Friday, November 21, 2014

Urban Planners - to attract the middle class, invest in infrastructure not transfers

This is interesting speculation, Was it the middle class that favored infrastructure investment in 19th century England? by Tyler Cowen.
Many theories of democratization suggest that extending the right to vote will lead to increased government expenditure (e.g. Meltzer and Richard, 1981; Lizzeri and Persico, 2004; Acemoglu and Robinson, 2000). However, these models frequently assume that government can engage in transfer expenditure, which is often not true for local governments. This paper presents and tests a model in which government expenditure is limited to the provision of public goods. The model predicts that the poor and the rich desire lower public goods expenditure than the middle class: the rich because of the relatively high tax burden, and the poor because of a high marginal utility of consumption. Consequently extensions of the franchise to the poor can be associated with declines in government expenditure on public goods. This prediction is tested using a new dataset of local government financial accounts in England between 1867 and 1900, which captures government expenditure on key infrastructure projects that are not included in many studies of national democratic reform. The empirical analysis exploits plausibly exogenous variation in the extent of the franchise to identify the effects of extending voting rights to the poor. The results show strong support for the theoretical prediction: expenditure increased following relatively small extensions of the franchise, but fell following extensions of the franchise beyond around 50% of the adult male population.
That might explain the tendency of cities with strong transfer ethos' to hollow out. As long as there is a large middle class, the majority of public resources are invested in improving the communal infrastructure. But as the middle class declines (moves to the suburbs) then the relatively fixed public resources become increasingly diverted to transfer payments and away from public infrastructure worsening the environment for the remaining Middle Class until all that are left are the top and bottom quintiles. Case studies - New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, etc.

The corollary would explain why it is so hard to attract the Middle Class back. In order to get them interested, you have to invest in the common public infrastructure and in order to do that, assuming you are maxed out in the bond market, you have to divert resources away from transfers and back into infrastructure. Very hard to do given that the transfer beneficiaries are strongly motivated to punish anyone interfering with the status quo.
Still, it is only a marginally supported argument as yet.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

It’s not that identity is centred around morality. It’s that morality necessitates the concept of identity

An interesting piece; The self is moral by Nina Strohminger.

Her question is "What makes us, us?" She addresses and dismisses a common argument that a person is the sum of their memories. She then advances the argument that our individual identity is bound up with our moral capacities which is in turn bound up with how we behave. She then takes the argument in a novel direction.
Why does our identity detector place so much emphasis on moral capacities? These aren’t our most distinctive features. Our faces, our fingertips, our quirks, our autobiographies: any of these would be a more reliable way of telling who’s who. Somewhat paradoxically, identity has less to do with what makes us different from other people than with our shared humanity. Consider the reason we keep track of individuals in the first place. Most animals don’t have an identity detector. Those that share our zeal for individual identification have one thing in common: they live in societies, where they must co‑operate to survive. Evolutionary biologists point out that the ability to keep track of individuals is required for reciprocal altruism and punishment to emerge. If someone breaks the rules, or helps you out of a bind, you need to be able to remember who did this in order return the favour later. Without the ability to distinguish among the members of a group, an organism cannot recognise who has co‑operated and who has defected, who has shared and who has been stingey.

Nor can you have formal moral systems without identity. The 18th-century philosopher Thomas Reid observed that the fundaments of justice – rights, duty, responsibility – would be impossible without the ability to ascribe stable identity to persons. If nothing connects a person from one moment to the next, then the person who acts today cannot be held responsible by the person who has replaced him tomorrow. Our identity detector works in overdrive when reasoning about crimes of passion, crimes under the influence, crimes of insanity: for if the person was beside himself or out of his mind when he committed his crime, how can we identify who has committed the act, and hold him responsible for it?

Moral features are the chief dimension by which we judge, sort and choose social partners. For men and women alike, the single most sought-after trait in a long-term romantic partner is kindness – beating out beauty, wealth, health, shared interests, even intelligence. And while we often think of our friends as the people who are uniquely matched to our shared personality, moral character plays the largest role in determining whether you like someone or not (what social psychologists call impression formation), and predicts the success and longevity of these bonds. Virtues are mentioned with more frequency in obituaries than achievements, abilities or talents. This is even the case for obituaries of notable luminaries, people who are being written about because of their accomplishments, not their moral fibre.

The identity detector is designed to pick up on moral features because this is the most important type of information we can have about another person. So we’ve been thinking about the problem precisely backwards. It’s not that identity is centred around morality. It’s that morality necessitates the concept of identity, breathes life into it, provides its raison d’être. If we had no scruples, we’d have precious little need for identities. Humans, with their engorged and highly complex socio-moral systems, have accordingly inflated egos.
I am taken with the argument. Unexplored is the issue that moral capabilities are usually interpreted through behaviors, i.e. we infer moral capabilities based on the evidence advanced through behaviors. No matter what someone says they believe, we look to what they actually do in order to measure their moral capabilities (revealed preference in economic terms).

There are a number of interesting correlates.

For example, I suspect that there is some connection between defining people based on their moral capabilities and the Fundamental Attribution Error. The Fundamental Attribution Error is a measurable and common psychological bias in which we attribute a person's actions to their moral intentions and not to their circumstances. The flipside of the Fundamental Attribution Error is that as individuals, we commonly overweight our particular circumstances to explain our actions.

A car is driving recklessly down the highway, speeding, changing lanes, honking, flashing lights; clearly in a hurry to get someplace. If we are one of the cars on the highway, the driver is a reckless, inconsiderate, self-centered danger. If we are the driver of the car it is because our wife is in the backseat going into labor. In the first instance, we fail to seek alternate explanations for the reckless driving and impute moral failure. In the second, we use the circumstances as the first order of defence for reckless driving.

Identity as moral capability I suspect also ties in to the intricacy of children reading.

We impute great importance to the goodness and suitability of books which our children read. Why? I suspect in part it has to do with our desire that the books reflect the moral structures of ourselves. We seek not only biological replication but moral replication as well. Hence the heat when advocates, librarians and teachers seek to foist books on to the reading public which are not morally compatible with that public.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

No society that has no shared ideals on morality will survive for long.

From the UK Spectator, Arguments With God by Douglas Murray, an interview with former Chief rabbi of the UK, Jonathan Sacks.
We recently talked over some of this at his house in London, where he lives during gaps in a busy teaching schedule that also takes him to New York. ‘I realised religion is going to come back and it is not going to come back as a post-enlightenment,-thinly–sliced-cucumber-sandwiches vicarage tea party.’ What was the giveaway? ‘De-secularisation.’ It was a phenomenon he noticed first as a rabbi.

People were returning to synagogue or church because they wanted their children to attend a faith school. Not because they believed, but because ‘faith schools have a very strong ethos and they think that that strong ethos will give the kids the kind of virtues they need.’

This, in Sacks’s view, points to a flaw at the heart of the atheist worldview. Faced with the question ‘How do we raise our children?’ — perhaps the most serious question we must ask — non-believers began to flunk the answer. And Sacks reckons that this failure indicates a wider relativistic vacuum in our society.


‘There is a huge attempt right now to find out if we can ground a morality in something other than religious faith. I think the question is on what can we ground a shared substantive ethic strong enough to inspire young people? No society that has no shared ideals on morality will survive for long.

Refreshing pursuit of truth and accomplishment

Post-election, our MSM seem to be suffering withdrawal symptoms. They are feeding their dependency with stories that are juicy and do have some salience but which are basically ephemeral. Feminist outrage over astrophysicist scientist Matt Taylor (part of the team which landed a probe on a comet speeding along at 300,000 miles an hour, 3 billion miles away). Source of the outrage - he was wearing an Hawaiian shirt that offended their refined aesthetic sensibilities and caused them to wilt at the patriarchal presumption of science.

It has also been a week of Gruber. Jonathan Gruber that is. The MIT economist instrumental in designing and justifying both Romneycare in Massachusetts and Obamacare nationally. He has an ever growing portfolio of video interviews from the past few years in which he conversationally and without a trace of hedging confirms all the public fears about Obamacare (we hid things that were inconvenient, we disguised items in order to not have to call them taxes, we knew that people would lose coverage, we knew we were subsidizing the insurance companies, we knew it would cost more than we said, etc.). The Republicans have had a field day and the Democrats have been embarrassed to be caught out and have doubly embarrassed themselves by denying things which are demonstrably true.

Stepping back from the partisan contest, it is, I think, worth considering the man himself rather than the self-serving demon (as portrayed by the Republicans) or the incompetent non-entity (as portrayed by his Democratic sponsors).

Ann Althouse has a useful first pass at this.
From a 12-year-old NYT article: Jonathan Gruber's "most embarrassing moment in government." by David Leonhardt via Ann Althouse.
This is from an April 2002 article by David Leonhardt titled "How a Tax On Cigarettes Can Help The Taxed":
For years, economists would have said that actions speak louder than words. Whatever smokers say about quitting, they are rationally deciding that the pleasure they derive from cigarettes exceeds their cost.

Jonathan Gruber was one of these economists when he worked in the Treasury Department in the Clinton administration. Mr. Gruber, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, remembers telling other policy makers that economic theory says they should not increase cigarette taxes. People should be allowed to decide for themselves whether they want to smoke, he told his colleagues. Those who smoke may hurt themselves, but they will not drain the country's resources because so many of them will die before running up large Medicare bills.

Mr. Gruber called it his most embarrassing moment in government, and his discomfort with his own argument caused him to begin researching the issue when he returned to academia.....
So, there was an argument for taxation based on the costs that smokers impose on all of us because of the health problems caused by smoking, and Gruber undercut that argument with a truth. Smokers don't cost more overall because they die earlier. Why was that so embarrassing? Well, "embarrassing" is the reporter's word, not a quote from Gruber. Gruber is a very chatty guy.
I understand the outrage that Gruber went on to profit from his Obamacare work, particularly if you believe that the whole act will reduce choice (freedom), increase costs, reduce quality and innovation, and not do what it was supposed to do (cover people without insurance).

But let's be charitable. Gruber appears to be a naif, enamored with ideas and pursuit of truth. Similarly, the British astrophysicist Matt Taylor, a man so excited and confident about the pursuit of science that he had the Rosetta landing tattooed on his leg. We are all fallible but give me Gruber and Taylor any day over the narrow minded self-serving social cankers who criticize them. They are a breath of fresh air that ought to be celebrated. If only others were as interested in truth and accomplishment.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The serious business of editing

Heh. From the UK Spectator, November 1, 2014 in the Diary section by Andrew Roberts.
The editing of this book has been an extraordinary intellectual exercise, due to the omnivorous brain of my editor at Penguin, Stuart Proffitt. Among the scores of questions he asked me in the first sets of edits were: 'How wide was the river Po in 1796?', 'Did Napoleon take Herodotus to Egypt?' and 'Was Napoleon conversant with the astronomical theories of Herschel?' Still, that was better than in my last book , where he asked of one gag of which I was particularly proud, 'Are you sure this joke is funny?'

Monday, November 17, 2014

Inaction is not gridlock

In The GOP: King of the Hill by Jay Cost, Cost makes a point I have been harping on. Gridlock is only a negative when viewed through partisan lenses. If you want to achieve policy X and you cannot get the opposite party to agree, then you complain about dysfunctional government and gridlock. But if your perspective is that of having a political system which is both stable and reflects the consent of the governed, then inaction is simply a consequence of lack of consensus in the electorate. The system is working as it ought to.

Cost's synopsis:
Surely this must be bad for our government, some say. The Framers could never have intended our elections to produce such a muddle. Gridlock—as the Beltway pundit class assures us—is dangerous and un-American.

But this is not true! In fact, the Framers might celebrate these mixed electoral messages if they were with us today.

Before the American Revolution, many political philosophers held up Britain as a nearly ideal system of government. The British system balanced power among the monarch, the nobility, and the people. The idea was to prevent any one faction from upending another for its own gain. The Americans did away with this idea in 1776, when they declared it self-evidently true that all men are equal and that all power derives from the people alone.

The problem was that the American governing experience in the decade after the Declaration of Independence was disastrous. State governments were exquisitely democratic and utterly atrocious: Fractious majorities often controlled them, punishing political minorities, squabbling with other states, violating the treaty rights of loyalists, failing to support the federal government, and making a wreck of public finances.

After the failure of the Articles of Confederation, the Framers sought to retain the egalitarianism of the Declaration, but to inject the notion of balance. They did not empower a landed gentry to check the masses; all power would continue to flow from the people as a whole. Yet by dividing power among the branches of government—and within the legislative branch, between an upper and a lower chamber—and designing a different selection system for each, they created artificial distinctions within society. Power would still flow from the people, but it would travel to different branches of government, by different routes, at different intervals. Thus, the government would be balanced—like the British system—yet at the same time radically egalitarian. The people would rule, but no fleeting majority could get its hands on all the mechanisms of government at once.

That is not so far from what we have now. The rules of the game favor the Republican coalition for the House and Senate; they favor the Democratic coalition for the White House. Far from being a distortion of the constitutional vision, this is a realization of it.


To put it simply, our country is not a radical democracy run on a straightforward popular vote. The people experimented with something like that in the 1780s, and the Framers thought it an unmitigated disaster. So they built a republic in which, to acquire all the levers of governmental power, a party must build a big, broad, and durable majority, one vast enough to sweep up control of all the federal institutions, each with its own peculiar rhythms.
What many overlook is that our system is designed to safeguard the rights of minorities, whether political, religious, racial, class, regional, ethnic, or other. The price of those protections is inaction until there is sufficient consensus across multiple groups and interests.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Gramscian advocates run aground on the shoals of real data

From Research: How Female CEOs Actually Get to the Top by Sarah Dillard and Vanessa Lipschitz. Some quite interesting research that buttresses some work I have done.

The author's explore two questions.

First. Standard career advice to young women in the corporate world is fairly anodyne.
Ambitious young women hoping to run a major business someday are often advised to take a particular career path: get an undergraduate degree from the most prestigious college you can, an MBA from a selective business school, then land a job at a top consulting firm or investment bank. From there, move between companies as you hopscotch your way into bigger roles and more responsibility.

That’s what we were told as undergraduates, and later on as students at the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School. It’s what Meg Whitman did, more or less, and it’s what Sally Blount, dean of the Kellogg School of Management and the only woman running a top-ten business school, recently recommended: “If we want our best and brightest young women to become great leaders…we have to convince more of them that … they should be going for the big jobs,” which for her meant “the most competitive business tracks, like investment banking and management consulting.”
Admirably wanting to know if the theoretical advice matched the empirical reality, the authors looked at the careers of the 24 women who currently lead one of the Fortune 500 companies.

One of the arguments I have been making over the years is that most advocates (race, gender, class, etc.) significantly underestimate the role that continuity, volume, and adaptability play in determining who emerges at the top end of the performance pyramid (in business, art, academia, law, sport, etc.). Talent, motivation and circumstance play important roles but usually are matched or outweighed by continuous years of intense effort. All things being equal in terms of talent, motivation and circumstance, the individual who puts in twice the number of hours over a fixed duration of time, performs better than the person having spent less time. Part of this is obviously a function of practice makes perfect (volume of time). Part of it is a function experience (duration of time): in other words, you are more likely to deal with more variation over a long period of time than a short. The more variation you are accustomed to dealing with, the more likely you are to advance.

In most fields, women constitute between 15-30% of the top performers and it is strongly correlated with volume and duration of time. The primary cause of reduced time and shorter durations is maternity.

This hypothesis of performance is borne out by the research.
Most women running Fortune 500 companies did not immediately hop on a “competitive business track.” Only three had a job at a consulting firm or bank right out of college. A larger share of the female CEOs—over 20%—took jobs right out of school at the companies they now run. These weren’t glamorous jobs. Mary Barra, now the CEO of General Motors, started out with the company as college co-op student. Kathleen Mazzearella started out as a customer service representative at Greybar, the company she would eventually become the CEO of more than 30 years later. All told, over 70 percent of the 24 CEOs spent more than ten years at the company they now run, becoming long-term insiders before becoming CEO. This includes Heather Bresch at Mylan, Gracia Martore at Gannett, and Debra Reed at Sempra Energy.

Even those who weren’t promoted as long-term insiders often worked their way up a particular corporate ladder, advancing over decades at a single company and later making a lateral move into the CEO role at another company. This was the experience of Patricia Woertz, CEO of Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), who built her career over 29 years at Chevron. And it was the experience of Sheri McCoy, who became CEO of Avon after being passed over for the CEO role at Johnson & Johnson, where she worked for 30 years.

The consistent theme in the data is that steady focus wins the day. The median long stint for these women CEOs is 23 years spent at a single company in one stretch before becoming the CEO.
What is the mean male CEO duration?
To understand whether this was the norm, we pulled a random sample of their male Fortune 500 CEO counterparts. For the men in the sample, the median long stint is 15 years. This means that for women, the long climb is over 50% longer than for their male peers. Moreover, 71% of the female CEOs were promoted as long-term insiders versus only 48% of the male CEOs. This doesn’t leave a lot of time for hopscotch early in women’s careers.
This is an interesting finding in itself and I regret that the authors don't investigate it in more depth. My theory of time volume duration, and adaptability as a determinant of outcome is very testable. If it is accurate, then those female CEOs who have no children should have a long stint duration comparable to their male counterparts at about fifteen years. Those female CEOs with children should have longer stint durations. Even within that group there should be material differences between those who 1) continued working in the same pattern as their peers during their maternity years, 2) those who took a hiatus in the form of working fixed schedules during their maternity years (i.e. forty hours a week nine to five), 3) those who worked reduced-hours for some stretch of time, and 4) those who may have taken time out from the workforce for some period.

The research is not thick on the ground but those studies I have seen indicate that anything short of high volume time, continuous time, and adaptable time has an outsized impact on final outcomes. The adaptable part is often overlooked. Two individuals may both work 50 hours a week but if one is on a fixed schedule of ten hours a day but the other is adaptable to business need and usually works 40 hours a week but is able to pitch in during times of need to work longer hours or on the weekend, it is the second individual who advances faster than the first.

The second half of the article is just as interesting and is non-gender specific. The authors ask the question how important is the prestigiousness of your alma mater? Not very.
What about the prestigious college? Does that matter? While Whitman’s high-prestige background may seem like it should be the norm, she is one of only two woman running a Fortune 500 company to have an undergraduate degree from an Ivy League institution. (This doesn’t appear to be a gendered issue. Only four percent of the men in our sample attended an Ivy League school.)
What about other factors like experience in consulting or banking? Also a bust.
Early stints in consulting and banking also hardly seem to be a prerequisite for either gender: about three-quarters of the men and women do not have any reference in their publically available resumes to time spent in either industry, liberally defined, at any time. Prestigious MBA programs are also hardly a requirement; only 25% of the women and 16% of the men hold an MBA from a top-ten school. In short, for both male and female Fortune 500 CEOs, collecting a single conventional badge of prestige, let alone collecting a handful of them, may help, but is hardly a gating factor.
This matches with my experience. I have known a good number of Fortune 1000 CEOs over the years and their backgrounds match what the authors are describing. Sure, a few prestige MBAs and occasionally someone out of the consulting or banking fields, but overwhelmingly they are individuals that are bright, paid their dues, stayed focused, invested time and effort, did well, kept their nose clean.

The Gramscian advocates out there who want to define the world as privileged one percenters from country club backgrounds and old boy networks based on where you went to school just don't have empirical objective data on their side.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Cold War as a progenitor of cognitive pollution

Eric Raymond is a computer programmer of rare talent and has a blog, Armed and Dangerous, which is perhaps 65% programming related and 35% dicussion of a diverse range of issues and observations. He brings an eclectic and ranging intellect to his posts which are almost always intriguing. One such is Gramscian damage by Eric Raymond. There is a tone of conspiracy theory to it which always puts me off, but Raymond's intellect and accomplishments demand some latitude and the case he makes is somewhat persuasive.

Raymond's argument is that we are still working through the consequences of a Gramscian game initiated by the Soviets during the Cold War.
The Soviets, following the lead of Marxist theoreticians like Antonio Gramsci, took very seriously the idea that by blighting the U.S.’s intellectual and esthetic life, they could sap Americans’ will to resist Communist ideology and an eventual Communist takeover. The explicit goal was to erode the confidence of America’s ruling class and create an ideological vacuum to be filled by Marxism-Leninism.

Accordingly, the Soviet espionage apparat actually ran two different kinds of network: one of spies, and one of agents of influence. The agents of influence had the minor function of recruiting spies (as, for example, when Kim Philby was brought in by one of his tutors at Cambridge), but their major function was to spread dezinformatsiya, to launch memetic weapons that would damage and weaken the West.

In a previous post on Suicidalism, I identified some of the most important of the Soviet Union’s memetic weapons. Here is that list again:
There is no truth, only competing agendas.

All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the West’s history of racism and colonialism.

There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such standards is an evil oppressor.

The prosperity of the West is built on ruthless exploitation of the Third World; therefore Westerners actually deserve to be impoverished and miserable.

Crime is the fault of society, not the individual criminal. Poor criminals are entitled to what they take. Submitting to criminal predation is more virtuous than resisting it.

The poor are victims. Criminals are victims. And only victims are virtuous. Therefore only the poor and criminals are virtuous. (Rich people can borrow some virtue by identifying with poor people and criminals.)

For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified. It is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself. But ‘oppressed’ people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.

When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorist’s point of view, and make concessions.
As I previously observed, if you trace any of these back far enough, you’ll find a Stalinist intellectual at the bottom. (The last two items on the list, for example, came to us courtesy of Frantz Fanon. The fourth item is the Baran-Wallerstein “world system” thesis.) Most were staples of Soviet propaganda at the same time they were being promoted by “progressives” (read: Marxists and the dupes of Marxists) within the Western intelligentsia.

The Soviets consciously followed the Gramscian prescription; they pursued a war of position, subverting the “leading elements” of society through their agents of influence. (See, for example, Stephen Koch’s Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals; summary by Koch here) This worked exactly as expected; their memes seeped into Western popular culture and are repeated endlessly in (for example) the products of Hollywood.

Indeed, the index of Soviet success is that most of us no longer think of these memes as Communist propaganda. It takes a significant amount of digging and rethinking and remembering, even for a lifelong anti-Communist like myself, to realize that there was a time (within the lifetime of my parents) when all of these ideas would have seemed alien, absurd, and repulsive to most people — at best, the beliefs of a nutty left-wing fringe, and at worst instruments of deliberate subversion intended to destroy the American way of life.
There's more interesting material in the original post, but that's the gist of it.

I was particularly taken by that list of postmodernist, critical theorist, multiculturalist, nihilistic, politically correct nostrums. Each of them have enough of a grain of truth in them to gain traction with the intellectually anemic, and yet on critical examination, carry no water. Some are non sequiturs, some are meaningless statements, some are flat out wrong. Some are normative statements without empirical support.

There is no truth, only competing agendas.

The poor are victims. Criminals are victims. And only victims are virtuous.

For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified.

Non sequiturs
All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the West’s history of racism and colonialism.

There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another.

The prosperity of the West is built on ruthless exploitation of the Third World

When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorist’s point of view, and make concessions.

Crime is the fault of society, not the individual criminal.
Sure, there are a lot of nuances, and there is scope for argument around the margins, but the broad thrust of these bedrock assumptions of the critical theorists and politically correct are simply wrong or meaningless no matter how reasonable they appear at first blush. All you have to do is ask, "How would I know whether this is true?" Once asked, it becomes obvious that all these are nonsense statements in terms of logic and/or evidence.

But if you were to ask which of these statements was true of a High School senior, a graduating college student, anyone in a Studies program or the softer social sciences, or journalists and others of the clerisy, and you would likely get assent on most if not all. What you would not get is evidence to support that statement of faith.

These belief sets and their attendant fantasies are debilitating to any individual and undermining of a functioning society. It is grievous the volume of cognitive pollution generated by the Cold War and curious as to its longevity. It would be interesting to do a correlation between the degree to which individuals believe these propositions and the nature of their accomplished life outcomes (income, wealth accumulation, education attainment, etc.).

UPDATE: The Soviet Union may have pursued this in order to create an ideological vacuum to be filled by Marxism-Leninism. The irony is that though the Soviet Union is long gone and communism in its various masks is thoroughly discredited, the seeds of the Gramscian memes are still bearing fruit. Gramscian memes are still fostering an ideological vacuum which will not be filled by Marxism-Leninism but by old fashioned Nationalism or Totalitarianism or Fascism or some other noxious ideology. We may be slowly turning back these Gramscian memes but not fast enough.

Friday, November 14, 2014

People are really complicated.

A couple of very interesting points in The Mother of All Gender Gaps from TheMoneyIllusion.

First there is an opening discussion about definitions regarding how to measure the gap in survey data. Interesting but let's not get distracted.

The substance of the post relates to this news.
A fascinating new national poll from Quinnipiac University shows that men and women disagree markedly on the question of marijuana legalization. While men surveyed strongly favor legalization by a margin of 59 to 36 percent, women oppose it by a clear majority of 52-44 percent. This 15-point gender gap in support for marijuana legalization –let’s call it the “pot gender gap” — is not quite as large as the 20-point gender gap in support for President Obama in the 2012 presidential election, but it is striking. What’s most interesting, though, is how it confounds the expectations set by the voting gender gap. In voting, women trend more liberal and Democratic, while men trend more conservative and Republican. Yet with the pot gender gap, we see women taking the more conservative, law-and-order approach.
To make it a little clearer, 59% of men support the legalization of pot and only 44% of women do so. That is a pretty big gap. The author introduces some other evidence which yields even larger gaps.
That uses the approach I am more familiar with. But by that approach, the drug gap is actually 31%, which makes the drug legalization gender gap far larger than the biggest presidential election gender gap ever recorded. A 31 point gap is mind-boggling by itself, but it’s even more astounding when you consider it reverses the normal liberal/conservative split between men and women. This fact would tell us a lot about politics, if we bothered to pay attention. Instead all you see in the media is endless generalizations about the left and the right, as if the views of African-Americans on social issues, for instance, could be understood simply by noting the fact that they tend to vote Democratic. People are really complicated.
As the author notes, these gaps in opinion on legalizing pot dwarf the comparatively small gaps in left/right voting based on gender.

The rest of the post is speculation about what might drive such a material gap. Interesting.

Six filters for cognitive pollution

From 6 Tests for Evaluating Conspiracy Theories from Real Clear Policy. Somewhat useful at a high level for filtering out routine cognitive pollution.

The six filters are:
Occam's Razor - Is the conspiracy theory different from the simplest explanation? If not, be skeptical of complex theories.

Falsifiability - Can the theory be falsified? If not, dismiss.

The Worst Intentions Test - Is the track record of the conspirators consistent with what is being alleged about them?

The Cui Bono Test - Does the theory actually explain benefits accruing to the purported conspirators? If the conspirators do not benefit, be skeptical.

Eternal Recurrence of the Same - Is the theory founded on unique conditions or circumstances not experienced elsewhere? If so, be skeptical.

The Impartial Spectator Test - Does the theory pass the reasonable person test? If not, be skeptical.