31.3.16

THE FACULTY ARE THE STEWARDS OF THE UNIVERSITY.

In The Slow Professor, Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber propose that they act accordingly.
Today, the role of the professor is constantly being effaced. We’re no longer at the centre of the university. We wanted to encourage people to counter the damaging effects of that. We both felt we couldn’t do this alone. It’s tough to go against the grain, or to try to shift people’s thinking. We knew that by writing this together, we would be able to remind each other of our goal and purpose, and support each other along the way.
What the administrators measure, they get more of, but what they're getting more of isn't proper teaching or scholarship.
Over the last two decades, we’ve seen increases in class sizes, the casualization of academic labour, administrative bloating, the shift toward quantification of our time and our output. Pressures to publish, new technology, the downloading of tasks and the confusion it creates – these all have led to a situation where we spend less time talking face-to-face with each other and more time multitasking.
There are a number of ways to respond.  Each, ultimately, involves faculty reclaiming control of the university from administrators.

LET'S ENABLE INEPTITUDE.

A retired professor of political science, Andrew Hacker, wrote a column for New York's Times a few years ago proposing to change the way the elementary schools teach mathematics.  It involves less algebra.
Algebra is an onerous stumbling block for all kinds of students: disadvantaged and affluent, black and white. In New Mexico, 43 percent of white students fell below “proficient,” along with 39 percent in Tennessee. Even well-endowed schools have otherwise talented students who are impeded by algebra, to say nothing of calculus and trigonometry.
There is a research project here, identifying the effect of diminished proficiency with mathematics on income inequality.  Perhaps there are more effective and less effective ways of developing proficiency.  Focus, for instance.
It’s true that students in Finland, South Korea and Canada score better on mathematics tests. But it’s their perseverance, not their classroom algebra, that fits them for demanding jobs.
The challenge, however, is in disentangling persistence from persistence at learning algebra. Or other quantitative skills, which is where Mr Hacker was going.
This need not involve dumbing down. Researching the reliability of numbers can be as demanding as geometry. More and more colleges are requiring courses in “quantitative reasoning.” In fact, we should be starting that in kindergarten.
There's some of that quantitative reasoning, or estimating, or approximating, in the Common Core approach to math. But because there's a lot of Common Core being done in a formulaic or non-intuitive way, it's not catching on.

Meanwhile, Mr Hacker has expanded his column into a book, The Math Myth: And Other STEM Delusions, and Slate's Evelyn Lamb suggests he's written a bad polemic.
As much as the content of his conclusions, though, the arguments Hacker uses to reach them are disingenuous. Over and over again, he relies on the reader’s ignorance or fear of mathematics to make mathematics education sound scarier than it is. These repeated misunderstandings and misrepresentations undermine his credibility. I know much more about math than I do about pedagogy, policy, and other topics he addresses. If a huge amount of what he says about math is incorrect or misleading, why should I trust him on the other subjects?

Throughout the book, Hacker uses jargon to make math topics sound more intimidating. Students, he laments, are asked to master “associative properties.” It sends shivers down the spine … unless you know that the associative property of addition is the one that says 5+1+3=6+3=5+4—that is, it doesn’t matter whether you add the first two numbers together and then the third or the last two and then the first. This is a basic property of addition that most students should learn in elementary school.
I've read enough press coverage of train wrecks to have a similar distrust of the press more generally.

There's still work to be done.
Taken individually, each of these examples might seem like an insignificant misstep, but the book is littered with them. I almost hope they’re Easter eggs for numerate people and that Hacker has a secret agenda of improving math education to the point that everyone can recognize that his arguments are full of crap.

Where does that leave us? Few mathematicians or educators would argue that the math curriculum is perfect or perfectly taught. Hacker is not the first to recognize or call attention to the problem; there are thousands of talented and passionate math teachers working to address the math phobia that permeates our culture and gets handed down from generation to generation, teachers working to make their classrooms places where students will see the utility, beauty, and fun of doing mathematics. Of course we should work to make mathematics education better. But while we consider the options, we shouldn’t let our emotional reactions to math terminology lead us to accept shoddy arguments from Hacker or anyone else.
Precisely. The enabling of math phobia contributes to rendering young people unemployable.

And perhaps it's the pedagogy, not the subject, that's done badly.  Stanford's Keith Devlin summarizes.
First though, I should repeat what I said in my HuffPost article about his algebra piece. Just as his essay actually amounted to a strong argument in favor of teaching algebra to all students (albeit not the rule-based manipulations of formulas so often presented in place of algebra), so too his book includes a strong argument in favor of Common Core Math. In the same way that Hacker mischaracterized algebra in 2012, so too his portrayal of the CCSSM (Common Core State Standards for Mathematics) is totally at odds with the real thing—though not quite so far off if you turn your attention from the Standards themselves to some implementations of the CC.
Yes. You can have the best set of tools in town, and yet, if you don't know how to use them, your projects will turn out badly.

THE CASE FOR CLOSING THE CHICAGO CANAL.

The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and the St. Lawrence Seaway are two illustrations of public spending gone wrong.  The economic benefits of these waterways are slight, and the potential for both to bring invasive species into the Great Lakes remains large.

Apparently new restrictions on ballast-pumping by oceangoing ships are having an effect, with no new invasive species being found in the Great Lakes recently (but don't celebrate just yet.)  On the other hand, we're dealing with multiple possible causes.  Seven years into the era of hope and change, there hasn't been the kind of worldwide economic recovery to keep the ships at sea.

Furthermore, here's fear from seven years ago about the absence of a bad flood being all that's keeping the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.
The problem is the carp also have recently migrated up the adjacent Des Plaines River, and that river has a history of flooding its banks and spilling into the sanitary and ship canal. The distance between the two waterways is, in places, only a matter of yards.
That the Des Plaines River and the Root River, which drains into Lake Michigan, share a common marsh in Wisconsin suggests there's more than one way for those fish to find a new habitat.

Those fish are in the Mississippi River system in part because a government experiment went wrong.
[Environmental Protection Agency official Judy] Beck told the [2009 "State of the Lake" conference] that the fish escaped Southern fish farms during the 1993 floods in the Mississippi River.

That's not the whole story.

A 2006 Journal Sentinel investigation revealed the EPA played a role in their release.

Three decades ago, it funded programs in Arkansas that used the fish in sewage treatment experiments, and those fish were among the first known to have escaped into the wild.
No doubt, four of five experts were confident there was minimal, or no, risk, of experimental fish going rogue.

30.3.16

DEFENDING TRICKLE-DOWN.

When Connecticut's state government runs out of money, and goes after Yale's endowment, the best defense Yale musters sounds a lot like the usual business rationale, but with slightly different indirect objects.  Here's Yale's lobbyist, Richard Jacob, defending the usefulness of a large endowment. “Yale’s generous financial aid policies, which enable Yale College students to avoid any loans, and which waive any parent contribution for low-income students, exist because of the endowment."  Take away our tax break, Mr Jacob is warning, and there will be less to trickle down to those low-income students who somehow apply and get admitted.  A rent-seeking oil baron could not defend the depletion allowance any better.

FINDING THE BALANCE.

In the absence of rules of trading and rights to ownership, there is no commerce.  But somebody has to enforce the rules, and when somebody wants to use force to violate the rules, perhaps part of the enforcement is somebody entrusted with greater force.  Thus comes Government as that institution people have granted a monopoly on violence.  In its absence, you get Somalia.

The problem of governance, however, is getting the powers right.  I like this passage so much, I'm going to repeat it.
Somewhere, there is a sweet spot at which tax-funded social and physical capital becomes symbiotic with the social and commercial activity that people also engage in. To one side of that sweet spot, to the left, if you will, is the slough of despond in which government becomes parasitic on commerce, and destructive of, social and physical capital. To the other side, to the right, is the cesspool of sin in which the rent-seekers become parasitic on government, which destroys social and physical capital, albeit in a different way.
That's what Pajamas Media's Walter Hudson grapples with, in a meditation on the popular meme of taxation as theft.
Sure, if there was no state to tax you, you could keep all your money, but only until the first gang of thugs came along to take it from you. Would that truly be better? Anarchism seeks to liberate us from coercive taxation, but would leave us enslaved to any other random form of coercion.
Yes, and the evolution of governance out of a gang of thugs is instructive.  Consider the first season of Vikings, in which we have conventions of ownership, and rudimentary voting rights at the Thing, and yet, one of the topics voted on is which direction to go to supplement the Jarldom's income with plunder.  And notions of liberty are abstractions in the absence of a good crossbow.
The question becomes how best to secure those rights, how to provide the highest degree of liberty utilizing a minimum amount of coercion. Until we achieve a society capable of better, some degree of taxation must be endured to provide for proper government.
We can call it taxation, or we can have private mediators on retainer. Whatever form it takes, it's a portion of the gains from trade being set aside to provide an environment within which additional trading is possible.  Thus, in the ensuing paragraph, it's misleading to speak of the taxes as theft.
Force may be morally used only in response to the initiation of force by others, in self-defense, in retaliation, in an effort to claim restitution for harm. That is government's proper role. Taxes may be theft in the purest sense of the term. But if taxpayer dollars are utilized to protect individual rights, the real-world effect will be a maximum amount of liberty and a minimum level of coercion. That's a worthy goal, and wholly attainable.
The challenge is in maintaining taxation at a level that is symbiotic with commerce, rather than parasitic on commerce or parasitic in favor of some commercial interests.

WHEN THE OLD NOSTRUMS NO LONGER APPLY.

Town Hall's Guy Benson elaborates, at length, the way Donald Trump is no conservative.

The editorial board of Milwaukee's Journal-Sentinel count the ways Donald Trump is not fit to be president.

Both of those columns rely on the premise that the usual conventions apply.

Yesterday, Rush Limbaugh spent a lot of time on the irrelevance of the usual conventions.
They don't think we need somebody better at politics than we've ever had.  They want somebody that had nothing to do with politics.  They're intrigued by the possibility that somebody doesn't know hell from Shinola about politics can company in and actually fix what the professional politicians have screwed up, and everybody acknowledges that that has happened.  And that's his attraction.  That's why you can't talk a Trumpist out of it by calling him a flip-flopper.  That's why you can't convince a Trumpist to give up Trump by saying, "Hey, the guy's a liberal, he supports Democrats."

They don't care.  They see Trump as a success. Here comes the Trump jet. Here comes the Trump motorcade. Here comes Trump Tower. They see success. They see a guy who hasn't been held back by any of these political people.  They are being held back.  They see a guy who's found a way around it.  They see a guy who's been able to bully his way through it, whatever they think of it.  They don't see a guy playing a political game.  They see a guy getting out around it and escaping it somehow.  They're intrigued by possibility that precisely because he's not politics.  That's the definition of outsider, in their view.

So if you want to talk 'em out of it you're gonna have to go about it a different way.  You're gonna have to try to, "Hey, he doesn't know what he's doing. Hey, he's really not competent."  You're gonna have a tough sell because they see the big Trump jet with the big Trump name on it in gold.  You're gonna have a tough sell no matter what.  They're emotionally connected to more than just Trump.  I've been trying to tell people this for six months.  They are emotionally connected to much more than Trump personally.  Trump represents what they think may never again happen in their lifetimes.

This is the equivalent -- I wish I could give you an analogy, and I can't in the spur of the moment, but that's how big it is to them.  These people, many of Trump's supporters, and many people who don't support Trump, by the way, look at the political world and really resent the attitudes we get, the lack of connection, the lack of any real concern.  The concern they have is for people that aren't Americans yet.  Can't even get some of these people to correctly identify what terrorism is and who's doing it.  It's serious stuff in their minds.  They're losing their businesses.  Their kids' futures are bleak, they think.
Meanwhile the usual suspects are sitting around the usual table with their usual at-the-end-of-the-day-bipartisan-compromise-consensus-process-comprehensive-reform-blah-blah-blah.

The Wise Experts have failed (via Ed Driscoll.)  Time for them to go.

But that's not Consensus or Process.  Mr Limbaugh continues with David Brooks, defending business as usual.
This is like the worst thing to say in 2016, but I've come to be a believer in we need to fix the establishment.  I believe in establishments.  We have big problems.  You need big institutions to tackle 'em.  They have to be run centrally.  And so we need a really good State Department.  We really need a good --
Here's Mr Limbaugh, suggesting that Four of Five Experts Agree isn't working. Turn the sarcasm mode on.
"Well, it's like the worst thing to say in 2016, but I've come to be a believer of we need to fix the establishment.  I believe in establishments." Of course he does.  He's a member.  "We have big problems. We have big institutions to tackle 'em. They have to run more centrally."  This a conservative, he's talking about centralized command and control to fix what's wrong, and this guy is a conservative?  And today people are blaming me for selling conservatism out?  People are blaming me?

It's all over the place now that I am the one who's betraying conservatism.  I'm the one who is single-handedly causing conservatism to be watered down, misdefined, redefined, and yet here's the conservative participant on PBS, the conservative New York Times columnist claiming to be a big believer in establishments because we got big problems, and therefore you need big institutions to fix the big establishment.  And they have to be run centrally, meaning you've gotta have a powerful, engaged executive, i.e., president, and a coterie of supporters, and they are the smart people, the best and brightest, and only they are qualified to deal with all of these big issues and big institutions and it's gotta be done centrally.

So we need a really good State Department.  We need a really good State Department.  We need a really good State Department, okay.  And Charlie Rose says, "So on the agenda ought to be 'reforming establishments'?"  Really?  Is this what these guys think is going to win an election this year?  Is this what these guys think is on the minds of people?  Do they have not the slightest idea what people go through in their daily lives today trying to deal with the absolute excrement sandwich this administration has been serving for the last seven years?

They really think people out there are worried about fixing the establishment?  It's quite the opposite.  The establishment's already considered to be corrupt and people are seeking ways around it.  If people could, they'd blow it up, politically.  So Brooks says, "Yeah, reforming institutions, yeah, our institutions are fraying.  Congress is a prime example of an institution that's frayed because the norms of behavior, the invisible codes have been ripped away."  What does that mean?  Well, the next sound bite might tell us.
The Trump campaign, for all its logical shortcomings, and all its crudity, is at least giving people who are fed up with the Usual Talking Heads and their Usual Nostrums an opportunity to say NO.
BROOKS:  I talk about Trump as a revolution in manners.  And the reason we have manners, the reason we don't talk about each other's wives and how they look, or the reason we don't insult people's looks or call people losers and liars is that it enables us to be a community and be citizens together.  If you rip away those manners, it's just dog-eat-dog.  And, to me, when he rips away the shroud of those manners, he's really reduced us to just scrambling scorpions in a bottle.  And so restoring manners, restoring codes of civility and just decency is the prerequisite for restoring institutions and --

RUSH:  Mr. Brooks, let me tell you something.  Your civility and your codes of conduct and decency are what many people have resulted in the Republican Party being smoked for the last seven years. Not fighting back, not defending the people that voted for them, not defending the issues and the institutions that define this country's greatness.  The Republican Party in its quest to be civil and to prove they can make Washington work, is getting rolled, issue after issue after issue.  And it is hurting the American people.

The American people are being harmed in their daily lives, economically, culturally, by the dominance of liberalism in this country, which as a conservative you are supposed to be enlightening people about and opposing it.  And I haven't heard a word from David Brooks about opposing liberalism or stopping it.
Mr Brooks is correct about replacing the trashy, splintery vulgar culture with something more decent.

The cult of authenticity, in which Moslems or Hip-Hop Nation behaving badly is to be affirmed, but going to the stock car races or a Trump rally is to be sneered at, simply provokes people to ask, "Why are they allowed to do things that we're not allowed to do?"

But that's not Mr Brooks's point.  Rather, he comes off as someone who wants to play nicely with people who will continue to invite him to parties, while going ahead with business as usual.

And business as usual is not turning out so well for the Substantive Comprehensive Reform and Four of Five Experts Agree crowd.

Thus when somebody comes along and says, "We're being governed by stupid people," that's the message that sticks.

29.3.16

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MUGGED BY REALITY.

Immediately after the Brussels attacks, Chris Matthews sat down with New York Republican representative Peter King and Washington Post reporter Jonathan Capehart, a regular on Hardball.

"Politically, I think Trump may be right."  Representative King concurs in part and dissents in part.



Note that Mr Matthews is not having any of Mr Capehart's usual carrying the Democrats' water.

"What happened in Paris hit home."

All three participants agreed that condemning all Moslems as enablers of terror is a serious error.  As much of the violence practiced by misguided jihadis hurts practitioners of Islam, whether in Indonesia or Pakistan or Turkey or in Europe or North America, seize the opportunity.

FIRST THE FREQUENCY.

I'm going to continue to beat the drums for better connectivity in Chicago, and for free rein to 110.

But increasing Amtrak Hiawatha service from seven round trips a day to ten is encouraging.



Here is the 1941 train schedule.


Ten distinct schedules, throughout the day, offer residents of the North Shore multiple opportunities, including the possibility of a day, or an evening, in Milwaukee or in Chicago.  At this time, it's probably too much to ask for overnight service to the Twin Cities, or to the Wisconsin Valley, or to Green Bay and the Copper Country.

But that second frequency for and from the Twin Cities is still on the wish list.
The Hiawatha planning is in line with the state’s current strategy of maintaining and improving existing passenger rail corridors, [Wisconsin Department of Transportation passenger rail manager Arun] Rao said. A study also is underway to add a second daily train run on the Empire Builder route that runs from Chicago to the Twin Cities, with a stop in Milwaukee.
We used to know that as the Morning and Afternoon Hiawatha.  The current Empire Builder echoes the old Olympian Hiawatha schedule, which in later years combined with the Morning eastbound and Afternoon westbound.  For a short time in the middle 1970s, Amtrak restored two trains.

The next item on my wish list is extending the corridor through St. Cloud to Fargo or perhaps all the way to Winnipeg.

WHY DONALD TRUMP WINS THE MASSACHUSETTS PRIMARY.

Thomas "What's the Matter with Kansas?" Frank asks, "What's the Matter with Massachusetts?"
Boston is the headquarters for two industries that are steadily bankrupting middle America: big learning and big medicine, both of them imposing costs that everyone else is basically required to pay and which increase at a far more rapid pace than wages or inflation. A thousand dollars a pill, 30 grand a semester: the debts that are gradually choking the life out of people where you live are what has made this city so very rich.

Perhaps it makes sense, then, that another category in which Massachusetts ranks highly is inequality. Once the visitor leaves the brainy bustle of Boston, he discovers that this state is filled with wreckage -- with former manufacturing towns in which workers watch their way of life draining away, and with cities that are little more than warehouses for people on Medicare. According to one survey, Massachusetts has the eighth-worst rate of income inequality among the states; by another metric it ranks fourth. However you choose to measure the diverging fortunes of the country’s top 10% and the rest, Massachusetts always seems to finish among the nation’s most unequal places.
The people of Roxbury have never lived like Republicans, and they continue to vote Democrat. The people of Fall River or Lawrence used to live like Republicans while voting Democrat, but that hasn't worked out so well lately.
The kind of liberalism that has dominated Massachusetts for the last few decades isn’t the stuff of Franklin Roosevelt or the United Auto Workers; it’s the Route 128/suburban-professionals variety. (Senator Elizabeth Warren is the great exception to this rule.) Professional-class liberals aren’t really alarmed by oversized rewards for society’s winners. On the contrary, this seems natural to them -- because they are society’s winners. The liberalism of professionals just does not extend to matters of inequality; this is the area where soft hearts abruptly turn hard.

Innovation liberalism is “a liberalism of the rich,” to use the straightforward phrase of local labor leader Harris Gruman. This doctrine has no patience with the idea that everyone should share in society’s wealth. What Massachusetts liberals pine for, by and large, is a more perfect meritocracy -- a system where the essential thing is to ensure that the truly talented get into the right schools and then get to rise through the ranks of society. Unfortunately, however, as the blue-state model makes painfully clear, there is no solidarity in a meritocracy. The ideology of educational achievement conveniently negates any esteem we might feel for the poorly graduated.

This is a curious phenomenon, is it not? A blue state where the Democrats maintain transparent connections to high finance and big pharma; where they have deliberately chosen distant software barons over working-class members of their own society; and where their chief economic proposals have to do with promoting “innovation,” a grand and promising idea that remains suspiciously vague. Nor can these innovation Democrats claim that their hands were forced by Republicans. They came up with this program all on their own.
These paragraphs come from Mr Frank's new Listen, Liberal, which might be coming to my library.

SUPPRESSING FREEDOM IN THE NAME OF FREEDOM.

What other label than Orwellian can I apply to what happened at a recent Northern Illinois University public forum, under the rubric of "diversity dialogues."
“We learn and grow from each other,” said Chief Diversity Officer Vernese Edghill-Walden. “I don’t think the world would be a good place if we all thought the same thing and did the same thing.”
That's all for public consumption. We all understand that any time someone in higher education, particularly in Student Affairs or any of the Victim Studies fields,  refers to "dialogue," that implies "Shut Up, You Primitive, While I Enlighten You."  We all understand that a Chief Diversity Officer must be as conversant with the latest evolutions of The Party Line as any Stalin-era zampolit.  We have seen that when it comes to Hallowe'en costumes, thinking the same thing is Necessary and Proper.

Perhaps, though, there is reason for optimism.  The City of DeKalb is currently contemplating a protest ordinance that, at first reading, strikes me as patently unconstitutional.
About 100 people attended NIU’s first monthly Diversity Dialogues on free speech on campus and the DeKalb unlawful assembly ordinance draft Wednesday in the Holmes Student Center, Carl Sandburg Auditorium. The DeKalb protest ordinance, first read at the Jan. 11 City Council meeting, stated a 10-person or more assembly can become unlawful if at least one person affiliated with the group violates one of the 21 DeKalb-mandated occurrences including assault and mob action.
Should we be grateful that the ordinance is more liberal than something you'd expect in Vichy France, where the critical mass was five people?

Perhaps, the law becomes Of Interest to the Director of Diversity because such "unlawful assembly" laws can be used by police to racially profile gang-bangers.

But the meeting turned to consideration of the patently unconstitutional free speech zone on campus.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Commons is the only free speech zone on campus where people have the right to assemble with permission from Student Involvement and Leadership Development and NIU police. The Campus Ministry USA came to the free speech area at NIU in September to discuss their beliefs on the Bible.

[Student Association official Ariel] Owens said a Campus Ministry USA member abused the free speech zone when that person followed her friend to her car saying “whore.”

[Student Association official Timothy] Brandner said the policy limiting free speech could be amended, but it may not be a good idea because protestors in an educational environment may be disruptive.

[Yale researcher Frederick] Lawrence said the free speech zone should be expanded because universities restricting where people can use their right to assemble, if peaceful, sounds wrong.

DeKalb Resident Howard Solomon, 67, said the DeKalb unlawful assembly drafts are an example of how restrictions on freedom of speech pose a threat to civil liberties.

DeKalb community members and NIU students expressed their concerns with the ordinance resulting in the DeKalb Human Relation Commission to withdraw their support on the ordinance.
Here, dear reader, is where mediating institutions are useful.  Classroom buildings are for class.  It's bad form to recruit rally participants by pulling fire alarms or marching and chanting in the hallways.

Public spaces are for public assemblies.  Thus, "Rally at noon, Library Mall."

ASSIMILATION IS A TWO WAY STREET.

In the New York Post, Amir Taheri distinguishes the melting pot from the fruit salad, particularly the salad served up by self-despising multiculturalists.
America’s strength comes from its multiculturalism, but that’s only true only when all its people, all its races and religions, believe in the same values. Liberals fetishize separation, arguing that immigrants don’t need to learn English, don’t need to stop subjugating women with hijabs and arranged marriages, don’t need to become citizens. They encourage otherness rather than integration. They want immigrants to change the country, rather than the other way around. They say Islam is not the enemy — but that’s only true if Islam is a religion and not a political ideology bent on undermining democracy.

Brussels is the result of this thinking. It’s what happens when immigrants are allowed to construct their own state within a state, not pushed to become part of a nation.
There are subtleties to assimilation, but the United States, as an ideological nation (even if the core idea of what it means to be a citizen is emergent) has advantages over the advanced tribal societies that European countries still are.  But you don't go messing with the mediating institutions.  That's the guts of Rush Limbaugh, expanding yesterday on Mr Taheri's column.
Meanwhile, liberalism, socialism, the European western social democratic model is doing the same thing the left is doing in this country, attacking the fundamental nationality and culture of each individual country, trying to erase it and replace it with whatever they dream their utopia to be.  So there's nothing to assimilate to.  So, borders are open to one and all to come in and be who they were rather than assimilate, and it's bye-bye country, be it Belgium, be it the United Kingdom, be it Denmark, take your pick, be it the United States.
It's more complicated in the European welfare states, where the governing classes for a long time saw immigration as a way of importing the labor force the domestic population was no longer producing (women would have no more children, and the men lost reason and faith?) and collecting the payroll taxes required to continue to fund the welfare state.  In the United States, there still are ways for the new arrivals to buy into America.

It's imperative for policy makers to continue to protect those ways, and refrain from sticking their fingers in the eyes of existing mainstream Americans.

The militias await.

28.3.16

FREE REIN TO 110, THE CANADIAN WAY.

The Canadian government has been, if this is possible, even more niggardly in funding regional passenger trains than the United States government is.  But in the Windsor - Toronto - Montreal corridor (with a branch to Ottawa) there are thoughts of providing dedicated tracks for faster passenger trains.  (Amtrak currently own such tracks in the Northeast Corridor, with freight trains running mostly by night.)
Giving VIA’s trains a route of their own on which to gallop at 110 mph or faster without freight interference and without investing further in privately-owned railway infrastructure sounds ideal. It’s especially compelling when you face the fact that VIA’s federal masters aren’t likely to fund a multi-billion-dollar, electrified high-speed rail (HSR) plan. We’ve been down that pathway too many times over the last 40 years and the results have always negative.

So, as a means of decreasing its end-to-end running times and increasing both frequency and on-time performance in its Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto core market, VIA’s corporate view is that it needs to get off CN’s busy Kingston Subdivision and add substantially to the limited amount of track it already owns at a more reasonable cost than HSR.
Where the plan starts running into trouble is in building a lot of the passenger-only tracks from scratch.
Westbound from Montreal Central Station, the proposed HFR route holds no surprises and no need for concern. VIA would continue to use CN’s Montreal and Kingston subdivisions to reach the eastern end of its own ex-CN track just north of Coteau, Quebec. With upgrading, VIA’s former CN Alexandria, Beachburg and Smiths Falls subdivisions would provide the HFR route as far as Smiths Falls. It’s at this point that the whole idea starts to go wonky.

Branching off the current Ottawa-Brockville-Toronto route, VIA’s HFR trains would use a new track connection to reach CP’s Montreal-Toronto freight main line and then parallel it for 15.5 miles to Glen Tay. Here, the new VIA line would veer off on the abandoned portion of the CP Havelock Subdivision, with the 92 miles of missing track rebuilt on what is now a segment of the Trans-Canada Trail. From Havelock west, VIA’s tracks would be on CP freight rights-of-way through Peterborough to Leaside, then down the Don Valley to Union Station over the dormant ex-CP line owned by Metrolinx.

In total, the HFR project would consist of 366 route miles, of which more than 200 miles would be new to VIA and 107 miles would be track previously purchased from CN. Excluding motive power and rolling stock, VIA originally pegged the cost at $2 billion, which it expects private-sector investors to fund. This funding is predicated on VIA’s assertion that the HFR service would be profitable enough to deliver a double-digit return on investment for its private-sector partners.

VIA maintains this plan would attract about eight million passengers annually, which is more than three times the ridership handled in 2014 on the individual routes that form the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto triangle. The expectation of a ridership increase of this magnitude is highly optimistic, especially given the level of air, bus and automotive competition throughout the Quebec-Windsor Corridor.
Wouldn't it be simpler, as was the case with the creation of Conrail, to keep the passenger trains on the current trackage, upgrading it for faster running, and creating a freight main out of the underutilized or abandoned trackage?

On the other hand, the Canadian proposal correctly sees the value of running existing trains at speeds they are currently capable of attaining.
As for the HFR trainsets, VIA estimates these would cost $1 billion and would be publicly funded. They would only be ordered after the dedicated track plan is locked down because, according to VIA, the trains have to be “fitted” carefully to the new infrastructure. This ignores the fact that Amtrak already operates several conventional, diesel-hauled trains at 110 mph and that VIA’s LRC rolling stock is, in fact, designed for 125-mph service.
Perhaps, though, the talking will be a preface to action.

SIX YEARS OF A BAD POLICY.

I like to characterize the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as a bundle of two lies.  Devon Herrick elaborates.
Many enrollees remain uninsured despite the mandate -- only signing up for coverage if they become sick or need expensive medical services. Eager to grow exchange plans as much as possible, the Obama administration foolishly created multiple special enrollment categories that allows just about anyone to sign up long after the open enrollment deadline has passed. Individuals signing up using special enrollments aren’t just slackers who lost track of time during open enrollment. Late enrollees use more medical care than those enrolling during open enrollment. They are also more likely to drop coverage soon after receiving expensive medical care.

Many of those enrolled in Obamacare are gaming the system, cheating insurers and driving up the costs for honest folks who just want affordable coverage. It’s rather sad when you realize the Affordable Care Act made health care unaffordable for millions of middle-class families and left many of those formerly-insured better off with no coverage at all. Obamacare is hardly a legacy to celebrate. It’s time for Congress to go back to the drawing board and work together to find a solution that creates the appropriate incentives for all stakeholders, as well as affordable, accessible health care for all.
The best thing for Congress to do is to repeal and go away.  Medical savings accounts, no individual mandate, interstate sales of insurance.  And greater commercial freedom for physicians and surgeons.

UNIVERSITIES ARE FAILING AT THEIR MISSION.

And political correctness is killing them, argues Glenn "Insta Pundit" Reynolds.

The students aren't putting up with the deanlets and deanlings coddling the crybullies.

Soviet era dissidents had samizdat.  Smart-phone-toting dissidents have Yik Yak.
Freed from a fear that student “activists” — and their allies in the university’s Student Life and Diversity offices — might punish them, students expressed their true feelings, and they demonstrate that the “activists” are a small, unrepresentative slice that is being indulged at the expense of the university as a whole.
Soviet apparatchiki rationed paper and limited access to duplicating machines.  (Photocopiers, which had to be purchased with real money, were guarded almost as closely as the nuclear weapons.)

Deanlets and deanlings would like to jam Yik Yak or otherwise limit access thereto.  Fortunately, there are enough of us on the street to laugh them to scorn.
[I]ndulging those activists [the crybullies and their faculty enablers] is dangerous to universities because it makes them ridiculous. As [Conor] Friedersdorf also notes, Emory and its “fearful” students were widely mocked, even in the liberal press. And they deserved to be mocked, because their behavior was childish and silly.
Higher education, breaking the social contract with taxpayers and legislators. The denouement will not be pretty.
From the point of view of much of the public, highly-endowed colleges are becoming an underperforming asset: The feeling is growing that elite fat cat universities are an expensive luxury, and that the money spent propping up their endowments would be better spent buying school lunches for needy kids, or topping off up the pensions of retired civil servants.

For many years, colleges have fended off the fiscal claims of local authorities by pointing to the jobs they create and to the spending of their students and staff. These were and are valid arguments, but the great American private universities are going to have to take a hard look at what else they can do to make more friends among the general public and, consequentially, among politicians.
Used to be only Republican legislatures going after higher education.

That's Democrat-heavy Connecticut wanting the hedge fund masquerading as Yale's endowment to pay its fair share of taxes.

In New York, they're running out of other people's money, and the public universities are feeling the pinch.

And yes, celebrating transgressivity is an expensive luxury.

I've been pointing these things out for a quarter century.  It may not have been given to me to finish the task, and yet I will not give it up.

RESPECT THE TRAGIC VISION.

A recent In These Times essay features Hillary Clinton questioning the cult of the presidency, at least when it's the perception of someone she's running against.
In the midst of a fierce primary contest, Hillary Clinton has laid into her opponent: “I could stand up here and say, 'Let's just get everybody together. Let's get unified. The sky will open. The light will come down. Celestial choirs will be singing, and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect.”

“You are not going to wave a magic wand and have the special interests disappear,” she added.
That was Candidate Hillary running against Barack Obama in 2008. The point of the In These Times essay is it's now Bernie Sanders offering the rainbow-farting unicorns.

But when Barack Obama wrapped up the nomination in 2008, here is former candidate Hillary bowing to the inevitable.
The way to continue our fight now, to accomplish the goals for which we stand is to take our energy, our passion, our strength, and do all we can to help elect Barack Obama, the next president of the United States.
The unicorns didn't fart any rainbows, but the wishful thinking continues.  What is to be desired, though, is for people to draw the further lesson from this Peter Bloom questioning of Expertise.
Indeed, as the general election season approaches, the main storyline seems to be whether a “boring” policy wonk can defeat an inciting demagogue. Clinton is portrayed as above all informed and reasonable. Trump, by contrast, is lambasted as ignorant and irrational.
The best possible outcome of a Trump candidacy might be the concentrating of minds against the cult of the presidency, and the broader notion of Governance by Wise Experts.

Mr Bloom is drawing people's attention to what he refers to as the "smart con," meaning the candidate who sells herself on the basis of Expertise plus Experience.  But much of that Experience rests on Misapplied Experience.
This now well-trodden narrative is especially problematic in the present campaign. Her opponent Bernie Sanders has directly questioned her judgment, noting that despite having the same information as lawmakers she was as disastrously wrong about Iraq as he was presciently correct.

This critique is not just typical election rhetoric either. It goes to the heart of Clinton’s case to be President – if she is really the most experienced and informed candidate than why has she shown such consistently poor judgment when it mattered? Indeed, what is the benefit of her deep well of knowledge if it does not translate into wisdom?
"Critique." "Problematic." That is, we have an objection, from the left, to much of Mrs Clinton's record.

Now let us consider a different question, that ought be asked of any candidate for president, or of any defender of the proposition that Wise Experts can Get It Right.

What is the benefit of your deep well of knowledge where complex adaptive systems tend to do what they darn well please?

WELL, IT IS CENTRAL FLORIDA.

Ten years ago, King Banaian suggested that a lot of university marketing was selling something more akin to summer camp. The notion of offering young people a residential college experience, without calculus or music theory, has been in play for some time.  Now comes residential college for students with profound learning disabilities.  Joanne Jacobs asks the right question.
A new state-funded center in the College of Education and Human Performance “will grant $3.5 million annually in scholarships to students with disabilities.” I know this is supposed to be a feel-good story, but . . . Shouldn’t the “college experience” including higher education? Florida will spend $3.5 million so young people who lack the ability to do college-level work can live in a dorm and hang out on a university campus.
Perhaps, as a commenter suggests, it's a better experience for the young people than the more usual assisted living arrangement.  And perhaps, there will be work-study opportunities for rehabilitation and special education majors.

On the other hand, it's unlikely that such enrollment ploys are going to have any effect on the sales of U.S. News-style college guides.

27.3.16

SOME EASTER RECOLLECTIONS.

Years ago, the Milwaukee Public Schools referred to their Spring Break as "Easter vacation," as the break generally began on Good Friday and lasted for the following week. That made for a long slog from the Christmas break to Easter vacation if Easter came well into April, as it often did.

We'd generally spend the Easter Vacation with my mom's mother, and that made for a different kind of Easter service. My parents attended a church that was active in what Rev. Johnson refers to as the "Council of Churches Nobody Attends." My mom's parents attended an immigrant church in northeastern Wisconsin that had a somewhat more straightforward Baptist tradition, in Polish and German as well as in English. I have few memories of the Easter liturgy at the Council of Churches church. This hymn, which was a regular up North, is as succinct a statement of the Christian faith as I have encountered.
322. Up from the Grave He Arose
(Low in the Grave He Lay)

Text: Robert Lowry, 1826-1899
Music:Robert Lowry, 1826-1899

Tune: CHRIST AROSE, Meter: 65.64 with Refrain


1. Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior,
waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!

Refrain:

Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o'er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

2. Vainly they watch his bed, Jesus my Savior,
vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!

(Refrain)

3. Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Savior;
he tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!

(Refrain)

STEP OUT OF LINE AND DISAPPEAR?

Embattled Marquette University political scientist John "Marquette Warrior" McAdams tells the Holy Inquisition he will not recant.
These demands are reminiscent of the Inquisition, in which victims who “confessed” they had been consorting with Satan and spreading heresy would be spared execution.

It is bizarre that [Marquette president Michael] Lovell can invoke Marquette’s “guiding values” to contravene the black letter guarantees of academic freedom embodied in University Statues.
Mr Lovell, in fact, added his own bull to the recommendation from the Diet of Worms faculty committee.
Lovell is downright dishonest in implying that he’s merely implementing the recommendations of the Faculty Hearing Committee. Their report (which is confidential) mentioned nothing about demanding any apology. It only recommended we be suspended without pay for one or two semesters.
Eppur si muove.  Let's say that Marquette's administrative arbitrariness is getting even less favorable press coverage than its underachieving basketball team did.

TODAY'S LIGHTER MOMENT.

In "Libertarian Family Values," Reason's Aeon J. Skoble gets off a good one-liner.  "[M]y daughter said she wanted to be treated like a princess, so I made her marry someone she doesn't love in order to strengthen our alliance with Prussia." There's a serious point to the article. It's about emergence, with more than a little about evolutionary stability and conserving transaction costs involved.
The joke works because we're so used to thinking of marriage in terms of romantic love between moral equals that we lose sight of the fact that many other "traditional" arrangements have been dominant at different times and places. So too with families in general: For most of human history children were economic investments, either in the sense implied by the joke or in the sense of creating labor power. Wives once were essentially property, traded from the father to the husband.
Romantic love itself is emergent, just consider Shakespeare to Spencer to the Beach Boys to Blind Date.  The main message of  Mr Skoble's column, though, is that conscious efforts to preserve institutions or to change them, whether or not the institutions no longer confer evolutionary advantage, are likely to come up against the reality of complex adaptive systems doing what they darn well please.

WHEN YOU HAVE LOST ALL NORMAL REDRESS.

John Althouse Cohen asks a tough question.  "[H]ow oppressed and disenfranchised are white, Christian men?"  Ann Althouse extends.
Trump's success has been attributed to the existence of those oppressed, disenfranchised, white, Christian men. They're not at their last resort — terrorism — if they can get their champion elected President. Maybe those "same people" John is talking about — those people who believe this theory of the cause of terrorism — should be heartened at the prospect of Trump winning: It may save us from domestic terrorism.
There's a sting in the tail.
[Candidate Barack Obama] imagined these people pathetically holding onto abstractions of power to soothe themselves in their weakness, not getting up the gumption to do anything. He was showing and trying to stir up empathy. He was not alarming his audience — rich people in San Francisco — about the potential for domestic terrorism.

But that was 2008, and now it's 2016, and they've got Donald Trump "explain[ing] their frustrations with "anti-immigrant sentiment" and "anti-trade sentiment." We're spared decline into violence because we have democracy — and yet the nice people of the elite places like San Francisco see Trump as the embodiment of violence, not any kind of bulwark against it.
The militias await.

AUGMENT THE SUPPLY.

Ordinarily, the presence of economic profit is an incentive for people to compete it away.  Such profits also provide incentives for the possessors thereof to prevent that competition from taking place.  In "Make Elites Compete," Jonathan Rothwell of Brookings suggests the possessors thereof have succeeded in forestalling that competition.
Three of the standard explanations—capital shares, skills, and technology—are myths. The real cause of elite inequality is the lack of open access and market competition in elite investment and labor markets. To bring the elite down to size, we need to make them compete.
A data-rich elaboration follows. Then comes the rent-seeking.
Workers in occupations with no higher educational requirements see their wages held down by millions of other Americans denied a high-quality education and competing for relatively precious vacancies.

For lawyers, doctors, and dentists— three of the most over-represented occupations in the top 1 percent—state-level lobbying from professional associations has blocked efforts to expand the supply of qualified workers who could do many of the “professional” job tasks for less pay.
For future research: to what extent are institutions of higher education complicit in denying Americans a high-quality education by opting not to compete for the stronger students who might not qualify for the thick envelope from the highly regarded institutions that limit their vacancies so as to make them more precious?

A CASE FOR PROPER INCOME ACCOUNTING.

Momentum's Elly Blue takes on the fantastic illusion that motorists pay for their roads.
What if I told you that by driving a car you become a freeloader, a drain on the economy? That people who bicycle instead are subsidizing a road system that they are largely not welcome on? In order to break even on the cost of roads and pay for every driver who uses them each year, we would need 54% of commuters using a bicycle as their sole means of transportation.

It’s not great news for most people. After all, driving a car is extremely expensive; and if you live in the US a car may be your best bet or only way to get to work and otherwise go about your life. Unfortunately, it is also true. Driving is one of the most heavily subsidized things we do on a daily basis.

Cars pay for about half of the cost of our roads, all told. That’s it. Half.
Polemical, yes. But in that reference to "best bet or only way to get to work" comes a trap.
Most of what we pay for the roads is not paid directly, but through our taxes. Every time we pay sales tax on a purchase, property tax on our homes (directly, or indirectly through our rent), or income tax on what we earn, a portion of that goes directly into our transportation system.

A portion of all these taxes are paid into a general fund, which is where most transportation money comes from. But the real costs of building roads end up being much  higher over the years than what the budget can afford. A growing amount of road costs are paid for with borrowed money. We must eventually pay off these loans through our taxes, with interest that can amount to two, three, or more times the original cost of the project.

Worse, this funding gap increases every year. With the economy dragging, we drive less, and as fuel and material costs rise, construction grows more expensive.

Roads are enormously expensive to build and maintain. If you look only at the highway system, the user fees paid by drivers come much closer to paying for them than half, though the system still operates at a loss. But if you look at local roads, on which most of our daily travel happens, the gap is even wider. The cost to maintain local roads is, on average, more than 6 cents per mile for each car each year. How much of this do drivers actually pay? Less than a penny. What does this mean for bicycling? While people do not pay to ride bicycles on the road, bicycling also costs almost nothing – less than 1% of money spent on transportation infrastructure goes to anything bike-related, and bicycles no not contribute significantly to other road-related expenses like potholes, crashes, or congestion.

People who ride bicycles also pay taxes, which means they often pay more into the road system than they cost it.
That closing sentence raises the fundamental challenge of governance.  Somewhere, there is a sweet spot at which tax-funded social and physical capital becomes symbiotic with the social and commercial activity that people also engage in.  To one side of that sweet spot, to the left, if you will, is the slough of despond in which government becomes parasitic on commerce, and destructive of, social and physical capital.  To the other side, to the right, is the cesspool of sin in which the rent-seekers become parasitic on government, which destroys social and physical capital, albeit in a different way.

Hidden in the passage, however, is a subtlety, the trap of conflating stocks and flows.  Roads, like any other physical capital, generate a stream of returns.  Thus, borrowing to build the capital produces an asset (the road) and a liability (the bond obligation.)  It is not the borrowing that is bad per se, it is the descent of road construction either into the slough of despond or the cesspool of sin.

NOTHING IS GUARANTEED.

Wisconsin's men's basketball team contemplates the off-season.
Wisconsin's players should be ravenous once they begin preparing for the 2016-'17 season.

The Badgers could field a deeper, more experienced team, even if Nigel Hayes decides to forgo his final season of eligibility.

They'll enjoy a more stable environment because Greg Gard, who took over when Bo Ryan retired 12 games into the season, will be their leader from Day 1.

There shouldn't be any doubt that UW's players expect more success next season.
That's a better place to be than, say, picking up the pieces after a losing season, or having to replace several seniors or the rent-a-players declaring for the draft, or having an eligibility studies scandal blow up.  There is, however, work to be done.
"I think we've progressed all year, a ton," said [Bronson] Koenig, who must be an assertive leader next season. "Coach was kind of talking about how most people thought it was a lost season, a rebuilding season or whatever you want to call it. We kind of shocked the country."

UW had to rely on its defense as the season progressed for several reasons. Hayes' shooting numbers slumped to 29.3% from three-point range and 36.8% overall — from 39.6% and 49.7% overall last season.

Hayes, Koenig and everyone else on the roster had to learn the new offense on the fly.

"We know the summer is going to be a good summer for all of us," said [Zak] Showalter, who will be a redshirt senior next season. "We've got a lot of work to do. But we'll be ready to work."
It's living up to the expectation that matters.

Retrieved from Eclectic Emily.

Time on task.  Time on task.

26.3.16

CALLING OUT THE TRASHY CULTURE.

Let's say that David P. Goldman is gloomy.
Americans always have distrusted elites, but today's popular culture takes this to a pathological extreme. We find it oppressive to admire anything that is better than us. Instead, we identify with what is like us. That's why we listen to singers who sound like an average drunk with a karaoke machine instead of Frank Sinatra. That's why reality TV is so popular. Everybody gets to be a star. We like to watch ourselves in the mirror. This blend of narcissism and resentment is toxic. Trump's bling-and-babes lifestyle has become a national paradigm for success. We're not Trump's constituents; we're a virtual posse.
That jeremiad, however, comes in the middle of an endorsement of Ted Cruz.

It's not whether an insider or an outsider stands for the presidency, the fundamental problem confronting the Republic is the continued confidence that finding the right president is a step in the direction of Better Governance.

End the Cult of the Presidency.  End the faith in Better Governance.  That defunds the rent-seekers.

WHAT THE H**L HAPPENED?

Once upon a time, in The America That Worked(TM).
Between 1935 and 1955, the ten fastest passenger trains in the world were all in the U.S. Trains like the famous 20th Century Limited ran at high speeds; they ran on time; they provided comfortable even luxurious accommodations; and their dining cars provided excellent meals served on real china set on crisp white tablecloths.
Regular readers know that history.  And the Cold Spring Shops "Free Rein to 110" campaign continues.

Note, though, that in order for the rent-seekers and the government to screw up the passenger trains, nothing came cheaply.
In the mid-1950s, President Eisenhower conceived the Interstate Highway system and Congress cheerfully went along. The original cost estimate was $27 billion; the actual cost when it was finished 30 years later, was $200 billion.

While all that was going on, state and local governments coughed up many more billions to buy land and build new airports. At the same time, the feds were also subsidizing the airlines by parceling out lucrative airmail contracts.
Perhaps, the beginning of making America great again is in the devolution of powers, and of taxing and spending, from federal, state, and local governments.

THE BURDEN OF HIGH EXPECTATIONS.

Sometimes the other fellow makes the play, and all you can do is shake his hand and say, Good game, Notre Dame.
Turn back the clock to the 19-second mark and Wisconsin wins this game nine out of 10 times. This was the exception to the rule, and that's why it was so painful. In the end, the Badgers tripped over their own feet at the Big Dance.
The team had committed inordinately many turnovers prior to that closing flurry by Notre Dame.

The challenge going forward, though, will be for the new coach and the young players to manage future expectations, both of the fans, and of themselves.


Retrieved from Eclectic Emily.

The Green Bay Packers deal with that burden regularly, both from fans who judge playoff appearances against the standard established in the days of Vince Lombardi, and among themselves.

For Wisconsin basketball, the early 21st Century is the good old days!

WHY ARE THERE ENTREPRENEURS?

We could get wonky and speak of agglomeration economies.  That term might exist because experts in regional economics were reluctant to speak of ideas having sex.  Contra Matt Ridley, serious thinkers in political economy, including the three Alfreds the Great (Marshall, North Whitehead, and Weber) were over this idea a long time ago.
Politicians, capitalists, and officials are flotsam bobbing upriver on the tide of invention.

Even so, the generation of new useful knowledge is far from uniform, steady, or continuous. Innovation is like a bush fire that burns brightly for a short time, then dies down before flaring up somewhere else. Fifty thousand years ago, the hottest hot spot was west Asia (ovens, bows and arrows); 10,000 years ago, the Fertile Crescent (farming, pottery); 5,000 years ago, Mesopotamia (metal, cities); 2,000 years ago, India (textiles, zero); 1,000 years ago, China (porcelain, printing); 500 years ago, Italy (double-entry bookkeeping, Leonardo); 400 years ago, the Low Countries (the Amsterdam Exchange Bank); 300 years ago, France (Canal du Midi); 200 years ago, England (steam); 100 years ago, Germany (fertilizer); 75 years ago, America (mass production); 50 years ago, California (credit card); 25 years ago, Japan (Walkman). No place remains for long the leader in knowledge creation.

Just as the bush fire breaks out in different parts of the world at different times, so it leaps from technology to technology. Today, as during the printing revolution of 500 years ago, communication is aflame with increasing returns, but transport is spluttering with diminishing returns. A greater and greater amount of effort is needed to squeeze the next few miles per gallon out of vehicles of any kind, whereas each additional tranche of megabits comes more cheaply.

But the greatest impact of an increasing-return wave comes long after the technology is invented. It comes when the technology is democratized. Gutenberg’s printing press took decades to generate the Reformation. Today’s container ships go not much faster than a 19th-century steamship, and today’s Internet sends each pulse little quicker than a 19th-century telegraph—but everybody is using them, not just the rich. Jets travel at the same speeds they did in the 1970s, but budget airlines are new.

So what is the flywheel of the perpetual innovation machine that drives the modern world? Why has innovation become routine? How was it that, in Alfred North Whitehead’s words, “The greatest invention of the 19th century was the invention of the method of invention?”
The institutions that make the method of invention possible, but ultimately, as Mr Ridley notes, it is about exchange.  "Innovators are in the business of sharing. It is the most important thing they do, for unless they share their innovation it can have no benefit for them or for anybody else."  But the innovators must have the opportunity to engage in intercourse.  Perhaps, with the internet, it is not as necessary for Bruno Nordberg to be in the employ of Edward P. Allis across the street from Henry Harnischfeger, where the ideas spawned much of industrial Milwaukee.  Hence Mr Ridley.
We may soon be living in a post-capitalist, post-corporate world where individuals are free to come together in temporary aggregations to share, collaborate, and innovate, and where websites enable people to find employers, employees, customers, and clients anywhere in the world. This is also, as the evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller reminds us, a world that will put “infinite production ability in the service of infinite human lust, gluttony, sloth, wrath, greed, envy, and pride.” But that is roughly what the elite said about cars, cotton factories, and (I’m guessing) wheat and hand axes too.
As amazing as computer-assisted design, file sharing, animation, and all the rest are at bringing people and their ideas together, I suspect there will still be reasons for the inventors and the venture capitalists to get together for an expensive coffee.  Or a shot of peppermint schnapps and a beer chaser.

25.3.16

CONSIDER HISTORY.

Michael Walsh suggests that this campaign year feels a lot like 1968.  "As you look around at the wreckage that has followed in our footsteps since 1968, you'd do well to research how we got here in the first place."  I recently picked up Theodore H. White's The Making of the President 1968, primarily to read up on the maneuverings the last time a major political party nominated a candidate who had not won a primary because he didn't run in any primaries. But two passages, tangential to that reading, stood out.  First, at page 335 is a description of the Yippie protesters (far fewer in number than the bunch that recently prevented Donald Trump from holding an event at the University of Illinois at Chicago.)
They are a sad people, and when one examines the seasonal clusters where they come to roost, in Cambridge or San Francisco or New York, tears come to the eyes at their diseases (mainly venereal), their health (decayed from malnutrition and drugs) and the disturbances, rarely dangerous, of their minds.
Bear in mind that Mr White was very much of the Eastern Establishment, a Bostonian from the days when The Pennsylvania Railroad handed off the Washington to Boston trains to The New Haven Railroad.  Today, you have the slightly faster Acela Express, but you must go to Pajamas Media to see the Angry Children described as they are.

But let me quote from page 379.
... something is happening.  We are going to win in November all over America . . .  We are going to win first because across this country a big team has been assembled, all working together, not just for a party, but for a victory that will be bigger than a party, a victory that will bring to our ranks Democrats, Independents . . . and a team . . .  that can unite itself will unite America and that is what we are going to do with your help.

. . .  a new voice is being heard across America.  It is different from the old voices, the voices of hatred, the voices of dissension, the voices of riot and revolution.  What is happening is that the Forgotten Americans, those who did not indulge in violence, those who did not break the law, people who pay their taxes and go to work, people who send their children to school, who go to their churches, people who are not haters, people who love this country are angry about what has happened to America, the Forgotten Americans, I call them  . . .  they cover all spectrums, they are laborers and they are managers, and they are white people and they are black people  . . .  who cry out  . . .  "that is enough, let's get some new leadership."
That's Richard Nixon, of course, but I can envision Donald Trump using much of that, and if he ever speaks of the country being pushed around by a "fourth-rate power," well, it's in there.

RECANT OR BE EXCOMMUNICATED.

In December, 2014, Marquette University banished political scientist John "Marquette Warrior" McAdams for bringing public attention to a dispute between a student and a graduate assistant over what could or could not be raised in class.  The university president subsequently sought dismissal for cause.  The relevant faculty committee completed its deliberations last fall, but university president Michael Lovell held off on action until the Warriors were eliminated from the basketball tournament, and most attention in the state is on Wisconsin.

Unsurprisingly, we have more administrative arbitrariness.  Here's how the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, allied with Professor McAdams, characterizes the president's behavior.
Today, the University ignored that its almost sixteen-month suspension of Dr. McAdams was improper. While it followed the recommendation that he be suspended, it also imposed a requirement that, within two weeks, he admit his “guilt.” If he refuses to do so, he will not be reinstated. Such a requirement of self-abasement and compelled speech was not recommended by the Faculty Hearing Committee.

The Committee found that Marquette had improperly suspended Dr. McAdams in violation of his due process rights under the Faculty Statutes and disagreed with the University’s desire to terminate him. It did recommend that he be suspended for one to two semesters, with benefits, but without pay.

In its lengthy report, the Faculty Hearing Committee gave lip service to academic freedom but made it subject to a multi-factor after-the-fact balancing test that would leave members of the university with no real guidance or protection other than the sufferance of their colleagues. In other words, University faculty retain freedom of speech only so far as their colleagues are willing to tolerate it.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education notes that President Lovell has done nothing to change Marquette's status among the worst schools for free speech.  It's fitting, I suppose, that a university notionally run by Jesuits would continue a tradition dating back to the Diet of Worms.  Today, though, the #HolyInquisition can be trending on Twitter.

MORE ON THE CULTURAL COLLAPSE.

The conversation among the Tories and the Jacksonians of the Right on the correlation of forces that is wrecking the lives of people who used to think of themselves as middle class continues.  It appears as though Michael Brendan Dougherty in The Week got the conversation (or was it a slanging match?) started.  "The [Tory faction of the] conservative movement has a lot of ideas for improving the life of a typical coke-sniffer in Westport, Connecticut... [but] next to zero ideas for improving the life of the typical opioid dependent who lives in Garbutt, New York, outside of Rochester."  He concludes, "Time to think harder."  Rod Dreher did, in two separate essays.  On March 14, he invited readers to compare and contrast the usual smug dismissal of the concerns of the groundlings (that there's a gentry liberal smug and a Tory smug make neither any less smug) with an understanding, by people living in rougher circumstances, of the agency people still living in rough circumstances could exercise, or not.
During my crusading liberal days in college, I was full of ardor and right-thinking on the subject of race and poverty. I dismissed my dad’s conservative views as typical hard-hearted Reaganism, and fumed over how someone like him, who was raised working-class and was culturally working class, could sympathize with Reagan, that old racist. What it took me years to see was that however shaped my father’s views on race and poverty were by his generation’s attitudes, they were also deeply informed by years of observation of how poor black people, like poor white people, lived. He would try to explain to me how nobody who lived the way so many of the black (and white) poor did in our parish could ever hope to break the cycle of poverty. It took education, and hard work, and self-discipline, especially staying off of drink, drugs, and avoiding having children outside of marriage. You had to be sensible with your money, he would tell me (I didn’t know until many years later how hard he and my mom, a school bus driver, struggled financially during my childhood).
But identifying people as hard-core no-accounts, or "wouldn't hit a lick at a snake,"  or lamenting that "he knows better than that" need not translate into abandoning such people, rather than providing, if by no other way than by example, structure.  Come March 16, here's Mr Dreher on why the structure matters.
This is why I get so angry at my fellow conservatives who blame bad schools and incompetent teachers for the poor educational results among the impoverished. Children are not empty receptacles into which we can insert knowledge. If they live in homes filled with noise, chaos, violence, and contempt, it doesn’t matter what race they are, they are going to be very lucky to make it.
But in his column, "do-your-own thing" might work well for trust-fund babies with victim studies degrees from tony colleges, or for that Westport cokehead.  For people without the resources or the awareness of the old tradition, well, there's no keeping up with the Kardashians in the 'hood or up the holler.
This is what it means to live in therapeutic culture, in which maintaining a sense of well being is the absolute telos of our common and individual life. This is what it means when the values of the marketplace (e.g., “The customers is always right”) have infected our normative institutions, and inform the way families and individuals see themselves. This is what it means when our churches (insofar as people still attend them) treat their purpose as offering people comfort and uplift, not solid moral norms and preaching repentance when we fall short. This is what it means when we the people expect our institutions — our schools, our churches, and so forth — to cater to our own felt emotional needs.

The middle class can forestall the reckoning because we have money and resources to avoid the consequences; the poor and the working classes do not. But a reckoning is coming.
But as the splintery trashy culture splinters, it's the people who have means that can escape the collapse (that is, until the only way to make any money off vacant houses built for an increasingly affluent population is to rent them out to whoever), and that includes the cokehead with a big bonus, and the Trump protester run home to Mommy.  But there are no guardrails elsewhere, and as the rentals to whoever continue, there will ultimately be no guardrails in Westport.
What does this private judgment mean? Well, in effect, it means withdrawal to behind defensible boundaries, to within communities where there remains robust moral standards held in common. This is what the ongoing fragmentation of American society means. I see no reason to think it will be arrested any time soon. As [Kevin Williamson] and David French point out, we can’t even talk about these things openly, with confidence.

Let’s be honest: there are very, very few of us who would “say something” about kids being raised as Kevin D. Williamson was (assuming that he was not being criminally neglected; he hasn’t specified the conditions of his childhood). But of equal significance, very few of us would “say something” to other middle class parents about the way they raise their children, or the way their children’s behavior is making it harder for all of us to raise morally upright kids. Nobody wants to judge (publicly, anyway), and certainly nobody wants to be judged.

So we continue to drift apart, unmoored from authority, and unable to perceive how lost we are. If we do not draw some clear moral lines, in community, and submit to them, and defend them, we are going to lose them entirely. We drift towards moral anarchy in the public square, and we conceal from ourselves what is happening, either not talking about it or euphemizing it as “diversity” or some other Orwellian term meant to conceal truth.

How can we ever hope to defeat the enemy if we cannot even name the enemy, or confront our own collaboration with it? Yes, people who are unemployed or underemployed have big problems, but as my reader wrote, handing them a good job is not going to make them show up to work on time, or marry, or stay married, or raise disciplined children. Plus, there are plenty of people who have good jobs now, and to all appearances solid middle-class lives, but who are quietly, behind the facade of respectability, falling apart.
Kevin Williamson reacts, apparently concurring in part.  Sometimes, it's necessary to reclaim the culture, to stop enabling the dysfunction, and at the same time stop wishing it away.  "It’s cowardice, a refusal to look at the thing squarely as it is and to do what it is necessary to do."

That doesn't stop the more conventional sort of hypothesis-posing, as in a Wonkblog interview with Mr Dougherty.
Is it because employers are less loyal to individual workers, and so the value proposition for moving to find a job is lower? Is it family breakdown? It becomes harder to move from the de-industrialized Northeast for a machinist job in South Carolina if it means leaving behind children with an ex-wife or partner. Is it the rise of single men, who don’t feel the need for work as urgently? Is it the decline of other mediating institutions that could paternalistically shepherd job-seekers into employment? And if government cannot change those things, what else can it do?
That comes to what, exactly, is conservatism conserving?  Reason's Shikha Dalmia adds to the conventional hypothesis-posing.
Scott Lincicome of Cato Institute notes that between 1990 and 2014, the percentage of working-age adults receiving disability more than doubled.

This meant that workers had less need to uproot themselves from their families and communities for jobs far away. The aforementioned Tennessee workers have preferred to stray not too far from their original commuting zones, for example. In other words, family ties became a barrier to—as opposed to facilitator of—individual ambition. But this dampening of drive will prevent Americans not only from adapting to the gale force winds of trade but other disruptions as well. Indeed, if China, India, and—as per Donald Trump's new bugaboo—Vietnam, pose a mortal threat to Americans, what exactly will they do when robots arrive on the scene? Call for repealing the laws of physics? Deport scientists?
I suspect that family ties have always been reason to stay, and in the absence of either a vigorous economy or the presence of a different kind of welfare state, that will be true.

Institutions that enable dysfunction?  The consequences will be immediately obvious.