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. 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 and More on the Trump/Russia witch hunt, which focus on later developments, but are not as detailed.
- 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, but that conservatives should not conclude that injustice has nothing to do with this state of affairs.
- The underrepresentation of women in philosophy is a striking 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 and, on the contrary, there is a lot of evidence that they get some kind of preferential treatment. Perhaps more importantly, I argue that even if sexism really were pervasive in the field, it still wouldn’t explain why women are underrepresented in philosophy. That’s because what most people don’t realize is that a good explanation should not only explain why women are underrepresented in philosophy, but also why they are not in many other fields. I argue that, in view of these facts, the best explanation for the underrepresentation of women in philosophy is that, for whatever reason, they are less likely to be interested in philosophy than men. I show that, unlike the official narrative, not only does this hypothesis explain the data, but it’s independently supported by the evidence. I argue that, while there are often reasons to be concerned by the fact that women have different occupational preferences than men, this is probably not the case here. I conclude by arguing that, if philosophers really want to change the preferences of women toward philosophy, they probably can only do that by radically changing what counts as philosophy, which I think is not desirable. If they refuse to do that, the only way departments of philosophy could substantially increase the proportion of women in philosophy is by engaging in some kind of affirmative action, whose result would probably be the opposite of what they were trying to achieve.
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.