Assorted links


While the dog/sign thing is funny, it's totally photoshopped - lots of artifacting around the text. The lighting never changes. Cars don't move. Nice joke, but not real.

And the letters are spaced like a computer font, not like plastic letter tiles that you insert into a sign.

Who cares if it's made you smile, right? Suspension of disbelief is actually one of the many attributes I envy in my one-year old son. Besides it would not be 'proper' if it were real.

A riposte loses its humor when it is pre-scripted. In this case it appears to be funny because one side is clever and one side is growing increasingly frustrated, but its not as funny when you realize one person wrote both sides.


Prototypes are here, for anyone else who wants to participate.

Maybe you could set up the blog software so we could use those for making our comments.

In particular, Designs 1 & 11 are the Church signs from the original link.

regarding #5: a dog's life: I observe that the same cars are parked in the same places in all five "photos" of the Catholic billboard. Photoshopped?

If only that weren't Photoshop. (Note how the photos are identical, except for the letters on the signs. *Completely* identical, except for a little shifting...)

Re #4: Bill Turque, the author of the article you link to, writes "Random assignment is considered one of the strongest research designs because it ensures that the sample selected represents the characteristics of the entire group under study." While this is true when "research" means "survey," he misses the point of why randomization is important for experimental trials with a treatment and control group -- in particular, that it allows the researcher to measure differences in outcomes that can be attributed solely to the causal effect of an intervention (the treatment) rather than other confounding factors. I wonder if the DCPS also missed this important distinction.

5b) R.A.'s musings on our inability to forecast the future reminds me of one of my favorite Alice Walker quotes: "to the extent that it is must live in the world today as you wish everyone to live in the world to come. That can be your contribution. Otherwise, the world you want will never be formed. Why? Because you are waiting for others to do what you are not doing, and they are waiting for you, and so on. The planet goes from bad to worse." Just because we can't see into the future doesn't give us individually an excuse to stop doing stuff. I am an economist, I like policies to boost long-run growth (raise all boats), but I am also a person, I would love to see more tolerance and civility in the world.

"The planet goes from bad to worse."

By what metric?

The quote is from the Walker's The Temple of My Familiar: Sadly, it has been so long since I read this book that I do not remember the exact context. And yet, I am quite certain she was not talking about GDP or carbon dioxide levels...though one can apply her sentiment to those issues as well. Pick your favorite metric and do something.

#4 should be headlined "D.C. Teachers Union Rejects Scientific Method"

I am saddened to hear that DCPS is not pursuing this project...and yet, I am also saddened by Fryer's defiant response. The scientific method rocks until you are the 'lab rat' so to speak. Who wants to get (or have their kid) assigned to the control group? My late grandfather opted out of a cancer study because he could not stand the thought getting sugar pills. He felt random assignment was like being duped. Researchers who study human behavior (this includes economists) need to be mindful IMHO that they are studying people and treat their study participants with respect and dignity. Once again it's the children in the DC schools that are the real losers here.

"I am saddened to hear that DCPS is not pursuing this project…and yet, I am also saddened by Fryer’s defiant response. The scientific method rocks until you are the ‘lab rat’ so to speak. Who wants to get (or have their kid) assigned to the control group?"

Well since the experiment isn't getting done, all of the kids are now in the control group. So I'm not sure how objecting to the use of a 'control group' is really valid. The control group was merely the status quo.

I support Fryer's response. He refuses to let his research and his name be high jacked by others for their own reasons.

Yep, purity of ideals is way better than a spirit of compromise. (Sarcasm) I think the means to an end is sometimes as important as the end. Again, Fryer is free to bow out...there are plenty of people who know how to carry out RCT education experiments. (Thanks in part to the excellent work he has done elsewhere.)

#5 snopes

Also, it gets Catholic doctrine wrong. And possibly Presbyterian doctrine, too. So if it made you laugh and want to convert to / stay with Catholicism, you should check with your pastor and think again.

Lol, you should Snopes the Bible next...

#3--Leiter's tone in public discourse is obnoxious beyond belief, but he's done legitimately great work on philosophy of law and on distilling what's salvagable from 'continental philosophy.'

I wonder though, given his affinity for naturalism or scientism, why his politics are based on a laughably reductionist class-war framework instead of real social science, particularly the public choice literature. After all isn't the point of public choice to move talk about politics away from self-serving moral narratives and try to propose theories of political behavior that can be checked with empirical testing? Isn't that what Leiter is pushing for in all his other research?

Because the "real" social science of which you speak is a pseudoscience meant to disguise it's own class warrior intentions.

It explains things like why there are milk subsidies and why legislation that is disapproved of by the AARP is difficult to pass, as well as many other forms of the day-to-day legislation that is produced at the local-state-federal levels. In these contexts vulgar Marxism or references to the "plutocarcy" do not provide much analytical value and seem hopelessly inapplicable.

Another example is electoral politics. Why do politicians try to cater to "swing" states ? There are somewhat sophisticated social science models of electoral behavior that can answer questions like these where plutacracy v. "the masses" models cannot. All of this should be really obvious, btw.

Leiter is the vulgarest of vulgar Marxists. Only a class of people as banal and superficial as American law professors would take him seriously (and possibly even his fellow law professors don't take him all that seriously, although he has tenure).

3. This poor man seems very confused.


Leiter : "A “reaction formation” is a psychological process in which one forms moral views in reaction to desires that one really has - so, e.g., one becomes a vociferous critic of the immorality of homosexuality and gay marriage precisely because one has strong homosexual urges and desires that one finds threatening."
Obviously this is just hysteresis. But still, according to his hypothesis, liberals who fight against the death penalty actually have almost uncontrollable desire to kill those criminals.

Isn't Alinsky #4 wonderful?

Leiter is the opposite of reasonable; he is effectively a Chomsky-ite, politically speaking. His views on politics and economics strike me as simplistic in the extreme, as can be seen in his potted history of Reaganism's influence on Bush, though certainly shared by many.

His academic work on Nietzsche is very good, though why he is enamoured of a seductive German romantic whose ethics is pitched at a few aristocratic, superior beings (physically, morally, "spiritually") is not clear to me though perhaps to him.

Leiter's tone has always struck me as highly unpleasant. I googled him and, well, let's just say he's known for his tone, not just acerbic but vicious.

This was my favorite part: "What worries me, as someone who mostly sides with Marx, is Nietzsche’s challenge that a culture defined by egalitarian values is one in which genius will no longer be possible. I still don’t know what to think about that challenge, but it’s the most serious one to Marxism and to liberalism on offer." One can't help but imagine that this motivated by a particularly egregious lack of self-knowledge.

"And really finally, can you recommend your top 5 books for general readers that we all should be reading over the xmas break? "

Answer: "The Atheist’s Guide to Reality, David Livingstone Smith’s Less than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others, Jonathan Wolff’s Why Read Marx Today? and, a bit older but still psychologically fascinating, Li Zhisui’s The Private Life of Chairman Mao. All books for any good naturalist or realist to read!"

Since when was the phrase good naturalist or realist synonymous with Marxist.

Isn't the phrase "... like Judge Posner, who has a first-person vantage point on what it is judges really do!" inconsistent with a proponent of "the hermeneutics of suspicion"? While I suspect Leiter's answer is something to the affect of Posner's commitment to being a realist and comfort in rattling the heard, the point then becomes little more than name dropping.

If the inclusion is, indeed, a mistake or inconsistency, then the interview provides some insight into Leiter's own "reaction formation" as a law prof. His position as authority is in no small part propped up by the pedigree of his fellow professors. Further their pedigree is in no small part dependent on the insights of practitioners and jurists being limited as to the actual goings on of the law.

That said, personally, I very much like reading Leiter. His prose are articulate and his arguments agile, which allows a harsh tone to come across as something less than hysterics or unabashed sentiment.

5b bring to mind Damon Runyon: "The race is not necessarily to the swift, nor the battle to the strong - but that's the way to bet." The final advice -- you don't know what the future holds, but the odds are it will be better if you have money -- is pretty hard to argue with.

As I think it troubling that Leiter is being so lightly dismissed, I think some background in order.

Law and Economics Professors and rational choice theorists, do not so easily shrug-off Leiter. Although he looks like Jonah Hill, in addition to being a skilled academic he is also an expert academic tactician and poses a threat to both your preeminence and your grants. (He has already co-opted Richard Posner to his cause.)

Leiter, being a scholar of Neitzche and, as former law student, a reader of US News' Law School Rankings, has made the obvious discovery that academics outside of the natural sciences are a rightfully insecure bunch. Yes, they may have tenure, but their grants, reputations and ability to influence are dependent on reputation. Accordingly these academics fear rankings. Control the rankings and you control the academics.

Accordingly, Leiter has created the Philosophical Gourmet and a sophisticated law school rankings guide that gives him and his friends the ability to pose significant influence on scholarly reputations that editors of academic journals can only salivate at.

Further, he is not content with his conquest of academic philosophy, but is now after the legal academy. Yes, the holy grail of academia. A field of study with an ill defined in purpose that feeds an industry concerned with maintaining the illusion it makes sense to pay someone with no real world experience hundreds of dollars and hour to proof read a document that could be proof read in India for $0.25 an hour.

What is Leiter's plan of conquest? He has suggested that the law is not the law but something else that can only be known through an analysis similar to other problems in the liberal arts. He has said that all the traditional liberal arts disciplines, like the law and economics movement, should be able to create and test theories that are only tangentially related to what a lawyer actually says to a judge.

So what does that mean for you? It means that rational choice and economic theories that are mathematical Rube Goldberg machines must now compete with the Rube Goldberg machines of other disciplines!

So, yes:

1) Leiter's belief that Marx will be triumphant over Neitzche is likely inconsistent with his claim to be a realist, in that most social species will tolerate huge degrees of inequality (for that matter, the authoritarian personality type that becomes a police officer is unlikely to side with the bulk of society when they maintain the illusion of being above average); and

2) People will continue to pay millions of dollars so they can in good faith purport to answer the question of "why are we so rich, Daddy, when that man is so poor" with "look at how good this guy is at math",

But your positions are being threatened! Oh wait, did Dworkin actually say a judge can only look at the abstract law as something different from the previous precedents, binding authority and implicit morass of circumstance that makes up the law? Didn't he just say Hercuels should give the best spin on the law?

So salient point, if any, I propose Brian Leiter and Jonah Hill for a new Spy magazine's separated at birth.

In summary:

1) Prof. Leiter is both a adept scholar and brilliant tactician, and he should NOT simply be dismissed;
2) Prof. Leiter's arguments in the article and his books have opened the door to the legal academy for other social scientist. This is a threat to the supremacy of the law and economics movement in terms of funding. While it is doubtful that grants from the private sector will dry-up, people are always looking for novel ways to justify and distract from inequality, the increased competition will likely subject the law and economics movement to increased - and in my opinion much warranted - scrutiny.

3) There are at least three basis to challenge Leiter's position. First, realism likely entails humans will tolerate substantial inequality. Second, I think it questionable (although I do not purport to be an expert) that Dworkin meant to say that Hercules was precluded from looking to practical or social science information in arriving at the correct answer. Third, I think moralism, realism and anti-naturalism are compatible points of view, in that law is inherently a language - particularly moral language - based game. Language allows the law to morally inspire and morally coordinate, and any account of the law that overlooks this feature is misleading. I suspect this third point is the strongest of the challenges to Leiter's argument. Fourth, the language argument seems to correlate to Dworkin's idea of integrity, in that the emotional impact of the law appears to derive from accepting the integrity of the party using the aspirational legal language.

In any event, I think Leiter should warrant more discussion and reaction on the blog.

Point stands without grant talk.

Economists, you are fighting for control of a profession that makes the list of being the highest paid with the most time off.

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