From the post hoc ergo propter hoc file

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Quoted without comment:

(2) Many commentators automatically assume that low intergenerational mobility rates represent a social tragedy. I do not understand this reflexive wailing and beating of breasts in response to the finding of slow mobility rates. The fact that the social competence of children is highly predictable once we know the status of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents is not a threat to the American Way of Life and the ideals of the open society.

The children of earlier elites will not succeed because they are born with a silver spoon in their mouth, and an automatic ticket to the Ivy League. They will succeed because they have inherited the talent, energy, drive, and resilience to overcome the many obstacles they will face in life. Life is still a struggle for all who hope to have economic and social success. It is just that we can predict who will be likely to possess the necessary characteristics from their ancestry.

OK, I lied. I’ll comment. The author is an economist, writing in the Economist. My, um, anecdotal experience is that people claiming the mantle of economics have a much higher rate than ordinary people to, uh, assume that things are the way they were because they were the way they are. As usual, just sayin’.

Second, if you read more in the debate on social mobility in the Economist, you’ll see that the author is making the claim that too short a time span of analysis makes the relationship between income equality and social mobility tighter than it really is, because extending the analysis out towards previous generations shows that high-status families extrapolate their positions out pretty well to today. We are expected to conclude, as above, that this holds because high-status families really are `oi aristoi—-endowed with heroic drive, cunning, and mighty thews. The idea that lack of social mobility due to rigidly enforced class structures “back in the day” might actually produce social rigidity “back in the day” magically escapes the post hoc ergo propter hoc psychological tendency.

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This page contains a single entry by Mandos published on February 14, 2013 12:55 PM.

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