Earning power by personality type


Are women just too smart to be computer scientists?

Utopia, you are standing in it!

Women started drifting away from computer science in the mid-1980s. The interpretation put forward by the professional grievance industry, that is, by National Public Radio in the USA is:

The share of women in computer science started falling at roughly the same moment when personal computers started showing up in U.S. homes in significant numbers.

These early personal computers weren’t much more than toys. You could play pong or simple shooting games, maybe do some word processing.

And these toys were marketed almost entirely to men and boys. This idea that computers are for boys became a narrative. It became the story we told ourselves about the computing revolution. It helped define who geeks were, and it created techie culture.

Source: NPR

Another interpretation is there are systematic differences between teenage boys and teenage girls in verbal and written skills. Young women moved away from enrolling in computer…

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“Coddling U vs. Strengthening U" by @JonHaidt

Psychopaths versus sociopaths: what is the difference? by Xanthe Mallett

Psychopath and sociopath are popular psychology terms to describe violent monsters born of our worst nightmares. Think Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs (1991), Norman Bates in Psycho (1960) and Annie Wilkes in Misery (1990). In making these characters famous, popular culture has also burned the words used to describe them into our collective consciousness.

Most of us, fortunately, will never meet a Hannibal Lecter, but psychopaths and sociopaths certainly do exist. And they hide among us. Sometimes as the most successful people in society because they’re often ruthless, callous and superficially charming, while having little or no regard for the feelings or needs of others.

These are known as “successful” psychopaths, as they have a tendency to perform premeditated crimes with calculated risk. Or they may manipulate someone else into breaking the law, while keeping themselves safely at a distance. They’re master manipulators of other peoples’ feelings, but are unable to experience emotions themselves.

Sound like someone you know? Well, heads up. You do know one; at least one. Prevalence rates come in somewhere between 0.2% and 3.3% of the population.

If you’re worried about yourself, you can take a quiz to find out, but before you click on that link let me save you some time: you’re not a psychopath or sociopath. If you were, you probably wouldn’t be interested in taking that personality test.

You just wouldn’t be that self-aware or concerned about your character flaws. That’s why both psychopathy and sociopathy are known as anti-social personality disorders, which are long-term mental health conditions.

Although most of us will never meet someone like Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs, we all know at least one sociopath. from shutterstock.com

What’s the difference?

Psychopaths and sociopaths share a number of characteristics, including a lack of remorse or empathy for others, a lack of guilt or ability to take responsibility for their actions, a disregard for laws or social conventions, and an inclination to violence. A core feature of both is a deceitful and manipulative nature. But how can we tell them apart?

Sociopaths are normally less emotionally stable and highly impulsive – their behaviour tends to be more erratic than psychopaths. When committing crimes – either violent or non-violent – sociopaths will act more on compulsion. And they will lack patience, giving in much more easily to impulsiveness and lacking detailed planning.

Psychopaths, on the other hand, will plan their crimes down to the smallest detail, taking calculated risks to avoid detection. The smart ones will leave few clues that may lead to being caught. Psychopaths don’t get carried away in the moment and make fewer mistakes as a result.

Both act on a continuum of behaviours, and many psychologists still debate whether the two should be differentiated at all. But for those who do differentiate between the two, one thing is largely agreed upon: psychiatrists use the term psychopathy to illustrate that the cause of the anti-social personality disorder is hereditary. Sociopathy describes behaviours that are the result of a brain injury, or abuse and/or neglect in childhood.

Psychopaths are born and sociopaths are made. In essence, their difference reflects the nature versus nurture debate.

There’s a particularly interesting link between serial killers and psychopaths or sociopaths – although, of course, not all psychopaths and sociopaths become serial killers. And not all serial killers are psychopaths or sociopaths.

Thomas Hemming murdered two people in 2014 just to know what it felt like to kill. Tracey Nearmy/AAP Image

But America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has noted certain traits shared between known serial killers and these anti-social personality disorders. These include predatory behaviour (for instance, Ivan Milat, who hunted and murdered his seven victims); sensation-seeking (think hedonistic killers who murder for excitement or arousal, such as 21-year-old Thomas Hemming who, in 2014, murdered two people just to know what it felt like to kill); lack of remorse; impulsivity; and the need for control or power over others (such as Dennis Rader, an American serial killer who murdered ten people between 1974 and 1991, and became known as the “BTK (bind, torture, kill) killer”).

A case study

The Sydney murder of Morgan Huxley by 22-year-old Jack Kelsall, who arguably shows all the hallmarks of a psychopath, highlights the differences between psychopaths and sociopaths.

In 2013, Kelsall followed Huxley home where he indecently assaulted the 31-year-old before stabbing him 28 times. Kelsall showed no remorse for his crime, which was extremely violent and pre-meditated.

There’s no doubt in my mind he’s psychopathic rather than sociopathic because although the murder was frenzied, Kelsall showed patience and planning. He had followed potential victims before and had shared fantasies he had about murdering a stranger with a knife with his psychiatrist a year before he killed Huxley, allegedly for “the thrill of it”.

Whatever Kelsall’s motive, regardless of whether his dysfunction was born or made, the case stands as an example of the worst possible outcome of an anti-social personality disorder: senseless violence perpetrated against a random victim for self-gratification. Throughout his trial and sentencing, Kelsall showed no sign of remorse, no guilt, and gave no apology.

A textbook psychopath, he would, I believe, have gone on to kill again. In my opinion – and that of the police who arrested him – Kelsall was a serial killer in the making.

In the end, does the distinction between a psychopath and sociopath matter? They can both be dangerous and even deadly, the worst wreaking havoc with people’s lives. Or they can spend their life among people who are none the wiser for it.

This article was originally published on The Conversation in July 2015. Read the original article. Republished under the a Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives licence.

Boys, girls and the video games they play

dodgy @OECD paper on inequality & growth doing the Twitter Left rounds again

Rick Noack did a great job in the Washington Post today to concisely summarise the hypothesis behind the OECD’s claim that inequality holds back growth. In the case of New Zealand 15 ½ percentage points of economic growth was lost due to rising equality since the late 1980s.

Source: How inequality made these Western countries poorer – The Washington Post.

According to the OECD, it is all about the ability to lower middle class and working class families to finance the human capital investments of their children. The OECD theory of inequality and lower growth is there is a financing constraint because of inequality that reduces economic growth because of less human capital accumulation by lower income families.

Source: How inequality made these Western countries poorer – The Washington Post.

In an age of interest-free student loans or cheap student loans everywhere for several decades now at least, the OECD is nonetheless hanging its head on the notion that not enough has been done to ensure there is enough graduates from the lower middle class and working class families making it to university. Taylor also has the same problem as me with the OECD’s human capital and inequality nexus:

There are a few common patterns in economic growth. All high-income countries have near-universal K-12 public education to build up human capital, along with encouragement of higher education. All high-income countries have economies where most jobs are interrelated with private and public capital investment, thus leading to higher productivity and wages. All high-income economies are relatively open to foreign trade.

In addition, high-growth economies are societies that are willing to allow and even encourage a reasonable amount of disruption to existing patterns of jobs, consumption, and ownership. After all, economic growth means change.

One of the findings of the Coleman report in the 1960s, which is been pretty much backed up since then such as by top labour economists such as James Heckman, is family background is the key to skills development in children, not the quality of their schools or their access to finance for higher education.

Schools work with what families present to them in terms of innate ability, and personality traits such as to pay attention and work. There is not much difference between an average bad public school and an average good public school when it comes to getting on in life. Going to really bad public school is different from just going to an average bad public school in terms of the chaos imposes on a child’s education and upbringing. What matters is the home environment rather than the ability to access good schools and families of ordinary means to finance higher education for their teenagers.

Most of the skill gaps that are present at the age of 18 – skill gaps which substantially explain gaps in adult earnings and employment in all groups – are also present at the age of five (Cunha and Heckman 2007). There is much evidence to show that disadvantaged children have lower levels of soft skills (non-cognitive skills): motivation, persistence, self-discipline, the ability to work with others, the ability to defer gratification and plan ahead, etc. (Heckman 2008). Most of the skills that are acquired at school build on these soft skills that are moulded and reinforced within the family.

In 2002, with Pedro Carneiro, James Heckman showed that lack of access to credit is not a major constraint on the ability of young Americans to attend college. Short-term factors such as the ability to borrow to fund higher education has been found to be seriously wanting as an explanation for who and who does not go on to higher education.

Only a small percentage of young people are in any way constrained from going on to higher education because of the lack of money. This is not surprising in any society with student loans freely available at low or zero rates without any need to post collateral. Heavily subsidised tuition fees and cheap student loans have been around for several generations.

Source: James Heckman.

The biggest problem with the OECD hypothesis linking a lack of skill development within lower income and working class families is it is such an easy problem to solve for the ambitious politician of either the left or the right by throwing money at the problem. Schooling until the age of 16 has been free for a century and universities have been virtually free for at least two generations. Lack of access to a good education does not cut it as the explanation for large disparities in growth rates.

The OECD and more recently the IMF have placed a lot of weight in access to human capital as a driver of inequality because human capital accumulation is hypothesised to be a major driver of economic growth.

The evidence that human capital is a key contributor to higher economic growth is weakening rather than strengthening. If human capital accumulation is not a major driver of productivity growth and productivity disparities, the inequality and growth hypothesis of the OECD and the IMF based on access to finance for human capital accumulation does not get out of the gate. Moreover, as Aghion said:

Economists and others have proposed many channels through which education may affect growth–not merely the private returns to individuals’ greater human capital but also a variety of externalities.

For highly developed countries, the most frequently discussed externality is education investments’ fostering technological innovation, thereby making capital and labour more productive, generating income growth. Despite the enormous interest in the relationship between education and growth, the evidence is fragile at best.

The trend rate of productivity growth did not accelerate over the 20th century despite a massive rise in investments in human capital and R&D because of the rising cost of discovering and adapting new technological knowledge. The number of both R&D workers and highly educated workers increased many-fold over the 20th century in New Zealand and other OECD member countries including the global industrial leaders such as the USA, Japan and major EU member states.

Cross-country differences in total factor productivity are due to differences in the technologies that are actually used by a country and the degree in the efficiency with which these technologies are used. Differences in total factor productivity, rather than differences in the amount of human capital or physical capital per worker explain the majority of cross-country differences in per capita real incomes (Lucas 1990; Caselli 2005; Prescott 1998; Hall and Jones 1999; Jones and Romer 2010).

Differences in the skills of the individual worker or in the total stock of human capital of all workers in a country cannot explain  cross national differences in value added per worker at the industry level.

  • The USA competes with Japan for productivity leadership in many manufacturing industries.
  • The Japanese services sector productivity can be as little as a one-third of that of the USA.
  • Japanese labour productivity is almost twice Germany’s in producing automobiles and is better that Germany by a large margin for many other manufactured goods.
  • The USA is uniformly more productive in services sector labour productivity. For example, British, French and German telecom workers were 38 to 56 per cent as productive as their American counter-parts.

The USA, Japan, France, the UK and Germany all have relatively well-educated, experienced and tested labour forces. For example, the 1993 McKinsey’s study inquired into the education and skills levels of Japanese and German steel workers. Comparably skilled German steel workers were half as productive as their Japanese counterparts (Prescott and Parente 2000, 2005).

The ability to finance human capital accumulation and go to good schools is a weak theory of inequality. Human capital accumulation itself is a weak theory of growth unless linked to sophisticated theories of the institutions fostering innovation and technology absorption which it now is.

To be fair, I will not point out that this period of rising inequality since 1980s so damned by the OECD and the Twitter Left in the Washington Post today coincided with the return of real wages growth in New Zealand after 20 years of wage stagnation. That would be kicking the Twitter Left when they are down. I was a sneak in a graph instead.

Data source: New Zealand Council of Trade Unions.

I will leave it for your own imagination to think of what happened to female labour force participation, the gender wage gap and female participation in higher education since the late 1980s and the onset of this horrific inequality which was mainly for men.

The failure of the Twitter Left to undertake a gender analysis of any labour force or income statistic they use is a major analytical shortcoming. Hardly any labour force statistics make any sense unless broken down by male and female outcomes.

Warren Brookbanks’ lecture “Three strikes, five years on” in New Zealand

Warren Brookbanks’ inaugural Greg King Memorial lecture earlier in the week was on “Three strikes, five years on”. Brookbanks is a law lecturer at Auckland Law School who specialises in mental illness.

Blackstone’s ratio and three strikes

The essence of his position was the same as he had when the bill was before Parliament. His reservations were a law designed to give lengthy prison terms to the worst of the worst violent offenders would catch in the net some lower-level offenders.

Brookbanks’ objection is a variation of Blackstone’s ratio. Just as the legal system is premised on let 10 guilty go free rather than one innocent be convicted, to what extent does the criminal justice system weigh the risk of occasionally punishing an offender who is convicted of violent or sexual offences who is not one of the worst of the worst.

Brookebanks’ objections are the classic perfect justice as the enemy of adequate justice. It is doubtful that low-level offenders will be caught up in the three strikes regime simply because anyone who repeatedly commits a serious violent or sexual offence, an offence carrying a sentence of seven years or more, is the worst of the worst. They are repeat violent or sexual offenders designed to be caught by the legislation.

All of the 41 offences included in the three strikes legislation in New Zealand of violent or sexual offences carrying a maximum prison sentence of seven years or more. On the first strike you were warned of the consequences of further offending. On the second strike you receive the same sentence as usual but are not eligible for parole. On the third strike there is a mandatory maximum sentence for the offence concerned. There is also a mandatory life without parole sentence for murder if it is a second strike. Slightly over 90% of all first strike warnings are for assault, robbery or sexual offences.

Three strikes is about the incapacitation of repeat violent offenders

In the Q&A session after the lecture I put my principal objection to his lecture:

  • Brookebanks did not address the main rationale for three strikes legislation both abroad and in New Zealand;
  • The rationale for three strikes was not criminal deterrence, which was the exclusive focus of his lecture;
  • The rationale for three strikes both originally in California and elsewhere is incapacitation of serious violent offenders; and
  • If you lock up serious violent offenders you reduce the crime rate simply threw the fact that these serious violent offenders off the streets.

Obviously the Californian legislation got off to a false start when it threw away the key on pathetic men who stole pizzas and videotapes as their third strikes. That law was drafted through a citizen initiated referenda rather than the more circumspect process of the state legislature. But there is a lesson there. If parliaments do not act on violent crime, the people will vote in people who are less temperate.

The primary purpose of three strikes legislation and other repeat offender legislation is the incapacitation of repeat serious offenders as Justice Rehnquist explained long ago:

The purpose of a recidivist statute such as that involved here is not to simplify the task of prosecutors, judges, or juries. Its primary goals are to deter repeat offenders and, at some point in the life of one who repeatedly commits criminal offenses serious enough to be punished as felonies, to segregate that person from the rest of society for an extended period of time.

This segregation and its duration are based not merely on that person’s most recent offense but also on the propensities he has demonstrated over a period of time during which he has been convicted of and sentenced for other crimes…. Like the line dividing felony theft from petty larceny, the point at which a recidivist will be deemed to have demonstrated the necessary propensities and the amount of time that the recidivist will be isolated from society are matters largely within the discretion of the punishing jurisdiction.

The purpose of repeat offender laws is to put behind bars people have shown a propensity to commit violent serious crimes frequently. By putting them behind bars for a long time, there are fewer crimes by the simple fact that those hardened violent criminals locked up on their third strike are not in the position to offend against the general public.

The rational for recidivist laws is different from say harsh laws against drug trafficking which is a more opportunistic, business motivated crime. If the current drug traffickers are put behind bars for an extended time, there is usually a good supply of other criminals willing to take their place because of the lucrative rewards.

In the case of serious violent offenders, their crimes of violence and depravity are something to do with personality traits that dispose them towards harming others because they like doing so. The hope behind three strikes laws is that these dangerous people are in limited supply because of the genetic and psychopathic origins of their offending.

There are not that many other petty criminals willing to step into their shoes to commit the same violent offences because these other petty criminals simply do not have the necessary traits in their personalities that dispose them toward such cruelty and abominations. There is not a good supply of petty criminals to take the place of intractable often psychopathic violent offenders covered by three strikes laws.

That was the fundamental flaw are the recent lecture by Brookebanks on the three strikes law in New Zealand. He did not address the incapacitation of criminal psychopaths of various ilks.

That said, it would be good if three strikes delivered on criminal deterrence because it is cheaper than incapacitation. Better that the hardened criminal be deterred in the first instance rather than a third strike be committed and he is locked away for a long time as a way of stopping further crimes. Deterrence is great, but I am happy to live with incapacitation as the main benefit of three strikes.

What is the evidence on three strikes?

There have been a range of studies of sentencing enhancements to see if they deliver on incapacitation and criminal deterrence. As Levitt explains:

Becker’s well-known economic model of crime is based on deterrence: potential criminals alter their behaviour in response to changing incentives.

Empirically, however, it is often difficult to distinguish between deterrence (which is a behavioural response) and incapacitation (in which reductions in crime are attributable solely to criminals being unable to commit crimes because they are locked up). Virtually all of the empirical work that purportedly supports the economic model of crime is equally consistent with incapacitation.

Levitt and Kessler exploited a unique feature of sentence enhancements to isolate deterrence. Proposition 8 in California selectively instituted sentence enhancements for some crimes. If deterrence works, the incidence of these crimes should drop straightaway. If it is only incapacitation that works, crime will not drop until after the base sentence expires and these would-be criminals are kept locked up for longer and therefore not able to commit crimes but for their sentence enhancement. They found an immediate, sharp decline in eligible crimes relative to those that are unaffected by the sentencing enhancement law in Proposition 8 suggesting the importance of deterrence.

There is good evidence to suggest that criminals do not enjoy the prison experience. Levitt investigated this through the impact on prison overcrowding litigation on criminal deterrence. These Civil Liberties union lawsuits reduced state prison populations, but they were otherwise unrelated to crime rates. One reason for this is the cases often take a decade or more to resolve.

In the three years after a final decision was handed down by the courts in those cases, prison populations fell by 14.3 percent compared to the population of the nation as a whole, whereas violent and property crime rates increased 10.2 percent and 5.5 percent respectively… A one-prisoner reduction is associated with an increase of fifteen Index I crimes per year.

Helland and Tabarrok looked at post-sentencing crimes of criminals who were convicted of a strikeable offense with those who were tried for a strikeable offense but convicted of a non-strikeable offense. They found that California’s three-strike legislation significantly reduces felony arrest rates among the class of criminals with two strikes by 17–20 percent. This is a clever strategy because it is based on the assumption that many of the criminals convicted of a non-strike offence but charged with a strikeable offence were not convicted because of a lack of good evidence of their guilt rather than sheer innocence. Helland and Tabarrok found that

California’s three-strike legislation significantly reduces felony arrest rates among the class of criminals with two strikes by 17–20 percent.

Brookbanks’ preferred a 2012 study that showed that three strikes had no impact on criminal offending in California:

Declining crime rates in California and nationwide reflect declines in alcohol consumption, not tough-on-crime policies such as three-strikes laws… Three-strikes has had nothing whatsoever to do with the drop in violent crime.

The paper makes a very definitive conclusion despite ignoring most of the economic literature up until 2012 bar Shepherd (2002). The paper also had a cartoon version of the economic model of crime as perfectly informed rational calculators instead of the proper one as explained by David Friedman.

The economic analysis of crime starts with one simple assumption: Criminals are rational. A mugger is a mugger for the same reason I am a professor-because that profession makes him better off, by his own standards, than any other alternative available to him. Here, as elsewhere in economics, the assumption of rationality does not imply that muggers (or economics professors) calculate the costs and benefits of available alternatives to seventeen decimal places-merely that they tend to choose the one that best achieves their objectives.

If muggers are rational, we do not have to make mugging impossible in order to prevent it, merely unprofitable. If the benefits of a profession decrease or its costs increase, fewer people will enter it-whether the profession is plumbing or burglary. If little old ladies start carrying pistols in their purses, so that one mugging in ten puts the mugger in the hospital or the morgue, the number of muggers will decrease drastically-not because they have all been shot but because most will have switched to safer ways of making a living. If mugging becomes sufficiently unprofitable, nobody will do it.

Criminals respond to incentives in the same way as the rest of us with the same degree of success. Everyone agrees with that as long as you put them on a turf where they have to show their true colours.

Do hardened lifers respond to incentives?

One of the arguments against life without parole put up by those who are soft on crime is criminals sentenced to life without parole will be difficult to manage in the prison system because they have no hope of release. That is unless they have the incentive in the form of a prospective release at some time in their life, they will misbehave. That precisely is the economic model of crime.  Crime is an occupational choice most attractive of those with fewer opportunities in legitimate occupations.

The role of empirical findings in criminal justice policy

The first article in my honours econometrics methodology course was the just published Edward Leamer’s Let’s Take The Con Out Of Econometrics. He used the death penalty debate to illustrate the fragile nature of empirical findings. Leamer showed that the death penalty could be shown to greatly reduce or greatly increase murder rates depending on how you did your econometric modelling and what prior beliefs you bought to the table. I remembered what Leamer said through my entire career.

The main task of econometrics is to measure proven relationships rather than to establish whether they exist at all as Bryan Caplan explains:

Being An Intelligent Consumer of Econometrics

  1. Economic Significance vs. Statistical Significance
    1. For most of the class, we’ve checked for statistical significance – i.e., whether the results were likely to occur purely by chance.
    2. But it is at least as important to know if the results are economically significant – i.e., are they big?
    3. If you have a lot of data, almost everything will be statistically significant, but still may not be economically significant.
    4. If you have little data, little will be statistically significant, but it may still be economically significant.
  2. Econometrics One Tool of Empirical Research
    1. Econometrics is only one tool of econometric research.
    2. More important: economic history. Econometrics may help you understand economic history better, but statistics are not a good substitute for knowing the historical facts.
    3. Knowing history helps you to distinguish correlation and causation.
  3. Data-Mining
    1. A lot of statistical work is produced by “data-miners” who torture the facts until they confess. So whenever you see statistical results, ask yourself:
    2. What data was used?
    3. Does the data actually capture what it is supposed to measure?
    4. How many alternate specifications were tried? Of these, how many were shown?
    5. Does the study confuse causation with correlation?
  4. Economic Theory and Econometrics
    1. Sometimes, you use econometrics to test economic theories.
    2. However, when an economic theory is fundamental, you can reverse this: use the theory to test whether the econometrics works well.
    3. Example: I am convinced by all of my personal experience and historical study that demand curves slope down. If a study claims that the minimum wage increases employment, it just makes me think that econometrics is unreliable. (How come no one checks to see if the demand for asparagus is negatively sloped?)
    4. While some will call this dogmatic, I don’t think that it is. Econometrics is itself a sort of theory that merits testing and must be double-checked against other sources of knowledge.

Do not just ride out on the latest empirical study which suits your prior beliefs. Say what those prior beliefs are and base them on well proven understandings of human behaviour. Incentives matter even to criminals.

Does addiction and mental illness dull responses to incentives

Brookbanks is correct that criminals have addictions and mental illness and this contributes to their offending. I found the chapter in Tullock and McKenzie’s book on token economies in mental hospitals to be most enlightening in regard to addictions and mental illness clouding judgement.

The tokens in a token economy were spending money at the hospital canteen and trips to town and other privileges. They were earned by keeping you and your area clean and helping out with chores at the mental asylum.

The first token economies were for chronic, treatment-resistant psychotic inpatients. In 1977, a major study, still considered a landmark, successfully showed the superiority of a token economy compared to the standard treatments of these type of psychotic inpatients.

Experiments which would now be unethical showed that the occupational choices and labour supply of certified lunatics responded to incentives in the normal, predictable way. For example, tokens were withdrawn for helping clean halls and common areas. The changes in occupational choice and reductions in labour supply was immediate and as predicted by standard economics.

Some patients would steal the tokens for other patients, so the tokens were individually marked. The thefts almost stopped. Crime must pay even for criminally insane inpatients. Kagel reported that:

The results have not varied with any identifiable trait or characteristic of the subjects of the token economy – age, IQ, educational level, length of hospitalization, or type of diagnosis.

Most people age out of addiction to drugs or to alcohol.  By age 35, half of patients with active alcoholism or addiction diagnoses during their teens and 20s no longer take drugs or drink:

The average cocaine addiction lasts four years, the average marijuana addiction lasts six years, and the average alcohol addiction is resolved within 15 years. Heroin addictions tend to last as long as alcoholism, but prescription opioid problems, on average, last five years. In these large samples, which are drawn from the general population, only a quarter of people who recover have ever sought assistance in doing so (including via 12-step programs). This actually makes addictions the psychiatric disorder with the highest odds of recovery.

Studies of demand elasticity normally find that consumption of hard drugs is quite sensitive to price. Addicts respond to incentives, in particular, to price rises by cutting back on their drug taking.

At the beginning of this century, the Dutch government controlled the opium market in the Dutch East Indies–nowadays Indonesia–for several decades. This state monopoly was called the opiumregie. Using information gathered during the opiumregie, this paper estimates price elasticities of opium consumption. It appears that short-term price elasticities of opium use are about -0.7. Long-term price elasticities are about -1.0.

Marc Wilson, David Seymour, MP and should students harden up

Professor Marc Wilson is most upset by David Seymour’s suggestion that students who are under stress should harden up. Seymour was misquoted, but that is not so important for the purpose of today. What Wilson said in a rambling op-ed more about his gripes at student loans than student mental health was:

So, if David Seymour did advise students and, by extension anyone, experiencing the burdens of stress-related mental health issues to “harden up”, I think that’s reprehensible. There might have been a time when university was all about carousing the week long at taxpayers’ expense, and cramming at the end of the year, but that time has long gone.

One of the purposes of undergraduate study is to work out if you have chosen the right vocation. In the very beginning of the first year of medicine, new students are confronted with blood and dead bodies and all sorts of things that are not for the squeamish.

Another thing that is not for any prospective medical student is an inability to cope with stress. Doctors have lives in their hands and have to manage that calmly. New police officers are in the same position. They have to cope with a lot of death and misery. They need to learn quickly whether they can even hope to do so.

Doctors must cope with tremendous stress and still succeed. My father was a doctor. He was a changed man when he retired such was the burden of stress lifted from his shoulders. My brother and sister-in-law are also doctors as is a nephew. My late sister was a nurse. I have a nephew who is a police constable.

Some years ago I saw a program about the sports preferences of doctors. Those doctors that like extreme sports happened to work in emergency departments of hospitals. Those doctors who were somewhat overweight and rather disinterested in sport especially dangerous sports ended up as paediatricians.

I always remember an old flat mate of mine in Canberra whose father was a surgeon. He had no illusions about what was required of surgeons. They had to have tremendous arrogance and someone else to tell them what to do. If you are going to open up someone with a knife you must have tremendous self-confidence and ability to cope with stress. It is helpful if you actually know what you are doing as well but the key thing is a steady hand and cool head.

Many professions are high stress occupations. Anyone choosing to enter a high stress profession must find out soon whether they can cope with the demands of other people’s lives in their hands.

You do students no favours by sheltering him from the fact that they have chosen a higher stress occupation. If a medical student cannot cope with exam stress, you do worry about their ability to cope with someone’s life in their hands. That will be every day when they do their residency in emergency departments in their first year after leaving university. Better find out quickly. New lawyers work long hours too.

In my first year at university, I used to look at the first year medical students and worry that my life will be in some of their hands should I show up at a Tasmanian emergency room in about six years or so.

Personality traits including conscientiousness and emotional stability have important influences on occupational choice:

High Openness is strongly over-represented in creative, theoretical fields such as writing, the arts, and pure science, and under-represented in practical, detail-oriented fields such as business, police work, and manual labour. (Myers and McCaulley 1985, pp.246-8).

High Extraversion is over-represented in people-oriented fields like sales and business, and under-represented in fields like accounting and library work. (Myers and McCaulley 1985, pp.244-6). High Agreeableness is over-represented in “caring” fields like teaching, nursing, religion, and counselling, and under-represented in pure science, engineering, and law. (Briggs Myers and McCaulley 1985, pp.248-50). Individuals studying or working in fields atypical for their personality are also markedly more likely to drop out or switch occupations. (Briggs Myers and Myers 1993)…

Neuroticism indexes the propensity to experience negative emotions like anxiety, anger, and depression. Persons low in Neuroticism rarely experience such feelings, while persons high in Neuroticism experience them frequently. Neuroticism is also associated with hard-to-control cravings for food, drugs, and other forms of consumption with immediate benefits but long-run costs. (Costa and Widiger 1994; Costa and McCrae 1992)

Much of my diabetes management is about quite frankly hardening up. Do not give in to the temptation of sweet things. Moderate your diet; get some more exercise. It is about acquiring skills and inner strength you previously did not have but for the diagnosis of diabetes. I lost 18 kg as a result.

Roland Fryer On Why Good Schools Matter @greencatherine @dbseymour @ThomasHaig @PPTAWeb

Roland Fryer believes “high-quality education is the new civil rights battleground”. He is an extraordinary man who was carrying a gun and selling drugs at 14 and an assistant professor of economics at Harvard at the age of 27. He is fearless as a researcher.

Source: Roland Fryer On Why Good Schools Matter – Forbes

James Heckman on improving schools @greencatherine @dbseymour @ThomasHaig @PPTAWeb

Source:  James J. Heckman The American Family in Black and White: A Post-Racial Strategy for Improving Skills to Promote Equality, 2011.

Source: Promoting Social Mobility | Boston Review

Robert Hare on treating psychopaths @EricCrampton @ATabarrok @ryanhmurphy

Source: Psychopaths: how can you spot one? – Telegraph

@TheGreenParty Open minded, a little unstable @NZGreens


The large differences in personality types between Green voters and Labour voters is one of the first explanations I have seen as to why someone joins and votes for one over the other given both are left-wing parties with fewer and fewer differences in policy.

Who becomes a social scientist?

Is there a gender gap in the Dunning-Kruger effect?

The workplace payoff of Myers Briggs personality types


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