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A Progressive Dilemma

John Stossel writes in Townhall, The War on Women:

Insurance companies still charge men more for car and life insurance. A survey of car insurance companies found that the cheapest policy for a woman cost 39 percent less than for a man. A 60-year-old woman pays 20 percent less than a man for a 10-year life insurance policy. Seventy-year-old women pay half as much as men.

That’s just math, too, because most women live longer than men and, despite the “woman-driver” stereotype, we men get into more car accidents.

I don’t hear activists complaining about men paying too much. The “victim” propaganda works only when women pay more.

The sexes are simply different. Yet government demands that colleges have gender-equal sports participation. It’s fine if dance and art groups are mostly women, but if athletic teams are too male, lawsuits follow.

Obama even cynically repeats the misleading claim that women make 77 cents for every dollar men make, although his own Department of Labor says the difference evaporates once you control for experience and other choices.


This probably the most dog eared chapter of the Progressive Playbook, likely originated from the opposition to abortion from some of the conservatives.  Here is a progressive dilemma: What if female fetuses were aborted at a higher rate than male fetuses?

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American Capitalism and Charity

Jeff Jacoby writes ‘Tis better to give, but some give more in The Boston Globe:

Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby


WHEN IT comes to charitable giving, America is a world-beater. According to Giving USA, an annual compendium of national data on philanthropy, Americans last year donated more than $316 billion to charity, or roughly 2 percent of GDP. Contrary to popular belief, most of that money didn’t come from foundations or corporations. It came from individuals. In 2012, donations from private American households added up to about $223 billion.

American generosity varies by region. Studies by Fraser and the Catalogue of Philanthropy, which use IRS data from itemized income tax returns, show a consistent pattern. “Measured by how much they share out of what they have available, the most generous Americans are not generally those in high-income, urban, liberal states like California or Massachusetts,” Zinsmeister writes. “Rather, people living in areas that are more rural, conservative, religious, and moderate in income are our most generous givers.”

Discussions of charity — who gives, who doesn’t — invariably become fodder for the culture wars. Let’s face it, an unmistakable aroma of hypocrisy wafts when those who preach a politics of compassion and denounce the greed of their ideological opponents turn out to be bleeding heart tightwads.


Perhaps Pope Francis overlooked this in his 50,000 word address, Evangelii Gaudium, in his condemnation of capitalism.

Capitalism requires a free economy, political liberty AND a system of moral virtues.  He would have been far more effective if he addressed the moral component without the condemnation of an effective economic system with the pejorative of “trickle down economics.”


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Is Democracy A Prerequisite for Innovation ?

Eamonn Fingleton writes in the New York Times America The Innovative?, 3/31/13


Few of the most creative societies of the ancient world were free. Certainly not Mesopotamia or Egypt. As for the spectacular creativity of early modern Europe, this somehow flourished alongside bloodcurdling efforts at mind control. More recently, both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, with authoritarian cultures, punched well above their weight in innovation.

Even the evidence of America’s own history undercuts the “all you need is freedom” story. Though from the start freedom was central to the country’s political culture, Americans have not always ranked as technological leaders. America’s technological coming of age was remarkably recent. As Ralph Gomory, former head of I.B.M.’s research department pointed out to me in an interview, America was noted up to the 1930s mainly as an inspired adapter of other nations’ technologies — a role similar to that of Japan and other East Asian nations in more recent times.

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Perpetuating Cynicism and Paranoia

tin hats

from the New York Times Magazine by Naggie Koerth-Baker,  Sure You Saw a Flying Saucer (hard copy) or Why Rational People Buy Into Conspiracy Theories in the online version.


Since Hofstadter’s book was published, our access to information has vastly improved, which you would think would have helped minimize such wild speculation. But according to recent scientific research on the matter, it most likely only serves to make theories more convincing to the public. What’s even more surprising is that this sort of theorizing isn’t limited to those on the margins. Perfectly sane minds possess an incredible capacity for developing narratives, and even some of the wildest conspiracy theories can be grounded in rational thinking, which makes them that much more pernicious. Consider this: 63 percent of registered American voters believe in at least one political conspiracy theory, according to a recent poll conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University.

In 2010, Swami and a co-author summarized this research in The Psychologist, a scientific journal. They found, perhaps surprisingly, that believers are more likely to be cynical about the world in general and politics in particular. Conspiracy theories also seem to be more compelling to those with low self-worth, especially with regard to their sense of agency in the world at large. Conspiracy theories appear to be a way of reacting to uncertainty and powerlessness.

Surprisingly, Swami’s work has also turned up a correlation between conspiracy theorizing and strong support of democratic principles. But this isn’t quite so strange if you consider the context. Kathryn Olmsted, a historian at the University of California, Davis, says that conspiracy theories wouldn’t exist in a world in which real conspiracies don’t exist. And those conspiracies — Watergate or the Iran-contra Affair — often involve manipulating and circumventing the democratic process. Even people who believe that the Sandy Hook shooting was actually a drama staged by actors couch their arguments in concern for the preservation of the Second Amendment.

Our access to high-quality information has not, unfortunately, ushered in an age in which disagreements of this sort can easily be solved with a quick Google search. In fact, the Internet has made things worse. Confirmation bias — the tendency to pay more attention to evidence that supports what you already believe — is a well-documented and common human failing. People have been writing about it for centuries. In recent years, though, researchers have found that confirmation bias is not easy to overcome. You can’t just drown it in facts.

In 2006, the political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler identified a phenomenon called the “backfire effect.” They showed that efforts to debunk inaccurate political information can leave people more convinced that false information is true than they would have been otherwise. Nyhan isn’t sure why this happens, but it appears to be more prevalent when the bad information helps bolster a favored worldview or ideology.

In that way, Swami says, the Internet and other media have helped perpetuate paranoia. Not only does more exposure to these alternative narratives help engender belief in conspiracies, he says, but the Internet’s tendency toward tribalism helps reinforce misguided beliefs.


Even the educated and the intelligent tend to believe what they expect or what they want.  They are also subject to rationalization of emotional responses. Nassim Taleb pointed out that rationalization is quite different from rationality.

We want to explain with conspiracy what can be better explained with randomness or incompetence.

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The Racism of the Intelligentsia

There is something, evidently, in the human mind, even when carefully honed at Oxford or the Sorbonne, that hesitates to believe in capitalism: in the enriching mysteries of inequality, the inexhaustible mines of the division of labor, the multiplying miracles of market economics, the compounding gains from trade and property.  It is far easier to see the masters of the works as evil, to hunt them as witches, favored by occult powers of Faustian links.

The fantasies take a lurid turn in the minds of the mobs.  A French sociologist tells of the furies called forth in the 1960s by a group of Jewish dressmakers who opened shops in a small town in Provence. How could their prices be so low for fashions so elegant, for styles of Parisian design and grace? It must be conspiracy.  They were selling drugs, it was muttered at first; then darker rumors arose.  Two young women left for Paris. They were victims of the white slave trade, it was said, and the dressmakers were its front! A mob gathered and stormed and burned the shops to the ground. Amid the smoldering ashes, the proprietors presumably reflected on the strange profits of efficient enterprise.

In American cities this mode of thought appears in  milder form in the inevitable rumors surrounding any prosperous Italian businessman (“he is in league with the Mafia”) A convict once told me, with complete assurance, that everyone in prison knew for a fact that John D Rockefeller had acquired his money as a member of a gang of Jesse James, for which Standard Oil served as a convenient cover. The ideal that all wealth is acquired through stealing is popular in prisons and at Harvard.

Edward Banfield, in his book The Moral Basis of a Backward Society, maintains that this attitude is a crucial characteristic of an undeveloping economy.  In the small town in Italy that he studied in an effort to understand the sources of poverty, every businessman was assumed to be cheating his employees, every priest to be filching from the plate, every politician and policeman to be on the take. ..

In the past this strange struggle has often enlisted the services of  lumpen  intellectuals, contriving gothic rationales for racism and pillage: inventing tables of cabalistic Jewish financiers, conspiracies of Asian shopkeepers, peculiar collaborations of usurious moneylenders. In more recent times the fashion has tuned decisively against ethnic prejudice, which remains socially acceptable chiefly among the poor.  But hatred of producers of wealth still flourishes and has become, in fact, the racism of the intelligentsia.

From the new edition of Wealth and Poverty by George Gilder.  Originally published in 1980 the new version is updated with 40,000 words and views on the current scene


“In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.”- Confucius

A nation or culture that demonizes wealth production will, not surprisingly, produce little wealth.