Link fest 2015-12-11

This conservative wunderkind is taking France by storm

Marion Maréchal-Le Pen is the granddaughter of the founder of the Front National, and the niece of its current leader. She is young, and pretty, and so immediately garners a lot of attention in the press, but she seems to be an adept politician, and could rival her aunt for influence in the party. The FN is usually described as fascist, or fascist-leaning, but in fact is really just populist and nationalist. Parties of this kind are gaining lots of influence in Europe as economies wane and immigrants move in.

The FN is becoming less right-wing, and more nationalist, as time goes on. Many of their votes are starting to come from working class French who used to vote socialist. If you pay attention to what Marine Le-Pen says, she sees herself as a defender of traditional French liberté and laicité. Marion Maréchal-Le Pen is far more like an American Republican, seriously Catholic, pro-life, and relatively business friendly.

Here is what happens when you ban affirmative action in college admissions 

Last week, I reposted a very pertinent [and popular] blog post by John on the 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger case, which made the argument that affirmative action policies should not be struck down as unconstitutional, unless they impose apartheid, on the grounds that the people can do any damn fool thing they please that doesn't directly contradict the Constitution or settled case law. John felt this kind of thing was a matter for the legislature and the executive, and the courts getting involved in it would probably lead in the long term to a restriction of judicial review.

Twelve years on, I think John was probably a better judge of the situation than some of the Justices. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote in 2003 that she thought that racial preference programs in university admissions would no longer be needed in twenty-five years. This may not have been prudent, since that is much the same reasoning as the Court used to invalidate part of the Voting Rights Act based on the fact that it was out of date. Unfortunately, racial gaps in education are unlikely to disappear anytime soon, but rationales for racial preferences in education may suffer a different fate.

How martial a country should the United States be?

Tyler Cowen makes an extremely logical conclusion in this post on American gun ownership and the Pax Americana: the two things go together. The interest of Americans in guns and the interest of Americans in policing the world run together in a fairly natural way. The Americans who are hawks are often gun-owners, and disproportionately likely to provide their sons [and now daughters] as sacrifices on the altar of liberty. However, not all foreign policy hawks are gun-owners, or likely to have a relative in the military, hence Cowen can justly accuse them of failing to connect the dots.

The Americans at the pointy end of the spear tend to be white, Southern, and/or rural. If you don't believe me, look real close at the guys who make it through BUD/S, or even the less elite teams like the Army Rangers, and ask yourself, do they really look like America?

Where do pro-social institutions come from?

The economist Pseudoerasmus provides us with an overview of the relatively new field of cultural evolution. This is a valuable adjunct to this is the study of actual evolution, which then allows you ask interesting questions about gene-culture co-evolution.

Jump the gun and you will be shot down

This is the companion piece to the above. There is an immense amount of resistance to the idea that genes can shape behavior in a significant way. Not all of this is completely crazy, but some of it surely is. The linked article by Stuart Ritchie and its references go into the question in detail. Some of the objections raised by James and Bentall have occurred to me. For example, I have wondered whether estimates of heritability are inflated by artifacts of analysis.

The short answer is: yes, they are. Published heritability numbers are probably upper bounds. However, the kinds of studies done to date provide a lower bound that is more than zero, contrary to what James and Bentall claim in their objections. It is also true that trait heritability estimates usually apply to populations more strongly than individuals. This is true for the same reason and in the same way that stereotypes are true: on average and for the most part. Human beings are individuals, and the interaction between what is fixed and what is variable is what makes us interesting.