21.7.14

TAIL TRACK.

Barring signal troubles, links to any posts of substance ought to work.

A TRANSIT PROFESSIONAL PASSES.

Edson Tennyson, 1922-2014.  Mr Tennyson was a long-time member of the Central Electric Railfans Association, and one of his first projects was the Milwaukee Rapid Transit and Speedrail, where his advice, if heeded, might have prevented the September 2, 1950 collision that took ten lives, and might have protected the carrier's cash flow.

WE DON'T KNOW WHAT CHANGES WE MUST MAKE.

That's an observation I referred to in a previous evaluation of the folly of disruption.  Here are a few more pithy comments in the same vein.  Paul Krugman. "[M]aybe we need to do less disruption and put more effort into doing whatever we do well."  That follows from thinking of disruption as emergent and spontaneous, rather than something that can be consciously willed. "'[D]isruption' is the process by which smaller, faster, more innovative competitors come along and make preexisting incumbents obsolete."  Perhaps there is some merit in a management devoting some resources to thinking about those sorts of product or process innovations that could render their company useless, but that's not the same thing as the snake-oil peddled by business gurus.
The rapid pace of disruptive innovation happens because their low cost allows a lot of experimentation. Most of the experiments fail, but the successes push the industry forward. So the fact that the specific disruptive companies [Clayton] Christensen backed failed doesn't really contradict his theory, which doesn't say anything about which firms will best capitalize on a disruptive trend or even which disruptive technologies will have the biggest impact.
And perhaps thinking about how to do better things one already does well heads off a lot of disruption.  This essay, which will reward careful study, suggests that there's more to effective management than the latest fad or the latest airport-bookstore best-seller. "Corporate America, health care, manufacturing, and the contemporary university have all tied their reputations to their delivery of innovation. Innovation comes with lots of turmoil, unilateral management decision making, and interference with how people do their jobs." Ultimately, though, the containers have to be delivered, the steel cast, the code installed.  One of these days, consumers will become even more resistant to service degradation in the name of offering better service.

THE PRODUCTIVITY TRAP.

Fred Frailey nails it.  The railroads are running out of capacity.  That's the predictable consequence of years of cost-cutting.  Lower costs translate into lower rates and the traffic clogs the railroad.  But the analysts focused on the next quarter's results are cheerful.  For the moment.
Meanwhile, Wall Street remains adamantly enamored of low operating ratios. To some degree, spending to expand capacity and achieving low operating ratios are incompatible. Not every railroad may need expanding as much as BNSF. But as I’ve tried to explain, there will be consequences for standing still. Long term, pissing off your customers is not a viable business strategy
Yes, and the Chicago Great Western at one time led the Class Ones in gross-ton-miles-per-train-hour.  For all the good that did it.

15.7.14

INCOME AND SUBSTITUTION EFFECTS.

It has long been the Cold Spring Shops position that people, particularly talented people, hold out for terms other than the standard we-pay-you-a-lot-and-own-your-spare-time contract.
There's no intellectual basis for criticizing the individual who is willing to outwork others in order to secure income, or promotions.

On the other hand, there's no reason for a corporation to restrict its promotion opportunities to the most conspicuous time-servers, or to restrict its flexible job descriptions to mothers.
Now comes Echidne of the Snakes, in a sympathetic response to the domestic difficulties of Pepsi chief Indra K. Nooyi.
[M]y guess is that most every single high-powered CEO out there spends relatively little time with his or her family, because that's what the cultural expectations are.  The enormous salaries are based on the assumption that the CEO is married to the corporation (or that the CEO is the parent of the corporation.)
Yes, and perhaps there's an efficient separating equilibrium in which the most committed strivers self-identify. But that need not be the optimal form of corporate management, or the sole employment contract.
More men need to start demanding work-life balance (proper vacations, more time at home than it takes to sleep, the chance to see the children when they are not asleep and so on), because if that balance is seen as a girly issue it will not be taken seriously.
Perhaps, though, tighter supply sides of the labor market?  Asking for more favorable working conditions is risky in the prolonged slow recovery of the past five years.

REFINING IN TRANSIT.

Crude oil can be partially refined before it's loaded onto tank cars.  The resulting cargo is safer.
The stabilization process involves heating and pressurizing the oil to force out light hydrocarbons, such as ethane, butane, and propane, which can then be transported separately. These light hydrocarbons are the truly combustible components that make the light sweet crude coming from both Eagle Ford [Texas] and Bakken [North Dakota] susceptible to explosions in the event of a derailment. Heavy crude, such as from Alberta’s oil sands, is nowhere near as dangerous as the Bakken and Eagle Ford crude; as I’ve said before, you could probably blast such oil with a flamethrower, to no effect.
There's something in the behavior of North Dakota crude producers and the railroads that calls for further scrutiny, though.
The railroads could ask that the oil be stabilized, but their common carrier obligation to handle all business offered them perhaps prevents them from requiring such processing. Ditto the pipelines. And if the rails insist and pipelines do not, guess what happens then? So it appears to come down to government, in particular the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Administration, which has the authority to order stabilization.
I was under the impression that the railroads (BNSF in particular) were hauling so much Bakken oil for lack of any convenient pipelines (there's a complication involving the Cushing, Oklahoma basing point).  If so, that puts them in a better position to refuse dangerous shipments, particularly dangerous shipments that are straining capacity and on at least one occasion, catastrophically derailing at a choke point on the railroad.

TIME TO CUT THE GORDIAN KNOT?

Paul Rubin of Truth on the Market offers a second-best defense of convoluted public policies.
Corporate taxes are too high, retarding investment. But when cutting rates is impossible, maybe tax breaks that encourage investment of various sorts is the second-best response. Environmental Protection Agency regulations are costly and inefficient. In some cases waivers or exceptions are less a payoff to cronies than a way to counter inefficient restrictions.

A second-best world is messy, and there may be better ways to overcome government-induced inefficiency. Yet sometimes what appear to be special favors may actually be moves in the direction of efficiency.

Of course, some examples of crony capitalism are worthy of the term, and the scorn that goes with it. For example, the various farm price-support programs, including sugar quotas and the ethanol program, which raise food prices world-wide and increase poverty, would be very difficult to justify under any second-best theory.

Nonetheless, as long as there is a push for more regulation, and particularly inefficient regulation, with little opportunity to rein in the already severe drag that these regulations impose on the economy, second-best solutions may be useful to temper some of their costs.
Perhaps, although designing a second-best-optimal set of policies strikes me as orders of magnitude more difficult than designing first-best-optimal policies and tax rates in the first place, with even more opportunities for rent seekers to seek rents.  Here's a meditation on the aftermath of Brazil's recent hosting of the World Cup that, more directly than mine, lays out the consequences of rent-seeking not to the benefit of the masses.
Apart from passionate support for their national sports teams, hatred of government corruption and “crony capitalism” is one of the few issues that unite all social groups in developing countries.

Corruption is often the main issue of opposition parties seeking to get into elected office in democracies. And along with anger at dictatorial abuse, disgust with corruption has been one of the driving forces in the toppling of authoritarian regimes, which was particularly evident during the Arab Spring.

An alliance between civil society and reformist groups in government can be a powerful force in curbing corruption.
Little good done by those who affect to trade for the common good, indeed, particularly when taking advantage of the average Brazilian (or resident of the rougher parts of Chicago) is so much more lucrative.
Reducing corruption can undoubtedly contribute to reducing inequality, both directly and indirectly. Nevertheless, campaigning against corruption is not usually high on the agenda of progressive groups.

For instance, for the Brazilian Workers’ Party that President Lula da Silva led to power in 2002, corruption was an issue, but it was subordinate to changing Brazil’s highly unequal social structure. But once Lula came to power, dealing with corruption became a central concern, especially when people close to the popular progressive president were discovered bribing parliamentarians to get support for government-initiated legislation.

For many progressives, the corruption issue is a double-edged sword. Multilateral agencies like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have promoted the view that “good governance” is the central problem in development, by which they often mean that government intervention in the economy creates opportunities for corruption. This view is particularly popular among the middle classes, whose discourse dominates public discussion.

In other words, the anti-corruption cause is often tied to an ideological neoliberal agenda.
Interesting how the term "progressive" shifts meaning. Apparently it stands in for "communist" in the essay, rather than for "technocrat" in the way Theodore Roosevelt or Herbert Croly would have it.  (Not that the intellectual developments of the past century, Welfare Economics Paradigm or not, have made the Good Government Instruction Manual any easier to implement.)  The "neoliberal agenda" might have more promise in helping the poor, as limitations on the powers of government agencies can be limitations on the generation and dissipation of rents.  In the essay, some people have not yet gotten the memo.
Perhaps the best illustration of the transmogrification of anti-corruption discourse was this assertion from a supposedly liberal Thai academic, who told me: “For me democracy is not the best regime. I’m in this sense an elitist. If there are people who are more capable, why not give them more weight? Why should they not come ahead of everybody else? You may call me a Nietzschean.”
There it is: the aspirations of LaFollette or the Brain Trust or The Best and Brightest, shorn of any pretense.  But grant to the Brain Trust no powers you wouldn't want a Less Enlightened Authoritarian to have.
The movement against corruption can be channeled into a mobilization of the middle class to oust governments that promote popular political and economic empowerment, as in Thailand.

So even as they embrace fighting corruption as part of a broader movement for social transformation, progressives would be well advised not to get trapped into using anti-corruption rhetoric for anti-democratic ends.
Interpret that passage as a warning to leftists in the United States not to get too close to libertarians or Tea Partiers. Or interpret it as recognition of the limits on social engineering.

FIRST, IDENTIFY THE ROOT CAUSES OF THE PROBLEM.

Inside Higher Ed reports on a conference of university administrators seeking to Do. Something. about sexual assaults on campus.
Rather than addressing campus sexual assaults directly, the first sessions of the weeklong summit largely focused on the broader context in which colleges must deal with sexual crimes – the federal regulations governing how colleges react to sexual assaults, as well as the larger culture that normalizes gender violence.
Round up the usual suspects.
“Sexual assault on college campuses is a public health problem that affects all of us,” said Jean Kilbourne, a media critic and filmmaker. “We need to pay attention to the environment. Just as it’s difficult to be healthy physically in a toxic environment, it’s the same with sexual assault in an environment that is culturally toxic.”

Kilbourne has been studying advertising and its messages for decades; she said she believes advertising has never been more problematic in its depiction of sexuality and violence. Women are constantly depicted as objects, as being in danger, or as disparate body parts, she said. Grown women are infantilized, young girls are sexualized, and men are often depicted as controlling and even violent.

When those depictions are targeted at college students to sell products like alcohol, Kilbourne said, the message can be dangerous.

“Marketers create a toxic cultural environment on college campuses that make sexual assault more likely,” she said.
Businesses, particularly businesses that aren't part of the university, and entertainers make easier targets than the pernicious notions of if-it-feels-good-do-it or transgressivity that provide the structure of gut courses and victim studies departments.
Sut Jhally, a media critic and communications professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, compared colleges’ growing awareness of the issue to “getting fish to see the water.” It’s slow, but the good news is that more people in higher education are starting to “see the water,” said Jhally.

The bad news? Colleges lack the political will to pursue any substantial change, he said.

“No one has been prepared to take up that challenge,” Jhally said. “If universities wanted to do it, they have the power to change the culture on their campus. If they can change one campus, then it will be easy to change others. But that requires political will.”
Perhaps because it isn't simply taking on beer companies that make their money selling colored water in blue cans to dumb guys, or the Greek letter organizations with influential alumni, or even the culture-studies faculty.  It might be easier to organize presidential task forces, as new Northern Illinois president Doug Baker has, and say the Right Bromides.
"We want to be proactive and on the leading edge to see what we can do to improve our policies and procedures to prevent violence against women and also to deal with anything that does occur," Baker said. "We’re just trying to get out in front of this issue and really show some ethically inspired leadership."
Right.

You must remember this.


And the enrollment bonanza that followed.  "Football-inspired enrollment in quest of beer-'n-circus may not be best for our campus."

But it sells.  Thus, cleaning up the rabbit culture becomes more difficult.

CIVICS LESSON

The posts are two years old now.  The lesson bears repeating.  First, the expression constitutional republic means something.  Neither the "general welfare" clause of the Constitution nor the "To secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men" passage of the Declaration of Independence are blank checks for the National Government to mandate a universal policy for everybody.  Second, "freedom and compassion are not enemies."  Go, read, and understand.

FACTOR PRICE EQUALIZATION.

The Germans have historically imported Turks and Poles to do the scut-work.  They're now importing Chinese to do the thinking.  "Germany is one of many European countries now dealing with the consequences of embracing a culture of very low birthrates."  Here's the elaboration.  The United States is still a net importer of scientists.  Germany is a net exporter.  Both countries, however, contribute to rising incomes in China.  The United States benefits, however, from being a country in which the qualification for citizenship is ideological (buying into core principles, contested though those may be) rather than tribal, as is the case in all the nations of Europe.

YES, BUT AD-HOC TWEAKS AND PRIORS ALSO MATTER.

Climate forecasting, years in advance, is hazardous.  Macroeconomic forecasting, six months in advance, more so.  I note, though, that macroeconomic forecasting as undertaken for business or government purposes is a very different project than the kind of research academic macroeconomists engage in.
And keep in mind, this is true of fields where mistakes are vastly more consequential than in cosmology. We’re only a week or so into July, so you can still hear echos of chatter about the various economic reports that come out in late June– quarterly growth numbers, mid-year financial statements, the monthly unemployment report. These are released, and for a few days suck up all the oxygen in discussion of politics and policy, often driving dramatic calls for change in one direction or another.

But here’s the most important thing about those reports: They’re all wrong. Well, nearly all– every now and then, you hit a set of figures that actually hold up, but for the most part, the economic data that are released with a huge splash every month and every quarter are wrong. They’re hastily assembled preliminary numbers, and the next set of numbers will include revisions to the previous several sets. It’s highly flawed provisional data at best, subject to revisions that not infrequently turn out to completely reverse the narrative you might’ve seen imposed on the original numbers.

Somehow, though, the entire Policy-Pundit Complex keeps chugging along. People take this stuff in stride, for the most part, and during periods when we happen to have a functional government, they use these provisional numbers more or less as they’re supposed to be used. which is what has to happen– you can’t wait until you have solid, reliable numbers from an economic perspective, because that takes around a year of revisions and updates, by which time the actual situation has probably changed. What would’ve been an appropriate policy a year ago might be completely wrong by the time the numbers are fully reliable. So if you’re in a position to make economic policy, you work with what you’ve got.
True. But the way in which people make economic policy takes into account the controversies the academic macroeconomists have created over the years.  Yes, the Policy-Pundit complex might be able to prescribe tweaks to public spending or to the money supply based on relatively simple income-expenditure models, but the best policy makers will be sensitive to monetarist or new classical or rational expectations objections to the simpler stuff high-school kids learn.  But the forecasting models often get revised (the fancy term is "calibrated") on the basis of new evidence.  (I don't want to get into all the logical complications that follow therefrom.)  The most telling criticism of the climate-change forecasters is the "hide-the-decline" scandal of a few years ago, in which the facts that did not conform to the theory were discarded.  Recalibration involves updating forecasts on the basis of new information.

NOT QUITE ASTERISKED ADMISSIONS.

Nobody In Authority wishes to make explicit the extent to which diversity status offsets academic deficiencies.  It's clear, though, from an Inside Higher Ed report, that graduate school admissions and aid committees recognize a trade-off, sort of.
[Michigan education professor Julie] Posselt said that many faculty members justified their reliance on traditional measures of merit by talking about why they are "risk averse" in admissions decisions. A classicist in one of the departments she studied told her that "there’s always a tension here because we’re always under pressure to have good numbers for completing a program, completing it in a reasonable amount of time, and so on. The effect of that is to make you risk averse because it’s not that hard just to go for the students you’re pretty confident can get through.”

A physicist told her: "If you work with the student so closely and then he walks away or doesn’t make it, then it’s a waste of his time and in a way, I mean, it’s our mission to teach, but I’d rather spend my time teaching somebody who actually can continue my mission and then teach other students than somebody who realizes, 'It’s just too difficult. I can’t do it.' "

Grades and test scores are also highly valued by the minority faculty members who were interviewed, even those who said that they planned to make a push on diversity issues later in the process. One minority sociologist is quoted as saying: "You have to be above a bar, and then we can ask the diversity question."

Posselt also found that faculty members frequently were convinced that an emphasis on high grades and test scores protected them. Several used the word "spooked" to describe reading the application of someone who reminded them of an unsuccessful past student.
At one time, "affirmative action" referred to breaking ties among otherwise similarly capable applicants. Perhaps that lives on among admission committees.  Or perhaps experience teaches.

14.7.14

IT MAY BE A SEPARATING DISEQUILIBRIUM.

The Washington Post Wonkblog highlights recent academic research that identifies rising returns to some college degrees, and rising amenities in those communities that are popular with degree-holders, amenities that are priced accordingly.
Census data suggests that in 1980 a college graduate could expect to earn about 38 percent more than a worker with only a high-school diploma. Since then, the difference in their wages has only widened as our economy has shifted to bestow greater and greater rewards on the well-educated. By 2000, that number was about 57 percent. By 2011: 73 percent.

These figures, though, reflect only part of the inequality that has pushed the lives of college and high school graduates in America farther apart. As the returns to education have increased, according to Stanford economist Rebecca Diamond, the geographic segregation of the most educated workers has, too — and not by neighborhood, but by entire city.

This effectively means that college graduates in America aren't simply gaining access to higher wages. They're gaining access to high-cost cities like New York or San Francisco that offer so much more than good jobs: more restaurants, better schools, less crime, even cleaner air.
That's the down-side of the emergence of the Creative Class.  Five years ago, I noted, "One, the premium to locating in the most creative communities bids up rents. That produces an arbitrage opportunity, even in recession."  Apparently, though, gentrification leads to a more valuable bundle of urban services, something that has value to Creative Class types.
Diamond also found that as cities increased their share of college graduates between 1980 and 2000, they also increased their bars, restaurants, dry cleaners, museums and art galleries per capita. And they experienced larger decreases in pollution and property crime, suggesting that cities that attract college grads benefit from both the kind of amenities that consumers pay for and those that are more intangible.

Add all of those things together, Diamond says, and the problem isn't simply that the wage gap between high school and college graduates increased by 50 percent between 1980 and 2000. The economic well-being gap — including access to places with a better quality of life — grew even wider.
In the research -- summarized here -- the people of modest means get priced out.
Sure, the San Francisco tech worker has to spend a larger share of his income on rent than a low-skilled worker in Oklahoma City. But all of the added amenities of living in San Francisco outweigh that higher cost. It's not that high school graduates don't also value restaurants, cleaner air and less crime — but they may not be able to afford to live where those amenities exist. They're more likely to make decisions about where to live based on affordability. College graduates, on the other hand, have the luxury of picking a city with amenities in mind.

If you run a city, all of this suggests that you might want to work hard to lure college grads.

"When you have more college grads, all of these amenities seem to improve in your city," Diamond says. "But that may be at the expense of kicking out lower skilled workers to other cities."

It also comes at the expense of other cities that may lose their college grads. What happens to Toledo and Baton Rouge without them?
On the other hand, I remain skeptical of cities going after Creative Class amenities as a way of attracting Creative Class employers who will hire Creative Class workers. Countervailing forces, including congestion and bid-rent curves remain at work.  In my view, though, it won't help Toledo or Baton Rouge (a state capital, with a major university, even if it is a football factory??) to simply let the lower-skilled workers behave badly.  We've seen that at work in Chicago, with the accompanying stratification into a lake-side quasi-gated community with gangland war-zones south and west.  Professor Diamond's research, however, appears to be confirming Virginia Postrel's fears that the agglomeration economies are self-reinforcing, which I discussed here.  (I noted, in passing, that people don't have to pass judgement on yobbish neighbours if they live someplace the yobs can't buy into.)

OHIO TRAINS.

Destination: Freedom's summer research projects include an extended look at the lack of Passenger Rail service in much of Ohio.  The first extended analysis compares the current Passenger Rail, and supporting intercity bus network, with that of 1979, just before the Carter administration decided that the Amtrak network was a fitting place to undertake some austerity measures.

There's probably an essay to be written on the disappearance of the intercity bus network over the past 35 years.  There's very little of Greyhound (which I think now also includes Trailways), and very few independent carriers.  The map predates the emergence of the internet-tickets-only, subscription bus services that tempt advocates of transportation policies without scheduled and surely without regulated or subsidized common carriers.  But Destination: Freedom suggests these are sparse in Ohio anyway.

The Amtrak map, however, doesn't provide sufficient context.  In 1979, most of the passenger service in Ohio was a single train either way in the middle of the night: the Lake Shore between Chicago and New York or Boston, with a connecting Detroit - Toledo bus; the Broadway Limited between Chicago and New York or Washington (dividing at Harrisburg or Philadelphia: the Capitol Limited first came back as a Washington - Pittsburgh connecting train);  the National Limited between Kansas City and New York or Washington (also dividing at Harrisburg or Philadelphia and seriously overworked west of St. Louis as a day train across central Missouri connecting with the Southwest Limited); the Shenandoah on an overnight Washington - Cumberland - Cincinnati schedule, and the Cardinal, at that time a daily Washington - Charlottesville - Cincinnati - Chicago schedule (at the time, running via Peru, Indiana).  The Cardinal and the National crossed tracks at Richmond, Indiana, long a hub of The Pennsylvania Railroad, but with no semblance of connectivity.

The sparse passenger network in Ohio is, as Destination: Freedom notes, a consequence of Amtrak preserving passenger trains that were running as of April 30, 1971.
Ohio lies between the Northeast and Chicago, and overnight trains between them go through Ohio in the middle of the night. In the past, there were more trains that offered a broader choice of departure times, so there were trains that stopped in Ohio during the day. There were also shorter-distance trains between cities in Ohio, but they did not last into the Amtrak era, which began in 1971.
Regular readers will recall that we emphasized Penn Central's success in getting rid of passenger trains west of Buffalo or Pittsburgh here.  In 1971, there was little interest in returning passenger trains to freight-only routes.

DO THEY PRAY THERE IS A HELL?

Among the books reviewed in these pages is Eben Alexander's Proof of Heaven, a neurosurgeon's reconstruction of his time in a coma, or suffering a near-death experience.  His recollections are consistent with those reported by others, most recently the book and movie Heaven is for Real, which in turn is troubling some believers.
The book places the accounts of heaven in a firm Biblical context, with frequent references to scriptural passages. The film does not follow this practice. In addition to quite fanciful descriptions of heaven, there is the suggestion that everyone is going to end up there. There is no mention anywhere of hell or the last judgment.

There is now a considerable controversy about the film in the Evangelical world. Grossman quotes another pastor, Tim Challies, who criticizes the film “that celebrates the heaven we want, not the Jesus we’ve really got who is worthy of worship and won’t allow unholiness in heaven”. Other critics have accused the film of failing to emphasize that there is no way to heaven except through faith in Jesus.
Put another way, is what awaits us across the final summit not as, or at all, dependent on whether we live our lives the way the holy men would prefer?  And if that is the case, do the holy men have any power over our lives?  More fundamentally: is it only the threat of eternal damnation that induces people to deal with each other in a mutually respectful way? Peter Berger writes, "The presence of evil in the world created by God is intolerable unless there is an ultimate judgment against it." Let's suppose for the sake of argument that the greater and lesser sinners are equally welcomed into the beyond.  Does that make people less or more likely to treat others well in their existence in this life?  And if there is no judgement, would that mean people would be more appreciative or less appreciative of their earthly existence?

PAGING RONALD COASE.

George Leef suggests that in higher education, paralysis by analysis often follows from the lack of lines of command.
Because colleges and universities have so many “owners” (not in the usual sense, but in the “stakeholder” sense of control over decisions), it is difficult for them to make decisions. Put another way, it’s easy for campus groups, especially the faculty, to veto anything they don’t like.
The elaboration, from the Pope Center, suggests that's a flaw.  The remedy the essay suggests, however, is simply a formula for greater administrative usurpation, and a further proliferation of deanlets and deanlings.  Perhaps, rather than enable the administrative class, which only makes greater meddling by accrediting agencies and legislators likely, the more effective remedy might be to return responsibility for the catalog and the curriculum to the faculty.

13.7.14

SEEN AND UNSEEN.

A few weeks ago, MSNBC provocateur Chris Matthews figured that a spittle-flecked tirade at Elizabeth Warren about the continued non-recovery recovery in which there was scant public spending on infrastructure would be just the way to rile up his audience.


I was not able to find a transcript, unfortunately. That's fine, because the most important fiscal policy initiative of the Roosevelt Administration never came up.  To Mr Matthews and to Senator Warren, spending money on "infrastructure" (never mind whether useful or not) was essential, and to the senator, it was (as usual) those obstructionist Republicans not authorizing the money.  At Breitbart, the performance is mock-worthy all around;  to a Daily Kos diarist, Mr Matthews has forgotten what Tip O'Neill taught him.
In the interview, Matthews acknowledged that the Democratic message is the message that speaks to all these issues and that the Democratic Party is the party with the platform from which these goals are accomplished. However, he displayed his characteristic righteous indignation against the president, Elizabeth Warren and the Democratic Party. It seemed as if he did not understand the legislative process he was a part of under Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill for many years.

"I don’t understand the union movement," Matthews said. "Why aren’t they bitching and moaning and complaining every day? We want big construction projects. And the president of the United States is not doing it. I don’t hear him talking about it. He talks about one thing one day, something the next day. But I tell you, I don’t hear you [Senator Elizabeth Warren], getting it done. The Democrats control the U.S. Senate. The Democrats control the White House. When are you going to do what you just said you would like to do?"
Egberto Willies concurs.  But nowhere in this Washington-Democrats-Know-Best posturing is there any recognition that spending money on infrastructure does not by itself jump-start the economy.  The Golden Era contemporary Democrats long for (after the Democrats of a half-century ago destroyed it) neglects the role of World War II in killing off many potential workers, destroying the industrial capability of countries that would otherwise be trading partners, and fostering a vision of post-victory domestic tranquility.  (The Democrats of a quarter-century ago were willing to blame the emergence of the Rust Belt on those emerging trading partners being able to build new, less costly, manufacturing capacity, sometimes with Marshall Plan money, while the Arsenal of Democracy was making do with worn-out pre-war factories.  There's a solid analysis of what really happened here.)

Robert Kuttner recognizes the role of the War in re-setting the social contract.
World War II, even more than the New Deal, profoundly altered the economy in ways that generated a more equal society, with more opportunity and security, than the one we have today. These structural changes reinforced one another and affirmed government as friend of the common person.
That's prologue to a different set of policy prescriptions, which, yes, involve some of the same tax-and-spend ideas that Mr Matthews and Senator Warren agree upon, but which recognizes the disruptive effects of fighting a war.
Suppose we had an infrastructure program of $500 billion a year for ten years, or $5 trillion. That’s just over 3 percent of GDP. It would cover the deferred maintenance bill for basic infrastructure for such uses as water and sewer systems, roads, bridges, rail, public buildings, and the like, as well as state-of-the-art public Internet systems. The investment could be financed two-thirds with bonds and one-third with surtaxes on the wealthy. As during and after World War II, the higher growth rate would retire the debt.

A social-investment strategy also addresses the downward pressure of globalization without resorting to protectionism. The wartime economy required us to set national goals, limit private finance, and use national investment and production for America’s purposes.
That has long been the fantasy of technocrats -- getting people to agree on what the national goals are. And that conceit, when it breaks down, is what calls forth a Margaret Thatcher to note that the notion of "society" as something coherent is incoherent.  But to Joseph Stiglitz, the restoration of the social solidarity he thought was present during the War is desirable.

RETHINKING ENTRY BARRIERS.

When Joe Bain's Barriers to New Competition came out, a dealership network and brand recognition might have been greater impediments to start-up companies than the economies of large scale (several hundred thousand cars per year on the assembly line, and a product range that included starter cars, family sedans, and arriviste coupes.

Now comes Tesla Motors, at the moment clearly in the arriviste coupe segment, causing the legacy car company dealers fits.  What amuses, though, reading the gripes of the legacy car companies, is that the dealer networks that, in Professor Bain's work, fortified the incumbents, have now become parasitic on the car manufacturers.  Does it come as a surprise that state trade associations of dealerships are rent-seekers par excellence?

POPULISM IS ANTI-INSIDER, NOT ANTI-INTELLECTUAL.

Start with Salena Zito, perhaps meditation on Eric Cantor's being fired.
Populism is much more complicated than most people realize; it cannot be manufactured, cannot be forced, and no one person or handful of people can claim to inspire it. Populism, at its core, is driven by personal economics, disconnection from representative government and frustration with the lack of power to change either.
Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, usually the house organ of business-as-usual statist smugness, Jack Stripling attempts an even-handed treatment of the intellectual foundations of contemporary libertarian populism.
Ruth L. Braunstein, who is writing an ethnography of a Tea Party group in the Northeast, said her fieldwork indicated that supporters of the movement are not overtly antagonistic toward academe.

"It’s not so much an animosity toward higher education per se, and more toward a cultural elitism among liberals and concerns about liberal biases on campuses," said Ms. Braunstein, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut.

Within Tea Party groups, Ms. Braunstein added, there is often a "resident philosopher or economist" who takes on a professorial role in meetings that cover issues such as tax policy.
Yes, there are intellectual foundations for libertarian and conservative policy prescriptions, but sometimes, it's as simple as the failure of the Establishment to deliver on its promises.  Consider Juan Cole, analyzing the origins of turmoil in Iraq.
Sunni Iraqis had been in the 20th century cosmopolitan and often modernists. Many were liberals yearning for democracy. From 1968 they turned to more of a Soviet model, a strongly secular one. They have turned in desperation to rural fundamentalists who want a medieval caliphate only because of the vast reversal in their fortunes resulting from the Bush invasion and occupation, and the unfair policies of the Shiite government, which has turned them from an elite into an underclass. They are capable, trained, educated people. They aren’t going to put up with that, and if turning to al-Qaeda is the only way to avoid that fate, they are often willing now to do it.
There's a lesson the self-despising multiculturalists of the developed world can draw from Professor Cole's argument.  Substitute "Consciousness Revolution" for "Bush invasion" and "Great Society and Obamination" for "unfair policies" and be grateful that mainstream Americans have the Spirit of '76 to draw on, rather than having to turn to more authoritarian strains of politics.

THE TRENCHANT OBSERVATION FOR THE GALAXY.

Walter Hudson is not impressed with the message the producers of Star Trek have been pushing. "Tolerating every idea enables ideas which are destructive."  Ayup.

PUBLIC CHOICE, BIG-TIME SPORTS, AND FISCAL FOLLIES.

I understand there's some kind of important soccer game going on today.  Radio is tuned to Brewers - Cardinals; lots of St. Louis fans in Milwaukee despite the difficulties getting there by train.

But developing countries, Danny Schechter notes, are pursuing elusive gains either in national prestige or in economic growth, from vying to host the World Cup.
With the  FIFA spectacle about to pack up its goodies—most of their lucre has already been wired out of Brazil—it’s time for hype for the next global spectacle, as the “host” country now tries to cope with its financial losses, intensified social conflicts and humiliating defeat at the hands of the Germans after earlier losing their star player to a nasty collision on the field, and their valiant Captain to a penalty.
Why should the positional arms race to host the World Cup be any different from the positional arms race to host the Olympics, or the dissipation of resources as university after university chases (U.S.) football glory?

Brewer update: Bob Costas calling "Get up, get up, get outta here, gone!"  And apologizing for the wrong inflection.  There's lots of time in a baseball game for the broadcasters to swap yarns between pitches.  I wonder if that goes on in footie, or if the announcers have to act agitated all the time.

Back to the political economy.  Brazil is simply the most recent industrializing country to have engaged in corporate welfare for sports promoters with little return.
We saw this movie before, just 4 years ago, in South Africa where warnings of corrupt practices and unreasonable demands by FIFA---to have companies they pick build unwanted and unneeded stadiums, and control all TV rights, among other “requirements”” insuring they controlled the events and made the most money—were lost in well orchestrated patriotic fervor to bring the games to Africa for the first time.

South Africans were persuaded after years of struggling for freedom that they had finally arrived in the big time.

In the end,  FIFA made more money off the games in South Africa than in any earlier World Cup. There were plenty of photo ops and mutual congratulations, but, afterwards, the county was left with a large debt and white elephant stadiums,  like the one in Cape Town which some critics want to turn into a low income housing project in a “Mother City” known for its shacks and packed slum-like townships.

At the time, South African media turned down a powerful documentary forecasting these problems. To the ANC, the ruling party, the FIFA party was the one to embrace even as fans brought their own invention, to the games---wailing horns that expressed both joy and disquiet.
That's the vuvuzela, now a staple of gatherings of the Perpetually Aggrieved in the States.

Mr Schechter correctly diagnoses what has happened, with one actor missing.
Ratings and revenues are the driver with minimum attention paid to celebrating diverse cultures or teaching the world about the world. No wonder there is so much unreported corruption on all sides. The World Cup does not belong to the world.
Perhaps not. But as long as bond-traders are willing to underwrite the government subsidies, and as long as politicians look for ground-breaking, ribbon-cutting, and event-opening photo opportunities that accompany the sporting events rather than saying, "I cannot find the line in my republic's Constitution that authorizes these expenditures," the rent-seekers will continue to seek rents, and the less-than-honest politicians will sell favors.

11.7.14

ENTREPRENEURIAL ALERTNESS.

Last week, I called out some west-coast Perpetually Aggrieved for their silly claims about what market forces do.
According to the logic of Robertson and Leumer, there's plenty of money to be made buying up houses in Detroit for pennies and renting them out to the remaining souls there.  Donald Trump doesn't seem to be interested in doing so.  The Koch Brothers would rather store petroleum coke on the river-front than build houses.  And the owners of the sports franchises in Detroit seem more interested in extracting subsidies for their stadiums than in making bank in distressed real estate.  If those self-styled progressives are as smart as they think they are, why aren't they Detroit real estate moguls?
I now discover that, as smart as the self-styled progressives might or might not be, they're still slower than local entrepreneurs.
In downtown Detroit, at the headquarters of the online-mortgage company Quicken Loans, there stands another downtown Detroit in miniature. The diorama, made of laser-cut acrylic and stretching out over 19 feet in length, is a riot of color and light: Every structure belonging to Quicken’s billionaire owner, Dan Gilbert, is topped in orange and illuminated from within, and Gilbert currently owns 60 of them, a lordly nine million square feet of real estate in all. He began picking up skyscrapers just three and a half years ago, one after another, paying as little as $8 a square foot. He bought five buildings surrounding Capitol Park, the seat of government when Michigan became a state in 1837. He snapped up the site of the old Hudson’s department store, where 12,000 employees catered to 100,000 customers daily in the 1950s. Many of Gilbert’s purchases are 20th-century architectural treasures, built when Detroit served as a hub of world industry. He bought a Daniel Burnham, a few Albert Kahns, a Minoru Yamasaki masterwork with a soaring glass atrium.
I suppose the Perpetually Aggrieved will object that Quicken exemplify precisely the predatory lending that helps keep the poor poor.  But there have to be more glamorous places to locate the corporate headquarters, and the purchase of commercial real estate presupposes the opportunity for some sort of future gain.  And Detroit has locational advantages that transcend metal-bending.
Some of the city’s competitive advantages remain, including a world-class transportation network of roads and rail and waterways, with almost half of U.S. imports from Canada passing through. Even Detroit’s bankruptcy filing in December (making it the largest American city ever to take such a step) has its upsides. For everyone other than the city’s 32,000 pensioners and 100,000 creditors, the default should make Detroit less dysfunctional and more attractive. And in downtown, at least, Gilbert’s campaign seems to be paying dividends: Occupancy in residential real estate has climbed to 99 percent, and office vacancies are at 11 percent, the lowest rate in decades.
Yes, and government officials that would like to have some tax revenue to pay for government services ought to understand that taxing income presupposes income, taxing sales presupposes sales, taxing use presupposes use. (And the absence of government services leads to substitutes for government emerging, including, in Detroit, office owners installing their own street lights.)
There are no real assurances that gains will be spread democratically across the city, or that city planning and public resources will serve the needs of everyday Detroiters. But the hope is that private individuals will keep the greater good in mind. Heaster Wheeler, the assistant chief executive of Wayne County and former executive director of the Detroit branch of the N.A.A.C.P., the nation’s largest chapter, sent me a list of Detroit real estate investors who were committed to reviving the neighborhoods through their work. “Black Dan Gilberts,” he called them. Since 2000, Wayne County has held one of the world’s largest real estate auctions, offering about 20,000 properties a year that were acquired through foreclosure — some 5 percent of Detroit’s housing stock. Last year, 2,300 bidders took possession of 10,500 of these properties, with a dozen buyers each scooping up more than 100 houses. Some speculators have sat on the inexpensive homes, leaving them vacant as they await a recovery. Wheeler was talking about other buyers who have repaired the houses and rented them out, creating an income stream while adding a layer of stability to tottering sections of the city. African-Americans make up 83 percent of Detroiters, but from 2000 to 2010 their numbers fell by a quarter. “The city’s true heroes, its real saviors,” he told me, “were the African-Americans who had a choice to leave Detroit, who had the means, yet stayed. In spite of the public debacles, the racial insensitivities, the public transportation that goes nowhere, the taxes up the wazoo, the unfair auto-insurance costs, they still committed to making Detroit home.”
City planners and public resources are sometimes useful, but far too often unproductive.  And, apparently, the low-hanging fruit has among those distressed houses has already been harvested.
A decade ago, [nascent housing moguls Gary] Alexander and [Siegel] Clore started buying real estate together, but that was right before the housing bust. “We took some hard knocks,” said Clore, who is tall and placid; Alexander is shorter, stockier and more excitable. In 2009, after Clore was laid off by Merrill Lynch, they persuaded relatives and friends to invest in their venture and began combing the thousands of properties in that year’s county auction. They looked for bungalows in middling neighborhoods near the border with the suburbs. They bought 15 houses at the auction for a total of $60,000. Seven of them rented immediately. The next year, they acquired 21 more, at an average of $3,000 apiece.
There is, apparently, some money to be made, and there are incentives for aspiring housing moguls to pay attention to the neighborhood.
Clore and Alexander have become authorities on the vicissitudes of blight, both in its broader boundaries and in the arbitrary shifts it can take from block to block. They try to fix up the abandoned properties next to their houses. They paint boarded-up windows white, mow lawns, pick up debris. People sometimes call to ask if a rental property is in Detroit and hang up when they hear the answer. But Alexander said many of their tenants were native Detroiters moving back to the city now that rents were on the rise again in the suburbs. They spoke with nervous excitement about plans to add to their portfolio of homes and even to buy multifamily buildings. Clore plays golf competitively, a 2 handicap, and on the links he sometimes networks with local business types who say they want to invest in his growing business. He and Alexander already manage an additional 50 rentals for out-of-state owners who acquired the properties at auction. If credit eventually eases, they said, they will begin selling off some of their holdings, turning a profit that way.
The key, dear reader, is to recognize the opportunities, and not to rely on Someone In Authority.
[Clothier Rufus] Bartell is an unrelenting proponent of the free market, and as he ran the weekly meeting of the Independent Business Association in one of his empty storefronts on a weekday morning, he kept the focus on the moneymaking possibilities in his city’s demise. Of the 20 small-business owners there, all but two of them were African-American. A retired civil engineer named Prema Qadir, who built websites and was looking to start a catering service, complained about the failure of city government to properly educate anyone. Bartell cut her short: “That sounds like an opportunity. Pose it in the form of an opportunity.” Someone else worried over the fate of Detroiters who have stuck it out in homes while all around them their neighborhoods turned to field and ash. “To grow Detroit,” Bartell pronounced, “you have to shrink it. There are opportunities with vacant land.” Buildings were going to be torn down, junk hauled off, land cleared. Those were all potential businesses. “If it was my grandmother living on a street with one house, ‘Sorry, Grandma, you got to move.’ ”
There's still a lot of work to be done in Detroit, but the article notes a new source of entrepreneurial alertness. Chinese investors recently outbid Quicken for a 38-story downtown office tower.

AN IDEA SO BIZARRE ONLY AN INTELLECTUAL ...

Susan O'Doherty, who rates a regular column at Inside Higher Ed, contemplates the rabbit culture on a Christian campus.
Chivalry is, at base, the othering of women. So is much of Christianity, and many other religions as well. When one group is treated differently from the dominant group, with a different set of rules and expectations, there is a breakdown in empathy. It becomes harder for the dominant group to imagine that the othered group also bleeds when you cut them.
Chivalry is also the othering of cads and bounders.  When, oh when, will the identity politics zanies catch on that affirming differences ought not be limited to cannibalism, clitorectomies, honor killings, and the rest of the deficiencies in customs and life-management skills that keep the poor poor and the irresponsible behaving irresponsibly?

Fortunately, commenters at the post give Ms O'Doherty sufficient, and deserved, stick.

8.7.14

STAY IN SCHOOL.

Although I haven't posted any book reviews since late January, there is a stack of work to be done, and there is now some time to get to it.  We'll get back to speed with an easy read.  Book Review No. 3 is F. Beverly Kelley's Denver Brown and The Traveling Town.  It was de-accessioned from the Circus World Library and a bargain purchase for me at the recent circus model show.  Mr Kelley worked as a circus publicist and Broadway front-man.  Denver Brown would be shelved in the youth or young adult collection in a library.  Young adult writing used to present gritty realities in a less direct manner.  Thus, if you want the seamier details of circus life, stick with Water for Elephants.  But Denver Brown makes it clear that the circus is a hard-knock life.  Its protagonist is a young man struggling in school who runs away with the circus.  But several people reinforce the idea that finishing school first is a wise move, even for a young person with sawdust in his hair.  And along the way, one learns a lot of the tricks of the animal-trainer's trade.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

A TRENCHANT OBSERVATION FOR A CHANGING SOCIAL ORDER.

The Economist's Lexington: The myth of an omnipotent presidency makes it harder to get a competent one.
If the conditions that once made presidents seem like emperors have disappeared, that ought to lead to a more limited form of government. Instead, America is left with the institutions devised in the middle of the 20th century but governed by a different strain of politics.
The essay concludes, "Unfortunately the idea of an omnipotent president is harder to kill."

Perhaps, although experience might be a better teacher.

AS THE OLD SOCIAL ORDER FRACTURES.

Nils Gilman's "The Twin Insurgency" offers an instructive perspective on the challenges to the existing governmental order.
From below comes a series of interconnected criminal insurgencies in which the global disenfranchised resist, coopt, and route around states as they seek ways to empower and enrich themselves in the shadows of the global economy. Drug cartels, human traffickers, computer hackers, counterfeiters, arms dealers, and others exploit the loopholes, exceptions, and failures of governance institutions to build global commercial empires. These empires then deploy their resources to corrupt, coopt, or challenge incumbent political actors.

From above comes the plutocratic insurgency, in which globalized elites seek to disengage from traditional national obligations and responsibilities. From libertarian activists to tax-haven lawyers to currency speculators to mineral-extraction magnates, the new global super-rich and their hired help are waging a broad-based campaign to limit the reach and capacity of government tax-collectors and regulators, or to manipulate these functions as a tool in their own cut-throat business competition.

Unlike classic 20th-century insurgents, who sought control over the state apparatus in order to implement social reforms, criminal and plutocratic insurgents do not seek to take over the state. Nor do they wish to destroy the state, since they rely parasitically on it to provide the legacy goods of social welfare: health, education, infrastructure, and so on. Rather, their aim is simpler: to carve out de facto zones of autonomy for themselves by crippling the state’s ability to constrain their freedom of (economic) action.
Mr Gilman's analysis notes failures of the previously preferred systems of governance clearing the way for these insurgencies.
The liberal welfare state remained firmly ensconced as the hegemonic model—that is, as the baseline against which other political discourses and proposed political-economic models had to define themselves.

By the 1970s, however, it was becoming clear that the social modernist states were increasingly failing to deliver on their promises. In the West, inflation eroded the technical foundations of the Bretton Woods financial order, and economic stagnation undermined the technocratic consensus in favor of Keynesian demand management and the political consensus in favor of sharing productivity gains between labor and capital. In the East, centrally planned economies were revealing themselves not only as politically repressive but also as economically inefficient and environmentally catastrophic. In the “Global South”, the commodity boom of the 1970s led to a golden age for some primary producers, but industrialization by means of import substitution failed to sustain growth, and the debt crisis of the early 1980s put to rest any dreams of a new international economic order.

By 1980, the reaction against the social modernist state had set in.
Some of what follows echoes predictions from McKenzie and Lee's 1991 Quicksilver Capital, in which liquidity and computer technology enable the rapid movement of financial assets to tax havens.  The book also suggested the importance of human capital, something that neither the current political order nor the noveaux riches seem to be getting right.
The price the social modernist state asks them to pay in taxes and regulatory burdens outweighs the benefits they believe they receive from living in such a state. Plutocratic insurgents believe they can afford (and therefore everyone should be required) to buy for themselves the sorts of goods that the state was once expected to provide. They live in gated communities, travel via personal jets and private bus fleets, and send their children to exclusive schools. While each of these decisions may be motivated by lifestyle choices or a desire for social differentiation, the result is a progressive moral disinvestment and civic disengagement from the quality of these traditionally public services, especially as the habit of opting out of public services trickles down from the oligarchs to the upper middle classes.
Yes, and when there are only relatively few capitalist and petty-bourgeois households left, to whom will the oligarchs sell their services. Cue the drug lords.
While the mainstream globalization celebrated by the likes of Thomas Friedman grabbed the headlines, the parallel development of a “deviant” globalization in industries like narcotics, immigration, wildlife harvesting, and antiquities smuggling remained long enough in the shadows for it to set deep roots. Though the weakness of the post-communist and post-developmental state represented a dire problem for mainstream businesses and for imploding middle classes in these countries, it offered comparative advantages for illicit commerce. While plutocrats sewed up the licit opportunities afforded by the integration of the global economy, they mostly avoided dealing in goods and services that were banned for moral or prudential reasons. By contrast, deviant entrepreneurs realized that arbitraging the moral and regulatory differences that existed in different jurisdictions worldwide presented fantastic business opportunities—with opportunities continuously emerging as the capacities of different states contracted at differing rates. The unsung globalizers of the 1990s and 2000s, therefore, were the criminals who rapidly scaled up their local mom-and-pop graft organizations to become globe-spanning deviant commercial empires.

These avatars of deviant globalization constitute the leaders of today’s criminal insurgency. While they often emerge from the excluded and subaltern classes within their societies, what distinguishes them from classic social revolutionaries is that rather than seeking to build or capture institutionalized state power, they wish merely to protect their rents in the various (usually deviant) markets they control. Organizations such as the First Command of the Capital in Brazil, the ’Ndrangheta in Italy, or the Zetas in Mexico have no interest in taking over the states in which they operate. Instead, like plutocratic insurgents, they seek to selectively cripple the state so as to establish a private zone of economic autonomy, while continuing to rely on the state to supply vestigial social services. These actors thrive in (and indeed try to foster) weak-state environments, and their activities reinforce the conditions of this weakness.
We might add Russian industrialists and Chicago gang lords to the list of such rent-protectors.
Of course, even when deviant providers of alternative governance functions end up seeming “legitimate” in the eyes of local stakeholders, this type of governance is usually poorly institutionalized and nontransparent about both ends and means. Nonetheless, as these groups take over functions once expected of the state, their stakeholders increasingly lose interest in the now hollowed-out formal state institutions. Thus, even though criminal insurgents have no desire to kill their host state, they may end up precipitating a process whereby the state implodes catastrophically.
And perhaps, in this dynamic, we have the outline of the great secular challenge. Religious and resource warfare are part of the same emergent phenomenon.
The ultimate losers in all of this, of course, are the middle classes—the people who “play by the rules” by going to school and getting traditional middle-class jobs whose chief virtue is stability. These sorts of people, who lack the ruthlessness to act as criminal insurgents or the resources to act as plutocratic insurgents, can only watch as institutions built over the course of the 20th century to ensure a high quality of life for a broad majority of citizens are progressively eroded. As the social bases of collective action crumble, individuals within the middle classes may increasingly face a choice: accept a progressive loss of social security and de facto social degradation, or join one of the two insurgencies.
Or consider some new roles for the state.  Conn Carroll's "The Case for Libertarian Populism" engages some of the sources of political fragmentation.  First, he notes limits on the ability of a corporatist state (one of the consequences of oligarchs buying the best government their money can buy) to generate and dissipate rents.
Corporatism can, and often does, thrive. But only for a limited time. Eventually the tools Big Business and Big Government use to maintain their monopoly on power, undermine economic growth.
Note, that's a different argument from Mr Gilman's secession of the rich, but underlying the failure of the state is the same limit on how many resources the rich can circulate only among themselves.  And Mr Carroll has a relatively simple counter to the profits to be earned in the deviant markets.  Make their commerce legal (and subject it to transparent taxation and regulation?)
Manhattan Institute [analyst] John McWhorter explains, the War on Drugs “discourages young black men from seeking legal employment.”

“Because the illegality of drugs keeps the prices high,” McWhorter notes, “there are high salaries to be made in selling them. This makes selling drugs a standing tempting alternative to seeking lower-paying legal employment. The result is usually spells in jail, as well as failure to build the job skills for legal employment that serve as a foundation for productive existence in middle and later life.”

By ending the War on Drugs, the federal government would not only return much-needed human capital to beleaguered communities, it would also be a fiscal win for taxpayers as well. According to the Cato Institute, decriminalizing drugs would reduce federal government spending by $15.6 billion and would free up $25.7 billion in state and local tax dollars as well.

Yes, marijuana, cocaine, and heroin are all still hellish substances that we as a society should discourage people from using. But jail has proved to be an ineffective, and even harmful, method of sending that signal.
There's additional material to consider in Mr Carroll's article, most, though, tangential to the principal secular challenge.  Read and understand it.  But also read and understand Reihan Salam's "Selfish, Selfish San Francisco."
Relying solely on minimum wage hikes to make San Francisco housing affordable for local workers will ultimately mean driving all workers who can’t command a high wage out of the local labor market. Does that sound like much of a solution to you?

In The Gated City, Ryan Avent observed that high housing costs in America’s most productive cities had forced large numbers of middle- and low-income households to either accept long, costly commutes, which eat into the ability of families to work and save, or to move to low-cost, low-productivity regions. Over time, this greatly impairs the ability of working- and middle-class Americans to climb the economic ladder. Moreover, when you move large numbers of people from high-productivity, high-wage regions to low-productivity, low-wage regions, you lower the productivity of the entire country. In other words, the rich homeowners who are fighting development in San Francisco and throughout coastal California are actually making America poorer. That’s not cool.
Yes, and ultimately a lack of consumers for the products the financial and tech sectors offer will not be beneficial to the owners of tech and financial companies.  There's no escaping the Say Aggregation Principle, even in rethinking the political order.

START SEEING RABBITS.

Campus rape.  The women of the fevered brow look for its cause everywhere but at the social norms.
More often than not, the male complainant in these suits alleges that the sexual encounter was consensual. He claims not to have known that the other party was too intoxicated to consent, or that he stopped when she showed signs of distress.
Advantage, Harvey Mansfield. "Not having a sociable drink but getting blind drunk is today’s preliminary to sex."  At Ms, however, it's OK for rabbits to be rabbits, as long as they're properly enlightened
To colleges who want to avoid lawsuits from both survivors and alleged perpetrators in the future: Educate your students. Teach them the definition of enthusiastic consent, show them what it looks like in real-world situations, and remind them, over and over, what is expected of them when engaging in sexual activity with other members of their campus community.
"Enthusiastic consent" appears to be strongly correlated with temperance.  It's not, however, the Antioch College serial permissions policy writ large.  And it's unnecessary in any environment in which people interact with other people as thinking people, rather than as rabbits.

ASTERISK STATE.

Some faculty at Chicago State University have little confidence in president Wayne Watson.  The president has given faculty ample cause to lack confidence.  The governing board, however, continues to stand behind the president and his minions.
In contrast, the criterion most valued at Chicago State seems to be political alliances. Any political hack can lead this university as long as he or she pays obeisance to the persons pulling the strings: the local politicians who are responsible for putting that person into power.
That "in contrast" invokes the University of Illinois at Urbana, where two successive presidents have antagonized the faculty.  B. Joseph White had to leave in the wake of legislative clout admissions coming to light, and Michael Hogan antagonized enough senior faculty that he had to leave.

Chicago State, however, is an expense-preference playpen for diversity hustlers, never mind the corrosive effect on faculty morale.
Obviously, the University of Illinois Board of Trustees is capable of transcending the rhetoric of its chair to focus on the well-being of the institution. Our board is not capable of that kind of independent decision making. Of course, no one in power in this state really gives a damn about Chicago State University.
Summarized, in one sentence, what the soft bigotry of low expectations leads to.

7.7.14

NO REASON TO PUT WOMEN ON A PEDESTAL.

Craig Newmark recommends Harvey Mansfield's recent "Feminism and Its Discontents."  One passage focuses on the emergence of the collegiate rabbit culture.
The feminine mystique was her ideal; in regard to sex, it consisted of women’s modesty and in the double standard of sexual conduct that comes with it, which treated women’s misbehavior as more serious than men’s. Instead of trying to establish a single standard by bringing men up to the higher standard of women, as with earlier feminism, today’s feminism decided to demand that women be entitled to sink to the level of men. It bought into the sexual revolution of the late sixties and required that women be rewarded with the privileges of male conquest rather than, say, continue serving as camp followers of rock bands. The result has been the turn for the worse that we see in the plaint of the Harvard student. What was there in feminine modesty that the feminists left behind?

In return for women’s holding to a higher standard of sexual behavior, feminine modesty gave them protection while they considered whether they wanted to consent. It gave them time: Not so fast! Not the first date! I’m not ready for that! It gave them the pleasure of being courted along with the advantage of looking before you leap. To win over a woman, men had to strive to express their finer feelings, if they had any. Women could judge their character and choose accordingly. In sum, women had the right of choice, if I may borrow that slogan.
By its fruits shall ye know it.
Without feminine modesty, however, women must imitate men, and in matters of sex, the most predatory men, as we have seen. The consequence is the hook-up culture now prevalent on college campuses, and off-campus too (even more, it is said). The purpose of hooking up is to replace the human complexity of courtship with “good sex,” a kind of animal simplicity, eliminating all the preliminaries to sex as well as the aftermath. “Good sex,” by the way, is in good part a social construction of the alliance between feminists and male predators that we see today. It narrows and distorts the human potentiality for something nobler and more satisfying than the bare minimum.
Without younger people grasping that lesson, however, we're unlikely to see a new norm emerge.

Once upon a time, some younger people got it.  Here's an excerpt from a Badger Herald editorial, circa 1987.
One has to wonder how different things would have been if feminism had demanded economic freedom for women and denounced the sexual revolution in the interest of preserving womens' traditional roles as the guardians of chastity. This would have gained for women the equal pay and opportunity they deserved while at the same time ensuring that women who wanted to raise families would find willing husbands-to-be.

Such a situation would also have spread the gains from feminism. Today the only victors in the sexual revolution are those men and women who are good-looking and clever enough to enjoy multiple partners with a minimum of emotional and financial commitment. The dowdy and the not-so-clever (or not-so-unscrupulous) are used by the well-endowed and find loneliness and frustration where, in a previous generation, they would probably have been able to start families.
Yes, and the pickup artists teach the scrupulous to mimic the unscrupulous with a view to taking advantage of those supposedly liberated women.  Here's Professor Mansfield.
The hook-up culture denounced by conservatives is the very same rape culture denounced by feminists. Who wants it? Most college women do not; they ignore hookups and lament the loss of dating. Many men will not turn down the offer of an available woman, but what they really want is a girlfriend. The predatory males are a small minority among men who are the main beneficiaries of the feminist norm. It’s not the fault of men that women want to join them in excess rather than calm them down, for men too are victims of the rape culture. Nor is it the fault of women. Women are so far from wanting hook-ups that they must drink themselves into drunken consent—in order to overcome their natural modesty, one might suggest. Not having a sociable drink but getting blind drunk is today’s preliminary to sex. Beautifully romantic, isn’t it? The anonymous Harvard woman by getting drunk was unfortunately helping to pressure herself into consenting to a very bad experience. But she is right that the pressure comes with the encouragement of the culture. And the culture comes from the dogmas of feminism that made this mess for women and men too.
Dogmas that reflect insufficient thought.
The feminist desire for independence is defeated by the feminist principle of social construction that was designed and adopted to achieve it.

Social construction is whatever society does. The idea sounds independent and liberating because it suggests that society can do anything it wants. Society can make a feminine woman, as under patriarchy—the sort of woman that the American founder of feminism Betty Friedan deflated in her famous book The Feminine Mystique(1963)—or it can make the gender-neutral woman the feminists have tried to produce. This would be a woman no longer confined by male definition but capable all around, especially in matters formerly reserved for men. So which is better?

The problem with the idea of social construction is that society, on its own, has no notion of what is suitable to construct. Both the feminine woman and the feminist woman are socially constructed, and equally so. Actually, when one says social construction, the meaning is political construction: Who rules society in order to make its conventions, the patriarchal males or the feminists? But then we still have to know which ruler is more suitable for women—and let’s not forget men and children.
I can't help you with better. But I can help with "efficient." And there might be an efficiency argument behind social construction, namely institutions evolve to conserve on transaction costs.  But even that notion is controversial.  Let me propose one hypothesis.  Slut-shaming is a dishonor tax, and feminism is a tax cut.  Now go and read Donald Boudreaux, Joel Mokyr, John Nye, and Deirdre McCloskey and contemplate the complexities.

POOR, HUNGRY, AND DETERMINED.

That's still a formula for succeeding with the Green Bay Packers.
The faith-based film does not yet have an official title but will be thematically similar to a 2012 book on Beebe’s life entitled “Six Rings from Nowhere,” charting [Don] Beebe’s ascent to the NFL despite being undersized and playing college football at little-known Chadron State. Desert Wind Faith Films is handling the movie’s production.
We'll understand why a Chicagoland newspaper won't mention Mr Beebe's affiliation.  He and his brother are part of the coaching brain trust at Aurora Christian High.

THE EMERGENCE OF BIG BROTHER?

The latest electronic readers allow owners to highlight passages for future reference.  That's probably less hard on the books than applying ink to pages, or dog-earing pages or (my practice) writing reminders on the inner cover of where the salient passages are.  But, as is all too common in this wired age, the electronic readers are tracking your every move.
Thomas Piketty’s Capital In the 21st Century has been a bestseller in America since its translation came out in the spring. It’s being widely touted as the most important book in macroeconomics in decades.

It’s arguable that this is all a load of BS. It turns out no one is actually reading it.

Here’s how we know. When someone buys a book for their Kindle, they can highlight passages. Part of what you agree to when you buy a Kindle is that Amazon can keep track of those highlighted passages. The most frequently highlighted passages are actually shown towards the bottom right of a book’s webpage on Amazon.

For most books, these passages occur throughout the book. And a good sign that people finish the book is that there’s a heavily highlighted passage towards the end.
That is, provided the book is not a mystery, in which case somebody might have given up on the details to locate the resolution. But I digress.

Let me close with some advice for economics professors.
To put that in perspective, that’s like getting a text for a class that has they typical 15 chapters in it, and when the books are sold back to the bookstore at the end of the semester, they notice that no one highlighted anything after the first chapter. What would you conclude about a class like that? For my part, I’d conclude that the material wasn’t very interesting, the students weren’t trying hard, and no one was doing quality control to make sure they did.

Currently, I’m at location 1921, and I’ve highlighted 123 passages in the book. And yet I match up with 1.5 out of 5 of the most popular highlighted passages.

It’s a rough conclusion, but an academic macroeconomist, preparing to use the text in an advanced undergraduate class, doesn’t find interesting or worthwhile well over half of what the general reading public does.

I hate to sound elitist, but this doesn’t bode well for the public’s ability to understand macroeconomics even when guided by a book that’s quite readable. I think this is prima facie evidence that the intellectual baggage people bring with them to macroeconomics is huge.
Yes, and there are two different dynamics at work.  The first is give-me-the-credential-with-the-least-effort.  The second is confirm-my-priors.  And thus, the job is always, to say No and to uphold standards.

WHAT'S CHINESE FOR "Z TRAIN"?

There's nothing quite like the Burlington Raceway for mixing commuter trains and hot intermodals.


Now comes UPS, running full-container loads on trains, Chengdu to Lodz or Zhengzhou to Hamburg.


Xinhua photo courtesy Destination: Freedom.

Because of that Russian broad gauge across the steppes, containers are currently transloaded.  (That's often the case at Chicago, as breaking up container trains for interchange and waiting for clearance at junctions is more work than simply unloading and reloading fixed formations of well cars.)
Currently all rail freight traffic between China and Europe must cross two changes in track-gauge, one at China’s border with the former USSR, such as Russia or Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan, then once more at either the Belorussian or Ukrainian borders with eastern Europe. The two breaks of track-gauge as well as differences in the train couplers, brake systems and safety systems of the rolling stock in these three regions generally mean that the rolling stock and locomotives do not transit these gauge breaks between China and Europe, rather the standardized freight containers and truck trailers on the trains are simply trans-loaded from one train to another train with cranes and container forklift trucks at these border crossings / gauge breaks.

Plans and agreements are forming and being signed to piece together a continuous standard gauge rail corridor between China and Europe, in order to bypass the 1520 mm broad gauge rail lines in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and several other former USSR republics in central Asia. The route will run through Turkey, Iran and then across several central Asian countries, possibly including northern regions of Afghanistan to the western border of China, to connect with the existing standard gauge rail network in China. Due to the rather unstable political and ethnic climate in the region spanning from the western frontier areas in China all the way to the Iran – Turkish border – in relative close proximity to the war-torn regions of Iraq and Syria – completion of this rail route is not a certainty.

This proposed rail corridor is often called the “Iron Silk Road,” after the centuries-old horse and foot trails running through what was then the Ottoman Empire, and before that, the Persian Empire for land-based trade between Europe, the Middle East, India and China. In-fact is was the rise and increasing might of the Ottoman Empire, and its growing control over the “Silk Road” during the 15th and 16th centuries, which pushed the powerful European kingdoms of England, Spain, Portugal, Holland and France to seek a western route to China and India via the Atlantic Ocean – as an alternative to the Silk Road – and thus started the European settlement and colonization of the Americas.
We've looked at the current incarnation of the Silk Road Railroad previously.  Where is the Brunel, where is the Hill, to spike together an electrified main line with clearances adequate for double-stacks, and will Sheridan and Earp require successors?