Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Jos Meloen: A frantic Dutch melon-head

In "1984", a biting prophecy about socialism, George Orwell was particularly prescient in his comment that "He who controls the past controls the future". He saw future socialists as revising history to their own advantage.

Precisely that has happened. Via academe and Left-taught journalists, key events of the 20th century have been wiped from the general consciousness. Who today, for instance, is aware that the term "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist"?

And something that is NEVER said -- though undoubtedly true -- is that WWII was a fight between three socialist administrations. The key protagonists were the ultra-socialist Stalin, the National Socialist Hitler and the "progressive" administration of FDR. The only major difference between Hitler's policies and Roosevelt's policies was that Hitler applied German thoroughness to them. And BOTH men were antisemitic.

And anyone who knows Leftists well will know how fractious they are -- with the icepick Trotsky got in the head courtesy of Stalin being a major emblem of that. So Leftist administrations at war with one another is no surprise at all. And have we already forgotten Communist China invading North Vietnam to "teach them a lesson"? Or Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia, for that matter.

So in the immediate postwar era it was a major embarrassment to the Left that in condemning Hitler's policies they were largely condemning their own. Given his defeat, they had a frantic need to dissociate themselves from old Uncle Adolf. Their ideas were so discredited that America might even get a Republican President! It did. Ike in 1952.

History revision was needed! So all efforts were put into portraying Hitler as "Right-wing", which was a Communist perspective. Hitler WAS to the right of Stalin in being less authoritarian. Germans mostly followed him willingly -- right to the bitter end. So the imperative was to detach Hitler from the Left and pin him to conservatives. No small task but there are no better distorters of history than Marxists and Marxists came to the rescue

So it was that a group of Leftist academics led by a prominent Marxist theoretican -- Theodor Adorno -- came to the rescue. They published research which purported to show that authoritarianism was fundamentally conservative. Stalin was just an unfortunate accident.

So how did they make their case? They took a group of interrelated statements (which psychologists call a "scale") that represented the conventional wisdom of the (progressive) pre-war era and showed that people who agreed with those statements also tended to agree with various conservative statements. Since conservatives tend to respect the past that was no surprise. The key assertion of the Adorno group however was that their list of conventional statements (the F scale) were representative of Fascist ideology. Ergo, if conservatives agreed with such statements then conservatives must be Fascist. And this great intellectual somersault was greeted like manna from heaven by the Left. Mission completed!

The first pesky thing was, however, that if the F scale represented a form of political conservatism, then high scorers on it should tend to vote Republican. But in general population samples there was/is little or no such tendency. Strike one against the theory.

Strike two was the finding that high scorers on the F scale did not seem to be authoritarian. They don't tend to boss other people around. But if they don't do that the meaning of "authoritarian" is gutted. The F scale becomes a measure of authoritarianism only in the Alice in Wonderland sense that words can mean whatever you choose them to mean.

But psychologists ignored the mismatch between the theory and the reality because they needed to. Ignoring reality is an essential Leftist skill and they hugged the Adorno theory to their bosom in the belief that it showed the evil authoritarians to be conservatives, not themselves.

As time went on, however, memories of what prewar Leftism had preached faded away and it became firmly established in the popular mind that Hitler was a "Rightist". So the Adorno theory was no longer much needed and faded out of consciousness for most pyschologists.

But as I observed some years ago, the theory clung on as bold and bright as ever in Dutch-speaking lands. I don't really know why but maybe memories of what Nazism actually was are stronger in those lands. And a leader in the Dutch crusade was Jos Meloen ("meloen" is Dutch for "melon"). So I had a few shots at him in the academic literature in 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1998 (See link above).

The 1998 paper was a fully referenced critique of some of melonhead's research -- and the journal editor, as usual, gave melonhead a right of reply. And the reply concerned is why I am now being disrespectful of melonhead. In an amazing display for an academic journal, he started out his reply, not with a discussion of the evidence but with a personal attack on me. He did his best to portray me as a Nazi! Maybe they don't teach the informal fallacies of logic at Leiden university. Melonhead certainly would not seem to have heard of the "ad hominem" fallacy. For their own reputation, Leiden should take a closer look at him. It is too distinguished to stand behind such trash.

In part I ignored melonhead's frantic defense of his work at that time as I had retired from academic employment some 15 years earlier and was focused on bringing up kids instead. But mainly I thought his reply too gross and stupid to be dignified with a rejoinder. After four commentaries on melonhead's work that appeared to have completely bounced off his brain, I washed my hands of him. I would probably not have got a rejoinder published anyway. Seeing I was arguing against Leftist views, I did pretty well even to get my initial critique published.

I am now getting to an age where I like to tie up loose ends, however, so I don't want to leave melonhead's follies permanently without a reply. So a few comments on "Ray's Last Stand? Directiveness as Moderate Conservatism-A Reply to John Ray" by Jos Meloen and Hans De Witte, Political Psychology, 1998:

Melonhead's accuracy of statement is very Leftist --i.e. largely absent. He says that I once joined Nazi parties like the Australian Nazi party. I have never even came across anything called "the Australian Nazi party", let alone joined it. What Meloen is clutching at is that since boyhood I have always been interested in Jews, Nazis and racism (and I still write on those topics to this day) and I did for a number of years in my younger days have contact with two informal local groups of Australian neo-Nazis with a view to finding out what they thought and why. I published my findings in two Jewish journals (here and here), which melonhead has apparently glanced at. He knew of the matter because I publicized it.

Melonhead also seems to find it suspicious that I referred to Theodor Adorno and his merry band as Jewish. Since they were Jewish and since Jews and Nazis had a bit to do with one another, I would have thought that what I said was simply relevant. And I can't help noting the inconsistency: Referring to Adorno as a Jew is bad but referring to me as a Nazi is fine! He probably can't even see the inconsistency. Do personal characteristics matter or not?

And when he gets past the abuse and onto the facts, melonhead is even more hopeless. He refers to two scales which he used in his research and which I referred to in my critique. They are the Directivesness scale and a measure of "classic authoritarianism" -- presumably the Adorno F scale. In his heading he claims that I describe the Directiveness scale as measuring moderate conservatism and in the body of his article he claims that I describe the F scale as a measure of moderate conservatism. He doesn't seem to be able to make up his mind about which scale it is that measures moderate conservatism! Since they are uncorrelated it can hardly be both!

An even bigger problem: I have never referred to EITHER as a measure of moderate conservatism and both scales in fact have negligible correlation with vote in general population samples in the English-speaking countries for which they were designed. So he is setting light to a straw man.

Melonhead then goes on to note his finding that members of Belgium's Flemish independence party -- Vlaams Blok -- had slightly elevated scores on the F scale and related measures. But WHY do they have such scores? Melonhead thinks it is because they are authoritarian but that explanation fails because the F scale has been found NOT to measure authoritarianism in anything other than an Alice in Wonderland sense -- i.e. it measures authoritarianism because that is what it measures. Melonhead is firmly in Wonderland. That a scale which has been strongly validated as an ACTUAL measure of authoritarianism showed no elevated scores among Vlaams Blok cuts no ice with him!

So my explanation -- that Vlaams Blok is basically conservative as well as seeeking Flemish independence -- survives. Conservative people do show some respect for old-fashioned ideas. Whether they act on those ideas in any way is another matter.

At bottom, melonhead's folly stems from a refusal to let go the old Adorno theory of authoritarianism. No evidence against it seems to count with him. That it is a unicorn theory -- i.e. it describes something that does not exist -- he cannot admit. It is too real to his addled Leftist brain. It makes sense of his world. He probably believes in global warming too -- JR


Who Really Cares About the Poor?

Capitalism favors the rich. Socialism helps the poor. These are core beliefs of almost everybody on the left, including our president. Ah, but it turns out that this worldview is completely wrong.

Economists associated with the Fraser Institute and the Cato Institute have actually found a way to measure "economic freedom" and investigate what difference it makes in 141 countries around the world. This work has been in progress for several decades now and the evidence is stark. Economies that rely on private property, free markets and free trade, and avoid high taxes, regulation and inflation, grow more rapidly than those with less economic freedom. Higher growth leads to higher incomes. Among the nations in the top fifth of the economic freedom index in 2011, average income was almost 7 times as great as for those countries in the bottom 20 percent (per capita gross domestic product of $31,501versus $4,545).

What about the effects on the poorest citizens? In the 2011 report, the average income of the poorest tenth of the population in the least free countries was around $1,061. By contrast, the the poorest tenth of the freest countries' populations earned about $8,735. If you are poor, it pays to live where capitalism is less hobbled.

What about equality of incomes? As it turns out there is almost no global relationship between the distribution of income and the degree of economic freedom. But in a way, that's good news. It means that the rich don't get richer and the poor poorer under capitalism. Everybody becomes better off.

There are also non-economic benefits to living in a free society. Comparing the bottom fifth to the top fifth, more economic freedom adds about 20 years to life expectancy and lowers infant mortality to just over one-tenth of its level in the least free countries.

What about within the United States? Some years back the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) calculated a "predicted poverty rate" based on economic growth alone. In other words, economic growth by itself lifts people out of poverty, even if nothing else is happening. The CEA results suggest that if there had never been a welfare state (no Aid to Families with Dependent Children, no food stamps, no Medicaid, etc.) the poverty rate would be lower today than it actually is! This adds to a wealth of evidence that the welfare state is subsidizing poverty, not eliminating it.

I don't like to get into partisan politics, because, like Milton Friedman, I believe in ideas and not politicians. But The New York Times editorial page is becoming increasingly partisan. The unsigned editorials these days are almost indistinguishable from the Obama campaign's talking points. Far from being thoughtful, they are vehicles for White House propaganda. Many of Paul Krugman's editorials read pretty much the same way.

So let's consider the two political parties. Think of Democrats as being primarily responsible for the structure of the welfare state (social insurance programs) and Republicans as being primarily responsible for tax policy (including the Earned Income Tax Credit [EITC]-the embodiment of Milton Friedman's negative income tax). Which policies have been better for poor people? If you buy the CEA analysis and the work of Charles Murray, George Gilder and a host of other scholars, the welfare state has led to more poverty, not less of it. On the other hand, almost every Republican tax change has made tax code more progressive. That is, almost every time the Republicans change the tax law, the burden of the federal income tax is shifted from low-income people to high-income people! That's why almost half the population doesn't pay any income tax at all.

[As an aside, Democrats have been very reluctant to give money to poor people through means-tested social insurance programs. Whether it's food, housing, education or medical care, almost all the cash goes to a constituency that is definitely not poor. That's why it's hard to know how much anyone benefits from these programs. On the other hand, when the Republican-designed EITC delivers $1 to a poor family, the family gets $1 worth of benefit. Of course, the EITC may do other harm through its implicit high marginal tax rate, however.]

I'm not endorsing everything the Republicans have done. Rather, I simply note that under Republican policies we are likely to have less poverty.

All in all, the welfare state probably isn't the primary reason poor people are poor. The main obstacles to success are (1) bad schools and (2) barriers to good jobs in the labor market.

What is the biggest challenge in making bad schools better? The teachers' unions. They are dedicated to the idea that the school system is foremost a jobs program and only secondarily a place for children to learn. Teachers' unions have steadfastly opposed almost every reform idea that has any promise whatsoever in every city and town throughout the country. As for barriers to entry into the labor market, who is the foremost backer of minimum wage laws, Davis Bacon Act restrictions, medieval-guild-type occupational licensing laws and labor union monopolies everywhere? You guessed it: the labor unions themselves.

Yet who forms the backbone of the Democratic Party? The very same organizations that are most responsible for keeping poor people poor and closing off their opportunities to succeed in life. Further, their perverse political influence disproportionately affects minorities. That is one reason why the black teenage unemployment rate is almost 40%-double that of white teenagers! It is one of the reasons for the very large student achievement gap: black student test scores are 70% to 80% of the scores of white students.




Time to investigate the Bureau of Labor Statistics: "Who needs the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), when you have Rush Limbaugh? Limbaugh predicted almost a year ago that the unemployment rate reported last Friday would fall below 8% for the first time since Obama entered office. Limbaugh by his own admission is no economist. So how did he know? Maybe because we are in the realm of politics now, rather than economics"

Free Health Care!: "That was the promise, made by politicos in the England of my youth; health care, they said, is a right, an entitlement. In Churchill's wartime cabinet, William Beveridge, whom I briefly met 15 years later, had designed a scheme by 1945, and it was rushed through and implemented in 1947. The exodus of British doctors to North America began shortly afterwards. I now much regret not having the libertarian understanding, in 1960, to ask His Lordship where exactly that 'entitlement' came from."

Clinton’s legacy: The financial and housing meltdown: "Bill Clinton is certainly full of himself these days. That might have something to do with the fact that no one is likely to ask why he hasn’t owned up to his share of the blame for the housing and financial bust. The former president is treated like an elder statesman whose tenure in office was so good that even some Republicans look back fondly on it."

EU wins Nobel Peace Prize; is this a joke?: "The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union itself is the latest grotesque act of self-indulgence by Old Europe’s political class. Morally equivocating elites will love it, but there are signs even many Europeans are losing patience. Why on Earth give a prize to the unaccountable bureaucrat jamboree in Brussels known at the European Union?"

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.

I had a battle royal with Google's blogging program to get Chris's words up as written too -- so I hope someone reads it. The program determines it as an error if you want to indent more than one paragraph at a time. I refused to let the thing beat me so eventually I had to post fully-coded html and thus bypass the editor. Mega-pesky! The odd thing is that some of my other blogs don't call that editor so I can indent as many paragraphs as I want on those blogs! And I have one blog where nothing except paragraph breaks is interpreted. Google's blogging tentacle is a madhouse after their recent "improvements" but it was ever so. I hope they get it sorted soon.



List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


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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