The left discovers the pension Ponzi for the first time

Quoting from this CNN article.

In unrelated news, the USA currently has a Gross Federal Debt balance of 106% of GDP, or $20.24 trillion in change.

Bill’s Opinion

Either we’re worried about the national debt because we believe it needs to be paid back eventually or we’re sanguine because we don’t think it will need to be repaid.

If the former, then we must also be concerned about the creeping pension Ponzi.

If the latter, who gives a damn about pensions as we can simply roll the debt over and carry on borrowing?

Using pensions as a justification for increased immigration is illogical and disingenuous if you’re unconcerned about debt.

Lastly, “whites”? Sigh; yet more identity politics bollocks.

President Oprah

Tim Newman has a fun discussion about the latest hope of those Americans who are still tearfully nursing a heavily-underlined and bookmarked copy of “What Happened?” by Hillary Clinton; Oprah Winfrey is being groomed for a run at the 2020 Presidential election.

Is it possible that the TV show host is exactly the person who can make President Trump join the ignoble ranks of Presidents Carter, Bush Sr and other one termers?

Well, it very much depends on which of the reasons offered in “What Happened?” You feel contributed most to Hillary’s shock defeat, or indeed, whether there are reasons not listed which may be the root of the problem.

In case you’ve not consulted Hillary’s definitive assessment of the 2016 election recently, here’s a quick recap of the reasons she offered for losing having the election stolen from her;

  • James Comey
  • Vladimir Putin
  • Barrack Obama
  • Mitch McConnell
  • The New York Times
  • The media in general
  • Bernie Sanders
  • Jill Stein
  • Sexism
  • Racist white people
  • Deplorables, and
  • Hillary Clinton

Most of the above will be completely irrelevant in the 2020 election but Candidate Oprah may still have to deal with the Washington Post, the rest of the media, sexism, racists and those inconvenient deplorables.

Which of the reasons from this residual list might we deduce is the biggest challenge facing Oprah Winfrey for the 2020 race?

Yes, you there at the back?

What’s that? Sexism, racism and people who were labelled deplorable?

Top prize.

Now, if we were to produce a Venn Diagram of those three demographics, how large do we feel the common subset would be between all three?

10% of the total? 20%? More?

Next question; what would Hillary Clinton or Oprah Winfrey answer?

Bill’s Opinion

The answer to that question is why Winfrey stands little to no chance of beating Trump.

Privately, it’s possible Winfrey believes there is close to a 100% correlation between those deplorables who elected Trump and and America’s racists and sexists and for this reason, and this reason alone, her campaign will be unlikely to change the minds of the disaffected voters who perhaps objected to the label “deplorable” in 2016 and may still not enjoy that inference in 2 years’ time.

For those who are that way inclined, Sportsbet are offering 3.5 for a Trump 2nd term.

The pleasure, the privilege is mine

A video appeared on my Creepbook for Business feed today.

The first few seconds should be a good predictor of what’s to come, if your time is precious and you don’t want to completely ruin your blood pressure;

Put simply, if you had a sub-optimal start in life, you’re going to find yourself further away from the finish line and the lesson we should take from this is that this situation is unfair. The inference being that those of us who didn’t have such a sub-optimal start to life should accept that we have “privilege” and, presumably, hamstring ourselves to give others a fairer chance at the race of life.

Yes folks, this is what the CEO of BNP Paribas Sercurity Services India truly thinks. Now might be a good moment to check your pension funds to ensure no exposure to BNP’s stock.

As a very simple analogy, this video seems to illustrate a point we can all resonate with, as long as we don’t think too deeply about the subject. A little further contemplation brings up some uncomfortable questions though, such as;

  • Given we all have a different stating point, what would be the fairest mechanism to compensate for the differences and using what scientific or mathematical method?
  • Does this method factor in local differences? For example, the child of a displaced white farmer in Zimbabwe will presumably have to have some compensating actions to equalise their outcomes in relation to a relative of Robert Mugabe.
  • What’s the hierarchy of privilege, which restrictive component of our past and present trumps all others? Is one ethnicity more restrictive than another, if someone had diabetes plus an under-privileged ethnic background are they more or less privileged than a transgender person? Is there a handy matrix of relative victimhood we can refer to?
  • What role do genes play in the statistical probability of our relative success in life and, as a consequence, how do our informed choices affect us when we know the importance of certain genes? For example, if I know I have a family history of diabetes, how much can I mitigate the potential impact of the disease by making sensible dietary choices?

Bill’s Opinion

If there isn’t an objective mechanism for calculating the relevant impact of victimhood, we’ve just replaced one set of bias with another.

Depending on which twins study you reference, genetic differences can account for at least 50% of the differences in success across individuals.

Even if we could calculate the relative impacts of nurture, ethnicity, genes or a thousand other factors involved in our lives, it is surely counter-productive to society and humankind as a whole to use this knowledge to hamstring those not similarly impacted.

The modern game of trying to compete for “biggest victim” status (sometimes referred to as “intersectionality”) is massively-damaging to those in its targets.

Rather than encouraging a sense of victimhood, we should be showing examples of how people overcame disadvantage to thrive. It is highly unlikely that any of those examples will involve constant resentment of those better off.

I, racist robot

Machine learning is the new fidget spinner in IT circles, it would seem. The only problem is, those darn machines are sexist, racist bigots, just like the rest of us.

The article above explains how systems such as Google’s Sentiment Analyzer are producing results that infer a negative bias against certain groups based on ethnic, sexual or gender identifying nouns.

Everyone seems quite surprised and somewhat disappointed by this discovery.

Perhaps what should strike us as most strange about this is that anyone would predict that these systems would be unbiased.

Thinking about the root source of the learning material of the algorithms; all they have to start with is human speech and the written word. The programmers have let the software loose on the collected wisdom of mankind and asked it to draw its own conclusions.

Unsurprisingly, the software has discovered that we all use bias and we all use it all the time.

Perhaps the next conclusion the algorithms might offer is that bias is an entirely natural, logical and, indeed the only known way for humans to successful navigate the world.

“Bias” is a synonym for “in-group preference“, that is, the system every single one of our ancestors employed to stay alive.

Fear or careful suspicion of animals and plants of unknown species would have kept your and my ancestors alive on the plains of Africa long enough to mate and have offspring. That same fear and suspicion of other humans outside of their immediate group also protected our ancestors from being “victim zero” in the next inter-tribal raid.

Later in our evolutionary history, communicating at a distance with those outside of their immediate group will have saved countless of our ancestors from deadly diseases against which their genes hadn’t yet developed an immunity, again, allowing them to mate and have offspring.

How do we know this was a highly-successful strategy that beat all other competing strategies attempted by their peers?

Because I’m here and able to write this blog post and you are able to read it.

Bill’s Opinion

There is nothing shameful about bias, per se. It has served us well throughout every previous generation. Irrational bias is, by its nature, illogical, but before we write off every momentary expression of in-group preference as racist/sexist/whatever the current “-ist” du jour is, we might consider whether it is actually irrational or whether there is any utility to be had by employing it.

In the words of G. K. Chesterton,

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.

Reparations; the white man’s burden

We could have commenced this blog with something anodyne to cut our teeth on, but where’s the fun in that? So let’s get straight into it.

Hypothesis

The history of slavery in the United States justifies reparations for African Americans.

The proposition has been put forward by a UN-affiliated body (United Nations’ Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent), among others, but also the Black Lives Matter movement in the USA and a coalition of Caribbean nations is making similar claims from their former colonial nations. The UN body’s report is here.

 

Instinctively, it feels right and fair, doesn’t it? African slavery to the USA was an unequivocal case of evil perpetrated by one group of people on another, many of the descendants of both groups are easily identifiable and, in numerous cases (too many to be considered a coincidence) the inequality between the lives of the two groups remains wide.

If we agree with the paragraph above, perhaps looking at the practicalities of delivering the reparations might be a useful test of whether the moral case is valid?

To whom?

First we will need to agree the answer to two separate questions; “from whom?” and “to whom?”.

The “to whom?” part is probably the easiest. Records exist for immigration, citizenship, birth, death and marriage certificates to a high degree of accuracy in the USA. It should therefore be reasonably straightforward to ascertain who is descended from slaves rather than, say, later free immigrants from West Africa.

However, there still might be some discomfort in judging the level of “degrees” in this regard. Imagine a scenario where someone who can trace their heritage back to a great-grandparent who was a slave but the other 7 great-grandparents were free citizens. Should this person be entitled to only an 8th of the compensation of a person who can show 8 slave great-grandparents?

What about present day outcomes? Should we means test?

If the 1/8th slave-descendant was living a comfortable middle-class life, it might feel fine to limit the amount of compensation due to them. What if the situations were reversed though? Would we be comfortable compensating the person with 8 slave great-grandparents if they were successful and had a high net worth and giving “Mr 1/8th” little or nothing regardless of their relative net worth?

From whom?

This is the more difficult question which doesn’t seem to be adequately answered by the UN body. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to state that the report recommends that the “the United States” pays (point 94). Given that there is no one person called “the United States”, the body are presumably calling on the US Federal government to foot the bill. From where does the Federal government receive its income? Either taxes from living citizens or debt incurred on behalf of those yet to be born, neither of which were around during the transatlantic slave trade era to bear any responsibility for the evils committed.

In fact, a very large number of those taxpayers or yet to be born taxpayers are themselves descendants of slaves, so there will either have to be a two-speed tax system for proven descendants of slaves (for how long and at what rate?) or a recognition that descendants of slaves will have to pay for reparations to descendants of slaves.

What’s the statute of limitations for evil acts?

In most countries with a well-functioning and universally-respected rule of law, there is no statute of limitation for the most serious crimes such as murder. Or, more accurately, the statute of limitations is triggered at the end of the life of the alleged criminal. The child of a murderer is not held accountable for the crimes of their parent.

Perhaps the idea of reparations is not to punish the descendants of slave owners but to compensate the descendants of slaves only? The problem with this is that compensation requires two parties; the compensated and those who provide the compensation. We’re back to looking for the person called “the United States” to pay with revenue received from taxes from those who weren’t around at the time of the crime.

The question of the practicalities of compensation for slavery is even harder to grasp than that of the theft of a family heirloom or other type of property; personal freedom was taken 3 generations ago, there is nothing tangible you can take from the (innocent) descendants of the guilty that would “make good” that crime without involving a crime against the descendant. This is how everlasting blood feuds develop in some parts of the world.

What tangible loss has been incurred by the living?

This is not the strongest argument made here today but it requires articulating nonetheless. The descendants of slaves are able to demand reparations due to several key attributes that they possess, the first and least trivial is life itself. The life expectancy in the USA for African-Americans is 75 years compared to around 52 years for West African countries. If your ancestors survived slavery, you are better off than your relatives who were left behind.

Another important factor in the ability to claim reparations is the fact that the descendants of slaves are currently living in the USA, a country with a legal system which enables claims to be made. This is no guarantee of a favourable outcome of course, but the possibility of success of a tort claim in Alabama is far greater than Angola.

Thirdly, living American descendants of slaves posses something millions of Africans currently desire and thousands risk dangerous sea crossings in Europe to obtain; citizenship of a country that isn’t in Africa, the rights and privileges of which have a tangible market value in the world, easily measured by the fees charged by people-smugglers and forgers of identification documents.

Of course, none of the last three paragraphs are intended to suggest that the living descendants of slaves have had an easy life comparative to the descendants of free men but, by the nature of the system within which they were freed, they have had a better chance to survive and thrive than the control experiment in West Africa.

What role does personal responsibility play and when?

Following on from the previous question, we might consider at what point does the impact of evil perpetrated on an ancestor become auxiliary to the free will and personal responsibility of the descendants? How many generations later might it be reasonable to expect their own actions to play a greater part in determining their outcomes? We risk  further suppressing the freedoms of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of slaves by suggesting that the root cause of all their challenges in life is due to the evil perpetrated 3 generations previously.

Which other groups might be called upon to pay?

Is the guilt of the transatlantic slave trade exclusive to one group of people, defined either by nationality or ethnicity? If not, should the other guilty parties be called up to pay, should reparations be determined necessary, moral and practicable?

European slave traders didn’t instigate slavery on the continent of Africa, but exploited a pre-existing practice. Rival tribal groups in West Africa delivered their prisoners to the coastal ports to be sold to the slave traders, reducing the requirement for the Europeans to make dangerous journeys into the interior to do their own dirty work.

An African slave trade existed for nearly a thousand years prior to the European involvement, resulting in tens of millions of African slaves being transported to the Middle East. If reparations are due, why aren’t the Arab states being handed an invoice too?

Can a group prosecute a group?

The proposition of the existence of group guilt is a difficult one to justify; to suggest a collective responsibility is to reject the concept of free will. Either we have free will and therefore only individuals commit crimes or we don’t make our own choices and groups of people are collectively guilty.

 

Bill’s Opinion

Tangible harm inflicted upon any person, including our ancestors, has a statute of limitations which ends at the death of the guilty, just like all other crimes. To suggest otherwise requires us to agree to the concept of generational guilt.

If we reject the concept of generational guilt, we must reject the idea of state-funded reparations as the state does not have any possessions that are held on behalf of citizens who are guilty of crimes committed 200 years ago.