Sunday, July 14, 2013

Trayvon Martin and Keynesian Multipliers

Pundits, websites, and news programs had very predictable opinions on the guilt of Zimmerman based on their view about Keynesian multipliers.  Those that favor more redistribution, more governmental spending and regulation overwhelmingly sided with Trayvon Martin, the deceased African-American. Clearly that's not a coincidence, but reflects something deeper, mainly a peculiar groupishness.

Now, if basically prejudices drive reason as opposed to vice versa: what's the most basic belief there?  It's not obvious our beliefs on fiscal policy and criminal justice would be almost perfectly correlated.  Jonathan Haidt wrote a great book on moral confabulations, but I don't think his 6 foundations of political thought help here.  For example, both think their side is 'fair', just for different reasons.  Instead, I think it's people choosing in-groups vs. outgroups, the basic building block of multilevel selection theory outline by David Sloan Wilson.  Thus Harvard elites and  don't mind quotas because,as Harvard grads, they will get the good jobs anyway.  Those in elite positions don't mind quotas, get the support of quota recipients, and can portray themselves as progressive; those in the middle look like selfish bigots, and they lose.

Ultimately, via the logic of Hotelling's median voter theory, there are two teams, and while they are somewhat inconsistent in their beliefs (free choice in abortions, but not employment or insurance)  these beliefs form the most basic coarsening of a set of two self-interested groups.  Everyone likes their team, and want power at the expense of those on the other side.  It's Lenin's Who, Whom? 

Marx's historical dialectic class struggle was profoundly wrong: it has never been simply poor vs. rich, but rather complex coalitions that interweave, because rich need the numbers of the poor and the poor need the capital and skill of the rich.  Think about academic elites and the really poor: they are both heavily Democratic. It clearly isn't just rich vs. poor.

Of course, this also means most debates about the multiplier are  pointless because if I can predict whether you think the multiplier is large based on your beliefs about Zimmerman's guilt, the real issue has not much to do with econometrics.  If you are doing objective work on multipliers, remember no one expects details to be dispositive, the narrative will drive what facts are seen as irrelevant or essential.  

13 comments:

W.C. Varones said...

Zimmerman is an Austrian Hispanic?

Great post. People either believe in government or individual rights.

If government is responsible for providing economic and physical security, there's no need for economic freedom or self-defense.

Anonymous said...

I have come to the same basic conclusion about most of politics. "Who, whom" is the decisive factor. Intellectual arguments are mostly rationalizations, and as society fragments into different "diversities" this gets more true every day.

Anonymous said...

If government is responsible for providing economic and physical security, there's no need for economic freedom or self-defense.

If Martin had split open Zimmerman's skull on the ground and argued later that he had simply been defending himself from an armed thug (someone who had been kicked out of college, someone who had had a restraining order placed on him due to a domestic violence complaint, someone who had been arrested for battery of a police officer), I highly doubt that Team Zimmerman would have viewed this case as a simple matter of someone taking personal responsibility for self-defense.

Patrick R. Sullivan said...

Considering that the prosecution's star witness said that Trayvon told her, over the phone, that he was near the back of 'his daddy's fiance's' townhouse, which is about 60 yards away from where we was shot, clearly Trayvon was the aggressor. Unless space aliens transported him back to the T where Zimmerman was waiting for the police he'd summoned.

Anonymous said...

Yes, exactly, Martin being a couple hundred feet from home is a sign of aggression, while Zimmerman walking around with a gun in the exact same location is perfectly innocent.

Perception is purely a function of one's love of economic liberty and self-sufficiency, really.

W.C. Varones said...

If Martin had split open Zimmerman's skull on the ground and argued later that he had simply been defending himself from an armed thug (someone who had been kicked out of college, someone who had had a restraining order placed on him due to a domestic violence complaint, someone who had been arrested for battery of a police officer), I highly doubt that Team Zimmerman would have viewed this case as a simple matter of someone taking personal responsibility for self-defense.

Let me guess: you're a Keynesian.

You see? It works!

Patrick R. Sullivan said...

Unfortunately for the Trayvon defenders;

http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/us/2013/07/16/pmt-jeantel-sot-zimmerman-not-bashed.cnn.html

It appears that he returned to where Zimmerman was waiting for the police, because he was bent on homophobic violence. Listen to what she says about 'whuppass' on a man who creeps out someone who, 'isn't that kind of way'.

Mercury said...

The biggest takeaway from the Trayvon/Zimmerman case is how pathetically susceptible most people are to sloppy inductive reasoning based on media selection bias. Even if you give Zimmerman zero benefit of the doubt his actual actions (although maybe not his thoughts – which of course can now be prosecutable as crimes all by themselves) are very much of an outlier in terms of national violent crime stats.

Google/Youtube: “Arrest made in NJ nanny cam home invasion” from last month and raise your hand if you’ve even heard of this case, much less seen the video splashed all over the place. What do you think the “national conversation” would be if the roles had been somewhat reversed here?

Also, “Stand Your Ground” gets a lot of attention but Florida law is so screwed up that if Zimmerman had fired warning shots into the air instead of into Trayvon he almost certainly would have been nailed with a mandatory ten years for brandishing a firearm. In reality he actually killed someone and the system gave him all the benefit of the doubt even though it probably shouldn’t have.

Anonymous said...

Mercury, the Zimmerman case obtained national attention because he wasn't arrested for weeks after shooting Martin. The NJ nanny case received local attention in NJ and the suspect was arrested as soon as he was found.

The Zimmerman verdict seems correct to me because the state could not convincingly rule out self-defense, but it's interesting how camps are divided primarily based on how people perceive what is "reasonable" or not reasonable. "Reasonableness" does not seem to be reducible to quantitative data or statistics or anything objective; it seems to be largely a function of subjective human identity. There seems to be a large degree of symmetry in the actions of Martin and Zimmerman; each appeared to be suspicious of the other, so it's hard to "objectively" claim that one person's actions were completely reasonable but the other's were completely unreasonable. Not that some people won't try.

At the end of the day, a 17-year-old was killed for no fundamentally good reason, which is sad.

Mercury said...

Well, the cops clearly bought Zimmerman’s version of the incident without bothering to do much investigation and only followed through after they got bad press. There’s no excuse for that even if 99 out of 100 other such incidents in that area are in fact very similar to Zimmerman’s account of what happened to him.

In the NJ case there is a front-and-center video record of the incident in question so the basic facts of the case are much less mysterious. That’s really the big difference from which everything else follows.

But my larger point is that a visitor from Mars could be forgiven for believing, after a week’s diet of popular and high-brow news media, that there is an epidemic of white-on-black violent crime in the nation and that the Zimmerman incident might just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I’m not the quant in the room so visit the DOJ website for yourself (Table 42) and see what you think:

http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cvus0802.pdf

Wait a minute… those are 2008 stats. Here is what appears to be the 2010 version of the same DOJ (now run by Eric Holder)report:

http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cv10.pdf

I couldn’t find a similar table on offender statistics. Maybe it was misplaced or maybe the most transparent administration ever is just as guilty of obscuring the big picture as the media.

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Anonymous said...

You have applied gross, quasi-racist, generalizations to this blog post.

I hope you didn't apply your over complicated, generalizing thoughts to your trades.



Eric Falkenstein said...

how is this racist?