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[May 23, 2020] Neoliberalism promised freedom instead it delivers stifling control by George Monbiot

Highly recommended!
From comments: " neoliberalism to be a techno-economic order of control, requiring a state apparatus to enforce wholly artificial directives. Also, the work of recent critics of data markets such as Shoshana Zuboff has shown capitalism to be evolving into a totalitarian system of control through cybernetic data aggregation."
"... By rolling back the state, neoliberalism was supposed to have allowed autonomy and creativity to flourish. Instead, it has delivered a semi-privatised authoritarianism more oppressive than the system it replaced. ..."
"... Workers find themselves enmeshed in a Kafkaesque bureaucracy , centrally controlled and micromanaged. Organisations that depend on a cooperative ethic – such as schools and hospitals – are stripped down, hectored and forced to conform to suffocating diktats. The introduction of private capital into public services – that would herald a glorious new age of choice and openness – is brutally enforced. The doctrine promises diversity and freedom but demands conformity and silence. ..."
"... Their problem is that neoliberal theology, as well as seeking to roll back the state, insists that collective bargaining and other forms of worker power be eliminated (in the name of freedom, of course). So the marketisation and semi-privatisation of public services became not so much a means of pursuing efficiency as an instrument of control. ..."
"... Public-service workers are now subjected to a panoptical regime of monitoring and assessment, using the benchmarks von Mises rightly warned were inapplicable and absurd. The bureaucratic quantification of public administration goes far beyond an attempt at discerning efficacy. It has become an end in itself. ..."
Notable quotes:
"... By rolling back the state, neoliberalism was supposed to have allowed autonomy and creativity to flourish. Instead, it has delivered a semi-privatised authoritarianism more oppressive than the system it replaced. ..."
"... Workers find themselves enmeshed in a Kafkaesque bureaucracy , centrally controlled and micromanaged. Organisations that depend on a cooperative ethic – such as schools and hospitals – are stripped down, hectored and forced to conform to suffocating diktats. The introduction of private capital into public services – that would herald a glorious new age of choice and openness – is brutally enforced. The doctrine promises diversity and freedom but demands conformity and silence. ..."
"... Their problem is that neoliberal theology, as well as seeking to roll back the state, insists that collective bargaining and other forms of worker power be eliminated (in the name of freedom, of course). So the marketisation and semi-privatisation of public services became not so much a means of pursuing efficiency as an instrument of control. ..."
"... Public-service workers are now subjected to a panoptical regime of monitoring and assessment, using the benchmarks von Mises rightly warned were inapplicable and absurd. The bureaucratic quantification of public administration goes far beyond an attempt at discerning efficacy. It has become an end in itself. ..."
"... The other point to be made is that the return of fundamentalist nationalism is arguably a radicalized form of neoliberalism. ..."
"... Therefore, neoliberal hegemony can only be perpetuated with authoritarian, nationalist ideologies and an order of market feudalism. In other words, neoliberalism's authoritarian orientations, previously effaced beneath discourses of egalitarian free-enterprise, become overt. ..."
"... The market is no longer an enabler of private enterprise, but something more like a medieval religion, conferring ultimate authority on a demagogue. Individual entrepreneurs collectivise into a 'people' serving a market which has become synonymous with nationhood. ..."
Apr 10, 2019 | www.theguardian.com

Thousands of people march through London to protest against underfunding and privatisation of the NHS. Photograph: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Images M y life was saved last year by the Churchill Hospital in Oxford, through a skilful procedure to remove a cancer from my body . Now I will need another operation, to remove my jaw from the floor. I've just learned what was happening at the hospital while I was being treated. On the surface, it ran smoothly. Underneath, unknown to me, was fury and tumult. Many of the staff had objected to a decision by the National Health Service to privatise the hospital's cancer scanning . They complained that the scanners the private company was offering were less sensitive than the hospital's own machines. Privatisation, they said, would put patients at risk. In response, as the Guardian revealed last week , NHS England threatened to sue the hospital for libel if its staff continued to criticise the decision.

The dominant system of political thought in this country, which produced both the creeping privatisation of public health services and this astonishing attempt to stifle free speech, promised to save us from dehumanising bureaucracy. By rolling back the state, neoliberalism was supposed to have allowed autonomy and creativity to flourish. Instead, it has delivered a semi-privatised authoritarianism more oppressive than the system it replaced.

Workers find themselves enmeshed in a Kafkaesque bureaucracy , centrally controlled and micromanaged. Organisations that depend on a cooperative ethic – such as schools and hospitals – are stripped down, hectored and forced to conform to suffocating diktats. The introduction of private capital into public services – that would herald a glorious new age of choice and openness – is brutally enforced. The doctrine promises diversity and freedom but demands conformity and silence.

Much of the theory behind these transformations arises from the work of Ludwig von Mises. In his book Bureaucracy , published in 1944, he argued that there could be no accommodation between capitalism and socialism. The creation of the National Health Service in the UK, the New Deal in the US and other experiments in social democracy would lead inexorably to the bureaucratic totalitarianism of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

He recognised that some state bureaucracy was inevitable; there were certain functions that could not be discharged without it. But unless the role of the state is minimised – confined to defence, security, taxation, customs and not much else – workers would be reduced to cogs "in a vast bureaucratic machine", deprived of initiative and free will.

By contrast, those who labour within an "unhampered capitalist system" are "free men", whose liberty is guaranteed by "an economic democracy in which every penny gives a right to vote". He forgot to add that some people, in his capitalist utopia, have more votes than others. And those votes become a source of power.

His ideas, alongside the writings of Friedrich Hayek , Milton Friedman and other neoliberal thinkers, have been applied in this country by Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron, Theresa May and, to an alarming extent, Tony Blair. All of those have attempted to privatise or marketise public services in the name of freedom and efficiency, but they keep hitting the same snag: democracy. People want essential services to remain public, and they are right to do so.

If you hand public services to private companies, either you create a private monopoly, which can use its dominance to extract wealth and shape the system to serve its own needs – or you introduce competition, creating an incoherent, fragmented service characterised by the institutional failure you can see every day on our railways. We're not idiots, even if we are treated as such. We know what the profit motive does to public services.

So successive governments decided that if they could not privatise our core services outright, they would subject them to "market discipline". Von Mises repeatedly warned against this approach. "No reform could transform a public office into a sort of private enterprise," he cautioned. The value of public administration "cannot be expressed in terms of money". "Government efficiency and industrial efficiency are entirely different things."

"Intellectual work cannot be measured and valued by mechanical devices." "You cannot 'measure' a doctor according to the time he employs in examining one case." They ignored his warnings.

Their problem is that neoliberal theology, as well as seeking to roll back the state, insists that collective bargaining and other forms of worker power be eliminated (in the name of freedom, of course). So the marketisation and semi-privatisation of public services became not so much a means of pursuing efficiency as an instrument of control.

Public-service workers are now subjected to a panoptical regime of monitoring and assessment, using the benchmarks von Mises rightly warned were inapplicable and absurd. The bureaucratic quantification of public administration goes far beyond an attempt at discerning efficacy. It has become an end in itself.

Its perversities afflict all public services. Schools teach to the test , depriving children of a rounded and useful education. Hospitals manipulate waiting times, shuffling patients from one list to another. Police forces ignore some crimes, reclassify others, and persuade suspects to admit to extra offences to improve their statistics . Universities urge their researchers to write quick and superficial papers , instead of deep monographs, to maximise their scores under the research excellence framework.

As a result, public services become highly inefficient for an obvious reason: the destruction of staff morale. Skilled people, including surgeons whose training costs hundreds of thousands of pounds, resign or retire early because of the stress and misery the system causes. The leakage of talent is a far greater waste than any inefficiencies this quantomania claims to address.

New extremes in the surveillance and control of workers are not, of course, confined to the public sector. Amazon has patented a wristband that can track workers' movements and detect the slightest deviation from protocol. Technologies are used to monitor peoples' keystrokes, language, moods and tone of voice. Some companies have begun to experiment with the micro-chipping of their staff . As the philosopher Byung-Chul Han points out , neoliberal work practices, epitomised by the gig economy, that reclassifies workers as independent contractors, internalise exploitation. "Everyone is a self-exploiting worker in their own enterprise."

The freedom we were promised turns out to be freedom for capital , gained at the expense of human liberty. The system neoliberalism has created is a bureaucracy that tends towards absolutism, produced in the public services by managers mimicking corporate executives, imposing inappropriate and self-defeating efficiency measures, and in the private sector by subjection to faceless technologies that can brook no argument or complaint.

Attempts to resist are met by ever more extreme methods, such as the threatened lawsuit at the Churchill Hospital. Such instruments of control crush autonomy and creativity. It is true that the Soviet bureaucracy von Mises rightly denounced reduced its workers to subjugated drones. But the system his disciples have created is heading the same way.

George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist


Pinkie123 , 12 Apr 2019 03:23

The other point to be made is that the return of fundamentalist nationalism is arguably a radicalized form of neoliberalism. If 'free markets' of enterprising individuals have been tested to destruction, then capitalism is unable to articulate an ideology with which to legitimise itself.

Therefore, neoliberal hegemony can only be perpetuated with authoritarian, nationalist ideologies and an order of market feudalism. In other words, neoliberalism's authoritarian orientations, previously effaced beneath discourses of egalitarian free-enterprise, become overt.

The market is no longer an enabler of private enterprise, but something more like a medieval religion, conferring ultimate authority on a demagogue. Individual entrepreneurs collectivise into a 'people' serving a market which has become synonymous with nationhood.

A corporate state emerges, free of the regulatory fetters of democracy. The final restriction on the market - democracy itself - is removed. There then is no separate market and state, just a totalitarian market state.

glisson , 12 Apr 2019 00:10
This is the best piece of writing on neoliberalism I have ever seen. Look, 'what is in general good and probably most importantly what is in the future good'. Why are we collectively not viewing everything that way? Surely those thoughts should drive us all?
economicalternative -> Pinkie123 , 11 Apr 2019 21:33
Pinkie123: So good to read your understandings of neoliberalism. The political project is the imposition of the all seeing all knowing 'market' on all aspects of human life. This version of the market is an 'information processor'. Speaking of the different idea of the laissez-faire version of market/non market areas and the function of the night watchman state are you aware there are different neoliberalisms? The EU for example runs on the version called 'ordoliberalism'. I understand that this still sees some areas of society as separate from 'the market'?
economicalternative -> ADamnSmith2016 , 11 Apr 2019 21:01
ADamnSmith: Philip Mirowski has discussed this 'under the radar' aspect of neoliberalism. How to impose 'the market' on human affairs - best not to be to explicit about what you are doing. Only recently has some knowledge about the actual neoliberal project been appearing. Most people think of neoliberalism as 'making the rich richer' - just a ramped up version of capitalism. That's how the left has thought of it and they have been ineffective in stopping its implementation.
economicalternative , 11 Apr 2019 20:42
Finally. A writer who can talk about neoliberalism as NOT being a retro version of classical laissez faire liberalism. It is about imposing "The Market" as the sole arbiter of Truth on us all.
Only the 'Market' knows what is true in life - no need for 'democracy' or 'education'. Neoliberals believe - unlike classical liberals with their view of people as rational individuals acting in their own self-interest - people are inherently 'unreliable', stupid. Only entrepreneurs - those close to the market - can know 'the truth' about anything. To succeed we all need to take our cues in life from what the market tells us. Neoliberalism is not about a 'small state'. The state is repurposed to impose the 'all knowing' market on everyone and everything. That is neoliberalism's political project. It is ultimately not about 'economics'.
Pinkie123 , 11 Apr 2019 13:27
The left have been entirely wrong to believe that neoliberalism is a mobilisation of anarchic, 'free' markets. It never was so. Only a few more acute thinkers on the left (Jacques Ranciere, Foucault, Deleuze and, more recently, Mark Fisher, Wendy Brown, Will Davies and David Graeber) have understood neoliberalism to be a techno-economic order of control, requiring a state apparatus to enforce wholly artificial directives. Also, the work of recent critics of data markets such as Shoshana Zuboff has shown capitalism to be evolving into a totalitarian system of control through cybernetic data aggregation.


Only in theory is neoliberalism a form of laissez-faire. Neoliberalism is not a case of the state saying, as it were: 'OK everyone, we'll impose some very broad legal parameters, so we'll make sure the police will turn up if someone breaks into your house; but otherwise we'll hang back and let you do what you want'. Hayek is perfectly clear that a strong state is required to force people to act according to market logic. If left to their own devices, they might collectivise, think up dangerous utopian ideologies, and the next thing you know there would be socialism. This the paradox of neoliberalism as an intellectual critique of government: a socialist state can only be prohibited with an equally strong state. That is, neoliberals are not opposed to a state as such, but to a specifically centrally-planned state based on principles of social justice - a state which, to Hayek's mind, could only end in t totalitarianism. Because concepts of social justice are expressed in language, neoliberals are suspicious of linguistic concepts, regarding them as politically dangerous. Their preference has always been for numbers. Hence, market bureaucracy aims for the quantification of all values - translating the entirety of social reality into metrics, data, objectively measurable price signals. Numbers are safe. The laws of numbers never change. Numbers do not lead to revolutions. Hence, all the audit, performance review and tick-boxing that has been enforced into public institutions serves to render them forever subservient to numerical (market) logic. However, because social institutions are not measurable, attempts to make them so become increasingly mystical and absurd. Administrators manage data that has no relation to reality. Quantitatively unmeasurable things - like happiness or success - are measured, with absurd results.

It should be understood (and I speak above all as a critic of neoliberalism) that neoliberal ideology is not merely a system of class power, but an entire metaphysic, a way of understanding the world that has an emotional hold over people. For any ideology to universalize itself, it must be based on some very powerful ideas. Hayek and Von Mises were Jewish fugitives of Nazism, living through the worst horrors of twentieth-century totalitarianism. There are passages of Hayek's that describe a world operating according to the rules of a benign abstract system that make it sound rather lovely. To understand neoliberalism, we must see that it has an appeal.

However, there is no perfect order of price signals. People do not simply act according to economic self-interest. Therefore, neoliberalism is a utopian political project like any other, requiring the brute power of the state to enforce ideological tenets. With tragic irony, the neoliberal order eventually becomes not dissimilar to the totalitarian regimes that Hayek railed against.

manolito22 -> MrJoe , 11 Apr 2019 08:14
Nationalised rail in the UK was under-funded and 'set up to fail' in its latter phase to make privatisation seem like an attractive prospect. I have travelled by train under both nationalisation and privatisation and the latter has been an unmitigated disaster in my experience. Under privatisation, public services are run for the benefit of shareholders and CEO's, rather than customers and citizens and under the opaque shroud of undemocratic 'commercial confidentiality'.
Galluses , 11 Apr 2019 07:26
What has been very noticeable about the development of bureaucracy in the public and private spheres over the last 40 years (since Thatcher govt of 79) has been the way systems are designed now to place responsibility and culpability on the workers delivering the services - Teachers, Nurses, social workers, etc. While those making the policies, passing the laws, overseeing the regulations- viz. the people 'at the top', now no longer take the rap when something goes wrong- they may be the Captain of their particular ship, but the responsibility now rests with the man sweeping the decks. Instead they are covered by tying up in knots those teachers etc. having to fill in endless check lists and reports, which have as much use as clicking 'yes' one has understood those long legal terms provided by software companies.... yet are legally binding. So how the hell do we get out of this mess? By us as individuals uniting through unions or whatever and saying NO. No to your dumb educational directives, No to your cruel welfare policies, No to your stupid NHS mismanagement.... there would be a lot of No's but eventually we could say collectively 'Yes I did the right thing'.
fairshares -> rjb04tony , 11 Apr 2019 07:17
'The left wing dialogue about neoliberalism used to be that it was the Wild West and that anything goes. Now apparently it's a machine of mass control.'

It is the Wild West and anything goes for the corporate entities, and a machine of control of the masses. Hence the wish of neoliberals to remove legislation that protects workers and consumers.

[Dec 31, 2019] Time for PhD supervision -- Crooked Timber

Dec 31, 2019 | crookedtimber.org
Time for PhD supervision

by Ingrid Robeyns on December 29, 2019 Some aspects of academia show great international variation. There is one on which I haven't found any good data, and hence thought I'll ask the crowd here so that we can gather our own data, even if it will be not very scientifically collected.

The question is this: if you are a university teacher/professor and your department awards PhD-degrees, do you get any official time allocated (or time-compensation) for PhD supervision? If it is part of a teaching load model, how many hours (or % teaching load) is it equivalent to? Or is there an expectation that you take on PhD-students but that this does not lead to a reduction in other tasks?

How do international practices of the conditions for PhD-supervisors compare?

In my faculty (Humanities at Utrecht University, the Netherlands), all supervisors together (which generally are two, sometimes three) are collectively given a teaching load reduction of 132 hours in the year follow the graduation of the PhD-candidate. So your teaching reduction upon successful graduation of a PhD-candidate tends to be 66 hours. For the supervisory work you effectively do in the four years prior to graduation, there is no time allocated; so you effectively do this in your research or your leisure time.

To put this into perspective: most (assistant/associate/full) professors teach 50-70% of their time, and a fulltime workload is 1670 hours, or 1750 hours if you are saving for a sabbatical. This can be reduced if you have major managerial tasks (e.g. Head of Department) or if a large part of your wage is paid by a research grant. So without reductions, we teach about 835-1190 hours a year (this includes the time for preparation and examination, but frankly, one always needs more than the teaching load models allocate for a given course. And in general there are no TAs or other support staff to help with the practical sides of teaching).

For writing the grants that are almost always needed to create the jobs for PhD students (with success rates now around 15%), and for supervising those who in the end do not get their PhD degree, there is no time put aside for the supervisor/applicants. That time also goes, effectively, from our research time, or, more realistically, from our leisure time.

Recently, I heard from a British colleague and a Swedish colleague their models for PhD-supervision, which were way more generous (and rightly so in my view), so thought I'll throw the question on the table here: what, if any, time-compensation/teachingreduction do you get for supervising PhD students?

I am not trying to suggest here that without adequate time set aside for doing this work, it would not be worthwhile supervising PhDs. There are in many cases other forms of rewards for the work one does as a PhD supervisor. One might be the honor of supervising PhDs, and in most cases the intrinsic rewards of the supervisory process – the satisfaction of seeing a young person take their first steps as a scholar, and being able to play a crucial role in this process. There is , after all, a reason why the Germans call their PhD-supervisor mein Doktorvater or meine Doktormutter – since yes, there is this element of helping someone to grow, in a cognitive and professional sense. Professionally, there are few people who had so much influence on me as my PhD-supervisor, and I am hoping that some of my (former) PhD-students will think the same at some point in their lives. So it would be wrong to frame it merely as a burden, since there is the intrinsic value of the rather unique professional relationship. But that cannot be a reason to not give PhDsupervisors the time they need to properly supervise, given how severe time pressure in academia is. I see this as a real tension.

In some academic fields, there may be professional research benefits for the supervisors, such as becoming co-authors on the publications the PhD-students write under your supervision. I recently examined a PhD-thesis in medical ethics, and all chapters (being articles published or under review) had been co-written with several members of the supervisory team. Even raising the funds to hire the PhD is sometimes seen as sufficient reason to be listed as a co-author. In the humanities there is no such a thing: we don't put our names on articles of our PhDstudents, even if we contributed significantly to the development of that piece (rightly so in my view).

I'm posting this because I am interested in the international comparison in its own right, but also because of its relevance in discussions on higher education policies which are currently very intense in the Netherlands, on which I'll write another blogpost later.

Share this: { 24 comments read them below or add one }

Chris Bertram 12.29.19 at 9:45 am ( 1 )

In my part of my university each PhD student earns her supervisors around 60 notional hours/1600 total per annum, but that's usually divided 5/1 between two supervisors, so that the person actually doing the work has about 50 hours, so slightly over an hour/week given annual leave etc. My greatest beef with this is when we admit non-anglophone PhD students. Since they officially have a level of competence in English as a condition of their admission, they do not get any extra time for supervision. But in practice, their work takes much longer to read and you have to put a lot of work into improving their English.
Mike Beggs 12.29.19 at 10:18 am ( 2 )
In my faculty (Arts and Social Sciences at Sydney) the primary supervisor gets 40 hours per year and an auxiliary supervisor gets ten. (There is some flexibility for the 50 total hours to be divided differently.)

In a recent survey of faculty staff with a response rate of around 30%, most reported spending longer per primary supervision: the median was 50 hours.

There's actually a growing literature on academic time use. Kenny and Fluck have published a series of papers based on a large survey of Australian academics. The median reported time spent supervising a higher degree student per year was 60 hours over all discipline groups, 50 hours for Arts, Law and Humanities. (Kenny and Fluck 2018 'Research workloads in Australian universities', _Australian Universities Review_ -- and the companion papers on teaching and admin workloads are also worth googling for the full results over lots of tasks.)

Matt Matravers 12.29.19 at 10:31 am ( 3 )
When we tried to establish a "norm" at the University of York, it turned out that practice varied widely not only across faculties, but within the arts and humanities and social sciences. Some departments simply included it in "research time" and gave zero extra time, others gave a (more-or-less generous) "teaching" allocation. So, I am not sure you can get any useful comparisons even at an institutional level let alone internationally.
Currently, in the Law School at York, a PhD student – during the period of registration (i.e., only for the first 3 years) – earns her supervisors around 80 notional hours of teaching per year. This is split across the supervisory team in proportion to their involvement.
Many colleagues think this is insufficient, in particular with non-anglophone students and it can be particularly galling if one is putting a lot of work into the final "writing up" year.
For what it is worth, I found this very hard to manage when I was Head of Department (and so responsible for workloads). The issue for me was that in many cases senior colleagues had several PhD students and (some) junior colleagues none (or very little involvement. This was back in the day of most students have one supervisor.). Modelling a system where PhD supervision was "properly" rewarded (that is, where I tried to allocate hours in accordance to the amount of time it actually took) resulted in a very hierarchical department where (roughly) senior colleagues did PhD supervision and junior colleagues taught undergraduates. So, I didn't do it.
For what it is worth (addressing the wider issues of workload), it seems to me that there is an inevitable gap between a workload system conceived of as a mechanism of "counting" (how many hours does this job actually take?) and conceived of as a mechanism of "distribution" (how much work is there to be done and how many people to do it?). Of course, the distributive principles cannot stray too far from the realities revealed in counting, but it (seems to me at least) perfectly okay to think that the distributive principles include other considerations like the "shape" of the department, individual "goals" (having PhD students is good for promotion at York) and personal development, gender, and so on.
Finally, this problem does not seem to be unique to PhD supervision (the current "hot topic" at York is how to count/distribute time for research grant writing, which at the moment is simply included in individual research in most, but not all, departments). York tried to introduce a workload model across the university and never managed it because departmental variations were so huge (in everything from whether/how to include teaching preparation time to how to rank administrative tasks). That said, this may be the result of our particular institutional history (until recently, we had a very flat structure with only relatively autonomous departments and no faculties).
Faustusnotes 12.29.19 at 10:48 am ( 4 )
In Japan as far as I know there is no allowance at all, and senior staff (the professor who is the official supervisor) often dump all supervisory responsibility on the most junior staff. There is also often no limit on how many PhD students the professor can take on (and dump on their assistant prof). This is particularly bad with masters students, whose theses are much more time limited and challenging to supervise.

I don't know if it's a general thing but my colleagues in China tell me they are only allowed a PhD student if they publish above a certain level – PhD students are treated as a valuable asset you need to struggle to get. (I think they are paid by the uni but don't quote me). In the universities I know of in China the PhD student has to publish to graduate (sometimes like 3 papers) so the benefits to the supervisor are obvious.

I'm in public health where publication is relatively easy and quick. I don't know how it is in other disciplines (but the Japanese professor dumping his responsibilities on junior staff is quite common across disciplines as far as I can tell).

Harry 12.29.19 at 12:34 pm ( 5 )
It's not part of a workload model for us. We're expected to teach 2 classes a semester (8 contact hours a week total), then research, service, and graduate supervision on top, but the only thing that is specified is the 2 classes. So no compensation for PhD students. In practice the number of PhD supervisions varies greatly across faculty (as you'd expect), as does the amount of service work we do (if you're good at it you get asked to do more, if you're tenured and responsible you generally try to say yes), as does the amount of time we actually spend on the courses we teach.

As do our salaries, to be fair, which reflect years of service, perceived quality of research, how much the people elected to the department budget value the other things we do, and, to some extent, market forces.

What I've described is my own department. There's huge variation across campus, including variation in numbers of courses we're expected to teach.

Possibly worth mentioning that from what I have gathered expectations of how many courses we teach have fallen dramatically (across campus) over the past 50 years, and the number of course releases granted have increased dramatically: I estimate faculty in the humanities teach 30% less than 50 years ago, and in the sciences 50% less. I imagine this is similar across public research universities and SLACs.

notGoodenough 12.29.19 at 1:47 pm ( 6 )
So, purely anecdotal and from the perspective of a PhD and post-doc in Science at 2 different, fairly well thought of UK Universities (Russel group, etc. etc.).

PhD students are highly valuable. This is because a Masters or summer student are necessarily short term, and it is difficult to fulfil much breakthrough research (sometimes you need a few years of banging your head against a wall ). Post-docs are phenomenally expensive as in the UK as the University charges a huge amount just to have them – e.g. a rough breakdown (from some years ago, so a little out of date) is to just have a post-doc (i.e. no equipment, materials, etc.) is in excess of £110K per year. Some 31000 is for salary, the rest goes to the University to keep the lights on. Having more than a few post-docs, for all but the most successful labs, became prohibitively expensive.

However, as a PhD most of my time was with my post-docs (in my first year I saw my professor once, for 1hr, in later years maybe a few times more, so approximately 15 hr over 3.5 years). As a post-doc, the PhD students had regular meetings in a group format once per month (so, more or less 2-3 hr per month). In both cases it, in principle, was possible to go and meet the supervisor if you felt the need, but generally speaking your post-doc was the point of contact on a day-by-day, week-by-week basis.

I've not been a lecturer, so this is very speculative, but my impression is that supervising PhD students is generally considered a research activity, and thus you are not budgeted time for it specifically.

Not sure if any of this is useful, but feel free to hit me up for more details if you think it is useful/interesting.

Karen Anderson 12.29.19 at 2:03 pm ( 7 )
I taught for 15 years at 3 Dutch universities, 3 years at a Russell Group university in England, and am now at an Irish university. I did my PhD in the United States. Like the other posters, I have experienced wide variation in 'compensation' for PhD supervision. One of the reasons I left my position at a British university was the bizarre (and I thought, unfair) model for workload allocation. PhD supervision was highly 'compensated', and actual classroom teaching of undergrads was not. I had colleagues who met all or most of their teaching obligations with PhD supervision and did not teach undergrads.
I don't know what the best way to compensate PhD supervision is, but there are a couple of aspects I think need more attention. The first is wide variation in the number of PhD students in any given department and the rules/norms governing who is (de facto) permitted to supervise PhDs. Dutch departments have fewer PhD students than UK/Irish departments (for complicated reasons), and only full (and now associate?) profs are permitted to supervise. PhD supervision is important for promotion (as it is in the UK and IE), so everyone wants to do it, but not everyone has access. I am not sure that an activity that is so important for career progression should be generously compensated.
The second issue concerns co-authoring with a PhD student. I can see the advantages of this (which Ingrid mentions), but the proliferation of the article-based PhD where the supervisors co-author all articles is a cause for concern. Again, I am not convinced that a PhD supervisor should be generously compensated for something (publications) that strongly advances their own career. And it is not clear to me that the supervisor's contribution to the publication (in many cases, at least) amounts to more than what would be considered 'normal' PhD supervision in the US, Canada, and many European universities. This makes it very difficult to evaluate a newly minted PhD's CV, and it inflates the publication list of more senior academics.
A couple of ideas: 1) cap the number of PhD students that staff can supervise, or at least cap the number for which teaching points are earned. 2) ensure that all academic staff have access to PhD supervision.
praisegod barbones 12.29.19 at 4:32 pm ( 8 )
Private university in Turkey : the basic assumption here is that supervising PhD students and MA theses takes zero time (although people typically budget an hour per week per student.
Neville Morley 12.29.19 at 4:50 pm ( 9 )
The workload allocation for Humanities at the University of Exeter is similar to Chris's account of Bristol (where I worked previously), though it's more common for the hours to be divided 70/30, 60/40 or even 50/50 between first and second supervisors, with the latter playing a much more active role. The biggest difference, however, is that you continue to receive an allowance when the student is writing up, and even if they're revising after a first examination, whereas the Bristol practice was, at least, that you get a workload allowance for the first three years and then nothing for the period which in my experience often required the greatest amount of work
Phil 12.29.19 at 5:50 pm ( 10 )
I haven't – yet – supervised a doctoral student, but I did examine a viva this year & was surprised to find that this carried no workload allowance at all, which seems odd given the amount of reading time involved. (Fortunately I wasn't mad busy.)
likbez 12.29.19 at 7:10 pm ( 11 )
40-60 hours are typical. They do not compensate for the effort but still.
oldster 12.29.19 at 7:16 pm ( 12 )
Former US academic; taught at a few R1 uni's from 80s to aughts.

To echo the doughty Puritan: " the basic assumption here is that supervising PhD students and MA theses takes zero time."

We had a standard teaching load, and expectations for research and service. But there was no calculation of supervisory load -- it simply was not tracked, budgeted, or accounted for. As Harry says above, there were wide disparities from person to person, since some people attract a lot of grad students and some do not (and some repel them, either for strategic purposes, or because they are repellent no matter what they try).

No one cared whether you supervised 15 PhD students or zero. Not quite true -- there was some unofficial awareness among colleagues who thought collegially about things. And you might get some private thanks or informal kudos for doing more than your share. But there was absolutely no official account of it. And this was true at all 3 R1s I taught at over several decades.

That's partly because -- in a Humanities field -- the funding of grad students does not follow the prof, but the program as a whole. So, Central Admin knows that your department is training 25 PhDs, because Central Admin has to figure their tuition, stipends, etc. But the money then flows to your department as a whole, with no closer investigation of who in your department is doing the work.

The picture must be radically different in the Sciences, where there is literal accounting of PhD students, since they are supported by the professor's grant-money.

hix 12.29.19 at 8:08 pm ( 13 )
Surely there are other ways to offload work to PhD students one would otherwise have to do oneself besides getting research recognition for their thesis. How much of that is possible should also vary across countries. So a comparsion of alocated supervision time only seems a bit one sided.
John Quiggin 12.29.19 at 10:07 pm ( 14 )
As regards co-authorship, my PhD students and postdocs are often keen to include me on the theory that a paper with a more senior author will have a better chance of acceptance. My impression is that, in economics, the expectation is that the main job market paper will be sole-authored or else co-authored with another junior researcher, but that others are likely to be co-authored with the supervisor.

To complicate things further, economics (like philosophy, I believe) works on average quality rather than total contribution. So, a publication with a student in a journal lower ranked than my average paper is actually a negative for me.

Matt 12.29.19 at 10:38 pm ( 15 )
I assume that "Harry" above is Harry B of the blog. If so, he's showing why comparisons w/ the US on this will be hard, if not impossible. In many countries, there is a weird fantasy that academics can and should be treated like hourly employees, with "hours" assigned to things. (This is certainly so in Australia.) Of course, it's a fantasy in that, if it in fact takes a lot more "hours" to do the things you're assigned, you don't get over-time, comp time, or paid more. The other down-side is that this system leads, in my experience, to more micro-managing – being expected to "account" for your time to a much greater degree. The US system treats academics more like salaried employees – you get paid a certain amount, you have certain tasks to do, and you must do them (some of them at particular times, like teaching classes) but otherwise you're not dealing with "hours" for things. The down-side is that there can be lots of variation in how much work people actually do – even teaching the same "number" of classes can vary a lot depending on the number of preps, size, how often you've taught it, if you have TAs, etc., and having more advisees may not lead to more recognition on its own. The plus side is that less time is spent on being mico-managed and bureaucratic nonsense. The relevant point here, though, is that it's really hard to make a comparison like the one asked for between systems where one treats academics more like hourly employees and the other more like salaried employees.
Gabriel 12.29.19 at 10:52 pm ( 16 )
My wife (a New Zealand academic with confirmation) is allocated a. 24 hours per year for supervising PhD students. She trusts that the ludicrousness of this number is not lost on those present.
billcinsd 12.30.19 at 1:39 am ( 17 )
I am a Professor in an Engineering discipline at a small, state engineering school in the US. Our workload is departmentally determined. My department is fairly small, ~100 undergrads, but does quite a bit of research. My nominal workload is 40% teaching, 40% research and 20% service. This is based on 40 working hours per week. My effective workload is 46% teaching, 8% advising (both undergrad and grad), 23% overseeing my funded research projects and about 25% service. This is more than 100%, which is true for almost all faculty at my school.

Thus, I estimate how much time I spend doing various things and then convert that to credit hours, as my contract is specified in terms of 18 credit hours of work per semester, making a credit hour about 2 hours and 40 minutes

Kevin 12.30.19 at 2:11 pm ( 18 )
In Technological University Dublin (formerly Dublin Institute of Technology), supervision of a full-time PhD student attracts a time allowance of 2 hours per week (48 hours per annum), from a weekly teaching load of 16 contact hours for lecturers (18 hours for assistant lecturers). So, for example, a lecturer with two full-time PhD students will allocate 25% (4 hours) of his / her weekly contact teaching duties to this role.
Michael Dunn 12.30.19 at 2:45 pm ( 19 )
In my department (at Uppsala University, Sweden) the workload norm is 88 hours per year supervisory time for the main supervisor and 20 for the assistant supervisor. This time includes the face-to-face hours, as well as reading, commenting, etc. The split can be done differently to reflect other kinds of co-supervisory arrangements. This seems very generous compared to what others are reporting, which is sad, since an average of 1 hour meeting, 1 hour reading per week for 44 weeks in a year would work out as very minimal supervision -- and supervisors typically spend much more time on supervision related tasks than this.
Johan Karlsson Schaffer 12.30.19 at 4:44 pm ( 20 )
A couple of years ago, I did a survey of the formal teaching duties at polisci departments at Scandinavian universities for a report published by the Swedish Institute for Labour Market Evaluation. The survey looked at the formal percentage of teaching duty for senior lecturers and full professors, and the formal compensation in terms of hours allotted for various teaching activities (e.g., lectures, supervision at different levels, examination and so on).

We found, first, that the formal teaching duty varied quite a lot across Scandinavian universities, but that all Swedish universities had less generous conditions than Danish and Norwegian universities, which came closer to the Humboldtian ideal of unity of teaching and research.

Second, by multiplying teaching duty and compensation for a standard set of teaching activities, we found that the consequences for the individual lecturer could be quite drastic: over a hypothetical career from age 35 to retirement at 67, a lecturer at the least generous university could have ten whole years more of teaching duty than their colleague at the most generous university.

The report is, unfortunately, only available in Swedish, but the graphs and tables (which also includes detailed information on the compensation for PhD supervision) should be rather self-explanatory.
https://www.ifau.se/sv/Forskning/Publikationer/Rapporter/2016/att-mota-den-hogre-utbildningens-utmaningar/

Here's a blog post summary of these findings that include the most important graphs:
https://politologerna.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/att-mota-den-hogre-utbildningens-utmaningar/

Sam Tobin-Hochstadt 12.30.19 at 6:53 pm ( 21 )
I'm an Associate Professor in Computer Science at a US R1 university.

As Matt says, the description in Ingrid's post is totally unlike how things are thought of at all in US universities. My load is 40% research, 40% teaching, 20% service, which is standard for tenure-track faculty in my department (and I think across departments here). The standard teaching load is 3 courses per year (2 in one semester, 1 in the other). However, there are several exceptions to this: before tenure, faculty are assigned only 2 courses per year. Also, if you support (with external grant funding) 3 PhD students or post-docs in the previous year then you only teach 2 courses the next year. Additionally, pre-tenure faculty are asked to do considerably less service.

Furthermore, there are several additional differences that are relevant. First, and most importantly, the distinction between "research" and "PhD supervision" does not exist in science. Effectively all of my research is joint with PhD students, although sometimes they are not "my" students, but those of my collaborators. Second, not all students are funded by grants; PhD students can also be funded by teaching. So it's possible to have one or two students without bringing in funding. Third, there's a strong expectation that training PhD students is part of the job, you wouldn't get tenure/promotion/etc if you just didn't do it.

Z 12.30.19 at 8:33 pm ( 22 )
In my institution, you don't get any teaching load reduction, whereas you do get a tiny but non-zero reduction for supervising a master thesis, or even an undergraduate research project. I believe that is the norm in France in science in general, and most likely overall. The logic behind that choice is that supervising a PhD student is supposed to bring its own benefits: the student will do a lot of lab work for the superviser, the superviser will cosign the research papers etc.

In math (my own field), there is no lab work to be done and the French tradition is that papers drawn from the PhD should be signed by the student alone, so the arrangement is quite unfavorable to us.

On the other hand

So without reductions, we teach about 835-1190 hours a year

Did I read that right? Can you clarify how many hours are counted for one hour in front of the students? That number looks like madness to me (and I have a heavy teaching load myself).

CdnNew 12.30.19 at 9:11 pm ( 23 )
Canadian math prof:

"Highly research-active" profs teach one fewer course per year. There is some flexibility as to how to maintain this designation, but typically you must have at least 2 active graduate students at any given time (and meet various other requirements).

Going through our standard courseload: if you ignore the other work related to maintaining status, your first two Ph.D. students are worth about 90 hours/year, and the remainder are worth nothing.

likbez 12.31.19 at 12:57 am ( 24 )
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

John Quiggin 12.29.19 at 10:07 pm @14

As regards co-authorship, my Ph.D. students and postdocs are often keen to include me on the theory that a paper with a more senior author will have a better chance of acceptance.

This is an important point. I agree that it is somewhat dishonest to use your post-grad students to increase you number of publications. But it should be weighted against the real difficulties of young researchers to get their papers published. And the fact that sometimes brilliant papers from them are rejected. Nobody can abolish clan behavior in the academy. And the "academic kitchen" is pretty dirty, and takes years to understand ;-).

Sometimes publishing oversees helps here, and young researchers should keep this in mind. For many foreign journals, just the fact that you are a foreigner from a prestigious university is a plus that weights on the acceptance.

[Dec 30, 2019] Economic Possibilities for Ourselves by Robert Skidelsky

Notable quotes:
"... In Praise of Idleness ..."
"... Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained ..."
"... Project Syndicate ..."
"... Rise of the Robots ..."
"... ad infinitum ..."
Dec 30, 2019 | robertskidelsky.com

The most depressing feature of the current explosion in robot-apocalypse literature is that it rarely transcends the world of work. Almost every day, news articles appear detailing some new round of layoffs. In the broader debate, there are apparently only two camps: those who believe that automation will usher in a world of enriched jobs for all, and those who fear it will make most of the workforce redundant.

This bifurcation reflects the fact that "working for a living" has been the main occupation of humankind throughout history. The thought of a cessation of work fills people with dread, for which the only antidote seems to be the promise of better work. Few have been willing to take the cheerful view of Bertrand Russell's provocative 1932 essay In Praise of Idleness . Why is it so difficult for people to accept that the end of necessary labor could mean barely imaginable opportunities to live, in John Maynard Keynes's words, "wisely, agreeably, and well"?

The fear of labor-saving technology dates back to the start of the Industrial Revolution, but two factors in our own time have heightened it. The first is that the new generation of machines seems poised to replace not only human muscles but also human brains. Owing to advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence, we are said to be entering an era of thinking robots; and those robots will soon be able to think even better than we do. The worry is that teaching machines to perform most of the tasks previously carried out by humans will make most human labor redundant. In that scenario, what will humans do?

The other fear factor is the increasing precariousness of wage labor – though this concern is seemingly belied by headline statistics suggesting that unemployment is at a historic low. The problem is that an economy at "full employment" now contains a large penumbra of what economist Guy Standing calls the "precariat": under-employed people who work less and for lower pay than they would like. A growing number of workers, seeming to lack any kind of job (and pay) security, are thus forced to work well below their ability.

It is natural that one would interpret the onset of precariousness as the first stage in a broader trend toward workforce redundancy, especially if one pays attention to alarmist predictions of the next category of "jobs at risk." But this conclusion is premature. The penetration of robotics into the world of work has not yet been sufficient to explain the rise of the precariat. So far, "cost cutting" in the West has largely taken the form of offshoring to the East, where labor is cheaper, rather than replacing humans with machines. But "onshoring" work that was previously offshored will offer cold comfort to workers if machines get most of the jobs.

ROBO-RAPTURE

According to the first view – let us call it "job enrichment" – technology will eventually create more, better human jobs than it destroys, as has always been the case in the past. Simple, mundane tasks may increasingly be automated, but human labor will then be freed up for more "interesting" and "creative" cognitive work.

In late 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) published Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained , which claimed that as much as 50% of working hours in the global economy could theoretically be automated; the authors suggested, however, that not more than 30% actually would be. Further, they estimated that less than 5% of occupations could be fully automated; but that in 60% of occupations, at least 30% of the required tasks could be.

In line with the usual mainstream assessment, MGI believes that while there will be no net loss of jobs in the long run, the "transition may include a period of higher unemployment and wage adjustments." It all depends, the authors say, on the rate at which displaced workers are re-employed: a low re-employment rate will lead to a higher medium-term unemployment rate, and vice versa .

MGI's proposal for massive investment in education to lower the unemployment cost of the transition is also conventional. The faster the labor reabsorption, the higher the wage growth. Lower re-employment levels will cause wages to fall, with a greater share of the gains from automation accruing to capital, not labor. But the authors hasten to add:

"Even if the particulars of historical experience turn out to differ from conditions today, one lesson seems pertinent: although economies adjust to technological shocks, the transition period is measured in decades, not years, and the rising prosperity may not be shared by all."

This assessment is typical, and it has led many to call on governments to invest heavily in so-called "upskilling" programs. In a commentary for Project Syndicate , Zia Qureshi of the Brookings Institution argues that, "with smart, forward-looking policies, we can ensure that the future of work is a better job." In this view, automation is simply the continuation of the move toward more, higher-quality jobs that has characterized capitalist growth since the Industrial Revolution.

History is on the optimists' side. Mechanization has been the durable engine of productivity and wage growth as well as reductions in working hours, albeit usually with a considerable lag. Although the Roberts loom cost hundreds of thousands of handloom weavers their jobs in the nineteenth century, the broader wave of new industrial technologies enabled a much larger population to be maintained at a higher standard of living.

ROBO-REDUNDANCY

But, according to the second view – call it "job destruction" – this time is different. The programming of machines to perform ever more complex tasks with ever-increasing speed, accuracy, precision, and reliability will result in mass unemployment. In Rise of the Robots , author and entrepreneur Martin Ford addresses the techno-optimists head-on. "There is a widely held belief – based on historical evidence stretching back at least as far as the industrial revolution – that while technology may certainly destroy jobs, businesses, and even entire industries, it will also create entirely new occupations often in areas that we can't yet imagine." The problem, Ford argues, is that information technology has now reached the point where it can be considered a true utility, much like electricity.

It stands to reason that the successful new industries that will emerge in the years ahead will have taken full advantage of this powerful new utility and the distributed machine intelligence that accompanies it. That means they will rarely – if ever – be highly labor-intensive. The threat is that as creative destruction unfolds, the "destruction" will fall primarily on labor-intensive businesses in traditional areas like retail and food preparation, whereas the "creation" will generate new industries that simply don't employ many people.

On this view, the economy is heading for a tipping point where job creation will begin to fall consistently short of what is required to employ the workforce fully. We will soon reach the stage where the machine-driven destruction of existing human jobs far outpaces the creation of new human jobs, resulting in inexorably rising mass "technological unemployment."

THE UPSKILLING MIRAGE

Optimists' response to such concerns is that the workforce simply needs to be trained or upskilled in order to "race with the machines." Typical of this outlook is the following headline on a commentary published by the World Economic Forum: "How new technologies can create huge numbers of meaningful jobs." According to the author, concerns about "the looming devastation that self-driving technology will have on the 3.5 million truck drivers in the US" are "misdirected." Augmented-reality technology, we are told, can create loads of new jobs by enabling people to work from home. All that will be needed is training of the kind offered by "Upskill, an augmented reality company in the manufacturing and field services sectors," which "uses wearable technologies to provide step-by-step instructions to industrial workers."

The author, himself the co-founder of an augmented-reality company, goes on to argue that, "With the pace of technological progress only accelerating and with increasing specialization becoming the norm in every industry, reducing the time necessary to retrain workers is pivotal to maintaining the competitiveness of industrialized economies." There is no mention of the wages that will be offered to these "upskilled" workers in their "meaningful" new jobs. We are simply told that they will be relocated to "lower cost areas more in need of job creation." Only at the very end of the commentary does the author acknowledge that, in fact, "Technology is a force that has the potential to eliminate entire industries through robotics and automation, and for that we should be concerned."

The retraining argument should give us pause. In portraying upskilling as the solution to the labor displacement caused by new technologies, optimists rarely admit that if predictions about "thinking robots" turn out to be anywhere near true, workers would need to be trained in technical skills to an extent that is unprecedented in human history.

Moreover, the time it takes to upgrade the skills of the workforce will inevitably exceed the time it takes to automate the economy. This will be true even if claims about an imminent deluge of automation are greatly exaggerated. In the interval, there will be under- and unemployment. In fact, this has already been happening. Although automation is not yet bearing down on workers to the extent that has been predicted, it has nonetheless pushed more of them into less-skilled jobs; and its mere possibility may be exerting downward pressure on wages. There are already signs of the new class structure envisioned by the pessimists: "lovely jobs at the top, lousy jobs at the bottom."

A more fundamental question is what we mean by upskilling, and what its consequences might be. Often, heavy emphasis is placed on the importance of better technological education at all levels of society, as if all people will need to succeed in the future is to be taught how to write and understand computer code.

As the technology writer James Bridle has shown , this line of argument has a number of limitations. While encouraging people to take up computer programming might be a good start, such training offers only a functional understanding of technological systems. It does not equip people to ask higher-level questions along the lines of, "Where did these systems come from, who designed them and what for, and which of these intentions still lurk within them today?" Bridle also points out that arguments for technological education and upskilling are usually offered in "nakedly pro-market terms," following a simple equation: "the information economy needs more programmers, and young people need jobs in the future."

THE MISSING DIMENSION

More to the point, the upskilling discourse totally ignores the possibility that automation could also allow people simply to work less. The reason for this neglect is twofold: it is commonly assumed that human wants are insatiable, and that we will thus work ad infinitum to satisfy them; and it is simply taken for granted that work is the primary source of meaning in human lives. 1

Historically, neither of these claims holds true. The consumption race is a rather recent phenomenon, dating no earlier than the late nineteenth century. And the possibility that we might one day liberate ourselves from the "curse of work" has fascinated thinkers from Aristotle to Russell. Many visions of Utopia betray a longing for leisure and liberation from toil. Even today, surveys show that people in most developed countries would prefer to work less, even in the workaholic United States, and might even accept less pay if it meant logging fewer hours on the clock.

The deeply economistic nature of the current debate excludes the possibility of a life beyond work . Yet if we want to meet the challenges of the future, it is not enough to know how to code, analyze data, and invent algorithms. We need to start thinking seriously and at a systemic level about the operational logic of consumer capitalism and the possibility of de-growth.

In this process, we must abandon the false dichotomy between "jobs" and "idleness." Full employment need not mean full-time employment, and leisure time need not be spent idly. (Education can play an important role in ensuring that it is not.) Above all, wealth and income will need to be distributed in such a way that machine-enabled productivity gains do not accrue disproportionately to a small minority of owners, managers, and technicians.

[Dec 29, 2019] The process of imbecilization of the West

Dec 29, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

vk , Dec 28 2019 15:28 utc | 4

One more example of the process of imbecilization of the West:

Millennials are turning to magic & astrology for 'empowerment' because liberal ideology failed them

Imbecilization is a normal historical process where intellectual declines follows the economic decline of a given empire. There's growing evidence the West is going through the same process.

A with any composite, complex historical process, imbecilization doesn't happen in a uniform and linear way. Economics was the first science that descended into pseudo-science in the capitalist world (after Marx dismantled Classic Economics). Philosophy followed. Erudite art degenerated after the fall of Modernism somewhere in the 1950s. Human sciences in general became fragmented and little more than a constelation of esoterism and pseudo-sciences - a condition they still enjoy today (e.g. the dismembering of History into Sociology, Behavioral Economics and others).

Meanwhile, the so-called STEM or "Hard Sciences" continued to prosper for some decades, until they also hit a ceiling in the 1990s. The fall of the profitability of the capitalist world led it to resort to "financialization" to keep the system going, which resulted in the most brilliant capitalist mathematicians to be hosed to Wall Street instead to the likes of NASA. Those MIT mathematicians and rocket scientists created the algorithms Wall Street still uses today, but they did not stop the 2008 meltdown.

Nowadays, those brilliant STEM minds are nothing more than fraudsters who keep their careers going by creating meaningless experiments (because they need the funding) only to publish articles and keep their production quotas or self-censuring bootlickers for Wall Street and Big Pharma. When they get to work for a big corporation, they are mere architects of planned obsolescence or patent renewing. There's a new book I strongly recommend all of you to read:

Silent Conflict: A Hidden History of Early Soviet-Western Relations , by Michael Jabara Carley

Here's an interview with him in Sputnik News , in the occasion of this book's release.


[Dec 26, 2019] The Decade in Retirement: Wealthy Americans Moved Further Ahead

Dec 26, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

Fred C. Dobbs , December 15, 2019 at 06:54 AM

The Decade in Retirement: Wealthy
Americans Moved Further Ahead
https://nyti.ms/34pZAbD
NYT - Mark Miller - Dec. 14

... In 2010, the economy was just beginning to recover from the worst recession and financial crisis in recent memory. The unemployment rate was high, the stock market was coming back and millions of workers were worried that their retirement plans were ruined.

Since then, a robust economic rebound has put some Americans back on solid footing for retirement, but progress has been uneven. Despite the gains made in employment, wage growth has only recently begun to recover -- and remained flat for older workers. Retirement wealth has accumulated almost exclusively among higher-income households, while middle- and lower-income households have only held steady or lost ground, Federal Reserve data shows.

Trends in Social Security and Medicare also are troubling. The value of Social Security benefits -- measured by the share of pre-retirement income they replace -- is falling, and the cost of Medicare is rising.

For members of the baby boomer and Gen X generations, the odds of success are mixed. The Employee Benefit Research Institute has developed a model that simulates the percentage of households likely to have adequate resources to meet retirement expenses, considering household savings, home equity and income from Social Security and pensions.

The model shows that the highest-income households have seen their odds of a successful retirement improve sharply during this decade, and have very high odds of success. Middle-income households, meanwhile, have seen some gains, but still have only 50-50 odds of success. And the lowest-income households have seen their retirement prospects diminish sharply -- among these boomers approaching retirement, their odds of success have fallen during the decade from 26 percent to 11 percent.

"Retirement prospects improved significantly for higher-income workers who were fortunate enough to work for employers that sponsor retirement plans," says Jack VanDerhei, the organization's research director.

Let's consider how the retirement landscape has changed during the decade now ending.

Retirement savings: Up for the affluent

The stock market bottomed out in March 2009 -- and it has more than quadrupled since then. Most retirement savers did not abandon equity markets during the crash, says Jean Young, senior research associate with the Vanguard Center for Investor Research. "Some did, but the vast majority stayed the course."

But the recovery has seen retirement wealth accumulate almost exclusively among affluent households that had access to workplace retirement plans and the means to make contributions. For example, Vanguard reports that the average balance for plan participants with incomes over $150,000 in 2018 was $193,130, compared with just $22,679 for workers with income of $30,000 to $50,000. ...

[Dec 22, 2019] After the Eviction Notice

Dec 22, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

smoker , December 21, 2019 at 1:31 pm

Re: After the Eviction Notice

So disturbing, and this problem is only going to increase in the US as people realize they can no longer afford to rent anywhere, and there are millions of Boomers who rent, with no available affordable housing to move into, and no livable wage jobs (despite education) for those who would gladly continue working – due to an as yet to be headlined age discrimination which started during the dot.com boom Clinton/Gore ushered in, and exploded during Obama's reign. Sickeningly, in Silicon Valley, 35 year olds feel over the hill.

None of the candidates want to even address this rental housing issue (for all ages) with Federal Tax Policy even? Renters are the only ones who invest major sums of money into housing, with no equity whatsoever?

newcatty , December 21, 2019 at 3:38 pm

Yes, it is the canary growing fainter and struggling for life in the dark gloom of the coal mine. The most basic human requirement for survival is shelter, after food and water. Clothing is also in that category. The poor and homeless ( absolutely including the working poor) at first , when attention started to be given to the " national crisis and (in some people's minds) and national disgrace", was just, you know, the usual suspects. From hobos ( whom many saw as romanticized free spirits or stubborn old guys) to including the abandoned mentally ill, drug addicts, criminals, people with "something to hide", teens on the run from neglect or abuse to? The numbers of people who are essentially w/o shelter is not going to remain out of sight, out of mind. Now, we know that mothers, fathers, grandparents, children and grandchildren are homeless. And, if they are not, many are living in what , once upon a time, poor or desolate housing. Many are living in ,what was once called a boarding house, in a room with their kids. They supposedly have access to "common areas". This is not people who often even have more than a casual aquaintanceship with their "landlords". This is not the "Golden Girls" living the high life in sunny Florida with the owner, who is an adorable rascal. No doubt, some examples of older, single women housing together is a good fit for some.

Most older people on limited incomes don't live in a golden fantasy world. Besides young people not being able to afford outrageous rents, now include the older people. Couple this with the "reports" that there are people hungry in this country. Age has become no restrictor on this tragic fact. This can not stand. Trickle down the ,as was mentioned , breads and circuses in all of their guises. Cheap, junk fast food will become not so cheap when in dire poverty. Housing is just cold, hearted cash for the owners. Who gets to watch the circuses and gladiators ? Got cable tv( even if you personally choose not to not the point)? Afford the cost of any pro sports tickets ? Attend any cultural events that include paying for tickets? Yep, am not going to include the all American past time of watching a game at the local pub. Many people can not afford the luxury of the food and drinks OK, it's time to stop now with my pov. I am fortunate to not be in the above circumstances. Too many are, though.

smoker , December 21, 2019 at 5:40 pm

Your point of view seems valid to me.

God knows what's being planned behind closed doors for this increasing tragedy, the reality is too clear for Congress not to be aware of it. Meanwhile, I'm fully sure that amoral predators who are investing in those areas they're betting the homeless will be forced to dwell and die in, or choose to be euthanized at.

Meanwhile, Congress does absolutely nothing about putting a stop to obscenely biased, corrupted and deadly in its blatant discrimination AI, which is increasingly decimating millions of jobs, and virtually tagging people with social scores they'll never get out from under, no matter how false. This, ever since Obama glibly announced there would be many jobs lost, and some pain, due to technology The Technocracy . A Bipartisan, Horrid Congress accepted it as a necessary reality.

The Rev Kev , December 21, 2019 at 5:43 pm

The only thing missing was a police officer going in after with a drawn gun. When millions of people were being kicked out of their homes about a decade a go, I saw a photo that won an award at the time. It showed a cop, with pistol drawn, going into a house that had the family kicked out from it. Surrounding him was all the left overs from a family's life and it was very sad.

smoker , December 21, 2019 at 7:29 pm

It is heart rending. Even watching renters who leave before being evicted is heart rending, they're forced to throw away many belongings, like perfectly good mattresses and basic necessities. Lived at an apartment complex turned into ratty ass condos for mostly foreign property 'flippers' who continued renting them out, then 'flipping' them. The despair, fear, and loss during a huge job downturn was horrid to witness, as many had lived there over ten years. I was lucky to be on my feet somewhat at the time, no longer.

Every fricking sign, particularly in Silicon Valley, that advertises Apartment Homes ™ should be torn down and destroyed. The average US renters have always been treated as second class leechers, I've witnessed it my entire adult life, now they're being treated even worse.

Thanks Clinton/Gore, Obomber/Biden, Nanny Pelosi , et al; and we thought that was only the mark of Republicans busy at work.

smoker , December 21, 2019 at 9:12 pm

Thinking on this subject even more, it occurs to me why the powers that be are so invested in pitting each generation against the other. An empowered US renters' 'lobby' could be enormous. It would cross all age – along with race, gender, religion, and geographic – spectrums. Renters, along with the homeless are increasing in vast numbers of all ages. The last thing the powers that be would want, is for those vast millions to stick together against them, and age is the easiest barrier for the powers that be to keep renters separated by.

[Dec 20, 2019] Is College 'Worth It' One Study Says Maybe Not

Level of talent is another important factor. Especially difficult people are able to succeed in fields which are absolutely closed for others. Think about the level of competition in middle ages when a single academic position needed to be waited until previous holder retires. Still it did not prevented rising people like Euler to the top.
You should take the results from Clever.com published below with a grain of slat.
Dec 20, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

by Tyler Durden Fri, 12/20/2019 - 17:25 0 SHARES

The unjustifiably high cost of college tuition in the US has dragged a whole generation into debt slavery. The average cost of a 4-year degree in the US is 3x higher than it was in 1990. Even tuition at in-state schools is climbing more quickly than incomes.

As more people are forced to go into deep levels of debt to afford an education, more would-be students are being forced to take a hard look and reevaluate the ROI on a college degree.

And as college tuition continues to outpace wage growth, for a growing number of people, the answer to 'is college worth it?' is going to be no.

A reporter at Clever.com did some digging, and tabulated the ROI on different types of degrees: the bachelor's, master's and doctorate.

Generally speaking, people with at least a bachelor's degree typically earn more money over their lifetime than those who never attended college, and it's also easier to get a job with a degree.

But while Americans with a bachelor's degree might be on to something, those who earn a Master's and PHD-level degrees can't say the same.

While nearly half the population has a bachelor's degree, only 13% of Americans have a master's or Phd-level degree.

And according to Clever's analysis, many higher-level degrees may not be worth the time and money that students spend.

In fact, the longer someone spends in school, the more the value of their degrees diminishes.

Of course, ROI changes depending on the subject that an individual studies. Clever found that the best bachelor's degrees, unsurprisingly, tend to be in the STEM area: operations research, petroleum engineering, biological and physical sciences, biopsychology and gerontology.

Here, the data are showing us something that we find to be very interesting. Namely, that those who spend more money on a low-ROI bachelor's degree often find their careers to be more 'meaningful' than your average engineer. Does this mean there's an inverse relationship between spiritual fulfillment and monetary compensation when it comes to ones' career path? Possibly. But would like to suggest another possible explanation.

The children of America's wealthy often choose low-yield fields like journalism and English, since they don't face as much pressure to maximize earnings (their parents very often cover the cost of their education and living expenses) they can enjoy finding 'meaning' in low-paying careers like being a social media manager or writing for Gawker Media - careers that also don't require the hard work and dedication required of, say, a mechanical engineer at Boeing.

[Dec 07, 2019] Fake goverment statistics as interpreted by Dean baker

Dec 07, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne , December 06, 2019 at 08:34 AM

http://cepr.net/data-bytes/jobs-bytes/jobs-2019-12
December 6, 2019

Economy Adds 266,000 Jobs in November, Unemployment Edges Down to 3.5 Percent
By Dean Baker

The share of women in payroll employment is likely to exceed 50 percent in December.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the economy added 266,000 jobs in November. While this figure is inflated by the return of roughly 50,000 striking GM autoworkers, upward revisions to the prior two months' data brought the three-month average to a solid 205,000. The unemployment rate edged down to 3.5 percent, returning to a 50-year low.

The job growth was widely spread across industries. Manufacturing added 54,000 jobs, somewhat more than the number of returning strikers. It appears that the sector may again be on a modest growth path, with the number of jobs up 13,000 from its level three months ago and 76,000 from its year-ago level. Food manufacturing is providing the bulk of these gains, adding 19,300 jobs in the last three months and 25,900 over the last year.

Health care added 45,200 jobs in November after adding just 11,900 in October. Job growth for the two months together falls slightly below the 34,500 average for the last year. Restaurants added 25,300 jobs, roughly its average for the last year. The high-paying professional and technical services sector added 30,600 jobs, after three months of weak growth.

Construction employment remains weak, with the sector adding just 1,000 jobs in November. Job growth has averaged just 5,600 a month since June. Support activities for mining, which has been losing jobs since February, lost another 5,700 jobs in November. Employment in that sector is now down 23,700 (6.6 percent) over the last year. Retail added 2,000 jobs for the month, but employment is still down 31,400 (0.2 percent) over the last year.

In spite of the strong job growth and low unemployment rate, there continues to be no evidence of accelerating wage growth. The average hourly wage increased 3.1 percent over the last year. The annual rate of growth over the last three months (September, October, and November), compared to the prior three months (June, July, August), was just 3 percent.

Women's share of payroll employment edged closer to 50 percent in November, with the figure now standing at 49.992 percent, up from 49.977 percent in October. This should mean that the share will cross 50 percent in December.

The data in the household survey was generally positive. The overall employment-to-population ratio (EPOP) remained at a recovery high of 61.0 percent for the third straight month. The EPOP for prime-age workers (ages 25 to 54) also remained at its recovery high of 80.3 percent. The EPOP for prime-age men edged up 0.2 percent to 86.7 percent, a high reached in March, while the EPOP for women slipped 0.1 percentage point to 74.1 percent, which is still a full percentage point above its year-ago level.

The average duration of unemployment spells fell in November, as did the share of the long-term unemployed. There was a modest increase of 0.1 weeks in the median duration.

Perhaps the most disturbing item in this report was the dip in the share of unemployment due to voluntary quits from 14.5 percent to 13.3 percent. This is extraordinarily low, given the 3.5 percent unemployment rate. On the other hand, it is consistent with what we're seeing with wage growth, which remains modest, and with no evidence of acceleration.

Another discouraging item in the household data is the decline in the share of the workforce that chooses to work part-time. This fell by 15,000 in November. For the year average to date, this figure is up by less than 0.5 percent, meaning that it is dropping as a share of total employment. The share of voluntary part-time employment had increased sharply after the Affordable Care Act took effect, the recent decline is likely an indication of the increasing difficulty of getting health care coverage outside of employment.
[Graph]

This should be seen as a mostly positive report. The pace of job growth clearly has slowed some from its 2018 rate, but with the economy presumably approaching full employment, this was inevitable. The major downside is that workers seem to remain insecure about their employment prospects, as evidenced by the low quit rates and the relatively modest pace of wage growth.

anne -> anne... , December 06, 2019 at 08:40 AM
https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=mRhq

January 4, 2018

United States Employment-Population Ratio for Women, * 2007-2018

* Employment age 25-54


https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=mRhs

January 4, 2018

United States Employment-Population Ratio for Men, * 2007-2018

* Employment age 25-54

anne -> anne... , December 06, 2019 at 08:41 AM
https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=lMlh

January 15, 2018

Real Median Weekly Earnings for men and women, * 2007-2018

* Full time wage and salary workers

(Percent change)


https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=lMlk

January 15, 2018

Real Median Weekly Earnings for men and women, * 2007-2018

* Full time wage and salary workers

(Indexed to 2007)

likbez -> anne... , December 07, 2019 at 01:39 AM
Anne,

The truth is that good, middle class jobs are very difficult to get. Almost impossible. You are very lucky being a retiree with Vanguard funds chest ;-)

Recent graduates are in a very bad position, with only graduates from Ivy league colleges resume not being instantly tossed into waist basket.

McJobs, Amazon warehouse jobs, Home Depot jobs, low level construction jobs (in $15-$20 per hour range), etc are available for graduates. But that's it. Looks like the USA is looking now like a big amazon warehouse.

People over 50 are actually doomed, if they lost the job, to much lower standard of living. Even if they are professionals.

likbez -> likbez... , December 07, 2019 at 01:43 AM
And please understand that this a period when baby boomer leave workforce. So theoretically this should be a very low unemployment period.

[Dec 07, 2019] What students know and can do in mathematics

Dec 07, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne , December 05, 2019 at 11:52 AM

http://www.oecd.org/pisa/publications/PISA2018_CN_QCI.pdf

December, 2019

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial survey of 15-year-old students that assesses the extent to which they have acquired the key knowledge and skills essential for full participation in society. The assessment focuses on proficiency in reading, mathematics, science and an innovative domain (in 2018, the innovative domain was global competence), and on students' well-being.

Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang (China)

What 15-year-old students in B-S-J-Z (China) know and can do

Figure 1. Snapshot of performance in reading, mathematics and science

[Graph]

• Students in B-S-J-Z (China) scored higher than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average in reading, mathematics and science.

• Compared to the OECD average, a larger proportion of students in B-S-J-Z (China) performed at the highest levels of proficiency (Level 5 or 6) in at least one subject; at the same time a larger proportion of students achieved a minimum level of proficiency (Level 2 or higher) in at least one subject.

What students know and can do in reading

• In B-S-J-Z (China), 95% of students attained at least Level 2 proficiency in reading, significantly more than on average across OECD countries (OECD average: 77%). At a minimum, these students can identify the main idea in a text of moderate length, find information based on explicit, though sometimes complex criteria, and can reflect on the purpose and form of texts when explicitly directed to do so. Over 85% of students in Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang (China), Canada, Estonia, Finland, Hong Kong (China), Ireland, Macao (China), Poland and Singapore performed at this level or above.

• Some 22% of students in B-S-J-Z (China) were top performers in reading, meaning that they attained Level 5 or 6 in the PISA reading test (OECD average: 9%). At these levels, students can comprehend lengthy texts, deal with concepts that are abstract or counterintuitive, and establish distinctions between fact and opinion, based on implicit cues pertaining to the content or source of the information. In 20 education systems, including those of 15 OECD countries, more than 10% of 15-year-old students were top performers.

What students know and can do in mathematics

• Some 98% of students in B-S-J-Z (China) attained Level 2 or higher in mathematics (OECD average: 76%). At a minimum, these students can interpret and recognise, without direct instructions, how a (simple) situation can be represented mathematically (e.g. comparing the total distance across two alternative routes, or converting prices into a different currency). The share of 15-year-old students who attained minimum levels of proficiency in mathematics (Level 2 or higher) varied widely – from 98% in Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang (China) to 2% in Zambia, which participated in the PISA for Development assessment in 2017. On average across OECD countries, 76% of students attained at least Level 2 proficiency in mathematics.

• In B-S-J-Z (China), 44% of students scored at Level 5 or higher in mathematics (OECD average: 11%). Six Asian countries and economies had the largest shares of students who did so: Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang (China) (44%), Singapore (37%), Hong Kong (China) (29%), Macao (China) (28%), Chinese Taipei (23%) and Korea (21%). These students can model complex situations mathematically, and can select, compare and evaluate appropriate problem-solving strategies for dealing with them.

What students know and can do in science

• Some 98% of students in B-S-J-Z (China) attained Level 2 or higher in science significantly more than on average across OECD countries (OECD average: 78%). At a minimum, these students can recognise the correct explanation for familiar scientific phenomena and can use such knowledge to identify, in simple cases, whether a conclusion is valid based on the data provided.

• In B-S-J-Z (China), 32% of students were top performers in science, meaning that they were proficient at Level 5 or 6 (OECD average: 7%). These students can creatively and autonomously apply their knowledge of and about science to a wide variety of situations, including unfamiliar ones.

Paine -> anne... , December 05, 2019 at 01:07 PM
Massively impressive

[Dec 06, 2019] Academic Conformism is the road to 1984. - Sic Semper Tyrannis

Dec 06, 2019 | turcopolier.typepad.com

01 December 2019 Academic Conformism is the road to "1984."

Symptoms-of-groupthink-janis-72-l

The world is filled with conformism and groupthink. Most people do not wish to think for themselves. Thinking for oneself is dangerous, requires effort and often leads to rejection by the herd of one's peers.

The profession of arms, the intelligence business, the civil service bureaucracy, the wondrous world of groups like the League of Women Voters, Rotary Club as well as the empire of the thinktanks are all rotten with this sickness, an illness which leads inevitably to stereotyped and unrealistic thinking, thinking that does not reflect reality.

The worst locus of this mentally crippling phenomenon is the world of the academics. I have served on a number of boards that awarded Ph.D and post doctoral grants. I was on the Fulbright Fellowship federal board. I was on the HF Guggenheim program and executive boards for a long time. Those are two examples of my exposure to the individual and collective academic minds.

As a class of people I find them unimpressive. The credentialing exercise in acquiring a doctorate is basically a nepotistic process of sucking up to elders and a crutch for ego support as well as an entrance ticket for various hierarchies, among them the world of the academy. The process of degree acquisition itself requires sponsorship by esteemed academics who recommend candidates who do not stray very far from the corpus of known work in whichever narrow field is involved. The endorsements from RESPECTED academics are often decisive in the award of grants.

This process is continued throughout a career in academic research. PEER REVIEW is the sine qua non for acceptance of a "paper," invitation to career making conferences, or to the Holy of Holies, TENURE.

This life experience forms and creates CONFORMISTS, people who instinctively boot-lick their fellows in a search for the "Good Doggy" moments that make up their lives. These people are for sale. Their price may not be money, but they are still for sale. They want to be accepted as members of their group. Dissent leads to expulsion or effective rejection from the group.

This mentality renders doubtful any assertion that a large group of academics supports any stated conclusion. As a species academics will say or do anything to be included in their caste.

This makes them inherently dangerous. They will support any party or parties, of any political inclination if that group has the money, and the potential or actual power to maintain the academics as a tribe. pl

1984-Novel

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conformity

Posted at 11:59 AM in Whatever | Permalink

Reblog (0) Comments


A. Pols , 01 December 2019 at 12:58 PM

Climate change: "scientific consensus"
doug , 01 December 2019 at 01:01 PM
Sir,

That is the nature of tribes and humans are very tribal. At least most of them. Fortunately, there are outliers. I was recently reading "Political Tribes" which was written by a couple who are both law professors that examines this.

Take global warming (aka the rebranded climate change). Good luck getting grants to do any skeptical research. This highly complex subject which posits human impact is a perfect example of tribal bias.

My success in the private sector comes from consistent questioning what I wanted to be true to prevent suboptimal design decisions.

I also instinctively dislike groups that have some idealized view of "What is to be done?"

As Groucho said: "I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member"

J , 01 December 2019 at 01:22 PM
Reminds one of the Borg, doesn't it?

The 'isms' had it, be it Nazism, Fascism, Communism, Totalitarianism, Elitism all demand conformity and adherence to group think. If one does not co-tow to whichever 'ism' is at play, those outside their group think are persecuted, ostracized, jailed, and executed all because they defy their conformity demands, and defy allegiance to them.

One world, one religion, one government, one Borg. all lead down the same road to -- Orwell's 1984.

artemesia said in reply to J ... , 01 December 2019 at 08:18 PM
Gotta laugh or you'll cry
Talk about group-think:
First comment: 12:58 pm
Second comment: 1:01 pm
Third comment: 1:22 pm

24 minutes and WE HAVE A WINNER: "Nazism & Fascism are . . ."

Gee Mr. Wilson, what stunningly independent thinking. How 'thinking-outside-the-History-Channel-box"ish.

Factotum , 01 December 2019 at 03:18 PM
David Halberstam: The Best and the Brightest. (Reminder how the heck we got into Vietnam, when the best and the brightest were serving as presidential advisors.)

Also good Halberstam re-read: The Powers that Be - when the conservative media controlled the levers of power; not the uber-liberal one we experience today.

fotokemist , 01 December 2019 at 05:16 PM
Col.,

You nailed it. Just as spontaneous natural processes tend toward disorder, human activity seems to tend toward corruption. Keep up the good work.

J , 01 December 2019 at 05:39 PM
Colonel

What do you think about this one

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/federal-court-oks-virginia-redistricting-plan/2019/02/14/2c2832a0-3090-11e9-813a-0ab2f17e305b_story.html

J , 01 December 2019 at 05:45 PM
Appears that NYC's Michael Bloomberg bought Virginia politics

https://www.nraila.org/articles/20191125/bloomberg-bought-virginia-legislators-introduce-confiscatory-gun-ban

J , 01 December 2019 at 05:51 PM
Virginia rural areas are rushing to protect themselves from the leftist Democrats legislation against them

https://www.virginiamercury.com/2019/11/20/were-going-to-have-to-defend-ourselves-after-democratic-victories-rural-virginia-counties-rush-to-declare-themselves-gun-sanctuaries/

turcopolier , 01 December 2019 at 06:43 PM
J

One more indication that Virginia is gone forever into the Blue group.

Babak Makkinejad , 01 December 2019 at 07:30 PM
If you are mediocre, in any place, you will prosper since you are not a threat to anyone.

If you are a genious, you will propser as you are untouchable by the ocean of mediocrity.

If you are brilliant, but not genious, you will not prosper.

Babak Makkinejad , 01 December 2019 at 07:32 PM
Happy is the man who has no imagination, for he is saved, as the Medieval Christians believed.
Diana C said in reply to Babak Makkinejad... , 01 December 2019 at 09:50 PM
I'm not sure I agree with you about the Medieval Christians having no imagination. Chaucer's pilgrims were all interesting characters. Perhaps they weren't all brilliant or virtuous, but they were, as Chaucer created them, all INDIVIDUALS.

I try not to make judgments about medieval Muslims. I simply have had not chance to learn much about them; so I try not to lump them all together in my mind.

Babak Makkinejad -> Diana C... , 02 December 2019 at 12:06 AM
After 1200, Muslims ran out of steam, encouraged & advised by their so-called Thinkers to conform the Law and thus guarantee their After Life. What is more important: Knowledge or Faith? Athens or zJerusalem? If your innovation causes you to go astray, discard it.
Elora Danan said in reply to Diana C... , 02 December 2019 at 02:06 PM
May be Makkinejad refers to this issue...

From Wiki on Liberal Arts...

Due to the negative opinion that some Fathers of the Church expressed in relation to ancient culture, all-medieval Christianity did not consider the teaching of liberal arts a priority. Initially, in the monastic and episcopal schools the essential rudiments were taught to understand the Bible and the chant, leaving aside the "subtleties" of grammar and oratory. It will not be until the educational design of Alcuino when the liberal arts became the central part of the curriculum.
Diana C said in reply to Elora Danan... , 02 December 2019 at 09:36 PM
I guess I was thinking of the common people, who did count themselves as Christian, and not the people in the "schools," though some of Chaucer's characters were in the church--e.g., a prioress, a friar, and so on. But these characters certainly knew how they were "supposed" to live their lives but clearly weren't living their lives as the church would have them live.

In that regard, perhaps there was a group of Christians who were IN the church. What I am saying is that almost all people in England at that time were--or at least considered themselves as Christians. However, they were indeed not living their lives as a member of the "Borg."

Perhaps, since I am a Protestant Christian, I am also not part of the group of people who are Christian and who are "accepted" in this Borg-like group.

I often feel dismissed and diminished when my Christian beliefs, which I have held since childhood, seem not to be worthy of consideration in the discussion.

Vegetius , 01 December 2019 at 08:11 PM
How long ago was your last academic experience? My understanding is that in the liberal arts it has basically become a long struggle session. Basically if you are a straight white male you keep your head down and think in secret, like Winston Smith.

The answer to a lot of this is simple: end all federal funding to any public institution any part of which has speech codes more restrictive than settled law with regard to the First Amendment.

Trump could have done this his first day in office, and he actually tweeted about it once. But no.

Patrick Armstrong -> Vegetius... , 01 December 2019 at 09:10 PM
Requirements, IMO are 1) a certain amount of intelligence but not all that much 2) some luck (your supervisor shouldn't die, someone else shouldn't beat you to it, your examiners shouldn't take a scunner to you or your supervisor) 3, and probably most important, sitzfleisch: the ability to nail your bum to the chair and plow through it. And, also important, to know when to stop.

(an absurdly long process in N American it seems, years and years and years. I got mine in the UK -- write the thesis and that's it)

Babak Makkinejad -> Vegetius... , 02 December 2019 at 12:09 AM
Liberal Arts education has been made available to the masses: they do not understand it, appreciate, need it, or can even use it. A very small percentage of mankind is suited for that kind of education. It is almost criminal negligence to have expanded it so much.
Babak Makkinejad -> Vegetius... , 02 December 2019 at 12:12 AM
See here please for an example

https://youtu.be/uRIKJCKWla4

Vegetius said in reply to Babak Makkinejad... , 02 December 2019 at 10:20 AM
Remember, Weinstein was fine with the anti-white, anti-western, anti-Christian agenda at Evergreen until it inconvenienced him. Then he learned to his shock that pulling his J-card would not give him a pass. At which point the pathetic attempt at gatekeeping called the "intellectual dark web" was declared.

Taleb and Weinstein have had an interesting back-and-forth on twitter lately over the latter's statement:

"We are going to have to figure out how to govern the Earth. That requires us to agree on values, ground rules and assumptions. I don't care about private faith. I care that all populations maintain compatibility with a common belief system that prioritizes no one's sacred book."

The test for whether Weinstein is lying or not is simple: will he support a global ban on infant genital mutilation?

wtofd , 01 December 2019 at 08:15 PM
Nassim Taleb, of Black Swan fame, talks about this phenomenon in Skin in the Game. He also writes convincingly, if briefly, about the radical Sunni threat and Americans confusing the Shia as the global threat. Worthwhile.
Patrick Armstrong , 01 December 2019 at 09:06 PM
The best description of a PhD that I can think of came from a tailor. He had learned his trade in Germany and, when he was ready to become a master, the local guild gave him a task -- to make a morning suit from start to finish, every bit done by him. Then they tore it apart checking everything and decided that he had the ability to be ranked as a master tailor. That's all a PhD thesis is: proof that you can do the whole research and writing thing.
However, I believe that of late it has more and more become an exercise in showing that you are a loyal acolyte of whatever school your supervisor belongs to. I conclude this from younger PhDs I met at work.
Mine dates, BTW, from 1976 and I am amused to see (everything's on the Net these days) that there has been a (modest) uptick in demand. But an exercise that, when I started work for the govt, probably got me more starting money and gave a useful title in a military-dominated world where everyone had a title. "Doctor" being impressive enough but usefully vague.
All irrelevant these days and no relation, BTW, to Russia (Just as well since most Russia/Soviet teachers in the English-speaking world seem to hate Russia and all that it has ever done.)
Terence Gore , 01 December 2019 at 09:38 PM

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/attack-on-1619-project-socialists/

Dreher's article on the 1619 project of the NY TIMES where there is an effort to re frame the history of the US in the context of slavery. He quotes World Socialist Web Site's view on the 'movement'. From the WSWS editorial

"Despite the pretense of establishing the United States' "true" foundation, the 1619 Project is a politically motivated falsification of history. Its aim is to create a historical narrative that legitimizes the effort of the Democratic Party to construct an electoral coalition based on the prioritizing of personal "identities" -- i.e., gender, sexual preference, ethnicity, and, above all, race."

Dreher picks out a part of an interview that relates to the new academic conformity

"The reflection of identity politics in the curriculum is the primacy of cultural history. There was a time, a long, long time ago, when a "diverse history faculty" meant that you had an economic historian, a political historian, a social historian, a historian of the American Revolution, of the Civil War, and so on. And now a diverse history faculty means a women's historian, a gay historian, a Chinese-American historian, a Latino historian. So it's a completely different kind of diversity.

On a global scale the benefit of this has been tremendous. We have more -- and we should have more -- African history, Latin American history, Asian history, than we ever have. Within US history it has produced narrow faculties in which everybody is basically writing the same thing. And so you don't bump into the economic historian at the mailbox and say "Is it true that all the wealth came from slavery," and have them say, "that's ridiculous," and explain why it can't be true."

Those who control the past...

Diana C , 01 December 2019 at 10:14 PM
I am sad to agree with the points made in this post.

I find it a little frightening to think about what might happen to our country if academia continues on this course.

However, as a person who dropped out of a doctoral program because it just wasn't in me to interpret all assigned readings as a Marxist or a totally wacky feminist who feels men and women might not be of the same species, I just decided not to get a doctorate and dropped out of the program. I've been happier for it.

Later, I watched as friends, family members, and their various friends and family members who realized the absolute worthlessness of public education nowadays in NEA controlled schools turned to home schooling, charter schools, and various other alternate ways of providing an actual education for their children.

I've met many of the children of these parents and am often quite pleased with the fact that for the most part they are individuals who can speak and think freely and are happy to be finding their way in the world doing what they want to do.

I hope more and more parents like these young people's parents break away from the public NEA option. There are many very good choices for educating our children to become real individual people who contribute in their individual ways to a vial economy and society.

I am counting on God, Who is Good and Loving to make this current state of affairs temporary in the long lifetime of this world. I give it to God, as they say, and I do not mourn my not ever getting that doctorate--a dream I had as a young girl. Not having it doesn't mean I can't still read and study and think on my own.

Mathias Alexander , 02 December 2019 at 03:27 AM
I expect group think works out fine for hunter-gatherers.
Paul Robinson , 02 December 2019 at 09:17 AM
Much of what I write could well be considered 'non-conformist', but I've never encountered any problems in academia because of it. In fact, being a professor gives one the security which makes one confident enough to be non-conformist. Sweeping generalizations are unhelpful.
Fred -> Paul Robinson ... , 02 December 2019 at 11:05 AM
Paul,

" being a professor gives one the security"

Sounds like you got yours are sure don't want to lose it.

Diana C said in reply to Fred ... , 02 December 2019 at 04:18 PM
During my years as a student and my years as an adjunct instructor in several undergrad and community college programs, I also had no problems. I was teaching required undergrad classes such as research writing and essay writing.

It was easy in those classes to set my own standards. No full professors want to teach those classes because it requires much time and effort to plan lessons and to grade papers. For argumentation essays and argumentation research papers it was my right to insist that the student research all views of the research question they chose, though many students tried hard not to have to report the opinions they did not like and to have to explain exactly why they felt that side was invalid.

I was lucky in the fact that when I taught those classes, "political correctness" had not yet developed a firm foothold in the universities.

I left teaching those classes at about the time "political correctness" was beginning.

The only time I was reported to the Dean was by a student who wanted to research the question of whether Elvis was dead or not. I told her that if her source list included the National Enquirer or and other grocery store "news" magazine, I would not accept her paper. My department chairman didn't laugh at her complaint, but he did back me up and smiled when he told me he had said she had to follow my rule.

And sadly, the journalism majors were also hard to deal with. They didn't want to research at all. They felt all they had to do was call people they felt were important sources to provide quotes for their essays or papers. They didn't feel it was necessary to do any in-depth research on the issue they had chosen, usually an issue that was important at the time in the state or local community. It made them angry that I felt they should do some background research in order to balance quoted opinions.

turcopolier , 02 December 2019 at 09:22 AM
Paul Robinson

No. Sweeping generalizations are quite helpful because they express opinions about behavior in general. As for you, you may have tenure but if you start saying things like, "Bigfoot is real," you will find yourself largely ostracized. Actually academics prefer extremely narrow foci for studies because the possibility of conflict among them is thereby reduced,

vig said in reply to turcopolier ... , 04 December 2019 at 08:23 AM
As for you, you may have tenure but if you start saying things like, "Bigfoot is real," you will find yourself largely ostracized.

You feel the Bigfoot and related para-normal phenomena should matter in Public and International Affair studies? Since comparable phenomena are reported all over the world? In the context of what larger topic/theme/course could/should it be considered?

Or are you suggesting a Prof in international relations couldn't even mention privately he feels Bigfoot is an interesting phenomenon? Suggesting it would get him into troubles no matter how solid his research in his own field?

I was careful to include a wide diversity of groups in my critique of humanity.

Yes, you were. But you also spent a considerable amount of digital ink on academics more generally and academia.

Paul Robinson , 02 December 2019 at 09:44 AM
All I can say is that I have never in 20 years in academia felt the slightest pressure from other academics to bend my research or writing to fit their will. Pressure to conform has, however, come from outside the university - my one experience writing a report for a think tank did not end well. On the whole, in my own field of study, I find academics much more reasonable, nuanced, and willing to discuss and consider alternatives, than politicians, journalists, and think tank types. Of course, that is just one person's experience, and I wouldn't generalize from it, any more than you should from yours. But there it is.
Fred -> Paul Robinson ... , 02 December 2019 at 08:35 PM
Paul,


They are pushing the envelope in Cambridge. Got a couple students killed, rather ironic that,. But I'm sure they are not responsible nor will they adjust their theory based on the new evidence. Video here:
http://www.unz.com/isteve/london-bridge-victims-professors-now-getting-some-unwanted-attention/

Elora Danan , 02 December 2019 at 10:12 AM
Once Elora thought of studying Social Sciences in University at Distance...but, after seeing the cadre of professors, being one a member of CFR who, moreover, got lately involveded in the Integrity Initiative scandal as a one of the cluster in charge of spreading maledicence through their columns in MSM on certain respectable colonel they deemed too much pro-Russian to be head of national intelligence...she certainly desisted...and decided that she would better learn on her own...

After all, it was "highly likely" he was going to catearme de plano, sin ni siquiera leer lo que escribo ....only because Elora is so....

J , 02 December 2019 at 10:28 AM
It looks like Soylent Green is a not too far off possibility. Washington State has thrown out the dignity of the human death and subsequent corpse with their Washington State's bath water. They'll be composting dead human beings like they would compost rotting food or rotting garbage. With burial or cremation, there is some dignity given to the life of the individual who life has passed, whereas with composting, they'll be throwing the human corpse with its decaying fluids and all into basically a sewage pit to rot. With them composting human dead like a rotting cabbage, basic human dignity will have been cast into the trash heap. The Elites are now coming out in the open and calling for human cannibalism, and there could be legislation enacted like what Washington State did with human composting, legislation to make human cannibalism a reality. And a step further is turning the human corpse into a palatable food item, which is what Soylent Green was in the movie. The humanity of that movie thought they were eating vegetable crackers, unbeknownst to them they were eating their next of kin, or their neighbor down the street. In the movie, garbage trucks gathered up the dead corpses like they were cord-wood, and took them to a processing station, much like what the human composting will have -- processing stations.

Remember that Orwell's 1984 was poo poo'd as never happening just a few short years ago. And the 1973 movie Soylent Green was poo poo'd as science fiction when it was released.

World's First Human Composting Facility is Coming to Seattle in 2021

https://themindunleashed.com/2019/12/human-composting-facility-seattle-2021.html

fredw , 02 December 2019 at 11:00 AM
Academics make easy targets for this crew, but, as noted above, they they are far from unique in their tribal instincts. The thing that appalled me most after my Vietnam experience (apart from the fact that William Calley's entire chain of command did not go to prison) was the discovery of how many people had figured out that our cause was all but unwinnable and how little influence that discovery had. When the preparatory simulation exercises showed us consistently losing, the pentagon stopped the war gaming. Etc. all the way through the war. In fact even the catastrophe they suffered in Tet '68 did not shift the balance in our favor.

John Maynard Keynes made the academics' ultimate response to the notion that people in more "practical" pursuits are more realistic: "Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually slaves of some defunct economist."

And no, Keynes was not that much an advocate for academics either: " Education: the inculcation of the incomprehensible into the indifferent by the incompetent."

Fred -> fredw... , 02 December 2019 at 03:31 PM
Fredw,

Then why did North Vietnam sign the Paris peace accords?

fredw said in reply to Fred ... , 02 December 2019 at 07:27 PM
Because they thought the accords meant that we agreed to let them win the war. That interpretation doesn't mesh with Nixon's ferocious rhetoric about the Christmas bombing, but that was the truth. And they were pretty shrewd about that sort of thing.

I can't prove it and they would never say it, but I thought at the time that the Christmas bombing sent a message that we needed an end to it more than they did. So they reached out and sure enough we were willing to settle on terms similar to what they had offered in 1968.

That is not to say that they were anything other than horrible brutal people. But they were not stupid horrible brutal people, and they had the commitment to see it through. And we did not. It was their country.

Fred -> fredw... , 02 December 2019 at 08:30 PM
Fredw,

A few million South Vietnamese would disagree.

fredw said in reply to Fred ... , 03 December 2019 at 08:01 AM
"A few million South Vietnamese would disagree."

I doubt it. The ones I have spoken with about it saw it pretty much the same way at the time. They spent a couple years hoping against hope that they were wrong - that the US did have the commitment to see it through. Their hopes were disappointed.

Fred -> fredw... , 03 December 2019 at 08:47 AM
Fredw,


Would that be the ones who fled communism after the NV army invaded the the Republic of Vietnam or the fine people of the Socialist Republic who brought freedom from the barrels of all those guns?

TonyL said in reply to fredw... , 03 December 2019 at 04:52 AM
"Because they thought the accords meant that we agreed to let them win the war."

No fredw. That's a naive (or simplistic, should I say) thinking. They had no illlusion like that, they just practiced age old Sun Tzu's teaching. In other words, if you know you can win with diplomacy why spend the blood and treasure to achieve the same thing? Demonstrate to your enemy that you are really willing to fight to the end no matter it takes, and then negotiate the peace to your favor.

turcopolier -> fredw... , 02 December 2019 at 08:34 PM
All

I was careful to include a wide diversity of groups in my critique of humanity.

fredw said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 07:57 AM
Indeed you did. The commenters seem more focused on academics.
Serge , 02 December 2019 at 11:21 AM
This conformism is not only limited to the humanities, it has crept insidiously into the physical and natural sciences. Pharmaceutical companies can now depend on an endless supply of conformist Scientists who will advocate for the drugging up of children in order to treat imaginary first world diseases.
PeterVE , 02 December 2019 at 11:45 AM
Yesterday, we had a guest Minister at my Unitarian church (I can feel the eye rolls from the commentariat already....). She has an economics degree from Princeton, a business degree from MIT, and an M.Div from Meadville Lombard Theological School. She comes to ministry after a career in high tech and slow food. She is of European and Native American ancestry, and practices the Hawaiian culture with her Big Island ohana. (Isn't that cultural appropriation? /snark)

She opened with two sweeping proclamations:
"I am here today to help you all break the habit of referring to Native People in the past tense..."
"We are standing on stolen land..."

She then followed those with an incoherent sermon, which I hesitate to even try to summarize.
One of her points was that Governor Bradford, who wrote the famous sermon speaking the shining city on the hill, believed in the righteousness of his cause, including treating the Natives as lesser beings. She did note that the Unitarian Church is a descendant of those original Congregational churches, but she missed the part where we still believe in the righteousness of our cause, and the right to treat the lesser orders as we wish.

Back to her two opening remarks:
I fully know that there are still descendants of the original settlers of our area still here.
The particular land where the First Unitarian Church of Providence stands is part of the land conveyed by deed from the Narragansett tribe to Roger Williams, and the deed is in the Providence City Hall Archives, signed by the Sachems Cononicus and Miantonomi.
I can hardly think of a better example of the product of group think, where the particulars of your audience don't matter.

J , 02 December 2019 at 03:04 PM
Colonel,

Democrat Presidential hopeful just stepped into a bog without his waders on.


https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2019/12/01/pete-buttigieg-nods-as-pastor-says-illegal-aliens-just-reclaiming-stolen-land/

jdledell , 02 December 2019 at 07:35 PM
Pat is probably going to toss me out of here for this comment. Conformity and "Group Think" is a human characteristic that is probably hard wired into our brains. It is not just academics who are subject to this trait but every group, poliitcal, religious or otherwise. That is how we got into Iraq. I got a kick out of an article in the Hill this morning about Trump's trillion dollar annual defcits. The comment section was almost universal in " it was Obama's fault". There was "group think' at work since anyone who disagreed was roundly booed and the fact that not a single Republican congresscritter has raised their voice on our annual deficits when if it was a Democrat President the hue and cry would drown out normal reporting. Don't get me wrong, the Democrats are not any better but group think is very widespread.
J -> jdledell... , 03 December 2019 at 09:13 AM
Both Democrats and Republicans have taken their brains and are using them to wipe their arses. The expression 'Sh*t for brains' fits them to a tee.

If they're not using their brains as basketballs and dribbling with them, they're converting what little grey matter they have into toliet paper.

Makes me fear for my fellow human beings.

turcopolier , 02 December 2019 at 08:15 PM
jdledell

You are a brave non-conformist soul. I hope I am your friend.

jdledell said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 06:17 PM
Pat - Yes you are, That is why I'm on your site every day.
turcopolier , 02 December 2019 at 08:19 PM
fredw

Contemptibly disrespectful to the brave men who carried out Linebacker II. It would seem that you were a communist sympathizer. No sympathy for all the Vietnamese who did not want to be ruled by the communists?

fredw said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 12:49 PM
The men who carried out Linebacker II were American soldiers (and sailors and airmen) who as usual gave it their all. I don't disrespect even Richard Nixon or the military brass who ordered it. They faced seriously tough problems with no good solutions. I am just reporting the signalling I perceived with whatever insight I had picked up from a year of interacting with Vietnamese.

And whatever my words might "seem" to imply, I have no sympathy at all for Communism or the Dang Lao Dong Viet Nam. But facing them day after day takes you beyond the abstraction of "enemy". You get some insight into how they interpret the world. I don't claim any real expertise. I didn't do that long enough to get a really deep understanding. And the people I dealt with were low level. I am just reporting how I thought they might have reacted to events as they unfolded. The Vietnamese I knew(both sides) were very logical calculating people. They wouldn't underestimate the effects of what we did, but they would always be looking for the motivation behind it.

I was heartbroken for the Vietnamese who put their lives on the line in the expectation that we would somehow pull it out. We owed them. We copped out on that debt. I don't believe we could have saved their war, but we should have done a lot better for them when it was lost.

fredw said in reply to fredw... , 03 December 2019 at 01:49 PM
"I was heartbroken for the Vietnamese who put their lives on the line in the expectation that we would somehow pull it out."

"Heartbroken" is true, but when I think of those days the overwhelming emotion is shame.

turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 08:25 AM
fredw

"A couple of years?" Our involvement started before the French left and lasted until 1975.

fredw said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 11:58 AM
A couple of years after the accords. US commitment didn't last much longer than that. That was the point. The accords signaled to many Vietnamese that we were played out. Yes, we had been there for a long time, but we had come to the point of accepting that we could not have the outcome we had fought for.
turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 08:46 AM
tonyl

you seem to have missed the fact that between the armistice agreement and the onslaught in 1975 there were two + years. In that period of time they watched and waited until the US Congress cut off all aid to SVN and then they overran the country.

TonyL said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 07:55 PM
Colonel,

No sir. I did not missed that fact. I merely disagreed with fredw's opinion about the reason why the North Vietnamese came to the negotiating table. Vietnamese people are pragmatic. Being a small country, they always do that regardless of of the situation.

turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 08:50 AM
Fred

The NVA invaded SVN in 1964. That is why we brought major forces into the country in 1965.

J , 03 December 2019 at 09:09 AM
I feel sorry for the children of Britain

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-11-29/british-government-decide-how-children-can-decorate-their-bedrooms

turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 01:42 PM
fredw

Blame the American people. They gave up, influenced by NVN IO and its American Left allies. The US Congress of the day reflected that.

turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 01:45 PM
fredw

The American people betrayed the Vietnamese, not the military. And truth be told most of the SVN people were lukewarm participants in their own defense.

fredw said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 02:02 PM
I don't see that you are disagreeing with my account of commitment levels. That said, there were both deeply committed south Vietnamese and many more who put their lives on the line betting that we could keep them from the bloody hell promised by a Communist victory. We took that bargain on that basis. Morally, I find it similar to the situation that you have described for the Kurds in Syria. It could only end ugly.
fredw , 03 December 2019 at 02:23 PM
Perhaps the most shocking revelation that interrogators received was the realization that it wasn't primarily us the enemy were worried about. Most of their anxieties were directed toward the lukewarm ARVNs who despite their many many many failings were perceived as the more dangerous enemy. We were a known (if lethal) factor. We did not represent an alternative to them. We rarely had the knowledge or understanding of local conditions to be really effective. The ARVNs did, and suffered four times our casualty rates trying to make their alternative happen.

This is not a judgement of military or social effectiveness, just an observation of what their levels of concern seemed to be.

turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 02:25 PM
fredw

You are mighty certain for someone who was not there. Yes, there were Vietnamese who fought well and hard but not enough of them. You don't seem to understand that we were there to help them. We did not run their government, leftist beliefs about that not withstanding. We did not command their army.

fredw said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 02:50 PM
"Not there"? Where was I in 1970? Sure looked like Viet Nam. Sure was hot.
There sure were a lot people speaking tieng Viet Nam. Mine had to improve really fast. I think you may have lost the thread.
turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 02:30 PM
fredw

I am sure they were afraid of being turned over to the ARVN who were likely to torture and kill them if they were in the mood. The NVA and VC main force troops wre just as liely to do the same. You sound like John Vann who once rebuked me for not loving the Vietnamese. He was right.

fredw said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 02:52 PM
Agreed that they are pretty hard to love.
turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 04:53 PM
fredw

"I think you may have lost the thread." Why would I know anything about you?

fredw said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 05:03 PM
All right granted. The contents of my prior posts are much more present in my mind than in yours. In any case, I don't see that we actually disagree that much. I think that we just have different reactions to similar sets of acts. Not my purpose to annoy you for no reason. Good luck with your roofing. I would probably fall the roof, even when I was young.
turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 05:38 PM
fredw

We have Fred, Freds, fredw. How many more Fred? " The contents of my prior posts are much more present in my mind than in yours" Duh! Vann asked why I did not love the Vietnamese. My answer wa something like "Why should I? I am here to fight a war on their behalf. That does not require me to love them."

turcopolier , 04 December 2019 at 08:27 AM
vig

Professors are generally people who prefer the catfights in the academy to actual work in industry, finance, engineering, etc. does that mean that I generally think they are drones? Yes, I do.

Turcopolier , 04 December 2019 at 01:38 PM

I received this comment from DMR, presumab;y a member of the professoriat.

"Mr Robinson's remarks are spot on. In my experience most academics worth their salt are absorbed in their research area however microscopic the focus, and delight above all in lively exchange of ideas with colleagues and students when afforded the opportunity to do so in the classroom, at conferences, in published research. Conformism, some of it timid, and competition, often cut-throat, there certainly are. Who would deny this? But as in any profession or walk of life they are par for the course. Forty years as a university teacher encourage me to say that these deformations professionelles are far from definitive, still less all-encompassing. Most unusually for you, Col. Lang, and pace your vaunted experience on boards of award-granting bodies/degree committees, your judgements in this instance smack of personal animus and bespeak an unwarrantedly generalized contempt. I say this with respect and no wish to annoy." It is a characteristic of the academy that its members wish to be thought independent thinkers. They are united in that thought. Professor, i will seek to conform to your "professional" mores. My most personal animus is reserved for social "scientists.

[Dec 04, 2019] Trump and Trade: He s Not All Wrong by Dean Baker

Notable quotes:
"... "Employment in the United States has increased steadily over the last seven years, one of the longest periods of economic growth in American history. There are about 10 million more working Americans today than when President Obama took office. ..."
"... "David Autor, an economist at M.I.T., estimated in a famous paper that increased trade with China did eliminate roughly one million factory jobs in the United States between 2000 and 2007. However, an important implication of his findings is that such job losses largely ended almost a decade ago. ..."
"... It is also worth noting that even though our trade deficit has declined from its 2006 peak (the non-oil deficit has recently been rising again), workers are constantly being displaced by imports. The Bureau of Labor Statistic reports there have been an average of 110,000 layoffs or discharges a month in manufacturing thus far this year. If just a quarter of these are trade-related, it would imply that more than 300,000 workers a year are losing their jobs due to trade. ..."
"... The second point is the wage effect, which can go beyond the direct impact of job loss. The oil market can give us a useful way of thinking about this issue. Suppose that Saudi Arabia or some other major producer ramps up its oil production by 1 million barrels of oil a day. This will put downward pressure on world prices, which will have the effect of lowering prices in the United States as well. This could mean, for example, that instead of getting $50 for a barrel of oil, producers in North Dakota will only get $40 a barrel. This will mean less money for workers and companies in the oil industry. In the case of workers, it will mean fewer jobs and lower pay. ..."
"... This can happen even if there is very little direct impact of trade. The increased supply of Saudi oil may result in some modest reduction in U.S. exports of oil, but the impact on price will be much larger. The analogous story with trade in manufactured goods is that the potential to import low cost goods from Mexico, China, or other countries can have the effect of lowering wages in the United States, even if the goods are not actually imported. ..."
"... Finally, the balance of trade will have an impact on the overall level of employment in the economy when the economy is below its full employment level of output. Until the Great Recession, most economists did not think that trade could affect the overall level of employment, but only the composition. This meant that trade could cause us to lose manufacturing jobs in the Midwest, but these job losses would be offset by gains in Silicon Valley and other tech centers. This could still mean bad news for the manufacturing workers who lost their jobs, but the net effect for the country as a whole would still be positive. ..."
"... The Great Recession changed this view, as many economists came to believe that the United States is facing a period of secular stagnation: a sustained period in which lack of demand in the economy constrains growth and employment. In this context, the trade deficit is a major cause of the lack of demand since it is spending that is creating demand in other countries rather than the United States. If we could reduce the annual trade deficit by $100 billion then as a first approximation it will have the same impact on the economy as a stimulus of $100 billion. ..."
"... There is no generally accepted explanation as to why so many prime age workers would suddenly decide they didn't feel like working, but one often invoked candidate is the loss of manufacturing jobs. The argument in this story is that the manufacturing sector provided relatively good paying jobs for people without college degrees. With so many of these jobs now gone, these workers can't find jobs. If this argument is true, then it means that trade has cost the country a large number of jobs even if the economy is back at full employment. ..."
Oct 11, 2016 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne : October 11, 2016 at 06:46 AM , October 11, 2016 at 06:46 AM

http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/trump-and-trade-he-s-not-all-wrong

October 11, 2016

Trump and Trade: He's Not All Wrong

Given his history of promoting racism, xenophobia, sexism and his recently exposed boasts about sexual assaults, not many people want to be associated with Donald Trump. However that doesn't mean everything that comes out of his mouth is wrong.

In the debate on Sunday Donald Trump made a comment to the effect that because of the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade deals, "we lost our jobs." The New York Times was quick to say * this was wrong.

"We didn't.

"Employment in the United States has increased steadily over the last seven years, one of the longest periods of economic growth in American history. There are about 10 million more working Americans today than when President Obama took office.

"David Autor, an economist at M.I.T., estimated in a famous paper that increased trade with China did eliminate roughly one million factory jobs in the United States between 2000 and 2007. However, an important implication of his findings is that such job losses largely ended almost a decade ago.

"And there's no evidence the North American Free Trade Agreement caused similar job losses.

"The Congressional Research Service concluded in 2015 that the 'net overall effect of Nafta on the U.S. economy appears to have been relatively modest.' "

There are a few things to sort out here. First, the basic point in the first paragraph is absolutely true, although it's not clear that it's relevant to the trade debate. The United States economy typically grows and adds jobs, around 1.6 million a year for the last quarter century. So any claim that trade has kept the U.S. from creating jobs is absurd on its face. The actual issue is the rate of job creation and the quality of the jobs.

Here there are three issues to consider.

1) The direct job loss – the jobs that were displaced due to imports substituting for domestically produced goods and services;

2) The wage effects – the downward pressure on the wages of workers that retain their jobs that can result from job loss and also the threat of job loss;

3) The impact of a trade deficit on the level of demand in the economy.

Taking these in turn we now have some pretty solid evidence on some of the job loss attributable to trade. David Autor's work ** found that imports from China cost the economy more than 2 million jobs in the years from 2000-2007.

"Estimates of the net impact of aggregate demand and reallocation effects imply that import growth from China between 1999 and 2011 led to an employment reduction of 2.4 million workers" (page 29).

These are workers who are directly displaced by import competition. In addition, as the article goes on to note, there were more workers who likely lost their jobs to the multiplier effect in the local economies most directly affected by imports.

The impact of trade with China was more dramatic than trade with Mexico and other countries because of the huge growth in imports over a short period of time. However, even if the impact from trade with other countries was smaller, it still would have a substantial effect on the communities affected.

It is also worth noting that even though our trade deficit has declined from its 2006 peak (the non-oil deficit has recently been rising again), workers are constantly being displaced by imports. The Bureau of Labor Statistic reports there have been an average of 110,000 layoffs or discharges a month in manufacturing thus far this year. If just a quarter of these are trade-related, it would imply that more than 300,000 workers a year are losing their jobs due to trade.

Of course people lose jobs for other reasons also, like increased productivity. So the fact there is job loss associated with trade doesn't make it bad, but it is not wrong to see this as a serious problem.

The second point is the wage effect, which can go beyond the direct impact of job loss. The oil market can give us a useful way of thinking about this issue. Suppose that Saudi Arabia or some other major producer ramps up its oil production by 1 million barrels of oil a day. This will put downward pressure on world prices, which will have the effect of lowering prices in the United States as well. This could mean, for example, that instead of getting $50 for a barrel of oil, producers in North Dakota will only get $40 a barrel. This will mean less money for workers and companies in the oil industry. In the case of workers, it will mean fewer jobs and lower pay.

This can happen even if there is very little direct impact of trade. The increased supply of Saudi oil may result in some modest reduction in U.S. exports of oil, but the impact on price will be much larger. The analogous story with trade in manufactured goods is that the potential to import low cost goods from Mexico, China, or other countries can have the effect of lowering wages in the United States, even if the goods are not actually imported.

Kate Bronfenbrenner, a professor of industrial relations at Cornell, documented one way in which the potential to import can have the effect of lowering wages. She found *** that employers regularly used the threat of moving operations to Mexico as a way to thwart unionization drives. While most workers are not typically involved in unionization drives, it is easy to imagine this dynamic playing out in other contexts where employers use the real or imagined threat from import competition as a reason for holding down wages. The implication is the impact of trade on wages is likely to be even larger than the direct effect of the goods actually brought into the country.

Finally, the balance of trade will have an impact on the overall level of employment in the economy when the economy is below its full employment level of output. Until the Great Recession, most economists did not think that trade could affect the overall level of employment, but only the composition. This meant that trade could cause us to lose manufacturing jobs in the Midwest, but these job losses would be offset by gains in Silicon Valley and other tech centers. This could still mean bad news for the manufacturing workers who lost their jobs, but the net effect for the country as a whole would still be positive.

The Great Recession changed this view, as many economists came to believe that the United States is facing a period of secular stagnation: a sustained period in which lack of demand in the economy constrains growth and employment. In this context, the trade deficit is a major cause of the lack of demand since it is spending that is creating demand in other countries rather than the United States. If we could reduce the annual trade deficit by $100 billion then as a first approximation it will have the same impact on the economy as a stimulus of $100 billion.

From this perspective, the trade deficit is a major source of job loss. Our current trade deficit of $500 billion a year (@2.8 percent of GDP) is a major drag on demand and employment. For this reason, a politician would be absolutely right to cite trade as a big factor in the weakness of the labor market.

It is worth noting that many economists (including many at the Federal Reserve Board) now believe that the economy is close to its full employment level of output, in which case trade is not now a net cause of job loss even if it had been earlier in the recovery. There are two points to be made on this view.

First, there are many prominent economists, such as Paul Krugman and Larry Summers, who argue that the economy is still well below its full employment level of output. So this is at least a debatable position.

Second, if we accept that the economy is near full employment it implies that close to 2 million prime age workers (ages 25-54) have permanently left the labor market compared to 2007 levels of labor force participation. (The gap is close to 4 million if we use 2000 as our comparison year.)

There is no generally accepted explanation as to why so many prime age workers would suddenly decide they didn't feel like working, but one often invoked candidate is the loss of manufacturing jobs. The argument in this story is that the manufacturing sector provided relatively good paying jobs for people without college degrees. With so many of these jobs now gone, these workers can't find jobs. If this argument is true, then it means that trade has cost the country a large number of jobs even if the economy is back at full employment.

In short, there are good reasons for a politician to complain about trade as a major source of our economic problems. There is much research and economic theory that supports this position.

* http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/10/09/us/elections/fact-check-debate.html#/factcheck-25

** http://www.ddorn.net/papers/Autor-Dorn-Hanson-ChinaShock.pdf

*** http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1018&context=cbpubs

-- Dean Baker

[Dec 04, 2019] Perfect Storm Trump Admin To Cut 750,000 From Food Stamps Ahead Of Recession

First they cut unemployment benefits. Now they are cutting food stamps. Great...
Dec 04, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

In a bid to end the massive welfare state, the Trump administration is expected to announce new measures Wednesday that would end food stamp benefits for nearly 750,000 low-income folks. The new rules will make it difficult for "states to gain waivers from a requirement that beneficiaries work or participate in a vocational training program," according to Bloomberg sources.

Republicans have long attempted to abolish the welfare state, claiming that the redistribution of wealth for poor people keeps them in a state of perpetual poverty. They also claim the welfare state is a system of command and control and has been used by Democrats for decades as a political weapon against conservatives, hence why most inner cities vote Democrat.

House Republicans tried to cut parts of the federal food assistance program last year, but it was quickly rejected in the Senate.

The new requirements by the Trump administration would only target "able-bodied" recipients who aren't caring for children under six.

Sources said the measure would be one of three enacted by the Trump administration to wind down the massive federal food assistance program.

The measures are expected to boot nearly 3.7 million recipients from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Though it comes at a time when employment is in a downturn, manufacturing has stumbled into a recession , and the US economy could be entering a mild recession in the year ahead. As to why President Trump wants hundreds of thousands of low-income folks off SNAP ahead of an election year while the economy is rapidly decelerating could be an administrative error that may lead to social instabilities in specific regions that will be affected the hardest. Then again, no turmoil could come out of it, and it's hailed as a success during the election year.

The Department of Agriculture estimates that the new measures could save the agency $1.1 billion in year one, and $7.9 billion by year five.

Nearly 36.4 million Americans in the "greatest economy ever" are on food stamps. At least half of all Americans have low-wage jobs, barely enough to cover living expenses, nevertheless, service their credit cards with record-high interest rates . The economy as a whole is undergoing profound structural changes with automation and artificial intelligence. Tens of millions of jobs will be lost by 2030. It's likely the collision of these forces means the welfare state is going nowhere and will only grow in size when the next recession strikes.

Cutting food stamps for low-income folks is the right move into creating a more leaner government, but there are severe social implications that could be triggered if the new measures are passed.

And while President Trump wants to slash the welfare state for poor people, his supply-side policies and bailouts of corporate America have been record-setting in some respects.

Actions by the administration clearly show that corporate welfare for Wall Street elites is more important than welfare for low-income folks. Perfect Storm: Trump Admin To Cut 750,000 From Food Stamps Ahead Of Recession


naps8906 , 23 seconds ago link

this is one of the most shameful acts for any president, especially a billionaire. If he wants to save a billion/year, cut it from military. Or increase staff at SNAP to check for fraud, but this is really shameful. I think it would've been better to raise tariff on China and use that money to increase SNAP not decrease it

cheka , 1 minute ago link

i have a better way. over BMI = no taxpayer funded food handouts

taking money from the working class, at the point of a gun....to give free food to fat *****.....clown world

Wild Bill Steamcock , 4 minutes ago link

What's the need in cutting foodstamps? You can take every able-bodied recipient and have them work a reasonable number of hours per week in a fair exchange. Plenty of work to be had and you could do it WPA style where those of certain skills could apply them.

And if you want to cut welfare, START WITH CORPORATE WELFARE

Dr Anon , 4 minutes ago link

This is a positive development in terms of the nuclear family. Women can't just abscond with the kids and her husband's alimony if she knows she will have to actually get a job to pay for her own food. I'm sick of paying taxes to support whore women and their bastard children.

Zeusky Babarusky , 6 minutes ago link

"The Department of Agriculture estimates that the new measures could save the agency $1.1 billion in year one, and $7.9 billion by year five."

Today's Repo operation by the Fed is $70.1 Billion. The $1.1 Billion in annual savings due to this cut is about 1.5% of what the Fed pumped into the Repo market just today. I'm all for cutting out the fraud. If you can work, then you should work. Don't work? Don't eat! But our economy is a Service Sector for the most part now, and the wages suck for a big part in the Service Sector. Wages overall have been nearly flat for about 30 years. How about we cut the welfare **** to the banks, Wall Street? That would save trillions not just billions. Typical DC. Fix problems while ******* over the little people, and continuing corporate welfare all the while. This **** so needs to burn up!

same2u , 7 minutes ago link

In the meantime, the Fed keeps on giving to the billionaires and banksters...

Stock market is the food stamp program for the super rich...

Omega_Man , 6 minutes ago link

great... outsource manufacturing, sign new trade deals to off shore more jobs, ramp up the stock market for the rich, waste trillions on destabilizing other nations, give israel all they want, print money to infinity, ask for zero interest rate.. and a billion per year to feed poor people is too much.. Trump is in touch with the little guy

Trump will lose 2020... give the 750,000 guns and ammo and some food and water... and a map to DC... Soros can provide the buses...

Rusticus2.0 , 7 minutes ago link

In a bid to end the massive welfare state, the Trump administration is expected to announce new measures Wednesday that would end food stamp benefits for nearly 750,000 low-income folks

and yet Trump is crying for negative interest rates so the 0.1% can continue getting the welfare they deserve ?

Just Take It All , 7 minutes ago link

Do lampposts dream of central bankers?

Fishthatlived , 10 minutes ago link

A Bloomberg story? Isn't that guy running for President? What a coincidence.

NoDebt , 4 minutes ago link

The new rules will make it difficult for "states to gain waivers from a requirement that beneficiaries work or participate in a vocational training program," according to Bloomberg sources.

And... those are actually the OLD rules, which are still on the books, but which Obama waived by EO. I'm glad 750,00 are being cut from the roles.

NoDebt , 1 minute ago link

Trump Admin To Cut 750,000 From Food Stamps Ahead Of Recession

OK, so I have to ask: What recession? Well, the coming one, obviously! So let's logic this out. You wouldn't cut food stamps IN a recession (political suicide), so what's your alternative? You're either in a recession or you're on your way to the next one which will happen eventually, right? So, when would you be able to cut food stamps? I guess never by that logic.

RiskyBidness , 7 minutes ago link

If you like your foodstamps .You can't keep your foodstamps

[Dec 04, 2019] Your Uber Driver Is 'Retired' You Shouldn't Be Surprised by Paula Span

In other words older people are pushed to the boom of the ladder. To thankless jobs like Uber, and janitorial type of jobs.
Oct 25, 2019 | www.nytimes.com

Despite spending 40 to 60 hours a week picking up riders in his 2015 Subaru Forester, Mr. Ellenbogen is barely surviving financially. He had to give up his apartment and move into his mother's condo in Verona, N.J. He relies on Medicaid for health care.

"It's something I'm accepting because I'm in need of money," he said of his Lyft gig. "I'm capable of better things, but this is what's available to me."

Economists debate how to define this kind of employment, often categorized as "nontraditional jobs" or "alternative work arrangements," and how to calculate the proportion of the older work force engaged in it.

Popularly seen as the province of the young, it now provides work for a growing number of people in their 50s, 60s and beyond.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics includes independent contractors (who may be self-employed but well compensated) and estimates that 11.4 percent of those aged 50 to 62 have nontraditional jobs. The Government Accountability Office, using an even broader definition including part-timers, says the figure is 31.2 percent.

Among workers over 62, economists at The New School's Retirement Equity Lab have found that 9 percent were in "on-call, temp, contract or gig jobs" in 2015; the researchers believe the percentage has grown since then .

In a just-published report, the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College put the number of nontraditional job holders at about 20 percent of 50- to 62-year-old workers , using data from the national Health and Retirement Study.

Their study defines nontraditional jobs as those that provide no health insurance or retirement benefits. "They're probably low-paid," said Alicia Munnell, director of the center. "Some have erratic schedules."

... ... ...

The majority of those in nontraditional jobs at ages 50 to 62 rely on them for most of their employment, and their retirement income at 62 is 26 percent lower than that of employees holding traditional jobs. (Nontraditional jobholders have somewhat higher rates of depression, as well.)

... ... ...

Nontraditional jobs include food service and retail, as well as gig jobs; among the fastest growing categories are janitorial work, and personal care and health aide positions. "They're not easy on older bodies," Dr. Ghilarducci pointed out. "They require a lot of physical stamina."

... ... ...

Mr. Ellenbogen, for instance, has a master's degree in social psychology from the University of Vermont. After getting laid off from sales positions and finding a return to business coaching unprofitable, he became a commission-only sales rep for Home Depot, with no base salary or benefits.

The company let him go, he said, when retina surgery left him unable to drive for two months. After he recovered, the only work he could find was with Lyft, where about a quarter of drivers are over 50, the company reported last year.

Mr. Ellenbogen has searched for jobs on LinkedIn, on Indeed, in local newspapers. The New Start Career Network at Rutgers University has provided free weekly sessions with a coach.

Nothing has materialized, so Mr. Ellenbogen keeps driving, trying to delay claiming Social Security to maximize his benefits.

[Dec 02, 2019] The Fake Myth of American Meritocracy by Barbara Boland

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... As part of the scam, parents would "donate" money to a fake charity run by Singer. The funds would then be laundered to either pay off an SAT or ACT administrator to take the exams or bribe an employee in college athletics to name the rich, non-athlete children as recruits. Virtually every scenario relied on multiple layers of corruption, all of which eventually allowed wealthy students to masquerade as "deserving" of the merit-based college slots they paid up to half a million dollars to "qualify" for. ..."
"... When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organised interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it. ..."
"... The conclusion of the study? We live in an oligarchy: ..."
Mar 15, 2019 | www.theamericanconservative.com

The college bribery scandal reveals an ugly truth: our society is unjust, dominated by a small elite. Actress Lori Loughlin, who has been implicated in the Operation Varsity Blues scandal. Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency/Shutterstock The most destructive and pervasive myth in America today is that we live in a meritocracy. Our elites, so the myth goes, earned their places at Yale and Harvard, on Wall Street and in Washington -- not because of the accident of their birth, but because they are better, stronger, and smarter than the rest of us. Therefore, they think, they've "earned" their places in the halls of power and "deserve" to lead.

The fervor with which so many believe this enables elites to lord over those worse off than they are. On we slumber, believing that we live in a country that values justice, instead of working towards a more equitable and authentically meritocratic society.

Take the Operation Varsity Blues scandal. On Tuesday, the FBI and federal prosecutors announced that 50 people had been charged in, as Sports Illustrated put it , "a nationwide college admissions scheme that used bribes to help potential students cheat on college entrance exams or to pose as potential athletic recruits to get admitted to high-profile universities." Thirty-three parents, nine collegiate coaches, two SAT/ACT exam administrators, an exam proctor, and a college athletics administrator were among those charged. The man who allegedly ran the scheme, William Rick Singer, pled guilty to four charges of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the U.S., and obstruction of justice.

As part of the scam, parents would "donate" money to a fake charity run by Singer. The funds would then be laundered to either pay off an SAT or ACT administrator to take the exams or bribe an employee in college athletics to name the rich, non-athlete children as recruits. Virtually every scenario relied on multiple layers of corruption, all of which eventually allowed wealthy students to masquerade as "deserving" of the merit-based college slots they paid up to half a million dollars to "qualify" for.

Cheating. Bribery. Lying. The wealthy and privileged buying what was reserved for the deserving. It's all there on vivid display. Modern American society has become increasingly and banally corrupt , both in the ways in which "justice" is meted out and in who is allowed to access elite education and the power that comes with it.

The U.S. is now a country where corruption is rampant and money buys both access and outcomes. We pretend to be better than Russia and other oligarchies, but we too are dominated by a rich and powerful elite.

The average American citizen has very little power, as a 2014 study by Princeton University found. The research reviewed 1,779 public policy questions asked between 1981 and 2002 and the responses by different income levels and interest groups; then calculated the likelihood that certain policies would be adopted.

What they found came as no surprise: How to Fix College Admissions

A proposed policy change with low support among economically elite Americans (one-out-of-five in favor) is adopted only about 18 percent of the time, while a proposed change with high support (four-out-of-five in favor) is adopted about 45% of the time.

That's in stark contrast with policies favored by average Americans:

When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organised interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.

The conclusion of the study? We live in an oligarchy:

our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. [T]he preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.

The belief in the myth of merit hurts the smart kid with great grades who aced his SATs but was still rejected from Yale and Harvard. It hurts talented athletes who have worked their tails off for so many years. It hurts parents who have committed hundreds of school nights and weekends to their children. It hurts HR departments that believe degrees from Ivy League schools mean that graduates are qualified. It hurts all of us who buy into the great myth that America is a democratic meritocracy and that we can achieve whatever we want if only we're willing to expend blood, toil, sweat, and tears.

At least in an outright class system like the British Houses of Lords and Commons, there is not this farcical playacting of equal opportunity. The elites, with their privilege and titles, know the reason they are there and feel some sense of obligation to those less well off than they are. At the very least, they do not engage in the ritual pretense of "deserving" what they "earned" -- quite unlike those who descend on Washington, D.C. believing that they really are better than their compatriots in flyover country.

All societies engage in myth-making about themselves. But the myth of meritocracy may be our most pervasive and destructive belief -- and it mirrors the myth that anything like "justice" is served up in our courts.

Remember the Dupont heir who received no prison time after being convicted for raping his three-year-old daughter because the judge ruled that six-foot-four Robert Richards "wouldn't fare well in prison"? Or the more recent case of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who had connections to both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and faced a 53-page federal indictment for sex-trafficking over two dozens underage girls ? He received instead a sweetheart deal that concealed the extent of his crimes. Rather than the federal life imprisonment term he was facing, Epstein is currently on house arrest after receiving only 13 months in county jail. The lead prosecutor in that case had previously been reprimanded by a federal judge in another underage sex crimes case for concealing victim information, the Miami Herald reports .

While the rich are able to escape consequences for even the most horrific of crimes , the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Approximately 7 million people were under some form of correctional control by the end of 2011, including 2.2 million who were detained in federal, state, and local prisons and jails. One in every 10 black men in his thirties is in prison or jail, and one out of three black men born in 2001 can expect to go to prison in their lifetimes.

While black people make up only 13 percent of the population, they make up 42 percent of death row and 35 percent of those who are executed . There are big racial disparities in charging, sentencing, plea bargaining, and executions, Department of Justice reviews have concluded, and black and brown people are disproportionately found to be innocent after landing on death row. The poor and disadvantaged thereby become grist for a system that cares nothing for them.

Despite all this evidence, most Americans embrace a version of the Calvinist beliefs promulgated by their forebears, believing that the elect deserve their status. We remain confident that when our children apply to college or are questioned by police , they will receive just and fair outcomes. If our neighbors' and friends' kids do not, then we assure ourselves that it is they who are at fault, not the system.

The result has been a gaping chasm through our society. Lives are destroyed because, rather than working for real merit-based systems and justice, we worship at the altar of false promises offered by our institutions. Instead we should be rolling up our sleeves and seeing Operation Varsity Blues for what it is: a call to action.

Barbara Boland is the former weekend editor of the Washington Examiner . Her work has been featured on Fox News, the Drudge Report, HotAir.com, RealClearDefense, RealClearPolitics, and elsewhere. She's the author of Patton Uncovered , a book about General Patton in World War II. Follow her on Twitter @BBatDC .

MORE FROM THIS AUTHOR

The GOP's Laughable Call for a Balanced Budget Amendment Congress's "One Spending Bill to Rule Them All" is a Debt-Fueled Disgrace Hide 11 comments 11 Responses to The Myth of American Meritocracy

Collin March 15, 2019 at 1:46 pm

If conservatives are going to dance the graves of Aunt Beckie, the backlash is going to be big. Sure this is a 'scandal' but it seems these parents weren't rich enough to bribe their kids in college the right way, like Trumps and Kushner, and probably slightly duped into going along with this scheme. (It appears the government got the ring leader to call all defendants to get evidence they participated in a crime.)

Just wait until the mug shot of Aunt Beckie is on the internet and Olivia Jade does 60 minutes doing teary eyed interview of how much she loves her mother. And how many parents are stress that their kids will struggle in the global competitive economy.

Fran Macadam , , March 15, 2019 at 1:52 pm
I fully recall the days of getting government computing contracts. Once a certain threshold was reached, you discovered you had to hire a "lobbyist," and give him a significant amount of money to dole out to various gatekeepers in the bureaucracy for your contracts to be approved. That was the end of our government contracts, and the end was hastened by the reaction to trying to complain about it.
prodigalson , , March 15, 2019 at 1:56 pm
Great article, well done. More of this please TAC.
Kurt Gayle , , March 15, 2019 at 2:17 pm
Thank you, Barbara Boland, for "The Myth of American Meritocracy" and for linking ("Related Articles" box) to the 2012 "The Myth of American Meritocracy" by Ron Unz, then publisher of the American Conservative.

The 26,000-word Ron Unz research masterpiece was the opening salvo in the nation-wide discussion that ultimately led to the federal court case nearing resolution in Boston.

"The Myth of American Meritocracy -- How corrupt are Ivy League admissions?" by Ron Unz, The American Conservative, Nov 28, 2012:

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-myth-of-american-meritocracy/

Kurt Gayle , , March 15, 2019 at 2:18 pm
Barbara Boland "While black people make up only 13 percent of the population, they make up 42 percent of death row and 35 percent of those who are executed."

Ms. Boland: According to the US Department of Justice, African Americans [13 per cent of the population] accounted for 52.5% of all homicide offenders from 1980 to 2008.

JeffK , , March 15, 2019 at 2:46 pm
I agree with prodigalson. This is the type of article that TAC should uphold as a 'gold standard'. One reason I read, and comment on, TAC is that it offers thought provoking, and sometimes contrarian, articles (although the constant harping on transgender BS gets annoying).

America has always been somewhat corrupt. But, to borrow a phrase, wealth corrupts, and uber wealth corrupts absolutely.

As Warren Buffet says "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning".

I have said it before, and I will say it again. During the next severe financial recession, if the rich are protected and coddled and everybody else is left to fend for themselves the ARs will come out of the closets when the sheriff comes to take the house or the pickup truck. My sense is that average Americans have had enough.

Imagine if the digital transfer of money was abolished. Imagine if everybody had to have their money in a local bank instead of on an account in one of the major banks. Imagine if Americans saw, day after day, armored vehicles showing up at local banks to offload sacks of currency that went to only a few individual accounts.

Instead, the elites get their financial statements showing an ever increasing pile of cash at their disposal. They see it, but nobody else does. But, if everybody physically saw the river of wealth flowing to the elites, I believe things would change. Fast. Right now this transfer of wealth is all digital, hidden from the view of 99.99% of Americans. And the elites, the banking industry, and the wealth management cabal prefer it that way.

Mike N in MA , , March 15, 2019 at 2:49 pm
You said it sister. Great article.

I am amazed by the media coverage of this scandal. Was anyone actually under the impression that college admissions were on the level before these Hollywood bozos were caught red handed?

BDavi52 , , March 15, 2019 at 2:49 pm
What total silliness!

No, the meritocracy is not dead; it's not even dying. It is, in fact, alive and well and the absolute best alternative to any other method used to separate wheat from chaff, cream from milk, diamonds from rust.

What else is there that is even half as good?

Are merit-based systems perfect? Heck, no. They've never been perfect; they will never be perfect. They are administered by people and people are flawed. Not just flawed in the way Singer, and Huffman are flawed (and those individuals are not simply flawed, they're corrupt) but flawed in the everyday kind of sense. Yes, we all have tendencies, biases, preferences that will -- inevitably -- leak into our selection process, no matter how objectively strict the process may be structured, no matter how rigorously fair we try to be.

So the fact that -- as with most things -- we can find a trace of corruption here that fact is meaningless. We can find evidence of human corruption, venality, greed, sloth, lust, envy (all of the 7 Deadly Sins) pretty much everywhere. But if we look at the 20M students enrolled in college, the vast majority are successfully & fairly admitted through merit-based filtering systems (which are more or less rigorous) which have been in place forever.

Ms. Boland tells us (with a straight face, no less) that "The U.S. is now a country where corruption is rampant and money buys both access and outcomes." But what does that even mean?

Certainly money can buy access and certainly money can buy outcomes. But that's what money does. She might as well assert that money can buy goods and services, and lions and tigers and bears -- oh my! Of course it can. Equally networks can 'buy' access and outcomes (if my best friend is working as the manager for Adele, I'm betting he could probably arrange my meeting Adele). Equally success & fame can buy access and outcomes. I'm betting Adele can probably arrange a meeting with Gwen Stefani .and both can arrange a meeting with Tom Brady. So what? Does the fact that money can be used to purchase goods & services mean money or the use of money is corrupt or morally degenerate? No, of course not. In truth, we all leverage what we have (whatever that may be) to get what we want. That's how life works. But the fact that we all do that does not mean we are all corrupt.

But yes, corruption does exist and can usually be found, in trace amounts -- as I said -- pretty much everywhere.

So is it rampant? Can I buy my way into the NBA or the NFL? If I go to Clark Hunt and give him $20M and tell him I want to play QB for the Chiefs, will he let me? Can I buy my way into the CEO's position at General Electric, Apple, Microsoft, Google, Sprint, Verizon, General Motors, Toyota or any of the Fortune 500? Heck, can I even buy my way into the Governor's mansion? To become the Mayor of Chicago? Or the Police Commissioner? No -- these things are not possible. But what I can buy is my presence on the media stage.

What happens after cannot be purchased.

So no, by any measure, corruption is not rampant. And though many things are, in fact, for sale -- not everything is. And no matter how much money I give anyone, I'm never gonna QB the Chiefs or play for the Lakers.

She tells us, "we are dominated by a rich and powerful elite." No, we're not. Most of us live our lives making the choices we want to make, given the means that each of us has, without any interference from any so-called "elite". The "elite" didn't tell me where to go to school, or where to get a job, or how to do my job, or when to have kids, or what loaf of bread to buy, or what brand of beer tastes best, or where to go on the family vacation. No one did. The elite obviously did not tell us who to vote for in the last presidential election.

Of course one of the problems with the "it's the fault of the elite" is the weight given institutions by people like Ms.Boland. "Oh, lordy, the Elite used their dominating power to get a brainless twit of a daughter into USC". Now if my kid were cheated out of a position at USC because the Twit got in, I'd be upset but beyond that who really cares if a Twit gets an undergraduate degree from USC or Yale .or Harvard .or wherever. Some of the brightest people I've known earned their degrees at Easter PolyTechnic U (some don't even have college degrees -- oh, the horror!); some of the stupidest have Ivy League credentials. So what?

Only if you care about the exclusivity of such a relatively meaningless thing as a degree from USC, does gaming the exclusivity matter.

She ends with the exhortation: "The result has been a gaping chasm through our society. Lives are destroyed because, rather than working for real merit-based systems and justice, we worship at the altar of false promises offered by our institutions. Instead we should be rolling up our sleeves and seeing Operation Varsity Blues for what it is: a call to action."

To do what, exactly?

Toss the baby and the bathwater? Substitute lottery selection for merit? Flip a coin? What?
Again the very best method is and always will be merit-based. That is the incentive which drives all of us: the hope that if we work hard enough and do well enough, that we will succeed. Anything else is just a lie.

Yes, we can root out this piece of corruption. Yes, we can build better and more rigorously fair systems. But in the end, merit is the only game in town. Far better to roll-up our sleeves and simply buckle down, Winsocki. There isn't anything better.

Sid Finster , , March 15, 2019 at 2:52 pm
Gee, and people wonder why the rubes think that the system is gamed, why the dogs no longer want to eat the dog food.
Jim Jatras , , March 15, 2019 at 3:22 pm
"While black people make up only 13 percent of the population, they make up 42 percent of death row and 35 percent of those who are executed. There are big racial disparities in charging, sentencing, plea bargaining, and executions, Department of Justice reviews have concluded, and black and brown people are disproportionately found to be innocent after landing on death row. The poor and disadvantaged thereby become grist for a system that cares nothing for them."

So to what degree are these "disparities" "disproportionate" in light of actual criminal behavior? To be "proportionate," would we expect criminal behavior to correlate exactly to racial, ethnic, sex, and age demographics of society as a whole?

Put another way, if you are a victim of a violent crime in America, what are the odds your assailant is, say, an elderly, Asian female? Approximately zero.

Conversely, what are the odds your assailant is a young, black male? Rather high, and if you yourself are a young, black male, approaching 100 percent.

Pam , , March 15, 2019 at 3:42 pm

Mostly thumbs up to this article. But why you gotta pick on Calvinism at the end? Anyway, your understanding of Calvinism is entirely upside down. Calvinists believe they are elect by divine grace, and salvation is something given by God through Jesus, which means you can't earn it and you most assuredly don't deserve it. Calvinism also teaches that all people are made in the image of God and worthy of respect, regardless of class or status. There's no "version" of Calvinism that teaches what you claim.

[Dec 02, 2019] The Myth of American Meritocracy by Ron Unz

Notable quotes:
"... Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother ..."
"... Wall Street Journal ..."
"... The Price of Admission ..."
"... And while I am not as focused on the poverty ve wealth dynamic. this century has revealed something very disappointing that you address. That the elites have done a very poor job of leading the ship of state, while still remaining in leadership belies such a bold hypocrisy in accountability, it's jarring. The article could actually be titled: "The Myth of the Best and the Brightest." ..."
"... They are teaching the elite how to drain all value from American companies, as the rich plan their move to China, the new land of opportunity. When 1% of the population controls such a huge portion of the wealth, patriotism becomes a loadstone to them. The elite are global. Places like Harvard cater to them, help train them to rule the world .but first they must remake it. ..."
"... In my high school, there were roughly 15 of us who had been advanced two years ahead in math. Of those, 10 were Jewish; only two of them had a 'Jewish' last name. In my graduate school class, half (7) are Jewish. None has a 'Jewish' last name. So I'm pretty dubious of the counting method that you use. ..."
"... Regarding the declining Jewish achievement, it looks like it can be primarily explained through demographics: "Intermarriage rates have risen from roughly 6% in 1950 to approximately 40–50% in the year 2000.[56][57] This, in combination with the comparatively low birthrate in the Jewish community, has led to a 5% decline in the Jewish population of the United States in the 1990s." ..."
"... Jewish surnames don't mean what they used to. And intermarriage rates are lowest among the low-performing and highly prolific Orthodox. ..."
"... A potentially bigger issue completely ignored by your article is how do colleges differentiate between 'foreign' students (overwhelmingly Asian) and American students. Many students being counted as "Asian American" are in reality wealthy and elite foreign "parachute kids" (an Asian term), dropped onto the generous American education system or into boarding schools to study for US entrance exams, qualify for resident tuition rates and scholarships, and to compete for "American" admissions slots, not for the usually limited 'foreign' admission slots. ..."
"... As some who is Jewish from the former Soviet Union, and who was denied even to take an entrance exam to a Moscow college, I am saddened to see that American educational admission process looks more and more "Soviet" nowadays. Kids are denied opportunities because of their ethnic or social background, in a supposedly free and fair country! ..."
"... Actually, Richard Feynman famously rejected genetic explanations of Jewish achievement (whether he was right or wrong to do so is another story), and aggressively resisted any attempts to list him as a "Jewish scientist" or "Jewish Nobel Prize winner." I am sure he would not cared in the slightest bit how many Jews were participating in the Physics Olympiad, as long as the quality of the students' work continued to be excellent. Here is a letter he wrote to a woman seeking to include him in a book about Jewish achievement in the sciences. ..."
"... It would be interesting to know how well "true WASPS" do in admissions. This could perhaps be estimated by counting Slavic and Italian names, or Puritan New England last names. I would expect this group to do almost as well as Jews (not quite as well, because their ability would be in the lower end of the Legacy group). ..."
"... The missing variable in this analysis is income/class. While Unz states that many elite colleges have the resources to fund every student's education, and in fact practice need-blind admissions, the student bodies are skewed towards the very highest percentile of the income and wealth distribution. SAT scores may also scale with parents' income as well. ..."
"... Having worked with folks from all manner of "elite" and not so elite schools in a technical field, the main conclusion I was able to draw was folks who went to "elite" colleges had a greater degree of entitlement. And that's it. ..."
"... My own position has always been strongly in the former camp, supporting meritocracy over diversity in elite admissions. ..."
"... The Reality of American Mediocrity ..."
"... The central test of fairness in any admissions system is to ask this simple question. Was there anyone admitted under that system admitted over someone else who was denied admission and with better grades and SAT scores and poorer ? If the answer is in the affirmative, then that system is unfair , if it is in the negative then the system is fair. ..."
"... Harvard ranks only 8th after Penn State in the production of undergrads who eventually get Doctorates in Science and Engineering. Of course Berkeley has the bragging rights for that kind of attribute. ..."
"... There is an excellent analysis of this article at The Occidental Observer by Kevin MacDonald, "Ron Unz on the Illusory American Meritocracy". The MSM is ignoring Unz's article for obvious reasons. ..."
"... Could it be that the goal of financial, rather than academic, achievement, makes many young people uninterested in competing in the science and math competitions sought out by the Asian students? I ..."
"... America never promised success through merit or equality. That is the American "dream." ..."
"... Anyone famliar with sociology and the research on social stratification knows that meritocracy is a myth; for example, if one's parents are in the bottom decile of the the income scale, the child has only a 3% chance to reach the top decile in his or her lifetime. In fact, in contrast to the Horatio Alger ideology, the U.S. has lower rates of upward mobility than almost any other developed country. Social classses exist and they tend to reproduce themselves. ..."
"... The rigid class structure of the the U.S. is one of the reasons I support progressive taxation; wealth may not always be inherited, but life outcomes are largely determined by the class position of one's parents. In this manner, it is also a myth to believe that wealth is an individual creation;most financially successful individuals have enjoyed the benefits of class privilege: good and safe schools, two-parent families, tutors, and perhaps most important of all, high expecatations and positive peer socialization (Unz never mentions the importants of peeer groups, which data show exert a strong causal unfluence on academic performance). ..."
"... And I would challenge Unz's assertion that many high-performing Asians come from impovershed backgrounds: many of them may undereport their income as small business owners. I believe that Asian success derives not only from their class background but their culture in which the parents have authority and the success of the child is crucual to the honor of the family. As they assimilate to the more individualist American ethos, I predict that their academic success will level off just as it has with Jews. ..."
"... All I can say is see a book: "Ivy League Fools and Felons"' by Mack Roth. Lots of them are kids of corrupt people in all fields. ..."
Dec 28, 2016 | www.unz.com
November 28, 2012 | The American Conservative •
Just before the Labor Day weekend, a front page New York Times story broke the news of the largest cheating scandal in Harvard University history, in which nearly half the students taking a Government course on the role of Congress had plagiarized or otherwise illegally collaborated on their final exam. [1] Each year, Harvard admits just 1600 freshmen while almost 125 Harvard students now face possible suspension over this single incident. A Harvard dean described the situation as "unprecedented."

But should we really be so surprised at this behavior among the students at America's most prestigious academic institution? In the last generation or two, the funnel of opportunity in American society has drastically narrowed, with a greater and greater proportion of our financial, media, business, and political elites being drawn from a relatively small number of our leading universities, together with their professional schools. The rise of a Henry Ford, from farm boy mechanic to world business tycoon, seems virtually impossible today, as even America's most successful college dropouts such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg often turn out to be extremely well-connected former Harvard students. Indeed, the early success of Facebook was largely due to the powerful imprimatur it enjoyed from its exclusive availability first only at Harvard and later restricted to just the Ivy League.

NetWealth During this period, we have witnessed a huge national decline in well-paid middle class jobs in the manufacturing sector and other sources of employment for those lacking college degrees, with median American wages having been stagnant or declining for the last forty years. Meanwhile, there has been an astonishing concentration of wealth at the top, with America's richest 1 percent now possessing nearly as much net wealth as the bottom 95 percent. [2]

This situation, sometimes described as a "winner take all society," leaves families desperate to maximize the chances that their children will reach the winners' circle, rather than risk failure and poverty or even merely a spot in the rapidly deteriorating middle class. And the best single means of becoming such an economic winner is to gain admission to a top university, which provides an easy ticket to the wealth of Wall Street or similar venues, whose leading firms increasingly restrict their hiring to graduates of the Ivy League or a tiny handful of other top colleges. [3] On the other side, finance remains the favored employment choice for Harvard, Yale or Princeton students after the diplomas are handed out. [4]

The Battle for Elite College Admissions

As a direct consequence, the war over college admissions has become astonishingly fierce, with many middle- or upper-middle class families investing quantities of time and money that would have seemed unimaginable a generation or more ago, leading to an all-against-all arms race that immiserates the student and exhausts the parents. The absurd parental efforts of an Amy Chua, as recounted in her 2010 bestseller Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother , were simply a much more extreme version of widespread behavior among her peer-group, which is why her story resonated so deeply among our educated elites. Over the last thirty years, America's test-prep companies have grown from almost nothing into a $5 billion annual industry, allowing the affluent to provide an admissions edge to their less able children. Similarly, the enormous annual tuition of $35,000 charged by elite private schools such as Dalton or Exeter is less for a superior high school education than for the hope of a greatly increased chance to enter the Ivy League. [5]

Many New York City parents even go to enormous efforts to enroll their children in the best possible pre-Kindergarten program, seeking early placement on the educational conveyer belt which eventually leads to Harvard. [6] Others cut corners in a more direct fashion, as revealed in the huge SAT cheating rings recently uncovered in affluent New York suburbs, in which students were paid thousands of dollars to take SAT exams for their wealthier but dimmer classmates. [7]

But given such massive social and economic value now concentrated in a Harvard or Yale degree, the tiny handful of elite admissions gatekeepers enjoy enormous, almost unprecedented power to shape the leadership of our society by allocating their supply of thick envelopes. Even billionaires, media barons, and U.S. Senators may weigh their words and actions more carefully as their children approach college age. And if such power is used to select our future elites in a corrupt manner, perhaps the inevitable result is the selection of corrupt elites, with terrible consequences for America. Thus, the huge Harvard cheating scandal, and perhaps also the endless series of financial, business, and political scandals which have rocked our country over the last decade or more, even while our national economy has stagnated.

Just a few years ago Pulitzer Prize-winning former Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Golden published The Price of Admission , a devastating account of the corrupt admissions practices at so many of our leading universities, in which every sort of non-academic or financial factor plays a role in privileging the privileged and thereby squeezing out those high-ability, hard-working students who lack any special hook.

In one particularly egregious case, a wealthy New Jersey real estate developer, later sent to Federal prison on political corruption charges, paid Harvard $2.5 million to help ensure admission of his completely under-qualified son. [8] When we consider that Harvard's existing endowment was then at $15 billion and earning almost $7 million each day in investment earnings, we see that a culture of financial corruption has developed an absurd illogic of its own, in which senior Harvard administrators sell their university's honor for just a few hours worth of its regular annual income, the equivalent of a Harvard instructor raising a grade for a hundred dollars in cash.

An admissions system based on non-academic factors often amounting to institutionalized venality would seem strange or even unthinkable among the top universities of most other advanced nations in Europe or Asia, though such practices are widespread in much of the corrupt Third World. The notion of a wealthy family buying their son his entrance into the Grandes Ecoles of France or the top Japanese universities would be an absurdity, and the academic rectitude of Europe's Nordic or Germanic nations is even more severe, with those far more egalitarian societies anyway tending to deemphasize university rankings.

EliteCommInc., November 28, 2012 at 11:09 am GMT •

Well, legacy programs are alive and well. According to the read, here's the problem:

"The research certainly supports the widespread perception that non-academic factors play a major role in the process, including athletic ability and "legacy" status. But as we saw earlier, even more significant are racial factors, with black ancestry being worth the equivalent of 310 points, Hispanics gaining 130 points, and Asian students being penalized by 140 points, all relative to white applicants on the 1600 point Math and Reading SAT scale."

These arbitrary point systems while well intended are not a reflection of AA design. School lawyers in a race not be penalized for past practices, implemented their own versions of AA programs. The numbers are easy to challenge because they aren't based on tangible or narrow principles. It's weakneses are almost laughable. Because there redal goal was to thwart any real challenge that institutions were idle in addressing past acts of discrimination. To boost their diversity issues, asians were heavily recruited. Since AA has been in place a lot of faulty measures were egaged in: Quotas for quotas sake. Good for PR, lousy for AA and issues it was designed to address.

I think the statistical data hides a very important factor and practice. Most jews in this country are white as such , and as such only needed to change their names and hide behaviors as a strategy of surviving the entrance gauntlet. That segregation created a black collegiate system with it's own set of elite qualifiers demonstrates that this model isn't limited to the Ivy league.

That an elite system is devised and practiced in members of a certain club networks so as to maintain their elite status, networks and control, this is a human practice. And it once served as something to achieve. It was thought that the avenues of becoming an elite were there if one wanted to strive for it. Hard work, honesty, persistence, results . . . should yield X.

And while I am not as focused on the poverty ve wealth dynamic. this century has revealed something very disappointing that you address. That the elites have done a very poor job of leading the ship of state, while still remaining in leadership belies such a bold hypocrisy in accountability, it's jarring. The article could actually be titled: "The Myth of the Best and the Brightest."

I don't think it's just some vindictive intent. and while Americans have always known and to an extent accepted that for upper income citizens, normal was not the same as normal on the street. Fairness, was not the same jn practice nor sentiment. What may becoming increasing intolerant has been the obvious lack of accountability among elites. TARP looked like the elites looking out for each other as opposed the ship of state. I have read three books on the financials and they do not paint a pretty portrait of Ivy League leadership as to ethics, cheating, lying, covering up, and shamelessly passing the buck. I will be reading this again I am sure.

It's sad to think that we may be seeing te passing of an era. in which one aspired to be an elite not soley for their wealth, but the model they provided od leadership real or imagined. Perhaps, it passed long ago, and we are all not just noticing.
I appreciated you conclusions, not sure that I am comfortable with some of the solutions.

EliteCommInc. November 28, 2012 at 11:21 am GMT

Since I still hanker to be an elite in some manner, It is interesting to note my rather subdued response to the cheating. Sadly, this too may be an open secret of standard fair - and that is very very sad. And disappointing. Angering even.

Russell Seitz November 28, 2012 at 1:51 pm GMT •

The shifting social demography of deans, house masters and admissions committees may be a more important metric than the composition of the student body, as it determines the shape of the curriculum, and the underlying culture of the university as a legacy in itself.

If Ron harrows the literary journals of the Jackson era with equal diligence. he may well turn up an essay or two expressing deep shock at Unitarians admitting too many of the Lord's preterite sheep to Harvard, or lamenting the rise of Methodism at Yale and the College of New Jersey.

Sean Gillhoolley November 28, 2012 at 3:06 pm GMT •

Harvard is a university, much like Princeton and Yale, that continues based on its reputation, something that was earned in the past. When the present catches up to them people will regard them as nepotistic cauldrons of corruption.

Look at the financial disaster that befell the USA and much of the globe back in 2008. Its genesis can be found in the clever minds of those coming out of their business schools (and, oddly enough, their Physics programs as well).

They are teaching the elite how to drain all value from American companies, as the rich plan their move to China, the new land of opportunity. When 1% of the population controls such a huge portion of the wealth, patriotism becomes a loadstone to them. The elite are global. Places like Harvard cater to them, help train them to rule the world .but first they must remake it.

• Replies: @Part White, Part Native I agree, common people would never think of derivatives , nor make loans based on speculation
Rob in CT November 28, 2012 at 4:05 pm GMT •

First, I appreciated the length and depth of your article.

Having said that, to boil it down to its essence:

Subconcious bias/groupthink + affirmative action/diversity focus + corruption + innumeracy = student bodies at elite institutions that are wildly skewed vis-a-vis both: 1) the ethnic makeup of the general population; and 2) the makeup of our top-performing students.

Since these institutions are pipelines to power, this matters.

I rather doubt that wage stagnation (which appears to have begun in ~1970) can be pinned on this – that part stuck out, because there are far more plausible causes. To the extent you're merely arguing that our elite failed to counter the trend, ok, but I'm not sure a "better" elite would have either. The trend, after all, favored the elite.

Anyway, I find your case is plausible.

Your inner/outer circle hybrid option is interesting. One (perhaps minor) thing jumps out at me: kids talk. The innies are going to figure out who they are and who the outies are. The outies might have their arrogance tempered, but the innies? I suspect they'd be even *more* arrogant than such folks are now (all the more so because they'd have better justification for their arrogance), but I could be wrong.

Perhaps more significantly, this:

But if it were explicitly known that the vast majority of Harvard students had merely been winners in the application lottery, top businesses would begin to cast a much wider net in their employment outreach, and while the average Harvard student would probably be academically stronger than the average graduate of a state college, the gap would no longer be seen as so enormous, with individuals being judged more on their own merits and actual achievements

Is a very good reason for Harvard, et al. to resist the idea. I think you're right that this would be a good thing for the country, but it would be bad for Harvard. I think the odds of convincing Harvard to do it out of the goodness of their administrators hearts is unlikely. You are basically asking them to purposefully damage their brand.

All in all, I think you're on to something here. I have my quibbles (the wage stagnation thing, and the graph with Chinese vs USA per capita growth come on, apples and oranges there!), but overall I think I agree that your proposal is likely superior to the status quo.

Bryan November 28, 2012 at 5:12 pm GMT •

Don't forget the mess one finds after they ARE admitted to these schools. I dropped out of Columbia University in 2010.

You can "make it" on an Ivy-league campus if you are a conservative-Republican-type with all the rich country-club connections that liberals use to stereotype.

Or you can succeed if you are a poor or working-class type who is willing to toe the Affirmative Action party line and be a good "progressive" Democrat (Obama stickers, "Gay Pride" celebrations, etc.)

If you come from a poor or working-class background and are religious, or culturally conservative or libertarian in any way, you might as well save your time and money. You're not welcome, period. And if you're a military veteran you WILL be actively persecuted, no matter what the news reports claim.

It sucks. Getting accepted to Columbia was a dream come true for me. The reality broke my heart.

Anonymous November 28, 2012 at 5:33 pm GMT •

Regarding the overrepresentation of Jewish students compared to their actual academic merit, I think the author overstates the role bias (subjective, or otherwise) plays in this:

1) , a likely explanation is that Jewish applicants are a step ahead in knowing how to "play the admissions game." They therefore constitute a good percentage of applicants that admission committees view as "the total package." (at least a higher percentage than scores alone would yield). Obviously money and connections plays a role in them knowing to say precisely what adcoms want to hear, but in any case, at the end of the day, if adcoms are looking for applicants with >1400 SATs, "meaningful" life experiences/accomplishments, and a personal statement that can weave it all together into a compelling narrative, the middle-upper-class east coast Jewish applicant probably constitutes a good percentage of such "total package" applicants. I will concede however that this explanation only works in explaining the prevalence of jews vs. whites in general. With respect to Asians, however, since they are likely being actively and purposefully discriminated against by adcoms, having the "complete package" would be less helpful to them.

2) Another factor is that, regardless of ethnicity, alumni children get a boost and since in the previous generation Jewish applicants were the highest achieving academic group, many of these lesser qualified jews admitted are children of alumni.

3) That ivy colleges care more about strong verbal scores than mathematics (i.e., they prefer 800V 700M over 700V 800M), and Jewish applicants make up a higher proportion of the high verbal score breakdowns.

4) Last, and perhaps more importantly we do not really know the extent of Jewish representation compared to their academic merit. Unlike admitted Asian applicants, who we know, on average, score higher than white applicants, we have no similar numbers of Jewish applicants. The PSAT numbers are helpful, but hardly dispositive considering those aren't the scores colleges use in making their decision information.

Scott McConnell November 28, 2012 at 5:39 pm GMT •

@Bryan– Getting accepted to Columbia was a dream come true for me. The reality broke my heart.

I'm touched by this. I've spent tons of time at Columbia, a generation ago -- and my background fit fine -- the kind of WASP background Jews found exotic and interesting. But I can see your point, sad to say. There are other great schools -- Fordham, where my wife went to law school at night, has incredible esprit de corps - and probably, person for person, has as many lawyers doing good and interesting work as Columbia.

HAR November 28, 2012 at 6:10 pm GMT

"There are other great schools–Fordham, where my wife went to law school at night, has incredible esprit de corps - and probably, person for person, has as many lawyers doing good and interesting work as Columbia."

Someone doesn't know much about the legal market.

KXB November 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm GMT •

"Tiffany was also rejected by all her other prestigious college choices, including Yale, Penn, Duke, and Wellsley, an outcome which greatly surprised and disappointed her immigrant father.88″

In the fall of 1990, my parents had me apply to 10 colleges. I had the profile of many Indian kids at the time – ranked in the top 10 of the class, editor of school paper, Boy Scouts. SAT scores could have been better, but still strong. Over 700 in all achievement tests save Bio, which was 670.

Rejected by 5 schools, waitlisted by 3, accepted into 2 – one of them the state univ.

One of my classmates, whose family was from Thailand, wound up in the same predicament as me. His response, "Basketball was designed to keep the Asian man down."

The one black kid in our group – got into MIT, dropped out after one year because he could not hack it. The kid from our school who should have gone, from an Italian-American family, and among the few who did not embrace the guido culture, went to Rennsealer instead, and had professional success after.

Anonymous November 28, 2012 at 6:39 pm GMT •

As a University of Chicago alum, I infer that by avoiding the label "elite" on such a nifty chart we can be accurately categorized as "meritocratic" by The American Conservative.

Then again, this article doesn't even purport to ask why elite universities might be in the business of EDUCATING a wider population of students, or how that education takes place.

Perhaps, by ensuring that "the best" students are not concentrated in only 8 universities is why the depth and quality of America's education system remains the envy of the world.

a November 28, 2012 at 6:43 pm GMT •

Two comments:

In my high school, there were roughly 15 of us who had been advanced two years ahead in math. Of those, 10 were Jewish; only two of them had a 'Jewish' last name. In my graduate school class, half (7) are Jewish. None has a 'Jewish' last name. So I'm pretty dubious of the counting method that you use.

Also, it's clear that there are Asian quotas at these schools, but it's not clear that Intel Science Fairs, etc, are the best way to estimate what level of talent Asians have relative to other groups.

I was curious so I google High School Poetry Competition, High School Constitution Competition, High School Debating Competition. None of the winners here seem to have an especially high Asian quotient. So maybe a non-technical (liberal arts) university would settle on ~25-30% instead of ~40% asian? And perhaps a (small) part of the problem is a preponderance of Asian applicants excelling in technical fields, leading to competition against each other rather than the general population? Just wonderin'

Weighty Commentary November 28, 2012 at 6:43 pm GMT •

Regarding the declining Jewish achievement, it looks like it can be primarily explained through demographics: "Intermarriage rates have risen from roughly 6% in 1950 to approximately 40–50% in the year 2000.[56][57] This, in combination with the comparatively low birthrate in the Jewish community, has led to a 5% decline in the Jewish population of the United States in the 1990s."

Jewish surnames don't mean what they used to. And intermarriage rates are lowest among the low-performing and highly prolific Orthodox.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Jews#Demographics

Jewish birth rates have been falling faster than the white population, especially for the non-Orthodox:

"In contrast to the ongoing trends of assimilation, some communities within American Jewry, such as Orthodox Jews, have significantly higher birth rates and lower intermarriage rates, and are growing rapidly. The proportion of Jewish synagogue members who were Orthodox rose from 11% in 1971 to 21% in 2000, while the overall Jewish community declined in number. [60] In 2000, there were 360,000 so-called "ultra-orthodox" (Haredi) Jews in USA (7.2%).[61] The figure for 2006 is estimated at 468,000 (9.4%).[61]"

http://www.jewishdatabank.org/Reports/RecentTrends_Sheskin_2011.pdf

"a very low fertility rate of 1.9, of which 1.4 will be raised as Jews (2.15 is replacement rate)"

http://www.aish.com/jw/s/48899452.html

"As against the overall average of 1.86 children per Jewish woman, an informed estimate gives figures ranging upward from 3.3 children in "modern Orthodox" families to 6.6 in Haredi or "ultra-Orthodox" families to a whopping 7.9 in families of Hasidim."

These statistics would suggest that half or more of Jewish children are being born into these lower-performing groups. Given their very low intermarriage rates, a huge portion of the secular, Reform, and Conservative Jews must be intermarrying (more than half if the aggregate 43% intermarriage figure is right). And the high-performing groups may now be around 1 child per woman or lower, and worse for the youngest generation.

So a collapse in Jewish representation in youth science prizes can be mostly explained by the collapse of the distinct non-Orthodox Jewish youth.

Incidentally, intermarriage also produces people with Jewish ancestry who get classified as gentiles using last names or self-identification, reducing Jewish-gentile gaps by bringing up nominal gentile scores at the same time as nominal-Jewish scores are lowered.

Adam November 28, 2012 at 6:49 pm GMT •

The center of power in this country being located in the Northeast is nothing new. Whether it be in it's Ivy League schools or the ownership of natural resources located in other regions, particularly the South, the Northeast has always had a disproportionate share of influence in the power structures, particularly political and financial, of this nation. This is one of the reasons the definition of "white" when reviewing ethnicity is so laughably inaccurate. There is a huge difference in opportunity between WASP or Jewish in the Northeast, for instance, and those of Scots Irish ancestory in the mountain south. Hopefully statistical analysis such as this can break open that stranglehold, especially as it is directly impacting a minority group in a negative fashion. Doing this exercise using say, white Baptists compared to other white subgroups, while maybe equally valid in the results, would be seen as racist by the very Ivy League system that is essentially practicing a form of racism.

Bryan November 28, 2012 at 6:50 pm GMT •

Scott, thanks for your words of commiseration.

Yeah, my ultimate goal was to attend law school, and a big part of the heartbreak for me–or heartburn, the more cynical would call it–was seeing how skewed and absurd the admissions process to law school is.

I have no doubt that I could have eventually entered into a "top tier" law school, and that was a dream of mine also. I met with admissions officers from Duke, Harvard, Stanford, Fordham, etc. I was encouraged. I had the grades and background for it.

But–and I'm really not trying to sound corny 0r self-important here–what does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul? I really don't feel that I'm exaggerating when I say that that's exactly how it felt to me.

The best experience I had while In New York was working as an after-school programs administrator for P.S. 136, but that was only because of the kids. They'll be old and bitter and cynical soon enough.

At one point it occurred to me that I should have just started claiming "Black" as my ethnicity when I first started attending college as an adult. I never attended high-school so it couldn't have been disproved. I'm part Sicilian so I could pass for 1/4 African-American. Then I would have received the preference toward admission that, say, Michael Jordan's kids or Barack Obama's kids will receive when they claim their Ivy-league diplomas. I should have hid the "white privilege" I've enjoyed as the son of a fisherman and a waitress from one of the most economically-depressed states in America.

The bottom line is that those colleges are political brainwashing centers for a country I no longer believe in. I arrived on campus in 2009 and I'm not joking at all when I say I was actively persecuted for being a veteran and a conservative who was not drinking the Obama Kool-aid. Some big fat African-American lady, a back-room "administrator" for Columbia, straight-up threw my VA benefits certification in the garbage, so my money got delayed by almost two months. I had no idea what was going on. I had a wife and children to support.

The fact that technology has enabled us to sit here in real-time and correspond back-and-forth about the state of things doesn't really change the state of things. They are irredeemable. This country is broke and broken.

If Abraham Lincoln were born today in America he would wind up like "Uncle Teardrop" from Winter's Bone. Back then, in order to be an attorney, you simply studied law and starting trying cases. If you were good at it then you were accepted and became a lawyer. Today, something has been lost. There is no fixing it. I don't want to waste my time trying to help by being "productive" to the new tower of Babel or pretending to contribute.

Anonymous November 28, 2012 at 8:44 pm GMT •

Perhaps only one thing you left out, which is especially important with regard to Jewish enrollment and applications at Ivy leagues, and other schools as well.
Jewish high school graduates actively look out for campuses with large Jewish populations, where they feel more comfortable.
I don't know the figures, but I believe Dartmouth, for example, has a much smaller Jewish population than Columbia, and it will stay that way because of a positive feedback loop. (i.e. Jews would rather be at Columbia than Dartmouth, or sometimes even rather be at NYU than Dartmouth). This explains some of the difference among different schools (and not solely better admission standards).

This is also especially relevant to your random lottery idea, which will inevitably lead to certain schools being overwhelmingly Asian, others being overwhelmingly Jewish, etc., because the percentage of applicants from every ethnicity is different in every school. This will necessarily eliminate any diversity which may or may not have existed until now.

TM says: • Website November 28, 2012 at 9:51 pm GMT •

I like the lottery admissions idea a lot but the real remedy for the US education system would be to abandon the absurd elite cult altogether. There is not a shred of evidence that graduates of so-called elite institutions make good leaders. Many of them are responsible for the economic crash and some of them have brought us the disaster of the Bush presidency.

Many better functioning countries – Germany, the Scandinavians – do not have elite higher education systems. When I enrolled to University in Germany, I showed up at the enrollment office the summer before the academic year started, filled out a form (1), and provided a certified copy of my Abitur certificate proving that I was academically competent to attend University. I never wasted a minute on any of the admissions games that American middle class teenagers and their parents are subjected to. It would surely have hurt my sense of dignity to be forced to jump through all these absurd and arbitrary hoops.

Americans, due to their ignorance of everything happening outside their borders, have no clue that a system in which a person is judged by what "school" they attended is everything but normal. It is part of the reason for American dysfunction.

Luke Lea November 28, 2012 at 10:04 pm GMT •

Since they are the pool from which tomorrow's governing elites will be chosen, I'd much rather see Ivy League student bodies which reflected the full ethnic and geographic diversity of the US. Right now rural and small town Americans and those of Catholic and Protestant descent who live in the South and Mid-West - roughly half the population - are woefully under-represented, which explains why their economic interests have been neglected over the last forty years. We live in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic representative democracy and our policy-making elites must reflect that diversity. Else the country will come apart.

Thus I recommend 'affirmative action for all' in our elite liberal arts colleges and universities (though not our technical schools). Student bodies should be represent 'the best and the brightest' of every ethnic group and geographical area of the country. Then the old school ties will truly knit our society together in a way that is simply not happening today.

A side benefit - and I mean this seriously - is that our second and third tier colleges and universities would be improved by an influx of Asian and Ashkenazi students (even though the very best would still go to Harvard).

Jack November 28, 2012 at 10:07 pm GMT •

I believe that this article raises – and then inappropriately immediately dismisses – the simplest and most likely reason for the over-representation of Jewish students at Ivy League Schools in the face of their declining bulk academic performance:

They apply to those schools in vastly disproportionate numbers.

Without actual data on the ethnicity of the applicants to these and other schools, we simply cannot rule out this simple and likely explanation.

It is quite clear that a large current of Jewish American culture places a great emphasis on elite college attendance, and among elite colleges, specifically values the Ivy League and its particular cache as opposed to other elite institutions such as MIT. Also, elite Jewish American culture, moreso than elite Asian American culture, encourages children to go far away from home for college, considering such a thing almost a right of passage, while other ethnic groups tend to encourage children to remain closer. A high performing Asian student from, say, California, is much more likely to face familial pressure to stay close to home for undergrad (Berkeley, UCLA, etc) than a high performing Jewish student from the same high school, who will likely be encouraged by his or her family to apply to many universities "back east".

Without being able to systematically compare – with real data – the ethnicities of the applicants to those offered admission, these conclusions simply cannot be accepted.

Pat Boyle November 28, 2012 at 10:30 pm GMT •

Different expectations for different races should worry traditional Americans.

If we become comfortable with different academic standards for Asians will we soon be expected to apply different laws to them also? Will we apply different laws or at least different interpretations of the same laws to blacks?

The association of East Asians with CalTech is now as strong as the association of blacks with violent crime. Can not race conscious jurisprudence be far behind?

Around a millenium ago in England it mattered to the court if you were a commoner or a noble. Nobles could exercise 'high justice' with impunity. They were held to different standards. Their testimony counted for more in court. The law was class concious.

Then we had centuries of reform. We had 'Common Law'. By the time of our revolution the idea that all were equal before the law was a very American kind of idea. We were proud that unlike England we did not have a class system.

Today we seem to be on the threshold of a similar sytem of privileges and rights based on race. Let me give an example. If there were a domestic riot of somekind and a breakdown of public order, the authorities might very well impose a cufew. That makes good sense for black male teens but makes little or no sense for elderly Chinese women. I can envision a time when we have race specific policies for curfews and similar measures.

It seems to be starting in schools. It could be that the idea of equality before the law was an idea that only flourished between the fifteenth century and the twenty first.

Anonymous November 28, 2012 at 11:06 pm GMT •

"But filling out a few very simple forms and having their test scores and grades scores automatically forwarded to a list of possible universities would give them at least the same chance in the lottery as any other applicant whose academic skills were adequate."

They get a lot of applications. I am guessing they chuck about 1/2 or more due to the application being incomplete, the applicant did not follow instructions, the application was sloppy, or just obviously poor grades/test scores. The interview and perhaps the essay and recommendations are necessary to chuck weirdos and psychopaths you do not want sitting next to King Fahd Jr. So the "byzantine" application process is actually necessary to reduce the number of applicants to be evaluated.

Kelly November 28, 2012 at 11:15 pm GMT

I have a friend who went to Stanford with me in the early 80s. She has two sons who recently applied to Stanford. The older son had slightly better grades and test scores. The younger son is gay. Guess which one got in?

Anonymous November 28, 2012 at 11:31 pm GMT •

Bryan,

If you were in Columbia's GS school, (or even if you were CC/SEAS/Barnard) you ought to reach out to some of on-campus and alumni veteran's groups. They can help you maneuver through the school. (I know there's one that meets at a cafe on 122 and Broadway) CU can be a lonely and forbidding place for anyone and that goes double for GSers and quadruple for veterans.

You ought to give it another go. Especially if you aren't going somewhere else that's better. Reach out to your deans and make a fuss. No one in the bureaucracy wants to help but you can force them to their job.

FN November 28, 2012 at 11:44 pm GMT •

Mr. Unz, the issues of jewish/gentile intermarriage and the significance of jewish-looking names do indeed merit more consideration than they were given in this otherwise very enlightening article.

What would the percentage of jews in Ivy-League universities look like if the methodology used to determine the percentage of jewish NMS semifinalists were applied to the list of Ivy League students (or some available approximation of it)?

Ben K November 29, 2012 at 12:24 am GMT •

For background: I'm an Asian-American who worked briefly in legacy admissions at an Ivy and another non-Ivy top-tier, both while in school (work-study) and as an alum on related committees.

Mendy Finkel's observations are spot on. Re: her 1st point, personal "presentation" or "branding" is often overlooked by Asian applicants. An admission officer at another Ivy joked they drew straws to assign "Night of a 1000 Lee's", so accomplished-but-indistinguishable was that group.

A few points on the Asian analysis:

1. I think this analysis would benefit from expanding beyond HYP/Ivies when considering the broader meritocracy issue. Many Asians esteem technical-leaning schools over academically-comparable liberal arts ones, even if the student isn't a science major. When I was in college in the 90′s, most Asian parents would favor a Carnegie Mellon or Hopkins over Brown, Columbia or Dartmouth (though HYP, of course, had its magnetic appeal). The enrollment percentages reflect this, and while some of this is changing, this is a fairly persistent pattern.

2. Fundraising is crucial. The Harvard Class of '77 example isn't the most telling kind of number. In my experience, Jewish alumni provide a critical mass in both the day-to-day fundraising and the resultant dollars. And they play a key role, both as givers and getters, in the signature capital campaign commitments (univ hospitals, research centers, etc.). This isn't unique to Jewish Ivy alumni; Catholic alumni of ND or Georgetown provide similar support. But it isn't clear what the future overall Asian commitment to the Ivy "culture of fundraising" will be, which will continue to be a net negative in admissions.

Sidenote: While Asians greatly value the particular civic good, they are uneasy with it being so hinged to an opaque private sector, in this case, philanthropy. That distinction, blown out a bit, speaks to some of the Republican "Asian gap".

3. I would not place too much weight on NMS comparisons between Asians and Jews. In my experience, most Asians treat the PSAT seriously, but many established Jews do not – the potential scholarship money isn't a factor, "NMS semifinalist" isn't an admissions distinction, and as Mendy highlighted, colleges don't see the scores.

On a different note, while the "weight" of an Ivy degree is significant, it's prestige is largely concentrated in the Northeast and among some overseas. In terms of facilitating access and mobility, a USC degree might serve you better in SoCal, as would an SMU one in TX.

And like J Harlan, I also hope the recent monopoly of Harvard and Yale grads in the presidency will end. No doubt, places like Whittier College, Southwest Texas State Teachers' College, and Eureka College gave earlier presidents valuable perspectives and experience that informed their governing.

But thank you, Ron, for a great provocative piece. Very well worth the read.

Anonymous November 29, 2012 at 12:28 am GMT •

Hey Ron, your next article should be on the military academies, and all those legacies that go back to the Revolutionary War. How do you get into the French military academy, and do the cadets trace their family history back to the soldiers of Napoleon or Charles Martel or whatever?

M_Young November 29, 2012 at 1:46 am GMT •

"Thus, there appears to be no evidence for racial bias against Asians, even excluding the race-neutral impact of athletic recruitment, legacy admissions, and geographical diversity."

Yes, at UCLA, at least up to 2004, Asian and white admits had nearly identical SATs and GPAs.

Further, it just isn't the case that Asians are so spectacular as people seem to think. Their average on the SAT Verbal is slightly less than whites, their average on SAT Writing is slightly more. Only in math do they have a significant advantage, 59 points or .59 standard deviation. Total advantage is about .2 over the three tests. Assuming that Harvard or Yale admit students at +3 standard deviations overall, and plugging the relative group quantiles +(3, 2.8) into a normal distribution, we get that .14% of white kids would get admitted, versus .26% of Asian kids. Or, 1.85 Asian kids for every one white kid.

But, last year 4.25 times as many whites as Asians took the SAT, so there still should be about 2.28 times as many white kids being admitted as Asians (4.25/1.85).

On GPA, whites and Asians are also pretty similar on average, 3.52 for Asians who took the SAT, 3.45 for whites who took the SAT. So that shouldn't be much of a factor.

Anonymous November 29, 2012 at 4:04 am GMT •

I am a Cadet at the US Military Academy at West Point and generally pretty familiar with trans-national Academy admissions processes. There's an excellent comparative study of worldwide military academy admissions that was done in the late '90′s you might find interesting (IIRC it was done by a group in the NATO Defence College) and I think you will find that although soldiers are often proud of their family histories to a fault, it is not what controls entrance to the officer corps in most countries.

"Legacy" is definitely meaningless in US Military Academy admissions, although can be very helpful in the separate process of securing a political appointment to attend the Academy once accepted for admission and in an Army career. West Point is not comparable to the Ivy League schools in the country, because (ironically) the admissions department that makes those comparisons lets in an inordinate number of unqualified candidates and ensures our student body includes a wide range of candidates, from people who are unquestionably "Ivy League material" to those who don't have the intellect to hack it at any "elite" institution.

Prior the changes in admissions policies and JFK ordering an doubling of the size of the Corps of Cadets in the '60′s, we didn't have this problem. But, I digress. My point is, the Academy admissions system is very meritocratic.

Todd November 29, 2012 at 5:49 am GMT •

Thank you for the great article.

I am a Jewish alum of UPenn, and graduated in the late 90s. That puts me almost a generation ago, which may be before the supposed Jewish decline you write about. I was in an 80%+ Jewish fraternity, and at least 2/3 of my overall network of friends at Penn was also Jewish. As was mentioned earlier, I have serious qualms with your methods for counting Jews based upon last name.

Based upon my admittedly non-scientific sample, the percentage of us who had traditionally Jewish last names was well under half and closer to 25%. My own last name is German, and you would never know I am Jewish based solely upon my name (nor would you based upon the surname of 3/4 of my grandparents, despite my family being 100% Jewish with no intermarriages until my sister).

By contrast, Asians are much easier to identify based upon name. You may overcount certain names like Lee that are also Caucasian, but it is highly unlikely that you will miss any Asian students when your criterion is last name.

Admittedly I skimmed parts of the article, but were other criterion used to more accurately identify the groups?

Interesting November 29, 2012 at 7:02 am GMT •

Great article.

The Jewish presence is definitely understated by just looking at surnames. As is the American Indian.

My maternal grandfather was Ashkenazi and his wife was 1/2 Ashkenazi and 1/4 Apache. He changed his name to a Scots surname that matched his red hair so as to get ahead as a business man in 20s due to KKK and anti-German feelings at the time. Their kids had two PHDs and a Masters between them despite their parents running a very blue collar firm.

My surname comes from my dad and its a Scottish surname although he was 1/4 Cherokee. On that side we are members of the FF of Virignia. Altogether I am more Jewish and American Indian than anything else yet would be classified as white. I could easily claim to be
Jewish or Indian on admissions forms. I always selected white. I was NMSF.

Both my sister and I have kids. Her husband is a full blood Indian with a common English surname. One of my nieces made NMSF and another might. My sisters kids do not think of themselves as any race and check other.

My wife is 1/4 Indian and 3/4 English. My kids are young yet one has tested to an IQ in the 150s.

Once you get West of the Appalachians, there are a lot of mutts in the non-gentile whites. A lot of Jews and American Indians Anglicized themselves a generation or two ago and they are lumped into that group – as well as occupy the top percentile academically.

A Jew November 29, 2012 at 7:44 am GMT •

Interesting article with parts I would agree with but also tinged with bias and conclusions that I would argue are not fully supported by the data.

I think more analysis is needed to confirm your conclusions. As others have mentioned there may be problems with your analysis of NMS scores. I think graduate admissions and achievements especially in the math and sciences would be a better measure of intellectual performance.

Now, I didn't attend an Ivy League school, instead a public university, mainly because I couldn't afford it or so I thought. I was also a NMS finalist.

But I always was of the opinion that except for the most exceptional students admission to the Ivies was based on the wealth of your family and as you mentioned there are quite a few affluent Jews so I imagine they do have a leg up. Harvard's endowment isn't as large as it is by accident.

It is interesting that you didn't discuss the stats for Stanford.

Lastly, I think your solution is wrong. The pure meritocracy is the only fair solution. Admissions should be based upon the entrance exams like in Asia and Europe.

There are plenty of options for those who don't want to compete and if the Asians dominate admissions at the top schools so be it.

Hopefully, all of this will be mute point n a few years as online education options become more popular with Universities specializing in graduate education and research.

Leon November 29, 2012 at 10:24 am GMT •

Ron Unz on Asians (ie Asian Americans): "many of them impoverished immigrant families"

Why do you twice repeat this assertion. Asians are the wealthiest race and most of the wealthiest ethnic groups tracked by the Census Bureau, which includes immigrants.

A potentially bigger issue completely ignored by your article is how do colleges differentiate between 'foreign' students (overwhelmingly Asian) and American students. Many students being counted as "Asian American" are in reality wealthy and elite foreign "parachute kids" (an Asian term), dropped onto the generous American education system or into boarding schools to study for US entrance exams, qualify for resident tuition rates and scholarships, and to compete for "American" admissions slots, not for the usually limited 'foreign' admission slots.

Probably people from non-Asian countries are pulling the same stunt, but it seems likely dominated by Asians. And expect many more with the passage of the various "Dream Acts"

So American kids must compete with the offspring of all the worlds corrupt elite for what should be opportunities for US Americans.

Weighty Commentary November 29, 2012 at 12:03 pm GMT

New York PSAT data:

http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/research/NY_12_05_02_01.pdf

In New York Asian-Americans make up 9.5%, whites 50.4%, Latinos 18.3% and African-Americans 15.7%.

California PSAT data:

http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/research/CA_12_05_02_01.pdf

In California Asian-Americans make up 19.7% of PSAT takers, and whites make up 31.9%, with 37% Latino and 5.7% African-American.

Anonymous November 29, 2012 at 2:01 pm GMT •

Am I the only one that finds the comparison of Asians (a race) to Jews (a religion) as basis for a case of discrimination completely flawed? I got in at Harvard and don't remember them even asking me what my religion was.

The value of diversity is absolutely key. I have a bunch of very good Asian friends and I love them dearly, but I don't believe a place like CalTech with its 40% demographics cannot truly claim to be a diverse place any more.

nooffensebut says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment November 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm GMT •

Regarding the SAT, we do know more than just differences of averages between whites and Asians. We have some years of score distributions . As recently as 1992, 1.2% of whites and 5.1% of Asians scored between 750 and 800 on the math subtest. As recently as 1985, 0.20% of whites and 0.26% of Asians scored in that range on the verbal/critical reading subtest.

On a different form of the writing subtest than is currently used, 5.0% of whites and 3.0% of Asians scored greater than 60 in 1985. We also know that, as the white-Asian average verbal/critical reading gap shrank to almost nothing and the average math gap grew in Asians' favor, the standard deviations on both for Asians have been much higher than every other group but have stayed relatively unchanged and have become, in fact, slightly lower than in 1985.

Therefore, Asians probably greatly increased their share of top performers.

Anonymous November 29, 2012 at 2:44 pm GMT •

@Milton F.: "Perhaps, by ensuring that "the best" students are not concentrated in only 8 universities is why the depth and quality of America's education system remains the envy of the world."

Hardly. America's education system is "the envy" because of the ability for minorities to get placement into better schools, not solely for the education they receive. Only a very select few institutions are envied for their education primarily, 90% of the colleges and universities across the country are sub-standard education providers, same with high schools.

I would imagine you're an educator at some level, more than likely, at one of the sub-standard colleges or even perhaps a high school teacher. You're attempting to be defensive of the American education system, when in reality, you're looking at the world through rose colored glasses. Working from within the system, rather than from the private sector looking back, gives you extreme tunnel vision. That, coupled with the average "closed mindedness" of educators in America is a dangerous approach to advancing the structure of the American education system. You and those like you ARE the problem and should be taken out of the equation as quickly as possible. Please retire ASAP or find another career.

Rob Schacter November 29, 2012 at 3:37 pm GMT •

Aside from the complete lack of actual ivy league admission data on jewish applicants, a big problem with unz's "jewish affirmative action" claim is how difficult such a policy would be to carry out in complete secrecy.

Now, it would be one thing if Unz was claiming that jews are being admitted with similar numbers to non-jewish whites, but in close cases, admissions staff tend to favor jewish applicants. But he goes much further than that. Unz is claiming that jews, as a group, are being admitted with lower SAT scores than non-jewish whites. Not only that, but this policy is being carried out by virtually every single ivy league college and it has been going on for years. Moreover, this preference is so pervasive, that it allows jews to gain admissions at many times the rate that merit alone would yield, ultimately resulting in entering classes that are over 20% Jewish.

If a preference this deep, consistent and widespread indeed exists, there is no way it could be the result of subjective bias or intentional tribal favoritism on the part of individual decision makers. It would have to be an official, yet unstated, admissions policy in every ivy league school. Over the years, dozens (if not hundreds) of admission staff across the various ivy league colleges would be engaging in this policy, without a single peep ever leaking through about Jewish applicants getting in with subpar SAT scores. We hear insider reports all the time about one group is favored or discriminated against (we even have such an insider account in this comment thread), but we hear nothing about the largest admission preference of them all.

Remember, admissions staffs usually include other ethnic minorities. I couldn't imagine them not wondering why jews need to be given such a big boost so that they make up almost a quarter of the entering class. Even if every member of every admissions committee were Jewish liberals, it would still be almost impossible to keep this under wraps.

Obviously, I have never seen actual admission numbers for Jewish applicants, so I could be wrong, and there could in fact be an unbreakable wall of secrecy regarding the largest and most pervasive affirmative action practice in the country. Or, perhaps, the ivy league application pool contains a disproportionate amount of high scoring jewish applicants.

Anonymous says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment November 29, 2012 at 5:41 pm GMT •

As some who is Jewish from the former Soviet Union, and who was denied even to take an entrance exam to a Moscow college, I am saddened to see that American educational admission process looks more and more "Soviet" nowadays. Kids are denied opportunities because of their ethnic or social background, in a supposedly free and fair country!

But this is just a tip of the iceberg. The American groupthink of political correctness, lowest common denominator, and political posturing toward various political/ethnic/religious/sexual orientation groups is rotting this country inside out.

Worse things are yet to come.

Julia November 29, 2012 at 6:13 pm GMT •

"Similarly, Jews were over one-quarter of the top students in the Physics Olympiad from 1986 to 1997, but have fallen to just 5 percent over the last decade, a result which must surely send Richard Feynman spinning in his grave."

Actually, Richard Feynman famously rejected genetic explanations of Jewish achievement (whether he was right or wrong to do so is another story), and aggressively resisted any attempts to list him as a "Jewish scientist" or "Jewish Nobel Prize winner." I am sure he would not cared in the slightest bit how many Jews were participating in the Physics Olympiad, as long as the quality of the students' work continued to be excellent. Here is a letter he wrote to a woman seeking to include him in a book about Jewish achievement in the sciences.

Dear Miss Levitan:

In your letter you express the theory that people of Jewish origin have inherited their valuable hereditary elements from their people. It is quite certain that many things are inherited but it is evil and dangerous to maintain, in these days of little knowledge of these matters, that there is a true Jewish race or specific Jewish hereditary character. Many races as well as cultural influences of men of all kinds have mixed into any man. To select, for approbation the peculiar elements that come from some supposedly Jewish heredity is to open the door to all kinds of nonsense on racial theory.

Such theoretical views were used by Hitler. Surely you cannot maintain on the one hand that certain valuable elements can be inherited from the "Jewish people," and deny that other elements which other people may find annoying or worse are not inherited by these same "people." Nor could you then deny that elements that others would consider valuable could be the main virtue of an "Aryan" inheritance.

It is the lesson of the last war not to think of people as having special inherited attributes simply because they are born from particular parents, but to try to teach these "valuable" elements to all men because all men can learn, no matter what their race.

It is the combination of characteristics of the culture of any father and his father plus the learning and ideas and influences of people of all races and backgrounds which make me what I am, good or bad. I appreciate the valuable (and the negative) elements of my background but I feel it to be bad taste and an insult to other peoples to call attention in any direct way to that one element in my composition.

At almost thirteen I dropped out of Sunday school just before confirmation because of differences in religious views but mainly because I suddenly saw that the picture of Jewish history that we were learning, of a marvelous and talented people surrounded by dull and evil strangers was far from the truth. The error of anti-Semitism is not that the Jews are not really bad after all, but that evil, stupidity and grossness is not a monopoly of the Jewish people but a universal characteristic of mankind in general. Most non-Jewish people in America today have understood that. The error of pro-Semitism is not that the Jewish people or Jewish heritage is not really good, but rather the error is that intelligence, good will, and kindness is not, thank God, a monopoly of the Jewish people but a universal characteristic of mankind in general.

Therefore you see at thirteen I was not only converted to other religious views but I also stopped believing that the Jewish people are in any way "the chosen people." This is my other reason for requesting not to be included in your work.

I am expecting that you will respect my wishes.

Sincerely yours,

Richard Feynman

Ben K November 29, 2012 at 6:43 pm GMT •

@Rob Schacter – your last point is basically spot-on. The Ivies are fairly unique in the high proportion of Jewish applicants. History, geographical bias, and self-selection all play a role. I think the overall preference distortion is probably not as wide as Unz claims, but you will see similar tilts at Stanford, Northwestern, etc. that reflect different preference distortions.

@Leon, two quick points.

1st – the census tracks by household, which generally overestimates Asian wealth. Many families have three generations and extended members living in one household (this reflects that many of them work together in a small family business).

2nd – most of the time, it's clear in the application (the HS, personal info, other residency info, etc.) which Asian applicants are Asian-American and which are "Parachute Kids". But the numbers are much smaller than one might think, and the implication depends on the school.

At Ivies, parachute kids (both Asian and not) tend to compete with each other in the application pool, and aren't substantially informing the broader admissions thesis in this article. I'm not saying that's right, just saying it's less material than we might think.

They more likely skew the admissions equation in great-but-not-rich liberal arts colleges (like Grinnell) and top public universities (like UCLA), which are both having budget crises and need full fare students, parachute or not. And for the publics, this includes adding more higher-tuition, out-of-state students, which further complicates assertions of just whose opportunities are being lost.

I will bring this back to fundraising and finances again, because the broader point is about who is stewarding and creating access: so long as top universities are essentially run as self-invested feedback loops, and position and resource themselves accordingly (and other universities have to compete with them), we will continue to see large, persistent discrepancies in who can participate.

Eric Rasmusen November 29, 2012 at 7:58 pm GMT •

When I applied to Harvard College back in 1976, I was proud of my application essay. In it, I proposed that the US used the Israeli army as a proxy, just as the Russians were using the Cuban army at the time.
Alas, I wasn't admitted (I did get into Yale, which didn't require free-form essay like that).

This, of course, illustrates the point that coming from an Application Hell instead of from central Illinois helps a student know how to write applications. It also illustrates what might help explain the mystery of high Jewish admissions: political bias. Jews are savvier about knowing what admissions officers like to hear (including the black and Latino ones, who as a previous commentor said aren't likely to be pro-semite). They are also politically more liberal, and so don't have to fake it. And their families are more likely to read the New York Times and thus have the right "social graces" as we might call them, of this age.

It would be interesting to know how well "true WASPS" do in admissions. This could perhaps be estimated by counting Slavic and Italian names, or Puritan New England last names. I would expect this group to do almost as well as Jews (not quite as well, because their ability would be in the lower end of the Legacy group).


David in Cali November 29, 2012 at 8:16 pm GMT •

The missing variable in this analysis is income/class. While Unz states that many elite colleges have the resources to fund every student's education, and in fact practice need-blind admissions, the student bodies are skewed towards the very highest percentile of the income and wealth distribution. SAT scores may also scale with parents' income as well.

Tuition and fees at these schools have nearly doubled relative to inflation in the last 25-30 years, and with home prices in desirable neighborhoods showing their own hyper-inflationary behavior over the past couple of decades (~15 yrs, especially), the income necessary to pay for these schools without burdening either the student or parents with a lot of debt has been pushed towards the top decile of earners. A big chunk of the upper middle class has been priced out. This could hit Asian professionals who may be self made harder than other groups like Jews who may be the second or third generation of relative affluence, and would thus have advantages in having less debt when starting their families and careers and be less burdened in financing their homes. Would be curious to see the same analysis if $$ could be controlled.


David in Cali November 29, 2012 at 8:19 pm GMT

I would also like to add that I am a late '80′s graduate of Wesleyan who ceased his modest but annual financial contribution to the school after reading The Gatekeepers.


Rebecca November 29, 2012 at 9:33 pm GMT

If I had a penny for every Jewish American I met (including myself) whose first and last name gave no indication of his religion or ethnicity, I'd be rich. Oh–and my brother and I have four Ivy League degrees between us.


Anonymous November 29, 2012 at 10:16 pm GMT •

I almost clicked on a different link the instance I came across the word "elite" , but curiosity forced my hand.

Just yesterday my mom was remarking how my cousin had gotten into MIT with an SAT score far below what I scored, and she finished by adding that I should have applied to an ivy-league college after high school. I as always, reminded her, I'm too "black for ivy games".

I always worked hard in school, participated in olympiads and symposiums, and was a star athlete. When it came to applying for college I found myself startled when forced to "quantify" my achievements in an "application package". I did not do or engage in these activities solely to boost my chances of gaining admission into some elite college over similarly-hardworking Henry Wang or Jess Steinberg. I did these things because I loved doing them.

Sports after class was almost a relaxation activity for me. Participating in math olympiads was a way for me to get a scoop on advanced mathematics. Participating in science symposiums was a chance for me to start applying my theoretical education to solve practical problems.

The moment I realized I would have to kneel down before some admissions officer and "present my case", outlining my "blackness", athleticism, hard work, curiosity, and academic ability, in that specific order I should point, in order to have a fighting chance at getting admitted; is the moment all my "black rage" came out in an internal explosion of rebellion and disapproval of "elite colleges".

I instead applied to a college that was blind to all of the above factors. I am a firm believer that hard work and demonstrated ability always win out in the end. I've come across, come up against is a better way to put it, Ivy-league competition in college competitions and applications for co-ops and internships, and despite my lack of "eliteness" I am confident that my sheer ability and track record will put me in the "interview candidate" pool.

Finally, my opinion is: let elite schools keep doing what they are doing. It isn't a problem at all, the "elite" tag has long lost its meaning.


Anonymous November 29, 2012 at 10:52 pm GMT •

The difficulty with using Jewish sounding last names to identify Jewish students works poorly in two ways today. Not only, as others have pointed out, do many Jews not have Jewish sounding last names, but there are those, my grandson for example, who have identifiably Jewish last names and not much in the way of Jewish background.


Anonymous November 29, 2012 at 11:34 pm GMT •

Interesting reading. The article opens a deceptively simple statistical window into a poorly understood process - a window which I would guess even the key participants have never looked through. I especially appreciated the insights provided by the author's examination of Asian surname-frequencies and their over-representation in NMS databases.

Though this is a long and meticulously argued piece, it would have benefited from a more thorough discussion of the statistical share of legacies and athletic scholarships in elite admissions.

Perhaps, though, it would be better to focus on increasing meritocracy in the broader society, which would inevitably lead to some discounting of the value of educational credentials issued by these less than meritocratic private institutions.

It is precisely because the broader society is also in many key respects non-meritocratic that the non-meritocratic admissions practices of elite institutions are sustainable.


Anon November 29, 2012 at 11:50 pm GMT •

Despite the very long and detailed argument, the writer's interpretation of a pro-Jewish admissions bias at Ivy-league schools is worryingly flawed.

First, he uses two very different methods of counting Jews: name recognition for counting various "objective" measures such as NMS semifinalists and Hillel stats for those admitted to Harvard. The first is most likely an underestimate while the latter very possibly inflated (in both cases especially due to the very large numbers of partially-Jewish students, in the many interpretations that has). I wonder how much of his argument would just go away if he simply counted the number of Jews in Harvard using the same method he used to count their numbers in the other cases. Would that really be hard to do?

Second, he overlooks the obvious two sources that can lead to such Asian/Jewish relative gaps in admissions. The first is the different groups' different focus on Science/Math vs. on Writing/Culture. It is very possible that in recent years most Asians emphasize the former while Jews the latter, which would be the natural explanation to the Caltech vs Harvard racial composition (as well as to the other stats). The second is related but different and it is the different group's bias in applications: the same cultural anecdotes would explain why Asians would favor applying to Caltech and Jews to Harvard. A natural interpretation of the data would be that Jews have learned to optimize for whatever criteria the Ivy leagues are using and the Asians are doing so for the Caltech criteria.

Most strange is the author's interpretation of how a pro-Jewish bias in admissions is actually put into effect: the application packets do not have the data of whether the applicant is Jewish or not, and I doubt that most admission officers figure it out in most cases. While it could be possible for admissions officers to have a bias for or against various types of characteristics that they see in the data in front of them (say Asian/Black/White or political activity), a systematic bias on unobserved data is a much more difficult proposition to make. Indeed the author becomes rather confused here combining the low education level of admissions officers, that they are "liberal arts or ethnic-studies majors" (really?), that they are "progressive", and that there sometimes is corruption, all together presumably leading to a bias in favor of Jews?

Finally, the author's suggestion for changing admittance criteria is down-right bizarre for a conservative: The proposal is a centralized solution that he aims to force upon the various private universities, each who can only loose from implementing it.

Despite the long detailed (but extremely flawed) article, I am afraid that it is more a reflection of the author's biases than of admissions biases.


Allan November 30, 2012 at 3:00 am GMT •

Both the article and the comments are illuminating. My takeaways:

1) Affirmative action in favor of blacks and Hispanics is acknowledged.

2) Admissions officers in the Ivy League appear to limit Asian admissions somewhat relative to the numbers of qualified applicants.

3) They may also admit somewhat more Jewish applicants than would be warranted relative to their comparative academic qualifications. The degree to which this is true is muddled by the difficulty of identifying Jews by surnames, by extensive intermarriage, by changing demographics within the Jewish population, by geographic factors, and by the propensity to apply in the first place.

4) (My major takeaway.) White Protestants and Catholics are almost certainly the sole groups that are greatly under-represented relative to their qualifications as well as to raw population percentages.

5) This is due partly to subtle or open discrimination.

6) I would hypothesize that a great many of the white Protestants and Catholics who are admitted are legacies, star athletes, and the progeny of celebrities in entertainment, media, politics, and high finance. White Protestant or Catholic applicants, especially from the hinterlands, who don't fit one of these special categories–though they must be a very large component of Mr Unz's pool of top talent–are out of luck.

7) And everyone seems to think this is just fine.

The inner and outer ring idea seems to me an excellent one, though the likelihood of it happening is next to nil, both because some groups would lose disproportionate access and because the schools' imprimatur would be diminished in
value.

The larger point, made by several respondents, is that far too many institutions place far too much weight on the credentials conferred by a small group of screening institutions. The great advantage of the American system is not that it is meritocratic, either objectively or subjectively. It is that it is–or was–Protean in its flexibility. One could rise through luck or effort or brains, with credentials or without them, early in life or after false starts and setbacks. And there were regional elites or local elites rather than, as we increasingly see, a single, homogenized national elite. Success or its equivalent wasn't something institutionally conferred.

The result of the meritocratic process is that we are making a race of arrogant, entitled overlords, extremely skilled at the aggressive and assertive arts required to gain admission to, and to succeed in, a few similar and ideologically skewed universities and colleges; and who spend the remainder of their lives congratulating each other, bestowing themselves on the populace, and destroying the country.

No wonder we are where we are.


WG November 30, 2012 at 11:53 am GMT •

This article is the product of careful and thoughtful research, and it identifies a problem hiding in plain sight. As a society, we have invested great trust in higher education as a transformative institution. It is clear that we have been too trusting.

That the admissions policies of elite universities are meritocratic is hardly the only wrong idea that Americans have about higher education. Blind faith in higher education has left too many people with largely worthless degrees and crushing student-loan debt.

Of course, the problems don't end with undergraduate education. The "100 reasons NOT to go to grad school" blog offers some depressing reading:

http://100rsns.blogspot.com/

The higher education establishment has failed to address so many longstanding internal structural problems that it's hard to imagine that much will change anytime soon.


candid_observer November 30, 2012 at 1:25 pm GMT •

Jack above makes the following point:

"I believe that this article raises – and then inappropriately immediately dismisses – the simplest and most likely reason for the over-representation of Jewish students at Ivy League Schools in the face of their declining bulk academic performance:

They apply to those schools in vastly disproportionate numbers."

Here's the problem with that point. What Ron Unz demonstrates, quite effectively, is that today's Jews simply don't measure up to either their Asian or their White Gentile counterparts in terms of actual performance when they get into, say, Harvard. The quite massive difference in the proportions of those groups who get into Phi Beta Kappa renders this quite undeniable. What is almost certain is that policies that favored Asians and White Gentiles over the current crop of Jewish students would create a class of higher caliber in terms of academic performance.

If indeed it's true that Jews apply to Harvard in greater numbers, then, if the desire is to produce a class with the greatest academic potential, some appropriate way of correcting for the consequent distortion should be introduced. Certainly when it comes to Asians, college admissions committees have found their ways of reducing the numbers of Asians admitted, despite their intense interest in the Ivies.


candid_observer November 30, 2012 at 1:40 pm GMT •

One way of understanding Unz's results here might be not so much that today's Jewish student is far less inclined to hard academic work than those of yesteryear, but rather that others - White Gentiles and Asians - have simply caught up in terms of motivation to get into elite schools and perform to the best of their abilities.

Certainly among members of the upper middle class, there has been great, and likely increasing, emphasis in recent years on the importance of an elite education and strong academic performance for ultimate success. This might well produce a much stronger class of students at the upper end applying to the Ivies.

It may be that not only the Asians, but upper middle class White Gentiles, are "The New Jews".


Howard November 30, 2012 at 5:11 pm GMT •

I don't always agree with, Mr. Unz, but his expositions are always provocative and informative. As far as the criticisms of his data set go, he openly admits that they are less than ideal. However, the variances are so large that the margin of error can be excused. Jews are 40 TIMES more likely to be admitted to Harvard than Gentile whites. Asians are 10 times more likely. Of course, it could be possible that Jews, because of higher average IQs, actually produce 40 times as many members in the upper reaches of the cognitive elite.

Given Richard Lynn's various IQ studies of Jews and the relative preponderance of non-Jewish and Jewish whites in the population, however, whites ought to have a 7 to 1 representation vis-a-vis Jews in Ivy League institutions, assuming the IQ cutoff is 130. Their numbers are roughly equivalent instead.

Because Ivy League admissions have been a hotbed of ethnic nepotism in the past, it seems that special care should be taken to avoid these improprieties (or the appearance thereof) in the future. But no such safeguards have been put in place. David Brooks has also struck the alarm about the tendency of elites to shut down meritocratic institutions once they have gained a foothold: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/13/opinion/brooks-why-our-elites-stink.html?_r=1&ref=global-home

Clannish as the WASPs may have been, they were dedicated enough to ideals of fairness and equality that they opened the doors for their own dispossession. I predict that a new Asian elite will eventually eclipse our Jewish elite. Discrimination and repression can restrain a vigorously ascendant people but for so long. When they do, it will be interesting to see if this Asian cohort clings to its longstanding Confucian meritocratic traditions, embodied in the Chinese gaokao or if it too will succumb to the temptation, ever present in a multiethnic polity, of preferring ethnic kinsmen over others.

Does anyone know how a minority such as the Uighurs fares in terms of elite Chinese university admissions?


Daniel November 30, 2012 at 7:39 pm GMT •

This may sound like special-pleading, but it's not clear that full-scale IQ measures are meaningful when assessing and predicting Jewish performance. Jewish deficits on g-loaded spatial reasoning task may reflect specific visuo-spatial deficits and not deficits in g. As far as I know, no one doubts that the average Jewish VIQ is at least 112 (and possibly over 120). This score may explain jewish representation which seems to exceed what would be projected by their full-scale iq scores. Despite PIQ's correllation to mathematical ability in most populations, we ought also remember that, at least on the WAIS, it is the VIQ scale that includes the only directly mathematical subtest. We should also note that Jewish mathematicians seem to use little visualization in their reasoning (cf. Seligman

That said, I basically agree that Jews are, by and large, coasting. American Jews want their children to play hockey and join 'greek life' and stuff, not sit in libraries . It's sad for those of us who value the ivory tower, but understandable given their stigmatiziation as a nerdish people.


Nick November 30, 2012 at 9:06 pm GMT •

I wonder if it would be at all possible to assess the political biases of admissions counselors at these schools by assessing the rates at which applicants from red states are admitted to the elite universities. I suppose you would have to know how many applied, and those data aren't likely to exist in the public domain.


Alex November 30, 2012 at 9:47 pm GMT •

One major flaw with this article's method of determining Jewish representation: distinctive Jewish surnames in no way make up all Jewish surnames. Distinctive Jewish surnames happen to be held by only 10-12% of all American Jews. In fact, the third most common American Jewish surname after Cohen and Levy is Miller. Mr. Unz' methodology does not speak well for itself, given that he's comparing a limited set of last names against a far more carefully scrutinized estimate.

I'm not suggesting his estimate of national merit scholars and the like is off by a full 90%, but he's still ending up with a significant undercount, possibly close to half. That would still mean Jews may be "wrongfully" over-represented are many top colleges and universities, but the disproportion is nowhere near as nefarious as he would suggest.


Ben K November 30, 2012 at 11:18 pm GMT •

@Nick – the "red state" application and admission rates isn't useful data.

Short answer: There are many reasons for this, but basically, historical momentum and comfort play a much bigger role in where kids apply than we think. I assure you, far more top Nebraska HS seniors want to be a Cornhusker than a Crimson, even though many would find a very receptive consideration and financial aid package.

Long answer: 1st, although this article and discussion have been framed in broad racial/cultural terms, the mechanics of college admissions are mostly local and a bit like athletic recruiting – coverage (and cultivation) of specific regions and districts, "X" high school historically deliver "X" kinds of candidates, etc. So to the degree we may see broader trends noted in the article and discussion, some of that is rooted at the HS level and lower.

2nd, in "red states", most Ivy applicants come from the few blue or neutral districts. E.g.: the only 2 Utah HS's that consistently have applicants to my Ivy alma mater are in areas that largely mirror other high-income, Dem-leaning areas nationwide rather than the rest of Utah.

3rd, but, with some variation among the schools, the Ivy student body is more politically balanced than usually assumed. Remember, most students are upper-income, Northeastern suburban and those counties' Dem/Rep ratio is often closer to 55/45 than 80/20.

But to wrap up, ideology plays a negligible role in admissions generally (there's always an exception); they have other fish to fry (see below).

@soren in Goldman's post ( http://bit.ly/TrbJSB ) and other commenters here:

"Quota against Asians" is not entirely wrong, but it's too strong because it implies the forward intent is about limiting their numbers.

Put another way, Unz believes the Ivies are failing their meritocractic mission by over-admitting a group that is neither disadvantaged nor has highest technical credentials; and this comes at the expense of a group that is more often disadvantaged and with higher technical credentials. The Ivies would likely reply, "well, we define 'meritocractic mission' differently".

That may be a legitimate counter, but it's also what needs more expansion and sunlight.

But Unz' analysis has a broader causation vs correlation gap. Just because admissions is essentially zero-sum doesn't mean every large discrepancy in it is, even after allowing for soft biases. I've mentioned these earlier in passing, but here are just a couple other factors of note:

Admissions is accountable for selection AND marketing and matriculation – these are not always complementary forces. Essentially, you want to maximize both the number and distribution (racial, geographic, types of accomplishment, etc.) of qualified applicants, but also the number you can safely turn down but without discouraging future applications, upsetting certain stakeholders (specific schools, admissions counselors/consultants, etc.) or "harming" any data in the US News rankings. And you have a very finite time to do this, and – not just your competition, but the entire sector – is essentially doing this at the same time. You can see how an admissions process would develop certain biases over time to limit risks in an unpredictable, high volume market, even if rarely intended to target a specific group. Ivy fixation (but especially around HYP) is particularly concentrated in the Northeast – a sample from several top HS' across America (public and private) would show much larger application and matriculation variations among their top students than would be assumed from Unz's thesis. Different Ivies have different competitors/peers, which influences their diversity breakdowns – to some degree, they all co-compete, but just as often don't. E.g.: Princeton often overlaps with Georgetown and Duke, Columbia with NYU and Cooper Union, Cornell with SUNY honors programs because it has some "in state" public colleges, etc.

There's much more, of course, but returning to Unz's ethnographic thesis, I have this anecdote: we have two friends in finance, whose families think much of their success. The 1st is Asian, went to Carnegie Mellon, and is a big bank's trading CTO; the 2nd is Jewish, went to Wharton, and is in private equity.

Put another way, while both families shared a pretty specific vision of success, they differed a lot in the execution. The upper echelon of universities, and the kinds of elite-level mobility they offer, are much more varied than even 25 years ago. While the relative role of HYP in our country, and their soft biases in admission, are "true enough" to merit discussion, it's probably not the discussion that was in this article.


candid_observer November 30, 2012 at 11:23 pm GMT •

Alex,

While you may have a point as to the difficulty in some cases of identifying a Jewish surname, the most important thing methodologically is that the criteria be performed uniformly if one is comparing Jewish representation today vs. that of other periods. I can't think, for example, of any reason that Cohens or Levys or Golds should be any less well represented today as opposed to many years ago if indeed there has not been an underlying shift in numbers of Jews in the relevant categories. (Nor, for that matter, should issues like intermarriage affect the numbers much here - for every mother whose maiden name is Cohen who marries a non-Jew with a non-Jewish surname, and whose half Jewish child will be counted as non-Jewish, there is, on average, going to be a man named Cohen who will marry a non-Jew, and whose half Jewish child will be counted as Jewish.)


Bud Wood November 30, 2012 at 11:43 pm GMT •

One might suppose that all this "inequity" and "discrimination" matters if we're keeping score. However, seems to me that too much emphasis is typically placed on equality whereas real criteria in productive and satisfying lives are neglected. Kind'a like some people wanting bragging rights as much, if not more, than wanting positive reality.

I guess I just went about my way and lived a pretty god life (so far). Who knows?; maybe those "bragging rights" are meaningful.

Bud Wood
Grad – Stanford Elec Engrg.


Neil Schipper December 1, 2012 at 4:54 am GMT •

Thought provoking article.

Ditto to many comments about the "last name problem", even if its correction weakens but doesn't invalidate the argument. (One imagines, chillingly, a new sub-field: "Jewish last name theory", seeking to determine proportionalities of classic names validated against member/donor lists of synagogues and other Jewish organizations.)

Regarding the 20% inner ring suggestion, it suffers from its harsh transition. Consider a randomized derating scheme: a random number between some lower bound (say 0.90) and 1.00 is applied to each score on the ranked applicant list.

The added noise provides warmth to a cold test scores list. Such an approach nicely captures the directive: "study hard, but it's not all about the grades".

By adjusting the lower bound, you can get whatever degree of representativeness relative to the application base you want.

That it's a "just a number" (rather than a complex subjectivity-laden labyrinth incessantly hacked at by consultants) could allow interesting conversations about how it could relate to the "top 1% / bottom 50%" wealth ratio. The feedback loop wants closure.


Alex December 1, 2012 at 6:12 am GMT •

You missed my point, candid. A relatively small proportion of Jews, intermarried or otherwise, have distinctive Jewish names. I didn't make that 10-12% figure up. It's been cited in numerous local Jewish population studies and is used in part (but certainly far from whole) to help estimate those populations. It's also been significantly dragged down over the years as the Jewish population (and hence the surname pool) has diversified, not just from intermarriage, but in-migration from groups who often lack "distinctive Jewish surnames" such as Jews from the former Soviet Union. Consider also that for obvious reasons, Hillel, which maintains Jewish centers on most campus, has an incentive to over-report by a bit. Jewish populations on college campuses in the distant past were easier to gather, given that it was far less un-PC to simply point blank inquire what religious background applicants came from.

Again, I'm not saying there isn't a downward trend in Jewish representation among high achievers (which, even if one were to accept Unz's figures, Jews would still be triple relative to were they "should" be). But Unz has made a pretty significant oversight in doing his calculations. That may happen to further suit his personal agenda, but it's not reality.


Anonymous December 1, 2012 at 3:42 pm GMT •

This is interesting, but I suspect mostly bogus, based on your not having a decent algorithm for discovering if someone's Jewish.

I'm not sure what exact mechanism you're using to decide if a name is Jewish, but I'm certain it wouldn't have caught anyone, including myself, in my father's side of the family (Sephardic Jews from Turkey with Turkish surnames), nor my wife's family, an Ellis Island Anglo name. Or probably most of the people in her family. And certainly watching for "Levi, Cohen and Gold*" isn't going to do anything.

And none of us have even intermarried!


conatus December 1, 2012 at 4:10 pm GMT •

Isn't the point about Jewish over representation in the Ivy League about absolute numbers?

Yes the Jewish demographic has a higher IQ at 115 to the Goyishe Kop 100 but Jewish people are only 2% of the population so you have 6 million Jewish people vying with 200 million white Goys for admission to the Ivy League and future control of the levers of power. That is a 33 times larger Bell curve so the right tail of the Goys' Bell curve is still much larger than the Jewish Bell curve at IQ levels of 130 and 145, supposedly there are seven times more Goys with IQs of 130 and over 4 times more Goys with IQs of 145. So why the equality of representation, one to one, Jewish to white Goy in the Ivy Leagues?


Andrew says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment December 1, 2012 at 6:29 pm GMT

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-phu-quoc-nguyen/asian-american-students_b_2173993.html I hope everyone can participate in gaining admittance and everyone can improve the system legally. Real repair is needed.


Amanda December 1, 2012 at 6:34 pm GMT •

Russell K. Nieli on study by Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Radford (mentioned by Unz):

"When lower-class whites are matched with lower-class blacks and other non-whites the degree of the non-white advantage becomes astronomical: lower-class Asian applicants are seven times as likely to be accepted to the competitive private institutions as similarly qualified whites, lower-class Hispanic applicants eight times as likely, and lower-class blacks ten times as likely. These are enormous differences and reflect the fact that lower-class whites were rarely accepted to the private institutions Espenshade and Radford surveyed. Their diversity-enhancement value was obviously rated very low."

..


Scott Locklin says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment December 1, 2012 at 10:09 pm GMT

Having worked with folks from all manner of "elite" and not so elite schools in a technical field, the main conclusion I was able to draw was folks who went to "elite" colleges had a greater degree of entitlement. And that's it.


Shlomo December 2, 2012 at 4:27 am GMT •

If all of the author's suspicions are correct, the most noteworthy takeaway would be that Jewish applicants have absolutely no idea that they are being given preferential treatment when applying to Ivys.

Not that they think they are being discriminated against or anything, but no Jewish high school student or their parents think they have any kind of advantage, let alone such a huge one. Someone should tell all these Jews that they don't need to be so anxious!

Also, I know this is purely anecdotal but having gone to an ivy and knowing the numbers of dozens of other Jews who have also gone, I don't think I have ever witnessed a "surprise" acceptance, where someone got in with a score under the median.


Anonymous December 2, 2012 at 5:22 am GMT •

I don't doubt for a minute that it's increasingly difficult for Asian students to get into so-called "elite" universities. Having grown up in that community, I know a lot of people who were pressured into applying at Harvard and Yale but ended up *gasp* going to a very good local school. My sarcasm aside, we can't really deny that having Harvard on your CV can virtually guarantee a ticket to success, regardless of whether or not you were just a C student. It happens.

But what worries me about that is the fact that I know very well how hard Asian families tend to push their children. They do, after all, have one of the highest suicide rates and that's here in the US. If by some means the Asian population at elite universities is being controlled, as I suspect it is, that's only going to make tiger mothers push their children even harder. That's not necessarily a good thing for the child's psyche, so instead of writing a novel here, I'll simply give you this link. Since the author brought up the subject of Amy Chua and her book, I think it's a pretty fitting explanation of the fears I have for my friends and their children if this trend is allowed to continue.

http://www.asianmanwhitewoman.com/jocelyn/editorial/tiger-mother-rebuttal-why-east-west-mothers-are-superior/


Anonymous December 2, 2012 at 9:16 pm GMT

to respond to Alice Zindagi
Asian American does not have higher suicide rate.

http://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/asian-american/suicide.aspx


Anonymous says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment December 2, 2012 at 9:30 pm GMT •

As a former admissions staff person at Princeton, I always sigh when I read articles on elite college admissions processes which build cases on data analysis but which fail to consult with admissions experts on the interpretation of that data.

I am neither an expert in sociology, nor am I a statistician, but I have sat in that chair, reading thousands of essays, and I have a few observations:

The most selective part of any college's admissions process is the part where students themselves decides whether or not to apply. Without data on the actual applicant sets, it is, at the least, misleading to attribute incongruities between the overall population's racial/ethnic/income/what-have-you characteristics and the student bodies' make-ups entirely to the admission decisions. The reality is that there is always a struggle in the admission offices to compensate for the inequities that the applicant pool itself delivers to their doorsteps. An experienced admission officer can tell you that applicants from cultures where academics and education are highly valued, and where the emphasis on a single test is quite high, will generally present with very high SAT scores. Race does not seem to be correlated, but immigrant status from such a culture is highly correlated. (This may partially explain Unz's observation of a "decline" in Jewish scores, although I also do not believe that the surname tool for determining which scores are "Jewish" holds much water.) One of the reasons that such students often fare less well in holistic application processes is that the same culture that produces the work ethic and study skills which benefit SAT performance and GPA can also suppress activities and achievement outside of the academic arena. Therefore, to say that these students are being discriminated against because of race is a huge assumption. The true questions is whether the students with higher test scores are presenting activity, leadership and community contributions comparable to other parts of the applicant pool which are "overrepresented". All of these articles seem to miss the point that a freshman class is a fixed size pie chart. Any piece that shrinks or grows will impact the other slices. My first thought upon reading Unz' argument that the Asian slice shrank was, "What other pieces were forced to grow?" Forced growth in another slice of the class is the more likely culprit for this effect, much more likely than the idea that all of the Ivies are systematically discriminating against the latest victim. I could go on and on, but will spare you! My last note is to educate Mr. Unz on what an "Assistant Director" is in college admissions. Generally that position is equivalent to a Senior Admission Officer (one step up from entry level Admission Officer), while the head of the office might be the Dean and the next step down from that would be Associate Deans (not Assistant Directors). So while Michelle Hernandez was an Assistant Director, she was not the second in charge of Admissions, as your article implies. A minor distinction, but one which is important to point out so that her expertise and experience, as well as my own, as AN Assistant Director of Admission at Princeton, are not overstated.

A last personal note: During Princeton's four month reading season, I worked 7 days a week, usually for about 14 hours a day, in order to give the fullest, most human and considerate reading of each and every applicant that I could give. I am sure that the admission profession has its share of incompetents, corruptible people and just plain jerks, and apparently some of us are not intelligent enough to judge the superior applicants . . . . But most of us did it for love of the kids at that age (they are all superstars!), for love of our alma maters and what they did for us, and because we believed in the fairness of our process and the dignity with which we tried to do it.

The sheer numbers of applicants and the fatigue of the long winters lend themselves to making poor jokes such as the "Night of 1000 Lee's", but a good dean of admission will police such disrespect, and encourage the staff, as mine did, to read the last applicant of the day with the same effort, energy and attention paid to the first. We admission folk have our honor, despite being underpaid and playing in a no-win game with regard to media coverage of our activities. I am happy to be able to speak up for the integrity of my former colleagues and the rest of the profession.


Michael O'Hearn says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment December 2, 2012 at 9:43 pm GMT •

My own position has always been strongly in the former camp, supporting meritocracy over diversity in elite admissions.

When these Ivy League institutions were first begun in the colonial period, they were not strictly speaking meritocratic. The prevailing idea was that Christocentric education is the right way to go, both from an eschatological and a temporal perspective, and the central focus was on building and strengthening family ties. The Catholic institutions of higher learning took on the vital role of preserving Church tradition from apostolic times and were thus more egalitarian and universalist. The results went far beyond all expectations.

Nothing lasts forever. Your premise misses the essential point that the economy is for man and not vice-versa.


Michael O'Hearn says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment December 3, 2012 at 3:09 am GMT

Perhaps this should have been titled The Reality of American Mediocrity ?


Janet Mertz December 4, 2012 at 12:56 am GMT •

Many of the statements in this article relating to Jews are rather misleading: for while the Hillel data regarding percentage of students who self-identify as Jews may be fairly accurate, the numbers the author cites based upon "likely Jewish names" are a gross under-count of the real numbers, leading to the appearance of a large disparity between the two which, in reality, does not exist. The reason for the under-count is that a large percentage of American Jews have either Anglicized their family name or intermarried, resulting in their being mistaken for non-Hispanic whites. Thus, one ends up with incorrect statements such as "since 2000, the percentage (of Jewish Putnam Fellows) has dropped to under 10 percent, without a single likely Jewish name in the last seven years". The reality is that Jews, by Hillel's definition of self-identified students, have continued to be prominent among the Putnam Fellows, US IMO team members, and high scorers in the USA Mathematical Olympiad. I have published a careful analysis of the true ethnic/racial composition of the very top-performing students in these math competitions from recent years (see, Andreescu et al. Notices of the AMS 2008; http://www.ams.org/notices/200810/fea-gallian.pdf ). For example, Daniel Kane, a Putnam Fellow in 2002-2006, is 100% of Jewish ancestry; his family name had been Cohen before it was changed. Brian Lawrence was a Putnam Fellow in 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011; his mother is Jewish. Furthermore, many of the non-Jewish Putnam Fellows in recent years are Eastern European or East-Asian foreigners who matriculated to college in the US; they were not US citizen non-Jewish whites or Asian-Americans, respectively. Rather, my data indicate that in recent years both Jews and Asians have been 10- to 20-over-represented in proportion to their percentage of the US population among the students who excel at the highest level in these math competitions. The authors conclusions based upon data from other types of competitions is likely similarly flawed.


mannning December 4, 2012 at 6:28 am GMT •

The title of this piece captured me to read what it was all about. What was discussed was admissions into elite colleges as the only focus on "meritocracy" in America. That leaves the tail of the distribution of high IQ people in America, minus those that make it into elite colleges, to be ignored, especially those that managed to be admitted to Cal Tech, or MIT, or a number of other universities where significant intellectual power is admitted and fostered. this seems to further the meme that only the elite graduates run the nation. They may have an early advantage through connections, but I believe that the Fortune 400 CEO's are fairly evenly spread across the university world.


Eric Rasmusen December 4, 2012 at 4:45 pm GMT •

A couple more thoughts:

(1) Jews are better at verbal IQ, Asians at math. Your measures are all math. That woudl be OK if all else were equal across time, but especially because Jews care a lot about admissions to Ivies, what we'd expect is that with growing Asian competition in math/science, Jews would give up and focus their energy on drama/writing/service. I wonder if Jewish kids are doing worse in music competitions too? Or rather- not even entering any more.

(2) For college numbers, adjustment for US/foreign is essential. How many Asians at Yale are foreign? It could well be that Asian-Americans are far more under-represented than it seems, because they face quota competition from a billion Chinese and a billion Indians. Cal Tech might show the same result as the Ivies.

(3) A separate but interesting study would be of humanities and science PhD programs. Different things are going on there, and the contrast with undergrads and with each other might be interseting.

MEH 0910 December 5, 2012 at 1:13 pm GMT •

Half Sigma wrote about this Ron Unz article :

I also learned that Jews are no longer as prominent in math and science achievement, and that's not surprising to me at all, because everyone in the elite knows that STEM is for Asians and middle-class kids. Jewish parents have learned that colleges value sports and "leadership" activities more than raw academic achievement and nerdy activities like math olympiads, and that the most prestigious careers are value transference activities which don't require science or high-level math.

You should re-read my critique of Amy Chua's parenting advice . Jews have figured out that's crappy advice for 21st century America.

biaknabato December 6, 2012 at 12:59 am GMT •

The higher representation of Jews in the Ivies compared to Asians who have better average academic records compared to Jews (applicants that is ) in the Ivies is due to the greater eligibility of Jews for preferences of every kind in the Ivies. In a typical Ivy school like Harvard, at least 60% of the freshman class will disappear because of the vast system of preferences that exists. There is no doubt that there is racial animus involved despite the denials of the Ivies and other private universities despite the constant denials involved like that of Rosovsky who happens to be a historian by training. Jews are classified as white in this country, hence there would presumably greater affinity for them among the white Board of Trustees and the adcom staff. This is in contrast to Asians who do not share the same culture or body physiogonomy as whites do.

I had read the Unz article and the Andrew Goldman response to it. I just do not agree with Unz with his solutions to this problem. First of all private schools are not going to give legacy preferences and other kinds of preferences for the simple reason that it provides a revenue stream. Harvard is nothing but a business just like your Starbucks or Mcdonald's on the corner.

Around the world private universities regarded as nothing but the dumping ground of the children of the wealthy, the famous and those with connections who cannot compete with others with regards to their talent and ability regardless of what anyone will say from abroad about the private universities in their own country. Bottomline is in other countries , the privates simply do not get the top students in the country, the top public school does. People in other countries will simply look askance at the nonsensical admissions process of the Ivies and other private schools, the system that the Ivies use for admission does not produce more creative people contrary to its claims.

The Goldman response has more to do with the humanities versus math . My simple response to Andrew Goldman would be this : a grade of A in Korean history is different from a grade of A in Jewish history, it is like comparing kiwis and bananas. The fast and decisive way of dealing with this problem is simply to deprive private schools of every single cent of tax money that practices legacy preferences and other kinds repugnant preferences be it for student aid or for research and I had been saying that for a long time. I would like to comment on the many points that had been raised here but I have no time.

Eric Rasmusen December 7, 2012 at 4:16 pm GMT •

The solution to a lot of problems would be transparency. I'd love to see the admissions and grade data of even one major university. Public universities should be required to post publicly the names, SAT scores, and transcripts of every student. Allowing such posting should be a requirement for admission.

The public could then investigate further if, for example, it turned out that children of state senators had lower SAT scores. Scholars could then analyze the effect of diversity on student performance.

Of course, already many public universities (including my own, Indiana), post the salaries of their professors on the web, and I haven't seen much analysis or muckraking come out of that.

Anonymous December 8, 2012 at 12:29 am GMT •

One factor hinted at in the article, but really needing to be addressed is the "school" that is being attended.

By this, I mean, you need philosophy students to keep the philosophy department going. When I was in college 20 years ago, I was a humanities major. I took 1 class in 4 years with an Asian American student. 1 class. When I walked through the business building, it was about 50% Asian.

Could Asian-American students only wanting to go to Harvard to go into business, science, or math be skewing those numbers? I don't know, but it's just a thought to put out there.

Anonymous says: • Website December 9, 2012 at 12:44 am GMT

You are preaching to the choir! I blog on this extensively on my Asian Blog: JadeLuckClub. This has been going on for the last 30 years or more! All my posts are here under Don't ID as Asian When Applying to College:

http://jadeluckclub.com/category/asian-in-america/dont-id-as-asian-when-applying-to-college/

biaknabato December 12, 2012 at 7:42 am GMT •

All private schools basically practice legacy prefrences and other kinds of preferences and this practice has been going on in the Ivies since time immemorial. The income revenue from these gallery of preferences will certainly not encourage the Ivies to give them up.

In many countries around the world, private universiites are basically the dumping ground for the children of the wealthy , the famous and the well connected who could not get into the top public university of their choice in their own country. This no different from the Ivies in this country where these Ivies and other private universities are just a corral or holding pen for the children of the wealthy, the famous and the well connected and the famous who could not compete with others based on their won talent or ability.

Abroad you have basically 3 choices if you could not get into the top public university of that country , they are:

  1. Go to a less competetive public university
  2. Go to a private university
  3. or go abroad to schools like the Ivies or in other countries where the entrance requirements to a public or private university are less competetive compared to the top public universities in your own home country.

You can easily tell a top student from another country, he is the guy who is studying in this country under a government scholarship ( unless of course it was wrangled through corruption ). the one who is studying here through his own funds or through private means is likely to be the one who is a reject from the top public university in his own country. That is how life works.

I am generally satisfied with the data that Ron provided about Jews compared to Asians where Jews are lagging behind Asians at least in grades and SAT scores in the high school level, from the data I had seen posted by specialized schools in NY like Stuy , Bronx Sci, Brook Tech, Lowell (Frisco ) etc.

Ron is correct in asserting that the Ivies little represents the top students in this country. Compare UCLA and for example. For the fall 2011 entering freshman class at UCLA , there were 2391 domestic students at UCLA compared to 1148 at Harvard who scored above 700 in the Math portion of the SAT and there were 439 domestic students who scored a perfect 800 in the Math portion of the SAT at UCLA, more than Harvard or MIT certainly. For the fall 2012 freshman classs at UCLA the figure was 2409 and 447 respectively.

We can devise a freshman class that will use only income, SATS,grades as a basis of admissions that will have many top students like UCLA has using only algorithms.

The central test of fairness in any admissions system is to ask this simple question. Was there anyone admitted under that system admitted over someone else who was denied admission and with better grades and SAT scores and poorer ? If the answer is in the affirmative, then that system is unfair , if it is in the negative then the system is fair.

Anonymous December 12, 2012 at 7:20 pm GMT •

I like the comments from Chales Hale. (Nov. 30, 2012) He says: "Welcome to China". It said all in three words. All of these have been experienced in China. They said there is no new things under the sun. History are nothing but repeated, China with its 5000 years experienced them all.

biaknabato December 12, 2012 at 11:01 pm GMT •

I meant that there were 439 domestic students in the fall 2011 freshman class at UCLA and 447 domestic students in the fall 2012 freshman class at UCLA who scored a perfect score of 800 in the Math portion of the SAT. In either case it is bigger than what Harvard or MIT has got.

In fact for the fall 2011 of the entire UC system there were more students in the the freshman class of the entire UC system who scored above 700 in the Math portion of the SAT than the entire fall 2011 freshman of the Ivy League (Cornell not included since it is both a public and a private school )'

As I mentioned earlier there were 2409 domestic students in the fall 2012 UCLA freshman class who scored above 700 in the Math portion of the SAT. We know that Harvard had only 1148 domestic students in its fall 2011 freshman class who scored above 700 in the Math portion of the SAT, why would Harvard ever want to have that many top students like Berkeley or UCLA have ? The answer to that is simple , it has to do with money. For every additional student that Harvard will enroll it would mean money being taken out of the endowment .

Since the endowment needs constant replenishment. Where would these replenishment funds come from ? From legacies,from the children of the wealthy and the famous etc. of course . It would mean more legacy admits, more children of the wealthy admitted etc.
That would mean that the admission rate at Harvard will rise, the mean SAT score of the entering class will be no different from the mean SAT scores of the entering freshman classes of Boston University and Boston College
down the road. With rising admission rates and lower mean SAT scores for the entering freshman class that prospect will not prove appetizing or appealing to the applicant pool.

Harvard ranks only 8th after Penn State in the production of undergrads who eventually get Doctorates in Science and Engineering. Of course Berkeley has the bragging rights for that kind of attribute.

biaknabato December 12, 2012 at 11:32 pm GMT •

In the scenario I had outlined above, it would mean that the mean SAT score of the Harvard freshman class will actually go down if it tried to increase the size of its freshman class and that kind of prospect ia unpalatable to Harvard and that is the reason as to why it wants to maintain its current " air of exclusivity ".

There is another way of looking at the quality of the Harvard student body. The ACM ICPC computer programming competition is regarded as the best known college competition among students around the world , it is a grueling programming marathon for 2 or 3 days presumably. Teams from universities around the world vie to win the contest that is dubbed the "Battle of the Brains " What is arguably sad is that Ivy schools, Stanford and other private schools teams fielded in the finals of the competition are basically composed of foreign students or foreign born students and foreign born coaches.

The University of Southern California team in this competition in its finals section was made up of nothing but foreign Chinese students and a Chinese coach. The USC team won the Southern California competition to win a slot in the finals. Apparently they could not find a domestic student who could fill the bill. However the USC team was roundly beaten by teams from China and Asia,Russia and Eastern Europe. The last time a US team won this competition was in 1999 by Harvey Mudd, ever since the US had gone downhill in the competition with the competition being dominated by China and Asia and by countries from Eastern Europe and Russia. Well I guess USC's strategy was trying to fight fire with fire (Chinese students studying in the US versus Chinese students from the Mainland ), and it failed.

Been there December 13, 2012 at 5:32 am GMT •

Thank you Mr. Unz for scratching the surface of the various forms of corruption surrounding elite college admissions. I hope that your next article further discusses the Harvard Price (and Yale Price and Brown Price etc). The recent press surrounding the Hong Kong couple suing the person they had retained to pave their children's way into Harvard indicates the extent of the problem. This Hong Kong couple just were not savvy enough to lay their money down where it would produce results.
Additionally, a discussion of how at least some North Eastern private schools facilitate the corrupt process would be illuminating.
Finally, a more thorough discussion of whether the Asian students being admitted are US residents or nationals or whether they are foreign citizens would also be worth while and reveal. I suspect, an even lower admit percentage for US resident citizens of Asian ethnicity.
For these schools to state that their acceptances are need blind is patently untrue and further complicates the admissions process for students who are naive enough to believe that. These schools should come clean and just say that after the development admits and the wealthy legacy admits spots are purchased, the remaining few admits are handed out in a need blind fashion remembering that many of admit pools will already be filled by the development and wealthy legacy admits resulting in extraordinarily low rates for certain non-URM type candidates (I estimate in the 1% range).

Anonymous December 13, 2012 at 6:39 pm GMT •

"By contrast, a similarly overwhelming domination by a tiny segment of America's current population, one which is completely misaligned in all these respects, seems far less inherently stable, especially when the institutional roots of such domination have continually increased despite the collapse of the supposedly meritocratic justification. This does not seem like a recipe for a healthy and successful society, nor one which will even long survive in anything like its current form."

I completely agree that it is not healthy for one tiny segment of our population to basically hold all the key positions in every major industry in this country. If Asians or Blacks (who look foreign) all of a sudden ran education, media, government, and finance in this country, there would be uproar and resistance. But because Jewish people look like the majority (whites), they've risen to the top without the masses noticing.

But Jewish people consider themselves a minority just like blacks and Asians. They have a tribal mentality that causes stronger ethnic nepotism than most other minority groups. And they can get away with it because no one can say anything to them lest they be branded "jew-hunters" or "anti-semists."

The question is, "where do we go from here?" True race-blind meritocracy will never be instituted on a grand scale in this country both in education and in the work force. One group currently controls most industries and the only way this country will see more balance is if other groups take more control. But if one group already controls them all and controls succession plans, how will there ever be more balance?

Larry Long says: • Website December 14, 2012 at 4:33 am GMT •

If Jews become presidents or regents of universities, that's a credit to their ability. Nothing sinister there.

But when Jews (or anyone) buy into an institution to create the 'Goldman School of Business', or when they give large donations, that is not a credit to anyone's ability and there may well be something sinister there.

It is no secret that corporations and individuals look for influence, if not control, in return for cash. The same thinking can easily affect admissions policy.

It's always the same. In spite of all the jingoism about "democracy" and "freedoms" and the "free market capitalist system", the trail of money obfuscates and corrupts. It is still very true that whoever pays the piper, calls the tune. And naive to believe otherwise.

How recent was it that Princeton cancelled its anti-Semitism classes for lack of participation, and at least one Jewish organisation was screaming that Princeton would never get another penny from any Jew, ever.

That is close to absolute control of a curriculum. I give you money, and you teach what I want you to teach.

How far is that from I give you money and you admit whom I want you to admit? Or from I give you money and you hire whom I want?

A university that is properly funded by the government – "the people" – doesn't have these issues because there is nothing you can buy.

Operating educational institutions as a business, just like charities and health care, will always produce this kind of corruption.

Two other points:

1. It occurred to me that the lowly-paid underachiever admissions officers might well have been mostly Jewish, and hired for that reason, and that in itself could skew the results in a desired manner.

2. I think this is a serious criticism of the othewise excellent article:

At the end, Ron Unz wants us to believe that a $30-billion institution, the finest of its kind in the world, the envy of the known universe and beyond, the prime educator of the world's most prime elites, completely abandons its entire admissions procedures, without oversight or supervision, to a bunch of dim-witted losers of "poor human quality" who will now choose the entire next generation of the nation's elites. And may even take cash payments to do so.

Come on. Who are you kidding? Even McDonald's is smarter than this.

Anonymous December 14, 2012 at 3:00 pm GMT

Some of the comments suggest major problems with estimating who is Jewish. But the authors information is underpinned by data collected by Jewish pressure groups for the purpose of ensuring the gravy train keeps flowing. It's either their numbers, or the numbers are consistent with their numbers.

Anonymous December 14, 2012 at 7:54 pm GMT

This article, to me, is shocking and groundbreaking. I don't think anyone has gone this in-depth into this biased and un-meritocratic system. This is real analysis based on real numbers.

Why is this not getting more coverage in the media? Why are people so afraid to talk about this?

Achaean December 15, 2012 at 12:50 pm GMT

There is an excellent analysis of this article at The Occidental Observer by Kevin MacDonald, "Ron Unz on the Illusory American Meritocracy". The MSM is ignoring Unz's article for obvious reasons.

tomo December 15, 2012 at 10:46 pm GMT •

I don't know if there's any truth behind the idea that Japanese Americans have become lazy relative to their Korean and Chinese counterparts. I've grew up in Southern California, a part of the country with a relatively high percentage of Japanese Americans, yet I've know very few other Japanese Americans in my life. I can recall one Japanese American classmate in jr. high, and one Japanese classmate in my high school (who returned to Japan upon graduating). Even at the UC school I attended for undergrad, I was always the only Japanese person in the every class, and the Japanese Student Association, already meager in numbers, was almost entirely made up of Japanese International students who were only here for school.

If, in fact, 1% of California is made up of Japanese Americans, I suspect they are an aging population. I also think many 2nd and 3rd generation Japanese Americans are only partially Japanese, since, out of necessity, Japanese Americans have a very high rate of out marriage.

Anonymous December 20, 2012 at 5:04 pm GMT •

The carefully researched article makes a strong case that there is some discrimination against Asian-Americans at the Ivy League schools.

On the other hand, I don't see how a percentage of 40-60% Asian-Americans at the selective UC schools, even given the higher percentage of Asian-Americans in California, does not perhaps reflect reverse discrimation, or at least affirmative action on their behalf. To be sure one way or the other, we would have to see their test scores AND GPA, apparently the criteria that the UC schools use for admission, considered as well in the normalization of this statistical data.

Lynn December 20, 2012 at 6:37 pm GMT •

The replies to date make some good points but also reflect precisely the biases pointed out in the article as likely causing the discussed distortions.

1) use of name data in achievement vs use of Hillel data for Ivy admits: definitely an issue but is this only one of the measures used in this study. Focusing only on this obscures the fact that Jewish enrollment as measured over time by Hillel numbers (apples to apples) increased significantly over the past decade while the percent of Jewish high school age students relative to other groups declined. One explanation for this surge could be that Jewish students became even more academically successful than they have been in the past. The achievement data using Jewish surnames is used to assess this thesis in the absence of other better data. Rejecting the surname achievement data still leaves a huge enrollment surge over time in Jewish attendance at the Ivies relative to their percentage of the population.

2) many comments accept that the numbers show disproportionate acceptance and enrollment growth but simply then go on to assert that Jewish students really are smarter (absolutely or in gaming the system) relying on anecdotal evidence that is not at all compelling. All definitions of "smarter" contain value judgments". Back in the '20s the argument was that the Ivies should rely more on objective testing to remove bias against the then high testing Jewish students; now the writers argue conveniently wthat the new subjective tests that are applied to disproportionately admit Jewish students over higher scoring Asians and non-Jewish Caucasians are better measures. In both cases, there is still an issue of using a set of factors that disproportionately favors one group. In all such cases of significant disproportionate admits, the choice of the factors used to definemmerit and their application should be carefully evaluated for bias. The burden of proof should shift to those defending the status quo in this situation. In any event, it is clear that given the large applicant pool, there is no shortage of non-Jewish caucasians and Asians who are fully qualified, so if the desire was there for a balanced entering class, the students are available to make it happen

3) the numbers don't break down admissions between men and women. When my child was an athletic recruit to Harvard, we received an ethnic breakdown of the prior year's entering class. I was surprised to discover that the Caucasian population skewed heavily male and the non-white/Asian population skewed heavily female. It seemed that Harvard achieved most of its ethnic diversity that year by admitting female URMs, which made being a Caucasian female the single most underrepresented group relative to its percentage in the school age population. I'm curious if this was an anomaly or another element of bias in the admissions process.

Titanium Dragon December 20, 2012 at 9:59 pm GMT •

I will note that there is one flaw in this whole argument, and that flaw is thus:

Harvard and Yale aren't the best universities in the country. As someone who went to Vanderbilt, I knew people who had been to those universities, and their evaluation was that they were no better – and perhaps actually worse – than Vanderbilt, which is "merely" a top 25 university.

While there is a great deal of, shall we say, "insider trading" amongst graduates of those universities, in actuality they aren't actually the best universities in the country today. That honor probably goes to MIT and Caltech, which you note are far more meritocratic. But most of the other best universities are probably very close in overall level, and some of them might have a lot of advantages over those top flight universities.

Or to put it simply, the Ivy League ain't what it used to be. Yeah, it includes some of the best universities in the country, but there are numerous non-Ivy League universities that are probably on par with them. This may indeed be in part a consequence of some of what you have described in the article, as well as a sense of complacency.

I suspect that in twenty or thirty years a lot of Ivy League graduates are going to feel a lot less entitled simply because there has been an expansion of the top while they weren't paying attention.

Anonymous December 21, 2012 at 9:06 am GMT •

I'm against the Ivies going up to 30-50% Asian but I'm also against the over-representation of a tiny minority group. This country is going to go downhill if we continue to let one group skirt a fair application process just because they possess money and influence. Who will stand up for fairness and equality?

McRoss December 22, 2012 at 12:49 am GMT •

Many of those commenting above don't seem to be picking up on Unz's evidence of bias against white Gentiles, which by meritocratic measures is far worse than the bias against Asian Americans.

A drop of 70 PERCENT??? What's going on? Why is so much of the discussion that this article has spawned focused only on Asian Americans and (secondarily) Jews?

Anonymous December 22, 2012 at 4:11 am GMT •

National Merit Scholarship semifinalists are chosen based on per-state percentiles.

What this means is that NMS semifinalist numbers would be skewed _against_ a high-performing demographic group to the extent that group's demographics concentrate geographically. Mr. Unz acknowledges that geographical skewing of Jewish populations is huge. However, he ignores its effect on the NMS semifinalist numbers he uses as a proxy for academic performance on a _national_ level to predict equitable distributions at _national_ universities.

Please somebody explain to me how this oversight isn't fatal to his arguments

Anonymous December 25, 2012 at 3:22 am GMT •

Surely the author must be aware that approximately half the children with "Jewish" names are not fully Jewish. Over half of the marriages west of the Mississippi are reportedly mixed. Many non-Jews have last names that start with "Gold". Just these two facts make the entire analysis ridiculous. Hillel does not keep statistics on how Jewish a student is, while many of Levys and Cohens are not actually Jewish. What would we call Amy Chua's daughters? Jewish or Asian? It is therefore impossible to tease out in a multi-racial society who is who.

Anonymous December 25, 2012 at 9:12 am GMT •

Mr. Unz,

I am an elementary school teacher at a Title One school in northern California. I supported your "English for the Children" initiative when it was introduced.
However, the law of unintended consequences has kicked in, and what exists now is not at all what you (or anyone else, for that matter) had intended.
The school day was not lengthened to create a time slot for English language instruction. Instead, history and science classes were elbowed aside to make way for mediocre English language instruction. These usually worthless classes have crowded out valuable core academic instruction for English language learners.

To make matters worse, while English language learners are in ESL classes, no academic instruction in science or history can be given to "regular" students because that would lead to issues of "academic inequity." In other words, if the Hispanic kids are missing out on history, the black kids have to miss out on it, too.

As a teacher, I hope you will once again consider bringing your considerable talents to focus on the education of low-income minority children in California.

Sincerely,
Shelly Moore

Anonymous December 25, 2012 at 4:50 pm GMT •

Fascinating and disturbing article.

Could it be that the goal of financial, rather than academic, achievement, makes many young people uninterested in competing in the science and math competitions sought out by the Asian students? I wonder about the different percentages of applicants to medical school versus law or business.
I must also add that I am surprised that the author used the word "data" as singular, rather than plural. Shouldn't he be stating that the data ARE, not IS; or SHOW, not SHOWS.

Anonymous December 25, 2012 at 7:18 pm GMT •

The author perhaps pays an incredible amount of attention to those with strengths in STEM fields (Science, technology, engineering, and math), even though the proportion of all native-born white students majoring in these fields has plummetted in recent decades. That means that he overlooks a shift in what kinds of training is considered "prestigious," and that this might be reflected in the pursuits of students in high school. Perhaps there is a movement away from Jewish students' focus on Math Olympiad because they are in no way interested in majoring in math or engineering fields, instead preferring economics or business. Is that the fault of the students, or of the rewards system that corporate America has set up?

Jobs in STEM fields pay considerably less than do jobs in numerous professions - investment banking and law. So that is why ~ 40% of the Harvard graduating class - including many of its Jewish students - pursue that route. But to rely on various assessments of math/science/computing as the measure of intelligence fails to incorporate how the rewards structure in our society has changed over time.

I teach at an Ivy League university, and believe that many of the authors' arguments have merit, but there are also many weaknesses in his argument. He sneers at Steinberg and the other sociologists he cites for not quite getting how society has changed - but he clearly doesn' tunderstand how other aspects of our society have changed. Many of our most talented undergrads have no desire to pursue careers in STEM fields. Entrance into STEM jobs even among those who majored in those fields is low, and there is very high attrition from those fields, among both men and women. Young adults and young professionals are voting with their feet. While our society might be better off with more Caltech grads and students interested in creating our way to a better future rather than pursuing riches on wall street, one cannot fault students for seeking to maximize their returns on their expensive education. That's the system we have presented them with, at considerable cost to the students and their families.

Personally, what I found profoundly disturbing is not the overrepresentation of Jewish students or the large presence of Asians who feel they are discriminated against, but the fact that Ivy League schools have not managed to increase their representation of Blacks for the last 3 decades. We all compete for the same talent pool. And until the K-12 system is improved, Black representation won't increase without others screaming favoritism. The other groups - high performing Asians, middle class Jews - will do fine, even if they don't get into Ivy League schools but have to "settle" for elite private schools. But if the Ivy Leagues are the pathway to prestige and power, than we're not broadening our power base enough to adequately reprewsent the demographic shifts reshaping our nation. more focus on that, please.

Anonymous says: • Website December 25, 2012 at 8:23 pm GMT •

I've been an SAT tutor for a long time in West Los Angeles (a heavily Asian city), and I feel that at least some of Asians' over-representation in SAT scores and NMS finalists is due to Asian parents putting massive time and money into driving their children's success in those very statistics.

In my experience, Asian parents are more likely than other parents to attempt to ramrod their kids through test prep in order to increase their scores. For example, the few students I've ever had preparing for the PSAT - most students prepare only for the SAT - were all Asian.

Naturally, because it's so strange to be preparing for what is supposed to be a practice test, I asked these parents why their 9th or 10th grade child was in this class, and the answer was that they wanted to do well on the PSAT because of its use in the NMS! Similarly, many Asian immigrants send their children to "cram school" every day after regular school lets out (and I myself have taught SAT at one of these institutions), essentially having their students tutored in every academic subject year-round from early in elementary school.

Because whites are unlikely to do this, it would seem to me that the resulting Asian academic achievement is analogous to baseball players who use steroids having better stats than baseball players who do not.

It seems reasonable that the "merit" in "meritocracy" need not be based solely on test scores and grades, and that therefore a race-based quota system is not the only conclusion that one can draw from a decrease in the attendance rate of hard-driving test-preppers. Maybe the university didn't want to fill its dorms with grade-grubbers who are never seen because they're holed up in the library 20 hours a day, and grade-grubbers just happen to be over-represented in the Asian population?

Unz's piece analyzes only the data that lead up to college - when the Asian parents' academic influence over their children is absolute - whereas the Ivy League schools he criticizes are most concerned with what their students do during and after college. Is the kid who went to cram school his entire life as likely to join student organizations? To continue practicing his four instruments once his mom isn't forcing him to take lessons 4 days a week? To start companies and give money to his university? Or did he just peak early because his parents were working him so hard in order to get him into that college?

That's an article I'd like to read.

Dismalist December 25, 2012 at 10:49 pm GMT •

The analysis is a tour de force!

However, the remedies considered are not. It is silly to believe that all abilities can be distilled into a small set of numbers, and anyway, no one knows what abilities will succeed in marketplaces. The source of the problem is the lack of competition in education, including higher education, a situation written in stone by current accreditation procedures. The solution to the problem is entry. Remember Brandeis U? With sufficient competition, colleges could take whomever they pleased, on whatever grounds, and everyone would get a chance.

Anonymous December 25, 2012 at 11:11 pm GMT •

Concerning the drop in non-Jewish white enrollment:

I am a recent graduate of a top public high school, where I was a NMS, individual state champion in Academic Decathlon, perfect ACT score, National AP Scholar, etc. etc. Many of my friends – almost exclusively white and Asian – had similar backgrounds and were eminently qualified for Ivy. None of us even applied Ivy, let alone considered going there. Why? At $60,000/yr, the cost is simply not worth it, since none of us would have been offered anything close to substantial financial aid and our parents were unable/unwilling to fully fund our educations. Meanwhile, my Asian friends applied to as many Ivies as they could because it was understood that (a) their parents would foot the bill if they got in or (b) they would take on a large debt load in order to do it.

This article discounts financial self-selection, which (at least based on my own, anecdotal evidence) is more prevalent than we tend to think.

Anonymous December 26, 2012 at 12:18 am GMT •

Three points:

  1. The author ignores the role that class plays in setting kids up for success. At one point he notes, "Given that Asians accounted for just 1.5 percent of the population in 1980 and often lived in relatively impoverished immigrant families. . ." When I was at Harvard in the mid-1980s, there were two distinct groups of Asian students: children of doctors, academics, scientists and businesspeople who came from educated families in China, Korea and Vietnam, and therefore grew up with both strong educational values and parental resources to push them; and a much smaller group of kids from Chinatown and Southeast Asian communities, whose parents were usually working class and uneducated. The second group were at a severe disadvantage to the first, who were able to claim "diversity" without really having to suffer for it.
  2. I would expect you'd see the same difference among higher-caste educated South Asian Brahmins and Indians from middle and lower castes or from places like Guyana. It is ridiculous to put South Asians and East Asians in the same category as "Asian." They have different cultural traditions and immigration histories. Ask any Indian parent what race they are and they'll answer "Caucasian." Grouping them without any kind of assessment of how they might be different undermines the credibility of the author.
  3. The takeaway is not that affirmative action is damaging opportunities for whites, but that whites are losing against Asians. The percentage of Hispanic and Black students at leading schools is still tiny. Hence, if invisible quotas for Asians are lifted, there will be far fewer white students at these schools. This isn't because of any conspiracy, but because white students are scoring lower than the competition on the relevant entry requirements. I would love to see an article in this publication titled, "Why White Students Are Deficient." How about some more writing about "The White Student Achievement Gap?"
Simon December 26, 2012 at 2:35 am GMT •

As parents of 2 HYP grads, We can tell you from experience that Asian students are not under-represented in the Ivies today. (In fact, I think they are slightly over represented, for the same reasons and stats the author cited).

True, if one looks at stats, such as SAT, scientific competition awards etc, it seems to imply that a +35% enrollment of Asian students is warranted. However, these indicators are just a small part of a "holistc" approach in predicting the success of a candidate not only in the next 4 years, but the individual's success in life and be able to impact and contribute to society later.

I have seen candidates of Asian background, who score almost full mark in SAT but was less than satisfactory in all other aspects of being a potential achiever in life.

Granted, if one wants to be an achiever in science and technology, by all means go with Caltech and MIT. But if one wants an real "education" and be a leader later on in life, one has to have other qualities as well (skin color is NOT one of them). Of course, history, and current cultural and political climate may influence the assessment of such qualities because it is highly subjective. (Is is unfair to pick a pleasant looking candidate over a lesser one, if the rest are the same?)

That is why an interview with the candidates is a good way to assess a potential applicant. I always encourage my children to conduct interviews locally for their alma mater.

I just hope that the Ivies do not use this holistic approach to practice quota policies.

Oh btw I am Asian.

S

Anonymous December 26, 2012 at 2:42 am GMT •

Here's a quote from a friend just today about this related topic: "Just like the Catholic church in the middle ages recruited the smartest peasants in order to forestall revolutionary potential, and to learn mind bending religious dogma to befuddle the remaining peasants, current practice is much the same. To twist Billy Clinton's mantra, "its the economy stupid", No ,"its the co opted brains"! "

We can substitute economics dogma to the befuddlement mix. The bottom line is every ruling elite has co-opted the top 1%-5% of high wage earners, to make the pyramid work. Sociology writing is all over this. Veblen, Weber, etc. We can see this little group created everywhere minerals or natural resources are coveted by private empires.

The universities are doing exactly what they are supposed to do to protect the interests of the Trustees and Donors who run them for a reason. They are a tool of, not a cause of, the inequality and over-concentration. It is interesting how the story goes into hairsplitting and comparing Asians to others, etc. But, the real story is a well understood sociology story. This article explains why Napoleon established free public education after the French Revolution.

Anonymous December 26, 2012 at 2:53 am GMT •

This is a fascinating article. So much data. So many inferences. It's hardly surprising to any parent of high school students that college admissions are only marginally meritocratic. Whether that's a good a thing or a bad thing is an open question. I think meritocracy has a place in college admissions. But not the only place. Consider athletics, which are themselves almost exclusively meritocratic. Only the best among the best are offered Division I scholarships. The same, I think, applies to engineering schools, the physical sciences, and (to a lesser degree), elite law schools. It also applies to auto-mechanics, plumbers, and electricians. Regarding the humanities (a field in which I hold a PhD), not so much. I think Unz's beef is less with admissions policies per se (which I agree are mind-bogglingly opaque) than with the status of elite institutions. I also think, and I may be wrong, that Unz appears heading down the Bobby Fisher highway, intimating that those pesky Jews are

Anonymous December 26, 2012 at 4:19 am GMT

America never promised success through merit or equality. That is the American "dream." America promises freedom of religious belief and the right to carry a gun.

Anonymous says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment December 26, 2012 at 4:16 pm GMT •

This is a fascinating and extremely important article which I am very eager to discuss privately with the author, having spent my whole life in higher education, albeit with a unique perspective. I was flabbergasted the findings about Jewish and non-Jewish white representation, and intrigued, all the more so since my own ancestry is evenly divided between those two groups. I do want to make one criticism, however of something the author said about the 1950s which I do not think is correct.

At one point in the article the author makes the claim that the breakdown of Ivy League Jewish quotas in the 1950s reflected the power of Jews in the media and Hollywood. The statistics he gives about their representation there may be correct, but the inference, I believe, is unsustainable. The Proquest historical database includes the Washington Post, New York Times, and many other major newspapers. I did a search for "Harvard AND Jewish AND quota" for the whole period 1945-65 and it turned up only 20 articles, not one of which specifically addressed the issue of Jewish quotas at Harvard and other Ivy League schools. The powerful Jews of that era had reached their positions by downplaying their origins–often including changes in their last names–and they were not about to use their positions overtly on behalf of their ethnic group. (This could be, incidentally, another parallel with today's Asians.) Those quotas were broken down, in my opinion, because of a general emphasis on real equality among Americans in those decades, which also produced the civil rights movement. The Second World War had been fought on those principles.
I could not agree more that the admissions policies of the last 30 years have produced a pathetic and self-centered elite that has done little if any good for the country as a whole.

Anonymous says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment December 27, 2012 at 4:48 am GMT •

It is really refreshing to see in print what we all know by experience, but I have to wonder out loud, what is our higher purpose? Surely, you have a largely goal than merely exposing corruption in the academy. Lastly, I have to wonder out loud, how would the predicament of the working class fit into your analysis? I thank you for this scathing indictment of higher ed that has the potential to offer us a chillingly sobering assessment.

Jordan December 27, 2012 at 5:12 am GMT •

This is why we need to reinstate a robust estate tax or "death tax" as conservatives derisively call it. To break the aristocracy described in this article. No less than Alexis de Tocqueville said that the estate tax is what made America great and created a meritocracy (which now is weaker and riddled with loopholes, thus the decline of America). Aristocracies dominated Europe for centuries because they did not tax the inheritance.

Anonymous December 27, 2012 at 9:09 pm GMT •

The day when I learned so many Chinese ruling class' offspring are either alumni or current students of Harvard (the latest example being Bo GuaGua), it was clear to me Harvard's admission process is corrupt. How would any ivy college determine "leadership" quality? Does growing up in a leader's family give you more innate leadership skills? Harvard obviously thinks so.

Therefore, it's not surprising that Ron said the following on this subject. " so many sons and daughters of top Chinese leaders attend college in the West ..while our own corrupt admissions practices get them an easy spot at Harvard or Stanford, sitting side by side with the children of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and George W. Bush." I hope world peace will be obtained within reach in this approach.

The chilling factor is a hardworking Chinese immigrant's child in the U.S. would have less chance of getting into ivies than these children of privileged.

It was also very disappointing to see another Asian parent whose children are HYP alumni saying too many Asians in ivies, despite the overwhelming evidence showing otherwise.

Peter December 28, 2012 at 3:37 am GMT •

Perhaps it's to be expected given the length of the article (over 22,000 words), but so many of the objections and "oversights" raised in the comments are in fact dealt with – in detail and with a great deal of respect – by Unz in the article itself.

For example, this:

National Merit Scholarship semifinalists are chosen based on per-state percentiles.

What this means is that NMS semifinalist numbers would be skewed _against_ a high-performing demographic group to the extent that group's demographics concentrate geographically. Mr. Unz acknowledges that geographical skewing of Jewish populations is huge. However, he ignores its effect on the NMS semifinalist numbers he uses as a proxy for academic performance on a _national_ level to predict equitable distributions at _national_ universities.

Please somebody explain to me how this oversight isn't fatal to his argument

because geographical skewing of Asian populations is also huge, yet we don't witness the same patterning in admissions data pertaining to Asian students. As the article states: "Geographical diversity would certainly hurt Asian chances since nearly half their population lives in just the three states of California, New York, and Texas."

Unz goes on to note: "Both groups [Jews and Asians] are highly urbanized, generally affluent, and geographically concentrated within a few states, so the 'diversity' factors considered above would hardly seem to apply; yet Jews seem to fare much better at the admissions office."

So there's your answer.

And aside from the fact that your "basic question" has a very simple answer, it's just ludicrous in any case to suggest that the validity of the entire article rests on a single data point.

Anonymous December 28, 2012 at 5:30 pm GMT •

There is no doubt this is more of a political issue than the academic one. If only merit is considered then asian american would constitute as much as 50% of the student population in elite universities. Politically and socially this is not a desired outcome. Rationale for affirmative action for the african americans and hispanics is same – leaving a large population is in elite institution is not desired, it smacks of segregation.

But the core issue remains unsolved. Affirmative action resulted in higher representation but not the competitiveness of the blacks. I am afraid whites are going the similar path.

Anonymous December 28, 2012 at 7:47 pm GMT •

Anyone famliar with sociology and the research on social stratification knows that meritocracy is a myth; for example, if one's parents are in the bottom decile of the the income scale, the child has only a 3% chance to reach the top decile in his or her lifetime. In fact, in contrast to the Horatio Alger ideology, the U.S. has lower rates of upward mobility than almost any other developed country. Social classses exist and they tend to reproduce themselves.

The rigid class structure of the the U.S. is one of the reasons I support progressive taxation; wealth may not always be inherited, but life outcomes are largely determined by the class position of one's parents. In this manner, it is also a myth to believe that wealth is an individual creation;most financially successful individuals have enjoyed the benefits of class privilege: good and safe schools, two-parent families, tutors, and perhaps most important of all, high expecatations and positive peer socialization (Unz never mentions the importants of peeer groups, which data show exert a strong causal unfluence on academic performance).

And I would challenge Unz's assertion that many high-performing Asians come from impovershed backgrounds: many of them may undereport their income as small business owners. I believe that Asian success derives not only from their class background but their culture in which the parents have authority and the success of the child is crucual to the honor of the family. As they assimilate to the more individualist American ethos, I predict that their academic success will level off just as it has with Jews.

Anonymous December 29, 2012 at 2:31 am GMT •

1. HYP are private universities: the success of their alumni verifies the astuteness of their admissions policies.
2. Mr. Unz equates "merit" with "academic". I wonder how many CalTech undergrads would be, or were, admitted, to HYP (and vice-versa).
3. I would like ethnic or racial stats on, for several examples, class officers, first chair musicians*, job holders, actors^, team captains, and other equally valuable (in the sense of contributing to an entering freshman class) high-school pursuits.*By 17, I had been a union trombonist for three years; at Princeton, I played in the concert band, the marching band, the concert orchestra, several jazz ensembles, and the Triangle Club orchestra.^A high school classmate was John Lithgow, the superb Hollywood character actor. Harvard gave him a full scholarship – and they should have.

Rosell December 29, 2012 at 8:00 am GMT •

What if we were one homogeneous ethnic group? What dynamic would we set up then?

I suggest taking the top 20% on straight merit, based on SAT scores, whether they crammed for them or not, and take the next 50% from the economically poorest of the qualified applicants (1500 – 1600 on the SAT?) by straight ethnicity percentages to directly reflect population diversity, and 30% at random to promote some humility, and try that for 20 years and see what effects are produced in the quality of our economic and political leadership. And of course, keep them all in the dark as to how they actually got admitted.

Maybe one effect is that more non-ivy league schools will be tapped by the top recruiters.

Anonymous December 29, 2012 at 12:31 pm GMT •

Jewish wrote:

"Surely the author must be aware that approximately half the children with "Jewish" names are not fully Jewish. Over half of the marriages west of the Mississippi are reportedly mixed. Many non-Jews have last names that start with "Gold". Just these two facts make the entire analysis ridiculous. Hillel does not keep statistics on how Jewish a student is, while many of Levys and Cohens are not actually Jewish. What would we call Amy Chua's daughters? Jewish or Asian? It is therefore impossible to tease out in a multi-racial society who is who."

Well, there are several arguments to be made. First, unless you are advocating that there has been a mass adoption of words like "Gold" in non-Jewish last names these past 10, 15 years, that argument sinks like a stone. Second, by selecting for specifically Jewish last names, intermarriage can be minimized but not eliminated. How many kids with the lastname "Goldstein" was a non-Jew in the last NMS? Not likely a lot of them.

Intermarriage can account for some fog, but not all, not by a longshot. Your entire argument reeks of bitter defensiveness. You have to come to grips that Jews have become like the old WASPs, rich, not too clever anymore, and blocking the path forward for brighter, underrepresented groups.

Sucks to be you.

Anonymous December 29, 2012 at 6:23 pm GMT •

With all due respect, I was worried that I would get an answer that lazily points to the part of the essay that glosses over this point (which mind you I had combed through carefully before posting my question). However, I was hoping that in response someone might respond who had thought a little more carefully about the statistical fallacy in Unz's essay: that far-reaching statements about nation-wide academic performance can be drawn directly from per-state-percentiles.

Yes, Asian Americans, like Jews, have concentrations. But their geographical distributions differ. Yes, it might be possible that upon careful analysis of relative distributions of populations and NMS semifinalists in each state Unz might be able to draw a robust comparison: he might even come up with the same answer. The point that I made is that he doesn't even try.

Given the lengths Unz goes to calculate and re-calculate figures _based_on_ the assumption of _equal_ geographic distributions among Asians and Jews, it is - and I stand by this - a disservice to the reader that no effort (beyond hand-waving) is made to quantitatively show the assumption is at all justified.

Jewess December 30, 2012 at 2:02 am GMT •

The statistical analysis used in this article is flawed. The author uses last names to identify the religion (or birth heritage) of NMS semifinalists? Are you serious? My son was a (recent) National Merit Finalist and graduated from an ivy league university. His mother is Jewish; his father is not, thus he has a decidedly WASP surname and according to the author's methods he would have been classified as WASP. With the growing numbers of interfaith and mixed-race children how can anyone draw conclusions about race and religion in the meritocracy or even "IQ" argument? Anecdotally, my son reported that nearly half his classmates at his ivy league were at least one-quarter Jewish (one or more parents or one grandparent). To use last names (in lieu of actual demographic data) to make the conclusion that Jews are being admitted to ivies at higher rates than similarly qualified Asians is irresponsible.

Anonymous January 2, 2013 at 2:49 am GMT •

Essentially, the leftist forces in this country are trying to put the squeeze on white gentiles from both directions.

Affirmative action for underachieving minorities to take the place of white applicants.

Meritocracy for highly achieving Asians to push down white applicants, while never mentioning that full meritocracy would push out other minorities as well (that's not politically correct).

The whole thing has become more about political narrative than actual concern for justice. I want you to know that as an Asian man who graduated from Brown, I sympathize with you.

Anonymous January 11, 2013 at 4:40 pm GMT •

Very interesting article. The case that East Asian students are significantly underrepresented and Jewish students overrepresented at Ivy League schools is persuasive, although not dispositive. The most glaring flaw in the analysis is the heavy reliance on performance on the PSAT (the discussion of the winners of the various Olympiad and Putnam contests has little informational value relevant to admissions, since those winners are the outliers on the tail of the distribution), which is a test that can be prepped for quite easily. Another flaw is the reliance on last names to determine ethnicity, which I doubt works well for Jews, although it probably works reasonably well for East Asians.

Unfortunately, the article is also peppered with (very) thinly supported (and implausible) claims like Asians are better at visuospatial skills, worse at verbal skills, and that the situation is reversed for Jews. This kind of claim strikes me as racial gobbledygook, and at least anecdotally belied if one considers the overrepresentation of Jews among elite chess players, both in the US and worldwide.

In any event, the fundamental point is that the PSAT (as is the case with all standardized tests) is a fixed target that can be studied for. Whether one chooses to put in 100s of hours studying for the PSAT is not, and should not be, the only criterion used for admissions.

I find the relative percentage of East Asians and Jews at schools like MIT (and also Caltech and Berkeley, although obviously those are in part distorted by the heavy concentration of East Asians in California) as compared to HYP as strong evidence that the admissions process at HYP advantages Jews and disadvantages East Asians.

I suspect, though, that the advantages Jews enjoy in the admissions process are unconscious and unintentional, whereas the disadvantages suffered by East Asians are quite conscious and intentional.

Anonymous January 14, 2013 at 3:30 pm GMT •

The graph entitled "Asians Age 18-21 and Elite College Enrollment Trends, 1990-2011″ is misleading. It contrasts percentage of enrolled Asian students vs. the total number of the eligible Asian applicants. Therefore, it led to a flawed argument when comfusing number vs. percentage . For proof, if a similar graph of Hispanic student percentage vs. eligible applicants were drawn, it would appear that they were discriminated against as well. So would be the Black!

Anonymous says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment January 21, 2013 at 5:03 am GMT •

Hi

well, even a fair and objective admission criteria can have devastating consequences. here at IIT, we admit about 1 in 100. this has the same effect on student ethics, career options and so on. in fact, even worse, since IIT is an engineering college, the very definition of engineering in India has now distorted as serving international finance or distant masters in a globalized world. our own development problems remain unattended.

see http://www.cse.iitb.ac.in/~sohoni/RD.pdf

also, the above is a part of the current trend of knowledge concentration, i.e., a belief that only a few universities can impart us "true" knowledge or conduct "true" research.
see http://www.cse.iitb.ac.in/~sohoni/kpidc.pdf

regs, milind.

Anonymous January 24, 2013 at 1:21 am GMT •

This is a very valuable article. It deals with a subject that has received too little attention. I believe that cultural bias in many cases outweighs the racial bias in the selection program. Time and again, I have seen young people with great potential being selected against because they are culturally different from what the selectors are looking for (often people who are like them culturally). The article's mentioning that students who participated in R.O.T.C., F.F.A. and/or 4H are often passed over is a good illustration.

It was interesting to note that the girl who wrote an essay on how she dealt with being caught in a drug violation found acceptance. I suspect that a student with similar academic qualifications who wrote an essay on the negative aspects of drug use would not be so lucky.

LMM

Thos. January 27, 2013 at 3:39 am GMT

comes news that Yale President Levin's successor will be Peter Salovey, tending to confirm Unz's observations regarding the grossly disproportionate number of Jewish presidents at Ivy League schools.

JF January 29, 2013 at 10:36 am GMT •

All very interesting but I am among the National Merit Scholars from California who has a not obviously Jewish name despite having two Jewish parents. It was changed in the 1950s due to anti-Semitism and an urge to assimilate. A lot of other names can be German or Jewish for example. I suspect in light of that and intermarriage cases where the mom is Jewish and the dad is not, not to mention a lot of Russian names, you may be undercounting Jews among other things. Although to be fair, you are probably also undercounting some half-Asians given most of those marriages have a white husband and Asian wife.

Raymond February 4, 2013 at 4:43 pm GMT •

I'm an Asian HYP grad. I applaud this article for being so extremely well researched and insightful. It's an excellent indictment of the arbitrariness and cultural favoritism concentrated in the hands of a very small group of unqualified and ideologically driven admissions officers. And I hasten to add that I am a liberal Democratic, an avid Obama supporter, and a strong proponent of correcting income inequality and combating discrimination in the workplace.

To me, the most compelling exhibit was the one towards the end which showed the % relative representation of enrolled students to highly-qualified students (I wish the article labeled the exhibits). This chart shows that in the Ivies, which administer highly subjective admission criteria, Jews are overrepresented by 3-4x, but in the California schools and MIT, which administer more objective criteria, Jews are overrepresented by only 0-50%, a range that can easily be explained by methodology or randomness.

This single exhibit is unequivocal evidence to me of systematic bias in the Ivy League selection process, with Jews as the primary beneficiary. I tend to agree with the author this this bias is unlikely to be explicit, but likely the result of cultural favoritism, with a decision-making body that is heavily Jewish tending to favor the activities, accomplishments, personalities, etc. of Jewish applicants.

The author has effectively endorsed one of the core tenets of modern liberalism – that human beings tend to favor people who look and act like themselves. It's why institutions dominated by white males tend to have pro-white male biases. The only twist here is that the decision-making body in this instance (Ivy League admissions committees) is white-Jewish, not white-Gentile.

So if you're a liberal like me, let's acknowledge that everyone is racist and sexist toward their own group, and what we have here is Jews favoring Jews. We can say that without being anti-semitic, just like we can say that men favor men without being anti-male, or whites favor whites without being anti-white.

Anonymous February 8, 2013 at 4:47 am GMT •

Just some puzzling statistics: In p. 32, second paragraph, it is mentioned "The Asian ratio is 63% slightly above the white ratio of 61 percent", then in the third paragraph "However, if we separate out the Jewish students, their
ratio turns out to be 435 percent, while the residual ratio for non-Jewish whites drops to just 28 percent, less than half of even the Asian figure", leading to the conclusion that "As a consequence, Asians appear under-represented relative to Jews by a factor of seven, while non-Jewish whites are by far the most under-represented group of all". Not very clear on the analysis!

Let me try to make a guess on the calculation of this statistics ratio: Assume that all groups in NMS will apply, with mA=Asians, mJ=Jews, mW=Whites be the respective numbers in NMS. Suppose that nA, nJ, and nW are those Asians, Jews, and Whites finally admitted. Then if the statistics ratio for G means ((nG)/(mG))/(mG/mNMS), where mNMS is the total number in the NMS, then the ratio will amplify the admission rate (nG/mG) by (mNMS/mG) times and becomes very large or very small for small group size. For example, for a single person group, being admitted will give a ratio as large as mNMS, and a zero for not being admitted. Why can this ratio be used for comparing under-representation between different groups?

Anonymous February 14, 2013 at 12:29 am GMT •

Very well. Loved the fact that the author put a lot into reseaching this piece. But i would like to know how many asians who manage to attend this ivy schools end up as nobel leaurets and professors?? This demonstrates the driving force behind the testscore prowess of the asians-financial motivation. The author talks about asians being under-represented in the ivies but even though they manage to attend then what?? do they eventually become eintiens and great nobel leurets or great cheese players. Also what is the stats like for asian poets, novelist, actors.etc Pls focus should be given on improving other non-ivy schools since we have a lots of high SAT test scores than high running universities.

Al February 23, 2013 at 3:13 pm GMT •

Look at Nobel prizes, field medals and all kind of prizes and awards that recognize lifetime original academic contributions. Not many asians there yet. Perfect grades or SAT scores does not guarantee creativity, original thinking, intelectual curiosity or leadership. The problem is that those things are hard to measure and very easy to fake in an application.

Fred February 24, 2013 at 7:11 pm GMT •

Loved all the research in the article and I am on board with the idea that moving in the tiger mother direction will kill creativity in young people. And I agree with the observation that our country's top leadership since 1970 or so has been underwhelming and dishonest especially in the financial services industry which draws almost entirely from the Ivies.

However, I am not so convinced that the over representation of Jewish students in the Ivy league is created by intentional bias on the part of Jewish professors or administrators at these institutions. Is it possible that admissions officers select Jewish applicants at such a high rate because they are more likely to actually attend? Once a family of four's income exceeds $160k the net price calculation for a year at Harvard jumps up pretty quickly. By the time you hit annual income of $200k you are looking at $43k/yr or $172k for 4 years. And at the lower income levels, even if a family has to pay just $15k a year, how will they do that if they are struggling to make it as it is? Do they want/does their student want to graduate with $60k worth of debt? Why not choose a great scholarship offer from a state university to pay nothing at all or go to community college for 2 years and then on to the state public institution?

There are many options for top students who can compete at the Ivy level. If I am an admissions officer looking to fill slots left over after minority admissions (ones poor enough to get the education for free and thus to say yes), legacies, athletic recruits, and the few super special candidates, wouldn't I choose those most likely to take me up on the admissions offer and protect my yield number? Might an easy way to get this done be to consult a demographic tool showing net worth by zip code? And to stack the yield odds a little more in my favor might I also choose families with Jewish appearing last names knowing they would be extremely likely to accept my offer since I obviously have recent history to show me that these families say yes to our prices? I think this is a much more plausible explanation then assuming some secret quota in force at these schools.

I am a conservative but I cannot believe Jewish liberals would go that far just to ensure more Jewish liberals attend their institutions or to keep conservative white non Jewish middle income students out. Dollars and cents and the perception a yield number conveys about the desirability of a school are what is at work here in my humble opinion.

Anonymous February 26, 2013 at 8:09 pm GMT •

There is a very simple solution. There is no legal definition of race. Simply check the "Negro" (or "African-American" or whatever it is called today) box on the application form. You don't look it? Neither do many others, because your ancestry is really mixed. This may get you in. It won't hurt your chances, which are essentially zero before you check that box. At the very least, it will make it harder for the bigots in the admissions office to exercise their bigotry.

Anonymous March 1, 2013 at 7:13 pm GMT •

"Look at Nobel prizes, field medals and all kind of prizes and awards that recognize lifetime original academic contributions. Not many asians there yet. Perfect grades or SAT scores does not guarantee creativity, original thinking, intelectual curiosity or leadership. The problem is that those things are hard to measure and very easy to fake in an application."

Last year, 75% of Ph.D candidates where foreign born, most of which were either Indian or Chinese. You should rely on statistics that are more current and relevant.

Doom March 12, 2013 at 8:45 pm GMT •

Wow, another article on how corrupt higher eduation is.

Folks, open your eyes a bit. Online education is growing massively; sharing this growth are websites that write academic papers (even Ph.D. theses) on demands .these websites in toto have nearly as many customers as there are online students.

Harvard is unusual in that they actually banned students for cheating. Every investigation of cheating on campus shows it exists on a massive scale, and reports of half or more of a class cheating are quite common in the news.

The reason for this is simple: administrators care about retention, nothing else. Faculty have long since gotten the message. I've taught in higher education for nearly 25 years now, and I've seen many faculty punished for catching cheaters; not once has there been any reward.

Over 90% of remedial students fail to get a 2-year degree in three years, yet administration sees no issue with talking them into loans that will keep them in debt forever. Admin sees no issue with exploiting the vulnerable for personal gain, of course.

Here's what higher education is today: desperate people take out loans to go to college. They use the money to pay the tuition, and they use the money to buy academic papers because they really aren't there for college, they're there for the checks. Their courses are graded by poorly paid faculty (mostly adjuncts), again paid by those checks. The facutly are watched over by administrators to make sure there is no integrity to the system and again, admin is paid by those checks (in fact, most of the tuition money goes to administrators).

Hmm, what part of this could be changed that would put integrity back into the system?

Anonymous March 12, 2013 at 10:18 pm GMT •

I think your sources who claim to be familiar with China are very wrong concerning entrance into Chinese universities, especially those so-called upper tier unis. It is well known amongst most Chinese students who take the gaokao, the all-or-nothing university entrance examination, bribes, guanxi (connections) and just being local, are often better indicators of who will be accepted.

• Replies: @KA Same and some more in India.
In India it is politics of the gutter. Someone can get to medical school and engineering school even if he or she did not qualify,if scored say 3 points out of 1000 points as long as he or she belonged to lower caste of Hindu. The minimum requirements they have to fulfill is to pass the school leaving examinations with science subjects .A passing level is all that matters . The process then continues (in further education -master , training, post doctoral, and in job and in promotion)
While upper caste Hindu or Christian or Muslim may not be allowed despite scoring 999 out of 1000. It is possible and has happened.
Unfortunately the lower caste has not progressed much. Upper caste Hindus have misused this on many occasions and continue to do do by selling themselves as lower caste with legal loopholes .Muslim or Christians can't do that for they can't claim to be Hindu
Bobby March 13, 2013 at 1:57 am GMT •

Ron Unz is a brilliant man. He created software that made him rich, and has written articles on all kinds of subjects. But apparently, Ron shares a problem with a very tiny number of humanity. Ron is one of those oddball characters, that, no matter where the truth leads him, he simply has to express it, regardless of political correctness. He did this in California with the debate on English,etc.

Compared to the administrators of these Ivy League Institutions, Ron is a mental giant, not even near being in the same class as these supposedly important but in reality, worthless beurocrats.

Thom March 13, 2013 at 7:04 pm GMT •

If ten million Gentile whites and Asians changed their surname to Kaplan, Levy, Golden, Goldstein, Goldman, it obviously would throw a monkey wrench into the process of ethnic favoritism.

To paraphrase Unz - the "shared group biases" of Ivy League college admission officers that have "extreme flexibility and subjectivity", does harm white Gentiles and Asians, but only because the process lacks objective, meritocratic decision making, and in its place is a vile form of corrupt cronyism and favoritism.

Anonymous March 21, 2013 at 4:39 pm GMT •

An Asian speaking here, I agree that America isn't a meritocracy, but has it ever been? It seems like this article's falling for the oldest trick in the book - looking back at the "good old days". I'd argue that now more than ever, the barrier to entry is lower than ever, and that every individual can rise to the occasion and innovate for the better. Places like Exeter (my alma mater) aren't just playgrounds for the rich - I'm not extremely wealthy, and neither were my classmates. Most of us were even on financial aid. Don't just point fingers at institutions to account for shortcomings - if you had the stroke of fortune to be born in a nation with such opportunity, with hard work and CREATIVITY and INNOVATION, anything is possible.

Has anyone thought about why the test-prep business has expanded so much? It's to feed into the very same system that you're complaining about. Be the change you wish to see in the world, not a victim of it. To many of the Asians out there, I'd say get over your 4.0 GPA and 2400 SAT score and be unique for once.

Michael N Moore March 28, 2013 at 7:52 pm GMT •

To put Unz's findings in social and historical perspective, it is important to understand where Jewish academics come from. The Eastern European Jews who immigrated to Northeast US in the Twentieth Century ran into an immigrant world dominated by Catholics and particularly Irish Catholics. The Irish, who were as "hungry" as the Jews got control over government and its ancillary economic benefits. I wasn't there at the time, but I imagine we Irish did not do much to help Jewish immigrants compared with Catholic immigrants.

One area abandoned by the Catholic Church was public and secular education. The Church formed its own educational Catholic ghetto. Jewish immigrants adopted the public-secular educational world as their own and became strong adherents of education as the key to Americanization. Education became their small piece of turf. The only memorable political conflict between Jews and AfricanAmericans in New York City was over control of the public schools.

Just as the Irish react against affirmative action for non-Irish in government jobs, the descendants of these Jewish immigrants react to the plagiarism of their assimilation plan by the Chinese/Koreans. When you have de facto Irish affirmative action you don't want de jure African American affirmative action. When you have Jewish "meritocracy" you don't want Asian meritocracy.

The result is what you see today. The Irish still have a stranglehold on government related jobs in the Northeast with a smattering of minorities ("New Irish") and the Jews try to protect their secular education turf from the "New Jews". It's just business. Don't take it personally.

marc April 7, 2013 at 4:12 pm GMT •

All I can say is see a book: "Ivy League Fools and Felons"' by Mack Roth. Lots of them are kids of corrupt people in all fields.

But I disagree that opportunity is being closed off to most Americans. Here in North Dakota I work for a high school graduate, self made trucking millionaire. Five years ago she was a secretary in Iowa. But she got off her butt and went to where the money is circulating. Just my 2 cents

Anonymous April 7, 2013 at 8:18 pm GMT •

Sorry, but quick correction regarding rankings (and I only have to say this because I go to MIT). Technically, MIT and Caltech are *both* ranked the same. The only reason why Caltech appears on the list before MIT is because it come before it alphabetically to suggest otherwise would be untrue. When you look at individual departments, you'll find that MIT consistently ranks higher than that of Caltech in all engineering disciplines and most scientific disciplines. Also, personally speaking, MIT has a far better humanities program that Caltech (especially in the fields of economics, political science, philosophy, and linguisitics). We do have a number of Pulitizer Prize winners who teach here.

Also generally, in academic circle, MIT is usually viewed with higher regard than Caltech, although that isn't to say Caltech isn't a fantastic school (it really and truly is–I loved it there and I wish more people knew more about it)

Rand April 7, 2013 at 10:27 pm GMT •

One observation about methodology that struck me while reading this:

The Jewish population of universities is being evaluated based on Hillel statistics, with the "Non-Jewish white" population being based on the white population minus the Jewish population.

This can be problematic when you consider that these population are merging at a pretty high rate. (I don't have much information here, but this is from the header of the wikipedia article: "The 1990 National Jewish Population Survey reported an intermarriage rate of 52 percent among American Jews.")

What percentage of partially Jewish students identify as "Jewish" or does Hillel identify as Jewish? If you're taking a population that would have once identified as "white" and now identifying them as Jewish, obviously you'll see some Jewish inflation, and white deflation. And when a large percentage of this population bears the names "Smith", "Jones", "Roberts" etc., you're obviously not going to see a corresponding increase in NMS scores evaluated on the basis of last names.

Of course, I have no idea what methodology Hillel is using, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it's an inflated one.

NotAmerican April 15, 2013 at 4:56 pm GMT •

Thank you Mr. Unz for this provocative article. It isn't the author's first one on Jewish & Asian enrollment at Ivy League colleges. I remember another one, in the 1990s I believe.

According to what I read, less and less American Jews apply for medical school nationwide, and Jewish women are very educated, but it comes also with a low birthrate and high median age. It makes the recent spike in Jewish admissions at Harvard College all the more curious, intriguing.

This month, the NY Times published a list of the highest earners in the hedge fund industry in 2012, and 8 out of 10 were Jewish. Are certain universities aggressively seeking donations from this super rich demographic since the 2000s?

History has a way of repeating itself.

NotAmerican April 15, 2013 at 5:01 pm GMT

I'm referring to HYP(Harvard-Yale-Princeton)'s history, during the Gilded Age for example.

Ira April 21, 2013 at 2:12 pm GMT •

The young American Jew is not like his grandparents. They are just as fun loving and lazy as any other. This is the result of a lack of perceived persecution that use to keep the group together. In the major cities, half of the young people leave the tribe through intermarriage. This is human nature. The Rabbis changed the rules some time ago to define a Jew as coming from the mother, so the Jewish man would marry a Jewish woman, instead of a woman outside of the tribe. Read the Bible. In David's time, the men had an eye for good looking women outside of the tribe(like all men). Now days, the young people just laugh at the Rabbi's words.

Instead of the old folks liberal ideas of race and ethnic divisions, let us change it to go by economic class. According to liberal thought, intelligence is equally distributed throughout all economic classes, so higher education admissions should be by economic class, and not the old divisive ideas of race and ethnic background. After all, affirmative action programs are institutionalized racism and racial profiling.

• Replies: @KA Yes . You have points . This is one of the fears that drove the Zionist to plan of Israel in 1880 . It was the fear of secular life free from religious persecution and freedom to enjoy life to its fullest in the post industrial non religious Europe guided by enlightenment that drove them embrace the religious ethnic mix concept of statehood.
N. Joseph Potts April 29, 2013 at 7:43 pm GMT •

These and many other ills would be alleviated if government would stop: (a) banning aptitude tests or even outright discrimination as determinants of employment; (b) subsidizing private institutions such as Harvard; and (c) close down all government schools, starting with state institutions of "higher learning."

I know, pie in the sky. But the author's suggestions by comparison are mere Band-Aids.

Clark Coleman May 14, 2013 at 4:13 am GMT •

Great analysis, but pie-in-the-sky prescription, which was presumably just intended to be thought provoking. If you want to know why Harvard would never adopt the author's recommendation, just read what he wrote:

"But if it were explicitly known that the vast majority of Harvard students had merely been winners in the application lottery, top businesses would begin to cast a much wider net in their employment outreach, and while the average Harvard student would probably be academically stronger than the average graduate of a state college, the gap would no longer be seen as so enormous, with individuals being judged more on their own merits and actual achievements. A Harvard student who graduated magna cum laude would surely have many doors open before him, but not one who graduated in the bottom half of his class."

I wonder why Harvard officials would desire this outcome?

Anonymous May 23, 2013 at 4:00 am GMT •

So a lot of ivy league presidents with Jewish-sounding names somehow influence admissions staff who may not have Jewish-sounding names to favor undeserving applicants because they also have Jewish-sounding names? And this is because of some secret ethnic pride thing going on? And nobody's leaked this conspiracy to the outside world until our whistle blowing author? The guy's a nut job.

foo May 31, 2013 at 5:31 am GMT

Benj Pollock says: [...stuf...]

What a weird ad-hominem attack! One of the weakest I have seen..you should really be calling the author an "anti-semite" shouldn't you ?

Anonymous July 27, 2013 at 5:04 pm GMT •

All of your statistics are highly suspect due to the enormous, and rapid annual increase in Jewish intermarriage. I do not have the statistics, but over many years, it certainly appears that Jewish men are far more likely to intermarry than Jewish women (the lure of the antithesis to their Jewish mother??) and to complicate matters further, Jewish men seem to have a predilection for Asian women, at least in the greater NY Metro Area. But that still does not represent the majority of Jewish men marrying Christians. QED. More Jewish last names, for children who are DNA wise only half Jewish than non Jewish names for the intermarried. And if one wanted to get really specific, the rapidly rising intermarriage is diluting the "Jewish" genetic pool's previously demonstrable intelligence superiority., strengthened by the fact that most couples use the Jewish fathers last name.
These observations are in no way associated with how the various Jewish denominations define 'Jewish"

Methinks the statistics are highly flawed.

NB says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment December 5, 2013 at 7:52 pm GMT •

I have posted a critique of Unz's article here: http://alum.mit.edu/www/nurit

Columbia statistician Andrew Gelman discusses it here: http://andrewgelman.com/2013/10/22/ivy-jew-update/

In short: Unz substantially overestimated the percentage of Jews at Harvard while grossly underestimating the percentage of Jews among high academic achievers, when, in fact, there is no discrepancy.

In addition, Unz's arguments have proven to be untenable in light of a recent survey of incoming Harvard freshmen conducted by The Harvard Crimson, which found that students who identified as Jewish reported a mean SAT score of 2289, 56 points higher than the average SAT score of white respondents.

Walter Sobchak December 11, 2013 at 3:43 am GMT •

I have a couple of thoughts about this article:

First. I was thrilled to see your advocacy of admissions by lottery. I have advocated such a plan on various websites that I participate in, but you have written the first major article advocating it that I have seen. Congratulations.

Just a small quibble with your plan, I would not allow the schools any running room for any alternatives to the lottery. They have not demonstrated any willingness to administer such a system fairly. After a few years of pure lottery it would be time to evaluate it and see if they should be allowed any leeway, but I wouldn't allow any variation before that.

I would hypothesize that one effect of a lottery admissions plan would be a return to more stringent grading in the class rooms. It would be useful to the faculty to weed out the poor performers more quickly, and the students might have less of an attitude of entitlement.

Second, I am glad that you raised the issue of corruption of the admissions staffs. It would be a new chapter in human history if there was no straight out bribe taking of by functionaries in their positions. My guess is that the bag men are the "high priced consultants". Pay them a years worth of tuition money and a sufficient amount will flow to the right places to get your kid in to wherever you want him to go.

Third, three observations about Jewish Students.

First, Jews are subject to mean reversion just like everybody else.

Second, the kids in the millennial generation were, for the most part, born into comfortable middle class and upper class homes. The simply do not have the drive that their immigrant grandparents and great-grandparents had. I see this in my own family. My wife and I had immigrant parents, and we were pretty driven academically (6 degrees between us). Our kids, who are just as bright as we were, did not show that same edge, and it was quite frustrating to us. None of them have gone to a graduate or professional school. They are all working and are happy, but driven they aren't.

Third, Hillel's numbers of Jewish students on their website should be taken cum grano salis. All three of our kids went to Northwestern U. (Evanston, IL) which Hillel claimed was 20% Jewish. Based on our personal observations of kids in their dorms and among their friends, I think the number is probably 10% or less.

Finally, the side bar on Paying Tuition to a Hedge Fund. I too am frustrated with the current situation among the wealthy institutions. I think that it deserves a lot more attention from policy makers than it has received. The Universities have received massive benefits from the government (Federal and state) - not just tax exemptions, but grants for research and to students, subsidized loans, tax deductions for contributions, and on, and on. They have responded to this largess by raising salaries, hiring more administrators, spending billions on construction, and continually raising tuitions far faster than the rate of inflation. I really do not think the tax payers should be carrying this much of a burden at a time when deficits are mounting without limit.

Henry VIII solved a similar problem by confiscating assets. We have constitutional limits on that sort of activity, but I think there a lot of constitutional steps that should be considered. Here a few:

1. There is ample reason to tax the the investment gains of the endowments as "unrelated business taxable income" (UBTI, see IRS Pub 598 and IRC §§ 511-515) defined as income from a business conducted by an exempt organization that is not substantially related to the performance of its exempt purpose. If they do not want to pay tax on their investments, they should purchase treasuries and municipals, and hold them to maturity.

2. The definition of an exempt organization could be narrowed to exclude schools that charge tuition. Charging $50,000/yr and sitting on 30G$ of assets looks a lot more like a business than a charity.

3. Donations to overly rich institutions should be non deductible to the donors. Overly rich should be defined in terms of working capital needs and reserves for depreciation of physical assets.

jholloway August 23, 2014 at 4:40 am GMT •

Ron,

Is the proposed mechanism that Jewish university presidents create a bias in the admissions department?

That could be tested by comparing Jewish student percentages between schools with Christian and Jewish presidents. If Christian presidents produce student bodies with a high proportion of Jews, then Jewish ethnocentrism is not the cause. (We'd have to find a way to control for presidents' politics.)

If admissions departments are discriminating in favor of liberals, that will boost the proportion of all liberals, including many Jews, but it will be political discrimination, not ethnic discrimination. (Both are bad, but we should be accurate.)

Liberals see a discrepancy in ethnic outcomes and consider it proof of ethnic discrimination. Are we doing the same thing?

KA October 12, 2014 at 2:34 pm GMT •

After Russian emancipation, the Jews from Pale settlement spread out and took up jobs in government services, secured admissions in technical and medical schools, and established positions in trade in just two decades. Then they started interconnecting and networking more aggressively to eliminate competition and deny the non-Jews the opportunities that the non Jews rightfully claimed. This pattern was also evident in Germany after 1880 and in Poland between interwars .

The anti-Jewish sentiment seen in pre revolutionary Russia was the product of this ethnic exclusivisity and of the tremendous in-group behaviors .

KA October 12, 2014 at 2:41 pm GMT •
@Ira The young American Jew is not like his grandparents. They are just as fun loving and lazy as any other. This is the result of a lack of perceived persecution that use to keep the group together. In the major cities, half of the young people leave the tribe through intermarriage. This is human nature. The Rabbis changed the rules some time ago to define a Jew as coming from the mother, so the Jewish man would marry a Jewish woman, instead of a woman outside of the tribe. Read the Bible. In David's time, the men had an eye for good looking women outside of the tribe(like all men). Now days, the young people just laugh at the Rabbi's words.

Instead of the old folks liberal ideas of race and ethnic divisions, let us change it to go by economic class. According to liberal thought, intelligence is equally distributed throughout all economic classes, so higher education admissions should be by economic class, and not the old divisive ideas of race and ethnic background. After all, affirmative action programs are institutionalized racism and racial profiling.

Yes . You have points . This is one of the fears that drove the Zionist to plan of Israel in 1880 . It was the fear of secular life free from religious persecution and freedom to enjoy life to its fullest in the post industrial non religious Europe guided by enlightenment that drove them embrace the religious ethnic mix concept of statehood.

KA October 12, 2014 at 2:59 pm GMT •
@Anonymous I think your sources who claim to be familiar with China are very wrong concerning entrance into Chinese universities, especially those so-called upper tier unis. It is well known amongst most Chinese students who take the gaokao, the all-or-nothing university entrance examination, bribes, guanxi (connections) and just being local, are often better indicators of who will be accepted.

Same and some more in India. In India it is politics of the gutter. Someone can get to medical school and engineering school even if he or she did not qualify, if scored say 3 points out of 1000 points as long as he or she belonged to lower caste of Hindu. The minimum requirements they have to fulfill is to pass the school leaving examinations with science subjects .A passing level is all that matters . The process then continues (in further education -master , training, post doctoral, and in job and in promotion)

While upper caste Hindu or Christian or Muslim may not be allowed despite scoring 999 out of 1000. It is possible and has happened. Unfortunately the lower caste has not progressed much. Upper caste Hindus have misused this on many occasions and continue to do do by selling themselves as lower caste with legal loopholes .Muslim or Christians can't do that for they can't claim to be Hindu

Ivy October 16, 2014 at 3:20 am GMT •

Takeaways:
Jews are really good at networking and in-group activity. They have centuries of practice, and lived a meritocratic existence of self-sorting in the Pale and elsewhere.
That is evident to all who look.

Other groups have different approaches, and different organizational or affiliation bonds, based on their history, culture and other factors.

NE Asians share some traits, and both value education as a way to improve themselves and to some extent their groups.
S Asians will demonstrate their own approach, focusing heavily on STEM.

Expect demographics to win out, given 2.5B Asians versus a smaller NAM or NE European-base populace.

Anonymous November 26, 2014 at 5:06 pm GMT •

Thanks for the informative article. Your proposal sounds reasonable. Another option would be to attempt to vastly decrease the significance of these elite private schools. Why should we allow undemocratic little fiefdoms to largely control entry into our country's ruling class? It would probably be considerably more fair, more transparent and more efficient to pour a lot of resources into our public universities. If Berkeley, Michigan, UVA, UMass, etc. were completely free, for instance–or if they provided students with living expenses as well as free tuition, the quality of their students would conceivably surpass that of the Ivy League's, and over time the importance and prestige of Harvard, Stanford, etc. would diminish. Instead, we are subsidizing students at elite private colleges more than those at public colleges–an absurd state of affairs (see this article, whose author is a bit of an ideologue but who is right on this issue: http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Robert-Reich/2014/1014/How-the-government-spends-more-per-student-at-elite-private-universities-than-public ).

Truth December 25, 2014 at 4:04 pm GMT •

Mr. Unz; thank you for the long, informational and scholarly article. I read the whole thing, and from Sailer I am familiar with your reputation as a certified genius. I must admit however, after the 5-10,000 words you had written, I was a bit shocked that your answer to how to improve elite University enrollment, was to FLIP A FIGURATIVE COIN.

I expected some chart with differential equations that I would have to consult my much more intelligent brother, the electrical engineer to explain to me. Not that it does not make a lot of sense.

The issue with your solution is that you go from a three class university:
1) Legacy Admits
2) Non athletic, black admits
3) everyone else

to a much-more rigid, two class university:

1) academic admits
2) coin-flip admits

One tier being one of the smartest 15-18 year olds in the world, the other being "somewhat better than good student at Kansas State."

Talk about a hierarchy!

Anonymous March 11, 2015 at 3:34 am GMT •

My brother works at a little ivy league school. Well endowed because the parents Dun and Bradstreet reports are at the top of the selection sheets with parents jobs also. Extra points for finance and government jobs at executive levels.

This article was excellent and reinforced everything he has told me over the years. One thing he did mention i would like to add. Asians, which for years were their choice for filling minority quotas, are horrible when it comes to supporting the alma mater financially during the fund drives. This information was confirmed by several other schools in the area when they tried a multi-school drive in the far east and south east asia to canvas funds and returned with a pitiful sum.

Joe Franklin August 20, 2015 at 8:25 pm GMT •

Diversity is a scheme that is the opposite of a meritocracy. Diversity is a national victim cult that generally demonizes gentiles, and more specifically demonizes people that conform to a jewish concocted profile of a nazi.

Why would anyone use the word diversity in the same sentence as the word meritocracy?

Joe Franklin August 29, 2015 at 4:42 pm GMT

"Are elite university admissions based on meritocracy and diversity as claimed?" Why would anybody claiming to be intelligent include meritocracy and diversity in the same sentence?

Part White, Part Native September 1, 2015 at 6:45 am GMT

@Sean Gillhoolley Harvard is a university, much like Princeton and Yale, that continues based on its reputation, something that was earned in the past. When the present catches up to them people will regard them as nepotistic cauldrons of corruption.

Look at the financial disaster that befell the USA and much of the globe back in 2008. Its genesis can be found in the clever minds of those coming out of their business schools (and, oddly enough, their Physics programs as well). They are teaching the elite how to drain all value from American companies, as the rich plan their move to China, the new land of opportunity. When 1% of the population controls such a huge portion of the wealth, patriotism becomes a loadstone to them. The elite are global. Places like Harvard cater to them, help train them to rule the world....but first they must remake it.

I agree, common people would never think of derivatives , nor make loans based on speculation .

Gandydancer December 26, 2015 at 1:43 am GMT •

"Tiffany Wang['s] SAT scores were over 100 points above the Wesleyan average, and she ranked as a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist "

"Julianna Bentes her SAT scores were somewhat higher than Tiffany's "

Did Ms. Wang underperform on her SATs? NMS semifinalist status depends purely on the score on a very SAT-like test being at a 99.5 percentile level, as I understand it (and I was one, albeit a very long time ago) and I gather from the above that her SAT scores did not correspond to the PSAT one. That is, merely " 100 points above the Wesleyan average" doesn't seem all that exceptional. Or am I wrong?

Mr. Unz several times conflates NMS semifinalist status with being a top student. Which I most definitely was not. It's rather an IQ test. As was the SAT.

[Dec 01, 2019] Federal Prosecutors Initiate Criminal Probe of Six Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors

Fetanil smuggling from China also played an important role
Dec 01, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Federal Prosecutors Launch Criminal Probe of Opioid Makers, Distributors :

The investigation, if it results in criminal charges, could become the largest prosecution yet of drug companies alleged to have contributed to the opioid epidemic, escalating the legal troubles of businesses that already face complex, multibillion-dollar civil litigation in courts across the country. Prosecutors are examining whether the companies violated the federal Controlled Substances Act, a statute that federal prosecutors have begun using against opioid makers and distributors this year.

By using statutes typically used to target drug dealers, prosecutors are finally seeing these companies for what they are: drug pushers. This approach is unusual but not unprecedented, according to the Journal:

Earlier this year, federal prosecutors filed major criminal cases in Manhattan and Ohio that, for the first time, employed criminal statutes that are more commonly applied to drug dealers, legal experts say.

When prosecutors from the Southern District of New York announced criminal charges against a pharmaceutical distributor and two executives earlier this year, the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office said the case was unusual.

"This prosecution is the first of its kind," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in April, "executives of a pharmaceutical distributor and the distributor itself have been charged with drug trafficking."

CNBC notes in Federal prosecutors open criminal probe of opioid makers and distributors, report says :

The investigation marks a significant broadening of the federal government's focus on pinpointing which parties contributed to the opioid crisis.

The six companies to receive subpoenas from the US attorney's office for the eastern district of New York are: AmerisourceBergen Corp., Amneal Pharmaceuticals Inc., Johnson & Johnson, Mallinckrodt, McKesson Corp. and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., as reported by the WSJ, citing regulatory filings.

This investigation is in its early stages; whether or not other companies have thus far also received subpoenas is not apparent. As federal prosecutors proceed, they will likely widen their probe, drawing in more companies and individuals.

Separately, most states, as well as roughly 2,600 city, county, and municipal governments have sued major players throughout the opioids supply chain. Despite intense pressure on parties to settle, these negotiations have stalled and numerous lawsuits remain pending (see Four Companies Settle Just Before Bellwether Opioids Trial Was to Begin Today in Ohio .)

One manufacturer, Purdue Pharma has already filed for bankruptcy (see Purdue Files for Bankruptcy, Agrees to Settle Some Pending Opioids Litigation: Sacklers on Hook for Billions? ).

As yesterday's WSJ further reports:

Purdue separately faces civil and criminal probes from the U.S. attorneys offices in New Jersey, Vermont and Connecticut and U.S. Justice Department in Washington and has said that a proposed plan to turn over its operations to creditors is contingent on resolving the federal investigations .

Opioids have made it onto Trump's personal radar screen. AP reports in Trump donates 3rd-quarter salary to help fight opioid crisis:

President Donald Trump is donating his third-quarter salary to help tackle the nation's opioid epidemic.

A White House official says Trump has given the $100,000 he would be paid in the quarter to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health, which oversees federal public health offices and programs, including the surgeon general's office.

The White House says the funds are being earmarked "to continue the ongoing fight against the opioid crisis."

Jerri- Lynn here. Well. Thanks for your concern!!

More from AP:

Trump has made tackling the misuse of opioids an administration priority. More than 70,000 Americans died in 2017 from drug overdoses, the bulk of them involving opioids.

Trump is required to be paid, but he has pledged to donate his salary while in office to worthy causes. Trump donated his second-quarter salary to the surgeon general's office.

This I didn't know.

Deaths of Despair

In separate news today, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study affirming that American life expectancy continues to decline, Life Expectancy and Mortality Rates in the United States, 1959-2017 .

The US trend is in contrast to the state of play in other advanced countries; US life expectancy began to lose pace in the 1980s, according to the JAMA study, and by 1998, had declined to a level below the OECD average. Since 2014, US life expectancy rates have declined for three consecutive years.

Naked Capitalism has covered the rise in "deaths of despair" extensively: the decline in US life expectancy, especially for poorer and less educated Americans, see these posts drawn from numerous examples: Stunning" Rise in Death Rate, Pain Levels for Middle-Aged, Less Educated Whites) ; Credentialism and Corruption: The Opioid Epidemic and "the Looting Professional Class" ; US Life Expectancy Declines in 2015: Unintentional Injuries Rise ; and American Life Expectancy Continues to Fall: Rise in Suicides, Overdose Deaths the Big Culprit .

The latest JAMA figures show that the decline extends throughout the country, as the New York Times reports in It's Not Just Poor White People Driving a Decline in Life Expectancy :

But a new analysis of more than a half-century of federal mortality data, published on Tuesday in JAMA , found that the increased death rates among people in midlife extended to all racial and ethnic groups, and to suburbs and cities. And while suicides, drug overdoses and alcoholism were the main causes, other medical conditions, including heart disease, strokes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also contributed, the authors reported.

From the JAMA study's abstract:

Findings Between 1959 and 2016, US life expectancy increased from 69.9 years to 78.9 years but declined for 3 consecutive years after 2014. The recent decrease in US life expectancy culminated a period of increasing cause-specific mortality among adults aged 25 to 64 years that began in the 1990s, ultimately producing an increase in all-cause mortality that began in 2010. During 2010-2017, midlife all-cause mortality rates increased from 328.5 deaths/100 000 to 348.2 deaths/100 000. By 2014, midlife mortality was increasing across all racial groups, caused by drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, suicides, and a diverse list of organ system diseases. The largest relative increases in midlife mortality rates occurred in New England (New Hampshire, 23.3%; Maine, 20.7%; Vermont, 19.9%) and the Ohio Valley (West Virginia, 23.0%; Ohio, 21.6%; Indiana, 14.8%; Kentucky, 14.7%). The increase in midlife mortality during 2010-2017 was associated with an estimated 33 307 excess US deaths, 32.8% of which occurred in 4 Ohio Valley states.

This trend has occurred despite the US spending the highest per capita on health of any country in the world – a point made in a JAMA editorial published simultaneously with the study, Confronting the Rise and Fall of US Life Expectancy.

Now, no one would dispute that the US health care system is a mess. From the NYT:

"The whole country is at a health disadvantage compared to other wealthy nations," the study's lead author, Dr. Steven Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University, said. "We are losing people in the most productive period of their lives. Children are losing parents. Employers have a sicker work force."

The study makes for depressing reading; you can download the full version for free by registering at the above link.

If you lack time for that, some summary from the NYT:

"Mortality has improved year to year over the course of the 20th century," said Dr. Samuel Preston, a demographer at the University of Pennsylvania. "The 21st century is a major exception. Since 2010 there's been no improvement in mortality among working-aged people."

Death rates are actually improving among children and older Americans, Dr. Woolf noted, perhaps because they may have more reliable health care -- Medicaid for many children and Medicare for older people. Jerri-Lynn here: my emphasis.

But the problem isn't wholly related to the dysfunctional US health care system. Extreme inequality doesn't just harm the poorest and weakest among us. Over to the NYT:

"The fact that it's so expansive and involves so many causes of death -- it's saying that there's something broader going on in our country," said Ellen R. Meara, a professor of health policy at Dartmouth College. "This no longer limited to middle-aged whites."

The states with the greatest relative increases in death rates among young and middle-aged adults were New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, West Virginia and Ohio.

Dr. Woolf said one of the findings showed that the excess deaths were highly concentrated geographically, with fully a third of them in just four states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Indiana.

"What's not lost on us is what is going on in those states," he said. "The history of when this health trend started happens to coincide with when these economic shifts began -- the loss of manufacturing jobs and closure of steel mills and auto plants."

What do the billionaires and their toadies have to say to that?

And, to return to where I began, note that Ohio is ground zero for the opioids epidemic.


Matthew G. Saroff , November 27, 2019 at 1:57 pm

When are we going to start seeing asset forfeiture of the companies and the executives?

If a couple of senior execs end up having to wash dishes for a living, and having to rely on public defenders, and maybe there will be deterrence.

Also, maybe it will prompt a reevaluation of the asset forfeiture laws.

Ford Prefect , November 27, 2019 at 2:07 pm

A former Obama official was interviewed today about these investigations. When asked point-black on whether or not pharma executives should go to jail on these charges, there was tremendous hemming and hawing about the "goal is to prevent this from happening again in the future" which is the same stance regarding financial executives after the GFC. https://www.npr.org/2019/11/27/783223378/feds-may-pursue-criminal-charges-against-opioid-makers

So the drug laws incarcerate millions of poor and minority people for minor drug possession offences but effectively running a drug cartel inside US corporations would not be worth jailing somebody for? No wonder people are simply ready to toss the entire system.

Annieb , November 27, 2019 at 5:28 pm

Here's an excellent article about fentanyl smuggling from China. The opioid crisis is not just about US companies. The larger question is why our government largely ignored fentanyl smuggling for years during the Obama administration despite warnings from DEA.

http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-china-fentanyl-20181019-story.html

albrt , November 28, 2019 at 2:59 am

"The larger question is why our government largely ignored fentanyl smuggling for years during the Obama administration"

Umm, because Barack Obama was one of the worst criminal accessories in the entire history of the world across every economic sector?

Do I win a prize for answering that question correctly?

David , November 27, 2019 at 2:42 pm

Terrific read. Thank you.

Pain patients who function quite well with medication are caught between the more strident of the War on Drugs Crusaders and the addicts who use opioids recreationally, causing most to think of anyone on pain medication as drug abusers. Pain patients using medication as prescribed are not drug abusers and a safe harbor needs to be created to protect this vulnerable population. They are genuinely in fear and despair has set in. They are consciously and openly stating an intent to commit suicide. We should not forget them as this war continues. They saw what Duarte promoted and understand they are powerless in a fight where their lives are at stake.

Cutting off the supply through criminal prosecutions of manufacturers will harm the most vulnerable. Perhaps that is the plan.

Synoia , November 27, 2019 at 3:12 pm

The issue appears to be "prescription" and "control"

You intimate the drugs will be removed from the market, as opposed to being subject to proper and necessary stringent controls.

The issue at hand with the manufacturers is: Have the Manufacturers caused bypass on controls. As I understand it, the drugs are not banned at this point in time.

The manufacturers appear to be investigated for promoting mis-prescription of their products.

Annieb , November 27, 2019 at 5:09 pm

Most deaths are caused by fentanyl overdose, and most fentanyl is imported from China through Mexico. The manufacturers are Chinese companies.

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/09/04/757089868/fentanyl-as-a-dark-web-profit-center-from-chinese-labs-to-u-s-streets

The Obama administration didn't take serious action. Why?

https://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/health/ct-hlth-obama-fentanyl-20190313-story.html

David , November 27, 2019 at 5:26 pm

There have been unintended consequences from the war on drugs. To your point, we have seen providers, insurers, and pharmacies set their own limits to avoid liability. Going after the risk-averse pharmaceutical manufacturers will force them to decide whether the profit is worth the risk of financial ruin and possible prison. And legitimate patients are caught in the middle.

Anecdotally, we have this result that impacts the most vulnerable – not the powerful, who will always get their drugs, whether they need them or not:

The misconception that opioid prescriptions lead to opiate addiction has been widespread, and overarching state and federal measures to combat the opioid overdose crisis are reaching a fever pitch. There's the Oregon Health Authority's (OHA) now-tabled proposal to force-taper all Medicaid patients on opioids for certain chronic pain conditions; Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Gardner's controversial proposal to limit all acute pain medication prescriptions to a seven day fill, which sparked massive pushback from the chronic pain and disability communities; and Ohio Senator Rob Portman, who favors a three-day fill limit. In contrast, the American Medical Association (AMA) has come out against arbitrary pill limits, as has a group called Health Professionals for Patients in Pain (HP3).

Very few opioid addictions begin with a patient who has a doctor's prescription: Up to 80 percent of people with an opioid addiction illegally obtained pills from another source like a friend or relative first. While the opioid overdose epidemic from illegal heroin and fentanyl is a serious problem, federal and state actions to decrease the number of opioid prescriptions and/or pills in circulation overall will have -- and are already having -- a hugely negative impact on chronic pain patients who take opioid medications. While the number of pain prescriptions has declined since 2010, the number of deaths due to overdoses involving heroin and synthetic fentanyl has increased.

According to Thomas Kline, MD, a physician in North Carolina who maintains a list of chronic pain patients who committed suicide after being forced off of their medications, the anti-opioid hysteria that has taken root in the medical field and the federal government has resulted in "people [being] killed."

https://talkpoverty.org/2019/05/17/chronic-pain-opioid-crisis

Protect the vulnerable in this clash.

notabanktoadie , November 28, 2019 at 2:44 am

+100

And I'm reminded of this besides Proverbs 31:6-9, etc.

even the compassion of the wicked is cruel. Proverbs 12:10

CoryP , November 28, 2019 at 6:15 am

"Very few opioid addictions begin with a patient who has a doctor's prescription".

This is very similar to the original marketing line of OxyContin, and I have a hard time believing it. But it's only a gut feeling along with vague memories of educational materials I've seen before but would have to look up.

I think there are pretty forceful (though not equally funded) agendas on both sides of the issue that would want to down- or over-play the impact of prescribed opioids.

Either way, I don't think it's necessary to use that quote in order to make the case that people in pain still deserve access to these drugs.

Yves Smith , November 28, 2019 at 6:38 am

Other sources flatly contradict this claim. This is from an article by a professor of medicine:

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, four in five new heroin users started out by misusing prescription painkillers, and 94 percent of opioid-addicted patients said that they switched to heroin because prescription opioids were more expensive and harder to obtain.

https://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/oxycontin-how-purdue-pharma-helped-spark-opioid-epidemic/

And:

Andrew Kolodny, the co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative, at Brandeis University, has worked with hundreds of patients addicted to opioids. He told me that, though many fatal overdoses have resulted from opioids other than OxyContin, the crisis was initially precipitated by a shift in the culture of prescribing -- a shift carefully engineered by Purdue. "If you look at the prescribing trends for all the different opioids, it's in 1996 that prescribing really takes off," Kolodny said. "It's not a coincidence. That was the year Purdue launched a multifaceted campaign that misinformed the medical community about the risks." When I asked Kolodny how much of the blame Purdue bears for the current public-health crisis, he responded, "The lion's share."

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/10/30/the-family-that-built-an-empire-of-pain

CoryP , November 28, 2019 at 12:11 pm

Thanks. I knew I wasn't going crazy but don't always have references at hand.

CoryP , November 28, 2019 at 3:49 am

I work as a pharmacist in northern Ontario, where the opioid problem is quite acute. To be fair, this region had some insane narcotic prescribing habits -- dose/increases that seemed unreasonably high (since well before I started practicing 10 years ago).

Now we're seeing a combination of new grad physicians seemingly afraid to prescribe opioids, and older doctors either under investigation by their regulatory body, or retiring as fast as they can to avoid getting nailed.

Their patients in the (sadly frequent) worst case, suddenly find themselves without a doctor in an area which already has a shortage. Or they're put through a forced rapid taper off these meds which seems only a bit less stressful.

Chronic pain patients can definitely benefit from tapering their dose, as opioid-induced hyperalgesia is definitely a thing, and overdose risk increases with dose even taking into consideration tolerance.

A lot of patients with pain can benefit from methadone or Suboxone, which is often the only option remaining as addiction treatment centres are everywhere. But even if those drugs work for them there's still a lot of inconvenience and stigma attached to them.

I wish the attitude was more accomodating to the patients who have been on these huge doses for years. (usually in their 50s or 60s). Like, say to doctors "try not to get anybody else hooked on opiates, but be gentle with the patients that already are".

But it seems like the approach taken is mostly based on avoidance of liability. And the profits of addictions chains that provide dubiously valuable treatment.

I guess there's no perfect solution. It's a shitshow up here.

eg , November 28, 2019 at 4:16 am

Thank you for doing what you can -- it must be very stressful. I wouldn't blame those who fled such responsibility.

notabanktoadie , November 28, 2019 at 4:44 am

There's no perfect solution but certainly an ethical finance system is part of an optimum solution.

CoryP , November 28, 2019 at 5:32 am

Yeah, off the top of my head the biggest financial issues that could be helped by a government that gave crap would be:
1) increase the welfare/disability payments which have lost ground to inflation since the 90s I believe
2) do something for the awful living conditions and opportunities for our first nations reserves, which are (were?) the biggest centres of despair and addiction
3) free pharmacare would help, though our most vulnerable do already have coverage
4) actually fund mental health programs/psychotherapy

The vaunted Canadian healthcare system doesn't cover much that doesn't happen in a doctor's office or hospital. It's it's not heading in the right direction.

notabanktoadie , November 28, 2019 at 6:56 am

Not to discount generous welfare for the needy by any means but those things don't address the fundamental problem which is economic injustice.

CoryP , November 28, 2019 at 12:13 pm

It occurs to me now you might have meant something entirely different by 'finance system' but I was on a tangent.

notabanktoadie , November 28, 2019 at 5:31 pm

I did; the need for extensive welfare is, by itself, an indication of an unjust economic system.

The indicators are piling up, btw. The latest I've heard is the US birth rate is below replacement of the population.

notabanktoadie , November 28, 2019 at 12:52 am

What do the billionaires and their toadies have to say to that? Jerri-Lynn Scofield

Certainly toadies, intentional or otherwise, must include those who support unethical finance – the means by which so many jobs were outsourced in the first place.

Our finance system was designed or evolved to only create wealth – not to share it justly – and we are reaping the bitter fruit of that shortsightedness.

William Beyer , November 28, 2019 at 7:22 am

Can't wait to see how this will all be blamed on the Russians

Robpost , November 28, 2019 at 10:12 am

Better late than never, I suppose. But, to look only to preventing such things from recurring in the future is to give the current crop of miscreants a pass, as was done with torturing and financial crimes since the turn of the century.

JimTan , November 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

A criminal probe is definitely appropriate. It's already been established that drug companies and their distributors have flooded the country with 76 billion opioid pills between 2006 through 2012. 76 billion pills amounts to approximately 33 opiate pills per year for every man woman and child in the United States during the 7 year time period covered in this article. And that's only oxycodone and hydrocodone – it doesn't include the various types of fentanyl.

That can't be a mistake.

Gordon , November 29, 2019 at 11:35 am

There is good evidence that providing treatment for the addicted rather than criminalising them is the way to go with a big fringe benefits in terms of less crime etc for the rest of the community, for example the work of Dr John Marks in Widness, England.

I haven't read the book mentioned but the Liverpool Echo tells of his success – until, that is, the US leaned on the UK to stop him.

Can anyone shed any light on why the US would do that?

Myron , November 30, 2019 at 7:55 pm

Methadone destroys your bones. They become brittle and crumble. Suboxone does very little for pain relief. Suboxone only blocks the craving for opioids. It is obvious most of you posters have little contact with addicts and rely on articles published by individuals who use govt' info to BS the population.

WHY have there not been at least Criminal Manslaughter charges filed against some of the actors in the dreadful life drama. The doctors, The manufacturers, the distributors. If I give scrip opioids to another and thy die from taking them , I will be charged with a Homicide.

[Dec 01, 2019] A Wicked Cocktail Of Corporate Greed, Social Media, Opioids Is Slashing US Life Expectancy Rates

Notable quotes:
"... Why is a guy much over 50 going to work for? **** that. 55 is pushing it for any sort of manual labor. ..."
"... Even top US citizen STEM grads can't find jobs. Or get interviews. That's pretty much all you need to know about how good the economy is. ..."
Dec 01, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

A Wicked Cocktail Of Corporate Greed, Social Media, & Opioids Is Slashing US Life Expectancy Rates by Tyler Durden Sun, 12/01/2019 - 22:30 0 SHARES

Authored by Robert Bridge via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

Following decades of increased life expectancy rates, Americans have been dying earlier for three consecutive years since 2014, turning the elusive quest for the 'American Dream' into a real-life nightmare for many. Corporate America must accept some portion of the blame for the looming disaster.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/N33X92zic5Y

Something is killing Americans and researchers have yet to find the culprit. But we can risk some intuitive guesses.

According to researchers from the Center on Society and Health, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, American life expectancy has not kept pace with that of other wealthy countries and is now in fact decreasing.

The National Center for Health Statistics reported that life expectancy in the United States peaked (78.9 years) in 2014 and subsequently dropped for 3 consecutive years, hitting 78.6 years in 2017. The decrease was most significant among men (0.4 years) than women (0.2 years) and happened across racial-ethnic lines: between 2014 and 2016, life expectancy decreased among non-Hispanic white populations (from 78.8 to 78.5 years), non-Hispanic black populations (from 75.3 years to 74.8 years), and Hispanic populations (82.1 to 81.8 years).

"By 2014, midlife mortality was increasing across all racial groups, caused by drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, suicides, and a diverse list of organ system diseases," wrote researchers Steven H. Woolf and Heidi Schoomaker in a study that appears in the latest issue of the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association.

At the very beginning of the report, Woolf and Schoomaker reveal that the geographical area with the largest relative increases occurred "in the Ohio Valley and New England."

"The implications for public health and the economy are substantial," they added, "making it vital to understand the underlying causes."

Incidentally, it would be difficult for any observer of the U.S. political scene to read that passage without immediately connecting it to the 2016 presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Taking advantage of the deep industrial decline that has long plagued the Ohio Valley, made up of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, Trump successfully tapped into a very real social illness, at least partially connected to economic stagnation , which helped propel him into the White House.

Significantly, thirty-seven states witnessed significant jumps in midlife mortality in the years leading up to 2017. As the researchers pointed out, however, the trend was concentrated in certain states, many of which, for example in New England, did not support Trump in 2016.

"Between 2010 and 2017, the largest relative increases in mortality occurred in New England (New Hampshire, 23.3%; Maine, 20.7%; Vermont, 19.9%, Massachusetts 12.1%) and the Ohio Valley (West Virginia, 23.0%; Ohio, 21.6%; Indiana, 14.8%; Kentucky, 14.7%), as well as in New Mexico (17.5%), South Dakota (15.5%), Pennsylvania (14.4%), North Dakota (12.7%), Alaska (12.0%), and Maryland (11.0%). In contrast, the nation's most populous states (California, Texas, and New York) experienced relatively small increases in midlife mortality.

Eight of the 10 states with the highest number of excess deaths were in the industrial Midwest or Appalachia, whereas rural US counties experienced greater increases in midlife mortality than did urban counties.

A tragic irony of the study suggests that greater access to healthcare, notably among the more affluent white population, actually correlates to an increase in higher mortality rates. The reason is connected to the out-of-control prescription of opioid drugs to combat pain and depression.

"The sharp increase in overdose deaths that began in the 1990s primarily affected white populations and came in 3 waves," the report explained: (1) the introduction of OxyContin in 1996 and overuse of prescription opioids, followed by (2) increased heroin use, often by patients who had become addicted to prescription opioids, and (3) the subsequent emergence of potent synthetic opioids (eg, fentanyl analogues) -- the latter triggering a large post-2013 increase in overdose deaths.

"That white populations first experienced a larger increase in overdose deaths than nonwhite populations may reflect their greater access to health care (and thus prescription drugs)."

In September, Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, reached a tentative settlement with 23 states and more than 2,000 cities and counties that sued the company, owned by the Sackler family, over its role in the opioid crisis

Other factors also helped to drive up the U.S. mortality rate, including alcoholic liver disease and suicides, 85% of which occurred with a firearm or other method.

The United States spends more on health care than any other country, yet its overall health report card fares worse than those of other wealthy countries. Americans experience higher rates of illness and injury and die earlier than people in other high-income nations.

Researchers were perplexed but not surprised by the data as there existed clear signs back in the 1980s that the United States was heading for a cliff as far as longevity rates go.

So what is it that's claiming the life of Americans, many at the prime of their life, at a faster pace than in the past? The reality is that it is likely to be an accumulation of negative factors that are finally beginning to take a toll. For example, apart from the opioid crisis, there has also been an almost total collapse of union representation across Corporate America, which has essentially crushed any form of workplace democracy. This author, a former member of three worker unions, witnessed this egregious abuse of corporate power firsthand, which is apparent by the total stagnation of wages for many decades.

Today's real average wage – that is, after accounting for inflation – has about the same purchasing power it did about half a century ago . Meanwhile, in the majority of cases, increases in salary have a marked tendency to go to the highest-paid tier of executives.

In a report by Pew Research, "real terms average hourly earnings peaked more than 45 years ago: The $4.03-an-hour rate recorded in January 1973 had the same purchasing power that $23.68 would today."

One needs only consider the growing mountain of tuition debt now consuming the paychecks of many university graduates, many of whom have yet to land their dream 6-figure job from their relatively worthless liberal education, to better understand the quiet desperation that exists across the country.

At the same time, the exponential rise in the use of social media, which has been proven to trigger depression and loneliness in users, also deserves serious consideration. What society is experiencing with its massive online presence is a total overhaul as to the way human beings relate to each other. Presently, it would be very difficult to argue that the changes have been positive; in fact, they seem to be contributing to the early demise of millions of Americans in the prime of life.

Taken together, abusive labor practices that ignores workplace democracy, the epidemic of opioid usage, compounded by the anti-social features of 'social media' suggests a perfect storm of factors precipitating the rise of early deaths in the United States. Since all of these areas fall in one way or another under the control of corporate power, this powerful agency must find ways to help address the problem. The future success of America depends upon it.


ohm , 1 minute ago link

A Wicked Cocktail Of Corporate Greed, Social Media, & Opioids Is Slashing US Life Expectancy Rates

In short, capitalism

Pfeffernusse , 2 minutes ago link

With a college degree and half a brain things are still pretty good. They look pretty good for trades guys too, as long as they are honest hard workers. I just got a quote from some guy to dig up a 70 foot driveway and replace it with topsoil... $14,000. Nobody is hurting too bad where I am except serious white trash with no job skills. Well, blacks and latinos without job skills are hurting too, the difference is, they're resigned to their fate after 300+ years of getting abused. It's the Trump trailer trash who are mad that they aren't throwing around big money any more for stealing copper or whatever the **** these trash did before now.

Indelible Scars , 3 minutes ago link

Opioids have been around for 2500 years+. The culture is what has changed. For the worse.

systemsplanet , 3 minutes ago link

Slashing US Life Expectancy Rates

"We saved the Social Security Trust Fund by supporting programs to shorten American life spans"

- Leftist Bureaucratic Social Engineers

RDouglas , 5 minutes ago link

You think life expectancy has dropped off now? Give it 10 or 20 years. Fentynal+a cheap plastic mask with nitrogen or co2 emitter will be easily available on the internet...Most people over 50 are ill equipped to deal with burgeoning economic realities. I'm 51 and I see it all around me in NW Montana, dudes that are 50 or 100 pounds overweight, smoking, drinking whisky and taking pills, not showing up for work. The economy here is booming and yet there are men and women, mostly my age or older wandering around with tombstone eyes all day, bumming money in front of the grocery stores. I spend more time than I like in Portland OR, and it's even more apparent there. There are kids that panhandle, but 90% of the people camping on the street are 45+. Dis Eases of dispair.

dibiase , 2 minutes ago link

When the reality you live is has been engineered to be **** what would you expect.

Possibly a sane reaction to an insane world?

Indelible Scars , 1 minute ago link

Why is a guy much over 50 going to work for? **** that. 55 is pushing it for any sort of manual labor.

Demeter55 , 13 minutes ago link

When men abandon their families to pursue money and fame, their families move on, and then, when the men found they were chasing fool's gold, they despaired and died, since they had fucked themselves, their children and the women who were willing to love them.

There wasn't any reason to live, if one doesn't believe in repairing such social crimes, or second chances. And there's a time limit for such rehabilitation; wait too long to get smart, and your chances are gone.

I know of three such cases in my immediate family.

Helix6 , 14 minutes ago link

In "Democracy in America", Alexis de Tocqueville commented on Americans' obsession with money and means of procuring it. I would hypothesize that the deteriorating economic means of ordinary Americans is behind the increase in midlife mortality. The pursuit of money has resulted in a lifestyle that is not conducive to a happy and healthy life.

Rashomon , 13 minutes ago link

Stress kills.

Is-Be , 2 minutes ago link

Stress causes the body to release cortisol which responds by building up belly fat for the emergency times ahead. Sleep and stress reduction can reduce the waist line, slowly.

PedroS , 17 minutes ago link

"there has also been an almost total collapse of union representation across Corporate America, which has essentially crushed any form of workplace democracy. This author, a former member of three worker unions, witnessed this egregious abuse of corporate power firsthand, which is apparent by the total stagnation of wages for many decades." This cracked me up. companies are NOT Democratic and never should be.

dibiase , 15 minutes ago link

Actually workers unions are quite a capitalist concept. It's a shame they turned into what they are today.

Is-Be , 20 minutes ago link

Isn't Capitalism wonderful? We mandate that a company may not make a decision not in the interests of the shareholder. And then whinge because Big Pharma does just that. It makes drugs that maximize profits. Why did you expect anything different?

And what about insurance companies? How are shareholders of insurance companies served if the insurance companies pay up for claims? Anyway, let me present a physicians point of view , that the AMA represents the shareholders of Big Pharma, not the doctors. BTW. Black salve works against Big C. (I have to use euphemisms because it is illegal to utter the words "Cures Big C". Why? I dunno. ( Bloodroot , a common plant.)

How unpatriotic it would be to praise Unions! So I shan't. Instead I recommend Guilds. A complete monopoly of particular trades by their own Guild House. The guild controls the training of their members. It controls who gets to work where. It controls their accommodation and pension. It controls for the benefit of it's members. It is Vast.

It negotiates with politicians on protecting it's own interests by Law. (Hey, why should only multi-national companies lobby in their own interest!)

For instance. A electrical guild would negotiate a contract with a builders guild for cheap housing. (You scratch my back, I scratch yours.) It would negotiate with the teacher's guild for the correct education of their children.

Big international companies are going to love it. But why do we need to consider their emotions?

steverino999 , 21 minutes ago link

This rampant social illness is why Trump ran for President. He knew there were a lot of hurting people out there who needed to believe in something, anything, and most importantly he knew they would devour every scoop of manure he shoveled their way.

pitz , 24 minutes ago link

Even top US citizen STEM grads can't find jobs. Or get interviews. That's pretty much all you need to know about how good the economy is.

PedroS , 20 minutes ago link

Due to wholesale outsourcing of the jobs they planned for. You left that out so I helped you...

rejectnumbskull , 24 minutes ago link

U might be right...and I'm sad about it

free corn , 12 minutes ago link

Strongman or strong woman whoever leave the cage.

dibiase , 10 minutes ago link

Even better. A woman might be more cruel and demeaning to our enemies.

free corn , 31 minutes ago link

"real terms average hourly earnings peaked more than 45 years ago: The $4.03-an-hour rate recorded in January 1973 had the same purchasing power that $23.68 would today."

No big drama here considering growth in wealth inequality for the period.

Tillyoudrop , 35 minutes ago link

A Wicked Cocktail Of Corporate Greed, Social Media, & Opioids

Nope. What you listed is just a bunch of the symptoms not the root cause.

HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 , 38 minutes ago link

Alex Jones named it years ago: drugs, bad food, lack of good nutrition, lack of exercise, and mass demoralization.

misgivings , 9 minutes ago link

And increasing surveillance, 5G and AI - with no input from the sheep.

Oliver Klozoff , 39 minutes ago link

Of course the author conveniently avoids the main cause, neoliberalism, courtesy of the dems.

artistant , 40 minutes ago link

There's a spiritual decay gnawing away at America's soul.

The EveryThing Bubble , 40 minutes ago link

Stupid people are supposed to die

[Dec 01, 2019] Academic Conformism is the road to 1984. - Sic Semper Tyrannis

Highly recommended!
Dec 01, 2019 | turcopolier.typepad.com

Academic Conformism is the road to "1984."

Symptoms-of-groupthink-janis-72-l

The world is filled with conformism and groupthink. Most people do not wish to think for themselves. Thinking for oneself is dangerous, requires effort and often leads to rejection by the herd of one's peers.

The profession of arms, the intelligence business, the civil service bureaucracy, the wondrous world of groups like the League of Women Voters, Rotary Club as well as the empire of the thinktanks are all rotten with this sickness, an illness which leads inevitably to stereotyped and unrealistic thinking, thinking that does not reflect reality.

The worst locus of this mentally crippling phenomenon is the world of the academics. I have served on a number of boards that awarded Ph.D and post doctoral grants. I was on the Fulbright Fellowship federal board. I was on the HF Guggenheim program and executive boards for a long time. Those are two examples of my exposure to the individual and collective academic minds.

As a class of people I find them unimpressive. The credentialing exercise in acquiring a doctorate is basically a nepotistic process of sucking up to elders and a crutch for ego support as well as an entrance ticket for various hierarchies, among them the world of the academy. The process of degree acquisition itself requires sponsorship by esteemed academics who recommend candidates who do not stray very far from the corpus of known work in whichever narrow field is involved. The endorsements from RESPECTED academics are often decisive in the award of grants.

This process is continued throughout a career in academic research. PEER REVIEW is the sine qua non for acceptance of a "paper," invitation to career making conferences, or to the Holy of Holies, TENURE.

This life experience forms and creates CONFORMISTS, people who instinctively boot-lick their fellows in a search for the "Good Doggy" moments that make up their lives. These people are for sale. Their price may not be money, but they are still for sale. They want to be accepted as members of their group. Dissent leads to expulsion or effective rejection from the group.

This mentality renders doubtful any assertion that a large group of academics supports any stated conclusion. As a species academics will say or do anything to be included in their caste.

This makes them inherently dangerous. They will support any party or parties, of any political inclination if that group has the money, and the potential or actual power to maintain the academics as a tribe. pl


doug , 01 December 2019 at 01:01 PM

Sir,

That is the nature of tribes and humans are very tribal. At least most of them. Fortunately, there are outliers. I was recently reading "Political Tribes" which was written by a couple who are both law professors that examines this.

Take global warming (aka the rebranded climate change). Good luck getting grants to do any skeptical research. This highly complex subject which posits human impact is a perfect example of tribal bias.

My success in the private sector comes from consistent questioning what I wanted to be true to prevent suboptimal design decisions.

I also instinctively dislike groups that have some idealized view of "What is to be done?"

As Groucho said: "I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member"

J , 01 December 2019 at 01:22 PM
Reminds one of the Borg, doesn't it?

The 'isms' had it, be it Nazism, Fascism, Communism, Totalitarianism, Elitism all demand conformity and adherence to group think. If one does not co-tow to whichever 'ism' is at play, those outside their group think are persecuted, ostracized, jailed, and executed all because they defy their conformity demands, and defy allegiance to them.

One world, one religion, one government, one Borg. all lead down the same road to -- Orwell's 1984.

Factotum , 01 December 2019 at 03:18 PM
David Halberstam: The Best and the Brightest. (Reminder how the heck we got into Vietnam, when the best and the brightest were serving as presidential advisors.)

Also good Halberstam re-read: The Powers that Be - when the conservative media controlled the levers of power; not the uber-liberal one we experience today.

[Nov 26, 2019] 'Idea Laundering' The American Conservative

Nov 26, 2019 | www.theamericanconservative.com

We tend to think of propaganda as something generated by the state. This is a prime example of it coming from ideologues within universities, and making its way to the public via sympathizers in the mass media. Eventually, these lies become de facto truths, either because people really do believe in them, or the cost of questioning them becomes too great, so people conform. In time, younger people -- those who grew up being socialized into the lie -- don't know any different. In my interviews for my forthcoming book on lessons we must learn from the communist experience, a Ukrainian immigrant named Olga Grigorenko, recalling her Soviet childhood, said "Nobody told me that I was living in a lie. I was just living my life in my country, the Soviet Union. Nobody said it was a lie."

As she grew older, she came to see that in fact she lived within a system of lies. Her husband, Vladimir, spoke about how the ideology corrupted all knowledge. From the transcript:

Vladimir: For example, all history was represented as the fight between capitalism and the workers. It takes a really creative mind to see the system of classes from Marxism-Leninism presenting itself in ancient Egypt. But that's what they did. All history books were filled with that point of view. The Florentine Republic was the equal of the Great October Revolution – things like that. All our history books were like that. Every scientific paper was supposed to have a prefatory chapter describing how Marx and Engels were geniuses in that particular field of science, and how their findings anticipated whatever this scientific article described. Any and all sciences had to show a connection to the decision of the party in a previous convention.

Olga: But nobody believed in it.

Vladimir: But everybody knew that you had to say these things in order to be published.

More:

Olga: In high school and middle school, we had to write essays, like normal school kids do. But you never could write what you think about the subject. Never, ever. The subject could be interesting, but you never could put what do you think. You have to find some way to relate that to the communist view.

Vladimir: The general culture taught you this doublethink.

Olga: I remember when I was eight or nine years old, I came home from school and told my parents a funny anecdote about a famous Red Army hero, one that made him look bad. I just started to tell my parents, and my father looked at me and said, 'Never do that again. Not in our house, not anywhere. Just stop, and forget. You can't tell funny stories about communist leaders.' And I was afraid.

Vladimir: Sooner or later, society would tell you what you shouldn't say. And if you said it, you would end up in the camp.

We are reproducing that system here, in an American way. It begins with the ideological corruption of knowledge in the institutions of higher education, then moves out from there. How difficult do you imagine it would be within the New York Times newsroom, or any major American newsroom, to mount a serious challenge to the concepts of "whiteness," "patriarchy," and the like? In fact, we have an example of it, from this summer: the leaked transcript of the Times 's internal town hall meeting , in which an unnamed staffer told editor-in-chief Dean Baquet that "I just feel like racism is in everything. It should be considered in our science reporting, in our culture reporting, in our national reporting."

Baquet declined the opportunity to deliver a Journalistic Standards 101 lecture to this person, and instead gave a fuzzy non-answer ( read the transcript ; you'll see) praising the paper's then-upcoming "1619 Project," a massive initiative attempting to "reframe" American history around slavery.

If you'll recall, the 1619 Project was named for the year the first African slave arrived on American shores; the Times said that year, not 1776, ought to be remembered as the founding of America.

[Nov 25, 2019] These folks are not latter-day De Toquevilles or great historians, even if many came from colleges viewed as top drawer

Nov 25, 2019 | www.theamericanconservative.com

kuddels 5 days ago

Is it any wonder that the old foreign service establishment "embrace a geopolitical outlook that is simplistic, foolhardy, and dangerous"?

The foreign service exam of that era (probably no better today) tested substantially on ones knowledge of fiction: novels and such.

Rather like choosing career foreign service officers based on a person's performance in the entertainment trivia night at the local watering hole. It was a test of memory not logic or insightfulness or historical perspective. These folks are not latter-day De Toquevilles or great historians, even if many came from colleges viewed as top drawer.

[Nov 25, 2019] How to escape education's death valley by Sir Ken Robinson

Nov 25, 2019 | www.youtube.com

Sir Ken Robinson - SCHOOLS KILL CREATIVITY. InnoTown Conference • 71K views

[Nov 08, 2019] Bank Report Reveals Where Ruling Class Lives by Gary Engler

Nov 08, 2019 | dissidentvoice.org
While clearly not intended as a tool for the subversion of capitalism, the 2019 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report provides a fascinating glimpse at the inequality that the neoliberal era has produced, who has benefitted and those who have been left behind.

According to the tenth edition of the report, recently released, "The bottom half of wealth holders collectively accounted for less than 1% of total global wealth in mid-2019, while the richest 10% own 82% of global wealth and the top 1% alone own 45%." (Note that this a study about wealth and not income. It measure assets [housing, stocks, bonds etc.] minus debts.)

Further evidence of the incredible inequality generated by neoliberal capitalism:

The importance of knowing where rich people are and might be popping up next is what has produced this annual "most comprehensive and up-to date survey of household wealth".

In ancient Greece people would consult the oracles in order to choose the fruitful path, but today the most common source of such divination is the wisdom of the dollar and its associated deities. Rather than seek advice from experts at interpreting the various Hellenic gods, we consult those who specialize in illuminating where "the money" has been and is going. The ancient oracles could be found at shrines to the various gods; the modern version of these advice givers reside in universities, think tanks, mutual fund companies, brokerages, banks and the ever-present business media. The offerings of those seeking the guidance of today's financial gods support a multi-billion dollar information and advice industry.

This seems "rational" behavior only because we live in an economic system that distributes power on a one-dollar-one-vote basis. To divine where the dollars are is to learn where best to seek the power that comes from them. In other words, the rich get richer and those who want to catch the crumbs as they fall off the banquet table need to be present at the court of King Capital.

Like the royal courts of feudal Europe that moved around its realm from castle to castle, money, in the form of capital, travels around its planetary realm from country to country, city to city, economic sector to economic sector, searching for the highest profit. This movement of capital creates real estate and other booms in favored locations then financial crises when the wealthy decide it is time to move on.

According to supporters, capitalism is supposed to be all about competition. The system is supposed to reward merit. Winners and losers are legitimate because everyone has an equal chance to succeed. But this is clearly not true in the actual world as described by the Credit Suisse report.

How can the 2.9 billion adults who own less than $10,000 in net assets compete fairly against 47 million millionaires, let alone the 168,030 who own $50 million or more?

The system is rigged. In a neoliberal capitalist competition to buy the most profitable companies, processes, patents, ideas, and anything else that can be made "property" the winners will always be those with the most money.

This report illustrates the pyramid of capitalist wealth and the peculiar property of money that guarantees most of it floats to the top.

The only way for billions of people, most countries and entire continents to escape the inevitable "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer" is by using the power of collectivity (call it government, socialism or mutual aid) to counter the power of one-dollar-one-vote capitalism.

Gary Engler is a veteran Canadian journalist and author of American Spin , first novel in the FAKE NEWS Mysteries series, exploring journalism, propaganda, politics and murder in the Trump era. Read other articles by Gary .

[Nov 06, 2019] America Will Keep Losing Its Middle Class as Long as "The Free Market" Dominates the Economic Debate

Notable quotes:
"... By Marshall Auerback, a market analyst and commentator. produced by Economy for All , a project of the Independent Media Institute ..."
"... Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy ..."
"... When the government subsidize R&D here, what reason would there be for the resultant products that come from that R&D, be made here? In Canada the SRED (Scientific Research and Experimental Development) tax credits are used by companies to develop products that are then manufactured in China. No Canadian production worker will ever see an hour of labor from those subsidies. That result is baked into the R&D cake. ..."
"... As you point out, "many of the large International Corporations moved their software development and R&D offshore too". What stops them from co-mingling the subsidies and scamming the system for their benefit, since everything done to favor big business resolves to a scam on the peasants. ..."
Nov 06, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Posted on November 5, 2019 by Yves Smith By Marshall Auerback, a market analyst and commentator. produced by Economy for All , a project of the Independent Media Institute

National industrial policy was once something you might read about in today's equivalent of a friend's Facebook post, as hard as that might sound to believe. It was in newspapers; it was on the radio. Taxi drivers had opinions about it. That all changed in the last 35 years, when the rise and fall of the stock market and a shallow conversation about unemployment rates took over. Industrial policy became an inside-baseball conversation, and to the extent that it was discussed, it was through the prism of whether it imperiled the golden gospel and great economic distraction of our time, "the free market."

The decades of free-market propaganda we've been exposed to are basically an exercise in distracting the public from the meaningful choices that are now made behind closed doors. The two big political parties that outwardly represent symbolic issues like gun rights and school prayer spend the bulk of their time and political energy on complex industrial and regulatory questions.

But much like Nero fiddling while Rome burned, they'd better start considering the question of a national industrial policy before there's no industry left to manage. Manufacturing is now at its smallest share of the U.S. economy in 72 years, reports Bloomberg . Multinational supply chains undermine the negotiating power of workers, thereby exacerbating inequality.

Are there ways to bring back manufacturing, or should we just capitulate to a mindset that argues that these jobs are gone for good, that software retention is good enough, even as we shift what's left of our manufacturing sector overseas to sweatshop economies? That seems short-sighted. After all, it's pretty easy to steal IP; it's not so easy to steal an auto manufacturing facility. The real question is: In the absence of some sort of national industrial strategy, how do Western societies retain a viable middle class?

Decades of American middle-class exposure to favor China and other Asian countries' industrial capacity have foisted it right back from elite circles into our politics and the ballot box, in spectacular fashion, through the unlikely Donald Trump, who, in his typically blunderbuss fashion, has called attention to some serious deficiencies in our current globalized system, and the competitive threat posed by China to which we have remained oblivious for all too long.

Not that Trump's 19th-century protectionism represents the right policy response, but his concerns about Beijing make sense when you compare how much China invests in its own industrial base relative to the U.S.: Robert D. Atkinson and Caleb Foote of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation write that a recent Harvard Business School " study estimated that the Chinese governments (national, provincial, and local) paid for a whopping 22.2 percent of business R&D in 2015, with 95 percent of Chinese firms in 6 industries receiving government cash -- petrochemicals, electronics, metals and materials, machinery and equipment, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, and information technology."

In addition to the direct government grants on R&D, Atkinson and Foote estimate that "the Chinese R&D tax credit is between 3 and 4.6 times more generous than the U.S. credit. To match China's R&D tax credit generosity, the U.S. rate for the Alternative Simplified Credit would have to be increased from 14 percent to between 35 and 40 percent." Atkinson and Foote also note that " 97 percent of American federal government funding went to just three sectors: transportation equipment, which includes such as fighter jets, missiles, and the like ($14 billion); professional, scientific, and technical services ($5 billion); and computer and electronic products ($4 billion)."

Taken in aggregate, Atkinson and Foote calculate that "nearly 25 percent of all R&D expenditures in China come in the form of government subsidies to firms." That's the sort of thing that must enter the calculations of antitrust advocates when they call for breaking up big tech, without considering the ramifications to research and development, especially relative to their Chinese counterparts. (Statistically, as Anne Marie Knott and Carl Vieregger find in a 2016 paper "Reconciling the Firm Size and Innovation Puzzle," there are ample studies illustrating that R&D spending and R&D productivity increase with scale.)

Why does this matter? Robert Kuttner, writing at the Huffington Post at the inception of Barack Obama's presidency, made a compelling argument that many of America's great industrial enterprises did not simply spring up spontaneously via the magic of the "free market":

American commercial leadership in aerospace is no naturally occurring phenomenon. It reflects trillions of dollars of subsidy from the Pentagon and from NASA. Likewise, U.S. dominance in pharmaceuticals is the result of government subsidy of basic research, favorable patent treatment, and the fact that the American consumer of prescription drugs is made to overpay, giving the industry exorbitant profits to plow back into research. Throwing $700 billion at America's wounded banks is also an industrial policy.

So if we can have implicit industrial policies for these industries, why not explicit policies to rebuild our auto industry, our steel industry, our machine tool industry, and the industries of the next century, such as green energy and high-speed rail? And why not devise some clear standards for which industries deserve help, and why, and what they owe America in return?"

In fact, Kuttner describes a problem that well preceded Barack Obama. America's belief in national industrial planning has been undermined to the extent that the U.S. began to adhere to a doctrine of shareholder capitalism in the 1980s and beyond, a philosophy that minimized the role of the state, and gave primacy to short-term profitability, as well as production growth through efficiency (i.e., downsizing) and mergers. Corporate prioritization of maximizing shareholders' value and the ways American corporations have minimized long-term R&D expenditures and capital investment, all of which have resulted in the "unproductive disgorging of corporate cash profits -- through massive dividend payouts and unprecedented spending on stock repurchases -- over productive investment in innovation," write Professors Servaas Storm and C.W.M. Naastepad .

Although European companies have not gone quite as far down that route, their "stakeholder capitalism" culture has been somewhat subverted to the same short-term goals as their American counterparts, as evidenced via Volkswagen's emissions scandal and the erosion of workers' rights via the Hartz labor "reforms" (which actually undermined the unions' stakeholder status in the companies, thereby freeing up management to adopt many of the less attractive American shareholder capitalism practices). The European Union too is now belatedly recognizing the competitive threat posed by China . There's no doubt that the European political classes are also becoming mindful that there are votes to be won here as well, as Trump correctly calculated in 2016.

In the U.S., industrial policy is increasingly finding advocates on both the left (Elizabeth Warren's policy director, Ganesh Sitaraman ) and the right ( Professor Michael Lind ), via the convenient marriage of national security considerations and with international investment and trade. If trade policy is ultimately subordinated to national security concerns, it is conceivable that industrial policy could be "bi-partisanized," thereby giving primacy to homegrown strategic industries necessary to sustain viable national defense and security.

But this approach is not without risks: it is unclear whether the "national security-fication" of the industrial policy renaissance will actually enhance or hinder creativity and risk-taking, or merely cause these firms to decline altogether as viable civilian competitors vis a vis Beijing. The current travails of Boeing provide a salutary illustration of the risks of going too far down the Pentagon rat hole.

And there are a number of recent studies illustrating that the case for "dual-use" (i.e., civilian and military) manufacturing does not substantially enhance civilian industrialization and, indeed, may retard overall economic growth. On the other hand, as the venture capitalist William Janeway highlights in his seminal work, Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy , there are advantages at times to being "[d]ecoupled from any direct concern with economic return [It allowed] the Defense Department [to] fund numerous alternative research agendas, underwriting the 'wasteful' search for solutions that inevitably accompanies any effort to push back the frontiers of knowledge." So there's a balance to be struck here. But, as Janeway notes , "the strategic state interventions that have shaped the market economy over generations have depended on grander themes -- national development, national security, social justice, liberation from disease -- that transcend the calculus of welfare economics and the logic of market failure."

Furthermore, to the extent that national security considerations retard offshoring and global labor arbitrage, it can enhance the prospects for a viable form of " national developmentalism ," given that both mean tighter labor markets and higher wages, which in turn will likely push firms toward upgrading R&D spending in order to upgrade on the high end of the technology curve ( as Seymour Melman argued years ago ), as well as enhancing productivity gains. As author Ted Fertik observes :

Higher productivity makes possible more generous welfare states, and helps national industries compete to supply the world with high-tech products. If technological leadership and a prosperous, patriotic citizenry are the surest guarantees of military preponderance, such an economic policy represents the best military strategy in an era of great power competition.

Both the left and the right are beginning to recognize that it makes no sense to make war on wage-earners while claiming to protect the same wage earners from Chinese competition. But governments need to do more than act as a neutral umpire, whose role never extends beyond fixing market failures. As Janeway has illustrated , governments have historically promoted the basic research that fueled innovation and nurtured the talent and skills that "became the foundation of the Innovation Economy"; "the central research laboratories of the great corporations were first supplemented and then supplanted by direct state funding of research." But in spite of providing the foundational research for a number of leading commercial products (e.g., Apple's iPhone), the government has proved reticent in considering alternative forms of ownership structure (e.g., a " government golden share ," which gives veto rights on key strategic issues, such as relocation, offshoring, special voting rights, etc.), or retaining intellectual property rights and corresponding royalty streams to reflect the magnitude of their own R&D efforts, as Professor Mariana Mazzucato has proposed in the past . At the very least, we need to consider these alternative ownership structures that focus entrepreneurial development on value creation, as opposed to capitulating to the depredations of rentier capitalism on the spurious grounds that this is a neutral byproduct of the market's efficient allocation of resources.

Within the U.S., national industrial policy also suits green advocates, such as Senator Bernie Sanders, whose Green New Deal plan , while failing to address domestic/local content, or manufacturing in the broadest possible sense, at least begins to move the needle with regard to the federal government building and owning a national renewable grid.

Likewise in Europe, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier recently published a " National Industrial Strategy 2030 ," which, according to Dalia Marin of Bruegel think tank in Brussels , "aims to protect German firms against state-subsidized Chinese competitors. The strategy identifies key industrial sectors that will receive special government support, calls for establishing production of electric-car batteries in Europe, and advocates mergers to achieve economies of scale." It is striking that EU policymakers, such as Lars Feld of the German Council of Economic Experts , still apparently think it is a protectionist step too far to consider coordinating with the car companies (where there is already a high degree of trans-European policy coordination and international consolidation), and other sectors, to help them all at the same time -- as Beijing is now doing . Of course, it would help to embed this in a manufacturing-based Green New Deal, but it represents a healthy corrective to offshoring advocates who continue to advocate that their car industry should migrate to China, on the short-term grounds of cost consideration alone .

Essentially, the goal should be to protect the industries that policymakers think will be strategically important from outsiders, and to further integrate with allies and partners to achieve efficiencies and production scale. (Parenthetically, it seems particularly perverse right at this juncture for the UK to break away from all this continental European integration, and to try to go it alone via Brexit.) The aim should not be to protect private rent-seeking and increasing private monopolization under the guise of industrial policy, which, as Dalia Marin notes , is why EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager blocked the proposed merger between France's Alstom and Germany's Siemens. The two companies "rarely compete with CRRC in third countries, because the Chinese company mainly focuses on its home market." Hence, the grounds for creating " heavyweight champions " was really a cover for developing an oligopoly instead.

Much of the focus of negotiation in the seemingly endless trade negotiations between the U.S. and China has been on American efforts to dismantle the wave of subsidies and industrial support that Beijing furnishes to its domestic industries. This seems both unrealistic as well as being the exact opposite of what the U.S. should be doing if it hopes to level, or at least carve up, the playing field.

Likewise, the problem in both the EU and the U.S. is not the size of these companies generated by national developmentalism, but a size-neutral form of national regulation that precludes these companies from stifling competition. The goal of a truly successful and workable industrial policy should be to create an environment that supports and sustains value creation and that socializes the benefits of the R&D for society as a whole, rather than simply licensing it or selling it on to private companies so that it just becomes a vehicle that sustains rent extraction for private profits alone.

We are slowly but surely starting to move away from market fundamentalism, but we still have yet to make the full conceptual leap toward a sustainable industrial policy that creates an economy for all. At least this is now becoming a fit discussion as far as policy making goes, as many of the neoliberal shibboleths of the past 40 years are gradually being reconsidered and abandoned. That is a start.


Ignacio , November 5, 2019 at 6:13 am

Another way –and more precise in my opinion because it identifies the core problem– to frame the issue, would be this:

Why Trade Wars Are Inevitable

Repressed consumption in a few countries with sustained huge current account surpluses naturally drives manufacturing outside the US (and other deficit countries). Interestingly, Pettis says that those imbalances manifest today, not as a conflict between surplus/deficit countries, but between economic sectors: bankers and owners in surplus/deficit countries vs. the rest. According to Pettis this can be addressed internally in the US by tackling income inequality: Tax transfers, reduced health care & educational costs, raising minimum wages and giving negotiating power to unions. BUT BEFORE DOING THAT, THE US SHOULD IMPOSE CONTROLS ON FOREIGN CAPITAL INFLOWS (by taxing those) INSTEAD ON TARIFFS ON FOREIGN PRODUCTS. From the article:

It would have the additional benefit of forcing the cost of adjustment onto banks and financial speculators, unlike tariffs, which force the cost onto businesses and consumers.

If the US ever does this, other deficit countries, say the UK, France or Spain for instance, should do exactly the same, and even more abruptly if these don't want to be awash with foreign capital inflows and see inequality spiking even further.

Marshall Auerback , November 5, 2019 at 8:29 am

Not a bad way to frame the issue at all.

Winston , November 5, 2019 at 2:19 pm

It is financialization which is causing this. Please read Michael Hudson. As he has pointed out it is financialization that is key. There is a reason his book was titled "Killing the Host". Boeing's decline is also because of financialization.
https://evonomics.com/hedge-fund-activists-prey-companies/
How Hedge Fund Activists Prey on Companies

Private equity and hedge are responsible for US manufacturing decline since the 1980s, along with desire not to innovate-example why Deming's advice ignored by US automakers and absorbed by the Japanese-who then clobbered the US automakers.

Hudson also knows that rising expenses for homeowners reduced their consumption capacity. A main cause is rise in housing costs, education, and health.

Before manufacturing went to cheaper foreign shores, it went to the no union South. Has that made its workers better off? If so how come South didn't develop like Singapore? For a clue please read Ed Week article about what Singapore did and South failed to do.
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2016/01/the_low-wage_strategy_continues_in_the_south_is_it_the_future_for_your_state.html
The Low-Wage Strategy in the South: Is It the Future for Your State?

Melman's main message is that focus on national security destroyed civilian sector. Today most of US Govt R&D spending still in defense sector, while R&D disappearing in private sector because of financialization.

Industrial strategy is useless for US unless housing costs come down, unless robots are used. Hudson has already pointed out US cannot compete with Germany because of housing cost differences. As Carl Benedikt Frey who focusses on tech has pointed out Midwest revolt was because most automation was there.
"Frey argues that automation, or what he calls the third industrial revolution, is not only putting jobs at risk, but is the principal source of growing inequality within the American economy."
https://nationalinterest.org/feature/technology-trap-more-automation-driving-inequality-89211

" there are more robots in Michigan alone than in the entire American west. Where manufacturing jobs have disappeared is also where US dissatisfaction is the greatest"
https://voxeu.org/article/automation-and-its-enemies
Automation and its enemies
Carl Benedikt Frey, Ebrahim Rahbari 04 November 2019

https://www.bizjournals.com/buffalo/news/2017/09/06/rise-of-the-robots-buffalo-retail-workers-should.html

Winston , November 5, 2019 at 4:19 pm

Major industrialized countries are also heavy users of automation. Forget idea that industrial policy will lead to jobs at scale used to.:

https://www.therobotreport.com/10-automated-countries-in-the-world/
10 Most Automated Countries in the World

https://ifr.org/ifr-press-releases/news/robots-japan-delivers-52-percent-of-global-supply
Robots: Japan delivers 52 percent of global supply
Japan is the world´s predominant industrial robot manufacturer

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/08/04/business/tech/japans-farming-industry-poised-automation-revolution/
Japan's farming industry poised for automation revolution

John Merryman. , November 5, 2019 at 9:18 am

I don't know that it's so much"free markets," as the financialization of the economy, where money has mutated free a medium of exchange and necessary tool, to the end goal of creating as much notational wealth, as the purpose of markets.
Money largely functions as a contract, where the asset is ultimately backed by a debt. So in order to create the asset, similar amounts of debt have to be generated.
For one thing, it creates a centripedial effect, as positive feedback draws the asset to the center of the community, while negative feedback pushes the debt to the edges. Since finance functions the value circulation mechanism of society, this is like the heart telling the hands and feet they don't need so much blood and should work harder for what they do get. The Ancients used debt nubiles to reset this process, but we lack the long term perspective.
The other consequence is the government has been manipulated into being debtor of last resort. Where would those trillions go otherwise and could Wall Street function without the government soaking up so much excess money. The real elephant in the room is the degree public debt backs private wealth.

John Merryman. , November 5, 2019 at 10:49 am

Further note; Since this borrowed money cannot be used to compete with the private sector for what is a finite amount of profitable investments, it is used to blow up whatever other countries incur the wrath of our despots.
As Deep Throat explained, if you want to know what's going on, follow the money.

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL , November 5, 2019 at 3:29 pm

Whenever I see the term "free markets" bandied about I know it's a framing that fits an ideology but in no way fits the actual facts.

Just like we now have two criminal justice systems, we now have two market systems: crony capitalism, and actual capitalism.

Crony capitalism is for Exxon Mobil; Verizon; Amazon; Raytheon; JP Morgan. Actual capitalism is reserved for the plebes, who get "creative destruction". Mom slipped and fell; the hospital bill arrived and there wasn't enough cash; so they took the house.

It's the obverse of the "socialism" argument. We have socialism across the length and breadth of the economy: more Federal dollars are spent subsidizing fossil fuels than are spent educating children. But heaven forbid Bernie should utter the "S" word, because he's talking about the kind of socialism for you and me.

John Merryman , November 5, 2019 at 5:43 pm

The problem is avoiding that us versus them polarity and show why what is going on is BS. That the markets NEED government debt to function and then waste that collective value. Not that government is some old nanny, trying to quell the 'animal spirits" of the market.
Maintaining infrastructure just isn't as glamorous as guns and bombs. Probably doesn't threaten to kill you, if you don't give it the money, either.
It should be obvious to most that simply pouring more vodka into the punch bowl does not create a healthy economy, just a bunch of vultures picking at the carcass.
Finance does function as the circulation mechanism of the body of the community, just as government, as its executive and regulatory function, is the central nervous system. We had private government before, called monarchy. Now finance is having its 'let them eat cake' moment.
As a medium, money is a public utility, like that other medium of roads. You can have the most expensive car out there, but you still don't own the road.
It's not that society should be either private, or public, but an intelligent mix of both.

rtah100 , November 5, 2019 at 7:20 pm

I want me some o' them debt nubiles! They sound like fun gals / guys/ humans. No wonder you're merry, man!

I'd also like a policy of debt jubilees and I imagine you would too. :-)

The Rev Kev , November 5, 2019 at 9:24 am

Just winging it a bit here but perhaps it might be an idea to map out money flows to help decide how to strengthen America's industrial health. As an example, it might be time to end some subsidies. I understand that there are deliberate tax breaks for corporations that move their manufacturing overseas. Cut them now for a start. Yeah, I know. Closing the barn door too late.
To free up cash for R&D, turn back the clock to 1982 and make stock buybacks once more illegal. Give tax credits to companies that pay for a younger generation of machinist's education. Have the Federal government match dollar-for-dollar money spent on R&D. If the government really wants to free up resources, bring out a law that says that it is illegal for the government to give any subsidies for any corporation with a net worth of $1 billion or more.
But we all know that none of this will ever happen as there are far too many rice bowls involved for this to be done – until it is too late. Oh well.

Leftcoastindie , November 5, 2019 at 11:04 am

"I understand that there are deliberate tax breaks for corporations that move their manufacturing overseas. Cut them now for a start. Yeah, I know. Closing the barn door too late."

Better late than never!

Personally, I think that is the only way to get a handle on this situation – Change the tax laws.

rd , November 5, 2019 at 9:52 am

Some thoughts:

1. Designate industries as targets to retain/recreate significant manufacturing capability in the US – semiconductors, flat screens, solar panels, and pharmaceuticals come to mind. Give them preferential protection with quotas, tariffs etc. instead of just shotgun tariffs. These industries should be forward looking instead of recreating mid 20th century.

2. Integrate this into NAFTA and maybe add Central American countries to it. If we need to use cheap labor, then do it in countries that otherwise provide illegal immigrants to us to build up their economies. Far better than sending the jobs to China, a major global competitor.

3. Fund big science such as NASA etc. A lot of discoveries come out that can then be commercialized with manufacturing inside the US and NAFTA.

Arizona Slim , November 5, 2019 at 9:29 pm

Seconded. Good thoughts, rd.

David J. , November 5, 2019 at 10:03 am

It's very refreshing to read articles of this kind. Thank you.

I'm recently retired and my career consisted of a healthy portion of managerial and executive responsibilities as well as a long denouement of flat out proletarian, worker-drone, pseudo-Taylorized work. (Think Amazon but not at Amazon.) I've experienced, in some detail, what I consider to be both sides of the post WWII dynamic as it relates to technology and who controls the shop floor. Now that I have some time on my hands I've decided to see if I can better understand what appears to be a central contradiction of modern industrial practice and especially what I believe to be misguided efforts by non-industrial corporations to employ industrial-work-process techniques in day-to-day practice.

I'm re-reading David F. Noble's 1984 book, Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation , as well as Christopher Lasch's The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy , as a beginning foray into this topic.

It does seem to me that we can do a lot better. A well developed industrial policy should include both a strategy for improving our productive capacity while simultaneously more fairly distributing the fruits of productivity more broadly throughout the population.

This article and the comments are very helpful in pointing the way.

Sam , November 5, 2019 at 10:42 am

For those who have used up their free access to Foreign Policy there's a non-paywalled version of the Pettis article on the Carnegie endowment website.

steven , November 5, 2019 at 12:11 pm

There is so much to like in this post I am going to concentrate on the few points with which I had problems:
1. Any time I hear an economist bemoaning policies which "may retard overall economic growth." I am tempted to just tune out. 'nega-growth', a variant of Amory Lovins' 'Nega-Watts' maybe. But surely not more military Keynesianism, speeded up planned obsolescence and just plain junk!
2. Then there is "the convenient marriage of national security considerations and with international investment and trade." If national security considerations involve insuring circuit boards for more exceptional (SIC) fighting machines like the F35 or for that matter more hydrogen bombs that might actually work, count me out. OTOH if they include, for example, insuring the country has the capability to produce its own medicines and generally any of the goods and services required for national survival, sign me up.

(national security) Then there is 'climate change', brought to us by Exxon Mobile and the century-long pursuit of The Prize in the Middle Eastern deserts.

lyman alpha blob , November 5, 2019 at 1:30 pm

The title hits the nail right on the head.

An anecdote regarding this free market for everything all the time mentality –

My small city's council recently debated whether to pay several tens of thousands of dollars for a "branding" campaign with a PR/marketing company who in the past has dealt with Conde Nast, so read high end clientele. My better half, who is a councilor, argued that spending all that $$$ to attract more tourists wasn't the best use of the city's funds and that we weren't a "brand" to begin with, but a city. We've already had big problems will illegal Airbnb's removing significant amounts of housing from the market and housing costs have skyrocketed in recent years while wages, of course, have not. The city had until relatively recently been a blue collar suburb but that has changed rapidly. My wife tried to make the case that the result of this "branding" was likely to push housing costs even higher and push more long time residents right of of town. The council is pretty liberal, whatever that means these days, and I don't believe there is a pro-business Republican among them. She was still on the losing end of a 6-1 vote in favor of the "branding".

Very good article, however I don't think trying to bring manufacturing back by framing it in terms of 'national security' is a good idea. Although the idea itself is correct, explicitly promoting it this way would just hand more power over to the national security industry and that has not served us well at all in the last two decades.

Susan the Other , November 5, 2019 at 2:53 pm

This was a great summary of rational thinking. Thank you MA. I've been almost depressed this last year or so by the relentless undermining of national sovereignty. Trying to replace it with everything from global supply chains to the ECB to Brexit-free-trade (even without Europe) to private property rights to you name it. Sovereignty is a very basic thing – we agree to it like we agree to our currency. And by that agreement we certainly imply an "Industrial Policy to create an economy for all." How this wisdom got systematically gaslighted is a whole nuther story. I'm glad China didn't get hooked.

Ford Prefect , November 5, 2019 at 3:06 pm

Make America Great Again.

Apparently, Americans don't need flag-making jobs as they will not Make America Great. Trump campaign making banners in China – moving fast to beat tariffs deadline. Although there is the possibility that these are for domestic consumption in China to help rally Chinese hackers to the cause of supporting the Trump campaign, including voting for Trump. That would prove there is No Collusion with Russia.

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-2020-campaign-banners-are-being-proudly-produced-in-china-2018-07-25?mod=MW_story_top_stories

Jeremy Grimm , November 5, 2019 at 7:35 pm

This post started off suggesting it's time to toss the "the free market" and I would add that it's time to toss "free trade/globalization" too, but it shifted to discussions of R&D spending, cautions to anti-trust advocates, and considerations of industrial policy and national security.

If R&D spending and productivity increase with scale, and many sectors of the US economy are dominated by a handful of large International Corporations does that mean that US R&D spending and productivity are close to full-scale -- as are the Corporations? How does scaled-up R&D spending reconcile with "massive dividend payouts and unprecedented spending on stock repurchases" and the Corporate prioritization of "short-term profitability"? Should I read the claims about how R&D spending and productivity increase with 'scale' to mean the scale of the R&D spending -- not the scale of the firm? If so what sort of calculations should be made by "antitrust advocates when they call for breaking up big tech" if I separate the scale of a firm from the scale of the R&D spending? Does it matter where the R&D is done? Haven't many of the large International Corporations moved their software development and R&D offshore too? ["Software retention"? -- What "software retention"?]

"Likewise, the problem in both the EU and the U.S. is not the size of these companies generated by national developmentalism, but a size-neutral form of national regulation that precludes these companies from stifling competition." What sort of industrial policy will compel International Cartels to play nice with domestic small and medium-sized businesses? Will that industrial policy be tied with some kind of changes to the 'free market' for politicians, prosecutors, courts, and regulators?

If we sell it here, but we don't make it here any more then what kind of industrial policy will rebuild the factories, the base of industrial capital, skills, and technical know-how? It will take more than trade disputes or currency rate of exchange tricks, or R&D spending, or targeted spending on a few DoD programs to rebuild US Industry. Shouldn't an industrial policy address the little problem of the long distance splaying of industries across seas and nations, the narrowing and consolidation of supply chains for the parts used the products still 'made in the usa'? If the US started protecting its 'infant industry' I think that might impact the way a lot of countries will run their economies. This would affect a basis for our international hegemony. And if we don't protect our industry, which will have to be re-built and raised from the razed factory buildings scattered around this country, how would it ever reach the size and complexity needed to prosper again?

cnchal , November 5, 2019 at 10:05 pm

Lots of great questions, with no real answers.

When the government subsidize R&D here, what reason would there be for the resultant products that come from that R&D, be made here? In Canada the SRED (Scientific Research and Experimental Development) tax credits are used by companies to develop products that are then manufactured in China. No Canadian production worker will ever see an hour of labor from those subsidies. That result is baked into the R&D cake.

As you point out, "many of the large International Corporations moved their software development and R&D offshore too". What stops them from co-mingling the subsidies and scamming the system for their benefit, since everything done to favor big business resolves to a scam on the peasants.

[Oct 31, 2019] The Political Parties and the Media Have Abandoned the Working "Middle Class"

Oct 31, 2019 | www.oftwominds.com

October 31, 2019

Where is the line between "working class" and "middle class"? Maybe there isn't any.

Defining the "middle class" has devolved to a pundit parlor game, so let's get real for a moment (if we dare): the "middle class" is no longer defined by the traditional metrics of income or job type (blue collar, white collar), but by an entirely different set of metrics:

1. Household indebtedness, i.e. how much of the income is devoted to debt service, and

2. How much of the household spending is funded by debt.

3. The ability of the household to set aside substantial savings / capital investment.

4. The security of the households' employment.

5. The dependence of the household wealth on speculative asset bubbles inflated by central bank policies.

6. The percentage of the household income that is unearned, i.e. derived not from labor but from productive assets.

7. The exposure of the households' employment to automation, AI or offshoring.

8. How much of the household income is government transfers: benefits, subsidies, etc.

After writing about the middle class and America's class structure in depth for over a decade, it seems to me the actual, real-world class structure is something along these lines:

1. No formal earned income, dependent on government transfers, possibly supplemented by informal "black market" income; no family wealth.

2. The Working Poor, those laboring at minimum wage or part-time jobs with few if any benefits. This class depends on government transfers to get by: EBT (food stamps), housing subsidies, school lunch subsidies, Medicaid, etc. Highly exposed to reductions in hours, tips, gigs, etc. and layoffs.

3. The "muddle class" which muddles through on earned income, much of which goes to debt service (student loans, auto loans, mortgages, credit cards) and skyrocketing big-ticket expenses: rent, healthcare, childcare, etc. Unable to save enough to move the needle on household capital, any net worth is dependent on speculative asset bubbles continuing to inflate. Highly exposed to layoffs or destabilizing changes in employment status: from full-time to part-time, loss of benefits, etc.

This article from WSJ.com describes the Muddle Class: Families Go Deep in Debt to Stay in the Middle Class

4. The Protected Class with secure income/earnings and benefits: this includes the nomenklatura of government employees, mid-level technocrat / managerial employees in academia, government-funded non-profits, etc., and retirees with Medicare, Social Security and other income (pensions, unearned investment income, etc.) and family assets (home owned free and clear, substantial 401K nest eggs, etc.)

5. "Winner Take Most" Corporate America / market-economy households: top managers and salespeople, entrepreneurs, successful business owners, speculators in financialization/asset bubbles, marketers, those earning substantial royalties, etc. Most work crazy-hard and make sacrifices, as per this article from The Atlantic: Why You Never See Your Friends Anymore : Our unpredictable and overburdened schedules are taking a dire toll on American society.

6. The wealthy and super-wealthy. Many continue working hard despite being worth tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars, as per this article from NYT.com: Why Don't Rich People Just Stop Working? Are the wealthy addicted to money, competition, or just feeling important? Yes.

7. The upper reaches of this class constitute a Financial Aristocracy / Oligarchy / New Nobility, those who have leveraged mere wealth into political, social and financial power .

8. The Mobile Creatives Class , currently small but expanding, which essentially obsoletes the entire status quo of working for an employer (often to get benefits), going heavily into debt for a college degree, vehicle, house, wedding, etc., hiring employees and paying outrageous prices to live in an overcrowded, soul-destroying city, etc.

I've written often about Mobile Creatives , but the basic idea is multiple income streams and forms of capital provide security rather than depending on the state or an employer: Career Advice to 20-Somethings: Create Value as a Mobile Creative .

Where is the line between "working class" and "middle class"? Maybe there isn't any. The old definitions of working and middle class were social more than financial--the middle class was better educated (school teacher, etc.) than the working class (factory worker, skilled tradesperson) but both could aspire to owning a home and giving their children a more secure life than they had started with.

The working class was not limited to the working poor : working-class jobs provided security and social mobility, just like white-collar middle class jobs.

What differentiates classes now is debt, employment security and the ability to build household capital that isn't just a sand castle of speculative bubble "wealth." The worker with tradecraft skills (welding, logger, etc.) has more security and earning power than a college graduate with few skills that can't be outsourced or automated.

Many college graduates work in sectors that are highly exposed to layoffs and downsizing once the economy contracts: food and beverages, hospitality, etc.

All of which leads us to a highly verboten conclusion: both political parties and the corporate media have abandoned the 2/3 of the workforce that is working/middle class. The bottom 20% dependent on government transfers has more security than those earning just enough to disqualify the household for transfers, while the top 15% in the Protected Class are doing just fine unless they're over-indebted.

The winner take most class and the wealthy dominate both political parties and the media which is now dependent on advertising that appeals to the top 10% of households that collect more than 50% of the national income.

The political parties take care of the government dependent class to keep the rabble from rebelling, and they keep the government gravy train flowing to the Protected Class (healthcare, national defense, academia, government employees) to insure their support at election time, but they take their marching orders from the Aristocracy / Oligarchy that fund their campaigns and enrich them with $100,000 speaking fees, seats on the board of directors, etc.

The Working/Middle Class gets nothing but lip-service, and that's been the case for decades. The political parties and the media abandoned the Working/Middle Class long ago, buttering their bread with the soaring wealth of the Aristocracy / Oligarchy and relegating everyone outside the Protected Class who labors for their livelihood to the servitude of politically impotent tax donkey / debt-serfdom.

Please examine these charts closely. They look busy but show that income inequality has been rising for over three decades.

Here's income by quintile. The top 5% have done extremely well, the Protected Class 15% below them have done just fine, and the bottom 80%, well, who cares about them as long as they're politically passive and make their loan payments?

Cumulative income reveals the widening gap between the bottom 80% and the top 5%. The gap was not very big in the early 1990s, but look at it now:

Another chart of the top 5% pulling away from the rest of us:

No wonder the media depends on luxury/aspirational advertising: the top 5% are the only ones with the money and credit to blow on status-signifying fripperies:

Where does this lead? To this--a collapse of buffers: debt is not income, and eventually the buffers of borrowing more to keep afloat thin and break down. When the financial buffers of the middle two-thirds of working / middle class households break down, the economy and the social-political order will break down, too.

Don't think it won't happen just because it hasn't happened yet.

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[Oct 26, 2019] The Famous Baseball-Watching Equality-Equity Graphic, Scrutinized by Peter Dorman

Notable quotes:
"... The real world politics of affirmative action, targeted (as opposed to universal) benefit programs and the like reside in these complexities. The equity graphic conveys the initial insight, but the assumptions packed into its story make it harder rather than easier to think through the controversies that bedevil equity politics. ..."
"... This goes back to what I call justice vs fairness. Justice is supposed to be blind, with the same outcome for all. It ain't so at the moment, but let's suppose we'd get a perfect justice. It still would not be fair. Fine of 1k may mean bankruptcy for some, and way beyond the level of recognition for someone else. ..."
"... But if you start getting into "fair", it has its own problems. Namely, fair depends on the context, and the context may vary – what is fair in one context may be deeply unfair in another, and it's possible that there's no solution where something is "fair" in all possible (or even majority) contexts. ..."
"... Precisely a point. Abstract words require context when applied to concrete cases. The main case for 'equal' is likely "all men are created equal" in the Declaration of Independence. The context there especially is a retort to the divine right of royalty. ..."
"... I think this argues for why a human element – judges – are indispensible for taking into account context and setting consequences appropriately. So Yves' introduction about the co-optation of the judiciary by Law & Economics is pertinent. It is vital for society to require the judiciary to act in the public interest. ..."
"... The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread. Anatole France ..."
"... Another angle: all three are cheating, trying to watch the game without paying. If everybody did that. The point of the pictures is to simplify the concepts enough to provide a working definition – though as Studebaker wrote, it isn't a very good definition. ..."
"... Neo-liberal economics has resulted in more and more Americans finding themselves on the ' outside' , looking in, and a great many of them are quite upset about that because they remember a better time, and understand that in a very real sense, they're situation is the result of the callous, and willful behavior of elites who've profited in ruining their quality of life. ..."
"... Indeed. "The baseball game is dependent on the wall." Because, for one, who wants to run all the way to the river and wade in after the stupid ball? Baseball is an enjoyable distraction. So, to carry this metaphor, is the economy. Equity, to me, was always an equal share of something. A stake in something. Equal justice under the law. Without equity, as is now dawning on me, there can be no hope of equality. ..."
"... Neoliberalism is "accumulation by dispossession" (David Harvey) so there's no equity there. Hence no equality. ..."
Oct 25, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Yves here. To give you a bit of break rom the loud warble coming from far too many news outlets, here's a point of entry into a classic debate about fairness, or more specifically, equality versus equity.

In case you missed it, there's been a war on equity in the form of the law and economics movement. From ECONNED:

The third avenue for promoting and institutionalizing the "free market" ideology was inculcating judges. It was one of the most far-reaching actions the radical right wing could take. Precedents are powerful, and the bench turns over slowly. Success here would make the "free markets" revolution difficult to reverse.

While conservative scholars like Richard Posner and Richard Epstein at the University of Chicago trained some of the initial right-leaning jurists, attorney Henry Manne gave the effort far greater reach. Manne established his "law and economics" courses for judges, which grew into the Law and Economics Center, which in 1980 moved from the University of Miami to Emory in Atlanta and eventually to George Mason University.

Manne had gotten the backing of over 200 conservative sponsors, including some known for extreme right-wing views, such as the Adolph Coors Company, plus many of the large U.S. corporations that were also funding the deregulation.

Manne is often depicted as an entrepreneur in the realm of ideas. He took note of the fact that, at the time, the University of Chicago had one of the few law schools that solicited funding from large corporations. Manne sought to create a new law school, not along conventional brick-and-mortar lines (his efforts here failed), but as a network. He set out to become a wholesaler, teaching law professors and judges. However, although Manne presented his courses as teaching economics from a legal perspective, they had a strong ideological bias:

The center is directed by Henry Manne, a corporate lawyer who has undertaken to demolish what he calls "the myth of corporate responsibility." "Every time I hear a businessman acknowledge public interest in what they do," Manne warns, "they invite political control over their activities." At Manne's center in Miami, interested judges learn how to write decisions against such outside political control couched in the new norms of market efficiency.

Manne approached his effort not simply as education, but as a political movement. He would not accept law professors into his courses unless at least two came from a single school, so that they could support each other and push for others from the law and economics school of thought to be hired.

The program expanded to include seminars for judges, training in legal issues for economists, and an economics institute for Congressional aides. A 1979 Fortune article on the program noted that the instructors "almost to a man" were from the "free market" school of economics. Through 1980, 137 federal district and circuit court judges had finished the basic program and 56 had taken additional "advanced" one-week courses.

It is hard to overstate the change this campaign produced, namely, a major shift in jurisprudence. As Steven Teles of the University of Maryland noted:

In the beginning, the law and economics (with the partial exception of its application to antitrust) was so far out of the legal academic mainstream as to be reasonably characterized as "off the wall." . . . Moving law and economics' status from "off the wall" to "controversial but respectable" required a combination of celebrity and organizational entrepreneurship. . . . Mannes' programs for federal judges helped erase law and economics' stigma, since if judges -- the symbol of legal professional respectability -- took the ideas seriously, they could not be crazy and irresponsible.

Now why was law and economics vantage seen as "off the wall?" Previously, as noted above, economic thinking had been limited to antitrust, which inherently involves economic concepts (various ways to measure the power of large companies in a market). So extending economic concepts further was at least novel, and novel could be tantamount to "off the wall" in some circles. But with hindsight, equally strong words like "radical," "activist," and "revolutionary" would apply.

Why? The law and economics promoters sought to colonize legal minds. And, to a large extent they succeeded. For centuries (literally), jurisprudence had been a multifaceted subject aimed at ordering human affairs. The law and economics advocates wanted none of that. The law and economics advocates wanted none of that. They wanted their narrow construct to play as prominent a role as possible.

For instance, a notion that predates the legal practice is equity, that is, fairness. The law in its various forms including legislative, constitutional, private (i.e., contract), judicial, and administrative, is supposed to operate within broad, inherited concepts of equity. Another fundamental premise is the importance of "due process," meaning adherence to procedures set by the state. By contrast, the "free markets" ideology focuses on efficiency and seeks aggressively to minimize the role of government. The two sets of assumptions are diametrically opposed.

By Peter Dorman, professor of economics at The Evergreen State College. Originally published at Econospeak

Here's the graphic, widely used to explain why equity outcomes require unequal treatment of different people.

Benjamin Studebaker (hat tip Naked Capitalism ) doesn't like it at all: "I hate it so much." But his complaints, about the way the graphic elides classic debates in political theory, strike me as being too redolent of grad school obsessions. The graphic is not trying to advance one academic doctrine over another; it just makes a simple case for compensatory policy. I agree in a general way with this perspective.

Consider the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which mandates special facilities in public buildings to accommodate people in wheelchairs or facing other mobility challenges. This is unequal treatment: extra money is spent to install ramps that only a few will use, rather than for amenities for everyone. But it's a great idea! Yes, compensation is concentrated on a minority, but it aims to allow everyone to participate in public activities, and in doing this it embodies a spirit of solidarity that ought to embrace all of us. By making a simple, intuitive case for focused compensation, the graphic captures the spirit behind the ADA and many other policies that take account of inequalities that would otherwise leave some members of the community excluded and oppressed.

Unfortunately, however, there are serious limitations to the graphic; above all, it embodies assumptions that beg most of the questions people ask about compensatory programs. Some are challenges from conservatives of a more individualistic bent, others might be asked by friendly critics on the left, but all are worthy of being taken seriously.

1. Watching the game over the fence is binary: either you can see it or you can't. In the real world, however, most activities are matters of degree. You can learn more or less of a particular subject in school, have a better or worse chance of getting the job you want, live in a bigger or smaller house or apartment. How much compensation is enough? At what point do we decide that the gains from ex post equity are not large enough to justify the other costs of the program, not only monetary but possible conflicts with other social objectives? Every teacher who has thought about how much extra attention to give those students who come to the classroom with extra needs has faced this problem.

2. Watching the game is passive, an act of pure consumption. Things get more complex when inequalities involve activities that produce goods of value to others. For instance, how would the graphic address compensatory programs for the baseball players ? Yes, a player from an underserved, overlooked community should get an extra chance to show they should be on the team. But should the criteria for who makes the team be relaxed? How and how much? In case you haven't noticed, this gets to the core of debates over affirmative action. Again, I am in favor of the principle of taking extra steps to compensate for pre-existing inequalities, but the graphic offers no guidance in figuring out how far to go in that direction.

3. Height is a largely inherited condition, but what about differences in opportunity that are at least partly the result of the choices we make ourselves? This is red meat to conservatives, who denounce affirmative action and other compensatory policies on the grounds that they undermine the incentive to try hard and do one's best. I think this position is too extreme, since inherited and environmental conditions are obviously crucial in many contexts, but it would also be a mistake to say that individual choices play no role at all. Again we are facing questions of degree, and the graphic, with it's clear intimation that inequality is inborn and ineluctable, doesn't help.

4. The inequality depicted in the graphic is height, which is easily and uncontroversially measured. Most social inequalities are anything but. Student A went to a high school with a library; student B's high school didn't have one. That's a meaningful inequality, and if an opportunity can be awarded to only one of them, like entrance into a selective college program, it ought to be considered. But how big an effect should we attribute to it? Damned if I know.

5. There is no real scarcity facing the three game-watchers in the graphics. There are enough boxes to allow everyone to get a good view and enough fence space for everyone to share. In the real world neither tends to be true. Resources that can be devoted to compensatory programs are limited, especially on a global scale, which, if you're really an egalitarian, is how you should think about these things. Even locally, the money often runs short. The college I used to teach at could be criticized for not doing enough for students from low income and rural backgrounds with weak K-12 systems (I certainly did), but even with the best of intentions the money was not there. Of course, where the goods to be distributed are competitive, like slots in a school or job openings at a company, the problem is that there's not enough fence space to go around. Yes, we should take action to provide more opportunities and reduce the competitive scarcity. No, this won't make the scarcity go away completely.

6. The graphic shows us three individuals and asks us to visually compare their heights. America has a population of over 320 million, and even "small" communities can have a cast of thousands. Surely we are not expected to make individual calculations for every person-by-person comparison. No, those using the graphic usually have in mind group comparisons -- differences requiring compensatory interventions according to race, class, gender, ability status, etc. But while that makes things easier by reducing the number of comparisons, it makes everything else much harder to figure out: How do we measure group advantages and disadvantages? How do we account for intersections? Are they additive, multiplicative or something else? Do all members of the group get assigned the same advantage/disadvantage rankings? If not, on what criteria? These are tremendously difficult questions. I am not suggesting that they force us to abandon an egalitarian commitment to substantive, ex post equality -- quite the contrary, in fact. We do have to face them if we want to reduce the inequality in this world. My point here is that, by depicting just these three fans watching a baseball game over a fence, one tall, one medium, one short, the graphic is a dishonest guide to navigating actual situations.

My bottom line is that, while I agree with the spirit of the graphic that policies, whether at a single office, a large institution or an entire country, should take account of the inequalities people face in real life and try to compensate for them, how and how far to go is difficult to resolve. Achieving ex post equality is complicated in the face of so many factors that affect our chances in life, and on top of this, equality is only one of many values we ought to respect.

The real world politics of affirmative action, targeted (as opposed to universal) benefit programs and the like reside in these complexities. The equity graphic conveys the initial insight, but the assumptions packed into its story make it harder rather than easier to think through the controversies that bedevil equity politics.


vlade , October 25, 2019 at 4:22 am

This goes back to what I call justice vs fairness. Justice is supposed to be blind, with the same outcome for all. It ain't so at the moment, but let's suppose we'd get a perfect justice. It still would not be fair. Fine of 1k may mean bankruptcy for some, and way beyond the level of recognition for someone else.

But if you start getting into "fair", it has its own problems. Namely, fair depends on the context, and the context may vary – what is fair in one context may be deeply unfair in another, and it's possible that there's no solution where something is "fair" in all possible (or even majority) contexts.

Justice is blind really means it declaratively sets the context and recognises no other. But if we lock the context for fairness, we'll generate some unfair outcomes.

That all said, the fact that the perfect outcome is unachievable doesn't mean we'd not strive for a better one.

Steve H. , October 25, 2019 at 7:31 am

> context may vary

Precisely a point. Abstract words require context when applied to concrete cases. The main case for 'equal' is likely "all men are created equal" in the Declaration of Independence. The context there especially is a retort to the divine right of royalty.

Abstractions are particularly subject to korinthenkacking, "questions of degree". Commitment to decisions tend to binarism, and (imo) usually based on one or two factors, with a third for nuance.

For all the dithers, there is an egalatarianism inherent in the image; universally, everyone has been a child and at some point has felt the pain of being too small. That emotional impact is part of its success.

Oguk , October 25, 2019 at 11:41 am

I think this argues for why a human element – judges – are indispensible for taking into account context and setting consequences appropriately. So Yves' introduction about the co-optation of the judiciary by Law & Economics is pertinent. It is vital for society to require the judiciary to act in the public interest. Manne's framing of this as "political control" is not completely wrong. The kind of judicial reform we (I) would like to see needs to articulate what "public interest" means. I find Dorman's grappling with this graphic to be a helpful start. The left seems deficient in thinking about this kind of complexity (though perhaps I've missed it).

Katniss Everdeen , October 25, 2019 at 8:13 am

Wow, hadn't seen this before. Kinda fun to think about. Maybe the whole point is just to illustrate the difference in the definitions of the two words in an Ikea sorta way. Haven't seen the Studebaker critique so I don't know what his issues are.

I also have no idea what the "classic debates in political theory" wrt this graphic are. But a few thoughts occur to me–can the short guy cut a hole in the the fence, or do the "rules" say that the only way to see the game, without buying a ticket of course, is by looking OVER the fence?

Is there a legitimate reason for the fence at all? If so, what is it? If not, why is it there? Why are there no wheel chairs in the picture, when the discussion involves disabled accommodation? Why do the kibitzers in the graphic appear to be minorities, no whites?

Gotta take the dog to the vet now. Will look for the Studebaker piece later. Maybe he answers my questions.

Greg Gerner , October 25, 2019 at 8:36 am

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread. Anatole France

James Fox , October 25, 2019 at 8:45 am

I have always found this graphic both confusing and troubling. Why are the three central figures watching the game outside the park? Isn't the difference between the outside the fence watchers and the comfortably seated audience inside the park a question of equality and equity? Are equity standards only applied to people relegated to not only 'second class seating' but standing room only areas? Finally, do the people inside the park get to decide not only who gets into the park but also how well or poorly the excluded fence watchers execute a workaround to subvert the exclusionary practices implied by the presence of a fence?

Oregoncharles , October 26, 2019 at 12:33 am

Another angle: all three are cheating, trying to watch the game without paying. If everybody did that. The point of the pictures is to simplify the concepts enough to provide a working definition – though as Studebaker wrote, it isn't a very good definition.

In simplifying it so much, it leaves a tremendous amount out and dodges a legion of questions – both our writers seem to agree that it dodges crucial questions.

In the end, it's just a cartoon. You're right: the field would have guards out there to prevent this sort of thing, unless they were consciously offering charity.

Watt4Bob , October 25, 2019 at 9:21 am

Why has no one made note of the fact that the people in the graphic are all excluded, presumedly because of lack of the price of a ticket?

And is that lack of money due to the fact that they are all people of color, and so subject to the economic inequality, based on racial prejudice, that plagues our system?

To me, the graphic portrays, in sub-text, the notion that people with less can/should be happy with less than full participation in the culture in which they live, so long as that austerity is ' properly' distributed amongst those ' outside ' the fence.

Neo-liberal economics has resulted in more and more Americans finding themselves on the ' outside' , looking in, and a great many of them are quite upset about that because they remember a better time, and understand that in a very real sense, they're situation is the result of the callous, and willful behavior of elites who've profited in ruining their quality of life.

To take my analysis a bit further, IMO, it is the ' nouveau poor ' who, because of their belief that they deserve the better life they clearly remember, and so recently lost, insist that the ' equality ' portrayed in the left panel is reasonable, and should be accepted because it is obviously evenly distributed.

This misinformed opinion might be attributed to their lack of experience with their new life ' outside ', where people over time learn to cooperate in making do with less.

There is a rich literature dealing with this reality, think The Prince and the Pauper, or even the teachings of Jesus, and the Buddha.

The folks who believe in MAGA, are refusing to adjust, and believe that somehow, they will regain their rightful place in an economy that has clearly decided to leave them behind, and ' outside '.

Our job then, is to help them understand that their only real hope for a better life is in solidarity with the rest of us, in our fight to get everyone a place inside the fence.

This job is obviously a long, up hill battle, largely because of the long history of the PTB stigmatizing socialism, dividing to conquer, and of course the MSM's total abandonment of their civic duty.

It's Bernie or bust!

Dan , October 25, 2019 at 12:56 pm

And, that the little kid will, unless they are a midget, grow to the point where they can see over the fence?

Oh, and poor white people, who outnumber blacks? What about them?

Will Shetterly , October 25, 2019 at 10:02 am

Socialism flattens the fence so anyone who wants to watch can take a seat in the stadium.

Watt4Bob , October 25, 2019 at 4:44 pm

Exactly!

Cuba is a baseball-crazy country, how many people in Cuba are watching from over the fence?

Joe Well , October 25, 2019 at 5:48 pm

I odce spent a few months in Cuba. It is absolutely not a model for most things. One anecdote: an employee of the film industry (ICAIC) told me she gave some desperately poor friends movie theater tickets. They ended up not going because they couldn't afford the bus fare.

A bigger issue: the daily struggle to get enough to eat beyond rice, beans, and sugar. We can debate the role of the US in turning Cuba into a near prison, and all sanctions need to stop now, but it is what it is.

witters , October 26, 2019 at 12:57 am

We can debate the role of the US in turning Cuba into a near prison, and all sanctions need to stop now, but it is what it is.

And we can debate why, without sanctions, the US has the largest prison population in the world at the highest rate of imprisonment. Tthough, of course, there is "no daily struggle" for food or healthcare )

https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2019.html

Joe Well , October 26, 2019 at 10:15 am

Cuba is an actual country with 11 million real people in it, not just a set of talking points or a hypothetical. Of all the manifestations of North American arrogance, being made into fairy tales pisses off Latin Americans, including the left, about as much as any. We can abolish the current prison model and also abolish the sanctions on Cuba and do other things not to make their already difficult lives worse.

A country a hundred miles from Disney World has the boot of the US state pressing down on its suffering people and most American leftists only talk about it in terms of an internal US political debate. Exhibit 10000 of why the American left sucks.

And yes, Cuba today distributes what resources it does have so unequally that it is not a great model of social justice.

Anarcissie , October 25, 2019 at 11:41 am

In the graphic, there are at least three games going on: the baseball game, about which we don't learn very much; the game of the fence, which is solved with box arrangements, or by taking it down; and the game of the definitions of 'equality' and 'equity', which comes through the fourth wall into the world in which the cartoonist is trying to prove something. According to my communistic prejudices, I would have said the only just solution would be to remove the wall, but it could be that the baseball game is dependent on the wall -- I would think most goods produced by labor, especially performances, would require some defining structure -- and certainly the word game requires the wall as part of its raw material.

PKMKII , October 25, 2019 at 11:45 am

Or, replace the wall with clear plexiglass, thus retaining the nature of the game but removing the market barriers that keep people without access to funds from enjoying the game.

Susan the Other , October 25, 2019 at 2:02 pm

Indeed. "The baseball game is dependent on the wall." Because, for one, who wants to run all the way to the river and wade in after the stupid ball? Baseball is an enjoyable distraction. So, to carry this metaphor, is the economy. Equity, to me, was always an equal share of something. A stake in something. Equal justice under the law. Without equity, as is now dawning on me, there can be no hope of equality.

Little Manu Macron, in a burst of hypocrisy, told Trump that the difference between France and the US was that France was based more on social justice. Justice. I really don't see that as fundamentally French. But I definitely don't see it as fundamentally USA. "Equity" is as much verbiage as "Equality". We might want to start looking at the antonyms. Neoliberalism is "accumulation by dispossession" (David Harvey) so there's no equity there. Hence no equality.

Appleseed , October 25, 2019 at 3:00 pm

A version of this graphic was used at a civic engagement seminar on multi-modal transportation accessibility I attended last night. It featured one twist – the replacement of the slotted fence with a chain link fence so that all could see the game "because the cause of the inequity was addressed. The systemic barrier was removed." In the context of the presentation about accessibility in the city, the presenter mentioned universal design . This reminded me of Bucky Fuller's anticipatory design since both seek to think comprehensively (i.e. inclusively) about design challenges and to accommodate the maximum number of beneficiaries while doing harm to the least number possible. Seem equitable to me! The designer of the equity meme has a great post at Medium that provides a thorough overview of how the graphic has evolved (including the the chain link fence addition), the variety of interpretations, and how the "famous" meme has spread far and wide.

William S , October 25, 2019 at 12:28 pm

Is Mr. Dorman damning this image with faint praise? I think it's a brilliant way of illustrating how an issue can be turned on it's head and looked at from a different perspective.

It presents the difference between equality of opportunity vs. equality of outcome. Even some self-labeled progressives (perhaps in order to appease conservatives?) have claimed they are only interested in the former, not the latter. The graphic shows how meaningless that way of judging results is.

The first step in trying to achieve good outcomes for all is to listen to all. This gets my goat:

"Surely we are not expected to make individual calculations for every person-by-person comparison."

Well, that's what individuals do, and if you respect them you take their perceptions of inequity as data for your distributed computation. Not everyone wants the same thing. Some people don't even like baseball.

And yes, that fence around the field is a good starter for a conversation about the problems of enclosure. You wouldn't need the damn boxes if you hadn't blocked the view.

Katniss Everdeen , October 25, 2019 at 1:06 pm

Wow, hadn't seen this before. Kinda fun to think about. Maybe the whole point is just to illustrate the difference in the definitions of the two words in an Ikea sorta way. Haven't seen the Studebaker critique so I don't know what his issues are.

I also have no idea what the "classic debates in political theory" wrt this graphic are. But a few thoughts occur to me–can the short guy cut a hole in the the fence, or do the "rules" say that the only way to see the game, without buying a ticket of course, is by looking OVER the fence?

Is there a legitimate reason for the fence at all? If so, what is it? If not, why is it there? Why are there no wheel chairs in the picture, when the discussion involves disabled accommodation? Why do the people in the graphic appear to be minorities, no whites?

Gotta take the dog to the vet now. Will look for the Studebaker piece later. Maybe he answers my questions.

rd , October 25, 2019 at 6:32 pm

I think a big challenge in the US is the general assumption that equality, equity, etc. are a zero-sum game. If somebody gets something, then other people have lost. I think this thinking is one of the reasons that we have seen low productivity growth over the past couple of decades.

If the lower-class elements in society can get better conditions and opportunities, they also have the opportunity to contribute more to society which increases the total size of the pool for everybody to split. High inequality, such as now, means that many people are not able to contribute to their full potential, which means the total size of the pool can be smaller than it otherwise might be.

I don't think it is accidental that one of the great economic booms of all time occurred from about 1950 to 2000 when the US:

1. Helped fund reconstruction of Europe and Japan after WW II;
2. Instituted the GI Bill which allowed many people who would never have gone to higher education to do so;
3. Desegregated schools and generally allowed minorities to participate more fully;
4. Encouraged women to participate more fully in society; and
5. Disabled people could participate more fully.

All of these factors contributed to substantial growth in the 50s-90s period as more and more groups become economically prosperous. However, we are now going to the ultimate meritocracy where the economic winners are beginning to crush the people who have not done as well and concentrate wealth at the top. As a result, the growth has stagnated as mobility is decreasing and the upper pools are not growing.

witters , October 26, 2019 at 1:03 am

1950-2000? I think the key date is 1973, when labor productivity was detached from wage compensation. That's your neoliberalism kicking in, and it kicks on (and down).

Knute Rife , October 26, 2019 at 4:55 pm

Destroying the equity powers of the federal courts was a major goal of Rehnquist & Co. For the most part, mission accomplished.

[Oct 23, 2019] Goodbye Middle Class 50% Of American Workers Make Less Than $33,000 A Year

Notable quotes:
"... Yes, about 10 percent of all American workers are making $100,000 or more a year, but most of those high paying jobs are concentrated in the major cities along the east and west coasts. For much of the rest of the country, these are very challenging times as the cost of living soars but their paychecks do not. ..."
Oct 23, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Authored by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog,

The truth is that most American families are deeply struggling, but you hardly ever hear this from the mainstream media.

Yes, about 10 percent of all American workers are making $100,000 or more a year, but most of those high paying jobs are concentrated in the major cities along the east and west coasts. For much of the rest of the country, these are very challenging times as the cost of living soars but their paychecks do not.

According to the Social Security Administration , the median income in the United States last year was just $32,838.05. In other words, 50 percent of American workers made more than $32,838.05 and 50 percent of American workers made less than $32,838.05 in 2018. Let's be generous and round that number up to $33,000, and when you break it down on a monthly basis it comes to just $2,750 a month. Of course nobody can support a middle class lifestyle for a family of four on $2,750 a month before taxes, and so in most families more than one person is working these days. In fact, in many families today more than one person is working multiple jobs in a desperate attempt to make ends meet, and it still is often not quite enough.

If you want to look at the Social Security wage statistics for yourself, you can find them right here . As you will see, I am not making these numbers up.

These days many would have us feel bad if we are not making at least $100,000 a year, but according to the report only about 10 percent of all American workers make that much money.

Instead, most Americans are in what I would call "the barely getting by" category. Here are some key facts that I pulled out of the report

-33 percent of all American workers made less than $20,000 last year.

-46 percent of all American workers made less than $30,000 last year.

-58 percent of all American workers made less than $40,000 last year.

-67 percent of all American workers made less than $50,000 last year.

That means that approximately two-thirds of all American workers are making $4,000 or less a month before taxes.

Ouch.

But these numbers help us to understand why survey after survey has shown that most Americans are living paycheck to paycheck . After paying the bills, there just isn't much money left for most of us.

And for an increasing number of Americans, even paying the bills has become exceedingly difficult. In fact, a brand new report from UBS says that 44 percent of all U.S. consumers "don't make enough money to cover their expenses"

Low-income consumers are struggling to make ends meet despite the "greatest economy ever," and if a recession strikes or the employment cycle continues to decelerate -- this could mean the average American with insurmountable debts will likely fall behind on their debt servicing payments, according to a UBS report, first reported by Bloomberg .

UBS analyst Matthew Mish wrote in a recent report that 44% of consumers don't make enough money to cover their expenses.

That means that about half the country is flat broke and struggling just to survive financially.

Of course those at the top of the economic food chain often don't have a lot of sympathy for those that are hurting. Many of them have the attitude that those that are struggling should just go out and get one of the "good jobs" that the mainstream media is endlessly touting.

But most jobs in the United States are not "good jobs".

Today, the poverty level for a household of four in the United States is $25,750. More than 40 percent of the workers in this country make less than that each year.

Starting a business is always an option, but that takes money, and thanks to government regulations it is harder than ever to run a small business successfully.

Just look at what is happening to our dairy farmers. There are few occupations that are more quintessentially "American" than being a dairy farmer, and since most people drink milk and eat cheese, you would think that it would be a pretty safe profession.

But instead, dairy farms are shutting down at a pace that is absolutely chilling all over the nation. For example, just check out what has been going on in Wisconsin

Wisconsin lost another 42 dairy farms in July, and since January 1, has lost 491 farms, reports the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

At this rate, the Dairy State could lose 735 dairy farms this year, which would be a decline of 9%. In 2018, the state lost 691 farms, a rate of decline of 7.9%.

Over the last decade the state has lost more than 5,000 farms, or 40% of its licensed dairy farms. To state the obvious, the current rate of exits is more than double that of the last decade.

... ... ...

[Oct 20, 2019] Growing Secularism Is Pushing Religion, Traditional Values Aside, AG Barr Warns by Janita Kan

Notable quotes:
"... "Along with the wreckage of the family, we are seeing record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of angry and alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence, and a deadly drug epidemic," he said. ..."
Oct 12, 2019 | aim4truth.org
Share U.S. Attorney General William Barr raised concerns about the increase in secularism in society in a speech on Oct. 11, speaking about how that has contributed to a number of social issues plaguing communities across the nation.

Barr, who delivered his remarks to students at the University of Notre Dame's law school, drew attention to the comprehensive effort to drive away religion and traditional moral systems in society and to push secularism in their place.

"We see the growing ascendancy of secularism and the doctrine of moral relativism," Barr said.

He said that the forces of secularism are using mass media and popular culture, the promotion of greater reliance on government intervention for social problems, and the use of legal and judicial institutions to eliminate traditional moral norms.

Barr explored several of the consequences of "this moral upheaval," highlighting its effect on all parts of society.

"Along with the wreckage of the family, we are seeing record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of angry and alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence, and a deadly drug epidemic," he said.

"Over 70,000 people die a year from drug overdoses," he said. "But I won't dwell on the bitter results of the new secular age. Suffice it to say that the campaign to destroy the traditional moral order has coincided, and, as I believe, has brought with it, immense suffering and misery."

Barr said religion has come under increasing attack over the past 50 years, underscoring how secularists are using society's institutions to systematically destroy religion and stifle opposing views.

"Secularists and their allies have marshaled all the forces of mass communication, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values. These instruments are used not only to affirmatively promote secular orthodoxy but also to drown out and silence opposing voices," he said.

He said that people are moving away from "micro-morality" observed by Christians, a system of morality that seeks to transform the world by focusing on their own personal morality and transformation. Instead, he said the modern secularists are pushing a "macro-morality," which focuses on political causes and collective actions to address social problems.

"In the past, when societies are threatened by moral chaos, the overall social costs of licentiousness and irresponsible personal conduct become so high that society ultimately recoils and reevaluates the path it is on," Barr said.

"But today, in the face of all the increasing pathologies, instead of addressing the underlying cause, we have cast the state in the role as the alleviator of bad consequences. We call on the state to mitigate the social costs of personal conduct and irresponsibility. So the reaction to growing illegitimacy is not sexual responsibility but abortion; the reaction to drug addiction is safe injection sites."

"The call comes for more and more social programs to deal with this wreckage, and while we think we are resolving problems, we [actually] are underwriting them."

He also pointed out how the law has been used to "break down traditional moral values and establish moral relativism as the new orthodoxy," giving the example of how laws have been used to aggressively force religious people and entities to subscribe to practices and policies that are antithetical to their faith .

"The forces of secularism have been continually seeking to eliminate the laws that reflect traditional moral norms," he said.

Barr also highlighted the role of religion in society, saying it promotes moral discipline while it influences people's conduct.

"Religion also helps promote moral discipline in society. We're all fallen. We don't automatically conform our conduct to moral rules, even when we know that they're good for us. But religion helps teach, train, and habituate people to want what's good," he said.

"It doesn't do this primarily by formal laws -- that is, by coercive power -- it does this through moral education and by framing society's informal rules -- the customs and traditions which reflect the wisdom and experience of the ages. In other words, religion helps frame a moral culture within society that instills and reinforces moral discipline."

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan

[Oct 15, 2019] the failure of the American Dream)

Oct 15, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

Fred C. Dobbs , October 13, 2019 at 05:47 AM

Contrived generational wars disguise the failure of the American Dream https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2019/10/11/beware-labels-contrived-generational-wars-disguise-failure-american-dream/BwpcAnlGfHVsctTkpCX8tK/story.html?event=event25 via @BostonGlobe

Margaret Morganroth Gullette -October 11

In a nation grappling with growing inequality, stagnating social mobility, crushing personal debt, and crumbling job security, efforts to set America's generations against one another persist. Don't blame the system, blame the "greedy" boomers. Or the "slacker" Gen Xers. Or "entitled" millennials. But who gains from such discourses?

Efforts to foment that warfare, intentionally or not, serve specific agendas. Numerous writers warn that age-group hostilities are "coming." And then, pitting generations against one another, aside from their war metaphors, writers reach for doomsday predictions, lachrymose empathy for "our kids," and questionable data. All this relies on the invention of mendacious attributes, conferring on millions of diverse people implausible character flaws or virtues. Karl Mannheim, the 20th-century sociologist known for explaining the uses of generational units, would be rolling over in his grave.

Here is the hidden history of a perverse political discourse: It started with the so-called boomers. As they aged toward peak midlife wages in the 1980s, they got saddled with a reputation for being rich and greedy. The media concocted a lie that made it seem as if they wouldn't ever need Social Security.

Bill Gates was born in 1955. That makes him what is commonly called a boomer. Rene Lavoie was also born in 1955. The Globe recently recounted the problems that led this white Army vet to spend time in Boston's homeless shelters. According to the principal investigator of a recent study, Dennis Culhane, many people of Lavoie's age are indeed part of a boom -- "a boom in aging homeless people." They were "less well educated people who faced economic challenges in their youth -- falling wages and rising housing costs -- and never recovered financially. ... Now in their 50s and 60s, they are biologically older than most people their age. ... The average lifespan for a homeless person is 64."

Unlike Gates's co-billionaires in the .01 percent, 29 percent of people 55 and over have nothing at all saved for retirement, according to the Government Accountability Office, and many of the rest have little. Ageism in the workforce is one reason they lose a job and then can't find an equally good one -- or find any work at all. Boomers are often treated as "deadwood." Corporations drop them by the thousands. Even Xers are now old enough to be at risk of having their resumes discarded. When people suffering from middle ageism stop looking for work they are omitted from the unemployment data. At midlife, some submit to deaths of despair.

Succeeding cohorts (all containing the same disparities -- of class, race, gender, and education) have also been treated as if they were a single human with a character flaw. During the 1990s recessions, when the so-called Xers couldn't find work, they too were branded with a slur -- "slackers" -- while boomers were represented as the horde bullies who held onto all the good jobs.

The baleful technique is still at work today. Given the same problem -- lack of decent jobs for all ages, especially people without college degrees and people over 50 -- it's the turn of the millennials. One of them complains about the stereotypes, defensively, in Vox: "We demand participation trophies, can't find jobs, and live with our parents until we're 30." His response is to bash -- you guessed it -- the boomers, who "have a ton of maladaptive personality characteristics."

In the Atlantic, pundits Niall Ferguson, from the Hoover Institution, and Eyck Freymann defend millennials because their "early working lives were blighted by the financial crisis" -- but ignore how home foreclosures, sluggish growth, and job losses also blighted people around Ferguson's own age (55).

Millennials are supposed to be so ignorant and cruel that they would dismiss old people's needs because of the boomers' alleged wealth. "Cutting old-age benefits for boomers would be an easy call if millennials are anywhere on the line of fire," write the original concoctors of the age-war distraction, Neil Howe and William Strauss, in their latest pandering assault, "Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation."

We frequently hear that our elders' retirement needs will "break the bank" despite their lifelong pay-ins. If Republicans manage to destroy the whole system of social trust, cutting Social Security could indeed be one of the dire outcomes of the lies of generational warfare. Otherwise, experts say, its financial failure is not remotely in the cards. For families it has always been the most popular government program, because it provides a measure of dignified independence for older people and a measure of relief for their adult children.

Younger people should support the expansion of Social Security for another reason, writes one millennial who doesn't take the bait. Nick Guthman argues in The Hill that because of student debt, "Millennials and Generation Z will need Social Security even more than our parents and grandparents do."

The 2100 Act, now before Congress, would raise the cap on taxable-wage contributions. Conservatives reject this easy fix, but it is overwhelmingly popular with the public.

Manipulating cohort characteristics damages far more than attitudes toward Social Security, bad as the effect of that contrived skepticism could be. Blaming an older generation that is already maligned allows many real perpetrators to smugly hide from their irresponsibility. Will the climate movement find youngsters blaming the boomers for ecological destruction, because some drove big cars? Wouldn't it be better to turn on the CEOs of Exxon, who hid the dangers of burning fossil fuels that their scientists discovered so thoroughly that few of us knew to stop flying?

Persistent precarity is indeed the historical issue that is obscured by these discourses. The fact of American decline is this: Most people in each generation have had it worse than their parents. According to a report on The State of Working America, the United States lags behind its peer countries in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) in measurements of father-son mobility. In the United States, the "sons" have been receiving stagnant wages, fewer benefits, jobs in the insecure gig economy. Many women too have lost the progress narrative of rising expectations. That progress narrative, when upward mobility was more widespread, supported the American Dream. It gave hope that democracy would work for increasing numbers.

Don't blame your parents. Every article manipulating cohort stereotypes lets the government and corporations off the hook for outsourcing abroad, the crash of rust-belt industries, de-unionization, and the decades of cascading downward mobility we now endure. You can't even want to get justice until you know the true sources of injustice.

How do imaginary reputations and hostile emotions get nailed onto struggling groups, decade after decade, in this pernicious way? Naming each imagined age cohort makes it possible. The process is called reification. Naming makes vague temporal proximity into a thing.

Only the name baby boomers had an adequate demographic and historical reason to exist. These millions were born (from 1946 to 1964) of the relative affluence that spread after World War II. Their numbers did give them unifying experiences as they grew up -- made their elders build new schools for them, made their working lives more competitive. Now they are confronted by a president who, after promising not to, is cutting their security and health care in devious ways.

But, even undergoing historical events together, age-peers don't build the same memories, share the same beliefs, behave uniformly. During Vietnam, some young men were conscripted into the war while others fought to end it. Stark differences likewise mark the current group of young people (unimaginatively called "post-millennials"). Some of them are woke and ready to take on racism, sexism, homophobia, gun control, global warming. At the same age, neo-Nazis are setting fire to synagogues.

Once cohorts are reified by name, the labels become dog-whistles. Envy and fear can divide a nation and abet destructive political changes. Malice can turn one generation against another.

We could mitigate the divisiveness. Editors could stop soliciting age-war articles by second-rate phrasemakers. We ordinary people need to defy the lies, and build intergenerational bonds. Let us understand that capitalist and neoliberal choices have worsened life, for decades, for every later, unequal subculture. And a comforting, unifying cross-age coalition should eject politicians unwilling to maintain and repair our precious communal institutions.

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , October 13, 2019 at 06:04 AM
The Social Security 2100 Act
https://larson.house.gov/social-security-2100

Social Security isn't in
crisis. It just needs a tune-up
https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2019-08-13/social-security-2100-act-congress
LA Times - Nancy Altman - August 14

This bill could extend Social
Security's solvency for the rest
of this century. Here's what stands
in its way https://cnb.cx/2XRluSu
CNBC - June 1

The Personal and Fiscal
Impact of the Social Security 2100 Act https://www.heritage.org/budget-and-spending/report/the-personal-and-fiscal-impact-the-social-security-2100-act via @
Heritage Society - June 11

Eight Revealing Numbers
from the Social Security 2100 Act
https://economics21.org/eight-revealing-numbers-social-security-2100-act
Manhattan Institute - July 22

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , October 13, 2019 at 06:17 AM
Rene Lavoie was also born in 1955. The Globe recently recounted the problems that led this white Army vet to spend time in Boston's homeless shelters.

Once on the street,
1,000 vets have found a home
https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/05/26/once-street-vets-have-found-home-according-walsh/DteN0irryyLA3Acd3EII6J/story.html?event=event25 via @BostonGlobe

[Oct 15, 2019] Economist's View The Opportunity Cost of Computer Programming

Oct 15, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

From Reuters Odd News :

Man gets the poop on outsourcing , By Holly McKenna, May 2, Reuters

Computer programmer Steve Relles has the poop on what to do when your job is outsourced to India. Relles has spent the past year making his living scooping up dog droppings as the "Delmar Dog Butler." "My parents paid for me to get a (degree) in math and now I am a pooper scooper," "I can clean four to five yards in a hour if they are close together." Relles, who lost his computer programming job about three years ago ... has over 100 clients who pay $10 each for a once-a-week cleaning of their yard.

Relles competes for business with another local company called "Scoopy Do." Similar outfits have sprung up across America, including Petbutler.net, which operates in Ohio. Relles says his business is growing by word of mouth and that most of his clients are women who either don't have the time or desire to pick up the droppings. "St. Bernard (dogs) are my favorite customers since they poop in large piles which are easy to find," Relles said. "It sure beats computer programming because it's flexible, and I get to be outside,"

[Oct 08, 2019] Job Growth Remains Slow in September

Oct 08, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne , October 04, 2019 at 09:24 AM

http://cepr.net/data-bytes/jobs-bytes/jobs-2019-10

October 4, 2019

Job Growth Remains Slow in September, but Unemployment Rate Falls to 3.5 Percent
By Dean Baker

Manufacturing employment hit a record low as a share of private sector employment.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the economy added 136,000 jobs in September, after adding 168,000 in August. The 157,000 average for the last three months is considerably slower than the 179,000 average for the last year, but this slowing is expected in a tight labor market.

The September job growth led to a 0.2 percentage point drop in the unemployment rate to 3.5 percent, a fifty-year low. The employment-to-population ratio (EPOP) rose 0.1 percentage point to 61.0 percent, a new high for the recovery that is 0.6 percentage points above the year-ago level.

The EPOPs for both prime-age (ages 25 to 54) men and women rose by 0.1 percentage point in September. The 74.0 percent rate for women is a new high for the recovery, although still below the peak of 74.9 percent hit in April of 2000. The 86.4 percent rate for men is 0.3 percentage points below the March level and 1.6 percentage points below the prerecession peak.

The unemployment rate for Hispanics fell to 3.9 percent, the lowest on record, 0.6 percentage points below the year-ago level. The unemployment rate for workers without a high school degree also fell sharply to 4.8 percent, 0.8 percentage points below the year-ago level. The share of unemployment due to voluntary quits, a measure of workers' confidence in their labor market prospects, jumped 1.7 percentage points to 14.6 percent, a level more typical for a strong labor market.

Other data in the household survey were more mixed. While the mean duration of unemployment spells edged down 0.1 weeks to 22.0 weeks, the median duration rose 0.5 weeks to 9.4 weeks. The share of long-term unemployed also rose by 2.1 percentage points to 22.7 percent.

The number of involuntary part-time workers edged down by 31,000. The number of workers choosing to work part-time also fell, dropping by 124,000 in September. The percentage of the workforce choosing to work part-time has been dropping over the last year, after rising sharply following the implementation of the ACA. This likely due to workers having greater difficulty getting health care outside of employment.

Another negative item is an increase in the number of multiple job holders, especially among women. The share of employed women who have multiple jobs rose to 5.9 percent, 0.5 percentage points above the year-ago level. The vast majority of these women report that they work a second job in addition to a full-time job.

The picture on the establishment side is more negative. Slower job growth is to be expected in a tighter labor market, but it has virtually stopped altogether on the goods-producing side. The goods-producing sector has added a total of just 2,000 jobs over the last three months, with construction adding 8,000 jobs, manufacturing adding 4,000, and mining and logging losing 10,000. A big part of this is the fallout from the trade war and the resulting drop in investment. Also, lower world oil prices are a big hit to the mining sector. The manufacturing share of private sector employment sunk to a new all-time low in September of 9.96 percent.

On the service side, job growth in the high-paying professional and technical services sector has slowed sharply in the last two months, added an average of 13,900, compared to an average of 23,900 over the last year. Restaurant employment has also slowed sharply, with the sector adding an average of just 1,500 jobs over the last four months. This should be expected in a tight labor market, where workers have higher-paying options. Retail lost 11,400 jobs in September, bringing its losses over the last year to 60,900, just under 0.4 percent of total employment.

A big job gainer in recent months is health care, which added 38,800 jobs in September after adding 37,200 in August. The sector has accounted for almost a third of job growth in the private sector over the last two months.

In contrast to the evidence of a tight labor market in the household survey, wage growth appears to be slowing slightly. The average hourly wage rose 2.9 percent over the last year, although the annualized rate of wage growth, comparing the last three months (July, August, September) with the prior three months (April, May, June), was a slightly higher 3.4 percent.

[Graph]

This is a generally positive report with some serious warning signs. The goods sector is very weak and likely to get weaker, according to a wide variety of measures of manufacturing. The evidence of slowing wage growth is also striking in a labor market with 3.5 percent unemployment.

[Oct 06, 2019] Devop created huge opportunities for a new generation of snake oil salesman

Highly recommended!
Oct 06, 2019 | www.reddit.com

DragonDrew Jack of All Trades 772 points · 4 days ago

"I am resolute in my ability to elevate this collaborative, forward-thinking team into the revenue powerhouse that I believe it can be. We will transition into a DevOps team specialising in migrating our existing infrastructure entirely to code and go completely serverless!" - CFO that outsources IT level 2 OpenScore Sysadmin 527 points · 4 days ago

"We will utilize Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, Cloud technologies, python, data science and blockchain to achieve business value"

[Sep 29, 2019] Deng famously declared it's all right if some advance before others

Sep 29, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne -> Plp... , September 28, 2019 at 09:18 AM

Branko loves his
Metric inequality

But it has limits

And internal system inequality
is very different
From inter system inequality

Deng famously declared it's all right if some advance before others
Internally

He understood development involved greater internal inequality at not just one initial stage
But at various stages ie domestic inequality
Is not constantly subject to improving Gini
On the path to the technical frontier ...


[ This is a very important comment. ]

[Sep 26, 2019] The Two-Income Trap Why Middle-Class Parents Are (Still) Going Broke by Elizabeth Warren, Amelia Warren Tyagi

Notable quotes:
"... Meanwhile, greed -- once best known for its place on the list of Seven Deadly Sins -- became a point of pride for Wall Street's Masters of the Universe. With a sophisticated smile, the rallying cry of the rich and fashionable became "1 got mine -- the rest of you are on your own." ..."
Sep 26, 2019 | www.amazon.com

And yet America's policies were headed in the wrong direction. The big banks kept lobbying Congress to pass a bill that would gut families' last refuge in the bankruptcy courts -- the same bill we describe in this book. (It went by the awful name Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, but it should have been called the Gut the Safety Net and Pay OIT the Big Banks Act.). The proposed law would carefully preserve bankruptcy protections for the likes of Donald Trump and his friends, while ordinary families that had been crushed by debts from medical problems or job losses were thrown under the bus.

When we wrote The Two-Income Trap, it was already pretty clear that the big banks would win this battle. The fight kept going for two more years, but the tide of blame-the-unlucky combined with relentless lobbying and campaign contributions finally overwhelmed Congress.

In 2005, the Wall Street banking industry got the changes they wanted, and struggling families lost out. After the law was rewritten, about 800,000 families a year that once would have turned to bankruptcy to try to get back on their feet were shut out of the system.1

That was 800,000 families -- mostly people who had lost jobs, suffered a medical catastrophe, or gone through a divorce or death in the family. And now, instead of reorganizing their finances and building some security, they were at the mercy of debt collectors who called twenty or thirty times a day -- and could keep on calling and calling for as long as they thought they could squeeze another nickel from a desperate family.

As it turned out, the new law tore a big hole in the last safety net for working families, just in time for the Great Recession. Meanwhile, the bank regulators kept playing blind and deaf while the housing bubble inflated. Once it burst, the economy collapsed. The foreclosure problem we flagged back in 2003 rolled into a global economic meltdown by 2008, as millions of people lost their homes, and millions more lost their jobs, their savings, and their chance at a secure retirement. Overall, the total cost of the crash was estimated as high as S14 trillion.2

Meanwhile, America's giant banks got bailed out, CEO pay shot up, the stock market roared back, and the investor class got rich beyond even their own fevered dreams.3

A generation ago, a fortune-teller might have predicted a very different future. With so many mothers headed into the workforce, Americans might have demanded a much heavier investment in public day care, extended school days, and better family leave policies. Equal pay for equal work might have become sacrosanct. As wages stagnated, there might have been more urgency for raising the minimum wage, strengthening unions, and expanding Social Security. And our commitment to affordable college and universal preschool might have become unshakeable.

But the political landscape was changing even faster than the new economic realities. Government was quickly becoming an object of ridicule, even to the president of the United States. Instead of staking his prestige on making government more accountable and efficient, Ronald Reagan repeated his famous barb "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are Tin from the government and I'm here to help."'8 After generations of faithfulness to the promise of the Constitution to promote general welfare, at the moment when the economic foundations of the middle class began to tremble, our efforts to strengthen each other and offer a helping hand had become the butt of a national joke.

Those who continued to believe in what we could do together faced another harsh reality: much of government had been hijacked by the rich and powerful. Regulators who were supposed to watch out for the public interest shifted their loyalties, smiling benignly as giant banks jacked up short-term profits by cheating families, looking the other way as giant power companies scam mod customers, and partying with industry executives as oil companies cut comers on safety and environmental rules. In this book we told one of those stories, about how a spineless Congress rewrote the bankruptcy laws to enrich a handful of credit card companies.

Meanwhile, greed -- once best known for its place on the list of Seven Deadly Sins -- became a point of pride for Wall Street's Masters of the Universe. With a sophisticated smile, the rallying cry of the rich and fashionable became "1 got mine -- the rest of you are on your own."

These shifts played nicely into each other. Every' attack on "big government" meant families lost an ally, and the rules tilted more and These shifts played nicely into each other. Every attack on "big government" meant families lost an ally, and the rules tilted more and more in favor of those who could hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers. Lower taxes for the wealthy -- and more money in the pockets of those who subscribed to the greed-is-good mantra. And if the consequence meant less money for preschools or public colleges or disability coverage -- the things that would create more security for an overstretched middle class -- then that was just too bad.

Little by little, as the middle class got deeper and deeper in trouble, government stopped working for the middle class, or at least it stopped working so hard. The rich paid a little less and kept a little more. Even if they didn't say it in so many words, they got exactly what they wanted. Remember the 90 percent -- America's middle class, working class, and poor -- the ones who got 70 percent of all income growth from 1935 through 1980?

From 1980-2014, the 90 percent got nothing.9 None. Zero. Zip. Not a penny in income growth. Instead, for an entire generation, the top 10 percent captured all of the income growth in the entire country. l(X) percent.

It didn't have to be this way. The Two-Income Trap is about families that w'ork hard, but some things go wrong along the way -- illnesses and job losses, and maybe some bad decisions. But this isn't what has put the middle class on the ropes. After all, people have gotten sick and lost jobs and made less-than-perfect decisions for generations -- and vet, for generations America's middle class expanded. creating more opportunity to build real economic security and pass on a brighter future to their children.

What would it take to help strengthen the middle class? The problems facing the middle-class family are complex and far-reaching, and the solutions must be too. We wish there could be a simple silver bullet, but after a generation of relentless assault, there just isn't. But there is one overriding idea. Together we can. It's time to say it out loud: a generation of I-got-mine policy-making has failed -- failed miserably, completely, and overwhelmingly. And it's time to change direction before the entire middle class has been replaced by hundreds of millions of Americans barely hanging on by their fingernails.

Americas middle class was built through investments in education, infrastructure, and research -- and by' making sure we all have a safety net. We need to strengthen those building blocks: Step up investments in public education. Rein in the cost of college and cut out- standing student loans. Create universal preschool and affordable child care. Upgrade infrastructure -- mass transit, energy, communications -- to make it more attractive to build good, middle-class jobs here in America. Recognize that the modem economy can be perilous, and a strong safety net is needed now more than ever. Strengthen disability coverage, retirement coverage, and paid sick leave. And for heavens sake, get rid of the awful banker-backed bankruptcy law, so that when things go wrong, families at least have a chance at a fresh start. We welcome the re-issue of The Two-Income Trap because we see the original book as capturing a critical moment, those last few minutes in which the explanation of why so many hardworking, plav-by- tho-mlcs people were in so much trouble was simple: It was their own fault. If only they would just pull up their socks, cinch their belts a little tighter, and stop buying so much stuff, they -- and our country -- would be just fine. That myth has died. And we say', good riddance.

[Sep 25, 2019] Michael Hudson Asset-Price Inflation and Rent Seeking

Notable quotes:
"... The main culprit for the economy's falling growth rate and the general middle-class economic squeeze is debt - or more specifically, the burden of having to pay it back, with penalties, fees and lower credit ratings. The mainstream press depicts the rising market price of homes as a benefit to homeowners, a capital gam as if they almost were real estate speculators or capitalists in miniature, not wage-eamers running up debt. GDP statisticians include the rise hi valuation of owner-occupied real estate and the rising rents it saves homeowners from having to pay as adding to GDP. ..."
"... "What has occurred is an inversion of values about the proper aim of economies. Today, it is to get rich by means of a financialized rentier economy. From the point of view of rentiers and other investors, the production-and-consumption economy is the overhead. The costs of labor and capital are to be minimized by squeezing out more economic rent. By contrast, our approach treats the production-and-consumption sector as primary, and the FIRE sector and other rent extracting sectors as overhead." ..."
"... "Each debt is a credit on the other side of the balance sheet, because behind each borrower is a lender." ..."
Sep 25, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Those who praise the post-2008 economy as a successful recovery point to the fact that the stock market has soar ed to all-time highs, while the unemployment rate has fallen to a decade-low. But is the stock market a good proxy for how the overall economy is doing? The low reported unemployment rate sidesteps the predominance of minimum-wage jobs. part-time "gig'' work, and the fact that the Federal Reserve's Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 201S reports that 39% of Americans do not have $400 cash available for a medical or other emergency, and that a quarter of adults skipped medical care hi 2018 because they could not afford it. 1 The latest estimates by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that nearly half (48 percent) of households headed by someone 55 and older lack any retirement savings or pension benefits.2 Even in what the press calls an economic boom, most Americans feel stressed and many are chronically angry and worried. According to a 2015 survey by the American Psychological Association, financial worry is the "number one cause of stress in America today."3 The Fed describes them as suffering from '•financial fragility." What is fragile is their economic status and self-worth, teetering 011 the brink of downward mobility. Living hi today's fmancialized economy creates stresses that seem more damaging emotionally than living hi a poor country. America certainly is not a poor counfry, but it has become so debt-ridden, and its wealth and income growth so highly concentrated, that much of its population is emotionally worse off than that of almost any other country hi the world.

The U.S. economy's soaring wealth and income finds its counterpart on the liabilities side of the balance sheet. Rising stock prices have been fueled by corporate stock buyback programs and debt leveraging, not earnings from new tangible investment and employment. And rising real estate prices reflect the decline hi interest rates, enabling a given rental flow to be capitalized hito higher bank loans and market prices. Additionally, the wave of foreclosures 011 junk mortgages and debt- strapped new home buyers has reduced home ownership rates, forcing more of the population into a rental market, whose rising charges for housing have supported general real estate prices. Thus, these capital gains do not reflect a thriving economy, but a higher-cost one that is polarizing between creditors and debtors, property owners and renters, and the financial sector vis-a-vis the rest of the economy.

The main culprit for the economy's falling growth rate and the general middle-class economic squeeze is debt - or more specifically, the burden of having to pay it back, with penalties, fees and lower credit ratings. The mainstream press depicts the rising market price of homes as a benefit to homeowners, a capital gam as if they almost were real estate speculators or capitalists in miniature, not wage-eamers running up debt. GDP statisticians include the rise hi valuation of owner-occupied real estate and the rising rents it saves homeowners from having to pay as adding to GDP. But

2 William E. Gibson, "Nearly Half of Americans 55+ Have No Retirement Savings or Pension Benefits," AARP, March 28, 2019. https://www.aarp.org/retirement/retirement-savings/info-2019/no-retirement-money-saved.html

3 Source: American Psychological Association (2015). "American Psychological Association survey shows money stress weighing on Americans' Health Nationwide," February 4, 2015. http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2015/02/monev-stiess.aspx.

Steve H. , September 25, 2019 at 8:17 am

"What has occurred is an inversion of values about the proper aim of economies. Today, it is to get rich by means of a financialized rentier economy. From the point of view of rentiers and other investors, the production-and-consumption economy is the overhead. The costs of labor and capital are to be minimized by squeezing out more economic rent. By contrast, our approach treats the production-and-consumption sector as primary, and the FIRE sector and other rent extracting sectors as overhead."

"Each debt is a credit on the other side of the balance sheet, because behind each borrower is a lender."

[Sep 25, 2019] The share of U.S. households making at least $100,000 has more than tripled since 1967, when just 9 percent of all U.S. households earned that much (all figures are adjusted for inflation).

Sep 25, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

Paine , September 22, 2019 at 09:07 AM

"According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau,

The share of U.S. households making at least $100,000 has more than tripled since 1967, when just 9 percent of all U.S. households earned that much (all figures are adjusted for inflation).

In 2018, the share of households earning less than $50,000 (i.e., the lower class) dropped below 40 percent for the first time since the U.S. Census data on this metric started to be collected in 1967. Back then, 54 percent of households earned less than $50,000.

So the next time you hear someone allege that the economy is leaving an increasing share of American households behind or see a pundit bemoan the "shrinking middle class," take a closer look at the data and keep in mind that a "shrinking middle class" may actually be a sign of growing prosperity."

This is Cato crap. What are the real facts?

Plp -> Paine... , September 24, 2019 at 08:49 AM
No respondents

Well

First off the measure should be compensation per job hour, not per household

Households may increase income simply by selling more hours

[Sep 24, 2019] Education in the past and in neoliberal era

Sep 24, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

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The Failure of Higher Education: A Tale of Two Diplomas Posted on September 24, 2019 by Yves Smith By David Barber, a Professor of History at the University of Tennessee at Martin and is the author of A Hard Rain Fell: SDS and Why it Failed

I am struck by the variety of ways in which the actual spiritual state of Americans is denied by people who have every reason to know what that state is: our educators, artists, and politicians. It is hard for me to believe, for example, that educators do not know the sorry truth behind the lack of real education here. It seems very clear to me that until the educators themselves believe in what they teach, there is no hope for their students. But the educators cannot accept this, because in order to do so they would have to overhaul every aspect of their private lives, which effort would hurl them forever beyond the bounds of the academic life.

James Baldwin, 1961

The catastrophe which is education in this country is not new. For the majority of students in the United States, black students in particular, education has never meant anything more than a training to stay in one's place. Over the past several decades, however, with the American Empire in an accelerating free-fall, American education, ever the handmaiden of society's rich and powerful, has in tandem spiraled downward: our schools endlessly drill our children with boring and meaningless "worksheets"; we subsidize and celebrate the digital economy by "teaching" children with computers and computer programs; we script our teachers to guarantee a minimum of human interaction in the classroom; we strip our schools of art and music, making sure that our students never see beauty or truth in the world; and, of course, we drill our students for weeks and months on end with testing, and more testing, and still more testing, lest our students find any joy whatsoever in learning. In short, our schools dull the intelligence and curiosity of our young people such that they will never question the meaningless and unpleasant lives they will be forced to lead in a society that is everywhere falling apart around them.

In higher education, too, we see this dramatic narrowing of the already slim chances that any of our students will achieve a real education. Our state legislatures, in the most telling example, cut state support for higher education requiring that university administrations jack up tuition, tuition that rises far more rapidly than does inflation. Higher tuition yields both higher student debt and more students working twenty, thirty, or forty hours a week in paying jobs while they attend school. Our indebted students then must hew as closely as they possibly can to career paths which enable them to minimize and pay back their debts; and the long hours of minimum wage work taken on by our students all but guarantee that they cannot be serious students, cannot devote the hours they need to study and reflection, cannot, in short, do the work most necessary for them to become educated, mature, human beings. But then educated, mature human beings do not fit well into our global economy.

In the face of this disaster, our university faculty refuse to take any stand against the strangling of education in this country. We mouth words in our classrooms about truth, and the search for truth, and the value and necessity of honesty and ethics, and democracy, and responsible citizenship. Privately, we condemn the various assessment schemes we're compelled to carry out; privately, we denounce the rapid multiplication of educationally meaningless administrative and compliance positions on our campuses. And privately, we bemoan the ignorance of our students, their lack of curiosity and their lack of academic preparation. But when it comes to denouncing all the various assaults upon education occurring across the entire spectrum of our educational landscape, when we are compelled to speak to the reasons why our students enter our universities uneducated, and still more seriously, why they leave our universities uneducated, we lose our voice. As more than one of my colleagues has said to me in explanation of his silence: "I don't want to stick my neck out."


ambrit , September 24, 2019 at 7:22 am

As one who never finished the 'official' "education" process, I can look back and see that I was reacting to an almost subconscious realization that I was 'there' for the wrong reasons, according to the received wisdom of that, and every other, time. This disconnect between the 'ideal' of education and the 'reality' of the "Paper Chase," is perennial.

Historically speaking, a 'proper' higher education serves the purpose of producing a 'well rounded' person. Traditionally, that process was reserved for those with a high amount of disposable income; the children of the wealthy. The "lower orders" beavered on in technical colleges and apprenticeships. The odd 'special' case was made in the 'proper' universities for the exceptionally bright and the token 'charity' student. Call it an institutional case of virtue signalling.

Today, those two disparite streams of education have been melded into one almost monolithic bloc. The original utilitarian view of education, previously reserved for the 'technical' fields has invaded and corrupted the "higher" educational sphere. Now, everything has a "price." Presumably, that formulation also applies to the students enmeshed in the new, magisterial 'education' instrumentality. Roughly speaking, the 'students' are now the 'product' of the universities, not the education.

Finally, all this might be a socially 'agreed upon' process to short circuit the production of intellectually and emotionally 'well balanced' individuals. There is nothing more fear producing in any ruling elite than the prospect of an 'aware' public.

John Mc , September 24, 2019 at 8:45 am

As a consumer, and producer of higher education curricula over 20 years in academia, this article is spot on in how it describes the bezzle. And the area of specialization for me (family finance – human ecology) is the prototypical example of the Neoliberal university coaxing students into believing that incremental change, small bits of knowledge/courses will change their lives for our students for the better -- while large institutions continue to cheat, obscure malfeasance, and promote the administrative culture. Its sickening on so many levels.

It is sickening to experience (teaching and learning). And if we remembered more than we forget, it would take about 20 seconds to remember how the market has changed higher education in terms content (what is studied), how we study (crammage), and why we study. Lastly, if we imagine the exact same degree type for two different eras we can see the main focus very clear:

1. Tuition at Cal Berkley in 1970? Around 1K 2019 – more like 1K per credit hour.
2. Paying for your future assumes that we have a future (climate change, job market opportunities)
3. Debt peonage and rentier education squatting requires the right mix of desperation and time

When I think about the time/money/energy that is wasted in this country (not just in universities – anyone just has to spend 1 minute with someone who participates in fantasy football or sports gaming to see how out of wack we are as a culture and as a people.

The hollowed out spaces in universities are now more about pretending to be competent, maintaining the status quo -- each unit within departments competing against one another for resources and students rather than we are all in this together (for the student).

If education can be seen in the lens of abuse, we have the profiteers abusers, and the admin enables with chaos for everyone else.

Crazy

As Regina Spektor says: Living in Den of Thieves – its contagious

Loneprotester , September 24, 2019 at 8:54 am

What Barber is saying: Teaching is hard, and my students aren't very bright (look in a mirror, sir, neither are you). Revolutions are fun. Let's do that instead.

DJG , September 24, 2019 at 9:02 am

Yes, most people are educated, especially these days, to be conformist, to adopt the current economic fantasies, and to be highly verbal.

But Barber does himself no favors: What can he possibly mean by the American Church? I am detecting someone who has spent too much time in the U.S. South (Tennessee) where the "church" is those nice Methodists down the street. Along with some required singing of Amazing Grace. So what he may think of as an insightful critique of Americans' flexible morals doesn't get to the center of the problem. The American "church" is utilitarianism. Whatever one can get away with one gets away with. Actions have no consequences among the perfected.

And the mention of the Greeks by Barber and Deneen is gratuitous. Neither of them has much use for the Greeks and Greek philosophy. Each of them likely considers Greek philosophy mainly to be the support that makes the American Church intellectually legitimate.

I understand the moral problem of anyone trying to get an education in the U S of A these days. My alma mater is one of the main cheerleaders for fundamentialist free-market fantasy. (Alma mater: What an idea.) Yet the diploma is only a start: Education has to go throughout one's life, and sentimental education (is that even a "thing" here in the U S of A?) has to go on everyday for the rest of one's post-diploma life.

Anon , September 24, 2019 at 1:22 pm

Actually, the diploma is the end of the beginning. The start is "the first five" years of life (talk, read, sing) which is likely to expose the growing brain to stimuli that allows for future "discovery". The beginning of formal education (K-12), unfortunately for many, starts with poverty (25% of all school children) and impoverished school resources (including underpaid, over-worked teachers) that conspire toward an assembly-line methodology (testing, and more testing). Those who make it to college (honestly) are well-versed in manufacturing "acceptable" papers on topics not understood. But then the college curricula (more demanding than H.S.) and the concept of "critical thinking" (ignoring the social implications of 18-20 y.o.'s on their own) makes the idea of "learning how to learn" a difficult grasp. Some get it, some don't.

It is after getting the college diploma, and maybe of few years of travel (for pleasure or a job) that a much broader, mature perspective of the world (Plato) emerges. (Hopefully those Classics, or an introduction to NC, comes across your path.) It is then the real learning starts.

John Hacker , September 24, 2019 at 9:07 am

Thanks Yves. Education has been a tender spot for me. All i have are complaints. Please point me in the direction of some solutions.

funemployed , September 24, 2019 at 9:30 am

I agree wholeheartedly with your diagnosis (not to mention greatly appreciate your lovely prose), however, I think your theory of change as stated here – "force the issue and meaning of education before American society" – misses the mark.

I have spent the better part of 2 decades studying, first history, then education, with the goal of becoming an educator (accumulating no small amount of debt in the process). So long as I stuck to diagnosing the problem as you did here, and keeping my calls to arms strictly in the rhetorical realm, I was welcomed as an "ally" and fellow traveler by a not insignificant portion of my colleagues.

Unfortunately for my career (not to mention mental health), I wasn't satisfied with that, and began to delve and a very focused and specific way into the actual structure of educational systems, and looking for levers to gain the power necessary to change them (or, more specifically, to shift power from those who hold it to those who do not). That was when I learned just how thin of a gruel "allyship" really is in academia.

I think you are assuming educators have real power. They do not. Power, real power, comes from control over the material necessities and niceties of life. The primary social function of our educational institutions, from pre-k through endowed chairmanship is to sort people into an unequal society. If the "real issue and meaning of education" (i.e. creating the conditions and connections necessary for truly democratic life) were to take hold in such an institution, it would either destroy the institution or turn it into something else entirely.

I agree "an educated people" is indeed our only hope, because to me an educated people is synonymous with a democratic people. Indeed, I think education is the inevitable result of people getting together to solve problems nonviolently with a coequal distribution of power. Where it has truly taken root (e.g. Freedom schools in the 60s, the meetings organized by populist party at the turn of the 19th/20th century), it has had a material function and base that is diametrically opposed to the way virtually all today's "educators" earn their daily bread.

IMO, the way people become true "educators" – those who "force the issue and meaning of education before American society" – is by serving the educational function in a democratic movement. They are people who are delegated authority democratically (i.e. without coercion) by those they serve because they, in essence, are effective hubs for the uninhibited flow of social information. In other words, they are authentically democratic leaders, whose power is entirely dependent on maintaining trust because trust is fundamental to the uninhibited flow of social information, and the temptation to violate social trust is, well, why human societies have more drama than ant colonies.

You are a professor, and no doubt do a great deal of good for a great many students (I did a brief stint of that as well, and in no way am trying to undermine how valuable and rewarding it can be), but you will never be, in that role, an "educator" in the truly democratic sense because every one of your students knows you could, if you wanted, completely screw them over and there's not a family blogging thing they could do about it.

You can, however, be a real educator (i.e. democratic leader) in your spare time, and are in a unique and special institutional position to prepare future (and support present) real democratic educator/leaders to manage one hell of a clusterfamilyblog of a global civilizational collapse that is coming whether we want it to or not. I hope you will do so with a hard-nosed evaluation of the relationship between power, information flows, democracy, and the material world, as I fear anything less will be far from adequate.

John Mc , September 24, 2019 at 10:00 am

These comments appear to me to be the epitome of neoliberal doctrine:

1. People have everything they need to excel
2. Its never been easier to study as information has been democratized
3. Invocation of Maslow, ambient culture (interesting view of life-stage development for young adults too
4. Individualistic lens – "addressing the big issues of your time"

Maybe I read this wrong, or it started with "NC folk" – but there is no mention of:

Debt peonage
Administrative culture
Global Labor Markets
Real Costs for Students – Tuition Inflation (higher than healthcare costs over last 30 years)
– Parking predation
– Textbook Bezzles
– Adjunct – itus
– Pay to Play Tenure
– Darwinian death struggle among college units in departments (Survival = Resources)
– Forgetting – a major theme (making meaning of one's education) – moving onto CV building
Social Costs of Expensive Higher Education (delay family formation)
Long term wealth implications for this generation's graduates

Education is not a solitary event, with isolated moments of brainstorming and individualistic memes of hardwork. It is a system with millions of parts -- and these parts have been bent to serve our neoliberal masters in about every domain imaginable.

And in my experience, (as Yves says) this is not a bug in the system -- it was a feature of a system reboot designed especially for these outcomes

Tom Pfotzer , September 24, 2019 at 10:38 am

Last year I went to the local library book sale, and bought a stack of college textbooks – chemistry, physics, elec engineering, calc, etc. The stack was 3′ tall, and it cost me $26.

A few months ago, I downloaded the latest Linux & Java development workbench onto the computer I built from components sourced from Ebay/Amazon. Full, up-to-date, latest edition of Java development workbench on killer hardware $650, including 21″ monitor. Software and how-to materials all free. I have done this several times during my career, and it's never been easier or cheaper to do.

To glean those textbooks, all I have to do is read, do the probs at the back of the chapter. To build salable skills, all I have to do is think up a problem to solve, and write the software to solve it. Effort. Those two things – ID useful problem, and the marshalling of components to solve it – gives me demonstrable evidence of competency, and I can parlay that into a good job.

When I look a the amount of time expended on smart phones, Facebook, etc. I become less sympathetic about people's plight – in general. One counter-example: the 450-year systematic repression of blacks is one issue that merits societal redress.

And whether this cultural malady of victimhood is by design (by the "elites", for ex), or by circumstance, it is not mandatory . No one is making people watch TV. There are choices, and some are making different, better choices, and benefiting from it.

Visit http://www.coursera.org . Tell my why I would go into debt to get what I need when it's available (from many of the elite schools and professors) for free.

So, if taking initiative to address my own needs is what you call NeoLiberal, then I'm all for neoliberalism. I get confused about all the political classifications afoot these days, so I'm not real sure what bin I fit into, exactly.

Lastly, I doubt anyone could name 100 parts (types, not instances) of their educational experience, let alone millions. It's not nearly as complex as all that.

Ankara Fuller , September 24, 2019 at 11:21 am

While there a many areas where the web and libraries do indeed offer the curious and disciplined an opportunity to better themselves with book knowlege of software. Much of what we hope to understand about our world – fundamental research, and many speciality areas of knowlege require a 'craft' or hands on component that no amount of book reading can replace. Skill crafts of cabinetmakers, tailors, chefs and and product designers, or in my field of biology. Lab 'bench craft' is fundamental to learning: microbiology, molecular biology and much of fundamental physics requires labs. I understand from engineering friends that trial test rigs during university are also fundamental to locking in skills. Many areas of STEM require significant funds to back the student, because the study work loads make academic excellence really challenging, and part time jobs nearly impossible. I know, I worked 20 hours in a lab on weekends during much of my undergraduate. At graduate school the extra hours 'spare' ideally are spent working on one's bench craft as free slave labour to the senior ranking (i.e. higher skilled, greater knowledgeable senior scientists). In biology labs, there is almost a medieval apprentice, journeyman, master craftsman route of skill acquisition. There is as much an art to casting an agarose gel as there is in knowing the tweak of the 'recipe' for the molecular attributes desired. It is with great relief that I am not part of the US system, but sitting in a well funded more democratic (free) educational system in Europe. Our world needs to radically think how to put much ore cash into STEM and fundamental research. Incentivise school students (everywhere on planet) to commit the insane hours needed for genetics, molecular biology and all the other emerging areas of life sciences. It requires countries to overhaul education to allow curious minds regardless of family finances. I agree with many NC readers that wide systematic overhaul is needed to untangle many of these difficult and decaying situations (not just US).

divadab , September 24, 2019 at 11:36 am

Yes. It is still possible to get an education if you are self-motivated and self-disciplined. Either inside or outside the academy – and which academy is secondary. But in my view education requires teachers – this is missing from your model and a very important part of the Academy.

However, Credentialling is only available if you pay the price of attaching yourself to the academy. DOn;t worry – credentials are becoming less and less important as changing times and institutional decay make truly educated and adaptable people more and more important and the obedient credentialled irrelevent and useless.

jrs , September 24, 2019 at 2:42 pm

Only how many hundreds of job ads on Indeed use "do you have a bachelors degree" as a screening question? And straight into the circular disposal unit your digital submission goes if you don't.

Ah well pesky reality of the job market and all, sure does reduce philosophizing about "the pointlessness of credentials and formal education" down to size. And no my position is not that noone can succeed without credentials, just that it's obviously harder.

inode_buddha , September 24, 2019 at 11:40 am

I've never had an employer, in the last 35 years, who would give you any credibility for stuff you learnt on your own.

If it isn't on your school transcripts or a diploma, you don't get to negotiate with it. If you have great knowledge, acquired on your own, and use it on the job, you will get no mention of it, no credit, nada. They will keep taking until they are made to stop, and nary so much as a "thank you".

But that's just my experience of 35 years on the job.

jrs , September 24, 2019 at 2:45 pm

"I've never had an employer, in the last 35 years, who would give you any credibility for stuff you learnt on your own."

+1 and most WILL NOT give any credibility for class you take either, under no circumstances.

There are two things employers give weight to:
1) on the job experience
2) credentialing, not taking a class in this or that but having a bachelors or a masters. And this #2 is only as a screening device, #1 is still paramount, #2 can be used to screen out but seldom is it by itself an "in". Now there are unique circumstances, if you are still in your 20s, some will let you start out with just a degree as "you have to start somewhere", but after that age, no you need #1 and best to have #2 as well.

Jesper , September 24, 2019 at 3:15 pm

+1 on this as well. My experience is that either you have the knowledge certified by diploma or you are considered to know nothing about the subject & that is even more true when dealing with people with neither diploma nor knowledge of/in the subject matter. They use what little they know and what they know is to look at a diploma.
Ignoring opinions/knowledge from non-certified people is something actively taught at universities and especially at business schools – if things go wrong then the defense can be: He/she was the expert and had the diploma to show for it. People in positions of responsibility are experts at avoiding responsibility, credentials help to deflect blame/responsibility so it is often used.

IT has been slightly different, in the older days, but now it is settling in and even IT recruiters no longer need to take chances on the uncredentialled.

AndrewJ , September 24, 2019 at 2:35 pm

Plinking away on a keyboard may feel like you're doing "real work", but there's a lot more that's necessary to keep any kind of civilization going than developing a new Java app. Training yourself to do any of these myriad other tasks takes more capital, financial and otherwise, than the $700 you've laid out above. Not to mention that staring at a computer screen is profoundly unhealthy and not suitable work for us jumped-up monkeys.
But that's where we are now, aren't we? The only work that Americans think of as "good real work" these days is on a family-blogging computer, and everything else that keeps things going has had the living wage taken away from it and the training ignored.

jrs , September 24, 2019 at 3:00 pm

Everything is a waste of time if it's not improving one's usefulness to the economic system I guess you would argue. And whether it's spending time on facebook and smart phones, or taking care of old people, or raising kids, or engaging in political activism, or increasing one's understanding of the world, or volunteering, or hanging out with friends which Americans increasingly don't even have, or etc.. Because you know it's not just Facebook people spend time on.

This is the philosophy of a tool. Your soul was bought on the cheap and you don't even have the inner spirit to miss it.

Tom Pfotzer , September 24, 2019 at 10:14 am

As I re-read my piece a key question descended upon me. Since Maslow's hierarchy is a guide, or a possibility, it's not a given that someone ever will "self-actualize", or will do so in some socially- or ecologically-useful manner. So what happened to make you "self-acualize" in a direction that might include an NC and the values it espouses?

A parent? A book? A Ken Burns documentary? Did you decide one day to sail outside the safe harbors of conformity, and got swept – with malice afore-thought, and cocktail in hand – into the currents of worldliness?

This is a key question for you democratic educators, ref. funemployed above: "Where's the launch button?"

xkeyscored , September 24, 2019 at 11:56 am

When I first encountered Maslow, I was puzzled, thinking I was missing something profound. Now I'm simply amazed that he can be celebrated as an intellectual with penetrating insight for stating the obvious.
"Food, clothes and shelter
All the poor man asking for"
Misty in Roots

KiWeTO , September 24, 2019 at 12:47 pm

None of the answers I have received when younger, about how society was organized made any sense in justice or fairness. Thus, the quest for better answers began. If that is an awakening, then perhaps it is genetic. Some just seek to know more. Or perhaps more have had that curiosity defeated by society's need for conformity earlier. The quest for knowledge often is the lonelier path, for conforming to thr tribe brings fellowship and norms to follow. There is safety in the middle of the pack.

Now, having observed a better understanding of the intrinsic unfairness of societal arrangements and structures, the question turns to what nudges to the body may be possible to limit the damage we bring upon ourselves as a species to strive for better returns (profits? Benefits?) without the understanding of what "better" or "returns" means.

Smokers know smoking is bad, but the nicotine calls are here and now answered.
Feed scrollers know it doesn't improve their lives, but the hope for just a bit of pleasure keeps the finger scrolling.

As to the digital opiate of the masses, is it because they have been conditioned/addicted to lose their own agency to said opiate? Perhaps the very discussions here in NC is but a different flavour of the same digital opiate. Or to paraphrase Mulder, "The answer IS out there", and we just have to discover it.

Ted , September 24, 2019 at 10:15 am

The more things change Check out Thorstein Veblen, The Higher Learning in America (1918) or John Dewey The Public and its Problems and other works. Formal education, divorced as it is from the practices of everyday life, presents these sorts of problems as a feature, not a bug. That said, it has been my experience over the past 35 years that education can be and is world opening for many young students. I have also found that the problem often rests with the educator as much as it does the system of education. Well recognized philosophies of education underlay a fundamental split teaching practice, (e.g., transmission of "facts" versus enlivenment of knowing). Those that don't take the time to learn how to teach end up frustrated that the "system" is failing. That a tenured full professor is lamenting thus, just as Veblen did a century ago, is suggestive.

flora , September 24, 2019 at 10:31 am

The prof can complain about students, but I think the students know what's going on better than does the prof. The problems are much higher up the ladder than lowly students readiness for college humanities courses. I expect the students are learning a great deal that's not in the official curriculum. See:

https://www.wbir.com/article/news/local/ut-buyouts-over-past-10-years-top-24-million/51-548254549

and

https://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/politics/2018/01/02/congressman-duncan-disgusted-university-tennessee-buyouts/995413001/

Rod , September 24, 2019 at 11:04 am

tools for an economic system that prizes 'flexibility' (geographic, interpersonal, ethical
Learning tools to develope flexible ethics kind of creeps me out.
Yup, training up thinkers is tough, I agree.
I think this is corollary to the above article–and if you've been in the classroom any year for the past forty this should ring sickeningly familiar:

https://www.apmreports.org/story/2019/08/22/whats-wrong-how-schools-teach-reading

Susan the other` , September 24, 2019 at 11:56 am

I loved the book about Summerhill – the alternative education option in the UK (back in the 70s). Everyone was aghast because they thought it was remiss not to educate children rigidly. It never got traction here in the US. But last night there was a segment on alternative education in the UK, allowing children to go at their own pace, find their own interest and above all learn that they didn't need an intermediary (teacher basically) to learn – they could be successful autodidacts. It sounds like it is taking off in England. How nice. Summerhill is still alive and kicking – it advertises itself as a student democracy. Choose what you want to study. I certainly still like the idea because I had my nose in a book from about the age of 7. I always read what interested me and it has been a true pleasure. That's gotta be worth somthin.

Arizona Slim , September 24, 2019 at 12:35 pm

Permit me to add three more books to your recommendation:

1. The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education by Grace Llewellyn. I don't think this one's in print anymore.

2. The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto. Still in print. Here's the author's website: https://www.johntaylorgatto.com/

3. The Day I Became an Audidact by Kendall Hailey. As far as I can tell, no longer in print.

Enjoy your self-education outside the system, everyone!

xkeyscored , September 24, 2019 at 12:17 pm

From the OED:
educate, v. [f. L. ēducāt- ppl. stem of ēducāre to rear, bring up (children, young animals), related to ēdūcĕre to lead forth (see educe), which is sometimes used nearly in the same sense.] 1 To rear, bring up (children, animals) by supply of food and attention to physical wants. Obs. 2 To bring up (young persons) from childhood, so as to form (their) habits, manners, intellectual and physical aptitudes. b To instruct, provide schooling for (young persons). 3 To train (any person) so as to develop the intellectual and moral powers generally. 4 To train, discipline (a person, a class of persons, a particular mental or physical faculty or organ), so as to develop some special aptitude, taste, or disposition. b To train (animals).
It would seem that Prof. Barber bemoans the demise of meaning 3, if that ever was the purpose or function of our educational system.
Meanings 2 and 4 are alive and well. A special aptitude for narrow-minded submission is successfully cultivated, the more so as the academic ladder is scrambled up.

chuck roast , September 24, 2019 at 12:51 pm

But it's in Deneen's characterization of our students as "individuals without a past cultureless ciphers".
I get that.
Americans have no use for History (with a capital H). American History is trail of carnage and savagery on the scale of Attila and Hitler. Any discussion of History is replete with irony, exceptions and contradictions. Things that Americans do not do well, and things that you do not want rattling around in the heads of right-thinking citizens. Critical thinking could be the catastrophic result.
OK then! Well enculturated Americans know that we have an exceptional past and we are an exceptional people. But, History meh!
What we do have is a future. That's what America is all about. The wonderful, wonderful future with it's myriad fabulous possibilities. Really, you could wet your pants just thinking about it!

Walter Antoniotti , September 24, 2019 at 1:42 pm

Essay applies to the academically superior. One quarter the HS graduates. hat do you propose to do for the rest?

Paul Jurczak , September 24, 2019 at 2:41 pm

This is not a bug, it is a feature of modern Education-Industrial Complex. As per design, its product is indebted cubicle fodder.

Mike Gualario , September 24, 2019 at 3:58 pm

By 8th grade students are well versed in basic math and language arts. At that point the student and family should have a choice between a college bound liberal arts education or a technical education where they have a choice of several knowledge disciplines to choose to study during High school. That way kids who leave high school and are not college bound at least have one skill they can take anyplace in the USA and get a job.. Auto Mechanic, Diesel Mechanic, Marine Mechanic, Chef, Software Development, Website Development, Cosmetology, Adobe Creative Suite (video and photo editing), etc. Not all of those careers would be offered at every high school. But at least 2 or 3 at a minimum and more choices the better. After 12 years of state schooling students should have a skill or a plan to attend college to acquire that skill.

[Sep 22, 2019] Is the Unemployment Rate Tied to the Divorce Rate

Yes it is, but only for couples with low level of marital satisfaction.
Notable quotes:
"... They also looked at marital breakup more generally, focusing on when couples decided to end their relationships (not necessarily if or when they got divorced). Their findings revealed that when men were unemployed, the likelihood that either spouse would leave the marriage increased. What about the woman's employment status? For husbands, whether their wife was employed or not was seemingly unimportant-it was unrelated to their decision to leave the relationship. It did seem to matter for wives, though, but it depended upon how satisfied they were with the marriage. ..."
"... When women were highly satisfied, they were inclined to stay with their partner regardless of whether they had employment. However, when the wife's satisfaction was low, she was more likely to exit the relationship, but only when she had a job. ..."
Science of Relationships
The first study considers government data from all 50 U.S. states between the years 1960 and 2005.1 The researchers predicted that higher unemployment numbers would translate to more divorces among heterosexual married couples. Most of us probably would have predicted this too based on common sense-you would probably expect your partner to be able to hold down a job, right? And indeed, this was the case, but only before 1980. Surprisingly, since then, as joblessness has increased, divorce rates have actually decreased.

How do we explain this counterintuitive finding? We don't know for sure, but the researchers speculate that unemployed people may delay or postpone divorce due to the high costs associated with it. Not only is divorce expensive in terms of legal fees, but afterward, partners need to pay for two houses instead of one. And if they are still living off of one salary at that point, those costs may be prohibitively expensive. For this reason, it is not that uncommon to hear about estranged couples who can't stand each other but are still living under the same roof.

The second study considered data from a national probability sample of over 3,600 heterosexual married couples in the U.S. collected between 1987 and 2002. However, instead of looking at the overall association between unemployment and marital outcomes, they considered how gender and relationship satisfaction factored into the equation. 2

They also looked at marital breakup more generally, focusing on when couples decided to end their relationships (not necessarily if or when they got divorced). Their findings revealed that when men were unemployed, the likelihood that either spouse would leave the marriage increased. What about the woman's employment status? For husbands, whether their wife was employed or not was seemingly unimportant-it was unrelated to their decision to leave the relationship. It did seem to matter for wives, though, but it depended upon how satisfied they were with the marriage.

When women were highly satisfied, they were inclined to stay with their partner regardless of whether they had employment. However, when the wife's satisfaction was low, she was more likely to exit the relationship, but only when she had a job.

[Sep 22, 2019] Game of musical chairs became more difficult: the US economy seems to put out fewer and fewer chairs.

Notable quotes:
"... A good economy compensates for much social dysfunction. ..."
"... More than that, it prevents the worst of behaviors that are considered an expression of dysfunction from occurring, as people across all social strata have other things to worry about or keep them busy. Happy people don't bear grudges, or at least they are not on top of their consciousness as long as things are going well. ..."
"... This could be seen time and again in societies with deep and sometimes violent divisions between ethnic groups where in times of relative prosperity (or at least a broadly shared vision for a better future) the conflicts are not removed but put on a backburner, or there is even "finally" reconciliation, and then when the economy turns south, the old grudges and conflicts come back (often not on their own, but fanned by groups who stand to gain from the divisions, or as a way of scapegoating) ..."
"... "backwaters of America, that economy seems to put out fewer and fewer chairs." ~~Harold Pollack~ ..."
"... Going up through the chairs has become so impossible for those on the slow-track. Not enough slots for all the jokers within our once proud country of opportunities, ..."
"... George Orwell: "I doubt, however, whether the unemployed would ultimately benefit if they learned to spend their money more economically. ... If the unemployed learned to be better managers they would be visibly better off, and I fancy it would not be long before the dole was docked correspondingly." ..."
"... Perhaps you are commenting on the aspect that when (enough) job applicants/holders define down their standards and let employers treat them as floor mats, then the quality of many jobs and the labor relations will be adjusted down accordingly, or at the very least expectations what concessions workers will make will be adjusted up. That seems to be the case unfortunately. ..."
Nov 23, 2015 | economistsview.typepad.com
Avraam Jack Dectis said...
A good economy compensates for much social dysfunction.

A bad economy moves people toward the margins, afflicts those near the margins and kills those at the margins.

This is what policy makers should consider as they pursue policies that do not put the citizen above all else.

cm -> Avraam Jack Dectis...
"A good economy compensates for much social dysfunction."

More than that, it prevents the worst of behaviors that are considered an expression of dysfunction from occurring, as people across all social strata have other things to worry about or keep them busy. Happy people don't bear grudges, or at least they are not on top of their consciousness as long as things are going well.

This could be seen time and again in societies with deep and sometimes violent divisions between ethnic groups where in times of relative prosperity (or at least a broadly shared vision for a better future) the conflicts are not removed but put on a backburner, or there is even "finally" reconciliation, and then when the economy turns south, the old grudges and conflicts come back (often not on their own, but fanned by groups who stand to gain from the divisions, or as a way of scapegoating)

Dune Goon said...

"backwaters of America, that economy seems to put out fewer and fewer chairs." ~~Harold Pollack~

Going up through the chairs has become so impossible for those on the slow-track. Not enough slots for all the jokers within our once proud country of opportunities, not enough elbow room for Daniel Boone, let alone Jack Daniels! Not enough space in this county to wet a tree when you feel the urge! Every tiny plot of space has been nailed down and fenced off, divided up among gated communities. Why?

Because the 1% has an excessive propensity to reproduce their own kind. They are so uneducated about the responsibilities of birth control and space conservation that they are crowding all of us off the edge of the planet. Worse yet we have begun to *ape our betters*.

"We've only just begun!"
~~The Carpenters~

William said...

"Many of us know people who receive various public benefits, and who might not need to rely on these programs if they made better choices, if they learned how to not talk back at work, if they had a better handle on various self-destructive behaviors, if they were more willing to take that crappy job and forego disability benefits, etc."

George Orwell: "I doubt, however, whether the unemployed would ultimately benefit if they learned to spend their money more economically. ... If the unemployed learned to be better managers they would be visibly better off, and I fancy it would not be long before the dole was docked correspondingly."

cm said in reply to William...

A valid observation, but what you are commenting on is more about getting or keeping a job than managing personal finances.

Perhaps you are commenting on the aspect that when (enough) job applicants/holders define down their standards and let employers treat them as floor mats, then the quality of many jobs and the labor relations will be adjusted down accordingly, or at the very least expectations what concessions workers will make will be adjusted up. That seems to be the case unfortunately.

[Sep 22, 2019] Paul Krugman: Despair, American Style

Notable quotes:
"... In a recent interview Mr. Deaton suggested that middle-aged whites have "lost the narrative of their lives." That is, their economic setbacks have hit hard because they expected better. Or to put it a bit differently, we're looking at people who were raised to believe in the American Dream, and are coping badly with its failure to come true. ..."
"... the truth is that we don't really know why despair appears to be spreading across Middle America. But it clearly is, with troubling consequences for our society... ..."
"... Some people who feel left behind by the American story turn self-destructive; others turn on the elites they feel have betrayed them. ..."
"... What we are seeing is the long term impacts of the "Reagan Revolution." ..."
"... The affected cohort here is the first which has lived with the increased financial and employment insecurity that engendered, as well as the impacts of the massive offshoring of good paying union jobs throughout their working lives. Stress has cumulative impacts on health and well-being, which are a big part of what we are seeing here. ..."
"... Lets face it, this Fed is all about goosing up asset prices to generate short term gains in economic activity. Since the early 90s, the Fed has done nothing but make policy based on Wall Street's interests. I can give them a pass on the dot com debacle but not after that. This toxic relationship between wall street and the Fed has to end. ..."
"... there was a housing bubble that most at the Fed (including Bernanke) denied right upto the middle of 2007 ..."
"... Yellen, to her credit, has admitted multiple times over the years that low rates spur search for yield that blows bubbles ..."
"... Bursting of the bubble led to unemployment for millions and U3 that went to 10% ..."
"... "You are the guys who do not consider the counterfactual where higher rates would have prevented the housing bubble in 2003-05 and that produced the great recession in the first place." ..."
"... Inequality has been rising globally, almost regardless of trade practices ..."
"... It is not some unstoppable global trend. This is neoliberal oligarchy coup d'ιtat. Or as it often called "a quite coup". ..."
"... First of all, whether a job can or is offshored has little to do with whether it is "low skilled" but more with whether the workflow around the job can be organized in such a way that the job can be offshore. This is less a matter of "skill level" and more volume and immediacy of interaction with adjacent job functions, or movement of material across distances. ..."
"... The reason wages are stuck is that aggregate jobs are not growing, relative to workforce supply. ..."
"... BTW the primary offshore location is India, probably in good part because of good to excellent English language skills, and India's investment in STEM education and industry (especially software/services and this is even a public stereotype, but for a reason). ..."
"... Very rough figures: half a million Chicago employees may make less than $800 a week -- almost everybody should earn $800 ... ..."
"... Union busting is generally (?) understood as direct interference with the formation and operation of unions or their members. It is probably more common that employers are allowed to just go around the unions - "right to work", subcontracting non-union shops or temp/staffing agencies, etc. ..."
"... Why would people join a union and pay dues when the union is largely impotent to deliver, when there are always still enough desperate people who will (have to) take jobs outside the union system? Employers don't have to bring in scabs when they can legally go through "unencumbered" subcontractors inside or outside the jurisdiction. ..."
"... Credibility trap, fully engaged. ..."
"... The anti-knowledge of the elites is worth reading. http://billmoyers.com/2015/11/02/the-anti-knowledge-of-the-elites/ When such herd instinct and institutional overbearance connects with the credibility trap, the results may be impressive. http://jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com/2015/11/gold-daily-and-silver-weekly-charts-pop.html ..."
"... Suicide, once thought to be associated with troubled teens and the elderly, is quickly becoming an age-blind statistic. Middle aged Americans are turning to suicide in alarming numbers. The reasons include easily accessible prescription painkillers, the mortgage crisis and most importantly the challenge of a troubled economy. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention claims suicide rates now top the number of deaths due to automobile accidents. ..."
"... The suicide rate for both younger and older Americans remains virtually unchanged, however, the rate has spiked for those in middle age (35 to 64 years old) with a 28 percent increase (link is external) from 1999 to 2010. ..."
"... When few people kill themselves "on purpose" or die from self-inflicted but probably "unintended" harms (e.g. organ failure or accidental death caused by substance abuse), it can be shrugged off as problems related to the individual (more elaboration possible but not necessary). ..."
"... When it becomes a statistically significant phenomenon (above-noise percentage of total population or demographically identifiable groups), then one has to ask questions about social causes. My first question would be, "what made life suck for those people"? What specific instrument they used to kill themselves would be my second question (it may be the first question for people who are charged with implementing counter measures but not necessarily fixing the causes). ..."
"... Since about the financial crisis (I'm not sure about causation or coincidence - not accidental coincidence BTW but causation by the same underlying causes), there has been a disturbing pattern of high school students throwing themselves in front of local trains. At that age, drinking or drugging oneself to death is apparently not the first "choice". Performance pressure *related to* (not just "and") a lack of convincing career/life prospects has/have been suspected or named as a cause. I don't think teenagers suddenly started to jump in front of trains that have run the same rail line for decades because of the "usual" and centuries to millennia old teenage romantic relationship issues. ..."
Nov 09, 2015 | economistsview.typepad.com

"There is a darkness spreading over part of our society":

Despair, American Style, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: A couple of weeks ago President Obama mocked Republicans who are "down on America," and reinforced his message by doing a pretty good Grumpy Cat impression. He had a point: With job growth at rates not seen since the 1990s, with the percentage of Americans covered by health insurance hitting record highs, the doom-and-gloom predictions of his political enemies look ever more at odds with reality.

Yet there is a darkness spreading over part of our society. ... There has been a lot of comment ... over a new paper by the economists Angus Deaton (who just won a Nobel) and Anne Case, showing that mortality among middle-aged white Americans has been rising since 1999..., while death rates were falling steadily both in other countries and among other groups in our own nation.

Even more striking are the proximate causes of rising mortality. Basically, white Americans are, in increasing numbers, killing themselves... Suicide is way up, and so are deaths from drug poisoning and ... drinking... But what's causing this epidemic of self-destructive behavior?...

In a recent interview Mr. Deaton suggested that middle-aged whites have "lost the narrative of their lives." That is, their economic setbacks have hit hard because they expected better. Or to put it a bit differently, we're looking at people who were raised to believe in the American Dream, and are coping badly with its failure to come true.

That sounds like a plausible hypothesis..., but the truth is that we don't really know why despair appears to be spreading across Middle America. But it clearly is, with troubling consequences for our society...

I know I'm not the only observer who sees a link between the despair reflected in those mortality numbers and the volatility of right-wing politics. Some people who feel left behind by the American story turn self-destructive; others turn on the elites they feel have betrayed them. No, deporting immigrants and wearing baseball caps bearing slogans won't solve their problems, but neither will cutting taxes on capital gains. So you can understand why some voters have rallied around politicians who at least seem to feel their pain.

At this point you probably expect me to offer a solution. But while universal health care, higher minimum wages, aid to education, and so on would do a lot to help Americans in trouble, I'm not sure whether they're enough to cure existential despair.

bakho said...

There are a lot of economic dislocations that the government after the 2001 recession stopped doing much about it. Right after the 2008 crash, the government did more but by 2010, even the Democratic president dropped the ball. and failed to deliver. Probably no region of the country is affected more by technological change that the coal regions of KY and WV. Lying politicians promise a return to the past that cannot be delivered. No one can suggest what the new future will be. The US is due for another round of urbanization as jobs decline in rural areas. Dislocation forces declining values of properties and requires changes in behavior, skills and outlook. Those personal changes do not happen without guidance. The social institutions such as churches and government programs are a backstop, but they are not providing a way forward. There is plenty of work to be done, but our elites are not willing to invest.

DrDick -> bakho...

The problem goes back much further than that. What we are seeing is the long term impacts of the "Reagan Revolution."

The affected cohort here is the first which has lived with the increased financial and employment insecurity that engendered, as well as the impacts of the massive offshoring of good paying union jobs throughout their working lives. Stress has cumulative impacts on health and well-being, which are a big part of what we are seeing here.

ilsm said...

Thuggee doom and gloom is about their fading chance to reinstate the slavocracy.

The fever swamp of right wing ideas is more loony than 1964.

Extremism is the new normal.

bmorejoe -> ilsm...

Yup. The slow death of white supremacy.

Peter K. -> Anonymous...

If it wasn't for monetary policy things would be even worse as the Republicans in Congress forced fiscal austerity on the economy during the "recovery."

sanjait -> Peter K....

That's the painful irony of a comment like that one from Anonymous ... he seems completely unaware that, yes, ZIRP has done a huge amount to prevent the kind of problems described above. He like most ZIRP critics fails to consider what the counterfactual looks like (i.e., something like the Great Depression redux).

Anonymous -> sanjait...

You are the guys who do not consider the counterfactual where higher rates would have prevented the housing bubble in 2003-05 and that produced the great recession in the first place. Because preemptive monetary policy has gone out of fashion completely. And now we are going to repeat the whole process over when the present bubble in stocks and corporate bonds bursts along with the malinvestment in China, commodity exporters etc.

Peter K. -> Anonymous...

"liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate... it will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up from less competent people."

sanjait -> Anonymous...

"You want regulation? I would like to see

1) Reinstate Glass Steagall

2) impose a 10bp trans tax on trading financial instruments."

Great. Two things with zero chance of averting bubbles but make great populist pablum.

This is why we can't have nice things!

"3) Outlaw any Fed person working for a bank/financial firm after they leave office."

This seems like a decent idea. Hard to enforce, as highly intelligent and accomplished people tend not to be accepting of such restrictions, but it could be worth it anyway.

likbez -> sanjait...

" highly intelligent and accomplished people tend not to be accepting of such restrictions, but it could be worth it anyway."

You are forgetting that it depends on a simple fact to whom political power belongs. And that's the key whether "highly intelligent and accomplished people" will accept those restrictions of not.

If the government was not fully captured by financial capital, then I think even limited prosecution of banksters "Stalin's purge style" would do wonders in preventing housing bubble and 2008 financial crush.

Please try to imagine the effect of trial and exile to Alaska for some period just a dozen people involved in Securitization of mortgages boom (and those highly intelligent people can do wonders in improving oil industry in Alaska ;-).

Starting with Mr. Weill, Mr. Greenspan, Mr. Rubin, Mr. Phil Gramm, Dr. Summers and Mr. Clinton.

Anonymous -> Peter K....

"2003-2005 didn't have excess inflation and wage gains."

Monetary policy can not hinge just on inflation or wage gains. Why are wage gains a problem anyway?

Lets face it, this Fed is all about goosing up asset prices to generate short term gains in economic activity. Since the early 90s, the Fed has done nothing but make policy based on Wall Street's interests. I can give them a pass on the dot com debacle but not after that. This toxic relationship between wall street and the Fed has to end.

You want regulation? I would like to see
1) Reinstate Glass Steagall
2) impose a 10bp trans tax on trading financial instruments.
3) Outlaw any Fed person working for a bank/financial firm after they leave office. Bernanke, David Warsh etc included. That includes Mishkin getting paid to shill for failing Iceland banks or Bernanke making paid speeches to hedge funds.


Anonymous -> EMichael...

Fact: there was a housing bubble that most at the Fed (including Bernanke) denied right upto the middle of 2007
Fact: Yellen, to her credit, has admitted multiple times over the years that low rates spur search for yield that blows bubbles
Fact: Bursting of the bubble led to unemployment for millions and U3 that went to 10%

what facts are you referring to?

EMichael -> Anonymous...

That FED rates caused the bubble.

to think this you have to ignore that a 400% Fed Rate increase from 2004 to 2005 had absolutely no effect on mortgage originations.

Then of course, you have to explain why 7 years at zero has not caused another housing bubble.

https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/FEDFUNDS

Correlation is not causation. Lack of correlation is proof of lack of causation.

pgl -> Anonymous...

"You are the guys who do not consider the counterfactual where higher rates would have prevented the housing bubble in 2003-05 and that produced the great recession in the first place."

You are repeating the John B. Taylor line about interest rates being held "too low and too long". And guess what - most economists have called Taylor's claim for the BS it really is. We should also note we never heard this BS when Taylor was part of the Bush Administration. And do check - Greenspan and later Bernanke were raising interest rates well before any excess demand was generated which is why inflation never took off.

So do keep repeating this intellectual garbage and we keep noting you are just a stupid troll.

anne -> anne...
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/10/29/1518393112

September 17, 2015

Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century
By Anne Case and Angus Deaton

Midlife increases in suicides and drug poisonings have been previously noted. However, that these upward trends were persistent and large enough to drive up all-cause midlife mortality has, to our knowledge, been overlooked. If the white mortality rate for ages 45−54 had held at their 1998 value, 96,000 deaths would have been avoided from 1999–2013, 7,000 in 2013 alone. If it had continued to decline at its previous (1979‒1998) rate, half a million deaths would have been avoided in the period 1999‒2013, comparable to lives lost in the US AIDS epidemic through mid-2015. Concurrent declines in self-reported health, mental health, and ability to work, increased reports of pain, and deteriorating measures of liver function all point to increasing midlife distress.

Abstract

This paper documents a marked increase in the all-cause mortality of middle-aged white non-Hispanic men and women in the United States between 1999 and 2013. This change reversed decades of progress in mortality and was unique to the United States; no other rich country saw a similar turnaround. The midlife mortality reversal was confined to white non-Hispanics; black non-Hispanics and Hispanics at midlife, and those aged 65 and above in every racial and ethnic group, continued to see mortality rates fall. This increase for whites was largely accounted for by increasing death rates from drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis. Although all education groups saw increases in mortality from suicide and poisonings, and an overall increase in external cause mortality, those with less education saw the most marked increases. Rising midlife mortality rates of white non-Hispanics were paralleled by increases in midlife morbidity. Self-reported declines in health, mental health, and ability to conduct activities of daily living, and increases in chronic pain and inability to work, as well as clinically measured deteriorations in liver function, all point to growing distress in this population. We comment on potential economic causes and consequences of this deterioration.

ilsm -> Sarah...

Murka is different. Noni's plan would work if it were opportune for the slavocracy and the Kochs and ARAMCO don't lose any "growth".

Maybe cost plus climate repair contracts to shipyards fumbling through useless nuclear powered behemoths for war plans made in 1942.

Someone gotta make big money plundering for the public good, in Murka!

CSP said...

The answers to our malaise seem readily apparent to me, and I'm a southern-born white male working in a small, struggling Georgia town.

1. Kill the national war machine
2. Kill the national Wall Street financial fraud machine
3. Get out-of-control mega corporations under control
4. Return savings to Main Street (see #1, #2 and #3)
5. Provide national, universal health insurance to everyone as a right
6. Provide free education to everyone, as much as their academic abilities can earn them
7. Strengthen social security and lower the retirement age to clear the current chronic underemployment of young people

It seems to me that these seven steps would free the American people to pursue their dreams, not the dreams of Washington or Wall Street. Unfortunately, it is readily apparent that true freedom and real individual empowerment are the last things our leaders desire. Shame on them and shame on everyone who helps to make it so.

DeDude -> CSP...

You are right. Problem is that most southern-born white males working in a small, struggling Georgia town would rather die than voting for the one candidate who might institute those changes - Bernie Sanders.

The people who are beginning to realize that the american dream is a mirage, are the same people who vote for GOP candidates who want to give even more to the plutocrats.

kthomas said...

The kids in Seattle had it right when WTO showed up.


Why is anyone suprised by all this?

We exported out jobs. First all the manufacturing. Now all of the Service jobs.


But hey...we helped millions in China and India get out of poverty, only to put outselves into it.


America was sold to highest bidder a long long time ago. A Ken Melvin put it, the chickens came home to roost in 2000.

sanjait -> kthomas...

So you think the problem with America is that we lost our low skilled manufacturing and call center tech support jobs?

I can sort of see why people assume that "we exported out jobs" is the reason for stagnant incomes in the U.S., but it's still tiresome, because it's still just wrong.

Manufacturing employment crashed in the US mostly because it has been declining globally. The world economy is less material based than ever, and machines do more of the work making stuff.

And while some services can be outsourced, the vast majority can't. Period.

Inequality has been rising globally, almost regardless of trade practices. The U.S. has one of the more closed economies in the developed world, so if globalization were the cause, we'd be the most insulated. But we aren't, which should be a pretty good indication that globalization isn't the cause.

cm -> sanjait...

Yes, the loss of "low skilled" jobs is still a loss of jobs. Many people work in "low skilled" jobs because there are not enough "higher skill" jobs to go around, as most work demanded is not of the most fancy type.

We have heard this now for a few decades, that "low skilled" jobs lost will be replaced with "high skill" (and better paid) jobs, and the evidence is somewhat lacking. There has been growth in higher skill jobs in absolute terms, but when you adjust by population growth, it is flat or declining.

When people hypothetically or actually get the "higher skills" recommended to them, into what higher skill jobs are they to move?

I have known a number of anecdotes of people with degrees or who held "skilled" jobs that were forced by circumstances to take commodity jobs or jobs at lower pay grades or "skill levels" due to aggregate loss of "higher skill" jobs or age discrimination, or had to go from employment to temp jobs.

And it is not true that only "lower skill" jobs are outsourced. Initially, yes, as "higher skills" obviously don't exist yet in the outsourcing region. But that doesn't last long, especially if the outsourcers expend resources to train and grow the remote skill base, at the expense of the domestic workforce which is expected to already have experience (which has worked for a while due to workforce overhangs from previous industry "restructuring").

likbez -> sanjait...

"Inequality has been rising globally, almost regardless of trade practices."

It is not some unstoppable global trend. This is neoliberal oligarchy coup d'ιtat. Or as it often called "a quite coup".

sanjait -> cm...

"Yes, the loss of "low skilled" jobs is still a loss of jobs. Many people work in "low skilled" jobs because there are not enough "higher skill" jobs to go around, as most work demanded is not of the most fancy type.

We have heard this now for a few decades, that "low skilled" jobs lost will be replaced with "high skill" (and better paid) jobs, and the evidence is somewhat lacking. "

And that is *exactly my point.*

The lack of wage growth isn't isolated to low skilled domains. It's weak across the board.

What does that tell us?

It tells us that offshoring of low skilled jobs isn't the problem.

"And it is not true that only "lower skill" jobs are outsourced. Initially, yes, as "higher skills" obviously don't exist yet in the outsourcing region."

You could make this argument, but I think (judging by your own hedging) you know this isn't the case. Offshoring of higher skilled jobs does happen but it's a marginal factor in reality. You hypothesize that it may someday become a bigger factor ... but just notice that we've had stagnant wages now for a few decades.

My point is that offshoring IS NOT THE CAUSE of stagnating wages. I'd argue that globalization is a force that can't really be stopped by national policy anyway, but even if you think it could, it's important to realize IT WOULD DO ALMOST NOTHING to alleviate inequality.

cm -> sanjait...

I was responding to your point:

"So you think the problem with America is that we lost our low skilled manufacturing and call center tech support jobs?"

With the follow-on:

"I can sort of see why people assume that "we exported out jobs" is the reason for stagnant incomes in the U.S., but it's still tiresome, because it's still just wrong."

Labor markets are very sensitive to marginal effects. If let's say "normal" or "heightened" turnover is 10% p.a. spread out over the year, then the continued availability (or not) of around 1% vacancies (for the respective skill sets etc.) each month makes a huge difference. There was the argument that the #1 factor is automation and process restructuring, and offshoring is trailing somewhere behind that in job destruction volume.

I didn't research it in detail because I have no reason to doubt it. But it is a compounded effect - every percentage point in open positions (and *better* open positions - few people are looking to take a pay cut) makes a big difference. If let's say the automation losses are replaced with other jobs, offshoring will tip the scale. Due to aggregate effects one cannot say what is the "extra" like with who is causing congestion on a backed up road (basically everybody, not the first or last person to join).

"Manufacturing employment crashed in the US mostly because it has been declining globally. The world economy is less material based than ever, and machines do more of the work making stuff."

Are you kidding me? The world economy is less material based? OK maybe 20 years after the paperless office we are finally printing less, but just because the material turnover, waste, and environmental pollution is not in your face (because of offshoring!), it doesn't mean less stuff is produced or material consumed. If anything, it is market saturation and aggregate demand limitations that lead to lower material and energy consumption (or lower growth rates).

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, several nations (US and Germany among others) had programs to promote new car sales (cash for clunkers etc.) that were based on the idea that people can get credit for their old car, but its engine had to be destroyed and made unrepairable so it cannot enter the used car market and defeat the purpose of the program. I assume the clunkers were then responsibly and sustainably recycled.

cm -> sanjait...

"The lack of wage growth isn't isolated to low skilled domains. It's weak across the board.

What does that tell us?

It tells us taht offshoring of low skilled jobs isn't the problem."

This doesn't follow. First of all, whether a job can or is offshored has little to do with whether it is "low skilled" but more with whether the workflow around the job can be organized in such a way that the job can be offshore. This is less a matter of "skill level" and more volume and immediacy of interaction with adjacent job functions, or movement of material across distances. Also consider that aside from time zone differences (which are of course a big deal between e.g. US and Europe/Asia), there is not much difference whether a job is performed in another country or in a different domestic region, or perhaps just "working from home" 1 mile from the office, for office-type jobs. Of course the other caveat is whether the person can physically attend meetings with little fuss and expense - so remote management/coordination work is naturally not a big thing.

The reason wages are stuck is that aggregate jobs are not growing, relative to workforce supply. When the boomers retire for real in another 5-10 years, that may change. OTOH several tech companies I know have periodic programs where they offer workers over 55 or so packages to leave the company, so they cannot really hurt for talent, though they keep complaining and are busy bringing in young(er) people on work visa. Free agents, it depends on the company. Some companies hire NCGs, but they also "buy out" older workers.

cm -> cm...

Caveat: Based on what I see (outside sectors with strong/early growth), domestic hiring of NCGs/"fresh blood" falls in two categories:

Then there is also the gender split - "technical/engineering" jobs are overweighed in men, except technical jobs in traditionally "non-technical/non-product" departments which have a higher share of women.

All this is of course a matter of top-down hiring preferences, as generally everything is either controlled top-down or tacitly allowed to happen by selective non-interference.

cm -> sanjait...

"You could make this argument, but I think (judging by your own hedging) you know this isn't the case. Offshoring of higher skilled jobs does happen but it's a marginal factor in reality. You hypothesize that it may someday become a bigger factor ... but just notice that we've had stagnant wages now for a few decades."

I've written a lot of text so far but didn't address all points ...

My "hedging" is retrospective. I don't hypothesize what may eventually happen but it is happening here and now. I don't presume to present a representative picture, but in my sphere of experience/observation (mostly a subset of computer software), offshoring of *knowledge work* started in the mid to late 90's (and that's not the earliest it started in general - of course a lot of the early offshoring in the 80's was market/language specific customization, e.g. US tech in Europe etc., and more "local culture expertise" and not offshoring proper). In the late 90's and early 2000's, offshoring was overshadowed by the Y2K/dotcom booms, so that phase didn't get high visibility (among the people "affected" it sure did). Also the internet was not yet ubiquitous - broadband existed only at the corporate level.

Since then there has been little change, it is pretty much a steady state.

BTW the primary offshore location is India, probably in good part because of good to excellent English language skills, and India's investment in STEM education and industry (especially software/services and this is even a public stereotype, but for a reason).

Syaloch -> sanjait...

Whether low skilled jobs were eliminated due to offshoring or automation doesn't really matter. What matters is that the jobs disappeared, replaced by a small number of higher skill jobs paying comparable wages plus a large number of low skill jobs offering lower wages.

The aggregate effect was stagnation and even decline in living standards. Plus any new jobs were not necessarily produced in the same geographic region as those that were lost, leading to concentration of unemployment and despair.

sanjait -> Syaloch...

"Whether low skilled jobs were eliminated due to offshoring or automation doesn't really matter. "

Well, actually it does matter, because we have a whole lot of people (in both political parties) who think the way to fight inequality is to try to reverse globalization.

If they are incorrect, it matters, because they should be applying their votes and their energy to more effective solutions, and rejecting the proposed solutions of both the well-meaning advocates and the outright demagogues who think restricting trade is some kind of answer.

Syaloch -> sanjait...

I meant it doesn't matter in terms of the despair felt by those affected. All that matters to those affected is that they have been obsoleted without either economic or social support to help them.

However, in terms of addressing this problem economically it really doesn't matter that much either. Offshoring is effectively a low-tech form of automation. If companies can't lower labor costs by using cheaper offshore labor they'll find ways to either drive down domestic wages or to use less labor. For the unskilled laborer the end result is the same.

Syaloch -> Syaloch...

See the thought experiment I posted on the links thread, and then add the following:

Suppose the investigative journalist discovered instead that Freedonia itself is a sham, and that rather than being imported from overseas, the clothing was actually coming from an automated factory straight out of Vonnegut's "Player Piano" that was hidden in a remote domestic location. Would the people who were demanding limits on Freedonian exports now say, "Oh well, I guess that's OK" simply because the factory was located within the US?

Dan Kervick -> kthomas...

I enjoyed listening to this talk by Fredrick Reinfeldt at the LSE:

http://www.lse.ac.uk/newsAndMedia/videoAndAudio/channels/publicLecturesAndEvents/player.aspx?id=3253

Reinfeldt is a center-right politicians and former Swedish Prime Minister. OF course, what counts as center-right in Sweden seems very different from what counts as center-right in the US.

Perhaps there is some kind of basis here for some bipartisan progress on jobs and full employment.

William said...

I'm sure this isn't caused by any single factor, but has anyone seriously investigated a link between this phenomena and the military?

Veterans probably aren't a large enough cohort to explain the effect in full, but white people from the south are the most likely group to become soldiers, and veterans are the most likely group to have alcohol/drug abuse and suicide problems.

This would also be evidence why we aren't seeing it in other countries, no one else has anywhere near the number of vets we have.

cm -> William...

Vets are surely part of the aggregate problem of lack of career/economic prospects, in fact a lot of people join(ed) the military because of a lack of other jobs to begin with. But as the lack of prospects is aggregate it affects everybody.

Denis Drew said...

" At this point you probably expect me to offer a solution. But while universal health care, higher minimum wages, aid to education, and so on would do a lot to help Americans in trouble, I'm not sure whether they're enough to cure existential despair."


UNOINIZED and (therefore shall we say) politicized: you are in control of your narrative -- win or lose. Can it get any more hopeful than that? And you will probably win.

Winning being defined as labor eeking out EQUALLY emotionally satisfying/dissatisfying market results -- EQUAL that is with the satisfaction of ownership and the consumer. That's what happens when all three interface in the market -- labor interfacing indirectly through collective bargaining.

(Labor's monopoly neutralizes ownership's monopsony -- the consumers' willingness to pay providing the checks and balances on labor's monopoly.)

If you feel you've done well RELATIVE to the standards of your own economic era you will feel you've done well SUBJECTIVELY.

For instance, my generation of (American born) cab drivers earned about $750 for a 60 hour (grueling) work week up to the early 80s. With multiples strip-offs I won't detail here (will on request -- diff for diff cities) that has been reduced to about $500 a week (at best I suspect!) I believe and that is just not enough to get guys like me out there for that grueling work.

Let's take the minimum wage comparison from peak-to-peak instead of from peak-to-trough: $11 and hour in 1968 -- at HALF TODAY'S per capita income (economic output) -- to $7.25 today. How many American born workers are going to show up for $7.25 in the day of SUVs and "up-to-date kitchens" all around us. $8.75 was perfectly enticing for Americans working in 1956 ($8.75 thanks to the "Master of the Senate"). The recent raise to $10 is not good enough for Chicago's 100,000 gang members (out of my estimate 200,000 gang age minority males). Can hustle that much on the street w/o the SUBJECTIVE feeling of wage slavery.

Ditto hiring result for two-tier supermarket contracts after Walmart undercut the unions.

Without effective unions (centralized bargaining is the gold standard: only thing that fends off Walmart type contract muscling. Done that way since 1966 with the Teamsters Union's National Master Freight Agreement; the long practiced law or custom from continental Europe to French Canada to Argentina to Indonesia.

It occurred to me this morning that if the quintessential example of centralized bargaining Germany has 25% or our population and produces 200% more cars than we do, then, Germans produces 8X as many cars per capita than we do!

And thoroughly union organized Germans feel very much in control of the narrative of their lives.

cm -> Denis Drew...

"thoroughly union organized Germans"

No longer thoroughly, with recent labor market reforms the door has likewise been blown open to contingent workforces, staffing agencies, and similar forms of (perma) temp work. And moving work to nations with lower labor standards (e.g. "peripheral" Europe, less so outside Europe) has been going on for decades, for parts, subassembly, and even final assembly.

Denis Drew said...

Very rough figures: half a million Chicago employees may make less than $800 a week -- almost everybody should earn $800 ...

... putative minimum wage? -- might allow some slippage in high labor businesses like fast food restaurants; 33% labor costs! -- sort of like the Teamsters will allow exceptions when needed from Master agreements if you open up your books, they need your working business too, consumer ultimately sets limits.

Average raise of $200 a week -- $10,000 a year equals $5 billion shift in income -- out of a $170 billion Chicago GDP (1% of national) -- not too shabby to bring an end to gang wars and Despair American Style.

Just takes making union busting a felony LIKE EVERY OTHER FORM OF UNFAIR MARKET MUSCLING (even taking a movie in the movies). The body of laws are there -- the issues presumably settled -- the enforcement just needs "dentures."

cm -> Denis Drew...

Union busting is generally (?) understood as direct interference with the formation and operation of unions or their members. It is probably more common that employers are allowed to just go around the unions - "right to work", subcontracting non-union shops or temp/staffing agencies, etc.

cm -> Denis Drew...

Why would people join a union and pay dues when the union is largely impotent to deliver, when there are always still enough desperate people who will (have to) take jobs outside the union system? Employers don't have to bring in scabs when they can legally go through "unencumbered" subcontractors inside or outside the jurisdiction.

cm -> cm...

It comes down to the collective action problem. You can organize people who form a "community" (workers in the same business site, or similar aggregates more or less subject to Dunbar's number or with a strong tribal/ethnic/otherwise cohesion narrative). Beyond that, if you can get a soapbox in the regional press, etc., otherwise good luck. It probably sounds defeatist but I don't have a solution.

When the union management is outed for corruption or other abuses or questioable practices (e.g. itself employing temps or subcontractors), it doesn't help.

Syaloch said...

There was a good discussion of this on last Friday's Real Time with Bill Maher.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bl5kFZ-SZq4

Surprisingly, I pretty much agree with David Frum's analysis -- and Maher's comment that Trump, with his recent book, "Crippled America", has his finger on the pulse of this segment of the population. Essentially what we're seeing is the impact of economic stagnation upon a culture whose reserves of social capital have been depleted, as described in Robert Putnam's "Bowling Alone".

When the going gets tough it's a lot harder to manage without a sense of identity and purpose, and without the support of family, friends, churches, and communities. Facebook "friends" are no substitute for the real thing.

Peter K. said...

Jared Bernsetin:

"...since the late 1970s, we've been at full employment only 30 percent of the time (see the data note below for an explanation of how this is measured). For the three decades before that, the job market was at full employment 70 percent of the time."

We need better macro (monetary, fiscal, trade) policy.

Maybe middle-aged blacks and hispanics have better attitudes and health since they made it through a tough youth, have more realistic expectations and race relations are better than the bad old days even if they are far from perfect. The United States is becoming more multicultural.

Jesse said...

Credibility trap, fully engaged.

Jesse said...

The anti-knowledge of the elites is worth reading. http://billmoyers.com/2015/11/02/the-anti-knowledge-of-the-elites/ When such herd instinct and institutional overbearance connects with the credibility trap, the results may be impressive. http://jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com/2015/11/gold-daily-and-silver-weekly-charts-pop.html

Fred C. Dobbs said...

White, Middle-Age Suicide In America Skyrockets
Psychology Today - May 6, 2013
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/reading-between-the-headlines/201305/white-middle-age-suicide-in-america-skyrockets

Suicide, once thought to be associated with troubled teens and the elderly, is quickly becoming an age-blind statistic. Middle aged Americans are turning to suicide in alarming numbers. The reasons include easily accessible prescription painkillers, the mortgage crisis and most importantly the challenge of a troubled economy. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention claims suicide rates now top the number of deaths due to automobile accidents.

The suicide rate for both younger and older Americans remains virtually unchanged, however, the rate has spiked for those in middle age (35 to 64 years old) with a 28 percent increase (link is external) from 1999 to 2010. The rate for whites in middle-age jumped an alarming 40 percent during the same time frame. According to the CDC, there were more than 38,000 suicides (link is external) in 2010 making it the tenth leading cause of death in America overall (third leading cause from age 15-24).

The US 2010 Final Data quantifies the US statistics for suicide by race, sex and age. Interestingly, African-American suicides have declined and are considerably lower than whites. Reasons are thought to include better coping skills when negative things occur as well as different cultural norms with respect to taking your own life. Also, Blacks (and Hispanics) tend to have stronger family support, community support and church support to carry them through these rough times.

While money woes definitely contribute to stress and poor mental health, it can be devastating to those already prone to depression -- and depression is indeed still the number one risk factor for suicide. A person with no hope and nowhere to go, can now easily turn to their prescription painkiller and overdose, bringing the pain, stress and worry to an end. In fact, prescription painkillers were the third leading cause of suicide (and rising rapidly) for middle aged Americans in 2010 (guns are still number 1). ...

cm -> Fred C. Dobbs...

When few people kill themselves "on purpose" or die from self-inflicted but probably "unintended" harms (e.g. organ failure or accidental death caused by substance abuse), it can be shrugged off as problems related to the individual (more elaboration possible but not necessary).

When it becomes a statistically significant phenomenon (above-noise percentage of total population or demographically identifiable groups), then one has to ask questions about social causes. My first question would be, "what made life suck for those people"? What specific instrument they used to kill themselves would be my second question (it may be the first question for people who are charged with implementing counter measures but not necessarily fixing the causes).

Since about the financial crisis (I'm not sure about causation or coincidence - not accidental coincidence BTW but causation by the same underlying causes), there has been a disturbing pattern of high school students throwing themselves in front of local trains. At that age, drinking or drugging oneself to death is apparently not the first "choice". Performance pressure *related to* (not just "and") a lack of convincing career/life prospects has/have been suspected or named as a cause. I don't think teenagers suddenly started to jump in front of trains that have run the same rail line for decades because of the "usual" and centuries to millennia old teenage romantic relationship issues.

[Sep 22, 2019] The Despair of Learning That Experience No Longer Matters by Benjamin Wallace-Wells

Notable quotes:
"... If returns to experience are in decline, if wisdom no longer pays off, then that might help suggest why a group of mostly older people who are not, as a group, disadvantaged might become convinced that the country has taken a turn for the worse. It suggests why their grievances should so idealize the past, and why all the talk about coal miners and factories, jobs in which unions have codified returns to experience into the salary structure, might become such a fixation. ..."
Apr 12, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
RGC , April 12, 2017 at 06:41 AM
The Despair of Learning That Experience No Longer Matters

April 10, 2017

.....................

The arguments about Case and Deaton's work have been an echo of the one that consumed so much of the primary campaign, and then the general election, and which is still unresolved: whether the fury of Donald Trump's supporters came from cultural and racial grievance or from economic plight. Case and Deaton's scholarship does not settle the question. As they write, more than once, "more work is needed."

But part of what Case and Deaton offer in their new paper is an emotional logic to an economic argument.

If returns to experience are in decline, if wisdom no longer pays off, then that might help suggest why a group of mostly older people who are not, as a group, disadvantaged might become convinced that the country has taken a turn for the worse. It suggests why their grievances should so idealize the past, and why all the talk about coal miners and factories, jobs in which unions have codified returns to experience into the salary structure, might become such a fixation.

Whatever comes from the deliberations over Case and Deaton's statistics, there is within their numbers an especially interesting story.

http://www.newyorker.com/news/benjamin-wallace-wells/the-despair-of-learning-that-experience-no-longer-matters

[Sep 19, 2019] Form vs. substance in the neoliberal university

Highly recommended!
This is a classic catch 22 situation with this "oath" described below...
Also I think a lot of professors of neo-classical economics look like the member of Komsomol described below ;-) For them it is about opening new opportunities for advancement not about the truth and the level of corresponding to the reality of this pseudo-scientific neo-classical garbage, with the smoke screen of mathematics as a lipstick on the pig (mathiness)
Most such people will teach students complete garbage understanding that this is a complete garbage with a smile. Still, in in Soviet way it is possible for some to accept the position and work to undermine neo-classical economics acting within the institution using Aesopian language in lectures and papers.
The book Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More The Last Soviet Generation (In-Formation) by Alexei Yurchak is a recommended reading for those who want to understand the perversion of neoliberal way of life in the USA today, as they mirror the perversions of Soviet life in a very uncanny way.
Notable quotes:
"... Consider an example from the contemporary United States. Today a number of private universities, colleges, and schools in several states require teachers and professors to take a "loyalty oath" to ensure that they do not "hold or foster undesirable political beliefs.... ..."
"... From a political standpoint she disagreed with the practice of taking loyalty oaths, and later, in her role as professor of the sociology of law, she voiced political positions counter to those mentioned in the oath and challenged the oath-taking practice itself. ..."
"... However, before she could do this, she first had to take the oath, understanding that without this act she would not be employed or recognized by the institution as a legitimate member with a voice authorized to participate in teaching, research, and the institution's politics (committees, meetings, elections, and so forth), including even the possibility to question publicly the practice of taking oaths. ..."
"... "The oath did not mean much if you took it, but it meant a lot if you didn't." ..."
"... However, "when a vote had to be taken, everyone roused -- a certain sensor clicked in the head: 'Who is in favor?' -- and you raised your hand automatically" (see a discussion of such ritualized practices within the Komsomol in chapter a). ..."
"... Participating in these acts reproduced oneself as a "normal" Soviet person within the system of relations, collectivities, and subject positions, with all the constraints and possibilities that position entailed, even including the possibility, after the meetings, to engage in interests, pursuits, and meanings that ran against those that were stated in the resolutions one had voted for. ..."
"... These acts are not about stating facts and describing opinions but about doing things and opening new possibilities. ..."
Sep 19, 2019 | www.amazon.com

Originally from: Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More The Last Soviet Generation (In-Formation) by Alexei Yurchak

formal Shift

A general shift at the level of concrete ritualized forms of discourse, in which the formal dimension's importance grows, while the
informal, substantiative dimension opens up to new meanings, can and does occur in different historical and cultural contexts.

Consider an example from the contemporary United States. Today a number of private universities, colleges, and schools in several states require teachers and professors to take a "loyalty oath" to ensure that they do not "hold or foster undesirable political beliefs....

While the statutes vary, [these institutions] generally deny the right to teach to those who cannot or will not take the loyalty oath" (Chin and Rao 2003, 431 -32). Recently, a sociologist of law took such a loyalty oath at a Midwestern university when her appointment as a professor began.

From a political standpoint she disagreed with the practice of taking loyalty oaths, and later, in her role as professor of the sociology of law, she voiced political positions counter to those mentioned in the oath and challenged the oath-taking practice itself.

However, before she could do this, she first had to take the oath, understanding that without this act she would not be employed or recognized by the institution as a legitimate member with a voice authorized to participate in teaching, research, and the institution's politics (committees, meetings, elections, and so forth), including even the possibility to question publicly the practice of taking oaths.

Here, the informal, substantiative dimension of the ritualized act experiences a shift, while the formal dimension remains fixed and important: taking the oath opens a world of possibilities where new informal, substantiative meanings become possible, including a professorial position with a recognized political voice within the institution. In the sociologist's words, "The oath did not mean much if you took it, but it meant a lot if you didn't." 3 ^

This example illustrates the general principle of how some discursive acts or whole types of discourse can drift historically in the direction of an increasingly expanding formal dimension and increasingly open or even irrelevant informal, substantiative dimension. During Soviet late socialism, the formal dimension of speech acts at formal gathering and rituals became particularly important in most contexts and during most events.

One person who participated in large Komsomol meetings in the 1970s and 1980s described how he often spent the meetings reading a book. However, "when a vote had to be taken, everyone roused -- a certain sensor clicked in the head: 'Who is in favor?' -- and you raised your hand automatically" (see a discussion of such ritualized practices within the Komsomol in chapter a).

Here the emphasis on the formal dimension of organizational discourse was unique both in scale and substance. Most ritualized acts of "organizational discourse" during this time underwent such a transformation.

Participating in these acts reproduced oneself as a "normal" Soviet person within the system of relations, collectivities, and subject positions, with all the constraints and possibilities that position entailed, even including the possibility, after the meetings, to engage in interests, pursuits, and meanings that ran against those that were stated in the resolutions one had voted for.

It would obviously be wrong to see these acts of voting simply as informal, substantiative statements about supporting the resolution that are either true (real support) or false (dissimulation of support). These acts are not about stating facts and describing opinions but about doing things and opening new possibilities.

[Sep 18, 2019] Neoliberalism in action: Another School Leadership Disaster Private Companies Work an Insider Game to Reap Lucrative Contracts

Notable quotes:
"... By Jeff Bryant, a writing fellow and chief correspondent for Our Schools , a project of the Independent Media Institute. He is a communications consultant, freelance writer, advocacy journalist, and director of the Education Opportunity Network, a strategy and messaging center for progressive education policy. His award-winning commentary and reporting routinely appear in prominent online news outlets, and he speaks frequently at national events about public education policy. Follow him on Twitter @jeffbcdm. produced by Our Schools , a project of the Independent Media Institute. ..."
"... One of the first school districts to become entangled in the conglomeration of firms Wise and Sundstrom assembled was Nashville, which in 2016 chose Jim Huge and Associates to help with hiring a new superintendent. The following year the board hired Shawn Joseph, whom Huge had recommended. ..."
"... Shortly after Joseph arrived in Nashville, according to local News Channel 5 investigative reporter Phil Williams, he began pushing the district to give $1.8 million in no-bid contracts to Performance Matters, a Utah-based technology company that sells "software solutions" to school districts. ..."
"... In addition to pushing Performance Matters, Williams reported, Joseph gave an "inside track" to Discovery Education, a textbook and digital curriculum provider and another company he and his team had ties to from their work in Maryland. ..."
"... By June 2018, Nashville school board member Amy Frogge was questioning Joseph about possible connections these vendors might have to ERDI. A district audit would confirm that ERDI's affiliated companies -- including Performance Matters, Discovery Education, and six other companies -- had signed contracts totaling more than $17 million with the district since Joseph had been hired. ..."
"... "Too often, national search firms are also driven by money-making motives and/or connections with those seeking profit," Frogge contended. That conflict of interest is a concern not only in Nashville but also in other districts where school leaders with deep ties to education vendors and consultants have resulted in huge scandals that traumatized communities and cost taxpayers millions. ..."
Sep 18, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Posted on September 18, 2019 by Lambert Strether

Lambert here: More corruption in the professional class.

By Jeff Bryant, a writing fellow and chief correspondent for Our Schools , a project of the Independent Media Institute. He is a communications consultant, freelance writer, advocacy journalist, and director of the Education Opportunity Network, a strategy and messaging center for progressive education policy. His award-winning commentary and reporting routinely appear in prominent online news outlets, and he speaks frequently at national events about public education policy. Follow him on Twitter @jeffbcdm. produced by Our Schools , a project of the Independent Media Institute.

In July 2013, the education world was rocked when a breaking story by Chicago independent journalist Sarah Karp reported that district CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett had pushed through a no-bid $20 million contract to provide professional development to administrators with a private, for-profit company called SUPES Academy, which she had worked for a year before the deal transpired. Byrd-Bennett was also listed as a senior associate for PROACT Search, a superintendent search firm run by the same individuals who led SUPES.

By 2015, federal investigators looked into the deal and found reason to charge Byrd-Bennett for accepting bribes and kickbacks from the company that ran SUPES and PROACT. A year-and-a-half later, the story made national headlines when Byrd-Bennett was convicted and sentenced to prison for those charges. But anyone who thought this story was an anomaly would be mistaken. Similar conflicts of interest among private superintendent search firms, their associated consulting companies, and their handpicked school leaders have plagued multiple school districts across the country.

In an extensive examination, Our Schools has discovered an intricate web of businesses that reap lucrative school contracts funded by public tax dollars. These businesses are often able to place their handpicked candidates in school leadership positions who then help make the purchasing decision for the same businesses' other products and services, which often include professional development, strategic planning, computer-based services, or data analytics. The deals are often brokered in secrecy or presented to local school boards in ways that make insider schemes appear legitimate.

As in the Byrd-Bennett scandal, school officials who get caught in this web risk public humiliation, criminal investigation, and potential jail time, while the businesses that perpetuate this hidden arrangement continue to flourish and grow.

The results of these scandals are often disastrous. School policies and personnel are steered toward products that reward private companies rather than toward research-proven methods for supporting student learning and teacher performance. School governance becomes geared to the interests of well-connected individuals rather than the desires of teachers and voters. And when insider schemes become public, whole communities are thrown into chaos, sometimes for years, resulting in wasted education dollars and increased disillusionment with school systems and local governance.

While media accounts generally frame these scandals as examples of corrupt school leaders who got caught and brought to justice, reporters rarely delve into the corporate-operated enterprises that undergird the whole system.

A Potent Business Model

Months before Byrd-Bennett's conviction, another individual connected to the Chicago scandal, SUPES co-owner Gary Solomon, pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges related to a scheme that diverted over $5 million in public money from the Chicago contracts into his private pocket.

Solomon, who had been forced out of a previous job as a high school administrator after he was accused of racist comments and "preying" on female students, cofounded SUPES -- along with sister companies PROACT Search and Synesi Associates -- with his former student Thomas Vranas, who also pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the Chicago deals.

Although Solomon and Vranas got caught and were convicted for their scheme, they nevertheless stumbled on a potent business model that combined PROACT's superintendent search services with SUPES Academy professional development programs and consulting by Synesi Associates to help districts "implement reform strategies." Combining leader recruitment with leadership training and consulting gave Solomon and Vranas three ways into a business relationship with a school district and multiple ways to upsell clients into more expensive new contracts.

New administrators PROACT helped place in leadership roles could be reliable allies for pitching professional development services to the district. School districts that had employed SUPES might be more inclined to hire PROACT for a leadership search. And Synesi would have an inside track for its consulting services. Further, any of the firm's school leader contacts who became idle between full-time jobs, which often happens in this profession, would be able to work for the firm as "associates."

School districts may have welcomed this arrangement as a form of "one-stop shopping" for their needs, but it's not hard to see how it could lead to conflicts of interest and a veil for fraud.

Chicago was not the only district that fell for the pitch. Shortly after news of the Byrd-Bennett scandal broke, school districts in DeKalb County , Illinois; Fayette County (Lexington), Kentucky; and Lancaster , Pennsylvania ended their contracts with PROACT.

In Iowa City, Iowa, a local reporter found the district had a contract with Synesi Associates to conduct an audit of the district and then hired PROACT to recruit candidates for a vacant director position. At the same time, superintendent Stephen Murley took 34 days off work to do paid consulting for those two organizations and for SUPES Academy.

In St. Louis , superintendent Kelvin Adams started consulting for SUPES shortly after the school board awarded a $125,000 contract to the firm, Sarah Karp and Melissa Sanchez reported. The district also awarded a $16,500 no-bid deal to Synesi.

But Solomon and Vranas did not invent this money-making strategy, nor did it die when they were convicted and sent to jail.

From Retail Store to Mega-Mall

In June 2016, the Chicago Sun Times reported that in the wake of the Byrd-Bennett scandal, parts of SUPES Academy were purchased by Joseph Wise and his partner David Sundstrom. Their Chicago-based firm Atlantic Research Partners (ARP) had already gotten at least $5 million in recent business from Chicago schools. (Sundstrom would later contend ARP rescinded the agreement to acquire SUPES and that the "only remaining connection between the companies" was a licensing of training material.)

Wise founded ARP with Sundstrom in 2007 after both had been ousted from their jobs in the Duval County, Florida, school district due to alleged "serious misconduct." According to the ARP website, the project's mission was to launch a "teacher-training program focused on instructional coaching and school capacity-building."

Around the same time ARP was acquiring parts of SUPES, the company also merged with Jim Huge and Associates, a firm with deep experience in school superintendent and other talent searches. Huge had also served as chief strategy officer for PROACT Search. The announced rationale of the merger was "to maximize seamless delivery of the intensive executive services to schools and school leaders."

Undoubtedly, what Wise and Sundstrom assembled was similar to the three-part business model Solomon and Vranas put together. What was different, though, was Wise and Sundstrom would expand on the model with their subsequent acquisition of Education Research and Development Institute (ERDI).

According to Louisiana school teacher and wily blogger Mercedes Schneider , Sundstrom registered an entity called ERDI Partners as a business with a Florida address in 2017.

But an entity called ERDI had been in existence since at least 2005 when an article in Education Week described the company as an intermediary organization bringing together school administrators and education vendors to help companies improve the products and services they offer school systems. Specifically, ERDI arranged get-togethers by paying superintendents consulting fees plus expenses to travel to conferences at luxury resorts where they would meet with company representatives. The companies, in turn, underwrote the conferences with substantial fees paid to ERDI.

Critics of ERDI argue that the company's model for paying school administrators for their advice on education products inevitably leads to conflict of interest issues when those administrators are presented with offers to purchase products promoted by ERDI.

Byrd-Bennett had a relationship with ERDI dating back to at least 2014 and was listed as senior advisor on the firm's website while she was employed as Chicago schools' CEO.

With the acquisition of ERDI, Wise and Sundstrom could transform their business model from a lone retail operation to a mega-mall of education vendors of all kinds.

'The Search Was Manipulated'

One of the first school districts to become entangled in the conglomeration of firms Wise and Sundstrom assembled was Nashville, which in 2016 chose Jim Huge and Associates to help with hiring a new superintendent. The following year the board hired Shawn Joseph, whom Huge had recommended.

Shortly after Joseph arrived in Nashville, according to local News Channel 5 investigative reporter Phil Williams, he began pushing the district to give $1.8 million in no-bid contracts to Performance Matters, a Utah-based technology company that sells "software solutions" to school districts.

Williams found Joseph had spoken at the company's conference and he had touted the company's software products in promotional materials while he was employed in his previous job in Maryland. Williams also unearthed emails showing Joseph began contract talks with Performance Matters two weeks before he formally took office in Nashville. What also struck Williams as odd was that despite the considerable cost of the contract, district employees were not required to use the software.

In addition to pushing Performance Matters, Williams reported, Joseph gave an "inside track" to Discovery Education, a textbook and digital curriculum provider and another company he and his team had ties to from their work in Maryland. With Joseph's backing, Discovery Education received an $11.4 million contract to provide a new science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) program even though a smaller company came in with a bid that was a fraction of what Discovery proposed.

By June 2018, Nashville school board member Amy Frogge was questioning Joseph about possible connections these vendors might have to ERDI. A district audit would confirm that ERDI's affiliated companies -- including Performance Matters, Discovery Education, and six other companies -- had signed contracts totaling more than $17 million with the district since Joseph had been hired.

Frogge also came to realize that all these enterprises were connected to the firm who had been instrumental in hiring Joseph -- Jim Huge and Associates.

"The search that brought Shawn Joseph to Nashville was clearly manipulated," Frogge told Our Schools in an email, "and the school board was kept in the dark about Joseph's previous tenure in Maryland and his relationships with vendor companies."

Frogge said some of the manipulation occurred when the search firm told school board members that disputes among current board members -- over charter schools, school finances, and other issues -- indicated the district was "'too dysfunctional' to hire top-level superintendents and therefore needed to hire a less experienced candidate."

But previous investigations of school leadership search firms conducted by Our Schools have found companies like these frequently forego background checks of prospective candidates they recommend, promote favored candidates regardless of their experience or track record, and push board members to keep the entire search process, including the final candidates, confidential from public scrutiny.

"Too often, national search firms are also driven by money-making motives and/or connections with those seeking profit," Frogge contended. That conflict of interest is a concern not only in Nashville but also in other districts where school leaders with deep ties to education vendors and consultants have resulted in huge scandals that traumatized communities and cost taxpayers millions.

In the Youngstown City School District in Ohio, CEO Krish Mohip became mired in questions about his role as a paid consultant for ERDI while the district had a $261,914 contract with a partner company of ERDI. Under calls for his resignation, Mohip left before his contract was up.

Beaufort County School District in South Carolina became the subject of an FBI investigation because of contracts with ERDI and 30 other companies connected to the firm while superintendent Jeff Moss worked as a paid consultant for ERDI. He resigned from the district two years before his contract was up.

In Pittsburgh, superintendent Anthony Hamlet drew scrutiny when reporters found the district spent more than $14 million on dozens of no-bid contracts to firms connected to ERDI at the same time Hamlet was serving as a paid consultant with the company.

In Baltimore County, Maryland, Shaun Dallas Dance made national headlines when he was convicted of perjury committed during his time as superintendent of the district. Dance had concealed $4,600 he'd been paid by ERDI. After Dance participated in confidential meetings with vendors at an ERDI conference, the district extended contracts from companies connected to the firm.

Obviously, school board members could avoid these conflicts by avoiding leadership search firms and consultants connected to ERDI. But that is easier said than done.

After Baltimore County's troubles with Dance, it hired the independent firm Ray and Associates to conduct a search to find an interim leader. The search resulted in six finalists, from which the board chose Verletta White. Shortly after she took the job, the board's ethics review panel found she had violated financial disclosure rules and "used the prestige of her office or public position for private gain" by accepting compensation from ERDI.

Indeed, superintendent search firms frequently fail to find conflicts of interest and other problems in the candidate background checks they conduct. And some of these firms operate side businesses that also lead to conflict of interest issues.

A Revolving Door of Business Deals Funded by Taxpayers

One of the largest superintendent search firms in the United States, Schaumburg, Illinois-based Hazard, Young, and Attea (HYA), is part of the ECRA Group , a consulting firm providing an array of services to schools.

ECRA claims to have worked with over 1,000 districts, but a close examination of how the company worked with a number of school districts in Illinois reveals how the firm uses a revolving-door business model in which its search service rotates administrators into and out of leadership positions while the company uses those leadership connections to successfully upsell districts into expensive long-term consulting contracts funded by taxpayers.

ECRA's business relationships with Oak Park Elementary District 97 in Illinois go back to at least 2010 when it was hired to help replace outgoing superintendent Constance Collins. With HYA's help , the district hired Albert Roberts. In 2013, during Roberts' tenure, school board minutes show the district considered a plan to hire ECRA to analyze the district's achievement data at a cost of $74,000 a year. The following year, the district hired ECRA to produce an analysis of the achievement gap between white and nonwhite students in the district. Board minutes from 2015 show the district continuing to work with ECRA.

When Roberts retired, District 97 used HYA again for a superintendent search that resulted in hiring Carol Kelley. Kelley currently appears in ECRA's marketing literature touting the firm's Strategic Dashboard, which District 97 apparently employs.

Former superintendent Collins was hired to lead Round Lake District 116, also in Illinois, just before HYA and ECRA acquired the district's superintendent search and strategic planning contracts. Under her tenure, Round Lake paid ECRA $75,918 for consulting services in 2016 , 2017 , and 2018 . Collins retired from Round Lake in 2018, but, according to her LinkedIn page, she became an HYA associate in 2017. She also serves on the advisory board of ECRA, according to her bio at a nonprofit for developing school leaders.

Another Illinois district, Niles Township High School District 219, placed its superintendent on administrative leave after it became known she was the daughter of the president of ECRA, which had a contract with the district worth $149,419 and $120,389 in the final two years of her tenure. (She claimed that relationship with ECRA dated to before she was made superintendent, but she decided to resign anyway.)

Huntley Community School District 158, also in Illinois, had contractual arrangements with ECRA dating to at least 2009 when John Burkey was superintendent. When Burkey resigned in 2017, District 158 hired HYA to find a new superintendent at a cost of $17,500. At the end of a hiring process in which HYA kept all finalists confidential , District 158 announced it had hired Scott Rowe. Under his leadership, District 158 spent $94,980.11 on ECRA in 2018 alone.

One more example in Illinois: Evanston/Skokie School District 65 has hired ECRA for a variety of consulting services since at least 2010 when it paid the firm $22,737.50, according to state records, to survey the district's administrators. By 2013, Evanston/Skokie considered ECRA a "long-standing partner" and hired the firm to help pick its new superintendent. Outgoing superintendent Hardy Murphy also recommended the district hire the firm for teacher appraisal work.

Based on HYA's recommendations , Evanston/Skokie hired Paul Goren in 2014, and under his tenure, checks continued to flow to ECRA's consulting business, including $129,855.92 in 2015 . However, Goren's tenure was troubled and brief, and in 2019 he resigned with a $100,000 severance package. A local reporter noticed that unmentioned in the district's settlement statement was that under his leadership "the district's own progress reports [showed] declines in test scores across all groups of students and district losing ground against its own five-year targets."

ECRA's own leadership has also been embroiled in conflict of interest issues. Current ECRA president Glenn "Max" McGee resigned from his last superintendent job, in Palo Alto, California after an outside investigation found the district had mishandled claims of sexual assault. With a payout of roughly $150,000, McGee, on his way out the door, recommended the district hire HYA to conduct the search for his replacement, just after he had accepted the offer to become leader of ECRA. The district went with McGee's recommendation.

When asked whether this relationship among McGee, ECRA, and the Palo Alto district was a possible conflict of interest, McGee told Our Schools in a phone call that he "stayed out of the search" to fill his old position. Of his replacement, Don Austin from nearby Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District in California, McGee admitted being an acquaintance of "many years."

Who's to Blame?

When controversies arise over superintendents and contracts with outside services, private firms that are responsible for pushing these hiring and outsourcing decisions are quick to blame school board members who signed off on the decisions. And critics of public schools frequently use these scandals to argue that democratically elected school boards are dysfunctional and need to be scrapped for other governance structures.

These criticisms leave a lot of context out.

First, being a school board member is customarily a part-time job paying very little money. And school board members are elected to serve as representatives of parents and voters, not to be experts on school finance and administration.

"School board members, although often well intentioned, are sometimes too unqualified and uninformed to exercise effective oversight of spending, and board members are not aware of the personal relationships and personal interests that may be driving decisions by administrative leaders," Nashville board member Frogge explained.

Also, there are multiple ways superintendents can keep board members in the dark about the inner workings of contractor relationships and district operations.

"From the beginning, Joseph surrounded himself with those who promoted him, including organizations he hired to 'train' the board," Frogge explained. "Joseph also prohibited all district employees from speaking to school board members, which prevented board members from recognizing leadership problems during the early days of his tenure. When board members finally began to confront Joseph about problems, including disturbing financial irregularities and his failure to follow board policy, Joseph lied to board members, exacted retribution from those questioning him, and stirred up controversy to distract from the issues at hand."

That said, Frogge noted school boards have alternatives to using private search firms that promote tainted candidates willing to feed the search firms' side businesses.

"School board members need to become better informed and more savvy about profit motives and organizations that seek to influence their selection," she wrote. "School boards can instead opt to hire a local school boards association (for example, the Tennessee School Boards Association) or a local recruiter with a reputation for personal integrity to conduct a search. They can also choose to hire from within."

How school boards decide to avoid conflicts of interest with school leaders and outside consulting firms is "critical" according to Frogge because decisions that are driven by these insiders "can lead to catastrophic outcomes for students and staff."

Among those negative outcomes are increased community acrimony, wasted education funds, and career debacles for what could perhaps have been promising school leaders.

In the case of Joseph and Nashville, controversies with his leadership decisions strongly divided the city's black community, and taxpayers were stuck with a $261,250 bill for buying out the rest of his contract. As a result of the fallout, Joseph lost his state teaching license, and he vowed never to work in the state again.

In the meantime, HYA continues to win contracts for high-profile superintendent searches, and ERDI's conferences bringing school leaders and vendors together continue to sell out .

[Sep 16, 2019] When Students Melt Down Over a 'B'

Sep 16, 2019 | www.theamericanconservative.com

When Students Melt Down Over a 'B' Rampant grade anxiety is a reflection of deeper American social dysfunction, with our children the biggest victims. By David Masciotra • September 17, 2019

By Marjan Apostolovic /Shutterstock The library on campus of a small Catholic university in Illinois was largely empty. Since the administrators had replaced most of the bookshelves with plush furniture, conference tables, and chairs, it better resembled an airport terminal just before a redeye. A handful of students were staring intensely into computer screens, while another pair talked loudly -- no more than 10 feet from the silent, visibly demoralized librarian -- about the rap song that one of them had just played moments earlier. Not one student was near a book. There wasn't a single newspaper or journal in sight. The university had canceled its subscriptions and removed the periodical section a few semesters earlier.

I was making my way toward the front door when one of the students from my Intro to Literature course stopped me, tears rolling down her cheeks, her body nearly convulsing as she attempted to suppress her sobs. Because any human contact is potentially criminal, I ignored my impulse to offer a consoling hand to the shoulder, and asked what was wrong. Expecting her to tell me about a personal tragedy -- perhaps the terminal diagnosis of a loved one -- I almost began to weep myself when she said, "You gave me a 'B' on the paper."

Her crying made the harangue that followed difficult to fully comprehend, but it seemed that she must maintain a certain GPA to remain in athletics. When I countered that a "B" is a good grade and that she would have plenty of time to aspire towards an "A" on other assignments, she began pleading with me for opportunities to "bring up the grade." I declined, and asked if some other, more personal factor was contributing to her stress over a passing grade on one paper in a course entirely unrelated to her major. She insisted that there was not. Helpless and baffled, I wished her well, offered her reassurance, and proceeded out of the library and into the parking lot.

Fielding an existential meltdown, complete with a crying jag, is not part of my professional training. Yet rarely does a semester go by without some kind of grade-related complaint, appeal for mercy, and panic attack. When a student appears as if he has just undergone a life-altering trauma because he's realized he is hanging over the edge of a "C," I think of my father, who at around the same age was in Vietnam. We all have our crosses to bear, whether surviving guerrilla warfare or dealing with a professor who will not give extra credit.

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"Grade anxiety," to use the more popular term, is not unique to my students or school of employment. Studies from Penn State and reports from Psychology Today , Boston University , and many other sources have confirmed that debilitating anxiety is now the leading mental health problem for college students. A quick Google search of "grade anxiety" reveals endless pages of advice to students apoplectic about their exam scores, the professors on the receiving end of their complaints and concerns, and the parents who cannot cope with anything other than perfection.

In all fairness, contemporary college students, contrary to Baby Boomer sanctimony, do have a tougher task than their predecessors. More of them work, often full-time, while completing their degree requirements, and must shoulder heavy financial burdens to acquire their education -- which they understand they will carry, in the form of student debt not dischargeable in bankruptcy, for the majority of their working lives.

Yet even acknowledging the peculiar injustice that exists in American higher education, there is no avoiding the conclusion that 20-year-old adults obsessing and crying over their grades is not a sign of societal health. It's a tornado siren blasting 100 yards away from a trailer park.

As tempting as it is to ridicule the students for their inability to put their lives