Friday, November 30, 2007

Article on Intelligence vs. Effort

I found this article from Scientific American very interesting, and it rings true in my experience. Kids need to understand that achievement requires effort, not innate ability. Just because you fail, it doesn't mean you're dumb, or you can't ultimately succeed. The research speaks of 2 mindsets, "helpless" and "mastery-oriented" more important it talks about the two theories of intelligence that underlie these mindsets

The helpless ones believe that intelligence is a fixed trait: you have only a certain amount, and that’s that. I call this a “fixed mind-set.” Mistakes crack their self-confidence because they attribute errors to a lack of ability, which they feel powerless to change. They avoid challenges because challenges make mistakes more likely and looking smart less so. . . such children shun effort in the belief that having to work hard means they are dumb.

The mastery-oriented children, on the other hand, think intelligence is malleable and can be developed through education and hard work.
They want to learn above all else. After all, if you believe that you can expand your intellectual skills, you want to do just that. Because slipups stem from a lack of effort, not ability, they can be remedied by more effort. Challenges are energizing rather than intimidating; they offer opportunities to learn.

While people do have differences in ability, effort is more important:

People do differ in intelligence, talent and ability. And yet research is converging on the conclusion that great accomplishment, and even what we call genius, is typically the result of years of passion and dedication and not something that flows naturally from a gift. Mozart, Edison, Curie, Darwin and C├ęzanne were not simply born with talent; they cultivated it through tremendous and sustained effort. Similarly, hard work and discipline contribute much more to school achievement than IQ does.

This may seem basic, but the "helpless" mindset is rampant - and it affects much more than school work.

A fixed mind-set can similarly hamper communication and progress in the workplace by leading managers and employees to discourage or ignore constructive criticism and advice. . . Mind-set can affect the quality and longevity of personal relationships as well, through people’s willingness—or unwillingness—to deal with difficulties. Those with a fixed mind-set are less likely than those with a growth mind-set to broach problems in their relationships and to try to solve them . . . After all, if you think that human personality traits are more or less fixed, relationship repair seems largely futile. Individuals who believe people can change and grow, however, are more confident that confronting concerns in their relationships will lead to resolutions. . . Such lessons apply to almost every human endeavor. For instance, many young athletes value talent more than hard work and have consequently become unteachable. Similarly, many people accomplish little in their jobs without constant praise and encouragement to maintain their motivation. If we foster a growth mind-set in our homes and schools, however, we will give our children the tools to succeed in their pursuits and to become responsible employees and citizens.

So hang in there Becky! I can change, honest :-)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Top 1%

We've heard a lot this election cycle about "the top 1%" of income earners. Usually in a context like this:

Mr./Ms. Candidate (D):
". . . and I'll give every American healthcare by making sure the top 1% pay their fair share!"
Audience: (applause)
Newscaster: "A bold new proposal, from a bold new . . . (blah, blah, blah)"

But who are the mysterious "top 1%?" and what is "their fair share" anyway?

One gets the impression that they are watching CNN, poolside at the summer home, champagne in hand, laughing at the audacity of the politicians and vowing: "I will never, NEVER! pay my fair share!"

Or perhaps they are meeting old friends at the upscale "Club Un Percenteaux" in Manhattan (a very exclusive club -- it only admits 1% of those who apply) and plotting to buy off Congress to keep their low tax rates.

Thomas Sowell has a great article on who they are on National Review Online. Turns out the club isn't so exclusive after all:

Who are those top one percent? For those who would like to join them, the question is: How can you do that?

The second question is easy to answer. Virtually anyone who owns a home in San Francisco, no matter how modest that person’s income may be, can join the top one percent instantly just by selling their house.

But that’s only good for one year, you may say. What if they don’t have another house to sell next year?

Well, they won’t be in the top one percent again next year, will they? But that’s not unusual.

Americans in the top one percent, like Americans in most income brackets, are not there permanently, despite being talked about and written about as if they are an enduring “class” — especially by those who have overdosed on the magic formula of “race, class and gender,” which has replaced thought in many intellectual circles.

At the highest income levels, people are especially likely to be transient at that level. Recent data from the Internal Revenue Service show that more than half the people who were in the top one percent in 1996 were no longer there in 2005. . .

These are not permanent classes but mostly people at current income levels reached by spikes in income that don’t last.

More ways to get in the club:

These income spikes can occur for all sorts of reasons. In addition to selling homes in inflated housing markets like San Francisco, people can get sudden increases in income from inheritances, or from a gamble that pays off, whether in the stock market, the real estate market, or Las Vegas. . . corporate CEOs, those who cash in stock options that they have accumulated over the years get a big spike in income the year that they cash them in. . . Some of these incomes are almost as large as those of big-time entertainers — who are never accused of “greed,” by the way.

I might add own a small business to the list. The tax code makes it easy to live very well off your business, and report almost no income (it's been reinvested in the business).

It's not the same people who are rich at any given time. That's the beauty of the American economy. Anyone really can get rich (at least for a while), and no one has to stay poor. The free flow of goods and labor, the flexibility of business to hire (and fire) as necessary, and nearly universal access to education means that:

Most Americans in the top fifth, the bottom fifth, or any of the fifths in between, do not stay there for a whole decade, much less for life. And most certainly do not remain permanently in the top one percent or the top one-hundredth of one percent.

As to what "their fair share" may be, who knows. One might think it would be roughly the same as their percentage of the total income in the country. I do know that (according to the IRS) in 2004 they paid
  • 36.89% of all income taxes, and made
  • 19% of the total income.
Meanwhile, the bottom 50% paid
  • 3.3% of all income taxes, and made
  • 13.4% of the total income
There's at least an argument that they pay their share already.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Democrats' View of Taxes

In speaking of a tax cut, Gene Sperling, Hillary Clinton's chief economic advisor, said the following at a recent National Press Club panel discussion:

The question is, should we be giving an extra $120 billion to people in the top 1 percent?

Democrats see tax cuts as the government giving people money. This is insane! Welfare is giving people money, tax cut are no such thing. One gets the impression from the Democrats that wealthy Americans are a natural resource, to be pumped for as much cash as we need. Jonah Goldberg explains very eloquently in National Review:

You can see where Democrats get this idea, after all. The top 1 percent of wage earners already provide nearly 40 percent of federal income tax revenues. The bottom 50 percent of taxpayers contribute only about 3 percent.

This is dangerous to our form of government.

According to Democrats, it's greedy to want to keep your own money, but it's "justice" to demand someone else's.

Taxes are a necessary evil. But their silver lining is that they foster a sense of accountability and reciprocity between the taxpayer and the tax collector. Indeed, democracy is usually born from this relationship. Widening prosperity brings a rising middle class, which in turn demands the rule of law, incorrupt bureaucracies and political representation in exchange for its hard-earned money.

As the tax burden shifts to the rich, and as fewer people overall pay taxes:

the people are less inclined to see government as their expensive servant and more as their goody-dispensing master.

Democrats keep telling the bottom 95 percent of taxpayers that America's problems would be solved if only the rich people would pay "their fair share" of income taxes. Not only is this patently untrue and a siren song toward a welfare state, it amounts to covetousness as fiscal policy.

. . .it's unhealthy for a democracy when the majority of citizens don't see government as a service they're reluctantly paying for but as an extortionist that cuts them in for a share of the loot.

Beware any candidate who equates tax cuts with government spending. They may cut "spending" so much that we may end up with no money at all.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Most ridiculous British laws:

  1. It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament
  2. It is an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the British monarch upside-down
  3. In Liverpool, it is illegal for a woman to be topless except as a clerk in a tropical fish store
  4. Mince pies cannot be eaten on Christmas Day
  5. In Scotland, if someone knocks on your door and requires the use of your toilet, you must let them enter
  6. In the UK, a pregnant woman can legally relieve herself anywhere she wants, including in a policeman's helmet
  7. The head of any dead whale found on the British coast automatically becomes the property of the King, and the tail of the Queen
  8. It is illegal not to tell the tax man anything you do not want him to know, but legal not to tell him information you do not mind him knowing
  9. It is illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament in a suit of armour
  10. In the city of York it is legal to murder a Scotsman within the ancient city walls, but only if he is carrying a bow and arrow