Month: May 2016
Donald Trump may get the nuclear suitcase, a cranky “park bench” socialist took Hillary Clinton to the wire, many countries are becoming less free, and the neo-Nazi party came very close to assuming power in Austria. I could list more such events.
Haven’t you, like I, wondered what is up? What the hell is going on?
I don’t know, but let me tell you my (highly uncertain) default hypothesis. I don’t see decisive evidence for it, but it is a kind of “first blast” attempt to fit the basic facts while remaining within the realm of reason.
The contemporary world is not very well built for a large chunk of males. The nature of current service jobs, coddled class time and homework-intensive schooling, a feminized culture allergic to most forms of violence, post-feminist gender relations, and egalitarian semi-cosmopolitanism just don’t sit well with many…what shall I call them? Brutes?
Quite simply, there are many people who don’t like it when the world becomes nicer. They do less well with nice. And they respond by in turn behaving less nicely, if only in their voting behavior and perhaps their internet harassment as well.
Female median wages have been rising pretty consistently, but the male median wage, at least as measured, was higher back in 1969 than it is today (admittedly the deflator probably is off, but even that such a measure is possible speaks volumes). A lot of men did better psychologically and maybe also economically in a world where America had a greater number of tough manufacturing jobs. They thrived under brutish conditions, including a military draft to crack some of their heads into line.
To borrow a phrasing from Peter Thiel, perhaps men did better in the age of “technological progress without globalization” rather than “globalization without technological progress,” as has been the case as of late.
Here’s a line from Martin Wolf:
Princeton professors Anne Case and Angus Deaton note, in addition, a sharp relative deterioration in mortality and morbidity among middle-aged white American men, due to suicide, and drug and alcohol abuse.
(Addendum: note this correction.)
For American men ages 18-34, more of them live with their parents than with romantic partners.
Trump’s support is overwhelming male, his modes are extremely male, no one talks about the “Bernie sisters,” and male voters also supported the Austrian neo-Nazi party by a clear majority. Aren’t (some) men the basic problem here? And if you think, as I do, that the incidence of rape is fairly high, perhaps this shouldn’t surprise you.
The sad news is that making the world nicer yet won’t necessarily solve this problem. It might even make it worse.
Again, we don’t know this is true. But it does help explain that men seem to be leading this “populist” charge, and that these bizarre reactions are occurring across a number of countries, not just one or two. It also avoids the weaknesses of purely economic explanations, because right now the labor market in America just isn’t that terrible. Nor did the bad economic times of the late 1970s occasion a similar counter-reaction.
One response would be to double down on feminizing the men, as arguably some of the Nordic countries have done. But America may be too big and diverse for that really to stick. Another option would be to bring back some of the older, more masculine world in a relatively harmless manner, the proverbial sop to Cerberus. But how to do that? That world went away for some good reasons.
If this is indeed the problem, our culture is remarkably ill-suited to talking about it. It is hard for us to admit that “all good things” can be bad for anyone, including brutes. It is hard to talk about what we might have to do to accommodate brutes, and that more niceness isn’t always a cure. And it is hard to admit that history might not be so progressive after all.
What percentage of men are brutes anyway? Let’s hope we don’t find out.
For women, most of it, at least according to Wong and Penner:
This study uses data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) to (1) replicate research that documents a positive association between physical attractiveness and income; (2) examine whether the returns to attractiveness differ for women and men; and 3) explore the role that grooming plays in the attractiveness-income relationship. We find that attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness, but this gap is reduced when controlling for grooming, suggesting that the beauty premium can be actively cultivated. Further, while both conventional wisdom and previous research suggest the importance of attractiveness might vary by gender, we find no gender differences in the attractiveness gradient. However, we do find that grooming accounts for the entire attractiveness premium for women, and only half of the premium for men.
Those results are consistent with my intuition, and here is some Ana Swanson discussion of the results. That is via Samir Varma, and here is Allison Schrager on whether female scientists should try to look frumpy.
4. Stop anti-Asian bias. And a good and thoughtful piece on PC, Oberlin, and the like. Please note I do not usually recommend pieces on this topic.
5. Although the survey consulted some leading economists, these answers on how to boost productivity growth are not so impressive. It is nonetheless a highly instructive post in its failings. On another front, to raise productivity Swedes in Gothenburg are trying six-hour work days (NYT).
The subtitle of that new paper is “Increase in the Proportion of Causal Language in English Texts,” here is the abstract:
The vast majority of the work on culture and cognition has focused on cross-cultural comparisons, largely ignoring the dynamic aspects of culture. In this article, we provide a diachronic analysis of causal cognition over time. We hypothesized that the increased role of education, science, and technology in Western societies should be accompanied by greater attention to causal connections. To test this hypothesis, we compared word frequencies in English texts from different time periods and found an increase in the use of causal language of about 40% over the past two centuries. The observed increase was not attributable to general language effects or to changing semantics of causal words. We also found that there was a consistent difference between the 19th and the 20th centuries, and that the increase happened mainly in the 20th century.
For all of its problems, there is much to be said for the twentieth century. The authors — the people who caused that paper to happen (with apologies to David Hume)– are Iliev and Axelrod.
So say Hummel, Pfaff, and Rost, in a recent paper:
In view of the numerous accounting and corporate scandals associated with various forms of moral misconduct and the recent financial crisis, economics and business programs are often accused of actively contributing to the amoral decision making of their graduates. It is argued that theories and ideas taught at universities engender moral misbehavior among some managers, as these theories mainly focus on the primacy of profit-maximization and typically neglect the ethical and moral dimensions of decision making. To investigate this criticism, two overlapping effects must be disentangled: the self-selection effect and the treatment effect. Drawing on the concept of moral judgment competence, we empirically examine this question with a sample of 1773 bachelor’s and 501 master’s students. Our results reveal that there is neither a self-selection nor a treatment effect for economics and business studies. Moreover, our results indicate that—regardless of the course of studies—university education in general does not seem to foster students’ moral development.
For the pointer, I thank a lost, forgotten soldier in my Twitter feed.
That is the new book by David Dagan and Steven Teles, here is the publisher’s description:
- Argues, counter to the conventional wisdom, that the conservative embrace of criminal justice reform is not primarily about money
- Provides the most comprehensive account both of the rise of the conservative reform movement and of the criminal justice reforms that have swept the states in the last 10 years
- Features interviews with of the major players in the conservative criminal justice reform movement
- Provides a theory for how to create breakthroughs in other policy areas amid political polarization
I am looking forward to my copy, here is the Amazon link.
There are early twentieth century German colonial buildings, some lovely water promenades, and less air pollution than in perhaps any other major Chinese city. Here is the urban plan. The best dishes are the clams, the snails, and the seaweed salads. The cucumbers are an order of magnitude better than what I am used to, and the city’s status as a beer capital comes from the earlier German occupation.
In two days of going around, I did not see a single Westerner. It is sometimes considered China’s most livable city, here is Qingdao on Wikipedia.
4. “The algae is trapped,” Knudsen explained. “It has a lot of tubes going into it. It’s controlled by chemical signals … The first time I saw it under the microscope, I wanted to join the Algae Liberation Front. I mean, it looked bad.” Link here.
5. Drinking doesn’t make you happier for long, a result from British people.
7. By Jim Tankersley: recovery average is over.
Jalopnik: If seeing that a vehicle has a zero-star safety rating isn’t enough to frighten a person out of his or her mind, seeing said vehicle in a wreck probably is. Five cars designed for India—which has minimal safety requirements for vehicles—just received that number in crash testing…
The tests come from the London-based Global New Car Assessment Program…The group tested seven cars made for the Indian market and handed five of them—the Renault Kwid, Maruti Suzuki Celerio, Maruti Suzuki Eeco, Mahindra Scorpio, and Hyundai Eon, all with no airbags—a rating of zero out of five stars for adult safety…
David Ward, secretary general of Global NCAP told the Wall Street Journal:
Global NCAP strongly believes that no manufacturer anywhere in the world should be developing new models that are so clearly sub-standard,” he said. “Car makers must ensure that their new models pass the UN’s minimum crash test regulations, and support use of an airbag.
Let’s take a closer look. These cars are very inexpensive. A Renault Kwid, for example, can be had for under $4000. In the Indian market these cars are competing against motorcycles. Only 6 percent of Indian households own a car but 47% own a motorcycle. Overall, there are more than five times as many motorcycles as cars in India.
Motorcycles are also much more dangerous than cars.
The [U.S] federal government estimates that per mile traveled in 2013, the number of deaths on motorcycles was over 26 times the number in cars.
Similar ratios are found in the UK and Australia. I can think of several reasons why the ratio might be lower in India–lower speeds, for example, but also several reasons why the ratio might be higher (see picture above).
The GNCAP worries that some Indian cars don’t have airbags but forgets that no Indian motorcycles have airbags. Even a zero-star car is much safer than a motorcycle. Air bags cost about $200-$400 (somewhat older estimates here a, b, c) and are not terribly effective. (Levitt and Porter, for example, calculated that air bags saved 550 lives in 1997 compared to 15,000 lives saved by seatbelts.) At $250, airbags would increase the cost of a $5,000 car by 5%. A higher price for automobiles would reduce the number of relatively safe automobiles and increase the number of relatively dangerous motorcycles and thus an air bag requirement could result in more traffic fatalities.
A broader point is that in India today $250 is about 5% of GDP per capita ($5,700 at PPP) and that’s a high price to pay for the limited protection provided by an air bag. Lots of people in the United States wouldn’t pay $2750–5% of US GDP per capita–for an air bag. Why should Indians be any different? (Mannering and Whinston estimated U.S. willingness to pay was about $500 in the 1990s). As incomes in India rise more people will demand cars and they will demand better and safer cars but forcing people to buy an option before they are willing to pay for it is unlikely to make people better off.
Safety is relative so cars judged unsafe by global standards could save lives in India. The bigger lesson is that it’s always dangerous to impose global standards without taking into account the differing circumstances of time and place.
In the Empire of Amerigo there is heated debate about the priorities of the polity.
The Egalitarians push for much higher military spending, on the grounds that many poor people around the world require Empire protection from aggressors or at the very least from severe external pressure. The Egalitarians have a subcult, called The Samanthas, who favor direct military intervention in very destructive civil wars. They are willing to cut domestic spending on social services to achieve this end, even though their founder did not draw this exact same conclusion.
The opposing party The Three-Percenters favors much higher social spending to the nation’s less fortunate citizens, who are for the most part within the global top three percent. The Three-Percenters are an openly elitist party, and they emphasize how place of birth determines an individual’s moral worth, Amerigo coming first of course with no prize for second place.
The Egalitarians have been pushing hard for affirmative action. It turns out that no one on the country’s Supreme Council has a military background, and they believe this should be rectified by an explicit system of quota. Furthermore only a few members of the legislature ever have killed another human being in service of their country. So the military point of view, as would be required to implement true egalitarian social justice, is badly underrepresented in the upper tiers of government and society.
After the great wage equalization of 2104, it became the common view that willingness to die and more importantly the willingness to kill for one’s country — or not — was the most fundamental remaining difference among citizens of Amerigo. The self-proclaimed Proud Killer Faction earns some of the lowest wages in the country, yet they continue to push for greater recognition at the federal level, realizing it is not enough to control several state governments.
So far the Three-Percenters have the more popular view, because after all humans are naturally elitist and clubbish, and so their coalition rule has remained unchallenged for several terms of government. Yet virtually all philosophers and academics back The Egalitarians, with some radicals even endorsing the Proud Killer Faction.
Addendum: There is another, now-vanquished faction of The Egalitarians, called The Medicoors. They argue the strange and indeed untenable view that those on the verge of death have almost infinitely less than anyone else, even the very poor, and so a true egalitarianism means everything should be redistributed their way to prolong their lives, even if only for a short period of time. They ruled the government for almost a century. At first they were mocked for the doctrine of being “Forward Lookers,” and then finally they were defeated by the success of their own efforts. Medical technology raised life expectancy to three hundred years of age, thereby inducing voters to think of themselves as nearly eternal, at least for the time being. Some seers have predicted that eventually the Medicoors will make a major political comeback…
A 2011 Vanderbilt University survey found 22 percent of Dominican voters had been offered money or goods in exchange for their vote, the highest percentage in Latin America and the Caribbean.
After the 1996 election, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who led a monitoring delegation in the Dominican Republic, said he was concerned by reports of voter cards for sale; and in 2012, politician-turned-television host Taina Gautreau estimated more than 400,000 votes were bought, in an electorate of roughly 7 million.
Here is the story, via Dan Jackson.
Which search terms correlate with support for which politicians? Why not at least ask this question?
John Kasich. Places that like Kasich are richer in some fairly policy-wonkish search terms: “net cost,” “renewable portfolio standard,” the economist Joseph Stiglitz, Financial Times writer Martin Wolf, and Vox writer Dylan Matthews. These terms have a ring of plausibility. They might be good fodder for small talk…if you are talking with a Kasich supporter!
But then there are terms that I don’t entirely understand: Route 73 and Haven Pizza. Maybe someone can explain those to me. It is also true that with billions of search terms to choose from, occasionally a correlation will arise by chance. These might be false positives.
Ted Cruz. Many Cruz-related search terms are related to domestic life of a certain kind: family photos, felt Christmas stockings, scentsy plug ins, balloon animals, Baby Trend car seats, and DIY cribs. Easy enchiladas are particularly Cruz-y. Mmmm, enchiladas. And udder covers…I wasn’t expecting that one. Maybe the Cruz campaign could start distributing Cruz-themed udder covers!
Donald Trump. Note that the correlations are weaker. That could be because Trump support is broad-based in the Republican Party. Or it could be that the connection between the voter and the Google-searcher is indirect (i.e. they are different individuals who live near one another).
That is from Sam Wang, via the keen-eyed Jordan Schneider. And what about the Democrats?
Near Clinton supporters it’s cheap bedroom furniture, Nicki Minaj fans, and pink hoverboard shoppers. And “career in” – Google auto-complete as a job counselor!
And the strongest correlate with Bernie Sanders support?: “candied nuts,” next in line is “best oatmeal,” ladies and gentlemen that is proof this is not just data mining and false correlations. The list is dominated by recipe terms, and “corn syrup substitute” is number four! Oh where oh where is Martin Wolf?
A study published (paywall) today (May 16) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that when we act unethically, we’re more likely to remember these actions less clearly. Researchers from Northwestern University and Harvard University coined the term “unethical amnesia” to describe this phenomenon, which they believe stems from the fact that memories of ourselves acting in ways we shouldn’t are uncomfortable.
“Unethical amnesia is driven by the desire to lower one’s distress that comes from acting unethically and to maintain a positive self-image as a moral individual,” the authors write in the paper.
To investigate, Maryam Kouchaki, a behavioral research specialist at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and her colleague Francesca Gino at Harvard Business School conducted nine separate studies with over 2,100 participants. Over the course of their work, they found that people remember the times they acted ethically, like playing a game fairly, more clearly than the times they probably cheated.
“We speculated…that people are limiting the retrieval of memories that threaten their moral self-concept and that is the reason we see pervasive ordinary unethical behaviors,” Kouchaki wrote in an email.
Here is the full story.