The Donald And Trade

Michael Tanner from CATO is on NRO taking The Donald and the Democrats to the woodshed on trade.

There is a good reason for the [Democrat] rhetoric. Several recent studies, from researchers at Harvard, Columbia, the IMF, and two different branches of the Federal Reserve, have all concluded that the tariffs imposed by President Trump on China and others have indeed hurt American consumers and threatened economic growth domestically and internationally.

As Michael’s title says, the Democrats are no better.

But with the exception of extreme long-shot Representative John Delaney, every major Democratic candidate either joins Trump in opposing the TPP or is highly critical of the current negotiation.

You knew that John Delaney was running for the Democrat nomination, right?

Sidebar: Wisconsin is an open primary state.  Suppose that John or another sensible Democrat like Joe Sestak is still in the running for the nomination.  Would MWG take a Democrat ballot and vote for one of them?  What would such a nomination do to the probability of The Donald or the Dems winning?  We have not done this much math since grad school.  End Sidebar.

So 2020, just like 2016 presidential election, shapes up to be a binary choice but there is no choice that supports of free trade.

As always, MWG is with Kevin D. Williamson on trade.  In the NRO Corner, Kevin quotes his acerbic self:

Protectionists often describe reciprocity as if it were a cover charge for admission to American markets, but that gets the issue exactly backward: The question isn’t whether Washington may properly interfere with foreign sellers but whether it ought to interfere with American buyers. The case for allowing Senator Sanders to interpose his political interests between buyers and sellers is non-obvious, on either moral or economic grounds. It takes a special kind of stupid to believe that a voluntary exchange — willing seller, willing buyer — is transmuted into a form of hideous predation simply because some of the parties to the transaction may hold different passports.

We are with Kevin in supporting unilateral free trade.  We wish there was a major candidate that was supporting it in 2020 but there isn’t.  So when you make your decision between The Donald and the Democrat in 2020 free trade will not relevant to your decision unless there is a big surprise.



Bobby, Kris, and Janis

We really enjoy Daniel Henniger but recently he went too far.  Dan is at the WSJ discussing Does Hong Kong Matter?   Well, of course it does but it also depends.  Are we going to cause WW III over it?  Unlikely.  Is Dan going to use a really bad analogy about it to distract us from his reasonable point?  Absolutely.  Janis Joplin’s version Kris Kristofferson’s of Me and Bobby McGee is our all-time favorite song.  Dan should listen more closely.

Sidebar: Sometimes it is Bobbi and sometimes it is Bobby.  The Genius site uses Bobby so we are too.  End Sidebar.

Dan quotes Kris correctly but too briefly.  He says:

Someone once sang that “freedom’s just another word,” and maybe today it is. One casualty of the relentless U.S. political slog is that some important ideas—such as justice, racism, equality and respect—get so beaten into the ground, become so hackneyed, that one feels almost embarrassed to use the words.

The problem is there are lots of kinds of freedom.  Economic, political, and personal to make a short list.  Kris was talking about personal freedom.  The whole verse is:

Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose
And nothin’ ain’t worth nothin’ but it’s free
Feelin’ good was easy, Lord, when Bobby sang the blues
And buddy, that was good enough for me
Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee.

Personal freedom can be a negative as it was when Bobby set the songwriter free.  So the song ends:

Well I’d trade all my tomorrows for a single yesterday
Holdin’ Bobby’s body close to mine

Economic freedom and political freedom are positive goods while personal freedom can be positive or negative.  Dan needs to understand the difference between dating and Hong Kong.  There are different kinds of freedom and Hong Kong does matter.

Faculty Workload

Paul Caron, over at TaxProf Blog has parts of two articles on the dispute over faculty workload.  Joseph Epstein asks, “Who’ll Take A Pay Cut For Free College” over at the WSJ (subscription required).  Among other things, Joe says faculty have a sweet racket.  Coleen Flaherty calls shenanigans on Joe and wants to fact check him.  We’re generally with Colleen but think even Coleen could do better.  Do read all of what Colleen has to say.  Only read Joe if you want a rant.

Joe leads with a picture of Nick Saban, the Alabama football coach, and spends three paragraphs on college athletics.  We are not a fan of Division I sports, but they are irrelevant to the tuition cost.  Students do pay a separate fee but Division I athletics generates essentially all of their own revenue.  You can also ignore the college president but Joe has an important point on administrative creep.  He does get a bit wound up but he is close the the mark when he says:

The next big cut in the cost of higher education would be in superfluous administrative jobs, for the contemporary university is nothing if not vastly overstaffed. All those assistant provosts for diversity, those associate deans presiding over sensitivity programs, those directors for student experience—out, out with them.

He actually only spends two paragraphs on faculty.  Joe starts out imprecisely:

Which brings us to the faculty. Faculty jobs in American universities have risen well in excess of any visible improvement in the quality of university teachers: $200,000-a-year-or-more professorships are now not uncommon.  [Emphasis added]

Joe should have given us a little data on what the bold part means.  Yes, there are some highly paid faculty members in some departments.  Because we are retired we don’t have access to the data we did before.  Here is an AACSB summary of worldwide salaries for 2018/19.  AACSB is an organization of business schools.  It is hard to become part of AACSB so we could describe it as an elite organization.  Business school faculty make substantially more than most other faculty and elite schools pay more too.  There are just under 5,000 accounting (to pick a large discipline that is close to our heart, highly paid, and at the beginning of the alphabet) faculty in the survey and at least 300 are in the $200,000 category.

Sidebar One: We only have a very rough estimate from this data as it is 75 percentile, median, 25 percentile, and mean for four levels of faculty.  We can infer that there are some big salaries because the mean is above the median.  End Sidebar One.

So in one of the highest paid disciplines at the tonier universities, to use Joe’s term, perhaps 10% (that would mean 500 out of 5,000) make $200,000.  Some make much more than $200,000 but there are lots of schools and lots of disciplines where nobody is making $200,000.  We are close to certain that no faculty member at our former school is making $200,000 per year.  There is substantial faculty income inequality within and among universities.

Then Joe gets silly and decides he wants to pay us all on an hourly rate by experience. We might be able to staff the English department but the business school and many other departments would be out of luck.  We are not sure about what Joe plans to do about scholarship and service.  It is a bit of an overstatement to say that the faculty run the university but faculty committees do stuff like hire, fire, and budget.  Colleen notes one study finds professors spend 17 percent of their time in meetings.

Colleen brings up the opposite of the racket: the expansion of what are often called adjunct faculty who are paid by the course at a much lower rate than faculty and are not expected to do service or scholarship.  She says:

Among other things, Epstein’s essay ignores the structural shifts that have occurred since he began teaching — most significantly the transition to majority-non-tenure-track work force. This means that many professors don’t make a salary at all, but are paid on per-course basis. (In this sense, he’s closer to his “strict hourly wage” reality than he thinks. But adjuncts say that the $3,000 they often get to teach a course vastly undervalues the actual work they do to plan it, teach it and be available to students taking it while staying current in their fields. And that shift, in turn — along with public funding cuts — has led to a greater overall workload for tenured and tenure-track professors.)

She makes good points that this is Joe’s idea and that this increases the workload for the remaining faculty.  To be specific, there is more work because there are fewer people carrying a bigger service load.  Colleen leaves out that there is a mezzanine section of instructors who are full-time with a service expectation but (usually) no research expectation and no tenure.

Colleen has data from AAUP (all disciplines for American schools).  Income inequality shows up between private and public and by research intensity.  Here is some data:

At public doctoral institutions last year, the average full professor salary was $141,000. Associates made about $97,000. Assistants made $84,000. Full-time instructors made about $63,000, while lecturers made about $57,000.

Colleen leaves out the income inequality by discipline.  There are not many, if any, English faculty above the averages and no (well, there could be an exception) accounting faculty that are not above the averages.

Colleen give some examples of faculty working really hard.  She is right.  All faculty do teaching, scholarship, and service but the emphasis is on different things at different schools.  At doctoral schools the emphasis is on scholarship.  At comprehensives there is more of a balance among the three.  At smaller schools scholarship is less of an emphasis and service is more of an emphasis.  Faculty work hard but lots of the work is not obvious to everyone.  Faculty committees like assessment of learning, curriculum design, and retention of other faculty are not obvious.  The value of scholarship is hard to evaluate.

Coleen mentions one thing we get as faculty and leaves two out.  She is right we get flexibility but doesn’t go far enough.  We might work seven days a week but we can usually pick up the kids when needed.  Faculty members also have flexibility about what to teach, what scholarship to engage in, and service areas.  The flip side of flexibility is that each faculty member has to figure out what to do.  She leaves out, once we are tenured, we get exceptional security and a good retirement plan.

Sidebar Two: Tenure is a double-edged sword.  Tenure must be granted.  The percentage of probationary faculty earning tenure those schools with big salaries is pretty low.  It is hard to get good data because most folks leave voluntarily before the sword falls.  If you don’t get tenure then you are fired.  End Sidebar Two.

When we were finishing our MBA program some of the teaching assistants had a discussion.  Should we teach or work?  We chose to teach and learned that it is more than teaching but it is different than work because you have so many choice.  We can’t put a number on it but we were willing to trade off lower current income for flexibility, security, and a good retirement plan.  Like any career, it is a racket if you like what you do.




Men, Women: Reality and Fantasy

It has been building for years but the current hot item in TV shows and movies is for women to beat up men.  Sometimes, like in Stargate SG1, Samantha (Sam) gets to beat up an alien man.  It is a bit of silly fun.  We have recently been watching Whiskey Cavalier (WC) and Blood and Treasure (B&T) where this behavior is happening all the time.  The former is the better of the two although currently, the latter is the only one to be renewed.  Or perhaps not.  Why do we like WC better?  The characters are interesting in WC.  Lauren Cohan in WC looks intimidating but her pictures suggest otherwise.  It may take awhile when looking a Lauren’s pictures but eventually you can bring your focus to her biceps.  Her bulges are elsewhere.  B&T has some interesting flashbacks but the main characters are not very interesting.  In one particularly silly B&T sequence Gwen (Katia Winter check her arms too) beats up Bruno and then Bruno escapes from his cell  by beating up two beefy policemen.

It is great fun having pretty women beat up big guys.  Is it the cause of some of our current confusion?  Men, on average, are stronger and faster than women.  We see amazing women all the time but the strongest and fastest men are much stronger and faster than the strongest and fastest women.  Military .com tells us about some amazing women.  The US Army Ranger school has graduated twelve of them to date.  They also tell us that 40 percent of the men pass but they don’t give a pass rate for women although it seems to be two or three out of nineteen.  Elsewhere, there are assertions that there was an Army thumb on the scale for women:

But whereas men consistently were held to the strict standards outlined in the Ranger School’s Standing Operating Procedures handbook sources say, the women were allowed lighter duties and exceptions to policy.

We take no opinion on these assertions of the Army playing favorites other than to say hats off to the women and men that graduated and that any woman is highly unlikely to be the top scorer in Ranger school.

Sidebar: In running there might be some extremely long distances, like 100 miles where the top women can compete with the top men.  In addition, boys and girls can compete equally at very young ages too.  These exceptions are more proof of the general rule.  End Sidebar

Here is some evidence from sports.  Over the weekend the men (PGA) and and women (LPGA) both had a golf tournament on a par 71 golf course.  The men’s course was 7,353 yards and the women’s course was 6,427 yards for a difference of over 900 yards or 50 yard a hole.  There is a reason for separate tours.  Of course, as Madeline Kearns reports at NRO, the transgender movement has led to unsurprising results.  Connecticut allows men who identify as women to compete with women:

Since enacted in 2017, the Connecticut state [high school] conference policy has enabled two young men to win 15 women’s championships, titles that were held by 10 young women the year before. State athletic conferences in 18 other states have similar policies.

We don’t know if the fantasy of TV and movies has confused folks that women athletes can compete with men.  It is not that a female can never beat a male.  We have seen the women at the handball tournaments and many could hold us to three or less but they can’t compete with the men in the open class.  It is just that the best woman has little chance against a pretty good man.

Let’s bring back Whiskey Cavalier.  It is not a great show but it is interesting enough to renew.  But we shouldn’t be confused that women can compete in athletics with men on the high school, college, or professional level.  We shouldn’t let any group convince us that it is a good idea.

Expected Good News

One of the many great things about markets is that they encourage learning.  Isaac Orr at The Center of the American Experiment has an excellent article with a great title:

Capitalism is Saving the Planet Part Six: Minnesota Forests Are Flourishing

It is expected good news because capitalism and markets learns what generates profits and what the consumer wants.  You should, of course, read it all to get the details.  And you can savor the title again.  We will give you Isaac’s conclusion:

Using these technologies [see here] is not only good for the timber industry’s bottom line, they are good for the forests themselves. Rather than being an opponent of healthy forests, the capitalist timber industry is more invested in forest health than any other stakeholder, and therefore they have the most incentive to ensure Minnesota forests are healthy and vibrant.

Although Isaac uses environment as a category he doesn’t remind us that trees are natural carbon eaters.  The link tells us:

As a tree matures, it can consume 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year (among other greenhouse gases like ozone), and releases enough oxygen for you to breathe for two years!

So the one billion additional trees in Minnesota will be eating 48 billion pounds of CO2 per year.  According to Wikipedia, Minnesota produces just under 90 million metric tons of CO2.  A metric ton is 2205 pounds so this is a big deal in term of arresting CO2 growth even if we are not entirely convinced of all the numbers.  We are working to find Isaac’s other five parts.

College Drop Outs

Don’t try this at home!  MWG is going to review a book review.  We have been busy with non-fiction this summer and we are not sure if we can fit another in.  The book in question is The College Dropout Scandal by David Kirp.  The review is at NRO: Fixing The College-Dropout Problem by James P. Sutton.

First thing we are going to do is change the terminology.  If you want to find out about the issue you want to search for retention.  Other than perhaps the custodians, everyone at the university is worried about retention.  The University of Wisconsin System has a web page for progress and completion as part of the accountability dashboard for the UW System.

We have two problems with the review.  One is the conclusion which manages to have two problems in one paragraph.  We’ve put each of them in bold:

Kirp has written an important book, highlighting an underreported problem. He’s lifted up the kind of institutions and leaders we need more of: those who leave behind the prestige contests of American meritocracy and quietly work for the common good.

Retention is the most heavily reported underreported problem in some time.  We can’t think of a Yogi Berra or Groucho Marx quote but we are sure there is one for this situation.  For state institutions, the governor, legislators, university board, university administrators, and faculty all are aware of retention.

We haven’t read the book yet but the second bold item doesn’t make any sense.  We don’t want meritocracy?  Or is American meritocracy different from regular meritocracy?  How do we know what the common good is if it isn’t meritocracy?  Can we ever determine what is the common good?  And, if so, how do we determine it with regards to retention?

The common good ties into the second problem.  What is the optimal retention rate?  Often folks seem to imply it should be 100%.  We don’t think so and think that retention is much like income inequality.  Almost everyone agrees that the Gini coefficient should not be zero or one but it is hard to agree on a correct solution.

As department chair we have been involved in these discussions about grading from both perspectives.  First, Faculty X flunked 60 percent of the students.  Second, Faculty Z gave no grades below B.  Both outcomes are worrisome and difficult.  The Faculty Z scenario resonates with many faculty members because they worry that all the concern with retention will lead to even more grade inflation.

We do know that better students are more likely to be retained.  You can go to to site we mentioned above on UW retention and try to guess admission standards by retention.  You will be pretty close.

Retention rates are like beer: at some point more is not better.

Sidebar: We can do a better job than our undergraduate program where they “motivated” us by saying, “Look at the person on your right and the person on your left.  One of the three of you will not be here for graduation.”  End Sidebar.

We need to be concerned about retention rates being too high where they devalue the diploma or too low where we waste resources. We need to consider retention in terms of admission standards. Retention rates were low when we taught at open admissions school.  One notable student there was a plumber.  He was an excellent student but he couldn’t hope to make as much, at least starting out, as an accountant.  We asked why he was in school and he said, “I was starting to think like a plumber.”

Everyone should be worried about retention of conservatives but perhaps only conservatives will worry about it.  The problem for conservatives is particularly acute because most retention problems come early.  Thus, it is a concern for conservative students that students usually spend their first two years in the dorms and studying what we called General Education.  Both the dorms and Gen Ed are hotbeds of progressive thought.  Perhaps Kirp has a chapter on it but we doubt it.

The real question is can retention be increased while maintaining standards?  Given all the emphasis on retention in the past decades we would be shocked if there was much room for improvement while maintaining standards.  Still the market produces many miracles so we can hope.



One Intersection And One Not

We just finished Kevin D. Williamson’s The Smallest Minority and as we were finishing that up we heard about Clemens Tonnies, the chairman of the Bundesliga soccer team Schalke who was attacked by the social media mobs that Kevin is writing about.  Let’s start with Kevin.

We really enjoyed The Smallest Minority.  Kevin creates some amazing comparisons.  It is hard (probably impossible) to find as literary a political book where Dante, Milton, and Shakespeare are crucial to understanding the text.  It is in turn nasty (Minos was a Cretan, Matthew Yglasias is a cretin), hilarious, insightful and crazy.  Sometimes it is all of those at once.  It is easy to guess who is the mad dog of Mad Dogs and Englishmen.  Be sure to real all the footnotes.  Twice.

Sidebar One: We rarely comment on why folks do things.  Rather we are more interested in what they do.  We are convinced that this book is the real Kevin.  We understand that it is easy to get fooled and that is why we rarely comment on why.  We often wonder why folks behave like they do on TV and radio.  Kevin is really enjoying the conflict about social media.  End Sidebar One.

The backstory is that Kevin was hired by The Atlantic and shortly thereafter fired because of a social media storm.  The book is Kevin’s generalization of the problems with social media.  Kevin is correct when he says we need discourse, a real discussion, to discuss our pressing problems.  Social media gives us anti-discourse.  We get slogans and attacks to stop discussion.  People do it because it works.

The book was a joy to read.  The literary bent, character assassination, and asides are great fun.  The Smallest Minority just didn’t resonate with us.  We didn’t buy the Shakespeare analysis but that wasn’t it.  Twitter, Facebook and other social media just isn’t that important to us. There is a lack of an intersection been MWG and Kevin’s book.  We don’t follow the recommendations to improve the MWG penetration following by tweeting and pictures.  We really appreciate our followers but we blog for our own benefit and so we don’t fill up Facebook (our only social media) with political stuff.  We are not sure social media is that important to the wider world.  Kevin didn’t do much to convince us on that account.

Then came Clemens and Schalke that made more of a connection or intersection for us.  These events didn’t completely change our mind but they did make us reconsider.  Here is  a summary of what happened:

Many fans had been calling on the 63-year-old [Clemens] Tönnies to resign over the comments he made on Aug. 1, when he told a public meeting in Paderborn that tax increases to fight climate change were wrong and claimed it was better to finance 20 power plants a year in Africa.

“Then the Africans would stop cutting down trees, and they would stop making babies when it gets dark,” Tönnies said in comments first reported by the Neue Westfälische local newspaper.

Tönnies, Schalke chairman since 2001, apologized for his comments

Of course, Clemens has stepped on at least three third rails of social media.  First, he fought climate change recommendations.  Second, he talked about Africa and (gasp) Africans.  Third, he apologized to try and sate the mob.  They cannot be sated.

OK, he is not exactly right.  What Africa needs is capitalism and Germany could use a little more.  Here is part of a story on Tanzania:

The real cause of that reduction is pretty straightforward: economic freedom. Tanzania has gradually dismantled the socialist or “ujamaa” economic policies enacted by the dictator Julius Nyerere, since he stepped down in 1985. Nyerere was widely praised by leftist intellectuals in developed countries for his sincere belief in socialism, relatively low level of corruption, and not intentionally slaughtering his own people like so many other dictators.

Dang. We got rid of the tab before we made the link and now we can’t find it.  To get back to Clemens, we agree with him that tax increases to fight climate change don’t make sense in Germany or elsewhere.  We also agree with him that economic improvement in Africa would be a good thing and it will require carbon emissions.

Sidebar Two: We have argued that a revenue neutral carbon tax that eliminates the gas tax is a good idea.  It is not a tax increase.  Sidebar Two.

Africa could use more and better power.  Our first priority would be economic structure rather than actual structures but Clemens has a reasonable idea.   Reducing the cutting down of trees is probably a good idea a way for Clemens to try to connect with the climate change folks.  It is not unreasonable to argue for more trees.  He spoke of the number of African babies.  So what are the fertility rates in African countries?  Glad you asked:

The vast majority of the countries in the world with the highest fertility rates are in Africa, with Nigertopping the list at 7.153 children per woman, followed by Somalia at 6.123 children per woman. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Chad follow at 5.963, 5.922 and 5.797 children per woman, respectively.

So the top five countries in term of fertility are all African.  Germany, on the other hand, has a fertility rate of 1.586.  We are not convinced that overpopulation is a problem but the climate change folks often suggest it is.  Clemens is using their rhetoric against them.  They should respond rather than call him names but, as Kevin points out, a name calling ochlocracy is effective in silencing people these days.

The Clemens story has not made fighting the ochlocracy a front-burner item for us yet. We could be trending in that direction.