Comments on politics, the culture, economics, and sports by Paul Tuns. I am editor-in-chief of "The Interim," Canada's life and family newspaper, and author of "Jean Chretien: A Legacy of Scandal" (2004) and "The Dauphin: The Truth about Justin Trudeau" (2015). I am some combination of conservative/libertarian, standing athwart history yelling "bullshit!" You can follow me on Twitter (@ptuns).
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Liberal calls out Wynne for abusing 'racist' label
The Vancouver Sun reports that former NDP B.C. premier and federal cabinet minister Ujjal Dosanjh has replied to current Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne:
In response to Wynne being quoted saying “what we can’t give into, I think, is allowing security to mask racism,” Dosanjh responded that “in one fell swoop” she was labelling as racist the 67 percent of Canadians who disagree with the government’s “artificial” timeline to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada in the next five or six weeks.
Of course, this is the standard Liberal/liberal MO. During the federal election the Dauphin implied the majority of Canadians who were skeptical of the niqab's place in Canadian society were bigots.
The Millions has "Six Authors on Their Childhood Reading." There are the standards: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Robinson Crusoe, Moby Dick. I didn't read any of these until university. Excluding The Hobbit and the The Chronicles of Narnia, I didn't read much fiction unless it was assigned by the English teacher and even then I usually got by without reading the assigned books (with the exception of Shakespeare, which I did read). My introduction to Ayn Rand came after I turned 16, and I completed her works before I graduated high school. Until I was 16, I read encyclopedias, comic books, Mad, our regional newspaper The London Free Press, The Economist from the public library, whichever weekly newsmagazines my parents were subscribing to (Newsweek, Time or Maclean's), various hockey and baseball magazines to which I subscribed, and beginning when I was 16 National Review and The Spectator, which my conservative English and Religion teacher introduced to several of us right-leaning students. At some point in high school I read a bunch of Marx, Trotsky, Lenin, and Marcuse and thought I understood it. No fiction stands out as influential (even Rand -- I preferred her essays, and still do). I was reading the paper, newsweeklies, Baseball Digest, The Hockey News, and Hockey Digest before I was ten, but have no recollection of reading books. I do recall my parents, both teachers, reading to me every night as a young child, but nothing that would count as literature.
I don't feel like a missed much because I "caught" up quickly in university, yet an appreciation of literature at a young age is something worth inculcating in kids, and we do with our children. My four oldest, which span Grade 5 to 25 years old, are all voracious readers of both fiction and non-fiction, and some of those books have been influential, dare say formative, to who they are. I don't regret not having this experience, but I do regret not having a story about such an experience.
Public Policy Polling asked which candidate seeking the GOP or Democratic presidential nomination would ruin Thanksgiving. No prize for guessing who won. Hillary Clinton finished second and Bernie Sanders third, but together they still wouldn't "win." Clinton finished first for the candidate respondents would most like to have over for dinner, followed by Ben Carson and Donald Trump.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
State lotteries vs. fantasy sports
In New York’s legal complaint against DraftKings last week, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman dropped this data nugget: “DraftKings data show that 89.3% of [daily fantasy sports] players had an overall negative return on investment across 2013 and 2014.” That is: Just 10.7% of players broke even or made money.New York, of course, is no stranger to gambling: It runs the country’s largest state lottery. So, BuzzFeed News wondered, how do daily fantasy sites’ odds stack up against New York’s state-sanctioned betting? ...We simulated the outcomes for hypothetical New Yorkers who purchase a $1 Mega Millions ticket 50 times — or, approximately weekly for one year. Across 1 million simulations, approximately 99.4% of players lost money.
Of course, Mega Millions is just one of the many lottery platforms the Empire State runs, but you get the point: if part of the government's rationale for going after the fantasy leagues is that they produce so many more net losers than net winners, then government should shut down their own lotteries.
Ontario government announces climate change strategy
Because it's 2015
In his column in the Ottawa Citizen, William Watson suggests some other changes that are long overdue because it's 2015:
1. Let's get rid of throne speeches. Or at least not make the Governor General read it. Or just get rid of them completely.2. Standing up to vote in the House of Commons; electronic voting by push-of-the-button.3. Eliminate guilds, central planning, and rationing. Mostly looking at marketing boards, but also occupational licensing.4. Cease government control of television content.5. Stop the "crusading journalism" in search of nonsensical conspiracies.6. Let's not demonize political opponents, especially those who are concerned about a hasty refugee resettlement policy.7. Lessen the politically correct "ideological hyperventilation."
This is a good start. I'd even settle for numbers three, four, and either six or seven which seem closely related.
The disappearance of the Chretien Consensus
Three economists with the Fraser Institute write in the Financial Post about how the Chretien Consensus -- "balanced budgets, value-added government spending and tax competitiveness -- delivered sustained economic growth and fiscal health for a decade, and yet it is being abandoned today in Ottawa by the Trudeau Liberals and every province (with the possible exception of British Columbia). In the same pages, Jack Mintz writes about Ottawa and the provinces returning to their old tax and spend ways, which studies suggest retard economic growth.
Monday, November 23, 2015
You would think Oxford students would be made of sterner stuff
A student has taken offense -- of course -- that Magdalen College at Oxford is having a Great Gatsby-themed ball because the university the year in which it was set, 1926, did not admit women or "people of colour" as students. Law student Arushi Grag said she was "uncomfortable with the advertising" because her demographic does not want to nostalgically recall the 1920s when people like her were excluded from the elite university.
Diversity requires generosity. That is a reminder for liberals, not conservatives
Jonathan Haidt has a good post on the on-going political battles at American universities that begins with an under-appreciated point: "Diversity is inherently divisive." Multiculturalists believe that harmonious diversity is possible, and indeed it is but it is not easy. Haidt could have just as easily begun his essay, "Diversity is inherently difficult." But the sort of diversity that Haidt believes in is the only diversity that really matters: intellectual or viewpoint diversity. Progressives only give lip service to viewpoint diversity, but they prefer a phony multicultural diversity of ethnic foods and music shorn of cultural (often religious) meaning.
It is easy to enjoy some thai food or bang the djembe, and not be essentially challenged in one's comfortable assumptions about the world. True diversity requires something deeper:
[O]ne reason it’s so hard is that campus diversity programs rarely begin by extolling the essential precondition for tolerance: Generosity of spirit. Social life always contains misunderstandings. Diversity multiplies them by ten. Modern social media multiplies them by ten again. Training students to react to “micro-aggressions” (small and often unintentional slights) multiplies the misunderstandings still further.
In other words, civility in political discourse (broadly defined) is incredibly difficult today.
Haidt reiterates the point:
Diversity is inherently divisive; it takes work to reap its benefits. And as we argue here at HeterodoxAcademy, the most valuable kind of diversity of all is also the most divisive: viewpoint diversity. Without generosity of spirit and a dash of humility, the diversity project — indeed, the American project — is doomed to fail.
I don't think conservatives are very good at generosity of spirit, either. But conservatives are losing, almost everywhere: in North America and Europe and the churches, in politics, the culture, and the media. Conservatives don't get to prohibit the other view, don't get to punish heterodoxy. But the liberal ascendancy, which has been going on for more than a century, has not been accompanied by much liberal magnanimity. And it is liberals who preach tolerance while showing a remarkable disinclination to practice it to those with whom they disagree.
Generosity of spirit would make elected politics, campus politics, and Twitter better places.
Bravo Mr. Reynolds
For journalists, there is no more interesting story than themselves
The Hill Times: "‘Fun is back’ for Hill media with improved access." Not sure "fun" is the standard for whether journalists are doing their job.
Says Manon Cornellier, a reporter for Le Devoir and president of the Parliamentary Press Gallery:
For us, it’s really interesting when you now can ask questions [of ministers] … Everything we did in the last 10 years [to get stories], digging and everything, there’s no reason to stop doing it, but at least the work is more complete when you’re able also to get feedback from the government you’re covering, that you’re able to question what they’re doing and get answers maybe—it gives a more complete portrait.
I am sure they will have more fun over the next four years, I'm not so sure about the digging and complete portraits.
Et tu, Calgary Chamber of Commerce?
A series of tweets in response to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley's tough new policy to punish all carbon emitters, in order:
Classical liberalism vs. modern liberalism
Nich Cohen has a good essay in The Guardian on what he calls traditional liberalism and multiculturalism, in which he notes that traditional (or classical) liberals oppose "political Islam":
It is oppressive in its attitude to women, freethinkers and gay people, dogmatic in its intolerance of believers in other religions and none, and contemptuous of democracy and human rights. In Saudi Arabia and Iran, it mandates theocracy. In Syria and Nigeria, it justifies slavery and the mass murders of unbelievers.
But most modern liberals, or self-described progressives, are multicultural extremists. Shadi Hamid wrote in The Atlantic that illiberalism must be tolerated: "a liberal society cannot truly be liberal without allowing citizens to express their own personal illiberalism, as long as they do so through legal, democratic channels." Cohen says:
Which is true, as far as it goes, but must surely apply to white conservatives accused of sexism, racism and homophobia and, if Hamid is being consistent, of Islamophobia too. They are the way they are, too, and we must respect them as long as they are peaceful.
Except, of course, it doesn't. Progressives barely tolerate dissent from orthodoxy on their own side; there is little chance they will tolerate differing points of view from mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging conservatives. It is strange to see the Left tolerate sharia-mandated segregation of women at public events while condemning as fear-mongering and divisive any conservative/classical liberal criticism that there just might be a problem with tolerating illiberal and non-democratic tendencies in some cultures, most notably in Islamic ones.
The Wall Street Journal editorializes about the zaniness at various universities, which begins:
By now you’ve heard that the insurrections at Yale University and the University of Missouri have spread to campuses from California to New Hampshire. The grievances and student demands for safe spaces vary, but the disease is the same: Faculty and administrators who elevate racial and gender diversity above all other values, including free speech.
The latest is Princeton:
But most redolent of our times is Princeton University. Last week students invaded the president’s office insisting that the school expunge references to Woodrow Wilson because he was a racist who supported segregation. Wilson was Princeton’s president before he ascended to the White House.Current President Christopher Eisgruber agreed to kick off discussions about Wilson’s legacy, among other concessions. Colleges used to take pride in the accomplishments of their alumni, but now students want to rewrite American history if it doesn’t suit contemporary political mores. Then again, given the politicized way American history is taught these days, maybe it’s best to drop it as a discipline. Mr. Eisgruber should be embarrassed for conceding that hijacking campus buildings is a way to get what you want.
It almost validates Richard Klagsbrun's observation: "Liberal Arts degrees aren't about knowledge. They're for brats having their biases confirmed while picking up a piece of paper for a resume." Or as the Journal says, less caustically: "The post-1960s progressives who run universities today celebrated free speech in their salad days, so why don’t they now? Perhaps because holding up the First Amendment is an admission that Western civilization, which produced the luxury of university life, is worth defending."
Tyler Cowen has some thoughts on renaming institutions. He seems to be of two minds: we shouldn't forget our history while conceding there is room for renaming buildings and schools (in favour of donors). Still, this seems like a reasonable compromise:
I don’t mind if an institution names itself after a person of mixed moral quality, or allows such a name to persist, provided the institution, in both its framing of the name and its pursuit of its broader mission, is self-conscious about that person’s drawbacks and invests resources toward that self-consciousness beyond the usual rhetorical statements.
But that wouldn't satisfy the mobs on campus today.
Sunday, November 22, 2015
Sinatra's 'Send in the Clowns'
Mark Steyn examines one of my three favourite Frank Sinatra songs, "Send in the Clowns." Steyn explains its enduring popularity of Stephen Sondheim's best-known song:
But gosh, that tune is beguiling. What's "Send In The Clowns" about? It's about three minutes long, and the music always sounds pretty. Sondheim is said (at least according to one rather dry conference on his work I attended) to favor "non-functional" harmony: in this song he doesn't go for chord changes but he does use harmony as a way of deepening the colors of the melody and drawing the ear to the progression of the tune. Why it became so uniquely popular for a Sondheim composition is something of a mystery: It's conventionally diatonic and, in contrast to the spiky lyric, almost a lullaby. And yet, without the words, it's also rather unvarying and dull.
Steyn also writes of the almost "tricksy" conceit employed by Sondheim:
Sondheim composed something for what he calls Glynis Johns' "nice little silvery voice". "I wrote it for her voice," he said, "because she couldn't sustain notes. Wasn't that kind of singing voice. So I knew I had to write things in short phrases, and that led to questions." So he wrote the song as a series of four-syllable questions:Isn't it rich? / Are we a pair..?Isn't it bliss? / Don't you approve..?Don't you love farce..?Isn't it queer..?Irving Berlin wrote a famous song that was also a series of questions, questions that are answered by other questions. Which sounds like too clever a conceit for its own good. But it's not
Steyn also examines whether or not this or any Sondheim song can be classified as a "standard" and is baffled by what the song actually means. This is probably Steyn's best essay on the 85 Sinatra pieces he's done so far.
Regulating online veterinary advice
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a challenge to a Texas law outlawing online veterinary advice. George Will writes about the odious nature of much occupational licensing:
Students of contemporary government will instantly understand that this was not done to protect pets, none of whom has complained about, or been reported injured by, people like Hines. Rather, the legislature acted to protect those veterinarians who were vocally peeved because potential customers were getting online advice that, even when not free, is acquired at less expense and more conveniently than that gained from visits to a veterinarian’s office.This is rent-seeking, the use of public power to confer private benefits on one economic interest by handicapping another interest. Rent-seeking is what the political class rewards when it is not brooding about why people think the political class is disreputable.
Will says often occupational licensing takes the form of over-reaching restrictions on freedom of speech (like vets giving advice online or, perhaps in the future, doctors giving advice in radio call-in shows):
Even if the court remains reluctant to take notice of blatant rent-seeking through speech restrictions, the time is ripe for a clarifying ruling to give maximum protection to speech that, although related to licensed occupations, bears no demonstrable relation to a legitimate government interest in public health and safety. And the ruling should limit the latitude government has to evade First Amendment scrutiny by simply declaring that when it regulates occupational speech it is really regulating conduct.
NR turns 60
Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby marks the 60th anniversary of the launch of National Review:
In a column some years ago, I characterized NR, which was launched by William F. Buckley Jr. in 1955, as “the publication that blew the wind into the sails of American conservatism.” I wrote of first discovering the magazine as a 17-year-old college sophomore, and of my exhilaration at encountering in its pages “words and arguments that gave shape and coherence to my own inchoate political beliefs,” packaged in a style that was “feisty, smart, playful, elegant.”
The same was true for hundreds of thousands of young conservatives, including abroad. I have had a subscription since high school, although I jointly credit NR and columnist George Will for giving coherence to my political beliefs (I was at the time escaping from flirtations with Marxism and supporting Jesse Jackson in the 1988 Democratic primaries).
While I have since become much more libertarian in my writing -- rules are for autocrats -- even their 1993 book on writing, The Art of Persuasion: A National Review Rhetoric for Writers by Linda Bridges and William F. Rickenbacker, influenced my writing style (don't be afraid of long sentences, foreign words, punctuation -- it's the anti-The Elements of Style by Strunk and White (no first names necessary).
Jacoby briefly examines the back-section of the anniversary edition which is dedicated to the books that influenced prominent conservatives today, before concluding:
National Review’s 60th birthday is a milestone not just for a magazine, but for an ongoing commitment to the conviction that ideas matter, and that good writing can change lives.
Which got me to thinking about the decline of serious magazine writing in the age of the internet and, more importantly, the age of infantile partisanship. National Review influenced the Republican Party, but was usually not a blind follower (it could be argued it became too much so under Rich Lowry for some of the Bush II presidency, which began a period of decline for the magazine). Ideas, not political parties, should matter; too much opinion magazine writing today either ignores or conflates this. Considering the hyper-partisanship of American politics, one could reflect on whether NR's time has passed and if, ultimately, it has failed.
Saturday, November 21, 2015
What I'm reading
1. The Only Average Guy: Inside the Uncommon World of Rob Ford by John Filion. Filion is my city councilor, and my most enthusiastic votes in my lifetime is for whoever is facing him. That said, this is a good book and a fair book.
2. Mayor Rob Ford: Uncontrollable: How I Tried to Help the World's Most Notorious Mayor by Mark Towhey and Johanna Schneller. You are never sure how much covering one's own ass a staffer does in these books. It seems like a lot.
WSJ interview with The Donald
Recently the Wall Street Journal made a fair comment about Donald Trump, Trump insults the Journal, paper and candidate make up and he agrees to an interview, paper publishes interview which is exceedingly fair and while being so makes The Donald look like an idiot.
A snippet from the Journal:
Trump speaks in lengthy recursive loops that fold back on themselves, over and again, and he rarely makes a point once when seven or eight times will suffice.
Trying to pin Trump down on free trade is an adventure:
Mr. Gigot noted that “you said in the last debate you’re a 100% free trader but you just don’t like some of the deals that have been negotiated.”Mr. Trump: “Correct.”Mr. Gigot: “So is there an example of a deal, trade deal, that we’ve done in the past that you like, that you point to as a model?”Mr. Trump: “Not many. Nafta was a disaster. Not many. We could have great deals.” He then detours into corporate inversions, made-in-Japan backhoes, currency devaluation, Chinese hotel furniture, the recent GOP debate and the editorial he disliked. For the record, Mr. Trump always knew China wasn’t a party to the Pacific pact.Mr. Gigot tried again: “But you said you don’t like the big deals, so you like bilaterals. But is there an example of one that the U.S. has negotiated or signed that you like in recent history?” Mr. Trump: “No.”Mr. Gigot: “The Colombia deal, the Korea deal, the Australia deal?” Mr. Trump: “No, I don’t like any of them. I think we’re bad negotiators.”Mr. Trump tells us “I totally, I totally, like free trade,” but the contradiction is that his campaign hasn’t tapped a protectionist vein so much as the mother lode. As he tells it, his objection isn’t to trade deals per se but the disinclination of the U.S. government to leverage tariffs to obtain terms more favorable to the U.S.—and especially to take on the Chinese, Trump-style.
Trump does not seem to share my enthusiasm for free trade and distrust of free trade agreements, the latter often adding new layers of regulation to domestic economies.
Anyway, if I was a political reporter in Washington, at least 10% of me would want Trump to be president.
Chris Selley writes about Dalton McGuinty's memoirs, Making a Difference and focuses on his the former Ontario premier's many regrets. The conclusion is a magnificent take-down:
“I have always been very idealistic and positive in my approach to politics,” McGuinty writes. “Some may find that hard to believe, given the expediency and self-interest cynics would have us believe characterize all politics today.” Not “all politics,” no. But Dalton McGuinty’s, certainly.Readers will say, well, surely this is the sort of nonsense politicians always pack into their memoirs. And they will be right. But it is remarkable to come face to face with someone so utterly convinced of his own idealism, or so cynical as to insist upon it, so soon after he irrefutably demonstrated his lack of it — by squandering billions of dollars for a few seats the Liberals would probably have won anyway, proroguing the legislature to derail inquiries into same, and summarily resigning to watch the various police investigations unfold from afar.
For Trudeau, style is substance
How did I miss this
From March of this year, Brian Albrecht of Econ Point of View: "What Football Taught Me About PhD Economics." This seems true of almost everything going into university:
The game is completely different at the college vs. the high school level. If you come into the college level thinking it is still high school, you will get crushed. It's not only a higher level, but a different game. What works in high school does not work in college, so players are better off forgetting what they learned. (Of course, if you are a true FREAK, which I was not, you can do whatever you want.)
Friday, November 20, 2015
How a $1.6b surplus turned into a $3b deficit in six months
It didn't. Writing in Maclean's Stephen Gordon questions the Economic and Fiscal Projections released by the Liberal government today and says Finance Minister Bill Morneau is setting the stage for deficits with an eye to blaming the Tories. Gordon says he shouldn't get away with it:
It seems pretty clear that the goal of the EFP is to prepare the ground for the deficits the Liberals plans to run; it will be easier for the government to do so if it can credibly claim that it inherited a deficit situation in the current fiscal year.Based on the information made available so far, I don’t think that claim would be credible. I don’t doubt that the government will produce a deficit for 2015-16 if it wants one, but it would be the Liberals’ deficit. They should take ownership of it.
If you think the Ontario economy is great, wait to see what Trudeau does to Canada
At iPolitics Tasha Kheiriddin looks at a recent left-wing report on the state of employment and poverty in Ontario (hint: it's not good) and blames the Dalton McGuinty-Kathleen Wynne tax-and-spend policies of the past dozen years. Kheiriddin concludes: "Trudeau should pay attention to Ontario’s tale of woe, because the same people who ran the McGuinty government are now helping him run his own."
The unmitigated success that is Obamacare
Tyler Cowen excerpts a story about rising insurance premiums amidst insurance companies' declining profitability, but then notes:
But that is not all the news. There is also:In many Obamacare markets, renewal is not an optionShopping for health insurance is the new seasonal stress for manyHealth care law forces business to consider growth’s costsand my own Obamacare not as egalitarian as it appearsAll four are from the NYT, the first three being from the last two or three days, the fourth from last week. They are not articles from The Weekly Standard…
The Affordable Care Act is so bad that even the New York Times must take notice. Links at Marginal Revolution.
Liberals to set table for larger deficits
Or what is technically being called an economic update.
Question for conservatives
Is it more likely a terrorist will be let into Canada or the United States under the guise of refugee status than an actual American citizen be forced abroad under Donald Trump's plan to deport 11.4 million illegal aliens over two years? Assuming a government incompetency rate of just 1%, which policy, asylum or deportation, presents the greatest threat to freedom?
De-incarceration in California
At Powerline, Steven Hayward notes that over-crowding in California prisons, which has been declared a constitutional violation by the courts, has led to letting prisoners go. Hayward reports that some of these (proposed) prisoners are violent criminals. Hayward doesn't mention that tough-on-crime sentencing, most notably three-strikes-and-you're-out laws, are putting tremendous pressure on prisons and forcing the release of first- and second-time violent offenders. That said, several repeat violent offenders also make the list.
Police steal more than burglars
Investor Business Daily's Kerry Jackson:
Last year, police seized $4.5 billion in cash and property through civil asset forfeiture laws. They had a better year than burglars. The value of all property stolen in burglaries during 2014 added up to just $3.9 billion, according to FBI data.The trend that got us to this point began decades ago. Between 1989 and 2010, "U.S. attorneys seized an estimated $12.6 billion in asset forfeiture cases," reports Armstrong Economics. The average annual growth rate during that period was 19.4%, with a 52.8% jump from 2009 to 2010, says Armstrong.
You don't need to be a critic of civil asset forfeiture to find that this degree of confiscation is excessive.
Can't America handle more than one foreign policy file at a time?
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in Investor's Business Daily: "Forget Putin And Assad — Focus On ISIS." The California Republican makes the case that ISIS is not merely the focus but the singular foreign policy issue with which Washington must concern itself. One can agree that Vladimir Putin is an ally in the war against ISIS and still be uncomfortable teaming with the Russian leader even if there are analogies between modern and World War II alliances of convenience.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Natural governing party is not the embodiment of Canada
Examining the question of federal government buildings having pictures of our head of state -- Queen Elizabeth II -- on their walls, and, of course, the broader issue of Canada's ties to its past vs. embracing some nebulous future, the National Post makes an even broader point: "the Liberal party’s values are not universal Canadian values." The editorial concludes:
Canada isn’t “back.” Canada never left. It’s the Liberals who are back, with roughly the same percentage of public support as the recently defeated Conservatives won a mere four years ago. And not every Canadian sees Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ascension as a restoration of some sort. The Liberals have every right to change the pictures on the wall, but they should not deceive themselves into believing that they hold the monopoly on our shared values, or what it means to be a Canadian.
This needs to be repeated often because the mindset is appalling. Even if you believe the Ekos numbers that in many cases most Canadians seem to align with Liberal Party/liberal values, it is no small part of the nation that disagrees (one-quarter to one-third) with (supposedly) liberal ideas.
What I'm reading
1. The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece by Josiah Ober
2. "The Policy Effects of the Partisan Composition of State Government," by Devin Caughey et al. It looks likely to be the most interesting study I've read this year.
3. "Building Better Budgets: Canada’s Cities Should Clean Up their Financial Reporting," a C.D. Howe Commentary by Benjamin Dachis and William Robson
4. "Cutting Red Tape in Canada: A Regulatory Reform Model for the United States?" a Mercatus Center paper by Laura Jones
'If You May Do It for Free, You May Do It for Money'
In this month's Cato Unbound, Jason Brennan and Peter Jaworski, authors of Markets without Limits, make the case that if something is moral, it is moral to do it for money. They specifically debunk the main objections to this argument: Exploitation, misallocation, corruption, harm, and semiotic. Benjamin R. Barber has a broad objection ("Free Markets Aren’t") and Ilya Somin a narrow one ("Markets with Just a Few Limits"). Brennan and Jaworski counter many of the basic repugnance arguments, but Somin adds critiques of internal inconsistencies of many free market critics. I'm sympathetic to arguments about commodification of, for example, the human body (prostitution, sale of organs/tissue), but it would be naïve to think we haven't already commodified human beings. These are challenging but rewarding reads on the limits to free markets.
2016 watch (Fall of the governors edition)
Hot Air's Allah Pundit commented on Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal exiting the race to become the Republican presidential standard-bearer for 2016:
He’s not kidding when he says it wasn’t his time. Carson and Cruz gobbled up the evangelical vote, leaving him without a base in Iowa. Meanwhile, governors have fared mysteriously poorly throughout the campaign. Rick Perry dropped out early, followed by Scott Walker; Jeb Bush has flailed since Trump got in this past summer; Christie, despite forging ahead, just got bumped from the main debate stage to the undercard due to poor polling. There’s every reason to believe that the final four for the nomination will be Trump, Carson, Rubio, and Cruz, four men with collectively zero experience as executives in public office. It’s even somewhat possible that Bush, Christie, and Kasich will poll so poorly for the next month that we’re left with a race without a single semi-credible governor still running come New Year’s Day. Why that is, I don’t know. I guess you have to blame Trump: Governors trade on their command and authority and Trump projects all the alpha-male command that any voter could need. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that Perry and Jindal, the two loudest Trump critics in the race, are also among the first to exit.
The future of teaching
Making Sense of University Finances has a fascinating post, "Not Going, Not Listening Either: Lecture recording did not kill the live lecture." Interesting data is included in lecture attendance, the gist of which is:
On average, two thirds of students are not attending and not downloading lectures beyond week three. This pattern shows up regardless of the size, age or condition of the lecture theatre, or indeed whether it has decent wireless coverage or not. Nor does the discipline matter, or the level of the course taught.
MSUF explains the need for better teaching by understanding of how students learn:
Back in July, I published a blog on the sunk cost of live, on campus lectures, and concluded that the largest—forgotten—cost is the ongoing impact on teaching staff. I have been quite moved by the staff who have got in touch with me to express relief that dwindling attendance at lectures is not their fault. More than a few have described the feelings of isolation and anxiety they have felt in failing to become a ‘star performer’.Charisma is not the silver bullet for lecture attendance because it is not an individual’s problem to solve. What we are experiencing is a systemic change, not a personality problem. Students are deserting live lectures in droves ...[W]e need to stop assuming that everyone is OK with education as is, and that ours is a nation driven by evidence-based educational engagement.What does work is something we need to work harder at establishing. I enjoy anecdotal reports of teaching success as much as the next person, but results at individual course level—data based or not—can’t provide a steer for the whole sector. Nor does putting live lectures online and calling that elearning. The large datasets of MOOC providers like edX have already indicated that the optimal length for a recorded talk is 6–8 minutes, not 50. As we continue the rollout of thermal counters to tutorial and seminar classrooms, and consider intersecting data sets such as library footfall, we may be able to hone on the impact of our efforts and not conflate hours talking with outcomes. That is, not confuse listening with learning.
I was going to call this post the future of higher education or the future of learning, but it is about more than university and it is really about how classes are presented rather than consumed. Salman Khan in his 2012 book The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined talks about the need to turn elementary and high school education upside down, presenting lectures online to be digested by students at their pace while providing competence-level support and applications during a shorter school day (getting rid of formal, age-dependent classes in which the teacher presents material and supporting exercises are done by students as homework). This is, I think, is what MSUF is getting at.