Uma teoria que há algum tempo que tenho e que me lembrei por causa deste post n'O Insurgente: há mais espaço para a criatividade e para a imaginação nas "ciências com contas" do que nas "ciências humanas" (note-se que estou incluindo a Economia nas "ciências com contas" - embora seja uma "ciência social", raramente é designada como uma "ciência humana"; e, de qualquer forma, quando se fala da suposta oposição entre os "números" e "X", o "X" costuma ser designado como "humanidades" ou "ciências humanas", não como "ciências sociais").
O meu raciocinio - nas "ciências com contas", uma pessoa pode vir com uma teoria completamente nova e contra-intuitiva que, desde que o raciocinio lógico por detrás faça sentido (nomeadamente, desde que as contas estejam correctas), a ideia tenderá a ser aceite como potencialmente válida pela "academia" - um exemplo pode ser a "teoria da relatividade": um obscuro escriturário suiço publicou uma teoria que ia contra grande parte daquilo em que se acreditava até então, e como as contas dele faziam sentido, a comunidade científica aceitou a sua teoria como credível e creio que até lhe arranjaram um lugar numa universidade.
Pelo contrário, nas "ciências humanas" a avaliação de uma teoria como "fazendo sentido" ou "não fazendo sentido" depende muito mais da subjectividade (em vez de da lógica pura), logo é de esperar que teorias fora do "mainstream" (seja esse "mainstream" qual for) tenham mais dificuldade em serem aceites (já que é muito mais fácil rejeitar uma teoria com argumentos do género "essa teoria não me convence", enquanto que nas "ciências com contas" é preciso demonstrar que a teoria é logicamente incoerente para a rejeitar).
Já agora, e mudando um pouco (mas só um pouco) de assunto: em cursos de formação e afins sobre "criatividade" por vezes, entre as supostas "barreira à criatividade", é referido "pensamento lógico" (ou excesso de "pensamento lógico") - isto para não falar das teorias pseudo-científicas que supostamente dividem o cérebro entre a área da "lógica" e a área da "critividade"; a mim parece-me que, se existe uma barreira à criatividade, é o pensamento ilógico - afinal, um dos argumentos clássicos contra novas ideias costuma ser o "isso até parece funcionar em teoria, mas acho que na prática não resulta"; ou seja, frequentemente são os "inovadores" que vão pelo raciocinio lógico-dedutivo e os "tradicionalistas" que vão pela intuição (não o oposto).
[Embora eu desconfie que muitas vezes - sobretudo neste contexto - as pessoas usam a expressão "lógica" quando o que querem dizer é "senso comum", o que é paradoxal porque "lógica" e "senso comum" são conceitos quase opostos: a definição de "senso comum" é, basicamente, "aquilo em que acreditamos intuitivamente sem precisar de pensar no assunto"; aqui temos um exemplo interessante - no contexto de uma doença mental - de conflito entre "lógica" e "senso comum"]
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Uma teoria que há algum tempo que tenho e que me lembrei por causa deste post n'O Insurgente: há mais espaço para a criatividade e para a imaginação nas "ciências com contas" do que nas "ciências humanas" (note-se que estou incluindo a Economia nas "ciências com contas" - embora seja uma "ciência social", raramente é designada como uma "ciência humana"; e, de qualquer forma, quando se fala da suposta oposição entre os "números" e "X", o "X" costuma ser designado como "humanidades" ou "ciências humanas", não como "ciências sociais").
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 17:07
One of Occupy Richmond’s goals has been to create a space for open, direct dialogue among citizens. That, I’d argue, is the real significance of the occupation: the unconditional demand for a deliberative body of residents unmediated by politicians’ agendas or corporate money. Only such an out-of-the-box, fully bottom-up movement can arrive at the kinds of solutions that transcend the rigid, entrenched special interests and divisive ideological identities that our system has adapted itself to serve. The marks of anarchist philosophy are clear here.[convém náo nos esquecermos que, em americanês, "liberal" quer dizer "centro-esquerda"]
Working in a prefigurative organization that attempts to model the kind of relationships they want to see in the world, many liberals have now been exposed to the anarchist approach through the Occupy movement. They can see how frightened the institutions they sought to merely fix are at their exercise of liberty. Witnessing that fear, and seeing its results as genuine violence, makes it difficult to believe that aggregated power can be reliably used for good. Regardless of which candidate is the lesser evil, the machine they’re elected to command is too destructive to reform.
Anarchism is not about converting people to an ideology; it is simply the realization available to all that the answers to our problems lie in our thinking, the bonds with others we form, and the way we form those bonds. Organizing outside the capitalist hegemony unites all kinds of activists against the establishment, the state, and capital. The occupation not only realizes anarchist principles; it has provided the lessons on the urgency of resistance as well as hints at what is possible for us to build together. More and more liberals will realize bottom-up, do-it-yourself self-governance is what they wanted in the first place.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 12:35
You will recognise yourself from my description. (Or you will recognise others who fit this description).
You are probably very smart. You are probably very well-educated -- either formally, or self-educated, and probably both. You spend a lot of time on the internet reading economics blogs and commenting on those blogs. You maybe even have a blog of your own, where you write about economics topics. You are probably politically engaged. You are probably a lefty, but may be a righty, or someone who is not easily categorised on that political spectrum. You probably think of yourself as a critic of economics, or a critic of what you see as orthodox economics. You are probably sympathetic to what you see as heterodox economics.
But you have never once read a first year economics textbook. (...)
I think you really really should read a first year economics textbook. (...)
Because, at the very least, you will better understand what is and is not an idea that is seen as "heterodox" by the people you are criticising.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 10:22
No Mito & Realidade, é feita referência a um CEO de uma empresa qualquer que diz que a tecnologia vai acabar com o trabalho não-especializado.
Acho que há aqui uma confusão entre os conceitos de "trabalho não-especializado" e "trabalho não-criativo" - a mim parece-me que, quando muito, o que o progresso tecnológico poderá eventualmente acabar será com o segundo, não com o primeiro (aliás, no post até é feita referência a um computador que está a estudar para ser médico quando for grande - o que me parece contar como trabalho especializado). Para falar a verdade, até suspeito que muito trabalho altamente especializado até será mais fácil de substituir por um algoritmo informático do que o trabalho não-especializado (onde muitas vezes é necessário conhecimento tácito difícil de formalizar através de um programa).
Ainda a respeito disto, 3 artigos de Paul Krugman (Autor! Autor!, Falling Demand for Brains? e White Collars Turn Blue), um de David Autor (o "Autor" em "Autor! Autor!"), Frank Levy e Richard Murnane (The Skill Content of Recent Technological Content, pdf) e, já agora, o meu post Ainda acerca da "sociedade do conhecimento".
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 04:12
Monday, July 30, 2012
Divided They Stand - An Overview of Syria’s Political Opposition Factions [pdf], por Aron Lund (Olof Palme International Center).
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 23:13
Every “patriotic” holiday, columnists and editorial page editors trot out that same tiresome column: “It’s not the protestor that gives us free speech, it’s the soldier …” That’s exactly backward.(...)No caso português, à primeira vista poderíamos pensar que é mesmo aos soldados que devemos a liberdade, mas, se pensarmos bem, essa liberdade foi conseguida exactamente quando os soldados (bem, os oficiais intermédios) se comportaram como contestatários em vez de como soldados (e provavelmente muito influenciados pelos contestatários que haviam sido integrados à força nas Forças Armadas).
Every single bit of freedom we have comes from the troublemakers, rabble-rousers, pariahs, the people utterly devoid of respectability — the Dirty Effing Hippies, in Nixon’s parlance — and their willingness to say things the government doesn’t want them to. Our freedom is expanded and defended by the very types of people who are spat upon — run out on a rail — by “good respectable citizens,” and tossed in jail by local cops. Our freedoms come from the people who were imprisoned by John Adams under the Sedition Act, the thousands of Wobblies who packed local jails during the Free Speech Campaign, and Breanna Manning who is tortured daily in prison for exposing the American government’s war crimes to the world.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 16:43
A few years ago, my view of frugality changed due to an obvious realization that I had never fully grasped before. Material goods cost money; money is acquired in exchange for my time; my time is literally my life. If X costs $100 and I make $25 an hour, then X costs me four hours of life. Or rather, it costs four hours plus whatever time is consumed by the transaction costs of making money, such as the time and expense of a commute.
This was a paradigm shift for me. I ceased viewing possessions in terms of money and saw them in terms of time. And my time is a scarce good. The hours available can sometimes feel boundless, and it is easy to fall into the trap of valuing each unit as if it were part of an infinite supply. Of course, it is not. There are only so many hours left for me to live.
With no morbidity, I apply a version of “marginal utility” to those hours. This economic law says that a person values the first unit of a thing according to its highest use and values subsequent units less. For example, if you have one unit of water, then you value it highly for staving off dehydration and death. If you have a large number of units, then you value the last one for watering a house plant. You would be willing to spend far more for the first unit than for the last. I try to view my hours as though each one were a first unit and, so, highly valuable.
When I look in my closet, many possessions now represent wasted time: a dress I never wear, shoes that go with nothing… I won’t waste more time reproaching myself, but I need to learn a lesson from that closet. I traded irreplaceable units of my life for possessions I do not value; I call these possessions “the useless shoes of life.” They are things that are neither necessary nor worth the time I traded to acquire them. Instead, I could have been reading or writing, laughing with friends or watching movies with my husband.
And then there are the purchases I will never regret: books, DVDs, my sporty little econocar, our farm, the ingredients for a superb meal. Those items provide a utility that is well worth the cost. And yes, I include pleasure as a “utility.” Pleasure is one of the most useful things in the world. It makes you spring out of bed with energy in the morning; it makes you fall asleep with a smile on your face at night. But even pleasure should be balanced against the cost in time and purchased at bargain rates, if possible.
People respond to the idea of possessions representing units of their lives in different ways.
Some people redouble their efforts to earn more and so reduce the amount of time that any one purchase represents. This is a return to the traditional American dream: Work hard and prosper economically. I wish these people the best, but their choice is not mine. At this point, I find it difficult to understand why anyone would spend years at a job they don’t enjoy in order to own a bigger home than they can use, especially since the upkeep absorbs more time and cash. The trade-off doesn’t make sense.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 11:04
US sees Israel, tight Mideast ally, as spy threat (Associated Press):
The CIA station chief opened the locked box containing the sensitive equipment he used from his home in Tel Aviv, Israel, to communicate with CIA headquarters in Virginia, only to find that someone had tampered with it. He sent word to his superiors about the break-in.
The incident, described by three former senior U.S. intelligence officials, might have been dismissed as just another cloak-and-dagger incident in the world of international espionage, except that the same thing had happened to the previous station chief in Israel.
It was a not-so-subtle reminder that, even in a country friendly to the United States, the CIA was itself being watched.
[Via Outside the Beltway]
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 00:57
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Gun-control advocates have their own studies and statistics, of course, and off we go down the rabbit hole, shouting at one another about the benefits of gun control. But let me add a parallel concern: What about the costs? Why should gun control be exempt from a cost-benefit analysis? Gun-control advocates brush away evidence of gun laws’ dubious value with the argument that if even one life could be saved, it’s worth trying. What’s the harm?
The harm is that 40 percent of Americans own guns, and like it or not, they identify with them, personally. Guns stand in for a whole range of values—individualism, strength, American exceptionalism—that many gun owners hold dear. Tell a gun owner that he cannot be trusted to own a firearm—particularly if you are an urban pundit with no experience around guns—and what he hears is an insult. Add to this that the bulk of the gun-buying public is made up of middle-aged white men with less than a college degree, and now you’re insulting a population already rubbed raw by decades of stagnant wages.
The harm we’ve done by messing with law-abiding Americans’ guns is significant. In 2010, I drove 11,000 miles around the United States talking to gun guys (for a book, to be published in the spring, that grew out of an article I wrote for this magazine), and I met many working guys, including plumbers, parks workers, nurses—natural Democrats in any other age—who wouldn’t listen to anything the Democratic party has to say because of its institutional hostility to guns. I’d argue that we’ve sacrificed generations of progress on health care, women’s and workers’ rights, and climate change by reflexively returning, at times like these, to an ill-informed call to ban firearms, and we haven’t gotten anything tangible in return. Aside from what it does to the progressive agenda, needlessly vilifying guns—and by extension, their owners—adds to the rancor that has us so politically frozen and culturally inflamed. Enough.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 02:21
Friday, July 27, 2012
The Economist's Greg Ip (HT Mark Thoma) relays the most optimistic scenario for the Euro, from Montreal's Bank Credit Analyst. Short version: Greece leaves, and the rest are so scared they form a fiscal and banking union.
This scenario is what I called a "shotgun wedding". If the people of Europe want an ever closer union, or if an ever closer union evolves naturally out of a sense of common identity, that's OK. But being duped and forced into marriage because the PIIGS are all pregnant and Germany is the father, though all of them thought they were just holding hands and nobody told them that sharing a common currency was quite such an intimate relationship -- is another thing entirely. The EU's legitimacy and governability, already shaky, would suffer.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 14:15
Photo: Images and reportseventually trickled out as NATO-backed genocide unfolded throughout Tripoli’s streets, indicating the destruction of infrastructure and the specific targeting of black Libyans written off by the corporate media as “suspected mercenaries.” Benghazi rebels have been long reported to harbor extremist ideologies and an intense ethnic & racial hatred.
Meanwhile, residents of the village where the Syrian Falcons were headquartered said there were fighters of several North African nationalities also serving with the brigade’s ranks.
A volunteer Libyan fighter has also told CNN he intends to travel from Turkey to Syria within days to add a “platoon” of Libyan fighters to armed movement.
On Wednesday, CNN’s crew met a Libyan fighter who had crossed into Syria from Turkey with four other Libyans. The fighter wore full camouflage and was carrying a Kalashnikov rifle. He said more Libyan fighters were on the way.The foreign fighters, some of them are clearly drawn because they see this as … a jihad. So this is a magnet for jihadists who see this as a fight for Sunni Muslims.
Publicada por CN em 12:32
by Stephen Lendman Western media misreport what's happening in Syria and why. Propaganda substitutes for truth and full disclosure. Syrians are struggling to prevent Western conquest, exploitation, and control. They're fighting for their lives to stay free. At issue isn't whether Assad's government is democratic, despotic or anything in between. Its sovereign independence made it vulnerable. Washington tolerates no governments it doesn't control. Replacing them with puppet regimes is policy. Whether Assad can hold out and prevail isn't known. Most Syrians depend on him. The longer conflict persists, the greater his support. Who else can Syrians turn to for help? They want no part of becoming another pro-Western vassal state. They know the daily horrors Afghans, Iraqis and Libyans face. Syria was calm and peaceful until Washington unleashed its dogs last year. Daily violence, mass killing and destruction followed. It's the American way. Media scoundrels support it. Syria's conflict isn't an uprising, revolution or civil war. These characterizations distort reality. There's nothing civil about what's ongoing. Washington orchestrated everything. Its bloodstained hands control the conflict. At issue is naked Washington-led Western aggression. Key NATO allies and regional partners are involved. Insurgents are Washington proxies. Protracted violence and bloodshed persist. Imperial wars are called liberating ones. Western end game strategy calls for total war if other methods fail. Washington wages them two ways. In Afghanistan and Iraq, US forces are involved. In Libya, a combination of air assets and ground proxies were used. Protracted conflict persists. Daily violence ravages the country. Media scoundrels ignore it. They report little about Iraq and Afghanistan. They let nightmarish conditions pass beneath their radar. Only wealth, privilege and dominance matter. Charnel house conditions go unacknowledged. So far, Western proxies alone battle Syrian forces. Despite heavy weapons, training and direction, military regulars outmatch them. Expect eventual direct Western intervention. Electoral politics dictates timing. Voltaire Network's Thierry Meyssan is right. Reagan's Contra war 2.0 ravages Syria. Death squads employed are today's Contras. In the 1980s, they battled Nicaragua's Sandinista government. Washington enlisted, armed, trained, funded and directed them. Anastasio Somoza ruled Nicaragua despotically. He ran it like a US colony. In 1979, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) ousted his regime after years of conflict. In 1981, Reagan authorized covert CIA intervention. Sandinistas were falsely called Moscow puppets. Contrarevolucionarios (Contras) were recruited. Many were former cutthroat Somoza National Guard regulars. They became Washington proxy death squads. Contra wars raged throughout the decade. From Honduran bases they conducted cross-border terrorist raids. Nicaraguans suffered greatly. Many thousands died. Managua's economy was devastated. Resources needed for defense left little for domestic needs. In 1988, A New York Times op-ed headlined "Wrong From the Start; Reagan's Contra War, Reagan's Failure," saying: Reagan's "seven-year record in Nicaragua is a chronicle of deceit and incompetence in pursuit of an unwinnable war." Expect nothing comparable today about Obama's war on Syria. Times correspondents, commentators and editorial writers march in lockstep. They supported Reagan throughout the decade. Perhaps Iran-Contra caused the above change of heart."
Publicada por CN em 09:32
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Martín Krause: "Borges era un anarcocapitalista", La Gazeta "Argentina, su país, siempre ha tenido grandes pensadores liberales que ha combinado con los peores políticos del mundo, ¿por qué esa dualidad? Argentina ha tenido grandes intelectuales liberales, pero también grandes intelectuales socialistas. El progresismo intelectual siempre ha florecido en Argentina y controla el mundo cultural. El último gran liberal que tuvimos en ese campo, y que a la izquierda le costó muchísimo aceptar, fue Borges, que era un anarcocapitalista. Ellos no podían entender cómo la mayor estrella de la literatura nacional pudiera pensar de esa forma. Pero, por regla general, el mundillo cultural argentino siempre ha estado influenciado por el progresismo, que siempre ha mirado a Europa. A este tipo de intelectual le encanta Francia y esos intelectuales franceses que, cuanto más complicado escriba y hable, mejor. Esto ha generado un sistema político perverso, en el que los que llegan, por el mero hecho de llegar muestran que han dejado sus principios en la puerta."
Publicada por CN em 17:42
Acerca deste assunto, uma história que o meu pai uma vez contou, ocorrida em Moçambique, imagino que por volta de 1970 (não sei se ele assistiu à cena ou se, mais provavelmente, ouviu contar; nem sei se os pormenores são verdadeiros):
Um "chefe de posto" do interior, já idoso e não muito imponente fisicamente, veio passar uns dias de folga à cidade (a então Lourenço Marques); num café ou restaurante ou bar ou coisa assim, uns quantos "matulões" começaram a se meter com ele, ao que ele respondeu:
- Eu vim aqui para me divertir, não para me chatear; se têm algum problema, vamos lá fora, aquele terreno resolver o assunto.
Chegados ao tal terreno, já os outros se preparavam para dar uma "carga de pancada" ao senhor, quando este saca de uma pistola. Perante isto, pediram-lhe desculpa e deixaram-no em paz, após o que este comentou:
- Pois, desde que inventaram estas coisinhas já não há homens fortes.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 13:40
"Atrios" (Duncan Black) argumenta (ou acha que argumenta) que apenas o governo (ou o Estado? Creio que "government" em american english não é exactamente a mesma coisa que o nosso "governo") poderia ter criado a Internet (via Brad DeLong):
I think the aspect of the "government invented the internet" which isn't emphasized enough is that it isn't just some random fluke that it was born out of various public and publicly financed entities. A private company would not have created it. Before the internet (or www, depending on precisely what we're talking about) we had various pre-internets, which were all cool enough in their own way and offered various applications, information, and services to people. In some ways the were superior to the internet of old, but they weren't the "information superhighway" which we could all just hook into any way we wanted. It wasn't so much the technology, though it was that too, it was the idea, and it isn't an idea a for-profit company would have pursued in nearly the same way.Em primeiro lugar, não me parece que ele apresente um argumento convincente que uma "for-profit company" não iria desenvolver a Internet nos moldes em que esta existe; mas, mesmo como isso fosse verdade, como se passa da ideia de que uma "for-profit company" não criaria a Internet para as conclusões de que uma empresa privada não desenvolveria a Internet e de que só o governo o poderia fazer? Afinal, no mundo não existem só Estados e empresas com fins lucrativos.
In some ways we're seeing the return to the pre-internet version, though the actual internet still exists. Facebook polices content, and people expect them to for reasons I can't fathom. Blogger doesn't. Not yet.
Aliás, se em vez da "net", estivermos a falar da "web", nem é liquido que tenha sido desenvolvida pelo Estado - sim, Tim Berners-Lee desenvolveu-a enquanto trabalhava no CERN, mas largamente como um projecto pessoal, e parece que parte do trabalho até foi feito em casa.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 13:04
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Na discussão ali em baixo, acabou por vir à baila um estudo feito por Richard Florida sobre as causas da "gun violence" nos EUA.
Um eventual problema desse estudo é que os dados "include accidental shootings, suicides, even acts of self-defense, as well as crimes", o que me levou a comentar «Seria interessante saber, da tal alta mortalidade por "gun violence" no Alasca, quanta são acidentes de caça.»
Para ver melhor isso, fiz uma comparação, para o ano de 2008, entre os assassínios por estado nos EUA e as tais "mortes por arma de fogo" - claro que os assassínios podem ser feitos à faca ou com estricnina, e haverá muitos casos de "mortes violentas por arma de fogo" que não contam com assassínio; no entanto, é de esperar que haja uma associação significativa entre o nível de assassínios num estado e as mortes violentas por arma de fogo (mesmo incluindo em auto-defesa ou em acções policiais):
No caso das taxas, o vermelho quer dizer uma taxa de homicídios ou de mortes por arma de fogo significativamente acima (um desvio padrão) da média nacional; verde significativamente abaixo. No caso dos estados, vermelho quer dizer "muitos homicidios e muitas mortes por arma de fogo", verde o contrário, amarelo "poucos homicídios comparativamente ao que seria de esperar face às mortes por arma de fogo" e azul o contrário. Em principio, será nos estados "amarelos" que haverá muitas mortes "não-violentas" por uso de armas (suicídios e acidentes), pelo menos se estiver certa a minha intuição de que a taxa de homicidios será uma boa proxy para o nível geral de violência - e, realmente, muitos desses estados (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, etc - basicamente, as Montanhas Rochosas e sítios parecidos) são os estados em que, à partida, será de esperar mais mortes por acidentes de caça e afins (e, já agora, que as pessoas aproveitam a arma que têm no armário para se suicidar em vez de recorrerem ao veneno ou aos bicos de gás abertos).
Claro que o ideal seria mesmo ter a informação desagregada sobre as componentes das tais mortes por arma de fogo...
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 00:19
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Pergunta o Renato Teixeira - "Qual a ideia, por exemplo, de combater as touradas com imagens do touro a furar o toureiro, como se o show uma vez invertido já tivesse piada? Qual o sentido que alguém que se importa com a dor dos bichos, faça gáudio do sofrimento dos homens?"
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 20:31
[H]e singled out IQ and the Wealth of Nations, published in 2001 by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen, as a particularly extreme and hateful example of this trend. These authors explicitly argue that IQ scores for different populations are largely fixed and hereditary, and that these—rather than economic or governmental structures—tend to determine the long-term wealth of a given country. (...)
Although “intelligence” may be difficult to define precisely, most people have accepted that IQ scores seem to constitute a rough and measurable proxy for this trait, so Lynn and Vanhanen have collected a vast number of national IQ scores from the last 50 or 60 years and compared these to income levels and economic growth rates. Since experts have discovered that nominal IQ scores over the last century or so have tended to rise at a seemingly constant rate—the so-called “Flynn Effect”—the authors adjusted their raw scores accordingly. Having done so, they found a strong correlation of around 0.50–0.75 between the Flynn-adjusted IQ of a nation’s population and its real per capita GDP over the last few decades, seemingly indicating that smarter peoples tend to be wealthier and more successful.
From this statistical fact, Lynn and Vanhanen draw the conclusion that intelligence leads to economic success and—since they argue that intelligence itself is largely innate and genetic—that the relative development ranking of the long list of nations they analyze is unlikely to change much over time, nor will the economic standing of the various groups within ethnically mixed countries, including the United States.
Now this hypothesis might indeed be correct, but it is not necessarily warranted by the empirical data that Lynn and Vanhanen have gathered. After all, if high national IQ scores are correlated with economic success, perhaps the high IQs cause the success, but it seems just as possible that the success might be driving the high IQs, or that both might be due to some third factor. Correlation does not imply causality, let alone the particular direction of the causal arrow. A traditional liberal model positing that socio-economic factors strongly influence performance on academic ability tests would predict exactly the same distribution of international results found by Lynn and Vanhanen. (...)
[L]et us restrict our initial examination to the 60-odd IQ datapoints Lynn and Vanhanen obtained from European countries and their overseas offshoots over the last half-century. Obviously, some of these countries have at times been far poorer than others, but almost none have suffered the extreme poverty found in much of the Third World.
What we immediately notice is a long list of enormous variations in the tested IQs of genetically indistinguishable European peoples across temporal, geographical, and political lines, variations so large as to raise severe doubts about the strongly genetic-deterministic model of IQ favored by Lynn and Vanhanen and perhaps also quietly held by many others. (Unless otherwise indicated, all the IQ data that follow are drawn from their work and incorporate their Flynn adjustments.)
Consider, for example, the results from Germany obtained prior to its 1991 reunification. Lynn and Vanhanen present four separate IQ studies from the former West Germany, all quite sizable, which indicate mean IQs in the range 99–107, with the oldest 1970 sample providing the low end of that range. Meanwhile, a 1967 sample of East German children produced a score of just 90, while two later East German studies in 1978 and 1984 came in at 97–99, much closer to the West German numbers.
These results seem anomalous from the perspective of strong genetic determinism for IQ. To a very good approximation, East Germans and West Germans are genetically indistinguishable, and an IQ gap as wide as 17 points between the two groups seems inexplicable, while the recorded rise in East German scores of 7–9 points in just half a generation seems even more difficult to explain. (...)
During this same period, the far richer non-Communist nations of Europe—such as Austria, Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, and West Germany—all tended to score at or somewhat above 100. The wide IQ gaps between these European peoples and the previous group seem unlikely to have a heavily innate basis, given the considerable genetic and phenotypic similarity across these populations. For example, the borders of Austria and Croatia are just a couple of dozen miles apart, both are Catholic countries that spent centuries as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and it is quite difficult to distinguish Austrians from Croatians either by appearance or by genetic testing. Yet the gap between their reported IQ scores—12 points—is nearly as wide as that separating American blacks and whites.
It seems more plausible that most of the large and consistent IQ gaps between Western Europeans and their Balkan cousins are less a cause than a consequence of differences in development and affluence during the era in which these IQs were tested. (...)
If these differences of perhaps 10 or even 15 IQ points between impoverished Balkan Europeans and wealthy Western ones reflected deeply hereditary rather than transitory environmental influences, they surely would have maintained themselves when these groups immigrated to the United States. But there is no evidence of this. As it happens, Americans of Greek and South Slav origins are considerably above most other American whites in both family income and educational level. Since the overwhelming majority of the latter trace their ancestry to Britain and other high IQ countries of Western Europe, this would seem a strange result if the Balkan peoples truly did suffer from an innate ability deficit approaching a full standard deviation.
Similar sharp differences occur in the case of Italian populations separated historically and geographically. Today, Italian-Americans are very close to the national white average in income and education, and the limited data we have seem to put their IQ close to this average as well. This would appear consistent with the IQ figures reported for Italy by Lynn and Vanhanen, which are based on large samples and come in at just above 100. However, there is a notoriously wide economic gap between northern Italy and the south, including Sicily. The overwhelming majority of Italian-Americans trace their ancestry to the latter, quite impoverished regions, and in 2010 Lynn reported new research indicating that the present-day IQ of Italians living in those areas was as low as 89, a figure that places them almost a full standard deviation below either their Northern Italian compatriots or their separated American cousins. Although Lynn attributed this large deficit in Southern Italian IQ to substantial North African or Near Eastern genetic admixture, poverty and cultural deprivation seem more likely explanations. (...)
Similarly, a large 1990 test of South African whites placed their IQ at 94, considerably below that of the Dutch or English peoples from whom they derive, and again this may be connected to their lower level of national income and technological advancement.
Perhaps the strongest evidence supporting this cultural rather than genetic hypothesis comes from the northwestern corner of Europe, namely Celtic Ireland. When the early waves of Catholic Irish immigrants reached America near the middle of the 19th century, they were widely seen as particularly ignorant and uncouth and aroused much hostility from commentators of the era, some of whom suggested that they might be innately deficient in both character and intelligence. But they advanced economically at a reasonable pace, and within less than a century had become wealthier and better educated than the average white American, including those of “old stock” ancestry. The evidence today is that the tested IQ of the typical Irish-American—to the extent it can be distinguished—is somewhat above the national white American average of around 100 and also above that of most German-Americans, who arrived around the same time.
Uma coisa que sempre achei duvidosa nas tais teorias que dizem que o povo A ou B são mais desenvolvidos por serem geneticamente mais inteligentes é como é que eles explicam as viariações que ao longo dos séculos houve entre a hiearquia de desenvolvimento entre diferentes países e regiões - afinal, o Iraque, o Egito e a Grécia já foram dos países mais desenvolvidos do mundo (e os autores gregos e latinos por vezes escreviam textos descrevendo os germanos e celtas - as supostas "raças superiores" dos autores dos séculos XIX e XX - como "raças primitivas"); mesmo que invasões e migrações tenham alterado alguma composição étnica dos habitantes desses territórios, duvido que as qualidades genéticas das suas populações actuais sejam muito diferentes do que na Antiguidade (até porque muitas das invasões foram por povos vizinhos e aparentados, supostamente geneticamente semelhantes).
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 14:17
Monday, July 23, 2012
Deaths caused by gun use are seen, because they happen. Deaths prevented by gun use are not seen, because they don’t happen. (By “gun use” I mean not just firings but also mere brandishings.) First, preventions are underreported (since few are eager to be victimised twice – first by a freelance attacker and second by the cops), and second, when they are reported, they’re not exciting enough to get much publicity.
People who favour stronger gun control laws focus on the deaths they hope to prevent, but rarely consider the deaths their laws would cause.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 00:28
Sunday, July 22, 2012
Friday, July 20, 2012
Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies, by Glenn Greenwald, Cato Istitute.
Publicada por CN em 16:53
"Until the 1960s, historians had established the myth that Progressivism was a virtual uprising of workers and farmers who, guided by a new generation of altruistic experts and intellectuals, surmounted fierce big business opposition in order to curb, regulate, and control what had been a system of accelerating monopoly in the late 19th century. A generation of research and scholarship, however, has now exploded that myth for all parts of the American polity, and it has become all too clear that the truth is the reverse of this well-worn fable. In contrast, what actually happened was that business became increasingly competitive during the late 19th century, and that various big-business interests, led by the powerful financial house of J. P. Morgan and Company, tried desperately to establish successful cartels on the free market. The first wave of such cartels was in the first large-scale business — railroads. In every case, the attempt to increase profits — by cutting sales with a quota system — and thereby to raise prices or rates, collapsed quickly from internal competition within the cartel and from external competition by new competitors eager to undercut the cartel. During the 1890s, in the new field of large-scale industrial corporations, big-business interests tried to establish high prices and reduced production via mergers, and again, in every case, the merger collapsed from the winds of new competition. In both sets of cartel attempts, J. P. Morgan and Company had taken the lead, and in both sets of cases, the market, hampered though it was by high protective, tariff walls, managed to nullify these attempts at voluntary cartelization. It then became clear to these big-business interests that the only way to establish a cartelized economy, an economy that would ensure their continued economic dominance and high profits, would be to use the powers of government to establish and maintain cartels by coercion, in other words, to transform the economy from roughly laissez-faire to centralized, coordinated statism. But how could the American people, steeped in a long tradition of fierce opposition to government-imposed monopoly, go along with this program? How could the public's consent to the New Order be engineered? Fortunately for the cartelists, a solution to this vexing problem lay at hand. Monopoly could be put over in the name of opposition to monopoly! In that way, using the rhetoric beloved by Americans, the form of the political economy could be maintained, while the content could be totally reversed. (...) In that way, the regulatory commissions could subsidize, restrict, and cartelize in the name of "opposing monopoly," as well as promoting the general welfare and national security. Once again, it was railroad monopoly that paved the way. For this intellectual shell game, the cartelists needed the support of the nation's intellectuals, the class of professional opinion molders in society. The Morgans needed a smokescreen of ideology, setting forth the rationale and the apologetics for the New Order. Again, fortunately for them, the intellectuals were ready and eager for the new alliance. (...) In return for their serving as apologists for the new statism, the State was prepared to offer not only cartelized occupations, but also ever-increasing and cushier jobs in the bureaucracy to plan and propagandize for the newly statized society. And the intellectuals were ready for it, having learned in graduate schools in Germany the glories of statism and organicist socialism, of a harmonious "middle way" between dog-eat-dog laissez-faire on the one hand and proletarian Marxism on the other. Big government, staffed by intellectuals and technocrats, steered by big business, and aided by unions organizing a subservient labor force, would impose a cooperative commonwealth for the alleged benefit of all." Origins of the Federal Reserve by Murray N. Rothbard
Publicada por CN em 09:01
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 03:50
Thursday, July 19, 2012
Preventing the “Abuses” of Democracy: Hayek, the “Military Usurper” and Transitional Dictatorship in Chile? [pdf], por Andrew Farrant, Edward McPhail, e Sebastian Berger (American Journal of Economics and Sociology):
ABSTRACT. Hayek famously claimed that he would prefer a “liberal” dictator to “democratic government lacking in liberalism.” While Hayek’s views of the Pinochet regime have generated much controversy, surprisingly little has been written about Hayek’s defense of transitional dictatorship. Making use of previously un-translated foreign language archival material, this paper helps shed light on Hayek’s views of authoritarianism, totalitarianism, transitional dictatorship, and the Pinochet regime as well as helping to separate Hayekian ‘fact’ from Hayekian ‘fiction’.
The Mad Dream of a Libertarian Dictatorship, por Jesse Walker (Reason):
[A] state that tortured its opponents, censored the press, and imprisoned and murdered people for their political views. Hayek may have "prefer[red] to sacrifice democracy" if the alternative was "to do without liberty," but Pinochet restricted liberty in intolerable ways. The general wasn't even consistent in his commitment to economic freedom: He helped bring on a recession by fixing the peso's exchange rates; his regime's record is littered with bailouts, corruption, and other forms of crony capitalism; and he regulated labor tightly. (Pinochet initially banned unions altogether, and after they were legalized he still outlawed sympathy strikes, prohibited voluntary closed-shop contracts, and restricted what issues could be covered when unions negotiated with employers. And then there was his tendency to lock up labor leaders.) Hayek didn't defend those incursions on freedom, but there's no sign he expressed any concern about them either.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 16:54
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Less Antman, na Convenção do "Libertarian Party": "[Obama] holds the record for the most children killed by a Nobel Peace Prize winner."
Roderick T. Long: "I have my doubts about the last statistic, though; remember that Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Henry Kissinger, Yasser Arafat, and Mikhail Gorbachev were all winners as well. Admittedly most of their killings were committed before rather than after winning the prize, but Kissinger still got a good score in afterward, though admittedly as an advisor rather than a direct commander."
Eu acrescentaria Menachen Begin (na categoria dos que mataram antes ou depois). De qualquer maneira Obama está numa categoria única - praticamente todas as pessoas que ele, directa ou indirectamente, mandou matar foi depois de ter sido nomeado para o Nobel (recordo que embora tenha recebido o prémio no final de 2009, as propostas ao comité Nobel tiveram que ser apresentadas até aos primeiros meses de 2009, o que quer dizer que ele foi sugerido para Nobel ainda antes ou pouco depois de tomar posse; isso, ou então o Comité violou os seus regulamentos para lhe poder dar o Nobel).
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 13:21
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
it was one of his playgrounds, one of the safe, drab, battleship-gray ones whose WPA-era design had changed little since Moses assumed power as New York City’s parks commissioner in 1934 (during his twenty-six-year reign, 650 playgrounds were built). The banal swing-set. The bone-jarring seesaw. The galvanized slide. The joyless sprinkler. Each static feature was set far apart from the others, as if to avoid cross-contamination of respective functions, all of it embedded in a vast expanse of summer-blistered asphalt and concrete. I was five years old and with a sizable gash in my forehead, blood streaming down my face (eight stitches, lots of iodine, Roosevelt Hospital emergency room); it was my first and last major mishap in a New York playground, one that instantly implanted a lifelong phobia of pebble-dashed concrete. Along with asphalt (a “resilient” surface, Moses once proudly explained, that prevents children from “digging and eliminates dust”), it was the most unlikely play surface ever concocted by bureaucratic city planners charged with the safety of Gotham’s young. (An artificial agglomerate, it was thought to give traction to little feet running through sprinkler basins, but had the added benefit of acting like a human cheese-grater for unexpectedly airborne kids.)
The obvious irony in all this was that this standard-issue trauma did not occur in what the kids in my Upper West Side neighborhood fondly nicknamed “the dangerous playground” just up the hill—the one that called out with its siren song of massive timbered ziggurats and stepped pyramids with wide undulating slides, the vertiginous fire-pole plunging though tiered treehouses, the Indiana Jones-style rope bridge, the zip line, the Brutalist-Aztec watercourses, and tunnel networks. There, I received not so much as a scratch. And there wasn’t just one dangerous playground; these so-called adventure playgrounds were sprouting up everywhere, siphoning off, Pied-Piper-like, any kid with a scrap of derring-do suddenly bored to death with the old playgrounds, places that now had all the grim appeal of a municipal parking lot. (...)
Almost overnight, Dattner and Friedberg became the Young Turks of radical urban playground design, a professional discipline that hadn’t even existed until their respective projects somewhat inadvertently invented it. The act of designing for children suddenly gained an urbane, avant-garde hipness. The two men preferred the term playscape, an important distinction auguring the end of play as a series of dull interactions with one isolated object after another and offering a new conception of creative play as a fluid, freeform, open-ended map of imaginative experiences and sets of decisions, outcomes, and strategies—a differentiation that reflected a revolutionized understanding of the vital importance of play in mental and physical development. Inspired by the work of pioneering child psychologists Jean Piaget and Erik Erikson, among others, and their theories regarding the connection between cognitive development, adaptive intelligence, and play, Dattner and Friedberg both designed environments to unleash children’s natural instincts to choreograph their own experiences through a non-prescribed network of features enabling individual exploration, social interaction, and a dynamic sense of growing mastery over a variety of challenges. Play, as Friedberg noted in his 1970 book Play and Interplay, was not merely an “expenditure of excess energy,” as previous generations had been accustomed to treating it. (...)
Bold, geometric, and unapologetically monumental, the new playscapes were everything the dull and instantly outmoded playgrounds were not. They were the rebellious New Left’s answer to the authoritarian WPA steamroller approach to public recreation. Like the civic awakening that took place a decade before, the new landscapes were about self-empowerment rather than over-determining, one-size-fits-all behaviors. While each of the new play environments was unique, they were constructed using a budget-conscious inventory of inexpensive and durable materials: cobblestones, bricks, telephone pole timbers, nautical rope, wooden planking, galvanized metal pipes, beach sand, formed concrete. (...)
By the mid-1960s, activist neighborhood groups and politicized residents were flexing newfound muscle, working in parallel to the city and circumventing red-tape to get what they wanted by attracting philanthropists and foundations, raising private funds, rallying supporters, and hiring designers. In preparation for his 67th Street adventure playground, Dattner drew from his own anthropological research on how contemporary children played in New York, both inside and outside defined playgrounds. After consulting with various experts on childhood development, he led multiple workshops and meetings with neighborhood parents to build consensus, support, and a sense of collaborative involvement with the community. While the bulk of the $85,000 budget was underwritten by the Lauder Foundation, the rest was raised over the course of 1965–1966 though block parties, school bake-sales, and, as Dattner fondly recalls, a spirited picnic in the park accompanied by a folk-rock band of twelve- and thirteen-year-olds. By the time the formed concrete was dry, the community felt like it had always been there, that it belonged to them.(...)
But now it is clear that not everyone loved it, or at least cared enough to stop its destruction. The heyday of utopian playscapes didn’t, in the end, last very long—a little more than a decade. And then it was over. And most traces of the modern landscapes that formed an archipelago of play opportunities from Bed-Stuy to the Bronx were obliterated. Tunnels were bricked up. Volcano hatches welded shut. Water features drained. Play leaders fired. Gates shut.
The adventure playgrounds were undone in part by the social ills they were idealistically created to address. The city’s fiscal implosion in the 1970s led to a withdrawal of funding for adequate maintenance and supervision, and to the somewhat faulty perception among a bewildered public increasingly fearful of a chaotic atmosphere of crime, vandalism, and drug abuse that the playscapes themselves were to blame for their misuse. Innovations once championed were now seen as part of the problem. Every syringe or condom rumored to have been found in a sandbox, every urban legend of molesters and junkies lurking in the tunnels, led to the conviction that the designs themselves had failed and were actively threatening the city’s children. If public space is seen as permissive rather than liberating, then each tumble, bruise, and scrape is symptomatic of an encroaching anarchy. Not coincidentally, by the 1990s the culture of parenting had changed, reflecting a broad shift in expectations about safety and danger. The elimination of risk and chance, not only from play but from nearly every aspect of a child’s lived experience, seemed an attainable societal goal. The subsequent fear of litigation and increasingly stringent federal safety codes tipped the balance and the playgrounds suffered a slow, largely unsung death by closure, “upgrading,” and invasive renovation.
[Via Jesse Walker / Reason Hit and Run]
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 20:14
via i-online Síria. A criação de um Estado para alauitas está em marcha. De acordo com membros da oposição síria e académicos especialistas na região, a fidelidade ao líder e às crenças é muito bonita mas só quando tudo lhes corre de feição, e o mais provável é que não lutem até à última gota pelo regime. Em vez disso, vão tentar escapar para o noroeste do país, rumo às montanhas de Djebel Ansari e às cidades costeiras de Latakia e Tartus, de onde são originários. Apesar de instalada no poder, pouco se sabe sobre as origens da comunidade alauita. Alguns especialistas acreditam que ela descende dos cananeus (por volta de 1400 a. C.), povo que levava uma vida isolada nas regiões montanhosas e, por isso, preservou antigos rituais pagãos. Em seguida foram influenciados pelo cristianismo e pelo islão, e só na Idade Média é que adoptaram a língua árabe e aderiram à fé muçulmana (xiita), mas nunca se misturando. Com o passar dos tempos e como resultado dessa não integração, os alauitas acabaram, de acordo com Mahmud A. Faksh, autor do ensaio “The Alawi Community of Syria: A New Dominant Political Force”, por se tornar uma seita separada que mantém crenças alegadamente secretas e apenas conhecidas de um círculo de iniciados.(...) Por isso, a única forma de os alauitas sobreviverem na Síria está na “criação de um Estado” independente que, segundo Abdel Halim Khaddam, vice-presidente sírio de 1984 a 2005, se converteu “quase numa certeza”
Publicada por CN em 16:04
The World Is Experiencing The Opposite Of A Sovereign Debt Crisis, por Joe Weisenthal (Business Insider):
The problems of Spain, Italy, and Greece are often pointed to as being somehow bleeding-edge, canaries in the coalmine that serve as warnings to other governments of what might happen if they don't get their acts together.
But the real story today is just the opposite. The world is experiencing whatever the reverse of a sovereign debt crisis is, as borrowing costs for government are plummeting EVERYWHERE. (...)
You might be tempted to say, well, okay but the Fed is manipulating rates, or that the US is just the "cleanest dirty shirt" but both of these explanations fail when you look at the wide sweep of borrowing costs around the world. (...)
France (which is thought of as a beautiful fiscal model) is seeing its 10-year borrowing costs at 2.228%.
Here are the yields on some other 10-year Treasuries around the world.
None of this is actually "good" news.
What this essentially means is that there's a lot of money out there that sees no productive investments in the real world, and thus people are willing to stick it with entities that promise them a very meager return.
But it is a good reminder that the crisis is basically the exact opposite of what so many mainstream commenters say it is.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 02:47
Monday, July 16, 2012
Friday, July 13, 2012
One of the great forgotten left/right/libertarian crossover crusades of the last half-century was the Neighborhood Power movement of the 1960s and '70s, which called for devolving as much power as possible to the most granularly local level. I'm glad to see the alliance attracting attention from a professional historian, in Benjamin Looker's Journal of Urban History article "Visions of Autonomy." Looker is particularly interested in the roles played by Milton Kotler, a man of the left, and Karl Hess, a libertarian. (...)
* When Jimmy Carter's White House wooed the movement, by contrast, parts of the Democratic coalition worried that "community control" was code for "an agenda of aggrieved blue-collar whites who sought to exclude people of color from their local schools and neighborhoods." Back when the Panthers were riding high, the phrase community control had one set of connotations; in the wake of the busing battles, it had another. Indeed, "By 1978, NAACP chief Benjamin Hooks was fretting that the very word neighborhood had come to stand exclusively for white urban districts." (This wasn't a simple black/white split. Looker doesn't mention it, but a 1975 National Opinion Research Center poll found 53 percent of American blacks opposed to busing -- a sign that much of the black community still liked the idea of local control, even if mainline civil rights leaders were warier.)
* The leftist Institute for Policy Studies was deeply interested in these ideas in the 1960s and '70s. Kotler was a fellow there, Hess participated in many of the institute's activities, and the group sponsored a lot of decentralist projects. These days, by contrast, urban devolution hardly seems to be on the IPS radar screen at all. (...)
Elsewhere not in Reason: I discussed some similar issues from an earlier era, including the precursors to the '70s debates about localism and race, when I wrote this piece about Saul Alinsky.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 00:26