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


The Lincoln Highway name lives on, even though the contemporary roads are often different.  The name often goes with U. S. Highway 30, particularly east of Chicago, although Thirty is often widened and relocated to avoid the villages and hamlets through which the Lincoln Highway was often the main street.  Across Indiana, for example, Thirty is a four-lane road offering the truckers an opportunity to bypass the Indiana Toll Road, and the tolls charged thereon.  (The operator of the Toll Road is not doing much these days to win friends and influence people, with construction going on forever toward the west end, and several service plazas out of service for rebuilding all at once.)

In parts of Indiana, however, the original two-lane Lincoln Highway remains as a rural road, or as the main street of the smaller villages and hamlets.  And just to its south is what remains of the Pittsburgh Fort Wayne and Chicago, which as a component of The Pennsylvania Railroad's Lines West provided a racetrack for passenger trains, particularly in the flatlands west of Crestline.

But now, pull into the appropriately named hamlet of Hamlet, Indiana, and you find the offices of the Chicago Fort Wayne and Eastern Railroad.

Splendid weather for mid-October.  Friday the Thirteenth comes on a Thursday.

The Fort Wayne line is now a Genesee and Wyoming property.  Wisconsin and Southern is not, but that's a Wisconsin and Southern diesel in front of an elevator that appears to generate more than a few carloads.

I stopped at Hamlet in order to get in front of a short freight train pulled by a locomotive in Indiana and Ohio colors.  That's another property not in Genesee and Wyoming's portfolio.  Go figure.  But the one remaining main track has been given proper care, and the railroad is good for forty mph running.  The track improvements offer shippers another choice for through cars bound east of Chicago, but these must be handed off to a connecting carrier at Crestline.  Single-carrier service to Pittsburgh and the east coast ended with the partitioning of Conrail, perhaps the idea of moving all the freight to The Water Level Route (cargo bound for Pittsburgh and Philadelphia making a right turn at Cleveland) hived off inefficiently much capacity.

In a few minutes, the freight train showed up.

I wonder if there are more sidings at Hamlet now than there were in Pennsylvania Railroad days.  Executives of the more successful railroads in the sunbelt contrasted their efforts at attracting shippers with the long stretches of rural operation in the Great Lakes region and relatively few shippers.

Once upon a time, Hamlet was the crossing of New York Central's Kankakee Belt line and the Fort Wayne, complete with a tower.

Undated photo from the Conrail era retrieved from Kankakee Belt history page.

The crossover and crossing are east of the elevator.  The Kankakee Belt is gone here, part of the Conrail elimination of duplicate facilities.  Look closely at the left, that's the original Lincoln Highway.  Those tracks still look capable of carrying a poppet-valve duplex drive at 120 mph with The Broadway Limited or The Trail Blazer.

I was able to get ahead of the freight train one more time.  At Donaldson, that appears to be another carload of ferroequinologists out for the photography.

The road paralleling the tracks may be another section of the original Lincoln Highway.

A regional freight carrier replaces Lines West of The Standard Railroad of the World.  It could be worse.  In the Chicago area, the former Erie Railroad grade, which offered ample clearances for high and wide loads, is now a bicycle trail.



Mike "Dirty Jobs" Rowe has a few things to say about the presidential nominations, and what it means to have a right to vote.  First, a recognition that politics is downstream from (the trashy, splintery) culture.  "Sure, we can blame the media, the system, and the candidates themselves, but let’s be honest – Donald and Hillary are there because we put them there. The electorate has tolerated the intolerable. We’ve treated this entire process like the final episode of American Idol. What did we expect?"

Then some advice about how to get yourself a liberal education, something the higher education establishment has forgotten how to do.  "Spend a few hours every week studying American history, human nature, and economic theory. Start with 'Economics in One Lesson.' Then try Keynes. Then Hayek. Then Marx. Then Hegel. Develop a worldview that you can articulate as well as defend. Test your theory with people who disagree with you. Debate. Argue. Adjust your philosophy as necessary. Then, when the next election comes around, cast a vote for the candidate whose worldview seems most in line with your own."

But if a voter opts out?  Just because you can, it doesn't follow that you must.  We enjoy a right to keep and bear arms, but somehow a lot of people go through life without an arsenal at home.


This year's economics Nobel went to contract theorists Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström.  In Bloomberg View, Tyler Cowen explains the significance of the results, and notes the importance of the researchers taking the time to understand the refractory empirical phenomena being theorized about.

Not everybody is cheering.  Start with Arnold Kling.
Think of their work as consisting of three steps.

1. Identifying some real-world complexities that affect how businesses operate. For example, output may result from both effort and luck. Output may be joint. A worker’s job description may include more than one objective.

2. Construct a mathematical optimization model that incorporates such complexities.

3. Offer insights into designing appropriate compensation systems, including when to outsource an activity altogether.

A big question is: how important is step 2?

In the eyes of the mainstream economics profession, it is extremely important. Without it, you either do not get to step 3, or your claims in step 3 lack reliability and credibility. Step 2 is why Hart and Holmström earned the Nobel Prize.

In my view, step 2 is unnecessary. If anything, it tends to get in the way, often creating a barrier to doing step 1 properly, because economists limit themselves to what is mathematically tractable. I think that Hart and Holmström sometimes (often?) made good choices in step 1, and that is what accounts for the value of where they arrived at in step 3.
Mr Kling's contention is a common one in economics: it's sometimes possible to conceive of something in general terms using words, but being able to produce a more careful delineation of conditions under which it is present using mathematics is hard. I have boxes of scribblings yet dealing with problems I thought I could make some headway against and yet fell short.  And veteran theorist Hal Varian once wrote an essay on doing research wherein he noted, in response to a workshop comment from a colleague who was attempting something more challenging, that his first attempts were more challenging (and failed.)  There's an element of complaint present, as well, in his observation that the late Alchian Allen and the still-living Harold Demsetz had worked on similar contracting problems, using a more literary form of price theory.  But the prize goes to the work that more precisely delineates the conditions under which the phenomenon is present.

Peter Boettke extends the argument.
So is there a sort of miscarriage of scholarly justice in the passing over of Armen Alchian during his lifetime, and the continuing overlooking of the aging Harold Demsetz by the Nobel committee right now?

Of course there is, but rather than express outrage, I want to offer an explanation that I hope gives pause to some within the broadly speaking coalition of property rights economists, law-and-economics scholars, public choice political economists and market process and entrepreneurship theorists.  If this coalition of intellectual traditions is going to have the impact it should have, in my opinion, then it is going to have to reconceptualize the way it is going to engage the scientific community of economists and social scientists.  There must be a serious re-engagement with the Buchanan type question of "What Should Economists Do?" and perhaps an even deeper exploration into the insights on the nature of economic science as laid out by Mises, Knight, and Hayek.

In a very colloquial way science is said to progress in the following way: Stage 1 -- what do you think; Stage 2 -- what do you know; Stage 3 --what can you prove. In the 20th century, a strange intellectual alliance formed between Statism and Scientism (this alliance was the hallmark of the progressive era ideology and we have never fully escaped its stranglehold).  Scientism itself was based on an intimate relationship between formalism and empiricism.  Formalism argued that due to the ambiguities of natural language where the same words could mean different things and the different words could mean the same thing, science would never progress beyond Stage 1 -- what do you think.  This stage is critical for getting the intuition -- the insight -- but it will remain immature unless forced to be formally stated where it may have the possibility to reach Stage 3 and be considered a real contribution to Science.  But in translating natural language to formal language of mathematics, theorists of the social world had to abstract from a variety of nuances that only natural language can capture.  Formal statements can ensure syntactic clarity, not necessarily semantic clarity (this point is something to stress for another time).  The full on adoption of the formal language of mathematical economics has costs as well as some perceived benefits that we must bring out into the open in our professional discourse.  What happens in economic theory by mid-century due to the formalist revolution is a complete disregard for logical soundness in our theoretical derivations, and instead an exclusive striving for logical validity in the models being developed.  What ties these models down and prevents them from being merely arbitrary and free floating abstractions, is that simultaneously with this move there was the advancement in sophisticated techniques of statistical testing in economics.  Economics was transformed from a branch of moral philosophy and the field of political economy to a science of "model and measure" and a form of expert guided engineering of economic systems.  This self-image fit well with both desire to manage macroeconomics and regulate microeconomics, and of course it fit well with the more ambitious efforts of nationalization and planning.  But the main point I want to stress is the need, and more importantly the ability, to tie down the logically valid models to reality through some reliable procedure of sorting through the unlimited array of possible 'model worlds' to select out only those that were empirically significant for this world in which we occupy as human beings.
That complaint raises two separate points: the use of mathematical methods in economics, and the strands of inquiry in economics that look a lot like the operator's manual for the Welfare State.  But the mathematical approach does allow the researcher to identify, more precisely, the conditions (consider the Arrow Impossibility Theorem as high-concept) under which the operator of the Welfare State will be disappointed.

David Warsh, the economics columnist for Boston's Globe, explains the way in which the patient accumulation of small advantages eventually pays off.
Contract theory promises a better scorecard, with which to tell apart the interests of players and their agents. It has barely begun to be put to work.  The prize to Hart and Holmström demonstrates the power of patient, painstaking social science.  It’s not the first word that we honor but the last.
It's not clear that there ever is a last word -- that's why we call it re-search -- and yet, making more precise the ways in which phenomena that political economists have speculated about since Adam Smith, if not before, might be what's prizeworthy.


Deep in the heart of blue-state Austin, residents are discovering that they are the everybody else, or the fellow behind the tree, and they're not happy.
“I’m at the breaking point,” said Gretchen Gardner, an Austin artist who bought a 1930s bungalow in the Bouldin neighborhood just south of downtown in 1991 and has watched her property tax bill soar to $8,500 this year.

“It’s not because I don’t like paying taxes,” said Gardner, who attended both meetings. “I have voted for every park, every library, all the school improvements, for light rail, for anything that will make this city better. But now I can’t afford to live here anymore. I’ll protest my appraisal notice, but that’s not enough. Someone needs to step in and address the big picture.”

The arrival of this year’s appraisal notices — which in Travis County showed homes’ average market values jumped 12.6 percent and average taxable values rose 8 percent for 2014 — is sparking a push for reform. Similar jumps have occurred in Williamson and Hays counties.
There are no state income taxes in Texas, which complicates the analysis, but rising property values put homeowners in a rough place, particularly if those homeowners want their city government to spend money on amenities.

In Illinois, there is a state income tax, but rising property values push some homeowners to protest.
Jeff McGrath and Dan Aylward paid thousands of dollars of real estate taxes with $1 bills at the county treasurer's office and vowed to do so again in September and every due date afterward until the taxes stop increasing.
You want good schools, you get good schools, then property values go up? Not necessarily.
Both men say there is too much government and way too much being paid to school administrators. Both men say though the market value of their homes may not be considered pricey, their properties won't sell because the taxes are too high.
With the state legislature being unable to put proper budgets together, property tax relief extracted by Springfield through the income and sales taxes might not be immediately forthcoming.


Trains Magazine's Fred Frailey is dismayed with the slow implementation of positive train control by the Passenger Rail operators.
The spectacle we now have is that the freight railroads have spent almost $7 billion of their dollars diligently inventing and implementing PTC technology, while at least three of the nation’s largest commuter-train railroads haven’t really done a damn thing. I’ll stop here to credit Amtrak with implementing its version of Positive Train Control on its own Northeast Corridor trackage, and between Philadelphia and Harrisburg. And I’ll tip my hat to the politicians in California who provided the funds for Metrolink in Los Angeles to do the same—Metrolink, of course, being the entity whose own disaster prodded Congress to act in the first place eight years ago.

But what of Metra in Chicago, Jersey Transit, and Metro-North Railroad in New York and Connecticut? As I said, not really a damn thing. Illinois is broke, and New Jersey close to it. New York and Connecticut are stressed out as well. And appropriating scarce capital dollars for huge technical projects that neither politicians nor journalists can explain clearly is something of a non-starter when you’re competing against all the other uses of public dollars. Ask the average Joe or Jane in Newark or New Haven or Cicero: Do you want PTC or more cops and more meds for grandma? Your choice. Guess how they’ll reply?
I bet they won't reply, "Raise my taxes."


Vast tracts of the social sciences have gone insane, Margaret Wente of Toronto's Globe and Mail contends.  It's culture-studies interrogation of pumpkin spice latte and other metrofexual affectations this time around.  From the abstract:
Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte, a widely circulated essay in >McSweeney’s on “Decorative Gourd Season,” pumpkins in aspirational lifestyle magazines, and the reality television show Punkin Chunkin provide entry points into whiteness–pumpkin connections. Such analysis illuminates how class, gender, place, and especially race are employed in popular media and marketing of food and flavor; it suggests complicated interplay among food, leisure, labor, nostalgia, and race. Pumpkins in popular culture also reveal contemporary racial and class coding of rural versus urban places. Accumulation of critical, relational, and contextual analyses, including things seemingly as innocuous as pumpkins, points the way to a food studies of humanities and geography. When considered vis-à-vis violence and activism that incorporated pumpkins, these analyses point toward the perils of equating pumpkins and whiteness.
Come. Off. It.

It's more of the trendy, terminally silly stuff crowding out real education.  I've been pointing this out for nearly thirty years (long before anybody heard of the Internet, let alone web logs) and it's gratifying to have Ms Wente bringing the smack.
How does this stuff get published? Because critical thinking has gone out the door. The standard methods of research and inquiry do not apply. In fact, they are widely thought to be sexist and racist, because they’re rooted in white male ways of thinking. Science that built on the foundations of masculine rationality and abstract logic can’t possibly reflect the experience of women and minorities. Therefore, feelings, anecdotes and “lived experience” vastly outweigh what used to be known as “objective truth.”

Why am I so irate about this? One reason is that such work is a discredit to genuine academics and the pursuit of knowledge. Another is that race, gender and oppression studies have metastasized far beyond their little enclaves and spread to many other disciplines, including much of the humanities and parts of the sciences. Some universities have launched feminist biology programs because regular biology is too sexist. No one seems to mind that kids are squandering their time and our resources (to say nothing of their parents’ resources) on rubbish. I believe the damage to the public image of our universities is not inconsiderable – something their administrations might want to ponder in these straitened times.

The worst part is that these bad ideas metastasize into the wider world, into politics and public policy and ordinary life. Today we think the only way to fight racism and sexism is to identify everyone by race and sex – and that the only way to respond to people who claim victim status is to grant them special privileges.
Yeah, and that generates all sorts of affirmative action asterisks. The rot has been a long time in coming, and the recognition of it has been there for a long time. It may not be given to me to finish the task of reclaiming higher education, and yet there are others still in the fight.



Here's how the electoral college helps you.  "Americans, if you live in a "safe state" (about two-thirds of the population does), now's your chance to rock the boat and make your vote count."  Heck, if you live in a swing state, and you understand the lesser of two evils to still be evil, tick the box for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein or one of the other options anyway, as at the margin, your vote is unlikely to affect the outcome.  You're not going to get what you want, but picking the lesser evil isn't going to give you what you want either.


A City Lab post is, shall we say, skeptical about streetcars.
It’s hard not to succumb to the charms of the streetcar, the frisky chocolate lab of urban transit. Urbanists delight in their walkability-promoting scale and commitment to permanency—those rails stuck in the street seem to embody the faded promise of public transportation itself. Environmentalists dig their cleaner emissions (assuming your local grid isn’t coal-fired) and greater passenger capacity, compared to diesel-spewing buses. Older folks appreciate their nostalgia factor and low-floor boarding, which makes them easier on wheelchair users and aging knees. The business community enjoys the developer-friendly subsidies and other sundry tax breaks that that often accompany their construction. And just about everyone likes the whole Euro-classy vibe they evoke.
Put another way, the rent-seekers and the aesthetes go for the streetcars. But a proper streetcar service is a network.  Most of the cities have installed short lines in shopping districts, which bus riders can still reach on the city bus.
The fact that both Cincinnati and KC’s systems are more popular on weekends seems to support one of the fundamental arguments against them: They’re more tourist toys than transportation systems used by residents and commuters. Too slow and short to function as bona fide people-movers, they’re just expensive downtown amenities for out-of-towners, opponents say, gobbling public dollars that should be devoted to more useful forms of public transit.
Read on and you see that streetcars are part of the same infrastructure medicine as sports stadiums and concert halls.  Oops.

I understand the Milwaukee streetcar project is going forward.  Let me refresh your memory.  Here's how you do streetcars to the Plankinton Arcade (a precursor of the Grand Avenue Mall.)


Yes, that's long been one of my tag lines, but it's as useful a way as any to introduce Noah Smith's Bloomberg View column explaining why contract theorists Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström merited recognition from a prize committee in Stockholm.
The research here is deep microeconomic stuff. It’s about incentives, and imperfect information, and long-term relationships. It’s about delicate strategic interactions between people who don’t know each other’s capabilities or intentions. But it’s related to lots of real-world economic issues -- performance pay, mergers and acquisitions, bank lending and corporate structure.

What it’s not about is the kind of economics you read about in the news. It’s not about growth or unemployment, fiscal stimulus or interest rates, trade agreements or productivity. It might be indirectly related to those things -- Holmström’s work on financial crises and debt certainly has relevance for what happened in 2008. But it isn't what you expect to see economists arguing about when you open up Bloomberg or pick up the New York Times.

It’s not macroeconomics -- the study of how the broad economy works.
Mr Smith reminds readers why the history of economic thought is important.
Economics debates in the news media and on the blogs tend to make a big distinction between macro and micro, painting the former as unscientific and the latter as serious science. There’s a grain of truth to that, but it’s not that simple.

What really happened was that macro developed first. Economists saw big, important phenomena like growth, recessions and poverty happening around them, and they wrote down simple theories to explain what they saw. The theories started out literary, and became more mathematical and formal as time went on. But they had a few big things in common. They assumed the people and the companies in the economy were each very tiny and insignificant, like particles in a chemical solution. And they typically assumed that everyone follows very simple rules -- companies maximize profits, consumers maximize the utility they get from consuming things. Pour all of these tiny simple companies and people into a test tube called “the market,” shake them up, and poof -- an economy pops out.
It might be more accurate to say that macroeconomics as we understand it emerged out of political economy, which beginning with Adam Smith and progressing at least through Karl Marx and J. S. Mill, focused on why wealth happened and who got it and who would be left out, and what might be done to Change Things.  But the notion of a company was new to Adam Smith and misunderstood by Karl Marx and it took a long time to get a handle on why some transactions might be handled more effectively by markets whilst others were within the locus of control of a management.  And, to use a phrase from Harold Demsetz, who really ought be considered for recognition, to think about how a world in which information is costly is different from a world in which information is free.  The standard blackboard economics supply-and-demand model rests on free information.  When information becomes costly, other models, such as Hart's, Holmström's,  Jean Tirole's (from last year), Oliver Williamson's (from a few years ago) and the game theorists offer information.



I'd have to search the archives for a while to find evidence of a fatal train wreck with that sort of death toll.  But on the roads, it's business as usual, writes editor Jim Wrinn of Trains Magazine.
Just today, I read that the U.S. is on target to see an increase in traffic fatalities for the second year in a row. Just in the first half of 2016, more than 17,000 people have died in traffic accidents. That is 34 500-passenger commuter trains smashing themselves to pieces and taking every life on board with them.
That's part of a reflection on press coverage of last week's commuter train overrunning the bumper at Hoboken Terminal, where at least one national source confused the absence of positive train control on the train with the absence of an automatic brake??

I've grumbled over the years about the sloppy reporting that frequently accompanies coverage of economics, or of railroading.  Why can't the rest of the press corps be as knowledgeable about the subjects they cover as the sports reporters?


Reason presents its quadrennial survey of presidential preferences among its writers.  There's not a lot of love for the major party offerings.  Contributors also have the opportunity to offer their impressions of the Era of Hope and Change.  A sampling.

Nick Gillespie will miss "The foolish, momentary optimism some people had that nothing could be as bad as the Bush years."

Bill Kauffman will miss "I'll miss Barack's empathetic understanding of small-town Americans and Michelle's sparkling wit."

David Weigel offers a longer meditation.  "I think it's a very good thing that the wild optimism that accompanied Obama was put in check. One of the stranger aspects of this election cycle was seeing so many people flock to Bernie or Trump in the hopes that an Honest Politician could fix Washington. That baffled me—for a whole generation, the lesson of Obama was that there are gigantic and often useful veto points and that you should not see presidential candidates as white knights. You should not idolize them. You want change? You're on your own; get to work. You're scared that the new leader will 'fundamentally transform' the country? Actually, you can stop him."  That about sums it up: the creepy and failed Cult of Obama becomes the meandering Cult of Trump or the symbolic and corrupt Cult of Hillary.

Mollie Hemingway delivers several backhanded compliments.  "I will miss Obama's comity and executive restraint, the way he followed through with his promises to rein in government and manage wars better than George W. Bush did, his steadfast avoidance of killing American citizens without due process, and the way he worked so hard to keep the federal bureaucracy from persecuting people for their political and religious beliefs."

Cheer up, it could be worse.  Might as well cheer up, it is going to be worse.


Kevin Williamson makes the case for emergent order.  Civilization progresses by expanding the number of tasks people can do without thinking about them.  Why, then, do the self-styled progressives think it's all about Expertise?  "When it comes to important social concerns such as health care, affordable housing, and education, the progressives say: 'This is too important to leave to the unpredictability of the free market.' Others say: 'This is too important not to leave to the unpredictability of the free market.'"  Go, read, understand.



By Presidential Proclamation.  " I encourage all Americans to learn more about the history of German Americans and reflect on the many contributions they have made to our Nation."

At Antietam.

That's a New York regimental monument.

Or perhaps, you'd rather celebrate in a more conventional way.

Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit!


The Economist offers an instructive essay on the political economy of trade agreements.  As with anything else in economics, it's the tradeoffs.  By all means read the whole thing (before the paywall closes) but let me highlight salient passages.
China’s accession to the [World Trade Organization] caused a big shock. The country’s size, and the speed at which it conquered rich-world markets for low-cost manufacturing, makes it unique. By 2013 it had captured one-fifth of all manufacturing exports worldwide, compared with a share of only 2% in 1991.

This coincided with a fresh decline in factory jobs in America. Between 1999 and 2011 America lost almost 6m manufacturing jobs in net terms. That may not be as dramatic as it sounds, since America is a large and dynamic place where around 5m jobs come and go every month. Still, when David Autor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), David Dorn of the University of Zurich and Gordon Hanson of the University of California, San Diego, looked into the job losses more closely, they found something worrying. At least one-fifth of the drop in factory jobs during that period was the direct result of competition from China.

Moreover, the American workers who had lost those jobs neither found new ones close by nor searched for work farther afield. They either swelled the ranks of the unemployed or, more often, left the workforce. That contradicts the widespread belief that America’s jobs market is fluid and flexible. When men lose a factory job, they often stay put. Those who managed to find new jobs were paid less than before and were working in industries that were vulnerable to competition from imports. In subsequent research, the authors found that lost factory jobs also had a depressing effect on aggregate demand (and thus non-manufacturing jobs) in the affected areas. In total, up to 2.4m jobs may have been lost, directly and indirectly, as a consequence of imports from China.
As the comparative advantage of the United States has traditionally been in knowledge-intensive, advanced technology goods, the change in manufacturing trade patterns ought come as no surprise, China being in a better place to do the routine production.  But the victory dividend after World War II left a lot of U.S. blue collar workers with less formal schooling in a bad place.
In 1964 male high-school graduates were about as likely to be in the workforce as college-educated men, but now only 83% of those with a high-school degree or less are in the workforce, against 94% of those who finished college (see chart). This mirrors a growing divergence in wages. In the mid-1960s the pay of less educated men averaged 80% of college-educated ones, but by 2014 that proportion had fallen to 60%.

It is unlikely that men are dropping out of work voluntarily. More than a third of inactive men live in poverty; less than a quarter have a working spouse. So the most obvious explanation is a fall in demand for less-skilled men. That in turn is partly linked to a long-term decline in manufacturing, whose share of the jobs market peaked in the days when almost all prime-age men worked. The CEA study found that states with a higher-than-average share of jobs in construction, mining and (to a lesser degree) manufacturing tend to have more prime-age men in the workforce. It does not help that men who lose their jobs are increasingly rooted in unemployment black spots.
For "unemployment black spots," think Rust Belt.  But trade effects and productivity effects have similar consequences for men with fewer years of school, something that in the U.S. is likely reinforced by the comparative advantage.
A steady drop in the share of prime-age men in the workforce going back half a century cannot be pinned on America signing free-trade agreements or China’s emergence as an exporter of manufactures, both of which happened fairly recently. Factory jobs peaked in the 1970s, but manufacturing output has continued to increase. Indeed, America’s share of world manufacturing output, on a value-added basis, has been fairly stable at a bit under a fifth for the past four decades. Thanks to advances in technology, fewer workers are needed to produce the same quantity of goods. But since trade with lower-cost countries and technological change have similar effects on labour-intensive production in the rich world, it is hard to disentangle their effects.
Thus doing trade policy is like doing any other trade policy in the form of a Marshallian improvement, where the movement to a larger opportunity set economy-wide leaves some people in a worse position.
Sober advocates of free trade know that over time the gains from it come from greater efficiency, not from more jobs, the number of which is largely determined by demography and the strength of aggregate demand. It is easier to spot the link between freer trade and factory closures than the more dispersed benefits trade brings to workers across other industries. Exporting firms in all countries and across a variety of industries are more productive, grow faster and pay higher wages than non-exporting firms. But a lot of the gains from trade come from the direct benefit of cheaper imports and their indirect effect on productivity.
Trade protection, however, makes the lot of the poorer people worse.  For example, think of all the cheap Chinese stuff on the shelves of Wal-Marts.  But nobody's talking about that in the current election cycle.


Forget about Wikileaks or the Drudge Report or Donald Trump's tax returns or Hillary Clinton's lung function.  The real October Surprise might come to people who log on to the health insurance exchanges and discover that they can't keep their current insurance, and the replacement insurance will be worse.
ObamaCare is set to create winners like the people who now have insurance for the first time and losers like the millions that [Bill] Clinton described. Contrary to Obama’s oft-repeated broken promise, they couldn’t keep their doctor or coverage if they wanted to and are now, thanks to the collapse of the exchanges, paying far more than they used to for policies they don’t like. The middle class got it in the neck. As the prices continue to go up and as the mandates are applied to businesses, the tally of ObamaCare losers will to continue to grow.

Democrats absolutely refuse to acknowledge the basic facts Bill Clinton mentioned in his rant. While they pay lip service to the notion that Obamacare needs some fixing, their attitude to the basic contradiction at its heart is to deny that it exists. The obvious alternatives to this disaster—the market-based ideas of the House Republicans or the left’s preferred single payer option—are matters the Hillary Clinton campaign will contemplate. Which is why the only Democrat willing to say this is the man who is currently playing the role of the party’s crazy old uncle.
Resign yourself to the Conrail option?  Here's W. R. Mead's take.
[E]ven the hardiest defenders of what was once presented as the greatest Democratic policy innovation in a generation are now having to concede that it looks more and more like the inevitable failure the critics have always said it was. There is lots to chew on here, and the worried blue outlets now edgily coming to terms with one of the greatest failures in Democratic Party history still can’t quite admit the full scope of the failure. Naturally enough they are calling for more of the same: more bureaucracy, more centralization, more complex webs of cross subsidies, more ‘free’ stuff for more people.
And if you think health care is expensive now ...

Meanwhile, the exchanges are vanishing in Tennessee, coming undone in Minnesota,  and this morning on Betsy's Page there's enough gloom to fill Thomas Hardy's moors.  Plus physicians refusing to be treated like Wal-Mart's vendors.  Here's the box Reason's Peter Suderman sees Hillary Clinton in.  "Crucial elements of Obamacare are on teetering on the brink of collapse, and the only solutions that its backers have on offer involve spending more public money and giving the government even greater power over health coverage and care."


Grand Forks, North Dakota, like much of the rest of the country, is not a safe place for kids to walk to school.  It's not about school district consolidation or the abolition of fitness privilege.  It's the infrastructure, stupid.
We have a few streets in town that continually need to have flashing speed limit signs and police stationed on them to deter speeders. We also have streets that don't need those measures. The difference isn't in the number of cars or the number of speed limit signs. The difference is in the design.

Show me an area where police need to continually set up to catch speeding drivers, and I'll show you a street design that encourages speeding and is unsafe for pedestrians.

For decades, cities have adopted the same safety design principles for neighborhood streets that they've used for highways. On highways, wide shoulders and buffer zones are added to wide driving lanes to help drivers take corrective action if they veer off of the road at high speed. There are no pedestrians crossing highways, so pedestrian safety is not taken into account, and rightly so.

But on neighborhood streets, wide buffer zones and wide traffic lanes encourage drivers to drive fast, lowering awareness and decreasing reaction time. This is a problem when there are pedestrians present.
Yeah, there's speeding where there are stroads. So much for intelligent design.
We can build streets that are safe for pedestrians, or we can build them so that cars can move through at a rapid pace.

A street can't do both. It simply doesn't work. In fact, trying to achieve both goals ends up accomplishing neither and puts people in danger.

If we're serious about making our streets and crosswalks safe for pedestrians, then we must accept that the only way to do so is to get cars to slow down. This also would require accepting the trade-off, which is the few seconds that would be added to our commute each day.
Fortunately, they are beginning to catch on.  "When lanes are built too wide, many bad things happen. In a sentence: pedestrians are forced to walk further across streets on which cars are moving too fast and bikes don't fit."  Narrow the lanes in residential areas.  Spend less money building infrastructure, there's less infrastructure to crumble.
Our lives are currently being put at risk daily by fifty state DOTs and hundreds of county road commissions who mistakenly believe that high-speed street standards make our cities and towns safer. In my most considered opinion, these agencies have blood on their hands, and more than a little. There are many standards that they need to change, but the easiest and most important is probably the 12-foot lane. Armed with the facts, we can force this change. But only if we do it together.

It's time to push this discussion to its logical conclusion. Until conflicting evidence can be mustered, the burden of proof now rests with the DOTs. Until they can document otherwise, every urban 12-foot lane that is not narrowed to 10 feet represents a form of criminal negligence; every injury and death, perhaps avoidable, not avoided—by choice.
We'll take up the matter of the 53 foot trailer plague another day.


Alice Dreger offers a defense of academic tenure against the yahoos.
[H]aving lived through the decline of tenure, I can see clearly that universities in which the majority of the faculty feel unsafe in terms of job security become places where no one feels safe to do anything that might risk upsetting someone.

And that’s a recipe for generally useless research as well as impoverished teaching.

When researchers get the message that they better not produce data that might offend the powerful, they end up telling us not what is true, but what we want to hear. Policy separates from reality, and we end up with waste and poor outcomes in education, healthcare, economics, and the justice system. Good policy cannot be built on comfortable fantasies.
What happens when the comfortable fantasies are the commonplaces of the common room?  Put another way, what happens if what passes for academic research is simply validation of Governance by Wise Experts?

What happens when the quest for tenure is a quest for producing methodologically correct minimal publishable units?  Who among the tenure-trackers is going to have the audacity to challenge entrenchments?

It's not the business interests, dear reader, who are making the faculty, whether tenure-track or contingent, reluctant to get students out of their comfort zones.
When teachers get the message they can’t push or challenge students, we end up with fellow citizens, neighbours, and co-workers who are inflexible, threatened by difference, and lacking in critical-thinking skills. Parents may think they want comfortable intellectual spaces for their dear college-age children, but if they really want their children to grow into strong, capable thinkers, they want professors who feel safe to host unsettling conversations, to provide unexpected lessons, and to go where students need, rather than want, to go in order to develop.
That's also the message of making accommodations for unprepared students, and calling it access, or inclusion.  Professor Dreger might be questioning the conformist corporate mindset, but she might as well be calling out the conformist snowflake mindset.  Give her credit, in her summation, for noting the role of all those destructive forces in undermining faculty.

Academic tenure, however, influences the risk profile of potential faculty.  Does the prospect of a job for life (perhaps with lower pay, perhaps with little intellectual challenge) attract the kind of person who would bet his career on a few high-profile projects, let alone the kind of person who might risk losing a billion dollars on a startup?


Kurt Schlichter brings the smack against the kind of entitled clerisy that sees much of the nation as deplorables, or incorrectly understanding the social forces that render them unemployable or consign them to mommy's basement.
There’s nothing funnier than a rustic presuming to speak out as if his views matter! Then the host will make a funny face – I mean, how can anyone be so insane and stupid to think that maybe having grown men lurking around little girls as they use the potty could go wrong? – and that goofy smirk will cue the skinny-jeaned audience to go into paroxysms of laughter. Not laughter because it’s funny or clever, mind you, but laughter that demonstrates social solidarity among the kind of smug people who drink pretentious, awful craft beers and think the “P” in “IPA” stands for “pumpkin spice.”

Maybe John Oliver will do a 10 minute rant about him and how Jesus probably told him that dudes shouldn’t be alone with little girls in toilets. Maybe Samantha Bee will scrunch up her tired, sour apple doll face and point out how this guy probably didn’t even go to Yale and where did he get that jacket anyway, at Wal-Mart?

And maybe our guy will sit down and hold his tongue. And then maybe he’ll remember how he went to a Tea Party to politely register his dissent and how he was dumped on for daring to try and be heard. Then maybe he’ll vote for Donald Trump because maybe if he’s a little louder and a little ruder then perhaps someone will listen to him about not turning his little girl’s bathroom into a social experiment, about the illegal aliens like the one who ran into his truck and didn’t have insurance, and about the rumor going around that his job down at the plant may be moving to Juarez next year.

But then, those concerns apparently aren’t worthy of attention.
Read and understand the whole thing. Mr Schlichter's focus is on how the successor to Donald Trump, should the gentry prevail, is likely to stir up more anger.
Our guy and millions upon millions of others will get angry. Not merely miffed as with the Tea Party, not a bit perturbed as with Trump. Angry. Coldly furious not only that they have been exiled from their own republic but because they have been relentlessly insulted, abused, humiliated – and forced to pay for it all.

Because the elite will have made it clear that the system really is rigged against those outside their caste, and that there is no way for people like our guy to be heard merely by trying to be part of the existing political system.
That's focusing on what is notionally the Republican coalition.  Here's how Mr Schlichter explains the dynamics to a European audience.  Same thesis, fewer polemics.  Ross Douthat, token tory at New York's Times, notes that the same system-rigging might fracture the current Democrat coalition.
The differences between the Democratic Party’s younger, poorer, browner base and its older, whiter, richer and more moderate leadership are a potentially unstable equilibrium. The anger coursing through left-wing protest politics could find a cruder, more nakedly demagogic avatar than Bernie Sanders. A Hillary Clinton administration could supply various betrayals and compromises or foul up in some disastrous way, encouraging a sense that the professional class that dominates liberalism’s upper reaches needs to give way to a revived (and larger) version of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition — a “real American future” analogue to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” appeals.

If Trump has thrived by imitating Europe’s right-wing nationalists, a Trumpism of the left would imitate the left-wing populists of Latin America and Asia.
That has not ended well, either.


The On the Loose exercise club at the Claremont Colleges cancels a Speedo Hike because of outdoor privilege.  Seriously.
No matter what work you do, the ‘speedo hike’ will manifest itself as OTL taking out and funding a group of students that is nearly guaranteed to be almost exclusively outdoor-experienced, fit, and heavily swayed in the direction of outdoor -- and otherwise -- privilege that OTL is trying to work against.
Pajamas Media's D. C. McAllister summarizes, "No freedom, no fun."  No doubt the deanlets, deanlings, and stooges would argue that freedom of fit people to roam is slavery for couch potatoes.. Or something.

Our universities are being run by terminally stupid people.



The current operators of the South Shore Line are making no little plans.  The proposed double tracking between Gary and Michigan City (right of way has been available for that since the 1920s) is going to improve running times.
The project would add a second track to the commuter railroad and upgrade five stations between Gary and Michigan City in an effort to speed the trip to Chicago. The estimated cost of the project, dubbed Double Track NWI, is $210 million.

According to estimates included in a new Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority strategic plan, almost half an hour would be sliced off the ride from Michigan City, with total trip time dropping to an hour and 11 minutes compared to the current hour and 39 minutes. The ride from Miller would be cut by 18 minutes, with total trip time dropping to 49 minutes from the current hour and seven minutes.
Those are improvements.  Nominal running times, Chicago to Michigan City, in 1959 were eighty minutes, with the Evening Hot Shot getting there in 69 minutes.  Miller was a flag stop, about an hour from Chicago on trains that were allowed to stop on signal (burn a rolled-up newspaper at night.)

The operator has set up a web site for the double tracking project, which will include new right-of-way in Michigan City, and the end of the interurban tradition of boarding the train in the street.

“We’ve been gaining significant traction” in earning support from state officials, [transit district president Michael] Noland said. Keep praying to the Patron Saint of Traction.


Sgt. Mom of Chicago Boyz analyzes the Resistance in Flyoverlandia.  There's a lot of sympathetic commentary to this resistance, or rebellion, or generalized up-yours, circulating these days, some of it referenced in her post, some of it turns up here or here or here.  But the Democrat-Media-Academic-Entertainment complex has been bringing the nasty, and Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine bring the condescension, and it's time to say Enough.
The automatic sneer, the curling-upper-lip snobbish and very public contempt on display of late in any number of arenas is honestly getting to be too much to take. It was bad enough seeing the Tea Party trashed and demonized, and an otherwise agreeable, competent female and locally popular politician like Sarah Palin savaged by the national media minions of the ruling class – all because she wasn’t a member, or the spouse/spawn of a well-established member of the bicoastal ruling party club. The usual social justice class warriors who have somewhat of a sense for history (a diminishing number, let it be noted) lament and condemn the cruel snobbery of the Victorian upper classes, but honestly, I can’t see how they can keep a straight face when doing so, unless catastrophically deprived of any sense of irony. It was bad enough being put off ever listening to Garrison Keillor on Prairie Home Companion, when it became very, very obvious that he actually despised the people who made up real-life communities in Flyoverlandia.

But I do think that [Angelo "Ruling Class"] Codevilla has caught one aspect right; the vicious joy of insulting presumed inferiors without any thought of consequence has now overtaken a large number of people and organizations whom you would have thought would know better, both in an economic sense, and in a political sense. Hillary Clinton and her so-called “basket of deplorables” is the culmination of this kind of contempt brought to its full and nasty flowering. The brouhaha over gay weddings and the insistence on group bathrooms, locker rooms and changing rooms being open to anyone claiming identity with a gender at variance with their actual genitalia is another – and exacerbated when an individual expressing objections or even just mild reservation gets condemned as the worst sort of bigot. Then, there is apparent willingness of the NFL to go all out for demonstrations of good-think with regard to Black Lives Matter. You might think that an enterprise which depends on the goodwill of an audience to consider avoid antagonizing a large portion of that audience … but then Hollywood – by which I mean those who produce movies and broadcast entertainment – have been contemptuous of Flyoverlandia’s mainstream, socially conservative, mildly religious values for decades.
That gentry has been denying coherent beliefs of any kind, and perhaps they will yet suffocate of their own incoherence.  (And the best Hollywood can do these days is offer tendentious remakes of classic movies.  How could anyone mess up Ghostbusters or Magnificent Seven.  Guess what?)


Wisconsin state legislator John Jagler sponsored legislation requiring state universities to disaggregate, by source high school, the number and proportion of matriculants requiring a second go at high school remedial mathematics or English.  The first report under the law is now available.

Milwaukee Hamilton has changed a lot since I graduated in 1971.  It remains one of the largest high schools in the shrunken Milwaukee Public Schools, but college preparation there isn't what it once was.
Alexander Hamilton High School sent 29 new freshmen to the UW system in fall 2015. Of those 29 students, 19, or 66 percent, needed math remediation, and 12, or 41 percent, needed English remediation. Hamilton High was listed named 32nd in the state on the Washington Post's 2016 list of most challenging high schools.

Other MPS schools typically touted as high performing also sent large numbers of unprepared students to UW. Rufus King High School was named the 13th best high school in the state by the Washington Post and was ranked the 8th best by U.S. News and World Report - yet one-third of Rufus King graduates needed remediation in math.
Mr Jagler's home district, Watertown, made the report, sending 94 students to UW System campuses, with 21 matriculants requiring remedial math. For all my carping about the misplaced priorities at Hartland Arrowhead, the district sent 257 graduates into the UW System, with 28 requiring remedial math and fifteen requiring remedial English.  (That's almost as many students from Watertown or the Arrowhead District relegated to high school as there were matriculants out of Hamilton High.  What's that bit about a mediocre student of means having a better chance of finishing college than a bright kid from a poor family?)  My nephew's high school, Greendale, sent 102 students on, of which eight required remedial math.



Trains Magazine's David Lassen is disappointed with the passenger service on Deutsche Bahn.
It would be difficult to understate how disappointed I was with the performance of the Deutsche Bahn while I was in Germany. I was in the hands for the DB for three trips, each scheduled to have one train change:  Zurich-Nuremburg, Nuremburg-Berlin and Berlin-Zurich. The railroad let me down on two of those trips. I missed a seven-minute connection on the way to Nuremburg (by no means an unusual bit of scheduling) because my first train was exactly seven minutes late; I made it off the first train just in time to watch the next one depart. And the train into Zurich was so late that it was annulled in Frankfurt, requiring an hour wait to catch a train that was, as a result, filled with two trains’ worth of passengers. In both cases, I arrived at my destination more than two hours’ late, and since those were my only evenings in either city, essentially lost my opportunity to see even a small part of either one.
Yes, years ago a planned day trip from Wien to London broke down over a six minute connection in Köln.  Got as far as Brussels to rebook the next day on Eurostar; there the Eurostar agents noted that the connection in question frequently failed.

But in other ways, Deutsche Bahn is becoming more like a railroad.
I’ve heard Deutsche Bahn is no longer the flawless operation it once was, and I believe it — based not just from my own experience, but on conversations with other passengers. If and when I get back to Germany, I will be a little more conservative (perhaps pessimistic is a better word) when it comes to trip planning.
Yes, and the diner sometimes runs out of food.  And yet, you can go almost anywhere, even with the occasional change in travel plans (just call it an adventure.)  Try going from Washington, D. C. to Ottawa (or Montgomery, Alabama) or Chicago to Toronto on a train.


Inside Higher Ed's Betsy Lucal sees the nasty side of neoliberalism at work making higher education jobs less desirable.  Read carefully, though, and you'll see other influences at work.
How soon will it drown us all in its insistence on small government and free markets, competitiveness, deregulation and privatization? Its celebration of ever-lower taxes, consumerism, individual empowerment and self-interest has had dire effects on education in general and on higher education in particular.

Tuition skyrockets, students bear staggering debt burdens, cost cutting must always be prioritized -- even over learning. Institutions lean ever more heavily on poorly paid contingent faculty members (don’t even ask about fringe benefits), pit faculty against administrators and create a culture of accountability that takes time and energy away from the important and difficult work of teaching. Students focus on earning a credential and pray that all the debt they are taking on is worth it. (No wonder many of them only seem to care whether this information will be on the exam and if a course fulfills a particular requirement.)
Was it the Chamber of Commerce, or the nonprofit Advertising Council, that, before anybody coined the word "neoliberalism" (originally to distinguish the Gary Hart Democrats from the Hubert Humphrey Democrats) was pushing "to get a good job, get a good education?"  Fifty years of hearing that (it's inaccurate advice, but that's Mike Rowe's bailiwick) is likely to turn a lot of matriculants instrumental in their focus.
Life as a faculty member is not what it was when I began my first full-time job. As the dean of my college said just a few weeks ago, we used to have fun. We used to deal with everyday, mundane concerns. We used to complain about grading and entertain each other with amusing stories about hapless students. We would cheer when we passed something by vote in a faculty meeting because it was so uncommon.

Now we debate the meaning of DFW rates (drop-fail-withdrawal -- funny how no one talks about grade inflation these days) and wonder not whether, but how much, the budget will be cut this time. We obsess over retention and graduation rates and wait on tenterhooks to find out if our summer courses have sufficient enrollment to be taught and allow us to support our families through those months. We feel pitted against our administration rather than valuable, and valued, partners with it.
Perhaps fretting about attrition rates reflects the business fad of being "data driven."  (Translation: you only do things you can measure.)  But perhaps attrition rates are a consequence of the access-assessment-remediation-retention mindset, where access is a euphemism for "admitting unprepared students."  And the battles with the administration?  Those deanlets and deanlings might exist in order to avoid prosecution by the Office of Civil Rights, or perhaps to implement the identity-politics priorities the faculty were complicit in implementing without proper review, that is, until the demands of the special education bureaucracy made it impossible to teach at the college level any more, even if the intake of Distressed Material was under control.

Start treating college like high school, don't be surprised when it turns into high school, complete with the cliques and the burnouts.


The presidential debates may not be the final pieces of information voters receive.
Costs for individual Obamacare policies are expected to be 24 percent higher next year. Voters will see for themselves the huge premium spikes when open enrollment starts just a week before Election Day.
Oops.  Depend on the opposition to call attention to the prices.
Insurers are pulling out of the exchanges after losing billions of dollars, leaving people with fewer choices. Deductibles are soaring to as high as $12,000 on exchange policies, and many people say they might as well be uninsured.

This Obamacare inflation impacts everyone. August saw the biggest monthly gain in prices for medicine, doctor appointments and health insurance since 1984, according to a recent report by Kaiser and the Health Research & Education Trust. The average employer-sponsored family policy now costs more than $18,000 a year.
Count on the opposition to point out, in particular, this component of Let Us Continue, which is Mrs Clinton's theme, slogans notwithstanding.
Clinton owns the failures of Obamacare after telling Iowa voters: "I will defend the Affordable Care Act, but as president I want to go further."

So Clinton actually wants to double down on Obamacare, even after seeing public support for the health law tumble. She wants to create another big government "public option" health insurance plan. The "option" would have unlimited calls on taxpayer dollars and government force and would quickly drive remaining private insurers out of the market, leaving people with only the "choice" of a government-run health plan.
First, tie down the private insurers with regulation, then attempt to create a public agency to pick up the pieces. We tried that with railroads.  Fortunately, transportation policy doesn't attract a lot of attention, and on occasion wiser heads prevail.

Perhaps the quasi-public, not for profit cooperatives provide a cautionary tale.
The idea might have more traction were it not for the experience of a similar experiment the nonprofit, citizen-run health insurance cooperatives concocted by Obamacare. The co-op program cost taxpayers $2.4 billion, but 17 of the 23 state co-ops have failed, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to scramble to find new policies.

Nonetheless, supporters of the law proclaim its success to a skeptical public. They boast that the law has reduced the number of uninsured to 29 million still a far cry from the promised universal coverage.

Many of the 10 million receiving insurance through the health insurance exchanges are there because they lost their earlier policies. And Medicaid has been expanded by 16 million since 2010, relegating beneficiaries to one of the worst health care programs in America.

The uninsured rates may be falling, but unhappiness with our health system is rising. Deservedly or not, Obamacare is taking the fall. It has become a symbol of broken promises and distrust in government. It is an albatross for Clinton.
Perhaps those symbols will be sufficient inducement to consider something else.  Interstate competition among insurers?  Health savings accounts?  The end of the bundling of health insurance with employment?