Linky Friday #81

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

Related Post Roulette

144 Responses

  1. LeeEsq says:

    M2- How many of them are living with their parents because of no job or a low paying one?

    M1-Historical preservation has gotten ridiculous and is just being used to foster NIMBYism. There are architectural gems that should be preserved but the vast majority of DC row houses or Brooklyn brownstones aren’t those buildings.Report

  2. LeeEsq says:

    Related to A1-

    To an extent I disagree with this article. China has learned from America’s mistakes when it comes to transportation at least by not entirely focusing on the car. In a very short time, China has built lots of metro systems and continues to do so. They have also invested a lot in their intra-city rail system. Its just that lots of Chinese citizens seem to really like the idea of driving and suburbia even if those ideas might have some severe ecological consequences. Even in an authoritarian country, you can’t totally control what citizenry desires. Especially if there are 1.3 billion of them.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to LeeEsq says:

      The global evidence seems to be that once people become rich enough, a substantial majority of them want single-family dwellings and personal local transportation. And lots of meat on the supper table. I don’t know why everyone keeps laughing at me when I point that out to them.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq says:


      Isn’t it curious how people are so readily capable of recognizing others’ false consciousness?

      Although I do remember a conversation that began with me making that comment, which then continued thus:

      Him: Of course I have false consiousness, we all do.
      Me: So if you’re aware of it, why don’t you do something about it?
      Him: There’s nothing you can do about it!
      Me: So why are you criticizing anyone for having it?

      I find false consciousness among the least useful concepts ever developed. At base it’s just another term for the reality that humans are socially malleable. We’re a social species, culture creating, with an extended adolescence during which we learn how to live, rather than being primarily instinctual, so of course we believe what we’re taught to believe, whether the teaching is conscious and intentional or unconscious and not a purposeful intententional act by anyone.

      But the concept of false consciousness is also self-contradictory, because it assumes a true consciousness, something that is independent of the society (although the well-designed society can inculcate it). However, as a vision of right-consciousness it is itself a social product, which crimps its claim to being universal truth.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to James Hanley says:

        The false consciousness thing always bugged me. Its a way to dismiss the fact that other people have different desires, preferences, and beliefs. It also lets people off the hook too easily for any bad choices. The same goes for the body politic in aggregate.

        That being said, even though I do not believe in the idea of false consciousness, I also recognize that people’s preferences can have negative effects in the aggregate. Focusing on the car as the dominate mode of transportation had a negative effect in many cities. At the very least, it would have been considerably cheaper to modernize the tram cities like German cities did rather than having to rebuild them from scratch.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        I also recognize that people’s preferences can have negative effects in the aggregate.

        Oh, sure. There are some trivially easy examples, too. The difficulty is that we quibble over the non-trivial examples. For example, while I agree with you that it would be cheaper to improve mass transit than rebuild a city, one might argue that if the populace has a strong enough preference for cars over trams, the expense of rebuilding was worth it. (I’d be on your side in having a different preference, though.)Report

  3. T2 [Devil’s Advocate]: I kind of remember the movie, and frankly wasn’t too impressed with it. My love of Pacino is counterbalanced by his occasional overacting, which was in evidence in the movie.

    But I have a hard time seeing how a series would come out of it. Would the lawyer be tempted by his boss/devil every episode? Would he be the good guy lawyer who represents a client besieged by the devil?Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

      I’ve always thought that a movie titled “The Devil’s Advocate” would be really interesting.

      I don’t know what it’d be about… but the title would be interesting!Report

    • Hero must be unaware that his boss is actually the devil. Weekly, he is tasked as part of his employment to achieve evil results, but finds a way to do good nevertheless. Plot arc shows the threads of his good deeds coming together to work some greater evil in the season-ending cliffhanger. Also, Hero’s wife figures out the boss is actually the devil well before the hero does.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

      666 Park Avenue was very similar to The Devil’s Advocate, but with a horror-story feel. I thought The Devil’s Advocate was a really good movie, really powerful. It’s weird, I’ve told people that I couldn’t recommend it because of some objectionable content, but I think it should be mandatory viewing for third-year seminarians.Report

    • Basically the plot of the movie, dragged out. The movie seemed rushed, so I think that a series could be ideal.

      I partially disagree about Pacino’s performance. There are some parts that being over the top works out well. His role in Any Given Sunday is one example, and playing Satan is another. I say “partially” because a more quiet and menacing Satan could be remarkable and awesome.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Will Truman says:

        ” a more quiet and menacing Satan could be remarkable and awesome”

        See: Mads Mikkelson as Hannibal (he’s stated he plays him as Lucifer, which is the only explanation for the improbable s**t he somehow pulls off), or Gary Cole’s Sheriff Buck in American Gothic – such a charming, affable fiend.Report

    • j r in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

      At a certain point, the whole reason to see an Al Pacino was to see him overact. Pretty much from Scent of a Woman on he’s been doing an Al Pacino impersonation. And that is OK by me. I could watch Pacino doing Pacino reading the phone book.Report

  4. Glyph says:

    [C6] – Heh, I read this last week and bookmarked it to throw in here. Great minds.Report

  5. Chris says:

    [S4] We can compensate for this by just getting rid of all cats.

    Wait, did I just violate some sort of internet rule? My computer is acting funReport

    • Glyph in reply to Chris says:

      Sometimes I like to pretend that I’m deaf and try to imagine what it would be like not to be able to hear birds.

      It’s not so bad.Report

      • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

        I love birds. I’m the person who’ll sit outside and watch a nighthawk dive for an hour.

        But, if someone proposed that we capture all of the great tailed grackles on the planet and make them fly over solar plants, I’d support the plan 100%.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        I’m just kidding, that’s a Larry David quote, I have nothing against birds.

        Except for seagulls. They will steal your food right out of your hand and then poop on you.

        Also, there is a rooster in my neighborhood that is apparently blind and thinks sunrise lasts ALL DAY. A true cock-up.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Glyph says:

        I support any plans you have to eradicate grackles. Although I will admit that when I lived in Austin and spent the occasional spring afternoon on the state capitol grounds, it was amusing to watch the aggressive males try to mount squirrels. Or pretty much anything else of roughly the right size that they could find.Report

      • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

        Michael, during the spring mating period, the males are so insane that they’ll display for humans who get in their territory, which always cracks me up (for those who’ve never been around great tailed grackles, their “territory” is often just a small area of about 10-15 feet in diameter).

        Right now we’re in that period where the young are pretty much fully grown, but still running around screaming, non-stop, for their parents (or any adults) to give them food. So annoying.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

        I like birds during day light hours. The ones that chirp outside my window at 4am? Not so much.Report

      • zic in reply to Glyph says:

        Grackles. Uggh. They migrate here, late may or early June. Lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, so that the other birds hatch and care for the young. Since the young tend to be bigger then the songbirds who actually built and care for the nest, they often push their nest-mates out, resulting in a clutch of grackles without any actual reproduction by the nesting pair.

        Ugly ugly birds. They remind me of humans, going around stinking up the place and destroying other species.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph says:


      • Kim in reply to Glyph says:

        Ravens will steal some cereal, and then crap in the bowl so you can’t eat any more.

        I’m pretty sure everyone in Texas has grackles on their “Enemies List” — bloke in Austin wrote a webcomic about that, I seem to recall…Report

      • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

        The grocery store nearest to my house (and therefore the one I used) for the first 10 years I lived in Austin was an HEB that was so overrun by grackles, particularly when they roost in huge flocks in the winter, that much of the parking lot was white. Huge sections of it smelled so bad that you’d lose your appetite before going into the grocery store (helped me spend less money, I suppose). And the noise of at times 10-20 thousand birds all talking to each other at the same time was deafening. And that wasn’t the worst spot in Austin (there were spots with probably in the neighborhood of 100k birds in the winter).

        My first experience with a great tailed grackle was the 3rd or 4th day I was in Austin. I was eating at the UT Student Union, on one of the picnic tables outside. A grackle landed on the other side of my table, walked across the table, took a fry out of the box of fries, then walked back to the other side of the table to eat it, looking at me the whole time like, “What are you going to do about it? Huh?”Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        I’m not kidding, seagulls have absolutely no fear and will brazenly steal food right out of your hand as it’s halfway to your mouth. I’ve lost both a sandwich and a slice of pizza. And they are too stupid to realize they can’t carry something that heavy, so it ends up on the ground. Or maybe they are smart enough to know once it’s on the ground you won’t eat it anyway (actually, I was so annoyed that I picked up the sand-covered sandwich and threw it in a covered garbage can. If I can’t have it, nobody can).Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Glyph says:

        Chris, I had exactly that same experience my first week on the UT campus in 1976.Report

      • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

        Thing about sea gulls is that they mean you probably live near the sea. Great tailed grackles? They just mean you live somewhere hot.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Chris says:

      Is an Ivanpah-style reflector-boiler solar plant more productive than setting up an equivalent space with photovoltaic cells?

      Is such a plant cheaper to construct than PV?Report

      • The strength of a solar tower approach is that it can be designed to come much closer to being a dispatchable power source than PV. The broad federal power regulation scheme strongly favors dispatchable sources. I often write that the scheme doesn’t allow the western states of the US to make maximum use of their renewable resources. But I don’t see any way to convince the feds to support one strategy in the East and a quite different one in the West.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Late add: is manufacturing PV more harmful to the environment than manufacturing the mirrors and sodium heating receptacles used in an Ivanpah-style solar plant? I’m strongly suspicious that there’s heavy metal discharges involved in both, for instance. And solar plants use more water than is immediately obvious to the casual observer.

        What I’m looking for is why the operators of these solar plants don’t use photovoltaic cell technology instead of calling down controversy on themselves with all the “streamers.”Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko says:

        @michael-cain our comments crossed. What is a “dispatchable” source? I infer that means it generates grid-ready electricity that doesn’t have to be run through a converter or a capacitor or some other such device; am I correct?Report

      • @burt-likko
        A dispatchable source is one which can deliver, absent some sort of equipment failure, a specified amount of power at an arbitrary time in the future (eg, 250 MW from 4:00-7:00 PM on the third Tuesday of next month). PV plants have problems with that, since they’re off-line for a good part of every day, and are subject to unpredictable events like cloud cover. A solar tower that accumulates heat in a thermal reservoir — eg, a large mass of molten salts — then uses the stored heat to boil water to drive a steam turbine can continue to operate overnight or during an unexpectedly cloudy morning.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I get it. Thanks, and thanks for using terms that liberal arts majors like me can understand.Report

      • Wardsmith in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Burt, another issue with PV is it produces DC when everything is geared to run on AC in the grid. So not only is it abysmally inefficient, but you lose even more in the DC to AC conversionReport

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Many PV cells require rare-earth materials (adding to the initial cost) & can be quite fragile (adding to the long term cost), and are much more sensitive to weather & surface fouling (scratches, layers of dirt & dust, etc.). Mirrors, on the other hand, are tough (made of common metals, no glass required) & much more robust in adverse conditions. The thermal plant can be quite expensive to build & operate (molten salts are a pretty decent stand in for lava, which makes handling them tricky), but can provide, as Michael says, dispatchable power.Report

      • I’m strongly suspicious that there’s heavy metal discharges involved in both, for instance.

        If there’s metal or pure elements derived from most any mined mineral in it, there’s related heavy metal discharges somewhere — pick a Western or Appalachian state and ask their environmental safety agency about what leaches out of mill sites, mine tailings, and abandoned hard-rock mines into both surface water and aquifers. The same applies to other low-carbon energy sources, of course. Based on unpleasant history, Colorado passed a new law this year that will make any future uranium operations in the state much more expensive because of the precautions that must be taken and performance bonds that must be posted to cover the cost of cleaning up accidents.Report

      • Contemporary utility scale DC-to-AC inverters run 95-98% efficient, call it a 2-5% loss. General thermal loss in a solar tower with molten-salt heat storage and heat transfer to a secondary steam turbine loop, plus loss in the turbine-driven generator, is probably similar. So the real comparison you want to make is between solar cell efficiency in the one design versus heat transfer from the mirror to the tower plus Rankine-cycle turbine efficiency in the other. Without doing any computations, I’d be willing to make a bet that they’re fairly close.

        So the decision comes down to other factors. For example, dispatchability is a plus for the solar tower; simplicity of design is a plus for the PV farm. With my systems engineering hat on, I’m inclined to think that PV’s big advantage isn’t in utility scale, but rather in exploiting its scalability to reduce demand for utility-scale grid sources. That is, reduce the typical suburban home’s daily direct grid consumption from the current 30 kWh to 15 kWh. Or keep it at 30 kWh despite powering local transportation with electricity. Or as is the case in my suburb, provide roughly half the power the water treatment plant needs.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

      The number of birds killed by wind and solar power combined is less than 1% that killed by cats. Add in cars, as well. We’re worrying about the wrong things, as usual.Report

  6. Chris says:

    [M3] Oh thank God!

    Though the reasons are pretty clear: they’re much cheaper, and have more entry level jobs for college-educated folk. Once they make enough, they’re going to move to Austin for a better job and a condo overlooking Ladybird Lake.Report

  7. [C3] – “He said the alleged scheme angers him, knowing police officers are held to a higher standard.”

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha *deep breath* hahahahahahahahaha *tears* hahahahahaReport

  8. veronica d says:

    E3 — As a non-college-goer, I’m glad to see employers more open to folks like me. It seems my industry has come around. My employer, for example, quite openly hires non-college-goers. They make a point of it.

    But then, software engineering is a weird field. It does not generalize.

    As an aside, the other day I was on a career panel for Girls Who Code, and the question of education came up. My advice: “Don’t do what I did.” The advice from the woman next to me: “If you get a good offer, skip school.”

    Anyway, for the women who in fact do what I did, I’m glad to see they have a better shot.Report

    • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to veronica d says:

      Yeah, when I was in IT, I had no formal training, it was all OJT & what I taught myself.

      Even now, I’m in development with a degree in Engineering Physics & a handful of CompSci classes under my belt, plus years of self study.

      Although I am about to start a Software Program Management Certificate, some things it’s good to take a class for.Report

      • veronica d in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        It was always my sense that IT type jobs were easier to get without college than Software Engineering type jobs. At least that is what I experienced back then, when I lived in a flat and dismal southern state. I could find IT jobs aplenty. Finding development jobs was bloody difficult. I finally broke through, but there were a lot of bad years.

        The only thing I had going for me back then is the patriarchy still thought I was a boy. Silly patriarchy.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        still thought I was a boy

        Well, DUH! Everyone knows girls can’t code or do IT.

        (MRS runs & hides before the woman who trained him finds him & kicks his ass with her very feminine boots).Report

  9. Burt Likko says:

    [C5] There’s a hole here: the author’s argument with his mother is interesting. Is meditation on the label “accident” is worth further exploration. And it’s clear that he still loves his brother. But I see nothing in there describing any interaction between the author and his brother concerning the shooting. Did they have a falling out over this? Have they reconciled? It seems evident that the author dances around offering his brothers perspective, and it’s not clear to me why he would do that. Most of the reasons I can speculate to are very unpleasant. If someone has the time to do some research and find some links to contemporaneous reporting about that shooting, that would be interesting to read.Report

  10. Saul Degraw says:

    C1: Munchausen by Proxy is not that uncommon unfortunately.

    C6: Fascinating. The guy is off the walls bonkers for trying to do this in Maine and I am honestly rather impressed that he survived for so long considering the general brutality of Maine winters.

    E1: Many Americans also use higher education and grad school to ride out recessions and slack labor markets. The only difference is that many Americans need to go into student loan debt to do so. There is also a theory that the reason America has a mass educated class is that many Boomers used college and grad school to get draft deferments and not serve in Vietnam. I can’t say I blame them. In the World According to Garp, John Iriving mentions that a lot of colleges sprung up during the 1960s as draft deferment tools and then folded as soon as Vietnam was over.

    E3: As I understand it, the big issue with for-profit colleges is that very few people actually graduate and they generally admit anyone. Do you remember the scandal about the librarian who quit working at a for-profit college because they admitted a guy with developmental disabilities and told him he could be a cop. The guy basically read and wrote at a third grade level.

    M2: Same question as Lee. How many people are living with their parents because they are under or unemployed?

    M4: I am not sure I completely buy it but I could see people who were maybe too young to vote for Barack Obama going for Romney but I don’t think it will be the super-conservatism of the Tea Party that they attract. Generally Millennials are like everyone else and have an all over the map and not very coherent political belief system. I think political types like us often overestimate how much time the average person thinks about politics by a lot. Most people really don’t bother to think whether belief X and belief Y are contradictory or not and whether this is a problem. That being said, I am either one of the last years of Generation X or one of the first year of the Millennials depending on who you ask.Report

    • greginak in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Münchhausen by Proxy is very rare. It is also very hard to officially diagnose since you are supposed to have solid proof a parent actually is harming their child. I’ve seen one possible case of MBP in my career. While several of us were pretty damn sure, and had a fair amount of proof, the mom was causing her child’s illness for her own needs it was never officially diagnosed.Report

      • zic in reply to greginak says:

        There was a case here. It was pretty freaky; the child’s parents had never lived together. The father, in looking at school records, noticed several doctors reports in the child’s files, and so started looking requesting them. Hundreds of diagnosis, telling one doc another had made the diagnosis and then going to others. Multiple medications that didn’t mix well. It took a good six months of cross-referencing all those files to actually build the information necessary for the diagnosis. The father, at that point, was granted custody.

        Thankfully the child thrives and will graduate this year.

        But I have never heard of anything like it before; knowingly polluting your kid’s body with multiple medications for made-up disease; not to mention the therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, and on and on that the poor kid went through.Report

      • greginak in reply to greginak says:

        Oh yeah it is shocking when you are seeing it happen. Its to long of a story to go over but in the case i had the little girl, age 2 or so, was failing to thrive for almost a year. Losing weight, often sick, no known cause. If it happened in a bigger place then Anchorage she might have been able to get away with it for longer since she would have had most hospitals to try. It was about keeping custody( she was in a custody dispute with the dad, which is how i got involved) and because she was, to use the technical term, just plain nuts. The dad ending up getting the kid and she started to thrive immediately.Report

    • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Re: School to ride out recessions

      I did that. Got the BS in 2000, when the market for engineers was sliding quite a bit. 9/11 just made it worse. Started Grad school in 2002. For me, though, it wasn’t so bad, since I had an IT Manager job that paid well enough & paid for most of my classes.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        I find it interesting that you decided to go to school even though you had a well-payed IT manager job. I usually associate going to school to ride out a recession with people who are unemployed or underemployed because it means being able to get student loans and living loans and this beats moving back in with mom and dad and theoretically getting skills. No one minds if someone is not working because they are in school. Employers do mind if people are not working because there is a recession or bad labor market.

        I think some people theorize that the law school crisis got worse for a while because more people were still heading to law school during the days of fiscal crisis and law firms failing. It took a few years for people to learn that going to law school might be a waste of time and resources.

        Of course no one has any answers for what young people should do if they happen to be in a bad economy. So going to school can be the least bad option.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        At the time, I had been working IT jobs for about 5 years, and it was pretty clear to me that I was not interested in IT as a long term career. It was something I was good at, but putting up with the whining & bitching & idiocy of people who can not be bothered to learn something new (why yes, I did work in Academia, how did you know…).

        No, the job was a stop gap to keep the cash flow positive while I made myself more marketable in the field I wanted.Report

      • @glyph @saul-degraw Yeah, people are often encouraged to. I suspect the frequency is different when school is free, though.

        My coblogger Sheila made this comment a long time back:

        I have a number of meth-addicted parents on my dependency client roster who are currently receiving financial aid (in addition to welfare, until their kids are removed) for their attendance at for-profit universities or community college. Sometimes these schools have an on-line component to them. If you didn’t know these folks, you’d probably think it was just wonderful that the government is writing a check for their education. You’d think we were helping people get *off* the dole. But the sad truth is these people will never be self-supporting; basically, the financial aid is just another way for our tax dollars pay for their lives for a while. Often they have more children while they’re “going to school.”

        The status of “student” gives them an excuse not to work, inflates their self-esteem, and gives them arguments (ineffective legally, but ones I have to deal with nonetheless) that they can’t drug test, do rehab, or any of the other programs the court orders to improve their parenting.


      • Saul Degraw in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        There is always going to be abuse of any welfare scheme or loan scheme. Humans are not perfect and we don’t live in a utopia.

        I think one big difference between liberals and conservatives is that as a liberal, I am okay with abuse if it means helping people who really need help and aid or are using the student loans legitimately and I think most people on food stamps, welfare are doing so for legitimate reasons. Same with people who take out student loans.

        There have always been people who talk about the “deserving poor” v. the “non-deserving poor”. The idea of people abusing charity and welfare is not new. Early Victorian England had their own fears that street beggars were living it up like royalty at night complete with hearings in Parliament.

        So why is it better to make sure meth addicts can’t cheat the system if it means making things more miserable for people who really need aid?Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        My standard is always, is the cost of finding & dealing with cheats worth the savings? If the amount of money we have to spend in order to beat the cheats is very low, then we should do it. If it is at or greater than the savings, then it’s just a jobs program to make conservatives feel better.Report

      • I know a guy who’s in charge of the department that doles out federal money for training for TAA folks through the state of Texas. A lot of that money goes to colleges, and he’s constantly trying to talk people into going to local community colleges, because a.) they’re cheaper, b.) the credits transfer, and c.) you get a better education anyway. He curses the sales people for the for-profit schools, because they so convince people that spending $35k on an 18 month program is better than spending $15k on a 24 month associates degree that the people refuse to go to the community college.Report

      • In the situation that Sheila describes, it’s not the case that the system is being cheated. Or that the system is being used to cheat. What it makes me think about is that people are using the system exactly as it is intended to for what are ultimately non-productive ends for society.

        On the other hand, take away the school, and it’s not like these people are likely to become productive members of society.

        My only real concern with it is that it is actually indicative of more. College shouldn’t be a hide-out from real life. If somebody is taking advantage of the opportunity to further themselves and make themselves more productive after graduation, then all’s the better. But a real danger -in my mind – of free schooling is that it will lead to a lot of superfluous schooling. Which I know is an area where Saul and I disagree – insofar as I am not sure he thinks that there is such a thing – but there are better places to spend resources on than that.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        I don’t understand why it is better to be a temp for years as opposed to getting an MBA or something else and hopefully graduating into a market where demand is much higher than supply.

        As always, it is the people on the lowest end with the least amount of power who are being moralized to and told to tighten belts and deal with the suck.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        spending $35k on an 18 month program is better than spending $15k on a 24 month associates degree

        I see a couple things working against your acquaintance. First, price usually signals quality, so at first glance a $35K education should be better than a $15K education, right? Especially when it isn’t your money you’re spending. Also, 18 months vs 24 means making money 6 whole months sooner (& being in school 6 months less). For people who are academically borderline, 6 months is a lot.

        Add in flashy marketing & vague promises made by the skeezy for profits, and there ya go.Report

      • @saul-degraw To repeat myself: “If somebody is taking advantage of the opportunity to further themselves and make themselves more productive after graduation, then all’s the better.”

        So I don’t have a problem with somebody taking advantage of the opportunity to go back to school and get an MBA, if they’re going to get something out of it (more than they would by doing spotty temp work, at any rate). A lot of it depends on the particulars. A lot of schooling isn’t superfluous. A lot is.Report

    • @saul-degraw With regard to the for-profits, some of the issues are unique to them. The advertising and recruiting in particular. The price structure is often not commissurate with their actual value, however that’s almost certainly something influenced heavily by student loans.

      The other issue, though, is that they do take-all-comers and in a society that seems to want just about everybody to go to college, we’re asking for that. Community Colleges have been taking a hit lately in some liberal circles as inferior due to the bad results. The results, of course, being a product of who they let in (which is anybody with a high school diploma or a GED). I honestly don’t have a problem with that, because I believe in second chances no matter how poorly you came by your GED or diploma. But high failure and dropout rates are not necessarily indicative of much. Both community colleges and for-profits expend resources on those less equipped to actually complete their degree, for better or worse.

      Now I personally like community colleges in part because they’re inexpensive, which means that if things don’t work out – and they often won’t, in a way that’s not going to be the school’s fault – the loss is comparatively marginal. I’d like to see it more marginal, though, which is one of the reasons that I really want to see a low cost online option. (Online ed – whether for-profit or not – being another case of catering to students who are less likely to succeed in any event.)

      But what really stands out about me about the linked study is that if these degrees aren’t actually commanding any wage premium, that sets of serious alarm bells. While their reputation isn’t good, it ought to be better than nothing. If it’s not, that’s likely not limited to for-profits and probably includes a whole lot of students at other non-selective institutions. We need to start looking at Southeastern State University and University of Downtown. The results there might not be much different.

      though some of the problems are a byproduct of serving a community that we want served.Report

  11. Kolohe says:

    s1: About 3-5 cents per kWh currently; while solar prices have come down considerably over the last decade and a half, the relatively low price of natural gas over the last few years has also kept the price of ‘traditional’ electricity somewhat lower than its long term trend would have predicted.Report

  12. Burt Likko says:

    [A3] The article describes the proposal to convert Beijing and its neighboring cities into a single megalopolis with the “numerically-significant name ‘28488’.” Does anyone know what the “numerical significance” of 28488 is?Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Burt Likko says:

      @burt-likko I think it’s that it has three eights.Report

    • Wardsmith in reply to Burt Likko says:

      In Chinese the number 8 is considered auspicious because it (sort of) rhymes with their word for prosper. The 4 in the number makes no sense because Chinese associate that word with death. In Chinese owned buildings you won’t find a 4th floor like not seeing a 13th floor here. All superstitious nonsense as my wife said one minute ago when I asked her if the number made any sense. You’d have to ask someone who speaks Cantonese rather than mandarin, because that is where the number superstition started. Maybe Murali?Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Wardsmith says:

        It’s the same in Japan. The Chinese (I believe in most versions) word (and Japanese* word) for the number 4 sounds a lot like the word for ‘death’.

        *one version of the Japanese word, which is the version borrowed from China (Mandarin). The other word is ‘yon’.Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to Wardsmith says:

        At baccarat tables with seven spots, 4 is generally skipped.Report

  13. Troublesome Frog says:

    [M5] According to Wikipedia, my wife and I are right on the millennial generation border (which means that I should either be offended by all of the dumping on them done by the media or I should be gleefully be writing Internet posts dumping on them myself), and we’re definitely Internet car buyers. We’ve purchased 3 cars since college. All were fully researched online and the model narrowed down that way. We’re lucky enough to live near San Francisco, so we go to the annual car show there to crawl through the models we’re considering. Two of the three cars have been purchased fully online through CarsDirect. My last car was delivered to me at work along with the paperwork. I just cut them a check and signed the documents.

    I’ve found that people my age and younger just don’t like salespeople. We’re in an age when salespeople are unnecessary for the vast majority of transactions, so we resent them as a pushy inconvenience rather than appreciating them as a source of information or guidance. When I can compare every detail of every product I might want and compare them from my couch, salespeople are only necessary for really technical stuff that I don’t have the energy to fully research for myself. If a company inserts them anyway, I know that they’re probably not there to help me. When I read a brochure for a mass-produced item that I want to buy and there’s a “contact sales” button instead of a price, more often than not I don’t even bother.

    I hope the trend continues. If it does, we’ll end up in a place where people like me who hate haggling and might pay a higher price to avoid it simply buy at a fixed price online. The only people who will come into car dealerships to negotiate will be the sharks who put on a diaper so they can grind down the salespeople for a few extra bucks. The whole model will become untenable.Report

  14. Troublesome Frog says:

    [S4] The “what about the birds” thing is actually pretty disturbing to me. Political operators changing positions based on what their enemies are doing is common and usually something I just roll my eyes at, but the improvements in PV technology seem like they’re a great thing for everybody and it’s really bizarre to see a political faction align themselves against it basically because it pisses off the other guys.

    I expect to see really lame grasping-at-straws attacks on solar power from energy companies whose model it might upset. Lobbyists are supposed to say stupid and evil things with a straight face. But there actually seems to be a really large or vocal faction of people whose genuinely held policy position seems to be, “burn fossil fuels as fast as we can because it makes liberals mad.” That simply blows my mind. It’s about as close as you can get to literally cutting off your nose to spite your face without actually breaking out the garden shears.Report

    • Morat20 in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

      I think part of it is the weird belief that being pro-environment means you’ve got to be right there on the furthest left of the spectrum.Like, you know, meat is murder and the death of a bird is a tragedy. (The death of a species, yes. The death of a bird? Birds die).

      As noted upthread — cats kill a LOT more birds than solar does. (Heck, I bet regular NG and coal probably kills a good number of birds). Even scaled up, the numbers just aren’t high enough to be a problem — it’s not like over-fishing, where the numbers are insane.

      Now if you’re talking a specific endangered bird and a bad plant position and such? Well, maybe we can talk about moving or mitigation. But, frankly, glass windows kill birds. Lots of things kill birds.

      The question is “Does this kill an excessive amount of birds” or “Does this kill one specific type of bird that there aren’t a lot of”.Report

  15. Road Scholar says:

    Regarding solar power and renewables in general, I ran across this, organic mega flow batteries being developed at Harvard.

    For the non-techies, a mega flow battery is a kind of battery that works similarly to a fuel cell. Basically you have two tanks of fluid and a reaction cell. The article describes it all pretty well, but the lowdown is that it can store an arbitrary amount of energy, just depending on the size of the tanks, and charge/discharge at megawatt rates.

    Mega flow batteries have been around for awhile but the breakthrough here is the “organic” part. Heretofore they have been constructed using rare earth metals in the working fluids which work great but they’re expensive as hell. The Harvard researchers found a way to do it using a class of chemicals called quinones. The one they settled on for now is derived from petroleum and similar to a chemical found in rhubarb. This could be a real game-changer because these chemicals are cheap to produce.

    This can transform intermittent power generation into reliable, dispatchable generation. And you can install one anywhere you like on the grid so I can imagine installing them on substations close to the usage to even out the load on generators and transmission lines as well.Report

  16. Brandon Berg says:

    E1: If only there were a science that could predict how people respond to incentives. Without telling us things we don’t want to hear.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      A science, rather than something people appeal to when it matches their beliefs and rationalize away when it doesn’t? Yes, that would be a good thing.Report

    • greginak in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      If only sciences like physics and chemistry were are as rigorous, dispassionate and offered as clear unambiguous answers as economics.Report

      • James Pearce in reply to greginak says:

        Mike, Greg,

        I got a chuckle not only from the wit contained in your own comments, but also in how they sandwich James Hanley’s witless crack on liberals. Well played, sirs.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to greginak says:


        Of course everyone understands economics isn’t as rigorous as physics or chemistry. Dispassionate? Well, try listening to physicists dispute string theory. 😉

        But not being as rigorous and dispassionate as phys/chem does not mean one simply accepts the principles and empirical findings of economics when they match one’s beliefs and rejecting them when they don’t. It is, however, what an economic illiterate does. And other economic illiterates comfort themselves that that is what economics is all about.

        Of course the dirty little secret of economics is how much actual dispassionate agreement, based on research, sometimes even rigorous research, there really is. Ask Justin Wolfers. Ask Greg Mankiw. Ask Fuller and Stevenson. Ask Gordon and Dahl.

        You missed the joke, which is that Schilling is the embodiment of what he is criticizing.Report

      • greginak in reply to greginak says:

        @james-hanley I agree Economists of all stripes actually agree on somethings. But there are also disagreements that come from basic ideological differences. What some people do, not you but you know those “other” people, is assume econ completely supports their ideology. You can’t read many right wing sites without tripping over that. ( see debates on tax cuts or that gov provided uni HC absolutely cannot work or a million other things or to be fair Krugman). They think Econ means their ideology is not only correct but can ever hope to be rigorous enough to actually go beyond ideology.

        In any case econ can’t really be a rigorous real science, they don’t’ have test tubes and beakers full of colored liquids or white coats. Okay they probably have clip boards, i’ll give them that.Report

      • As a historian, I’m all for making fun of economics and of economists, but I do think the debate over whether it’s a “real” science or “as rigorous” as other sciences kind of misses the point. Whether it’s really a science or as rigorous as Chemphys isn’t really the point. It’s a discipline, with its own theories of knowledge, its own assumptions, and its own way of speaking about the world. In some ways it’s useful and in others not so much, just like all disciplines, even Chemphys.

        I do think economists tend tend to have a certain “swagger” when they speak to (sometimes at) non-economists, and that really bugs me. But I don’t think any discipline is immune from such a swagger.Report

      • James Pearce in reply to greginak says:

        “You missed the joke, which is that Schilling is the embodiment of what he is criticizing.”

        It’s not at all clear that’s what you were driving at, so wouldn’t it be more fair to say that you missed the joke?

        I do think it funny, though, that it was Mike’s comment that brought out the knives. Not the dubious claim that economics is “a science that could predict how people respond to incentives,” as if it’s a magic 8 ball rather than an empirical discipline.

        Does that strike you as approaching economics from a scientific perspective, or a more ideological one?Report

      • James Hanley in reply to greginak says:


        Economists of all stripes actually agree on somethings. But there are also disagreements that come from basic ideological differences

        Not so much as the popular mind believes. Read the Wolfers link above, or the Gordan & Dahl link, for which the abstract says,
        Based on our analysis, we find a broad consensus on these many different economic issues, particularly when the past economic literature on the question is large. Any differences are unrelated to observable characteristics of the Panel members, other than men being slightly more likely to express an opinion. These differences are idiosyncratic, with no support for liberal vs. conservative camps.

        You mention Krugman, but the odd thing about Krugman is how much his newspaper columns seem to disagree with his academic writings. One of the little cottage industries of the economics profession today is comparing Krugman to himself–anyone who only reads his newspaper columns is not going to understand that academic Krugman, a liberal, is surprisingly in agreement with conservative academic economists and they surprisingly in agreement with him. Hell, I learned a lot of my economics from reading Krugman’s work, and while I often shake my head at his NYT columns, I still encourage people to read his popular books or get the Econ text he co-authored with Robin Wells, all of which still sit on my shelves and which I still frequently use as reference materials. Krugman taught me how to think about economics, and Buchanan, Tullock, Ostrom and others taught me how to apply that thinking to government as well as markets.

        What is really the case is that there are a few issues of notable public import–nearly always tough or edge cases–about which there is disagreement, and this gets played up by the media for all the usual reasons. For example, we all know Krugman is the era’s Great Keynesian, but what few people realize is that Krugman is very much a monetarist, who thinks monetary policy works wonderfully in nearly all cases, which is a very standard position in the discipline. But there is disagreement about what happens in the very special case of the zero-lower bound on interest rates–and the media, whose practitioners generally know next to nothing about anything, blow that up into a great foundational disagreement, which it is not.

        Again, think physicists working at the boundaries of their discipline–the difference is that we don’t hear about their disagreements about string theory. Which, by the way, cannot be studied with test tubes.

        Or consider the case of minimum wages. There is effectively no disagreement within the discipline that the law of demand holds for minimum wages, and that minimum wage increases must have un/underemployment effects. What they actually disagree on is the size of the effect at different marginal rates, and the extent to which small observed effects are real or apparent (that is, is the real effect larger, but beyond current observational techniques).

        The media and the public focus on these differences. So those who do not know the field, but think they know it because they read the paper, talk confidently about the great disagreements in the field, but are blithely unaware of small a portion of the field those disagreements encompass.

        there are also disagreements that come from basic ideological differences. What some people do, not you but you know those “other” people, is assume econ completely supports their ideology.

        But that’s not really about economics, is it? It’s about non-economists. It’s like objecting to physics as a discipline because some idiot thinks the theory of relativity proves that even the physical world is a social construct. We have to distinguish between practitioners, between those who have given serious study to a subject, and those who have only a superficial knowledge of it. The latter can be justly criticized without ever really touching on the former, or on the discipline’s body of knowledge.

        In any case econ can’t really be a rigorous real science, they don’t’ have test tubes and beakers full of colored liquids or white coats

        Again, the problem here is that you don’t know what you don’t know. Macroeconomics is hard to study in the laboratory, sure, but occasionally economists are offered natural experiments, or at least natural quasi-experiments. And micro-economics offers vast opportunities for rigorous laboratory studies, which are today helping us refine our understanding of how human behave economically.

        I’m sorry, but when I hear comments like Schilling’s and yours, the big gaps in your knowledge are apparent. And the contrast with the confidence with which you speak is striking. Particularly in his case, Darwin’s famous comment about ignorance begetting confidence more frequently than knowledge does seems entirely appropriate.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to greginak says:


        the dubious claim that economics is “a science that could predict how people respond to incentives,” as if it’s a magic 8 ball rather than an empirical discipline.

        That necessarily implies that incentives do not create predictable responses, which not only suggests there is neither rhyme nor reason to human behavior, but which as a consequence undermines the case for almost all public policy, including all-or at least nearly all–policies that you would support. Because if there is to be any chance of designing public policies that shape people’s behavior in the ways we would like to shape it, then human responses to incentives must be predictable (at the population level, even if not at the individual level).Report

      • James Pearce in reply to greginak says:


        “That necessarily implies that incentives do not create predictable responses”

        No, it implies that understanding economics does not mean that you have also acquired omnipotence.Report

      • James Pearce in reply to greginak says:

        Omnipotence? I meant “omniscience.”Report

      • James Hanley in reply to greginak says:

        Mr. Pearce,

        So can we predict people’s responses to incentives or not? First you suggest that trying to do so is akin to the woo of the magic 8 ball, then you suggest that we can in fact create policies based on predicting people’s responses to incentives.

        As to “omnipotent,” I regret that I’ve yet to meet an economist who thought s/he could bring the dead back to life, turn water into wine, or even leap over tall buildings with a single bound. Perhaps you meant “omniscient”? (But that would be a strawman, so I’m sure you didn’t mean that.)Report

      • James Hanley in reply to greginak says:

        Oh, you did mean to strawman. And here I was trying to give you the benefit of the doubt.Report

      • James Pearce in reply to greginak says:


        “So can we predict people’s responses to incentives or not? First you suggest that trying to do so is akin to the woo of the magic 8 ball, then you suggest that we can in fact create policies based on predicting people’s responses to incentives.”

        No, it’s more subtle than that, which is why I think the point is lost on you. I thought I had made it clear when I italicized the word “how.”

        You won’t impress me by repeating that “People respond to incentives.” You will impress me, however, if you can tell me exactly how. But you can’t.

        You can only guess.Report

      • greginak in reply to greginak says:

        @james-hanley Let me put it this way. I think someone can be a leftie or a rightie or a middleee or just about any spot on the spectrum and have economic science to support their position. It isn’t that the economics would be wrong in the general cases. People use economics to support the positions they already have. Their econ arguments may be good or bad, but economics can’t speak to the value judgments people have them that lead to their political views. Of course econ has useful data and theories to offer, but it can’t say “You should be a conservative or liberal or libertarian” to be consistent with the science of economics.

        You will never hear me claim to have a great knowledge of economics because i don’t.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to greginak says:


        I don’t think we’re disagreeing anymore. Certainly you’re not making the kind of critique that either Schilling or Pearce make.

        You won’t impress me by repeating that “People respond to incentives.” You will impress me, however, if you can tell me exactly how. But you can’t.

        You can only guess.

        Then probability theory must be inapplicable to human beings.

        Because if people’s responses to incentives are non-random, then they are probabilistic, and ultimately predictable, with some significant, albeit imperfect, degree of accuracy.

        If, however, responses to incentives are random, then we can’t even make lucky guesses. There might be a short-term response that corresponds well to our guess, but because of the randomness, over time behavior will inevitably deviate from our guess.

        If you are correct, all social sciences fail. Not simply economics, but political science, law, sociology, psychology, and business. The market project of persuading people to buy fails as surely as the government project of persuading people to change their behavior from the status quo ante.

        I want to note, though, for all the other liberals reading this, that in no way do I interpret Pearce’s exposition of this position as representative of liberals in general.Report

      • James Pearce in reply to greginak says:

        “Because if people’s responses to incentives are non-random, then they are probabilistic, and ultimately predictable, with some significant, albeit imperfect, degree of accuracy.”

        I think you are seeing something in what I wrote that I, um, did not actually write.

        Let’s step back a bit. I am not challenging economics as a scientific discipline. I am challenging Brandon’s implication that the “Lazy Robert” phenomenon is the obvious result of Denmark’s education system. You know, according to scientific economic law.

        I mean, I have no doubt there are plenty of lazy deadbeats in Denmark’s universities. I also suspect they are pumping out a significant amount of educated people, the very same people least likely to be attracted to “competitive” wages and “flexible” hours.

        The businesspeople seem to have the smart take:

        “Novozymes, along with toymaker Lego and healthcare products manufacturer Coloplast, felt it was time to hit back with a major advertising campaign to woo students.

        “Many young people want a meaningful job, and I think we need to become better at explaining the difference engineers are making,” said Novozymes human resources director Michael Almer.”

        Yes, Mr. Almer, yes, you do.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

        If people respond to incentives then mandatory jail time in fedrul prison for first offense possession ought to suffice to excise the cancer of immoral drug use from our culture. 🙂

        I think people respond to incentives. Course they do. I just don’t think that a science of incentives can predict anything useful at all. What it can do is describe how incentives currently shape individual decision making in certain contexts and then assert that the descriptive pattern will either continue into the future, or that that description can be extended to include other types of decision-making behavior insofar as the context of the extension is relevantly similar. Often enough, tho, the context of the original pattern drops out and the extension is viewed as entailed.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to greginak says:

        You said we can’t predict behavioral responses and can only guess. No matter how you try to spin it now, that means randomness.

        I just don’t think that a science of incentives can predict anything useful at all.

        Huh, so the research showing that adolescent smokers were price sensitive, and the subsequent prediction that raising tobacco taxes would cut teen smoking rates signifiantly, the subsequent real-world increase of such taxes and the subsequent real-world decline in teen smoking rates….that wasn’t useful?

        Damn, and for years I’ve been thinking that it was kind of important that we’d reduced teen smoking. Thanks for setting me straight.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to greginak says:


        Interestingly, a big theme of Krugman’s blog is the extent to which the big problem for the efficacy of economics is that a small group of out-of-the-mainstream (or at least a mainstream of one time or another) economic thinkers has gained undue influence in certain theoretical areas that attract a lot of popular interest. So in a sense he has long been saying what you are: that it would be better if people focused on/returned to points of broad agreement among most economists rather than giving undue attention to a group of ideological dissenters.

        Separately, can you point to a few major points on which Krugman has directly contradicted his past views in his column or blog without acknowledging a change in view? (Or to those doing so?)Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to greginak says:

        Research? You mean they looked for specific data and drew conclusions from it? Yeah, that often works. Or they could have just asserted that raising prices would reduce teen smoking because, you know, supply and demand, which is the usual level of rigor you see on the internet.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to greginak says:


        A small group of out of the mainstream economists, eh? Let’s keep in mind that Krugman won his Nobel prize for his work in his area of research specialization, trade theory. Here’s John Cochrane, who unlike Krugman actually does specialize in research in macroeconomics, responding to Krugman.

        Imagine this weren’t economics for a moment. Imagine this were a respected scientist turned popular writer, who says, most basically, that everything everyone has done in his field since the mid 1960s is a complete waste of time. Everything that fills its academic journals, is taught in its PhD programs, presented at its conferences, summarized in its graduate textbooks, and rewarded with the accolades a profession can bestow, including multiple Nobel prizes, is totally wrong. Instead, he calls for a return to the eternal verities of a rather convoluted book written in the 1930s, as taught to our author in his undergraduate introductory courses. If a scientist, he might be an AIDS-HIV disbeliever, a creationist, a stalwart that maybe continents don’t move after all.

        Perhaps the Nobel prize committee makes a habit of giving multiple prizes to a small set of out of the mainstream economists, but it doesn’t seem likely. Perhaps the work that makes it into the textbooks is out of the mainstream, but the norm is for ideas to work their way into textbooks slowly, long after they’ve become part of the mainstream.

        This is a very serious point. Krugman is claiming the mainstream is the ideas of a half century ago, not the ideas that have mostly replaced them in the discipline since. He’s claiming the mainstream is old Keynesianism, not new Keynesianism.

        He also misrepresents the ideas he’s critiquing. Here’s Cochrane again.

        It’s fun to say we didn’t see the crisis coming, but the central empirical prediction of the efficient markets hypothesis is precisely that nobody can tell where markets are going – neither benevolent government bureaucrats, nor crafty hedge-fund managers, nor ivory-tower academics. This is probably the best-tested proposition in all the social sciences. Krugman knows this, so all he can do is huff and puff about his dislike for a theory whose central prediction is that nobody can be a reliable soothsayer. And of course it makes no sense whatsoever to try to discredit efficient-markets finance because its followers didn’t see the crash coming.

        How has Krugman contradicted himself? Since we’ve started with Cochrane, let’s stick with him for a moment.

        Third, and most surprising, is Krugman’s Luddite attack on mathematics; “economists as a group, mistook beauty, clad in impressive-looking mathematics, for truth.” Models are “gussied up with fancy equations.” I’m old enough to remember when Krugman was young, working out the interactions of game theory and increasing returns in international trade for which he won the Nobel Prize, and the old guard tut-tutted “nice recreational mathematics, but not real-world at all.” He once wrote eloquently about how only math keeps your ideas straight in economics.

        Here’s Krugman himself contradicting what’s in his own textbook.

        We do know that demand curves generally slope down; it’s a lot harder to give good examples of supply curves that slope up (as a textbook author, believe me, I’ve looked);

        In this one Krugman also contradicts his own textbook on macroeconomics. Critiquing Senator John Kyl’s claim that “continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work,” Krugman said, ” “To me, that’s a bizarre point of view–but then, I don’t live in Mr. Kyl’s universe.” But his own textbook reads

        Public policy designed to help workers who lose their jobs can lead to structural unemployment as an unintended side effect. . . . In other countries, particularly in Europe, benefits are more generous and last longer. The drawback to this generosity is that it reduces a worker’s incentive to quickly find a new job.

        He also contradicts himself in his columns (I think it’s particularly hard to avoid doing so, given how much he has to write, but that should be a warning sign in relying on what he writes). In 2007 he wrote,

        Inside the Beltway, doomsaying about Social Security — declaring that the program as we know it can’t survive the onslaught of retiring baby boomers — is regarded as a sort of badge of seriousness, a way of showing how statesmanlike and tough-minded you are… But the “everyone” who knows that Social Security is doomed doesn’t include anyone who actually understands the numbers. In fact, the whole Beltway obsession with the fiscal burden of an aging population is misguided.

        And this is what he wrote 6 years previously, only a couple of years after he began writing columns for the NYT.

        “[A] decade from now the population served by those programs [Social Security and Medicare] will explode. . . . Because of those facts, merely balancing the federal budget would be a deeply irresponsible policy — because that would leave us unprepared for the demographic deluge, with no alternative once it arrives except to raise taxes and slash benefits.”

        Here he is contradicting himself within two weeks on whether unemployment differences between the states are a meaningful measure.

        Coyote Blog notes that it took Krugman only 3 days to contradict himself on the effect of means-tested government support on the labor supply.

        Relatedly, Here’s David Henderson noting Krugman contradicting himself on the effects of high marginal tax rates on work effort.

        And here’s a good list of some of his contradictory statements. Skip the essay up top and go down to the paired quotations. (I’m not sure all are fair, but plenty of them are.)

        I want to make it clear that I’m not criticizing Krugman as an economist. The problem, as I see it, is that Krugman has come to put his partisanship above his commitment to the economics academy.

        I would also note that by no means is every claim of a Krugman self-contradiction true. The claim that he recommended a housing bubble back in ’02 is a bad misrepresentation of what he said, as his honest critics agree. Unfortunately, by becoming such a partisan he’s made himself such a target that it gets harder and harder to separate the true criticisms from the fictions.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to greginak says:

        Mike Schilling,
        Research? You mean they looked for specific data and drew conclusions from it? Yeah, that often works.

        Well, yes, and that’s what happens in economics. It’s notable that you had no idea.

        Or they could have just asserted that raising prices would reduce teen smoking because, you know, supply and demand, which is the usual level of rigor you see on the internet.

        Brandon was talking about economics, so I was under the impression that your response was, too. I had no idea you were actually talking about people operating at your level of understanding.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to greginak says:

        Just to be clear, that was a general characterization of my impression of the form of the argument. I’m not sure his whether point is exactly that the group is small, or out of the mainstream, or just down the wrong path, or whatnot. Just that he’s basically saying, let’s focus on this consensus/majority/traditional view more than on a group that dissents from it, which echoes the emphasize-the-consensus points that you’re highlighting. And I definitely acknowledge that the consensus he’s focused on is not exactly au courant as consensus, hence my parenthesis talking about a consensus of one time or another.

        But if there was a consensus that importantly departed from current majority views on a topic of great present interest (various macro questions relating to growth, inflation), then is it really so clear that there is enough agreement about current majority views on those topics that it’s a mistake to “report the controversy” on them rather than to “report the science,” as it were, when that swing toward a new majority occurred really only within the last few decades? Not to me. Especially when the conditions driving the popular discussion we’re talking about (post-housing crash amidst recession and sluggish recovery, since the Fed realized what a major threat we were facing and essentially fully sold out on the fed funds rate, meaning well before the actual financial crisis of fall ’08), namely the context of the zero lower bound where you acknowledge that there really is a lively mix of views and ongoing research, are in fact the prevailing conditions of the period.

        Thanks for the links.Report

      • Troublesome Frog in reply to greginak says:

        I don’t know why I’m crawling into this mess, but something compels me to, like poking at an aching tooth…

        Critiquing Senator John Kyl’s claim that “continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work,” Krugman said, ” “To me, that’s a bizarre point of view–but then, I don’t live in Mr. Kyl’s universe.” But his own textbook reads…

        Holy crap that one was a dirty trick. Looking up the original post, Krugman was saying that Kyl’s view that “what we really need to worry about right now — with more than five unemployed workers for every job opening, and long-term unemployment at its highest level since the Great Depression — is whether we’re reducing the incentive of the unemployed to find jobs,” is bizarre. Not even the same ballpark. So Hinderaker goes on my “don’t bother” list along with a bunch of others.

        Here he is contradicting himself within two weeks on whether unemployment differences between the states are a meaningful measure.

        Actually, in the first post he was responding to the statement, “But what is equally striking is the variation between regions…” noting that the regions aren’t really comparable because they’re defined by arbitrary state borders that are mostly empty space. Which is correct, and not exactly the same thing as noted in the second one.

        …it took Krugman only 3 days to contradict himself on the effect of means-tested government support on the labor supply.

        CoyoteBlog has already made it to my list in the past, but it’s simply worth noting that the coyote is conflating the incentive effects of unemloyment benefits, reduced “job lock” for healthcare benefits, and implied marginal tax rates due to the phase out of subsidies and then applying them to a pretty reasonable statement that a small reduction in job search efforts isn’t likely to have a major effect on the unemployment rate right now, unless you believe that unemployment is due to a shortage of workers which has miraculously not caused an increase in wages.

        David Henderson noting Krugman contradicting himself on the effects of high marginal tax rates on work effort.

        I’m pretty sure we’ve had the discussion here in the past about the difference in response to marginal tax rates between high income earners and low income earners. Henderson notes that the two are different and makes the reasonable point that they’re likely affected by the same incentives, but that doesn’t change the fact that their responses to those incentives are likely to be very different. I certainly disagree with Henderson on this one, and I’m pretty sure the disagreement is at least internally consistent, even though it may be wrong.

        I don’t think I can deal with American Thinker quote mines right now. There have been plenty of times when Krugman has simply made the wrong call (and Dan Henderson is probably one of the best guys to read to see good fair-minded reasoning on it), but to read most of these pieces you wouldn’t know it.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to greginak says:

        Troublesome Frog,

        I noted that Krugman’s made himself such a lightning rod that more get attributed to him than are accurate, and that it takes some work to sort through them.

        You’ve pointed to a couple that may be problematic (I don’t buy your defense of his small state comments at all, and I think your perspective on marginal tax rates is convenient), but you leave untouched such claims as downward sloping supply curves being more easier to find than upward sloping ones, his reversal on Social Security (which would be ok if he simply changed his mind in response to evidence, and didn’t feel the need to bash others for believing what he had asserted just a few years before), and Cochrane’s rebuttal of his claims about a small group of non-mainstream economists having outsized influence, as well as Krugman’s dishonest comments about the efficient markets hypothesis, and his turnabout on the value of math in economics.

        Correct a couple of inaccurate data points and you’re still left with a trend.

        And all I’m really saying is, don’t take Krugman’s columns with confidence; have confidence in his more considered work instead.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to greginak says:

        Who said it was wrong to discuss areas of controversy? I only said it was wrong to make it appear as though that controversy was the whole of the discipline. It’d be nice, of course, to see the media report intelligently on the controversies that exist, but they’re generally incapable of doing anything but reporting it as a left v. right ideological battle.

        For those of us reading the media, it’s important to keep in mind what Michael Crichton calls the Gell Mann amnesia effect.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to greginak says:

        There’s also the Estonia issue. I don’t really know whether or not he’s got the better argument on the austerity issue, but I do know when someone’s playing games with graphs.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

        Damn, and for years I’ve been thinking that it was kind of important that we’d reduced teen smoking. Thanks for setting me straight.

        Man, that really misses the point of my comment. Can’t tell if you did that intentionally reaching for a zinger, or unintentionally, in which case things are even bleaker. I’ll only note that Schilling’s response was spot on, while yours went splat. Didn’t even address, let alone show any understanding of, the point I made.

        Maybe you’re just too smart for me to engage with James. That’s certainly possible.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to greginak says:

        Brandon implied that if you know economics, it’s clear from first principles that free higher education is more of a drag on the economy than a help to it. Which is not the case: it may be true that it’s a drag, and it may even be obvious if you look at the data, but until you look you don’t actually know.

        By the way, it isn’t me that the gratuitous insults reflect badly on.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to greginak says:

        Oh, I probably misunderstood you. But you did say you didn’t think prediction was possible, so maybe you can explain how I misunderstood? If you’re saying that predictions are not useful once the conditions on which they’re predicated change, well, yeah. If you’re not saying that, then I’m totally misunderstanding you.

        And if you think Schilling’s response was in some way meaningful, then I guess we’re back to where we were all those months ago when we went at it, because it was no more than his usual ideological kneejerking on this topic.

        On a side not, not necessarily addressed to you, I don’t think prediction is necessary for something to be a science. Much of biology is descriptive and explanatory, and not predictive at all, but that doesn’t make it non-scientific.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to greginak says:

        Ah, Schilling, you seem not to even understand where these principles come from. They’re still driving forces because over and over we find they’re supported by evidence. Sure, Brandon was speaking a bit casually, perhaps, but who hasn’t done so based on principles they understand?

        As to insults, Mike, have you noticed I don’t insult your math, your comments about IT, your taste in music, or any of a dozen other things you talk about? I’m quite willing to respect you when you give me reason to. I’ve no interest in respecting you when you give me good reason not to.

        I remain curious why you seem to think that you understand something you’ve obviously never put your quite capable mind to. Is it a case of Dunning-Kruger? Or is your emphasis on the ideological uses of economics just a case of psychological projection? Why, the curious mind wonders, does a guy as smart as you not just bother to learn something you’re so interested in talking about?Report

      • James Pearce in reply to greginak says:


        “You said we can’t predict behavioral responses and can only guess. No matter how you try to spin it now, that means randomness.”

        No, it implies a range of responses that may, or may not, be random. Your predictive capabilities are also constrained to that range of responses.

        But whatever. You finally “got it” when you got to this:

        “because it was no more than his usual ideological kneejerking on this topic.”

        That really wasn’t so hard to admit, was it? Was all the bad faith and insults really necessary? Were all the distractions useful?

        (And have to say, I find your defense of the insults to be quite childish. “I wouldn’ta insulted him if he wasn’t such a _____,” says the schoolyard bully, as the principal does a facepalm.)Report

      • James Pearce in reply to greginak says:


        And it occurs to me that I have misread you. The “ideological kneejerking” you were referring to apparently belongs to Schilling???

        Totally laughable.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to greginak says:


        As Darwin said,

        Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.


      • Will Truman in reply to greginak says:

        Everybody stop. Closing comments as soon as my computer cooperates.Report

  17. dexter says:

    You can lead a libertarian to Dorothy Parker but you can’t make them cite.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to dexter says:

      That’s probably doubly funny for the fact that I don’t get it. 😉Report

      • dexter in reply to James Hanley says:

        Dr. Hanley, If you are speaking to me about not getting my line I will tell you that the first time I heard something similar to what you said is from a short piece about Dorothy Parker when someone mentioned her way with one liners and asked her to use “horticulture” in a joke and she immediately replied, ” You can lead a whore to culture but you can’t make her think.” Whether that is a true story or not I have always found it funny.
        Plus, it isn’t the lefties that are denying global warming and evolution.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:


        Ah. Unfortunately, having to explain a joke always ruins it. I regret my ignorance.

        As to science, I’m not defending conservatives, nor even libertarians.* I’m just mocking Schilling for his pretense of knowledge, which is an on-going demonstration that libertarians and conservatives have no monopoly on the rejection of science that discomfits them.

        Of course just as not all conservatives are creationists, and not all libertarians reject the claim that humans can affect global climate, nor are all liberals economic ignorami.
        *God knows I have a special loathing for creationists.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

        Three fourths of variance in economic ignorance occurs within families.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        That’s why I’ve never criticized your family.

        (And if my own family is representative, your quip might be true. It’s certainly a testable hypothesis, and how many one-liners can make that claim?)Report