Month: February 2008

Religious Discrimination or Free Exercise?

Eugene Volokh is exercised about a ruling by the Supreme Court of Michigan in a child-custody case, which he characterizes as unconstitutional:

Michigan parents know that, to maximize their chances of keeping custody of their children, they need to go to church more often. A solid violation of the Establishment Clause, I think, plus of the Michigan Constitution’s religious freedom provision:

Every person shall be at liberty to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. No person shall be compelled to attend … any place of religious worship …. The civil and political rights, privileges and capacities of no person shall be diminished or enlarged on account of his religious belief.

Volokh’s real beef is with the Michigan statute (Child Custody Act of 1970), which spells out the “best interest” factors to be considered in child-custody cases. He specifically objects to the italicized portion of section 3(b):

The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any (emphasis added).

I cannot grasp the basis of Volokh’s objection. Neither the statute nor (in what I have read) any court’s interpretation of it seems to violate the relevant portion of the First Amendment:

Congress [and by incorporation through the Fourteenth Amendment, the States] shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….

The Michigan statute wisely gives proper recognition to the importance of religion (among several other factors) in the upbringing of a child. That’s all it does.

The clause at issue is not an establishment of religion. It does not force anyone to practice a religion. It simply gives due credit to a parent who continues to raise his or her child in the religion in which the child already was being raised, if any.

The clause at issue does not bar the free exercise of religion. Contrary to what Volokh seems to think, it is not a child’s place to dictate his or her religious upbringing. Would Volokh think it good to allow a child to decide (against parental command) to drop out of school at the age of, say, ten? I don’t think so. What makes religion different than education? Nothing, except that Volokh finds it objectionable that Michigan’s legislature and courts recognize the value of religion in the upbringing of a child.

Volokh, like so many other determined secularists, cannot countenance any governmental act that seems to approve of religion. But, contrary to Thomas Jefferson, there is no “wall of separation” between church and state, as Justice Antonin Scalia reminds us:

The same week that Congress submitted the Establishment Clause as part of the Bill of Rights for ratification by the States, it enacted legislation providing for paid chaplains in the House and Senate…. The day after the First Amendment was proposed, the same Congress that had proposed it requested the President to proclaim “ a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed, by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many and signal favours of Almighty God.”… President Washington offered the first Thanksgiving Proclamation shortly thereafter, devoting November 26, 1789 on behalf of the American people “ ‘to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that is, that was, or that will be,’ ”… thus beginning a tradition of offering gratitude to God that continues today…. The same Congress also reenacted the Northwest Territory Ordinance of 1787,… Article III of which provided: “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”… And of course the First Amendment itself accords religion (and no other manner of belief) special constitutional protection.

These actions of our First President and Congress … were not idiosyncratic; they reflected the beliefs of the period. Those who wrote the Constitution believed that morality was essential to the well-being of society and that encouragement of religion was the best way to foster morality.

And they were right.

On Prejudice

I have just finished reading Theodore Dalrymple’s In Praise of Prejudice: The Necessity of Preconceived Ideas. Dalrymple’s thesis is simple but profound: We cannot (and do not) operate in this world without the benefit of preconceived ideas about how the world works. If we tried to do so, we would be as helpless as babes in the wood.

To state Dalrymple’s thesis so baldly is to do a grave injustice to the lucidity, incisiveness, elegance, and ruthless logic of his short book. At the outset, Dalrymple makes it clear that he holds no brief for racial and ethnic prejudice. As he points out: “No prejudice, no genocide.” But he adds that

If the existence of a widespread prejudice is necessary for the commission of genocide, it is certainly not a sufficient one. Nor does it follow from the fact that all who commit genocide are prejudiced that all who are prejudiced commit genocide.

Dalrymple spends many pages (fruitfully) eviscerating John Stuart Mill’s simplistic liberalism, which holds that that one may do as one pleases as long as (in one’s own opinion) one does no harm to others. This belief (itself a prejudice) has led to what Dalrymple calls “radical individualism” — and it is just that, despite the efforts of libertarian apologists to demonstrate otherwise. Dalrymple offers a spot-on diagnosis of the wages of radical individualism:

What starts out as a search for increased if not total individualism ends up by increasing the power of government over individuals. It does not do so by the totalitarian method of rendering compulsory all that is not forbidden … but by destroying all moral authority that intervenes between individual human will and governmental power…. “There is no law against it” becomes an unanswerable justification for conduct that is selfish and egotistical.

This, of course, makes the law, and therefore those who make the law, the moral arbiters of society. It is they who, by definition, decide what is permissible and what is not….

Given the nature of human nature, it hardly needs pointing out that those who are delegated the job of moral arbiter for the whole of society enjoy their power and come to thing that they deserve it, and that they have been chosen for their special insight into the way life should be lived. It is not legislators who succumb to this temptation but judges also….

Dalrymple, an admitted non-believer, also slices through the pretensions of Peter Singer and Richard Dawkins, strident atheists both. He exposes their prejudices, which they try to conceal with the language of science and bombastic certitude.

There is much more in this delightful book. I offer a final sample:

In order to prove to ourselves that we are not prejudiced, but have thought out everything for ourselves, as fully autonomous (if not responsible) human beings should, we have to reject the common maxims of life that in many, though not in all, cases, preserve civilized relations. Enlightenment, or rather, what is so much more important for many people, a reputation for enlightenment, consists in behaving in a way contrary to those maxims. And once a common maxim of life is overthrown in this fashion, it is replaced by another — often, though of course not always, a worse one.

Social norms that have passed the test of time are more likely than not to be beneficial. And, so, we owe them the benefit of the doubt, instead of discarding them for the sake of change, that is, for the sake of new prejudices.

I urge you to buy In Praise of Prejudice, to read it, and to re-read it (as I will do).

Related:
The Meaning of Liberty” (25 Mar 2006)
Atheism, Religion, and Science Redux” (01 Jul 2007)

How Attractive Is Your State?

REVISED (02/29/08)

Americans are known for “voting with their feet,” that is, for moving to a more congenial locale, often across State lines. The reasons for doing so are many (e.g., being near family, getting away from family, taking a new job, retiring to a warmer climate, retiring to a climate and terrain conducive to winter sports). One of the reasons, of course, is to reduce one’s State and local tax burden.

But moves based on tax reasons aren’t tabulated in the 2008 Statistical Abstract, Table 31 (Movers by Type of Move and Reason for Moving: 2006), which seems (in my view) to understate the frequency of moves related to climate and retirement. A comparison of the totals in Table 31 with the corresponding totals in Table 33 (Mobility Status of Resident Population by State: 2005) suggests that Table 31 is incomplete, to the tune of about 6 million Americans out of the 45 million or so who change houses, counties, States, and countries every year.

So, it’s up to me to quantify the extent to which decisions about interstate moves are influenced by State and local taxes, among other things.

1. Drawing on Table 33 (linked above), I found the rate at which Americans moved from one State to another in 2005. The answer is 2.47 percent. That is, 7.1 million of the 284.4 million Americans age 1 or older in 2005 were residents of a different State in 2004.

2. Every State gains some new residents from other States, but some States are net gainers and others are net losers. To measure a particular State’s net gain or loss, I subtracted 2.47 percent (the all-State average) from the percentage of residents who moved into that State from other States. Nevada is at one extreme, with a net gain of 3.07 percent; New York is at the other extreme, with a net loss of 1.24 percent.

3. Overall, there is a negative correlation (-0.399) between net gain and tax burden; the lower the tax burden, the greater the gain. Graphically:

Sources: Net moves = net percentage of a State’s population gained from/lost to other States. Net moves are computed at described in the text. Tax burdens for 2004 are from this table, available via this page at the website of The Tax Foundation.

4. Tax policy evidently has a strong effect on decisions to move from State to State. Another quantifiable factor to be accounted for is population. As it turns out, the less populous a State, the greater its attraction:

REVISED PORTION:

5. I took the obvious next step and ran a regression with natural logarithms of tax burden and population as explanatory variables, with this result:

Net population gain or loss (as a decimal fraction of previous year’s population) =
-0.049256
-0.027145 x natural logarithm of State + local tax burden (as a decimal fraction)
-0.005241 x natural logarithm State’s population (in millions)

The R-squared of the equation is 0.420. The F-test on the regression and the t-statistics on the intercept and explanatory variables all are significant at the 0.995 level of confidence, or better.

In other words, after adjusting for population, a 1-percentage point increase in the tax burden from the mean rate of 10.29 percent yields a net population loss of 0.25 percent.

6. The regression equation, as indicated by its fairly low R-squared, leaves much to be explained by factors other than tax burden and population (the latter of which may be a rough proxy for work and family connections). The difference between a State’s actual net gain or loss and the net gain or loss estimated by the equation tells us something about that State’s inherent attractiveness (or unattractiveness). For example, the actual net population gain for Arizona is 2.57 percent; the estimated net gain, 0.25 percent. The difference (known as the residual) is 2.32 percent, which is the largest residual for any State. Arizona is therefore (and for obvious reasons, given its climate) an inherently attractive State. At the other end of the spectrum is Michigan, with a residual of -1.19 percent, which makes it the least inherently attractive State (for entirely fathomable reasons, given its economy).

7. So, I have two measures of a State’s attractiveness

  • overall attractiveness — net percentage of population gained from or lost to other States
  • inherent (natural) attractiveness — the portion of overall attractiveness that is not explained by taxes or population

What really matters, of course, is overall attractiveness, or the lack thereof. Unsurprisingly, the upper Midwest and Northeast dominate the list of 15 least-attractive States (those with negative values in the left panel of the table below). Inherent attractiveness (the right panel of the table below) is, nevertheless, an interesting property. The difference between overall attractiveness and inherent attractiveness is a good measure of the gain (or loss) in a State’s attractiveness because of its tax burden and/or population. Thus:

The two graphs immediately above underscore the importance of taxes and population (that is, the lack thereof) to a State’s overall attractiveness.

States that gain or lose significantly (more than a standard deviation from the mean of 0.59%) fall into three categories:

  • Less-populous States that make themselves significantly more attractive through below-average tax burdens: Alaska (gain of 2.70%, tax burden of 6.6%), Delaware (1.92%, 8.4%), Montana (1.50%, 9.6%), New Hampshire (1.78%, 8.1%), North Dakota (1.68%, 9.7%), South Dakota (1.86%, 8.7%), and Wyoming (1.79%, 9.7%).
  • More-populous States that make themselves significantly less attractive through above-average tax burdens: California (-0.82%, 10.8%), Illinois (-0.11%, 10.5%), New York (-1.07%, 13.5%), Ohio (-0.30%, 11.3%), and Pennsylvania (-0.11%, 10.3%).
  • Populous States with below-average tax burdens whose rapid growth seems to be undermining their attractiveness: Florida (-0.19%, 9.9%) and Texas (-0.18%, 9.4%).

How does your State stack up? See for yourself:

Overall attractiveness

Inherent attractiveness

1

Nevada

3.07%

1

Arizona

2.32%

2

Wyoming

2.91%

2

Nevada

2.22%

3

Arizona

2.57%

3

Idaho

1.46%

4

Idaho

2.50%

4

Florida

1.41%

5

Alaska

2.44%

5

Wyoming

1.12%

6

Delaware

1.85%

6

Georgia

1.02%

7

Oregon

1.72%

7

Oregon

1.01%

8

New Mexico

1.64%

8

Hawaii

0.87%

9

Hawaii

1.55%

9

Washington

0.79%

10

Montana

1.52%

10

New Mexico

0.65%

11

Colorado

1.30%

11

Virginia

0.61%

12

New Hampshire

1.28%

12

North Carolina

0.58%

13

Florida

1.21%

13

Colorado

0.57%

14

Arkansas

1.16%

14

South Carolina

0.51%

15

Georgia

1.14%

15

Arkansas

0.51%

16

Washington

1.02%

16

Maryland

0.28%

17

South Carolina

1.01%

17

Utah

0.21%

18

South Dakota

0.99%

18

Montana

0.02%

19

Virginia

0.88%

19

Texas

0.01%

20

Vermont

0.86%

20

Kansas

0.00%

21

Utah

0.83%

21

Maine

-0.03%

22

Tennessee

0.75%

22

Delaware

-0.07%

23

North Carolina

0.71%

23

Vermont

-0.09%

24

Oklahoma

0.69%

24

Tennessee

-0.11%

25

North Dakota

0.62%

25

New York

-0.17%

26

Maryland

0.56%

26

Oklahoma

-0.20%

27

Kansas

0.55%

27

Alaska

-0.26%

28

Maine

0.44%

28

Iowa

-0.28%

29

Iowa

0.38%

29

Missouri

-0.35%

30

Mississippi

0.36%

30

California

-0.36%

31

West Virginia

0.19%

31

Mississippi

-0.37%

32

Missouri

0.11%

32

New Jersey

-0.38%

33

Alabama

0.08%

33

Connecticut

-0.46%

34

Kentucky

0.04%

34

Kentucky

-0.48%

35

Nebraska

0.03%

35

Pennsylvania

-0.50%

36

Rhode Island

-0.13%

36

New Hampshire

-0.51%

37

Connecticut

-0.13%

37

Wisconsin

-0.58%

38

Texas

-0.17%

38

Ohio

-0.59%

39

Indiana

-0.33%

39

Illinois

-0.60%

40

Minnesota

-0.44%

40

Indiana

-0.63%

41

New Jersey

-0.44%

41

Nebraska

-0.63%

42

Wisconsin

-0.60%

42

West Virginia

-0.69%

43

Pennsylvania

-0.60%

43

Minnesota

-0.70%

44

Massachusetts

-0.72%

44

Alabama

-0.85%

45

Louisiana

-0.75%

45

South Dakota

-0.86%

46

Illinois

-0.77%

46

Rhode Island

-0.98%

47

Ohio

-0.89%

47

Massachusetts

-1.02%

48

California

-1.18%

48

North Dakota

-1.07%

49

Michigan

-1.20%

49

Louisiana

-1.16%

50

New York

-1.24%

50

Michigan

-1.19%

The Folly of Centrism

Paul Silver, writing at The Moderate Voice, opines:

Most of us like talk and performance that is moderate in tone and balanced in application. And it is a useful exercise to continually reflect on what we mean by moderate, extreme and balanced.

It seems to me that each issue can be laid out along a spectrum from one extreme to another. e.g. Nationalized businesses on one end and unfettered markets on the other with gradations of regulation in the middle. I am drawn to the gradations in the middle. For me the compelling debate is about what kind of regulation and how much.

Similarly on Taxes: Socialism on one end and Libertarianism on the other with various philosophies of taxation in the middle. For me the attractive debate is about how much taxes are necessary to provide some agreed upon level of wellbeing for our citizens. I think it is a canard to talk about any significant reduction in overall tax burdens. Even with scrupulous management, our Federal budget might only shrink from $3 Trillion to $2.5 Trillion. The real issue is how the burden is shared by those to whom much has been given.

This is political philosophy as an extension of personality. It has nothing to do with moral judgments or the weighing of consequences. It is compromise, for the sake of compromise.

The “middle” has shifted so far leftward since 1929 that Silver cannot imagine a much smaller government, even though we had a much smaller one until the government-caused and government-prolonged Great Depression.

Silver reveals himself not as a “moderate” or “centrist” but as a class-warring socialist when he invokes “those to whom so much has been given.” “Those” are, in fact, people who have done much to provide goods and services of value to others. What “those” have has not been given to them; they have earned it. But that matters not to Silver and his ilk, who see income disparities as an excuse for government-enforced theft.

As I say, the “middle” has shifted far leftward.

Levant vs. Soharwardy

The infamous case of Ezra Levant takes a new twist. Levant, as you will recall, was the subject of a Canadian human rights complaint filed by Syed Soharwardy because, in 2005, Levant published the Danish cartoons of Mohammed cartoons in Western Standard magazine. (The magazine, once a print and web publication, in now only a web publication.)

A recent article by Soharwardy seems conciliatory enough (he has withdrawn his complaint), but it doesn’t address all of Levant’s allegations (here) about Soharwardy’s vindictive use of Canadian officialdom against Levant. Will the twain ever meet? Stay tuned.

A Thought for Today

Calling oneself a libertarian because one wants to be “left alone” is as shallow as calling oneself an American while secretly hankering to live in a “socialist paradise” like Sweden. Liberty isn’t just about being “left alone”; being an American isn’t (or didn’t used to be) just about living within the geographical boundaries of the United States.

The Real Constitution: I

This is the first installment of an effort to contrast the present, judicial interpretation of the Constitution with its original meaning, section by section and clause by clause. I draw heavily on The Heritage Guide to the Constitution (hereafter Heritage Guide). All quoted passages of the Constitution (including the Bill of Rights and other amendments) are from the version published by the National Records and Archives Administration.

PREAMBLE

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The Preamble has no substantive legal meaning, but it is significant because it specifies the Constitution’s purposes. The most commonly misunderstood term in the Preamble is “general Welfare,” a term which recurs in the Spending Clause of Article I, Section 8. I will deal with the Spending Clause in its turn. As for the Preamble:

The word “Welfare” is crucial: in the eighteenth century the definition of welfare included well-being., but it also and equally encompassed happiness.

The Preamble as a whole, then, declares that the Constitution is designed to secure precisely the rights proclaimed in the Declaration [of Independence]. The Constitution was therefore not the negation of the Revolution; it was the Revolution’s fulfillment.

Forrest McDonald, Heritage Guide, p. 46

LEGISLATIVE VESTING CLAUSE

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

(Article I, Section 1)

Much of what Americans and American businesses are permitted to do, under the regime that controls our lives and livelihoods, is determined not by legislation but by regulation. Congress has divested much of its legislative authority to the executive branch, where regulators do the work of legislators:

In 1928, the [U.S. Supreme] Court upheld a statute delegating the the President the power to adjust tariffs to any rate, within a wide range, he found necesary to “equalize the … differences in costs of production in the United States and the principal competing country.” J.W. Hampton, Jr. & Co. v. United States. In that case the Court for the first time set out what remains the governing standard: a “legislative action is not a forbidden delegation of legislative power” if the “Congress shall lay down by legislative act an intelligible principle to which the person or body [to whom power is delegated] is directed to conform.”…

[Thus t]he Court found in Whitman v. American Trucking Associations, Inc. an intelligible principle in Congress’s directive to the Environnmental Protection Agency to promulgate air quality standards “requisite to protect the public health” with “an adequate margin of safety.” Because no standard could eliminate all significant adverse effects to health, the statute effectively delegated to an unelected and unaccountable agency the decision how far our society should go and how many billions of dollars should be spent to reduce the adverse health effects of industrial pollution, a decision that seems quintessentially legislative, but undoubtedly one for which legislators would prefer to avoid responsibility.

Douglas Ginsburg, Heritage Guide, pp. 47-8

For many other posts about the erosion of the Constitution’s original meaning, see the category “Constitution – Courts – Law – Justice

Lochner, Where Are You When We Need You?

SCOTUSBLOG reports:

Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy refused on Thursday afternoon to forbid the city and county of San Francisco to continue enforcing a local ordinance that sets minimum levels of spending by employers for their workers’ health care.

Back when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Constitution, the City of San Francisco would have thought long and hard before interfering in employment relationships. (See Lochner v. New York.) But that was before the New Deal Court began to find constitutionality in government-imposed conditions of employment, from mandatory unionization to Social Security to affirmative action.

Well, if the Circuit Court and the U.S. Supreme Court uphold San Francisco in this case, that “fair” city will be waving bye-bye to a lot of companies and a lot of jobs.

Related posts:
The Cost of Affirmative Action” (01 Jun 2004)
A Very Politically Incorrect Labor Day Post” (06 Sep 2004)
Freedom of Contract and the Rise of Judicial Tyranny” (07 Sep 2004)
Social Security Is Unconstitutional” (31 Oct 2004)
Race, Intelligence, and Affirmative Action” (05 Dec 2004)
An Agenda for the Supreme Court” (29 Jun 2005)
Substantive Due Process, Liberty of Contract, and States’ ‘Police Power’” (28 Nov 2005)
Positive Rights and Cosmic Justice: Part IV” (06 Aug 2007)

I Voted for Barack

No, I haven’t gone off the deep end. It’s just that I voted early in the Texas primary, and decided to vote Democrat so that I could vote against Hillary Clinton. (Believe me, it was painful to ask for a Democrat ballot.)

I had mixed feelings about voting for Obama, because (as of now) he seems more electable than Clinton. But I just couldn’t resist the urge to stick it to Hillary, in the hope that the outcome of the Texas primary sends her (and her husband) to the hell of national political impotence.

I have come to believe that Obama’s aura will dissipate as voters come to understand that his mantra of “change” is an empty political slogan. Change what? How? At what cost? The man doesn’t answer those questions. He just wants to get into the White House, decimate our defenses, enlarge government, and raise taxes. (He doesn’t say that, but that’s what’s on his agenda.)

But Obama will be found out — before election day. The Clintons will expose his emptiness before they’re through; John McCain will finish the job.

In any event, the nomination of Obama will ensure that there are as many disgruntled Clintonistas on the Democrat side as there are disgruntled conservatives on the GOP side. And if Clinton manages to steal the Democrat nomination, there will be as many deflated Obama-maniacs on the Democrat side as there are disgruntled conservatives on the GOP side.

P.S. The New York Times‘s anti-McCain smear job may backfire. If there’s anything a hard-core conservative hates more than John McCain, it’s the Times.

P.P.S. As I was saying.

Election 2008: Sixth Forecast

My eighth forecast is here.

The Presidency – Method 1

Intrade posts State-by-State odds odds on the outcome of the presidential election in November. I assign all of a State’s electoral votes to the party whose nominee that is expected to win that State. Where the odds are 50-50, I split the State’s electoral votes between the two parties.

As of today, the odds point to this result:

Democrat — 293 electoral votes (EVs)

Republican — 245 EVs

That’s a pickup of 35 EVs for the GOP since my fifth forecast, which I updated only three days ago.

The Presidency – Method 2

I have devised a “secret formula” for estimating the share of electoral votes cast for the winner of the presidential election. (The formula’s historical accuracy is described in my second forecast.) The formula currently yields these estimates of the outcome of this year’s presidential election:

Democrat nominee — 278 to 324 EVs

Republican nominee — 214 to 260 EVs

That’s a loss for the GOP nominee of 7 to 20 EVs since my fifth forecast. The “good news” is that the ranges estimated by method 2 span the values obtained by method 1. If that remains the case, I will be more confident of my estimates as the election approaches.

U.S. Senate

No change since my fifth forecast. Democrats will pick up five Senate seats, one each in Colorado, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Virginia, plus Mississippi or Minnesota. The gain will change the balance from 51 Democrats (including Lieberman and Sanders, both nominally independent) and 49 Republicans to 56 Democrats and 44 Republicans.

Did Roger Do It?

In “Testing for Steroids” I examine the records of the eleven most prolific home-run hitters in the history of major-league baseball: Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, and nine other. The graphs I present in “Testing…” show that the late-career accomplishments of McGwire and Bonds are far out of line with (a) their earlier accomplishments and (b) the career patterns of the other nine sluggers. In sum, there is a strong statistical case for the proposition that McGwire and Bonds used and benefited from performance-enhancing drugs.

Is there similar evidence (pro or con) regarding Roger Clemens? There’s an analysis released by Clemens’s agents (the “Clemens Report“), which is (rightly) found wanting by Justin Wolfers (writing at the Freakonomics blog, here and here). I am not, however, smitten with Wolfers’s rather vague statistical presentation. Steven Levitt (also writing at the Freakonomics blog) points to a better one, by Nate Silver.

I had been working on my own analysis before I came upon Silver’s. Though our approaches are somewhat different, Silver and I reach the same conclusion: “where [Clemens’s] statistical record is concerned, there is no smoking gun.” Or, as Levitt says,

While statistical evidence can sometimes provide convincing evidence that something really out of the ordinary has happened (like the sumo wrestling cheating that was documented in Freakonomics), it is far from clear how to interpret the findings when things look normal.

The statistical case against McGwire and Bonds is compelling. There is no statistical case against Clemens. He may have used steroids and HGH, as alleged by Brian McNamee, but the numbers don’t prove it.

For my analysis, I draw on Baseball-Reference.com to compare Clemens’s record with the records of pitchers who are his peers:

  • First, I compare Clemens with other highly successful and durable pitchers on the basis of walks-plus-innings pitched (WHIP), by age. I define highly successful pitchers as those who have won at least 250 games in the “live-ball era.” Durable pitchers, for the purpose of this comparison, also pitched at least 100 innings in at least one season at the age of 40 (or older).
  • Second, I compare Clemens with other starting pitchers who averaged more than 8 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched (SO/9IP) during their careers, and who also pitched at least 100 innings in each of 10 or more seasons.

For the pitchers who meet those criteria, I omit intra-career seasons of less than 100 innings. Further, I adjust each season’s statistics by

  • normalizing for differences between leagues and across time (which are substantial*), and
  • indexing each pitcher’s statistics to the pitcher’s best season, in order to compare relative changes in the performance of pitcher A during his career with relative changes in the performance of pitchers B, C, etc., during their careers.

The 18 highly successful, durable pitchers included in my analysis are (in order of first 100-inning season): Ted Lyons (1924, 260 career wins), Lefty Grove (1925, 300), Early Wynn (1942, 300), Warren Spahn (1946, 363), Jim Kaat (1961, 283), Tommy John (1965, 288), Ferguson Jenkins (1966, 284), Gaylord Perry (1964, 314), Don Sutton (1966, 324), Steve Carlton (1967, 329), Phil Niekro (1967, 318), Tom Seaver (1967, 311), Nolan Ryan (1968, 324), Bert Blyleven (1970, 287), Roger Clemens (1984, 354), Greg Maddux (1987, 347), Tom Glavine (1988, 303), and Randy Johnson (1989, 284).

To keep the following graph simple, I highlight only the careers of Ryan, Johnson, and Clemens (indicating the seasons in which he is alleged to have received injections of steroids and/or HGH). (For a better view of the graphs in this post, right-click on them and select “open in new tab.”) The gray lines represent the careers of the other 15 pitchers. The light blue lines indicate the normal range of those 15 pitchers’ career trajectories. (The normal range is the range that contains about two-thirds of each year’s observations; about one-third of them are on either side of each year’s mean.) The shape of the light blue lines tells the expected tale: improvement, a peak (around age 30-32), and deterioration.

The career patterns of Clemens, Johnson, and Ryan are atypical. But they are atypical in different ways. Clemens’s record is up and down. His improvement in the late years is striking, but no more striking than that of Ryan, who simply follows a different trajectory (steady improvement) to arrive at about the same place at about the same age. Johnson’s trajectory is similar to Ryan’s, but with more ups and downs. Like Ryan, Johnson peaks very late. Johnson’s sudden deterioration following his peak can be attributed to his well-known back problems; Ryan’s, to sheer age.

In sum, Clemens had a more consistent career than those of Johnson and Ryan. But Clemens’s late-career success cannot be deemed suspicious when viewed against the similar successes of Johnson and Ryan.

Turning to the the leading “power pitchers,” we have Sandy Koufax (first 100-inning year, 1957; 9.28 SO/9IP for his career), Sam McDowell (1964, 8.86), Nolan Ryan (1968, 9.55), Roger Clemens (1984, 8.55), David Cone (1988, 8.28), Randy Johnson (1989, 10.78), Curt Schilling (1992, 8.60), Pedro Martinez (1993, 10.20), and Hideo Nomo (1995, 8.74):

Only four of the nine pitched 100 innings in a season at age 40 (or older): Schilling, Clemens, Johnson, and Ryan. Among that select group, Clemens’s record is unexceptional. His late surge (local peaks at ages 35 and 39) is no more extreme than the late surges of Schilling (at 35), Johnson (at 37), and Ryan (at 40 and 42).

There is no statistical case against Roger Clemens. Did he “do it”? Maybe. But the proof of “it” requires hard, physical evidence (or an admission by Clemens), not statistical analysis.

The inconclusiveness of of statistical analysis, in this case, may mean one of two things: (1) Clemens didn’t use performance-enhancing drugs. (2) If Clemens relied mainly on HGH (as opposed to steroids) in an effort to bolster his performance, the effect may have been nil. For example,

there is no proof that net protein retention is promoted in adults, except possibly of connective tissue. The overexaggeration of the effects of growth hormone in muscle building is effectively promoting its abuse and thereby encouraging athletes and elderly men to expose themselves to increased risk of disease for little benefit.

Clemens may simply be living proof of the benefits of physical fitness.
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* WHIP and SO/9IP vary considerably by league and across time, for many reasons: expansion, the introduction of the designated hitter to the American League (1974), the replacement of old ball parks with new (sometimes smaller) ones, and variations in such things as the strike zone, the height of the pitching mound, the size of fielders’ gloves, the resiliency of the baseball, and the frequency with which umpires put a new ball into play.

To illustrate changes in WHIP, I use a closely related number: walks-plus-hits per game. Here’s the tally, by league and season for 1920-2007 (a period that spans the careers of the durable, highly successful pitchers whose records I analyze in this post):

And here’s the tally of SO/9IP, by league and season for 1955-2007 (a period that covers the careers of the top “power pitchers” whose records I analyze in this post):

A Genealogy of Driving

My maternal grandfather was a first-generation driver; he was well into his 20s when automobiles went into mass production. (I’m not sure when he first drove a car, but he could have driven in the last decade of the nineteenth century or first decade of the twentieth century.) That makes my mother a second-generation driver; me, a third-generation driver; and my children, fourth-generation drivers.

Coincidentally, my grandfather was a member of the first generation of his family to have been born here. (His ancestors were born in French Canada and France.) That makes my mother a second-generation American,* etc.
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* By the second definition here.

Are Leftists Crazy?

Dr. Lyle Rossiter, a psychiatrist, thinks so. Rossiter also says:

Like spoiled, angry children, they [Leftists] rebel against the normal responsibilities of adulthood and demand that a parental government meet their needs from cradle to grave.

My thoughts exactly, which I have expressed here, here, here, and here.

(H/T John Ray)

Minarchy vs. Anarchy

Arnold Kling writes:

Those of us who are “minarchists,” meaning that we favor government that is limited to adjudicating conflict, have no reliable mechanism for restraining government.

Lest you jump to the conclusion that anarchy is therefore preferable to minarchy, consider this: Anarchy offers no reliable mechanism for restraining renegades (i.e., thugs and warlords) who choose not to participate in markets for defense services, or to honor contracts between those who do participate in such markets.

Related posts:
Fundamentalist Libertarians, Anarcho-Capitalists, and Self-Defense” (22 Apr 2005)
Another Thought about Anarchy” (10 May 2005)
Anarcho-Capitalism vs. the State” (26 May 2005)
Rights and the State” (13 Jun 2005)
But Wouldn’t Warlords Take Over?” (24 Jul 2005)
Liberty or Self-Indulgence?” (10 Oct 2005)
My View of Warlordism, Seconded” (15 Dec 2005)
Anarchy: An Empty Concept” (20 Dec 2005)
The Fatal Naïveté of Anarcho-Libertarianism” (28 Jan 2006)
The Meaning of Liberty” (25 Mar 2006)
A Critique of Extreme Libertarianism” (27 Jul 2007)
Anarchistic Balderdash” (17 Aug 2007)
Anarchistic Whining” (04 Jan 2008)
Wisdom from Mises” (04 Jan 2008)

I Don’t Get It

Publius Endures (a libertarian? blog) comes close to endorsing Barack Obama. Why? Because Obama is anti-defense (hmm… I thought defense was one of the few legitimate functions of the state), somewhat “fiscally responsible” (in that he would cut the defense budget), pro-freedom (if you think that the “War on Drugs” is as important as, say, a massive regulatory burden that harms businesses and therefore consumers), and “good” on education (in that he favors a different kind of ill-advised federal involvement than NCLB).

Needless to say, I find a lack of perspective and balance in the mish-mash offered by the proprietor of Publius Endures. For antidotes, read this and this.

The Filibuster Factor

Some commentators have suggested that an Obama or Clinton presidency wouldn’t be an utter disaster, given the ability of GOP senators to stymie statist legislation by voting “nay” on cloture motions. (A cloture motion is a motion to cut off debate, that is, to stop a procedural filibuster.)

But…there may be only 44 GOP senators in the next Congress (down from 49). In that event, it could be hard to round up 41 “nays,” given the number of RINOs and half-baked conservatives on the GOP side of the aisle (e.g., Snowe and Collins of Maine, Specter of Pennsylvania, Coleman of Minnesota, Smith of Oregon). That will be especially true on critical issues where RINOs are notably soft (e.g., health care and defense).

Election 2008: Fifth Forecast

My eighth forecast is here.

UPDATED (02/17/08)

The Presidency – Method 1

Intrade posts State-by-State odds odds on the outcome of the presidential election in November. I assign all of a State’s electoral votes to the party whose nominee that is expected to win that State. Where the odds are 50-50, I split the State’s electoral votes between the two parties.

As of today, the odds point to this result:

Democrat — 328 electoral votes (EVs)

Republican — 210 EVs

The Presidency – Method 2

I have devised a “secret formula” for estimating the share of electoral votes cast for the winner of the presidential election. (The formula’s historical accuracy is described in my second forecast.) The formula currently yields these estimates of the outcome of this year’s presidential election:

Democrat nominee — 271 to 304 EVs

Republican nominee — 234 to 267 EVs

U.S. Senate

Democrats will pick up five Senate seats, one each in Colorado, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Virginia, plus Mississippi or Minnesota. The gain will change the balance from 51 Democrats (including Lieberman and Sanders, both nominally independent) and 49 Republicans to 56 Democrats and 44 Republicans.