Friday, January 03, 2003

Regarding Chris Bertram's ongoing discussion of racial intermarriage rates: it's worth noting that the two groups whose out-marriage rates are being compared ("blacks"-- i.e. African and Afro-Caribbean immigrants and descendants of immigrants-- in the UK and "blacks"-- those two groups plus African-Americans-- in the U.S.) are of different sizes. Blacks in the UK are, I believe, something in the neighborhood of 2-3% of the total population. Blacks in the U.S. are something in the neighborhood of 10-12% of the population.

All else being equal, out-marriage rates tend to be much higher among smaller populations. There are fewer in-group members to choose from, fewer whom one meets at school or at work or at play. Of course marriage isn't a matter of randomly selecting a mate from the population at large. But those elements of it that resemble randomness push in the direction of higher exogamy rates from proportionately smaller populations.

Note too that the way the statistic is being expressed-- proportion who marry out-- may be biased. It's very likely that if you asked what proportion of whites marry blacks, the answer would be higher in the U.S.-- because, again, of the different relative populations. (There are many fewer whites relative to blacks in the U.S. than in the U.K.) Would the answer be as much higher as the black share of the U.S. population is higher than the black share of the British population? I have no idea. I know there are ways to statistically normalize for this sort of thing, but I don't offhand remember what they are...

I doubt that these population-proportion differences are the whole story. But they're undoubtedly part of it. The raw comparison of exogamy rates among British and American blacks doesn't show very much.

FInally, the BBC article Chris draws his inferences from isn't very carfeul about this kind of thing. The claims made on behalf of Britain are:
1) "one of the fastest growing mixed-race populations in the world"
2) "Data from the 2001 census due to be released later this year is expected to confirm that Britain has one of the highest rates in the world of inter-ethnic relationships and, consequently, mixed race people. By 1997 already half of black men and a third of black women in relationships had a white partner according to a major study of ethnic minorities published by the Policy Studies Institute (PSI). It also revealed that other inter-racial relationships were flourishing with a fifth of Asian men and 10% of Asian women opting for a white partner."

I can't find the PSI study. But notice that there's no mention at all of white rates of exogamy. Nor is there any mention of interracial marriages as a share of all marriages. The inference that the UK has an especially high share of mixed race people in its population is therefore especially dubious. It might be true; but I doubt it, and even 100% exogamy rates among blacks wouldn't necessarily make it true.
Don't miss this comment on Paul Craig Roberts (and, indirectly, on pseudo-libertarian confederatistas like Lew Rockwell) by Eugene Volokh. I might have, had Mark Kleiman not drawn attention to it.

On the other hand, that Eugene piece does some damage to Mark's notion that "liberals have less appetite than conservatives for spending time listening to affirmations of what they already believe. We're the non-church-going group, remember?"

This idea strikes me as utterly implausible; but of course I lack data to back up my intuition. I will relate one anecdote, though. Most of the regular New Republic readers I know are conservatives or libertarians or Republicans, not left-liberals or progressives or socialists-- despite the fact that I know more of members of the latter group of groups. And it's not because the conservatives and libertarians find more that they agree with in TNR; it was, after all, a magazine-length campaign brochure for Al Gore for a couple of years. But a bunch of progressive-left folks I know are so uninterested in reading anything pro-Israel or anti-identity-politics or New Democratic that they haven't picked it up in years, preferring instead the American Prospect or the Nation. For me, TNR is at the top of the must-read pile; it's smart and witty and insightful and often important. It seems to me that people who read only NR or Reason are fewer and further between than are people who read only the Prospect or the Nation.

And please, avoid the jokes about TNR really being a right-wing magazine...
John Derbyshire has been Cornering away on how much he liked Bored of the Rings, the Harvard Lampoon-published parody. In one of his posts he comments

I mis-remembered the last name of Dildo, hero of Bored of the Rings. His full name was, in fact,
Dildo Bugger. Any suggestions that my mis-recollection of that name is yet more evidence of my
well-known obsessive aversion to certain practices, will be sturdily refuted.

I'm open to contradiction here. Maybe it's a generational thing. But I think this post is more accurate than Derbyshire understands. I, at least, found BotR dumb and, well, boring. Like a great deal of Lampoon material, it reads like something Beavis and Butthead would have written after they learned to write. ["Heh. Hehheh. Dude, you wrote 'dildo.'"] And I think that level of humor gets a lot of its appeal (for those to whom it appeals) out of the laughing embarrassed shock of reading even allusions to sex in general and to sex one takes to be kinky or perverse in particular. In short, it's not the misrecollection that provides evidence of Derbyshire's obsession; it's the fact that he found the book funny in the first place.

For what it's worth: laloca beat Andrew Sullivan to the punch on expressing the suspicion that Herb Ritts' death, reported as being caused by pneumonia in the papers, was HIV-related, and the concern that the major papers are returning to HIV-euphemizing.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Geekdom stuff that's funny, insightful, thought-provoking, or interesting: Pejman on Star Wars here and here. David Brin on Tolkien.

Monday, December 30, 2002

We interrupt the blogging holiday for this special occasion...

Y'know, Randy Cohen's (The NYT Magazine's "Ethicist" columnist) obituary for Ann Landers almost had me liking him, for a minute.

Then he pulled this:
"By presenting her views in the form of an innocuous advice column, not as politics but as common sense, she operated as a sort of stealth progressive.
"This is not an easy thing to do. Shortly after my own column began, it was denounced in several right-wing periodicals, in once case under the headline "'The Ethicist' Better Termed 'The Marxist.'" I may have suggested,,, in passing, that 'corporations donate to charity to buff their images' or 'clean air-- why not?' Apparently ideology-detecting radar has become more acute since Ann Landers began or perhaps, with the country veering so far to the right, qualifications for Marxism have been lowered substantially, like some sort of ideological grade inflation."

This isn't the first time that Cohen has feigned astonishment that the mean right-wingers picked on him and claimed that it was because of views like support for clean air. He milked this story in the introduction to his book, and then ran the relevant exerpt as an article in The Nation. It read in part:

"Virtue, it turns out, is the exclusive property of the right. This was brought to my attention just a few months after I began writing "The Ethicist," a weekly column in The New York Times Magazine, when it was denounced by four periodicals, each more right-wing than the last--the weekend Wall Street Journal, the American Spectator, Reason (the presumably ironically named magazine of the Libertarians) and the online version of National Review, where it was named the Outrage Du Jour, under the headline: "'The Ethicist' Better Termed 'The Marxist.'" I may have earned this encomium by suggesting that public education was worthwhile, or perhaps by favoring breathable air. Or air. (Admissions requirements for Marxism have apparently been lowered precipitately, like some kind of ideological grade inflation.)"

Cute. And, like the comedy writer he used to be, he doesn't let a good punchline go. (Cohen has no training in ethics or any related field; the title "The Ethicist" has always struck me as making an unwarranted claim to be offering expertise rather than Landers-style common sense.) The problem is that this punchline is a crock.

I wrote one of those alleged right-wing hit-pieces, for Reason. (You can read it here.) The views for which I criticized him included that it was unethical to fire a temp worker whose shoddy performance was reflecting poorly on everyone ["if anyone's acting unethically here, it's your boss; it is ignoble to force people into soul-deadening, pointless, poorly paid jobs....Organizing work into tedious, repetitive tasks, (that is, the division of labor-- JTL) while profitable for the few, makes life miserable for the many; some political economists have called it a crime against humanity." ] and that giving to charity was morally wrong because the more charitable activity there is, the more easily the state abandons public projects. That's not warm fluffy clean-air stuff. The division-of-labor-as-crime-against-humanity line is probably what led NRO to call him a Marxist.

My beef with him then was that he kept telling people that their individual choices (to defraud or not, to fire or not, to give or not) were morally irrelevant, because of the radical injustice of the economic system. This, I argued, took him out of the realm of being an ethicist-cum-advice-columnist and into the realm of being an op-ed columnist. My beef with him now is that he feels sorry for himself that the right-wingers were so mean to him, but he lies (and keeps telling the same lie) about why that happened. He doesn't stand up for, or modify, or mention, the views that were criticized.

Cohen, of course, has a much wider readership than I do. But as long as he keeps bringing up that he was attacked, I'll keep reminding whoever I can what he was attacked for; clean air it wasn't.