Featured Post

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?


Managing Editor
Home Page Twitter Google+ Pinterest 

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 →

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
TwitterFacebookRedditEmailPrintFriendlyMore options

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.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     
    • 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.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      Reply
       
  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.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     
    • , 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.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      Reply
       
      • 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.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        Reply
         
        • 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.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          Reply
           
          • 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.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            Reply
             
            • 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.

                Quote  Link

              Report

              Reply
               
    • “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?

        Quote  Link

      Report

      Reply
       
      • 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…)

          Quote  Link

        Report

        Reply
         
        • 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.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          Reply
           
          • 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.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            Reply
             
          • 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.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            Reply
             
            • 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.

                Quote  Link

              Report

              Reply
               
              • 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.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                Reply
                 
                • 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.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                  Reply
                   
                  • 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.

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

                    Reply
                     
                    • 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?

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                      Reply
                       
                  • 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.

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

                    Reply
                     
    • 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

        Quote  Link

      Report

      Reply
       
    • 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.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      Reply
       
    • 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).

        Quote  Link

      Report

      Reply
       
      • 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)?

          Quote  Link

        Report

        Reply
         
        • 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.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          Reply
           
  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.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     
      • 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)

          Quote  Link

        Report

        Reply
         
        • 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.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          Reply
           
          • 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.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            Reply
             
            • 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)

                Quote  Link

              Report

              Reply
               
    • 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.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      Reply
       
        • 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.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          Reply
           
        • 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.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          Reply
           
          • 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.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            Reply
             
          • 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.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            Reply
             
          • <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.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            Reply
             
            • 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.

                Quote  Link

              Report

              Reply
               
              • 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.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                Reply
                 
                • 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!!

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                  Reply
                   
                  • 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.

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

                    Reply
                     
                  • 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.

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

                    Reply
                     
                        • 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.

                            Quote  Link

                          Report

                          Reply
                           
                          • 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.

                              Quote  Link

                            Report

                            Reply
                             
                            • 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.

                                Quote  Link

                              Report

                              Reply
                               
                  • 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.

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

                    Reply
                     
                    • 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.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                      Reply
                       
                      • 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?

                          Quote  Link

                        Report

                        Reply
                         
                        • 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.

                            Quote  Link

                          Report

                          Reply
                           
                              • 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?

                                  Quote  Link

                                Report

                                Reply
                                 
                            • 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.

                                Quote  Link

                              Report

                              Reply
                               
                          • “Laffer was making a political, not economic, argument.”

                            Laffer was making an economic argument, albeit one with policy implications (like many economic arguments).

                            “Economists mostly reject his theory.”

                            Not true. Some argue about where countries are on the curve, not the validity of the curve. See here, a site that I think is pretty objective:

                            http://www.economist.com/economics-a-to-z/l#node-21529549

                              Quote  Link

                            Report

                            Reply
                             
                            • {{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…}}

                                Quote  Link

                              Report

                              Reply
                               
                                  • 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!

                                      Quote  Link

                                    Report

                                    Reply
                                     
                            • 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..

                                Quote  Link

                              Report

                              Reply
                               
                              • 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.

                                  Quote  Link

                                Report

                                Reply
                                 
                              • 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.

                                  Quote  Link

                                Report

                                Reply
                                 
                                • 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.

                                    Quote  Link

                                  Report

                                  Reply
                                   
                                  • 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.

                                      Quote  Link

                                    Report

                                    Reply
                                     
                                  • 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.

                                      Quote  Link

                                    Report

                                    Reply
                                     
                        • 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.

                            Quote  Link

                          Report

                          Reply
                           
            • 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.

                Quote  Link

              Report

              Reply
               
                • 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.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                  Reply
                   
                    • 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.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                      Reply
                       
                      • 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).

                          Quote  Link

                        Report

                        Reply
                         
                        • 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.”

                            Quote  Link

                          Report

                          Reply
                           
                          • 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.

                              Quote  Link

                            Report

                            Reply
                             
                            • 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.

                                Quote  Link

                              Report

                              Reply
                               
                              • 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.

                                  Quote  Link

                                Report

                                Reply
                                 
                                • 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.

                                    Quote  Link

                                  Report

                                  Reply
                                   
                                    • 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.

                                        Quote  Link

                                      Report

                                      Reply
                                       
                                      • 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….

                                          Quote  Link

                                        Report

                                        Reply
                                         
                                        • 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.

                                            Quote  Link

                                          Report

                                          Reply
                                           
                      • 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…).

                          Quote  Link

                        Report

                        Reply
                         
  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.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     
  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)

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     
    • 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.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      Reply
       
  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.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     
  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.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     
    • 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.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      Reply
       
  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.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     
    • 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.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      Reply
       
    • 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 . . .)

        Quote  Link

      Report

      Reply
       
    • 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.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      Reply
       
      • 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.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        Reply
         
    • 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.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      Reply
       
      • 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.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        Reply
         
      • 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!

          Quote  Link

        Report

        Reply
         
      • 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.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        Reply
         
  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.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     
    • 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?

        Quote  Link

      Report

      Reply
       
  10. 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.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    Reply
     
    • 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.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      Reply
       
      • 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.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        Reply
         
          • 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.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            Reply
             
              • 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.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                Reply
                 
        • 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?

            Quote  Link

          Report

          Reply
           
          • 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.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            Reply
             
            • 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.

                Quote  Link

              Report

              Reply
               
              • 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.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                Reply
                 
                • 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.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                  Reply
                   
          • 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.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            Reply
             
                  • 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.

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

                    Reply
                     
                    • 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.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                      Reply
                       
                      • 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.

                          Quote  Link

                        Report

                        Reply
                         
                        • 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.

                            Quote  Link

                          Report

                          Reply
                           
                          • 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.

                              Quote  Link

                            Report

                            Reply
                             
                  • 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”?

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

                    Reply
                     
                    • 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!

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                      Reply
                       
                                  • 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.

                                      Quote  Link

                                    Report

                                    Reply
                                     
                                          • 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.

                                              Quote  Link

                                            Report

                                            Reply
                                             
                                                • 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!

                                                    Quote  Link

                                                  Report

                                                  Reply
                                                   
                                                  • 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?

                                                      Quote  Link

                                                    Report

                                                    Reply
                                                     
                                                        • 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…

                                                            Quote  Link

                                                          Report

                                                          Reply
                                                           
                                                          • 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?

                                                              Quote  Link

                                                            Report

                                                            Reply
                                                             
                                                            • 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.

                                                                Quote  Link

                                                              Report

                                                              Reply
                                                               
                                                              • 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”?

                                                                  Quote  Link

                                                                Report

                                                                Reply
                                                                 
                                                                • 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.

                                                                    Quote  Link

                                                                  Report

                                                                  Reply
                                                                   
                                                                  • 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”.

                                                                      Quote  Link

                                                                    Report

                                                                    Reply
                                                                     
                                                                    • 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”.

                                                                        Quote  Link

                                                                      Report

                                                                      Reply