27.6.19

THE WORST DECISIONS ALMOST ALWAYS COME FROM UNQUESTIONED BIPARTISAN CONSENSUS.

That's long been a message of mine, and here I'm quoting Tucker Carlson's Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class Is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution.  It's not going to be a long Book Review No. 3, as the author covers some of the same ground as Kurt Schlichter in Militant Normals, if, perhaps, in a less hyperbolic way.  That is, where Mr Schlichter makes up a spoiled Millennial called Kaden to represent the kind of credentialed softie who votes Democrat and eats Kale and holds Normals in contempt, Mr Carlson introduces a genuine spoiled Millennial named Chelsea Clinton.  Likewise, where Mr Schlichter slags on cruise-shilling Conservative Establishment squishes as a class, Mr Carlson goes directly after William Kristol.  Both books raise the same point about contemporary Democrats, which, in Ship, you find on page 169, about the Democrat post-mortem.  "If voters think you hate them for how they were born, they won't vote for you."  (There are all manner of extensions to that argument, but not today.)

Two books, both polemical, but National Review's Jim Geraghty suggests, in a less provocative way, that there's something there.
Why is the conservative movement not as effective as its supporters want it to be? Because day after day, year after year, little old ladies get called on the phone or emailed or sent letters in the mail telling them that the future of the country is at stake and that if they don’t make a donation to groups that might as well be named Make Telemarketers Wealthy Again right now, the country will go to hell in a handbasket. Those little old ladies get out their checkbooks and give what they can spare, convinced that they’re making a difference and helping make the world a better place. What they’re doing is ensuring that the guys running these PACs can enjoy a more luxurious lifestyle. Meanwhile, conservative candidates lose, kicking the dirt after primary day or the general election, convinced that if they had just had another $100,000 for get-out-the-vote operations, they might have come out on top.
It's worth noting that National Review devoted an entire issue to all the ways one Donald Trump wasn't a True Conservative, but the failures, electoral or otherwise, don't necessarily involve Donald Trump.
Imagine if instead of disappearing down rat holes and being spent on more fundraising, just $10 million of that $127 million to $177 million sum had been better spent. Imagine if that $10 million had gone to the campaigns of the GOP candidates in the 20 House districts that they lost by five percentage points or less in 2018. That’s $500,000 per campaign. If Mia Love had 625 more votes in Utah, she would have held her seat. Think she and her campaign could have identified and mobilized another 700 Love-supporting voters in her district if they had another half-million?
That's consistent with Mr Carlson's closing recommendation. Political elites, attend to the people.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

ECONOMICS IS COUNTERINTUITIVE.

One approach to the teaching of economics is to encourage students to look beyond the immediate consequences of actions to their follow-on effects, which, to a less careful viewer, might be unanticipated, or, in the worst case, unintended.  Peter Boettke elaborates.
The central theoretical puzzle of economics is undesigned order, and thus our theoretical quest begins with us trying to explain outcomes that are not implied in the intentions of the participants. If the outcomes were simply a matter of the intentions of the actors, then our theoretical task would be trivial and there would be no central mystery to unravel. Good people do good things, bad people do bad things — you want to improve society, reward good people, penalize bad people. It would be that simple, and since we can in this world infer intentions from outcomes a simple observation of the world would do enough to sort out the good people from the bad people. But that is precisely what economics and social science cannot do.
Standing alone, "undesigned order" might mean the decentralization results of competitive market, but that could leave the student, or the social reformer, finding reason to become the wise expert where the markets are not competitive, or there is coordination failure. That's not as easy as it looks.
Theoretical social science is required precisely because intentions do not equal results, and thus we can have both “Private vices translate into public virtues” and “The path to hell is paved with good intentions.” Sorting out the reasons why some situations tend one or the other way is complicated and requires detailed analysis of both the pure logic of choice and the institutional analysis of situational logic, and provides the subject matter at the core theory of our discipline.

Second, this detailed analysis requires long chains of reasoning and this means that many are either unwilling or incapable of following the argument to its end. It is easier to cut the story off too short. This, in essence, is what Bastiat and Hazlitt tried to get their readers to understand with their “what is seen, and what is unseen” or “direct and indirect effects” mantra. Don’t ever cut the story off before it’s complete, they told their readers, and then you can render judgement of the situation positive as well as negative. The theory of unintended consequences, they stressed, can be used to explain both the socially desirable outcomes of transforming those private vices into public virtues, and socially undesirable outcomes where the most sincere and well-intentioned efforts lead us down a path to hell. But, it must be admitted that to achieve this a thinker must be willing to be disciplined by the rules of critical reasoning, and attentive to the institutional context within which individuals are interacting.
That's part of the story, although theoretical social science (mathematical politics, to the critic?) can also provide long chains of reasoning that might give comfort to the man of system.
Third, precisely because economics is counterintuitive as first blush, and because it requires discipline to reason through, various vested interests can cloud the public discourse to agitate for special privileges. Of course, economists understand this problem and have since at least the time of Adam Smith. Political processes tend to concentrate benefits on the well-organized and well-informed, and disperse the costs on the unorganized and ill-informed. This is why despite centuries of economic thinking that has agitated against special privileges of any type, vested interests have been able to garner protections from government against the rigors of competitive pressures both foreign and domestic. But, consumers benefit greatly from access to open markets both foreign and domestic. Economic theory really does speak unequivocally on this down through the ages, but vested interests confuse the discourse.
It takes more than internally consistent reasoning, though, as ultimately the condition of a social order that relies on market trading, compared with competing sorts of social orders, matters.
Let’s review the basics: we live in a world of scarcity; as a result individuals face trade-offs, they want to negotiate those trade-offs as efficaciously as they can, and in order to do that they require some aids to the human mind, which within a market economy are provided by property rights (incentives), prices (knowledge), and profit and loss (feedback for learning). If we are in domains outside of a market economy, individuals will still face scarcity, and thus still have the task of negotiating trade-offs, but they will have to do so without recourse to property rights, prices, and profit and loss.
To a first approximation, there are no theoretical models of human interaction that dispense with property rights and money incentives, and the examples of such interaction that appear do work without those rights and incentives don't scale.

TREAT THE ROADS LIKE PRODUCTIVE ASSETS.

Apparently, America is so great that tire chalking, to identify that a car has been in a parking space too long, becomes an unreasonable search.  Is that bad news for cash-strapped public officials? "The decision, while undoubtedly bringing joy to parking scofflaws everywhere, could cost some cities money, either from lost revenue or having to install meters where none exist."

Strong Towns's Marshall Hines is amused.  "It’s hilarious to me that this has become an argument about unreasonable searches."

As I have previously asked, "Why should road socialism be different from any other socialism?"

The error of any sort of socialism is in pretending that something that has scarcity value, whether it's medical care, food, housing, or transportation, ought a priori to be free.  I've been toying with the idea that governments price services they offer as if they were in business, and Mr Hines is thinking along similar lines.  That Mercury-News gripe turns into a desirable outcome.
The city places parking meters at every single one of these 2-hour parking spots and probably charges a small fee for the first two hours you are there, and more thereafter. Likely everyone this lawsuit is “helping out” loses because now they have to pay for their first couple of hours. Not to mention, these same folks will likely still be getting tickets, because if you ignored the 2-hour limit previously, you’re probably going to ignore the expiration on your meter.
The Popular Perspective is that parking enforcement is just a cheesy dodge to raise money.  That was a common gripe among Northern Illinois's students, and it probably still is.  Raising revenue, however, is the businesslike thing to do.
Now, if you are like me, that alternative the city is likely to end up with actually sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

A good or service is provided—in this case, a spot in which you can store your 4,000 pound vehicle for a specific period of time—and in return, you pay for it. Seems like capitalism and fairness at work.

I am sure Mr. Gronda would concede that this alternative does resolve the delicate issue of searching your vehicle… with chalk. But sometimes I wonder if we are missing the forest for the trees. Should we even provide free parking? A city has to maintain that street where you park, and the street, other than charging for parking along it, generates no revenue. If the cost of repairing the streets is passed on indiscriminately to the population of a city, then the burden for its repairs does not reflect the people who create the need for most of that repair: the people who utilize the road.

Charging for parking is about as close as you can get to directly assessing a fee to the people who receive benefits from parking on a street.

So I will continue my defense of the parking and meter maids. They are our last line of defense against the scofflaws who use our public infrastructure but are unwilling to pay their fair share of its maintenance.
There is no such thing as free parking, the use of a parking space is exclusive and rivalrous, and it would be salutary for political economy to get people thinking that paying for a parking space ought be no different from paying for a hamburger or a seat at a concert.

There is no such thing as a freeway, either.  The extension to treating those roads as productive assets ought to be straightforward.

25.6.19

JULIA'S MANIFESTO.

I used to be involved with economic education as university outreach, which inter alia involved equipping teachers with materials to develop financial literacy in their students, in order that the students (including collegians) not be fleeced.

The Council for Economic Education provided a lot of that material.  They worked closely with the Federal Reserve and with the traditional banking companies, which provided materials, and sometimes contributed money and speakers.  That was sometimes a sore point with me, as I perceive the traditional banks as discouraging small savers, such as youngsters, and anyone without at least a thousand bucks to park for a long time.  Yes, I understand there are transaction costs, and quantitative easing has made the passbook account a joke, but still, if the kids can't put a few bucks away each month without having them dissipated in maintenance fees, they'll likely keep their coins in a piggybank or a used spaghetti sauce jar.  "Those stashes are temptation to thieves, they represent money sitting idle, and a relationship with a deposit-insured bank is a step away from the check-cashing and payday-loan institutions that too often are the poor person's only contact with the financial system."  The banksters don't like those manifestations of the poverty industry, or perhaps they'd just as soon not take the risk that a kid will cash out that $100 that has built up over a year for Christmas shopping and start building it up again.

What happens, though, if it's more than the banks discouraging the risky customers, what if those check-cashing and payday loan companies are in fact beating out the banks for the business?  That's the thesis of Lisa Servon's The Unbanking of America: How the New Middle Class Survives.  Here we are halfway through the year and I'm rolling out Book Review No. 2.  (I still haven't perished, despite not publishing: perhaps there's something in concentrating on building that railroad or learning how to bid a game that can be made with some overtricks rather than worrying about how many book reports I put up (or about national affairs?)

THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT A BUSY RAILROAD IS.

We've been paying attention for some time to the efforts of the people of Glenview, Illinois, to prevent the construction of a recessing siding along The Milwaukee Road, or, perhaps, to get it built in somebody else's back yard.  Wisconsin's Department of Transportation has been seeking an expansion of Hiawatha services from seven to ten round trips a day for some time.  That's true even though at the time of the article, the state's governor was train-hostile, corporate-welfare optimistic Scott Walker.  "With the additional round trips, ridership is projected to exceed 1 million. Those figures do not include a potential ridership boost for Foxconn Technology Group’s planned Mount Pleasant, Wis., factory, which could employ up to 13,000 people and is near the Hiawatha’s Sturtevant stop."  Those additional trains, however, or the occasional freight train recessed in the holding siding, are apparently so repugnant to Glenview officials that they would rather spend first $400,000 and then another $105,000 to lobby the relevant officials against building the siding and adding on the trains.  Glenview officials have also suggested that the current trains are running, on average, less than half full, and perhaps Amtrak could strengthen the formations of the trains, primarily on commuter-train-like schedules, that serve the largest loads.  Never mind that "Ridership has more than doubled since 2003 when the service began providing seven round-trips daily."

The controversy isn't easy to follow, as I'm not sure whether this proposed siding is along the Union Pacific's freight bypass that trains off the former Milwaukee Road (now Canadian Pacific) use to reach freight yards to the west of Chicago: that might be what the references to "additional retaining walls" in some of these articles are about, or if it is along the line Amtrak and Metra use to recess the freights until the passenger trains get by.  Sometimes keeping that line fluid gets tricky in the Northbrook area under the existing schedules.  This article suggests there might be either, or both.  "Officials and North Shore residents have expressed concern about the proposal to build either a 10,000-foot freight train holding track on the east side of the two existing Metra train tracks or an 11,000-foot freight train holding track on the west side of the existing tracks from Glenview to Northbrook."

SHE'S GIVING ME BAD VIBRATIONS.

California senator Kamala Harris attempted to fire up South Carolina Democrats with her version of "American greatness is a dog whistle."
We have a president who says he wants to "make America great again." Does he want to take us back to before schools were integrated? Before the Voting Rights Act? Before the Civil Rights Act? Before Roe v. Wade?
That's standard fare for Democrats, as, apparently, is faking a street accent for the audience. The senator does it a little better than, say, Hillary Clinton (yeah, I know, that's not saying much), but it's still fake.

Mark Victory Girl Lisa Carr as unimpressed.
Okay, so let’s go with your “America sucks” model and let’s make America great, shall we, Kamala? Here are some suggestions. You can start by valuing hard-working Americans of all backgrounds and move on to working together with your fellow Democrats in California big-city cesspools to clean them up and get our homeless the medical care they need and off the streets and into perhaps a vocation. You can start with partnering with organizations that offer the pregnant, single moms other alternatives to ending a potential child’s life and putting ALL Americans first. Oh yeah, and quit the race-baiting BS and divisive rhetoric already. It is not for the people as you like to say-it is unoriginal and way overplayed.
Indeed so. But cut the senator some slack, she's probably too young to remember when California was about being true to your school and catching a wave and running that competition clutch and a four on the floor and rebounding with Rhonda; now the schools are so inclusive that nobody learns anything, the beaches are littered, there are no lake pipes on a Prius, even if you can find some open road to stretch it out, and Rhonda might be transitioning from Ron.

Ms Carr is correct, though: no California politician of any party ought be entrusted with the presidency until the state becomes a better example of something to emulate, rather than an example of what not to do.

WILL EVERYBODY WEAR SEATTLE PILOTS UNIFORMS IN MILWAUKEE?

Major League Baseball fit players with all manner of special uniforms: retro uniforms, Negro League uniforms, military-themed uniforms, so why not?

Power Line reported that last Saturday was "Seattle Pilots Day," with the Baltimore Orioles, who were the class of the American League in 1969, only to run into the New York Mets who ran down, with a little assistance from a black cat, the Chicago Cubs and then took the Series.
The Pilots punched above their weight in the notoriety department though, thanks to Jim Bouton’s tell-all book Ball Four. The book chronicled the 1969 season in which Bouton pitched for Seattle until being traded to Houston late in the year for Dooley Womack. Bouton was one of 25 pitchers to appear for the Pilots, an expansion team, in 1969.

Today, the Seattle Mariners held Seattle Pilots day. The team dressed in Pilots’ uniforms, as did even the ball girls. The Mariners did all they could to recreate the atmosphere of 1969 — e.g. with music and old-fashioned lettering on the scoreboard.
Bouton for Womack was good for a laugh line in Ball Four, but the most notorious trade the Pilots organization made was probably Piniella for Gelnar and Whitaker at the beginning of the season.  Mr Piniella had a great deal of seasoning in the minors, enough so to be the 1969 Rookie of the Year for Kansas City en route to a well-decorated career as player and manager, including with the Mariners.  That makes him part of Pilots history, such as it is.
I’m impressed with the Seattle Mariners marketing and promotion department. Yesterday was Lou Piniella day at the ballpark. I understand that, among other promotions, the team handed out Hawaiian Lou-au shirts. Unfortunately, Lou himself, now age 75, did not attend. I hope he’s doing okay.
The team currently known as the Milwaukee Brewers (#ThisIsMyCrew) started playing in Milwaukee in 1970, as baseball hadn't yet caught on in Seattle, or perhaps there wasn't enough aviation (information technology still being punch cards) money to outbid Bud Selig.

Tonight, a three game interleague series at Miller Park (and I'm likely to keep typing Miller Park even after the naming rights transfer to somebody else) features the Seattle Mariners, the expansion team that replaced the Seattle Pilots, an expansion team that Milwaukee bid away from Seattle after Atlanta bid away the team Milwaukee bid away from Boston.  Sounds like as good a reason as any for both teams to wear Pilots uniforms, doesn't it?

24.6.19

DEVELOPMENT-ORIENTED TRANSIT.

Clare Malone compares and contrasts two Ohio suburbs on opposite sides of the Cuyahoga River, and on opposite sides of the schism in the Party of Government.
My maternal grandparents bought the house where I grew up in 1949. They were the rare Catholics in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, and they lived at the edge of the city, a few blocks away from a Jesuit college and parish. They were entering their 40s, and that they could buy in tony Shaker carried a certain cachet. The city probably wasn’t quite as excited to have them. My paternal grandfather, who was a real estate agent and lived a town over, was sometimes told by sellers in Shaker that they didn’t want their homes shown to any Catholics (like him) or Jews. The city had few black residents then. After one black couple did move to Shaker in the mid-1950s, their newly built home was firebombed in the middle of the night. That determined so much, too.

Parma, a city on the other side of the Cuyahoga River — which bisects Cleveland both geographically and transcendentally — was on the precipice of a wild population sprout in ’49. The city’s neat rows of modest houses still speak to the enthusiasm of its post-war suburban sprawl. In the course of two decades, Parma’s population grew from 30,000 to more than 100,000. It was the butt of Cleveland jokes, though. In a blue-collar part of the country, Parma was almost too blue collar — its flamingos-on-the-lawn, pierogies-in-the-kitchen reputation was so infamously parodied by a local 1960s TV personality that the mayor of Parma called the comedy “a dangerous slur to the community.”

For Cleveland suburbs, Shaker and Parma have little in common other than that, until recently, Democratic presidential candidates could count on their votes. But in 2016, Parma voted for Donald Trump, and Shaker didn’t. To Clevelanders, this split followed a certain logic. Shaker and Parma have long been of different tribes, though the same political party.
There's evidence that once upon a time, Shaker Heights was a sundown suburb.  The story is germane to Cold Spring Shops for a number of reasons.

First, the developers of Shaker Heights even built their own interurban railroad into downtown Cleveland.  That line is now a light rail line, part of Cleveland's rapid transit system, and it makes local stops, same as any other common carrier.  For all I know, it might have run express from downtown into the development (the idea of a rolling gated community predates the Congressionals, Metroliners, and Acelas, and Virgin Brightline?) or perhaps it made some stops in the east side for the domestic workers to get to their jobs, something that was the practice on the North Shore Line's Shore Line until the end.  Some of the people involved in running the Shaker Heights line thought they could transfer the concept to Milwaukee, with Waukesha and Hales Corners serving as the bedroom communities.  That didn't turn out so well, but then, neither has the ensuing congestion on the so-called freeways.

Second, where Ms Malone says "too blue collar," she's really saying "too ethnically Slavic."  Any exile from Milwaukee's South Side would understand.

Third, Parma, specifically the union hall hard by the Chevrolet plant, is the new home of the November O Scale swap meet, which sometimes pays off a hard road trip.  I can now make a weekend out of that, or take advantage of the time zone to grab chow at Tony Packo's in Toledo and still be home at a decent hour.  So I know the place, and, yes, years ago, I went joyriding on the Shaker Heights line.  Gotta get that interurban fix, no?

Here's some of last fall's haul.


Ms Malone discovers that growing up in contemporary Shaker Heights involves a wholly different milieu than growing up in contemporary Parma.  (That probably generalizes: Shorewood as opposed to New Berlin; Naperville as opposed to Tinley Park; Scarsdale as opposed to anywhere.)
Our concept of class is far too vaguely defined, and our political discussions of it too two-dimensional. Class means more than how much money you make or whether you went to college. It encompasses your understanding of racial identity — your own and that of others — and your perceptions of history, whether you look favorably or unfavorably on the country’s evolution. When we say “working-class white,” what we actually mean is a set of people whose understandings of politics is rooted in a specific set of values: those of racially homogenous communities who came up in America through middle-class jobs, often unionized ones.
These days, the upscale suburbs are still segregated by income, but (it's a Thomas Friedman sort of moment) there's a kind of cosmopolitan diversity that's both encouraging (integrated golf courses, soccer players of all creeds) and discouraging (what was that old remark about Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood being where black and white stood shoulder to shoulder against the poor?)
Shaker has spent 60 years trying to fight [its sundown suburb past.] And in the process, the city cultivated what might be called, in the parlance of 2019, a woke white demographic. The identity of the city, which once rested on being wealthy and WASP-y, turned unmistakably liberal.
But echoes of that past remain.
Most Shaker residents probably don’t like the “build the wall” chant that Trump has popularized, but they built one of their own here, years ago, a reminder that the city’s integration was done on its own particular set of terms; it wasn’t necessarily meant for everyone.
Parma's insularity might be more explicit.
“There are places I won’t go here because I know I wouldn’t be welcome,” Karyn Dukes, who is black and lives in Parma, told me recently. “There’s a bar at the end of my corner” — I’d seen the Irish bar with cinder-block half-windows when I’d driven up her street — “I’ve never been there.”

Dukes told me that she thinks twice about going into stores with Polish flags or ethnic emblems on them. “You’re scared to because of the rejection of how people will act or treat you when you’re in there,” she said. “I feel like I have to put on this air. I feel like I can’t act like myself — ‘Hi, how are you!’” She put on an exaggerated perky voice.

A couple of days earlier, I’d gone into one of those businesses to buy Polish jelly doughnuts. The place smelled like pure sugar, advertised polka dancing lessons and had a picture of Joe Biden on the wall. The woman behind the counter was lovely and insisted on giving me free doughnuts when she found out I was visiting from New York. It felt like a Cleveland hug of kindness, the kind of out-of-nowhere warmth I miss on the East Coast. Would Dukes have felt comfortable walking in, I wondered.
We'll know that assimilation is working when everybody gets to be Polish for Pączki Day.

Joe Biden plays well in Parma.  Hillary Clinton finished her Ohio campaign swing with a rap music concert in downtown Cleveland.  The Democrat establishment are currently mau-mauing Joe Biden.

The kicker, though, is toward the end of the story.
[Parma mayor Tim] DeGeeter told me that the city’s Polish Village, pączki - laden Fat Tuesday celebrations and Ukrainian parades and festivals were real selling points for Parma. Young people, he told me, were eager to move to a community with cheap housing and a cohesive sense of identity.

“People work hard, play hard, want their kids to do better than they did, want their kids to go to college at the Kent States, the Bowling Greens, and be able to afford to go on vacation to Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head,” he said. And they want their politicians to confine themselves to kitchen table issues.
Proper beer and good sausage, that might be easy to do.  Getting Bowling Green and Kent State and the rest of the Mid-American Conference to do right by their students, not so much.  Here's Richard Vedder (Economics emeritus from Ohio University, also in the Mid-American) unloading on Bowling Green.
Let us take at random a very typical American public school, Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Does that school warn students that nearly half (46%) those entering full time do not graduate in six years? Do they tell them that a large majority of students take out loans, averaging $26,000, but that nearly half of the borrowers have not paid a penny back on that debt within three years of graduation? Do they tell them that the median annual earnings 10 years after leaving Bowling Green of those getting federal assistance is barely $40,000, only slightly more than the median earnings of male workers over 25 years old with high school diplomas? (All data are from the College Scorecard of the U.S. Department of Education or the Census Bureau) Colleges need to be brutally honest, serving society rather than their narrow parochial interests. Perhaps penalties for collegiate moral transgressions need to rise.
Professor Vedder has long been a critic of universities that don't appear to do much for students' human capital.  It's an argument that's been around for a long time.  I once worked in a factory with a man who, after a hitch in the Army, started at Wisconsin - Whitewater and found it wanting, in part because people were finishing and screening as assistant managers for Kroger.

My view has always been, it's not about the entry-level job, it's about the capability to take on additional responsibilities.  When the regional comprehensives and mid-majors lose sight of the possibility that less affluent or less connected students might discover their talents in an environment that's not a woke hothouse with a U.S. News problem, it's those strivers from Parma and Springfield and Decatur and Wausau who will be hard done by.  Universities that go all-in on access-assessment-remediation-retention or on viewing first-generation, non-traditional as somehow deficiencies, or selling the party atmosphere of weeknight football perpetuate the social stratification.

THE TRAGIC VISION IS TOO DEPRESSING.

John "Grumpy Economist" Cochrane notes that it's tough to raise unpleasant truths.
These are tough times to be an economist. As a matter of technocratic policy, this is not hard stuff. Physicists don't have to write blog posts because the candidates want to enshrine the phlogistic theory of heat. Doctors don't have to rail about HHS policy on four humor management. Somehow we are left railing against fallacies understood since the 1700s.

It is, of course, no better on the right. The benefits of free trade and migration have also been known since the 1700s. It is just, sadly, that there is no debate on the right at the moment.

This is a real weakness of the American political equilibrium, that in a reelection year all the new ideas and analysis come out of the party in opposition. It would be a great time for the Republican Party to try to come to terms with what Trumpism means, how it relates to traditional conservatism, and to hash out ideas like this. Alas, that will not happen.

One is tempted to dismiss all this as rhetoric that will settle down in the general election. But I don't think one should take too much comfort. Trump ended up doing a lot of exactly what he said he would do. Politicians often do.
He's writing about housing prices (in ways that shouldn't surprise anyone) and trade policy, but his lament probably extends.  Your politician can put together impassioned talk about "fighting" for dispossessed people and suggesting somebody else (billionaires or Mexico or the Easter Bunny) will pay for it.  The bill comes due later, and perhaps a different party is in power.

RECANT, OR BE EXCOMMUNICATED.

Joel Kotkin notes, "Long ago, religious zealots embraced feudal ideals, but increasingly it’s the ultra-secular progressives who reprise the role of Medieval Inquisitors."  That's no surprise to regular readers, who understand that Critique of Pure Tolerance is the Wokester's Summa Theologica.

I draw some small consolation, though, from the possibility that Ignatius Loyola or Cotton Mather or any of the other Defenders of the True Faith might have been better thinkers than Alexandria "Sandy" Ocasio-Cortez (Naïf-N.Y.), who Mr Kotkin quotes as saying “There’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.”  He later notes,
As in the Middle Ages, the new progressives often seek to impose a secular version of the imperial theocracy. Like the Medieval Catholic Church, new school progressives often exhibit hostility to the roots of our own past, whether verities contained in Shakespeare, the writings of the founders or even the notion of disinterested jurisprudence. In the new fundamentalism, as in the old, there can be only one set of truths, while all others are viewed as evil.
Sooner or later, that system of belief will collide with the deconstruction of coherent beliefs that makes the vanguardism possible, that is, if all those morally right intentions don't produce a lot of policy failures, or more populist insurgencies, first.

WHY VANGUARDISTS BECOME IMPATIENT.

Michael Munger is back with a number of Monday links, including this.
Physical attraction is not a rational process. Whatever its current status, it was attached by evolved processes to reproductive success. Thus, if it is true that "Trans People Are Excluded From the World of Dating," it may well be that physical attraction is complex, NOT that people are bigots. And, of course, people may be bigots. Both things can be true.
Yes, and the evolutionary advantage that assortative mating confers is likely to be more robust against incursions than, say, the Othering that kept people of African extraction out of locomotive cabs or law schools.

THE FACULTY ARE THE STEWARDS OF THE UNIVERSITY.

At American Greatness, G. W. Sheldon writes his "Goodbye to All That."  "Since retiring from the university, several people have asked if I miss it. I tell them I miss what it was, but not what it has become. Higher education in America has gone from being the best in the world to one of the most pathetic."  Yeah, pretty much, but there's more at work than the Left Idiocies.

He gives Thanks to Barack Obama.
Colleges have turned into social graveyards and intellectual wastelands. The U.S. Department of Education threatened to cut off federal funding to any university that did not enforce these totalitarian policies. Terror Reigned. Sadly, the people most hurt by this were the ones it was intended to help: women and minorities. Their education was trivialized and the informal mentoring that prepared them for professional life was lost, as professors had nothing to do with them beyond purely official activity, fearing charges of harassment.

All of this has had a disastrous effect on morale and enrollment, which is down nationwide. When universities, in effect, told young people: “come here and be continually harassed, abused and assaulted (or accused of doing such and unable to defend yourself),” it did not seem, along with the high cost and worthless teaching to be such a good deal.
He correctly notes that the faculty must reassert their stewardship. "Unless the academy is run by academics, not political activists or marketing consultants, the universities will not return—to the detriment of our entire country."  The deeper problem, though, is that the faculty can be complicit with a lot of foolishness in the name of Social Justice, until the Woke come for them.

22.6.19

MAKING GAME IN A MINOR SUIT.

Here's the fourth installation of the not-to-be-regular Saturday bridge column.  I have the material because here's another interesting deal the simulation gave me.

Because of the rules for bidding, it's challenging to show opening values in a minor suit.  On one simulation, my virtual partner and I had to work either to make a small contract or defeat the algorithm's small contract, and after the fact I discovered that between us we had eleven of the clubs.  Unfortunately, I didn't save the position or the results for a possible future column, but I suspect, situations arising where the two partnered hands are long in some suit and or nearly void in some other, there will be a future opportunity to show such a situation and what went down, and maybe figure out whether there is a better way.

A recent Chicago Tribune bridge column also dealt with such a situation, in which the declarer had eleven of the clubs in a contact of six clubs, and at the end there were two spade tricks left to be played, with declarer holding the Jack, with the Ace in dummy, and both the King and Queen outstanding.  That made for some interesting reading, and a little bit of thinking.  (If both the King and Queen are in the East, a low card away from the Ace forces one out; if they are divided, the Jack forces one of them out, and the Ace picks up the other, and it's contract made.)

I'm still learning how to achieve entries and how to force out ranking cards so as to salvage tricks, although I suspect there's more than a little luck of the draw involved.  For instance, it helps to be to the left of the ranking card with a card left to throw, which doesn't always happen.

Sometimes, though, the luck of the draw is with me.


My deal.  Nineteen points, but an unbalanced hand: 1♣

North algorithm: fourteen points, shows the lower suit: 2♦

I'm still trying to figure the algorithm out, and it has this habit of bidding a game that can't be made, and I'm not sure what signals I'm giving that it interprets.  (Garbage in, garbage out: it's on me.)

Thus I respond with two No Trump, something that the algorithm doesn't treat as a bust response.  But with a strong Heart suit, why not 3♥?  Again, I'm going to be conservative and request game on the simplest terms, three No Trump.  The algorithm might have offered that 5♣ as the cheapest way to get to 5♦ or a small slam in some suit, but with my weak Diamonds and Hearts, I opted to stop.

West opened with a fourth-lowest card, 4♦.  Let's take stock: in Spades, no losers; in Hearts, the King outstanding, but there might be a way to obtain ruffs in hand, rather than in the dummy, which is the Recommended Practice; in Diamonds, no losers; in Clubs the Jack and Nine are outstanding.  That's three possible losers (and when the defense gets the lead, they have ways of leading to force out cards you're hoping to play when you regain the lead, all the how-to-advice notwithstanding.)  The first set of Diamonds went Four, Eight, Queen.  What remains might be at risk if defense obtains the lead.

There are five Clubs outstanding, and they divided 3-2.  (One of these days I have to do combinatorial analysis on the frequency of various types of hands: those 5-0 hands can be hazardous to your well-being.)  South (me) leads Q♣, K♣ (forcing out the Jack), A♣ (West and East both showing out) and I opted to run the 8♣ for good measure.  There might be reason to hold that for future use, say to run the A♥ and then ruff the 10♥ with the 8♣; I still have the 7♣ and the 2♣ for future use, anyway.  Next, the 7♥ to dummy's Ace.  Time to run the K♠ and the two high Diamonds.  I tossed the Q♥ under the Ace and selected the 4♥ (the 2♥ having previously been discarded under the Club Ace) to force out the King.  Out comes the 2♣, and my final three leads are the Ace and Queen of Spades, and the 7♣ picks up two Jacks (including that Diamond I alluded to earlier, perhaps the knowledge that trumps were still in hand would have taken care of any such leads, had the defense obtained the lead) and that 10♥.  I had enough riches in trumps to be able to pitch that card late rather than ruff it the way I did with the Four.

One of these days I'll figure out how to manage hands where everything isn't forced.

SCHADENFREUDELICIOUS.

A Correct Thinking collegian learns the hard way that taking the law into her own hands gets her taken into the hands of the law.  Caution: some of the language might make a sailor blush.


Enjoy.

From the comments.  "When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression."

Hee hee.  Make them play by their own rules.

A TRENCHANT OBSERVATION FOR THIS MONTH.

Daniel J. Mitchell, "I’m not willing to destroy $5 or $10 of private-sector income in order to increase Washington’s income by $1."  Go, read, understand.

A CASE FOR EMERGENCE.

At first blush, Sarah Taber's "America Loves the Idea of Family Farms.  That's Unfortunate," which Laura "11-D" McKenna recommended, seems to endorse collective farms, or perhaps some updating of primitive communism.
Farming has almost always existed on a larger social scale—very extended families up to whole villages. We tend to think of medieval peasants as forebears of today’s family farms, but they’re not. Medieval villages worked much more like a single unit with little truly private infrastructure—draft animals, plows, and even land were operated at the community level.

Family farming as we know it— nuclear families that own their land, pass it on to heirs, raise some or all of their food, and produce some cash crops—is vanishingly rare in human history.

It’s easy to see how Anglo-Americans could mistake it for normal. Our cultural heritage is one of the few places where this fluke of a farming practice has made multiple appearances. Family farming was a key part of the political economy in ancient Rome, late medieval England, and colonial America. But we keep forgetting something very important about those golden ages of family farming. They all happened after, and only after, horrific depopulation events.

Rome emptied newly conquered lands by selling the original inhabitants into slavery. In England, the Black Death killed so many nobles and serfs that surviving peasants seized their own land and became yeomen — free small farmers who neither answered to a master nor commanded their own servants. Colonial Americans, seeking to recreate English yeoman farming, began a campaign of genocide against indigenous people that has lasted for centuries, and created one of the greatest transfers of land and wealth in history.
Put another way, plagues or conquest or perhaps the application of knowledge that served as a military force multiplier (phalanxes or firearms) combined to provide an opportunity for the family farm to emerge as a trade-tested betterment.  Or perhaps not: Ms Taber notes that family farmers can rent-seek (or serve as the mascots for Big Agriculture doing the rent-seeking) with the best of them.
In areas where family farming has persisted for more than a couple generations it’s largely thanks to extensive, modern technocratic government interventions like grants, guaranteed loans, subsidized crop insurance, free training, tax breaks, suppression of farmworker wages, and more. Family farms’ dependence on the state is well understood within the industry, but it’s heresy to talk about it openly lest taxpayers catch on. I think it’s time to open up, because I don’t think a practice that needs that much life support can truly be considered “sustainable.” After seeing what I’ve seen from 20 years in the industry, continuing to present it as such feels to me like a type of con game — because there is a better way.
That might be reason for government to go away, although Ms Taber doesn't want to roll that way.
America’s history is filled with examples of collaborative farming. It’s just less publicized than single-family homesteading. African-American farmers have a long and determined history of collaborative farming, a brace against the viciousness of slavery and Jim Crow. Native peoples that farmed usually did so as a whole community rather than on a single-family basis. In the early days of the reservation system, some reservations grew their food on one large farm run by the entire nation or tribe. These were so successful that colonial governments panicked, broke them up, and forced indigenous farmers to farm as individual single-family homesteads. This was done with the express goal of impoverishing them — which says a lot about the realities of family farming, security, and financial independence. It also says a lot about how long those grim realities have been understood. Indigenous groups today run modern, innovative, community-level land operations, including over half the farms in Arizona Tanka’s work restoring prairies, bison, and traditional foodways in the Dakotas as the settler-built wheat economy dries up.

One collaborative tradition that’s been very public about how their community-size farms function is the Hutterites, a religious group of about 460 communities in the U.S. and Canada numbering 75-150 people apiece. Despite the harsh prairies where they live, and farming about half as many acres per capita as neighboring family farmers, Hutterites are thriving and expanding when neighboring family farms are throwing in the towel.

Their approach — essentially farming as a large employee-owned company with diverse crops and livestock — has valuable lessons.

Outsiders often chalk up the success of the Hutterites, who forgo most private property, to “free labor” or “not having to pay taxes.” Neither of these are accurate. Hutterite farms thrive due to farming as a larger community rather than as individual families. Family farms can achieve economies of scale by specializing in one thing, like expanding a dairy herd or crop acreage. But with only one or two family members running a farm, there simply isn’t enough bandwidth to run more than one or two operations, no matter how much labor-saving technology is involved. The community at a Hutterite farm allows them to actually pull off what sustainability advocates talk about, but family farms consistently struggle with: diversifying.
Put another way, there is no one model of agriculture for a Farm Czar or the Great White Father or some other Wise Expert to dictate. Perhaps the best thing for the government to do is to go away.  (Not to mention that one way to do right by Native Americans might be for the government agencies managing tribal affairs to encourage those farms, again, rather than focusing on casinos and associated hotels.)
America’s farmland is filled with opportunities to sustainably grow more food from the same acres and earn extra cash, thwarted by the limited attention solo operations can give. We treat this plight as natural and inevitable. We treat it as something to solve by collective action on a national level — government policies that help family farms. We don’t talk about how readily these things can be solved by collective action at the local level.

Collaboration doesn’t just make better use of the land — it can also do a lot for farmers’ quality of life. Hutterites, thanks to farming on a community scale, get four weeks of vacation per year; new mothers get a few months’ maternity leave and a full-time helper of their choosing — something few American women in any vocation can do.

We don’t have to commit to the Hutterite lifestyle to benefit from the advantages of collaborative farming. Big, diverse, employee-owned farms work, and they can turn farming into a job that anyone can train for and get — you don’t have to be born into it.
Yes, she uses a lot of buzz-words (collective, collaborative, decolonize) that smack of vanguardism. Her examples, however, are various and emergent.
Finally, and perhaps most important, collaborative farming can be a powerful tool for decolonization. Hutterite communities are powerhouses, raising most of the eggs, hogs, or turkeys in some states — and they’re also largely self-sufficient. This has allowed them to build their own culture to suit their own values. They have enough scale to build their own crop processing, so they can work directly with retailers and customers on their own terms instead of going through middlemen. They build their own knowledge instead of relying on “free” agribusiness advice as many family farms do. In other words, they’re powerful. Imagine what groups like this, with determined inclusivity from top leadership down through rank-and-file, could do to right the balance of power in the United States.
It's probably nitpicking to point out that Hutterite marketing managers are doing the work of the middlemen by negotiating those contracts with retailers or customers.  The organizational approach might look like voluntary combination into a collective farm, or an egg cooperative that doesn't break down in squabbles between Catholics and Lutherans.  The important phrase there is voluntary combination, which is to say, betting on emergence.  And there's a model for righting balances of power in the United States already: it's called limiting the power of the national government and allowing the states to function as their voters see fit.

Likewise, her concluding remark generalizes to other areas where One Best Way appears to hold sway.
Our culture puts so much emphasis on one “right” way of farming — solo family operations — that we ignore valuable lessons from people who’ve done it differently for hundreds or thousands of years. It’s time for us to open up and look at other ways of doing things.
Is it "our culture" or is it "our political class" (for a variety of reasons) that is wedded to One Best Way?

WHEN TECHNOCRATS GO WRONG.

Veronique de Rugy starts polemical, taking on the latest incarnation of industrial policy, which is currently seasoned with a lot of China envy in the manner of High Thomas Friedman.
Why should we want America to become more like China? Here's yet another politician thinking that somehow, the same government that started a war in Iraq on faulty intelligence, botched the launch of HealthCare.gov, gave us the Solyndra scandal, and can't keep either Amtrak or the Postal Service solvent, can effectively coordinate a strategic vision for American manufacturing.
Her argument is straightforward and should be familiar to regular readers. That is, the expertise of Wise Experts is limited to their expertise.
U.S. industrial policies launched in response to the rise of Japan in the 1980s and the USSR before that failed, not because American policy mavens weren't smart enough to do things right. The real problem with industrial policy, economic development strategy, central planning or whatever you want to call these interventions is that government officials are inescapably plagued by ignorance of localized knowledge. Government officials cannot outperform the wisdom of the market at picking winners. In fact, government intervention in any sector creates distortions, misdirects investments toward politically favored companies, and hinders the ability of unsubsidized competitors to offer better alternatives. Central planning in all forms is poisonous to innovation.
Exactly. Plus industrial policy is a way of generating rents and creating a swamp that has to be drained. I thought we had enough of Government Czars forty years ago, but Donald Boudreaux notes no bad idea ever goes away.
Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., proposes to establish a new federal agency for designing and directing national industrial policy. Named the National Institute of Manufacturing, this agency would be led by what The Washington Post calls a “manufacturing czar, who could report directly to the president. This person would be called the chief manufacturing officer of the United States.”

Peters declares that “It’s important to put someone in charge.”

No. No. No. A billion times No!
Indeed not. In fact, it's not clear why anyone from Michigan would want an industrial policy czar in the first place.  A Special Commissioner for preservation, perhaps.  But a Wise Expert In Charge of Picking Winners might rule that all of Michigan's heavy industry ought be closed down, with the productive resources devoted to server farms in California, and the state turned into a nature preserve.

And what's with all this China envy anyway?
America’s extraordinary growth and prosperity are emphatically not the results of any “manufacturing czar” or of a government agency dedicated to overseeing and planning industrial development. Quite the opposite.

Our growth and prosperity are fruits of a policy and culture in which each of us with gumption is free, as the economic historian Deirdre McCloskey puts it, to “have a go” at opening businesses and innovating. We never needed the permission of officials to innovate. And we certainly never looked for entrepreneurial ideas from the likes of politicians and salaried government mandarins.

And so why does Peters think that we Americans now — with per-capita incomes more than 3½ times higher than those in China — should abandon the system of what my colleague Adam Thierer calls “permissionless innovation” in order to adopt Beijing-style bureaucratic fetters?
Well, Mr Peters is a senator, and the governing class has to give the impression of Doing Something, even when there's nothing productive that the governing class can do.

21.6.19

EXECUTING RICHARD NIXON'S PRIME DIRECTIVE?

There's a school of thought in ferroequinology that Amtrak was set up to fail: it would be sold to the masses as a quasi-public, for profit corporation that would devote the best of the existing rolling stock to continuing service on some of the existing passenger train routes, and it might have quietly expired a few years later had the 1973 oil embargo not gotten passengers interested in trains.  That's despite the early efforts to experiment, for example with trains running through Chicago, and with lounge or first class service on many trains.

It is hard to perceive the current behavior of the carrier, cancelling trains whenever the deer hibernate and offering a joke of a meal service, as anything other than reverting to that liquidation.

In doing so, might they be taking the Commuter Rail authorities down with them?  "Amtrak is tightening the screws on three commuter operators using its infrastructure—Virginia Railway Express (VRE), Chicago’s Metra and now the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA)." It would be funny if it weren't so silly, a ward of the state that has no interest in doing its own work making it difficult for other passenger train agencies to do theirs.

The problem is that in the three affected cities, there are still parts of the commuter rail service that function as rolling gated communities.  There's even a subscription parlor car still serving Chicago, on the old Chicago and North Western into a terminus not run by Amtrak.  There might be some influential citizens who get ticked off.
Unlike squabbles over substituting jelly sandwiches for hot meals, and adjusting routes and schedules to reflect budgetary realities and changing demographics, Amtrak, in dealings with commuter railroads, is engaging in incomprehensible pretensions to avoid its public interest obligations, shield itself from regulatory oversight and threaten, unchecked, commuter operators with service disruptions and even eviction unless they pony-up more cash.

Thuggish behavior intended to weaken other financially strapped public transportation entities so as to make Amtrak stronger is a reprehensible affront to public trust. Amtrak should be better than that. But with no sign of Amtrak remorse or abatement, Amtrak’s actions are overripe for congressional oversight and correction.
Amtrak's spokesman denies any ill intent, claiming it's all about clarifying fully allocated costs.

DOWN THE MEMORY HOLE.

First Big Time Hockey purges Kate Smith.

Now Little Time Hockey purges Lillian Gish.  Big Hollywood lodges a protest. "For a university to dishonor her by singling out just one film, however offensive it is, is unfortunate and unjust. Doing so makes her a scapegoat in a broader political debate. A university should be a bastion of free speech. This is a supreme 'teachable moment' if it can be handled with a more nuanced sense of history."

It's Bowling Green State University, and Ms Gish had a role in Birth of a Nation.  Thus, she can be retroactively made an unperson. "Upon reviewing the totality of Lillian Gish’s acting career, no evidence was found that she denounced or distanced herself from director D. W. Griffith or her link from the film The Birth of a Nation."

Apparently, judging people's behavior in a past era on the basis of contemporary standards provides an all-purpose free pass for making the person, rather than the behavior, a thought criminal.
Bowling Green issued a statement this week in response to the letter from the actors in which it noted that campus leaders from various groups studied the issue -- and came to the view that the honor for Gish, given her connection to the film, sent a hostile message to some students.

"Bowling Green State University has a primary responsibility to serve its students, faculty and staff, and an obligation to create an inclusive learning environment. That obligation outweighs the university’s small part in honoring the Gish sisters’ legacy," the statement said.
A Student Affairs type at Oberlin couldn't have put it any better.

AFTER THEY'VE TRIED EVERYTHING ELSE, WILL THEY TRY THE RIGHT THING?

Zoning codes impose constraints on land markets, which leads to higher prices.

In California, that's got Google setting up latter-day company towns.
Google's attempt to ease the housing crunch will play out over 10 years, in two main phases. First, [Google CEO Sundar] Pichai said, the company will "repurpose at least $750 million of Google's land, most of which is currently zoned for office or commercial space, as residential housing."

That move should result in 15,000 new homes at all income levels, including for low- and middle-income prospective homebuyers, the Google CEO said.

In the second part of the plan, Google will create a $250 million investment fund that will be used to give developers incentives to build at least 5,000 affordable housing units.

Pichai said the company has already worked with its home city of Mountain View, Calif., to change the zoning on some of its land. Similar conversations, he added, are taking place with officials in nearby Sunnyvale and San Jose.
It's changing the zoning codes that might do the most good.
California, and the Bay Area specifically, are infamous for an absolute jungle of process you must overcome if you want to build anything—creating lots of opportunities for development opponents to stonewall projects for years. This drives up the price of development (and ultimately housing costs), not insubstantially. More importantly, it shuts a lot of would-be developers out of the market, and causes a lot of worthwhile projects to simply never even be proposed.
I could crack wise and suggest that California becoming a one-party socialist state precludes doing the right thing because that would fly in the face of Received Technocratic Wisdom. Or, put less polemically,
What the Bay Area needs to do is reform regulatory processes, abandon an untenable paradigm of restricting almost all residential land for single-family homes, and allow incremental development in a broad swath of neighborhoods. It needs to make approval of such development rapid enough and predictable enough that small-scale developers can get in the game. And for this to happen, there needs to be a huge cultural and institutional shift, because right now, every one of Silicon Valley's small, fragmented cities has every incentive to build a wall of exclusionary zoning codes around itself and saddle its neighbors with the burden of housing its workforce.

Google, for very good reason, doesn't want to get in the mud here. It probably shouldn't. Google is already widely perceived as one of the villains in the whole region's housing crisis. It's a linchpin of the industry that's driving explosive job growth which hasn't been accompanied by a corresponding number of homes—not even remotely close.
It's possible, also, that Google are an inframarginal employer in the Bay Area. They might be able to establish a company town, but eventually people who do business with Google will find ways to engage in locational arbitrage.
Google's investment is welcome. It makes business sense for them — they still need to locate employees in the Bay Area, and driving down the cost of rent will help them attract and retain people without raising salaries even higher.

But bigger, more troubling, issues remain. The biggest is that the Bay Area is a regional economy out of balance, and a symptom of a national economy out of balance. A handful of superstar cities are responsible for an ever-more-disproportionate share of America's economic dynamism, and as a result, there are huge "left behind" parts of the country that could easily accommodate housing and jobs, but where the brightest and most ambitious college grads wouldn't dream of moving.

The Bay Area is also the logical conclusion of what the Suburban Experiment has wrought when it comes to land-use planning. It's the ultimate bad party: existing homeowners have every reason to protect their investment and very little reason to want anyone new to show up. It's exacerbated by California-specific factors like Proposition 13 and a process-happy political culture that results in the kind of obstacles to even small-scale (perhaps especially small-scale) development that seem insane from the vantage point of most parts of the country.
That passage is describing a disequilibrium, in which there are several margins along which businesses might compete to attract, if not necessarily the "brightest and most ambitious" (and given the credentialing idiocies these days, who knows if that's even who Big Tech are getting?) , sufficiently competent people with a different package of pay, benefits, and locational amenities than come with the Google company town.

Maybe after everything else has failed, the Political Masters will relax the constraints.
On Monday, Washington Post ;columnist Charles Lane argued the same basic point, even calling out the liberal politicians who are happily presiding over these restrictive regulatory regimes.

In the cities with the worst affordability problems, Lane writes, "Democrats are the party of government, but the housing crisis is in large part government-created."

"Blue American cities and counties need new rental housing, but local zoning, building codes, approval processes, and other regulations…hinder construction," he adds.

Even The New York Times Editorial Board—hardly a friend of unfettered free markets—is on board with this narrative. "The United States is suffering from an acute shortage of affordable places to live," reads their Saturday editorial. "Perhaps the most important reason is that local governments are preventing construction."
Governments being governments, there is still a temptation for the people who Created The Problem in the first place to double down on Making The Problem Worse.  Christian Britschgi concludes,
Part of the explanation, perhaps, is that problems of housing affordability were allowed to fester for so long that more extreme, albeit counterproductive, measures like rent control can seem like a good way of responding to immediate pain. In addition, good ideas will always have to contend with well-entrenched interests like homeowners and anti-gentrification activists, both of whom cast a skeptical eye at any effort to loosen zoning rules.

Nevertheless, the country's housing woes are being talked about and the correct solutions are being identified; that's cause for a little bit of cautious optimism.
Arbitrage opportunities exist. Public policy constraints simply lead to more costly ways of taking advantage of them, which attenuates efficiency gains therefrom.  But as California and the other one-party tax hells drive productive people out, the boundary between marginal and inframarginal "brightest and most ambitious" potential leavers moves upward.

THE CASE FOR BOURGEOIS NORMS.

A Harvard professor suggests that diversity efforts among the institutions that have solved the U. S. News problem often amount to Them That Has Gets, or perhaps it is about people who have learned to code-shift.  "[The Privileged Poor] is [A. A. Jack's] attempt to get people to question what they take for granted, especially about class and culture in higher education. The privileged poor are lower-income students who were lucky enough to attend boarding schools or preparatory high schools before coming to college."  Yes, where they can learn that "the Vineyard" refers to something different than "the Cape," but it's still permissible to confuse Minneapolis and Milwaukee.

In a way, there is nothing new here: it has long been a point of contention in education policy whether enrolling a diverse class comprising the spawn of professionals of all manner of ancestries and creeds really expands access, or whether the privileged poor enter the work force with an affirmative action asterisk all the same.

Read on in the article, though, and note where the troubles of the striving bright student who didn't go to prep school start.  "Culture shock from day one. Most of the students I interviewed for this book describe feeling isolated, different, uncomfortable talking about their families around their peers. Many of them have never been around so much wealth, and they’ve never been to school with the kind of people they encounter on campus."

Perhaps the hundred or so institutions that claim to inhabit the top twenty spots in the U.S. News rankings can help a few matriculants from poor backgrounds, prep school or not.  There is, however, a lesson for the land-grants, the mid-majors, the regional comprehensives, the community colleges, stated succinctly by Ohio's Richard Vedder:  "Engaged professors plus engaged students equal prosperity and fulfillment."

Amid the fallout from the Oberlin bakery defamation case is a nugget that is also relevant.
“The Grape,” a student-written monthly school magazine, explored the student shoplifting dilemma in Oberlin called ““The Culture of Theft” in the December 2017 issue. They found that shoplifting was down significantly in the summer months at businesses in Oberlin because the students were mostly gone. The magazine has not been listed as evidence, and is merely included here because of it seems to have hit the mark pretty well.

One student, anonymously quoted in the story,  described stealing pasta noodles from Gibson’s twice. “It wasn’t expensive and I felt like it … I just preferred not paying for it but I could have.”

Krista Long, owner of a Ben Franklin’s store (books and other student needs) on the town square near Gibson’s, told the writer of the story that she was losing about $10,000 a year in shoplifting theft each year.

“While it may be tempting to think that the owners of local stores are pocketing tons of wealth, this simply isn’t true. Every day presents challenges … Theft is demoralizing to us, making us feel that we should suspect the very customers we want to serve.”
Is anybody surprised that when you deconstruct bourgeois norms, bad things happen?

20.6.19

WATCH THIS SPACE.

Summer is usually for road trips, for catching up on reading and swimming, for tending to the garden.

The protracted winter and extended spring, with lots of rain delaying the spring planting, have meant more time to work on the railroad.

Here's the subroadbed going into place for the Saugus Branch and the Lynn Common house track.


That's as of 27 May.  Will tracks be in and power applied by harvest time?

LOSING ANY SENSE OF HISTORY.

You'd think Michael Tomasky would know better.  "It's never been more important for the Democratic Party to win an election. In the history of the country. Never."  Seriously?  I suspect the Peace Democrats of 1864 would differ.

He's too in love with his cult of the presidency to think straight.  Read his article, and ponder the internal schisms of the Democrats.

Show me the apocalypse, Mr Tomasky.

LOSING THAT INSTITUTIONAL MEMORY?

The Federalist's Tom Raabe suggests that hymn-singing ought to be out of the hymnal, rather than off the jumbotron.  I want to focus on an observation he makes about the traditional hymns.
As hymnals fade, theology also suffers. The rich repository of religious wisdom contained in hymns will be lost. The old-fashioned language of hymns may strike some as unusual, but their text teaches the Christian faith far better than most of the praise choruses that dominate contemporary services. Old hymns were carefully crafted with theology at the forefront. Traditional hymns present doctrine clearly and beautifully convey the gospel story of saving grace.
That might have nothing to do with technology. It might be a reflection on the aliteracy of the writer of a praise chorus.  It might also reflect the stuff that doesn't get taught, whether in Sunday school or the common schools.  I'm more troubled by the loss of, for instance, classical and Shakespearean allusions as the curriculum becomes more quote-unquote inclusive:  wait until those first year law students hit the landmark Supreme Court rulings of the nineteenth century.

Or perhaps, some references lose relevance.  I was struck, for instance, by a line in Tony Bennett's "Paper Moon," which Tuesday's singer offered at the city's band concert.
It's a Barnum and Bailey world
Just as phony as it can be
But it wouldn't be make-believe
If you believed in me
I understand Mr Bennett has sold out a summer concert at Ravinia Park.  But let's take stock of what's been changing.  The "oldies" radio stations used to feature love ballads, such as "Paper Moon," with singers backed by strings, or perhaps a swing band, rather than guitar and drum, and you could actually understand the words.  (Point your search engine at "Blinded by the Light" which now rates as an oldie.)  The band itself, which has been performing since 1854, still offers Sousa marches and medleys from Broadway's musicals, as well as the big band works longtime director Dee Palmer established his chops on.  But in the thirty-odd years that I have been attending, the G.I. generation seniors who were common at the concert have given way to the current crop of seniors (hi!) and we're fewer in number.  Yes, there are some little kids running around, but does the music mean anything to them?

Then there's that "Barnum and Bailey" reference in the song.  Yes, there has always been a sense that the itinerant circus is a humbug, and once upon a time Barnum and Bailey were The Greatest Show on Earth, but no more.  There are still little kids checking out the circus models at our shows, but does the circus train mean anything to them?

That might be the real problem confronting the churches, does the language of "Come, Come, Ye Saints" or "We Gather Together" or even "We Three Kings" mean anything to modern worshippers?

Or, as I once put it, "And yet the day may come when nobody knows how to set the valves on a steam locomotive, or how to catch the triple somersault."