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Heather MacDonald applies critical thinking to Yale

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From The True Purpose of the University - Students would scorn free speech less if colleges honored their mission to transmit knowledge:



 If ever there were a narrative worthy of being subjected to “stubborn skepticism,” in (Yale President) Salovey’s words, the claim that Yale was the home of “hatred and discrimination” is it. There is not a single faculty member or administrator at Yale (or any other American college) who does not want minority students to succeed. Yale has been obsessed with what the academy calls “diversity,” trying to admit and hire as many “underrepresented minorities” as it possibly can without totally eviscerating academic standards. There has never been a more tolerant social environment in human history than Yale (and every other American college)—at least if you don’t challenge the reigning political orthodoxies. Any Yale student who thinks himself victimized by the institution is in the throes of a terrible delusion, unable to understand his supreme good fortune in ending up at one of the most august and richly endowed universities in the world.


But the ubiquitous claim that American campuses are riven with racism is not, apparently, one of the “false narratives” that Salovey had in mind. Not only did the president endorse that claim, but the husband-and-wife team who had triggered the Halloween costume furor penned a sycophantic apology to minority students in their residential college: “We understand that [the original e-mail] was hurtful to you, and we are truly sorry,” wrote Professors Nicholas and Erika Christakis. “We understand that many students feel voiceless in diverse ways and we want you to know that we hear you and we will support you.” Yale’s minority students may “feel” voiceless, but that feeling is just as delusional as the feeling that Yale is not “inclusive.”


So Salovey’s claim that Yale resolutely seeks out and unmasks “false narratives” is itself a false narrative...


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ahofer
2 days ago
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How about taking apart the most pernicious false narrative - that the truth of an idea depends upon who is expressing it.
Princeton, NJ or NYC
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My New Pet Peave: Uber Drivers Who Stop For Gas After Taking My Job

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Third time in a row I have had an Uber drive stuck at 5 minutes away from me for 20 minutes, with their car sitting right on top of the nearest gas station.

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ahofer
3 days ago
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Never had this, but that's what the ratings are for. Lyft is better anyway.
Princeton, NJ or NYC
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The Behavioral Econ of Paperwork, by Bryan Caplan

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Next month, I'll collect my final payment from my Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account - and I couldn't be happier.  I hate filling out paperwork.  Though it only takes a couple hours to save thousands of dollars, I resent the process. 

I'm not alone.  Education researchers, for example, find that many students leave free money sitting on the table because they fail to fill out the proper forms.  Furthermore, modest help with form completion markedly raises uptake.   Some highlights:
Some students receiving college financial aid could be getting more. Others fail to qualify for aid entirely: each year, more than one million college students in the United States who are eligible for grant aid fail to complete the necessary forms to receive it. Bird and Castleman (2014) estimate that nearly 20 percent of annual Pell Grant recipients in good academic standing fail to refile a FAFSA after their freshman year, and subsequently miss out on financial aid for the following academic year.
And:
Additionally, the complexity of the financial aid application confuses and deters students (ACSFA 2001, 2005). To determine eligibility, students and their families must fill out an eight-page, detailed application called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which has over 100 questions. King (2004) estimates that 850,000 college students who were eligible for federal grant aid in 2000 did not complete the forms necessary to receive their benefits
Since I think education is extremely socially wasteful, I'm glad that so many students fail to game the system.  But - as Robin Hanson pointed out at a seminar on this research - there's probably something much bigger at work.  What researchers have learned about students and FAFSA is probably just a special case of the fact that humans hate filling out paperwork.  As a result, objectively small paperwork costs plausibly have huge behavioral responses.*

Consider a few possible margins:

1. A small business-owner decides not to hire a worker because he doesn't want to fill out tax and other regulatory compliance forms.

2. A home-owner decides not to improve his home because he doesn't want to get the necessary permits and inspections.

3. A traveler decides not to visit a country because he doesn't feel like applying for a visa.

4. An unemployed worker (note the low opportunity cost!) doesn't apply for unemployment insurance because the process is aggravating.

5. A childless couple decides against adoption because the bureaucracy is hellish (or, in the case of international adoption, hellish squared).

Many people's knee-jerk reaction will be, "Let's cut red tape!"  But the craftier response is, "Let's manipulate red tape."  If X is good, we can noticeably encourage it by modestly simplifying the paperwork.  So yes, cut red tape for employment, construction, travel, and adoption.  If X is bad, though, we can noticeably discourage it by modestly complicating the paperwork.  Indeed, complexity is a viable substitute for explicit means-testing: If you lack the patience to fill out ten forms, you probably don't really need the money.

* Of course, if someone fills out paperwork full-time, they might become inured to the drudgery.  But we'd still expect oversized behavioral effects of paperwork for everyone who can't cheaply delegate such tasks to a trusted professional.

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ahofer
3 days ago
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So this is 'Nudge', but with paperwork.
Princeton, NJ or NYC
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I am surprised/not surprised to see the uncomplicated promotion in The Washington Post of positioning a photograph of the top of the head of Sean Spicer to make it appear that he is hiding in shrubbery.

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This meme — a sort of comic protest art — developed after Spicer was seen standing between 2 tall hedges and talking to reporters, giving something of an impression that he was hiding in the bushes. Now, there's a website — linked in WaPo — where you can download the photograph...
“Presenting the ‘Garden Spicer,'” Kadonaga said in her Facebook post Thursday. “Now you too can have the White House press secretary in — or rather, “among”* — the bushes in your yard. And hey, if you’re concerned that when exposed to the outdoors, the image will run … no worries, that’s exactly what Sean Spicer does, so it’s totally authentic!”...

Since then, Spicer’s face has been popping up in gardens around the world — in the District of Columbia, California, even New Zealand. Spicer has been spotted hiding in household planters, in shrubs outside the Watergate Hotel, and even in Mother’s Day bouquets of flowers....
This seems to be one of those times when people think that because their heart is in the right place — here, hating Trump — that whatever they do will work as they intended — such as, here, giving the good people who hate Trump an outlet to express and experience their contempt for Trump. But they don't think it through. They don't think of the other values — values they as good people also treasure — that come into play. Specifically, in this case, environmentalism and feminism.

1. Environmentalism. If you leave these paper-on-cardboard things in bushes, you are littering. But perhaps you only put the head there long enough to take a photo to upload to social median. There is still the more spiritual level of environmentalism, the appropriation of plant life for human purposes that have nothing to do with the plant's meaning unto itself. It's one thing to plant a shrub so that its natural beauty is close to you where you can see and admire it, quite another to impose on the plant's inherent dignity, to use it as a symbol of human surreptitiousness and guilt.

2. Feminism. You have forgotten the fear of violence that limits the freedom of women to move freely in this world! Creating the impression of a man hiding in the bushes is akin to chalking swastikas on the sidewalk or hanging nooses on trees. Worse, really, because passersby might from a distance think an attacker really is right there, ready to strike. Let's remember the "Sleepwalker" statue that causes such a disturbance at Wellesley college in 2014:
The sculpture is out in the open where it can be seen from a distance and it really does look like a strange man stumbling about in his underwear.



Whether you're afraid of "him" or simply think he has a problem... you're drawn into a real emotional response before you realize it is art.... But — ha ha — it's only a statue. You're silly. You were afraid of a statue. So it's an unsettling prank. Why? Is that good art? It has appropriated your peace of mind, your comfort in a public space, for what? To challenge and intrigue you, perhaps....
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ahofer
9 days ago
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"This seems to be one of those times when people think that because their heart is in the right place — here, hating Trump — that whatever they do will work as they intended — such as, here, giving the good people who hate Trump an outlet to express and experience their contempt for Trump. But they don't think it through."
Princeton, NJ or NYC
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The Yale dean's Yelp reviews use phrases like "white trash," "low class folks," and "barely educated morons."

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WaPo reports under this faux-naive headline: "Yale dean once championed cultural sensitivity. Then she called people ‘white trash’ on Yelp." As if it's a puzzling paradox that an elite administrator would propound the usual diversity pap and actually view nonelites with contempt.

The most uncalled-for word in that headline is "once." I can't believe the dean — her name is June Chu — doesn't continually "champion cultural sensitivity." That's built into her job and no trouble to do. It would be trouble not to do. What dean at an elite — or nonelite — institution of higher education would renounce cultural sensitivity? It would take a very strangely bold dean to say: Hey, snowflakes, how about some old-school insensitivity for a change?*

But on her own, outside of work, Chu does some social media, and she doesn't talk like a dean, she talks like a person on social media. She's cheeky and tweaky. It's like Trump on Twitter.

Now, another way to look at this is that Chu felt empowered by her own status as a member of a minority group. Her non-PC language came in the context of an Asian restaurant she thinks is bad:
“If you are white trash, this is the perfect night out for you!” Chu wrote in a review about a Japanese restaurant, which she said lacked authenticity but was perfect for “those low class folks who believe this is a real night out.”

“Side note: employees are Chinese, not Japanese,” added Chu, who identifies in one review as Chinese American. In another restaurant review she said, “I guess if you were a white person who has no clue what mochi is, this would be fine for you.”
She was  comically wielding a little Asian privilege. Not that she defended herself that way. She apologized and deleted her Yelp account. 
"My remarks were wrong. There are no two ways about it."
I disagree. I see at least 2 ways, but there aren't 2 ways about which way is the easiest way.

__________________

* Imagine saying something like "I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious, a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?”
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ahofer
9 days ago
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Love the Christakis quote at the end there.
Princeton, NJ or NYC
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Top taxes & growth

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Rich people don’t like paying taxes. This is pretty much the only thing we’ve learned from some of the hysterical reaction in the papers to Labour’s plan to raise taxes on the rich.

Let’s remember the historical facts here. Low tax rates aren’t associated with faster growth – if anything the opposite. For example, in 1988 Nigella’s dad cut the top income tax rate from 60% to 40%. Since then, GDP per head has grown by an average of 1.4 per cent per year. That compares to growth in the 29 years before the cut of 2.6% - and that was a time which included top tax rates on earned income of over 70%. Much the same is true in the US; the economy there was stronger in the 50s and 60s when the top tax rate was 91% than it has been recently with lower taxes. 20ygrowth

You can read this fact in three ways.

One possibility is that growth has slowed in the 00s for other reasons, and the slowdown would have been even worse, had taxes not been cut. For me, this runs into two problems: one is that some of the likely causes of slow growth, such as the banking crisis, might not be independent of top tax rates. Another is that supporters of lower taxes believe that other reforms in the 80s should have raised trend growth too – such as privatization, deregulation and the weakening of trades unions. If they did so, their effect was swamped by other things.

A second possibility is that lower top taxes actually cause lower growth. For example, they might incentivize financialization and hence greater financial fragility, or encourage rent-seeking such as jockeying for top jobs or CEOs extracting higher pay for themselves. Of course, higher taxes might cause some top-earners to retire or emigrate. But this doesn’t necessarily cause a big loss of output. If, say, Eden Hazard were to move to Spain in response to higher taxes here, Chelsea won’t field only ten players.

A third possibility is simply that – within reason - trend growth isn’t much affected one way of the other by changes in national economic policies.

To argue that higher top taxes are the “economics of the madhouse” requires a strong case for my third possibility and good arguments against the second and third. This, I think, would be very difficult.

All this is a story about economic growth. You could argue, however, that higher top taxes would reduce tax revenues even if they don't much affect GDP: as Alan Manning has said, tax-dodging is more sensitive to tax rates than labour supply.

Even here, though, the argument is moot. For one thing, as the IFS has pointed out, these are subject to huge uncertainty. And for another, in this context the fact that Labour’s so-called “tax grab” would impinge upon the “middle classes” such as doctors and headteachers isn’t a bug but a feature. Insofar as it does so, it’s a revenue raiser. Teachers and doctors are probably less internationally mobile than the mega-rich, and less able to use tax-dodging ruses. For the purposes of raising revenue, they are a large slow-moving target.

For me, the non-hysterical arguments against Labour’s tax plans lie elsewhere. You could argue that – with tax morale low partly as a result of the rise of individualism – they’ll decrease social solidarity. People will regard them not as the price for living in a civilized society but as a burden which subsidizes “scroungers”. Or you could argue that the revenue raised by taxes will fuel wasteful public spending. Or you might argue that redistributive taxation isn’t enough: we need to reduce inequalities of power as well as income. Or you might argue that the tax base should be shifted from incomes to land and inheritances*. And personally, I’m not wholly unsympathetic to the view that very high taxes diminish freedom – though  few people can consistently argue for this, given the general lack of support for liberty.

What you shouldn’t do, though, is argue that higher top taxes will wreck the economy. Other things might do that, but it’s unlikely that top taxes will.

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