I recently had dinner with an old friend from the Left. She was rightfully incensed about the religious Right. What she fails to see, however, is the lunacy of the politically correct Left, which is probably worse. I say a plague on both of their houses.
Recent examples from the loonies on the Left: AP News reports that the State of New York is getting ready to scrap a literacy test for people trying to become public school teachers. Why? Because it turns out that the test has a disproportionate impact on minority applicants, who have lower passing rates than white applicants. Hard to say what is the worst here. The idea that literacy is not an appropriate screen for prospective teachers, regardless of its disparate impact, or the fact that among all candidates, the passing rate is only slightly above 50%. (And yet many on the Left also fight against alternatives to public schools, often while their own children and grandchildren attend private schools, as is the case with Senators Al Franken and Elizabeth Warren, both of whom voted against the nomination of voucher-advocate Betsy DeVos.)
The University of California Berkeley has recently begun the deletion of 20,000 free lecture videos from its YouTube channel. Why? Because following a successful lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which claimed that the lectures were unfairly unavailable to the visually impaired, it is now illegal to offer them as they stand and too expensive to make them available in an alternative format. So, we now have fairness in the form of equal ignorance.
A Cato Institute podcast on “Discrimination Law in an Overlawyered America” points out that many fire departments have had to eliminate strength tests from their hiring procedures because these have been ruled to discriminate against women. Remember that if you someday hope to be dragged out of fire.
A friend sends me an article from Fox News which claims that, while some religious groups can wait years to be declared tax exempt, the IRS has recently taken just 10 days to grant this status to a Satanic cult. Now, I don’t carry water for any religious group, but is there any doubt that the Satanists have been given preferential treatment only because they are a wacky minority?
Similar outrages against common sense and decency from the religious Right are harder to come by, largely because, as I pointed out in my piece about the alleged war on science by the Right, they have had a lot fewer victories. However, we do have the recent Reuters story of an “Oklahoma Republican state senator who campaigned as a champion of family values [and] was booked on felony prostitution charges…after police found him in a motel room with a teenage boy and drugs.” Oops.
This blog has ranted before about the hypocrisies of the Left and Right. I have pointed out how liberals tend to be hypocrites about money, while conservatives lean to sexual hypocrisy. A theory for these observed patterns has only recently occurred to me. Both sides of the political spectrum deny aspects of human nature. For the Left, the denial is that humans are basically self-interested. For the Right, the denial is about sexuality. Hypocrisy is the inevitable result and in the characteristic ways that I have noted. Now I understand.
Which is also another way of saying, if you want to avoid hypocrisy – which is certainly one of my life’s goals – be a libertarian.
Equal Pay Day
This week we had Equal Pay Day, a day which commemorates statistical and economic ignorance.
For those who don’t know, EPD is allegedly the day in the next year to which women have to work in order to reach pay equality with what men earned by only working in the prior year. Implicitly or explicitly, the backers of EPD claim that the difference is due to discrimination.
I have written before (in footnote 2 here) about the poor math and thinking underlying this claim. Suffice to say that, when you take into account other relevant factors (such as career choices, work hours, gaps in working, etc.) the alleged pay gap of 21% drops to 5%. This remaining difference could be due to discrimination, but it could also be due to other factors that haven’t yet been identified. One thing is for sure: even if we take the most aggressive view of the data, the backers of the EPD should be moving the date to about January 15th. But that would be a whole lot less dramatic, right? And we can’t have that.
Another interesting thing is that, when you survey women as the Pew Research Center has recently done, 62% believe that women “generally” get paid less than men for doing the same work. But these same surveys show that only 14% of women claim that their employer pays women less than men for the same work. So, from all points of reference, discrimination only takes place elsewhere. I am not a logician, but there seems to be something inconsistent here.
BloombergView celebrated EPD with, among other things, another silly article from Justin Fox. This one claimed that, although women are increasingly represented on boards, they aren’t making it onto the really important committees. The article cited a study by an advocacy group called Catalyst that claimed that companies with greater female representation on their boards perform better financially. Here is the comment I left:
From the underlying study you cite:
‘This Catalyst study again demonstrates the very strong correlation between corporate financial performance and gender diversity. We know that diversity, well managed, produces better results.’
Note the shift: the first sentence uses “correlation” and the second sentence uses “produces.” Not the same thing. All of the studies I have seen purporting to show improved financial performance due to board diversification make the same mistake. This is incredibly sloppy work that BloombergView should not be propagating.
Causation can go both ways. Perhaps diversity produces better results. Or, perhaps companies that are performing better simply chose diverse boards for various reasons, including political correctness. These studies make no attempt to identify the direction of causation.
Like most claims of discrimination in corporations, this one fails the market test. If having a more diverse board genuinely produces better business results, then businesses have a strong incentive to have diverse boards and do not need to be compelled to overcome their alleged discrimination. Conversely, if the presence of women on a board is detrimental to corporate performance — which it can easily be because, for example, there are far fewer female candidates for board roles, making it harder to find qualified members — then the compulsion is necessary. The fact that compulsion is required is a priori evidence that the claim about increased female board representation improving performance is false.
Sometimes, I like to cast pearls before the swine. The swine never seem to notice.
Dealing with Crazy: Life Hacks
This wisdom comes from a blog created by a criminal defence attorney, who runs across a lot of crazies in his profession. Here are his “10 Practical Rules for Dealing with the Borderline Personality.”
I wish someone had shown me this a long time ago. The mistakes I could have avoided.
Weybridge, United Kingdom
I Wish I Had Said That…
“There is no party of tolerance in Washington – just a party that wages its crusades in the name of Christ and a party that wages its crusades in the name of Four out of Five Experts Agree” by Jesse Walker of Reason
“The elephant in the room is not an elephant. It’s a donkey” by Gloria Romero, a retired California State Senator and current education reformer, commenting about the obstructionist and self-serving behavior of her former colleagues in the Democratic Party
 Not sure I agree with this.