June 2009


Mind Hacks linked to a study showing that ingroup-preferences in women increased when they were ovulating or reported high subjective risk of coercion. Interesting, but fairly-standard for evolutionary psychology. Perhaps more interesting is the response in the comments section. The first complains, without reference to any detail in the study, that merely by studying the topic they further entrench harmful stereotypes. When ignorant stereotypes abound it would seem all the more important that we find out the actual facts so that we may replace our uninformed beliefs with accurate ones. Instead a common reaction is complete indifference to the results of any study in favor of an obsessive focus on stereotypes themselves. I would even concur with the commenter that we should have more studies on hormonal fluctuations in men (and indeed there have been some interesting psych studies which involve “priming” them). Rather than an actual proposal for a study that might be done, the comment is more along the lines of the old Fark cliche “B-b-b-but Clinton”. That is exemplified to an even greater extent by the second commenter, who stereotypes the British right off the bat and then proceeds to complain of positive discrimination towards protected groups. A perfectly relevant comment for a different blog discussing a different topic. Hopefully Anonymous has complained that a blog as great as Mind Hacks requires commenters to register first, and while one interpretation might be that they are still on the low end of the Laffer-curve of comment restrictions another is that their current filtering mechanism isn’t producing any benefits.

Completely off-topic, but Philip Giraldi knows what he’s talking about, at least when it comes to Honduras.

Finally, Aschwin de Wolf directs my attention to a Stirnerite egoist blogger.

Joshua Knobe and John Jost discuss the latter’s research into “System Justification Theory” at Bloggingheads. System Justification is, apparently, what is at work when a poor person says that capitalism is the best system for the worst off in society; or when a biologist claims that Lysenkoism is the best system for advancing the study of evolution. I thought another term for this was “false consciousness,” but perhaps this is too Lenin dependent and SJT is something entirely different.

Now, the idea of “false consciousness” runs afoul of the claim by adherents of radical uncertainty, to which I’m sympathetic, that it is simply begging the question to imply that it is known that capitalism, socialism or some “third way” concoction is the best system for someone, poor or otherwise, to live under. Without this certainty, there is nothing necessarily “false” about any body’s consciousness.

But perhaps SJT is something entirely different.

Toward the end of the discussion, utilizing what Jost claims, partially by way of Jonathan Haidt, that liberal activists are open-minded personality types who don’t shy away from new experiences, Knobe suggests that the stereotype of the activist as a dogmatic ideologue is wrong – at least in the case of the liberal ones. But I don’t see how this is at odds with Philip Converse’s, and, subsequently, folks like George E. Marcus’ findings testifying to the opposite.  A personality style that is open to new experiences can be wedded to a belief system that “new experiences” are superior to traditional ones quite handily. Anyone seen a bumper sticker that reads “Keep ___ Weird,” with the blank space probably reading “Austin,” “Portland,” or “Santa Cruz”? When the desire to be open-minded to new experiences becomes this self aware, to the point of preserving the alleged result of spontaneity and free-thought, it sort of neuters the concept of grasping in the dark for such experiences and where they might take you, literally or metaphorically.

William Black makes a point I’ve often tried to make to liberals. Of course his solution is just to ban certain kinds of market transactions. I’m reminded of an old post at Post-Austrian Economics (unfortunately removed from the web) where a sort of public-choice challenge was made to Paul Davidson over how the government could expect to handle such complexities and unexpected events in markets, and I think his conclusion was similar. Black also seems to agree with Sailer on “too-big-to-fail“. Megan McArdle & Noam Scheiber distinguish between the hazards of size & complexity/interconnectedness here, and Karl Smith chides them on the difficulty of dismantling failed banks here.

As a minor rebuttal to Black, Stan Liebowitz argues it was actually not sub-primes that blew up unexpectedly but adjustable rate mortgages.

Not according to this post at Secular Right by Razib Khan – er, I mean David Hume. The opinions of Iranians on a variety of social issues is presented, and it doesn’t mesh well with progressive predilections stateside. 

We know the bigger conservative outlets online have been calling, relatively explicitly, for solidarity with those involved in the Iranian uprising. But it’s the other side of the political spectrum that is of interest here. I mention it because I’ve seen alot of support on Facebook recently, from former classmates and various others, for Iranians in their struggle against an apparently increasingly corrupt, out of touch, uber-conservative regime. But I haven’t heard much about conservatism per se from the media, only “stolen elections” and such (though theocracy and its illegitimacy is no doubt a subtext). The reason would seem to be hinted at by the public opinion displayed at SR. The vast majority of Iranian respondents, across the income spectrum (wherein higher income is associated with higher education), thought that abortion was never justifiable; that homosexuality was never justifiable; and that “men should have more right to job than women.” These social attitudes need not be informed by a religious orientation, and in fact elsewhere Razib has noted that social conservatism is not inherently linked to either personal religiosity or an officially sanctioned state religion. Though I do think it might partially explain why a move to overthrow theocracy itself is not afoot.

If there were a question dealing with race, I’d love to see how it turned out. It is the issue for the modal liberal in modern America, aside from possibly environmentalism, but that’s because the issue of race has become less salient in recent years – the years since 1992, say. And as political philosopher and progressive academic heroine Amy Gutmann tells us, there is no democracy without a rectification of the race problem, a conflation of democracy with liberal democracy (ala Fareed Zakaria), and a proper stance – a “substantive” stance – on racial matters. 

So perhaps a stand-in will do for the missing “race” variable. How about immigration? According to the same World Values Survey Razib utilizes, Iranians are less cosmopolitan than Americans on this issue too. A greater proportion of Iranians disagree with the notion “Let Anyone Come In” than do Americans, and by a much wider margin agree with the statement “Stop People From Coming.”

In sum, what is it that Facebook fans of the Iranian uprising think will happen over there if their pleas are successful? If it’s a purely procedural form of democracy they hope to usher in, then I note their lack of interest in this problem wherever it exists. It seems to me that a perception that liberal, youthful, lovers of substantive freedom and a progressive ethos are up against a stodgy reactionary establishment is what motivates this enthusiasm. But if in fact the people they are supporting are even less liberal in orientation than a right-wing Republican (ooh, double shot!), and it appears that this is the case, what’s to get so excited about?

Dave Kopel notes the relatively low rate of gun ownership in Iran. It’s mostly restricted to ethnic minorities, or so I’ve heard. It brings to mind something Chip said recently in the comments about one of the benefits of gun-rights being the possibility of revolt. I’m inclined to say that’s one of the worst arguments in favor of them. Better that is the oft-neglected utilitarian argument that lots of us just plain like guns, as well as the recognition that the police are not God walking the earth, and so arms distributed among the citizenry can pick up the slack. We could even be more radical and note the relative novelty of professional police forces & standing army, and consider if community posses & militias could entirely substitute for them. The possibility of revolt, even against a bad government, is quite plausibly an argument against guns in the hands of the people. To quote David Friedman, revolution IS the hell of it. I’m even in favor of secession anytime, anywhere for any reason but I’m hard pressed to think of times when wars for that were worth the price (including our own from Britain). Realistically speaking, even if we ignored the costs of the fighting itself, it doesn’t seem likely that The People’s Valiant Struggles Against Their Oppressors result in better governance. Communism was the biggest killer we’ve yet seen, Algeria* (and other former colonies) got well and truly fucked by its nationalist uprising, and Iran’s mullahs hardly seem better than the Shah. Here I should admit that trying to prevent the revolting populace from gaining access to guns may be futile, as when worst comes to worst they’ll just raid the armories.

*I wish I could link to the War Nerd’s “Algeria: The Psychos Will Inherit the Earth”, but the Exile sucks and it doesn’t seem available now.

On a related note, Robert Farley of Lawyers, Guns & Money has a post on the efficient killing power of the modern nation state which in parts sounds a lot like a radical libertarian (though as far as I know he’s your bog-standard liberal). UPDATE: Also related, Sean Safford of OrgTheory gives a friendly fisking of Gideon Rachman and Andrew Miller’s revolutionary checklist applied to Iran.

On an unrelated note, Karl Smith’s Modeled Behavior blog has moved to a new location with more frequent posting. I somewhat recently found that Charles Davi of Derivative Dribble sometimes makes posts at the Atlantic Business Channel that don’t also appear at his personal blog, so if you can’t get enough derivative-talk you should keep an on eye it. Finally, while I think I’ve already mentioned Eric Crampton’s Offsetting Behaviour here, in the off-chance that I haven’t I encourage you to check it out.

The riotporn blog.

In an unrelated matter, a commenter at a TNR post about the ridiculous Iranian propaganda video I wrote about a while back brings to light a propaganda cartoon the Germans made to dissuade the French from listening to the BBC. I knew the Third Reich did all sorts of dastardly deeds but I had no idea they would sink so low as to infringe on American intellectual property. Never forget and never again!

On the advice of Abel Kerevel I searched youtube for Santori and watched some of the earlier portions. One odd thing that struck me was the drummer wearing blackface at one of their performances. I suppose they wouldn’t have a history giving them an allergy to such behavior (although reportedly western Europe is more P.C in that regard than the U.S), but at the same time why would the idea of doing that even occur? Were Al Jolson movies really popular in Iran back in the day?

I feel lucky when I discover an entire movie has been placed on youtube, because I know it likely won’t last. A month or so ago I watched a few Werner Herzog movies placed by a user who has since been banned, and a few days ago found that someone had uploaded a lot of black-and-white classics like The Killers and Gun Crazy. The former is not to be confused with the superior “The Killing” by Stanley Kubrick. The latter has a rather lame protagonist but also a magnificent bitch who picks up the slack. I suppose they had to make the woman irredeemably terrible so you don’t feel too bad about her getting killed. That climactic moment was the only time Lila from Dexter did not get on my nerves. Perhaps it was just a more poorly written character or a worse English accent (which the English actress apparently had to be trained to do because her natural voice didn’t sound stereotypically English enough for the boneheaded casting director) because with Gun Crazy you (by which I mean myself generalized to all right-thinking people) want the trail of destruction to continue rather than put out of its misery promptly.

I don’t really have anything to add on John Maynard Smith’s “The Theory of Evolution”. It’s a good book that I recommend to all and possibly sundry. I wanted to replace it with Trita Parsi’s “Treacherous Alliance”, since Iran is in the news, but apparently the library got rid of it and I found Ray Kurzweil’s “The Singularity is Near” instead.

A discussion sparked at ThinkMarkets resulted in this post on free-banking vs 100% reserves at The Austrian Economists that sums it up better than I could (UPDATE: Continued here). I’m almost kicking myself for not having used the phrase “fatal conceit” earlier on the topic. Not that I’ve read any of Hayek’s books (other than the cartoon version of Road to Serfdom), but the phrase is terribly apt.

On a related note, a long paper on Milton Friedman linked by Marginal Revolution a few days ago contained the quote “Particularly in the 1940s and 1950s, he was a zealous advocate of a reform proposal, somewhat nondescriptively referred to as the “Chicago plan” or “100 per cent money,” of 100 percent mandatory reserve requirements, which amounted to the de facto nationalization of the depository activities of the entire commercial banking system.” I think they might be using “100% reserves” in a different sense. A long while back I came across this, which said something similar but because I could not figure out what the citation was referring to or verify the second quote through googling I forgot about it.

On an unrelated note, Bob Murphy recalls a case where Friedman and the monetarists were proven wrong while Arthur Laffer and those awful (just ask Megan McArdle) supply-siders were right.

Back to central banking: One of Stephan Kinsella’s posts at the Lew Rockwell blog snarked at central bank independence, I replied (linking to Caplan) that the less independence central banks are the more inflationary they are, and while he agreed that he didn’t want any more inflation he didn’t seem at all persuaded. There are no comments at the LR blog (unlike the Mises blog, where I am banned) so discussion will have to take place here.

Speaking of the Mises blog, they just highlighted a paper by Mark Crovelli, who had nearly gotten a PhD in poli-sci (oddly enough still using a praxeological approach) but in disgust went back to working construction. Hats off to him for continuing to write such papers anyway. The paper disputes the von Mises brothers on assigning probabilities to a single event. Bayesian superstar E. T. Jaynes took on Richard von Mises’ conception of probability in a very clever paper here.

Finally, a weird coincidence: What are the odds that AidWatch and The Money Illusion would both have posts with the same French title at the top of their front page (not anymore, but a little while ago) at the same time?

Sandy Ikeda at ThinkMarkets highlights some sites that track crime (and other things) down to the level of the neighborhood block. Haven’t checked out any of them, but sounds cool.

I’m surprised that none of them were announced anywhere (or at least anywhere I was reading), but apparently Razib has done some podcasts with Richard Spencer for Takimag Radio. I haven’t yet listened to them.

Political scientist Andrew Gelman double-dog-dares any sociologist worth his salt to demonstrate connections between voting power and actual power. Of course it’s much more effective to dare someone else at their own blog rather than hope they read yours, but I guess when you’re Andrew freaking Gelman you can just assume they do (or are sociologists less nerdy than me?).

Gelman has been among the rare folks to poor cold water on statistical demonstrations of electoral fraud in Iran (though I imagine he still thinks there was some). Perhaps even rarer in standing alone against the broader narrative regarding Iran is Daniel Larison. One would have hoped that Andrew Sullivan would have learned to be more restrained after being chastened for his cheerleading on Iraq, but he’s still denouncing any western skeptics as despicable or useful idiots. Hats off to his testosterone-injection fueled productivity though. Personally I’m in the same boat as Sailer, and don’t know enough to have a very informed opinion. A while back at Volokh I played Devil’s Advocate for the clampdown against Tiananmen protestors and hypothetical future (now current) mobs in Iran. Considering Mousavi’s past, he wouldn’t even need to be replaced like Kerenski for the post-uprising purge to occur. I hope Mencius Moldbug’s next post is an apologetic for the jackboots of authority. Finally, I’m surprised I haven’t heard more from Trita Parsi.

That was the sentence from Bradley Smith’s reaction to the shooting at D.C’s Holocaust Museum I found most interesting. It reminds me of the debate over desensitizing violent video games some years back. I believe the same arguments were made about pornography before my time. From what I’ve heard evidence (compiled by liberal academics who hate America, families and children in particular) does not support those theories. My own opinion is that weirdos are more likely to be drawn to holocaust denial in the first place, and Von Brunn in particular was a producer rather than a mere consumer of such literature.

Does one have a responsibility to watch what one says based on the reactions of the audience? In the main I agree with Stephan Kinsella’s take on the instigator of a riot in Causation and Aggression. I would say that goes beyond explicitly ordering people to go riot and would (if this actually happened) cover Jim Morrison’s use of crowd psychology to provoke concert-goers.

That covers people who deliberately seek to create such a reaction, what about a result that is not sought but was foreseeable as a likely cause of one’s actions? The law provides manslaughter and other crimes of recklessness which do not require mens rea intent. I think a similar idea applies here and is a reason to include disclaimers if you think listeners might get the wrong idea. All of us speak considering the consequences on our audience. Otherwise we wouldn’t even need to bother speaking the same language or explaining when a bit of technical jargon does not mean what they might assume it does.

Given the difficulty of establishing a causal link between the actions of a single person (out of an unknown number of people who may have heard the message) and what has been said, I don’t propose that we introduce anything to criminal or even tort law to cover dangerous publications. All the same, a legal fiction should not delude us into believing a phenomenon is fictitious.

Being the awful Hansonian reductionist that I am, I wish that Smith & co would “break it down” when it comes to their heretical thoughts. There is a constant conflation of holocaust denial (or revisionism, if you prefer) with matters pertaining to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, U.S foreign policy, whether the Nazis were worse than the Soviets and the related matter of whether racism/bigotry is more dangerous than blank-slatism along with a host of other things. Political ideologues group many seemingly unrelated issues together into one world view. If holocaust revisionists really want to be treated like intellectually honest historians it would help if they acted more like scientists seeking the truth regarding specific matters.

Perhaps Bradley really is a bleeding-heart liberal (The Man Who Saw His Own Liver depicts an anti-nuke tax protester during the Cold War) who just happens not to prioritize Darfur or Tibet (I don’t care about them much either, but I’m just generally uncaring), but plenty of White Nationalists who display thoroughly illiberal attitudes about exterminating groups they dislike simultaneously expect sympathy for Palestinians or the civilians fried at Dresden. Those are worthwhile issues to discuss but should preferably be kept distinct from others that might turn things into a victimology contest.

I admit that in my post on Charles Lindbergh I stated that part of the reason I thought it important to look askance at “the good wars” of the past was that they served to justify wars now. As I was saying earlier in the post, it does make sense to keep in mind the likely reactions to what one says and the connections people already make. At the same time the different wars are distinct and one could possibly support or oppose any combination of them, and so discussion of them may be sensibly kept separate.

Recently at Scott Sumner’s The Money Illusion a commenter going by the name “saifedean” has been spreading the gospel of Austrian economics by way of Mises & Rothbard. I thought the name sounded familiar but then forgot about it. Now he’s including a hyperlink in his handle, and sure enough it’s the same person that occasionally blogs at “The Saif House”. I remember a while back at Taki’s they featured a post (now removed) by Saifedean Ammous that had nothing to do with conservatism, alternative or otherwise. I found that odd, especially when some googling showed that AlterNet has had a contributor named Saifedean Ammous who is a phd candidate at Columbia for “sustainable development”. I guess that would make him the first Austrian environmentalist I’ve come across. Perhaps TokyoTom from the Mises blog infected him.

UPDATE: Saifedean Ammous has confirmed that he is indeed the same individual I referred to in these instances. I wish him luck in his exploration of Austrian economics and hope he doesn’t wind up a wretched defect to literature & metaphysics like the late (in blog terms) Matthew Mueller, who strayed too near those mad, bad and dangerous to know.

He never gave the promised follow up for his final post at Brooklyn Copperhead (or explained the meaning of the title of his penultimate one). He is now quite active at AmConMag’s Post Right blog. It’s certainly an improvement over Phil Weiss’ place. For a little while there I played apologist for Zionism (and occasionally the old colonial regimes) in the comments but there’s a limit to how much of Weiss’ empty-headed liberalism one can stomach. Ross should have been able to provide a corrective to Weiss’ temporary idolatory obsession with Abe Lincoln, but apparently he gave up there as well and Weiss moved on to Kafka and then Theodor Herzl.

Via Balko I came across one of Weiss’ old New York Magazine features on Craigslist and throughout reading the repeated talk of the “Exploder of Journalism” (caps in the original) wanted to tell him “tone it down!” If not for his particular obsession he probably would not have lost his print job and been reduced to begging money from his readers and hoping for it from his parents, though its certainly conceivable. I am reminded of The Last Ditch contributor Stephen Sniegowski (though coming from a far-right perspective) who says he’s “lucky to get a job answering the telephone“. He’s capable of good writing, such as one that made me proud of our first black President, but the rest of his work seems dedicated to sinking any chance of attaining tenure.

DW-NOMINATE took a bit more work for me to understand than some other data sources, even with a bit of help from one of its creators. But I didn’t want to let commenter Tarl down, so I didn’t give up. DW-NOMINATE uses two dimensions to estimate the distance between legislators. The first one is liberalism vs conservatism, with positive numbers indicating conservative, the latter reflects regional divides with positive numbers being associated with the south/rural areas. Richard Nixon served in the 80th and 81st Congresses in the House of Representatives. His DIM1 is 0.18 and his DIM2 is -0.41, while the average for Republicans of that period is about 0.3 and -0.37, respectively. I’m rather new to using Open Office Calc/Excel so I’m not terribly confident in my work. I’ve uploaded my data file, which should contain the formula I used near the top of the sheet and to the right of the main data. If those who understand that sort of thing verify that I did it correctly, I’ll update this post to say how Nixon compared to other Republican senators that he worked alongside.

UPDATE 3: In the absence of outside verification, I used the same method for Nixon’s time in the Senate. There he had scores of 0.13 and -0.57, for Dim1 and Dim2 respectively, while his Republican peers in the Senate had about 0.26 and -0.34 on average for the 82nd Congress he served in. These scores should not be taken to indicate that he shifted in his ideology between bodies of Congress as scores in different houses are not comparable. I’m not going to upload my file for the senate because I don’t have room at my tripod site. The standard deviations for his GOP peers in the house were 0.16 and 0.32, making Nixon about 0.73 and 0.12 standard deviations below average for those dimensions. The standard deviations for the senate were about 0.19 and 0.42, making him about 0.68 and 0.55 standard deviations below average there.

UPDATE 2: My excel file (with formula and all) is now here. Its shaggy dog story is below the fold. (more…)

I figured I had been overfishing the GSS hole and neglecting other sources of data, so I tried out the World Values Survey.  I was disappointed to find that it is much less easy to use for my purposes. At first I thought I’d investigate the gluten/lactose tolerance idea from before, but that was a no go. Then I remembered my discussion with Whiskey over polygyny in the Muslim world. The WVS has a question for how acceptable it is for a man to have more than one wife. The countries ask seem to be ones with muslim majorities (though I’m not sure about Nigeria), but they asked adherents of other religions as well. Because of their small sample sizes I’m not including them, but it was amusing to find higher percentages of Jews & Buddhists strongly agreeing than Muslims, though it is not true for the former within any country where Jews were found. Buddhists were only in Bangladesh, where both they and Hindus strongly agreed than Muslims, though counting Hindus in Saudi Arabia reduces their overall percentage strongly agreeing below that of Muslims.  The question and data are below the fold. Note that red/blue colors are MEANINGLESS. I just copied a graph from a previous post and then monkeyed it into shape (which was a big time-wasting hassle). There are no means or standard deviations. (more…)

Sparked by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the Volokh Conspirators have had a series of posts about Jewish attitudes towards a close relative marrying outside the tribe generally or to a black more specifically, and vice versa. One small upside to it is commenter BGates’ discovery of Goldilocks and the Three White People, a larger one is more promotion for the GSS. My GSS tip of the day is that while Firefox can’t seem to execute variable searches right now, that feature works fine in Internet Explorer. I don’t know about other browsers. Also, according to the blogger at Lying Eyes, highlighting a table in your browser and copy-pasting it in “visual mode” works just as well for the blogspot editor as wordpress. Don’t let ignorance of html get in your way of using the GSS, and for Pete’s sake don’t create jpgs of portions of tables!

It is my hope that a norm of using the GSS and similar databases becomes widespread while data-free pontificating on things that could be checked is discouraged. While on a different subject, most of what I said in these emails to Lawrence Auster applies:

“I happen to be a fan of unmoderated, messy comments threads. I even leave up spam that I find sufficiently amusing. So part of the purpose of my complaints are to push my norm (and that of Hopefully Anonymous) at the expense of others. That can be said of a whole lot of blogging though.”

Then in reply to “Ha ha, so you weren’t appealing to my social conscience. You were trying to infect me with your memes. Now I’m wise to you.”:

“You’re not the only audience. I hope for there to be a general expectation among blog readers that user input be easily facilitated. To analogize, in a competitive market when one firm begins offering a desired feature of a service people may come to complain about laggards that don’t, even if they hadn’t minded before. Popular standards can get more stringent. It is not your blog alone that I intend this norm for, but blogging in general. Actually, even that is limiting things too much. Wikipedia is probably the premier example of easy user input and while there are gripers about it, it has become more successful than I’d guess its creators originally imagined it. The alternative of “Citizendium” which Sanger I believe advocated could not have had nearly as much success. Another analogy might be to the norm of public access to data used in academic journal articles that can be used in replies (often in the same journal and even issue). Ian Ayres in Supercrunchers praises John Lott (despite his prolonged argument with him, perhaps superfluously discussed in the book) for helping establish that norm. I’m not very interested in the global warming issue, but I’m glad the Climate Audit blog is performing a similar role there. With a thousand eyes all bugs are shallow, and with networks of interaction (both cooperation and competition) whether in markets or the sciences far greater results can be achieved than through the efforts of the greatest Randian hero*.

*Haven’t actually read Rand, but often come across a sort of archetype attributed to her.”

Finally, on a completely unrelated note, what I’ve read of John Maynard Smith’s “The Theory of Evolution” is excellent. Though he’s a theorist, the material is hardly abstracted away to heights semi-average young science readers would bore of. It is an odd feeling to hear him discuss “recent advances” in molecular biology that are today’s “every schoolboy knows” kind of facts.

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