Month: October 2013

Government Failure Comes as a Shock to Liberals

Richard Cohen of WaPo shares his disappointment in the god the failed:

Where is Casey Stengel when we need him? In 1962, as the manager of the brand new and determinedly hapless New York Mets — 40 wins, 120 losses — he looked up and down his bench one dismal day and wondered, “Can’t anybody here play this game?” That phrase kept coming at me recently as I watched the impressively inept performance of the Obama administration in both foreign and domestic policy. On a given day, this administration makes the ’62 Mets look good….

[Obama] has lately so mishandled both domestic and foreign policy that he is in mortal peril of altering his image. This unsettling and uncharacteristic incompetence became shockingly clear when Obama failed to come to grips with the Syrian civil war….

The debacle of the Affordable Care Act’s Web site raised similar questions about confidence….

Something went wrong. People could not sign up. Why? Not sure. Who’s at fault? Apparently no one. An act of God….

Poor Richard. He doesn’t get it. The problem isn’t just Barack Obama, it’s government. What Cohen is witnessing is government failure. It’s pervasive and inevitable — though its ill effects often go unremarked. (For example, the significant reduction of economic growth that has resulted from the growth of government spending and regulation.)

When government failure assumes spectacular proportions and can’t be ignored or explained away, it gets attention because it explodes the Nirvana fallacy about government that infects so many politicos, mediacrats, and real people (but not Americans on the whole).

What’s most striking about Cohen’s piece and similar outpourings from the media is that the target is a Democrat. I would say that a new dawn of realism is breaking, but that would be to indulge in the Nirvana fallacy.

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Related posts:
Undermining the Free Society
Government vs. Community
Government Failure: An Example
Bootleggers, Baptists, and Pornography
The Public-School Swindle
The Evil That Is Done with Good Intentions
Externalities and Statism
Society and the State
David Brooks, Useful Idiot for the Left
Don’t Use the “S” Word When the “F” Word Will Do
How Not to Cope with Government Failure
Well-Founded Pessimism
America: Past, Present, and Future
IQ, Political Correctness, and America’s Present Condition
The Barbarians Within and the State of the Union
Why Are Interest Rates So Low?
Vulgar Keynesianism and Capitalism
Estimating the Rahn Curve: Or, How Government Spending Inhibits Economic Growth
America’s Financial Crisis Is Now
The World Turned Upside Down
“We the People” and Big Government: Part I
“We the People” and Big Government: Part I (continued)
“We the People” and Big Government: Part 2 (first installment)

A Better Constitution

Here.

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Related posts:
A New, New Constitution
The Real Constitution and Civil Disobedience
A Declaration of Independence
First Principles
The Constitution: Original Meaning, Corruption, and Restoration
A Conversation with Uncle Sam
A Declaration of Civil Disobedience
Our Perfect, Perfect Constitution
Restoring Constitutional Government: The Way Ahead

“We the People” and Big Government: Part 1 (continued)

Incorporated into this post.

More about “Secession Made Easy”

Read “Secession Made Easy,” which addresses inter-State secession, that is, the annexation of a portion of one State by another State. Then consider the table below. It includes some moves not mentioned in the earlier post, and assesses the potential gains accruing to the GOP if parts of some States were shifted to neighboring States.

Secession made easy - table

The baseline is the current lineup of U.S. Senate seats, governorships, and State legislatures.  The potentially big gains for the GOP are found in the Senate. Those gains would be worth the (possible) loss of a single governorship, because the addition of nine GOP Senate seats would shift control of Congress to the GOP. (This assumes that the House remains indefinitely under GOP control for some years to come, which may be a heroic assumption.) Further, the GOP would continue to control about 3/5 of State legislatures — a big advantage when it comes to congressional redistricting.

In any event, some denizens of Blue States would become citizens of Red States — a prize in itself.

Secession Made Easy

It seems that the “Red” areas of several “Blue” States are agitating to secede from those States. It seems, also, that there is a way to secede that might pass legal scrutiny: the seceding portion of a State (the Red counties of Blue-dominated Maryland, for instance) hooks up with a more congenial State (West Virginia, for instance). Half a loaf certainly would be better than none if you’re a conservative in a conservative region of California, Colorado, Maryland, or Michigan — to name a few of the many possibilities.

The upshot of a half-a-loaf strategy with respect to secession would be … what? Some Red States would become Redder and some Blue States would become Bluer. Would the balance of political power be affected? Consider some possibilities:

  • California/Nevada — Northern California plus Nevada could push Nevada into Red territory. A plus for the GOP in the U.S. Senate and control of Nevada’s government.
  • Colorado/Kansas/Utah — Merging eastern Colorado into Kansas and western Colorado into Utah wouldn’t change the political landscape, but the ex-Coloradans would be happier.
  • Delaware/Maryland/Virginia/West Virginia — Two mergers here: southern Delaware and eastern Maryland into Virginia, western Maryland into West Virginia. Virginia would become more reliably Red; West Virginia, almost Deep Red. Pluses for the GOP in the U.S. Senate and control of the governments of Virginia and West Virginia.
  • Illinois/Ohio — Moving southern Illinois into Ohio would make Ohio more reliably Red.
  • Michigan/Wisconsin — If Wisconsin were to annex Michigan’s upper peninsula (and perhaps the northern part of the lower peninsula) it would become firmly Red. Perhaps a tossup, given Michigan’s occasional Reddish tinge, but the ex-Michiganders would be happier.

Those are the obvious possibilities; there may be others.

The problem with all of this, of course, is that Democrats will do the math and fiercely resist any such rearrangements.

But nothing venture, nothing gain. In other words, go for it!

Be sure to read the follow-up post, here.

Related posts:
How to Think about Secession
Greed, Cosmic Justice, and Social Welfare
Positive Rights and Cosmic Justice
Secession
The Interest-Group Paradox
Is Statism Inevitable?
Utilitarianism vs. Liberty
Fascism and the Future of America
Secession Redux
Negative Rights, Social Norms, and the Constitution
A New Cold War or Secession?
Rights, Liberty, the Golden Rule, and the Legitimate State
The Real Constitution and Civil Disobedience
The Census of 2010: Bring It On
The Near-Victory of Communism
A Declaration of Independence
Tocqueville’s Prescience
First Principles
The Shape of Things to Come
The Real Burden of Government
Zones of Liberty
The Constitution: Original Meaning, Corruption, and Restoration
A Conversation with Uncle Sam
The Illusion of Prosperity and Stability
Estimating the Rahn Curve: Or, How Government Inhibits Economic Growth
The Deficit Commission’s Deficit of Understanding
The Bowles-Simpson Report
The Unconstitutionality of the Individual Mandate
The Bowles-Simpson Band-Aid
Does the Power to Tax Give Congress Unlimited Power?
Does Congress Have the Power to Regulate Inactivity?
Re-Forming the United States
The Southern Secession Reconsidered
A Declaration of Civil Disobedience
The Repealer
Estimating the Rahn Curve: A Sequel
Constitutional Confusion
Reclaiming Liberty throughout the Land
More Evidence for the Rahn Curve
Secession, Anyone?
Obamacare, Slopes, Ratchets, and the Death-Spiral of Liberty
Another Thought or Two about the Obamacare Decision
Obamacare and Zones of Liberty
Keynesianism: Upside-Down Economics in the Collectivist Cause
Secession for All Seasons
A New Constitution for a New Republic
A Zone of Liberty in the Making?
The Price of Government, Once More
America: Past, Present, and Future
Restoring Constitutional Government: The Way Ahead

The Most Disgusting Thing I’ve Read Today

UPDATED 07/01/14 (below)

It’s a post at a blog called Lion of the Blogosphere, the proprietor of which evidently has delusions of grandeur. The post is “Abortion and the just-world fallacy.” (No, I won’t link to the blog or the post.) The author, one Mr. Lion (of the Blogosphere), seems to be an unabashed proponent of abortion for the “underclass.”

Mr. Lion’s latest abomination begins with this:

To quote Wikipedia, “the just-world hypothesis or just-world fallacy is the cognitive bias (or assumption) that a person’s actions always bring morally fair and fitting consequences to that person, so that all noble actions are eventually rewarded and all evil actions are eventually punished. “

I see this cognitive bias in many of the comments to anything I post about abortion. Anti-abortion people have this bias that they believe that banning abortion (which is supposed to be evil) will bring better outcomes. But the reality, as I keep pointing out, is that abortion is effective at reducing the birthrate of poor women.

Until I was enlightened by Mr. Lion, I had no idea that opposition to abortion arises from the just-world fallacy. I had thought, all along, that those of us who oppose abortion do so because it is a eugenic practice that involves the state-condoned taking of innocent lives. Or, because it is a sin — as some opponents prefer to say.

Superior beings like Mr. Lion (and Mr. Hitler) have no qualms about eugenic practices. Well, they don’t if they’re not on the receiving end of those practices. I wonder how Mr. Lion will enjoy the eugenic program known as Obamacare, with its inevitable death panels (though they won’t be called that) — a program that he implores Republicans to accept as the law of the land.

Mr. Lion justifies his pro-abortion position on cost-effectiveness grounds:

[A]ccording to the Guttmacher Institute “Forty-two percent of women obtaining abortions have incomes below 100% of the federal poverty level ($10,830 for a single woman with no children)” and another “twenty-seven percent of women obtaining abortions have incomes between 100–199% of the federal poverty level.

So we see that the women most likely to have abortions are those who should be having abortions, women who have no way to support their children except by collecting welfare, and children raised by welfare moms are many times more likely to be criminals….

I already said “disgusting,” didn’t I? Why not just take the women out and shoot them? That would be cheaper than giving them abortions, wouldn’t it?

Mr. Lion would make a good technocrat, given his readiness to treat human beings like numbers and erase them at will. But “good” isn’t excellent; excellent technocrats are able to feign compassion and disguise their viciousness.

What about crime and abortion? I cut Mr. Lion off just as he was about to add this:

[S]o it’s not surprising at all that Steven D. Levitt, author of Freakonomics, found that abortion reduced crime. (And Levitt rigorously rebuts Steve Sailer who tried to argue that it didn’t.)

Oh, really? Well, as it happens, Levitt’s “rigorous rebuttal” isn’t very rigorous. As I point out here,

Levitt’s findings are built on statistical quicksand. From the abstract of a paper by Christopher L. Foote and Christopher F. Goetz of the Boston Fed:

[A] fascinating paper by Donohue and Levitt (2001, henceforth DL) . . . purports to show that hypothetical individuals resulting from aborted fetuses, had they been born and developed into youths, would have been more likely to commit crimes than youths resulting from fetuses carried to term. We revisit that paper, showing that the actual implementation of DL’s statistical test in their paper differed from what was described. . . .We show that when DL’s key test is run as described and augmented with state‐level population data, evidence for higher per capita criminal propensities among the youths who would have developed, had they not been aborted as fetuses, vanishes.

There’s a lot more about the Levitt-Sailer controversy here; the bottom line, in my view, favors Sailer. My own analysis (here) also refutes Levitt.

The moral of the story: If you’re going to be an excellent technocrat in the United States, you must (a) take care to disguise your viciousness, and (b) quote unimpeachable sources (i.e., not Steven Levitt).

UPDATE 07/01/14 – for readers coming here via a link in a comment at Mr. Lion’s blog

Here’s the comment:

If you haven’t read this guy’s blog, he’s disgusted with Lion’s position on pro-abortion for prole and NAM women.

https://politicsandprosperity.com/2013/10/11/the-most-disgusting-thing-ive-read-today/

He seems to think Lion’s take on it is about eugenics, but it’s more about IQ leading to poor outcomes. One needs to understand that perpetual proledom and NAMdom is a good measure of IQ. Multigenerational poverty, dysfunctionality and underachievement are a result of low IQs.

The commenter seems to think that “Lion’s take” isn’t about eugenics. A state-sponsored effort to reduce the numbers of low-IQ “proles” and “NAMs” is nothing but an exercise in eugenics.

Unsplit Infinitives

A RERUN OF A POST AT MY OLD BLOG, FROM MAY 1, 2008

Eugene Volokh, a known grammatical relativist, scoffs at “to increase dramatically,” as if “to dramatically increase” would be better. But better in what way: clearer or less stuffy? The meaning of “to increase dramatically” is clear. The only reason to write “to dramatically increase” would be to avoid the appearance of stuffiness.

Seeming unstuffy (i.e., without standards) is neither a necessary nor sufficient reason to split an infinitive. The rule about unsplit infinitives, like most other grammatical rules, serves the valid and useful purpose of preventing English from sliding yet further down the slippery slope of incomprehensibility than it has slid already. If an unsplit infinitive makes a clause or sentence seem awkward, the clause or sentence should be rewritten to avoid the awkwardness. Better that than make an exception that leads to further exceptions — and thence to babel.

Related posts:
Remedial Vocabulary Training
One Small Step for Literacy
Punctuation
Data Are
“Hopefully” Arrives
Hopefully, This Post Will Be Widely Read
Why Prescriptivism?

A Human Person

A RERUN (WITH LIGHT EDITING) OF A POST AT MY OLD BLOG, FROM MAY 5, 2008

The ludicrous and (it seems) increasingly popular assertion that plants have rights should not distract us from the more serious issue of fetal rights. (My position on the issue can be found among these links.) Maverick Philosopher explains how abortion may be opposed for non-religious reasons:

It is often assumed that opposition to abortion can be based only on religious premises. This assumption is plainly false. To show that it is is false, one need merely give an anti-abortion argument that does not invoke any religious tenet, for example:1. Infanticide is morally wrong.
2. There is no morally relevant difference between abortion and infancticide.
Therefore
3. Abortion is morally wrong.

Whether one accepts this argument or not, it clearly invokes no religious premise. It is therefore manifestly incorrect to say or imply that all opposition to abortion must be religiously-based. Theists and atheists alike could make use of the above argument.

MP then links to a piece by Nat Hentoff, an atheist and Leftist. Hentoff writes, apropos Barack Obama and abortion, that

I admire much of Obama’s record, including what he wrote in “The Audacity of Hope” about the Founders’ “rejection of all forms of absolute authority, whether the king, the theocrat, the general, the oligarch, the dictator, the majority … George Washington declined the crown because of this impulse.”

But on abortion, Obama is an extremist. He has opposed the Supreme Court decision that finally upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act against that form of infanticide. Most startlingly, for a professed humanist, Obama — in the Illinois Senate — also voted against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act….

Furthermore, as “National Right to Life News” (April issue) included in its account of Obama’s actual votes on abortion, he “voted to kill a bill that would have required an abortionist to notify at least one parent before performing an abortion on a minor girl from another state.”

These are conspiracies — and that’s the word — by pro-abortion extremists to transport a minor girl across state lines from where she lives, unbeknownst to her parents. This assumes that a minor fully understands the consequences of that irredeemable act. As I was researching this presidential candidate’s views on the unilateral “choice” that takes another’s life, I heard on the radio what Obama said during a Johnstown, Pa., town hall meeting on March 29 as he was discussing the continuing dangers of exposure to HIV/AIDS infections:

“When it comes specifically to HIV/AIDS, the most important prevention is education, which should include — which should include abstinence education and teaching children, you know, that sex is not something casual. But it should also include — it should also include other, you know, information about contraception because, look, I’ve got two daughters, 9 years old and 6 years old. I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals.

“But if they make a mistake,” Obama continued, “I don’t want them punished with a baby.”

Among my children and grandchildren are two daughters and three granddaughters; and when I hear anyone, including a presidential candidate, equate having a baby as punishment, I realize with particular force the impact that the millions of legal abortions in this country have had on respect for human life.

And that’s the crux of the issue: respect for human life.

Thus I turn to a Peter Lawler’s “A Human Person, Actually,” in which Lawler reviews Embryo: A Defense of Human Life, by Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen:

The embryo, George and Tollefsen argue, is a whole being, possessing the integrated capability to go through all the phases of human development. An embryo has what it takes to be a free, rational, deliberating, and choosing being; it is naturally fitted to develop into a being who can be an “uncaused cause,” a genuinely free agent. Some will object, of course, that the embryo is only potentially human. The more precise version of this objection is that the embryo is human—not a fish or a member of some other species—but not yet a person. A person, in this view, is conscious enough to be a free chooser right now. Rights don’t belong to members of our species but to persons, beings free enough from natural determination to be able to exercise their rights. How could someone have rights if he doesn’t even know that he has them?…

Is the embryo a “who”? It’s true enough that we usually don’t bond with embryos or grieve when they die. Doubtless, that’s partly because of our misperception of who or what an embryo is. But it’s also because we have no personal or loving contact with them. We tend to think of persons as beings with brains and hearts; an embryo has neither. But personal significance can’t be limited to those we happen to know and love ourselves; my powers of knowing and loving other persons are quite limited, and given to the distortions of prejudice. Whether an embryo is by nature a “who” can be determined only by philosophical reflection about what we really know.The evidence that George and Tollefsen present suggests that there are only two non-arbitrary ways to consider when a “what” naturally becomes a “who.” Either the embryo is incapable of being anything but a “who”; from the moment he or she comes to be, he or she is a unique and particular being capable of exhibiting all the personal attributes associated with knowing, loving, and choosing. Or a human being doesn’t become a “who” until he or she actually acquires the gift of language and starts displaying distinctively personal qualities. Any point in between these two extremes—such as the point at which a fetus starts to look like a human animal or when the baby is removed from the mother’s womb—is perfectly arbitrary. From a purely rational or scientific view, the price of being unable to regard embryos as “whos” is being unable to regard newborn babies as “whos”….

As I say here,

abortion is of a piece with selective breeding and involuntary euthanasia, wherein the state fosters eugenic practices that aren’t far removed from those of the Third Reich. And when those practices become the norm, what and who will be next? Libertarians, of all people, should be alert to such possibilities. Instead of reflexively embracing “choice” they should be asking whether “choice” will end with fetuses.

Most libertarians, alas, mimic “liberals” and “progressives” on the issue of abortion. But there are no valid libertarian arguments for abortion, just wrong-headed ones.

Are You Happy?

A RERUN OF A POST AT MY OLD BLOG, FROM MAY 6, 2008

Justin Wolfers (Freakonomics blog) has completed a series of six posts about the economics of happiness (here, here, here, here, here, and here). The bottom line, according to Wolfers:

1) Rich people are happier than poor people.
2) Richer countries are happier than poorer countries.
3) As countries get richer, they tend to get happier.

All of which should come as no surprise to anyone, without the benefit of “happiness research.” Regarding which, I agree with Arnold Kling, who says:

My view is that happiness research implies Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada. I believe that you do not learn about economic behavior by watching what people say in response to a survey.

You learn about economic behavior by watching what people actually do.

And…you consult your “priors.” It is axiomatic that individuals prefer more to less; that is, more income yields more satisfaction because it affords access to goods and services of greater variety and higher quality. Moreover, income and the wealth that flows from it are valued for their own sake by most individuals. (That they might be valued because they enable philanthropic endeavors is a case in point.)

It is reasonable to conclude, therefore, that the “law” of diminishing marginal utility, which may apply to particular goods and services, does not generally apply to income or wealth in the aggregate. But, in any event, given that Wolfers’s first conclusion is self-evidently true, the second and third conclusions follow. And they follow logically, not from “happiness research.”

Values and Geography

The World Values Survey is

a worldwide investigation of sociocultural and political change….

… carried out by an international network of social scientists, with local funding for each survey (though in some cases, it has been possible to raise supplementary funds from outside sources). In exchange for providing the data from interviews with a representative national sample of at least 1,000 people in their own society, each participating group gets immediate access to the data from all of the other participating societies. Thus, they are able to compare the basic values and beliefs of the people of their own society with those of more than 60 other societies…..

“Society” here means “nation,” not “society” properly understood. Nevertheless, the cross-national comparisons yielded by the survey are revealing, and generally ring true.

Let’s begin with a graph from an analysis of recent survey results, presented in Ronald Inglehart and Christian Wenzel’s “Changing Mass Priorities: The Link between Modernization and Democracy“:

Locations of 53 societies on global cultural map in 2005-2007

What does it mean? Here are excerpts of the authors’ observations:

… The World Values Survey and EuropeanValues Study (hereafter referred to as the WVS/EVS) provide evidence that the transition from agrarian to industrial society produces one set of changes, and the rise of postindustrial societies produces another set of changes in peoples’ values and motivations. Analyses of WVS/EVS data reveal two major dimensions of cross-cultural variation: a traditional versus secular-rational values dimension and a survival versus self-expression values dimension.These two dimensions tap scores of attitudinal variables, and are robust enough that researchers obtain similar results using various combinations of these variables….

Factor analysis of data from the 43 societies in the 1990 WVS/EVS found that these two dimensions accounted for over half of the cross-national variance in scores of variables. When this analysis was replicated with data from the 1995–1998 surveys, the same two dimensions emerged—although the new analysis included 23 additional countries.12 The same two dimensions also emerged in analysis of data from the 2000–2001 surveys.
Figure 1 shows the locations of 52 countries on these two dimensions, using the data from the 2005–2007 WVS…. Relative scores on these two dimensions have been stable attributes of most countries throughout the period from 1981 to 2007.

Our revised version of modernization theory holds that rising levels of existential security are conducive to a shift from traditional values to secular-rational values, and from survival values to self-expression values. Accordingly, all of the high-income countries rank high on both dimensions, falling into the upper-right region of the chart—while all of the low and lower-middle-income countries rank low on both dimensions, falling into the lower-left region of the chart.

But the evidence also supports the Weberian view that a society’s religious values leave a lasting imprint. The publics of protestant Europe show relatively similar values across scores of questions—as do the publics of Catholic Europe, the Confucian-influenced societies, the Orthodox societies, the English-speaking countries, Latin America, and sub-Saharan Africa. The cross-national differences found in the large-N surveys reflect each society’s economic and socio-cultural history.

Cross-national differences are huge. Thus, the proportion saying that God is very important in their lives ranges from 98 percent in relatively traditional countries to 3 percent in secular-rational countries. Cross-national differences dwarf the differences within given societies….

… Thus, Italy is at the center of Figure 1, near Spain but a substantial distance from most other societies. Although individual Italians can fall anywhere on the map, there is surprisingly little overlap between the prevailing orientations of large groups of Italians and their peers in other countries: most nationalities are at least one or two standard deviations away from the Italians. The same holds true of Slovenians, Norwegians, Mexicans, Americans, Russians, British and other nationalities….

All of that is well and good, but the groupings drawn in Figure 1 are often tenuous.*  To take a few examples:

  • Japan is placed in the Confucian group, but it is closer to the Germanys than it is to other members of the Confucian group.
  • China and South Korea are placed in the Confucian group, but they are sandwiched between members of the Orthodox group.
  • Romania (Orthodox) is closer to Iraq (South Asia) than it is to other members of its assigned group.
  • The conjunction of the South Asia, Latin America, and Africa groups is replete with countries that are closer to each other than they are to other members of their respective groups.
  • The U.S. is lumped with other English-speaking countries. but on the vertical dimension there is a signficant distance (about 3 standard deviations) between the U.S. and Britain.

Further, Figure 1 covers a limited time span. Robustness and completeness would be served by showing comparisons over a longer span, and by showing trends (to the extent that there are any).

Accordingly, using data for 1981-2006 (“National-Level Value Scores on the Two Major Values Dimensions, for All Nations and Waves“), I constructed the graphs below. The first graph is a plot of the means for each country, where a country is included only if it appears in at least three of the five surveys (1981, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2006). The second graph is a plot of the difference between each country’s mean and its predicted position in 2013, as estimated by using the LINEST function of Excel. Although the two graphs are drawn to different scales, because of differences in the spread of plot points, the gridlines in both graphs are 0.25 standard deviations apart. Therefore, a vertical or horizontal distance of 4 gridlines represents 1 standard deviation.

Values - distribution of means, 1981-2006

Values - differences between means and trends

In the first graph, the distance between points indicates degree of significance. Thus, for example, the vertical distance between Japan and Colombia is about 14 gridlines, or 2.5 standard deviations. That is, indeed, a significant difference. Similarly, Sweden is about 13 gridlines (2.25 standard deviations) from Russia in the horizontal dimension; another separation that I would consider significant. Make what you will of it; there are some unsurprising clusters; for example:

  • Several formerly Communist countries are grouped in the northwest quadrant.
  • Nordic countries (Sweden, Denmark, Norway) are grouped in the upper part of the northeast quadrant.
  • Britain, Australia, and Canada form a fairly tight grouping.

On the other hand, here are some other examples:

  • The Britain-Australia-Canada cluster is close to the point for Iceland, which (surprisingly) is fairly far from the the Sweden-Denmark-Norway cluster.
  • Japan — perhaps unsurprisingly, as the most Westernized of Asian nations — stands well apart from China and South Korea, which are in a cluster with former Communist countries.
  • Italy and Spain aren’t significantly far from France and Belgium, nor are the latter significantly far from Finland and Iceland.

The best that I can make of the first graph is a rough east-west split along the horizontal axis, and, of course, a rough less-religious to more-religious split along the vertical axis.

What about the trends that are indicated in the second graph? There, the relevant distance is from the 0,0 intersection of the axes. That is so because the graph depicts the predicted change (in 2013) from each country’s mean for 1981-2006. Only Lithuania is on a course to move vertically by 4 or more gridlines (1 or more standard deviations). Further, there’s a lot of downward movement.

The preceding observations suggest that, in general, there isn’t strong movement away from traditional values toward secular ones. That’s consistent with the Weberian view: religious values have a lasting effect. I would add that they have a lasting effect where they’re not suppressed — as they were in the former Communist countries, and as they are by the “thought police” of many Western European countries and Canada.

There is, however, a definite rightward movement, away from survival values. In fact, several countries are on a course to move horizontally by 4 or more gridlines: Spain, Hungary, Italy, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Norway, Northern Ireland, Belgium, and Nigeria. The movement away from survival values toward what the authors call self-expression values is consistent with the general rise of living standards in much of the world.

In sum, the groupings drawn by the authors in their Figure 1 are strained and uninformative. If you believe that the “values” surveys yield meaningful aggregations, look beyond the authors’ groupings to the data presented in my two graphs. And draw your own conclusions.
__________
* A similar but later mapping is found here. Similar criticisms apply to it.

More Thoughts about Patience and Its Significance

This is a rerun of “Patience as a Tool of Strategy,” (10/03/11), and of “Happy Anniversary to Me” (10/03/12). I have revised the closing paragraphs.

Today is the 16th anniversary of my retirement from full-time employment. I take special delight in this annual observance because my retirement capped a subtle campaign to arrange the end of my employment on terms very favorable to me. The success of the campaign brought a profitable end to my tense relationship with my boss. I liken the campaign to fly-fishing: I reeled in a big fish by accurately casting an irresistible lure then playing the fish into my net. I have long wondered if my boss ever grasped what I had done and how I had done it. The key was patience; more than a year passed between my casting of the lure and the netting of the fish (early retirement with a financial sweetener). Without going into the details of my “fishing expedition,” I can translate them into the elements of success in any major undertaking:

  • strategy — a broad and feasible outline of a campaign to attain a major objective;
  • intelligence — knowledge of the opposition’s objectives, resources, and tactical repertoire, supplemented by timely reporting of his actual moves (especially unanticipated ones);
  • resources — the physical and intellectual wherewithal to accomplish the strategic objective while coping with unforeseen moves by the opposition and strokes of bad luck;
  • tactical flexibility — a willingness and ability to adjust the outline of the campaign, to fill in the outline with maneuvers that take advantage of the opposition’s errors, and to compensate for one’s own mistakes and bad luck;
  • and — as mentioned — a large measure of patience, especially when one is tempted either to quit or escalate blindly.

Patience is not a virtue that accrues to amorphous masses, like nations. It can be found only in individuals or groups of individuals who share the same objectives and are able to work together long enough to attain those objectives. Patience doesn’t necessarily accompany other virtues. After all, Hitler exhibited great patience in his willingness to pursue power despite setbacks and ridicule along the way. The successful pursuit of high office in the United States also requires great patience, but the power of the presidency has been wielded by the likes of Wilson, FDR, LBJ, Nixon, Carter, Clinton, and Obama. What does that say about me? You can read my posts and be the judge, insofar as what I write reflects the kind of person that I am. But in reading my posts, you will learn more about me than you will ever know about aspirants to high office.

*     *     *

Related posts:
A Grand Strategy for the United States
Not-So-Random Thoughts (V) (first entry)