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Stefan Sciaraffa
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I plan to vote for Clinton, and my reasons are not merely anti-Trump. I'm certainly far to her left, but I think she's pointed in the right direction on many issues in addition to the two I am about to mention. That said, I think the anti-Trump reasons to support her alone are overwhelmingly dispositive. As I see it, the two most pressing--more pointedly the only existential--issues are climate change and avoiding a horrible global scale war. At the very least, I expect Clinton to continue and at least modestly build upon what the Obama administration has done, and I would expect Trump to scuttle the little progress that has been made and take us backwards. We can't afford that. As for the second issue, I think one of Clinton's biggest failings is her misguided hawkishness; however, it seems limited to smaller scale interventions for circumscribed ends (Assad, Ghadafi (I doubt she would have gone after Hussein on her own volition)). By contrast, I think we can get a pretty good idea of the existential risks a Trump presidency would pose from the public record of his conflicts with former business partners and on the campaign trial. It is pretty clear that he takes such conflict personally, sees them as zero-sum, digs in, and aggressively uses what ever power he has at his disposal to dominate his rivals. As president, he'd be embroiled in many conflicts, and he'd have the world' s most powerful army at his disposal. And with Trump, it seems that everything is personal. Here's some reason to think that his foreign policy would be personal in an unprecedented way. Krugman's Friday column was on this same subject. Admittedly this is speculative, but now at least two fairly reputable folks have been pushing this line. One way to read this if it pans out: Trump as president would be under Putin's influence. I think the more likely and much scarier scenario is the following: he would not stand for being subject to such influence. And, it sure jibes with my sense that Trump is such a narcissistic basket case that he'd embroil us all in his personal business dealings if that were within his power.
I'm inclined to distinguish between those who habitually pontificate and moralistically posture about politics and other issues of the day on Facebook from those who tend to discuss and opine on the same subject matter sans the pontification and moralistic posturing. In short, I'm annoyed by the former set of folks (who isn't?) and tend to unfollow them, whereas I look forward to posts from the latter set. Analogously, I enjoy discussing politics and the like with real life friends, and I wouldn't want to relegate my conversations with them to kids, pets, and the occasional professional accomplishment (though I am interested in those topics too!). As an aside, my Facebook community comprises three main groups--my relatives and high school friends from Texas, philosophy friends, and friends I've made as an adult outside the philosophy community. I'm pretty certain that the first group suffers the highest percentage of pontificators and moralizers (from the right), philosophy friends rank second on this score (pontificating/moralizing from the left, save for the occasional libertarian prone to ritualistic condemnations of the unenlightened and economically illiterate masses), and the friends I've made as an adult rank third. As far as my own posts go, a pretty high percentage of them are on politics and such, and some probably have crossed the pontificating/posturing line, but I don't post all that often, and I don't think I'm a serial line-crosser. If I weren't such an earnest and hard worker, I might consider starting a blog! ;)
So, my worries about authoritarianism in America remain. But in light of last night's debate and the antics leading up to it, perhaps Trump doesn't have the chops to exploit fully and expand the authoritarian base. The farce can't come before the tragedy. Hopefully, things will get better economically before a more competent authoritarian demagogue surfaces.
HI Howard. I'm not sure. But take a look at the Vox piece and this Politico piece reporting on the same body of recent research. According to those reports, how Republicans measure on an authoritarian scale (as operationalized by five questions about child-rearing priorities) correlates robustly (more so than many traditional demographic features) with support for Trump. Here's a key paragraph from the Politico piece and a link: My finding is the result of a national poll I conducted in the last five days of December under the auspices of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, sampling 1,800 registered voters across the country and the political spectrum. Running a standard statistical analysis, I found that education, income, gender, age, ideology and religiosity had no significant bearing on a Republican voter’s preferred candidate. Only two of the variables I looked at were statistically significant: authoritarianism, followed by fear of terrorism, though the former was far more significant than the latter. Read more:
My main thought is that Trump is an authoritarian strong man, and sometimes, when the conditions are ripe, those guys win. So, I'm worried. A number of journalistic pieces have recently come out that summarize research into authoritarian appeal in general and spell out some implications for the Trump candidacy. As i understand it, the gist of these pieces is threefold. First, a significant percentage of most any population has a a relatively fixed disposition to be receptive to an authoritarian message and that many others have a similar authoritarian receptivity that can be triggered in the presence of particular kinds of threats (to physical security and group-based social standing). Second, a lot of of folks are experiencing threats of just this sort: wages have been stagnant for a very long time now; there is a large proportion of the population that is both faring poorly economically and experiencing threatening demographic changes (Trump's nativist base), and; there is a chronic perception of foreign terrorist threat. Third, Trump is clearly appealing to authoritarian voters. Heres' a link to a fairly lengthy overview. I should also say that if anyone is wondering how Trump would govern given his ever changing positions on a variety of issues, I think the answer is that he is an authoritarian and would seek to govern as such. Nativist, bellicose, and impatient with legal and constitutional proprieties. All to a degree unprecedented in American governance if he can get away with it. I'm guessing that there aren't enough authoritarians out there in the general electorate to elect Trump. But I'm by no means certain about this answer to that empirical question, particularly given that emergent threats (say a terrorist attack in the U.S.) could trigger latent authoritarian dispositions. So, I am most definitely ill at ease about the looming natural experiment that will answer this empirical question.
I don't know about the norms exactly, but at my R1 university, the working principle is that we allocate our time 40% to research, 40% to teaching, 20% to service. We could assume (to put it in terms lawyers or accountants might recognize) 2000 billable hours per year (a pretty hefty load even at a law firm) that would imply 800 hours per year for teaching. Our course load is 2/2. So that's 200 hours per course, in theory at least. So, given about (3*13) hours of class time per course, that would mean about 161 hours per course outside of class time (4/1 ratio of prep to class instruction. Reducing the billable hours per year to 1600 results in a figure of about 110 hours per class outside of class time--roughly 3 hour prep to 1 hour of class instruction ratio.
To my mind mind, the interesting bits in Brennan's discussion offer explanations or at least links to explanations of why we have so many adjuncts these days. Here's one passage from Brennan: "1. I think Ginsberg’s public choice account of what happened at universities is basically right. Universities have been captured by administrators, and they tend to run things in ways that benefit themselves and those to whom they answer more than faculty or students. Universities suffer from all sorts of Niskanen-type problems and are in many ways highly corrupt. I’m not joking when I say that GEICO is the most moral organization I worked for, and that both universities I’ve worked for have far worse problems." This comment is in line with what I think is a pretty common belief about administrative bloat. Roughly, the story goes that the administrative layer at universities has proliferated leading to a whole host of institutional pathologies, one of which is the overuse and abuse of adjuncts. However, as the saying goes, this is an empirical question. I don't have a firm view on this, but there are other possible explanations of the particular pathology. According to a second commonly held belief, decreased governmental support of universities has forced universities to find cheaper ways of doing things, including increasing the ranks of adjuncts. Of course both administrative bloat and decreased state funding might contribute to the overuse and abuse of adjuncts, and it is an empirical question whether either does and to what degree. Here's a link to a recent study that suggests that administrative bloat is not really that significant of a phenomenon and that decreased state funding is. The linked study considers alternative explanations of the steep rise in the cost of college tuition. It considers a number of possibilities, including administrative bloat and decreased state funding, and it concludes that by far the most significant contributor is decreased state funding and that at least in dollar terms administrative bloat is not that significant of a phenomenon. If decreased state funding is the main culprit forcing universities to raise revenue by increasing tuition rates, perhaps it is also the main driver driving them to higher and abuse adjuncts in an effort to decrease costs. [As a related aside, I wonder if the overuse and abuse of adjuncts is by and large relegated to public institutions. Brennan notes that his private institution minimizes the use of adjuncts. And, here's a bit of speculation. If, as the linked study concludes, decreased state funding has forced public universities to increase tuition, this might in turn free private universities to do the same.] I admit I'm getting a bit ahead of my empirical skis here, but in light of the foregoing, here's a non-libertarian working assessment of the sociological phenomenon that is Brennan's discussion and exchange with his commenters as well as the subject matter of that discussion: This is just another battle in the class war. Beginning in the early 1980s, taxes rates, particularly those that affect high earners and owners of capital, are slashed at the federal and state level. This, plus an associated animus directed at higher education, leads to massive cuts in state funding allocated to public universities, which in turn leads to increased tuition rates and an increased reliance on and abuse of adjuncts. All this divides and pits administrators, TT faculty, and adjuncts against one another.
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May 8, 2015