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politics

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223
S.M. Stirling
07-19-2005
07:52 PM ET (US)
Maybe that was too long.

Short form: Dutchmen are going to be taller than Americans because they've got the genes for it. Until recently they didn't get enough to eat to reach their maximum height. Now they do.
222
S.M. Stirling
07-19-2005
07:49 PM ET (US)
OK, I'll try again. There are two, and only two, factors which account for human stature.

a) your genes, and
b) nutrition, over the course of several generations.

That is, given optimum nutrition (including maternal nutrition during pregnancy) different geographic groups will differ in final height outcomes.

Hence, other things being equal, Americans are likely to be shorter than Swedes or other Nordic types for the exactly the same reason that they're less likely to have blond hair: their genes.

Swedes will be taller than Italians given equal diets.

Swedes will also be taller than Englishmen, but not by as much.

The English will be slightly taller than the Welsh.

The Irish will be about the same height as the English.

Follow me so far? I'm excluding recent immigrants in all these cases, of course.

Once you've got an optimum number of calories from animal products, you achieve the maximum height your genes will allow, over the course of a couple of generations.

Then you stop. The upward curve in heights levels off. No matter what you feed people, they're not going to average 8 feet tall.

Americans achieved modern heigh outcomes earlier than other groups because they got modern standards of nutrition earlier; and at that time, they were also largely derived from a gene pool (British) which tended to produce tall individuals (though not as tall as, say, Scandinavians).

Americans have been at roughly their modern heights since the 18th century. George Washington's native-born white Southern soldiers were around the same height as their many-times-great-grandsons enlisting today.

At that time, Americans were unusually tall. As other groups got to eat better, and in particular to eat more meat, they started to catch up to Americans in height.

And of course non-British, non-North European immigrants altered the average genetic potential for maximum height downward, particularly from the 1880's on, when southern and eastern Europeans and people from the Balkans and the Middle East started entering the US in very large numbers.

Once dietary differences are no longer a significant factor, Americans can be expected to be taller than some European nationalities and shorter than others because Americans are _a mix of various European, African and other non-European groups genetically_.

OK? Native Swedes, when equally well-fed, will be taller than the American average because of their _genes_, got it?

Scandinavians have more potential height for the environmental factors (diet, nutritional stress) to unlock.

(Last time I looked, the average male Swede was about 2.5 inches taller than the average male American.)

Americans are not of exclusively North European descent. They do not on average have the _genetic potential_ to achieve average heights equal to those of equally well-nourished North Europeans.
221
Tony Quirke
07-19-2005
06:26 PM ET (US)
-- it's painfully obvious you're not reading what I'm posting, so it's sort of pointless to show that the article doesn't mean what you think it means.

Just concentrate on one piece then - show how

"In the First World War, the average American soldier was still two inches taller than the average German. But sometime around 1955 the situation began to reverse. The Germans and other Europeans went on to grow an extra two centimetres a decade, and some Asian populations several times more, yet Americans haven’t grown taller in fifty years. By now, even the Japanese—once the shortest industrialized people on earth—have nearly caught up with us, and Northern Europeans are three inches taller and rising."

is explained by a reference to late-19th and early-20th-century immigrants to America.
220
S.M. Stirling
07-19-2005
06:18 PM ET (US)
"A pity for your case, then, that the BBC article shows this happening mainly in the 20th century, despite the deprivation of WWII in Europe."

-- it's painfully obvious you're not reading what I'm posting, so it's sort of pointless to show that the article doesn't mean what you think it means.
219
Tony Quirke
07-18-2005
11:22 PM ET (US)
-- temper, temper, temper. I was referring to late-19th and early-20th-century immigrants, Italians and Greeks and so forth. They're considerably shorter than Dutchmen, you know.

A pity for your case, then, that the BBC article shows this happening mainly in the 20th century, despite the deprivation of WWII in Europe.

And European has also received immigrants from such places as Turkey, hardly noted for their basketball teams.

Do you have any numbers, or even any vague approximations to back up your statement, or do you believe that simply tossing off something superficially plausible is enough for you to ignore unfortunate facts?

Ah, here we go. This is the original article I was looking for, and covers the study in greater detail.

Some interesting extracts:

"In a century’s time, the Dutch have gone from being among the smallest people in Europe to the largest in the world."

"When Komlos and his parents arrived in Chicago, in the winter of 1956, America was a land of almost mythical abundance. For more than two centuries, its people had been so healthy and so prosperous that they towered above the rest of the world—about four inches above the Dutch, for example, for most of the nineteenth century."

"In the First World War, the average American soldier was still two inches taller than the average German. But sometime around 1955 the situation began to reverse. The Germans and other Europeans went on to grow an extra two centimetres a decade, and some Asian populations several times more, yet Americans haven’t grown taller in fifty years. By now, even the Japanese—once the shortest industrialized people on earth—have nearly caught up with us, and Northern Europeans are three inches taller and rising."

"But the height statistics that Komlos cites include only native-born Americans who speak English at home, and he is careful to screen out people of Asian and Hispanic descent. In any case, according to Richard Steckel, who has also analyzed American heights, the United States takes in too few immigrants to account for the disparity with Northern Europe."

"In the nineteenth century, when Americans were the tallest people in the world, the country took in floods of immigrants. And those Europeans, too, were small compared with native-born Americans."

"Steckel has found that Americans lose the most height to Northern Europeans in infancy and adolescence, which implicates pre- and post-natal care and teen-age eating habits."
Edited 07-18-2005 11:22 PM
218
Tony Quirke
07-18-2005
11:10 PM ET (US)
One has to keep in mind that while wants are infinite, resources are not.

But the European countries are doing better with less, for values of "better" which result in social statistics. Deal with it.

And if you're going to repeat the old canards about "minorities dragging down life expectancies" and "Europeans not counting premature births in their stats" - provide numbers, because those factoids don't pass the smell test.
217
S.M. Stirling
07-18-2005
10:27 PM ET (US)
One has to keep in mind that while wants are infinite, resources are not.

There are multitudes of things that would be nice to do -- you can always use a new museum or national park or historic site or extra holiday or whatever -- but not everything can have the same priority, any more than everyone can be above average (except in Lake Woebegon).

For example, France has a number of nice shiny things; the train system is beautiful, to mention only one.

France also has permanent 10% unemployment, 25% youth unemployment, perennially low economic growth, and so forth.

This is what happens when you think a bunch of burkes from the 'grand ecoles' can allocate capital more efficiently than the market. You get pyramids, big showy things, and reduce the system's overall efficiency.

Allied to the above, note also the ubiquity of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Eg., laws intended to protect employees from arbitrary dismissal at the employer's whim weren't intended to prevent the creation of new jobs.

But they certainly have that effect. For every old job you protect, you kill several new ones; it's a process of sacrificing tomorrow to meet lobbying pressure today.
216
S.M. Stirling
07-18-2005
10:12 PM ET (US)
>The system mentioned, Stirling, was the US health system.

-- oh, that's a mess, no dispute.

Although nobody's really doing much better; the Canadian and European systems are approaching bankruptcy and breakdown.

The basic problem is that all our health care systems were designed when there was a lot less they could do, particularly for the old and very sick, who are the ones who consume most of the resources.

Giving palative care to the dying was cheap. Keeping them alive another six months turns out to be very expensive; treating the illnesses that accompany another 20 years of being old and frail is very, very expensive.

Same-same with pensions. People used to die at about 65, which is why the US Social Security system kicked in at that age. Now that people are living another 10 or 20 years or even more, it screws things up royally.

It's not as bad as Europe, with its deathbead-demographics, but still pretty bad.

Ghu alone knows what the Chinese are going to do, since they have Germany's demographics with nothing like European standards of income.

>If you want to claim it was because of pollution of your precious bodily fluids by Hispanic immigrants, then let's see some figures.

-- temper, temper, temper. I was referring to late-19th and early-20th-century immigrants, Italians and Greeks and so forth. They're considerably shorter than Dutchmen, you know.

It's amusing to see Europeans scramble desperately to find _something_ they're doing better than the US.
215
Tony Quirke
07-18-2005
01:37 AM ET (US)
The system mentioned, Stirling, was the US health system.

And as regards height, you seem to have overlooked the graph showing how the Europeans overtook the Americans recently. If you want to claim it was because of pollution of your precious bodily fluids by Hispanic immigrants, then let's see some figures.
Edited 07-18-2005 01:38 AM
214
S.M. Stirling
07-17-2005
11:38 PM ET (US)
"Amanda Wynne, of the British Dietetic Association, said: "Many things will influence height - including genetics - but nutrition is an important factor."

-- well, yeah. You've got the potential height limitations of the gene pool in question, and then you've got nutrition. These are the only things which affect stature to any great degree.

Japanese are taller than they used to be because they eat more meat but they're never going to be as tall as an equally well-nourished group of, say, Swedes or southern Sudanese.

Americans achieved modern heights early (18th century for whites) because they were well-nourished, and in particular because they ate a lot of meat.

Over several generations, a diet high in animal proteins and fats maximizes your genetic potential as far as stature goes. (It takes generations because there's a complex mechanism which switches genes on and off.) Even American-born black slaves were taller than Englishmen in 1776.

Other things being equal, Nordics will be taller than other Europeans. Things are now roughly equal in terms of diet, so one would expect the Dutch, Scandinavians and northern Germans to be taller than Americans, who include a lot of people with Mediterranean, Amerindian and Balkan backgrounds.

As for obesity, Americans are simply ahead of the curve.

Obeisity rates are shooting up throughout the developed world; South Korea now has a serious problem with it, for example. (While North Korea has killing famines.)
213
S.M. Stirling
07-17-2005
11:29 PM ET (US)
"This has been covered by John Ralston Saul to a far greater extent - you might find On Equilibrium worth a go, although not all in one dose."

-- yeah, read that some time ago. Wooly-minded and illogical; more of a bleat than an argument.
212
S.M. Stirling
07-17-2005
11:26 PM ET (US)
"And we are their markets. If they want to sell to us, then they should meet our regulations on, say pollution or labour standards."

-- in other words, you want to keep poor countries poor forever?

If Bangladesh had to meet European or North American pollution and labor standards, it couldn't produce _anything_ at competitive prices and could never get a foot on the ladder.

The question is moot, anyway. Putting restrictions on imports just punishes consumers, without doing anything about capital flight. Vide Germany.

Coddling old sectors of the economy just kills new ones, without really protecting the old ones for long.

Face it, you're talking about trying to sweep back the ocean with a broom, or nail jell-o to the wall.
211
S.M. Stirling
07-17-2005
11:22 PM ET (US)
"And what of a system which is nominally free-market, wherein the government spends more than the governments of other more "socialist" systems,"

-- if you're referring to the US, the federal government took about 18% of GDP, last time I looked. Most of Europe is over 40%.

De-nile, De-nile...
210
Tony Quirke
07-17-2005
10:58 PM ET (US)
The fear of the "Polish plumber" in France -- where they also admit that it takes forever and costs the earth to get plumbing work done if you use the official system -- is a pretty good sign of a system rife with perverse incentives.

And what of a system which is nominally free-market, wherein the government spends more than the governments of other more "socialist" systems, wherein private spending is more than government spending, and yet which delivers worse results for society as a whole than said more "socialist" systems? A situation increasingly written into the very bodies of its citizens?
209
Tony Quirke
07-17-2005
10:53 PM ET (US)
In other words, if you regulate too much they'll simply shrug and take their toys somewhere else. Capital is mobile; very highly-skilled management and professionals and technicians are mobile; the rest of us are stuck.

And we are their markets. If they want to sell to us, then they should meet our regulations on, say pollution or labour standards. In real life "a level playing field" is a highly regulated area, and regulations can be designed to operate on sales as well as production.

This has been covered by John Ralston Saul to a far greater extent - you might find On Equilibrium worth a go, although not all in one dose.
208
S.M. Stirling
07-16-2005
09:56 PM ET (US)
The fear of the "Polish plumber" in France -- where they also admit that it takes forever and costs the earth to get plumbing work done if you use the official system -- is a pretty good sign of a system rife with perverse incentives.

The fact that 25% of the population votes for the fascists isn't a good sign either.
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