Brahmin please!

73 Comments

The shadow of peasant past: Seven generations of inequality persistence in Northern Sweden:

We use administrative data linked to parish records from NorthernSweden to study multigenerational inequality in education, occupations, and wealth from historical to contemporary times. Our data cover seven generations and allows us to follow ancestors of individuals living in Sweden around the new millennium back more than 200 years, covering the mid-18thcentury to the 21st century. In our sample of around 75,000 traceable descendants, we analyze (a) up to 5thcousin correlations and (b) dynastic correlations over seven generations based on aggregations of ancestors’ social class/status. With both approaches, we find that past generations structure life chances many generations later, even though mobility is very high. The persistence we find using cousin and dynastic correlations is much higher compared to a simple Markov model limited to sequential parent-child transfers, but we also find that direct ancestor associations are very small. This suggests that there is a weak but constant kinship influence that attenuates slowly over generation.

These results align with Gregory Clark’s work in The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility. Last summer Clark told me that he is done with a draft of a new book that confirms and extends the data and argument from The Son Also Rises: though generational mobility is high in the short term, there is a long term persistence of social and economic status across lineages.

To me, the most striking element of Clark’s data is the persistence of Normans in the British elite. Though 0.30% of the British population at most, they were 16% of the student body at Oxbridge in the 12th-century. The proportion of Norman surnames at Oxbridge did not converge to the population proportion until the late 20th-century! This means it took nearly 1,000 years for Normans to regress (they are still over-represented in the British officer corps).

This tells us that social mobility over the generations is a thing. But, it also tells us that social mobility converges very slowly. This is intuitively surprising because single generation-to-generation changes in status are so extreme that one would predict the converge would happen much faster. Often one sees generation-to-generation correlations of income on the order of 0.50. But Clark’s data suggests that the systematic biases across many generations of status are such that the correlation would be closer to 0.90 to explain these results without an underlying phenomenon.

Why is this relevant? Clark had more access to surname information from Europe. But his data now extends internationally, and Clark claimed that this pattern is a cross-societal, and, the “intergenerational correlation” is very high. This includes India (in fact, some of the material in The Son Also Rises indicates that the correlation is higher in India than elsewhere).

This is the context where we have to understand comments like this:

There are two major dimensions to understand this.

When people are beating you down for being a “terrorist” it doesn’t matter if you are a Brahmin or Dalit, a Hindu, Muslim or Sikh. North Indian or South Indian. Light-skinned or dark-skinned. All that matters is that you are brown. There are some people who are white-passing or black-passing among subcontinental origin individuals, but these are the small minority.

Insofar as “white supremacy” is what you think determines the lot of non-white peoples in the United States, talk of caste privilege seems quite silly. It is correct that Indian Americans tend to come from “upper castes” and the socio-economic elite. But what if you think that the only thing relevant about an Indian American with a Ph.D. is that they are a “person of color” (or as they say now a “black and brown body”)? Then that caste/class privilege really doesn’t matter in this country. All that matters is what white people think about you.

But I think this view is wrong. No one in the United States cares you are an Iyer. But what Greg Clark’s data suggest is that it’s not just your name, it’s not just what other people think of you Your inherited “capital” matters. A very dark-skinned Nasrani from a line of doctors may not be comparable to the descendants of slaves and farm laborers. It’s not because they’re Nasrani. It’s because they’re the descendants of doctors.

2+

73 Replies to “Brahmin please!”

  1. “Privilege” (as employed in common discourse) refers to *extrinsic* factors influencing how you do in the world. Inherited capital, IQ, etc. are intrinsic. Yes, I get that melanin content is technically intrinsic, but the unstated argument is that it wouldn’t matter if only White malcontents would give it a rest (whereas intelligence would always matter.)

    Thus the Charles Murray argument that we did nothing to earn our IQs is both entirely true and entirely irrelevant. The world will still treat you better because of your IQ, and this cannot be brought into the discourse on privilege because it is intrinsic.

  2. People are fairly calling out Indian-Americans on their claim to be victims of colonialism. The Suketu Mehta types, and this lady perhaps. They are the ones who have extrapolated the history of colonial oppression up to the present, and even have the gall to create a thesis on why they may even deserve reparations.

    1. Has Suketu Mehta asked for reparations (TNC-style)? I thought he was just saying: “let us immigrate to your countries and give us a chance to prosper, just as so many of your ancestors got a chance to move to our countries and make their fortunes, often on the backs of our ancestors”. This is not a call for reparations, just one for opportunity.

        1. Fundamentally disagree with the suggestion that colonialism is the sine non qua of indian poverty, and even less so that indians are owed the right to emigrate to the US.

          Partly agree with the first part. Many Brits did good things in India, and Indians had free rein to get prosperous if they chose to and were enterprising enough. That doesn’t obviate the fact that British rule was structurally exploitative, especially in the Company era. India did not get poorer under British rule if you look at the absolute numbers, but it didn’t make the marches and leaps other countries made because the European rulers cared not a whit for the welfare of their native subjects.

          On the second, if you take a narrow quid pro quo view, clearly Indians have no reason to expect anything from Americans (unlike the British, arguably). But who are the Americans? Aren’t they descended from people who lived in Europe a few generations ago, and who got opportunities to make their way to The Land of Abundance and make their fortunes? Indians and Asians were denied similar opportunities in the colonial era, so what is so wrong in clamoring for such opportunity today?

          1. Numinous, personally, my take is that NW europeans were unique in their ability at that time to settle the frontier and create abundance. In general, clamouring for the fruits of other’s achievements is bad form. Offering to contribute one’s skills is fine.

          2. That’s funny because just before that the Mediterranean Europeans were unique in their ability to do just that. 🙂

          3. What are you talking about? India went from being roughly 25% of the world’s economy in the 1700s to a fraction of that by the time of independence. Standards of living in India were higher than that in Europe until the 19th century. That’s to say nothing of the famines caused by colonial rule, extraction of resources, etc.

            The one good thing that came out of British rule in the subcontinent was that the caste system was probably weakened at least somewhat, since a number of historically lower castes such as Patels were able to advance during the Raj. Other than that the U.K. owes restitution to the subcontinent, as well as it’s other colonies. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) that will likely never happen since it’s unlikely the U.K. will survive the next decade.

          4. @Indo-Carib, you clearly didn’t read Numinous’s post. In real terms GDP per capita remained flat. The only thing you can say is that Indians’ living standards did not grow as quickly as Westerners. When were Indians going to industrialize and modernize absent any British influence? You had all those great resources. Maybe you should have done something with them?

            As far as famine goes, the fact that India’s population boomed from 127m in 1700 to 255m by 1800 surely had nothing to do with the strain on food transport infrastructure. And despite the famines India finished the 19th century with positive demographic dividends: 271m. And rising to 349m by independence.

            If that’s a genocide it’s one of the most incompetently executed ones in history.

            Hopefully you can see why a lot of people are annoyed by sentiments that “the U.K. owes restitution to the subcontinent, as well as it’s other colonies,” and indeed if “it’s unlikely the U.K. will survive the next decade” to regard your hammering that point as part of the problem.

  3. The Hindu RW warmly welcome back to our fold, those savarNa Indian-Americans who have been caught in the crossfire of intersectionalism. We have always insisted that nobody is on our side, whether it is the woke, the Islamists, the Christians, the atheists or the Pinker-like classical liberals. But scholars like Tanner Greer refuse to believe this reality.

    In this context, I’m glad Brown Pundits gives space to the Hindu RW-er who is a new player on the ideological chess board with no permanent alliances.

    1. “vsds
      FEBRUARY 4, 2020 AT 8:51 PM”

      We have many allies. Including Jordan Peterson. Start watching 11 minutes in:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tsuhfsfk6Kk
      Jordan Peterson speaks of the spark of the divine in all of us. How we are made in the image of God. This is connected to mental health broadly defined and cognitive abilities beyond the scope of general intelligence. This is an enunciation of ancient eastern philosophy. Jordan Peterson correctly says that the post modernists in academia are most focused on fighting the concept of a divine spark in all of us.

  4. A little bit of tangent, but I haven’t come across a discussion on what types and how much inter-generation transfer of opportunity is desirable for a society.

    Surely it’s not zero, even controlling for genetically inheritable characteristics like intelligence. No one would want to prohibit a family from, say, keeping a well stocked bookshelf and spending extra time to help their kids do well in school. Hiring a tutor? Ideally everyone should be able to afford one, but even then the better tutor will make more and might be too expensive for a poorer family. Equalizing opportunity would require a very heavy handed approach by government that I think all but the most extreme socialists would disagree with.

    So I don’t think the coefficient of inter-generational wealth/opportunity transfer is that useful actually. Most would not want it to be zero, and there’s likely no way to determine what value it should be normatively.

    What would be useful would be address the mechanisms of wealth/opportunity transfer and determine which we think are socially reasonable and which are socially undesirable.

    1. “No one would want to prohibit a family from, say, keeping a well stocked bookshelf and spending extra time to help their kids do well in school.”

      You are not familiar with the woollier precincts of the left. There have been straight faced proposals that all children should be raised in collective state controlled institutions in order to avoid those types of unearned privileges.

      The original Israeli kibbutzes were designed along those lines.

      Never say never, and never say no one.

  5. Razib, this literature is dishonest. You can ask these questions of Glenn Loury, Wilfred Reilly and others.

    We are not correctly accounting for enough explanatory variables. Specifically we are not doing a good enough job accounting for:
    —intelligence
    ——general intelligence (IQ is an imperfect estimate of general intelligence with a standard error)
    ——what Dr. Haier calls cognitive abilities beyond the scope of general intelligence
    —mental health (no good measures of this in major data sets)
    —physical health (the proxies we have in large data sets are deeply incomplete and only moderately correlated with physical health)
    —what Glenn Loury calls “relations before transactions” or the power of good company (is this linked to “deep culture”?)

    Economic development requires public/private collaboration to boost society wide physical health, mental health, intelligence and “relations before transactions”. {Is “deep culture” a separate category or part of “relations before transactions”?}

    PM Modi’s Yoga initiative is an effort to do this. It is facing massive global opposition–including from the global media, global academia and global human rights organizations. PM Modi wants to implement other initiatives too . . . but they are likely to be even more controversial.

  6. ——general intelligence (IQ is an imperfect estimate of general intelligence with a standard error)

    i was a keynote speaker at the intelligence conference (organized by haier), so i know all about intelligence 😉

    1. The comment was not aimed at you Razib. It was aimed at other readers. 🙂

      YOU BE INTELLIGENCE STUD!

      ME LIKE INTELLIGENCE STUDS :LOL:

      Hopefully we can have a series of podcasts on cognitive abilities beyond the scope of general intelligence.

  7. I am very reluctant to draw conclusions from demographic history of Sweden that does not consider the enormous number of Swedes who migrated to the US in the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

    They might have differed in some systematic way from the ones who stayed and became the subjects of this study. For instance, they might have had fewer Mendelian diseases, less mental illness, or less alcoholism, all of which could affect the social mobility of their descendants.

    1. Walter

      England and Europe exported their poverty to the rest of the world, including the Americas and Australia. The US, Canada and Australia were founded on exploitation, xenophobia, genocide and racism. The jack boot of the British and later the American military might ensured their economic success. With the rise of other countries military and economic might eg China and Russia, an invetiable economic decline will occur.

      As economic decline occurs, and push comes to shove the US, Aus and Canada will revert to its mean, i.e. the principles on which they were founded.

      The inevitable decline of US is palpable. The US has increased its military adventurism and sanctions against a multitude of countries hoping for a resulting economic benefits. The other indication are the collapse of the inner cities (eg Baltimore, Flint), addiction, homelessness and highest incarcaration rates.

      What was the point of above?. US, Canada and Australia take a high moral ground now pointing fingers at lesser power. However, all that moral high gound is fake, for at least two reasons.

      a) Aus and Canada have followed the US in illegal wars in Iraq and Libya, under Bush and Obama. They followed Trump in imposing sanctions. When Trump decides to go to war with Iran, the Aus and Canadian poodle leadership will ask, where is the dotted line to sign.

      b) The mask of inclusivity has slightly slipped because of the corona Virus scare. If the number of infections and fatalities do not slow down, expect xenophobia and racism to increase. This will be true as economic decline occurs too, when each group views each other with suspicion.

      1. “England and Europe exported their poverty to the rest of the world, including the Americas and Australia.”

        How so?

        England and Europe shared and continue to share common values and long term interests as the rest of the world.

        I would rather say that England was self destructive and kept shooting herself and in the process hurt everyone else.

        Real material living standards come from total factor productivity or technology or product development and process innovation.

        If Y = Income; a = productivity, L = quantity of labor, K = Total Capital or (accumulated physical and human Investment minus depreciation, amortization, health deterioration and retirement);
        Y(aL, K) = Income, where dY(aL, K)/da > 0

        “a” itself is a function of:
        —physical health
        —mental health
        —intelligence
        —“relations before transactions”
        = a(physical health,mental health, intelligence, “relations before transactions”)
        da(physical health,mental health, intelligence, “relations before transactions”)/d(physical health) > 0
        da(physical health,mental health, intelligence, “relations before transactions”)/d(mental health) > 0
        da(physical health,mental health, intelligence, “relations before transactions”)/d(intelligence) > 0
        da(physical health,mental health, intelligence, “relations before transactions”)/d( “relations before transactions”) > 0

        England should have focused on increasing her “a” and “K” by learning from Asia, Africa and the native Americans about technology and how to increase physical health, mental health, intelligence and “relations before transactions”. Not just in the form of data and knowledge mining, but in the form of combined English/Asian and English/Native American joint R&D.

        England’s failure to do this has caused the English people to be “VASTLY” poorer than they would have been ceteris paribus for many centuries.

        Instead England tried to colonize the minds of others with post modernist inferiority complex to damage their self confidence, to cause others to despise, discredit and de-legitimize their own cultures, own ancestors, own elders, own technologies, turning foreigners against each other with manufactured mostly nonsensical concepts of oppression, exploitation, imperialism, colonialism, islamaphobia, white supremacy, racism, patriarchy etc. The old “divide and conquer”.

        England’s history is a classic “TRAGEDY.”

        1. AnAn

          Yes obviously I was mistaken, the English have been self destructive .

          The Russians and Central Asians were responsible for the invasion and genocide of Canada, Aus and the US. They went across the Arctic on horse back and killed off most of the Native Americans.

          I am not sure how these Russian managed to get to Aus on horseback. However those Russians are sneaky. See how they rigged the 2016 US presidential Elections and made Trump their puppet President. Even worse they have hacked the Democratic Iowa caucus.

          1. sbarrkum, I don’t get your point. I am asserting that English real per capita GDP would have been much higher for centuries if England had focused more on learning technology from Asia, Africa and the Native Americans and focused heavily on joint R&D to fuse English technology with Asian, African and Native American technology.

            This process is only starting to happen in 2020. Imagine if what is happening in 2020 was started in the 1700s.

            If we look at England today, three minority groups of people are socio-economically and academically knocking it out of the park:
            —Jews
            —Chinese
            —Indians
            Albeit the extent of their out-performance has not “YET” reached American levels. Baring a miraculous improvement in English deep culture, socio-economic dominance is only a matter of time.

            I would note that in the OECD PICA 2018 test, 13% of 15 year old UK students scored level 5 or higher in math, compared to 8% in the USA. This suggests that ethnic english math performance is significantly higher than non Asian (non Jewish, Russian, East European, Lebanese, Israeli, Iranian, Turkish) European American performance.

            I am assuming that 40% or more Asian American and Jewish American kids scored PICA 5 or more. This guess could be wrong.

            It is possible that English deep culture does not deteriorate as much as I fear.

      2. @sbarrkum,
        Probably you are making a larger point, but Canadians didn’t go to war in Iraq. Then Canadian Prime Minister emphatically said no.
        They are unlikely to go to any war after Afghanistan.
        It might be a grand point to make, but quite different from the reality. Despite Canadian “poodle” leadership, no Canadian Prime Minister can expect to win at home following Trump anywhere.

        1. Probably you are making a larger point, but Canadians didn’t go to war in Iraq. Then Canadian Prime Minister emphatically said no.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canada_and_the_Iraq_War#Military_participation
          Though no declaration of war was issued, the Governor General-in-Council did order the mobilization of a number of Canadian Forces personnel to serve actively in Iraq.[2] On 31 March 2003, it was reported in Maclean’s that in the previous month Canadian officers, aboard three frigates and a destroyer, had been placed in command of the multinational naval group Task Force 151, which patrolled the Persian Gulf region. A further 30 Canadians worked at the US Central Command in Qatar, and 150 troops were on exchange with US and British forces in proximity to combat.[4] North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) stationed Canadian Air Force pilots also flew combat missions with the US Air Force E-3 Sentry, and exchange officers fought with US units. Canadian pilots also flew Boeing C-17s into Iraq to “season” the flight crews.[9] In all, 40 to 50 Canadian military members participated in the conflict.
          General Walter Natynczyk, one of the Canadian officers who served in Iraq, then a Brigadier General

          Because of this Canadian involvement in Iraq, the Ministers of the Crown at the time were criticised by Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition as hypocritical, and demands were made for the return of these Canadian Forces personnel

          Despite Canadian “poodle” leadership, no Canadian Prime Minister can expect to win at home following Trump anywhere

          Canada was also part of the coalition that bombed Libya.
          When push come shove, Canada will support Trump very likely covertly like in the 2003 Iraq war.

          Birds of a feather/color flock together.

        2. Violet

          https://www.macleans.ca/news/quagmire-iraq-could-get-messy-for-canada/

          Over the two years that around 70 of Canada’s JTF2 Special Forces soldiers have been deployed to Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, their role has morphed from what Stephen Harper first described as a backseat “advise and assist” mission, to one in which the Liberal government has conceded Canadians would be near the frontlines but only engaging in “defensive” actions, to what today appears to be direct participation in offensive operations.

          Defence Department officials in Ottawa are typically vague on the specifics. “To ensure the safety and protection of our deployed personnel, the exact details of ongoing operations will not be disclosed,” an email response to a Maclean’s query read. “Our mandate has not changed. We are there to train, advise, and assist.”

  8. I am very reluctant to draw conclusions from demographic history of Sweden that does not consider the enormous number of Swedes who migrated to the US in the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

    the correlation in clark’s dataset is cross-cultural.

    1. Mårten Palme – left wing professor, also son of the murdered social democrat prime minister – did some research demonstrating high intergenerational persistence of status in Sweden over the main social democratic/folkhems era. He analyzed data from four generations of Swedes.

      Administrative records are quite good here.

      You’d think that, with free education through university, free health care, excellent, inexpensive day care,(during that time) one of the worlds most equal income distributions, a huge self improvment / home education movement, the social democratic goernment promoting social mobility in any and every way they could think of … AND if the 25% best and brightest of the Swedes left for the USA, that these results would not exist.

      And yet they do.

      https://ifau.se/en/Press/Abstracts/dynastic-human-capital-inequality-and-intergenerational-mobility/. — there are various versions on the net, for instance:

      https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2039649

  9. “the correlation in clark’s dataset is cross-cultural.”

    I wasn’t commenting on Clark’s book. I was commenting on the apparent fact that the Swedish Study ignored the millions of Swedish descendants now living in the US.

    I am also wondering about you explain the success of Jews in the United States. Not many of their ancestors had a pot to p1$$ in 2 or 3 generations ago. Most of them were like my ancestors, poor and obscure.

  10. The gym that I frequent in Bangalore is owned by a (dark-skinned) Tamil Christian, mostly likely a low caste convert. Most of the trainers are Tamil and Mallu Christians in their 20s and 30s as well.

    In contrast, the janitor there is an extremely fair-skinned middle-aged Brahmin guy from Uttarakhand.

    The latter would have historically been much more privileged. But half a century of affirmative action + differential economic growth between the regions means that the privilege has been flipped.

    I’d be interested to see if modern capitalism has weakened the inter-generational correlation mentioned in the article.

    1. “The latter would have historically been much more privileged. But half a century of affirmative action + differential economic growth between the regions means that the privilege has been flipped.”
      @Prats

      How does affirmative action come into play here if the gym is owned by supposed “low caste” tamil christian? That is very disingenous and you know low caste background converts to christianity are denied affirmative action benefits, a passive aggressive way by the state to stop conversions to non-hindu religion. this is Bangalore first of all a very westernized city of India and what has happened is the western economic business/corporate model of a race(caste in the indian context) blind systems where anyone can get start a business (just look at the sucess of indian american business owners) and get hired if they are qualified and can fill a need at the company (i.e. all the indian background CEOs in the West). The gym frequented by you is not unique creation in India due to a affirmative action system, it a “caste” blind business set up by your “low caste convert tamil christian” to make money. The only way caste can come into play here is that there is some nepotism or if due to the priveleged backgrounds brahmins have had, they might of been able to give their kids better nutrition, upbring, educations or networking to get good jobs, but the western model of business as it permeates more and more in India will do away with those advantages. Hopefully soon everyone will be on a equal footing (I’m sure this is quixotic, but it will get us closer there anyways). Remember, there are white janitors still in the USA too 😉

      1. “How does affirmative action come into play here if the gym is owned by supposed “low caste” tamil christian? That is very disingenous and you know low caste background converts to christianity are denied affirmative action benefits, a passive aggressive way by the state to stop conversions to non-hindu religion.”

        @MAH

        Two points:
        1. If you go 2-3 generations in the past, you could find many people in his family who might have enjoyed affirmative action either due to late conversion or inter-marriage.

        2. Reservations work differently in Tamil Nadu. Muslims and Christians each get 3.5% seats within the ambit of ‘Other Backward Caste’ reservations.
        (As an aside, the whole reservation thing is generally very messy. There are different state and central lists. There are Christian groups in Karnataka and Kerala that receive reservation. Even some Brahmin and Baniya groups get reservation. Jats have OBC status in 9 states but are not in the central list etc etc. The no-conversion rule only applies to scheduled castes, which is a legally defined term in India.)

        In any case, the stress was on differential economic growth.

        We are in agreement as far as capitalism eroding some of the long held social privileges are concerned.

        1. @Prats

          “Two points:
          1. If you go 2-3 generations in the past, you could find many people in his family who might have enjoyed affirmative action either due to late conversion or inter-marriage.”

          This is viewed through rose tinted glasses, things can easily go the other way as well. This gentleman could have been suffering from caste discrimination, had no advantages and pulled himself up despite his obstacles, you and I don’t know that. All we know is you assume because your gym business owner is a tamil christian and dark skinned (is that uncommon skin color for tamils) that he is low caste background and juxtaposed him against a light skinned northern immigrant “brahmin” who is working as a janitor, and tried to tack onto your position of why things are better for I’m assuming low caste Indians, if they really are or not.

          “2. Reservations work differently in Tamil Nadu. Muslims and Christians each get 3.5% seats within the ambit of ‘Other Backward Caste’ reservations.
          (As an aside, the whole reservation thing is generally very messy. There are different state and central lists. There are Christian groups in Karnataka and Kerala that receive reservation. Even some Brahmin and Baniya groups get reservation. Jats have OBC status in 9 states but are not in the central list etc etc. The no-conversion rule only applies to scheduled castes, which is a legally defined term in India.)”

          This is confusing. Scheduled castes are formerly Dalits or untouchables, they still don’t get benefits if they convert to christianity or islam (hindu, sikh, buddhist is no problem), and they among tamils are the ones that would suffer the most from caste discrimination, So I find it a little misleading to say because this tamil christian was low caste (but a higher low caste than untouchables) he succeeded due to affirmative action and capitalism, but if everyone inlcuding brahmins and baniyas are getting reservations, then it’s make benefits from affirmative action a moot point.

          “In any case, the stress was on differential economic growth.

          We are in agreement as far as capitalism eroding some of the long held social privileges are concerned.”

          I agree with this position as part of why things are better, makes for more unbiased reasoning. Your gym example though is irrelevant and if anything seemed a little baiting for false outrage to the bhakts/hindutva types.

  11. what is being mistaken as caste privilege is probably nothing but caste cultural capital. if you look at the surnames of people at the helm in various fields of life, you will be amazed how strong the correlation between castes and professions is. take a minute to ponder over these facts.

    1. the faculty of indian academia or scientific institutes is disproportionately represented by brahmins.

    2. in the business world, the dominance of banias/jains is even more pronounced. think of the proprietors of major business houses and it is easy to see the preponderance of traditional mercantile castes among them.

    3. army and security forces remain the home turf of erstwhile “martial” castes, even when the theory itself has been discarded.

    4. janitorial staff in every municipal corporation is primarily staffed with dalits.

    So despite the caste based discrimination being outlawed, varna system remains remarkably entrenched in india in practice. but i don’t think it is correct to call it caste privilege.

    1. scorpion_eater:
      Off topic: I responded to one of your comments on the thread “South Asian Muslim ancestors were idolaters!”. You might not have seen it, so wanted to follow up here. Did you once say you were doing some work on genetic ancestry analysis? If so, please share your email

      1. @justanotherlurker. i just saw your message on the other thread. replying there as well. of late i am not very active on this blog. you can send your raw data to gmail address deepa 1974 deepa. you can delete all personally identifying information of course.

        it may be a while before i will come round to analyzing the data. my interests are varied 🙂 and i have already moved on to other fun stuffs.

  12. Standards of living in India were higher than that in Europe until the 19th century.

    where do you get this? never read this is in economic history. on the contrary, usually europe (NW europe) was a bit wealthier than asian societies on a per unit basis after 1500 or so (some say earlier, but that’s debatable).

    1. Razib, I agree with Indo-Carib. Per capita income in India and China were comparable to Europe in 1800. A reasonable case can be made that per capita income in India and China were slightly lower in 1947 than in 1800. This is one of the greatest indictments of European colonialism.

      Economic history is a deeply under studied subject. We know almost nothing before 1700 AD on this subject. I consider pre 1700 AD economic history a junk science.

      +++++++++++++++++++++
      Indo-Carb . . . loved your comment. I believe, however, that the English greatly morphed and worsened the caste system in India. This is one of the worst things the English did in India.

  13. Razib, I agree with Indo-Carib. Per capita income in India and China were comparable to Europe in 1800.

    cite some sources. i don’t care about your assertions. i don’t feel you know more than me.

  14. Might have been 18th century rather than 19th. Jason Hickel’s The Divide.

    thanks for the source. now i believe that that is a bullshit fact, since that guy is an anthropologist and most anthropological economic analysis is total bullshit and made up (your mileage may vary).

      1. Indo-Carib, respectfully we disagree.

        Economics is the use of math and statistics (BIG DATA as it is now called in the private sector) to quantitatively analyze socio-economic issues.

        You seem intelligent and math literate. I would think you would appreciate economics as a means to finding truth.

        ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

        DaThang,

        Thanks for your data points. Did not know the UK was that rich per capita circa 1700 and 1800. Stand corrected. MASSIVELY CORRECTED! Thank you.

        My view remains that real Indian PPP GDP when measured in 1990 dollars was likely higher in 1800 than in 1947. But clearly not that high.

        We know tax revenue in 1800. When we divide that by estimated population we know per capita tax revenue in 1800. (our population estimates for 1800 could be way off.)

        (per capita tax revenue)/(taxes as a fraction of GDP) = estimated per capita GDP.

        I think taxes as a fraction of GDP could have been 3% or lower.

        +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

        Girmit:
        “don’t we still know what the legal rates of taxation were, apart from state expenditure?”
        Yes.
        “My understanding is that land surveying was very sophisticated in that period, and that would be our primary data regarding what the mughal state and other polities believed to be the productive capacity of the domain.”
        True. But because of mass corruption (which continue to plague Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh today) “ACTUAL” agricultural yields might have been significantly higher than “REPORTED” yields.

        “Also, we can make assumptions about what percentage of people were living outside of official revenue regions, its likely to be trivially low as homesteading is quite marginal in the subcontinent.”
        Might not be that trivial for herbology and spices. But accept your larger point.

        My point is that India has a lot of high quality ship building, manufacturing, herbology, medicine, R&D and mind sciences in 1800 that is not being captured by these estimates.

        Of course India was very poor and destitute in 1800. Don’t know where the fairy tale comes from that India was affluent before the English arrived. Complete nonsense. Having a significantly higher PPP per capita income in 1990 dollars than $618 is still awful. And considerably lower than contemporaneous England as DaThang pointed out.

        “Our margin of error notwithstanding, the real question is whether theres any reason to think that the conditions for growth and human productivity existed at that time such that if we had a better imperial master or no master at all, the nominal per capita GDP of india would be greater than say $3500 as opposed to ~$2000. In either case, its vastly lower than developed world standards.”

        This is a different and very interesting question. I think the Mughals, Mysore and Nizam were horribly governed. However Travancore and some other states might have been better governed.

        For me the more interesting question is if India had a higher real per capita GDP pre 632 AD than 1191 AD to 1800 AD. Rajiv Malhotra and many scholars are analyzing this question.

      2. Economics is largely a BS science to begin with, so who cares where it’s coming from?

        if economics is 0, anthro economics is -100.

        but like i said, your mileage varies. you’re just obv wrong.

  15. Razib, I am basing this off my interactions with historical economists and reading their academic papers. The estimates they come up with are near complete SWAG–as many would quietly acknowledge to you.

    These are some “OFFICIAL” (I think junk) estimates:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_India_under_the_British_Raj

    My assertion is that a legitimate case can be made that Indian per capita real income was higher than $618 (1990 dollars) in 1800. I don’t know how much higher. I am guessing maybe slightly higher?

    If we assume that tax revenue as a percentage of GDP was 3% in 1800 than Indian per capita GDP in 1800 was significantly higher than $618 (1990 dollars). It comes down to what percent of GDP someone assumes was taxed circa 1800. I suspect taxes as a percentage of GDP were much lower in 1800 than many “economic historians” do. I think a case can be made that tax revenues circa 1800 were lower than 3% of GDP.

    1. Anan, any reason why you feel that tax rates are being overstated? My understanding is that land revenue and octroi are some of the things we understand with the most certainty looking back at that time, and anyone outside of that system would have been less economically productive.

      1. girmit, by 1800 corruption and tax evasion in the Mughal empire might have been astronomical.

        Many of the challenges that Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh have today relate the the decay of the rump Mughal edifice circa 1800. The Mughal empire rump was an Iranian protectorate 1738-1747 and an Afghan protectorate 1747 to circa 1800 or so. In 1747 Iran was partitioned into two countries:
        —west Iran . . . now called “Iran”
        —Afghanistan, which then consisted of:
        ——the Mughal protectorate
        ——some areas north of Afghanistan
        ——a slight amount of territory in modern Iran adjacent to the current Afghan Iranian border)

        I should acknowledge I don’t know crap. And would be open to being persuaded with new data.

        For example it is possible that the population of SAARC circa 1800 is higher than I am estimating–which would imply a lower real per capita income circa 1800.

        ++++++++++++++++++++

        Razib, my best guess is that per capita incomes were comparable, with Europeans “perhaps” slightly higher. But given the size of the standard errors around estimates we don’t really know for sure.

        You seem to be implying that real per capita income in Europe seemed to be rising in the late 1700s if I am understanding you.

        I would need to do a lot more research on real European per capita incomes to write an intelligent model for estimating it.

        +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

        “the wealthiest part of europe to the wealthiest part of india” This is an interesting and different question. Would need to research and think about this for a while.

        Are you including Lombard street as one of these rich European pockets? Was Lombard street one of the richest per capita neighborhoods in the world circa 1800?

        1. Anan, don’t we still know what the legal rates of taxation were, apart from state expenditure? My understanding is that land surveying was very sophisticated in that period, and that would be our primary data regarding what the mughal state and other polities believed to be the productive capacity of the domain. Also, we can make assumptions about what percentage of people were living outside of official revenue regions, its likely to be trivially low as homesteading is quite marginal in the subcontinent. Our margin of error notwithstanding, the real question is whether theres any reason to think that the conditions for growth and human productivity existed at that time such that if we had a better imperial master or no master at all, the nominal per capita GDP of india would be greater than say $3500 as opposed to ~$2000. In either case, its vastly lower than developed world standards.

          1. “the conditions for growth and human productivity existed at that time such that if we had a better imperial master or no master at all, the nominal per capita GDP of india would be greater than say $3500 as opposed to ~$2000.”

            I am not sure how you came up with that $3500 number.

            Such conditions as you mention, did not exist in most of the rest of the world, including large parts of Europe either.

            Minus the colonial experience, ideas of large scale industrialization and new technologies would have come to India via trade and would have created more win-win situations. Just as they did in Europe.

            Counterfactuals are difficult but my guess is India might have ended somewhere between Iran and Russia in terms of GDP per capita, with richer parts of the sub-continent bordering developed country levels.

          2. Prats, meant to ask whether the conditions existed *then* in 1800 to result in the outcome of having $3500 gdp/pcapita now in 2020. I chose that figure, considering it would be an all-india average, and assumes certain regions would have multiples of that prosperity, and the laggard regions would still be around the current indian median. I don’t see the aptitude under known social conditions over the last 10 generations to have enabled much more than that, but thats just my subjective take. I could see some parts of the coastal peninsula approaching Thai levels at best, supposing they create a prosperity zone along with Sri Lanka and take control of shipping. For the insular deccan and hindustan, just don’t see what would drive total factor productivity to the levels of Iran. A Bengal without the huge demographic load might be something. Just thoughts. Modern indians seem really labour inefficient to me and with average mechanical aptitude, i get that national character isn’t completely static and colonialism could have sabotaged our spirit and all, but we have baggage from before that.

          3. “Just thoughts. Modern indians seem really labour inefficient to me and with average mechanical aptitude,”

            That’s the reason i say Indian can’t really be fascist. We are too inefficient to be one.

          4. “For the insular deccan and hindustan, just don’t see what would drive total factor productivity to the levels of Iran.”

            1. The deccan is quite resource rich and large parts of hindustan wouldn’t have had to deal with permanent settlement. That in itself would have improved the base conditions.

            2. Without biased British policies, a lot of traditional industries of the north would have survived and the profits poured back into modernization.

            3. India would have been more like a confederacy with autonomous princely states. Some of these states like Wodeyars and Gaekwads were quite progressive and autonomy would have let them pursue these policies, greatly enhancing the HDI of some regions.
            The worst regions couldn’t have been worse HDI-wise than they turned out to be anyway.

            4. An amount of healthy competition between these states would have further driven up overall productivity. This does not happen in a union like India, which for large periods had central planning and allocation of resources.

            5. In absence of Macaulay, the education system would have developed in Indian languages. This would not have shut down a large majority of the country from accessing information at all, as turned out to be the case. We see effects of this even today where most people are barely proficient in even a single language inspite of being ‘educated’. This seems like a major barrier to productivity to me.

            I am not arguing that India would have western European levels of productivity. That would require scientific and social revolutions, which may or may not have happened.
            I am just saying that with free trade and it’s subsequent second-order benefits, mid-income seems more realistic than $3500 in the median timeline.

          5. Agree in particular about points 2 & 5. There was purportedly a kind of de-industrialisation in the 19th century that hit the gangetic region hard.

          6. @prats (who seems to have disappeared from Twitter)

            your point on language is spot on. I have noticed that South Asians, in general, do not speak any language all that well.

            Even the famed Hinglish is mocked in the West, maybe as prosperity catches up it will acquire some social cachet but it’s really a rock & a hard place. Either focus on English or focus on some native equivalent like Hindi (which then divorces the country from the modern world).

            i can’t speak much to Mandarin or Japanese but it seems their relationship to English is to use it as a functional link to the rest of the modern world. however English occupies a much deeper role in South Asia, equivalent to Africa, that giving up on English would basically sever 2-3 centuries of recent history for all countries in the region.

            It may also explain the acute SJWism among South Asians; they may not share the same history of Aframs in the West but they are also a colonised people (in their subjective understanding).

            And to address Razib’s original point, that may be the case even if they are of Brahmin stock.

            Most immigrants to the West tend to be of petty bourgeois; elites have no real incentives to migrate (unless it’s from a desperately poor country) and the poor can’t afford to.

            There is a psychic cost to the migration experience (a migrant goes down one social class, an expat climbs a social class which is why White People are feted in the Rest) and in the Great Awokening everyone is compelled to exorcise their inner demons in as public a fashion as possible.

            https://twitter.com/sunnysingh_n6/status/1225351933894025217

            This lady recently tweeted about how a white male student insulted her. Why didn’t she just fail him. Lots of the SJWs take fairly small incidents and then blow it up for the outrage game (I know of one fairly famous and recent example).

            It’s an age of hysteria and everybody wants/needs attention; the only way some PoCs are going to get the same level of attention is by playing the outrage game.

            And as a final point there is no doubt (again subjective) but pari passu much more attention is paid to a White Person, opining on any topic, than a PoC. For instance virtually all the South Asian and Middle Eastern historical scholars of note happen to be white (the ones I follow on twitter anyway) so there is a historical bias.

            I don’t have any solutions, much like those in the Saileresque pundit mode, I prefer to observe rather than opine (which is rich coming from me who was King Troll, I got into a legendary 300 tweet argument the other evening much to my chagrin).

          7. @Xerxes

            Long time! I shall be back on Twitter soon. Have been busy IRL.

            I think Hinglish is in too much of a flux right now. At some point in the future, it will be standardized and codified. You might then have a Hinglish Alexander Pushkin to bestow it prestige and credibility.

            Even so, most people are not going to adopt it.

            I don’t think there is a straightforward solution. My hope is that higher investment on primary education and economic growth will form a virtuous cycle and future generations will be in a position to figure something out.

      2. Girmit:

        “anyone outside of that system would have been less economically productive.”

        Yes this is where we might disagree. I suspect there was a lot of wealth and economic activity in addition to land revenue and octroi that was mostly untaxed.

        Rajiv Malhotra is assembling data on high end SAARC manufacturing, ship building, herbology, medicine, and brain nervous system related tech in the 1700s and early 1800s.

        I want to review his data. Maybe I can ask him for it?

  16. My assertion is that a legitimate case can be made that Indian per capita real income was higher than $618 (1990 dollars) in 1800.

    i don’t care about absolute levels. the key is relative proportions.

    1) it seems pretty clear that everyone was about equally before 1800

    2) but there were differences on the margins, sometimes signficantly so. you are asserting that indians were on per unit basis wealthier than europeans in the 18th-century, right? i’m skeptical of this, but open to comparisons. parts of europe seem to be beginning to diverge from the rest of the world by the 17th-century so i’m skeptical (though we need to use apples to apples comparisons; the wealthiest part of europe to the wealthiest part of india).

  17. Rajiv Malhotra is assembling data on high end SAARC manufacturing, ship building, herbology, medicine, and brain nervous system related tech in the 1700s and early 1800s.

    sounds like this is a ‘secret history’. perhaps better as alternative history.

  18. As per Maddison 2007, India’s per capita GDP (PPP) was $550 in 1700 and $533 in both 1820 and in 1870. It then rose to $673 by 1913 and then dipped to $617 by 1950.

    Meanwhile UK’s per capita GDP (PPP) was $1250 in 1700, $1706 in 1820, $3190 in 1870, $4921 in 1913 and $6939 in 1950.

    The dollar here is supposed to be the 1990 dollar.

    England’s GDP per capita (PPP) was substantially higher than India’s in 1700. Based on his list, it was lower than India’s in 1000 AD and higher than India’s by 1500 AD.

    In general, India didn’t see much change per capita historically until the post-independence period. While people today would look back to the 1947/1950-1990 “permit raj” period as being dull in comparison to post 1990 India, even that was considerably more dynamic than pre-1950 India.

    A republic (especially with the open market boost 1990 onward) worked whole lot better for India than monarchies did!

  19. Economics is the use of math and statistics (BIG DATA as it is now called in the private sector) to quantitatively analyze socio-economic issues.

    you mean econometrics. not economics (e.g., some heterodox schools don’t use mathematical formalism much, and some theorists are abstruse enough that it’s hard to see immediate socio-economic issue applications).

    i think it’s fine to dismiss economics as a science. but it economics isn’t creditable to you, anthropology is mostly witchcraft than, it’s so much less rigorous and creditable.

  20. To me there were 2 major reasons for India’s decline –

    1. Islamic empire’s lack of interest from learning from other regions which they had not conquered or controlled. Even in the case of trade there is not much flow of Knowledge which i see in Islamic chronicles & mostly Islamic empires kept trading among themselves.

    For e.g. – Take the case of Institutionalized slavery which became the major source of income which meant that economy became reliant upon number of peoples availability as slaves than material possession via trade & exchange of commodities.

    This ‘conservative’ nature of Islamic empire meant they remain simply oblivious to the kind of innovations happening in other civilizations like China & Europe and even when they came to know about them they could not take keen interest in them due to – Inherent conservative nature of Islam & due to unstable nature of polity which became the norm for Indians since their arrival in Indian subcontinent.

    2. Islam’s entry into subcontinent fundamentally changed the worldview of Indians & shifted their focus away from ideas to identity, this is the major negative impact atleast for me which Islamic empires of Indian subcontinent has resulted in.

    1. For e.g. – Take the case of Institutionalized slavery which became the major source of income which meant that economy became reliant upon number of peoples availability as slaves than material possession via trade & exchange of commodities.

      you are stupid. the zanj rebellion shifted islam’s stance re: slavery from production to consumption. unlike the classical world or antebellum america slaves were a consumption status symbol, or part of the administrative-military state. the zanj rebellion meant muslims avoided plantation slavery.

      kind of innovations happening in other civilizations like China & Europe and even when they came to know about them they could not take keen interest in them due to

      dumb. paper and universities came through the muslims (turan->west asia->europe).

      2. Islam’s entry into subcontinent fundamentally changed the worldview of Indians & shifted their focus away from ideas to identity, this is the major negative impact atleast for me which Islamic empires of Indian subcontinent has resulted in.

      i think there is something to what you say here.

      but the rest of your comment is so stupid and ignorant it beggar’s the imagination. i’ve updated my priors and i think you are dumb.

      1. Well search about Muslim opposition to printing, it happened all over the world – That’s what i mean when i said
        // kind of innovations happening in other civilizations like China & Europe and even when they came to know about them they could not take keen interest in them //

        Of course Plantation slavery is a Western crime & thanks for Zanj rebellion info which i was not aware of but that does not mean that slavery did not affected the production, consumption & importance of commodities. Are you saying that slavery had no depreciating impact on subcontinent ? While degrees may vary & we may disagree about them but slavery did hurt India’s established trade prior to Islamic rule.

        1. Well search about Muslim opposition to printing, it happened all over the world – That’s what i mean when i said

          i’m not stupid. i am aware of printing. this happened obviously AFTER 1500. it is not constitutive of “islam”. during the period btwn 700 and 1100 islam was more ‘innovative’ than europe and many other societies. this is a complex historical issue and your reduction is just kind of dumb.

          Of course Plantation slavery is a Western crime & thanks for Zanj rebellion info which i was not aware of but that does not mean that slavery did not affected the production, consumption & importance of commodities. Are you saying that slavery had no depreciating impact on subcontinent ? While degrees may vary & we may disagree about them but slavery did hurt India’s established trade prior to Islamic rule.

          as a rule of thumb if i had to tell you about the zanj rebellion you shouldn’t perhaps talk about slavery within islam, since it was so formative.

          as i said, in islam slavery was not geared toward production but consumption and administration. it was not part of primary economic productivity.

          as far as india, chattel slavery was not a major concern. india and china did not have slave-based economies. islam did not have a slave based economy in a productive sense. it DID have a slave based political system, in that military and administrative slaves were critical in state function. and it did have a slave based consumption economy in that household slaves were essential signals of wealth in much of the islamic world.

          that being said, south asia traditionally was not a labor constricted env. slavery was simply not economically necessary.

          1. So you took a generalized brief comment with regards to region and religion & from that deduced that i am being specific about every detail with regards to religion’s impact on the region & resorted to personal attacks ? I am no expert on slavery & have not studied slavery extensively, why don’t you share a brief summary of impact of slavery in Indian subcontinent which will be useful for everyone to understand nuances of the issues. I mentioned slavery because i believed it negatively impacted the existing trade system & trust among communities.

            Yes Islam did innovate but many innovations were forced to be reconciled with Islamic beliefs & that’s why their potential was not fully recognized & utilized till that knowledge break free from Islamic empires into Europe. If you are denying this then why industrial revolution happened in Europe & not in Islamic empires ?

  21. The word Brahmin should be defined. As per Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita 18.42, A Brahmin is one who has:
    —śamah
    —damas
    —tapaḥ
    —śaucaḿ
    —kṣāntir
    —ārjavam
    —jñānaḿ
    —vijñānam
    —āstikyaḿ

    Such a person is one who has a high degree of mental health (Chitta Shuddhi), general intelligence, and cognitive ability beyond the scope of general intelligence. Someone who is in a 24 hour default high state of meditation (meaning that they are sometimes in deeper meditation and sometimes in lighter meditation; but are generally at this state of meditation).

    Such a person would likely greatly excel in all academic, creative and innovative tasks with a high likelihood of being in the top strata of any business or career objectives they set.

    Perhaps partly for this reason, until recently Brahmins were expected to live a life of poverty and not enter business or administration or combat or politics.

    As a percentage of the population, such Brahmins are very few.

  22. “it’s not just what other people think of you Your inherited “capital” matters. A very dark-skinned Nasrani from a line of doctors may not be comparable…”
    So I don’t disagree with this but then it be better called social capital privilege or class privilege not caste privilege.

    In America the dark skinned Nasrani’s lookalike who is of similar social capital but of Dalit Christian origin is not getting treated any worse than the Nasrani. This is not the case in India, esp. rural India.

  23. If you are denying this then why industrial revolution happened in Europe & not in Islamic empires ?

    asking a question like this indicates you are probably stupid. which is fine.

    but please note if your stupid comments get too long i’ll just start deleting them.

    being stupid is a description, i’m not making a moral judgment. you could be a nice person. but airing your thoughts only edifies you, no one else.

    1. Fine if saying someone to be dumb or stupid makes you happy then keep doing it but stop trying to justify your attacks behind semantics.

  24. Any immigrant has access to a privileged rent-network, thats why she was able to immigrate in the first place. This applies to anyone – whether an Indian immigrant in the US or a Mallu immigrant in Bangalore. The difference is that because of the low entry barriers to intra-country movement, the dia of the funnel is much larger and consequently a larger section is able to have its bite at the apple. I would call immigration as the first marker of Mandelian social privilege in the origin society. This does not apply to forced immigration such as war refugees.

    For all the other discussions about caste, Mallikharjun Kharge, 10 time Congress MP and past Leader of the Opposition, calls himself a Dalit. His self declared wealth is 700 crore (a little under 100 million USD). It says something about society that is willing to delude itself with labels.

    1. Kharge said in Parliament that he was the original inhabitant of the land ,and you (N-Indian, upper caste, Aryan -BJP) are immigrants.

      Very Periyar-isque

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