Links – 03/19/2017

  • According to HIS Jane’s, Russia, which as everybody knows is intent on subjugating the world, recently announced that it would cut military expenditure by 25% in 2017, after several years of increase. But Mark Galeotti argues on his blog that it’s exaggerated. Meanwhile, the peace-loving United States will increase military expenditure by a whopping $54 billion, which is about 80% of Russia’s entire defense budget. However, as Vox argues (not entirely convincingly), this is also somewhat exaggerated. Needless to say, John McCain feels cheated, as he doesn’t think that $600 billion/year is enough to set the world on fire. Let’s hope that someone finally finds his pills again, as he’s been even more unhinged than usual lately, which is saying a lot.
  • Nick Gillespie wrote a good piece about Betsy DeVos, while the controversy about her confirmation was still raging. (As I noted before, the Democrats made a spectacle of their opposition to the confirmation of DeVos, who as Secretary of Education is largely powerless, while the torture-friendly, warmongering Pompeo, as Director of the CIA is definitely not powerless, sailed through the nomination process.) See also this earlier article by the same author, where he quotes Jay Greene on RCTs about school vouchers: “If we found the equivalent of halving the black-white test score gap from RCTs from a new cancer drug, everyone would be jumping for joy – even if the benefits were found only for certain types of cancer.” This is true, but unlike what is the case in education, there are no unions defending cancer.
  • Meanwhile, the Board of Regents in New York State dropped the requirement to pass a literacy test  for people who want to become teachers, on the ground that it was discriminatory toward minorities. The proponents of that decision, including teachers unions, claim that the test was redundant since candidates were already required to have a Bachelor. Indeed, it was so redundant that, according to the New York Times, only 64% of white candidates, 46% of hispanic candidates and 41% of black candidate passed the test on first try in 2014. But make no mistake, the real problem with education in the US is Betsy DeVos, not that public schools that employ illiterate teachers…
  • Some of the students who prevented Charles Murray from giving a talk at Middlebury College earlier this month, as I briefly discussed a few days ago, wrote a remarkably confused response to a statement signed by more than 75 professors defending freedom of speech on campus. Students who attempt to prevent a speaker from giving a talk should be expelled after receiving due process. (But due process doesn’t mean that there should be any doubt as to the outcome, once it has been established that they have indeed engaged in that kind of tactics.)
  • On a closely related topic, the Brookings Institution recently published this analysis, which shows that universities where students have attempted to restrict free speech in recent years tend to have students who are significantly more affluent than average. As the authors note, this could just be an instance of Simpson’s paradox, but there are reasons to doubt it. It seems likely that, in addition to being illiberal little shits, the students who engage in that kind of tactics are also spoiled brats.

5 thoughts

    1. I think the author of that post makes pretty fair points, although the second one wouldn’t really be available to many people who oppose school choice, since they like to insist that demand for a school is not a sign of quality. (But this doesn’t speak to the author of that post.) Anyway, I’ll come back to that issue more at length at some point, because I think it’s really important. My view about school choice in a nutshell is that it would be a significant improvement, especially if you take into account cost-effectiveness (which opponents almost always ignore), but it’s not the panacea that conservatives imagine, because there is no such thing as a panacea. The truth is that what makes a good school good is primarily the students in it. It’s a conservative fantasy that, if you take students who live in a ghetto and give them vouchers or send them to charter schools, most of them will end up in Ivy League universities. But it doesn’t mean that pouring money into inefficient public schools is the way to go and, in any case, teachers unions are definitely a fucking cancer that are only out to protect their rent.

      1. To connect this issue to my remarks on Sanandaji, I think the education debate is often a kind of proxy for a poverty debate, because so many American conservatives and liberals assume (wrongly) that better education is the only (or even a) way to reduce poverty.

        In reality, the best way to reduce poverty is to transfer cash to the poor (and preferably, for both political and policy reasons, everyone else as well). Education has little to do with it. In fact, it even might be the case that poverty holds back poor students educationally. If that’s true, then you can better fix educational problems by fixing the poverty problems, rather than the other way around. If it’s not true, then the worse you’ll have done is fix the thing you were trying to fix by screwing around with education…

  1. My father gives my ne’er-do-well brother money, but it doesn’t really lift him out of poverty. He keeps quitting jobs whenever his superior disses him, because he knows he won’t starve. Then my father and my sister yell at him–I don’t care anymore–and he gets another entry level job for a while, until he drifts away again. The only way to reduce poverty is to eliminate the behaviors (like quitting your job whenever you get dissed) that cause poverty. Admittedly, no one really knows how to do that.

    Now, if you had made the much more limited claim that the best way to eliminate starvation and malnutrition is to give people food, preferably (for political reasons) tasteless food that most people won’t envy, then I would agree. Also, the best way to eliminate death from exposure is to set up free shelters, again (for political reasons) unpleasant enough that most people don’t envy them. More than that, we don’t know how to do at this point.

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