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Neil Sinhababu
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Usually I ask my friends at prominent departments first about giving talks, since that's where you need the most advance notice. Then I contact smaller departments in the area and let them know that I have my own funding. They're often interested in having colloquium speakers but lack the budget to do so. In the end, I get to talk with an enormous number of philosophers!
Two solutions, cp: (1) Everyone (maybe every APA member with a PhD) does specialty rankings in their area of expertise, and then we aggregate the results, weighting by the number of people in each specialty. (2) Everyone (see above) votes on people they regard as qualified experts, to do a lot of ranking work. Those democratically elected people become the rankers. In each case, we're ranked by experts, either in their specialty (presumably if you have a PhD you're an expert at something) or by people we think are experts.
"No Rankings, Not Now, Not Ever" is the rallying cry for the October Statement, and over a hundred philosophers have signed. They think it would be better not to have rankings of philosophy departments. For all I say here, they might be right. The trouble is that there's no way... Continue reading
Regarding the journal titles, I was just chasing silly puns. Philosophical Quality sounds enough like Philosophical Quarterly, and Journal of Universal Acceptance is sort of the reverse of the famed Journal of Universal Rejection. Marcus, your points about bias are entirely reasonable. I don't know what the right position is between total skepticism about assessments of journal quality, and full confidence in my immediate judgments.
Sorry that your comment got caught in the spam filter for a while, Moti. I'm just expressing my own judgment up there, but I do think the average Phil Review paper presents more novel views and interesting arguments (and engages with more literature) than the average Phil Studies or Synthese paper. Obviously there are lots of exceptions in both directions -- there are a few Phil Review papers that I think shouldn't have been published anywhere without massive revisions, but as far as I can recall I think that less frequently for Phil Review than for other journals.
Mike, throughout this post I'm granting Google its assumption that citations correlate with quality. If this is false, everything Google is doing collapses, because they're running a citation-based system. (In fact I think this correlation is very rough and breaks down in many ways.) But making Google's assumption, it will be true that publishing lots of papers that don't get cited reduces the average quality of papers in a journal, since it means that the journal is publishing lots of bad papers.
Rachel, even if we're too obsessed with rankings, we shouldn't have bad rankings. Mike, I don't say anything about making the rankings sensitive to acceptance rates. If some journal accepts every paper because every paper is good, and all its papers get heavily cited, that's great and it should be ranked highly. Also, Google is making a pretty strong assumption that paper quality is correlated with how much the papers get cited. If things typically go as they do in your example, Google's rankings are in big trouble for a totally different reason. rankings ranking, I think I agree with most of your comment. If Google has the effect of muddling our sense for average paper quality, but getting the smaller journals to move up to accepting 50 papers a year instead of just 25, that might be good on balance. Hyperselectivity by journals is a problem.
Brian Leiter criticizes the new Google Scholar Metrics, which uses h-index and various similar measures to assess journals. He writes that "since it doesn't control for frequency of publication, or the size of each volume, its results are worthless." Some of my friends on Facebook are wondering why he's saying... Continue reading
In a sense, I agree, Jamie -- we could just issue currency and pay the debt with it, which would be the reasonable thing to do in such a situation. But the reason we'd do that is that not issuing currency and defaulting is even worse. In that sense, default is the worst-case scenario. And Yoho seems to be interested in instigating default right here and now. Default is only impossible if people act in a reasonable way.
Eric, the "more recent polling" you cite has nothing at all on defense cuts or spending, as far as I can see. It's about civil liberties and surveillance. The other articles are two years old, like the polling that you seem to think is outdated, and contain very broad "everything is on the table" rhetoric that doesn't focus on defense spending as an area that especially needs to be cut. When they mention it (and in many quotes they don't), they mention it along with everything else.
Eric, polls show that Republicans oppose cutting defense spending by a 71-29 margin. They also oppose cutting Medicare by 85-13 and oppose cutting Social Security by 81-18. So they actually like the war-making machine and most of the other spending. Those 3 things are over 60% of the federal budget. The poll I've got doesn't break down the GOP base into Tea Party vs. moderates, but those are big enough margins that they'll have to characterize the Tea Party pretty well. The poll supports David's criticisms of your (ii) and (iii) above -- they aren't opposed to the war-making machine, even if they occasionally dislike specific applications of it. It shows that supporting default doesn't come out of their rejecting the major federal spending priorities. They agree with the spending, for the most part. And yet, they're okay with defaulting on debt when we're paying just 2.65%.
I mean, countries paying high interest rates have a reason to default. But the US is paying 2.65% on the ten-year bond! That's very, very low. Ending the growth of debt is a silly objective -- we should be borrowing more and more to invest in education, infrastructure, and research, as long as rates stay so low. And to throw away your access to capital by defaulting, when people are willing to lend you money at 2.65%, is complete and total insanity.
Defaulting on the national debt is an utterly insane way to end the growth of debt.
To understand why Congressional Republicans are taking extreme bargaining positions that shut down the government and risk defaulting on debt, it's useful to look at how their voters have been defeating moderates and nominating crazy people in primaries. This makes Republican officeholders do the crazy things that the Tea Party... Continue reading
Eric, I do think that we're helping the unemployed with that -- unemployment has gone down. I just want us to do it more, so unemployment goes down more. I'd like to see the Fed cut the interest rate on excess reserves to deal with the problem you're describing. Inflation helps here too. If the rate of inflation exceeds the interest rate on excess reserves, holding onto cash is a bad deal for banks. Dan, Eric's last comment responds nicely to your description of the constraints on the Fed. The Fed may not be able to literally print money and give it away, but there are a variety of ways in which it can do something functionally identical by buying securities, in concert with the Treasury department. Suppose the Treasury prints a piece of paper that says "We'll pay the bearer $1 trillion. This note expires on date Y." The Fed can simply buy the piece of paper for $1 trillion, and hold it beyond expiration without redeeming it. Now Treasury has a trillion dollars. I'd be happy to see the Fed eliminate the national debt this way. I don't know where this "Volcker failed" stuff is coming from. He succeeded in controlling inflation in the early 1980s by raising interest rates. It's a story of Fed success in controlling the economy through interest rates, not failure. I don't know how happy a success it was -- I don't think inflation is really that bad. But he did succeed in getting it down. We agree overall on the value of fiscal stimulus, though. I'd be happy to see the government address unemployment through fiscal stimulus instead of monetary stimulus. The big problem in the short term is that that would require support from the House. That body will probably be Republican-controlled until at least 2017, and those people are completely insane. So right now, I'm especially looking for solutions that involve the Fed and the executive branch. Furthermore, if the Fed doesn't want fiscal stimulus, it can undo the effects of fiscal stimulus by just sucking money out of the economy with high interest rates. So you need the Fed to operate constructively in any case. But if the major pressure came from a future legislature that would set up a guaranteed basic income or put the money into domestic programs, while the Fed simply didn't raise interest rates in response, I'd be very happy with that.
Some of my friends in academia like this blog post explaining the unhappiness of Generation Y kids in terms of how they think they're special and they're so entitled and they use social media. Who knows? That might be part of the story. But kids with an excessive sense of... Continue reading
Dan, show me one place in the article where Buffett gives a concrete suggestion for how to stop human trafficking -- a law that can be passed, a group one can get involved with, or a politician one can support. If he had anything useful to say about that, I would've been much more positive about the article. But there is absolutely nothing. Or show me one place where he outlines a concrete way to prevent the "systemic poverty and powerlessness" that you mention. I'd love to see a way to help out with that. But again, he's got nothing. As John says, "such structural change will prove hard to come by" -- actually, that's a pretty radical understatement. Lots of people want structural change that would improve the lives of the poor. If it was at all easy to create, it would've happened a while ago. It's just that creating it is a really difficult matter. Contrasting existing charity with some fantasy vision of systemic change definitely makes existing charity look bad. And that's all Buffett has for us here. I make some suggestions about how to get it in this post -- give money to lobbying groups that support the interests of the poorest people in the world. Maybe there are better suggestions. But I'd like to see them.
There are a lot of useful criticisms one could make of the way wealthy people make charitable contributions, so it's kind of a shame that Peter Buffett had to write this instead. I'm sure he's right that there are all sorts of problems with the motivations and strategies of wealthy... Continue reading
Victories for civil liberties have been few and far between over the last decade, but here's a little story with a happy ending. It begins with a federal judgeship opening up in the Southern District of New York, and Senator Chuck Schumer suggesting a replacement. Schumer recommended Nelson Román, a... Continue reading
Bob, let me help you understand this vein of moral outrage. I'm happy for students to have fun with their fellow students. That's a good thing and I hope it works out for people. Views differ on this, but I don't mind people kissing each other in public and stuff like that. (I take it that this is what you mean by PDA, not Palm Pilots, though the pluralization may have confused people.) It's kind of like seeing kids eating ice cream. I like it when people are happy. But I don't like it when professors use their power to turn the teacher-student relationship into something sexual. You don't want students to feel pushed into some kind of sexual interaction that they don't really want, or feel like they have to interact sexually with professors to make their academic career go forward. In one case, there generally aren't problematic power relationships. In the other case, there are.
The judge handed down a guilty verdict in the Steubenville rape case today. The sentences are fairly short, as the perpetrators are juveniles. It seems to me that justice was done. As far as I can tell, the basic issues in this case aren't at all complicated. If I get... Continue reading
This would be a nice format to have. When I found something perplexing in a book or an article, it'd be nice to be able to look online and quickly see what discussion there was on the issue. We'd need some pretty serious defenses against trolls, cranks, and spammers. I guess having the author moderate (or delegate moderation) would help somewhat, and if norms for moderation were set the right way, this could work out well. But if raw comment-counts really became a metric of publication success, authors might actually want their book to be spammed! Promotion and tenure committees would have to make sure most of the comments weren't from "Viagra Cialis". Maybe if these things were set up on a suitably centralized and well-maintained site (maybe the PhilPapers of the future?) these issues could all be taken care of.
Thanks for the link, Kenny. It looks like Cramer was, in multiple senses of the word, speculating. It's hard to tell whether Teixiera was doing the right thing with limited data, or whether he was doing wishful thinking on limited data. I suspect the latter, which in any case is more forgivable than following one's wishful thinking in the data-rich modern context.
Daniel, I like what the appliedrationality people are doing. As you say, my reason for doing it this way is that very few people give state-by-state probabilistic predictions, especially the celebrity political analysts who populate the bottom half of the chart. Mohan, I think there's a difference between the crime rate / height stuff and the voting. What you do in figuring out future crime rates and average heights is make projections off of many present crime rates and heights. What you do in predicting future elections isn't exactly to make projections off of a present election, because a poll isn't an election. A poll simulates an election in a lot of ways (it elicits reports / expressions of the relevant mental states) but not in others (there are no ballots, people are at home, people know that their actions don't determine who is elected). Why do poll responses have predictive value despite the differences? Well, because the mental states that are reported/expressed in well-conducted polls are the ones that determine voting behavior. That's a fairly basic psychological claim, but it's a substantive psychological claim all the same.
Also, as far as I know, no major political analyst picked Obama to win a state that he lost. NC was pretty close, with Romney winning by 2.2%, but no Democrats picked Obama to win it. (Jim Cramer was out there picking Obama to get 440 electoral votes, but he isn't any sort of serious political analyst.) Meanwhile Republicans were picking Romney victories in states he didn't need, and where Obama's margin was much bigger than in NC.