by Tyler Cowen
on March 21, 2016 at 12:33 pm
1. Trial by machine.
2. Are ants capable of self-recognition?
3. Research bleg from Daniel Klein: Seeking survey/dataset, with repeated question.
4. Miles Kimball on social liberty.
5. Why did economist Nathaniel Leff disappear?
6. Lego versions of Brutalist buildings.
5. Is this story about Leff a metaphor for the disappearance of the hybrid discipline (history and economics) to which Leff was dedicated, becoming stranded between economics and history when economics became fixated on statistical models and mathematical formulations. Curiously, in the end the author of the story finds Leff, in plain sight so to speak (in a suburb not far from the campus at Columbia where he once taught), suggesting that maybe it’s time for a return to Leff’s hybrid discipline.
“4. Miles Kimball on social liberty.”
That’s a weird blog post. How did it go from “social liberty” to an attack on Libertarians? Libertarians are essentially, a pretty fringe group. So, isn’t Bruce Bartlett’s email an example of the type of behavior that the first part of the post is decrying?
First we get this:
“Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression,”
Then we get this:
“This is an issue that today’s libertarians almost never mention because they are concerned with one aspect of liberty and one only—freedom from government coercion.””
It looks like Bruce Bartlett is attempting to enforce Societal Norms.
“It looks like Bruce Bartlett is attempting to enforce Societal Norms.”
But is he doing so in a coercive manner?
Also, I think libertarianism tends to attract more interest from economists because it is roughly consistent with the lessons implied from econ 101, 201 (excluding the few pages you might have on market failures and externalities). It is not a marginal line of thinking in economics.
“But is he doing so in a coercive manner?”
The article specifically used peer pressure (a form of social coercion) as a point of reference. “As an academic, I notice how powerfully the opinion of other economists–whether right or wrong–operates in controlling the behavior and the research priorities of the typical academic. ”
Bartlett is implicitly using the same type of peer pressure.
Hmmm. The peer pressure objective wasn’t that clear to me. Are you referring to him suggesting libertarians should accept more government intrusions as a pro-freedom outlook?
I must have just gone to some really different kinds of schools than all this stuff about conformity in academia. In grad school, dissent was rather more encouraged than discouraged (although certainly in tests you have to be able to parrot the right stuff and apply the specified methods correctly – you have to know the rules before you can break them wisely and all…).
Viewed with white privilege, it makes perfect sense that we can ignore all power but governmental, because we experience no other as powerful.
#5: The “interview” with Dr Leff should probably have been left out. It seems somewhat disrespectful.
#6: a completely missed opportunity for a Ted Leo reference, but a lovely link
Also a missed opportunity to populate the buildings with Lego minifigures in humorous situations.
In particular, Lego figures in Kafkaesque situations.
4) One of the things I definitely remember about JS Mill was expressing willingness to face social disapprobation in questions socially established “truths”. This one definitely stuck with me. I would explicitly differentiate this, however, from the high willingness from anti-SJ Warriors who seek themselves as courageous Truth Talkers who can stand up against social disapprobation, whereas they are basically engaging in the propagation of hateful and derogatory attitudes towards certain groups, which negatively affects all members of those groups due to no fault of their own – that does not serve the objective of greater freedom as experienced across a society.
Also, in the tradition of social contract theory where we relinquish certain freedoms to the state in exchange for a system which offers greater capacity for increased actualized freedom, I strongly agree that there is a role for the coercive apparatus of the state here. Certainly, aggregate freedoms are greater in a system where we do not have the right to exclude certain groups from the free market, for example through discriminatory hiring or client services practices.
The government can absolutely be an agent of unfreedom, but it can also be a tool to restrict certain freedoms in the name of overall greater freedom.
6) Very much a “to each their own” kind of story.
“anti-SJ Warriors who seek themselves as courageous Truth Talkers who can stand up against social disapprobation, whereas they are basically engaging in the propagation of hateful and derogatory attitudes towards certain groups, which negatively affects all members of those groups due to no fault of their own – that does not serve the objective of greater freedom as experienced across a society.”
Quite the opposite. It is the SJW who propagate hateful and derogatory attitudes about others and in fact engage in all kinds of violence, “social and emotional” and otherwise, to punish those they dislike. Physical intimidation and violence, doxing and Internet bullying and harassment are the calling cards of the SJW movement. The Anti-SJW movement is fundamentally about common decency and respect.
“Certainly, aggregate freedoms are greater in a system where we do not have the right to exclude certain groups from the free market, for example through discriminatory hiring or client services practices.”
Another example of “I wish this to be true, therefore I assume that it is!”?
There is no such thing as a social justice “warrior”. It’s just a slur.
It’s a term for a phenomenon that absolutely exists. Typically these people prefer terms like “social activist”, “intersectional feminists” etc etc but the label “social justice activist” is hardly hostile enough to warrant it a “slur”
Roughly, it’s these people who blame all evils of history and present against non-whites, women and LGBT on any white male who strays from the victim narrative.
Sometimes it’s applied to people with entirely rational but different views on things. But there are those whose descent into irrationality is virtually complete, and absolutely deserve a slur, although I’m inclined to think there are more reasonable ways to argue with them. However, when pro-rape activists (e.g., that Kings of Whatever guy who wants to change the law so it’s legal to rape any women who enters your own) write off their opponents as SJWs, clearly we shouldn’t take them very clearly.
Saying there’s no such thing as SJWs is just as out of touch with reality as saying there’s no such thing as neo-Nazis around these days. Maybe you just haven’t run into any …
That there are some silly college kids on twitter doesn’t change the fact that you and your buddies have constructed a fictitious boogie man to hate on.
SJW’s in brief:
“And when you ask ’em, ‘How much should we give?’
Ooh, they only answer ‘More! More! More!’, y’all”
From “Fortunate Son” – CCR
First, there are two sides to the coin. While there is an entire spectrum out there, SJWs and anti-SJWs are roughly black and white. Their offensiveness is directed to essentially opposite ends, but if you cannot see that there is one but not the other, then presumably you are blinded by your sympathies to the extremists on one side or the other.
“The Anti-SJW movement is fundamentally about common decency and respect.”
If there is such a movement, then all the power to them. I routinely promote this kind of thinking, but the ideological opposites of SJWs categorically do not call into such a category. However, and I’ve said this before, I find it somewhat easier to deal with offensively bigoted assholes who try to take down anyone who opposes their bigotry than to deal with people who are prepared to blame you for all the evils of history based on being a straight white male. HOWEVER, the second group is so patently out of touch with reality, that it’s easy to write them off as blowhards, whereas their ideological opposites seem bound and determined to spread messages of hate and derogatory attitudes.
If you’re talking about some other group of people that is promoting common decency, then that is categorically NOT who I’m talking about.
“…but it can also be a tool to restrict certain freedoms in the name of overall greater freedom.”
I’ll take Orwellian thoughts for the day, Alex.
Such blind eye. Much wow.
I bet you can think of restrictions on speech or action that increase your well-being, and which you actually support.
Or should say banks be free to say one interest rate and pay another?
Parking. Want to live in a city where anyone can park anywhere any time?
Zoning. Want to live in a city where anyone can put five cows in their backyard, and you have to enjoy the year round smell of cow manure?
The list of concrete examples is not short. That having been said, we should naturally demand that the argument for the restriction be exceedingly clear and obviously logical to a very large share of the population.
Reasonable people can disagree about what is freedom-maximizing. I think some of your examples (zoning, hiring practices) are cases where a lot less government action would be preferable. I agree with your overall point, though.
I think NathanW is 100% right here. Good governmental institutions are a precondition of freedom, even though these necessarily involve some coercion/restriction. Anarchy is a very unfree system, except for the biggest bullies.
I would explicitly differentiate this, however, from the high willingness from anti-SJ Warriors who seek themselves as courageous Truth Talkers who can stand up against social disapprobation, whereas they are basically engaging in the propagation of hateful and derogatory attitudes towards certain groups
And the basis of this differentiation is . . . what, exactly? I’m not even inclined to disagree with your general point that a lot of “anti-SJW” types are bigots who want to claim a moral high ground (or, more often in my experience, social misfits who happen to fit better into anti-SJW communities than pro-SJW communities for reasons that have nothing to do with sociopolitical attitudes), but the entirety of your distinction is “they’re different because I say they are.”
We should encourage people to regularly question socially established “truths”. But since the potential benefits of doing so are rather obvious, after even limited reflection, I would not want this view to fuel an additional sense of legitimacy in people who basically endeavour to promote various forms of bigotry. I’d really like to live in a world where I could emphasize the first point and the second was not even worth mentioning, but that is not the world we live in right now.
I’m not a big fan of shuffling people into boxes with labels that purport information about every last thing about people who the label is applied to. I very much welcome perspectives such as what you offer in calling out the downsides of this, including personal subjective opinions.
But, I think there can be some use in it as well. The difference between those who blame all evils on white straight men and those who pander in racism, sexism and homophobia are more related to their essentially black and white opposite thinking on such issues, not the extent of their offensiveness or use of various shaming techniques to try to silence criticism and to create a sense of legitimacy within the in-group. I really think the differentiation is useful, and essentially reflects patently identifiable groups. If someone doesn’t fit into those groups, that’s not who I’m talking about.
Of course, we should not apply labels indiscriminately – people who seek to introduce nuance and distinguish them from the dogmatists should be given the benefit of the doubt – unless they reveal their argumentation as essentially insincere and in fact driven by a desire to pretend that their own group represents truth and good judgment and that vast swathes of society can be identified in the opposite group. Peter S., for example, seems to have essentially similar objectives as what I would call an anti-SJ Warrior, HOWEVER, he seems generally inclined to rational discussion and refrains from name calling, shaming techniques, etc – it is the mode of argumentation, not the views which distinguish these people. In a discussion with someone like Peter, you can work towards mutual understanding, even when disagreeing deeply on what needs to be done. Not so with the anti-SJ Warriors on this forum, who offensively engage in personal attacks against anyone who so much as points out that they are patently racist, sexist or homophobic, including recourse to various shaming mechanisms such as attacking the manliness of those who speak out on behalf of women or attacking those who speak against racism as being traitor scums to our white skin.
There is no use in calling someone who prefers centre-left policies or who speaks frankly about the history of colonialism an SJW, and there is no use in calling someone who wants a frank discussion of gang violence in black and latino communites an anti-SJW, for example. Roughly speaking, we’re probably talking about the extreme 1-3% on either side of this classification spectrum. One of these groups, however, is highly over-represented on this forum. And I’ve never once seen a legitimate SJW on this forum (although there was a class act parody the other day 🙂 ).
“We should encourage people to … question socially established “truths”. But … I would not want … to fuel … people who … promote … bigotry.
I’d really like to live in a world [characterized by] the first point and the second was not even worth mentioning, but that is not the world we live in right now.”
Nor could it ever be a world in which we live. Your fantasy world is incoherent.
Having identified the impossible, we must nevertheless strive to achieve it (paraphrase of a prof’s paraphrase of Kant).
In striving to such ends, at the very least we can prevent things from drifting in the wrong direction.
You forgot the parts of Mill’s essay where he warns against denying any validity to opposing views and argues that all sides have a right to hurl invective aka “hateful and derogatory” rhetoric without governmental censorship.
I generally agree. I only agree with government censorship with “hateful and derogatory” rhetoric when it crosses the line into promoting violence or is demonstrably applied against an individual in a manner which is patently harassment.
I would support the right of a racist, sexist homophobic group to make signs and go down the road shouting “blacks are dumb, women are irrational, gays pack fudge and that is gross” in a generalized manner, no matter that I find it offensive.
But, I would support laws that would fire and perhaps even sue someone who made an individual the target of such attacks in the workplace, for example, “dumb black Shaya can’t help but to follow through on her violent black nature and womanly irrationality” in describing a poorly educated black woman who is outspoken in standing up for herself in her workplace, which is a ridiculously tame version of what some people face in the workplace, considering that realistically most of it is much less obvious innuendo with essentially that meaning.
#3. You don’t have a psych department at GMU? They do that all the time.
Thanks for the idea — an avenue we had not tried, but now have. We’ll see whether anything comes back. We have tried with psych profs at other universities. Never thought we’d have so much trouble coming up with what we are after.
#5 Odd focus on religion for an economics article
Not an economics article. Human interest.
Brutalist architecture: nice places to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there. Of course, I’d also take any cookie-cutter suburban house over the modern trend of high ceilings, track lighting, and concrete floors; I shop at Costco, I don’t want to live in one.
To admit otherwise would force libertarians to admit that government can play a positive role in expanding liberty.
Jim crow laws were LAWS. As were antisodomy and anti-miscegenation LAWS. As was the DOMA. As are all the drug LAWS that help fill our prisons. The idea that our history is one of beneficent government correcting private failings is a fantasy. More common has been the state mandating antiliberalism on a heterogeneous country that would otherwise support regions of tolerance.
Governments do good. Governments do bad. This “government as evil multiplier” stuff comes from those who, face it, hate government more than evil itself. So much, that they can no longer balance risk.
Sure, you say, evil wasn’t everrrrywhere. So it was fine.
2. The source for the ants paper looks questionable. There is no information at the website about peer review, or editors, or an advisory board. In my experience, many journals with remarklably broad scopes (.e.g “The Journal of Science”) are of questionable quality.
+1 good catch. Further digging on their website strongly suggests it is not a real peer reviewed scientific journal.
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