by Tyler Cowen
on September 22, 2013 at 1:32 pm
1. Will Baude on the role of lawyers in *Average is Over*.
2. Our new service sector jobs (homeless iPhone fight edition, hat tip Alex).
3. Ashok Rao’s perfect policy platform.
4. Kathryn Davis remains one of our most creative writers.
5. 1981 debate: David Friedman vs. George Smith. And equine cloning services. But will this cloning episode work?
6. When Venezuela finds nationalization to be necessary.
#1. ” I still can’t figure out if it is utopian or dystopian.”
I didn’t realize that there were only two options for our future world. How about C., none of the above. Are we currently living in what a past society would think is a utopian or dystopian world?
There’s much hand wringing and false dichotomy in the book and its reviews. People are immensely adaptable and complex. My three year old son can maneuver an iPad way more adeptly and peacefully than his 62 year old grandfather, but both choose to use one all the time. Life will continue to suck and be awesome (often in the same breath), always was so. I see a lot of what’s floated in the book as a continuation of current trends and not some new (more) oppressive future.
(The discussion/analogies of freestyle chess is worth the kindle price, imo.)
‘and not some new (more) oppressive future’
This is correct – such explicit techniques as omnipresent ‘marketing’ have been used in the past in a number of societies to convince people to follow the party line. Oops – ‘to do what is in their best interest.’ Though in this oncoming brave new world, our best interest will be determined by disinterested algorithms, apparently.
Even the celebration in the mass media of those who have reached the pinnacle of what is determined to be society’s ideal is not part of some new future – though at the time it reached its trimphant peak, the dedicated auteurs exalting the new and more glorious society being created for the greater good tended to work in black and white with mono sound.
The toilet paper story reminds me of when Quebec mandated that doctors show up when assigned to emergency wards because of a shortage. Worked very well at least for us here, a few french canadian doctors showed up shortly afterwards.
Maybe an appropriate response to #3 as well.
A mischievous reuters writer could have said something to the effect that the peasants were happy but a bit smelly.
Well, the Bolivar has to be printed on something.
Number 3 – The permit in immigration markets sounds interesting. But perhaps Rao and Steve Sailor could meet half way on this? If the quota for that month is used up, an incoming immigrant could pay a present citizen who would renounce their citizenship and thus it would be population neutral – one would go and another enter.
Get rid of the Department of Education and allocate every child into school by a random lottery. Public education is a bit (but not really) like the individual mandate. It works well if everyone uses it without segregation. There are big externalities in moving a rich kid from his bubble of a rich school to a poorer school because support from his parents will make everyone in the poorer school better of. For free! If you think about “parental positive influence” as a scarce good concentrated in the top 20% of the population, there is huge, huge inefficiency in having many rich kids go to the same school. In this case, redundancy is bad.
Is there the remotest bit of evidence that public education works well if everyone uses it without segregation? It is true that schools with middle class children do better than schools with underclass children. But moving a random selection of middle class children into one with underclass children is just likely to cause more muggings, beatings and rapes. This seems to me to be the last reminant of Rao’s Democratic Party background. It is an admission that teachers have utterly failed – whatever benefit parents bring, teachers ought to be better at providing it. And that educating the under class has failed. And so the last hope is to punish the rich in a vain hope that it will make a difference.
The truth is likely to be simpler – underclass children come from underclass families. Whether it is caused by culture or genetics, nothing much is going to change that. The only people who can help them are schools and public schools have failed. What precisely would the parents do – except hold the teachers accountable? Thus we are back at the failure of the Blue Model. Teachers won’t teach competently unless the PTA is on their backs?
You’re absolutely right that there’s no evidence this would work. (Nor, for that matter, is there evidence land taxes would work – something big proponents like me should be wary about – but we let theory guide us safely in those waters, for some reason).
If you happen to think that all or most of underclass underachievement is genetic or early cultural, then your point holds. But if you think schools and teachers can play a role, there’s at least reason to believe (and further study) the idea that just having the human capital of affluent parents fighting for their kids is a more efficient redistribution than taxing cash and throwing it at crappy schools.
That’s an idea that would not please the classic union Democrats much, I don’t imagine.
Well I am sure that land taxes would have unintended consequences. But you are talking about children’s lives and that is a lot more serious. I don’t think many parents would agree it is reasonable to risk their child being someone’s rape toy for the sheer joy of intellectual experimentation. We can try land taxes out without ruining anyone’s life.
Besides, I would bet we have done this experiment and pushy parents help not one bit. At least not enough to make up for the decline in learning among their children once they are in a class where they get beaten up regularly and where the teacher has to spend most of her time keeping order. Because instead of those smart students going to Yale and becoming doctors, they will go to Michigan and become accountants.
I would recommend Hillel Levine’s The death of an American Jewish community : a tragedy of good intentions. Which has an example of a very good school that fast tracked WASP children to the Ivies. And then Irish students. And then Jewish students. And then it got a large percentage of African American students. Same teachers. Same textbooks. Same facilities. What do you think happened to the educational outcomes (and please note I am not blaming this on anyone’s race, but it just so happens that there is a correlation between being Black and very poor educational outcomes that enables us to see data that would be otherwise hidden. The census asks if you’re Black, it does not ask if you’re feckless)?
On the other hand I would find it hard to believe Jewish parents, or Chinese or Indian immigrant parents, would have voted Mayor Fenty out in Washington when he brought in Michelle Rhee to do something about DC’s schools. So maybe there is something to the parent argument.
Can teachers do anything? Clearly not only don’t teachers do much (and I think they can and they should) but this parent argument is simply acknowledging they don’t do diddly. Not unless parents stand over them and make them. Which is a very depressing view of public schools. Probably accurate though.
So what is the reason to believe redistributing students would work? I would think the Teachers’ Unions like this idea because it would hide their incompetence. Everyone would get the mark they would get anyway if the teachers did nothing. Which is pretty much what they do at most schools. But no one would be able to spot the failing schools or useless teachers. Would it help the students? Well, it would certainly enrich some of them.
The British aristocracy and upper class for centuries sent their sons to schools where they were bullied outrageously (and bullied the younger kids in turn).
Though in those days many parents might have considered the bullying a feature than a bug.
One gets the feeling they considered these hazing rituals a rite of passage to mould a good, spirited, loyal young man.
And sexually assaulted. But they did not get sub-par education.
Whether the parents knew or not, that is the question.
If the British aristocracy considered the public school practices to be a problem, they surely had the means and the influence to eradicate them at will.
From this, I would guess that they really meant all the hazing to be sort of a feature.
Back then, career did not involve sitting in an office 100% of the time; many of the graduates went to the navy, to the military and to the colonial service, where physical dangers were present, and it might have been advantageous for the graduates to be a bit hardened.
So then you have to abolish private schools and hold Americans here like they did behind the Iron Curtain, because the most effective way to fight for your kids is to get them the hell out of that situation.
That’s a naive way of looking at it – unless you are a big “L” Libertarian. (There are good reasons to disagree with me on principle, that this is any more Iron Curtain-ish than something else is not). The government forces all kinds of illiberties on you, taxes being the clearest example. The individual mandate, too.
It is unclear to me why some form of this is better than another only because it “feels” worse.
Is it naive? If people did what you suggest, there would be a mass outflow to private schools. As there has been in the North-East. You would not get the effect you wanted unless you banned parents leaving. But then they would home school in large numbers – probably clubbing together with other parents to hire a tutor. You would have to ban that. Germany has just sent in the SWAT team to remove children from parents who home school. You don’t have to be a libertarian to find that worrying.
The government does force all kinds of illiberal measures on us. And I often have trouble telling one from the other. But taxes involve money. The individual mandate just involves sub-par medical care. I can live with those. Your scheme involves the future of my children. Most parents will have a lot more to say about that than they will about taxes going up.
Again, if you say you want me to risk my daughter being someone else’s rape toy, you have to make a damn good case. Much stronger than the individual mandate. It feels worse because the consequences *are* worse.
Maybe it wasn’t clear in the snippet – but in the linked post I discussed this – the idea is private schools would be illegal.
I can understand you being really worried about this, and that’s fair. But the distinction between “money”, “sub-par healthcare” and this is just artificial.
Nor is your argument helped by the consistent use of terms like “rape toy” that have little empirical foundation. Basic security can prevent physical school beatings, bullying (emotionally and electronically) is as – if not more – prevalent in richer schools. And sexual abuse is really bad at “elite” colleges. I don’t see such secondary schools being any different. (I have a problem with the way these statistics are gathered in general and expect a hype and overstatement thereof, but don’t see why that specifically exempts rich schools).
I find it truly amusing that you find the problem with schools to be the children. If only you could mix them up, fool around with them more, the problems would be solved.
Maybe the problem is not the kids, but the teachers and administrators. Something as simple as a block funding (per child) setup coupled with the freedom to enroll your children in whatever school you wish would force administrators at bad schools to change their ways, otherwise they lose kids, money, eventually disappearing. Yes it throws a wrench into the grand plans of educators, but so what. Nothing like the threat of losing money and even your job to keep focus on doing the job that you are paid to do.
Bah. Liberals forget the terrible mess they made of cities when large numbers of people left to get away from the incompetence being forced upon them.
“the idea is private schools would be illegal.”
I wonder what spectrum of politics would support that idea. The American Socialists?
“. And sexual abuse is really bad at “elite” colleges. “
Compared to what reference set?
Ashok Rao, I assumed you would be making private schools illegal. Home schooling too? Your sensible policy alternative is to spend the DOE’s SWAT team, and they do have one, after parents?
I am not worried about it. I am not at an age I have to care. I am trying to make you understand why people do care. You seem to have no children yourself. People are not fleeing the inner city and especially inner city schools because they hate Black people. They are doing it to protect their children. It is not a trivial issue. And it is completely different from sub-par health care. There is no comparison between higher taxes and screwing up your child’s life. Parents protect their children. That is their job.
You still don’t get it, so I think phrases like that are entirely useful. Little empirical foundation? That depends. Convictions? Sure. Deeply unpleasant and unwanted sexual behavior that cannot be prosecuted? Absolutely. Basic security can do nothing to prevent beatings or bullying. There is nothing you can do to stop one child hanging another child out a third story window. Or stealing his shoes. Or whatever.
Is it more common at elite schools? It used to be. Not sure it is any more. Something can be done at a private school. Parochial schools will kick such students out so fast their head won’t stop spinning.
Elite schools do not have such a problem as can be seen by the respective pregnancy and abortion rates. Although I will admit that it is a growing problem across all schools.
The argument that the option of leaving public school makes it worse has been around since at least “Exit, Voice and Loyalty”. But I’ve never seen any evidence for it. In fact, the studies I’m aware of indicate that competition for students increases the quality of public schools.
There is a pretty nice natural experiment on this with the comparison of Wake Co (Raleigh) and Mecklenburg Co. (Charlotte) schools in NC.
Raleigh for a long time has tried to balance schools by income so that the percentage of free and reduced lunch students was similar across schools.
Charlotte ended busing quite a while ago and instead uses neighborhood schools combined with increased spending on low income schools.
On the face of it it looks like Raleigh’s approach is better because Raleigh’s schools on average do better on statewide test. But that is mainly a composition error. Raleigh is richer and whiter than Charlotte. When you look at minorities and low income students they do BETTER in Charlotte than in Raleigh. Raleigh has fewer failing schools but more failing children, they just hide them amongst better performing students.
Personally I can see how upper class parent involvement could actually be to the determent of lower achieving kids. Upper achievers and lower achievers have different need and need to be taught at a different pace. An upper income parent will advocate for the school setting its strategy based on what is the best for the upper income child. I see this at my daughter’s school (in Raleigh) that is mainly upper income with lower income kids bused in. The school is great with lots of electives and an accelerated pace. This is great for my daughter, but if a kid is struggling with the 3 Rs as many low income kids are they could easily get left behind and all of us middle/upper income parents would not care in the least.
But moving a random selection of middle class children into one with underclass children is just likely to cause more muggings, beatings and rapes.
Job one in schools should be to keep the students safe from one another ahead of education (which is mostly signaling anyway). I do not think that there would be more more muggings, beatings and rapes if Ashok’s proposal was tried. Different students would be mugged, beaten and raped but not more. I also expect that outcomes would not change significantly.
it is morally wrong to treat people as means instead of ends. moving a child to a different school to force his parents to improve that school is extortion.
it also violates the rights of other students/familiesin the school. they may not share the values and preferences of the middle class parents being transferred in, and our political system acts to protect the existing families — who in practice are often active in school board elections.
But all laws by definition (including tax laws) treat people as a means to an end … What matters is how good or bad the end is
+1 Any involuntary movement of students between schools seems bad policy.
Alas, with respect to the nationalization of the toilet paper factory in Venezuela, will this move lead to an increase or a decrease in the production of TP?
Without the price mechanism acting as an incentive, what reason would tp factory owners have to ramp up production? Other than the threat of violence from the state?
ps. I seem to recall a story about typewritter paper production in the soviet union, where the paper produced was either too thin or too thick to be used in the writer…hmm…?
Similar story with window glass. Over 50% was subpar and broke during installation. This wasn’t connected with forced production, though, that was because in the planned economy of the USSR, the metric for success was production (hence, “net material product”) rather than value. So instead of the value of their products, they targeted artificial production metrics (for glass, net cross-sectional area, and I’m assuming something similar in the USSR). Since they didn’t have to answer to consumers they didn’t produce high-quality goods. This is something different; the government is forcing factories to run beyond their shut-down point. There will in all likelihood be a decline in quality but that won’t be for the same reason as the USSR’s shoddy production of consumer goods.
5. George Smith persuaded me from my previous position, which was essentially David’s though with a dozen caveats, i.e. the Anarcho-Tyler-Cowenism. It clicked for me during George’s point about different camps wanting the same general society, and that this was David sneaking in human nature.
I found link # 1 interesting. I wanted to point out that there is something like this already for law firms, in the form of websites and books such as who’s who legal, chambers and partners, and the legal 500, all of which provide ratings that are used by companies when choosing a firm. Getting hired at such firms is often more a matter of personal charm or or inside connections than of GPA, career stats, etc. If people continue to use firm ratings rather than individual lawyer ratings (which seems likely, since you hire teams and not individuals), the firm’s reputation might act as a shield to block the sort of thing you’re predicting. Of course for sole practitioners it’s a different story.
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