Monday, March 19, 2012

Are Catholics less creative?

The article below has only recently been brought to my attention. It claims that Catholics are less creative. I guess Leonardo, Titian, Tintoretto, Canaletto, Vivaldi, Monteverdi, Puccini etc don't count. The claim is too silly for me to look at the article in detail so I will content myself with making one general point: There is no such thing as a general factor of creativity. It's all domain-specific, and usually VERY domain specific. Great painters don't make great composers and vice versa. I, for instance, have a small gift for writing publishable (and published) academic journal articles but I couldn't write a novel for nuts. So the article below purports to examine something that does not exist. You can speak of creativity in a narrowly-defined field only. Overall creativity does not exist.
Cross-national Comparisons of Catholic-Protestant Creativity Differences


It has been argued that personality factors associated with authoritarianism-dogmatism are antithetical to creativity. This study attempts to determine if these findings can be demonstrated in real or naturally occurring groups and if they are affected by socio-political contexts. The groups compared are matched samples of Roman Catholic and Protestant students from the United States, Northern Ireland, Eire and Scotland. Psychological evidence of relatively high authoritarianism in Roman Catholics and sociological indications of relatively low creative production by Roman Catholics lead to the general hypothesis that Catholic students will perform less well on mental ability tests of creativity factors.

A two-way analysis of variance design (country v. religion) is employed to test the hypotheses. The results indicate that there are large and statistically significant differences between Catholic and Protestant students in the U.S. and Northern Ireland. Catholic students in these countries evidenced less originality, ideational fluency and spontaneous flexibility than Protestants. There were generally no differences between the groups in Eire and Scotland. It is concluded that the antithesis of dogmatism-authoritarianism to creativity can be demonstrated in naturally occurring groups and that these differences are affected by the socio-political contexts in which the groups exist.

British Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Volume 10, Issue 2, pages 132–137, June 1971


Red Ink on the Rise

When it comes to regulations, President Obama’s message to his conservative critics seems to be: Message received. Early last year, he vowed to crack down on over-zealous rule-making, noting that the “rules have gotten out of balance” and “have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs.” He’s right -- they have.

But actions speak louder than words, don’t they? For regardless of how tough the president may talk on regulation, his administration has enacted far more major regulations -- and significantly more expensive ones -- over the first three years of his presidency than the Bush administration enacted during its first three years.

This runs counter to what we’ve heard from the president’s apologists. Over the last several months, they’ve been bragging about his rule-making record. As the president himself said during his most recent State of the Union address: “I’ve approved fewer regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my Republican predecessor did in his.”

But a new report from The Heritage Foundation, “Red Tape Rising,” shows just the opposite is true. This administration has been on a rule-making tear.

Specifically, during the three years of the Obama administration, 106 new major regulations have been imposed at a price tag of more than $46 billion annually -- and that’s on top of nearly $11 billion in one-time implementation costs.

How does this compare to the number of major regulations that were imposed under President George W. Bush? It’s almost four times higher. And the cost? About five times higher. Something’s “gotten out of balance,” all right. With so many rules being laid on the backs of businesses both large and small, is it any surprise that job creation has been so slow for much of the latest economic recovery?

In December, the National Federation of Independent Business asked small-business owners to name their single biggest problem. The number-one choice, named by 19 percent of those who responded, was “regulations and red tape.” It came in ahead of “poor sales” (though it’s easy to see how all these new rules depress sales). That’s up from 15 percent a year ago. Clearly the regulatory burden is getting heavier.

And you can be sure that the weight of that burden is being shared. The costs of these regulations are passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices and limited product choices. Take the price controls that bureaucrats slapped last year on the fees that banks may charge to process debit-card transactions. It prompted banks to cancel many rewards programs and free services. And it has led to higher fees on checking accounts and credit cards.

Hardly an area of our lives goes untouched by regulation. The new rules for last year alone covered many activities, including refrigerators, freezers, clothes dryers, air conditioners, and energy standards for fluorescent lights. There were new testing and labeling requirements for toys, limits on automotive emissions of “greenhouse gases,” requirements for posting federal labor rules, and more explicit warnings for cigarette packages. The list goes on.

The main troublemaker? The 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-regulation law. It alone is responsible for 12 major rules. So far, that is. Hundreds more Dodd–Frank rules remain to be written. And then there the rules still to come from Obamacare, and from the Environmental Protection Agency’s global-warming crusade.

That’s why it’s crucial for Congress to take some common-sense steps now. They can start by requiring congressional approval of any new major regulations that agencies promulgate. Another why-haven’t-they-thought-of-it-sooner solution: requiring that all major regulations have an expiration (“sunset”) date.

“This regulatory tide is not expected to ebb anytime soon,” warns “Red Tape Rising.” Let’s act now -- before we’re all underwater.



Gallup Calls BS on BLS Unemployment Data

The latest BLS jobs report and the latest Gallup survey on jobs and unemployment are so out of line, that Gallup has commented on it in followup article Unemployment Numbers Suggest U.S. Economic Boom, or Not
A careful look at the government's unadjusted household unemployment data shows a stunning 740,000 jobs added to the economy in February -- three times the 227,000 reported based on the establishment payroll survey.

If this is economic reality, then the underlying economy must be growing much faster than most Americans currently believe. If the U.S. economy is surging, and jobs increased at the rate of three-quarters of a million last month, why haven't we heard a lot more about it? And, given a rapidly expanding economy, how can Gallup's nearly 30,000 random interviews with Americans across the nation show a significant increase in the unemployment rate?

This morning on CNBC, there was discussion about how the increase in payroll survey jobs is hard to reconcile with economists' growth estimates for the U.S. economy. If the payroll jobs numbers are right, then the economy is growing faster than estimated, or maybe, productivity is plunging. Of course, if there are questions about how we reconcile payroll jobs with other economic data, making economic sense of the household survey surge in jobs is even more difficult.



The Media Endorse Barack Obama

Writing in this space two months ago, I laid out the media advantage that President Obama has in his quest for reelection. According to a study done by the Pew Research Center, 32 percent of journalists say they are liberal, 53 percent moderate and just 8 percent conservative. Ask John McCain how the press treated him in 2008 if you want specifics on the tilt toward Obama.

A great illustration of media bias is the recent dustup over Sandra Fluke. She is the liberal activist trotted out by the Democratic Party to deflect the contraception issue away from the "church-state" controversy the White House was losing and into the more emotional "women's health" arena. Nancy Pelosi herself organized a press dog-and-pony show for Fluke, who portrays herself as a law student having a rough time paying for birth control pills. She wants the feds to pick up the tab through mandated insurance benefits even though the pills cost about $9 a month at places like Wal-Mart, and are distributed free at health clinics under Title Ten legislation.

But you won't find those facts being discussed much in the national media. No, for them, Fluke is a victim of a cruel system that wants to unduly burden American women.


Of course, Fluke was handed an enormous gift by Rush Limbaugh when he made demeaning comments about her. Immediately, the committed left-wing media machine, led by the amazingly dishonest Media Matters website, cranked up two themes: that Limbaugh should be deported to Tonga, and that he is the real power behind the Republican Party.

MSNBC, which is now partnered with Media Matters in the quest to disseminate left-wing propaganda, went wild, and so, to a lesser extent, did other national media outlets. The story line is that because the Republican candidates did not call for Limbaugh to be sent to Guantanamo Bay, they endorsed his attitude toward Fluke. The analysis was so hysterical that it could have been a Jon Stewart bit, and in fact it was.

The bigger picture is this: Voters who do not pay close attention to public policy and political controversies are at the mercy of so-called "prevailing wisdom" -- that is, what they hear around town, from their friends, etc. As long as most of the media, including the entertainment industry, promote one particular candidate for president, that person will have a major advantage in November.

But informed voters know the fix is in, although there's little they can do about it. A Pew survey taken in January found that 67 percent of Americans believe there is bias in news coverage. They are right, and it is toward the left.

Few in the press are reporting the truth about Sandra Fluke. That is an indicator of what the American media have become, as well as what is likely to come as the election campaign unfolds.



How We Can Keep From Going Broke

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other social insurance programs are bankrupting America. They will produce ever-escalating deficits for as far as the eye can see.

So what can we do about it? All we hear out of Washington are "eat-your-spinach" solutions — both from Democrats and Republicans. These involve cutting benefits, forcing doctors to ration health care, etc. Naturally, the beneficiaries resist such change.

My colleagues and I at the National Center for Policy Analysis have been thinking about a different approach. Reform of entitlement programs should be a win-win proposition. That is, it should be good for the individual who agrees to accept fewer government benefits as well as for the taxpayers.

Here is part of the idea. People of any age should have the choice to opt out of social insurance in favor of alternatives that better meet their individual and family needs. In particular, they should be able to substitute assets and arrangements they have voluntarily chosen, and that they own and control, for the government systems they are now forced to be part of. In particular:

* People should be able to substitute private savings, private pensions and annuities, and private insurance for participation in Social Security.

* They should be able to substitute private insurance and private health savings for participation in Medicare and for participation in the federalized health care system sometimes called ObamaCare.

* They should be able to substitute private disability insurance for participation in the federal disability program.

* They should be able to substitute private savings, private pensions and annuities, and private insurance for participation in Medicaid’s long-term care insurance.

* At their place of work, employees and their employers should be free to choose private unemployment insurance arrangements, private disability insurance and private alternatives to workers’ compensation.

There is only one general condition that must govern these choices: They must not increase the expected burden for other taxpayers. This means (1) there must be a reasonable expectation that the direct tax burden for others will not rise as a result of an individual’s opting out and (2) there must be a reasonable expectation that the individual will not try to return to the government program (thus creating an additional burden for everyone else) if the private option turns out to be disappointing.




Crony capitalism comes with big government: "Economic policy issues often divide on 'pro-business' and 'pro-government' arguments, with the pro-government side arguing that we need big government to correct the failures of the market, regulate business activity, and stand up to crony capitalism. The problem with this pro-government view is that crony capitalism inevitably comes with big government."

The right way to make money: "If you focus on making money, you end up making a lot of bad decisions. Paradoxically, if your goal is to make money, it’s better to think about making a great product, making the customer happy and so on with the constraints of making money along the way. The best corporate cultures encourage excellence, not the bottom line."

CBO report says healthcare law could cause as many as 20M to lose coverage: "As many as 20 million Americans could lose their employer-provided coverage because of President Obama's healthcare reform law, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in a new report Thursday. The figure represents the worst-case scenario, CBO says, and the law could just as well increase the number of people with employer-based coverage by 3 million in 2019. The best estimate, subject to a "tremendous amount of uncertainty," is that about 3 million to 5 million fewer people will obtain coverage through their employer each year from 2019 through 2022.



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