Thursday, September 22, 2011

A small note on the Tuskegee Syphilis study of the 1930s

The Tuskegee Syphilis Study has been widely condemned as an example of American racism -- and Leftists love it for that reason. It enables them to be "holier than thou". THEY would never do such an evil thing! It is usually portrayed as the U.S. government infecting black men with syphilis.

The truth is nothing of the sort, of course. The key fact that nobody seems to notice is that the study lasted for 40 years. 40 years? Shouldn't the men have died long before that? Once you ask that question, the truth begins to come out. The men recruited for the study ALREADY HAD tertiary syphilis. And in the tertiary stage the disease has usually been naturally "beaten" in some way. In other words, most such patients are no longer ill and live on rather as if they had never been infected. THAT intriguing fact was what sparked the study. It was an attempt to get more information about the life history of tertiary syphilitics. Richard Shweder has all the details.

And the amusing thing is that the study was founded and carried out by "progressives". "Progressivism" was overwhelmingly dominant in pre-war America. And it wasn't even a government study initially. It was started by a private charity funded by the former chairman of Sears Roebuck, a Progressive Jew named Julius Rosenwald. A small excerpt from Wikipedia:
Julius Rosenwald, an American clothier, became part-owner ofSears, Roebuck and Company in 1895, and eventually served as its president from 1908 to 1922, and chairman of its Board of Directors until his death in 1932.He became interested in social issues, especially education for African Americans, and provided funding through Dr. Booker T. Washington of the Tuskegee Institute, a historically black college (HBCU), prior to founding the fund....

The Rosenwald Fund was also one of the original backers of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. With support from the Rosenwald Fund, an ambitious program had begun to improve the health of African Americans in US southern states in 1928. Emphasis was on treating people with syphilis, then found at a high rate in poor African-American communities.

I am pointing that out in the hope that it will take one of the Leftists' toys away from them. Where other facts fail to penetrate their prejudiced brains, perhaps the fact that the study was the work of a "progressive" Jewish philanthropist might cause them to lose their erections.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why no increase in living standards?

In the excerpt below, economic historian Martin Hutchinson sets out clearly that real incomes for almost all Americans have not increased for a long time. Even the entry of many more women into the workforce has not helped. In the light of past income gains and all the technological progress over recent decades, this is pretty astounding. So why?

Congress, is the simple answer, sometimes with the assistance of the President. Their ever-increasing and amazingly stupid meddling in the economy has choked off growth. The half a billion dollars that Mr Obama recently wasted on a failed "green jobs" company (Solyndra) is merely the latest example of that.

As Hutchinson points out in detail, the blizzard of regulation does fairly closely coincide with the economic pause. He then goes on to blame a second factor for the pause: The expansion of international trade. But that is mightily eccentric. From ancient Athens onward, trading nations have always been beacons of prosperity -- so I think we can regard Hutchinson's excursion in that direction as either a descent into populism or a desire to provoke, probably the latter.

But there IS a second cause of the economic hiatus. The blizzard of regulation has produced both direct and indirect harms. Hutchinson concentrates on the indirect harms: The innumerable costly barriers that business now has to surmount before they can produce anything.

Quite amazingly, however, Hutchinson overlooks the direct harm of ever-increasing regulation: The vast expansion of a largely useless bureaucracy. It is the bureaucrats who are eating the worker's lunch. Why does America need Federal departnents of health, education and the environment, for instance? The States all have departments dealing with those matters. Abolishing all the Federal departments that overlap with State functions would slash the bureaucracy hugely and free up the penpushers to do something useful.

Making a useful citizen out of a penpusher would not happen overnight but with retraining it could happen over time. And doing something useful -- something people will voluntarily pay for -- is what wealth consists of. The national wealth consists of goods and services, not bits of greenbacked paper. The wealth is what the money will buy, not the money itself.

So if Obama had something more than a vacuum between his ears he would be blaming bureaucratic over-reach, not "The rich" for America's present doldrums
The Census Bureau’s study of American incomes, poverty and health coverage issued last week was most interesting when considered, not as a metric of this recession, but as a long-term picture of where American living standards are going. If median incomes are back to 1996 levels in real terms, then the stagnation which followed the 1973 living standards peak has intensified and the prognostication for the future must be thoroughly unpleasant. It’s thus worth examining how much of the decline is only a medium-term problem, due to mistaken policies that can be reversed, and how much is an inevitable and permanent decline from what may have been a fleeting middle class Nirvana in 1950-73.

Real U.S. median household income of $49,445 in 2010 was 6.4% below its level in 2007 and 7.3% below its peak in 1999. Given the performance of the economy it’s likely that this position has worsened in 2011. More alarmingly, median household income is only 0.9% above its value in 1989 and 6.3% above its level of 1973. For most households, an entire working life of 38 years has elapsed with no significant increase in living standards. As is well known, the dispersion of income has also sharply increased; in 1973 only 1.2% of households had an income above $200,000 in 2010 dollars, whereas in 2010 3.9% of households exceeded that level. The middle middle class, with incomes of $35,000 to $74,999 has shrunk from 40% of the population to 31%.

Even this grim tale does not give a full picture of the decline, because household income has been sustained compared to 1973 by a much higher proportion of women in the workforce. Real median male earnings have declined by 4% since 1973, whether you consider all men or only those with full-time, year-round jobs. However the picture is brighter for women, whose workforce participation rate was around 70% of men’s in 1973 if you consider all jobs, or a mere 43% of men’s participation if you consider only full-time, year-round jobs. Today female workforce participation is 90% of male whichever way you look at it. Furthermore women’s earnings have done much better than men’s, up by 85% for all workers or 33% when only full-time workers are considered. Still the bottom line is that for traditional families, real incomes have only increased since 1973 at the cost of the wife going out to work and childcare being hired (if necessary.)

Unsurprisingly, the U.S. workforce is thoroughly disgruntled, with attitudes to public institutions, politicians, churches the media etc. having declined catastrophically since the 1970s. This is in no way a sign of deteriorating national character, but simply of stagnating and in many cases declining national fortunes.

There appear to be two culprits for stagnating or declining living standards, apart from technological change, which may also have played a complex role. The first was a blizzard of regulation beginning in the 1960s and intensifying after 1970, with a second burst in 1989-94 and a third since 2009. In the 1970s, living standards’ fall from their 1973 peak coincided with (i) more U.S. income going into environmental cleanup (probably mostly beneficial, even if not directly included in GDP) (ii) into intensified safety and workplace welfare legislation (a bonanza for trial lawyers but probably little benefit to others, and certainly tending to reduce wages and increase healthcare costs) and (iii) such nonsenses as the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, which added a huge drag to the U.S. economy, wiped out well over a million high-paid jobs in the U.S. automobile industry and achieved far less fuel saving than would have been achieved by a 50 cent tax on gasoline. Second and third bursts of regulatory hyperactivity, in 1989-94 and since 2009, have coincided with further erosions of U.S. living standards; this is most unlikely to be a coincidence.

The other major culprit, which kicked in around 1995 or so, is globalization, caused by the immense technological change of the Internet and modern cellphones, which have made multinational logistical sourcing chains infinitely more efficient and cheaper. This is not simply a one-off effect; outsourcing a product or service to India, China or Vietnam not only makes it cheaper, but also increases the capabilities of the local Indian, Chinese or Vietnamese workforce, raising its capability still further and making it competitive in more sophisticated products and services. In this respect David Ricardo’s Doctrine of Comparative Advantage, which essentially said that outsourcing was beneficial to both the rich outsourcer economy and the poor outsourcee economy, has been proved to be completely wrong. Ricardo failed to take account of the improved capabilities in the outsourcee that would result from the outsourcing, and the ability of newly empowered impoverished outsourcee workforces to learn the business, clamber up the value chain and eat the outsourcer’s lunch.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Leftist anti-science

The major theme in Democrat attacks on GOP Presidential contenders at the moment seems to be that they are "anti-science". As usual, if we want to see what is true of Leftists, we just have to look at what they say about conservatives. Leftists are such good "projectors" that they would be star employees in any movie house. And the multiple fallacies in global warming theory reveal who are the religious believers and who is pro-science.

And if belief in God is anti-science, what are we to make of core Leftist beliefs such as "all men are equal"? Such beliefs are clearly false in any physical sense. They are anti-science beliefs. They are religious (metaphysical) beliefs. And even though I am an atheist I think that belief in "all men are equal" is a lot nuttier than belief in God. Anybody can see with their own eyes that the Leftist belief is false. As many have argued, Leftism is a religion too.

I am very pleased however to present a third argument that it is the Left who are anti-science. Brilliant young American philosopher Nathan Cofnas has given me permission to present a small excerpt from his forthcoming book Reptiles with a conscience. See below:
Just as some conservatives, mainly religious conservatives, are opposed to science that they perceive as threatening to their religious beliefs, many liberals are opposed to science that they perceive as threatening to their liberal beliefs.

For example, when president of Harvard Larry Summers suggested and provided evidence that innate, biologically rooted differences in aptitude between the sexes explain some of female underrepresentation in quantitative fields, two motions to censure him were introduced by two professors of humanities—anthropologist J. Lorand Matory and sociologist Theda Skocpol—and the ultimately successful movement to fire him was led almost entirely by other professors of humanities, most with no training in psychometrics.

In April 2005 I had an e-mail correspondence with a well-known critic [Nancy Hopkins from MIT] of Larry Summers’ comments on women’s underrepresentation in quantitative fields. Summers said that, because men have a larger variance in math ability, among those qualified to teach mathematics at top universities, which he suggested requires ability corresponding to a math IQ of 160, about 20 percent are women.

I pointed out to this critic that Summers provided data in support of his hypothesis, whereas I had not seen her provide data in any of her public rebuttals of him. She began her response to me with the statement that she is “interested only in the truth!”

She then explained that real potential in mathematics is not measured by the tests on which Summers’ data were based. She wrote: “The top math students in North America are not measured by the SAT score and its tail as Summers suggested, but rather by a much more competitive test that measures the true math genius whiz kids. This test is called the Putnam competition.…

This year, 1 of the 5 Putnam Fellows is a girl. In addition, this year, 4 of the top 15 students in the competition… were women.”

As politely as I could, I pointed out that one out of five is 20 percent, and four out of fifteen is about 27 percent, which is consistent with Summers’ assertion that males are overrepresented at the high end of ability at a ratio of 1:5.

Her response was to tell me that I “cannot listen to the facts that are put before [me]” and that “Old folks like…[me] should retire gracefully into the sunset.”

Her response was very curious to me (not just because I was a seventeen-year-old high school student at the time, which presumably she didn’t know). Why, if Summers said that woman are underrepresented at the high end of ability at a ratio of 1:5, would this critic counter with evidence that confirms exactly that?

She is not stupid. She is a scientist at a top university, and entirely capable of realizing that her own data support the very hypothesis she opposes. If she has no commitment to accepting the implication of evidence, why cite evidence? And why assert interest in truth so emphatically? If she has the intellectual capacity to realize that her own argument is invalid, why would she expect that argument to convince anyone else?

I think that I now can answer these questions. Truth is a value to almost everyone. But most people have many other values to which they are more committed than they are to truth—like in this case, commitment to the belief that the male and female populations have the same distribution of all cognitive abilities and proclivities.

When truth conflicts with more important values, people do not outright deny truth or its importance; they pay as much homage to truth as possible without compromising their more important values. One way of doing this is to pretend to use the method of discovering truth—namely, appealing to empirical evidence or logical argument—to arrive at their predetermined conclusion.

Monday, September 12, 2011

An amusing Leftist evasion about Christian faith and abortion

NPR has an article up titled: "Evangelical: Religious Right Has Distorted the Faith"

That immediately led me to expect a debate about Bible doctrine and I was figuratively rubbing my hands about that as I think I can say without boasting that I know my Bible extremely well. Check my Scripture blog if you doubt it.

Instead what I found in the article was a discussion about how evangelicals were slow to react to Roe vs. Wade. The article was a summary of discussions among various Protestant church leaders with nary a single reference to the Bible!

Now I for one take a considerable interest in early church history but anybody who knows anything about modern Protestant groups knows that trying to unify them or even sum them up is like herding cats. They are inherent individualistic and expecting ANY united action from them is extremely optimistic.

And that there was no immediate concerted protest against freely available abortion is the whole complaint of the NPR article.

But that ignores the fact that abortion is an extremely difficult issue for most conservatives and many Christians. The Left are all for abortion. When they get total power they murder people by the millions so who cares about a few unborn babies?

Conservatives however recognize and respect individual rights and perceive that both the mother and baby have rights. So how to resolve a conflict between those rights? To this day, different Christians take different positions on the issue.

But our Leftist NPR writer is so tone deaf to moral argument that he showed no recognition that there was any issue there and that it might take some time to feel a way through the dilemmas involved. Leftists really are morally illiterate, some to the point of psychopathy.

For what I think is becoming a mainstream Christian approach to the abortion issue, see here