Monday, June 16, 2014

I, playwright

In my own personal view of myself I have always thought of myself as primarily a literary type.  In my early years I read huge amounts of classical fiction and have always enjoyed poetry.  Out of a class of 1,000 students I got the highest mark awarded for the poetry paper in my first-year English course at the University of Qld many years ago and to this day it does not take much to provoke me into reciting large slabs of Chaucer in the original Middle English.

But it always seemed clear to me that literature was no way to make a living so I concentrated my studies on the social sciences instead.

My son seems to be much the same.  He wrote his first story when he was 9 but obviously concluded he had to study more practical things at university.  So he took a B.Sc. degree with first class honours in Mathematics.  He then started on a study program for a Ph.D. in mathematics.  But he has just abandoned that program and has started to write fiction instead.  He has decided to follow his natural bent no matter how impractical it may be.

I think he is wiser than I was.  So at age 70 I have decided to write a few plays.  They are just trifles for home performance but in case anybody is interested, you can access them here


Are Conservatives Dumber Than Liberals?

It depends on how you define "conservative." The research shows that libertarian conservatives are smartest of all

Ronald Bailey

Conservatives exhibit less cognitive ability than liberals do. Or that's what it says in the social science literature, anyway. A 2010 study using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, for example, found that the IQs of young adults who described themselves as "very liberal" averaged 106.42, whereas the mean of those who identified as "very conservative" was 94.82. Similarly, when a 2009 study correlated cognitive capacity with political beliefs among 1,254 community college students and 1,600 foreign students seeking entry to U.S. universities, it found that conservatism is "related to low performance on cognitive ability tests." In 2012, a paper reported that people endorse more conservative views when drunk or under cognitive pressure; it concluded that "political conservatism may be a process consequence of low-effort thought."

So have social scientists really proved that conservatives are dumber than liberals? It depends crucially on how you define "conservative."

For an inkling of what some social scientists think conservatives believe, parse a 2008 study by the University of Nevada at Reno sociologist Markus Kemmelmeier. To probe the political and social beliefs of nearly 7,000 undergraduates at an elite university, Kemmelmeier devised a set of six questions asking whether abortion, same-sex marriage, and gay sex should be legal, whether handguns and racist/sexist speech on campus should be banned, and whether higher taxes should be imposed on the wealthy. The first three were supposed to measure the students' views of "conservative gender roles," and the second set was supposed to gauge their "anti-regulation" beliefs. Kemmelmeier clearly thought that "liberals" would tend to be OK with legal abortion, same-sex marriage, and gay sex, and would opt to ban handguns and offensive speech and to tax the rich. Conservatives would supposedly hold the opposite views.

Savvy readers may recognize a problem with using these questions to sort people into just two ideological categories. And sure enough, Kemmelmeier got some results that puzzled him. He found that students who held more traditional views on gender and sex roles averaged lower on their verbal SAT and Achievement Test scores. "Surprisingly," he continued, this was not true of students with anti-regulation attitudes. With them, "all else being equal, more conservative respondents scored higher than more liberal respondents." Kemmelmeier ruefully notes that "this result was not anticipated" and "diametrically contradicts" the hypothesis that conservatism is linked to lower cognitive ability. Kemmelmeier is so evidently lost in the intellectual fog of contemporary progressivism that he does not realize that his questionnaire is impeccably designed to identify classical liberals, a.k.a. libertarians, who endorse liberty in both the social and economic realms.

So how smart are libertarians compared to liberals and conservatives? In a May 2014 study in the journal Intelligence, the Oxford sociologist Noah Carl attempts to answer to that question. Because research has "consistently shown that intelligence is positively correlated with socially liberal beliefs and negatively correlated with religious beliefs," Carl suggests that in the American political context, social scientists would expect Republicans to be less intelligent than Democrats. Instead, Republicans have slightly higher verbal intelligence scores (2–5 IQ points) than Democrats. How could that be?

Carl begins by pointing out that there is data suggesting that a segment of the American population holding classical liberal beliefs tends to vote Republican. Classical liberals, Carl notes, believe that an individual should be free to make his own lifestyle choices and to enjoy the profits derived from voluntary transactions with others. He proposes that intelligence actually correlates with classically liberal beliefs.

To test this hypothesis, Carl uses data on political attitudes and intelligence derived from the General Social Survey, which has been administered to representative samples of American adults every couple of years since 1972. Using GSS data, respondents are classified on a continuum ranging from strong Republican through independent to strong Democrat. Carl then creates a measure of socially liberal beliefs based on respondents' attitudes toward homosexuality, marijuana consumption, abortion, and free speech for communists, racists, and advocates for military dictatorship. He similarly probes liberal economic views, with an assessment of attitudes toward government provision of jobs, industry subsidies, income redistribution, price controls, labor unions, and military spending. Verbal Intelligence is evaluated using the GSS WORDSUM test results.

Comparing strong Republicans with strong Democrats, Carl finds that Republicans have a 5.48 IQ point advantage over Democrats. Broadening party affiliation to include moderate to merely leaning respondents still results in a Republican advantage of 3.47 IQ points and 2.47 IQ points respectively. Carl reconciles his findings with the social science literature that reports that liberals are more intelligent than conservatives by proposing that Americans with classically liberal beliefs are even smarter. Carl further reports that those who endorse both social conservatism and economic statism also have lower verbal IQ scores.

"Overall, my findings suggest that higher intelligence among classically liberal Republicans compensates for lower intelligence among socially conservative Republicans," concludes Carl. If the dumb, I mean socially conservative, Republicans keep disrespecting us classical liberals, we'll take our IQ points and go home.

As gratifying as Carl's research findings are, it is still a deep puzzle to me why it apparently takes high intelligence to understand that the government should stay out of both the bedroom and the boardroom.


Bailey covers the issues pretty well above but could have emphasized even more strongly that it all depends on how you define conservative.  Most of the relevant research has been done by Leftists and thanks to their general lack of contact with reality, most of them have not got a blind clue about what conservatism is.  All they know is what they have picked up from their fellow Leftists.  So they define conservatism very narrowly and miss out that the central issue for conservatives is  individual liberty.

One result of that is that their lists of questions that are supposed to index conservatism usually show no correlation with vote!  Many of the people who are critical of homosexuality, for instance, are Democrat voters, not Republicans.  Blacks, for instance, are often religious and are also conservative on many social issues so a low average score on IQ for religious conservatives could simply reflect the low average IQ score of blacks while telling us nothing about whites

Just to give you the feel of black attitudes, a common Caribbean word for a homosexual is "Poopman"


IRS “Loses” Lois Lerner Emails!

The IRS has fought tooth and nail to stall and hold out on surrendering Lois Lerner's emails to Congressional committees.

First, the IRS told Congress that it would take years to access and, if necessary, redact Lois Lerner's emails. Then, the administration tried to tell Congress what emails it could and couldn't have.

Throughout the administration's stonewalling, real Conservatives in Congress (yes, they really exist) stood strong and demanded that the IRS obey the lawful Congressional subpoena for ALL of Lois Lerner's emails.

Well, after exhausting all options of stopping the investigation into the IRS scandal, the Obama administration has decided to try a new tactic: they are claiming that a "computer crash" has destroyed Lois Lerner's emails!

The so-called "crash" didn't destroy all of Ms. Lerner's emails. Any in-department emails between Lerner and other IRS employees are still accessible. However, all of the emails between Ms. Lerner and the White House, FEC, DOJ, and Congressional Democrats have now been destroyed!

They think you are an idiot! They think that they can destroy evidence connecting Lois Lerner and the White House and that you won't figure out what is going on!

At least Richard Nixon admitted to withholding the Watergate tapes and ordering them to be destroyed. The Obama administration thinks they can stop the investigation into the IRS scandal by claiming that almost all of Lois Lerner's emails were "accidentally" destroyed!

It is almost comical how the administration expects us to believe that all emails connecting Lois Lerner with the Obama White House have been tragically and accidentally lost.

We are supposed to just sit back and accept the fact that all the evidence was destroyed that connected Lois Lerner's targeting program with the White House, DOJ, FEC, and House Democrats…

We know for a FACT that Lois Lerner communicated with Democrats in Congress, such as Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). That is undeniable! We know that these Democrat lawmakers reached out to the IRS and asked them to target their political opponents. Now, the administration has apparently destroyed all evidence of these communications.

We know for a FACT that Lois Lerner reached out to Eric Holder's Justice Department about prosecuting conservative non-profit groups. That is undeniable! Now, the administration has apparently "lost" all evidence of these communications as well.

We know for a FACT that Lois Lerner was regularly communicating with Federal Election Commission bureaucrats in her pursuit to undermine the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling. Again, we are being told that those emails have conveniently been destroyed.

Do they understand how the Internet works? Even if there was a crash or if a catastrophic virus did infect Lois Lerner's computer — conveniently during a criminal investigation — are we really supposed to believe that this same crash/virus has affected all of the recipients of these emails as well?!

Anyone who has used the Internet knows that when an email is sent, there isn't just one record of it. The sender and recipient both have copies of the communication.

But, we are being told that basic Internet logic doesn't apply here and that all records of Lois Lerner's crimes have been destroyed. How convenient for the President and his administration…

What did the White House find in these emails that was so damning that they had to be destroyed? Who else was Lois Lerner conspiring with to silence conservative groups and to stop them from participating in the 2012 election?

Every time that Congress gets close to uncovering the truth about the IRS scandal, the administration does something to try to stop the investigation in its tracks.

Now, the administration has begun destroying documents… I mean, the administration had a convenient "computer crash."

Enough is enough! Lois Lerner is a criminal who must be thrown in jail, and whoever in the Obama administration conspired to destroy this evidence must also be thrown behind bars!

Congress has the power to do all of this, but they will only use this authority to jail these criminals if YOU tell them to!



It doesn’t seem to be true that inequality damages the economy

We're all aware of the mobs of screaming harpies telling us that inequality is damaging to the economy, nay to the very life of the nation. We even had a whole book about it, The Spirit Level, which manipulated (and badly) every statistic it could to try and convince us of this point. The problem for the thesis is that if this were true, if inequality were bad for the economy, then we would see the economies of places which are more unequal doing worse than the economies of places which were more equal. And, to be frank about it, this isn't what we see:

When we talk about competitiveness, we don’t talk much about fairness. Fairness is more a moral issue. If you look at the top countries on our list, they are not the equal countries, with the exception of Sweden. The U.S., Switzerland, Hong Kong and Singapore are countries where income inequality tends to be high. If you look at our data, there is a U-shaped relationship when it comes to income inequality. Countries that are very competitive or not competitive at all tend to be very unequal. The two extremes are the U.S. and Venezuela. Both countries are quite unequal. The countries where economic inequality is quite low, rank high but they are certainly not on the top. There is a price to pay in order to promote or guarantee a certain level of equality and that comes at the expense of competitiveness.

As we've noted around here before, Venezuela's problems do not stem from the inequality in that country, rather from the silly, even pig ignorant, methods they've tried to use to reduce that inequality. Similarly Sweden is both more equal and competitive because they do two things right. Firstly, underneath the tax burden, they run an intensely classically liberal economy and secondly, they raise that monstrous amount of tax revenues by taxing consumption, not capital or corporations.

Which leads us to two observations: the first being that we don't actually have any evidence that inequality harms the growth prospects of the economy. The second is that even if it does whether reducing that inequality will reduce the performance of the economy depends upon precisely how we reduce the inequality. We might try price controls, rationing, import substitution, nationalisation, the Venezuelan route, or we might try a properly free market economy with a high VAT to give us the money to redistribute, the Swedish way. That latter works, in that the country is more equal (if that's something you want to worry about and we don't) and also remains competitive. The former doesn't work in either sense: but sadly if we look around UK politics we see those concerned with inequality arguing for those Venezuelan policies rather than those Swedish ones.

Which end of the political spectrum is said to be the evidence based one again?



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, 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.

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