Academic Psychologists Create Hostile Climate for Non-Liberals

(p. D1) SAN ANTONIO — Some of the world’s pre-eminent experts on bias discovered an unexpected form of it at their annual meeting.

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. But the most talked-about speech at this year’s meeting, which ended Jan. 30, involved a new “outgroup.”
It was identified by Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia who studies the intuitive foundations of morality and ideology. He polled his audience at the San Antonio Convention Center, starting by asking how many considered themselves politically liberal. A sea of hands appeared, and Dr. Haidt estimated that liberals made up 80 percent of the 1,000 psychologists in the ballroom. When he asked for centrists and libertarians, he spotted fewer than three dozen hands. And then, when he asked for conservatives, he counted a grand total of three.
“This is a statistically impossible lack of diversity,” Dr. Haidt concluded, noting polls showing that 40 percent of Americans are conservative and 20 percent are liberal. In his speech and in an interview, Dr. Haidt argued that social psychologists are a “tribal-moral community” united by “sacred values” that hinder research and damage their credibility — and blind them to the hostile climate they’ve created for non-liberals.
. . .
(p. D3) The politics of the professoriate has been studied by the economists Christopher Cardiff and Daniel Klein and the sociologists Neil Gross and Solon Simmons. They’ve independently found that Democrats typically outnumber Republicans at elite universities by at least six to one among the general faculty, and by higher ratios in the humanities and social sciences. In a 2007 study of both elite and non-elite universities, Dr. Gross and Dr. Simmons reported that nearly 80 percent of psychology professors are Democrats, outnumbering Republicans by nearly 12 to 1.

For the full commentary, see:
JOHN TIERNEY. “Findings; Social Scientist Sees Bias Within.” The New York Times (Tues., February 8, 2011): D1 & D3.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the article is dated February 7, 2011.)

To listen to Prof. Haidt’s speech and view his PowerPoints, follow this link:
Haidt, Jonathan. “The Bright Future of Post-Partisan Social Psychology.” Presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in San Antonio, TX on Jan. 27, 2011.

The Cardiff and Klein research mentioned in the commentary:
Cardiff, Christopher F., and Daniel B. Klein. “Faculty Partisan Affiliations in All Disciplines: A Voter Registration Study.” Critical Review 17, no. 3-4 (Dec. 2005): 237-55.

In Greece It Is Illegal for Brewers to Produce Tea

PolitopooulosDemetriGreekEntrepreneur2011-03-09.jpg “Demetri Politopoulos at his microbrewery in northern Greece. He says Greek leaders need to do more to make the country an easier place to do business.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. 1) DEMETRI POLITOPOULOS says he has suffered countless indignities in his 12-year battle to build a microbrewery and wrest a sliver of the Greek beer market from the Dutch colossus, Heineken.

His tires have been slashed and his products vandalized by unknown parties, he says, and his brewery has received threatening phone calls. And he says he has had to endure regular taunts — you left Manhattan to start up a beer factory in northern Greece? — not to mention the pain of losing 5.3 million euros.
Bad as all that has been, nothing prepared him for this reality: He would be breaking the law if he tried to fulfill his latest — and, he thinks, greatest — entrepreneurial dream. It is to have his brewery produce and export bottles of a Snapple-like beverage made from herbal tea, which he is cultivating in the mountains that surround this lush pocket of the country.
An obscure edict requires that brewers in Greece produce beer — and nothing else. Mr. Politopoulos has spent the better part of the last year trying fruitlessly to persuade the Greek government to strike it. “It’s probably a law that goes back to King Otto,” said Mr. Politopoulos with a grim chuckle, referring to the Bavarian-born king of Greece who introduced beer to the country around 1850.
Sitting in his office, Mr. Politopoulos took a long pull from a glass of his premium Vergina wheat beer and said it was absurd that he had to lobby Greek politicians to repeal a 19th-century law so that he could deliver the exports that Greece urgently needed. And, he said, his predicament was even worse than that: it was emblematic of the web of restrictions, monopolies and other distortions that have made many Greek companies uncompetitive, and pushed the country close to bankruptcy.

For the full story, see:
LANDON THOMAS Jr. “What’s Broken in Greece? Ask an Entrepreneur.” The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., January 30, 2011): 1 & 5.
(Note: the online version of the article is dated January 29, 2011.)

Cars Bring Convenience, Freedom, and Personal Security

(p. 16) Two generations ago in the United States,most families lacked a car; by our parents’ generation, most families had one car while the two-car lifestyle was a much-sought ideal; today a third of America’s families own three cars or more. The United States now contains just shy of one automobile per licensed driver, and is on track to having more cars than licensed drivers. Cars are a mixed blessing, as a future chapter will detail: But there is no doubt they represent convenience, freedom, and, for women, personal security, when compared to standing on street corners waiting for buses or lingering on dark subway platforms. Cars would not he so infuriatingly popular if the did not make our lives easier. Today all but the bottom-most fraction of the impoverished in the United States do most of their routine traveling by car: 100 auto trips in the United States for every one trip on a bus or the subway, according to the American Public Transit Association. The portion of routine trips made in private cars is rising toward overwhelming in the European Union, too. Two generations ago, people dreamed of possessing their own cars. Now almost everyone in the Western world who desires a car has one–and vehicles that are more comfortable, better-equipped, lower-polluting, and much safer than those available only a short time ago.

Easterbrook, Gregg. The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse. Paperback ed. New York: Random House, 2004.

“The Really Good People Want Autonomy”


“Gordon M. Bethune, chief executive of Continental Airlines from 1994 to 2004, says that “being good at your job is predicated pretty much on how the people working for you feel.”” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

Gordon Bethune is usually given credit for introducing marginal cost pricing to the airline industry, and thereby bringing Continental Airlines back from bankruptcy.
His views on how to hire and manage employees are worth serious consideration:

(p. 2) Q. How do you hire people?

A. The really good people want autonomy — you let me do it, and I’ll do it. So I told the people I recruited: “You come in here and you’ve got to keep me informed, but you’re the guy, and you’ll make these decisions. It won’t be me second-guessing you. But everybody’s going to win together. We’re part of a team, but you’re going to run your part.” That’s all they want. They want a chance to do it.

For the full interview Adam Bryant conducted with Gordon Bethune, see:
Gordon M. Bethune. “Corner Office; Remember to Share the Stage.” The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., January 3, 2010): 2.
(Note: the online version of the article is dated January 2, 2010.)

One in Three Students Lie on Professor Evaluations Mainly “to Punish Professors They Don’t Like”

(p. 6B) CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) — Students aren’t always truthful on teacher evaluations, according to a study done by researchers at the University of Northern Iowa and Oklahoma State University.

About one-third of students surveyed at both schools said they stretched the truth on anonymous teacher assessments distributed at the end of a semester, The Des Moines Register reported. Fifty-six percent said they know other students who have done the same.
In some cases, students stretch the truth to make their instructors look good. But more often than not they lie to punish professors they don’t like.
. . . the study . . . will be published next year in the education journal, Marketing Education Review.
. . .
Clayson spent several years evaluating teacher evaluations, which ask students to grade their instructor on a number of topics, such as how much they learned in class to how accessible the instructor was. The evaluations can play a role in pay raises, promotions and tenure decisions.
Some instructors dumb down their classes or inflate grades to increase the odds students will like them — a practice widely known among professors and studied by researchers, including at Duke University, where researchers found professors who gave higher grades received better evaluations.

For the full story, see:
AP. “Professor Evaluations Can Be Tool or Weapon.” Omaha World-Herald (Tues., December 14, 2010): 6B.
(Note: ellipses added.)

Kilimanjaro Snow Has “Come and Gone Over Centuries”

KilimanjaroSnow2011-03-09.jpg “Mount Kilimanjaro’s top, shown in June, has lost 26 percent of its ice since 2000, a study says.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A6) The ice atop Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania has continued to retreat rapidly, declining 26 percent since 2000, scientists say in a new report.

Yet the authors of the study, to be published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reached no consensus on whether the melting could be attributed mainly to humanity’s role in warming the global climate.
Eighty-five percent of the ice cover that was present in 1912 has vanished, the scientists said.
To measure the recent pace of the retreat, researchers relied on data from aerial photographs taken of Kilimanjaro over time and from stakes and instruments installed on the mountaintop in 2000, said Douglas R. Hardy, a geologist at the University of Massachusetts and one of the study’s authors.
. . .
. . . Georg Kaser, a glaciologist at the Institute for Geography of the University of Innsbruck in Austria, said that the ice measured was only a few hundred years old and that it had come and gone over centuries.
What is more, he suggested that the recent melting had more to do with a decline in moisture levels than with a warming atmosphere.
“Our understanding is that it is due to the slow drying out of ice,” Dr. Kaser said. “It’s about moisture fluctuation.”

For the full story, see:
SINDYA N. BHANOO. “Mt. Kilimanjaro’s Ice Cap Continues Its Rapid Retreat, but the Cause Is Debated.” The New York Times (Tues., November 3, 2009): A6.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the article is dated November 2, 2009 and has the title “Mt. Kilimanjaro Ice Cap Continues Rapid Retreat.”)

State Universities Are “Byzantine Mazes, Sometimes with No Obvious Exit”

(p. A20) . . . in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker proposed on Tuesday to separate the main Madison campus from the rest of the state university system, and make it a public authority. Last week, Madison’s chancellor, Carolyn A. Martin, told the Wisconsin Board of Regents that she was hamstrung by state control.

“The accumulated layers of bureaucracy and the control of our mission from a distance make our institutions byzantine mazes, sometimes with no obvious exit,” she said. “It’s hard to be more responsible or more responsive if we spend all our time trying to comprehend and then follow 25 steps to get approval for one purchase.”

For the full story, see:
TAMAR LEWIN. “Public Universities Seek More Autonomy as Financing From States Shrinks.” The New York Times (Thurs., March 3, 2011): A20.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the article is dated March 2, 2011.)

The Progress Paradox Documents How Life Is Better Here and Now


Source of book image:

Greg Easterbrook’s book has been out for several years, but I am a slow reader and have a long “to read” list. I enjoyed the first half or so of the book very much, and also enjoyed some parts of the second half. Roughly speaking, the first half is devoted to illustrating how much better life is now than before, and here (the West) than there (the less-developed countries). Roughly speaking, the second half of the book asks why we aren’t happier, and complains about areas of life where Easterbrook sees room for improvement.
Some of the part I like has now been updated, or written with better argument or more panache, by Matt Ridley in The Rational Optimist. But even so, Easterbrook often gives examples, or arguments, that complement Ridley’s case.
And even though Ridley is on average more eloquent than Easterbrook, the latter is eloquent plenty often enough to be worth reading. (And maybe my judgment about eloquence is colored by my agreeing with Ridley 90% of the time, and only agreeing with Easterbrook 75% of the time.)
On the less-satisfying second half of the book: worthwhile questions are often asked, but the answers are few and not very satisfying.
In the next few weeks, I’ll occasionally be quoting a few of the more illuminating or edifying passages in the Easterbrook book.

Easterbrook’s book:
Easterbrook, Gregg. The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse. Paperback ed. New York: Random House, 2004.

The Ridley book that I mention:
Ridley, Matt. The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves. New York: Harper, 2010.

Estonia Re-Elects “Government that Continued to Embrace Laissez-Faire Capitalism”

(p. A5) MOSCOW — Early results in Estonia’s parliamentary election on Sunday showed the ruling coalition headed for a victory, in a remarkable show of support for a government that has imposed harsh austerity measures to lift the country out of recession.
. . .
The vote reflects approval for a government that continued to embrace laissez-faire capitalism during the painful months after the global downturn. After Estonia’s economy shrank nearly 15 percent, the state reduced its budget by the equivalent of 9 percent of gross domestic product. Demand fell steeply, and unemployment crept up, early in 2010, to 19.8 percent.
But in contrast to their neighbors in Latvia, where economic troubles led to riots and the government’s collapse, Estonians stoically absorbed the suffering. These sacrifices allowed Estonia to join the euro zone in January, a move its leaders hailed as a sign that the country was on its way to achieving Western European standards of living. Meanwhile, the economy has been projected to grow by 4 percent this year, and unemployment has dropped to around 10 percent, according to the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund.

For the full story, see:
ELLEN BARRY. “After Cuts, Voters Back Ruling Bloc in Estonia.” The New York Times (Mon., March 7, 2011): A5.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the article is dated March 6, 2011.)

Scots Fear London May Delay the Dawn


“Inverness, Scotland, at 8 a.m. Thursday. A change to year-round daylight time in Britain would make winter sunrise as late as 10 a.m. in the north.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A7) INVERNESS, Scotland — The question was time, and whether to support legislative efforts in London to move it around in order to bring more light to the afternoons. The answer was no, said Jean Kaka, 67, a resident of this city far to the north.
. . .
“They’re trying to tamper with our time,” she said. “England is a different country than we are, and they’re imposing this on us.”
. . .
The problem is that while a clock change might bring afternoon joy to London, it would condemn Inverness in the far reaches of Scotland — in relative terms, about 700 miles north of Montreal — to long, dark winter mornings with sunrises as late as 10 a.m.
Even worse, many Scots feel, it would mean giving in to English politicians. Though the devolution of British politics has given Scotland its own legislature and responsibility for many of its own affairs, the clock is still controlled by Parliament in London.
“Certainly the people in London don’t have any real concept of the effects further north,” said Anthony Billington, 64, who was strolling through town recently. “I’m much more of a morning person, anyway.”
. . .
Robin MacDonald, 63, who owns a television store in downtown Inverness, said that while Parliament’s efforts to jump time ahead hardly mean that time is literally being stolen from him, he could do without having to set and reset his clocks twice a year.
When he was a child in the rural north, he said, he traveled to and from school in conditions “as dark as the inside of your hat.” So he doesn’t care what time legislators decide it is, as long as they decide something.
“They should make up their mind,” Mr. MacDonald said, “and then they should leave it alone.”

For the full story, see:

SARAH LYALL. “Inverness Journal; Scots Tell London, Hands Off Our Clocks.” The New York Times (Fri., January 21, 2011): A7.

(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the article is dated January 20, 2011.)

MacDonaldRobinAndClock2011-03-09.jpg “Robin MacDonald would rather not have to reset his clocks twice a year.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.