Friday, May 26, 2017

Murray vs. his opponents on policy matters

More thoughts, trying to figure things out...

I think various policy angles (help to) explain help some of the opposition to Murray.

1.) To the extent that he wrestles with specific policy RX's in BC, his opponents disagree with him vehemently, on what are often sacred cows for them.

2.) Over and over again, Murray notes that these results tell us virtually nothing about individuals (which is [conveniently] overlooked or ignored by the opponents). But the differences have (far) larger implications for groups—a painful reality for his opponents to consider, since they tend to focus on (and value) groups rather than individuals.

3.) To the extent that policy necessarily addresses groups, Murray’s implications for policy are negative and/or awkward—a problem for those who value political correctness and government policy as an ethical and practical means to various ends. (In Murray's view, these differences should not be overlooked if true—well, at least if one hopes to construct more effective policy, rather than succumb to good intentions and a desire to relieve guilt.)

4.) Because his opponents are relatively fond of govt as a means to various ends, they are self-conditioned to leaping to govt as an ethical way to deal with these problems—and are prone to assume the same about Murray. (In contrast, Murray is quite reluctant to use govt proactively!) So, I suspect there’s a disconnect between what he reports and what they assume he would want to do in terms of policy. For example, when he talks about the poor having more babies and those babies tending to have lower IQ, they leap to a policy conclusion that they might/would advocate for the greater good (if they believed what he believes), but which he would not (as a defender of individuals).

Murray and the fascists at Middlebury

Another sad, fascist episode on a college campus-- shouting down Charles Murray at Middlebury College and then engaging in thuggery. Brutal, especially for self-styled liberals at a university. (You can see video of it here-- and you can tell by the substance and repetitive comments of those preceding Murray-- laying out sticks and carrots-- that they're really worried about the crowd. She talks about the "hard work" of good discussion and says, incorrectly, that Middlebury is moving that forward with the event.)

It's a shame since Murray has offered so much vital work to contemporary debates on public policy. I'm hard-pressed to think of anyone who rivals the quality, quantity and variety of his output. Losing Ground was pivotal to the early part of the debate on welfare policy. Check out my review of In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government (maybe the most important book on policy I've read) and my review of Coming Apart (can't think of a more important book on contemporary policy).

As for what got these students going-- their sense of his book, The Bell Curve-- I haven't read that tome. But here are a few of my thoughts about Murray on race vs. class and more important, his comments 10 years after Bell Curve was published, and even better, his recent efforts to make published summaries available.

Here is Murray's account of and reflections on the events at Middlebury (where he spoke just a few years ago, with no incident). Here's Allison Stanger's account: she was injured by the mob-- and was his host for the event, the sponsor of the program, and a critic of his work). 

Here's an insider's view-- Dr. Matt Dickinson, a faculty member at Middlebury who runs a popular blog. And here's a broader faculty response. Alison Stanger later wrote about Murray's visit vs. Edward Snowden's. 

As for news coverage

-WaPo, including a note about Murray's non-white wife/kids and the SPLC glossing him as a eugenicist and a white supremacist-- completely undermining their credibility. (Again, the SPLC is far more eugenicist than Murray could dream of being. Here's Murray dealing with the slanderous description of him by the Southern Poverty Law Center.)

-Boston Globe (note the dude with the "eugenics" poster, even though he is far more likely to embrace eugenics policies than Murray, who would far those deeply offensive)

-Here it is in the NYT and through PBS.

Here's some great commentary from...

-Jonathan Haidt and Frank Bruni on the Charlie Rose Show (I like Bruni's comment that this should be the century of social science, but maybe not...!)  

-Van Jones on some of the larger issues, with some excellent metaphors, esp. on "safe spaces"-- well-defined and poorly-defined. Universities are supposed to be places where you build muscle in these regards, not be protected. 
-George Will's angle 

-Myron Magnet with an op-ed length discussion of the moment

-George Leef with concerns about civilization

-Bernard Goldberg with an op-ed length and style discussion of the event

-WSJ weighs in too (but probably behind a paywall; try to Google the title)...

Other considerations:
-The Left has been far more interested in eugenics, historically and contemporary (basic history; note his references to the Leonard book on which I wrote a review for Journal of Markets and Morality)
-freedom of speech, thought, etc. vs. demeaning language (what happened to non-judgment and liberal thought?) 
-civility/decency vs. thug-life

-actually reading what you're criticizing, and more broadly, other views (avoiding fundamentalism) 

-Where are the liberals? Where are the professors who (courageously) live up to the values of the profession?

-accurately characterizing the views of another (empathy; see: Haidt for the Left's particular struggles here; see also: growth in Heterodox Academy membership has ballooned since this event!) 
-here's an interesting piece on the implications of this trend for comedy. 


Another example, this time with Heather McDonald, accusations of white supremacy and fascism, ironic fascism in reply to her speech: her account, another piece, a piece in Reason, and video from Bill O'Reilly.

Another example with Rebecca Tuvel at Vandy

Another update on Murray: The NY Times did some terrific work in sending academics what Murray planned to say at Middlebury-- and comparing the results when the work was anonymous vs. attributed to Murray.

And recently, the "tolerant" fun for Murray extended to Congress. Simply evil.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

my sermon on John 3:22-36

Thanks to David Baird for the opportunity to preach at Koinonia Life Christian Church last Sunday. 
Here are the punchlines from my sermon on John 3:22-36:
-Baptizing and initiating people into God's Kingdom is important, but who does the baptizing is trivial and focusing on baptism/initiation misses the larger point.
-Ministry transitions are challenging but important. (SE has done a great job with this.)
-John avoids the temptation offered by his disciples AND deals with it forcefully instead of soft-pedaling his reply.
-A la CS Lewis, we should be just as happy if I or someone else "builds the best cathedral in the world".
-How do you stay healthy on this? 1.) It's not about you; 2.) God's in charge; 3.) You're working for Christ; 4.) You're going to get replaced eventually; and 5.) Try to enjoy/celebrate life in the Kingdom.
-John ends the passage with 3:36's eternal and ultimate choice: will you choose life or death?

Miscellaneous nuggets from my sermon:
-Jesus and John the Baptist worked with the crowds, but they were always working with a small band of disciples (3:22-26; see: Eph 4:11-16)
-22's Jesus ministering in rural and city
-23's "plenty of water" implies baptism by immersion
-John's disciples tip their hand by addressing John with respect but Jesus as "that guy" (3:26)
-John the Evangelist uses three "musts" in ch. 3: 7's born again, 14's lifted up, and 30's greater/lesser
-28's prophecy/teaching would have been a comfort to John and a conviction to his disciples
-36's a la Dallas Willard, for Christians, eternal life has already begun

Friday, May 19, 2017

on "decent" and "thinking"

A quote in the 1st P of this article triggered a few thoughts for me: Justin Trudeau said something should be "obvious to any decent, thinking person".

In econ, we talk about motives and knowledge in economic and political markets. Are economic agents "decent" and "thinking"-- and if not, how do markets shape choices? Are political agents "decent" and "thinking"-- and if not, how do incentives in political markets work to shape choices? Our faith in economic and political markets are informed by our answers. (See also: science.)

In theology, we make assumptions about the character and ability of God. Is God "decent"-- or to be less wishy-washy, is He all-loving? Or is it just 93% of the time? If he's messing with me 7% of the time, then I should figure out that 7% and go my own way. Is he "thinking"-- or to be more precise, is He omniscient? If He's a moron 4% of the time, then again, I should try to improve on His ignorance and go my own way. Our faith in God is largely determined by our answers.