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Razib Khan's Unsupervised Learning

Dec 14, 2023

On this episode of Unsupervised Learning Razib talks to Philippe Lemoine, a fellow at CSPI, a philosopher of science trained at Cornell. Lemoine often wades into controversial topics, like whether Chinese COVID data is trustworthy, but recently, he posted on Twitter that “Americans *genuinely* believe they have better food than France. They really believe it.” Not only did this trigger a response by Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution, but the controversy broke out of social media into the international media.

For the first portion of the conversation, Razib and Lemoine reflect on the circus surrounding his tweet, and what he really means. Though Lemoine defends his tweet, he wants to emphasize that while Americans kept pointing to restaurants, he wanted to emphasize how superior French home cooking was over what Americans produce when they eat in (though he will still defend French restaurants as superior, he admits that if you value variation and diversity of cuisine as goods in and of themselves, then “American food” can be counted as superior). Additionally, Lemoine extolls the virtue of French meal-time customs and norms, with their leisurely pace. He asserts, likely plausibly, that Americans with their on-the-go philosophy of life truly don’t enjoy food, they consume it. Razib pushes Lemoine on whether he would genuinely prefer to live in France despite the nation being 33% poorer than the US on a purchasing-power-parity basis, and he sticks to his guns.

Then they move to a topic that unambiguously throws France into a worse light than the US: immigration policy. Lemoine discusses the reality that French immigrants and immigrant-descended populations are not doing very well. Not integrating, committing crime and both economically and socially marginalized. He also claims that the French government actually does have a good breakdown of ethnic groups even though it cannot officially collect such data. Lemoine asserts that America’s positive experience with immigration has little to do with America, and mostly to do with the source and character of immigrants: unlike Europe, the US imposes a strong selective sieve on education and skills. In contrast, European nations often simply receive immigrants from their former colonies or through the asylum process. Razib and Lemoine also discuss French fertility, which remains higher than that of the US.