by Tyler Cowen
on October 6, 2013 at 2:14 pm
1. Scott Sumner on British austerity.
2. Does exposure to economics make students more like economic maximizers?
3. How easily can a paper’s forthcoming citation history be predicted?
4. The shutdown-induced Straussian weather service.
5. David Bernstein’s observations on American Jewish life.
6. Great Courses with Daniel Drezner, “Foundations of Economic Prosperity.”
“Cultural Judaism is a massive failure from a continuity perspective.”
This seems hardly surprising. The only sub-cultures that have managed to maintain continuity over a long period have either 1) been religious in nature, 2) based on overtly identifiable racial differences, 3) promoted lifestyles that strictly isolate their members from mainstream society (e.g. Roma or Travelers), or 4) based on strict caste rules enforced by broader society. None of these apply to cultural Judaism.
You’d expect that a non-religious Jewish population would be about as culturally distinct as Dutch-Americans or Huguenot descendants.
Do you have a source for that? Not trying to be accusative, but it’s an interesting and plausible and I’d like to read more.
Nope, just a personal observation from surveying history. Wish I had something more substantial for you…
The level of ethnic networking/nepotism practiced in the non-religious Jewish population should give it more staying power than those groups however.
Well without getting into a tired debate about the degree of that, I would say that my personal observation is that little ethnic nepotism exists among American Jews. I say that as someone whose closely interacted with a lot of Jewish friends, relatives, schoolmates and co-workers. Also with a background of attending highly Jewish educational institutions, living in Jewish areas and working in a very Jewish industry. Additionally based on my looks and background I come across as both passably Jewish and non-Jewish, so I’ve had to chances to interact with under the perception of both sides. I’ve observed little to no overt ethnic favoritism among the typical non-religious American Jew. Which isn’t to say that Jews, like everyone, don’t typically favor their family, friends, neighbors and relatives. It’s just that with Jews these people are more likely themselves to be Jewish. But I’d say there’s weak to no ipso facto favoring of people on the sole basis of their Judaism.
But even leaving all that aside even if ethnic nepotism exists to a high degree, the issue is its long-term stability. You need some sort of plausible enforcement mechanism, otherwise the system collapses due to free riders. It’s too simple to coast on the benefit of receiving nepotism without paying any of the costs of providing it. For example Mormons can maintain nepotic networks (not saying they do, just saying they can), because they have a highly structured organization to which everyone participates to a high degree. People that don’t reciprocate back into the network can be easily identified and suffer personal consequences. To the extent that a nepotic network exists among non-religious ethnic Jews it would only be because of the historical legacy of religious participation and cultural isolation. With those factors no longer in play the network will whither away.
You might respond that the benefits of nepotic networks are substantially higher than the costs, so free riders aren’t a serious issue. But if enforcement was unnecessary and benefits high we should see nepotic networks form around essentially arbitrary Schelling points like left-handedness or having a birthday on a prime number. Instead almost all plausible nepotic groups are centered around deeply shared fundamental values, suggesting that community enforcement is highly important.
Drawing back to history, Huguenots are an excellent comparison. They too form a non-religious ethnic group derived from a common sub-culture. For their very tiny numbers Huguenot achievement is intense, contributing some of the richest, most influential and powerful people in Western history (link below). Also like Jewish history, Huguenots share a history of strife and persecution that should make them distrustful of outsiders and favoring to co-ethnics. If ethnic nepotism should have kept any group together it should have been them, yet I suspect that 90%+ of young people with Huguenot ancestry are not even aware of the fact.
But I’d say there’s weak to no ipso facto favoring of people on the sole basis of their Judaism.
In America, I am not sure I could say. But when Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested and charged with the rape of a hotel maid, he was defended by an unexpected group of Frenchmen. Bernard-Henri Lévy came out and n ot only defended him, but smear the morals and character of the maid. Robert Badinter, France’s equivalent of the ACTU and Noma Chomsky rolled into one, and his wife, Élisabeth Badinter who might be best compared to Gloria Steinem as France’s greatest living feminist defended DSK. Jean Daniel, founder and editor of Le Nouvel Observateur, defended him. So did Jack Lang.
Now what is unexpected about this is that they are all people on the Left. The extreme Left in many cases. DSK was and is an extremely wealthy and powerful man who is damn lucky that maid was such an unreliable witness – and that he had the cash to go for her throat with a full-on media smear campaign. An ordinary mortal would have been convicted. When a powerless immigrant woman confronts a wealthy banker, you would expect the Left and the feminist movement to side with the woman. These did not.
Now I am extremely uncomfortable pointing out the obvious – but it is there. Something unites all these people.
So I would not write off the ability of an entirely secular, leftist, not-even-remotely-religious community to hang together. They seem perfectly capable of it in France.
But they are all French living in a world dominated by French cultural identity. We call that place France.
I suspect secular Jews living in Israel have little difficulty maintaining Jewish identity.
They are all French for a certain definition of the word French. They are not, how does one put this, entirely indigenous. BHL’s family comes from Algeria. So does Jean Daniel’s. DSK’s mother comes from Tunisia and his Father from French-occupied Germany. Badinter’s father came from Romania.
Look what I don’t really want to say is that every French Jew of note defended DSK. No non-Jewish French man that I can think of did. That is, even though those French Jews were secular, even though they are resolutely on the Left, even though they are feminists, faced with a fellow secular Leftist French Jew being accused of a crime that, frankly, he probably committed (or more likely he refused to pay after the act and so she called the police) they all put principle aside and defended him.
It is not their French cultural identity that is at work. Otherwise Frenchmen who are not Jewish would have come out of the woodwork to defend him. Can you name three that did? Their French cultural identity should prejudice them in favor of the maid – leftist, feminist etc etc. It did not.
Now perhaps there is an entirely benign explanation. I don’t like the one I have come up with. I would prefer another. Perhaps it was a co-incidence? I can’t see a single one of them defending Berlusconi if he was accused of the same. But the implication seems to be otherwise.
I’m not familiar with French society, but the obvious hypothesis would be that they run in the same social circles as Dominique Strauss Khan. Humans are inclined to hypocritically give passes to their friends and associates for behavior they would condemn in strangers. No ethnic cohesion is required to explain that. It sounds like everyone you’re listing is quite high up in French society and probably knows DSK well or at least knows people who know him well. The question would be if they typical middle-class Frenchman of Jewish descent supported DSK more so than the middle class French gentile.
Look the exact same scenario, even more hypocritical in fact, played out with Roman Polanski. Hollywood closed rank to defend him for something that they’d be howling about for a century if Dick Cheney did it. But there’s obviously no explicit ethnic angle with Polanski, just typical hypocritical homo sapiens turning a blind eye to their friends.
So Much writes: “I am extremely uncomfortable pointing out the obvious”…sure you are. Not posting is always an option.
So Much writes: “I don’t like the one I have come up with”…laughably bullshit.
I love the Jewish conspiracy cranks. When do the Elders of Zion meet to dole out the favors?
Doug is destroying So Much here by the way.
Although So Much will no doubt point out that Polanski is Jewish and so are many Hollywood power brokers. He’ll be extremely uncomfortable doing so, but he will be compelled.
I’m an open-minded guy. You can do better than ad hominen here, no?
The idea that Irish or Koreans or Jews favor their own is not particularly revelatory. Most secular Jews I know are familiar with the game of “Jewish Jeopardy” wherein Jews upon meeting check through mutual acquaintances.
Doug insists this is a religious tie, and notes the Huguenots as a counter-example.
I don’t think this is right. Huguenots have not been singled out or persecuted for a long, long time. This, I believe, weakens the need for strong community bonds.
Jews have had a different history. What can I say? If I were a Jew, I might be a little leery of goyim and more trusting and supportive of my own. Religion is just one possible basis for cohesion.
Anyway, the DSK story is interesting. If you don’t buy So Much’s theory, just provide a list of all the non-Jewish French lefties that stood up for DSK.
We all seem to agree that all groups tend to ‘favor’ their own because that’s pretty normal…we all feel comfortable most with our families, or the group we grew up with and live among. Doug was just replying to Therapsid’s claim that Jews take it to another level. So Much then chimed in (reluctantly…ha ha) with his DSK anecdote…he’s posted here enough to make it easy to laugh at his claim of discomfort in bashing a group of humans based on racial/ethnic identity.
It’s distasteful to me to take the DSK anecdote and generalize it to a group that was recently targetted for genocide for just such shadowy, insular cabalism. I guess Hitler was on to something, proven by l’affaire DSK?
Yes, I know Godwin’s Law now applies but when Jewish conspiracy is the topic it’s inevitable.
Doug, I am sure they run in the same social circles. It would be odd if those circles were defined by being Jewish, but I am sure it is an influence. The French Right is probably not all that welcoming of Jews, although a lot more so than in the past, so it would be natural for those circles to be secular and Leftist.
And I agree that people are inclined to give their friends a pass. French society is incredibly small at the top as defined by attendance at one of the grander post-graduate schools. I am sure they all knew each other from way back.
I was certainly trying to make the point that it appears that the average Upper class French Jewish intellectual was far more inclined to give DSK a pass than your average non-Jewish intellectual was. Assuming that such a thing exists in France any more. After all, how many non-Jewish Frenchmen spoke out for him? I really can’t think of one.
Polanski is a tough case. I think there is some ethnic solidarity in Hollywood. Mel Gibson has not done much worse than Alec Baldwin but I think we can agree Gibson ain’t going to work in mainstream films again. Nor is Megan Fox. I would be surprised if being Jewish helped Polanski though. I think it was more of a 70s Leftist thing.
Msg, the slight flaw in your argument is that if I wanted to criticise Jewish people, I would criticise Jewish people. If I wanted to posit a vast conspiracy, I would suggest a vast conspiracy. I am not.
I was surprised by the Affaire DSK, especially since lots of people were expressing surprise but no one seemed to have noticed the common background of people like BHL. French Jews are highly assimilated. France is highly secular. I wouldn’t have thought that being Jewish was a big deal to anyone anymore. Maybe it is a co-incidence. We will have to see if another case comes up.
But I do like your cynical exploitation of the Holocaust to explain your bad manners and childish behavior.
And I like your way of saying things that are the opposite of what you really mean.
So maybe we can just drop the sarcasm and innuendo.
Megan Fox was a featured player in This Is 40, Judd Apatow’s latest…he might be the most Jewish person in Hollywood outside of Mel Brooks. Mel Gibson was in a Jodie Foster-directed movie recently, and will appear in The Expendables 3 and a new Mad Max movie soon.
The only person who is using sarcasm or innuendo is you. And what I say is what I say. If I thought anything else, I would say it.
Megan Fox is still widely appreciated by men. She gets voted one of the sexiest women in the world. You would think Hollywood would have jobs for her. But no. Apatow’s latest? Come on. I would hate for you to think I am being sarcastic, but she went from being a Main Line, an international celebrity, to bit parts in films no one sees and no one cares about. That she is still working is nice, but her career is basically over. Despite plenty of evidence that Hollywood’s key demographic – 14 year old boys – would like to see her. Admittedly her irratic behavior probably accounts for almost all of that.
Jodie Foster went to bat for Gibson which, whatever else you can say about the train wreck that is his life, makes me think better of her. Took courage.
As for his other roles, let’s see. His film on the Macabees is not working out is it? And both he and the director say Mad Max 4 will star a younger actor.
Megan Fox is one of many hot, moderate-to-no-talent starlets that Hollywood churns through…she’s working about as much as expected. Remember Jessica Biel? Jessica Alba? Why aren’t they ‘getting jobs’?
And Gibson is getting about as much work as Alec Baldwin to recall your counterexample. They are both aging former-lead actors. Give it another year or three and Gibson’s rants will just be part of his back story.
This kind of silly anecdotal messing around doesn’t at all prove the point I think you were trying to make, by the way….Fox, Gibson, and DSK chitchat is fun but it’s not evidence of any Jewish conspiracies.
I agree Megan Fox is one of many hot, moderate-to-no-talent starlets. She is however on the right side of 30. She is 27 and has not worked in a real film for some time. Jessicas Biel and Alba are on the wrong side of 30 (which seems to be a bit of a cut off point these days, at 31 and 32 respectively) and they have both got married recently. Before their careers tanked – unlike Ms Fox. Even so Jessica Biel was in three films last year including Total Recall and Hitckcock. Hardly nothing.
As for your claim Gibson is getting as much work as Baldiwn. Well:
From 2006 to 2013, he starred as Jack Donaghy on the NBC sitcom 30 Rock, receiving critical acclaim for his performance and winning two Emmy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, and seven Screen Actors Guild Awards for his work on the show, making him the male performer with the most SAG Awards.
Not only is Baldwin working on a highly regarded show, it is a highly regarded show. His peers love him and show it by giving him recognition for his work. To claim this is even remotely like Gibson – who can’t even get a script developed because no one except Jodie Fisher will work with him – is absurd. You’re not being sarcastic are you?
I agree that talking about Hollywood is mostly silly anecdote. You have shown a comprehensive inability to understand what point I am making so you are in so position to make any sort of judgement.
And of course, needless to say even, I am not suggesting a Jewish conspiracy. That is your sad need to see something that is not there. Just, as was the original topic of conversation, liberal secular Jews may hang together more strongly as a group that it first appears or people first suggested. As seems to be the case with DSK. Unless you can think of another explanation of why so many French Jews spoke out and so few French non-Jews did.
Interesting obvservations. Open the door to another question: Have overtly identifiable racial differences really always been subcultures or is that a phenomenon of the last ~400 years? I’m not sure people have always separated each other based on race, at least not as presently defined as opposed to economic or political status or religion or something else. Just looking at the populations in East and Northern Africa or the Pacific and Indian oceans, it’s clear people have been mixing for centuries and maybe even millenia.
If anyone has any input on this, I’d be interested in finding out more.
Prior to 400 years ago, most people probably went their whole lives without meeting anyone from a different major racial group. Maybe you’ve been watching too many of those PC-ized British historical fictions where they put random sub-saharan africans in Sherwood Forest and nobody raises an eyebrow about it.
Sinhalese and Tamils have been living and mixing on a mid-sized Island for about 2,500 years. They are much less distinguishable than say whites and blacks – but there are some rough, imperfect cues that Sri Lankans can use to make a guess. But the near indistinguishability just strengthens the point that ethnic differences can be sustained. Over time.
Short term, the mechanism is mostly people just know who the bulk of their ancestors are and identify with them. Long term it probably has more to do with language. I would say in Sri Lanka religion has very little to do with it. (As some Tamils sadly found during a pogrom in 1983 when they tried to find refuge among Christians).
Not sure if you’re agreeing or disagreeing with me, but just to clarify- when I said “never met someone from a different major racial group” I meant that most East Asians never met a Northwestern European or a Sub-Saharan African and vice versa. Correspondingly, their racial dynamics were based on the distinctions with groups they actually did meet, as you describe.
Self-evidently there was no great movement of people between regions and there was no great race mixing. Because those racial differences still exist. Given 400 years, everyone would look a little like Mexicans if there was a great deal of population movement.
You can look at somewhere like Gaza and see a reasonable African component to the population. But most slaves to the Middle East seem to have been worked to death without surviving offspring (and yes I do know there are African-origin communities in places like Istanbul and Beruit).
There clearly was some population movement before Columbus. Although little to the Americas for instance or to the Pacific. But there are a variety of reasons why this is unlikely to have left much of a legacy. For a start slaves rarely reproduce. For another, immigrants were more likely to be urban and hence not reproduce.
There are studies that show the British population was essentially unchanged, despite the Anglo-Saxon invasions, from before the Romans down to the 1950s when for the first time mass migration changed the genetic make up of the UK.
The end result of this lack of movement is that if you do a DNA test, they can tell fairly well where your family came from. They can even identify which part of Africa your family came from if you happen to be of African origin. Although the idiot who told Oprah she was Zulu was clearly ripping her off.
Do you not realize that the two largest ethnic minorities in this country are almost all composed of people of ancestry mixed in the past 400 years?
Just looking at East Africa, and I’m thinking Ethiopia and Somalia for example, you cannot conclude there was no great race mixing. The Blacks there look like they’ve been mixing with West Asians for a very long time, longer than Blacks in the Americas have mixed with Whites and Native Americans. If you look at the people from Madagascar or Mauritius Island, Blacks obviously been mixing with South Asians for centuries, probably millennia. The Moors are Black, White and Arab. In China alone there are several different races with different genetic features and different skin complexions. Same with India. Navigation wasn’t invented in the 1400s. People have been moving across continents for a very long time. And people in the same vicinity have been doing commerce or war since people exist. Who built Mosks and schools in West Africa and Southwest Europe in the 1300s?
It’s obvious the Atlantic slave trade has a lot to do with our current racial attitudes and our tendency to think Black and White when we think about race since it’s the most important period directly preceding ours. How were our racial attitudes before that? Did subcultures exist by race, class or skill? And by us I don’t mean in America. I mean in the world. Did the Persian and the Arabs hate each other because of racial differences or the Manchus and the Han Chinese or the Fula and the Bantu?
“How were our racial attitudes before that?”
It sounds like you want to believe this is some kind of big mystery because you don’t like the answers, so you’re obfuscating and ignoring the obvious reality that is being pointed out to you. It is completely ridiculous to suggest that racial differences and ingroup/outgroup distinctions are some new thing that just came along recently because, I don’t know, someone ate the Forbidden Apple of Noticing Things. Crack open the Old Testament if you want to read about race wars since the beginning of recorded history.
To the extent that our racial attitudes have changed in modern first world countries, it’s because of exposure to the entire diversity of the human race. Irish and Italians don’t seem so different when you’re dealing with Sub-Saharan Africans and Chinese on a daily basis. But ask any Korean how they feel about people from other Asian countries if you want to see how fine racial distinctions can be made.
Actually, I am pointing out that today when we think of race, we think Black and White whereas there are plenty of other races. Did we back then put hierarchies on races or is that a result of the current world structure? There is plenty of evidence of race mixing all over the world and I give a few. In societies where races did meet each other, did they live apart on that basis? The reason you think the answer is obvious is that you equate race with something else like culture or religion. A lot of what looks to us today like a racial war was actually a religious one. People of the same race çan distinguish each other by religious practices but identify with another race through religion. This plays out in Asia and Africa.
But from the discussion it’s clear the answer is both. Some races mixed and some fought.
And by “racial attitudes”, I don’t mean racism. I mean the way we equate race with religion or race with culture as if they mean the same thing. My original question was about the idea of race as a subculture. To put it another way, in 1300 Africa, would an African Jew identify and mix more with an African Muslim or with a Jew with another skin complexion?
“Actually, I am pointing out that today when we think of race, we think Black and White whereas there are plenty of other races. Did we back then put hierarchies on races or is that a result of the current world structure?”
I don’t know who “we” is, but up until about 50 years ago “we” Americans thought about Black and White because THOSE WERE THE ONLY TWO MAJOR RACES IN AMERICA IN SIGNIFICANT NUMBERS. Back when there were more American Indians, they were part of the conversation. “Today”, there are large numbers of Asians and “Hispanics” (in racial terms, people with substantial Amerindian blood), and they are very much talked about, so I don’t know where you’re getting this idea that “today” “we” think of race as Black and White. You make the common modern mistake of asking questions which have obvious observable answers as if they are mysterious unknowns, which is essentially making an argument from ignorance. It seems to be a common ailment among the Politically Correct, as they have made an artform and a religion out of Not Noticing Things.
You’re not addressing the question and choose to go after your perception of what my mentality is.
Once more, the question is whether race has typically been considered a subculture prior to the current world order which is heavily dependent on such notion. You mention Hispanics, then anticipating that someone would counter that it’s not a race, you add something about American Indians. Our own census has White and non-White Hispanic categories. That doesn’t stop people from considering Hispanic a race. The next post on educational outcomes will have people make claims about the IQ of Asian, Black and Hispanic races. So who’s ignoring the obvious?
The other obvious is you believe race is a subculture and don’t understand a context in which my question could be asked. The examples I provided earlier should have at least created room for a discussion. They didn’t even register in you subconscious.
Who is this guy Strauss? A musician? No, some sort of watered down freshwater US philosopher. Sounds like an a-whole to me. Wikipedia: “Strauss actively rejected Karl Popper’s views as illogical. He agreed with a letter of response to his request of Eric Voegelin to look into the issue. In the response, Voegelin wrote that studying Popper’s views was a waste of precious time, and “an annoyance”. Specifically about “Open Society and Its Enemies and Popper’s understanding of Plato’s The Republic, after giving some examples, Voegelin wrote: Popper is philosophically so uncultured, so fully a primitive ideological brawler, that he is not able even approximately to reproduce correctly the contents of one page of Plato. Reading is of no use to him; he is too lacking in knowledge to understand what the author says. Strauss proceeded to show this letter to Kurt Riezler who used his influence in order to oppose Popper’s appointment at the University of Chicago.” Nice.
Ha, read this blog long enough and everything is “Straussian.” It is invoked almost daily, either in a post or the comments. I think today it was actually mentioned twice.
Great Courses lectures tend to be 1 credit on Audible which is a good reason (among other things) to be a gold member. If you listen to one book a month it’s 15 bucks.
#1 was good. Sumner unloads a bit in the comments section- pretty funny. And Mark Sadowski, as always, is there with the data.
Comments on this entry are closed.
Previous post: The back end glitches in Obamacare
Next post: Earth orbit debris: an economic model
Email Tyler Cowen
Follow Tyler on Twitter
Email Alex Tabarrok
Follow Alex on Twitter
Subscribe in a reader
Follow Us on Twitter
Marginal Revolution on Twitter Counter.com
Get smart with the Thesis WordPress Theme from DIYthemes.