Trainers of circus animals fully understand that a successful animal act is all about encouraging the big cats, or the pachyderms, or the dogs and ponies, to do on cue that which they will do at some time anyway.

That might be something to keep in mind in policy analysis.
The idea of the rider and the elephant is not that we're powerless, but that, in order for our logic to be followed, it needs to appeal to our base instincts. The rider can try to convince the elephant where to go, but if the elephant is not in agreement, it will go where it wants. In a battle of head versus heart, the heart has an easier task.

And to take it a step further, when we try to persuade someone else to change their mind, we won't get far trying to persuade their rider. We actually need to appeal to their elephant, to their intuitive sense of how they see the world.
That's relevant, for instance, to the tax inducements Wisconn Valley includes.
I understand that the proponents of this deal are going to argue that it will have all kinds of spinoff effects, the so-called multiplier. I'm not going to argue that the multiplier effect is bogus, but I will argue that it's also not some bit of economic magic that would, let's say, reduce an investment with an overly optimistic 55-year break-even point to something more like a generation (which is still absurd). Sure, all of these employees will need homes and appliances and hair cuts and restaurants, but they will also need highways and schools and police protection and health care. If you have a structural deficit now, adding more people to the current system is not going to change that.
Political theater it might be.  Ultimately, though, it's about working out governmental arrangements that are symbiotic with commerce.  In Illinois, government has become parasitic on commerce.  The Foxconn deal might well be water for elephants, er, rents for rent-seekers.  And where public expenditures are concerned, pay-back periods can be long.  What is the value of winning World War II, for instance, or handing out land grants to the Pacific Railroad?


Here's another excerpt from my quarter-century old "The Costs of Correctness."  "The employers who hire our students and the legislators who underwrite our efforts are questioning our effectiveness."  Yes, when Fredrik deBoer picks up the theme, you can't very well trash him as in thrall to The American Spectator.  The reckoning will have to concentrate minds, according to William Voegeli.
There is, in short, a strong case apart from anti-conservative bias for state legislatures to make far more skeptical, rigorous, and targeted funding decisions about post-secondary education. The political question all but cinches it. And the political question is not about exerting power or exacting revenge but affirming fairness. Non-coercion and intellectual pluralism really are valuable principles.

The fact that, with little optimism, deBoer appeals to self-preservation to get professors to respect these standards shows how contemptuously they are regarded in the academy. Elected officials who fail to uphold academic principles in the only language academics understand—by eliminating faculty lines and slashing budgets—will vindicate academia’s contempt for intellectual freedom, and for the taxpayers who subsidize higher education.
When you deny coherent beliefs ...  And the contempt higher education has brought upon itself?  Self-inflicted, notes Peter Wood.
My thanks to all the social-justice warriors, race hustlers, faculty ideologues, and administrative enablers who have brought about this change in public opinion. I couldn’t have done it without you.

But I don’t want to organize a victory parade on the basis of one small poll taken in the wake of several years of really atrocious behavior.

The Pew question demands a gestalt answer, and the gestalt answer for me is that American higher education, taken all in all, has put itself in opposition to America’s best principles, its most admirable aspirations, its open-mindedness, and its capacity to a create a generation of worthy civic and political leaders. That opposition has public consequences, the most important of which is the malformation of students who mistake their anger for clear thinking and who have developed contempt for their country and their countrymen.

Anger and contempt will, of course, be met with anger and contempt, and what colleges and universities have provided is a radical intensification of our partisan divide.
And Republican voters particularly, Mr Wood suggests, are not going to fund work that demeans and hectors and condescends and engages in intellectual arabesques to undermine bourgeois convention.  Not when, as Mr Wood notes, there is no civic-mindedness left.
Republican voters have at last begun to relinquish their fond hope that our colleges and universities are, despite numerous defects, still a net good for the United States. The exorbitant costs, the student-debt crisis, the immolation of the humanities, the trivialization of much of the curriculum, the turn to making an accusation of "sexual harassment" into proof of guilt — none of that was enough to cancel the patience of conservatives with an institution they are by nature inclined to love. But Middlebury?
The discontent was there before Middlebury.  Back to Mr Voegeli.
Not only is America closely divided between two parties, but Republicans are especially powerful at the state level, where funding decisions about higher education are made. No, he doesn’t expect that the Republican governor and legislature of Wisconsin, for example, will shut down its flagship state university. But he does think that the Republican voters’ new consensus—higher education no longer merits deference or the benefit of the doubt—portends that states will start to close down identity-politics departments like Women’s Studies, and make taxpayer support contingent on enforcing “harsh restrictions on campus groups and how they can organize.”
Wisconsin's legislature is not yet ready to shut down The Great State University of Wisconsin, although they have revised tenure protections in a way that have more than a few scholars running for the exits.



It's not quite as obvious on a night satellite view as the Demilitarized Zone separating the Koreas, but that might change.  Board a northbound Hiawatha and find a window seat on the east side of the train.  Finish your coffee and start looking out the window just beyond Abbott Park.  You'll see a few houses, Gurnee, a few horse farms, a parking lot full of empty trailers.  There's a biker bar on the inside of a curve just before the Cheddar Curtain, then empty wetlands.  Immediately north of the Cheddar Curtain come the warehouses, including Amazon and Uline, factories including a chemical plant, and a large generating station.  A number of these facilities still have rail connections.  And additional commercial and industrial construction is in progress beyond.  Somewhere in this space will be the Wisconn Valley complex, assuming it gets built.

Entering Milwaukee, you'll see a number of tannery buildings repurposed as lofts: some of these even offer balcony views of the tracks.  (The premium balconies face the river.)  And Northwestern Mutual have a new office tower under construction.

What, you were expecting an architecture tour?  Ach, du Lieber!  I'm here for this:

A proper German festival begins with the ceremonial tapping of the first keg.  Followed by a few choruses of Ein Prosit!

Now, perhaps you've seen Matt "Dean Dad" Reed's objections to Our President suggesting upstate New Yorkers migrate to Wisconsin, where the jobs are.  "Um, not okay."

Fair enough, Matt, but I'll see your white hot and a Genny Cream and raise you a Usinger Brat with(*) and a Sprecher Black Bavarian.  In a liter glass.

Yeah, that's from last year.  Milwaukee is the city where you hand the rider out the window on Friday the bus pass that is good until Saturday.  Same principle applies to your liter mug.  That's eight bucks for more beer.

And it's Spanferkl time.  Sauerkraut, proper Kartoffelsalat, cold, black bread.  You don't have to do something ironic like "garbage plate."  Just slice 'em up and serve 'em up.  With, of course, your liter mug.

And wonderful, lower temperatures near the lake, and fireworks after sunset.

Yes, you can fill your liter mug with Coors Light or Miller Lite (that's all the same company now) which is what the visiting Chicago Cub fans were doing.  They'll have plenty of opportunity to be socialized into proper Wisconsin ways once the taxes and the Wisconn Valley jobs bring them to the prosperous side of the Cheddar Curtain. Moin, moin!

(*)With means sauerkraut and Düsseldorf mustard.  The concessions make an effort to accommodate flatlanders with that yellow French's glop.  Their money is still good.


Our President, perhaps enjoying himself after liquid crystal screen manufacturer Foxconn might have picked a parcel of land he recommended to establish a large assembly plant in Wisconsin, now suggests displaced workers migrate to Wisconsin.

The locals are calling the area Wisconn Valley and making much of the size of the plant: Eleven Lambeau Fields!  More corridor space than the Pentagon!  For perspective, this works will occupy about the same acreage as the Gary Works, with a similar work force, that is, before oxygen impingement and ladle metallurgy and the rest augmented the power of men (and provided safer working conditions for men and women) and reduced the labor requirements in a steel works.

And Milwaukee's Journal-Sentinel, with an aggressively Democratic editorial board, is skeptical of Project Foxconn paying off.
Stripping away the hype, this is a raw-bones business deal: Taxpayers forgive Foxconn’s taxes for 15 years and deliver the tax credits, and Foxconn delivers thousands of good-paying factory jobs and makes a $10 billion investment in Wisconsin.

Nonetheless, it's an enormous subsidy by Wisconsin taxpayers. In a perfect world, it's a deal that would not be made. Unfortunately, in the real world, states and localities do compete and bid against each other for business, and tax breaks are the coin of the realm.
Tax breaks are a part of the deal, yes. The editorial writers also wonder if the project will provide work opportunities for the poor and long-unemployed residents of the blighted parts of Milwaukee.  Probably not: the project appears to expect workers to commute by car, or perhaps by bus from Racine or Kenosha.  Fix Milwaukee first.  "[T]hird world cities all have one thing in common: an absence of free and open markets."  And those industrial robots?  A steel mill is no place to show up for work stoned.
“The difficult part about marijuana is, we don’t have an affordable test that tells me if they smoked it over the weekend or smoked it in the morning before they came to work. And I just can’t take the chance of having an impaired worker running a crane carrying a 300,000-pound steel encasement,” [Warren Fabricating co-owner Regina Mitchell] said.
Neither is a boiler factory.
It’s not that local workers lack the skills for these positions, many of which do not even require a high school diploma but pay $15 to $25 an hour and offer full benefits. Rather, the problem is that too many applicants — nearly half, in some cases — fail a drug test.

The fallout is not limited to the workers or their immediate families. Each quarter, Columbiana Boiler, a [Youngstown area] company, forgoes roughly $200,000 worth of orders for its galvanized containers and kettles because of the manpower shortage, it says, with foreign rivals picking up the slack.

“Our main competitor in Germany can get things done more quickly because they have a better labor pool,” said Michael J. Sherwin, chief executive of the 123-year-old manufacturer. “We are always looking for people and have standard ads at all times, but at least 25 percent fail the drug tests.”
But the burnouts have been taking over the Rust Belt towns for a long time.  "[A]n industrial era in which monopoly rents attenuated the incentive for some people to invest in human capital, followed by an era of do-your-own-thing nonjudgementalism could only end badly for the people who didn't make the investment, who have been left behind by their neighbors who did."  "Leave Garbutt" became a meme during last fall's presidential election.  National Review's Kevin Williamson is still on the theme, suggesting that the likes of Garbutt, or much of Appalachia, or Lancaster, Ohio, aren't exactly promising places to build technology factories.
You could build a new Apple or Google facility in one of those towns, or a Tesla battery factory, or a Lockheed Martin plant, but you’d have to bring in many if not most of the workers from outside the area. In these places, industrial and blue-collar workers are a lot like municipal bonds: The ones you want, you can’t get, and the ones you can get, you don’t want. If that cold economic comparison offends your romantic view of blue-collar labor, then you probably are too sentimental to be making public policy.
There are parts of Wisconsin, away from that part of Greater Chicago along the state line, and away from Madison, that you probably wouldn't want to build a technology factory either. We'll see how Wisconn Valley plays out.  With the Packers back in camp, perhaps Mr Williamson is thinking of spiking the football.  "I assume my mailbox at Buckley Towers will be full of apologies and retractions now that Nurse Trump is recommending the same prescription as Dr. Williamson."


Higher education's self-inflicted troubles continue, and I continue to have to point them out, and I continue to have to recognize other voices that are advancing the fight.

Let's set the Wayback Machine to April 2005, before I seriously contemplated walking away from it all.  The spin from the management of higher education has long been that it's know-nothings and anti-intellectuals, and for all we know, Neanderthals and Visigoths besieging the castle, and yet that perspective is self-serving and wrong.
Universities are failing to carry out their mission. Contributing to this failure is a collection of ideas we call "politically correct." The intellectual foundation of these ideas is an extreme relativism that questions the possibility of objective knowledge and seeks to dispel "coherent beliefs of any kind." A university built on such a foundation cannot stand.
The latest variation on this theme comes from Frederick M. Hess and Grant Addison in National Review.
The problem is not that conservatives have lost faith in the mission of the university, but that too many universities have discarded their sacred commitments to dialogue and truth in favor of ideological crusades.

Indeed, the mandarins of the academy now openly spout Orwellian arguments for speech suppression based entirely on feelings. Earlier this month, Northeastern University psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett penned a piece for the New York Times titled “When Is Speech Violence?” that claimed the mantle of “science” to argue for campus speech restrictions. Before that, an April Times op-ed by NYU’s vice provost for faculty, arts, humanities, and diversity, “What ‘Snowflakes’ Get Right About Free Speech,” justified censorship on the grounds that subjective emotions should be privileged “over reason and argument,” and that “[freedom of speech] means balancing the inherent value of a given view with the obligation to ensure that other members of a given community can participate in discourse as fully recognized members of that community.” Disappointingly, the author never quite got around to specifying just who will determine the criteria for this “balancing.”

In short, the academy has abandoned its core values of free inquiry in the service of ever-more-rigid political dogmas.
Dogma begets censoriousness begets a lack of learning. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Universities best serve their students through rigorous development of reasoning skills and respect for what we have learned. Rigor is likely to diminish incivility on campus, because students kept grappling with intellectual problems will have less time to fight with each other. Better that they be unhappy with a few demanding professors.
Messrs. Hess and Addison give me no reason to walk away from that claim.
[T]oday’s universities — rife with speech codes, “scientific” defenses of speech suppression, and faculties that speak in one voice on seminal issues ranging from race relations to immigration policy — have failed to adhere to their professed ideals or even to his organization’s own standards. It’s true that there are plenty, on the Left and the Right, who sometimes prefer dogma to science. Colleges and universities, however, are supposed to offer a corrective to such thinking; they’re not supposed to be a party to it. The sad truth is that conservatives are right to look askance at higher education in 2017. Too many of our most esteemed academic institutions have drifted from their historic mission — and that’s their fault, not ours.
But we must be happy warriors: the Excessively Earnest people who ru[i]n higher education cannot bear to be mocked.
[L]et us not expect that if we just kick in the door, the entire rotten structure will collapse. There is still work to be done. It calls for patience. It calls for fortitude. It calls for persistence. It calls for reiterating the basic themes. And it calls for humor. The academic establishment is full of Earnest People whose worst nightmare is Carrie's: they're all going to laugh at you. Yup. Heartily.
Undermine them with mockery!



There's more to the Rust Belt story than the loss of Big Steel and Big Automotive and Big Tires in the big cities such as Akron, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Youngstown.  Get off the interstates, and the tales of loss are everywhere.

One such story takes place in Lancaster, Ohio.  Brian Alexander's Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town, Book Review No. 19,  looks at what happens as Lancaster Glass and Anchor-Hocking (the Pyrex folks) restructure and move headquarters out of town and outsource production to China.  (How can a management mess things up that badly?  Glass is a weight-losing, low-value-to-weight fragile proposition, and the loss and damage from trans-Pacific shipment alone ought to undo any cheap labor advantages.)

Thus, the middle managers who supported local civic activities, from churches to the P.T.A. to the summer music festival move out, and the suits and academicians from Columbus who treat Lancaster as a bedroom suburb don't take much interest in civic life, and the mediating institutions crumble.

Meanwhile, the eighty-six-proof anaesthetic crutches of the senior executives give way to the more potent, if less lawful, painkillers that become the gateway drug for the various opiates.  There has to be something more at work in the emergence of painkillers as initiative killers than simple cultural rot ... possibly that's a topic for future inquiry?  Mr Alexander concludes his book with some reflections on whether downscale middle America is more sinned against or sinning: that being the fashion in the run-up to the general election.

The "1% Economy?"  Not so much.  There is still a strain in punditry that sees Reaganite deregulation or Friedmanian open markets as the Root of All Evil, and the maintained hypothesis of Glass House is that businesses set free to increase shareholder value shattered the glass plants of Lancaster.  I'm not persuaded.  "Shareholder value," particularly in the quarterly report form, is simply another business fad, the same way conglomeration was a half century ago, and Total Quality Management a quarter century ago.  Businesses have to be mugged by reality sometimes, and one of these years the geniuses in suits will figure out that stripping cash out of boring businesses to support the Latest Big Thing doesn't end well.  Just ask Bangor Punta (if you can find them) or LTV (still looking) or whatever that integrated travel firm United Airlines thought itself to be was.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)


A game of musical chairs timed to the biological clock?
A dearth of marriagable men has left an “oversupply” of educated women taking desperate steps to preserve their fertility, experts say.

The first global study into egg freezing found that shortages of eligible men were the prime reason why women had attempted to take matters into their own hands.

Experts said “terrifying” demographic shifts had created a “deficit” of educated men and a growing problem of “leftover” professional women, with female graduates vastly outnumbering males in in many countries.
What would we ever do without experts?

Might it be that after thirty years, the guys have figured out the code?  "Cold Spring Shops is not an advice column, but gentlemen, if you ever hear 'I'm not ready for a commitment,' treat your situation as friends-with-benefits, no matter how desirable the benefits are."  The ladies who were truthfully saying so are now in a position of having to freeze their eggs.  It's not so much "leftover" as having pushed away potential keepers over the years.  As far as those who were not truthfully saying so ... gold diggers come with warning signals, and perhaps the "not ready for commitment [until some rich real estate hustler comes along]" are OK with being traded in for a newer number in a few years.  Good business for prenup-drafting lawyers and pshrinks, not so much for the spawn.
Prof Marcia Inhorn, Professor of Anthopolgy at Yale University, said professional women found themselves losing out in a game of “musical chairs” because there were simply too few men of the same calibre to go around.

“There is a major gap - they are literally missing men. There are not enough college graduates for them. In simple terms, this is about an oversupply of educated women,” she said.

“In China they call them ‘left over women’. It sounds cold and callous but in demographic terms this is about missing men and left over women.”

The former President of the Society for Medical Anthropology said the women interviewed in the study were highly successful, with 81 per cent having a college degree.

“These are highly educated, very successful women and one after another they were saying they couldn’t find a partner. How could it be that all these amazing, attractive intelligent women were lamenting about their ability to find a partner?” she said.

“The answer comes in the demographics - growing disparities in the education levels of men and women.
In China, sex-selection abortions are legal, and in higher education, "toxic masculinity" is a thing, and not the kind of thing that invocation thereof is going to turn a guy on, no matter how spectacular the lady's credentials otherwise are.

Heat Street's Martin Daubney asks, "Is feminism’s greatest victory – equality in the workplace – starting to look like a bauble if the kickback is the prospect of loneliness and childlessness?"  Don't say I didn't warn you.

But I was probably too restrained.  Here's Mr Daubney.
[Men] are growing wary of women who have decided “I’m ready!” What man wants to go straight from Tinder to the kid’s section of IKEA without a few years’ fun first? It’s sensible, risk avoidance: making sure she’s mother material. Only she doesn’t want to wait, ‘cos fertility. So, men avoid them.

We’re all increasingly making more informed choices later in life – so it’s a bit rich to claim it’s a bad thing when men do it. You can’t have it both ways, ladies.

Instead, these men are increasingly dating younger women, not because they’re shallow sexists, but because they don’t want to have children yet. Again, their body, their choice, doubly so when their reproductive clocks can be ticking strong as they turn into grandfather clocks (see: Ronnie Wood, Rod Stewart, etc)

The report next blames “terrifying” demographic shifts and “sweeping social changes,” and here they’re onto something.

With unexpected irony, the gender education gap – girls and women now outperform boys and men at every level of education from kindergarten to college – is suddenly a problem for women, too.

Not because these entitled careerists suddenly care that, increasingly, boys are destined for a life of servitude, performing the low-paid, dangerous jobs nobody else wants.

But because they can’t get laid by a graduate.

It’s almost funny.
It might be, though, that the hamster wheel is no longer the only job description.  Maybe, in Germany, it's subsidized child care.  (Or perhaps demographics?)
Among university-educated women between the ages of 40 to 44 surveyed, 25 percent had no children - 3 percentage points lower than the 28 percent recorded in 2012.

The study suggests that the decreasing rate of childlessness is due in part to improved conditions for the balance of work and family, in particular better child care offerings. The report authors state that this hypothesis is confirmed by the simultaneous increase in working mothers over the last eight years.

Among mothers whose youngest child was age two, this percentage increased to 58 percent who had jobs. But in 2008, working mums made up less than half of this same category at 46 percent.

The report also found that university-educated women are more quickly jumping back into their careers than they were eight years ago. In 2016, 58 percent of such mothers started working again when their youngest child reached age one, while 54 percent did the same in 2008.

Additionally, 19 percent of academics with one-year-olds started working again full-time. In 2008, 16 percent did the same.

For years, experts have feared a shrinking German population in the future - even with immigration - due to the long-term trend of death rates outstripping birth rates.
Terms of employment are likely to change long before they're codified at law.

The corrective to second- and third-wave feminist excess may come late for me, but come it will.


Welcome, Chicago Boyz readers.


Taiwan's electronics firm Foxconn announces plans to build a new factory in Wisconsin.

It's all too much for the editorial writers at Chicago's Tribune.
Once again, the people of Illinois see how [state House speaker Michael] Madigan and [state senate president John] Cullerton, with their combined 86 years in Springfield, have left Illinois ill-prepared to compete for 21st-century jobs. Their agenda is about raising taxes, not about delivering those reforms. As we wrote a few days ago, every other state on Foxconn's short list looked better than Illinois by the basic measures of financial stability and pro-growth economies.
Illinois is what Democrats do, and Democrats would just as soon tax achievement as encourage it.

Now, it might be that Wisconsin is chasing jobs with tax benefits, and throwing tax benefits at factories will turn out as badly as throwing tax benefits at big-box stores and sports teams.  But the reason states engage in such behavior is that doing so might be a dominant strategy, and you look good when your strategy works.
We don't know details of whatever federal, state and local government incentives lured the company Beyond the Cheddar Curtain. And we can't be certain how many billions of dollars in investment, and how many thousands of jobs, Wisconsin will gain.

But we do know this: Wisconsin boasts a freshly burnished global image. One of the planet's largest tech firms, with a million workers worldwide, says its search led it to bet a fraction of its future on Wisconsin. Assuming that happens, expect robust economic growth from suppliers, subcontractors, construction companies and other businesses that will serve Foxconn and its workforce.
Some Wisconsin Democrats are throwing shade at the Foxconn deal, but their objections offer the Chicago-Springfield Combine little solace.  "Even the Democrats know they’re (accurately) viewed as anti-business when a news release starts with 'While I welcome new businesses to the state …'"

The likely location of the complex will be in Speaker Paul Ryan's district, likely in the Lake Michigan watershed.



Years ago, the Book of the Month Club offered Father Andrew Greeley's The Bishop in the Old Neighborhood as an alternate selection, and its blurb suggested there might be something contemporary, involving gentrification and counterterrorism.  So I bought it, and it somehow stayed unopened but not stashed away for the move, and I figured that after recently finishing The Bishop and the Missing L Train, a compare-and-contrast might be in order.  Thus Book Review No. 18.

Auxiliary Bishop John Blackwood Ryan is still the consulting detective, Sean Cardinal Cronin is still the Archbishop of Chicago (to keep the titles straight, a parish is an area, usually geographic, from which a church draws its congregants: this is a Big Deal in Chicago; a diocese is a collection of parishes assigned to the stewardship of a bishop; per corollary, an archdiocese is a collection of dioceses assigned to the leadership of an archbishop, who does not have to be a cardinal; and some dioceses and most archdioceses are too large to be shepherded by one bishop; thus the auxiliary bishops), there are still four high schoolers called Megan staffing the cathedral rectory, although there has been some turnover among them, and chocolate malteds are still the courtship beverage of choice.

But Cardinal Cronin turns out to be scion of a family locked in a rivalry with Joseph Kennedy, and his father wanted to do Rumrunner Joe one better getting both a cardinal and a president: so far, no president.  Bishop Ryan's father is a prominent Chicago litigator, whose disorderly files provide information germane to the mystery at hand.  We meet Declan O'Donnell, from a long line of Irish cops, whose father is a practitioner of the fine art of "slagging."  (If you won't be around to slag your boy, name him Sue.  Go look it up.)  He's got the makings of a fine field spook, plus his involvement with a beach volleyball player from the State's Attorney's office provides the love story.  Then there's Marshal O'Boyle, Marshal Burns, who has a current commercial interest in ruining his adoptive father's business, and if he knew the back story of his adoption, he might have more murderous motives.  Stir in assorted Irish mystics, and people who have the second sight, and cast the runes, er ogam script.

The Old Neighborhood refers to that section of Chicago just east of Oak Park, which regulars call "Austin."  Oak Park is going upscale.  Chicago just east of city limits is next, and the ambitious plans of developers, and the parish priest, who has a novel way of financing a new school, set off a few tensions between the haves, have-nots, and aspire-to-mores.  And in the days just after the Twin Towers came down, rogue government operatives get into the act.  Rogue government operatives we have always had with us, even -- especially -- before Normandy and then the Manhattan Project settled world affairs for a while.  But I must stop this review now, before I give the game away.  I will tell you the story communicates less optimism about the world than Missing L Train did.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)


On New York's subways, everything old is new again. Seats to be removed in subway overhaul plan.  "The MTA will be testing out pilot programs like removing seats from some cars to make room for more riders."  Yeah, that worked out so well the last time Chicago tried it.

The last operable open-platform Chicago Rapid Transit car, 24 at the Illinois Railway Museum, has the bowling-alley configuration, and there might be a few Rapid Transit "baldies" (identifiable by the lack of clutter on the roof, and the center door) with bowling-alley seating in preservation here or there.  For the most part, though, it was walkover seating, until those fixed plastic seats became a thing.

The current crop of Chicago bowling-alley cars are too costly to rearrange, thus straphangers just have to put up with them.


Fredrik deBoer suggests higher education is cruising for a bruising.
As an academic, I am increasingly convinced that a mass defunding of public higher education is coming to an unprecedented degree and at an unprecedented scale. People enjoy telling me that this has already occurred — that state support of our public universities has already declined precipitously. But things can always get worse, much worse.
The universities have always offered safe haven for subversive and transgressive thinkers.  Playing with ideas is like that, and sometimes the play leads to good things.  Plus, the outbreak of social justice warriors engaging in verbal terrorism is not unprecedented.
In my network of professional academics, almost no one recognizes that our lopsided liberalism presents a threat to academia itself. Many would reply to the Pew Research Center’s findings with glee. They would tell you that they don’t want the support of Republicans. My fellow academics won’t grapple with the simple, pragmatic realities of political power and how it threatens vulnerable institutions whose funding is in doubt. That’s because there is no professional or social incentive in the academy to think strategically or to engage with the world beyond campus.

Instead, all of the incentives point toward affirming one’s position in the aristocracy of the academy. There are no repercussions to ignoring how the university and its subsidiary departments function in our broader society, at least not in the humanities and, for the most part, not in the social sciences either.

Universities make up a powerful lobbying bloc, and they have proved to be durable institutions. I don’t think you’ll see many flagship institutions shuttered soon. But an acceleration of the deprofessionalization of the university teaching corps through part-time adjuncts? Shuttering departments such as Women’s Studies or similar? Passing harsh restrictions on campus groups and how they can organize? That’s coming, and our own behavior as academics will make it easier for reactionary power, every step of the way.

Our public universities are under massive pressure and at immense risk, and those who should be defenders of public universities still don’t understand that they’ve created the conditions for their destruction.
Note, dear reader, that the paragraph says nothing about the nature of teaching and learning that goes on, or not, in those politicized departments.  What good does it do to stay one micro-aggression ahead of the most easily triggered matriculant, if none of the graduates can rebut an argument or re-stock a coffee house?


Celine Dion had what might have been the ultimate expression of unrequited love.  "Do I gotta get water from the moon / What do I gotta do / To make you love me?"

If there ever is a moon base, running water supplies up, the way the old Santa Fe Railroad had to do in the Arizona desert, might not be necessary. "And if that's the case, our future Moon colonists might well be able to extract usable water from many of these large volcanic deposits, making their off-Earth home just a little bit more habitable."



A private Passenger Rail operator takes delivery of new rail diesel cars.  The locomotive handling the delivery is more interesting.

Yes, those Northern European F unit tributes, built by Nohab under license from General Motors, just keep coming through.


No.  Max Bloom for National Review.
In the aftermath of Obamacare, it was commonplace for conservatives to point out that one of the central tenets of the project was to deny people the option of not buying health insurance. Conservatives intuited — correctly, I believe — that Americans care a great deal about individual choice, and would naturally gravitate toward health-care systems that emphasized choice, and away from regimes that restricted it. But this sort of argumentation has been sadly lacking from the political debate now that the actual reform effort is underway. There is a great deal of discussion about the best way to manage subsidies, lower premiums, stabilize the exchanges, maintain coverage, and lower spending, but precious little discussion about how to maximize choice and foster liberty.

Don’t get me wrong: premiums, subsidies, the stability of the exchanges — these are all critically important. But these empirical questions are just half of the debate; in all truth, they are the less important half. More important than these is the question of what sort of a society we want to be: What are the values we wish to emphasize and what are the values we’re more willing to sacrifice? Perhaps there are some things that are so important to us that no outcome would be worth losing them; perhaps there are not. Until we can settle on answers to these problems, all the empirical debates in the world won’t fix our health-care system.
Bring on the collapse, Stephen Moore urges.
Liberals and their insurance-industry allies will argue that the insurance market can't work if healthy or younger people can choose cheaper plans, and they warn of an insurance death spiral. But the death spiral they warn of -- with healthy people dropping out of Obamacare and sick people signing up -- is already happening, day after day, under the current law, and everyone knows that.

Under a choice-based system, perhaps as many as 80 percent of Americans will see premiums fall by as much as $3,000 to $5,000 a year. As costs come down, more people will sign up for coverage. And if the Congressional Budget Office doesn't get this simple rule of economics, they should be fired.

Liberals understand that giving Americans the right to freely choose their own insurance plans will quickly render Obamacare and its expensive mandates and regulations irrelevant. It will be the death of Obamacare.
If a law renders itself irrelevant without being repealed, is it still in effect?


Herzog Rail will be operating the new Regional Rail service on the Knowledge Corridor.
The Hartford Line is currently under construction. It will provide more frequent train service between New Haven, Hartford and Springfield. The rail line is anticipated to launch in May 2018. Once launched, the line is expected to more than double the daily round trips currently offered in the corridor.

"We are getting closer each day to launching commuter rail service between New Haven, Hartford and our friends in Springfield – a service that we've needed in the central Connecticut area for decades and will finally allow an option to move people, goods, and services with greater ease," Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said. "Creating the Hartford Line is just one part of our efforts toward building a best-in-class transportation system for Connecticut residents that drives growth, attracts businesses, and stimulates job creation, all while improving the overall quality of life for our residents. For the sake of our economy and our future, we cannot sit and let our infrastructure deteriorate – we are stepping up, moving forward, and getting this project done."

The Hartford Line will act as a regional link with connections to existing rail services, including Metro-North, Shoreline East and Amtrak Acela high-speed rail services on both the New Haven Line to New York and on the Northeast Corridor to New London and Boston. There will also be direct bus connections to the Bradley Airport Flyer and to CTfastrak.

Amtrak will remain responsible for maintenance of the railroad infrastructure, including track signals, train dispatching and right-of-way security. Amtrak's existing service will not be altered by Hartford Line service. CTrail trains will operate together with Amtrak trains on the rail line to provide Hartford Line service.
"Under construction" refers to restoring the second main track that vanished in an economy measure, years ago.  Contemporary engineering standards preclude the installation of new track on old bridges, which adds to the cost, and the time to completion.

But will there be enough people left in Connecticut to use the services?


Her oldest is about to start university.  "What Jonah took away from that presentation is that some people on his campus are crazy and that he wants to join a fraternity, because he thinks that there will be fewer crazy people in a fraternity."

The crazy people are running Student Affairs, but don't you dare say they're crazy.


Do as I do, not as I say.
The most elite circles of American life are the most critical of traditional living and are, with the very notable exception of religious life, some of the most traditional in their own life choices. College students have by and large turned back the clock on the sexual revolution, overwhelmingly preferring stable, monogamous relationships. They don’t smoke or drink very much. They focus on building careers. When they want to have children later in life, they get married, and, once they get married, they tend to stay married.

This should lead us to a few conclusions. First, the concerns about widespread cultural collapse that have been in vogue since the late 1960s and that may perhaps be best encapsulated by Pat Buchanan’s Culture War speech, delivered at the Republican National Convention in 1992, are less pressing now. The current young generation holds more moderate, more sustainable, and even more conservative attitudes toward sex, relationships, and drugs than the generations before it. This does not mean that there are not serious challenges — in particular, there are very worrying signs of social collapse in working-class America, from the opioid crisis to the continued decline in marriage rates. But the resurgence of traditionalism among America’s young is real, and it’s something to celebrate.

Secondly, it’s clear that traditional institutions have very considerable staying power, at least among the elite. The very cohort that mocks marriage and monogamy as patriarchal and old-fashioned ends up in healthy marriages at historically high rates. It is clear to most elites, at least to judge from their personal preferences, that marriage and committed relationships offer something that casual sex, polyamory, and the bachelor life do not.

This suggests that the threats to traditional marriage are less than some conservatives have feared: There is nothing about same-sex marriage, culturally liberal attitudes, or cosmopolitanism that inevitably leads to the culture-wide erosion of monogamy or of marriage as an institution. But it also suggests that there really is something special about a certain traditional type of living, something that doesn’t allow for substitution. Upper-middle class progressives don’t need to be told this — they know it well enough. But communities struggling with divorce, unwed parents, and drug abuse could stand to benefit from this message, and it is a terrible shame that America’s elites preach the opposite.
Perhaps it's not so much shame as it is cynicism: don't judge the Deplorables, they'll self-destruct long before they get around to writing the College Boards.


The train, an excellent place to hear stories.


We have rent-seeking in part because it's cheaper and easier for people with a lot to gain or lose from a government policy to influence the structure of the government and shape its laws ahead of time, rather than fight an away match in a government-operated court backed up by government-financed guns.

But universities might not enjoy the same sorts of resources, and perhaps the only way to concentrate a few minds in Student Affairs is to entangle them in lawsuits.
Maybe there are a few parents who would think twice about sending their kids to schools with the most egregious problems — Amherst and Yale are two that stand out. But individual tuitions are not enough.

Frankly it’s going to take some big lawsuits to change colleges’ calculations, and that’s why it’s a shame (but not an accident) that the amount of the Columbia settlement was undisclosed. The administration doesn’t want to encourage more plaintiffs to come forward at Columbia or elsewhere.
The hothouses with the large endowments might be able to settle a few lawsuits.  The point of the column is to note that less prosperous institutions might be more circumspect about emulating the excesses of Student Affairs as practiced by the hothouses if there's a greater risk of being sued for falsely accusing, then suspending or otherwise penalizing, a student.


Empress Catherine the Great's Manifesto, inviting Germans to bring advanced agricultural techniques into the Rodina, dates to July 1763.

That's part of my story.
One version of the family's migration from Prussia to Volhynia to Wisconsin is that they were offered land grants in Volhynia that included exemptions from the military draft, and they left for the States when word that the Tsar was considering ending the exemptions. Another version has the East Prussians in Volhynia leaving as a reaction to a Russification campaign as Aleksandr III cracked down on liberal elements generally. Whatever the story, they did leave, by 1905.
The first Germans invited into Russia migrated to the Volga lands, although the map lists a number of  settlements all over the empire, including our Walki.

The Empress had some interesting ideas about religious freedom.
We grant to all foreigners coming into Our Empire the free and unrestricted practice of their religion according to the precepts and usage of their Church. To those, however, who intend to settle not in cities but in colonies and villages on uninhabited lands we grant the freedom to build churches and belltowers, and to maintain the necessary number of priests and church servants, but not the construction of monasteries. On the other hand, everyone is hereby warned not to persuade or induce any of the Christian co-religionists living in Russia to accept or even assent to his faith or join his religious community, under pain of incurring the severest punishment of Our laws. This prohibition does not apply to the various nationalities on the borders of Our Empire who are attached to the Mahometan faith. We permit and allow everyone to win them over and make them subject to the Christian religion in a decent way.
Not quite a Moslem ban, or invading the 'stans, killing the leaders, and converting the subjects to Christianity, and yet ...

Then check this out, a quarter-century before the Bill of Rights, and a full five score years before the Homestead Act.
None of the foreigners who have come to settle in Russia shall be required to pay the slightest taxes to Our treasury, nor be forced to render regular or extraordinary services, nor to billet troops. Indeed, everybody shall be exempt from all taxes and tribute in the following manner: those who have been settled as colonists with their families in hitherto uninhabited regions will enjoy 30 years of exemption; those who have established themselves, at their own expense, in cities as merchants and tradesmen in Our Residence St. Petersburg or in the neighboring cities of Livland, Esthonia, Ingermanland, Carelia and Finland, as well as in the Residential city of Moscow, shall enjoy 5 years of tax-exemption. Moreover, each one who comes to Russia, not just for a short while but to establish permanent domicile, shall be granted free living quarters for half a year.
The draft exemptions were temporary, and exit taxes were also a thing before Brezhnev reintroduced them.
After the lapse of the stipulated years of exemption, all the foreigners who have settled in Russia are required to pay the ordinary moderate contributions and, like our other subjects, provide labor-service for their country. Finally, in the event that any foreigner who has settled in Our Empire and has become subject to Our authority should desire to leave the country, We shall grant him the liberty to do so, provided, however, that he is obligated to remit to Our treasury a portion of the assets he has gained in this country; that is, those who have been here from one to five years will pay one-fifth, while those who have been here for five or more years will pay one-tenth. Thereafter each one will be permitted to depart unhindered anywhere he pleases to go.
The Proclamation was printed by the Imperial Senate, 25 July 1763.


The oh-so-intellectual left seems to be catching on that they have a perception problem.

But are they doing much to work that problem?  No, according to Don Surber.  "Democrats hate the middle class." He's referring to the New Left, and their intellectual heirs, but that's the bunch that have been taking over the Donks since 1969 or so.

Even an attempt by a confessed participant in the Resistance, Andrew Redlawsk, comes off as tone-deaf.
The folks who voted for Trump are by and large people who see progressivism, and specifically concepts like political correctness and intersectionalism, as an attack on all of those deeply held feelings of what America "is." To them, our movement is an assault on their Field of Dreams. They're afraid of losing their (yes, white and Christian) America in the tidal wave of cultural shifts that have occurred over recent decades.
That starts off badly: it might be no more complicated than, as Joan C. Williams suggests, it's less about tranny potties and main street mosques than it is about the superior attitudes of the professional and managerial elites.  From that perspective, the thought that follows is superfluous (and misleading).
Is calling them racist going to change that? Is calling them bigots going to do it? Hateful? Monsters? Ignorant? Uneducated? Privileged? We don’t have to agree with it, but we have to attempt to understand it.
The problem, though, is that "land of opportunity," let alone Field of Dreams, are micro-aggressions in the latest Snob Manual of Style.  Thus Mr Redlawsk might take more incoming from Team Proglodyte for this.
The only way The Resistance succeeds is if we fundamentally change our tactics. We must realize that the way into these hearts is to respectfully suggest that the causes we fight for actually align with their deeply held patriotism and love for America. That yes, our marginalized communities may look different and speak a different language, but they want all the same things you do, and they want to have them in this incredible country we've built together. They also want to have their Field of Dreams. That’s why they came here in the first place! And isn't it the American Way to do everything we can to give them that opportunity?

But what this also means is that we as progressives need to stop getting so offended by everything and learn to put ourselves in others' shoes. All of our experiences — conservatives and progressives alike — give us unique perspectives, and it is absolutely unhelpful to say things like "it's not our job to teach you" when someone comes to us with questions.
Assimilation is an emergent phenomenon, Mr Redlawsk, and perhaps it's best to pipe down about privilege and cultural appropriation and the rest of the foolishness.
It may not be fair, but progressives must be willing to put aside their anger and hate and take responsibility for creating the change they wish to see in the world. To vilify, shame and condemn only causes those who don't understand to dig in their heels. If we are the ones who want change, the responsibility is ours to do what it takes to encourage it.

To summarize: Progressives, stop insulting, stop shaming, and stop condescending. Start listening. Start teaching.
Right, but without the scolding, hectoring, patronizing, and condescending, what do they have?  That's right, Vox is gonna Vox.  Hilarious.


The unwinding of the disreputable Doug Baker presidency at Northern Illinois University continues.
Steven Cunning­ham, former vice president for Ad­ministration and director of Hu­man Resources, said officials made him a scapegoat for the decisions made by former President Doug Baker, who resigned June 15.

“It’s clear that in my absence, I was an easy target to point at with respect to these matters,” Cun­ningham said in an interview with the Northern Star.

The OEIG report found that Baker “mismanaged” NIU and im­properly classified at least five em­ployees. This misclassification re­sulted in the mismanagement of $1 million in public funds because of a competitive procurement process not taking place, according to the May 31 report. Baker resigned amid the backlash to the OEIG report.

The misclassification involved the use of the affiliate employee classification. The classification, which has since been eliminated, was to be used for “individuals whose primary job is not with NIU, but who teach an off-campus ex­tension class (typically non-credit) for the university on an occasional basis,” according to the report.

The investigation also concluded Cunningham misused the affiliate classification by approving it for the temporary hiring of Ron Wal­ters, former strategic initiatives ad­viser, and Nancy Suttenfield, for­mer interim chief financial officer.

Greg Long, former Faculty Sen­ate president, said Baker was acting on the recommendation he received from Cunningham regarding the use of the affiliate employee classification.
Perhaps as the deanlets and deanlings and special-assistants-to engage in deflection and buck-passing, it will be time for the faculty to reclaim their proper role as stewards of the university.

If nothing else, the administration-speak does not give much cause for faculty confidence.
Cunningham said the employ­ee classification was designed to bring accomplished profession­als into roles at the university, most of them instructional. He said there were some instances in which the classification was used for non-instructional profession­al expertise.

Cunningham said the short-term nature of Walters and Suttenfield’s initial appointments resulted in the affiliate employee title being selected.

“The key here is that it was ap­propriate based on the informa­tion I had at the time during the first four months or so of President Baker’s term while I still had effec­tive supervisory authority,” Cun­ningham said. “Based on that in­formation, clearly these were short-term roles that were not permanent positions at the university, that had substantial responsibilities in the institution, and therefore did not fit the profile of the independent contractor status.”

While Cunningham said he stands by the classification being used at that time, as he said these were not procurement hires, look­ing back now, he said he would have done things differently.

“In retrospect, which is always 100 percent, I would have insisted on a temporary supportive professional staff title,” Cunningham said. “But that’s all hindsight at this point.”
It's moot, as Mr Cunningham gave up his administrative role.  That's likely a good thing, as the following remarks demonstrate his unfamiliarity with the proper chain of command (if there is such a thing) in a university.
“Administrators are there to im­plement the will of the president,” Cunningham said. “In this case, the president directed that these indi­viduals be brought in. Certainly, this was his decision to bring these indi­viduals in and no other person’s de­cision. And so the circumstance that is addressed then by presiding ad­ministrators is how to get that done.”

Despite his assertion that he was made a scapegoat in this OEIG re­port, Cunningham said he has faith in NIU as an institution and thinks it will have the opportunity to pros­per under the right leadership.

“I had the privilege in participat­ing with the NIU community for almost 20 years; I know the com­munity well,” Cunningham said. “The institution itself is very strong; there’s great integrity at NIU -- there always has been. It’s very much alive and well in the faculty and staff and the thousands of people who have long-term or even near-term expe­rience in that institution.”
The president is present to ensure that the faculty have the resources, and the political support, to conduct their teaching, research, and scholarship.  To do anything else ... well, that's what Northern Illinois University has got.



It's manufactured goods, not silks, from Cathay, and Spanish rice and now Pilsener and Budweiser beer, and perhaps the beer glasses, eastbound.
The first eastbound container service from Praha to Yiwu in China’s Zhejiang province left the Metrans container terminal at Praha-Uhříněves at 11.35 on July 19, carrying 40 wagons loaded with 80 containers of export goods including beer, crystal glass and automotive parts with a total value of US$5m.

The 40 ft containers are expected to cover the 11 000 km route via Poland, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan in 16 days, with transhipment to and from 1520 mm gauge wagons at the Poland/Belarus border and at Dostyk on the Kazakhstan/China border.
No double stacking, but I bet the transloading of containers on and off the Russian-gauge flats is accomplished more expeditiously than the rubbering of containers from one railroad to another at Chicago.


Dogs rescued from South Korean meat trade to arrive in Sheboygan.
The farm in Yesan contained 149 dogs, including puppies, all of whom will be rescued and transported to the United States this month. The rescue is occurring just as the Bok Nal summer season, during which South Koreans kill and eat more than one million dogs as a spicy soup, gets underway.

This is the ninth dog meat farm that HSI has permanently closed since 2014, rescuing and rehoming nearly 1,000 dogs by working in cooperation with dog meat farmers keen to get out of the trade.

The rescues and farm closures are part of HSI’s broader strategy that aims to encourage the South Korean government to end the dog meat industry.
That reminds me of some old economics problems involving international trade, in which rich country pet food producers purchased the fish caught by developing country farmers.  (And I wonder what sort of substitute protein goes into Bok Nal.)  No Barack Obama jokes, please.

It's more likely that dog farmers will consider a different line of business in response to commercial incentives, than they will to the way Minnesota mink are being rescued from the fur trade.
The potential danger extends far beyond the areas immediately surrounding Lang Farms. According to [Sterns County sheriff Don] Gudmundson, mink "can travel for miles and miles and miles."

Police are convinced an advocacy group is to blame, though they have no hard proof. Gudmundson noted that while the intention in freeing the mink may have been to save them from being killed for their furs, their release may bring them more harm than good.

Unlike mink born and raised in the wild, the formerly captive animals lack some necessary survival skills.

"Some of the mink are dying from the stress or something else, we don't know," he said. "A large number will starve to death. They weren't taught to hunt by their mother. Others will get run over in the road."
"More harm than good."  Isn't that true of any action by an activist whose hands are more active than his mind is?


Joanne Jacobs, "A few are questioning whether it makes sense to admit students with sixth-grade reading levels, who have almost no chance of passing college-level classes."  More.

Identify the high schools that fail to raise those reading levels, and send them the bill for the remedial courses.


Jason Willick, "The O.J. Trial Was a Preview of America Under Trump."  Perhaps, although the four elements of the Simpson murder trial (identity politics, class, media, and Alan Dershowitz) were seasonal -- Kato Kaelin defining the celebrity circuit and all that, whilst a generation later those elements (now social justice warriors, deplorables, no gatekeepers, and Alan Dershowitz) are out of season.  It's saecular winter, no longer saecular autumn.



They're something I've been pushing, seemingly forever, and perhaps Our President's defiance of those norms is getting Deep Thinkers who previously honored the norms in the breach to rediscover their value.  But the rot has been coming for a long time, and Charlotte Hays's When Did White Trash Become the New Normal?: A Southern Lady Asks the Impertinent Question is a hilarious exploration of inquiry into the nature and the causes of the rot.  (The perfect summer relief to offer as Book Review No. 17, particularly after a dark and stormy night last night, to be precise.)  It has to be hilarious, as "standards of decency are now culturally insensitive."  And yet, the book illustrates all the ways that goes wrong.  "Why Obesity, Tattoos, and Velveeta(R) Prove That Arnold Toynbee Was Right."  About celebrating the downscale -- the $64 word is antinomianism -- as being a signifier of the rot, that is.  There are also recipes.  And anyone who specifies yellow mustard as the quintessential White Trash condiment is spot on.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)


In Strong Towns, Dan Allison is dubious about high-occupancy vehicle (carpool) lanes.
If some high capacity vehicles are diverted out of general purpose lanes, that provides a more open lane, and that more open lane will be filled with additional traffic. The HOV lane itself, being more open than adjacent lanes, will create additional traffic. Drivers respond to their perception of crowding and delay. If they see more space, they will drive more. It's induced demand, simple as that.

So a HOV lane increases overall traffic. Cost is an issue, as most of our transportation dollars at the state and regional level go to these projects, instead of projects that would actually reduce private vehicle use and vehicle miles traveled. Environmental and social impacts increase. And the lanes fill up, creating a demand for yet more lanes in a never-ending cycle.
His complaint is with building new capacity that's rationed by congestion, rather than new capacity that's rationed by price.  Where there are new lanes, traffic will increase to fill the available capacity.  The flaw is in rationing the capacity by congestion, and the carpool lane works for people who gain enough by going faster to offset the costs of setting up the carpool (or ride share.)  It's in the incentives, people.  "There has to be an efficient way of pricing a congestible facility in such a way that both the premium-price for no waiting and the low price wait your turn riders have no incentive to change their types."

Note, though, it's about the pricing.
As a modeling exercise, the marginal commuter is indifferent between the marginal utility adjusted by the higher price of the premium service and the marginal utility adjusted by the lower price of the congested service (there are some additional subtleties involved in avoiding division by zero.)
If the carpool lane becomes a high-occupancy toll lane, or simply a toll lane, it's straightforward to price the use in such a way as to cover the incremental cost of the additional capacity.  Yes, there are more vehicle miles being travelled, and yes, the analyst must still consider the network effects. A new toll lane induces more traffic onto the existing expressway until the existing expressway is as slow as it used to be, but those travellers who are now congesting the expressway were congesting some other road instead.


Ryan McMaken, at The American Conservative.  Probably not surprising.
What can be done?

First of all, it is important to lessen the reliance on the insurance model of healthcare. The use of insurance as the primary means for distributing healthcare services is largely a post-World-War-II government invention, and thanks to government created tax and regulatory incentives, the insurance model has displaced ordinary market transactions in which consumers pay a fee for a service.

Many have been trained to recoil in horror at the thought of reducing the role of insurance, of course. Thanks to the power of the status quo, many now equate the idea of health insurance with healthcare itself. And yet, this is not true in any other industry—even those that are necessary for life’s basic necessities. There is no “food insurance” for example. Auto insurance exists, but is nothing like health insurance since it covers only rare accidental events.

Cash-for-service industries—whether groceries, or mobile phones, or dental case—continue to see increases in quality while prices remain far more stable than healthcare prices. Food budgets, for example, now take up less of our overall household spending than was true in the past. We certainly can’t say the same for healthcare.

To wean us off the insurance model, tax codes and regulations must be changed to stop giving preference to the use of insurance by employers. Tax-free health savings account must be expanded and tax credits for healthcare spending must spread. Flexibility for group coverage must be expanded beyond employer-based healthcare, and markets must be opened to more providers willing to be flexible and meet these needs.

Simultaneously, governments must get out of the way so service providers can compete and expand.
More intriguing is this recognition by RoseAnn DeMoro, at Common Dreams, that the old "public option" is not going to be a good harbinger of the Conrail Option.
The public option, the argument goes, can offer less expensive coverage because it doesn't have to divert massive sums for administrative costs, mainly profits, lush executive pay packages, claims denial paperwork, and marketing.

But in practice, the outcome would be far different. Medicare works in large part by including all the people it covers in one large risk pool so that healthier patients balance out sicker patients in costs that must be reimbursed to providers. But the public option would not have that protection.
That's pretending Medicare is working (the so-called trust fund is in parlous shape, and the reimbursement rate does for practitioners what Wal-Mart does to vendors) but it's a start.

Perhaps, after the political class has tried everything else and found it wanting, they will try expanding commercial freedom.


I've long been an advocate of do-it-yourself yard maintenance, with as little powered assistance as I can get away with.

That's at previous Cold Spring Shops headquarters.  New grass plus bigger yard plus broken elbow a few years ago leads to electric-assistance these days.  But still the question.  "Here's an economics imponderable: why do people spend hundreds of bucks on powered lawn mowers and then spend money on a gym membership?"

Victor Hanson essays a response.
In theory, skipping the gym for four hours a week would provide more than enough time to mow the lawn, prune the bushes, or vacuum the floor. Yet sweaty and studied exercise is often deemed preferable to rote labor, given that it is more scientifically calibrated to making one look and feel better. Repetitive muscular work is not seen as commensurately valuable, whether for the exercise it provides or for its psychic benefits. Yet for all one’s degrees and income, a person can still retain some sense of autonomy and an ability to master the surrounding material landscape, if only for a few hours each week, and to appreciate how the other half lives that does such physical labor for wages. It is a choice.
Possibly more Deep Significance than I want to get into, but perhaps he's right about people who live in bubbles, contract out the grunt work, and park as close as they can to the fitness center.

I'm still with a Chicago Tribune columnist, probably at a link that has long expired.  "But who is wimpier, the guy who buys the megabucks power riding mower with the cup holders and the tilt steering wheel (no DVD player yet!) and then roars around his lawn like an Abrams tank commander, his flabby midsection ajiggle, or the weekend warrior working up an honest sweat behind the push mower?"  Perhaps wimpier, perhaps sadder: how else might one react to the guy at the upper end of the street rolling his trash container out of the garage behind his lawn tractor?

Sometimes, the warrior has to go to battle on weekdays, for instance when a derecho takes down the top of your sunburst locust.

That's after.  Unexpected half hour of upper-body workout.  Shoulders are making their presence known.



Immediately after the election, Berkeley law professor Joan C. Williams wrote "What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class" for Harvard Business Review, suggesting that her Democrat buddies cool it with the condescension.  She more recently suggested that New York Times readers pipe down.

There's a collection of these short essays in White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America, Book Review No. 16.

Think of it as privilege-checking for the privileged.  Sample questions (all of these are essay titles):  Why Does the Working Class Resent Professionals But Admire the Rich?  (Spoiler alert: it's the condescension.  Don't be stupid about being smart.)  "Why Doesn't the Working Class Get With It and Go to College?"  (We could mention a shelf of books on the ways in which higher education, particularly the subprime party schools, fail to serve youngsters of modest means.)  "Don't They Understand that Manufacturing Jobs Aren't Coming Back?"  (Jobs can neither be created or destroyed, only changed in form.)  "Why Don't the People Who Benefit Most from Government Help Seem to Appreciate It?"  (Because they have to deal with condescending principals and snippy motor vehicles bureaucrats?)

Yes, I'm teasing with the last one, but it might come down to Professor Walsh is still thinking of Government as One Size Fits All, Tailored by Wise Experts in Washington City, while the services the locals benefit from are locally sourced and funded by local taxes.

So pick it up and read it, dear reader, particularly if you're disposed to condescend to people who lack your credentials or your vocabulary.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)


Our President is apparently OK with letting Obamacare fail, and mocking the Democrats for now mourning the suffering that is coming in the wake of the exchanges collapsing.

The problem, as I see it, is that it doesn't matter what the national government does as long as its emphasis is on insurance, and trial lawyering, and everything else that keeps the third-party payments around, and the trade-tested betterments in abeyance.  As Jesse Watters quipped yesterday evening, "Coverage."  Here's National Journal's Josh Kraushaar: "Once Republicans got trapped into playing the opposition’s game—that the quantity of coverage is more important than the quality of coverage—they were already playing a losing hand."  His essay is more about the effects of a Trump presidency on conservatism.  With as many black swans in the air as there currently are, that's too messy to contemplate. Reason's Shikha Dalmia is also on to the deflection.  "The first problem with this analysis—apart from its chutzpah—is that it assumes that all insurance saves lives, even a substandard plan like Medicaid, which accounts for the vast majority of the people covered by ObamaCare. That is emphatically not the case."

Trade-tested betterments in health care, on the other hand, are more straightforward.  Herewith one opening proposal from W. A. Root.  First, though, we have to get Official Washington thinking about something other than coverage and liability, and the rent-seekers, including the physicians and surgeons probably benefit more by the conversation remaining focussed on coverage and liability.  That despite the Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates reducing the return on human capital to studying medicine.

It's a failure of elite imagination to Jason Willick and W. R. Mead to keep on slicing and dicing the same rents.
The debate we are having is therefore about how best to distribute what is assumed to be a constant amount of suffering—about who should be screwed over the most as the system as a whole continues to stagnate and underperform. Obamacare imposed higher costs on the young and raised taxes on the rich while adding millions to the Medicaid rolls—a second-rate government insurance system that may or may not improve health outcomes. The GOP would lower insurance costs for the young, raise them for the rich, and shrink the Medicaid rolls reduce the deficit and deliver a big tax cut, mostly to high-earners.

In other words, the parties are locked into a more-or-less zero-sum fight over resources that leaves the underlying deformity of our system unaddressed: Healthcare costs too much, whether it is paid for by government or private insurance. Our existing healthcare system is on a trajectory to bankrupt the country no matter how we distribute the costs.
It's the coverage, stupid. But read on, and do you find anything at all about trade-tested betterments?  Commercial freedom for practitioners?
What if instead of simply rolling back Obamacare’s taxes and transfers, Congress passed a smorgasbord of experimental measures aimed at bringing prices under control in the long run? There are a number of ways we can reduce cost by increasing the supply of care. For example, we could tweak our immigration system so that more well-qualified doctors come to work in the United States (the U.S. has fewer doctors per capita than many other advanced countries) and certify more medical education programs. We could encourage a more efficient distribution of doctors by offering medical school loan forgiveness for doctors who work in places with a care shortage.
Not quite.  But perhaps we haven't suffered enough.
The crud that has been accumulating in the system can’t be addressed all at once. Reform should be repositioned as a series of incremental steps in the direction of lower-cost care care plus a temporary compromise over Medicaid and subsidies to tide us over until the good times arrive.

This is a more challenging and by necessity more experimental project, and it will never be fully complete. But it has the potential to start breaking us out of the despairing confines of right-left Obamacare debates, which suggest a society that has lost the confidence and imagination to reform its institutions to address its gravest challenges.
But from that perspective, perhaps "Let Obamacare collapse" is precisely the push the political class needs. The usual "do something" partisan approach isn't working. "If Republicans don’t start getting some wins, Americans have every right to ask, 'What good is it with you folks in the majority?'"

For openers, if you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see how much it costs when it's "free."
With monopoly buying power, the government could tighten up on health-care spending by dictating prices for services and drugs. But the government already has a lot of leverage. A big reason it does not clamp down now on health-care spending is that it is hard to do so politically.

Republicans have tarred the Affordable Care Act’s Medicare cuts as attacks on the cherished entitlement program. Doctors and hospitals have effectively resisted efforts to scale back the reimbursements they get from federal health programs. Small-town America does not want to give up expensive medical facilities that serve relatively few people in rural areas. A tax on medical device makers has been under bipartisan attack ever since it passed, as has the “Cadillac tax” on expensive health-insurance plans. When experts find that a treatment is too costly relative to the health benefits it provides, patients accustomed to receiving that treatment and medical organizations with a stake in the status quo rise up to demand it continue to be paid for.
Again, no discussion of trade-tested betterments. Surprised?
To realize the single-payer dream of coverage for all and big savings, medical industry players, including doctors, would likely have to get paid less and patients would have to accept different standards of access and comfort. There is little evidence most Americans are willing to accept such tradeoffs.

The goal still must be universal coverage and cost restraint. But no matter whether the government or some combination of parties is paying, that restraint will come slowly, with cuts to the rate of increase in medical costs that make the system more affordable over time. There are many options short of a disruptive takeover: the government can change how care is delivered, determine which treatments should be covered, control quality at hospitals, drive down drug costs and discourage high-cost health-care plans even while making the Obamacare system better at filling coverage gaps.
Maybe the best thing the national government could do is go away. You won't get that advice from the Gray Lady, but commentator C. F. Chapin starts at the right place. "The problem with American health care is not the care. It’s the insurance."Continuing. Before the Great Society, there was more room for trade-tested betterments.
Individuals and families paid a monthly fee, not to an insurance company but directly to the physician group. This system held down costs. Physicians typically earned a base salary plus a percentage of the group’s quarterly profits, so they lacked incentive to either ration care, which would lose them paying patients, or provide unnecessary care.

This contrasts with current examples of such financing arrangements. Where physicians earn a preset salary — for example, in Kaiser Permanente plans or in the British National Health Service — patients frequently complain about rationed or delayed care. When physicians are paid on a fee-for-service basis, for every service or procedure they provide — as they are under the insurance company model — then care is oversupplied. In these systems, costs escalate quickly.

With Medicare, the demand for health services increased and medical costs became a national crisis. To constrain rising prices, insurers gradually introduced cost containment procedures and incrementally claimed supervisory authority over doctors. Soon they were reviewing their medical work, standardizing treatment blueprints tied to reimbursements and shaping the practice of medicine.

It’s easy to see the challenge of real reform: To actually bring down costs, legislators must roll back regulations to allow market innovation outside the insurance company model.
Faster, please.

Perhaps "Let Obamacare collapse" will give consumers a new birth of freedom.
What consumers need is the ability to shop for policies they can afford. Why not let young people, for example, buy inexpensive policies with high deductibles so that they are covered in case in case of accidents but pay out of pocket for routine care? And why should the 21st century health insurance system be broken up into 50 separate economies when efficiencies and convenience could be had by offering insurance options on a nationwide scale?
Precisely. But that lets defenders of the (failing?) status quo invoke Charles Dickens, or Hunger Games. Trade-tested betterments? Too risky.
Republicans need to be honest with themselves and the public: If they want medicine to be truly free-market, then they have to be willing to let the next man or woman they find lying unconscious in the street remain there and die. In a truly free market, we cannot treat someone — and charge someone — without their consent and against their will. If we believe, however, that those lying there in their most vulnerable moments deserve a shot, then we need to push forward with the idea that health care, at its core, must be designed around a caring system that serves all people fairly.
There's that design conceit again. I know that if I encounter a person starving in the street, there is likely a vendor nearby from which I can purchase nourishing food. It's probably not going to be a seven-course meal at Maxim's, but it will be enough to get the person on his feet. If I want to provide that person with interview-grade clothing, ditto. A place to wash up, a bit harder, but still feasible.

Yes, storefront health is not the same thing as storefront fruit juice and a sandwich, but still, it's the absence of any such options that's more germane.  John "Grumpy Economist" Cochrane, who has been thinking way more systematically about the institutions of the health industry, elaborates.
[The Times commentator's] point is entirely the cost of treatment, for that extremely narrow group, people with assets who somehow don't have insurance.)  As a doctor, he does not see that economic counterfactual, or how cheap unregulated catastrophic coverage would be.  And emergency room physicians dealing with comatose patients are not exactly an unbiased sample of the health care system. Even if such patients need to have government support, just why does a routine dermatologist visit need to be subject to the tender mercies of the Federal Government?
And we don't have the kind of price discovery of the simple procedures that might help a charitable citizen help someone in distress, the way it's possible to buy a hungry person a meal.
While the science of medicine has undoubtedly advanced by leaps and bounds, the ability to actually see a doctor for a price the average person can afford has, if anything, moved backwards.

The difference is all down to competition. While anybody with a grill can work on building a better burger, opening a school or practicing medicine requires years of navigating red tape, licensing requirements, and thousands of dollars in fees. And even if you succeed, the government’s stranglehold on both these industries leaves little room for true experimentation.

So the next time you chow down on a tasty burger, remember that the only reason it tastes so good is because people were free to innovate, and then imagine how much better the rest of life could be if the same were true for other industries.
I could add: or get a tummy tuck or your nearsightedness refocused by a laser.

With the state exchanges coming unglued even without any pushes from Our President, to borrow a phrase, what does the public have to lose?  Oh, the Democrats will be unhappy, but Rick Moran suggests the Democrats brought it on themselves.
Democrats have not offered a comprehensive plan to fix Obamacare, so it's reasonable to assume they don't care about the dead people that will be piling up at their door as a result of  people dropping off their plans because they're too expensive. They didn't care when 5 million people lost their coverage when Obamacare was implemented. Why should they care now?
It's easier to care in the abstract. Those fifteen million people who opted to pay the tax penalty rather than buy useless health insurance are more useful as a talking point, fifteen million people who will lose the (theoretical) coverage they had (the opportunity to buy, no thanks) under Obamacare.

Perhaps it has to get worse first.
Any bill in congress that affects to reform the gross financial malfeasance in healthcare ought to start with the absolute requirement to publicly post the cost of everything that doctors and hospitals do, and enable the “service providers” to get paid only those publicly posted costs — obviating the lucrative rain-dance for dividing up the ransoms paid by hostage-patients who come to the “providers,” after all, in extremis. Notice that this crucial feature of the crisis is missing not only from the political debate but also from the supposedly public-interest-minded pages of The New York Times and other organs of the news media. Perhaps this facet of the problem never entered the editors’ minds — in which case you really have to ask: how dumb are they?

(The funniest claim about ObamaCare in today’s New York Times is the statement that 20 million citizens got access to health care under the so-called Affordable Care Act. Really? You mean they got health insurance policies with $8000-deductables, when they don’t even have $500 in savings to pay for car repairs? What planet do The New York Times editorial writers live on?)

The corollary questions about deconstructing the insurance armature of the health care racket, and assigning its “duties” to a “single-payer” government agency is, of course, a higher level of debate. I’m not saying it would work, even if it was modeled on one of the systems currently working elsewhere, say in France. But Americans have acquired an allergy to even thinking about that, or at least they’ve been conditioned to imagine they’re allergic by self-interested politicians. So, the current product of debate in the US Senate is just a scheme for pretending to reapportion the colossal flow of grift among the grifters.
It's Kunstler.  It's crash.

He's right, though. Rent-seekers gotta seek rents.