Wednesday, June 27, 2007

America the beautiful!

People, not government and definitely not socialists, helping people.
NEW YORK (AP) — Americans gave nearly $300 billion to charitable causes last year, setting a record and besting the 2005 total that had been boosted by a surge in aid to victims of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma and the Asian tsunami.

Donors contributed an estimated $295.02 billion in 2006, a 1% increase when adjusted for inflation, up from $283.05 billion in 2005. Excluding donations for disaster relief, the total rose 3.2%, inflation-adjusted, according to an annual report released Monday by the Giving USA Foundation at Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy.

Giving historically tracks the health of the overall economy, with the rise amounting to about one-third the rise in the stock market, according to Giving USA. Last year was right on target, with a 3.2% rise as stocks rose more than 10% on an inflation-adjusted basis.

"What people find especially interesting about this, and it's true year after year, that such a high percentage comes from individual donors," Giving USA Chairman Richard Jolly said.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Robert Putnam what are you afraid of?

Wouldn't it be ironic if the end game of multiculturalism, properly understood, creates more solipsism? Pushing for a more communitarian ethos actually creates a more atomized, alienated group of people. So says noted scholar Robert Putnam.
Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, is very nervous about releasing his new research, and understandably so. His five-year study shows that immigration and ethnic diversity have a devastating short- and medium-term influence on the social capital, fabric of associations, trust, and neighborliness that create and sustain communities. He fears that his work on the surprisingly negative effects of diversity will become part of the immigration debate, even though he finds that in the long run, people do forge new communities and new ties.

Putnam’s study reveals that immigration and diversity not only reduce social capital between ethnic groups, but also within the groups themselves. Trust, even for members of one’s own race, is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friendships fewer. The problem isn’t ethnic conflict or troubled racial relations, but withdrawal and isolation. Putnam writes: “In colloquial language, people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down’—that is, to pull in like a turtle.”

In the 41 sites Putnam studied in the U.S., he found that the more diverse the neighborhood, the less residents trust neighbors. This proved true in communities large and small, from big cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Boston to tiny Yakima, Washington, rural South Dakota, and the mountains of West Virginia. In diverse San Francisco and Los Angeles, about 30 percent of people say that they trust neighbors a lot. In ethnically homogeneous communities in the Dakotas, the figure is 70 percent to 80 percent.

Diversity does not produce “bad race relations,” Putnam says. Rather, people in diverse communities tend “to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television.” Putnam adds a crushing footnote: his findings “may underestimate the real effect of diversity on social withdrawal.”

Neither age nor disparities of wealth explain this result. “Americans raised in the 1970s,” he writes, “seem fully as unnerved by diversity as those raised in the 1920s.” And the “hunkering down” occurred no matter whether the communities were relatively egalitarian or showed great differences in personal income. Even when communities are equally poor or rich, equally safe or crime-ridden, diversity correlates with less trust of neighbors, lower confidence in local politicians and news media, less charitable giving and volunteering, fewer close friends, and less happiness.

Putnam has long been aware that his findings could have a big effect on the immigration debate. Last October, he told the Financial Times that “he had delayed publishing his research until he could develop proposals to compensate for the negative effects of diversity.” He said it “would have been irresponsible to publish without that,” a quote that should raise eyebrows. Academics aren’t supposed to withhold negative data until they can suggest antidotes to their findings.
Political correctness is calling the shots again. Why am I not surprised?

Monday, June 25, 2007

A funny way to make a point about methodolgical individualism

Nicolai Foss over at Organizations and Markets proves that you shouldn't mess with libertarians when they take on socialists at the root and branch.
Sophisticated attacks by methodological holists on methodological individualism often take the form of admitting that while, strictly speaking, only individuals act, individuals are so strongly influenced and constrained by institutions (in a broad sense) that we might as well disregard those individuals and instead reason directly from institutions to social outcomes. Individuals are effectively malleable by social forces. “There is no such thing as a human nature independent of culture,” Clifford Geertz famously argued, tying the holist argument to cultural relativism.
Read the whole item for a chuckle.

Meanwhile, read what O&M has to say about one of the most under-rated public intellectuals of our time, Douglass North.

Here's my review of North's Understanding the Process of Economic Change.

Currently listening to...

Ah yes, Tony Levin, one of my favorite bassists mellows out splendidly.

Here are a couple of reviews from Prog Archives.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Thought for the day

"Aristotle said that happiness is found in applying and developing your capabilities, in fulfilling your function. We should strive to create real value by using our capabilities and fulfilling our function," - Charles Koch, industrialist.