Category Archives: Social Commentary

A Possible Explanation For Wall Street Screwups

They rely too much on credentialism in hiring:

It is odd that the soft firms, which market themselves to clients as being super-smart repositories of brainpower (of course this is largely a fiction; see point 3 above), would rely so heavily on university admissions committees. They effectively outsource a big chunk of due diligence on their most important investment (human capital) to a group of people whose judgement they somehow trust, but perhaps without detailed understanding. When I was on the faculty at Yale I knew people in admissions and it’s not clear to me that they were the best able to spot potential in 18 year olds. In studies of expert performance admissions people are less good at predicting UG GPA than a simple algorithm. (The “algorithm” is simply a weighted sum of SAT and HS GPA!)

I’m a lot less impressed by Ivy degrees than I’m supposed to be. And I think that the current occupant of the White House is a great example of why.

The Puritan Political Tradition

…and the modern left:

Over the centuries, New England has changed its theology while remaining loyal to its cultural foundations. The Calvinist orthodoxy of the seventeenth century yielded increasingly to Deism and Unitarianism in the eighteenth — and Harvard officially became Unitarian in 1803, dropping its belief in the divinity of Christ. In the nineteenth century literary and intellectual New England hedged its bets, backing a range of horses from Emersonian transcendentalism to the more evangelically flavored Calvinism of the Victorian years. During the second half of the twentieth century the mind of New England became more secular than in past generations– but nothing has ever changed the deep belief in this cultural stream that, however defined, morality exists and that it is the job of the state to enforce true morals and uphold right thinking.

They’re just prudes about different things.

Libertarian Morality

Some interesting new research. I found this particularly salient:

Libertarians scored lower than both liberals and (especially) conservatives on sensitivity to disgust. The authors suggest this tendency “could help explain why they disagree with conservatives on so many social issues, particularly those related to sexuality. Libertarians may not experience the flash of revulsion that drives moral condemnation in many cases of victimless offenses.”

I’m not sure what they mean by “sensitivity to disgust.” If they mean that we don’t get disgusted, it doesn’t apply to me. But if they mean that, unlike some people, we don’t use it as the basis for morality, and especially for lawmaking, I think that’s right. I am quite repulsed by male homosex, but that doesn’t mean that I think that makes it immoral or subject to criminal sanctions, because I recognize that my reaction is a natural one for a heterosexual, and that many people are disgusted by different things. The fact that some are disgusted by the thought of eating bugs doesn’t make it immoral, and shouldn’t be, even to them.