Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Social science findings about conservatism

I monitor the academic literature of climate science and medical science with some care.  I have separate blogs for each topic.  I no longer monitor the social science literature with great care, however.  When bits of nonsense from the social science literature come to my attention, I comment on them here.  And such comments are not infrequent here.

The latest article appears under the same heading that I have used above and is written by a historian named "Eric Zuesse".  Since "Zuesse" means "Sweet one" in Yiddish, I will refer to him as "Sweetie".  Sweetie's article is here.  It is in an explictly Leftist outlet.

The article is rather long so I will content myself with making a few specific points and then go on to what is the central downfall of Sweetie's thinking.

He opens with the accusation that fundamentalist religion makes you bigoted.  One could believe that of Muslims  but is it true of Christians?  The evidence Sweetie summarizes in support of his claim is however entirely correlational.  And the first thing you learn in Statistics 101 is that "Correlation is not causation". To believe otherwise is to commit a logical fallacy.   Yet Sweetie boldly asserts: "Religious belief, in other words, causes bigotry".

In case it is not clear to Leftists why that is stupid, the correlation could be caused by a third factor.  Both religion and bigotry could be caused by (say) poverty.  So religion and bigotry will be correlated but the causal factor is poverty.  Religion itself will have caused nothing.  It's a pity that I have to give lessons in basic logic but where Leftists are concerned you often have to do that.  Fallacies are their speciality.

So that disposes of the first three paragraphs of Sweetie's opus.  Or am I being hasty?  Can I really write off all those correlations?  I will give a second reason why I can.   The correlations will usually be very weak.  Let me give an example that I have commented on before.  There is an article here  which presents evidence that religious people are less "reflective'.  I would have thought that religious people reflect all the time but there you go.

When you look up the research on which the claim is based, however you find that the correlation between reflection and religion is only .14 even before controls are applied.  In other words, the two variables had only about 1.5% of their variance in common.  There was a correlation there, all right, but it was so negligible to be of no significance or importance at all.  And such low correlations are common in all the literature Sweetie surveys.  Leftist researchers make mountains out of pimples.  Putting it another way, if there were 100 reflective people you were surveying, you would find that 49 were religious and 51 were not religious.  What sort of basis is that for predicting who will be reflective?

So is there any point in my going on from there?  Not really but I will anyway.

Sweetie rather likes an article called  "Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition".  I have deconstructed that article elsewhere so will not say much here.  Suffice it to say that the article is rather a good example of academic fraud.  It purports to be a meta-analysis (a survey of all the research on its subject) but omits to consider  around half of the articles available on its subject.  It leaves out all articles which have conclusions that did not suit the authors of the "meta-analysis".  It is systematically dishonest, in other words.  And that is another problem with Sweetie's article.  He takes the research he summarizes at face value.  If there is any fraud or incompetence in it he does not want to know.

I am honoured, however, that Sweetie does take note of some of my research reports.  Other research that Sweetie likes is the opus by Robert Altemeyer and I have commented on that.  I have particularly noted that Altemeyer has not the faintest idea of what conservatism is and that his scale of "Right-wing Authoritarianism" (RWA) does not correlate with conservatism of vote.  It is a scale of "Rightism" on which Leftists and conservatives are equally likely to get a high score!  Altemayer admitted that in one of his books and I have  often retailed that fact, apparently to Altemeyer's embarrassment.

Sweetie records Altemeyer's attempt to backtrack on his admission.  Altemeyer says he was only being genial in saying that.  But there is more to it than that.  Altemeyer was actually confronting the low correlation problem I have mentioned above.  Even among students the correlation between the RWA scale and vote was tiny.  Pretty strange for a scale that measured something that was allegedly right wing!  Sweetie's heavy reliance on Altemeyer's work is therefore an edifice built on sand.

After Altemeyer's work, Sweetie goes on to wallow in the Social Dominance Orientation literature initiated by Pratto and Sidanius.  Sweetie knows of my demolition of that work but ploughs on regardless  -- even though I record a major climbdown by one of the original authors (Sidanius) in response to my critique.  Sweetie has the eye of faith.  He is a good example of the Leftist tendency to believe what they want to believe and damn the evidence.

But let me now go on to the basic, fatal, underlying flaw in Sweetie's thinking.  He fails to acknowledge what Leftism is.  He makes much of the common Leftist claim that conservatives are "authoritarian", but what could be more authoritarian than Leftism?  The very essence of Leftism is a wish to change society.  But "society" is people.  So what the Leftist wants to do is prevent people from doing things that they ordinarily would and make them do things they ordinarily would not. And the Leftist proposes to do that by various forms of coercion.  How authoritarian is that?  It could hardly get more authoritarian.  The Leftist claim that conservatives are the authoritarian ones is thus a huge case of Freudian denial and projection.  LEFTISTS are the authoritarian ones but they themselves just cannot confront that.  They cannot admit what they basically are.  Sweetie is a poor thing.  He has got about as much self-insight as a goldfish

There is much more I could say about Sweetie's meanderings but I think I have already said sufficient.


Why Have One Government Program When 10 Can Do the Same Thing? GAO Report Reveals Duplicated Efforts, Wasted Money.

The report below is serious enough but it overlooks the biggest duplication of all:  The way both Feds and the States have  departments that do the same or similar things.  Why, for instance, have both federal and State Depts. of education?   Americans may need government for some things but no American needs two governments for anything

In the movie Multiplicity, we learned that a copy of a copy is sometimes not as sharp as the original. When it comes to government, the original isn't usually that sharp to begin with. But officials sometimes insist on duplicating their efforts anyway, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The result is about as unimpressive as you'd expect, when federal agencies persist in stepping on each other's feet at enormous expense to taxpayers.

In the fourth report in a series that has already identified hundreds of instances of federal agencies providing the same or similar services to the same or similar beneficiaries, the GAO "presents new areas in which we found evidence that fragmentation, overlap, or duplication exists among federal programs or activities."

Why does this matter?

Because, as the GAO points out, "the federal government faces an unsustainable fiscal path," and getting out of its own way is one of the easier means of cutting costs.

Among the problems identified in the latest report is the lack of any consolidated system at the Department of Defense to contract for health care professionals. "For example, we identified 24 separate task orders for contracted medical assistants at the same military treatment facility." Now, multiply that across the entire military establishment.

And the creeping police state around us may be intrusive and presumptuous—but it sucks at cooperation. The Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and the Treasury are independently modernizing their wireless communications systems. "As a result, their communications systems, which represent hundreds of millions of dollars in investment, may not be interoperable and may not enable the most effective response to natural disasters, criminal activities, and domestic terrorism."

That's hundreds of millions of dollars just on radios that may not talk to each other.

The federal government is equally efficient about monitoring double-dipping from disability and unemployment benefits. In 2010 alone, the GAO found more than $850 million in duplicated payments from the Disability Insurance and Unemployment Insurance programs. In each case, "the federal government is replacing a portion of lost earnings not once, but twice."

Even when it comes to targeted programs and specific communities, government officials can't resist cloning—badly—their efforts. The GAO found 10 different agencies and offices in the Department of Health and Human Services offering overlapping programs with regard to HIV and AIDS among racial and ethnic minorities.

After taking a grand tour of federal government multiplicity, the GAO recommends 45 actions for cutting costs. Don't get your hopes too high, though. Of the 380 reforms previously recommended, only 124 have been fully addressed.



The ObamaCare Enrollment Trifecta

Remember those 30 million uninsured individuals – or was it 50 million? Democrats were always moving the goal post – who were going to be rescued by the dues ex machine called the Affordable Care Act? Well, the curtain's all but closed on the first enrollment period, and numbers show it's likely that less than 1% of the population actually went from uninsured to insured through ObamaCare exchanges.

Since the March 31 deadline, Barack Obama has been touting 7.1 million sign-ups. That claim is astonishing because for weeks after the October ObamaCare rollout, the White House couldn't pinpoint any exact enrollment data, until eureka! At 12:01 am on April 1, that 7.1 million figure was ready, available, and, most important of all, unquestionably factual. Yes, most definitely factual.

Or, perhaps not.

According to a RAND study released this week, as of March 28, “3.9 million people are now covered through the state and federal marketplace – the so-called insurance exchanges.” Also, from September 2013 through March 2014, Medicaid rolls went up by 5.9 million, and 8.2 million enrolled in employer-sponsored plans. Granted, the RAND study ended three days before the enrollment period closed, so the 3.9 million figure undoubtedly grew. But on March 27, one day before the close of the study, the Obama administration was already claiming more than six million sign-ups.

Meanwhile, how many millions lost their policies due to ObamaCare? And how many more lost policies because they could not afford the cost increases foisted on them by the Unaffordable No-Care Act?

Given Barack Obama's downright abysmal track record for telling the truth (just remember, if you like your plan, you can keep it), RAND seems to have more credibility. Further challenging White House claims of victory, the RAND study found that only 1.4 million of those who signed up via ObamaCare exchanges were previously uninsured. And then there is the all-important and unanswered question of how many of those who signed up actually paid. Insurers say that number is perhaps 80% of sign-ups, but, conveniently, the White House doesn't have those numbers.

Of course, ObamaCare requires not just that people sign up but also that the right people sign up: namely, young and healthy individuals who will largely foot the bill for everyone else.

Another epic failure.

According to a “first look” analysis conducted by Express Scripts, those who signed up for insurance in January and February through the ObamaCare exchanges were actually more likely to use specialty medications to treat conditions such as pain, HIV, and depression. In fact, while 0.75% of prescriptions in commercial insurance plans were for specialty medications, the number was 1.1% for ObamaCare exchange prescriptions, a difference of 47%. As the study notes, “Increased volume for higher cost specialty drugs can have a significant impact on the cost burden for both plan sponsors and patients.”

Since ObamaCare prohibits insurance companies from rejecting applicants based on pre-existing conditions, and since companies adjust their rates based on covered populations, this means even higher premiums are looming for everyone.

Of course, it's possible that a stampede of young, healthy individuals rushed to enroll for coverage in time for the March 31 deadline, and if this is the case, then the scenario may change. Possible, but unlikely.

Far more likely is that many young, healthy individuals opted out of enrolling, or at least put it off, thinking they could enroll at any time.

Wrong again.

Now that the enrollment period has ended, most people won't be able to buy insurance until the next open enrollment, which begins Nov. 15, 2014. This is true both inside and outside the exchanges. That's right, the marketplace – which is anything but – is closed.

This would be particularly ironic if the aim of ObamaCare were to get more people insured, as the claim went. When we understand, however, that the goal is and always has been full government control of the individual, then it makes disturbingly perfect sense.


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


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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)


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