Posts Tagged ‘Tea Party’

Are Liberals Smarter Than Conservatives?

In 2010 Elections, Political Rhetoric, Tea Party, Uncategorized, Voter Intelligence on August 24, 2011 at 11:59 pm

It is taken as an item of faith in certain left-leaning circles that liberals are smarter than conservatives.  The most intelligent way to access the claim is to look at data.  What are the facts?

There are no IQ tests for voting.  Exit polls do ask voters about their educational attainment.  I take college degree as a proxy for ‘intelligent’ and use the two major parties as proxies for “liberal” and “conservative”.  

Exit poll data from 2010 US House races:

“What was the last grade of school you completed?

Answers for “College Degree”:
Voted For Democrat (D) 47%
Voted For Republican (R) 53%  [1]

This exit poll is consistent with other national elections: those with college degrees are a bit more likely to vote Republican.   One can argue, of course, there are some conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans, which would distort the data.

But, it happens the New York Times polled people who hold “more conservative views on a range of issues than Republicans generally. They are also more likely to describe themselves as ‘very conservative’.”  This polled group was Tea Party members.  “Tea Party supporters are wealthier and more well-educated than the general public”.  Of Tea Party members, 23% hold a college degree (vs. 15% of the general population) and 14% hold a post-graduate degree (vs. 10% of all survey respondents). [2]  

Does this prove conservatives are smarter than liberals?  Not necessarily.  We are using college degree as a proxy for intelligence and one can quibble about the correlation between intelligence and grades.  The exit polls do not ask for grades or areas of study which may have different academic admittance standards (e.g. engineering vs. education).  But the fact Tea Partiers were more likely to hold a graduate degree certainly argues for good grades and solid undergraduate pedigrees. 

Before conservatives turn the tables and declare “I am smarter than you” to liberals, I think there are a number of cautionary take-aways:

(1) There is a bell-shaped curve distribution of intelligence.  Most people (of all political views) are in the mid-ranges of the distribution.  Any particular liberal, conservative or moderate has a statistical probability of being near the middle of the pack.

(2) Generalized IQ is not the same as being well-informed about any particular issue.  An example would be Members of Congress talking about business and economics. [3]

(3) Being smart and well-informed still does not constitute being right.  Examples include 1920s and 1930s Western intellectuals who were smitten with the apparent ‘accomplishments’ of Soviet Communism and fascism in Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany.  They were dreadfully wrong.

(4) Being smart and well-informed is not the same thing as holding solid judgment.  Herbet Hoover and Jimmy Carter were among the brightest of Presidents, but made some very poor decisions.

(5) Intelligent and informed people can look at the same data and come to different conclusions.  Try getting Nobel Prize winning economists such as, say, Professors Joseph Stiglitz and Gary Becker to agree on economic policy.

(6) If you are smart but let it go to your head, it might become too easy to be lazy and jump to conclusions or read only periodicals that already support your worldview.  I believe truly brilliant people never tire of the pursuit of new knowledge.

(7) “Liberal” and “Conservative” are catch-all terms and people hold all manner of divergent views.  For example, libertarians may be said to be economically “conservative” and socially “liberal”. 

(8) It is rude and obnoxious to flaunt your IQ, whatever it is.  Surely, the golden rule applies!

The Thinker, Rodin.jpg


 [3] “The Employment Policies Institute (EPI) found that only 8.4 percent of lawmakers majored in economics or a related field, while just 13.7 percent studied topics related to business or accounting,” in

Pictures from Wikipedia commons.

Paul Krugman, Can You Spare the Chutzpah?

In American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (Stimulus), Federal Deficit, Government Spending, Obama Administration, Standard & Poor's USA Downgrade on August 8, 2011 at 9:42 pm

Paul Krugman today mocks Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the United States credit rating and accesses blame for the rating cut. [1]   Mr. Krugman says, “And please, let’s not have the usual declarations that both sides are at fault.  Our problems are almost entirely one-sided.” 

I held my breath a moment… wouldn’t this be the perfect place for Mr. Krugman to own up to his long advocacy of even larger deficit spending?  Alas, there’s no humility from Mr. Krugman, only chutzpah. [2]

Mr. Krugman predictably blames the “extremist right” and goes about making light of S&P.  Apparently it was the “extremist right” that demanded a trillion-dollar Stimulus program, Obama’s payroll tax cuts and the creation and continuous expansion of myriad other government spending programs the past 70 years?  Even the most cursory look at the history of the Public Debt shows neither party is blameless, but Mr. Krugman is too partisan.

Be that as it may, it is true S&P was too generous with ratings in the run-up to the financial crisis of 2008 and there is an argument S&P was late to drop the USA’s rating in 2011.  But Mr. Krugman shows chutzpah in making light of the rating drop to “AA-“.  I assume Mr. Krugman understands what rating systems are all about.  The top rating of “AAA” is intended for only the most pristine credits.  “AA+” is a good rating, just not as good as “AAA”.  The USA would have to drop another nine notches to “BB+” to be in speculative (so-called “junk”) territory.  The ratings scale works down to “C” and “D” (default).   Any honest person will admit the financial position of the United States has weakened and the country is not as creditworthy as it once was.  An “AA+” credit is still expected to repay the debt but is a bit riskier than an “AAA” credit.

Mr. Krugman is intelligent but occasionally careless.  Consider his statement: “It’s true that we’re building up debt, on which we’ll eventually have to pay interest.”  Eventually?  While rates are low today, we are paying plenty of interest.   US government interest expense was $414 billion in Fiscal 2010. [3]  Then again, this is the same Paul Krugman who also writes of “a trillion here or a trillion there” like a trillion is inconsequential.  In the rarefied spending air of a massive deficit advocate like Mr. Krugman, perhaps $414 billion is hardly anything at all.  After all, it rounds down to $0 Trillion.

Mr. Krugman said the 2009 Stimulus program was too small and he actually criticized the Obama Administration for its supposedly punctilious policies.  In his own words:

“The good news is that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a k a the Obama stimulus plan, is working just about the way textbook macroeconomics said it would …  The truth, which is that the stimulus was too little of a good thing.” [4]

“it was obvious from the beginning [Obama’s Stimulus] was too small.” [5]

“Those of us who say that the stimulus was too small are often accused of after-the-fact rationalization: you said this would work, but now that it hasn’t, you’re just saying it wasn’t big enough. The quick answer to that accusation is that people like me said that the stimulus was too small in advance” [6]

“myself included, actually argued that the plan was too small and too cautious …. for the inadequate size of the stimulus plan” [7]

“[the Obama Stimulus] wouldn’t have been enough to fill the looming hole in the U.S. economy” [8]

Mr. Krugman got less deficit “Stimulus” spending than he had demanded, meaning he favored even greater debts than we actually have now.  But he has the chutzpah to ignore his own culpability and instead blames the messenger (S&P) and then blames the downgrade on, of all people, the Tea Party Republicans!  This is the same Tea Party caucus who has held partial power in the US House for a mere seven months and actually advocates cutting the deficit more than either Democrats or traditional Republicans.  Such chutzpah, Mr. Krugman!



[2] For the benefit of those not familiar with chutzpah: “Chutzpah (pronounced /ˈhʊtspə/) is the quality of audacity, for good or for bad, but it is generally used negatively. The word derives from the Hebrew word ḥuṣpâ (חֻצְפָּה), meaning “insolence”, “audacity”, and “impertinence”







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