Petition: No to Summers

And not just because of his comments about women. His deregulation helped get us into the mess we’re in today. Sign here. Mr Jender was wondering last night why nobody’s suggesting Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winning economist and one of the few who was willing to speak out in the early days of the Bush administration. Me too. (H/T Shakesville for the petition.)

[For more on Summers, see here, here, here, and this new excellent post here. For a feminist defense of Summers (!), though not of his remarks, that Mr Jender found, see here.]

7 thoughts on “Petition: No to Summers

  1. A quote from Lawrence Summers should be enough to reject him from the “Administration for Change”. Lawrence Summers said : “Spread the truth — the laws of economics are like the laws of engineering. One set of laws works everywhere”. This type of hubris and arrogance is why America is in finiancial crisis. A reading of “The Shock Doctrine” is called for by anyone who wishes for this nation to not make the mistakes that Lawrence Summers fostered.

  2. Re Krugman, He said a few weeks ago that he wasn’t interested in Treasury secretary — I know *everyone* says that, but he *seemed* to mean it. See:
    http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=45&aid=152522
    Also, during the primaries he was a v. strong Hillary supporter and was quite harsh on Obama in his NYT column. I realize that wouldn’t and shouldn’t rule him out, but perhaps both things together tip the balance.

  3. A couple of things: knowing what I do about economics, Summers’ quote about the “laws” of economics MUST be right on some level. If they were not, then overall the economy would be chaotic and non-determined (note that it may still be UNDER-determined by theory). In this way, the analogy to engineering is correct.

    As for Krugman, he is too cantankerous to play politics; its one of the traits of his I admire: he is beholden to know one except those he chooses. That trait and politics do not match.

  4. two things: (1) a lot of people are suggesting Krugman, or at least NY Times readers are.

    (2) Once noumena (in the earlier post on Summers) posted a link to Summers’ original remarks, I looked at them again and thought the problem with them looked different from what was originally said. It was also more permanent than some casual and silly remarks. After all, he actually does say that what he says might all be wrong and so on. And he references a highly regarded theory that some extremely admired scientists have espoused, particularly one of the leaders in autism research, Simon Baron-Cohen. And its claims about there being more men at the high researches of math ability tests did have some empirical support (for newer data see http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/321/5888/494, for challenges to the data).

    What seems to me the worst feature is the positioning of women as the subjects of study. His university obviously had a number of women in the sciences to whom he could have talked, before he cited the almost exclusively male research. And he didn’t seem to think he needed to at all.

    So the mistake was bad, but what seems to me even worse was how it was made. It was made because women are positioned as passive subjects whose views are irrelevant to the question of excellent research.

    I think one would be right to worry that this attitude to women can easily carry on in Obama’s cabinet, and I’d certainly hope it won’t.

  5. To jj,

    We should not give Summers an inch of wiggle room.

    The research you are talking about is the bell-curve research, which says that there are more men at either extreme, giving us more genius men than genius women. This research is based on SAT scores, which have already been shown to be a poor predictor of performance. In addition, when looking at the bell curve of IQs, the same bell curve is often seen. Again, extraordinarily high IQs are NOT a predictor of achievement. If these “researchers” were coming up with an explanation for why there are more male nobel laureates in physics than female ones, they should have verified that their argument worked in the inverse direction.

    That means asking the question: do a majority of high achievers (nobel laureates, chess grandmasters) have extraordinarily, end-of-the bellcurve, IQs? That has actually been studied and it turns out resoundingly NO. See this article in the New Scientist.
    http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg19125691.300

    So, if IQs and SATs can’t predict excellence, then why are a bunch of researchers wasting time analyzing to death the distribution of those scores to try to rationalize why there aren’t more women at the top. I will tell you why- because they can’t handle admitting that we do NOT live in a meritocracy. Also, you will find most of these researchers are MEN. They want to keep women in their place.

  6. jane, I did say that the data had been replaced by newer data, so I didn’t feel the need to raise questions about the interpretation of it. You are certainly right that IQ doesn’t predict success; you need to work for it, though working may not conform exactly to what we think of as working. It might, for example, just mean spending hours and hours of thinking, which seems to be/have been Kripke’s methodology, as far as I can tell.

    Some points, though: (1) I don’t see any list of the IQs of Nobel Prize Winners in the article you cite, and I doubt there is one. Some of the “facts” in the article are at least quite misleading. For example, S. Hawking was NOT a middling student at Cambridge, despite what the author claims (and apparently Hawking also says, in a classic English fashion, since bragging is too boring.). At that time, Oxbridge took the top one-half of one percent of English students. In addition, he got a first-class honors in Natural Science, which would put him at the top ten percent of students his graduating year. That puts him in the top .05% of academic achievement at that time. Hardly the middling student the article describes.

    (I’m really talking about Oxbridge in the 60’s when he was there; I have no idea if these figures still obtain. But since both Mr. jj and I were there at that time – in fact, SH was a friend’s boyfriend for a while – I’m pretty familiar with what I thought of as the facts of a highly classed society.)

    (2) I’m not sure what you mean by “the bell-curve” research. There’s a book with “bell curve” in the title and I certainly don’t endorse that. Otherwise, “bell curve” simply means standard distribution, and that’s not what I was talking about. Rather, many people looking at the distibution of aptitude tests have said that there are more men at the extremes than women, and those now saying it is shifting seem to acknowledge the past distributions. Further, extremely highly-regarded people have endorsed it and absorbed it in their theories.

    So he wasn’t really being stupid, and the sexism goes deeper and is, I think, much more pernicious than the speech he gave. In part it’s a way of regarding women, and can persist even when someone is paying attention to women’s issues.

    It’s a great relief to have some assurance that when Obama announces some policy, we don’t have to cringe or cry. But that doesn’t mean he will absorb the fact of women’s perspectives. If not, then “the mother’s” health,e.g., will still be an object of study when decisions about abortion are made. That’s not good enough. Or so I think. Women should be seen as autonomous moral agents, among other things.

    I should have added, of course, how clueless he seems to be about the influence of environment, especially cultural. That may well be part of the idea that he and his friends deserve what they got and weren’t fundamentally enabled by their environments.

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