Keeping up with the FITs, 7/5
Arthur Aron's 36 questions; John Wentworth on college costs; Nellie Bowles on the abortion fight; Nouriel Roubini and Yascha Mounk offer depressing takes
Via a podcast with Eric Barker (thank you, Paul Barnes), I looked for Arthur Aron’s 36 questions to ask someone in order to deepen connection. Some examples:
2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
Most of the questions are geared toward a couple in a long-term relationship. But a few of them are reminiscent of the questions in Talent, by Tyler Cowen and Daniel Gross. I would say that asking these sorts of questions signals that you care about the other person. And I think that is part of the purpose the Cowen and Gross have in doing their interviews. If you signal that you care, and the other person opens up, you probably get a better sense of that person.
The main theory we'll end up at, based on the accounting data, is that college costs are driven mainly by a large increase in diversity of courses available, which results in much lower student/faculty ratios, and correspondingly higher costs per student.
What about administrators?
The data in the digest does not provide a clear story about the increase in support expenditure; it doesn’t have much information on non-instructional staff other than the expenditures. But it does clearly follow the instructional-faculty costs pretty closely. Based on that, my guess is that institutions generally need to spend a roughly-fixed amount of resources on support per faculty member, so the increase in support cost is driven mainly by the increase in faculty
I have seen other data showing administration expenses rising much faster than faculty expenses. So why doesn’t the data for overall support staff show the same thing? Maybe administration expenses started from a low base, and other “support staff” have been cut back? I’ll bet the MIT economics department has fewer departmental secretaries than it did when I was in grad school there.
why have Democrats never tried to actually codify Roe into law, even when they’ve had a supermajority, as they did during Obama’s first term? One theory: Both the left and the right benefit from having abortion undecided and contentious because it brings out their voter bases. Meanwhile, pro-life groups are working to stop people from crossing state lines for abortions.
I would like to see a national compromise law that can really pass. But when I look at women’s organizations I can donate to that are working toward this, I can’t find any. All the abortion rights groups seem to spend half their time advocating for unrelated issues (defunding the police, for example), and the other half of their donor-funded time on internal drama. This is a pattern: None of the old guard liberal groups are actually doing the things they were originally formed to do (see: Sierra Club, ACLU, etc).
I view this from the perspective of affective polarization, which is when hatred of the other side matters more to people than the substance of the issues. A Congressman cannot compromise on abortion or immigration, because compromise shows insufficient hatred of the other side.
Bowles offers interesting tidbits on several other topics.
My outlook tends to be pessimistic. But compared to Nouriel Roubini, I’m an optimist.
There is ample reason to believe that the next recession will be marked by a severe stagflationary debt crisis. As a share of global GDP, private and public debt levels are much higher today than in the past, having risen from 200% in 1999 to 350% today (with a particularly sharp increase since the start of the pandemic). Under these conditions, rapid normalization of monetary policy and rising interest rates will drive highly leveraged zombie households, companies, financial institutions, and governments into bankruptcy and default.
Yascha Mounk surveys the political scene, and offers his depressing take. I mostly agree, but I try to resist the urge to do that sort of political commentary. It’s not my comparative advantage.