30.1.16

THIS WILL BOOST U.S. NEWS RANKINGS SALES.

Sara Goldrick-Rab proposes that higher education reframe the way it talks about itself.
College isn’t what it used to be. Today it’s full of those so-called “nontraditional” students in need of “remediation” and lots of “financial aid.” We have to adapt in order to accommodate their “needs” and “deficiencies.”

Right?

Nah.

This common discourse is all kinds of wrong. Today’s students are regular people. The privileged people are “nontraditional!” Those fortunate few who get to attend amazing high schools with great college preparation and who can afford college easily — they are in the minority. But colleges have long focused on catering to that elite group’s whims and desires, never referring to their “challenges” with, for example, conspicuous consumption.
I concur in part and dissent in part.  It is a libel to think of first-generation or non-traditional as synonymous with less capable of handling college work. That's her Tenth Suggestion.  I'd rank that as the First Suggestion.  Requiring administrators to teach a class?  I'd amend that to say, an upper-division class in a traditional field.  Carla Montgomery of Northern Illinois did so, in geology.  Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain at Bowdoin did so, years ago, in anything but mathematics, with rebel bullet fragments in his gut.  None of this Retention 101 stuff.  Professors advising students?  Helps both the professor and the student negotiate the bureaucracy.

And yet, without a commitment to provide such students with the intellectual challenges that are de rigueur at the hundred institutions claiming to be in the top twenty, the same dynamic of avoiding the subprime party schools and the institutions that are reprising high school will be at work.

GETTING OFF THE LIBERAL PLANTATION.

I believe the editorial writers of The Wall Street Journal coined that phrase.

Tea Party image.

Now comes Margaret Kimberley, calling out Michigan's politicians in a similar way.
Hillary Clinton stated the obvious, that the governor should ask for federal help. In return for stating the obvious Clinton received an endorsement from Flint’s mayor Karen Weaver.

That act shows that there is in fact no useful black politics in this country. The mayor had a golden opportunity to advocate for her constituents. She could have said that Flint deserved at least as much as Syrian terrorists. She could have demanded full restitution for property owners and free health care for residents poisoned by the water supply. She could have made those demands and withheld any endorsement without a commitment to restore her city. She could have acted like the bankers who pushed Detroit into bankruptcy with derivative schemes and still elbowed their way to the front of the line to be paid first.

Instead she acted like the supplicants that all black politicians end up becoming. Weaver was eager to get on the band wagon for some paltry reward like being a super delegate for Hillary while people in Flint can’t drink, wash or bathe without donated water.

Flint is ground zero in the campaign to get black people out of the nation’s cities. Once that happens capital will suddenly reappear and Flint will be declared “up and coming” or “hot.” Those words will be a sign that the neo-liberal mission has been accomplished. The poisoned people will be gone and the people who should have represented them will still be in place. Unless of course someone is willing to fight for a truly democratic country.
There's nothing new under the sun. Anybody else remember when "urban renewal" was transformed, Cockney-rhyming-slang fashion, into "Negro removal?"
Michigan’s emergency financial manager system – a weapon of corporate dictatorship imposed selectively on heavily Black and brown cities and school systems – is the lead-tipped point of the spear that is gutting urban Black America. It is not a unique instrument – and certainly not a Republican invention – but part of Wall Street’s tool kit to starve, bulldoze, redline, over-price, oppressively police, and even poison Black people out of the urban centers.
With, then and now, the connivance of technocrats and Democrat politicians.

NOW GO AFTER THE INTELLECTUAL FOUNDATIONS.

A computer science instructor at Portland Community College (via College Fixpushes back against the latest addition to Identity Politics Spring, which now adds "Whiteness History" to April (poor, overworked April, but February and March are already spoken for by the Oppression Olympics gold and silver medalists.)

He's thinking about the right things, but the intellectual foundations of his argument are much deeper.
We are told that power must be redistributed in a more equitable manner. But power isn’t distributed like coupons.
He's focusing on power, rather than on "privilege." These are distinct concepts, neither of which appear on the project's announcement page.  Loosely, "power" is the ability to compel others to do what you want, and "privilege" is the ability to interact easily with others.  Thus, the dissenting view addresses both concepts, although incompletely.
Power is acquired by personal effort. It is not given. But by all means teach the skills of acquisition of power. Become proficient in English. There is one of the most powerful tools available. Become proficient in the use of a computer and you will have at your fingertips a tool more powerful than any human before you has ever possessed.
Perhaps that's a gripe about the identity-politics complex stealing resources from the academic departments, which is a useful thing to do.   But without a stronger understanding of the meaning of the term, and about the evolutionary stability of mutually beneficial interactions, it's an incomplete gripe.

If, dear reader, you want to encourage students to master the fundamentals rather than whine about injustice, please consider this.
Let's suppose, for the sake of argument, that the Perpetually Aggrieved would like to extend the set of automatic operations [that people engage in almost instinctively] to offering employment or retail assistance or endorsement without regard to race, creed, color, national origin, family circumstance, or university degree.  Then there'd be less reason to call attention to flawed politically correct arguments, because there'd be fewer flawed politically correct arguments in the first place.
Perhaps the way forward is for the diversity bureaucracy at Portland Community to stop excusing the shortcomings of affirmative action admits, or something, or at least to stop mau-mauing the white students and faculty. That might be where the letter of protest is going.
But the grievance industry doesn’t want people to acquire personal power. It wants to reinforce their identity as victims. Only by keeping targeted groups convinced of their own powerlessness can it maintain its own control over them. The equity and inclusion people, the community organizers, the women’s resources groups, the minority studies “scholars” all reap huge benefits from their sordid and self-serving business.
Yes, and here is why their business is sordid and self-serving.
Bourgeois interacts with bourgeois: agreements are made, agreements are kept, mutually beneficial interactions emerge, living conditions improve.

Underclass interacts with underclass: lives are made worse, or lives are ended.

Underclass interacts with bourgeois: someone gets swindled, or the gentry intellectuals seek the sanction of the victim to get the bourgeois to kick in for the maintenance of the underclass.
The protest letter, incomplete though it is, represents a victim removing his sanction. Let the rebellion continue.

COMPETITION BIDS UP PRICES.

Fast Company reports that the day care business is not exempt from that law of conservation.
Recent analysis from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that in 33 states and the District of Columbia, infant care costs exceed the average cost of in-state college tuition at public four-year institutions.
There's probably a simple regression analysis to run and clarify the extent to which higher day-care bills track female labor force participation and household incomes.  But it's rare to see, to a first approximation, day care expenses tracking incomes.
"Women lose $11,000 a year on average because of the pay gap, which incidentally is just about the average yearly cost of child care in the U.S.," Tracy Sturdivant, cofounder and codirector of Make It Work, a campaign to advance economic security for working women, men, and families, points out.
At the margin, oughtn't the equilibrium working mom be indifferent between staying attached to the labor force (which makes the so-called pay gap go away) or leaving the labor force (which depresses lifetime earnings).  Am I missing something here, to observe that the price of a service reflects the value of its marginal product?  But Ms Sturdivant isn't going to let an arbitrage argument get in the way of a good rant.
In order to retain talented parents, Sturdivant says there are some things employers can do to ease the strain, beginning by ensuring they're paying women and men the same amount for equal work.

"Additionally," she says, "employers can support working parents through policies like fair, flexible scheduling, paid sick days, and paid family leave, so that they’re never forcing their employees to choose between work and family."
It's likely that employers are already paying comparable workers comparable salaries, otherwise there are arbitrage opportunities for workers or for corporate raiders. It's also likely that managers don't want to antagonize single or empty-nester employees by sticking them with extra work and calling it a family-friendly policy.  And workers might be opting off the 24/7 treadmill, kids or not.

Heck, old New Leftist Nancy Fraser is having second thoughts about the way vanguardists deconstructed the existing institutions.
For me, feminism is not simply a matter of getting a smattering of individual women into positions of power and privilege within existing social hierarchies. It is rather about overcoming those hierarchies. This requires challenging the structural sources of gender domination in capitalist society — above all, the institutionalized separation of two supposedly distinct kinds of activity: on the one hand, so-called “productive” labor, historically associated with men and remunerated by wages; on the other hand, “caring” activities, often historically unpaid and still performed mainly by women. In my view, this gendered, hierarchical division between “production” and “reproduction” is a defining structure of capitalist society and a deep source of the gender asymmetries hard-wired in it. There can be no “emancipation of women” so long as this structure remains intact.
In the days before scientific medicine and agriculture, and mechanized manufacturing, heck, before manufacturing of any kind, that "hard-wiring" looks a lot like an evolutionary stable strategy. Those developments made a greater prosperity possible, but their adoption and diffusion have been emergent, although the most successful adaptations thereto have not emerged.  But women participating in the labor force cannot be faulted, as Ms Fraser is, for seeking more favorable terms of employment.  That's what identifying and acting upon gains from trade is all about, and working hours and vacations are two margins along which an employer and an employee can optimize.
Mainstream feminism has adopted a thin, market-centered view of equality, which dovetails neatly with the prevailing neoliberal corporate view. So it tends to fall into line with an especially predatory, winner-take-all form of capitalism that is fattening investors by cannibalizing the living standards of everyone else. Worse still, this feminism is supplying an alibi for these predations. Increasingly, it is liberal feminist thinking that supplies the charisma, the aura of emancipation, on which neoliberalism draws to legitimate its vast upward redistribution of wealth.
Let us draw the curtain of charity.

No, let's let Ms Fraser have a good wallow in the sixties.
In the 1970s, feminists developed a powerful critique of the postwar cultural ideal known as the “family wage.” That ideal held that women should be full-time homemakers and their husbands should be the family’s sole (or at least principal) breadwinners, earning enough to support an entire household. Certainly, only a minority of American families managed to achieve this ideal. But it had enormous currency in a phase of capitalism premised on mass-production manufacturing and relatively well-paid unionized work for (especially white) men. All that changed, however, with the eruption of second-wave feminism, which rejected the family wage as sexist, a pillar of male domination and women’s dependency. At this stage, the movement still shared the anticapitalist ethos of the New Left. Its critique was not aimed at valorizing wage labor, still less at denigrating unpaid carework. On the contrary, the feminists of this period were challenging the androcentrism of a society that prioritized “profits over people,” economic production over human and social reproduction. They sought to transform the system’s deep structures and animating values — in part by decentering wage work and valorizing unwaged activities, especially the socially necessary carework performed by women.
Fifty years of no-fault divorce and bastardy and the rise of the pick-up artists later, how well has that turned out?

Not well.  But it's more fun to rant than to analyze.
Today, the feminist critique of the family wage has assumed an altogether different cast. Its overwhelming thrust is now to validate the new, more “modern” household ideal of the “two earner family,” which requires women’s employment and squeezes out time for unpaid carework. In endorsing this ideal, the mainstream feminism of the present aligns itself with the needs and values of contemporary neoliberal capitalism. This capitalism has conscripted women into the paid work force on a massive scale, while also exporting manufacturing to the global south, weakening trade unions, and proliferating low-paid, precarious McJobs. What this has meant, of course, is declining real wages, a sharp rise in the number of hours of paid work per household needed to support a family, and a desperate scramble to transfer carework to others in order to free up more time for paid work. How ironic, then, that it is given a feminist gloss! The feminist critique of the family wage, once directed against capitalism’s devaluation of caregiving, now serves to intensify capitalism’s valorization of waged labor.
Would she rather that the manufacturing not be exported to the global south, thus setting off a Malthusian dynamic, rather than reducing the number of people scraping out a living the way their ancestors half a millennium ago did?

As far as "conscripting women into the paid work force," well, your income is somebody else's expenditure.  "Thus, to hope that a family can 'get by' on one income with current levels of labor force participation by women is to hope that the laws of conservation in economics don't work."  Deal with it.

29.1.16

INSTITUTIONS ARE CIVILIZATION

I've recently remarked favorably on research by Yale historian Timothy Snyder, whose work focuses on a part of the world that figures in my own history.  He recently finished another book, Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, that appears to be advancing the thesis that Hitler blamed "the Jews" for the moderating institutions by which people resolved their differences rather than killing each other.  And thus, mediating institutions put the stronger at a disadvantage relative to the weak.  I'm going to have to read through the work, to see how he develops this argument.  I have a vested interest, in years of teaching economics, of commending the mediating institutions, including the rules of contract, fraud, property, and propriety, in benefitting the stronger and the weaker alike.

But Professor Snyder has also taken, recently, to the popular press to caution the enlightened layman that a similar terror might be one bad harvest or one bad batch of immigrants away, should the objective circumstances be trying enough.  Thus, in a Guardian essay from last fall, here is the way the mediating institutions might crash, and why that would be bad.  (There's a lot more in the essay, by all means read it.  I have only the message about institutions this afternoon.)
States should invest in science so that the future can be calmly contemplated. The study of the past suggests why this would be a wise course. Time supports thought, thought supports time; structure supports plurality, and plurality, structure. This line of reasoning is less glamorous than waiting for general disaster and dreaming of personal redemption. Effective prevention of mass killings is incremental and its heroes are invisible. No conception of a durable state can compete with visions of totality. No green politics will ever be as exciting as red blood on black earth.

But opposing evil requires inspiration by what is sound rather than by what is resonant. The pluralities of nature and politics, order and freedom, past and future, are not as intoxicating as the totalitarian utopias of the last century. Every unity is beautiful as image but circular as logic and tyrannical as politics. The answer to those who seek totality is not anarchy, which is not totality’s enemy but its handmaiden. The answer is thoughtful, plural institutions: an unending labour of differentiated creation. This is a matter of imagination, maturity and survival.
If that sounds a little like emergence plus a conservative habit of mind plus be careful in deconstructing institutions, good!

Professor Snyder advances a similar argument in a New York Review of Books essay.
For Herbert Spencer, the British defender of capitalism, a market was like an ecosphere where the strongest and best survived. The utility brought by unhindered competition justified its immediate evils. The opponents of capitalism, the socialists of the Second International, also embraced biological analogies. They came to see the class struggle as “scientific,” and man as one animal among many, instead of a specially creative being with a specifically human essence. Karl Kautsky, the leading Marxist theorist of the day, insisted pedantically that people were animals.

Yet these liberals and socialists were constrained, whether they realized it or not, by attachments to custom and institution; mental habits that grew from social experience hindered them from reaching the most radical of conclusions. They were ethically committed to goods such as economic growth or social justice, and found it appealing or convenient to imagine that natural competition would deliver these goods.
Put another way, the use of mediating institutions is an evolutionary stable strategy. Here's Professor Snyder's hypothesis again: this time evolutionary stability confers evolutionary advantage on the undeserving, who in Hitler's view, are Jews.
When paradise falls and humans are separated from nature, a character who is neither human nor natural, such as the serpent of Genesis, takes the blame. If humans were in fact nothing more than an element of nature, and nature was known by science to be a bloody struggle, something beyond nature must have corrupted the species. For Hitler the bringer of the knowledge of good and evil on the earth, the destroyer of Eden, was the Jew. It was the Jew who told humans that they were above other animals, and had the capacity to decide their future for themselves. It was the Jew who introduced the false distinction between politics and nature, between humanity and struggle.
I'm going to have to read the book, which has many more pages to develop the argument than a relatively short passage in the New York Review does.

But what happens when you view "politics" and "humanity" as social constructions?  Here's James W. Ceaser, a Virginia political scientist, suggesting a weaker corollary to the proposition that you deconstruct institutions at your peril.  He's offering an analysis of the three pillars of so-called progressivism, namely the technocratic impulse, the Sixties "New Left," and post-modern philosophy.  It is through post-modern thinking that we find the intellectual foundation for viewing "politics" and "humanity" as constructions, and thus malleable.
Postmodernism is the last of the developments on the intellectual left that has influenced modern progressivism. Less directly connected to politics than the New Left or multiculturalism, it entered American thought from the academy. Its main premise is that there are no real or true theoretical foundations or philosophically grounded values. The Declaration of Independence's laws of nature and the theoretical idea of progress, not to mention Nature's God and God's providence, are fictions. In philosophy classes, this premise might be subsumed under the formula that "nothing is by nature, and everything is by convention." Expressed in a more popularized version, as one might hear it today in any course in cultural studies, it is that "everything is socially constructed." Exported from the classroom to the quad, this slogan is deployed to call into question any custom or institution that the left is currently targeting for extinction.
Here I stand with my bayonet and there you stand with your law.  What happens, though, if it is the rule of the Perpetually Aggrieved that is to be deconstructed?
Postmodernism's impact on politics was initially more tactical than theoretical. Intellectuals, already on the left before they ever became postmodern, discovered in postmodernism a useful weapon to advance their goals. Denying the truth of foundations served to undermine important parts of the tradition, from the claim of natural rights that underlay American exceptionalism to the religious tenets that supported older morality and customs. If all things are socially constructed, there is no reason not to discard any one of them and replace it with something else, it being self-evident that all social constructions are created equal. Progressives employed this tactic selectively, deconstructing only the ideas and practices they disapproved of. Yet since much of the culture at this point still rested on traditional beliefs, it made sense for progressives to embrace the general postmodern doctrine of nonfoundationalism, or what they called "pragmatism." The claim of social construction proved attractive to progressives in one other respect. It encouraged the view that everything is malleable. Reality is what we make it. This liberating notion gave impetus to creating new norms, lifestyles, and genders, with each breakthrough becoming an occasion for celebrating yet another festival of a first.
In practice, though, when you deny coherent beliefs of any kind, you get incoherence. Or perhaps a strongman.

How is that hopey-changey stuff working out for you?
The general public sees problems all around — a loss of opportunity, a low-growth economy, stagnant wages in the middle class, mounting debt, and lingering poverty. Yet who or what is accountable? For progressives the fault continues to lie with liberal capitalism. For conservatives it lies in the new system, progressivism, that was built supposedly to resolve these problems.

Where then is the left today? Gone is the pixie dust that Barack Obama sprinkled over American politics in 2008 that led so many, for a moment, to imagine a new dimension to American politics. The left today is all about the ideology of progressivism. It is fated to blame all ills on the shrinking part of the political order and society it does not yet fully control and to demand more measures to shrink it still further. Progressivism is on a treadmill, running either at a fast clip toward huge new piecemeal changes or at a faster clip toward a change to socialism. The direction is the same.
Or perhaps progressivism will collapse of its own internal contradictions, which would be enough to make a Marxist giggle.

It will take a good idea to replace a bad idea, though.  Where there are no ideas, there well might be strongmen.

PREPARE THE BUNNIES PROPERLY

Last week, Mount St. Mary College president Simon Newman committed a Kinsley gaffe, with a perhaps tongue-in-cheek, perhaps over-the-top suggestion that some cuddly bunnies had to be drowned.  Regular readers know where I stand.  "Stop admitting unprepared people and calling it access.  And stop enabling underachievement and calling it retention."

At Slate, Rebecca Schumann concurred in part.
Newman’s clunkers are also part of a larger—and important—conversation about the best ways to help struggling freshmen. Amazingly enough, there are some cost-effective and relatively easy solutions to be implemented here—solutions that treat “force the student out” as a last resort.

First, and this is the most important of all possible suggestions: Don’t accept many marginal students in the first place.  The admissions committee of any given institution is supposed to know exactly what it takes to succeed there—so if a student’s application isn’t strong enough to give her a probable chance of earning a baccalaureate from the 22nd-best regional university in the Northern United States within five years, reject that application. If an institution isn’t competitive enough to ensure a mostly strong freshman class, then that is a larger systemic problem that no amount of bunny-drowning can alleviate.
Indeed, there is much else to recommend in that article, including the dig she gets in at Bain Capital. Presumably Mr Newman took the Mount St. Mary job for purposes other than stripping the assets and closing the corporate shell down.  "If Newman wants a better bottom line, then he should try to strengthen his institution’s academics (or, if we’re being cynical, build a water park)."

That is, either recognize you are in the same business as the Ivies and compete for those students and that faculty, or compete with the sub-prime party schools.

But what do you do if your mission statement is that of the common carrier?  That's where Matt Reed finds himself.
I don’t know if she intended to write off the entire community college sector in one fell swoop, or if she just didn’t realize she was doing it.  But either way, I must object.

Although Schuman’s piece is supposed to be a rebuttal, she and Newman actually share a core assumption: capability is a discrete quality inhering in individual students, and it can be sussed out and measured quickly and easily.  They disagree only on timing: Schuman prefers to sort out the unworthy or incapable before admission, while Newman waits until a few weeks into the first semester.  Either way, though, success comes from exclusion.

The founding assumption of community colleges as a sector is that the epistemology behind exclusion is false.  We don’t know who will succeed until they have a chance.  Ability sometimes wears disguises.  The way community colleges discern ability is by letting people in and giving them a chance to show what they can do.
Yes, and second chances are as American as the infield fly rule and French toast in the dining car. We don't track people for college or the trades from the age of twelve the way the Germans with their "free" college do.  And yet, as Robert Kennedy used to say, we can do better.
The willed naivete of open-admissions requires effort to sustain.  It increasingly cuts against the grain of a culture that seems to have made peace with economic polarization.  It requires tolerating failure -- neither denying it nor punishing it -- in a culture that believes in “performance funding.”  It means embracing economic and racial diversity in a culture that increasingly defines a “good” neighborhood or school by the absence of poor and/or brown people.  Sometimes it even means choosing to disregard Big Data and give some longshots a chance, just because it’s the right thing to do.  Choosing ethics over data feels almost radical these days.  Efficiency is great, but it only makes sense against some larger goal.  It’s not a goal in itself.
That last sentence echoes my "efficiency is a goal, but not the only goal" that two generations of economics students got from me in public policy classes.  But among the comments to Mr Reed's post we find gripes that too many disengaged and unprepared students sap faculty morale and erode the college's job placement performance.

State legislators in Wisconsin and Tennessee are already calling for state universities to identify the high schools that are sending Distressed Material their way, and perhaps, one of these days, those high schools will have to compensate the universities for the remedial courses.  Per corollary, how long will the legislators consent to funding two sets of high schools, one without ashtrays, and another with?  By the time the prospective collegian gets to high school, he might already have been passed along to middle school without the basics out of elementary school, passed along to high school without the middle school material, then sent along to college reading at the sixth-grade level.

There has to be a better way.  Perhaps, though, legislators are reasoning backwards.  First identify the high schools, then you might have a better idea where the underachieving middle schools and elementary schools are.

YOU WIN MORE BY DEFUNDING THEM THAN BY EATING THEIR TABLE SCRAPS.

Here's Charles Marohn of Strong Towns, suggesting that the best thing Government can do for "crumbling infrastructure" is to go away.  Or perhaps, which might be even more difficult, stop creating expensive and lightly used ribbon-cutting opportunities for pork-barrelling politicians.
At this point, communal [local government] funds must be for [road] maintenance only with any system expansion being paid by some form of user charge. #nonewroads

And if this means that states and the federal government, unable to resolve the complexities of successfully growing a centralized economy without the opiate of transportation spending, devolve funding to the local level for all but the critical systems of interstate travel, then that works too.

And as a final word, for those of you hoping to fund transit, pedestrian and cycling improvements out of increased state and federal dollars, I offer two observations. First, you are advocating for high-return investments in a financing system that does not currently value return-on-investment. You are going to finish way behind on every race, at least until we no longer have the funds to even run a race. Stop selling out for a drop in the bucket and start demanding high ROI spending.

Second, the cost of getting anything you want is going to be expansive funding to prop up the systems that hurt the viability of transit, biking and walking improvements. Every dollar you get is going to be bought with dozens of dollars for suburban commuters, their parking lots and drive throughs and their mindset continuing to oppose your efforts at every turn. You win more by defunding them than by eating their table scraps.
Two elaborations.  First, there is no such thing as "successfully growing a centralized economy."  Complex adaptive systems do what they d**n well please.  Second, business-as-usual with "bipartisan compromise" always works this way.  Want a slice of bread, bicycle riders?  Make sure the truckers get six loaves.

TAKING THE LONG VIEW.

In National Review, Kevin D. Williamson suggests that a "conservative crack-up" is what happens when the aging hippies have had some kind of mushroom.
Conservatives have won important debates and political victories on everything from taxation to free speech to foreign policy. Those conservatives who complain that the Right hasn’t accomplished very much forget where the country was in 1955 when National Review was founded and central planning was assumed by all the right people to be the model of the future, or where the country’s domestic policies stood in 1980 or its national-security policies in 2000.
To paraphrase Our President, airlines are deregulated, freight railroads are profitable, and the Soviet Union is dead.

That emergent Democrat majority of nontraditional Americans?  Not yet.  Perhaps this crack-up talk is more fear masquerading as smugness.

Not bad for a bunch of squares.  Time on task, getting the message out, matters.  And stay the course.
Conservatives are good at it. Despite vast piles of money and stores of energy directed at the project, there is no left-wing talk radio of any real significance to speak of, unless one counts the bland suburban progressivism of NPR. Fox News on a good night exceeds in audience share the rest of its cable news competitors combined. It surely is not lost on our counterparts on the Left that the peaks of Republican-party power have coincided with the influence of organized conservatism and its journals, whereas the apex of Democratic power came under Bill Clinton, who ran as hard against the campus-crusader radicalism of The Nation and Mother Jones as he did against George H. W. Bush. Mrs. Clinton is running against that same radicalism, albeit less convincingly and less successfully.
But the Trendy Perpetually Aggrieved must have their narrative.
Popularity isn’t quality — we can be sure that Kanye West will sell more music than Beethoven this year, and that more young Americans will acquire STDs than Ph.D.s — but if you are a broadcaster or a political campaign, it cannot be ignored, either.

[Tales of a crack-up are] in essence a vast exercise in concern-trolling by progressives. National Review et al. have, in this analysis, simply been too effective, driving the Republican party to such exotic reaches of extremism that it is — do pardon me for noticing — winning previously unimaginable political victories in Wisconsin, New Jersey, Michigan . . .
The conservative temperament, dear reader, is not about presidential elections or about the polls or even about specific policies. It is about fundamental principles.
But regardless of what happens on Election Day 2016, we will wake up in a world in which property rights need to be secured, free trade protected and expanded, government limited, the rule of law honored, children reared, citizenship cultivated, and enemies defeated. These are among what Russell Kirk called “the permanent things,” and the defense of them, which we call “conservatism,” is the permanent burden of free people. That isn’t going anywhere.
So mote it be.  Stay the course.

THE SENIOR NONCOMS MATTER.

Here's Marc Bousquet, in Inside Higher Ed, eight years ago, and focusing on labor protection for contingent faculty, but note that he opens his article with a case for staffing the weeder courses properly.
First-year students are more likely to persist to their sophomore year when high-stakes “gate-keeper” courses are taught by permanent faculty, and campus unions generate significantly greater undergraduate experience of tenure-stream faculty, observe two studies just released at the annual convention of the American Education Research Association.
Indeed.
[I]t's a task better entrusted to more experienced faculty, for the same reason the recruit's first encounter with the military is a senior noncom.  (Yeah, I'm repeating myself, but no matter how many times I explain this, some goldbrick figures out how to screw it up.)
If you're serious about retention and completion, take the entry level courses seriously. Perhaps then the students also will, rather than looking at them as something to get out of the way.

KUDOS.

Congratulations to Coach Jane Albright on guiding teams to 500 wins, most recently at Nevada, after stops at Northern Illinois, Wisconsin, and Wichita State.  Northern Illinois and Wisconsin haven't developed comparable programs since.

28.1.16

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR.

Now that 2016 is here, Thom Hartmann's The Crash of 2016: The Plot to Destroy America -- and What We Can Do to Stop It strikes me as a logical Book Review No. 3.

Mr Hartmann has been active in left politics since the days of the Students for a Democratic Society, and his radio show regularly features Vermont's Senator Sanders helping take telephone calls.  Thus, the left perspective, with the sainted Franklin D. Roosevelt and the nasty Republicans plotting to hamstring Our President don't come as a surprise.

But the Plot is as much about the failure of people to learn from history and about the fading of previous catastrophic events from public consciousness as the people with living memories of the events pass.  Standard Fourth Turning stuff, and Mr Hartmann notes as much.

In his case, though, the plotters are the "economic royalists" and the forgotten history is that of the financial sector taking on ever more risk and trading on ever more irrational exuberance until ... pop goes the bubble.  Thus goeth the robust middle class with a lucky few getting richer and many being reduced to paupers.

Perhaps there's something to that history.  Capital formation through the expansion of credit with fractional reserve banking makes for more investment, meaning more machinery for workers to work with, although it's at the risk that if enough loans go bad, the banks run out of money.  Crash.  Afterward, people with memories of a bad crash tend to be more careful with their money, and in their dealings with financial institutions, than those who do not.  Thus it takes a few generations until financial instruments that increase the credit expansion multiplier return as people with no memories of the crash see the returns but not necessarily the risk.  Because a credit expansion multiplier can tend to infinity if there are ways for lenders to lend all the cash without holding reserves, which is what derivative securities enable, there's the potential for serious troubles when some of those investments go bad.

But Mr Hartmann cherry-picks his history to make his case.  The lost America that Worked(TM) of one-income blue-collar homeowners owed itself more to the destruction of industrial capacity in the rest of the world during World War II (an "unproductive" government expenditure in Mr Hartmann's thinking) and to a rough bourgeois discipline instilled by Uncle Sam in all those young working men who survived the war than to the New Deal and strong unions and the Welfare State.  As the rest of the world rebuilt, the comparative advantage in routine manufacturing would have left the United States, tariffs and industrial policy or not, and the counterculture took care of the discipline.  (In the Rust Belt, there's also a willful anti-intellectualism at work making those states less receptive to state-of-the-art industry and labor relations.)

In Mr Hartmann's political economy, globalization is not a Marshallian improvement that moves three or four people in India or China or Brazil or Poland into the middle class for each Midwesterner rendered redundant as an undesirable exchange.  Thus, he's no fan of removing restrictions on trade.

The corker, though, is when he, after making the case for protective tariffs for traditional manufacturing, turns to environmental degradation (did you know the banksters brought you that hundred dollar barrel of oil?  Why aren't they using those powers today?  I'm also looking at you, Senator Sanders.) He complains that protective tariffs keep Brazilian biofuels out of the United States.  Iowa corn farmers and ethanol blenders wouldn't have it any other way.  Never let consistency get in the way of a good polemic.

I used the "be careful" warning in the title because among Mr Hartmann's policy reforms is a revision of the United States Constitution to clarify language in the First and Fourteenth Amendments to make clear that legal persons are something other than biological persons, and biological persons alone enjoy citizenship and free speech rights.  He's also candid about the usurpation of powers by the Supreme Court beginning with Marbury v. Madison.  There are plenty of Tea Party libertarians who would agree, but for different reasons.  Would make for an interesting constitutional convention if the libertarians and the non-vanguardist leftists showed up in force.

And, as there will again emerge a generation that knows not financial excess first hand, it will start again in eighty years.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

THIS IS HOW ASSIMILATION BEGINS.

The festive part of Karneval is about to begin in the Rhineland, and local authorities have been explaining to the new arrivals what is and is not done.
Bonn carnival chief Christoph Arnold went with representatives of the police and the local integration commissioner Colette Manemann to a refugee centre to hand out the leaflets in person.

In Cologne one of the points raised on the leaflet - which is printed in Arabic too - is also about alcohol, which Muslims are not supposed to consume.

It reads: 'Many in Cologne will be drinking beer or other alcoholic beverages at carnival time, but of course there is no obligation to do so.

One Syrian called Noble, 19, who has been in Germany for four months, confessed to being bemused about the celebrations, saying: 'It's something people don't do where I'm from. People drink alcohol, dress up - this is all very strange.'
Try it, you might like it.

THE PERPETUALLY AGGRIEVED EAT THEIR OWN.

The fun part about Oppression Olympics is watching the grievance peddlers invalidate all the other grievances.  "There's something of the Big-Endians and Little-Endians, or perhaps of the Upper Judea Liberation Front, in that sort of sectarianism."

David Thompson joins in the fun.
By pre-emptively denouncing those who disagree as bad people, as racists, fascists, haters, etc., and doing so irrespective of evidence or reasonable inference, the denouncer short circuits any attempt to address the actual issues – say, by shutting down discussions before they can happen - while simultaneously elevating himself as a good person, a champion of the downtrodden.
Mr Thompson's anecdote is about the Perpetually Aggrieved at California State, Los Angeles, the safety school for people who couldn't get into California at Irvine, pronouncing anathema on the local Young Americans for Freedom chapter.
What matters is the shortcut to piety, or pseudo-piety. It’s a piety that’s lazy, bogus and unearned, and fundamentally insincere; but hey, for some that’s good enough. It’s both a badge of status and a viable weapon.
Habits developed getting angry with those evil conservatives are equally useful getting angry with those evil other kinds of Democrats.
Supporting Barack Obama cost me some friendships I never got back.

And now social media seems entirely taken up with Clinton and Sanders supporters hurling juvenile insults at each other. Just from a social-psychological standpoint, it fascinates me that Hillary supporters are utterly unconscious that they are just as bad as the so-called “Bernie bros.” They seem to feel entitled to stoop to whatever kindergarten-level insult they want about Sanders and his supporters while patting themselves on the back for being mature and un-divisive. The Sanders people also indulge in cheap insults, but most of them (that I’ve seen) seem a tad more self-aware about it. Both sides are equally bad at over-simplifying issues, mindlessly repeating second-hand talking points and painting everything in black-and-white terms. There’s lots of political naïveté out there.
But Mahablog also senses the cracking of the old order.  "My sense of things is that this election is going to break some old molds."

Bring it.

QUESTION THE PRESIDENTIAL CARGO CULT.

I'll never lack for opportunities to elaborate on this theme.  "It may take the failure of one or more of the New Deal or Great Society or Hope and Change constructions to trigger the emergence."  Trumpmania is the latest manifestation of the fundamental contradiction.
In that sort of environment, it is also difficult to make the case that perhaps a weak and ineffectual government is a reason to place less reliance on the machinery of government.  Perhaps, though, Mr Trump's "make America great again" is a ritual incantation of the presidential cargo cult.
But there's a fine line between Executive Power and A Man on a White Horse, and there's more than a little fear of fascism in Trumpmania.  Julian Adorney of The Federalist points out that we're hearing "Happy Days are Here Again."
FDR was both powerful and destructive. He was not Mussolini, but he ran roughshod over the rule of law, and dramatically transformed American politics—which should serve as an example of what a Trump presidency might look like.
Yes, and Mr Roosevelt didn't have a pen and a smart-phone.
In fact, a Trump presidency could be even more dangerous, because the powers of the presidency have expanded. The White House can place citizens on terrorist watch lists—spying on them and preventing them from flying. The president can order U.S. citizens who are abroad, like Anwar Al-Awlaki, to be assassinated without a trial.
Rolling back overweening government, however, involves a long twilight struggle, in which the opposition stands there with its principles, and the establishment stands there with its installed base of voters and palace guard Morale Conditioners.
This doesn’t mean a Trump presidency would lead to brown shirts on the street. But there is more to fascism than goose-stepping and military style uniforms, and Trump, like FDR, displays many such characteristics. So when people look at Trump’s agenda and claim “it can’t happen here,” they’re ignoring history that’s not even a century old. Not only could such things happen, they already have.

The only sure way to guard against Trump is to roll back the enormous power of the government that he would be managing. History, even in the United States, shows that dangerous men dupe voters and take power. We should shrink government so that when they’re elected, they take as little power as possible.
The gentry liberals, and the academic-entertainment complex, have done much damage, as have the rent seekers.  But like any other ruling class, they will not relinquish power graciously.

27.1.16

I'M OK, YOU'RE RAGE-HOLIC.

Thus does Commentary's Christine Rosen call out the tendency of the chattering classes to sneer at normal Americans.
Some forms of anger are now considered more culturally legitimate than others. As a result, we spend less time examining the sources of people’s anger and more time arguing over which people have the “right” to be angry.
It's easier to dismiss or to sneer or, to use the academic term, to marginalize people, in order to dismiss, rather than to engage, their disagreements.
Similarly, by pointing out the supposedly irrational and dangerous anger of their political opponents (and thus establishing their “moral credentials”), cultural mandarins of the left can then readily indulge in their own vitriol without ever having to figure out what might be stirring these other people.

Although Trump’s rage against the Republican machine is an easy thing to lampoon, he is tapping into a mistrust of authority and sense of betrayal that is felt among a wide swath of the electorate. The angriest people are middle-aged and middle class. Why? More than half (52 percent) of the people polled byEsquire felt that the American Dream no longer existed; a similar number (54 percent) said, “The U.S. was once the most powerful country but isn’t anymore.” The same percentage felt that they were worse off than they had expected they would be when they were younger. And they aren’t wrong.
But, because it's disaffected "privileged" people, their complaints don't matter.

Standard operating procedure for the Angry Left.  Consider the way Kimberly N. Foster privilege-shames Julie Delpy.  I don't pay much attention to culture-studies or to Hollywood, perhaps you, dear reader, have.  But should you?
You can tell what degree of privilege someone holds when they believe sincerely that experiencing marginalization grants one some sort of elevated status. In the discussions of discrimination in which they cannot take part, the more privileged lament the lack of attention paid to their own struggles. They take any opportunity to recenter themselves lest for one moment their feelings not be the focus.

When intersectional feminists skewer white feminism, we are attacking this self-indulgence. It is the kind of thinking Actress Julie Delpy displayed when she turned a legitimate exploration of sexism in the film industry into an illogical rambling that attempted to paint white women as society’s most oppressed group.
Foster is OK and Delpy is rage-holic.
Delpy, herself, has a gender problem. She’s privileged Black Male voices. Black women are at the center of this activism, yet they are stripped of their due in the name of justice for white women. They are unseen.

Those who experience more than one kind of marginalization are right to be leery of white women’s crusades for equality. They do not include us. When Patricia Arquette or Julie Delpy speak of a more just and equal world, they are not envisioning one in which they stand beside Black and Latina women. The multiple oppressions we experience complicate these discussions in ways they care not to address, so they’ve idealized scenarios in which we are not present because we are mere obstacles to their self-actualization.

Delpy could have made a gesture toward unity to tackle both the racism and sexism in Hollywood, but these white actresses do not believe these struggles to be fully recognized are connected. Their frustration stems from feeling like their rightful position as next in line is threatened. This is where White Feminism errs. Grievances of People of Color are viewed as an insult or an hurdle even to those who would benefit from greater visibility of discrimination. But the needs and concerns of white women must always always priority, and this underscores how individual they believe this fight to be.
The true error is in the Angry Left seeing standing as entirely zero-sum. Perhaps there can be only one Super Bowl winner, or only ten nominees for Best Actor, or only 1700 matriculants per year at an overrated university.  But applying quotas, while it might serve as an incentive, might also be a narcotic.  (And thus no "black" movies among the nominees because this year's crop is more tendentious than the rest of the offerings, featuring the other freakazoid fairy tales.)

All of which leads Pajamas Media's Stephen Kruiser to quip, "let the progressive victim subgroups cannibalize themselves."

Thus, the phenomenon Ms Rosen calls out is simply standard operating procedure, at least among the Angry Left.
There is something both brilliantly instrumental and stunningly condescending about the efforts of the self-appointed cultural and media elite to disqualify the emotions of the majority of Americans. In doing so they suggest not only that their opponents are wrong on the facts, but also that they are irrational, immature, and possibly dangerous, like a child having a tantrum. This makes serious conversation—and useful political debate—impossible. And it makes people very, very angry.
The generalization to disqualifying the emotions of middle-aged white feminists is straightforward. But that's defensible, at least among the culture-studies types, because intersectionality.

The best thing to do with those Excessively Earnest People is to laugh at them.  That's the one thing they can't stand.

DID MONETARY FORCES CAUSE THE GREAT RECESSION?

The Grey Lady deploys David Beckworth and Ramesh Ponnuru to suggest that the housing bubble was not, by itself, the trigger of the crash.
What the housing-centric view underemphasizes is that the housing bust started in early 2006, more than two years before the economic crisis. In 2006 and 2007, construction employment fell, but overall employment continued to grow, as did the economy generally. Money and labor merely shifted from housing to other sectors of the economy.

This housing decline caused financial stress by sowing uncertainty about the value of bonds backed by subprime mortgages. These bonds served as collateral for institutional investors who parked their money overnight with financial firms on Wall Street in the “shadow banking” system. As their concerns about the bonds grew, investors began to pull money out of this system.
Financial markets, like any other market, exist to reallocate resources. Every day, market transactions head off the emergence of bubbles, but nobody notices. And market transactions can roll back bubbles, but that gets harder. Particularly, as is the case with these mortgage-backed securities, when supposedly low-risk assets prove not to be.
In retrospect, economists have concluded that a recession began in December 2007. But this recession started very mildly. Through early 2008, even as investors kept pulling money out of the shadow banks, key economic indicators such as inflation and nominal spending — the total amount of dollars being spent throughout the economy — barely budged. It looked as if the economy would be relatively unscathed, as many forecasters were saying at the time. The problem was manageable: According to Gary Gorton, an economist at Yale, roughly 6 percent of banking assets were tied to subprime mortgages in 2007.
I've got one of Mr Gorton's books in the stack of stuff to review. I've also been working on a railroad. Guess what's getting most of the effort these days.

But history rhymes ...
It took a bigger shock to the economy to bring the financial system down. That shock was tighter money. Through acts and omissions, the Fed kept interest rates and expected interest rates higher than appropriate, depressing the economy. This point is easy to miss because the Fed lowered interest rates between September 2007 and April 2008. But raising rates is not the only route to tighter money.
Anna Schwartz and Milton Friedman wrote something about this once.
Between late April and early October, the Fed kept the interest rate over which it has most direct control, the federal funds rate, at 2 percent. But when the economy weakens, the “natural” interest rate — the rate that keeps the economy on an even keel — falls. By staying in place, the Fed’s target interest rate was rising relative to that natural rate. The gap between expected interest rates and the natural rate was rising even more. Fed officials spent the late spring and summer of 2008 warning that rates would have to rise to combat inflation. Futures markets showed a sharp increase in expected interest rates.

Market indicators of expected inflation fell sharply that summer, a sign that the economy was getting weaker and monetary policy tighter. Nominal spending showed the change. After growing for years at a relatively steady rate, it began to drop.
Foreseeable, but poorly foreseen?
In their early August meeting, some Fed policy makers nonetheless anticipated that they would raise rates soon. Inflation expectations and nominal spending kept falling. In mid-September, shortly after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Fed refused to cut interest rates further, citing the risk of inflation. (To his credit, Chairman Ben Bernanke subsequently admitted that not cutting rates then was a mistake.) It did not cut rates until weeks after the crisis had become undeniable.

It was against this backdrop of tighter money that the financial stress of 2007 turned into something far worse in 2008. With nominal spending falling at the fastest rate since the Depression, households, businesses and banks all had incomes lower than they had expected. That made servicing debts and paying wages harder than expected. It also lowered asset values, since those were premised on expected streams of future income.
Sounds like an opportunity to research the permanent income hypothesis.  But apparently the policy lessons of the Great Depression haven't yet caught.
[T]he crashing economy made the housing crisis worse, too. That’s why the standard account of the crisis took hold. It’s true, after all, that housing fell and then, along with the economy, plummeted. Untangling cause and effect is tricky. But the timeline is a better match for the theory that the Fed is to blame. The economy started to tank not right after housing began to fall, but right after money tightened.

We could have had a decline in housing without a Great Recession. That’s what we went through for two years. What we could not have had without a Great Recession was a decline in nominal spending. If it had cut rates faster, or merely refrained from talking up future rate increases, the Fed might have kept that decline from happening or at least moderated it. Australia had a housing boom and debt bubble, too, but kept a steadier monetary policy. The consequence was a mild correction, but nothing like our Great Recession.

It took decades for the Fed’s responsibility for the Great Depression to be widely accepted and it may take that long for most people to see its responsibility this time around. The Fed of 2008 feared inflation too much and recession too little. It placed too little weight on market expectations about future conditions and on how its behavior affected those expectations. If these mistakes go unrecognized, they could well be repeated.
That's got to be sobering for generations of macroeconomists who have taught that countercyclical monetary and fiscal policies depression-proof a developed economy.

THE ROOTS OF POPULIST RAGE.

Don Surber declares the causes that impel Tea Party Conservatives to the Separation.
Having elected Bush 43 in 2000, what did conservative voters get? Another Cabinet office -- the Department of Homeland Security -- and a doubling of the national debt, after having spent the 1990s finally getting the budget balanced again. Oh and they got that jackass John Roberts as the chief justice and chief defender of Obamacare.

I left out No Child Left Behind, which further expanded federal control of local schools. Also, Bush championed the right to home ownership in 2006, which resulted in mortgages for the unworthy in 2007, which led to the financial collapse of the Western world in 2008, which led to President Obama and the restoration of the House of Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Then, came 2010. Tea Party conservatives flipped the House with the best showing in 64 years for Republicans -- a net gain of 63 seats in the House and 7 in the Senate. And what did the Tea Party get? The blame for not taking the Senate -- an effort that would have required an 11-seat gain. That slur -- that slam -- came after the Republican Party abandoned Christine O'Donnell, Sharron Angle, and John Raese.
It is, however, populist rage, not necessarily conservative rage.
Trump is bringing Democrats, independents and unregistered people into the party. Losing just to meet some conservative purity test is a luxury Republicans no longer can afford.

Washington conservatives -- Cable News Conservatives -- overlook the fundamental principle of conservativism, and that is giving everyone the same opportunity. America is best when she is a capitalistic society that builds railroads and industry. The idea that only career politicians are qualified to hold public office is not conservative.

But this year's election is not about conservativism or liberalism. The survival of the nation is. It's not about entitlements or foreign policy or balancing the budget. It is about protecting the borders. We are reduced to that basic an issue because Washington has failed to protect the nation from two simultaneous invasions. Trump's response to Muslim terrorism in San Bernardino led to a chorus of clucked tongues on cable TV, but the people watching at home cheered.
The railroads can do well enough without transportation bills, thanks in part to deregulation, and industry is muddling through, without necessarily the armies of workers carrying lunch pails.

But the self-despising multiculturalists who make up the Democrat establishment have been undermining the very bourgeois conventions and the notion of buying into America, which will not turn out well for their own base, but it may be up to normal Americans to protect the Democrat base from the Democrats.
Trump is forming a third party. It is called the Republican Party. His plan is to have his coalition of conservatives, moderates and liberals take over the party. If he wins and Will and the National Review don't like it, too damned bad. They had their chance for 28 years after Reagan departed. They blew it. Maybe Karl Rove can milk a few million more from the trust fund saps and form a third party. Call it the Milk Party, and use a cash cow as a mascot.
Nine months to go. Whether Mr Trump will look more like a leader or like a petulant frat boy remains to be seen.  First votes soon to be counted.

25.1.16

THE CASE FOR THE LIMITED TRAM LINE.

Reason's Samuel Scheib offers constructive criticism of streetcar projects.
By the mid-1920s developers were no longer concerned about getting rail extended to their subdivisions, and after World War II transit use fell off a cliff.

But back in Europe, a transformation of street-level rail transit was under way. While Americans were abandoning their cities for suburbs, Germans were busy reconstructing war-torn urban cores and looking for less expensive alternatives to the underground metro.

The result was called stadtbahn, or city rail, which combined the best parts of the streetcar (strassenbahn) and underground (U-bahn).  Stadtbahn ran at street grade but was isolated from other traffic; had multiple cars, each with one or two double-width doors that would all open together at platforms for passengers to board and alight; and relied on fares that were paid off the vehicle, checked by roving inspectors. Stops—stations really—were spaced between a half mile and a mile apart. It was fast, efficient, relatively inexpensive, and entirely new to the transit world. “These were truly vehicles of mass transportation,” says Gregory Thompson, professor of transportation planning at Florida State University and chairman of the Transportation Research Board’s Light Rail Committee.

“Three features of light rail became apparent to North American [light rail transit] proponents after the reconstruction of Germany,” Thompson says. “The vehicle must be separated from traffic through medians or running on the other side of the sidewalk from automobiles. Stops, as with an underground, should be at intermediate distances, not as frequent as bus stops.” Rapid entry and exit of the vehicles was paramount. “You have to use all available doors and take the driver out of the [payment] loop.”
Here's an example from Turin, Italy.


Note that elaborate mainline-railroad-strength overhead wire supports and compound catenary are not necessary.

Multiple cars with double-width doors?  Those rolled out of Cold Spring Shops nearly a century ago.


These units are laid up out of service at the West Allis Car Station in 1932.  Passengers paid the conductor on each car, and stops were at street corners.

Mr Scheib is less optimistic about tourist streetcars.
There is nothing inherently wrong with streetcars as transit. The problem is in how they are deployed. The original streetcar systems were largely straight-line routes serving central business districts. The point was to get people to the CBD, where they would move around on foot. To this day the urban cores that lend their names to multi-county regions remain the most engaging, comfortable, and interesting places in the metro area to walk. The buildings are varied, attractive, and close to the sidewalk, street trees are common, and fenestration allows two-way communication between occupants of the buildings and the people on the street.
Sometimes, as is the case in Little Rock, the streetcar and the streetscape get built at the same time.



Mr Scheib is correct, though, in suggesting that city boosters not treat streetcars like toy trains.  "Transit projects should be built not to create demand but to serve the demonstrated needs of the public."

Sometimes, that can be a streetcar in a busy shopping area, and sometimes it's the limited tram line.

RISING UP ANGRY.

I keep finding material to keep up the theme of disaffected normal Americans.  And the chin-pullers keep wondering why the rabble won't stay in its place.  On the left, there's Chris Matthews and the usual effete snobs sneering at home-schoolers.  On the right, there's National Review attempting to excommunicate Donald J. Trump.

Too late, suggests Robert Oscar Lopez.
The tightly knit Brahmin caste feels the need to intervene.  They must rush in and correct the thought processes of the conservative masses, because they see many things in the pro-Trump movement that discomfort them.  Yet the elite brain trust of conservatives, with their editorial positions and contributor contracts at FOX News, are doubling down too late on a platform whose time came and went.  The deeper issue isn't Donald Trump at all; it's the Brahmins and their increasing tendency to misread what's going on in the lives of their readers.
Put another way, the chattering classes, whatever their political leanings, have gone back to the same script too often.  But their failures are all around us.
[National Review's] authors acknowledge that these constituencies are angry, feel let down, view recent years as times of betrayal, aren't all that impressed by dogma right now, and are now open to someone – specifically Trump, though it might have been anyone who came along with new media savvy – who doesn't even agree with their ideology at all but who represents a cathartic rebellion against the experts who've continually misled them.
And the rebellion is more populist than conservative, at least in the modal connotation of conservatism.
Most conservatives have a general sense that individuals should be decent, self-reliant, and God-fearing, traits intrinsic to America's earliest roots.  But they don't own businesses.  They want a functioning government that helps people who need help.  They decide tough issues based on right and wrong, not on clauses in the nation's founding document.  And they don't want to live in a world where everything is for sale to the highest bidder.  Trump might not be the best purveyor of these principles, but he's the common man's weapon against the thought leaders who've been betraying the principles for over twenty years.  And payback is a you-know-what.
Put another way, there might be a lot of voters who could get on board with Senator Sanders, but for the Democrats infatuation with the counterculture.

There's a lot more in Mr Lopez's essay, should you want more specifics.

Katie Kieffer is also thinking about the insurrection to come.
Americans are ready to unshackle themselves from the two-party system. You and your friends can agree on this: we need far more choices in terms of whom we elect to represent us in Washington.
She's no fan of Senator Sanders, but she evaluates his message as "eerily inviting."  She's also on-board with an end to the cult of the Presidency and the default of the Conventional Wisdom.
It’s dangerous to expect a rebel to be a savior. No human being can save us from ourselves. Only God can do that. We must urge each other to carefully research all the candidates.

That said, there’s enormous hope and encouragement in knowing that your neighbors crave real reform and are no longer afraid to break free from the restrictions of the two-party system. Share this with your friends and encourage them to lobby for more parties; more choices; and more transparency in the political process.

Just as a snowstorm persuades schools to declare a snow day and give students a respite, a blizzard of discontented voters can force Washington to give voters a break and start anew. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
Nine months to go.

WHY LIFE MANAGEMENT SKILLS MATTER.

It's in a Planetizen inquiry about the kinds of suburbs that have promising futures.
To answer this question, let's look at the advantages of suburbs over cities. One set of advantages relates to social homogeneity—that is, a wealthy, well-educated citizenry, which usually leads to low crime and schools with good reputations (because children from privileged backgrounds tend to have high test scores and to avoid violent behavior towards neighbors). Like it or not, well-off people tend to prefer places full of similarly affluent people.
How many times do I have to explain that institutions are emergent, and academic achievement and mannerly behavior produce prosperity?  Like it or not, self-segregation by well-off people is evolutionarily stable, and a virtuous cycle of responsible behavior and increasing prosperity follows.

But in lamenting the dynamic of suburban decline, the post misses a normative point.
[High-end suburbs] may be very expensive, but their very expensiveness keeps out the social diversity that might put their advantages at risk. The only possible threat to these suburbs' popularity is a collapse of suburban real estate values so massive that their mansions become affordable to the poor, or perhaps statewide policies that wipe out the economic differences between one suburb and another.

Many middle- and upper-middle-class suburbs and exurbs, such as Atlanta's Alpharetta and Cleveland's Solon, have the same advantages but are significantly cheaper. In the short run, these suburbs are in a strong position: they are cheaper than good city neighborhoods and safer than the not-so-good ones. However, they are at some risk in the long term. If they ever become so affordable that they gain some critical mass of disadvantaged residents, eventually their test scores will start to plummet, and they will lose their appeal to middle- and upper-class families.
Catch the conjunction of "disadvantaged residents" with "falling test scores?"

Time to end the pernicious cult of authenticity and stress those middle-class habits in all schools.

IT'S THE RENT-SEEKING, STUPID.

At Reason, Scott Shackford gets to the root cause of Government Failure.
It's the increasing size and scope of federal government power that causes both the heavy lobbying and the bureaucratic nightmares. The more the government can control what big business may and may not do, the more money those corporations are going to spend—indeed the more money they need to spend—to influence those policies in their favor. The federal bureaucracy defends itself above all things, as does any bureaucracy. It will always make sure there is more work to do and a that there is a need for an increasing number of employees.
Thus, any attempt at expanded executive powers or comprehensive reform or any of the other usual nostrums will end up disappointing people.  "The challenge is getting [the chattering classes] understand that this is the nature of big government and inherent in federal bureaucracy, and not because of a particularly special political dynamic that is in play just at this moment."

To reduce the influence of money in politics, reduce the influence of government.  Everything else will follow.

24.1.16

COMPETITIVE MARKETS ALLOCATE RESOURCES EFFICIENTLY.

And yet, not all markets operate competitively.  The purist can suggest that, as real firms are not infinitesimal, and no agent is fully informed, there are no competitive markets.  The pragmatist can note that economies of large scale relative to demand and irreversibilities lead to markets served by relatively few firms that can conspire to take advantage of consumers, or to a monopolist that can do so without any messy conspiracies.

Allocative efficiency, however, is a useful starting point for the study of economics, in that it provides a basis for evaluating observed outcomes.  We thus contrast situations in which there are no mutually beneficial rearrangements of resources (allocative efficiency) with situations in which such rearrangements remain (allocative inefficiency) as a prelude to thinking about how the rearrangements might be realized.  In the vulgar version of the Welfare Economics Paradigm, these are the market failures that warrant government intervention.

There are more subtle ways to think about inefficiency, and there is no shortage of efforts by scholars and polemicists to provide a framework within which people might study economics without being led into fantasylands.  But to do so well takes a lot of work, and perhaps the vulgar version of the Welfare Economics Paradigm exists to alert the intelligent layman to the possibility that not everything is easy.

On the other hand, to propose to dispose of the logic of competition completely can lead to errors of a different kind.  That's the message of Book Review No. 2, featuring Michael Perelman's Railroading Economics:  The Creation of the Free Market Mythology.  Professor Perelman is a disaffected economist.  He opens by explaining that "railroading" functions both as a noun (a metaphor for a low-marginal-cost business with large and long-lived sunk costs and economies of large scale relative to total demand) and as a verb, "the ideological straitjacket of modern economics, which teaches that the market is the solution for all social and economic problems."

But the reader will learn little about cartel problems or empty cores or the wide variety of situations in which economies of scale are achieved at levels of output small relative to total demand, which is to say either about the very careful analysis generations of economists, working under the rubric of industrial organization, have brought to bear on the major departures from competition, or about the practical reason that teaching competition is useful both as positive economics and as intellectual ammunition in debating normative positions when the student, professor, or policymaker ventures into political economy.

Perhaps that is Professor Perlman's intent.  Here's his conclusion.
I do not pretend to have a road map that can guide you to the future.  I can say that our present economy is inadequate and that changes are afoot that will make it more so.  I do know that our present economic thinking precludes us from commencing on the hard and joyous work of building a better world in which the economy will not continue to produce for the narrow interests of those who control capital.  In that spirit, I call for the end of economics and the beginning of something better.
I'll give Cafe Hayek's Don Boudreaux the final word. "What is required of anyone wishing to cast doubt on the efficacy of private-property markets guided by real-world market prices is a believable explanation of how the economy might be operated better by an alternative system."

Critique is simple.  Praxis is hard.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

HOWARD DEAN SPILLS THE BEANS.

Chris Matthews seems obsessed with distinguishing Socialists from Democrats.  So far, Debbie "Blabbermouth" Schultz has deflected his question by arguing that distinguishing Republicans from Democrats is more important, and the Dowager Empress has gone to the "issues the people care about" dodge.

It's easy enough to find theoreticians who will point out that Vermont's Senator Sanders is no socialist.
Socialism distinguishes itself from capitalism, fascism and other political/economic systems by this fundamental requirement: the state or the community shall own the means of production. That means public ownership and control of corporations, especially major ones like power companies and auto makers. In November Bernie Sanders delivered a speech at Georgetown University to define his brand of socialism. “I don’t believe government should take over the grocery store down the street or own the means of production,” he said. So Sanders, by definition, is not a socialist.
Thus the senator, who caucuses with the Democrats, and who renounces a third- (or fourth?) party candidacy for fear of stealing votes from the Democrat nominee and putting a Republican in the White House, might as well be just another self-styled-progressive Democrat.
Sanders is a Democrat in every way but the name. Running in Vermont, Sanders had to distinguish himself from Democrats to establish his own brand. But once he got to Congress in 1990, he voted with the Dems, nearly 100 percent of the time. The Democratic establishment funded his 2006 senate campaign, including $10,000 from HillPAC, Hillary Clinton’s funding arm.  He caucused with the Democrats in the Senate. And by the way, he’s running as a Democrat.
But none of that deters Mr Matthews from attempting to distinguish Democrats from socialists.

On his January 6 Hardball program, he got the political class to tell the truth.



First among the talking heads is Joy Reid, who characterized the Dowager Empress as "Just as 'progressive' as Bernie Sanders."

Then came former Vermont governor and national committee chairman Howard "I Scream You Scream" Dean who said the neighborly thing. "Let me stand up for Senator Sanders." He went on during the show to confirm that the Democrats and the social democrats are pushing for the same thing.  That's not available in the excerpt, which ends after six minutes with Mr Matthews and the governor saying a lot of nothing about some poll.  But for Mr Dean, nationalizing the commanding heights of the economy is not required.

Put another way, no difference.  But economist Irving Fisher could have told you that, nearly a hundred years ago.