Viewing entries tagged
Basic Principles and Useful Heuristics

The Net Price of a Public College Education in the US

… if you’re on a tight budget and seeking a two- or four-year degree, public colleges are the way to go (unless, of course, a private school is offering a fantastic scholarship package). My basic message is that college degrees from public institutions are usually very affordable. Scary news stories about the cost of getting a degree usually refer to the “sticker price” of colleges, but that’s a ridiculous metric: only the affluent pay anything close to the full sticker price. What’s important is the net price of college - that is, after grants and scholarships.

With Liberty, Justice, and More Disposable Income for All

In 1960, food, clothing, housing, healthcare, and transportation accounted for 86% of household spending. That left just 14% for everything else. In 2017, food, clothing, housing, and healthcare accounted for 73% of household spending… Progress has been made.

Neither Right Nor Left Nor In-Between: Thinking Outside The Line

There is no natural connection between being pro-business and anti-environment. Nor natural connection between embracing gender fluidity and advocating for a more generous social welfare system. Nor between being a fiscal conservative and an evangelical Christian. These political orientations are correlated in the US, not because they “naturally” go together but because the American system of government favors a two-party system, which is turn favors broad coalitions. This is not the case in European countries with strong multi-party traditions, where you find much greater mixing of political views than in the US.

The Feeder Streams of Happiness

The feeder streams of happiness include:

  • Sense of control: you can actually change a situation

  • Sense of purpose: there are things you want to achieve

Personal Initiative and Happiness

Personal initiative is a proactive and goal-oriented mindset, characterized by long-term focus and persistence in the face of obstacles and setbacks.  Such a mindset is action-oriented, planful, and anticipatory: quickly turning goals into actions - with back-up plans ready just in case.

The Power To Leave Empowers

Having more power makes it easier to lie, cheat, steal, inflict pain, or otherwise engage in bad behavior. …Having less power means being at the mercy of someone more powerful. …Being at the mercy of another person means feeling one cannot get away from them, because they have something one wants badly and that something is not readily available elsewhere.

The Dark Side of Empathy

Empathy is also associated with ingroup bias and outgroup antagonism. One is more likely to feel the joys and sorrows of some people more than others, especially if they’re the same ethnicity.

Moral Outrage and Governing Wisely

Moral outrage makes ends absolute: This must stop! That must happen! No ifs, ands, or buts…. Governing wisely is about setting priorities, a process that assumes scarcity: the principle that valued ends require scarce resources with alternative uses.

Designing a Society for Human Flourishing: A Framework

In its original Founding-Father sense, happiness was akin to felicity, a kind of well-being that comes from living a purposeful and productive life.  Today we would call that sense of well-being flourishing. …So what does a government need to do to create conditions conducive to flourishing?  Put differently, what does a government need to do to increase the sense of control and self-efficacy of its citizens, allowing them to pursue purposeful and productive lives?

Free Will and Decision-Making Machines

It’s hard to wrap one’s head around the idea of being a machine with free will. It would be easier if we expanded our understanding of machine and shrank our notion of free will.

Making Science Real: A Guide

The rest of us rely on mental shortcuts to arrive at our opinions on climate change - mostly to do with trust and perceived plausibility. In other words, how we feel/think about climate change depends in large part on whom we trust or don’t trust, as well as what information, explanations, and opinions fit with our understanding of how the world works. This is not an irrational way for non-scientists to approach a subject as complex as climate change. 

But we could do better. We could live the words “science is real”…

How Would a Doctor Treat Climate Change?

Some in the medical community take a “wait and see” approach to the disease of climate change. They’re aware of computer models predicting a dangerous worsening of the patient’s condition but note that other models are not nearly so gloomy. These doctors point out that most treatments carry their own risks, so it’s best just to monitor the patient closely for the time being…However, most in the medical community acknowledge the patient will probably get worse without some sort of intervention. But many physicians aren’t convinced the prognosis is dire without aggressive treatment and so opt for a conservative approach to managing the patient’s condition. …Yet other doctors are convinced that without aggressive measures this climate change disease will inevitably progress to painful debilitation and possible death.

How To Understand The Other Side Better

For those who want to understand the Other Side better, a few do’s: …Strive to be humble about your own grasp of the relevant facts…

And a few don’ts: Mindread – that is, ignore the other side’s expressed thoughts and motivations in favor of what you consider their “real” thoughts and motivations. …

Technocrats versus Ideologues: Differences in Degree, Not in Kind

What’s a technocrat? Admirers would say someone who approaches problems and challenges with the mindset of a scientist or engineer, seeking out information from credible sources, confronting their own ignorance, changing their minds when the evidence calls for it, taking disagreement seriously, and gladly accepting criticism to avoid error, because they devoutly wish to get it right. …What’s an ideologue? …

The Politics of Virtue

“…industry, self-reliance, frugality, self restraint or control, modesty, temperance, fortitude, cheerfulness, civility, compassion, and respect for the property of other persons.” Jean M. Yarbrough, author of American Virtues: Thomas Jefferson on the Character of a Free People.

What would be the opposite of these virtues?

When It Comes to Politics and Policy, Priorities Matter More Than Values

When people say that political differences boil down to differences in values, they’re often implying an unbridgeable gulf between their side and the other side. And so we have the increasing polarization and breakdown of communication between Democrats and Republicans. After all, if you don’t care about the same things, what’s the point in talking to each other?

Is The Other Side Morally Bankrupt?

To be bankrupt is to owe more than you can possibly pay. Which translates to irredeemable, as in rotten to the core. In politics, that translates to “I refuse to engage the other side, because they have the wrong values.” In other words, the Other Side cares about the wrong things.

How Progressive Can We Go? The Question of What's Fair and What Works.

The other countries [like Denmark] have broad-based tax systems. Not only does the bottom 90% pay more income tax, they also pay higher consumption taxes, which tend to be regressive...Broad-based tax systems operate on the principle that everyone contributes to the common good. We’re all in this together. Sure, those at the top should pay more, but the idea is that everybody pitches in. That attitude encourages a collective problem-solving approach to government policy. More pragmatism, less ideology. More “us”, less “us versus them”.