Wednesday assorted links

1. Peter Leeson WTF video for his new book.  And The Economist covers Peter on witch trials.

2. Who will be the next president of Harvard?

3. “Scientists have called for Kyrgyzstan’s only mummy to be immediately dug back up after the 1,500-year-old relic was taken from a museum and hastily reburied on the eve of a presidential election in a decision celebrated by self-professed psychics.”  Link here.  And: “In 2011, lawmakers ritually slaughtered seven sheep in parliament to exorcise “evil spirits”.”  Recommended.

4. The unequal distribution of economic education (pdf).

5. How free tuition can crowd out poorer students.


The irony being that the mummy was almost certainly not Kyrgyz but some sort of Persian-language speaker.

I wonder what the chances are that Harvard's next President is a woman? Janet Yellen may be free. I want to know that the short list and selection panel are properly diverse.

5 is interesting, and I am not a fan of free tuition programs, but the ones that have been started in TN and OR are for community colleges, which will presumably not exhibit the phenomenon described in his abstract: "Free tuition increases enrollment to selective programs".

Dollar-wise, more benefits accrue to higher income students but the programs are succeeding in increasing the number of low income students who enroll, i.e. no crowding out.

3. Rational actors! Which econ model predicts this?

#3 At least the mummy didn't get back to life and destroyed the country.

Speaking of mummy reincarnation, Larry Summers for Harvard Pres!

On 2, I'm surprised that there is not more discussion of Amy Gutmann. Shes a Harvard PhD who was provost at Princeton before becoming president of Penn several years ago. She's a "liberal" political theorists but also, at Penn, had proven to be a total corporate shill willing to do the bidding of rich donors without question. I'd think that combination would prove popular at Harvard, too. She's been a big force for the corporatization of the university while also being really effective at fund-raising, which also would seem to be popular. She's massively more personable and able to deal with politics than someone like Larry Summers was, while still having a strong academic reputation. (*) She's been at Penn for long enough to be wiling and able to move on, and her time there has been pretty successful from a fiscal perspective, at least. It's hard to see what's not to like from Harvard's perspective.

(*) In fact, her academic work is merely okay - not awful, but not all the interesting or ground-breaking. It's competent, steady, stuff but nothing at all radical or exciting. That's probably a plus in this area.

4. I would think that the paucity of female faculty members in the economics department might discourage females from majoring in economics, but it could be the opposite (if not for all those handsome and charming men teaching in the economics department, there would be no female majors in economics). The authors point out that the economics faculty's explanation for so few female economics majors is that business draws potential female economics majors away from economics, while the business faculty's explanation for so few female business majors is that economics draws potential female business majors away from business. The other dude did it! The authors also point out that the most elite economics programs have the lowest percentage of female students. If I'm a young female college student and were to look around for a role model, I might consider Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, who was an economics major at Harvard and whose faculty (thesis) adviser was none other than Larry Summers, who recruited her to be his research assistant at the World Bank. She later went on to get an MBA at Harvard and then achieved enormous success first at Google and then at Facebook. Ms. Sandberg was no doubt an exceptional economics student at Harvard, but all economics students at Harvard are exceptional. She was fortunate to have Summers appointed as her faculty adviser, but Summers was also fortunate to be appointed. If I'm a young female college student and were to look around for a major, I might consider economics, where I would stand out in my class because there would be so few female economics majors. I remember when J.C. Watts, the all-America quarterback at Oklahoma, ran for Congress as a Republican. I also remember thinking what was he thinking, a black man in a mostly white party. He won the election and quickly rose in the Republican leadership, and was elected Republican Conference Chair in 1999 succeeding John Boehner. Watts and his party sometimes disagreed on policy and messaging, and he retired from Congress in 2002. Like Ms. Sandberg, I don't doubt that Mr. Watts is exceptional and that his success has been the result of his abilities. But even the most able must first get the opportunity to achieve her potential.

..."if not for all those handsome and charming men teaching in the economics department..."

Um, nothing against our blog hosts, but are you sure that you've seen many econ faculty members? I'm pretty sure they are not attracting female students with their looks or charm.

Have you seen Cowen in an interview or lecture? Is there a more charming guy than Cowen? As for what makes a man handsome to a woman (or another man for that matter) I don't know, but my observation is that exceptionally smart women are drawn to exceptionally smart men. Alas, the opposite isn't true, as exceptionally mart men, like all men, are often drawn to boobs with boobs. As for Tabarrok, he reminds me of a young priest at the Episcopal Church my wife and I attended many years ago, not the rector at the Church but one of his assistants. I can't recall his name, but that's because we never referred to him by name. Instead, we referred to him as Ernest because he was, well, so earnest. Women are often drawn to earnest men.

Are the best university classes the ones filled with the grumpier, uglier students and teachers? That would be a sign of the quality of the teaching, as no one would register for those sections simply to be with the other people in those rooms, so it must be the quality of the teaching that has drawn in the students.

Cowen famously uses the same logic when picking restaurants: avoid the ones full of beautiful people

I would think that the paucity of female faculty members in the economics department might discourage females from majoring in economics

Right, just like it stopped them from majoring in every single department they now dominate, you moron

#2 - Does anyone really care? Without going to Wikipedia can any non-Harvard grad name more than 1-2 past presidents of the university?

Anyone who cares about #2 is so deep inside The Bubble they have no prayer of ever noticing the outside world.

Given that, what does it tell you about the awareness ability of a guy who cares so much he actually posted it to his blog?

And given that, what's it tell you about a guy who comments on the blog constantly?

That libertarianism is a pretty pernicious ideology that's worth opposing?

Or that some mean blog commenters think their snark is somehow 'opposing' an ideology instead of mental masturbation?

This. And the reason for posting is: if you can’t convince (er, induce doubt in) the educated just a smidgeon, how you gonna convince anyone else?

Does anyone here ever really adjust their priors though? Especially with the snark of posters like Sam and myself?

Also, convincing/creating doubt in the educated is a whole 'nother thing than doing so for the uneducated. Just ask Le Grande Orange ("I love the poorly educated!")

"poorly educated"

I like that term, as opposed to the uneducated.
It's like the Studies degrees vs those who do not go to school.
At least those who don't go to school are aware that they don't know everything, a very useful thing to know. And they didn't waste 4-6 yrs of their live along with the 100-200k.

Many people adjust their priors. The cycle time is just long. It is more like a year, rather than the 5 seconds we'd often like it to be.

One advantage of the long cycle is that if you don't introspect too much, you can think you always had the new position.

Pretty much everyone on here can name 1 past Harvard president, and Cowen's friends (or whatever he'd call it) with him, and his comments on gender obviously remain interesting to readers of this blog and are relevant to the current moment.

In this era of intense political correctness on campuses, the presidential choice of the most prestigious university in the world is mildly interesting to me.

Lawrence Lowell, James Bryant Conant, Nathan Pusey, Derek Bok, Neil Rudenstine, L Summers, Drew Faust.

I'd be pleased if The Donald seized the endowments of Harvard and Yale and shut both places down.

And people wonder why conservatives are called fascists.

2. A few years back the witches were operators and employees of pre-school day care centers who used their charges in satanic rites. That mania seems to have died down. Currently the witches seem to be somehow connected to Russian efforts to deny HRC her due.

2. The short list of four already at Harvard are a diverse group. I'm not sure what that means. It could mean that the search committee is open to a wide variety of candidates with a wide variety of backgrounds. Or it could mean that the search committee has no idea what they are doing. The search committee is comprised of 15 members, but that's misleading: there are lots of committees to advise the search committee as well as lots of committees to advise the committees to advise the search committee.

' ... lawmakers ritually slaughtered seven sheep in parliament to exorcise “evil spirits”.” Recommended.

You recommend the ritual slaughter of sheep? Good for you. They are annoying bloody creatures but good to eat.


Despite the damage ideas like raising the minimum wage, free college, banning Uber, etc. does to the poor, that will continue to hold a certain appeal.

Further, this may be a clue as to why Kansas voters "vote against their own economic interests" or rather, as to why people think they do

One probable factor in the increase in the number of witch trials was the increase in the prevalence of witchcraft.

Which trials? Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

A likely parallel movement to witch trials was the inquisition in the Middle Ages. That would be a minimally, more useful study subject.

Attempting to compare witch trials' actors to the contemporary psychopaths we call politicians is libelous to the witch hunters. I mean, the witch hunters did what they knew to be right. Todays' psychos are nothing like that.


Danielle Allen wrote a great book on justice in the classical world. And a smart and novel take on Plato as a public intellectual deeply embedded in the world of Athenian politics.

Then she wrote a book about her (failed) efforts to put her young criminal male cousin on the straight and narrow. I haven’t read this last one as developing sympathy for ghetto criminals is not high on my to do list. But she’ll be in the running.

4. Some random thoughts – I teach economics at a community college. Even though the school is 55%+ female, my Macroeconomics and Microeconomics classes are 2/3 male. I also teach an Intro class that is mostly for dual enrollment students – High School students getting an AA degree along with their HS diploma. Intro classes are 2/3 female. High School students are required to have a semester of Economics.

This leads me to conclude that given a choice, men choose economics and women choose something else.

Except – I went through the list of schools looking at the white male versus female econ majors. I only found two schools where the ratio was in favor of women – Colorado School of Mines and University of Dayton. (Perhaps I missed some.) I don’t know anything about the University of Dayton, but I went to Mines.

At Mines, about the only degree that isn’t engineering or hard science is Economics.

There might be something to that. MIT's equity index is pretty good compared to most other universities and colleges in their study. But at MIT, econ is one of the "softer" majors. (Not the only one though; one can even major in theater now at MIT.)

1a. Nonviral.

1b. "the wall just got 10 feet higher"

5 - I read, and read, his paper, and I can't understand his reasoning.

"Free tuition increases enrollment to selective programs, making these programs more competitive and pushing them out of reach for many poor students who would otherwise have qualified."

But also make this programs "out of reach for many rich students who would otherwise have qualified", no? Basically, before free tuition, the probability of someone entering in a selective program was dependent of a) grades; and B) disposition to pay; after free tuition, only grades count; even if, in average, rich students have higher grandes than poor, I imagine that the effect is less in grades than in disposition to pay.

I don't know what the student aid situation in Chile is, but in most cases, qualified poor students in the U.S. already have free tuition available based on need. Right now, some middle-income students don't apply to selective programs because of cost. With free tuition, that would no longer be true -- so poor students wouldn't lose out to rich kids (who are not deterred by the current cost) but by middle-income kids who may be deterred now and who, on average, are better qualified than the poor.

2. Disappointed to not see Harvey Mansfield find a mention.

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