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Linky Friday: Survival of the Fittest

Crime:

(Not this Black Widow. Or Marvel's)

(Not this Black Widow. Or Marvel’s)

[C1] The story of Carmine Caridi, the only man ever kicked out of the Academy (as in the Academy Awards Academy).

[C2] Meet Black Widow, the superhero of Norfolk.

[C3] The government does make it harder for ex-offenders to find work, but can also make it harder for ex-offenders to keep jobs when temporary parole revocation is applied too easily.

[C4] Is the TSA’s behavior screening program a bunch of hokum?

[C5] Germany is cracking down on biohacking.

[C6] The story of shadowy illicit cigarette sales, featuring the ATF.

[C7] Because I screwed up the link on Wednesday: The title explains it all: How a former editor allegedly used Vice Canada to recruit drug mules for a global smuggling ring.

Economics:

Socialism photo

Image by Patrick Denker

[Ec1] From the Jacobin, a look at how capitalists threaten strike and use their power to get their way.

[Ec2] Well, no, Mao probably didn’t do more good than harm. Relatedly, Adam Ozimek argues that socialism is bad.

[Ec3] Mirian Tupy wonders if Britain may position itself as the new Singapore. Or maybe Silicon Valley.

[Ec4] As the oil wells run dry, Gabon is looking at becoming a Trading hub.

[Ec5] Donald Boudreaux argues for Econ 101.

[Ec6] Adam Ozimek takes issue with the idea that macroeconomics is all about the confirmation of priors.

Marriage:

[M1] Eat, Stay, Love? According to some research, an unhappy couple that sticks it out is likely to find happiness.

[M2] Drake Baer argues that we should stop treating the divorce rate like the crime rate. It’s certainly a more complicated statistic. We certainly don’t want a divorce rate of zero. Divorce rates don’t seem to have lead to happier marriages (by attrition), though divorce rate can also fall if fewer people get married.

[M3] A new study suggests that gender traditionalism is okay for religious marriages, but bad for non-religious ones.

[M4] About five percent of male prairie voles form monogamous bonds. What separates them from their peers? They can gain the ability actually tell the ladies apart.

Breeding:

[B1] I’ve been shown this story both by libertarians who want to blame regulation and liberals who want to blame fundies for the fact it happened in Mexico instead of the US.

[B2] Babies are getting bigger. Are c-sections promoting evolution?

[B3] Robert VerBruggen – who is not a Nazi – argues that eugenics has not, in fact, been discredited.

[B4] I am glad I never read this piece when we were naming Lain, or we would definitely have been victim to paralysis-by-analysis. With any luck, though, we will have this problem at some point in the future.

[B5] Can we breed chickens to suffer less?

Nature:

lamprey photo

Image by edans

[N1] Look, I’m not going to argue with the spider. Are you?

[N2] Ugh. Okay, I guess bees are necessary.

[N3] Toddlers are dumber than chickens.

[N4] There are female lampreys that engage in sham mating, with birth control (or egg withholding) on the sly.

[N5] This was known about monkeys, but corvids also: Don’t cheat me, bro.

[N6] Monster worm! Monster worm! And not even in Australia. Before we start thinking Dune or whatever, they’re actually under two centimeters long, but that’s apparently very big for this sort of thing.

Education:

caribbean photo

Image by Travelbusy.com

[Ed1] Lurking in the background of this article about for-profit medical schools in the Caribbean is the increase of medical school slots in the US, which has not been met by an increase in the number of residency slots. This means that having an MD (or DO) is no longer an automatic ticket to a residency and being a physician. This also has implication for people booted from residency, and visa applicants.

[Ed2] At Jacobin, Tanner Howard explains how elite universities regressively work to maintain the class hierarchy.

[Ed3] The irony with this one is deep. I am glad that she has alternatives for her kid.

[Ed4] Alexandru Pintilie asks whether her career, teaching high school math, is useless.

[Ed5] Glynn Custred laments anthropologies turn from science into activism. As an aside, this day and age dropping the word “science” from a mission statement is just dumb. I mean, whether you plan to actially be scientific or not that would should be everywhere you can put it because people f’ing love science.

[Ed6] Wait… whiteboards?


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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464 thoughts on “Linky Friday: Survival of the Fittest

  1. Capitalist behaviour in this regard may be regarded as striking only at the extreme end of monopolistic or monopsonistic situations.

    The difference between a strike and capitalist behaviour is that strikes are strategic and consciously coordinated in a way that withholding capital is not. When a worker strikes, he is playing a game of chicken. If negotiations with the company fall through, the worker takes a direct hit. That’s why unionisation is necessary in order to make strikes effective. Randomd dude can’t unilaterally strike.

    When owners of capital refuse to invest or produce things locally, they are not forgoing profitable opportunities in order to bring the party over to the negotiaton table. That would be an option only if they were monopolies. It is illegal for businesses to organise the way unions do. More crucially, the reason capitalists dont move manufacturing back until conditions improve is not to force countries to improve conditions as much as possible, it is because moving production back to the states under current conditions is not expected to be significantly more profitable than remaining overseas.

    By contrast strikers do not strike only when remaining unemployed (or going to some other job) represents a better mix of labour and salary than the status quo. Whenever such an option obtains, workers don’t strike, they quit.

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    • I agree. Further, striking is a protected class of behavior, either legally protected or protected by bargaining power. A worker who decides to stop coming to work one day isn’t striking, he’s quitting.

      As you point out, if a bunch of capitalists got together and coordinated a withdrawal of their economic activity from the market, they’d likely be brought up on anti-trust charges.

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  2. [Ec1]: That Jacobin article is what happens when you decide to to treat human behavior in general and incentives, in particular, as nothing more than a roadblock on the way to utopia.

    Larger question in regards to socialism: does it bother socialists that almost no one wants what they want? I’ve met lots of people in my life who’d be happy to pay marginally more in taxes for publicly provided healthcare or higher education. But I’ve met almost no one who expresses a desire to hand over the majority of their paycheck in exchange for the provision of most goods and services by government fiat. I’ve also never met anyone who expresses a desire to deal with more large government bureaucracies.

    [Ed3]: I’m not sure that irony is the right word. Incoherent would be better. This article is what happens when people start letting political talking points replace reality. What does this mean?

    …she seems pretty dead set on dismantling public education through school choice…

    Also, I’m not sure how we got to the point where saying this is viewed as either regressive or even controversial, but the point of the public education system is to provide kids with an education, not to build and maintain public schools. This is a very basic example of confusing means for ends, which is something that you learn in every management class is not a good thing.

    ps – I know realize that I’ve been had with that last article. It cannot be sincere. It has to be some kind of attempt to push the reader towards greater support of school choice.

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    • , I assume that socialists are bothered to the same extent that the more adamant libertarians and free market advocates are bothered by the fact that almost nobody wants to completely gut the welfare state, get rid of all but the most elemental government functions, and leave everything else to an entirely unregulated market. Look at this Bryan Caplan piecethat Stillwater posted to. He seems to believe that even though most people don’t want this, the libertarians should just push forward with their agenda via extreme and harsh austerity because it will be better for people eventually. I imagine that many socialists feel the same.

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      • Yes, the same criticism applies for anarcho-capitalists and other brands of utopian libertarians. Lots of people want to live their lives with less government interference, but the number of people who want to smash the state is an extreme minority.

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        • After the wars of the social constructs has played out, it might be found that government should be isolated to nothing other than a service industry, and in that, people should have a individual choice as to how much of that service each wants and should be exposed to (and will pay for).

          That’s not utopianism as much as leading to the fundamental underlyings of subjective value and preference evolving through time. In that, the criticism doesn’t apply equally, nor is it held in extreme minority populations. One could say it is as vast as individual agency, which applies to everyone.

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          • In one respect I agree that the extreme libertarian position is preferable to the extreme socialist position in that the libertarian, if he is sincere, only wishes to be left alone and to be free to choose to what extent he participates in the larger society, while the socialist must seek to compel everyone by hook or by crook into his utopian scheme. I accept the basic foundation of Enlightenment thinking that human beings are fully formed moral beings, who exist for their own ends.

            That said, human beings are more than moral beings, we are social beings. And more often than not, our own ends don’t end with just ourselves. Our ends extend to out families, our communities and beyond. So, we are always going to be tied to each other by more than just voluntary exchange. There is always going to be some level of social compulsion that never goes away no matter how much we try to reason it away.

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            • Oh, I don’t deny social compulsions, and local community and family are pretty salient social constructs, but even within those, as consumers and producers, basic forms of individual agency go far in keeping and negotiating the peace, prosperity and happiness of all.

              I’ll continue to quote Josiah Warren probably to the end of my days:

              “It seemed that the difference of opinion, tastes, and purposes increased just in proportion to the demand for conformity […] It appeared that it was nature’s own inherent law of diversity that had conquered us”

              “those who advocated any type of communism with connected property, interests, and responsibilities were doomed to failure because of the individuality of the persons involved in such an experiment.”

              I don’t make my case in some ideology of utopianism, just basic subjective value/preference.

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    • “does it bother socialists that almost no one wants what they want?”

      You know what I don’t understand jr, there are countries that already had massive social majority movements. They have lived under the flag of supposed social democracy/socialism for decades, in those decades have had all time to, if not perfect, at least make liveable the social tenets.

      Now if man was as social as people like to think they are, why aren’t these places packed to capacity in population centers, and the rest of the world vacant. Why would people spend a long drawn out fight to make the most un-socialist nation a socialist nation? Really there should be a negative inclination to stay here and a positive force to go there. Yet here we are, and I think if you could really get the subjective truth as to why they stay here, it would be along two axis: freedom and economy. If you ask them why they don’t go there it would likely be freedom and economy.

      What do you make of that?

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      • I have lived in Sweden , France, and Germany and can confirm their livability.

        As to why people don’t leave – there’s also “I like this country, it is where I grew up and have friends and family. The fact I like it, and want the best not just for me but for my love ones here, is why I will keep trying to improve it.”

        (Not to mention – I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried to move to another country, but it’s not like moving to another state in that you don’t just get in automatically…)

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        • Sweden, France and Germany are a little new to the table (and more friendly to capitalism) compared to China or what remains of the efforts in Russia.
          Russia shouldn’t have took the dive it did, and should be the pinnacle of the ideology.

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          • I tune out when people equate socialism as practiced in Sweden, France and Germany with what goes on (or went on) Russia and China. This simply is not a serious argument that can be made in good faith.

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          • Get back to us when influential American leftists are advocating communal farms and nationalized rubber boot factories. Until that happens I’ll continue taking them at their word that what they want is what they’re publicly advocating – things like decently funded public transit, and a single payer for healthcare and university tuition – and not worrying about the threat of North American Bolshevism.

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            • I take it in good faith. The problem I have with these things, is the markets which I have to go to, get distorted by making things ‘socially special’ and it really wouldn’t be a big deal but there isn’t a little chunk of the market set aside to run outside the distortions.

              Maybe we should run two markets, one for the ‘socially special’, and one just left to it’s own ends.

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              • Well that’s something I can take seriously and discuss – I don’t agree that it’s a problem, given that every first world country other than the USA has that kind of “distorted market” for healthcare, and achieves better health outcomes with a lower percentage of its GDP than the USA does.

                But bringing the failed communist regimes of the 1940s to 1980s into the picture when discussing the kinds of modest socialism that is prevalent throughout the first world, I think is not worth taking seriously.

                Because I think it safe to conclude that things like Holodomor, Gulags, Great Leaps Forward, Cultural Revolutions, Phnom Penh evacuations and deliberate starvation of the urban “reactionaries”, and the like, to be considerably more influential on the eventual failure of historical communist governments, than distorted healthcare markets ever were.

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                • I think if we just bump nurses in rural areas that have 4 years experience up to rural doctors status, it would help us out here, maybe pull back on some regulations to give them a little more freedom.

                  I think we are about 8 years away from a distortion in the food markets, which doesn’t bother me either, because I can make it ok without that market.

                  The problem comes when people perceive these distortions as various market failures, and market chaos, when in reality they have pretty specific causes. What happens with the social constructors is they just can’t let the markets do what they need to do and end up taking complete control of all aspects of the economy. Then we’re into the similar control structures of those regimes that failed.

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                  • And yet here I am, living in a country with a market for medical care distorted by social constructors and loving it.

                    I’m happy to receive socialized medical care when needed, as when our daughter was born and spent a week in NICU and we didn’t once have to stress about where the money would come from to save our child’s life or what kind of life we could afford to give her after paying the medical bills for her life.

                    I’m happy to pay the taxes to ensure others have the same healthcare access and freedom from financial worries no matter their wealth. And if there’s one thing Canadians are near-unanimous on, it’s that.

                    On the whole, I’d say the “market distortion” of socialized medicine is bending that the shape of accommodating humans.

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                    • I don’t for a minute want to separate you and yours from that type of social goodness yall have going on, and in that I think we may be talking past each other a little bit.

                      If you want that artisan social flavored market that’s all good. I just have to be able to have my straight up no frills, free as it can get market.

                      How do we make that happen?

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                  • I’d suggest that you’re looking at the thing that every country of the late 20th century had in common and saying “Ah hah, there’s the difference!”

                    It’s like saying that amniotic fluid is a gateway drug to cocaine because every cocaine addict inhaled that before using cocaine.

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    • asks:

      does it bother socialists that almost no one wants what they want?

      Opening line of the Ozimek article:

      I get a worrying sense that socialism is becoming cool again. You can see it all over social media where people brag about joining the Democratic Socialists of America, and in the popularity of the socialist magazine Jacobin.

      Yogi Berra:

      Nobody goes to that restaurant; its too crowded

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    • Ed3 – I think the irony is that the author is a writer who claims to be concerned with education, but doesn’t know how to write. “After Confirming Betsy DeVos, I’m Keeping My Son In A Charter School” means that she confirmed DeVos then kept her son in a charter school. I kept reading, looking for what role she played in the confirmation process.

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    • I give the article credit in that it does actually identify a problem (that the control of money is the control of power), but kinda light of any solid idea of prescription for what to do beyond “decentralize power”. Underlying the whole thing is the idea that government should exercise the power to decentralize the economic power of companies, which just means that government gains that power. Hell, the whole article is the authors complaining that one group of people is exercising power in a way they don’t like. Boo-fricking-hoo, welcome to life, where we all live with other people exercising power in ways we find objectionable.

      This is the paradox of power. Diffuse power can’t do much in the short term, it takes time to coordinate all the holders of power and get them working toward the common goal. This is why we create hierarchal organizations, to concentrate power so that things can get done relatively quickly. But a hierarchal organization means that the power gets concentrated into the hands of a few people, and you have to trust them to work toward the common goal. And if those few betray the trust, the holders of the diffuse power need to coordinate to revoke the power, which takes time. It doesn’t matter if the power is held by corporations or governments (and the execution of that power does not gain the moral high ground just because it’s held by corporations or governments, power is power and the moral value depends upon the actions of the wielder, not the type of organization they belong to).

      So yes, capital flight is an issue, but no, you can’t just strip away the ability to fly without causing existing orgs to wither or new orgs to never take root. You have to give them a reason to stay that speaks to their self interest, and giving away the farm is not the only way to do that, it’s just the easiest, the most expedient, and the one most likely to appeal in the short term to the holders of diffuse power (the voters).

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        • As long as it is a high school text. Seriously, instilling a healthy respect (and hopefully apprehension) for political or economic power should be done as early as possible.

          And thanks. :-)

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      • Hell, the whole article is the authors complaining that one group of people is exercising power in a way they don’t like. Boo-fricking-hoo, welcome to life, where we all live with other people exercising power in ways we find objectionable.

        I think this gets to the heart of what socialism is, at least of the Marxist variety. It’s a reductionist philosophy completely centered on class conflict. The proletariat is the virtuous class, so they define virtue almost entirely by what benefits the proletariat. I suppose in a world in which most people are wage laborers and a small minority’s of aristocrats own all the capital, you can convince yourself that socialism is justice. But how does that translate to the contemporary developed world where most people are both wage earners and owners of significant amounts of capital (at least by historical standards)?

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        • The failure of the Marxist variety is assuming that, when the proletariat concentrate their power into the hands of the bureaucracy, that the leadership will always act in the best interests of the proletariat, instead of in their own. It denies not only the basics of human nature, but also denies that it creates class conflict based upon political power, rather than economic.

          One reason the social democracies of Europe are not povery stricken hell holes is precisely because they never bought the Marxist flavor whole hog. Their political classes are still very answerable to the citizenry. It also helps that they are small, so it’s very difficult to sequester the powerful from the populace such that they can avoid having a mob on their doorstep in short order.

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  3. Related to all the economics articles, I posted this yesterday but it might fit better here; The Atlantic argues that catastrophe is the only thing that erases inequality:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/02/scheidel-great-leveler-inequality-violence/517164/

    Humans have long faced competition in inflicting damage serious enough to rebalance the scales, which brings up the fourth leveling force. The first pandemic of bubonic plague at the end of antiquity, the Black Death in the late Middle Ages, and the merciless onslaught of smallpox and measles that ravaged the New World after 1492 claimed so many lives that the price of labor soared and the value of land and other capital plummeted. Workers ate and dressed better, while landlords were reduced to complaints that, as one English chronicler put it, “such a shortage of laborers ensued that the humble turned up their noses at employment, and could scarcely be persuaded to serve the eminent for triple wages.” Surviving tax registers from late medieval Italy also bear witness to the sweeping erosion of elite fortunes.

    But what of less murderous mechanisms of combating inequality? History offers little comfort. Land reform often foundered or was subverted by the propertied. Successful programs that managed to parcel out land to the poor and made sure they kept it owed much to the threat or exercise of violence, from Mexico during its revolution to postwar Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Just as with the financial crisis of 2008, macroeconomic downturns rarely hurt the rich for more than a few years. Democracy on its own does not consistently lower inequality. And while improving access to education can indeed narrow income gaps, it is striking to see that American wage premiums for the credentialed collapsed precisely during both world wars.

    The people who I see call for Econ 101 are libertarians who seem to think it will turn everyone into a libertarian.

    B1: It is possible for people to look at the same thing and come to different conclusions. I have seen both liberals and libertarians mourn the death of Kenneth Arrow and praise his work. Kenneth Arrow received the Nobel Prize in Economics for proving the markets fail when it comes to healthcare. Liberals see this as evidence for single-payer NHS schemes. Libertarians do not see Arrow’s work in the same light.

    Ed2: There are a lot of jumps in this piece, elite universities are not responsible for the lack of funding at Harvard but it should not be surprising that many elite universities attract students who mainly come from the upper-middle class and above. My undergrad alma mater receives a lot of praise for helping non-traditional and low-income students including through the Vassar Vet program.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/08/vassar-low-income-students_n_7020942.html

    But the school’s main student body still comes from 18-22 year olds, most of whom live in or near Boston, NYC, and Philadelphia. 70 percent of Vassar students went to public high school but the school still has a reputation as being filled with private-school kids.

    Lots of schools keep tuition high because it makes them more desirable. This was first discovered by George Washington University’s President in the 1980s.

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    • Lots of libertarians also want people to learn STATS 101, which is unlikely to make anyone a libertarian.

      But it might help people avoid getting snowed by making it harder for BS to pass the smell test.

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      • Kevin Drum’s constant harping on the issue of ‘adjusting for inflation/GDP growth/population growth’ has gotten me into the instinctive habit of checking every graph involving money and the US to see if they’ve done it.

        It’s amazing how many times I’ve seen people just bald-facedly claim “Spending on X has grown Y percent” and then a quick check shows spending has actually remained flat.

        As an example, I often see pieces about the rise in a state’s education budget that neglect to mention how student numbers have changed over the time period in question. A 15% increase in budget over 5 years isn’t quite as alarming if the student population has grown, say, 13%.

        (Then again, politicians are quite keen to hide slashing budgets as ‘restraining growth’. People get far more upset about one than the other, and neglecting inflation adjustments or population growth is just one of the fun ways to trick the general public)

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        • You’d think Mr. Disraeli’s admonishment about statistics & lies (via Clemens) would give people pause about taking them at face value, but then if they’ve never taking a stats class, they don’t have the tools to even begin knowing where to look for the fix is in.

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          • People, by and large, aren’t equipped (and don’t wish to) go through life with their skepticism tuned to 11. it’s exhausting, among other things.

            Although you’d think people would tune their BS detectors a little better than the current default.

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            • A key problem for institutional design is getting one which is the least demanding in terms of people tuning up their BS detectors. It is a further question as to whether that system which minimised such rational requirements would still demand more than what people currently are willing to put in. The holy grail for political institutional design is to find one which satisfies both (and doesn’t fall apart if people do have a sudden spurt of rationality)

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    • The people who I see call for Econ 101 are libertarians who seem to think it will turn everyone into a libertarian.

      I think everybody should study at least a little bit of economics and I am not a libertarian. Having differing moral values is all good and fine, but if you want to enact those values, you should at least have some understanding of the levers you’re going to pull and what they actually do. It’s OK to have different end goals. That’s not what my concern is. A lot of people seem to be saying, “We all have different preferences for what we want our cars to do. I don’t need mine to go fast, but I want it to tow a lot of weight,” and then starting to modify their cars without having any idea how a car works.

      Also, being able to think quantitatively about value and resource allocation seems to be life skill a lot of people just don’t have. If we can fix that life skill deficiency and the, “figuring out when to trust a media source” life skill deficiency, we’d probably all be a lot better off.

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        • Econ 101 is required, at least in Texas, for graduating HS.

          Stat’s isn’t exactly, although you’re exposed to the basics in a number of math classes that are required for graduation.

          Then again, people are just really bad at statistics, even when they take the classes. Vegas makes bank on that.

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        • Well, given that even professional economists have a hard time deciding if minimum wages are good or bad, I doubt that giving everyone a course in Econ 101 would move the needle much.

          Which is why I take economics arguments with caution, and “Econ 101” fundamentalism without seriousness. Economics has a difficult time actually explaining, much less predicting, the world we live in.

          Its as if physicists were constantly explaining and arguing why the rocket didn’t land here, but over there instead.

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          • I think economists are pretty good at predicting and explaining economic trends. It’s the details that trip them up, because models are models and are always missing information.

            I guess my point is that some grounding in economics might have made people question exactly how Trump was going to make jobs come back, because they might understand why Tariffs are a bad idea, or why trade deficits are not as important as people like to make them seem.

            I doubt it would have turned the election, but it might have kept him from taking the primary race.

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          • Let me add, re: your rocket analogy – There is no model that will predict exactly where a rocket will land, because the conditions that could affect the landing spot will be constantly changing. The model gets you 80% there, the last 20% is keeping an eye on local conditions and responding accordingly to stick the landing.

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          • <blockquote.Well, given that even professional economists have a hard time deciding if minimum wages are good or bad, I doubt that giving everyone a course in Econ 101 would move the needle much.

            A key problem is that there’s a difference between what economists broadly agree on (which is tons of stuff) and what people argue about on TV. I think has the clearest take on the minimum wage arguments: Minimum wage is pretty close to the reservation wage and minor tweaking of it is going to have pretty insignificant effects on overall income and employment. “Good” or “bad” is a value judgment. I don’t think you’ll get much argument between economists about what will happen if you turn the minimum wage knob far enough outside the narrow “noise” band that the key variables start dominating all of the confounding ones.

            Its as if physicists were constantly explaining and arguing why the rocket didn’t land here, but over there instead.

            A better analogy is probably meteorology. The problem I see with this argument is that while it’s OK to take 10 day weather predictions down to the tenth of a degree with a grain of salt, most people who spend their time dumping on economics as a discipline tend to be saying the meteorological equivalent of, “Therefore my common sense method of casting and reading the chicken bones is just as good at predicting rain.” It’s not. The bones have nothing to do with rain. Air pressure and wind and temperature do.

            People who want to start trade wars, go back to the gold standard, set price ceilings on fuel or implement rent control everywhere are in the, “I don’t believe it when meteorologists say that chicken bones don’t predict rain” territory. Even a minimal education in the fundamentals would fix that.

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            • Thats all very true.

              I was noticing how even in Boudreaux’s article, he envisions an argument between an economics student and Kwak, where the student calmly describes the inescapable realities of the minimum wage to poor Kwak.

              Which is the problem.
              Rather than explaining economics as a series of inescapable realities, wouldn’t it be better to use actual real world examples, like Seattle or other cities which tried it?

              Because while I don’t know how many professional economists weighed in with predictions, I do know there was a metric fuckton of armchair Econ 101 fundamentalists online who predicted an economic calamity, all of whom calmly and confidently recited the very same “inescapable realities”.

              The idea here isn’t that “economics is bunk”; your comparison to weather is better, that while serious students can make some general predictions, those are only within some wide parameters.

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              • Yeah, the Econ 101 people don’t see the whole picture. But the Econ 000 people are worse – they think you can raise the minimum wage or government spending without anything but extra money showing up. At least Econ 101 will teach someone to think about tradeoffs.

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                • Exactly, Pinky.

                  In one sense, criticizing economists at the margins is equivalent to criticizing physicists at the margins, ie., just because there’s no consensus on whether {{marginal theoretical explanatory account}} is correct doesn’t mean that the overall body of evidence and more general theories are invalid or illegitimate.

                  Along those lines, my own (older) criticism of economics as a discipline was based on the “observation” (scare quotes intentional) that theories in economics tend to prioritize the interest of capital above those of labor or even externalities. But that’s probably because my initial introduction to economic theory was inherently a political one: econ being used to promote political and ideological ideals. As I’ve become (slightly) more familiar with the literature and views I tend to think most of the stuff is actually ideologically neutral (or balances out that way), even tho I stil DO think that what constitutes Econ Orthodoxy in the US DOES give short shrift to the interests of labor!!

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                  • I’ll sort of cosign this comment. I actually think better of economists nowadays. I’ve read more of them and lots of what they say is more neutral, accepts there are trade offs, externalities or are appropriately limited based on various constraints. I’d spent decades being lectured by the conservative version of Econ 000 types about “THIS IS ECONOMICS how can you disagree!!!!” that it was easy to dismiss the entire field.

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                  • This gets at my complaint against economics discipline, at least as it’s currently practiced. It’s that it’s inherently political, regardless of which direction you believe the ideology to be pointing.

                    It could be, and arguably should be, a completely objective, positivist, descriptive science. Just figuring out how things work and what happens if you pull this policy lever or turn that tax dial. But it never really is because those levers and dials have real consequences for the fates and fortunes of people. Winners and losers, at least relatively, hence, politics.

                    Edited to add: I think we can distinguish between the honeat academics and the hired policy guns.

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                    • I don’t quite agree with your second paragraph. If economics is analyzing the levers, and doing so is inherently political, than how could economics be non-political? Did I miss a point you were making?

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                        • That’s the debate, isn’t it? That’s what economists spend most of their time arguing about. Every model is a simplification. Models can imply completely different economic dynamics. Everyone argues that the other guys’ simplifications are fatal, and theirs are reasonable.

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                          • That’s Road’s point, tho, isn’t it?

                            On the other hand, here in the US the economic orthodoxy assumes that the central tenet of economic theory is to prioritize capital and that labor is “flexible”, merely a cost. So there really is no mature labor economics that makes its way to popular culture other than how the labor theory of value entails totalitarian genocidal impoverishment.

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                            • If that is his point, then he’s thrown out the baby with the bathwater – or I guess thrown in a baby, or there’s a…baby, I’m not sure. Oh, he’s begging a question. That’s it. He says (pardon my paraphrasing which may be unfair) that economics is too political, and it should be less so, and you can do that by getting rid of the political parts. It assumes that it’s easy to distinguish between the analysis done by people with a bias and that done by people without one. OK, so he’s making an assumption. No baby at all.

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                  • I was going to include tax cuts in my list of magical ideas, because some people think they create money. My thinking for not doing so was that many people who call for tax cuts talk about the impact of them (namely, that they may stimulate the economy). But in fairness, people who call for increased government spending also cite the impact (again, that it may stimulate the economy). I still think the tax-cutters are thinking a step ahead when they consider that the extra taxes collected due to the economic stimulation may offset the tax revenue lost, whereas the big-spenders don’t have a story to explain the benefit of government debt. But at least both groups are thinking about impact.

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                    • From the political perspective, Arthur Laffer merely took vulgar Keynesianism, i.e.”government spending always pays for itself!” and turned it inside out “Tax cuts always pay for themselves!”

                      They both work on the same magical principle that if a little is good, a whole lot is better amirite?

                      They were both supported at the street level by the Econ 101 brigade.

                      I remember arguing with old codgers in the 70’s telling me how they remembered FDR and how all that deficit spending created all the postwar prosperity.

                      Who sound a lot like the aging Reaganauts telling us how his tax cuts created prosperity and jobs.

                      The actual nuance and complexity of both events are submerged into a political article of faith.

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                      • From the political perspective, Arthur Laffer merely took vulgar Keynesianism, i.e.”government spending always pays for itself!” and turned it inside out “Tax cuts always pay for themselves!”

                        Laffer clearly stated that tax cuts don’t always pay for themselves. His curve is based on the principle. If it wasn’t, it’d be a straight line. In fact, for the lowest rates, it practically is a straight line in the other direction. Is the phrase “from the political perspective” supposed to negate all that, because the Laffer Curve was used to argue for tax rate reduction?

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                        • Laffer was making a political, not economic, argument.
                          Economists mostly reject his theory.

                          He didn’t actually claim cuts would always pay for themselves, anymore than Keynes said stimulus spending would always pay for itself, but the vulgar version of the theory has been used that way.

                          Thus Brownback.

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                              • Indeed it was. And tax shelters for high earners was a booming business. Real estate, oil and gas, all sorts of things that could be packaged up to create paper losses or to recharacterize income (eg, turn it into capital gains in future years). Business sections of the papers were always running stories about the IRS declaring various sorts of shelters to be scams.

                                Some of them still work. We’ve seen pieces of Trump’s state income tax returns. Anyone think that the $900M capital loss he took one year back in the 90s was actually money out of his pocket? Or was it a carefully structured (and probably legal) shelter for future income?

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                            • Keynes also argued that there is a point at which lowering taxes increases tax revenue. My main beef is that it should be called the Calhoun curve — John C. Calhoun popularized the notion that there was a point at which a tariff ceased to bring in additional revenue, and that was the point at which a tariff became protective, and he was against that.

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                            • {{Searching for a joke equating the pop-conservative view of the Laffer curve with an idiotic assertion that Mexico will pay for a border wall via remittances from the US to Mexico. Something about diminishing intellectual returns… Can’t find it tho…}}

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                              • Oh, come on, this one’s easy. At some point, if the wall is high enough, Mexico begins to pay for it. Thus, the cost to the US of building no wall is the same as the cost of building an infinitely high wall.

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                                  • Thinking about this some more, how come no one’s talking about constructing a light rail system tracking the border? It’d modernize US infrastructure AND double as a border wall. Two birds! Mexicans could ride it, of course, thereby paying for the TrainWall’s construction. Political promise kept!

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                            • Who was Arthur Laffer having dinner with when he made his sketch?

                              Hint: It wasn’t a bunch of economists!

                              What makes the Laffer curve political, is that it can’t be plotted.

                              That is, there isn’t a fixed shape curve for all tax rates, or even a single tax rate; The shape of the curve varies wildly with its peak sliding up and down the x scale. And it appears to vary when you raise taxes versus cutting them to the same rate. or vary when combined with other factors.

                              All the theory really says is that tax revenues are zero at both the 0% and 100% rate, with the optimum revenue somewhere in between.

                              OK, great! But, isn’t that like, kinda obvious? Is there someone somewhere who would argue that point?

                              So where is this magical optimum point and how would we determine it?
                              Well, Laffer doesn’t provide much help in determining that. He’s just the Big Picture guy I guess. They have nerdy guys in white coats who do that part.

                              But here’s the punchline, wait for it, wait…are you ready?

                              the Laffer Curve does not say that “all tax cuts pay for themselves” as many people claim. What is true is that tax rate cuts will always lead to more growth, employment, and income for citizens, which are desirable outcomes leading to greater prosperity and opportunity.

                              (bolding mine).

                              So tax cuts are always a good thing! ALWAYS!!
                              Unless you hate growth, income and the baby Jesus.

                              So what the Laffer Curve really is, is a trivially simple observation that everyone already knew, useless as a tool for setting tax policy, but invaluable to politicians to bullshit their way to rewarding the donor class..

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                              • What makes the Laffer curve political, is that it can’t be plotted.

                                That is, there isn’t a fixed shape curve for all tax rates, or even a single tax rate; The shape of the curve varies wildly with its peak sliding up and down the x scale. And it appears to vary when you raise taxes versus cutting them to the same rate. or vary when combined with other factors.

                                That just means you have to do a bunch of empirical work to figure out the shape of the curve for a particular country’s tax regime. Difficult is not the same thing as impossible.

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                              • So wait a second. I just looked up that quote of yours, from the Laffer Center. It says that the Laffer curve doesn’t say that all tax cuts pay for themselves. That’s what I said. That’s not what you said (although technically, you said that Laffer says something he didn’t say, not that the Laffer curve says something it doesn’t say). Anyway, thanks for fortifying my argument. I guess that’s the second time on this thread that you’ve verified you posted something incorrect, unless this was sort of an apology, in which case it’s the second time on this thread you’ve done that.

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                                • Look again at my post from 6:45 yesterday.

                                  Here, I’ll post it again, verbatim from the Laffer Center:

                                  the Laffer Curve does not say that “all tax cuts pay for themselves” as many people claim. What is true is that tax rate cuts will always lead to more growth, employment, and income for citizens, which are desirable outcomes leading to greater prosperity and opportunity.

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                                  • the Laffer Curve does not say that “all tax cuts pay for themselves” as many people claim. What is true is that tax rate cuts will always lead to more growth, employment, and income for citizens, which are desirable outcomes leading to greater prosperity and opportunity.

                                    Provided you don’t break the economy, lose a war, that sort of thing.

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                                  • Yes. Every time you post it, it agrees with me. Let’s break this down:

                                    “The Laffer Curve does not say that ‘all tax cuts pay for themselves’ as many people claim.”

                                    We can agree on what that sentence says, right?

                                    “What is true is that tax rate cuts will always lead to more growth, employment, and income for citizens, which are desirable outcomes leading to greater prosperity and opportunity.”

                                    Note that this doesn’t say that the growth, employment, and income, or the prosperity and opportunity, necessarily generate enough tax revenue to offset the loss in tax revenue from the rate cut. It doesn’t speculate on what costs there might be in servicing debt if those tax revenues aren’t offset. It merely says that, regardless of where the current tax rate falls on the Laffer curve, lower tax rates stimulate the economy all other things being equal. The first order effect of any tax rate cut is economic stimulation; the second order effect is that the stimulation will or will not offset the loss in tax revenue depending on the Laffer curve.

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                                    • But that’s the stupid part!

                                      An unbounded assertion like that logically means that maximum stimulation of growth and jobs occur with 0% taxes.

                                      It ignores that the things that government provides- roads, sewers, courts, police, fire protection, schools- are themselves necessary to economic growth and job creation.

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                                      • The maximum first order stimulation of the economy from tax cuts would be a 0% rate. That’s obvious. The first sentence refers to the Laffer curve and maximizing tax revenue, the second to the economic stimulus from tax policy.

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                        • Laffer observed that there were two points, and then posited that the path connecting them is a smooth curve that’s always concave downward. If it were the current in a toaster’s heating element, there’d be measurements done to make sure the bread gets done correctly. Since it’s merely macroeconomics, hand-waving is fine.

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            • Minimum wage is pretty close to the reservation wage and minor tweaking of it is going to have pretty insignificant effects on overall income and employment.

              I think that’s the key point, at least as a response to Chip. For example, I’m not a professional economist (and Chip, as far as I know, isn’t one either!) but it seems entirely obvious that if the minimum wage were raised to, say, $100/hr, we’d see some deleterious effects not only on “employment,” but the growth of the black-market economy as well. If enforced, no one would – or could – pay such a rate for work people are willing to do for 10 bucks an hour.

              That doesn’t mean, of course, that wages aren’t keeping up with cost of living in lots of high density areas. It’s more that economists – as well as commonsensicalists – realize that mandating an arbitrarily high, or even “too” high, wage floor isn’t going to produce the intended outcome.

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                • Not sure I understand the question. What do you mean by “equilibrium” wage? The reservation wage? If so, what’s wrong with it is that it doesn’t keep up with cost of living in high-density areas which experience lots of economic growth, driving those low wage folks either into debt, onto federal subsidies or outa their communities.

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                    • As I understand it equilibrium wage is the wage that a competitive market will eventually settle in equilibrium on. Considering the workers as a primary parameter in that, It is not sustainable for the worker to settle for a wage that leads to desperation or impoverishment.

                      Although it does allow for legal capital formations below wage rates that maintain a floor. It doesn’t cut off the market activity below minimum wage.

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                      • It is not sustainable for the worker to settle for a wage that leads to desperation or impoverishment.

                        Hence, social programs and welfare benefits. Because people in fact DO have to settle for wages below their cost of living, which incurs costs – social, economic, moral, aesthetic, etc and so on – which some* people (not Damon :) believe are worth ameliorating via (scare quote alert!) “redistribution” of wealth.

                        *Actually, almost all. Hence the passage and enforcement of vagrancy laws (and so on).

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                        • Those social programs and welfare benefits become a subside for the corporations that would have either payed the equilibrium wage upfront, or perished without purchasing labor.

                          I would like to have more empathy for people who can’t do enough math to see they need to make their wage at least equal or greater than their cost of living*. To ignore that in a way is to enable economic incompetence.

                          So since the subside for the corporation has been pulled out of taxes, there is less capital which might be used for increased base wealth, or production that could have otherwise raised the standards of living for everyone.

                          *”Experience: that most brutal of teachers.”

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                          • Those social programs and welfare benefits become a subside for the corporations that would have either payed the equilibrium wage upfront, or perished without purchasing labor.

                            Not so. And from a purely game-theoretic perspective: If I (self-interested individual that I am) can pay someone less and absorb no cost and receive only gain, even tho doing so commits other people to a loss (landlords who want both the front rent AND the back rent), then I’m not only economicall rational to do so, I’m ideologically compelled to do so (according to one strain of economic orthodoxy).

                            It’s the paradox of individual rationality in a group dynamic, dude. Collective action problems and so on.

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                            • The primary reason it is in equilibrium, is because if you keep doing the things you are suggesting, then your labor market dies of stupidity, and the thing has to equalize for the death of stupidity. It’s self regulating dude, game theory.

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                              • Well now we’re talking about the game being played without limits or borders, where both capital and labor can move freely without friction, that everyone has equal access to information and price is a function of perfect knowledge and so on.

                                An idealization unattainable in the real world, not because of gummint but because of how people actually are.

                                But that still doesn’t address the fact that store-front owners and residential property owners and larger corporations pay taxes to ameliorate the deleterious effects of poverty in a community. Sometimes the goal is merely to run them thru the criminal justice system; sometimes it’s accomplished by paying them to stay off the streets. You can call that a corporate subsidy if you want to (I’m not sure exactly how), but in the end it’s (apparently) just good business.

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                                • No, not without limits and borders. Workers have only two parameters to answer:

                                  Can I make a living doing this?

                                  Can I make a good living doing this?

                                  I just think participants should be paying all the cost upfront. We shouldn’t be seeing taxes going to ‘things’ that lower labor costs. Then maybe we get a little more wealth to invest in local production.

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                                    • My response was in two parts:
                                      the first was to limit the infinite frame work of ‘no limits and no borders’ to basic parameters. The purchasor is seeking labor, whether that demand gets supplied depends on if the worker can determine whether or not they can make a living do the job(s), and maybe the preference is to not just make a living, but make a good living.

                                      That small tweak can sometimes make a significant deference in quality of life that markets can produce.

                                      The second part was just a repeat of avoiding taxes to subsidize firms, corporations and such using social supports as subsidize.

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                                      • whether that demand gets supplied depends on if the worker can determine whether or not they can make a living do the job(s

                                        That’s what I don’t think is the case, tho, Joe. If a person can’t pay the bills on the income offered, and doesn’t have enough money to relocate, they don’t have anything to determine. They take the best paying job they can find even tho it doesn’t pay the bills. Or default on everything and live in the streets, I guess. And then other part of my argument kicks in. Which is that wages not keeping pace with cost of living is a problem: individually (of course), but also socially, economically, morally, aesthetically….

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                                        • I was just framing it to a particular, job, if they couldn’t make a living at that job they would need to find another one that would.

                                          So lets change the scenario that for whatever reason they are anchored. They can’t make their income match their costs of living. What is the most likely way to change the parameters to adjust?

                                          If your market is doing what it is supposed to be doing you have various levels of the products/services you are consuming. If there is no floor, you will have a larger set of products/services that allow you to re-adjust your cost of living to allow a lower wage rate.

                                          (This part is basically allowing the cost part of the triangle to have the largest range)

                                          If there is a floor, all the local economic activity below that floor becomes illegal or doesn’t exist to utilize. The worker has to adjust without the market providing that set of products and services, and will for certain be forced unto a position with fewer solutions.

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                      • It is not sustainable for the worker to settle for a wage that leads to desperation or impoverishment.

                        Thinking about this some more…

                        I’m not sure “sustainable” is the right word, but the basic conclusion strikes me as depending on viewing the labor market within a broader economy as being effectively closed. In that situation, then yes, people wouldn’t work for less than $X for Y because they could go across the street and get atleast $X for Z. But we don’t live in closed economies anymore (if we ever really did…).

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                        • Kim,
                          What have you traded with a robot that the robot found subjective value in?

                          There is a checkmate in this automation game, before the board is even set.

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                          • Joe,
                            I don’t talk with robots. I do play with Artificial Intelligence.
                            I have given it sufficent respect and honor. It seems to value those. When given insufficent respect, it has a tendency to scalp my character’s head off. (Yes, this is a general AI playing a video game.) — and then walk around with my character’s scalp on its character’s head.

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  4. B3: This is a good example of the Moralistic Fallacy, the belief or assumption that if something is “good” it must be natural or the converse of “bad” things being unnatural. It’s a twin to the Naturalistic Fallacy that underlies a lot of the anti-GMO, organic, and anti-vaxx nonsense.

    But, in fairness, I suppose the criticism also depends on a particular reading of the term “discredited” to mean “doesn’t work” as opposed to “awful idea.” And even then, the moral questions aren’t as clear as we might like. So much depends on the why’s and how’s.

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  5. [C4]: I wondered about the behavioral screening thing. The thought of flying makes me nervous, and I loathe being in crowds of strangers, and both of those things make me tense and fidgety. I haven’t flown since the TSA was instituted but I wonder if I had to, would I be one of the people dragged aside for extra-special questioning? (I am a very pale, Irish-and-German heritage woman who is overweight and approaching 50 – so if they were profiling on basis of looks, Probably Not A Terrorist)

    On divorce: My state is trying to make it harder for couples to divorce. A high divorce rate isn’t treated by making divorce harder; instead, look at cultural factors that drive people to marry too young/inappropriately/whatever. One thing I know about where I live: I am very weird and stick out like a sore thumb for being a never-married woman in her 40s; I would actually be more socially accepted, I think, if I were thrice-divorced, because a lot of people can’t wrap their heads around what used to be called “single blessedness.”

    On whiteboards: I’d like to ban ’em from our classrooms. They bought cheap whiteboards for here and now we can’t get them clean, even with solvents. (That said: I don’t think banning whiteboards from dorms is going to fix anything; it’s like trying to ban bullying behavior in schools. People can be rude and hateful and they will find OTHER ways to be rude and hateful if their preferred way is banned)

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    • C4: I’m pretty sure this sort of this is in place to justify their doing whatever it was they wanted to do anyway. Your Probably Not A Terrorist indicators are likely to be the actually relevant factors.

      This is in much the same way that were I looking to hire drug mules to transport goods across state lines, I would look for middle aged white women who drive boring cars within five miles per hour of the posted speed limit.

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  6. My Facebook post of the day:
    For anyone who is sick, or has been sick, pay attention:
    GOP Plan will result in people with pre-existing conditions being dropped:

    Under Obamacare, insurers can’t charge people who are sick higher premiums, or deny them coverage. Under the GOP replacement plan, insurers would be allowed to charge more to anyone — whether healthy, or with a pre-existing medical conditions — who had a gap in their health insurance coverage.

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  7. Ec5 – Boudreaux’s article mischaracterizes Kwak’s article in The Atlantic. Kwak isn’t protesting the existence or quality of Econ 101 courses. He’s rebutting their argument on minimum wage. There’s nothing in Kwak’s article to lead me to believe that, if Econ 101 taught that minimum wages are good, Kwak would have a problem with them. Now, maybe his other writing goes after Econ 101 courses more broadly. I don’t know. But this Altantic article doesn’t even really go after Econ 101 on the minimum wage; it goes after basic economic theory on the minimum wage. That’s not to say that Kwak is wrong to do so. Every field’s basic analysis hides some complexities. Physics 101 still teaches Newtonianism, and Civics 101 teaches that budgets are passed by Congress and signed by the President. But Boudreaux seems to be defending Econ 101 classes on the point of their analysis of a minimum wage, which misses the point.

    By the way, based on my reading on the subject, the minimum wage discourages new low-wage hires. It doesn’t cause unemployment directly, but it inhibits greater employment. I would like to have seen Kwak address that. And there were other “howlers” in Kwak’s article that Boudreaux could have gone after, like his failure to see a relation between unions pushing for higher wages in certain industries and the collapse of those industries.

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    • I thought it was kind of a bad article, critiquing a worse one, but perhaps this was because the Econ framing seemed artificial, and perhaps the title of the earlier article (“The Curse of Econ 101”). Part of my problem is that I think Econ 101 is usually a micro-economics course, and it doesn’t necessarily deal with economic policy, at least directly. My Econ 101 professor recommended not taking Econ 102 because he thought macro was mostly hooey, and stats courses would be more beneficial.

      One of the Universities does poll economic professors on minimum wage, and it kind of depends on how the question is asked, but many will say that increasing the minimum wage tends to increase unemployment for the least skilled and many will also say that modest increases in the minimum wage have not shown to increase unemployment.

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  8. Ed2: Seems like it ignores that most elite universities cover pretty much all of the tuition for low and middle income students. Harvard is cheaper for a student whose parents make <$140K than a UC school is. A lot of the disproportionate wealth of the elite schools can be placed on the head of legacies. Legacies are typically wealthy and getting preferential admission skews the number up. It is telling that the best elite school for social mobility, MIT, also does not give points for legacies.

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    • I found a more neutral Atlantic article on college tuition and low-income students and the ones that seem to squeeze students the most are either flagship/well-regarded public universities and/or good but not elite private universities especially at the NYU/GWU level.

      NYU and the New School sort of exists for kid’s who want to go to university in NYC but can’t get into Columbia. Some of there specific schools are good like Parsons at the New School or NYU for arts, medicine, and law. The old joke about GWU is that it stands for Georgetown Waitlist University.

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    • I found the underlying complaint of the piece to be unmoving: “Despite having a $10 billion endowment, Northwestern leaves its average student $23,051 in debt. Slightly less than the national average of $30,100, this burden nevertheless cripples students as they enter a still-shaky job market.”

      I initially thought they left out a zero somewhere, because tuition, plus room and board is stickered at $65,000 per year and the average debt burden is the equivalent of a modest new car? But, no that is the average debt burden the most recent graduating class reported. When I went to college 30 yrs ago, kids could still get decent jobs out of high school, and that was my main observation when I came home from school, they had bought nice cars. I couldn’t afford it (nor was a car all that useful on campus anyway), but good for them.

      (Now, maybe average debt is the wrong figure to focus on . . .)

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    • Fascinating, so much progress is implied here. You’re saying the GOP did total opposition in the Obama years, you’re saying doing so was bad and you’re alleging that the Dems will be doing it now. The reversal is so sharp it’s making my neck hurt. Truly Trumps orange munificence can accomplish great things.

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      • Only an existential, external threat could make a community as fractured as the D party (much less the left as a whole) work together. Cruz might have managed it. Bush or Rubio would have had smooth sailing.

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    • As I implied in my response to your glee at the idea of running down hippies – the old norms are gone and they aren’t coming back. One should always expect that tactics one uses will be used by the enemy once positions are reversed.

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      • One should always expect that tactics one uses will be used by the enemy once positions are reversed.

        Except the Dems whined about how awful the Repubs were for doing such things and that they would never lower themselves to our level, blah blah blah. It’s nice to see they are the hypocrites I always thought they were.

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      • I’m all for liberals taking credit if, and when, the ACA is not repealed/replaced, but I think the problem the GOP faces is that way too many conservatives don’t want a whole slew of key provisions gutted. And if that’s the case, then I give those conservatives credit too!

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        • It turns out, conservatives rather like having affordable healthcare.

          IOW, exactly what the Republican Party was terrified of, has come to pass. Now that people are enjoying Obamacare and the dreaded death panels have not materialized, they discover they like it, a lot, and will make you bleed if you try to pry it from them.

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      • Constituents getting noisy about how a particularly bad policy change might affect them is not what I’d call “total opposition.” That seems like reasoned opposition to specific things. I’m actually really pleased to see the town hall thing and how it’s affecting congressional plans.

        Total opposition is when Congress can’t pass a bill allocating $10 to turn on the machine that cures all the world’s diseases and makes us forever young because it might make the sitting president look good. We’ve seen that movie before and I’m not up for buying tickets to the sequel.

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  9. Re Universities and High Tuition and Low-Income Students.

    This seems to be a lot of economics problems combined into one big mess.

    One is the observation that George Washington and NYU came to is that charging a lot of money can make their universities more desirable and attract a better caliber of student. As mentioned above, both NYU and GWU had long-standing reputations has universities for B students with the exceptions of certain programs and also as commuter schools largely. GWU’s President in the 1980s discovered that by charging lots of money for tuition the school became more desirable.

    The other problem is one that a lot of non-profits have in that it is very easy to raise money for capital campaigns over other kinds of non-profits. A friend of mind is a hard critic on theatres that spend lots of money on fancy new theatres but then end up having no budget for paying the artistic talent (especially actors) a decent wage. But it is very easy to get rich people to contribute to capital campaigns because you can literally put their names on a wall. Theoretically you can have something in the program that says “Actor’s salaries are provided by the Mr. Smith Acting Salary Fund” but this seems more short-lived to people. There are some memorial scholarships but they seem to go to select students (a deserving striver) rather than a general scholarship fund.

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  10. Ed1 – Back in the day, the US govt bailed out American medical school students in the Carribean with a Marine Expeditionary Force.

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    • The article says,”‘I prefer to talk people out of a fight,’ he says while insisting he has a martial arts background.” As if real martial artists wouldn’t really prefer to avoid violence? Does the author think that every dojo is Cobra Kai?

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  11. N1 – Trying to picture what could make me click on the Giant Spider link. Maybe a more giant spider here, with a gun. Otherwise, it’s not happening.

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  12. Ed3: I won’t criticize this woman for her choice. But she doesn’t get to pretend like that choice doesn’t contribute to the crumbling of the system.

    Which is one of the key tensions within our current structure of public education: individual incentives and the collective good.

    DeVos’s approach — should she realize it — likely increases the incentives for individual families to opt out of the public system. But unless or until she can ensure a “choice” for all, that tension will only get worse. So what then? The feedback cycle encourages further defection that grows faster than landing spots for defectors, which are already unfairly distributed as it is.

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    • But she doesn’t get to pretend like that choice doesn’t contribute to the crumbling of the system.

      People refusing to buy an inferior product doesn’t make it an inferior product. Being forced to buy an inferior product seems unlikely to make it a superior product. Monopolies are famous for sucky service and sucky products.

      Having my business is supposed to be a privilege, not a right.

      The feedback cycle encourages further defection that grows faster than landing spots for defectors, which are already unfairly distributed as it is.

      Faced with competition, the local school system got a LOT more reasonable and responsive to my requests, so much so that I sent my kids back there.

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      • Education isn’t like a product that sits on store shelves.

        I think there are myriad issues with the status quo and that more than tweaks are necessary. I support offering a greater variery of educational environments and helping children/families land in the best one for them.

        I fear that DeVos’s ideas — like so many other attempts at ed reform — are likely to make things worse.

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          • Chip Daniels:
            Everything is a toaster! Education, health care, toasters…its all the same.

            Hardly. There are situations where markets fail or they’re undesirable.

            The local Billionaire owning his own army doesn’t lead to good things, nor does not having one. Roads often need force to be built. There are natural monopolies (such as bandwidth). There is the tragedy of the commons.

            However education doesn’t seem to have those issues.

            We have problems with “failure factories” and people being forced into them (which sounds like a failure of government). We have private colleges which are successful. We have issues with higher education being too expensive, maybe because it’s capturing the money the gov offers to loan people for education.

            We have other countries, even 1st world “progressive” ones who use vouchers to harness market forces for education, I don’t see why something like that would be worse than what we have here.

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              • As far as I can tell, that article is cherry picking. It’s also written by an educational advisor for Dem administrations and published in the NYT.

                From your link:

                The new voucher studies stand in marked contrast to research findings that well-regulated charter schools in Massachusetts and elsewhere have a strong, positive impact on test scores. But while vouchers and charters are often grouped under the umbrella of “school choice,” the best charters tend to be nonprofit public schools, open to all and accountable to public authorities. The less “private” that school choice programs are, the better they seem to work.

                Notice there’s a huge difference between “not working worth a crap” (which is what the rest of the article claims), and “some of them work really well and some don’t”.

                That’s over and above groups which strongly support (and are supported by) the teachers union and school administrators claiming that only by keeping them in power can these things work.

                Edit: Oh, and I should probably add something about bad products being driven out by good products in a market if consumers have a choice.

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        • Education isn’t like a product that sits on store shelves.

          Why do you say that?

          I fear that DeVos’s ideas — like so many other attempts at ed reform — are likely to make things worse.

          Why is giving power to parents a bad idea?

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          • Re: first question – See below.

            Re: second question – Will all parents get more power?

            ETA: You are trying to frame this as DeVos empowering parents and her opponents as wanting to disempower them. My position is that there are various ways to empower parents and I think the particular one that DeVos has advocated for in the past is the wrong way to do so, in part because it is trying to fix a very broken system instead of build a new system based on a new paradigm.

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            • ETA: You are trying to frame this as DeVos empowering parents and her opponents as wanting to disempower them.

              That is the way this normally plays out.

              My position is that there are various ways to empower parents and I think the particular one that DeVos has advocated for in the past is the wrong way to do so, in part because it is trying to fix a very broken system instead of build a new system based on a new paradigm.

              First, some specificity would be nice.

              Second, it sounds like an opportunity for Dem input, assuming that they don’t want to just stand on the sidelines and chant “no”.

              Will all parents get more power?

              The devil is in the details.

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              • This varies state-to-state but I don’t understand the thinking behind one set of rules/privileges for ‘charters’ and one set for ‘publics’. I’d start by having more uniformity for all schools receiving public funding, including:
                – school and teacher accountability.
                – room for experimentation with curriculum and pedagogy.
                – supporting students with special needs.

                Many of these (especially the first), I’d propose radical changes to.

                As you note, we have various groups with different, often diverging, and sometimes opposed incentive structures. That needs addressing with more than bandaids.

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              • Re: “The details.”

                I can accept a system wherein different parents wield power differently. I will resist one that gives different parents different access to power. And this includes rural communities.

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                • I will resist one that gives different parents different access to power.

                  Be careful that we don’t let the perfect stand in the way of the good.

                  I moved my family out of one district and into another, purely for (and because of) the schools. I put it in the budget when my oldest turned *zero* and told my wife we had to move in five years.

                  That sounds a lot like “different access to power”, and it’s what currently exists. Vouchers would absolutely be imperfect, and wouldn’t level the playing field… but it’s probably make it more level than it is now.

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          • A fair question.

            I think certain market provisions can apply to education. But not the one cited.

            Education isn’t a static “thing”. The assertion is that this woman — or any particular family withdrawing any particular student from a school — does not impact the education for those who remain. This is true for most (all?) products. If I don’t buy Tide, that doesn’t change how well Tide cleans your clothes.

            But education isn’t laundry detergent. It is a dynamic relationship between a number of people and factors. The addition or subtraction of particular students can have a profound impact on the education offered to others.

            Can one student break the system? Or save it? No. But every probably-strong student born to a probably-well-situated-to-advocate parent who leaves the system is going to very likely have a negative effect.

            ETA: But the key issue here is that education is dependent upon human relationships and dynamics (among other things) so changing the humans changes the ‘product’ in a way that isn’t true for most other products.

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            • So, education has peer effects? If one student leaves a school, it negatively impacts the others?

              How do you feel this impedes market provision of education, and what should government do about it?

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                  • Man, if only there was a teacher around here who could actually speak to this…

                    My wife doesn’t post here. Her biggest problem historically has been with disruptive students that apparently don’t see the value of education, coupled with a lack of tools/support to deal with them.

                    You put 6+ of them into a classroom and there are serious problems for everyone else in there. Disruptive doesn’t mean “disabled”, nor does it mean “dumb”.

                    Does those 6+ students “benefit” from having high functioning students around them? Statistics say yes.

                    Would those high functioning students benefit from those 6+ not being in the same classroom? Also yes.

                    Notice “fault” comes into play here, the students have very different (and opposed) needs, and that the better students are actively being injured by the worse ones.

                    With a monopoly, the administration doesn’t have a dog in this race, they’re not injured if the children don’t learn. For that matter teachers like my wife aren’t technically injured, although that statement ignores stress, frustration, and burnout so maybe I should say “not fiscally injured”.

                    Or in other words from the stand point of the non-parent adults, the system isn’t broken if there’s no competition.

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                    • I agree with much of this. But I don’t think the solution is those high-flying students leaving, resulting in an underfunded school full of “disruptive ones”.

                      The parents of the high-flyers have no obligation to the other students but the system does and there needs to be a better plan than, “Let them choose! Oh… they don’t actually have a choice? Well, if their current school fails we’ll just close it and maybe they can get a spot in the charter that takes its building.”

                      I support choice. Not necessarily “School Choice” as it is typically proposed. But doing a better job matching students and educational environments.

                      A real problem is that my ideas would likely work in relatively high-density areas. Hard to give choice in sparsely populated areas.

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                      • I also find it curious that saying I won’t criticize her choice but will note it has negative consequences is being interpreted as saying all sorts of things I didn’t actually say.

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                      • I don’t think the solution is those high-flying students leaving, resulting in an underfunded school full of “disruptive ones”.

                        It’s seriously unethical to harm child “A” for the benefit of child “B”. Worse, it’s not just the high fliers who are being harmed. Six disruptive students. Fewer than that “high fliers”. And maybe 15+ who aren’t either. Those last are probably hurt the worst.

                        Ideally the disruptive students are kicked out and the rest learn. Less ideally, the high fliers and the non-disruptive students leave.

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                        • Where do I advocate harmong anyone? I’d advocating for all students.

                          Do you think young people choose to be disruptive for the hell of it and must be punished for doing so?

                          ETA: Is it possible their behavior is attributable, at least in part, by prior harm done to them by the system and, as such, the system has an obligation not to abandon them?

                          Without attributing this attitude to you specifically, I do find that many people talk about children and young people as if they have zero understanding of development. Sadly, this often includes teachers.

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                          • Where do I advocate harming anyone? I’d advocating for all students.

                            If the students have different and opposing needs, then “for all students” is just happy talk to obfuscate who you’re making the priority and to avoid defending that choice.

                            Do you think young people choose to be disruptive for the hell of it and must be punished for doing so?

                            Who cares? First do no harm. So first you prevent consistently disruptive students from damaging the education of the non-disruptive students.

                            And to answer your question more directly, *Yes*, I think some students is no value in education and are disruptive just for the hell of it… although my wife’s crew was high school so experiences may vary.

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                  • Oh, I’m not speaking as someone who, in another life, might have been a teacher. I’m speaking as someone who, in another life, might have been a parent.

                    And wouldn’t my child have the right to go to a school *WITHOUT* the stabby kids? Without the bad apples? Where they’d be surrounded by peers that would generate the kind of peer pressure of “Harvard Law School vs. Yale Law School”?

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                    • Does any child have that right? All children? Just certain ones?

                      ETA: And before we can really answer that question, we need to answer the, “What is the purpose of school?” question. Believe it or not, answers vary!

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                          • And, just like that, the negative impact children are forgotten. The problem doesn’t seem to be that we want to send our kids to schools with few negative impact kids.

                            It’s the people who want to do it for free.

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                                  • Why is that weird? We agree. We should both fight against School Choice.

                                    How’s this? I will also fight for Teacher Unions to make sure that the teachers in the schools where negative impact children tend to end up cannot get fired from there.

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                                        • If you look only at the economic value of an education… maybe. But still probably not.

                                          But my position here is that the argument between, “Let parents choose!” and “No choice!” is the false dilemma.

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                                          • Sure, but it’s a false dilemma with an end-run built into it.

                                            Moderately rich people can send their kids to a private school.
                                            Somewhat less moderately rich people can move zipcodes from District 60 to District 12.

                                            So any solution that you have that isn’t good enough for me to say “okay, I won’t move” is going to not be good enough.

                                            If I start thinking “your kids need my kids to go to their school a hell of a lot more than I need my kids to go to your kids’ school” and we’re in a weird place where that happens to be true?

                                            You’re not the person negotiating from a position of strength.

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                                            • Is there a way to mitigate the effect of “defectors” by doing something other than curtailing defecting?

                                              Maybe a way to improve the school they defected from and cater it to the needs of those left behind?

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                                                • Teaching training/recruitment.

                                                  Curriculum/pedagogy/program flexibility… maybe even radical flexibility.

                                                  That’s where I’d start. Funding would be a piece but as a means to end. And may not even be necessary beyond some initial investment.

                                                  Suppose you end up with a school that is 80% ne’er-do-wells. Why should we run that school identically to those with dramatically different populations? Maybe there’s a dopeass approach that does WONDERS for that very group of kids. Let’s find it!

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                                                  • Why should we run that school identically to those with dramatically different populations?

                                                    I can actually answer that: there is an argument that says that doing things significantly differently is to discriminate against populations.

                                                    “Why are you teaching math like *THIS* in the high school on this side of the tracks but teaching math like *THAT* in the high school on that sides of the tracks?”

                                                    You think you could weather an Atlantic investigative report on that sort of thing? You be willing to give a quote for the article?

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                                                        • This is where goals and efficacy become important.

                                                          Let’s say this school starts kicking ass and taking names. Class after class of competent graduates with kids no other school wanted! Who’d complain? Not those parents, I bet. Other parents? Well, you have the *choice* to send your kids there with likely few barriers (certainly fewer than the ones faced by people who previously defected).

                                                          The problem, of course, is efficacy. Are we committed to graduating class after class of competent students at the ne’er-do-well school? If so, I bet we can get there.

                                                          Big if…

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                                                          • I think this is another point wherein you assume one thing about my position and erroneously so.

                                                            “Kazzy… you mean we should teach DIFFERENT kids in DIFFERENT ways?”
                                                            “Yes.”

                                                            You can disagree with this, push back against it, argue the opposite… there is ample room to do so. But I sense you’re trying to “gotcha” me which you’ll only accomplish by torturing language.

                                                            Again, I’m not anti-school choice (as a concept) or anti-charter school (as a concept or in general practice). I just take issue with certain specific attempts at achieving either vision.

                                                            So if your goal here is to advocate for school choice, I’m not your target audience.

                                                            What is your goal here anyway?

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                                                            • What is your goal here anyway?

                                                              I’m a big fan of arguing against the status quo when I see it as broken and for it when I see it as not broken.

                                                              I live in the nice part of town with the nice schools. If my kids went to one of them, I’d fight against any changes at all.

                                                              I used to live in the crappy part of town, though. If my kids went to one of the schools in that part of town, I’d probably bite and claw for a charter so I could make sure that my kids were insulated from the negative impact students.

                                                              Of course, I’m assuming that my kids wouldn’t be negative impact students.

                                                              If they were, I’d probably do what I could to make sure that they were insulated by positive impact kids.

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                                                              • So, zooming out and looking at the system as a whole… is it broken or not?

                                                                Also, do you think that the nicer part of town has — as a percentage of the student population — fewer “negative impact children”?

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                                                                • Also, do you think that the nicer part of town has — as a percentage of the student population — fewer “negative impact children”?

                                                                  Is this one of those things like our discussions of measuring teachers? “How can we really say whether a teacher is a good teacher or a bad one?”

                                                                  “How can we say whether a student is negative impact or positive impact?”

                                                                  So, I’ll say this: there are resilient schools with the highest percentage of positive impact students and fragile schools with lower ones.

                                                                  Right? That’s what we’ve been talking about here. Stuff that we can do to make sure that the “good” students don’t leave when their parents decide to defect, right?

                                                                  I can’t speak for nationwide, but, locally, the schools in School Districts 20 and 12 were most likely to be able to weather the loss of a positive impact student. They were the schools on the nice part of town.

                                                                  Of course, my experience might be unique in all of the country.

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                                                                  • Well, that’s what I’m trying to figure out.

                                                                    Do good schools create more “positive impact students”? Do PISs create good schools? Probably both, right?

                                                                    How do those good schools do with LISs?

                                                                    Now, if we really want to get frisky… let’s replace “schools” with “neighborhoods”.

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                                                                    • Oh, it probably starts in the home. Parenting, stuff like “reading to kids”, that sort of thing. Sometimes it gets called “Privilege”.

                                                                      Other times, it gets called “Culture”.

                                                                      But I still don’t think that we, as a society, are ready to discuss what would be entailed in improving “Culture”. We can barely admit that some cultures are better than others, if you define “better” as “personal preference”.

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                                                                  • Jaybird: “How can we say whether a student is negative impact or positive impact?”

                                                                    That is pretty easy. The teacher knows by the end of week one if child-x is disruptive.

                                                                    It’s what to do about it that is the problem.

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                                                                      • Dark Matter: That is pretty easy. The teacher knows by the end of week one if child-x is disruptive. It’s what to do about it that is the problem.

                                                                        Kazzy: This is a terrible mindset to have when considering the education of children. Terrible.

                                                                        I have listened to my wife talk about the same kids every week, sometimes every day.

                                                                        You can dress it up in any “mindset” you want, but what I said is the underlying reality.

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                                                                        • There could be a dozen reasons for why that child is disruptive. Some are relatively easy to solve some are harder and some are mysterious. That child should have a chance to get past their problems. Many children have disruptive periods or bad years. And many of them get past that to success. That is actually one of the jobs of a school, any school, to figure out what the kids struggle is and try to deal with it.

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                                                                          • greginak: There could be a dozen reasons for why that child is disruptive. Some are relatively easy to solve some are harder and some are mysterious. That child should have a chance to get past their problems. Many children have disruptive periods or bad years. And many of them get past that to success. That is actually one of the jobs of a school, any school, to figure out what the kids struggle is and try to deal with it.

                                                                            Sure. All true. None of that changes that 6 of them in a classroom greatly [impedes] education for everyone.

                                                                            And none of that is a good reason to damage my kid’s education.

                                                                            Somehow one of my kids was misassigned into the lower tracked English class. I found out she needed to sit in the hallway in order to study or do homework because the teacher had no control over the class. Next day I spoke with the Principal and had her schedule changed so she wasn’t in that class.

                                                                            So she (rightfully) ended up with the kids that care about education, and the ones that don’t can do whatever it is that they do.

                                                                            Advice for anyone with kids: The Principal’s job is to fold, not stand firm.

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                                                                          • Maybe teachers like your wife are part of the problem. Or you are misapplying her experiences

                                                                            She found a different district which doesn’t have disruptive students (i.e. College) and is now highly regarded by her students.

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                                                          • I think that, in practice, it’s far likelier that we’re going to talk about the harm done when the positive impact kids moved.

                                                            I mean, that’s what happened here.

                                                            We didn’t immediately run to all of our examples of the schools that had class after class of competent graduates with kids no other school wanted.

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                                                                • This is where I fear the false dilemma has arisen.

                                                                  You can go whenever you like. Hopefully, I can convince you to stay. Individual families can choose as they see fit.

                                                                  So rather than deciding, “Should we improve current schools OR just let people defect?” why not opt for, “Let’s try to improve all current schools — maybe by diversifying their offerings — and then help people find the one that works best for them.”

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                                                                  • So rather than deciding, “Should we improve current schools OR just let people defect?” why not opt for, “Let’s try to improve all current schools — maybe by diversifying their offerings — and then help people find the one that works best for them.”

                                                                    What that means in practice needs to be something like….

                                                                    1) My kid never shares a classroom with a disruptive kid.

                                                                    That implies “track early, track often”. ‘Advanced math’ and ‘Normal math’ is probably more politically correct than the reality but whatever.

                                                                    2) My kid has access to advanced (as in, actually advanced and not normal without the kids who don’t want to learn) STEM classes.

                                                                    That implies if there are resource conflicts between paying for my kids’ advanced classes and paying for some other kids’ social services, my kids win. An Advanced Physics class is useful for my kids, another social worker is not.

                                                                    I only care about other kids in the distant abstract. The moment the administration starts talking about “everyone” or “all kids” I’m going to tune out the entire conversation. My kids are my first priority, that means I don’t sacrifice them for my own political ideals (this has come up), much less someone else’s.

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                                                                    • UM…. what? I don’t follow.

                                                                      Saying, “Let’s improve all schools and give everyone an opportunity to choose between a variety of good ones,” NEEDS to give parents those options? Why? No one currently is guaranteed either of those. Why must they be going forward?

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                                                                      • Saying, “Let’s improve all schools and give everyone an opportunity to choose between a variety of good ones,” NEEDS to give parents those options? Why? No one currently is guaranteed either of those. Why must they be going forward?

                                                                        Because if you don’t then I’ll move.

                                                                        I don’t think society has the ability to fix all “negative impact” children, so presumably they’re still going to be in school… and that’s fine. My job as parent is to make sure their problems don’t negatively impact my kids.

                                                                        Similarly my job as parent is to make sure in High School that my kids get four years of math (etc), even if it’s more advanced math than what some/most of the kids in school can take.

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                                                • Jaybird, you must first accept the attitude that there is no such thing as a bad kid.

                                                  Once you accept that the argument is over because, if a kid (who cannot possibly be bad!) is performing poorly then there must be some external reason. Perhaps a lack of funding, or insufficient parental involvement, or racist administrators, a requirement that boys who think they might be girls but still dress and act like boys not be allowed to use the girls’ bathroom to pee.

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                                        • Personally, I don’t even think that’s the issue. Seems to me it comes down to the view that a) all politics is local coupled with b) the logic of defectors (from public schools!) leaving those with the fewest options holding the bag.

                                          People want local control, not only of their school boards obvs, but also where they send their kids to school. But the more people act on that choice and leave the public school system, the greater the impulse in some folks to protect the least advantaged from the outcome of our own (upper middle class or whatever) collective action problem by arguing against that choice from being exercised (by other people, natch).

                                          Adding: no idea how to solve that problem.

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                                          • On the other hand, the abysmal record of the charter schools introduced ought to give even conservatives pause in turning over education to the greedy opportunists who seem to comprise the US business community.

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                                            • I’m trying to find a post of Freddie’s from 6 years ago (it was either here or at balloon juice), in which he provided a document dump of evidence that charter schools were measurably worse than public schools.

                                              Well, I actually sat down and read the stuff and it was a case where there were 13 measurements and charter schools were worse on 2, better on 5, and about equal on 6. (Or something like that. There was enough parity where, it seemed to me, the argument shifted to how the burden of proof was on the people who argued that the charter schools shouldn’t be an option rather than the other way around.)

                                              I can’t find the post now. Which is irritating.

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                                              • That has been the consistent finding. Charter schools sometimes do better and sometimes worse. It depends on how they are run and the standards and how much outside oversight there is. They aren’t a panacea at all but can be an option if set up correctly. Like many things it gets down to practical details and techocratic management to make them fly or crash.

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                                                • That has been the consistent finding. Charter schools sometimes do better and sometimes worse. It depends on how they are run and the standards and how much outside oversight there is.

                                                  This tells me that they are an option that belongs on the table.

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                                                  • Ummm yeah…they have been for a while. They aren’t news at this point. The issue seems to be True Believers like DeVos who seem to have an animus towards public schools and want charter’s regardless of how they are set up. Let’s have robust public schools and charter options all based on best practices. But if it looks like charter’s are coming at the cost of good public schools then that will ( has) led to a lot of opposition.

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                                                    • I’m pretty sure that if any public school was in danger of being harmed by charter schools, it wouldn’t be the ones in the good school districts.

                                                      It’d be the marginal ones in the marginal school districts where there are juuuuust enough good apples that, removing good apples, would harm the school due to the number of negative impact students.

                                                      Leading to arguments about how, well, of *COURSE* charter schools can do better. They can turn down negative impact students!

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                                                          • The statement is, “The improved results some charter schools achieve is due, in part, because of their ability to select for the students they work with.”

                                                            It would seem to me that’d be one of those provable, objective, measurable things you like to look at.

                                                            Leave aside the possible implications or how the truth value of that statement may be used by one side or the other. Let’s just determine if it is, in fact, true or not.

                                                            This would be valuable for reasons beyond politics and whatnot. Understanding the role that the student population plays in a school’s outcome would be, like, HUGELY important information to have.

                                                            Much of our current system is predicated upon the notion that it *doesn’t* matter. Hence the fairly standardized system that we are only recently seeing pushed back against.

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                                                            • “The improved results some charter schools achieve is due, in part, because of their ability to select for the students they work with.”

                                                              Of course I agree with that.

                                                              It’s one of the reasons that people *WANT* charter schools. They want their students to be away from the negative impact students.

                                                              The problem with that sentence is that the sentence, insofar as it is true, is the selling point for charter schools.

                                                              Much of our current system is predicated upon the notion that it *doesn’t* matter. Hence the fairly standardized system that we are only recently seeing pushed back against.

                                                              Yeah. We’re in the middle of a whole bunch of people pushing back against fairly standardized systems, aren’t we?

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                                                      • Or you know public schools in general could be harmed by cuts in funding since something something charter schools are the great!

                                                        It’s already the high need students who get hurt most by budget cuts. Cut school lunches or special ed or after school programs and the neediest get sporked.

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                                                • And do you see how someone might see that as goalposts moving?

                                                  Anyway, any national policy will be a “collective” one, insofar as it will apply to schools in Hawaii just as much as schools in Georgia as schools in Michigan.

                                                  Which shouldn’t be seen as disagreeing with your point but running with it.

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                                                  • A poorly devised/run/performing charter school should have no bearing on a well devised/run/performing charter school (assuming they aren’t affiliated).

                                                    Note: any reasonable analysis of this position would determine it to be supportive of charter schools as an idea.

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                                            • On the other hand, the abysmal record of the charter schools introduced ought to give even conservatives pause in turning over education to the greedy opportunists who seem to comprise the US business community.

                                              It is very easy to listen to one side’s true believers and come to the conclusion that charters are always a mistake, or that they’re always right.

                                              Quoting wiki: In general, urban charter schools may appear to be a good alternative to traditional urban schools for urban minority students in poor neighborhoods, if one looks strictly at test scores, but students in suburban charter schools do no better than those in traditional suburban schools serving a mostly middle-class white population.

                                              1) Charters don’t appear to do better than a functional public school.

                                              2) Charters are apparently at their best when the public school is a dysfunctional mess. Presumably that means corruption, incompetence, or other adult administrational problems.

                                              3) Consistency of quality is a real issue. There are charters who are better than public, there are others who are much worse.

                                              4) IMHO one of their big strengths is their existence forces the general school system to be a lot more responsive to corner cases.

                                              5) Another big strength is simply introducing feedback into the system. Good products drive out bad ones, just having hundreds of experimental approaches will probably result in successful techniques. I assume those techniques will mostly be copied by the publics but whatever.

                                              The current public system has serious problems with lack of feedback, and with not knowing cost effective ways to deal with what we call poverty. Charters have the potential to fix the former and shed light on the later of those issues.

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                                              • Dark, you may not have been here when we had what I remember as a big public education shake down a few years ago, but I’ve been a pretty consistent critic of the public education model (not necessarily that’s it’s public funded, mind) for a long time. I think the model is in need of serious revision. Right up to the point where I’d accept breaking the union to accomplish that. The whole thing, top down and across-wise, oughta be up for revision.

                                                And to your last point: charters have the potential (epistemically) to fix that but the evidence isn’t encouraging at this point. Blindly turning these types of functions over to greedhounds never seems to work out all that well for anybody.

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                                                • Stillwater: Blindly turning these types of functions over to greedhounds never seems to work out all that well for anybody.

                                                  My expectation is most or all Charters are created and run by well meaning people. How effective they are is a different issue.

                                                  IMHO the big problem historically for this sort of thing was the imbalance of information.

                                                  How do I know that Charter-X (or Public-Y) is great or terrible? Short of sending my kid there for years, how do I cut through the happy-talk and the unhappy-talk? And for that matter, if I do send my kid there for years, do I really know what good 4th-grade math looks like compared to bad 4th-grade math?

                                                  When the issue came up with my family, I sat down and did lots of on-line research. There are school evaluation websites. Comparisons of test scores to the local area and the nation, that sort of thing.

                                                  Before I walked in the door of Public-School-Y I’d evaluated the kid’s assumed elementary, middle, and high schools. Walking around the school was a formality, I already knew what we’d find.

                                                  We did the same before sending the kids into Charter-X.

                                                  There are tools to evaluate all this, they’re free and on-line, it’s all public information. I do NOT understand why parents consistently defend failing schools. Feelings don’t trump math, and the math is out there.

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                                          • I think the starting point is to acknowledge that “we’ve all got responsibilities to each other” includes that the people wanting to move feel like the responsibilities owed them have not been met.

                                            Maybe even to the point where we might investigate and see whether it’s true or not.

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                              • My engineering answer is that the problem domain is over constrained by insisting that every kid is educated to a given level. In the abstract, this makes sense, don’t expend effort educating people who are not interested or able to meet their end of the deal.

                                I know that the real world is not interested in that answer.

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                                  • Good question, and after I made the comment, that occurred to me as well.

                                    My gut says 8th grade is the cutoff. By then a school district should know who is going to be a perennial problem. But I’m open to being convinced otherwise.

                                    To open this can of worms even further, I’ll make the claim that we can no longer grant a person all the rights, responsibility, & privileges of adulthood without at least a high school diploma. I mean, if claim about society being the ultimate consumer of public education, then society should deny full participation to those who are unwilling or unable to complete the minimum requirements.

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                                      • Well, if you can’t manage a highschool diploma or after that a GED, that seems like fairly clear evidence that you cannot manage to run your own life. You definitely shouldn’t be allowed to run others’.

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                                        • Well, if you can’t manage a highschool diploma or after that a GED, that seems like fairly clear evidence that you cannot manage to run your own life. You definitely shouldn’t be allowed to run others’.

                                          See, snobby judgments like this are WE have Trump, Murali.

                                          Don’t you have enough political problems of your own to worry about?

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                                        • I’m more of the opinion that our society, and our political system, have become increasingly complex, and functioning within those systems requires considerable education and training. A diploma should represent the basic education necessary to function as an adult and participate fully in the political system, so lacking the diploma means you are still considered a minor. No voting, no joining contracts, etc.

                                          That said, much like my opinion on voter ID, such a change would demand that government erect no barriers to completing a diploma, and government has an obligation to ensure the opportunity of anyone who wants to get a diploma to have access to adequate resources/testing. If behavioral issues force a child out of the traditional high school setting, government has to provide a reasonable path for the child to get a diploma, even if the child doesn’t decide to get that diploma until they are 35.

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                                      • Weaponizing: Yes, that is an obvious concern, and one that would have to be guarded against.

                                        Although, if I’m going to be pissy, I’m often told that I shouldn’t be concerned about gun regulation, because it’s silly to think that it would ever be used to limit the rights of gun owners.

                                        But let’s leave that aside.

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                                        • The only way I could see guarding against it would be lawsuits that might eventually lead us to something similar to certain provisions of the VRA (since gutted) that required certain states to get pre-approval on changes because they could not be trusted.

                                          So we’d need some sort of group that was tasked with overseeing changes to graduation requirements to ensure they weren’t being used nefariously.

                                          I’m not sure what other option would exist. Even if we completely depoliticized the process and left graduation requirements in the hands of a group of educational professionals rather than school boards or state legislatures or whathaveyou, you’re still dealing with humans who could fuck things up all sorts of ways.

                                          And even if the requirements themselves are fair, the system could be gamed by simply setting up schools that serve “those people” to fail.

                                          “It’s not our fault that graduation rates — and thus the ability to fully participate in society — of that group are so low. They just keep failing. And it totally isn’t because all of the teachers in the districts that are 80%+ those people are fresh out of undergrad and employ administrators who just so happen to hate mentoring programs.”

                                          And, to be clear, I could see either side doing this. I used the example of a course requirement in “White Culture 1987-2017” as a means to limit the participation of people of color but that was just one example.

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                                          • Of course, if parents had choice*, such schools, once it became obvious, would lose enrollment.

                                            Thing is, schools for “those people” are already being undermined such that we have a school to prison pipeline in places, which can destroy full participation in society just as effectively.

                                            *Rural areas being an issue, obviously.

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                                • That’s like pointing out the health care market is entirely functional, if you just accept “Cash up front or suffer and/or die” as a valid outcome.

                                  Since that’s not how society is going to let it work, we have to ask ourselves if a free market approach remains sensible. Education is much the same way — we offer it a public good, not just restricted to those who can extract the maximum from it.

                                  In all honesty, what’s surprised me most about the charter movement is how poorly they’ve done. Even the ‘lottery’ schools are effectively picking students who are (or whose parents are) sufficiently invested to try to place them into schools.

                                  Student and parental involvement are the most critical factors to a child’s education, and seeing that schools that have a higher ‘median’ (for lack of a better term) starting point there —- they should blow public schools out of the water just on that.

                                  (Then again, I get shirty about the whole “failing schools” thing. We’re 50 independent states each with hundreds or thousands of pretty independent school systems, and the vast majority of them turn out solid results, year in and year out. If you account for things like poverty and the fact that we don’t track kids out of school into vocational tracts early, as some countries do, we’re quite solid internationally too. I went to colleges packed with kids from public schools, and colleges now are…packed with kids from public schools.

                                  Some school districts are awful, but virtually every one of those has the factor “students live in grinding poverty” in common).

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                                    • While I’d need to think more on this particular proposal, my increasing belief that “virture follows habit” makes me much more open to such incentive-based approaches than I was previously.

                                      What I want to learn more about is whether this tendency is fairly universal among humans and, if so, whether we should be targetting adults or kids (probably both but if one group has greater potential for change, I imagine wanting to focus there).

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                                      • I’m going to go with parents because I don’t trust kids to handle money well, or to appreciate the value of the incentive. On the other hand, I also expect parents to know what best motivates their kids whether this be money (or more precisely the things that can be bought with it) or something else and expect them to be reasonably capable of responding to incentives in the short term. Once we’ve got the behaviour locked in, the rest will take care of itself. We might even be able to one day phase out the incentives.

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                                        • That’s the thinking behind “virtue follows habit”… get the behavior locked in and it may become self reinforcing.

                                          If we were incentivizing children, I’d think much more “micro”.

                                          “Get your homework in and 10 extra minutes of recess.”
                                          Kids go home and work hard to complete their homework because those fuckers love them some recess. Next thing you know, doing homework every night just becomes normal.

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                                  • I’m fine acknowledging that the market is just not going to be able to meet the demand, I’m just not willing to turn that around and claim that if the market can’t, that the market has no place in the domain.

                                    In the specifics, letting charters collect public money and operate with little to no standards or oversight sounds an awful lot like graft dressed up like rent seeking. To that effect, I’d be fine requiring charters to always be non-profit, or at the very least, incorporated as public benefit corporations.

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                                    • This is part of what I was referring to with regards to what feels like an artificial distinction between “publics” and “charters”.

                                      I’d like to see more alignment between the two groups, both in terms of rights/freedoms/privileges and obligations/responsibilities/oversight.

                                      And if a particular school had a model in which they wanted to deviate dramatically from the latter, it’d require sacrifices somewhere along the way with the former.

                                      Why should a school that is not obligated to offer special needs services be funded identically to those that are?
                                      Why should one school have room to experiment with curriculum but not another?

                                      Let public schools experiment. Hold charter accountable. Break down the notion that there is some sort of binary system with regards to publicly funding education and instead create a range of options.

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                                  • Some school districts are awful, but virtually every one of those has the factor “students live in grinding poverty” in common).

                                    True, but this is weird when you think about it.

                                    “In grinding poverty” by USA standards still means access to enough money to be middle class in much of the 2nd (or especially 3rd) world.

                                    My impression is that we’re staring at cultural issues, with poverty both the cause and the result.

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              • I was arguing against this specific point:
                People refusing to buy an inferior product doesn’t make it an inferior product. Being forced to buy an inferior product seems unlikely to make it a superior product. Monopolies are famous for sucky service and sucky products.”

                My argument is that it can and often does. Especially when you then account for the fact that the “customers” can then vote to cut funding to the “products” they don’t want to buy.

                Does that mean we cannot market provisions? No. I never argued that so I won’t defend that argument. I’m simply pushing back against a very specific point being made which is demonstrably wrong.

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                • Again, this was my initial argument: “I won’t criticize this woman for her choice. But she doesn’t get to pretend like that choice doesn’t contribute to the crumbling of the system.”

                  So, I’m not criticizing her choice. I’m pointing out a consequence of it. One she herself has admitted is a concern.

                  Does that obligate her to do anything? Make her choice wrong? No. I only ask that people acknowledge the consequences of their choices. Her actions contribute to a problem she herself is concerned about. Which isn’t some new or unique form of evil. We are probably all guilty of that somewhere in our lives.

                  ETA: “Crumbling of the system” was her own language. That is why I used it.

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          • Education is different, but in what ways?

            Why is education not like a toaster?

            Education is something that we all agree is vital for a functioning democracy.
            If the market for toasters collapsed, or if they became a rare luxury reserved for the elites, no one would care.

            In universal education, the students are not the consumer. Society overall is the consumer, the entity that benefits from it.

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            • Food is essential too, but we don’t have government-run farms and supermarkets. And the proper approach to positive externalities is subsidy, not government ownership.

              What i’m getting at is that finding a flaw in the market is the start, not the end. You have to work out what specifically the government needs to do to make things work, not just do the first thing that pops into your mind.

              Public Schooling was established when market failure economics was in it infancy, and during a period where it was still commonly believed that governments could produce goods and services more efficiently than markets. We now know this is false, so it is worth revisiting the assumptions that led us to the institutions we have now.

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              • Are private/independent/non-governmental schools in New Zealand mostly non-profit orgs? The overwhelming majority of those in the US are, though it seems more for-profit ones are emerging. I’m keeping half an eye on those to see what happens with them.

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                • I’m not sure. I went to a public school and I don’t interact with the education sector much these days.

                  There are three classes of non-government school: Integrated schools (which are religious schools and are sort of semi-private), and then there are straight-up private schools and the new charter schools. Integrateds are all non-profit, not sure about the mix for the others.

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          • Education is a positional good. For the most part, it does not have a realizable value outside of its relative position to other means of education. Its value is not otherwise transparent, and its perceived relative position is often communicated by signaling social status, investments in buildings and pools, lists of graduates, etc.

            Positional goods are subject to zero-sum game dynamics, my education can only be made better if yours is made or perceived to be worse. Money and government can reinforce these dynamics and create cost spirals.

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            • So, a society where everyone is equally illiterate and innumerate is equivalent to a society where everyone is equally literate and numerate?

              Putting aside the moral position shared by millions (billions?) of people that education has intrinsic value, the lived experience of this planet for the last 200 years proves this assertion false. See also the Tech Thursday links. Or USPTO patent application filings. Or the non-fiction section of a university bookstore. Or the mere fact of the existence of this comment on this website.

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  13. A couple of interesting links, more so when paired.

    First, Joshua Alvarez at Washington Monthly talks about how the neoliberal message that downplayed national identity provoked a nationalist backlash.

    He defines it as a lack of accountability, where transnational elites exercise power divorced from accountability from the governed.

    Second, Liz Ryerson lays the cause at the feet of “technocratic hyperrationalism”.

    In the view of the technocrats, their systems are a true level playing field that erase the need for systemic critique. But in reality, the belief in perfectly balanced systems is the driving force behind how neoliberal capitalism engages in the oppression of the people it supposedly serves.
    When every person’s worth?—?in terms of cultural value, in terms of job performance, in terms of power in society?—?is fully defined by measurable outcomes, then it becomes easier to dismiss people who don’t meet favorable outcomes as in some way deficient. If the system is in perfect balance, the complex fields of thought that have emerged out of the long-term human struggles of civil rights, feminist, and LGBT movements must not be the true reality.

    I notice how both critiques show up in a lot of conversations about inequality and global trade.

    Complaints are met with hyperrational metrics (Chinese workers are doing great! Tee shirts have never been cheaper!). Concerns about the impact on society and culture are dismissed or waved away.

    In this view, Trump makes sense. Not that he is actually going to change the global economic picture, but he promises to restore the old order of national identity, and restore the measurable metrics to those that once were, that favored the Trump voter.

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    • In this view, Trump makes sense. Not that he is actually going to change the global economic picture, but he promises to restore the old order of national identity, and restore the measurable metrics to those that once were, that favored the Trump voter.

      This, this is what I feel is going to trip up the left, in that if the factories are somehow kicked into motion, pride in being American vs. the global citizen becomes the normal, etc. then Trump, in all his idiosyncratic glory(?) will have truly changed the field. And while I wouldn’t call Medium the best source on the left and its thoughts, if this line of thought moves into the mainstream and gets sold to the general public, well the Trump administration will probably call itself a success.

      Thanks for bringing those articles to our attention

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    • Maybe because its of my politics but social justice writing like the Liz Ryerson essay always come across as unclear and poorly written to me. I can sense the emotions behind the writing but not the meaning and there is always a tendency to try to come up with phrases like “technocratic hyper rationalism” rather than use planer language. I immediately grasped what Joshua Alvarez was getting at in his essay but Lz Ryerson means obscure.

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