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Deconstructing the 'Leftist' Mind

A very interesting take on the mind of 'leftists' from Ace of Spades.  A few choice sentences are :

Now, the things the left wants you to believe are not easy to believe. It's hard to believe that, for example, taxing work and investment will not reduce work and investment (especially when one simultaneously believes that taxing the use of gasoline or other energy will reduce the use of gasoline or other energy).

Why is humor and irony so common on the right and so hard to find on the left? Humor and irony require emotional distance from a subject-- something I would contend the left is in of rather short supply.

The philosophy behind the article likens leftism to a fanatical religion.  However the author slightly falls into the trap that 'leftists' set for him, by referring to them as 'progressives'.  That term, along with 'elite' and 'liberal' are tools that the leftists in question use to automatically elevate themselves to some perceived level of moral and intellectual superiority over those who don't share their views.  To cede these words to them is itself to grant them unearned credibility. 

Another thing that is funny, that the author points out, is how 'leftists' are utterly convinced that those who disagree with them are stupid (and also evil). Yet, the 2004 Presidential Election Statistics show a rather straightforward corelation between income and a tendency to vote for Bush.  Those earning over $200,000 a year voted 63% for Bush.  The middle class slice earning between $50,000 and $75,000 voted 56% for Bush.  Only those who earned under $30,000 voted strongly against Bush as a group (from cnn.com).

Votes

Income certainly does not corelate exactly to intelligence, work ethic, and determination, as someone in college may have all of these things but still not yet be earning a high income.  But to believe the 'leftist' view that Bush supporters are stupid is to believe that intelligence is inversely corelated to an ability to earn a high income.  This is vastly more difficult to logically accept. 

A belief that disproportionate financial rewards are earned by people who are stupid enough to support Bush could lead to a dislike for the American system in general, and sympathy for socialism and communism, no matter how many countries those systems have failed in.  It thus would appear that socialists are not interested in equality at all, but merely punishing the dumb people who would otherwise be earning more money than the anti-meritocracy socialists. 

Related : The Biggest Story of the Last 15 Years - The Stunning Defeat of Socialism. 

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Is it really a surprise that the wealthier a voter was in 2004, the more likely they were to vote for Bush? Bush was the champion of tax cuts for the wealthy, and the wealthier you were the more of a tax cut you'd get. Of course the rich voted for Bush. Yes, the rich probably do tend to be smarter than the poor on average, but it's not that smartness made people vote for Bush, it's pure self-interest. More telling would be polling data by educational level. The result there are a little odd (see http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004/pages/results/states/US/P/00/epolls.0.html). The no-H.S. Vote breaks down almost dead even, then it rises slightly in Bush's favor with some college to college degree, then it switches dramatically the other way with postgrad degrees. Since it's probably true that there is some correlation between educational level and income, and since income breaks dramatically in favor of Bush, it actually suggests that educational level alone actually strongly favors Kerry, especially when educational level is very high, meaning the very brightest people. The conclusion isn't necessarily that stupid people vote for Bush, or that Bush voters are stupid people, but that the smarter you are, the more likely you are to be a Kerry voter.

Conrad, your analysis is so penetrating, so revealing and so comforting that one can only assume you are smart enough to be working on one of those post-grad degrees yourself.

They only let the smartest among us get them you know.

Thesis 1 (Conrad's, slightly rephrased): The smarter you are, the more likely you are to vote Democrat.

Thesis 2 (mine, drawn from observation of the graph): The poorer you are, the more likely you are to vote Democrat.

Synthesis: There is a proportional correlation in this country between being smart and being poor.

...I think I know where the Left's resentment of capitalism comes from.

All of this assumes that having a college degree means you are smart. I met some smart people in college. I also met some of the dumbest people on Earth in college. You go to college for a degree, which you can get and still remain dumb. You are on your own if you want to get smarter.

Conrad,

You conclusions can be demolished in at least 4 ways :

1) YOUR OWN LINK shows that under 'Most Important Issue', only 5% chose 'Taxes', and of those, only 57% voted for Bush. Yet, you claim that the 'wealthy' voted for Bush primarily for this reason. By your logic, any President can win an election just by 'cutting taxes for the rich'. Hmm.. maybe the Democrats could try that..

2) You claim that the tax cut was for 'the wealthy', and that the middle class didn't benefit much. Yet you are avoiding answering why the MIDDLE CLASS, making $50K to $75K, voted 56% for Bush.

3) It is funny that leftists consider the more degreed people to automatically be smarter. Do you actually believe that someone with a Bachelor's degree, who rose up to become a manager making $200,000 a year, is not as smart as someone with a PhD in Gay/Lesbian studies who earns $30,000 a year somewhere and hates Bush?

Why is income less a measure of 'smarts' than education? People with PhDs in academia often have no skills in sales, negotiation, or management, which are all components of being 'smart'. I will grant you that the most EDUCATED people voted for Kerry, if you agree that the least PRODUCTIVE people also voted for Kerry. The people with average or high productivity (as measured by income) voted for Bush. Productivity and education are NOT that closely corelated, as YOUR OWN LINK shows.

4) The leftist talking point of Bush's tax cut being for the 'rich' is merely ignorant. I doubt you could tell me which tax bracket dropped by how much. Also, Clinton's 1997 tax cut (which I strongly approve of) slashed capital gains tax rates from 39.6% to 20%, and housing gains up to $500,000 were made exempt of tax. Capital gains income and big home equity gains are much more skewed to the wealthy than wage income. Would that not make Clinton's tax cuts even MORE for the rich? Again, I liked Clinton's tax cuts too.

Please be man enough to admit that you were at least wrong about point 1), as per your own link.

Rorschach,

Yes. It is funny how they are oblivious to the irony. Read the Ace of Spades link about how leftists are religiously convinced they are so smart, no matter how many times it is disproven.

"...it actually suggests that educational level alone actually strongly favors Kerry."

I would suggest that, while those belonging to this group take this to mean that the more intelligent people (i.e. people with post-graduate degrees) voted for Kerry, many others would take this to support the notion that academia is populated by people with near-homogenous leftist political views.

Count me among the "many others."

"Please be man enough to admit that you were at least wrong about point 1), as per your own link."

GK, you obviously do not understand the "Progressive" mind. Admitting when you are wrong is not in the playbook. You WILL be sent to a reeducation camp!

Thanks for all the feisty responses. Keep in mind that using statistics like this is only useful in the grossest generalizations. I am not trying to imply that educational level is equal to smartness, only that it is a better correlate than wealth is, as GK is trying to suggest in the original blog piece. Everyone jumps on me for generalizing, but no one criticizes GK for the sloppiness of implying that income level is an accurate correlate for intelligence. I'm sure there is a correlate there, just not a very reliable one. Educational level is a better correlate, but certainly not a foolproof one, for all the reasons people have brought up.

What is interesting is how the two demographics differ. The problem with measuring voter preferences by wealth is that it strongly measures the self-interests of wealthy people, and it makes it difficult to isolate intelligence from self-interest as a voting indicator. Educational level is also problematic, not just for the reasons others have brought up, but because educational level also strongly correlates to income. In other words, the more highly educated you are, the more likely your income is to be high. Still, educational level primarily measures in a broad, generalized sense, intelligence, and only secondarily corresponds to wealth. Based on this data its impossible to fully isolate intelligence alone as an indicator of voter preference, but it does suggest a stronger trend towards Democratic voting in this election among the more highly educated.

Of course, the best way to measure this would be to get a direct reading on voter preference by IQ, and then correct for the statistical influence of wealth and other factors, to try to get a statistically “pure” measure of intelligence as a voter indicator.

I don't have a problem with the notion that high intelligence tends to lead to greater income which often leads to Republican voting patterns, or that lower intelligence leads to poverty and democratic voting patterns. But it would also appear that high intelligence, alone, removed from its wealth correlate, leads to democratic voting patterns, and that lower intelligence, removed from its poverty correlates, leads to Republican voting patterns. Everyone here assumes that anyone challenging your ideas has some kind ulterior agenda. I think this is projection. You guys seem to have an ulterior agenda, and want to bend statistics to achieve it.

What's interesting to me about these statistics is the oft-mentioning criticism of the lower classes who vote for Bush for social-values reasons, and end up supporting policies that are not in their own best interests. This is seen in the stat showing those who have no HS diploma voting 50-50, whereas their economic interests ought to skew them towards the democrats.

Also, I didn't mean to suggest that lower taxes were the ONLY reason that wealthy people would vote republican. It's just one example of the well-known general trend of Republicans favoring the wealthy and Democrats favoring the poor. Does anyone really have an issue with that generalization? There are many reasons that wealthy people vote Republican, taxes only being one. Another amazing statistic from the 2000 Election that I think explains an awful lot about voting patterns is that when asked whether people thought they were in the upper 1% of income earners in this country, 19% of the people said yes. When asked if they thought they would someday relatively soon be in the upper 1% of income earners, another 22% said yes. This means that fully 41% of the population thought that they were or would someday be in the upper 1% of income earners. This is, of course, a statistical impossibility, but it explains well why Gore's criticism of Bush, that his tax cuts would strongly favor the upper 1% of the population, fell flat. It turns out that most Americans actually imagine they ARE or will soon be in that upper 1%! There's something touching about that. For one, it suggests that a lot of Americans just aren't very smart, but they sure have high hopes.

I'm sure you all will launch the appropriate bromides in my general direction now.

Conrad,

You wrote :
"Yes, the rich probably do tend to be smarter than the poor on average, but it's not that smartness made people vote for Bush, it's pure self-interest. "

then you wrote :
"There are many reasons that wealthy people vote Republican, taxes only being one. "

At least you rephrased better here. Only 5% of voters said taxes were the top issue for them.

You said :
"What's interesting to me about these statistics is the oft-mentioning criticism of the lower classes who vote for Bush for social-values reasons, and end up supporting policies that are not in their own best interests. This is seen in the stat showing those who have no HS diploma voting 50-50, whereas their economic interests ought to skew them towards the democrats. "

What about Clinton's tax cuts of 1997, which only cut capital gains tax rates, not income tax rates? That helped the poor even less than Bush's tax cuts did (which dropped even the lower tax brackets). How does this fit into your view that Republican tax cuts are not in the interest of the poor.

I, of course believe that both tax cuts helped the poor by lifting ALL boats indirectly, but that is a different topic.

Also, offer an opinion on why the middle class, earning between $50,000 and $75,000 a year, voted 56% for Bush.

Lastly, I think education corelates to income up to a point, but after that point, things like sales skills, negotiation, and management ability do more to boost income than having a PhD in some unmarketable humanity or social science. The data shows that many with the most advanced degrees don't have very high incomes (and probably voted for Kerry). Hence my earlier example of the Bach.Sc. manager earning $200,000 vs. the PhD in Gay/Lesbian studies earning $30,000.

GK,

Glad you're being more reasonable.

1)“What about Clinton's tax cuts of 1997, which only cut capital gains tax rates, not income tax rates? That helped the poor even less than Bush's tax cuts did (which dropped even the lower tax brackets). How does this fit into your view that Republican tax cuts are not in the interest of the poor.”

Clinton's tax policy was one of give and take. He raised taxes on higher incomes, but balanced it with capital gains taxes. The idea there was to trade tax money from disposable income and give incentives to put it into investment – a good policy as far as I can see. Investment money does end up creating more jobs for lower income people, and you can see that Clinton's popularity came from the sense of economic fairness he engendered with moves like this. Personally, I think his economic policy was great, trading bad tax breaks for smarter tax cuts, tax increases balanced with deficit reduction, etc. It led to the biggest boom in our history. If I could pick the next President out of a hat, it would be Lawrence Summers, Clinton's Treasury Secretary, and one of the best ever. He's a bit to impolitic for elective office, however, as witness his tenure as president of Harvard, but he's just what we need.

Point is, some Republican tax cuts are in the interest of the poor, but not the ones Bush has put into effect. Although the 1997 capital gains tax cut was a Democratic cut.

2) “Also, offer an opinion on why the middle class, earning between $50,000 and $75,000 a year, voted 56% for Bush.” Too many reasons there to give an easy answer. Economics wasn't the only major issue in the 2004 election, unfortunately. It was more about the war, “values”, and character issues. I'm not sure if the middle class vote can be attributed purely to some rational decision about which candidate would be best for the economy. But in general the middle class is actually more “conservative” than either the rich or the poor, in the sense of being more afraid of losing what they have, and Bush went a long way towards promising people gthe things they wanted to hear. A lot of that may not have been true, but it ties into the survey I mentioned in 2000 that showed how people think they are doing much better than they actually are, and that they imagine they will be getting much better than they will. Americans are naïve an optimistic by nature. So Middle Class people aspire to be rich, and tend to vote for policies that actually favor the rich, because when they get rich they want to keep the money they earn, even though in reality most of them never do get rich. The problem is that politicians who actually tell people they aren't going to get rich will be rejected as real downers, which makes it hard for Democrats or any realistic voices to be heard about economic matters. People don't want to be told that the American dream isn't all it's cracked up to be for most people.

3) “Lastly, I think education corelates to income up to a point, but after that point, things like sales skills, negotiation, and management ability do more to boost income than having a PhD in some unmarketable humanity or social science. The data shows that many with the most advanced degrees don't have very high incomes (and probably voted for Kerry). Hence my earlier example of the Bach.Sc. manager earning $200,000 vs. the PhD in Gay/Lesbian studies earning $30,000. “

Of course education doesn't preciselly correlate to wealth. But the fact remains that the higher the educational level, the higher the average income. Of course there are huge exceptions all over the place, but the general rule remains the same. It doesn't mean that the richest people are those with advanced degrees, only that advanced degrees increase average income. I'm not sure what other factors are more important, I haven't seen stats on such things. I'm sure the most important factor has to be being born to rich parents. In fact, if I remember correctly, the single most important factor in economic success, by far, is the economic success of one's parents. I'm pretty sure it outweighs even advanced degrees. So much for the idea that we can all live out the rags-to-riches dream on our own merits. It doesn't really happen that way, but people like to believe it anyway because it feels better. As the say about Bush, he was born on third base and thought he hit a triple.

"Adolescence is a relatively recent thing in human history -- a period of years betweenthe constraints of childhood and the responsibilities of adulthood. This irresponsible period of adolescence is artificially extended by long years of education, much of it wasted on frivolities. Tenure extends adolescence even further for teachers and professors." -- Thomas Sowell, here

"Nothing so offends the doctrinaire intellectual as our ability to achieve the momentous in a matter-of-fact way, unblessed by words." -- Eric Hoffer

Conrad,

1) Nope. Clinton raised income taxes in 1993, which kept the economy slow in 1993-94. By the time he moved to the center and cut taxes, it was 1997.

Bush cut the lower part of the 15% bracket to 10%, and cut the 28% bracket to 25%, so he definitely returned money to people in the lower brackets.

Gore also proposed similar income tax reductions in 2000. It seems to me you are still driven by partisanship than principle.

But if you are such a fan of cap. gains tax reduction, then would you be happy if Bush cut cap. gains taxes further? Or would you say that is also a 'tax cut for the rich'?

I like Larry Summers. The far-left hates him, smearing him as a sexist over something minor.

2,3) A claim that one needs rich parents to get rich is the classic statements socialists use to find an excuse for their own failures.

Read 'The Millionaire Mind', which interviews many millionaires to find what their common traits are. Also check out the profiles of the Forbes 400 richest Americans (all who have $900m or above). Only about 20% of America's wealthy had rich parents. The rest were not advantaged, and started businesses. Wealthy parents is certainly not the most important factor in becoming rich in America. In most of the world it is, but this is where America is unique.

So many of the richest are immigrants, who started with nothing. Andy Grove, Sergey Brin, Pierre Omidyar, etc..

Plus, the wealthiest group in America is not whites, it is Asians, of whom almost all are immigrants or 1st generation.

I still notice you are avoiding an admission that skills like salesmanship, negotiation, management, and networking are extremely important to achieving wealth - more so than education or parental wealth.

Your last comment about Bush is mere partisanship.

Out of 5 siblings, why have only George and Jeb risen? What about the other 3?

Why have no other children of recent Presidents risen this far? What about the children of Reagan, Carter, Johnson, Nixon, Eisenhower, etc?

The Kennedy family is even more suspect of the nepotism you suggest for Bush. Yet, the 3rd generation of Kennedy's is remarkable only for its relative underachievement. The most successful is actually Maria Shriver.

GK,

1) My comment about Clinton balancing his economic policies applies to his overall actions, not confined to one single bill or year. His tax increase in 1993, coupled with spending cuts, was right at the time, and set the stage for the 90's boom. His 1997 capital gains tax cut was also a good move once the economy had gotten going. And yes, I'm in favor of further reductions in the CG tax, balanced by consumption taxes, until the deficit is handled, then a phasing out altogether of such taxes.

Bush II's tax cuts did give some relief to the middle and lower classes, but was heavily weighted, dollar-wise, to the very wealthy. Gore's tax cut was not so generous to the wealthy, and of course both were originally proposed when the government was in surplus and booming, thanks to Clinton. In general, I would have to say I'd love to end income taxes altogether, but the way to start is by eliminating them from the bottom up. Originally, income tax was only supposed to be on the very rich, and it's a crime that it evolved into a general tax on everyone. If it remains at all, it should return to its original form, and be restricted to the rich. I'm not in favor of soaking the rich, of increasing taxes on the rich further, but I'm not in favor of giving them breaks on the consumption side either. Breaks on investment are fine with me, such as eliminating the CG tax, and even the corporate dividend tax, as long as these are balanced with spending cuts and cuts on taxes for the lower end. I don't claim to be an economics wiz with all the answers, however. In general, I think Bush's economic policies are disastrously ill-conceived. You think I'm a socialist? GWB is running the economy on deficit spending, pure Keynesism. He's the opposite of a solid economic conservative. He's worse than Johnson.

2) “A claim that one needs rich parents to get rich is the classic statements socialists use to find an excuse for their own failures.”

I love the way you distorted what I said and then linked it to “socialist” ideas. If socialists think the sky is blue, does that make it green? Are you that fanatical? Of course I didn't say one NEEDS rich parents to get rich, but I did say that the single biggest factor in financial success is the success of one's parents/ Of course skills are important, but skills don't generally come out of nowhere. They are taught, and they are taught by example. Kids with strong parents have a huge advantage over others. The problem with your ideology is that it imagines that individuals have complete control over their own destiny. This is part of the American Dream, with emphasis on the dream. Of course the most exceptional individuals do break out of their limitations, but most people do not. Giving examples from the Fortune 400 only perpetuates the illusion. It's like suggesting that all women can win the Miss America contest if they try hard enough. Sorry, only those with certain bioloogical gifts can even get in the running, much less win. Similarly with economic success. And the biggest advantage of all is not just good genetics, but good upbringing. The example of GWB is completely apt, because if he had been born in virtually any other family, he would never have risen to the top of anything. He's a rich-kid mediocrity, plain and simple. Fortunately for him, he had not only great family connections, but a family that was dynastic in its intentions, and not bad at following through. Why he became President and not Jeb is hard to say, since Jeb is clearly smarter and more talented. I think he was chosen because he's more maleable and likeable. Your comparison to other recent presidents is silly. The Kennedy kids grew up fatherless, in case you forget that JFK and RFK both died when they were very young. Their mothers were more interested in fashion or domesticity than politics. And there was a clear fear of rising up to high and attracting another assassination. Johnson, Nixon, and Carter only had daughters, not sons, in an age when that mattered hugely. Reagan was a lousy absentee father who showed no interest in raising his kids properly. Clinton, who knows, may Chelsea will follow in their footsteps, maybe not. Only Bush has made real efforts to build a dynasty, and put the time and energy into it. Which is exactly what I mean. All of the Bush children are way-overachievers compared to their actual talents and merits. This is due to their family, not to them as individuals. Look at Al Gore, also a relatively mediocre guy whose family connections elevated him far higher than he deserves to be. But this is simply they way America works. Look at the Senate, filled with rich dingbats in both parties who really don't belong there based on merit alone.

The point is, I am talking about overall realities, you are trying to argue by individual anecdote, which simply has no relevance. I agree that individuals must take responsibility for their own lives and make the most of them, but the fact remains that innate advantages confer hugely advantageous results overall, and even the skills you cite are more widely held by those who come from advantaged backgrounds. The guy you mention with sales skills, etc., could be far brighter and more talented than Donald Trump, but Trump's father was a real estate tycoon, and he had a huge head start, so your more talented guy from a poor background is far less likely to make it. Some exceptional characters do overcome all odds and succeed hugely, but they are the exception that proves the rule, rather than disproving it. Class mobility is not at all what you imagine it to be in America. The exceptions are not the rule, no matter how inspiring their stories may be.

Your bringing up Asians is also an example of exceptionalism. Asians coming to this country are among the most exceptional from their own countries, the smartest, the most ambitious, the most willing to take risks, and also the most family oriented. They pass those traits on to their kids, and this produces a highly successful group. If you just took average asians and plopped them into America, they would not do nearly so well, as was the case with earlier generations who came over essentially as slave labor with little opportunity for advancement.

I find it very interesting to read through the comments between GK (whom I presume is The Futurist) and Conrad. A very worthwhile exchange.

I read this site because it's excellent food for thought. It's also clearly skewed to the right, which doesn't bother me (even though I'm not a rightie). That said, the exchange above reveals GK to be inflammatory and injudicial, calling out a commenter rather than merely engaging him. Conrad, OTOH, has maintained his composure and neutrality, looking mostly at issues as they are rather than how he might wish them to be.

On intelligence/education: they aren't really the same thing, and trying to correlate them with voting behaviors is impossible. Too many tangled variables. Polling numbers on why people voted they way they did are also mostly unreliable, sorry. Biases present in the questions or outright lies in the answers (far greater than margins of error admit) make polls meaningless. So what if only 5% said taxes are their primary voting concern (why not secondary or tertiary)? Taxes are still a significant issue -- especially to those positioned to benefit the most. (It's a luxury of the rich, BTW, to pretend that money means little to them.)

On parental success: as a teacher, I sometimes get to see the kids of the rich and successful and the kids of the highly educated (again, different things, though not mutually exclusive). They clearly value different things, but in either case, parents' influence on kids is unmistakeable. High level of education tends to be preparation for life, whereas high level of success tends to be preparation for careers. The careerists in particular benefit from parental oversight and connections via entry into prestigious colleges and jobs, no doubt about it. For the most driven (or merely lucky) kids without parental advantages, breakthroughs do sometimes occur. But they inevitably begin a few steps behind.

Conrad,

"Bush II's tax cuts did give some relief to the middle and lower classes, but was heavily weighted, dollar-wise, to the very wealthy. "
Dollar-wise? ANY tax cut is weighted to the wealthy, dollar-wise, because tax payments are also weighted to the wealthy, dollar-wise.

Clinton's was extremely weighted to the wealthy, dollar-wise.

Even if the 15% bracket were cut to zero, the dollars going back to those people would be small, as they pay little to begin with.

The only real way to get tax breaks to the poor is to eliminate the sales tax on all non-luxury items. But no Democrats are proposing that either.

Are you saying your only problem with Bush's tax cuts is that he should have lowered the CapGains tax rate further, rather than lowering the top income bracket from 39.6% to 35%? I can agree with you there if that is what you mean, but I think either still benefits mostly the same group of people.

If you don't agree to that, then I am still not convinced that you are putting principle above partisanship.

2) The Forbes 400 is a very diverse sample size, with many immigrants, women, and people of every possible industry. Plus, I also suggested you check out 'The Millionaire Mind'. A comprehensive survey of rich people shows that under 20% had wealthy parents. You are the one using anecdotes like Donald Trump, whereas I am providing actual statistical data from credible sources. You fixate on the 20%, avoiding the 80% that rose up despite not having the advantage of rich parents.

Now, if you agree that strong or hardworking parents teach their children things that give them an advantage, then I agree, but this is NOT what you were saying before.

"Reagan was a lousy absentee father who showed no interest in raising his kids properly."
What? What proof do you have of that? This is probably the most factually inaccurate piece of partisanship you have said yet. Reagan was probably more loved by his wife than any other President was, and he hand-wrote letters full of wisdom to his grandchildren even while President.

Your continued claim that GW got to where he is because of his father is more Bush-hate than anything else. Again, why did the other siblings not rise to the level of Jeb and GW? What about the SONS of Reagan, Ford, and Eisenhower? And for each GW, there is a Dick Cheney or Condi Rice that had no such advantages, yet still rose to the top.

Plus, you said in your first post that the 'brightest' people are the most educated. Well, Bush's GPA at Yale was higher than Kerry's. By your logic, why would you not say Bush is smarter now? And don't try to pull something like 'Bush copied other people's homework because his father was important'. Bush's father was NOT famous in the late 1960s when Bush II was going to Yale. Plus, Kerry's family was quite wealthy as well, as are many families of Yale undergrads. Neither was an anomaly among the Yale undergrad population at the time of their attendance.

Asians - what you said is true, but this contradicts your previous point about needing rich parents to succeed. Many Asians start from the very bottom when they come here.

They also prove that America is not a racist society, where whites have advantages over others (another favorite myth of many on the left).

"That said, the exchange above reveals GK to be inflammatory and injudicial, calling out a commenter rather than merely engaging him. Conrad, OTOH, has maintained his composure and neutrality, looking mostly at issues as they are rather than how he might wish them to be."

GK addressed and rebutted nearly all of C's points with stats, facts and figures.

Projection isn't healthy.

I find almost all of Conrad's messages to consist of some typical left-wing myth (like 'Liberals are smarter' or 'one has to have rich parents to be rich' or 'Bush's tax cuts were giveaways for the rich, but Clinton's caused a great boom that Bush ruined'), only to have GK nail him on each attempted fib. This results in many of Conrad's statements being in direct contradiction to each other.

To Conrad's credit, at least he backs away from his defeated positions and restates them, rather than just run away like most lefties who get demolished here by GK.


GK,
1) “Dollar-wise? ANY tax cut is weighted to the wealthy, dollar-wise, because tax payments are also weighted to the wealthy, dollar-wise.”

That depends on how the tax cut is designed.
“Clinton's was extremely weighted to the wealthy, dollar-wise.”

Not overall, and not nearly as much as Bush's. As you say, the wealthy will get more in most tax cuts since they pay more taxes. It depends on how its weighted.

“The only real way to get tax breaks to the poor is to eliminate the sales tax on all non-luxury items. But no Democrats are proposing that either. “

That's not the only way. There is no federal sales tax, so it isn't a national party issue. It's something each state would have to consider. But if they did eliminate such taxes, they would have to be made up for somehow, probably by an increased state income tax. Is that what you are proposing?

“Are you saying your only problem with Bush's tax cuts is that he should have lowered the CapGains tax rate further, rather than lowering the top income bracket from 39.6% to 35%? I can agree with you there if that is what you mean, but I think either still benefits mostly the same group of people.”

Yes, it benefits the same group that was hurt by the increase in the upper income tax rate. He difference is that the increase in income tax is a tax on frivolous consumption by the rich, whereas the cut in CG encourages investment which generates jobs. The overall effect is no serious increase in tax burdern, but a shift in where the money ends up to the greater benefit of the economy.

2) I have no problem acknowledging the great fortunes are made by people with tremendous drive and many admirable qualities. But even your own stats betray you. When you say that only 20% came from wealthy families (I will assume that means the upper 1%), that means it's twenty times more likely that someone from the wealthy class would make it on the Fortune 400 than other people would. That's not exactly a meritocracy. Now it's true that 80% were not from the wealthy class, but I bet there's a sliding scale of representation based on class.
“Now, if you agree that strong or hardworking parents teach their children things that give them an advantage, then I agree, but this is NOT what you were saying before.”

Correct. What I was saying before is that the best single statistical indicator of success is class background. There are all kinds of other indicators that statistically point to success, but none is as powerful as parental economic class. I know you don't like hearing that, because it goes against various myths you hold dear, but it's the simple fact. It doesn't mean that people can't overcome class disadvantages. They can and do. But it takes exceptional talent and energy to do that. The people on the Forbes 400 have that. Most people don't. You make the error of judging a class of people by their most exceptional members.

"Reagan was probably more loved by his wife than any other President was, and he hand-wrote letters full of wisdom to his grandchildren even while President.”

Nancy was his second wife. His first wife, Jane Wyman, divorced him because she said he spent all his time pursuing political activities, and spent no time with him or the children. He continued this pattern in his marriage with Nancy, leaving the children to her, and spending almost all his timeout on political speaking tours. His children have spoken out about how negligent and emotionally distant he was as a father. He didn't exactly live the family values he later preached, but of course that was rather typical of his generation of fathers.

“Your continued claim that GW got to where he is because of his father is more Bush-hate than anything else. Again, why did the other siblings not rise to the level of Jeb and GW? What about the SONS of Reagan, Ford, and Eisenhower? And for each GW, there is a Dick Cheney or Condi Rice that had no such advantages, yet still rose to the top.”

It's not Bush-hate to speak the simple truth. It's perhaps unfair to single Bush out though, I did so only because he is our current President, and seems like one of the more egregious examples. Most of our Presidents have come from either the very wealthy or the upper middle class. A few came from the middle class, and only one, Andrew Jackson, came from what could be called the lower class. JFK, for example, would never have become President without his father's wealth and connections. He seems far brighter and more gifted than GWB, but he'd never have gotten that far on his own merits. Same with FDR or Teddy Roosevelt. The fact is, wealth confers huge advantages. It's not that some people, such as Jackson or Lincoln, couldn't overcome disadvantages and rise to the top, but it's much rarer than our “American Dream” makes it out to be.

“Asians - what you said is true, but this contradicts your previous point about needing rich parents to succeed. Many Asians start from the very bottom when they come here.”
I never said that anyone NEEDS rich parents to succeed, only that statistically it confers a huge advantage. Recent (legal) Asian immigrants have distinct advantages, because our legal immigration policy requires immigrants to have money, education, jobs, degrees, family support here, or other means that make them exceptional in some way. They are not the “average” asian. Illegal Mexican immigrants, on the other hand, do not have the same success rate, because they tend to be the poorest and least advantaged of Mexicans.

“They also prove that America is not a racist society, where whites have advantages over others (another favorite myth of many on the left).”

Whites do have advantages over most other races, but this can be overcome, even by specific groups, such as asians, by taking advantage of their own exceptionalism ( The product of the evolutionary “selection” process that brought them here). As mentioned, this success was not the case for early asian immigrants who came from the lowest classes as virtual slave labor and were subject to strict racial discrimination. But it certainly is true that America is far less racist than it has ever been.

"Not overall, and not nearly as much as Bush's. As you say, the wealthy will get more in most tax cuts since they pay more taxes. It depends on how its weighted."

No - it depends on how much taxes are paid. More taxes paid? More money back for you. Less money paid? Less money back. All proportional to what percentage you chipped in. Proportionality is something the simple minded economics of pseudo-Marxism have never been able to grasp - opting instead to give some more than they are proportionally entitled to and taking from others because "they have enough."

"But it certainly is true that America is far less racist than it has ever been."

Perhaps the only sensible thing posted here. In addition, America is far less racist than any country on Earth. Period. Ever watch a soccer match in Spain when a black player goes onto the field? Listen to the crowds. THAT is racism, and America, despite its flaws, looks saintly.

"It's not Bush-hate to speak the simple truth."

I love when lefties invoke their own brands of self-styled "truth." They never seem figure out exactly what the "truth" is to be able to communicate it in any palpable way, but they claim to own it regardless. And they speak it to power. Its funny, but their "truths" always seem to be little more than the same tired DNC/left blogosphere talking points. Amusing.

"that means it's twenty times more likely that someone from the wealthy class would make it on the Fortune 400 than other people would. That's not exactly a meritocracy. Now it's true that 80% were not from the wealthy class, but I bet there's a sliding scale of representation based on class. "

That's called the free market. The wealthy start with more, and know how to obtain and retain more. What's your point? The meritocracy is still intact - it doesn't matter that some people have it "easier" than others. The free market allows for such possibilities, and allows for strident economic mobility regardless of initial class or wealth. Now go acheive your goals legitimately - and nobody but a Stalinist will tell you where you are required to stop.

"I never said that anyone NEEDS rich parents to succeed, only that statistically it confers a huge advantage."

Really? AND.....?

When, exactly, does one family cease to be "poor" and start being "rich?" What is the number? 50k per year? Some people make 49k per year. Are they (or their offspring) poor, and therefore at a greater disadvantage than the person who makes 50k? You have not shown a convincing causation between "rich" success and the proportional success of "other income brackets besides 'the rich.'" Rich people have it easier in any country in the world (ask Saddam Hussein before he met our military), not just here. Nobody is denying that the "rich" have an easier time. So what? That is the result of a free market economy (operative word being "free," as in freedom). People are not required to equalize anything here. This includes chances for success in chosen endeavours. No? Tell me where I'm wrong.

"Whites do have advantages over most other races, but this can be overcome, even by specific groups, such as asians, by taking advantage of their own exceptionalism ( The product of the evolutionary “selection” process that brought them here)."

"Their own exceptionalism?" Isn't that a little racist to lump people into a group by their origin from a different place in the world than America? You mean their willingness as a cultural and socio-economic group to work their asses off, save money, pass wealth onto future generations, foster competition, etc.? What does any of than have to do with "race?" I'd say it has more to do with culture and tradition, which are not exclusively tied to race. Not coincidentally, the success of many Asian families and individuals in this country is related to their adherence to American cultural norms like hard work, capitalism, education, perseverence, freedom to acheive, etc.

Eugenics is so 1940's. Race is a socal construction anyway, right?

"Well, Bush's GPA at Yale was higher than Kerry's." - GK

I've heard this fact thrown about a lot, even thrown it around myself. Generally when I use it in argument, people don't believe me. Do you have a link to something which proves this? I've found some sites about SAT scores, and I've also heard that Bush scored higher than Kerry on the test to get into the army. I can't find any credible articles about this though. I'll keep looking, but I was wondering if you happened to know of a place to look up GPA and SAT info about different politicians in the public sphere.

http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2005/06/07/yale_grades_portray_kerry_as_a_lackluster_student?mode=PF

Boston Globe - Kerry's "hometown" paper.

http://www.yaledailynews.com/article.asp?AID=29505

Yale Daily News. Excerpt:

A grade transcript attached to Kerry's Navy file said he averaged a 76 during his undergraduate career, a time when Yale grades were strictly numerical. Bush averaged a 77 during his first three years and a roughly similar average under a short-lived non-numerical system introduced during his senior year, according to his Yale transcript published in a 1999 issue of the New Yorker magazine."


Wow, thanks so much! A perfect addition to my bookmarks.

Lt,

Why this constant bickering that tries to achieve petty partisan advantage at the expense of serious discussion of the real issues? What are you trying to prove to yourself?

1) Taxes. Obviously, as I already conceded, the rich pay more taxes and will get more back with an across the board percentage tax cut. But there's no law that tax cuts have to be designed that way. One could do a tax cut that would simply eliminate taxes at the lower end of things, and keep them the same at the higher rungs. You could reduce taxes on the poor and middle class, and have no upper bracket reductions. I tend to advocate that sort of direct tax cut. TO give the rich some benefit, I'd do things like eliminate CG taxes and even corporate taxes. You also ignore the history of the income tax I brought up, namely that it was originally a tax on only the very richest Americans, and it was promised that it would never be made into a general all-purpose tax. That changed over the years, the promises were broken and income taxes have become a huge intrusion on ordinary people. I tend to be capitalist/ libertarian in my views, and I think the income tax should go back to what it was originally intended to be, a “taking” from the very rich, who can indeed afford it, along with tax breaks for investment, to help steer those huge accumulations of capital where they should really go in a capitalist system – towards investment. You call me a Stalinist leftist, and I have to laugh at your self-proclaimed idiocy. If I'm an economic leftist then you right wingers have no hope of ever winning another election.

2) Class advantages “I love when lefties invoke their own brands of self-styled "truth." They never seem figure out exactly what the "truth" is to be able to communicate it in any palpable way, but they claim to own it regardless.”

I don't claim to own it. I simply argued what I understand to be incontrovertible facts about the advantages of wealth, which you not only didn't contradict, but even agreed with. But somehow you have to keep up the attitude of disagreement anyway, God knows why.

“That's called the free market.”
Yes, it is. Did I ever say it wasn't? Did I ever say I oppose free markets? I was simply stating simple facts, facts you seem to agree with, but have to somehow denounce when the come from me, because of course I'm a Stalinst DNC Satanist. Don't you ever get tired of shouting from soapboxes about the evils of the left? You make so many idiotic presumptions, not just about me, but about the “left”, it's staggering. I'm a businessman, running a medium sized business, with employees, assets, tax issues, regulation issues, investing a lot of money in expansion, dealing with all kinds of real-world issues that to you are just silly abstractions, and I bet I make more money than you and have more wealth than you. So cut out this stupid dogmatic crap about Stalinism.

“The wealthy start with more, and know how to obtain and retain more. What's your point?”

My point is that class mobility in this country is not very great, nowhere near as great as you like to think it is. In economic surveys (I don't have the links, sorry) of major industrialized nations, The US ranks near the bottom in class mobility (the ability to rise from one class to a higher one). And yes, that is a statistical fact. It doesn't matter where you draw the lines of income, $49,000 or $50,000, whatever, the statistics hold up.

You seem to be mathematically challenged, and have no comprehension of what statistical realities mean. You keep trying to challenge statistical categories by referring to individuals. But statistics are not directly applicable to any individual, they are only broadly applicable to groups, and the group characteristics of individuals.

Calling America a meritocracy is simply not apt. Do you really believe that the best Americans rise to the top and become President? I noticed your thread about Bush and Kerry's GPA battle of 77 vs 76. Man, isn't that sad? We have an election for the Presidency, and all we get to vote for is two fucking half-wits with C averages and wealthy parents? Doesn't that make you a little mad? I mean, the country is full of geniuses, really smart people that neither Bush nor Kerry could even touch in virtually every significant category, and yet these are the guys who rise to the top. That's not the sign of a meritocracy. It's not that merit has nothing to do with success in America, it does, but it's only one factor, and unfortunately not the biggest or most important factor. That's one of the liabilities of the free market system. You can't stop parents from conferring huge advantages on their children, such that even the mediocre offspring of the well-off will, on average, outperform the smarter and abler offspring of the poor and middle-class. Is that unfair? I guess. Do I have a socialist agenda I'm trying to piggy-back on top of that? Not really. I'm just arguing for some sober realities, and suggesting you not be so idealistic and defensive about your politics. If you really wanted a more meritocratic society, you'd have to favor policies that you probably don't like, and that even I wouldn't like. So let's not pretend that we are trying to create a meritocracy here in America. We aren't. Not seriously, at least. As mentioned, other industrialized nations have a more meritocratic system in place. In Japan, for example, the average pay differential between company CEOs and the average company laborer is about 15-30:1, depending on various factors. In the US, it's skyrocketed to 200-300:1 Could it be that American CEOs are really that much more valuable than Japanese CEOs? Of course not. It's not merit that gets those huge salaries, it's connections and corporate graft. You could also say its “free markets” in CEOs. But is the market in CEOs really free, or is it an example of wealthy people rigging the system to their own benefit? I suspect the latter.

“The meritocracy is still intact - it doesn't matter that some people have it "easier" than others. The free market allows for such possibilities, and allows for strident economic mobility regardless of initial class or wealth.”

That is the issue. First, do we have a meritocracy? Second, do we have a truly free market based on individual merit? Third, how much mobility does our market really have? You keep arguing the ideals of the system, but you don't address the realities. Sure, in a truly free market everyone would rise or fall based on merit and occupy a place in society commensurate with their merit. Is that the way America actually is? To what degree is it true? To what degree is it false. Clearly, America allows class mobility, such that exceptional individuals from any class can conceivably rise to the top, and some do. But what about overall class mobility? Is it really true that people will simply rise or fall to their proper station in life based on merit? No. There's movement, clearly, but there's also a lot of inertia and friction. What is the source of that inertia and friction? I think that's a question worth considering. You seem to regard it as an heretical question, it's so un-PC to even bring up the existence of class in America, as if class was invented by Marx and produced by Stalin, as if anyone even bringing up the existence of class in this country was necessarily an anti-American leftist. Rather than argue about class advantages, you simply bring up the old Horatio Alger myth, as if that's how life in America works. Does it really work that way? To a degree it does, but to a larger degree it doesn't.

3) "I never said that anyone NEEDS rich parents to succeed, only that statistically it confers a huge advantage."
“Really? AND.....?”

Yes, and...? You assume a leftist agenda follows the “and...”? Why? If we can accept that wealth confers a huge advantage, why assume that requires a “leftist” agenda? Aren't you just being absurdly defensive? If you want a meritocracy, yes, it does imply a policy change of some kind to transform America into a true meritocracy, rather than simply a mythic one that the wealthy classes use to pretend we have no class system here. But I'm not sure what that policy change would be? Do you? You say that free markets are the answer, but if we don't have a meritocracy, how can you say we truly do have free markets?Wouldn't a truly free market produce a meritocracy? Or would it produce an aristocracy? What we have is something in between the two.

“When, exactly, does one family cease to be "poor" and start being "rich?" What is the number? 50k per year?”

It really doesn't matter, statistically, as long as you create income groups with some consistency.

“Some people make 49k per year. Are they (or their offspring) poor, and therefore at a greater disadvantage than the person who makes 50k? “

Obviously not. Using statistical groupings is a way to discern overall trends, not to define individuals.

“You have not shown a convincing causation between "rich" success and the proportional success of "other income brackets besides 'the rich.'"

I'm not trying to establish a causation, only a correlation. Again, you simply don't understand how to use statistics. Establishing the causes for the success of the rich isn't too hard to imagine. Partly merit, partly many other factors. What's not so pretty to understand is why the rich as a class remain a class, and why classes themselves persist at all levels through many generations, in spite of intermigration.

“Rich people have it easier in any country in the world (ask Saddam Hussein before he met our military), not just here. Nobody is denying that the "rich" have an easier time. So what? That is the result of a free market economy (operative word being "free," as in freedom).”

But it's not a result of the free market. It's the result of unfree markets. It's called aristocracy. Saddam is just a modern example of how people used to always get rich. Unscrupulous treachery and monopolizing of power and economic opportunity. The American Dream of toppling the aristocracy and replacing it with a free market meritocracy that stops people from monopolizing wealth and power for themselves and their own family, group, race, etc., and allows anyone to rise and fall based on their real merits is still a dream, not a realized fact. It's more real than it once was, but it's still far from being the way things are here. I use the example of GWB because its so illustrative. You ask why GWB and not Ford or Reagan's sons. Well, narrowly, the answer is because Bush pere and grandpere had a dream of creating a family aristocracy, and they raised their kids with that goal in mind. Same with Kennedy pere. It's not that their kids had more merit than millions of other kids, but they had parents who wanted to use their advantages to create a dynasty. Why GWB and not the other two? That's the wrong question. The real question is why GWB and not the millions of other smarter and better qualified people in this country? It's not as if GWB's ability to outcompete his two other brothers for the job is enough to explain his success. The question is why that's the talent pool we have to pick our Presidents from.

“People are not required to equalize anything here. This includes chances for success in chosen endeavours. No? Tell me where I'm wrong.” I've never even hinted that I disagree with that. I simply state that the outcome of that is not a meritocracy, since the advantages of wealth and family, connections, etc., manipulation of the marker to favor the advantaged mediocrities rather than the disadvantaged individuals of merit.

3) Immigrants “"Their own exceptionalism?" Isn't that a little racist to lump people into a group by their origin from a different place in the world than America?”

You're saying it's racist to look at Cuban immigrants as a different group of people than Chinese immigrants? Exactly how much interaction is there between the two groups, how much intermarriage, etc.? They are real groups of people from entirely different backgrounds, you moron!

“You mean their willingness as a cultural and socio-economic group to work their asses off, save money, pass wealth onto future generations, foster competition, etc.? What does any of than have to do with "race?" I'd say it has more to do with culture and tradition, which are not exclusively tied to race.

I never said it had to do with their race. It certainly has to do with culture and background, which is tied to race not causally, but circumstantially. More importantly, what I am arguing is that immmigrants into America from ANY country are exceptional in many respects, even genetically. There's been some interesting genetic studies done on human population movements, and some researchers have pointed to the existence of an “imbalance” in the gene pool, in that some people in every population have a genetic variance that favors risk-taking, adventurism, etreprenurialism, and that these people are most likely to take the risk of immigrating to a new country such as America. So these researchers are suggesting that Americans in general have a genetic inclination towards risk-taking, which certainly fits in with our entrepreneurial skills and our adventurous national “character”. What this means is that the immigrants we receive from other countries tend to be those who are the most adventurous and industrious, inclined towards entrepreneurship, and thus best suited for success in a country like America. I consider this a positive thing. It doesn't mean that “Asians” are more undustrious than other people, but that Asian immigrants to America are more industrious risk-takers than their fellow countrymen who didn't immigrate. And this is accentuated by the immigration requirements imposed by the US.

“Not coincidentally, the success of many Asian families and individuals in this country is related to their adherence to American cultural norms like hard work, capitalism, education, perseverence, freedom to acheive, etc.”

Yes, exactly. You neglect to note that these people were attracted to America because they saw it as a place where their specific talents would flower. Other Asians who may not have had these qualities to the same degree, were not attracted to America and did not immigrate. So America tends to attract immigrants who are most like America itself. Not surprising, really.

“Eugenics is so 1940's. Race is a socal construction anyway, right?”

Any other silly comparisons you'd like to make to prove your idiocy?

Lt,

Why this constant bickering that tries to achieve petty partisan advantage at the expense of serious discussion of the real issues? What are you trying to prove to yourself?

1) Taxes. Obviously, as I already conceded, the rich pay more taxes and will get more back with an across the board percentage tax cut. But there's no law that tax cuts have to be designed that way. One could do a tax cut that would simply eliminate taxes at the lower end of things, and keep them the same at the higher rungs. You could reduce taxes on the poor and middle class, and have no upper bracket reductions. I tend to advocate that sort of direct tax cut. TO give the rich some benefit, I'd do things like eliminate CG taxes and even corporate taxes. You also ignore the history of the income tax I brought up, namely that it was originally a tax on only the very richest Americans, and it was promised that it would never be made into a general all-purpose tax. That changed over the years, the promises were broken and income taxes have become a huge intrusion on ordinary people. I tend to be capitalist/ libertarian in my views, and I think the income tax should go back to what it was originally intended to be, a “taking” from the very rich, who can indeed afford it, along with tax breaks for investment, to help steer those huge accumulations of capital where they should really go in a capitalist system – towards investment. You call me a Stalinist leftist, and I have to laugh at your self-proclaimed idiocy. If I'm an economic leftist then you right wingers have no hope of ever winning another election.

2) Class advantages “I love when lefties invoke their own brands of self-styled "truth." They never seem figure out exactly what the "truth" is to be able to communicate it in any palpable way, but they claim to own it regardless.”

I don't claim to own it. I simply argued what I understand to be incontrovertible facts about the advantages of wealth, which you not only didn't contradict, but even agreed with. But somehow you have to keep up the attitude of disagreement anyway, God knows why.

“That's called the free market.”
Yes, it is. Did I ever say it wasn't? Did I ever say I oppose free markets? I was simply stating simple facts, facts you seem to agree with, but have to somehow denounce when the come from me, because of course I'm a Stalinst DNC Satanist. Don't you ever get tired of shouting from soapboxes about the evils of the left? You make so many idiotic presumptions, not just about me, but about the “left”, it's staggering. I'm a businessman, running a medium sized business, with employees, assets, tax issues, regulation issues, investing a lot of money in expansion, dealing with all kinds of real-world issues that to you are just silly abstractions, and I bet I make more money than you and have more wealth than you. So cut out this stupid dogmatic crap about Stalinism.

“The wealthy start with more, and know how to obtain and retain more. What's your point?”

My point is that class mobility in this country is not very great, nowhere near as great as you like to think it is. In economic surveys (I don't have the links, sorry) of major industrialized nations, The US ranks near the bottom in class mobility (the ability to rise from one class to a higher one). And yes, that is a statistical fact. It doesn't matter where you draw the lines of income, $49,000 or $50,000, whatever, the statistics hold up.

You seem to be mathematically challenged, and have no comprehension of what statistical realities mean. You keep trying to challenge statistical categories by referring to individuals. But statistics are not directly applicable to any individual, they are only broadly applicable to groups, and the group characteristics of individuals.

Calling America a meritocracy is simply not apt. Do you really believe that the best Americans rise to the top and become President? I noticed your thread about Bush and Kerry's GPA battle of 77 vs 76. Man, isn't that sad? We have an election for the Presidency, and all we get to vote for is two fucking half-wits with C averages and wealthy parents? Doesn't that make you a little mad? I mean, the country is full of geniuses, really smart people that neither Bush nor Kerry could even touch in virtually every significant category, and yet these are the guys who rise to the top. That's not the sign of a meritocracy. It's not that merit has nothing to do with success in America, it does, but it's only one factor, and unfortunately not the biggest or most important factor. That's one of the liabilities of the free market system. You can't stop parents from conferring huge advantages on their children, such that even the mediocre offspring of the well-off will, on average, outperform the smarter and abler offspring of the poor and middle-class. Is that unfair? I guess. Do I have a socialist agenda I'm trying to piggy-back on top of that? Not really. I'm just arguing for some sober realities, and suggesting you not be so idealistic and defensive about your politics. If you really wanted a more meritocratic society, you'd have to favor policies that you probably don't like, and that even I wouldn't like. So let's not pretend that we are trying to create a meritocracy here in America. We aren't. Not seriously, at least. As mentioned, other industrialized nations have a more meritocratic system in place. In Japan, for example, the average pay differential between company CEOs and the average company laborer is about 15-30:1, depending on various factors. In the US, it's skyrocketed to 200-300:1 Could it be that American CEOs are really that much more valuable than Japanese CEOs? Of course not. It's not merit that gets those huge salaries, it's connections and corporate graft. You could also say its “free markets” in CEOs. But is the market in CEOs really free, or is it an example of wealthy people rigging the system to their own benefit? I suspect the latter.

“The meritocracy is still intact - it doesn't matter that some people have it "easier" than others. The free market allows for such possibilities, and allows for strident economic mobility regardless of initial class or wealth.”

That is the issue. First, do we have a meritocracy? Second, do we have a truly free market based on individual merit? Third, how much mobility does our market really have? You keep arguing the ideals of the system, but you don't address the realities. Sure, in a truly free market everyone would rise or fall based on merit and occupy a place in society commensurate with their merit. Is that the way America actually is? To what degree is it true? To what degree is it false. Clearly, America allows class mobility, such that exceptional individuals from any class can conceivably rise to the top, and some do. But what about overall class mobility? Is it really true that people will simply rise or fall to their proper station in life based on merit? No. There's movement, clearly, but there's also a lot of inertia and friction. What is the source of that inertia and friction? I think that's a question worth considering. You seem to regard it as an heretical question, it's so un-PC to even bring up the existence of class in America, as if class was invented by Marx and produced by Stalin, as if anyone even bringing up the existence of class in this country was necessarily an anti-American leftist. Rather than argue about class advantages, you simply bring up the old Horatio Alger myth, as if that's how life in America works. Does it really work that way? To a degree it does, but to a larger degree it doesn't.

Lt cont.

3) "I never said that anyone NEEDS rich parents to succeed, only that statistically it confers a huge advantage."
“Really? AND.....?”

Yes, and...? You assume a leftist agenda follows the “and...”? Why? If we can accept that wealth confers a huge advantage, why assume that requires a “leftist” agenda? Aren't you just being absurdly defensive? If you want a meritocracy, yes, it does imply a policy change of some kind to transform America into a true meritocracy, rather than simply a mythic one that the wealthy classes use to pretend we have no class system here. But I'm not sure what that policy change would be? Do you? You say that free markets are the answer, but if we don't have a meritocracy, how can you say we truly do have free markets?Wouldn't a truly free market produce a meritocracy? Or would it produce an aristocracy? What we have is something in between the two.

“When, exactly, does one family cease to be "poor" and start being "rich?" What is the number? 50k per year?”

It really doesn't matter, statistically, as long as you create income groups with some consistency.

“Some people make 49k per year. Are they (or their offspring) poor, and therefore at a greater disadvantage than the person who makes 50k? “

Obviously not. Using statistical groupings is a way to discern overall trends, not to define individuals.

“You have not shown a convincing causation between "rich" success and the proportional success of "other income brackets besides 'the rich.'"

I'm not trying to establish a causation, only a correlation. Again, you simply don't understand how to use statistics. Establishing the causes for the success of the rich isn't too hard to imagine. Partly merit, partly many other factors. What's not so pretty to understand is why the rich as a class remain a class, and why classes themselves persist at all levels through many generations, in spite of intermigration.

“Rich people have it easier in any country in the world (ask Saddam Hussein before he met our military), not just here. Nobody is denying that the "rich" have an easier time. So what? That is the result of a free market economy (operative word being "free," as in freedom).”

But it's not a result of the free market. It's the result of unfree markets. It's called aristocracy. Saddam is just a modern example of how people used to always get rich. Unscrupulous treachery and monopolizing of power and economic opportunity. The American Dream of toppling the aristocracy and replacing it with a free market meritocracy that stops people from monopolizing wealth and power for themselves and their own family, group, race, etc., and allows anyone to rise and fall based on their real merits is still a dream, not a realized fact. It's more real than it once was, but it's still far from being the way things are here. I use the example of GWB because its so illustrative. You ask why GWB and not Ford or Reagan's sons. Well, narrowly, the answer is because Bush pere and grandpere had a dream of creating a family aristocracy, and they raised their kids with that goal in mind. Same with Kennedy pere. It's not that their kids had more merit than millions of other kids, but they had parents who wanted to use their advantages to create a dynasty. Why GWB and not the other two? That's the wrong question. The real question is why GWB and not the millions of other smarter and better qualified people in this country? It's not as if GWB's ability to outcompete his two other brothers for the job is enough to explain his success. The question is why that's the talent pool we have to pick our Presidents from.

“People are not required to equalize anything here. This includes chances for success in chosen endeavours. No? Tell me where I'm wrong.” I've never even hinted that I disagree with that. I simply state that the outcome of that is not a meritocracy, since the advantages of wealth and family, connections, etc., manipulation of the marker to favor the advantaged mediocrities rather than the disadvantaged individuals of merit.

3) Immigrants “"Their own exceptionalism?" Isn't that a little racist to lump people into a group by their origin from a different place in the world than America?”

You're saying it's racist to look at Cuban immigrants as a different group of people than Chinese immigrants? Exactly how much interaction is there between the two groups, how much intermarriage, etc.? They are real groups of people from entirely different backgrounds, you moron!

“You mean their willingness as a cultural and socio-economic group to work their asses off, save money, pass wealth onto future generations, foster competition, etc.? What does any of than have to do with "race?" I'd say it has more to do with culture and tradition, which are not exclusively tied to race.

I never said it had to do with their race. It certainly has to do with culture and background, which is tied to race not causally, but circumstantially. More importantly, what I am arguing is that immmigrants into America from ANY country are exceptional in many respects, even genetically. There's been some interesting genetic studies done on human population movements, and some researchers have pointed to the existence of an “imbalance” in the gene pool, in that some people in every population have a genetic variance that favors risk-taking, adventurism, etreprenurialism, and that these people are most likely to take the risk of immigrating to a new country such as America. So these researchers are suggesting that Americans in general have a genetic inclination towards risk-taking, which certainly fits in with our entrepreneurial skills and our adventurous national “character”. What this means is that the immigrants we receive from other countries tend to be those who are the most adventurous and industrious, inclined towards entrepreneurship, and thus best suited for success in a country like America. I consider this a positive thing. It doesn't mean that “Asians” are more undustrious than other people, but that Asian immigrants to America are more industrious risk-takers than their fellow countrymen who didn't immigrate. And this is accentuated by the immigration requirements imposed by the US.

“Not coincidentally, the success of many Asian families and individuals in this country is related to their adherence to American cultural norms like hard work, capitalism, education, perseverence, freedom to acheive, etc.”

Yes, exactly. You neglect to note that these people were attracted to America because they saw it as a place where their specific talents would flower. Other Asians who may not have had these qualities to the same degree, were not attracted to America and did not immigrate. So America tends to attract immigrants who are most like America itself. Not surprising, really.

“Eugenics is so 1940's. Race is a socal construction anyway, right?”

Any other silly comparisons you'd like to make to prove your idiocy?

“Why this constant bickering that tries to achieve petty partisan advantage at the expense of serious discussion of the real issues? What are you trying to prove to yourself?”

Who made this about party? Where did I mention my party affiliation? Aren’t we talking about who voted for what party based on X,Y, and Z, anyway? Why are you afraid to talk about partisan leanings?

"1) Taxes. Obviously, as I already conceded, the rich pay more taxes and will get more back with an across the board percentage tax cut. But there's no law that tax cuts have to be designed that way. One could do a tax cut that would simply eliminate taxes at the lower end of things, and keep them the same at the higher rungs."

The lowest rung of income earners don’t pay income taxes. The top 10% pay over half of all income taxes. You wish is the current reality.

“You could reduce taxes on the poor and middle class,”
TAX CUTS…’s been done already…
“ and have no upper bracket reductions. I tend to advocate that sort of direct tax cut. To give the rich some benefit, I'd do things like eliminate CG taxes and even corporate taxes.”

Not all of the money that corporations or wealthy individuals have is from income – you do realize this, no? There is no tax on wealth (different than income), so those who have tons of money to begin with won’t be paying income taxes anyway. That’s why capital gains taxes and corporate taxes exist. They should be there, but reasonable and not a hindrance to corporate expansion and growth.

“You also ignore the history of the income tax I brought up, namely that it was originally a tax on only the very richest Americans, and it was promised that it would never be made into a general all-purpose tax. That changed over the years, the promises were broken and income taxes have become a huge intrusion on ordinary people.”

And under Democrat Administrations (leftists), income taxes have historically creeped up and even rested at record levels during certain periods. That’s what happens when you advocate for greater government control – you not only get it, but you have to pay for it. An argument for smaller government and more individual control of money.

“ I tend to be capitalist/ libertarian in my views, and I think the income tax should go back to what it was originally intended to be, a “taking” from the very rich, who can indeed afford it, along with tax breaks for investment, to help steer those huge accumulations of capital where they should really go in a capitalist system – towards investment.”

Who are you to say where the money that you didn’t earn or create should go anywhere? This is what is meant by leftist thinking. There are taxes on everything that companies and wealthy individuals do (as well as regular folks). You are not a capitalist or a libertarian if you advocate the government influencing and steering private companies’ investments into what the government thinks they should invest in. That is socialism, not capitalism. Libertarians would argue that the government should get the hell out of the business of telling business where to invest. That’s pretty basic stuff that you just got all mixed up there. Sheesh.

“ You call me a Stalinist leftist, and I have to laugh at your self-proclaimed idiocy. If I'm an economic leftist then you right wingers have no hope of ever winning another election.”

You are a Stalinist, albeit a moderate one. You advocate governmental influence and control of wealth redistribution, you argue for tax structures that are already a reality, and advocate the “toppling of the aristocracy.” Don’t blame “right-wingers” for you r lack of awareness of what you espouse to believe. When you type long diatribes like this, you’re bound to forget the occasional times when you let your façade slip. I didn’t.

“I don't claim to own it. I simply argued what I understand to be incontrovertible facts about the advantages of wealth, which you not only didn't contradict, but even agreed with. But somehow you have to keep up the attitude of disagreement anyway, God knows why.”

You also argue that the advantages of wealth need to be changed because of some disadvantage that it places on “the meritocracy.”

That’s why.
Yes, it is. Did I ever say it wasn't? Did I ever say I oppose free markets? I was simply stating simple facts, facts you seem to agree with, but have to somehow denounce when the come from me, because of course I'm a Stalinst DNC Satanist.

You first. I don't recall invoking Satan or the DNC.

“Don't you ever get tired of shouting from soapboxes about the evils of the left? You make so many idiotic presumptions, not just about me, but about the “left”, it's staggering. I'm a businessman, running a medium sized business, with employees, assets, tax issues, regulation issues, investing a lot of money in expansion, dealing with all kinds of real-world issues that to you are just silly abstractions, and I bet I make more money than you and have more wealth than you. So cut out this stupid dogmatic crap about Stalinism."

You are the one arguing for more governmental control of where you place you investments and how much tax you pay on the dividends and profits, then. Sorry to be the “evil right-winger”” to point this out to you. And the faux-outrage at my “partisanship?” Knock it off. It’s causing you to outburst with anger every two paragraphs.

“My point is that class mobility in this country is not very great, nowhere near as great as you like to think it is.
You seem to be doing OK…
In economic surveys (I don't have the links, sorry) of major industrialized nations, The US ranks near the bottom in class mobility (the ability to rise from one class to a higher one). And yes, that is a statistical fact. It doesn't matter where you draw the lines of income, $49,000 or $50,000, whatever, the statistics hold up."

Our standard of living is also higher than any country in the world. The “below the poverty line” people in America are richer than the poor in Africa or Calcutta, for example. I wasn’t aware that classes are supposed to rise and fall “as classes.”

I am of the school that individuals can jump classes, not classes jump classes. All this class rhetoric is derivative of an old philosophy that mad class conflict the central tennet in its religion. Hmmm...I wonder what it was called...

“You seem to be mathematically challenged, and have no comprehension of what statistical realities mean.”

Cite some, and we’ll see. Until then, you know nothing about me.

“You keep trying to challenge statistical categories by referring to individuals. But statistics are not directly applicable to any individual, they are only broadly applicable to groups, and the group characteristics of individuals."

Convenient if you want to try to attempt to generalize about “everyone else,” but not yourself.

“Calling America a meritocracy is simply not apt. Do you really believe that the best Americans rise to the top and become President? I noticed your thread about Bush and Kerry's GPA battle of 77 vs 76. Man, isn't that sad?”

If you are assuming that college is the best indicator of “merit,” or perhaps who should be President, than sure. Fortunately for many people in this country, college education and the mythical benefits that are supposed to flow to graduates “just because they went to college” are not even required for success in this country. Merit can be measured in other ways.

“We have an election for the Presidency, and all we get to vote for is two fucking half-wits with C averages and wealthy parents? Doesn't that make you a little mad?”

I don’t lose sleep over it, no. It actually is kind of fun to make fun of said rich morons. No need to curse.

“I mean, the country is full of geniuses, really smart people that neither Bush nor Kerry could even touch in virtually every significant category,”

Agreed. They also don’t work in government in any large quantity. Imagine that.

“… and yet these are the guys who rise to the top. That's not the sign of a meritocracy. It's not that merit has nothing to do with success in America, it does, but it's only one factor, and unfortunately not the biggest or most important factor.”

Should it be? Has it ever been the most important factor? Are you talking politics, business, or what? Assuming its politics (which is what you seem to be implying), than it should not be the only factor. If you are defining “success” as “being elected President,” than merit may be just one of the things involved. There can be overlapping factors like money, connections, fame, merit, ambition, ”people appeal,” etc. I still don’t see how this is a bad thing. I guess people who didn’t score 1600s on their SATs or people who don’t hold PhD’s in every subject should all just shut the hell up and know their betters, huh? Merit is important, but you are the one subjectively raising it to the pedestal of “the most important” factor in society. This position smacks of traditional elitist thinking (I myself have a graduate degree, but don’t “expect” to be given special status or commensurate pay for merely having it). I have to work like everybody else.

Conrad cont'd

“ That's one of the liabilities of the free market system. You can't stop parents from conferring huge advantages on their children, such that even the mediocre offspring of the well-off will, on average, outperform the smarter and abler offspring of the poor and middle-class.”

Nor should we stop them. It’s a free country.

“ Is that unfair? I guess.”

Not to them, its not. Who’s doing the “evaluating?”

"Do I have a socialist agenda I'm trying to piggy-back on top of that? Not really."

Not really? Why not just “no?” I’m dubious. You’ve advocated “toppling the aristocracy” in order to establish a purer meritocracy. That sounds like wealth redistribution and restriction of other’s ability to have access fo power and influence, if you ask this skeptic.

"I'm just arguing for some sober realities, and suggesting you not be so idealistic and defensive about your politics."

Likewise.

"If you really wanted a more meritocratic society, you'd have to favor policies that you probably don't like, and that even I wouldn't like. So let's not pretend that we are trying to create a meritocracy here in America. We aren't. Not seriously, at least."

You are the one advocating for the “purer” meritocracy at the expense of the “aristocracy.” I’m not arguing with anything except for your interpretations and assumptions of and about American society.

“ As mentioned, other industrialized nations have a more meritocratic system in place. In Japan, for example, the average pay differential between company CEOs and the average company laborer is about 15-30:1, depending on various factors.”

That’s still “unfair,” financially. The workers aren’t making exactly what the heads of the company are making. Some may have more formal education and training. Who’s to say.

“ In the US, it's skyrocketed to 200-300:1 Could it be that American CEOs are really that much more valuable than Japanese CEOs? Of course not.”

We have different corporate cultures in our countries. American corporate culture is big on incentives. Japanese corporate culture is not. You do acknowledge this, right? You also realize that Japan’s public retirement system is headed for collapse, no?

“It's not merit that gets those huge salaries, it's connections and corporate graft.”

In some cases, maybe. In others, it is merit, coupled with tangible results and hard work. The CEO of Exxon who just got that 400 million retirement package? He led the company to billions in profits during his tenure – which translated into thousands of careers and jobs for the workers, as well as their benefits, company expansion, stockholder enrichment, etc. That’s what’s known as merit in the business world – the bottom line.

"You could also say its “free markets” in CEOs. But is the market in CEOs really free, or is it an example of wealthy people rigging the system to their own benefit? I suspect the latter."

You don’t prove it, though. And there lies my disagreement. I think that is mostly a socialist-influenced delusion perpetrated by people who feel powerless to change their own situations. They instead blame and aim to change society, which they attribute as the source of the “unfairness” that they purport to have experienced. Fairness is subjective, and one person’s fairness is another person’s “injustice,” right?

“That is the issue. First, do we have a meritocracy? Second, do we have a truly free market based on individual merit?
Third, how much mobility does our market really have?” You keep arguing the ideals of the system (as do you of your ideal “system,”) but you don't address the realities.”

What “realities” are those? That we live in an “aristocracy?” That the only way to achieve “meritocracy” is to topple the “aristocracy” in America? Your words, not mine. As policy, no thanks.

“ Sure, in a truly free market everyone would rise or fall based on merit and occupy a place in society commensurate with their merit. Is that the way America actually is? To what degree is it true? To what degree is it false?”

In a society that is purely "merit" based, that's the way it would ideally function. In utopia, we all drive flying cars that make no emissions, nobody has any illness, everyone is a rich CEO and there is no pain. If you are holding the economic realities of our complex and dynamic society to some abstract standard of absolute perfection (which you are clearly doing here), then prepare for reality – just because everything “should” be great for everybody does not mean that it will be. A lot of this, however, is up to the individuals living the lives – not the governmental system in place. America has demonstrated this time and again throughout its storied history. Even you have to admit this.

“Clearly, America allows class mobility, such that exceptional individuals from any class can conceivably rise to the top, and some do. But what about overall class mobility? Is it really true that people will simply rise or fall to their proper station in life based on merit?”

You have not shown how they can’t. My assertion is that many won’t – for their own reasons. You’re argument basically boils down to blame the system. This is not a new or bold position.
Do they all have to? Maybe they don’t want to. You don’t factor individual desires, drives or motivations in your argument. Since you believe we live in an “aristocracy,” it is not hard to see why you don’t believe that things like this account for people’s economic stagnation, economic “immobility,” or otherwise.

“There's movement, clearly, but there's also a lot of inertia and friction. What is the source of that inertia and friction? I think that's a question worth considering.”

“You seem to regard it as an heretical question,”

No I didn’t – I think it’s a misguided one.

“ it's so un-PC to even bring up the existence of class in America, as if class was invented by Marx and produced by Stalin, as if anyone even bringing up the existence of class in this country was necessarily an anti-American leftist.”

Marx did make class the central focus of his theories, did he not? Exactly. The reason? People can change their social and economic class here in America. If they want to, they can set their minds and hands to change their lot in life. There are no guarantees, like you seem to be suggesting we implement, that the absolute “smartest” among us ascend to the very apex or pinnacle of economic or societal power, but you’d have to define what “smart” means. You imply it to mean “merit / college education” here. The definition is vastly more dynamic than this, which you admit by conceding there is movement of individuals and even groups between “classes.” The cause of “friction?”

That’s called the reality of life on the ground, and government isn’t the solution to your economic advancement.
Rather than argue about class advantages, you simply bring up the old Horatio Alger myth, as if that's how life in America works. Does it really work that way? To a degree it does, but to a larger degree it doesn't.

So it’s a "myth" in your assesment? And your analysis and interpretation is the "fact?" Convenient for you, unfortunate for the rest of the populace.

“Yes, and...? You assume a leftist agenda follows the “and...”? Why? If we can accept that wealth confers a huge advantage, why assume that requires a “leftist” agenda? Aren't you just being absurdly defensive?”

I’m just asking questions about your assumptions and broad strokes here. No need to get defensive.

“If you want a meritocracy, yes, it does imply a policy change of some kind to transform America into a true meritocracy, rather than simply a mythic one that the wealthy classes use to pretend we have no class system here.”

BINGO! You are beginning with the assumption that you view of America as an “aristocracy” is the correct and accurate one, and I’ve shown you that you are mistaken when you look at various individuals, groups, historical trends, etc. This assertion that everything needs to change to achieve another “more equal” economic and political reality IS a left-ward agenda – the restructuring of society to disadvantage those who may have great potential to wield influence at the behest of those who are on a lower economic or political rung. That is not a “meritocracy.” That is governmental manipulation of economic and social strata to achieve desired political ends. In other worlds, socialism. Thanks for proving my point (not the first time you do it).

"But I'm not sure what that policy change would be? Do you? You say that free markets are the answer, but if we don't have a meritocracy, how can you say we truly do have free markets? Wouldn't a truly free market produce a meritocracy? Or would it produce an aristocracy? What we have is something in between the two.
I think you are living in the theoretical world where each instance has an “either / or” answer.”

I’m not sure there should be a “policy change.” You also forgot the other relevant categorizations like plutocracy, autocracy, oligarchy, democracy, etc. If you’re gonna paint in such broad strokes, why leave out so many other colors?

It really doesn't matter, statistically, as long as you create income groups with some consistency.

“Obviously not. Using statistical groupings is a way to discern overall trends, not to define individuals.”

Doy. I'm not focusing on a set of statistical data here (you don't cite one, and make vague reference to the chart in GK's post in your initial comments, before veering into a discussion of class conflict and the inherent unfairness in the top-loaded economic and/or political power structure of America - right?). You don’t believe in the power or dynamics of the individual in America? I doesn’t appear from what you’ve written here that you do. No very much faith, at the very least.

"I'm not trying to establish a causation, only a correlation. Again, you simply don't understand how to use statistics."

I do, actually (and you haven't cited any). Again, statistics show trends. How about the trend that the pverty line has risen over the past 30 years? The average income? Standard of living? GDP? I guess these stats are irrelevant when focusing strictly on the “class warfare” argument as to why individuals and groups “can’t” get a good shake in the US.

“Establishing the causes for the success of the rich isn't too hard to imagine. Partly merit, partly many other factors. What's not so pretty to understand is why the rich as a class remain a class, and why classes themselves persist at all levels through many generations, in spite of intermigration.”

Maybe they like being rich, and won’t spend their money impudently since they realize its value. Gee. How oppressive, inhumane and unfair of them. I guess I’ll just give up trying to advance myself, because some guy has a lot of money and some statistic says that it isn’t likely that I will be as wealthy or influential as Bill Gates one day.

“But it's not a result of the free market. It's the result of unfree markets. It's called aristocracy. Saddam is just a modern example of how people used to always get rich.”
So America was full of brutal “rich” autocrat dictators like Saddam throughout its history? Harsh capitalists, maybe. Thuggish tyrants? Interesting comparison.
“ Unscrupulous treachery and monopolizing of power and economic opportunity.”
These are all mutually areas that each deserve individual analysis. This is a severely over-simplified, faux-Marxist view of American economic history and historical entrepreneurship in general.
“The American Dream of toppling the aristocracy and replacing it with a free market meritocracy that stops people from monopolizing wealth and power for themselves and their own family, group, race, etc., and allows anyone to rise and fall based on their real merits is still a dream, not a realized fact.”
That doesn’t sound like an American Dream, and this is merely your personal view of the current economic latticework of the United States. Aristocracies are royal families in power from birthright, not from money. England has an aristocracy. The Americans have wealthy and powerful families, but none is entitled to that prestige. Many have earned it, some have inherited it, all have a right to maintain it. The American Dream, as you would have it, would be to topple this “aristocracy?” What aristocracy? Your terminology reveals that you are espousing little more than socialism. Nothing new, but at least you come out and say it.
“ It's more real than it once was, but it's still far from being the way things are here. I use the example of GWB because its so illustrative. You ask why GWB and not Ford or Reagan's sons.”
Actually, I think somebody else asked this, but its OK.
“ Well, narrowly, the answer is because Bush pere and grandpere had a dream of creating a family aristocracy, and they raised their kids with that goal in mind. “
An aristocracy? How about generational family wealth to make it easier for the next generation? I think what you are implying is plutocracy – rule by the wealthy. In this respect, get mad at the Democrats and the Republicans, because there are no “poor” Congressional leaders.
“Same with Kennedy pere. It's not that their kids had more merit than millions of other kids, but they had parents who wanted to use their advantages to create a dynasty. Why GWB and not the other two? That's the wrong question. The real question is why GWB and not the millions of other smarter and better qualified people in this country? It's not as if GWB's ability to out compete his two other brothers for the job is enough to explain his success. The question is why that's the talent pool we have to pick our Presidents from.”

I suppose the Clintons are part of that talent pool. When was the last time a Kennedy was in a position to win or run for the Presidency? The late 1960’s? They’re not the only two families in America, dude. Just because their name recognition is high and they have money doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be able to wield powerful positions in society. Jeb has his own gig in Florida – why should he “compete with GWB?” There’s a whole lot in that last partial graph that doesn’t make sense.

"I've never even hinted that I disagree with that. I simply state that the outcome of that is not a meritocracy, since the advantages of wealth and family, connections, etc., manipulation of the market to favor the advantaged mediocrities rather than the disadvantaged individuals of merit."

It is partial meritocracy, and partially other measurements, as we have both said in one form or another. You seem to want to elevate academic merit to the forefront. I'm saying that it is not as relevant as you want to make it.

“You're saying it's racist to look at Cuban immigrants as a different group of people than Chinese immigrants?"

Did I say that? Read what I wrote again. (Both come from Communist countries, by the way. Many similarities, at least in motivation to leave those countries). After re-reading, try again.

“Exactly how much interaction is there between the two groups, how much intermarriage, etc.?”

You seem to assume plenty. I’d like some stats and support for your broad generalizations.

“They are real groups of people from entirely different backgrounds, you moron!”

Moron? Is that a technical term, or the sound of your brain sputtering?

“I never said it had to do with their race. It certainly has to do with culture and background, which is tied to race not causally, but circumstantially.”

It doesn’t have to do with race, but it does. Very convincing.

“More importantly, what I am arguing is that immigrants into America from ANY country are exceptional in many respects, even genetically. There's been some interesting genetic studies done on human population movements, and some researchers have pointed to the existence of an “imbalance” in the gene pool, in that some people in every population have a genetic variance that favors risk-taking, adventurism, entrepreneurialism, and that these people are most likely to take the risk of immigrating to a new country such as America.”

Who? How many studies? Is this “genetic” view of entrepreneurialism conventional wisdom? There is no belief among these immigrants that America is in nearly every respect the world’s most prosperous meritocracy? Remember when I said that eugenics is so 1940’s? You just made my point.

“ So these researchers are suggesting that Americans in general have a genetic inclination towards risk-taking, which certainly fits in with our entrepreneurial skills and our adventurous national “character”. What this means is that the immigrants we receive from other countries tend to be those who are the most adventurous and industrious, inclined towards entrepreneurship, and thus best suited for success in a country like America.”

Really? America (you said) is an aristocracy, remember. The America Dream (you asserted) is the desire to cast off an aristocracy and replace it with a meritocracy (although you don’t elaborate on how to go about achieving this). This kind of “merit-based industrious entrepreneurship” is not possible in a true aristocracy, and is the result of genetics anyway.

“I consider this a positive thing.”
So do I, but not for the reasons that you do.

“It doesn't mean that “Asians” are more industrious than other people, but that Asian immigrants to America are more industrious risk-takers than their fellow countrymen who didn't immigrate.”

Really? Do you have statistical evidence of this? Or is this an assumption based on a feeling? Didn’t you begin by saying that

“And this is accentuated by the immigration requirements imposed by the US.”

Which ones?

“Not coincidentally, the success of many Asian families and individuals in this country is related to their adherence to American cultural norms like hard work, capitalism, education, perseverance, freedom to achieve, etc.”

“Yes, exactly. You neglect to note that these people were attracted to America because they saw it as a place where their specific talents would flower.”
There is no need to note this -it is obvious.

“Other Asians who may not have had these qualities to the same degree, were not attracted to America and did not immigrate. So America tends to attract immigrants who are most like America itself. Not surprising, really.”

Well, that and that several major “Asian” governments are leftist and Communistic in nature. Which means, of course, that the government is a little more strict on who can go where, for what reason and for how long. That, and the potential to ascend into the “aristocracy” here in America is much better than in any “Asian” country – entrepreneurial or not.

“Any other silly comparisons you'd like to make to prove your idiocy?”

Can’t get through it allwithout calling someone an idiot several times, no? Why so defensive, and so vigorous rebuttal from such an “idiot / moron?”

Don't worry - nothing personal. :-)

I'm sorry to see this comments thread devolve into a series of back-and-forth jibes, complete with name-calling and swearing. It started off being very worthwhile. Goading commenters into self-destruction is just sad. Others apparently see it as gamesmanship, not unlike so-called "grief players."

Calling for stats, support, and proof in response to already well-made arguments or questioning definitions of standard words is often a notoriously disingenuous way to derail an exchange. It's also a simpleton's reflex to dispute everything and yield nothing, which ultimately makes the writer's position incoherent.

And yes, "moron" is a technical term for one with an IQ in the range 50-69, as distinguished from "imbecile" (20-49) and "idiot" (below 20). In heated argument, the terms are used figuratively, but I think in the context of these comments it may apply more literally.

"And yes, "moron" is a technical term for one with an IQ in the range 50-69, as distinguished from "imbecile" (20-49) and "idiot" (below 20). In heated argument, the terms are used figuratively, but I think in the context of these comments it may apply more literally."

Name-calling is a debating technique, especially when one disagrees with Conrad. Check.

Got anything substantive to add to the conversation? Can you cite an instance when I called anyone a moron, idiot or imbicile?

No? Hmmm.

Good Lt wrote:

"Got anything substantive to add to the conversation? Can you cite an instance when I called anyone a moron, idiot or imbicile?"

My substantive response was a couple days ago, before things went south. A few folks responded (to my characterization of the comments thread) as though it's a sports competition with winners and losers, but no one responded to the substance.

Did you call names, you ask? This is what appears just above my comment earlier today:

"Can’t get through it all without calling someone an idiot several times, no? Why so defensive, and so vigorous rebuttal from such an 'idiot / moron?'

Don't worry - nothing personal. :-)"

I'm not at all impressed with the "nothing personal" disclaimer. On its face, it doesn't mean what it purports to mean. Similarly meaningless disclaimers are offered by those who tell racist or sexist jokes then append "no offense."

Again, you ask for proof and yield absolutely nothing. However, I won't be goaded into jibing, sniping, or snarking just to add fuel to the fire. Instead, I'm just disappointed. When venues like this one sink to the argument level of UseNet, they will be equally worthless.

I also agree with Brutus’ assessment, and I share his disappointment that an initially exciting and coherent argument has devolved into hopeless mud-slinging.

Conrad: You make some excellent points, but every time you let the argument get personal, it’s a breach in your armor. Try not to get so personally involved in the debate. There’s no need to swear or smear your opponent. I understand being upset about these issues, but ultimately, this debate doesn’t matter, so don’t sweat the small stuff. You’ll come across much better if you rephrase arguments so that your opponent can relate to them and understand them, rather than talking down to your opponent and assuming he/she won’t agree.
It’s fairly clear to me that Good Lt is NOT stupid. Bias is not the same as stupidity. Remember that you are extremely biased as well, because you are human. This does not make either of you stupid.
Your anger makes you very unsympathetic, even incoherent. If you’re too angry while you write a comment, take five to relax, and then proof-read it. Talking to people who disagree with you is frustrating, but ultimately beneficial if you go into it with an open mind. If your opponent is being close-minded, don’t shut them down. Try to open them up by establishing consensus. It may be that the person will never listen to you. Just do your best, and don’t think of it as your responsibility to save the world and get emotionally involved in a simple internet exchange.

Good Lt: You call Conrad a socialist/communist/Stalinist a lot. First of all, those three things are different, but I’ll assume you know the intricacies. If you don’t know them, please read a book about it, because Marxism is markedly different from Stalinism.
More relevantly, however, I’m not sure what your point is. Let’s just say Conrad is a commie. I don’t think his statements indicate that, but let’s pretend that they do. So what? Does that mean he isn’t worth arguing with? I don’t consider saying, “This statement has socialist undertones” to be a valid refutation of Conrad’s argument, at all.
Sure, socialism has a lot of problems and contradictions as a philosophy/governmental style. But instead of labeling Conrad, why not actually REFUTE his points without bringing in partisanship? If anything is a “social construct,” it isn’t racism – it’s political parties!
Surely you must have some logic for disliking communism – I know I myself have logical reasons for hating it. If I were in your place, I would talk about those reasons without mentioning the word communism at all. It’s pretty unnecessary to use that label when you can prove someone wrong without it. As it is now, all you have is the label and no facts or opinions to back up your opposition to said label.
If Hitler commented on his blog, would you think that saying “You’re a Nazi” would be a valid refutation to his arguments? I should hope not. If you interact with a person who you believe holds an extreme political view, take advantage of it to try to convince them.
Also, you keep asking Conrad for stats. If you want them so badly, look them up yourself. Then, if you find that Conrad was right, you can either politely concede your defeat, or not mention it again and your defeat will be understood. If you find that he was wrong, even better for you; you can link Conrad to the stats, prove him wrong, and skip all the socialism comments.
I can tell you like putting people in boxes: socialist, leftist, rightist, etc. You like stats and you like definitions. They may be a comfort to you in your daily life. That’s okay for your internal thought processes, but cold calculations don’t win you support with other people – and they definitely don’t win an argument.
Kerry’s performance at the debates should have taught you that people prefer the charisma and steadfast humanity of Bush to Kerry’s repetition of cold, unrelenting – even boring – facts. It doesn’t matter if Kerry was right or wrong (I imagine he had a bit of both right and wrong in his arguments) the POINT is that he wasn’t sympathetic, and that’s a problem of yours as well. As a writer, you should endeavor to convince even the staunchest extremists.

Both of you: I don’t get the sense that either of you are trying to convince the other. You aren’t admitting consensus, despite that there are some parallel points here.
There are ways to argue, methods to convince. If this is just frustrated mud-slinging, take it out in a kickboxing class. We’re all smarter than this. It’s obvious from the way that we write that no one here is a “moron.”
We’re capable of convincing each other. Beliefs are never set in stone.

Lt,

I'm not sure how to respond to your posts anymore. You seem to be shadow-boxing with some socialist enemy in your own mind, and pretending that character has something to do with me.

A few things: you willfully misconstrue me as saying that the US is an aristocracy, and then base most of your arguments on a refutation of that, even using my own words to contradict the notion. I clearly did not suggest that the US was an aristocracy, only that it was somewhere in between an aristocracy and a meritocracy. When I said that the American dream was based on an effort to topple the aristocracy and institute a free market meritocracy, I thought you were smart enough to catch the reference to the American Revolution – you remember the one where we threw out old King George and the whole British aristocratic system and instituted a revolutionary democracy based on rule of the people, each with only one vote, rather than rule by hereditary privilege? Pardon me for being condescending, but you really don't seem to have much grasp of this country's history and politics. Yes, it's true, our nation was based on a revolution against the old tyranny of the aristocracy – how can you actually suggest otherwise? And yes, it hasn't actually evolved into a true meritocracy, what with all kinds of forces trying to create new forms of upper-class aristocracy into our system, economically and politically. I'm not condemning that and suggesting we create some radical new socialist nation. All that is purely in your own imagination. And a sane person would be happy to hear that, but all you hear is a criticism of your myopic narcissism, and you insist on reacting to me anyway. My own views are towards incremental change. But yes, I would like to see our country evolve into a more meritocratic system, and I think there are ways of doing that intelligently at the level of law, governance, and the economics of our nation, rather than just on purely individual striving, as you think is all that is necessary. Our founding fathers didn't think that individual striving was enough – they went out and collectively changed the whole system around. I'm not suggesting anything that revolutionary, but I am suggesting that their original spirit needs to be followed through on, rather than allowing the forces that would take us pack into a plutocracy to undermine our American Experiment.

The origin of this thread was GK's post on how wealthy Americans voted for Bush, and that because wealthy Americans tended to be smarter than poorer Americans, it suggests that smarter people voted for Bush. I countered that by showing that, among the available election statistics, the most educated people tended to vote for Kerry, even though they also tended to be much richer than less educated people, hence suggesting an even greater statistical favoring Kerry based on educational level alone, correcting for wealth. I also suggested that educational level is a much better indicator of intellect than wealth, which I think is obvious, though of course it isn't the same as intellectual ability either. You have neither refuted any of that nor even seriously tried to. Instead, you have simply nitpicked at minor side issues without actually addressing the central points of my posts. You haven't actually defended GK or any of his points, but have mounted a campaign of discrediting me by labeling me a socialist, as if that actually means anything.

Further, in the issue I brought up about America's class mobility, you again don't refute anything I say, you simply express irritability that I haven't proven my points. Well, sorry for engaging in casual banter rather than writing academic essays with full footnotes. I haven't noticed you proving your points with statistics and footnotes either. Don't hold me to a higher standard than you hold yourself.

Also, you keep insisting that I have some secret leftist, socialist agenda behind things, and then when I said I didn't have anything much like that, you took that as a sign that I really did. What I mean is that I simply don't pay much attention to these silly labels of socialist, leftist, right-winger, etc. I don't think anyone or any path has a monopoly on truth or effectiveness, or on evil, so it's not enough to identify a statement as “socialist-sounding” to refute it. I really don't pay much attention to whether an idea has social or capitalist associations, any more than I do to whether it is “Christian” or “Jewish”. You seem to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out what I am, rather than what I am saying, and you seem to impute to me things I never said or thought, simply because you think that's what people “like me” say and think. This makes for futile conversation. When I sometimes get frustrated and call you a moron it's not because I think you aren't smart, it's because you are employing your smarts in the service of pointless attempts to identify and label my ideas, rather than actually engaging them. In fact, you play the cowards game of looking for my weakest points, and trying to attack those, rather than playing the serious debater's game of trying to take my strongest points head on, knowing that's how one produces the best dialog. I'm not sure what you really want here, to learn by coming against someone who sees the world differently than you, or to simply affirm your own preconceptions.

Can you really refute my general points about America? And I mean confining yourself to refuting what I actually said, rather than what you'd like to imagine I said?

Conrad,

You are a thoughtful guy. I came across this thread from instapundit today and thought I'd attack your strong points...

1) It is true that people with lots of education (advanced degrees) generally vote for Democrats. However, I don't think this has much to do with intelligence. Higher education in this country is dominated by lefties, and so the culture attracts liberals (and indoctrinates many of those who started with no opinion). After all, if you dreamed of holding a certain job (college professor) one day, and virtually all the people with that job were liberals, don't you think you'd be more inclined to consider yourself a liberal? In the same way, the vast majority of Hollywood celebrities are Democrats/liberals. But I don't think anyone would argue that actors are more intelligent than average; they simply joined the industry and became exposed to the liberal point of view consistently enough to adopt it. This leaves open the question of how higher education (and Hollywood) got their liberal beliefs in the first place; perhaps that comes from a reaction to McCarthyism, I don't know.

2) You talk about the relative lack of mobility in American society, in that wealthy parents tend to have wealthy children. I think you are right about that particular detail, but you (and your critics) are missing the point. Rich people are always going to be able to take care of their families; there is nothing surprising or insidious about that. If I become rich, I'd like to be able to give my kids all kinds of opportunities that I didn't have. The real question is, can middle class or even poor kids become rich one day? On that score, I think that America does quite well for its middle class but not so well for its urban poor. And for the poorest, the main obstacle (at least since the 1960s) seems to cultural rather than any sort of institutionalized hostility; so it is tough to fault, say, George Bush's tax cuts for this situation.

3) You note that 41% of Americans claim to be in the top 1% or on the way there, which suggests to you that a large portion of the American public is delusional. I have an alternate explanation. This 41% represents people who have a much better life than they thought possible, or who are living so comfortably that they consider themselves to be among the elite. For instance, a high school graduate with his own plumbing business making $80,000/year in Arkansas is nowhere near the top 1%, but he might answer the question that way (especially if his parents made minimum wage). He has more money than he ever dreamed of. I think it is a sign of the strength of our system, not its weakness, that so many consider themselves among the top.

SD,

Thanks for the strong points.

1) I think it's generally true that academia tends towards the left. But the survey was not about academia, but simply about people who have advanced degrees, which includes everyone from doctors and lawyers to scientists, MBAs, businessmen, professionals of all kinds, economists, people working in finance, etc. A very small number of people with degrees beyond the basic BA or BS actually work in academia. Those who don't work in academia are, generally speaking, well-to-do professionals who one would think would tend to vote republican, not democratic. So it's not a group that has some inherent bias towards the left. I think academia, as with acting, has a leftist bias because these are people who have entered professions which have a very low chance of making much money. People tend to go into these professions sacrificing the sureness of financial rewards for the sake of doing something they love, which is a rather romantic choice, hence they tend towards liberalism, which has a romantic and self-sacrificing view towards politics. Going into business, finance, the professional life altogether, tends to attract a more “conservative” crowd, naturally. Ever wonder why those who go into investment banking tend to be conservative Republicans? Probably not, it just seems obvious. I think the same thing occurs in Hollywood and academia. It's not overt discrimination that makes these places hotbeds of liberal politics, its just the kind of people who would choose to go into such fields would also tend towards liberal politics naturally, just as investment banking favors conservatives. At leas that's my theory.

As for intelligence, yes, I think people with advanced degrees do tend, statistically, to be smarter than those without such degrees. It's not a hard and fast rule, just a fair generalization, because advanced degrees require smarts to complete. That's not to say that academics are smarter than other people with advanced degrees. It may even be the opposite. Maybe the really smart people with advanced degrees go out and do shit with them, make money, etc., rather than just sit around and teach (although I might exclude research scientists in academia from that). Acting, however, does not require much intelligence, and even seems to be inversely proportional to intelligence, so I don't think you'd expect to see much of a correlation there, and there's certainly little evidence for any.

2) I think it's certainly true that poor or middle-class kids CAN become rich, but we exaggerate how frequently that happens because Americans have this old “American Dream” that insists anyone can be President, anyone can get rich, if they just try hard enough. It simply doesn't happen as often as we might wish or think. I don't have the references available, but I've read that in studies of the major industrialized nations, the US is actually near the bottom in actual class mobility. As you say, the reasons for that have a lot to do with cultural factors. I agree that its not institutionalized hostility, or social snobbery, but it does have a lot to do with how much opportunity people are really given to advance and succeed. I don't blame Bush's tax cuts for this situation, but I don't think they help either.

3) I think that's a great point about people thinking of themselves as doing well, so they imagine they are in the upper 1%. The problem with this in the 2000 election is that they also thought that meant Bush's tax cuts for the upper 1% were for them, which simply wasn't so. This is definitely the downside to optimism and high self-esteem, if that's what it is. So yes, it may be a sign of the strength of the system, or the success of advertising and television, which depicts almost everyone as being well off and good-looking. But I think one should take such self-estimations the same way one accepts people saying that their wives a beautiful and their children geniuses. Who actually thinks of themselves as average? Very few people, even though half of us are just that, or below average. This is just human nature, and I'm not trying to condemn it, but it certainly leaves voters vulnerable to manipulation and suffering from cognitive dissonance in their political beliefs. And I guess that's what I'm really pointing at, the cognitive dissonance in these hard-core right wing views I'm encountering here. Not that leftists don't also suffer from cognitive dissonance themselves, but since I consider myself neither a leftist nor a rightist, nor even a centrist, I don't identify with their problems either.

Some very cogent points, Conrad and SD. Great to see the argument is back on a straightforward path. However, now that it’s running so smoothly, I’d like to throw in a monkey wrench: namely, a couple questions which have remained unsaid, but which are at the crux of the argument.

1.) How do we measure intelligence? SAT scores? GPA? Amount of education? What about a poverty-stricken kid who could have invented time travel if he had only had the opportunity to go to college, but maybe his parents wouldn’t allow him to go b/c he had to help with the family business? The fact is that we don’t know the answers to these questions.
Good Lt said, “Fortunately for many people in this country, college education and the mythical benefits that are supposed to flow to graduates “just because they went to college” are not even required for success in this country. Merit can be measured in other ways.” I admit that I’m not sure what these mysterious “other ways” are; perhaps he can enlighten us later. He may be referring to economic success, or other testing measurements.
My point is the only ways we have to measure intelligence are numerical and not necessarily accurate or adequately indicative of intelligence. In my opinion, intelligence involves innovation and a capability to learn quickly – yet there are many people who have neither and are successful merely because they work very hard. Also, there are many people who are intelligent by this definition and do not succeed, perhaps due to lack of motivation, perhaps due to terrible luck.
Most people will admit that SAT scores don’t really say that much about a person. One can succeed with poor scores, or, alternately, not succeed with high scores (not that we can even define success, but for the purpose of argument, let’s say economic success).

The only statements we can make will be structured like so:
People who graduated in the top 10% of their high school class voted for ___.
People who have graduate degrees voted for __.
(and so on)

We can throw stats around all day, but I don’t think we’ll EVER be able to definitively make these statements:
More intelligent people voted for ___.
More successful people voted for ___.

Those adjectives – “successful” and “intelligent” –can’t be defined numerically, and by nature, stats are numerical. It’s a barrier.

2.) Who is smarter, Bush or Kerry? Does this matter?
If we continue to measure “intelligence” in the only ways that we have – GPA, SATs, etc. – then Bush and Kerry are practically equal. So, then what is the point of bandying the stats about? People with more money voted for Bush, people with more education voted for Kerry … but, maddeningly, Bush and Kerry themselves are equal in intelligence.
They may be unequal in other areas of leadership, though we would have still more trouble pinning down what these areas are. Personal attributes, qualities, or talents – whatever you want to call them – are hard to measure, nigh impossible. I’ve heard people argue for hours that GPA and SAT scores, even economic success, mean nothing and don’t indicate how much a person is “worth” as an emotional being, etc. The fact remains that these measurements are the only indicators we have.
My point is that we can’t use these stats to jump to any conclusions – at least not any which will satisfy us. Ultimately, Bush and Kerry have different talents. The trends are interesting, but I don’t think people voted because they were educated or rich. They voted based on how they felt. You can find trends, of course, and these may be related to influences/upbringing (due to being educated or rich) … but ultimately, the stats can’t reveal to us why people voted the way they did.
That’s probably what makes this argument so fun – it doesn’t really have a right answer, merely several differing perspectives/opinions on interpretation of the stats.

MYTH: “You’re parents status is the single best indicator of your future success”

The single greatest indicator is what country you live in. The more capitalist (i.e. free) your country, the more likely you are earn over a given income.

I suppose you could say that this is evidence in favor of the myth, not against it since children usually live in the same country as their parents. But this actually shows the second flaw in the myth. It rolls up MANY success indicators into one: your parents.

IQ is an indicator of success, it’s also genetic. So are physical traits. Your neighborhood, religion and culture are all ‘determined’ by your parents.

So another way to phrase “Your parents’ status is the best indicator of your future success” would be “Who you are is the best indicator of your future success”.

I agree, but this isn’t informative to political debate. Unless you want to debate whether everyone should be financially exactly the same; but I think that debate was decided when the USSR collapsed.

regards,
usnjay

Maddy,

Measuring intelligence is always going to be debatable. The best way to define intelligence, I believe, is to measure how closely someone agrees with me on all issues. :-)) Point is, even intelligence can be made a partisan issue. In this thread about the 2004 election and whether the “more intelligent” voters went for Bush or Kerry, I only referred to educational level because it was the best data category available to refer, indirectly, to intelligence. It probably would be better to measure IQ, or some more objective measure, but when dealing with simple demographics that isn't possible. There are statistical methods for trying to isolate particular qualities, such as intelligence, from raw data, but they aren't exacting. I'm not sure what anyone is trying to prove by this exercise, either. GK's purpose seemed to be to prove that wealthy people are more intelligent, and since wealthy people voted for Bush, the more intelligent people voted for Bush. I said the available data suggest an opposite trend in favor of Kerry, and no one has actually directly challenged that, so I think it stands uncontested. But I'd also say that it doesn't really prove anything other than a minor trend. Highly educated people still only get one vote in this country, so their voices don't matter more on election day than uneducated people. Same with low-IQ vs high IQ. Trying to claim the “elite” vote, whether it be for wealth or intelligence, isn't a winning strategy for either side.

Except, of course, to the degree that candidates pander to people's pretensions about themselves. I think one can say that Kerry did, indeed, pander to the more intelligent voters, what with his fancy French connections, “intellectual” manner, and reliance on facts. Bush pandered to the less intelligent voter, using his “Texas” connections, his exaggerated southern drawl (which noticeably lessens when he talks in private), his common, folksy manner, and his reliance on “gut” opinion rather than facts. Whether either of these characterizations is actually true of each candidate is another story, but it's certainly part of their marketing strategy. Bush also pandered to the wealthy voter, but even more so, he pandered to the desires of the common voter to be a wealthy voter some day. Kerry didn't have a strategy for pandering to voters who hoped to become intellectuals some day. And that's the problem with the “more intelligent” voter strategy. A lot of people in this country think they can become richer some day, but very few think they can become more intelligent. The problem is, to become rich these days, unless one has the good fortune of being born that way, one has to become more intelligent first, meaning, better educated, more able to discern bullshit, able to do more highly skilled and valued work, able to find and exploit opportunity, etc. But people tend to think in terms of modern advertising these days. They think they become rich by associating with richness. So they vote for the candidate that seems to represent wealth for the common man. So Bush's strategy of exuding common social qualities while not only being rich but advocating policies to benefit the rich, was a winning combination. People wanted to associate themselves with that, because they thought it would help them be rich simpletons also. Kerry's strategy of trying to seem like a condescending blue-blood married to a rich wife who would help the poor and middle class lacked the necessary sex appeal one needs for successful advertising. Who wants that noblesse oblige attitude around them anymore?

Is Kerry more intelligent than Bush? Intellectually, I'd say yes, but not by any great margin, just a comfortable one. Politically, I'd say not necessarily. I don't think either one is an intellectual powerhouse. It's kind of shocking that both were C students at Harvard and Yale respectively. One thing that can be said – neither one would be accepted at either institution today, now that legacies are greatly reduced. They snuck in just before the whole legacy tradition was greatly diminished. Neither one was qualified to be President, in my view. We have had very few intellectually “qualified” candidates for President in the last century. I'd say, Teddy R, Hoover, FDR, Dewey, Ike, Kennedy, Nixon, Johnson, and Clinton were about it, and some of them even made bad Presidents. I may be missing someone. The problem with Bush, I'd say, is that the qualifications for President are very intellectually demanding these days, and he's just not up to the task. A man like Bush is at the mercy of his advisors. Reagan was too, the big difference is that Reagan's advisors were a much smarter group than Bush's, with a more defined political agenda. Bush is more concerned with personal loyalty than competence, and it shows. I'm not a great fan of either, but look if you compare their lineups like baseball teams, Reagan's wins hands down. Even so, things went sour because the man simply couldn't keep up with what those guys were doing, he just didn't have the brains or interest , especially as he aged. Who on earth would let a fool like Ollie North run one's central American policy and be a key player in all kinds of things. The guy couldn't even keep his bank accounts straight.

Anyway, I tend to vote for brains over politics, but not always. I voted for Reagan over Carter in 1980 even though Carter was clearly smarter. Reagan's politics were better. As I said before, I'd vote for Lawrence Summers in a heartbeat. I'm not impressed with the brains of Gore or Hillary, but thought John Edwards was pretty smart. On the other side, I think Guiliani is pretty smart, as is McCain. To me, the republicans tend to be disappointing, because guys like Guiliani and McCain haven't got much chance of winning the nomination, they're too smart to win over social conservatives, who tend to be a pretty dense lot but control the primary voting.

USNjay,

It's not a myth. If you examine all the indicators for financial success, the single best one, statistically, is the wealth/income of one's parents. You can argue of course that this is related to many other factors, in that wealthy parents tend also to be above average IQ, have other good qualities, etc. But if you examine each of those individual qualities statistically, none of them is as important as wealth/income. Yes, it's true that IQ is a factor for success, as is health, neighborhood, religion, culture, etc., but none is as significant as parental wealth. So it isn't the same as saying “your parents” are the biggest factor. Of all the factors your parents can be said to have, it's wealth that is most important for their children's financial success. If you want to think this is a myth, that's an example of the kind of “cognitive dissonance” one seems to find among conservatives these days, because they have been led to believe that individuals are responsible for their own success and can't process information to the contrary.

Nowhere have I suggested that we should equalize income. I'm not a socialist. I believe in free markets and free enterprise. I would suggest that we try to equalize opportunity, however. This is not just to be fair, it's to get the best people doing the most important jobs, not just the people who have the best connections.

Conrad:
My point was that it seems impossible to separate wealth from all the other parental factors, but it makes sense that wealthier parents would be the strongest indicator of the child's wealth. I'd have to see the analysis to definitely agree with you. Do you have a link to the studies?

Assuming the studies are good, conservatives should not deny that a child’s starting wealth is the largest factor to adult wealth, but we should also admit this is a good thing. Leaving your children a better life than you had is a great motivator for creating wealth.

I think where we (may) disagree is that this fact would justify any sort of taxation or government wealth-redistribution. That would be immoral (it would be theft) and destroy the motivation to create wealth. Leftists are primarily wrong on this issue simply because theft is unethical, even if you’re stealing from a rich person. They invented the term “social justice” to skirt this very problem: acts of ‘social justice’ are almost universally and obviously unjust.

Leftists also ignore the historical evidence that shows attempts to create a utopian ‘level playing field’ have always ended in misery and death.

I also not convinced that the fact wealth plays a large role in politics means we are not a meritocracy. It takes a HUGE amount of money to run for office, and few politicians bankroll themselves. Once you have enough wealth to be independent (not have to work a day job) you’re on equal footing with most other politicians. Incompetents who paid for their positions can buy ambassadorships to unimportant countries & other low-level positions, but not influential ones. The system can always be improved (perhaps no politician should be able to bankroll themselves), but I don’t know of any reason to say we’re not a meritocracy.

regards,
usnjay

USNjay,

I agree that while statistically you can treat wealth separately, in life you can't. The argument for the redistribution of wealth doesn't work not only because of the violence that brings into the system, but because it doesn't redistribute the other factors that were related to wealth. For example, the wealthy give their children far better educational opportunities, but if you simply increase educational spending, or give more money to schools in poorer districts, it doesn't really help that much. The single most important factor in educational success, again, isn't the quality of the school the kids goes to, but the quality of the parent's attitude and influence on educational matters – their own educational achievement, and the emphasis they place on education. Poor kids whose parents aren't themselves well-educated and who don't place much emphasis on education aren't going to produce well-educated kids, even if the kids go to good schools. This is a sad fact. Parental influence, or lack thereof, is generally the most important factor in success, which is why welfare programs that worked to break up families ended up doing more harm than good.

On the other hand, when you say that governments which have tried to create a level playing field have failed miserably, that's simply not true. I assume you are talking about the communist regimes. But European social-democratic societies like France, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, England, etc., while not creating a “utopian” level playing field, have certainly succeeded in creating a more level playing field than the US has, and have a higher level of class mobility – the ability of people to rise from a lower class to a higher one – than we have. This has come at some cost, of course, there are always trade-offs, and I don't see America choosing the European model any time soon, but it certainly can be done, if that is the intention.

I wouldn't say that we are NOT a meritocracy, but I wouldn't say that we ARE one either. We are somewhere in between. We are less meritocratic than some other countries, and more so than many others. We are definitely not the leader in meritocracy, however, even though most Americans will tend to say that we are. It's another of our national myths.

As for money in politics, I think it is corrupting, especially in regards to finding the most able candidates for office. At almost every level, I think highly qualified and intelligent people are put off by the sheer corruption of the political process in terms of personal integrity and what it takes to raise funds for office. As I said, there's no way Bush and Kerry were the two best candidate for President in the country. I'm sure there were at least 100,000 better people who we both would have been happier to see President. But these are the two who were able to line up the fundraising support through a lifetime of networking the scene. The money chooses the candidates these days, it's not the candidates who raise the money. How do you think Bush was chosen way ahead of the 2000 race to be the choice of all the Republican insiders for the nomination? It's not like he had ever exhibited any great brains or talent, he was just the right person for the money to line up behind. And line up it did. And Kerry, what exactly was his great qualification? I still can't think of any, aside from having all the right connections and being tall. Neither of them, based on merit alone, should have been in consideration for the nomination, much less the candidate.

The difference between us is that I don't see leftists as somehow uniquely the problem here, or to blame for irrational utopianism. Both sides try to sell people on utopian visions while rather cynically trying to grab for power any way they can. The right is equally guilty. Look at Tom Delay and the whole republican congress spending money like they were “liberal democrats”, and Dick Cheney announcing that “deficits don't matter”. Is there anyone who has done more damage to conservatism than this group of power-mad opportunists, led by Bush – or is he simply being led by the money guys who see their interests multiplied by robbing the treasury?

Conrad says that 'America is less meritocratic than some countries and more than others'.

Which country has MORE of a meritocracy than America? Note that he did not actually name any.

Conrad also contradicts himself throughout his verbose rants.

1) He says Bush's tax cut is bad because it skews the benefits to the rich, yet he says Clinton's tax cut was good, despite admiting that Clinton's was skewed even more to the rich.

2) He says Reagan was a lousy father who had no interest in raising his children properly. He also says Bush I did too much for his children, and that is what got Bush II into the Presidency. So both Reagan and Bush I are bad.

That is Conrad's logic. Everything that Republicans do is bad, and if Democrats do the same, it is good.

Conrad:
Europe is not a model for America. Judging by their economic performance Europe is not even a good model for Europe.

I’m aware of the study that said Europe had better class mobility than America, and it has been debunked. It never would have been published if it hadn’t been politically leftist, but the authors (wisely) decided to go straight to a sympathetic media. With a crumbling economy and soaring unemployment, the only social mobility in Europe is downward. I just returned from Europe, and it has become a continent of adults living in their parent’s houses b/c they can’t find jobs.

I can’t actually think of anyone I’d prefer as President in place of Bush. Primarily because state governors have the experience that makes them more qualified to apply for the job than anyone else. Though no Einstein he’s very intelligent, and has a degree in history and an MBA, much better qualifications for a President than a law degree.

Finally, the current administration has been very true to conservative principles by cutting taxes. Remember Bush does not have a large majority and is fighting an overwhelmingly hostile media (who single-handedly destroyed social security reform), so he did as good a job as can be expected. Conservatives & Libertarians need to realize the current Republican administration and Congress are fighting a close battle, and if we want them to do more we need to get them more votes.

regards,
usnjay

Toaster,

Do you think it helps to just make things up?

When did I say CLinton's tax cuts were skewed more to the rich than Bush I's?

When did I say that Bush I did too much for his children? I don't blame him for acting for his own family's best interests. It's just that his family's best interests don't coincide with the nation's.

And yes, Reagan was a fairly lousy father. Look it up. Perhaps Bush I should have been a worse father, for the country's sake, but I can't blame him for it.

I've also said that many things republicans have done are good, and many things Democrats have done are bad. But that doesn't fit your mindset, does it?

As for countries with more social mobility than the US, there's Germany, Sweden, Finland, and Norway for starters. If you want more info, for starters read this article from the Economist, not exactly a liberal magazine.

http://www.economist.com/world/na/displayStory.cfm?story_id=3518560

Conrad,

In your own posts, you admitted that Clinton's tax cuts were on capital gains, which are more skewed to the rich than income is. 90% of households don't even have significant capital gains.

Bush's tax cuts reduced all tax brackets, not just the top ones.

Plus, if you think Sweden and Germany have more meritocracy than the US, you are insane. Name ONE immigrant or non-white person who is in the upper echelon or government or business in Germany or Sweden.

In the US, there are MANY.

Your messages are so verbose, yet you say so little of value..

Toaster,

ONE of Clinton's tax cuts was for capital gains. He had earlier raised taxes on the uppper income brackets, and reduced taxes on middle and lower income people. His tax policies led to the huge budget surplus that allowed the winner of the 2000 election to make a larger promise of broader tax cuts. Bush's proposed tax cuts were weighted towards the rich, Gore's were weighted towards middle and low income taxes. Clinton wasn't running, and thus didn't have a tax proposal for rebating the giant surpluses he created. Bush's policies departed from Clinton's and destroyed the budget surplus, sadding us instead with the largest budget deficits in our nations history.

Immigration is a completely different issue than meritocracy and class mobility. Yes, Germany is more meritocratic than the US, and has greater class mobility than we do. It's not as good as us with immigration issues, however.

Conrad,

Clinton raised taxes in 1993, and that kept the economy slow for 2 more years.

In 1997, he did a good thing by CUTTING Capital Gains taxes, which are very skewed to the rich. What percentage of people do you think actually have a lot of capital gains? His tax cut was good precisely BECAUSE it was very skewed to the rich.

Bush cut all income tax brackets. Also good.

Clinton's was even more skewed to the rich than Bush's was (which is why it was good). You merely hate Bush without logical thought.

Again, you can't name ONE immigrant or person of color in Sweden or Germany who came to the country and rose to the top. Note how many immigrants from China, India, etc. want to come to the US, while none want to go to Germany. Yet, you insist that those countries have more class mobility. That is typical Euro-centric leftism, with zero basis in reality.

Germany has more DOWNWARD class mobility than most countries. Their unemployment rate is in double digits, and economic growth is near zero. Ha ha.

I'll also agree that colored people would never rise to the top (like Colin Powell or Condi Rice) in America if Democrats were in power. Thank god they are not, and colored people are given a chance to excel.

Conrad....so verbose yet so empty..

Clinton's tax increase in 1993 was weighted heavily towards the rich, not the poor, and it was necessary to help balance the budget and lay the groundwork for the huge economic gains of the 90's. He produced eight years of economic growth unprecedented in our history, but you won't give him credit for that, of course. Bush destroyed that legacy completely, reversing the budget surpluses Clinton produced into massive deficits.

The cap gains tax cut was a minor tax cut, justified by the increase in treasury revenues it would generate (and which it did generate).

Again, you seem not to understand that immigration and class mobility are two entirely different issues. Class mobility is the ability of Americans to rise from a lower class to a higher class, from generation to generation. Almost all immigrants rise to a higher class simply be coming to America, but that's class mobility within America itself. The point is that Americans do not as readily rise from one class to a higher one as Germans do. You are right that Germans are more racist than Americans (not hard to believe, remember Hitler?) and don't give as many opportunities to immigrants. But that is not a measure of class mobility within America itself. Germany hasn't had immigrants for very long at all anyway, whereas the US is a nation of immigrants. But let me also remind you that Colin Powell and Condaleeze Rice are not immigrants. Nor were any of their grandparents. They were the product of slavery, the legacy of which has taken us centuries to overcome, whereas Germany's immigrants have only been in their country for a generation or two. Not a comparable situation.

You don't like my verbosity, but you have no yet made a single valid point that I ca see, quite a remarkable record for so many posts. Do you enjoy being wrong about everything you say?

Wow. What a fine and strong debate.

It's like watching a tennis match- that veers into the Death Cage Match of Dueling Deconstructionists!!

Watch as the tropes of competing self-interest engage in Mutual Annihilation! An economic Ragnarok!

The current crop of Republicans hired conservative pundits to win the conservative vote- I agree that they are also steeped in Ivy League Keynesian economics. At least they're not Fabian purists- note the internal coup occuring in the Democrat party. DINOs not welcome.

Kudos, Conrad, for holding out against multiple contenders. I ended up cheering for both sides.

I did seem to see a touch of 'class struggle' in your debate, as I noted a bit of 'Republican sainthood' on the other side. Both presented great points- and criticism- that clarified the others' philosophies well. Thanks for providing a good foil to Republican rose-colored glasses- and being a good target! (I'm a libertarian Republican) Stability or equilibrium- order ('balance') or competing interests (market forces)?

Think this debate is, in the end, meaningless?

That's what folks said about the Enlightenment; about the six generations of moral debates that led to the end of legal slavery; of the 'Soviet triumph' and Stalin's puppet Mao; of suttee, child brides, wife beating, and heavy metal music.

I don't want increasing corruption to turn us to the new socialism of Mexico- (thanks Pancho Villa for chasing out Unocal and the middle class)- we're importing refugees from the Mexican national health service as welfare voters.

I don't want us to emulate Europe- whose corruption is bringing the Sharia EUSSR- two dying civilizations trying to seize new life and territory. Russia, a 70% abortion rate, it's perestroika deal with the communist parties of Euro states in 1985 (gives up Siberia/Khazakstan to China, gains an new soviet from the Atlantic to the Urals)- and Islam, the parasitic rape culture, who can only survive its overbreeding by slave tribute from captive colonies.

Mexico, Russia, and the Ummah are economic realities- i.e., resource wars.

Ignoring our own weaknesses- neo Marxism in university, or the growth of Incumbistan and the industry of government- leaves us weak, and it's a big world, full of desperate people, who are eyeing us hungrily...

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