Do this. The folks out in Bozeman are terrific. The scenery is not half bad either. Same for the beer.
The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design. – F.A. Hayek
From this morning’s perusal of the fresh academic literature (the papers are gated, but worth perusing should you track down a free version). In my less bloggy retired days I’d pull out excerpts for you.
In my inbox today (I have no idea how it even got to me, by the way, as a grad student at Cornell, they UAW tried to unionize me):
Hi Michael –
“Being an adjunct can be an isolating experience. Our schedules alone discourage interaction with one another. However, stories I’ve heard from fellow contingent faculty since I became involved in the adjunct unionization efforts– little job security, lack of benefits, the struggle to get by on sometimes astonishingly low wages — has led to a growing awareness of our shared contingent status. Coming together with fellow adjunct faculty, I recognized a way forward to a better future through unity and collective action.”
That’s Rebecca Gibson, an adjunct instructor at Tufts University, who joined with her fellow contingent faculty members at Tufts University this past fall and formed a union with Adjunct Action, a project of Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
Adjuncts in New York State experience the same set of issues as adjuncts in Boston and across the country; work doesn’t stop at the classroom door, but the pay and benefits often do. Adjunct and contingent faculty, who make up 70% of instructional faculty nationwide, spend many hours outside of the classroom preparing for courses, supporting and assessing student performance, and designing curriculums, yet are left without job security, adequate pay, and a voice within the higher educational system.
That’s why adjunct professors across New York State are coming together to form a union with SEIU. We believe that together we can build the strong voice we need to raise standards for our profession, strengthen our voice in the university system, and improve the quality of education for our students.
Click here to sign an authorization card indicating that you’re ready to fight for higher standards at your school. Once you’ve signed, an organizer will be in touch to let you know what the next steps of the campaign are. [adjunctaction.nationbuilder.
SEIU represents 18,000 adjunct professors across the country, a number that continues to grow. Adjuncts at American University, George Washington University and Montgomery College have all seen significant improvement in their working conditions after forming a union with SEIU. And the movement is spreading. Georgetown University adjuncts voted in May to join SEIU. In Boston, adjuncts at Tufts University voted to form a union in September. Whittier College in Los Angeles voted to unite in SEIU in December. Union elections are underway or soon commencing at Lesley University in Boston, the University of La Verne and Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
A New York Times article from December said “The SEIU strategy has the momentum right now” when it comes to adjunct organizing.
SEIU Local 200United
Copyright © 2013 Adjunct Action
All rights reserved.
1800 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036
This email was sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
[adjunctaction.nationbuilder. com] [adjunctaction.nationbuilder. com]
Much of my “leisure” time has been spent in the ecology and climate literature of late. One thing is really startling for me, especially among the moralistic aspects of environmental policy. Climate activists and policymakers seem to indicate that the “baseline” or “right” climate is that which existed between 1960 and 1980. After all, that is what many of the “anomalies” are measured against. Of course there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that, and to measure changes you need to have something to compare it to.
But this choice of years is awkward given the rhetoric you see in the ecology literature, particularly among the activists. You will not have to look hard to find the idea that people either are or are close to being planet cancers, and that we are
unnaturally” violating the planet in many ways unmentionable. Regardless of your own view on that, people are certainly permitted to hold that view.
But, then I find that view awkward when placed in the context that the “right” climate against which to measure current “anomalies” is a time period when man seems to have been at his extractive and destructive best, and not some time period, such as 300 million years ago, when we were not around.
Awkward. We’ll be dedicating some future posts to the ecology I’ve been reading, including the idea of a “balance of nature” and whether such an idea even makes sense.
Female life expectancy in the U.S. is about 3 years longer than that for men.
Females are more likely to attend, and graduate from, university, than men.
Females are earning more doctoral degrees than men, even in 33 of the “hard science” STEM fields.
Females are hugely less likely to be injured or killed on the job than men. (see slides 8 and 9)
Females make up only 23% of homicide victims in America and are consequently three times less likely to be murdered than their male counterparts.
just showing you some data, that’s all. In other news, the AP continues to be a reprehensible joke:
The show has struck a strong chord in a nation fresh out of recession and still reeling from its most brutal austerity measures in a generation, with basic public services trimmed drastically.
I’ll let you poke around the web to see what “most brutal” means. Aside from the “author” not citing a single piece of data for such a claim, even on the public services claim, it’s almost hysterical to then go on to read an article about people receiving state benefits with no mention, even, if those have been trimmed.
One of my new years’ resolutions was to read less news and blog less … my health is likely to improve if I keep to it.
Austen Frakt thinks so:
I’m simultaneously more cynical and practical. First the cynical: we’ll never have honest intellectual debate.
Can Avik and I have an honest intellectual debate about whether Medicaid helps or harms people, about whether Singapore’s low health spending is due more to the nature of its insurance and provider markets or to government intervention in them, about whether raising the Medicare retirement age is a helpful cost control step? He’s as familiar about my views on these issues as I am about his. We’ve gone back and forth on these issues for years, and I’ve never come close feeling like we have had an honest intellectual debate. My guess is that he hasn’t either, though he can correct me if I’m wrong. Yet, I bet we both likely feel that we, ourselves, are engaging honestly with each other and the evidence.
I think this is why people hate “dogmatic” economists because “our”insistence on understanding whether an outcome is efficient forces us into an honest intellectual debate about what our actual values are. Furthermore, I find the comment above by Frakt to be pretty incredible. If we have not come close to feeling like we are having an honest intellectual debate, then just say so at the outset of said debate. I’ve largely stopped blogging and doing speaking engagements in part because I don’t think people are interested in having an honest intellectual debate.
On the other hand, and I think this is a Humean point, I am not sure we need to have honest intellectual debate. If the social sciences have any resemblance at all to the “real” sciences, then all it takes is a vast and rigorous amount of experimentation with different ideas and we may end up seeing selection of the better ones, independent of the nature of the debate. I’m not sure I’m convinced by that, but it is one reason, perhaps, not to be worked up about the nature of our debate today. As always there is way more to say about this topic than a few paragraphs.
Jan 17th, 2014 by wintercow20
If I am not mistaken, a loyal reader and good fellow, is a part of the family:
In this short Youtube clip, author and food activist Michael Pollan argues:
Milk will always be the maximum number of paces from the door, and the reason is that most people want to get a quart of milk and they want them to pass as many other things as possible on the way — so the path to the milk will have many, many temptations along the way.
Now, for a very good microeconomic discussion of the idea that supermarkets are exploiting people by putting milk at the back of the store, I recommend this Econtalk discussion between Russ Roberts and Mike Munger. There is much to learn from the discussion and much to say about the economics of the placement of milk. It is a great question to get students understanding the methodology of good economics. A good microeconomist will ask first, “how can this outcome be explained as a result of rational, optimizing behavior?” And as part of their consideration of this question, they’d want to ask, “are there any EASY opportunities by actors in my scenario that are NOT being taken advantage of?” That second question is where Pollan goes awry.
But I don’t want to comment on that here. I want to point out something I think Russ and Munger didn’t discuss – and that is the implications of the argument, granting that it is true. Long-time readers know that I am perhaps irrationally obsessed with consistency. At least I recognize my faults there. But consider again what Pollan is saying here in contrast to the general tone of some of his writings and much of the foodie and behavior literature. The tone is this – that Americans are too irrational, or lazy, or otherwise uninformed to make healthy food and lifestyle choices for themselves.
Couple that idea with the message implicit in Pollan’s argument above: milk is healthy.
And we end up in yet another twisty pretzel don’t we? And what is that pretzel?
As a general foodie matter or even a paternalistic matter, people are too lazy or irrational to seek and eat healthy foods. Yet at the same time, supermarkets are taking advantage of customers by placing a healthy food item that we all need and want and make great efforts to secure, by placing it at the back of the store – and lure us past all of the sugary, unhealthy, high profit-margin pre-packaged items along the way. That’s a bit awkward, no?
As a final point about milk. It’s not healthy in any objective measure. Go check out how much sugar is in a typical glass of milk and then ask yourselves why soft drinks are banned from schools and milk is provided.
One would hope that such an observation was obvious, but take any given daily reading of a newspaper that covers national politics and economic matters and you’d be led to believe that the U.S. is a homogeneous, cozy easily coordinated place that should and can be like other countries to which it is regularly compared.
The largest European country, Germany, has a little more than a quarter of the US population (about 80 million to our 317 million). And Germany is far smaller geographically than the US, and certainly far more homogeneous. What about other places the US is often (negatively) compared to? Canada with its 35 million people is smaller than California with its nearly 40 million. Sweden with its 9.6 million is the same size as New York City and about the size of Georgia, Michigan or North Carolina. Or take Denmark, and Finland, and Norway – almost everyone’s favorite “European model” countries – each with populations in the low to mid 5 millions – about the same size as Wisconsin, Minnesota or Colorado.
If folks want to compare health care systems or educational systems or inequality or any other thing as such with other countries, they are certainly welcome to do so. But I gain nothing from this. Try putting the US in the comparison with all of Europe and then let’s have a discussion of how “fragmented and frayed the national political system is” here in the United States. Let’s compare the US to Europe and describe how fragmented and frayed the medical system is. And let’s talk about the stagnating jobs picture. Or the development of comprehensive environmental policy, or educational performance. There is no need to describe the zillion ways that the nation of the US is different than the “states” of Finland, Sweden and so on.
Finally, if you want to discuss how much regulation we have, the tax burden we have, and so on, wouldn’t it make sense to ADD up all of the local, city, state and federal regulations and taxes and then compare these to what we see over in Europe? This is presumably not a herculean task, the data is out there, but rarely have I confronted much in the news and popular press that even suggests this sort of a thing as a caveat.
This entire post is actually a waste of time, as I don’t really think we ought to care much how “we” stack up against other political entities. Furthermore, I take this fascination with comparing the US to other political entities somewhat hysterically given how absolutely opposed we seem to be to doing the Madisonian thing here – remember that fancy idea of a whole bunch of little state-level experiments and that federalism thing? Are the ObamaCare planners learning from Oregon and Maine and Massachusetts? Are we making it possible for the 50 US states to implement their own educational, health, retirement, disability, etc. policies? After all, we probably could learn more from ourselves than others. If we are so hesitant to learn from ourselves, and to experiment within our smaller and more homogeneous jurisdictions, then why the fascination with very different, tiny, European places?
Arnold Kling has this today:
[we need] policies that restore a situation where reasonable growth and reasonable interest rates can coincide. To start, this means ending the disastrous trends toward ever less government spending and employment each year
By 2038, CBO projects, federal spending would increase to 26 percent of GDP under the assumptions of the extended baseline*, compared with 22 percent in 2012 and an average of 20½ percent over the past 40 years.
Did you two visit the same country?
*The “extended baseline” is an unrealistic scenario, which includes spending cuts that are embedded in current law but unlikely to be retained by Congress. The more realistic “alternative fiscal scenario” projects even higher spending relative to GDP.
If “we” are all going to agree to be civil to one another in our discussions, and if “we” are all going to try to be less “divisive” in our approaches, then can you explain the above to me? I am not interested in hearing about people being idiots or party line hacks. Larry Summers is a fantastic economist, he has a career of writing very reasonable things, he has written things that irritate both left and right (though he is generally thought of as a man of the left) and he is surely aware of what the data looks like. So, can there be a reasonable argument made that government is getting smaller? If so, can one show me the data? If you combine all local, city, state and federal spending, rules, regulations, employment, is there something that I would learn from a better exposition of the situation than the lines of an OpEd? And beyond questioning whether Mr. Summers begs the data question, is it really the case that the trend, if true, is “disaterous?” Indeed, the crux of macro right now is that it is not clear at all – just look at the debates among macroeconomists about whether the fiscal “austerity” from last year were bad given the strong GDP growth we saw during the year (google monetary offset if you want to learn more).
Ultimately, does all of this have to be about narrative? Is there a place, or SHOULD there be a place, for less passionate discussion of things like this? I am increasingly nihilistic about what I can accomplish in a classroom at least from an intellectual standpoint. For the things that are uncontroversial, I suspect students are not interested in it. For things that seem to separate people by which tribe they are in, reason, data, empirical evidence, solid logic, etc. don’t have any bearing on how they think about it.
Why is narrative so powerful? And what sorts of things can we do in a classroom to avoid treading in those murky water? For example, if I were teaching micro right now and asked kids to draw a government intertemporal budget constraint, the second I write the term “government” we drop down the rabbit hole.