October 25, 2010

Freakonomics: The Movie

From my review in Taki's Magazine:
The new documentary Freakonomics harkens back to the good old days of 2005. Remember when economists, having permanently perfected the economy, graciously allowed their attention to wander to crime fighting, sumo wrestling, baby naming, and other fields not traditionally enlightened by their insights? University of Chicago economist Steven D. Levitt teamed up with journalist Stephen J. Dubner to compile one of the Housing Bubble era’s biggest airport-bookstore bestsellers: Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explains the Hidden Side of Everything. Levitt and Dubner have now recruited some prominent documentarians to anthologize five disparate chapters of Freakonomics.

The most entertaining is the segment by Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) on those not fully thought-through first names with which some African-Americans have saddled their babies ever since the late 1960s’ Black Pride movement. For example, scholars have counted 228 varietals of “Unique,” including “Uneek” (a fine name for a future rodent exterminator). ...

Are black children’s lives permanently damaged by all this parental originality? In 2005, Levitt and Dubner rather callously concluded that, in effect, if your parents named you “M’qheal” rather than “Michael,” your bigger problem is likely your last name. You are evidently descended from some mighty poor decision-makers.

Spurlock, however, adds a useful coda from another social scientist who mailed out résumés under white and black first names that were otherwise identical. Job applications bearing Ghetto Fabulous monikers are more likely to go straight into Human Resources Departments’ circular files. So, African-American parents: For the sake of your kids’ careers, please resist your whimsical urges. (Somebody should study the impact of the science-fictiony first names that Mormons dream up, such as D’Loaf, Zanderalex, and ElVoid.)

Read the whole thing there.

In other pop-sociology movie news, check out VideoGum's 2009 article "Malcolm Gladwell's Blink Vying for Legendary Worst Movie of All Time Status," including an important update on who is now attached to star in Blink. (Try to guess!)

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Going back to the post on Mormon names you link to, two things:

First, in my experience, the Mormons who come up with the most "uneek" names tend to be the dumber Mormons, and "original" Mormon names seem to be far more common in Utah than among Mormons elsewhere in the US. Not sure, however, what's supposed to be so odd about the name "Lanae."

Second, Steve Young never won the Heisman. To date Ty Detmer remains the one and only BYU player ever to win that award, in 1990, when BYU went on to get slaughtered by Texas A&M in their bowl game (don't remember which one). Young also never won a national championship while at BYU.

Steve Sailer said...

Thanks.

Harry Baldwin said...

I'll bet Malcolm Gladwell didn't Blink when they handed his check.

BTW, I took Blink out from the library on audio-book (read by the author) and couldn't get past the part where Gladwell writes about a psychological test that proves that people actually have negative associations with black people! And what was more stunning to the author, he himself also has stereotypical impressions of people of the race he has chosen to identify himself with, on the basis of some great-grandfather!!

After that, I couldn't bear to go on.

Anonymous said...

Ty Detmer- Heisman
Robbie Bosco- National Title


Dan in DC

Linda Seebach said...

The results of the study on stereotypical black names are rather more equivocal than they seem in casual references; the likely-black names needed to send out more resumes to get a call-back, but there was great overlap between the two groups, and even -- if I recall correctly -- the titular Emily was barely above the average for black female names.

A different study, by David Figlio, showed there is more going on than just racial discrimination. He studied school children and discovered that teachers treated children with orthographically exotic first names (not just black ones) differently from their siblings with common names. And the teachers, obviously, knew the races of the children they were teaching. It seemed the teachers were using the oddness of the names as a proxy for the child's intelligence -- though the study couldn't establish what they were thinking, only what they did. One report:
http://news.ufl.edu/2005/05/11/names/

Anonymous said...

Steve,

Don't blacks make up like 40% of abortions? And when you add in how many abortions are for handicapped children (80% of mothers who find that their baby has down syndrome abort), I have a hard time seeing how Roe hasn't been eugenic.

Carol said...

According to Henry Louis Gates, the creative naming is nothing new, though the styles have changed. He had some good ones in Colored People but the only one that comes to mind right now is Arbadella.

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons that anyone paid attention to Freakonomics was that it was sold as economics rather than just pop sociology. Economics has a reputation as being incomprehensible and serious whereas sociology is obvious and silly.

For example, some sociology doctoral candidate right now is conducting an experiment to see if having a banana in your ear hurts your chances in a job interview.

This experiment is a logical follow up to that experiment of sending out resumes with the loony names. It will no doubt yield similar profound insights.

My cousin Willie was named Owen. Everyone called him Willie and he had it changed legally to William when he was a teen. How hard is that? If you are an adult and your first name is M'qheal, that's not your parent's fault. You must like that name and so when I get your resume I know something about you - I know you are a flake.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

Yesterday, I came across a black woman with perhaps the best Ghetto Fantastic name of all: it sounds like, La-san-ja, but it is spelled Lasanga. As I Sicilian-American, I was highly appreciative of the tribute to my forebears cuisine (give or take a permutation of letters). No doubt this name was ejected by her mother's subconscious after many visits to the frozen foods case at Safeway.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday, I came across a black woman with perhaps the best Ghetto Fantastic name of all: it sounds like, La-san-ja, but it is spelled Lasanga. As I Sicilian-American, I was highly appreciative of the tribute to my forebears cuisine (give or take a permutation of letters). No doubt this name was ejected by her mother's subconscious after many visits to the frozen foods case at Safeway.

James Kabala said...

Mormon (or ex-Mormon) celebrities seem to be unlikely to have Mormon names. Donny and Marie Osmond, Steve Young, Ken Jennings, Aaron Eckhart, Jon Heder, Katherine Heigl, Amy Adams - all completely normal. Orrin Hatch and Mitt Romney have uncommon first names (or actually middle in Mitt's case), but not ones that particularly grate on the ear.

Anonymous said...

It's not that the creative names indicate a black person. It's that the bearers are probably of the ghetto variety, or at least of something similar, that sends up the red flag. Nobody wants to be in regular contact with those types. If the person is black they would prefer a middle class one, preferably at least second generation in that class, and the name would be a clue.

Claverhouse said...

Entirely personally, I would disagree with the suggestion that African Americans should avoid singular cultural naming practices. Quite apart from the fact that HR departments --- who are rarely staffed by people with groundbreaking intelligence themselves --- should discriminate upon other, more legitimate grounds, such as capacity for the task and wit, rather than on variables such as clothing or whatever one's parents named one; anything that allows people to maintain a separate, different, alien, culture which ensures both diversity and marks each group as non-interchangeable and apart seems wise.


As maybe does maintaining welfare, the bane of many if not most rightist American commentators: were I either, I should be on my knees every damn night thankful that blacks in America --- who let's face it, haven't really had a glorious life-experience since being brought over on ships not chartered by themselves --- may live on welfare.

The only two alternatives are that they compete for, and shall get, jobs whites compete for, or that they ( understandably ) massively react in violence when no money is coming in. One need not speculate as to IQ differences to account for the fact that there aren't going to be thousands of new black Bill Gateses and Warren Buffets coming out of Detroit in the next few years. It is sufficient that they are comparatively impoverished and that they have few opportunities.

Geoff Matthews said...

On the mormon name bit, I haven't noticed it either.
I knew a family with a girl named Lanae, which didn't strike me as odd.

I wanted an unusual name for our last child, but Bramwell is more old British archaic than just odd (my Utah mormon wife put her foot down and said no).

The only 'La' names that I know of are LaVell Edwards, the former BYU coach and LeGrande Richards, a deceased LDS church official. I haven't heard of any in the 50-and-under crowd.

none of the above said...

Anon:

It sure seems like a sensible M'quel or LaDon would just do what generations of guys named Frances or Myron have done before them--go by some normal name in everyday life, while leaving their odder name on their formal documents only. The resume from Mike Johnson or Larry Jones will have no special attraction toward the trashcan.

Evil Sandmich said...

When I was in Walmart a young female black cashier had an odd name that I couldn't place until I spoke it in my mind: "Mersaidees"

Guess here mother was worried about future copyright issues, or she didn't want to be that blatant about giving her daughter a 'stripper' name.

Mike said...

Mencken, in "The American Language," comments on black names. He notes that many black women delivered of children at the Baltimore charity hospital succumbed to the naming suggestions of mischievous young physicians doing their residencies there. One such mother, Mencken reports, was persuaded to give her child the Christian and middle names "Positive Wassermann."

Svigor said...

Yesterday, I came across a black woman with perhaps the best Ghetto Fantastic name of all

Nah. There's an article at Amren that references someone in health care who told the author (an anonymous lawyer, if memory serves) he has to regularly counsel black mothers against naming their daughters "Latrina."

Svigor said...

blacks in America --- who let's face it, haven't really had a glorious life-experience since being brought over on ships not chartered by themselves

Compared to the glorious life-experiences of their fortunate brethren left behind in Africa, of course.

Anonymous said...

"The only 'La' names that I know of are LaVell Edwards,"

...or Lamont Lafayette Bean who did quite well in the grocery business.

ksoren said...

My favorite Mormon name belongs to the former Democratic Congressman from New Hampshire's 2nd district - Dick Swett. It always makes me chuckle.

Also, Steve Young's father's name is LeGrande.

BamaGirl said...

The name Lanae isn't really that weird. It is even slightly less "exotic" than my first name.

Matt said...

On the topic of "la" names, I have a friend who spent some time working in a pharmacy in inner-city Houston. She told me about a customer named La-a, pronounced "la-DASH-uh". I'm honestly still not sure I believe her, but she's sticking to her story.

Anonymous said...

Its wonderful that the likes of Claverhouse see fit to drop by here and deposit their priceless pearls of wisdom, the distilled essence of the ruling religious paradigm.

Bravo sir (or madam)!

Claverhouse said...

Svigor said:

Compared to the glorious life-experiences of their fortunate brethren left behind in Africa, of course.


Maybe, but who cares what Africans do, or don't do ? Not I. Slavery in any culture was never as good to the enslaved as the various defenders of each culture pretend. --- It would have been better for whites ( and the USA generally ) if they had left them there.


An anonymous said:

Its wonderful that the likes of Claverhouse see fit to drop by here and deposit their priceless pearls of wisdom, the distilled essence of the ruling religious paradigm.

Bravo sir (or madam)!



Sir, to you.

And the idea that my views in any way approach the liberal is inane. Unlike the moralistic idealism of all republicans, reactionary royalists are more concerned with what will work rather than how it ought to work. To nullify any threat from a particular large group of people, it might be best to gladly give them a little, rather than have them later take the lot.

Anonymous said...

Matt,

The Baby Name Voyager lady insists that "La-a" is an urban legend.

doda pilii said...

Claverhouse: "...The only two alternatives are ..."
Alternatives are, by definition, only two. May I suggest "options"?

Anonymous said...

The Cari Clark article you cited in your 2006 post misrepresented the common surnames Mormons are typically saddled with. A large plurality of Utahns are of English descent, but there are also a lot of Scandinavians, too, and Scandinavian surnames aren't as diverse as English ones. There may be nearly as many (or more) Utahns named Anderson, Christensen, Hansen, Peterson, or even Rasmussen as there are named Smith, Jones or Young.

Orrin Hatch's name comes from Orrin Porter Rockwell, who was Brigham Young's bodyguard.

And speaking of people descended from famous Mormons, the US Senate will soon be getting its fourth member who is a great-great grandson of Mormon pioneer John D Lee, who is famous for supposedly instigating the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Mike Lee, the son of the late Reagan solicitor general Rex Lee, will almost surely be Utah's next senator. He will join his cousins Tom Udall (D-NM; the son of Stewart Udall) and Mark Udall (D-CO; the son of Morris Udall). Another Lee descendant, Gordon Smith (R-OR), lost his re-election bid a few years ago.

Seamus said...

On the other hand, "Blink" was a great Doctor Who episode.

Svigor said...

Maybe, but who cares what Africans do, or don't do ? Not I.

Nonsense. You:

blacks in America --- who let's face it, haven't really had a glorious life-experience since being brought over on ships not chartered by themselves

It would have been better for whites ( and the USA generally ) if they had left them there.

Er, moving the goal posts, much?

Svigor said...

To nullify any threat from a particular large group of people, it might be best to gladly give them a little, rather than have them later take the lot.

Maybe, but you're going to have to explain how blacks are going to take anything from whites if the latter are unwilling to let it happen (otherwise "take" becomes semantics).

Truth said...

"Maybe, but you're going to have to explain how blacks are going to take anything from whites if the latter are unwilling to let it happen..."

Eureka, Svigor, you've got it!

That's precicely why you make your home in Charleston (1/3 black). So what are you always whining about.

Claverhouse said...

"Not Worth The Bones of One Pomeranian Grenadier


Svigor said:

Maybe, but who cares what Africans do, or don't do ? Not I.

Nonsense. You:

blacks in America --- who let's face it, haven't really had a glorious life-experience since being brought over on ships not chartered by themselves

It would have been better for whites ( and the USA generally ) if they had left them there.

Er, moving the goal posts, much?





Not at all. You really don't understand the concept of not caring about people do you ?

Apart from your error of conflating Africans with African Americans...

It is entirely compatible to acknowledge that slavery was bad both for the slaves and the owners, and that the legacy of slavery hasn't been optimal for Americans black or white; to not let it worry one much; and to be not at all concerned what Africans in Africa --- who are distinct from American blacks, yet whom, had the latters ancestors not been taken from there would be in Africa still, not malcontent in America --- did to each other and are now doing to each other.

Particularly in the Congo...


It was not only gain that drove empire, not even inter-country competition, but also the impertinent christian ( and muslim ) destiny that true believers should not only convert the heathen, but also really, really care about people who were in no way their brothers.

Sublimated to 'Democracy' this later drove presidents such as Shrub to care about benighted foreigners enough to bring war to their lands in order to change them for the better.

On contemplating the foreign policy of the old thugs who have been president in my lifetime, another saying of Otto comes to mind: when asked on occasion what he thought the Court of Vienna would do next ? he answered:

"What's the silliest thing you can think of ?"





The world needs less caring.

Claverhouse said...

Svigor said:


Maybe, but you're going to have to explain how blacks are going to take anything from whites if the latter are unwilling to let it happen (otherwise "take" becomes semantics).


Actually, there have been a few black riots in America during the 20th century; and blacks now seem more pissed off than then thanks to state encouragement of their alleged grievances ( anti-racism, affirmative action etc. ) --- I should imagine that they are well capable of Action Directe if motivated sufficiently.

More likely they would make common cause with other groups to either gain through violence, or select a confisticatory regime that takes through state force.

There are more than enough anti-white whites --- some quite powerful --- to make common cause with either outcome, and a larger body of whites who are entirely apathetic ( since they have been taught racism is a sin ), so it's not as if it's going to be all whites against all other colours.

[ Which is one reason the idea of any mostly white ethnostates being permitted following the break-up is idle: few of the white masses are that interested in moving a 1000 miles just to live apart. ]


More seriously, I should suggest that one has to choose allies for future conflict, whatever the temptation to fight and die alone against overwhelming odds. Since immigration is the main threat to America at present, it might be wiser to woo blacks against hispanics partly by pointing out --- as Steve has mentioned sometimes --- that immigration hurts them still more than the rest. ( Because of that poverty thang. )

K(yle) said...

Claverhouse, you still miss the point. You claim yourself a Royalist, which means your political philosophy is already essentially in fantasy land in terms of being applicable any time in the near future(which, by all means, is fine.)

You then state that you want to focus on what does work, not what ought to work. Given the whole non-applicable nature of your current philosophy, and only focusing on what can work; essentially the sky is the limit in terms of your options.

You then go on to say that welfare, as a bribe to blacks in America, 'works'. Works to do what exactly? Is the black population pacified in some way? Do you suggest that blacks in America would form some kind of racial military apparatus to carve out their own nation, or whatever nightmare scenario you have conjured up?

Now, you are a reactionary Royalist, who only focuses on definitively practical solutions that will work. You are concerned about competition between blacks and whites for the same jobs (despite not actually caring about either group, or any individuals that comprise those groups apparently). Why would one have to go through some underhanded bribery? Certainly there are other options you could think of that are more definitively capable of preventing any competition for jobs at all?

Your 'what works' scenario is just supposed to be something provactive, but it's actually just stupid given your broader philosophy.

David said...

I have an idea for this movie.

The character playing Malcolm G should begin with short, flat hair. Then - as he learns of strange things like the racism of car dealers - his hair should become a little higher. It should get higher with each learning experience, until, at last, at the end of the movie, it is as tall as the rest of his body and he looks as if he has stuck an appendage into an electric socket.

After the end titles, we should have the following "gag tag": G reacts with a look of dismay when he sees someone who is offscreen at first; the dismay is so intense his hair falls like a soufflé. Then CUT to a CLOSE-UP of our favorite blogger...who says, sardonically: "Shoulda blinked." I know it's lame, but we're talking about "Freakonomics: The Movie" here, guys.

Claverhouse said...

A little late, but...

K(yle) said a lot of things...:


[xxx]


Rather obviously, royalism is not going to come back soon; however one does not abandon say, a religion, because one accepts the temporal promises may be delayed, or a wife because she is barren: and in any case royalism will never be applicable to the USA since it is founded upon opposite principles --- which is your bad luck, not mine.

Given the whole non-applicable nature of your current philosophy, and only focusing on what can work; essentially the sky is the limit in terms of your options.


Not really, you are confused as to the difference between rejected and workable; if for 500 years people use a bridge to cross a river, then a bunch of religious lunatics declare bridges unholy and thenceforth everyone is mandated to swim across carrying baggage upon their heads, both systems are still workable, but the previous one has been rejected by the populace, under instruction from the wise.

Nonetheless, whatever it's merits or otherwise, monarchism is not bound to any economic theory or political process: it merely concentrates on finding one solution to a problem whetherever that solution arrives from, and both placating the masses and not stirring them up for any ideology...


Do you suggest that blacks in America would form some kind of racial military apparatus to carve out their own nation, or whatever nightmare scenario you have conjured up?


Not at all, but I would suggest they can make themselves unpleasant if combined with others; blacks in America are, as are whites, a declining group, yet in Zimbabwe those blacks seem capable of taking over farm estates no matter how bravely individuals resist: I could easily imagine future hispanics, under the colour of Reconquista quite peacefully swarming Arizonian farms and declaring --- with the implied sanction of federal and state governments controlled by their votes --- "This land is Our Land", thirty years hence. It's probably best to not have too many aggrieved groups in the mix... Frankly, if I were a black and read Auster's and Mangan's, I would come away with the feeling 'these people are not my friends...


You are concerned about competition between blacks and whites for the same jobs (despite not actually caring about either group, or any individuals that comprise those groups apparently).


There are graduations of caring... I care more for my extended family than I do for other: doesn't mean I have to love each and every one of them.


Why would one have to go through some underhanded bribery? Certainly there are other options you could think of that are more definitively capable of preventing any competition for jobs at all?


Indeed there are. Off the bat:


i/ You can hope the next Republican administration may end legal and illegal immigration, and send agents out to deport all the illegals. Good luck with that.

ii/ Automation of goods and delivery may be reversed, creating millions of jobs for hand-delivery of parcels across the nation.

iii/ Abolish welfare and the minimum wage, freeing businesses to give honest, pride-filled, gainful employment to all the poor both white and black at $10 a day.

Provided they are willing to forgo showers and live 12 to a room.

Claverhouse said...

Cont.


Do you suggest that blacks in America would form some kind of racial military apparatus to carve out their own nation, or whatever nightmare scenario you have conjured up?


Not at all, but I would suggest they can make themselves unpleasant if combined with others; blacks in America are, as are whites, a declining group, yet in Zimbabwe those blacks seem capable of taking over farm estates no matter how bravely individuals resist: I could easily imagine future hispanics, under the colour of Reconquista quite peacefully swarming Arizonian farms and declaring --- with the implied sanction of federal and state governments controlled by their votes --- "This land is Our Land", thirty years hence. It's probably best to not have too many aggrieved groups in the mix... Frankly, if I were a black and read Auster's and Mangan's, I would come away with the feeling 'these people are not my friends...


You are concerned about competition between blacks and whites for the same jobs (despite not actually caring about either group, or any individuals that comprise those groups apparently).


There are graduations of caring... I care more for my extended family than I do for other: doesn't mean I have to love each and every one of them.


Why would one have to go through some underhanded bribery? Certainly there are other options you could think of that are more definitively capable of preventing any competition for jobs at all?


Indeed there are. Off the bat:


i/ You can hope the next Republican administration may end legal and illegal immigration, and send agents out to deport all the illegals. Good luck with that.

ii/ Automation of goods and delivery may be reversed, creating millions of jobs for hand-delivery of parcels across the nation.

iii/ Abolish welfare and the minimum wage, freeing businesses to give honest, pride-filled, gainful employment to all the poor both white and black at $10 a day.

Provided they are willing to forgo showers and live 12 to a room.