Viewing entries tagged
Ideology and Politics

Psychologizing as a Way to Invalidate Other Points of View

Psychology is implicated in everything humans do, think and feel - as in all humans…. But “psychology” is not independent of reality. Things are rarely “in our heads” or “in the world”. Pointing out that a belief serves a psychological need (a “use-value”) says nothing about whether that belief is correct (it’s “truth-value”).

Junk Science: Invoking "Systemic Barriers" to Explain Unequal Returns to Education

To simplify the authors’ argument:

“There are a few standard explanations for unequal outcomes. But those explanations do not explain all the variance in outcomes. Therefore, unobservable facts reflecting systemic barriers explain the rest and they are the ultimate cause of injustice. Elimination of these barriers will require fundamental change in the nature of our society.”

Connecting the "Is" of Human Nature to the "Ought" of Politics

“With the abolition of private property, then, we shall have true, beautiful, healthy Individualism. Nobody will waste his life in accumulating things, and the symbols for things. ... Individualism will also be unselfish and unaffected.” Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man under Socialism …“…conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectibility. Human nature suffers irremediably from certain grave faults, the conservatives know. Man being imperfect, no perfect social order ever can be created. To seek for utopia is to end in disaster, the conservative says: we are not made for perfect things. All that we reasonably can expect is a tolerable ordered, just, and free society, in which some evils, maladjustments, and suffering will continue to lurk. By proper attention to prudent reform, we may preserve and improve this tolerable order.” Russell Kirk, Ten Conservative Principles

American Conservatives Could Use Some Fresh Ideas: A Few Suggestions

There is no reason conservatives can’t embrace goals like universal healthcare, affordable housing, elimination of poverty, or increased social mobility. With the above safeguards in place, they may go forth and advance bold policy initiatives without violating their core principles.

The Bipolar World of the American Left: A Chart

The inspiration for this post was Elizabeth Warren’s website, which lists her various Plans for America. I read through her introductions to each Plan and noticed certain themes that kept repeating:

The Politics of Making People Invisible

Over the next few decades, millions of hotel units disappeared. Why did the residents let the bigwigs get away with it?. Because they were invisible, by design. As explained by Paul Groth, in “Living Downtown: The History of Residential Hotels in the United States”:

“Because officials did not consider hotels to be permanent housing, during the official massive downtown clearances from 1950 to 1970, people living in hotels were not tallied as residents. Hence, when a city demolished an SRO [single room occupancy] building, ‘no one’ had been moved, and no dwelling units were lost in the official counts and newspaper reports. In reality, of course, hundreds of thousands of SRO people and homes were removed. Deliberate ignorance had become a cultural blind spot that made hotel residents invisible both to officials and to the public.”

Coveted Endorsements: a Key to Political Influence. Here's a List.

This post was inspired by a current events group I attend weekly. The group is composed of what’s often called in political science papers as “high-information voters”. During one gathering, a question was put to the floor: “what shortcuts do you use to decide which candidates or propositions to vote for?” The overwhelming response: endorsements in the voter’s pamphlet. And that got me to thinking….

California's Gig-Worker Law Just Passed - to the Advantage of Some Workers and Detriment of Others

Occupations granted exemptionsd from the new law include physicians, accountants, direct sellers, real estate agents, hairstylists and barbers, aestheticians, commercial fishermen, marketing professionals, travel agents, graphic designers, grant writers, fine artists, enrolled agents, payment processing agents, repossession agents, and human resources administrators.

Occupations that were not granted an exemption include: franchise owners, owner-operator truck drivers, nurse anesthetists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, optometrists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, radiation therapists, marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers, respiratory therapists and audiologists, language translators, janitors, youth sports coaches, construction workers, manicurists, medical technicians, nightclub strippers, and software coders.

Which is More? What Profit Takes or What Profit Gives Back?

Of course, the spill-over effects of capitalist greed are not all conducive to the common good. And so the government must step in and tame the wild beast without killing its spirit. Not an easy task but a task made easier by a clear understanding of how capitalism works its magic in specific cases. It’s one thing to say a free market lifts all boats and quite another to appreciate how this happens on the ground (or in the water).

With Liberty, Justice, and More Disposable Income for All

In 1960, food, clothing, housing, healthcare, and transportation accounted for 86% of household spending. That left just 14% for everything else. In 2017, food, clothing, housing, and healthcare accounted for 73% of household spending… Progress has been made.

Which Legacy Counts? The Case of Racial Differences in Homeownership, Part II

According to a 2006 HUD report covering the period of 1990 - 2003, close to half of low-income buyers did not sustain home ownership for more than five years. However, HUD found no evidence that first-time buyers were systematically using higher cost or riskier mortgage products during this period. Instead the report noted that “the share of low-income home buyers with severe payment burdens (over half of income) rose from 14.5% of buyers in the first part of the 1990s to 20.1% by 2003”.

Which Legacy Counts? The Case of Racial Differences in Homeownership, Part I

So many questions! For instance, why do government policies that ended over 50 years ago count more towards the “legacy” than more recent policies? Is homeownership a necessary condition for social mobility? When does homeownership undermine social mobility? How much does wealth facilitate social mobility? What other factors come into play?

How Owning a Small Business Changes One's Politics (Update)

Which is why it makes total sense to me that small business owners are more likely to be Republicans than Democrats. One, the vast majority of small business owners work long hours – so the Republican emphasis on hard work resonates with them. Two, the vast majority of small business owners make less than $100K a year; they don’t see themselves as part of an “elite establishment” but as hard-working common folk pursuing the American Dream – another Republican theme. Three, over two-thirds of small businesses fail within 10 years, so owners are sensitive to government policies that impact their bottom line.  Four, even when small businesses beat the odds, it typically takes decades for owners to strike it rich.  As far as these lucky few are concerned, their riches are deserved, not the result of unfair privilege.

How We Think about Luck, Hard Work, and Social Justice: It's All Related

While disagreements about the importance of luck versus work are often framed as matters of degree, there is a school of thought that subsumes hard work within the higher-order category of luck - basically reducing the role of hard work to zero. The argument goes something like this: yeah, some people work really hard to get where they are, but the reason they’re able to work so hard is because they were lucky enough to have been born into privileged circumstances (e.g., parents, neighborhood, schools, connections). In other words, it all boils down to luck.

Neither Right Nor Left Nor In-Between: Thinking Outside The Line

There is no natural connection between being pro-business and anti-environment. Nor natural connection between embracing gender fluidity and advocating for a more generous social welfare system. Nor between being a fiscal conservative and an evangelical Christian. These political orientations are correlated in the US, not because they “naturally” go together but because the American system of government favors a two-party system, which is turn favors broad coalitions. This is not the case in European countries with strong multi-party traditions, where you find much greater mixing of political views than in the US.