by Tyler Cowen
on October 26, 2012 at 12:08 pm
1. Update on the Medicaid wars: Medicaid spending is slowing, and more here, much of it is from falling reimbursement rates.
2. Upgrading the lowly button.
3. Krugman’s Asimov introduction (pdf).
4. What moderation means, by David Brooks.
5. Thai face-slapping markets in everything.
6. Chris Dillow on the deserving vs. undeserving poor.
Why not vote today, vote early, don’t chance the storm’s (Sandy) ability to knock out power long term.
It is not worth taking a chance if it can be avoided.
I read the comment that “If I wore more button-up shirts, this would be great on my commute,” and immediately realized that I wear button-up shirts regularly, but don’t wear earbuds–especially not while I’m commuting. A clip on the cable seems a better solution than a clip on my clothes.
You can tell how much TC sincerely likes this idea by the fact that it’s not labelled “There is no Great Stagnation.”
Wow, Krugman couldn’t avoid a cheap shot in the first sentence of the introduction. The introduction has nothing to do with Atlas Shrugged and it’s not even in the same genre as Asimov’s Foundation books.
“There are certain novels that can shape a teenage boy’s life. For
some, it’s Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged; for others it’s Tolkien’s
The Lord of the Rings. As a widely quoted internet meme says,
the unrealistic fantasy world portrayed in one of those books
can warp a young man’s character forever; the other book is
Good joke, though.
And at least we know how Krugman sees himself and his “task”: saving civilization.
Better the man shaped as a fourteen year old by “Foundation” than by “Atlas Shrugged”.
In one he goes off to be a wanna-be tyrant, in the other he gets unrealistic expectations about businessmen, “Foundation” is much more damaging than “Atlas Shrugged” imo.
Not a good joke.
Sure it is
Good jokes are unpredictable, then there is Paul Krugman.
Btw, don’t you guys realize that 4/5 times Ayn Rand is brought up it’s you guys? Same thing with Grover Norquist, Kochs, etc.
I have literally never heard anyone, anywhere, reference Ayn Rand in real life. But on the Internet she’s ubiquitous. I managed to make it through like 26 years of life without even knowing who she was.
Hell I’ve never even heard her name said aloud. How is it pronounced? “Anne” or “Eye-n”
That’s nothing. I was like 30 when someone informed me I was a puppet of the Kochs. I said “I’m a Pepsi man!”
Like Eye–n, like Mine.
Maybe it wasn’t meant to be a joke?
1. ‘Cheap shot’ = something that’s true but the victim would rather it not be called to other people’s attention.
2. Asimov is very much like Rand and Tolkien in that he is an author most of his fans encountered in their youth. The Foundation series probably has never ‘shaped’ as many people as either Rand or Tolkien, but it’s valid to draw the comparision.
3. The joke is funny, unfortunately many of us have heard it so often that it has worn off.
Sci-fi, unfortunately, often does not age very well. Look at the movie 2001. As good as it was, one cannot look at it today without thinking more about how things did not turn out like that. The Foundation series reflected what I suspect was cutting edge science at the time. The idea that statistics and probability could be harnessed to control and predict history.
I would have liked it more if Krugman had asked whether Asimov would have written the series today if he was a young man? Given that we now have choas theory that tells us minutely tiny differences in starting conditions can lead to radically different outcomes, does it make sense to think we could ever have a theory that could predict the history of, say, the 20th century, if all we could input into it was the condition of things around the time of the Roman Empire?
#6 — Well, I learned one thing. Reading the comments after the piece on the deserving and undeserving poor made me realize that the comments here at MR are generally really good, even if the “old timers” opine that things have gone downhill. I’ve rarely read so many erroneous and inaccurate characterizations of libertarianism as in that comments thread.
“things have gone downhill.”
I think they are talking about me. Then I think, nah, that’s just vanity.
I read the comments and thought they were generally pretty good – particularly the ones that were overtly skeptical or hostile to “Libertarianism”.
What about that none of the article’s excuses make a lick of sense?
We shouldn’t distinguish between the deserving and non-deserving because the non-deserving will just game the distinguishing system? Oh, well, we’ll take care of the fact that some people are gaming the system, we’ll stop attempting to prevent it! Well, that’s how Medicare achieves low administration costs, so I guess it “works” on one sense of the word.
And that’s the best one.
I disagree. The first one is very convincing. I would go so far as to call it a Hayekian insight. Beyond the basic categories of eligible or ineligible, it makes very little sense to waste resources trying to herd people into what is essentially a moral category. The state simply isn’t equipped to efficiently make such determinations.
3 cheers for the generality norm
To be fair, When you out that quote in a tweet, without context or explanation, what else would you expect?
That David Brooks column was predictably content free.
Agreed. First Brooks says that moderation is not just picking the current median position. Then he says that moderates have no particular principles other than seeking balance (ie seeking the median) and then he say that moderates have not been able to organize – what an ass. Of course moderates can’t organize. They have no moral or intellectual principles around which to organize and they are not sufficiently passionate to put in the effort.
Not being passionate can sometimes be a virtue……..
I am personally in favor of moderation – I just think Brooks is an idiot and wrong about what it means.
Disagree. (I guess that’s what moderates sometimes do…try to balance out opinions.) I had always thought of a moderate as someone sitting statically between two political poles as opposed to one only “sitting” on average in between as they move back and forth. I am not a big fan of political labels but balance and pragmatism are important to me. I have been accused of lacking morals or principles…but only by rather dogmatic, stubborn persons. Oh and having an eclectic set of interests does not make you dispassionate…just eclectic. Maybe the op-ed was stating the obvious to everyone else but I thought it was interesting.
That’s funny, because I’ve been accused of being dogmatic and stubborn, but only by people utterly lacking in morals and principles.
There’s nothing like a little irrationality to advance an argument.
The Moderate David Brookstein, Germany Circa 1944: “When you say ‘FINAL’ solution, not so fast their buckeroo.”
How do moderates avoid the apocryphal frog in the boiling pot problem?
Are moderates really a bunch of contrarians?
What makes a man turn moderate … Lust for gold? Power? Or were you just born with a heart full of moderation?”
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.”
How very moderate of you.
We have a beige alert!
This is why you should always take advantage of the ability to specify an appropriate name with each post.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to return to sending wave after wave of men against some killbots.
The conversation reminds me of Burke’s critique of ‘men of systems’. There are basically two competing political philosophies: “everyone takes care of themselves” and “everyone takes care of everyone.”
Moderates are people who recognize that neither one of these philosophies is free-standing. Life is messy- quit trying to cram it in a box.
Also, it’s nice to see extremists getting along with each other from time to time.
It takes all kinds- even the kind who think it doesn’t take all kinds.
I think you can probably learn a lot about someone simply by asking whether they prefer Foundation series or the “I, Robot” stories.
Having read both for the first time in the last year, it’s amazing to me how the former has aged, in my opinion, quite poorly and now looks hopelessly naive and anachronistic while the latter looks smarter every day.
Good comment. The I, Robot series is a bunch of very enjoyable logic puzzles, and the characters, both robot and human, are more interesting.
Not to mention the Robot stories show a keen sense of irony and understanding of unintended consequences. Foundation is a perfect foil thematically and surely this was intentional, but Foundation is completely devoid of any kind of self-awareness and is way to earnestly attached to its ideas of social determinism.
“I think you can probably learn a lot about someone simply by asking whether they prefer Foundation series or the “I, Robot” stories.”
Based on the rest of your comment, you may only learn how recently they read them or whether they read them as teens or adults.
Agreed. I loved Foundation as a kid, but several years ago I re-read them and… meh.
I read and enjoyed the Foundation Trilogy when I was younger and presently can recall very little. I recognize names/events mentioned Krugman’s article, but not much more wrt specifics.
However I occasionally think of it – oddly when considering investments. There’s always something unexpected coming from a competitor somewhere – something just below the surface that may become overwhelming. The smart phone “wars” come to mind.
I’d argue that all influential works of literature end up being vastly overrated, Foundation as well as Atlas Shrugged and Lord of the Rings. The Foundation trilogy, like the other two, just has incredibly long gaps of boring-ness, and while the four books that Asimov wrote around the trilogy end up making the story/theme more interesting (if not even less philosophically appealing) they are awfully heavy on the “I just discovered that women have breasts” factor.
Silly children. I grew up reading Moby Dick, and then moved on to Paradise Lost by the age of 10.
That’s nothing — I *wrote* Paradise Lost at the age of ten. Imagine my disgust when I found out that piker Milton had beaten me to the punch.
I also see that you’ve moved on to do bigger and better things: either discover the cure for human mortality or invent time travel. Even I am impressed, whichever one it is.
Thats even worse. Moby Dick? Seriously? More boring and drawn out nonsense is hard to find.
But it does have the odd nice description of how to slaughter and filet a whale. Never know when that might come in handy.
I have to say I mildly liked Asimov as a teen. Can’t be bothered with him now. Whereas Tolkein’s politics annoyed me (or rather everyone told me that Tolkein’s politics were annoying). As I have got older I tend to think better of those politics and hence like LotR more. But I still prefer the Hobbit.
2. But old-school buttons work well with wireless headphones – does that make them more advanced?
5. Many would pay to have their face slapped by Tata (for those not clicking through, that’s the too-good name of the masseuse)
6. A pretty good response to a sophomoric question. The biggest negative of Republican conservatism to me is the obsession with punishing the “unworthy”, regardless of the cost.
The obsession isn’t with punishing the unworthy. It’s with refusing to reward destructive behavior because such rewards encourage more people to behave badly.
Back in 1960, when single mothers were very, very rare, liberals made the very sensible sounding argument that shunning such women for life was a) absurdly too harsh for the magnitude of their transgression and b) entirely unfair to their utterly blameless children. So sensible liberals not only stopped stigmatizing single mothers but also stigmatized anyone who dared to stigmatize single mothers. Aid programs that were once only available to “deserving” single mothers who had been widowed became open to all.
So now, in a country where nearly every kid once lived with both parents, almost half are now being raised and supported by only one. This trend has been utterly terrible for kids and certainly ranks among the top causes for the widening gap between rich and poor in this country.
Incentives matter. If you stop trying to prevent something, you are effectively condoning it and you get more, particularly when you pay for it.
Single mothers have never been “very, very rare”. However until very recently in history most single mothers were widows (or claimed they were– 19th century census rates of claimed windowhood are demographically impossible to credit). A lot of our women’s and children’s assistance programs were passed with widowhood in mind. No one in his right mind wants to punish single parents whose spouses have died.
Right. It’s the moral hazard. Left-wing domestic policy basically boils down to the idea that there just isn’t enough moral hazard in our society.
You’re incredibly naive if you think the primary incentives folks are responding to when children are born out of wedlock is financial. You can go round and round about how many single mothers are created “on the margin” by welfare, but you’re missing the forest for the trees.
The increase in the number of single parents is due to a variety of changing social norms (many of them improvements), not due to welfare. And it won’t be solved by welfare, either.
We can see the effect of financial incentives in the Netherlands. They used to hand out welfare to the closest relative – usually the mother of the teenage mother. Then they changed the law so that the baby mother got the cash. They used to have low rates of single teenage motherdom. Now they have high rates.
The amount we pay teenage single mothers is the single best predictor of how many teenage single mothers we have. That and, in the US, race.
“This paper uses data from the eight waves of the European Community Household Panel
(1994-2001) to estimate the impact of welfare benefits on the incidence of single motherhood
and headship among young women across European countries. The regressions include
country fixed effects as well as time trends that are allowed to vary by country, to account for
fixed and trending unmeasured factors that could influence both benefit levels and family
formation. The analysis also accounts for individual characteristics and labor market
conditions. The results suggest that benefit levels have a small but significant positive effect
on the prevalence of single mothers. An increase in yearly benefits of 1,000 euros is
estimated to increase the incidence of single mother families by about 2 percent.”
I do not doubt that a large number of social norms have changed. Like the one that said teenage girls should not be having sex without getting married first. So now more 14 year olds don’t bother waiting. Good news for a whole range of people. But that does not mean the rest of us should have to pay for them.
Read the comment. Actually read it.
I did not just refer to financial transfers. I do not think financial transfers alone come anywhere near explaining the explosion of bastard births. I also spoke about the social exclusion of single mothers. The pre-60 system was basically set up to ruin your life — and really hurt the life of your blameless kid — if you had a kid out of wedlock.
It was really harsh, unfairly so on the individual level. But by being really harsh, it made it very rare for women to have kids out of wedlock and thus minimized something that is THE major cause of poverty, both financial and cultural, in the nation today and one of the major causes of our growing social inequality.
The conservative “obsession” with punishing the “unworthy” rather than helping the “unfortunate” angers liberals, particularly women. But, in some (though not all) cases, harshness prevents exponentially more suffering than it causes.
Of course, if you compare the ability to survive as a single parent off of the state to rates of single parenthood across OECD countries, you find… a relationship barely any different from random association.
While increasing benefits for child support obviously causes some marginal change, it would probably do a lot more to target things that determine the levels, like, say, the 750k fathers in jail in any given year, the vast majority of them there due to the war on drugs.
Or you could just engage in tired conservative moralism about dependency and the death of the traditional family.
Nice chart. Not particularly relevant, though.
“But, in some (though not all) cases, harshness prevents exponentially more suffering than it causes.”
Nice non-sequitur. So does having a thoroughly misogynist and patriarchal culture prevent exponentially more suffering than it causes, or are you just going to speak in opaque platitudes?
Has the (oftentimes greater) sexual liberalization of European countries actually led to this ‘exponential suffering’? Any comparative data that suggests sexual liberalization has a statistically meaningful relationship with levels of single parenthood? That the marginal effects are anything other than incredibly small?
If America had single parent rates much like many other European countries decades ago, and both America and these Euro countries have increased transfers to single parents *and* become more sexually liberalized and less misogynistic, why does the US stand out?
If Krugman wants a good look at the Second Empire, he should go read Donald Kingsbury’s Psychohistorical Crisis. It shows the Second Empire when the rule of the Psychohistorians is falling apart from a factor Asimov didn’t really notice, but by heavens, Michael Flynn (in Country of the Blind) certainly did! Or why rule by such types really isn’t all that permanent.
(Flynn understands this in part because he is a devout Roman Catholic who is 500 years past the Reformation, Counterreformation, and splintering of Christianity, if you ask me. Asimov had no such background.)
+1. I always try to remember “In Country of the Blind” when I start to think too much of my models. It’s really a version of the Lucas Critique though, isn’t it?
Wait, Paul Krugman really liked books where technocrats can predict the future and shape the future? What a shock.
mravery says ” The increase in the number of single parents is due to a variety of changing social norms (many of them improvements)” The development economist Deepak lal thinks that this phenomenon is due to the Judeo-Christian view that morality has its origins in a divine being while in Eastern cultures morality is based on what Lal calls a sense of shame of doing something unacceptable socially. The erosion of faith in God in western cultures undermines moral values since these no longer have any basis. One causality is unwed pregnancies since many the young nno longer believe in the divine authority of the commandment forbidding it. . Lal also argues that arranged marriages in the past kept this in check in Europe. Is Lal’s argument valid?
Read Greg Clark on Malthusian England. Like Malthus recommended, they had rather late marriages because they couldn’t afford to start families earlier. And despite the lack of contraception, there were negligible numbers of children born out of wedlock.
Update on the Medicaid wars: Medicaid spending is slowing, and more here, much of it is from falling reimbursement rates.
Well yea there’s been falling reimbursement rates but this seems to have been missed:
The slowdown largely has to do with a steady drop in Medicaid enrollment. As the economy has recovered, the safety net program has seen fewer Americans seek assistance with their health care coverage. Medicaid enrollment increased by 3.2 percent in 2012, a significant drop from the 7.8 percent increase the program saw back in 2009.
Granted simply lowering fees is a pretty blunt solution, in itself it probably does spur productivity. Most doctors offices have increased productivity by decreasing face time with the doctor. Things you don’t need a doctor to do like taking medical histories, vitals, assembling test results etc. are done by office staff and medical assistants. The doctor then is only required to review the data and decide on treatments. Hence the doctor can see more patients per hour which is a rational response to a lower reimbursement per patient.
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