Friday, May 21, 2010

Quotes of the day

... if “top-down, disciplined and aggressive national economic development planning” is key to economic success, why did China’s economy begin growing only after great swathes of it were liberalized? If Mr. McGregor’s premise were correct, China under Mao would have been an economic megastar, while the liberalization launched by Deng Xiaoping – which significantly reduced top-down planning as it decentralized economic decision-making throughout China – would have caused that economy to falter and shrink.--Don Boudreaux

... several economists at the International Monetary Fund report estimates of government spending multipliers which are much smaller than those previously reported by the U.S. Administration.--John Taylor

The constitution leaves the scope of judicial power somewhat ambiguous, but also more or less open-ended, presumably on the assumption the Supreme Court’s dependence on executive power and legislative consent would render it (in Alexander Hamilton’s famous phrase) the “least dangerous” of the branches of government. Things haven’t worked out quite as Hamilton anticipated: For the last half century and more, the only real restraint on the Court’s activism has been the prudence of its members.--Ross Douthat

Look, in any area where we let humans do things, every once in a while there will be a big screwup; that is the sort of creatures humans are. And if you won’t decrease regulation without a screwup but will increase it with a screwup, then you have a regulation ratchet: it only moves one way. So if you don’t think a long period without a big disaster calls for weaker regulations, but you do think a particular big disaster calls for stronger regulation, well then you might as well just strengthen regulations lots more right now, even without a disaster. Because that is where your regulation ratchet is heading. What if you can’t imagine ever wanting to weaken a regulation, just because it was strong and you’d gone a long time without a big disaster? Well then you apparently want the maximum possible regulation, which is probably to just basically outlaw that activity. And if that doesn’t seem like the right level of regulation to you, well then maybe you should reconsider your ratchety regulation intuitions.--Robin Hanson

There should be a drop-down option for "Uncertain" in each category.--Ben Casnocha

The free-market response, of course, is that the disaster in Haiti was the result of their relative poverty. Simply put, it's more expensive to construct a building that can withstand an intense earthquake, and so richer countries have the luxury of insisting that their buildings are relatively safe. Imposing US building codes in Haiti wouldn't have saved hundreds of thousands of people; it would simply have made them homeless all these years.-Robert Murphy

Accordingly, each of the texts that I examine betrays an awareness of writing as a spatial activity and space as a scripted category. The critical topographies that these writers created are maps of ideology, figural territories within which social conflict and political antagonism are put into play.--Adam Wheeler

I've read worse. How you react to that description is a Rorschach test of sorts, especially if you are not thinking it is fraudulent. ... Why are none of the sources reporting how well he actually did at Harvard and elsewhere? Isn't that an interesting question? How much would the world differ if Harvard reserved a fifth of its entering class for those individuals who showed the most talent for fraud? I don't mean that question in a cynical light, it is one genuine way of trying to think about how education adds value to labor market outcomes.--Tyler Cowen

I don't envy people who were born into privilege. It's that struggle that makes you who you are.--Jon Favreau

This is the Best of the web.--anoirmarie

A building on 118th Street is one reason that the parents who are Perkins’s constituents know that charter [schools] can work. On one side there’s the Harlem Success Academy, a kindergarten-through-fourth-grade charter with 508 students. On the other side, there’s a regular public school, P.S. 149, with 438 pre-K to 8th-grade students. They are separated only by a fire door in the middle; they share a gym and cafeteria. School reformers would argue that the difference between the two demonstrates what happens when you remove three ingredients from public education — the union, big-system bureaucracy and low expectations for disadvantaged children. ... the best estimate is that it costs at least $19,358 per year to educate each student on the public side of the building, or $980 more than on the charter side. But while the public side spends more, it produces less. P.S. 149 is rated by the city as doing comparatively well in terms of student achievement and has improved since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took over the city’s schools in 2002 and appointed Joel Klein as chancellor. Nonetheless, its students are performing significantly behind the charter kids on the other side of the wall. To take one representative example, 51 percent of the third-grade students in the public school last year were reading at grade level, 49 percent were reading below grade level and none were reading above. In the charter, 72 percent were at grade level, 5 percent were reading below level and 23 percent were reading above level. In math, the charter third graders tied for top performing school in the state, surpassing such high-end public school districts as Scarsdale. Same building. Same community. Sometimes even the same parents. And the classrooms have almost exactly the same number of students. In fact, the charter school averages a student or two more per class. This calculus challenges the teachers unions’ and Perkins’s “resources” argument — that hiring more teachers so that classrooms will be smaller makes the most difference. (That’s also the bedrock of the union refrain that what’s good for teachers — hiring more of them — is always what’s good for the children.) Indeed, the core of the reformers’ argument, and the essence of the Obama approach to the Race to the Top, is that a slew of research over the last decade has discovered that what makes the most difference is the quality of the teachers and the principals who supervise them. Dan Goldhaber, an education researcher at the University of Washington, reported, “The effect of increases in teacher quality swamps the impact of any other educational investment, such as reductions in class size.” This building on 118th Street could be Exhibit A for that conclusion. “I’ve got one child in a charter and have had two in public schools,” says Bernice Wynn, who runs an optician’s shop on Lenox Avenue with her husband, and whose daughter, Tiana, is in the Harlem Success Academy. “There is no comparison. Tiana is in first grade and already reading chapter books and writing stories.”--Steven Brill

Of course the U.F.T.’s collective-bargaining agreements in New York City, as well as union contracts in much of the rest of the state, explicitly prohibit exactly the reforms promised in the application. Changing that is the point of [Arne] Duncan’s contest [Race to the Top]. When I asked [NY Regents chancellor Merryl] Tisch about this, she pointed to another added sentence, in which each school system and the union agree to negotiate any necessary contract changes in “good faith.” That’s the “way we solved that,” she says. “Right,” [Joel] Klein says. “That’s like telling a woman you’ll marry her in the morning.”--Steven Brill

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