Bryan Caplan  

Gelman on Me, Chua, and Cowen

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Andrew Gelman's got an awfully interesting post on the contrast between me, Amy Chua, and Tyler Cowen.  He's certainly got my number, anyway:
Without any personal knowledge of these people (well, I did meet Caplan once and gave him comments on his book, but I'd hardly call that "personal knowledge"), my impression is that Cowen and Caplan have (justifiably) high self-esteem, that they feel that they've risen to their current successes largely from their own efforts. They are appreciative of their middle-class backgrounds to the extent that these backgrounds gave them the foundation and opportunity to do what they love, and doing what they love has given them satisfaction and success. Also, their success is centered upon satisfaction. Individual faculty aside, George Mason University is not in the caliber of Harvard or even Yale (that's not a putdown, it's just the way it is), and Cowen and Caplan's satisfaction in their careers has got to be coming more from their accomplishments and their intellectual influence than from having reached a certain rung on the ladder of success.
But contrary to Gelman's speculation, my parenting philosophy has little to do with my personality.  My views on nature and nurture were utterly conventional until I read Judith Harris' The Nurture Assumption circa 1999.  It really was academic research on twins and adoptees that converted me.  It may be hard to believe, but it's the truth. 

Admittedly, my personality makes me unusually willing to accept and trumpet iconoclastic research.  But if the research didn't exist, I'd still be normal.  On this issue.
 

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The author at Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science in a related article titled Different attitudes about parenting, possibly deriving from different attitudes about self writes:
    Tyler Cowen discusses his and Bryan Caplan's reaction to that notorious book by Amy Chua, the Yale law professor who boasts of screaming at her children, calling them "garbage," not letting them go to the bathroom when they were studying... [Tracked on February 9, 2011 4:32 PM]
COMMENTS (6 to date)
Chinese parent's child writes:

I believe that Bryan's causal account of the development of his own parental preferences is probably correct. I like Gelman's character analysis, and I think it accurately describes how Chua et al. evaluate themselves. But I disagree with his theory.

I am myself am a counterexample. As a person, I am much more similar to Bryan than to Chua. Probably related to that, I like Bryan much more than Chua. But I would still much rather have Chua as a parent than Bryan. And I certainly won't be following any of Bryan's advice on "parenting".

volatility bounded writes:

Caplan "my impression is that Cowen and Caplan have (justifiably) high self-esteem, .... Admittedly, my personality makes me unusually willing to accept and trumpet iconoclastic research."

No doubt, Caplan is as confident as an entrepreneur.

No doubt, Caplan is in no way an iconoclast; he is a straight-ticket, party line libertarian.

Finch writes:

> No doubt, Caplan is in no way an iconoclast; he
> is a straight-ticket, party line libertarian.

I dunno...

The parenting and nature versus nurture stuff doesn't seem terribly political, and if it did, it would look more conservative than libertarian.

It seems like, on this front, Bryan is undoubtedly thinking for himself.

I buy that the immigration argument he makes is ideological and not well reasoned, even though I suppose I believe there probably is a good (milder) argument out there waiting to be articulated.

But don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. :)

Evan writes:

@Finch

The parenting and nature versus nurture stuff doesn't seem terribly political, and if it did, it would look more conservative than libertarian.

I'm not sure about that. Most conservatives I know, and that I read in the media, think parents do make a big difference and constantly complain that the reason our modern culture is so permissive is because of bad parents.

Plus, there are all those social conservative types who are against gay adoption because they think gays parents will screw up kids. They wouldn't think that unless they thought parents made a difference.

I'm not saying there aren't any conservatives who hold Bryan's views on nature, nurture, and parenting, there most definitely are. I don't think they represent the mainstream though.

On the other hand, there aren't really many liberals who believe it either. I think you might have been right in your second paragraph, when you said it wasn't really a political belief at all. Everyone seems to believe in parenting, regardless of politics.

Finch writes:

I guess I was thinking of genetic determinism as a conservative belief, but yeah, you're right, there are counterpoints.

It doesn't seem very political to me.

Chris Koresko writes:

Speaking as a conservative, I think Evan is closer to the truth. We do tend to put a lot of emphasis on child-rearing, and we tend to believe that good parenting helps kids develop good character.

The idea that genes dominate character is more associated with the Progressive movement, as I understand it. Conservatives I think tend to find it a little creepy, and to hope that it doesn't turn out to be true.

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