I saw an interesting story the other day that starts off thus: —
There’s no gentle way to put it: People who give in to racism and prejudice may simply be dumb, according to a new study that is bound to stir public controversy.
The research finds that children with low intelligence are more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes as adults. These findings point to a vicious cycle, according to lead researcher Gordon Hodson, a psychologist at Brock University in Ontario. Low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, the study found. Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice, Hodson wrote in an email to LiveScience.
“Prejudice is extremely complex and multifaceted, making it critical that any factors contributing to bias are uncovered and understood,” he said.
Hmmmm. Perhaps it’s this dumbness that makes conservative authoritarian mouthpiece types like Ann Coulter and Ben Domenech feel they must copycat other people’s thoughts and even words, or recycle large chunks of their own words over and over again because they’re too lazy to come up with new ones.
This sort of copycatting and lazy recycling even extends to the nominally-respectable think-tank conservatives. Compare, for example, this new document from the Minnesota-based conservative think tank The Center of the American Experiment touting the alleged benefits of “right to work” (aka “right to starve”) legislation for the North Star State, with one written by the same author, ALEC scholar and Ohio University professor Richard Vedder, for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce last year.
Ironically, the fuzzy numbers cited and vague assumptions made in both Vetter’s Indiana paper and his cookie-cutter rework for a Minnesota audience don’t hold up to review, as the Economic Policy Institute noted in the case of the Indiana paper:
Figure A shows the exact same data used by Richard Vedder, the Ohio University professor who conducted the Chamber’s study. But rather than the overall average, the growth rates for each individual state are shown, with right-to-work states shown in gray. The immediate fact that jumps out from this data is that there is no clear relationship between income growth and right-to-work laws. Indeed, the two fastest growing states were Massachusetts and Connecticut—both non-RTW states with relatively high rates of unionization. At 88.9%, Massachusetts’ growth rate was almost 50% higher than the average of all RTW states. Ten non-RTW jurisdictions (nine states plus the District of Colombia) all enjoyed income growth over this period that was greater than 17 of the 22 RTW states.
In this context, it is unsurprising that the Chamber did not publish the specific, state-by-state numbers underlying its overall average. Its report states that, on average, “growth in real per capita incomes in RTW states is substantially higher than both the national average and non-RTW states.”3 This statement is statistically true, but only in the same way that it’s true that if Bill Gates walks into a bar, everyone in the bar is suddenly, on average, a multimillionaire. The problem with averages presented in the absence of standard deviations is that they create the misleading impression that the average is more or less representative of everyone in the group.
In fact, by reporting only the average growth rate for right-to-work states, the report obscures huge disparities among RTW states. For instance, in 1977-2008, per capita income grew by 82% in North Dakota but by less than half as much (32.5%) in Nevada. Indeed, Nevadans’ income grew more slowly than either the national average or the average of non-RTW states. The average of 22 very diverse states reveals nothing about the economic fortunes of any particular state. The residents of Nevada are no more helped by being associated with the right-to-work average than my personal wealth would be if Bill Gates walked into my favorite watering hole.
Interestingly, one new thing that Vedder didn’t recycle from the Indiana paper was the concept of social cohesion, which in the Minnesota paper is expressed as follows (emphasis mine):
Much of Minnesota’s past prosperity and superior growth can be attributed to a good endowment of human capital. [PW butts in: Which is the result of our traditional, up until the past decade or so, insistence on making rich people pay taxes. But of course you leave out that fact.] The state consistently exhibits higher education levels, a less dysfunctional and more cohesive society, more respect for the rule of law, higher workforce participation, and an elevated entrepreneurial spirit in its citizenry. All of these positive characteristics contribute to positive economic growth and, assuming that these positive characteristics continue to apply to Minnesota’s population, likely will contribute in the future to continued economic success in the state.
If you think you’re hearing the soft strains of a conservative dog-whistle mixed in with all that glurge, you’re not imagining things. “Social cohesion” is a creation of the British right wing and is essentially a right-wing code term for race relations — and more specifically, a way to blame lack of “cohesion” on non-white/non-rich/non-Christian types.
As noted in the Brock University study mentioned at the beginning of my blog, racism is linked to both low IQ and conservative beliefs, which is why the GOP and their big-business patrons have relied so long on the Southern Strategy to trick white working-class voters into voting for big tax cuts for and no restraints on businesses, and against their own economic best interests.
That’s also why ALEC member and Minnesota Republican state representative Mary Kiffmeyer pushed her own Cliff’s Notes’ copy of ALEC’s generic model voter ID bill through the Minnesota state legislature — and, since Governor Dayton (rightly) vetoed it, has been pushing to have it put on the 2012 ballot, a move the governor cannot block through a veto. (This even though the Department of Justice recently rejected, as discriminatory toward people of color, the North Carolina Republican legislature’s version of that same ALEC bill.) Shameful, but that’s how they roll.