Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Thomas Sowell on The Big Hoax

"The biggest hoax of the past two generations is still going strong -- namely, the hoax that statistical differences in outcomes for different groups are due to the way other people treat those groups.

The latest example of this hoax is the joint crusade of the Department of Education and the Department of Justice against schools that discipline black males more often than other students. According to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, this disparity in punishment violates the "promise" of "equity."

Just who made this promise remains unclear, and why equity should mean equal outcomes despite differences in behavior is even more unclear. This crusade by Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is only the latest in a long line of fraudulent arguments based on statistics.

If black males get punished more often than Asian American females, does that mean that it is somebody else's fault? That it is impossible that black males are behaving differently from Asian American females? Nobody in his right mind believes that. But that is the unspoken premise, without which the punishment statistics prove nothing about "equity."

Too many of the intelligentsia -- both black and white -- jump on the statistical bandwagon, and see statistical differences as proof of maltreatment, not only in schools but in jobs, in mortgage lending and in many other things."


32 Comments:

At 3/13/2012 8:14 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Here's another hoax:

Wealthy, motivated by greed, are more likely to cheat, study finds
February 27, 2012
Los Angeles Times

People of higher status are more prone to cheating, taking candy from children...pocket extra change handed to them in error rather than give it back...and failing to wait their turn at four-way stops...cutting off drivers and pedestrians, a UC Berkeley experiment finds.

"If you occupy a more insular world, you're less likely to be sensitive to the needs of others," said study lead author Paul Piff, who is studying for a doctorate in psychology.

In earlier studies, Piff documented that wealthy people were less likely to act generously than relatively impoverished people.

 
At 3/13/2012 8:28 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

There's a problem with that study, Peak. Often, they asked middle class people to pretend they were rich and how they would act. The study is based on perceptions of wealthy, not the actual actions.

 
At 3/13/2012 8:36 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Jon, there are a lot of problems with the study:

"The driving experiments offered a way to test the hypothesis "naturalistically," he said.

Trained observers hid near a downtown Berkeley intersection and noted the makes, model years and conditions of bypassing cars. Then they recorded whether drivers waited their turn.

It turned out that people behind the wheels of the priciest cars were four times as likely as drivers of the least expensive cars to enter the intersection when they didn't have the right of way.

The discrepancy was even greater when it came to a pedestrian trying to exercise a right of way.

There is a significant correlation between the price of a car and the social class of its driver, Piff said. Still, how fancy a car looks isn't a perfect indicator of wealth.

My comment: To start with, I'd like to know the percentage of accidents based on income or wealth of drivers.

 
At 3/13/2012 8:51 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Indeed you are right, Peak. I apologize if my comment came out as challenging to you. I was agreeing with your point about the "greedy wealthy man" hoax.

 
At 3/13/2012 9:37 AM, Blogger Jon said...

Blacks use drugs at about the same rate as whites. Just slightly higher. 14% of all drug users are black. Yet half of all people imprisoned for drug offenses are black. Does that make sense? Some interesting details here.

 
At 3/13/2012 9:47 AM, Blogger Breaker Morant said...

PeakTrader>>>Trained observers hid near a downtown Berkeley intersection and noted the makes, model years and conditions of bypassing cars. Then they recorded whether drivers waited their turn.<<<

OK-so they did the study in Berkeley. That gives us a picture of how rich liberals drive.

 
At 3/13/2012 9:48 AM, Blogger Anonymous Bosh said...

Correlation does not equal causation.

Maybe successful people are more impatient, maybe they have more to get done. Maybe the Type B personalities care less about maximizing time and profits...

 
At 3/13/2012 9:56 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

14% of all drug users are black. Yet half of all people imprisoned for drug offenses are black. Does that make sense?

In and of itself, that statistic is useless. There are literally an infinite number of conclusions that can be drawn from that particular stat.

Here are just a few that come to mind quickly:

1) The legal system is biased against minorities

2) White people don't get caught

3) Minorities are dumb about where they do drugs. Whites are not

4) Alien mind control forces us to suppress the minorities.

5) It's a CIA conspiracy

6) It's a KGB conspiracy

My point is, one stat means nothing. You need some surrounding context. Maybe arrest rates? Income levels? Conviction rates? That sort of thing.

So, to answer your question of "does it make sense", the answer is "given this information, it's impossible to tell."

 
At 3/13/2012 9:58 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Maybe, people who aren't rich are just too slow, which even "trained observers" hiding in the bushes can see.

 
At 3/13/2012 10:23 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

i think the cars idea is still deeply flawed.

people in sports cars drive aggressively. people in VW vans do not (and cannot as 0-60 is measured on a sundial)

dong this test in berkely further queers that sample.

i used to go grocery shopping there and is it, bar none, the most annoying place to drive i have ever been. it makes cairo look like a dream and mexico city like the autobahn.

people pull up to a 4 way stop and have NO IDEA what to do. they just stare at each other. you wind up going because no one else will.

i suspect if you held this test in manhattan or connecticut, you'd get a totally different result.

using berkeley as a sample set for driving is simply not valid.

 
At 3/13/2012 10:56 AM, Blogger Jon said...

There are an infinite number of reasons why people that don't smoke don't seem to get lung cancer, but we can still draw some plausible conclusions. And if it's all unknowable than Sowell is out of line telling us it's not due to institutional racism.

 
At 3/13/2012 11:22 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

There are an infinite number of reasons why people that don't smoke don't seem to get lung cancer, but we can still draw some plausible conclusions. And if it's all unknowable than Sowell is out of line telling us it's not due to institutional racism.

Not quite. When you have a stat, whether it's "people in fancy cars are more aggressive drivers" or "people who smoke are more likely to get cancer" or "the drug incarceration rate is higher for minorities than whites", it is improper to make a conclusion such as "rich people are more greedy" or "smoking causes cancer" or "the justice system is biased towards minorities" without further evidence to support such a claim. No one statistic by itself means anything. It is the additional statistics and context which lead to a conclusion.

Let me give a sports example: last season, Boston Red Sox 1st Baseman Adrain Gonzalez had a batting average of .323. Does this mean he's the best hitter in Major League Baseball? Without further evidence, we cannot know.

That's all that's going on here. Sowell is warning on using single pieces of evidence to form conclusions. We know smoking can lead to cancer because of the chemicals in cigarettes, because of the tar in the smoke, and a myriad of other reasons. But to base policy on one statistic is foolish.

 
At 3/13/2012 11:57 AM, Blogger markbahner said...

"And if it's all unknowable than Sowell is out of line telling us it's not due to institutional racism."

Use his great example: black males are disciplined more than the average student, and Asian females are discplined less than the average student.

Does that mean there is racism against black males but racism in favor of Asian females? Or does it simply mean that black males act up more than the average student, and Asian females act up less than the average student?

Or suppose males of all races are, on average, disciplined more than females of all races. (I assume this is true, though I don't have the numbers.) Does that mean there is institutional sexism against males? Or does it simply mean that males act up more than females?

 
At 3/13/2012 12:07 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

to amplify jon m's comments a bit further:

my former statistic professor use to rail at us constantly about correlation not being causality.

this becomes double vital to remember in an age of data mining. take a huge pile of data and run it for correlations. yuo'll find all sorts of stuff.

the correlation between the redskins winning the last game of the season and the part in power holding congress was FLAWLESS foe decades, but only a maniac thought there was causality.

if you have no reason to believe that 2 datum are causally related, cannot point to the reason for their relation, and think you know the sign, leave it alone.

even if you know all those things, you have not proved anything yet, just found an area for inquiry.

look at that car example. it might be that rich people are aggressive. it might also be that nice cars cause others at the intersection to get distracted and miss their turn admiring them. it might be a bad neighborhood in which someone in a nice car is likely a visitor and uncomfortable.

data is complex and very few single sets tell you much by themselves.

the point of this whole thing is that relative disciplinary citation says ZERO about preferencing unless you know how they behave.

if they had a camera in a classroom and watched the video of all the students to see how many times and how severely they misbehaved THEN compared it to citation, THAT might tell you something. but if black students act up more or commit more crimes, of course they get cited/arrested more.

convictions in court get more complex as you have to normalize for wealth. johnny cochran will get you off anything. johnny cockup, the court appointed defender is not the same level of advocacy, but i doubt conviction rates between white meth makers and black crack makers were any different nor are the mandatory sentences.

 
At 3/13/2012 12:17 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"Everyone from Bill Cosby to Ronald Reagan seems fond of placing the blame for our black community’s fate squarely on the shoulders of African-Americans, largely excusing the rest of America from any blame for their plight and refusing to consider that - just maybe - other factors might have come into play at some point during our shared history"...

Oh! Boo! Hoo! Boo! Hoo!

That's right, nothing like looking to a lliberal think tank to mitigate personal responsiblity is nothing short of hilarious!

 
At 3/13/2012 12:29 PM, Blogger Chris Burrows said...

Don't forget the asshole factor, the bigger the car the bigger the asshole. When I drove a truck I was always amazed how big mine got.

 
At 3/13/2012 12:34 PM, Blogger Che is dead said...

"my former statistic professor use to rail at us constantly about correlation not being causality." -- morganovich

Ah ha!! That's your problem - statistics! The study and application of statistics, as every sensitive leftist knows, is racist:

Not only are whites, males and heterosexuals unqualified to understand blacks, women and gays, but not even science can overcome this limitation.

... obstacles arise in today's intellectual climate--top graduate schools demand rigorous training in the scientific approach, including statistics, and these requirements can be barriers to black and Hispanic students despite their otherwise vital inborn abilities. The report's solution is to expand the definition of "training" to include approaches seldom found in research-oriented Ph.D. programs. "Methodological training must also be much more inclusive of critical analytical approaches and more self-reflective of potential biases in the use of accepted methodological categories." In practice this new training will resemble Critical Race Theory--the endless search and destroy missions to expose unearned "white privilege" everywhere. Now while white graduate students master Intermediate Statistics, students from historically disadvantaged groups pass the methodology requirement by learning about the inherent racism of the SAT.

And what happens when the freshly minted faculty are hired and must compete with "privileged" professors skilled in the latest scientific skills? This is especially troublesome since top journals use anonymous reviews and accepting race/ethnic screeds will inevitably lower the journal's prestige. Again, no problem: "Departments should also be more inclusive of the types of journals valued in the assessment of scholarly productivity." And these alternative approaches should also be amply funded--"Faculties must receive substantial technical, institutional, and departmental support if alternative strategies are to be widely developed, implemented, and assessed." As an academic lifer, let me translate: the MasterCard approach to research funding--you cannot be turned down.

Let me be blunt. More than access is involved here. The report is an attack on the very essence of the modern university, at least those precincts committed to the pursuit of objective scientific truth. These academics are putting jobs for fellow tribe members ahead of the search for truth ... They want to replace "The data show...." with "I feel this to be the truth and don't contradict me since my genes tell me that...."

That the American Political Science Association legitimizes this profoundly anti-scientific and racialist ("white knowledge, black knowledge") view, and the National Science Foundation funds it, is remarkable. -- Minding The Campus

Obviously, you could have benefited from the instruction of Obama's hero and mentor - Derek Bell.

 
At 3/13/2012 12:44 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

""Everyone from Bill Cosby to Ronald Reagan seems fond of placing the blame for our black community’s fate squarely on the shoulders of African-Americans, largely excusing the rest of America from any blame for their plight and refusing to consider that - just maybe - other factors might have come into play at some point during our shared history"..

being held accountable for your actions and choices? oh, what merciless tyranny. thank god as a white male that never happens to me.

oh, wait...

i seem to recall paying loads of taxes i did not vote for because others decided it was "fair" for the top 1% to pay 40% while the bottom 50% pays nothing.

i'll get on board with their discipline issues when they start paying the same taxes i do in nominal dollars. you want everyone to be treated the same? fantastic! i'm all for it. lets' start with income tax becoming $5k per american per year, flat fee. that's the whole federal income right now. it's more than income neutral, it'll raise money.

after all, if we both buy a big mac, we expect to pay the same price. it's not indexed to our income. i consume less government, not more than they do, so even at the same price, they are coming out ahead, like a gym member that goes 6 days a week instead of 3.

funny how the "equality" crowd never seems to want to start there.

discrimination against the wealthy is fine, but not against african americans. that does not seem like a principled argument to me, it seems like wanting to have your cake and eat it too.

 
At 3/13/2012 1:04 PM, Blogger Ken said...

Blacks use drugs at about the same rate as whites. Just slightly higher. 14% of all drug users are black. Yet half of all people imprisoned for drug offenses are black. Does that make sense?

This is an indication that blacks would use drugs at higher rates than whites if enforcement was the same for blacks and whites. This is a simple result that if you raise the cost of X, you reduce the consumption of X.

The argument that your assertion is not racist (the implicit charge of your statement and pretty much all others who bring it up) is a straight forward one:

Politicians are willing to accept a certain level of drug use, but no higher. The cost of drug use is increased until the rate of use declines to the acceptable level. Since blacks are far more heavily involved in crime in general, the costs imposed on blacks are higher for blacks than for whites to reach the same level of drug consumption.

 
At 3/13/2012 1:42 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

"Blacks use drugs at about the same rate as whites. Just slightly higher. 14% of all drug users are black. Yet half of all people imprisoned for drug offenses are black. Does that make sense?"

maybe.

where do they use them? it could be as simple as teenagers using them in public because they do not have their own room or that their musical genre promotes smoking pot in the car.

you also have to normalize it for economics and drug type.

poor people get bad lawyers.

crack users get convicted and sentenced far more readily and harshly than cocaine users. the sentences are 10 times as harsh and easier to get, so cops, responding to incentives to get convictions and long ones as the key to career advancement, go for what pays.

i saw a documentary about his at sundance this year (and met the filmmaker). the whole meth thing has stood this "institutionalized racism" thing on its head.

the sentences are like crack. it's the new drug panic, and it's predominantly white. hillbilly heroin has totally flipped who is getting arrested/convicted. now it's poor whites.

the feds decided crack was an epidemic and cracked down hard on it. this was taken as racist. but they have done the same to meth, a white drug.

thus, it seems the race argument is not holding, it's more a testament to the government being panicky.

funny how you never hear that meth policy is anti white when 90% of those arrested are Caucasian.

these double standards about.

 
At 3/13/2012 2:47 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"poor people get bad lawyers"...

Poor people deserve bad lawyers, they're getting what they paid for...

"crack users get convicted and sentenced far more readily and harshly than cocaine users. the sentences are 10 times as harsh and easier to get, so cops, responding to incentives to get convictions and long ones as the key to career advancement, go for what pays"...

Well I guess we can thank Nixon for that in one sense since it was his administration that started the, "War on Drugs"...

Heck! They whoever they was dusted off the film cans and reintroduced that 1936 hit Reefer Madness...

Back in '73 and '74 heroin was the scourge of the inner urban areas and it occassionally leaked out to the 'burbs'...

This was all the excuse that was needed for politicos on both sides of the aisle to play the game of, 'one upmanship' on who could come up with the most insane legislation to battle the 'evil scourge du jour' and it hasn't stopped...

"funny how you never hear that meth policy is anti white when 90% of those arrested are Caucasian"...

Well we might have if more folks had this Polynesian dude's attitude...:-)

 
At 3/13/2012 3:15 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Chris Burrows, I bet you're still the same "asshole" driving a go-cart.

 
At 3/13/2012 3:31 PM, Blogger Chris Burrows said...

PeakTrader, come to think of it I'm the same "asshole" all the time. You've wrecked my analogy. :-P

 
At 3/13/2012 3:41 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Chris Burrows, don't worry about it. I've known people who came into money and then made Mr Hyde look like Dr Jekyll.

 
At 3/13/2012 4:40 PM, Blogger kmg said...

While Sowell is right, feminism is a far greater hoax than even the 'racism' scam.

That is because people who are quick to call BS on 'racist' claims still immediately grovel to feminists no matter how unjustified the feminist's demands. This includes most conservatives.

 
At 3/13/2012 5:26 PM, Blogger NormanB said...

There is a movie called Hoop Dreams. Two grade school black kids from the same Chicago ghetto go to different high schools: one to the black Chicago Public School, Marshall and the other to mostly white St. Joseph's, a Catholic school.

The film makers got access to both schools. The decorum at Marshall was deplorable in the classes and in the hallways, wildness was pervasive. Whereas at St. Joseph's it was mostly mannerlyand there wasn't danger in the air although it was an all male school

You don't have to be a researcher with facts to see which group had to be taken down more because of poor behavior. The movie told it all.

 
At 3/13/2012 9:26 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

the hoax that statistical differences in outcomes for different groups are due to the way other people treat those groups.

You mean like the nazis and Jews, the Tutsi and Hutu, the Christians and Serbs, the terrorists and the tower workers?

I think it does matter how people treat each other.

 
At 3/13/2012 9:33 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

Politicians are willing to accept a certain level of drug use, but no higher.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

It is an economic issue, not a political one. Same as pollution, illegal immigrants, abortion and most anything else. When something costs more to prevent than the damage it causes, then those promoting excess prevention are the ones doing the damage.

 
At 3/14/2012 10:10 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

juandos-

i think you are misinterpreting what i said.

i was NOT supporting the war on drugs. it's expensive, immoral, contrary to personal freedom, and a massive loser.

it's just price support for thugs.

you want to keep drugs away from kids? make them legal. when i was 16, drugs were easy to buy, beer was hard.

the guy you bought beer from carded you.

these laws are ridiculous. mandatory sentencing means that someone with a few grams of crack or meth will do more time than most 2nd degree murderers.

it's just hysteria over what ought to be a personal choice.

the prohibitionists made all these same claims about alcohol and violence and lawlessness, then they banned it and saw what real violence around it was giving birth to organized crime of a scale and violence not seen before in the US and worse, glamorizing it.

drug dealing is exactly the same and always will be so long as drugs are illegal.

 
At 3/14/2012 12:09 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"i was NOT supporting the war on drugs. it's expensive, immoral, contrary to personal freedom, and a massive loser"...

I'm not sure how you came up with that truly bizzare implication morganovich....

"you want to keep drugs away from kids? make them legal. when i was 16, drugs were easy to buy, beer was hard.

the guy you bought beer from carded you
"...

I more than anyone wish it could be that simple...

"these laws are ridiculous. mandatory sentencing means that someone with a few grams of crack or meth will do more time than most 2nd degree murderers"...

You're just repeating what I said...

"the prohibitionists made all these same claims about alcohol and violence and lawlessness, then they banned it and saw what real violence around it was giving birth to organized crime of a scale and violence not seen before in the US and worse, glamorizing it"...

Yet another repetition of what I said...

"drug dealing is exactly the same and always will be so long as drugs are illegal"...

Again morganovich I wish it were that simple...

 
At 3/14/2012 4:35 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

it is that simple juandos.

people should be free to use such recreational chemicals as they like so long as they do not harm others.

and argument that can be made about illegal drugs being harmful socially or from a health standpoint applies equally to cigarettes and alcohol both of which are worse.

it's an arbitrary and foolish set of laws that causes us to imprison more of our population that any developed nation in history at great expense in money and social disruption.

making marijuana legal wouldn't make me smoke it, but i think others have the right to.

the drug was has been lost. the winners are the thugs for whom it works as price supports. the only way to beat them is legalize drugs and give coca the same profit margins as coffee beans.

 
At 3/14/2012 10:46 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"people should be free to use such recreational chemicals as they like so long as they do not harm others.

and argument that can be made about illegal drugs being harmful socially or from a health standpoint applies equally to cigarettes and alcohol both of which are worse
"...

Yeah morganovich that sounds good in the theoretical and I don't have any argument with it as far as it goes...

Yet in the real world some people can be unusally anti-social on various drugs and others can be and are easily victimized on drugs...

'Designer drugs' are especially insidious when it comes to victimization and treating the effects which for some folks can be fatal almost instantly is a real challenge to hospitals ERs...

"making marijuana legal wouldn't make me smoke it, but i think others have the right to"...

No doubt and all things considered it is probably the most benign of drugs that are now considered illegal...

Once the camel's nose is in the tent, the rest of the camel will want to come in...

We know we'll hear the argument, "well if reefer is decriminalized/legalized why not meth, why not coke, etc, etc, etc?"...

"the drug was has been lost. the winners are the thugs for whom it works as price supports. the only way to beat them is legalize drugs and give coca the same profit margins as coffee beans"...

Again that sounds good but the cartels are heavily invested in the continuing illegality of the drugs...

I'm orginally from Laredo, Tx and its always a bit of a shock to go back for visits...

The gun fire from the Mexican side of the river can on occassion sound like a full fledged fire fight in a free fire zone (warning: graphic photos)...

I don't know but I can't help but think that once drug decriminalaztion/legalization starts it will be a Pandora's box...

 

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