Wednesday assorted links


The dog is expressing buddha-nature.

Really? I wonder how much punishment was required to achieve that behavior from a dog.

I think one electric biscuit would suit the purpose.

He will be given two marshmallows, won't he?

No, the dog was tempted with two biscuits but in an act of extraordinary cruelty was only given one. Probably not the only cruelty this poor dog has received.

They are doing this classical experiment the wrong way!

It's not a cat. Dogs are pretty compliant.


#6: How much will that Canadian town pay me to tilt at windmills?

"offering five cents a pound for the weed, or 10 cents a kilo"

I'd like mine measured in pounds please. ;)

Surely someone in charge realizes there are 2.2 pounds per kilo.

We can make a killing on arbitrage!

Sssshhhh. Don't let the secret out.

C'mon guys, diminishing marginal utility!

It's an econ blog.

You mean the more pounds there are in a kilo the less each kilo is worth in ounces?


Exactly. Pass it here, Bogart.

#7. Will pension fund investments and payouts become the 'third rail of politics' for Singapore?

Otherwise, they are suing a sucky blogger? Atrios better not move to Singapore!

#5 - tuition linked to extortion - that's brilliant

The college article itself successfully compared high tuition sticker prices with clubs letting in hot girls for free. The tuition article was quite good, although it kind of lost its train of thought in the last couple paragraphs and thus struggled to pull everything together.

We are in the dull years between MOOC introduction and MOOC success. During that time there will be many, many, articles which present traditional education as the only option, and how to pay as the only question. It will look completely different in 2025.

MOOC is no different from distance learning except through a flash widget and instead of a VHS.

I eagerly await the popping of dotcom 2.0 so another generation can finally learn that "it is different this time" means "hold on to your wallet".

MOOC is certainly shorthand for distance learning, but "popping?" I think your example might illustrate how these things keep coming back. The dotcom crash happened in 2000 when there were about 350 million internet users in the world. Now there are over 3 billion internet users.

Some "pop"

It doesn't matter how many internet users there are. Successful companies still need revenue and profit margin, not eyeballs and losses (but take a look at a pro forma numbers!!1!).

The 3 billion person internet has many players, some with profit motive, and some without.

Khan Academy is a non-profit. They have "over 26 million registered users and to date, and have delivered over 580 million lessons and 3.8 billion exercise problems"

I have a collection of early books on television, and that was one of the dreams -- that television would provide a revolution in education. Everybody everywhere could receive the lectures of the best professors, etc. Didn't happen.

On the other hand, I recall predictions from the 1960s and 1970s that computer networks would be a great boon for commerce -- those did come to pass, though only after decades as seeming like a ridiculous pipe-dream. The difference was the rise of the Internet. Maybe it really will be different this time.

How is the collection name, please?

TV is interesting. We think it failed its potential, but recognize Sesame Street as a winner. And there have been great post-secondary series, like The Western Tradition, WGBH Boston. 1989.

Is it TV's fault, or was another piece missing?

Both TV lectures and MOOCs would benefit from local testing centers and credits integrated into local schools. I think local schools still have incentives to favor their own expensive classrooms over such low cost options. It was hard to get both at once, a school offering credits for a tv show, and a tv show in the limited space of an on-air lineup.

MOOCs end-run both the limited schedule and the lack of local accreditation.

Perhaps TV has concentrated on preschool education because that's an area where no one worries about testing or certification.

I don't understand your question, Thiago. If you're thinking that I have a collection in a single volume that maybe you could buy on Amazon, that's not the case. I have a large collection of early television books from the 1920's through 1950's. I find it interesting to see how people speculated the technology would develop while it was still emerging. Education by television was a major topic.

There was one man who got it right, David Sarnoff, founder of RCA and NBC. He thought television would be very much like radio, dominated by soap operas and game shows. He was saying this in the 1930's. Utterly prescient.

Mark Thorson, yes, sorry, I thought it was a collection of books (many volumes) published by the same company in a short space of time according to some unifying plan and with different authors dealing with the same issue from different point of views, drawing on different experiences. Thanks for your reply.

Regarding #2 - I had an Akita with a remarkable sense of property rights. We once left a croissant on a low coffee table for several hours. Apparently unable to take the strain of deferred gratification any longer, he picked up the croissant, carried it to the other end of the house and onto the deck, and placed it at our feet in order to obtain permission to eat it. It was so painfully cute that, of course, we let him have it.

"College aid — all the federal and state grants and subsidies, the various scholarships and aid packages offered by schools and foundations — evolved in piecemeal fashion over decades. Considered as a whole, it is a bizarre system."

"In other words, our system gives three times as much aid to the least needy as it gives to the most."

Isn't this our M.O.?

I liked the article a lot, but the conclusion was badly written and reasoned. If the high-achieving kids offer a better return, we should still invest more of our money there. However, there is no attempt to compare the return on investing in a high-achiever vs investing in the most needy except to say that investing in the most needy is a good investment. (BUT...Is it a good investment to invest in the less needy? What's the return on sending a bright kid to Harvard, which they might not be able to afford without aid, versus a safety school? Is this return better than what we would get on investing in a more needy kid?) The writing is also choppy and overpunctuated compared to elegant solutions to comma problems earlier:

"Flagship public universities — like the University of California, Berkeley, or the Universities of Michigan and Virginia..."

There are a lot of unreasoned howlers:

"Every American benefits when every other American has access to as much schooling as he or she wants."

Yeah, because it's free and there's nothing else we could do with the time.

If it was me, I'd use post-educational salaries by major as a proxy for economic need and economic benefit. While it is nice to support interpretive dance, only when median graduate dancers make $50K is it good for the region as a whole.

I wouldn't pay for that degree for my own kids. I'm astounded we collectively pay for it for other people's kids.

I'm astounded that you are astounded that we allocate OPM in a less efficient manner than we allocate our own money.

Fair point.

I'm astounded that we pay the taxes to support it. I suppose it's only because a small minority of us actually pay the taxes.

Why would you give community college students as much money when community college tuition is generally much less expensive than 4 year colleges? While cost may prevent some CC students from finishing, the main problem seems to be major deficiencies in their background, which CCs are ill-equipped to address.

She gave the dog *one* biscuit!? Getting half the stuff isn't a reward for self control.

You want to reinforce the dog's place in the pack. Provided for, but not "top."

#3. Good post. It burnishes your bona fides in the context of the current Fed decision. The apocalyptic comments were dead wrong.

Great line: "The effects on long-term interest rates are murky."

QE II is longest reigning British monarch.
Go, Liz!

Indeed. God save the gracious Quantitative Easing,
long live our noble Quantitative Easing

But it would still be too much to expect her to fix the housing market.

In reading about QEII, you mention that it won't fix the housing market. Maybe it is a good thing it did not fix it. One of the most undefined aspects of the Great Recession is why has the labor supply drop so much? From most data, I see about 50% of the drop is younger adults (16 - 24) who concentrating on secondary education and the other 50% is older Americans 30 - 65 (with some post 65 offsetting.) Maybe the 2009 deflation was much larger for most middle class Americans because we are measuring rents and not house payment. (Also 2000 - 2006 should have been much higher.)

So if 2000 - 2006 was growing with two income families working to death for higher housing payment and today they have become a single income family.

I would argue that if the housing market was fixed, we either need to build a few million condos in NYC and San Francisco and bring rents down, or the prices need to move back up to where they were in 2005.

I also think rent is the appropriate measure for housing inflation. But, you are right. If we were to use home prices instead of housing rents to estimate cost of living changes, while it would have signaled that inflation in 2004-2005 was around 6% - similar to the late 1980s. It would also have signaled that we desperately needed QE. Actually, it would have signaled an extremely accommodative monetary policy in 2007.

Residential real estate prices incorporate massive implicit and explicit government subsidies. If you want to boost the economy remove those subsidies and decrease the price of a good that everyone needs to either own or rent. Sure incumbents will bitch and moan (along with the real estate agents and home-builders) but fuck em.

Do you believe housing units have no relation to the labor cost of construction and in all the component parts?

Or do you believe profits on housing represent maybe 50% of the price?

If the latter, you could build housing and sell for 10% less grabbing all the market and accept only a 40% profit?

New units represent only a fraction of the housing market. Most of the market consists of sales of existing homes. And even where there is new construction, the developer has to buy the land and the market price for land is based on the market clearing value of the homes that can be built on it.

If you want housing costs to drop, and you should because falling costs of necessary goods, represent increased well being for the people, you just need to remove the subsidies. Get rid of the capital gains exclusion, the mortgage interest deduction, the deductibility of property taxes, the GSEs, the FHA, and forbid the Fed from buying MBS.

"One of the most undefined aspects of the Great Recession is why has the labor supply drop so much?"

If you want the supply to go down, lower your offer price.

Economists have been telling workers "leave the workforce!" and "please please stop looking for work so the unemployment rate goes down."

Just like the home builders left the housing market when the offer prices for houses dropped in half.

Lots of cash buyers would snap up houses at half or a third the price in 2006. If a builder quickly stops building in that market, the only question is why so many workers stayed in the labor force for so long.

Education is a great investment for the person getting the education. But is it a good investment for government, or other third parties? Okay, at least this article mentions some mitigating factors, like lower criminality, but it doesn't admit that those might just be correlated with education, not caused by it.

The bottom line is, when education is such a good investment for an individual, and the biggest impediment to increasing the educational attainment of individuals is their lack of drive to finish their education (they couldn't take the bus, seriously?!?), why would anyone think increasing the amount spent on these lower end students is a good investment?

I think the industrial payoff to education in desirable fields is pretty clear. Petroleum engineering in Texas. Screenwriting in Hollywood. In both cases state education leverages local opportunities.

Also, why did Silicon Valley win? Not because they mine the silicon there.

The evidence suggests that community colleges are a good investment for students and slightly negative investment for taxpayers.

Taxpayers have a roughly -0.8% annualized return on their investment in community college. Not great, but acceptable when you think about the distributional impact here.

Students have a median annualized return of 4.4%.

The results vary by state. Best returns are seen when campuses cater mostly to non-white students and people who study health related fields. (Maybe the Hispanic student needs a community college degree to compete with the white high school graduate given what employers know about the differing quality of high school degrees by school district?)

I'm far more skeptical about the ROI calculations needed to justify spending $200K for a degree in psychology.

It looks like that -0.8% annualized return is based purely on taxes paid by graduates, and not at all on the wider economic impact of having more certified welders.

Sure, we can treat these as a low estimate. We can add a percentage point to each column to account for social benefits.

It's still going to mean a better return for the student than the taxpayer. Most taxpayers are richer than the typical marginal community college students. Spending some taxpayer money with a net neutral ROI in exchange for providing a 5%+ ROI for working class community college students is a net win for social welfare.

Compare that to the billions of dollars squandered on "green jobs" programs that cost many hundreds of thousands of dollars per job.

Did Silicon Valley benefit from just "add a percentage point to each column to account for social benefits?"

Or did the concentration of science and engineering schools achieve more?

(For sure this is a hard formula to replicate, as every attempt at a Silicon Gulch or Silicon Prairie shows, but when it does work, payoffs are in the trillions)

It is not a good investment, almost by definition. If there were indeed good returns from low end students(even if low margins, high quantity) and interest from these students and communities, private entrepreneurs would have set up shop and made a killing off these students by now. (Think uber attracting underemployed workers). There aren't, so the government has to tax people to transfer Money from profitable and sensible things to "investment" in these students and communities.

That assumes easy equity financing for education.

1. It's not currently legal

2. It's hard to enforce

3. How do you deal with adverse selection?

" Educated populations tend to be healthier, more stable and more engaged in their civic institutions and democratic debate."

If they were really educated they'd realize that civic institutions are frauds and democratic debate doesn't get them anywhere.

" Every American benefits when every other American has access to as much schooling as he or she wants."

Actually, if I was the only American with a degree in nuclear physics or chemical engineering or even economics I'd be a lot better off than if I were just one of many.

'civic institutions are frauds'

Yeah, that was the point of Acemoglu & Robinson's book a few years back

No wonder the USA is a such a fucking shithole.

#6 How long before someone start cultivating ragweed for sale? Supply curves slope up...

that dog is definitely getting into Stuyvesant.

Can't we help the Yakuza?

#4 Time to try this:

The Singapore election is almost devoid of policy discussion. The ruling party keeps repeating that the opposition are naive amateurs who will ruin Singapore's success - mostly true and partly because any credible leaders are sued into oblivion - while the opposition is largely an inchoate rage against foreigners sprinkled with subsidiary complaints about cost of living and pension access.

All the opposition parties are socialist and nativist. The Workers Party has a nice big hammer as their symbol while the Singapore First party is self explanatory.

If Singapore is to eventually move into a stable multi party democracy many say it will come from a split in the ruling PAP. One of the interesting developments is that a widely respected former PAP MP - Tan Cheng Bock - ran against the party's nominee in the last presidential election and has been spotted at opposition rallies this election.

Anyway, for those who think Singapore is an autocratic state where rebellion is whispered in dark corners, just google the opposition rallies. Plenty of democratic spirit here.

'Plenty of democratic spirit here'


Just like in Malaysia.

"ORBIS: geography of the Roman world from an ancient perspective, given any two cities in the ancient world, it returns the fastest, cheapest, or shortest route between them, given the month, the mode of transportation, and various other options."

#2 Ultimate Dog Tease

7. I was puzzled why Singaporeans were so upset at the Government. Now I understand.

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