Friday, May 11, 2018

Education Increases Ideological Prejudice

Sean Stevens of Heterodox Academy has written a summary of  a study, which appears in the December 2017 (81:4) issue of Public Opinion Quarterly,  by PJ Henry and Jaime Napier of NYU.  The study finds that while education reduces ethnic, racial, and anti-immigrant prejudice, it increases ideological prejudice.  Stevens suggests that the results require rethinking about why education reduces prejudice in some areas but increases it in others.

The study is based on data in the American National Elections Studies survey. The authors study a 40-year period, from 1972 to 2012.  Henry and Napier base the study on self-reports of ideology and measures of feelings toward people with left- and right-wing ideologies.  They find that education is weakly associated with left orientation, and the effect comes mostly from college graduation.  In other words, people who are able to see through four years of college tend to be more left oriented, either because they are better able to stand the environment or because they learn to be left oriented in college.

Increased education is found to correlate with increased ideological prejudice for both left and right, but the effect is stronger for leftists. When the authors control for time, they find that the effect has significantly increased over time for leftists but not for conservatives.

Stevens notes that the results call into question the notion that education promotes tolerance toward those who are different.  Rather, it seems to promote certain patterns of tolerance in specific areas, often called politically correct.  In other areas, which are not within the rote, left-wing, politically correct catechism, education does not improve tolerance of others' beliefs.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

World War I and the Era of Bounded Rationality

I just finished listening to a Great Courses lecture series about World War I by Prof. Vejas G. Liulevicius of the University of Tennessee.  The course is a great learning experience. Understanding the tragic miscalculations of World War I is necessary to understanding the history of government, management and economics during the last century, including the expansion of state power and the rejection of classical liberalism on behalf of state activism, which is necessarily militaristic despite ideologically motivated claims to the contrary.  

 March and Simon’s concept of bounded or cognitive limits on rationality, which is usually applied to business strategy, is omnipresent in the history of World War I.   Bounded rationality, or the physical, financial, and mental constraints on rational choice,  is tightened with respect to the larger-scale decisions of government.  

Many aspects of the Great War suggest  a sharp expansion in the importance of cognitive limits on rationality.  These include the mistaken enthusiasm of the August Madness, i.e., the international public enthusiasm about the war when it first began; the difficulty of strategic and tactical adjustment to the technology of mechanized warfare; the resultant failure of many of the military strategies such as at the Battles of Verdun, Gallipoli, and the Spring Offensive; the Germans’ secretive propaganda efforts, which led to the stab in the back theory (itself reflecting limited rationality); the Germans’ strategic miscalculation with respect to the harshness  of the the Brest-Litovsk treaty with Russia, which led to the Allies' greater harshness at Versailles; both the reasoning for starting the war (leading to the termination of the Empires, which had seen the war as a means of expansion) and the Allies’ treaties, which led to the next war; and the naïve post-war idealism of both Lenin and Wilson. 

I would conclude that the Great War was a comedy of errors, except that few narratives are as tragic, and few have made me more pessimistic about the human condition.