Friday assorted links


(4. Bryan Caplan argues that education is socially overvalued.)

"First and foremost: From kindergarten on, students spend thousands of hours studying subjects irrelevant to the modern labor market."

.... and irrelevant to their lives in general

What institution makes kids go to school and decides what will be taught & how it will be taught (?)

Every public school system in the world seeks to produce "citizens" by the definition of that land. Interestingly, a growing number of US states require students pass a citizenship test for high school graduation.

I approve. These people are going to vote. It would be nice if they could name the three co-equal branches of government.

History and geography are crucial components of civic education. They're haphazardly taught, of course, and even when not do not leave much residue with most. That's true of anything you're going to teach.

Mark my words: those laws aren't going to be enforced.

So, you are on the side of Boko Haram which acts to prevent harmful education?

I have seen no Caplan praise of much of Africa, Asia, especially Afghanistan, Somalia, and Nigeria, et al, where very little time is wasted on education, and status comes from your guns.

GTOAT (Greatest Troll Of All Time)

Thread winner

The toll system (algorithm) seems to working exactly as designed.
I see no problem here.
Want to zoom along at 57 mph, pay the money.
Don't want to pay the money, then go slower. Or, work from home.

I pass by (but do not turn onto) I-66 every morning around 6:45AM, and the tolls at that time have been around $7 this week. Get up earlier if you think it's damn expensive--who says you must drive at exactly the height of rush hour?!

I believe the issue is how much money is paid.

"Some lawmakers from both sides of the aisle say the state misled residents and the legislature when it presented the toll plan with estimates of a maximum toll of $17 roundtrip"

Then there is this: " VDOT officials say those projections were based on average tolls, not peak of the peak tolls."

I don't really understand how you can use the phrase maximum when you mean average.

"I don’t really understand how you can use the phrase maximum when you mean average."

I don't know the exact situation, but suppose the tolls vary continuously through the day. The toll during the busiest hour of the day--or busiest 15 minutes of the day--averages $17 round trip. The toll during the other 23 hours averages $6 round trip.

In such a situation, I can see someone saying, "The maximum toll is $17 round trip," though they mean the average toll during the busiest hour, or the average toll during the busiest 15 minutes, rather than the absolute maximum toll anyone will ever pay.

So I *can* understand how someone would use the word "maximum" even though they mean something like the average toll during the maximum hour.

The prices are nonsensical due to HoV being allowed to drive on the lanes for free. Remove this, and the prices will, likely, behave rationally.

Pricing a resource at zero leads to inefficiencies.

I liked the past where the politicians insist that the price max out at $17 AND that the speed be fixed at 45 mph.

I don’t use 66 but do take 95 once in a while.

I won’t pay $5 to use the express lanes from the beltway to the end but when I see it’s up over $15 I know I’ll be happy I paid.

#6: And then I hear from people that Trump is the worst populist ever... Democrats have been doing this since FDR (if not longer)

2 left out the PEDs ...

if true, he must have those secret PEDs that other 33 year old players in decline don't know about...

They’re all on PEDs. People who are well above six feet virtually never bulk up without them.

Look at the NBA circa 1988 if you want to see what tall people look like without roids. It’s startling.

Charles Oakley was the only player who looked like a modern NBA player and he was clearly either a freak of nature or an early PED user.

And significantly more ground bound than todays players

A lot of PEDs are legal, but sports nutrition and the simple availability of food may have a lot to do with it too. If you look at champion bodybuilders and weightlifters from the 1950s or before, they look like an average guy at your gym today, so it's not just the extra-tall who weren't bulky.

4. Everyone is talking about this, but I am not sure it helps in any meaningful way.

"Is college for all bad? Yes! "

"Should your kid go to college? Yes!"

It seems a pointless lament.

"Go to college" is a pretty broad brush, similar to "get married"(to who?) or "get a job"(doing what?). Both of my kids are currently in college, but if the question was "should my kids borrow a bunch of money to go major in the liberal arts at a crappy college" I would have a different response.

I agree, but Caplan seemed to prefer a more uniform "education" as his nemesis.

It seemed obvious to me he's building a strong argument against Universal (free) Pre-K to Doctorate given its entirely built on emotional appeals and low-power studies. But if he mentioned that he'd mostly get the True Believers making those emotional appeals and citing those studies rather than addressing his rather compelling points.

College really IS good for the individual. What is unspoken is that a very, very large number of individuals believed the adults in their lives that *any* college is good for the individual *at any price*. Which is why it's a terrible idea to push it even harder or even make it universally available.

It's not Route 66, it's Interstate 66 or I-66.

Route 66 is a highway that runs from Chicago to Los Angeles. Interstate 66 is what connects Fairfax County to DC.

This is at least the second time you've gotten this wrong on your blog.

Kind of egregious considering the catchy and ubiquitous song "Route 66"

Taylor Swift didn't queaf that out of her clenched whatnot so Tyler hasn't listened to that song.

It actually goes out to Front Royal.

Not exactly - it actually goes out to (ends) at 81 (or I-81 for the pedantic), near Middletown, Frederick County.

Another possible tip off that someone is a native Northern Virginian - no use of 'route,' 'I,' or 'interstate' when talking about 495, 50, 66, or 95.

'This is at least the second time you’ve gotten this wrong on your blog.'

Probably because a lot of native Northern Virginians call 66 'Rt. 66' - incorrectly, obviously. Yet such is local reality, even though 66 has nothing to do with the Rt 66 of storied fame.

(And wait until you get into discussions of whether route is properly pronounced as 'root' or pronounced as 'rout' - because one of the easiest ways to tell whether somebody was born and grew up in Northern Virginia in the last 50 years is that they will use both pronunciations interchangeably. For example when talking about Rt. 123 - people who have moved to Northern Virginia from other places tend to favor the pronunciation they grew up with, leading those born in Northern Virginia accustomed to hearing either pronunciation roughly half the time.)

The Irving trade to Boston form Cleveland seems to have helped both teams. Irving is playing like he enjoys basketball, smiling more since he left Cleveland (who wouldn't). LeBron isn't stopping to yell at teammates about the execution of plays. The Cavs often seemed confused at pivotal points, with LeBron angry that not everyone was on the same page. I don't know who was to blame when they were out of sync. In any case, LeBron now appears to be more in sync with his current teammates. Also, unlike most NBA players, LeBron is not prone to taking a night off. He, for some reason, seems more driven this year.

Well yeah he's driven, the dude is trying to be considered the greatest ever and he will need more titles to get there. If he's smart he will try to be the first to get a title with 3 different teams by going to the Lakers (with Paul George) or 76ers after this year.

"“First and foremost: From kindergarten on, students spend thousands of hours studying subjects irrelevant to the modern labor market.”"

Why this obsession with the labor market?

Sure, we need to earn our bread. But that's a small part of our lives.

Market price should be allowed to determine the quantity consumed of different subjects. Why does 1 credit hour of econ with Mankiw cost the same as 1 credit hour for women's studies at the same institution? There are a lot of people getting ripped off by paying full price tuition for degrees that won't help them earn income later in life.

I disagree.

Not to be a ... bear face, Anonymous, or etc...

But the government should absolutely test all citizens, voluntarily, for IQ at 18. Make the cut off 150. And then invest literally whatever money is required to send them to any engineering or math based program. That’s a targeted program to help the country. Then eliminate all grants, aid, or loan programs aside from ROTC.

We do that today. We cast a wide net and we find all 150+ IQ students, and they all get to go to college.

The only exceptions are, perhaps, for those with mental illness.

Good will hunting was fiction.

It's not a small part considering the income underpins the other parts. I can't have Christmas Dinner with the family if I can't afford my duck.

Economists like Caplan are crass in their generally narrow focus on the labor market, but it also unrealistic to expect that most students will gain much from receiving a liberal education in college as college attendance becomes the norm. Most lack the intelligence, preparation, and interest needed and thus will remain philistines despite our best efforts.

There's a great deal of waste in tertiary schooling with distribution requirements. These should be eliminated. Liberal education at the secondary level for the minority who are academically inclined should be the order of the day.

Trump is doing a "great" job....

He is!

62% of Americans disprove of his job performance, but they are all polarized extremists and partisans.

To find centrists you must look within the 32% who support the president, while perhaps having private reservations, to which they never give voice.

Those, those, are the ones you can trust.

Oh noes, rioting by Arabs in the Mideast.

Also known as Friday.

So Trump is doing a bad job because he is following the stated goal of U.S. law and keeping his campaign promise, unlike his predecessors. So if he ignores the law and his promises, then presumably he would be doing a good job. Or more likely it epitomizes Trump Derangement Syndrome.

Notice the address of all the embassies...

Who cares? Since when does the president have the power to ignore Congress and follow what other countries do? You're just an unprincipled hack who cries despot only when the president does something you happen to dislike.

I agree.

Some say that this week, as the president endorses a pedophile, we should reconsider who he really is, and what our support is really about.

We say no! To even question the endorsement of a pedophile is Derangement Syndrome!

4. Uh, some college students learn critical thinking skills. Not, it seems, every college student, or every Ph.D. in economics.

Of course, college students aren’t supposed to just download facts; they’re supposed to learn how to think in real life. How do they fare on this count? The most focused study of education’s effect on applied reasoning, conducted by Harvard’s David Perkins in the mid-1980s, assessed students’ oral responses to questions designed to measure informal reasoning, such as “Would a proposed law in Massachusetts requiring a five-cent deposit on bottles and cans significantly reduce litter?” The benefit of college seemed to be zero: Fourth-year students did no better than first-year students.

4. I guess Caplan doesn't know the concept of "signalling". College is not there to teach people useful skills, it's role is to separates the wheat from the shaft through difficult courses only people with certain cognitive level can endure.

College is not there to teach people useful skills, i

I'd rather the RN attending me have graduated from nursing school. I have the same prejudice about structural engineers. I'm funny that way.

Assume there is only one way to prove competency. I'd rather have the RN that has 15+ years experience. Same for structural engineers. I'm funny that way.

You can only gain experience by practicing without experience, of course. When you practice without actually building the bridge, is that not education?

And at one time you got an apprenticeship, rather than paying tens of thousands of dollars a year to support "The Ivory Tower".

Ivory ain't cheap.

Medicine still largely works on an apprenticeship system. Do your schooling, then learn your actual trade during residency/fellowship.

And at one time you got an apprenticeship, rather than paying tens of thousands of dollars a year to support “The Ivory Tower”.

Apprenticeships were for trades. You have some instructional programs in trades at the community college level and, now and again, at the baccalaureate level. It's a modest fragment of what baccalaureate granting institutions do. You had apprenticeships for office employments as well (e.g. bookkeeping). The utility of the system of tertiary institutions for the employer is less investment in training. The utility for the worker is that some aspects of knowledge can be delivered more efficiently in school formats than on the shop floor.

Maybe in 1950. Have you followed college since then? You merely need a pulse to pass most college courses. There is no separating going on in the vast majority of classes. Merely the ability to show up occasionally.

I slept and didn't buy the casebooks for a good number of even graudate courses and got above average grades.

Back in the day only X% of the US population got an undergraduate degree. Today 2 times X% get an undergraduate degree. The US population isn't any better than it was back in the day. The goal posts have been moved. Graduate degrees are the new undergraduate degree. Which is great for the college administrators and professors, more money and demand for their labor when you get suckers stuck paying for 7+ years of your service as opposed to 4!

Average IQ of college grads* has dropped from 112.3 in the 1960's to 100.0 in the 2010's
*technically people who have attended college for at least four years

He literally used the word signaling in the article, so I think he does understand the concept. The whole article could be read as an argument that higher ed is part signaling and part skills acquisition, but the skills part is lacking.

3. If implicit bias testing is to be useful it will be in showing that it can be used to eliminate highly biased people from working in fields such as law enforcement etcetera. To think using these tests to "educate" people about their implicit biases expecting that to change their behavior is naïve.

Its deeper than that: Basically the test is gibberish

The implicit bias of implicit bias studies seems to be that the only ethnic/gender combination of interest is white male. This whole lengthy article shows absolutely no interest in the possible biases of any other group. Nor does it show any interest in any society other than the United States. Can a psychological study or theory that only pays attention to one gender group of one race have any general validity?


A. We don't have 'college for all'. About 43% of each age cohort is garnering a baccalaureate degree and around 15% an associate's degree short of that. About 65% of all undergraduate degrees are in occupational subjects, not academics or the arts. With regard to post-baccalaureate degrees, 82% are in occupational subjects. Some occupational programs are humbug (teaching certificates and social work degrees to name two), of course. Some are puzzling to the non-initiate if not humbug (just what is 'sports management'?). You can argue there's overproduction of degree recipients in these areas (law schools are egregious in this regard). While we're at it, as often as not, most recipients of liberal education are receiving degrees in mathematics, natural sciences, psychology, quantitative social sciences, or the academic wing of computer and information science. The academic majors with the largest census are psychology and biology.

B. As for 'irrelevant' learning, economists engaging in cack-handed raids on political science are egregious practitioners.

B. As for ‘irrelevant’ learning, economists engaging in cack-handed raids on political science are egregious practitioners.

Is there a better description of Krugnuts after he developed Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS)? Where is the Krugnuts that once tried to educate the left-wing about how manufacturing jobs in East Asia that pay 3 USD a day is good, because the alternative in East Asia (sounds a bit like the scientific method) is looting garbage dumps for scrap at 1 USD a day.

We were promised octocopters, all we got were slow and annoying fridges on wheels.

You got a fridge on wheels!? Where? Not kidding. I’d like one.

#3 I heard this incredibly poorly done piece on NPR last evening. It didn't consider any possibility for higher maternal mortality among blacks, than whites other than racism:
Talk about extraordinary claims: They contended that the stress of racism is changes the genes of black Americans! The other claim that, many MD's are racist enough to be causal, is a more credible claims but still require strong evidence. The kicker is that the Hispanic maternal mortality rate is lower that of whites what then is that cause by?

If you misdiagnose the problem the solution is tougher.

Did they mention the rates for Hispanics and Asians?

2. Pretty good article, but this gets it exactly backwards: "We’ve seen him slip from the best player in history to merely the best at this moment, " His sustained excellence makes his career case stronger, but his "at this moment" play hasn't topped the league for several years..

Best career of any active player? Sure. Best player overall over the last, say, ten years? Very likely. But he hasn't been the best player on the floor right now for several years, that honor has lately bounced between Steph and Durant (and this year so far, Harden).

WS48, VORP, PER, the trend is pretty clear -- LBJ used to dominate those stats every year, lately he's top-5 or top-ten (although he's been better this year, leading VORP). Everyone gets old.

People will argue he's coasting in the regular season, but 1) that only explains why he hasn't been as good and 2) almost every established starter coasts in the regular season. (Does LeBron coast more? Maybe. Is there any reliable way to measure that? Haha.)

LeBron had a great, historic run of dominance where he was clearly the best player around, but he’s human and like every other player his age he’s been slowing down for years — surrounding himself with shooters has kept his offensive stats up, but his sagging defense was exposed against GSW on dunk after dunk even before the winded former best player in basketball waved feebly at KD’s dagger three, absorbing yet another Finals loss.

The better stats show him as the best or 2nd-best player in the league (Steph) over the past five seasons. His single-year RPM rankings have been 1st, 2nd, 1st, and 1st over the past four years. (These numbers incorporate his playoff performance.) Multiyear RPM has him as the best player in the league. WS/48 and PER are fine as far as box score stats go but not particularly sophisticated and certainly worse than the data that incorporates box score and on-off metrics.

You could quibble between LeBron and Steph for total value over that time period, but those two are head and shoulders above competition. Durant, though a gaudy scorer, simply doesn't have the outsized impact on the floor that both of those two have had. (Check, for example, the Warriors' stats with Curry and no Durant, and vice versa.)

Finally, why would you not be able to measure regular-season coasting? A basic look at his stats shows improved playoff performance despite far superior average competition.

Highly overstated. First of all, LBJ 'coasts' in the regular season because it enables higher performance in the playoffs. The first toll of old age is recovery time. Younger players don't need to do this as much and maybe don't know how.

So if you want a meaningful comparison, you're looking at a data sample size that's too small and subject to bias per year. But the success of LBJ's teams in the first 3 rounds over the past 7 years is astounding.

#3 “A lot of folks see the IAT as a golden path to the unconscious, a tool that perfectly captures what’s going on behind the scenes and it’s not,” says Lai. “It’s a lot messier than that. The truth, as often, is a lot more complicated.”

This quote encapsulates much of the problem with writing pop psych articles. It should read... "A lot of folks (in pop psych) see IAT as a.... " No one who studies cognitive psych sees IAT as a "tool that perfectly captures what's going on behind the scenes". That's a particularly strong statement that would find little support in the literature and still, the article hops back and forth between serious scientists and pop psych H.R. folks mis-applying the science and builds what seems to be a wild-eyed case against IAT.

Greenwald was right, this debate belongs in scientific journals... this article seems to have added little of value other than a lot of clicks for Quartz.

The question is why it is seen as anything other than ideologically motivated junk science by scientists themselves.

The question is how can studies use it and similar tests (which haven't shown much correlation to anything, and which doesn't allow ANY intervention/treatment) be accepted and published in the scientific literature? My answer is: the social sciences have mostly failed to hold their practitioners to even the lowest level of scientific rigor. It is unquestionably part of the reason that the social sciences get a bad rap: because they deserve it; they're clowns.

"Supervisor Malia Cohen initially expressed concerns about stifling innovation, which she said could possibly lead to “a robot that picks up needles.” There is a proliferation of discarded syringes in San Francisco public spaces."


There’s little doubt we all have some form of unconscious prejudice. Nearly all our thoughts and actions are influenced, at least in part, by unconscious impulses. There’s no reason prejudice should be any different.

The fact that everybody feels the need to include disclaimers like this is the reason that junk science survives.

You frequently get the impression when reading about social psychology studies that there is a "good result" that the study is supposed to get, and a "bad result" that the study isn't supposed to get.

If you measure the effect of chewing gum on walking and find no effect, that's not publishable. It's a bad result, because it's useless to the experimenter. If you find there is an effect, you get a prominent publication and probably some cutesy media stories. It's a good result, because it helps the experimenter get ahead.

People act like it's a problem with statistics, but it's really a problem with incentives. If you set things up where only studies that found antigravity were publishable, you'd be deluged with bogus studies "finding" negative gravity.

Incidentally, when physicists do measurements like that -- when they test the equivalence of gravitational and inertial mass, say -- they carefully construct the experiment so that it's publishable either way. You can make a very nice career out of proving that the difference between gravitational and inertial mass is no greater than X, where X is a factor of ten smaller than the previous best measurement.

Obviously, measuring a difference between the two types of mass would be super amazing, while measuring no difference is merely a solid piece of work, but making both results publishable greatly improves the incentives to do good work and let the chips fall where they may.

Here you have a test that "proves" the existence of implicit bias. Very good for the experimenters! But a test that didn't find such a thing would be totally useless from a career perspective.

Dodgy statistics plus the existence of "good" results should raise warning flags.

Suppose your law firm wants a summer associate. A law student with a doctorate in philosophy from Stanford applies. What do you infer? The applicant is probably brilliant, diligent, and willing to tolerate serious boredom. If you’re looking for that kind of worker—and what employer isn’t?—you’ll make an offer, knowing full well that nothing the philosopher learned at Stanford will be relevant to this job.

Yes, but what if the kid learned at Stanford that he is brilliant at some things, but there are many brilliant people in the world and he will have to apply himself to stand out, that he is occasionally diligent but needs to improve his work habits to deal with a heavy workload, and that he can tolerate boredom in pursuit of larger goals in some fields better than others?

Because that kid sounds nice a pretty nice hire. Whereas someone who is brilliant but can't get along with other brilliant people, diligent in work they enjoy but lets some things slide, and unwilling to work through occasional boredom sounds like a terrible hire.

3. A brilliant example of how liberals talk about bias, racism and discrimination without bothering to define their terms in any scientific way, probably because it would interfere with the vast, sloppy enthymemes they construct. The one thing above others that really turned me into the bitter reactionary nut I am today is the way these people do "science".

I didn't believe "bad" things until I noticed it was necessary to lie about the "good" ones.

While I agree that today's "Social Sciences" are little different from Alchemy, I would suggest that you you consider the Serenity Prayer. The world is chock-full of stupidity. Expecting otherwise is, once you've been around long enough, like repeating the same experiment and expecting a different outcome - or as Einstein (supposedly) said: insanity. Wonder not at all of the stupidity, but wonder that some are able to rise above it (sometimes). I wonder if, someday, psychologists will have meaningfully calibrated testing methods. Reminds me of forensic "science". It's just what society is willing to accept, no matter how poor it's methods are. (At least, a lot of the time it assigns guilt to someone, which is pretty much all we want (that and fairly good "optics" (avoiding false positives))). That's pretty much what we want from our social "science" - stories we (with our intrinsic biases) are able to believe in.

#7. "Yes, Don Giovanni comes from a different time. But this is a poor excuse for partitioning opera/art from contemporary ethical values, forever justifying behavior that—in any age—is predatory and exploitive."

Were the writer possessed even minimally of any appreciation or respect for "traditional ethical values"--were she not seeming so intent to "partition 'contemporary ethical values' from 'traditional ethical values'," that is--perhaps she would see or hear what one of her site commentators pointed out almost gratuitously, practically obviating her entire complaint: Da Ponte and Mozart's "Don Giovanni" hardly has his predatory and exploitive behavior justified at the work's conclusion.

Why was she unwilling or unable to accept the (infernal) punishment meted to Don Giovanni at the work's end? (DG's off the stage even before the end properly arrives.)

Does her complaint then consist of the "fact" that DG simply was not apprehended flagrante delicto? (Whyever would Da Ponte and Mozart have failed us there? Answer: THEY SHOULD BOTH HAVE ANTICIPATED the advent of "contemporary ethical values" and gotcha-social media emerging c. 2015 CE. [What good can genius be, after all, if it can't properly anticipate events unfolding some two-and-a-quarter centuries hence? --on this score, what might this dame's essay be worth in 2215 or 2240 CE?])

I think it is difficult to interpret da Ponte as a proponent of traditional values. Neither in his work nor in his life did he seem to have much problem with what the kids today call consensual non-monogamy. It is actually reasonable to see him as a proto-feminist. The other two Da Ponte/Mozart operas are pretty easy to produce as feminist. The article isn’t complaining about him, but about the many productions that present Giovanni as a hero, rather than creep. Da Ponte and Mozart seem ambivalent about Giovanni to me.

The Magic Flute is Mozart’s “problematic” opera from a contemporary feminist perspective.

I am not so keen to posit either Mozart or Da Ponte as exponent or proponent of "traditional ethical values": my concern is more with the writer's assumption that "contemporary ethical values" somehow succeed as being MORE ETHICAL than assessments that might have been made by Mozart or Da Ponte or by any member(s) of the contemporary audiences for whom both were writing, an assumption for which she supplies no argumentative support whatsoever.

"Contemporary ethical values": what are these, by the way? If contemporary ethical values are as piss-poor as contemporary tastes in popular music or contemporary operatic composition, please spare me all exposure to contemporary ethical values.


Would I advise an academically well-prepared 18-year-old to skip college because she won’t learn much of value? Absolutely not. Studying irrelevancies for the next four years will impress future employers and raise her income potential.

Irrelevancies. Despite his protests Caplan does seem to think that only financial payoffs count.

Maybe he should try to do some real economics sometime, and not write so many ideological tracts.

Maybe he should try to do some real economics sometime,

He's kinda rusty. His last paper germane to the subject hit the shelves about 20 years ago.

I guess he can do whatever he wants. But his recent output reinforces my impression of the whole GMU gang - they are convinced they are, collectively, an incredible group of geniuses who understand almost everything. Is there such a thing as pathological group egomania?

OK, Caplan&Co. aren't stupid, but arrogance can overcome that.

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