Revealed Preferences

It was via Tim Worstall that I first learned of the concept of what economists call Revealed Preferences:

Revealed preference theory … is a method of analyzing choices made by individuals, mostly used for comparing the influence of policies on consumer behavior. These models assume that the preferences of consumers can be revealed by their purchasing habits.

Things get especially interesting when revealed consumer behaviour differs from what they have previously said.  In other words, don’t listen to what people say but instead watch what they actually do.  It is fun to spot such examples in the wild, as Adam has done over at Pushing Rubber Downhill:

It turns out, shock horror, that while people might be very outwardly positive and vocal about bringing those “poor refugees” to Australia, when it comes to sending their own kids to school with them it seems that they’re not quite as keen.

The local council, City of Yarra, says the district has been a proud “Refugee Welcome Zone since 2002”. Yet in Fitzroy, Carlton and surrounding suburbs, progressive, middle-class families have been accused of shunning public schools with high refugee populations.

“They are fleeing!” African community leader and former refugee Abeselom Nega says of white, inner-city families who apparently are rejecting diverse schools. This year, in a Melbourne newspaper, Nega accused families who avoided inner-Melbourne schools with large African-­Australian student cohorts of ­racism.

The yawning chasm that stands between middle-class virtue signalling and how they actually behave makes the Grand Canyon look like a drainage ditch.



One of Tim Worstall’s regular commenters “MyBurningEars” recently had this to say on the subject of hypocrisy:

I reckon hypocrisy is overrated as a modern “sin” – people of all stripes seem to round on hypocrites as if they’ve done something uniquely terrible

I agree with this.  I have long thought that adult life requires being hypocritical at times and if you’re a parent hypocrisy is a way of life.  I often tease my friends when they admonish their offspring for displaying characteristics that they themselves are practically defined by.  I have noticed that most mothers’ worst nightmare is having a daughter who is just like them.

Dads don’t have it any easier.  They are required to tell their sons and daughters not to drink, smoke, do drugs, or shag around – which they do with extreme sheepishness if I happen to be in the room and I knew them at university.  Being hypocritical in this manner doesn’t make them a bad parent – quite the opposite, in fact.

For my part, I often encourage people to do things which I myself don’t do and vice versa.  Some decisions and actions might make sense considering my own set of circumstances, but ought not to be done by others whose life may be different.  Drinking with Russians, for instance.

I suppose provided people engage in hypocrisy for practical reasons rather than for moral posturing or from a desire to simply tell other people what to do, then it’s okay.  For me, there are far worse sins that hypocrisy.  Confusing it with inconsistency is one of them.


Praising Pinochet

Following the death of the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, many people have looked at how various world leaders and media outlets reported this event and contrasted it with how they reacted to the death of former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet in 2006.

This article takes the New York Times to task over the matter:

The New York Times described Fidel Castro as a “fiery apostle of the revolution” and Cuba’s “maximum leader” in its Saturday obituary for the infamous and brutal dictator.

Here’s how The Times opened the article:

Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died on Friday. He was 90.

The Daily Caller’s Jaime Weinstein brought attention to how differently the news outlet opened its obituary for Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet in 2006:

Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, the brutal dictator who repressed and reshaped Chile for nearly two decades and became a notorious symbol of human rights abuse and corruption, died yesterday at the Military Hospital of Santiago. He was 91.

This is wholly unsurprising: large numbers of western academics, politicians, journalists and their fellow travellers have for decades excused or ignored everything from repressions to mass-murder provided the perpetrators were socialist and/or anti-American, and I believe the proper response is to call them out on it whenever it appears.  Highlighting how they treat Castro’s death in contrast to that of Pinochet is one way of doing this.  However, where I part company from some people is in praising Pinochet in any way.  The criticism of the NYT above ought to be that they are painting Castro in a positive light, not that they are too harsh on Pinochet.

I don’t believe for one minute that had Salvador Allende continued in power Chile would have become anything other than a run-of-the-mill socialist basket-case complete with customary repressions and murder, and nor do I subscribe to the myth that the CIA were involved in the coup that deposed him.  And if I’m honest, I don’t think Pinochet’s greatest crime was kicking out an elected President who was taking the country in the wrong direction: I don’t support military coups, but I’m not going to shed too many tears over that one.

What I object to is the police state, repressions, disappearances, and murders that followed.  I don’t care whether Pinochet “saved” Chile from communism and ran a half-decent economy (even assuming they are true): it is possible to do these things without torturing and raping students and chucking them out of aircraft over the ocean.  We get pissed off when people overlook Castro’s thuggery when praising Cuba’s literacy rate, we shouldn’t do the same thing for Pinochet.  Yes, I get the realpolitik of the Cold War and the importance of defeating Communism, but that was a long time ago and we don’t need to make excuses for the thugs who were on our side any longer.


Mirror Mirror

I can barely be bothered to read infantile posts that people who consider themselves adults have been posting on my Facebook feed for the past 24 hours, but I’ve seen enough to detect a common theme.

When you read the opinions of “liberals” as to what America has become following Trump’s election, one would be forgiven for thinking they are describing what America has become under Obama.

Take this, for example:

We’re angry because our candidate’s losing means this country will be less safe, less kind, and less available to a huge segment of its population, and that’s just the truth.

If a McCain supporter had said that in 2008 he would have been proven absolutely correct.

Those who have always felt vulnerable are now left more so. Those whose voices have been silenced will be further quieted. Those who always felt marginalized will be pushed further to the periphery. Those who feared they were seen as inferior now have confirmation in actual percentages.

Again, this is what Trump’s supporters must have felt in 2008 and 2012.

It’s about overt racism and hostility toward minorities.

Black lives matter?  Christian bakers?

It’s about religion being weaponized.

A weaponized religion.  Think about that for a second.

It’s about crassness and vulgarity and disregard for women.

Yes, Obama and Hillary supporters are unfailingly polite.  That’s why Twitter is such a pleasure to read.  And I wonder what Sarah Palin thinks about how they view women?

It’s about a barricaded, militarized, bully nation.

None of which could apply to Obama’s years in office, of course.  No, America has only become like this in the past 24 hours.

It’s about an unapologetic, open-faced ugliness.

That ship sailed a long time ago, I’m afraid.

And it is not only that these things have been ratified by our nation that grieve us; all this hatred, fear, racism, bigotry, and intolerance—it’s knowing that these things have been amen-ed by our neighbors, our families, our friends, those we work with and worship alongside.

Indeed.  This is precisely what prompted many reasonable people to vote for Trump, in a desperate attempt to turn the ship around before it’s too late.

We wake up today in a home we no longer recognize.  We are grieving the loss of a place we used to love but no longer do. This may be America today but it is not the America we believe in or recognize or want.

Was that taken from a Trump campaign speech?

This is not about a difference of political opinion, as that’s far too small to mourn over. It’s about a fundamental difference in how we view the worth of all people—not just those who look or talk or think or vote the way we do.

Liberals are saying they value those with different opinions?!  Seriously?

If only these people were capable of looking in the mirror they might begin to understand why they lost.  Instead we get this:

And this is why we grieve.

You may be at it a while.


Sympathy Level: Zero

I hope HSBC gets fined out of existence:

Britain’s biggest bank helped wealthy clients cheat the UK out of millions of pounds in tax, the BBC has learned.

Panorama has seen thousands of accounts from HSBC’s private bank in Switzerland leaked by a whistleblower in 2007.

They show bankers helped clients evade tax and offered deals to help tax dodgers stay ahead of the law.

HSBC admitted that some individuals took advantage of bank secrecy to hold undeclared accounts. But it said it has now “fundamentally changed”.

Not that I have anything against British citizens opening offshore bank accounts (I have two myself, as the article makes clear they are not illegal and there are genuine reasons for having one), nor do I think the whistleblower was performing any kind of public service (indeed, I think he should be filled in), and nor do I care for HMRC or anyone engaging in illegal tax evasion.

But what pisses me off beyond belief is the pompous, self-righteous posturing of British high street banks who make normal people jump through umpteen petty bureaucratic hoops at their own expense in order to carry out ordinary transactions or to open an account, all in the name of preventing money laundering or tax evasion.  Most of what they ask you to do (e.g. present a notarised copy of your passport) is at their own discretion, and not a legal requirement.  Yet this doesn’t stop some spotty twerp in a flammable suit pompously telling you “it’s the law” when you query whether it’s really necessary to take a day off work and visit a random solicitor just to submit a mortgage application form to a bank with whom you hold an account already.

However, if you’re some dodgy Nigerian with a suitcase full of cash, a Mexican drug cartel, or what is being called “a wealthy client” then it’s “step right this way, sir”.

Lock ’em up and throw away the key, bunch of fuckers.


Inconsistent hypocrisy

The charge of hypocrisy is one which is levelled at anyone and everyone by anyone and everyone these days, yet seemingly few of its users seem to know the meaning of the word.  One such example is Dr P.N. Kirstein in a letter to today’s Gulf News:

The George W. Bush administration should be condemned for its hypocrisy. The regime is demanding that Iran bury its nuclear ambitions but is silent on Israel’s nuclear weapons.


n. pl. hy·poc·ri·sies

1.  The practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; falseness.

2.  An act or instance of such falseness.

What Dr Kirstein means is that the George W. Bush administration should be condemned for inconsistency in this instance, not hypocrisy.  You’d have thought a doctor, not to mention the letters editor of a national newspaper (who entitled the letter “What a hypocrisy!”) would have known that, wouldn’t you?