Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Paul Krugman, Worst Economist in the World {WEITW}

Maybe, Krugman's blog is way too easy of a target and even as he says it is not meant to be taken too serious.
In my case it’s writing for the broader public. The great thing about the column is that it more or less forces me to keep learning new tricks, to keep scoping out areas I’d never thought much about before. Then it forces me to find a way to talk about those areas in plain English.
The Joy of Research

So instead of being a thoughtful researcher with deep knowledge on each subject, he instead just throws out hypothesis that support his political bias.
What you need to know is that the blog is an unpaid gig, something I do for fun and to add some backup to the columns. My support staff consists of two housecats. So I’m not going to do anything that involves hard work on appearance.
Graph Meta

I tend to think that he takes the same shortcuts on his actual words and ideas also. Today his off-hand remarks are directed at bias representation of conservatives in academia. Krugman starts off real well even in the title with it being: Ideas Are Not The Same As Race. Well race is simply not the only form of discrimination. At Social Scientist Sees Bias Within By JOHN TIERNEY, he talks about the forms of discrimination.
Discrimination is always high on the agenda at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology’s conference, where psychologists discuss their research on racial prejudice, homophobia, sexism, stereotype threat and unconscious bias against minorities.

I would have tried to include minorities in religion also on the list but the point is still made that it is not race alone or even innate identifiers that can not be easily changed like sex, race, height, etc. Krugman starts off his piece by stating the following two paragraphs.
Every once in a while you get stories like this one, about the underrepresentation of conservatives in academics, that treat ideological divides as being somehow equivalent to racial differences. This is a really, really bad analogy.

And it’s not just the fact that you can choose your ideology, but not your race. Ideologies have a real effect on overall life outlook, which has a direct impact on job choices. Military officers are much more conservative than the population at large; so? (And funny how you don’t see opinion pieces screaming “bias” and demanding an effort to redress the imbalance.)

Pretty much correct that ideologies creates biased results and thus it would be natural that there would be some self selection process going on in choosing careers. But as stated above, race is not the only analogy considered in the article. Race can also dictate and direct ideologies, which of course can be for the good or bad. If as Tierney states, that biased results indicate discrimination a priori then this portion of the article is important to consider.
“Anywhere in the world that social psychologists see women or minorities underrepresented by a factor of two or three, our minds jump to discrimination as the explanation,” said Dr. Haidt, who called himself a longtime liberal turned centrist. “But when we find out that conservatives are underrepresented among us by a factor of more than 100, suddenly everyone finds it quite easy to generate alternate explanations.”

Instead of a priori reasoning regarding discrimination, Social Psychologists should look more broadly in the social factors that may cause a bias outcome instead of assuming discrimination as always the root of the problem. Of course, if there is a bias in one job category {military} then it would be natural that there would be an opposite bias in another. Instead of focusing on the biased outcomes consider the complete social contexts of the results. Back to Krugman:
It’s particularly troubling to apply some test of equal representation when you’re looking at academics who do research on the very subjects that define the political divide. Biologists, physicists, and chemists are all predominantly liberal; does this reflect discrimination, or the tendency of people who actually know science to reject a political tendency that denies climate change and is broadly hostile to the theory of evolution?

Anyway, Krugman's link to Is the Academy liberal? most definitely shows bias in political views in all categories. The closest in R and Ds was Business at parity but still more identify themselves as Liberal. One of the obvious reasons is that when workers are supported by the state then it is natural that you have a more fond demeanor towards government. They become part of the apparatus of the state and is influenced daily by those social arrangements. And lastly:
Now, I don’t mean to say that political bias in the academy is absent, although it’s not consistent: I can well imagine that it’s hard to be a conservative in some social sciences, but in economics, the obvious bias in things like acceptance of papers at major journals is towards, not against, a doctrinaire free-market view. But the point is that doing head counts is a terrible way to assess that bias.

All I can assume when he means "not consistent" is that Krugman sees what his bias is likely to allow him to see. He will work hard at being studiously ignorant to discrimination. Even in the economics departments according to the above link, the ratio is 3 to 1 Democrats to Republicans.

Hopefully, Krugman will use this same understanding when looking at other types of bias in our society, but don't hold your breath expecting it to happen soon. Ultimately this matters not because one job or another is biased, but that the creation of memes and ideologies is born, created and spread through the institutions of academia. Unlike the military, colleges and universities are expected to partake in discussing our society and the governing bodies {politics}. Those in the military are not suppose to have their political affiliations on their sleeves or to spread their ideologies around. Unlike Krugman, I see this is a problem if young people are to be exposed to a wide variety of views and opinions in our schools. So while I empathize with the following passage, I find no easy solution.
Dr. Haidt (pronounced height) told the audience that he had been corresponding with a couple of non-liberal graduate students in social psychology whose experiences reminded him of closeted gay students in the 1980s. He quoted — anonymously — from their e-mails describing how they hid their feelings when colleagues made political small talk and jokes predicated on the assumption that everyone was a liberal.

“I consider myself very middle-of-the-road politically: a social liberal but fiscal conservative. Nonetheless, I avoid the topic of politics around work,” one student wrote. “Given what I’ve read of the literature, I am certain any research I conducted in political psychology would provide contrary findings and, therefore, go unpublished. Although I think I could make a substantial contribution to the knowledge base, and would be excited to do so, I will not.”

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