Monday, June 18, 2012

The Millennials

Since I am around a large number of Millenials, I  figured I would go to the trouble of providing a real analysis of them, considering how deficient the existing analyses are.
If I had to pick an adjective, I would say this generation is rudderless.  It most manifests the current cultural tendency of treating cynicism as critical evaluation.  This shows itself with this generation not having any attachment to institutions with a few minor exceptions.  When this generation does become attached to an institution, it tends toward infatuation.  Examples of these would include institutions of higher education, business, politics, and the military.  A person of this generation will tend to be anti-business or have totally fealty to a business.  He or she will often manage to do both.  While the generation is accused of not having loyalty, this is a bit of a misnomer.  They tend to be intensely loyal and become easily jaded.  Modern business finds the former quite attractive.

Their expectations of social support are low.  Perhaps this is due to having come of age in a period where they were constantly told of the impending end of social security or the broader safety net.  They tend to expect next to nothing from their employers other than a paycheck.  Even there, they don't tend to tie the remuneration with their financial needs.  In other words, they have bought the market narrative.  Likewise with relationships, they do not tend to perceive a legitimate expectation of support from their partners.  This can be seen in such things as reticence to wed.  Marriage is seen as a purely voluntary institution that doesn't provide real benefits or it is so thoroughly idealized that only a monk could seek it.

If I were to criticize this generation it is that it is very poor at undertanding and being able to articulate its needs and interests.  Occupy Wall Street was a convenient whipping boy, but it nevertheless was the case that the movement was basically unable to articulate a common grievance, let alone advance that to a common interest.  This is particularly stark when contrasted with the Baby Boomer's ability to articulate their common interests and successfully assert them.  If it is to advance, it is going to have to concentrate more insuring the comfort of its own than insuring the comfort of the comfortable.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Wisconsin Recall and Feedback Loops

A frustration in political argument is the other side not accepting one's arguments.  Each side has a tendency to accuse the other of being non-analytic, mostly for not supporting the politician they have chosen to support.  Regrettably, I'm afraid people's choices are logical though.  The proposition most people undertake is simple:

Did doing 'x' advance my interests the last time I did it?

For the analytically inclined, it is a simple feedback loop.  Before dismissing it, keep in mind that it has the ability to explain why people adopt positions that aren't in their theoretical interest and it explains why people tend to make very radical shifts when they abandon a position.  

Using feedback tends to be a superior way of gaining knowledge because there are very few operative principles.  The guiding principle is simple: relationships within systems are complex and measuring the outcomes to inputs is more reliable than making adjustments to theoretical explanations.  This is not without its issues.  One can reasonably argue that the housing bubble was largely caused by use of feedback models.  Knowing this policymakers would be wise to make unstable markets less responsive, but that is an argument for another time.  

As far as politics goes, we can apply this to Wisconsin.  One of many things that bothered people about the results were the number of unionized household members who voted for Scott Walker.  Theory would suggest that a man who disdains the rights of unions would not advance the interests of union members.  An easy explanation is that these people are self loathing and simply voting on other issues.  An explanation that doesn't confirm one side in their moral superiority is the idea that the union members did not think recalling Scott Walker would advance their interests.  One doesn't have to be a Mises Institute (perhaps scare quotes would be appropriate) to find plausible the idea that many workers do not believe the unions that represent them advance their interests.  By looking at how unions are operating in practice, an impartial observer will readily notice that there are some grossly deficient unions out there.  Sure in theory, they help the worker smash the iron fist of capital, but people don't live theoretically.

While there are plenty of memes on the right about the election that should be addressed, there are some on the left that have enjoyed too long of a life.  For example the left seems to believe that the perception of teachers using their power to only benefit themselves is only believed by a small minority.  I can't count the number of people who claim that the general public loves teachers.  I feel like the guy telling the 45-year-old beauty queen that 20-year-old men aren't really into her.  Teachers have not been seen as self-sacrificing public servants for awhile because they haven't been.  Teachers are well compensate professionals, and in our better moments we take a little pride in that.  I'm not claiming we should go back to a day when teaching was a sacrifice, but the 45-year-old beauty needs to start having people appreciate her for who she is because only the most sympathetic are going to appreciate her for what she was 25 years ago.  Walker campaigned in the recall and the budget on an equity claim, one that democrats and union leaders conceded early upon in hopes of retaining collective bargaining rights.  When everyone in the room is agreeing that the financial terms were equitable, is it a surprise that there is little sympathy for the loss?  I'm not claiming the wages and benefits were unreasonable, but the union leaders conceded they were.  The givebacks obviously weren't occurring on their own before Walker's proposal, so there should be little shock that no credit was given for the magnanimity of the teachers and public workers.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Liberty, Healthcare, Choice

I have found the debate around religious liberty, insurance, and contraception to be rather interesting.  That is about my only word for it.  Despite all the talk around it, it has been a rather content free debate.  This has mostly been because activists have been dominating the debate.  These activists aren't educated on the issues involved.  I realize that comes across as elitist, and I'm afraid that is the extent of my apology for it.

There are two approaches to solving any problem.  One approach is the top down approach.  In this approach, existing systems are examined and adjustments are prejudiced over inventions in the decision matrix.  An example of this was the health care reform act.  The existing system was basically retained and it was used to come up with the policy solution.  There are of course faults to be had with this approach.  In health care, I think a detriment to policy was the retention of the employer in the health care relationship.  An employer interest in the health care choices of employees has been alleged and legitimatized by the USCCB when nothing more than a fiduciary interest has been shown.  The argument has been allowed to persist despite no showing of an interest beyond the fiduciary.  Allegedly this is the product of our best and brightest moral theologians.  Never mind that holding the supposition that a fiduciary interest is enough to establish a moral claim would mean that the rich and powerful would be allowed to accumulate greater power under the guise of righteousness.

The other approach to solving problems is the bottom up approach.  This has been taken most often by Catholic bloggers and seems to be preferred by third way people in general.  Over the past couple of years I have come to take a dim view to this approach.  For starters, it seems to be preferred merely so that people can pose for holy pictures, knowing that their 'solution' will never be adopted.  If that is the way the game is going to be played, I propose we ordain unicorns to treat all the health care issues in this country and pay for it with fairy dust.  Logically there really is no reason to treat my proposal as less serious than these bottom up crack pot theories.  A solution that can't or won't be implemented isn't a solution; it is posturing.  That is not to say that bottom up approaches should entirely be rejected.  However, the prerequisite of a bottom up solution is that everyone has to agree that the status quo is unacceptable.  Everyone must agree that regardless of the final form of the solution, one must be moved forward upon.  That is why in practice bottom up solutions are nearly impossible to implement.  That is why one of the easiest ways to oppose a project without having to formally oppose it is to demand a bottom up solution.

Personally, I would have supported the adoption of a single payer health care system.  Seeing the difficulty of passing what little was passed with the reform act, I'm personally satisfied that the choices and compromises sought in achieving the act were both necessary and prudent.  While I don't believe there is a strong case to be made for a social obligation for contraceptives, I don't believe their subsidy rises to the level of grave social harm that requires repudiation of the gains made.  For those sincerely opposed but supportive of the dignity that health care provides people, I think repudiation is akin to opposing vegetarianism due to the field mice killed by the machinery that picks the grain.  For those using it as a trojan horse, I find you contemptible.