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open borders and tidal waves of people: not nearly as bad as you think

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Often, a friendly person will tell me, “sure, Fabio, I get what you are saying about immigrants. But wouldn’t open borders lead to massive tidal waves of people and that could have real problems?”

I hear you and it’s not an insane comment. Here’s a few responses that critics should think about. First, we’ve been able to deal with massive waves migration in the past and it’s been ok:

  • The Great Migration of Blacks from the South to the North.
  • The movement of about one million Puerto Ricans to the US in the 1950s.
  • The movement of millions from East Europe to West Europe after the war.
  • The movement of millions from East Germany to West Germany post-1989.

There’s bound to be growing pains but life goes on and it’s fine. The fundamental issue is that when people move in large numbers, prices kick in. You get denser housing, or people move to other places.

Second, if you are still worried about the “tidal wave” problem, then let’s compromise, Sure, maybe 1 million may seem daunting, so let’s split and do a mere 500,000. We slow increase limits to take care of backlogs.

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February 20, 2020 at 12:23 am

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steven l foy and rashawn ray have new paper on colorism and sport in ajs

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My good friend Rashawn Ray and Steven Foy have an article on how race plays into the verbal evaluations of players by sport commentators:

Colorism research often suffers from endogeneity issues related to human capital outcomes and researchers’ inability to compare the effects of skin tone to those of racial classification. Furthermore, colorism research focuses on intraracial differences in skin tone inequality while insufficiently considering skin tone inequality across racial groups. Using data from video broadcasts of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s annual, single-elimination Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament for the years 2000–2010, we quantitatively examine comments made by announcers about the performance, physical characteristics, and mental characteristics of players across various skin tones. Controlling for objective measures of performance, we find that announcers are more likely to discuss the performance and mental abilities of lighter-skinned players and the physical characteristics of darker-skinned players. We argue that, although the two concepts are related, skin tone is not simply a proxy for racial classification. Rather, skin tone inequality transcends traditional racial boundaries.

Self-recommending!

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Written by fabiorojas

February 19, 2020 at 12:03 am

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how to assess history when it’s good and bad at the same time

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Let’s start with a hypothetical and somewhat silly example. Let’s say that you live in the world of Star Wars and the evil Empire has conquered your planet and conscripted you into their army. Lord Vader tells you, “To expand your life span so you can serve me more – here’s a pill that cures cancer.” Which, do you think, is a reasonable emotional response?

  1. “Thank God Lord Vader is here to protect me. This pill makes everything he does right.”
  2. “Curing cancer is just a way for Lord Vader to repress me. Cancer cures are so wrapped up with Vader’s evil that we should not ever cure cancer.”
  3. “Damn, I wish I could get that cancer cure without dealing with this dude.”

#3 is the proper answer, I think. Most of us sensibly want to say “can’t we separate the good from the bad?”

When it comes to assessing history, most people want to jump on either #1 or #2. For example, Europeans who wanted to justify their rule over others encouraged people to adopt #1: “Sure, we may have gone overboard sometimes, but look at the schools.” Then, a lot of academics will offer a sophisticated version of #2. For example, some academics will say things like the economic growth of the West/US could only have occurred with colonialism or slavery.

Sadly, few people really take response #3 to heart – could it we enjoy economic growth without repressing people? Empirically, doesn’t the continued wealth of the West after Emancipation, abolition, and decolonization suggest that we never needed it in first place? Theoretically, you could develop an argument that maybe wealth accumulation must be started by violence. Perhaps, but that’s a hard argument to make and people often jump to it first.

The bottom line is that history is often incredibly painful and violent. And that violence can happen alongside to some genuinely good things. The presumption, or default, is to ask how the good and bad can be separated. No?

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February 18, 2020 at 4:59 pm

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dolphy’s homage to gazzeloni

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Written by fabiorojas

February 16, 2020 at 12:53 am

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sociology, wealth, and human well being

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Sociology is driven by values. A lot of sociologists study inequality because they think that explicitly, or implicitly, that understanding inequality will be a step toward either reducing it or its negative effects. However, an emphasis on inequality among individuals misses an even bigger picture: the link between wealth, as conventionally understood, and well being. Yes, some forms of individual level inequality are associated with negative outcomes (e.g., the SES-gradient in health) but these often pale in comparison to the differences in outcomes between wealthy and non-wealthy countries. The biggest determinant of your health or lifespan is not your income, it’s the income of your country. Furthermore, countries that are wealthier tend to be better at supporting rights and privileges that sociologists tend to favor. For example, wealth is a big predictor of political stability and competitive elections. Wealthier nations are also those with more minority rights and women’s rights.

If we assume the above statements are roughly true, then the major question for sociology is “what social or cultural conditions lead to wealth building institutions?” To even begin to answer that, we would need to understand what institutions lead to wealth.  Roughly speaking, we know from development economics that the correlates of wealth and GDP are fairly straightforward. An old paper by Sachs and Warner summarizes the point, which I think, still holds up: countries can be wealthy long as they are NOT:

  1. Socialist/communist
  2. Internally violent (constant unrest)
  3. Repressive in the sense that depriving people of all rights

Empirically, countries that fall in any of these three categories fall way, way below others that are not socialist, relatively peaceful and enforce rights. Applying these definitions, it explains why the US and Sweden are close in terms of wealth (e.g., both allow private property, are relatively peaceful and protect a wide range of others) but far away from North Korea. It also explain the economic growth of some nations which liberalized (e.g., China improved on criteria #1).

If you believe this analysis, then you get to the punchline: sociology’s most pressing normative mission is understanding when people support socialism/communism, support violence against fellow citizens, and support predatory governments that jail dissidents. These things all make people much, much worse off. Yes, things like ethnic minority rights and reproductive rights are important, but they are way, way, way easier if you live in a non-socialist and peaceful society with a non-predatory state.

Bottom line: If sociology really believes in well being, we need to understand the culture that supports bourgeois society, we shouldn’t be trying to overturn it. 

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Written by fabiorojas

February 13, 2020 at 4:50 pm

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biden, does indeed, suck … and sanders is the winner?

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Fab 11 2020

When it comes to elections, I am often of two minds: fundamentals matter and candidates matter. If we look at the whole political system, we see that fundamentals matter – incumbents win at insanely high rates and demography matters (e.g., ethnically homogeneous White places vote GOP, diverse places vote Dem). But in any political contest, it can be hard to see whether a candidate matters.

Biden has a long track record of sucking hard. If anyone could blow an advantage, it would be him. His 1988 presidential run failed before the first vote. He barely got any votes in 2008. His own boss didn’t want him to run in 2016. He’s such a bad campaigner that his advisers try to minimize his contact with voters.

But, ultimately, would the power of incumbency and association with a popular president be able to pull him over the finish line? I thought so on structural reasons – he could lose a lot of primaries and score big on Super Tuesday, as Clinton did in 1992. Yes, that’s correct, Clinton lost both Iowa and New Hampshire. But Southern states rescued him.

A similar process might have occurred – but the graph above me shows that may not happen. Until actual votes happened, Biden cruised – but a week after Iowa, his support is tanking and a raft of new people are gobbling up votes. Super Tuesday includes a massive state that polls show is Sander (California). This collapse of support suggests that Sanders may win.

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February 11, 2020 at 4:25 pm

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brandee younger plays alice coltrane

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50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
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Written by fabiorojas

February 9, 2020 at 12:06 am

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