Call for papers – 2020 Politics of Fantasy/Sci-Fi Panel

When I attended my first political science conference in 2017 I was sad to realize that people didn’t cosplay. When I walked through APSA I saw no one dressed up as their favorite president or congressperson. Instead I saw an army of suits.

For context, I regularly attend anime and comic conventions where attendees dress up as their favorite characters. I’ve even attended a few political party conferences where activists dressed up as the candidates. I vividly recall seeing several Bernies back in the 2016 election cycle.

After speaking to others, it is clear that I am not the only one sad at the state of the discipline. I intend to do my part in fixing this by organizing a panel of the politics at fantasy and science fiction next year.

The goal is to get together a series of papers that use popular media to discuss political science. I myself plan to use Frank Herbert’s God Emperor of Dune to discuss the importance of exit in democratization. If you are interested in participating, please fill out the following form. The tentative plan is to have the panel at either WPSA or MPSA 2020.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfBgtjjGQ8OG9u980IP8zlhqu1gx7gJ4ah2cKTSm-TkiV1hTg/viewform?usp=send_form

Thank you anonymous reviewers

I recently had a paper rejected in Political Analysis. I fully expected a rejection given the journal’s high ranking and had submitted it for the sake of feedback. As I’m sure academic readers know, getting someone to read our papers can be hard. Unsurprisingly I got a rejection notice earlier today.

Surprisingly, all reviews were actually constructive feedback and, while critical, kind. To add strangeness to the whole ordeal, the process took less than a month from submission.

Since I have no way to contact the anonymous reviewers, I post my thanks here. Thank you anonymous reviewers. I wish reviewer #2, and here too I’m sure academics know the type I am referring to, should be more like you.

Where will NoL notewriters be in 2019?

With a new year comes two certainties: (1) reviewer #2 will continue to stop our articles from being published and (2) we have to attend academic conferences.

Which conferences will NoL notewriters attend this upcoming year? I plan to attend MPSA, WPSA and APSA.

Should you vote today? Only if you want to.

Today is election day in the United States and everywhere I turn I see “get out the vote” ads. Even on Facebook my feed is filled with people urging others to vote. I am fine with these nudges insofar that they are just that – nudges.

I am concerned when I see claims that voting is one’s duty. I am especially concerned when I see claims that, if you don’t vote, you are allowing the evil [socialists/white men/etc] to govern. These claims concern me because they respectively promote worship of the state and tribalism.

There is more to life than being a politico. If Americans at large sacrificed their other activities in order to become fully informed voter-activists, we would be a boring lot. If you enjoy politics, go vote, but you needn’t feel superior over someone who thinks their time would be better spent playing music or grabbing a beer with friends after work. Life is short and should be spent doing what one enjoys.

Likewise, it is perfectly okay to have an opinion on how government should be run. I, and I imagine most NoL readers, have strong policy preferences. It is however beyond arrogance to believe that an educated person can only believe X and only a mustached villain would believe Y. To be clear, I am not saying that truth is relative.

NIMBYist policies lead to housing shortages, that is a fact. I am in favor of revising zoning regulations and ending parking subsidies to mitigate the problem. I don’t think that the family that owns a detached unit in Santa Monica and opposes denser development is evil though. I understand their hesitance to see their neighborhood changed.

If you wish to vote today, please do so but please don’t act like a snob towards those who do not. Express your policy preferences, but leave your holier than thou attitude at home.

Tldr; play nice.

Is NoL discriminating against Trojan fans?

I should, as all good academics should, be writing. Instead I’m using my Saturday afternoon to settle an academic wager. Click here if you wish to help do so.

Image result for trojan usc beaten

For over a year now I’ve been obsessed with figuring out why studies find that non-whites are discriminated against in the labor market and in political representation. It isn’t that I don’t believe that elites indulge themselves in discrimination. I think that the marketplace places a cost to discrimination but that some people have a sufficiently high willingness to pay to discriminate.

What I have difficulty believing is that people decide to discriminate on something as mundane as responding to resumes. Imagine that you work for human resources in Notes On Liberty Inc. Your job is to screen resumes and, if someone meets the bare requirements they get considered for recruitment. Regardless of whether they are recruited to the company or not, you don’t actually have to interact with this individual. You work a 9-5 shift and are based remotely somewhere in westwood. Why should you care if NoL Inc hires someone you personally dislike (say a Trojan fan), if you never interact with them?

One possibility, related to existence value for those versed in the environmental econ literature, is that the very idea of a Trojan fan being employed causes you distress. It doesn’t matter that you never actually interact with them. This distress is high enough that you are willing to both actively reduce their likelihood of being employed by NoL Inc and to increase the likelihood that your boss will fire you for unethical behavior.

Another possibility is that you, the human resource manager, aren’t discriminating against Trojan fans at all. It is possible that the algorithm that receives resumes from Trojan fans, for some reason, flags them as spam and filters them away before any human being gets involved. Maybe the algorithm mis-interprets the USC Trojan logo as an actual Trojan virus. Likewise is that possible that ethnically non-white names (e.g. Jamal, Xochitl) are flagged by resume algorithms as likely spam due to their relative weirdness.

If you’re willing to help me test this possibility, please click here.

Animation Review #1: Burn the Witch

I am a big fan of animation, but I often have to ‘turn my brain off’ to enjoy a comic trying to make political commentary. With rare exceptions, like the Incredibles series, the industry has a strong statist bent. The industry is so statist that Superman: Red Son, a story line with the premise that Superman landed in the Soviet Union instead of the United States, ends with the message that communism would work if only it were a bit more democratic. Note that I say statist bent, as opposed to leftist bent. They are smaller in number, but there are several conservative comics (e.g. the Kingsman) that leave a statist aftertaste.

I can’t do much on the supply side of liberty-friendly comics, but I can at least highlight those comics that I think fellow libertarians might enjoy via blog posts.

First off is Burn the Witch, a new comic series published by Shonen Jump. I was pleasantly surprised when I read through Tite Kubo’s Burn the Witch. Tite Kubo is best known for authoring Bleach, a comic about Japanese school children fighting demons in fantasy Mexico.

Dragons.png

Burn the Witch is about Anglo-Japanese school children fighting demons in fantasy Britain. The twist? Unlike their counterparts in fantasy Mexico, the British demons (referred to as ‘Dragons’ in-series) aren’t killed outright. Instead they are raised for the resources they provide. Only ‘bad’ demons who are killing humans or otherwise causing destruction are killed. It is noteworthy that the protagonists refer to themselves as ‘conservationists’. They kill the occasional demon, providing the story with action scenes when doing so, but their primary purpose is to conserve them. In an off hand comment the protagonists note that their fantasy Mexican counterparts are barbaric and indiscriminately kill their demons.

Contrary to the protagonist’s comments, it isn’t that individual fantasy Mexicans are barbaric so much that fantasy Mexico doesn’t recognize property rights in demons. Since no one has a property right in demons, no one has an incentive to conserve, much less domesticate, them in fantasy Mexico. Fantasy Britain enjoys strong property rights and consequently has minimal problems associated with its demons. One of the protagonists is ethnically from fantasy Mexico, but seems to be thriving under fantasy Britain’s rules. The story’s lesson? Property rights matter.

Only one chapter of Burn the Witch has been published thus far, and it’s unclear if it’ll become a recurring series, but I like what I’ve seen so far.

Thoughts? Comments? As always, write in the comments below. If you’re a fan of animation and a fellow libertarian, consider joining the anime libertarian alliance facebook group.

Crediting Co-Authorship

“… Who worked with you”

“Didn’t you know? It was Tamwile Elar. He worked out the theory that made the device possible and I designed and build the actual instrument.”

“Does that mean he took the credit, Dr. Monay?”

“No, no. You mustn’t think that. Dr. Elar is not that kind of man. He gave me full credit for my share of the work. In fact, it was his idea to call the device by our names – both our names – but he couldn’t.”

“Why not?”

“Well, that’s Professor Seldon’s rule, you know. All devices and equations are to be given functional names and not personal ones – to avoid resentment.”

-Forward the Foundation, Isaac Asimov

Most of my research is co-authored. As I noted in my previous post, I strongly believe that science is a collaborative enterprise. I of course have a few solo authored working papers, mainly those that I hope to include in my dissertation, but for the most part my work is with others. A problem with this is deciding how to credit the paper. Who gets the prized first author spot? Is it the most senior member of the team? The person who came up with the initial idea? The former RA who got upgraded to co-author status to avoid having to pay them? All of these can be tricky and can lead to resentment among co-authors.

I’ve seen various alternative arrangements to try to side step the issue. There are those who list co-authors by alphabetical order or alternate first authorship (Landgrave & Christensen 2015, Christensen & Landgrave 2016, etc etc). A few, like my grand advisor, combine their names with frequent co-authors (e.g. McNollgast). As cool as Christgrave sounds, I think these alternatives ultimately fall short because they continue to personalize science. It’s not clear to me what the benefit of this is. Not only does this lead to resentment among co-authors but it, I think, slows down the revision process as people mis-interpret critic on a given idea as a personal attack.

It is entirely possible, for example, to dislike JM Keynes’ work but to be indifferent or even warm towards the man himself. Likewise, it is possible to praise someone’s work, but find them to be personally awful.

Would it not be better to refer to papers by institutions or ‘labs’? Coase’s theory of the firm would, for example, be referred to as LSE 1937, as opposed to Coase 1937.

Thoughts? Comments? As always, write in the comments section!

#microblogging

Should The Academic “We” Be Ditched?

“Only kings, presidents, editors, and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial ‘we’.” – Mark Twain

When writing academically I use the “we” pronoun. I do so for a variety of reasons, but I am starting to rethink this practice. This may seem like a silly topic, but a quick google shows that I’m not the only one who thinks about this: link 1, link 2.

My K-12 teachers, and even my undergraduate English professor, constantly told me that I was prone to writing in a stream of consciousness. My writing, they argued, contained too much of my personality. They pointed out my constant use of “I”s of example of this. I I was, in general, an awful English student. In 12+ years of schooling, I rarely used the five page paragraph structure that American school children are indoctrinated with. I first adopted the use of the academic “we” in an attempt to force myself to distinguish between personal forms of writing, such as when I write on blogs, where these eccentricities could be tolerated and technical writing.

While that was my initial motivation for using the “we”, I also found the pronoun a way to emphasize the collaborative nature of science. I have several single authored papers, but I would be lying if I said that any of them were developed in a vacuum divorced from other’s feedback. Getting feedback at a conference or brown bag workshop may not merit including someone as a co-author, but I feel it strange to use “I” academically in this context. For anyone who disagrees with me – I ask that you compare a paper before and after submitting it to the review process. One may hate reviewer #2 for insisting on using an obscure estimation technique, but it cannot be denied that they shaped the final version of the paper. Again, I’m not saying we should add reviewers as co-authors, but isn’t using ‘we’ a simple way of acknowledging their role in the scientific process?

I admit, I also enjoy using the academic “we” in part because of its regal connections. King Michelangelo has a nice ring to it, no?

There are downsides to the use of the academic “we”. On several occasions I’ve had to clarify that I was the sole author of a given paper. What do NOL readers think? Do you use the academic “we”?

#microblog

The TSA Wins

Since 2012 I have been a semi-frequent flyer making about five cross continental round trip flights a year, plus several shorter flights within the Pacific coast. Between now and then I would make it a point to ‘opt out’ of the standard TSA procedure and receive the pat down. I did it for a variety of reasons. For one, don’t like being exposed to radiation and don’t trust the government on the issue.

More than that though, I wanted to resist and encourage my fellow citizens to resist, however small, the security theater the government has us go through in exchange for our freedom to travel. I would not encourage people to resist the police or any armed agent of the state, but by opting out I was taking a stand against government and hoped others would join me.

In five plus years, no one did. The only people I ever had join me in the opt out process was ‘randomly selected’ individals, often Muslims or mis-identified Sikhs. I never saw someone else voluntarily opt out. In retrospect, I suspect noone else saw my actions as a form of protest.

When I took a flight earlier today I went through the standard procedure.* My will to resist, at least in this form, has gone away. In the coming year the TSA rules will become stricter as real ID is finally implemented. I like to think this will lead to popular opposition, but I wouldn’t wager on it. As a nation we’ve given up on asserting our freedom to travel with minimal intrusion.

When I arrived at my final destination I found the below containers blocking me from the entrance. To leave the airport I had to get checked one last time. They don’t seem to be scanners, but when you enter them you are held up for ten or so seconds before being let free. Are they just trying to see what we will put up with before unveiling the next wave of security theater antics?

Thoughts? Have a story about your flying experience(s) to share? Post in the comments below.

___

*Funnily enough I ended up being “randomly” choosen to have my luggage physically inspected anyway.

The Politics of the Incredibles (minimal spoilers)

I saw an early release of the Incredibles 2 last night. I wasn’t expecting too much given Pixar’s history with sequel. Finding Dorothy, Monsters University and the Cars sequels were okay, but below average for Pixar. I am happy to report that the Incredibles 2 was a pleasant exception. Not only did the film re-capture the magic of the original, it made a point that many readers and fellow Notewriters should appreciate: legality doesn’t equal right.

The film starts off directly after the events of the first film. The titular Incredibles family fights off the Underminer, a mining themed super villain. Instead of getting praised for their actions though, they get arrested. Superheroes are still illegal. The events of the past film haven’t changed that. One of the characters wisely remarks, “Politicians don’t understand why someone would do the right thing for its own sake. They’re scared of the idea.”

The family is let go, but they’re at a low point. Their home has been destroyed. They’re unemployed and broke. They’re gifted with super powers, but they live in a world where they can’t legally use them. That’s when a businessman approaches them and asks – why not use their super powers? The businessman proposes that the family continue to use their powers illegally, and convince the government to change the law after the public has been shown how useful superheroes are. This leads to a funny exchange where the characters argue about how they’re being asked to be illegal in order to become legal.

I won’t spoil the remainder of the film, but I love the businessman character’s early scenes. It’s refreshing to see a corporate character, and his disregard for legislated morality, portrayed in a positive light. Tony Stark/Iron Man starts off this way in the early MCU films, but makes a u-turn by Captain America: Civil War. This new character, for better or worse, stands by his beliefs.

The tension between legislation and morality isn’t a new theme for Pixar. The idea of breaking the rules to do what’s right was a central feature of Monsters University as well. It’s a lesson I think many children, and their parents, could benefit to learn. Legislation isn’t morality.

I give the film a solid 9/10. It’s around Wall-E or Up levels of quality. It’s easily one of the funniest Pixar films in a while. The animated short before the film is, as standard for Pixar, a tear jerker. Bring some tissues.

Thoughts? Opinions? Post in the comments.

A note on the three Californias and arbitrary borders

As many of you may know, there is a proposal to split up California into three parts: north, south and ‘ye olde’ California. This proposal is idiotic on several fronts. For starters the best university in LA, the University of Southern California, would find itself in ye olde California. Meanwhile my university, UC Riverside, would overnight become USC Riverside. Now, I wouldn’t be against the Trojan football team relocating to Riverside, especially since Riverside doesn’t have a team of it’s own. However the proposed split would cut off the Inland Empire and Orange County from Los Angeles county.

This despite the fact that the greater LA area is composed of LA-Ventura-Riverside-San Bernardino-Orange counties. These counties are deeply interwoven with one another, and dividing them is bizarre. Imagine the poor “Los Angeles Angels at Anaheim”. What horrendous name will they have to take on next? The “San Diego Angeles at Anaheim”?

Beyond it’s idiocy the proposal makes a larger point: government borders are, for the most part, arbitrary and plain stupid. The proposal to split up California ignores the regions socio-cultural ties to one another, but there are countless other examples of senseless borders.

For example, who was the bright guy that decided to split up Kansas City between Missouri and Kansas? And let’s not even get started on the absurd borders of the old world.

Thoughts? Disagreements? Post in the comments.

On the Race Question 

As in, in regards to the US Census Race question. The one that asks whether you identify as white, black, Asian, or Native American. Heritage has just published a blog post on the issue. There’s lots of things I disagree with in the post. The author is correct that the current race classification system is relatively recent, but the race question itself isn’t. I disagree with the author that we should let anthropologists decide what races to include. Anthropologists should stick to what they’re good at: managing websites.

I do agree however with the general point that the current race question is really weird. I am very skeptical that race as a biological concept has any meaning. Race is, I think, more about culture. Someone in my book is a “Hispanic” not because their skin is a certain tone, but because they can make a good taco. In so far that race is about culture, do we really think that a “white” American from the south shares much in culture with their counterparts in New England? Likewise it’s unclear to me South Asians share much of a culture with their Central or West Asian cousins.

Given the chance I would replace the unidimensional race question with a battery asking about the crucial cultural elements that distinguish us. Who is your favorite football team? (war eagle!) What is the best burger chain? (In N Out) What is the best scifi series? Star Wars or Star Trek? (Trick question: Dune)

What do you all think? If you were in charge of the US census how would you modify the race question? Would you remove it altogether? #microblogging #IDontGetHashTags

Let’s talk about Star Wars

Unless you’re living in a compound somewhere in Colorado, you have no doubt realized that the latest installment in the Star Wars series has come out. You’ve no doubt read countless commentaries on the series by now too. I suspect that at this rate Disney will be pumping out SW films every Christmas until my death and beyond. So get used to it.

I’ve decided to just share my rankings of the films and quick commentary.

  • Revenge of the Sith
  • Empire Strikes Back
  • A New Hope
  • The Last Jedi
  • Return of the Jedi
  • The Force Awakens
  • The Clone Wars
  • The Phantom Menace

My rankings are based on rewatch value. Revenge of the Sith dominates in this dimension. The cheesy dialogue is just fun in a way the other films can’t match it. And you know what? I like the space politics, even just as a concept.

Return of the Jedi spends too much time with the teddy bears and if I want to see the Death Star blown up I’ll just rewatch A New Hope. I only list the main series here, but Rogue One would fit somewhere near the top. It’s self contained and made me care about its characters in a way few others in the series did.

Do you disagree with my rankings? What is your ranking of the SW films?

#microblogging #IJustLikeHashTags

(Unofficial) IHS Graduate Student Facebook Group

I’ve created an (unofficial) facebook group for graduate students who are part of the IHS crowd so that we can organize appropriate conference meet ups, look for potential hotel sharing buddies, and other hijinks. Several NoL writers and readers have gone through IHS so I figured I’d share the link.

I may or may not be using the group as a way to find future NoL writers.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1958211444500599/

#mini-microblog

How to fix the journal model? 

Disclaimer: I am not (yet!) published in any peer reviewed journals.

A companion recently posed an interesting proposal to improve the academic journal model: have referees publish their reviews after X period of time. I am sympathetic to the idea as I have always found secrecy to be a strange thing in decision making. What’s the point of ‘blind’ reviews anyway? From conversing with those with more experience in the field, it is rarely a ‘double blind’ process but a de facto one way ‘blind’ process. This seems to be the case more so outside the major journals.

My counter is: why not just get rid of journals altogether? Why not just publish via SSRN and similar websites? Journals seem to have maintained their existence in the digital age as a means of quality insurance, but there’s still lots of junk in the top journals. Surely we can come up with better ways than relying on a few referees? Even relying on citation count would be a better measure of a paper’s value I think.

#microblogging