The “Tech Class” Reifies the “Two Americas”

The wealth created by tech companies is, if not beyond precedent, is probably beyond most of our comprehension. It is not without precedent because America has already experienced one Gilded Age. It’s merely started another, and we’re well into it. Continue reading


Something to Ponder: You Are a Bad Person If We Have Bad Public Schools

This is going to be short on purpose. A lot of hay has been made of the recent article in Slate by Alison Benedikt titled “If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person.” Then, the National Review took up the issue and cleverly claimed “If You Send Your Kid to a Failing School, You Are a Bad Person” (which sounds like what I propose but is totally different). And finally, The Atlantic gave some good analysis (as it usually does) of Benedikt’s original argument, but even it still missed the larger issue. Continue reading

Making Sure History Is Made Relevant

At the start of each history course I’ve taught so far, I ask a few introductory questions to the students. Foremost among them are “what is history?” and “is history important?” 99% of my students have answered “yes” to the second and then gone on to provide explanations that usually center around something like, “it helps us avoid past mistakes” or “ it can give us insight about today.” Continue reading

Greece should leave the Euro

Just a quick note, inspired by reading this and this from the Economist. Here is the unemployment rate in Greece from 1976-2011 (the blue line is an annual series and the red line is a more recent series calculated in slightly different ways, hence the slight divergence):

wtf this is terrible.

More recent updates suggest that the unemployment rate in Greece is higher than it was in the US in the depths of the Great Depression. The world was largely on a gold standard system of fixed exchange rates (much like Greece, Germany, and the rest of the Euro-zone are on a fixed currency), and as countries left the gold standard, they tended to experience an immediate and large increase in production and employment. While the pain of leaving the Euro would surely be great, currently 1/4 of Greeks who would like to have a job, do not have one and cannot find one. That pain is real, immediate, severe, ongoing, and palliable. This outcome is a terrible outcome, one of the worst outcomes* and–in the absence of my preferred currency arrangement–leaving the Euro is the only answer for Greece.

*One of the worst outcomes short of global war, the last of which broke out in response to, amongst other things, 23% unemployment.

Thoughts on Governance

Here’s my opinion on governance in the US: it is not sufficiently democratic, it is not usefully republican (in the political philosophy sense of republicanism), and it is inappropriately federal. The US senate apportions political power according to arbitrary lines, resulting in enormous iniquity of representation. Individual members of congress have enough power to single-handedly delay the functioning of our government–even when the bills thus delayed have overwhelming bipartisan support. Major cities are hampered by state lines that bisect these cities, limiting their ability to provide public services and infrastructure to their citizens. On the other hand, small neighborhoods can defect from their broader cities and institute exclusionist policies that harm nearby residents–regardless of the dependence such neighborhoods always have on the broader cities to which they belong.

One fantasy solution would be to redraw state boundaries, maybe like this:

Continue reading

Unexplained unemployment

I’m in a Labor Economics class this quarter, and the assignment/discussion portion of the class is centered around one question: Why is unemployment so high? The part of the answer that I’m most interested in right now is (unsurprisingly) the geographic portion. What explains the huge variation across counties that we see here? (Darker red is a higher unemployment rate).

Continue reading

“Financial Fair Play” and Geography

One thing I’d like to note in response to Patrick’s post about Financial Fair Play, and the “grand canyon-sized gap between the clubs”. I would argue that this gap is not particularly surprising, given the way that professional sports leagues have developed in Europe as opposed to in the US (what that says for the potential new regulations, I won’t have much to say).

England is a country of roughly 50 million people, and its Premier League consists of 20 teams scattered throughout the country (with one in 3 million person Wales). Of those 20 teams, 5 are in the Greater London, 5 more are in Greater Manchester, another 3 in West Midlands (within a few miles of Birmingham, the second largest city in the country), and 2 each reside in Liverpool and the Newcastle-Sunderland metro area. That is, 17 of the 20 teams are concentrated in 5 large urban areas. For reference, those 5 urban areas have a combined population of 15 million people. The three other teams are scattered in smaller cities, with populations between 200,000-400,000.

Now, suppose that the NFL owner’s lockout had caused the league to crumble, and in its place, most of the US states established their own leagues. Consider then the case of California. If they wanted to build a 20-team league, could that work? Well, they might put 5 teams in LA, another 5 in the San Francisco Bay metro area, 3 in San Diego, and 2 each in Sacramento and Riverside. That is, 17 of the 20 teams would be concentrated in 5 large urban areas. For reference, those 5 urban areas have a combined population of 28 million people. The three other teams could be put in the Fresno, Bakersfield, and Oxnard metro areas, each of which has a population greater than 800,000.*

Continue reading