One of the recent studies purporting to show a difference between liberal and conservative brains judged political opinions in accordance with the Wilson–Patterson inventory, in which the experimental subjects are asked if they agree with the liberal or conservative view on items in a list. In my humble opinion, many of the item in the Wilson–Patterson inventory are ambiguous. For example:
- School prayer
Do they mean “Are you in favor of prayer in public schools?” or “Are you in favor of prayer in more schools?”
Do they mean “Are you in favor of state suppression of pornography?” or “Are you in favor of private citizens criticizing it?”
- Women's equality
Do they mean “Are you in favor of allowing women to work?” (at one time leftists didn't) or “Are you in favor of forcing businesses to pay wages based on someone's fantasy of discrimination?”
- abortion rights
Do they mean “Are you in favor of the right to an abortion?” or “Are you in favor of the right not to be aborted?”
- warrantless searches
This isn't right-wing vs. left-wing; this is in-power vs. out-of-power.
Is the Left for or against globalization this week?
- school standards
Lately, it's been the right-wing who are opposed to Common Core.
- free trade
Is the Left for or against free trade this week?
My stereotype detector just buzzed.
Give me three quarters of the cake?
The “obedience” item is particularly annoying. If this was invented by leftists (and social scientists tend to lean left), they probably thought “Of course, the wingnuts believe in obedience!” On the other hand, the inventory also includes “Tax cuts” and “small government.” So, we wingnuts believe in tax cuts, small government, and … obedience? Obedience to whom?
Pro-Government Yet Disengaged?
On the one hand, President Obama is clearly on the side of more government. On the other hand, he seems to be disengaged from the actual process of government. I had some trouble trying to figure that out until I realized that he's acting as the laissez-faire leader of that colonialist power known as the Federal bureaucracy that has somehow taken over the United States. He doesn't believe in letting citizens do what they want; he believes in letting bureaucrats do what they want.
Question: What if a future President trying to rein in bureaucrats tries a mass firing similar to Reagan vs. PATCO and the bureaucrats refuse to leave? What if they send SWAT teams after their replacements?
What the Other Side Was Saying about Ebola Not That Long Ago
From CompuServe forums in the 1990s:
>>Uncontrolled population growth increases rates of sickness. If 400 Billion people ever were to live on this tiny planet, they wouldn't live for very long before Ebola or something else would kill everyone. <<
>>There are some ideas floating around out there that AIDS, Ebola, and related horrors may be produced by the rain forest ecology in response to stresses. Sort of a self-defense mechanism against the likes of us encroaching on them.<<
>>WM: Not "spewing venomous endictments," just making accurate observations. If these guys accurately represent the Libertarian "political philosophy" on environmental issues, then mother nature may be just in time in kicking her immune system into high gear by unveiling the Ebola and other super-viruses to protect herself from the HUMAN infestation.<<
From 1996 Usenet:
> Ever heard of Ebola?? There are plenty more where that came from, all we have
> to do is build more roads through rainforests to let feral animals get the
> nasties there and then take them out and infect the rest of us.
> This is not a fairy tale folks! It has been documented and proved
From 2003 Usenet:
> Increase the killing or we risk becoming extremely overpopulated. I'd
> spray un- infected areas with ebola and aids. The world cannot
> support this population. It's madness! We need to save lives in
> Africa. We need to help the homeless. The answer to homelessness is
> to give the death penalty to anyone caught eating out of a dumpster.
> Lethal injection is humane. It's not an issue.
In other words, a decade or two ago, Malthusians and environmentalists used Ebola as an excuse to impose the policies they wanted anyway. For some reason, nowadays this is done by nativists.
I Have Trouble Taking Ebola Hysteria Seriously
Back in the 1990s, most of the hysteria (or maybe it was gloating) about Ebola came from environmentalist wackos. A claim was that such outbreaks were due to human beings moving into “new lands.” I'm not sure where the people saying that thought human beings evolved in the first place. Another common claim is that the Ebola outbreak was due to high population densities, even despite the fact in the real world, Ebola originated in a rainforest on a thinly-populated continent.
In short, the Ebola hysteria sounds too much like people trying to come up with reasons to believe the Earth goddess is fighting back against that crime against nature known as civilization.
The people hysterical about Ebola in the 1990s had a few things in common with the people hysterical about Ebola today. There's opposition to Julian Simon's theories, a self-congratulatory belief that they are paying some attention to basic science (unlike the Other Side), and bizarre, not completely debugged, religious rhetoric.
Something Else to Worry About
The Caplan Criterion
Bryan Caplan recently tweeted:
.@MarkSKrikorian Good rule of thumb: If you think it's wrong to punish natives for X, I I think it's wrong to punish humans for X.
The converse might be worth applying. If it is legitimate to temporarily close off houses in response to an epidemic, it is legitimate to temporarily close off borders in response to an epidemic.
It might make sense to put a time limit on any border closings. The traditional time limit was forty days (the origin of the term “quarantine”).
The Boy Who Cried “Wolf!” and Nativists
The nativist claim that Ebola proves we MUST close our borders would be more believable if they hadn't been making the same claim for years. The nativists who cry “foreigners!” sound a lot like the boy who cried “wolf!”
On the other hand, they might have a point for once. Control of contagious disease was a traditional activity of classical liberal governments. I have seen complaints that such governments were more concerned about contagious disease than malnutrition.
On the gripping hand, there is the common problem of activity creep. Once it is considered proper for governments to intervene in epidemics, they have an incentive to consider more events to be epidemics.
Two Consequences of Malthusian Theories
According to Malthusian theories, elementary science implies that unrestricted reproduction is irresponsible. In other words, the widespread dissemination of Malthusian theories will suppress the number of people raised to believe in both what is called elementary science and responsible behavior. That, in turn, has two effects: 1) People who believe in what is called elementary science will tend to be more irresponsible. 2) People who are trying to be responsible will be skeptical of science.
This might be an explanation for both environmentalist wackos and creationists.
For the record, I hold that overpopulation overshoot is a common problem in animals but we're plants.
Obama Really Is a Marxist
Good heavens. President Obama really is a Marxist. Just overthrow capitalism and the Millennium will arrive even without establishing a dictatorship. The Obama administration is what happens when a Marxist refuses to be a dictator. In other words, things could be worse.
In other unexpected news, President Obama turned not to be an affirmative-action beneficiary.
A Controlled Experiment
The U.S. invaded Iraq and … it's a mess.
The U.S. did not invade Syria and … it's a worse mess.
Yes. I know it's a small sample … but a sample size of two is better than a sample size of one.