Friday assorted links

1. Eli Dourado offers advice to undergraduates.  And Scott Sumner tells it like it is.

2. The case for placebo politics.

3. Reemergence of some famine conditions around the world.  I take this to be another sign of a broader breakdown of global order.

4. David Brooks on the Cuomo free college plan (NYT).  Masterful analysis of an idea that otherwise is being passed around uncritically.

5. Jean Tirole speaks sense on the French election (FT).

6. Is there life on Enceladus, moon of Saturn?  I think so.  Hi out there!


6. No.

Agreed. The only reason the notion is even floated is because certain parties at NASA want funding for sending a probe there. You're being played. Enceladus will still be there in 100 years. It'll be cheaper to do it then, we'll be able to send a better probe, and we'll be able to do a proper job of making a sterile probe to prevent inadvertent contamination with life.

" a proper job of making a sterile probe to prevent inadvertent contamination with life."

I had the opposite thought: instead of searching (thus far in vain) for extra-terrestrial life, why don't we just create it? If conditions on Enceladus can support microbial life, we can send a probe to inject microbes into that environment. Why should the first space colonists be human? Given the environmental differences between Enceladus and Earth, eventually those micro-organisms will evolve into an distinctly Enceladusian species.

What if there's already intelligent life there, and we release what is to them a plague?

You said you believe there is no life there. Even if there is, they never did anything for me. Science waits no one.

It's forbidden by an international treaty, the "outer space treaty".

All precautions are to be taken to prevent pathogens passing from one celestial body to another.

They might eventually have to refine the treaty in view of understanding the variety of bacteria in our poop and stuff though ...

#1 Dourado. He is giving bad advice. Liberal arts education is a waste of time and money. He should have told the students to pursue a STEM degree. You are much more likely to find a well paying and stable job in this economy with a STEM education than with liberal arts.

His advice was all over the place anyway. 'Follow a mission' but 'don't plan ahead'. I never have plans five years on, but I should be looking past my school days to see if I'm still on the aforementioned mission, except I'm not supposed to even have an idea what I want to do early on.

Hegel was more direct.

I stopped reading Sumner as soon as he blacklisted me (right after I had posted he doesn't censor his readers, it must have been an inside joke with me to then censor me). It's OK. Like Heisenberg, I win.

You really didnt miss much. Bunch of "i told you so's" thats it really.

Blacklisting hurts, but there is something worse:

This particular Sumner post looks pretty good to me. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. But that is not a carte blanche.

He's an old guy, supposedly married with children. For someone with that in his background, he's astonishingly adolescent in his dealings with people. I suspect that working in an academic department for decades on end can distort and disfigure the character wretchedly.

I got a liberal arts degree from a small private college (one that is western NY and will likely close due to Cuomo!) and I agree with Alvin. To paraphrase Will Hunting, I could have learned everything that I learned in college with a library card. I agree with Dourado's last bit of advice. College students in general need to try harder. Under performing in college is a huge regret of mine. I wasted some of my prime developmental years smoking weed and drinking too much Labatt Blue.

Which college around Buffalo is going south?

Pretty much all the private ones: Medaille, D'youville, Canisius, Niagara....I don't live in the area anymore so I don't pay super close attention but all of those have issues.

Need cogs. Be human.

Excessively pro-STEM perspective are suspect because STEM people rarely decide which STEM research to spend time and money on.

Other people decide which STEM research to spend money on. They want to buy the time of STEM people who don't give a crap about any any thing.

STEM should be encouraged only alongside a suitable diversity of history, philosophy, sociology, etc., etc. ETC., to ensure that we get humans out of the STEM education process, and not robots to be drafted for whatever nefarious purpose they might be bribed into supporting via their labour allocations.


5. I can't get behind the barrier. I still think the election will probably be Macron vs Le Pen, with the former winning a decisive victory in the run-off. But given how much the past year has fallen into the "living in interesting times" category, who knows? Melenchon vs Le Pen would be entertaining to watch from a distance. Do you vote for the far-right EU hater, or the person who wants to impose a maximum income and end the Fifth Republic?

6. Maybe. It's as good as anywhere in the outer solar system, and we could probably send out another spacecraft that would fly through the south pole geysers with instruments designed to detect more signs of biological activity. But finding a lot of hydrogen is ambiguous. There's hydrothermal activity and the conditions for under-sea life, but something does not appear to be eating a lot of that hydrogen before it gets blown into space. In either case, we should be lobbying for the Enceladus Life Finder mission (or an upgraded version thereof).

Well at the expense of the french society, I could see a silver-lining if an Melenchon/LePen-Election were to happen: Melenchon would win as the lesser evil and the subsequent tanking of the french economy would dampen the rise of reactionary/protectionist politics all over Europe.

1. I know: it was deferment not Furman. I was happier when Michael attended college at Furman. Eli is suggesting that students be flexible in career choice. Sumner is suggesting that people be inflexible when it comes to passengers who expect an airline to do what it was contracted to do: transport the passenger from point A to point B, preferably without bodily harm. Sumner must not have attended Furman. Did he and Michael attend the same college?

United's legal defense is that the "contract" with the passenger gave United the right to remove the passenger at its sole discretion and re-schelue him on another flight. How is that a "contract". In a contract, one party bargains for a specific good or service and the other party agrees to provide that good or service. If one wishes to be transported from Chicago to Louisville on Sunday, how is it a "contract" if the other party isn't bound to the service on the scheduled day. If the party has the right to re-schedule to another day, why not to a different destination? In either case, the passenger doesn't get what he bargained for. Hence, it's not an enforceable contract, which means that neither party can enforce it. I suspect that's what United means when United claims it doesn't have to transport the passenger on a given day to a given destination. Who knew that all those millions of people who enter a "contract" to be transported by an air carrier don't really have a contract.

I would suggest that you don't really understand what a contract is.

No company would ever sign a contract promising to get you to a destination at a specific date and time without also specifying what happens if it gets you there late. The reason is that it is simply impossible to make such a promise in the real world. Things like bad weather, mechanical malfunction, terrorist attacks, crew members getting sick, someone having a medical emergency on board and needing to be dropped off for emergency care, etc. can all delay a trip.

I thought sumner's critique was more of a social contract one, ie "You made everyone else on that flight more miserable". He mentioned the legality (which is starting to hang on a lot of specific terms, so it's out of the nonlawyer box at this point), but his real problem was he would have listened to avoid the scene and make everyone else a little better off.

"I thought sumner’s critique was more of a social contract one, ie 'You made everyone else on that flight more miserable'."
I think sending the Gestapo beat up one of the passengers made "everyone else on that flight more miserable'."
I know it is cold comfort, but that specific passenger was not having a enjoyable time either.

Seems like United breached the contract since the flight wasn't actually overbooked.

It's a shame that #4 even needed to be written and Brooks is of course, correct, but this is a terrible idea whose time has come.

If, as we are repeatedly told, everybody simply must go to college under the assumption that education can never have declining marginal utility, then the government should fund college like it funds high school, middle school, and elementary school.

Governor Cuomo is running for president. This is only one of the many hundreds-of-millions-of-taxpayer-dollar "terrible ideas" he's doing to "feather his nest." Another is spending a couple billion dollars to put a third rail on the LIRR main line when the RR tunnel (only two tracks) under the East River is close to collapse, the rails are so deteriorated that derailments seemingly are bi-weekly - last week one put out of fettle hundreds of thousands for the week, etc.

More, "terrible ideas." I'm old enough to remember when in 1999 and 2000 then-HUD Secretary A. Cuomo helped (he had a lot of help, too) set off the housing bubble and subprime mortgage crisis. Because low-to-moderate income loan applicants' loans need to be approved at similar rates as prime borrowers' and "home ownership is a human right."

While I really doubt that mortgage crisis claim, I do agree that Cuomo is the wrong guy for these times. He's too fogey-socialist in this plan. Let's hope for someone younger and a bit more data driven.

"Fogey-Socialist'? You've confused Andrew Cuomo with Bernie Sanders. It's doubtful that Andrew Cuomo has ever stood for anything other than the satisfaction of his appetites. His father had issues, but his father was more than his issues and it was only when Mario Cuomo was well into his 50s that what disfigured him was grossly evident. There was never a time in the career of Andrew Cuomo when it wasn't known by the political fraternity in NYC and Albany that terms like 'unscrupulous bully' applied to him. It says something unhappy about the political culture of the state that he was deemed acceptable to the electorate therein.

More, “terrible ideas.” I’m old enough to remember when in 1999 and 2000 then-HUD Secretary A. Cuomo

If he weren't Mario Cuomo's son, he'd be just another low-rent lawyer in Queens. It's a reasonable wager he went to law school for the same reason Thomas Perez did: he was bad at math.

Voters like a bully, if the bully is on their side.

I don't, but this is probably related to me being on the losing side so much.

4. Looking at SUNY Buffalo, their tuition is $6850, but there are $3000 in fees as well. Tuition is low, but total cost to attend is really no different than other state schools around the country. "Free" tuition that doesn't take care of fees really isn't free. Not even close. And what do you think the schools are going to do? Raise fees.

Well, its a good thing in the same article that it is noted, "Research has shown that students who have to work to pay some college costs, even if only small expenses, are more spurred to work hard and graduate."

Brooks seems to flip flop--when it suites my point of view, paying fees is good; when it doesn't, paying fees is bad.

Brooks contradicted himself on those points. Even if though I happen to agree with his conclusion in this case, he's still a mediocre mind hiding behind a modestly decent writer.

Wrong causality.

If you are pressed to graduate, you will go to school even if you have to take a job.

A couple of things: Because the program helps the middle class more than the poor, and the poor already get a lot of help, is that bad? Also,
I believe the condition that graduates stay in the state for as many years as they took advantage of the program--a terrible idea, I agree--was insisted on by Republicans in the state legislature. At least that is what was reported on NPR. Maybe they can get rid of that provision. And agreed that Brooks contradicts himself on fees.

#4 - wait a minute, is post-secondary education a public good or not?

If it's a public good, then the State can provide for it from the public purse. If it's not a public good, then Brooks is backflipping around the logical conclusion: get the State out of post-secondary education. No more grants, no more guaranteed loans, no more Title IX, no more Department of Education governance, no more kangaroo courts, no more hissy fits over Charles Murray or Halloween costumes. Universities can operate under contract and premises liability law like the rest of us. The market will sort out supply and demand for the education of legal adults in two weeks, I promise.

This is hilarious:

Even in Germany, where a generous welfare state is valued, per-pupil spending has dropped by 10 percent since universities became free. Germany is an extremely successful country, but lecture classes are huge and the country’s universities are not generally ranked among the world’s best.

Because as we all know, Germany is a complete laggard in innovative technologies due to its dullard workforce.

I will say that I am not a big fan of the idea of general free college BECAUSE I've had some experience doing work in Germany. As someone who believes most education is signalling (not just including but especially in the STEM subjects), the free education system in Germany really encourages people to hang around higher education for years - I know many examples of people who were in school into their 30s getting PhDs despite having no chance at academic jobs. In the end you see many Germany companies where the ranks of middle-management are clogged with people with masters degrees and doctorates because there's not much opportunity cost to hanging around in school for ages.

Education as signaling something practical: in Greece, university students are exempt from arrest as long as they get sanctuary on campus, hence, the 40+ year old "student - anarchist" as "seen on TV". There was a character in the satirical Florida novel: Triggerfish Twist (Serge Storms) [Tim Dorsey] that Thor recommended (and I just finished, skimming some of it, it was almost so bad it was good) that was the same, so this must be not-unheard of in the USA as well (the perpetual student).

" this must be not-unheard of in the USA as well (the perpetual student)."

It's not unheard of, but generally the perpetual students tend to come from well off families that don't care about the expense. You generally won't get "free" government money for more than 4 years or so. Beyond that you have to be doing some kind of work (grants, TA, lab work, etc) or racking up loan debts.


(FG stands for "from Germany")

I can attest to all of your claims and would add, many students stay because the free tuition generates too many graduates, which in return destroyed their respective job-market. Because, alas, even when its free people don't flock to the STEM fields. So they stay for a post-graduate degree and then maybe even more. Getting a PhD with no value whatsoever.

But more than the free tuition, the German higher education system suffers from the lack of refusing admissions. Germany has its three-tier school system with one tier being the one needed to go into higher-education (exceptions prove the rule) which in return resulted in an inflation of Tier-III-degree holders: Since WW2 Germany's Gymnasium students percentage relative to all students rose from 5% to 45%!

What to do with all these academic potentials? Build more universities! So the German federal states did and created some 20-30 new universities during the 70s and 80s. Some good (like Ulm or Constance) but the most are just of the same poor quality as the other ones.

So we observe distortions due to the State making post-secondary education "free" and, ipso facto, university education does have declining marginal utility.

Get the State out of the market for education of legal adults.

I never ever met a German university grad without a masters degree minimum and the insane credential inflation there seemed to me as if any kind of upper management position required a PhD. I do think colleges are too expensive but we also need to start thinking about restricting access not increasing it because it's created this world where HR departments of corporations are able to demand ever more and unnecessary credentials. It's bad enough in the US and free-college Germany is not a method to emulate

It depends on the field of work you've interacted with Germans.

In my field, PhDs exists but due to high demand in the job-sector, are rarely seen. If you find any master / bachelor degree holders they often come from completely different fields (Architecture or Philosophy) plus a lot of people that got hired via vocational training ("Berufsausbildung").

The latter one we call "Azubis", they usually start after high school or secondary school so they'll often have a higher income in their mid-20s than the -PhD holder will ever have.

In Engineering it is different.

The undergrad course is six years long, so it takes at least as long as a bachelor + masters. Among my colleagues, there we had some PhDs but no more than you would expect among a bunch of people doing applied science and then teaching robots how to use the results.

Rumour had it that the CEO of the company invented the machines first, and then got a PhD with a hastily written thesis as a kind of rubber stamp to give himself social legitimacy.

I don't like black. I don't like white.

Maybe .... any thoughts. Any alternatives ...

I don't like black. I don't like white. What ever shall I do!

1a. Item 6, regarding working harder, that should be #1. No question, there are very few truly motivated students. Most students are just going through the motions, doing as little work as they can to just get by.

One could theoretically use the grading curve as a sword instead of shield.

6. Tyler, I agree with you, but they can't read English.

#4) "[New York's free tuition program] pays for tuition only at state schools."

Yes, let's make the university system more like the failing government-monopoly K-12 system: school un-choice.

They could funnel taxpayer money into private schools.

That would go over well, right?

#3 What global order was there to break down? By what theory does the breakdown of your illusion of a global order cause poverty?

#3 - the writer who is famous for this theme of environmental disaster = breakdown in political order is Robert D. Kaplan, a sometime reporter for the Atlantic, and political operative, who wrote in 1994 the article "The Coming Anarchy" which then pres Bill Clinton liked so much it became required reading for his staff. It ended up shaping US policy, with the 'small scale interventions' that the USA has done since then, ostensibly to maintain order but IMO probably just driven by the military-industrial complex (in general always looking for something to do, like MOAB recently). Think: Balkans, Horn of Africa, for the USA; Congo, Rwanda for the UN. Kaplan has also written books on this theme, one of them on my "To Read" list. Kaplan in his 1996 article cites Tad Homer-Dixon as an influence. Whatever happened to him? As soon as I hit the Enter key I will Google this unusual name, probably get some hits, and so should you.

Homer lives! He's got a Wikipedia page (then again I do/did too)!: ("In the mid-1990s, Homer-Dixon researched the links between environmental stress and conflict.[16][17] Homer-Dixon has also been interviewed in the Huffington Post about resilience and civilization.[18] In an opinion piece published in the New York Times in April 2013, Homer-Dixon stated that Alberta's oil sands industry "is undermining Canadian democracy" ...) Deep thinker!

There are actually quite proximate causes in each.

Mostly related to Islamic extremism. And not in the obvious ways.

In the Nigeria/Chad/Niger area (Lakd Chad), apparently it's mostyl difficulties maintaining security due to Boko Haram, and this is having hugely negative impacts on a lot of basic economic activities (among other things). Processes have been well in motion to get very basic resources there before outright famine hits. That is a sign of things working (at the no-global-policing global level).

In Yemen, the extremism is on the part of the Saudis, more so than religious moderates who are militantly opposed to the spread of Saudi extremism and Wahhabism into their areas.

I think the view of this as a special sign of breakdown in the global order can be written off as a brain fart of some type.

The response should be tailored to ensuring that procurement processes have future productive capacity of farming communities as the number 2 objective after the very basic need to get sufficient food where it will go. (Dropping a bunch of free food right next to the market could make many families unable to afford fertilizers or improved seeds for the next crop, for example. This must not happen in a famine situation. In the rush to get the food out, this is not prioritized again, and again, and again.)

On Summer and Yellin I have no problem with any of the points he makes.

Interestingly, the stock market and the bond market seem to be discounting two different scenarios.

Bonds appear to be discounting continued stagnation.

But stock have rallied on the premise that Republican control will lead to stronger growth and substantial tax cuts that will generate a major increase in profits growth.

When in doubt, but your money on the bond market being right.

4. Has so many misleading comparisons!

"Students who receive free tuition for four years have to remain in New York State for four years after graduating, or pay the money back. This means they won’t be able to seize out-of-state opportunities during the crucial years when their career track is being formed. They’ll be trapped in a state with one really expensive city, and other regions where good jobs are scarce."

To fairly measure opportunities, the comparison between working in NY for with a college degree to working elsewhere with a college degree isn't the correct comparison. The appropriate comparison is working in NY with a college degree vs working elsewhere with no degree.

Most of the people who graduate from the state universities in four years would have graduated college either way. I think the right comparison is working in NY with no (or less) student loan debt, vs working outside NY with student loan debt.

"3. Reemergence of some famine conditions around the world. I take this to be another sign of a broader breakdown of global order."

Those all seem to be famines in Africa. Historically, there have always been famines in Africa. If we were experiencing famines around the world in places we rarely seem them, this would be a good point. But as it is, this does not look lie a broad breakdown of global order.

Historically, there have been famines everywhere. Food security is the exception, not the norm.

Also Yemen is not in Africa, although its close.

#2 and Sumner

The market once again proves to be smarter than the Twitterati, who all claimed to be short the market.

States should just mimic Georgia's HOPE Scholarship and call it a day. I think that's the fairest government program possible that pays off tremendous benefits.

I agree.

The GA Hope scholarship (and the TN version) both concentrate the money to students with good GPA's and potential. The NY bill is going in the opposite direction and giving money to anyone that can meet the minimum requirements of the schools.

Possibly, the low hanging fruit are not those with already-demonstrated adherence to effort normally required for a good GPA.

Maybe better returns can be had at the 1st or 5th or 60th percentiles than the top 1.

Do we need to find the next Einstein, or would the economy be better served by an army of middling accountants, programmers, and better-educated hairdressers? The answer really could be option A. But I do not think so for the case of the USA.

It is different when the choice is "post secondary for the brightest 5000 in the nation or get another 100,000 up to grade 8 level", and what you really really need is someone who can properly administrate a billion dollar procurement and rollout. Maybe in a democratic system with 100,000 grade 8 graduates, there will be more pressure on the few with major capacities, that better outputs will be produced.

But the point is that in some countries you might defend reduced concern for young children not getting basic schooling in order to afford training of upper cadre. AND, that this is not the situation in the USA. The low hanging fruit are not likely to have high GPA at present.

Sumner's comments on United are silly. They amount to blaming the passenger for United's stupidity.

"We must obey our corporate masters."

On #2, of course "placebo politics" is the best us "deplorables" can ever hope for. There never was a chance Trump was going to achieve anything of real importance for us, save being not as bad as Hillary. No matter who we vote for, we get the same thing, the same betrayal as the "Republican elites" gave us. There's nothing we can do.

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