Jun 6Liked by Arnold Kling

More people speak freely on more topics to bigger audiences than at any time in Western history. There is censorship, self- and otherwise, on some important topics, and it has ever been so. At no point in Western history was there a civil libertarian utopia, and much of the repression from when the "Christian substructure" was at its zenith far surpassed anything we see today. And one of the key factors for combatting repression from the past is in abundance today: loud, dissenting voices crying out for more freedom. And cultures retain their power to evolve new "substructures" for promoting and retaining practices conducive to freedom. Perhaps more so with all the new technologies and means and styles of communication.

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1) The obnoxious sign language person in every public event is probably an unreasonable accommodation. They take up at huge portion of the screen and are very distracting. It can't possibly pass a cost benefit test. I guess you could say the same about a fair bit of ADA rules. It doesn't take long on Google to find massive evidence of a kind of abusive ADA lawsuit industry.

Pretty much anytime you accommodate some really small group its wrong.

2) "But deafness should not become an aspiration."

Everything not forbidden is mandatory.


I think Richard raises a point. If something IS INFERIOR and you say IT ISN'T INFERIOR then you are already lying. And once you're lying a little, why not lie a lot. There is no natural stopping point for a lie. If a little lie will make gays feel better, a bigger lie will make them feel even better. And haven't they suffered enough!

3) Homosexuality is mental illness. Trans is just that same mental illness x10. There are a lot of the same drivers (narcissism, perversion, hedonism, etc).


4) "it does not propose any constructive steps to take"

What steps do you proposed to take? Perhaps in a red state debating a law there is something to do right now, but here in Virginia I know there is a 0% chance of school choice passing the legislature. During COVID there were huge parent protests at school board meetings but mostly the school board just kept doing what it wanted to do until the governor was able to narrowly pass a bill getting rid of masks (he needed a slim slice of democratic legislatures to pass it, but those same people would never pass school choice).

It's not exactly clear what regular people supporting school choice are supposed to do besides elect republicans if they feel the school choice issue is more important then other issues that might make them vote democrat, but that doesn't appear to be enough to shift legislatures.

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From NS Lions: “Maybe liberalism could only ever really run on an operating system of specifically Christian foundations.”

This is something I’ve come to believe, and from what I’ve read of old books, the idea used to be a common assumption until it was killed off by militantly secular academia in the 2nd half of the 20th century. Good to see that this is being talked about more these days.

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I agree that the Saudi's need to develop and economy not based on oil at some point, but I'm not sure they can.

Your average Saudi citizen is low IQ. They aren't going to develop a modern economy. They will need to import westerners to do that. But while a place like Dubai can do that, Saudi Arabia has 40M people. That means they need to import enough western knowledge workers to generate enough economic value to buy off 40M people. This isn't some tax haven city state living off the scraps of the west because it doesn't have to divide it amongst too many people.

I appreciate the desire to built something but we've seen countries with lots of natural resources waste them on vanity projects they claimed were productive before. All that seems different now is that they are allowing bread and circuses.

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> My father’s First Iron Law of Social Science: sometimes it’s this way, and sometimes it’s that way.

This is what the natural experiment evidence reads like to me. Arteaga (2018) looks more like the human capital story, while Hussey (2012) looks more like signaling. And both apply to a particular context in ways that make extrapolation to other settings difficult.

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Re: "I present ten reasons to doubt that the education system is a waste of time and money." — Infovores, "Attention Caplanites: School is Less Wasteful Than You Think!", at link embedded in Arnold's blogpost.

Let me reply, quickly, tersely, point by point, to Infovores' stimulating critique of Bryan's case.

1. Misdirects policy issue. We should experiment, here and there, with alternatives to academic model, reductions in subsidies, vouchers, etc., instead of arguing about burden of proof (and standard of proof) for funding or defunding the whole system.

2. Conflates dropping out and flunking out. Ignores mismatch of curriculum and job skills/knowledge. Assumes dropout has learned less than all grads.

3. Doesn't establish that schools impart conformity (rather than filter non-conformity). (Treatment effect versus ongoing selection effects.)

4. College students are hamstrung by a collective-action problem around punishment of academic dishonesty. Detection usually would require tips and testimony by fellow students. Everyday bonds in campus residential total institution make students reluctant to report fellow students. Given low detection rate, admin ratchets up punishments (deterrence model). Severe punishments (e.g., expulsion) violate even honest students' norms of fair punishment, overriding collective interest in clear signal of academic standards. Many students reason, 'It could be me, in a pinch.' Compare Akerlof, Yellen, Katz, "Gangs, Law Enforcement, and Community Values" (1994), critique of Becker bricks-and-sticks model of deterrence when detection is low, community cooperation is needed for tips and testimony, and punishments exceed community norms of fairness.

5. Ignores mismatch of curriculum and job skills/knowledge. Maybe college calculus, which fades, nonetheless durably reinforces prior learning of maths, but few grads use maths on the job.

6. Bryan acknowledges that his 20/80 average HC/signaling ratio is a guesstimate, and that the ratio varies by context. PS: Does a 3rd causal factor — "ability bias" — figure in Huntington-Klein's model? Bryan carefully address also ability bias.

7. Miguel Urquiola makes this critique of Bryan, using examples of SCOTUS reliance on law clerks from Yale Law and Harvard Law. Bryan replies that the social costs of current education system far outweigh benefits of ever finer signaling. See debate at link below, Q&A portion:


8. Doesn't establish that attentive mentoring in mismatched curriculum in school is more productive than less-attentive mentoring in job skills/tasks in the firm or org. Assumes ceteris paribus, but firms and orgs would focus more on mentoring (even with risk of employee defection), or other training mechanisms would emerge, if subsidies were withdrawn from education system.

9. Straw man. Although a gen ed course (e.g., foreign language) might have slight value, it doesn't pass cost-benefit test.

10. Ignores that college is also a country club that delays adulthood for many. Students quickly learn to cut corners. Country club exacerbates collective-action problem of achieving cooperation for high standards. Compare Jacob et al. "College as Country Club" (JLE): https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/694654

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As long a bellies are full and people think tomorrow will be better than today, government can get away with tons.

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For sure the US recent past was a mix of authoritarianism and totalitarianism but are you suggesting what we have today is worse than restaurants that won't serve blacks, women fired when they get pregnant, men given job preferences because they are the "breadwinners," government programs that are whites only, etc.?

“Every LGB I've known has been pretty vanilla and normal."

More often than not we don't know what issues others have. With that said, I've known Ts who were as normal as anyone too. If someone comes well with depression, addiction, etc., does that mean it isn't an issue?

“no mental-illness issues for LGBs“

It would seem that T is more likely a mental health issue than LG (and B might be even less likely) but I don't think we know for certain whether any of these are mental health issues or not.

Whether chicken or egg, LGBTs have more diagnosed mental illnesses. If everyone were more accepting this might decrease but I'd be surprised if it ever went away completely.

Deafness - I agree.

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With respect to NS Lyons. I'm guessing you could have written the same article about China 20 years ago. Certainly many of us, myself included saw great promise in the liberalization going on. Now we watch as Xi clamps down on disent and threatens Tiawan. I'm afraid there isn't some magical formula for freedom. Democracys can become a dictatorship of 51% or even just a loud minority. So too can the most benevolent dictatorship turn evil. I wish the Saudia's good fortune, but I'm not planning on moving there anytime soon.

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I wrote up a point by point reply to Infovores here some folks might find interesting: https://dochammer.substack.com/p/the-wastefulness-of-schools

Overall, I think Nick H-K's work is highly motivated reasoning, possibly mixed with analyzing a different educational system than the US has. (That is the charitable interpretation of his description of what he describes as literally what people do.) Many of his critiques of Caplan raise the question of whether he actually read the book carefully, as his concerns are already addressed, at length.

Unfortunately most of the education economics literature reads a lot like "I would like this to be true, so I am going to claim it is", and only a little bit like "I would like this to be true, but damn... it looks like it isn't!" I trust the latter group a lot more!

I really like Infovores, and would recommend he not lean on someone like Nick H-K.

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