Art Carden  

Recent Reading and Coming Attractions: Stats, Stats, and More Stats!

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How to Spend A Billion Dollars... Linda Gorman on How ObamaCare ...

Here's a quick update to yesterday's post on what I've been reading lately. I had to give to exams this morning, so that gave me plenty of time to read. If you're looking for something to take to the beach this weekend, I recommend either of these:

1. Rolf Dobelli, The Art of Thinking Clearly. I finished it. It's very hard to put down, and it could've been subtitled "a pocket guide to making better decisions." The hardback is a little too big to fit in a pocket, so I also bought the Kindle edition. It has 99 very short chapters, each on a different cognitive mistake, and it will be great to have on my iPhone for those odd bits of five minutes here and ten minutes there that crop up between meetings and the like.

2. Charles Wheelan, Naked Statistics. The fact that it doesn't Google well with SafeSearch on notwithstanding, this is another entry in what looks like a growing array of books on statistical inference for educated lay readers (or is that just availability bias on my part?). I just flipped through the last few chapters (the exam was ending) and filed them away for someday in the future when I teach statistics or econometrics. Wheelan's writing is at least interesting, and he does something I'm surprised more scholars refuse to do (or can't do): take issues of life-or-death seriousness and make them interesting.

A Quick Preview of Coming Attractions: Some of my Future EconLog Posts

1. An answer to Bryan's question about how the government should spend a billion dollars. I'm going to take "give it back to the taxpayers" and "print a few hundred million US passports for prospective immigrants" off the table.

2. I teased a discussion of aggregate demand at Chuck E. Cheese's a couple of weeks ago. Now that exams are finished, I can write my answer!

3. An evangelical case for ending the drug war:

4. Why you're likely to be a much better pastor or youth minister if you change the composition of your reading list to include more books like The Signal and the Noise or Naked Statistics. I have a lot of experience in churches and parachurch environments where there are a lot of people who want to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc. These are environments in which people make a lot of confident-but-(let's be honest)-poorly-supported arguments about causal relationships. One of the classics: "if you live together before marriage, you're X% more likely to divorce." I think there are big epistemic bills on the sidewalk here, and while organizations like the Barna Group are making inroads, there is still a lot of work to be done. On a somewhat related note, some of my colleagues at Samford will be studying "Randomness and Divine Providence" over the next couple of years thanks to a grant from the Templeton Foundation.


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COMMENTS (6 to date)
johnleemk writes:
I'm going to take "give it back to the taxpayers" and "print a few hundred million US passports for prospective immigrants" off the table.

Why is it constantly assumed that to allow someone to immigrate means you must grant them citizenship and all the privileges entailed? Open borders and open citizenship are not the same thing. You don't need a US passport to enter the US. You just need a US visa.

shecky writes:

Good point. While people seem to assume citizenship is the jewel immigrants come here to steal, I've found the only thing immigrants covet from citizenship is freedom from being deported at the drop of a hat by our sometimes ridiculous immigration policy. If they can be guaranteed freedom from the worry and hassle with that visa, all of a sudden citizenship becomes a "meh". Hell, I'll bet if half the current American citizens were to somehow lose their citizen status tomorrow, most would never know any better.

I suppose the fear of reconquista helps keep "citizenship-as-goal" argument alive. Since citizenship means definite ability to vote. And that means immigrants are gonna take over by election.

Thomas May writes:

My guess is that this is one of those issues - like opposition to the war in Iraq - where libertarians see the opportunity to be able to agree with the dominant social democrat consensus and are therefore inclined to "over-egg the pudding" a little.

A libertarian US could have free immigration up to guest worker status. It could end up like Singapore where half the population are legal permanent residents with no voting rights and no path to citizenship. Citizenship could be granted only to those with good jobs and therefore likely to vote for market liberal policies. We could have GOP-PAP in power for 80 years.

But the left in the US would be horrified by that even though it would help more people than their limited-but-a-bit-less-than-now proposals, so instead libertarians prefer to just say "we favour free immigration".

Jeremey Arnold writes:

As an evangelical myself who is married to a youth pastor, I will be very interested in hearing your answers to number three and I'm more curious than anything about number four. With my training in economics and statistics I feel I could probably read something like naked statistics, but I fear my wife, who is doing the work of the church on a daily basis wouldn't either enjoy or get the most out of the book. But perhaps, I'm overestimating its difficulty?

Jeffrey S. writes:

"These are environments in which people make a lot of confident-but-(let's be honest)-poorly-supported arguments about causal relationships. One of the classics: "if you live together before marriage, you're X% more likely to divorce."

I thought there was good social science evidence (not to mention common sense) to support this idea. For example, see this report:

http://nationalmarriageproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/ShouldWeLiveTogether.pdf

Kevin L writes:

@Jeffrey S., my version of a response to the example in #4 would be that it's not the living together before marriage that causes divorce, but more likely the attitudes that lead to cohabitation are the same ones that lead to divorce: too much emphasis on short-term financial and emotional stress and too little emphasis on the spiritual and temporal benefits of having one mate for life.

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