Saturday, March 30, 2013

Final thoughts on the Clark-Unz model


Bandit with traditional tattoos (source). In premodern China, who enjoyed the most reproductive success? The thrifty hardworking farmer? Or the local bandit/warlord?


In my last post, I asked how well the Clark-Unz model of selection applied to Japan and Korea (Unz, 2013). Let me now ask a more obvious question. How well did it apply to China? After all, if such ruthless selection had been going on for so long, the Chinese would surely be super-geniuses by now.

Perhaps there is an upper limit to mean intelligence. Above a certain level, the disadvantages may start to crowd out the advantages, especially if tradeoffs exist between high intelligence and other, no less valuable traits.

Or perhaps this model of selection did not operate continuously. More to the point, whenever it ceased to operate, other selection pressures took over and began to favor a different psychological profile.  Remember, this model depends on the existence of a State that can monopolize the use of violence and pacify social relationships. Only then does natural selection favor individuals who get ahead by working hard, being thrifty, and planning for the long term.

But such pacification existed very discontinuously throughout China’s history. There were periods of anarchy when the State was more or less absent and when power belonged to local warlords. Even during the best of times, the power of the State was in a seesaw relationship with that of bandits, particularly in the countryside. There was thus a parallel model of selection that favored “big man” qualities: charisma, verbal bombast, physical strength, ability to intimidate, talent for mobilizing gangs of young men ...

This point is discussed by Feichtinger et al. (1996) who see Chinese history as a shifting equilibrium between farmers, bandits, and the State: “Farmers who produce a good, bandits who steal this good, and rulers fighting against banditry and taxing farmers.” When the State weakened, as it often did, farmers had to placate bandits as best they could. Banditry may have then surpassed farming as the best way to accumulate wealth, prestige, access to women and, ultimately, reproductive success. 

As Bianco (1991) notes:

About ten years ago, a Chinese scholar, invited to spend his holidays in Haute-Provence, was worried: “There aren’t too many bandits there?” As an emigrant settled in France since the revolution, he continued—and to this day continues—to associate the countryside with banditry as a matter of course. For a rich family like his own (otherwise he would not have become a scholar), the obsessive fear of a bandit raid, of being taken away or of extortion was constant. The landowners maintained private militias who could at least stand up to the small gangs, and their sons avoided venturing too far away for fear of being kidnapped. The oldest son especially was the most valued prey because the family would have to rush to pay a high ransom to ensure the continuity of their lineage and appease the spirits of their ancestors.

[…]  on some rail lines of southern China, the train almost never reached its destination without being attacked at least once [by bandits]. In the province of Yunnan, highwaymen controlled most of the roads, stopped and ransomed travelers, and those merchants who persisted in pursuing their occupation, since commercial traffic ended up being choked off or became more selective.

We forget, especially the libertarians among us, how awful things were before the State pacified social relations. It was this pacification that made free and open societies possible. It especially made the market economy possible. Ironically, when the Communists wiped out banditry—something no previous regime had managed to do—they also laid the basis for their country’s future economic takeoff.

References

Anon. A History of Chinese Tattoos and Chinese Tattooing Traditions, Cultural China,
 
Feichtinger, G., A. Prskawetz, E. Gröller and G. Fischel. (1996). Despotism and Anarchy in Ancient China: Visualizing the Dynastic Cycle, Jahrbuch für Wirtschaftswissenschaften / Review of Economics, 47, 1-13

Lucien, B. (1991). Compte rendu de Phil Billingsley, Bandits in Republican China, Annales. Économies, societies, civilisations, 46, 126-127.
http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/ahess_0395-2649_1991_num_46_1_278931_T1_0126_0000_000

Unz, R. (2013). How Social Darwinism made modern China, The American Conservative, March 11
 

 

 

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

There is one more model. Sexual freedom of women. Even in Chinese history there were moments/regions when women enjoyed sexual freedom and single motherhood. Which also selects (among others) for lower intelligence, sexy bad boys/bandits.

PaganAtheist said...

The point made by Feichtinger et al. (1996) reminds me very much of Dumezil and probably parallel situations influenced the structure of the IE and Shinto tripartate religions.

At the risk of crossing too far into politics, the survival of society depends ultimately on the state reigning in its economy (capitalists, trade unions), and reaching harmony with its would-be "big men" by imposing constraints upon "bad boy" behaviour whilst not demonising them simply for their manliness.

Ron Unz said...

Actually, I think a larger factor in preventing any extremely rapid rise in Chinese mental ability would have been the conflicting pressures on peasants for all sorts of other characteristics, including diligence, physical robustness, and caloric efficiency in digestion. Remember, even if smarter peasants did better, they still might have been out-competed by harder-working ones or those able to get by on less food. The whole situation was totally different from the selective pressures acting upon a narrowly mercantile or scholarly caste. Being buffetted by several somewhat competing vectors of selective pressure would tend to reduce the impact of any particular one.

Interestingly enough, I've seen claims floating around that East Asians in general are far better at digesting at least some foods, such as rice, than are Europeans. An intake sufficient to keep EAs healthy may cause EUs to die of starvation. This wouldn't seem very surprising.

Sean said...

I've read that in medieval Japan every aspect of life was officially regulated, and even horses required ID papers. Japan being able to enforce a total suppression of (previously widespread) firearms, suggests the country had no bandit problem. Joseon Korea had a long continuous era of law and order too.

------
Interesting how Korea as a tributary state of China became the 'Hermit Kingdom' (like the north now). Japan taking Korea from China in 1895 led to increased nationalism in China, and led to Japan coming into conflict with Russia in 1905; seriously weakening it. England and France had been relying on Russia to deter Germany. The weakness of Russia presented Germany with a golden opportunity to go to war. England began a huge military build up, and reached a military understanding with France. World war became inevitable.

There are precedents for Korea's problems precipitating a world war. If north Korea were to collapse and be taken over by south Korea, it could be the spark again, but I think the ramifications would unfold slowly - over a decade or more.

Sean said...

But were Chinese peasant farmers really in a business so competitive that there was pressure for efficiency of metabolism. Small Chinese would be more efficient than big Chinese, yet Chinese apparently thought they towered over Japanese (who were mocked as 'dwarf pirates').

Moreover there seems to have been pressure on Chinese rice farmers metabolism for increased manufacture of aldehyde from alcohol, to keep them from drinking too much:-"biochemically equivalent to the effects of disulfiram (a drug used to prevent relapse)" here

Rice agriculture started in the south (see here), but the first real civilization (with writing) was well to the north. By my way of thinking that means rice farming does not select for intelligence; in fact it allows enough alcohol making from the surplus crop whereby farmers could be constantly drunk. Hence rice farmers underwent selection against alcohol consumption.

I suppose the central authorities taxing of farmers would be a crushing burden. It has been true that Mennonite farmers with low personal consumption expanded prodigiously so Ron may well be right about the competition for frugality and diligence, but only in a hierarchical class society where the farmers crop was being appropriated by the authorities; rice farming in and of itself was not that tough.

Anonymous said...

I've tried out a couple of arguments against this kind of pressure in the comments to your other post (non-heritable random variance means favoring certain family backgrounds to a certain degree can be eugenic, intraclass IQ based competition negates large swathes of class stratification based on IQ - and unfortunately didn't get much of a response to this one), so what about this for a third? -

Let's say you're in a system where you're predated on.

This predator faction, let's call it the aristocracy, has fairly strict limits on its growth - because there are strong taboos against "downward mobility". They may reproduce in large degree, but when they reach the limits of their niche, rather than "go down" they simply don't reproduce and / or kill one another for the remaining slots (in that sense, although extremely rich, the predators are also extremely Malthusian). This is in addition to the dynamics of state centralization working to shrink the aristocratic niche over time.

Now lets ignore them for a bit and say that you, the prey faction, are constrained in using weapons and the force of the body to protect yourself. How do you prevent predation, survive and reproduce?

One answer would be intelligence.

Call it the "Seven Samurai" theory of intelligence selection.
Now does this work out to be a stronger selection pressure (on intelligence) than "fair" competition between the "prey"? I don't know.

However, although which is more intelligence selective is up for grabs, other characteristics may show sharper divergence.

Unlike in a system where humans are constrained to competing against one another fairly, the incentives skew towards being more cunning and also more cooperative (because there's a clear class based us and them barrier, rather than a Neo-Hobbesian libertarian-ish "civilized" war of all against all). They're less dilligent and competitive but more inventive, cunning and creative and have more asabiyah against would be exploiters, although they might have more of a deceptive facade of obedience. They become "foxy peasants" (as in Kurosawa). They'd be better at adopting new technology and better at forging a nation state to work together against an outgroup, and they'd do these things earlier and more effectively. The nation would hold together and they wouldn't have anything like the Cultural Revolution where everyone basically turns on everyone else.

(Working against this asabiyah would be Greg Cochran's postualted effect whereby long term states tend to have the asabiyah bred out of them, by serving as peasant warriors in imperial armies. But, if you live in a country where the war is mostly stratified into a single "warrior class" this wouldn't effect you very much!)

Sean said...

OK anon, I think your argument consists of a long chain of somewhat loose reasoning; if it is saying that there is something special about the Japanese I would disagree, and ask you to note the excellent performance of Chinese and North Korean troops in the Korean war.

Anonymous said...

What about the border reivers?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Border_Reivers

Wasn't their heyday the period during which Clark argues selection for the behaviors for economic growth and the Industrial Revolution took place?

Anonymous said...

consists of a long chain of somewhat loose reasoning

It is speculative, but the points I raise are actually mostly independent, not actually connected by a chain of reasoning (wherein A must be true, or statement B has no basis, etc. all before a conclusion).

The basic points I'm raising (speculatively) are only

- as you say, "competition for frugality and diligence (or IQ) , but only in a hierarchical class society where the farmer's crop was being appropriated by the authorities; rice farming in and of itself was not that tough". that is, the toughness of being a farmer, and thereby selection on IQ (and frugality and dilligence), is tougher in a place where elites (perhaps randomly chosen) are stealing your productivity, compared to one where no such elites exist (even if that place has more competition).

- if there's no or less downward mobility, and if the upper classes are selected for violent behaviour and low intelligence (or at least more so), then their genes cannot flow to the lower classes. the upper classes will also tend to stay static or shrink over time, due to this block on downward mobility (my child must be knight / samurai, whatever, so I practice slightly less reproduction) and (violently mediated) tendencies towards political centralisation shrinking their niche (the state controls violence and takes a monopoly on it).

- a society which is an all against all competition and where the state is relatively benevolent (all in terms of reproductive fitness), will select for being competitive against fellow citizens, while submissive to the state, while a society which the state (or elite groups) are predatory but all against all competition is less marked, will select for being less authoritarian (mistrustful of elites) and less competitive with fellow citizens (horizontal collectivism).

As to whether this would actually work to build a better solider, or pans out as I would think once all factors are in play, I do not know.

Anonymous said...

Peter Frost
I think most of those points are plausible especially

"especially if tradeoffs exist between high intelligence and other, no less valuable traits."

This could also combine with diminishing returns. For one niche an IQ all the way up to 130 might linearly improve your competitive chances but in another niche diminishing returns might kick in after say 110 IQ.

.
"I think a larger factor in preventing any extremely rapid rise in Chinese mental ability would have been the conflicting pressures on peasants for all sorts of other characteristics"

Yes.

.
"he continued—and to this day continues—to associate the countryside with banditry as a matter of course"

This is one of the reasons i don't think the Chinese average will be smooth across the country. I think there will be distinct patterns to it.

.
"What about the border reivers?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Border_Reivers

Wasn't their heyday the period during which Clark argues selection for the behaviors for economic growth and the Industrial Revolution took place?"

Geography again imo.

http://www.uk.filo.pl/uk_relief_map.jpg

England&Wales:
- lowlands in the south and centre
- uplands in the north, southwest and Wales.

Scotland north to south:
- uplands, lowlands, uplands

The yeoman farmer / artisan types were in the fertile lowlands and the bandits in the uplands.

I think China is likely to be similar with one story along the big river valleys and a different one in the bordering hinterland.

Anonymous said...

Sean
"Rice agriculture started in the south (see here), but the first real civilization (with writing) was well to the north. By my way of thinking that means rice farming does not select for intelligence"

Alternatively

1) northerners had a higher base IQ for latitude reasons

2) agriculture came to China from two routes, a northern route via the Wei valley and a southern route via India

3) the northerners develop a civ first either because of the latitude IQ advantage or because agriculture gets there first

4) the northeners expand south and pick up rice farming

5) rice in the hands of the new northern colonists and in the warmer latitudes of the south can support a higher population density than the crops grown in the north

Dahlia said...

You have an erudite readership, professor, so I'm sorry to intrude, but...
that Chinese man is hot. Except for the tats.

There was some pithy piece written by a black woman lamenting the lack of Asian male leads, illustrated with a bunch of pleasant, short-haired Asian men. And then I read your blog immediately with your chosen picture contrasting so starkly with those others, LOL!

Anonymous at *March 30, 2013 at 12:20:00 PM EST* wept.

Ron Unz, you're still the cat's meow, though :)

Peter Fros_ said...

Sean,

The possibilities of world war are increased when you don't have clearly defined power blocs whose members have clearly defined obligations. The postwar era was a period of relative peace because the two main centers of decision making were locked into a balance of terror. At present, the international system is much more fluid, and it's easier for minor conflicts to escalate.

Ron,

Yes, but those other selection pressures would have been operating over a much longer time scale -- since the advent of agriculture. This is why high intelligence if often associated with various mental illnesses. When selection operates over a shorter time scale, it tends to favor rought-and-ready solutions that don't have all the bugs worked out.

Anon,

This is what makes State societies so fragile. They breed out warrior qualities and breed in various talents for "gaming the system." But what happens when the system collapses?

Anonymous said...

@Peter Frost
Yes, makes me think for a civilization to survive long-term it needs to consciously breed those traits back in (but in a self-disciplined form).

Anonymous said...

This is what makes State societies so fragile. They breed out warrior qualities and breed in various talents for "gaming the system." But what happens when the system collapses?

Depends on what we mean by collapse.

For instance, we could say the order of Shogunate Japan, their old system, collapsed, and in that instance they back first Meiji Revolution workers, then world class fearsome soldiers, then sararimen.

Similarly, in the kind of states if some foreign ethnic group replaces the ruling class, in that kind of collapse they go on as before.

In the event of the collapse of agriculture or law and order, well firstly everyone dies in the first instance, and fighting over remaining resources is probably a harsh selective filter for certain warrior values (in the most likely scenario), while in the second scenario, it is a little difficult to see how this can happen without the growth of warrior types already increasing massively.

Anonymous said...

Yes, makes me think for a civilization to survive long-term it needs to consciously breed those traits back in (but in a self-disciplined form).
Only issues I would have with this idea is that 1) what is a disciplined form of warrior values? one where the person does as they are told by a ruling elite? and 2) its hard to imagine any society doing this while the they can.

James G said...

Peter, I am not quite sure why you use the "but" in
"Ron,

Yes, but those other selection pressures would have been operating over a much longer time scale -- since the advent of agriculture. This is why high intelligence if often associated with various mental illnesses. When selection operates over a shorter time scale, it tends to favor rough-and-ready solutions..."

Clearly the latter part of what you say presupposes something like the Cochran-Harpending thesis about Ashkenazi IQ and a number of neurological diseases or conditions which are relatively prevalent in Ashkenazim but what are you saying about the Chinese?

Anonymous said...

"Only issues I would have with this idea is that 1) what is a disciplined form of warrior values?"

My (simplified) experience is that violence has two separate and independent components:

1) Propensity to violence: bad temper, impulsivity etc.

2) Capacity for violence: killer instinct for want of a better phrase (which i believe is tied up in either a lack of empathy or the ability to consciously switch empathy on and off under certain circumstances).

The two components are independent imo so you get four combinations
1) High Propensity / High Capacity
2) High Propensity / Low Capacity
3) Low Propensity / High Capacity
4) Low Propensity / Low Capacity

If you apply a rule of law to a population made up of those four categories it selects first against those with high propensity and high capacity i.e. men who are quick to use violence and who are good at it. Most of your murderers will come from this group and in the past most of your warriors also imo.

The second group selected against will be those with high propensity but low capacity i.e. men who are quick to use violence but who pull their punches somewhat and aren't particularly lethal except unintentionally. These are your manslaughter group.

The third group are your soldier-ants. Individuals whose family genetics combine a high capacity for violence but paired with a low propensity for violence as that is the only "high" combination that can slip through the cracks of your rule of law so imo the soldier ant type is effectively selected for whenever a human society has an effective criminal justice system over a long enough time.

And lastly you have the fourth group with both low propensity and low capacity.

.
"one where the person does as they are told by a ruling elite?"

That is one possibility. The possibility i like more is that of a standard citizen with a lot more controlled aggression.

In real terms an example of what i mean would be the cop colonies you sometimes get in big cities in the US. They're the same as similar neighborhoods in most respects except if someone was screaming in the street there'd be about 100 guys running to help within seconds.

Roman ex-Legionary colonia would have been similar i imagine.

.
"and 2) its hard to imagine any society doing this while the they can."

True. It's just interesting to me to imagine what a city would be like if it was mostly made up of those cop colony type neighborhoods.

.
Then again it might be some of the traits contained in the high propensity bracket that were the necessary ones.

I'm not proposing this or anything. I just find it interesting.

Michael Ryan said...

id say there's a laffers curve on IQ im about 125- 130 but have many friends i bet are higher however im fond of telling them when thit hits the fan they will need me more than i they ive built hydro electric generators on one of my properties im a licenced pilot a rescue diver i carry concealed i can and do build anything and always I lead im also big and handsome. the point is my iq is a big advantage over bigger people and to adapt to almost anything but at some point it seems to turn one nerdy and weak