Month: November 2013

Getting It Almost Right

Philosopher Matt Zwolinski writes:

…Libertarians do not deny the importance of community any more than they deny the importance of moral virtue. What they deny is the necessity or appropriateness of centralized state coercion in bringing about either.

The libertarian vision of a society is one of free and responsible individuals, cooperating on their own terms for purposes of mutual benefit. It is a vision that draws its support from a wide variety of moral and empirical beliefs with deep roots in the public political culture. And it is one that contemporary critics of the market would do well to take much more seriously.

Here’s the rub: Zwolinkski seems to assume that just any old moral beliefs will support a “society … of free and responsible, individuals, cooperating on their own terms for purposes of mutual benefit.” But there are moral beliefs that do not support such a society. Where do we find such beliefs? Right here in the U.S. of A., among many places.

There are whole cultures that foment disrespect for and violence toward others, even fellow adherents of the culture. There are whole cultures that disparage responsibility and tear down those who venture to practice it. And instead of acting to diminish the influence of those cultures, the government of the United States, abetted by its leftist adjuncts, has sheltered them from criticism and, instead, turned against the nominally dominant culture that fosters responsibility, respect, and civility.

A while ago, I listed some criteria for a moral code that supports liberty. The list follows, with comments added in boldface:

1. A code must be socially evolved, not imposed by the state. (Though the state may enforce a moral code that reflects social norms.) Norms in the U.S. have been subverted by state sponsorship of easy divorce, abortion, illegitimacy, and pornography — to name some.

2. A code that fosters beneficent behavior must conform to the Ten Commandments, or to the last six of them, at least. See #1.

3. Those who dissent from the code must be able to voice their dissent; otherwise, the code ceases to be socially evolved…. The voices of dissent have been muffled by campus speech codes and dominant left wing of the media. Dissent is characterized as “extremist” and “loony.” Leading politicians are cheerleaders for the stifling of dissent, and have succeeded in penalizing many who think “wrong” thoughts (“hate” crimes) and too openly express their opposition to state-sponsored social change (prosecutions under the “equal rights” mantra).

4. Those who cannot abide the code must be able to exit society’s jurisdiction, without penalty. See #7.

There is more, if a society is part of a larger polity.

5. That polity is illegitimate if it overrides the otherwise legitimate moral codes of its constituent societies. See #3.

6. That polity is illegitimate if it honors inimical moral codes, either overtly or by making acts of obeisance to them…. See #3.

7. That polity is illegitimate if, in overriding those moral codes, it effectively negates voice and exit. (This has happened in America, where we are hostages in our own land.) See this post for more.

Zwolinski admits that libertarianism, as envisioned by most libertarians, is a hollow shell. What he fails to admit is that the hollow shell can be filled with moral precepts — both evolved and state-imposed — that suppress liberty. One need not look beyond these shores to find such suppression.

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Related posts:
Refuting Rousseau and His Progeny
Libertarianism, Marriage, and the True Meaning of Family Values
The Consequences of Roe v. Wade
The Old Eugenics in a New Guise
The Left, Abortion, and Adolescence
Moral Luck
Consider the Children
Same-Sex Marriage
“Equal Protection” and Homosexual Marriage
Law, Liberty, and Abortion
Equal Time: The Sequel
Marriage and Children
Abortion and the Slippery Slope
More on Abortion and Crime
Peter Singer’s Agenda
Parenting, Religion, Culture, and Liberty
Singer Said It
A “Person” or a “Life”?
A Wrong-Headed Take on Abortion
Crime, Explained
“Family Values,” Liberty, and the State
Intellectuals and Capitalism
Civil Society and Homosexual “Marriage”
Rawls Meets Bentham
The Left
Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Due Process, and Equal Protection
Rationalism, Social Norms, and Same-Sex “Marriage”
“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review
Our Enemy, the State
Pseudo-Libertarian Sophistry vs. True Libertarianism
The Left’s Agenda
More Pseudo-Libertarianism
More about Conservative Governance
The Meaning of Liberty
Positive Liberty vs. Liberty
On Self-Ownership and Desert
In Defense of Marriage
The Left and Its Delusions
Burkean Libertarianism
Crimes against Humanity
Abortion and Logic
True Libertarianism, One More Time
Human Nature, Liberty, and Rationalism
Utilitarianism and Psychopathy
The Myth That Same-Sex “Marriage” Causes No Harm
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
Libertarianism and Morality
Libertarianism and Morality: A Footnote
Society and the State
Are You in the Bubble?
Legislating Morality
Legislating Morality (II)
Abortion, Doublethink, and Left-Wing Blather
Abortion, “Gay Rights,” and Liberty
Race and Reason: The Achievement Gap — Causes and Implications
Liberty and Society
Tolerance on the Left
The Eclipse of “Old America”
Genetic Kinship and Society
Liberty as a Social Construct: Moral Relativism?
Defending Liberty against (Pseudo) Libertarians
“Conversing” about Race
Defining Liberty
“We the People” and Big Government
The Culture War

The Culture War

“Culture war” is a familiar term, but one that I hadn’t thought deeply about until a few days ago. I read something about abortion in which “culture war” occurred. The fog lifted, and I grasped what should have been obvious to me all along: The “culture war” isn’t about “culture,” it’s about morality and liberty. Rod Dreher, in the course of a premature paean to Barack Obama’s “diplomatic” approach to ideological strife, gets it right:

The source of our culture war is conflicting visions of what it means to be free and what it means to be an American – and even what it means to be fully human. More concretely, as Princeton’s Robert George has written, they have to do mainly “with sexuality, the transmitting and taking of human life, and the place of religion and religiously informed moral judgment in public life.” Because the cultural left and cultural right hold to irreconcilable orthodoxies on these questions, we find scant cultural consensus. That’s life in America. Unless we become a homogenous country, we will continue to struggle to live together, staying true to our deepest beliefs while respecting the liberty of others to stay true to their own. But we do not live in a libertarian Utopia. We can’t have it all. If, for example, courts constitutionalized same-sex marriage, as gay activists seek, that would have a ground-shaking effect on religious liberty, public schooling and other aspects of American life. Without question, it would intensify the culture war, as partisans of the left and right fight for what each considers a sacred principle. What irritates conservatives is the liberals’ groundless conceit that they fight from a values-neutral position, while the right seeks to impose its norms on others. Nonsense. Marriage was a settled issue until liberals began using courts to impose their moral vision on (so far) an unwilling majority. Who fired the first shot there? (“Obama Won’t End the Culture Wars,” RealClearPolitics, February 16, 2009)

And it doesn’t matter whether the unwilling are a majority or a minority. Just about everyone is a loser in the war against morality and liberty. When social norms — long-established rules of behavior — are sundered willy-nilly the result is a breakdown of the voluntary order known as civil society. The liberty to live a peaceful, happy, and even prosperous life depends on civil society: the daily observance of person X’s negative rights by persons W, Y, and Z — and vice versa. That is so because it is impossible and — more importantly — undesirable for the state to police everyone’s behavior. Liberty depends, therefore, on the institutions of society — family, church, club, and the like — through which individuals learn to treat one another with respect, through which individuals often come to the aid of one another, and through which instances of disrespect can be noted, publicized, and even punished (e.g., by criticism and ostracism). That is civil society, which the state ought to protect, but instead usurps and destroys. Usurping is one of the state’s primary (and illegitimate) functions. The state establishes agencies (e.g., public schools, welfare), gives them primary and even sole jurisdiction in many matters, and funds them with tax money that could have gone to private institutions. Worse, however, is the way in which the state destroys the social norms that foster social harmony — mutual respect and trust — without which a people cannot flourish.  As I observed some years ago, in connection with same-sex “marriage”:

Given the signals being sent by the state, the rate of formation of traditional, heterosexual marriages will continue to decline. (According to the Census Bureau, the percentage of adult males who are married dropped steadily from 71.1 percent in the 1960 census to 58.6 percent in the 2000 census; for females, the percentage dropped from 67.4 to 54.6. About half of each drop is explained by a rise in the percentage of adults who never marry, the other half by a rise in the percentage of divorced adults. Those statistics are what one should expect when the state signals — as it began to do increasingly after 1960 — that traditional marriage is no special thing by making it easier for couples to divorce, by subsidizing single mothers, and by encouraging women to work outside the home.)

“Thanks” to the signals sent by the state — many of them in the form of legislative, executive, and judicial dictates — we now have not just easy divorce, subsidized illegitimacy, and legions of non-mothering mothers, but also abortion, concerted (and deluded) efforts to defeminize females and to neuter or feminize males, forced association (with accompanying destruction of property and employment rights), suppression of religion, absolution of pornography, and the encouragement of “alternative lifestyles” that feature disease, promiscuity, and familial instability. The state, of course, doesn’t act of its own volition. It acts at the behest of special interests — interests with a “cultural” agenda. Dreher calls them liberals. I call them left-statists. They are bent on the eradication of civil society — nothing less — in favor of a state-directed Rousseauvian dystopia from which morality and liberty will have vanished, except in Orwellian doublespeak.

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Related reading: Trevor Thomas, “The Laughable Liberal ‘Moral Imperative’,” American Thinker, December 1, 2013 Deborah C. Tyler, “Morality, Anti-Morality, and Socialism,” American Thinker, December 1, 2013 Related posts: Refuting Rousseau and His Progeny Libertarianism, Marriage, and the True Meaning of Family Values The Consequences of Roe v. Wade The Old Eugenics in a New Guise The Left, Abortion, and Adolescence Moral Luck Consider the Children Same-Sex Marriage “Equal Protection” and Homosexual Marriage Law, Liberty, and Abortion Equal Time: The Sequel Marriage and Children Abortion and the Slippery Slope More on Abortion and Crime Peter Singer’s Agenda Parenting, Religion, Culture, and Liberty Singer Said It A “Person” or a “Life”? A Wrong-Headed Take on Abortion Crime, Explained “Family Values,” Liberty, and the State Intellectuals and Capitalism Civil Society and Homosexual “Marriage” Rawls Meets Bentham The Left Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Due Process, and Equal Protection Rationalism, Social Norms, and Same-Sex “Marriage” “Intellectuals and Society”: A Review Our Enemy, the State Pseudo-Libertarian Sophistry vs. True Libertarianism The Left’s Agenda More Pseudo-Libertarianism More about Conservative Governance The Meaning of Liberty Positive Liberty vs. Liberty On Self-Ownership and Desert In Defense of Marriage The Left and Its Delusions Burkean Libertarianism Crimes against Humanity Abortion and Logic True Libertarianism, One More Time Human Nature, Liberty, and Rationalism Utilitarianism and Psychopathy The Myth That Same-Sex “Marriage” Causes No Harm The Spoiled Children of Capitalism Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty Libertarianism and Morality Libertarianism and Morality: A Footnote Society and the State Are You in the Bubble? Legislating Morality Legislating Morality (II) Abortion, Doublethink, and Left-Wing Blather Abortion, “Gay Rights,” and Liberty Race and Reason: The Achievement Gap — Causes and Implications Liberty and Society Tolerance on the Left The Eclipse of “Old America” Genetic Kinship and Society Liberty as a Social Construct: Moral Relativism? Defending Liberty against (Pseudo) Libertarians “Conversing” about Race Defining Liberty “We the People” and Big Government

Evolution and Race

UPDATED 11/24/13 AND 02/11/14

Have you read about Skull 5, a 1.8-million-year-old fossil? Well, it has been in the news lately. Here’s some of the coverage:

Scientists trying to unravel the origins of humanity mostly study scraps — some ancient teeth here, a damaged bone there. But now a lucky research team has uncovered a fossil superstar: the first complete skull of an early human adult from the distant past.

The 1.8-million-year-old fossil, known as Skull 5, is like nothing seen before. It has a small brain case and a heavy, jutting jaw, as did some of humanity’s older, more apelike ancestors. But other bones linked to Skull 5 show its owner had relatively short arms and long legs, as does our own species, Homo sapiens. Those who’ve studied Skull 5 say it also provides support for the provocative idea that, 1.8 million years ago, only one kind of early human held sway, rather than the throng of different species listed in today’s textbooks….

Paleoanthropologist Susan Antón of New York University, while praising the new analysis, says the Dmanisi team didn’t compare fossil features, such as the anatomy around the front teeth, that differ most starkly between two different species of early humans. So the Dmanisi team’s hypothesis that there was only one lineage is not totally convincing, she says… (Traci Watson, “Skull Discovery Sheds Light on Human Species,” USA Today, October 17, 2013)

Here’s more:

In the eastern European nation of Georgia, a group of researchers has excavated a 1.8 million-year-old skull of an ancient human relative, whose only name right now is Skull 5. They report their findings in the journal Science, and say it belongs to our genus, called Homo.

“This is most complete early Homo skull ever found in the world,” said lead study author David Lordkipanidze, researcher at the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi….

The variation in physical features among the Dmanisi hominid specimens is comparable to the degree of diversity found in humans today, suggesting that they all belong to one species, Lordkipanidze said….

Now it gets more controversial: Lordkipanidze and colleagues also propose that these individuals are members of a single evolving Homo erectus species, examples of which have been found in Africa and Asia. The similarities between the new skull from Georgia and Homo erectus remains from Java, Indonesia, for example, may mean there was genetic “continuity across large geographic distances,” the study said.

What’s more, the researchers suggest that the fossil record of what have been considered different Homo species from this time period — such as Homo ergaster, Homo rudolfensis and Homo habilis — could actually be variations on a single species, Homo erectus. That defies the current understanding of how early human relatives should be classified….

The Dmanisi fossils are a great find, say anthropology researchers not involved with the excavation. But they’re not sold on the idea that this is the same Homo erectus from both Africa and Asia — or that individual Homo species from this time period are really all one species.

“The specimen is wonderful and an important contribution to the hominin record in a temporal period where there are woefully too few fossils,” said Lee Berger, paleoanthropologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, in an e-mail.

But the suggestion that these fossils prove an evolving lineage of Homo erectus in Asia and Africa, Berger said, is “taking the available evidence too far.”

…He criticized the authors of the new study for not comparing the fossils at Dmanisi to A. sediba or to more recent fossils found in East Africa…. (Elizabeth Landau, “Skull Sparks Human Evolution Controversy,” CNN, October 19, 2013)

I will go further and say this: Even if 1.8 million years ago there was a single species from which today’s human beings are descended, today’s human beings don’t necessarily belong to a single species or sub-species.

In fact, some reputable scientists have advanced a theory that is consistent with racial divergence:

Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending begin The 10,000 Year Explosion [link added] with a remark from the paleontologist Stephen J. Gould, who said that “there’s been no biological change in humans for 40,000 or 50,000 years.” They also cite the evolutionist Ernst Mayr, who agrees that “man’s evolution towards manness suddenly came to a halt” in the same epoch. Such claims capture the consensus in anthropology, too, which dates the emergence of “behaviorally modern humans” — beings who acted much more like us than like their predecessors — to about 45,000 years ago.

But is the timeline right? Did human evolution really stop? If not, our sense of who we are — and how we got this way — may be radically altered. Messrs. Cochran and Harpending, both scientists themselves, dismiss the standard view. Far from ending, they say, evolution has accelerated since humans left Africa 40,000 years ago and headed for Europe and Asia.

Evolution proceeds by changing the frequency of genetic variants, known as “alleles.” In the case of natural selection, alleles that enable their bearers to leave behind more offspring will become more common in the next generation. Messrs. Cochran and Harpending claim that the rate of change in the human genome has been increasing in recent millennia, to the point of turmoil. Literally hundreds or thousands of alleles, they say, are under selection, meaning that our social and physical environments are favoring them over other — usually older — alleles. These “new” variants are sweeping the globe and becoming more common.

But genomes don’t just speed up their evolution willy-nilly. So what happened, the authors ask, to keep human evolution going in the “recent” past? Two crucial events, they contend, had to do with food production. As humans learned the techniques of agriculture, they abandoned their diffuse hunter-gatherer ways and established cities and governments. The resulting population density made humans ripe for infectious diseases like smallpox and malaria. Alleles that helped protect against disease proved useful and won out.

The domestication of cattle for milk production also led to genetic change. Among people of northern European descent, lactose intolerance — the inability to digest milk in adulthood — is unusual today. But it was universal before a genetic mutation arose about 8,000 years ago that made lactose tolerance continue beyond childhood. Since you can get milk over and over from a cow, but can get meat from it only once, you can harvest a lot more calories over time for the same effort if you are lactose tolerant. Humans who had this attribute would have displaced those who didn’t, all else being equal. (If your opponent has guns and you don’t, drinking milk won’t save you.)

To make their case for evolution having continued longer than is usually claimed, Messrs. Cochran and Harpending remind us that dramatic changes in human culture appeared about 40,000 years ago, resulting in painting, sculpture, and better tools and weapons. A sudden change in the human genome, they suggest, made for more creative, inventive brains. But how could such a change come about? The authors propose that the humans of 40,000 years ago occasionally mated with Neanderthals living in Europe, before the Neanderthals became extinct. The result was an “introgression” of Neanderthal alleles into the human lineage. Some of those alleles may have improved brain function enough to give their bearers an advantage in the struggle for survival, thus becoming common.

In their final chapter, Messrs. Cochran and Harpending venture into recorded history by observing two interesting facts about Ashkenazi Jews (those who lived in Europe after leaving the Middle East): They are disproportionately found among intellectual high-achievers — Nobel Prize winners, world chess champions, people who score well on IQ tests — and they are victims of rare genetic diseases, like Gaucher’s and Tay-Sachs. The authors hypothesize that these two facts are connected by natural selection.

Just as sickle-cell anemia results from having two copies of an allele that protects you against malaria if you have just one, perhaps each Ashkenazi disease occurs when you have two copies of an allele that brings about something useful when you have just one. That useful thing, according to Messrs. Cochran and Harpending, is higher cognitive ability. They argue that the rare diseases are unfortunate side-effects of natural selection for intelligence, which Messrs. Cochran and Harpending think happened during the Middle Ages in Europe, when Jews rarely intermarried with other Europeans. (Christopher F. Chabris, “Last-Minute Changes,” The Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2009)

It is said that, despite the differences across races, all humans beings have in common 96 percent of their genes. Well, if I told you that humans and chimpanzees have about the same percentage of their genes in common, would you consider chimpanzees to be nothing more than superficially different human beings who belong to the same sub-species? Just remember this: The “species problem” remains unsolved.

So what if human beings belong to a variety of different sub-species? A candid scientific admission of that fact would put an end to the nonsense the “we’re all the same under the skin.” We”re not, and it’s long past time to own up to it, and to quit using the power of the state to strive for a kind of equality that is unattainable.

UPDATE (11/24/13):

And there are some who prefer to be sub-human.

UPDATE (02/11/14):

Although there are out-and-out disbelievers and cautious skeptics, some recent research in a field known as epigenetics suggests that behavioral conditioning can yield heritable traits. If true, it means that evolution is shaped by cultural influences, thus reinforcing positive traits (e.g., hard work and law-abidingness) among those people who possess and inculcate such traits, while also reinforcing negative traits (e.g., violence, shiftlessness) among those people who possess inculcate such traits.

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Related reading:
Gregory Gorelik and Todd D. Shackleford, “A Review of Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending, The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution,” Evolutionary Psychology, 2010. 8(1): 113-118
Carl Zimmer, “Christening the Earliest Members of Our Genus,” The New York Times, October 24, 2013

Related posts:
Race and Reason: The Derbyshire Debacle
Race and Reason: The Victims of Affirmative Action
Race and Reason: The Achievement Gap — Causes and Implications

Who Shot JFK, and Why?

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 11/22/13; UPDATED 09/25/14 AND 06/26/15; REVISED 06/27/15

On this, the 50th anniversary of the murder of John F. Kennedy, I refer you to my recollections of the day (posted two years ago), and offer the following thoughts about the killing.

I recently watched the NOVA production, Cold Case JFK, which documents the application of current forensic technology to the 50-year-old case. The investigators’ give a convincing explanation of the shooting in Dallas. The explanation supports the original “verdict” of the Warren Report: Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone shooter. He, and only he, fired the shots that killed JFK and wounded John Connally, then governor of Texas. The NOVA program moves me from “reasonable doubt” to “beyond a reasonable doubt,” with respect to who shot JFK and how.

What about the thesis advanced by James B. Reston Jr. that Oswald’s real target was Connally? Possibly, inasmuch as Oswald wasn’t a sniper-class shooter. Here’s a scenario that’s consistent with the timing of events in Dealey Plaza: Oswald can tell that his first shot missed his target. He got off a quick second shot, which hit JFK, who’s in line with Connally, passed through JFK and hit Connally. There was no obvious, dramatic reaction from Connally, even though he was hit. So Oswald fired a quick third shot, which hit Kennedy in the back of the head instead of hitting Connally, who by that time had slumped into his wife’s lap. (Go here for the Warren Commission’s chronology of the shots and their effects.)

Reston’s thesis is that Oswald went after Connally because Oswald’s discharge from the Marine Corps was downgraded from “honorable” to “undesirable” while Connally was Secretary of the Navy. The downgrading hurt Oswald’s pride and his ability to get a good job in those days when employers were allowed to hire whom they pleased. I have read Reston’s book and can tell you that it is a piece of padded fluff. Padded as it is, the book consists of only 183 pages of text, set in large type on small pages. Reston offers no evidence other than Oswald’s grudge against Connally and (supposed) lack of of grudge against JFK. Reston harms his case by ascribing unsourced and obviously fabricated words and thoughts to his characters. I say “characters” because Reston has fashioned something that reads more like a novel than a history.

Reston could be right, but we’ll never know if he is or isn’t. The truth of the matter died with Oswald on November 24, 1963. In any event, if Reston is right, it would mean that there was no conspiracy to murder JFK.

The only conspiracy theory that might still be worth considering is the idea that Oswald was gunning for JFK because he was somehow maneuvered into doing so by LBJ, the CIA, Fidel Castro, the Mafia, or the Russians. (See, for example, Philip Shenon’s “‘Maybe We Missed Something’: Warren Commission Insider Publicly Concedes That JFK Assassination Was Likely a Conspiracy,” The Washington Post, September 22, 2014, republished in The National Post.) The murder of Oswald by Ruby conveniently plays into that theory. But I say that the burden of proof is on conspiracy theorists, for whom the obvious is not titillating enough. The obvious is Oswald — a leftist loser and less-than-honorably discharged Marine with a chip on his shoulder, a domineering mother, an unhappy home life, and a menial job. In other words, the kind of loser with a gun who now appears almost daily in the news, having slaughtered family members, former co-workers, or random strangers. (This ubiquity is, of course, a manifestation of the media’s anti-gun bias, but that’s another story.)

Finally, after 50 years as a moderate skeptic of the Warren Report, I am satisfied that Lee Harvey Oswald was the only shooter in Dallas, and that he wasn’t part of a conspiracy.  Given that, it is immaterial whether Oswald was gunning for JFK or Connally. He killed JFK, and the rest — for good or ill — is history.

That history still resounds with absurd claims that an “atmosphere of hate in Dallas” (right-wing, of course) was somehow responsible for the murder of JFK. How did this “atmosphere” — invented by the media to deflect blame from a leftist killer — cause Oswald to take aim at JFK or Connally? By “atmospheric” induction? There’s a conspiracy theory for you.

Lincoln, the Poet President

Seven score and ten years ago, Abraham Lincoln delivered a “little noted nor long remembered” speech at Gettysburg. The 150th anniversary of that speech is a fitting occasion on which to recall Lincoln’s poetic prose.

Lincoln ended his First Inaugural Address (March 4, 1861) with these words:

…We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (November 19, 1863) is no less majestic:

…we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Lincoln’s eloquence soared again in his Second Inaugural Address (March 4, 1865), delivered just weeks before the end of the Civil War:

…Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

“We the People” and Big Government

This post incorporates three earlier installments and completes the series.

When the Framers of the Constitution began the preamble with “We the People” and spoke as if the Constitution had been submitted to “the People” for ratification, they were indulging in rhetorical flourishes (at best) and misleading collectivization (at worst). The Founders may have been brave and honorable men, and their work — as long as it lasted — served liberty-loving Americans well. But do not forget that the Framers were politicians eager to sell a new framework of government. They were not gods or even demi-gods. They served liberty ill when they invoked the idea of a national will — expressed through government. Their coinage lends undeserved credence and emotional support to the rhetoric of statist demagogues, a breed of which Barack Obama is exemplary.

*     *     *

I make two basic points in this very long post:

1. It is a logical and factual error to apply the collective “we” to Americans, except when referring generally to the citizens of the United States. Other instances of “we” (e.g., “we” won World War II, “we” elected Barack Obama) are fatuous and presumptuous. In the first instance, only a small fraction of Americans still living had a hand in the winning of World War II. In the second instance, Barack Obama was elected by amassing the votes of fewer than 25 percent of the number of Americans living in 2008 and 2012. “We the People” — that stirring phrase from the Constitution’s preamble — was never more hollow than it is today.

2. Further, the logical and factual error supports the unwarranted view that the growth of government somehow reflects a “national will” or consensus of Americans. Thus, appearances to the contrary (e.g., the adoption and expansion of national “social insurance” schemes, the proliferation of cabinet departments, the growth of the administrative state) a sizable fraction of Americans (perhaps a majority) did not want government to grow to its present size and degree of intrusiveness. And a sizable fraction (perhaps a majority) would still prefer that it shrink in both dimensions. In fact, The growth of government is an artifact of formal and informal arrangements that, in effect, flout the wishes of many (most?) Americans. The growth of government was not and is not the will of “we Americans,” “Americans on the whole,” “Americans in the aggregate,” or any other mythical consensus.

Continued below the fold. (more…)

“Social Insurance” Isn’t Insurance — Nor Is Obamacare

Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (as revised and expanded by Obamacare) are by far the costliest forms of “social insurance” in the United States. According to estimates prepared by the Congressional Budget Office, those programs (including ancillary activities, such as insurance subsidies) will cost $3.3 trillion in 2023. However, the feds will collect only $1.6 trillion in “social insurance” taxes in 2023. That’s a $1 trillion increase in the “social insurance” deficit from its level in 2013. (Derived from Summary Table 1, Table 1-1, and Table 1-3 of “The Budget and Fiscal Outlook: Fiscal Years 2013 to 2023,” February 2013.)

I put quotation marks around “social insurance” because it isn’t insurance, for the reasons discussed in this post. What is it? Just another set of programs designed to redistribute income, mainly from those who’ve earned it to those who haven’t. “Social insurance” is a trickle-down transfer-payment scheme, wherein some of the money reaches its intended targets after passing through the sticky fingers of the overpaid bureaucrats who live in and around Washington, D.C.

What’s the difference between “social insurance” and real insurance? Insurance — to be insurance and not merely a subsidy — must have the following characteristics:

  • It must apply to defined, undesirable events that might befall any person or business in the insured group.
  • The group will be defined by specific characteristics (e.g., age range, gender, medical history, location relative to a known hazard such as forest fires).
  • The probability of occurrence (frequency) of a particular event can be estimated with some accuracy, for the group as a whole.
  • There is no way to predict the timing or frequency with which the event will befall a particular member of the group.
  • In exchange for a specified premium, an insurer agrees to pay each member of the group a specified amount should an insured event befall that member during a specified time period.
  • The insurer will periodically revise his estimate of the probability of the occurrence of various events and the costs of insuring against those those events, and may accordingly change the terms on which he offers insurance (e.g., covered events, premium, amount to be reimbursed, conditions for insurance eligibility).
  • Insurance should be self-sustaining. The insurer, taking into account risk and uncertainty, will strive for a situation where, in most years, premiums cover payouts plus administrative expenses and enough profit to keep the insurer from moving his capital to other, more-rewarding ventures.
  • But insurance cannot be sustained by force — through taxes levied on taxpayers at large to provide benefits to certain classes of persons, for example. Any such program fails to meet the criteria listed above, and is nothing more than a subsidy.

“Social insurance” isn’t insurance because it fails on all counts.

Consider Social Security. Retirement is not an undesirable event that might occur; it is a desirable event toward which almost everyone strives. Social Security is merely a government-imposed substitute for the prudent act of saving toward one’s retirement and then drawing on the accumulated nest-egg to finance that retirement. The usual excuse for Social Security is that a lot of people, especially low-income persons, can’t or won’t save enough to maintain some (arbitrary) standard of living during retirement. In other words, Social Security isn’t insurance against an unpredictable event, it’s a mechanism for subsidizing low-income and imprudent persons at the expense of their opposites.

The same analysis applies to Medicare, Medicaid, and other forms of federal and State “social insurance.” The risk pools are huge and ill-defined. The premiums are either nominal (Medicare) or non-existent (Medicaid and other programs). All such programs are nothing more than non-contractual “promises” to pay certain amounts for certain events, regardless of the probability of those events and their associated costs.

Even programs that mimic insurance — unemployment benefits and workers’ compensation, for example — are really subsidies because of their all-encompassing nature and the forcible extraction of “premiums” from employers. Those who are at risk for unemployment and on-the-job injuries have no say in the matter of how much insurance they wish to purchase and how much they are willing to pay for it. Unemployment “insurance” is an especially weird kind of “insurance,” in that the benefits expand and contract according to the whims of government actors.

Enough said about “social insurance” as insurance. It simply isn’t insurance. And thanks largely to Obamacare, health insurance is going the way of “social insurance.”

Health insurance, despite heavy regulation and the distortions produced by tax breaks, has until recently retained the characteristics of true insurance. Now comes Obamacare, the point of which is to move toward universal, government-controlled health care under the guise of “insuring” a larger fraction of Americans. What Obamacare really does, of course, is to force Americans, as consumers and taxpayers, to buy and subsidize “insurance” that covers events that aren’t health risks; for example: so-called preventive care, the use of contraceptives, abortion, various kinds of maternity and pediatric care, and the coverage of “children” up to the age of 26.

What about mandatory coverage of pre-existing conditions? Here’s Greg Mankiw on the subject:

A large part of the motivation of the Affordable Care Act is to provide insurance to those with pre-existing conditions. Under the law, insurance is offered to everyone at a price based on overall community risk, not the risk estimated by the insurance company based on a person’s particular characteristics. That has been deemed “fair” by advocates of the law.

I wonder whether advocates of this view are concerned with other insurance markets.  Teenage drivers pay a lot more for auto insurance. The old pay a lot more for life insurance.  Life insurance companies require health screening before granting a policy. Is this a problem, or the natural and desirable functioning of markets?

The answer to Mankiw’s question is that advocates of Obamacare aren’t really trying to insure anyone, they’re trying (successfully) to ram socialized medicine down the throats of Americans. Obamacare is a step in exactly the wrong direction. It’s an effort to emulate the long-discredited nationalized health-care systems of Canada and Britain (small sample here), complete with death panels. And sure enough, they’re already here, in Oregon.

I was prompted to write this post because I happened on a piece by Scott Gallipo, writing at The American [Pseudo-] Conservative. In a patent attempt to defend Obamacare, Gallipo begs real conservatives to “Stop Comparing Health Insurance to Car Insurance.” Gallipo’s “argument” is fatally confused; for example:

It’s helpful to step back and remind ourselves why we ask doctors to perform “preventative maintenance” on our bodies. If diseases are caught early, they’re often cheaper to treat or cure. If we stay in good physical shape, we reduce the chances of developing many diseases in the first place. When we preventatively maintain our cars, however, we are merely forestalling problems that we would have to pay out-of-pocket for anyway. If you don’t change your oil, your car insurance plan isn’t going to cover the cost of fixing a seized engine.

Gallipo is trying to distinguish preventive health care from preventive auto care, but he fails to do so. For one thing, he wrongly asserts that preventive maintenance forestalls problems that would have to be paid for out-of-pocket. Not necessarily. That’s why warranties (insurance) and their cost (premiums in disguise) are baked into the price of new autos. And that’s why many auto buyers obtain extended warranties. As it happens, I obtained my extended warranty from GEICO. It’s additional coverage under my auto policy, and it commands an additional premium And what does GEICO call my extended warranty? Mechanical breakdown coverage (i.e., insurance).

More fundamentally, Gallipo makes some heroic assumptions about preventive care. Yes, routine tests will sometimes result in the detection and treatment of conditions that would otherwise be detected at a later stage. But the cost of checkups and lab tests, when ordered wholesale by doctors because they’re “free,” far exceeds the benefits. (See this, this, this, and this, for example.)

Most fundamentally, Gallipo begs the question. In his (incorrect) view, preventive “care” on a massive scale is a “good thing.” Therefore, it should be covered by insurance. But the massive overuse of “free” checkups and lab tests has nothing to do with insurance, and everything to do with the nationalization of health care. Those “free” checkups and tests will not be paid for by risk-related premiums; they will be paid for by taxpayers and the millions of Americans whose Obamacare “premiums” are really “contributions” to an open-ended national health-care plan.

*     *     *

Related posts:
Rationing and Health Care
The Perils of Nannyism: The Case of Obamacare
More about the Perils of Obamacare
Health-Care Reform: The Short of It
Toward a Risk-Free Economy
Enough of “Social Welfare”
Points of Agreement and Reinforcement
Death Panels
Government Failure Comes as a Shock to Liberals
The View from Here
Another Obama Lie, and a Rant

Another Obama Lie, and a Rant

From a CBS News story about the latest Obamacare fiasco:

President Obama on Thursday announced an administrative policy change that will let people keep their existing health insurance for another year, but the plan is already facing pushback from Republicans, some Democrats and the insurance industry….

…Mr. Obama predicted Thursday, “There’s gonna be some state-by-state evaluation on how this is handled.”

He added, however, that the “key point” is that it’s no longer the Affordable Care Act that’s responsible for plans being dropped….

What a whopper. Of course the ACA is responsible. Insurance companies were diligently complying with the ACA. And that didn’t happen overnight; they began to gear up for compliance as soon as ACA became law.

Now, one of Obama’s minions issues — by unconstitutional fiat — a “fix” that can’t easily be implemented, even if allowed by the insurance commissioners of some States. It’s a blatant and cynical PR move.

Here’s the rant — mine, not Obama’s (he can rant on his own time):

Left-wing amateur hour has dragged on 4-10/12 years too long. As the bumper sticker says, don’t blame me, I didn’t vote for him.

Did I foresee this particular fiasco? Of course not, but I foresaw that Obama would try to use government in ways that would harm most hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding Americans. Well, thanks to Obamacare, tax increases, racial politics, and various regulatory edicts he’s met my expectations. He’s also doing a good job of turning the U.S. into a second-rate power, unable to defend Americans’ far-flung overseas interests against the Russian and Chinese power grabs that are almost certainly in the works.

Even if Obama had succeeded in “bringing the country together” (or something to that effect), it would be a country that millions of us want no part of. On Thursday, November 28, if I give thanks for anything, it will be for a divided nation in which there is still principled and vigorous resistance to the likes of Barack Obama.
*     *     *
Related posts: Just about everything here.

Progressive Taxation Is Alive and Well in The U.S. of A.

THIS IS A RE-POSTING OF THE ORIGINAL, WHICH APPEARED ON JULY 20, 2012

Will Wilkinson, in the course of a good post about Obama’s big lie, writes:

I’d like to thank my colleague [a blogger who goes by D.R.] for helping me see how to make my case stronger. Of the comprehensive American tax system, he writes:

The fact of the matter is that the American tax code as a whole is almost perfectly flat. The bottom 20% of earners make 3% of the income and pay 2% of the taxes; the middle 20% make 11% and pay 10%; and the top 1% make 21% and pay 22%. Steve Forbes couldn’t have drawn it up any better.

I happen to agree with Steve Forbes that a flat tax best reflects our intuitions about proportionality and fairness, so I’m tickled to see that our system is so fair!

The link attached to “almost perfectly flat” leads to this:

The source is a “sister organization” of the union-dominated lobbying organization, Citizens for Tax Justice, which is responsible for a graph that I reproduced in “Elizabeth Warren Is All Wet“:

As I said in “Elizabeth Warren…,” Citizens for Justice

acknowledges (backhandedly) that “the rich” pay their “fair share” of all taxes — federal, State, and local….

[G]iven the source, this [graph] can be taken as a “worst case” depiction of the distribution of the total tax burden. “The rich” are paying their “fair share,” and then some, unless you believe (as leftists seem to believe) that  “the rich” are supposed to take care of everyone else.

Not surprisingly, the statistics for 2011 yield a graph that looks much like the one just above:

What puzzled me, briefly, is why the Citizens for Tax Justice and Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy split the top quintile into chunks. Then it occurred to me that those left-wing outfits are trying to suppress the fact that taxpayers in the top quintile pay a disproportionate share of all taxes. Thus:

Further, the effective tax rate isn’t quite as flat as the left-wing outfits would like gullible readers to believe. Thus:

If that isn’t the picture of a progressive tax structure, I’ll eat my external hard drive.

The innumerate reader might say something like “Gee willikers, people who make more ought to pay more in taxes.” Think about it for a minute. If someone earning $100,000 pays taxes at the same rate as someone earning $10,000, the person earning $100,000 does pay more in taxes. For example: $100,000 times a tax rate of 15 percent is greater than $10,000 times a tax rate of 15 percent — 10 times greater, to be precise. Raise to 30 percent the tax rate on the person making $100,000 and, voila, his tax bill is 20 times greater than that of the person making $10,000.

A progressive tax structure penalizes success, which inhibits economic growth, which means fewer jobs and lower incomes for the low-income persons who are the supposed beneficiaries of progressive taxation. I say “supposed” because the “house” (high-paid office holders and bureaucrats, all with cushy health insurance and pension plans) takes its very large cut before any of the money extorted from those who earn it trickles down to those who don’t earn it.

Related reading:
Greg Mankiw, “The Progressivity of Taxes and Transfers
Steve Landsburg, “Charting the Tax Plans

Related posts:
A True Flat Tax
Taxing the Rich
More about Taxing the Rich
In Defense of the 1%
The Burden of Government
Economic Growth Since World War II
Economics: A Survey
The Barbarians Within and the State of the Union
Why Are Interest Rates So Low?
Estimating the Rahn Curve: Or, How Government Spending Inhibits Economic Growth
America’s Financial Crisis Is Now

Do Managers Make a Difference?

INTRODUCTION

The activity of managing ranges from the supervision of one other person in the performance of a menial task to the supervision of the executive branch of the government of the United States. (The latter is a fair description of a president’s constitutional responsibility.) And there are many criteria for judging managers, not all of which are unambiguous or conducive to precise quantification. It may be easy, for example, to determine whether a ditch was dug on time and within budget. But what if the manager’s methods alienated workers, causing some of them to quit when the job was done and requiring the company to recruit and train new workers at some expense?

Or consider the presidency. What determines whether an incumbent is doing a good job? Polls? They are mere opinions, mostly based on impressions and political preferences, not hard facts. The passage by Congress of legislation proposed by the president? By that measure, Obama earns points for the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which if not repealed will make health care less affordable and less available.

Given the impossibility of arriving at a general answer to the tittle question, I will turn — as is my wont — to the game of baseball. You might think that the plethora of baseball statistics would yield an unambiguous answer with respect to major-league managers. As you’ll see, that’s not so.

WHAT BASEBALL STATISTICS REVEAL (OR DON’T)

Data Source

According to this page at Baseball-Reference.com, 680 different men have managed teams in the history of major-league baseball, which is considered to have begun in 1871 with the founding of the National Association. Instead of reaching that far back into the past, when the game was primitive by comparison with today’s game, I focus on men whose managing careers began in 1920 or later. It was 1920 that marked the beginning of the truly modern era of baseball, with its emphasis on power hitting. (This modern era actually consists of six sub-eras. See this and this.) In this modern era, which now spans 1920 through 2013, 399 different men have managed major-league teams. That is a sizable sample from which I had hoped to draw firm judgments about whether baseball managers, or some of them, make a difference.

Won-Lost Record

The “difference” in question is a manager’s effect — or lack thereof — on the success of his team, as measured by its won-lost (W-L) record. For the benefit of non-fans, W-L record, usually denoted W-L%, is determined by the following simple equation: W/(W + L), that is, games won divided by games won plus games lost. (The divisor isn’t number of games played because sometimes, though rarely, a baseball game is played to a tie.) Thus a team that wins 81 of its 162 games in a season has a W-L record of .500 for that season. (In baseball statistics, it is customary to omit the “0” before the decimal point, contrary to mathematical convention.)

Quantifying Effectiveness

I’m about to throw some numbers at you. But I must say more about the samples that I used in my analysis. The aggregate-level analysis described in the next section draws on the records of a subset of the 399 men whose managerial careers are encompassed in the 1920-2013 period. The subset consists of the 281 men who managed at least 162 games, which (perhaps not coincidentally) has been the number of games in a regulation season since the early 1960s. I truncated the sample where I did because the W-L records of mangers with 162 or more games are statistically better (significance level of 0.05) than the W-L records of managers with fewer than 162 games. In other words, a manager who makes it through a full season is likely to have passed a basic test of management ability: not losing “too many” games. (I address this subjective assessment later in the post.)

Following the aggregate-level analysis, I turn to an individual-level analysis of the records of those managers who led a team for at least five consecutive seasons. (I allowed into the sample some managers whose fifth full season consisted of a partial season in year 1 and a partial season in year 6, as long as the number of games in the two partial seasons added to the number of games in a full season, or nearly so. I also included a few managers whose service with a particular team was broken by three years or less.) Some managers led more than one team for at least five consecutive seasons, and each such occurrence is counted separately. For reasons that will become evident, the five seasons had to begin no earlier than 1923 and end no later than 2010.  The sample size for this analysis is 63 management tours accomplished by 47 different managers.

Results and Inferences: Aggregate Level

“Just the facts” about the sub-sample of 281 managers:

Number of games managed vs W-L record

The exponential equation, though statistically significant, tells us that W-L record explains only about 21 percent of the variation in number of games managed, which spans 162 to 5,097.

Looking closer, I found that the 28 managers in the top decile of games managed (2,368 to 5,097) have a combined W-L record of .526. But their individual W-L records range from .477 to .615, and eight of the managers compiled a career W-L record below .500. Perhaps the losers did the best they could with the teams they had. Perhaps, but it’s also quite possible that the winners were blessed with teams that made them look good. In any event, the length of a manager’s career may have little to do with his effectiveness as a manager.

Which brings me to the next topic.

Results and Inferences: Individual Level

This view is more complicated.  As mentioned above, I focused on those 47 managers who on 63 separate occasions led their respective teams for at least five consecutive seasons (with minor variations). To get at each manager’s success (or failure) during each management tour, I compared his W-L record during a tour with the W-L record of the same team in the preceding and following three seasons.

My aim in choosing five years for the minimum span of a manager’s tenure with a team was to avoid judging a manager’s performance on the basis of an atypical year or two. My aim in looking three years back and three years ahead was to establish a baseline against which to compare the manager’s performance. I could have chosen on time spans, of course, but a plausible story ensues from the choices that I made.

First, here is a graphical view of the relationship between each of the 63 managerial stints and the respective before-and-after records of the teams involved:

Manager's W-L record vs. baseline

A clue to deciphering the graph: Look at the data point toward the upper-left corner labeled “Sewell SLB 41-46.” The label gives the manager’s last name (Sewell for Luke Sewell, in this case), the team he managed (SLB = St. Louis Browns), and the years of his tenure (1941-46). (In the table below, all names, teams, and dates are spelled out, for all 63 observations.) During Sewell’s tenure, the Browns’ W-L record was .134 points above the average of .378 attained by the Browns in 1938-40 and 1947-49. That’s an impressive performance, and it stands well above the 68-percent confidence interval. (Confidence intervals represent the range within which certain percentages of observations are expected to fall.)

The linear fit (equation in lower-left corner) indicates a statistically significant negative relationship between the change in a team’s fortunes during a manager’s tenure and the team’s baseline performance. The negative relationship means that there is a strong tendency to “regress toward the mean,” that is toward a record that is consistent with the quality of a team’s players. In other words, the negative relationship indicates that a team’s outstanding or abysmal record my owe nothing (or very little) to a manager’s efforts.

In fact, relatively few managers succeeded in leading their teams significantly far (up or down) from baseline performance. Those managers are indicated by green (good) and red (bad) in the preceding graph.

The following table gives a rank-ordering of all 47 managers in their 63 management stints. The color-coding indicates the standing of a particular performance with respect to the trend (green = above trend, red = below trend). The shading indicates the standing of a particular performance with respect to the confidence intervals: darkest shading = above and below the 95-percent confidence interval; medium shading = between the 68-percent and 95-percent confidence intervals; lightest shading = between the 68-percent confidence intervals.

Ranking of manager's performances

Of the 63 performances, 4 of them (6.3 percent) lie outside the 95-percent confidence interval; 13 of them (20.6 percent) are between the 68-percent and 95-percent confidence intervals; the other 46 (73.0) percent are in the middle, and statistically indistinguishable.

Billy Southworth’s tour as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1940-45 (#1) stands alone above the 95-percent confidence interval. Two of Bucky Harris’s four stints rank near the bottom (#61 and #62) just above Ralph Houk’s truly abysmal performance as manager of the Detroit Tigers in 1974-78 (#63).

Southworth’s tenure with the Cardinals is of a piece with his career W-L record (.597), and with his above-average performance as manager of the Boston Braves in 1946-51 (# 18). Harris had a mixed career, as indicated by his overall W-L record of .493 and two above-average tours as manager (#22 and #26). Houk’s abysmal record with the Tigers was foretold by his below-average tour as manager of the Yankees, a broken tenure that spanned 1961-73 (#47).

Speaking of the Yankees, will the real Casey Stengel please stand up? Is he the “genius” with an above-average record as Yankees manager in 1949-60, (#13) or the “bum” with a dismal record as skipper of the Boston Bees/Braves in 1938-42 (#56)? (Stengel’s ludicrous three-and-a-half-year tour as manager of the hapless New York Mets of 1962-65 isn’t on the list because of its brevity. It should be noted, however, that the Mets improved gradually after Stengel’s departure, and won the World Series in 1969.)

Stengel is one of seven managers with a single-season performance below the 68-percent confidence level. Four of the seven — Harris, Houk, Stengel, and Tom Kelly (late of the Minnesota Twins) — are among the top decile on the games-managed list. The top decile also includes seven managers who turned in performances that rank above the 68-percent confidence interval: Earl Weaver, Bobby Cox, Al Lopez, Joe Torre, Sparky Anderson, Joe McCarthy, and Charlie Grimm (#s 2-4 and 6-9).

I could go on and on about games managed vs. performance, but it boils down to this: If there were a strong correlation between the rank-order of managers’ performances in the preceding table and the number of games they managed in their careers, it would approach -1.00. (Minus because the the best performance is ranked #1 and the worst is ranked #68.) But the correlation between between rank and number of games managed in a career is only -0.196, a “very weak” correlation in the parlance of statistics.

In summary, when it comes to specific management stints, Southworth’s performance in 1940-45 was clearly superlative; the performances of Harris (1929-33, 1935-42) and Houk (1974-78) were clearly awful. In between those great and ghastly performance lie a baker’s dozen that probably merit cheers or Bronx cheers. A super-majority of the performances (the 73 percent in the middle) probably have little to do with management skills and a lot to do with other factors, to which I will come.

The Bottom Line

It’s safe to say that the number of games managed is, at best, a poor reflection of managerial ability. What this means is that (a) few managers exert a marked influence on the performance of their teams and (b) managers, for the most part, are dismissed or kept around for reasons other than their actual influence on performance. Both points are supported by the two preceding sections.

More tellingly, both points are consistent with the time-tested observation that “they” couldn’t fire the team, so “they” fired the manager.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The numbers confirm what I saw in 30 years of being managed and 22 (overlapping) years of managing: The selection of managers is at least as random as their influence on what they manage. This is true not only in baseball but wherever there are managers, that is, throughout the world of commerce (including its entertainment sectors), the academy, and government.

The is randomness for several reasons. First, there is the difficulty of specifying managerial objectives that are measurable and consistent. A manager’s basic task might be to attain a specific result (e.g., winning more games than the previous manager, winning at least a certain number of games, turning a loss into a profit). But a manager might also be expected to bring peace and harmony to a fractious workplace. And the manager might also be charged with maintainng a”diverse” workplace and avoiding charges of discrimination? Whatever the tasks, their specification is often arbitrary and, in large organizations, impossible to relate the objective to an overarching organization goal (e.g., attaining a profit target).

Who knows if it’s possible to win more games or turn a loss into a profit, given the competition, the quality of the workforce, etc.? Is a harmonious workplace more productive than a fractious one if a fractious one is a sign of productive competitiveness?  How does one square “diversity” and forbearance toward the failings of the “diverse” (to avoid discrimination charges), while also turning a profit?

Given the complexity of management, at which I’ve only hinted, and the difficulty of judging managers, even when their “output” is well-defined (e.g., W-L record), it’s unsurprising that the ranks of managers are riddled with the ineffective and the incompetent. And such traits are often tolerated and even rewarded (e.g., raise, promotion, contract extension). Why? Here are some of the reasons:

  • Unwillingness to admit that it was a mistake to hire or promote a manager
  • A manager’s likeability or popularity
  • A manager’s connections to higher-ups
  • The cost and difficulty of firing a manager (e.g., severance pay, contract termination clauses, possibility of discrimination charges)
  • Inertia — Things seem to be going well enough, and no one has an idea of how well they should be going).

The good news is that relatively few managers make a big difference. The bad news is that the big difference is just as likely to be negative as it is to be positive. And for the reasons listed above, abysmal managers will not be rooted out until they have done a lot of damage.

So, yes, some managers — though relatively few — make a difference. But that difference is likely to prove disastrous. Just look at the course of the United States over the past 80 years.

Obamanomics: A Report Card (Updated)

Here.

The good news? There is none.

The bad news? Sluggish growth persists, despite the hype about an unexpected “jump” in third-quarter GDP. The U.S. remains in the midst of the worst post-World War II “post-recession recovery,” which is neither post-recession nor a recovery.

The liberals want the U.S. to be European? Their dreams have come true, politically as well as economically.

The View from Here

You know what happens when a law is enacted to protect a “minority,” don’t you? The minority acquires privileged status in the eyes of the law. Any action that is claimed to deprive the “minority” of its rights brings the wrath of the state down on the purported offender. And the same law enables members of the “minority” to attain jobs, promotions, and university admissions for which they are otherwise unqualified.

My opening paragraph is prompted by the likely passage of a “gay rights in workplace” bill by the U.S. Senate. The bill is unlikely to be approved soon by the U.S. House of Representatives, but I won’t say “never.” Many members of the GOP are eager to seem “nice,” and enough of them might vote with Democrats to pass the bill and send it to B.O. for signature. Such an act of appeasement will, of course, go unrewarded by voters of the left. But panicked lawmakers are immune to logic, and devoid of principles.

The “gay rights” issue is only a symptom of America’s decay. The official elevation of gays to privileged status is of a piece with several other developments: the very possible failure of efforts to derail death-dealing Obamacare, the equally likely failure of efforts to curb murderous abortion (the gateway to involuntary euthanasia), the ever-growing dependence of Americans on an unaffordable welfare state, an unchecked regulatory apparatus, feminized and gutted defenses, groveling before enemies, and the suppression of dissent in the name of “rights,” “social justice,” “equal protection,” and other Orwellian catch-phrases.

It is altogether evident that America soon will be an irreversibly effete, statist, inhumane, and appeasing realm. In it, every truly beneficial impulse — like those that energized America’s revolution against Britain, the framing of a Constitution that promised the preservation of liberty, the defeat of oppressive regimes in wars hot and cold, and the creation of the world’s most dynamic and productive economy — will be squelched.

The barbarians within, and their willing dupes, are in the saddle. It can happen here, and it is happening here. America is about to become the land of the unfree and the home of the weak-kneed.

*     *     *

Related reading: Joe Herring, “I Am Now a Dissident (and You Should Be Too!),” American Thinker, November 6, 2013

Related posts:
Diversity
Putting Hate Crimes in Perspective
The Cost of Affirmative Action
Why Not Just Use SAT Scores?
The Face of America
Affirmative Action: A Modest Proposal
Race, Intelligence, and Affirmative Action
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy
Affirmative Action, One More Time
Libertarianism, Marriage, and the True Meaning of Family Values
Same-Sex Marriage
“Equal Protection” and Homosexual Marriage
The Course of the Mainstream
A Contrarian View of Segregation
Much Food for Thought
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
After the Bell Curve
A Footnote . . .
Schelling and Segregation
Law, Liberty, and Abortion
Black Terrorists and “White Flight”
Positive Rights and Cosmic Justice: Part IV (with links to earlier parts of the series)
Timely Material
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy, Revisited
It’s the Little Things That Count
A Footnote to a Footnote
Let Me Be Perfectly Clear…
FDR and Fascism
An FDR Reader
“Family Values,” Liberty, and the State
Is There Such a Thing as Society
The People’s Romance
Intellectuals and Capitalism
Fascism
Conspicuous Consumption and Race
An Honest Woman Speaks Out
Fascism with a “Friendly” Face
The Interest-Group Paradox
Parsing Political Philosophy
Is Statism Inevitable?
Inventing “Liberalism”
Civil Society and Homosexual “Marriage”
A New, New Constitution
Fascism and the Future of America
The Indivisibility of Economic and Social Liberty
Rights, Liberty, the Golden Rule, and the Legitimate State
The Perils of Nannyism: The Case of Obamacare
More about the Perils of Obamacare
Health-Care Reform: The Short of It
The Real Constitution and Civil Disobedience
The Near-Victory of Communism
Tocqueville’s Prescience
First Principles
The Shape of Things to Come
Accountants of the Soul
Invoking Hitler
Is Liberty Possible?
The Left
Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Due Process, and Equal Protection
The Constitution: Original Meaning, Corruption, and Restoration
Rationalism, Social Norms, and Same-Sex “Marriage”
A Moral Dilemma
A Conversation with Uncle Sam
Society and the State
I Want My Country Back
The “Forthcoming Financial Collapse”
Undermining the Free Society
Our Enemy, the State
Pseudo-Libertarian Sophistry vs. True Libertarianism
“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review
Government vs. Community
The Evil That Is Done with Good Intentions
The Destruction of Society in the Name of “Society”
About Democracy
Externalities and Statism
Taxes: Theft or Duty?
Bounded Liberty: A Thought Experiment
More Pseudo-Libertarianism
The Meaning of Liberty
The Left’s Agenda
Substantive Due Process and the Limits of Privacy
In Defense of Marriage
The Left and Its Delusions
The Destruction of Society in the Name of “Society”
A Declaration of Civil Disobedience
Crimes against Humanity
Abortion and Logic
The Myth That Same-Sex “Marriage” Causes No Harm
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
Society and the State
Are You in the Bubble?
Defense as an Investment in Liberty and Prosperity
Our Perfect, Perfect Constitution
Abortion, Doublethink, and Left-Wing Blather
Race and Reason: The Derbyshire Debacle
Race and Reason: The Victims of Affirmative Action
Not-So-Random Thoughts (III)
Race and Reason: The Achievement Gap — Causes and Implications
Don’t Use the “S” Word When the “F” Word Will Do
Liberty and Society
Tolerance on the Left
The Eclipse of “Old America”
The Capitalist Paradox Meets the Interest-Group Paradox
Genetic Kinship and Society
How Not to Cope with Government Failure
Riots, Culture, and the Final Showdown (revisited)
Where We Are, Economically
The Economic Outlook in Brief
Is Taxation Slavery?
Obamanomics: A Report Card
Well-Founded Pessimism
A Declaration of Independence
The 80-20 Rule, Illustrated
America: Past, Present, and Future
Defending Liberty against (Pseudo) Libertarians
America: Past, Present, and Future
Restoring Constitutional Government: The Way Ahead
Economic Horror Stories: The Great “Demancipation” and Economic Stagnation
The Fallacy of the Reverse-Mussolini Fallacy
“Conversing” about Race
Economics: A Survey
IQ, Political Correctness, and America’s Present Condition
The Barbarians Within and the State of the Union
Why Are Interest Rates So Low?
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 II (first installment)

Intellectual Courage in Austin

Ken Herman’s columns in the Austin American-Statesman are among the paper’s few bright spots. I don’t always agree with Herman, whose brand of modern-style liberalism usually shines through. But he’s intelligent, analytical, witty, and fair.

I cringed inwardly this morning when I read this in Herman’s column (“Judgment on constitutionality, not on abortion,” behind a paywall):

Local U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel showed a keen understanding of both sides of that equation this week in his decision striking down portions of Texas’ new abortion restrictions law. And, though a federal appeals court on Thursday lifted Yeakel’s injunction against enforcement of portions of the new law, he offered solid logic in throwing out the provision requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.

“The court expresses grave reservations about allowing a hodgepodge of diverse medical committees and boards to determine, based solely on admitting privileges, which physicians may perform abortions,” he wrote, adding that the provision “places an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion.”

What did the appeals court — a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit — have to say? This:

We first consider the hospital-admitting-privileges provision of H.B. 2 [the Texas law] and whether the State has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits. We conclude that it has….

… The district court focused primarily on emergency room treatment of women experiencing complications following an abortion. This overlooks substantial interests of the State in regulating the medical profession and the State’s interest in “‘protecting the integrity and ethics of the medical profession.’” As the Supreme Court has noted, “the State has ‘legitimate concern for maintaining high standards of professional conduct’ in the practice of medicine.’” The Supreme Court has also consistently recognized that “[r]egulations designed to foster the health of a woman seeking an abortion are valid if they do not constitute an undue burden.”

The State offered more than a “conceivable state of facts that could provide a rational basis” for requiring abortion physicians to have hospital admission privileges. The State offered evidence that such a requirement fosters a woman’s ability to seek consultation and treatment for complications directly from her physician, not from an emergency room provider. There was evidence that such a requirement would assist in preventing patient abandonment by the physician who performed the abortion and then left the patient to her own devices to obtain care if complications developed. The district court’s finding to the contrary is not supported by the evidence, and in any event, “a legislative choice is not subject to courtroom factfinding and may be based on rational speculation unsupported by evidence or empirical data.”

The requirement that physicians performing abortions must have hospital admitting privileges helps to ensure that credentialing of physicians beyond initial licensing and periodic license renewal occurs….

The district court’s conclusion that a State has no rational basis for requiring physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital is but one step removed from repudiating the longstanding recognition by the Supreme Court that a State may constitutionally require that only a physician may perform an abortion….

We similarly [to the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Gonzales v. Carhart] conclude that the provisions of H.B. 2 requiring a physician who performs an abortion to have admitting privileges at a hospital, “measured by [their] text,” do not impose a substantial obstacle to abortions. Just as the Supreme Court concluded in Gonzales with regard to the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 200335 that “[t]here can be no doubt the government ‘has an interest in protecting the integrity and ethics of the medical profession,’”36 there can be no doubt that the State of Texas has this same interest, as well as an interest in protecting the health of women who undergo abortion procedures.

There is the possibility, if not the probability, however, that requiring all physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital may increase the cost of accessing an abortion provider and decrease the number of physicians available to perform abortions. As the district court correctly recognized, the Supreme Court has nevertheless held that “‘[t]he fact that a law which serves a valid purpose, one not designed to strike at the right itself, has the incidental effect of making it more difficult or more expensive to procure an abortion cannot be enough to invalidate it.’”

There’s much more, but that’s enough to make this point: It should have been evident to Herman that Judge Yeakel’s “solid logic” wasn’t really solid.

I will give Herman the benefit of the doubt by suggesting that he didn’t have time to digest the Fifth Circuit’s opinion before he wrote his column. (The opinion was issued in the morning of October 31, and Herman’s column was posted at 7:28 p.m. on the same day.)

But I come to praise Herman, not to vilify him. What’s praiseworthy in his column are two paragraphs near the end:

In addition to being a most-divisive issue, abortion is one with little to no middle ground. And it’s marked by close to a total inability for one side to understand the other side.

One of the blindest spots in the argument is held by abortion rights supporters who believe the other side is driven by opposition to women’s rights. Abortion rights foes are motivated by a sincere belief that an unborn child or fetus, or whatever term you choose, is a form of life entitled to constitutional protection. You might agree, you might not. But if you don’t, it’s important that you understand that [anti-abortion] side isn’t driven by a desire to curtail woman’s rights. (Emphasis added.)

It’s hard to say it any plainer than that. Kudos to Herman for saying it, and for figuratively confronting the pro-abortion forces, which — in leftish Austin — must vastly outnumber the anti-abortion forces.

I expect Herman’s candor to be “rewarded” with irate and hateful messages from many abortion advocates. Herman must have anticipated such messages — and perhaps worse — before he published his column. I therefore admire not only his candor but also his intellectual courage.