I think Paul Krugman puts his finger on the decline of Niall Ferguson here: Paul Krugman: _"What we have here is an example of a phenomenon I've seen a number of times: the doom loop of hackery...
I think Paul Krugman puts his finger on the decline of Niall Ferguson here: Paul Krugman: _"What we have here is an example of a phenomenon I've seen a number of times: the doom loop of hackery...
Hoisted/Smackdown: On the NATO Bombing of Yugoslavia...: May 31, 2006: Having made the mistake of having joked about Noam Chomsky and so provoked a Chomskyite troll eruption that was painful to clean out, I believe that I have to make my position clear:
Noam Chomsky is a liar.
For example, Noam Chomsky says:
On the NATO Bombing of Yugoslavia, Noam Chomsky interviewed by Danilo Mandic: Director of Communications [for Clinton Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott], John Norris.... [T]ake a look on John Norris's book and what he says is that the real purpose of the war had nothing to do with concern for Kosovar Albanians. It was because Serbia was not carrying out the required social and economic reforms, meaning it was the last corner of Europe which had not subordinated itself to the US-run neoliberal programs, so therefore it had to be eliminated. That's from the highest level...
John Norris simply does not say what Chomsky says Norris says. "Reform[ing] their economies, mitigat[ing] ethnic tensions, and broaden[ing] civil society" is simply not the same thing as "subordinat[ing] itself to the US-run neoliberal programs". NATO moved against Milosevic because he had proceeded "from mass murder to mass murder", not because Serbia was evidence that economic prosperity was attainable by doing the opposite of what the U.S. recommended
Here's the passage from John Norris (2005), Collision Course: NATO, Russia, and Kosovo (New York: Praeger), that Chomsky is misciting, p. xxii ff.:
I was performing one of my standard rants last week at lunch: about how—with very honorable but notably rare exceptions—you should view everything you see on a video screen or read in any medium from somebody paid to be a "journalist" through a hermeneutics of grave suspicion: Assume, unless and until demonstrated otherwise, that they are working for, in this order: (1) their sources, (2) their editors, (3) their advertisers, and (4) for you not at all—they simply are not interested in being a trustworthy information intermediary informing you about the world.
I got some pushback. So it is time to hoist this again from 2005. In one short week, pieces crossed my desk from both Jack Shafer and Clive Crook. Both made it very clear that, in their minds, informing people about the world is positively unprofessional for a journalist (that is the point of Shafer's attack on Klein and Yglesias) or simply not a relevant consideration (that is the point of Crook's relative exaltation of Cramer and dissing of Stewart):
FLASH: Monday Smackdown Clive Crook and Jack Shafer Upset Because People Informing People Are Claiming to Be Journalists: Hoisted from 2015: http://www.bradford-delong.com/2015/02/flash-clive-crook-and-jack-shafer-upset-because-john-stewart-and-ezra-klein-pretty-sure-earth-is-not-flat.html "Two things that crossed my desk last week that offend the shape of reality itself, and really do deserve to be smacked down.
So Rich Clarida's (who should be a good Fed Vice Chair) and Michelle Bowman's Federal Reserve nominations (whom I do not know) made it out of the Senate Banking Committee 20-5 and 18-7. Marvin Goodfriend—who made it out 13-12—is still hanging fire on the Senate calendar. There is no reason I see to think that Fed Governor is a job he should have: there are much more sensible and reality-based conservative and inflation-hawkish monetary economists out there. One of them would dominate Marvin along every dimension. So it is time to highlight this again:
Hoisted from the Archives: I think it is time to move Marvin Goodfriend over to the "unprofessional" and "should not have a role making monetary policy" side of the ledger. There are much better inflation hawks as far as policy judgment is concerned. And someone with a demonstrated desire to pander to the yahoos—which is the only way I can make this coherent—is not a good candidate for the Board of Governors: On the Negative Information Revealed by Marvin Goodfriend's "I Don't Teach IS-LM": The smart and snarky Sam Bell wants to taunt me into rising to his bait by twittering https://twitter.com/sam_a_bell/status/872116967070732288 a quote from likely Fed nominee Marvin Goodfriend: "I don't teach IS-LM". He succeeds. Here is the quote:
That the Washington Post still gives Robert J. Samuelson a platform is a shameful thing. That it ever gave Robert J. Samuelson a platform is a bad thing: Monday Smackdown/Hoisted: In That Case... Plant the Trees This Afternoon!: Mark Thoma does an evil deed by telling me that somebody should take note of Robert Samuelson. And he's right: somebody should. But why does it have to be me?
This, from CEA Chair Kevin Hassett in 2010 has always seemed to me at if not over the edge of mental illness.
There are many tells. The reliance on a "brilliant review" by a UND law professor and on an Oxford philosopher with no particle physicists even named is one. The raising of "military action" as a response is a second. The plea for following his preferred course of action even though he does not understand the issues because "how can we know that things we do not understand will not kill us?" is a third.
Grandiosity and unmooring from rational inquiry to an extent that, it seemed and seems to me, might well clear the clinical diagnosis bar...
In its entirety:
I know I promised only one Smackdown a week—or, at least, only one non-DeLong Smackdown a week. But...
I put this in the tickler file three years ago, to see whether OPEC could raise prices and oil would go to $30 a barrel and whether lower oil prices would in fact trigger an oil patch and global superzoom, as "there will be no limits to growth in the global economy in a few years when... oil... becomes, for all practical purposes, free... the lower oil prices go, the more money the frackers can make...". Look today, and what do we see: 75 dollars a barrel. Not: 30. Nor: "for all practical purposes, free":
And the promised oil patch superboom—"the lower oil prices go, the more money the frackers can make..."? Employment in Oklahoma City relative to the nation as a whole:
A correspondent who wishes me ill writes and asks me what I think of Niall Ferguson and Clive Crook these days. I won't rise to the bait for Niall, but I will note that trade issues have made Clive Crook forget that back in November 2016 he decided to swim with what he saw as the tide carrying him to his niche as an anti-anti-Trump poseur. The talk about how we must be measured in our response—must listen carefully and respectfully to those with "the intelligible and legitimate opinions of that large minority" who will, after they have been marinated in Fox News, applaud Trump's actions—is gone, 100% gone:
Clive Crook: Congress Must Blunt Trump’s Assault on Trade: "What Trump did last week matters...
I have never understood why "conservatives" like Niall Ferguson think that cross-burner Charles Murray is a good standard bearer for their ideas in a university setting. Is it their explicit and deliberate aim to generate counterdemonstrations and further reinforce the link between conservative ideas and white ethnicism in America today? Do they really think that yoking appeals to racial animosity, immutable "racial" differences in intelligence, and white ethnicism to their cause is a winner?
Niall Ferguson won't claim that the immutable-racial-differences arguments in Herrnstein and Murray's The Bell Curve get it right. He will only claim that: "the sheer scale of the discussion that Murray’s work has generated would seem to argue for its importance, regardless of whether one ends up agreeing with him..." In academic speech ideas are not merely presented but evaluated. Cross-burner Murray's ideas have been evaluated by, among others, the impeccably conservative Thomas Sowell, James Heckman, and Glenn Loury. Wouldn't a proper Cardinal Conversation aimed at elevating the debate have featured one of these non-cross-burning conservatives? They would have said something like:
As Mitt Romney said of Niall Ferguson and company, they are: "people who... are dependent... who believe that they are victims, who believe that... they are entitled.... I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives...":
Niall Ferguson descends far into self-parody with this self-smackdown. Jonathan Healey comments:
Jonathan Healey: "Worth pointing out that it also 'might have been avoided' if you'd thought to yourself 'Hang on, a professor with a massive profile trying to find kompromat on a student is a bit off, isn't it?':
Niall Ferguson: From all of this I draw two conclusions. First, it might have been avoided if conservatives at universities did not feel so beleaguered. There is a debate about whether free speech has been restricted on American campuses in recent years. I have no doubt it has. Middle-of-the-road students live in fear that a casual remark will be deemed "offensive" or "triggering" and that social media will be unleashed to shame them. Conservative students have to keep quiet or fight a culture war in which they are hopelessly outnumbered.
The other lesson I have learn[ is that Uncle Jan was right: I do need to grow up. Student politics is best left to students. So I am putting my tweed jacket back on and retreating to my beloved study. It is time to write another book.
"Civility" looks very different depending on where you stand...
From here http://crookedtimber.org/2018/05/23/neo-marxism/ I have excerpted three short paragraphs very much worth reading and thinking about:
Ah. Someone who wishes me ill informs me that William Saletan has surfaced, but cannot tell his own story straight: William Saletan (2018): Stop talking about race and IQ. Take it from someone who did: "A person with a taste for puncturing taboos learns about racial gaps in IQ scores and the idea that they might be genetic...
...He writes or speaks about it, credulously or unreflectively. Every part of his argument is attacked: the validity of IQ, the claim that it’s substantially heritable, and the idea that races can be biologically distinguished. The offender is denounced as racist when he thinks he’s just defending science against political correctness. I know what it’s like to be this person because, 11 years ago, I was that person.... Here’s my advice: You can talk about the genetics of race. You can talk about the genetics of intelligence. But stop implying they’re the same thing. Connecting intelligence to race adds nothing useful. It overextends the science you’re defending, and it engulfs the whole debate in moral flames...
What William Saletan does not say is: "Not only did I write credulously and unreflectively about claimed genetic racial gaps in IQ scores, but I did an incompetent and zero-assed job of doing my research. Why? Because I have insufficient work ethic, I am not very good at my job, I wanted to believe, I wanted to 'puncture taboos', and I thought trying to make African-Americans feel smaller was kinda fun."
Am I wrong? Anybody want to push back on whether Saletan does his homework? Anybody have anything from William Saletan worth reading to bring forward?
Let's turn the mike over to the not unintelligent Cosma Shalizi:
Monday Smackdown/Hoisted from the Archives (August 2015): "We Always Thanked Robert Lucas for Giving Us a... Monopoly" Over Valuable Macroeconomics: The extremely sharp Paul Romer gets something, I think, very very wrong...
Someone who wishes me ill reminds me of this from six years ago.
Could the Swedish academy please stop giving nobel prizes to economists—like Eugene Fama—who lack basic historical literacy? This isn't rocket science, after all. I really do not think that this is very much to ask: Paul Krugman (2011): Boom For Whom: "While I’m talking about inequality and the crisis, I realized recently that there’s another channel not usually talked about, via the misperception of success...
This is what I want when I call for a better class of DeLong Smackdowns! How do we think this looks not just nine years after my optimism in 2009 back at the end of the American century but five years after Matt wrote?:
Hoisted from the Archives: Matthew Yglesias (2013): May Day Marxism: Capitalism is looking pretty shabby: "DeLong reposted a very interesting 2009 talk... "Understanding Karl Marx"... that I would have enthusiastically endorsed in 2009 but which look weaker four years later...
May 10, 2018 at 05:57 AM in Economics: Health, Economics: History, Economics: Inequality, History, Moral Responsibility, Philosophy: Moral, Political Economy, Politics, Streams: (Monday) Smackdown Watch, Streams: (Tuesday) Hoisted from Archives, Streams: Cycle, Streams: Economics, Streams: Equitable Growth, Streams: Highlighted | Permalink | Comments (1)
| | |
John Taylor is not just wrong, but wrong in a way that it is impossible to be if you are attempting to argue in good faith from any coherent set of economic principles and models: Miles Kimball: Contra John Taylor: "[Taylor] is just wrong...
...The Fed is promising to shift the demand curve for assets in the future and thereby get to a particular equilibrium interest rate. This is not at all like rent control. The right analogy is... getting rents to come down by reducing making it easier to get a building permit, or by subsidizing the building of new apartments.... There is a world of difference between a market intervention in which the government contributes to supply and demand and a price floor or ceiling. By buying assets, and promising to buy them in the future, the Fed is lowering an equilibrium interest rate. The details of the pattern of buying assets and promising to buy them in the future tends to keep the equilibrium interest rate at a certain level. The fact that the Fed acts by changing the equilibrium interest rate matters, because John’s claim that lowering the interest rate will reduce the quantity of investment would hold only if what the Fed is doing really did act like an interest rate ceiling that makes asset demand lower than asset supply...
Why would it ever occur to John Taylor to claim that open market operations are like price controls? I cannot imagine the circumstances under which anyone would be tempted to do this: Paul Krugman: More Artificial Unintelligence: "David Beckworth pleads with fellow free-marketeers to stop claiming that low interest rates are 'artificial' and comparing them to price controls...
Never forget how pig-ignorant stupid the High Priests of Liquidationist Chicago were in 2009: Paul Krugman (2009): The lost generation: "Matthew Yglesias catches Eugene Fama making a strange assertion...
Weekend Reading: Hoisted from the Archives: Convincing fifteen years ago. Convincing today. Telling just-so stories to reinforce prejudicial hierarchical judgments you won't examine rationally is no way to go through life, son: Daniel Davies (2002): D-squared Digest: "Move over son, the professionals are here... http://blog.danieldavies.com/2002/10/: I've just rediscovered this article by Val Dusek, which is the best thing I've read on the whole debate...
...It also reminded me what a perfect s--- Stephen Pinker looks when you know a little bit of the background to some of the things he says about Margaret Mead. Print out and read on the train home, that's my advice.
UPADATE: God damn that article's good. I'm amazed to discover the extent to which I'd subconsciously plagiarised it. UPDATE AGAIN: Damn me, it's good. I think I'll excerpt a non-representative chunk here, because it sort of buries a point which is, I think, profoundly important:
What Dennett would have to counter is Lewontin and Sober's argument that when selection coefficients of genes are context-dependent and selection acts on gene complexes, the artificially constructed selection coefficients of genes do not play a causal role. (Sober and Lewontin, 1984). It is true that if one claims that what is selected are not genes but replicators as the later Dawkins does, then whole genomes, incorporating all the contextual effects of genes on each other, might be the object of selection. This would preserve the restriction of selection to the genic level, but it would give up the atomization of modular traits with which evolutionary psychologists work.
Massively important, given that now we have the results of the Human Genome Project in, we know that most inherited human behavioural traits will have to have been selected through gene-complexes rather than individual genes. I have not yet seen the EP defence of their core doctrine that traits are modular in the face of this new development; I'd appreciate any pointers to the literature if there are good arguments that the doctrine either can be preserved, or is not actually necessary to the theory.
Tits on a Peacock: Evolutionary Psychology week continues... I'd note in this context that I don't have a complete knock-down argument against evolutionary psychology, mainly because if I did, it would also presumably be a knock-down argument against ethology, which would be damn close to a knock-down argument against evolution. More or less everyone agrees that behaviour can be subject to natural selection, and that's all you need to believe in before you're committed to some sort of belief in some kinds of explanation of psychological phenomena as evolved responses. What I'm most concerned with arguing against is "Neo-Darwinian Sociology", a close cousin of evolutionary psychology, and one which has repeatedly interbred with its less reputable cousin, with predictable results. (Yes I know, I know. That was invective. In actual face, most medical opinion appears to be that the marginal risk of deformed offspring from copulation between first cousins is actually pretty negligible. So go for it if that's what you want, but don't tell the judge I told you to.)
In honest fact, using the phrase "Neo-Darwinian Sociology" is actually an act of extreme politeness on my part, because the more concise phrase would be "Social Darwinism", the age-old and known horrible theory without a shit-eating, disingenuous and self-consciously pious denunciation of which, no pop EP book is complete. (Matt Ridley, I'm looking at you. Daniel Dennet, you can wipe that smile off your face too). It's kind of like the paramilitary wing of evolutionary psychology; the default position of a serious ethologist when confronted with the possibility of earning a quick two hundred quid for 400 words on some current issue in the Sunday papers (Richard Dawkins, I'm looking at you, and pointing at you). Basically, in so far as these pieces have any message which doesn't consist of laughing at people more intelligent than the author for believing in God, the message boils down to:
Psychology of individuals is sociology; there is nothing to be understood about social phenomena other than individual behaviour. (The main argument for this proposition is that sociology is carried out by sociologists. The secondary argument is that some sociologists vote for left-wing political parties. Don't ask me, I'm only here for the beer)
Genetic explanations are the most important kind of explanations. If something could have come about through sexual selection of a gene, then it is overwhelmingly likely did come about in that way. Any other kind of explanation is very much second-best, and is probably about to be proved false by the discovery of a "proper" explanation. (The argument for this is rarely spelt out; as far as I can tell, it is some degenerate version of Occam's Razor)
Although just-so stories about hypothesised past development are no more than indicative initial hypotheses when we're doing proper rigorous ethology, they're strong enough that you can draw massive overarching social policy conclusions from them when you're talking to the plebs. (There is no argument for this at all, but I'm guessing it's part of the organisational pathology which gets these things into print)
Push them on any of these points, however, and they immediately retreat to vastly more defensible ground, only talking about specific results, qualifying all their statements and pretending that their sentences should never be (could never possibly have been) taken to imply things which they quite obviously say. Of course, given that we're dealing with Dawkins, Pinker, and arseholes of similar magnitude here, they tend to carry out this retreat with the full pomp and circumstance of a Roman triumphal parade, insulting people's intelligence, taking every opportunity to revive assertions they've walked away from and if at all possible, trying to imply that their interlocutor is either a sociologist or a believer in God. I see that it will take a separate post on the roots of this behaviour in philosophy of science to drain away all my bitterness.
But anyway, that's "Neo-Darwinian Sociology", and I actually believe that I do have a knock-down argument against that, which I will outline in the next-but-one post in this series. For the time being, just note that I think I can support the claims that
if it wasn't for their occasional forays into N-DS, the EP crowd would be a very obscure bunch of scientists indeed.
NeoDarwinian Sociology is on a much weaker scientific footing than the rest of EP; those parts of EP which have impinged on the public consciousness are in general pieces of research which are distinctly suspect as works of science; and therefore :
The entire existence of evolutionary psychology as a fact of public life rather than an obscure academic discipline depends on the willingness of some scientists to drop all their scientific standards at crucial moments. (In particular, I find it quite scandalous that Richard Dawkins is quite so unconcerned about the distortions of scientific method which are regularly indulged in by people he regards as his allies. Despite what he thinks, he is Oxford University's Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, not the Public Proselytisation of Atheism). I am also prepared to argue for:
The fact that it's the evolutionary psychologists who have achieved such prominence through such means is, as they say, no coincidence; the entire method of inquiry of EP tends to inculcate habits of mind which are too quick to latch onto hypotheses and call them explanations, and which discourage rigorous system thinking in favour of particular anecdotes. In their professional work, practitioners seem to recognise these dangers and guard against them; in their popular work and their policy advocacy, they drop their guard. As you can tell, I'm working toward a theory of how a book as bad as "Blank Slates" by Stephen Pinker came to be written.
It's in support of (4) that I am currently working. As with yesterday's post on symmetry and beauty, I want to provide an example not so much of questions answered wrongly, but of questions never asked in the first place; of theories adopted for a particular case because of the attractive story, but which were not applied to other cases, because they didn't fit the story being told. If I can establish that there are cases when, working near the borders of ethology and sociology but on the scientific side, evolutionary psychologists lost their critical faculties, I think I'll have supported my case that when they move closer to politics, they tend to be even worse. Tomorrow's example is going to be just a freaking doozy (Randy Thornhill's theory of rape), but for the time being, let's take a look at womens' breasts and peacocks' tails.
OK, I didn't get many takers for peacocks' tails. But let's start off with them.
There's a fairly common theory about why peacocks have tails; it's not the only one in the literature, but's it's pretty well supported and it is frequently used by the EP crowd when they want to make an analogy to certain kinds of male behaviour. The theory is basically, that the male peacock's tail is so big not in spite of its inconvenience to the bird, but because of that inconvenience. The idea is that it's a sexual signalling device; the peacock is signalling:
Look at me, I'm so big and strong and genetically ace that I can carry around this huge great fucking ridiculous tail and still live a relatively normal avian life.
So, the selfish genes of the peahen latch onto that signal, because they want to hitch a ride on this unstoppable Range Rover of peacock genetic goodness. It's quite a clever little theory; controversial as hell among bird biologists, but certainly not without supporters.
So anyway, a theory like that is too good to waste on peacocks, so it gets brought into service in explaining otherwise damnably stupid behaviour by human males with "peacock" tendencies. Bungee jumping, driving cars quickly, etc, etc. Jared Diamond (in an uncharacteristic slip; a terrible chapter of an otherwise good book called The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee) claimed that kung fu experts in Indonesia drink paraffin. The idea being presumably, to show off to any females present "HEY, LOOK AT ME! I'M ACTING LIKE AN IDIOT! I MUST HAVE GREAT GENES TO HAVE SURVIVED TO ADULTHOOD, I'M SO FUCKING STUPID! IT'S A MIRACLE I'M NOT EATING THROUGH A STRAW, BUT I'M NOT, SO THERE MUST BE SOMETHING SPECIAL ABOUT ME! COME ON AND GET ME YOU KNOW YOU WANT IT!".
Obviously, the questions a) "has there ever really been an 'evolutionary adaptive environment' in which purposefully endangering your own life for no reason hasn't been a gene that sensible selfish maximisers would want to avoid like the plague?" and b) "does it not strike people who advance this 'hazard theory' as perhaps surprising that much of the very most stupid and show-offish male behaviour in the world is channelled into initiation rituals of exclusively male secret societies of one kind or another?" are quibbles, and prove that the person asking them is a sociologist, and probably believes in God.
Anyway, I sense that my audience is getting bored at this point, so on to the more popular topic of womens' breasts.
As everyone knows, men like women with big, prominent breasts because they indicate that the woman upon whom they are located will be really good at feeding a child, thus propagating their genes to the next generation. Unfortunately, the bust size of a woman who has never given birth bears more or less no relationship whatever to the size at the end of pregnancy (breasts of nonlactating women are made mostly of fat, and it takes about eight months to properly shape them up to serve drinks), and this has been the case for a very long time in human evolution. This immediately rules out a lot of the "sub-pop" science commentators who use this kind of cargo-cult science theory of female pulchritude when they want to make some sort of point about sexual harassment in the workplace or the appeal of Pamela Anderson or whatever needs half a col. written about it by two-thirty prompt, but that's hardly a body blow to the EP crowd; most of these people are either editorial writers half-remembering the last pop science book they read, or people like Eric Raymond who are so damnably ignorant on every single subject except computers that it can't be blamed purely on "The Selfish Gene".
On the other hand, there are a lot of commentators who know better, who still basically come up with theories of the breast which involve some sort of signalling about fertility (not all; here's a list of theories on this issue, not all of which are vulnerable to the current critique). And here, we come to a conundrum.
If the theory of doing dangerous things in order to show how genetically fit you are is generally applicable, perhaps it could be applied to women as well as men? So, let's think... what would be an extremely physically demanding and dangerous thing that a woman could do, which would work well to demonstrate her fertility? Well... perhaps it's a bit off-the-wall, but here's one suggestion... how about... giving birth to a baby?!
Think about it. Some women are infertile, and can never give birth. Some women are not physically up to the rigours of childbirth, and this must have been even more true "out on the plains of Africa", to use the hackneyed and racially loaded catchphrase. One way, as a woman, of proving that this isn't true of you, is to actually step up to the plate and walk the talk. So, on this reasoning, men should be really turned on by single mothers... is that your experience?
Furthermore, if we extend this theory to go back to our original question about fashions in bust shapes, we can note that the stresses and strains of feeding the first child will certainly, pre the invention of the brassiere, have taken their toll on a maidenly chest. So, one could construct a convincing argument on evolutionary psychology grounds, that a female human equivalent to the display of the peacock's tail would be a large bust which drooped to somewhere south of the navel area. By putting on the Gossard Wonderbra and its competitor products, women appear to be attempting to signal to men that their fertility is a completely unknown property, and so is their vulnerability to death in parturition.
There is something decidedly funny about a grab-bag of intellectual tools which puports to explain the reason why things are the way they are, but which could simultaneously be used (as above) to explain why they were the way they were even if they were some other way. And there is something funny about a group of people who talk nine yards to Sunday week about the "intellectual rigour" they are bringing to a discipline like sociology, but who never seem to bother to generalise propositions, or to explain why mechanisms work in one case but not another. And there is something extremely funny about the way that a bunch of male commentators have been so quick to jump on board with a theory that, if it were not for the fact that it helps to bolster a number of propositions about sexual morality which they wanted to assert anyway, would be recognised as being about as likely and as useful, as tits on a peacock.
Thy Bloody Awful Symmetry: As well as the whole Michael Hardt/ David Hasselhoff thing below, my mind was turned to thoughts of evolutionary psychology by an article in yesterday's New York Times.
Fundamentally, it's exactly the sort of work I was planning on doing; somebody's taking a look at the actual experimental methodology that supports such convenient factoids as "men are more concerned about sexual jealousy, while women worry more about emotional infidelity". It turns out that this "result" is incredibly fragile as to the situation of the experiment; if you sit people down, ask them the question straight out, and give them time to think, then men and women assign themselves correctly to their gender roles, whereas if you catch them off guard in order to get a more "instinctive" response, the differentiation "predicted" by an amazingly tendentious just-so story about cavemen in Africa just doesn't show up. (I'd note in passing that the EP crowd are often in the forefront of moaning about "double-blind trials" when they're on the attack on some other point; the methodology of having an experimenter with an agenda ask a question face to face and then write the answer down himself is about as far from double blind as it gets).
In any case, the main point of the article linked above is to show what total and utter patronising knobheads evolutionary psychologists can be when pulled up on a point of science (read it, honestly, the guy starts comparing himself to Galileo!). But it dovetails quite nicely with a couple of points I'd like to make about some other sacred cows of evolutionary psychology; specifically, some of those claims which the pop science gang like to make about the "genetic" foundations of human beauty.
It's a shame that I'm too mean to cough up for the version of this weblog which would allow me to put up pictures, but there you go... but you don't have to search far on the web to find someone claiming it to be an established "fact" that facial attractiveness is a function of facial symmetry. Coincidentally, you also don't have to go far on the web to find a picture of Elvis Presley (bloody great asymmetric sneer) or Cindy Crawford (bloody great asymmetric mole on face). So what gives?
Apparently people with symmetric bodies have "good genes". Don't ask me, I'm a stranger here myself. But let's assume for the meantime that in some way, a little glitch in the building of the face of a foetus is evidence of a deep-seated horrible lurgey in the genes which is just waiting to show up as sickle-cell anaemia or low resistance to malaria or something. The question I'm interested in is, how did anyone find out that people with symmetrical faces are the most beautiful people of all?
Note at this stage, that I'm not interested in studies which claim to have shown that symmetrical people have more sex than anyone else. Randy Thornhill claims that this is the case, and it might be the case even though the experiments which claim to demonstrate it come from the same guy who brought you a theory of rape which doesn't work at all as a theory of sexual assault not involving penetration. Personally, I think that Thornhill is all over the place, and I'll explain why in future (there's a clue in this sentence for the impatient), but I want to establish that it doesn't effect my current argument if the symmetrical are shagging wild all over the place. The claim that "beauty" is "whatever gets you laid" is one that the EP crowd is committed to, not me. But this is by the by.
Absent the sex life studies, the evidence for "beauty" being this, that, or the other, has to come from what actual people judge to be beautiful. So, the best method for carrying out this experiment would have to be to get a bunch of people, show them a bunch of photographs of people, and get them to pick out the beautiful ones. Then you count the number of points each photograph gets and have a look at which ones are picked the most often, right?
If you ask people to pick out the photographs from a set which strike them as the most beautiful, you're actually asking them to perform cognitive acts, not one. You're asking your experimental subjects to:
- notice a picture of a face
- judge whether it's beautiful or not.
The first of these is not a trivial act, as anyone who's observed a baby younger than about two months will testify. The extent to which you're going to carry out the act of picking a picture for the beautiful pile depends on the extent to which it catches your attention as well as what you actually think of the face. There will be an error in your results from people "misclassifying" faces because they weren't really paying attention to them. There are all sorts of misjudgements that it's possible to make when looking at a two-dimensional image of a three-dimensional object; as the post below demonstrates, I quite seriously misclassified a picture of Michael Hardt's hairstyle as "bouffant" when it wasn't.
So far so good. Now, readers with extremely advanced degrees in econometrics won't be asking... what do we know about this error? Importantly, is it unbiased—can we assume for modelling purposes that it can be ignored as something that will in a large enough sample?
I'm arguing, no. One of the things that, broadly construed, evolutionary psychology has usefully done for us is to dig up some important insights into the neuropsychology of visual perception. Particularly, it's been noted (as in, anatomically observed) that there is a mechanism in the brain which is specifically adapted for distinguishing between symmetrical things and non-symmetrical things. I find the "evolutionary psychology" (in actual fact, ethology, the rather more serious parent discipline which looks at behaviour without making tendentious and unsupported claims) argument quite convincing in this regard. The reason we have a symmetry-detector is that very few things in nature are symmetrical except animals, and animals are only symmetric when they're looking straight at you. Since the fact that something is looking at you is almost always a useful thing to know, we have been provided with a very acute sense of whether a thing is exactly symmetrical or not. Symmetry is a property which "jumps out of the page".
So, given that photographs of symmetrical faces are more likely to be noticed, the errors are not going to be evenly distributed. In any study which is asking you to pick out a "noticeable" characteristic the symmetrical pictures are always going to be over-represented, because symmetry is a noticeable property. Furthermore, this property is highly likely to account for the fact that babies tend to look longer at the same photos which adults pick out of a pile as being most attractive, another factoid often advanced as evidence for the beauty=symmetry hypothesis.
I have no particular investment in believing that there is nothing aesthetically attractive about symmetry; I spend a lot of time with a sneer on my face, but that's mainly because I read a lot of right-wing weblogs. But the fact that nobody saw fit to inquire into this possible source of experimental failure tends to suggest to me that people want to believe in the "evolutionary" arguments for reasons other than those of pure science. And when you get people like Todd Shackelford responding to the Northeastern study by just saying "I guess, to state it plainly, I think the paper is in large part ludicrous.... It's clear to me that they have an agenda they're pushing", I think I'm on to something...
A friendly correspondent points out to me that the "serious and respected" professional Republican economists of 20 years ago were as big bull-------- as those today—and that I was complaining about them, albeit attempting to be more polite, back then.
Case in point: Allan Meltzer: Hoisted from the Archives from Twenty Years Ago: Allan Meltzer Drags Down the Level of the Debate...: He attracted my ire for going beyond a line he should not have gone beyond:
Live from the Orange-Haired Baboon Cage: Sam Harris convinces me that he is not part of what Charles Murray calls the "cognitive elite": Vox: The Sam Harris-Ezra Klein debate - Vox: "Sam Harris: [In] your last piece, you have this whole section on the 'Flynn effect' and how the Flynn effect should be read as accounting for the black-white differences in purely environmental terms. Well, even Flynn rejects that interpretation...
I swear, when this showed up in my inbox—sent by somebody who wishes me ill—I really did think it was an April Fools Day parody...
Back up. As the eminent and intelligent John Scalzi says: to play the video game of life—"a massive role playing game, like World of Warcraft except appallingly mundane, where most quests involve the acquisition of money, cell phones and donuts, although not always at the same time"—as a straight white male in America is to play it on the lowest difficulty setting: on level one, so to speak.
Everybody else faces bigger obstacles and more distractions. Thus one should not be proud of one's “score“, however one likes to keep score. One should not pat oneself on the back as being in any way "superior" for what one has accomplished. And one should not whinge about how hard one's life is, and about how many obstacles one faces.
And if one starts whingeing—especially if start whingeing when people point out that one has been playing on level one—if one says one is being oppressed by sexist anti-sexists and racist anti-racists because somebody points out that one's score is at the top primarily because one was playing on level one, and that one is actively assisting others of one's ilk in playing on level one...
Well, one should be embarrassed: Such a fragile ego! Such an unwillingness to contemplate the reality in which one is cushioned! Such a sensitive snowflake!
Why, it is positively unmanly...
Some people wish me ill. They keep emailing me things from John Cochrane. I wish they wouldn't. Or I wish I would develop some self-control. This is not making me happy:
First, let me set forth an intelligent, rational, measured assessment of BitCoin, made by somebody who was never a tenured finance economist at the University of Chicago:
Glenn Loury 2.0: @justabloodygame on Twitter: "Seriously, I read stories about people mortgaging their homes to buy Bitcoin and I want to rip my hair out..."
We can then compare this with the irrational word salad of John Cochrane. To the extent that there is an argument, it goes like this:
From 2012: Well-wisher Cosma Shalizi: Comment on Brad DeLong: Economists on the Ineffectiveness of Fiscal Policy; Sh@t Is All F@#^ Up and Bullsh@t Weblogging: "More elaborately: our gracious host would really like to be just a little bit to the left of a technocratic center...
Live from Souvenir on Claremont: (Early) Monday Smackdown: Tax Reform Intellectual Garbage Cleanup Edition:
1) I am informed—by "persons who say they are familiar with the matter"—that Barro, Boskin, Cogan, Holtz-Eakin, Hubbard, Lindsey, Rosen, Shultz, and Taylor are not lying when they say on Wednesday "we did not offer claims about the speed of adjustment to a long-run result...." even though the previous Saturday they had written about a raise in "the level of GDP in the long run by just over 4%. If achieved over a decade, the associated increase in the annual rate of GDP growth would be about 0.4% per year..."
Why aren't they lying on Wednesday?
Because the "if" does not mean: "it could be the case that..."
Instead, the "if" means: "for illustrative purposes, if you have trouble converting from changes in levels to growth rates, as an illustrative example, suppose that in a counterfactual world (which is definitely not this world)..."
That I never figured out how to write this paper is deserving of a smackdown. Why did I never figure out how to write it? Because I never figured out what to say, or what the answer was:
Hoisted from 2004: Getting in Touch with My Inner Austrian: A Still-Unwritten Paper: Fragment of an Unfinished Ms.: Part II of an unfinished paper, "After the Bubble." The paper currently lacks Parts I, III, IV, V, and VI:
II. Aggressively Expansionary Monetary Policy and Macroeconomic Vulnerabilities:
How did we get here?
First, where are we?
Matthew Yglesias: If the GOP tax plan is so good, why do they lie so much about it?: "Democratic programs may or may not be... good idea[s], [but] the bills they write that they say will expand the provision of social services in the United States really do expand the provision of social services...
...Not so... with the Republican plan....
A correspondent asks whether or not this is unfortunate:
Lawrence J. Christiano, Martin S. Eichenbaum, and Mathias Traban: On DSGE Models: "Macroeconomic policy questions involve trade-offs between competing forces in the economy...
With no high-quality smackdowns of DeLong on offer, let us turn to Robert Lucas's extremely bizarre reaction to the Volcker Disinflation...
Live from the Republican' Economists' Self-Made Clown Show: I still cannot believe that Stanford economist (and Fed Chair "finalist") John Taylor presents these "trend" lines in public. Something is just not right:
I agree with Matthew Yglesias here: This from Franklin Foer simply does not pass the most-basic "plausibility" test. "I was totally oblivious to what was going on in the office I ran" = "I took and kept a job at which I was totally incompetent". I don't think anybody has ever called Franklin Foer incompetent. And what we are hearing is not about the various editors-in-chief's ignorance. What we are hearing is about the various editors-in-chief's complicity.
Matthew Yglesias: @mattyglesias on Twitter: "I’m a little confused as to what story we’re being told about male OTNR editors’ knowledge of the situation...
Over on the Twitter machine, the learned and incredibly sharp Owen Zidar writes, about the picky model-based incidence analysis points:
@omzidar: On Twitter: The number of tweets needed to describe this issue suggest more clarification/ a detailed step by step post would be useful...
My view is that in the end all this—Krugman (2017b) and (2017a); DeLong (2017d), (2017c), (2017b), and (2017a); Bernstein (2017); Furman (2017); and Mankiw (2017)—when unpacked, boils down to Econ 1-level tax incidence, and an algebraic mistake in calculating overelaborated and overcomplicated versions thereof.
I confess that I, at least, never heard Larry Summers say: "A-list people do not directly criticize A-list people: doing so is a way to become a B-list person". I doubt he has ever said it that way.
I have, however, heard Larry say—many times—that it is in general not wise to presume bad faith or incompetence on the part of, say, present or former fellows at places like, say, the American Enterprise Institute.
@Noahpinion: On Twitter: Brad DeLong will find your algebra errors: http://www.bradford-delong.com/2017/10/note-to-self-greg-mankiw-providing-backup-for-kevin-hassett-department-larry-summers-one-last-time-on-who-benefits-fro.html
delong: Every day, a new fresh hell...
Today's new fresh hell is chasing links on the way back from Edinburgh to find Mulligan, Cochrane, Mankiw all marveling over how "gorgeous" and "striking" it is that the ratio of the wage gain to the "static" revenue loss is always 1/(1-t)—how it is a remarkable and important insight that the production function parameters drop it. With not a single one saying:
Anybody have any suggestions?
UPDATE: OK. There are no suggestions for high quality DeLong smackdowns. And there is one request in comments for a Kevin Hassett smackdown, with a link. So here goes:
Jim Tankerley: Trump’s Top Economist Says Corporate Tax Cuts Will Lift Workers’ Wages: "[Kevin Hassett of] the Trump administration on Monday... ignor[ed]... studies that showed few benefits from corporate tax cuts for average workers and relyi[ed]... on research that supported a politically desirable result...
Paul Krugman: The Schlock Of The New: "I’m still thinking about Kevin Hassett’s appearance at the Tax Policy Center...
Insults aside, he offered a new analysis of corporate tax incidence – an approach that is novel, innovative, and completely boneheaded. Oh, and it just happens to say what his political masters want to hear. As I see it, this is part of a broader pattern.
It would be nice if I could start off October with another real DeLong smackdown: an incisive critique of a place where my argument has been wrong, or at least pathetically incomplete and one-sided.
But it is not to be: the environment is just too target-rich.
Somebody who wishes me ill sends me a link to Paul Gigot and Gerry Baker's execrable Wall Street Journal, and provokes me into clicking it. It is John Cochrane from Stanford's Hoover Institution: claiming a hypothetical tax rate is 20%, when five minutes' thought gets 42.9% as the true number:
John Cochrane: Tax Consumption Through a VAT, and Voilà https://www.wsj.com/articles/tax-consumption-through-a-vat-and-voila-1504550331: "If the administration and Congress drop the income tax, it won’t be difficult to achieve 3% growth...
Noah Smith: Speech on campus: A reply to Brad DeLong: "On Twitter, I wrote that I disagreed with Brad's ideas about speech on college campuses... http://noahpinionblog.blogspot.com/2017/09/speech-on-campus-reply-to-brad-delong.html
...Brad then requested that I write my ideas up in the form of a DeLong Smackdown. So here we go.
Brad's post was written in a particular context - the recent battles over right-wing speakers at Berkeley. More generally, the alt-right has been trying to provoke conflict at Berkeley, seeing an opportunity to gain nationwide sympathy. The murder of Heather Heyer by Nazis, and general white supremacist street violence, has turned the national mood against the alt-right. The alt-righters see (correctly) that the only way to recover rough parity is the "both sides" defense - in other words, to get people so worried about left-wing street violence that they equivocate between left and right. To this end, they are trying to stir up the most obvious source of potential leftist street violence: Berkeley.
Live from Evans Hall: The purpose of having a "Monday DeLong Smackdown" was twofold: (a) to make me smarter by forcing me to go through and internalize smart critiques of things I had written; and (b) to provide some reward and recognition to those people who would do me a favor by writing a smart critique of something I had written.
It has failed.
If Gerard Baker really thinks going the extra mile to be an obsequious courtier to Trump is a way for him to build trust that the WSJ news pages are and are "seen as objective", he is wrong. But I really do not believe Gerald Baker thinks that is the case:
Gerard Baker (January 4, 2017): Trump, ‘Lies’ and Honest Journalism: "Why editors should be careful about making selective moral judgments about false statements... https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-lies-and-honest-journalism-1483557700
So after a pep talk from Noah Smith Saturday night about how it is time to become kinder and gentler—to look for opportunities to praise for being smart people who in the past I have criticized for being really really really dumb—I wake up Monday morning, and I wince because Duncan Black has been reading the once-thoughtful Clive Crook again.
"People is weird... 'let's shoot ourselves in the face just to prove our gun works'..." is really four standard deviations kinder and gentler than this deserves:
Duncan Black: National Humiliation: "People is weird. [Clive Crook:]... http://www.eschatonblog.com/2017/07/national-humiliation.html
From November 2008: Why I Was Wrong... http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2008/11/why-i-was-wrong.html: Calculated Risk issues an invitation:
Calculated Risk: Hoocoodanode?: Earlier today, I saw Greg "Bush economist" Mankiw was a little touchy about a Krugman blog comment. My reaction was that Mankiw has some explaining to do. A key embarrassment for the economics profession in general, and Bush economists Greg Mankiw and Eddie Lazear in particular, is how they missed the biggest economic story of our times....
Also apropos of the three neoliberalisms: (1) Mont Pelerin; (2) Charlie Peters; and (3) anti-Black, anti-woman, anti-Arab, anti-union—and anti-French:
With the opening of "Dunkirk", time to hoist and highlight this:
2006: Nick Gillespie Has Had It with Marty Peretz ("Lafayette! Nous Sommes Ici!" Department) http://www.bradford-delong.com/2006/09/nick_gillespie_.html: He writes, accurately and correctly:
Hit and Run: They're starting to shit themselves in public... TNR owner and "Spine" blogger Marty Peretz is enacting the cyberspatial equivalent... with posts such as this one on French jokes:
Let me say that in Taylor's case, at least, this type of bullshit misrepresentation of what we know and what the evidence says has now been going on for a very long time:
I, at least, am as tired of it as are the more senior real economists who are John Taylor's peers.
Why John Taylor thinks he is still entitled to call himself an "economist" is beyond me. It has been beyond me for eight years:
When I read this by David Glasner, I wonder whether the shift in Hayek's beliefs between the 1930s and the 1980s was an improvement. In the 1930s, he believed in big depressions—"secondary deflation"—as a way of breaking "nominal rigidities", which I understand as the power of labor to resist being forced to accept declines in real wage rates. By the 1980s, he seemed to believe in shooting people like me in soccer stadiums, and throwing them out of helicopters into the South Atlantic. See: Pinochet, Augusto
David Glasner: Hayek, Deflation and Nihilism: "Hayek argued that... neutral money was... constant total spending (MV)... https://uneasymoney.com/2017/07/23/hayek-deflation-and-nihilism/
...Once the downturn started to accelerate, causing aggregate spending to decline by 50% between 1929 and 1933, Hayek, totally disregarding his own neutral-money criterion, uttered not a single word in protest of a monetary policy that was in flagrant violation of his own neutral money criterion. On the contrary, Hayek wrote an impassioned defense of the insane gold accumulation policy of the Bank of France, which along with the US Federal Reserve was chiefly responsible for the decline in aggregate spending.... Hayek’s policy advice was... relentlessly pro-deflation. Why did Hayek offer policy advice so blatantly contradicted by his own neutral-money criterion?...
All I can say is: unprofessional
I would not have thought that it was an argument that could be maintained by any economist of reputation—even though, as John Stuart Mill once said, "what was affirmed by Cicero... [of] philosophy...may be asserted without scruple of the subject of political economy—that there is no opinion so absurd as not to have been maintained by some person of reputation". I don't think that this is an opinion. And the cost to your reputation—I'm looking at you, John Taylor, and you, Glenn Hubbard, and you Kevin Warsh—may well exceed whatever your current positive balance is plus your available credit limit:
John F. Cogan, Glenn Hubbard, John B. Taylor, and Kevin Warsh: On the Prospects for Higher Economic Growth: "Productivity growth declined in the 1970s, rose markedly through the 1980s and 1990s, and fell again sharply in recent years. The data are not supportive of the popular contention that the United States is in the midst of a long-term decline in productivity growth..." http://www.hoover.org/sites/default/files/research/docs/on_the_prospects_for_higher_economic_growth_0.pdf
Is it me? Or is it him?
I find an interesting link on Making Light http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/016593.html, follow it, immediately find that the introduction annoys me—gets my back up—and then I notice that it is by John McWhorter. Other people like McWhorter a lot: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/016593.html#4335396.
But I read:
John McWhorter: English is not normal https://aeon.co/essays/why-is-english-so-weirdly-different-from-other-languages: "Hwæt, we gardena in geardagum þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon...
...does that really mean ‘So, we Spear-Danes have heard of the tribe-kings’ glory in days of yore’? Icelanders can still read similar stories written in the Old Norse ancestor of their language 1,000 years ago, and yet, to the untrained eye, Beowulf might as well be in Turkish...
And my immediate response is: the cards have been dealt from the bottom of the deck here.
2007: Bernard Lewis Makes His Bid for the Stupidest-Man-Alive Prize http://www.bradford-delong.com/2007/03/bernard_lewis_m.html: Has Bernard Lewis always been this stupid, and did I just not notice?
Washington Wire—WSJ.com: Bernard Lewis drew a standing ovation from a packed house of conservative luminaries Wednesday night in a lecture that described Muslim migration to Europe as an Islamic attack on the West and defended the Crusades as “a late, limited and successful imitation of the jihad” that spread Islam across much of the globe. Lewis gave the nearly hour-long speech at the annual black-tie dinner of the American Enterprise Institute after receiving the group’s Irving Kristol Award. Among the attendees were Vice President Dick Cheney, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton and ex-Pentagon official Richard Perle. Notably absent was I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby....
Kevin A. Hassett (2007): Does Economic Success Require Democracy? http://www.aei.org/publication/does-economic-success-require-democracy/: "Sadly, no. In fact, the politically unfree countries are enjoying more economic growth than the politically free ones...
Not as bad as Kevin Hassett's declarations that CERN's Large Hadron Collider might "swallow the Earth" and that the U.S. has "no recourse short of military action" to deal with the fact that "as science progresses, the possibility climbs ever higher that the fondest dreams of scientists might entail risks of planetary destruction.... The best science explores things far from our understanding. How can we know that things we do not understand will not kill us?"
But very bad even so:
Kevin Hassett (June 18, 2007): Why Did the Fed Help North Korea Launder Money? https://www.aei.org/publication/why-did-the-fed-help-north-korea-launder-money/: "Last week the New York Federal Reserve made what may go down as the most misguided move in the history of the Federal Reserve system....
The purpose of this weblog is to be the best possible portal into what I am thinking, what I am reading, what I think about what I am reading, and what other smart people think about what I am reading...
"Bring expertise, bring a willingness to learn, bring good humor, bring a desire to improve the world—and also bring a low tolerance for lies and bullshit..." — Brad DeLong
"I have never subscribed to the notion that someone can unilaterally impose an obligation of confidentiality onto me simply by sending me an unsolicited letter—or an email..." — Patrick Nielsen Hayden
"I can safely say that I have learned more than I ever would have imagined doing this.... I also have a much better sense of how the public views what we do. Every economist should have to sell ideas to the public once in awhile and listen to what they say. There's a lot to learn..." — Mark Thoma
"Tone, engagement, cooperation, taking an interest in what others are saying, how the other commenters are reacting, the overall health of the conversation, and whether you're being a bore..." — Teresa Nielsen Hayden
"With the arrival of Web logging... my invisible college is paradise squared, for an academic at least. Plus, web logging is an excellent procrastination tool.... Plus, every legitimate economist who has worked in government has left swearing to do everything possible to raise the level of debate and to communicate with a mass audience.... Web logging is a promising way to do that..." — Brad DeLong
"Blogs are an outlet for unexpurgated, unreviewed, and occasionally unprofessional musings.... At Chicago, I found that some of my colleagues overestimated the time and effort I put into my blog—which led them to overestimate lost opportunities for scholarship. Other colleagues maintained that they never read blogs—and yet, without fail, they come into my office once every two weeks to talk about a post of mine..." — Daniel Drezner
Looking Forward to Four Years During Which Most if Not All of America's Potential for Human Progress Is Likely to Be Wasted
With each passing day Donald Trump looks more and more like Silvio Berlusconi: bunga-bunga governance, with a number of unlikely and unforeseen disasters and a major drag on the country--except in states where his policies are neutralized.
Nevertheless, remember: WE ARE WITH HER!
"I now know it is a rising, not a setting, sun" --Benjamin Franklin, 1787
Scratch | HIGHLIGHTED ONLY | HIGHLIGHTED LIST | THE HONEST BROKER | EQUITABLE GROWTH | RSS FEED | Short Biography | Talks, Presentations, and Events | Edit Posts | Edit Pages | Edit Content | Berkeley Open Access | Subscribe to Grasping Reality's Feed... | Books Worth Reading | Discussions ||||
OTHER STREAMS: Readings and Reviews | DeLong FAQ | The Honest Broker | Ann Marie Marciarille | Across the Wide Missouri... | Liveblogging History | Storify | On Social Media | This.! | Mark Thoma | Paul Krugman | Noah Smith and Steve Randy Waldman | Zeynep Tufekci | Oliver Willis | Marginal Revolution | Cosma Shalizi | Worthwhile Canadian Initiative | Angry Bear | Antonio Fatas |