Top posts/Meilleurs billets

As the number of posts on Nec Pluribus Impar is starting to grow, it makes it more difficult to find older posts, some of which I think are still worth reading. So I thought it would be a good idea to add a list of posts you may have missed if you only started reading the blog recently, but which I think are still worth reading because they don’t just react to the most recent news and make important points that you may find interesting, even if they were published a while ago. Of course, I will update it on a regular basis, so if you don’t read the blog regularly you may want to check this page every so often to make sure you didn’t miss anything.

  • In Slavery and capitalism, I criticize the “new history of capitalism”, which has tried to show that much of the wealth of the US was a product of slavery and that slavery was responsible for the industrial revolution. I do so by reviewing several recent papers written by economic historians who, unlike most historians, actually know some economics. They have shown that, despite a widespread belief to the contrary, slavery didn’t cause the industrial revolution and it’s not the case that much of the US wealth is ultimately a product of slavery. I may revise this post at some point, as I think it should describe in more details what the literature I review says and how they arrive at the conclusions I defend, but I don’t know when I will have time.
  • In Why election models did not predict Trump’s victory, I explain how one kind of election models work and why they did not predict Trump’s victory. The interest of this post goes beyond the recent presidential election in the US, since it can be used as a primer on polls and election models. I explain how they work and, in the process, correct various misconceptions about polls and what can be learned from them. For instance, I explain what a poll’s margin of error actually is, and explain why 99% of sentences about polls that contain the expression “margin of error” are false.
  • In On a fallacy that people often commit to accuse the police of racism, I debunk a very common fallacy that people frequently use to accuse the police of racism. It is often noted that, even though cops stop blacks significantly more often than whites, the rate at which those stops result in the discovery of a violation of the law is not higher for blacks than for whites. People usually conclude that, as a result, we can infer that black people are not more likely to violate the law than white people. I explain why you can’t actually make that inference and propose that ideological uniformity among social scientists is why people nevertheless make that inference. I also wrote a follow-up post in which I clarify some points.
  • In Discounting, cost-benefit analysis and climate change, I argue that, when you do a cost-benefit analysis to evaluate whether a policy that purport to mitigate the effects of climate change, not only is it not immoral to give more weight to the costs people alive today would have to bear if such policies were adopted, but it is immoral not to do so. The point I make in this post is very limited and does not really address the really controversial aspects of the debate about discounting, but I nevertheless think that it’s important, as many people who aren’t familiar with that debate make the mistake I criticize.
  • In Trump, Russia and the media – The hacking of the Democratic party and private cybersecurity companies (part 1)Trump, Russia and the media – The administration makes its case and it’s the red scare all over again (part 2)Trump, Russia and the media – The Buzzfeed dossier and the bankruptcy of journalism (part 3) and Trump, Russia and the media – The deep state against Trump and the threat on democracy (part 4), I review the evidence on the various allegations that have been made about the relationship between Trump and Russia, as well as the way in which the media has covered that issue. I conclude that, depending on the allegation, the evidence ranges from weak to completely preposterous. In the process, I document a shocking amount of bias and incompetence on the part of journalists, who clearly aren’t doing their job. The whole thing is more than 16,000 words long and contain 137 hyperlinks, which is why I made it a four-part series of posts. As far as I know, this is by far the most thorough discussion of the allegations that have been made about Trump and Russia out there, which I think is very important because this story is being used to prevent Trump from pursuing a détente with Russia. You may also want to check The Russia/Trump nonsense has reached peak insanity, More on the Trump/Russia witch hunt, On Trump’s collusion with Russia, if you add nothing to nothing, what you get is still nothing, Moving the goalposts on Trump’s collusion with Russia and A case study in propaganda about Trump’s imaginary collusion with Russia, which focus on later developments.
  • It’s a well-known fact that, compared to whites, blacks are significantly more likely to end up in prison. This disparity is usually blamed on bias in the criminal justice system. However, in On the racial disparity in incarceration rates and More on the racial disparity in incarceration rates, I argue that a back-of-the-envelope calculation and a look at the literature on bias in the criminal justice system is sufficient to undermine this explanation. It shows that, whatever effect bias in the criminal justice system may have on the racial disparity in rates of incarceration, it’s dwarfed by the fact that blacks are more likely than whites to engage in criminal behavior. I argue that liberals should focus on the socio-economic factors that explain this fact, while conservatives should not conclude that injustice has nothing to do with this state of affairs.
  • The underrepresentation of women in philosophy is a well-known fact, which a lot of people worry about, in part because they think it results from bias in the profession. I argue in Why are women underrepresented in philosophy and should we care? that, despite what I call the “official narrative”, there is scant evidence that women face pervasive discrimination in philosophy. I defend the view that, if women are underrepresented in philosophy, it’s primarily because, for whatever reason, they are less interested in philosophy than men. I show that by using data from The Freshman Survey, which asks hundreds of thousands of incoming college students every year what they intend to study. I also use the data from that survey to perform a regression analysis which shows that, not just in the case of philosophy but across the board, the proportion of women among incoming college students who declare their intention to major in a field predicts almost perfectly the proportion of women among the recipients of a PhD in that field 10 years later. I argue that, although women are underrepresented in philosophy, we don’t have any more reason to care about it than we have a reason to care about the overrepresentation of women in psychology.
  • In On the chemical attack in Syria (part 1)More on the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun (part 2) and Beware of propaganda about Syria (part 3), I carefully review the evidence about what happened in Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April 2017, as well as in other incidents where it was alleged that chemical weapons where used. I conclude that, despite what the media and Western governments claim, we are not in a position to know exactly what happened and whether the regime used sarin. I discuss a lot of facts that have not received a lot of attention in the media, yet directly bear on what happened in Khan Sheikhoun and in other places before that. Once again, I document a shocking amount of bias and incompetence on the part of journalists, who frequently contradict their own reporting on Syria. The posts are also a good way to learn more about the civil war in Syria, which is treated in a shameful way in the media. The whole thing is approximately 18,000 words long and contains more than 130 hyperlinks. I use almost exclusively mainstream sources and give at least one source for every single factual claim I make.
  • In A politically incorrect guide to affirmative action, I use a simple model to explain how large disparities can result from differences in abilities and/or preferences between groups even in the absence of discrimination and 2) what effects giving preferential treatment to the members of underrepresented groups can have when such differences exist or even when they don’t. I also show that, because of measurement error, it can be rational to discriminate against individuals on the basis of group membership even when you have a lot of information specifically about them. This contradicts a claim that people often make, according to which it’s irrational to take into account group differences when dealing with individuals, as long as you have specific information about them. I point out that, in contexts that are not contaminated by politics, people readily accept that group differences are relevant even to judging individuals. However, I conclude by insisting that nothing obviously follows from this about what one should do, since this depends not just on the mathematical issues I discuss in this post, but also on complicated empirical and philosophical questions.
  • In No, it’s not dangerous to be a black man in America, so let’s stop pretending otherwise, I show that an unarmed black man is more likely to be struck by lightning than to be killed by the police. Thus, despite how popular it has become among the sophisticates, talk of the epidemic of police shootings of unarmed black men is complete nonsense. Some people criticized that post by pointing out that it only looked at the most extreme form of police brutality, but left out less serious forms. According to them, although it’s overwhelmingly rare for a black man to be killed by the police, cops nevertheless routinely abuse black men. In The reality of police violence in the US, using data from the Police-Public Contact Survey, I show that even a non-lethal use of force by the police against black men is extremely rare. I argue that, given how rare these incidents actually are, the amount of attention they currently receive isn’t warranted and it would be more productive to focus on issues such as poverty, which negatively affect far more black men and people of every race and gender.
  • In The scourge of white supremacy does not even spare public services, I examine a recent study on anti-black discrimination by local government officials, which has been described in the New York Times and was often presented as showing that white supremacy is alive and well in the US. I argue that, despite what the authors claim, the design of their experiment does not allow us to conclude that the effect they found is taste-based anti-black discrimination. I also point out that, even if it were entirely the result of taste-based anti-black discrimination, the effect is quite small. Finally, I criticize the focus on race at the expense of socio-economic factors, which is currently popular on the left, but results in a narrative that lumps together middle-class/upper middle-class blacks (who benefit from large biases in their favor in a variety of settings) with lower-class blacks (who face small biases in their daily lives but more importantly are affected by issues such as housing segregation that have much larger negative effects on them).
  • In When you can’t win a debate, there is always smear, I criticize a recent article by Shikha Dalmi, in which she smears Robert Putnam for his research on the effects of diversity and restrictionists about immigration whom she depicts as white supremacists. I show that she distorts the intentions of Putnam and uses faulty causal inference to minimize the implications of his results. I argue that, even when what she says is true, it’s true in a way that does not help in any way the case she is trying to make. I also point out that her arguments in favor of lifting the restrictions to immigration are totally unconvincing and do not actually show anything. The goal of this post is neither to argue that Putnam is right nor to make the case in favor of restrictionism, but only to debunk Dalmia’s arguments and give a more accurate picture of Putnam’s research. I think her article is symptomatic of the way in which the debate about immigration is often conducted, for she smears her opponents and distorts what they say rather than debate them honestly.

Of course, there are many other posts on the blog which you may find interesting, but they are usually not as detailed and/or just react to the news so they are less likely to be of interest to you if you missed them, which is why I kept them off this page.

Le nombre d’articles sur Nec Pluribus Impar ne cesse de croître, ce qui peut rendre difficile de trouver les plus anciens, alors même que je pense que certains méritent toujours d’être lus. J’ai donc pensé que je devrais créer une liste d’articles  que vous pourriez avoir manqué si vous n’avez commencé à lire mon blog que récemment, mais qui sont néanmoins dignes d’intérêt car ils ne se contentent pas de réagir à l’actualité mais disent des choses important qui pourraient vous intéresser, même s’ils ont été publiés il y a un moment. Naturellement, je tiendrai à jour cette rubrique régulièrement, donc si vous ne passez sur le blog que de temps en temps, vous devriez consulter cette page pour vous assurer que vous n’avez rien manqué.

  • Dans Le mythe du péril fasciste ou comment faire voter les boeufs, je démonte le mythe selon lequel le Front National est un parti fasciste et j’explique comment il a été créé par les socialistes, afin de diviser la droite et permettre à Mitterrand d’obtenir un second mandat. Je cite notamment Lionel Jospin et Pierre Mauroy, qui l’ont admis ouvertement. J’explique que Chirac est tombé dans le piège que Mitterrand lui avait tendu et que les effets de cette erreur se font toujours sentir aujourd’hui. Je note également que les socialistes n’ont aucun problème à s’allier avec le Parti Communiste Français, alors même que beaucoup des accusations dont on accable le Front National, souvent à tort, s’appliquent bien davantage à celui-ci. Évidemment, ça ne veut pas dire que le Front National n’a rien à se reprocher  (je l’ai moi-même critiqué sur ce blog), mais qu’il devrait être critiqué pour ses véritables défauts et non pas en raison d’un fascisme imaginaire.
  • Dans Les principes sur lesquels reposent les sondages et pourquoi il est difficile de prédire le résultat d’une élection, j’explique de manière simple les principes qui sous-tendent les sondages, mais également les nombreuses sources d’incertitude qui rendent l’exercice compliqué. Si vous lisez ce billet, vous comprendrez comment marchent les sondages, mais aussi pourquoi il est souvent difficile de prédire le résultat d’une élection. J’explique également ce que sont vraiment les marges d’erreurs dont parlent les instituts de sondage. En effet, elles ne veulent pas du tout dire ce que la plupart des gens croient, ce qui conduit à de nombreux contresens. Ce billet ne requiert aucune connaissance préalable en statistique, mais essaie au contraire de fournir au lecteur non-spécialiste les clés pour comprendre la théorie derrière les sondages, sans toutefois entrer dans des détails techniques trop compliqués.

Bien sûr, il y a beaucoup d’autres billets sur le blog que vous pourriez trouver intéressants, mais ils sont rarement aussi fouillés que ceux qui sont dans cette liste. Par ailleurs, j’ai également publié beaucoup d’articles en anglais qui, pour ceux d’entre vous qui comprennent cette langue, sont également intéressants.