Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category.

History and “Presentism” and Other People’s Money

[Camille Paglia says,] “‘Presentism’ is a major affliction—an over-absorption in the present or near past, which produces a distortion of perspective and a sky-is-falling Chicken Little hysteria.’

This is a point that deserves repeated amplification. It explains, for instance, much of the indignation we see and hear on college campuses, wherein twenty-year-olds decry twenty-first-century American racism and sexism. The first response to their charges should not be to debate present conditions. It should be to ask them about actual conditions of the past—Jim Crow, the franchise for women and blacks, poverty rates and public health in former times . . . The answers will demonstrate that the only way to believe that America 2017 is a particularly vicious time for certain identities is to know nothing about the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. And we know, of course, how little history young Americans actually possess.

Paglia believes there is a causal connection between young Americans’ ignorance of history and their dim view of present conditions. At a conference in Oxford, Paglia stated again, in response to a student who criticized her and others for telling youths not to be so sensitive and snowflaky, “There is much too much focus on the present.” Thanks to the (presumed) sensitivity of modern youth, Paglia says, students have not had a “realistic introduction to the barbarities of human history . . . . Ancient history must be taught . . . . I believe in introducing young people to the disasters of history.” Without that background, she implies, our only standard of appraising current circumstances is current circumstances plus a few utopian dreams. We have so much material prosperity, they think, so why don’t we have more perfect people to enjoy it?

Not only does this outlook produce a dangerous parochialism and fervor among the young. It hampers their education. When people judge the present solely in present terms, not in relation to the past, diversity becomes not the pursuit of knowledge of other cultures, religions, and civilizations. It becomes, Paglia says, a “banner” under which we presume to “remedy” contemporary social sins. At that point, we should realize, education has turned into indoctrination.

Camille Paglia’s Teaching

“Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santayana (a rephrasing of what he said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”)


Innocents Betrayed

For example, what’s happening in Venezuela is just “bad luck”….
– “Castro, Chavez, and ‘bad luck’
– “Venezuela’s descent into anarchy is only beginning

Also seeAs the Left Surges Back, Marxism’s Bloody Legacy is Covered Up“, by Roger Scruton

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as “bad luck.”

Robert A. Heinlein

When socialism runs out of money and has no more free stuff to give, it wreaks havoc on a country’s economy and its people. Just ask Venezuela.

If You Want Medicare For All, Get Used To Eating Rabbit Now


Roger Scruton on socialism

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Equifax and Your Credit Reports

Freeze your credit reports, register for your own account on Social Security, and keep an eye on your bank and credit card statements. And if your identity is stolen, file a report with your local police department, the FTC at IdentityTheft.gov, and the IRS so your tax refund can’t be stolen.

And think about using Two Factor Authorization (2FA). See Two Factor Auth (2FA).

For more, see:

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“Price Gouging”


Is Price Gouging Immoral? Should It Be Illegal?

The laws of economics are not suspended in an emergency, no matter what the laws of politicians attempt to do. When goods are more scarce, they will be costly to obtain, whether those costs are in terms of money or something else. The importance of letting market prices do their job and determining who gets what is that this process is also the way in which we make sure that there is stuff to be allocated in the first place. The only way to make sure we have sufficient production is to let market prices determine consumption.

Hurricanes Don’t Blow Away Economic Law

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Resistance….

[W]hat bothers most Americans is politics now defined as nonstop sermonizing in which a rich athlete, a Pajama Boy activist, a demagogic politician, or a quarter-educated billionaire movie star lectures less fortunate Americans on the various deplorable racists, sexists, homophobes, and Islamophobes among them.

There is a populist and growing resistance to the Orwellian idea that free speech is hate speech, that equality of opportunity is defined only by equality of result, and that identity politics determines the degree of government-mandated penance and reparations.

Sometimes individual voices of this far-growing resistance movement write credos aimed at the Google-mandated reeducation seminars. Sometimes a few faculty members simply do not show up at their required university diversity-indoctrination workshops.

Sometimes, millions of viewers flip the channel when jocks at ESPN lecture as if they were wizened philosophers.

Sometimes when multimillionaire athletes claim victimhood and won’t stand for the national anthem, viewers of NFL games never view again. And sometimes they vote for flawed candidates like Donald Trump, whose virtue of saying almost anything to anyone at any time is considered a sort of harsh medicine that targets the malady of identity-driven political correctness, a chemotherapy to stop metastasizing malignancy.

This rather different resistance is tired of Warsaw Pact–like drabness in which, like dead souls, they must virtue-signal one reality while in their private minds resisting the groupthink. Cynicism abounds, as it always does in egalitarian utopias like the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Venezuela, or Cuba, because the Animal Farm commandments on the barn wall are pro forma, not reflections of revolutionary zeal.

The diversity trainers who contract with universities to profit from their captive audiences are in their second and third generations of treating self-created angst. Al Sharpton and Maxine Waters are about as radical as Amway sales people. The Southern Poverty Law Center issues “hate maps” that include Christian organizations — while it gins up millions of dollars in donations, some of which are offshored to Caribbean tax havens to ensure six-figure salaries to lawyers who can find few victims of hate and fewer hate groups to litigate against on behalf of the Southern impoverished.

Two Resistances

Many have made politics their idol. Politics is a false god. As is statolatry.

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Debt and Risk Aversion

Our debt has a way of focusing us on downsides, because debt turns a continuous income curve into two discontinuous lines: “solvent” and “insolvent.” More generally, debt has a way of magnifying life events. When things are going well, debt can help them go better: You can buy a house and a car, or you can buy a bigger house and a nicer car. But when things are going badly, debt can turn a slight income loss into a major disaster.

Most Americans now have a lot of debt, whether they’re ordinary workers or commercial landlords. Which means that most Americans have to be extraordinarily sensitive about letting their income cross the line where they can no longer support their debt payments. Which in turn means that already sticky prices may become positively glue-like.

Too Much Debt Is Making Us Sticks-in-the-Mud

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“Missing Men” and the Ticking Biological Clock

In public policy debates, it’s often assumed that women freeze their eggs in order to put off childbearing during the prime time of their careers. According to new research, however, more and more educated and successful women are choosing to freeze their eggs because they cannot find a man they want to marry. Many men are “missing” from higher education, work, and church – and are just not marriageable.

As a single woman, I am interested in the causes of this “missing men” phenomenon. While I think the Church and society should focus on forming men to be more marriageable, I am also concerned for the Catholic women who are single and want to get married. What should Catholic women do in this situation?

It is easy to become disheartened – even to despair – about the apparent lack of marriageable men in our culture. I’ve met many beautiful and intelligent single women who are worried they will never get married or they will get married too late to have children. They are willing to leave their careers behind in order to be a wife and mother, yet they simply cannot find the right man.

This is something new to our generation. It never occurred to my mother and her friends that they would never find a spouse. Most of them were happily married by their mid-twenties.

I won’t argue here about why egg freezing is immoral (that’s for another article). I’ve pondered, however, what Catholic single women should do in this culture of “missing men.” Here are some alternatives that I have found to be helpful in my own singlehood.

“Missing Men” and the Ticking Biological Clock

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Marriage and Family

[O]ur present culture, which makes war on marriage and the family, is also making war on genuine manhood. In spite of its own braggadocio, modern culture doesn’t really make war on things such as “sexism” and the abuse of women and children because it encourages the machismo that turns men into abusers while simultaneously discouraging the familial and paternal responsibility that turns men into good husbands and fathers. Such a culture does not only make men miserable, it makes women and children miserable too—and all in the name of the pursuit of freedom and happiness! It’s all so pathetically funny. A tragedy that is also a divine comedy because it shows that virtue is the only way of getting to the happy ending.

Beyond Machismo to Manhood: The Challenge of Real Masculinity

Culture of death. Ozymandias

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Drugs, Employment, Change, and Community

The misuse of prescription painkillers, heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl is, by now, painfully well known. The U.S. tops the world in drug deaths; in 2015, more people died from overdoses — with two thirds involving an opioid — than from car accidents or gun violence.

The epidemic is also having a devastating effect on companies — large and small — and their ability to stay competitive. Managers and owners across the country are at a loss in how to deal with addicted workers and potential workers, calling the issue one of the biggest problems they face. Applicants are increasingly unwilling or unable to pass drug tests; then there are those who pass only to show signs of addiction once employed. Even more confounding: how to respond to employees who have a legitimate prescription for opioids but whose performance slips. “That is really the battlefield for us right now,” said Markus Dietrich, global manager of employee assistance and worklife services at chemical giant DuPont, which employs 46,000 worldwide.

The issue is amplifying labor shortages in industries like trucking, which has had difficulty for the last six years finding qualified workers. It’s also pushing employers to broaden their job searches, recruiting people from greater distances when roles can’t be filled with local workers. At stake is not only safety and productivity within companies — but the need for humans altogether, with some manufacturers claiming opioids force them to automate work faster.

The opioid crisis is creating a fresh hell for America’s employers

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Just a few miles from where President Trump will address his blue-collar base here Tuesday night, exactly the kind of middle-class factory jobs he has vowed to bring back from overseas are going begging.

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 local 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.”

The economic impact of drug use on the work force is being felt across the country, and perhaps nowhere more than in this region, which is struggling to overcome decades of deindustrialization.

Economy Needs Workers, but Drug Tests Take a Toll

[W]hen it’s suggested that our current set of arrangements won’t last forever people immediately imagine Mad Max, as if no other alternative exists. Things are going to change. They always have and they always will. The future will just be different. That’s absolutely not the same as saying the world is coming to an end. Clear eyed individuals who are paying attention can start to get a feel for who the new winners and losers are likely to be and place themselves in the best possible situation ahead of the curve. That’s a pragmatist’s view – not a doomer’s.

. . .

If small scale agriculture was made redundant by mechanization and industrial scale production, then industry itself was hammered by other equally powerful forces. Everything has a beginning, middle, and end.

. . .

The most recent iteration of the Zombie Apocalypse has already begun to unfold in some places. Suburbia was exactly the right thing for a particular period of time. But that era is winding down. The modest tract homes and strip malls built after World War II are not holding up well in an increasing number of marginal landscapes. I have been accused of cherry picking my photo ops, particularly by people who engage in their own cherry picking when discussing the enduring value of prosperous suburbs. But there’s too much decay in far too many places to ignore the larger trend. The best pockets of suburbia will carry on just fine. But the majority of fair-to-middling stuff on the periphery is going down hard.

. . .

The future drivers of change will be the same as the previous century – only in reverse. The great industrial cities of the early twentieth century as well as the massive suburban megaplexes that came after them were only possible because of an underlaying high tide of cheap abundant resources, easy financing, complex national infrastructure, and highly organized and cohesive organizational structures. Those are the elements of expansion.

But once the peak has been reached there’s a relentless contraction. The marginal return on investment goes negative as the cost of maintaining all the aging structures and wildly inefficient attenuated systems becomes overwhelming. The places that do best in a prolonged retreat from complexity are the ones with the greatest underlying local resource base and most cohesive social structures relative to their populations. The most complex places with the most critical dependencies will fail first as the tide recedes.

. . .

Over the long haul Main Street has a pretty good chance of coming back along with the family farm. But the shorter term in-between period of adjustment to contraction is going to be rough as existing institutions attempt to maintain themselves at all costs.

Postcards From the Zombie Apocalypse

A slew of reports finds a fresh reason for the chronic inability of American companies to fill skilled jobs: not a lack of skills, and hence a training-and-education crisis, but a surfeit of drug abuse, per the NYT’s Nelson Schwartz. Simply put, prime-working age Americans without a college diploma are often too drugged-out to get the best jobs. Opioids remain at high levels, but the surge in drug use is now heroin and the powerful contaminant fentanyl.

The reports suggest a circularity to the crisis in America’s rust and manufacturing belts: the loss of jobs and wage stagnation has led to widespread disaffection, alienation and drug abuse; and drug abuse has led to joblessness, hopelessness and disaffection.

But the numbers are all over the map. Some employers and economists say up to half of job applicants do not clear drug tests; others say it is 25%. In the chart above, Indeed economist Jed Kolko, using data from the U.S. Current Population Survey, found that 5.6% to 5.7% of working-age adults didn’t work last year because of illness or disability, an unknown percentage of which were because of drug use.

Many Americans are too drugged-out to work

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Hunter-Gatherer Economics

In January 1488, Bartolomeu Dias, a Portuguese explorer, rounded Africa’s southern cape and put to shore to take on food and water. There he found a group, smaller and lighter-skinned than the other Africans he had encountered, who, mystified by the odd men appearing out of the infinity of the sea, chased them back to their boat under a hail of arrows.

The exchange, notes James Suzman in his new book “Affluence Without Abundance”, was a meeting of two distant branches of the human family tree: Europeans descended from ancient tribes that migrated out of Africa, and people commonly known as the San, who had called southern Africa home for at least 150,000 years. Just as important, the meeting represented the collision of humanity’s most ancient and durable form of economic organisation with its most powerful. The latter, wielded by Europeans, has dominated the half millennium since that scrape on the beach. But modern capitalist societies may have something to learn from the ways of their ancient forebears.

. . .

Life spent hunting and gathering, while occasionally trying, was not a tale of constant toil and privation. Food could run short during droughts or annual lean periods, but reliance on a broad range of food sources typically afforded such tribes a reliable, well-balanced diet. Even around the arid Kalahari food is plentiful (at least when the tribes are not forced to share the land with farmers and ranchers)—so much so that the typical adult need work less than 20 hours per week.

Living off the land: Hunter-gatherer economics

Affluence Without Abundance: The Disappearing World of the Bushmen,” by James Suzman

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High School and College Admissions and DECA

One thing that jumps out of the IHE article is that this proposal is a creature of elite prep schools. Most American high schools have, at most, a handful of students who are realistically competitive at elite universities, but elite prep schools aspire to place a substantial fraction of their students there. Alas, that college admissions offices expect to see grades puts elite high schools in the embarrassing situation of implicitly comparing their students to one another.

. . .

From 1898 to 1919, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton opened up their admissions requirements by adopting the College Entrance Exam Board and abandoning a Greek-language requirement. These reforms made admission more open to non-elite boys, who as a rule were unable to take the schools’ proprietary entrance exams and attended high schools that did not offer Greek. As a result, the Ivies saw a sizable increase in Jewish students, and Columbia even experienced WASP flight, which its peers dreaded. Although Harvard discussed an explicit Jewish quota in 1922, this proved unpalatable, and so between 1922 and 1926 the big three Ivies adopted admissions boards that gave a heavy emphasis to qualitative evidence of “character” (read: WASP culture emphasizing muscular Christianity, club membership, and athletics over book learning) as a pretext to limit Jews.

Decades later, the University of California system, within which both Karabel and I are sociologists, adopted a similar policy to ensure racial balance. Traditionally, about half of the UC class was admitted by a GPA and SAT formula. The beginning of the end of this policy came in 1995 and 1996, when a Board of Regents vote and ballot initiative barred the use of affirmative action at the University of California, without which the flagship campuses of the university admitted notably fewer blacks and Latinos and notably more Asians and “decline to state” as freshmen. (White students were stable.) In response, between 1998 and 2001, the university switched to a system of comprehensive review greatly emphasizing qualitative evidence of character, and this had the desired effect of bringing the undergraduate body a bit closer to the state’s overall ethnic composition.

Basing college admission on well-roundedness and character is both noisy and cumbersome. Anyone who regularly writes letters of recommendation knows that they consume an enormous amount of time to write, and anyone who regularly reads them knows that they typically convey minimal actual information, largely because by convention they are almost never negative. Admissions essays at the undergraduate level are even worse, serving primarily to demonstrate the insatiability of credulous admissions officers for bromides.

However, the time consumed by writing and reading the materials in the admissions packet is dwarfed by the effort that goes into shaping lives to fit them. One of the biggest impacts of the demand for well-roundedness is that making a well-rounded child is an enormous drain of time for families. Garey and Valerie Ramey’s NBER/Brookings paper “The Rug Rat Race” (72-page PDF) suggests that our culture of intensive parenting is driven by competition for college admissions. They find a pronounced rise in time spent on child rearing since the mid 1990s concentrated among college-educated parents. Tellingly, the pattern does not hold in Canada, which has a less hierarchical college system. Nor does the pattern apply to underrepresented minorities, whom colleges already seek and who experience diminishing marginal returns to résumé-polishing. To treat time spent raising kids as a problem sounds heartless, but when the increased time consists of chauffeuring kids from activity to activity or “helping” them with projects, this is a brutal war of attrition against rivals to the meritocratic elite, not quality family time. In the long run, this may lead not only to endless stress for parents and kids alike, but also to lower fertility, since if you make something more costly, you get less of it.

The sick irony is that giving great weight to well-roundedness and character is seen as egalitarian. Test prep serves the role of Satan in the theodicy of meritocracy, a ready explanation for the association between test scores and social class of origin. What this myth overlooks is that most scholarly studies of test prep estimate that it raises SAT scores by a piddling couple dozen points out of 1600. Nonetheless, our suspicion of the SAT’s well-known association with household income provides an egalitarian rationale for the regressive turn to all variety of precocious “achievement” as the basis of college admissions, as if test scores could be bought but résumé-padding could not.

. . .

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a plutocratic elite preening to college admissions officers about how sophisticated and nuanced it is, forever.

Elite High Schools Plot to Undermine College Admissions

For an alternative, see DECA:

– “Owning Their Future: The Joy of DECA, Part I

– “Inspiration in a Blue Blazer: The Joy of DECA, Part II

It is interesting to observe the moral preening among parents as they attempt to get their children into the “best” schools.

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