June 2012


Conservatives on the Obamacare Mandate: It Was Wrong Then, Wrong Now

The Side That Watches More News Wins More Elections

Rape “Not Just a Girl Thing” Says Writer

Asians Now America’s #1 Immigrant Group

Is the New York Times Cheerleading for Gay Marriage?

People More Optimistic About Local Economy Than Nation’s, Globe’s

Dads Are Only Worth $20,248 Per Year Around the House 

Air Rage Literally on the Rise

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I relayed that claim from Greg Cochran a while back, but inspired by this Half Sigma post I decided to present the actual numbers from the GSS.

Row: CHILDS

Column: WORDSUM

Control: SEX

Summary Statistics for SEX = 1(MALE)
Eta* = .06 Gamma = -.02 Rao-Scott-P: F(80,38080) = 2.10 (p= 0.00)
R = -.04 Tau-b = -.01 Rao-Scott-LR: F(80,38080) = 2.02 (p= 0.00)
Somers’ d* = -.01 Tau-c = -.01 Chisq-P(80) = 213.72
Chisq-LR(80) = 206.45
*Row variable treated as the dependent variable.
Summary Statistics for SEX = 2(FEMALE)
Eta* = .12 Gamma = -.08 Rao-Scott-P: F(80,38080) = 4.34 (p= 0.00)
R = -.11 Tau-b = -.06 Rao-Scott-LR: F(80,38080) = 3.85 (p= 0.00)
Somers’ d* = -.06 Tau-c = -.06 Chisq-P(80) = 485.56
Chisq-LR(80) = 430.81
*Row variable treated as the dependent variable.
Summary Statistics for all valid cases
Eta* = .08 Gamma = -.05 Rao-Scott-P: F(80,38080) = 4.70 (p= 0.00)
R = -.08 Tau-b = -.04 Rao-Scott-LR: F(80,38080) = 4.33 (p= 0.00)
Somers’ d* = -.04 Tau-c = -.04 Chisq-P(80) = 522.38
Chisq-LR(80) = 481.45
*Row variable treated as the dependent variable.

I’ve come across that “Firepower” character in the comments section at Overcoming Bias, there as well he seemed quite sure of himself in the absence of supporting evidence. (more…)

When I read at the “Why Nations Fail Blog” that “the very high incarceration rates for African-Americans is a uniquely American failure” I sent them an email citing Julius Uzoaba’s comparison of Canada, Australia the U.S and U.K. Acemoglu responded shortly afterward, saying they would follow up next week, and now they have. I would quibble with some of their points. They emphasize that the U.S is a democracy and say Prohibition was ended once people started  believing it caused more crime than it prevented and mobilized against it. According to Daniel Okrent, a major motivation was tax revenue, which it provided a lot of in the days of low/no income taxes and was sorely needed during the Great Depression. There’s just not going to be as much money in legalizing drugs, and the government doesn’t need it as much. Additionally, U.S complacency over the War on Drugs is contrasted with calls from legalization in Latin America, but I would emphasize that the most notable statesmen calling for legalization/decriminalization (which wouldn’t do much, the folks in prison are generally dealers rather than petty users) are EX-officials rather than the folks currently in office.

The title of his post was “Who supports the US penal system”, but the major policy discussed is the war on drugs. I examined support for legalizing marijuana here, surprisingly enough blacks were slightly less in favor of ending a policy which disproportionately incarcerates their cohort. It was a pretty small difference, but I would have expected a larger gap in the opposite direction.

*I guess some James Robinson character is his co-author, but I’d never heard of him before, plus his name comes last alphabetically.

Samuel Huntington described Muslims as having “u-shaped loyalties”, strongly identifying with their clan and the ummah but not with their country. At the same time the region has long been associated with “oriental despotism”. I’ve been thinking about that while reading Timur Kuran’s “The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East”. Some of the story begins before Islam itself, which you might think undercuts the thesis but makes sense since Islam was going to codify many pre-existing norms. The “hydraulic theory” of state development is considered discredited today, but Kuran cites state control of large-scale irrigation systems as the reason governments tried to keep independent sources of wealth and power weak (see my earlier post on family vs the state). One of the elements of islamic law that he blames for allowing Europe to race ahead is the relatively egalitarian inheritance formulae, which results in estates being fragmented (contrast the western practice of primogeniture). Pharoanic Egypt, Babylon and Assyria all apparently had laws mandating egalitarian inheritance. I did not know that, assuming that winner-gets-all inheritance and monarchical dynasties went together. Instead Kuran says that primogeniture and monogamy go together. The tendency of the wealthiest merchants in the Islamic world to have multiple wives and a greater number of children results in an even greater fragmentation of wealth. As a result, no aristocracy developed in Turkey, the Arab world or Iran. (more…)

It’s fitting that I read Hans Morgenthau’s “Scientific Man vs Great Power Politics” beforehand, because Steve Pinker’s “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” is almost its diametric opposite. Pinker even references Morgenthau as one of those people in the past whose wrongness we can reflect on (“The world is moving ineluctably woards a third world war – a strategic nuclear war. I do not believe that anything can be done to prevent it”). A great many of the same exact liberal idealists that Morgenthau decried are now held as prophets before (at worst) their time. While Morgenthau did have a sort of Gods-of-the-Copybook-Headings credibility to him, his case relied a lot on assertion and just can’t match the mass of material Pinker brings to oppose him. I ultimately have to assent that something has been going on, even if I can’t be sure that Pinker’s explanation is correct. This isn’t to say they disagree on everything, Pinker has a great quote from Robert Lansing on his boss (Woodrow Wilson, whose liberal internationalism stilll gets some credit).

Causality is always hard to determine, which Pinker acknowledges. He does his best presenting what psychology experiments have been performed, neuroscience and evolutionary biology learned and game theory logic understood, together with data showing what trends occurred at what time. But as Jared Diamond pointed out, soft sciences are hard. Descriptively, this work is a tour de force. I’d read (and reviewed here) a number of somewhat related authors like Azar Gat, Lawrence Keeley, Mark Kleiman, James Q. Wilson, Richard Herrnstein, Randall Collins, Richard Wrangham, Greg Clark, Henry Harpending & Greg Cochran. Pinker has consumed them and much more, and where his presentation overlaps with my previous knowledge it seems to gel. It’s a big subject and Pinker gives it its due, across time and societies (even species), in different manifestations and from different angles. (more…)