Thursday, March 29, 2012

A genetic argument for minimal government

The man with the hat (Tuccille) understates the case below. There has long been evidence that overall political orientation is HIGHLY hereditary

If you and I entertain such inherently different preferences about the sort of society in which we want to live that common ground is limited, can expansive, top-down policy-making ever be anything more than an in-your-face power play? If political arguments are doomed to be unpersuasive to much of the opposition, no matter how well-stated, because of vast and largely unmovable differences in values and assumptions, isn’t keeping state interference in people’s lives to a minimum a matter not just of political preference, but the only course for avoiding a permanent state of low-level civil war?

I’ve written before about Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt‘s interesting research into the moral foundations of ideology and the different values and assumptions that separate liberals, conservatives and libertarians. These differences hold strong implications for the likely outcome of policy debates, since they make it clear that various factions often speak past each other, since they’re working from varying moral emphases and different concepts of good and bad when it comes to both means and ends — even the language they use can be confusing, since meanings of words vary among the factions.

Now Haidt comes forward with new information suggesting that conversation among ideological opponents can be even more difficult than previously thought. In an article (not yet online), “Born This Way?”, in the latest issue of Reason, Haidt writes of evidence that our ideology is, partially, determined by genetic factors that govern our risk aversion and our openness to new experiences. These innate traits then nudge us along paths in life that tend to reinforce our inherent inclinations.

Haidt is careful to emphasize that we’re not hard-wired into our political beliefs. He’s talking about a nudge that is likely to be self-reinforcing rather than genetically predetermined belief systems.

Genetics explains between one-third and one-half of the variability among people in their political attitudes. Being raised in a liberal or conservative household accounts for much less.

Our genetic traits lead us to respond to situations, pick careers, choose neighborhoods and associate with people in ways that reinforce our tendencies. Haidt points out that society has changed in recent years in ways that make it increasingly easy to surround ourselves with the familiar and like-minded and disassociate from people and situations that would pull us in a different direction.

Technology and changing residential patterns have allowed each of us to isolate ourselves within cocoons of likeminded individuals. In 1976, only 27 percent of Americans lived in “landslide” counties — counties that voted either Democratic or Republican by a margin of 20 percentage points or more. But the number has risen steadily; in 2008, 48 percent of Americans lived in a landslide county.

This same point about Americans self-sorting ourselves along ideological lines was made several years in The Big Sort by Bill Bishop and Robert G. Cushing. Now, Haidt tells us that we’re actually reinforcing genetic traits.

I don’t see anything in this research that’s guaranteed to make liberals, conservatives and libertarians like each other more, or find each other more sympathetic. But I do see lessons here regarding the limits of debate and the wisdom of letting people live their own lives with minimal interference. If we don’t just choose to embrace vastly different beliefs, but we entertain beliefs toward which we’re nudged by our internal source codes, it strikes me as both arrogant and cruel to impose policies on one another that must always be perceived by our opponents as alien and incomprehensible.

Democracy doesn’t change this dynamic, since democratic outcomes may just represent differences in genetic distributions across various populations, with the same impossibility of converting opponents to the majority’s way of thinking.

Yes, we need to be better about trying to understand each other, but I think it’s even more important to make allowances for each other’s preferences. The emphasis should be less on winning overall policy battles than on making as much space as possible for people to live according to their own beliefs — beliefs, it seems, that have their roots at the genetic level.



Geraldo's Point was right

Thomas Sowell

It is not often that I agree with Geraldo Rivera, but recently he said something very practical and potentially life-saving, when he urged black and Hispanic parents not to let their children go around wearing hoodies.

There is no point in dressing like a hoodlum when you are not a hoodlum, even though that has become a fashion for some minority youths, including the teenager who was shot and killed in a confrontation in Florida. I don't know the whole story of that tragedy, any more than those who are making loud noises in the media do, but that is something that we have trials for.

People have a right to dress any way they want to, but exercising that right is something that requires common sense, and common sense is something that parents should have, even if their children don't always have it.

Many years ago, when I was a student at Harvard, there was a warning to all the students to avoid a nearby tough Irish neighborhood, where Harvard students had been attacked. It so happened that there was a black neighborhood on the other side of the Irish neighborhood that I had to pass through when I went to get my hair cut.

I never went through that Irish neighborhood dressed in the style of most Harvard students back then. I walked through that Irish neighborhood dressed like a black working man would be dressed -- and I never had the slightest trouble the whole three years that I was at Harvard.

While I had a right to walk through that tough neighborhood dressed in a Brooks Brothers suit, if I wanted to -- and if I could have afforded one, which I couldn't -- it made no sense for me to court needless dangers.

The man who shot the black teenager in Florida may be as guilty as sin, for all I know -- or he may be innocent, for all I know. We pay taxes so that there can be judges and jurors who sort out the facts. We do not need Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton or the President of the United States spouting off before the trial has even begun. Have we forgotten the media's rush to judgment in the Duke University "rape" case that blew up completely when the facts came out?

If the facts show that a teenager who was no threat to anyone was shot and killed, it will be time to call for the death penalty. But if the facts show that the shooter was innocent, then it will be time to call for people in the media and in politics to keep their big mouths shut until they know what they are talking about.

Playing with racial polarization is playing with fire.

Much has been made of the fact that the teenager was unarmed. The only time I have ever pointed a loaded gun at a human being, I had no idea whether he was armed or not. All I knew was that I could hear his footsteps sneaking up behind me at night.

Fortunately for both of us, he froze in his tracks when I pointed a gun at him. If he had made a false move, I would have shot him. And if it had turned out later that he was unarmed, I would not have lost a moment's sleep over it.

You know that someone was unarmed only after it is all over. If he attacks, you have to shoot, if only to keep the attacker from getting your gun.

It so happened that the man I pointed a gun at was white. But he could have been any color of the rainbow, and it would not have made the slightest difference.

Let the specific facts come out in the Florida case. That is why we have courts.

Have we forgotten the Jim Crow era, with courts making decisions based on the race of the defendants, rather than the facts of the case? That is part of the past that we need to leave in the past, not resurrect it under new racial management.

Who is really showing concern for the well-being of minority youngsters, Geraldo Rivera who is trying to save some lives, or Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and others who are hyping this tragic episode for their own benefit?

Race hustlers who hype paranoia and belligerence are doing no favor to minority youngsters. There is no way to know how many of these youngsters' confrontations with the police or others in authority have been needlessly aggravated by the steady drumbeat of racial hype they have been bombarded with by race hustlers.

SOURCE. (More commentary on GUN WATCH)


Are the "Less Fortunate" Less Fortunate?

Dennis Prager

In his front-page-of-the-business-section "Economic Scene" column in The New York Times last week, Eduardo Porter wrote, "The United States does less than other rich countries to transfer income from the affluent to the less fortunate."

Think about that sentence for a moment. It ends oddly. Logic dictates that it should have said, "transfer income from the affluent to the less affluent," not the less fortunate.

But for Porter, as for the left generally, those who are not affluent are not merely "less affluent," they are "less fortunate."

Why is this? Why is the leftist division almost always between the "affluent" and the "less fortunate" or between the "more fortunate" and the "less fortunate"?

To understand the left, one must understand that in its view the greatest evil is material inequality. The left is more troubled by economic inequality than by evil, as humanity has generally understood the term. The leftist divides the world not between good and evil but rich and poor.

Because inequality is the chief moral concern of the left, the words "less affluent" or even "poorer" do not meet the left's moral needs. It needs to believe, and to have others believe, that what separates economic classes is not merely how much material wealth members of each class have. Rather, it is the amount of good and bad luck -- "fortune," as the left puts it -- that each class has.

This is how the left justifies high taxes. Isn't it only fair and moral that as much money as possible be taken from the lucky and given to the unlucky? After all, the affluent didn't achieve affluence through harder work, but through greater luck.

To acknowledge that most of America's affluent (meaning those who earn over $200,000) have attained their affluence through hard work is to undermine the fairness issue at the core of the left's understanding of economic inequality and justification for confiscatory taxes.

For the left, affluence is won, not earned. Indeed, English is one of the few languages that even has or uses the word "earn" in regard to income. In Romance languages such as French, the verb meaning to earn is "gagner," which means "to win." In terms of language, in America, people earn their wealth, while in most of Europe and Latin America, people win it.

The fact is that, except for those very few whose wealth is overwhelmingly or entirely inherited, the more affluent have usually worked harder than the less affluent. While, of course, there are hardworking poor people just as there are Wall Street CEOs who do not deserve their "golden parachutes," in America, differences in income exist largely because of the values and the hard work of those who make more money.

In this regard, The Washington Post reported the findings of Harvard professor Daniel Kahneman, winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics:

"People who make less than $20,000 a year ... told Kahneman and his colleagues that they spend more than a third of their time in passive leisure -- watching television, for example. Those making more than $100,000 spent less than one-fifth of their time in this way -- putting their legs up and relaxing. Rich people spent much more time commuting and engaging in activities that were required as opposed to optional."

But for the left, it's all about "fortune." Every poll about the left, the right and happiness reveals that the further left one goes, the less happy the person is likely to be. This is one of the reasons: If you really believe that people wealthier than you are just luckier than you, how can you not be angry, resentful and unhappy?

On the other hand, there are tens of millions of conservatives who make much less money than others -- yet feed their families, own a house and a car, have decent children, derive great meaning from their religion and live in the freest country in the world -- who never call themselves "less fortunate." They call themselves fortunate.




When in Rome: A theory of how to change moral sentiments: "It is easier to get people to opt into a society with different norms than it is to convince them to change their behavior while everyone else remains the same. Grafting new rules on top of old institutions is a perilous journey. There’s lots to talk about in Jonathan Haidt’s fascinating book, The Righteous Mind, but I was struck by Haidt’s own story. He didn’t notice how impoverished the typical secular urban moral palette is until he lived in India."

Terrorist Alert: Government extremists threaten Americans: "Question: are you more terrified by Muslim extremists, by 'domestic terrorists' -- or by your own government? Which group is more likely to assault you? To kill you? To unjustly imprison and even torture you?"

Egypt and the perversion of American values: "The current controversy over U.S. foreign aid to Egypt highlights perfectly the moral bankruptcy of U.S. foreign policy and what such a policy has done to our nation. For the past three decades, the U.S. government has been funneling billions of dollars to the military dictatorship in Egypt. Notice the operative word in that sentence: dictatorship"

Court may restrain Donks: "As most readers are no doubt aware, the Supreme Court this week takes up six hours of argument in the Obamacare litigation. Constitutional claims that were originally dismissed as 'frivolous' and 'easy' are now getting three days of hearings -- unprecedented in the modern era. The Court has thus signaled what the American people have known all along, that the government’s breathtaking assertion of power goes beyond anything attempted in the history of the Republic."

The receding tide: "In America, the Constitution is largely and increasingly ignored by the government. Constitutionally the three branches of government are co-equal, but in practice the Supreme Court is of little consequence and Congress is the action arm of a corporate oligarchy. Constitutionally Congress must declare war, but now the president sends combat troops wherever he pleases and Congress reads about it in the Washington Post. The president can order citizens murdered, ignore habeas corpus, monitor and store email. The government can search you at will with no pretense of probable cause. Third World."



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