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Egalitarianism, identity politics is ruining science

...like it was ruining the socialist countries' economies...

Every sane teenager (e.g. Soph) knows that socialism cripples the economies and its defenders must be treated like plague. I could provide you with more detailed data from Czechia but the comparison with other nations could be controversial because it's not true that "all other things are equal". Instead, Germany has been a great lab that has measured how it works.



Parts of Germany used to be similar up to 1945 but "accidentally" occupied by armies with very different regimes. In 1949, West and East Germany were formally created. Exactly 40 years later, in 1989, a West German employee had the average salary of DM 4,000 (one euro was later created and pegged to DM 1.95583, almost two West marks) while the Eastern counterpart had M 950 or so. Note that the latter is just M, not DM, and it makes some difference.

Well, officially it didn't. The East German leaders were officially claiming that the two marks, DM and M, were the same, so the nominal salary of the West German worker was "just" 4.5 times higher than in the East. However, in the East German banks, you couldn't actually buy the West marks for the East marks at par – it only worked in one direction. The actual market prices are those that work in both directions. That actual market was called "the black market" because the trading wasn't legal according to the communists (and therefore "black", surely a more politically correct color would be chosen today).



OK, in the real market, one West mark was equal to 9 East marks or so (although it dropped to 7 or so sometime in 1990). So the West German worker could actually buy M 36,000 for his monthly salary on the East German streets, 38 times more than his East German comrade. After 40 years of communism, nominally, the guy in the West earned 40 times more than the guy in the East, this 40-40 rule sounds fair. ;-)



This factor of 40 is the nominal comparison. The quality-of-life differed by a factor that was lower than forty. Housing was more expensive in West Germany, and so was food – however, both were better so the higher prices in the West also had some legitimate reasons. For this reason and others, some people propose that the fairer exchange rate should have been four to one which would bring the gap of salaries to 16:1 or so.

I don't really agree with these people much and I think that the 9-to-1 rate was the right one – it came from a normal, actual market. In fact, if the black market were motivated to distort the exchange rate in some direction, it was pushed to make it closer to the unrealistic official 1-to-1 rate (the further you are, the more criminal you seem to be), not further away from it.

At any rate, West Germany was large and rich and decided to pay DM 1 for M 1 to East Germans – up to some amount – and DM 0.5 for M 1 for the remaining large amounts. By those rates – the former is the same rate as the official rates previously declared by communists – the salary gap was just 4-to-1 or 8-to-1, respectively. At any rate, it's bad enough. The 40th root of 4 and 8 is 1.0325 and 1.0533, indicating that one needs the average GDP growth differential to be between 3.25% and 5.33% a year to achieve this gap. That difference is huge and after a few decades of the exponential divergence, the differences looked and always look qualitative.

(For the greatest ratio of 38 above, note that the 40th root of 38 is 1.095, indicating a 9.5% annual growth differential between West and East Germany! Imagine that AOC or Kamala or what's the name of these candidates would be honest and she would say that her proposed system is better although, she would admit, it creates an annual GDP growth that is 9.5% below the growth rate of her Republican competitor. Would such a new deal sound attractive?)

For ideological reasons – and for reasons that are convenient to the new class that took over – communism banned the ownership of companies (anything that employs other people and may produce money with their help). For that reason, the new de facto owner of the companies (some abstract communist manager) wasn't really motivated to do things right, wasn't really chosen by the competitive fight to be the right guy, prices weren't being determined flexibly to match the supply and demand, and the capital was generally allocated to wrong places because no mechanism determines the price ratios of various factories and the investments that they need to add etc. Shortages were unavoidably common – and so was the low growth of the promising sectors and a huge growth of the sectors that were pretty much useless (like the production of too much steel).

Economically literate people know these basic differences between the socialist and capitalist economies. In practice, we can blame most of the gap on another structural and fundamentally ideological difference: socialism just doesn't want to allow "inequality" – the deliberately incorporated defects of socialism from the previous paragraph may be interpreted as numerous methods to prevent the inequality. People and companies can't compete much because it would make someone richer and perhaps very rich, someone poorer, and that's bad according to the sick left-wing ideology.

This sick left-wing ideology leads to the dysfunctional economy pretty much directly. Why? Well, it's because most of the achievements in the society are really being made by a very small percentage of humans who have some special skills or other positive characteristics. I don't necessarily claim that it's the same ones who are rich but there is a high correlation and it's surely a similarly small percentage of the people. Don't get me wrong: the brute force is still being mostly performed by the near-ordinary people. But the point is that most of the progress of mankind isn't caused by the brute force (although crackpots such as Karl Marx have loved to claim otherwise). It's caused by new methods to choose what the brute force should be like, where it should be done, and by inventions and their incorporation to the real-world economy. Socialism has basically removed these engines from the economy, downgraded these people to the status of average workers (or harassed sub-par workers or corpses hanging on the rope), and has placed similar powers in the hands of apparatchiks who were surely not too motivated and they didn't have good reasons to be really talented, either.

Most people haven't ever deviated from the average much – in anything – and they may find even the trivial observations above inconvenient. That's why something as toxic as communism could have overtaken whole nations. But there are still many people even among the "rather average ones" who understand that healthy, rational nations simply shouldn't subtract the things that make them special, that are very different from the average in some important measures. Many people, including ordinary people, understand that it's wrong to steal – even if the robbed person is much richer, and so on.

What was the purpose of this elementary discussion about the defining defects of the communist economy, a discussion that has consumed exactly one-half of this blog post?

The purpose was to remind the reader of some facts and mechanisms that are analogous to those that also affect science – and I mainly mean pure sciences such as theoretical physics that can't really be considered a part of the regular economy. You know, like the progress of the economy, the progress of science also brutally depends on the presence of the inequality, on the competitive struggle that produces this inequality, and on the motivation that the people have to be on the right side of this competitive struggle.

By now, it's become obvious that the progress in theoretical physics has slowed down relatively to most previous decades. But many people are completely wrong about their attribution of this slowdown. Most people who discuss it are full-blown crackpots so they blame the slowdown on the vital theories that are almost certainly right but the crackpots don't like them – from proper quantum mechanics as understood in Copenhagen to string/M-theory. Others blame it on the shortage of experimental discoveries in particle physics and perhaps even in experimental cosmology that may be hitting a similar wall as experimental particle physics (not to mention the Hubble constant discrepancy that may very well reverse the bold assertion that "cosmology has turned into a precision science" around the late 1990s).

The first explanation is obviously wrong but I think that even the second explanation is mostly wrong. Things just haven't slowed down this much in experimental particle physics or cosmology. It's been just 10 years since the discovery of the Higgs, some 8 years from the discovery of the last matrix entry in the neutrino mass matrix (1-3) that was previously seen as vanishing, and new things are randomly helping to understand the Universe better, e.g. the LIGO. Moreover, theoretical physics has been just loosely connected to the experiments for many decades so the reaction to the experimental slowdown, even if that were substantial, couldn't be this fast.

The real primary cause of the slowdown is egalitarianism.

Well, the main problem is that the demand for big discoveries – demand from the system of institutionalized science and the people in it – has mostly disappeared. In fact, it looks politically incorrect to assume that some discoveries are much greater than others – and, perhaps more importantly, some people have a far greater potential to make such discoveries than others. The increasing left-wing ideological contamination has led to the pernicious idea that it's great to assume that everyone is equal. For example, every theoretical physicist with a PhD is equal, many people ludicrously claim. The system is clearly and increasingly emulating East Germany. When you do something big, something is wrong. Your discovery has to be shared by everyone else – or, alternatively, you should be sent to Der Gulag.

Of course, I was fortunate to have experienced a different system and a different atmosphere. The primary reason of my excitement about my discoveries (I originally wanted to describe some of them in detail – with the composition of the excitement etc. – but I won't do it because there would be too many filthy idiots writing too annoying reactions today and I don't want to deal with this human garbage – the concentration of garbage unavoidably affects what people want to write and say, too, and I am close to a counterexample but cannot avoid these mechanisms altogether) has always been the truth and elegance of the ideas themselves. Things just fit together and it's beautiful. But of course there has always been a positive feedback related to the expected reaction by others – a similar partly emotional reaction as mine. It's really almost pointless to be an average "employee of a theoretical physics institution". It's much more fun and fulfilling to find something as consequential as the work by more than 10,000 average people. And it's fun to see whether one has already moved from the 10,000 to the 100,000 level.

And yes, many people (not just me) generally wanted discoveries – and discoverers – that were comparable to 10,000 or 100,000 of seemingly similar but average papers, seemingly similar but average researchers. This engine or incentive has largely disappeared because of the "egalitarian cause" that has spread in the Academia due to the excessive number of left-wingers who are poisoning the mood every day. The atmosphere has gotten closer from West Germany to East Germany and it has similar implications.

Note that the money doesn't have to be involved. Even if the "fame within the scientific community" or some very abstract "credit" were what replaces the money, the mechanisms guaranteeing that the "capitalist system" works much better than the "socialist system" would still be almost identical. In this sense, the "fame" or the "good name" among the top physicists, may be considered currencies. What really matters is the question whether the inequality is considered a healthy thing by the bulk of those who react to the achievements and who affect the achievers' fate. And any organizational system with people that decides that "inequality is the enemy" simply has to move in the East German direction.

The "drive for equality" has spread because of the general proliferation of people who are "left-wing in the old-fashioned sense". But the neo-Marxist "identity politics" of recent years is nothing else than egalitarianism on steroids. Not only individuals are supposed to be "equal". Also, whole groups of people – defined by their skin color, biological sex, sex that they would prefer to pick, sexual orientation, and more – are supposed to be "equal". This brings the "fatal slowdown caused by the socialist ideas" to a new level. Why?

Because the great achievements are only discouraged on the individual basis in the "regular socialism". People and politicians of East Germany still wanted some great progress. Everyone wanted it, someone was supposed to do it, and everyone was supposed to share it. The socialists "just" denied the fact that most of this progress was creating the inequality – and the growth of the inequality was actually a top motivation for doing the advance in the first place.

However, in the egalitarian world with the "identity politics" in place, it's different. The "identity politics" proponents sort of know that what they say about the natural equality of the groups are ludicrous lies. So they also know that it's far more likely that a potential next big discovery will be made by e.g. a white straight male, to pick the most obvious group that they decided to hate and suppress. As they know, the next big discovery is more likely to be made by someone from the hated group and reinforce the differences between the groups – and they don't like these differences for ideological reasons.

And that's why they don't really want any new big discoveries at all.

Let us state the same comment again, with a slightly different recommendation how to quantify these observations: the "identity politics" left-wingers really don't want new, striking, deep discoveries by the white straight males. But because most of the big discoveries were and will be made by the white straight males, this lack of desire is almost equivalent to not wanting any discoveries at all. Maybe the black Lesbian women are still sufficiently motivated to do great discoveries but if you assume that the white straight male discoverers have been totally demotivated, only the black Lesbian women were left, and the ratio of the potential of these two groups is some realistic 500-to-1, it may easily happen that the rate of the progress slows down by a factor of 500. Whether it's 500 or "just" 50 depends on how the non-intersectional groups "in between" are treated.

To be clear, let me explain again why "identity politics" is more destructive than the old-fashioned "socialism". When someone invented something to improve the carmaking process in a socialist country, he was probably called Porsche but the regime would respell him Porše, dress him in some cheap clothes, and present him as "just another worker from our preferred working class" and many people may have bought it. However, when a white male makes a physics discovery, it's much harder to pretend that it was made by the preferred class – by a black woman, for example. So the Marxists knew that they could obfuscate that their glorification of the preferred class was untrue; but the neo-Marxists know that they can't and the credit goes to the "right groups", anyway. So the neo-Marxists are more afraid of the advances than the Marxists.

I think that by the 1980s, even the communist officials have understood that the society simply needed some groups of people that had been treated as class enemies before. The "identity politics" neo-Marxists that have contaminated the Academia are finding themselves in a much more primitive, fanatical stage of their ideology, one that is equivalent to the communism of the 1920s-1950s, I don't know which decade (and perhaps which communist nation) is the best match. If they remain in charge of the Academia, it may take 40 more years for them to start to realize what the East German communists started to realize in the late 1980s.

These are the things that mainly affect the progress of science – and mankind in general. Some whining about "not having many promising experiments relatively to the 1960s or 1860s" are just lame excuses that have very little to do with the real problem. And the increasingly loud screaming that "string theory or quantum mechanics is evil" aren't valid explanations of the slowdown at all. Instead, they are manifestations of the fact that the bubbles of garbage (I mean the critics of the vital foundations of physics) have already bubbled up to the surface and took over the system. The real problem isn't just the supply of groundbreaking ideas. The real problem is the systemically suppressed demand for these ideas – suppressed by the realization that the suppliers – and the "identity politics" groups where they belong – would benefit, increase the inequality, and stand much higher than others. And the system no longer wants that.

And that's the memo.


Off-topic: There were 2500 Czechoslovak pilots in the Royal Air Force during the war. I particularly knew Antonín Liška – whom I chatted with in the early 1980s during a book fare (he was a judge on a contest that I won) and in 1992 when we were getting the same award (the 1307 Signet of Pilsen). Sadly, the number of survivors dropped by 50% from 2 to 1. Kurt Taussig just died in London, at age of 96. He was one of "Winton's children", 669 Jewish kids who were saved by Sir Nicholas Winton. He was 15 at that time – and was shooting at German aircraft soon afterwards. Emil Boček becomes the last survivor. He's hopefully in a good shape, in 2016, he was piloting a Spitfire again during a stunt.

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