"Someone Like Me"

From our popular Dichotomizing the World series

I can't find the post, but a while ago a blogger at The Volokh Conspiracy discovered a striking pattern in op-ed pieces written by legal types about what qualities a Supreme Court judge should possess. The blogger observed that the authors' argument often amounted to, "a Supreme Court judge should basically be someone like me."

Now, I don't find that kind of view all that scandalous. There may well be a dose of vanity in arguing (sort of) that oneself is Supreme Court material, just as intellectuals' tendency to dislike the rich may have something to do with status jockeying, as Tyler Cowen guesses. But many qualities you have are in large part the result of the choices you make, and one should think that people who make a carreer in the legal line, for example, will tend to choose the experiences they think important. Likewise, it sounds a bit fishy if, say, a philosopher argues that society needs to give more respect to philosophers, but then, that's the kind of thing someone would say who thinks that philosophy is important. And such a person is likely to become a philosopher in the first place. In methods & stats parlance, there's a third variable that explains much of the association. So that's okay, largely.

There is a second phenomenon which looks like the one above, but is actually different. Here someone also argues that the qualities they possess should be more popular, but this time we're talking about qualities they had no influence on having. In this context, Steve Sailer has postulated his Law of Female Journalism: "The most heartfelt articles by female journalists tend to be demands that social values be overturned in order that, Come the Revolution, the journalist herself will be considered hotter-looking." (This also comes in the variant of an empirical statement: men actually do find women like herself hottest. As this is simple wishful thinking - these articles, it seems, are never written by slender 25-year-olds - it's basically the same thing and deserves no category of its own.) No third variable explanation available.

The lesson here, I think, is this. If you find yourself thinking that your own qualities should be valued more by others, be the more wary of your view the less influence you had on having those qualities. And indeed I have been wondering why females won't see that blogging is totally hot. It's a mystery, really. Boy, what a lame way to end a text.

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