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Richard Reeves writes:

Most of the people on the highest rung [which he elsewhere defines as the highest fifth of the income distribution] in America are in denial about their privilege. The American myth of meritocracy allows them to attribute their position to their brilliance and diligence, rather than to luck or a rigged system. . . . upper-middle-class Americans believe they are operating in a meritocracy (a belief that allows them to feel entitled to their winnings); on the other hand, they constantly engage in antimeritocratic behavior in order to give their own children a leg up.

Reeves appears to have a lamentably common misunderstanding of meritocracy. James Flynn explained it well, ten years ago:

The case against meritocracy can be put psychologically: (a) The abolition of materialist-elitist values is a prerequisite for the abolition of inequality and privilege; (b) the persistence of materialist-elitist values is a prerequisite for class stratification based on wealth and status; (c) therefore, a class-stratified meritocracy is impossible.

Basically, “meritocracy” means that individuals with more merit get the goodies. From the American Heritage dictionary: “A system in which advancement is based on individual ability or achievement.” As Flynn points out, this leads to a contradiction: to the extent that people with merit get higher status, one would expect they would use that status to help their friends, children, etc, giving them a leg up beyond what would be expected based on their merit alone.

To return to the point above: Reeves writes, “upper-middle-class Americans believe they are operating in a meritocracy . . . on the other hand, they constantly engage in antimeritocratic behavior in order to give their own children a leg up.” No no no! “Giving your own children a leg up” is not “antimeritocratic”; on the contrary, it’s the essence of meritocracy to use your power (“ocracy”) to get goodies for yourself and your family.

There was another thing about Reeves’s op-ed that bugged me. It’s not something that’s necessarily wrong about about his specific points, but rather more generally that his argument “proves too much,” as the saying goes. He’s arguing that Americans with incomes in the top fifth (approximately defined as, household incomes exceeding $100,000) should “stop pretending they’re not rich.” That’s fine, but the difficulty is that “rich” is relative. Even poor people in this country are mostly “rich” in having all sorts of possessions that people didn’t have 50 or 100 years ago.

Often when I get tangled in these sorts of essentialist discussions I turn to the dictionary, not as an arbiter but as a way to get my thinking back on track. So here goes.

Merriam-Webster defines “rich” as “having abundant possessions and especially material wealth.” So, sure, most people want to pay less in taxes and also they want high-quality public services. This seems like a general point and I’m not sure how much is learned from looking at the particular case of Americans making more than $100K/year. I suppose the value is that these people make up much of Reeves’s audience, so I think his argument would be clearer if he were to make this point explicitly, that there’s nothing special about the American upper middle class, but that they’re like everyone else in wanting higher public services and lower taxes.

P.S. I have a conflict of interest here as I teach at an expensive private university, and Reeves argues that it’s a bad thing that upper middle class people send their kids to expensive private schools.

P.P.S. Based on discussion in comments I want to clarify one point: the point of meritocracy is not just that people with more skills, or merit, get good jobs, or that they get paid more, or even that they get more political power. I think a key aspect of meritocracy is that the perceived legitimacy of this increased wealth and power. It’s not just that people with more merit (however defined) get more money/status/power, it’s that they are viewed as deserving it.

62 Comments

  1. LOL. I agree with Reeves. Parents do engage in antimeritocratic behavior based on my experiences of suburban communities. It’s an observation that dawned on me in 90’s. I don’t think the observation matured until I came to DC. In 90’s, I referred to it as ’emotional blackmail’ culture. It’s one type of cognitive dissonant manifestation, imo. Who was the psychologist that explored ‘cognitive dissonance’? I think Festinger.

    • Kyle MacDonald says:

      I would certainly agree that some parents engage in antimeritocratic behaviour in the sense of trying to help their children succeed beyond their abilities (for example, by pressuring someone to give them a job they wouldn’t otherwise have got). That’s not quite the same thing as trying to get nice things for your family, and it’s not the same thing as using your power and wealth to develop your children’s abilities as far as possible. We could consider three points on a continuum: “antimeritocratic” would be bribing your child’s teacher to give them an A, “weak meritocratic” would be paying for an expensive tutor that many families couldn’t afford (on the belief that your children should be judged on their abilities, which you are happy to give them unearned opportunities to develop), and “strong meritocratic” would be refusing to do anything for your child’s education that no parent below, say, the poverty line would be able to provide.

      • Paul says:

        So, strong meritocracy would go something like this?

        “I only contribute money to my childrens’ education if they earn that opportunity. Otherwise I give the money to The Meritocracy Foundation, which distributes the money based on merit. In fact, scratch that – I should never contribute any money to my childrens’ education, since I’m a biased judge. So from this day forward, I give all my spare cash to The Meritocracy Foundation and let them decide if my child deserves it or not.”

        Any parents here who practice strong meritocracy, please raise your hand.

      • Kylw my Dad was a professor. He said that parents would request grade changes and caution that they would withdraw donations to the university, pointing to the fact that wealthy parents can use such strategies for their kids. I would suggest further is what kids need most is behaviors that are consistent with their purported values. Moreover the extent of bullying that goes on in schools of particularly sensitive and less assertive kids indicates that kids’ home life is not as peachy in wealthier families either. In fact, kids yearn for mature guidance and nurturing love. Yet parents see their offspring as measures & continuation of their own rank and status. Believe me, some parents are simply not so connected with their children’s feelings.

        • Terry says:

          Yet parents see their offspring as measures & continuation of their own rank and status.

          Based on my experience, I would put this a bit differently. Parents love their kids and want them to be happy and successful. They will do what they can to make this happen, even when it doesn’t comport with the ideals they espouse. When kids and ideals are in conflict, kids usually win out.

          I think it is a mistake to attribute helping one’s children to status consciousness. Status is more a means to an end. To put it succinctly, kids ARE the end and all else bends to serve that end.

          (Disclaimer: this is stated a little too absolutely, but it becomes tedious to keep qualifying everything with clauses such as “most parents” etc.)

          • Status consciousness is bred into children through myriad of cues. Granted that it s a matter of degree and community in which one lives.

            I am not sure that kids always win out. In what situations?

            • Terry says:

              To be clearer, my perspective is based on evolution. Humans are adapted to have children and raise them to maturity. This is the fundamental principal underlying a lot of human behavior. Status is a means to that end. Parents do not use their kids to seek status, they seek status to benefit their kids. If anything conflicts with the goal of raising children to maturity, raising the children wins. Meritocratic blah blah goes tends to go out the window the second a parent can find a non-meritocratic way to benefit their kids. Almost all virtue-signalling blah blah goes out the window when little Cindie-Loo’s welfare is at stake.

              (This is overstated and should have more caveats, but you get the picture.)

              • Martha (Smith) says:

                I agree with “This is overstated and should have more caveats”.

              • I’m sorry to say, parents can use their kids for prestige or monetary gains. Interviews with actors and athletes have shown that. I think many kids feel pressured to perform, resulting in anxieties as well as loss of confidence. Every family has a story. I’m by no means suggesting that all parents invoke anxieties about success. But I would speculate many more if we really did a good study.

  2. Nikolai Vetr says:

    I think it’s fair to call poor people in developed countries relatively rich (without resorting to historical comparisons) just by regarding them alongside the global poor. In the US, for example, income at the poverty line ($12,060/year) for a single individual puts you at the ~86th percentile globally, after a Cost of Living adjustment (according to https://www.givingwhatwecan.org/get-involved/how-rich-am-i/?country=USA&income=12060&adults=1&children=0). If you wanna be *really* inclusive you can include certain non-human animals (plausibly worthy of moral concern) in your reference class, in which case humans almost in their entirety might be skirting the upper echelons (I’m not sure if they can conceive of “property rights” — certainly some non-humans can be possessive, or engage in very basic trade, where some human groups don’t maintain proper notions of property or income)

  3. Clyde Schechter says:

    I think we’re quibbling over semantics here. Taking out the terminology, it appears that Reeves’ point is:

    1. There is a cultural myth in America that those who are successful have attained their success through merit. That they deserve it, earned it, or are better than others in some way.

    2. Successful people use their success to give their children, friends, etc. advantages on the path towards success. This means that the myth in #1 is false. Attainment of success in modern America is in some large part attributable to luck, connections, or a rigged system.

    Whether you want to label what we have a “meritocracy” is beside the point. #1 and #2 are clearly true. Everyone’s outcomes in life are a blend of what they “merited” and “luck.” Your successes are not entirely your own; neither are your failures. More people need to learn that.

    • NeverConvex says:

      Yes, this seems to me to be what Reeves is saying, and it is rather obviously true. It looks to me like Andrew is badly misrepresenting Reeves’ point.

    • Andrew says:

      Clyde:

      I agree with your points #1 and #2. But I also agree with Flynn that the very notion of “meritocracy” implies that merit gives people power and influence—that’s the “ocracy” part of it—and thus meritocracy implies #2, not #1. To put it another way, it’s hard to imagine a “meritocracy” without #2: people with merit (however measured) are getting extra power and influence, and they’re not using it to benefit their families and friends? That would make no sense. What Reeves calls “antimeritocratic behavior” is what I think of as very much meritocratic, again following Flynn.

      • NeverConvex says:

        I don’t see what point there is to trying to figure out if the action considered in isolation is ‘meritocratic’ or not. It is meritocratic in the sense that the person who earned the advantages decided who to do dole them out to; it is non-meritocratic in the sense that the people to which those advantages were doled out now have an artificial leg-up, independent of their merit.

        That’s only a problem if you think the point of talking about this issue is to decide whether the label should be used or not, but that’s a pretty ridiculous conversation to have. The important thing is not whether the action is ‘meritocratic’; it’s that meritocracy has a tendency to be self-inconsistent, as our non-meritocratic doling out of artificial advantages to our friends and families undermines the ability of the system at large to primarily assign reward proportional to merit.

        • Andrew says:

          Never:

          What you say in your last sentence is what I’m trying to say too. If you have a system where people get power based on their merit, it’s inherent in the system that people will use this power to benefit their families and friends.

          • Steve says:

            If this was your point, then you failed to make it clear. The point is that there is a myth that Americans (rich ones) believe that they live in a meritocracy and therefore, their wealth is deserved. But, to live in a perfect meritocracy in year one is to know that by year two, the society will be less merit-based, and so on. So, everyone who benefits in a meritocracy should want a system that redistributes away from the wealthy. Actually, Andrew Carnegie and Bill Gates seem to understand this at least to a point because they think inheritance is unfair. However, eliminating inheritance both goes too far and not far enough. First, the Bill Gates of his forties is at least in part benefiting from non-merit based privilege that the Bill Gates of his twenties earned entirely on merit (let’s assume that for simplicity). Second, we would rather have people earn based on merit with the aim of helping their friends and family. Otherwise, we promote very short term behavior. No one need accumulate wealth of the size of Carnegie’s or Gates. They had more wealth than they could spend on themselves. Thus, the incentives would not generate enough excess to provide incentives for new merit based wealth creation. But, the point is the same: A meritocracy cannot stay merit based for more than a couple iterations before a substantial amount of wealth is distributed based on something other than merit. Therefore, we need a merit-based system that provides rewards sufficient to rig the system and a non-merit based redistribution to maintain a merit-based system (the unrigging).

            • Andrew says:

              Steve:

              Bill Gates was born rich.

              • Steve says:

                Touche — but the point is that even if we assume Bill Gates is a Horatio Alger, we can’t assume that he stays that way. Once he succeeds on the merits, his future success is rigged (biased) by his wealth. (Please don’t tell me that you actually read Horatio Alger stories and that Horatio actually earns nothing but is given his wealth by a rich benefactor. That is the problem with the myth of meritocracy we can’t even imagine a perfect meritocracy when we try.)

          • Phil says:

            …which is why there will never be such a thing as a meritocracy in the real world.

            I think I understand your point (Andrew) but I disagree with it. If some people get a big advantage in life by ‘winning the ovarian lottery’, as Warren Buffett has called it, then it can’t be a meritocracy. You seem to want to have it both ways, “It’s a meritocracy, but of course that doesn’t mean that success is only based on merit.” Unless you define “merit” in some Calvinistic sense in which people ‘deserve’ the social class they’re born into, there’s no way to argue that in a meritocracy some children should get better educational and developmental opportunities than others. Well, I shouldn’t say “there’s no way to argue…”, since you are in fact trying to make that argument. I’d say there’s no _coherent_ way to make that argument.

            Also, although I think your point about -ocracy is correct in practice — people who have power will always want to use it to give friends and family better opportunities than others have — as a society we have a lot to say about how extreme this effect is. For instance, public schools are often funded out of local property taxes, so wealthier kids have nicer facilities, better computers and other equipment, etc. That really adds insult to injury, since the less-well-off kids also (on average) have worse-educated parents; fewer books in the house and less help learning to read; less access to private tutoring and counseling; have less stable and more stressful home enviroments; and so on. Even if we accept that parents want to give their kids good educational opportunities, we could hope that they’d see the gross unfairness of the current system and agree that public schools should receive closer to equal funding per student; or, perhaps, that schools in lower-income areas should recieve more funding per student to make up for some of the other disadvantages those kids face. Surely we should be allowed to _imagine_ a meritocracy in which the people with power attempt to use that power to make things somewhat fair, even if this means their own kids don’t have any better shot at success than anyone else’s…a meritocracy that tries to create a rising tide to raise all the boats. I’m not saying such a world is attainable, or even desirable, but you (Andrew) seem to assume it’s a logical impossibility.

    • Clyde I agree with you. I think suburban life breeds that “Keep Up with the Jones’, which is why parents through their parenting can feed some unsavory habits of mind, without recognizing them as unsavory.

  4. Bob says:

    I haven’t seen any comments about the role of luck. Luck, whether in the genetic lottery or at the racetrack or when job hunting, plays a huge role in the outcomes people achieve. We know from twin studies that specific genetic endowment matters a lot. But, twin Sam may slip and fall and suffer a severe concussion after which he is never as mentally sharp as he was. In contrast, his twin brother Bill may take a low-level programming job that makes him one of the first 50 employees at the next Google.

    Luck, happenstance, coincidence—whatever you want to call it—plays a big role in life. Luck may favor the prepared but it is still luck.

    Bob

    • Thanatos Savehn says:

      Regarding luck, the tendency of some to seize upon it, of others to waste it, is a feature and not a bug of Nature. There’s increasing evidence that life, eons ago, figured out that some barley seeds would get lucky and fall in just the right spot while others would land in a dry patch in the shade and next to a rock and so began modeling. To maximize, in the aggregate, their return on investment organisms evolved sophisticated bet-hedging strategies designed to exploit both good luck and bad. See this and the papers that cite it: https://www.nature.com/articles/nature08504

      Variation is a function, and finance types are now looking to Nature’s investment strategies to improve upon theirs. I wonder what Gossett and Fisher, especially, would have made of this: “risk-spreading strategies may have been among the earliest evolutionary solutions to life in fluctuating environments.”

  5. Thomas B says:

    The issue with ‘meritocracy’ is that it is implicitly idealistic: equal opportunity for all as a function of intelligence, talent, skill, etc., and regardless or race, creed, religion, attractiveness, hair color, social status, and so on. This is demonstrably not true as stated by Merton’s Matthew Effect, “the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.” Merton’s idea was hardly original, as it’s taken from the Gospels and applied to scientific eminence, publications and citations, but he successfully generalized the effect to “all” social institutions, structures and processes.

  6. phayes says:

    “Even poor people in this country are mostly “rich” in having all sorts of possessions that people didn’t have 50 or 100 years ago.”

    Indeed. For example, Ressy Finley’s slop bucket is probably made of a durable high quality polymer which the people of those less advanced eras, some of whom were really poor, could only have dreamed of. The pampered ‘dims’ and ‘gimmies’ of today’s more technologically and economically advanced society just don’t know how lucky they are.

  7. Lord says:

    The big problem with meritocracy is they are so willing to benefit themselves by non meritocratic means and define meritocracy as their ability to accomplish this, or as I would call it, worshipping at the altar of power (and money), while forgetting might does not make right.

  8. Peter Dorman says:

    These discussions have trouble touching ground because they conflate two issues. One is the relative reward one gets for being in a higher position in society, the other the sorting mechanism that puts people into the various positions. True, they have some effect on each other, but they’re conceptually distinct. America is moving ever more toward extreme inequality in the gini sense, but this in itself doesn’t signify that the country is becoming either more or less meritocratic. A specialist MD might be making a bigger multiple of the wage of a hospital orderly than before, but the selection mechanism, MD vs orderly, could be exactly the same.

    Meanwhile, the big problem with the concept of meritocracy is that it is based on a rationalization of hierarchical attributes. Some attributes are truly about skill and productivity, like a skilled machinist vs someone off the street to position piece after piece as they come down the line. The MD does get a lot more training than an orderly. But lots of other attributes of hierarchy are mixed in that don’t bear the same interpretation. Sometimes being a manager is about having a greater appetite for bossing others with rewards and punishments; such people are selected for these positions. Many low-paid jobs are very highly skilled in a strictly technical sense, but the skill is (or is perceived to be) abundant, so it doesn’t command a premium in the market. Think of preschool teachers. Providing a healthy and stimulating environment for small children is very difficult (and important!), but “all women can do this”, right? This presumption, or something like it, is probably responsible for the nonrecognition of skill in this domain — and the meritocratic interpretation of poverty wages for preschool teachers.

  9. It seems to me there are two different issues, whether people are rewarded according to merit and whether everone starts on an equal playing field.

    I’m not even sure how we’re supposed to evaluate merit. If the reward is money, we can work backward to judgements of merit. If salary is based on merit, Columbia University judges business school professors to have more merit than statistics professors.

    I can’t imagine anyone claiming equality of opportunity. Let me rephrase that given the political rhetoric in the U.S. in my lifetime—I couldn’t take seriously anyone’s claim of equality of opportunity.

    I think we can all agree that parents who are well rewarded (because of merit or otherwise) often choose to use these rewards to provide additional opportunities to their children and that these are opportunities that children of poorer parents do not have.

  10. curio says:

    if there is a correlation between objective “merits” (say, IQ or “grit” or “right kind of culture”) and “being related to a rich person” or ‘being friends with a rich person” etc, then rich people helping their children and friends would in the long run uphold meritocracy. that is to say, if at least some merits are heritable culturally or biologically, the system should work just fine

    • Martha (Smith) says:

      curio: ” if at least some merits are heritable culturally or biologically, the system should work just fine” seems to be too superficial — in particular, it neglects “degree of heritability” — i.e., variability in heritability of one trait holding all others constant. Perhaps more succintly: you are not considering regression to the mean.

  11. Terry says:

    I find Reeves’s essay troubling because it is a jumble of half-baked anecdotes, vague arguments, and the straw man that all successful people believe success is 100% meritocratic and family wealth plays absolutely no part in success.

    This is ultimately an empirical issue. How much of a child’s success is due to “merit” (however defined), and how much is due to “privilege”. At best, Mr. Reeve’s anecdotes prove that less than 100% of success is due to merit. Gosh.

    Mr. Reeves also avoids acknowledging that merit is clearly a major factor in success. Hordes of ordinary, talented kids from modest backgrounds become successful. They get into a decent college because they test well and got good grades in high school, they get decent jobs because they get decent grades in college and they interview well, and they move up corporate ladders because they do a decent job at their jobs. Merit is a very big part of these kids’ success at every stage.

    Perhaps he feels that raising a child to be a decent human confers a ghastly privilege on the child. If so, that’s just weird.

    • Terry, I don’t think the points you are raising reflect Reeves point of view accurately. Hoe would you restate Reeves points? Reeves is not here to defend his viewpoint of course.

      • curio says:

        I think part of what Terry is saying is that it is very unclear what are the points Reeves is making. Reeves’ points have to be reconstructed from the anecdotes. Hoe would you, Sameera, restate Reeves points?

        • Apologies. I didn’t see your question. I will reread the article hopefully later this evening & respond.

        • Cueio I have to renew my NYT subscription in order to read Reeves’ article. However, I did discover that Reeves has written a book called Dream Hoarders which seems to elaborate on the points raised in the article. I am thinking of reading the book b/c I would like to see his sources. Maybe by reading the book, greater clarity may be had.

          In one sentence, I’d say that Reeves suggests irretrievably class based society, which will either continue to widen the class gap between upper middle class and non-upper middle class.

          I will pick up a copy of the book, if possible. Then I can feel more comfortable stating the points.

      • Terry says:

        Below is my summary of Mr. Reeve’s points.

        British class system, inequality, bad, stuffy, Americans pretend to be superior, delusional Americans, sinister, deluded Americans, perpetuating their own class distinctions, inequality transmitted from generation to generation (ignore heritability of personality traits, for God’s sake don’t mention Charles Murray), bad, inequality, evil, delusional middle class, perpetuating evil, startling, shocked, getting leg up, good schools, magic good schools that catapult children into wealth, gated communities, evil, bad, escaping urban dysfunction, how dare they, evil, hypocrites about meritocracy, (can’t call middle class Americans middle class, because privilege perspective collapses, so call the middle class rich, but how?, I’ve got it!), top 20% of Americans are rich, make more than $100,000, rich, rich, rich, upper class, (ignore that incomes vary over time), (soto voce) 80% are oppressed by this hypocrisy, academic troubled by low income mobility, double think, obligatory two-sentence mention that raising kids well is a good thing, but things turn ugly, evil, bad, hypocritical, system rigged, Americans no better than Brits, evil zoning laws, keeping their good neighborhoods to themselves, troubling implications, 529 boondoggle, George Bush, Brits superior because we know we have a class system, stupid Americans, deepening class divides (for God’s sake ignore the trend towards higher returns to intelligence), pay me to pontificate in my sonorous Brit accent on deep-think panels, middle class rigging the system, dark ugly, they have no qualms, disgusting middle class, I mean rich, Americans, inflating values of their pricey homes, grrrr, reinforcing one another, only brave politicians will confront this evil.

        Is is basically a slow-mo mudslide of attitude and snarky soundbites with little or no connecting logical tissue, and no attempt to grapple with other perspectives.

      • Terry says:

        And I’m serious that I think I have given an honest summary of Mr. Reeve’s points.

        His strategy is to bury the reader under a wave of sonorous sludge. It is all attitude and no substance. It is almost a slow, dirge-like chant. Comments at the New York Times and The New Yorker are full of this stuff.

  12. Terry says:

    He’s arguing that Americans with incomes in the top fifth (approximately defined as, household incomes exceeding $100,000) should “stop pretending they’re not rich.”

    This fallacy was discussed recently on this blog. The $100,000 figure is income in one particular year, i.e., it is a snapshot in time.

    But, incomes fluctuate over time, so one half or more of earners (I’m guessing here) earn more than $100,000 in at least one year during their lifetime. Is Mr. Reeve saying that more than half of US earners are rich? Do earners fluctuate from being rich to being poor over time?

    This problem screws up his point so fundamentally that I can’t begin to say how he should fix it. At a minimum, he needs to give some serious thought to what it means to be “rich” (and it ain’t well measured by a single year’s income). His failure to do this suggests he is not a serious thinker on this issue.

  13. Erin Jonaitis says:

    I always enjoy when you write about this. The other thing I think “meritocracy” assumes is that we can all agree on what it means to deserve something, and I’m not sure we do.

  14. psyoskeptic says:

    It seems to me that all this argument that it is antimeritocratic to give ocracy to your children is just an attempt to defend the idea that some kind of “real” meritocracy would be one where everyone got what they deserved. It’s the difference between how you’d like a meritocracy to be and how it actually is.

    One way to correct it might be that regardless of who you give power to, your children or someone else, your maintenance of your own power is dependent upon their good stewardship of the power they have (perhaps some kind of utilitarian measure). That’s sort of how China’s system is supposed to work and it’s arguably a truer meritocracy than the US.

    • Martha (Smith) says:

      This brings back the memory of how, when I was very, very young, I thought that people should not be allowed to rear their biological children — but that children should always be adopted, and there should be some body that decided who should be allowed to adopt based on “qualifications of being a good parent.” Now, of course, I realize that such a system would be subject to the whims of whoever decided what these qualifications were. I now see the usual system, with all its imperfections, as the lesser of two evils.

  15. abdulh says:

    would you say of someone who claims to be a yankees fan that they are “inconsistent” if they don’t watch 100% of the yankees games, don’t wear a yankees hat every day of the year, ever drink a beer at a bar while the red sox are playing? Of course you wouldn’t, that’s not what supporting a sport team is about. The problem with social commentators/pundits is that, as someone important once said, they tend to confuse the things of logic and the logic of things

    • Andrew says:

      Abdulh:

      You might be right, but I’d put it somewhat differently: the problem with social commentators/pundits is that they’re rewarded not for coming up with solutions or for coming up with compelling arguments; rather, they’re rewarded for getting attention, clicks, etc. Say what you want about Reeves’s article, but it got attention. So in that sense it was a success.

      • Anon says:

        I think there it’s much less about the click-drawing quality of Reeves’ writing (there is nothing there), and more about the fear successful people have to live in, fear that the ransom they pay is not sufficient to ascertain that they will not end up in the concentration camps. Reeves’ writing is a glimpse into the abyss, shadow of the billions out there looking for a justice-like pretext to kill you, take your stuff and rape your children. That’s why Reeves and others like him get the attention they do

  16. mike says:

    I’m truly sorry you see the world the way you do. I have enjoyed many of your posts for their content, but I can’t support someone so elitist that they don’t recognize the elite water they swim in. Thanks for what you contributed to me in stat work, but life’s too short to be exposed to values like yours on a more regular basis than we already get from most of your academic colleagues.

  17. Statsgirl says:

    I feel like half the posts on your blog now are your pedantic interpretations and hair-splitting objections to things you read a year ago.

    • Andrew says:

      Statsgirl:

      What can I say? One person’s important topic is another person’s hair-splitting pedantry. Given the range of topics we cover on this blog, it makes sense that a particular reader such as yourself won’t like it all. Just remember, we have a diversity of readers. Some people tell me they love the technical statistical material and hate the political science—Who cares about politics?, they tell me—and others say they patiently wade through all the statistics material just so they can read the posts on politics and public opinion. Some people love when I write about statistical graphics—they tell me how much they learn from my detailed discussions of visual displays—and others can’t stand it. And some people just come for the comments. It takes all kinds!

    • Andrew says:

      P.S. If you’re not a regular reader, you might not realize that mosts of the posts on this blog are on a 6-month lag.

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