In Tyler on December 11, 2012 at 11:00 am
Stanley Fish writes about higher education:
The tension between a market model and a Socratic model was nicely captured by two statements Spar made in succession. The first warmed my heart: “We want to teach students things they don’t want to know.” That is, rather than regarding students as consumers (all the rage these days in places like England and Texas), we should regard them as yet-to-be-formed intellects who are often best served by saying no to their desires — as we have traditionally. But then Spar immediately added, “Yet, we can’t be too removed from the marketplace.”
In Tyler on December 3, 2012 at 11:00 am
Ross Douthat’s recent New York Times article is making the rounds on the internet. Writing about birth rates in the U.S., he says:
Beneath these policy debates, though, lie cultural forces that no legislator can really hope to change. The retreat from child rearing is, at some level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion — a decadence that first arose in the West but now haunts rich societies around the globe. It’s a spirit that privileges the present over the future, chooses stagnation over innovation, prefers what already exists over what might be. It embraces the comforts and pleasures of modernity, while shrugging off the basic sacrifices that built our civilization in the first place.
Such decadence need not be permanent, but neither can it be undone by political willpower alone. It can only be reversed by the slow accumulation of individual choices, which is how all social and cultural recoveries are ultimately made.
For this population replenishment challenge, rather than calling for a second baby boom, Adam Ozimek sees opportunity for immigration. He writes:
But of course immigrants also can be tomorrow’s taxpayers, workers, and entrepreneurs; and they can keep the ratio of workers per retiree up as well. Even better, immigrants arrive here as workers and skip past the whole taking and not giving stage of childhood through adolescence. If you want to apply the conservative meme of makers vs takers most accurately then apply to adults and children. Having more babies may be economically positive, but surely if we could give birth to fully formed adults their net economic contribution would go up. And that is effectively what immigrants are: fully formed adults who enter our country ready to work without having required anything from us first, unlike those needy takers we call America’s children…
Yet if immigrants have similar effects as having babies but with more positive net economic contribution, then why fuss about “Government’s power over fertility”, which Douthat recognizes is “limited, but not nonexistent”? Our power to increase immigration in contrast is both massive and cheap: all we have to do is stop getting in the way.
In Tyler on September 19, 2012 at 2:00 pm
Ryan Avent has some sentiments related to the “47%” comment that resonate with me:
To me, this perfectly illustrates the massive blind spot in current GOP orthodoxy. The belief that there is an irreconcilable conflict between government benefits and the freedom to pursue dreams can only arise among those who have never had to worry about the reality of equality of opportunity in America. For most Americans, public schools are a critical piece of the machinery of economic mobility. Things like unemployment insurance and social security, meagre though they are, sometimes mean the difference between destitution and the possiblity of a second chance or a non-wretched standard of living. For many Americans, the ability to even contemplate dreams for a better life is down to the small cushion and basic investments provided by governments, provided for precisely that reason, because an economy in which only those born with a comfortable financial position can invest in human capital and take entrepreneurial risks is doomed to class-based calcification…
A party that can’t come up with a better answer to this dynamic than to conclude that half of America simply isn’t trying hard enough probably isn’t a party destined or deserving of electoral success.
I would like to think that this isn’t the actual view of the entire GOP (i.e. 33%+ of the populace), but the orthodoxy comment appears to be spot on.
In Tyler on September 17, 2012 at 11:00 am
Reihan Salam observes:
The reason these fault lines matter, or rather the reason these fault lines matter right now, is that, as Gabriel suggests, they complicate the critique of the president. The Frumian critique of the Obama administration is that he hasn’t done enough on housing, his approach to fiscal stimulus was wrongheaded, and his coverage expansion model is too expensive to be sustainable. The Tea Party critique, in contrast, is that he favors a radical expansion of the size and power of government that threatens our constitutional order. The nationalist critique is that he has emboldened our enemies by apologizing for America, and his defense cuts will limit our ability to project power. A Jacksonian realist, on the other hand, might argue that the president hasn’t been enough of a realist. That there are tensions and contradictions between these critiques is obvious.
Responding to some of Salam’s skepticism of the veracity of the market monetarist argument, Adam Ozimek writes:
For my part I surely overemphasize high skilled immigration as a potential solution to our problems. But like many of the most vocal proponents of market monetarism, you shouldn’t interpret the percentage of my blogging that is about high skilled immigration as necessarily proportional to how important I see it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really, really important. But I talk about it all the time in part because it’s vastly underdiscussed by everyone else. This, I think, reflects the lack of reasonable debate that can be had about it. It’s pretty clear it would be really good for this country, and the benefits greatly exceed the costs. But just because writing about high skilled immigration doesn’t give us lots of chances to battle smart ideological opponents and demonstrate our cleverness does not mean we shouldn’t write about it all the time.
So to synthesize all of this, Republicans are a diverse crowd (Surprise!) and they don’t quite realize how much the disagree with each other, but oversimplification may be the cause of the apparent differences (although the differences are real on some level) and – at least on some level – simplification for the purpose of driving a debate is legitimate. I (probably not surprisingly) think I can buy into that complex, caveat ridden narrative.
In Tyler on August 31, 2012 at 2:30 pm
Earlier I wrote about rhetorical misuse facts and truth; this political strategy is contributing to some of the ruptures in society. There is another separation though that David Brooks highlights in his column today. He writes:
[T]oday’s Republican Party unabashedly celebrates this ambition and definition of success. Speaker after speaker at the convention in Tampa, Fla., celebrated the striver, who started small, struggled hard, looked within and became wealthy. Speaker after speaker argued that this ideal of success is under assault by Democrats who look down on strivers, who undermine self-reliance with government dependency, who smother ambition under regulations…
…But there is a flaw in the vision the Republicans offered in Tampa. It is contained in its rampant hyperindividualism. Speaker after speaker celebrated the solitary and heroic individual. There was almost no talk of community and compassionate conservatism. There was certainly no conservatism as Edmund Burke understood it, in which individuals are embedded in webs of customs, traditions, habits and governing institutions…
…The fact is our destinies are shaped by social forces much more than the current G.O.P. is willing to admit. The skills that enable people to flourish are not innate but constructed by circumstances.
In Tyler on August 28, 2012 at 11:00 am
The debate is introduced by the moderator saying:
[W]hy should arts funding be the government’s responsibility? Some are quick to argue that tax dollars are better spent on keeping the streets safe and the lights on, not on enabling plays and paintings of subjective merit. Though arts subsidies in America are a fraction of the funds provided by many European governments, Mitt Romney recently pledged to end them all if he is elected president. If there is a demand for such things, the argument goes, the market will keep them around.
The ongoing debate at The Economist (linked above) is obviously about public funding of the arts. It’s an issue that hasn’t been discussed very much in the United States but is often very polarizing when it does become the topic of conversation. Not surprisingly, that is the direction that the online debate is taking as well.
In Tyler on August 7, 2012 at 11:00 am
Dan Ariely reveals some very interesting findings about actual, perceived and preferred wealth distribution. He writes in The Atlantic:
With this in mind, from the total pie of wealth (100%) what percent do you think the bottom 40% (that is, the first two buckets together) of Americans possess? And what about the top 20%? If you guessed around 9% for the bottom and 59% for the top, you’re pretty much in line with the average response we got when we asked this question of thousands of Americans.
The reality is quite different. Based on Wolff (2010), the bottom 40% of the population combined has only 0.3% of wealth while the top 20% possesses 84% (see Figure 2). These differences between levels of wealth in society comprise what’s called the Gini coefficient, which is one way to quantify inequality…
We found that the ideal distribution described by this representative sample of Americans was dramatically more equal than exists anywhere in the world, with 32% of wealth belonging to the wealthiest quintile down to 11% by the poorest.
There are also some lengthy Rawls references.
In Tyler on July 25, 2012 at 11:00 am
This morning’s AM Reads included a post by Adam Ozimek at Modeled Behavior that suggests the NYC soda ban has had unintended consequences. He writes about a business owner who has thousands of dollars poured into large drink containers of which he will now have to rid himself. But isn’t that the point of the ban? How is expelling large containers from NYC not an obvious (and intended) consequence of a ban on such containers?
The debate over preferences for and the utility of large soda containers certainly has merit. It may be that a ban on serving drinks that have 25 calories per 8 ounces of liquid in a 16 or more ounce container is not optimal for the people of New York. Of course there are other options. Drink sales taxes by the ounce? Or perhaps by the calorie? The city could simply find the optimal level of taxation for achieving their desired consequence. This still means that Mr. Goldman from the Ozimek post overpaid for his soft drink containers; still, maybe he will save money in the long run when his friends and neighbors that are on the margin of debilitating obesity are able to remain in the workforce at some point in the future.
Only time will tell if Michael Bloomberg’s intended unintended consequence will actually make New Yorkers healthier.
In Tyler on July 23, 2012 at 2:00 pm
The Democracy in America blog looks at some of the philosophical issues underlying gun rights. The blogger writes:
Perhaps American supporters of gun rights would say that in fact people in every country do have a natural right to bear arms, but their enjoyment of that natural right is denied them by oppressive governments in countries like Britain, France, Canada, Israel, the Netherlands and Japan. Meanwhile, the so-called “right” to health insurance enjoyed by citizens of those countries is presumably only a fake right which they do not in fact possess. This just doesn’t seem to be a satisfactory explanation. Is the problem that we use the word “right” in two ways, meaning in one sense an inalienable moral consideration which we believe all humans possess regardless of the context of government in which they live, and in another sense an enforceable claim within a country’s legal system which commands government and other persons to guarantee certain kinds of treatment to every citizen? Which kind of right would the right to health insurance be? Which kind is the right to bear arms?