Assorted links

by on February 4, 2013 at 12:31 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Why are there so many murders in Chicago?

2. Edward Luce in the FT on robots, on-line education,, and falling median income.

3. The economics of Netflix’s new $100 million show.

4. Print me a condo on the moon (speculative), and why name a brand after a retina?

5. People getting mad at Jared Diamond, and more here.  Mood affiliation aside, the facts are on Diamond’s side.

6. We overregulate and underregulate too much at the same time.

Alexei Sadeski February 4, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Why are there so few murders in Washington State?

Rusty February 4, 2013 at 9:18 pm

Simple white people

albatross February 4, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Re the Diamond article: When you criticize a claim of fact on the basis of its upleasant moral implications or fears about the bad effect of people believing it, you’re walking off a cliff.

Now, that doesn’t tell us whether Diamond is right or not about the violence level of hunter-gatherers. The answer to that question is found only in the data, and an argument over the details of the data available on this question is probably pretty hard to write up for a newspaper. (Probably, it would look more like a review paper in an anthropology journal.)

Alex' February 4, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Are anthropologists allergic to numbers, or is that just undergraduate anthropology majors?

Roy February 4, 2013 at 1:20 pm

The graduates, especially in archaeology have taken a statistics class, so they are less afraid. The really advanced ones either hate all the other anthropologists, and are made pariahs in return, or just lie with statistics.

Andrew' February 4, 2013 at 1:54 pm

misanthrapologist – one who argues for a hatred of people and/or anthropologists.

Roy February 4, 2013 at 4:06 pm

no it is called actually having anything to do with anthropology as it is now practiced in the US. There is almost no part of American academics as relentlessly politicized as anthropology, and I am a red diaper bay son of an English Professor and a psychiatrist. I know what I am talking about. I have even heard Marshall Sahlins make this complaint, and he knows quite a bit about both politicization and ideological rigidity.

Taeyoung February 4, 2013 at 2:10 pm

This was sort of my problem with the article about the Spanish conquistadors linked a few posts down — it was an interesting article, highlighting a point that I had thought was kind of obvious (that the Spanish had to ally with local powers in order to topple the Aztec and Incan empires), but weakened considerably by all the pathetic handwringing about whether this would help or hurt narratives of European superiority and racism this and racism that. On the one hand, it’s nice of the authors to foreground their biases like that — points for honesty — but it really calls into question the accuracy of their presentation. One wishes they were confident enough to just let the facts speak for themselves. But now that readers know they have these absurd obssessions and hang-ups — and that they clearly are not confident that the facts support their preferred conclusions — I suppose it’s impossible to take anything they write at face-value.

Steve Sailer February 4, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Cultural anthropologists were celebrities back in the 1950s (e.g., Margaret Mead), but they are so obsessed with political correctness today that they bore everybody. Thus, they are furiously envious of Jared Diamond, a rather staid academic who makes a lot of money by being politically correct about the big sacred totem in our society (the equal IQ of all races) but not about the little totems that obsess cultural anthropologists, making Diamond more interesting to read.

David H. February 4, 2013 at 3:59 pm

I was going to say the same thing about the complete lack of empirical data in the criticism of Jared Diamond’s assertions. I can’t believe this shit still flies among actual anthropologists. I’m used to academic debates where data settles research questions, and data deniers are literally sent home crying. Apparently, something is rotten in the department of Anthropology.

Tomasz Wegrzanowski February 4, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Re #5, contrary to everybody pretending otherwise, we really don’t have facts on what people were like before civilization changed everything. We know essentially zero other than theory-laden reconstructions which cannot be used as “facts”.

Modern “uncivilized” societies all had extensive contact with civilization, so they really don’t count.

Taeyoung February 4, 2013 at 2:17 pm

I suppose that’s literally true, but in some cases (e.g. the Sentinelese) that “contact” has mostly been them killing or trying to kill people who seek contact with them. Not to say that they didn’t have contact with civilised peoples centuries or millenia ago — India has supported large civilised populations since remote antiquity, after all.

Steve Sailer February 4, 2013 at 2:44 pm

I’m a huge fan of the North Sentinelese of the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean.

Ray Lopez February 4, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Thanks; you’ll also find Negro natives in the Philippines. Also note that islands produce dwarfism (for example, the recent 4 foot high, 800 lb adult wooly mammoth remains found on an island, one of several, and the “Hobbit” man in Java).

Ricardo February 5, 2013 at 1:10 am

Islands are also associated with gigantism, e.g. Gallapagos turtles or the extinct “elephant bird” of Madagascar. Evolutionary biologists have sought to make sense of the patterns of why some species grow large and others grow small when isolated on remote islands as in this brief Wikipedia summary:

Alexei Sadeski February 4, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Am pretty sure that numerous modern prehistoric societies have been documented fairly well during their first contacts with modern modern societies. Aborigines and some Amazonians seem pretty solid examples to me.

Steve Sailer February 4, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Right — the fairly densely populated New Guinea central valley, where Jared Diamond does a lot of his bird-watching, wasn’t discovered until overflights in the 1920s. We have movie footage of early contacts.

Douglas Knight February 4, 2013 at 7:15 pm

How theory-laden is the archaeological evidence?

whatsthat February 4, 2013 at 7:34 pm

“All lies and jest
A man hears what he wants to hear
Disregards the rest”

DocMerlin February 4, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Maybe it has something to do with being the most anti-gun jurisdiction in the US.

Economic Geography February 4, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Or maybe it has nothing to do with it at all.

BenSix February 4, 2013 at 3:14 pm

If, as the police claim, 80% of killings are gang-related I suspect a great deal of the victims never suffered from a failure to access guns.

john personna February 4, 2013 at 6:54 pm

“failure to access” in the sense it was still stuck in their waistband?

de Broglie February 4, 2013 at 3:34 pm

1.) African-Americans are naturally more violent than other races. Genetic differences matter. Asian-Americans are the least violent. Cities in South Africa have high murder rates.

Steko February 4, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Because Chicago is the only city with African Americans, they all moved there in 2012, he’s isolated the propensity to violence genes, Mongolian warlords were the least violent and cities in Venezuela have super low murder rates. 6/10, would read again.

Miley Cyrax February 4, 2013 at 10:35 pm

You are both right and wrong.

Across the world East Asians are the least violent and Sub-Saharan Africans the most violent, both within and across nations.

Twin adoption studies, like they have for IQ, have also identified a substantial hereditary component for violence.

But this general trend does not explain the particular instance of Chicago.

And if we deem entire populaces violent or not by their warlording elite, then Americans would be some of the most violent people on the planet.

Peter the Shark February 5, 2013 at 8:14 am

There is some dispute about how “Asian” the Mongols of Genghis’ time were. Genghis himself supposedly had red hair. The horde was a mix of a number of steppe nomad tribes speaking different languages and very likely from different ethnicities. Not to mention the genetic confusion caused by regularly stealing women from settled areas.

That said, Chinese history in the 20th century certainly speaks to a high level of violence in Asian society, North Korea is also reputedly a very violent place where fights are a common way to resolve disputes. If Asian Americans are less violent than other groups it is not clear at all that genetics are the cause.

Rusty February 4, 2013 at 9:20 pm

de Broglie,

Is so correct, it’s well known that the North American pavement ape is violent

JWatts February 4, 2013 at 9:22 pm

There are plenty of southern cities with higher percentages of African-Americans than Chicago. I’m in Atlanta tonight. Perhaps it’s the cold? ;)

Douglas Knight February 4, 2013 at 11:11 pm

You left the Atlanta murder rate unsaid. Ten years ago, it was much higher than Chicago, the difference pretty well predicted by demographics. Since then it has fallen faster than Chicago’s, neither with demographic change.

rt34 February 5, 2013 at 2:58 pm

There has been demographic change in Atlanta. Here’s a link:

j r February 5, 2013 at 10:59 am

“Genetic differences matter.”

Awesome. Get back to me when you’ve isolated the gene for busting a cap in someone.

Tracy W February 6, 2013 at 4:12 am

Based on homicide rates around the world, I’d say that Hondouras, in Central American, is the most violent. But there’s an awful lot of variation between countries even within a continent. Some African countries have lower murder rates than the average in the USA. Out of Asians, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Pakistan and Sri Lanka apparently have murder rates higher than the USA.

Although, looking at the data, and thinking of historical things like the bloodshed over the partition of India, or the Rape of Nanking I think that even if genetic differences matter, environmental differences matter an awful lot more.

Paul Zrimsek February 4, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Some would say that we overregulate or underregulate just enough. Are they misunderestimating, or are you overexaggerating?

Ted Craig February 4, 2013 at 4:29 pm

6. The difference between local regulation and federal regulation would seem a question of enforcement. It’s easier to regulate, say, an unlicensed barber when the code enforcement agent drives by and sees people getting their hair cut. I doubt anybody could look the alphabet soup overseeing most businesses and say it lacks regulation. But just as Chicago has a high murder rate despite numerous laws, it comes down to policing.

Urso February 4, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Cliff Notes Yglesias: “regulations are bad when they inconvenience me. They are ok when they inconvenience other people, especially people I don’t like.”

Urso February 4, 2013 at 4:41 pm

And not to pick on Yglesias (well maybe a little) I’m amazed at his offhand comment about Dallas being a place with “low average incomes” and not much in the way of “customer base” for businesses. In the next sentence he compares Dallas unfavorably to Portland, OR, which as a “coastal” city is more deserving of our attention. It’s just a stunning display of SWPLism. Yglesias has no clue – no clue! – about the relative economic importance of Dallas as compared to Portland.

Steko February 4, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Clearly nothing like what he’s saying. He’s saying that you can’t paint all regulation with a good or bad brush the way people of certain ideologies are wont to do.

ohwilleke February 4, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Papuan and indigneous activist criticism of Jared Diamond for failing to acknowledge mass killings of Papuans by outsiders (e.g. the Indonesian military) is ironic because his most famous and influential book, “Guns, Germs and Steel” focused overwhelmingly on how unequal battles between neighboring societies came about, why they were unequal and what their consequences have been throughout history with a philosophical position that emphatically and openly strives to focus on the impact of history and technology and environmental context as opposed to any theory of inherent superiority to explain it.

It is also worth noting, as Steven Pinker does in “The Better Angels Of Our Nature”, that the emerging modern view is not simply that “savages” are violent while “civilized people” are not. The trend towards reduced use of violence is a continual matter of degree that has gradually changed to produce big differences overall even, for example, over the last five hundred years in Europe.

Diamond’s observation that life in societies with weak states can be nasty, brutish and short relative to those with strong states is hardly novel. It was Thomas Hobbes premise in 1651 and is increasingly supported by forensic physical anthropology worldwide from the ancient past, not only from the present where relict societies may be atypical.

The best way to argue for justice to indigeneous peoples living traditional lifestyles is not to deny that progress in the human condition is a meaningful empirically proveable reality. It is to advance alternative grounds for respecting the validity of the choice/circumstance not to participate in it.

Chuck Ross February 4, 2013 at 5:32 pm

i’m more interested in why the murder and overall crime rates are so high in Pine Bluff, Arkansas and so low in Wisconsin, Utah, and Idaho.

Chicago is too large and multifaceted for any explanatory variable to carry much weight. but compare a medium sized town like PB to others of its same size and demographic make up.

maguro February 4, 2013 at 6:16 pm

I dunno, what could it possibly be? Proximity to the Canadian border, maybe?

ad*m February 4, 2013 at 9:58 pm
Jim K February 4, 2013 at 10:14 pm

Pine Bluff has a large paper mill, and is universally agreed to smell terrible. It’s not good for anyone’s patience.

Chuck Ross February 4, 2013 at 10:32 pm

amarillo texas smells like cow shit all the time, but it’s murder rate is pretty low.

john personna February 4, 2013 at 7:00 pm

I’m surprised no one liked the robots story. I mean it’s one thing to argue about why Vikings stopped being Bloody Vikings or whatever, but that’s kind of done and gone.

Douglas Knight February 4, 2013 at 8:12 pm

The question about Chicago is a lie. Chicago has a normal number of murders; it is New York that is special.

Where do I get monthly murder numbers for Chicago? My calculation is that the last 6 months of 2012 had a lower murder rate than in 2011. But 1/2013 is high again. Are murders becoming seasonal?

Douglas Knight February 4, 2013 at 10:45 pm

I got homicide data from here, or rather from the google cache. I made a couple of graphs. The units are murders per day; I don’t adjust for population. Ideally, I should do some kind of seasonally adjusted smoothing.

These headlines are bullshit. Monthly homicide numbers are meaningless noise. Yes, this January was very bad, but this December was very good. January 2012 was bad, but it was part of a trend where December 2011 and February 2012 were also bad.

Why was the beginning of 2012 bad? There might be a story, but it’s over. Why was 2012 15% worse than 2011? Because of those first months. Chicago is doing worse than 2007, but better than 2008. Probably the rest of the country is improving on that time scale and it is reasonable to ask why Chicago is holding steady. But singling out Chicago to compare to New York is stupid.

Murders are seasonal. They are much worse in the summer. Maybe the bad winter last year was because it was mild. But this January was closer to real winter, yet bad for murder.

PK Sully February 5, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Here’s an address (couldn’t make link),, to interactive map of 2012 murders in Chicago. Approximately 2/3 of Chicago see all shootings. The other third know where not to go. The 2/3 who live in the bad hoods presumably just want to get out. I wouldn’t know; I live in the other third (right near the murder at Addison and Ashland gas station, the exception that proves the rule?).

happyjuggler0 February 5, 2013 at 6:41 pm
Jim K February 4, 2013 at 10:25 pm

1) I’m going to keep saying this until people get it right: City to city comparisons are never meaningful unless the city limits are decided the same way. If Queens and Staten Island were no longer part of New York, the murder rate for the city would be dramatically higher. Conversely, if Chicago merged with Cook County, its murder rate would plummet. ONLY METRO AREA COMPARISONS COUNT.

Chuck Ross February 4, 2013 at 10:33 pm


PK Sully February 5, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Great point. I would love to see the same map linked to above changed to include the entire metro area. I wonder if the murderous west side spills into Oak Park or if Oak Park police make sure it ends at the city limits.

Careless February 5, 2013 at 6:17 pm

The “Roger’s park element” as they’re called do “spill into” southern Evanston, but not very much. The police do keep an extra presence there, and there’s a small station on the border.

Of course, Roger’s Park isn’t austin

Hazel Meade February 5, 2013 at 9:49 am

I’ve been a long time Netflix subscriber and I’m really peeved about the direction the company has taken. What was once a film buff’s dream website has degenerated into Pandora for second-rate television.

That said, my boyfriend has been insisting on watching House of Cards and I can see the logic behind the move, even if I don’t agree with it.
The problem is that the flat-rate subscription model makes it difficult, if not impossible to Netflix to offer premium movie content to its subscribers. The studios can make more money on a pay-per-view basis over Amazon or cable networks, and they aren’t going to make titles available over $9/month unlimited streaming if people would be willing to pay $2-$4 per view elsewhere.

The reason Netflix has ended up with a lot of TV shows is simply because by making past episodes available television studios can hook new viewers into ongoing shows more easily. But Netflix never gets the current season of anything. It only gets past seasons, so people will catch up on the series and then subscribe to cable, or hulu and watch the new episodes there. So the only way Netflix can offer premium content, is by making it itself. At least … if Netflix is going to adhere to a flat-rate monthly subscription model.

Personally, I think Netflix should cave and offer a pay-per-view streaming service like Amazon. Or a tiered price scheme where you pay $30/month for popular new releases and current TV episodes. They’ve been commited to this flat-rate subscription model that isn’t working. They can’t jack up the rate without losing lots of subscribers, but they could offer something like “basic cable” vs. “premium cable”, where you get a current netflix database for $9 and then you pay an extra $20 and you get HBO and ShowTime and all the popular new releases.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: