Dumbo parents

Reihan Salam has an interesting piece on public schools in gentrifying portions of Brooklyn:

Taylor cites evidence that blacks and Hispanics benefit from attending integrated schools. What she does not address is whether white and Asian students attending these schools also fare better, which is the chief concern of the largely white Dumbo parents subject to this rezoning. My first instinct in reading Taylor’s story, and in observing the anguished reaction from Dumbo parents who see themselves as committed progressives, is to note their hypocrisy. As Laurie Lin recently remarked, it’s easy to imagine how these Dumbo progressives might have reacted had this story unfolded in Atlanta or Birmingham “” they’d surely chalk up resistance to the rezoning to racism.

More than one Dumbo parent has tried to explain to me how they’re totally different from other people who fight against integration. They explain that what they really want is a better world in which we spend far more on our public schools, not mentioning, or perhaps not knowing, that New York city spends $20,331 per pupil, almost twice as much as the national average of $10,700, and that much of this money is spent very inefficiently. Of course they want integration, they’ll tell you, but only if it entails no sacrifice on their part. “It’s more complicated when it’s about your own children,” says one Dumbo parent. Well, yes, it is more complicated, and that is exactly what every parent believes, whether they are in Brooklyn or South Boston or Kansas City.

There’s no “perhaps” here, they do not know how much New York City spends on schools.  Over the years I’ve spoken to many people similar to the Dumbo parents discussed in this article, and they are almost universally ignorant of the basic statistics that underlie public policy.

So is this a problem?  Is this ignorance more comparable to the GOP voters who don’t know about evolution, or the GOP voters who don’t know about global warming?  I’d say the latter.  It doesn’t much matter if a few schools in the Bible Belt don’t cover evolution, as anyone going into a field where they need that knowledge (such as a biology majors) would quickly pick it up in college, if not earlier (via word of mouth.)  Global warming is a tougher case, where it really might matter a lot.  (But even there I’d guess if you convinced most Republicans about global warming, they’d still oppose carbon taxes for other reasons, saying we can live with a warmer planet, or that other countries will free ride if we sacrifice.)

Ignorance of how much the government spends on education is a huge problem, because it causes these Dumbo parents to vote for politicians who will waste even more money on education.

I’ve noticed that Republicans are always hyperaware of the flaws in Democrats, and vice versa.  Democrats think Republicans are corrupt, and Republicans think Democrats are corrupt.  The same is true of epistemic closure.  Each side thinks the other lives in a bubble.  Epistemic closure is real, but the accusations are pretty meaningless, as there is actually far more of it than either side imagines.  It’s everywherer we look.

We can’t eliminate epistemic closure, but the policy consequences can be reduced through radical decentralization.  The parents in a New Hampshire town of 10,000 probably have a much better sense of the costs and benefits of extra spending on education than those Dumbo parents in New York.

Decentralization doesn’t mean you can’t have some tax redistribution to poorer neighborhoods.  But it should be lump sum redistribution.  And once you’ve done the redistribution then 100% of each marginal dollar spent on a school should come from taxes levied in the neighborhood that sends kids to that school.  Some political systems produce smarter voters than other regimes, and we need to create smarter voters.

Don’t blame Dumbo parents, blame the system that produces Dumbo parents.

For some reason I really like typing the phrase ‘Dumbo parents.’

Alternate closing:  Dumbo parents aren’t dumb, just ignorant of the relevant empirical magnitudes.

PS.  Scott Alexander has a wonderful example of epistemic closure on the left:

Dutch study shows rampant sexism in scientific community. Dutch establishment promises reforms, says they will push “gender awareness” on everyone involved. Outside observers point out basic statistical error, anctual results show no gender bias at all. Original authors say it doesn’t matter and the Dutch scientific community is still sexist because grant review forms use “gendered language” like the word “excellent” which is apparently “male-coded”. Dutch establishment says reform and gender awareness programs are “still a good idea, regardless of the paper’s quality”, and vow to push ahead. Why are we even bothering to do science anymore? Why don’t we just write the only acceptable conclusion on a piece of paper beforehand and save however much it cost to do the study?

Read the article that Scott links to, it’s laugh out loud funny.  This is no different from believing in creationism.  It just isn’t. And yes, the right is just as bad, I’m picking on the left because most intellectuals I meet think there really is a difference, and that the left is more scientific.

PPS.  Been very busy lately, hope to get to the comments soon.



90 Responses to “Dumbo parents”

  1. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    10. October 2015 at 22:43

    “It doesn’t much matter if a few schools in the Bible Belt don’t cover evolution, as anyone going into a field where they need that knowledge (such as a biology majors) would quickly pick it up in college, if not earlier (via word of mouth.)”

    It doesn’t much matter if a few schools teach that the Moon is fake generated by conspirators, as anyone going into a field where they need the knowledge that it’s real (such as an astronaut) would quickly pick it up in college, if not earlier (via word of mouth.)

  2. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    10. October 2015 at 22:57

    … by the way, it’s not “a few schools”… half of Americans don’t believe Evolution. That’s basic knowledge… in the same class as the Earth is a sphere and the Earth revolves around the sun and the Earth is 4.5 billion years old (not 6000). And I’m being generous by counting as evolution believers those who mistakenly think that evolution is actively orchestrated by invisible sky fairies. That’s not really evolution. If we look at the total number who don’t accept the basics of naturalistic evolution, it’s more like 70% of Americans who don’t have this basic knowledge. About the same number who’ve never heard the name “Janet Yellen.”

  3. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    10. October 2015 at 23:50

    I do agree with you that doxastic closure is a huge problem across the political spectrum, and I’d even agree that the left produces more egregious examples of this in certain areas: for example post-modern thinking (e.g. “Well, it’s true for them, so we need to respect that” … as if there are different versions of what’s objectively true) and perhaps in the examples you gave. However I think the most egregious examples in general are to be found in those who indoctrinate young children with the idea that faith is a reliable way to know things, that it’s a justification for absolute certainty and (worst of all) that it’s some kind of a virtue. Once somebody has bought into faith being a virtue (at age 2?), you’ve got somebody who thinks being doxastically closed is a virtue as well, perhaps for life.

    I worry that somebody who’s been told from birth on into their adulthood that doxastic closure (in the form of faith) is a virtue is less likely to be embarrassed about their doxastic closure when it’s pointed out to them. In fact they may even be proud of it and regard it as a sign of strength. If you can’t embarrass somebody by pointing out their unreliable epistemology, that just makes it less likely they’ll eventually adopt a more reliable epistemology. And the kicker is that we give tax incentives to 100s of thousands (not just “a few”) institutions that indoctrinate children with the idea that faith is a virtue. And we’re told that we need to respect this?

  4. Gravatar of foosion foosion
    11. October 2015 at 01:47

    The statements about the Dumbo parents are based on one-off anecdotes in one area, with no real evidence they are representative. The statements about GOP voters on evolution and climate change are based on polling.

    This is hardly good evidence for “both sides do it”.

  5. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    11. October 2015 at 02:45

    DUMBO = Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass

    I may be a dumbo (lower case) because other than gawking at liberal hypocrisy I am not sure what moral or practical conclusions to draw from this post.

    At one extreme, we could have completely private education where parents buy the best school they can (or care to) afford.

    At the other extreme, we could send NYC kids to a couple of years in Mogadishu Public, while teaching the Somalian kids at Stuyvesant. Do our part for global education equality, you know.

    A reasonable solution somewhere in between involves hard choices about redistribution, housing, busing, and yes immigration.

  6. Gravatar of W. Peden W. Peden
    11. October 2015 at 02:52


    “I may be a dumbo (lower case) because other than gawking at liberal hypocrisy I am not sure what moral or practical conclusions to draw from this post.”

    That’s weird, because Scott Sumner was fairly clear on how this basically connects to practical conclusions. It’s covered in the middle of the post.


    Decentralization does have its merits: if you look at voting behaviour (and some polling evidence) people in Scotland have become much less keen on tax-and-spend politics since we started to get the power to do tax-and-spend politics for ourselves, rather than on a UK-wide basis. As late as 1983, you could get 35.1% of Scots to vote for a socialist programme; in 2015, 50% of Scots voted for a social democratic party that’s so timorous about redistribution that they’re not even sure if they plan to raise income tax rates that are below those set by Thatcher.

  7. Gravatar of W. Peden W. Peden
    11. October 2015 at 02:54

    And that party, the SNP, campaigned- perhaps correctly, perhaps not- on the basis of being to the left of Labour. There are few things as good as disabusing ordinary people of the notion that they can use the state to spend only other people’s money.

  8. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    11. October 2015 at 03:30

    W. Peden,

    I saw the part about decentralization but I don’t understand it at a practical level.

    The people of DUMBO want to gerrymander their school district into a “housing project school” and a “condo school”. Is that decentralization, or something else? What specifically does radical decentralization mean in this context? And if 100% of tax revenue comes from the neighborhood, who defines the neighborhood lines? Is gerrymandering out the housing project ok?

    Also how much of the education cost difference between NYC and US is just cost of living or PPP? And what specifically about the DUMBOs is dumb (I see the hypocrisy)?

    In contrast, New Hampshire is pretty good at integration, but a side effect is greater angst about immigration especially of the war refugee variety.

  9. Gravatar of Kenneth Duda Kenneth Duda
    11. October 2015 at 04:16

    The other place where the left proves it’s as science-blind as the right is GMO.


  10. Gravatar of jonathan jonathan
    11. October 2015 at 04:53

    I don’t see why the fact that NYC spends much more per student than the national average implies that one could not think them underfunded — perhaps those parents simply want all schools to be better funded. Also, maybe money doesn’t go as far in NYC as elsewhere.

    I’m also pretty skeptical of the claim that much of this money is “wasted”. I would imagine that most of the money goes to facilities and teacher salaries, and is close to the market price for such things.

  11. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    11. October 2015 at 06:47

    ‘Also, maybe money doesn’t go as far in NYC as elsewhere.’

    It certainly doesn’t, thanks to the power of NYC’s unions. School janitors…excuse me, custodians, make well over $100K per year and don’t even have to show up at a school very often to collect their paychecks.

  12. Gravatar of Scott Sumner Scott Sumner
    11. October 2015 at 06:50

    Tom, I agree that silly beliefs about the moon don’t matter either. The real harm is things like false beliefs about vaccines ( on both sides of the spectrum.)

    Your comment about “a few schools” is a non sequitur. What Americans believe tells you little about what they are taught in school. Colleges teach free trade, but college students don’t believe it.

    Foosion, I’m 60 years old and have met 1000s of people, in both parties. It’s a big sample. Trust me, the public is dumb.

    But I don’t quite see your point. You say studies show that people are dumb. Yes, studies show that huge numbers of Democrats believe 9/11 was a Bush conspiracy. So what exactly is your point about studies?

    Steve, Next time you should read the entire post before complaining that there are no practical suggestions. I really get annoyed by comments like yours.

  13. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    11. October 2015 at 06:53

    I wonder how many of the DUMBOs would have supported Eva Moskowitz had she decided to run for Mayor;


    Instead, Ms. Moskowitz said she wanted to do for education “what Apple did for the iPhone.”

    As the founder of Success Academy Charter Schools and a former city councilwoman, Ms. Moskowitz has long flirted with the possibility of challenging Mr. de Blasio in 2017.

    ….She and other charter advocates handed Mr. de Blasio his first major political loss as mayor early last year when they secured an expansion of charter schools over the mayor’s fierce objections under a deal brokered by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

    On Thursday, Ms. Moskowitz said the mayor hasn’t made improving schools easier.

    One would think the city “would be rolling out the red carpet,” she said. “They don’t have that many successful schools.”

  14. Gravatar of Scott Sumner Scott Sumner
    11. October 2015 at 06:55

    Ken, I agree about GMOs.

    Jonathan, There are plenty of studies showing that much of the money we spend on education is wasted, and also that New York is extremely wasteful in its provision of public services, just as there are studies showing that we evolved from apes.

  15. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    11. October 2015 at 07:21

    Under the ‘We’re all ignorant, just about different things.’ rubric;


    ‘[Hillary Clinton’s] plan does not envision a return to the era of the Glass-Steagall Act, the 1930s law requiring commercial banking and investment banking to remain separate. It was reversed by Congress during the Bill Clinton administration (an action that had less to do with the global financial crisis than many liberal activists would suggest).’

    As I’ve recently pointed out in another post’s comments, Glass-Steagall was not repealed, nor ‘reversed’ during the Clinton years. Though Neil Irwin is correct in what he says in his parenthetical comment.

    ‘Rather, her plan focuses on a series of changes to incentivize the biggest banks to shrink and simplify. It looks to reform markets that may be obscure to the general public but were actually key nodes in the 2008 global financial crisis. In particular, it concentrates on the multi-trillion dollar securities lending and repurchase market, which is a crucial piece of the world’s financial plumbing.’

    Which is exactly the wrong thing to concentrate on. Oddly enough, speaking of obscure provisions in law, both Dodd-Frank and Gramm, Leach, Bliley have/had a provision directing the Fed to study implementing ‘CoCos’ (the brainchild of, among others, Columbia’s Charles Calomiris and Wharton’s Kent Smetters).

    Convertible Contingent Capital are bonds that could be mandated to be part of a bank’s capital structure. If properly designed to be triggered by a significant drop, for a significant time (say, 90 days) in the market price of a bank’s shares, they’d mandate a conversion of debt into equity. Thus re-capitalizing, automatically, distressed banks.

    Just the Sword of Damocles effect alone would be enough to get senior executives on financial services firms to straighten up and fly right. Probably.

    At any rate, had these been in effect in the two years prior to Sept. 2008, we’d almost surely been spared what eventuated with Lehman.

  16. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    11. October 2015 at 07:26

    For those who’d like to know more about CoCos;


  17. Gravatar of TravisV TravisV
    11. October 2015 at 07:54

    Alex Tabarrok: “The future is here, just not evenly distributed”


  18. Gravatar of TravisV TravisV
    11. October 2015 at 07:57

    More great stuff here (from Don Boudreaux): Links 10/11/15


  19. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    11. October 2015 at 08:07

    Footnote #25 in the Calomiris-Herring paper I linked to above reads;

    ‘A more interesting experiment is the February 2011 issue of CoCos by Crédit Suisse. This issue, made by a bank that fared comparaively well during the crisis, is designed to buttress the new Basel III capital requirements. Although many institutional investors (especially regulated insurers and bond mutual funds), who have been the main buyers of hybrid capital instruments, have warned that they cannot hold the bonds without changing their investment mandates to
    allow them to hold equity-linked debt, Crédit Suisse reported a large number of inquiries from wealthy individuals seeking higher yields as well as hedge funds and other asset managers hoping to exploit … ” the . . . price anomalies inherent in a nascent market.” Clearly the traditional holders of hybrid capital (instruments that the tax authorities are willing to treat as tax deductible but the regulatory authorities have been willing to count as capital for regulatory purposes) are reluctant to exchange them for CoCos, because the regulators have shown by their actions during the recent crisis that they will protect holders of hybrid capital from loss, preferring instead to shift the losses to taxpayers. When the $2 billion Crédit Suisse issue was made, it proved to be an overwhelming success. The CoCos featured a coupon of 7.875 percent and would be converted if the common equity tier 1 ratio of Crédit Suisse fell below 7 percent. Crédit Suisse received orders exceeding 11 times the amount on offer.’

    So the idea isn’t just theoretical.

  20. Gravatar of LK Beland LK Beland
    11. October 2015 at 08:09

    In a world of increasingly antibiotic-resistant bacterias, I would not claim that understanding the basics of evolution is unimportant.

  21. Gravatar of TravisV TravisV
    11. October 2015 at 08:16

    Tyler Cowen: “Why has productivity dispersion across firms gone up?”


  22. Gravatar of Martin-2 Martin-2
    11. October 2015 at 09:02

    LK Beland:

    Antibiotic resistance is a prisoner’s dilemma; you benefit from antibiotics at the expense of everyone else. I don’t think better public understanding of evolution would help. Doctors don’t care enough to withhold prescriptions, so why would educated members of the public care enough to possibly get themselves sick? (That was poorly worded; these people might care about the wider problem a great deal, but the incentives are such that it matters little for their personal choices)

    Also, do creationists publicly deny antibiotic resistance? I thought they made allowances for bacterial evolution and would just deny that a new *species* can evolve. I’m not sure.

  23. Gravatar of Major.Freedom Major.Freedom
    11. October 2015 at 09:38

    There should be NGDPLT to solve this dilemma.

    National Gross Domestic Public Learning Targeting.

    Knowledge is sticky, and to prevent another Hitler from rising, the state should monopolize all education 100%, and ensure that the hours per student is stablized.

    Clearly this is the fault of free markets.

  24. Gravatar of bill bill
    11. October 2015 at 10:53

    I think you’re right regarding some creationists acknowledging bacterial evolution.
    The prisoner dilemma is less than what you wrote. The primary action we need to reduce/mitigate/thwart anitbiotics resistance is for people to take the full course (ie, not stop half way through because they feel better).

  25. Gravatar of bill bill
    11. October 2015 at 11:06

    Personally, I find the right to be worse, but that’s just my perception. One of the worst things I see on the left relates to climate change. Many on the left don’t want to tax carbon because poor people are more likely to have to change their consumption patterns. They also favor “infrastructure” projects for “fiscal stimulus” (and other) reasons, without acknowledging that a carbon tax could take enough people off the road that we wouldn’t need any more roads. Similarly, I was listening to an NPR piece today on water use in California. At no time did someone say, “hey, how about raising the price and see what happens?”.

  26. Gravatar of Anand Anand
    11. October 2015 at 11:56

    I generally agree with half of the piece (regarding epistemic closure), however, I wish to enter some caveats.

    Firstly, the left, like the right, is not monolithic, and much of the pseudo-science gets criticized a fair bit internally. For instance, regarding the “gendered language” and other pseudo-scientific/postmodernist babble, the Sokal hoax (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_affair) is a good example. Sokal is a leftist as well (he taught in Sandinista Nicaragua, for instance).

    Secondly, I agree with the hypocrisy of “progressives”. This was evident even in the civil rights movement. As long as the movement was targeting racist white sheriffs in the South, liberals were very supportive. But when their own interests were threatened, they often turned against it (white flight etc.) The tension between Jewish and African-American attitudes towards affirmative action is another example.

    The operative word here is “class” (as in the social category) – also “race” – not “progressive”/”conservative”. Reihan Salam does not mention the “c”-word, though he alludes to it in various ways.

    Thirdly, is it true that people will spend less on education if they know how much the government actually spends? That is not at all clear. For instance, when people are asked to design a budget, they typically give far more to foreign aid, education etc. than the actual: it turns out that they think the government spends far more on such categories than it actually does. See this for an example: http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/pdf/mar05/FedBudget_Mar05_rpt.pdf and http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/pdf/mar11/BudgetComparisons_Mar11_rpt.pdf

  27. Gravatar of Dan W. Dan W.
    11. October 2015 at 12:22

    What is one supposed to believe on Climate Change? The “official” climate models are known to be wrong – their predictions do not match observation. So now great effort is being made to explain the discrepancy but without nullifying the hypothesis. But science is supposed to be about open inquiry, not inquiry that preserves sacred cows.

  28. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    11. October 2015 at 12:45

    “Steve, Next time you should read the entire post before complaining that there are no practical suggestions. I really get annoyed by comments like yours.”

    The problem is this entire blog post was a non-sequitur.

    I see no evidence of ‘dumb’ presented anywhere, despite the repetitive use of a acronym in an ironic and belittling way, and without informing the reader that DUMBO is a geographic acronym.

    The article is gotcha about progressive parents who oppose integration for themselves. Well done. The parents clearly don’t care how much is spent, as long as it is enough to deflect from the fact that they don’t want their little angels going to a minority school.

    So I saw the ‘policy idea’ you proposed but was confused because it doesn’t address the underlying social problem. I apologize for overthinking things to expect a connection.

  29. Gravatar of Floccina Floccina
    11. October 2015 at 13:46

    I think the better approach is convince parents that schooling differences do matter so much. See Bryan Caplan’s work for details. Also see Moving to Opportunity

    1. Creationism is incompatible with next to nothing.
    2. Conservative ideology is compatible with a co2 tax that reduces the income tax. IMO it is party that makes them fight it.

  30. Gravatar of Floccina Floccina
    11. October 2015 at 14:30

    BTW what most people need to learn about AGW:
    1. How low a co2 tax with a payout for removal of co2 from the atmosphere would be.
    2. How long it is likely to take for the co2 to cause enough problems to be net negative.

    You got some people worrying about NY going under water in 15 or 20 years and you got the other side worrying that a CO2 tax putting economic progress under water.

    IHMO both are wrong. I support a co2 tax but not cap and trade. I think corruption can be to easily hidden in cap and trade and I think there is time so I am not desperate enough to accept cap and trade.

  31. Gravatar of benjamin cole benjamin cole
    11. October 2015 at 16:23

    Patrick Sullivan: CoCos (also a restaurant chain, btw) are “mandatory convertible bonds.” These are bonds that mandatorially convert to equity when certain conditions are met. There many such bonds out there, with various triggers.

    I think they are a good idea for banks. But Lehman was an investment bank, not a commercial bank…

  32. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    11. October 2015 at 18:01

    +1000 to “Steve”. Steve catches Sumner on a gotcha–Sumner confuses DUMBO–a geographic designation–with dumbo (a stupid person) and makes an stupid post out of it, yet Sumner (and his minions) refuse to concede they made a reading comprehension error and try and cover their tracks.

    Everybody is allowed a brain fart once in a while, but Sumner and his minions stink up the room every second.

  33. Gravatar of LK Beland LK Beland
    11. October 2015 at 18:31


    1- One should understand that it is important to intake the quantity of antibiotics prescribed by his or her physician, and not stop taking them halfway through the prescription, even if symptoms disappear, in order to minimize the risk of developing resistant bacteria.

    2- The public should understand that giving antibiotics to livestock significantly increases the rate at which bacteria become resistant.

    For people to get this, they need a rough understanding of the process by which living organisms evolve.

  34. Gravatar of Engineer Engineer
    11. October 2015 at 18:59

    Tom, I think the left mislabels the American belief system for their own purposes of trying to make the right look “stupid”.
    Only a small number of Americans believe that the earth is less than 10000 years old and most also believe in some form of evolution. The major difference in beliefs stem from the question of when humans were created and if they are the product of evolution. Most Americans believe that a god created humans and they far more divine than just the product of evolution and that that occurred within the last 10,000 years. And from an evolutionary standpoint…I don’t think humans have evolved that much in that time frame. I think those numbers have probably stayed pretty constant for the last couple hundred years…and the country has survived…
    Everyone is better off with a belief system, I prefer the Jeffersonian bible myself…

  35. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    11. October 2015 at 19:53

    Vaccination, homeopathy and radiation/nuclear technology are other topics were the left is science-blind. At least in Europe.

    What are the blind spots of libertarians?

  36. Gravatar of benjamin cole benjamin cole
    11. October 2015 at 23:09

    Christian List: species extinction.

    Also, freedom of speech that leads to ethnic or religious warfare. Tough issues. Saddam Hussein outlawed even asking another person if they were Shia or Sunni in Iraq.

    Also, have you noticed that everyone who is a libertarian has a very high IQ? “Sure, I will prosper in a world of free enterprise. I have a high IQ. Too bad for you dopes. You will have lower status, and they looked down upon as plebes.”

    I love national parks.

    And where are the Libertarians when it comes to single-family detached housing zoning regulations? Very very quiet.

  37. Gravatar of W. Peden W. Peden
    12. October 2015 at 01:01

    Christian List,

    I do think that a lot of libertarians replace one simplistic version of world politics (“Us good guys vs. threats that we aren’t responsible for”) with another simplisitc version of world politics (“All of our problems are due to blowback!”) that means that you can have your principled isolationist cake and avoid any costs.

  38. Gravatar of Luis Pedro Coelho Luis Pedro Coelho
    12. October 2015 at 03:35

    It’s one of those irregular conjugations:

    I oppose rezoning because I care about the public school system as a whole
    You oppose rezoning because you are selfish
    He opposes rezoning because is a racist


    The figures of >20k/pupil/year are “shout it from the rooftops” material. This is enough to get every kid into an excellent school.

  39. Gravatar of Dan W. Dan W.
    12. October 2015 at 05:10


    You should have stopped with your first conclusion: “blame the system that produces Dumbo parents.” But you couldn’t help yourself and your subsequent comments were snarky and revealing of the intellectualism that you embrace.

    In fact the problem is not the Dumbo parents but the social engineers. Their efforts have produced mediocre if not poor results. So they want to appropriate the “good” of Dumbo and substitute it for their failure. They can “level” the playing field by spreading the mediocrity and failure to the communities that are succeeding.

    Why should the Dumbo parents agree to this plan?

    The excuse given is their schools are publicly subsidized. But so also is the failing school. They are all subsidized. If socialization is justification for do-gooders to interfere with a plan that is working then perhaps what needs to change is the socialization.

    Wise philosophers of the 18th century observed that “Freedom of Association” is a necessary liberty for peaceful and prosperous society. Meddling do-gooders of the 20th and 21st century disagree and call on the power of the state to impose the doctrine of equality. But equality is not liberty or prosperity. It is a desirable objective that too often is used as a justification for statism.

    That Dumbo parents demand freedom for themselves but support politicians who deny such freedoms for others is curious but unsurprising. This is human nature and such behavior is so common what should surprise us is the counter-examples, if any.

  40. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    12. October 2015 at 05:45

    ‘I think they [CoCos] are a good idea for banks. But Lehman was an investment bank, not a commercial bank…’

    Wouldn’t matter, they’ll work for any financial institution. Even insurance companies. As the Calomiris-Herring paper explains.

    Credit Suisse is a holding company that combines investment and commercial banking (they’re not subject to Glass-Steagall, in Europe, at least). As I pointed out, footnote 25 says they used them successfully in 2011.

  41. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    12. October 2015 at 05:50

    Northwestern’s Lynne Kiesling agrees with the latest Nobel;


    ‘Angus Deaton is the worthy and deserving winner of this year’s economics Nobel. The arc of his work, from theory to data to empirical application, has been consumption, measuring consumption, and consumption as an indicator of well-being, poverty, and inequality. His analyses also incorporate political economy as a factor influencing those relationships and incentives.

    ‘If you haven’t read his book The Great Escape, do so. It’s an accessible and optimistic account of the relationship between poverty and economic growth. Here’s an interview with Deaton from Caleb Brown at the Cato Daily Podcast in 2013 on the themes of the book. For a longer discussion based on the book, Russ Roberts’ EconTalk podcast with Deaton from November 2013 is well worth the time.’

  42. Gravatar of Steven Kopits Steven Kopits
    12. October 2015 at 06:00

    I take on Mark Carney’s climate claims here:


  43. Gravatar of Floccina Floccina
    12. October 2015 at 06:28

    @Benjamin Cole do have a link for: “Saddam Hussein outlawed even asking another person if they were Shia or Sunni in Iraq.”

    I would like to publicize that if it is true.

  44. Gravatar of Charlie Jamieson Charlie Jamieson
    12. October 2015 at 06:37

    ‘So they want to appropriate the “good” of Dumbo and substitute it for their failure.’

    Bingo! Black kids do better when they’re around white kids, because those dumbo values rub off on them. But then the white kids do worse. So why not encourage black families to value education and get their fathers involved. Plenty of policy choices can do that.
    Integration supposedly works in places like New Hampshire because there are fewer black kids in the classroom. But once you reach a certain tipping point you lose the benefits.

  45. Gravatar of Philo Philo
    12. October 2015 at 06:51

    @ Tom Brown:
    It might be a good thing if a few schools taught that the moon was an illusion produced by conspirators. It would promote “critical thinking” by the students, as the learned that authorities can promulgate silly falsehoods.

  46. Gravatar of Philo Philo
    12. October 2015 at 06:52

    . . . THEY . . .

  47. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    12. October 2015 at 07:20

    We’re doomed;


    Talk of the Federal Reserve’s first rate increase in almost a decade tends to send many investors into a frenzy. For the world’s central bankers, it is increasingly likely to elicit sighs of resignation.

    Fed fatigue has enveloped emerging-market officials facing repeated bouts of volatility in their currencies and capital flows alongside mounting worries about debt. Some policy makers, gripped by the uncertainty, delivered a message to their American counterparts as officials gathered in the Peruvian capital for the International Monetary Fund’s annual meeting: Please stop dithering.

    “Delaying the increase would not solve the situation,” said Sukhdave Singh, deputy governor of Bank Negara Malaysia. “If it is a case that the emerging markets have taken on too much debt, there will be a day of reckoning. Delaying an interest-rate hike does not necessarily address that issue.”

    Once the Fed moves, investors will move money back into the U.S., depriving emerging markets of capital, which will weaken their currencies and send inflation higher.

  48. Gravatar of Randomize Randomize
    12. October 2015 at 07:39

    Dr. Sumner, given your focus on real vs. nominal dollars, I’d have thought you’d have caught on to this:

    According to payscale, the cost of living in New York is nearly 120% higher than the national average, meaning that school funding at double the national average is still below average in real dollars.


  49. Gravatar of Scott Sumner Scott Sumner
    12. October 2015 at 08:55

    Patrick, That’s a very interesting proposal.

    LK, See Martin’s reply.

    Anand, You said:

    “Thirdly, is it true that people will spend less on education if they know how much the government actually spends?”

    That was not my claim, I believe they need to educate themselves that we could get the same quality schooling at far lower cost.

    Steve, The post was not aimed at “addressing underlying social problems” it was addressed at wasting less money on education. I doubt whether our education system has much role in underlying social problems.

    Floccina, I agree, I support the carbon tax but not cap and trade.

    LK, Good point about livestock, but does that issue have anything to do with religious people denying evolution? Do they deny it at the bacterial level?

    Randomize, I would publicize that fact if I believed it, but I don’t.

  50. Gravatar of Randomize Randomize
    12. October 2015 at 09:30

    Dr. Sumner,

    Here’s MIT’s Living Wage Calculator. Feel free to play around with it and decide if you really believe it or not.


  51. Gravatar of TallDave TallDave
    12. October 2015 at 09:57

    It’s not just the areas with bad schools, no progressive wants to live in high-crime areas either. Instead, they move out and support gun control. I don’t think we can blame them for being rational actors but there’s a definite failure to generalize their own experience.

    While people who say global warming is “not real” or a hoax are clearly wrong, from a policy perspective most of the ignorance about global warming is on the left — the evidence suggests to the limited extent long-term global temperature trends can be reliably predicted (most climate scientists do not believe this is possible, see Storch 2010), the most likely scenario is real but slightly beneficial warming of less than one degree through the next 50 years, as the naive forecast based on the satellite trend has the most evidentiary support and nearly all the impact studies that claim large negative impacts are highly speculative (and there is a long, long history of such claims turning out to be wrong) and contradict more than a century of historical study of the impact of warming trends on human civilizations. So a multi-trillion-dollar global policy of making fossil fuels more expensive (mainly impacting the world’s poorest and probably resulting in tens of millions of excess deaths) isn’t a rational policy response. And again, I don’t really blame people for taking claims by the IPCC and other activists at face value, but it’s generally the case that the more certain someone is, the less they know about the data that supports that belief.

    With the glaring exception of monetary policy, where the right is horrible and it may have horrible consequences, the right is usually ignorant in ways that are either trivial (evolution) or moot (global warming).

  52. Gravatar of collin collin
    12. October 2015 at 10:52

    My kids are going to one of these ‘gentrifying’ schools in California and I don’t see a problem with that. I think they are doing fine as it is really up to the student to succeed. (Our schools are majority Latino but honestly Southern California has such multi-cultural families, the idea of race is starting to disappear. My kids best friends are mixed race.)

    In terms of vouchers and private schools, I always thought Matt Yglesias point that ‘vouchertopia’ would follow the current model for College to ring true. It would be improved results and more focus on test scores. Also most school costs would increase as parents would compete to get in the right schoool while private schools in poorer areas would be very ineffective as they would not enough money. (Also, I suspect more students would not complete school.)

  53. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    12. October 2015 at 11:55

    Free markets, free trade and foreign aid are other topics were a lot of left-wing people seem to be science-blind. Maybe even capitalism as a whole.

    @benjamin cole
    I agree with you that many libertarians seem to ignore that some liberties can have serious drawbacks when there are no restrictions at all. In German there’s a whole school of thought that seems to deal with those questions. The philosophy is called Ordoliberalism, its method is called Ordnungspolitik.

    @W. Peden
    I agree.

  54. Gravatar of LK Beland LK Beland
    12. October 2015 at 12:38

    “LK, Good point about livestock, but does that issue have anything to do with religious people denying evolution? Do they deny it at the bacterial level?”

    My point was in regard to “It doesn’t much matter if a few schools in the Bible Belt don’t cover evolution”.

    If think it is important to teach evolution in high school, at least at the bacterial level. I agree it is not as important when it comes to primates.

  55. Gravatar of Dots Dots
    12. October 2015 at 12:44

    “trades infill” seems easier than “achievement gap” repair. auto mechanics, for example, aren’t paid too well to b hired away as trade-school teachers, aren’t paid too little for auto repair industry to experience oversupply. trucking, too

    I would like to see a lot more political gimmickry with low-hanging fruit. hopefully Hillary can b Bill and Boehner or his replacement can b Gingrich

  56. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    12. October 2015 at 14:47

    Wow. Sumner tells Randomize that he does not trust the data collected by a reputable site–as is well-known–that the cost of living in NYC is 120% above the national average. When I graduated from graduate school a starting offer to work in NYC was significantly higher than the rest of the country, precisely for that reason.

    Sumner is just a bigot, pure and simple.

  57. Gravatar of Martin-2 Martin-2
    12. October 2015 at 14:48

    LK Beland:

    Thanks for the reply. RE your first point, I’m surprised you say people not taking *enough* prescribed antibiotics is a major cause of resistance. Is because they relapse and need more antibiotics in the long run?

    It would really suck if people needed a technical understanding of how their medication works at the cellular level to follow their prescriptions.

  58. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    12. October 2015 at 15:11

    Is it possible that I read the article in a different way than Mr. Sumner? I think the article in National Review is about left-wing parents that are totally against rezoning when it’s about their children but totally for rezoning when it’s about other children. The article shows that rezoning is a really bad policy and that those left-wing parents are extremely hypocritical.

    The ‘point’ of the Dumbo parents about more spending for schools is really not about more spending for schools. It’s only a distraction. (Robin Hanson would say it’s signaling, and I guess this is also true).

    Steve put it exactly right: “The parents clearly don’t care how much is spent, as long as it is enough to deflect from the fact that they don’t want their little angels going to a minority school.”

    Of course you can always talk about wasting less money on education. But basing such a discussion on this article seems a bit weird to me because the article is clearly about the wrong policy of rezoning and left-wing hypocrisy.

    @Ray Lopez
    From what I hear Brooklyn is especially expensive these days. It’s just crazy. But I don’t see how this makes Mr. Sumner a bigot. Terms like ‘bigot’ are not helpful in a serious discussion at all, don’t you think? The opposite seems true to me: You insult Mr. Sumner for years now and he still does not ban you even though everbody would totally understand if he did. This is not bigotry this is extreme tolerance.

  59. Gravatar of Thiago Ribeiro Thiago Ribeiro
    12. October 2015 at 16:40

    “Trust me, the public is dumb.”

  60. Gravatar of Scott Sumner Scott Sumner
    12. October 2015 at 17:59

    Randomize, No, I don’t believe those numbers. If true, how does the real income of New York compare to the US? How are housing prices determined in that survey? By square foot?

    Talldave, I see massive ignorance on both sides.

    Collin, I’m not a fan of more focus on test scores. I’d like to see less focus on test scores.

    LK, OK, but even you’d have to admit that even if you taught evolution everywhere at the high school level, not one student in 100 would understand the implications for overuse of antibiotics.

    Christian, When I link to an article, that doesn’t mean my post is “about” that article. In this case my post was on an entirely different topic from the National Review article. I was not responding to the article, just one offhand comment in the article.

  61. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    12. October 2015 at 18:14

    Totally off topic. If you were advising Hillary Ciinton what is the best argument she could make when Bernie inevitably calls her a traitor to the working stiff over the TPP trade deal.

    The Bernie Maniacs see it as a black and white issue. Even though I’m a liberal I’m not dogmatically against all trade deals.

  62. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    12. October 2015 at 18:16

    The tricky part is formulating an answer in front of an audience that has lots of anti trade dogmatists in it.

  63. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    12. October 2015 at 19:06

    Thank you, I got it.

  64. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    13. October 2015 at 01:51

    @Christian List – you are a German, right? Your nym is a takeoff of the infant industry trade champion and German economist F. List? Or are you the LSE real economist C. List? In any event, I don’t care, but it seems English is your second language, as “bigot” simply means having a preconceived worldview that does not change, regardless of the facts. It does not simply mean ‘racist’ as you suppose. Now go away fool, before I insult you too.

  65. Gravatar of William Peden William Peden
    13. October 2015 at 04:02

    Mike Sax,

    I think that the only way to win those debates quickly is to adopt as much of your audience’s views as possible. So I would approach it by stressing the jobs that TTP will create, the legal responsibilities it will put in Asian companies, and how it will help ordinary American families trying to get by.

    If you’re being ambitious, you can point out how the scaremongering on NAFTA was wrong, but there you can run up against various sophistries that say that Ross Perot was right etc., even though unemployment is below what it was in the early 1990s before NAFTA.

  66. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    13. October 2015 at 05:39

    ‘If you were advising Hillary Ciinton what is the best argument she could make when Bernie inevitably calls her a traitor to the working stiff over the TPP trade deal. ‘

    Not that Hillary will take my advice, but I’d reply that, ‘Supply is (implicit)Demand.’ If we vote to make it difficult for foreigners to supply us with useful products, ipso facto, that makes it difficult for them to buy American products. Which will negatively affect job creation.

  67. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    13. October 2015 at 06:07

    Speaking of the debate, I wonder what Hillary and Bernie would have to say to this;


    In 2005, the Chicago team helped design an auction-like system to allocate the food, and have been tweaking the system for a decade. Today, it runs as smoothly as eBay.

    Every day, each food bank is allocated a pot of fiat currency called “shares.” Food banks in areas with bigger populations and more poverty receive larger numbers of shares. Twice a day, they can use their shares to bid online on any of the 30 to 40 truckloads of food that were donated directly to Feeding America. The winners of the auction pay for the truckloads with their shares. Then, all the shares spent on a particular day are reallocated back to food banks at midnight. That means that food banks that did not spend their shares on a particular day would end up with more shares and thus a greater ability to bid the next day. In this way, the system has built-in fairness: If a large food bank could afford to spend a fortune on a truck of frozen chicken, its shares would show up on the balance of smaller food banks the next day. Moreover, neighboring food banks can now team up to bid jointly to reduce their transport costs.

    Initially, there was plenty of resistance. As one food bank director told Canice Prendergast, an economist advising Feeding America, “I am a socialist. That’s why I run a food bank. I don’t believe in markets. I’m not saying I won’t listen, but I am against this.” But the Chicago economists managed to design a market that worked even for participants who did not believe in it. Within half a year of the auction system being introduced, 97 percent of food banks won at least one load, and the amount of food allocated from Feeding America’s headquarters rose by over 35 percent, to the delight of volunteers and donors.

  68. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    13. October 2015 at 06:18

    Yes W. Peden she;s basically adopting like you said. She is making it sound like she’s against it but what she’s really saying is since she was the Secretary of State she’s the one to make it better.

  69. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    13. October 2015 at 06:20

    The real challenge is how you frame it.

  70. Gravatar of LK Beland LK Beland
    13. October 2015 at 06:57

    “LK, OK, but even you’d have to admit that even if you taught evolution everywhere at the high school level, not one student in 100 would understand the implications for overuse of antibiotics.”

    That’s probably right. But then again, we could make a similar argument about most of what is taught in school.

    “Thanks for the reply. RE your first point, I’m surprised you say people not taking *enough* prescribed antibiotics is a major cause of resistance. Is because they relapse and need more antibiotics in the long run?”

    It’s mostly because a few of the more resistant bacteria will survive the half-prescription and leave their genes to future generations, while they might not have survived a full treatment.

  71. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    13. October 2015 at 07:48

    Dumbo inflations expectations;


    Data from the Michigan Survey of Consumers and the New York Fed Survey of Consumer Expectations yield similar patterns in inflation expectations to those we found for New Zealand. Using polling data for the US, Binder (2015) documents that the US public lacks knowledge about monetary policy. In particular, only one in every three Americans was able to correctly identify the chair of the Federal Reserve System. Very few were able to predict low levels of inflation when asked about inflation over next ten years. Nor did they appear to display much eagerness to learn about the Fed and monetary policy. In terms of social media, numbers of Twitter and Facebook followers of the Federal Reserve System do not appear remarkable. In fact, FBI, the CIA, and Paul Krugman, among others, have more followers than the entire Federal Reserve System. Google searches confirm this paucity of interest. Total online searches for macroeconomic variables like GDP, the unemployment rate, and inflation are consistently topped by online searches for puppies.


    Using a new survey of firms, we document that managers of these firms show little anchoring of inflation expectations, despite 25 years of inflation targeting by the RBNZ. Managers know relatively little about the objectives of central banks and are often poorly informed about recent inflation dynamics. Most of them seem to depend to a large extent on their personal shopping experience to make inferences about aggregate inflation. As a result, their inflation expectations seem to be especially sensitive to gasoline prices, consistent with households in the US. But while inflation expectations appear poorly anchored, they are not irrelevant to business decisions. Most managers report that they would change wages, prices, and employment when they change their inflation expectations. So improved communications strategies on the part of central banks could, were they able to more successfully stabilise inflation expectations, still have pronounced economic effects.

  72. Gravatar of Martin-2 Martin-2
    13. October 2015 at 08:10

    Scott Sumner: “I’d like to see less focus on test scores”

    That’s dangerous talk. I need to get into grad school quick before you GPA extremists devalue my precious test scores.

  73. Gravatar of Benny Lava Benny Lava
    13. October 2015 at 08:32

    I think Scott misses the mark here. From what I’ve read dumbo was an appellation cobbeled together to make the area sound unattractive and keep people out. So of course the same sort of people would want to keep other people’s children out of their school district. I’ll bet they also would fight against increasing their property taxes to pay for more spending on pupils as well.

    The real story here is one of Americans of all stripes competing over a scarce resource: good schools. Because Americans aren’t serious about making schools good. They would rather fight over district lines and unions and corporate takeovers than implement the cheap and easy fixes that would make schools better. Sad but true.

  74. Gravatar of Randomize Randomize
    13. October 2015 at 08:51

    Dr. Sumner,

    I don’t know how the housing index is calculated but it’s unfair to dismiss the idea that New York real estate (among other things) is more expensive than the national average because you don’t know the exact details. You compared nominal spending per student at a national level and these dramatically higher local costs should mostly translate into higher facilities and labor expenses for New York schools.

    At the very least, your claim that New York spends more than the national average per student is suspect.

  75. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    13. October 2015 at 09:32

    Benny Lava:
    There’s a contradiction in what you say. “The real story here is one of Americans of all stripes competing over a scarce resource: good schools. Because Americans aren’t serious about making schools good…” Why would they compete over something that they didn’t care about?

    I bet if you post your “cheap and easy fixes” here, you’ll find any number of people who disagree. We have identified education as a public good and we don’t all agree on what a good education looks like, how to deliver it and how much it should cost. That sounds like a difficult problem to me.

  76. Gravatar of TallDave TallDave
    13. October 2015 at 10:17

    It’s really easy to build a good school, you just need good students.

    Ironically, teachers themselves are probably the mostly likely to move their kids to better districts.

  77. Gravatar of Benny Lava Benny Lava
    13. October 2015 at 11:09


    I didn’t say they don’t care about it. They care about good schools for their children but see education as a zero sum game. Winners and losers. Can’t all be good schools. So schools are bad by design.

    I’ll post my cheap and easy fix here and the only people who will disagree are brainless argumentative shits. Here goes:

    Make high school start later. That’s it.

    Numerous studies have shown that American schools fall off at high school. Also, that teenagers circadian rythms shirt at puberty for later night sleeping. So if high school start times were pushed back a few hours schools would see an immediate increase in test scores and a drop in discipline problems. It has been tried successfully in a few districts around America.

    This costs virtually nothing and has proven results based on well researched biological phenomenon. The fact that it isn’t implemented nation wide can only be explained by the relative cheapness of its implementation and not requiring special interests and also a lack of interest by the General public in making good schools.

  78. Gravatar of TravisV TravisV
    13. October 2015 at 12:25

    I just found this old post where Yglesias cites books that have influenced him:


    Includes links to similar lists from Bryan Caplan and Tyler Cowen.

  79. Gravatar of TravisV TravisV
    13. October 2015 at 12:26

    Great stuff from J.P. Morgan funds:


  80. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    13. October 2015 at 13:45

    Benny Lava:
    No argument from me, but you can expect one from the teacher’s unions.

  81. Gravatar of TravisV TravisV
    13. October 2015 at 15:28

    Jared Bernstein: Fed Fight?


  82. Gravatar of benjamin cole benjamin cole
    13. October 2015 at 19:17

    Patrick Sullivan: I agree that most people couldn’t pick Janet Yellen out of a New York City mug lineup. The inflationary expectations argument has always struck me as the weak point in many monetarist positions.

    That is another reason I believe the Fed could blow the doors wide open right now with only good effect.

    Side note to Scott Sumner: the recent issue of The Economist magazine suggests that global central banks were in effect conducting QE when they accumulated reserves, but now are no longer accumulating reserves, a type of reverse QE. Where the post perhaps.

  83. Gravatar of TravisV TravisV
    13. October 2015 at 22:17


    Asian shares declined on Tuesday after data showed consumer inflation in China cooled more than expected last month, adding to concerns about the health of the world’s second-biggest economy.


    “Today’s Chinese CPI data essentially guaranteed further cuts to the interest rate and the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) before the year is out. But, China has already eased monetary policy significantly and stepped up its fiscal spending, any rally based on a further increase seems inevitably short-lived,” IG’s Nicholson explained.


  84. Gravatar of Vivian Darkbloom Vivian Darkbloom
    14. October 2015 at 01:29

    Talk about efficient education spending. And, they do it for the kids!


  85. Gravatar of TallDave TallDave
    14. October 2015 at 06:03

    Viv — the Chicago school districts are worse than most suburbanites can even imagine, same with Baltimore. We throw money into these holes and it just gets looted, not much different than aid to poor African countries. Principals barely show up and put their friends on ghost payroll jobs where they don’t show up at all, teachers sleep through class — and the students themselves are just as bad, most are actively hostile to the concept of education. People donate 1,000 laptops and they are all stolen by the end of the week. Every poor area in the world has this problem, it’s practically the defining aspect of low income societies or subcultures.

    Civic virtue is simultaneously taken for granted by places that have it and largely ignored as a solution in places that don’t.

  86. Gravatar of TallDave TallDave
    14. October 2015 at 06:06

    TrvaisV — interesting, thanks for sharing — keep in mind, China is simultaneously tightening by buying up yuan to support the peg, spent $43B in reserves last month.

    They have to get off that peg, it is going to swallow their economy.

  87. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    14. October 2015 at 06:27

    “We throw money into these holes and it just gets looted, . . . ”

    More ‘looting’?

     “But Putin must certainly be innocent of the accusation that his air force has bombed the U.S.-trained “pro-democracy” freedom fighters, because the trainers themselves have admitted that the first lot on which one-tenth of the budget has been spent, i.e., $50 million, are exactly five in number, the rest having deserted after receiving their big family-support signing bonus and first pay check, or after they were first issued with weapons (which they sold), or after first entering Syria in groups, when they promptly joined the anti-American Jabhat an-Nuá¹£rah,whose Sunni Islam they understand, unlike talk of democracy. That guarantees Putin’s innocence: All five extant U.S.-made freedom fighters are reportedly alive and well, though one may have defected since the last count. (It would really be much cheaper to hire Salvadoran contract gunmen and fit them out in Arab head-dresses.) ”

  88. Gravatar of Vivian Darkbloom Vivian Darkbloom
    14. October 2015 at 06:50

    While I would also favor de-centralization, I believe a more effective solution to the problem of inefficient spending is to increase the amount of public disclosure required of school spending. Not too long ago I exchanged some comments at Econbrowser regarding the proposed cuts to the U of Wisconsin budget. When I finally did track down some financials (not easy to find), it turned out they were woefully inadequate as far as details are concerned. It made it much too difficult to assess claims put forward by management that the budget cuts would have disastrous consequences. My jaded self thinks this lack of detail is no accident.

    The general public is never going to be savvy or interested enough to review the general statistics on school spending, much less the details. However, there is a sufficient number of persons who are interested that publishing detailed revenue and spending budgets would help identify waste and properly align priorities. This detailed accounting has to be done anyway to arrive at the non-detailed totals, and there is no reason why we shouldn’t require that greater details be available on the internet for parents and taxpayers to review. The law should require it and should specify the level of detail to be disclosed, lest those who have the fiduciary duty to properly spend public funds try to get too cute. It would help prevent situations like those identified above regarding the Chicago School District. Best of all, more money would be better spent on actually educating the kids.

  89. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    14. October 2015 at 08:55

    Mike, She’s already decided on her response. Lie about her previous support.

    Benny, See my response to Christian. (I agree about starting school later.)

    Randomize, Oh I agree that NYC is much more expensive than the average city, I just don’t buy the 125% figure.

    Vivian, Good points, I’d add that a voucher system would make parents more cost conscious.

  90. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    15. October 2015 at 03:34

    I would point you to this quote from my seminal work on Federalism: “Ezra Klein is a world class asshole.”


    I’d read it, bc it lays the groundwork for my next software as govt policy (everyone loves #Uber4Welfare)

    Optimal public policy within the boundaries of what is possible, given our politics, is that IF there are going to be public education (not even schools) the best solution is to backpack each kid with an amount of money doled out based upon some mix of income per member of household and NON-MARGINAL bonus nudges to reward two parent families (social behavior) and exceptional test scores (individual IQ).

    It’s not really a complicated formula. The only truly screwed are the teacher unions. The top half of teachers will do better as well.

    Of course all of this is administered thru a mobile app.

    Then, the parents must SHOP amongst private schools of any type, and the chips fall where they may.

    This does allow that there will be upper class schools far from integrated by both class and race.

    Two caveats:

    1. The best schools will tend to be well endowed, and will very likely to offer scholarships that cover the distance between the backpack and tuition.

    2. The govts. job is to be relentless with personal OUTCOMES, not test scores… the which kids get into what schools? which kids get solid skilled labor jobs? which schools turn out people on welfare.

    Since all the inputs on the kid, to establish his backpack + family life + IQ are there from the beginning, and his grades follow along, it is easy to see which schools and teachers themselves are adding to subtracting, providing above or below average VALUE ADDED EDUCATION.

    This creates an incentive structure for teachers to follow along after their charges, to be available for discussion, bc helping the next teacher KNOW what young Morgan responded too, benefits you.

    In practice this thing is really nothing more than a new kind of facebook (your permanent record), each kid has a page, and teachers are communicating in it, but it is fully integrated with parents and the coursework itself.

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