Friday, April 20, 2018

My new article just published in Academic Questions  looks at 51 of the top-66 liberal arts colleges. The findings may be unsurprising, but they are startling. The paper extends and amplifies an earlier paper by Dan Klein, Tony Quain, and me.  
If the military colleges (West Point and Annapolis) are excluded, the ratio of Democrats to Republicans in elite liberal arts colleges--including places like Amherst, Williams, Swarthmore, Colby, and Trinity--is 12.7:1, even higher than the social science departments at elite research universities. If the two military colleges are included, the ratio falls to 10.4:1. 

However, the fields differ sharply. The hard science fields like engineering, chemistry and math; the professional fields like business; and the hard social science fields of economics and political science have D:R ratios closer to the baseline of a Democratic-to-Republican ratio of 1.6:1 than do the soft social sciences and humanities. The interdisciplinary studies fields (women’s studies, Black studies, gender studies, and so on) have a ratio of 108:0.

78.2 percent of the academic departments in the liberal arts colleges have 0 Republicans; that is, only 21.8 percent of the academic departments among the top liberal arts colleges include one or more Republican. As well, zero falls within the margin of error in 20 of 51 or 39.2 percent of the colleges. In other words, in 39.2 percent of the 51 colleges, there is no statistical difference between the proportion of Republicans and zero.
Besides sharp differences across fields of study, there are sharp differences among colleges. Bryn Mawr and Soka, a Buddhist college in California, have D:R ratios of 72:0 and 20:0. The military colleges have ratios of 2.3:1 and 1.3:1. For one small, conservative Catholic college, Thomas Aquinas, I could find no Democrats. In other words, institutional differences in the form of the field and the college make a big difference as to how left-slanted college faculties are.

Quoted in Insurance News.Net

Brian O'Connell quotes me in Insurance News.Net in this piece about government intervention with respect to retirement plans.  

'Government has considerable experience with administration of employee benefits, and the public has ample evidence of its track record, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, state public sector pension plans, and various state insurance funds,' said Mitchell B. Langbert, a business instructor at Brooklyn College Koppelman School of Business.
Langbert worked for the New York State Legislature in the 1990s. Political leaders would regularly use the workers' compensation State Insurance Fund and state pension funds to manipulate the state budget.
“That is a national pattern,” he said. “Pew reports that the average public sector pension fund is only 72 percent funded.”

Poor History

The history of Social Security is similarly subject to political risk, Langbert said. “Benefits were raised in the early 1970s, then they were reduced in the early 1980s,” he said. “As of today, future liabilities are expected to be underfunded in 16 years.
Medicaid and Medicare have had repeated fraud problems, Langbert said.
“Given this record, why would you expect that the public would be eager to have government entities manage employee benefit money?” he asked. “Do France and Greece offer better examples? Or does the USSR, which devalued the ruble and destroyed its citizens' savings?”
Suffice to say, Langbert echoes what many Americans are feeling about the ability of U.S. political leaders to be effective.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

An Honorary Degree for Sacco and Vanzetti?

I am reading Stephen Edward Epler's book Honorary Degrees, published in 1943. Epler wrote the book after finishing his doctorate at Teachers College; he was working at Southern Oregon College of Education when he wrote it. Epler went on to found Portland State University.
The book offers a window into the history of American colleges, and there is much of specialist interest, but one quotation caught my eye.
Epler points out that through the 1930s, honorary degree recipients tended to be conservatives. In that regard, he notes that in 1838 Harvard gave an honorary degree to James T. Austin, who as Massachusetts attorney general praised a lynch mob that had murdered the abolitionist Elijah P. Lovejoy. He adds that 100 years later, in 1938, Smith College gave honorary degrees to two of Lovejoy's descendants. Ex-president Herbert Hoover spoke at the occasion. Epler concludes this:

In 1922 Harvard gave an LL.D. to a Massachusetts attorney who soon after aided in the conviction of Sacco and Vanzetti. It may be wondered if, in 2022, a college will honor descendants of these men at a celebration memorializing the struggle for freedom of speech.

Epler could not have conceived the extent to which the left would have subsequently triumphed on campus or its future opposition to freedom of speech. His prediction, though, is perspicacious. I'm surprised Harvard hasn't erected a memorial statue to Sacco and Vanzetti.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Monetary Sources of Real Wage Stagnation

The left-wing Economic Policy Institute posts the chart below, which shows that real wages and productivity began to diverge in 1973, two years after President Nixon's abolition of the secondary gold standard and in the midst of a 15-year period of massive regulatory expansion, including workplace regulation such as ERISA, OSHA, and Medicaid. Before 1971 the average real hourly wage increase was .5% to 2% per year, resulting in 65% real wage growth in 50 years. That relationship began with the Jacksonian (no central bank) era or even earlier, in the colonial era, and it ended in 1971. The pre-1971 path shown on the chart (1948-1971) was characteristic of the laissez faire, Progressive, and New Deal eras.Since 1971, a period of about 47 years, there has been zero real wage growth. Although unions have declined in proportion to the work force, there was a similar level of unionization during the laissez faire era, when inflation-adjusted wages grew at .5% to 2.0%. In addition, because there were no (zero) income taxes in the laissez faire period, workers kept their wages and saved, to the tune of 30% of income in the late 19th century. The interest on that savings was higher than during the Fed era. Stock and bond market returns were, however, lower.  

Workers produced much more, but typical workers’ pay lagged far behind: Disconnect between productivity and typical worker’s compensation, 1948–2013