Tim Harford on disruption and complacency

by on April 14, 2017 at 12:02 pm in Current Affairs, Data Source, Economics, Web/Tech | Permalink

Here is one bit:

I am reminded of a study of college friendships conducted by psychologists Angela Bahns, Kate Pickett and Christian Crandall. They found that students in a large, diverse campus sought out and befriended other students very much like themselves. In smaller universities with fewer friendship options, young people had more varied groups of friends because the alternative was to have no friends at all.

Our bias towards the status quo is not new — but perhaps we are taking advantage of new opportunities to indulge it.

Here is the full FT piece.

1 rayward April 14, 2017 at 12:32 pm

I love it when Cowen is ironic. He didn’t attend an Ivy League college because he didn’t want to live in a dorm. I can relate to that. My favorite tv commercial is the one for a brand of air conditioner in which it’s advised to stay in one’s comfort zone. A dorm was outside Cowen’s comfort zone: he didn’t wish to meet anybody who had a different view on what’s important in life.

2 Believe it! April 14, 2017 at 12:45 pm

Tyler attended Harvard, I believe that’s an Ivy League isn’t it?

3 rayward April 14, 2017 at 1:03 pm

College. He went to college at GMU. If you listen/watch the many interviews since his book was published, you would know that he could have gone to an Ivy League college but chose GMU because it had no dorms. A fascinating insight into the mind of Tyler Cowen.

4 John Hall April 14, 2017 at 1:11 pm


5 Believe it! April 14, 2017 at 1:12 pm

Sorry but Cowen went to Furman

6 rayward April 14, 2017 at 1:18 pm

No, Michael Corleone went to Furman, Cowen went to GMU.

7 Jeff R April 14, 2017 at 1:37 pm

Didn’t Michael Corleone decide to join the Marines instead of attending Furman?

8 rayward April 14, 2017 at 1:48 pm

Actually, legend has it that Michael attended an Ivy League college, that Tom Hagen wasn’t referring to Furman but the “deferment” the Don got for Michael by pulling strings. As I understand it, Michael Corleone is a fictitious person, while Cowen is a real person. But I’ve been wrong before. I was wrong about Michael and Furman, so I might be wrong about Cowen. Has anyone actually seen Cowen? By his own admission, he had no roommates in college, so how does one know if he even went to college.

9 Believe it! April 14, 2017 at 4:06 pm

Not only is Tyler Cowen not real, all of the other commenters on this site besides yourself are all the sockpuppets of Alex Tabarrock including me!

10 Hazel Meade April 14, 2017 at 1:21 pm

Solution: Randomly assigned friends, so you have to learn to get along with people who are different.
Admittedly in practice random roommate assignments kind of work this way. A sensible person makes every effort to like their roommate because the alternative tends to suck a lot.
But what if you had to, say, hang out with an assigned person for 2-3 hours every weekend, to learn about others and develop better social skills? What if you were stuck with a particular person for a whole semester and had to write a report about your experiences at the end of the semester (mutual agreement to not hang out resulting in an F).

11 derek April 14, 2017 at 1:49 pm

You are assuming that what is described is considered a negative.

We have seen a series of elections where victory depended on taking advantage of ethnic and social divisions. Why, beyond mouthing platitudes, would anyone interested in power change the environment where these divisions happen naturally?

12 Anon_senpai April 14, 2017 at 2:08 pm

I would have been totally down, especially if my assigned “friend” was an attractive female. It would be like a 2 hour university sponsored forced date every weekend.

13 Hazel Meade April 14, 2017 at 3:15 pm

Ahh, well, we would probably have to make the pairing same-sex (or incompatible orientation) to avoid rape problems.

14 Paul Butthole April 14, 2017 at 2:15 pm
15 msgkings April 14, 2017 at 3:25 pm

This is inferior to my previously suggested mandatory year of national service. That would sweep in everyone not just college students. Just as a mandatory draft helped socialize all types of people, this year of service would do the same. Oh and good stuff would get done, and people would learn skills including job-related ones. And it wouldn’t cost much.

16 AAMAIR April 14, 2017 at 9:03 pm

“Oh and good stuff would get done, and people would learn skills including job-related ones. And it wouldn’t cost much.”

Can’t tell if sarcasm, or just another stupid idea by a stupid person on the internet.

17 msgkings April 14, 2017 at 9:29 pm

Sick burn, bro. You got an argument to make?

18 The Centrist April 14, 2017 at 10:45 pm

This is why I like you. You are a political maverick slash moderate. Not a PC pr*ick. National service. It’s just a good idea.

19 Jason Bayz April 15, 2017 at 12:50 am

Do you have an argument about why drafting about 4.4 million people a year, roughly the number of 18 year olds in America, into “national service” “wouldn’t cost much?” They aren’t going to feed themselves, and, of course, the program won’t administer itself. What “skills” would they learn in your un-described national service? What “good stuff” would get done? Your comment is almost a parody of liberalism, a series of half-sentence claims that you see as so obviously correct you don’t need to provide any evidence for, but which seem absurd to the rest of us. I mean, it’d be a government program, OF COURSE it would be efficient!

20 Jason Bayz April 15, 2017 at 1:11 am

Here are several problems with a national service:

1. People don’t want their kids to be doing physical/menial labor.

2. There isn’t a lot of physical/menial work to be done, what with automation, free trade, and mass immigration. Make the work too specialized, too non-physical/non-menial, and half your draftees won’t be able to do it. As Anon7 points out, if you break it up into too many sections, you’ll recreate the segregation that you’re supposed to be avoiding.

3. To the extent that there is labor that needs to be done, labor unions won’t want the competition from the draftees, the unemployed don’t want to be passed over in favor of the draftees, and liberals want as many immigrants as possible to take those jobs, not the draftees. Even charities and SJW-make-work outfits won’t want the competition that the massive pool of draftees will provide.

So instead of a national service, my Modest Proposal is to send everyone to boarding school for their senior year of high school. Already, colleges admit students during senior year so they only consider grades from the first three years of high school(which would be unaffected), as well as the results of the SAT, taken in junior year. These boarding schools will be strictly “integrated,” with students sent across the country to achieve racial and income proportionality at every single school. Classes will be completely untracked, the curriculum identical for all students. So you would get the wondrous benefits of diversity, which liberal parents are known to spend many tens of thousands of dollars to allow their children to experience,(heh) and they would be being EDUCATED, which is so much better than lowly menial work. Kids would work hard to get into college during their first three years of high school and sit back and enjoy the diversity and inevitably low standards in the last one.

21 msgkings April 15, 2017 at 1:01 pm

@Jason: about $30B a year should do it, chump change compared to the benefit.

You’d be surprised re manual labor, parents would LOVE their kids to have to do some actual work. If it’s something all kids are doing? Even the kids won’t mind.

And there’s more to do than manual labor. Teaching/tutoring (like an expanded Teach for America), overseas work like the Peace Corp, hell even just cleaning up highways and cities. And you could do your service in the military if you prefer.

Like many good ideas I doubt this would ever happen, but there’s almost no downside when looked at pragmatically. Oh sure the anarchists would complain but that’s all they do anyway. A national year of service is about the most MAGA thing I can think of.

22 Jason Bayz April 15, 2017 at 5:14 pm

“You’d be surprised re manual labor, parents would LOVE their kids to have to do some actual work. If it’s something all kids are doing? Even the kids won’t mind.”

Sure, many parents would, but there will be a very loud minority insisting that their kids are special snowflakes who shouldn’t have to get their hands dirty.

Teach for America is a good example of my point, the teacher’s unions oppose it as a competitor. And if you let everyone go into different departments, the service loses its effectiveness as a “socialization” mechanism. It will be seen as very unfair if some have cushier jobs than others. Race and class and all that.

“Like many good ideas I doubt this would ever happen, but there’s almost no downside when looked at pragmatically. Oh sure the anarchists would complain but that’s all they do anyway. ”

Many of the draftees simply wouldn’t show up. How would you punish them? How would you deal with the inevitable racial disparity that would result? Many MR commenters make the argument that we can’t ban heroin because members of a certain race are more likely to break the law. Imagine what they’d say about that.

23 Troll Me April 15, 2017 at 11:15 am

The people of Norse Godliness seem to think it’s a good idea.

And what can be a higher stamp of quality than Norse Godliness?

Clearly, drafts inclusive of social service are a good idea. At least , that’s what the godly Norse people seem to think.

24 Anon7 April 14, 2017 at 10:48 pm

If people get to choose what’s type of national service other than the military (which is the only form of national service that is worthy and constitutional to make mandatory), leftists will congregate doing jobs in social welfare, the environment, and other largely useless or harmful causes that they already do in order to burnish their credentials for college applications and jobs.

25 Peter April 14, 2017 at 10:56 pm

That is a really good point. I’d hate the idea of making people serve in a particular field, but unless you do, they’ll all segregate themselves anyway. I did about four years on submarines in the Navy, and, while it is relatively conservative compared to the general population, it is the most integrated group I’ve ever had the pleasure to be a part of. As of now, people join the military for a variety of reasons, so you get some very lefty people too. If they could get the same benefits, pay, and stability from a more liberal-like cause, I doubt it would have been as diverse. Furthermore, it is the only place I’ve ever been where I never sensed a whiff of racism.

26 Troll Me April 15, 2017 at 11:18 am

Helping people is counterproductive.

And that’s why Trump’s daddie refused the “small million dollar loan”. Because helping people is hurting people.

Thankfully, there are more sensible people who understand that breaking things is building things. And also that hurting people is helping people.

27 thfmr April 14, 2017 at 3:37 pm

In the 90s I set out from my lily-white small town in the mountains to swim the multicultural sea of UCLA. The first year I thought it was wonderful and magical; subsequently I began to notice that, to the extent people were interested in their “cultures,” it was generally not a positive endeavor.

During my final year the affirmative-action coalition was running for student government under a banner of “Praxis: Revisioning(??) Democracy.” On Bruin Walk one day they were handing out flyers as students passed. The girl accompanying me reached out for a flyer and saw it quickly withdrawn. Taken aback, she asked, “You don’t give it to me because I’m white?”

Guy says, “We don’t need your vote anyway.”

28 thfmr April 14, 2017 at 3:44 pm

I should note one exception: every Wednesday in the sculpture garden a Hari Krishna guy would bring buckets of Indian food and feed all comers, free of charge (donate if you like). It was truly a place of goodwill and a positive exchange of culture.

What became of him? Why they banned him from campus, of course. Health codes, you see.

29 TerriW April 14, 2017 at 5:37 pm

The Hari Krishna guy on Broadway in Capitol Hill (Seattle) always tried to get me with the free meals, but I told him the no-onions-or-garlic thing was a non-starter.

30 Troll Me April 15, 2017 at 11:23 am

One time someone said something bothersome to me, and therefore all cultural stuff (except for mine) is hooey.

It’s more like disempowered people getting off on screwing with people. So if someone in a situation like you describe seems to get off on treating you that way, if you do not take it up directly with them, it is more appropriate to conclude that they are some kind of loser who gets off on saying condescending or belittliging things to people.

Very much including the Trumps of the world, saying condescending or belittling things to people is a sign of major inner weakness.

31 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ April 14, 2017 at 8:26 pm

I think first of all we have to congratulate Tyler Cowen on crafting a fine meme. It is more than a meme. It is a brain worm which triggers a torrent of tangential press. Correctness is of course orthogonal.

32 dux.ie April 14, 2017 at 10:43 pm

So are students under school choice https://news.vice.com/story/when-school-choice-means-choosing-segregation

“””German Immersion … full K-8 school serving more than 500 students. Nearly all of them are white. … About three miles away, in Union Park, is Higher Ground Academy … its 761 students are now almost entirely from Somali and Ethiopian families. All of the students are black.”””

33 Peter April 14, 2017 at 10:49 pm

I just finished a masters program that was roughly 60% American, 30% Chinese, and a hodgepodge for the last ten percent, mostly from Europe and Asia, but even a few from Africa and South America. You’d probably not be surprised to hear that I made zero Chinese friends but many out of that other ten percent.

That large of a group doesn’t create diversity, it creates a separate student body that, beyond group projects, doesn’t need to interact with anyone else.

34 Steven Sailer April 15, 2017 at 12:40 am

G.K. Chesterton made a similar point about that smallest of organizations, the family: you deal with family members whom you wouldn’t spend any time with if they weren’t related to you.

35 Axa April 15, 2017 at 2:45 am

What about diverse K-12? It’s funny diversity is a college thing, perhaps a bit late.

36 Troll Me April 15, 2017 at 11:28 am


37 TMC April 15, 2017 at 1:28 pm

Because that forced bussing of the 70s worked out so well. Those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.

38 TMC April 15, 2017 at 1:30 pm

So much for freedom of association on this thread. I’ll put forward my thoughts. Mind your own business about with whom I associate with. If I want diversity, I’ll go and get it, if not, not.

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