I think the nurses are stealing my clothes

by Harry on November 15, 2006

A tribute to the wonderful, wonderful Linda Smith, by her friends. Here till Friday.

Worker elves

by Henry on November 15, 2006

The Communist Manifesto, a la Disney, Flintstones etc.

Via “BoingBoing”:http://www.boingboing.net

Economics and Ideology

by Henry on November 15, 2006

“Dan Drezner”:http://www.danieldrezner.com/archives/003001.html disagrees with “Chris Hayes”:http://www-news.uchicago.edu/citations/06/061108.sanderson-itt.pdf about whether Econ 101 is a form of right wing indoctrination, saying that his own first micro class waxed rhapsodic about the joys of technocratic intervention, and that he didn’t discover the public choice critique of government until grad school. Now public choice _is_ an unabashedly ideological approach to the world, at least if the co-editor of the flagship journal in the field, Charles Rowley, is to be believed. In his introduction to the Edward Elgar public choice reader, he describes public choice as a “program of scientific endeavor that exposed government failure coupled to a programme of moral philosophy that supported constitutional reform designed to limit government,” and suggests that its opponents are “scholars who had rendered themselves dependent on the subsidies of big government and whose lucrative careers in many instances were linked to advising … agents of the compound republic.”

There is a strong strain in economics more generally that is unabashedly ideological too. Take “this effort”:http://cafehayek.typepad.com/hayek/2006/10/the_society_of_.html to figure out a sort of Nicene creed that would allow ‘real economists’ to profess their faith and thus distinguish themselves from “bluffers”:http://maxspeak.org/mt/archives/002605.html like Kenneth Arrow and Robert Solow. “Real” economists apparently believe that demand curves always slope downwards, even when empirical evidence tells you that they don’t (I’ve always preferred the “Apostles’ Creed”:http://www.thesharpener.net/2006/08/10/mea-culpa/ myself). Now this doesn’t say, _contra_ both some economists and some of their sillier critics, that a commitment to the kinds of models that economists use _necessarily_ makes you predisposed to be right wing (Jack Knight and Jim Johnson, two rational choice lefties, have an interesting forthcoming piece discussing how rhetorical slippage between general equilibrium and partial equilibrium models provides a bogus ideological justification for many pro-market arguments). But it does mean that many people who take economics courses, as they are typically taught in this country, end up coming out of these courses more right wing than they were going in, and perhaps more right wing than the actual theory itself would support, if it were looked at carefully. I think (although I can’t find it using Google, so I may be wrong), that there’s actually empirical evidence supporting the first of these claims – a survey someone did a few years back measuring the political opinions that people had entering graduate programs in economics, and their political opinions after a few semesters of coursework, which found that there was a pronounced and statistically significant shift to the right (if anyone knows where this survey is to be found, feel free to point to it in comments).

Update: I’ve found the survey via Google Scholar, although it isn’t a longitudinal study as I thought it was; the findings are reported in “The Making of an Economist Redux”:http://www.atypon-link.com/AEAP/doi/abs/10.1257/0895330053147976 in the _Journal of Economic Perspectives_.

The large majority of [students surveyed in seven top ranked econ grad programs] (80 percent) felt that their political views did not change in graduate schools, although that changed by year, with 10 percent of first-year students reporting a change in their views, but 32 percent of fourth- and higher-year students reporting a change in their views. In particular, 10 percent of first-year students considered themselves conservative; by the fourth and fifth year, this number had risen to 23 percent. There was also a large drop by year in students who considered themselves radical; that percentage fell from 13 percent of first year students to only 1 percent of fourth-year and higher students.

I recently posted Educational Equality and School Choice (pdf) at the Equality Exchange. The paper is supposed to be an example of the kind of work I called for in my recent article in Education Week, an evaluation of a school reform idea in the light of a theory of values. However, I very explicitly simplify the evaluation so that all I am considering is the likely effects of the wide variety of school choice schemes on educational equality, and not on other values. So it is, at best, a partial analysis. The basic argument is that however you conceive of educational equality, choice is likely to compromise it, but that this is not a sufficient reason to reject choice because the alternative is not a no-choice and egalitarian status quo, but a highly unequal status quo in which choice is realised through the housing market (to an extent which is hard to measure). So we have to look at the varieties of school choice on offer — and I suggest that some of these are likely to be worse, and others better, from the perspective of equality, than the status quo (giving reasons in each case). And, of course, in most English-speaking countries school choice is a fundamental part of the way schooling works, and is not going away any time soon, so I make some suggestions at the end of the paper (which I think I shall beef up a bit in the next version) about how to regulate and reform choice to give it a more egalitarian edge. I’d welcome suggestions for improvements.

Two turntables and a microphone

by John Holbo on November 15, 2006

I’ve been rereading my favorite William Empson book – see this Valve post – and noticed something new. There’s a really lively remembrance of Orwell, “Orwell at the BBC”. (Empson knew him there during the war. They alternated being Burmese desk editors even.) But this isn’t about that. Empson reports what may be the earliest case of ‘scratching‘, in the turntablistic sense. Or ‘hiccing’, as Empson renders it. This would be before ’43:

I chiefly remember two young disc jockeys who put on a very saucy turn with two gramophones and two copies of a record by Churchill; the familiar voice was made to leave out all the negatives, ending with ‘we will (hic) surrender.’

It’s not quite clear how elaborate the performance was – did they have a crossfader? why two copies of the same album? – but taking out the ‘nots’ in Churchill’s speech on a 40’s-era gramophone sounds rather scratchologically deft. Anyway, ’43 was earlier than Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit”, which wikipedia cites as among the earliest examples.

There are some good Orwell anecdotes in the piece. [click to continue…]