Blargh Blog

Monday, January 23, 2006


A month ago, I wrote about a study, "Narrow-Tent Democrats and Fringe Others: The Policy Views of Social Science Professors", which purported to show that Democrats in academia have a narrower tent than Republicans in academia. My argument, which I found convincing, was that it showed nothing of the sort. The first author of that study, Dan Klein, has posted a response to criticisms from the Volokh Conspiracy comments, some of which are similar to my argument. The crux of his response: "I really don’t see anything about the 18 questions that would deflate the diversity of the Dems or puff it up for the Repubs. Think about it, very few Dems really favor free enterprise and all favor redist/welfare state/protect the weak type policies." Unsurprisingly, I remain unconvinced.

In the comments, I level a more basic criticism against their results: their methodology can't support the kinds of conclusions that they're trying to draw. Obviously, the variance of Democrats' and Republicans' responses to a set of questions depends on what questions you ask. So, if you want the variance to tell you something meaningful, you need to have some systematic way of selecting what questions to ask, and you have to be able to argue that your procedure for selecting questions is a reliable and fair way to investigate the issue that you're interested in. Klein and Stern did not have any method at all for selecting questions. They just made them up. They also did not present any evidence, beyond the variance of responses to their 18 questions, to support their claims that the amount of diversity of opinion among Democratic academics was 1) less than is desirable, or 2) a result of a "party line" or "narrow tent" which enforces conformity.

Follow the links if you're interested in reading more. (Duh.)

More recently, I posted answers to Welch's and Sandefur's questions. Welch has a summary of the responses to his questions here. I score a 7.5 out of 10 on the libertarian-like-Welch scale by his count (a 7.0 by my count), ranking 6th most libertarian-like-Welch out of 15 responders, a surprisingly high ranking given that I am not, in fact, a libertarian. The answers to Sandefur's ten questions are collected here, and he gives his take on the questions and the various answers here.

Sandefur quotes me approvingly in response to question 4 ("Precisely what (if anything) do you propose the United States do about the Iranian nuclear weapons program?"), so I should point out that I'm not entirely in agreement with what he said. After criticizing two versions of the answer "Nothing", he writes:
An infinitely more reasonable position is taken by Blargh Blog: “We should try to stop Iran from getting nukes without getting into a war with them. Give me a year and the highest level of security clearance and I might be capable of proposing precise methods.” Exactly. If we all had the right information, we would all be in a position to solve this problem. And, of course, we ought to avoid a war with Iran if it is at all possible. But we must do something. “Peace is not secured by praising its virtues,” as Churchill said. Certainly it is not secured by allowing thugs with an avowed mission of making war on free and law abiding peoples to arm themselves with nuclear weapons.
Flattering, no? Let me deflate that and emphasize my ignorance. What should we do about Iran's nuclear program? I don't know. I expect that that year of study would do me more good than that security clearance, and I should stress that might. If we had the right information, would we be able to deal with this problem? I don't know. Will it be possible to both 1) stop Iran from getting nukes and 2) not get into a war with them? I don't know. If Iran is really set on getting nukes, then it's not clear that we could stop them with anything short of war (though of course there are plenty of things we can try). If it comes down to the choice of war or Iranian nukes, I think that I'd prefer that they get the bomb. Fewer expected deaths that way, I reckon. Sandefur seems to prefer the other horn, possibly because he thinks it's likely that they'd use the nukes once they got 'em. (Of course, there's a benefit in having Iran think that we're willing to go to war to stop them from getting nuclear weapons, but I'm not in the business of creating impressions within the Iranian government.) I should also add that there may be other unpalatable horns to this "multilemma" which I might not prefer to either of the original two (like if Iran was only willing to halt its nuclear program if we paid them $1 trillion/year, indefinitely).

Again, follow the links as interested, and, if you like controversy, these other links take you through the drama that unfolded at Positive Liberty over Sandefur's questions and answers (note: I was a participant in said drama, not an observer).


At March 11, 2006 9:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's quite simple to solve the Iran A-bomb dilemma, if we act NOW. (Once they get the bomb it is more problematic, of course.)
We should tell them that they have a choice. Stop enrichment permanently or we will bomb the shit out of your nuclear facilities. And, we won't stop there. We will also target your stinking ayatolla/mullah leadership until they're all DEAD and in hell or until they're running for the hills like Bin Laden has done. Frankly, I think we should liberate their country just like we did in Iraq. I really hate those anti-semitic, turban-butt heads. WAR, WAR, WAR!!!!!


Post a Comment

<< Home