Archive for November, 2014

Five-Year Low Of Blood Supply Might Not Be So Bad

Dave Killion — November 17, 2014

This article is not too recent, but it’s a particularly good reminder of how undependable mass media can be –

“Canada’s blood supply is at its lowest level in five years, according to Canadian Blood Services. The reason is simple: Canadians just aren’t rolling up their sleeves to give. It’s a troubling issue, especially going into a long weekend, when demand typically spikes…

…On some level, we all know there’s a need for more. Ask yourself: When was the last time you gave blood? Maybe back in high school? Maybe never?”

Or, better yet, ask yourself: In an article concerned about the need for blood, why is there nothing about the need for blood? That is, why are they talking about supply, but not demand? Well, maybe because then the story wouldn’t be quite so alarming

“A recent article in The New York Times has revealed transfusions in the US are down almost one-third.  One reason cited for declining demand is that recent studies have found many transfusions unnecessary, so patients are no longer getting expensive services that did them no good.”

Indeed, not only are many transfusions unnecessary, some can be fatal! Happily, technological improvements and advances in technique (spurred, in part, by the refusal by Jehovah’s Witnesses to accept transfusions), mean that there’s a lot less need for blood than there used to be. That being the case, it might be interesting to know what the gap between supply and demand is, relative to five years ago. But since that particular stat might not be so menacing, we only get part of the story.

Denying Bias Is Bad Science

Dave Killion — November 9, 2014

Quick on the heels of my post concerning Partyism comes this New Yorker article: “Is the Field of Psychology Biased Against Conservatives?” From the article –

On January 27, 2011, from a stage in the middle of the San Antonio Convention Center, Jonathan Haidt addressed the participants of the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. The topic was an ambitious one: a vision for social psychology in the year 2020. Haidt began by reviewing the field that he is best known for, moral psychology. Then he threw a curveball. He would, he told the gathering of about a thousand social-psychology professors, students, and post-docs, like some audience participation. By a show of hands, how would those present describe their political orientation? First came the liberals: a “sea of hands,” comprising about eighty per cent of the room, Haidt later recalled. Next, the centrists or moderates. Twenty hands. Next, the libertarians. Twelve hands. And last, the conservatives. Three hands.

The article goes on to confirm what you and I already suspect it will, which is that of course psychology is biased against conservatives. The field is comprised of (largely progressive) human beings, human beings are biased, and when most of them are biased in the same direction, then one will see that bias compromise the field. This is as true of libertarians and conservatives as it is of progressives, and it explains the progressive bent in the media-academic-entertainment complex. Can such biases be overcome? Not if the biased won’t admit there’s a problem –

Anecdotal evidence, the Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert pointed out, proved nothing. Maybe it was the case that liberals simply wanted to become professors more often than conservatives. “Liberals may be more interested in new ideas, more willing to work for peanuts, or just more intelligent…

If we were dealing with any type of discrimination other than political ideology, how likely does it seem that Gilbert would have indulged in similar musings?  Would he have publicly proclaimed the possibility that caucasians, heterosexuals, or males dominate the field because they were “more interested in new ideas”? I think he would rather have a Brazilian (NSFW). If the field were dominated by Christian Conservatives, what chance is there that any progressive would suggest it was because Christian Conservatives were “just more intelligent”? None, I’ll wager. Happily, there are ways to conduct research that serve to minimize the effect of bias in research, and the article details some of them. But why would researchers adopt solutions to a problem they deny exists?

The Danger of Strategic Voting

Dave Killion — November 2, 2014

With U.S. federal midterm elections rapidly approaching, Reason magazine has been posting articles on its blog that make the arguments for why libertarians should vote for Libertariansvote for Democrats, and vote for Republicans. I don’t care to focus too much on U.S. politics, but given that libertarians face similar dilemmas during elections in their home countries, I think many of you will find these articles illuminating. Of them all, I found Grover Norquist’s defense of voting for Republicans the most compelling:

You only have one vote. How best to use it to advance liberty?…

….In 2006, Montana’s Republican Senator Conrad Burns lost to his Democrat opponent Tester by 3,562 votes. The Libertarian Candidate Stan Jones captured 10,377 votes. Tester’s win meant that Obama had 60 votes in December 2009 and could pass Obamacare. That one vote passed a bill designed to fail into single-payer over time. Did the “too cool for school” libertarians advance liberty when they voted that day?”

Well, maybe they did, Grover… just not in the short term. Because what you’re suggesting is that the ‘too cool for school” libertarians would have advanced liberty further by voting into power a party that had full control of government for six years of the George W. Bush administration, and had every opportunity to deregulate the health care field so thoroughly that Obamacare would have been no more than a dream within a dream for decades to come, but instead chose to increase federal involvement. So, in the long run, it just might be that libertarians advance liberty more by voting for someone that actually reflects their values, instead of endorsing the lesser-of-two evils.