Monthly Archives: November 2012

no austrians near fiscal cliffs

The commonplace saying “there are no atheists in foxholes” — while probably technically false — seems apt to describe the so-called “fiscal cliff” situation the United States government finds itself in. Deficit hawks and Austrian economics purists ought to be happy, as the automatic cuts produce the first significant deficit reduction in 12 years and reduce government involvement in the economy more substantially than essentially anything since Bretton Woods.

But, with important exceptions, most commentators agree that the fiscal cliff is likely to lead to major economic problems because of the withdrawal of substantial government money from key economic functions and of tax rates returned to those that existed during the last economic boom. Let’s recognize this for what it is: an admission that government’s involvement in the economy actually does create jobs, Mitt Romney notwithstanding.

the chronicle’s wasted opportunity

The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a reader contest recently, inviting readers to design their ideal college, from the ground up. The results are here (sorry for the paywall).

This could have been a great opportunity to rethink what’s best and worst about current higher education. (In truth, I thought about suggesting a scatterplot combined entry but didn’t get around to it.) It sure didn’t turn out that way! The five finalists include three that are just silly: proposals like “Costco University” in which “delivery” is the final say and there is literally no institutional capacity – everyone does what she can raise money for and nothing more.

Most importantly, though, there’s no real consideration on the synergies involved in the contemporary university: research and teaching, humanities and sciences, basic and applied, undergraduate and graduate, as examples. The proposals are largely about undergraduate education, isolated from all the other functions of the university. And they are focused on the things that make liberal-arts colleges (justifiably) proud: small classes, global focus, broad thought. But even if these are the kinds of things that make all higher education better (I’m not convinced they are) they’re certainly not feasible on the scale of today’s higher education.

in appreciation

Summary from the Daily Beast:

“I’m the guy who has egg all over his face,” Eric Hartsburg tells Politico. “But instead of egg, it’s a big Romney/Ryan tattoo. It’s there for life.” Hartsburg raised $5,000 on eBay for the 5-by-2-inch tat. Now he claims he has no regrets. “I’m hoping this opens some other doors in the entertainment business,” he says.

57 words, I counted. The awesomeness-per-word rate of these five sentences astound me. (Larger story here)

is nate silver’s win sociology’s loss?

There’s a lot of social science triumphalism about the accuracy of Nate Silver’s predictions in the election.  I’m certainly happy.  But, does sociology as a discipline deserve to be gloating?  From where I’m sitting, Nate Silver contradicts at least a couple things many sociology methods teachers have been telling their students for a long time.

Continue reading

poll bias

With all the poll watching that goes on in elections these days, the question of how accurate the polls are has become more interesting (to me at least).  I’ve been informally tracking the question of whether certain polling outfits tend toward liberal or conservative bias for quite some time.  To be clear I’m not accusing any particular polling operation of purposeful bias, but rather just calling into question whether their methods (particularly of sampling, weighting, collecting data, and especially constructing likely-voter models) trend one way or another.  In the case of the battleground areas, at least, that the pollsters–as a group–missed the mark is not a huge surprise, but the consistency in the pattern of that miss Continue reading

kid’s view of the election

When I woke Kid up this morning, his first words to me were “Did Obama get 270?” Then, questions about the popular vote, Ohio, and Florida. I hadn’t really gotten the sense that he was such a political nerd, but now I see the signs were there all along.

Four years ago, I tried to explain to my 4-year-old why I was so excited about Barack Obama becoming president. I did that thing parents do, trying to pack a U.S. History textbook and an Intro to Sociology course in a few sentences targeted to a pre-schooler, and Kid came away from the conversation thinking that Republicans don’t like to share and that they are mean to people with dark skin for no good reason. It was the best I could do. Then we made a cake to celebrate Inauguration Day:

I didn’t know that Kid was paying much attention to the election this year. Continue reading

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