Tom Sargent’s Keynote Address BYU CPEC 2012 on taxation and redistribution

On Real Education: Interview with Author Charles Murray


Charles Murray, bestselling author ofLosing Ground and coauthor of The Bell Curve, has written a new book focused on the transformation of our educational system: Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America’s Schools Back to Reality(Crown Forum Publishers)In it, he outlines the four simple truths that he contends must be addressed to initiate real transformation of our schools: (1) Ability Varies (2) Half of Children are Below Average (3) Too Many People Are Going to College, and (4) America’s Future Depends on How We Educate the Academically Gifted.  Below is a brief discussion with Mr. Murray about a few of the book’s main points.  

NN: Your most recent book, Real Education, is a hard-hitting critique of our educational system, but it seems to have a larger audience than merely policy wonks. Who would you say should read the book and what can they expect…

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Charles Murray and the OECD’s Trends in Income Inequality and its Impact on Economic Growth – IQ, signalling, over-education and plain bad career advice

Charles Murray has been cooking with gas lately – on fire. One of his points is too many go to college. Murray points out that succeeded at college requires an IQ of at least 115 but 84% of the population don’t have this:

Historically, an IQ of 115 or higher was deemed to make someone “prime college material.”

That range comprises about 16 per cent of the population.

Since 28 per cent of all adults have BAs, the IQ required to get a degree these days is obviously a lot lower than 115.

Those on the margins of this IQ are getting poor advice to go to college. Murray argues that other occupational and educational choices would serve them better in light of their abilities and likelihood of succeeding at college. Moreover, Murray is keen on replacing college degrees with certification after shorter periods of study such as in the certified public accountants exam.

Murray believes a lot of students make poor investments by going on to College, in part, because many of them don’t complete their degrees:

…even though college has been dumbed down, it is still too intellectually demanding for a large majority of students, in an age when about 50 per cent of all high school graduates are heading to four-year colleges the next fall.

The result is lots of failure. Of those who entered a four-year college in 1995, only 58 per cent had gotten their BA five academic years later.

Murray does not want to abandon these teenagers:

Recognizing the fact that most young people do not have ability and/or the interest to succeed on the conventional academic track does not mean spending less effort on the education of some children than of others.

…Too few counsellors tell work-bound high-school students how much money crane operators or master stonemasons make (a lot).

Too few tell them about the well-paying technical specialties that are being produced by a changing job market.

Too few assess the non-academic abilities of work-bound students and direct them toward occupations in which they can reasonably expect to succeed.

Worst of all: As these students approach the age at which they can legally drop out of school, they are urged to take more courses in mathematics, literature, history and science so that they can pursue the college fantasy. Is it any wonder that so many of them drop out?

To add to that, he is in the Bryan Caplan School: education is often an elaborate former of signalling for many degrees. Murray says that college is a waste of time because:

Outside a handful of majors — engineering and some of the sciences — a bachelor’s degree tells an employer nothing except that the applicant has a certain amount of intellectual ability and perseverance.

Even a degree in a vocational major like business administration can mean anything from a solid base of knowledge to four years of barely remembered gut courses.

If the OECD is to be believed, that not enough people are going to college from lower middle class families, obviously IQ is not one of the constraints on access to college Charles Murray suggested it to be.


The growing strength of the case that education is a form of signalling is a literature that the now famous OECD paper reviewed, found wanting, but did not have time to discuss in the working paper.

Another contemporary theme the OECD paper reviewed, found wanting, but did not have time to discuss is a large number of graduates who end up holding jobs that do not require a university education – going to college:

About 48 per cent of employed U.S. college graduates are in jobs that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests requires less than a four-year college education.

Eleven per cent of employed college graduates are in occupations requiring more than a high-school diploma but less than a bachelor’s, and 37 per cent are in occupations requiring no more than a high-school diploma.

The proportion of overeducated workers in occupations appears to have grown substantially; in 1970, fewer than one per cent of taxi drivers and two per cent of fire-fighters had college degrees, while now more than 15 per cent do in both jobs

All in all, the OECD has gone into the dragons den by backing the accumulation of human capital as its mechanism to link inequality with lower growth. No matter how you spin it, this linking of lower economic growth to greater inequality through financial constraints on the accumulation of human capital by the lower middle class was a bold hypothesis.

The case for investing more in education is not a slam dunk. Higher education – university or polytechnic – is a rat race that many don’t need to join.The case for the government paying a great many more to join that rat race is rather weak.

The torture report’s one glaring weakness – The Washington Post

A more honest report would have squarely faced the arguments made by former CIA officials that key members of Congress were informed about interrogation practices and, far from objecting, condoned the very CIA activities we now judge to have been wrong.

“There’s great hypocrisy in politicians’ criticism of the CIA’s interrogation program,” wrote Jose Rodriguez, the CIA deputy director who oversaw it, in last weekend’s Washington Post.

That allegation deserves a serious response, rather than the stonewall it got from Feinstein.

“The CIA briefed Congress approximately 30 times” on interrogation,according to six former CIA directors or deputy directors in an article Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal. “The briefings were detailed and graphic and drew reactions that ranged from approval to no objection.”

…History (including the latest dark chapter on interrogation) suggests that members are for questionable activities when they’re politically popular, and against them when public opinion shifts.

Politics and disaster aid in the Philippines – The Washington Post

Track forecast for Typhoon Haiyan (Joint Typhoon Warning Center)

The good news is that we find that fund allocations do indeed respond to the location and intensity of typhoons and tropical storms.

However, political ties between members of Congress and local mayors, specifically party and clan ties, are also associated with greater funding for a given municipality.

One of the most devastated cities in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan is Tacloban City, with a population of 221,174 people.

Our research suggests that for a municipality of this size, a match in party affiliation between the member of Congress and the mayor increases the distribution of funds by PHP 1.74 million ($40,000), while a match in clan affiliation increases this distribution by PHP 6.23 million ($142,000).

The result that clan ties have a much larger effect than party ties on the distribution of per capita reconstruction funds underscores the relative importance of clan loyalty in decision-making by Philippine congressional representatives.

via Politics and disaster aid in the Philippines – The Washington Post.

The politics of the Philippines’ vulnerability to natural disasters – The Washington Post

Regrettably, we find no evidence that poverty, vulnerability to disasters, or other objective measures of infrastructure needs are determinants of road construction and repair expenditures at the local level.

Instead, our evidence highlights the importance of political connections and electoral strategies.

Consistent with the story in many other countries in the developing world, we find that mayors divert construction funding to electorally contested areas where they need to win more votes, while congressmen use their discretionary funding to shore up political connections by allocating funding to localities where the mayor is an ally.

via The politics of the Philippines’ vulnerability to natural disasters – The Washington Post.

Richard Betts on deterrence, Iran, and ambiguity

Shashank Joshi

Richard Betts, in a long Foreign Affairs essay on deterrence, talks about Iran:

Nevertheless, rather than planning to deter a prospective Iranian nuclear arsenal, the United States and Israel have preferred preventive war. Although many still hope to turn Iran away from nuclear weapons through sanctions and diplomacy, the debate within and between the United States and Israel over what to do if Iran moves to produce a bomb is about not whether to attack but when. U.S. President Barack Obama has firmly declared that he has not a “policy of containment” but rather “a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” and other administration officials have repeatedly emphasized this point. As promises in foreign policy go, this one is chiseled in stone. Backing down from it when the time comes would be the right thing to do but would represent an embarrassing retreat.

The logic behind rejecting…

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Ex-CIA Directors: Interrogations Saved Lives – WSJ

The program was invaluable in three critical ways:

• It led to the capture of senior al Qaeda operatives, thereby removing them from the battlefield.

• It led to the disruption of terrorist plots and prevented mass casualty attacks, saving American and Allied lives.

• It added enormously to what we knew about al Qaeda as an organization and therefore informed our approaches on how best to attack, thwart and degrade it.

via Ex-CIA Directors: Interrogations Saved Lives – WSJ.

Why 2013 Was The Best Year In Human History | ThinkProgress



5 Reasons Why 2013 Was The Best Year In Human History | ThinkProgress.

Offsetting behaviour alert: What did the bombing of Germany (and the CIA interrogation program) achieve?

Both the bombing of Germany and the CIA interrogation programmes of captured Al Qaeda terrorists have one thing in common. Their main achievement was not their intention.

Their main achievement was through the offsetting behaviour of their opponent to counter the bombing of Germany and the CIA interrogation program, respectively.

Much is made of whether the bombing of Germany did much damage to its targets and disrupted the German war economy.

Graph to show accuracy of night bombing of German cities; AIR 16/487

The main benefit of the bombing of Germany is it destroyed the German air force. More than that, and much sooner than the destruction of the German air force by 1945, much of the German air force was withdrawn from the Eastern Front and the landing beaches of Normandy to defend Germany from bombing attack. The Germans conceded complete air superiority by the time of D-Day and conceded air supremacy to the Russian air force.

Another big bonus was a large number of those famous German 88 howitzers were withdrawn from the front for home air defence.

Another bonus was a substantial part of German aircraft production was moved to defensive capabilities rather than an attack capability. Munitions productions was redirected towards production of antiaircraft shells and flak. Substantial effort had to be redirected towards the construction of bomb shelters.

What cannot be denied is that 10 years ago when captured terrorists were in a sufficiently integrated organisation that they had useful information about each other, there was bipartisan support in the US Congress to be tough in interrogations. Congress knew exactly what was happening through classified briefings to select committees.

One of the results of these interrogations is it broke up Al Qaeda as a network. It degraded Al Qaeda as an organisation capable of launching major attacks with key terrorists at the centre with the skills and determination to be able to organise these large-scale attacks.

Because captured terrorists would be interrogated thoroughly, Al Qaeda had to change into a far more decentralised and less effective network to be less at risk to captured members informing on them sooner or later.

In its early days, Al Qaeda was happy to have key people going around with lots of information in their heads and coordinating everything from the centre because they thought they wouldn’t be interrogated thoroughly if captured. That is no longer the case.  Al Qaeda translates as The Base. The jihad was supposed to have  a structure, leadership  and central direction and financing.

Al Qaeda was far more effective when directed from the centre. These days it can barely mount a random attack in the street by a mentally disturbed, barely literate recent recruit.

Anything more than these random attacks on the street risk exposure to the authorities through electronic interception and interrogation of captured terrorists followed quickly by a missile through the car window somewhere in the Middle East while tweeting.

As  President Obama noted around the time that Bin Laden was killed, 20 out of the top 30 in the management structure of Al Qaeda had shared that fate  under his administration along with their replacements not long after stepping into the dead man’s shoes.

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