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« January hurricanes | Main | Money without accountability »
Friday
Jan152016

Name them!

Toby Young has a must-read article in the Spectator about the retribution handed out to researchers whose findings challenges the articles of faith of the political left. It focuses on the work of Dr Adam Perkins, who published a book which claimed that, in Young's words,  "individuals with aggressive, rule-breaking and anti-social tendencies...were over-represented among the ranks of the unemployed:

A senior editor of Nature, one of the leading academic journals, refused to consider it for review because she regards scientific research into the personalities of the long-term unemployed as ‘unethical’, and a sociology professor whom the publishers had asked to peer-review the book refused to do so on the grounds that any book linking benefit dependency to personality must be nonsense because personality is a ‘capitalist construct’.

Colleagues with whom Perkins had collaborated in the past warned him off publication, worried about being associated with such a heretic; and a powerful American professor was so enraged by his conclusions that he lobbied for him to be banned from the conference circuit.

What irritates me is that these people are still able to hide behind a wall of anonymity. They should be named.

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Reader Comments (125)

Ben: "Do you think I have argued otherwise?"

Yes.

Jan 17, 2016 at 4:56 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

NiV, again, too much to respond to.

To say that the right to welfare is based on 'need' is indeed to confess to Communism.

You seem to think that because a word appears in a Marxist slogan, it is sufficient to say that using that word in a judgement makes one a communist. Interestingly, when asked whether they agree with that slogan -- from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs -- most Americans believed it to be part of the Constitution.

If you think it is 'communist' to say that need should be the basis of welfare, can we take it that you believe the following:

i) that people who do not need benefits should get them.
ii) that people who receive benefits should not get what they need to survive.
ii) that people who receive benefits should not get what they need to find work.

You're assuming that certain policies are inescapably connected, so that to reduce economic inefficiency is necessarily to expand welfare for the unemployed

I have not said, or implied anything of the kind. I made no judgement about the rights or wrongs of the pre-MT situation -- the postwar consensus, aka -- or ambition of full employment, and made no judgement on the dismantling of the consensus. I merely pointed them out as historical facts, which confound the seemingly objective/pathological investigation of the unemployed. The policy of increasing unemployment was enacted on the basis that there is a *natural* level of unemployment, and it is historical fact that this was the justification; it wasn't my interpretation. I was clear about not making a judgement about the government, or its decisions. You should have read more carefully.

I think you're depending here on the moral principle that a person is not morally responsible for something they have no control over. I tend to agree, but that doesn't mean the act itself shouldn't be judged morally negative, or that the person shouldn't be punished. It's a utilitarian calculation.

You seem confused about what a utilitarian moral calculation is. Utilitarianism judges an action good or bad on its outcomes. On that basis, murder, or the denial of freedom, or any other wrong can be justified on the basis of the greater good it can produce. The point here is that, contra your claim that a 'moral principle' is at work in utilitarianism, in fact utilitarian is counterposed to deontological moral or ethical systems, which put emphasis on principles to judge actions, rather than the outcomes.

I have not argued that people are not responsible for their actions. And I would absolutely reject it (and reject utilitarianism, for that matter). If there is a principle I am trying to follow, it is on the deontological tradition, that it is wrong to treat or understand people as objects, such as the way they have been understood in both 'studies' that Young is defending in his absurd and ignorant Spectator rants. I was clear about it at the start: the people who can morally judge a person who does not work are his peers and family; nobody else is able to make a judgement about that person, and the impulse to make such a judgement at the level of policy does a greater wrong, either, as it happens, on the deontological perspective, or the consequentialist perspective, than the utter layabout. The only conceivable exception to this is, I believe, an instance where there is 100% employment, be it workfare, or not, such that no person can claim his unemployment is not the consequence of his social condition.

I am glad we agree about MT. Again, without judging. The point then, is that long before we try to use "science" (which is very much from the school of Lewandowsky, as it happens) to understand unemployment, we should understand that it was a phenomenon which deliberately created a class, generations, and a culture of unemployment. We let nobody off the hook by saying that the phenomenon was created; in fact, we say that the people who actually failed to deliver what they promised are responsible for the phenomenon of unemployment, while the people who are part of that culture are just as responsible for their own actions while in that condition. More broadly, we should see Young's articles as an attempt to re-write history, as a continuation of a hollow political war he is engaged in, largely because he has nothing better to offer than a repeat performance.

Jan 17, 2016 at 5:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

Geronimo : -- Ben: "Do you think I have argued otherwise?" Yes.

The only explanations for that are i) that you cannot read, ii) you're too thick in the head to understand what you read.

The first line of my first comment here: " but unemployment can do that to a person"

Jan 17, 2016 at 5:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

I find it hard to believe that people are viewing unemployment as a bad thing when it is both necessary and desirable. A percentage of any National workforce has to be unemployed to allow flexibility. You cannot grow a business if there are no available workers nor can you shift emphasis without sacking and/or redeploying. So a healthy number in the pool could be as many as 5%. Under that number the economy will stagnate. This was beginning to be a problem in Germany which was a background to Merkel importing young workers. She just did not foresee the adverse consequences. Once stagnation sets in it is hard to shift, as the communist countries found. A vibrant advancing economy needs unemployment as much as investment.

Jan 17, 2016 at 5:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterIvor Ward

Ivor Ward


Thank you for making an adult, reality based contribution to this discussion.

Jan 17, 2016 at 6:15 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Ivor -- I find it hard to believe that people are viewing unemployment as a bad thing when it is both necessary and desirable.

It's not desirable if you have a job. So it's desirable for other people to be unemployed, perhaps. But then this makes them dependent on the working population. Which is where the moralising comes in. Much easier to say that worklessness is the expression of something innate, such that people either deserve help, or deserve to be excluded than it is to admit that others' misfortune is to our advantage, and that the situation has been engineered.

IIRC, the figure bandied about at the time was 10%, rather than 5%. I suspect that it rises and falls, to suit the number of unemployed.

Jan 17, 2016 at 7:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

In the 1960s, there was 'full employment', but a small percentage of unemployed at any one time as people lost jobs and gained them in the various ways that happens.,

By the end of the 1970s, there were levels of systemic, government policy related unemployment that make the concept of deserving and undeserving completely inappropriate from whatever angle you are arguing from.

Jan 17, 2016 at 7:29 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Well at least compo Corbyn seems to have some innovative plans to prevent job losses - build a new fleet of Trident subs to keep his trades union paymasters happy, then send them to sea unarmed.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-35337432

Jan 17, 2016 at 7:47 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

"can we take it that you believe the following:"

Personally, I believe people should get whatever they're contracted to get by their insurance scheme - this being the proper way to deal with the risk of unemployment.

But to answer your question in the spirit in which it is asked - i) no. ii) and iii) not necessarily. It depends, as I say, on whether they have a reasonable alternative. A person who is perfectly capable of getting a high-paid job but chooses not to, even if that means they starve, shouldn't get benefits.

"I have not said, or implied anything of the kind."

Then why are you saying that the government has 'decided' to create unemployment, when what they actually did was to eliminate inefficiency?

"I merely pointed them out as historical facts, which confound the seemingly objective/pathological investigation of the unemployed."

'Objective' shouldn't be a problem. As I said earlier, nobody is claiming 'pathological' but you.

The investigation claimed that long term unemployment was correlated with certain personality characteristics - which we both agree are probably for cultural reasons. How is this confounded by anything?

"The policy of increasing unemployment was enacted on the basis that there is a *natural* level of unemployment, and it is historical fact that this was the justification; it wasn't my interpretation."

It depends on the reason it is considered "natural". For example, rich people often choose not to go to work - they are 'naturally' unemployed. Mothers often drop out of work to bring up their children. A certain fraction of the population are unable to be employed by virtue of disability, legal technicality, or temporary circumstance. A certain fraction naturally *choose* to be unemployed, or choose to do things that make them unemployable, like bunking off school or persistently hitting people.

I'm not going to worry too much about people who *choose* to be unemployed, and I'm fully supportive of aid for people who are out of work temporarily or due to circumstances beyond their control. There is, obviously, an unavoidable element of unemployment that's always going to exist. I don't see that as a problem. But the 'natural' level is probably a lot lower than the actual observed level, and that is.

Nevertheless, there's still a distinction between changing policy to stop encouraging deliberate inefficiency, tolerating unemployment as a result, and deliberately instituting a fixed level of unemployment.

"You seem confused about what a utilitarian moral calculation is. Utilitarianism judges an action good or bad on its outcomes."

Utilitarians judge an action good or bad based on how it satisfies peoples needs and desires, and in particular subscribe to Mill's Harm Principle. You're confusing it with consequentialism.

Although, to be fair, so was I. Consequentialist is closer to what I meant.

"On that basis, murder, or the denial of freedom, or any other wrong can be justified on the basis of the greater good it can produce."

Wars against tyrants and prisons for murderers?

"If there is a principle I am trying to follow, it is on the deontological tradition, that it is wrong to treat or understand people as objects"

'Deontological' is to do with rights and duties - i.e. it doesn't matter if it has bad consequences so long as you followed the rules society lays down. You may be thinking of the second formulation of Kant's categorical imperative, which is one of many deontological principles.

However, I think you're taking a pretty extreme interpretation of it. This would imply it was illegitimate to study people objectively at all, which would rule out psychology and a lot of biology too. Medicine, even. Is that really what you meant?

We study people objectively because only with the truth can we choose good actions. The problem with "treating people as objects" is that you can thereby ignore their feelings, desires, needs, and choices in doing so - i.e. it is a utilitarian ethic. Treating people as objects can only be done to determine what is, not what ought to be.

"I was clear about it at the start: the people who can morally judge a person who does not work are his peers and family; nobody else is able to make a judgement about that person"

Does this principle extend beyond the question of somebody working or not? Would you say that the only people who can morally judge a person who commits a crime are their peers and family? If not, what's special about the ethicality of not working that doesn't apply to other actions?

"The point then, is that long before we try to use "science" (which is very much from the school of Lewandowsky, as it happens) to understand unemployment, we should understand that it was a phenomenon which deliberately created a class, generations, and a culture of unemployment."

How do you know that if you're not allowed to study it?

"We let nobody off the hook by saying that the phenomenon was created"

Scientific papers shouldn't be putting anyone on or off hooks. It should simply report what factors are correlated with long-term unemployment, as a first step towards determining causes, developing models, and hence being able to predict the effects of possible policies in response. It it then a political value judgement whether to apply those policies.

Likewise, I'd not criticise a genuinely objective study on the causes of climate scepticism. Lots of climate sceptics have theorised about what makes climate sceptics different. Lewandowsky's problem was that he wasn't objective, wasn't accurate or competent, and he didn't get informed consent from the people he was experimenting on.

"in fact, we say that the people who actually failed to deliver what they promised are responsible for the phenomenon of unemployment"

How can you tell that without studying such people objectively? I'd suggest that treating those in government as objects rather than people is just as bad.

--

"I find it hard to believe that people are viewing unemployment as a bad thing when it is both necessary and desirable. A percentage of any National workforce has to be unemployed to allow flexibility."

Not really. A percentage of the workforce has to be job-mobile. But they can do that while working, and be ready to switch jobs quickly when something more important or useful comes up.

--

"Much easier to say that worklessness is the expression of something innate, such that people either deserve help, or deserve to be excluded than it is to admit that others' misfortune is to our advantage, and that the situation has been engineered."

It's not to our advantage. We don't want anyone to be involuntarily unemployed. (Although everyone should have the freedom to be unemployed if they choose.) Unemployment is an economic cost on society, both as an opportunity cost through the lost production, and directly in the form of the welfare we wind up paying.

The distinction is that one side want to keep on paying them welfare, no matter what, and the other side want to get them jobs, so they can produce for society instead of being a burden on it.

Why can't they get jobs? What's stopping them? It's definitely not the government, who have no say over who private businesses are allowed to employ, so what is it? How can we find out if we're not allowed to study it?

Jan 17, 2016 at 10:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

Nullius, your comment is simply too long.

Jan 17, 2016 at 10:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

In a rational world the function of production should be consumption .

Not jobs ......

We know for certain that most of the jobs in the UK do not produce anything , the physical goods trade data makes this very clear.

Jobs in the UK is the state requirement to access purchasing power, it has increasingly no other function.
However this need for jobs burns through the resource base regardless.
The daily commute to the unreal "job" burns up real resources.

The UK is now entirely dependent on international usury for its survival.
Typically a country or corporate body resident in that colonial jurisdiction gets into debt in foreign currency .
To pay back the debt it exports more and more of its real wealth , much of it flowing to the UK today.
The devaluation of commodity currency currencies is becoming easy to observe.
These are no longer third world countries.
Canada and Norway have become the next victims.

Jan 18, 2016 at 2:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6288YPnqPhE

Richard Werner at 12.00m illustrates the mechanics of international lending.
In his example South Africa borrows £ from UBS London.

Guys like Toby Young eventually gets to eat this surplus.
But given the scale of current banking operations the physical energy lost in transmission is off the charts.

Jan 18, 2016 at 3:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

When Capitalism went predatory.

'The Mayfair Set: Who Pays Wins' (1/4 BBC - Adam Curtis)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_kE8Gczz

Featuring some of our favourite ecologists (The Goldsmith family)

Jan 18, 2016 at 10:04 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

@ Jan 15, 2016 at 3:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterKeith Willshaw

Time is a capitalist construct.

Jan 18, 2016 at 3:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterclovis marcus

Ben Pile,

"Nullius, your comment is simply too long."

One of the most interesting writers in Scepticland has written too much. Apparently.

Blimey.

Jan 18, 2016 at 6:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

Ben, your comment is simply too short.

Jan 18, 2016 at 6:25 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

NBY -- Ben, your comment is simply too short.

For what?

Jan 18, 2016 at 6:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

In the lefty world every person is nice and big bad society is responsible for leading good people astray.

There is no such thing as personal responsibilty.

BTW most Irish people will work (see history of america) apart from the angry aggressive and anti social ones. The d o c is not representative

Jan 18, 2016 at 9:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterOwen

"For what?"

QED

Jan 18, 2016 at 9:30 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Who has made that argument here?

Nobody.

Yet plenty seem to be able to see it, to rant against it.

It is a collective hallucination. Group think, perhaps.

It is not unlike the argument of so many greens. As is the "science" in question not unlike a certain climate-obsessed cognitive scientist's.

Different tribes, maybe. Same bullshit.

Jan 18, 2016 at 9:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

Last comment referred to "In the lefty world every person is nice and big bad society is responsible for leading good people astray."

Jan 18, 2016 at 9:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

@Owen
The village had been beaten out of them.
In fact they were much lazier then the puritans for a long long time.
(listen to some of the Blasket island interviews if you do not believe me, they were the most untouched by the money Economy)
All people with distance from the money or slave economies are lazier.
They tend to be more rational until broken on the wheel.
@Ben
In general most people are nice.
It's not society as such which changes them, it is scarce money.
People eventually start stabbing people in the back to gain vital tokens.
You witness a general prostitution of humanity.

Jan 19, 2016 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

To be lazy is to use ones brain.
Indeed our brain capacity would never had a reason to expand in the first place if our brains were not used to reduce work or calorific expenditure.
It requires a fair enough amount of BTUs just standing motionless propping up a bar and one little head.

Jan 19, 2016 at 11:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

Doug Proctor,

RE Scott

I never really understood why he was venerated for his South Pole expedition. If I recall correctly, it was poorly planned and almost assured of failure.

An example of perseverance and personal bravery? OK. An example of screwing up with fatal result? Without a doubt.

Jan 19, 2016 at 8:30 PM | Unregistered Commentertimg56

I haven't read through all the comments, so maybe somebody has pre-empted me; but I think it's worth dispelling a few of the misconceptions I see in this thread.

I. The Bell Curve book had two basic theses: (i) IQ is of basic significance in society and history, (ii) Beginning in the 1950s, in the United States there began to be a remarkable siphoning off of people with high IQs into the college degree programs. The authors saw that this might well create a new kind of class structure, although through no fault of their own, they did not see all the ramifications of this phenomenon. (For example, this may form one facet of the AGW phenomenon.) Anyway, I think that the first thesis is quite unexceptionable, while the second constituted an important sociological discovery.

II. Someone mentioned factor analysis in relation to IQ. However, the IQ idea and IQ tests are not based on FA. (In fact they go back to Alfred Binet in the late 19th century, long before FA was developed.) I think the commenter was confused because FA is the basis for an idea of general intelligence, often called the G-factor. But this has quite different roots than the IQ test. In fact the original G-factor proposal, by Charles Spearman in the 20s, was based on his analysis of various tests of cognitive abilities of different sorts (I don't recall the specific tests; but they would have been things like tests of numerical ability, tests of visual pattern recognitions, etc.). He found that when the scores of his subjects were subjected to FA, a single factor accounted for most of the variance, and he (or maybe it was Thurstone) called it the G-factor.

Jan 20, 2016 at 9:55 PM | Unregistered Commenternightspore

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