Randoms of the past week

January 30, 2012

This idea is un-American!

My bubble score is: 2. My bubble is very thick. I will endeavor to improve this score (lower is better, of course). My only failings are that I have friends with whom I have significant political disagreements (however, I feel that this is somewhat mitigated by the fact that I’m a monarchist and most of my friends are progressives) and that I was in marching band when I was in high school (so I was in a couple parades that did not involve homos or global warming (is that redundant)).

– In equally good news, Google thinks I’m 55-64, which is essentially twice my age.

– "Stalin was feeling extremely gay" – don’t miss a couple new posts at UR (you have no idea how happy I would have been to have discovered that particular quote). Also don’t miss a couple new posts from Devin.

– Putting people in jail is really effective at reducing crime. More from Isegoria. Ferd dissents, apparently.

Whiskey on Charles Murray . . . and Handle on Whiskey.

Rod Dreher on Charles Murray

– Bryan Caplan on the marriage premium . . . and a response from Heartiste.

– Apparently, it’s stunning that "The stimulus was about implementing the Obama agenda." I’m shocked, shocked.

– Olave d’Estienne on formalist political arrangements

– Polygamy is bad, unless you divorce early wives or never marry the women with whom you have children

Simon Grey: "politics is Jersey Shore for the middle class." I’d say the upper-middle class, but you get the point.

Chuck on Caplan on immigration.

Sailer: "This is ‘controversial,’ even insensitive, since everybody knows that the behavior of all minority groups is controlled wholly by their genes; nobody should be allowed to doubt genetic determinism like Nixon is doing, at least not in public." Heh – that’s funny.

In defense of introverts.

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Charles Murray and the education bubble

January 23, 2012

If I’m reading Charles Murray’s thesis correctly (and it’s certainly possible that I’m not, since I haven’t read the book), I think there’s an argument within his thesis that the education bubble is not in fact a bubble.

There are two points to Murray’s argument that I’m concerned with here.

1) Murray argues that America is increasingly efficient at sorting people by cognitive ability. As such, you can live basically your entire life among people within a narrow range of cognitive ability similar to your own.

2) The closer you are to the top end of this intellectually sorted landscape, the better your life will be, by virtually every measure of success.

Let me draw some conclusions and add some premises.

I would suggest that colleges are the mechanism by which the sorting described in 1) is accomplished. The main function of colleges is not education or signalling, or whatever your favorite theory is. Their main function is to sort people into groups based on cognitive ability. (Note that this theory explains why people would be willing to pay $40,000 to attend certain schools that are not necessarily top-tier – it’s worth it, as long as it gets you in a different cognitive ability grouping than the state school alternative).

I would also suggest that this sorting service is a very valuable service – and it is getting exponentially more valuable over time, as society becomes more efficiently sorted and the benefits of being in a high-ability group become more pronounced.

Therefore, the increases in college tuition that we continue to see are justified by the increasingly valuable service that colleges are providing. Unfortunately, it’s a service that: nobody wants to discuss; and that colleges will adamantly deny they provide. Perhaps everyone will continue to moan about an education bubble while shelling out $50,000/year for their kid to attend a college, much like they currently moan about lack of diversity in the public schools in their hometown which they moved to because it has good schools.


Randoms of the week

January 23, 2012

A new twitterer (is that the right term?) – HT to Kalim Kassam.

Ferguson on Murray

Murray on Murray

Larison on Murray

Mangan on Murray

– Shit the (wonderfully reactionary) dowager countess says:

– Noah Millman’s new blog at TAC.

Deleveraging, much like austerity, is a myth. Don’t get me wrong, both deleveraging and austerity need to happen. They’re not happening though – despite what you’ve been told. No doubt the official history of the current recession will be that austerity prolonged the crisis, even though no actual national government appears to have actually reduced its spending.

– The happiest and healthiest communities in America

How and why to smoke a pipe (HT). I’ve decided that it’s time for me to start smoking a pipe.

– What if a depression happened and there were no Keynesians? It would end quickly and be erased from history. (Related)

– I’m on my third continent in three weeks, so blogging may continue to be light, I apologize


DC and Baltimore real estate

January 23, 2012

First, DC.

Both Tyler Cowen and Megan McArdle linked to this article on DC real estate. I can’t figure out why.

Here’s the money shot:

Drive along Route 50 in Northern Virginia from revitalized Rosslyn to the glitzy office parks in Falls Church and you’ll think you’ve been transported back to the 1950s as you gaze out on mile after mile of aging strip shopping centers, small brick bungalows and dodgy motels.

Take Route 1 from College Park toward the District and you’ll find an impressive variety of marginal retail stores, fast-food joints and used-car dealerships.

Turn off the Capital Beltway at Pennsylvania Avenue in Prince George’s County, an intersection that must see tens of thousands of cars pass through each day, and you’ll find a motley collection of auto-repair shops, warehouses, long-term storage facilities and aging strip shopping centers.

Or think of Georgia Avenue in the District, Columbia Pike just over the Potomac in Northern Virginia, Route 1 north of Old Town Alexandria or downtown Anacostia. At any of these places, you hardly get the sense that a rational, efficient market has put centrally located, highly accessible land to its “highest and best use.”

Each, of course, has its own story to explain why things are the way they are. But collectively they suggest that the next phase of growth in the Washington region will focus on these underdeveloped areas in the eastern quadrants of the District and some of the region’s older, closer-in suburbs.

Actually the stories of these areas are identical. The former areas are nearly all white, while the latter areas are nearly all black – as can be seen in The Washington Post. The article never mentions this!

This sort of development would be good for me, since I live close to many of these areas, but I’m not exactly holding my breath. Ms McArdle moved to an area that the article mentions as up and coming (the area in which Yglesias got mugged last year). We’ll see. It may work for her, since she has no children, but ultimately people want families and need to send their kids to school. It’s cheaper to drive an hour to area with decent schools than pay for private school.

The article is standard fare until it veers off into the absurd:

Prince George’s County (demographic data) offers the greatest gap between the potential for development and redevelopment in the inner ring and market realities. High crime rates, inferior schools, rampant corruption and sheer ineptitude on the part of local officials have scared away many developers. Racism has been a factor as well. At this point, however, what has long been considered a Prince George’s problem is now a regional problem: If the Washington area is to grow, a lot of that growth is going to have to happen in Prince George’s.

“Racism has been a factor as well.”

That statement is just left there. It is perhaps the purest expression of progressivism that I have read in a long time. It’s passive. Who has been racist? To whom have they been racist? The county is run by black people and populated by black people. Are they racisting themselves? Detroit would like an answer.

Then it calls for government to step in and solve the problem.

Anyway, here’s the only hint that something interesting is going on:

There are natural limits to how much a metropolitan region can expand its economy and its population by expanding its geographic footprint, and Washington is probably getting pretty close to them. The evidence can be found in the horrible commutes, in the divergent trends in land values at the core and at the periphery, and in the extraordinary cost of extending Metrorail to Loudoun County.

Why are people moving an hour outside the city if there is cheaper real estate 10 minutes from their offices? We may never know.

Second, Baltimore.

The WSJ – hysterically – has a piece suggesting that Baltimore is worse off than New York, San Francisco and Boston because . . . the latter areas have lower property taxes!

That’s right, you can spend millions on places in New York and San Francisco and pay a relatively lower rate of tax on those places than you’d pay in Baltimore, where comparable space can be had for less than 25% of the price! The article seems to suggest that tax rates matter more than absolute cost when people make business decisions.

I’m sure theirs something different going on in Baltimore, I just can’t figure out what it is . . .


Randoms of the week

January 17, 2012

– Here are two (this one includes a Lecky quote) good somewhat anti-democracy articles. Thanks to the reader that passed them along.

The Atlantic has an interesting article on John Mearsheimer’s foreign policy views.

Monarchies. Related thoughts from AMcGuinn

A review of Charles Murray’s new book. And another.

Jim on economic decline:

If we adjust for the fake boom and subsequent correction, we see not an abrupt decline starting in 2009, but rather a long arch, with growth slowing in the 1970s, the economy peaking soon after Reagan, and decline slowly and steadily accelerating since then.

He believes that technological change in other areas are masking this decline – so do I. (Also see Jim on book burning)

– Robin Hanson loves hierarchy.

Photos of post-war Berlin

Thoughts on impermanence from Chuck

My generation:

Men of my generation do share a thing or two in common due to our collective experiences. We were subjected for the first half of our lives to a school system that bloated our self-esteem with unwarranted praise and inflated our optimism with empty promises. Then the twin towers imploded on us. Then one sector of the economy after another imploded on us while our experts and educators insisted that everything was hopeful and changing for the better. More than anything, we’ve been longing for somebody on the national stage to level with us about how bad we suck, how disastrously off-course we’ve gone as a society and a nation, and how hope and change can only be had in exchange for deep and painful sacrifices and a radical realignment of priorities.


Randoms of the day

January 8, 2012

Unamused on Detroit – probably the most interesting story in the news right now

– I am always tempted to agree that economic growth is the god metric, as Aretae likes to say. But then I go to Tokyo. Tokyo’s been stagnant for more than and a decade, and it still feels way nicer than any American city (inspired by this Sailer post).

Das racis’

– Elusive Wapiti on cultural decline in the UK (don’t miss the photos from the article he links to)

Chuck on tidiness

– If you "predict" something 5 years too early, did you really predict it? I made about $90,000 buying and selling a place between 2003 and the end of the housing bubble, was I wrong?

– Those Who Can See on Germans and Greeks.

Drink like a man

– Hail on white ruralism

– Enjoy some fiction from a fellow reactionary blogger while I’m quiet for a bit


Marriage, work and religion

January 4, 2012

Charles Murray has an article in The New Criterion previewing his upcoming book. Read the whole thing, obviously. Murray is most concerned that society is dividing by intelligence (this was also the point of The Bell Curve, but everyone was too scandalized to notice).

Some excerpts:

America has never been a classless society. From the beginning, rich and poor have usually lived in different parts of town, gone to different churches, and had somewhat different manners and mores. It is not the existence of classes that is new, but the emergence of classes that diverge on core behaviors and values—classes that barely recognize their underlying American kinship.
To make this case, I use data based exclusively on non-Latino whites (hereafter just “whites”) as a way of focusing attention on the nature of the problem. We are not dealing with problems caused by ethnic inequalities. I also focus on people ages 30–49, adults in the prime of life, to strip away complications associated with young adults who are delaying marriage and older adults who are retiring earlier than they used to.

To represent the classes at the two ends of the continuum, I give you two fictional neighborhoods that I hereby label Belmont (after an archetypal upper-middle-class suburb near Boston) and Fishtown (after a neighborhood in Philadelphia that has been white working class since the Revolution).

. . .

In 1960, extremely high proportions of whites ages 30–49 in both Belmont and Fishtown were married—94 percent in Belmont and 84 percent in Fishtown. The unquestioned norm in both neighborhoods was marriage. In the 1970s, those percentages declined about equally in Belmont and Fishtown. Then came the great divergence. In Belmont, marriage among prime-age adults stabilized during the mid-1980s and remained flat thereafter, standing at 83 percent in 2010. In Fishtown, marriage continued a slide that had not slackened as of 2010, when the percentage of married whites ages 30–49 had fallen to a minority of 48 percent.

. . .

The primary indicator of the erosion of industriousness is the increase of prime-age males with no more than a high school education who say they are not available for work—they are “out of the labor force,” in the jargon. That percentage went from a low of 3 percent in 1968 to 12 percent in 2008, rising steadily during the boom years of the 1980s and 1990s when the labor market had plentiful blue-collar jobs available for anyone who wanted to work.

. . .

But in 1960, crime was low and the existing differences between Belmont and Fishtown did not impinge on daily life. The real Fishtown in Philadelphia, for example, was an extremely safe place to live in the 1950s (as we know both from a contemporaneous sociological study of the real Fishtown and the living memory of those who grew up in Fishtown in those years). Doors were routinely left unlocked. Children were allowed to play unwatched by their own parents, who knew that neighbors were keeping an eye on them. In the rare instances when a crime did occur, the people of Fishtown knew where to look for the offenders, and often dealt with them without bothering to call the cops.

The surge in crime that began in the mid-1960s and continued through the 1980s left Belmont almost untouched and ravaged Fishtown. From 1960–95, the violent crime rate in Fishtown more than sextupled. When we can first break out imprisonment rates in 1974 (after crime had already been increasing for a decade), there were 215 imprisoned Fishtowners for every 100,000 persons ages 18–65. By the time of the most recent survey of prison inmates in 2004, that number had grown to 965. The comparable figures for Belmont were infinitesimal and flat (13 in 1974, 27 in 2004).

The data on the super-successful are also interesting:

I assembled data for fourteen such elite urban and suburban areas. In the aggregate, their median family income went from $84,000 to $163,000 dollars between 1960 and 2000, and the percentage of adults with BAs rose from 26 percent to 67 percent.

. . .

I created an index that combined median income and the percentage of college graduates for all the nation’s zip codes and ranked those zip codes from top to bottom on the index. By the time that graduates of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale have reached their 40s, almost half of them live in the zip codes that ranked in the top 5 percentiles of zip codes—an extraordinary finding, when you remember that I did not select the successful members of those classes. The Westchesters and Winnetkas of America are not only populated by a much higher proportion of college graduates than in 1960, but by a population that is disproportionately loaded with the cognitively talented and those who have been socialized in elite schools.

. . .

Our propensities do sever us, and the new upper class shows no inclination to reach out across the widening divide. And so the unraveling of the civic culture in Fishtown occurs without the knowledge or the concern of Belmont, let alone with any attempt by Belmont to assist the people of Fishtown who are still trying to do the right thing. Fishtown is flyover country, or those ugly suburbs that the people of the new upper class view from afar as they drive from their enclave in Greenwich to their office in midtown Manhattan.