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Blikktheterrible
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The first link didn't work for me. :(
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My parents live separately and my mother doesn't speak to my father, but she still receives health insurance through their marriage. Given the 204 job applications she has put out in less that 2 year, I can't really fault her on that...
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Frances, to me it seems like your fundamental "problem" is that Oprah (and others like her) are outliers. Is that correct? If so, I think the proper way to address that question is with deeper questions. What makes Oprah and outlier and why is that significant in this situation? On a somewhat less opaque note, how much of the problem here stems from a default assumption of normality (or at least moments existing)? Is that a piece of this at all? Of so, perhaps the problem here indicates that the statistical framework being applied is not really helpful/suitable. I could easily be totally off base with both questions.
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I'm not asking anyone to give up all of their possessions. I don't think that would be the moral thing to do because I think it would limit our wealth and economic power to a self-defeating degree. I think the moral path requires a certain degree of self-care. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be happy. Happiness is the most important thing in the world. I have only one moral rule: Always choose the action that will maximize the average level of happiness in the world. Of course, I fail at that sometimes. Those are real, serious moral failures on my part, but they don't necessarily make me a bad person. I'm not perfect and I'm not asking anyone else to be perfect. At the same time, I don't think it's hard to distinguish between ethical reasons for choosing something and unethical reasons for choosing it.
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I never claimed that people are failures if they do not act in a perfectly moral way all of the time. I'm just saying that any particular action is either moral or isn't. Any time I do not do what I think is best for the world, I am acting immorally.
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I think we're talking past each other. Here are a few different questions that posters have been trying to answer: 1. Do voters usually vote for the policies that they think are best for them and those they know? 2. Should economists and political scientists assume that voters vote based on self-interest? 3. Do voters have the right/capacity to choose policies that favor themselves over others? 4. Do economic policy endorsements need to be built on solid ethical grounds? 5. Is it morally justifiable for voters (or anyone else) to choose what is best for themselves over what is best for humanity overall? Most of the commenters have focused on questions 1, 2, and 3, while I have focused on questions 4 and 5. I shouldn't speak for Stephen and Frances. I think essentially every poster would answer "yes" to the first 3 questions. I don't think those are the questions that Stephen was trying to address with this post. I could be wrong. My argument has been primarily concerned with the last 2 questions. My claim is that the answer to question 4 is "yes" and the answer to question 5 is "no". I hope I have correctly summarized the relevant points.
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Bob: "Moreover, on your formulation of ethics, I'd suggest that that would render pretty much all government policy profoundly unethical." I agree 100%. That is the single most significant statement I have seen on this blog in a long time. "FIs argument (i.e., that governments should be concerned primarily with the well-being of their citizens/residents) are implicit in pretty much every discussion of jurisdiction level economic policy, and are not generally challenged or questioned, so it's not clear why the FI should be called out for not doing so here." I agree. "No one criticizes (or defends) the Bank of Canada's monetary policy on the grounds that it's bad (or good) for foreigners." SOMEONE probably does, but no one I know. More people should, though. "It wouldn't be an effective defense of Ontario's minimum wage policy to argue that it might be beneficial to workers in other jurisdictions (Quebec, for instance)." Not effective, but morally right.
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M: "More fundamentally, I understood the role of government was to protect its citizens (the people who voted them in). On that basis their electorate's interests should come first over those from other jurisdictions." No role should ever take precedence over acting morally. It is immoral to put any "duty" ahead of morality.
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What I find hilarious about this whole discussion is how much it conflicts with stereotypes about economists. The standard line is that economists are completely amoral in their analysis, but Stephen's whole point is that a good economist MUST provide unprejudiced analysis. That's the issue, as I see it. The reason Stephen is outraged is that the Fraser folks are violating the implicit morality of the economic profession by giving analysis based on amoral self interest. In economics, as Stephen and I see it, people are people and there is no place for nationalism. That's something that people don't get about economics.
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"For example, if funding sources were disclosed, it might be easier for policy makers to distinguish between independent academic research and partisan rhetoric, and put more weight on the former." That's possible, but I think there are at least a couple of factors that would weaken the effectiveness of that policy. For one thing, (partisan) policy makers might not really care about whether research is independent. Another problem is that "independent academic research" can be just as partisan as research funded by, say, the Koch brothers. The money issue CAN skew things, but we all skew things pretty well without being paid. That's what I think. Full disclosure: I was not promised any money in exchange for posting this.
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"But ... who do they think is going to clean the toilets?"-Patrick Perhaps slaves? Would that provide a better surplus value for Canadians?
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France- You're right that the data seem to indicate that funds are not allocated optimally, but that doesn't provide support for any particular reform. Or am I wrong?
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"The only people whose interests seem to matter are those who are in a position to refuse entry to Canada. This is just crude nativism. Birth in Canada is not an accomplishment that confers special privileges; it is a winning lottery ticket." You seem to be under the impression that the goal of economic policy is to make the world a better place. I think the Fraser Institute is sensibly working under the much more popular assumption that the economic policy is purely about self-interest. Perhaps I'm just used to the way we do things in the US, but I don't think a political party would win many elections by announcing that it would do what's best for the world, rather than its own constituents. I think that assessment would hold true no matter where the voters fell on the political spectrum. Just imagine what would happen if Stephen Harper announced that because the residents of the Third World are poorer and more numerous than Canadians, Canada is wrong to choose policies that favor the rich few (Canada) over the poor multitudes (Third World). I think the right, left, and center would find themselves rapidly falling in line against the government. Am I wrong?
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" I actually find the whole JUMP math thing really frightening, I mean, it's great that John Mighton has found a way to improve math scores, but it's horrible to think that it's so easy to get really dramatic improvements in math outcomes. How badly were we teaching math before?"-Frances Woolley I think we will eventually find that people are usually shockingly suboptimal in most professions (not economics, though). I once attended a lecture by Dr. Scott O. Lilienfeld (Emory University Psych department) that dealt largely with "cognitive failure", including ones that specifically affect how we (fail to) determine how well we are doing our jobs. He discussed research indicating that psychotherapists do not get better at their jobs over time. Essentially, there appear to be very few tasks for which direct experience provides strong constructive feedback. That was a few years ago, so I don't have citations handy, but I would bet that Dr. Lilienfeld would be helpful. His work is really interesting. Otherwise, I will look around.
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Given that I have spent most of my life either enrolled in or teaching in accelerated math programs, this topic hits very close to home for me. There is a great deal of truth that has been presented in this discussion. It is entirely true that individual programs have variable, often sub-optimal, ways of selecting "gifted" students. I completely agree with Frances that the "gifted" label is overly vague for many of the situations in which it is applied. I say that both as someone who was denied an opportunity to move ahead in math simply because my writing skills were not advanced enough and as someone who has watched as educators jam square students into round holes of intellectual aptitude. I believe that the greatest weakness of most educational systems is their overwhelming tendency to stereotype students. The simplistic "gifted," "average," "dumb" trichotomy is a primary example of that weakness. However, I do not mean to imply that students should all be lumped together all the time. The optimal sorting process is not at all obvious to me. To return to the original data puzzle that Frances presented, I would like to point out the potential for time-sensitive effects. Importantly, advanced programs do not teach the same materials at the same time as non-advanced programs. That is important in this case because a student's ability in any topic will vary in a non-linear manner over time. More specifically, a students ability to solve a given type of problem will rise as he or she learns the relevant skills and will frequently fall somewhat after he or she moves onto a later lesson. That is particularly true when consecutive lessons are not obviously connected. For example, a student who learned long division the week before a long division test will generally get a better grade than one who studied that material 3 months before the test. Something along those lines could be at play in the example given above. It makes sense to assume that the school year for most classes would be planned in such a way as to maximize test scores. If the advanced courses move through the material at a different rate and end up studying material that isn't even covered on the test, it would make sense that their human capital, as measured by the test, would depreciate noticeably by the time the test is given. Importantly, that depreciation would likely have no negative effects on the gifted students' long term educational outcomes. Overall, I would say that this is the tip of an iceberg that is really worth exploring.
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Are the Liberals more honest than the other major parties or are the just worse at lying?
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"So my explanation: inability of the Liberal party to adapt to changes in the values of Canadians." - Frances Woolley What changes do you mean?
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I'm curious about the role of "general inflation" in this. Does price inflation cause real expenditure on healthcare to rise or is this a different kind of inflation?
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"The U.S. has a real problem with rising medical costs. This wont be fixed with tax policy, but with health care reform."-RSJ What sort of (politically feasible) health reform would "fix" the problem of rising health costs?
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I would like to clarify my Texas/Jesus comment. First of all, it was a joke. Second of all, my point was not that there is no place Christian Left in the US (or Canada). My point was that there is no non-Christian Right in the US. That's why the Right has Jesus to hold them together. Of course, I'm being (slightly) hyperbolic.
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"For what it's worth, I've voted Green federally and provincially in every election since 2003 and my lawn/yard is an absolute disaster. Not sure what that says." It means you're on a list.
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Perhaps the Left/Right spectrum isn't the most relevant political or philosophical distinction in all of this...
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I've never seen much correlation between personality and politics. Being a Northern California who doesn't go to church, I've basically never known an conservatives/Republicans, so I can't really say anything about them. I do know that the liberals I've known (as opposed to the apathetic people) have been all over the place in personality. My parents typify that (lack of a) pattern. My dad is totally conscientious/anal, socially inept, and non-creative. My mom is completely the opposite. Sharing a lawn/yard/garden/home was a source of constant conflict for them. Yet, they're both extremely socially, fiscally, and culturally liberal. Beyond giving me a profoundly depressing sense of what marriage looks like, seeing them interact has taught me that liberals are not a homogeneous population. On top of that, I have long been deeply anxious and afraid of new situations to a neurotic degree, but I have always identified with the Left. Perhaps I should just move to Texas and start a new life. At least the conservatives have Jesus to keep them together, right?
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So, portrayals that negatively stereotype a certain demographic group are bad. That's the premise of all of this, right? Advantages that members of one demographic group enjoys ON AVERAGE don't make it ok. Trying to spread the shame and doubt that we experience doesn't improve anyone's life or build understanding. Making men, or women, or white people, or Asians, or attractive people look inferior doesn't ever solve any problem. Why? Because we're all individuals. We're not our labels. We don't live the lives that our demographics create. No matter how often a stereotype "fits" or how positive it may appear, it will leave a large number of people in the difficult position of trying to fit or not fit a certain type that isn't who they are.
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Nick, You seemed to admit that (within the model at hand) unions might be beneficial if their members are relatively poor. What do you think the real-world implications would be of a policy allowing unions to operate only when their members earn relatively low wages?
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