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operative
06-18-2011, 10:09 AM
This is particularly for miceelf, who doubted the free market model:
Estonia, perhaps the freest economy in Europe, will experience growth topping 6% this year, one of the highest in the Eurozone.
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/15/estonia-economy-idUSLDE75E0MV20110615

eeeeeeeli
06-18-2011, 10:48 PM
This is particularly for miceelf, who doubted the free market model:
Estonia, perhaps the freest economy in Europe, will experience growth topping 6% this year, one of the highest in the Eurozone.
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/15/estonia-economy-idUSLDE75E0MV20110615
OK, so now I guess you get to explain the exact ways in which Estonia is more free market than other countries, and then prove a direct causal link between that and both growth rates that are competitive over time, as well as multiple other measures of quality of life, including things like income equality, access to health care, etc.

edit: you may also need to start with defining "free market", as it tends to be a highly subjective term, encompassing a broad swath of economic philosophy, from anarchy to mixed markets.

operative
06-19-2011, 10:00 AM
OK, so now I guess you get to explain the exact ways in which Estonia is more free market than other countries, and then prove a direct causal link between that and both growth rates that are competitive over time, as well as multiple other measures of quality of life, including things like income equality, access to health care, etc.

edit: you may also need to start with defining "free market", as it tends to be a highly subjective term, encompassing a broad swath of economic philosophy, from anarchy to mixed markets.

Well I'll do one better than explaining it myself and just quote the IoEF
"Modern regulatory procedures are far more streamlined than those of many other countries in the region..."
"Estonia has moderate tax rates. The personal income tax rate is a flat 21 percent. The corporate tax is also 21 percent. Undistributed profits are not taxed. Other taxes include a value-added tax (VAT) and excise taxes. In the most recent year, overall tax revenue as a percentage of GDP was 32.3 percent."

Estonia's score is damaged by the currently too-high government spending and a too restrictive labor market, but in many ways it is the most free economy in Europe and almost competitive with Singapore and Hong Kong.

Income inequality isn't a measure of quality of life, unless the person is extremely jealous.

eeeeeeeli
06-19-2011, 12:43 PM
Income inequality isn't a measure of quality of life, unless the person is extremely jealous.

I was thinking about this recently. A common critique of the progressivism is that they want to punish the rich, or that they are jealous of them. I suppose that could be true, but it would be hard to prove.

Instead, I think a more serious response would acknowledge the usual claims about inequality. First, a large gap in incomes is usually indicative of other inequalities, such that income mobility - or freedom, in a real sense* - is limited. There could be any number of reasons for this, i.e. in typical post-colonial 3rd world countries ownership of land, wealth and access to power is distributed highly unevenly. Even in 1st world countries, there is a high correlation between access to social capital and wealth.

A second claim, and it largely follows from the first, is that tax structures should take into account this social capital dynamic, and assume that greater incomes were born from greater access to capital. Thus, tax burdens should be progressive.

Third, and this is somewhat separate from the concept of social capital, but it is simply true that those with greater incomes can afford to pay more in taxes without as considerable a cost to their standard of living. Because basic things like rent, food, utilities and transportation make up the largest portion of lower-income families' spending, taxes will eat into that much faster than they would upper-income spending - the bulk of which, at progressive rates - is concentrated more in luxury amenities and investment capital.

Because there are many things that a government does that will not be done in the private sector, it must generate revenue somehow. Income inequality, and philosophical beliefs regarding it would need to factor in.

So those are just a few of the issues involved in the critique of income inequality, and policy response. (edit:I have no doubt that envy does play some role in this - who does not want to live like a king? Yet there is a difference between jealousy when things are perceived to be fair, and jealousy when things are not. I suppose in an ironic twist, conservatism's philosophical apology for inequality might indeed provide a soothing rational and justification for those who might otherwise feel they are on the losing side of an unequal class structure. Conservatism in this way would serve as a sort of - to echo Marx - opiate for extant power imbalances.)

* The issue of freedom and liberty may be concepts that the left should be more vocal on, from a messaging standpoint. The right uses them to great advantage, leveraging their historical and patriotic import, and in no small way slanders the left as anti-freedom and anti-liberty. Yet the left could just as easily stand behind those terms in criticizing the right for the same thing, albeit for different philosophical reasons.

operative
06-19-2011, 01:27 PM
I was thinking about this recently. A common critique of the progressivism is that they want to punish the rich, or that they are jealous of them. I suppose that could be true, but it would be hard to prove.

Instead, I think a more serious response would acknowledge the usual claims about inequality. First, a large gap in incomes is usually indicative of other inequalities, such that income mobility - or freedom, in a real sense* - is limited. There could be any number of reasons for this, i.e. in typical post-colonial 3rd world countries ownership of land, wealth and access to power is distributed highly unevenly. Even in 1st world countries, there is a high correlation between access to social capital and wealth.

I actually agree with what you are getting at--extreme income inequality is often a symptom of political maladies--massive corruption, a non-functioning legal code, etc. But that accepts the observation that the income inequality in those situations is a symptom, not the cause. Equatorial Guinea would be a prime example of this--the presence of income inequality is not the cause of the issues with standard of living. The presence of an insane, kleptocratic dictator is the cause of the issues.


A second claim, and it largely follows from the first, is that tax structures should take into account this social capital dynamic, and assume that greater incomes were born from greater access to capital. Thus, tax burdens should be progressive.


The freer the economy, the less likely this will be the case. Restrictions on economic activity serve to benefit the existing wealthy against those who wish to improve their stake in life. Tariffs are designed with the intent of supporting existing domestic companies; fees, licenses etc. serve to benefit the existing companies at the expense of would-be entrepreneurs, for whom the costs of entry are raised too high.

But if we cast aside restrictions then there is no need for large-scale income redistributionism because the institutional advantages given to the privileged will have been removed and we will have something resembling a meritocracy.



Third, and this is somewhat separate from the concept of social capital, but it is simply true that those with greater incomes can afford to pay more in taxes without as considerable a cost to their standard of living. Because basic things like rent, food, utilities and transportation make up the largest portion of lower-income families' spending, taxes will eat into that much faster than they would upper-income spending - the bulk of which, at progressive rates - is concentrated more in luxury amenities and investment capital.

Lower income people also reject savings in favor of cigarettes and alcohol. There was a recent study done of lower income people in Thailand, over the course of twenty or so years. It found that there was a real difference amongst them: some invested, both in education and in savings, while others simply wasted their money on short-sighted pleasures. The outcomes were as expected: those who were wise with money advanced themselves, and those who were not did not. Poor people often do not understand the time value of money. It's why they play the lottery instead of investing their money. That's why they stay poor. No, not everyone can become a millionaire, but a middle class existence is within the grasp of everyone with a reasonable enough intelligence level.



Because there are many things that a government does that will not be done in the private sector, it must generate revenue somehow. Income inequality, and philosophical beliefs regarding it would need to factor in.

There are many fewer than you think. It is better to let the government run most roads, not because they manage them better but because the price system can not properly assign costs to individual users. I don't think that a private market for police or military could provide as well as a state model. Most of everything else though, not so much. We should ditch the Post Office, for example.



So those are just a few of the issues involved in the critique of income inequality, and policy response. (edit:I have no doubt that envy does play some role in this - who does not want to live like a king? Yet there is a difference between jealousy when things are perceived to be fair, and jealousy when things are not. I suppose in an ironic twist, conservatism's philosophical apology for inequality might indeed provide a soothing rational and justification for those who might otherwise feel they are on the losing side of an unequal class structure. Conservatism in this way would serve as a sort of - to echo Marx - opiate for extant power imbalances.)


I would not call it jealousy when a person is wronged. Then it is righteous indignation. If you steal $1000 from me, I will not be jealous of your newfound wealth--I'll be angry and righteously (and rightfully) indignant. But if you make an investment in the stock market and make $1000, while I hear about the same opportunity and fail to do make the investment, I will simply be jealous of your newfound fortune because I did not receive it and you did. I think we have every justification to take money from companies that enrich themselves through bribery of public officials (the agrobusinesses that continue to fight for farm subsidies are a terrific example) because they are not earning their money honestly.

eeeeeeeli
06-19-2011, 05:50 PM
I actually agree with what you are getting at--extreme income inequality is often a symptom of political maladies--massive corruption, a non-functioning legal code, etc. But that accepts the observation that the income inequality in those situations is a symptom, not the cause. Equatorial Guinea would be a prime example of this--the presence of income inequality is not the cause of the issues with standard of living. The presence of an insane, kleptocratic dictator is the cause of the issues.



The freer the economy, the less likely this will be the case. Restrictions on economic activity serve to benefit the existing wealthy against those who wish to improve their stake in life. Tariffs are designed with the intent of supporting existing domestic companies; fees, licenses etc. serve to benefit the existing companies at the expense of would-be entrepreneurs, for whom the costs of entry are raised too high.

But if we cast aside restrictions then there is no need for large-scale income redistributionism because the institutional advantages given to the privileged will have been removed and we will have something resembling a meritocracy.




Lower income people also reject savings in favor of cigarettes and alcohol. There was a recent study done of lower income people in Thailand, over the course of twenty or so years. It found that there was a real difference amongst them: some invested, both in education and in savings, while others simply wasted their money on short-sighted pleasures. The outcomes were as expected: those who were wise with money advanced themselves, and those who were not did not. Poor people often do not understand the time value of money. It's why they play the lottery instead of investing their money. That's why they stay poor. No, not everyone can become a millionaire, but a middle class existence is within the grasp of everyone with a reasonable enough intelligence level.




There are many fewer than you think. It is better to let the government run most roads, not because they manage them better but because the price system can not properly assign costs to individual users. I don't think that a private market for police or military could provide as well as a state model. Most of everything else though, not so much. We should ditch the Post Office, for example.




I would not call it jealousy when a person is wronged. Then it is righteous indignation. If you steal $1000 from me, I will not be jealous of your newfound wealth--I'll be angry and righteously (and rightfully) indignant. But if you make an investment in the stock market and make $1000, while I hear about the same opportunity and fail to do make the investment, I will simply be jealous of your newfound fortune because I did not receive it and you did. I think we have every justification to take money from companies that enrich themselves through bribery of public officials (the agrobusinesses that continue to fight for farm subsidies are a terrific example) because they are not earning their money honestly.

I think there are two related issues between our perspectives here:

- the degree to which extant inequities in power structures tend to remain, if not solidify without intervention. In the extreme*, this might require revolutionary, literal redistribution of wealth. At the margins, it might simply means provision of quality libraries. The trouble is the massive squishy middle where there are a variety of interventions that can promote self-efficacy. Yet to be comprehensive and not tied to grab-bag charity work, a guarantee of equal access can be practicably made only by the government. The most obvious example of this is public education, which can then extend in terms of real efficacy to any variety of programmatic responses such as early childhood, parenting classes, childcare support, drug treatment, counseling, etc. (all of which of course must prove themselves but there is no reasons why they can't be completely effective in theory and there are indeed many such examples of effective programs).

*I'm thinking of countries where a kleptocracy has virtually impoverished everyone and must be removed by force.

- the degree to which opportunity is actually accessible to all. This is tied directly to the one I mentioned previously. We could tie ourselves in knots trying to determine how much self-efficacy any given adult individual has in America. But I think we can make some pretty assumptions based on a lot of very predictive data. The degree of efficacy results directly from an individual's human and social capital.

This however, would contradict your statement: "a middle class existence is within the grasp of everyone with a reasonable enough intelligence level." Clearly, the poor are not of below-average intelligence, at least to the degree to which their income is reflective of any marginal lower IQ.

The real problem lies not in IQ, but one's ability to realize their potential. To do this requires bringing all of the faculties to bear necessary to make the choices that will lead to success. For example, being in excellent shape is within most people's grasp. Yet why aren't they? It isn't that they are stupid. There are just too many competing factors involved in maintaining an excellent health regiment.

Returning to the larger issue of income, people are similarly confined by their capacity for self-realization. Yet this confinement is far more extensive and multi-faceted than mere habits of diet and exercise. For starters, there is a very close link between high school graduation rates and income. It isn't causal - it is certainly possible to be successful despite dropping out of school. But what the link does is point to the incredible power of other indicators that have already begun to act before citizens reach adulthood, and yet have effects that last their entire lives.

People simply do not magically invent their own capacity for habits of mind, etc. that allow them to succeed. These are skills that they have been able to develop over years, and upon adulthood can begin to leverage into success.

Now, it is all well and good to acknowledge this, and then seek ways of increasing agency in society, whether through cultural change, government intervention - whatever. But there are also systematic barriers - "channels" if you will - that provide sort of invisible scaffolding that allows some to reach higher, and leaves others more greatly marginalized and with fewer options.

So, these would basically fall into the realm of social capital. But, as opposed to structures like family or culture, which can be influenced by society at large, these would rather be more infrastructural, and within the larger designs of what kind of society we want to create.

One of the largest, most problematic of these structures is the unintended result of our system of property, specifically property values. What ends up happening is a clustering effect which ultimately has a profound impact not only on individual communities but society at large. When you have large degrees of inequality between neighborhood property values, you get communities with large disparities in human capital. In the rich neighborhoods you get selection for relatively well-adjusted*, motivated, educated, knowledgeable, intact families, etc. - basically high levels of social capital. Yet each point of social capital is not static. They build exponentially, leveraging one and another to to create a sum vastly more useful than its parts.

You can see where this goes with poor communities, where the same holds true, yet in reverse. There is a relative lack of social capital - education, worldly knowledge, motivation, psychodynamic integrity (mental illness, dysfunction,), etc., and each individual piece leverages against one another, building exponentially until the results become catastrophic. This snowballing of capital disadvantage has an overall effect of placing an active downward pressure on communities. Not only are there practical, day-to-day effects on activities, but stress levels increase, contributing to health and behavioral problems. If you think losing weight is difficult, try doing it with massive increases in stress hormones due to not being able to afford rent, getting laid off, your car breaking down, your kids fighting at school, your boyfriend running out on you, etc., etc. Any single lack in social capital advantage becomes extra burdensome in the presence of an overall lack. Whereas something like drug addiction or abuse in a wealthy community can be lessened in its destructive power by the presence of family cohesion, financial stability, in the absence of social supports, it can have much more dire consequences.

Of course, these are extremes. Most of us fall somewhere in between, possessing some mixture of the above. But this does not make any of the elements of social capital any less crucial to the understanding of how "opportunity" works.

operative
06-19-2011, 09:16 PM
I think there are two related issues between our perspectives here:

- the degree to which extant inequities in power structures tend to remain, if not solidify without intervention. In the extreme*, this might require revolutionary, literal redistribution of wealth. At the margins, it might simply means provision of quality libraries. The trouble is the massive squishy middle where there are a variety of interventions that can promote self-efficacy. Yet to be comprehensive and not tied to grab-bag charity work, a guarantee of equal access can be practicably made only by the government. The most obvious example of this is public education, which can then extend in terms of real efficacy to any variety of programmatic responses such as early childhood, parenting classes, childcare support, drug treatment, counseling, etc. (all of which of course must prove themselves but there is no reasons why they can't be completely effective in theory and there are indeed many such examples of effective programs).

*I'm thinking of countries where a kleptocracy has virtually impoverished everyone and must be removed by force.

- the degree to which opportunity is actually accessible to all. This is tied directly to the one I mentioned previously. We could tie ourselves in knots trying to determine how much self-efficacy any given adult individual has in America. But I think we can make some pretty assumptions based on a lot of very predictive data. The degree of efficacy results directly from an individual's human and social capital.

This however, would contradict your statement: "a middle class existence is within the grasp of everyone with a reasonable enough intelligence level." Clearly, the poor are not of below-average intelligence, at least to the degree to which their income is reflective of any marginal lower IQ.

The real problem lies not in IQ, but one's ability to realize their potential. To do this requires bringing all of the faculties to bear necessary to make the choices that will lead to success. For example, being in excellent shape is within most people's grasp. Yet why aren't they? It isn't that they are stupid. There are just too many competing factors involved in maintaining an excellent health regiment.

Returning to the larger issue of income, people are similarly confined by their capacity for self-realization. Yet this confinement is far more extensive and multi-faceted than mere habits of diet and exercise. For starters, there is a very close link between high school graduation rates and income. It isn't causal - it is certainly possible to be successful despite dropping out of school. But what the link does is point to the incredible power of other indicators that have already begun to act before citizens reach adulthood, and yet have effects that last their entire lives.

People simply do not magically invent their own capacity for habits of mind, etc. that allow them to succeed. These are skills that they have been able to develop over years, and upon adulthood can begin to leverage into success.

Now, it is all well and good to acknowledge this, and then seek ways of increasing agency in society, whether through cultural change, government intervention - whatever. But there are also systematic barriers - "channels" if you will - that provide sort of invisible scaffolding that allows some to reach higher, and leaves others more greatly marginalized and with fewer options.

So, these would basically fall into the realm of social capital. But, as opposed to structures like family or culture, which can be influenced by society at large, these would rather be more infrastructural, and within the larger designs of what kind of society we want to create.

One of the largest, most problematic of these structures is the unintended result of our system of property, specifically property values. What ends up happening is a clustering effect which ultimately has a profound impact not only on individual communities but society at large. When you have large degrees of inequality between neighborhood property values, you get communities with large disparities in human capital. In the rich neighborhoods you get selection for relatively well-adjusted*, motivated, educated, knowledgeable, intact families, etc. - basically high levels of social capital. Yet each point of social capital is not static. They build exponentially, leveraging one and another to to create a sum vastly more useful than its parts.

You can see where this goes with poor communities, where the same holds true, yet in reverse. There is a relative lack of social capital - education, worldly knowledge, motivation, psychodynamic integrity (mental illness, dysfunction,), etc., and each individual piece leverages against one another, building exponentially until the results become catastrophic. This snowballing of capital disadvantage has an overall effect of placing an active downward pressure on communities. Not only are there practical, day-to-day effects on activities, but stress levels increase, contributing to health and behavioral problems. If you think losing weight is difficult, try doing it with massive increases in stress hormones due to not being able to afford rent, getting laid off, your car breaking down, your kids fighting at school, your boyfriend running out on you, etc., etc. Any single lack in social capital advantage becomes extra burdensome in the presence of an overall lack. Whereas something like drug addiction or abuse in a wealthy community can be lessened in its destructive power by the presence of family cohesion, financial stability, in the absence of social supports, it can have much more dire consequences.

Of course, these are extremes. Most of us fall somewhere in between, possessing some mixture of the above. But this does not make any of the elements of social capital any less crucial to the understanding of how "opportunity" works.

It seems that you're hinting at, but not fully embracing the observation that you can not explain individual outcome purely through a system of inputs. Two people, given the same inputs (neighborhood, income level, etc.) may have very different outcomes. It is true that pure IQ does not cause this, either.

But what does is the different ways that people discount future gains in favor of present ones. People who discount future gains the most will remain the poorest. Success stories have one thing in common: they discounted present gains for future, and made the greatest investment of their short-term resources to maximize their payoffs in the long-term.

People who smoke discount their long-term health for the short-term appeal (whatever that is, exactly) of smoking. People who play the lottery instead of saving money or investing it responsibly trade a more assured future return--the long term benefit--for the short term rush of having an astronomically low chance at a lot more money--it is no coincidence that many lottery winners go broke, because they do not magically gain the ability to properly weigh short-term and long-term benefits and costs. People who eat very unhealthily improperly weigh short-term payoffs of eating awfully unhealthy but tasty food over the long-term costs of diabetes, heart failure, etc. Every social malady is a result of the improper weighing of short term vs. long term costs, and this is something that you can't really do all that much to change--people are essentially born the way they are, as the marshmallow study illustrates.

Government programs have incentivized short-term gains at the expense of long-term gains. The government provides public housing, so a person has less of an incentive to save money (which is a cardinal sin of Keynesian economics, anyway) and move up. The government will give them money to "support" more kids so there's an incentive to have additional children, and since the government gives more money to single mothers there is the incentive to remain single. In fact, the more kids you with with the more husbands, the better--not only will you get more money from the state, but you increase your chances of actually getting some money from your supply of loser 'baby daddys'.

So, what you have is cultural reinforcement of ill-founded short-term benefit emphasis. It's no coincidence that African Americans were more widely employed and rising economically faster before the Great Society came along and wrecked the inner cities.

The difference in achievement of various newer immigrant groups is a great illustration--some cultures emphasize trading short-term benefits for long-term rewards, and others do not. It's why Chinese Americans have done very well, and Laotian Americans have not.

The public schools are a major failure, not an assistance. If we would move to school choice, kids would get a much better education. Right now we have a horrible, rotten system that is a money-sucking monster, and it is ruining the education of children.

eeeeeeeli
06-20-2011, 12:27 PM
Every social malady is a result of the improper weighing of short term vs. long term costs, and this is something that you can't really do all that much to change--people are essentially born the way they are, as the marshmallow study illustrates.

Doesn't this contradict most of what you were saying elsewhere in your post - government incentivizing short-term gain, cultural differences, etc.?

As for culture, how would you respond to the claim that ethnicity has much less to do with achievement than other forms of social capital, such as education, intact families, parent income, etc.? I'm not saying that there aren't some marginal differences in ethnic attitudes towards achievement (i.e. promoting sort of short vs. long-term planning). But that the more salient features of social capital have less to do with ethnic norms than other non-ethnic cultural patterns (i.e. "culture of poverty).

edit: real quick on education. The problem with education is fundamentally about student/family quality. This goes to what I wrote about previously with neighborhoods selecting for high/low social capital. School choice does little more than offer parents a sort of "get out of the ghetto free" card. The reality is that if these parents could afford to move out of their neighborhood into a wealthy neighborhood, they would automatically have access to "quality" schools. All they're doing is changing the demographic of their child's classroom.

Again, it is fundamentally about concentration of poverty.

operative
06-20-2011, 12:34 PM
Doesn't this contradict most of what you were saying elsewhere in your post - government incentivizing short-term gain, cultural differences, etc.?

I'd say that social conditions have a multiplier effect on inborn tendencies. When inborn tendencies are reinforced institutionally, they are essentially ingrained. When they are not, however, then positive change will occur. I'm inclined to believe that if we ended the minimum wage, public housing, and welfare, then black unemployment would return to what it was before minimum wage laws were passed (when it was lower than white unemployment), the illegitimacy rate would plummet to where it was before welfare within a generation, and you would see much more upward movement, because the culture of government dependency would be disrupted.


As for culture, how would you respond to the claim that ethnicity has much less to do with achievement than other forms of social capital, such as education, intact families, parent income, etc.? I'm not saying that there aren't some marginal differences in ethnic attitudes towards achievement (i.e. promoting sort of short vs. long-term planning). But that the more salient features of social capital have less to do with ethnic norms than other non-ethnic cultural patterns (i.e. "culture of poverty).

I don't think it adds up. The Chinese/Laotian difference illustrates this.

eeeeeeeli
06-20-2011, 12:46 PM
I'd say that social conditions have a multiplier effect on inborn tendencies. When inborn tendencies are reinforced institutionally, they are essentially ingrained. When they are not, however, then positive change will occur. I'm inclined to believe that if we ended the minimum wage, public housing, and welfare, then black unemployment would return to what it was before minimum wage laws were passed (when it was lower than white unemployment), the illegitimacy rate would plummet to where it was before welfare within a generation, and you would see much more upward movement, because the culture of government dependency would be disrupted.
I don't understand. You seem to be saying that income disparities can be explained by inborn tendencies, as well as ethnicity. Yet what relevance does relying on inborn tendencies have, considering that these tendencies exist across all groups?



I don't think it adds up. The Chinese/Laotian difference illustrates this.[/QUOTE]So Mexico will never compete with China and Laos?

operative
06-20-2011, 12:53 PM
I don't understand. You seem to be saying that income disparities can be explained by inborn tendencies, as well as ethnicity. Yet what relevance does relying on inborn tendencies have, considering that these tendencies exist across all groups?

Ethnic traditions and social norms, like social institutions, are multipliers on the inborn traits (which are likely inherited, which can thus be reconstructed to find the development of social norms).


So Mexico will never compete with China and Laos?

Given the right institutional framework, norms will evolve--in part due to conscious changes in decisionmaking and in part due to selective breeding.

graz
06-20-2011, 01:13 PM
Ethnic traditions and social norms, like social institutions, are multipliers on the inborn traits (which are likely inherited, which can thus be reconstructed to find the development of social norms).

Lottery playing, cigarette smoking and chewing gum -- bad!
... norms will evolve ... in part due to selective breeding.
Is that what you're saving your self for? Are you gonna take your master race plan on the road? I married into a family that descended from Johnny Appleseed (Chapman). At least he only gave us apples. In your case watch out world.

eeeeeeeli
06-20-2011, 07:25 PM
Lottery playing, cigarette smoking and chewing gum -- bad!

Is that what you're saving your self for? Are you gonna take your master race plan on the road? I married into a family that descended from Johnny Appleseed (Chapman). At least he only gave us apples. In your case watch out world.

I also find sort of moral logic used by operative to be distasteful. But that only makes sense as we have very different sets of assumptions about the way we think society works (or should work).

I must say however, that I really appreciate the relative reasonableness with which he makes his case. And honestly, he does so in a more clear, honest and eloquent manner than most conservatives I come across. (Of course, this is bloggingheads, right? ;) )

Anyhow - I imagine that operative is expressing what most on the right generally think, assume, or would care to articulate. It certainly correlates with general right-wing assumptions, even if they don't lay it out in such "brutal" terms.

eeeeeeeli
06-21-2011, 01:45 PM
Ethnic traditions and social norms, like social institutions, are multipliers on the inborn traits (which are likely inherited, which can thus be reconstructed to find the development of social norms).



Given the right institutional framework, norms will evolve--in part due to conscious changes in decisionmaking and in part due to selective breeding.

I still don't see the relevance of genetic traits, aside form the developmental truism that humans possess different basic abilities that will interact with their environmental stimulus. Unless you are saying that poverty and wealth are directly linked to genetic "capacity" (for lack of a better word).

This becomes all the more problematic when you seem to want to attach the concept to ethnic traits, implying genetic differences between ethnic groups with regard to cognitive capacity.

But you still haven't addressed my argument that neither genes nor ethnicity are relevant, and that the real problem is inequity in Social Capital, something largely divorced from ethnicity (this is why we see inequities in social capital within ethnically homogeneous groups, both in American immigrant communities, but to a much larger extent in their countries of origin). Further, the way we choose to organize society, not any specific ethnicity or genetic capacities, directly contributes to inequities in social capital (as I outlined above).

The work on this paper (http://www.mapl.com.au/A2.htm#1.%20What%20is%20Social%20Capital) may interest you, as it goes into much greater detail on social capital.

operative
06-21-2011, 02:45 PM
I still don't see the relevance of genetic traits, aside form the developmental truism that humans possess different basic abilities that will interact with their environmental stimulus. Unless you are saying that poverty and wealth are directly linked to genetic "capacity" (for lack of a better word).

This becomes all the more problematic when you seem to want to attach the concept to ethnic traits, implying genetic differences between ethnic groups with regard to cognitive capacity.

It's not cognitive capacity so much as it is behavioral tendencies. I think this can help to explain why two societies with many similarities can have very different crime rates (Honduras/El Salvador compared to Nicaragua). It's a question of how much a society places value on long-term rewards vs short term rewards.

This of course has its limits--regions have wildly different histories, access to natural resources, etc. So, this is where Jared Diamond's work would be worth noting. The access to animals that were easy to domesticate, among other variables, helped push Europe ahead of Africa. But within the post-colonial history, you have societies that embraced long-term thinking pro business policies (Botswana, Mauritius) and societies that adopted economy-stunting socialist programs (Kenya, Zimbabwe). It is no coincidence that the former are (relatively) prosperous democracies today and the latter range from semi-democratic to non-democratic and relatively poor today.

There are tendencies in the social organization of some African societies that lent themselves naturally to socialism and patriarchy. These didn't exist as much in some other societies. Just like there are differences in various European countries which help explain why Estonia is prospering and Greece is falling apart.

It's natural for a society to progress given the right institutional design. Those most able accumulate the most resources; they marry among themselves and produce more children than people with fewer resources. Just apply it to your own life: would you have wanted to marry a barely literate, marginally employed high school dropout? No way!

The government gets this entirely backwards by encouraging people with few resources to not seek to acquire more resources by rewarding them for having fewer resources, to not have fewer children by rewarding them for having more children, and to not have a stable household by reducing the role of the male to sperm donor by giving more to fatherless households. It means that one of the primary motivators for individual betterment--to further your genetic line--is essentially eliminated, as the attractiveness of the individual man, measured by his intelligence and accomplishment, is eliminated. It's terrible institutional design.




But you still haven't addressed my argument that neither genes nor ethnicity are relevant, and that the real problem is inequity in Social Capital, something largely divorced from ethnicity (this is why we see inequities in social capital within ethnically homogeneous groups, both in American immigrant communities, but to a much larger extent in their countries of origin).

Flesh this out--what would be an example of this?


Further, the way we choose to organize society, not any specific ethnicity or genetic capacities, directly contributes to inequities in social capital (as I outlined above).
[/QUOTE

I don't think we actually disagree that the institutional design of society is a salient variable.

[QUOTE]
The work on this paper (http://www.mapl.com.au/A2.htm#1.%20What%20is%20Social%20Capital) may interest you, as it goes into much greater detail on social capital.

I'll check it out. Here's a recent article on genetics:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/20/arts/genetics-and-crime-at-institute-of-justice-conference.html

Bare in mind that crime is but one example of an unwise activity that emphasizes short-term rewards over long-term consequences.

eeeeeeeli
06-21-2011, 06:37 PM
It's not cognitive capacity so much as it is behavioral tendencies. I think this can help to explain why two societies with many similarities can have very different crime rates (Honduras/El Salvador compared to Nicaragua). It's a question of how much a society places value on long-term rewards vs short term rewards.

I want to respond to the rest of your post. But first, would you agree with my understanding of your view if I changed it thus:

I still don't see the relevance of genetic traits, aside form the developmental truism that humans possess different basic behavioral tendencies that will interact with their environmental stimulus. Unless you are saying that poverty and wealth are directly linked to behavioral tendencies.

This becomes all the more problematic when you seem to want to attach the concept to ethnic traits, implying genetic differences between ethnic groups with regard to behavioral tendencies.

edit: While on the same paragraph, I should also ask you to clarify the difference between "behavioral tendencies" and social values. Because to me, while the two impact each other, there is a very clear distinction to be made between a behavioral tendency linked to genes and one linked to social norms. I just want to pin you down on whether you think there is a link between ethnicity and genes.

operative
06-21-2011, 07:36 PM
I want to respond to the rest of your post. But first, would you agree with my understanding of your view if I changed it thus:


Yeah, I would agree with that. I'm not a pure genetic determinist by any means--as Bryan Caplan noted in a recent blog post re: his latest book, while certain aspects of the lives of genetic twins tend to have a great deal of commonality, there are also differences.


edit: While on the same paragraph, I should also ask you to clarify the difference between "behavioral tendencies" and social values. Because to me, while the two impact each other, there is a very clear distinction to be made between a behavioral tendency linked to genes and one linked to social norms. I just want to pin you down on whether you think there is a link between ethnicity and genes.

I think right now we don't know--scientists are really only beginning to look into the matter. I don't want to overstate the link and argue for pure determinism, but I'd also say that there's not an absolute lack of a link. Social norms must begin on the individual level.

sugarkang
06-21-2011, 08:37 PM
The government gets this entirely backwards by encouraging people with few resources to not seek to acquire more resources by rewarding them for having fewer resources, to not have fewer children by rewarding them for having more children, and to not have a stable household by reducing the role of the male to sperm donor by giving more to fatherless households. It means that one of the primary motivators for individual betterment--to further your genetic line--is essentially eliminated, as the attractiveness of the individual man, measured by his intelligence and accomplishment, is eliminated. It's terrible institutional design.


The shorthand for this is called subsidizing failure. However, the liberal term for this is called helping the poor; attempts to end these programs are motivated by greed and racism. If we look closely, we could probably throw in a charge of homophobia as well.

eeeeeeeli
06-22-2011, 01:11 AM
The shorthand for this is called subsidizing failure. However, the liberal term for this is called helping the poor; attempts to end these programs are motivated by greed and racism. If we look closely, we could probably throw in a charge of homophobia as well.

I may as well respond to this here.

The claim here is essentially a behavioral one: that there is a direct causal link between government assistance and poor choices. (The first problem with the argument is its lack of nuance: there are many different varieties of government assistance, and one would assume at least some having net positive results on human achievement. But I'll stick with the general for now)

So to begin, I just think this is a very big claim to make, in that it requires demonstration of total (or at least majority) causality in the behavior of humans, which is vastly multi-causal. I'm curious how an argument might run that looks at any specific program and confidently claims that it is the main driver of subsequent life choices. Furthermore, the claim actually works pre-emptively, to the degree that the mere possibility of government assistance is assumed to be the driving factor in the final choice. Because without being able to offer a compelling theory or evidence of this phenomena, it could easily be a "just so story" that conveniently supports larger preconceived ideological narratives.

Even assuming the phenomenon exists, a major part of government assistance is based on a premise of emergency intervention. Essentially, if the government is not doing it, it will not otherwise be done. Now, there is a bit of a counter-factual element here, as it is difficult to know what would or would not happen. Following from the phenomenological assumption we're discussing, the government assistance itself (or the promise of it) is actively getting in the way of people planning for such emergencies. Without the promise of assistance, people would be more cautious, be better prepared, etc.

Yet we know that for at least some portion of the public, they either could not have prepared adequately, or did not know how to, due to life circumstances, etc. In my many years of working with the poor and needy, quite frequently their needs are not only not being met by the government - and they still don't know what to do, or cannot help themselves - but the government assistance they are receiving is the only thing keeping them from otherwise quite disastrous circumstances that they could not have prevented, or would not have known how to prevent.

The list of various social and circumstantial maladies afflicting the needy is indeed enormously long and complicated. But off the top of my head I could rattle off numerous situations where one would pretty much say, "they but for the grace of government go they"! Proponents of government services will not only point to those who are going without today by a current lack of service, but to times past where it was not a counter-factual but actual reality that people either could not or did not know how to help themselves. It is a matter of historical record.

Whether people could have adequately prepared for misfortune is in many cases difficult to say. But I would like to end with a final thought on a special class of people, those who, I would argue, neither do not presently, nor would have previously known how to help themselves, with or without government assistance.

The largest of these groups of people are obviously children. Say what you will about their parents, the fact is that they are by definition unable to help themselves. I would argue that we owe it to every child now, and to the yet unborn citizens of this country, to be provided some basic level of health and welfare, so that they have as good as an equal chance at life as we can realistically hope to ensure.

But, and this is where I refer back to the notion of social capital, there are many people who simply have not developed the human capital - for whatever reason - to properly create for themselves successful lives. These are people who consistently make poor decisions. They have poor planning skills, poor impulse control, poor emotional regulation, poor self-esteem (at least in terms of efficacy), poor work ethics, poor habits of mind, etc. These are likely the very same folks who would have failed the famous marshmallow experiment.

For these people, simply removing the promise of government assistance is not going to magical turn them into successful people. It is not going to help them to learn to plan, to control their impulses, to regulate their emotions, to feel more empowered, to have better work ethics, poor habits of mind, etc. These people existed far before there was anything like the great society programs. And they will likely remain with us for the foreseeable future.

People who are going to get addicted to crack and utilize government assistance are not going to refrain from crack if you take away the "promise" of treatment. Teenage mothers aren't going to refrain from having stupid, unprotected sex if you take away the "promise" of daycare subsidies or prenatal care. People who move from one crappy low-wage job to another aren't going to get better jobs if you take away the promise of getting food stamps should you get laid off. People who end up homeless are not going to avoid becoming homeless if you take away the prospect of getting to stay in a shelter at night.

The strongest argument for most government services seems to be that most were indeed started in response to a perceived need. That need could not have been created by the government programs that were created in its response!

I will grant that it does make sense that there be some degree of perpetuation that goes along with certain government services. But this must be carefully analyzed and quantified as best we can, and then balanced against the good that the assistance is providing (what would have happened otherwise). If there is perpetuation going on, the reasonable thing to do would seem to be to set limits so that a cycle of "freeriding" ends, not to end the entire program.

I guess my last thought would to be ask for some substantiation for anti-assistance arguments. How do we know that they are perpetuating dysfunction? How specifically? By how much? And how much in comparison to the good they obviously also do?

sugarkang
06-22-2011, 02:10 AM
The claim here is essentially a behavioral one: that there is a direct causal link between government assistance and poor choices.

Well, if we're going to make an effort to be accurate, I think we should say that government intervention, in a worst case scenario, has caused more harm than good. At the very least, it has done little to no good, on net balance, with regard to what it set out to achieve: raise the living standards of the underprivileged. Is that fair?

In any event, your prolix, but admittedly thoughtful analysis of the situation comes down to:

1. We don't know what causes what.
2. We have a moral obligation to help the underprivileged.
3. Think of the children.


I'm curious how an argument might run that looks at any specific program and confidently claims that it is the main driver of subsequent life choices.

Compare welfare recipients of Great Society and the underclass of the same period that held menial jobs. Compare the outcomes of subsequent generations.


Furthermore, the claim actually works pre-emptively, to the degree that the mere possibility of government assistance is assumed to be the driving factor in the final choice. Because without being able to offer a compelling theory or evidence of this phenomena, it could easily be a "just so story" that conveniently supports larger preconceived ideological narratives.

We could do the above, unless you're just feeling solipsistic.

Even assuming the phenomenon exists, a major part of government assistance is based on a premise of emergency intervention. Disagree. Emergency intervention could certainly be one rationale. However, government assistance can be doled out just as easily based on arbitrary political / economic winds.

Essentially, if the government is not doing it, it will not otherwise be done. Now, there is a bit of a counter-factual element here, as it is difficult to know what would or would not happen. And I don't presume to know. I have my theories, but then you do as well. Still, that need not be discussed. If one can dig up data comparing welfare recipients vs. workers, at the very least, we would know, empirically, if welfare worked.

Without the promise of assistance, people would be more cautious, be better prepared, etc.This is over stated. I think we can go as far as saying the government would not have been complicit in their failures.


Yet we know that for at least some portion of the public, they either could not have prepared adequately, or did not know how to, due to life circumstances, etc. In my many years of working with the poor and needy, quite frequently their needs are not only not being met by the government - and they still don't know what to do, or cannot help themselves - but the government assistance they are receiving is the only thing keeping them from otherwise quite disastrous circumstances that they could not have prevented, or would not have known how to prevent.

I don't doubt you one bit. However, it appears that you have made a moral case for why we should help them directly. I, on the other hand, am making the case that it would be equally good, if not better, to do absolutely nothing.


The list of various social and circumstantial maladies afflicting the needy is indeed enormously long and complicated. But off the top of my head I could rattle off numerous situations where one would pretty much say, "they but for the grace of government go they"! Proponents of government services will not only point to those who are going without today by a current lack of service, but to times past where it was not a counter-factual but actual reality that people either could not or did not know how to help themselves. It is a matter of historical record.

Again, no argument that the needy are needy. The issue is whether help, helps.


Whether people could have adequately prepared for misfortune is in many cases difficult to say. But I would like to end with a final thought on a special class of people, those who, I would argue, neither do not presently, nor would have previously known how to help themselves, with or without government assistance.

The largest of these groups of people are obviously children. Say what you will about their parents, the fact is that they are by definition unable to help themselves. I would argue that we owe it to every child now, and to the yet unborn citizens of this country, to be provided some basic level of health and welfare, so that they have as good as an equal chance at life as we can realistically hope to ensure.

I've said in another thread that if we are going to keep the socialist model of health care, we should limit universal coverage to children.


But, and this is where I refer back to the notion of social capital, there are many people who simply have not developed the human capital - for whatever reason - to properly create for themselves successful lives. These are people who consistently make poor decisions. They have poor planning skills, poor impulse control, poor emotional regulation, poor self-esteem (at least in terms of efficacy), poor work ethics, poor habits of mind, etc. These are likely the very same folks who would have failed the famous marshmallow experiment.


You seem to suggest that we must intervene. That might be clear for a liberal, but there are competing moral concerns for a conservative.

For these people, simply removing the promise of government assistance is not going to magical turn them into successful people. It is not going to help them to learn to plan, to control their impulses, to regulate their emotions, to feel more empowered, to have better work ethics, poor habits of mind, etc. These people existed far before there was anything like the great society programs.

Really? Can you provide some evidence? I recall Amy Waxman saying this was absolutely not true.


People who are going to get addicted to crack and utilize government assistance are not going to refrain from crack if you take away the "promise" of treatment. Teenage mothers aren't going to refrain from having stupid, unprotected sex if you take away the "promise" of daycare subsidies or prenatal care. People who move from one crappy low-wage job to another aren't going to get better jobs if you take away the promise of getting food stamps should you get laid off. People who end up homeless are not going to avoid becoming homeless if you take away the prospect of getting to stay in a shelter at night.

Of course not. These things are not guaranteed through the current system of government assistance, either. Only, in the case where we intervene, we have wasted the public's money. To the extent that we believe money can end misery, perhaps steps should be taken in that direction?


The strongest argument for most government services seems to be that most were indeed started in response to a perceived need. That need could not have been created by the government programs that were created in its response!

Perhaps. However, the question is whether those needs have been sufficiently met as a justification for continued spending. Burden of proof is on the state to justify their coercive power.


I will grant that it does make sense that there be some degree of perpetuation that goes along with certain government services. But this must be carefully analyzed and quantified as best we can, and then balanced against the good that the assistance is providing (what would have happened otherwise). If there is perpetuation going on, the reasonable thing to do would seem to be to set limits so that a cycle of "freeriding" ends, not to end the entire program.

Haven't your assumptions gone a step too far? Namely, that we have the money to bestow benevolence upon the needy?


I guess my last thought would to be ask for some substantiation for anti-assistance arguments. How do we know that they are perpetuating dysfunction? How specifically? By how much? And how much in comparison to the good they obviously also do? See Amy Waxman and John McWhorter on The Moynihan Report. (http://www.blackpast.org/?q=primary/moynihan-report-1965) Whoops (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/18/us/18poverty.html). With regard to your premise about the "good they obviously do," please provide evidence.

eeeeeeeli
06-22-2011, 02:57 AM
With regard to your premise about the "good they obviously do," please provide evidence.

A quick response to this. I was wondering if this might need clarification. The good I mentioned has only to do with the actual services rendered, aside from the argument that they do or no not contribute to dependency. So this is things like nutrition, healthcare, libraries, parks, treatment, financial aid, tutoring, daycare, etc. Those are by themselves goods, no matter who they are provided by. The negatives would be the assertion that they are coming from the government (paid for by others), foster dependency, etc. But a good is to some extent being delivered.

I of course would argue that there are larger social goods that they do, but that is controversial, and beyond the scope of my limited assertion.

operative
06-22-2011, 11:58 AM
A quick response to this. I was wondering if this might need clarification. The good I mentioned has only to do with the actual services rendered, aside from the argument that they do or no not contribute to dependency. So this is things like nutrition, healthcare, libraries, parks, treatment, financial aid, tutoring, daycare, etc. Those are by themselves goods, no matter who they are provided by. The negatives would be the assertion that they are coming from the government (paid for by others), foster dependency, etc. But a good is to some extent being delivered.

I of course would argue that there are larger social goods that they do, but that is controversial, and beyond the scope of my limited assertion.

Here's an interesting point in a very related subject:
http://www.jasoncollins.org/2011/06/crime-and-biology/

eeeeeeeli
06-22-2011, 12:40 PM
Here's an interesting point in a very related subject:
http://www.jasoncollins.org/2011/06/crime-and-biology/
Yes, very interesting. I actually really think that this is where we are headed, as we are able to tease out more and more of both the biological and sociological drivers of crime, social dysfunction, etc. How the actual interplay works out will certainly remain heavily debated - although I think to a certain extent there are a lot of empirical questions.

So, I'm reading Sam Harris' The Moral Landscape right now and he makes some very compelling arguments regarding the notion of free will and human development. He (I think rightly) points out that our system of criminal justice is fundamentally rooted in the assumption of free will. He quotes Supreme Court case law:
The supreme court has called free will a "universal and persistent" foundation for our system of law, distinct from a "deterministic view of human conduct that is inconsistent with the underlying precepts of our criminal justice system"(United States vs. Grayson, 1978).
I think that's an accurate assessment. However I think that foundational assumption is flawed, and so to our system of justice.

The logic take-away though, as many people suppose, is not actually that radical. We will still need to establish deterrence, as well as imprisoning dangerous people. But we will need to take into account a scientific understanding of human development (specifically with regard to human choice) at every stage of the process, from sentencing to treatment to prison conditions. We are simply reaching the point where there is little other explanation for human behavior than biology and environment, with no room left over for anything like what we think of as "free will", such that it has any explanatory power for human choice.

Considering the liberal/conservative divide over government programs, I always come back to what I think is reasonable common ground: that we should be doing what is most efficacious. If indeed assistance programs are found to create more dependency than empowerment, I completely oppose them. I'm in favor at looking at human development scientifically, and modeling our laws and institutions accordingly.

For the record, I'm very much in favor of many free market solutions to economic and social issues. I don't presume at all that the "government knows best", or even that we can pretend to have good solutions to some of our most vexing social problems. But I also am convinced that the free market is not always the best solution to certain physical or social infrastructural problems (i.e. roads or drug abuse).

operative
06-22-2011, 12:45 PM
Yes, very interesting. I actually really think that this is where we are headed, as we are able to tease out more and more of both the biological and sociological drivers of crime, social dysfunction, etc. How the actual interplay works out will certainly remain heavily debated - although I think to a certain extent there are a lot of empirical questions.

So, I'm reading Sam Harris' The Moral Landscape right now and he makes some very compelling arguments regarding the notion of free will and human development. He (I think rightly) points out that our system of criminal justice is fundamentally rooted in the assumption of free will. He quotes Supreme Court case law:

I think that's an accurate assessment. However I think that foundational assumption is flawed, and so to our system of justice.

The logic take-away though, as many people suppose, is not actually that radical. We will still need to establish deterrence, as well as imprisoning dangerous people. But we will need to take into account a scientific understanding of human development (specifically with regard to human choice) at every stage of the process, from sentencing to treatment to prison conditions. We are simply reaching the point where there is little other explanation for human behavior than biology and environment, with no room left over for anything like what we think of as "free will", such that it has any explanatory power for human choice.

Considering the liberal/conservative divide over government programs, I always come back to what I think is reasonable common ground: that we should be doing what is most efficacious. If indeed assistance programs are found to create more dependency than empowerment, I completely oppose them. I'm in favor at looking at human development scientifically, and modeling our laws and institutions accordingly.

For the record, I'm very much in favor of many free market solutions to economic and social issues. I don't presume at all that the "government knows best", or even that we can pretend to have good solutions to some of our most vexing social problems. But I also am convinced that the free market is not always the best solution to certain physical or social infrastructural problems (i.e. roads or drug abuse).

Most libertarians (outside of the Rothbardian school) agree with you on rads and as for drug abuse...are you saying that you're against decriminalization, or something else?

sugarkang
06-22-2011, 02:01 PM
So, I'm reading Sam Harris' The Moral Landscape right now and he makes some very compelling arguments regarding the notion of free will and human development. He (I think rightly) points out that our system of criminal justice i[/URL]s fundamentally rooted in the assumption of free will. He quotes Supreme Court case law:

I think that's an accurate assessment. However I think that foundational assumption is flawed, and so to our system of justice.

Yes. I find Rawls' Veil of Ignorance theory to be the strongest counter argument. Balancing libertarian notions of the right to self-determination (free will) vis-a-vis biological and environmental constraints at birth (destiny) is the name of the game. And while I concede that our free will is, to some extent, illusory, my complaint is that we have overcorrected for this problem. The progressive ideal for equality may have been underweighted in 1964, but it is overweighted in 2011.

So, the larger argument taking place now has to do with moving the line of scrimmage between these two extremes. In my opinion, Obama's litmus test for "empathy" goes too far. Liberals believe this to be a cold-hearted position and incorrectly impute this position to conservative evil as the only possible explanation. It perplexes many to think that, perhaps, empathy works poorly on a national scale and should best be used at the individual and community levels.

With regard to your discussion with operative on biology's role in human behavior, I'd say it's a topic that's long been shunned due to fear of being labeled "racist." Despite humanity's great progress, it still seems politically impossible, even in abstractions, to have such a discussion. Of course, we can have them, but one ought to be prepared to pay the price: Satoshi Kanazawa's racist nonsense should not be tolerated. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/may/18/satoshi-kanazawa-black-women-psychology-today)

I think we'll be able to have the biological discussion in a few decades when the concept of "other," along ethnic lines, starts to disappear. For the time being, I believe the envelope can be pushed along the lines of cultural, not biological differences. But don't let me stop you gentlemen.

eeeeeeeli
06-23-2011, 12:26 AM
Yes. I find Rawls' Veil of Ignorance theory to be the strongest counter argument. Balancing libertarian notions of the right to self-determination (free will) vis-a-vis biological and environmental constraints at birth (destiny) is the name of the game. And while I concede that our free will is, to some extent, illusory, my complaint is that we have overcorrected for this problem. The progressive ideal for equality may have been underweighted in 1964, but it is overweighted in 2011.

So, the larger argument taking place now has to do with moving the line of scrimmage between these two extremes. In my opinion, Obama's litmus test for "empathy" goes too far. Liberals believe this to be a cold-hearted position and incorrectly impute this position to conservative evil as the only possible explanation. It perplexes many to think that, perhaps, empathy works poorly on a national scale and should best be used at the individual and community levels.

With regard to your discussion with operative on biology's role in human behavior, I'd say it's a topic that's long been shunned due to fear of being labeled "racist." Despite humanity's great progress, it still seems politically impossible, even in abstractions, to have such a discussion. Of course, we can have them, but one ought to be prepared to pay the price: Satoshi Kanazawa's racist nonsense should not be tolerated. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/may/18/satoshi-kanazawa-black-women-psychology-today)

I think we'll be able to have the biological discussion in a few decades when the concept of "other," along ethnic lines, starts to disappear. For the time being, I believe the envelope can be pushed along the lines of cultural, not biological differences. But don't let me stop you gentlemen.

It is indeed tricky. And believe me, I'm bullish on there being unconscious, cognitive bias on race, gender, etc. issues. It's obviously really thorny, but I think we've largely come to a place where most racism, etc. exists unconsciously, hiding away within larger social and economic assumptions. I think these have always existed, and in/out group politics has been a way of sort of channeling them to various socio-political ends.

The question of social equality has been around forever, and capitalism happens to be the best way we know of providing the most freedom and happiness to the most people. But it still leaves considerable room for structured power imbalances. As long as these remain, our natural susceptibility to bias will have something to get its hooks into.

I think much of the liberal/conservative divide plays out in very racial ways. Much of what we talk about in our discourse of more vs. less government disproportionately concerns minority underclasses. That's just a loaded gun waiting to go off.

As a thought experiment, just imagine if we were all one ethnicity. What would issues of teen pregnancy, welfare, healthcare, etc. look like then? I can't help but think our politics would change. Many of our underlying assumptions about poverty would change. What would become of say, operative and Amy Wax's theories on ethnic determinism?

I'll look up the specific category of bias (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Von_Restorff_effect). But it is interesting how "minority-centric" we are on poverty. I work with a number of poor whites and their "cultural" issues are practically identical to any poor minorities; it's more about a culture and context of poverty than anything else. In a weird way race becomes a massive distraction to more salient aspects of structural inequality and systems of social capital limitation.

operative
06-23-2011, 12:31 AM
It is indeed tricky. And believe me, I'm bullish on there being unconscious, cognitive bias on race, gender, etc. issues. It's obviously really thorny, but I think we've largely come to a place where most racism, etc. exists unconsciously, hiding away within larger social and economic assumptions. I think these have always existed, and in/out group politics has been a way of sort of channeling them to various socio-political ends.

The question of social equality has been around forever, and capitalism happens to be the best way we know of providing the most freedom and happiness to the most people. But it still leaves considerable room for structured power imbalances. As long as these remain, our natural susceptibility to bias will have something to get its hooks into.

I think much of the liberal/conservative divide plays out in very racial ways. Much of what we talk about in our discourse of more vs. less government disproportionately concerns minority underclasses. That's just a loaded gun waiting to go off.

As a thought experiment, just imagine if we were all one ethnicity. What would issues of teen pregnancy, welfare, healthcare, etc. look like then? I can't help but think our politics would change. Many of our underlying assumptions about poverty would change. What would become of say, operative and Amy Wax's theories on ethnic determinism?

I'll look up the specific category of bias. But it is interesting how "minority-centric" we are on poverty. I work with a number of poor whites and their "cultural" issues are practically identical to any poor minorities; it's more about a culture and context of poverty than anything else. In a weird way race becomes a massive distraction to more salient aspects of structural inequality and systems of social capital limitation.

Wait now does that mean you're agreeing with me? :p

eeeeeeeli
06-23-2011, 12:04 PM
Wait now does that mean you're agreeing with me? :p

As long as we aren't talking about ethnicity! I would describe a "culture of poverty" as the aggregate effects of prolonged low levels of social capital over time. Thus, the way you change this "culture" is by increasing levels of social capital.

Not an easy task. But one of the most effective ways of doing it, going back to a post a number of comments above, is finding which items of social capital are the most dependent on other items. This could be anything from individual interventions to community-wide changes.

We can argue about whether the government or non-profits are better able to do this, but I don't see how communities will be able to do it on their own. Because if the very nature of their problem stems from their lack of efficacy, how is waiting for them to become more efficacious ever going to work? What would be the mechanism by which that process takes shape? I just don't see it.

operative
06-23-2011, 12:19 PM
As long as we aren't talking about ethnicity! I would describe a "culture of poverty" as the aggregate effects of prolonged low levels of social capital over time. Thus, the way you change this "culture" is by increasing levels of social capital.

Not an easy task. But one of the most effective ways of doing it, going back to a post a number of comments above, is finding which items of social capital are the most dependent on other items. This could be anything from individual interventions to community-wide changes.

We can argue about whether the government or non-profits are better able to do this, but I don't see how communities will be able to do it on their own. Because if the very nature of their problem stems from their lack of efficacy, how is waiting for them to become more efficacious ever going to work? What would be the mechanism by which that process takes shape? I just don't see it.

Here's the problem: look at groups that came from roughly similar developmental levels, in terms of home countries and access to funds--people who came here with little more than the clothes on their back. Ethiopians have been far more industrious than Somalis. Both countries have been very poor for a very long time. Many first-generation Chinese Americans arrived from China when the country was still extremely poor and had been for centuries. It seems like "social capital" is an abstraction. If they succeed, they had social capital. If they didn't have social capital then they didn't succeed.

As for what can be done about it, who says anything needs done about it? Remove government coddling and let people decide for themselves. If people want to remain unindustrious and continue to deemphasize education, let them. Someone needs to occupy the lower rungs of the economy. Chinese Americans didn't succeed because they had a ton of government support (quite the opposite, in fact), they succeeded because Chinese culture generally emphasizes industriousness and education. I don't see where government can forcibly change culture. Culture evolves organically.

sugarkang
06-23-2011, 05:44 PM
it's more about a culture and context of poverty than anything else. In a weird way race becomes a massive distraction to more salient aspects of structural inequality and systems of social capital limitation.

I agree. Even if there are biological variables, I find it hard to believe that if you took biological twins and placed one in an urban ghetto environment and another in a "tiger mom" environment, that the latter wouldn't significantly outperform the former.

For me, the problem is how to inculcate tiger mom (or other traditionally conservative) values within our underclass communities. And this is where libertarians have a problem. On the one hand, we know that there will be bad outcomes. On the other hand, how can we impose our coercion upon others?

Liberals tend to just jump right in! But, as the Moynihan report shows, a lot of help, did not help. That's heartbreaking, really. But, of course, the charge is that we're racist or heartless for trying to end welfare.

operative
06-23-2011, 05:49 PM
I agree. Even if there are biological variables, I find it hard to believe that if you took biological twins and placed one in an urban ghetto environment and another in a "tiger mom" environment, that the latter wouldn't significantly outperform the former.

Caplan disagrees (I'm not sure how far he takes his argument though). Caplan's hardly the only person writing on the matter, though. I've wanted to see a Caplan/Chua diavlog for a while, or a Caplan/someone who disagrees with Caplan diavlog.

sugarkang
06-23-2011, 07:31 PM
Caplan disagrees (I'm not sure how far he takes his argument though). Caplan's hardly the only person writing on the matter, though. I've wanted to see a Caplan/Chua diavlog for a while, or a Caplan/someone who disagrees with Caplan diavlog.

Sorry, I was trying to shorthand this. I didn't mean to endorse tiger mom, because I don't. I just meant typical, upper-middle class values on education, integrity and hard work.

If Caplan disagrees with that last part, could you give me your curated primer?

operative
06-23-2011, 07:52 PM
Sorry, I was trying to shorthand this. I didn't mean to endorse tiger mom, because I don't. I just meant typical, upper-middle class values on education, integrity and hard work.

If Caplan disagrees with that last part, could you give me your curated primer?

I haven't read his book yet, so I definitely can't give a full picture of his argument. Here's a podcast featuring him speaking on the subject: http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2011/05/caplan_on_paren.html

operative
06-24-2011, 10:40 AM
To follow up in my brief critique, I think that social capital can be used a bit tautologically. Why does a group succeed? They have social capital. Why do they have social capital? Because...they have social capital. But what actually gives them social capital? The accumulation of adopted habits, customs, etc. which really means that it's not a matter of y --> z, but x --> y --> z, which means x --> z.