Living Baseball Hall-of-Famers

In case you were wondering:

Derived from the Play Index (subscription required) at Players with the same birth year may not be listed in birth order; for example, Hank Aaron was born in February 1934, and Al Kaline was born in December 1934, but Kaline is listed ahead of Aaron.

A personal note: I am older than 70 percent of the living hall-of-famers, and I have seen every one of them play in real time — mainly on TV but also at ballparks in Detroit and Baltimore.

Andrew Sullivan Almost Gets It

Andrew Sullivan writes:

When elite universities shift their entire worldview away from liberal education as we have long known it toward the imperatives of an identity-based “social justice” movement, the broader culture is in danger of drifting away from liberal democracy as well. If elites believe that the core truth of our society is a system of interlocking and oppressive power structures based around immutable characteristics like race or sex or sexual orientation, then sooner rather than later, this will be reflected in our culture at large….

If voicing an “incorrect” opinion can end your career, or mark you for instant social ostracism, you tend to keep quiet. This silence on any controversial social issue is endemic on college campuses, but it’s now everywhere…. This is compounded by the idea that only a member of a minority group can speak about racism or homophobia, or that only women can discuss sexual harassment. The only reason this should be the case is if we think someone’s identity is more important than the argument they might want to make. And that campus orthodoxy is now the culture’s as a whole….

Microaggressions? How else do you explain how the glorious defenestration of horrific perpetrators of sexual abuse and harassment so quickly turned into a focus on an unwanted hug or an off-color remark?…

Privacy? Forget about it. Traditionally, liberals have wanted to see politics debated without regard for the private lives of those in the fray — because personal details can distract from the cogency of the argument. But cultural Marxists see no such distinction. In the struggle against patriarchy, a distinction between the public and private makes no sense. In fact, policing private life — the personal is political, remember — is integral to advancing social justice….

Due process? Real life is beginning to mimic college tribunals. When the perpetrator of an anonymous list accusing dozens of men of a whole range of sexual misdeeds is actually celebrated by much of mainstream media (see this fawning NYT profile), you realize that we are living in another age of the Scarlet Letter….

Treating people as individuals rather than representatives of designated groups? Almost every corporation now has affirmative action for every victim-group in hiring and promotion. Workplace codes today read like campus speech codes of a few years ago. Voice dissent from this worldview and you’ll be designated a bigot and fired (see James Damore at Google). The media is out front on this too. Just as campuses have diversity tsars, roaming through every department to make sure they are in line, we now have a “gender editor” at the New York Times, Jessica Bennett….

Objective truth? Ha! The culture is now saturated with the concept of “your own truth” — based usually on your experience of race and gender. In the culture, it is now highly controversial for individuals in one racial/gender group to write about or portray anyone outside it — because there is no art that isn’t rooted in identity….

Look: I don’t doubt the good intentions of the new identity politics — to expand the opportunities for people previously excluded. I favor a politics that never discriminates against someone for immutable characteristics — and tries to make sure that as many people as possible feel they have access to our liberal democracy. But what we have now is far more than the liberal project of integrating minorities. It comes close to an attack on the liberal project itself. Marxism with a patina of liberalism on top is still Marxism — and it’s as hostile to the idea of a free society as white nationalism is. So if you wonder why our discourse is now so freighted with fear, why so many choose silence as the path of least resistance, or why the core concepts of a liberal society — the individual’s uniqueness, the primacy of reason, the protection of due process, an objective truth — are so besieged, this is one of the reasons.

Sullivan stumbles twice in that otherwise laudable indictment of today’s virulent brand of leftism.

First, he “doesn’t doubt the good intentions of … identity politics”. I most certainly do. There’s a lot of humbug, preening, tribalism (of the wrong kind), and virtue-signaling in identity politics. Above all, the main intention of identity politics is to seize power and wield it like a club against one’s perceived enemies — those who are different. Talk about discrimination.

Which lead to Sullivan’s second stumble. There ought to be discrimination (of a kind) with respect to certain “immutable characteristics”. Intelligence and strength are immutable characteristics. Learning and practice matter, but there are at bottom wide disparities in the distribution of intelligence and strength among races and sexes.

But it has become “wrong” for the more intelligent to enjoy greater success than the less intelligent (leftists excluded, of course) because intelligence isn’t equally distributed across races and socioeconomic classes. Thus blacks and Hispanics are given university admissions, jobs, and promotions that wold belong to whites, with the result that (a) those favored are set up for failure and (b) the needs of consumers (including blacks and Hispanics) aren’t fulfilled by those best-qualified to fulfill them. Do you want to be operated on by an affirmative-action surgeon?

Another immutable characteristic is gender — which is a real thing, not something assigned at birth. There are demonstrably large differences between the sexes with respect to the distribution of strength and the aptitude for abstract thinking. But, again, it is “wrong” to admit such things and to discriminate on the basis of actual differences. There must be “fair shares” of women in STEM fields, occupations requiring analytical skills, and occupations that (traditionally) have required superior strength (e.g., soldiering, policing, and firefighting). Who suffers? The women who fail on merit — though that is increasingly barred by  “political correctness” — and the consumers and taxpayers who get less value for their money.

“Conservative” Confusion

Keith Burgess-Jackson is a self-styled conservative with whom I had a cordial online relationship about a dozen years ago. Our relationship foundered for reasons that are trivial and irrelevant to this post. I continued to visit KBJ’s eponymous blog occasionally (see first item in “related posts”, below), and learned of its disappearance when I I tried to visit it in December 2017. It had disappeared in the wake of a controversy that I will address in a future post.

In any event, KBJ has started a new blog, Just Philosophy, which I learned of and began to follow about a week ago. The posts at Just Philosophy were unexceptionable until February 5, when KBJ posted “Barry M. Goldwater (1909-1998) on the Graduated Income Tax”.

KBJ opens the post by quoting Goldwater:

The graduated [income] tax is a confiscatory tax. Its effect, and to a large extent its aim, is to bring down all men to a common level. Many of the leading proponents of the graduated tax frankly admit that their purpose is to redistribute the nation’s wealth. Their aim is an egalitarian society—an objective that does violence both to the charter of the Republic and [to] the laws of Nature. We are all equal in the eyes of God but we are equal in no other respect. Artificial devices for enforcing equality among unequal men must be rejected if we would restore that charter and honor those laws.

He then adds this “note from KBJ”:

The word “confiscate” means “take or seize (someone’s property) with authority.” Every tax, from the lowly sales tax to the gasoline tax to the cigarette tax to the estate tax to the property tax to the income tax, is by definition confiscatory in that sense, so what is Goldwater’s point in saying that the graduated (i.e., progressive) income tax is confiscatory? He must mean something stronger, namely, completely taken away. But this is absurd. We have had a progressive (“graduated”) income tax for generations, and income inequality is at an all-time high. Nobody’s income or wealth is being confiscated by the income tax, if by “confiscated” Goldwater means completely taken away. Only in the fevered minds of libertarians (such as Goldwater) is a progressive income tax designed to “bring down all men to a common level.” And what’s wrong with redistributing wealth? Every law and every public policy redistributes wealth. The question is not whether to redistribute wealth; it’s how to do so. Either we redistribute wealth honestly and intelligently or we do so with our heads in the sand. By the way, conservatives, as such, are not opposed to progressive income taxation. Conservatives want people to have good lives, and that may require progressive income taxation. Those who have more than they need (especially those who have not worked for it) are and should be required to provide for those who, through no fault of their own, have less than they need.

Yes, Goldwater obviously meant something stronger by applying “confiscatory” to the graduated income tax. But what he meant can’t be “completely taken away” because the graduated income tax is one of progressively higher marginal tax rates, none of which has ever reached 100 percent in the United States. And as KBJ acknowledges, a tax of less than 100 percent, “from the lowly sales tax to the gasoline tax to the cigarette tax to the estate tax to the property tax to the income tax, is by definition confiscatory in [the] sense” of “tak[ing] or seiz[ing] (someone’s property) with authority”. What Goldwater must have meant — despite KBJ’s obfuscation — is that the income tax is confiscatory in an especially destructive way, which Goldwater elucidates.

KBJ asks “what’s wrong with redistributing wealth?”, and justifies his evident belief that there’s nothing wrong with it by saying that “Every law and every public policy redistributes wealth.” Wow! It follows, by KBJ’s logic, that there’s nothing wrong with murder because it has been committed for millennia.

Government policy inevitably results in some redistribution of income and wealth. But that is an accident of policy in a regime of limited government, not the aim of policy. KBJ is being disingenuous (at best) when he equates an accidental outcome with the deliberate, massive redistribution of income and wealth that has been going on in the United States for more than a century. It began in earnest with the graduated income tax, became embedded in the fabric of governance with Social Security, and has been reinforced since by Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, etc., etc., etc. Many conservatives (or “conservatives”) have been complicit in redistributive measures, but the impetus for those measures has come from the left.

KBJ then trots out this assertion: “Conservatives, as such, are not opposed to progressive income taxation.” I don’t know which conservatives KBJ has been reading or listening to (himself, perhaps, though his conservatism is now in grave doubt). In fact, the quotation in KBJ’s post is from Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative. For that is what Goldwater considered himself to be, not a libertarian as KBJ asserts. Goldwater was nothing like the typical libertarian who eschews the “tribalism” of patriotism. Goldwater was a patriot through-and-through.

Goldwater was a principled conservative — a consistent defender of liberty within a framework of limited government, which defends the citizenry and acts a referee of last resort. That position is the nexus of classical liberalism (sometimes called libertarianism) and conservatism, but it is conservatism nonetheless. It is a manifestation of  the conservative disposition:

A conservative’s default position is to respect prevailing social norms, taking them as a guide to conduct that will yield productive social and economic collaboration. Conservatism isn’t merely a knee-jerk response to authority. It reflects an understanding, if only an intuitive one, that tradition reflects wisdom that has passed the test of time. It also reflects a preference for changing tradition — where it needs changing — from the inside out, a bit at a time, rather from the outside in. The latter kind of change is uninformed by first-hand experience and therefore likely to be counterproductive, that is, destructive of social and economic cohesion and cooperation.

The essential ingredient in conservative governance is the preservation and reinforcement of the beneficial norms that are cultivated in the voluntary institutions of civil society: family, religion, club, community (where it is close-knit), and commerce. When those institutions are allowed to flourish, much of the work of government is done without the imposition of taxes and regulations, including the enforcement of moral codes and the care of those who unable to care for themselves.

In the conservative view, government would then be limited to making and enforcing the few rules that are required to adjudicate what Oakeshott calls “collisions”. And there are always foreign and domestic predators who are beyond the effective reach of voluntary social institutions and must be dealt with by the kind of superior force wielded by government.

By thus limiting government to the roles of referee and defender of last resort, civil society is allowed to flourish, both economically and socially. Social conservatism is analogous to the market liberalism of libertarian economics. The price signals that help to organize economic production have their counterpart in the “market” for social behavior. That behavior which is seen to advance a group’s well-being is encouraged; that behavior which is seen to degrade a group’s well-being is discouraged.

Finally on this point, personal responsibility and self-reliance are core conservative values. Conservatives therefore oppose state actions that undermine those values. Progressive income taxation punishes those who take personal responsibility and strive to be self-reliant, while encouraging and rewarding those who shirk personal responsibility and prefer dependency on others.

KBJ’s next assertion is that “Conservatives want people to have good lives, and that may require progressive income taxation.” Conservatives are hardly unique in wanting people to have good lives. Though most leftists, it seems, want to control other people’s lives, there are some leftists who sincerely want people to have good lives, and who strongly believe that this does require progressive income taxation. Not only that, but they usually justify that belief in exactly the way that KBJ does:

Those who have more than they need (especially those who have not worked for it) are and should be required to provide for those who, through no fault of their own, have less than they need.

Did I miss KBJ’s announcement that he has become a “liberal”-“progressive”-pinko? It is one thing to provide for the liberty and security of the populace; it is quite another — and decidedly not conservative — to sit in judgment as to who have “more than they need” and who have “less than they need”, and whether that is “through no fault of their own”. This is the classic “liberal” formula for the arbitrary redistribution of income and wealth. There’s not a conservative thought in that formula.

KBJ seems to have rejected, out of hand (or out of ignorance), the demonstrable truth that everyone would be better offfar better off — with a lot less government involvement in economic (and social) affairs, not more of it. That is my position, as a conservative, and it is the position of the many articulate conservatives whose blogs I read regularly.

It is a position that is consistent with the values of personal responsibility and self-reliance. Conservatives embrace those values not only because they bestow dignity on those who observe them, but also because the observance fosters general as well as personal prosperity. This is another instance of the wisdom that is embedded in traditional values.

Positive law often conflicts with and undermines traditional values. That is why it is a conservative virtue to oppose, resist, and strive to overturn positive law of that kind (e.g., Roe v. Wade, Obergefell v. Hodges, Obamacare). It is a “conservative” vice to accept it just because it’s “the law of the land”.

I am left wondering if KBJ is really a conservative, or just a “conservative“.

Related reading: Yuval Levin, “The Roots of a Reforming Conservatism“, Intercollegiate Review, Spring 2015

Related posts:
Gains from Trade (A critique of KBJ’s “conservative” views on trade)
Why Conservatism Works
Liberty and Society
The Eclipse of “Old America”
Genetic Kinship and Society
Defending Liberty against (Pseudo) Libertarians
Defining Liberty
Conservatism as Right-Minarchism
The Pseudo-Libertarian Temperament
Parsing Political Philosophy (II)
My View of Libertarianism
The War on Conservatism
Another Look at Political Labels
Rescuing Conservatism
If Men Were Angels
Libertarianism, Conservatism, and Political Correctness
Disposition and Ideology

Presidential Approval Ratings: Trump vs. Obama

BHO delivered his second state of the union (SOTU) address in the evening of January 27, 2010. On the morning of that day, BHO’s presidential approval rating at Rasmussen Reports stood at -15 (percentage of likely voters strongly approving minus percentage strongly disapproving).

DJT delivered his second SOTU address in evening of January 30, 2018. On the morning of that day, DJT’s presidential approval rating at Rasmussen Reports also stood at -15.

Here’s what happened to the ratings in the days immediately following the SOTUs:

Rasmussen stopped polling on weekends about three years ago.

DJT’s SOTU bounce arrived more quickly and was stronger than BHOs. Moreover, looking at the big picture — approval ratings by day of presidency, as reported by Rasmussen — DJT’s strong approval rating has been running ahead of BHO’s for more than a month:

Stay tuned for updates in the coming months and years.

As the World Lurches

Pew Research Center offers “17 Striking Findings from 2017“. I have the impression that some of the findings are bad news to the Pew folk. But many of the findings are good news to me, as you will see in the following commentary. Pew pearls, in italics, are followed by my demurrers, in bold:

1. Partisan divides dwarf demographic differences on key political values. The average gap between the views of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents across 10 political values has increased from 15 percentage points in 1994 to 36 points today.

The growing divide is unsurprising given the sharp leftward lurch among Democrats since the days of Bill Clinton’s “triangulation”. The good news is that there are still a lot of Americans who haven’t lurched leftward lemming-like.

2. Donald Trump’s presidency has had a major impact on how the world sees the United States. A global median of just 22% have confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs, according to a survey conducted last spring. The image of the U.S. abroad also suffered a decline: Just 49% have a favorable view, down from 64% at the end of Barack Obama’s presidency.

This is excellent news, inasmuch as America is loved by foreigners only when Americans are being killed or taxed on their behalf.

3. About four-in-ten Americans say they live in a gun-owning household, while three-in-ten say they personally own a gun. Protection tops the list of reasons for owning a gun.

But if you were to believe the leftist media (about which, more below), you would think that the main reason for owning a gun is to kill people — randomly and in large numbers. I own a 12-gauge, bolt-action shotgun, which stands ready to be used (with 00 shot) against an intruder. I am merely representative of the vast, gun-owning majority who — unlike a lot of gun-grabbing politicians — don’t live in a virtual fortress or have armed bodyguards (paid for by taxing the likes of me).

4. Democrats and Republicans disagree now more than ever on the news media’s “watchdog” role. Roughly nine-in-ten Democrats say news media criticism keeps political leaders from doing things that shouldn’t be done, compared with 42% of Republicans ­who say this – the widest gap in Pew Research Center surveys conducted since 1985. This stands in stark contrast to early 2016, when similar shares of Democrats (74%) and Republicans (77%) supported the media’s watchdog role.

How (not) surprising is this finding, given the media’s transformation from leftist puppet to frothing-at-the-mouth, leftist, anti-Trump, attack dog? For a longer view of the public’s lack of confidence in the media, see the graph here. There was a sharp rise in the fraction expressing “hardly any” confidence in the media at about the time that Bill Clinton became an accidental president, thanks to Ross Perot’s candidacy. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

5. Muslims are projected to be the world’s fastest-growing major religious group in the decades ahead. By 2035, the number of babies born to Muslims is projected to modestly exceed births to Christians, mostly due to Muslims’ relatively young population and high fertility rates.

This points to another reason why Democrats want to open the borders to “political refugees”. Whether they’re Muslim or Central American, they breed faster than gringos and are much more likely to vote for Democrats.

6. In the U.S., Hispanic identity fades across generations as distance from immigrant roots grows. High intermarriage rates and declining immigration are changing how some Americans with Hispanic ancestry see their identity. Most U.S. adults with Hispanic ancestry self-identify as Hispanic, but 11%, or 5 million, do not. While nearly all immigrant adults from Latin America or Spain say they are Hispanic, this share decreases by the third and fourth or higher generations.

Nothing new under the sun. The same was true of the vast waves of European immigrants of the 1800s and early 1900s. Probably even more true of them, come to think of it. But they weren’t enticed to America by tax-funded benefits, as are so many Hispanic immigrants. I say that with great respect for the hard-working Hispanic immigrants whom I have encountered.

7. Americans see fundamental differences between men and women, but men and women have different views on the cause of these differences. Majorities of women who see gender differences in the way people express their feelings, excel at work and approach parenting say differences between men and women are mostly based on societal expectations. Men who see differences in these areas tend to believe biology is the root.

Thus does the emotion-based reaction of most women neatly contrast with the fact-based reaction of most men.

8. Many Americans expect certain professions to be dominated by automation in their lifetime – but few see their own jobs at risk. Roughly three-quarters of Americans think it’s realistic that robots and computers might one day do many jobs currently done by humans, and sizable majorities expect jobs such as fast food workers and insurance claims processors to be performed by machines within their lifetimes. Yet just 30% of American workers expect their own jobs or professions to become automated.

The final sentence confirms the prevalence of irrationality. Which is why I have been happy with the rise of automation. To take just one example, it is easier, faster, cheaper, and more pleasant to buy many things online than it is to schlep to a store and be “helped” by an indifferent, inarticulate ignoramus (too often bedecked in tattoos, piercings, weird garb, and outré hairdo). Vive l’automation!

9. The share of Republicans who hold negative views of the effect of colleges and universities on the country has grown significantly since 2015. Nearly six-in-ten Republicans and Republican leaners (58%) now say colleges have a negative effect. Two years ago, by contrast, 54% of Republicans said colleges were having a positive effect. Democrats and Democratic leaners have consistently held positive views of the effect of colleges on the U.S.; 72% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say this today.

Thanks to the “resistance”, the true nature of the academy has been exposed to the view of people who had been blissfully ignorant of it. If the GOP holds and builds a majority in the central government and in State governments, its next big initiative should be to slash subsidies for the enemies of liberty who “profess” and are “professed to” at to colleges across the land.

10. Immigrants are projected to play the primary role in the growth of the American working-age population in the coming decades. The number of working-age immigrants is projected to increase from 33.9 million in 2015 to 38.5 million by 2035, with new immigrant arrivals accounting for all of that gain. Absent these new arrivals, the total projected U.S. working-age population would fall.

But automation will more than take up  the slack. Who needs more immigrants? Democrat politicians, that’s who.

11. News stories about President Trump’s first 60 days in office offered far more negative assessments than they did of prior administrations. About six-in-ten stories on Trump’s early days in office had a negative assessment, about three times more than in early coverage for Obama and roughly twice that of Bush and Clinton. Coverage of Trump’s early time in office moved further away from a focus on the policy agenda and more toward character and leadership.

See #1 and #4.

12. In the past 10 years, the share of U.S. adults living without a spouse or partner has increased. This rise in “unpartnered” Americans, from 39% in 2007 to 42% today, has been most pronounced among young adults: Roughly six-in-ten adults younger than 35 are now living without a spouse or partner. The share of “unpartnered” adults also has risen more sharply among those who are not employed.

Pew ignores the really bad news, which is that “unpartnered” Americans give birth to children, who are then raised in (generally) unstable, poor households without a father. Perhaps it’s time to re-institute the shotgun wedding.

13. About half of 2.2 million people who sought asylum in Europe during the 2015 and 2016 refugee surge were still in limbo at the end of 2016 and did not know if they would be allowed to stay.

Another glaring omission: Mention of the Europeans who would be on the hook to support the asylum-seekers, most of whom would probably side with the politicians who want to give them “free” stuff.

14. About eight-in-ten Americans say they understand the risks and challenges of police work, but 86% of police say the public does not understand. This is one of several areas where the views of police and those of the public diverge significantly. For example, while half of the public says the country still needs to make changes to give blacks equal rights with whites, this view is shared by just 16% of police. Law enforcement officers and the public are broadly in agreement on other issues, such as making private gun sales and gun show sales subject to background checks.

How could 80 percent of Americans possibly understand the risks and challenges of police work? By watching TV shows about cops or reading crime novels? Cops, by the way, aren’t upholders of gun rights because (a) every gun is potentially turned against a cop and (b) a gun-wielding citizenry is a threat to cops’ law-enforcement monopoly.

15. About six-in-ten Americans ages 18 to 29 say the primary way they watch television now is with streaming services on the internet. Much smaller shares of older Americans cite online streaming services as their primary way of watching TV; older Americans tend to rely on cable connections. Overall, just 28% of Americans cite streaming services as the primary way they watch TV.

I’m with the streamers, despite my advanced age. I have cut the cord, and use an indoor antenna to get local TV stations, which I watch about 5 minutes a day for the local weather forecast. Even that is only a residual habit; I can get the same thing any time of the day from the internet. Most of my TV viewing is devoted to programs that I stream via Netflix and Amazon Video. Vive l’automation!

16. Views on whether whites benefit from societal advantages that blacks do not have are split sharply along racial and partisan lines. Nearly eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (78%) say white people benefit at least a fair amount from advantages that blacks do not have. Among Republicans and Republican leaners, 72% say whites do not benefit much or at all from these advantages. An overwhelming majority of blacks (92%) say whites benefit from societal advantages, while just 46% of whites say the same.

Whites are generally smarter and more law-abiding than blacks, which accounts for most of the “advantages” enjoyed by whites. Only a Democrat (or worse) could believe in the unfairness of the situation.

17. Science knowledge is closely related to expectations for harm from climate change among Democrats, but not among Republicans. In 2016, Democrats with high science knowledge were far more likely than Democrats with low science knowledge to say a series of environmental impacts would be very likely to occur as a result of climate change, including rising sea levels and intensifying storms. But there are only modest or no differences among Republicans with different levels of science knowledge in their expectations of harm to the Earth’s ecosystems.

Almost all Democrats with high knowledge about science say climate change is mostly due to human activity (93%); a much smaller share of Democrats with low science knowledge (49%) say the same. Among Republicans, there are no significant differences by science knowledge about the causes of climate change.

All of which just goes to show the wisdom in the adage that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, especially when it’s harnessed to an ideological agenda. Communism was (and still is, I suppose) a “scientific” political theory. Ditto Hitler’s brand of National Socialism, with its “scientific” attitude toward Jews. All those marchers for science weren’t marching for science, they were marching to demonstrate their (hysterical and generally uninformed) belief in AGW. That belief, in fact, arises from a neo-Puritan mindset, and serves as an excuse to subjugate and impoverish other Americans (though many of the neo-Puritans are loath to give up their SUVs, large homes, and extensive air travel).

College for Almost No One

Bryan Caplan, with whom I often disagree, is quite right about this:

From kindergarten on, students spend thousands of hours studying subjects irrelevant to the modern labor market. Why do English classes focus on literature and poetry instead of business and technical writing? Why do advanced-math classes bother with proofs almost no student can follow? When will the typical student use history? Trigonometry? Art? Music? Physics? Latin? The class clown who snarks “What does this have to do with real life?” is onto something.

The disconnect between college curricula and the job market has a banal explanation: Educators teach what they know—and most have as little firsthand knowledge of the modern workplace as I do. Yet this merely complicates the puzzle. If schools aim to boost students’ future income by teaching job skills, why do they entrust students’ education to people so detached from the real world? Because, despite the chasm between what students learn and what workers do, academic success is a strong signal of worker productivity….

The labor market doesn’t pay you for the useless subjects you master; it pays you for the preexisting traits you signal by mastering them….

Lest I be misinterpreted, I emphatically affirm that education confers some marketable skills, namely literacy and numeracy. Nonetheless, I believe that signaling accounts for at least half of college’s financial reward, and probably more.

Most of the salary payoff for college comes from crossing the graduation finish line….

Indeed, in the average study, senior year of college brings more than twice the pay increase of freshman, sophomore, and junior years combined. Unless colleges delay job training until the very end, signaling is practically the only explanation. This in turn implies a mountain of wasted resources—time and money that would be better spent preparing students for the jobs they’re likely to do….

In 2003, the United States Department of Education gave about 18,000 Americans the National Assessment of Adult Literacy. The ignorance it revealed is mind-numbing. Fewer than a third of college graduates received a composite score of “proficient”—and about a fifth were at the “basic” or “below basic” level….

Of course, college students aren’t supposed to just download facts; they’re supposed to learn how to think in real life. How do they fare on this count? The most focused study of education’s effect on applied reasoning, conducted by Harvard’s David Perkins in the mid-1980s, assessed students’ oral responses to questions designed to measure informal reasoning, such as “Would a proposed law in Massachusetts requiring a five-cent deposit on bottles and cans significantly reduce litter?” The benefit of college seemed to be zero: Fourth-year students did no better than first-year students….

… When we look at countries around the world, a year of education appears to raise an individual’s income by 8 to 11 percent. By contrast, increasing education across a country’s population by an average of one year per person raises the national income by only 1 to 3 percent. In other words, education enriches individuals much more than it enriches nations.

How is this possible? Credential inflation: As the average level of education rises, you need more education to convince employers you’re worthy of any specific job….

As credentials proliferate, so do failed efforts to acquire them. Students can and do pay tuition, kill a year, and flunk their finals…. Simply put, the push for broader college education has steered too many students who aren’t cut out for academic success onto the college track.

The college-for-all mentality has fostered neglect of a realistic substitute: vocational education. [“The World Might Be Better Off without College for Everyone“, The Atlantic, January 2018]

Caplan has been preaching this gospel for years. But he’s not the only one.

Katherine Mangu-Ward, writing in The Atlantic almost eight years ago, observed that

the phrase “higher education bubble” is popping up everywhere in recent months. This is thanks (in small part) to President Obama, who announced in his first State of the Union address that “every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.” But Americans have been fetishizing college diplomas for a long time now — Obama just reinforced that message and brought even more cash to the table. College has become a minimum career requirement, a basic human right, and a minimum income guarantee in the eyes of the American public. [“President Obama Is Not Impressed with Your High-School Diploma. Neither Is Wal-Mart.“]

Mangu-Ward is exactly right when she says this:

If we’re going to push every 18-year-old in the country into some kind of higher education, most people will likely be better off in a programs that involves logistics and linoleum, rather than ivy and the Iliad.

Vocational training, in other words. Which has languished, even as public schools have been dumbed-down.

Don Lee, writing at about the same time as Mangu-Ward, underscores the over-education — more correctly, mis-educaton — of America’s young adults:

[G]overnment surveys indicate that the vast majority of job gains this year have gone to workers with only a high school education or less, casting some doubt on one of the nation’s most deeply held convictions: that a college education is the ticket to the American Dream.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that seven of the 10 employment sectors that will see the largest gains during the next decade won’t require much more than some on-the-job training. These include home health care aides, customer service representatives, and food preparers and servers. Meanwhile, well-paying white-collar jobs, such as computer programming, have become vulnerable to outsourcing to foreign countries.

“People with bachelor’s degrees will increasingly get not very highly satisfactory jobs,” said W. Norton Grubb, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Education. “In that sense, people are getting more schooling than jobs are available.”

He noted that in 1970, 77 percent of workers with bachelor’s degrees were employed in professional and managerial occupations. By 2000, that had fallen to 60 percent.

Of the nearly 1 million new jobs created since hiring turned up in January, about half have been temporary census jobs. Most of the rest are concentrated in industries such as retail, hospitality and temporary staffing, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. [“Education Loses Its Luster“, reprinted in Akron Beacon Journal, June 21, 2010]

But that’s not news, either, this is from an anonymous piece that ran in The Atlantic almost ten years ago:

America, ever-idealistic, seems wary of the vocational-education track. We are not comfortable limiting anyone’s options. Telling someone that college is not for him seems harsh and classist and British, as though we were sentencing him to a life in the coal mines. I sympathize with this stance; I subscribe to the American ideal. Unfortunately, it is with me and my red pen that that ideal crashes and burns.

Sending everyone under the sun to college is a noble initiative. Academia is all for it, naturally. Industry is all for it; some companies even help with tuition costs. Government is all for it; the truly needy have lots of opportunities for financial aid. The media applauds it—try to imagine someone speaking out against the idea. To oppose such a scheme of inclusion would be positively churlish. But one piece of the puzzle hasn’t been figured into the equation, to use the sort of phrase I encounter in the papers submitted by my English 101 students. The zeitgeist of academic possibility is a great inverted pyramid, and its rather sharp point is poking, uncomfortably, a spot just about midway between my shoulder blades.

For I, who teach these low-level, must-pass, no-multiple-choice-test classes, am the one who ultimately delivers the news to those unfit for college: that they lack the most-basic skills and have no sense of the volume of work required; that they are in some cases barely literate; that they are so bereft of schemata, so dispossessed of contexts in which to place newly acquired knowledge, that every bit of information simply raises more questions. They are not ready for high school, some of them, much less for college. [“In the Basement of the Ivory Tower”, June 2008]

In fact, when I entered college 60 years ago, I was among the 28 percent of high-school graduates then attending college. It was evident to me that about half of my college classmates didn’t belong in an institution of higher learning. Despite that, the college-enrollment rate among high-school graduates has since doubled.

It’s long past time to burst the higher-education bubble. For one thing, it would mean fewer subsidies for the academic enemies of liberty.

Related posts:
School Vouchers and Teachers’ Unions
Whining about Teachers’ Pay: Another Lesson about the Evils of Public Education
I Used to Be Too Smart to Understand This
The Higher-Education Bubble
The Public-School Swindle
Is College for Everyone?
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
A Sideways Glance at Public “Education”
The Dumbing-Down of Public Schools

Slow Traffic

I started blogging at WordPress in September 2009. Viewership built gradually and reached a satisfying level in late 2010. It continued at that level until November 2012.

But in the wake of the dispiriting election of 2012, I posted infrequently from November 2012 until June 2013. Coincidentally (or not), page views dropped to almost zero, and rebuilt slowly. But viewership never returned to the level attained before November 2012.

What do I make of this?

Is it an old lesson re-learned? If you want to build readership and hold onto your readers, don’t take a vacation from blogging. Blog often. Visibility to search engines depends more on quantity than on quality.

Does it also help to blog on a variety of topics? I suspect that this blog has lost some readership because my focus is narrow.

Or, given my outspoken and unrelenting opposition to Obama and the regulatory-welfare state, was this blog targeted for “throttling” by Google’s algorithms?

Comments? Advice?

UPDATE: Another possibility. With the rise of Facebook and Twitter, blogs are less popular than they were several years ago.


Religion, Creation, and Morality

I was trying to find a way into Keith Burgess-Jackson’s eponymous blog, which seems to have been closed to public view since he defended Roy Moore’s courtship of a 14-year-old person. (Perhaps Moore might have been cut some slack by a segment of the vast left-wing conspiracy had the person been a male.) My search for an entry has thus far been futile, but I did come across an intriguing item produced by Burgess-Jackson last August: A Taxonomy of Religions.

In it, KBJ (as I will refer to him hereinafter) claims that there are religious atheists (e.g., Jainists and Buddhists) as well as irreligious ones. Atheistic religions (a jarring term) seem to be religions that prescribe moral codes and ways of life (e.g., non-violence, meditation, moderation), but which don’t posit a god or gods which created and in some way control the universe.

What’s interesting (to me) about KBJ’s taxonomy is what isn’t there. The god or gods of KBJ’s taxonomy are “personal” — a conscious being or conscious beings who deliberately created the universe, exert continuous control of it, and even communicate with human beings after some fashion.

What isn’t there, other than atheism, which denies a creator? It’s the view that there was a creator — a force of unknown qualities — which put the universe in motion but may no longer have anything to do with it. That kind of creator would be impersonal and therefore uncommunicative with the objects of its creation. This position is classical deism, as I understand it.

The only substantive difference between this hard deism (as it’s sometimes called) and non-religious atheism, as I see it, is the question of creation. A hard deist believes in the necessity of a creator. The atheist rejects the necessity and holds that the universe just is — full stop.

But if a hard deist sees no role for the creator after the creation, isn’t he really just an atheist? After all, if the creation is over and done with, and the creator no longer has anything to do with the universe, that’s tantamount to saying that we’re on our own, as an atheist would say.

But a deist could subscribe to the view that the creator not only set the universe in motion, but also did so by design. That is, things like light, the behavior of matter-energy, etc., didn’t arise by accident but are part of a deliberate effort to give order to what would otherwise be randomness.

If one accepts that view, one becomes a kind of soft deist who sees a semi-personal god behind the creation — something more than just a brute force. This position resembles the stance of the late Antony Flew, an English philosopher:

In a 2004 interview … , Flew, then 81 years old, said that he had become a deist. In the article Flew states that he has renounced his long-standing espousal of atheism by endorsing a deism of the sort that Thomas Jefferson advocated (“While reason, mainly in the form of arguments to design, assures us that there is a God, there is no room either for any supernatural revelation of that God or for any transactions between that God and individual human beings”).

I take the view that a creator is a logical necessity:

1. In the material universe, cause precedes effect.

2. Accordingly, the material universe cannot be self-made. It must have a “starting point,” but the “starting point” cannot be in or of the material universe.<

3. The existence of the universe therefore implies a separate, uncaused cause.


1. There is necessarily a creator of the universe, which comprises all that exists in “nature”.

2. The creator is not part of nature; that is, he stands apart from his creation and is neither of its substance nor governed by its laws. (I use “he” as a term of convenience, not to suggest that the creator is some kind of human or animate being, as we know such beings.)

3. The creator designed the universe, if not in detail then in its parameters. The parameters are what we know as matter-energy (substance) and its various forms, motions, and combinations (the laws that govern the behavior of matter-energy).

4. The parameters determine everything that is possible in the universe. But they do not necessarily dictate precisely the unfolding of events in the universe. Randomness and free will are evidently part of the creator’s design.

5. The human mind and its ability to “do science” — to comprehend the laws of nature through observation and calculation — are artifacts of the creator’s design.

6. Two things probably cannot be known through science: the creator’s involvement in the unfolding of natural events; the essential character of the substance on which the laws of nature operate.

I would add a third unknowable thing: whether morality is implicit in the creation, and if so, what it comprises. But if it is implicit in the creator’s design, it is therefore discernible (if imperfectly).

How and by whom is it discernible? By clerics, reasoning from religious texts? By philosophers, reasoning from the nature of human beings and the discoveries of science?

Here is my view: If morality is something ingrained in human beings by their nature, as dictated by the “terms” of the creation, it reveals itself in widely accepted and practiced norms, such as the Golden Rule.

Such norms precede their codification by philosophers and holy men. They reflect what “works“, that is, what makes for a cohesive and productive society.

Positive law — legislative, executive, and judicial edicts — often undoes those norms and undermines society. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges is but one glaring example.

Related posts:
The Golden Rule and the State
A Digression about Probability and Existence
More about Probability and Existence
Existence and Creation
In Defense of Marriage
Probability, Existence, and Creation
The Golden Rule as Beneficial Learning
The Atheism of the Gaps
The Myth That Same-Sex “Marriage” Causes No Harm
Why Conservatism Works
Something or Nothing
My Metaphysical Cosmology
Further Thoughts about Metaphysical Cosmology
The Limits of Science (II)
The Limits of Science, Illustrated by Scientists
The Precautionary Principle and Pascal’s Wager
Fine-Tuning in a Wacky Wrapper
Natural Law and Natural Rights Revisited
Beating Religion with the Wrong End of the Stick
The Fragility of Knowledge

Politics and Prosperity: A Natural Experiment

Although the central government’s tentacles reach deep into every State’s economy, there is still latitude for State and local action — or lack thereof. Republican-controlled States should have somewhat freer economies than Democrat-controlled ones. (See, for example, the Tax Foundation’s 2018 Business Climate Tax Index.) Republican-controlled States should therefore be more growth-prone than Democrat-controlled ones. Regional statistics support this hypothesis:

Constructed from the regional data tool of the Bureau of Economic Analysis, starting here.

The red lines represent regions that are dominated by Republican-controlled States; the blue lines, regions dominated by Democrat-controlled States. The constituent States of each region are as follows:

Southwest — Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas

Rocky Mountain — Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming

Far West — Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Washington

Plains — Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota

Southeast — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia

New England — Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont

Mideast — Delaware, DC, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania

Great Lakes — Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin

Screen Shots: “The Glass Castle”, “Victoria”, and “The Crown”

I seldom recommend a movie, but The Glass Castle (2017) has joined the relatively short list of films that I have rated 8 or higher on the 10-point scale at IMDb. (Relatively short is 700 of the 2,100 feature films that I have rated. If that seems like a high ratio, consider that I am picky about what I choose to watch, not an easy grader.)

The Glass Castle is based on the eponymous memoir by Jeannette Walls, which my wife has read. Here’s a summary of the story, courtesy of

Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn’t stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an “excitement addict.” Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.

Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town — and the family — Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents’ betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.

That barely skims the surface of the memoir, which (as my wife tells) me is often harrowing in its depiction of the poverty, squalor, rootlessness, and shame inflicted on the Walls children by their parents. The film captures the essence of the memoir without rubbing the viewer’s nose in squalor or seeking to blame “society” for the fate of the Wallses. And why would a Hollywood film do that, in this day and age, for the Wallses weren’t ghetto blacks or “undocumented” immigrants. They were just rednecks.

And it is for that reason that I admire the film. It just tells it like it was, according to Jeannette Walls. In fact, it pulls a few punches, as it must to fit a book-length memoir into 127 minutes of screen time. But it lands a lot of punches, and lands them effectively. There are no cardboard characters or ersatz themes in this film, which manages to convey Jeannette Walls’s love for her parents, despite all that they put her and her siblings through.

Woody Harrelson, who plays Rex Walls, has the redneck thing down pat. He is like most of the many rednecks I have known and encountered: full of false braggadocio and seething resentment, with the ever-present threat of sometimes-realized violence. Harrelson’s performance deserves far more prestigious recognition than a nomination for Central Ohio Film Critics’ Actor of the Year.

I can’t leave The Glass Castle without mentioning the fine work of Naomi Watts, who does a good hillbilly for an Englishwoman. Watts works in the tradition of British actors, who mostly are able to sound authentically American. This is a talent that is reciprocated only be very few American actors who have tried to sound British.

But if Victoria is representative — and it is, in my experience — British actors should be banned from doing German accents. Three main roles — Prince Albert, his brother Prince Ernest, and his uncle Leopold, King of the Belgians — are given to Brits: Tom Hughes, David Oakes, and Alex Jennings. It would have been hard to get worse German accents by randomly choosing from among American high-school students who have been cast in a senior play.

But that matters little in the grand scheme of Victoria, which is a sumptuous, feminist soap opera. Albert is always trying to usurp or guide little Vickie, who is always putting her tiny royal foot down, when she isn’t making passionate love (with Albert) that results in yet another little encumbrance to the performance of her royal duties.

Poor Vickie. She should have commanded her first prime minister, Lord Melbourne, to marry her. The result would have been a much more satisfactory soap opera, inasmuch as Rufus Sewell (who plays Lord M.) is a more convincing lover than Tom Hughes (Albert), despite being 20 years older than Hughes.

I must add that Jenna Coleman (below, left) is a cute Victoria. Certainly cuter than the real item (below, right). But that’s a main part of Victoria’s appeal.

There will be a third season, and I probably will watch it, but only because I enjoy soap-operas about the upper crust, like Downton Abbey.

The Crown is another royal soap-opera, which is also destined for a third season (at least). The script-writers’ dislike for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip is so evident that Her Majesty and His Royal Highness might prevail in a libel suit. There may be shards of truth in The Crown, but they are cocooned in fabrications.

To take two blatant examples: The Queen didn’t conspire with Anthony Eden to prevent her sister, Princess Margaret, from marrying Peter Townsend. Harold Macmillian didn’t conspire to unseat Anthony Eden as prime minister in order to succeed him.

In keeping with the historical inaccuracy of the series is the producers’ penchant for casting actors who somewhat resemble the persons they play, but who are much too tall. Alex Jennings (he does get around), is several inches taller than the very late Duke of Windsor; Vanessa Kirby is likewise much too vertical to pass for the tiny (and somewhat late) Princess Margaret; and John Lithgow (question-mark-stooped as he plays Churchill) is far too hulking to pass for the immortal hero of World War II.

I might let the miscasting pass, were it not for the writers’ venomous and inaccurate telling of events. But, again, after ingesting several teaspoons of salt, I’ll probably stick around for another season of Downtown Abbey meets Buck House, as The Crown should have been titled.

Related posts:
A Hollywood Circle
Christmas Movies
Pride and Prejudice on Film
The Movies: (Not) Better Than Ever
At the Movies: The Best and Worst Years
My Year at the Movies (2007)
Forgotten Stars
The Quality of Films over the Decades
More about the Quality of Films
The Movies: Not Better than Ever (II)
The Longevity of Stars
2013: A Bad Year at the Movies
A Trip to the Movies
Another Trip to the Movies
Unwatchable Movies on the Rise
Film Fiasco: Mon oncle Antoine

Scapegoating in Baltimore

WaPo reports that Baltimore’s police commissioner has been fired:

Baltimore’s mayor on Friday abruptly replaced Police Commissioner Kevin Davis weeks after the city ended 2017 with a record-setting homicide rate and amid increased political pressure to control crime….

The leadership change comes as Davis was overseeing the department during one of its most difficult eras. He was tasked with driving down violent crime that flared to historic levels after a young man’s death in police custody while simultaneously reforming an agency the Justice Department cited for discriminating against black residents.

You can see the problem immediately. Homicide in Baltimore, as in other cities, is mainly a black-on-black crime. But how are you going to police black areas of the city if, in doing so, you’re accused of discriminating against blacks?

As the WaPo story puts it,

Davis was left to balance trying to change a culture of policing the Justice Department called discriminatory while being tough enough on criminals to deliver safe streets.

Officers were not as aggressive as they might ordinarily have been out of fear “they, too, would be arrested for doing their jobs,” said Gene Ryan, a Baltimore police lieutenant who heads the Fraternal Order of Police labor union.

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, said the average tenure of a police chief is three or four years but that Davis was “really between a rock and a hard place in trying to implement reform and deal with violent crime.”

“It’s almost like changing two tires on a car at the same time,” Wexler said.

What it’s really like is being expected to do a job without being allowed to use the requisite tools.

Baltimore’s soaring homicide rate is evidence of the Ferguson Effect, which Heather Mac Donald wrote about in “Yes, the Ferguson Effect Is Real” (National Review, September 26, 2016). She was seconded by John Hinderaker (“Violent Crime Jumped in 2015“, Power Line, September 26, 2016), who said:

I don’t know of any potential explanation for the jump last year other than the war on cops, Black Lives Matter, and the Obama administration’s anti-incarceration policies. Expect another increase when the numbers come in for 2016.

And he was right. See, for example, Mark Berman’s “Violent Crimes and Murders Increased for a Second Consecutive Year in 2016, FBI Says” (The Washington Post, September 25, 2017).

I get to the root of the problem in “Crime Revisited”, to which I added “Amen to That” and “Double Amen”. What’s the root of the problem? A certain, violence-prone racial minority, of course, and also under-incarceration. It’s not racism:

Criminologists talk about the race-crime connection behind closed doors, and often in highly guarded language; the topic is a lightning rod for accusations of racial hostility that can be professionally damaging. They avoid discussing even explicitly racist examples of black-on-white crime such as flash-mob assaults, “polar bear hunting,” and the “knockout game.” What criminologists won’t say in public is that black offending differences have existed since data have been collected and that these differences are behind the racial disparities in arrest, prosecution, and incarceration. They also won’t tell you that, despite claims of widespread racial discrimination in the justice system, legal variables—namely, the number of prior arrests and the seriousness of the crime for which the offender has currently been arrested—account for all but a small fraction of the variance in system outcomes. Nor will they tell you the truth about politically correct remedies, such as diversifying police forces, hiring black police chiefs, or training officers in the alleged effects of implicit bias: that these measures won’t reduce racial disparities in crime….

… 50 years of research on the topic have failed to find the smoking gun linking justice-system disparities to racism. Claims to the contrary often manipulate data or ignore them altogether. [John Paul Wright and Matt DeLisis, “What Criminologists Don’t Say, and Why“, City Journal, Summer 2017]

Follow the links — and read and weep.

Amazon and Austin

Austin is on the list of 20 finalists for the site of Amazon’s second headquarters (HQ2). I have a strong interest in the outcome of the competition because I live in Austin, and I hope that Amazon puts HQ2 somewhere else.

Why? Because the Austin area — which already has terrible traffic, rapidly rising real-estate prices, and high property taxes — will just get worse with the addition of 50,000 employees (i.e., perhaps 100,000 more residents) and a $5 billion investment in HQ2.

It is de rigeur for persons who have lived in Austin for a long time to bemoan its changed character. And they should. Thanks to growth-oriented politicians who have governed Austin for the past few decades, its character and quality of life are as faded as Warren Beatty’s looks.

What was once a rather laid-back “town”, dominated by the government of Texas and the University of Texas (before it became UT-Austin), has become part of the 31st largest metropolitan statistical area in the U.S., as of 2016. The population of the city proper has quintupled from 200,000 to 1 million since I first came to the city as a visitor in the 1960s. It has been only in the last decade or so that Austin’s skyline has sprouted a flock of towers as high as 80 stories. Until then, it had been a low-lying city, with only a few 15-story buildings, which weren’t even tall enough to challenge the dominance of the State Capitol, perched atop a modest hill. Austin’s hippies, who are still around but rather the worse for wear, are almost invisible among the vast army of yuppies which has come to Austin from other locales — California being a leading supplier of the rude, SUV-driving jerks who clutter roads, stores, and restaurants.

Several locales among the 20 finalists are less populous than the Austin area. Raleigh, the smallest of the lot, would seem to be an ideal choice. Any of them would be ideal from the point of view of most of Austin’s current residents, who need more traffic and higher property taxes like a hole in the head. It is mainly Austin’s lame-brained “progressive” politicos who seem to want HQ2 in Austin, as if a bigger (more crowded, more expensive) city would somehow make them more manly, womanly, or it-ly (as the case may be).

In case you have some influence over Amazon’s decision about where to locate HQ2, I would like to point out some things about Austin — in addition to traffic, real-estate prices, and property taxes — that ought to push you in an another direction:

Austin’s summers, which last from April to November, are very hot. In 2011, for example, there were 90 100-degree days, 27 of them consecutive. And when there’s a prevailing wind from the Gulf of Mexico (as there often is), Austin is also quite humid. Not as humid as Houston or Washington, D.C., but the combination of heat and humidity is “challenging”.

Only a hardy few bicyclists will be seen doing something stupid, like bicycling, in the the heat of the day. And in most of Austin they will not be using bicycle lanes that take up valuable road space for naught.

Austin has some attractive areas, including a traditional downtown on the 10 blocks of Congress Avenue south of the Capitol, and some parks and hike-and-bike trails along and near the wide spot in the Colorado River called Lady Bird Lake, which is geographically in the center of Austin. The rest of the city is a mixed bag, which ranges from mostly flat and ugly (east of Loop 1) to somewhat attractive and hilly (west of Loop 1). But Austin isn’t in a truly scenic area like Pittsburgh (which is among the 20 finalists).

Those Amazonians who aren’t in the higher echelons will end up in the ugly parts of the city and surrounding area because they won’t be able to afford to live in the nicer parts. In fact they may not be able to afford to live in the ugly parts of the city proper. Pittsburgh is much more affordable, and it’s hard to find an ugly area in and around the city.

Loop 1, mentioned above, isn’t a loop. It’s one of Austin’s two, limited-access, north-south highways. There are no limited-access, east-west highways, and nothing resembling a loop around Austin. All of which is why Austin’s traffic is incurably terrible.

Austin has no “culture”, unless you think of bars with live music as culture. Its orchestra is third-rate; whatever passes for opera and ballet is almost unnoticeable; and its museums and art galleries are fourth-rate. It is decidedly philistine for a university town. Many of the 20 finalists, including Pittsburgh, are culturally superior to Austin. The prevalence of burnt orange (the color worn by UT athletes) should tell you all you need to know about the level of culture in Austin.

And about those live-music bars — and theaters and upscale restaurants: They’re mostly downtown, which has become practically inaccessible except to people who already live downtown. That’s Austin’s traffic for you. There’s no subway, and the dinky commuter rail line is about as useful as a table-top model, so the alternative to driving and searching in vain for a parking place is to hire a cab or ride-sharing service. But the ride won’t be cheap, and it will still take quite a while to travel a few miles (or more) to your downtown destination.

A p.r. person dubbed Austin the “Live-Music Capital of the World” — an accolade that I dispute. A more authentic title would be “Allergy Capital of the Word”. As a life-long allergy sufferer, I can tell you that Austin has more allergens in its environment than any other place I have encountered. And there’s something going on year-around. Mold spores are almost always in abundance, thanks to southerly winds from the Gulf of Mexico. But the granddaddy of them all is the pollen of the so-called mountain cedar tree (really the Ashe juniper), which grows profusely in central Texas. Pollen outbursts begin in December and peak in January. And when you’ve lived in Austin for more than a few years, you’ll probably come down with an attack of what’s called cedar fever — an extreme allergic reaction to the pollen that reduces you to a wheezing, sneezing, lethargic puddle of humanity. It’s like a cross between flu and pneumonia. Enjoy!

I would leave Austin in a trice, but house-selling, house-hunting, and moving are daunting tasks at my age. Luckily, I am long-retired, so commuting isn’t a problem for me. As for the rest of it, I patronize only those restaurants that are easy to get to, shop online for everything but groceries, avoid bars and theaters altogether, and give thanks that I enjoyed Austin’s few nice parks in the years immediately after I arrived here.

What else can I tell you about Austin? Perhaps some readers who know the place will comment. For now, I’ll leave you with links to some related posts:

Driving and Politics (1)
Life in Austin (1)
Life in Austin (2)
Life in Austin (3)
Driving and Politics (2)
AGW in Austin?
Democracy in Austin
AGW in Austin? (II)
The Hypocrisy of “Local Control”

The Conscience of a Conservative

My heart bleeds for the people of s***hole countries, cities, and neighborhoods. God knows there are enough of the latter two in the U.S. Why is that? Certainly, there are cultural and genetic factors at work. But those have been encouraged and reinforced by governmental acts.

Government — the central government especially — has long been a silent killer of economic opportunity. Jobs are killed by regulation that hinders business formation and expansion and every government program that diverts resources from the private sector.

How bad is it? This bad:

Because of increases in the rate of government spending and the issuance of regulations, the real rate of GDP growth has been halved since the end of World War II.

If GDP had continued to grow at an annual rate of 4 percent from its 1946 level of $1.9 trillion (in chained 2009 dollars), it would have reached $30 trillion in 2016 instead of $17 trillion.

Given the relationship between employment and real GDP, the cost of government policies is huge. There could now be as many as 207 million employed Americans instead of the current number of 156 million*, were it not for the “helpful” big-government policies foisted on hapless Americans by “compassionate” leftist do-gooders (and not a few dupes in center and on the right).

My heart bleeds.

* The relationship between employment and real GDP is as follows:

E = 1204.8Y0.4991

E = employment in thousands
Y = real GDP in billions of chained 2009 dollars.

This estimate is based on employment and GDP values for 1948 through 2016, which are available here and here.

An increase in employment from 156 million to 207 million would raise the employment-population ratio from 60 percent to 80 percent, which is well above the post-World War II peak of 65 percent. The real limit is undoubtedly higher than 65 percent, but probably less than 80 percent. In any event, the impoverishing effect of big government is real and huge.

In the Non-News Department

Relentless California wildfires are followed by heavy rains and mudslides.

Massive hurricanes batter Florida [and other States, too], causing billions of dollars in property damage and the loss of many lives.

Ferocious winter storms pound the Northeast [or the Upper Midwest].

Terrible twisters devastate [the usual places in the Midwest and South]; whole communities are leveled and many are killed.

The mighty Mississippi [or another large river] overflows its banks, flooding millions of acres and driving thousands of people from their homes.

I don’t mean to make light of such events. But they are not news. They are as predictable as the sunrise. And they are proof (if any were needed) of the irrationality of human beings (or at least those who return to disaster-prone areas), and of the political corruption that subsidizes irrationality by rewarding it with taxpayers’ money.

For the media, events such as those listed above are just a means to an end: If it bleeds, it leads, and it leads because it attracts eyes or ears and therefore sells advertising (the end).

This Is a Test

Scott McKay writes:

Thursday saw a media firestorm erupt over a Washington Post report that amid a White House meeting with several members of Congress working on a compromise having to do with the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, President Trump asked why America should have to take in so many immigrants from “s***hole countries” rather than people from places like Norway.

The Post article isn’t exactly the finest example of American journalism, identifying as its source no one actually in the room to confirm what Trump supposedly said but instead naming two anonymous people who were “briefed on the meeting.”

I won’t get into the truth or falsity of the reporting. I suspect that it’s true. And it doesn’t bother me in the least if President Trump characterized some countries as s***holes. They are, and for two very good reasons: the low intelligence of their populations and their anti-libertarian governments (which make the U.S. seem like an anarcho-capitalist’s paradise).

Why are so many people (leftists, that is) upset? Because calling a s***hole a s***hole is a sin against cant and hypocrisy, in which the left specializes.

Here’s the test: If you were forced to live in another country, would you choose Norway or Haiti? Any sensible person — and perhaps even a leftist — would choose Norway.

Related posts:
Ruminations on the Left in America
The Euphemism Conquers All
Non-Judgmentalism as Leftist Condescension
Leftist Condescension

Today in Googledom

Monica Showalter of American Thinker writes:

The Daily Caller reports that Google has taken to throwing shade on almost exclusively conservative websites through its search engine mechanism, using a sort of ‘fact-checking’ system to discredit certain news providers so that no one will want to click on them….

According to the Daily Caller:

And not only is Google’s fact-checking highly partisan — perhaps reflecting the sentiments of its leaders — it is also blatantly wrong, asserting sites made “claims” they demonstrably never made.

When searching for a media outlet that leans right, like The Daily Caller (TheDC), Google gives users details on the sidebar, including what topics the site typically writes about, as well as a section titled “Reviewed Claims.”

Vox, and other left-wing outlets and blogs like Gizmodo, are not given the same fact-check treatment.

The Daily Caller has a photo of what it is talking about on its story here.

It seems downright suicidal for the company to be doing this, given that it’s been caught repeatedly under this kind of fire, there’s a hostile Republican Congress out there, and there’s lots of talk of breaking up the monolith under anti-trust laws….

I had a look myself at the supposed phenomenon described by the Caller … and found nothing there. I stripped off my name from the Google search to make sure the system wasn’t manipulating results … and still, on doing a search of Daily Caller, and other conservative sites, I found nothing there. I tried nutbag sites such as Occupy Democrats and Daily Stormer, and still found nothing there….

I doubt the Daily Caller’s reportage was wrong in this case. What may have happened is that Google’s bigs got wind of the Daily Caller’s story and ordered the staff leftists to cut it out immediately, ending the dubious practice of ‘fact-checking’ and the disguised censorship that practice can and has become. Or, there may be other versions of Google in other parts of the country or out there by other criteria that I can’t see.

Politics & Prosperity is a small fish in the vast sea of internet reportage and opinioneering. But I often use Google to find posts in which I’ve written about a particular subject. And Google usually comes up with useful results, so it’s evident that Google has thoroughly indexed P&P, and undoubtedly has flagged it as a conservative site.

Given that, I was heartened by the results of a side-by-side-by-side comparison of searches on “Politics and Propserity”, using Google and two alternative search engines: StartPage and DuckDuckGo:

  • Google’s number 1 hit was a link to this blog’s front page, with no adverse commentary about P&P. My Google search settings include an instruction not to save my search results.
  • StartPage produced the same result. StartPage claims not to track users or remember their search results.
  • This blog’s home page came up number 1 in DuckDuckGo’s list, and the “About” page came up number 2. DuckDuckGo, which isn’t Google-based, also claims not to track users or remember their search results.

What do I make of this? Not much. Google’s behavior toward this blog seems even-handed, but I can’t draw a conclusion about its treatment of conservative sites based on a single datum.

That said, on the evidence of its prevailing ethos and treatment of conservative employees, Google has long since violated its mottoes “Don’t be evil” and (later) “Do the right thing”. Google’s de facto mottoes are “Be evil” and “Do the left thing”.

Should Google be regulated or broken up, as some conservatives urge? I am loath to recommend such action. Google, like Microsoft and many others before it (e.g., the Big Three American auto-makers) will be tamed by market forces. I hope.

Related posts and pages:
Leftism As Crypto-Fascism: The Google Paradigm
“Liberalism” and Leftism
Leftism: A Bibliograpy