Assorted Monday links

by on March 7, 2016 at 12:34 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1 Peter Schaeffer March 7, 2016 at 12:46 pm

“More details on the closure of the Balkan route”

Open Borders. Tried and quickly failed. No surprises. When do we get the tearful recantation from Clemens, Caplan, Cowen, and Tabarrok (and Bush, McCain, etc.)

Plenty of Communists eventually recanted their ideology. Eventually (after WWII), José Vasconcelos rejected National Socialism. The Open Borders crowd will come around sooner or later.

2 Slocum March 7, 2016 at 2:48 pm

“Tried and quickly failed.”

Failed except, you know, for the part where tens of thousands of actual human beings have escaped war zones and risk of death for themselves and their families. And in the case of Syria (where the refugees escaped the greatest dangers), they were escaping a war zone that the blundering European powers (in conjunction with the US) have helped create and perpetuate.

3 Peter Schaeffer March 7, 2016 at 4:08 pm


Failed for the people of Europe. The so-called “refugees” were safe when they reached Turkey (or Lebanon or Jordan). When they paid smugglers to get into Greece (and the rest of Europe) they became illegals. Of course, a rather large proportions of they Syrians are really from other countries.

4 Peter Schaeffer March 7, 2016 at 4:13 pm


a rather large proportions of the “Syrians” are really from other countries

5 Nathan W March 7, 2016 at 9:39 pm

How many years to you spend in a refugee camp before we can easily understand that they want to move on? Sure, they are human and do not look for the worst deal possible, but these are still refugees – they fled war and have no home.

6 So Much For Subtlety March 8, 2016 at 1:18 am

Most of them are not refugees. There are as many Albanians among them as Syrians.

But of course we can understand they want to move on. The Germans have promised them free cash and houses – and there are lots of pretty girls in Germany who are not kept in purdah. It is like paradise. We can all understand they want to move on.

That is not the issue. The question is why have the governments of the West forgotten their main job is protecting 10 year old boys from being raped? Why have they forgotten their main obligation is not to a bunch of strangers, many of whom hate them, but to their voters? That is a question the voters are likely to remind them of by, among other things, voting for parties that will enforce the border. With a wall if need be.

7 Nathan W March 8, 2016 at 6:34 am

How many ten year old boys have been raped among these millions plus refugees? I daresay, the Catholic Church is a greater threat to the anal virginity of young children than the average refugee.

8 So Much For Subtlety March 8, 2016 at 4:54 pm

I am sure you would say Nathan. But it would not be true. Children are safer with the Catholic Church than with State schools. Catholic priests offend at a rate no higher, and perhaps lower, than anyone else.

Neither of those claims is true for Merkel’s youth.

9 Daniel Weber March 8, 2016 at 1:22 pm

Pretending downsides don’t exist is how you got this backlash with anti-immigrant politicians being voted into office across Europe. Are you trying to solidify their gains? Then keep it up.

10 Sebastian Spinetto March 7, 2016 at 3:57 pm

Interesting how you view “Open Borders” as an ideology that is too be accepted, rejected or criticized. I am coming from the perspective that it is a general trend, for better or worse. Whether this “open borders crowd” comes to its senses is irrelevant…the reality is that more and more people have greater mobility and as a result movement between borders, legal or illegal, will continue to occur regardless of any policy prescription. tl;dr Open Borders is not a policy to be had, but rather an unavoidable consequence of globalization, increased mobility

11 Peter Schaeffer March 7, 2016 at 4:05 pm


Open Borders is definitely an ideology and/or policy. Don’t believe me? Try climbing Israel’s security barrier. Try sneaking into Australia in a boat. Try living in Singapore as an illegal (the flog them). Some countries and people want to enforce borders. Others don’t.

The technology for mass immigration came more than 100 years ago (steamships). The vast swings in actual migration levels since then shows that policy, not technology, is the dominant influence.

12 Nathan W March 7, 2016 at 9:43 pm

An island and two very small nations (one of which also an island) can more easily enforce borders than entire continents which are physically connected to neighbours. You’re pretty smart, of that I have no doubt, but your analogies go straight to the toilet when the subject of open borders comes up.

13 Peldrigal March 9, 2016 at 5:54 am

We never had open borders with the Balkans. So, your point is…?

14 tjamesjones March 7, 2016 at 12:57 pm

great quote from is Janan Ganesh in the FT today (well tomorrow apparently, but it’s online), re brexit

So what have Eurosceptics been doing all these years, if not preparing? Leavers and Scottish nationalists deny any likeness, but the parallels between the two movements increasingly insist on being noticed. Both sides spent so much time and energy securing a referendum that none was left over to hone their arguments when it came. They bonded among themselves during those years in a way that cloaked material disagreements on basic questions of detail. And they are so sure of the rightness and historic inevitability of their missions that practical quibbles seem tawdry and beside the point to them — a vice that mars the work of European federalists too, and designers of the single currency especially.

15 MEH 0910 March 7, 2016 at 1:09 pm

Smart watches that enable exam cheating.

1. Future big Flynn effect.

2. If the smart watches can be used to cheat at life, then the exam is still reliable.

16 dearieme March 7, 2016 at 3:20 pm

Treat them like calculators – no electronic watch may be worn in an exam unless it has prior approval from the invigilators. Surely that’s how all calculators are treated?

17 Adrian Ratnapala March 7, 2016 at 3:41 pm

Most watches are electronic.

But yes, a simple no-watch rule will work just fine.

18 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly March 7, 2016 at 4:31 pm

If I am remembering correctly, digital watches are already barred from being taken inside the testing room on the bar exam (at least in NY, where I sat for it). This is not a difficult problem to solve.

19 djw March 7, 2016 at 8:42 pm

Alternatively, make all of your exams open book exams, and write problems that require thought and intelligence rather than rote copying.

20 Ted Craig March 7, 2016 at 1:11 pm

4 Sounds like it is a problem if employers are developing work arounds.

21 Yancey Ward March 7, 2016 at 1:16 pm

I simply no longer believe anything in regards to #3- neither the numbers nor the policies. A lot of this looks like propaganda put out to try to pacify the building revolt within the voters.

22 Composition March 7, 2016 at 1:26 pm

#4. Losing grades would not be a bad idea but for all of the employers who insist on using them. The federal government is the worst. It allows you to be hired out of college at a GS-7 if you have a 3.5 GPA but only a GS-5 if you do not. It does not pay to go to schools or take majors that don’t inflate GPAs.

23 Ray Lopez March 7, 2016 at 2:17 pm

I went to a top 30 US uni and they had a mandatory grade curve where I ended up below average, though the standard deviation was very small. I had to explain to every employer why, and it sucked, as they did not appreciate std. dev. arguments. But I don’t think it ever really cost me serious money, since I was in a hot field. But it did cost me some as certain companies refused to hire people unless they were “top 10% in their class”.

So I’m in favor of Pass/Fail, like they do in Tokyo and Berkeley U.

24 A Definite Beta Guy March 7, 2016 at 1:41 pm

Nothing on the Romney candidacy?

25 Rob42 March 7, 2016 at 1:54 pm

Is #4 more evidence of the signalling theory of education over the skills development theory?

26 too hot for MR March 7, 2016 at 1:59 pm

2. Kind of funny that this is the state of cheating in 2016. Twenty years ago people just loaded whatever they wanted onto their TI-85 calculators, which as I recall even had the benefit of wireless links to your classmates. The future seems a lot less cool when it actually gets here.

27 Nathan W March 7, 2016 at 3:05 pm

1) “He says the code of conduct should require modellers to disclose who, if anyone, commissioned a piece of work, to clearly discuss their key assumptions, to provide sensitivity analysis where appropriate, and to explain the choice of economic model.

He says modellers should also take responsibility for the plausibility of their results, and the full modelling results should be made publicly available when they are released to the media.”

This sounds exceedingly reasonable. No one in the profession would take results seriously in the absence of such disclosure, but the public and also the media is not well positioned to take such a stance. However, it is easy to avoid disclosing funders by opening front organizations which masquerade as research institutes. The rest would be hard to bypass.

2) So, now watches will be banned in exams.

4) At my uni (Toronto), all transcripts come with both the grade and the class average. Class averages were always C+ or B-, so it’s always clear that an A is a really good mark. It’s not Harvard, but it’s top 10-20 globally in a very large number of fields, and also top 20 globally in most aggregate rankings – i.e., the competition is beyond fierce. I sometimes wonder if I should have gone to a school where they hand out As like they’re nothing … grad school would have been a lot cheaper, for starters.

I like the Australian pass-fail system. It allows you to focus on learning instead of grades.

28 Mark Thorson March 7, 2016 at 3:43 pm

Yes, economic modellers should be treated the same as those Italian seismologists who failed to predict the catastrophic earthquake. Failure should mean a long prison sentence.

29 Nathan W March 7, 2016 at 10:59 pm

Who’s proposing prison sentences?

30 Alain March 7, 2016 at 7:31 pm

> grad school would have been a lot cheaper, for starters

Other than for biz school, and maybe law school who the heck pays for grad school?

31 Nathan W March 7, 2016 at 11:04 pm

It costs money to live and there’s little/no time for employed work. Also, in Canada you don’t get grad scholarships unless you have an A- average, MINIMUM to even get looked at for funding (PhD studies are generally funded so long as you get accepted, however,). If you go to a school where everyone gets As, that’s one thing, but if you’re competing in an Ivy League-ish level school where class averages are C+/B-, it’s a pretty tough bar to pass, especially if you study in the more competitive fields.

32 Floccina March 7, 2016 at 3:06 pm

“the quality of learning declines” when grades are introduced, becoming “shallower and more superficial when the point is to get a grade.”

School is not about learning. Separate education and grading and it might become about learning.

33 Albigensian March 7, 2016 at 3:34 pm

Grade inflation is to college as volume compression is to digital recording: in both cases information is lost which can’t be recovered. By compressing A, B, and C+ into ‘A’ and anything above ‘F’ into ‘B’ it is no longer possible to identify the few who truly excel.

The solution to “Average is Over” is to define practically everyone as “above average”?

34 too hot for MR March 7, 2016 at 4:49 pm

In practice there are adjustments. E.g. law schools typically adjust an applicant’s GPA to reflect his school’s average GPA. So Harvard can keep all its trust fund kids happy with A averages but not necessarily launch them to A-grade grad schools.

I assume employers are are not entirely snowed by this either.

35 Larry Siegel March 9, 2016 at 8:41 pm

Albigensian said “information is lost” not “all information is lost”. I want no information to be lost, so that my fairly diligent effort is obvious to schools, employers, etc.

36 Psmith March 7, 2016 at 4:14 pm

“I’ve begun to wonder if a world without grades may be one of those states of affairs (like open marriages, bicycle lanes and single-payer health care) that Americans resist precisely because they seem too good, suspiciously good.”

You heard it here first, folks. Cuckolds For Grade Inflation when?

37 Larry Siegel March 9, 2016 at 8:46 pm

I think Americans resist these things because they understand the concept of things that have an upside also having a downside.

With the rise of Trump, however, I’m losing some faith in my fellow Americans. As a consolation I realize that Trump is the choice of 35% of 12% (Republican primary voters being about 12% of the electorate).

38 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly March 7, 2016 at 4:37 pm

Even where grades can be useful, as in describing what material a student has mastered, they are remarkably crude instruments. Yes, the student who gets a 100 on a calculus exam probably grasps the material better than the student with a 60 — but only if she retains the knowledge, which grades can’t show.

If the value of education is only what a student retains in the long term–a dubious premise, no doubt–then the logical conclusion here is to abolish education, not just grades. That the author indicates no willingness to go that far suggests to me he is just arguing to a pre-determined conclusion rather than reasoning to a supportable one.

39 MC March 7, 2016 at 4:54 pm

4. “By the early ’90s, so long as one had the good sense to major in the humanities — all bets were off in the STEM fields — it was nearly impossible to get a final grade below a B-minus at an elite college.”

The author simply gives more ammunition to those who think that the humanities are a waste of time and that only STEM fields deserve funding. Why bother with the humanities when it will take even more resources to figure out how much a student has learned? Way to go, fool.

40 Nathan W March 7, 2016 at 11:17 pm

In lower years, STEM courses are mostly multiple choice exams with some lab work or short writing assignments. This is quite reasonable for evaluating how well the student has mastered all the basics, the non-negotiable knowledge, “facts”, if you will.

As you get into the higher levels, and are approaching more controversial areas or even the cutting edge, evaluation is also very time intensive because there can be a lot of open ended questions and a great diversity of ways to defend an answer, even when referring to essentially the same literature or methodologies. Probably even more so than in humanities, because in humanities, you can just sorta read the assignment, and evaluate the general quality of argumentation (or even just whether the “correct” literature is parroted correctly), and make sure the citations are effectively deployed to support the arguments – whereas, in STEM, a grader may meet a different approach to answering the question and absolutely has to take the time to understand the thinking of the reader in order to evaluate whether there is sound science-based reasoning involved.

41 March 7, 2016 at 8:07 pm
42 Donald A. Coffin March 10, 2016 at 2:04 am

#4 Grade inflation is one of those topics that nags at me. The linked article refers largely to “elite” universities. Other things equal, I would have expected average grades to have gone up somewhat in those institutions, because they have become *even more selective.* Unless their selection algorithms are even more messed up than we would have thought, they should be doing a better job of selecting students more likely to succeed. Why wouldn’t grades rise?

And that’s without considering two other phenomena that extend beyond elite institutions.

The first is the more widespread availability of assistance for students–study skills, writing/math/language labs, tutors (I’m adjuncting at a reasonably selective private liberal arts institution right now that has tutors available for intro econ; until the mid-1980s, or even later, many if not most public universities did not offer tutors for those courses), and so on. An immense amount of research on which study practices work better (and for which types of students), and that information is fairly widely available.

The second is that more and more institutions–yes, even elite schools and R-1s–are at least paying more attention to preparing people to teach and supporting better teaching practices. This is true at all of the institutions at which I have taught, and it appears to be true generally. There has been an explosion in the number of journals that focus on teaching in higher education, with actual evidence of what does and does not work. Institutions have teaching/learning centers and run series of workshops. So, I would contend, the average effectiveness of instruction has increased.

Put all this together–why wouldn’t we expect grades to have risen? If I am correct, the only way to prevent that is for grading standards, far from eroding, to become more stringent.

I do not intend to imply that no one anywhere has eased up. I simply intend to argue that a rising average grade distribution is not necessarily *proof* that standards are eroding. Hell, I’m not sure it’s even *evidence* that standards are eroding.

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