MODOK studies

by John Holbo on December 11, 2004

Thanks for the many comments – many long comments – to my academic groupthink posts, particularly the second. Having dutifully read through, I’m too tired to respond point by point to any more points. I do feel that this exercise – which threatened to be a bit of the old same old/same old – did me much good, writing and reading.

I hope those who followed along feel the same. Otherwise you must be seething.

One commenter requested – for the benefit of those with day jobs, or whose time is valuable – a dsquared-style shorter Holbo for all this.

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Republican anti-intellectualism

by Henry on December 11, 2004

“Stephen Bainbridge”:http://www.professorbainbridge.com/2004/12/jonathan_chair_.html, in the course of attacking Jonathan Chait’s recent “article”:http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-chait10dec10,1,5960569.column?coll=la-news-comment-opinions on the dearth of conservative academics, makes an interesting leap of logic.

bq. “Second, professors don’t particularly want to be Republicans. In recent years, and especially under George W. Bush, Republicans have cultivated anti-intellectualism.” In other words, conservatives are stupid. *Wrong again*. As I also pointed out in my TCS column, Data from the widely used General Social Survey (GSS) consistently show that Republicans are better educated than Democrats (on average, they have more than half a year more education and hold a higher final degree). In addition, Republicans score better than Democrats on two tests included in the GSS. As for Chait’s argument that conservatives are anti-intellectual, how about all those fine public intellectuals who write for opinion journals like Policy Review, Commentary, or First Things, to name a few? Or how about all those policy wonks working at places like AEI or Heritage?

How exactly does the observation that “Republicans cultivate anti-intellectualism” imply that the observer believes that Republicans are stupid? This is a complete non-sequitur, and a misleading one at that – Bainbridge is trying, not very successfully, to change the subject to one that he feels stronger on (I’m sure that there’s a technical term for this sort of rhetorical manoeuvre, but I don’t know what it is). Nor does the fact that Republican intellectuals exist contradict the fact that there is a strong strain of anti-intellectualism to Republican Party rhetoric, and Republican attempts to appeal to voters (as, for example, the pillorying of Al Gore for using big numbers and complicated ideas). While this anti-intellectualism doesn’t completely explain the dearth of Republican academics by any stretch of the imagination, it surely helps contribute to the hostility of many in the academy, as does the open hostility of many Republicans to evolutionary biology and the very real scientific consensus on global warming.

Update: Stephen Bainbridge responds in an update to his original post:

bq. One would have thought my point was obvious, but let me spell it out. Point one: There are a lot smart conservatives out there interested in intellectual matters and the life of the mind. They’re qualified to be academics and likely would pursue an academic career if they had a fair shot at landing one. Point two: Even if Chait and Farrell are right that there is a streak of anti-intellectualism in the Republican party, so fricking what? Why does that justify the academic left’s discrimination against conservatives? (You’ll note Farrell just sort of glides past that point.) Would Farrell say that environmentalists should be excluded from the academy because some eco-nuts commit the grossly anti-intellectual act of vandalizing laboratories doing animal research? Of course not. So spare me your stereotypes and generalizations. And stop using Karl Rove’s (highly successful) campaign tactics as your spurious justification for discriminating against conservative academics. Just because your Democrat party can’t beat Bush doesn’t justify taking our your anger on right-of-center job applicants.

He’s either having serious comprehension problems with a perfectly straightforward argument (namely that there is a major non-sequitur in his original claims), or he’s being intellectually dishonest. I don’t at any stage offer any “spurious justification for discriminating against conservative academics” (or indeed any non-spurious justifications either). I simply point to a major flaw in Bainbridge’s argument; he egregiously misinterprets Chait for his own rhetorical purposes. This has no bearing on the underlying question of whether there is, or is not, discrimination against conservative academics. In Bainbridge’s response, he doesn’t even bother to try and justify his misinterpretation; instead he tries to change the subject again by claiming (without any evidence whatsoever) that I’m trying to justify anti-conservative discrimination. Weak, silly bluster – I’d have expected better from him.

Pay without Performance

by John Quiggin on December 11, 2004

I’ve been reading “Pay without Performance : The Unfulfilled Promise of Executive Compensation” by Bebchuk and Fried) For anyone who still believes that executive pay is based on rewarding performance, and encouraging risk-taking, this book should disabuse them. There are loads of studies pointing out, not surprisingly to anyone who reads the papers, that top executives and boards look after each other in a way that rewards failure.

The most telling detail for me is the observation p98, that every single CEO in the S&P Execucomp Database has a defined benefit pension plan. This, while bosses everywhere have been shifting their employees onto defined contribution plans, where they, and not the company, bear all the risk, and while the Republicans in the US are trying to do the same with Social Security.

One thing I would have liked more of is quantitative information about the aggregate magnitude of payments to executive pay, considered in relation to corporate profits. There’s only a little of this in the book, though the authors say here

Aggregate top-five compensation was equal to 10 percent of aggregate corporate earnings in 1998-2002, up from 6 percent of aggregate corporate earnings during 1993-1997.

Given that this excludes various kinds of hidden transfers[1], that non-executive board members extract substantial rents (mostly through favorable corporate decisions rather than in cash) and considering senior managers, rather than merely top-5 executives, as a class, it’s apparent that the total income flowing to this group could easily be between 25 and 50 per cent of aggregate corporate profits. If this is correct, it ought to have profound implications for the way in which we model corporations, and the way in which we think about the class structure of modern capitalism.

fn1. It’s not clear whether retirement benefits are counted, for example, and these are as large, in present value terms, as direct compensation. Then there is the observation that executive insiders do remarkably well in trading the shares of their own companies.

Indispensable Applications

by Kieran Healy on December 11, 2004

Picking up on an “old item”:http://merlin.blogs.com/43folders/2004/09/osx_inventories.html over at “43 Folders”:http://www.43folders.com/ (this post has been marinading for a while), here’s a discussion of the applications and tools I use to get work done. I do get work done, sometimes. Honestly.

I’ll give you two lists. The first contains examples of software I find really useful, but which doesn’t directly contribute to the work I’m supposed to be doing. (Some of it actively detracts from it, alas.) The second list is comprised of the applications I use to do what I’m paid for, and it might possibly interest graduate students in departments like “mine”:http://fp.arizona.edu/soc/. If you just care about the latter list, then a discussion about “choosing workflow applications”:http://www.kieranhealy.org/files/misc/workflow-apps.pdf [pdf] might also be of interest. (That note overlaps with this post: it doesn’t contain the first list, but adds some examples to the second.) If you don’t care about any of this, well, just move along quietly.

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Voting error in the 2004 elections

by Eszter Hargittai on December 11, 2004

A friend of mine, Philip Howard, has been taking a very innovative approach to teaching his class on Communication Technology and Politics at the University of Washington this Fall. He and his students have been collecting data about the use of communication technologies in the elections and writing reports about their findings.

The team has released reports on topics from the legalities of voteswapping to the political uses of podcasting. The latest article looks at voting error due to technological errors, residual votes and incident reports. They have collected data on these for all states for the presidential, the gubernatorial and the senate races. They weight the incident-report data by total voting population, eligible voter population and registered voter population. They find that in some cases – see state specifics in the report by type of error – the margin of error was greater than the margin of victory.

What a great way to get students involved, to teach them important skills and to contribute helpful information to the public. They make their data available for those interested in the details. You can download spreadsheets with information off their site. They also offer an extensive list of resources including a pointers to academic literature from the past twelve years on technologies and campaigns.

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that they are posting reports now as white papers and are eager to receive feedback. It looks like they will continue to analyze the data and welcome suggestions.