after the invention of "dog shows" that bred very intensively for very specific traits. When dogs were bred for more general traits like usefulness in sheep herding or in particular sorts of hunting inbreeding was not a serious problem. Additionally the populations they bred from were much smaller than the current human population. Even assuming that people will mainly breed within their own race* these races have hundreds of millions of members. Even if only the most desirable 1% bred (and that would be an extreme use of eugenics) there would still be enough diversity in that population to avoid inbreeding.

* Yes race is a valid genetic category of humans. Sorry if this is controversial but it's not to people who actually notice facts.