Friday, January 17, 2014

Prevalence of psychopathy in politics

As I have pointed out at length elsewhere, there are many reasons why people can have hate in their hearts for the society around them.  But those who have that hate are the Left.  And it is that hate which makes them want to change us all.

The anger and hate is sometimes so strong that it is visible -- Mrs Clinton  with TWO clenched fists.  Even the Communist salute requires only one.  The fist is the emblem of the Left.  It tells you what they want to do.

But a major reason for the hate is ego.  The hater thinks highly of himself and resents that the world does not give him the praise and rewards that he thinks are his due.

It is hard to know for certain how much Leftism is driven in that way.  It is very evident in Leftist leaders but is it  widespread among the voters?  When people are questioned immediately after voting in Presidential elections, the reasons that Democrat-voters give for their vote seem to be founded mainly on profound ignorance of the facts and issues.  Democrat candidates are blamed for what Republicans do and vice versa.

For all that, however, many ordinary people who favour the Left   often do express the same resentment of the world that we see in Leftist leaders.  I can warrant that from the many social attitude surveys I did in my social science research career.

As I also set out at length elsewhere, however, many Leftist leaders are not only egotists but are in fact the ultimate egotists -- psychopaths, people who have no real concern for other people at all  -- people to whom only their own self-interest is visible.  Though their psychopathy is "sub-clinical", i.e. it is subdued enough to keep them out of trouble with law enforcement and the mental health system.

So when both the leadership of the Left and a substantial part of their supporters are psychopathic, we clearly have one half of the political spectrum that is  substantially insane.  Beneath their  superficial charm lies a serious mental defect.

That such a pathology has engulfed half of politics is of course extremely disturbing.  My comment  (during my research career) that psychopathy is often successful in various ways appears to have been confirmed in spades.  It even appears in fact to have been reproductively successful, which is very alarming.  We now have a substantially psychopathic population around us.

That psychopathy has been reproductively successful for many years now is not hard to fathom.  As I have pointed out psychopaths seem to have a magic way with women.  The women eventually get disillusioned but pregnancies often occur in the interim.  And these days the children of such pregnancies will normally survive to adulthood.  So there has been a gradual but steady drip of psychopathy into the population.  And the "soft" penal practices of the current era have greatly facilitated that.  Criminals are now rarely executed but are released back into the population to continue their mayhem.  And a substantial number of those criminals are psychopaths.

No wonder our Leftist political opponents often seem to be off the planet -- JR


Conservatives and libertarians can learn from one-another

In January 1990, Lew Rockwell wrote in the magazine ‘Liberty’ on ‘The Case for Paleolibertarianism’[1]. In this manifesto, he argued that while libertarians are often correct in their criticisms of conservatives, conservatives are often right in their criticisms of libertarians. He cites people like Russell Kirk and Robert Nisbet, with the latter claiming that libertarians were drifting so far from conservatism that they were coming to view the “coercions of the family, church, local community and school” as almost as corrosive of liberty as that of the state.

In this paleolibertarian manifesto, Rockwell states that if libertarianism is to make any real progress, then it must do away with its “defective cultural framework”, stating that Western civilisation is worthy of praise and that social or ‘natural’ authority – like the authority of the family, the church, the local community and the school – is essential to a free society. Libertarianism’s cultural framework had become a blend of moral relativism, egalitarianism, modernism and libertinism with the modal libertarian often conflating legality with morality. In addition to the error of assuming that because X must be legal, X must also be moral, the modal libertarian had conflated freedom from aggression with freedom from social authority, tradition, and bourgeois morality.

With the rise in popularity of the Republican politician Patrick Buchannan, Rockwell sought to both put the neolibertarians right and to forge an alliance with the paleoconservative movement. The paleoconservatives were those conservatives in America who questioned the welfare-warfare state (with the Cold War over, many no longer saw the need for such a bloated state department) and saw their intellectual roots in the Old Right, a broad church of intellectuals, journalists, politicians and others who opposed Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. The Old Right included libertarians such as HL Mencken, Albert Jay Nock, and Frank Chodorov and so unsurprisingly, Murray Rothbard, Lew Rockwell and the ‘paleolibertarians’ saw their chance to reach out to a brand new group.

While the paleoconservatives distinguished themselves from the big-government conservatives, the paleolibertarians distinguished themselves from what Rothbard called ‘big-government libertarians’.[2] For instance, Rothbard warned libertarians against the North American Free Trade Agreement, which the neoconservatives and neolibertarians enthusiastically supported. Why would Rothbard, Mr Libertarian, not support a free trade agreement? He “opposed Nafta because it was a phony free-trade measure, and because it piled numerous new government restrictions upon trade, including socialistic labor and environmental controls.” In addition to this, he criticised Republicans who self-labelled themselves ‘libertarians’ only to further increase the size of the state. One such example was that of Governor William Weld, who was seen as a potential ‘libertarian’ presidential candidate for his “fiscal conservatism” and commitment to “gay rights”. On Weld’s “fiscal conservatism”, Rothbard commented “William Weld’s gesture in cutting his first year’s budget by less than 2 percent has been more than made up by his raising the budget in the last two years by 17 percent.” The typical neolibertarian was more than happy to support people like this, who claim to be ‘libertarians’ and then give evidence to the contrary. The neolibertarian was also content with the Nafta, presumably out of ignorance or stupidity.

Yet another unifying feature of both paleoconservatives with paleolibertarians and neoconservatives with neolibertarians lies within the cultural sphere. As Lew Rockwell pointed out in his Case for Paleolibertarianism, the modal libertarian or ‘neolibertarian’ was clueless on culture. This might suggest that there is a ‘libertarian position’ on culture, which there isn’t. Even so, while Rothbard made it clear that “libertarianism is logically consistent with almost any attitude toward culture, society, religion, or moral principle”, he argued that “psychologically, sociologically, and in practice, it simply doesn’t work that way.” Even though libertarian political philosophy does not prohibit the promotion of moral relativism, the paleolibertarians recognised the need for “bourgeois morality”. The anarcho-capitalist philosopher and economist Hans-Hermann Hoppe expressed this eloquently:

“This Establishment Libertarianism was not only theoretically in error, with its commitment to the impossible goal of limited government (and centralized government at that): it was also sociologically flawed, with its anti-bourgeois—indeed, adolescent—so-called ‘cosmopolitan’ cultural message: of multiculturalism and egalitarianism, of ‘respect no authority’, of ‘live-and-let-live’, of hedonism and libertinism.”[3]

As the paleolibertarian John Kersey has said, the neoconservatives too “have created a yawning chasm where their cultural values should be” and yet there is no vacuum as “the chasm has been very ably filled by the Left”.[4] And so there we have it; the two main unifying features of neoconservatism and neolibertarianism are a lazy attitude to opposing state aggression in the political sphere and an even lazier ‘anything goes’ attitude in the cultural sphere. Conversely, this must mean that both paleoconservatism and paleolibertarianism are united behind an opposition to statism and an at best sceptical treatment of the modern cancers of feminism, moral relativism, and egalitarianism.

Now, then, from the above one would assume that the neo versus paleo distinction is only applicable to the United States. I think not. This distinction – between big government libertarians/conservatives and radical libertarians/conservatives and between egalitarian libertarians/conservatives and anti-egalitarian realist libertarians/conservatives – definitely, definitely, definitely does apply in this country [Britain]. In the neo corner, you have the Conservative Party and its various affiliate think-tanks and research groups, both unapologetic apologists for varying degrees of statism and egalitarianism, and in the paleo corner you have the Libertarian Alliance and the Traditional Britain Group, both committed to a defence of truth, life and property, and civilisation itself.

‘How can a libertarian be a reactionary, a conservative, or a traditionalist?’ This is the question which the modal libertarian cannot bring himself to answer. The simplest answer is that England has a very long history of libertarianism and to defend that tradition is to defend libertarianism itself. In defence of the term ‘reactionary’ for libertarians, I would like to say that there is a sense in which no true libertarian is a radical. What we want established in Britain is not something fundamentally radical, but instead something which is natural. We want to return, rather, to a pre-state society, a society where all relations were voluntary and not exploitative, all authority was natural and not artificial, and where all power was economic and not political. This natural order has existed in our past and it only could exist in those times when the “coercions” of the family, church, community, etc. were at their strongest.

And so, the reactionary libertarians and radical conservatives, the paleos of both kinds, have broadly the same aims. Furthermore, the paleolibertarians need the paleoconservatives and the paleoconservatives need the paleolibertarians. A conservative society cannot exist under an oppressive state just as much as a libertarian society cannot exist in a cultural and moral vacuum.



The Fair Tax

John Linder

It was disclosed in the last year that the IRS harassed conservative groups and disclosed the confidential information of individuals. It strikes me that this is the perfect opportunity to change the entire way we fund the government. It is time to say goodbye to the IRS.

We should take this opportunity to abolish the IRS and begin to collect the necessary funds to run the government by taxing consumption instead of income.

There are two approaches to taxing income. The value added tax is used by many nations. It taxes each addition of value to a product in its manufacturing. Milton Friedman once said that it was the most efficient way to raise taxes and the easiest way to increase the size of government.

The second consumption tax is the retail sales tax that is used by 45 states to fund their governments. I am a supporter of the sales tax. I was the original sponsor of the FairTax in 1999 as a Member of Congress from Georgia. Today it is the most extensively researched and broadly supported tax reform measure before the Congress. It is an entire paradigm shift from how we have been funding our government for the last 100 years.

The FairTax repeals all taxes on income: no more income taxes, payroll taxes, capital gains or death taxes. If you make $52,000 a year your weekly check will be $1,000. Since the average income tax today is 15% and the employee’s portion of the payroll tax is 7.65%, the average take-home pay will increase by 29%.

The tax on income will be replaced by a tax on the purchase of new goods and services. The rate will be 23% of what you pay for at the check out counter. That is not 23% on top of the marked price, but 23% included in the price. If the item you buy is priced at $100, the merchant will keep $77 and send $23 to the government.

There has been some confusion about this method of calculation since states calculate their sales tax as a tax on top of what you buy. However, since we are replacing a tax that is calculated “inclusive” of what you earn rather than on top of what you earn we concluded that to use an “inclusive” rate would be more honest. Both the state and the retailer would be paid for collecting the tax.

To lessen the burden on those who spend all of their income on necessities, we untax necessities by providing a cash distribution to every family, based on the size of the family.




Obama regime charges Wal-Mart with labor violations:  "Federal officials filed a formal complaint Wednesday charging that Wal-Mart violated the rights of workers who took part in protests and strikes against the company. The National Labor Relations Board says Wal-Mart illegally fired, disciplined or threatened more than 60 employees in 14 states for participating in legally protected activities to complain about wages and working conditions at the nation's largest retailer. The labor board's general counsel first laid out similar charges in November, but held off on filing a complaint while trying to work out a settlement with Wal-Mart. Those discussions were not successful, government officials said in a statement. The company has insisted its actions were legal and justified."

Airlines applaud as spending bill drops travel tax:  "Air travelers will avoid new taxes this year after Congress dropped the plans in its final budget bill, a move the industry cheered Tuesday as a victory for passengers. Congressional negotiators earned the ire of US airlines last month when they unveiled a deal that would end billions of dollars in crippling [sic] automatic spending cuts, but chose to raise air travel fees to help pay for it. That deal would have jacked up the '9/11 Aviation Security Fee' from $2.50 per flight segment to $5.60, and doubled the fee for a return trip to $10.00, generating some $13 billion over the next decade."

OK: Federal judge thwarts the will of the people:  "A Federal judge in Tulsa struck down Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage Tuesday but suspended his decision while it's appealed to higher courts. The ruling is the latest in a series of legal victories for same-sex marriage proponents around the country. U.S. District Judge Terence Kern's ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed in 2004, the same year Oklahoma passed its constitutional amendment with 76% of voters in favor of banning same-sex marriage."


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.

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

America’s freedom continues to slip

Our nation continues to lose its economic freedom.  That is the result of the just-released Heritage Foundation 2014 Index of Economic Freedom.   Since President Obama took office, the United States of America has slipped six spots in the Index with this year’s drop out of the world’s top ten freest economies serving as a cold slap in the face to those who equate Uncle Sam with freedom.

The Heritage report attributes the drop, “primarily due to deteriorations in property rights, fiscal freedom, and business freedom.”

The report continues to describe the decline of economic freedom in the United States since 2006 saying there have been “particularly large losses in property rights, freedom from corruption, and control of government spending.”

The United States has earned the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world, “to have recorded a loss of economic freedom each of the past seven years.”

It should be no surprise to those who have followed the politics and government over the past seven years that the United States has experienced a dramatic expansion in the size and scope of government, even with recent attempts to rein in spending.

In 2006, the total outlays of the federal government were $2.65 trillion compared with outlays in the past fiscal year of $3.45 trillion.  The good news is that over the past three years, spending has dropped by approximately $200 billion, the bad news is that the cost of government has still increased by more than 30 percent in just seven years.

However, even more chilling is that the scope of government has expanded much more rapidly than even the dramatic increase in the budget shows.

The Environmental Protection Agency and other environmental regulators have been the primary culprits in this attack on economic freedom.  These agencies under Obama have engaged in a regulatory war against domestically produced energy with a primary focus on destroying markets for coal, both at home and abroad.

However, the Obama Administration’s efforts have not just been limited to attacks on coal.  The Department of the Interior has made domestic energy development on public lands extremely difficult through impossible to meet licensing requirements, and taking large swaths of natural resources rich land out of development.

Interior has also continued its attack on timber and other renewable resource industries under the false guise of species protection.  This is exemplified by the federal government’s attempts to dramatically increase the habitats of the northern spotted owl, in spite of the fact that the species thrives on timbered land, and its main biological problem is the Horned Owl, not any activity by man.  This effort to expand habitats across the nation is a primary example of the overall loss of private property rights that has contributed to the precipitous decline in America’s standing as one of the freest nation’s in the world.

The report also measures whether a government is free from corruption, and has an honest electoral system.  In this area, it notes that in the U.S., “The growth of government has been accompanied by increasing cronyism that has undermined the rule of law and perceptions of fairness.”

While the 2014 Economic Freedom Index is a stark warning about the erosion of freedom in our nation, it is not all bad news as America ranks top in the world in labor freedom and the progress made in lowering the deficit from more than $1.4 trillion to just under $700 billion in a few short years.

America is still the greatest country in the world.  It is the responsibility of its citizens to keep it that way, and reports like the Heritage 2014 Economic Freedom Index are a useful warning light to areas where the freedoms that make our nation great are most in jeopardy.

As Benjamin Franklin famously is quoted as saying, ““Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

The only question is what the people are going to do to stop this erosion of freedom?



Australia's economic freedom outranks US

One of America’s best known conservative think tanks has named Australia as the world’s third most free economy, outranking the US after the debut of Obamacare.

The Heritage Foundation’s 2014 Index of Economic Freedom  praised Australia’s low debt and “flexible” labour force. It found Australia’s freedom from corruption had slipped marginally, citing the Independent Commission of Corruption investigations in New South Wales Australia, but said that the rule of law remained strong.

“Australia’s judicial system operates independently and impartially. Property rights are secure, and enforcement of contracts is reliable. Expropriation is highly unusual,” said the report.

The report placed Australia after Singapore and Hong Kong. Australia was ranked third with a score of 82, just ahead New Zealand with a score of 81.2. The index, also published by the Wall Street Journal, found that America had slid from 10th place to 12th.

“Can you imagine if our Secretary of Defence announced that we were mostly strong, or kind of strong as a nation?” Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint, a former Republican senator, said at the launch. “I don’t think we would sit still for that as a nation.”

In his keynote address in launching the index in Washington, DC, the Republican libertarian senator Rand Paul lamented the Affordable Healthcare Act in America as a “significant loss to freedom.”

The report evaluates countries on four broad areas of economic freedom: rule of law; regulatory efficiency; limited government; and open markets, and grants an aggregate score.

“Over the 20-year history of the Index, Australia has advanced its economic freedom score by 7.9 points, one of the 10 biggest improvements among developed economies,” says the report.

“Substantial score increases in six of the 10 economic freedoms, including business freedom, investment freedom, and freedom from corruption, have enabled Australia to achieve and sustain its economically 'free' status in the Index.”

.A Heritage Foundation analyst, Brian Riley, told Fairfax that while in the organisation’s view Labor’s stimulus package had been a negative, Australia’s bipartisan commitment to free trade and support for foreign investment as well as its relatively low tax rates, was enough to keep the nation’s score so high.

He said America had slipped in part because of increased regulation associated with the Affordable Healthcare Act.

The Foundation noted that the Asia Pacific region was home to the world’s four freest economies, as well as three of its most repressed, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan and North Korea



Take Heart, Conservatives, Take Heart!

Conservatism is a very young movement. It did not even exist as a so-named political project in the United States until 1948 and did not achieve anything like movement status until the late 1950's.   It reached a moment of youthful certitude during the Reagan years but it is still casting about for self-definition.  The debate goes on to the present day.  Conservatism does not yet speak with a unified voice because there is still no consensus on what immutable principles unite them.

But think of what conservatives have accomplished.

In 1950 no prominent elected official identified himself as "conservative".  The Eisenhower Administration's aggressive centrism never challenged the fundamental assumptions of New Deal liberalism.  Except for Senator Robert Taft, the most powerful congressional Republicans were from the Northeast and in the tradition of liberal, privileged Brahmin aristocracy.

While Barry Goldwater was starting a small conservative insurgency, he received the votes of only ten delegates at the Republican convention of 1960.  Richard Nixon, a California Republican in the tradition of its progressive Republican governors Hiram Johnson and Earl Warren, was the overwhelming choice of the party as its candidate for president.

Throughout the 1960's and well into the 1970's Democrats had 2/3 majorities in both houses of Congress.  They held the presidency until 1968 when Nixon finally won the White House.  But Nixon's victory was hardly one for conservatism as Nixon's domestic agenda involved geometrically higher spending, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Quiet Title Act, affirmative action, the Endangered Species Act, OSHA, the Clean Air Act of 1970 and many others.  And while their numbers were growing, conservatives still did not constitute a majority of Republican federal elected officials.

In the states, Democrats generally held the majority of governorships from 1950 to the 1990's, often at a ratio of 60% to 40%.  They held one or both houses of most state legislatures.

Even Ronald Reagan's election in 1980 hardly changed the national dynamic.   He changed the course of world history with his foreign policy and the trajectory of the nation with his optimism and tax and regulatory reform.  But while Reagan gave conservatism electoral respectability and was marginally successful in stopping the advance of liberalism, he was not so successful in rolling back 60 years of liberal domestic policy initiatives.  His success gave the movement form, substance and political, intellectual and historical credibility and he energized conservatives and inspirited conservatism so it became the muscular movement it is today.

Now, for the first time in well over 70 years, Republicans hold the governorships in 29 states and in 23 of those states, both houses of the legislature.  That has not been true in nearly a century and that situation adheres for Democrats in only 13 states.  The Republican Party holds a strong majority in the House of Representatives and has largely held that majority for nearly 20 years; something that has not occurred since the early 20th Century. And well over half of its House members are committed conservatives. Republicans are a hair's breadth from retaking the United States Senate and 2/3 of sitting Republican senators are conservatives.

Outside the Northeast and the West Coast, conservatism is triumphant and it is the predominant political impulse in the states that are growing the fastest, thus providing a glimpse of the electoral future as those states slowly but surely supplant those losing population in electoral importance.

It is easy for conservatives to get frustrated observing, as they do, that even at times of conservative predominance little effort is made to roll back liberal initiatives. That is part of conservatism's structural weakness for its Burkean sentimentalism.  But that is changing as conservatives explore the roots of their ideology. It is already manifesting itself in the states among such as Governors Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley.

As conservatives begin to put Burkean conservatism in its proper perspective as a social impulse rather than as a dominating philosophy and start to accept a set of defined principles, they will develop a unified and principled platform of public policy initiatives based on individual liberty that they will take to the people and achieve the electoral success that appeals to freedom always will among Americans.

It will be then that conservative elected representatives will have the courage to roll back a century of liberal depredation and its attending diminution of individual freedom.  And it will be then that the beating heart of liberty will throb ever more greatly as America enters its greatest age.




Administration lags on attracting young people to ObamaCare, stats show:  "The administration is lagging behind its goals for attracting young people to the ObamaCare exchanges, according to newly released statistics. Of those who signed up for health insurance through the ObamaCare insurance exchanges, less than 25 percent are between 18 and 34 years old. Experts predicted that the program will need roughly 40 percent of enrollees to be in that prime demographic in order to be fiscally solvent."

SCOTUS to hear case on Obama recess appointments:  "The US Supreme Court on Monday takes up a potential landmark case examining whether President Obama overstepped his authority when he unilaterally declared that the Senate was in recess and appointed three new members to the National Labor Relations Board. The Constitution assigns to the president the power to appoint judges and officers of the United States, but it requires him to act with the 'advice and consent' of the Senate. There is an exception. ... It is this recess appointment power that lies at the center of the historic showdown on Monday at the high court."

Disaster relief without the state:  "Someone asserted to me that the state was necessary for disaster relief. At the time I didn’t give much of an answer because I was dumbfounded at the assertion, and it would have taken a while to explain. I am going to use Florida hurricanes as an example. Feel free to replace it with your preferred danger: earthquakes, tornadoes, sharks, tsunamis, whatever. Here is my response."

Verizon wins Net Neutrality court ruling against FCC:  "Verizon Communications Inc. won its challenge to U.S. open-Internet rules as an appeals court said the Federal Communications Commission overreached in barring broadband providers from slowing or blocking selected Web traffic. ... The rules required companies that provide high-speed Internet service over wires to treat all traffic equally. With the regulation voided, companies such as Netflix Inc. and Inc. could face new charges for the fastest connections"

Deductibles are important: "There’s an unstated assumption in the continuing health care debate that health insurance should cover most, if not all, of health spending. To many, even a modest co-pay of $20 or $30, or an annual deductible of $2,000, are considered hardships. Overlooked in this conversation is the fact that every dollar paid by an insurer has to come from premium-payers; that is, employers, individuals or government (meaning, taxpayers). In fact, owing to administrative and other costs, a dollar paid to a hospital or doctor costs the premium-payer more than a dollar. I submit that we have too much health insurance."


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)


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Main genes for IQ now isolated

This is much sooner than anyone expected. The .90 correlation between a gene set and IQ mentioned below is historic.  Correlations don't get much better than that in psychology.  The IQ deniers have always looked pretty silly in the light of the evidence but I cannot see that they have any room to move now at all  -- JR

Factor Analysis of Population Allele Frequencies as a Simple, Novel Method of Detecting Signals of Recent Polygenic Selection: The Example of Educational Attainment and IQ

Davide Piffer, Interdisciplinary Bio Central, November 27, 2013


Weak widespread (polygenic) selection is a mechanism that acts on multiple SNPs simultaneously. The aim of this paper is to suggest a methodology to detect signals of polygenic selection using educational attainment as an example. Educational attainment is a polygenic phenotype, influenced by many genetic variants with small effects. Frequencies of 10 SNPs found to be associated with educational attainment in a recent genome-wide association study were obtained from HapMap, 1000 Genomes and ALFRED. Factor analysis showed that they are strongly statistically associated at the population level, and the resulting factor score was highly related to average population IQ (r=0.90). Moreover, allele frequencies were positively correlated with aggregate measures of educational attainment in the population, average IQ, and with two intelligence increasing alleles that had been identified in different studies. This paper provides a simple method for detecting signals of polygenic selection on genes with overlapping phenotypes but located on different chromosomes. The method is therefore different from traditional estimations of linkage disequilibrium. This method can also be used as a tool in gene discovery, potentially decreasing the number of SNPs that are included in a genome-wide association study, reducing the multiple-testing problem and required sample sizes and consequently, financial costs.



Five Myths About Inequality

“Inequality is the defining challenge of our time,” according to President Obama. It’s certainly the topic of the day for Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz and a whole raft of liberal pundits.

But have you noticed that hardly anyone else is talking about it? When is the last time you heard a shoeshine person or a taxi cab driver complain about inequality? For most people, having a lot of rich people around is good for business. But if average folks are not complaining should they be?

Unfortunately, a lot of what passes as serious commentary is actually myth. What follows are five examples.

Myth No 1: Income for the average family has stagnated over the past 30 years.

Here is an oft-quoted statistic: From 1979 to 2007, taxpayers’ median real income, before taxes and before government transfers, rose by only 3.2 percent. Cornell University economist Richard Burkhauser, via Greg Mankiw, shows why that statistic is misleading:

If we combine the income of all the taxpayers within each household to get household median income, that meager 3.2 percent rises to a bit more respectable 12.5 percent.

If we add in government transfer payments, that 12.5 percent number becomes an even better 15.2 percent.

Factoring in middle class tax cuts over the period, the 15.2 percent figure rises to 20.2 percent.

But not all households are the same size, and the size of households has fallen over time. Adjusting for household size increases that 20.2 percent to 29.3 percent.

Finally, if we add the value of employer-provided health insurance, the 29.3 percent figure rises to 36.7 percent.

So there you have it: real income for the average household actually increased by more than a third over the past 30 years.

This conclusion is consistent with other studies. A CBO study of family income over the same period of time found an increase almost twice that size: the average family experienced a 62 percent increase in real income.

Economists have a way of measuring inequality that includes the entire population, not just the average family or the top 1 percent. It’s by means of a Gini coefficient, which varies between 0 (complete equality) and 1 (complete inequality). One study found that between 1993 and 2009, the Gini value actually fell from .395 to .388—meaning that inequality has actually declined in recent years.

Myth No. 2: People at the bottom of the income ladder are there through no fault of their own.

In a study for the National Center for Policy Analysis, David Henderson found that there is a big difference between families in the top 20 percent and bottom 20 percent of the income distribution: Families at the top tend to be married and both partners work. Families at the bottom often have only one adult in the household and that person either works part-time or not at all:

In 2006, a whopping 81.4 percent of families in the top income quintile had two or more people working, and only 2.2 percent had no one working.

By contrast, only 12.6 percent of families in the bottom quintile had two or more people working; 39.2 percent had no one working.

The average number of earners per family for the top group was 2.16, almost three times the 0.76 average for the bottom.

Henderson concludes:  "...average families in the top group have many more weeks of work than those in the bottom and, in the late 1970s, the 12-to-1 total income ratio shrunk to only 2-to-1 per week of work, according to one analysis."

Having children without a husband tends to make you poor. Not working makes you even poorer. And there is nothing new about that. These are age old truths. They were true 50 years ago, a hundred years ago and even 1,000 year ago. Lifestyle choices have always mattered.

Myth No. 3: Government transfer programs, like unemployment insurance, are an effective remedy.

Government transfers can ameliorate the discomfort of having a low income and few assets. But at the same time they tend to encourage people to remain dependent, rather than achieving self-sufficiency. And the loss of benefits as wage income rises acts as an additional “marginal tax” on labor.

University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan is the leading authority on welfare programs and how they affect employment. At The New York Times economics blog, he wrote:

As a result of more than a dozen significant changes in subsidy program rules, the average middle-class non-elderly household head or spouse saw her or his marginal tax rate increase from about 40 percent in 2007 to 48 percent only two years later. Marginal tax rates came down in late 2010 and 2011 as provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act expired, but still remain elevated—at least 44 percent...A few households even saw their marginal tax rates jump beyond 100 percent—meaning they would have more disposable income by working incentives were eroded about 20 percent for unmarried household the middle of the skill distribution, while they were eroded about 12 percent among married heads and spouses...with the same level of skill.

Overall, Mulligan estimates that up to half of the excess unemployment we have been experiencing is because of the generosity of food stamps, unemployment compensation and other transfer benefits.

Myth No 4: Raising the minimum wage is an effective remedy.

One of the few policy ideas President Obama has for dealing with inequality is raising the minimum wage. He thinks this will lift people out of poverty. Paul Krugman says the same thing. The difference is that Krugman is an economist who must surely know that the economic literature shows that raising the minimum wage does almost nothing to lift people out of poverty.

Richard Burkhauser and San Diego State University economist Joseph J. Sabia examined 28 states that increased their minimum wages between 2003 and 2007. Their study, published in the Southern Economic Journal, found “no evidence that minimum wage increases...lowered state poverty rates.” Part of the reason is that very few people earning the minimum wage are actually poor. Most are young people who live in middle income households. For example, the economists estimate that if the federal minimum wage were increased to $9.50 per hour:

Only 11.3 percent of workers who would gain from the increase live in households officially defined as poor.

A whopping 63.2 percent of workers who would gain are second or even third earners living in households with incomes equal to twice the poverty line or more.

Some 42.3 percent of workers who would gain are second or even third earners who live in households that have incomes equal to three times the poverty line or more.

Myth No. 5: Income is the best measure of wellbeing.

Why are we talking about income? The implicit assumption is that income limits our ability to enjoy life. But that turns out not to be true. One study found that consumption by those in the lower fourth of the income distribution was almost twice their money income. Moreover, consumption inequality is much less than income inequality. A Bureau of Labor Statistics study found that 2001, the Gini coefficient for consumption was only .280 (almost 30 percent lower than the Gini for comprehensive income, and about 40 percent lower than the Gini for money income), indicating that inequality with respect to this most meaningful measure of living standards is relatively modest. Moreover, according to the BLS, during the fifteen-year period between 1986 and 2001, consumption inequality went down slightly; from a Gini of .283 to a Gini of .280.

Bottom line: the next time you hear someone complain about inequality, make sure they are not repeating these five myths.



Book Review: 'Average Is Over,' by Tyler Cowen

The better we become at working alongside machines, the more the new economy will reward us. Fail and we'll be outsourced

By Philip Delves Broughton

To sum up, Mr. Cowen believes that America is dividing itself in two. At the top will be 10% to 15% of high achievers, the "Tiger Mother" kids if you like, whose self-motivation and mastery of technology will allow them to roar away into the future. Then there will be everyone else, slouching into an underfunded future of lower economic expectations, shantytowns and an endless diet of beans. I'm not kidding about the beans.

Poor Americans, writes Mr. Cowen, will have to "reshape their tastes" and live more like Mexicans. "Don't scoff at the beans," he says. "With an income above the national average, I receive more pleasure from the beans, which I cook with freshly ground cumin and rehydrated, pureed chilies. Good tacos and quesadillas and tamales are cheap too, and that is one reason why they are eaten so frequently in low-income countries."

So what am I to do to save my sons from this bean-filled future? The first thing, it seems, is to have them play more chess. Mr. Cowen is an avid player, and the first half of his book is taken up with an argument for how freestyle chess, in which humans play alongside machines, rather than against them, is a model for the economy. His point, and it is a good one, is that the future belongs to those of us able to work best with machines. The author roves broadly and interestingly to make his case, outlining the radical economic transformations that lie in store for us, predicting the rise and fall of cities depending on their capacity to adapt to this machine-driven world and offering policy prescriptions for preserving American prosperity.

"A potentially valuable worker offers the promise of improving on the machine, taken alone," he writes. "In the language of economics, we can say that the productive worker and the smart machine are, in today's labor markets, stronger complements than before."

In other words, we may not be able to calculate in the way a computer can, but we are usually better readers of character and emotion. For all that behavioral science and big data can provide, we remain the best interpreters of one another. This applies to everything from consumer products to medicine to Mr. Cowen's own profession of economics.

The author points out that we often see the promise of technology long before it delivers. "The advances of genius machines come in an uneven and staggered fashion," he writes. "For the foreseeable future, you'll always have to be learning something, reprogramming something, downloading new software, and pushing some buttons, all to have the sometimes dubious privilege of working with these new technological wonders."

You see this every time a company like Apple updates its operating system. Those of us with iPhones teach ourselves through the bugs, prodding and rebooting, becoming our own tech support. We have been trained to educate ourselves, to become complements to our machines. The better we become at these kinds of behaviors, the more the economy will reward us. Fail and we'll be outsourced. We needn't all be programmers, but we do need to be facile in making the most of the technology around us.

That takes motivation. One of the most interesting sections of Mr. Cowen's book is his analysis of the future of education. For a select few, he argues, the traditional college experience will still be worth the time and money. They will benefit from close proximity to highly engaged teachers. But for most, a much cheaper model might work better, one in which most of the material is available online and young people are provided with motivators instead of professors—that is, with people who are part drill sergeant and part yoga instructor, able to inspire and put the fear of God into students. No more tweedy snoozers lecturing everyone into oblivion and charging $50,000 a year. Think of college as a gym membership, with trainers to help you make the most of the machines around you.

Education for the masses, writes Mr. Cowen, "will become more like the Marines, full of discipline and team spirit." This will help the young avoid becoming "threshold earners," those "content just to get by and who do not push ambitiously for a higher wage or stronger credentials at every step. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is full of young threshold earners." I think Mr. Cowen is being unfair to Williamsburg, which seems to me a hive of economic activity—from new, online-only journalistic ventures to artisanal pickle shops. But his point about the need for a more efficient marriage of machines and motivation in education is a sound one.

One world that Mr. Cowen does not investigate, but might have done, is that of high finance. Here you find these two worlds of man and machine co-existing marvelously. There is room for both computer-driven trading operations and grizzled veterans like Warren Buffett and Carl Icahn, with their genius for picking stocks and fights.

In his final chapter, "A New Social Contract?," Mr. Cowen cruelly lays it all out. "We will move from a society based on the pretense that everyone is given an okay standard of living to a society in which people are expected to fend for themselves much more than they do now." The top 10% will have it better than ever. The majority will suffer stagnant or falling wages but have more opportunities for cheap education and cheap fun. The rest will fall by the wayside, with government less and less able to take care of them. It will be dazzling at the top, and "meh" to miserable for the rest.

If that doesn't propel you and your children out of bed, you deserve all the beans you get.


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)


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"Essentialism": A new stick to beat conservatives with

This latest fashion in psychological research was brought to my attention in an article by Matthew Hutson, a journalist with some qualifications in psychology.  I made some rather scathing comments on Hutson's article here.  In reply, Hutson referred me to the academic journal article which was the chief underpinning of his thinking.  The article is "Social Class Rank, Essentialism, and Punitive Judgment" by Kraus & Keltner (2013).  I thought I might offer a brief evisceration of it.

Essentialism seems primarily to mean belief in genetic determination.  If you believe that a peron is as he is because of his genes, you are an essentialist.  By that criterion conservatives are likely to be essentialists.  And the authors clearly think essentialists are a bad lot.  So who are these essentialists?  In good Marxist fashion, the authors say that your social class position determines that.  So they selected some statements to the effect that your class position was largely genetically determined and correlated that with your opinion of your own class position.  I myself found that your subjective estimation of your social class position was a powerful predictor of other class-related variables back in 1971, so I have no quarrel with them on that score.

What they found in their Study I and Study II was however quite contrary to the Marxist theory.  They found that there was virtually no overlap (a 4% overlap; r = .20) between their measures and your social class.  High social class people were almost equally divided over whether class was genetically determined or not.  So class was NOT behind "essentialist" beliefs.

That might have stopped our dynamic duo but it did not.  In Study III they  looked for other things behind "essentialism".  The disappointing results of their first two studies do however seem to have disheartened them.  Their next experiment was very low quality indeed.  They told a small group of students some lies and then asked them questions about how strongly they would punish certain offences.  If they were serious about measuring punitiveness, they might have used my approach instead of the very ad hoc approach they did use.  Be that as it may, however, the main effect in their analysis was not even statistically significant, let alone meaningful.

Not discouraged, however, they went on to study 4, in which they used tricks to change what class people thought they belonged in.  They then examined how these "manipulated" class perceptions related to punitiveness.  They found some weak effects on type of punishment desired by people in these "manipulated" classes.  In other words, even by abandoning reality altogether they still could not find much in the way of class effects.

With such disappointing results, you will be surprised at their conclusion:

"Social class is a primary determinant of rank in human social
hierarchy, and it profoundly shapes perceptions of the social environment".

Their data if fact warrant the following conclusion:

"Social class is a primary determinant of rank in human social
hierarchy, but it negligibly shapes perceptions of the social environment"

They knew what they were going to conclude from the beginning and stuck with that.  All the experimentation they did was just window dressing that they did not even believe in themselves.  There is no evidence at all that essentialists are the bad guys they were intended to be -- JR


Lawsuit Against Mandatory Union Dues Moves Forward in California

A federal lawsuit filed last May against the mandatory payment of union dues is moving forward in the courts, Fox News reports, and will soon be heard by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The case was filed by a group of California public school teachers who say that being forced to pay union dues violates their right to free speech.

In states that do not have ‘right-to-work’ laws, like California, union members are forced to pay roughly $1,000 a year in dues that help finance political objectives some members may have objections to.

 Union reps say those fees help their efforts to improve workplace safety, for instance, and get better contracts for all employees. They add that teachers can opt-out of paying dues that fund political activities.
But many teachers say opting out is a difficult and intimidating process and claim they face harassment and losing their liability insurance. Others say they get only a fraction of their money back.

“The unions are free to push whatever agenda they please,” says grade school teacher Rebecca Friedrichs, Fox News reports. “I have no problem with that, but I do have a problem with them taking my money to push an agenda with which I do not agree.”

While it’s OK if a teacher wants to join a union, it’s not OK for the state to not compel union membership, explains Terry Pell of the Center for Individual Rights, the group backing the teachers in court.



'They had no idea if my insurance was active or not!': Obamacare confusion reigns as frustrated patients walk out of hospitals without treatment

Hospital staff in Northern Virginia are turning away sick people on a frigid Thursday morning because they can't determine whether their Obamacare insurance plans are in effect.

Patients in a close-in DC suburb who think they've signed up for new insurance plans are struggling to show their December enrollments are in force, and health care administrators aren't taking their word for it.

In place of quick service and painless billing, these Virginians are now facing the threat of sticker-shock that comes with bills they can't afford.

'They had no idea if my insurance was active or not!' a coughing Maria Galvez told MailOnline outside the Inova Healthplex facility in the town of Springfield.  She was leaving the building without getting a needed chest x-ray.

'The people in there told me that since I didn't have an insurance card, I would be billed for the whole cost of the x-ray,' Galvez said, her young daughter in tow. 'It's not fair – you know, I signed up last week like I was supposed to.'

The x-ray's cost, she was told, would likely be more than $500.

Galvez said she enrolled in a Carefirst Blue Cross bronze plan at a cost of about $450 per month through, three days before Christmas.  'No one has sent me a bill,' she said.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified in a December 11 congressional hearing that the federal government can't say how many new enrollees have written checks for their first month's premiums.  'Some may have paid, some may have not,' she conceded.

It's unlikely that a valid insurance card would have changed Galvez' fortunes, however.  Her Carefirst plan, identified on the Obamacare website as BlueChoice Plus Bronze, carries a $5,500 per-person deductible for 2014 – an amount she would have to pay out-of-pocket before her coverage would apply to medical expenses.

The Inova radiology department wouldn't speak with MailOnline, and Carefirst did not respond to a request for comment.

A similar situation frustrated Mary, an African-American small businesswoman who asked MailOnline not to publish her last name. She was leaving the Inova Alexandria Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia with two family members.

'I had chest pains last night, and they took me in the emergency room,' Mary said. 'They told me they were going to admit me, but when I told them I hadn't heard from my insurance company since I signed up, they changed their tune.'

She told MailOnline that a nurse advised her that her bill would go up by at least $3,000 if she were admitted for a day, and her doctor told her the decision was up to her.

'Should I be in the hospital? Probably,' she said. 'Maybe it's one of those borderline cases. I have to think that if I were really in danger, they wouldn't give me the choice. But what if I think I'm covered and I'm really not?'  'The emergency room bill is going to be bad enough.'

The Obamacare system has suffered from a long list of setbacks since its October 1 rollout, starting with an inoperable website and ending with rampant uncertainty about whether Americans who enrolled are actually covered.

'We're telling consumers if they're not sure if they're enrolled they should call the insurer directly,' White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters on December 2.

The Washington Post reported that day that because of computer glitches in the 'back end' of, enrollment records for as many as one-third of new insurance customers were corrupted or otherwise contain errors.

Given the Obama administration's latest claim that 2.1 million have signed up nationwide, that means as many as 700,000 Americans might falsely believe they have a current health insurance policy.

Mary and others like her, who took the time to enroll but may not follow the daily flood of news about Obamacare, likely don't know one way or the other.  'Why is this so complicated?' she asked. 'I had my own private insurance last year, but they cancelled me in November. I'm not sure which end is up.'

Private industry estimates put the number of policy cancellations as high as 4.7 million in the last quarter of 2013, mostly involving health care plans that didn't meet the Affordable Care Act's strict minimum standards.

Democrats serving on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce dispute that number, saying in a new report that no more than 10,000 will wind up without affordable insurance options after losing their old policies.

President Obama has attracted widespread criticism, and a 'lie of the year' award from one newspaper's fact-checker, for promising that Americans who liked their health plans would be allowed to keep them.

Dr. John Venetos, a Chicago gastroenterologist, told the Associated Press on Thursday that he is seeing 'tremendous uncertainty and anxiety' among his patients who signed up for Obamacare plans but don't have insurance cards.  'They’re not sure if they have coverage,' Venetos said. 'It puts the heavy work on the physician.'

'At some point, every practice is going to make a decision about how long can they continue to see these patients for free if they are not getting paid.'



Health Insurers Are Being Battered By Obamacare, And They Deserve It

Health insurers were always going to be the bad guys in the battle over Obamacare.  While the law affects virtually every sector of the health care system, it was primarily about health insurance, because of the Democrats’ widely held conviction that the private health insurance industry unethically profits off patients needing medical care.

The primary purpose for the Affordable Care Act was to stop what liberals perceived as health insurer abuses and profiteering.

Much of the “credit” for health insurers’ initial embrace of Obamacare has to go to the head of the industry’s leading trade association, Karen Ignagni, the president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP).  Ignagni is a registered Democrat and former director of the AFL-CIO’s Department of Employee Benefits.

She joined several health care trade associations at the White House in May 2009 to offer $2 trillion in health care savings.  The president used their support to convey the impression of unstoppable momentum, even as Democrats increasingly attacked health insurers.  The health insurance industry eventually backed off its initial support, but that resistance was both tepid and conflicted.

At the time I ran a much smaller health insurance trade association, the Council for Affordable Health Insurance.  CAHI was created in the 1990s to represent free market-leaning health insurers fighting the Clinton health care reform plan.

CAHI’s adherence to a free market philosophy kept it much smaller than AHIP, but it had several of the same member companies.  While CAHI wanted to take a principled stand against the legislation, AHIP did not.  Can you say “awkward”?

For example, Democrats wanted to make health coverage “guaranteed issue,” which requires health insurers to accept anyone who applies regardless of their health status.  It’s because of guaranteed issue that Obamacare included the mandate to have health insurance—to keep people from waiting until they get sick to obtain coverage.

And once the government requires people to have insurance, it must then decide what the policies’ coverage must include in order to determine who is in compliance with the mandate.  And then, understandably, the public demands that if they have to buy coverage it must be affordable, which means government subsidies to lower the cost and, eventually, price controls to keep costs down.

In short, once the government imposes guaranteed issue, the other pieces of Obamacare must follow.  AHIP supported the guaranteed issue provision early on; CAHI opposed it.  And so pressure was put on CAHI to moderate its opposition so as not to send “mixed signals” about the health insurance industry’s position.

As the ACA was being written and debated, I spent some time talking to the CEOs of some of the member companies.  One explained to me how he thought Obamacare would be very good for the industry, another was convinced the Democrats crafting the law were taking their suggestions.  They may have been smart businessmen, but they were woefully naive about politics.

I think it is fair to say that several of the health insurers eventually had second thoughts, but by then it was too late.  Had the health insurance industry taken a strong, principled stand against Obamacare from the beginning—or even a less-conflicted stand after its initial flirtation—I do not think the law would have passed.

Now those health insurers are being whipsawed by a president who knows nothing about insurance, really wants a single payer health care system, never ran a business, and has no respect for an industry he believes is profiteering on people’s medical conditions.



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)


Monday, January 13, 2014

The Democrats' Feckless Attacks on Income Inequality

As Barack Obama scrambles to eviscerate key sections of his own signature health care law, he and other Democrats are trying to shift voters' focus to another issue -- income inequality.

Unfortunately, the solutions they advocate are pitifully inadequate or painfully perverse.

Start with the minimum wage, which some Democrats see as an election-winning wedge issue in 2014.

True, raising the minimum wage polls well. But does anybody really care much about it? Few minimum wage earners are heads of households; many more are teenagers earning spare cash.

Most economists agree that a higher minimum wage costs some low-skilled workers their jobs. And the economic redistribution it produces, from fast-food consumers to fast-food employees, is pretty minimal.

Another Democratic policy is to continue extending unemployment benefits. The intellectual argument for this is stronger.

Ordinarily, extended benefits tend to discourage the unemployed from looking for work. Their skills atrophy, and finding a job later gets harder.

But in the current new-normal economy, with record long-term unemployment, there simply haven't been enough job openings for many of the unemployed. Many Republicans look open to a compromise on this issue.

In any case the redistributionist effect will be only minor and, if robust economic growth returns, temporary.

One Democrat who argues for greater change is University of Arizona political scientist Lane Kenworthy. He believes the nation is and should be headed to a European-style welfare state, with the government taxing and spending 10 percent more of gross domestic product than at present.

Kenworthy would transform unemployment benefits into wage insurance, would start early education at age 1 and would vastly expand the Earned Income Tax Credit.

That's progressive economic redistribution, but with a catch. For as Kenworthy admits, you can't get the money for this just by raising taxes on very high earners: "The math simply doesn't work."

So he looks to a federal consumption tax, like Europe's value-added taxes. That would mean shifting from the current progressive income tax toward a more regressive European-style tax regime, with middle-income workers subsidizing non-workers.

Other proposals floated by Democrats, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren's call for substantially increased Social Security benefits, would have similarly perverse effects.

Social Security is already on an unsustainable trajectory. Increased benefits would, in time, require higher taxes on the young, who have negative or minimal wealth, to finance payments to the elderly, who tend to have significant net worth.

This echoes the Obamacare provision that limits premiums on the old and sick to no more than three times the premiums on the young and healthy. Is it really progressive to have the young subsidize the old?

Another left-wing Democrat, incoming New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, wants to raise income tax rates on those earning $500,000 to pay for universal preschool for the city's children.

That would certainly amount to economic redistribution, but to whom? Research over the last 50 years shows that Head Start and other publicly financed pre-school programs have no lasting positive effect on learning.

What de Blasio's proposal would do is to put a lot more unionized teachers on the city payroll. The redistribution here goes from the very rich to the public employee unions and their allies in the Democratic Party.

Liberal pundits are hailing de Blasio and his politics as a harbinger of the political future and a return to the liberal tradition of Franklin Roosevelt and his political ally New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia.

But in 1944, the heyday of FDR and La Guardia, the five boroughs of New York City cast 7 percent of the nation's votes. In 2012 they cast only 2 percent of the national vote.

It's interesting that New York, which has had more liberal and redistributionist public policies than almost anywhere else in the nation over those 68 years, also has one of the nation's highest rates of income inequality.

High tax rates and high housing costs (exacerbated for many years by rent control) have squeezed middle-class families out of New York. They have migrated in the millions to lower-tax, lower-housing-cost places such as Florida and Texas.

The Obama Democrats did reduce economic inequality somewhat by raising the top income tax rate back to 39.6 percent. The proposals they're talking about now are either small potatoes, or moves to have the working middle-class subsidize non-workers or the young to subsidize the old -- redistribution, but not very progressive.



Escaping the Rat Maze of the Welfare State

Jonah Goldberg

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty," and as the joke goes, "Poverty won." Five decades after a blizzard of programs began descending on the American people, the poverty rate remains essentially unchanged.

That's a little unfair. What counts as poverty today would not have seemed so impoverished 50 years ago, when many of the poor lived without electricity and were no strangers to hunger. Today, the biggest health problems of the poor are more likely to stem from obesity than anything approaching starvation. Defenders of the war on poverty -- and the massive bureaucracy that has built up around it -- insist that underfunding is to blame.

That's a tough sell. The Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector estimates that we've spent $20 trillion on these programs -- not counting Medicare and Social Security. We spend $1 trillion to $2 trillion more every year, depending on how you do the math. But apparently for liberals, that's still too stingy. Perhaps the problem isn't how much we're spending, but how we're spending it.

If you drew a Venn diagram of where the hard left and the libertarian right agreed, the overlapping shaded part would include a bunch of social issues -- gay marriage, drug legalization, etc. -- but almost no economic issues. Save one: the Universal Basic Income.

The UBI is a pretty simple idea. Everyone gets a check from the government. (Actually, it's a little more complicated than that depending on how you implement it, but you get the idea.)

Charles Murray, my colleague at the American Enterprise Institute and a legendary libertarian social scientist, wrote a wonderful book a few years ago, "In Our Hands," in which he proposed an annual grant from the federal government of $10,000 for every American over 21 who stayed out of jail and still had a pulse. He was building on arguments made by two titans of libertarianism, Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, who also supported some version of a UBI.

On the left, the idea has been popular for generations as a way to instantaneously alleviate poverty and to defeat the ol' devil of income inequality.

So what's the catch? Why aren't we getting a fat check from Uncle Sam every month? Some cite the cost, which obviously would be hefty. But that's a secondary problem. The real sticking point is that the libertarian argument is largely an either/or proposition, while the left-wing version is a both/and deal. The libertarians want to liquidate much of the welfare state and convert it into cash payments. The left's version is that the money would, for the most part, augment the welfare state.

New York University professor Lawrence Mead identified the chief flaw with both the libertarian and left-wing approaches to fighting poverty, either through existing welfare programs or through a UBI: the "competence assumption." This is the presumption that the intended beneficiaries of government anti-poverty programs always "behave rationally enough to advance their own self-interest." We all know enough people in our own lives (never mind what we know about ourselves) to realize this isn't always the case. Lots of folks are determined to do things that aren't in their long-term self-interest.

The problems afflicting many poor people are often of their own making, at least in part. Having children before getting married, dropping out of high school, etc., are transparently bad choices that millions of people make. (Also, some anti-poverty programs create incentives that make bad decisions seem rational.) But many poor people have just had rotten luck. There's good reason to believe that, with a little help, they can work their way up the economic ladder. And for countless others, the truth probably lies somewhere in between.

For 50 years, we've run a massive experiment around one approach: that bureaucrats and social planners can fix the lives of others by telling them how to live. For some it's worked, for others it's been an abject failure. But few can claim it's all been a smashing success.

Perhaps a compromise can be worked out. Why not give poor people a choice? They can stay within the rat maze of the current welfare state, or they can cash out. According to Rector, 100 million Americans receive aid from the government at an average cost of $9,000 per recipient. Surely some of them are equipped to spend that money better than the government. Why not give them a shot at proving it? If they fail, they can always switch back to the old system. If they succeed, well, that'd be a real victory in the war on poverty.



The Left’s Necessary Lie

The debates over Obamacare seem to be, like Ben Franklin’s death & taxes, the only certainties in our lives. This has clearly been the case since Inauguration Day, 2009. Yes, President Obama called for an immediate “stimulus” of nearly $1 Trillion to prime the pump, to create shovel-ready jobs. We never heard that phrase shovel ready before Mr. Obama employed it. And, within the first two years after passage of the huge stimulus bill, the president himself acknowledged there was no such thing as shovel ready jobs.

But let’s move on, as the Left is forever urging us. Let’s not “re-litigate” the past.

You may have noticed that even when you are not meeting them in court, even when you are not having to sue them to defend your basic constitutional freedoms, the Left says you are trying to “re-litigate” the past every time you suggest that they might be held accountable for anything they said or did yesterday.

Here is something to talk about from today, right now. Noam Scheiber writes for the premier journal of the Left, The New Republic. In the current issue, Scheiber has penned “How Obamacare Actually Paves the Way Toward Single Payer.”

It’s a remarkable piece of journalism. Scheiber responds to the complaint of Michael Moore that Obamacare did not go far enough.

I happen to agree with Moore’s basic sentiment…And yet I am much more sympathetic to Obamacare than Moore. He thinks it’s awful. I consider it a deceptively sneaky way to get the health care system both of us really want.

Scheiber uses deceptively sneaky not as a conservative might use it. It’s not pejorative. He uses the term as a compliment. He likes the fact that it is deceptive and sneaky. He approves of the lie.

So, we should not expect to see Mr. Scheiber upset about the president’s false promise—echoed by dozens of Mr. Obama’s fellow liberals in Congress—that “if you like your health insurance, you can keep it.”

This, too, is doubtless part of the deceptively sneaky aspect of the federal takeover of health care that Mr. Scheiber and the Left want to see.

We can, of course, debate and differ on whether or not a single payer health system would be a good thing for America. Canada has a single payer system and Canada has not ceased to exist. (But you are not supposed to notice when Canadian premiers get sick, they make a bee-line for the Mayo Clinic in the U.S.A.)

We could have had that debate in 2008 or 2012. But that is not the debate we had.

Obamacare was the law they passed. That was the program they imposed on us. And now, this leading journalist of the Left lets the single payer cat out of the Obamacare bag.

President Obama is on record saying he would have preferred a single payer system. But only now, with this New Republic column, do we see this candid confession that deceit is the order of the day.

He, they, all of them wanted all along to force Americans into a single payer system, but they didn’t have the votes—in Congress, or in the nation—to get what they wanted.

So they had to employ a deceptively sneaky ruse. They had to lie about our being able to keep our own insurance if we preferred it. They had to lie about where Obamacare might eventually lead.

This article by Noam Scheiber goes beyond any Republican talking points or any conservative critiques. It is candid, but candid about lies. And about the need to lie.

How can we react expect to denounce it? It not just the measure we oppose, although oppose it we must. It is the deceptively sneaky way they went about imposing Obamacare on the nation that we must oppose. From the Cornhusker Kickback and the Louisiana Purchase, to the Christmas Eve sooty slide down the Senate chimney, to the absurd Supreme Court ruling that it must be a tax if it looks like a tax—even if it failed to originate in the House of Representatives—as the Constitution plainly commands: all of this we must oppose.

And we must oppose lying as a political practice. If we condone lying as Noam Scheiber condones it, our political life will end. We cannot expect to survive if the consent of the governed is fraudulently obtained. We may someday agree to adopt a single payer system. The British have accepted it. But in their defense (defence), the Socialists in Britain were honest and straightforward about what they wanted to achieve. They never deceived the British people at the polls about what they would do.

This move toward socialism by stealth will always de-legitimize the goals of the Left. Worse, it will de-legitimize government itself, even as it poisons the well of our political life.



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)


Sunday, January 12, 2014

I've been outed!

Former Canadian Defence minister, Paul Hellyer, said there were "about 80 different species" of alien, in an interview with Russia Today.

"Some of them look just like us and they could walk down the street and you wouldn't know if you walked past one", he said.

Mr Hellyer also claimed that extraterrestrials were working with the US air force in Nevada, he went on to say that they were "very concerned" about the future of planet Earth.

"They don't want to tell us how to run our affairs ... but they're very, very concerned, they don't think we're good stewards of our planet."



Obama's Overreaching Military-Related Amnesty

An examination of the USCIS parole-in-place policy

 A new report from the Center for Immigration Studies examines the administration's most recent exemption of a category of illegal aliens from immigration enforcement. This latest category, created by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in a November memo, directs immigration officials to grant de facto amnesty, or parole-in-place, to the illegal alien children, spouses, and parents of active military servicemen, reservists, and those who have previously served in the U.S. military.

"The president now routinely disregards the legislative process, preferring executive action as the means of expanding his amnesty agenda. But this broad amnesty, which according to some advocates could allow tens of thousands of illegal aliens to apply for green cards and citizenship, has far-reaching implications, including security risks and fraud," states Dan Cadman, a research fellow at the Center and author of the report.

The amnestying of a whole class of aliens without the consent of Congress violates the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which states that parole may only be granted "on a case-by-case basis". The administration's action also violates the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which requires federal agencies to publish policy changes such as this in the Federal Register so the public may review and comment.

View the full report at:

The broad policy extends beyond its claimed objective of relieving the stress that deployed G.I.s might experience from their family members' immigration status. The amnesty applies even to relatives of a service member who received a less-than-honorable discharge or a reservist who has only served for two weeks or has never served in a hostile theatre of operation. The memo could have limited the application of the policy, but the administration chose to draft an overreaching amnesty rather than adhere to the law of case-by-case application for parole.

The above is a press release from from Center for Immigration Studies. 1522 K St. NW, Suite 820,  Washington, DC 20005, (202).  Email:


Chris Christie' bridge, choices, and the Dasani Coates sob-story

By Jonah Goldberg

The Christie scandal is an odd thing. Outside the peculiar context of Christie's presidential ambitions, the idea that this should be front-page news across the country is somewhat baffling. Quick: Show of hands. Who is surprised that New Jersey politicians play hardball with other New Jersey politicians at the expense of voters and taxpayers?

Oh, sorry. I didn't realize it would be that many of you. Okay, just out of curiosity, for those of you who are legitimately shocked, I'd like to ask some control questions. Are you also shocked that bears use our national forests for toilets? Are you shocked that dogs lick their nether regions without much concern about who might be watching? Does it blow your mind that the Pope is Catholic? When you smash your thumb with a ball peen hammer are you taken off guard by the throbbing pain?

I see.

Now I am not condoning or even trying to minimize the significance of "Bridgegate" - an idiotic term by the way. What these bozos did was bozo-rific. But come on. Do you think Rahm Emanuel hasn't played games with which streets get plowed first after a snow storm? Do you think that the Cuomos have issued every business permit and license on a first-come, first-serve basis? Wait you do? Oh man, that is adorable. Bless your heart.

Like pretty much everyone else, I think that if Christie is lying about being out of the loop, he's done for. Fair or not, he set the standard by which he wants people to judge him. I grew tired of his constant boasting of his straight-talking a long time ago. But he's the self-declared exemplar of straight-talking. (I like the straight talk, mind you. I just don't like all the allegedly straight talk about his straight talking. It's a bit like Christie's odd way of being arrogant about how humble he is. Just give me the straight talk; don't give me a lot of hot air about how straight the straight talk is, ya get me? I love it when my waiter brings a great steak. But when he hangs around selling me on each morsel as it goes into my mouth, it really creeps me out. "Great steak, huh!? Man, you are lucky to be eating that. Take another bite. I bet it's even better.")

Also, I'm not a huge fan of career politicians talking about how they're not really politicians. It's like a salesman insisting he's not like any other salesman. Maybe that's true in some ways (maybe he has three nipples and a neon orange unibrow; what do I know?) but at the end of the day he's still trying to make a sale which means - tah dah! - he's a salesman. Christie's claim to be above politics-as-usual always struck me as incredibly hackneyed and forced. He's the governor of frick'n New Jersey. Being above politics there is about as possible as cleaning out a stable by hand without getting your white gloves dirty. The fact that voters want to hear that stuff doesn't make it true. It makes it pandering.

Anyway, Christie set the standard for his straight talking. He set the standard of being better than petty politics. And, yesterday, he laid down a marker for what he knew and didn't know. If that marker is proven phony, it will profoundly undermine the criteria by which he asks voters to judge him. And that wound will be entirely self-inflicted.

Upside Down and Backwards

But come on! You have to wonder how some of the folks in the media can look at themselves in the mirror. The three network news shows have devoted orders of magnitude more coverage to a story about closed lanes on the George Washington Bridge than they have to the IRS scandal. I know this is not a new insight, but WHAT THE HELL!?

The sheer passion the New York Times-MSNBC mob is bringing to a partial road closure is a wonder to behold. What about the children! The chiiiiillllldrennnn!!!!!

But using the IRS to harass political opponents - one of the charges in the articles of impeachment for Richard Nixon - well, that's complicated. The president didn't know. The government is so vast. I had a flat tire! A flood! Locusts! It wasn't his fault! Besides Chris Christie joked about putting down the cones himself! The cones, man! The cones!

But forget about the IRS scandal. Obama's whole shtick is to pretend that he's above politics while being rankly political about everything, including his stated desire to "punish our enemies." By comparison, Chris Christie looks like Diogenes and Cincinnatus rolled into one. From inauguration day forward, this whole crew has behaved like Chicago goons dressed in Olympian garb, and the press has fallen for it.

We don't need to recycle the whole sordid history of the sequester and the shutdown to remember that this White House sincerely, deliberately, and with malice aforethought sought to make things as painful as possible for millions of Americans. Traffic cones on the George Washington Bridge are a stain on the honor of New Jersey. (Stop laughing!) But deliberately pulling air-traffic controllers to screw with millions of people is just fine? Shafting World War II vets and vacationing families at National Parks is something only crazy right-wingers on Twitter would have a problem with? And keep in mind, it is at least plausible Christie didn't know what his staff was doing. It is entirely implausible that the president didn't know about the WWII memorial closure, after the news appeared in the president's daily briefing (a.k.a. the New York Times).

I'd say I just don't get it, but I do get it. For the mainstream media, skepticism comes naturally when a Republican is in the crosshairs. It comes reluctantly, slowly, and painfully - if at all - when it's a Democrat.

Free to Choose

The other day I wrote a USA Today column (subsequently reprinted at NRO), in which I made what I believe to be an incandescently obvious observation: Life choices can have a profound impact on your economic prospects. Drop out of high school, start messing around with heroin, rob liquor stores: The odds are very good you will not end up being a one-percenter. No really, it's true.
Your bad decisions don't have to be so stark, either, to have an economic impact; they don't even have to be bad! They just have to be choices.

Among the readers of this slapdash "news"letter there are millionaire hedge-fund types (please make your checks out to "Cash"), homemakers, college students, day laborers, convicted moperers, cops, soldiers, and, I would like to think, professional basset-hound wranglers. (Come on, just picture it.) But whatever it is you do for a living, if you didn't know that your choices about how you wanted to live your life came with economic consequences, you are what social scientists call a "complete fricking moron."

If you decide to become a nun, that's a beautiful and incredibly meaningful thing. But you shouldn't plan on giving the crew from MTV's Cribs a tour of your fat Malibu pad any time soon. The whole vow of poverty thing should have been your first clue. Americans don't join the military to become rich, and few people major in finance because they plan on taking a vow of poverty. If you get a Ph.D. in Aramaic or some other dead language, don't come crying to me that you can't afford a $10,000 Japanese smart toilet. I know some absolutely brilliant and capable women - I even married one -- who made the decision to spend less time in the work force so they could spend more time being moms. It is not a huge shock when their annual income goes down as a result.

Every normal American, man or woman, understands that these kinds of choices come with a price. This isn't a problem with our system. In a very basic way, it's not even a problem at all. Problems can be fixed. Problems that have no solution aren't problems: They're life. You can say the fact that 2+2 is 4 is a problem because you want 2+2 to equal a badger that craps plutonium pellets ready for a cold-fusion reactor. But that doesn't make it a problem; it makes you a really weird dude, who should probably sit out the next few downs. Choices have consequences. That's why they're called "choices."

Earn It

People who choose not to dedicate their lives to getting rich aren't making a mistake, they're doing what they think and hope will make them happy. I almost went to law school. All things being equal, I think I'd make a pretty good lawyer. Except for one thing: I don't think I'd like being a lawyer. I like being a writer - most days, at least. Is it unfair or wrong that I don't make as much money as some lawyer who spends his days reading through stacks of low-flow toilet patents? No, because (a) I don't care enough about money to spend my life doing that kind of work and (b) fairness has nothing to do with it. The market sets the price for such things.

My boss at the American Enterprise Institute, Arthur Brooks, is the foremost champion of the idea of "earned success." It turns out what makes people happy isn't money, it's the feeling that you made a meaningful contribution to life. Absolutely: You can get that from building a business and getting rich. But you can also get that from raising a family, starting a charity, being a winning coach or an exceptional teacher, from writing a novel, or, in my case, from your record for fitting 37 Cheetos in your mouth at one time. ("They'll never take that away from you." - The Couch)

What can't give you a feeling of earned success is getting stuff you didn't earn. It can make you temporarily excited. But meaningful happiness comes from finding meaning. And what counts as meaningful for you might count as a huge waste of time to me. That's why the inalienable right to pursue happiness has to be an individual right.

There is a caveat. Some people need a little help - either from government or family or a charity of one kind or another - to get to the point where they can figure out how to pursue earned success. Actually all people need help, because we are all born little barbarians with no understanding of the consequences of our actions. This is the main reason why diapers are a multibillion dollar industry. But some people need more help later in life, because of the circumstances of their birth or the crappiness of their parents.

Inequality Follies

Which brings me to the point I intended to make. Which was . . . ? Oh, right. So I wrote this column about inequality. And it made a lot of liberal people really, really angry. And frankly I don't understand why.

Borrowing from Kay Hymowitz, I made the point that the New York Times poster girl for inequality, Dasani Coates (apparently named after the bottled water) is the victim of bad parents more than she is the victim of a bad society:

"The data say something else. Family structure and the values that go into successful child rearing have a stronger correlation with economic mobility than income inequality does. America's system is hardly flawless. But if Dasani were born to the same parents in a socialist country, she'd still be a victim - of bad parents."

[Even the NYT sob-story says:  "Dasani's circumstances are largely the outcome of parental dysfunction. While nearly one-third of New York's homeless children are supported by a working adult, her mother and father are unemployed, have a history of arrests and are battling drug addiction." -- JR]

That doesn't mean I don't have sympathy for her. I have enormous sympathy for her. I'm a bit of a Rawlsian softy when it comes to kids. Kids can't choose their parents. And when crappy parents make crappy decisions - starting with the decision to have kids they can't take good care of - their kids did nothing wrong. What gets complicated as a matter of public policy is that kids of crappy parents often grow up to be crappy parents themselves. Multiply that out and you don't have a family problem, you have a cultural problem. I am open to the idea of doing something to break the cycle of poverty, even if it comes at considerable cost (see today's column). And obviously, all of this can get very complicated. But, at the end of the day, there will always be people who make bad choices, and those choices will have consequences. Why? Because that's life.



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)