Quotulatiousness

December 12, 2012

What is driving the increasing price of higher education?

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Economics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:03

H/T to Daniel J. Mitchell, who adds:

The first part of the video shows that a college degree has become more valuable, so it’s understandable that the relative price of higher education has risen.

But then, beginning at about 1:55, the video discusses the role of subsidies. Echoing points I’ve made in the past, the professor explains how subsidies have simply generated higher prices. In other words, colleges have captured all the benefits, not students.

Business Week recently published a story that provides some glaring example of how universities have wasted all the additional money. Here are some remarkable excerpts.

    “I have no idea what these people do,” says the biomedical engineering professor. Purdue has a $313,000-a-year acting provost and six vice and associate vice provosts, including a $198,000-a-year chief diversity officer. Among its 16 deans and 11 vice presidents are a $253,000 marketing officer and a $433,000 business school chief. The average full professor at the public university in West Lafayette, Ind., makes $125,000. The number of Purdue administrators has jumped 54 percent in the past decade—almost eight times the growth rate of tenured and tenure-track faculty. “We’re here to deliver a high-quality education at as low a price as possible,” says Robinson. “Why is it that we can’t find any money for more faculty, but there seems to be an almost unlimited budget for administrators?” …Purdue is typical: At universities nationwide, employment of administrators jumped 60 percent from 1993 to 2009, 10 times the growth rate for tenured faculty. “Administrative bloat is clearly contributing to the overall cost of higher education,” says Jay Greene, an education professor at the University of Arkansas. In a 2010 study, Greene found that from 1993 to 2007, spending on administration rose almost twice as fast as funding for research and teaching at 198 leading U.S. universities.

Do Republicans believe in federalism?

Filed under: Government, Law, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:34

Jacob Sullum on the rising tide of liberalization at the state level — gay marriage and marijuana legalization — and whether the Republicans will support federalism in these cases:

Nationwide support for marijuana legalization, like nationwide support for gay marriage, has increased dramatically, although not quite as swiftly, rising from 12 percent in a 1969 Gallup poll to a record 50 percent last year. While support for legalization dipped a bit during the anti-pot backlash of the Just Say No era, it began rising again in the 1990s. Public Policy Polling recently put it at 58 percent, the highest level ever recorded.

[. . .]

Just as an individual’s attitude toward gay people depends to a large extent on how many he knows (or, more to the point, realizes he knows), his attitude toward pot smokers (in particular, his opinion about whether they should be treated like criminals) is apt to be influenced by his personal experience with them. Americans younger than 65, even if they have never smoked pot, probably know people who have, and that kind of firsthand knowledge provides an important reality check on the government’s anti-pot propaganda.

Another clear pattern in both of these areas: Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to oppose legalizing gay marriage and marijuana. Yet Republicans are also more likely to oppose federal interference with state policy choices. In light of DOMA’s disregard for state marriage laws and the Obama administration’s threats to prevent Colorado and Washington from allowing marijuana sales, now is put-up-or-shut-up time for the GOP’s avowed federalists.

Climatic witchcraft

Filed under: Environment, History, Media, Science — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:23

No offense intended to practitioners of witchcraft intended:

Superstition about the weather in particular is hardly surprising, given the awesome power of nature. Witnessing storms, lightning and even the daily rising and setting of the sun surely induced fear and wonder in primitive cultures. The same fear and wonder are what warmists exploit today in linking weather extremes to global warming.

Scholars tell us that weather superstition often found expression in ritual human sacrifice. The Mayans, for instance, tossed victims into a limestone sinkhole to appease the rain god Chaac.

And it’s only a few centuries since superstition over the climate led to intensive witch hunts and widespread executions, usually by burning, for witchcraft.

University of Chicago economist Emily Oster demonstrated in 2004 that the most active era of witchcraft trials in Europe coincided with the Little Ice Age. Since then, other researchers have argued that chilly weather may have precipitated the Salem witch trials in the 1690s — one of the coldest periods of that epoch.

It was widely believed during the late Middle Ages that witches were capable of controlling the weather with their magic powers, and thus cause storms that could destroy harvests and hobble food production.

[. . .]

Our obsession with weather extremes has reached such heights that it has become a knee-jerk reaction for climate-change alarmists to ascribe any unusual weather event at all to global warming. So they tell us that heat waves, floods, harsh winters, dust storms — even wildfires — are all the result of man-made CO2. But a check of records from, say, the 1930s or the 1950s, when the CO2 level was much lower than now, reveals that such events are nothing new.

Climate-change skeptics might be regarded as modern-day witches because they think that global warming comes from natural forces. However, it’s superstitious alarmists, who believe that extreme weather originates in our CO2 emissions and who have a dread of impending disaster, who are really the witches.

Offensensitivity down under

Filed under: Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:17

Australia is exploring the notion of making it illegal to offend others (I guess it got precedence over the bill to make water run uphill…):

Have you ever called the Prime Minister ‘Juliar’? Or called a mate a dopey bastard? New laws could put a stop to name calling.

Civil Liberties Australia (CLA) warn the PM herself could be in trouble for calling Opposition Leader Tony Abbott a misogynist if proposed amendments to anti-discrimination laws take effect — although Julia Gillard has the protection of Parliamentary privilege.

What about cricket sledging, or paying out on a mate?

CLA chief executive officer Bill Rowlings has lashed out at the proposed amendments to anti-discrimination laws which make it unlawful to “offend” people.

His attack follows ABC chairman Jim Spigelman’s scathing appraisal this week — he said that the laws could breach our international obligations to freedom of speech.

Update: Of course, it’s rather unfair of me to point my finger and laugh at our Australian cousins when Albertans get up to similar japes of a quasi-legal kind:

One is surprised to discover that Hanna felt it needed to outlaw theft and assault, and also amused to contemplate the idea of a court trying to define “social out-casting”. But it turns out, anyway, that the law does not actually outlaw bullying! It instead does a bizarre half-gainer and prohibits the making-of-someone-feel-as-though-they-are-being-bullied.

    1. No person shall, in any public place:

         a. Communicate either directly or indirectly, with any person in a way that causes the person, reasonably in all the circumstances, to feel bullied.

To prove an offence under this scheme, one apparently only needs to show that one felt taunted, put down, or outcast. (Felt “reasonably”, that is. I would have thought the salient characteristic of feelings is that they are not reason, but there you go.) The Hanna Herald has said the bylaw is “based on similar laws passed around Alberta.” One hopes that this is not the case, but readers are invited to submit local intelligence. If we can call it that.

“Big Food” is killing us!

Filed under: Cancon, Health, Media, Science — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:59

At sp!ked, Rob Lyons debunks a recent video by Canadian anti-corporate activist Dr. Yoni Freedhoff:

This is a handy menu of food-related government intervention that is trotted out all the time by food crusaders everywhere. But before we get to those interventions, maybe we should ask how we got here in the first place.

First, food got cheaper while, on average, we’ve been generally getting richer. In particular, if America is anything to go by, we spent less as a proportion of income on meat and dairy products — surprisingly, spending on fruit and veg has been pretty constant — and more on processed foods and sweets. In other words, we bought convenience with the money we were saving.

Second, suppliers and retailers realised that as food got cheaper, the way to make money was to ‘add value’ — in other words, take basic ingredients and make them more convenient, more ‘fun’, more ‘premium’ or to appeal to some other psychological need. Yes, food manufacturers are as capable of bullshitting as anybody else with something to sell.

One of the other ways that suppliers add value is to make ‘healthy’ products. But who set up those health claims in the first place? It was the media, the medical profession and, most of all, governments. Who said we should be stuffing our faces with fruit to get our ‘five a day’? Who suggested that we get more omega-3s? Who said we should aim to eat low-fat diets? All of these ideas got the big official stamp of approval. And in the spirit of convenience, the food industry has made it easy, for better or for worse, to meet these official goals.

[. . .]

Moreover, what about the wild claims made for organic food? It has a completely spurious image as natural and wholesome, but study after study finds no consistent difference between organic foods and conventional foods — apart from the price. Yet it is often the most vociferously anti-Big Food campaigners, bloggers and ‘experts’ who push organic as the healthy alternative.

[. . .]

Rather than endless calls for regulations, bans and taxes — whose efficacy is doubtful but whose effect on personal autonomy would be substantial — it would be far better to recognise that any diet with some modicum of balance will be fine for most people, who will live to a greater age than their parents or grandparents, on average, no matter how much disapproved food they consume. Claims that any particular food is some dietary panacea should be treated with a large, metaphorical pinch of salt, whoever makes them, whether they are an evil mega corporation or the bloke behind the counter at the health-food shop.

Above all, a similarly healthy scepticism should be applied to crusading medics who want to scare us with the idea that Big Food is out to kill us and who encourage politicians to regulate what we eat.

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