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Jonathan Wiley
SF Bay Area
I'm a husband, aspiring actuary, and public policy/discourse enthusiast.
Interests: mathematics, public policy, discourse, political science, economics, actuarial science, feminism, comparative religion, seal pups
Recent Activity
Anon: This is a weird post. I think that keeping things professional usually works best, whereas spreading rumors about "what this guy is like in private" does not strike me as a very professional move. You feel that this post is weird and some other people seem to think it's not so weird. I think that difference in reaction is linked to the concepts that Frances is trying to address. What I mean is that by trying to understand why another person has another reaction, we can broaden our understanding of the world. In this particular case, gender is the salient root of the difference, but it other cases it could be a million other things.
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As a general rule, I think the best "second opinions" are those who have points of view as dissimilar from our own as possible. Of course, they have to be able to discuss ideas in a logical and non-confrontational manner, but among those who can, the ones different from you are the most useful. Maybe if people looked at the interactions and decisions that you describe from that angle, diversity (or not enforcing a lack of diversity) would seem more valuable.
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A lot of the tension in the US election centered around immigration (connected to race), trade (arguably connected to race), and race. The legacy of slavery in the US impacts basically every issue down here to some extent and it still weighs heavily on trust between different populations. I can't really overemphasize that. It's rarely the issue at hand, but it almost always influences how we understand the issue at hand. In this regard, the US may be more similar to Israel than to Canada. Immigration in the US has often been mostly uncontrolled by the government. Geography makes a big difference here. Canada has (more that any other country?) achieved a high rate of immigration while at the same time maintaining an immigrant population with levels of achievement very similar to those of native-born Canadians. The US has not. That leaves many (non-white) immigrants destined to stay in the lower rungs of society. That's a recipe for inter-ethnic conflict. The idea that the poor in the US are mostly people of color (for the above reasons) has clouded the debate about redistribution, which has created this intractable mess of poor people who want help but don't want redistribution. So, what's the solution? Blame China (never Germany, though...). They stole our jobs. Trade is bad. Here again, the situation is different in Canada. Canadians see more evidence of the importance of trade because Canada is a smaller market. It's easier for Americans to fool ourselves into thinking we could get by just fine without trade. I'm not saying that the central arguments in the campaign were racist. I'm saying that race had an impact on how people perceived the issues. To summarize, Canada has made some excellent policy decisions to avoid Trumpist crises: Don't have lots of slaves, don't border a developing country, and don't be as large as the nearby markets.
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"English (which, by all accounts, is an easier language to learn than French to start with)." I think in terms of listening comprehension, French is a relatively difficult language, but to read phonetically, it's vastly easier than English, which is a total disaster. As far as spelling, I think they're both pretty bad.
Toggle Commented Nov 5, 2016 on A Supreme Folly at Worthwhile Canadian Initiative
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Avon I wasn't trying suggest that policies themselves can have hubris. I wanted to ask you whether you think the "social planners" would still demonstrate hubris if they advised the same basic policy goals based on the same models but advocated transitioning from the present set of policies to their preferred ones in a gradual process over a relatively long period of time, rather than abruptly over a short period of time.
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Avon: "The hubris of central planning is that government economists think they can write down some model and tell us things they can't possibly know." Do you think the hubris lies in the policy suggestions themselves or in the speed with which policy changes are made?
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From what I've read, Canada is an extreme case when it comes to the relationship between immigrants and the rest of society. I believe I saw something about Canada being the only country where children of immigrant families perform better on average on standardized testing than children of non-immigrant families. Perhaps being an extreme case makes it harder to use international models to predict outcomes (ie. there is no interpolation, only extrapolation). I'm going out on a limb here, but maybe in the US there's an expectation that immigrants are either geniuses or criminals, which has become a self-fulfilling prophesy to a certain extent.
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1. Do you think these people will have the same number of children in Canada as they would have in their home countries? 2. Will remittances from new arrivals have an impact on consumption beyond Canada's borders (more air conditioners, perhaps)? 3. Living less than an hour from Silicon Valley, I constantly hear about startups and inventions by immigrants from developing countries. Many of those inventions are aimed at solving problems in their homelands. In Canada, do innovations of that nature have a notable positive or negative environmental impact? 4. How soon with climate change turn these potential immigrants into potential refugees?
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And if you want evidence of this intuition gap, you don't even have to leave this blog. Blast from the past: http://worthwhile.typepad.com/worthwhile_canadian_initi/2011/05/how-not-to-evaluate-immigration-policy.html
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Not everyone has the same intuitions as economists generally do. Complacently ignoring that fact can be dangerous. I'm writing this from a country where this very issue has been connected to the possibility of some sort of coup depending on what happens in the next month.
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Neither requiring bilingualism in schools nor requiring it in the legal world would be all that extreme. There are examples of similar policies in other countries and in other disciplines. Many graduate schools have foreign language entrance requirements. When I was planning to study for a doctorate in math, I knew that I would need to have a basic understanding of two languages out of German, French, and Russian. The basis for this requirement is the importance of research journals and the impracticality of translating these copious technical works. I think the same applies in the case of Canadian law, so I don't think it would be at all weird for law schools to require a specified degree of ability in both languages. In any case, don't law schools usually try to base their entrance requirements around measurements of generalized intelligence? If the country provides reasonable opportunities for learning a second language, then bilingual fluency would fit perfectly with the law school ethos. Back in the day, people displayed their intelligence by learning Latin, so this isn't really a new idea. On the issue of public schooling, I'm from the US, so I know how ineffective North American language studies can be. Apparently, the Europeans have overcome that issue, so it's definitely possible. In a rather extreme case, Luxembourg has a completely trilingual school system for all native-born children. In Luxembourg, different grade levels are conducted in different languages, which totally shocked me the first time I read it. Here’s an article about the Luxembourgish education system: http://www.unavarra.es/tel2l/eng/luxembourg.htm Canada could theoretically adopt a multilingual system like the one in Luxembourg, but that would obviously be highly radical. However, Canada already has parallel education systems, right? So theoretically, some sort of program for switching between English-language schools and French-language schools would have the same effect. In any case, spending a year or two in a part of the country where the language is different seems like a worthwhile activity that should be encouraged as much as is feasible (ie. Quebec can only hold so many Anglophone kids). When it comes to any sort of universal bilingual fluency requirement for students, I would personally want to see a few exemptions. The first would be for anyone who spoke an indigenous language. After all, the basis for these laws is the protection of established communities from linguistic conquest, which the First Nations suffer way more than anyone else. The second would be for immigrants whose first language is neither English nor French. The effort of learning just one of the two languages is often large and demonstrates a strong commitment to being part of Canada. But, I’m not Canadian (although my grandfather was born in Medicine Hat, Alberta), so my opinion doesn’t mean anything.
Toggle Commented Oct 22, 2016 on A Supreme Folly at Worthwhile Canadian Initiative
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Frances- Are you saying that this new policy is itself elitist? If so, does the elitism apply to the inspiration (not understanding the challenges that non-elites face), the intent (trying to keep non-elites off the Court), or impact(making it harder for non-elites to get on the Court)? Maybe I'm nitpicking over semantics, but I think the distinction is worth making. I can't help but imagine if "elitism" were replaced with "sexism." Would you call the research chair policy sexist or would that label seem unfairly or counterproductively inflammatory? Do you think any of these distinctions even matter?
Toggle Commented Oct 21, 2016 on A Supreme Folly at Worthwhile Canadian Initiative
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Frances: "So think of research grants as buying lotto 6-49 tickets. It's never guaranteed that you'll hit the jackpot, but you're better off buying a whole bunch of different tickets with different numbers on them than making a really big bet on one particular number. This is particularly true in field like economics or mathematics or anything theoretical, where generally speaking all you need to do research is a computer - in these fields you don't generally need great wads of money to run labs etc (though it's nice to have enough funds to get 29 people together and have a conference and brain storm). Another problem with the CERCs and similar programs is that they kick in after people have hit their peak productivity. I can think of one economist in particular who has held a CRC for years, and all the while his his research productivity has been steadily falling, and how his output has dwindled to a trickle of low-ranked publications. Meanwhile smart young people who are great teachers and great researchers can't find a job." How much of this do you think is specific to economics and how much applies to basically every academic field?
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Maybe I'm way off, but to me it seems like different posters are trying to solve different problems. My impression is that Frances is looking for a policy that maximizes the quality of economic publications. Avon seems to be trying to find out how to get universities to invest their money efficiently with regard to their own self-interest, although since we're not really talking about for-profit universities, I don't know what "self-interest" means. Patrick is, I believe, looking for a way to make economic work equally rewarded for males and females. Or maybe he wants the same thing as Frances, except that he and she have different positive expectations. I have a question regarding those exact expectations. Frances: "When the causes of the gender bias are structural (i.e. in this case only awarding chairs to "world renown researchers"), and the structures can be readily changed (put the money into something else), it's better to change the underlying structures than to force gender-equitable outcomes." Do you think there's a clear distinction here between the "outcomes" and the "structure"?
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I've only given this a quick scan so far, so I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned this study from last year: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/347/6219/262.abstract Basically, the study provides evidence suggesting that differential success of men and women across academic fields is largely determined by whether academics view the brilliance (male) or hard work (often female) as the key to making a positive contribution in that field.
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Maybe the hubris in this situation isn't connected directly to big government social planning as much as it is to rapid/revolutionary policy implementation. The social planners that Avon mentions want to expand the role of government in people's lives and the progressives that Nick mentions want to replace traditional social norms, but both endeavors can be attempted in an evolutionary step-by-step process or in a revolutionary great leap forward. Maybe the latter is where most of the hubris comes into play.
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Oct 10, 2016