Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Some more observations about Ron Unz and IQ

There is an ongoing "debate" between Richard Lynn and Ron Unz regarding international variations in IQ. Although he is the publisher of "The American Conservative", Unz takes the classic Leftist view that low IQ is caused by poverty, although he does make the concession that "some residual European IQ differences might indeed be due to genetics rather than environment".

Poverty is the cause of everything according to Leftists. They even blamed the 9/11 events on poverty until it finally penetrated their unseeing eyes that Bin Laden was in fact a billionaire.

Unz's article is replete with accusations that Lynn has acted in bad faith (though not in those words), which seems to me rather deplorable, though I was not too surprised by it. When Unz replied to my observations about crime and immigration, his comments were almost hilariously "ad hominem": He suggested that I was disqualified from commenting on such matters because I live in Australia!

Perhaps I can be rather Old Testament in the matter however by in turn accusing Unz of bad faith. In his desire to discredit Lynn's hypothesis of substantial genetic influence on IQ he cherrypicks his data heavily, as Sanders has pointed out at length. And it also seems to me that he rushes by the German data in great haste. I would think that the differences between the old East and West Germany should be a very good test of Unz's "poverty" hypothesis. After several generations of real poverty, East Germans were found to have average IQs that were about the same as West Germans -- even though West Germany was one of the world's most prosperous countries, one which made a "miraculous" economic recovery from WWII (the famous Wirtschaftswunder).

If poverty had no effect there, whence Unz's claim that poverty explains almost all IQ variation? Unz does not allude to the German results in his latest article but here is what he said in his earlier article:
Consider, for example, the results from Germany obtained prior to its 1991 reunification. Lynn and Vanhanen present four separate IQ studies from the former West Germany, all quite sizable, which indicate mean IQs in the range 99–107, with the oldest 1970 sample providing the low end of that range. Meanwhile, a 1967 sample of East German children produced a score of just 90, while two later East German studies in 1978 and 1984 came in at 97–99, much closer to the West German numbers.

These results seem anomalous from the perspective of strong genetic determinism for IQ. To a very good approximation, East Germans and West Germans are genetically indistinguishable, and an IQ gap as wide as 17 points between the two groups seems inexplicable, while the recorded rise in East German scores of 7–9 points in just half a generation seems even more difficult to explain.

Unz here cherrypicks again by seizing on the widest possible gap in the data rather than on the reasonably inferrable average. The 107 result is clearly an outlier and a West German mean of around 100 seems the best attested. And the convergence between the two later East German studies suggest that the 1967 East German finding was also an outlier. So we are left with an East German mean that is essentially undistinguishable from the West German mean.

Will Unz be defeated by that fact? Perhaps not. He leaves himself an "out" by saying "but East Germans hardly suffered from severe dietary deficiencies". So now it is not poverty that affects IQ but rather "severe dietary deficiencies". The goalposts have moved!

I don't know that it is really worth saying much more about Unz's merry journey through the data but I will briefly mention two other points: Unz consistently discounts the immigrant effect, the claim that immigrants are in various ways a superior subset of their parent population. Yet the USA seems a clear proof that such an effect exists. Herrnstein & Murray long ago showed that lower IQ goes with lower social class and the mass of immigrants to both Australia and America in the past were clearly from the lower strata of their host societies. To this day, upper class English accents are as rare in Australia as British regional accents are common. So average white IQs in both Australia and America should be lower than the average IQ in (say) Britain -- right?

But it isn't so. The average IQ in all three countries is essentially the same. The most readily apparent explanation for that convergence would seem to be the immigrant effect: The immigrants were a superior subset of the population from which they originated. And the way America has in various ways led and dominated the world at least since WWII would also seem to suggest that those immigrant genes were pretty good.

A final point in defence of Lynn. Unz says: "Finally, Lynn closes his rebuttal by repeating his boilerplate disclaimer that he has “never maintained that IQ is overwhelmingly determined by genetics,” although this seems to be his clear reasoning in every single particular example he discusses"

I suspect here that Unz is failing to see that Lynn has had two aims in his work: His main aim is to show that IQ is economically important and ascribing any origin to the differences observed is secondary to that aim. And that refusal to ascribe is what Lynn is doing when he makes modest claims for what he has shown. In science, however, once one question is answered, new questions arise and Lynn's demonstration of national differences in IQ does quite immediately lead to a question of how those IQ differences arise. And in rejecting Unz's "poverty" reasoning Lynn has moved on to the derivative question.

And even there, I think Unz is seeing only what he wants to see in Lynn's words. Lynn's denial of an "overwhelming" influence is perfectly consistent with around 100 years of IQ research. The normal finding from twin studies is that IQ is about two thirds genetically determined. Whether two thirds is "overwhelming", I leave others to judge but I submit that Unz has read more into Lynn's words than is there.

Prominent psychologist Steven Pinker also has some comments on Unz's dubious logic and in addition makes some useful points about the massive support for the heritability of IQ etc. He is far too cautious to endorse Lynn's position, however. To do so would be academic suicide -- JR


History will judge

I know that history is very poorly taught in the schools these days so at the risk of being tedious, the toon features Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan and some emptyhead


Supreme Court Saved the Near Poor

Here's the most underreported story of the summer. When the Supreme Court ruled on the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) it inadvertently liberated millions of people who were going to be forced into Medicaid. Now they will have the opportunity to have private health insurance instead. What difference does that make? It could be the difference between life and death.

A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report this week says there are 3 million such people. The actual number could be several times that size. But first things first.

Imagine that you are the head of a family of three, struggling to get by on an income, say, of $25,000 a year. You've signed up for your employer's health plan because you want your family to get good health care when they need it. But that takes a big bite out of your paycheck — $250 a month.

When you first heard about the president's health plan, you heard him say that if you like the plan you're in you can keep it. That was good news. You also believed the whole point of the reform was to help families like yours get health insurance if for some reason you had to seek insurance on your own.

Now get ready for some surprises. The first will be an announcement that in another year or so your employer's health plan will no longer be available to you. The reason: plain economics. People at your income level will qualify for as good or better health insurance in a new health insurance exchange. And almost all the premium will be paid for by the federal government. Most people like you would rather have higher wages than a health plan that duplicates what you can get almost for free, your employer will reason. So in order to compete for labor, your company will have to give prospective employees the compensation package they most want. And your employer will be right.

Then there will be a second surprise. Under the new rules, if you are eligible for Medicaid, you can't get private insurance in the exchange. Further the health reform law is designed to force the states to raise the income level for Medicaid. If your state complies, someone with your income will be eligible for Medicaid and you won't be allowed in the exchange!

Now if you were a resident alien, the rules are different. Since they don't generally qualify for Medicaid, immigrant families at your income level can get subsidized private insurance in the exchange. But alas, you're a citizen. So this option isn't open to you.

Now let's say you are under the impression that Medicaid is second rate insurance and you remember that your employer promised to pay more in wages once your health benefit is gone. What about using the higher wages from your employer to buy private insurance outside the exchange?

Now get ready for the third surprise. There isn't going to be any market for private insurance outside the exchange — at least not for you. The insurance companies are going away. The brokers are going away. The market is going way.

Now for the final surprise. The only option open to you under the Affordable Care Act is Medicaid! Why should you care? Because your initial impression is correct. Medicaid is second rate insurance.

In most places Medicaid patients have a terrible time finding doctors who will see them and facilities that will admit them. That's why so many of them turn to community health centers and the emergency rooms of safety net hospitals for basic medical care. Medicaid enrollees turn to emergency rooms for their care twice as often as the privately insured and even the uninsured. In fact, if you're trying to get a primary care appointment, it appears your chances are better if you say you are uninsured.

Study after study has found that patients on Medicaid have worse outcomes than patients with private insurance. With respect to cancer care, outcomes are much better if you have private insurance, but there does not seem to be much difference between Medicaid and being uninsured. Health blogger Avik Roy summarizes other studies that find that Medicaid patients do no better and sometimes worse than the uninsured. Additional evidence is supplied by Scott Gottlieb.

But now a rescuer has appeared on the scene. The US Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government can't force the states to expand their Medicaid programs. If your state doesn't, then you can enter the exchange and get private health insurance after all. Right? Maybe.

Here is where is gets little bit tricky, owing to the bizarre structure of ObamaCare. The new health law is trying to get the states to expand Medicaid eligibility to 138% of the federal poverty level ($15,415 for an individual or $26,344 for a family of three). But let's suppose that, thanks to the Supreme Court, a state doesn't do anything. It turns out that only people who are between 100% and 138% of poverty can then go into the exchange and get private insurance.

However, if you are at, say, 90% of the federal poverty level and not eligible for Medicaid, then you will not be allowed into the exchange. You will be in a sort of "no-man's-land" donut hole. And the only way out will be for you to somehow earn more income. Or, lie about it. This may be one of the very few instances where people will find it their self-interest to tell the IRS their income is higher than it really is!

According to the CBO about two-thirds of the states will not expand eligibility above 100% of the federal poverty level. That's why 3 million citizens will be liberated and will get private insurance instead. Moreover, the subsides in the exchange are incredibly generous. The most the family has to pay is 2% of their income. In the example above, you would pay $500 for an insurance plan that could be worth as much as $15,000!

Further, the private plans in the exchange will pay providers about 50% higher fees that the rock bottom payments they would have gotten from Medicaid. This will be a huge relief for safety net facilities that are scraping by on inadequate resources as it is. And it's a reason why the CBO may have underestimated how many states will find this option very attractive.

ObamaCare is still a Rube Goldberg contraption that desperately needs repealing and replacing. But in the interim, the Supreme Court has done a lot of families a big favor.



Ten Fallacious Conclusions in the Dominant Ideology’s Political Economy

The dominant ideology does much to shape people’s views about what is happening in social affairs, why it is happening, and what if anything ought to be done about it. Ideology exerts its force in large part through what we might call its power of predisposition, that is, its default conclusions that, on examination, amount to little more than leaps of faith.

For the past century in the United States of America, the dominant ideology has been progressivism. This belief system has not been static, of course, and its specific elements, emphases, and outlooks have changed substantially since the early twentieth century. For example, whereas the early progressives were generally racist, hard imperialist, and eugenicist, today’s are generally multiculturalist, soft imperialist, and more inclined to favor killing off the human race (to save the environment) than to improve it by eliminating the biologically “inferior” people.

Nevertheless, through all its emotional and intellectual ups and downs, progressivism has retained one central element: its abiding faith that the state can and should act vigorously on as many fronts as possible to improve society both here and abroad.

An economist notes in particular that progressive ideology now embraces the following default conclusions:

* If a social or economic problem seems to exist, the state should impose regulation to remedy it.

* If regulation has already been imposed, it should be made more expansive and severe.

* If an economic recession occurs, the state should adopt “stimulus” programs by actively employing the state’s fiscal and monetary powers.

* If the recession persists despite the state’s adoption of “stimulus” programs, the state should increase the size of these programs.

* If long-term economic growth seems to be too slow to satisfy powerful people’s standard of performance, the state should intervene to accelerate the rate of growth by making “investments” in infrastructure, health, education, and technological advance.

* If the state was already making such “investments,” it should make even more of them.

* Taxes on “the rich” should be increased during a recession, to reduce the government’s budget deficit.

* Taxes on “the rich” should also be increased during a business expansion, to ensure that they pay their “fair share” (that is, the great bulk) of total taxes and to reduce the government’s budget deficit.

* If progressives perceive a “market failure” of any kind, the state should intervene in whatever way promises to create Nirvana.

* If Nirvana has not resulted from past and current interventions, the state should increase its intervention until Nirvana is reached.

The foregoing progressive predispositions, and others too numerous to state here, provide the foundation on which the state justifies its current actions and its proposals for acting even more expansively. Progressives see no situation in which the best course of action requires that the government retrench or admit that it can do nothing constructive to help matters. They see the state as well-intentioned, sufficiently capable, and properly motivated to fix any social and economic problem whatsoever if only the public allows it to do so and bears the costs.

It follows that progressives desire a change in the state’s size, scope, and power in only one direction, regardless of past and present conditions and regardless of whether previous attempts to implement progressive panaceas have succeeded or failed—indeed, if honestly assessed, virtually all of them have failed, on balance. Progressive faith in the state, however, springs eternal.

It is a great misfortune for modern Western countries, and many others as well, that serious challenges to this currently dominant ideology do not exist. The political parties compete for office, each seeking to direct more of the state’s plunder to its supporters, but the ideological differences between the competing parties is almost entirely superficial. All politically potent parties believe in a powerful, pervasively engaged state. They differ only in regard to which specific individuals should steer the Leviathan.



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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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