Friday, March 18, 2005

Pooling Resources

In my book, ANALYZING POLICY, I have a chapter on politics and voting.

In it, there is an example of municipal pool. 5 citizens, 3 want a pool and 2 don't. Now, the 3 citizens could form a private club (Thanks, Professor James B!), and build their own club (pools are excludable, no need for them to be "public" in any sense).

But the 3 citizens can force their will on the other 2, and make the pool collective. Not public (pools are excludable, at low cost. Have to have a fence, anyway, to keep little kids and goats out) but collective. That way, the 3 citizens who want a pool can steal the "support" (meaning money, taken against their will and at gunpoint) from the other 2 citizens. As usual, democracy is 3 wolves and 2 sheep deciding what's for lunch (feeling sheepish?)

Anyway....the Onion has this excellent satire. Excerpt:

MANKATO, MN—The Mankato City Council voted 6-3 against the issuance of a $500,000 municipal bond Tuesday, marking the end of one man's tireless, 10-year-long crusade to ensure that a proposed community pool not be built.

"Victory!" said Irv Draper, founder of Taxpayers For Wise Choices, who announced the bond's defeat from the steps of City Hall. "Today, the city council stood up in favor of the long-term interests of tax-paying Mankatoans. After 10 long years of ceaseless toil, I can finally say that a swimming pool will not be built!"

Compare that with this excerpt from my chapter 6:

Suppose that five citizens of tiny Ruttenton have met for their annual town meeting. This body is empowered to make decisions for the entire town, and all citizens have agreed in advance to abide by the collective decision. Notice that this doesn’t mean that the citizens expect to agree on all policies. Instead, the citizens (Mr. One, Ms. Two, Ms. Three, Mr. Four, and of course the mayor, Mr. Fish) all have pledged in advance to accept the collective decision.
At a previous meeting, the five citizens agreed unanimously that decisions will be made by majority rule: if three of the five citizens favor one alternative, that alternative will become Ruttenton law. Each citizen can make any proposal they care to introduce, but the time for making proposals or debating motions is restricted to a total of five hours. At the end of five hours, the citizens must vote to decide on the best policy.
The meeting this year has only one agenda item: The Ruttenton Community Pool. Mayor Fish, who very much enjoys swimming, now has to travel 25 miles to the pool in Blaineville. He wants to build an enormous, Olympic size pool (expected cost: $100,000), both because it would be more convenient for him and because it would be a statement of Ruttenton civic pride (the Blainville pool is rather small). As Mayor Fish is fond of saying, “You can’t attract a new Mercedes plant without a community pool!”
Ms. Three and Mr. Four also favor building a pool, because they like to swim for recreation and occasional exercise. Three and Four only want to build a medium-size pool (expected cost: $60,000), however, thinking that an enormous pool wouldn’t be used enough to justify the expense. Furthermore, they don’t believe Mercedes is going locate a new assembly plant in the area anyway, since Ruttenton has no roads.
Mr. One and Ms. Two have no use for a pool, and vehemently oppose the proposal to build a community pool in Ruttenton. They claim that they should not have to pay for a pool if they are not going to use it, and object to Mayor Fish’s plan to finance the pool out of property taxes. One and Two argue that, if a pool is built at all, it should be run as a community “club”, with the costs of building and operation coming from membership fees and charges at the door.

(Nod to RL, who is really a libertarian)

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Man are From Mars

News flash: Big differences between men and women. At 11: Dog bites man!

In fact, there is not one human genome, but two: the male genome and the female genome.

I know we all claim to believe size doesn't matter, but the X chromosome is a lot more complex than the stunted, shriveled little Y chromosome.

My Duke colleague, Huntington Willard, can apparently never be Prez of Harvard. Too many of those bothersome scientific questions, that might have answers, instead of the theology self-important emotion.

3 links, no relation

First: on blogging. A charming simplicity, but a bunch of stuff I wish I had known. Not like I'm an expert now, except in surrealism.

Second, this headline didn't make sense to me: US TROOPS SHOOT DEAD IRAQI GENERAL. If he was dead, why did they shoot him? But it turns out that we just screwed up again. Perhaps the troops thought the general was an Italian communist ex-hostage journalist, and they shoot those on sight? Seriously, what do the conspiracy theorists think about this shooting of a general? Why not just accept the fog-of-war, scared-kids-in-combat, and-it-was-dark, thesis? The claims about the Italian journalist are bizarre.

Third: patterned after Jeff Foxworthy (" might be a redneck"), we get "You know it's a dictatorship". (Nod to Betsy)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

What Do You Do When You're Branded?

Apparently, segun Captain's Quarters, the new buzzword for the political left-overs is "branding."

And the branding mistress is Hillary Clinton.

Sounds pretty fun, actually. Branding Hillary, I mean. Yee-haw.

FEC: I Like to Watch

As I said a few days ago, there is a real problem here. Believing government officials are good people, and won't abuse their powers, is not what we are about.

An update from Patterico, via GR.

I try to make this point to students all the time, but most of them just don't see the difference. Here is the way to make the point, in my view: Consider

1. The U.S. First Amendment
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Not many qualifiers, not much about trade-offs. No law.

2. Now, the analogous part of the French Dec'n of the Rights of Man
10. No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.

11. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.

WHAAAAAAT? Opinions can't disquiet the public order established by law? I have to be responsible for abuses as shall be defined by law?

In other words, you can say or write anything you want, so long as it is not against the law. But any speech, writing or thoughts prescribed by law are not protected.

I wonder if "FEC" stands for "French Election Commission".

Are the Congressional Republicans Bankrupt?

William Sjostrom has some interesting thoughts on the bankruptcy bill.

I have tended more to the Glenn Reynolds view, though of course Sjostrom points out this smacks of "daily Kos" style argument, than which nothing is more superficial.

Making discharge of credit card debt harder makes it more attractive to lend. Moreover, borrowers who know themselves to be high risk (call them dishonest) are driven away by customers who know themselves to be lower risk (call them honest). It is Daily Kos level analysis to try to reduce this problem to us poor little helpless consumers against the big mean corporate interests.

WS also notes:

Easy discharge of debts drives up interest rates. The gainers are the dishonest borrowers who plan to retreat into bankruptcy (why worry about the interest rate if you do not plan to pay off?). The losers are the more honest borrowers who face higher rates.


Blog for Blog's Sake: Accepting My Lott in Life

Interesting now to look back at this article from the Chron of Higher Ed, nearly two years old now.

Most people, even in the U.S., don't know what a "blog" is today. Two years ago, you had to be pretty up on things to read blogs.

Here is Crooked Timber's list of academic bloggers. It is clearly not up to date (it doesn't include Mungowitz End) but tasteful (it doesn't include Mungowitz End).

From the Chronicle article:

One of the most combative strains of scholarly blogging is the investigation of alleged academic misconduct. The work of John R. Lott Jr., a gun researcher who has been accused of inventing the results of a telephone survey out of whole cloth (a charge he denies), has persistently been scrutinized by at least six bloggers. Mr. Lott's research, in fact, is the sole topic of a blog maintained by Timothy D. Lambert, a lecturer in computer science at the University of New South Wales, in Australia. And it was another blogger, Julian Sanchez, a staff writer at the Cato Institute, who discovered and confirmed that Mr. Lott had been participating in Internet discussion groups under the name "Mary Rosh."

Well, I was just on a panel at the Public Choice meetings with John (who I have known for nearly 20 years, and who I consider a friend), and I can at least confirm that he is not DRESSING as Mary Rosh. Not that I didn't ask him to. Beg, really.

And I had never seen the Lambert blog. Good lord. The guy is a "large mammal" on the TTLB ecosystem. WTF?

UPDATE: I take it back. I spent about 45 minutes reading different part of Lambert's blog, and I can easily see why people read it, and link to it. As I said, I really do like John L, and admire his ability as a scholar. But he has made some (to say the least) questionable choices.

And, a personal anecdote. I had agreed to serve as a discussant on a panel at Public Choice, a panel John himself had organized. The papers were: Groseclose/Milyo, Lott himself, Dan Sutter, and Ricardo Puglisi. I had been going to offer comments on the G/M paper, but had prepared remarks on everything. This was an excellent panel, one of the best and most coherent at the meetings, and John Lott did all the work of organizing it. There were probably 40 people in the room, a very good turnout.

When Milyo could not come to the meeting (because he's a weasel; yes, Jeff, I said that), that meant that my primary discussant role was cut. But I had worked for a couple of hours on other things to say.

Well....what happened was that the other papers' time was expanded. Near the end, I got ready to speak. But we hadn't had time for audience questions, so I said I would wait until the audience had a chance. John Lott took up all the remaining time, giving detailed point-by-point refutations of even the tiniest remark or question. In the end, I never got to speak at all.

I don't blame John for this. He can't help it. And, to be fair, he had asked me to go ahead and take my turn earlier, so it wasn't like he didn't give me a full opportunity to speak if I wanted to. He did; he asked me to go ahead. But the audience hadn't asked questions yet.

The point is that, when there was open time in the panel, which I thought we would use for audience questions, he just had to take it himself. It's an obsession, not a choice.

I think this explains the book reviews, and Mary Rosh comments: he needs the positive response, or else he has to take as much time as there is available to rebut any negative response. Sad, really. Because he really is a good guy, and very smart.

Larry, Larry, Quite Contrary

Larry Summers takes the "no confidence" vote. He has plenty of confidence all by himself, of course.

Then, the Harvard faculty spend hours calling each other names.

"You are McCarthy."

"No, YOU are."

"I know you are; what am I?"

"Yo mama so fat, her blood type is Ragu!"

and so on.

The article at several points mentions "faculty governance." Most of these people can't govern themselves. Faculty governance is an oxymoron.

UPDATE: Betsy channels Walter Williams

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Pop the Cap

(I had to post this, before TtwbC blew his cap)

NC has this ridiculous law. Beer is restricted, nothing over 6% alchohol content can be imported or produced.

But it could be amended.

Fight the power.

Pop the Cap.

Interesting example of a thoroughly political blog.

The talking points:

North Carolina is one of only five states that restrict alcohol by volume in beer to 6%. The other four are Mississippi, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Alabama.

The world's finest beer styles are illegal in North Carolina. These are beers that are meant to be sipped and savored -- and sometimes aged -- like fine wine.

North Carolina is a world-class destination, but due to a Prohibition-era law, we North Carolinians are not able to enjoy world-class beers.

Teenagers do not drink these specialty beers - they're far too expensive and difficult to drink.

Neither wine nor spirits have an alcohol by volume limit - why should beer?

My local brewer can't brew beer styles that are legal in forty-five other states.

It's frustrating to spend hundred/thousands of dollars every year on beer purchasing trips to Virginia / Tennessee. This is money that should be spent supporting North Carolina businesses.

NO MORONIC STATEMENTS PLEASE. Do NOT say there's better and cheaper ways to get drunk. Do NOT come up with your own "creative" ideas like raising taxes on higher-alcohol beer. Do NOT discuss malt liquor. Straying from the message can destroy two years of hard work. Be smart.

Stick with the talking points listed above, tell a story about your appreciation for specialty beer, and respectfully share your opinion about how the law is old-fashioned and damaging to the image of North Carolina and the craft beer industry.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

You can't say that from here


Check this:

As a substitute teacher in the public schools here, Scott McConnell says students are often annoyed that he does not let them goof off in class. Yet he was not prepared for the sixth grader who walked up to his desk in November, handed in an assignment, and then swore at him.

The profanity transported him back to his own days at Robert E. Lee Elementary School in Oklahoma in the 1980's, when there was a swift solution for wiseacres: the paddle.

"It was a footlong piece of wood, and hung on every classroom wall like a symbol, a strong Christian symbol," said Mr. McConnell, who is 26. "Nobody wanted that paddle to come down."

He said he had been a disruptive student, and routinely mouthed off until his fourth-grade teacher finally gave him three whacks to the backside. Physically, it did not hurt. But he felt humiliated and humbled.

"I never wanted that again," Mr. McConnell recalled. "It was good for me."

Supporting corporal punishment is one thing; advocating it is another, as Mr. McConnell recently learned. Studying for a graduate teaching degree at Le Moyne College, he wrote in a paper last fall that "corporal punishment has a place in the classroom." His teacher gave the paper an A-minus and wrote, "Interesting ideas - I've shared these with Dr. Leogrande," referring to Cathy Leogrande, who oversaw the college's graduate program.

Unknown to Mr. McConnell, his view of discipline became a subject of discussion among Le Moyne officials. Five days before the spring semester began in January, Mr. McConnell learned that he had been dismissed from Le Moyne, a Jesuit college.

"I have grave concerns regarding the mismatch between your personal beliefs regarding teaching and learning and the Le Moyne College program goals," Dr. Leogrande wrote in a letter, according to a copy provided by Mr. McConnell. "Your registration for spring 2005 courses has been withdrawn."

Dr. Leogrande offered to meet with Mr. McConnell, and concluded, "Best wishes in your future endeavors."

If the letter stunned Mr. McConnell, the "best wishes" part turned him into a campaigner. A mild-mannered former private in the Army, Mr. McConnell has taken up a free-speech banner with a tireless intensity, casting himself as a transplant from a conservative state abused by political correctness in more liberal New York. He also said that because he is an evangelical Christian, his views about sparing the rod and spoiling the child flowed partly from the Bible, and that Le Moyne was "spitting on that."

He is working with First Amendment groups to try to pressure Le Moyne into apologizing and reinstating him, and is considering legal action as well as a formal appeal to the college. He says Le Moyne misconstrued his views: he believes children should not be paddled without their parents' permission. He said that even then, the principal, as the school's head disciplinarian, should deliver the punishment.

"Judges live in the real world, and I think they would see that Scott got an A-minus on his paper and was expressing views on a campus that supports academic freedom," said David French, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a group based in Philadelphia that is supporting Mr. McConnell. "It's hard to see a court looking kindly on Scott's expulsion."

Dr. Leogrande did not respond to telephone messages. Le Moyne's provost, John Smarrelli, said the college had the right as a private institution to take action against Mr. McConnell because educators had grave concerns about his qualifications to teach under state law.

New York is one of 28 states that ban corporal punishment; most of those that allow it are in the South and West. Most states did not ban corporal punishment until the late 1980's, after parents, educators, and other advocates began pressing for the laws. More than 342,000 students received corporal punishment in the 1999-2000 school year, in the most recent figures from the federal Education Department.

Because it has an accredited school of education, moreover, Le Moyne officials said that the college was required to pledge that its graduates will be effective and law-abiding teachers who will foster a healthy classroom environment.

"We have a responsibility to certify people who will be in accordance with New York State law and the rules of our accrediting agencies," Mr. Smarrelli said. In Mr. McConnell's case, he said, "We had evidence that led us to the contrary."

Mr. McConnell said that he had been only conditionally admitted to the graduate program; typically, such students earn full admission by earning good grades and meeting other requirements. Mr. McConnell added that he had earned mostly A's and his fate rested largely on his November paper.

Mr. Smarrelli said that the paper itself was "legitimate" and "reasonable," because the assignment sought Mr. McConnell's plan for managing a classroom. Yet Mr. McConnell's views were clearly not in the mainstream of most teachers' colleges.

For example, many educators focus on nurturing students' self-esteem, but Mr. McConnell scoffed at that idea in his paper. He said he would not favor some students over others, regardless of any special needs some might have.

"I will help the child understand that respect of authority figures is more important than their self-esteem," he wrote.

Some professors and college officials were also concerned that Mr. McConnell wrote that he opposed multiculturalism, a teaching method that places emphasis on non-Western cultures.

In an interview, Mr. McConnell said he disliked "anti-American multiculturalism," and gave as an example a short story on the Sept. 11 attacks intended for classroom use. The story, published in a teachers' magazine in 2002 by the National Council for the Social Studies, was about young American boys teasing an Iraqi boy named Osama.

Mr. Smarrelli said Le Moyne had to ensure that its students had the judgment, aptitude, temperament and other skills to succeed in challenging their students.

But Dr. Smarrelli acknowledged that Le Moyne had not warned students like Mr. McConnell that they could be removed for expressing controversial beliefs, nor had the college said that education students must oppose corporal punishment or support multiculturalism.

Some points that occur to me:
1. LeMoyne is a private college. I would defend their right to choose their student body. But then I would defend the right of the Boy Scouts to choose their scoutmasters, even if that means that gays and nonChristians are left out. So why does LeMoyne get to censor ideas, when other organizations have to make hiring decisions decided by the state? (Personally, I think gay men can make good scoutmasters. But I can always start my own scouting organization if I want to make that a policy. Just like I can start a college, and admit who I want).
2. On the other the position of the Lemoyne brain really that opposing a law is, in effect, treason? The student, Scott McConnell, did NOT break the law. He only argued against it. That's more than a little disturbing.

It's True: I am a just another blogging fetality

Prof. Drezner describes admirably in this post the Public Choice panel I organized.

Prof. Lawrence likewise shares his views.

Thanks to both.

I have only two things to add to what they said:

1. I still think there is a legit question about whether a junior person can blog, or if a senior person can blog, and ever get a first/another academic job. Same as with a supreme court justice nominee: too much paper trail, and people who oppose you can find stuff to use against you. I am clearly going to die at Duke, so it is easy for me to act all tough, but I think this is a real concern. I have colleagues who have tenure, and say they would like to blog, but that the stuff would be used against them in their senate confirmation hearings if they ever get a top appointment in a regulatory agency. They are completely right, of course.

2. As to the Daniel saying I am still in the "fetal position" (his "Furthermore" #2 in this post)'s all true. He has made the point several times, in different forums, but let me confirm it as a matter of personal experience. It is, by and large, pretty to cool to be me (no, THAT is not Drezner's point; pay attention) in academics. I have tenure, I have published some widely read books and articles, and at conferences I get deference. In elevators, people see my name tag, and their eyes light up, and they ask me a question or too. Of course, I love this, because I am a completely narcissistic jerk.

But, in Blogania, I am a bug, six legs, no brain to speak of. This was brought home to me, in just the way Drezner describes: I was all excited, and went after him pretty hard. He was kind enough to link back, and it was a like a virtual mercy fuck: the crumbs from his hits that DAY were much bigger than my average WEEK. I am not used to needing mercy fucks, because my own self-perception (like most of my senior colleagues) is that I am a Captain of the Universe.

So, what all this goes to show is that Daniel D was right all along, in his initial assessment of why senior people in political science might be reluctant to put themselves out there as bloggers. It is not hard to "be" a blogger, but it is hard to be a good blogger. You can't just phone it in. And lots of academics (I'll deny this if you quote me) have been phoning it in for years.