January 2009

In the final part of the 2Blowhards interview with Greg Cochran, a reader brings up the dysgenic trends in fertility with respect to IQ. Greg makes the perhaps underemphasized point that this is primarily associated with highly educated women. I think that fact is obscured by the obviousness of the “demographic transition” on entire populations. Within populations I’ve heard that IQ in men is either unrelated or positively associated with greater numbers of offspring (UPDATE: See Jason Malloy’s comment). So we seem to be seeing differential selection in intelligence starting from a situation in which men and women have the same average IQ (though with different variance). It should be remembered that gender dimorphism takes longer to evolve than other adaptions, so don’t expect big changes any time soon. Another selection pressure often overlooked is the city as death trap, leading us to idealize rural life and consider New Jerseyans chopped liver by selecting for people less willing to leave country for town. Similarly, the selection effect I’m suggesting may operate more on a woman’s lack of interest in higher education than intelligence per se. There may be changes in political ideology as well. Research suggests more feminist wives aren’t as happy as ones with traditionalist attitudes and those that belong to more conservative religious denominations have more sex and more orgasms than the Church Lady would think appropriate. I hesitate to say that will result in gender dimorphism in ideology as sexist men earn more money but my guess is that the likes of David Frum will be disappointed to find the right would rather pander to the likes of Sarah Palin than him.

You’ve probably already heard about it from GNXP or Sailer, but at any rate this week at 2Blowhards there’s a new interview with one of the authors (and snippets from the other). I really enjoyed the previous Cochran interview where he wasn’t even talking about a subject he’d written a book on, so this is guaranteed quality. I haven’t bought the book yet, but plan on getting to it after A Farewell to Alms, possibly mixing in Before the Dawn as well.

It appears that Greg’s collected rants on his pathogenic theory of homosexuality have fallen off the internet and are only available from the not-always-reliable internet archive, so I’ll stick them here.

David Post at Volokh has a good example of a view of whether someone is “free” to do something that will strike most libertarians (including myself) as nonsensical. Something like this is believed by most proponents of “positive rights”. The classical liberals likely based some of their understanding on a belief in free-will. Unlike Bryan Caplan, I find that notion incoherent although I still like his “gun to the head test” for determining limited potential vs volition. Part of my issue with that conception of freedom is that it “proves too much”. If every situation is unfree, there is no use for the concept of freedom as a contrast. I think Matthew Mueller may have been inching toward something like that (and Jeffrey Friedman may have already crossed that line long ago) before he gave up blogging. Economics tells us that we face trade-offs for every action we take. In that sense we are not “free” to take actions with no tradeoffs. What kind of tradeoff is severe enough to be deemed important seems rather subjective. The gun test handles issues of sheer physical impossibility, but there’s room to expand that a bit, especially if we extend the time-frame from the momentary execution of an act to incorporate possible reactions. I may be free to steal something of yours, but if it will reliably taken back from me we can exclude more than momentary possession of it (presumably the point of grabbing it in the first place) from my choice set. Am I not free to possess something I must pay for? That I would see as just another example of the usual tradeoffs. There is a set bar I have to pass. That is distinct from a situation in which there are other agents aware of my actions dedicated to stopping them and willing to set an arbitrarily high cost for my taking such actions. It does seem to me that there is something psychologically distinct from fees and fines, though it also seems conceivable that there is something about the latter that distinguishes it from the former (perhaps an effect that shows up after repeated iterations showing that you regard the fine as simply a fee).

I like TGGP’s stream of consciousness style in blogging, so I’ll add to it.

I just got back from a 2 week jaunt through Vancouver, Rochester NY and NYC. Scarecely academic related, though I did attend a Telos conference in Manhattan which I’ll write a bit about some time (though considering I missed most of it due to the prior evening’s very late train arrival, I won’t have much to say). In the mean time, let me just say that the talk on the “ideology” of Left Fascism was more a list of anti-American and anti-“modern” sentiments and their spokespersons than it was a descripton of any actual ideology, lacking as it did any remnant of Philip Converse’s “constraints” and coherent “idea elements.” I’ll put a few photos here soon.

Joshua Frank and Scott Horton discuss the radical left and right’s agreement as to the Obama administration’s (thus far) adherence to a politics as usual style of governing, albeit with a patina of “change” to gloss over the third way politics that has reigned since the era of Daniel Bell’s “End of Ideology.” Sure, there are some differences, such as lip service to the ending of Guantanomo and torture (the latter of which even McCain shared) but when compared to the variety of opinion and associational options we see in market relations and even other governments, to think this is significant is  a testimony to our collective ratcheting toward apology for the lack of choice in matters of state.

The discussion surrounding partisanship, or the lack thereof as Glen Greenwald would claim, is confused by an absence of clarity on just what ideologues and their agents in Washington are disagreeing on. Greenwald is correct that high profile bills and resolutions relating to national security, international terrorism and emergency economic measures gain bipartisan support (in the latter case only after satisfying Republican demands for tax cuts – i.e. catering to ideology), as well as anything ostensibly for “the children,” but at the same time there is solid evidence for increased partisanship overall. As Robert Y. Shapiro and Yaeli Bloch-Elkon write in a recent issue of Critical Review:

…Peter Trubowitz and Nicole Mellow (2005) find that bipartisan voting in Congress has declined more radically than at any time since the late nineteenth century, on both domestic and foreign policy issues.

And contra Morris Fiorina’s thesis in Culture War?, the public is along for the ride:

The public relies heavily on partisan elites for information communicated through the mass media, and there is evidence that the increase in partisan polarization among elites has penetrated the public’s psyche. Thus, there is substantial evidence for the increasing importance of partisanship and liberal/conservative ideology in public opinion and voting behavior.

(I watched the first presidential debate at school, and the uproar that ensued among the spectators when the first channel to pop up on the screen was Fox News – airing the same debate as every other news channel! – is testimony to the pathetic lows that partisanship can take a person.)

Though according to Andrew Gelman, the specifically “culture war” aspects to this partisanship is relegated to the upper classes of both conservatives and liberals (not necessarily synonymous with Republicans and Democrats, respectively).

It can be easy for people on the fringe of politics, such as the Lew Rockwell and Counterpunch crowd, to feel as if everyone else are simply two sides to a statist or capitalist coin, but apparently all those folks think their differences mean a whole lot. And try as we might to resist it, us libertarian types are considered a branch of the Republicans, nominally “cool” when Bush was in power but back to being right-wing survivalist extremists and selfish cyber-punks, I’d venture to guess, now that Obama has arrived.

The “Democrat” and “Republican” heuristics, and the tendency to lazily couple these with “conservative” or “liberal,”  leave little choice for discerning detail; whichever way you choose to describe yourself will inevitably be placed under one of these two large umbrellas, again illustrating the homogenizing and aggregating effect of a two-party system presiding over 300 million people.

On another front, Spain stands out among European nations as being both exceptionally anti-Jew and anti-Muslim and anti-Christian.

Jeffrey Friedman and Stephen Earl Bennett respond to Bryan Caplan in a lengthy piece here. Part of their (or at least Friedman’s) critique I talked about here.

UPDATE: Barnett explains why he prohibits comments.
I’ve complained about the exclusionary rule before, which protects both police and civilian criminals from prosecution for their crimes. I’ve also complained about Randy Barnett, whose position on war and federalism really is disappointing for a supposed Spoonerite anarcho-libertarian. Now the two come together with Randy Barnett’s proposal for replacing the exclusionary rule. It doesn’t seem that Barnett allows any comments for his posts at Volokh. I say, along with Hopefully Anonymous, “Boo on you, Randy Barnett!”

Despite not having read A Farewell to Alms, a while back I reviewed Deirdre McCloskey’s review of it. I was gratified to find that I was correct in that Clark & McCloskey agree on fewer points than McCloskey assumes they do when I found via GNXP Clark’s reponse to critics and defense of his Malthusian interpretation of history. I was baffled before by McCloskey’s misunderstanding of regression to the mean, and now I’m shocked again that Bowles (of Bowles & Gintis fame) screws the pooch on that issue as well. Like other commenters, I’m not sure why Clark seems to downplay IQ (although he has become more of a naturist putting less stock in culture) when as Jonathan Haidt argues, the traits he’s concerned with may be even more controversial.

In other crimethink news, n/a (who you may recall giving me an award) in a comment at the Inductivist has given a link to an downloadable pdf of Kevin MacDonald’s Culture of Critique. Yuri Slezkine’s book is available through my local library system and doesn’t have any of that group-selection stuff that I find implausible. Plus, I find myself much less prone to sustain a session of reading with pdfs on the computer than paper. After that I might get to CoC though. Until then, I enjoy n/a’s poking holes in Mencius Moldbug’s sweeping assertions based on little evidence.

Matthew Mueller, don’t abandon economics for literature. Perhaps a petition is in order. It should also tell Jack Ross to stop trying to sell Copperheadery* to Lincoln-loving liberals like Philip Weiss and start posting again at his own blog. At least let us know about that book Keith Preston had hyped that and you were supposed to be writing.

*Speaking of which, DiLorenzo’s fellow LewRockwell.com paleo Kevin Gutzman has some faint damns for his work on Lincoln and Hamilton.

Razib has an essay on the limits of certitude in science, which is saying something coming from a “three cheers for reductionism” type of fellow (which I am also). Meanwhile Andrew Gelman points out some heretics who dare to blaspheme The Great God Randomized Trial. Among them is James Heckman, whom you may have heard about recently.

Le Carrefour de la Sagesse casts some doubt on a theory I was groping toward in an old post. Kudos to him (or her) anyway.

The title of this post stolen in part from Jake Prescott.

Hi. I’m Dain (or “Mupetblast”) from Oakland, California. TGGP is kind enough to allow me to do my thing here from time to time, so I’m much obliged. I’ve blogged at the late The Art of the Possible as well as my original, personal site which goes by the name of “Dry Hyphen Olympics,” the title of my old radio show, circa 2000, on KDVS, the official station of the University of California at Davis.

I’m a fan of TGGP’s polymath approach to politics and economics, and his widely read, informed pronouncements. We are also mutual admirers of Jeffrey Friedman, a much under appreciated scholar and editor of the fantastic academic journal Critical Review. TGGP links to Friedman’s work in a post below. He even gets a shout out in the introduction to the newly republished The Myth of Natural Rights. Anyway…

Diana C. Mutz of the University of Pennsylvania has done some excellent work on the degree to which deliberation and participation in our modern representative democracy are working at cross purposes. The problem is that exposure to different viewpoints – deliberation – is negatively correlated with political participation, because people don’t often voluntarily pursue intellectually antagonistic relations. In other words, individuals associate with like-minded others. Duh. When people get involved in politics it’s to get that “fellow feeling” based upon a shared…hobby, quite frankly, albeit one with a sense of intrinsic worth that can rival that of a religion. 

Mutz’s rather bleak finding is that inducing deliberation can inadvertently strengthen partisanship, as the increase in potentially heated and uncomfortable political disagreement causes conflict-avoiding folks (most of us) to retreat to friendlier territory. However, there is a way to salvage the goal of exposure to different points of view in her opinion, and that is by way of non-political means; the incidental political discourse that appears in sports bars, county fairs, online chat rooms for fans of Lost, and other forums for people who share what sociologists call “weak ties” can indirectly serve the same function as deliberation. Workplaces, especially, have this effect. Somewhat vindicating the “civil society” crowd, which encompasses both libertarians and social democrats, it would appear that the interpersonal is the gateway to political tolerance – the micro to the macro. When you’ve already shared a hookah watching the final episode of Battlestar Galactica at your friend’s cousin’s house, what kind of monster would you be to rebuke said cousin after learning she is a member of the Save Darfur Coalition? (As a libertarian with an Old Right disposition toward world affairs living in the bay area, the above hypothetical rings familiar.)

Of course, to imagine that the kind of discussion that would go on in the local tavern could approach anything close to the level of analysis shared by professional policy wonks and political philosophers is wishful thinking, but Mutz only wishes to spare representative democracy an unproductive and malicious partisanship that prevents both principals and agents from getting on with goodly and peaceful governing. In this sense she’s perfectly institutionally conservative. This comes through in her approach to the mainstream news media (MNM). 

In this paper, Mutz argues that the MNM is the best impersonal source of exposure to cross-cutting political viewpoints for ideologues of all stripes, hunkered down as they are in their echo chambers. Regretfully she seems to take at face value the idea that the MNM is a kind of clearinghouse for political perspectives that sheds ideology in favor of open-minded, “real” deliberation. But I see little evidence of that, or at least not enough to quell the charge that the MNM is an outlet for the ideology of “centrism,” “pragmatism,” or other such supposedly non-ideological viewpoints, which when looked at closely reveal a typically Herbert Crolyesque…ideology. Though I think Mutz’s assertion that the MNM is the go-to source for conflicting viewpoints is correct, unfortunately all that reveals is the ubiquity of the 24/7 television news channels, not their inherently deliberative “roundtable” approach.

Even assuming away the problem of thinly veiled ideology in the MNM, the ideal of an objective media encounters problems in practice, not the least of which is the selective “balancing” of reporting where it isn’t warranted and a consensus view where one doesn’t exist. One of Kevin Carson’s posts at TAOTP discusses the superiority of an “adversarial process” in truth acquisition reminiscent of Popper, difficult though it may be in social “science” contra the natural. And in an article for Public Choice, Deva Woodly shrewdly dissects the claims of MNM impartiality by noting what is called the index effect, or the tendency of the MNM to take white house pronouncements (especially) as particularly salient and newsworthy, as well as the problem of journalistic mental schema that doesn’t easily congrue with the facts, whatever they may be. With the professionalization of journalism and the concomitant funneling of elite reporters through credentialed institutions, the problem of uniform thought processes becomes quite relevant, no?  

Given the plethora of ideologies, with Centrism being one of them (though it’s interesting how many different “centers” there are – the world’s centrist opinion on Israel’s actions recently are to the left of center to our own), the kind of cognitive dissonance one feels watching the MNM could be replicated when facing anyideology other than ones own. Mutz explicitly calls for a reduction in the public’s ability to selectively expose itself to media – i.e. to freely associate. Of course the problem then becomes deciding just what will be available for informational absorption.

Video with Diana Mutz here.

I think it’s a great blog title. One to watch out for. I was reminded reminded me that there’s a GSS investigation I need to do but checking it out the thread again someone did it for me. Runner-up for good domain-name squatting is Scary Shit.

You’ve probably heard about this elsewhere, but Cochran & Harpending’s book The 10,000 Year Explosion has a website.

And on a completely unrelated note, I would have expected this OrgTheory post from Reason magazine.

Since Edge has just released another one of their questions you’ve likely been thinking about science. To the average Joe science might seem to just happen and give us stuff like gravity and rocket ships (presumably in that order). But scientists have reasons for doing whatever sciencey stuff they do, and money presumably plays a part of that. Recently I came across two bloggers that took a critical eye to the supplying of science. First is Bruce Charlton. In Kealey on scientific motivations and incentives he discusses scientific research as a public vs private good and the crowding out involved in public investment. Terence Kealey argues that scientists are primarily motivated to attain status among their peers (sounds like something Robin Hanson might say). A funny bit is his labeling of academic journals as “vanity publishing”, like the company that published Steve Sailer’s book. It also resembles some of what Eric S. Raymond has said about the “gift-economy” among open-source hackers (I’m strictly proprietary and not talented enough to be considered a hacker, so I don’t know how accurate Eric is).

Cheap-skate self-experimenter Seth Robert’s shouldn’t be worried about getting grants, but he’s talking about them anyway here. Apparently even in these belt-tightening times there’s still money to be had. What I find interesting about the post is his use of Jane Jacob’s two moralities from Systems of Survival: the taking (aka guardian) based on loyalty and the trading based on honesty. Seth thinks that reliance on grants will make scientists more concerned with loyalty than honesty and afraid to publish results that Seth (who ain’t afraid of no McCloskey) wouldn’t think twice about.

On an unrelated note, the Growthology blog has a post on the brain drain from EU to US. I’ve long been interested in examining the “foot-vote”, especially among relatively advanced countries harder to distinguish from each other compared to the Third World. As my comment there indicates though, I’m still left hungry.

On a final note, expect a significant change at this blog. What it is I won’t say quite yet.

Check them out. I’ve promoted Jeffrey here before, but I was limited in the stuff I could link to. For new readers, he’s a former Rothbardian who has moved on to what he calls “post-libertarianism” that points out the ideological blinders among his former brethren and explores the implications of widespread ignorance.

Bryan Caplan approvingly linked to a lewrockwell.com column by Bob Higgs. I agree with his main point, but I was not happy to see him dismiss “systemic risk” with no explanation for why it’s irrelevant. It seems like a plausible idea to me. Lots of market participants engaged in foolish behavior even before the GSEs got into subprime (their market share had been dropping) and laughed at Peter Schiff. The bubble wasn’t just popular with politicians, but everybody. Everyone agrees now and most agreed then that housing was going through a bubble (though how much of the increase in value would remain was disputed). Bubbles don’t seem to be impossible without government intervention. Nobel Prize winning economist Vernon Smith (who I believe is a libertarian) found that they were created spontaneously by participants when doing experimental economics. Even the Austrian Business Cycle Theory does not seem dependent on government according to Greg Ransom. I should probably add some disclaimers in that I am not committing the Nirvana fallacy in assuming that just because markets fall short of optimal that means government can/will improve things. Nor am I embracing McArdle’s law in thinking that money/finance are just “weird” or looking to Keynes. I am in something like the same boat with Matthew Mueller and Jeffrey Friedman. As a final note, I’ll add that I think our conceptions of property rights were developed before we had to deal with issues of air/water pollution and so that will have to be worked out and it’s not clear tort law is better than regulation in those areas.

I think they both acquitted themselves badly in their dispute, but I can’t get over David Bernstein’s ridiculous claim that Glenn Greenwald is more obsessed with Israel than he is. I don’t think Greenwald will provide his own subjective limit as to what would be a “proportionate response” because he’s not really interested in anything that might distract him from his self-righteous moral outrage.

A page I frequently linked to has dissappeared from the internet. With the help of the internet archive I’ll preserve it here. It was originally at http://haganah.org.il/harchives/005011.html and was titled:
Fighting New Terror – Theory and Israeli Experience

I haven’t been commenting as much at Overcoming Bias as I used to. By the time I get the chance to go through my RSS feed the comments have already clogged up, and I’m uninterested in Eliezer’s scifi kick. I was surprised to find posts on the frontpage from a person going by “Kip” without any link to a website or a last name. Later there were comments by a Kip Werking, and googling it I found his page at William & Mary. One page of interest was The Inevitability of a Medicalized Society (UPDATE: Now hosted here). A good sign is that it starts out by citing a paper I frequently link to, Greene & Cohen’s For the law, neuroscience changes nothing and everything. For my own part, I hope that for consequentialist reasons (as described by Greene & Cohen) people will demand that others be held responsible for their actions, but I cannot say I am confident that Dennet’s prediction will bear out merely because I hope so. Thomas Szasz and others have documented the increasing medicalization of society, and I was very surprised that Werking never mentioned Szasz. Finally, as long as we’re talking OB, I recently stumped for artistocracy/apartheid over there.

On a completely unrelated note, Dennis Mangan has a post on the decline of Christianity and decline in homicide. It backs up a point I’ve been trying to make to Moldbug and other reactionary declinists (some of the few people for whom aristocracy and perhaps apartheid is not a dirty word). Every generation seems to think the kids these days are sending everything to hell, and with very little evidence. Agnostic has debunked a lot of that stuff before, and as long as we’re talking homicide he has also debunked Steve Sailer’s theory about the causal role of cellphones in homicide’s decline. I don’t know if Mangan’s posts and his are coincidences. Agnostic was reacting to this post by Steve Sailer on the rise in homicide by black youths. Steve’s post draws on some recent stuff by Alan Fox. Steve Levitt has also taken notice, as Fox was listed as among the foolish pundits on crime in Freakonomics. Levitt points out that there isn’t much of a rise in the rate of homicide among any age-race groups, but mostly an increase in the population of young black males.