Posted by: CJ | March 31, 2010

Old Links, Part 2

More cleaning out of links.

1. This is an awesome challenge: “Name three people, preferably contemporaries, whom you honestly believe are smarter, better educated, and more honest than you are, but who disagree with you about God. So atheists must name believers, and vice versa. It would be nice if these people were well-known enough for their names to mean something, but I don’t think that’s essential[.]” I have to admit I’m having trouble meeting this challenge. This vaguely worries me, and makes me wonder if I’m actually as tolerant as I would’ve hoped.

2. Who knew Tuscan Whole Milk could be so funny?

3.Tyler Cowen reads and reviews The Persistence of Poverty. Followed by comments at Rortybomb. I think getting those views mainstream is important. A lot of the analysis of problems strongly associated with poverty, especially urban poverty, are done by people who simply don’t understand the context. I get the feeling it’s typical from middle-class and higher socioeconomic backgrounds to just not understand how much things change in an urban poor environment. Norms change, customs change, expectations change, everything changes. And policies built on middle class values, cultures, and outcomes have no guarantee (and possibly little chance) of working. I also tend to think a lot could be learned if urban poverty policy and economic folks talked to international development economists. International development economists are better at realizing they need to shed their assumptions and think a lot about local conditions and what can be accomplished, rather than what they’d like to be true.

4. This is more recent. Even though I still occasionally read Megan McArdle, I have a harder and harder time taking her seriously. In the past week she wrote a post about for-profit degree and certification programs, which can cost a ton without providing their students with any valuable skills. Even worse, such programs typically are most attractive to people with few skills and relatively few resources trying to get a better job. Or, possibly, just trying to get a job. Those programs prey on the weak. So McArdle thinks something should be done to restrict them, probably by the government.

Here’s the part I find interesting. McArdle herself was taken advantage of by one of these programs years and years ago, so she’s fairly sympathetic with the plight of these people. More so than usual anyways. It makes me wonder how many of her other stronger libertarian views would change if she hadn’t been raised in a life of (comparative) privilege in NYC and then gone to school at UPenn.

(That’s a somewhat unfair characterization of McArdle’s views, since she has had some mildly bad experiences with healthcare but still was vociferously against healthcare reform. But my wondering remains.)

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