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PNAS: Pathological Altruism

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  • PNAS: Pathological Altruism

    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/20...47110.full.pdf


    Concepts and implications of altruism bias and
    pathological altruism
    Barbara A. Oakley1

    ...

    The profound benefits of altruism inmodern society are self-evident.
    However, the potential hurtful aspects of altruism have gone largely
    unrecognized in scientific inquiry
    . This is despite the fact that
    virtually all forms of altruism are associated with tradeoffs—some
    of enormous importance and sensitivity—and notwithstanding that
    examples of pathologies of altruism abound. Presented here are the
    mechanistic bases and potential ramifications of pathological altruism,
    that is, altruism in which attempts to promote the welfare of
    others instead result in unanticipated harm
    . A basic conceptual approach
    toward the quantification of altruism bias is presented.
    Guardian systems and their over arching importance in the evolution
    of cooperation are also discussed. Concepts of pathological altruism,
    altruism bias, and guardian systems may help open many new, potentially
    useful lines of inquiry and provide a framework to begin
    moving toward a more mature, scientifically informed understanding
    of altruism and cooperative behavior.
    ...
    From a scientifically-based perspective,
    however, some programs are deeply problematic, often as a result
    of superficial notions on the part of program designers or implementers
    about what is genuinely beneficial for others, coupled
    with a lack of accountability for ensuing programmatic failures
    (53). In these pathologically altruistic enterprises, confirmation
    bias, discounting, motivated reasoning, and egocentric certitude
    that our approach is the best—in short, the usual biases that underlie
    pathologies of altruism—appear to play important roles.

    ...
    Teenagers in the United States become pregnant,
    contract sexually transmitted diseases, and have abortions at
    much higher rates than teenagers in most other industrialized
    countries. However, the most effective, scientifically proven
    approaches to reducing teen pregnancy are often ignored.
    As
    psychologist Timothy Wilson noted in summarizing the many
    problematic efforts in this area: “The fact that policy makers
    learned so little from past research—at huge human and financial
    cost—is made even more mind-boggling by being such a familiar
    story. Too often, policy makers follow common sense
    instead of scientific data when deciding how to solve social and
    behavioral problems

    ...
    In yet another area, ostensibly well-meaning governmental
    policy promoted home ownership, a beneficial goal that stabilizes
    families and communities. The government-sponsored enterprises
    FreddieMac and FannieMae allowed less-than-qualified individuals
    to receive housing loans and encouraged more-qualified borrowers
    to overextend themselves.
    Typical risk–reward considerations were
    marginalized because of implicit government support (55). The
    government used these agencies to promote social goals without
    acknowledging the risk or cost. When economic conditions faltered,
    many lost their homes or found themselves with properties worth far
    less than they originally had paid.
    Government policy then shifted to
    the cost of this “altruism” to the public, to pay off the too-big-to-fail
    banks then holding securitized subprime loans. For those who care
    about helping the needy in this country, or those who object to
    corporate bail outs, these trillion-dollar costs bring into high relief
    the immediate need for scientifically informed planning and evidence-
    based reevaluation.
    ...
    In foreign aid, $2 trillion dollars have been provided to Africa
    over the past 50 years.
    As chronicled by economist and former
    World Bank consultant Dambisa Moyo, a native of Zambia, such
    aid has resulted in measurably worsened outcomes in a broad
    variety of areas, supporting despotism and increasing corruption
    and a sense of dependency in Africans (56). In some cases, the
    money has been directly responsible for extraordinary damage

    (57, 58). Experienced foreign aid worker Ernesto Sirolli echoes
    many when he notes that much Western aid arises from narcissistic
    paternalism and patronization
    (59).
    ...
    A supportive bias for claimed altruistic efforts appears to have
    contributed not only to a plethora of economic woes but also to
    a continuing record of difficulties in the social sciences, where
    programs, theories, and therapies with altruistic intent—particularly
    those which coincide with preconceived “obviously beneficial”
    notions of helping—do not appear to receive the same careful
    scientific scrutiny as less obviously well-intentioned programs
    (54, 62, 63). This lack of critical appraisal has been seen in vitally
    important areas such as the mitigation of posttraumatic stress
    disorder, the reduction of family violence, the elimination of
    racial prejudice, the reduction of sex differences in mathematics,
    and the lessening of adolescent behavior problems and drug use

    (64–71). In one example, a therapy called “Critical Incident
    Stress Debriefing” was broadly implemented throughout the
    United States to reduce posttraumatic stress disorder, even
    though this costly program simply did not work and, in fact,
    sometimes worsened the very stress it was meant to resolve (67).

    Well-meaning but unscientific approaches toward altruistic
    helping can have the unwitting effect of ensuring that the benefits
    of science and the scientific method are kept away from
    those most in need of help. In the final analysis, it is clear that
    when altruistic efforts in science are presented as being beyond
    reproach, it becomes all too easy to silence rational criticism (62,
    70, 72–78). Few wish to run the gauntlet of criticizing poorly
    conducted, highly subjective “science” which is purported to help,
    or indeed, of daring to question the basis of problematic scientific
    paradigms that arise in part from good intentions.

    ...
    As Robert
    Trivers has noted: “It seems manifest that the greater the social
    content of a discipline, especially human, the greater will be the
    biases due to self-deception and the greater the retardation of
    the field compared with less social disciplines
    ” (82).
    ...
    altruism bias may be one of the
    most pernicious, hard-to-eradicate biases in science, because it
    involves even-handed examination of what groups of seemingly
    objective rational scientists subliminally have come to regard as
    sacred.

    ...
    Science has put extraordinary emphasis on studying the helpful
    aspects of altruism, and this emphasis has helped reify altruism’s
    benefits among the general population. However, if science is
    truly to serve as an ultimately altruistic enterprise, then science
    must examine not only the good but also the harm that can arise
    from our feelings of altruism and empathetic caring for others. In
    support of this idea, it is important to note that during the twentieth
    century, tens of millions individuals were killed under despotic
    regimes that rose to power through appeals to altruism
    (106–110).
    The study of pathological altruism, in other words, is not a minor,
    inconsequential offshoot of the study of altruism but instead is
    a topic of overwhelming scientific and public importance.

  • #2
    So what is this exactly... some kind of Randian thing?

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Fox View Post
      So what is this exactly... some kind of Randian thing?
      I don't think this has to do with materialism. It has to do with people who want to help others, whether they are humanists or spiritual.

      People want to help others through government programs, but those programs often make things worse. But people can't see past their own naivety because the issues have been politicized. Anyone who disagrees with the policy is demonized and portrayed as a greedy and or racist (or on this forum being boring or promoting a political point of view). People don't consider alternatives because they are unthinkable (or boring).

      But in reality, the people who are doing the harm are the ones who think they are helping, and the alternative policies that would actually do good are incorrectly considered evil.

      It relates to the subject of the forum because it is about how we know what we think we know. Common sense is not always reliable. People readily accept that about paranormal phenomena, but they are not so open to it when it comes to political policies.

      I've made a few posts elsewhere on the forum explaining that people don't really understand political policies and their good intentions often result in making things worse instead of helping things. The linked article supports my contention with a scientific analysis.

      Before the housing crisis which triggered the recent financial meltdown from which employment levels have still not recovered, conservatives wanted to tighten up lending rules in the mortgage industry to prevent the inevitable collapse. Liberals assumed this was simply a lie to promote a tight fisted, racist agenda. They refused to consider fixing the mortgage industry before anyone got hurt. The result was a lot of pain for a lot of people, and especially for the people the program was intended to help.

      People are brainwashed by political propaganda and they can't see past it.

      The linked article points out the psychological factors involved and gives examples. People who are interested in using science to prove which things are true should be open to objectively considering empirical evidence rather than just what appeals to common sense or is promoted by their political party leaders. Political parties are not branches of science and they often spread misinformation for the cynical purpose of gaining votes.

      If you want to know what causes poverty, consider who benefits from poverty. Which politicians will get more votes if there are more poor people? The politicians who advocate assistance to the poor. Not surprisingly, those same programs cause poverty to increase. But this is counterintuitive and most people are not concerned with adjusting their beliefs about government policy based on evidence and science because they are biased by preexisting beliefs. They are brainwashed by political propaganda.
      Last edited by anonymous; June 17th, 2013, 02:26 AM.

      Comment


      • #4
        Off topic sorry, but PNAS seems an unfortunate acronym. Maybe it's just me.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by anonymous View Post


          Before the housing crisis which triggered the recent financial meltdown from which employment levels have still not recovered, conservatives wanted to tighten up lending rules in the mortgage industry to prevent the inevitable collapse. Liberals assumed this was simply a lie to promote a tight fisted, racist agenda. They refused to consider fixing the mortgage industry before anyone got hurt. The result was a lot of pain for a lot of people, and especially for the people the program was intended to help.
          Statements like that seem to me to be radical simplifications of very complex events and actually read like the propaganda that you are railing against.

          A quick google search brings up this article from 2007:

          Democrats Prepare Bills to Tighten Loan Rules

          I'm not saying that one link to an article refutes your entire argument that "liberals" caused the housing and mortgage lending crisis. But there is likely ample evidence that conservatives backed banks as they bucked attempts by regulators to tighten down lending rules that could have lessened or averted the crisis.


          Regulators Tighten Subprime-Lending Rules - WSJ.com

          Report: Banks torpedoed rules that could have saved them - USATODAY.com

          I'm just saying that it appears that you simplify very complex economic and political events. Why do you feel it is necessary to use this forum to bring your personal political views to the fore?

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by anonymous View Post
            People want to help others through government programs, but those programs often make things worse. But people can't see past their own naivety because the issues have been politicized.
            You have shown that sometimes government programs make things worse. But sometimes naive conservative policies make things miserable. So what? Ideas fail all the time. You quote all these examples of liberal policies backfiring, but you try to use them to make general statements about liberal policies instead of investigating each and providing conceptual depth. This means that we must trust not only that your miniature summary of each situation is adequate, but that your examples are not cherry-picked.

            Wiseman's essay, "Heads I Win Tails You Lose: How Parapsychologists Nullfiy Null Results" is another place where I must trust these two things, but when I looked at each of his examples in turn, very few actually supported his contentions, and some strongly contravened his premises. So I am wary of that style of journalism.

            I've made a few posts elsewhere on the forum explaining that people don't really understand political policies and their good intentions often result in making things worse instead of helping things.
            That sounds like an argument equally applicable to anyone.

            Liberals assumed this was simply a lie to promote a tight fisted, racist agenda.
            Although I disagree with Wiseman on several counts, I don't think I saw him make the kind of simplification I see above.

            People are brainwashed by political propaganda and they can't see past it.
            Another bi-directional observation.

            Not surprisingly, those same programs cause poverty to increase.
            Where did you demonstrate that? Sometimes that's true, usually when aid is handed out blind and causes dependence. But intelligent aid programs focus on building lasting structures and reinforcing community participation.
            Last edited by Johann; June 17th, 2013, 11:38 AM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Obiwan View Post
              Off topic sorry, but PNAS seems an unfortunate acronym. Maybe it's just me.
              This literally made me laugh out loud! I didn't notice it until you pointed it out! LMFAO!

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by anonymous View Post
                Which politicians will get more votes if there are more poor people? The politicians who advocate assistance to the poor.
                I've seen some controversial statements made on this site - I've even made a few myself - but are you really suggesting that politicians intend to keep people poor by advocating help for the poor? You can't be serious, surely?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Arouet View Post
                  This literally made me laugh out loud! I didn't notice it until you pointed it out! LMFAO!
                  Sorry it's the way my mind works lol

                  The fact it's a .org makes it look even worse. I know, I'm a child.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The Weekend Interview With Andy Puzder: Of Burgers, Bikinis and ObamaCare - WSJ.com

                    the man who revived Carl's Jr., explains why he's not expanding in California and how the Affordable Care Act is hurting employment.

                    Government policies, he says, are stifling young, hungry entrepreneurs, and he doesn't mean tech hotshots. He means the kind of entrepreneurs who run fast-food joints, often immigrants and minorities without much education. In other words, the very people that liberals say they want to help.

                    The fast-food executive rattles off a list of market suppressants, including uncertainty over labor costs, commodity and food prices, and taxes. But his bete noire is ObamaCare.
                    ...
                    Still, he says, it's much easier to grow in business-friendly places like Texas, where the company plans to open 300 new restaurants by the end of the decade. Restaurants in Houston and San Antonio hold the company record for highest first-week sales in the U.S. "All those records used to be in California," he notes.

                    These days, California is one of the few states where the company isn't looking to expand. "Like many businesses, we love California and would love to build more restaurants," he says. But "California is not interested in having businesses grow," even though many multinational companies, including CKE, have headquarters there.

                    Consider how long it takes for one of his restaurants to get a building permit after signing a lease. It takes 60 days in Texas, 63 in Shanghai, and 125 in Novosibirsk, Russia. In Los Angeles, it's 285. "I can open up a restaurant faster on Karl Marx Prospect in Siberia than on Carl Karcher Boulevard in California," he says.

                    Then there are California's cumbersome labor regulations, which appear designed to encourage litigation. The company has spent $20 million in the state over the past eight years on damages and attorney fees related to class-action lawsuits.

                    Mr. Puzder's favorite California-bites-business story is a law that requires employers to pay general managers overtime if they spend 50% of their time on non-managerial tasks like working the register if they're short-staffed, "which is what we pay and bonus them to do in just about every other state." Since managers were filing class-action lawsuits against the company for not being paid overtime, "every retailer in the state basically has now taken their general managers and made them hourly employees."

                    The managers hated the change "because they worked all their careers to get off the base to become managers," he says, and paying themselves overtime could hurt their restaurants' bottom lines and chances of a bonus. Mr. Puzder adds that his company must now fire managers who don't report their work hours because they present a legal risk.

                    He tells the fired managers "to go to Tennessee or Texas, where we'll rehire them and they'll learn entrepreneurial skills."
                    Last edited by anonymous; June 17th, 2013, 03:32 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      And how does that relate to the skeptiko podcast?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        From amazon.com

                        Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (The Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University)

                        ...

                        Book Description
                        Publication Date: February 8, 1999

                        Compulsory ujamaa villages in Tanzania, collectivization in Russia, Le Corbusier's urban planning theory realized in Brasilia, the Great Leap Forward in China, agricultural "modernization" in the Tropics -- the twentieth century has been racked by grand utopian schemes that have inadvertently brought death and disruption to millions. Why do well-intentioned plans for improving the human condition go tragically awry?

                        In this wide-ranging and original book, James C. Scott analyzes failed cases of large-scale authoritarian plans in a variety of fields. Centrally managed social plans misfire, Scott argues, when they impose schematic visions that do violence to complex interdependencies that are not -- and cannot -- be fully understood. Further, the success of designs for social organization depends upon the recognition that local, practical knowledge is as important as formal, epistemic knowledge. The author builds a persuasive case against "development theory" and imperialistic state planning that disregards the values, desires, and objections of its subjects. He identifies and discusses four conditions common to all planning disasters: administrative ordering of nature and society by the state; a "high-modernist ideology" that places confidence in the ability of science to improve every aspect of human life; a willingness to use authoritarian state power to effect large-scale interventions; and a prostrate civil society that cannot effectively resist such plans.

                        "A broad-ranging, theoretically important, and empirically grounded treatment of the modern state and its propensity to simplify and make legible a society which by nature is complex and opaque. For anyone interested inlearning about this fundamental tension of modernity and about the destruction wrought in the twentieth century as a consequence of the dominant development ideology of the simplifying state, this is a must-read". -- Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, author of Hitler's Willing Executioners

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Maybe try posting here:

                          Debate Politics Forums

                          or here:

                          PoliticalForum.com - the best Forum for Politics (4000 posts/day)

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Federal Regulation and Aggregate Economic Growth (PDF)

                            Federal Regulation and Aggregate Economic Growth

                            John W. Dawson
                            Department of Economics
                            Appalachian State University
                            Boone, NC, 28608-2051

                            ...

                            John J. Seater
                            Department of Economics
                            North Carolina State University
                            Raleigh, NC, 27695

                            Abstract

                            We introduce a new time series measure of the extent of federal regulation in the U.S. and use it to
                            investigate the relationship between federal regulation and macroeconomic performance. We find that regulation
                            has statistically and economically significant effects on aggregate output and the factors that produce it–total factor
                            productivity (TFP), physical capital, and labor. Regulation has caused substantial reductions in the growth rates of
                            both output and TFP and has had effects on the trends in capital and labor that vary over time in both sign and
                            magnitude. Regulation also affects deviations about the trends in output and its factors of production, and the effects
                            differ across dependent variables. Regulation changes the way output is produced by changing the mix of inputs.
                            Changes in regulation offer a straightforward explanation for the productivity slowdown of the 1970s. Qualitatively
                            and quantitatively, our results agree with those obtained from cross-section and panel measures of regulation using
                            cross-country data.
                            ...
                            Conclusion
                            ...
                            Regulation’s overall effect on output’s growth rate is negative and substantial. Federal regulations added
                            over the past fifty years have reduced real output growth by about two percentage points on average over the period
                            1949-2005. That reduction in the growth rate has led to an accumulated reduction in GDP of about $38.8 trillion as
                            of the end of 2011. That is, GDP at the end of 2011 would have been $53.9 trillion instead of $15.1 trillion if
                            regulation had remained at its 1949 level. One channel through which regulation has reduced output is TFP. We
                            find that federal regulation can explain much of the famous and famously puzzling productivity slowdown of the

                            Our results are qualitatively consistent with those obtained from studies using the various cross-country and
                            panel data sets on regulation. Quantitatively, our estimated impact of regulation on aggregate output, large as it is, is
                            similar to or lower than the micro-level impacts estimated in the cross-country and panel data studies. The crosscountry
                            and panel data are constructed very differently from our data, covering a subset of total regulations but over
                            an array of countries. It thus seems that regulation has strong and robust negative effects on aggregate output.

                            Recent years have seen substantial increases in financial, health, and environmental regulation by the Bush
                            and Obama administrations. We do not yet have quantitative measures of those increases. Indeed, many of the new
                            regulations had been mandated by new law but not yet written at the time this article was published. It is up to
                            future research to assess their impact on the economy, but the foregoing results suggest that the impact will be quite
                            large.
                            31
                            The following is a discussion of the above article...

                            Why did we get 140 characters rather than flying cars? Maybe it was $40 trillion in regulations | AEIdeas

                            Why did we get 140 characters rather than flying cars? Maybe it was $40 trillion in regulations

                            “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters” is the pithy and tweetable way the Founders Fund, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm, asks the question, “What happened to the future?”

                            How did it get away from us? Maybe we regulated away the sci-fi future that our never-happened tiger years would have brought us. A 2013 study from economists John Dawson of Appalachian State University and John Seater of North Carolina State University, Federal Regulation and Aggregate Economic Growth, estimates that the past 50 years of federal regulations have reduced real GDP by roughly two percentage points a year, or nearly $40 trillion.

                            Instead of the US economy growing by just over 3% a year since World War Two, it would have grown by over 5% a year. “That is, GDP at the end of 2011 would have been $53.9 trillion instead of $15.1 trillion if regulation had remained at its 1949 level,” the authors conclude. (And by the way, the study does not attempt to quantify the costs of the Affordable Care Act or Dodd-Frank financial regulation.)

                            Imagine a US economy four times as big — four times as wealthy — as the one today. Basically, we would have the US economy of 2080 right now.
                            If you want money to help poor people with, raising taxes and restricting economic activity through government regulations will not help, it will make things worse and you will have less money to help with.
                            Last edited by anonymous; June 17th, 2013, 04:00 PM.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Great article on how to raise ladybugs.

                              How to Raise Lady Bugs | eHow


                              Ladybugs are beloved by children around the world---and also by gardeners of all ages. With their brightly colored and cheerfully dotted bodies, these beetles are quite possibly the most famous of all beneficial insects. Both adults and their larvae feed on many soft-bodied insects with the pesky and destructive aphids being their favorite food source. Raising your own ladybugs is rather simple and can be rewarding as a hobby and as a natural aphid extermination team.

                              Comment

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