Agony of the Progressives

Victor Davis Hanson at NRO:

What has transformed the Democratic party into an anguished progressive movement that incorporates the tactics of the street, embraces maenadism, reverts to Sixties carnival barking, and is radicalized by a new young socialist movement? Even party chairman Tom Perez concedes that there are “no moderate Democrats left,” and lately the rantings of Cory Booker, Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder, and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez confirm that diagnosis.
The catastrophic yet suicidal loss in the 2016 election and the disappointment over the Obama presidency radicalized Democrats. A combative Trump himself certainly enraged them, on a variety of political, social, and cultural levels.

When Democrats lost, they realized that they still lived in a Republic and not a volatile Athenian democracy — and found this also hard to take.

More exasperating still was the loss of the Supreme Court, the last bastion of elite brilliance and superior morality that might yet save America from the prejudices and ignorance of the irredeemables, deplorables, clingers, and crazies.


Law Givers, Law Makers, Law Bearers

Cafe Hayek Quotation of the Day for Saturday the Thirteenth:

The early “law-givers” did not make the law they “gave”; they studied social traditions and informal rules and gave voice to them, as God’s, or natural, law. The common lawyer, Sir Edward Coke, championed seventeenth-century social norms as law commanding higher authority than the king. Remarkably, these forces prevailed, paving the way for the rule of law in England. Similarly, the cattlemen’s associations, land clubs, and mining districts in the American West all fashioned their own rules for establishing property rights and enforcing them: the brand on the hindquarters of his calf was the cattlemen’s indelible ownership signature on his property, enforced by gunmen hired through his cattle club; squatter’s rights were defended ably (possession is nine points of the law?) by the land clubs composed of those brave enough to settle wilderness lands in advance of veterans exercising their land script claims, and of settlers under the Homestead Act; mining claims were defined, established, and defended by the guns of the mining clubbers, whose rules were later to become part of public mining law.

DBx: Yes.

No myth is responsible for as much mischief through the ages as is the myth that proclaims that social order must be designed, as if society is a mechanism to be engineered. And no particular instance of this myth is worse than that which insists that law – the rules that govern human interactions – is and can only be the product of the state.

The state makes legislation (including, sometimes, codifications of law). The state never makes law.

This puts human law in the same realm as natural law. When scientists, or earlier, “natural philosophers”, propounded “laws of nature”, they were not drafting legislation. Rather, they were attempting to deduce the underlying laws by which nature ran.

The difference between the human realm and the natural realm is that it’s possible to impose rules (within limits) in the human realm.

Amazon and Minimum Wages

From Marginal Revolution:

What Do We Learn from Amazon and the Minimum Wage?

Amazon’s widely touted increase in its minimum wage was accompanied by an ending of their monthly bonus plan, which often added 8% to a worker’s salary (16% during holiday season), and its stock share program which recently gave workers shares worth $3,725 at two years of employment. I’m reasonably confident that most workers will still benefit on net, simply because the labor market is tight, but it’s clear that the increase in the minimum wage was not as generous as it first appeared.

What lessons does this episode hold for minimum wage research? Amazon increased its wages voluntarily but suppose that the minimum wage had been increased by law. What would have happened? Clearly, Amazon would have, at the very least, eliminated their bonus plan and their stock share plan! In this situation, researchers examining employment data would discover that the increase in the minimum wage did not much lower employment. Such researchers might conclude that minimum wages don’t reduce employment much because the demand for labor is inelastic. The conclusion is correct but the reasoning is false. The correct conclusion and reasoning would be that the minimum wage didn’t reduce employment much because the minimum wage didn’t increase net wages much.

Amazon is a big and newsworthy employer so its actions have been closely monitored but in most cases we never know the myriad ways in which firms respond to a law. Even using administrative data it would be difficult to pick up changes in a stock share plan or a pension plan, as this compensation doesn’t show up in earnings until years after the work is completed. Even a simple employment contract is a complicated bargain with many margins. During the holiday season, for example, Amazon hires a CamperForce of workers who live in RVs and it pays their campsite fees–no big deal, but that is a form of compensation that is hard to find on a W-2. More generally, firms can respond to a minimum wage by changing compensation on non-wage margins, adjusting working conditions, reducing benefits, changing wage growth patterns, and adjusting the type of workers they hire, to give just a few examples–and notice that all of these changes are difficult to measure and none of them have a first-order effect on employment.

…Like With a Brillo?

TheNewNeo notes some curious things about Professor Ford.

One of the strangest aspects of Ford’s story is that, by the time her identity was revealed, much information about that identity had been removed from the internet with an unusual degree of thoroughness for a layperson, indicating the participation of someone who knew exactly what he or she was doing, not an amateur such as Ford herself. How was this done, and who did it?

For me, one of the most curious aspects of all is that her high school yearbooks disappeared from their online site as well, not long after almost all of her personal information was scrubbed . Ford did not have the power to do this because the yearbooks were not displayed at her site or social media pages. So who did it for her, and why, and at whose behest? What’s more, the site that claimed to have archived and displayed the yearbooks disappeared as well not all that long after.

It takes quite a bit to get me into conspiracy theories, but this has been extremely odd. Are the yearbooks that were displayed at that site authentic? If so, why did the site that offered them disappear without any explanation? The yearbooks revealed massive drinking and partying by the young ladies of Holton Arms, including Ford herself. I’d love to get some clarification on all of this.


Discrimination, Prejudice, and Racism

Walter Williams comments:

So much of our reasoning about race is both emotional and faulty. In ordinary, as well as professional, conversation, we use terms such as discrimination, prejudice, racial preferences and racism interchangeably, as if they referred to the same behavior. We can avoid many pitfalls of misguided thinking about race by establishing operational definitions so as to not confuse one behavior with another.

Discrimination can be operationally defined as an act of choice. Our entire lives are spent choosing to do or not to do thousands of activities. Choosing requires non-choosing. When you chose to read this column, you discriminated against other possible uses of your time. When you chose a spouse, you discriminated against other people. When I chose Mrs. Williams, I systematically discriminated against other women. Much of it was racial. Namely, I discriminated against white women, Asian women, fat women and women with criminal backgrounds. In a word, I didn’t offer every woman an equal opportunity, and they didn’t offer me an equal opportunity.

One might be tempted to argue that racial discrimination in marriage is trivial and does not have important social consequences, but it does. When high-IQ and high-income people marry other high-IQ and high-income people, and to the extent there is a racial correlation between these characteristics, racial discrimination in mate selection enhances the inequality in the population’s intelligence and income distribution. There would be greater income equality if high-IQ and high-income people married low-IQ and low-income people. But I imagine that most people would be horrified by the suggestion of a mandate to require the same.

Prejudice is a perfectly useful term, but it is used improperly. Its Latin root is praejudicium — meaning prejudgment. Prejudice can be operationally defined as making decisions on the basis of incomplete information. Because the acquisition of information entails costs, we all seek to economize on information cost. Sometimes we use cheap-to-observe physical attributes as proxies for some other attribute more costlier to observe. The cheaply observed fact that a person is a male or female can serve as a proxy for an unobserved attribute such as strength, aggressiveness or speed in running.

In the late 1990s, a black taxi commissioner in Washington, D.C., warned cabbies against going into low-income black neighborhoods and picking up “dangerous-looking” passengers whom she described as young black males dressed a certain way. Some pizza deliverers in St. Louis who were black complained about delivering pizzas to black neighborhoods for fear of being assaulted or robbed. In 1993, the Rev. Jesse Jackson was reported as saying that he is relieved when he learns that youthful footsteps walking behind him at night are white and not black.

Here’s the question: Does the wariness of Washington’s predominantly black cabbies to pick up “dangerous-looking” black males or black pizza deliverers’ not wanting to deliver to some black neighborhoods or Rev. Jackson’s feeling a sense of relief when the youthful footsteps behind him are those of white youngsters instead of black say anything unambiguous about whether cabbies, pizza deliverers and Jackson like or dislike blacks? It’s a vital and often overlooked point — namely, that watching a person’s prejudicial (prejudging) behavior alone can tell us nothing unambiguous about that person’s racial tastes or preferences.

Consider policing. Suppose a chief of police is trying to capture culprits who break in to autos to steal electronic equipment. Suppose further that you see him focusing most of his investigative resources on young males between the ages of 15 and 25. He spends none of his investigative resources on females of any age and very few on men who are 40 or older. By watching his “profiling” behavior — prejudging behavior — would you conclude that he likes females and older males and dislikes males between the ages of 15 and 25? I think that it would take outright idiocy to reach such a conclusion. The police chief is simply playing the odds based on the evidence he has gathered through experience that breaking in to autos tends to be a young man’s fancy.

KavaYashi Maru

Jonah Goldberg has a piece titled, “The Price of Victory“. Essentially, whoever won was going to pay a very high price.  The culture war will only escalate from here.

Along the way, he cites some tweets from PoliMath:

Here’s a #TerribleOpinion for you:
1) I think Kavanaugh is likely innocent
2) It may be better for the country (and SCOTUS) if he withdraw
3) He can’t do that w/o essentially committing reputational and career suicide
4) No one should ever have to be in that position
5) Assuming innocence, we as a culture have absolutely no path for Kavanaugh to take. If he withdraws for the good of the country, his career is over. His family will be vilified. Big chunks of the cultural left will parade his head on a pike for YEARS.
6) that is all bad

7) My ideal scenario is for Kavanaugh to withdraw on the condition that Senate Dems take out a full page groveling apology to him and his family in the NYT.
Then Dems can get what they want, but only if they can give up the cultural political win it would have provided them.

8) I don’t think you can overstate how furious the right is at Kavanaugh’s treatment.
The first allegation caused pause among center-right.
The second *looked* like a political calculation.
But people (esp the media) taking the Avenati thing seriously blew it all apart.

Last thing: For Kavanaugh to withdraw, you would have to convince the right that the *next* nominee would be treated fairly.
That is impossible.
The die is cast, the ship has sailed, the right firmly believes the next nominee will see the same vilification.

The right was willing to at least consider the first allegation, despite the way the timing of the whole thing stank to high heaven. When a second and third came along, not only did the timing stink, they lacked even the credibility the first had. What’s more, Kavanaugh had already been through six full-field FBI background investigations.

While I’ve never been through such an investigation myself, although at one point it was a possibility, I’ve heard quite a bit about them.

FBI agents interview everyone they can find who’s been in the live of the target of the investigation. And they ask the people they interview if they can think of anyone else who might have something to contribute. Then everything that is said, good, bad, indifferent, unhinged — everything — is put in the file. This is the “raw” file. They don’t try to assess truth, falsity, or even credibility.

I work at what amounts to the complaint department for any matters regarding water quality in my city. We get phone calls whenever the water is misbehaving. If it’s discolored, we get calls. If it smells bad, we get calls. If it crawls from the glass and chases the customer around the kitchen, we get calls.

I personally have dealt with at least two people who were convinced their neighbors were poisoning their water. One of them claimed the neighbor was spraying plutonium on her roof. My staff has dealt with their own callers who have been a step away from reality. Imagine the FBI doing a background check on someone who lived next to one of these people. What do you imagine they told the FBI about their neighbors?

And it would wind up in the background file.

The point here is not just to point out that the FBI doesn’t try to reach conclusions about the contents of the raw file, but to make the point that the more people come forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, the more it destroys any credibilty that might otherwise attach. It’s vaguely possible that one instance, one time, three and a half decades ago, might have escaped this background check process. It’s much less likely two would. When we get to three, with the third involving a rape factory, it’s just not conceivable that the FBI would have missed it.

Maybe the first has some truth to it, but when everyone involved in bringing these accusations seems to accept the lot of the accusations as Gospel, they sacrifice any credibility they have.