catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Archive for May 2004

From the department of 'duh'

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New research from the prestigious NBER:

This paper studies the links between income, sexual behavior and reported happiness. It uses recent data on a random sample of 16,000 adult Americans. The paper finds that sexual activity enters strongly positively in happiness equations. Greater income does not buy more sex, nor more sexual partners. The typical American has sexual intercourse 2-3 times a month. Married people have more sex than those who are single, divorced, widowed or separated. Sexual activity appears to have greater effects on the happiness of highly educated people than those with low levels of education. The happiness-maximizing number of sexual partners in the previous year is calculated to be 1. Highly educated females tend to have fewer sexual partners. Homosexuality has no statistically significant effect on happiness. Our conclusions are based on pooled cross-section equations in which it is not possible to correct for the endogeneity of sexual activity. The statistical results should be treated cautiously.

Translation –
1)You can’t get laid without some money but it can only go so far if you’re butt ugly and can’t string two sentences together.
2) Highly educated people are hornier bastards (perhaps they watch more SBS and foreign movies?). Perhaps Tim Blair and the other RWDBs had better stop making anti-intellectual jokes against the Left as it doesn’t help the cause??
3) To be really, really happy, bonk the brains out of just one partner.
4) Gays are no more or less gayer than anyone else.
5) 2-3 times a month??

Commenting on the research, an academic quoted in this article says:

many would regard it as the job of the state to create the conditions that make people happy

Does that mean that Costello will start distributing dating agency vouchers?

Written by Admin

May 31, 2004 at 9:53 pm

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The perils of the PhD

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For the second time in just over a month I agree with John Quiggin on something, that the requirements for a PhD should change. At present, most (though not all) Australian PhDs are purely by dissertation, as compared to the US system which mixes coursework and thesis or several papers.

The American system has a number of advantages:

1) It gives graduates some intellectual breadth as well as depth, making them better equipped for both academic and non-academic careers.
2) It is less high-risk for students, as not everything rides on a single piece of work.
3) In having coursework it deals better with the problems of isolation and lack of feedback that plague PhD students, and contribute to very high drop-out rates.
4) It encourages people to wait before writing their first book-length manuscript. They’ll do a better job if they have the US-style research behind them, and they will be able to write it in a way that might get published. Very few Australian PhDs get put out as books these days, partly because they are written in a hard-to-read academic style. As an editor, I can usually tell within paragraphs that a manuscript is an ex-thesis, and therefore unpublishable unless it is so brilliant as to be worth the re-writing task. For all the time, effort and money that goes into these things it is tragic that the readership of most of them never reaches double digits.
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Written by Admin

May 31, 2004 at 2:56 pm

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Costello feeds the Babbitts

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OK, my esteem for Costello has just gone way down thanks to this speech:

… our society was founded by British colonists. And the single most decisive feature that determined the way it developed was the Judeo-Christian-Western tradition.

As a society, we are who we are, because of that heritage.

I am not sure this is well understood in Australia today. It may be that a majority of Australians no longer believe the orthodox Christian faith. But whether they believe it or not, the society they share is one founded on that faith …

We despair of the moral decay in our community. Drug barons compete for the distribution rights to sell drugs to our children. We see moral decay in much of the rap music which glorifies violence or suicide or exploitation of other people. My partial view of hell is where people pursue their own insatiable gratification at the expense of and to the destruction of others.

I certainly don’t object to the claim that our society was founded on British institutions. The British connection and its associations with the rule of law, the common law tradition, and checks and balances on power is one golden thread that runs through the most successful, developed societies on earth. It’s another thing altogether to claim that successful societies are founded on some metaphysical faith, much less some particular faith deriving from the origins of the world’s most fanatical religions.

And for all those people who claim that Christianity is so much nicer than Islam, Id’ say, along with Bertrand Russell that that’s thanks solely to the contributions of various rationalists and sceptics through the ages who have basically had more of a chance of diluting the faith of believers in Western society rather than because of something intrinsic to Islam or Christianity. And their ability and potential to do so was mostly thanks to political organisations that evolved in the West after feudalism. Yes folks, the horrible truth is that Christianity seems so much nicer than Islam because folks professing to be Christians don’t take it as seriously anymore as folks who profess to be Muslim take their religion. Is it any surprise that Britain is among the most secular societies on earth (as is Australia?)

I’m also a bit annoyed at Costello’s singling out of rap. Now as I have argued before, if people who wrote rap songs wrote novels or short stories instead, fewer people would be accusing them of glorifying ‘violence, suicide and exploitation’. But somehow because it’s in the form of a song presented in first person narrative the dunderhead Babbitts amongst us whom Costello now seeks to appeal to are unable to differentiate fiction from personal endorsement. I speak about this not as someone who is a fan of rap but someone who is a fan of and familiar with blues music which basically can have the same kinds of lyrics. It’s called ‘telling a story’, guys, like you know, in the Old Testament where people X smite people Y?

Will I ever be pleasantly surprised by the Liberal party? Highly doubtful of it.

Written by Admin

May 31, 2004 at 9:57 am

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Another media beat-up

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It has been a long, long time since I have bought the Sunday papers. On Sundays, even the normally classy and intelligent Fairfax paper tranforms itself into the Sun Herald, the sort of low-brow, trashy rag, replete with moral panics side by side with narcissism-perpetuating profiles of worthless celebrities that one usually associates with the Daily Telegraph. Thus I was not surprised to detect this beat-up on the SMH website today. The title clearly states : “More young men saying yes to sex and violence: survey”. And the article starts off saying:

“Attitudes of rugby league players – unacceptable to many – are widely shared by young males, researchers believe …

Social research company Quantum interviewed almost 2000 people for its annual AustraliaSCAN study of Australian attitudes and beliefs.

He said the results suggested the attitudes towards women and authority displayed by players involved in the recent league sex scandals were more widespread than imagined.”

Of course I read this with interest, Was this guy seriously saying that more men were approving of gang rapes and gang bangs??

No, as it turned out, all the publicity-seeking hypemeister twit found was that:


Whereas in 1998 11 per cent believed violence on television should be encouraged, by this year the figure had increased to 34 per cent of young men …

While 17 per cent of young men in 1998 believed nudity in men’s magazines was desirable, by this year the figure had climbed steadily to 44 per cent. …

Men also showed a greater appetite for sex themes in television commercials.

This year, just under 30 per cent believed ads should be sexy, up from 14 per cent in 1998. The figure for women climbed from 5 per cent to 11 per cent …

Mr Chalke said the trend might also be in response to women becoming increasingly adventurous and assertive and taking up traditional male roles.

The extreme side of the trend was displayed in young males breaching legal and social boundaries in their pursuit of pleasure.

Now, if the full logical implications underlying this Mr Chalke’s pronouncements were taken seriously rather than dismissed with contempt as the silly beat-up that it is, I would not let any young women near him, for it would suggest an inability to distinguish between fact and fiction. Incidentally Christians approve of reading the Bible and the Bible has loads more sex and violence than your average TV show so I invite Mr Chalke to draw similar conclusions about Christians.

Written by Admin

May 31, 2004 at 12:40 am

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One hand on the job

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Abiola Lapite comments on the recent case of a Bank of Ireland executive who resigned after admitting that he had accessed pornographic websites from his office:

What a waste – if this guy was any good as an executive he won’t be easy to replace, and now a long, difficult and costly search for a replacement will have to be carried out just because he viewed a sex site or two? Perhaps this incident will be the one to nudge company policies in a saner direction; if companies have no problems with their employees using their online access to visit sites of personal interest only, I see no good reason for singling out adult websites as particularly worthy of condemnation.

Subject to certain qualifications I happen to agree with Abiola on this issue. Note that we are of course talking here solely in terms of the prudency of business measures, not about what governments should or should not dictate companies can do.
I think it makes sense for companies to impose appropriate checks and balances on employees’ Internet use in the following cases
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Written by Admin

May 30, 2004 at 11:29 pm

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Update on Australian 'public liability crisis' debate

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Thanks to reader Louis Hissink for drawing my attention to writing opportunities. Henry Thornton has published an extended treatment of my recent post on tort law reform here.

Written by Admin

May 30, 2004 at 9:51 pm

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'Sodomite marriages' and the Tiebout hypothesis

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Under the heading Christians discover Tiebout, Marginal Revolution draws attention to this interesting reaction to gay marriage in the US from Christian fundies:

ChristianExodus.org has been established to coordinate the move of 50,000 or more Christians to a single conservative state in the U.S. for the express purpose of reestablishing constitutional governance….ChristianExodus.org is orchestrating the move of 50,000 or more Christians to one of three States for the express purpose of dissolving that State’s bond with the union. The three States under consideration are Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina. The exact destination will be chosen by vote of our membership. Our move will commence when the federal government forces sodomite marriages on our local communities or once we reach the 50,000-member mark, whichever comes first.

For non-economists who are wondering who or what is the ‘Tiebout’ alluded to by Marginal Revolution, here is a good summary. Relevant bits extracted below:
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Written by Admin

May 30, 2004 at 9:36 pm

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