It’s Moving Day

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I started this blog in February. I meant it to be different from Politics & Prosperity, which I intended to discontinue. The Cheerful Crosspatch began with (mostly) short posts, which were bereft of graphs and equations, and generally lighter in tone that the usual fare at Politics & Prosperity.

Then, reality intervened in the form of low readership. P&P has been around since 2009, and much of its following dates back to its predecessor, Liberty Corner, which I began in 2004. By early 2016, with millions (?) of blogs to choose from, an upstart like The Cheerful Crosspatch was lost in the weeds. Some faithful readers of P&P followed me here, and it has picked up 18 followers, to whom I’m grateful for their readership and comments.

But the dearth of readership here led me to resume posting at P&P. And the next thing I knew, I was back in the groove — writing a lot of long, researched posts with graphs and equations. And even the posts that aren’t filled with graphs and equations tend to be long and tightly reasoned (I hope).

With the resumption of posting at P&P, I simply began to cross-post everything at this blog. But cross-posting is time consuming, especially when I find an error or omission at P&P and have to correct it in two places.

Long story short: I will no longer post at The Cheerful Crosspatch. If you like this blog, you’ll like Politics & Prosperity. Please become a follower of P&P, add it to your RSS reader, or bookmark it. And stay in touch by commenting on the fare at P&P. You can do that in the usual way by commenting on a post, or by e-mail at the address given in the sidebar of P&P under “Comments & Correspondence.”

Thank you for reading this blog.

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Babbling Brooks

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David Brooks has finally gone off the deep end, unhinged by the election of Donald Trump. He just can’t understand it, even though he’s supposedly a conservative. But being a conservative on the payroll of The New York Times means being more polite to left-wingers than Paul Krugman is to conservatives and libertarians.

So here he is, in full flight:

If your social circles are like mine, you spent Tuesday night swapping miserable texts. Not all, but many of my friends and family members were outraged, stunned, disgusted and devastated….

I was on PBS trying to make sense of what was happening while trying to text various people off the ledge….

Populism of the Trump/Le Pen/Brexit variety has always been a warning sign, a warning sign that there is some deeper dysfunction in our economic, social and cultural systems….

Trump’s bigotry, dishonesty and promise-breaking will have to be denounced. We can’t go morally numb. But he needs to be replaced with a program that addresses the problems that fueled his ascent.

After all, the guy will probably resign or be impeached within a year. The future is closer than you think. [“The View from Trump Tower,” The New York Times, November 11, 2016]

Social circles? I ain’t got no frigging social circles. I’ve got family and friends. Only The Crust of Manhattan, Vail, and San Francisco have social circles. Where I grew up a social circle was several boys huddled around a game of marbles.

Which just goes to show you what a clueless twit David Brooks is.

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Related reading:

Columnist, Heal Thyself

David Brooks’s recent column, “The Protocol Society,” is a typical Brooksian muddle, in which he attributes evolutionary changes in economic behavior to the “discoveries” of contemporary economists.

Our Miss Brooks

Some time back, Tom Smith referred to the NYT columnist and pseudo-conservative David Brooks as “prissy little Miss Brooks.” Smith’s recycling of the appellation has not diminished its satirical effect — or its substantive accuracy.

Miss Brooks recently cringed when she contemplated an America without government, in the aftermath of a victorious Tea Party movement. Miss Brooks, it seems, is besotted with the manliness of limited-but-energetic governments.

Miss Brooks’s “Grand Bargain”

The idiot known as David Brooks — The New York Times‘s idea of a conservative — is true to form today….

In other words, Republicans should simply give in, on Miss Brooks’s say-so.

More Fool He

Fool David once, Obama’s to blame. Fool David twice, David’s to blame. Fool David thrice (at least), and you know that David’s no sap — he’s a fool.

David Brooks, Useful Idiot for the Left

Brooks begins by assuming that the Hamiltonian approach to government is the correct one: An assertion that Madison and Jefferson would refute.

Beyond that, Brooks ignores the evidence of his own analysis, which is that each aggrandizement of governmental power (economic and social) — beginning with Hamilton’s nationalism — fostered subsequent expansions of governmental power.

Baseball or Soccer? David Brooks Misunderstands Life

Brooks’s latest offering to the collectivist cause is “Baseball or Soccer?”…

Brooks has gone from teamwork — which he gets wrong — to socialization and luck. As with Brooks’s (failed) baseball-soccer analogy, the point is to belittle individual effort by making it seem inconsequential, or less consequential than the “masses” believe it to be.

You may have noticed that Brooks is re-running Obama’s big lie: “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.”…

The foregoing parade of non sequitur, psychobabble, and outright error simply proves that Brooks doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I hereby demote him from “useful idiot” to plain old “idiot.”

How America Has Changed

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I believe that the morals and the mores of a populace change observably over time. That’s certainly true of Americans, even if it isn’t true of, say, many tribal peoples of distant lands. This post takes a look at how American morals and mores have changed, generally for the worse, in my lifetime.

I am an American of humble birth, with a lower-middle-class to upper-lower-class upbringing in the Upper Midwest. I’m a graduate of a huge, tax-funded university more known for its sports teams than its scholarly attainments. And I’m a person who was never fully enveloped by the bubble of elitism, even though I spent forty years living among and working with highly educated and affluent elites. (See my “About” page for more of the gory details.)

And what do I see when I look out at the America of today? It’s an America where so many collegians can’t bear to hear or read ideas unpalatable to their tender minds; where those same collegians require days of mourning to recover from the unexpected electoral victory of Donald J. Trump; where liberal elites generally view Trump’s victory as a sign that ignorant, uneducated, racist whites have conquered the country; and where many of those same liberals who had promised to leave the U.S.A. if Trump were elected but are, unfortunately for the U.S.A., reneging on their promises.

What I see are a lot of people who should be transported back to the lower-middle-class and upper-lower-class environs of the Upper Midwest of the 1940s and 1950s, where they might just learn how to face the realities of life.

POLITICS

Politics wasn’t a preoccupation in the bad old days because relatively little was expected (or wanted) from government. There was Social Security, State unemployment benefits, and workers’ comp — all of which relied heavily on taxes and “contributions” — and that was about it. I guess there were some welfare payments for the truly indigent, but there weren’t extended unemployment benefits, State and federal subsidies to keep students in college and out of the work force, low-income tax credits, low-income housing subsidies, etc., etc., etc. But those are all loose change compared with the real budget-busters: Medicare, Medicaid, and their vast expansion under Obamacare.

And despite having a much smaller government and a few recessions, the rate of economic growth then was higher than it is today.

Moral: Less government means less political strife — and greater prosperity, to boot.

RELIGION

Almost everyone belonged to one, but few people made a big deal of it. Now, it’s de rigeur to belong to the Church of Redistributionism, Alarmism & Pseud-science (CRAP) — and a big deal if someone doesn’t belong. Religion hasn’t withered away, it’s just taken a new and more virulent form.

It used to be accepted that government wasn’t in the business of establishing or suppressing religion — and only a few woolly-haired progenitors of political correctness thought that a Christmas display on government property was an establishment of religion. Now, government is expected to force the doctrines of CRAP down everyone’s throats. That’s “progress” for you.

What’s worse is that the “progressives” who are doing the shoving don’t understand the resentment that it causes, some of which bubbled to the surface on November 8.

BULLYING (OR, THE RISK OF LIVING)

Bullying was common and accepted as a fact of life. The smart, skinny kid who wore glasses (that was me) could expect taunts and shoving from the bigger, dumber kids. And he might sometimes fight back, successfully or not, or he might devise avoidance tactics and thereby learn valuable lessons about getting through life despite its unpleasant aspects. But unless the bullying became downright persistent and turned into injurious violence, he didn’t run to Mama or the principal. And if he did, Mama or the principal would actually do something about the bullying and not cringe in fear of offending the bully or his parents because the bully was a “disadvantaged” (i.e., stupid) lout.

Bullying, in other words, was nothing new and nothing worth mounting a national campaign against. People dealt with it personally, locally, and usually successfully. And bully-ees (as I was occasionally) learned valuable lessons about (a) how to cope with the stuff life throws at you and (b) how to get along in life without having a government program to fall back on.

Life is a risk. People used to understand that. Too many of them no longer do. And worse, they expect others to carry the burden of risk for them. I’ve got enough problems of my own, I don’t need yours as well.

CLIQUES

People of similar backgrounds (religion, neighborhood, income) and tastes (sports, cars, music) tend to hang out together. True then, true now, true forever — though now (and perhaps forever) the biggest clique seems to be defined by adherence to CRAP (or lack thereof).

Aside from cliques consisting of bullies, cliques used to leave each other alone. (I’m talking about cliques, not gangs, which were less prevalent and less violent then than now.) But the CRAP clique won’t leave anyone alone, and uses government to bully non-members.

Irony: The very people who complain loudest about bullying are themselves bullies. But they don’t have the guts to do it personally. Instead, they use government — the biggest bully of all.

SEXISM

There was lots of it, but it was confined mainly to members of the male preference. (I’m kidding about “preference”; males were just males and didn’t think of themselves as having a preference, orientation, or birth-assignment. The same went for females.) And it was based on evolved norms about the roles and abilities of men and women — norms that were still evolving and would have evolved to something like those now prevalent, but with less acrimony, had the forces of forced change not evolved into CRAP.

Women probably comprised half the student body at Big-Ten U where I was a collegian. That was a big change from the quaint days of the 1920s (only thirty years earlier), when female students were still such a rarity (outside female-only colleges) that they were disparagingly called co-eds. Nationally, the male-female ratio hit 50-50 in the late 1970s and continues to shift in favor of women.

There’s plenty of evidence that women are different from men, in the brain and non-genital parts of the body, I mean. So disparities in emotional balance, abstract thinking, mechanical aptitude, size, running speed, and strength — and thus in career choices and accomplishments — will surprise and offend no one who isn’t an adherent of CRAP.

The biggest sexists of all are feminazis and the male eunuchs who worship at their feet. Together, they are turning the armed forces into day-care centers and police forces into enforcers of political correctness — and both into under-muscled remnants of institutions that were once respected and feared by wrong-doers.

RACISM

There was plenty of that, too, and there still is. The funny thing is that the adherents of CRAP expect there to be a lot less of it. Further, they expect to reduce its prevalence among whites by constantly reminding them that they’re racist trash. And what does that get you? More votes for Donald Trump, who — whatever his faults — doesn’t talk like that.

Racism, like sexism, would be a lot less prevalent if the CRAPers could leave well enough alone and let people figure out how to live in harmony despite their differences.

Living in harmony doesn’t mean being best buddies with the persons of every skin tone and sexual preference, as TV commercials and shows are wont to suggest. People are inherently tribal, and the biggest tribes of all are races, which really exist, all CRAP aside. Racial differences, like gender differences, underlie real differences in intelligence and, therefore, in proneness to violence. They also betoken deep-seated cultural differences that can’t be overlooked, unless you happen to have a weird preference for rap music.

It used to be that people understood such things because they saw life in the raw. But the CRAPers — who are the true exemplars of cosseted white privilege — haven’t a clue. In their worldview, where the mind is a blank slate and behavior is nothing more than the residue of acculturation, racism is an incomprehensible phenomenon, something that simply shouldn’t exist. Unless it’s the racism of blacks toward whites, of course.

COLLEGE EDUCATION

It was for the brightest — those who were most likely to use it to advance science, technology, the world of commerce, and so on. It wasn’t for everyone. In fact, when I went to college in the late 1950s and early 1960s, there were already too many dumb students there.

The push to get more and more dumb people into college is rationalized, in large part, by the correlation between income and level of education. But level of education used to be a sign of drive and intelligence, which are the very things that strongly determine one’s income. Now, level of education is too often a sign that an unqualified person has been pushed into college.

Pushing more and more people into college, which necessarily means taxing productive persons to subsidize the educations of dumber and dumber people, accomplishes several things, all of them bad:

  • There are fewer workers who could be doing something remunerative but not demanding of high intelligence (e.g., plumbing), but who instead are qualified only to do nothing more than the kind of work they could have done without going to college (e.g., waiting on tables and flipping burgers).
  • Which means that they’ve ended up driving down the wages of people who didn’t go to college.
  • And which also means that the tax dollars wasted on subsidizing their useless college educations could have been spent instead on investments in business creation and expansion that would have created more jobs and higher incomes for all.

PROTESTS

These began in earnest in the late 1950s. What they were meant to accomplish in those days — usually the end of legal segregation and voter suppression — were worthy objectives.

Then came the hairy, unkempt, undignified, and sometimes violent protests of the late 1960s. These set the tone for most of what followed. Nothing is too trivial to protest nowadays. To protest everything is to protest nothing.

What protesting usually accomplishes now is inconvenience to people who are simply trying to get from point A to point B, the diversion of police from real police work, the diversion of tax dollars to trash pickup, and filler for TV newscasts.

Oh, yes, it also fills protestors with a feeling of smug superiority. And if they’re of the right color (dark) or the right political persuasion (left), they’re allowed to wreak some havoc, which gives them a perverted sense of accomplishment. And radical-chic CRAPers love it.

Bring back the riot act.

As for those performers who can’t resist the urge to display their CRAP credentials, and who therefore insist on conveying their puerile (and usually hypocritical) views about social, racial, environmental, and other trendy kinds of “justice,” I’m with Laura Ingraham.

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Related reading:
Especially 1963: The Year Zero (and the articles and posts linked to therein), and also
What Is the Point of Academic Freedom?
How to Deal with Left-Wing Academic Blather
Here We Go Again
It’s Not Anti-Intellectualism, Stupid
The Case Against Campus Speech Codes
Apropos Academic Freedom and Western Values
Academic Bias
Intellectuals and Capitalism
“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review
The Left’s Agenda
The Left and Its Delusions
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
Are You in the Bubble?
The Culture War
Ruminations on the Left in America
Academic Ignorance
The Euphemism Conquers All
Defending the Offensive
Superiority
Whiners
A Dose of Reality
God-Like Minds
Non-Judgmentalism as Leftist Condescension
An Addendum to (Asymmetrical) Ideological Warfare
Khizr Khan’s Muddled Logic
My Platform
Polarization and De Facto Partition

Polarization and De Facto Partition

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I started this post on the day before election day.

Don’t you have the feeling that Election 2016 will result in greater political polarization, not less? I do.

For one thing, both Clinton and Trump are polarizing figures. It seems unlikely that either of them will do things (or try to do things) that will gain the approval of their political opponents.

For another thing, whatever is done by the president, by Congress, or by the Supreme Court in the next four years will simply fuel the outrage of those who oppose it. When government steers to the left, it usually isn’t far enough to the left to satisfy the growing and vocal band of leftists in America, but it always outrages the right. When government steers to the right, it always enrages the left, but it’s never far enough to the right to restore liberty, thus disappointing and further alienating the right.

The underlying trend toward bigger and more intrusive government is especially frustrating for those of us on the right. It seems that no matter which party controls the White House and Congress, the bureaucracy continues to churn out regulations and the Supreme Court (usually) issues edicts that undermine traditional morality and endorse the central government’s interfering ways.

Political polarization is aided and abetted by geographic sorting, and geographic sorting must aid and abet political polarization. Consider how far geographic sorting has come since 1992:

As of 2012, the divide was pretty wide. Half of all voters were living in a county that President Obama or Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee that year, won in a landslide, which is defined here as a county won by 20 percentage points or more.

The proportion of voters living in landslide counties has steadily increased since 1992, a trend that reflects the growing tendency of like-minded people to live near one another, according to Bill Bishop, a co-author of “The Big Sort,” a 2008 book that identified this phenomenon.

Americans have been self-segregating by lifestyle, though not necessarily politics, for several decades, Mr. Bishop said, but lifestyle has grown to reflect politics. “We’re sorting by the way we live, think and — it turns out — every four years or every two years, how we vote.”

Some political scientists expect the landslide trend to continue in the 2016 presidential election. “If anything, I think we’ll see it intensify because Trump has been doing very well among the kinds of voters who tend to live in rural and small-town America,” said Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta. [Gregor Aisch, Adam Pearce, and Karen Yourish, “How Large Is the Divide between Red and Blue America?The New York Times, November 4, 2016]

Perhaps the most compelling statistic of the many statistics presented in the article is that the percentage of voters living in landslide counties rose from 37 percent in 1992 to 50 percent in 2012. The United States truly has become a nation divided.

Something has to give. But what, and how? I addressed those questions in “Independence Day 2016: The Way Ahead,” and concluded that

unless there is a negotiated partition of the country — perhaps in response to a serious secession movement — a coup is probably the only hope for the restoration of liberty under a government that is true to the Constitution.

The alternative is a continuation of America’s descent into despotism, which — as many Americans already know — is no longer the “soft” despotism foreseen by Tocqueville.

I’ve mentioned the possibility of a coup in several posts, but always with skepticism. I remain skeptical. Given the increasing polarization of the country — political and geographic — something like a negotiated partition seems like the only way to make the left and the right happier.

And then it occurred to me that a kind of partition could be achieved by constitutional means; that is, by revising the Constitution to return to its original plan of true federalism. The central government would, once again, be responsible for the defense of liberty and free trade. Each State would, within the framework of liberty, make its own decisions about the extent to which it intervenes in the economic and social affairs of its citizens.

How might that come to pass?

There are today in this land millions — probably tens of millions — of depressed leftists who foresee at least four years of GOP rule dedicated to the diminution of the regulatory-welfare state.

Obamacare is almost certainly dead. It has been dying of its congenital defects, but I expect Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress to put a stake through its heart.

Trump’s nominee to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court probably will be someone closer in judicial philosophy to Antonin Scalia than to Anthony Kennedy. (If it isn’t, Trump may well find himself embarrassed by the GOP-controlled Senate’s rejection of his nominee.) As other vacancies arise during the next few years — and there’s likely to be at least one — they’ll probably be filled by constitutional conservatives. (The GOP-controlled Senate can and should change its rules about Supreme Court nominations to keep Democrats from filibustering Trump’s nominees.) Trump’s one or two nominees will move the Court back to the right, and probably will serve for decades. At any rate, that’s what conservatives hope and leftists fear.

What else? Here’s what I expect (or at least hope for): The end of preaching about race, having “conversations” about it, pretending that it isn’t implicated in violent crime, and turning a blind eye toward violence committed in the name of “racial justice.” The end of uncontrolled (and encouraged) illegal immigration. Reaffirmation of America’s long-standing ties with Israel, the Middle East’s bastion of democracy Western values. Repudiation of the phony deal with Iran. An end to pussy-footing around the relationship between Islam and terrorism. The reversal of anti-growth and anti-business executive orders and regulations (e.g., the EPA’s war on coal) issued in the name of “social justice” and “climate change.” The repeal of Dodd-Frank and its onerous micro-management of the financial industry. The end of efforts to undermine the Second Amendment. The end of the Department of Justice’s meddling in State and local matters to advance a leftist agenda in the name of “civil rights.” An end to similar meddling (and related funding) by the Department of Education — perhaps even an end to the Department of Education. And, generally, a much more hands-off attitude on the part of the federal bureaucracy when it comes to matters beyond the constitutional purview of the central government (which is most matters now consuming the attention of the federal bureaucracy).

I could go on and on, but you get the idea of what conservative expect (or hope for) and leftists fear. And therein is the source of political pressure that could bring about something like a partition of the United States.

The shoe is now on the other foot. A lot of leftists will want out (see this for example), just as Northern abolitionists wanted separation from the South in the 1830s and 1840s. Let’s give them a way out while the giving is good, that is, while the GOP controls the federal government. The way out for the left is also the way out for conservatives.

Congress, namely, its Republican majorities, can all an Article V convention of the States:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress….

Note that the requirement for a two-thirds majority pertains only to amendments proposed by Congress. As for applications by the States, there seem to be enough unexpired and unrescinded applications on hand. And if there aren’t, they probably can be arranged in short order.

The convention would be controlled by Republicans, who control a majority of State legislatures. The Republican majority should make it clear from the outset that the sole purpose of the convention is to devolve power to the States. For example, if a State government wants to establish its own version of Social Security to supplement what remains of it after future benefits have been scaled back to match projected future revenues, that State government wouldn’t be prevented from doing so. And it could design that program — and any others — as it wishes, free from interference on by the central government.

To accomplish that devolution, the Convention of the States would consider and approve, for ratification by three-fourths of the States, a revised Constitution. A complete revision, rather than a series of amendments, would be easier for the citizens of the various States to understand and respond to as they voice their views to State legislators or convention delegates.

At this point, I refer you to the page that I’ve created, called “A Constitution for the 21st Century.” It cures the main problem with the present Constitution of the United States, which is not its actual meaning but the fact that inappropriate meanings have been imputed to it because it is too often vague and ambiguous, and because Congresses, presidents, and Supreme Courts have been unfaithful to it for several generations.

The new Constitution is not only far more specific than the present Constitution — and more restrictive of the powers of the central government — but it also includes more checks on those powers. For example, there are these provisions in Article V:

Congress may, by a majority of three-fifths of the members of each House present, when there is a quorum consisting of three-fourths of the number of persons then holding office in each House…provide for the collection of revenues in order to pay the debts and expenses of the government of the United States [emphasis added]….

A judgment of any court of the government of the United States may be revised or revoked by an act of Congress, provided that such any revision or revocation is approved by two-thirds of the members of each house and leads to a result that conforms to this Constitution.

Then there are Articles VII and VIII, Keeper of the Constitution and Conventions of the States, which begin as follows:

The responsibility for ensuring that the legislative, executive, and judicial branches adhere to this Constitution in the exercise of their respective powers shall be vested in a Keeper of the Constitution. The Keeper may review acts of Congress, the executive branch, and judicial branch that have the effect of making law and appropriating monies….

Delegations of the States shall convene every four years for the purpose of considering revisions to and revocations of acts of the government established by this Constitution. Such conventions (hereinafter “Convention [or Conventions] of the States”) may revise and/or revoke any act or acts and/or any holding or holdings, in the sole discretion of a majority of State delegations present and voting.

On top of that, there is Article IX, which authorizes petitions and subsequent elections for the revocation of a broad range of governmental acts and the expulsion of members of Congress, the President, Vice President and justices of the Supreme Court. Also, a constitutional convention may be called pursuant to a successful petition.

To the extent that Articles VII, VIII, and IX would inhibit presidential and congressional ventures into unconstitutional territory, so much the better.

This new Constitution also provides for secession, the threat of which might further help to preserve its original meaning.

The job of selling the new Constitution would be a tough one, but the key selling point should be the preservation of choice. Individual States could be as socialistic or laissez-faire as their citizens allow, and the wide range of governing styles would afford ample choice for Americans. It would become much easier for every American to live in a politically congenial place.

Related posts:
Well-Founded Pessimism
The View from Here
“We the People” and Big Government
The Culture War
O Tempora O Mores!
A Home of One’s Own
Democracy, Human Nature, and the Future of America
Surrender? Hell No!
1963: The Year Zero
Society
How Democracy Works
“Cheerful” Thoughts
How Government Subverts Social Norms
Turning Points
The Twilight’s Last Gleaming?

I Can’t Resist…

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…quoting from my final forecast of the outcome of Election 2016:

Most aggregations of polls give Clinton a narrow lead, which (according to the polls) has increased in the past few days. Some reliable, independent polls tell a different story….

Trump’s momentum may have slowed, but it won’t take much to push him over the top.

If Trump ekes out 51 percent of the two-party vote, he’ll win upwards of 300 electoral votes. (That estimate is based on my model of the relationship between the popular-vote and electoral-vote outcomes in elections since World War II.)  How would he get there? Here’s a scenario that fits the demographics of the various States:

  • Obama beat Romney 332-206 in the electoral-vote tally four years ago.
  • Clinton could take two States won by Romney in 2012: Georgia (16 EVs) and Utah (6).
  • Trump could more than offset those 22 EVs by taking several States won by Obama in 2012: Florida (29), Iowa (6), Maine (4), Michigan (16), Nevada (6), New Mexico (5), Ohio (16), Pennsylvania (20), and Wisconsin (10).

That would leave Clinton with 240 EVs to Trump’s 298. There are many plausible variations on the scenario that would leave Trump with a majority of EVs, or result in a tie.

It looks as if I was too cautious. At this moment (5:18 a.m. CST, 11/09/16), Trump and Clinton are practically 50-50 in the two-party vote, and Clinton probably will end up ahead. But, as I (and many others) have noted, a GOP candidate can win the electoral vote with less than 50 percent of the two-party vote because the electoral vote count is weighted toward smaller States, which tend to vote Republican.

In any event, Trump held Georgia and Utah, and so far has taken Florida, Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. He’s leading in Michigan, and may even take New Hampshire.

Clinton has conceded to Trump, which probably settles matters, though Gore conceded to Bush in 2000 and then withdrew his concession. But that was all about Florida. Trump seems to have unquestionably won. (Fingers tightly crossed.)

The even better news is that the GOP has held the Senate, and will end up with a majority of 52 or 53 to 47 or 48 (counting so-called independents as Democrats). Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court won’t be filled by another Scalia, but it also won’t be filled by a Clinton appointee.

My fondest hope is that Trump will stick to his word about the kind of Supreme Court justice he would appoint. If he does that, it will be good news if and when Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan, Kennedy, and even Roberts dies or retires. In fact, I’d like to see Kennedy go first, followed quickly by Ginsburg and Breyer.

Economically Liberal, Socially Conservative

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A provocative piece by Samuel Gregg, “Markets, Catholicism, and Libertarianism” (Public Discourse, October 24, 2016) reminds me of an idea for a post that flitted through my aging brain a while back. Gregg writes:

In a recent American Prospect article, John Gehring maintains that Catholics like myself who regard markets as the most optimal set of economic conditions are effectively promoting libertarian philosophy. Gehring’s concerns about libertarianism and what he calls “free market orthodoxy” have been echoed in other places.

The generic argument seems to be the following. Promoting market approaches to economic life involves buying into libertarian ideology. . . .

What [Gregg and other] critics seem to miss is that a favorable assessment of markets and market economics need not be premised on acceptance of libertarianism in any of its many forms. . . .

Libertarianism’s great strength lies in economics. Prominent twentieth-century libertarian economists, such as Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich von Hayek, made major contributions to the critique of socialist economics.. . . .

Philosophically speaking, Mises associated himself, especially in Human Action (1949), with Epicureanism and utilitarianism. Hayek’s views were more complicated. While his Law, Legislation and Liberty (1973/1976/1979) rejected Benthamite utilitarianism, Hayek embraced a type of indirect-rule utilitarianism in works such as The Constitution of Liberty (1960). He also articulated progress-for-the-sake-of-progress arguments and social evolutionist positions heavily shaped by David Hume’s writings.

Such philosophical views are characteristic of many self-described libertarians. . . .

None of the above-noted contributions to economics by Mises and Hayek are, however, dependent upon any of their libertarian philosophical commitments.

That’s exactly right. The great insight of libertarian economics is that people acting freely and cooperatively through markets will do the best job of producing goods and services that match consumers’ wants. Yes, there’s lack of information, asymmetrical information, buyer’s remorse, and (supposed) externalities (which do find their way into prices). But the modern “solution” to such problems is one-size-fits-all regulation, which simply locks in the preferences of regulators and market incumbents, and freezes out (or makes very expensive) the real solutions that are found through innovation, entrepreneurship, and competition.

Social conservatism is like the market liberalism of libertarian economics. Behavior is channeled in cooperative, mutually beneficial, and voluntary ways by the institutions of civil society: family, church, club, community, and — yes — commerce. It is channeled by social norms that have evolved from eons of voluntary social intercourse. Those norms are the bedrock and “glue” of civilization. Government is needed only as the arbiter of last resort, acting on behalf of civil society as the neutral enforcer of social norms of the highest order: prohibitions of murder, rape, theft, fraud, and not much else. Civil society, if left alone, would deal adequately with lesser transgressions through inculcation and disapprobation (up to and including ostracism). When government imposes norms that haven’t arisen from eons of trial-and-error it undermines civil society and vitiates the civilizing influence of social norms.

The common denominator of market liberalism and social conservatism is that both are based on real-world behaviors. Trial and error yields information that free actors are able to exploit to their betterment and (intended or not) the betterment of others.

Related posts:
Pseudo-Libertarian Sophistry vs. True Libertarianism
More Pseudo-Libertarianism
More about Conservative Governance
Burkean Libertarianism
True Libertarianism, One More Time
Why Conservatism Works
Liberty and Society
Liberty as a Social Construct: Moral Relativism?
Defending Liberty against (Pseudo) Libertarians
Parsing Political Philosophy (II)
Modern Liberalism as Wishful Thinking
Romanticizing the State
Governmental Perversity
Libertarianism and the State
“Liberalism” and Personal Responsibility
My View of Libertarianism
More About Social Norms and Liberty
The Authoritarianism of Modern Liberalism, and the Conservative Antidote
Another Look at Political Labels
Individualism, Society, and Liberty
Social Justice vs. Liberty

Bigger, Stronger, and Faster — but Not Quicker?

Standard

HYPOTHESIS

There’s some controversial IQ research which suggests that reaction times have slowed and people are getting dumber, not smarter. Here’s Dr. James Thompson’s summary of the hypothesis:

We keep hearing that people are getting brighter, at least as measured by IQ tests. This improvement, called the Flynn Effect, suggests that each generation is brighter than the previous one. This might be due to improved living standards as reflected in better food, better health services, better schools and perhaps, according to some, because of the influence of the internet and computer games. In fact, these improvements in intelligence seem to have been going on for almost a century, and even extend to babies not in school. If this apparent improvement in intelligence is real we should all be much, much brighter than the Victorians.

Although IQ tests are good at picking out the brightest, they are not so good at providing a benchmark of performance. They can show you how you perform relative to people of your age, but because of cultural changes relating to the sorts of problems we have to solve, they are not designed to compare you across different decades with say, your grandparents.

Is there no way to measure changes in intelligence over time on some absolute scale using an instrument that does not change its properties? In the Special Issue on the Flynn Effect of the journal Intelligence Drs Michael Woodley (UK), Jan te Nijenhuis (the Netherlands) and Raegan Murphy (Ireland) have taken a novel approach in answering this question. It has long been known that simple reaction time is faster in brighter people. Reaction times are a reasonable predictor of general intelligence. These researchers have looked back at average reaction times since 1889 and their findings, based on a meta-analysis of 14 studies, are very sobering.

It seems that, far from speeding up, we are slowing down. We now take longer to solve this very simple reaction time “problem”.  This straightforward benchmark suggests that we are getting duller, not brighter. The loss is equivalent to about 14 IQ points since Victorian times.

So, we are duller than the Victorians on this unchanging measure of intelligence. Although our living standards have improved, our minds apparently have not. What has gone wrong? [“The Victorians Were Cleverer Than Us!” Psychological Comments, April 29, 2013]

Thompson discusses this and other relevant research in many posts, which you can find by searching his blog for Victorians and Woodley. I’m not going to venture my unqualified opinion of Woodley’s hypothesis, but I am going to offer some (perhaps) relevant analysis based on — you guessed it — baseball statistics.

APPROACH TO THE PROBLEM

It seems to me that if Woodley’s hypothesis has merit, it ought to be confirmed by the course of major-league batting averages over the decades. Other things being equal, quicker reaction times ought to produce higher batting averages. Of course, there’s a lot to hold equal, given the many changes in equipment, playing conditions, player conditioning, “style” of the game (e.g., greater emphasis on home runs), and other key variables over the course of more than a century.

Undaunted, I used the Play Index search tool at Baseball-Reference.com to obtain single-season batting statistics for “regular” American League (AL) players from 1901 through 2016. My definition of a regular player is one who had at least 3 plate appearances (PAs) per scheduled game in a season. That’s a minimum of 420 PAs in a season from 1901 through 1903, when the AL played a 140-game schedule; 462 PAs in the 154-game seasons from 1904 through 1960; and 486 PAs in the 162-game seasons from 1961 through 2016. I found 6,603 qualifying player-seasons, and a long string of batting statistics for each of them: the batter’s age, his batting average, his number of at-bats, his number of PAs, etc.

The raw record of batting averages looks like this, fitted with a 6th-order polynomial to trace the shifts over time:

FIGURE 1
batting-average-analysis-unadjusted-ba-1901-2016

That’s nice, you might say, but what accounts for the shifts? I considered 21 variables in an effort to account for the shifts, and ended up using 20 of the variables in a three-stage analysis.

In stage 1, I computed the residuals resulting from the application of the 6th-order polynomial. That is, I subtracted from the actual batting averages the estimates produced by the equation displayed in figure 1. For ease of reference, I call this first set of residuals the r1 residuals.

I began stage 2 by finding the correlations between each of the 21 candidate variables and the r1 residuals. I then estimated a regression equation with the r1 residuals as the dependent variable and the most highly correlated variable as the explanatory variable. I next found the correlations between the remaining 20 variables and the residuals of that regression equation. I introduced the most highly correlated variable into a new regression equation, as a second explanatory variable. I continued this process in the expectation that I would come across an explanatory variable that was statistically insignificant, at which point I would stop. But I ran through 16 explanatory variables without hitting a stopping point, and that exhausted the number of explanatory variables allowed by the regression function in Excel 2016.

The 16th regression on the r1 residuals left me with a set of residuals that I call the r2 residuals. In stage 3, I estimated a new equation with the r2 residuals as the dependent variable, following the same procedure that I used to obtain the 16-variable regression on the r1 residuals. In this case, I used 4 of the remaining explanatory variables; the 5th proved statistically insignificant.

I then combined the estimates obtained in the three stages to obtain the equation that’s discussed later, and at length. For now, I’ll focus on the apparent precision of the equation and its implications for the hypothesis that the general level of intelligence has declined with time.

SUMMARY AND DISCUSSION OF RESULTS

Here’s how well the equation fits the data:

FIGURE 2
batting-average-analysis-actual-and-estimated-ba-of-regular-players-1901-2016

The 6th-order polynomial regression lines (black for actual, purple for estimated) are almost identical.

Here’s how the final estimates (vertical axis) correlate with the actual batting averages (horizontal axis):

FIGURE 3
batting-average-analysis-estimated-vs-actual-ba_3-stage-analysis

I’ve never seen such a tight fit based on more than a few observations, and this one is based on 6,603 observations. I’m showing 6 decimal places in the trendline label so that you can see the 3 significant figures in the constant, which is practically zero.

Year (YR) enters as a significant variable in stage 3, with a coefficient of
-0.0000284 . (The 95-percent confidence interval is  -.0000214  to  -.0000355 ; the p-value is  3.40E-15 .) So, everything else being the same (a matter to which I’ll come), batting averages dropped by  .00327  between 1901 and 2016 ( -0.00327 =  -.0000284 x 115 ). (Note: It’s conventional to drop the 0 to the left of the decimal point in baseball statistics. And if you’re unfamiliar with baseball statistics, I can tell you that a difference of .00327 is taken seriously in baseball; many a batting championship race has been decided by a smaller margin.)

If the compound equation resulting from stages 1, 2, and 3 accounts satisfactorily for all changes affecting BA, the estimate of  -.00327  might be attributed to the slowing of batters’ reaction times. However, despite the statistical robustness of the coefficient on YR, it’s necessary to ask whether there are factors not properly accounted for that might point to the conclusion that reaction times have remained about the same or improved. To get at that question, I’ll present and discuss in the next section a table that summarizes the complete equation and all 20 of its explanatory variables. As you read and interpret the table, keep these points in mind:

The 6th-order polynomial (stage 1) is a filter. It captures the fluctuations over time that must be accounted for by the 20 “real” variables that are listed in the table (including YR) and discussed below the table. The “year” terms in the 6th-order polynomial are therefore irrelevant to the question of whether reaction times have slowed.

Every p-value in the stage-2 and stage-3 regression equations is smaller than  0.0001 , and most of them are far, far below that threshold.

The significance of the explanatory variables notwithstanding, the standard errors of the stage-1 and stage-2 equations are both about  .0027 . Therefore, the 95-percent confidence interval surrounding estimates of BA derived from those equations is plus or minus  .0053 . As discussed above, that’s not a small error in the context of baseball statistics. In fact, it’s enough to swamp the effect of YR.

As discussed below, many of the explanatory variables have intuitively incorrect signs and are highly correlated with each other. This casts doubt on the validity of the derived coefficients, including the coefficient on YR.

I don’t mean to say that reaction times have stayed the same or become faster. I simply mean that this analysis is inconclusive about the trend (if any) of reaction times — possibly because there is no trend, in one direction or the other.

The equation, taken as a whole, does an admirable job of accounting for changes in BA over the span of 115 years. But I can’t take any of its parts seriously.

It’s been great fun but it was just one of those things.

DETAILS AND FURTHER DISCUSSION

Table 1 gives the coefficients and maxima, minima, means, standard errors, and 95-percent confidence intervals around the coefficients of the explanatory variables. Statistical parameters and estimated values are expressed to three significant figures. For ease of comparison, I use decimal notation rather than scientific notation for the explanatory variables.

TABLE 1
batting-average-analysis-regression-equation

Next is table 2, which gives the cross-correlations among the explanatory variables (including the 21st variable that’s not in the equation). Positive correlations above 0.5 are highlighted in green; negative correlations below 0.5 are highlighted in yellow; statistically insignificant correlations are denoted by gray shading.

TABLE 2 (right-click to open a larger image in a new tab)
batting-average-analysis-cross-correlations-of-explanatory-variables

Here’s my explanation and interpretation of the instrumental variables:

Intercept (c) (shown in table 1)

This is the sum of the intercepts derived from the 6th-order polynomial fit and the stage-2 and stage-3 regression analyses.

On-base-plus-slugging percentage minus batting average (OPS – BA)

BA is embedded in both components of on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS). By subtracting BA from OPS, I partly decouple that relationship and obtain rough measure of a batter’s propensity to get on base (mainly) by walking, plus his propensity for hitting doubles, triples, and home runs. But see OBP – BA and SLB – BA, below.

Strikeouts per plate appearance (SO/PA)

The positive coefficient on SO/PA is counterintuitive. In any particular at-bat, striving to hit a home run is thought to reduce a batter’s ability to make contact with the ball. The positive coefficient therefore reflects the positive relationship between HR/PA and BA (see below), and the tendency of home-run hitters to strike out more often than other hitters.

On-base percentage minus batting average (OBP – BA)

The negative coefficient on this variable probably means that it’s compensating for the residual component of BA that lingers in OPS – BA. This variable and OPS – BA should be thought of as a complementary variable — one that’s meaningless without the other.

Home runs per plate appearance (HR/PA)

The positive coefficient on this variable seems to capture the positive relationship between HR and BA. For example, most of the great home-run hitters also compiled high batting averages. (Peruse this list.)

Integration (BLK)

I use this variable to approximate the effect of the influx of black players (including non-white Hispanics) since 1947. BLK measures only the fraction of AL teams that had at least one black player for each full season. It begins at 0.25 in 1948 (the Indians and Browns signed Larry Doby and Hank Thompson during the 1947 season) and rises to 1 in 1960, following the signing of Pumpsie Green by the Red Sox during the 1959 season. The positive coefficient on this variable is consistent with the hypothesis that segregation had prevented the use of players superior to many of the whites who occupied roster slots because of their color.

Deadball era (DBALL)

The so-called deadball era lasted from the beginning of major-league baseball in 1871 through 1919 (roughly). It was called the deadball era because the ball stayed in play for a long time (often for an entire game), so that it lost much of its resilience and became hard to see because it accumulated dirt and scuffs. Those difficulties (for batters) were compounded by the spitball, the use of which was officially curtailed beginning with the 1920 season. (See this and this.) Batting averages and the frequency of long hits (especially home runs) rose markedly after 1919. Given the secular trend shown in figure 1, it’s surprising to find a positive coefficient on DB, which is a dummy variable (value =1) assigned to all seasons from 1901-1919. So DB is probably picking up the net effect of other factors. It should be considered a complementary variable.

Performance-enhancing drugs (DRUG)

Their rampant use seems to have begun in the early 1990s and trailed off in the late 2000s. I assigned a dummy variable of 1 to all seasons from 1994 through 2007 in an effort to capture the effect of PEDs on BA. The resulting coefficient suggests that the effect was (on balance) negative, though slight. Players who used PEDs generally strove for long hits, which may have had the immediate effect of reducing their batting averages.

Slugging percentage minus batting average (SLG – BA)

I consider this variable to be a complement to OPS – BA and OBP – PA.

Number of major-league teams (MLTM)

The standard view is that expansion hurt the quality of play by diluting talent. However, expansion didn’t keep pace with population growth over the long run. (see POP/TM, below). In any event, MLTM should be considered another complementary variable.

Night baseball, that is, baseball played under lights (LITE)

It has long been thought that batting is more difficult under artificial lighting than in sunlight. This variable measures the fraction of AL teams equipped with lights, but it doesn’t measure the rise in night games as a fraction of all games. I know from observation that that fraction continued to rise even after all AL stadiums were equipped with lights. The positive coefficient on LITE suggests that it’s yet another complementary variable. It’s very highly correlated with BLK, for example.

Average age of AL pitchers (PAGE)

The r1 residuals rise with respect to PAGE rise until PAGE = 27.4 , then they begin to drop. This variable represents the difference between 27.4 and the average age of AL pitchers during a particular season. The coefficient is multiplied by 27.4 minus the average age of pitchers; that is, by a positive number for ages lower than 27.4, by zero for age 27.4, and by a negative number for ages above 27.4. The positive coefficient suggests that, other things being equal, pitchers younger than 27.4 give up hits at a lower rate than pitchers older than 27.4. I’m agnostic on the issue.

Complete games per AL team (CG/TM)

A higher rate of complete games should mean that starting pitchers stay in games longer, on average, and therefore give up more hits, on average. The positive coefficient seems to contradict that hypothesis. But there are other, related variables (P/TM and IP/P/G), so this one should be thought of as a complementary variable.

Number of pitchers per AL team (P/TM)

It, too, has a surprisingly positive coefficient. One would expect the use of more pitchers to cause BA to drop (see IP/P/G).

World War II (WW2)

A lot of the game’s best batters were in uniform in 1942-1945. That left regular positions open to older, weaker batters, some of whom wouldn’t otherwise have been regulars or even in the major leagues. The negative coefficient on this variable captures the war’s effect on hitting, which suffered despite the fact that a lot of the game’s best pitchers also served.

Bases on balls per plate appearance (BB/PA)

The negative coefficient on this variable suggests that walks are collected predominantly by above-average hitters, who are deprived of chances to hit safely. See, for example, the list of batters who collected the most career bases on balls. Anecdotally, during the many years when I regularly listened to and watched baseball games, announcers often spoke of the “intentional” unintentional walk and “pitching around” a batter. In both cases, a pitcher would aim for the outside edges of the plate, to avoid giving a batter a good pitch to hit. If that meant a walked batter and a chance to pitch to a weaker batter, so be it.

Innings pitched per AL pitcher per game (IP/P/G)

This variable reflects the long-term trend toward the use of more pitchers in a game, which means that batters more often face rested pitchers who come at them with a different delivery and repertoire of pitches than their predecessors. IP/P/G has dropped steadily over the decades, exerting a negative effect on BA. This is reflected in the positive coefficient on the variable, which means that BA rises with IP/P/G. But the effect is slight, and it’s prudent to treat this variable as a complement to CG/TM and P/TM.

AL fielding average (FA)

Fielding averages have risen generally since 1901, which was an especially bad year at .938. The climb from .949 in 1902 to .985 in 2016 was smooth and almost uninterrupted. How would that affect BA? Here’s an example: A line drive that in 1916 bounced off the edge of a fielder’s glove might have been counted as a hit or an error, and if it just missed the glove it would usually be counted as a hit. A century later the same line drive would almost always be caught in the much larger glove worn by a fielder in the same position. It therefore seems to me that the coefficient on this variable should be negative, that is, a higher FA should mean a lower BA. The positive coefficient points to a confounding factor (e.g., BLK).

Year (YR)

This is the crucial variable, and the value of its coefficient — given the inclusion of all the other variables — may say something about the IQ hypothesis. After taking into account the 19 other variables in this equation, the coefficient on YR is slightly negative, which suggests that batters have generally been getting a bit slower. But as discussed throughout this post, there’s much uncertainty about the validity of the equation and, therefore, about the validity of the coefficient on BA.

Maximum distance traveled by AL teams (TRV)

Does travel affect play? Probably, but the mode and speed of travel (airplane vs. train) probably also affects it. The slightly positive coefficient on this variable — which is highly correlated with YR, BLK, MLTM, and several others — is meaningless, except insofar as it combines with all the other variables to account for BA.

U.S. population in millions per major-league team (POP/TM)

POP/TM has been rising almost without pause, despite expansion, and is now at its peak value. The negative coefficient is therefore surprising, and probably reflects the strong correlation of POP/TM with BLK, and perhaps other variables.

Batter’s age (BAGE)

This is the 21st variable, which isn’t in the final equation. The r1 residuals don’t vary with BAGE until BAGE = 37 , whereupon the residuals begin to drop. Accordingly, this variable represents the difference between 37 and a player’s age during a particular season.

In sum, there’s no way of knowing whether the negative coefficient on YR is related to reaction time, the (probably) greater speed of today’s pitchers, the greater variety of pitches thrown by today’s pitchers,  or anything else that’s not adequately reflected by the 20 variables in the final equation. I rest my case and throw myself on the mercy of the court.