Monday, July 28, 2014

Why I'm Not a Feminist

I'm not a men's rights activist (MRA) or associated with any kind of anti feminist movement. However, I do consider myself quite opposed to modern, western feminism. Here are some reasons why:

1.) The Pay Gap

 I don't deny the existence of the pay gap. One does exist. However, it is an ignorance regarding the causes of the pay gap. The common figure is 77 cents on the dollar. Most, if not all, of this is explained by differences in hours worked, preferences for work, choice of occupation, and, yes, time out of the workforce due to child rearing. Direct pay discrimination, at the most, is one of many factors explaining this gap. More likely, it plays a negligible role in the gap.

Clever feminists respond by pointing out that it is possible that occupational choices, hours worked, etc could be the result of indirect discrimination and gender roles. I disagree with this assessment. But, for the sake of argument, we'll assume this is correct. Even in this case, the feminist solution is still wrong. Anti discrimination lawsuits, which feminists want to strengthen, are designed to fight direct pay discrimination. They would not, in any way, solve or mitigate these indirect channels for gender discrimination and are thus a bad policy option for solving this problem.

Ironically, the only real effect of things like the Lily Ledbetter Act would be to reduce the hiring opportunities for women because it raises the potential risk of legal action if a woman is to be hired. In other words, an act designed to reduce the pay gap would probably have the opposite effect.

2.) Lack of Compassion for Disadvantaged Men

Disadvantage can mean a lot of things. So, a disadvantaged man could be disadvantaged in money, looks, intelligence, or even things like social interactions. Feminism is incredibly insensitive to such men.

I understand that the feminist movement is, supposedly, about advancing women. But, my problem isn't that they don't talk about the problems that these men face. My problem is the vitriol and hatred aimed towards these men and the lack of interest in the fact that if society were to go in the direction that feminists propose, these men would be the losers.

Feminists like to think they are fighting male privilege. But, in fact, the actual men who are the targets of feminist criticism tend to be incredibly disadvantaged. For instance, there's been a lot of talk about a certain youtube channel devoted to a woman who "confronts" her "street harassers".

The woman in the video is, likely, attractive, white, wealthy (relatively speaking), and intelligent. With a couple exceptions, her harassers are black and disadvantaged. And, in most cases, they aren't harassers at all. They're simply men who aren't rich and white and decide to hit on her.

She may not like it when men she doesn't find appealing say she is pretty but that does not make it harassment. It's hard to imagine that she gets as upset when rich, white, good looking men hit on her in a more stereotypically "classy" way.

A sample of one of her videos is here:

3.) Ignorance About the Problem of Male Isolation

Most remember the tragedy in Santa Barbara a few months ago where Elliot Rodger killed 6 people before taking his own life. Feminists took this as an opportunity to push their own agenda. This is forgivable as the videos Rodger took displayed both profound arrogance and misogyny.

However, feminists seem to mistake correlation for causation. Elliot Rodger didn't kill because he was a misogynist. Instead, both his misogyny and homicidal (and suicidal) tendencies stemmed from a combination of insanity and isolation.

The insanity part is self explanatory as anyone who could kill 6 people in such a manner is obviously insane. The isolation part is, from a cultural perspective, more important.

It is much easier for a man to become isolated than for a woman. Women are, by nature, more social. Yet, they aren't in more need of social interaction. They are merely more aware of their need for social interaction. This is something of a paradox.

The bigger difference, however, comes with regards to intergender social relations. Feminists constantly complain about women getting unwanted male attention. This is, at times, unpleasant and uncalled for. However, there seems to be an ignorance of the corresponding problem males face: lack of female attention.

Humans are social animals. Males left out of social interactions have it at least as hard as women who are subject to non violent and non threatening but still unwanted male attention. Men who are socially awkward or unappealing do not receive female attention. And, if they attempt to talk to females, they are often labeled as "creeps" or "harassers" by women which discourages them from future interaction.

The same is not true of socially awkward or unappealing women who still tend to receive male attention and some degree of social interaction. It is simply much more common for men to become isolated.

It was this isolation that lead an already mentally unstable individual like Rodger to take so many lives in such a senseless manner. It is this isolation that contributes the fact that men are much more likely to commit such senseless murders.

It is also this isolation that leads to men being dramatically more likely to take their own lives than women. At the same time, women are more likely to attempt suicide. That is to say that women may see a suicide attempt as a "cry for help" because they know that some people will care if they think they tried to commit suicide.

For men, suicide is simply a way to end pain and isolation. It is, unfortunately, true that for a lot more men than women, nobody would care if they committed suicide.

One of feminism's core tenets these days is to discourage men from talking to women they don't know, even in a non threatening way. It's not hard to see how this may negatively effect the men who are already isolated to begin with.

4.) Feminism and Multiculturalism

Women are severely disadvantaged in many parts of the world. I don't believe women are disadvantaged in the modern, Western world. Even if you disagree with that, I'm sure we can agree that women are much more disadvantaged in, for example, the Muslim world.

Feminists, at least from my perspective, seem much more upset about magazine covers than the fact that Muslim women can be legally raped if they are married to their rapist in some countries. Of course, feminists have responded to such criticism before.

One common response is that the fact that some women in other countries have a worse deal than women in Western countries does not mean that the women in Western countries should be minimized. That's a fair point.

However, I do think the concerns of women should be correctly prioritized. Maybe it's because of my male privilege, but I simply believe that the plight of women in the third world is much worse than of women in the first world. It's quite difficult to argue that feminists talk as much about the problems of women in poor countries as compared to those in wealthy countries.

Feminists may respond by saying that since they are (mostly) in the first world, they are mostly going to be talking about the problems within the first world. This is also a fair response.

However, feminists should be more forthright in saying that they care much more about the utility of women in wealthy, predominantly white countries than women in poor, predominantly non white countries. Most feminists I know or know of would not exactly be receptive to such a message.

But, given how the feminist movement seems to prioritize, what other conclusion could one come to?

Modern feminism in such a light would look a good deal more like a racial and nationalistic women's movement than a global social justice movement. In my view, that's probably correct and one more reason I am not a feminist.

5.) Biological Differences Between the Sexes

To say that all behavioral differences between men and women are artificial social constructs is rather absurd. However, this implicit assumption underlies much of feminist thought on issues ranging from the pay gap to relations between the genders.

Even if there were no social influences or gender expectations, women and men would still behave differently simply for biological reasons. Once one realizes this, it is clear that not every inequity between the genders is indicative of discrimination. In other words, when it is claimed that the vast majority of CEOs are men, that should be the beginning of the conversation on whether or not discrimination is the cause of this. It should not be an automatic call for major action that ends "discrimination" before we even know that discrimination explains the difference here.

6.) Traditional Monogamy 

It has been well documented that the traditional, nuclear family structure has been slowly deteriorating for years. Feminism oftentimes portrays this as a positive development. I have a different perspective.

"Hookup Culture" has become quite popular among the younger generations. The increased availability of birth control and great societal acceptance of non marital sex has led to a more promiscuous culture with sex becoming less about commitment and child rearing and more about pure pleasure. Feminists tend to see this as a triumph of sexual liberation.

However, marriage and monogamous relationships, in my view, have been a great source of social strength. And, intimacy was a key part of this. With intimacy having a lot less to do with such commitment, it is easy to see why marriage has been on the decline.

Monogamous relationships tend to contribute to more emotionally stable childhoods and more economic security. They also help mitigate the aforementioned problem of isolation that many males (and even some females) face.

I'm not saying that feminism is too blame for the decline of marriage. But, at the very least, feminism has been something of a cheerleader for this trend. I see this as problematic.

These are just 6 of the reasons I don't consider myself a feminist. Of course, I'd love to hear other perspectives. Both those who agree and disagree.

Things to Come

I have been posting a bit more lightly as of late. I will, however, be picking up again in the coming months with some heavy topics and some topics the CC has historically stayed away from. Just a heads up.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

ACA and the Uninsured Rate

There's a lot of to do about the evidence that ACA has reduced the uninsured rate. They're right. I'm not fan of the law, but, from the beginning, I have believed that the ACA would be able to do one specific thing: reduce the share of people in the category "uninsured".

I also think there will be more uninsured than most ACA supporters claimed would be, but there should still be a significant reduction. Indeed, there already has been according to a number of measures.

Is this not a vindication of the ACA?

In my view, the answer is no. For one, being "insured" is not the same as having access to quality health care. I wrote a post a while back noting how public health coverage often doesn't offer the same quality as private health coverage.

Given that the Medicaid expansion is a big part of the fall in the uninsured and given that Medicaid patients receive worse access and lower quality than patients with private care, the fall in the uninsured may not mean as large an increase in health care access as one might believe. Given the changing nature of private insurance, it's possible that even the private coverage purchased on the exchange may offer worse access than pre ACA private insurance.

As I've said before, the major problems in the health care system are overregulation on the supply side and third party (and employer) dominance in the way we pay for it. ACA doesn't do anything to deregulate the supply side and actually worsens the third party dominance in payment.

The high uninsured rate was merely a symptom of these problems. Covering up the symptom by changing people's insurance status may make our system look statistically better, but it may not offer any real improvements in our health care system.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

College Majors, IQ, and Income

New post by Randy Olson on college majors, IQ, and gender. I encourage all readers to read the whole post, which is quite informative. I did leave a comment on his post to note what seems to be a mistake in the SAT to IQ conversions on the part of one of his sources. This mistake led to a systematic overestimation of average IQs in the various majors. Here is my comment:

"SAT to IQ conversion seems to be off. Here is a good site for SAT to IQ conversions:
The smartest major, physics and astronomy, have an average SAT score of 1270. This seems plausible. However, your source converts that 1270 to an IQ of 133.
As the source I provided above shows, the actual conversion of a 1270 SAT score to IQ should be 128-130 depending on the IQ test you use.
Because this post is about the relative IQs of majors, this doesn’t actually have any impact on your argument. But, it is important to note that it seems there was an error on the part of the source when converting SAT to IQ.
My suspicion is that it has something to do with how they handled selection bias. Of course, I could be wrong.
Overall, though, good post."

I'm interested in how this all relates to the expected income of the various majors. Luckily, Bryan Caplan has already provided some numbers on the wage premium of the various majors. I like Caplan's data because it controls for an important factor: pre existing ability bias. After this control, Caplan finds the wage premium by major to be:

Earnings Compared to H.S. Grads
Electrical engineering
Computer Science
Mechanical engineering
General business
Political science/gov't
Liberal arts
English language/lit.
Fine Arts
General Education

Note that this is not a comparison of the average expected income by major. Instead, this is a comparison of how much benefit (in terms of income) is derived from a given major.
Not surprisingly, engineering and computer science have the largest wage premiums. This is followed by economics, finance, and accounting. At the bottom of the list, we see english, fine arts, and general education. 
For once, the data seems to confirm conventional wisdom. STEM and business type degrees really do payoff a lot more than traditional liberal arts degrees.
Another piece of conventional wisdom is that the traditional liberals arts majors are just as smart or smarter than the STEM and business type majors despite the income differences. Here is the link to the SAT scores by major data. As noted above, the SAT to IQ conversion seems to be off, but that applies for all majors, so the relative order and differences between majors in terms of IQ should be correct. Of course, the SAT data should be correct too.
My reading of the chart is that, once again, conventional wisdom is confirmed. Liberal arts students are just as smart as STEM and business type majors. They just would rather study philosophy or english in college and make less money later on in life. At least, that is my theory.
This post was pretty off the cuff and written at 5 AM, so it is by no means organized or well written. But, if anything, I hope I at least exposed some readers to good data on majors, income, and IQ.

Friday, June 20, 2014

On the New Commonwealth Fund Report

The new Commonwealth Fund analysis of international health care systems is out and, not surprisingly, the USA ranks dead last out of 11 nations. Despite my contrarian nature, I'm not a defender of the USA health care system, but I do think that, relatively speaking, the USA gets a worse rap than it deserves. "Relatively speaking" is an important word. In an absolute sense, the system really is as bad as commonly believed. But, in a relative sense, other systems are vastly overestimated due to bad reasoning and, yes, zombies. It is also true that, as bad as the USA system is, even our system deserves a bit more credit than it gets at times. A few thoughts on the actual report:

1.) The study ranks the UK as being the best health care system of the 11 countries. This should be an immediate red flag that this analysis is more driven by an ideological preconceptions than a quest for an objective comparison. I could be wrong. But, the emphasis on "health care equity" certainly isn't helping their case. Neither is the fact that data on how long people in the UK have to wait for elective surgery (a measure that they probably wouldn't do all that well on) is missing from the study.

2.) Progressives are claiming this study as a slam dunk for their health care policy views. After all, the socialized UK system is on top and the USA system is at the bottom. But, a look at the in between rankings muddies up the picture. Switzerland, with a heavy reliance on private medicine and cost sharing (neither of which progressives are very big on), comes in at second place. Canada, with a single payer system, comes in at second to last, right above the USA.

3.) One of the biggest problems with these international health care system comparisons that supposedly "show" how bad the USA system is that they don't measure the best thing about the USA system: innovation. Yes, we spend a lot more money (more than we need to), and we don't get a ton of value. But, our decentralized system also offers more room for experimentation than the tighter models of Europe. The problem here is that the benefits from this innovation benefit the whole globe, so it doesn't show up in international comparisons of health care systems. Indeed, in some ways, these other health care systems that are supposedly so much better than ours "free ride" off of our innovation, and then brag about how they do so well with less money. Excellent (old) article on this by Tyler Cowen here.

I also plan on responding to TIE and Krugman about the idea of zombie arguments in the very near future. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Some Quick Things

1.) Thomas Picketty seems to have made some data errors in his popular book (not too different from Rogoff and Reinhart). Also, the long term trends in wealth inequality seem to be much more complicated than is often suggested.

2.) The VHA, as it turns out, has had a "secret list" to make it's long waiting times not seem so long. Interestingly, many advocates of single payer saw the VHA as a good model for the entire national health care system. Although, it is important to note that the VHA's problems are hardly new. Yet another reason not to support nationalized health care.

3.) A recent meta analysis of studies on the link between saturated fat and heart disease found: 

"Current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats."

I've long suspected that saturated fat is not as bad as most people believe. This seems to support that view. This is also a good reason to be skeptical of bans and taxes on food deemed to be "unhealthy", as it is often unclear.

4.) I often speak favorably on the concept of cost sharing in health care on this blog. Aaron Carroll provides a different point of view. I'll be the first to admit that cost sharing has its downsides, and that there are times when more cost sharing is not desirable. Still, overall, I think there is too little cost sharing in our system instead of too much.

5.) Textbook example of regulatory capture with Pepsico lobbying for a crackdown on "counterfeit hummus". (HT to Mark Perry)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Paul Krugman on Free Market Health Care (Again)

I understand that Paul Krugman is a great economist. He has won a Nobel Prize. But, when he talks about issues like health care, he is surprisingly inept. Recently, he made a post about market based health care.

As usual, Krugman makes out Kenneth Arrow's work as having ended the discussion on the ability for markets to work in health care. I don't know why. There are a lot of markets with asymmetric information where markets still work just fine. There are lots of markets where people "need" the product (like food) where markets work fine too.

Still, my biggest problem with Krugman's post is his assertion that markets have a record of failure in health care. Reader's may recall this post from a while back where I explained this wasn't so:

"I can think of a few real world examples of more or less free market (or consumer based) health care:

1.) In the USA, cosmetic type surgeries like Lasik Eye Surgery (look here). Results seem to be fairly positive.

2.) Abroad, Singapore and, to a lesser extent, Switzerland use significant amounts of cost sharing. These systems aren't exactly "market oriented", but consumers have a lot of "skin in the game" compared to other systems (including our own system). The results (here and here). On the whole, results here seem to be fairly positive as well."

I'll be the first to admit that, in the modern world, the experience with market based health care is limited. But, this experience has been unambiguously positive. One more thing from Krugman:

That’s us in the upper right-hand corner: our uniquely privatized system is uniquely expensive, while overall indicators of the quality of care don’t point to any US superiority. So on the face of it, the evidence strongly suggests that the proposition that health is an area where private markets work badly is borne out by experience."
This is frustrating on two counts. First, this actually illustrates a point that defenders of private medicine often make: the only evidence that private medicine leads to higher costs is the USA. Indeed, if you take out the USA (an outlier), there is no correlation between private share of health spending and overall cost.
What else is annoying?

If you included Singapore in this chart, you would see another outlier. After all, Singapore has something like 60% of health care spending private. That would be far higher than every other country on this chart, USA included. Furthermore, their health care only takes up about 3% of GDP, far lower than every other country on the chart.
Overall, we should expect more of Krugman than a post that ignores so much contrary evidence and engages in cherry picking in data. But, unfortunately, this is the kind of thing I have come to expect from Krugman.

UPDATE: For those people who argue that Singapore's system is not market oriented, I direct you here.