30.9.03

SEPARATING EQUILIBRIUM. Apt. 11d has more thoughts on the ideas in this post (which I have revised and extended a bit since last night.) Professor Laura's five points, and Crooked Timber's proposal to change the business culture are pointing to the same problem, which I refer to as the one-size-fits-all path to promotion. To be sure, people who are willing to commit themselves to that path are going to be the people who wind up going places (albeit with some late-in-life buyer's remorse?) but to be equally sure, those businesses that expect everybody to get on that treadmill are themselves suffering losses. (To what extent does the common business complaint, even during this curious recovery, that skilled workers are hard to find or retain reflect burnout in addition to my usual suspect, the deficient schooling entry level workers get? I don't know. I haven't even worked out the separating equilibrium yet.) People who stop out (for any reason -- minding the kids doesn't have to be the only one) and never get back in represent output and insight irretrievably lost. That's the basis for my assertion toward the end of that long post that there are gains from trade in finding alternatives to the treadmill, none of which need imply a lesser status for the workers so employed.
BURNING A HOLE IN YOUR POCKET? Speaking of Metra, Wisconsin officials are now considering using some $91 million to further develop plans to restore the Chicago and North Western extend Metra Rail service from Kenosha (the anomaly of an Illinois commuter train turning in Wisconsin arises because the incremental cost of building a terminal at Winthrop Harbor, the last stop in Illinois, exceeds the costs of using the existing terminal in Kenosha) through Racine, Oak Creek, South Milwaukee, Cudahy, and Allis into Milwaukee. It remains to be seen how much more of the original $250 millions will be dissipated in rent-seeking.
FIRST SINCE THE BUFFALO NICKEL? Will it be explorers and Native Americans, or America's Dairyland, on the reverse of the Wisconsin quarter?UPDATE: It's America's Dairyland, by popular request. View the three finalists.
AMUSING REACTION. Thus does Curmudgeonly Clerk, who kindly refers to these pages as "appealingly themed," characterize this. Welcome aboard, and stay around. The sand house is particularly comfortable on winter days.
ON STRIKE, SHUT IT DOWN. The second and third excerpts from David Maraniss's new They Marched into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967 (details or compare prices) are now online.
THE WAR AT HOME. Paul Krugman (registration required) returns from vacation. Viking Pundit commits a flagrant act of journalism. Hoy Story provides additional background information.
WE'VE GOT THE VERMEER QUARTET. Newmark's Door is unimpressed with Joe Queenan's boosterism (registration required.) Queenan, alas, missed the point, snarking at Pittsburgh. As good as the Coney Island Cyclone is, Kennywood is a much better amusement park than Coney Island.

Queenan, tellingly, limits his snarking to Pittsburgh, the Capital Region of North Carolina, and other soft targets. Let's do some serious comparisons. Consider his put-down Stamford for its commuter train access to Manhattan. Imagine gales of laughter. Metra on a bad day is better than Metro-North on a good day. Allowing for easy access, Greater DeKalb (read: Chicago) beats New York for economics departments, orchestras, art (what is the most famous painting in the United States?), baseball stadiums, swimmable beaches, financial markets, and freight trains. (There is also direct rapid-transit access to the Loop from three airports, and a New York-style shuttle bus connection at a fourth, should you wish to fact-check me on the ground.)
SEMINAR MANAGEMENT. Semi-Daily Journal on the taxonomy of seminar overheads. (Scroll up, there's more.)
ARGUMENTAM AD MISERICORDIAM. Cold Spring Shops' favorite college administrator, Peter Wood, offers some suggestions for high school seniors who might have to write a diversity essay as part of their university applications. (Hat tip: grateful-not-to-be-applying-to-university Betsy's Page.)
IRAQ AND BIO-WEAPONS? Blaster's Blog reviews some history. (Via The American Mind.)
GETTING THE INSTITUTIONS RIGHT. Each Iraqi a shareholder in the oil company, suggests Marginal Revolution

29.9.03

KOHLER FIELD? Sorry, Chicago, from the air that place just doesn't make it. On the field, Packers score the first 17 points (a new Bear record for first-quarter futility) and go on to win 38-23.
BURT RUTAN IS AT IT AGAIN. Insta Pundit space blogging points here.
NO TILT-A-WHIRL FOR HER EITHER. The Chicago Tribune's Dawn Turner-Trice (registration required) is done with roller coasters. She looks younger than the Superintendent, although she has given birth to children. The Superintendent intends to keep riding roller coasters (perhaps not always the tallest or fastest ones, but the best ones aren't always the tallest, or the fastest, or the newest) as long as he's capable of walking up the ramps.
ISN'T THAT WHAT THE TILT-A-WHIRL MAKES YOU DO? SCSU Scholars might have identified the most infelicitous four-letter department identifier. (They also suggest the new course is the academic equivalent of a Tilt-a-Whirl.)
THE MIDDLE CLASS SQUEEZE. New source of Company Mail Apt. 11d has a number of posts on related topics. One, taking issue with Daniel Drezner post on inequality (and referencing inter alia The Two-Income Trap (see also here and here) comments on how costly downtown housing is. New York Deputy Fire Chief Richard Picciotto mentions in his Last Man Down (details or compare prices) the long commute he and his firefighter colleagues and other civil servants face owing to the high housing prices closer to work. A caller to the Rush Limbaugh program made a similar remark about commuting distances in California owing to housing prices, one factor contributing to the recall. Automobile registration fees are either higher or proposed to be higher. (The registration fee increase takes effect October 1.) There is an anomaly here (another of those nagging small problems?,) namely that housing prices diminish with distance from the central business district in proportion to transportation costs, such that a resident ought to be indifferent between paying to live next to the office and walking or living at a distance and commuting. (This version, which perversely closes whenever I open another window, introduces the pi-r-squared notion that the amount of land available at any distance increases with the square of the distance, which has to enter into the bid rent function in a way -- perhaps bigger houses??)

There might be more to the puzzle than meets the eye. Professor Laura correctly notes that there is a price premium to houses in better school districts, which ought to be part of the bid-rent curve. But a colleague active in local politics tells me something more: in the sprawling parts of Greater DeKalb (west and northwest Chicagoland, to those of you east of the Fox River) the zoning boards sometimes mandate larger lots on parcels recently annexed or zoned for development, in order to reduce the strain on school districts and the water system. (There is a whole line of research on whether or not suburban development pays sufficient taxes to provide for the additional government services, which I leave to the reader to find as an exercise.)

Professor Laura also comments here and here on second-wave feminism's effect on women and child-rearing, linking to an Atlantic review of Arlie Hochschild's Commercialization of Intimate Life (details or compare prices) that Milt's File commends, potentially for other reasons. The subtext in all three of the Apt. 11d posts I mention remains the middle class squeeze (I think, more accurately, the yupscale squeeze,) and I offer a bit of related reading. Cornell's Robert Frank wrote Luxury Fever, a lament for the relentless raising of the bottom-end product (we'll argue another day about whether that's profligacy or progress -- the book details and price comparison are enough.) In the course of writing the book he suggested that something along the lines of sumptuary laws or consumption taxes might be of use. U.S.A. Weekend's Jean Chatzky offers a different set of suggestions. I can relate to this: "I grew up in Wisconsin, the daughter of academics. We lived in a modest house on a street filled with kids. Thinking back, there were lots of signs that money wasn't plentiful during most of my adolescence. For entertainment, my parents and their friends had potlucks and bridge nights, alternating houses." She doesn't mention pitching a tent on vacation trips, or five people sharing one bathtub and one toilet. Our neighbors perceived my folks as rich because we had mostly new furniture (not counting the stuff my parents built themselves, or restored) and we kids got some new school clothes each year. No air-conditioned land barge (the SUV can only tow a yacht, it cannot be one) or private bath -- not to mention hot tub -- in Mom and Dad's bedroom or sitting room nobody sat in. Did I mention we were home-schooled? If you check the Milwaukee Public School records you might think otherwise, but we were all reading at the age of three or four, and I knew more computation tricks before I started first grade than I did by the time they finished with me. (Rediscovered most of them, Allah be praised.)

The final 11-d post of interest is a from-the-belly view of work life. I repeat ... there are gains from trade in coming up with alternatives to the tournament treadmill, we will pay you a lot but we will own you, and I bet a mandatory 35 hour work week isn't the quickest way to discover them. (Summer has passed, and with it the "early Friday getaway" rush hours on the expressways leading to Greater DeKalb (or more suitably, toward Wisconsin) but I bet there's some give to the treadmill around the edges, not all of it for family emergencies.)

SUPERINTENDENT'S NOTE: The above post has been revised for content and punctuation on September 30.
FUHGEDDABOUT CORE EQUIVALENCE. Knowledge Problem (thanks for the visitors) finds Newsweek coverage of experimental economics. I like this: "In a bout of insomnia one night, Smith concocted a plan to demonstrate this notion by putting his students through a trading game. Buyers were given a maximum price they could pay, and sellers were given a minimum they could demand, for an unspecified good. Classical theory said that with such imperfect knowledge of the market, players could never agree on the best price. To Smith’s shock, the unwitting buyers and sellers agreed on the best price —after a few rounds of bidding. Smith was convinced he’d fouled up and kept running experiments to prove the old assumptions correct. He couldn’t. The field of experimental economics was born." In fact, principles students can figure out this equilibrium fairly fast. Start with an ordinary pack of cards. Retain only the numbered cards (2-10). Shuffle and deal. Inform the holders of red cards that they are buyers who cannot pay more than the number on their cards. The holders of black cards are sellers who must accept at least the number on their cards. Their mission is to find a trading partner with whom they can negotiate a mutually agreeable price. By the second round, the holders of the red 2s and 3s want a redraw, and the holders of the black 9s and 10s realize the comparative advantage fairy has been unkind to them. By the third and fourth round the holders of the red 4s and 5s or black 7s and 8s begin to have similar thoughts.

There is a complete set of instructions for this activity in an issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives from the early 1990s.

This statement by Vernon Smith's colleague Charles Plott is a good insight into the maturation of economists: "Economists tend to become economists so that they can think about big things, like international trade relations and the global economy. The profession simply wasn’t prepared to think about these simple ideas." Perhaps not at the time, but the lure of the nagging small problems, and the insights gleaned from working them through, contribute greatly to the development of economics.
CAMPUS VISITS. Positives and negatives, from both the student and university viewpoints.
NOTICE OF LINE RELOCATION. Crescat Sententia have moved (and promptly weigh in on viewpoint diversity.) (Hat tip: Ox Blog.)

SECOND SECTION: (What, no Fourth 28 tonight?) Jacob at Volokh Conspiracy has an extended post that motivates the Crescat Sententia post referenced above; note in particular the many possible reasons an academician might have to blame "system bias" for personal failure. The reason to pursue an academic career in the first place is to answer the calling, the priestly concept of "vocation" might not be far off, and the day to stop pursuing it is the day it stops being fun.
CHEAPER STEEL MAKES YOU STRONG. Cal Pundit comments on this coverage (use your Chicago Tribune passcodes.) The Chicago Sun-Times urges ending the steel tariffs. You saw it here first (April 29 entry, in case engineering work is in progress on the archives.)
SOCIALIZED AS LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. Joanne Jacobs links approvingly to a proposal from a former schoolteacher for the return of some of the proper forms to education. Perhaps that sort of socialization would prevent the emergence of this moral dilemma recently observed on the Chicago L.
A TITLE IX FIDDLE? Cranky Professor presents the distinction between "cheerleading team" and "spirit squad." (For all the good it did Maryland, still on probation, still a source of hilarious administrators' actions.
STOP US IF YOU CAN. No shock and awe air campaign for the Badgers.
DISPLAY SIGNALS AND RUN AS SECOND 28. Duty calls. Perhaps more posts this evening. For now, scroll down, dear reader, as there are updates to several of yesterday's posts.
SEWER SOCIALISM. Ninety-two more potential bad guys off the street, information leading to the arrest of murderers of Coalition troops gathered, and 200 recently-trained domestic policemen working with U.S. military police in the roundups. Details in this report, which also details the Ba'ath party response to people who sell videotapes that question their authority. On the way to work, I heard a radio news broadcast to the effect that some Iraqis are being paid $3 a day to shovel the streets and load the shovelings onto Department of Public Works trucks that now operate in all parts of Baghdad. Hence the title of my post. It is not a pejorative; rather it is a tribute to the long-past administrations of Milwaukee, where there were at one time lots of good parks, music instruction in the schools, and twice-weekly trash pickup. The last big-city Socialist mayor was Milwaukee's Frank P. Zeidler, who still lives in Milwaukee. On his watch, the city had a triple-A bond rating. (What is less well known is that Mayor Zeidler is among the founding members of the Model Railroad Club of Milwaukee (scroll down, and discover some famous names in model railroading among the founders.)) At Cold Spring Shops, the Eleventh Commandment is "Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow O Scaler."

28.9.03

A BLOW TO RAILWAY PRESERVATION. From the Interurbans list on Yahoo.com comes news of a fire at the National Capital Trolley Museum. The local papers have no online coverage yet, nor does The Magazine of Railroading. Losses include "a recently and completely restored Johnstown streetcar, a Washington PCC, a Washington single truck sweeper (operable), a Washington work car (operable), and some equally irreplaceable European cars. The Johnstown cars is just a skeleton, the carbody of the PCC is warped and
twisted, the wood cars were reduced to warped frames.
"

National Capital is an interesting place to visit, as its operating tracks bridge Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, and the museum has limited acquisitions to streetcars.

UPDATE: Baltimore Sun coverage, a statement from the Museum, and some photographs provided by Museum member Paul Henry, quoted in the original post. Sources: members respectively of the Yahoo traction and O Scale Trains discussion lists.
SHIPPING TO CHIEF WIGGLES. Dynamist posts useful information for shipping to APO addresses. She wishes all L'Shana Tova. (In this vein, I heard the most interesting arrangement of "Deck the Halls" in a minor key with shtetl-style fiddling on a radio program Friday afternoon.)
PRAISE THE LORD AND PASS THE PASTA! "Don't discount the costumed Italian sausage (really) parading on Waveland Ave., who carried a sign that said, 'Brewers do their part to help Cubs.'" I am not making this report up (as Dave Barry or Anna Russell would put it.)
NINE RAIDS, 1,517 PATROLS, 74 POTENTIALLY BAD GUYS OFF THE STREET. More here, including evidence of advice from the locals, and evidence of scratch-building supplies being gathered to improvise weapons.
THE WAR AT HOME. David Maraniss has written a new book on two days in October 1967, in Madison and in Vietnam. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel offers some excerpts today. More Monday and Tuesday, by which time I will locate the usual information about the book.
POSSIBLE SOURCE OF COMPANY MAIL? Butterflies and Wheels have a number of think-pieces up on various controversies of interest to the Superintendent.
IN DEFENSE OF DIVERSITY TRAINING. This is the best the Diversity Boondoggle can come up with to rebut this?
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE. Eugene at Volokh Conspiracy recommends Jonathan Rauch's Forget Haves And Have-Nots. Think Do's And Do-Nots, a roundup of recent research on poverty. Rauch quotes Brookings's Isabel Sawhill: "If people did a few things -- graduated from high school, got a job, and delayed having a baby until they married -- our analysis shows that would eliminate a huge chunk of poverty in this country, and that would be far more effective than anything we could feasibly do through the welfare system alone." That's consistent with what we understood thirty years ago. What is encouraging is that sociological research comes up with similar findings.

Or, in bumper sticker language: It Takes a Village. If the Village has all the redeeming features of a hippie commune combined with the Projects, good luck.
THE MODAL VOTER THEOREM. Randy at Volokh Conspiracy notes the absence of gridlock in the quick Congressional enlargement of the powers of the Federal Trade Commission to keep the Do Not Call list on schedule. "Perhaps genuinely popular legislation is not so hard to pass after all? Perhaps the other stuff is harder to enact because significant segments of the population oppose them? Perhaps the country is genuinely divided ideologically and each side is blocking the favored reforms of the other? Perhaps even genuinely popular constitutional amendments would be swiftly enacted as well despite what we hear about how impossible it is? But perhaps the ones that get proposed more often involve ramming something down someone's throat and our system makes that harder to do? But then again perhaps this is just a fluke and does not mean much of anything." Quite so. Sometimes the median voter is also the modal voter. My guess is that relatively few people welcome having their dinner interrupted. As Chicago Report puts it, "In the case of Do Not Call legislation, the total lack of opposition would seem to indicate the overall reputation of telemarketers as the lowest species of human existence. Thus, the cost of their extinction to the society at large is perceived so minuscule, and the benefits so great, that there is effectively no opposition. Right or wrong, it sure sends a message to anyone planning to make their living bugging the hell out of people."

(On the other hand, are most people so out of tune to the preferred private times of the members of their social circle that spontaneous action couldn't defeat the telemarketers? Imagine everybody turning their telephone ringers off from 5.30 pm to 7 pm, or ignoring all rings and letting them go to voice mail or the answering machine.)

Some other times, there is a median voter, but the median might best be represented as the mean and mode of a bell curve, in which case there are gradations of agree or disagree that have to be on board to get a majority that includes the mean. In such cases a compromise of some kind is possible (does that include the exemption for charitable and political fundraising callers?) that will make people who strongly agree (because it has been watered down) or strongly disagree (because it is there) with the compromise angry. That compromise includes people whose positions are 1.5 standard deviations or less from the mean, assuming such a metric is possible. Perhaps that's why the angriest delegates in the House are those from districts with a lot of housing projects or a lot of religious fundamentalists, moving from left to right.

The hardest problem arises when preferences have two modes. That's where Chicago Report's worst case scenario really bites: "As the stakes increase so does the controversy. So ultimately, for important changes to be made, legislation has to [be] 'rammed down the throat' of the opposition. Gridlock serves the vital function of requiring the winning side to be a little more than just 51%." The stakes are likely to be higher (or in politicized departments with fighting factions, where the stakes by definition are small) and the opportunities to arrange a compromise that includes 51% of the votes diminish.
ALPENHORN BRINGS DOWN INTERTIE? All power to the Soviets! As there are no Soviets in Italy, does no power in Italy follow?

"Italy blamed France. France denied responsibility but then said an investigation showed a disabled power line in Switzerland set off a chain reaction of outages.

"Swiss authorities said a tree that touched a high voltage power line and disrupted supplies in Switzerland could have been partly to blame. And heavy storms in southeastern France near the Italian border might have been a factor, officials initially said
."
ROUND AND ROUND ON VIEWPOINT DIVERSITY. A David Brooks report (requires registration) on the lack of viewpoint diversity in (some) academic disciplines in (some) universities has touched a few nerves around the academic weblogs. Here is a quick pass through a small sample. Crooked Timber's Henry Farrell doesn't see the phenomenon in his discipline, and he notes the existence of outside employment opportunities for policy-minded conservatives. (My short answer to his concluding question: brightness might include sensitivity to message. A scholar making a conservative argument from a university office, in a way that doesn't echo Pach talking points, comes off as credible in a way that a hired intellectual making a similar argument from a foundation office that is assisting in developing the talking points cannot, no matter how well he is paid.) Volokh Conspiracy's Juan weighs in with some experiences and a roundup of some other posts. Leiter Report (hmm, a Texas university allowing professors to post polemical material, are you listening, Indiana University?) offers a simple explanation that Professor Bainbridge finds wanting ... do read the comments to follow how it plays out.

Brooks quotes Volokh Conspiracy's Jacob Levy, whose impressions mirror mine. "And Jacob T. Levy, a libertarian also at Chicago, says some conservatives exaggerate the level of hostility they face. Some politicized humanities departments may be closed to them, he concedes, but professors in other fields are open to argument."

I'd go further. Why would any rational conservative, or rational liberal, or political position n.e.c., for that matter, want to get into an academic field where the conventional wisdom is that a large car, or a shopping center open all night, is a "profligate" waste of energy, but the production of four or five times as many Ph.D.s as will get onto the tenure track is not?

SECOND SECTION: Invisible Adjunct provides commentary and additional links.

THIRD SECTION: Critical Mass and OxBlog report from the belly of the monster.
BAKE SALE MANIA. Critical Mass observes, "Affirmative action as it is presently practiced is absolutely about race (and to a lesser degree, sex)--that's why we don't see affirmative action for political conservatives or fundamentalist Christians on campus. Those groups are under-represented in higher education, too--but they aren't organized by skin color or chromosomes, and the 'diversity of viewpoint' they conceivably bring with them is neither valued nor welcome at many schools. The 'diverse community' that this student so righteously references, and that SMU's administration so protectively manages, is one based on censorship of viewpoints (and, apparently, foodstuffs) that don't conform to the particular political orthodoxy of SMU's campus culture.

"Don't look for anyone in SMU's administration to appreciate this point voluntarily. Don't look, either, for them to realize that by shutting the sale down, SMU has helped the Young Conservatives of Texas make an even stronger point about the true logic of 'diversity' that exists at their institution and at many like it across the country. The media are now spreading a message about institutional hypocrisy and double standards surrounding politics and race that readily tops the message the bake sale--whose total profit was $1.50--was originally meant to send
."

Tightly Wound opens up a can on the young man whose objections to the sale led to Southern Methodist's closing the sale down. "Perhaps Mr. Houston is referring to the portion of his college application where he was invited to check off whether he played football, lacrosse, golf, soccer, or liked to skateboard? Or maybe he meant to point out the portion of his entrance questionnaire where he was required to list instruments played, his sexual preference, eye color, languages spoken, and taste in music and literature, so that those things could be taken into account in the university's big Diversity Toteboard." Indeed. I don't ever recall having the opportunity to submit a modelling portfolio as part of an application for admission, employment, tenure, or promotion (they'd be hard pressed to assess this.)

Southern Methodist's ministry of information office of public affairs has released their side of the story, which Curmudgeonly Clerk has reviewed and found wanting. (I am unable to characterize a post that reads like a legal memorandum as a Fisking.) This follow-on post looks at the obligations of a private university to respect the First Amendment.

Two elements of Southern Methodist's policy, as represented in their own statement, come to my attention. Note first, "SMU has a designated debate area on campus for students to set up tables with information on various political issues, available to all student organizations." Is that the same thing as a free speech gazebo? Note further, "It is a violation of the University's nondiscrimination policy to sell goods at different prices based on race, ethnicity, or gender; however, signage expressing political points of view is a matter of free speech consistent with University policy." Things that make you go hmmmm .... is that first clause a precedent or a convenient justification after the fact? The "affirmative action bake sale" is itself a parody of a popular piece of guerrilla theater for International Womens' Day, namely cookie prices that reflect relative average earnings, unadjusted for age or experience. Has Southern Methodist in fact closed down such bake sales in the past? But then, isn't Southern Methodist itself violating its OWN nondiscrimination policy in offering financial aid? If there are any scholarships intended only for the right kinds of ethnicities or sexes, or if there are affirmative-action tweaks to the financial aid offers, the effect is to offer different prices based on precisely those things.

27.9.03

EUROSCLEROSIS DECONSTRUCTED. "Europe’s economy has outperformed America’s," contends Crooked Timber, who in an adjacent post point to a Mark Kleiman riposte to some Paul Johnson comments on the French way of doing things.

Professor Kleiman is certainly correct to observe, "And the idea that we can work fewer hours and enjoy higher material standards of living is a 'fantasy' only in Johnson's Puritanical fantasy life: in the real world, it's called 'economic progress' and has been going on since approximately the seventeenth century." (If not earlier: the berserkers of the tenth century were seriously underemployed compared to their forager ancestors. It is a shame that the earliest applied research into animal husbandry, crop cultivation, cheese making, and beer brewing are not written down. These all put any "aha" moments I have whether with paper and pencil or with a little help from Waterloo Maple to shame.)

Professor Johnson's full statement, however, is "The EU is built on a fantasy--that men and women can do less and less work, have longer and longer holidays and retire at an earlier age, while having their income, in real terms, and their standard of living increase. And this miracle is to be brought about by the enlightened bureaucratic regulation of every aspect of life." The fantasy he sees is in dirigisme rather than inventiveness bringing the increases in real income about. His complaint about the mandatory 35-hour week is more to the point, although he neglects to develop it. There are two developments he might have made. First, to an enterprising person, long hours on task are not necessarily a burden. (A visiting colleague recently told me that he was once locked in at Erasmus University and had to get help from security. Why? The university offices close at 17.30 and they are locked by 18.00. My colleague was in the North American mode of working on something as long as the enthusiasm was there. That the E.U. have not yet mandated panic bars on doors suggests the dirigiste state may not be as cloying as some perceive it.) Second, to the extent that the French style welfare state mandates large fixed employee-specific benefits to individual workers irrespective of hours of service, and it further limits the hours of service, it does pose substantial costs to hiring new workers. Those benefits quite likely mean that European workers who are actually employed will be quite productive.
MID-AMERICAN WHAT??? With a 24-16 win over Iowa State, the Northern Illinois Huskies have beaten three teams with recent Bowl Championship experience, from three different conferences (Atlantic Coast (no, we aren't realigning for money), Southeast, and Big Twelve). The success of Mid-American teams against ranked and formerly ranked opponents this year is likely to provide material for social scientists of varying stripes, investigating whether or not limiting the number of scholarships has led to parity among the conferences. (That's not as easy as it looks, by the way. With more scholarships, more players are not playing. The not-quite-ready-to-start player with an offer from a strong team has to consider whether to get a full ride on the bench with the strong team or an otherwise equal scholarship with more playing time on a weaker team. It is not unusual for players to leave for lower division schools to get more playing time.)

In other sporting news, it was another ugly win for Wisconsin. Although the Badgers scored the first three times they had the ball, the kick coverage team did a pretty good imitation of a sieve, and only a roughing-the-passer call on an Illinois interception return prevented Illinois from tying the score. Meanwhile, the pennant races have come to an end, a month late as usual, with the Brewers spoiling Houston's run. Chicago's Cubs play at Atlanta. As it has been a good weekend to work and play, I shall not enumerate all the reasons to despise the (formerly Milwaukee) Braves.
EXPERIENCE IT, REPORT IT. A fitting tribute to the late George Plimpton.
SLIGHT INITIATIVE. Marginal Revolution reports on game-theoretic research applied to grandmaster chess. Grandmasters employ mixed strategies in their choice of opening. They may have also discovered slight advantages to the first move. Although the modal outcome is a draw (61 percent of world championship games since 1951) the player with white pieces has won 26 percent of the games and the remaining 12 percent of the games (rounding error, guys?) are wins for the player with black pieces.

I can offer at least anecdotal support for players using their favorite strategies in non-repeated encounters. Bobby Fischer, in Sixty Memorable Games remarked on a favored exchange sacrifice against a castled King, "I've made this sacrifice so many times I feel like applying for a patent."
THE QUOTE OF THE DAY IS A QUESTION. Electric Venom asks, "Why is it that I'm a 'nag' if I ask for someone to do something that's their responsibility in the first place, and which they haven't yet done, but if I say nothing and just do it myself I get told that I 'should have just asked'...?"

26.9.03

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "And what you need to know is that on the eve of WW2, there were those who opposed involvement in Europe on practical and philosophical grounds. If they’d had a lawn-sign culture like we do, you’d have seen SAY NO TO WAR AGAINST GERMANY here and there, and “FREE POLAND” bumperstickers. It all would have seemed alarming and depressing and tiresome; how long have we been talking about his Hitler fellow, anyway? It would seem distant and remote - it’s all over there, after all - but also terribly close, since you knew someone in the service, and there were rumors of new conscription drives that might not spare guys like you, or guys like your boyfriend. It was all quite unsettling." James Lileks, who also notes how rapidly sunset goes to twilight to night this time of year.
PUNCTURING THE RESEARCH MYTH. There's lots of good discussion about the benefits and costs of academic publishing. Invisible Adjunct (just go and scroll) frets over the tension between the imperative that a scholar demonstrate evidence of scholarship and that a university press demonstrate evidence of commercial utility (this may come as a surprise, but I hold that market tests for academic research are difficult to come by. I think I stole the idea from Friedrich Hayek.) Brian at Crooked Timber concurs in part, dissents in part. Semi-Daily Journal has it about right:

"When book-fetishization, entrenched prejudices, and administrative neuroses run up against budgets, they will fall. Have every university press "publish" books that it doesn't believe will sell 2000 copies by putting .pdf files up on their respective webservers.

" If all university presses did this tomorrow, the crisis in scholarly publishing would be solved--as would the difficulty assistant professors have in finding publishers.

"We can move from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom tomorrow, if we will just open our eyes and abandon our false consciousness. The High Energy Theory subfield of physics moved from journal articles to webservers as their principal locus of intellectual activity back in 1995. It's been nearly a decade since then. Why have the rest of us not followed them
?"

Well, one difficulty vanishes, as university presses might find the option of maintaining servers rather than presses and rolls of paper attractive, and the professor does all the typesetting (Scientific Workplace to Adobe Gold, forsooth!), but the difficulty of having it peer-reviewed first remains. Professor DeLong rather modestly does not mention his colleagues' work in providing peer-reviewed electronic journals in economics. Go here and note that five of the six have the imprimatur of the American Economic Association.

But there is yet another dimension to the problem, and it involves rediscovery of the division of labor. (You really should do that research on the rights and responsibilities of the land-grants and the normal schools in the 1950s. I know, I know.) A long time ago, Charlie Sykes, in Profscam (details or compare prices provided some evidence of corruption in journal review procedures, and asserted that most of the journals could go out of business with no loss in the stock of wisdom. Perhaps so. I'll withhold commentary on that other than to note that in the late 1980s I learned of at least one proposal to start a journal to publish papers rejected by other journals. (I'll resist snarking about refereed journals not listed in Journal of Economic Literature.) It's clear to me that
(1) original research is useful
(2) without original research, education unbecomes
(3) producing original research is not for everyone and
(4) some people have comparative advantages in passing along the knowledge others have discovered.

In light of those four points, it strikes me that the one-and-only-one-road to tenure might play a role in the cost squeeze the university presses encounter.

UPDATE: Outside the Beltway is thinking along similar lines about the One Career Path model.
IT'S THE ARROW IMPOSSIBILITY THEOREM. Highered Intelligence poses a problem:

"1) A government has 8 programs, call them 1-8.
2) 75% of the people want to reduce government spending.
3) No single government program has at least 50% of the people who want to get rid of it.
4) Spending does not get reduced.

"I don't know what this is called, but there was a name for it. Something similar might be happening with collegiate education. EVERYONE wants diplomas to be worth more, but the students don't want to do the extra work and the schools don't want to lose their customers and ultimately no one is willing to take it on the chin because everyone's benefiting in one way or another from the current system
."

The first phenomenon is a voting paradox. There are a lot of those out there. The second has elements of a prisoners' dilemma, but there may be sufficiently many participants in the higher education enterprise to resolve it. Consider, first, that parents often make great sacrifices to get their kids into name schools (there's a rant coming on that vanishing middle class, probably tomorrow, which is connected to those sacrifices) and thus the students do the extra work (often the wrong kind of extra work) in high school to get into the prestige colleges and often apply themselves once they get there. As noted here, the students recognize that they are in fact not benefitting from the current system, if they're encountering schedule-completion hassles.

The prisoners' dilemma problem arises during the periods of slack enrollment, as I've discovered in conversations with colleagues, some of whom have been around these parts longer than I (yes, there are a few ... I'm amused when the Up-and-Coming seminar speaker reacts with a "wow" when they discover I've been seventeen years in one place) and who report that there is hysteresis in high-school advising. A college that tightens its admission standards in the fat years carries that reputation into the lean years, when the admissions office might have slackened standards a bit. The problem there, however, is not with the hysteresis but with the university's planning. Middle school enrollment patterns are often a pretty good indicator of college application patterns five to six years down the road, but in the thirty years I've been observing planning I've noticed promiscuous neglect of such evidence, beginning with the University of Wisconsin building a very nice dorm, erm, residence hall along the lake shore that was never used as such. (The University of Chicago's curricular reforms of the late 1990s were particularly ill-timed. Not only did they engender ill will with graduates, but they were addressing an enrollments problem that was going to go away in a few years. And an economist was leading the charge to make the change. I don't have that many hairs to pull out.)

Hypothesis: there is an equilibrium in which standards are higher and students do more work, and there are gains from trade in making those things happen.
MANDATORY FIRST AMENDMENT TRAINING? The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education takes California Polytechnic at San Luis Obispo (that Cal Poly - SLO is just a bit infelicitous, nicht wahr?) to court. Porphyrogenitus covers.
THIS DEFIES PARODY. "A City Council committee on Thursday advanced a resolution that would make Chicago the largest city in the nation to condemn the USA Patriot Act, which aldermen said is trampling the civil rights of many of their constituents." Details here (requires registration: it occurs to me that those of you who have Los Angeles Times passwords ought to be able to use those). OK, in that, nothing new, other cities have sought to opt out. What defies parody is another news story I heard on the radio, shortly after the report on the Council's actions. A few years ago the Council repealed a spitting ordinance, but did not remove it from the published Book of Rules. (I did a quick Google search and failed to turn up a story to cite.) That gives the police a useful tool. Consider a some guys, standing on the corner, pegging the thug-o-meter in their demeanor but doing nothing illegal. Cop sees the guys. One makes the mistake of unleashing a loogie. Officer has all the cause he needs to search the miscreant.
UP, DOWN, SPINNING AROUND. "Economy Grows at 3.3 Percent Annual Rate" is the headline here. Unemployment insurance claims require special seasonal adjustment. Durable goods orders down in the most recent month (there's another series that gets seasonal adjustment: the new house building season is winding down, and the Christmas season is yet to come.)
LAY TO AND PREPARE TO BE BOARDED. Although Talk Like a Pirate Day (curiously, there is no sub-dialect for university administrators at the site) was last week, there are some interesting pirate quizzes out on the seven servers.

Off the ways comes
You are a Pirate Second Class

Do you remember the last time you took a chance? I do. It was when you decided to leave the security of your mother's womb and headed for the bright light. It's time to head for the next bright light, my friend. Creativity is not your strong suit. You are good at doing what you are told to do and that, in itself, is a gift. It's not a gift to you, mind you, but rather a gift to those who will be there to tell you what to do. You like long walks on the beach and cuddling, but would never admit that to your Guy friends who think you are okay but can't always remember your name. Tapioca pudding seems a bit extreme for a fellow such as yerself, what with all the bumps and stuff. It's a good thing ye be on a pirate ship,
otherwise, ye'd would be walkin' because ye be positively pedestrian. Have a nice day.



What's Yer Inner Pirate?
brought to you by The Official Talk Like A Pirate Web Site. Arrrrr!

In the drydock is

You Are A Pirate!
You Are A Pirate!


What Type Of Swashbuckler Are You?
brought to you by Maddog Varuka & Dawg Brown

I report, ye decide, lubbers!
INFERIOR GOODS? One of the local race tracks has an advert that goes something like this: "And they're off! Out of the gate it's Get Up Early and Walk the Dog, followed by Do the Laundry and Wash the Dishes. Out of nowhere comes Call from Mom, followed by Nagging and Guilt Trip. It's Nagging, it's Guilt Trip, and Nagging is relentless ..." Makes me wonder what the race track thinks about its clientele (the advert first ran in late July and in August, and it has returned recently) and it makes me wonder who else is listening to the news-radio stations I'm hearing this on. I also have to wonder about its accuracy, in an era when schools are sending Nagging and Needs Attention notes reprimanding parents!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Going Underground's CME celebrates a birthday. Check out the pictures of recent transport advertising.
PLAGIARISM AS THE HISTORIAN'S PLAGUE. Get thee to Milt's File (and while you're there, see if he's lamenting "there goes the neighborhood," or if he has more in mind.
DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT HISTORY. Not just a soundtrack for a collegiate movie anymore, reports Joanne Jacobs. On the other hand, "don't know much biology" might not be accurate anymore.
EMERGENCE. Saddam departs, Crazy TV Lenny arrives. Details at Dynamist.
73s TO YOU, KIM. Number 2 Pencil's Kimberly Swygert has been having a bad week, with a car crash and a missed diagnosis. Despite all that, she promises to provide more posts of the weekend.
REMEMBERING FRANCO MODIGLIANI. Marginal Revolution notes the death of Economics Nobel Laureate Franco Modigliani, and provides a link to the Washington Post's obituary.

25.9.03

ECONOMICS ENVY? Daniel Drezner reacts strongly to David Adesnik's comments on the methodology of political science. Well worth a look, and be sure to go to the cross-referenced posts. (Signifying Nothing is all over the story here and here.) I'm content to observe, and to offer only these observations.

1. It is difficult to analyze data sets of any kind, new or old, without some sort of testable implications in mind a priori. That doesn't equate in my mind to microeconomics envy, in fact economists are content to let theorists theorize whether or not their work produces any testable implications.

2. The rewards to developing new data sets are proportional to the published research one can produce with them. The opportunity costs of developing such data sets are higher than those of using existing ones, but the returns are potentially greater. (This is from someone who bet his career early on on some hero projects involving his own data sets.)
INSUFFICIENT OPTIONS. Provocative Crooked Timber post on "The Rhetoric of Reaction," with a lively interchange in the comments section. Here are the options the post considers:

1. It isn't true.
2. It may be true, but it doesn't matter.
3. It’s true, and it matters, but doing something about it would (a) have the perverse effect of making that thing worse, or (b) make something else worse. etc etc.


I suppose there's
4. It's true, but it's improving.

Perhaps that's my experience with the North American variant of "right" thinking showing, where much of the debate over the effectiveness of (pick 'em) the New Deal, or the Great Society, or deregulation is about improvements in the lot of the poorest or most vulnerable absent targeted or well-intended policy changes.
WHY NOT MEET AT SCROOBY? "Church of England evangelicals go Puritan" is how Midwest Conservative Journal introduces Guardian coverage of some resistance in the Anglican Communion to the latest call for consensus from Canterbury and York (if memory serves, that's #1 and #2 in the hierarchy.) The schism continues to develop. Again, free-associating, there is sometimes something wrong with the notion of consensus ... under some circumstances, that's just another word for "tyranny of the majority." Sometimes the governing body has to recognize that there is an opposition, and sometimes the opposition just might be right.
FOURTH TURNING ALERT. Power Line suggests the fault line will be within the Western world view. (Just keep scrolling. Power Line has a number of posts on the fault line, and related topics.)

UPDATE: Shot in the Dark has some thoughts on related topics, including the prejudices of the cognitive elite.

(He also, by invoking the aging urban hippie in the upscale neighborhood, provokes the following wicked thought: can you infer something about a bicyclist's politics by whether or not he wears a helmet? Does that also apply to those recumbent bicycles? I have yet to see anyone riding one of those things who isn't wearing a helmet. And on those things, the rider's head is closer to the ground than it would be on an ancient Schwinn commuter bike ...)
MEASURE OUTPUT, NOT INPUT. John Hawkins has done some legwork in the OECD databases on teacher salaries and student achievement.
AND YET ANOTHER COOKIE SALE CENSORED. Details at SCSU Scholars. In this case, the sale operators broke out prices by sex and race. Is there any history at the university where this sale occurred of the advocates of pay equity for women holding a sale where they break out the prices by sex? (If so, the university in closing down the recent sale might be guilty of selective indignation. No big surprise there, I suppose. Moreover, in tolerating the pay-equity sale, the university marginalizes its economics department.)

UPDATE: Dynamist has more, including a link to some original thinking about the phenomenon.

24.9.03

FORBIDDEN TRANSGRESSIVENESS. "Fraternities are, symbolically, speaking, the last bastions of unrepentant wealthy white maleness on campus, and as such they are attractive targets for every campus' self-appointed sensitivity police. Fraternities, of course, understand this as well as anyone--which is why they throw such parties in the first place. If contempt is always already coming your way, you might as well court it." You guessed it: the backward-ballcap set at Duke (that might be inaccurate in the South: this article will not tell you that sometimes the Big Men on Campus dress up, as do their dates, to attend football games) had a theme party that gave offense. Critical Mass comments.
STRIVERS? Joanne Jacobs looks at British efforts to increase working-class enrollments in the better universities, by way of a different form of affirmative action. There's more at Samizdata.
AN EXAMPLE IS NOT A PROOF, BUT A COUNTEREXAMPLE CAN BE A DISPROOF. Newmark's Door takes issue with Joe Stiglitz on the sources of innovation.
AT WAR. Milt's File recommends a Mark Helprin essay that argues the current efforts against international terrorism are inadequate against a backdrop of a thousand-year conflict between Islamic and Christian polities. Charlie Sykes posts 23 questions that he'd like to ask opponents of the liberation of Iraq. Advocates might want to answer these questions as well. Common Sense and Wonder links to some impressions a former police chief from New York City brings back from Baghdad. Atlantic Blog recommends a spot-on cartoon (may require registration.)
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Would 'twere that more people could communicate information effectively and tersely at the same time!" (The Knowledge Problem.) Quite so. Aspiring writers would do well to read and understand Rights of Trains (details or compare prices,) particularly those sections on the approved forms of train orders. Length or verbosity do not equate to profundity.
CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES beams down to Pathetic Earthlings. Once again, the host shows creativity in arranging and theming the posts.
MEASURE INPUTS, NOT OUTPUTS. Suzanne Fields contrasts spending with achievement in the government schools, concludes that the money is not being deployed well. (Does that give new meaning to the bumper sticker, "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance?") Milt's File, which pointed to the Fields column, notes, "The one thing she leaves out is how higher education has been 'dumbed down' to accomodate the poorly educated among the cohort that reach the college level." Perhaps NOW is the time to begin changing that situation. These are no longer the middle 1990s, when universities might have seen some value in cosseting students in order to maintain enrollments (although their purposes in so doing might have been motivated for cosmetic reasons, showing their commitment to "diversity," or in order to keep sufficient fee money coming in to pay off the mortgages on the new administrative -- hardly ever academic -- buildings and the athletic facilities.)

In a related post, The American Mind weighs in on the consequences of universities morphing into trade schools that do the job badly -- once the degree loses its signalling value, what role will there be for the university? This is not a trivial point, as businesses are already spending heavily on basic skills training that the common schools used to do. And once again, NOW is the time to confront that problem, while there is sufficient enrollment pressure that individual professors, with the support of their universities if it's offered, without if necessary, can weed out the underachievers.

23.9.03

OFF. ON? Asymmetrical Information reports a reversal from the Ninth Circus Circuit. For now, the California recall goes on as initially scheduled. Additional details at Priorities and Frivolities.
IDENTIFICATION PROBLEM. What grade would an econometrics term paper get, if it attempted to quantify the effect of a steel tariff on employment in steel-using industries, without controlling for the business cycle? Such a report, however, might be close enough for government work. More in a similar vein here, including suggestions that the tariff fails to deliver the political benefits the Administration sought.
PROTECTING COMPETITORS IS NOT PROTECTING COMPETITION. Wisconsin's minimum markup law still hasn't gone away, notes Charlie Sykes. (The law has one redeeming feature, because it always provides a way to get students back into economics mode after the Thanksgiving stand-down. You can almost count on a store operator, somewhere, holding a clearance sale on turkeys of the Christmas-shopping Friday that runs afoul (a-fowl??) of the law.)
THIS DEFIES PARODY. Cal Pundit passes along the story of Representative Don Young (R.-Alaska) removing some airports from the list of traffic control towers to be privatized. Why? Because the Representative maintains a room in a Sheraton near one of the airports, and he wants to be sure the airport operates safely.

Let's see if I get this straight. A pilot is intent on Osama-bin-Ladening Representative Young in his hotel. (As if the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is a 72-olive target, but I digress.) What possible difference does the employer of the traffic controller who clears the pilot for take-off make in the operation of the aircraft, once it has taken off?
LET'S REMEMBER OUR HISTORY. Power Line comments on Vice President Mondale's explanation for why he advocated higher income taxes. "Mondale must have forgotten how Ronald Reagan, after beating Mondale, cut taxes and created the biggest economic boom in history" (quoting Richard Johnson.) Erm, no, not quite. President Reagan carried those 49 states in 1984. In 1986 he signed a tax reform act that put in place one of the biggest expansions of the tax base in history. Marginal tax rates matter, but so do exclusions, exemptions, deductions, and credits, many of which ceased to be after the signing of that law.

UPDATE: Tapped on the same point, albeit with editorial comment.
BON GIORNO. The Knowledge Problem returns to normal operations, after an antiquities-rich sojourn in Italy, with things that make you want to scream.

22.9.03

WORKING ON THE RAILROAD. The For Better or For Worse comic strip has focused on the adventures of the kids with college, dating, and starting their own families of late. The model railroad that figured in some strips a few years ago has been absent. Not so in real life. Cartoonist Lynn Johnston is really married to a dentist, who is semi-retired, and his business for retirement is manufacturing and selling 1/12 actual size model trains you can ride on (the company recommends bringing your own grandchildren.) Model Railroader (registration required) has some coverage of the company, which also serves as Rod Johnston's latest model railroad. (I would guess that he still has the smaller stuff in the basement, as an outdoor railroad in North Bay, Ontario, really has to contend with snow and ice on the tracks, and frost heaves in the spring.)
BEER AND CIRCUSES. Via Number 2 Pencil comes A Small Victory's coverage of a football camp hazing incident gone horribly wrong (warning: involves numerous violations of the Royal Navy's Articles of War for which the bugger violator shall suffer death). But in addition to the injury suffered by some of the participants in the hazing comes a protest by some of the campers and their friends. It transpires that the school administration showed some backbone, and cancelled the entire football season. That was reason enough for the team members, cheerleaders, and hangers-on to boycott classes in protest, and for the booster club to get up in arms. As A Small Victory notes, the whole team is to blame, and the whole team must suffer the consequences (which did not include any hangings from the yardarms.) If It Takes A Village, clearly here is a village with much to recommend it. Not. Reminds me: got to follow up on that chumming incident powder-puff football game and underage drinking party that got out of hand. Got to discover whether some of the perps have since been amnestied (or enrolled here??)
WELCOME BACK. Tongue Tied is back in operation, after a transoceanic move, with lots of goodies. This report ties in well with Highered Intelligence and SCSU Scholars commentary on Boston Globe coverage of Harvard President (and economist extraordinaire) Larry Summers's call for a hard look at general education.

Clearly, when a weak department challenges criticism of its academic weaknesses because the criticism neglects -- indeed, allegedly is stronger because of -- the diversity of the department in question, the dilettantes are in charge.

The Highered Intelligence post ties in with my previous post on mission differentiation among universities, something that I perceive to be eroding inefficiently. My focus was on the evolution of a different kind of academic pecking order among faculty members, with research-based tenure track coexisting uneasily with insecurity-based adjunct track as the modern norm, rather than different kinds of tenure tracks for different kinds of colleges and universities, as I perceive was the case long ago. Highered Intelligence focuses on the nature of education and the purposes of students, in a way that also ties in with the holding pen meme. Consider "UCLA (motto: On! Wisconsin!) undergraduates are really two different types of people: science majors and non-science majors. The difference is, at times, striking. (Please remember that I am generalizing here, so don't send me email complaining about it unless you really mean to argue with the generalization.) The Science Majors are dedicated to their work, and interested in their work. They work hard at their work. They have to, because the departments don't allow you to coast through. Math and science majors at UCLA (repeat motto) know their subjects, and quite often this approach spills over to their other classes. Many of the chemistry majors I knew were more conversant in literature than the English majors.

"The social sciences and humanities, while they certainly have their stars, are populated by and large with students whose goal is simply to get a diploma... and it doesn't really matter in what that diploma is. The humanities diploma from UCLA
(motto) is a credential... a signifier to the rest of society that the bearer is a reasonably competent individual who knows how to read and can probably learn new things with little difficulty. As far as substantive knowledge goes, the humanities undergraduate who was able to discuss their major coherently was a rare creature at UCLA. They're not there for the knowledge, they are there for the sheepskin."

While I disagree in part with the generalization about social and behavioral sciences, I am prepared to grant for the sake of discussion that relatively few people who are in university for the signalling value of the degree will major in chemistry, or mathematics, and it's a perpetual struggle to disabuse the people who have not made the cut at the college of business that an economics major is a cheap substitute. Hence the signalling value conflicts with the human capital value of a degree.

So what's the connection to the service differentiation post? Only this: at one time the dilettantes went to the finishing schools or sometimes the converted normal schools; the strivers went to the undergraduate programs at the research universities or to the land-grants. Today's more-or-less-undistinguishable comprehensive university attempts to serve the dilettantes and the strivers alike, and as Number 2 Pencil notes, perhaps the admissions policies are supposed to yield a mix of strivers and of dilettantes.
SO YOU CAN LEARN PLAYGROUND WORDS. Joanne Jacobs links to some research on the real socialization effects of high school, and Arnold Kling looks at the extension of the holding pen metaphor in that research to the university.

(An explanation of the rather obscure header: my parents were not happy with some of the new vocabulary I acquired at first grade. Their way of explaining the rule was that there were playground words not to be used inside the house, especially around guests. I have long asked people who have good things to say about the socialization kids get in school whether that includes learning the playground words.)
QUICK QUAGMIRE QUIZ. Fill in the blanks: "__________ years later, __________-administered __________ is still not sovereign, and __________ was there __________ saying "I think we belong here until our job is finished." (Answer here (for the registered). Hat tip: Milt's File.)
QUICK STUDY. Milt Rosenberg is now using permalinks on each post. (But are he and Dan Drezner singing "I get by with a little help from my friends?")
AT WAR. What are the facts on the ground? InstaPundit has a roundup of reports from the front, and commentary on the coverage. Representative Jim Marshall (D.-Georgia) offers some impressions, Black Five (refers to paratroops, not steam locomotives) has a survey of recent literature, and Glenn Reynolds also devoted his Big Media site to the topic. Christian Parenti reports a different set of facts on the ground.

UPDATE: Virginia Postrel provides some perspective on why the snapshots of reality are messy, and notes the difficulty of making sense of it all from Stateside. She also finds news that U.S. combat troops are no longer quartered in Saudi Arabia. One bin Laden objective achieved, albeit not under circumstances entirely favorable to al-Qaeda?
TOYS FOR IRAQI CHILDREN. Chief Wiggles is taking the initiative in getting toys for children in Iraq. He has a few suggestions for what would be useful, and a few suggestions for what would give offense, and a mailing address. (His own, and commendations for making it happen.) Pass the word along.

21.9.03

SEEKING A JOB IN ECONOMICS. Harvard's advice to new Ph.D.s (via Semi-Daily Journal.)
GETTING BEYOND THE WELFARE ECONOMICS PARADIGM? Semi-Daily Journal seeks a positive theory of "government success" in order to bring what he views as "mainstream economics" back into the conversation about political economy, which in his view has come to be dominated by the public choice theorists (aren't there a few Marxists and institutionalists still thinking about these things?) to the detriment of economics, and to policy making. The place to begin might be with basic economics. The welfare economics paradigm begins with some fairly tight theorizing (under conditions 1, 2, 3, and 4, a competitive equilibrium exists and is Pareto optimal. The role of government becomes either to provide the basic rules of trading, or to make transfers of endowments to provide the initial allocation from which the Pareto optimal equilibrium will emerge) and continues with additional theorizing (under any of conditions 1', 2', 3', and 4' existence or Pareto optimality do not follow) leading to proposals for policies that a properly-informed government can implement. Here is where the paradigm breaks down, as there is a great deal of research, which the public choice advocates view as persuasive, to the effect that traders can discover and improvise ways to eliminate the inefficiencies, or that the theoretically preferable policies break down, or that the agents of the government are themselves rational maximizers.
INCEST IS BEST? Marginal Revolution links to evidence and commentary on the extent and possible effects of consanguinity (the son marries his father's brother's daughter) on the evolution of nation-states rather than tribal states, Marginal Revolution find it difficult to establish causal connections. Let me complicate things further: any family historian who checks out a Mayflower connection in a serious way is likely to discover several lines of descent from the same Mayflower Compact signer, particularly in the fourth to eighth generations (the generations that were involved in the War of Independence and the Founding of the Republic.)
SCORING FIRST DOESN'T ALWAYS MATTER, NOR DOES SCORING LAST. North Carolina's Michael Waddell returned the opening kickoff 97 yards, and C. J. Stephens passed to Jesse Holly for a touchdown on the last play of the game, but Wisconsin won the remaining 59 minutes 53 seconds, 38-13. (And what's with this business about referring to the University of North Carolina as "Carolina." That's almost as goofy as referring to the Chicago Great Western Railway as "the Great Western." Everybody knows that "the Great Western" gets no closer to Chicago than Penzance.) Wisconsin's kickoff coverage teams continue to imitate a sieve, and their goal-line offense continues to be inefficient, but the game made for good drive-time listening.

Later the same day, Alabama's red elephants scored an early touchdown on a long pass, and a late touchdown on a long run, not quite enough, however, as Northern Illinois prevailed 19-16.

20.9.03

OPPORTUNITY COSTS. Invisible Adjunct finds some special pleading by UIC's Stanley Fish (registration required) about the difficulties of being a university administrator these days. "You're telling me that state funds are being withdrawn at the same time expenses are exceeding tuition by a factor of three to one. How can you stay in business?" Dean Fish would rather whinge than do what the times call for. His reaction to some proposals to cap tuition increases is interesting: "And now, on top of this, comes the threat of Mr. McKeon's bill. First of all, it seems curious to find members of the free-market Republican Party advocating price controls. In fact, it is downright unbusinesslike. Because if a business were to find itself with rising costs and falling revenues it would lop off unprofitable lines, close units, downsize the work force, relax quality control and, of course, raise prices to whatever level the traffic would bear. In university terms, this would mean offering fewer courses, closing departments, sending students elsewhere, skimping on advising, hiring the pedagogical equivalent of migrant workers, eliminating remedial programs, ejecting the students for whom remedial programs are necessary, reducing health and counseling services, admitting fewer students and inventing fees for everything from registration to breathing." In Dean Fish's world, the remedial programs are necessary, not a drag on the education enterprise. Likewise the therapeutic offices. Presumably, the diversity boondoggles and the assessment of the obvious are all Totally Necessary. Not only that, Dean Fish is reluctant to raise tuitions. To repeat: the private benefits to a university degree recipient are large, and universities ought not be ashamed to make that point, and harvest a share of those gains from trade for themselves.

Swarthmore's John Burke notes, "What [Fish is] wrong about is the implication of his rhetoric, that sweeping threat to all programs and services, that higher education must choose to cut everything indiscriminately, that there cannot be a systematic logic to the reduction of its mission." I've put my little list out for all to see and to react to. Via Milt's File (another newsie who has yet to discover permalinks) I discover a Manhattan Institute working paper (warning: think tank with a point of view) that claims "Only 70% of all students in public high schools graduate, and only 32% of all students leave high school qualified to attend four-year colleges." The problems confronting the government-assisted universities will not be solved until the problems of the government-operated schools are solved. Moreover, Professor Burke, in attempting to link Dean Fish's plea with New York University President John Sexton's proposal (also requires registration, via The Little Professor) that professors become more active in teaching. Burke's fear: "[Sexton is] not talking about the reduction of higher education, but at least on the surface, about its expansive re-invention. If many are skeptical when they read his proposals, it may not be because they have any particular reason to doubt Sexton's sincerity or even the conceptual attractiveness of his ideas, but because they know that established and powerful interests within the NYU faculty will not permit those ideas to be implemented in their most desirable and idealistic form. Sexton might say that a new 'teaching faculty' ought to be viewed as the peers of the traditional tenured research-oriented faculty, but even if he desperately wants that, the established faculty will rapidly subordinate and denigrate such faculty as being second-raters.

"Such a faculty would have no external source of validation to draw upon: no publications, no peer networks, no reputation capital. Or worse yet, their only source of external validation would derive from academically oriented Departments of Education, which would simply draw a teaching faculty back into the usual hierarchies of academic value, as experimental animals for education researchers. A 'great' teacher in John Sexton's new NYU would only be great in my estimation by what they did in the classroom, and there are and can be no external standards commonly agreed upon that would allow us to compare one such great teacher with the next, to create a platform for the accumulation of reputation capital that would put Sexton's teaching faculty on an equal plane with the established ranks of academic scholars
."

Both
The Little Professor and Apt. 11-D weigh in with comments on the Sexton proposal and the Burke editorial, raising similar questions about the creation of another job classification that is essentially steerage. Perhaps a review of some history is in order. Long ago, there were the famous research universities (Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Yale, Chicago), the land-grant universities (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan State), the finishing schools (Macalester, Carleton, Middlebury), and the normal schools (Superior State, Northern Illinois, Indiana State.) I might have to spend some time in the archives looking at the job descriptions, tenure criteria, teaching and administrative responsibilities, and research output among these types of universities. These at one time coexisted yet were different (I have no way of judging what sort of social pecking order would have existed among those institutions.) More recently, I perceive them as becoming more alike in their strategies, their requirements of faculties, and their problems. The NYU president's recent proposal might mean nothing more than a rediscovery by some of these institutions, including my own, of their original roles.
THE BURDENS OF RESPONSIBILITY. Of all the evenings to leave the radio off so as to grade papers!

Daniel Drezner puts in an appearance on Milt Rosenberg's Extension 720, along with two other scholar-webloggers. The audience inspires Professor Rosenberg to get started in weblogging (he had been doing something similar on the WGN server previously) and the show may have teased out the identity of the "Australian listener on the Internet" who often sends challenging e-mails to the Extension 720 panel.
ANTIPHONY. King Banaian at SCSU Scholars explains trading fours, then offers further commentary on my proposal that university administrators help earn the university's keep. Professor Banaian's objection, stated simply, is that many administrators might be failures as teachers, as well as failed scholars. ("And as for getting these people to have any empathy for the daily rhythm of teaching faculty? I don't think they can lay down that beat.") Or enter a fifth above, or a fifth down. (Classic O Scale and Baroque counterpoint, hard to beat that combination.) Perhaps not. Turf 'em out then, I say. I base my argument on a management insight from Admiral Daniel V. Gallery, the commander of the task force that captured the German submarine U-505 now anchored in Chicago. (And if you enjoyed The Hunt for Red October and never read U-505 (details or comparison shop) lay to the wardroom and do so.) Admiral Gallery made friends after the War with Captain Loewe, who commanded the crew of plank owners. Loewe was seconded to another submarine and he was not in command when the Admiral's task force captured U-505. One of Loewe's strategies to maintain crew morale was to stand the watch of the winner of the weekly revolution count contest. (This might strike the landlubber as dumb, to hold a contest to guess what the number on the meter counting screw revolutions would be at 1500 hours, Berlin time, each Sunday, but recall that naval warfare is long periods of boredom interspersed with minutes of sheer terror. The revolution count contest adds a break from the routine of motoring to station.) In order for Loewe to do that, he had to be sufficiently familiar with the workings of a submarine to be able to handle whatever duties that watch entailed, which might be the headphones (no active sonar on German boats) or the torpedo room or the power plant.

All I'm asking is that any administrator who comes from the ranks of the faculty be prepared to stand one kind of watch, which is to teach a section or two of an introductory class in his field. And if I were Grossadmiral, any administrator who offered some excuse or objection would be off my staff as quickly as I could arrange a hearing. Professor Banaian is correct to fear that there are some in the 8 to 4.30 set who have no ear for scholarship or teaching. That state of affairs is something that I would like to see changed.
WORKING ON THE RAILROAD. A new locomotive has arrived at Cold Spring Shops headquarters, and some classic freight cars have arrived to provide additional work for the locomotives. One of the freight cars has already been weighted and otherwise brought up to interchange standards, inspected, and placed in service.

For those of you who are inspired to get into model railroading, Where Worlds Collide has some suggestions about getting started. Joining a club, or simply assisting your neighbors at their construction sessions, is a particularly useful bit of advice. You can see a lot just by watching.

18.9.03

RENT SEEKING IN A NUTSHELL. Marginal Revolution, from Harper's Index, suggesting it's time to go looking for Smarter Harper's.
REAL LIVE DEATH OF OCEAN VIEW PARK. Fox News has tape of a maintainer at Virginia Beach battening down a sky tower ride as Force Four grows. Batten the hatches, secure all loose objects, take in the to'gns, and reef the mains. (The tape is from daylight, presumably the man finished his task and went inland. The title refers to a rather hokey movie about an amusement park that committed suicide.)

17.9.03

OPPORTUNITY COSTS ONLY. There has not as yet been any response to the Northern Star proposal to raise admission standards in the school paper, although the SCSU Scholars have weighed in. It sounds as if their reality is somewhat different. Our trustees also approved a tuition increase, but the Demand Curve has been shifting to the right in such a way as to swamp the ceteris paribus effect of a higher price. Result: closed classes, larger classes, frustrated students.

So, what would it cost to have some administrators teach real classes? (I am ruling out the learn-about-college-for-college-credit courses here, and, yes, some Deans do teach a class, but it's the converted professors or Ph.D.s with few publications who serve as assistant-tos that I'm thinking about here. Presumably they could teach sections of basic courses in their fields.)

First, we lose some administrative meetings and some scheming up of new requests for information to send to the faculty. Second, we might get some sense from the 8.00 to 4.30 crowd about what our reality on the faculty has been, i.e. we can find time in our schedule to teach more courses, we can find time in our schedule to teach more students per course, we can find time in our schedule to fill in assessment reports, we can find time in our schedule to develop new forms of assessment, we can find time in our schedule to fill in the same human resources form for each external speaker. Third, we'd be less subject to criticism for relying on part-timers and inexperienced graduate students to teach courses. On that last point, Invisible Adjunct located the University of Phoenix job descriptions. I suppose if you want to talk shop for three hours a week and call it college (Adam Smith: "People of the same trade seldom gather together ...) you can, but there's got to be a selling point in offering a serious education in the foibles of the world as opposed to some tips to get through your next promotion review. And it does no good for the University to be expanding its administrative tail and filling it with people who have no experience in the classroom.

(A PS to King: what is "trading fours?")