26.5.16

TAIL TRACK.

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

THE VICTORY DIVIDEND RESOURCE CURSE.

I'm going to do some simple word substitution in Michael T. Klare's Oil World in Chaos and the Desperate Plight of the Petro-States.
Pity the poor petro-states United States. Once so wealthy from oil sales being able to export everywhere that they could finance wars, mega-projects, and domestic social peace simultaneously, some of them are now beset by the punditry fears internal strife or are on the brink of collapse as oil prices trade balances remain at ruinously low levels. Unlike other countries, which largely finance their governments through [income and consumption] taxation, petro-states rely that United States relied on their oil and natural gas tariff revenues.
It's not perfect, but close enough as a first approximation.

For the moment, the mediating institutions and the Enlightenment traditions of the United States are stronger than their counterparts in Mr Klare's dysfunctional three (Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela.)

Deconstruct at your peril.

OBERLIN IS AN INSANE ASYLUM.

Thus sayeth Rod Dreher.  Everything else is elaboration.

Last night, though, Megyn Kelly ended the show with a lighter segment, during which she suggested that the best remedy to the Oberlin insanity would be that Oberlin graduates be allowed only to work with other Oberlin graduates, or their fellow snowflakes from other academic hothouses.

The only problem, as Mr Dreher points out, is that when those snowflakes are in a position to issue regulations, normal Americans suffer.
Oberlin is not the only school like this. This sickness says something about the American ruling class. Only because he takes his cues from a culture like this could a President of the United States order every public school in the country to let boys who think they are girls use the locker room. The backlash in this country when it all starts to come apart is going to be a terrible thing to behold. If you’ve read your Dostoevsky, and if you know your early 20th century history, you know where this kind of thing went in Russia.
Things could go wrong in a different way here, as the vanguardists are beclowning themselves. A trashy, splintery, degeneracy-enabling common culture is a medium for more authoritarian attitudes.

CONTEMPLATING EMERGENCE.

In Cato Unbound, Donald "Cafe Hayek" Boudreaux and Jerome Barkow debate the relative merits of more rapid diffusion of cultural mutations.  Mr Barkow is the sceptic.  He starts with an explanation of the ways in which evolutionary stable strategies emerge slowly: mutation, selection, and adaptation cannot be rushed.
Culture as an adaptive mechanism would be a dead-end if human psychology were no more than a copying machine that simply replicated knowledge with high fidelity. Environments change – fisheries get depleted, rivers run dry, enemies arrive, crops contract diseases, climates change. New opportunities also arise – perhaps the enemies bring new technologies, or new cultivars become possible, or population growth leads to colonizing new and different territories. Cultural information needs not just to be replicated but, with each generation, tested and challenged with some bits discarded and new ones added. Occasionally, only revolutionary change will do.

You and I are the children of the successful. Our ancestors succeeded in assimilating and adapting and inventing cultural information so as to permit them to survive and reproduce – actually, to out-survive and out-reproduce the competition, thereby increasing the proportion of their own genetic representation in the local gene pool. Offspring resemble their parents, as Darwin taught, so presumably most of us have at least some of the culture-editing mechanisms that enabled our ancestors to become our ancestors. No doubt future researchers will produce massive tomes delineating these mechanisms and how they orchestrate the processes that turn a child into an adult member of his or her culture and society.

This essay focuses on only one of our culture-editing mechanisms, the tendency to pay preferential attention to, and learn preferentially from, the high in status, an idea originally suggested by the ethologist Michael R. A. Chance (1967; Chance and Larsen 1976; Barkow 1976). As young people, we seek as respected and prestigious a position in our local society as we can, and in doing so we in effect edit our culture. In adolescence we tend to become preoccupied by our own relative standing and that of the people and groups around us. This status consciousness may be considered reprehensible among some culturally egalitarian groups today, but how can we pay preferential attention to the high in status without status consciousness?

When we pay attention to someone whom we respect and admire or simply fear, a frequently one-way communication channel opens, and learning is enabled. In doing so, two processes begin: First, we are editing our cultures – we are editing out the behavior and knowledge of the low-in-status, the “losers,” the ignored, from the culture’s information pool. In their place we are replicating versions of the information associated with the high-in-status, the prestigious, the winners. Second, we are positioning ourselves to acquire prestige because those who are already respected must be doing something right! Of course, this is obviously an imperfect mechanism – our judgment of who is higher and who is lower may change, the knowledge we delete or insert may be irrelevant to the actual social standing of the individuals involved (let’s wear our hats the way the wealthy do, let’s not eat the traditional food of the poor, regardless of its nutritional characteristics): but during our long evolution this mechanism was probably reasonably effective. Learning our hunting and gathering skills from the people who were respected because they brought food back to the band, rather than learning the techniques of those of low status because they usually returned empty-handed, would have represented highly adaptive cultural editing. Learning our parenting skills from the woman respected because of her many healthy children would have been similarly adaptive. The techniques of the farmer who had higher yields than others, or the skills of the healer whose patients survived, could bring prestige to those who learned them.
I have some technical books on evolutionary game theory to read, some of which might go through a lot of careful algebra to achieve only modest improvements on arguments Armen Alchian or George Stigler offered in prose, three generations of economists ago.  And if you're tempted to question why there's a lot of mathematical formalism to codify "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," understand that being able to identify the conditions under which imitation does not confer evolutionary advantage might start with precisely that codification.

The speed with which possible evolutionary stable mutations emerge and diffuse might be one dimension along which the conventional wisdom breaks down.  That apppears to be one of Mr Barkow's arguments.
We often grow up wanting to be like them, and even when we consciously reject them, they influence us. Parents everywhere seem to have children who want to be film actors, or hip-hop artists, or Olympic gold medal winners.

Moving from the worlds of books and movies to the Internet has enormously increased such distributed communities while encouraging frequent and rapid electronic interaction among their residents. Sometimes large portions of a population share a media interest, as with athletics, but at other times we may dwell in and interact with an online community devoted to a single interest, say, growing garlic or agitating for better mental health services. Each online community develops its own prestige criteria and its own heroes, thereby facilitating the acquisition and editing of its own information pool.

Whether we are talking of books, films, television, or the Internet, modern mass media devalue the coin of local prestige. This devaluation results in what economists might term “opportunity cost.” Rather than wanting to be like one’s own parents, or like the successful baker down the block, or even the respected political leader, young people may want to be football heroes, or to produce videos for Youtube. They withdraw their attention from exemplars of their own local culture and may fail to acquire some of the skills and attitudes that made for success for previous generations and may be important in adapting to local environment. Everywhere, it seems, parents find themselves in the position of first generation immigrants whose children participate in a new and unfamiliar culture.

What exactly all this will mean for the future remains uncertain because we simply do not know enough about the mechanisms of cultural acquisition and editing. Are there processes that may make up at least in part for the malfunctioning of the learn-from-the-high-in-status bias?
At heart,  Mr Barkow might be writing about agglomeration economies.  High-in-status in an isolated community, or the knowledge base of an isolated community, might be locally well-adapted, but make that isolated community larger, or allow the isolated community freer intercourse with other communities, and ideas can have more fruitful sex.  That appears to be Mr Boudreaux's rebuttal.
Easy and widespread communication makes possible global markets that, in turn, justify the undertaking of large-scale production as well as of expensive upfront R&D efforts. Pfizer, for example, is more likely to invest a billion dollars developing a treatment for the Zika virus if it expects to be able to market its treatment to hundreds of millions of people worldwide than if it could market that treatment only to a few hundred thousand people in North America. And its ability to market globally rather than locally is in turn enhanced by easy, low-cost, and reliable global communication.

Or consider modern peace and prosperity. These blessings are largely the consequences of trade and a worldwide division of labor that weave us all into one global economy. Each of us is today more dependent upon countless strangers than was true of even the most cosmopolitan man or woman of the past. This trade, specialization, and mutual dependence not only raise the costs of war – as Tom G. Palmer notes, “It’s bad business to slaughter your customers” – they also forge closer bonds of understanding across the globe. Yet without modern means of communication, such trade, specialization, and mutual dependence would be far less extensive and intensive. We would all be materially and culturally poorer as well as at greater risk of being victimized by nationalism-fueled belligerencies.
The saecular challenge, however, might be in the tension between the benefits of specialization and mutual [inter]dependence and the benefits of like working with like. Both confer evolutionary advantages, the evolutionary advantages are different, and there's no self-evident optimal path.
We are now experiencing a growth in class-based politics not seen since the New Deal. During the long period of generally sustained prosperity from the ’50s to 2007, class issues remained, but were increasingly subsumed by social issues—civil and gay rights, feminism, environment—that often cut across class lines. Democrats employed liberal social issues to build a wide-ranging coalition that spanned the ghettos and barrios as well as the elite neighborhoods of the big cities. Similarly, Republicans cobbled together their coalition by stressing conservative social ideas, free-market economics, and a focus on national defense; this cemented the country club wing with the culturally conservative suburban and exurban masses.
The old orders enumerated in that passage are fracturing, something that Mr Kotkin contemplates in his essay.  Although emergence will find a way, there are no guarantees that the transition from equilibrium to equilibrium will be pretty.

25.5.16

WHO WAS THE FOURTH MAN?

Timothy Snyder's histories of politically motivated genocides in the steppes attempt to tell the stories of the people whose lives were disrupted or ended in the service of some Greater Good, at the same time that he attempts to provide an intellectual framework for what happened, and why there?  The title refers to a question he asks toward the end of Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, the subject of Book Review No. 10.  The fourth man in question is the individual who, after the Second World War ends, assists a refugee Jew.  Three previous Gentiles had turned the refugee away.

TRIAGED.

By taking my pension, I got to miss all the hassles of program prioritization at Northern Illinois University.  While the Washington Monument Syndrome might be at work in the haircuts recommended for football and cheerleading, the relatively successful Northern Illinois University Press is not enough of a profit center for the algorithms and rubrics.
One measure the university is considering when evaluating programs to kill is whether they could be self-supporting without university support. That could be difficult for NIU Press, as university funding is about $320,000 of the $750,000 total budget for the press.

Peter Berkery, executive director of the Association of American University Presses, said via email that association members were concerned about the situation at NIU, and that the press there shows the importance of smaller academic publishing outlets.

"AAUP [referring here to the trade association, not to the professors' union] appreciates the exceptional pressure the state of Illinois’s ongoing fiscal crisis is placing on its public universities," he said. "But to discount the relevance and impact of NIU's press because of its size seems incongruous. Indeed, NIUP’s pre-eminence in the field of Slavic studies serves as an outstanding example of the disproportionate contribution a small university press can make to both scholarly communications and an institution's reputation."
Via College Insurrection.

A LAST RUN.

The CTA O Scale weblog is a useful resource for modelling tricks and tips, particularly for people working on rapid transit and heavy traction.  The layout was on the March Meet layout tours, and it has since been dismantled.  The weblog will not be going away.

REDISCOVER THE TRIVIUM AND THE QUADRIVIUM.

Yesterday, we dipped into the archives to consider the case for a simplified core curriculum as a way of lessening transfer hassles.

There's been a conference of Deep Thinkers gathered at the University of Chicago who, while concentrating on the latest Crisis of the Humanities, might be considering something similar.  (After you have eliminated the impossible ...)
[Harvard's Julie] Reuben proposed that the aim of a contemporary liberal education should be to orient students to the world they live in and help them both envision and build the lives they want to live. Such an education should be humbling, she added, and include exposure to contradiction and ambiguity.

Reuben also proposed certain core courses that might serve that purpose: one on humans’ impact on the planet, inclusive of cultural and natural and social scientific perspectives; one on the origins and impact of European colonialism across the globe in terms of power, economies and culture; and one organized around the concept of the self, including philosophical, artistic and biological and psychological inquiry. She called her ideas “humble,” but also proof that educators should be “afraid” to begin such conversations.
Ultimately, it's about the proper bag of tricks, the ability to ask the right questions, more bluntly, about having that working jive detector.
[Lafayette College president Alison] Byerly said she begins on common ground: that the pace of change today is rapid. From there, she said, the best argument for a liberal education is one she believes in -- that it’s the “best possible preparation" for change and reinventing oneself.
Put another way, there are intellectual foundations to intellectual inquiry, whether that inquiry leads in a theoretical or practical direction matters not.  On the other hand, a foundationless inquiry is not likely to be fruitful.

HIGHER EDUCATION BECLOWNS ITSELF.

It's Oberlin, again, and, dear reader, yes, the sun rose in the east this morning.  But the latest idiocy is different.  "The students [The New Yorker's Nathan] Heller interviewed seem to think they're not at college to be educated: they are at college to educate everyone else." Here's an example, from a Jasmine Adams out of Chicago.
“We’re asking to be reflected in our education,” Adams cuts in. “I literally am so tired of learning about Marx, when he did not include race in his discussion of the market!” She shrugs incredulously. “As a person who plans on returning to my community, I don’t want to assimilate into middle-class values. I’m going home, back to the ’hood of Chicago, to be exactly who I was before I came to Oberlin.”
Yes, and Chicago is going to be exactly what it was before she went to Oberlin.  Embrace the suck.

Reason's Robby Soave is gentler.  "You should change who you are, and what you think, in college. It's a transformative experience. That's the entire point. It's what you're paying for."

BILL, KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF. HILLARY, MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.

I borrowed the post title from a long-ago P. J. O'Rourke speech that has all manner of good stuff in it.

It's relevant today in view of what might be Mrs Clinton's latest attempt to resurrect the New Deal or the Great Society or whatever flag the Fatal Conceit flies under these days.  We are stronger together.  Yeah, that's as patriotic as the Join or Die snake flag; it's also as scary as the symbol on the reverse of the Liberty dime.

The slogan, however, is part of the Cult of the Presidency.  Professor Althouse doesn't say so explicitly.  And yet.  "And that's the problem with a leader or would-be leader using togetherness. We're supposed to get together into the obedient mass that can be ruled over by this power seeker."

Scott Adams sees more promise in Make America Great Again.
No one wakes up with a passion to pursue togetherness. Half of the country is comprised of introverts, loners, and competitive a-holes. Those folks want less togetherness, even if they mean it in an entirely different way.
Then comes David Brooks, suggesting that Mrs Clinton is a poor role model for togetherness.
Clinton’s unpopularity is akin to the unpopularity of a workaholic. Workaholism is a form of emotional self-estrangement. Workaholics are so consumed by their professional activities that their feelings don’t inform their most fundamental decisions. The professional role comes to dominate the personality and encroaches on the normal intimacies of the soul. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones once put it, whole cemeteries could be filled with the sad tombstone: “Born a man, died a doctor.”

At least in her public persona, Clinton gives off an exclusively professional vibe: industrious, calculated, goal-oriented, distrustful. It’s hard from the outside to have a sense of her as a person; she is a role.
There's more to it than that. There are people who might have the focus of a workaholic who nevertheless enjoy what they're doing.  I have yet to see Mrs Clinton, even after a primary victory, looking like she's enjoying herself.  There's always one more applause line to shout over.  Mr Trump, for all his inexperience, and for his bad improv, at least seems to be having fun.  That might be worth the margin of error in the poll.

Mr Brooks also suggests that it's useful, even for happy warriors, to seek balance in all things.
Most Americans feel more vivid and alive outside the work experience than within. So of course to many she seems Machiavellian, crafty, power-oriented, untrustworthy.

There’s a larger lesson here, especially for people who have found a career and vocation that feels fulfilling. Even a socially good vocation can swallow you up and make you lose a sense of your own voice. Maybe it’s doubly important that people with fulfilling vocations develop, and be seen to develop, sanctuaries outside them: in play, solitude, family, faith, hobbies and leisure.
Buy your advisor a train set.

THINKING ABOUT THE FOURTH TURNING.

Tyler Cowen:
The contemporary world is not very well built for a large chunk of males.  The nature of current service jobs, coddled class time and homework-intensive schooling, a feminized culture allergic to most forms of violence, post-feminist gender relations, and egalitarian semi-cosmopolitanism just don’t sit well with many…what shall I call them? Brutes?

Quite simply, there are many people who don’t like it when the world becomes nicer.  They do less well with nice.  And they respond by in turn behaving less nicely, if only in their voting behavior and perhaps their internet harassment as well.

Female median wages have been rising pretty consistently, but the male median wage, at least as measured, was higher back in 1969 than it is today (admittedly the deflator probably is off, but even that such a measure is possible speaks volumes).  A lot of men did better psychologically and maybe also economically in a world where America had a greater number of tough manufacturing jobs.  They thrived under brutish conditions, including a military draft to crack some of their heads into line.
Intriguing, but incomplete.  It's not so much that the world has become "nicer" as it is that the bourgeois conventions have been deconstructed, and transgressiveness is OK for everybody else.  But not for the "brutes."

SOME PEOPLE STILL READ REAL BOOKS.

Book World might get a permit to open a bookstore in DeKalb.
The Junction Shopping Center, at 858 W. Lincoln Highway, is a multi-tenant strip center with 17 storefronts. For more than 20 years, it was home to the Junction Book Store. That store opened in 1969, the year the shopping center was built.

The Junction Book Store closed in 2002, not long after Borders Books & Music opened in November 2001 and Barnes & Noble announced plans of its own for a bookstore across the street. After the Junction Book Store, the space was occupied by Dollar General.
I'm not sure what it says about DeKalb that the Dollar General is out, some of the space is empty, and some of it hosts a Japanese steakhouse and sushi bar.

Borders is out of business, and Barnes & Noble have left town.

The permit is about signage.  The sale of books is not triggering per se, despite a university being located across the street.

24.5.16

THE DREAM BECOMES A NIGHTMARE.

When the housing bubble popped, a lot of canonical planned-use developments heavily skewed to sport-utes and culs-de-sac stopped expanding.  That's a mixed blessing for me, as Cold Spring Shops headquarters exists because a local builder was willing to talk with me about crazy ideas like a basement under the garage, a wide stairway on a straight line from the garage downstairs, and a bookshelf the entire expanse of a wall.  As long as the sport-utes were rolling in from Naperville with people ready to sign up for the one interior plan disguised with four different exteriors, and the lenders were lending money, that wasn't happening.

But the economic environment is changing, and Fortune's Leigh Gallagher envisions The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream is Moving, and here comes Book Review No. 9.  The book touches on a lot of Strong Towns themes including the inadequacy of the tax base, the over-reliance on cars, and the anomie (although that idea goes back to the late 1950s in cultural studies.)  Ms Gallagher acknowledges the influence of Strong Towns thinking in her writing, there's an interview here.

For policy purposes, the end may not yet be here.  Consider a dissenting perspective from Joel Kotkin at Forbes.  "It’s time to put an end to the urban legend of the impending death of America’s suburbs." There are weaker suburbs and stronger suburbs and migration patterns reveal a preference for stronger suburbs, or perhaps for opportunities to live among other functional people. "So when millennials move they seem likely to not move to the nice old suburbs, or the deteriorating one, but those more far-flung suburban communities that offer larger and more affordable housing, good schools, parks and lower crime rates."  Sounds like an evolutionary stable strategy to me.

(Cross-posted to Fifty Book Challenge.)

REMEMBER WHEN RONALD REAGAN RECRUITED FOR YURI ANDROPOV?

The latest deflection from the Democrats and their palace guard media is that Donald Trump's tough talk about the Sillies, and his generalizations about Moslems as undesirable immigrants, assists the jihadis in their recruitment efforts.  Never mind that the Sillies are having trouble finding new splodeydopes.  Perhaps it's because the cities the Sillies run make Detroit and Baltimore look good, or perhaps it's because Mr Trump's rhetoric is frightening potential recruits, or encouraging patriotic Americans, including practitioners of Islam, to point out their straying neighbors.  That, I'm sure, will be material for criminology case studies in a few years.

But the Democrat-Media-Academic trope about tough talk creating more enemies is old.
On March 8, 1983, in his speech to the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida, US President Ronald Reagan introduced the term “evil empire” to describe the Soviet Union. Reagan exhorted the audience to “pray for the salvation of all of those who live in that totalitarian darkness – pray they will discover the joy of knowing God.”

He subjected the Soviet leaders to criticism, as the embodiment of the “darkness” and reproached the “aggressive impulses of the evil empire.” The Soviet Union, for its part, accused the United States of being the center of imperialism, holding out for world domination; it was the Soviets’ duty to fight this in the name of communism. In Moscow, the Soviet press agency TASS said the use of the words “evil empire” only proved that the Reagan administration “can think only in terms of confrontation and bellicose, lunatic anti-Communism.”

Reagan, however, genuinely believed that all he had done was call a spade, the only right thing to do under the circumstances; any euphemisms would signal the concession of the free world to totalitarianism. His approach to the problem was vastly supported by conservatives, but was showered with criticism by pacifists. The latter viewed such an attitude as perfectly capable of triggering a nuclear war between the two superpowers.
And so many comrades were enticed to march Forward to the Victory of Communism that ... oh, wait.
Reagan would explain: “For too long our leaders were unable to describe the Soviet Union as it actually was. The keepers of our foreign-policy knowledge … found it illiberal and provocative to be so honest. I’ve always believed, however, that it’s important to define differences, because there are choices and decisions to be made in life and history.” Few were willing to speak that truth to power, but Reagan was unafraid. He further explained: “The Soviet system over the years has purposely starved, murdered, and brutalized its own people. Millions were killed; it’s all right there in the history books. It put other citizens it disagreed with into psychiatric hospitals, sometimes drugging them into oblivion. Is the system that allowed this not evil? Then why shouldn’t we say so?”

To Reagan, this honesty was necessary for eliminating illusions. Reagan said such candor was needed to “philosophically and intellectually take on the principles of Marxism-Leninism.” “We were always too worried we would offend the Soviets if we struck at anything so basic,” he said. “Well, so what? Marxist-Leninist thought is an empty cupboard. Everyone knew it by the 1980s, but no one was saying it.”
Much jihadi thought is also an empty cupboard. What is missing yet is Mr Trump channelling his Don Rickles and making fun of the more outrageous tenets. The only difficulty is that a faith-based political system with no pretense of a scientific basis isn't as easily mocked. Scientific socialism, on the other hand ... and nobody put the hair pins in Poland's five year plan?

TODAY'S FOURTH TURNING UPDATE.

Start with Michael Lind for Politico.  He proposes an hypothesis that will likely launch a thousand dissertations.
Though this election feels like the beginning of a partisan realignment, it’s actually the end of one. The partisan coalitions that defined the Democratic and Republican parties for decades in the middle of the twentieth century broke apart long ago; over the past half century, their component voting blocs — ideological, demographic, economic, geographic, cultural — have reshuffled. The reassembling of new Democratic and Republican coalitions is nearly finished.
Mr Lind's maintained hypothesis is that there's little left to contest by way of the culture wars, but the national security and economic interests are shifting. In detail, though, there's a lot that looks like business as usual.
Republicans will be a party of mostly working-class whites, based in the South and West and suburbs and exurbs everywhere. They will favor universal, contributory social insurance systems that benefit them and their families and reward work effort—programs like Social Security and Medicare. But they will tend to oppose means-tested programs for the poor whose benefits they and their families cannot enjoy.

They will oppose increases in both legal and illegal immigration, in some cases because of ethnic prejudice; in other cases, for fear of economic competition. The instinctive economic nationalism of tomorrow’s Republicans could be invoked to justify strategic trade as well as crude protectionism.
That sounds like a formula for a Republican Party reduced to irrelevance, particularly at the national level, changing demographics or not.  There's much to appeal to the remaining yeomanry, whether as farmers, small business owners, practitioners of the skilled trades, but not much toward fostering the preservation, let alone the continued evolution, of the yeomanry.  Perhaps it's wishful thinking by Democrats.  But the future for Democrats also looks a lot like business as usual.
Democrats of the next generation will be even more of an alliance of upscale, progressive whites with blacks and Latinos, based in large and diverse cities. They will think of the U.S. as a version of their multicultural coalition of distinct racial and ethnic identity groups writ large. Many younger progressives will take it for granted that moral people are citizens of the world, equating nationalism and patriotism with racism and fascism.

The withering-away of industrial unions, thanks to automation as well as offshoring, will liberate the Democrats to embrace free trade along with mass immigration wholeheartedly. The emerging progressive ideology of post-national cosmopolitanism will fit nicely with urban economies which depend on finance, tech and other industries of global scope, and which benefit from a constant stream of immigrants, both skilled and unskilled.

While tomorrow’s Republican policymakers will embrace FDR-to-LBJ universal entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, future Democrats may prefer means-tested programs for the poor only. In the expensive, hierarchical cities in which Democrats will be clustered, universal social insurance will make no sense. Payroll taxes on urban workers will be too low to fund universal social insurance, while universal social benefits will be too low to matter to the urban rich. So the well-to-do in expensive, unequal Democratic cities will agree to moderately redistributive taxes which pay for means-tested benefits—perhaps even a guaranteed basic income—for the disproportionately poor and foreign-born urban workforce. As populist labor liberalism declines within the Democratic party, employer-friendly and finance-friendly libertarianism will grow. The Democrats of 2030 may be more pro-market than the Republicans.
That might be very interesting, with the gentry metrofexuals getting richer and more huddled masses being brought in to do the grunt work (and being poorly served by the government schools?)

A more dismal perspective comes from W. R. Mead in The Meaning of Mr Trump.
Trump is the purest expression of the politics of ‘NO!’ that I personally can recall. He’s the candidate for people who think the conventional wisdom of the American establishment is hopelessly out of touch with the real world. He’s the little boy saying that the emperor, or in this case, the aspiring empress, has no clothes.  What energizes the Trump phenomenon is the very power of rejection: people who think the train is about to head off a cliff want to pull the emergency cord that stops the train even if they don’t know what happens next. To many of Trump supporters, Hillary Clinton looks like Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: the enforcer of a fatally flawed status quo and the personification of bureaucratic power in a system gone rogue.
But don't look for a Gray Champion.
Trump appeals to all those who think that the American Establishment, the Great and the Good of both parties, has worked its way into a dead end of ideas that don’t work and values that can’t save us. He is the candidate of Control-Alt-Delete. His election would sweep away the smug generational certainties that Clinton embodies, the Boomer Progressive Synthesis that hasn’t solved the problems of the world or of the United States, but which nevertheless persists in regarding itself as the highest and only form of truth.

The interest groups and power centers that surround Secretary Clinton like a praetorian guard—Wall Street, the upper middle class feminists, the African American establishment, the Davoisie, the institutional power of the great foundations and educational bureaucracies, Silicon Valley, Hollywood—have defeated their intellectual and political rivals in their spheres of interest and influence. Supporting her is a massive agglomeration of power, intellect, wealth and talent. Her candidacy is the logical climax of the Baby Boom’s march through the institutions of American life. Even the neoconservatives are enlisting in her campaign.

The American Right for all its earnest efforts has been unable to construct a counter establishment that can compete with the contemporary liberal behemoth. Libertarian nostalgia for the 1920s and 1890s, social conservative nostalgia for the faux-certainties of the 1950s; paleocon isolationism; white nationalism; ‘reformicon’ tweaks to the liberal policy agenda—none of these mutually hostile and contradictory sets of ideas can challenge the Boomer Establishment synthesis. The Clintonian center-Left won the cultural and intellectual battles of its time against both the hard left and the fragmented right. The Clinton candidacy is about inevitability, about the laws of historical and institutional gravity.

Yet though the Boomer Consensus has triumphed in the world of American institutions and ideas, in the eyes of many Americans it has not done all that well in the real world. Foreign policy, financial policy, health policy, support of the middle class, race relations, family life, public education, trade policy, city and state government management, wages: what exactly has the Boomer Consensus accomplished in these fields?
What do you think happens when you encourage dysfunction for some people and mau-mau others? How many experiments against reality can you run?
Those of us who care about policy, propriety and the other bourgeois values without which no democratic society can long thrive need to spend less time wringing our hands about the shortcomings of candidate Trump and the movement that has brought him this far, and more time both analyzing the establishment failures that have brought the country to this pass, and developing a new vision for the American future. The one thing we know about 2016 is that neither of these two candidates has what it takes to repair or to renovate the ship of state.
Perhaps not, but during a saecular crisis, when the institutions themselves are in flux, the Guidance of Wise Experts is the least relevant thing.
The likeliest forecast is that under either candidate, the slow unraveling of the liberal world order and the American domestic system will continue and possibly accelerate. The 2020 election may take place against an even darker background than what we now see; if America’s intellectuals and institutions don’t start raising their games, 2016 could soon start to look like the good old days.
Complex adaptive systems tend to do what they d**n well please.  Institutional evolution is about mutation, selection, and adaptation.  The best thing for some of the institutions might be that they go away.  I'll give Mr Lind the final word.  "And though it’s impossible to know exactly how it will end, one thing is clear: In 2016, the old political system is crumbling, and a new American political order is being born."

Emergence will find a way.

THE VALUE OF THE CORE.

Dean Dad's "Everything Else Major" from five academic years ago is really about seeking one.
The liberal arts major is actually the highest-enrollment major on my campus, even though it’s probably the least well-defined. Broadly speaking, it attracts the type A students who intend to transfer to the better four-year colleges en route to professional careers, and the type C students who take it for lack of any better ideas. It’s the home of most of our Honors students, and it’s simultaneously the default major for students who don’t know what they want. It’s the program for the purists, and it’s the program for the folks who just want to get their gen eds out of the way, as they inevitably put it.
The way it's currently set up, however, renders it as unsuitable for the purposes of the students, whether grade-improving careerists seeking to transfer, or nontraditional careerists seeking a human capital upgrade.
It’s structured like the classic Chinese menu, with generous helpings of electives in various disciplines. Beyond a few basic requirements -- the composition sequence, notably -- students can fulfill most of it with choices from within categories. You can take multiple philosophy classes or none at all; you can build a mini-major in psychology or avoid it altogether.
Where there are transaction costs, institutions ought be evolving to conserve on them.  The way forward might be to ensure that no matter what sort of careerism the students might be engaged in.  There's a University Diaries post I flagged, about the same time the Everything Else Major post appeared, that, while making the more traditional case for Playing With Big Ideas, also suggests the value of one Liberal Arts core for each student, irrespective of institution, irrespective of aspirations.
Maybe most people in college are careerists; but [Wash U.'s Eve] Samborn speaks for many when she laments the absence of something she’s right to want and expect in college: An atmosphere of sustained and excited and subversive discourse about foundational human questions (And so: Life is justified.). She worries about “what kind of educated people we will become if we have not given sufficient thought to the world.”
Also from about that time, the National Association of Scholars asked,
Might students be telling us that they want their colleges to help to develop the capacity to tell good from bad arguments? Might the solution be to restore the search for accuracy and truth to the center of the educational enterprise?
That sounds like yet another skill set that transfers.  Never mind the nature of the matriculants' careerism, developing a working jive detector and participating in that "sustained and excited and subversive discourse" ought to be something offered to incoming students, whether at a community college, or a regional comprehensive, mid-major, or land grant, or the state flagships or the institutions with the U.S. News problem.

23.5.16

GOD KEEP THE TSAR FAR AWAY FROM US.

Grandmaster Garry Kasparov has become a spokesman for civil society and one of Vladimir Putin's most visible critics.  In Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped, he documents the emergence of the latest prison-house of nations.  I'll keep Book Review No. 8 short.  The title presents his thesis, the text provides the details.

One observation might be worth study for extension to other parts of the world.  That is, Yugoslavia began to come apart after Josip Broz Tito died, with ethnic cleansing and other echoes of World War II surfacing (perhaps the first major cracks in the Pax Americana?)

Nobody, either in the Atlantic Alliance, or the Warsaw Pact, actively sought regime change in Yugoslavia.  The strongman dies, and no successor is able to keep the country together.  The generalization to other parts of the world -- would Iraq or Libya or Syria be better off without external encouragement of regime change? -- is left as an exercise.

There's a part of the Yugoslavia story that Grandmaster Kasparov does not take on that's also relevant for understanding international relations.  The Atlantic Alliance's intervention, during the waning days of the Clinton Administration, supposedly to protect Moslems from the Orthodox, did not secure much goodwill with the jihadis plotting in Afghanistan.  It destroyed any goodwill that might have been developing between the Atlantic Alliance and Russia.  Tchaikovsky's Marche Slav, after all, honors a Russian alliance with Serbia, and whose side did Russia take in 1914.  Is it any accident, dear reader, that a Russian nationalist would ascend to the Russian presidency in 1999?

(Cross-posted to Fifty Book Challenge.)

SLOWLY THEY LEARN.

Passenger Rail north of Boston continues to catch on.  Although there's no longer excursion service from Brunswick to Rockland on the former Maine Eastern, the Amtrak service between Boston and Brunswick will be getting a servicing facility at Brunswick, and now there are people at Augusta and Waterville who would like to get on the train.
“The people in Lewiston and Auburn already have money to look at this,” [Maine Rail Group spokesman Richard] Rudolph said. “We’re better off having a more focused group look at train service to Augusta and beyond, maybe to Bangor, and to Rockland, too, if they want.”

He said he’s not interested in pitting communities interested in rail service against each other.
We're still a long way from the mid-day Boston and Bangor Flying Yankee via Lewiston with through cars for or from Rockland switched at Portland let alone Aroostook County cars interchanged at Northern Maine Junction, and the shopper-friendly Bangor and Boston Pine Tree via Augusta and Brunswick.  And a Washington and Bangor East Wind might be a dream too far.


And yet,  we have people seriously discussing extensions of Amtrak service to locations that have been freight service only for over half a century.

THAT VICTORY DIVIDEND RESOURCE CURSE.

It's the gift that keeps on giving.  Edward McClelland, long before the Trumpening, resurrects the union-busting story behind the disappearance of family supporting jobs at union scale.
Let me tell you the story of an “unskilled” worker in America who lived better than most of today’s college graduates. In the winter of 1965, Rob Stanley graduated from Chicago Vocational High School, on the city’s Far South Side. Pay rent, his father told him, or get out of the house. So Stanley walked over to Interlake Steel, where he was immediately hired to shovel taconite into the blast furnace on the midnight shift. It was the crummiest job in the mill, mindless grunt work, but it paid $2.32 an hour — enough for an apartment and a car. That was enough for Stanley, whose main ambition was playing football with the local sandlot all-stars, the Bonivirs.
That $2.32 an hour in 1965 dollars, Mr McClelland helpfully notes, is $17.17 an hour in Obama bucks.  That "lived better than most of today's college graduates" neglects the material condition of steel workers in Communist China, the Soviet Bloc, and much of the third world, where the Gospel of Development According to Walt Rostow (or was it Kwame Nkrumah?) included heavy industry, such as steel mills.

But Communism proved to be the longest route from early industrialization to early industrialization, and the emerging steel producers of the next decade were still picking up the pieces of their steelmaking capacity rendered unproductive by the Army Air Force.
Stanley’s job was more difficult, more dangerous and more unpleasant than working the fryer at KFC (the blast furnace could heat up to 2,000 degrees). According to the laws of the free market, though, none of that is supposed to matter. All that is supposed to matter is how many people are capable of doing your job. And anyone with two arms could shovel taconite. It required even less skill than preparing dozens of finger lickin’ good menu items, or keeping straight the orders of 10 customers waiting at the counter. Shovelers didn’t need to speak English. In the early days of the steel industry, the job was often assigned to immigrants off the boat from Poland or Bohemia.

“You’d just sort of go on automatic pilot, shoveling ore balls all night,” is how Stanley remembers the work.

Stanley’s ore-shoveling gig was also considered an entry-level position. After a year in Vietnam, he came home to Chicago and enrolled in a pipefitters’ apprenticeship program at Wisconsin Steel.
Yes, shoveling taconite simply required strong arms, but there were plenty of other employers hiring people for their strong backs (although the emphasis on youth fitness in the elementary schools of the era suggested creeping couch-potatoism, long before cable sports and wireless remotes).
So why did Rob Stanley, an unskilled high school graduate, live so much better than someone with similar qualifications could even dream of today? Because the workers at Interlake Steel were represented by the United Steelworkers of America, who demanded a decent salary for all jobs.
Collective bargaining can affect the division of the gains from trade, but that presupposes gains from trade to divide.  And it's much easier to divide gains when there are monopoly rents.  That was once the case in steel (and many other unionized Rust Belt industries) but not so much any more.  Mr McClelland elides the history.
The greatest victory of the anti-labor movement has not been in busting industries traditionally organized by unions. That’s unnecessary. Those jobs have disappeared as a result of automation and outsourcing to foreign countries. In the U.S., steel industry employment has declined from 521,000 in 1974 to 150,000 today.
That's true in part.  Managements of the legacy steel companies have long been in favor of preserving the monopoly rents, and making labor peace with the unions.  But that $17 an hour wage in the United States looks like Eden Itself to a peasant looking at the wrong end of a mule in the third world.  Thus steel requests for protection (and raising the specter of dumping) are as old as the re-emergence of the European and Asian steel companies.  David Ignatius did an analysis for The Washington Monthly in 1979.  The hard copy is still in my files (that's what happens when you do applied work on the steel business.)  Jeff Jacoby says they're still at it.
Nucor, Steel Dynamics, United States Steel and other American producers should be told to man up and face their competition in the marketplace. They shouldn't be rewarded for hiring lobbyists and publicists to wangle special-interest privileges that no business has a right to claim.
To repeat: it's easier to buy labor peace if there are rents to dissipate.  It's sad, though, that Nucor and Steel Dynamics are now among the rent-seekers.  These used to be the disrupters.  What Mr Stanley couldn't anticipate, and what Mr Ignatius didn't see -- I came across the phenomenon while conducting further research on the steel industry -- was that there were alternatives to making steel by shoveling taconite into blast furnaces (something about that doesn't sound right, anyway) that involved recycled scrap, of which there's plenty in the Rust Belt, at pay packets comparable to union scale, but without the restrictive union job descriptions.

THE SELF-DESTRUCTION OF THE POLITICAL CLASS.

Glenn "Insta Pundit" Reynolds summarizes what has gone wrong.  "Being law-abiding for its own sake is a traditional part of bourgeois culture, and our ruling class has lately treated the bourgeoisie with contempt as well. Which raises the risk that this contempt will be returned."

Question the privilege of the nomenklatura, and their mascots.

Why are they allowed to do things that we’re not allowed to do?

It's beginning to dawn on longtime Democrat insider Robert B. Reich.
That most Americans don’t particularly like Trump is irrelevant. As one Midwesterner told me a few weeks ago, “He may be a jerk, but he’s our jerk.”

By the same token, in this era of anti-politics, any candidate who appears to be the political establishment is at a strong disadvantage. This may be Hillary Clinton’s biggest handicap.

The old politics featured carefully crafted speeches and policy proposals calculated to appeal to particular constituencies. In this sense, Mrs. Clinton’s proposals and speeches are almost flawless.

But in the new era of anti-politics Americans are skeptical of well-crafted speeches and detailed policy proposals. They prefer authenticity. They want their candidates unscripted and unfiltered.
I concur in part, and wish to extend in part.

Yes, the usual chin-pullers with their usual patter song (at-the-end-of-the-day-bipartisan-compromise-consensus-process-comprehensive-reform: perhaps Gilbert and Sullivan could set it to music) are so last campaign.

More to the point, though, all that expertise has failed.

But we're not quite to the resolution envisioned by George Will.  Imagine a modest Inaugural Address.
My tribute will be to delay [attending the traditional inauguration day brunch with Congressional leaders] for the 10 minutes or so it will take to sign a stack of executive orders nullifying most executive orders issued by my predecessor. He used them to wield executive power to institute policies and alter laws that properly should be initiated by Congress.

This will be enough business for Day One of my first 100 days. And I promise you this: On the 100th day of my administration, America will be . . . pretty much indistinguishable from what it is today. Would you, my over-excited countrymen, really want it any other way? Would you really want to live in a nation that can be substantially changed in a matter of a few months by a hyperactive government?
Mr Will has been on record as questioning the overblown cult of the presidency previously.  He doesn't disappoint.
For efficiency, and to minimize unnecessary folderol, I am going to take a minute right now to deliver my first and last State of the Union address. It is this one sentence: Things are much better than they once were — slavery? gone; the Oregon Trail? replaced by the Interstate Highway System — but things could be better.

There. Wasn’t that less disagreeable than the annual midwinter prime-time pep rally that presidents stage because of the Constitution’s blurry mandate that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress information” about the country’s condition? How quaint. As though Congress is interested in information.

After today’s lunch, Congress should try nibbling at the edges of our problems, many of which Congress created to please you, the clamorous people. To you I say: We have nothing to fear but your insufficient fear of what has been done on your behalf and at your behest.
Plus a cautionary peroration.
If you want the United States to be Puerto Rico writ large — or, even worse, Illinois — just stay the course you are on. In words Lincoln spoke at his first inauguration, the nation’s fate is “in your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine.”
The real inaugural address, no matter who gives it, is likely to be less edifying, less clarifying, and less refreshing.

20.5.16

SEEKING THE BLUEPRINT MARX NEVER PROVIDED.

The great hope of leftist vanguards of all stripes is that they will have the great good fortune to be alive during the Final Collapse of Capitalism.  The dynamics are simple enough.  "Marx, of course, is the chronicler of technical progress making possible the production of stuff in such abundance that the workers would have insufficient buying power to buy it, because the private owners of the means of production accumulate wealth out of the difference between the prices of the products they sell and the subsistence wages they pay."  The ending seems foreordained.
Along with the constantly diminishing number of the magnates of capital, who usurp and monopolize all advantages of this process of transformation, grows the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, exploitation; but with this too grows the revolt of the working-class, a class always increasing in numbers, and disciplined, united, organized by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist production itself, The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production. Centralization of the means of production and socialization of labor at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.
And yet the Long Depression that accompanied the Gilded Age didn't bring it.

The Great Depression didn't bring it.

Two decades of bursting bubbles and Great Reset haven't yet brought it.

But David M. Kotz, in The Rise and Fall of Neoliberal Capitalism, today's Book Review No. 7, thinks about how to bring it.  Think a shorter Capital, starting with the market-friendly reforms that accompanied the failures of the Great Society and the European welfare states rather than with the primitive accumulation, and, after a look at the internal contradictions unleashed by those reforms, it concludes with suggestions about what comes next.  We're past the simple dialectic in which a socialism replaces capitalism.  Page 181: "The social structure of accumulation theory argues that every structural crisis is followed by major institutional restructuring."  (There are books that can be written about what sorts of restructurings are futile reforms and what revolutionary transformations are sectarian, but Mr Kotz, mercifully, doesn't go there.)

He concludes, however, with the observation that This Time It's Different.  Not quite integument-bursts-asunder different, but different enough that people might be receptive to "social democratic capitalism" (it differs from "Western Europe" but read the book) or to "democratic participatory planned socialism" (the details are fuzzy; there are emergence possibilities I grapple with here) as possibilities.  Mr Kotz concludes, likely correctly, that the getting there "cannot be predicted."

(Cross-posted to Fifty Book Challenge.)

A FOURTH TURNING PREDICTION.

Michael Walsh.
This will be the last election between two Baby Boomers, whose personas were forged in the tumultuous Sixties, a time so very different from our own; there is no need to take political advice from small children. What's happened is that boomer Left has in effect turned on its own excesses of half a century ago, and turned into the censorious parents they spent their young lives loathing. And as the SJW harpies and their emasculated "male" counterparts intensify their onslaught on traditional ("traditional" because it works) culture, they're about to learn a very ugly lesson: it's not nice to fool with Mother Nature.
That's what happens when you neglect the implications of "confers evolutionary advantage."

IMPOSSIBLE TO RAISE FREE-RANGE KIDS.

I grew up in Chicago, and the suburbs are all wrong for my kids.
And as for me, the mom in the suburbs: Sometimes I just don't feel like driving over to Starbucks to meet a friend for coffee. I yearn for the way it was when I grew up, in that three-story apartment in West Rogers Park, where our French windows stayed open all the time, and my mom could yell up to her friend on the second floor, to come have an iced tea. It's not just that I'm a mother who wants it to be like it was "back in my day." I wish for my kids to experience some of the kind of childhood and independence I gained from living in the city.

It's not just helicopter parenting, structured play dates and social media that have made their lives seemingly easier, or perhaps if not easier, lazier. It's living in the 'burbs. I want my boys to experience how the little things in everyday life don't always come so easy. I remember my mom searching for a parking spot on the street, carrying groceries way farther than across a porch, of trusting me to walk alone every day, make friends with the drugstore owner and actually talk to strangers.

I'm not saying that I wish I was a mom carrying groceries for blocks and blocks. I think that's what I wanted to avoid when we first moved to the suburbs. I wanted the ease and convenience of a driveway, a front porch. But now all I feel is an anemic lifestyle. Car to gym to home to school to home to work to office to store to home again. Then the evening carpools start. For the kids, and I guess, for me, there's no grit, no problem-solving necessary to get from Point A to Point B. And that's what I'm afraid my children aren't learning by living in this supposed utopia - a way of life that fosters self-reliance and problem-solving.
Never mind that if she does encourage her kids to walk to the store or the park or ride their bikes somewhere or organize a pickup football game in the street the Enforcers of Conformity will call in social services or the police or the park rangers.

RESURRECTING THE INTERESTING QUESTIONS.

Once upon a time, before powerful computers and all matter of advanced methods for decomposing residuals, empirical research in economics looked relatively simple.  For instance, one could dip into the Census of Manufactures, come up with a return on assets, regress it against the four-firm concentration ratio, and make an inference about the exercise of monopoly power.  The economic tricks have gotten better over the years, but as a research question, this one appears to have gone out of fashion about thirty years ago.

That means it's time for the question to be reopened.  Paul Krugman approves.
There are, then, good reasons to believe that reduced competition and increased monopoly power are very bad for the economy. But do we have direct evidence that such a decline in competition has actually happened? Yes, say a number of recent studies, including one just released by the White House. For example, in many industries the combined market share of the top four firms, a traditional measure used in many antitrust studies, has gone up over time.

The obvious next question is why competition has declined. The answer can be summed up in two words: Ronald Reagan.

For Reagan didn’t just cut taxes and deregulate banks; his administration also turned sharply away from the longstanding U.S. tradition of reining in companies that become too dominant in their industries. A new doctrine, emphasizing the supposed efficiency gains from corporate consolidation, led to what those who have studied the issue often describe as the virtual end of antitrust enforcement.
That change in antitrust enforcement transcended ideology, something that makes doing political economy rather than engaging in partisan politics difficult.  In the same way that transportation deregulation and tight monetary policy began during the Carter presidency and the fruits came in in time to re-elect Ronald Reagan, a substitution of international trade for antitrust enforcement as a way of protecting consumers enjoyed the support of William Baxter, the deputy assistant general for antitrust in the Reagan years, as well as Lester Thurow, at the time a policy intellectual at MIT.  William G. Shepherd, then of the University of Michigan, published a paper arguing that about three-fourths of national income originated in "effectively competitive" industries by 1980; that improvement over about half of the income over the preceding twenty years reflecting antitrust enforcement and increased international competition.

It all made sense against the news: the Reagan administration settled both the International Business Machines and American Telephone monopolization cases, dropping the first as overtaken by events (of what possible use, let alone meaning, is a mainframe monopoly?) and negotiating an agreement by which the Bell operating companies, still regulated monopolies, stood separately from the long distance and telephone equipment divisions, which faced competition.  And Chrysler had just been bailed out by the taxpayers, with the legacy car companies and the integrated steel producers lobbying for greater trade protection.

We seem condemned, however, to return to the old set of policy and research questions, though.
The White House announcement was accompanied by a 17-page issue brief, prepared by the [Council of Economic Advisors] the agency that advises the President on economic policy, on the benefits of competition. The brief acknowledges that the American economy has become less competitive and more concentrated in recent decades, and suggests that robust enforcement of antitrust laws can serve to mitigate this problem.

The CEA lists a number of underlying reasons for the decrease in competition across the American economy, among them “efficiencies associated with scale, increases in merger and acquisition activity, firms’ crowding out existing or potential competitors either deliberately or through innovation, and regulatory barriers to entry such as occupational licensing that have reduced the entry of new firms into a variety of markets.” It also makes the case that consumers and workers would benefit from concerted government action to promote competition “in a variety of industries.”

The CEA relies on a large number of academic studies to argue that competition benefits consumers and workers, and that firms’ abuse of monopoly power may harm workers and consumers alike, by leading to overpricing, lower quality, and lower wages. “The presence of many firms in a market does not ensure competition. Under certain conditions, firms may be able to collude with each other to create and abuse market power, for example by agreeing to raise prices or by restricting output (thereby raising prices) to consumers or by restricting wage growth for workers,” the Council writes, noting that in the United States price-fixing is illegal and that the detection and prosecution of “collusive cartels” is and should be an important priority of antitrust agencies.
We used to be less worried about rising concentration globally, as the world market was large enough to support multiple firms, and the competitive interests of firms with different linguistic and cultural heritages likely precluded rational cooperation (if there are sufficiently few firms, they don't have to meet in a smoke-filled room or at Dirty Helen's to fix prices).  But now, the old worries are back, and when even the University of Chicago has to make do with a chart showing rising concentration of revenues, how long will it be before another concentration-and-profits regression lands in a journal?

OUR UNIVERSITIES ARE BEING RUN BY STUPID PEOPLE.

Let them deal with the consequences of their stupidity.  Reason's Robby Soave is on it.
For 50 years, race-based admissions have fomented racial inequality and feelings of inferiority on campus. The modern war on college free expression is, as Justice Fleming predicted, the inevitable result. We have university administrators to thank for that, too.
Justice Fleming's report referenced here.  Let the record show the Lord Chancellor of Oxford noting the pernicious effects of differential admission standards.

Were preferential policies another consequence of the victory dividend that is now spent?

WALMART'S SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP WITH THE WELFARE STATE.

It goes beyond selling cheap crap to the EBT crowd and behaving monopsonistically toward vendors and hiving off employee benefits on the taxpayers with personnel policies that swell the EBT and Medicaid rosters.  The Walmart clientele are notoriously nyekulturny, and now the editors at Tampa Bay's Times note that all the police calls to the local Walmart are yet another instance of corporate welfare.
The world's largest retailer pads its bottom line by relying on police to provide basic security at considerable cost to local taxpayers. That is the only reasonable conclusion from the Tampa Bay Times' detailed review of thousands of police calls to local Walmarts. There has to be a smarter way to fulfill government's obligation to protect everyone and enforce the law, and it should start with local governments insisting Walmart work as a better corporate partner to reduce its drain on public resources.

A review of nearly 16,800 calls in a single year to Walmarts in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties revealed some startling trends. Times staff writers Zachary T. Sampson, Laura C. Morel and Eli Murray found sheriff's deputies in Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties were called to Walmart stores more often than anyplace else. In Pinellas County, Walmarts ranked second. In Hillsborough, seven of the 10 busiest locations for the Sheriff's Office were Walmarts. These are numbers that cannot be explained away by the number of Walmarts or their store sizes or locations.

The details of the investigation are just as disturbing. Some 7,000 calls were for suspected thefts, and many of those involved inexpensive items such as a $10 gas can or a $6.39 electric toothbrush or $3 eye drops. There has to be a more time-saving, cost-efficient way of dealing with petty theft cases involving items worth less than $300. Another 9,000 police calls were for basic disorder such as trespassing or minor disturbances. How many of these situations could have been more efficiently handled by diffusing situations using store managers or private security than by calling police and arresting someone?
We'll get a better class of Walmarts when we get a better class of shoppers there.

A POSITIVE #NEVERTRUMP #NEVERHILLARY STRATEGY.

Perhaps I have the luxury of considering this electoral maneuver as under the Constitution, Illinois's electoral votes are likely to be in the Dowager Empress's lockbox already.
Neither [former New Mexico governor Gary] Johnson nor [former Massachusetts governor William] Weld is a purist libertarian, and both [they served as Republican governors] have come under fire within the Libertarian Party, which will nominate its candidates in Orlando over Memorial Day weekend. Johnson displeased many libertarians (including me) by saying that government should ban discrimination on the basis of religion, including requiring a Christian baker to bake and decorate a cake for a same-sex wedding. Weld has supported some gun control measures.

But they will present a clear alternative to Trump and Clinton: strong and coherent fiscal conservatism, social liberalism, drug-policy reform, criminal-justice reform, reining in mass surveillance, ending executive abuse of power, and a prudent foreign policy that is neither promiscuously interventionist nor erratic and bombastic — all grounded in a philosophical commitment to liberty and limited government.

They acted on those ideas as governors, with the usual accommodations to political reality.
The article notes that the Johnson and Weld ticket is the only constitutionalist alternative already on all fifty ballots.  It also notes that the ticket's chance of winning electoral votes isn't good.

What matters, though, whether it's Mr Trump or Mrs Clinton being sworn in next January, is that the Constitution gives Congress some powers.  Both Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton are walking exemplars of Why Presidential Power Must Be Checked.  Thus, even if the conventional wisdom is correct (#NeverTrump gets you Hillary), the Congress has some power to frustrate a president's ambitions.  (That's a common talking point among Mr Obama's defenders: look what he has to push against!  To which I say, imagine how much worse it would be with a compliant Congress.)

Thus, dear reader, whether you implement #NeverTrump #NeverHillary by abstaining on the presidential line, or picking the libertarian, or one of the other minor parties that somehow got through the Cartel's ballot rules, make the effort to learn who is running for the other offices, and choose wisely.

STRIPPED.

The Board of Trustees of Northern Illinois University have ratified the University Council's revocation of the 1999 honorary degree conferred on then Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, now another jailed Illinois politician.

The roads paid for in an earmark to the porkulus transportation bill of the early 2000s continue to hurry traffic through otherwise unimproved land the university once intended to build buildings to sell naming rights to.

19.5.16

UNCONTROLLED POLICY EXPERIMENTATION.

Barbara Miner's Lessons from the Heartland: A Turbulent Half-Century of Public Education in an Iconic American City begins with the Milwaukee Braves winning a World Series and ends with the Madison protests prior to the attempted recall of Republican governor Scott Walker.

The history overlaps some with my own.  I started kindergarten in 1959, and was in a class that was bussed intact (not because of integration, as later became the case, but because there were more students in my neighborhood school than there were classrooms.)  Later I attended a new high school that featured a planetarium and the "superior ability" classes offering college-prep plus.

I finished in 1971.  The city, the high school, and the Milwaukee Public Schools, all came apart sometime after.  Ms Miner documents all the ways Milwaukee changed: the immigration from the black South and the Third World, the flight of the factories and the once-unionized jobs to the black South and the Third World, the flight of the white ethnics (primarily Polish and German extraction) to the suburban counties.

It's not that the policy activists -- Ms Miner is clearly sympathetic to the recall movement, and to the advocates of school integration or diversity or however you want to frame it -- didn't protest and agitate and elect.  It's not that the school administrators didn't try everything -- you'll read about intact bussing and integration and open enrollment and magnet schools and voucher schools and charter schools and for all I know schools of smelt -- and yet Milwaukee "collapsed" badly during the 1980s and didn't recover.

And yet, Book Review No. 6 suggests the Lessons from the Heartland are incomplete.  We end with the usual suspects occupying the Capitol, and yet the governor survived the recall election, and won re-election two years later, and the Milwaukee Public Schools are no better, and the work of evaluating the policy experiments remains for other writers to do.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

NOSTALGIC FOR THE NODDING DONKEYS.

The BBC documents the Passenger Rail operators' efforts to retire the Pacer railbuses.
There's the rattling, the shuddering, the bouncing and the occasional squealing. You don't have to be a trainspotter to know you're riding a Pacer.

Essentially, each one is an old Leyland Motors bus frame mounted on train wheels and, thanks to the vehicle's rudimentary suspension, regular travellers are all too familiar with the distinctive sounds and sensations.
British Rail and the successor Passenger Rail operators tended to exile them from London, although they could be relegated to the Midlands and the North.


Pacer from the 143 series, Manchester Piccadilly, 10 March 1997.

The cars' rough riding properties contributed to the nickname, "nodding donkeys,"  which reflected their design, and the rattling and bouncing could only be augmented by the opposed joints in British track.
Pacer carriages aren't fitted with bogies. This means they have just four wheels instead of the usual eight. The lack of bogies also means there's only one layer of suspension springs, rather than two, which "can make the ride rather bouncy", says Simon Iwnicki, director of the Institute of Railway Research at Huddersfield University. "There aren't many vehicles that are as long as the Pacer that have just four wheels."

This set-up also means the Pacer can emit a distinctive - and to many passengers, annoying - squealing noise as it runs through curves. It also limits the top speed to 75mph.
The long wheelbase -- it is a bus body, after all -- is evident in this picture.


Pacer set at Manchester Victoria, 22 May 1995.

The Pacer, arguably, lasted as long as it did, because nobody attempted to pretend that it was anything other than a budget-priced rail car using bus components.  And 3 and 2 seats that would look right on a yellow school bus (which, in DeKalb, are now operated by First Student, another division of First Group.)
Budgets were tight and British Rail was under great pressure to cut branch lines, says [author Christian] Wolmar. Meanwhile, at its factory in Workington, Cumbria, motor manufacturer British Leyland had produced a single-decker bus, the National, which needed to sell in high volumes to be viable.

"We had one practical chap [who] suggested maybe you could take the body bit of the Leyland National and put it on a rail track," says Eric Woodcock, who was a bus designer at the state-run conglomerate at the time and now campaigns on public transport issues.

Simultaneously, British Rail had been working on freight wagon technology, and engineers from both nationalised companies began collaborating on a way to fuse the National's body with a bogie-less chassis to create a cut-price diesel multiple unit (DMU) train.
That's more honest than putting an intercity bus body on two axles and pretending it's an intercity flyer.


Aerotrain coach at Green Bay, Wisconsin.

In an ideal world, you do not want to make a train that looks like a bus.  Or a string of buses.

The article notes that Pacer enthusiasts seek to preserve some of the railcars.  They'll be easier to keep in service than the short Aerotrain consists left in our museums.