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10/14/2007

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paco

Dear Judge Posner, while you are certainly correct that intellectuals of both the left and the right have many things to be embarrassed about, my impression is that folks on the right are generally willing to own up to their mistakes (such as their prior opposition to anti-discrimination laws), but that our friends on the left tend to forget their past trangressions (such as their support for a nuclear freeze or their opposition to US policy in Central America). Anyways, the thing I dislike the most about many left-leaning as well as right-wing intellectuals is their lack of understanding of basic economic principles.

happyjuggler0

I would just add that there are tons of people on "the right" (As a libertarian I hate the notion of right/left conservative/liberal. There are far more accurately descriptive labels, unfortunately most people aren't knowledgeable enough [thank you ignorant univeristy faculties] to use them) in "the real world", i.e. working for a for-profit company.

When you work for a company that would have to lay off everyone because of bankruptcy it becomes a lot easier to see the merits of things like a low (or zero) corporate tax rate than it is when you work for a university where your job is financed in part by corporate taxes. Hence through a self selecting and self reinforcing process universities tend to get a disproportionate amount of intelligent people who favor higher taxes while the provate sector tends to get a disproportionate amount of intelligent people who favor lower taxes.

In other words, there are plenty of highly intelligent and highly educated people outside academia who are further to the "right" than professors are. Just because academia has more people on the left than the general public doesn't mean that the "left" is more likely to be "the correct" policy position on any given issue.

Nathan

"could it not be that the reason that university faculties are disproportionately left leaning is that leftist policies are more intelligent than conservative policies, so that university faculty, being of above-average intelligence, are naturally more likely to support leftist policies?"

This is spurious at best. First of all, it assumes that academics are of a higher intelligence than say, attorneys, judges, businessmen, doctors, etc. Secondly, it ignores the fact that conservatives MIGHT be motivated by many different factors (most liberals would say greed-not much money to be earned as a professor), and perhaps on balance, are less inclined to join the academy-perhaps for a variety of reasons.

Poor logic by that commenter indeed.

corwin

Dear Judge Posner,
My feeling ,as a Gentile and a non believer ,is that Jews as a group have a higher average IQ than other groups.This doesn't bother me,or make me feel inferior,because ultimately I'm a member of a quite small set,containing one individual.Still,talking about average group intellect is problemmatic in terms of ethnicity.so let's talk academic majors.I tend to believe,as did Pres. Summers,that certain disciplines demand more intellect.Summers postulated,in his famous talk,that one would need to be 3(or more)SD's above the mean to do serious work in physics.I don't feel that's true in all fields.And I do feel the less inellectually challenging fields( e.g.sociology,or humanities or the "studies" majors) tend to be predominantly leftist.(And if not anti intellectual,then anti intellect.)
This certainly doesn't mean one can't be brilliant in a field which doesn't have a rigorous entry path,but a Ph. D in physics on average is probably brighter than one whose degree is in sociology. Thoughts?

Vasilis

The opposition to US policies in Central America had solid moral footing! It's not a transgression! The US was supporting regimes that performed extrajudicial killings and torture(including nuns, priests, children etc), were suppressing fundamental human rights, and were extremely corrupt to boot! If being against propping up Trujillo is a transgression, I don't want to be right.

Judge Posner's list contains interestingly some solid policy options. Highly progressive taxation seems to be working fairly well in all the Scandinavian countries, so I am not sure what is there to be embarrassed about supporting it. It can't work in all countries apparently, but still. And exactly what is wrong with pacifism as a personal stance? Finally, if you "credit" communism to the left, you'd have to credit fascism to the right, and where would the discussion go then?

Jack

Paco! I got a chuckle out of the glibness with which you equated the highly debatable policy positions with your euphemism for for racism. A sign of our time? Jack

Hans Gruber

"My feeling ,as a Gentile and a non believer ,is that Jews as a group have a higher average IQ than other groups."

It is well documented that Jews, specifically Ashkenazi Jews, have IQs averaging of around 112 or so. That's almost one full standard deviation above the norm, and almost as large as the black-white IQ gap (85 or so versus 100 or so). To what extent these gaps are attributable to genetics is more difficult to answer. Those siding, however tentatively, that genetics plays a large role are routinely villified. You won't see Posner comment on it, just on the importance and validity of the debate.

Recently the Cochran-Harpending hypothesis was published, which is that Jews evolved higher intelligence because of occupational selection.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/03/science/03gene.html?ex=1275451200&en=efcc603583e17b54&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

In related news, James Watson has caused quite the stir by commenting on the black-white IQ gap.

http://news.independent.co.uk/sci_tech/article3067222.ece

Here is an excellent video debate on the black white IQ gap sponsored by AEI between James Flynn and Charles Murray (audio and video links are to the right).

http://www.aei.org/events/eventID.1425,filter.all,type.upcoming/event_detail.asp#

Steven Pinker (whose excellent book The Blank Slate is a must read for those interested in human nature and genetics) can be seen here discussing genetics and Jewish acheivement (about half way down the page is the link):

http://www.cjh.org/programs/programarchives.php

corwin

Vasilia,
So many things.
Pacifism doesn't work unless it's unanimous.You may remember(and then again,you may not)Churchill's famous quote to the effect,"Ghandi would have tried passive resistance once if the Nazi's ruled India."And Fred Saberhagen wrote a short story on that scenario.
Whenyou make statements about the "Scandanvian countries not doing too badly," I reply;
1)which country
and2)by what measures.
Are you talking of GDP-which will be higher even for a foundering Western country than a developing 3rd world-or growth in average incomewhich measures dy6namism.Or perhaps number of Ph.D's per thousand people.Or patents issued per 10,000 people.
Let me make a query.Which economy has improved more and is having more foreign investment and increase in living standards;Ireland or any of "The Scandinavian counries"Pretty easy answer,isn't it?

Vasilis

"Whenyou make statements about the "Scandanvian countries not doing too badly," I reply;
1)which country
and2)by what measures."

Any country, by quality of life index. This is the list by the Economist:

Ireland 8.333 1 36,790 4 3
Switzerland 8.068 2 33,580 7 5
Norway 8.051 3 39,590 3 0
Luxembourg 8.015 4 54,690 1 -3
Sweden 7.937 5 30,590 19 14
Australia 7.925 6 31,010 14 8
Iceland 7.911 7 33,560 8 1
Italy 7.810 8 27,960 23 15
Denmark 7.796 9 32,490 10 1
Spain 7.727 10 25,370 24 14
Singapore 7.719 11 32,530 9 -2
Finland 7.618 12 29,650 20 8
United States 7.615 13 41,529 2 -11

While Ireland is first, all Scandinavian countries are right up there. It's difficult to justify calling their policies failed or "embarrassing", I actually think it's embarrassing to even suggest it. They may not be the best policies for everybody, but that's about as strong a statement as reality will allow. And in this case, there is reality to contend with, as opposed to toy models in papers.

Or, let's take the UN Human development index, from Wikipedia

Norway 0.965 ()
Iceland 0.960 ()
Australia 0.957 ()
Ireland 0.956 ( 4)
Sweden 0.951 ( 1)
Canada 0.950 ( 1)
Japan 0.949 ( 4)
United States 0.948 ( 2)
Switzerland 0.947 ( 2)
Netherlands 0.947 ( 2)
Finland 0.947 ( 2)
Luxembourg 0.945 ( 8)
Belgium 0.945 ( 4)
Austria 0.944 ( 3)
Denmark 0.943 ( 1)
France 0.942 ()
Italy 0.940 ( 1)
United Kingdom 0.940 ( 3)
Spain 0.938 ( 2)
New Zealand 0.936 ( 1)

As for your comment on "increase in living standards" in Ireland: first off, living standards improve, don't increase (sorry, it's a pet peeve). Second, Ireland was way behind, so it can improve more and faster. China is improving even faster...

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