Monday, September 18, 2017

Vietnam, Watergate, immense policy failures, and (often-blind) faith in govt

Good on Vietnam and Watergate-- and their impact on the presidency in particular...

Ideological concerns probably prevent Burns and Novick from extending their analysis to reduced faith in government in general.

And then beyond this essay, faith in govt has been (quite reasonably) diminished (greatly) by a slew of policy failures since then-- as govt tried to move from low-hanging fruit (e.g., roads and space exploration) to impossible efforts with massive side-effects (e.g., the War on Poverty and the War on Drugs).

selling charters as we war against the cronies

A helpful piece on tweaking public perceptions here...
Charters should be a no-brainer. (Vouchers are tougher, since there's a lot of bigotry toward religious education-- and people lack the policy imagination to envision the many secular schools that would pop up.) But even good obvious reforms get dicey when you're going up against powerful interest groups.

-more options for parents, students, and teachers
-more competition; less monopoly power
-lower costs for taxpayers
-from the literature (the handful of "gold standard" papers), modest (not large!) improvements in performance, particularly in the inner city (where one would expect the increased competition to make a bigger difference)

tax reform: this ain't 1981

An exceedingly helpful piece on tax reform-- then and now. The economy and the problems with the tax code were completely different in 1981. So, the ideal solutions are unlikely to be the same as they were then.

Reagan lowered rates on the wealthy and increased revenues from the wealthy, given where we were on the Laffer Curve. This would not take place today. So, cutting rates should not be a high priority.

FICA is a *far* bigger deal today, but Dem politicians enjoy crushing the working poor and middle class with taxes on income, preferring to use SS and FICA as a way to score cheap political points.

Corporate taxes are a far bigger deal today, especially with the always-increasing prospects of capital flight in a global economy. A lot of Dems will probably demagogue this too. But for the sake of the economy and workers, hopefully the GOP will be joined by some Dems who will have the intellect and the courage to improve things here.

A strange omission: I wish the author had mentioned tax simplification and eliminating loopholes. It's relatively easy to make a strong case in terms of both equity and efficiency. But gutless or corrupt politicians, along with interest group power, are likely to preserve that mess.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

try 50 state experiments...well, at least if you're into science, sociology, and economics

People often trot out international comparisons on health care/insurance, not catching that the comparisons are far more apt for states than our entire nation. (See: population diversity and size. #Science #Logic)

Beyond that, unless one is a #Statist or fond of playing policy-lottery experiments, it obviously makes sense (at least to #economists and #sociologists) to try 50 state experiments in such a complex economic/social arena. 
Maybe a few states would give nearly-free markets a whirl. And some states would likely experiment with various forms of single-payer for the lower and middle-income classes. Let's see what happens!

Monday, September 11, 2017

It's not just statism, cronyism, etc. in K-12 opposition to reform. It's having to take (vs. evade) blame.

I usually ascribe opposition to freedom and choice in K-12 as a penchant for statism, a desire to protect cronyism, or a lack of policy imagination.

Beyond that, Pullmann includes a desire to blame-evade-- that reform would force proponents of the status quo to (painfully) own their failure. I don't know why I hadn't thought of that previously.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

charters: empirical work, narrative, and the politics of anecdote

A good article in New York (magazine) on charter schools...

Intuitively, one would expect modest results-- and larger impacts on the inner-city where the monopoly power is (far) greater. (And of course, this doesn't get into the lower cost for taxpayers, more choice for students/parents and teachers, and more flexibility for the delivery of education services.)

I think the political analysis is correct too. For better and mostly for worse, the "debate" comes down to competing anecdotes/stories. Fortunately for charter proponents, it will be relatively easy to come up with compelling stories for their side. In most battles against interest groups, the subtle/concentrated calculus does not play nearly as well.

h/t: Chris Lang

labels and phobias

Labels are funny things. 

We generally allow people to self-label, even when the labels reflect a reality that is somewhere between unclear and misleading (e.g., most self-styled liberals and conservatives).

The use of "phobia" to describe some folks is a notable exception. For one thing, the state being described is rarely phobic/fear-based, which indicates the labeler's lack of clear thinking. (Can their claims be reasonably dismissed out-of-hand simply for this?) 

For another, these matters are usually complicated. So, such labeling is simplistic and seems designed to illiberally squelch free thought and free speech. 

Here's an application of this to "Islamophobia"...

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

what do Zeke Elliott, Obama, Trump and Osteen have in common?

Heard part of an excellent segment this AM with Will Cain, a legal analyst on ESPN, commenting on the Zeke Elliott suspension. The suspension seems like a great example of the ends justifying the means-- and Cain said (passionately) that he can't get on board. Good for him. 

This sort of thing is disturbingly common these days-- and from all sorts of folks: people who are willing to do what it takes to sacrifice X (e.g., truth, individuals) to reach their greater social ends (e.g., "well, we know...and that's not good"). 

Some people criticize Obama or Trump-- and for them, it doesn't really matter what the truth is. People run with little/flawed information in a hurry to condemn a popular preacher they don't like. And so on. 

Remember: if you're lying about or slandering a "bad person", this puts you in bed with the Father of Lies. Not a good look; not a good move.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

on fundamentalism vs. anything-goes

"God himself placed many polar forces at work among His people, particularly, and probably at the base of them all, the opposition of prophetic-fideistic (Mosaic) religion and priestly-sacramental (Aaronic) religion, between subjective and objective understandings, and institutional and free expressions of the faith. These are brothers struggling in the womb, joined and reconciled in, and only in, the Lord Himself. The Scriptures bear witness to the Son of God and the Son of Man, by nothing in between-- only their unity in the Mystery of our Faith, the Person of Christ Jesus...As long as these impulses are found together and not allowed to exclude one another, Christian life, with blessing, is possible. Whenever one overcomes the other without comprehending it, the faith dies...the rigid unresponsiveness of dead orthodoxy on the one hand, and on the other, sectarian heterodoxy..."

Great thoughts from S.M. Hutchens (in Touchstone) on Christianity in particular-- and fundamentalism vs. anything-goes in general...

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

on peace and submit in Islam (both accurate) and the regressivity of Islam's god

In the most recent Touchstone, Dr. Richard Cervin makes a number of interesting points about Islam:

-The root word for Islam is slm or "submit", but another word with the same root is "peace". So, the two words are homonyms in Arabic. "Thus, the current politically correct claim that Islam = 'peace' is not entirely wrong, but neither is it entirely correct." Cool point.

-Cervin recommends arguing against Islam in terms of logic and its ethics. In a word, Islam recommends "ethical standards" that are "remarkably backwards and inferior" to those of Judaism and especially Christianity. It then follows that Islam requires a "regressive god", even though Islam claims to be a "greater, more perfect revelation". Great argument.

the core of the faith was delivered by Jesus rather than a process of long evolution and ultimately, human force

In the most recent Touchstone, Donald Williams notes that Jude starts with an exhortation "to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people." Since this was written in the 60s, his inference:

"In much NT scholarship today, you will find an unquestioned and unsupported assumption underlying the whole enterprise: that Jesus brought no theology with him...but his followers, in a long process, evolved many understandings of him which were reduced to one by arbitrary power at the Council of Nicea in 325. Yet here is a voice...saying that the faith was not evolved from scratch but that there was a substantial and recognizable core of it that was delivered to the saints."

He closes by quipping that he trusts Jude more than Bart Ehrman-- "someone who was actually there" rather than "a scholar speculating about it 2000 years later". If one is going to believe in the creation of legends, it's much easier to see Ehrman's work as "legendary".