July 2011


I’ve occasionally followed links to Newmark’s Door, and assumed the Craig Newmark there was the same guy behind Craigslist. But just now I noticed the tagline, “Things One Middle-Aged Economist Finds Interesting”, and thought to myself that Craig Newmark isn’t an economist and even if he had been at some time certainly wouldn’t present that as his identity now. Checking out wikipedia I see that The Craig Newmark has a different blog I’d never even heard of before. From now on I’ll try to remember these are two different people with the same name.

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I have a number of times linked to the late (he’s not dead, but was fired by Psychology Today) Satoshi Kanazawa’s post British newspapers make things up. Part of the humor from that comes from Kanazawa’s own low standards. Rereading the old post, I noticed one of Kanazawa’s (at-the-time) co-bloggers posted a reply, American magazines make things up. The magazine in question was the late Newsweek and the journalist was their unfortunately chosen science editor, Sharon Begley. Begley summarized a publication, on differences in jealousy by gender and attitude toward relationships, in a manner that was not only unsupported but contradicted by the paper. The blogger (Matthew Hudson) emailed her twice to point out the necessity of correcting her summary, but only got back a response that the statistics in the paper were hard to understand (the bar graph is actually very clear) and the article is still uncorrected on Newsweek’s site. Unlike British journalists who merely don’t care one white about accuracy, Hudson suspects that the ev-psych hater deliberately misreported the results, and I’d say the charge looks substantially stronger here than in the case of Stephen Jay Gould.

Why did campers on Utoya Island have to wait an hour and a half for the police to show up and stop Breivik?

Perhaps the efficiency is “sectoral,” i.e. social services are run smoothly but the police suffer bureaucratic inertia due to, well, too much peace and hence too little pressure to “innovate,” in which case their (heretofore) level of efficiency was more or less appropriate. It just may be that one positive aspect of the militarization of local police forces in the US (due to the WOD) is their ability to deploy a freakin’ helicopter – something the elite members of the Oslo police force apparently didn’t possess.

Megan McArdle had a post a few days ago touching on Murdoch’s influence in Britain, saying “As far as I know, studies of media bias generally find that the political slant of newspapers tracks the politics of their readership; the New York Times is not visibly left-leaning because its reporters are fooling the folks on the Upper West Side, as conservatives complain, but because the folks on the Upper West Side demand news sources that agree with them”. It would be great if we had an experiment where an exogenous change occurs in a newspaper’s political support. And John Sides at the Monkey Cage says that’s basically what happened when some British papers switched to supporting Labour in 1997.

I’m nearing the end of “Private Truths, Public Lies”, so this could well be the last post on the book. Here’s a quote:
“Most Republican strategists have understood that the required gerrymandering would pervert the Voting Rights Act of 1965, whose intent was to protect individual access to the ballot, not to concentrate the electoral power of certain groups. They suspected, moreover, that color-coded districts would generate racially segregated electorates, analogous to those of South Africa under apartheid.”
I have a number of times heard defenders of Rhodesia point out that their voting system, in contrast to South Africa’s, was based on property rather than race and that they eventually held an election fair in every respect except that Mugabe’s party was excluded due to its violent history, and that the black winner was rejected by the international community. South Africa is also associated with “Bantustans”, but those were pseudo-countries most natives didn’t live in, and not at all comparable to V.R.A congressional districts.

He goes on more about affirmative action in this chapter, not giving any evidence for the support of public opinion. He does acknowledge that officials sometimes went beyond even public (let alone private) opinion, which acknowledges there can be a difference, but pretty much the only references to support of such policies refers to officials. He notes that public opinion was distorted by the fear on the part of corporations that speaking out against quotas would make them targets of the EEOC and that “[t]o escape the stigma of racism, skeptics have tended to mute, soften and qualify their open criticisms”, but this is again only evidence that public opinion is not as negative as it might otherwise be, not that it is at all positive. And since plenty of evidence has been made public of the majority’s opposition, it doesn’t entirely make sense to view the opposition as merely private (as applied to his model of expected public opinion). In a chapter on communism he noted that some public figures (like high ranking members of the communist party) have more “weight” and so someone should model “weighted public opinion”. In all his writing on affirmative action, it is seemingly only the public opinion of a weighted segment that matters.

I wanted to respond to a commenter here by linking to an earlier post, but found that I had actually only mentioned this at Half Sigma’s. Anyway, the quote comes from Mark Blyth’s contribution to this seminar on Sheri Berman’s book “The Primacy of Politics: Social Democracy and the Making of Europe’s Twentieth Century”, on page 15:

Indeed, some very interesting paradoxes emerge in this way of thinking [about fascists and social democrats both being mass-based “people’s parties”]. For example, whereas the Nazis taxed capital heavier than workers for the sake of redistribution, the Swedish SAP taxed the workers more heavily than the capitalists. Similarly, while corporatist policy making is seen as quintessentially ‘social democratic’ the true innovators here were the fascist parties. Labor may not have had ‘free collective bargaining’ under such arrangements, but neither did employers have the whip hand. The fact that 95 percent of Germans benefited from Nazi policies shows not just its base of support, but fascism’s essential similarity to the social democratic project of improving the lives of ‘the people’ as a whole.

So says an ex-cop. And what it allegedly pulled its punches on was police corruption.

On an unrelated note, this story of a man who could have shared a science Nobel, but wound up making $300 a week as a driver, brought back memories of my earlier musings on wasted potential before starting my current job. I’m certainly not doing anything ground-shaking, but a number of industry folks think our company is on the forefront of something big (which I am in now way responsible for) and I feel glad to be a doing a little bit to facilitate folks in that. I suppose I could be doing more for my employer, but right now I’m a lot more satisfied than I was before and occasionally learn new things that would be helpful in the broader job market. I’ve certainly got no problem having a boss (Will Wilkinson’s faint praise for David Ellerman’s heresy is enough for me to damn him as commie, though I honestly would have done that regardless). Going back to the scientist in discussion, some of my sympathy for him built up earlier in the article was depleted when it noted how many opportunities he turned down subsequent to the Nobel hubbub since he didn’t want handouts. It indicates a level of self-sabotage, though it does conclude with a decently happy ending.

Why does location #45 have a website, when one for the overall organization is nowhere to be found?

LEFT LIBERTARIAN:

Ha, Obama’s definitely no communist. The Tea Party is batshit crazy.

 

PROGRESSIVE:

Thank you. Exactly.

 

LEFT LIBERTARIAN:

No no, he’s a fascist.

Read it here.

It may resonate more with bay area California residents. The editor took some license in changing a few things, including the name of the article. Maybe she had some SEO concerns.

Hopefully Anonymous once called for some public intellectuals to examine the work of the “suspiciously productive” Dan Ariely for funny business, saying “He either is a major genius or a minor genius that fudges a sizeable portion of his research production, it seems to me […] one of the most productively counterintuitive minds without being clear quantitative genius capable of creating better models of reality than most other scientists.” A while back I linked to some dueling videos from Ariely and Tim Harford, but also noted that Harford’s central example of the worth of simple logic in economics may be wrong. A more serious critique of Ariely comes by way of Henry Farrell. He claims that the effects of opt-in vs opt-out in organ donation has been greatly exaggerated, and that Ariely’s findings on what people say about hypothetical organ donation differ from what we observe in actual donations. Pleasing enough for H.A, Farrell says the evidence on blood donation cannot be easily slotted into either dueling narrative from libertarians and liberals.

The title here is even less serious than in the previous post.
The following appears in an unusually long footnote to “Private Truths, Public Lies”:
“It has been argued that European scholarship standardized Hindu ideology and elevated the significance of such concepts as caste and reincarnation. By this account, elaborated by Ashis Nandy, The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self under Colonialism […], the British helped construct the caste-centered worldview and also promoted the solidification of historically fluid caste distinctions. These claims are implausible. First of all, few of the Indians whom European researchers identified as sharing the Hindu worldview had prior contact with the British. Second, a disproportionate share of those who had some prior contact, like the British-educated elites, became leading anticaste activists. Third, if Indians were easily brainwashed by the British, it is highly unlikely that until then their minds were immune to the pressures of their own culture. Finally, a cadre of rulers cannot reshape a nation’s thought patterns at will. Anticaste reformists who have sought to emancipate the untouchables from the grip of “brahman ideology” know this through experience. As noted by Khare, Untouchable as Himself, […] their campaigns against the caste ethic have encountered resistance from the very people they wanted to help.” (more…)

This passage in “Private Truths, Public Lies” comes after a criticism of neoclassical economics for taking preferences as autonomous and given, particularly in application to politics.
“Another tradition that treats personal conceptions of self-interest as immutable is a Marxian-inspired literature that seeks to disprove the possibility of oppressed groups becoming mentally enslaved by their oppressors. James Scott, a contributor to this literature, observes that the oppressed act out their assigned roles without losing sight of their overriding interest, the overthrow of the oppressive order. “There is little chance,” he writes, “that acting a mask will appreciably affect the face of the actor. And, if it does, there is a better chance that the face behind the mask will, in reaction, grow to look less like the mask rather than more like it.”* Scott’s argument rests on reactance theory, which holds that under strong physical threats overt agreement will coexist with covert reactance – an unexpressed desire to rebel.** In applying reactance theory to politics, Scott confuses resistance to an oppressor with cognitive autonomy from the oppressors’s ideology. One can despise an oppressor, and still, precisely because of the social conditions created by the oppressor, fail to develop a worldview that is essentially one’s own. To show that the oppressed do not accept every element of the oppressor’s worldview is not to prove that they remain mentally uninfluenced.”
* James C. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Reistance: Hidden Transcripts
** Sharon S. Brehm and Jack W. Brehm, Psychological Reactance: A Theory of Freedom and Control

I haven’t actually read any books by those Marxists of the Frankfurt School, but a common theme is supposed to be that the failure of the workers to overthrow capitalism is due to their “false consciousness” resulting from the ideological hegemony of capitalism. Kuran actually comes across like a member of the American academic right earlier in the book, since some of his major examples of preference falsification are communism and affirmative action, but here at least he does not. (more…)

Just so I don’t have to repeat the stereotypes everybody knows, see Steve Sailer’s table of traits in Why Lesbians Aren’t Gay. Jeff Ely reports on research on how important looks are in assortive mating. It shouldn’t be surprising that there is a high correlation between the reported attractiveness of male and female partners (the sample was restricted to college students, so no old rich men with trophy wives). Going by Sailer’s generalization above (backed up by Michael Blowhard’s anecdotes), it shouldn’t even be surprising that the ruthless meat-market among gay men shows an even higher correlation. What I did find surprising is that the same higher correlation was found among lesbians.

On a not entirely related note, some lefties were commenting about Balko’s contribution to the freeing of Corey Maye (whose case I discussed here) and one mentioned a case they were working on that “has attracted only anarchist and other left-wing radical supporters”. I wouldn’t expect many people to get motivated by the pronoun used to refer to the defendant, so I’ll restrict my comments to the overall merits of the case. It annoys me that the defendant says the victim “ran into” a pair of scissors held for self-defense, that’s the sort of phrase one might use to mock the weak arguments of the guilty. If you’re going for a self-defense story, just stick with it. If it’s true that the victim had initiated the fight and smashed a bottle in the defendant’s face, then we can be sad some children will go fatherless but acknowledge that he decided to risk his life when he attacked. A note at the linked blog says not to discuss the merits of the case at all because the cops might make use of it, but a lot of the linked material there was about people involved in genuinely illegal activity trying to avoid getting caught and didn’t seem appropriate for a group trying to avoid pissing off officials and inviting retaliation.

I asked Scott Shane sent to me about Tim Ogden’s quote, and he emphatically rejected the claim attributed to him as implausible and not supported by the evidence he presented. Here is his summary of what he wrote:

In my book Illusions of Entrepreneurship I describe a paper written by Rob Fairlie of the University of California Santa Cruz who found that people who were drug dealers in their youth were 11 percent more likely to be in business for themselves in adulthood. This effect, he argues (and has some evidence for) comes from preferences of certain types of people for certain types of jobs, not “having a drug record.”

UPDATE: This post originally had a longer direct quote from Shane, but I heard indirectly that he was displeased by my quoting without asking permission (shades of Lawrence Auster). I have edited it down to the most relevant bits that I already referenced and gotten a response from at Ogden’s blog.

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