Friday, October 31, 2014

Nudges not always more effective than active choice

Organ Donors Want Choices - Bloomberg View: "Consider one seeming no-brainer: making “donate my organs” the default status, as much of Europe does, rather than requiring people to opt in, which is the U.S. policy. There’s a lot of research showing that people tend to blindly go along with whatever the default is, so simply flipping the switch ought to give us more organs at basically no cost to society.

In fact, says Keith Humphreys, the opposite is true: Americans actually donate organs at higher rates."

Maybe nudges work for questions that we do not give a lot of thought to but where the typical person, if they thought about it, would agree with the view of experts. Nudges are fine for savings plans and avoiding extra helpings of desserts, but more problematic if we are talking about removing the organs of someone we love and who is, by the standards that obtained until just a generation ago, still alive. Also, there is a conflict of interest involved in organ donation that is not so apparent in the case of dietary choices and proportions of ones income placed into savings.

The problem is so huge it has even come to the notice of the New Yorker

Is the Field of Psychology Biased Against Conservatives?: "Social psychology, Haidt went on, had an obvious problem: a lack of political diversity that was every bit as dangerous as a lack of, say, racial or religious or gender diversity. It discouraged conservative students from joining the field, and it discouraged conservative members from pursuing certain lines of argument. It also introduced bias into research questions, methodology, and, ultimately, publications. The topics that social psychologists chose to study and how they chose to study them, he argued, suffered from homogeneity. The effect was limited, Haidt was quick to point out, to areas that concerned political ideology and politicized notions, like race, gender, stereotyping, and power and inequality. “It’s not like the whole field is undercut, but when it comes to research on controversial topics, the effect is most pronounced,” he later told me. (Haidt has now put his remarks in more formal terms, complete with data, in a paper forthcoming this winter in Behavioral and Brain Sciences.)"

'via Blog this'

Attempt to criticize men ends up criticizing 'persons of color'

Racism, Classism and Catcalling (or, #Feminism Is for Rich White Lesbians) : The Other McCain: "“The video also unintentionally makes another point, that harassers are mostly black and Latino, and hanging out on the streets in midday in clothes that suggest they are not on their lunch break. As Roxane Gay tweeted, ‘The racial politics of the video are f–ked up. Like, she didn’t walk through any white neighborhoods?’” . ."

Lena Dunham and the emotional equivalent of footbinding

Pathetic Privilege | National Review Online: "She did not get this way by accident; she got this way because the series of economic and intellectual cloisters in which she has lived her life have functioned as the emotional equivalent of Song-dynasty foot-binding: Intended to bring her nearer to perfection, they have instead left her disfigured and disabled. "

Sunday, October 19, 2014

RealClearPolitics - Election Other - 2014 Generic Congressional Vote

Republicans ahead in generic polling!

This is new and very rare. The Democrats are the party of free stuff, the Republicans the party of charging you less for it. Not surprisingly free stuff with no price tag associated directly to it is more popular as a general rule than lowering its price tag, a price tag that is not directly tied to the goods one receives and is, for most voters, paid by someone else in any case. That people are now willing to say they want the generic Republican says a lot.

Lessons of the Ebola Crisis | National Review Online

Yuval Levin has a good post on this and in particular our touching belief in the power of experts. It is worth reading.

But it is disheartening to see Republicans join in the chorus of denunciation over the President's choice of a political hack to run the government's ebola response for it feeds into this same fallacious belief in the power of people with the right degree to solve every problem.

For one thing, the mistakes that have been made so far are not matters of lack of expertise so much as lack of judgement and courage. We did not ban travel and stop issuing tourist visas in Lesotho because we did not have enough people with medical degrees in the State department or the number of the people in the CDC. We were afraid to do something that might have looked racist. More people in the CDC with impressive credentials from Ivy League schools would not have helped and quite possibly would have made the problem worse. The elite schools have much more ideology baked into the curriculum than the 'mere' technical schools out in the states.

The deeper conflict between the Republicans and the Democrats is the belief in the power of experts armed with government power to manage society's problems. Tammany Hall politicians would never have made the mistakes that Administration has made. The whole argument in our political system is whether people can make decisions on their own better than experts can make them for them.

There is another question about how government works. I am in favor of political hacks running things. The big problems with Ebola are not problems of medicine, they are the problems of getting the government to work, of understanding how bureaucratic organizations alter their routines, and of getting bureaucracies to take chances by altering their routines and take what are essentially political risks. Political hacks are often not only the best, but quite often the only people that can make that happen.

This is quite often done better by political hacks than by people with some sort of narrow technical expertise. The idea that there should be some person with a white coat on telling us what the answer is at the root of many of our problems and the acquiescense of people to ever greater levels of government control in their lives.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Bulgaria’s Vampire Graveyards - The Daily Beast

"In a 7,000-year-old town in Bulgaria, over 100 graves have been uncovered, revealing skeletons with stakes through their hearts and mutilated bones. Meet the vampires that almost were."

The body of the story says that the town is from the 13th century, so the writer apparently does not know that the 13th century was 700 years ago, not 7,000. Big journalism, professionals, fact-checkers, you know? 

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Liberals Storm California's Bedrooms | RealClearPolitics

Liberals are the ones that want to impose their standards on everyone. The Conservatives are the party of live and let live. They may disagree with many of the choices people make these days but they know that giving the government the power to impose the 'right' choice on them is dangerous in the long run.

It is Liberals who want to regulate what you do in your bedroom, what you put in your body, the words you speak and the ideas you have in your head. So tell me again, kids, why are they the 'cool' party? Maybe the Conservatives do represent a bunch of people wearing cheap suits blocking traffic on Sundays going to Church, but they are not trying to make you go to Church. The Liberals are forcing you to go and, baring that, bringing the Church to you.

What Liberals Get Wrong About Football -- NYMag

What Liberals Get Wrong About Football -- NYMag: Thoughtful article about football from an unlikely source. That football is war without bullets might be a good thing.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Why Would Obama Try to Make the Election About Himself? - The Atlantic

Why Would Obama Try to Make the Election About Himself? - The Atlantic:

The author makes a cleaver case for why making it about himself is a smart move, mainly that the key in the election is motivating the base and making it about Obama does that. But I think there is another explanation--his ego. The election is about him because it is no different than anything else. Everything is about him.

Friday, October 03, 2014

How David Cameron Became a Reform Conservative | National Review Online

How David Cameron Became a Reform Conservative | National Review Online: "and he insisted that “our young people must know this is a country where if you put in, you will get out.”": As opposed to Clinton's America, where young women--such as Monica Lewinsky--know if they put out, they will get in.

It is remarkable how sex scandals are played up by the press if they involve a Republican, passed over unremarked if they involve a Democrat. I have heard from members of the press the explanation that in the case of Democrats it is merely a relatively uninteresting case of an individual human failing whereas in the case of a Republican, the party that proclaims itself the protector of traditional moral values, such stories are matters of public concern since they involve a conflict between the professed values of the party and the private conduct of their parties elected officials. But surely the involvement of Democrats in sex scandals involves a conflict as least as great and of as much concern to the public: the professed party of using government to protect the rights of women using the power of their public office and position in government to exploit women?