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Jack
Alaska
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Yes, RIP, Prof Becker will be missed. Have you considered keeping the blog going? Perhaps with one, two, or more with diverse views?
Toggle Commented Jul 25, 2014 on Sabbatical Notice at The Becker-Posner Blog
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Neil: Agreed! While posting a bit on the Becker side, I note that Cuba is a nation of 11 million with $6,000 per capita GDP (about like China) While an embargo in the JFK era might have had some teeth in it (with us being the only nation to mfg many products) today Cuba can find virtually everything they need from nations that do trade with them. In the matter of trade, I assume most here understand comparative advantage? ie..... Were, say Britain 10 times less efficient at growing wheat than the US, and only 2 times less efficient at growing tomatoes, they would still benefit by selling some of their "uncompetitive" tomatoes to buy wheat. With trade (as they tell us in regard to China) comes increasing levels of working together. Someone has to go there to make the deal and is likely to spot other opps that benefit both parties. Nahom: Sure, "sugar" likely threatens our corn lobby/cabal but then? today we see premiums being paid for "cane sugar" in colas and other products. IF...... we were honest, we'd benefit from having Cuba (and Mex?) make some of our mandated ethanol from cane which is about 8 times more efficient than corn based eth which uses as many btu's to make as is created. Brazil runs much of its fleet on cane/ethanol while in the US all that corn doesn't multiply the oil consumed in its mfg at all. And think beyond what is the decreasing importance of raw materials. Today, developed economies are 70% driven by consumer demand, and a major part of the US malady is that of huge over-capacity of mfg and distributed goods. Ending the embargo in Cuba would open up a nation with a GDP that would rank about 35th in the GDP's of our states and one starved for those many goods that households buy in the more developed nations. My guess is that Cuba's communist government will soon come to an end that will be sped by ending the embargo. But, hey, if they remain a relatively isolated "communist nation" what is the risk to us or anyone else? As for the oppressed people, half a century of an ineffective US embargo has done nothing positive either.
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Whew...... it saddens me greatly to stop by after being away several months and note the passing of Gary Becker. As with others here, he'll be greatly missed. Good though that his last essay here was on target. For starters, if a policy dating back to when it was penned by JFK hasn't accomplished the hoped-for goals in half a century is doing more of the same likely to result in any benefit? As others have noted embargoes are a generally a clumsy and inefficient means of affecting policy, even in oil kingdoms where we'd be dealing in one high value commodity. In Cuba, Canada and many other nations are investing and freely trading to their mutual benefit. We've long traded with China, a nation not only communist, but with policies we consider barbaric such as what is often committed under their "one child" mandate. But, we're told that it's better to open up China and place our hopes on their upward movement from poverty to having a much larger middle class that will demand movements toward democracy and a better economic shake for themselves. The same case should be made for Cuba. With our large markets nearby their exports of raw sugar might change to providing higher value sugar products. For example today we see premium colas and other products made with cane sugar bringing a higher price than those made with corn based HFC's. For us? But for our corn lobby, Cuba could produce some of our mandated ethanol from cane far more efficiently and at lower costs than that of corn based ethanol that gobbles as many btu's in the making as is produced. And, cars themselves! How long can even the most creative Cubans keep cars produced before the embargo running? Well, not long, and there are other nations that can supply their automotive needs. Were the embargo lifted Cuba's population of 11 million would be a good market for our trucks, vans and heavy equipment as well as our high gas mileage small cars, hybrids and electrics. The list doesn't stop with manufactured goods. Things we don't often think about like music come to mind. Many US musicians duck around our travel embargo to go to Cuba. You might recall Ry Cooder having gone to Cuba and making the "Buena Vista Social Club" film and CD featuring "long forgotten" jazz musicians who later did a concert at Carnegie. Ry was "busted" on a subsequent trip. With the high number of Cuban exiles and their offspring here it would seem that finding trade niches for each nation to benefit from would move even more rapidly. Don't we come again to the best tool for democracy and a working economy being that of the US being free and teaching by example? As compared to the recent failures of military force and embargoes?
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Jim: The history of Brit/US/Spanish enslavement and oppression of Cuba and other sugar and tobacco growing islands is ugly, but if the raw political expediency prevents even the lifting of the embargo that should have been lifted soon after Jesse Helms (R/bigot/tobacco state) left us, what chance for even a token restitution? http://www.afrocubaweb.com/history/history.htm "embargo not matter?" Those working with accepted economic principles would note that both nations suffer from the lack of trade and open travel. Cuba, of course, suffers hugely from being denied the access to the largest consumer market on earth, perhaps most obviously be missing out on a 20 year resurgence of cigar demand, but also by not having our tourist biz. Cuba once produced a third of US sugar consumption; a good biz for them and hey! cane is eight times better for fueling our gashogs than is eth from our corn lobby. Since the implosion of the USSR the Cuban sugar biz has all but shut down. Naturally the harm to our 17 Trillion economy from Cuba's 60 billion GDP would be difficult to measure. While Cuba takes a far bigger hit for the loss of our nearby market, still its GDP has doubled since 2000, and curiously? despite communism, has a growth rate outpacing that of Puerto Rica. Cuba also suffers from a lack of our imports in many ways from not benefiting from our cheap ag products to their heroic efforts to keep a fleet of our pre-1960 "Detroit iron" running. Puzzling, eh? that "the story" since Nixon "opened up China" and since has been that of trade and wealth generation first and human decency, well, later? maybe? while in Cuba we fruitlessly try to starve out Castro even as Canada and many of the rest of our allies are investing and have no issue with free travel. If we did "open" and resume trade, we should work closely with Cuba that our modern day WS thieves and the likes of Trump, don't get a foothold and start the whole nasty cycle of exploitation and corruption, and revolution over again. Ha! perhaps with the improving demographics of the swing states, President Obama or candidate Hillary won't have to be so concerned about aging Cuban expats?
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Terry?? Kinda like China/Walmart? And "raze?" that poor island? To what end? Have you been hanging with "Shooter Cheney", Rumsfeld and the "new" McCain who seems to have forgotten the human costs of warmongering?
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The benefits to Mexico may be more than ridding themselves of murderous drug cartels and especially so if they legalized in the same time frame. While "street prices" of MJ should fall dramatically object of "midstream" cartels is to max out the spread between what "dribbles down" to the farmer and what they get from street prices held high by our and Mexico's futile "drug war". The higher price created by the added costs of ducking US and Mexican authorities is precisely why there are always those willing to chance tough penalties. I wouldn't count on elasticity to do much to dampen demand as those most have jobs good enough to say "Well, no more costly than a couple of martinis or glass of wine, and somehow it seems those of lesser means find ways to buy cigs, pay fairly high cellphone bills and imbibe a bit. If our Coast Guard or other enforcement wins a few rounds they simply raise the stakes for more creativity and higher pay to offset risk to "mules". Becker is right in counseling "strapped states" NOT to count on legalization as a huge cash cow as the economics are very different. Most of us have little incentive to try to make a good wine or bottle of distilled spirits at home to save, "high taxes and all" $10 - $30 a liter, and have little expectation that we could make a finer product. MJ would be very different at levels from "savers" growing a few plants at home, to hobbyists striving for their own distinctive product to be exchanged with and "liked" by their (Facebook?) "friends". It's interesting to reflect upon war time scarcity and high cig prices creating the flurry of "roll your own" either skillful hand means or by those little wallet shaped machines, but that $5/pack or so seems not to create any lash back today.
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Great..... assuming it's not on the net... perhaps you can summarize a week later?
Toggle Commented Feb 19, 2014 on The War on Drugs at The Becker-Posner Blog
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Plus -- I kinda agree with your point but the "Aptitude tests" are not really IQ tests. While it's easier for a "quick study" to get a high or perhaps THE highest score applicants can study to improve their scores.... in fact there is a whole "prep" industry as many send their kids to SAT prep courses. Harvard and Yale? Ha! When our kids were of college age we were passing around a book "Gatekeeper" that tells how one gets into "the Ivies". The most powerful of "affirmative action" is what we saw as GWB, who was turned down from a Texas U. gained admission to Yale; having an alumni as a parent, and ha! if the parent funded a chair or wing, I suspect an amoeba might make the cut. There was a long article, maybe in the Atlantic? some years ago on "How I gave up an education by going to Princeton" that echoed some comments of a good econ teacher I had years ago. The prof got a sabbatical to teach as Princeton for a year. I asked what it was like teaching at the elite school. His answer was that WE were a far more interested and questioning student body. At Princeton, he lamented, most of the students were "fast tracking" Ha! perhaps to those WS firms that recently crashed or big law firms and ALL they wanted to know is how to get a top grade and move on. Ha! who has been the most productive? Those carving out family fortunes on WS for polluting the world with toxic assets and lying about bond ratings or about anyone moving along a helping to create a solid product at an honest price?
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Plus: You paint a fairly accurate picture of the situation. Let's consider why those flocking to Detroit in the 50's and earning good wages in the 60's, 70's were making good money: One, of course, after the War and before the boomers was that of scarce labor at a time when it took many more hours to build a car than today. Next, was because, even then, assembly line building of cars was highly productive and the mfgs could afford to pay good wages. Lastly, and you touched on it, was because collective bargaining units had good leverage with the auto companies. Today there are highly productive businesses that could pay much better wages, for example Walmart with the fattest bottom line in world history, but, as you point out there is surplus labor, and a LACK of collective bargaining units. Too few, it seems, understand that lower and medium skilled labor has NO market power. I was for a time a computer programmer. As you point out not everyone can do that work (and Ha! I might make a week but no more on an assembly line) but they aren't immune from being undercut (as they are by H1B Visa quotas and the glass fiber that sends much of the work abroad) and like "upper IQ" welders, shipfitters, machinists, tool and die makers before them/us, they'd benefit from being organized not only to negotiate with employers but to have effective lobbyists in DC where the overall "deals" are made. I guess we can "explain" that "high IQ", college, being clever, connected etc results in the income distribution depicted in these two graphs, but however it got that way, it's NOT sustainable. By one means or another "the benefits of developing our resources" have to accrue more favorable to "the people"........ not one or ten percent of the people. A bit further out on this plank lies catastrophe.
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Other factors likely to have affected the different percentages of today's millennials vs boomers of the 60's and 70's: Relatively higher numbers of Viet era volunteers and draftees having VA assistance after a two or four year hitch. The huge increase in college cost inflation juxtaposed against a falling min and lower end wage that makes taking a part time job a nearly worthless waste of time. Some, cleverly working the system: Why not borrow at low student rates for college while using money saved "for college" to buy a house (perhaps to rent rooms to fellow students) buy a car or let it ride in the stock market.
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Terry, you nailed it on this one! Yes! Employers all too often use a costly college education as an indicator of the literacy that both the college grad and many of his school chums would have coming out of HS. Another similar effect is that of the 18 year old HS grad not being as mature as the mid-20 something college grad. Again indicative of too many years of a labor surplus that I'm increasingly convinced is structural, will be with us permanently and that public policy is going to have to deal with. It seems the legal/liability paranoia plays into it as well. For example if a woman who has raised several kids and took care of ailing parents too wanted to work in elder care but lacked the Certified Nurse Assistant qualification, somewhere along the way someone is going to say "But if "something happened" it would be better (less liable) for hiring the certified person...... besides there are plenty of those with certs to chose from."
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Posner seems lost on this one but perhaps excusably so. It seems that just in my lifetime that any mention of reasons for college including that of enjoying a richer life and becoming a more knowledgeable and better citizen has completely yielded to "college as trade school" to prep one only to join one or another corporations that no longer invest much in training their (expendable?) employees. Aaah! but all that "richer life" stuff may have been back when one's college days were not bankrupting the family or self and a student had the time and opportunity to, at least, be exposed to the arts and reading some of the classics, or taking a flyer as an amateur thespian. Posner's rejection of making college loans inversely proportionate to one's career earnings does bring up a good question: In other nations far more of the college costs are paid by general taxes which sounds like a somewhat similar idea. While Posner tries to make the case that those whose incomes did not greatly benefit from college........... didn't benefit. Do we think that is true? Perhaps teachers are the most numerous examples of those graduating from nearly five years of college and some internship but not zipping up the income ladder. Indeed the plumber or electrician is likely to out earn them. (Though with both requiring 4 year apprenticeship it could be argued they are college grads in their specialty.) So let's consider 2/3rds of college tuition being taxpayer supported. (And a few other things like limiting out of control college inflation) In this way a teacher or one dedicated to toil in other social science trenches graduate with little college debt and very likely with relatively modest incomes on the payback side. Those who grab their diploma and promptly head to WS or "white shoe" lobbying and law firms to carve off unearned millions will pay back a lot more. What of the kid who didn't go to college? Well, first off, and sadly, it looks as though their incomes aren't going to trigger large tax liabilities and surely they and our society and economy in general benefits by being "led" in many cases by those having gone to college.
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Thomas: Despite the occasional "occupy" or "fast food workers hit the streets" headlines it seems complacency to the point of being comatose is the marker of our era. Not sure why folks are being so tolerant but I suppose some combo of being beaten down, or even the few boomers who once were fire-brands no longer having energy for battle and they young not being ready yet or blindly unaware of the screwing they're getting all contribute to the soaring inequity that IS a major drag on the entire economy ------ of the world. In a nation that voices devotion to a real or imagined Puritan work ethic until, at least, a nice juicy gig appears, it WILL be difficult to adjust to a long era of structural unemployment or yet wider gaps between the haves and those either doing the work for a sub-living wage or not in the economy at all. Truth is..... we're not that close to running out of work, but trouble is "we" don't want to pay for those saintly folks who care for the elderly or disabled. Ha! in fact "we" don't even want to honestly address some $2 trillion on long neglected infrastructure maintenance or the upgrades that that would benefit all from biz guy to commuter or tourists bringing money from abroad. Your remarks about a "welfare" state remind me of Nixon suggesting a negative income tax. IF........ we are A. A wealthy nation and B. one with a structural unemployment problem, it does seem one realistic approach is that of paying some amount to those opting not to work or not able to join the working economy. Sort of raise the floor? and offer some a chance to swap a mediocre income for the free time to pursue arts or work on a pet invention. Higher pay, would of course be the lure to draw people into the working economy as has always been the case..... but eating and having H/C would no longer be put at risk. Well........ as we seem to agree the fundamental pressures are there and it's now a question as to whether a series of logical small earth tremors or one huge 10 point one will take place.
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Ha B. Wilds! Lehman, in addition to being run by arrogant and foolish management was just as corrupted as the many other big names of our cancerously growing "financial sector" that "produces" little by comparison to their gleanings. Lehman "forgot" to supply the Bush admin with a Treasury secretary, as did the recently taken public Goldman, who protected the monstrously off-base AIG, which then covered GS. The Wang computer days were hard on most mfg's of mini-computers. Beth steel? Largely fell prey to "changes in governmental priorities" that once included having the Navy subsidize our cargo ships with the caveat that when WE need them WE get them. Instead............ Ha! "we" save money by trying to support the wars ginned up in the M/E by air. The fuel for one C-5 trip across the Pacific with an Abrahms tank aboard, and how many mid-air refuelings from fuel guzzling tankers could fuel a small fleet of ships........ which is how the private sector ships heavy cargo. Fortunately! "The slow moving government" or the many layers of government from city, county, state and fed aren't in the competitive game.... there job is more like making sure the ball field is maintained for the competitive games to be played on them.
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Thom: Thanks for trying to bring consensus, and to be sure there ARE some who favor the soaring inequality of wage/wealth distribution to continue apace as we ARE curious to know just how much consolidation our economy can withstand before imploding once again. Surely, as tax day comes nigh, there ARE lots of CPA's and those with enough wage-wealth to hire them who appreciate the irrational complexity of the ever-changing tax c o d e. On climate change, and perhaps for we Alaskans the even MORE immediate problem of Ocean Acidification there still ARE those complacently sipping their way through a six-pack who are, perhaps, BOTH unknowing and uncaring of the dire problem you bring forth. Are you a big fan of a capitalism and "the market" that waddles greedily on w/o properly pricing its externalities? I can certainly go along with much of your last, and perhaps never more than when the Spoiled Twit "got in" and arrogantly ignored advice to watch A-Q closely along with the advice that the surpluses inherited would not support a major tax break for the wealthy sponsors and pals and that one more attempt at "trickle down" would be just as ineffective as at other times in history. Agreed too! that the "decider" plural I suppose if you count the workings of Darth Cheney really made a mess of his vengeance seeking "preemptive" attack on the recently disarmed Iraq on the greatly flawed basis of cooked CIA books and LIES from all quarters that has cost us SO many lives of our brave and decent troops along with a Trillion bucks added to the debt -- give or give 50 - 100% for the Pentagon's "difficulty" with accepted accounting principles. In closing, I wonder if you've "market based??" suggestions as to what we should do (or not do?) with the increasing numbers of working folk falling well below the poverty line in this, "on average" richest of nations? Thanks in advance for any thoughtful consideration you might give to what appears to be a worrisome trend and one we KNOW will not be addressed by "the market".
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Neil --- I worked as computer programmer and analyst and did much the same..... perhaps the first debugging would be that of spotting a decimal point error, and then flushing some known quantities and answers through the thing -- high, low or mid-range. It may well be good to teach slide rule or at least similar thinking. In these policy discussions it seems common that once something is divorced from home budget magnitudes or tops a million, that the sense of proportion is completely lost. Speaking of which, have most compared our $500 Billion plus defense (now "pre-emptively" offensive) budget to less than a one million troop military for a cost of Half a Million per troop? With over 15 support troops for each forward deployed.
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I guess I'd have to back into this one by asking "What else do you suggest?" In the early days of our nation surely the (small) states had more autonomy. But then came war and the need to through in together. Then the slavery issue that surely violated our 75 year old Constitution. Suppose the decision had been "two America's?" Anyone here think that would have turned out better? Then BIG war, that required big money and the draft. And the Depression. Could any of the hardest hit states have worked their way out? With "less bureaucracy?" "more efficiency?" Then the biggest war of all with the necessarily biggest bureaucracy in history. Next? States opting NOT to live by our Constitution? States that could not, or would not "afford" to provide the education that, WE as a nation was committed to provide. See the pattern? More Fed bureaucracy to protect states that would not be able to protect themselves, and IF we're going to work that closely together with freedom of labor to travel, and a shared Treasury, it's only the Fed Gov that can insist on those of the "poor states" providing a basic level of education so as not to drag down the whole nation. Does anyone today really "wish" LBJ hadn't passed the Voting Rights Act? or that Nixon was silly for implementing the EPA? or that we'd rather not have the ICC checking trucking safety, and more? or, with rivers (and effluent) running through many states just skip the Water Quality bureaucracy? So, just as the EU is experiencing its birthing and adolescent pains of creating, out of many, a ONE, we'd devolve in the other direction? To create what? More "freedom" for states? On social issues like abortion? race? Or, ha! as we see, banking with the credit card industry consolidating in the states with the LEAST consumer protection? A, hopefully, "peaceful dissolution?" Then what? Voluntary membership in something like the UN to settle inter-state squabbles and rivalries? Could, would OK exact such highway taxes that trucks would have to circumvent that centrally located state? That states on the MS do the same on "our" piece of river that we'll pollute as we see fit? How 'bout this "company vs state or fed bureaucracy" stuff? Be it a fashion shoe mfg'er or a sports team, if you're not on top of your game you soon become an also-ran and not long after "once ran". Fortunately the task of our nation and state is not that of being at the leading edge. Instead it's more like building and maintaining the field upon which fast moving athletes compete or being sure the shoe mfg'er has an off ramp or, these days a port to facilitate delivery. In most areas the Fed and state can afford to be slow moving and even a bit bumbling. If, as is the case, we're $2 Trillion behind on maintaining roads, bridges and other necessary infrastructure, well, it is a drag, but! fast moving biz guys will "find a way". Lastly, the other week, we wrestled with "efficiency". At times, like say the Downhill Ski race at the Olympics, it takes every gram of "efficiency" to get their a hundreth of a sec faster than the Silver winner. But mostly? Not so much. Just recently a consultant insisted a company turn of its internal email; completely. What happened? Employees found the liked walking down the hall to talk directly and it appears they solved problems faster than pumping emails back and forth. In conclusion it seems that while we might aspire to more efficiency, some things just don't lend themselves to wringing out that last drop of "inefficiency". I've read books suggesting alliances by geographic region like "The Northwest" But as clumsy as it often is, doesn't our representative system do that and more? That Reps realize a fisheries alliance might include AK,MA,LA, and WA? Or on the next day the Alaska Rep is caucusing with the OK, TX, CA, LA and other big oil states? So it is. We've moved from the slide rule days to the soon to come quantum computers and booms and depressions w/o anything like a corresponding change in the "playing field" and will likely continue to "bumble" along. Ha! Then there was the late Kurt Vonnegut who used to pack up his manuscript and enjoy walking down to the PO to mail it, even as he had far more time efficient means of doing so. The author, who wrote mostly while still in bed opined that "man was meant to spend much of his time screwing around".
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Thomas... sure! "This focus on "social mobility" is pure nonsense. What we want to promote is a meritocracy--" ........ so we both favor something akin to a meritocracy (while knowing that a capitalist (or other) economy can't cut that fine) Now..... let's define upward mobility as that of "doing better than one's parents", OK? Now, in a static model with only merit being rewarded the only way to "do better" (upward mobility) than the parents would be that of garnering more merit. For example say a Bill Clinton having done quite a bit better than his car salesman stepfather. More seriously under a static model with no population growth or techno change it would be tough for the sons to outdo their parents, kinda the reason small farmers were prone to be small farmers for generations. Bu! instead of a static model we have one of lots of techno change and with productivity doubling in not much longer than one of today's generations. So..... with that kind of tailwind surely MOST should outdo their parents if measured by either productivity or income. Yet! our Profs are not sipping champagne over great stats indicating high mobility, but are trying to cling to "mobility being maybe the same as a prior age" if tweaked here and there. For the individuals of a society that's NOT very good. And especially not if we zoomed out and looked at the nation as a whole. Yep! The first year student would cry, "Look at that US go! They've worked hard and wisely to double their productivity in less than 30 years and have done the same with doubling GDP! Everyone must be ecstatic about so outpacing their parents!" But the novice was only seeing the average, as we see in these two graphs (and more if you like) such is not the case and all too many are scrambling hard just to maintain parity with the parents despite the strong tailwind of soaring productivity and increased GDP. Now! if you could clearly explain your thesis statement: his focus on "social mobility" is pure nonsense. What we want to promote is a meritocracy-- http://lanekenworthy.net/2008/03/09/the-best-inequality-graph/
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Thomas? A full tap dance in support of the soaring wage-wealth inequality that IS a hefty extra drag on our entire economy? I see the "even our poor are well off by comparison to the worst off in the world thingy from time to time, but not all that often these days. Do you post it in support of "Buying Chinese?" or profitably (for the corpies) MORE offshoring of what were once OUR jobs? Ha Neil~ A few things I recall of the venerable Bell Curve. One being that of their being few at each end of the curve, thus, NOT all that difficult to bring that lowest 20% up to a decent std of living including the free or affordable access to H/C of Canada and other more civilized nations. Then there was the symetrical shape of the famous curve, you know with most of the sample being within a std deviation or so from the average. Trouble with our "bell curve" of income is that of it looking more like half a dozen books slumped against one book-end. "Funny thing" a "meritocracy" made up of folks who tend to fair into the old symetrical bell curve while the "curve" of wage-wealth is so heavily skewed. What do folks here think about, say, the income of a tradesman like...... say a cab driver the craft and duties of which haven't changed much during the doubling of per capita income? On the one hand it would seem that as he hauls increasingly productive (and wealthy) folks to the airport or their jobs that he'd benefit by at least SOME trickle down. On the other we could say "Well cabbies are a dime a dozen and new ones are slipping in from Pakistan every week", let them slip below the poverty line and become eligible for gov bennies to make ends meet. Jim? Do you read the responses? Or is your "deal" more that of misspelling Amerika? for some reason? Geez........ I told you above that it's all about meritocracy and why said merits are not floating the skiffs and day boats up toward the yachts of the one percenters whose upward mobility increases day after day -- even when the companies they run (and pillage?) are paying huge fines for their negligence....... and worse. As for past super stars not having college et al.......... much the same could be said for those of little fame who succeeded well beyond the level and even hopes of their parents. Without the rungs on the ladder being available many will still have the "merit" but perhaps lack the will to repeatedly bang into a glass ceiling and opt to just go home early or chuck it all in favor of a more lucrative career in satisfying America's seemingly infinite demand for various vices.
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"I believe much of the blame rests with the fact that many children from minority families are raised with a single and not very educated parent, and that the quality of the schools attended by minority children is deficient. The interaction of these two forces produces a deadly mixture holding back the progress of minority children. The degree of mobility would increase significantly if ways could be found to efficiently lower the high school dropout rate." Which may suggest, more, not less spending on education which might include counselors and mentors for both "kids at risk" ............ and their parents who didn't get an owner's manual when they may have become parents at a young or poorly educated age. We do a lot of hand wringing over "wishing" all parents were good parents, but if we have any hopes in the realm of cycle breaking, it's hard to think of anything other than our schools doing a bit more. Lastly? Why do the becker posner sites so often have goofy stuff like a time limit for making a post?
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Jim: I think encouraging a meritocracy is what it's all about. Ha! I used to chuckle about pre-Thatcher era England being a place where the lords and bankers didn't work because their position was assured by their rigid class system, meanwhile at the lower level the kids starting in the factory KNEW they were going to top out at foreman, if that, late in their careers so they may as well stay out all night at the disco and pretend to work the next day. I don't know what the upward mobility in the UK was in those days, or today, but I'd bet it had a leading decimal point. How does is a meritocracy different from upward mobility? The U-M should be the result of the meritocracy. I guess the best example with be the coming Winter Olympics. Soon we're going to know the name of just about the best Bi-athalon guy in the world. His gold medal will be just about 99% pure meritocracy. At the other extreme I guess you have a lot of "People Magazine" celebs, say Paris Hilton? who has surely done something other than inherit a huge family fortune and join the glitterati set, but w/o the fortune it's not likely her name would be a household word on merit. Ha! you mention rewarding the energetic while the "slouches" decline. Here's a question for you and the Prof: Given stagnant wages for MOST income levels, from where comes the reward for those struggling in the trenches but not quite making the quantum leap to the much narrower part of the pyramid 10 or so percentiles higher? On the second graph down note the leap it would take for the meritorious to increase his income by $10,000/year http://lanekenworthy.net/2008/03/09/the-best-inequality-graph/
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Posner really gets this one right and after zooming in on some of the causes of lessening mobility: "This is partly because the kids tend to be smart, partly because the parents provide positive role models for the children and also can invest heavily in tutoring and other aids to their children’s education, and partly because colleges and universities tend to favor the admission of rich kids, who can be expected to become generous donors. And finally the children of the rich receive excellent nutrition and medical care, hence tend to be healthier than the average child." ........... along with the geographical aspect (yes a HS educated realtor can earn $5 million in NY and hardly be noticed, the same is not likely in midwestern towns and small cities) And Posner offers suggestions for improvement: "A significant redistribution of wealth to the poorer part of the population might, by improving nutrition and family stability, generate increased upward mobility." Let's take a closer look at what he he is saying. In the top paragraph, whether brighter, more talented or ambitious than the average or not, these kids get what they need to maximize their potential, plus the additional welcome mat at the better colleges and a few social connections thrown in for good measure. So........ as a society if we did what Posner suggests in his last lines we'd likely gain by providing more of the success factors to those of lower incomes and "unstable" families. As (often silly) arguments about "poor education" in our nation rages on, it seems obvious that "doing what it takes" to bring the bottom up is the low hanging fruit of increasing overall averages. If, that take more pre-K "Headstart" or a few extra positions as a school to mentor, tutor, inspire, those most at risk of failing or dropping out, that is what we should, perhaps must, be doing. It's too easy and rhetorically common in these discussions to think of "producers" and the opposite. Here I'm remember my fairly brief time in the military. While some of us shot Expert and some were smarter or could run faster, on the much more common patrol or forced march the company was only going to travel at the speed of the the least. In teaching us various skills, say tearing down a rifle for cleaning, they taught until the slowest learner could do the job. We seem to have forgotten that much of our society and economy works the same way. If our front runners succeed and become employers, or a 2nd LT looking for a team and our team players aren't there or able, the front runners are going to be walking and hoping. Posner mentions "options" being so miserable that some, often clever and with lots of drive and energy are drawn to crime. What a waste to society when that happens. First the negative "economics" of the criminal endeavor, then often costly court expenses, and more than many could earn being spent on lock up and perhaps a family left to welfare or other poverty. Upward mobility: Sometimes this sounds like the dog eat dog world of one guy moving past the other which is surely part of it, but the crucial thing is that when, as is the case today, there is a growing pie that all see some benefit. JFK said it about right with his hopes of "a rising tide lifting all of the boats". Yep, the guy in the skiff doesn't mind that the yacht is being lifted as long as he gets some bit of lift too. Both for the actuality of making a bit of progress but even more so for not feeling left out.
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Sequel: I do see the one great advantage is that of it being impossible to gerry a whole state. I've some experience on this as when I first came to Alaska state House members were elected at large within State Senate districts..... so we voted for something like 12 or so. First it was about impossible to know enough about a couple dozen to pick the "best" dozen. Next, it seems like other situations where "all are responsible" but in truth it means no one is accountable. Well, we've single member House districts now, and it is frustrating that I live in a demographic in which fairly decent Reps from my party has held the seat for years. My vote isn't much more than a redundant "me too". Meanwhile our House, like that of the nation is dominated by increasingly wacky 'baggers and assorted rightwing whackjobs. In fairness to your proposal WERE we to elect all of our House members at large, we'd, ha! in the changeover, have gerried a number of rural, umm....... rustics? out of their seats and moved the body closer to a fairly literate center. So I should favor, as nationwide the move should skew to more dominance by urban and suburban and against "old Joe" who has held some rural district since Romney was driving a Rambler with a squealing dog strapped to the roof-rack. But! I still have problems with true and accountable representation. For example if today's urban Chicago ward heeler were to drive 50 miles south folks would expect him to know corn from a hog's hindquarter and perhaps even get out of his car or something, and ha! NOT eyeing the farmer's land as a hot opp for a condo building buddy "up town". As Tip O'Neil famously said "All politics is local" it surely is and I guess we'll have to continue to try to subdue the Gerry monster by means other than 30 CA, NY or TX reps running at large. Ha! this last has me envisioning the guy "running" all over TX for that last vote, or gawd! buying the entire TX media market?
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Thomas, Speaking for only one commenter it was your earlier post that inspired me to joke with Neil as to whether the pint had been liberally passed around before I arrived. Of course no one here is going favor the reprehensible, gutter crawling tactic of acting in the manner of the original Gerry Mander to afflict the outcome of an election. There exists NO way that a purposefully sleazy gerrymander can enhance what remains of our democratic process. Sequel: Creative thoughts but go back to the idea of a REPRESENTATIVE representing a constituency. The (ideal) task of our political system is to input the needs and frustrations of the people, but to carefully consider the merits of changes vs status quo and what direction change should seek. Take CA. Obviously CA, SD and SF would elect all the At Large Reps..... ha perhaps an assorted bunch of glossy movie stars, surfers? and businessmen? Hahaha! like the uber nasty D. Issa? But then who reps Imperial Valley or Salinas farmers? Those trying to protect Lake Tahoe? The redwoods and sequoia's up where "nobody lives?" IF......... as Posner hopes would be easy, we could "outlaw gerrymandering" we'd do it in a heartbeat unless our efforts were stymied by an underhanded gerrymander. Neil: I'm often tempted by the "computer solution" Great to think we could write the "app" and let it handle the next dozen census years. But the criteria, say of our state is something like "substantially similar, contiguous et al" plus we're still (or were) one of the eleven states having to pass all the rest through Voting Rights Act measures to prevent prejudicial racist effects. Soooooo, the ""non-partisan"" kinda... commish takes a run at it, somehow with substantial bias favoring the Gov's views, a computer goes to work, then we go to court, redraw and go to court again. It really is not as easy as Posner would hope with the best of intent, and of course the best of intent is never the case and Gerry lives on.
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Ha.. thanks Neil, GOTV is the crucial element that has saved us from some real disasters in the last two elections. Umm, has the pint been passed around here 'bout 8:30?
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