March 2012

I am not at all a fan of Twitter. I greatly prefer blogs. Unfortunately, you can’t reply to anyone on Twitter unless you have an account yourself. So I’ve given in and created one:!/TeaGeeGeePea

I don’t encourage folks to follow it, I don’t intend to use it much and will  primarily focus on the blog.

After finishing Richard Feynman’s Q.E.D, I picked up another short book with a more anti-science (or “scientism”) stance, “realist” godfather Hans Morgenthau’s “Scientific Man vs Power Politics”. I heard of it from a comment at Marginal Revolution which since their (on-net a good thing) transition to wordpress can only be found at the Internet Archive. The commenter says that Morgenthau described himself as a liberal, but my impression is that the book is an unrelenting attack on liberals and liberalism, whether of the classical or “social reformer” type. I suppose the way to reconcile that would be to interpret him as attacking simply the naivete and weakness of liberals that leads them vulnerable to illiberal enemies, but I have yet to see suggestion that liberalism has any merits over the pre-liberal regimes which Morgenthau holds up for praise. I took down an unusually large number of notes (I usually don’t take any, or at max one line and page number) while reading on the El and I can’t promise they’ll be organized coherently. (more…)

I’m not going to say I refuse to believe Josh Foust when he says drone strikes appear to be fairly popular in the directly affected Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, but extremely unpopular in the rest of the country. But it would certainly not be what I’d expect, given all the stories about wedding parties (maybe that’s more an Afghan thing?) and other mistakenly blown up folks. I extensively quoted Randall Collins on the effect of distance on attitudes toward violence here.

In other news, Garett Jones says the new Acemoglu & Miller book “Why Nations Fail” egregiously neglects the effect of IQ on national culture. A commenter here recently chided Charles Kenny for ignoring human capital, I’ll have to reread his paper on the economic performance of communist countries to see what if anything he said about that. I plan on returning to Jones’ point in my next post.

I might have heard it before, but it evidently didn’t keep since I was so surprised to see Dan Drezner’s graphs. They both have pretty flat trajectories in the 50s, then begin to improve in the 60s, but while South Korea continues to accelerate upward the North flatlines and then regresses. How did other communist nations compare? I know Charles Kenny* has argued even now in hindsight it wasn’t an obviously inferior economic system (though certainly brutal to its citizens). Note that he is comparing to the global average rather than first world, since much of the world did terribly under that time period.

I’ll copy my comment from bhtv below the fold. Like Glenn Loury (usually one of my favorites), I appreciate Mark’s forebearance. I was very glad he stuck for science and evidence over the construction of political narratives. Glenn’s heart cries over the harm our criminal justice system does, how can he then turn away from a serious examination of how to improve it and the lives of the people it affects? Yes, people have political agendas, but it is not mere pretense of science to look at politicized issues through a reductionist lens. Not even Loury seems to dispute that Kleiman is a liberal, why look his gift-horse in the mouth and turn the question to politics? Adopting a Peter Singer type utilitarian stance and Glenn’s avowed (and I think sincere) priorities, couldn’t we argue that Loury is in fact obligated to spend a lot more time shouting from the roof tops that we need to find out whether a “magic bullet” has in fact been discovered, or disprove it so we can start investigating other avenues? Loury says in effect “Yeah, yeah, yeah, viewers of bhtv have heard about your book already, you can stop talking about it”. To that I say, hell no! The problems discussed have not been fixed, H.O.P.E type programs still receive very limited funding, and the political push to change that is still weak. It’s similar logic (via an economist) that says you should keep donating to the charity you think does the most good because you haven’t done enough to solve the problem yet. (more…)

I’ve sometimes referred to Mark Kleiman as the inheritor of James Q. Wilson’s torch, and on hearing of the latter’s death I waited to hear what he had to say. This is it. I’ve discussed Wilson’s books “Bureaucracy” and “Crime and Human Nature” here before, but of course his influence went beyond merely having written some books that some people liked. I’ve also promoted Kleiman’s book “When Brute Force Fails”, which argues in part that the revolution Wilson wrought on criminal policy has reached the area of negative returns. I wish that AEI’s event page for the book still had the video* with Kleiman, Wilson and others.

These days I tend to find the neoconservatives to be the most problematic group in American politics, but I sometimes issue caveats because the term was once associated with folks like Wilson, Banfield, Herrnstein, Huntington, Murray & Sowell and even a more realist foreign policy.

*I’ve sent an email, but didn’t get a response.