November 23, 2017


...the End of History and the Deep State, which make our noisily partisan politics almost completely meaningless.

When historians of our era write, the thing they will emphasize is that an Evangelical Democrat, a New Deal Republican, a Realist liberal Republican, a conservative Democrat, an Evangelical Republican, a liberal Democrat and a Nationalist all oversaw virtually identical economic regimes.  And the triumph of capitalism, protestantism and democracy has been so comprehensive that the rest of the world has been converging on that same regime for those forty years.

The result is compelling, Chart of the day: US trade deficits vs. US household net worth -- they've risen in tandem over the last half century (Mark J. Perry, 11/13/17, AEI Ideas)

As can be seen in the chart, the steady increase in the US trade deficit over the last nearly half-century to a peak of $770 billion in 2006 before falling to an average of about $525 billion during the last seven years has been accompanied by a steady increase in the value of US household net worth, which has increased nearly four-fold in inflation-adjusted dollars since 1970. In dollar terms, America's household net worth last year rose to another fresh record high of almost $90 trillion, which is an average of more than $700,000 per US household and represents the total value of all household assets (real estate, vehicles, stock, savings, mutual funds, bonds, consumer durable goods, etc.) minus all debt (mortgages, car loans, consumer credit, etc.).

Thanks to the stock market rally to all-time record highs this year, household net worth topped $96 trillion in Q2 of this year, which was an $8.2 billion (and 9%) increase over a year ago. 

Why the world is more at peace (The Monitor's Editorial Board, JUNE 1, 2017, CS Monitor)

The causes of violence vary and are numerous. And scholars have long debated if humans are innately violent or peaceful. But Steven Pinker, the Harvard University scholar and author of the 2011 book "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined," says societies are becoming more "enmeshed" and seeking "a higher good," resulting in less violence.

Building on his work, a team of Spanish scientists published a study in the journal Nature last year that found a marked drop in violence over the past 500 years. The research estimates about 2 percent of prehistoric humans died from violence. But as societies became better organized, and handed over the control of violence to police, courts, and elected officials, the rate has fallen far below 1 percent. They attribute the decline to better "cultural practices."

Is democracy in a worldwide decline? Nope. Here's our data. (Mélida Jiménez November 15, 2017, Washington Post)

Data from the Lexical Index of Electoral Democracy show that in 2016, no less than 68 percent of the world's countries -- home to 62.2 percent of the world population -- government power is determined by genuinely contested elections. That's actually an increase from 62 percent in 2006. What's more, 56 percent of the democracies established after 1975 have not seen democratic reversals. No country with over 40 years of electoral democracy -- with the prominent exception of Venezuela -- has slid back into nondemocratic governance. Democracy remains the most widespread and legitimate form of government.

As Americans, we'd like to believe that those ideas that drive the Anglospheric consensus are so compelling that they'd be worth adopting regardless, but the fact that they've been so successful certainly hasn't hurt.

And the combination of their beauty and efficacy has made it so that our institutions are pretty nearly impervious to attempted deviations from the norm.  Even a president who despises America and those ideas can do nothing much to contravene them.  Donald Trump should be removed from office for moral/aesthetic reasons, not for existential ones.  But, in the meantime, he simply does not matter.  

This year we are particularly thankful that God has a Special Providence for America while also being cognizant of the fact that, unlike His grace,, we've earned it.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

The partisan divide in America is widening : But on some issues, and across party lines, agreement is growing (Democracy in America, Nov 22nd 2017, The Economist)

For all that Republicans and Democrats may increasingly dislike each other, meanwhile, the partisan divide over attitudes towards other social groupings is shrinking. Only 3% of Democrats and 8% of Republicans believe that increasing number of people from different races, ethnic groups and nationalities in America makes the country a worse place to live. The proportion of Republican supporters who see immigrants as a burden on the country has fallen from 64% in 1994 to 44% today, which means that a majority in both parties now have positive views towards migrants. Democrats profess greater tolerance of sexual minorities, but the percentage of Republicans who think homosexuality should be accepted, at 54%, now matches the percentage of Democrats who favoured tolerance in 1994. According to analysis of the General Social Survey by Landon Schnabel and Eric Sevell of Indiana University, Republicans are also moving towards acceptance of gay marriage at similar rates to Democrats, if from a lower base level of support.   

On the importance of racism in determining outcomes for African Americans, partisan disagreement remains. Yet most supporters of the Republican Party back affirmative action (along with 84% of Democrats). Because of shifting attitudes that have spread across partisan divides, Gallup surveys also report that 87% of people backed inter-racial marriage by 2013; more recent statistics show 73% of Americans back divorce and 69% find unmarried sex morally acceptable. That suggests that whatever the marital history, colour, nationality or gender of the partner that Americans turn at up at home with for Thanksgiving, they are more likely to be welcomed with open arms than in the past. 

There also seems to be an improvement in the way that Americans think their own lives are going. Some 86% of Republicans believe they are on the way to achieving the "American Dream" or have achieved it, along with 80% of Democrats. In 2017 the proportion of Americans who reported they were satisfied with the way their life was going reached 87%, up from 78% in 2011 and only one percentage point below the highest number reported since the poll question was first asked by Gallup in 1979.

Sad songs have become less common all over the world (Ephrat Livni, 11/23/17, Quartz)

Researchers from Indiana University-Bloomington performed analyzed about 90,000 songs in English from different genres (such as classic rock, pop, punk, metal, R&B, and religious) written by musicians around the world, published since 1950, and posted on They assessed the chords used in the songs and judged the emotional valence of lyrics using a common social-science scale that rates 222 different words on a scale of 1-9 in terms of their emotional positivity. "Love" for example is a high-valence word that rates a 9, while "pain" is a low-valence word that rates a 1.

It turns out that worldwide, moody tunes are on the decline.

Posted by at November 23, 2017 6:29 AM


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