Shock! TEA-Party Members Aren’t Knuckle-Dragging Ignoramuses!

Got this one via Instapundit.  (Sorry for the dearth of posting, but I’ve been working a LOT of hours.)

So a Yale law professor (and apparently amateur statistician) did a study.  Reports Politico:

Yale law professor Dan Kahan posted on his blog this week that he analyzed the responses of more than 2,000 American adults recruited for another study and found that, on average, people who leaned liberal were more science literate than those who leaned conservative.

However, those who identified as part of the tea party movement were actually better versed in science than those who didn’t, Kahan found. The findings met the conventional threshold of statistical significance, the professor said.

At the actual post, the Professor says:

I’ve got to confess, though, I found this result surprising. As I pushed the button to run the analysis on my computer, I fully expected I’d be shown a modest negative correlation between identifying with the Tea Party and science comprehension.

But then again, I don’t know a single person who identifies with the Tea Party.

Paging Pauline Kael!

All my impressions come from watching cable tv — & I don’t watch Fox News very often — and reading the “paper” (New York Times daily, plus a variety of politics-focused internet sites like Huffington Post & Politico).

I’m a little embarrassed, but mainly I’m just glad that I no longer hold this particular mistaken view.

Of course, I still subscribe to my various political and moral assessments–all very negative– of what I understand the “Tea Party movement” to stand for. I just no longer assume that the people who happen to hold those values are less likely than people who share my political outlooks to have acquired the sorts of knowledge and dispositions that a decent science comprehension scale measures.

But that’s not the best part.

The blog comment thread is.

At the time of this writing, it runs 249 comments long, overwhelmingly pro-TEA Party, and IMHO this one is the best:

Let me add an international twist:

I am a Brazilian self-taught Software Engineer. I also taught myself English, to the point where I managed to hold a Cambridge CPE, despite the fact that I’ve never stepped on anglophonic soil and zero formal training. So my analytic and reasoning faculties seem to be in working order.

Now, with that out of the way, here’s why I strongly identify with the Tea Party: in my view, they are right, and they are the US’s lifeline. They represent the virtues that led to American Exceptionalism (and YES, this does exist).

I find caricaturing Tea Partiers extremely ironic, and it would be hilarious, weren’t it so revolting. In my experience, being a lefty liberal is EASY. It is the default stance of the intellectually lazy. All you have to do is feel (specially “good about myself” kind of feel), and never solve anything. Here’s, in my view, why:

I live in the logical endpoint of Fabian socialism. Born to and raised in a culture where the concepts of “right” and “left” are non-existent (I take that back, actually “right” is a language stand-in for “evil”). We have over 30 political parties, and they are all some variant of the left. From Social Democrat parties to “Trotsky-ish” parties. Our *current* constitution, which dates back all the way to the Gun’n’ Roses era (1988), is pretty much a Soviet Constitution (1936) copy/paste job. Culturally, the population is in pretty much a state of “1984 meets Brave New World” in terms of ideology.

Brazil is also a country where:

– the utter government control of the private sector trough bureaucracy managed to destroy entrepreneurship. To the point that it exists, it has to deal with the accepted fact of life that the bribes which feed the corrupt bureaucrats demand to allow business to exist have to be factored in business plans.

– a crushing tax burden that sustain a permanent dependent underclass of favelados in welfare ensures the populists remain eternally in power and that any semblance upward mobility is quickly “corrected”. For an employer to put 10.000 in the pocket of an employee, with will costs him nearly 18.000, so jobs market are always tepid at best so informal work and tax dodging schemes are commonplace.

– The relentless attack on Catholicism (the historical prevalent brand of Christianity practiced here) over the past decades eroded any semblance of morality form a large chunk of the country, and that coupled with utter corruption and/or incompetence of law enforcement made way for drug cartels to take over. Violence and crime spiraled to such inhuman degrees that between the 50K murders in average a year, this year we saw a soccer referee stab a player to death and then be beheaded and quartered in the field by the spectators for his trouble. His head was placed in a spike in the middle of the field, as an added dramatic bonus (
This act barely caused a murmur.

I could go on for ages with more evidence of social rot, but you probably already got the gist of it.

Now, remember, being immersed in this cultural cesspool since birth I, like most Brazilians, never even *knew* that this wasn’t actually just “the way things are”. I mean, we get a gut feeling that something is off, but like Plato’s cave dwellers, light is something really frightening and instinctively avoided. And the *obvious* solutions by all the *smart people* are always the same: more government “compassion”. More “social programs”. More “awareness”. Less “greedyness”.

Imagine my shock when by a quirk of fate a Mark Levin book ended in my hands. That led me to Burke, Locke, Smith, Mises, Friedman, Hayek and many others. Conservative philosophy is what gave me a glimpse of the shinning city in the hill and a will to fight, along with a battle plan, to improve my lot in life, and of those I can reach.

So, Dan, I understand you are surprised that your results showed Tea Partiers not the raging bufons the media portrays them as being. The most obvious things are often the easiest to miss. But never doubt that being conservative is quite the intellectual effort, if only to overcome the moroseness of the mind that liberalism creates imposes with all its group-think and easy answers.

Best wishes,


PS: written in a hurry on lunch break, no time to proof-read, so apologies in advance for eventual typos.

October 18, 2013 Rodrigo Del Cistia Andrade

The anti-Tea Party comments? Mostly ad hominems and “Your data/conclusion is not valid” arguments.

I cannot help but wonder if we’re not approaching another preference cascade.

Edited to add:  I’ll just leave this right here:


So, Who Was Shocked by the Republicans Caving at the 11th Hour?

Not I.  The only thing I found surprising was they waited that long.

Someone likened the Republican “government shutdown” gambit to attempting an amphibious invasion without air superiority (media support). [ETA:  It was Instapundit.]  Can’t say I disagree with that assessment.  The major media outlets were in full uniform howl, predicting doom-‘n-gloom, downplaying and avoiding the embarrassingly childish acts of the National Park Service, blaming the Tea Party for its intransigence, and hurling epithets like “hostage-taker,” and “terrorist.”  It’s almost like there’s a narrative or something.  (*cough*Journolist*cough*)

And, honestly, I think the Republicans would have been far better off to have made noises about their inability to affect the implementation of Obamacare, and pointing out its every single failure – and they are legion.  Where else have you seen this image?

 photo Obamacare_stack_0-1.jpg

Certainly not in the major media. That’s the 7-foot, 11,500,000-word stack of regulations spawned by the 2000+ page Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that we had to pass to find out what was in it.

As some wag put it, “Pass it to find out what’s in it?  That’s not a law, that’s a stool sample.”

Why isn’t Rand Paul or Ted Cruz wheeling one of these stacks around everywhere he goes?  Apparently we’re learning more every day, but we’ve got a long way to go.

Remember this?

 photo dscn1160.jpg

Those are pocket editions of the Constitution, and include the Declaration of Independence.  As P.J. O’Rourke famously said of it:

The U.S. Constitution is less than a quarter the length of the owner’s manual for a 1998 Toyota Camry, and yet it has managed to keep 300 million of the world’s most unruly, passionate and energetic people safe, prosperous and free.

Today?  Not so much.  It’s keepers have fallen down on the job.

Edited to add this:

 photo Fiscal_Cliff_Ramirez.jpg

The Theory of Value

Sarah Hoyt has an interesting post up, Fifty Shades of Marx*, a discussion of her assertion that the ideas of Marx are currently ascendant – an assertion I concur with.  This bit reminded me of something:

You want to look at the decay of Western civilization? It’s mostly the unexamined absorption of Marxist ideas.

Now, I’m one of those people who live too much in books and theories, and, as such, I can tell you why they’re absorbed and treated as gospel: it’s because they make internal sense. This is not the same as having even a glimmer of real world application, of course, but they satisfy the minds of intellectuals by dividing everything into categories and presenting a (false but deceptively smooth) system for historical change and, in general, sounding REALLY plausible.

Take the Marxist theory of value. It is utter nonsense of course. The idea is that what gives value to something is the labor put into it. You can see how this would appeal to Marx, or, indeed, to any intellectual. Laboring forever over a book that sells one copy is now a genuine, bonafide “injustice”. The book is valuable. Just look how much work you put into it.

This came to mind immediately:


You’re American If You Think You’re American

One of the advantages of having a ten-year backlog of posts is pulling up stuff from the past and linking it with current web content.  Several years ago when Steven Den Beste was still doing regular blogging, he wrote a post, Non-European Country that discussed some of the differences between Americans and non-Americans and why America really is different from all other nations.  I’ve quoted from it several times, but this is the excerpt for today’s post:

European “nations” are based on ethnicity, language or geography. The American nation is based on an idea, and those who voluntarily came here to join the American experiment were dedicated to that idea. They came from every possible geographic location, speaking every possible language, deriving from every possible ethnicity, but most of them think of themselves as Americans anyway, because that idea is more important than ethnicity or language or geographical origin. That idea was more important to them than the things which tried to bind them to their original nation, and in order to become part of that idea they left their geographical origin. Most of them learned a new language. They mixed with people of a wide variety of ethnicities, and a lot of them cross-married. And yet we consider ourselves one people, because we share that idea. It is the only thing which binds us together, but it binds us as strongly as any nation.

Indeed, it seems to bind us much more strongly than most nations. If I were to move to the UK, and became a citizen there, I would forever be thought of by the British as being “American”. Even if I lived there fifty years, I would never be viewed as British. But Brits who come here and naturalize are thought of as American by those of us who were born here. They embrace that idea, and that’s all that matters. If they do, they’re one of us. And so are the Persians who naturalize, and the Chinese, and the Bengalis, and the Estonians, and the Russians. (I know that because I’ve worked with all of those, all naturalized, and all of them as American as I am.)

You’re French if you’re born in France, of French parents. You’re English if you’re born to English parents (and Welsh if your parents were Welsh). But you’re American if you think you’re American, and are willing to give up what you used to be in order to be one of us. That’s all it takes. But that’s a lot, because “thinking you’re American” requires you to comprehend that idea we all share. But even the French can do it, and a lot of them have.

That is a difference so profound as to render all similarities between Europe and the US unimportant by comparison. But it is a difference that most Europeans are blind to, and it is that difference which causes America’s attitudes and actions to be mystifying to Europeans. It is not just that they don’t understand that idea; most of them don’t even realize it exists, because Europeans have no equivalent, and some who have an inkling of it dismiss it contemptuously.

It is that idea that explains why we think being called “cowboys” is a compliment, even when Europeans think it’s an epithet. It is that idea that explains why we don’t care what Europeans think of us, and why European disapproval of our actions has had no effect on us. It is that idea which explains why, in fact, we’re willing to do what we think is right even if the entire rest of the world disapproves.

It is that idea which convinces us that if by our actions we “lose all our friends in the world” then they weren’t really friends to begin with, and that we’re better off without them.

And it is that difference that continues to mystify and frustrate Europeans, who incorrectly assume that America is a European country, and who try to explain our behavior on that basis. And because our behavior is inexplicable for a European nation, they conclude that it is the result of foolishness and immaturity and lack of sophistication.

They come to those conclusions because that’s the only way one can explain how a European country could act the way America has acted. What they miss is that America is not European, not at its deepest levels. It derives from European roots, and the majority of us are derived genetically from European stock, but it is utterly unlike Europe in the ways which matter most.

I get occasional emails from the website with interesting questions answered by the membership. Today’s included this question:  What facts about the United States do foreigners not believe until they come to America? The answers are fascinating, because as much as other cultures do not grok Americans, the reverse is equally (if not more) true. I will only excerpt one answer that I found particularly insightful, but I do recommend you read the whole thread, comments and all:

Convenience is rather pleasant.

Everything one knows about American convenience culture: 24 hour shops, fast food, “have a nice day” etc. appears tawdry and degraded when you only know it exported elsewhere in the world. At best it looks sad and desperate to be copying the US, and at worst, like a bad case of cultural imperialism as US companies come in and try to impose their models on your society.

But actually *in* the US, there’s something rather charming about it. A McDonalds in a mall in Beijing or Brasilia is a horror. But go to one for breakfast in Los Angeles and it all kind of works: the design and appearance, the food, the behaviour of the staff. Not a wooden formula but a living culture.

Americana travels badly but is surprising comfortable in its native environment.

Another Interesting Data Point

Even though my office is close to home, I tend to eat lunch at the various restaurants around the area.  When I’m eating lunch by myself, I always have something to read – usually whatever nonfiction book I’m working on at the time.  At one restaurant I almost always get the same waitress, a pleasant woman a few years older than I am, who takes an interest in whatever I happen to be reading.  We’ve had some interesting, if abbreviated, discussions.

I hadn’t been there for awhile, and they have a pretty good patty melt, so that’s where I went today.  After taking my order and then serving me, she said – out of the blue – “At your job, were you able to keep your health insurance?”  When I said yes, she asked how big the company I worked for was.  It’s about 100 people.

Turns out, her husband works for a much smaller company.  She and her husband had just received a letter informing them that they were losing their company-assisted health insurance and would be moving to the Obamacare pool.  The “Silver” plan that would be automatically replacing their previous insurance would cost them an extra $400 a month.

And has an $8,000 deductible.

They could, of course, decline this automatic option and go shopping for themselves.

If, of course, the web site every actually – you know – works.

“So much for being able to keep the plan we were happy with!” she said.  

UPDATE:  Here’s another.