Friday, February 02, 2018

The State of the Union stats don’t lie: Americans are turning against Trump-hating celebrities and buying into the President’s American dream - THAT’S a nightmare for Democrats

By Piers Morgan

The stats don't lie. Within minutes of President Donald Trump's first State of the Union speech, CBS News revealed their YouGov poll approval ratings on it. Unsurprisingly, 97% of Republican speech watchers liked it.

More surprisingly, 72% of Independents liked it. Staggeringly, 43% of Democrats liked it.

Overall, CBS reported that 75% of Americans approved of the speech. For such a seriously divisive and polarising President, who is currently languishing with just 39% personal approval ratings, these were sensationally good results.

Interestingly, 8/10 Americans in the poll felt the President was trying to unite the country with his speech and two thirds of Americans said it made them feel proud. Less than a quarter that watched said it made them feel scared or angry.

Contrast this reaction with the instant and so tediously predictable blind rage spewed by the world's liberal celebrities on social media before, during and after the address.

From my own unofficial poll – i.e. my own eyes on Twitter – I'd say 99% of them were so furious at the speech they could barely think straight. 'I was told darkness could not exist in the light,' tweeted Sarah Silverman. 'But here it is, for everyone to not see.'

Jim Carrey tweeted an illustration of sharks across a map of America, then another of a weeping Abraham Lincoln and the caption: 'It's my party and I'll cry if I want to.'

Andy Lassner, producer of the insufferably smug The Ellen Show sneered: 'Good luck 'Saturday Night Live' on trying to make this any more f***ing ridiculous than it already is.'

Jeffrey Wright raged: 'Can't even watch this vile, deceitful fraud and his bizarre cult of self-interested sycophants.'

Patton Oswalt seethed: 'I'm gonna fact check this speech: whatever he just said was bullsh*t.'

Jessica Chastain urged people not to watch the speech at all.

Billy Eichner fumed: 'The President is a lying, incompetent, racist, misogynist sack of sh*t.'

And George Takei spouted: 'I'm not watching some frothing orange gorilla read off a teleprompter.'

On and on it went, with these stars and many more assuming America agreed with them.

But it turned out the vast majority of Americans DIDN'T agree with them, which suggests they're no longer listening to what celebrities say about politics or Donald Trump.

For more evidence of this, look at Sunday night's Grammys that turned into a marathon political rally of epically dreary proportions. Ratings duly plunged 24% to an all-time low.

Why? Because Americans are sick and tired of entertainers preaching about politics at awards shows, particularly when they're all preaching from the same liberal Trump-loathing handbook.

It's hard not to agree with White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders when she said yesterday: 'I think if Americans cared what celebrities thought then Hillary would be president but they clearly don't.'

She added: 'Frankly, I feel sorry for these people. They're so focused on hating this president that they're missing all of the great things that are happening in this country.'

Now, she would say that wouldn't she… and yet, she has a point.

None of these celebrity Trump-bashers ever give him credit for anything. Yet there are things happening in and to America right now for which he absolutely deserves credit not derision.

Most notably, the US economy is full steam ahead, with consistently impressive quarterly growth, the stock market smashing weekly records, and job numbers at 17-year highs.

Yes, it's true that this is continuing a positive economic trend from the Obama years. But it's also true that nobody would be blaming Obama if the economy had weakened under Trump in his first year.

Most impartial observers credit the President's war on regulation and his big tax reform plan as the major driving forces for the current economic positivity.

Certainly, it helped inspire Apple, one of America's biggest overseas job outsourcing companies, to recently announce they're bringing $350billion and 20,000 jobs back home to the US economy.

But have you seen a single liberal celebrity acknowledge that? No.

Trump vowed in his presidential campaign to whack ISIS hard and as he said last night, the terror group's now been driven out of Iraq and Syria.

This is a significant achievement too but no liberal celebrity will thank him for it, so profound and deep-rooted is the antipathy towards him.

What they don't seem to understand is that the American people are beginning to calm down about President Trump, understand him better, accept him for what he is – good and bad - and appreciate some of the good stuff he is doing.

That much is crystal clear from the reaction to his SOTU speech that was long, thoughtful, and delivered with none of the frothing, hyperbolic style that we have seen from him in the past.

As I think I may have mentioned (!) I spent time with President Trump last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and I was struck by how relaxed and confident he seemed, both in my interview and in his speech to the world's business elite the next day.

I was also struck by how much more diplomatic, conciliatory and unifying he was too – especially with his statement that yes, it's America First but no, it's not America Alone.

This approach was a far cry from the raging bull in a china shop that rampaged to the election win and has presided over a chaotic and turbulent first year in office.

It appears that Trump has finally begun to make the pivot many of his supporters hoped he would make a lot earlier – from firebrand, fight-picking, tweet-storming, rabble-rousing candidate, to a more considered man as President.

I think the reason for this simple: success.

Trump's entire DNA is predicated on winning. Every sinew of his being for the past 50 years has pulsated with a burning, insatiable desire to win.

'You've gotta win,' Trump once told me. 'That's what it's all about. You know, Muhammad Ali used to talk and talk, but he won. If you talk and talk but you lose, the act doesn't play.'

And now, after months of under-achievement, he's beginning to win.

Meanwhile, his opponents don't seem to have a clue either how to stop him, or who in their ranks can beat him in 2020.

One thing's for sure: it won't be Hillary Clinton, who apparently still hasn't got the message either that she lost or that hanging out with liberal celebrities is a vote-crusher to middle America.

I don't know what possessed her to pop up in the middle of the Grammys to read out Trump-mocking lines from Michael Wolff's book, but all it did was remind everyone yet again that she's a sore loser, and that the Democrats haven't found anyone else to replace her yet.

Until they do, Trump will continue to surge in confidence and if the economy does the same then I predict he will be re-elected at the next election by a bigger majority.

Don't believe me? Take a long, careful look at that CBS poll after last night's SOTU speech. Like I said, the stats don't lie.

'This is our new American moment,' Trump said last night. 'There has never been a better time to start living the American dream.'

This message, one of his 115 applause lines, was approved by 75% of the country that watched it.

Trump's American Dream is very rapidly becoming the Democrat Nightmare.


Stockton Gets Ready to Experiment With Universal Basic Income

More California dreaming.  Should be fun to watch

Wage stagnation. Rising housing prices. Loss of middle-class jobs. The looming threat of automation. These are some of the problems facing Stockton and its residents, but the city’s mayor, Michael Tubbs, says his city is far from unique.

Stockton is one of many Bay Area cities on the fringe of the wealth accumulating in Silicon Valley and San Francisco. The Central Valley city went bankrupt in 2012, and for decades it has been trying to diversify its agriculture-based economy.

“I feel that as mayor it’s my responsibility to do all I could to begin figuring out what’s the best way to make sure that folks in our community have a real economic floor,” Tubbs said.

Tubbs is coordinating an effort to test a new way to sustain residents: universal basic income, or UBI. For one year, several dozen Stockton families will get $500 a month, no strings attached.

Dorian Warren co-chairs the Economic Security Project, which is contributing $1 million to the initiative. He said the goal is to gather data on the economic and social impacts of giving people a basic income.

In addition to tracking what residents do with the money, Warren said they will be monitoring how a basic income affects things like self-esteem and identity.

“What does it mean to say, ‘Here is unconditional guaranteed income just based on you being a human being?’ ” Warren asked.

The hope is to demonstrate UBI’s potential and encourage other places to give it a try. UBI has recently gotten a boost from Silicon Valley moguls concerned about income inequality and the future of society, but the idea isn’t actually all that new, said Michelle Anderson, a Stanford law professor.

Anderson said, “UBI was first pitched by Nixon as an answer to post-industrial job losses.”

With this experiment, Anderson said Stockton may discover it gets more economic stimulus by giving money to its citizens rather than corporations it hopes will bring in jobs and tax revenue.

“The UBI that is being proposed in Stockton now is very small compared to the big corporate subsidies that cities like that engage in,” Anderson said.

Stockton racked up millions in debt on development projects in the past, which got the city into trouble, Mayor Tubbs said.

“We’ve overspent on things like arenas and marinas and things of that sort to try to lure in tourism and dollars that way,” he said.

Tubbs thinks the UBI experiment will show that Stockton’s best bet is to invest in its own people.


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Thursday, February 01, 2018

‘Larry’s Letter’ is muddle-headed

Corporate social responsibility has been a leftist demand for a long time but it is very pernicious.  If companies lose focus on their business challenges, they will make themselves and everybody else poorer.  A company's only responsibility is to deliver a good product at the lowest possible price.  And that's not easy.  Introducing other considerations will undermine the whole mission of the company.

And the argument below does not focus entirely on corporate social responsibility. The aim of having "a strategy for long-term value creation and financial performance" is entirely laudable. And that seems to be the aspect that business leaders have rightly endorsed.

I note use of the tiresome Leftist term "stakeholders", which is used to assign unearned power and influence to outsiders of some sort. The term appears to come from card games, where several people may have money on the outcome of a game, but how many people are stakeholders in a business?  Only the shareholders and employees, it seems to me.  Customers may be observers but they are not stakeholders. If a company goes broke they will normally just choose a new supplier for their needs.

And what's this rot about "reimagining" capitalism?  Capitalism is not the product of anybody's imagination.  Soviet Russia was that and we know where it led.  What we see as capitalism today is simply the balancing of many forces and interests -- an "invisible hand" if you like.  Is Larry Fink going senile or is he just wilting under the weight of Leftist disapproval?

A growing movement of senior business figures, economists, and powerful investors from across the globe is calling for capitalism to be reimagined so that companies everywhere serve a social purpose.

The charge is being led by Larry Fink, the founder and chief executive of the world’s biggest asset manager, Blackrock. The investment house has $6.3 trillion (£4.5 trillion) under management, making Fink arguably the single most influential investor on the planet.

Fink detonated a bomb in boardrooms everywhere earlier this month with a letter to the bosses of all the companies it owns shares in, saying they could no longer afford to focus simply on profit.

In what is being referred to as “Larry’s Letter”, Fink said that they would need to start demonstrating a strategy for long-term value creation and financial performance. Understanding a company’s effect on the wider world was also vital, he said.

“Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose,” Fink wrote. “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate,” the letter said.

The thrust of Larry Fink's letter was backed by major corporate bosses, including Pepsi's chief executive Indra Nooyi
The call was backed by several big names at Davos including Indra Nooyi, boss of PepsiCo, and Carlos Ghosn, chairman of car giant Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi.

Mrs Nooyi lamented the emphasis on short-term financial performance. “If you focus on the long-term, investors accuse you of being impatient and are highly critical.” Mrs. Nooyi said. “If you are doing something truly strategic, it invokes criticism. You are accused of being Mother Teresa.”

Mr Ghosn agreed. “Young companies don’t have to worry about short-term results, but if we had negative quarterly results, we would be crucified,” he said.

Mrs Nooyi said: “Finance and accounting has trumped strategy excessively. The whole world is ratio and accounting driven.” Shareholders “blindly look at numbers”. She added: “A bunch of number crunchers put out a spreadsheet and think that is strategy.”

Mr Ghosn added: “Every day we see CEOs fired because shares didn’t move in the last year. Short tenure is a big problem.” However, he predicted that Fink’s letter will “spark change in the financial community”.

Theresa Whitmarsh, of the Washington State Investment Board, one of America’s biggest institutional investors, claimed “companies with a myopic focus on short-term earnings are sowing the seeds of their own destruction”. Long-term investment would boost returns, she said.



Businesses already serve a social purpose

Iain Murray gives his take on Fink

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s letter to CEOs demanding that their companies “serve a social purpose” is the latest example of what economist Milton Friedman dubbed a “muddle-headed” approach to economic activity.

The approach is muddle-headed because businesses already serve a social purpose simply by doing business. McDonald’s provides the most nutrition at the lowest price the world has ever seen. Google exists “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Even your local hairdresser helps people feel good about themselves — surely a social service in these troubled times.

There are even more obvious ways businesses serve a social purpose. They employ people, providing needed income at the right time and often fostering career opportunities. They bring people together, bolstering communities. They allow for the development of transferable skills, thereby providing real world learning too often overlooked in schools.

Above all, businesses create wealth, which is distributed among owners, workers and indeed customers. Lowering prices after you make good profits is an example of wealth sharing with customers.

We also know that wealth and health go together. Generating wealth doesn’t just mean people can afford more stuff but that they can live longer, healthier and happier lives.

If businesses already serve these important social purposes, what is Fink getting at? He talks about “governments failing to prepare for the future” and how companies leave themselves vulnerable to activist campaigns.

So he doesn’t like the results of the political process and wants to see special interests force businesses to provide results he favors. If not, he would presumably argue that businesses should stand up to special interest bullies and respect our political system.

That’s why Friedman also called corporate social responsibility “subversive.” He was right.



Kochs rally donors to spend more to protect business gains

Harry Reid will be fuming

The Koch brothers and their network of wealthy donors have a lot to be happy about after the first year of the Trump administration. And they plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to help ensure they stay happy.

“We’ve made more progress in the past five years than I had in the last 50,” declared Charles Koch, the 82-year old billionaire, addressing a group of about 550 donors who gathered in Indian Wells for the Kochs’ winter policy and politics weekend seminar.

But this era of gains, which brought them a massive tax cut, a queue of conservative federal judges, and an administration full of friendly regulators, could all be gone if Democrats claw back control of the government.

So the vast network has pledged to devote around $400 million toward politics and policy in the midterms to hold the GOP majorities in both chambers. That’s 60 percent more than the network spent in 2014, when Republicans picked up nine seats in the Senate and 13 seats in the House of Representatives.

The sum includes $20 million that Koch and his brother David plan to put behind efforts to popularize the $1.5 trillion tax cut. The network spent $20 million last year pushing the legislation.

“We have a ways to go,” said Koch, teeing up his Big Ask to the well-coiffed group of donors who contribute at least $100,000 a year to Koch-aligned groups. “So my challenge to all of us is to increase the scale and effectiveness of this network by an order of magnitude. By another 10-fold on top of all the growth and progress we’ve already made. Because if we do that, I’m convinced we can change the trajectory of this country.”

The Republican takeover of the federal government has long been a priority for the Kochs. Now, after spending years fomenting distrust of government, they must defend their gains. They need to sell.

And selling government policies is different from criticizing them, they’re learning.

“We were explaining the negative consequences of a law that had passed,” said Tim Phillips, the president of the Kochs’ political arm Americans for Prosperity, reflecting on the group’s efforts to mobilize voters against Obamacare in previous years. “This year we’ll be explaining the benefits of good policies in many cases.”

Voters have been skeptical of the tax law in part because much of the benefit is focused on businesses like those run by the Kochs and their allies. The tax cuts directly benefit Koch Industries by $1 billion to $1.4 billion a year, according to a recent analysis from Americans for Tax Fairness, a liberal advocacy group.

“They stand to benefit by massive amounts more than what they’ve spent,” said TJ Helmstetter, a spokesman for Americans for Tax Fairness.

David Dziok, a spokesman for Koch Industries who attended the weekend events, said he is “skeptical” of the numbers but didn’t say they were wrong.

“The tax-reform legislation is going to affect our businesses in different ways, and that’ll play out in time,” Dziok said. “But we are confident that it’ll be good for businesses big and small, and all American taxpayers.”

A major focus for the Koch network — known formally as the Seminar Network — is state legislation, with an aim to remake the nation’s education system via referendums and new state laws. The Kochs are particularly enthusiastic about education savings accounts: a mechanism that upends traditional K-12 education by, in some cases, giving parents lump sums they can use to pay private schools or even online institutions to educate their children.

A top priority for 2018 is in Arizona, where a measure allowing education savings accounts for all students goes on the ballot in November. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey pushed the idea and attended the weekend seminar to chat with donors about it.

Success in Arizona would have “a ripple effect” felt across the country, explained Jorge Lima, executive director of the LIBRE Initiative, the Kochs’ Hispanic outreach arm that has been playing an increasing role with the network’s education measures in states.

A similar bill is moving through the New Hampshire Legislature and is supported by Americans for Prosperity.

These efforts are the latest in a roiling education debate and face headwinds. Last month a school board in Colorado voted, 6 to 0, to end a private voucher program, which teachers unions hope is a sign that voters are showing skepticism for such policies.

The Koch network is not completely aligned with the Trump administration, to be sure. The Koch network largely supports free trade, for example, putting it at odds with the “America First” rhetoric of President Trump.

On Saturday evening, Phillips raised the issue with Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who was a panelist at one session. “Do you feel comfortable that Republicans will maintain that free-trade majority that they have?”

“I do,” Tillis assured donors gathered in a ballroom.

The Kochs didn’t support Trump in 2016, though they have strong ties to Vice President Mike Pence and key members of Trump’s staff and Cabinet.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The EQ dream

The whole idea of IQ is poison to the "all men are equal" crowd because it demonstrates that they are not. So the game is on to show that IQ differences may exist but those differences are unimportant. And the prime way of doing that has been to promote the idea of Emotional Intelligence (EQ), which can be trained.  In any activity taking part among a group EQ is said to be very important.  It's an attractive dream but it is at variance with reality.  Because it is so attractive it has been much researched and the Wikipedia entry on it summarizes the findings pretty well.

Chief among the problems with EQ, is that there are a variety of things which are called Emotional Intelligence but they correlate poorly with one another  So which is the "true" emotional intelligence?  The concept is fine but going out there among the population and assessing it is very difficult.  One could argue that if it can be measured, nobody so far has achieved that.  Different tests will pick out different groups of people as emotionally intelligent.  Does it exist at all in reality?

The second problem is predictive power.  No matter which version of EQ that you use does it predict success (however defined) any better than IQ?  And it does not in general.  All the enthusiasm for it is misplaced.  It is a unicorn concept.  It sounds attractive but it does not exist out there in the world.

So why on earth is Ezekiel Emanuel pushing that old barrow of rubbish below?  Easy. He is a far Leftist and the chief architect of Obamacare. His brother is Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  His ideology makes him WANT to believe in EQ.  The editors of JAMA were very incautious to let his blatherings into the pages of their journal.  Obviously, they knew nothing about the psychological research into EQ

Does Medicine Overemphasize IQ?

Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, PhD; Emily Gudbranson, BA

Everyone wants the best physician. Patients want their physician to know medical information by heart, to possess diagnostic acumen, and to be well-versed in the latest tests and treatments. Finding the best physicians often involves looking for resumes with stellar attributes, such as having graduated at the top of a collegiate class, attended the best medical schools, completed internships and residency training at the nation’s most prestigious hospitals, and been awarded the most competitive fellowships. Many medical schools, likewise, want only the smartest students, as assessed by the highest grade point averages and MCAT scores.

This selection process has persisted for decades. But is it misguided? Do the smartest students, as measured by science grades and standardized test results, truly make the best physicians?

Overemphasizing IQ

By prioritizing academic pedigree, the medical profession has traditionally overemphasized general intelligence and underemphasized—if not totally ignored—emotional intelligence. With “objective” assessments and little grade inflation, performance in hard science courses and on the MCAT have been the primary determinants of medical school admissions.1,2 Although good test scores and grades in calculus, physics, or organic chemistry may signal one kind of intelligence, reliance solely on those metrics results in an incomplete and inaccurate assessment of a student’s potential to be an excellent, caring physician.

Medical schools often conflate high MCAT scores and grades in the hard sciences with actual intelligence. For instance, good test takers can score extremely high on multiple-choice examinations but may lack real analytic ability, problem-solving skills, and common sense. Scoring well on these metrics reveals nothing about other types of intelligences, especially emotional intelligence, that are critical to being an excellent physician. Knowing how to calculate the speed of a ball rolling down an inclined plane or recalling the Bamford-Stevens reaction are totally irrelevant to being an astute diagnostician, much less an oncologist sensitively discussing end-of-life care preferences with a patient who has developed metastatic cancer.

The prioritization of student grades and test scores in the US News & World Report rankings of medical schools fuels a vicious cycle. Medical schools have placed more emphasis on these criteria, ultimately striving to select students with higher scores to maintain their ranking. From 2000 to 2016, the grade point averages of students admitted to US medical schools have actually increased from 3.60 to 3.70,3 and MCAT scores in both biological and physical sciences have also increased by 5% to 10%.4 European universities may emphasize IQ even more in medical student selection, because they rely on standardized tests at the end of high school, such as A-level examinations in England.

Providing high-quality care certainly requires intelligence. A high IQ may help a physician diagnose congestive heart failure and select the right medications and interventions, but it is still no guarantee that the physician can lead a multidisciplinary team or effectively help patients change their behaviors in ways that tangibly improve their health outcomes.

The Ubiquitous Importance of Emotional Intelligence
A certain threshold of intelligence is absolutely necessary to succeed in any field. In medicine, IQ is necessary to master and critically assess the volume and complexity of information integral to contemporary medical education. But past this threshold, success in medicine is ultimately more about emotional intelligence.

Psychologists have identified 9 distinct kinds of intelligence, ranging from mathematical and linguistic to musical and the capacity to observe and understand the natural world.5 Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to manage emotions and interact effectively with others. People with high EQs are sensitive to the moods and temperaments of others, display empathy, and appreciate multiple perspectives when approaching situations.

Is EQ really necessary for success? A major part of what distinguishes human brain functions from those of primates is a larger prefrontal cortex and extensive intrabrain connections, which endow humans with significantly greater ability to navigate social interactions and collaborate. It makes sense, then, that humans should use this unique ability to its greatest extent.

Consider a simple negotiation session. Participants—executives, physicians, and others—are grouped into teams and given the exact same starting scenario and facts. When told to come to the best possible deal, as measured in a hard outcome such as the most money, results vary 4-fold or more. The best deals are reached by teams that exhibit mutual trust, an understanding of the interests of the other side, and the ability to reach a mutually beneficial arrangement. These variations are not the result of differences in brain power but rather differences in EQ. According to Diamond, “[In negotiations] emotions and perceptions are far more important than power and logic in dealing with others. [EQ] produces four times as much value as conventional tools like leverage and ‘win-win’ because (a) you have a better starting point for persuasion, (b) people are more willing to do things for you when you value them, no matter who they are, and (c) the world is mostly about emotions, not the logic of ‘win-win.’”6

EQ in Medicine

Vitally important to the success of 21st-century clinicians are 3 capabilities: to (1) effectively lead teams, (2) coordinate care, and (3) engender behavior change in patients and colleagues. (Both 1 and 3 require negotiating skills.) Thus, effective physicians need both an adequate IQ and a high EQ.

For the 10% of chronically ill patients who consume nearly two-thirds of all health care spending,7 the primary challenge is not solving diagnostic conundrums, unraveling complex genetic mutations, or administering specially designed therapeutic regimens. Rather, physicians caring for chronically ill patients with several comorbidities must lead multidisciplinary teams that emphasize educating patients, ensuring medication adherence, diagnosing and treating concomitant mental health issues, anticipating potential illness exacerbations, and explicitly discussing treatment preferences.

These activities depend on listening, building trust, empathy, and delineating mutual goals. Chronic care management, in addition to sufficient intelligence, therefore primarily requires a high EQ. As Goleman suggested, “Analytics and technical skills do matter, but mainly as ‘threshold capabilities’—that is, they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions… [But] emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it a person can have the best training in the world; an incisive analytical mind; and an endless supply of smart ideas; but he still won’t make a great leader.”8

Minimizing or ignoring EQ when selecting and training medical students may partially explain why US medical professionals fare so poorly in assembling well-functioning teams to care for chronically and terminally ill patients.


A Report on Terrorism That Falls Short on Useful Details

A new government report on terrorism uses data selectively to produce skewed conclusions on the percentage of acts of terrorism committed in the U.S. by those born in another country.

In a quick read, the Jan. 16 report from the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department appears to demonstrate that foreign-born individuals committed approximately 73 percent of terror crimes from Sept. 11, 2001, through Dec. 31, 2016.

The joint report says its goal was to provide statistics that would help to develop policies that would be effective in “protecting [American] citizens from terrorist attacks.”

To achieve this goal, it makes sense that the report should analyze all data on terrorism committed in the U.S. However, the report selectively uses data in three ways, resulting in the slanted conclusions.

First, the report considers only instances of international terrorism, defined as “investigations of terrorist acts planned or committed outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States over which federal criminal jurisdiction exists and those within the United States involving international terrorists and terrorist groups.”

What the report fails to include are cases of domestic terrorism—attacks on U.S. soil committed by individuals not connected to international terror groups. So for example, the report excludes eco-terrorism or neo-Nazi terrorist activities.

It certainly can be of value to analyze specific types of terrorism; but the focus on international terrorism reveals why the report concludes that foreign-born individuals are more likely to be involved in acts of terror.

While many of these individuals could be linked to Islamist terrorism, the data is not transparent. It likely includes terror groups from the Irish Republican Army to the Cambodian Freedom Fighters. The report would have been more helpful if it had at least laid out the types of terror groups involved and their sizes.

Second, the report says its data includes offenses such as “fraud, immigration, firearms, drugs, false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice” in counting cases of international terrorism. Adding these events into the mix is not transparent at best, but deceptive at worst.

While the report claims that such crimes are related to international terrorism, it is impossible for readers to confirm the validity of these classifications without access to detailed accounts of the individual events. If the government can’t provide this data, it would better serve the public by providing an accounting of cases of explicit terrorism crimes.

Third, and as noted in a Lawfare article, an earlier version of the dataset “included almost 100 foreign-born defendants who were extradited into the United States and therefore never would have been affected by U.S. immigration policy.”

Extradition is completely different from voluntary migration and refugee flows. So these convictions numbering in the hundreds—if indeed included in the report—should be addressed separately if the Trump administration wants to make an argument about the connection between immigration and terrorism.

The government should provide data that is transparent, clear, and properly gathered and analyzed. This report falls short and officials ought to improve it to provide policymakers and the American people with the best information with which to make decisions.

The Heritage Foundation has tracked all Islamist terror plots and attacks on U.S. soil that have occurred since 9/11.

The information recorded in the Heritage timeline provides an accurate and transparent display of the individuals behind acts of terror against the U.S.

We must identify and understand the nature of the threat if we are to develop public policy that effectively addresses it. To do this, we need better, accurate data from the Trump administration.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Polls, polls, polls

We learnt in 2016 that polls tell you nothing about Trump.  They didn't even give him a chance in the primaries and Hillary had her victory speech ready to go on election night.  So do the polls below tell us anything?  Probably not

Talk show host Oprah Winfrey would easily beat President Trump in a 2020 match-up, a new poll indicates, but Democratic and liberal household names Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders would best the Republican by more.

The new survey, conducted by SSRS and commissioned by CNN, found that Winfrey would best Trump among registered voters by nine points, with the talk show queen receiving 51 per cent and the sitting president getting 42 per cent.

Former Vice President Joe Biden would take 57 per cent of registered voters surveyed, to Trump's 40 per cent – winning by the biggest margin of the three – while former Democratic candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, would beat Trump 55 per cent to 42 per cent.

President Trump trounced 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton with the white vote, 57 per cent to 37 per cent, according to CNN's exit polls.

That margin evaporates in the newest poll, with Biden getting the most support among white registered voters, beating Trump 50 per cent to 48 per cent.

Sanders and Winfrey perform better too, with Sander attracting 48 per cent to Trump's 49 per cent, and Winfrey receiving 45 per cent to Trump's 50 per cent of white registered voters.

The poll also shows white women voting for the Democratic candidates instead of the Republican, like they did in 2016. 

Biden wins white women by 23 points, while Sanders has a 17-point edge and Winfrey wins the group by 14 points.

Former Vice President Biden has said he's purposely not making a decision about 2020 yet, while Sanders – an independent who ran for the nomination the last time around – hasn't laid out his plans yet.



Minimum Wage Hikes Cause Hundreds of Bus Boys to Lose Jobs at Red Robin

Red Robin, a popular burger chain, will cut jobs at all 570 of its locations because, chief financial officer Guy Constant said, “We need ... to address the labor [cost] increases we’ve seen.”

To put it differently, Red Robin is cutting these jobs because of bad government policy: namely, hikes in the minimum wage. On January 1, some 18 states—from Maine to Hawaii—increased their minimum wage.

Founded in Seattle but headquartered in Colorado, Red Robin hopes to save some $8 million this year by eliminating bussers from their restaurants. (Bussers, or busboys, clear dirty dishes from tables, set tables, and otherwise assist the wait staff.) According to the New York Post, the company saved some $10 million last year after eliminating “expediters,” who plate food in the kitchen.

Despite what many people, including policymakers, would argue, this is an altogether painfully predictable response to increased labor costs. It’s basic economics. The “first law of demand” teaches us that when the price of a good or service increases, people will tend to buy fewer units. Conversely, when the price of a good or service decreases, people will tend to buy more. This idea is usually presented no later than chapter 3 in any econ 101 textbook.

Labor is no exception to this rule. If the cost of employing workers increases, we’d expect companies to hire fewer workers and even to let some go.

Some might say, “Well, why can’t Red Robin just make a smaller profit and stop being greedy?” Consider, however, that pretax profit margins for the restaurant industry typically range between 2 and 6 percent. This means there’s not a lot of room for error or cost increases before realizing a loss.

Now suppose that a restaurant like Red Robin is operating normally when minimum-wage hikes are imposed. Let’s take Colorado as an example. On January 1, Colorado’s minimum wage increased by about 10 percent—from $9.30 to $10.20 an hour.

Have the workers at the restaurant—the cooks, the servers, or the bussers—acquired any new skills? No! Will they magically become more productive and begin to generate more revenue for their employer as a result of this policy? No! The workers simply become more expensive to employ. So what is a company like Red Robin to do?

One option would be to add a surcharge to customers’ bills to recoup some of the losses from the higher labor costs. This is precisely what happened in San Diego following a minimum-wage increase—much to the chagrin of policymakers and customers alike. Another option would be to increase menu prices—a particularly unpopular move when it comes to luring in customers.

A third alternative would be to fire some staff and make due with a smaller workforce. Restaurants like Chili’s have taken to installing ordering kiosks at its tables, allowing customers to order and pay their tabs without ever having to speak to a waiter. Other restaurants, like McDonald’s and Wendy’s, have also begun to substitute technology for human beings in the form of automated ordering kiosks.

Note that three groups could lose here. First, Red Robin loses. No company likes firing employees, incurring higher costs, or trying to provide the same quality service with fewer workers.

Second, customers may lose through poorer service or higher prices.

And third, workers lose if they find themselves without jobs.

While we may not like the idea of someone trying to live on $5 or even $7 an hour, we can likely all agree that earning a small wage is better than earning nothing at all due to unemployment. It’s easy to vilify restaurants and other companies when they respond to higher costs with layoffs. But it’s important to place the blame where it belongs. In this case, it’s bad policy—not incompetence, not corporate greed—that’s causing people to lose their jobs.



The Supreme Court was not the only area where Trump has had wins in appointing conservative judges

The past year was probably the most consequential in modern history for the appointment of conservative judges to the federal courts, with a successor to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who shares his judicial philosophy, and a historic number of appeals court judges who will shape the law for two generations. What led to this transformative moment was a unique presidential election, the first in American history during which the composition of the federal judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court, was cited as a major factor for a large swath of voters. The issue might well have been decisive to the outcome of that contest.

Since the 2016 election, President Donald Trump has nominated judges who have a demonstrated commitment to, as the president puts it, interpreting the Constitution “the way it was meant to be.” In so doing, Trump is ensuring that his legacy will last far beyond his term in office. Tax and health care reform can quickly evaporate with future changes in congressional majorities, but federal judges serve for life, often making decisions about our Constitution and laws that affect one or two generations. History shows, just as well, that federal judges can block a president’s agenda, preventing the executive branch from accomplishing its goals when it comes to deregulation, national security and other aspects of domestic and social policy reform.

The year of “extraordinary accomplishment,” as Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell described it, began with the nomination and confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the seat left vacant by Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. He will likely serve for decades, and may well be the deciding vote in enormously important cases touching on free speech, religious liberty, gun rights and the scope of authority of the administrative state.

Less noticed, but almost as important, are the many federal appeals court vacancies the president had an opportunity to fill last year. The Senate confirmed 12 nominees to fill those vacancies on the appeals courts, which was an all-time record for a presidential administration in its first year. The record was previously shared by Presidents John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon, with 11 in their respective first years. Only three were confirmed during President Barack Obama’s first year.

Statistics, however, tell only part of the story. What makes this judicial sweep so significant is the extraordinary backgrounds of Trump’s nominees. Gorsuch and the president’s appeals court nominees have among the most distinguished credentials possible and demonstrated records of applying the Constitution and laws as they are written. Many have explicitly rejected, in word and deed, making decisions based on their own political preferences, or any partisan agenda, and they have demonstrated and promised independence, invoking the separation of powers, federalism and checks and balances that are the hallmarks of limited government under our Constitution. Many have records of refusing to take issues unaddressed by the Constitution away from the people and those they elect to represent them.

Though relatively young as judicial appointees, they almost uniformly have some of the most extraordinary professional resumes in the legal system, with service on state supreme courts or other very distinguished posts in government or on leading law school faculties or at the best law firms in the country. Several, such as Joan Larsen of Michigan, Allison Eid of Colorado, David Stras of Minnesota and Don Willett of Texas, have been leading conservative  intellectuals on their state supreme courts. Others, such as Amy Barrett of Norte Dame and Stephanos Bibas of the University of Pennsylvania, are leading constitutional law scholars committed to the original meaning of the Constitution. And, several, including Gregory Katsas and Kyle Duncan have argued important limited government cases before the Supreme Court. People with such talent and philosophical commitment are very likely to prove transformational for the future of our legal culture. That is particularly meaningful given the widespread skepticism held by so many Americans toward government institutions.

In a year when legislative victories were hard to come by, the “judicial wave” of 2017 was a very important benchmark of political success. And, looking ahead to the rest of 2018, it is likely to become the GOP leadership’s case-in-chief for redoubling unified and intense action on the many federal judicial nominees the president still has to nominate and get confirmed.



Dow Grows 31% in Trump's First Year, Highest Gain Since FDR in 1933

First-year stockmasrket and job figures tend to reflect business expectations but will not be continued if promises are not kept. Trump has however delivered on his promises

Although most of the liberal media are not reporting this, it is now a fact that the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Dow, experienced growth of 31% in Donald Trump's first year as president, the greatest growth for a president's first year since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933, some 84 years ago, reported

The Dow is a stock market index of 30 major publicly traded companies. It measures how the 30 companies traded on the stock market in a standard trading session. The Dow was first calculated in 1896 and is considered one of the more reliable ways to measure economic growth. Some of the 30 companies in the Dow today include Apple, Boeing, Coca-Cola, ExxonMobil, Microsoft, Nike, Visa and Walmart.

In its story, CNBC reported that the 30-stock index "had surged more than 31 percent since Trump's inauguration," which "marks the index's best performance during the first year of a president since Franklin Roosevelt."

In FDR's first presidential year, 1933, the Dow soared 96.5%, according to FactSet and CNBC. In Trump's first year it rose 31.3%.

In Harry Truman's first year, the Dow grew 30.9% and under Barack Obama, first year, it rose 28%.

Baird investment strategist Bruce Bittles told CNBC, "This is all about policy. You've got lower taxes, less regulation and confidence in the economy is high. Things are firing on all cylinders."



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Monday, January 29, 2018

Smart people are less likely to go mad

That's an easy to understand heading, is it not?  It's my summary of an article titled: "Association of Heritable Cognitive Ability and Psychopathology With White Matter Properties in Children and Adolescents".  It appeared in JAMA Psychiatry. Published online January 24, 2018

By a Norwegian, a German and a Vietnamese (Dag Aln├Žs, Tobias Kaufmann and Nhat Trung Doan), all of whom work at Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway


Importance:  Many mental disorders emerge during adolescence, which may reflect a cost of the potential for brain plasticity offered during this period. Brain dysconnectivity has been proposed as a common factor across diagnostic categories.

Objective:  To investigate the hypothesis that brain dysconnectivity is a transdiagnostic phenotype in adolescence with increased susceptibility and symptoms of psychiatric disease.

Design, Setting, and Participants:  We investigated clinical symptoms as well as cognitive function in 6487 individuals aged 8 to 21 years from November 1, 2009, to November 30, 2011, in the Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort and analyzed diffusion magnetic resonance imaging brain scans for 748 of the participants.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  Independent component analysis was used to derive dimensional psychopathology scores, and genome-wide complex trait analysis was used to estimate its heritability. Multimodal fusion simultaneously modeled contributions of the diffusion magnetic resonance imaging metrics fractional anisotropy, mean diffusivity, radial diffusivity, L1 (the principal diffusion tensor imaging eigen value), mode of anisotropy, as well as dominant and secondary fiber orientations, and structural connectivity density, and their association with general psychopathology and cognition.

Results: Machine learning with 10-fold cross-validation and permutation testing in 729 individuals (aged 8 to 22 years; mean [SD] age, 15.1 [3.3] years; 343 females [46%]) revealed significant association with general psychopathology levels (r = 0.24, P < .001) and cognition (r = 0.39, P < .001). A brain white matter pattern reflecting frontotemporal connectivity and crossing fibers in the uncinate fasciculus was the most associated feature for both traits. Univariate analysis across a range of clinical domains and cognitive test scores confirmed its transdiagnostic importance. Both the general psychopathology (16%; SE, 0.095; P = .05) and cognitive (18%; SE, 0.09; P = .01) factor were heritable and showed a negative genetic correlation.

Conclusion and relevance:  Dimensional and heritable general cognitive and psychopathology factors are associated with specific patterns of white matter properties, suggesting that dysconnectivity is a transdiagnostic brain-based phenotype in individuals with increased susceptibility and symptoms of psychiatric disorders.


Comment:  Aren't you glad I summarized that for you?  To be fair, they had to tell you all that stuff to make their point.  And what they say goes well beyond my simple summary. They found that a particular brain feature was associated with (and probably caused) both low IQ and a variety of mental disorders.  And it was all genetically inherited.

So to make it simple again: Some people are born with defective brains.  That's not terribly new news, of course.  What is interesting is that a particular brain feature,  "dysconnectivity", underlies both personality and IQ.  You can be both dumb and off your head at the same time!

And that relates well to something I have been saying for a long time:  That a high IQ tends to be just one symptom of general biological fitness.  "To him that hath, more will be given him", as Jesus said several times (Matthew 13:12 & 25:29; Mark 4:25). There is no equality in nature.  We knew that already but it is nice to see it in a particular brain feature. 


European CEOs Go One By One To Tell Trump They Are Investing Billions Back In The US

The Left were all confident that Trump would be ignored and denounced at Davos.  Roughly the opposite happened

President Donald J. Trump hosted a dinner with European business leaders and CEOs at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland Thursday evening. Trump has been making the rounds in Davos, holding bilateral meetings with other world leaders and conducting business roundtables. Trump met with various business leaders in shadow of the recent economic boom in America.

In a stunning moment, one by one, European titans of industry from companies like Adidas, Siemens and Bayer went around the table to thank Trump for the passage of tax cuts and the easing of corporate tax burdens. Almost every CEO had a new US-based investment or strategic business to announce.

The president of Seimens, Joe Kaeser, said, “since you have been so successful in tax reform we have decided to develop the next generation gas turbines in the United States.”

Trump responded “That’s great!”

Exchanges like this continued all around the table.



Objections to Trump

The Left say he is anti-democratic but it is they who want to overturn a duly elected President.  The Left just can't help their authoritarianism. It is intrinsic to them

One year after his inauguration, the idea that Donald Trump is a tyrant continues to be a strong current in political discussion. Of course this charge has been a mainstay of his critics, from Democrats to those who imagine themselves to be ‘the resistance’. But we also hear it from Republican politicians and conservatives as well. Recently, outgoing Republican Jeff Flake compared Trump to Joseph Stalin, for referring to the media as ‘the enemy of the people’. And David Frum, former speechwriter for George W Bush, has a new book out, Trumpocracy, in which he argues that Trump is a corrupt authoritarian.

These claims that Trump is a despot are over the top, and don’t correspond with the reality of his actions in office. In fact, it is hard to say Trump stands for any principle, as his views seem to change by the day, or tweet. If he is an autocrat, he is far from a consistent one. Yes, he does make authoritarian outbursts, but he has not followed through on them. He has threatened to change the libel laws, introduce a Muslim travel ban, investigate voter fraud (and potentially suppress certain voters), remove those disloyal to him in the Department of Justice, and dismiss Robert Mueller as the special investigator. But none of these things has materialised.

Moreover, an aspiring would-be dictator would need to subordinate the institutions around him – after all, in the US federal system there are many levels of government and the president’s powers are limited. In Trump’s first year, he simply hasn’t done that. His cabinet often disagrees with him: congressional Republicans have pursued their longstanding agenda, which conflicts with Trump’s electoral promises (and to which Trump has willingly acquiesced, desperate to have any sign of success); Democrats in Congress have successfully opposed his policies, including his proposed reforms to Obamacare and immigration, which triggered the latest government shutdown. Trump clearly hates the media, and his threats are wrong and should be opposed, but he is unsuccessful in silencing them – the mainstream media are obsessed with denouncing Trump’s every move.

Among the most consistent talking points of Trump’s first year is that he is a ‘danger to democracy’. And yet nothing he has proposed is as anti-democratic as the goal of his antagonists: to remove him from office. Their arguments for ousting Trump keep changing: he’s Hitler, he’s colluding with the Russians, and, more recently, he’s mentally unfit and a racist. As do their suggested methods of removal: Electoral College coup, obscure interpretation of the 25th Amendment, impeachment. Such an overturning of the vote, which they so desperately want, would directly undermine democracy.

Time and again, it appears that Trump’s bark is worse than his bite. Does that mean that everything is okay with his presidency? That we should ignore his outbursts, or laugh them off as ‘just words’ or ‘just tweets’? No. Trump’s bigoted comments, his lies and name-calling, his illiberal intimidations – these are all serious problems and cannot just be waved away, as his apologists often try to do.

For Trump’s defenders, these are superficial issues of personality. For instance, Reverend Jerry Falwell Jr recently tweeted: ‘Complaining about the temperament of the @POTUS or saying his behaviour is not presidential is no longer relevant. @realDonaldTrump has single-handedly changed the definition of what behaviour is “presidential” from phony, failed & rehearsed to authentic, successful & down to Earth.’

Likewise, the conservative Victor Davis Hanson says the negative reaction to Trump’s behaviour can be explained by elitist prejudices: ‘To many progressives and indeed elites of all persuasions, Trump is also the Prince of Anti-Culture: mindlessly naive American boosterism; conspicuous, 1950s-style unapologetic consumption; repetitive and limited vocabulary; fast-food culinary tastes; Queens accent; herky-jerky mannerisms; ostentatious dress; bulging appearance; poorly disguised facial expressions; embracing rather than sneering at middle-class appetites; a lack of subtlety, nuance, and ambiguity.’

There’s no doubt that a good portion of the visceral opposition to Trump is down to a snobbish reaction to what he represents culturally, and reflects the cultural elite’s horror at not having complete dominance, as they did when Obama was in office. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing wrong with Trump’s conduct. Trump gives his opponents much that is objectionable to work with. Take the recent ‘shithole’ comment about immigrants from Africa and Haiti. The response may have been hysterical (as if prior presidents had not said worse). But Trump’s comment was clearly racist and should be roundly denounced.



Poll: Voters Overwhelmingly Support Medicaid Work Requirements

Two-thirds of Pennsylvania voters support Medicaid work requirements. In other states, thousands of Americans previously dependent on government programs have transformed their lives and achieved independence thanks to work requirements. But Pennsylvania’s human services system still traps people in poverty by discouraging work—and voters want that to change.

Two-thirds of Pennsylvania voters support requiring healthy adult Medicaid recipients to pursue work in order to continue receiving government benefits, according to polling released today by the Commonwealth Foundation. The poll of 400 likely Pennsylvania voters, conducted by McLaughlin & Associates, found majority support for work requirements across party lines and among all demographics.

“Voters recognize that promoting work can transform lives and expand resources for those who need them most,” commented Elizabeth Stelle, director of policy analysis for the Commonwealth Foundation. “States like Kansas and Maine have proven work requirements in food stamps boost incomes and help individuals transition to productive careers. The success of work requirements in other programs led the federal Department of Health and Human Services to approve a landmark Medicaid work requirement for healthy Kentuckians last week.”

“Pennsylvania lawmakers already recognize the popularity of this reform,” Stelle continued. “HB 59, vetoed by the governor last fall, directed state officials to pursue a work search requirement for healthy adults with Medicaid coverage. Likewise, state House members recently promoted HB 1659 to restore work requirements in food stamps.”

Work requirements spurred half of those leaving the SNAP (food stamps) programs in Kansas and Maine to more than double their incomes, according to a recent study by the Commonwealth Foundation. If Pennsylvania adopted similar reforms in its food stamps program, the results would be transformative: as many as 100,000 people would rejoin the workforce and wages would grow by $175 to $210 million, according to estimates.

“We must not let people languish in a broken system because we lack the political will to fix it,” Stelle said. “Lawmakers and the governor must recognize that promoting work is key to ending generational poverty and preserving resources for those who need them most.”



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Charles Murray on Culture vs. Economics:  An interview

Tamar Jacoby:

It's an age-old debate between the left and the right. The left says poverty—inner-city poverty and working-class poverty—is mostly about economics. The right says culture has at least as much to do with it. You're a longtime proponent of the cultural explanation. Can you spell that out for us?

Charles Murray:

I believe—I've believed for 40 years—that the reforms of the 1960s and the sexual revolution combined to create a perfect storm. And that storm changed the rules of the game for poor people—especially young poor people. In 1960, if you were male, working age, and not physically disabled, you were in the labor force. You were either working or you were looking for work. If you were a woman in your 20s, you were probably already married and had children.

Now let's be clear—this is not the natural state of affairs. Your late teens are not the time you want to get up every day and go to work at the same time even if you don't feel like it. If you're a guy, it's certainly not the time when you naturally say, "I think I want to get married."

And yet, into the '60s, there were norms. And those norms held, almost universally.

But then, at some point in the '60s, the rules changed.

By 1970, it had become much easier if you were a guy to commit a crime, get caught for it, and still not go to jail. It was much easier to slide through school, even if you were a troublemaker, and end up with a diploma without having learned anything or having faced any pressure to learn something.If you were a young woman at the end of the 1960s, if you had a baby, you were not the only girl in your high school class who had one. There were probably half a dozen others. The stigma was pretty much gone. You could afford to take care of the child without a husband. And you could live with a boyfriend, which you couldn't have done before.

Meanwhile—the other element of the perfect storm—there was the sexual revolution. The pill was first put on sale in 1960. For the first time in human history, women had a safe, convenient way to have sexual intercourse even if the guy did nothing to protect against pregnancy. Naturally, this had a huge effect on family formation.


So let me play devil's advocate. I say it's not an either/or. Okay, culture plays a huge role. But doesn't economics have at least as much to do with it?

The US lost 5.6 million manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2010—30 percent of manufacturing employment. The guy who used to make $25 an hour in a fabricating plant now has to work at Wendy's for minimum wage. And this in turn drives other changes—cultural changes.

When you can't find a job that pays what you're used to, you drop out of the labor force. And then the women in your community are much less interested in marrying you. And pretty soon, those women are raising kids on their own, etc., etc.

In this theory, economics and culture intertwine and drive each other. Is there anything to that?


I'm not denying that these things have occurred. I'm not denying that they have interacted. But I wish people would take a closer look at the timing.

The problems we're talking about start in the last half of the '60s. That's when labor force participation started to decline, when out-of-wedlock births started to rise, when crime rose. But in the last half of the '60s, the jobs hadn't left.

The economy was red hot.

And as we've seen in the years since, things don't get much better when the economy improves. We had a natural experiment in the late 1990s. There were "help wanted" signs everywhere. You could work as many hours a week as you wanted, even if you had low skills and little education. Even then, employers were begging for welders and electricians and cabinetmakers—and they were willing to pay $25 to $30 an hour.

What happened? White male labor force participation stopped declining for a couple years. But it did not go back up. People did not flock back into the labor force. There was no turnaround.


It's very hard to put Humpty Dumpty back together again?


Exactly. Some of the most depressing research has to do with chronic unemployment. Once you've been out of the labor force for a while, getting back in is really hard.


So this brings us to policy. What can we do about this? I guess that's one reason I cling to economic causality along with cultural causality. Culture is so hard to change.


We've been trying 20, 30, 40 years—policy intervention after policy intervention. And most of what we've tried hasn't worked or worked only around the edges.


What about reasserting the norms? Moral suasion—by government or civil society—could that work?


I think there should be a lot more of it. As we know, the educated middle class has been doing better and better in recent years—economically and maintaining the old norms. But that new upper class has been AWOL in the culture wars.

They get married. They work long hours. They're engaged in their communities. But they don't say, "This would be a good idea for other people as well." They're nonjudgmental. They don't preach what they practice.

I don't mean people should get bullhorns and go down to working-class neighborhoods and yell. That's not how it worked in the 1950s.

But the norms were in the air. Values were promulgated by people at the top of society as a matter of course.

It's about policymakers and people who write TV shows and people who make movies. They need to start saying, "You know, it's really a good thing for kids if their parents are married. It's really important that guys get into the labor force and stay there."


We do sometimes change cultural norms. In our lifetimes, society succeeded in creating a new norm around smoking—and a lot of people stopped smoking.


That's right. I'm not sure it would be that simple. But I won't argue with you.

I know you'd like to hear something more optimistic, and I wish I could help you. But the one thing I'll say is that American history does seem to go in cycles.

We have a history of revivals—of what used to be called "reawakenings." In the past, they were religious. We had three or four of them. And each one had huge effects across the culture. The civil rights movement was also a kind of great awakening—an about-face in our values over just 10 years.


And you think that kind of thing could happen again?


Well, let's just say there's a lot less resistance today to some of the things we've been talking about—reasserting norms about marriage and family and work—than there was 20 or 30 years ago. Back then, I could not have said many of the things I've said today without getting hissed by the audience. So I think there is some potential for a cultural revival.

What are the odds? I don't know. But they're greater than zero. And given how little we know about how to effect change programmatically, with government interventions, I say we'd better go with the only game in town. I think that's culture.



States Look to Rein in Occupational Licensing Laws, Reduce Burden on Workers

The inability of the federal government to organize its affairs should not distract from progress at the state level. Even though an increasing number of Americans work in occupations subject to licensing requirements, from 5 percent of the workforce in 1950 to about 30 percent today, some states are fighting back.

A bill introduced in Florida would scale back licensing requirements for some professions and remove them completely for others. South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard recently proposed creating an interstate compact to facilitate people to continue working when they move to another participating state. Such reforms could improve the lives of many Americans by reducing barriers to work and mobility.

Overly-burdensome licensing requirements can limit the number of people that are able to work in licensed occupations. As I’ve written previously, a recent paper from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty estimated that if licensing requirements for the ten occupations were equivalent to requirements in the least burdensome states, employment in some professions would increase by over four percent.

For some professions, such as hair braiders, policymakers may determine that the occupation can be removed from the licensing framework altogether. For others where such a move is not practical or the arguments in favor of a move are less clear cut, they can consider reducing the requirements to levels already in place in other states, whether by reducing the number of required hours, the number of tests, or scaling back other measures.

Policymakers in Florida are taking this approach. This is welcome news, because the most recent report from the Institute for Justice found the state had the 5th most burdensome licensing laws. On Friday, the Florida House passed a licensing reform bill 74-28. If it were to become law the bill would remove seven professions, including hair braiders, nail polishers, and my personal favorite, timekeepers and announcers, from the state’s occupational licensure framework.

For other occupations the bill would significantly reduce the number of hours of training required to get a license. Barbers would require 600 hours of training, down from 1,200. Restricted barbers, with a narrower scope of practice clarified in the bill, would require 325 hours.

By shrinking the number of occupations subject to licensing regulations, and lowering the burden for some other occupations, the bill would reduce barriers to entry and increase the number of opportunities available to Floridians. A similar reform effort passed the House last year, but did not ultimately become law. However, it is a positive sign that this bill was one of the first to be taken up in 2018, and makes enactment more likely.

South Dakota Governor Daugaard recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal about the introduction of legislation to establish a multistate “Compact for the Temporary Licensure of Professionals.” Under the compact, individuals living in one state who have been licensed in an occupation in another participating state can receive an in-state temporary license within 30 days of requesting one. The ability to obtain a temporary license quickly would allow people in these occupations to avoid disruptions in their ability to work if they move from one participating state to another. They could continue to work while they work on fulfilling the requirements for a permanent license.

Previous research concluded that the interstate migration rate for workers in state-specific licensed occupations was 36 percent lower than for people in unaffected professions. Occupational licensing can increase the costs related to moving, as people who move miss out on earnings and have their career trajectories derailed. The authors of that study found that the increase in occupational licensing since 1980 can explain 6 percent of the decline in interstate migration since then. The higher costs deter some people from moving, and make it harder for those that do end up doing so.

The compact would not go as far as a full reciprocity agreement, in which participating states would accept licenses issued in other participating states. However, the compact would go some way towards reducing the cost and disruption introduced by occupational licensing on interstate migration.

Florida and South Dakota offer an example to other states with their occupational licensing reforms. These efforts are a step forward in terms of reviewing the occupational licensing framework in place, and seeking to find practical, actionable ways to reduce the related burdens.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)