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Let’s Go Red!

Wherein Cornell tries to put the locomotive back on the tracks. I doubt it will do much, it may be performative too, but at least they are recognizing the cancer.

Cornell Policy Statement on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech and Expression

Cornell University respects and is committed to fundamental principles of academic freedom and rights of freedom of speech and expression as set forth in the following Statement and in other Cornell policies.Freedoms to engage in research and scholarship, to teach and to learn, to express oneself and to be heard, and to assemble and to protest peacefully and lawfully, are essential to the function of the University as an educational institution.

The entire thing is here.

Economist Thomas Sowell writes in Discrimination and Disparities:

A study titled The Poor Pay More saw the poor in general as “exploited consumers,” taken advantage of by stores located in low-income neighborhoods. (Here are two studies, here and here). This view was echoed in the media, in government and in academic publications. Yet, because many low income neighborhoods are also high-crime neighborhoods, The Poor Pay More committed an all too common error in assuming that the cause of some undesirable outcome can be determined by where the statistical data were collected.

In this case, researchers collected price data in the neighborhood stores. But the causes of those high prices were not the people who posted those prices in the stores. Moreover, while prices were higher in inner-city, low-income neighborhood stores, rates of profit on investments in such stores were not higher than average but lower than average

For people unaware of these facts, the higher prices may be seen as simply “price gouging” by “greedy” store owners — discriminate against minority neighborhoods. For those who see the situation this way, higher prices may appear to be a problem that the government could solve by imposing price controls, as a Harlem newspaper suggested during the 1960s furor over revelations that “the poor pay more.” But if businesses in these neighborhoods do not recover higher costs of doing business there in the prices they charge, the prospect of having to go out of business is high. There is often a dearth of businesses in low-income, high-crime neighborhoods, which would hardly be the case if there were higher rates of profit being made from the higher prices charged in such neighborhoods.

It may be no consolation to those law-abiding citizens in a high crime neighborhood that the higher prices they have to pay are reimbursing higher costs of doing business where they live. Meanwhile, politicians and local activists have every incentive to claim that the higher prices are due to discrimination, in the sense of Discrimination II, even when in fact the community is simply paying additional costs generated by some residents in that community.

Those local residents who created none of those costs can be victims of those who did, rather than being victims of those who charged the resulting higher prices. This is not just an abstract philosophical point or a matter of semantics. The difference between understanding the source of the higher prices and mistakenly blaming those who charged those prices is the difference between doing things to lessen the problem and doing things likely to make the problem worse by driving more much-needed businesses out of the neighborhood. The difference between Discrimination IB and Discrimination II is not just an academic distinction.

Although higher prices in low-income neighborhoods discussed in the context of racial or ethnic minorities, the same economic consequences have been found where the people in the low-income neighborhoods were white. As the Cincinnati Enquirer often reported: “Residents of eastern Kentucky refer to the higher prices and interest rates common in their area as the hillbilly tax. Among the things that might be done to reduce the burden of unfairness to law-abiding residents of high-crime neighborhoods could be stronger law enforcement by the police and the courts. But, to the extent that the public both inside and outside the affected communities – sees the high prices as Discrimination II against the affected community as a whole, due to bias or antipathy by the larger society, the imposition of stronger law enforcement may be seen as just another imposition of injustice on the affected communities.

In short, whether people believe that higher prices in low income, high-crime neighborhoods are due to Discrimination II or to empirically-based decisions matters in terms of which policies to reduce the unfair burdens on law-abiding residents are politically feasible. Community or ethnic solidarity can be a major obstacle to seeing, believing or responding to the facts.

Crime is not the only reason why prices are higher in many low income neighborhoods. To someone unfamiliar with economics, it may seem strange that a store in a low-income neighborhood can be struggling to survive, while selling a product for a dollar that Walmart is getting rich selling for 75 cents. But the costs of running a business are among the many things that are neither equal nor random. Walmart’s costs are lower in many ways, of which safer locations are just one.

Even if a local store charging a dollar is making 15 cents gross profit per item, while Walmart is making only 10 cents, if Walmart’s inventory turnover rate is three times as high, then in a given time period Walmart is making 30 cents selling that item, while the local store is making 15 cents. Walmart’s inventory turnover rate is in fact higher than that of even some other big box chain stores, and much higher than that of a local neighborhood store, where the same item may sit on the shelf much longer before being sold.

What that image depicts is what share of an “adequate family of four budget” that a minimum wage earner would make if she worked full-time (52 weeks @ 40 hours). That budget was determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and included what it costs to purchase goods, rents and services, payment of personal taxes, Social Security deductions and nominal allowances for occupational expenses and life insurance.

There has never been a time when the minimum wage covered more than 56% of an adequate budget in any city for a family of four. Arguments today that the minimum wage was historically “enough” to provide for a family are just not accurate.

What I found most interesting in this chart is the implied cost of raising a family in New York City. During WWII, it was the most expensive among the cities shown, at least in terms of how easy a minwage job could provide for a family. Then notice the mobility, NYC rises to middle of the pack by the time the Best and Brightest were starting to wreak havoc on us all. Indeed, NYC was more affordable than Buffalo, and I would presume Rochester as well.

Trusting the Science


Pasted from Twitter, sorry it can use a lot of editing …

So, no one is willing to have an open and public conversation about who, exactly, is reticent about getting the COVID vaccine. It’s not a surprise to any person of good faith who is willing to actually ask questions

And hey “science is real” people, that includes social science. But if you do not wish to say that lockdowns and closures and everything will end after the vaccine is rolled out, if you do not say that mask wearing will end, if you do not say that life will “return to normal”

or whatever the heck that means, then are you SHOCKED SHOCKED! when a large chunk of Americans won’t be vaccinated. Seriously, you are thinking that hundreds of millions of altruists are out there willing to vaccinate themselves in order to protect other people? Then you are an

absolute “science denier” (that’s your term fwiw, not mine). And as a science denier, if you do not understand that millions of Americans worry about the kind of lives they get to live, not being CRYSTAL clear and honest that we will open sports stadiums and bars and schools and

end the damn mask scolding is simply going to make it far less likely that people will get the vaccines. One reason I think this continues is that many of the “trust the science” folks seem not to ever communicate with the people who are not excited to get the vaccines. You know,

like, “trusting the science” means you try to understand ALL of your patients. But no clear timelines or guidelines are coming forth. And don’t think “we need more time” … it’s been a year. And this is coming from a compliant mask wearer (where required) and jab recipient.

On Self-Delusion

From the excellent James Baldwin:

“The importance of a writer is continuous; I think it’s socially debatable and usually socially not terribly rewarding, but that’s not the point; his importance, I think, is that he is here to describe things which other people are too busy to describe. It is a function, let’s face it, it’s a special function. There is no democracy on this level. It’s a very difficult thing to do, it’s a very special thing to do and people who do it cannot by that token do many other things. But their importance is, and the importance of writers in this country now is this, that this country is yet to be discovered in any real sense. There is an illusion about America, a myth about America to which we are clinging which has nothing to do with the lives we lead and I don’t believe that anybody in this country who has really thought about it or really almost anybody who has been brought up against it-and almost all of us have one way or another—this collision between one’s image of oneself and what one actually is is always very painful and there are two things you can do about it, you can meet the collision head-on and try and become what you really are or you can retreat and try to remain what you thought you were, which is a fantasy, in which you will certainly perish. Now, I don’t want to keep you any longer. But I’d like to leave you with this, I think we have some idea about reality which is not quite true.”

“White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that Biden’s goal is for more than 50% of schools to have “some teaching” in person “at least one day a week” – not necessarily fully reopened – by Day 100 of his presidency.”

We are living in a failed state. Have a nice day. My prediction is that 2021 will be worse than 2020.

World Politics Hitting Close to Home.


Bobo is a friend and fellow employee at the institution I worked at before I got to the U of Rochester. He is one of the kindest, hardest working individuals I have ever known. He came to America after being incarcerated for several years as a political prisoner in Myanmar (Burma). He started in the US working in Berkshire County Massachusetts taking any job he could, while earning his undergraduate and graduate degrees and came to work as a researcher for American Investment Services.

He re-entered Myanmar several times at great risk to assist his family, an even started an orphanage following the cyclone in 2008 in which over 80,000 people perished. He went on to earn his PhD in London and until recently has served as Governor of Myanmar’s Central Bank.

He has now been re-imprisoned following the recent military coup.

This is a man who truly knows the value of freedom because for most of his life he lived without it.

Please encourage your congressional representatives to seek the release of Bobo Nge. Here is some suggested language: “

I am writing to express my concern for the safety of Bo Bo Nge who was arrested and has been detained in the military coup and crackdown in Myanmar, and to ask that you do all you can to seek his release. Mr. Nge is a true friend of freedom and democracy. After many years in the United States he returned to his native Burma to lend his education and technical expertise in the building of a free civil society and institutions. He deserves to be free.”

Worth While

Arnold Kling hits this one out of the park. Here he is on “creating worthlessness”:

The gap between the college-educated and the less-educated is arguably due to differential treatment by government programs and billionaire philanthropists. We create a well-paying job for a college-educated ZMP in the “sustainability office” of a government agency or industry trade group. Then that sustainability office destroys a less-educated worker’s high-paying job related to fossil fuels and tells the resulting ZMP to find employment installing solar panels.

The Dude Abides.

And is dead.

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