2013 April 29 Monday
Limited Value From Many College Degrees

Some college degrees have little or no value.

Not surprisingly, research has found that a degree from a name-brand elite college, whether it's Harvard, Stanford or Amherst, carries a premium for earnings. But the 50 wealthiest and most selective colleges and universities in the U.S. enroll less than 4% of students. For everyone else, the statistics show that choosing just any college, at any cost for a credential, may no longer be worth it.

The premium for an elite degree is exaggerated. A very large portion of the higher career achievement of graduates from top schools comes from the fact that the students were smart enough (and ambitious enough to position themselves) to get accepted. The Ivy League, Stanford, Duke admissions process is in part an IQ test and in part an ambition test. Of course outside of psychometrics departments they avoid all mention of IQ and innate abilities. The blank slate religion still reins. But innate differences in ability matter so much that the Ivy League looks hard to find people with higher ability who will succeed even without an Ivy education. These students make the value of Ivy look higher than it really is.

As for the top 50: That seems too high a number of schools to talk about as elite. I doubt the benefit goes that far down. Does going to school number 35 or 40 matter in any way except for saddling its graduates with lots of debt? I think the value of the second tier is greatly exaggerated by second tier university marketing departments.

While it probably makes sense to go to Harvard or Yale so what? So few can get into the very top schools (especially if you are a member of a discriminated against group) that discussions of the value of elite education are irrelevant to 95+% of high school students and to an even higher percentage of adults looking to improve their career prospects.

It makes far more sense for the vast majority of students to aim for accumulation of useful skills and other ways to demonstrate ability. For example, start taking online classes in high school and go to college summer school. Get your college degree a couple of years sooner and do it in a subject that has real market value. Or go for training and certifications in health care specialties that pay much better than the average 4 year degree. Search engines are your friends. Use them to find out what pays well. Then find something useful to learn.

I also think the value of internships, while rarely mentioned, is very high. For example, more engineering, math, and computer science students ought to apply for summer internships. Lots of companies will, given the chance to "try before you buy", take a student from a less prestigious school. The risks of the less prestigious degree are lowered when the student can get assessed over a few summer months. Plus, if you major in something useful you'll even get chosen for the internship over a Yale art history major or Princeton anthropology major. The companies need real work done.

The elite American colleges are increasingly like elite American international corporations. They are less about America or citizens and more about what helps their institutions compete globally. It is time to acknowledge the disconnect. For the vast majority of people reading these lines the elite schools are irrelevant. Find another path.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 29 11:55 PM 
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The Amazing Gap Between Coach And First Class Fares

Over a factor of 11 on some routes.

The cheapest Virgin ticket from Heathrow to New York, departing tomorrow and returning a week later, is £462 in economy but £5,400 in business – more than 11 times as much.

Think about this business model. It amazes me that it has been unchallenged for so long. Picture smaller aircraft with just business and first class passengers. Can this be made to work on the busiest routes? Surely the London-NYC route has a lot of first class passengers. Imagine they could avoid the long security lines and busy terminals and even take off closer to home in a smaller airport in New Jersey or Connecticut.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 29 09:04 PM 
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2013 April 28 Sunday
Sequestration Cuts Section 8 Housing Vouchers

Josh Barro of Bloomberg News is unhappy that Congress took the time to pass a special bill to get all the air traffic controllers working during the sequestration budget cuts. His complaint: Congress hasn't shown the same attention to assuring the continuation of welfare state benefits for poor people.

Meanwhile sequestration is forcing an 11 percent reduction in benefits to approximately 1.8 million long-term unemployed Americans. It has also led state and local housing agencies to stop issuing Section 8 housing vouchers to families on waiting lists. Congress has not rushed to fix those problems.

Defect or feature? A search on "section 8 housing ruining neighborhoods" turns up a number of pages that Josh Barro ought to read.

The problems with the welfare state:

  • We are taxed to pay for it.
  • The size of the parasite class is growing.
  • The welfare state tries to impose the parasites upon us in our own neighborhoods

If Leviathan just wanted to take a slice of our income for bread and circuses and if the slice would not grow the damage would at least be limited to the slice of one's income. But the people who justify Leviathan insist upon messing up our lives too. Ruined schools. Ruined neighborhood parks. More crime. More dysfunction. I'm opposed.

James Bovard provides lots of section 8 crime disaster locations.

But the dispersal of public housing residents to quieter neighborhoods has failed to weed out the criminal element that made life miserable for most residents of the projects. "Homicide was simply moved to a new location, not eliminated," concluded University of Louisville criminologist Geetha Suresh in a 2009 article in Homicide Studies. In Louisville, Memphis, and other cities, violent crime skyrocketed in neighborhoods where Section 8 recipients resettled.

Read the whole thing. If you want to help the non-dangerous poor how to do that without bringing criminals along with them?

By Randall Parker 2013 April 28 06:03 PM 
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2013 April 27 Saturday
After 100 Years Greece To Lay Off Some Government Employees

It takes a 5 year economic depression, debt default, and 27% unemployment before government employees feel the pain. Greece starts firing civil servants for first time in a century

The first two civil servants were let go on Wednesday under a new law that speeds up the process – one, a policeman, for stealing debit cards, and the other for 110 days of unexcused absence.

The parasite class is much bigger in Belgium and France.

According to ECB statistics from 2011, Greece employed 29 percent of its labor force in the public sector – smaller than Belgium's 38 percent and France's 31 percent during the same period.

So a criminal cop can survive in his job for years through a financial crisis that has many Greek school children going hungry. Government as parasite.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 27 11:31 AM 
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North Korea A Little Less Poor

Pyongyang: Partying like its 1970s Moscow?

The huge avenues of the North Korean capital, once empty, are now reminiscent of 1970s Moscow: Traffic is not too heavy, but clearly present. In older parts of the city, where streets are not that wide, one can occasionally even encounter traffic jams. Visitors and richer Pyongyangites alike can feast in posh restaurants. Gone are the days when a bottle of cheap Chinese shampoo was seen as a great luxury; nowadays one can easily buy Chanel in a Pyongyang boutique.

Is the height gap between south (taller) and north (shorter) Koreas partially closing? How much of the elite can feed their children well? For the latest generation how big of gap between actual and potential intelligence is caused by malnutrition?

The survival of the North Korean regime depends on mass ignorance about the rest of the world.

On balance, though, the fate of communist regimes was sealed by their economic inefficiency, not their political repressiveness. In order to become a political factor, this economic inefficiency first had to be recognized by the majority of the population. Had the Soviet leadership been willing and able to maintain a North Korean level of isolation and repressiveness, the Soviet Union might still be in existence today.

Got any clever ideas on how to get the news of the rest of the world thru to the North Koreans?

By Randall Parker 2013 April 27 11:25 AM 
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Paraguay Grows At 13% This Year, Little Impact On Poor

Land owners need robotic laborers more than human laborers.

“Nearly all of the growth is driven by highly mechanized agriculture, which generates few jobs for the population,” said Andrew Dickson, an expert on Paraguay’s development policies at the University of Birmingham in Britain. “With a government that finances itself largely through value-added taxes and taxes on imports, you have a situation rather like a low-income African country.”

We are witnessing a big historical turn: the fate of the lower classes is decoupling from the fate of the upper classes. Low skilled people provide no advantage over machines. The era of Zero Marginal Product workers has arrived. The extent of this problem is being partially hidden in the United States by putting people into welfare programs which are mislabeled. Our welfare state for working age people is bigger than it looks.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 27 11:10 AM 
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Gang Of 8 Immigration Bill Assumes Big Labor Shortage

In a nation where folks with less than a college education are doing much worse and where median income peaked in 1999 it is no surprise that our enemy elites are pretending that labor costs are too high.

Number One: Every part of the bill was written as though America is facing a severe labor shortage crisis. The Senate Judiciary Hearing on Monday featured one industry spokesperson after another who testified that Americans from high-school drop outs to the laid off engineer were either too lazy or too uneducated to fill U.S. labor needs at the wages being offered. The only guarantees in the bill concern large increases in the pool of available foreign workers, including millions of illegal workers who receive amnesty.

The US labor market participation rate has declined back to the level it was in 1979. Millions of people have given up trying to find a job. The Gang of Eight have begun getting some resistance from blacks on this score.

The key for the Gang of Eight may be to make these millions of unemployed Americans disappear from the national consciousness long enough to pass their bill. They do face some hurdles. The African American Leadership Council hosted a press conference Wednesday morning to announce their opposition to the Senate bill on the grounds of economic justice for American workers. Peter Kirsanow, U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner and labor lawyer, also testified (on his own behalf) as to the giant pool of available American labor in the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing last Friday.

Given what immigration has done to make the plight of black men far worse their resistance is understandable.

Adding insult and injury to injury illegals who work under the table will not be expected to pay back taxes if they get amnesty.

In other words, illegal aliens that have filed a tax return and owe taxes to the federal government will have to pay those taxes before they can receive amnesty. But for illegal aliens that have worked and never filed a tax return, including those that have worked illegally and were paid under the table, will not have to pay any taxes before receiving amnesty.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 27 10:41 AM 
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Gang Of 8 Immigration Law Against Popular Opinion

Immigration is one of the policy issues where elite and popular opinion diverge most dramatically. Americans want less immigration, not more: POLL: 55% of Americans Support Lower Immigration Levels; Gang of 8 Plan Would Double Legal Immigration.

Immigration does not raise average living standards for people who are already here. We aren't getting improvements due to economies of scale. The economies of scale today happen by moving factories to China, probably next, south Asia. Other economies of scale happen by writing software that runs in many data centers around the world.

The American people are correct to favor less immigration. Americans do not get a personal benefit from a larger internal market due to more population. Rather, they get costs due to more people needing to use the same land. Due to immigration-driven population growth America will go from a food-exporting nation to a food-importing nation and Americans will pay much more for food as a result.

David Pimentel & Mario Giampietro - At the present growth rate of 1.1% per year, the U.S. population will double to more than half a billion people within the next 60 years. It is estimated that approximately one acre of land is lost due to urbanization and highway construction alone for every person added to the U.S. population.

This means that only 0.6 acres of farmland would be available to grow food for each American in 2050, as opposed to the 1.8 acres per capita available today. At least 1.2 acres per person is required in order to maintain current American dietary standards. Food prices are projected to increase 3 to 5-fold within this period.

Want to eat? Like the healthier, but more expensive, vegetables and fruits? Favor a 90+% reduction in legal immigration and deportation of all illegals.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 27 09:25 AM 
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2013 April 25 Thursday
The Freedom Manifest Destiny Delusion

The reasoning that has brought us Team America: World Police.

George W. Bush was emotional: "In the end, leaders are defined by the convictions they hold. . . . My deepest conviction . . . is that the United States of America must strive to expand the reach of freedom. I believe that freedom is a gift from God and the hope of every human heart."

Do terrorists want everyone to be free? Rapists? Murderers? Wife and child beaters? How about Bernie Madoff? Joseph Stalin or Adolf Hitler or Mao Tse-Tung? Or the people in France who voted into office a government that has imposed a 75% top tax bracket?

Today delusions are celebrated. A defining characteristic of the current era: People put on airs of being morally superior by denying human nature. Support an unachievable vision of humanity to demonstrate your high mindedness.

What is the mechanism that is causing this to happen? Do people want to be flattered by someone who tells them how pretty lies about their potential? Why is it that we live in a society whose elites outwardly embrace a secular mythology of humanity?

By Randall Parker 2013 April 25 10:14 PM 
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2013 April 23 Tuesday
Republicans For Immigration Amnesty Committing Political Suicide

4 Republicans are in the Senate gang of 8 for immigration amnesty. If the Republicans succeed the Republican voters won't need to feel any more future responsibility for the direction of the government since they'll lose most elections. Immigration amnesty means the death of the Republican Party. Like in California.

The immigration proposal pending in Congress would transform the nation’s political landscape for a generation or more — pumping as many as 11 million new Hispanic voters into the electorate a decade from now in ways that, if current trends hold, would produce an electoral bonanza for Democrats and cripple Republican prospects in many states they now win easily.

America will effectively become a one party system, just like China. How cool is that?

The victory of the Democrats will be harmful to their lower class voters who will suffer from more competition in the labor market. Plus, the government with less money to hand out per poor person.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 23 10:15 PM 
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Need A New Housing Bubble And Stock Bear Market?

If you aren't in the top 7% your net worth

During the first two years of the nation’s economic recovery, the mean net worth of households in the upper 7% of the wealth distribution rose by an estimated 28%, while the mean net worth of households in the lower 93% dropped by 4%, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly released Census Bureau data.

From 2009 to 2011, the mean wealth of the 8 million households in the more affluent group rose to an estimated $3,173,895 from an estimated $2,476,244, while the mean wealth of the 111 million households in the less affluent group fell to an estimated $133,817 from an estimated $139,896

Fretting about your net worth? You might just need a need a new housing bubble and a bear market on Wall Street.

These wide variances were driven by the fact that the stock and bond market rallied during the 2009 to 2011 period while the housing market remained flat.

Affluent households typically have their assets concentrated in stocks and other financial holdings, while less affluent households typically have their wealth more heavily concentrated in the value of their home.

A large fraction of the non-wealthy people foolishly sell out of the market after a big downturn. Then they do not start buying back in until the recovery is well under way. This means the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

The Census Bureau data also indicate that among less affluent households, fewer directly owned stocks and mutual fund shares in 2011 (13%) than in 2009 (16%), meaning a smaller share enjoyed the fruits of the stock market rally. Likewise, fewer had individual retirement accounts (IRAs) or Keogh accounts (22% in 2011 versus 24% in 2009) and the same share had 401(k) or Thrift Savings Plan accounts (39% in both years).

I will give you my standard advice: try harder. Learn more skills. Move to where you can get paid more and have better career advance prospects. The post-WWII period where the broad public experienced rising living standards ended years ago and we live in a new era. Raise your game.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 23 10:01 PM 
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2013 April 21 Sunday
What Immigration Has Done To Black Men

Barack Obama is for immigration amnesty that will flood the US labor market with immigrants who will displace black men from jobs and send more of them on a course toward crime and jail. In a nation where 2010 research paper by labor economists George Borjas, Jeffrey Grogger, and Gordon Hanson laid out the gruesome picture of how immigration has contributed to the decline in black male labor market participation.

The employment rate of black men, and particularly of low-skilled black men, fell precipitously between 1960 and 2000. At the same time, their incarceration rate rose. This paper examines the relation between immigration and these trends in employment and incarceration. Using data from the 1960–2000 US censuses, we find that a 10% immigration-induced increase in the supply of workers in a particular skill group reduced the black wage of that group by 2.5%, lowered the employment rate by 5.9 percentage points, and increased the incarceration rate by 1.3 percentage points.

Yet the Congressional Black Caucus isn't united in denouncing the Gang Of 8's immigration amnesty plan. Go figure.

Less than 4 tenths of black male high school drop-outs work. What do they live on? So for every 4 black high school drop-outs that work another one is in jail and what are the other 5 doing? And why do our liberals pretend to care about blacks while favoring policies that displace blacks from the job market?

The employment rate of African-American men‐defined as the fraction of weeks worked during a calendar year by the typical black male‐fell from 73.2% in 1960 to 64.3% in 2000.1 This drop stands in sharp contrast to the slight decline observed among white men during that period, from 85.4% to 83.7%. The racial employment gap widened even more for low-skilled persons: the employment rate of black high school dropouts fell by over 30 percentage points, from 71.3% to 39.1%, as compared to a 20- percentage-point drop for white high school dropouts, from 80.8% to 60.5%.

The future is bleak for people who can't manage to graduate from high school.

What are these guys going to do in their old age? They won't even have a work history by which they can qualify for Social Security. What happens to them? Anyone know?

As my grandmother used to say, "Idle hands are the devil's workshop".

The decline in labour market participation among black men was accompanied by a rapid increase in the number of black men in correctional institutions. As recently as 1980, 3.8% of black men (and 5.6% of black high school dropouts) were incarcerated. By 2000, 9.8% of black men (and 21.2% of black high school dropouts) were incarcerated.

The US labor force participation rate has declined all the way back to the level it was in 1979. Still headed downward. In such conditions we should not allow unskilled immigration at all. Even low to moderate skilled immigration should be ended.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 21 08:56 PM 
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2013 April 20 Saturday
FBI Interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev Due To Web Site Visits

This guy with a green card (i.e. not a citizen and therefore easier to deport) was obviously suspected by the FBI of having jihadist leanings.

The boys' father, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, said he was present when the FBI interviewed Tamerlan in Cambridge. He said they visited for what they called "prevention" activities. "They said: We know what sites you are on, we know where you are calling, we know everything about you. Everything," Mr. Tsarnaev said.

One wonders how much "prevention" activities the FBI engages in. If the number of Muslim immigrants keeps rising will we need to expand the FBI staff size to provide enough agents to do more "prevention" activities?

The NY Times has an article about confused identities and conflicting loyalties: Suspects With Foot in 2 Worlds, Perhaps Echoing Plots of Past. Hey, why don't we have emigration officials who help such conflicted people move to where both their feet will be in the same civilization?

By Randall Parker 2013 April 20 09:35 PM 
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United States Well Past Peak Oil Demand

Peak oil comes from high production costs and high prices. Already world oil prices are high enough to have caused US oil usage to peak back in Q1 2007 (over 6 years ago) and we are well below peak. Check out the charts and text at Mish Shedlock's blog.

Total distillates usage is at a level seen in 1998, and not much higher than 1996.

Gasoline usage is at a 2002 level. The drop from the peak year of 2007 is now 8.3%, quite dramatic.

Per capita declines are even greater since the US population is growing at almost 1% per year. So throw on another 6% per capita decline.

US median houshold income is 8% lower than 2007 peak. We can't have rising living standards when we are being priced out of oil usage by rising Asian demand and rising costs of oil extraction.

Stocks surpassed the nominal record set in 2007, while the last recorded real median US household income was 8% lower than its 2007 peak.

At most income percentiles incomes are down. Many Americans are partying like its 1995.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 20 07:24 PM 
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We Could Have Prevented The Boston Bombing

We could have kept Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from immigrating in 2002.

The brothers who are alleged to have planted bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday reached the United States in 2002 after their ethnic Chechen family fled the Caucasus. They had been living in the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan and were prevented from resettling in war-racked Chechnya.

Unsurprisingly, CNN already has an article entitled Don't blame immigration for Boston bombings. Er, if they hadn't immigrated here they wouldn't have been here to blow up Americans. One of the Muslim immigrant brothers was a naturalized citizen and the other had a green card.

Look at 9/11 and the attacks that preceded and followed it. The implications for public safety of where Osama Bin Laden's followers were from (primarily Saudi Arabia and Yemen with the rest from other Muslim countries) had minimal impact on visa and immigration policy. The US government is still letting in Yemenis, Pakstanis, Saudis.

analysis by NBC News, Yemeni students received 279 visas in 2010, compared with 376 in 2001. Visas granted to Pakistani students dropped from 3,880 in 2001 to 1,093, a 72 percent decline. As for Saudi Arabia, student visas increased, but overall non-immigration visas declined.>

Our liberal elites have fundamental tenets of belief that caused them to resist learning too much from 9/11 and other events associated with it. They did not want to change any fundamental doctrines in their secular religion. Full learning would require abandonment of some of those doctrines. So they can not learn very much. Our elites ignore the fundamentalist Salafi Islam exported by our "ally" Saudi Arabia.

The Boston marathon bombing is a much smaller incident. In light of the resistance to 9/11 learning it seems highly unlikely our elites will accept any fundamental lessons from this latest tragedy. They've got too much invested in diversity and liberal manifest destiny.

We do not need more immigrations whose religion is incompatible with our values. We do not need more poor people.

“Low-skilled Americans are a significant part of that economy,” said Mr. Kirsanow, a former labor lawyer appointed to the National Labor Relations Board by President George W. Bush. “And I think they're being completely excluded from this discussion."

Others argue that immigration is great for the economy. But it is bad for per capita income. What about the existing populace?

Matthew Yglesias makes a ridiculous argument: "Limiting the number of immigrants encourages human smuggling, which makes it easier for bad guys to enter." The Boston bombers were here legally. There is an obvious alternative: Make both legal and illegal immigration far more difficult. There is no way an immigration screen for intensity of Islamic belief could have caught these guys. Their history suggests any screen against fundamentalists would have missed them at their time of entry.

I believe we should not have any risk of death from terrorists or drug gangs or street thugs.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 20 06:05 PM 
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2013 April 17 Wednesday
Assad Warns West On Islamic Revolutionaries

Embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad tells the West we'll be sorry for helping Islamic fundamentalists come to power in the Middle East.

"The West has paid heavily for funding al Qaeda in its early stages. Today it is doing the same in Syria, Libya and other places, and will pay a heavy price in the heart of Europe and the United States," he said, according to a CNN translation.

But will our elites admit to the heavy price? I don't think so. We pay lots of unadmitted prices and the list is growing.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 17 10:37 PM 
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Hungry Children In Greece

One argument for immigration is to help the immigrants. Well, why allow immigrants from obese Mexico when children in Greece are going hungry.

Now, several of Evangelia’s classmates are frequently hungry, she said, and one boy recently fainted. Some children were starting to steal for food, she added. While she did not excuse it, she understood their plight. “Those who are well fed will never understand those who are not,” she said.

The unemployment rate in Greece is now 27%

What the Greek government ought to do: cut old age pensions and government employee salaries and use the money to run soup kitchens for the poor.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 17 08:56 PM 
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2013 April 16 Tuesday
Obamacare Causing Shift To Part Time Work

Hiring low-skilled and low-paid people into full time jobs is getting too expensive as a result of Obamacare. Effectively Obama has raised the minimum wage. Bravo. This will deliver many benefits. Latest example: Regal Entertainment Group, operator of over 500 movie theaters, is cutting employee work hours down to 30 hours per week to avoid Obamacare mandates for employer-provided health insurance. Obama can help this process along. How? Help low wage people who are trying to unionize workplaces.

If I was down at the bottom of the wage scale I'd be desperate to work as much as I can and to move up. The least skilled ought to work 2 jobs (assuming they can find the jobs). Key to doing that: long shifts. Longer hours per day would make it easier to work at different jobs on different days. Less chance of a conflict. 10 hours per day at one job 3 days a week would leave 4 other days in which to get the additional hours.

How can businesses avoid Obamacare? Stay small. Outsource. Dump your least profitable customers and the staff that serves them. Automate.

Some restaurants have small staffs and therefore can avoid the Obamacare mandate. But bigger franchises of fast food companies can't dodge so easily. What can they do? One legal strategy: Break up their big franchises into multiple corporations. Own multiple Subway stores? Own them as separate companies. Also, create a supply company that comes in and does food prep or cleaning.

The best solution: automate. The big fast food chains need to invest in development of automation techniques. Plenty of methods to automate food prep already exist. Momentum Machines has an automated burger-making machine. Japanese firm Kura has automated sushi restaurants in Japan. Kura uses video cameras to allow managers at central locations to monitor conditions in many stores. Wal-Mart should as well. Even easier: get rid of the human at the cash register. Let people order and pay with an ordering panel and slot to slide an ATM or credit card. Also, develop food items that take less effort to cook and shops that take less effort to clean.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 16 09:54 PM 
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2013 April 15 Monday
College Admissions Rates And Sucker Applicants

17,441 sucker applicants helped MIT to lower its undergrad acceptance rate to just 8.15%.

MIT just admitted 1,548 applicants from a pool of 18,989. That’s a rate of about 8 percent, one of the lowest in the nation.

Think about it: Most of those applicants didn't stand a chance. They wasted their time and money to help give MIT a low acceptance rate so MIT can brag about their highly selective admissions. Boosts MIT's status. But costs the losers who should have invested their efforts on attainable educational goals.

What's much worse than getting suckered into spending time and money on a futile college application? Getting suckered into spending a couple hundred thousand dollars for a faux elite college degree (great Washington Monthly piece "The Prestige Racket" about George Washington University by Daniel Luzer).

Note to George Washington University administrators: Since you are hitting against the Washington DC government limit on how many students can enroll you've got an interesting opportunity to work around that limit: get more students on 3 year plans with 12 month per year education. You can generate more money per year from rich kids for expensive dorm rooms and student centers and pump out more alumni who you can later solicit for donations. It would also make sense to accept students at the ends of their high school junior years for summer enrollments after junior and senior years before they start the regular freshman fall classes. Make money from them sooner. The kids would already pay you big bucks before their first fall enrollment and you could get them thru in 3 years of regular semesters with much more revenue per year.

Note to high school students and adults: Coursera, Udacity, Edx, the Khan Academy, Western Governors University, and many other online education programs offer you alternatives that are cheaper, far more flexible, and richer in the number of choices.

Note to adult taxpayers for local schools: you are also being suckered into believing in the efficacy of high dollars per local school student. Education is a really big racket.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 15 11:22 PM 
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2013 April 13 Saturday
Will Modernity Win Against Selective Pressures It Has Unleashed?

In his book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined Steven Pinker highlights the rise of the forces of modernity.

How, in particular, are we to make sense of modernity‐of the erosion of family, tribe, tradition, and religion by the forces of individualism, cosmopolitanism, reason, and science?

My concern: countervailing forces are building. Selective pressures produced humans capable of creating modernity. But modernity creates new selective pressures that create larger populations that are immune to modernity and characterized by high fertility and in some cases higher clannishness. If the forces of modernity can not cause fertility to sharply drop in high total fertility regions and Western subpopulations then individualism, cosmopolitanism, reason, and science will lose.

The rise of the nuclear family (and corresponding decline of clans) was a key development enabling the rise of modernity. Clans allowed into Western societies undermine those societies. Unless the forces of modernity undermine consanguineous (cousin) marriage where it is prevalent tribalism isn't going to die and it might even increase due to higher fertility rates among the cousin marriers.

My guess is that the nuclear family with two parents is the ideal family structure for a Western society. However, less intelligent women are having more kids outside of marriage than more intelligent women are having inside marriage. That is one of many forces at work against modernity.

Many of the features of modern society are epiphenomenal, the result of other attributes of modernity. If people lacking strong support for individualism and reason can survive and grow in modern societies then many core features of modernity will be lost in time.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 13 12:39 PM 
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2013 April 11 Thursday
Cyprus Bank Failure Costs Soar

The Euzo zone is a continuing source of amazement. Will the pain of bank failures force Cyprus out of the Euro?

The cost of the rescue has risen to 23bn euros ($30bn; £19.5bn) from 17.5bn euros, according to Cyprus' creditors.

More than one year's GDP. But since the Cyprus GDP is contracting and might go down by another 10% or even 20% the bail-out costs will rise even as the government becomes less able to come up with the money.

I have read that Cyprus banks were pressured by the Euro government into buying Greek government debt. Then the Euros decided that Greece could default on most of that debt, driving Cyprus banks into insolvency. Charles Hugh Smith argues the Cyprus financial collapse was delayed a year to give northern European banks time to get their money out. Basically, the Greek default immediately meant that Cyprus was doomed. So why wasn't the Cyprus crisis made to reach a climax sooner? Was it delayed by the most well connected for their benefit?

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard says talk of Cyprus as a Russian money laundering center has been exaggerated.

The EU authorities have gone to great lengths to insist that Cyprus is a “special case”, but I fail to see what is special about it. There is far more Russian money – laundered or otherwise – in the Netherlands. The banking centres of Ireland and Malta are just as large as a share of GDP. Luxembourg’s banking centre is at least four times more leveraged to the economy.

You can find a graph of GDP growth/shrinkage for Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Slovenia since 2006. The Greek economy is in its 5th year of shrinkage. The Portuguese economy had a slightly up year in 2010 but has otherwise been shrinking since 2008. Its budget deficit is growing. Meanwhile, Greek unemployment has hit 27.2%. The Euro zone has been a disaster for southern Europe.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 11 11:18 PM 
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2013 April 10 Wednesday
A Successful Preschool Initiative?

Education Realist takes a hard look at the supposedly successful Perry preschool intervention project.

So all those people tweeting and posting excitedly about the pre-school initiative—this is what they’re worked up about? “Hey, if we take really incredibly at-risk kids and spend billions on them in pre-school and manage to replicate the very best outcome we’ve ever managed, only 1 in 3 of them will be arrested five times by their 40th birthday, instead of 1 in 2!”

That’s the gold standard, the “good news” in preschool programs: the achievement gap moves barely a nudge, measured cognitive ability goes up a tad, and the jail gap isn’t quite as spectacularly awful. Pick your own personal favorite preschool research and you’ll still get the same results: not anything to complain about, but the subjects are still much more similar to the control group than to any middle-class norms.

Sigh. Read the whole thing if it is a subject that interests you. I already know a lot of the evidence. So no surprises for me. That there are academics who will deny the obvious? Again, no surprises for me. It is one of the subjects that make me sad. So I limit the amount of time I spend thinking about it.

I look forward to the day when offspring genetic engineering becomes possible. Surely we need it. Though I expect it to widen the cognitive gaps between economic classes as the smartest and most successful most aggressively embrace the creation of smarter and more motivated babies and the lower classes take less interest what will become possible.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 10 10:37 PM 
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2013 April 07 Sunday
Ross Douthat: How Elites Perpetuate Existing Upper Class

Harvard, Yale, Princeton. Ross Douthat takes a look at what elites in America do to perpetuate the status of their families across generations.

Every elite seeks its own perpetuation, of course, but that project is uniquely difficult in a society that’s formally democratic and egalitarian and colorblind. And it’s even more difficult for an elite that prides itself on its progressive politics, its social conscience, its enlightened distance from hierarchies of blood and birth and breeding.

Thus the importance, in the modern meritocratic culture, of the unacknowledged mechanisms that preserve privilege, reward the inside game, and ensure that the advantages enjoyed in one generation can be passed safely onward to the next.

Go read the whole thing. Ross makes some excellent observations.

But, in spite of their efforts, the elites face a really big obstacle in passing along their status to their offspring: IQ regression to the mean. Sure, they can pay for private school. But that won't make the kids smarter. A 140 IQ doctor or CEO with a 115 IQ kid still has a 115 IQ kid no matter how much money he spends on the kid. Buying your less than super-bright kid a place in the Ivy costs in the millions of dollars. It probably makes more sense to just put that money in a trust for the kid.

Granted, a hugely disproportionate fraction of all ultra high net worth individuals (UHNWI) have attended a small number of colleges at some point in their education (elite biz schools being key I suspect). But the ultra high net worth individuals represent a very small fraction of all the kids who go Ivy and Stanford.

Regression to the mean will not last as an obstacle to elite propagation. The genetic variants for high IQ, drive and other attributes needed for success will be known in detail in 10 years max. The cost of DNA sequencing has fallen so far so fast that we are going to witness a flood of discoveries about gees put into passing their status along to their children. The amount of money and effort to choose ideal embryos for implantation is very small compared to all the effort the upper classes currently put into giving their kids advantages. A 10 or 15 IQ point offspring IQ boost via pre-implantation genetic testing and embryo selection will do far more than private schools, tutors, structured play, violin lessons, and Mandarin-speaking nannies.

My expectation is that the upper classes will most aggressively embrace assisted reproduction technologies that enable the making of higher performing babies. The Dunning-Kruger Effect will prevent the lower classes from realizing how much more they need to boost the IQs of their offspring. Ambitious secular smarties will jump on embryo selection. Plus, I also expect Mormons and upper class Protestants (e.g. Episcopals and Presbyterians) to have fewer moral qualms. My guess is that fewer Christian fundamentalist opposition to abortion will embrace biotech for baby making.

But stepping back to the here and now: My main reaction to elite college discussions: The vast majority of bright kids can't go Ivy League, Stanford, CalTech, MIT or the near runners-up. These IQ signals and status signals aren't available. The elite schools are irrelevant for the vast majority of bright kids. Most bright kids need another plan.

Ross's article was occasioned by Princeton alumnus Susan Patton's letter to Princeton women encouraging them to try to land a Princeton husband because the supply of quality smart men is very limited and they have lots of choices. Her letter is practical, sound advice that flies in the face of really foolish advice from the likes of Hanna Rosin that hook-up culture represents progress for women. For any woman that wants to have kids throwing away their prettiest years on hypergamous hook-ups with guys out of their league means they hit their 30s with rapidly cooking eggs, fading looks, and no longer competitive for the smart guys who they once could have gotten to marry them. I hear Shirley Manson singing Stupid Girl: "All you had you wasted"

By Randall Parker 2013 April 07 10:26 PM 
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Automated Essay Grading To Cut Demand For Professors

John Markoff has a piece in the New York Times about software that grades papers: Essay-Grading Software Offers Professors a Break. Click thru and read the details.

This software will only make jobs of professors easier during a transition period until fewer people are professors. The long term effect essay grading software and other automated test software will be to cut the demand for assistant, associate, and full professors. The academic job prospects for Ph.D.s are already very bleak. And get college students are deluded about their prospects. People need to get real about academia: creative destruction is building and will do to academia what it has done to countless other industries. Online education is booming and will continue its rapid growth.

Aim to get trained in an occupation that pays well and that will last thru the next wave of automation. engineering and software development are way better than science and the humanities. Get out of a declining industry if you are in one.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 07 10:14 PM 
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Unsurprising Attacks Against Coptic Christians In Egypt

A Reuters article by Tom Perry is entitlted Egyptian laws, arrests worry liberals and the West. The first sentence: "The Arab Spring was supposed to bring freedom to Egypt." Supposed by who? Seriously, Western liberal values are not universal values of all of humanity. Egyptian popular views about apostasy from Islam (in short: kill the apostates) demonstrate this. The Egyptian Muslim attacks on Coptic Christians are unsurprising (to a realist) once the fall of a dictatorship removes the state as a force suppressing the hardest core Muslims. Egyptian government obstacles to Christian Church construction even existed under Hosni Mubarak since "moderate" and hard core Muslims differ in their discrimination against Christians only by a matter of degree.

The Egyptian police are not defending Christians.

Thousands of mourners were attacked as they tried to leave Egypt's largest cathedral, forcing them back inside the cathedral precinct and sparking a siege that lasted all afternoon and stretched into the night. Police fired teargas over the cathedral walls and stood by as unknown men armed with birdshot, knives and petrol bombs scaled nearby buildings to attack those inside the church grounds.

Even supposedly moderate Turkey the democratically elected government now jails lots of journalists. The numbers jailed will drop once the remaining journalists learn to censor themselves.

Has any lesson been learned here? Not by America's elites, certainly. The US government would still like to overthrow Assad regime in Syria even though a victory for rebel forces will probably usher in a Sunni fundamentalist government.

Democracy is not a panacea. Most people of the world do not secretly want to be Western secular left-liberals.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 07 09:49 PM 
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2013 April 06 Saturday
Illegitimate Birth Rates By Race

Someone recently asked in comments about illegitimate birth rates by race. Seems like worthy of above-the-fold treatment. Here's a CDC report that breaks down unmarried child bearing (they no longer refer to these births as illegitimate). Contrary to some conservative delusions over half of Hispanic births are illegitimate:

In 2010, 40.8 percent of all birthswere to unmarried women. This level compares with 33.2 percent in 2000 and 18.4 percent in 1980 (Table C). Within age groups, 88 percent of births to teenagers and 63 percent of births to women aged 20–24 were nonmarital. One in five births to women aged 30 and over were to unmarried women. The proportions of nonmarital births vary widely among population sub­ groups. In 2010, these proportions were 17 percent for API, 29 percent for non-Hispanic white, 53 percent for Hispanic, 66 percent for AIAN, and 73 percent for non-Hispanic black births.

The disincentives from moral disapproval for babies outside of marriage have fallen away. The Associated Press advises journalists against using the term "illegitimate child". We are not supposed to pass judgment on the decline in civilization.

There is a long term accumulating cost due to our loss of the benefits of the Malthusian Trap. What are we supposed to do with our growing lower class as they become unemployable? It is already happening. The labor market participation rate has dropped all the way back to 1979. Given the rise of women in the workforce since 1979 to get back to 1979 overall means a lot of men are no longer working.

The low labor market participation rate makes the unemployment rate look much lower than it really is. Even the official unemployment rates bode poorly given America's changing racial demographics:

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (6.9 percent), adult women (7.0 percent), teenagers (24.2 percent), whites (6.7 percent), blacks (13.3 percent), and Hispanics (9.2 percent) showed little or no change in March. The jobless rate for Asians was 5.0 percent (not seasonally adjusted), little changed from a year earlier. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)

Read this Barron's article. America's real unemployment rate is about 4Z% higher.

Had labor-force participation rates remained around the 66% level that had prevailed before the 2007-2009 recession, the unemployment rate would be about four percentage points higher, in the mid-11% range, writes Joshua Shapiro, chief economist for MFR.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 06 11:26 AM 
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The First Hour Of A War With North Korea

North Korea's big negotiating lever: The ability to kill lots of South Koreans on the first day of battle.

The North can fire 500,000 rounds of artillery on Seoul in the first hour of a conflict. Stability has held for 60 years because the U.S. security alliances with South Korea and Japan make it clear to the North Korean leadership that if they attacked South Korea or Japan, they would lose both the war and their country.

Could the United States or South Korea come up with technologies to suppress North Korean artillery in minutes? Such a capability would deprive the North Koreans of one of their big cards.

Pat Buchanan says the United States should withdraw its soldiers from South Korea and let the very affluent South Koreans pay for their own defense. I'm with Pat on that. But US military policy is not aimed maximizing taxpayer ROI per dollar spent.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 06 12:06 AM 
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2013 April 05 Friday
Grad School In Literature Is Worse Than A Waste Of Time

Says Rebecca Schuman: Getting a literature Ph.D. will turn you into an emotional trainwreck, not a professor.

No, I now realize graduate school was a terrible idea because the full-time, tenure-track literature professorship is extinct. After four years of trying, I’ve finally gotten it through my thick head that I will not get a job—and if you go to graduate school, neither will you.

The bit about the death of tenure-track literature professorships is good news. Rebecca, and many others like her, will have higher odds of doing something more productive. But they still wasted years of their lives in grad school. Granted, this isn't as consequential as wasted years in science grad school and as postdocs since the latter folks have more of the mental abilities needed to do engineering.

What's sad about literature in particular: so many people wanted to be lit profs that they had to create journals to publish in to justify tenure. So lots of stuff gets written into academic journals that should never have been written and that never gets read. What I wonder: Are literature classes less interesting now than 50 years ago because modern literature analysis is no fun and highly politically correct?

What I want to know: Have we reached Peak Professors? When will the total number of college professors begin to shrink? Online education is going to gut higher education.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 05 11:14 PM 
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2013 April 03 Wednesday
Kim Jong-un Approves Nuclear Attack

You probably have pretty strong personal feelings about nuclear combat toe-to-toe with the North Koreans. That's understandable. Kim Jong-un says he's ready to duke it out with us. What do you think? Time to build backyard bomb shelters?

I hope you all own a bottle of iodine tablets to protect your thyroids from iodine-131. I think our leaders are preparing us for the North Korean attack. The threat to ban handguns and semi-automatic rifles was part of a plot to get us prepared. Did it work on you?

By Randall Parker 2013 April 03 10:57 PM 
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Life Of Leisure Grows In Euro Zone

A record 12% unemployment rate demonstrates the success of the Euro project. More time to pursue personal interests. Less job-related stress. Fewer commitments and responsibilities. Plus, Cyprus vacations are going to get really cheap with lots of bank employees in Cyprus available to work as waitresses, hotel maids, taxi drivers, food prep cooks, and tour guides.

Volkswagen demonstrated its support for more leisure time in Germany by announcing that VW will do most of its employment expansion in Asia. Great news. Let the Germans rest and relax. They've worked long enough. American car buyers did the same thing for the city of Detroit by shifting much of their demand toward cars not made in the United States. This freed up Detroit residents to find very creative ways to spend their time such as turning abandoned areas of Detroit into farms. Not a life of leisure. But certainly makes Detroit's economy more diverse.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 03 10:56 PM 
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Poverty Numbers Hit New Records In America

Think the American people are resting on their laurels? That they are too spoiled to take a hard road thru life? Think again. Millions of American people are gallantly creating more poverty.

The U.S. Census Bureau puts the number of Americans in poverty at levels not seen since the mid-1960s when President Lyndon B. Johnson launched the federal government's so-called War on Poverty.

Single women are rising to the challenge, getting themselves knocked up to bravely raise kids in poverty. A hard road to hoe. But that doesn't deter them. Think about the dimmer bulbs with little education, little in the way of skills, little capacity to learn. Are they intimidated by their bleak circumstances? Nope. Millions of American women who find themselves in this situation willingly descend further into a life of poverty by boldly going without birth control, hopping into bed with loser guys, and getting themselves pregnant.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 03 09:56 PM 
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2013 April 02 Tuesday
A Small Fraction Do Most Of The Book Reading

The few of us are propping up civilization.

Or, to put it another way, according to Codex just 19 percent of Americans do 79 percent of all our (non-required) book readin'.

I'm in that 19%. It is a heavy burden. As the population becomes dumber on average I've got to read more so the average level of book learning does not go down. Granted, the median is going to continue to plunge. But us hard core book readers have got to read harder in order to keep up the mean.

BTW, the topic at that link about is how Amazon bought GoodReads. So now I need to find a different independent book review site.

By Randall Parker 2013 April 02 10:44 PM 
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How About Insurance Against Folly?

What do you think of liability insurance for gun owners?

A contingent of liberal Democrats in Congress is proposing a new federal gun control idea: mandatory liability insurance for gun owners.

This is an intriguing idea. What I'd like to see (this is a rough cut first attempt):

  • Make voters buy insurance on who they vote for. Did the guy get thrown in jail for corruption? Insurance pays for the damage. Did he start a war that cost $1 trillion dollars? Again, insurance pays.
  • Mandatory insurance on children paid before birth. Did parents give birth to hell spawn who killed or robbed? Insurance pays. Did their kid become a welfare recipient? A high school drop-out? Insurance pays.
  • Did an employer of illegal aliens enable them to give birth to kids who grow up drop out of high school? Insurance should pay. Any employer should pay insurance if they are employing the foreign born. The insurance companies should be allowed to use any attributes they want to use to measure risk and set rates. Whatever works.
  • Bank CEOs should be required to buy insurance that can pay part of the cost of a federal bail-out.

What sorts of insurance do you think we need to align incentives with responsible behavior?

By Randall Parker 2013 April 02 08:29 PM 
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