a coherent platform for the grand new party?
December 22, 2009 5:01 AM   Subscribe

Keeping America's Edge (via)

While the prescriptions are stock conservative boilerplate, I found the diagnosis remarkably congruent with, say, David Simon, altho I have my (not so minor) quibbles that 1) the US faces an existential threat from "those who oppose our values" -- if anything, it's the other way around -- and that 2) he doesn't properly account for regulatory capture, i.e. for libertarianism to be "roughly true in practice" we need something approaching perfect competition and there is far from a level playing field, moreover, "the political system seems incapable of addressing large-scale objective problems."

BONUS
-America's broken colleges
-Do liberals have it wrong on inequality?
-Asteroid Deflection as a Public Good
-Start-up Visas Can Jump-Start the Economy [1,2,3]
-Reforms to help China maintain growth [1,2,3]
posted by kliuless (21 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Funny, must have been suggestion. I was thinking "incoherent", when I noticed the title up here on the top of the page.

Nope. It's not coherent.
posted by Xoebe at 5:44 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


A great piece, although chock-full of things sure to infuriate the upper-middle-mainstream.

The key data-point and assertion: "[f]rom 1980 through today, America's share of global output has been constant at about 21%. Europe's share, meanwhile, has been collapsing in the face of global competition — going from a little less than 40% of global production in the 1970s to about 25% today. Opting for social democracy instead of innovative capitalism, Europe has ceded this share to China (predominantly), India, and the rest of the developing world."

Also critical is the admission that our education system needs to prioritize educating capable Americans to the standard of global competition above attempting to remediate the damage the underclass inflicts on its children by its bad behavior.
posted by MattD at 6:09 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yet the strategy of giving up and opting out of this international economic competition in order to focus on quality of life is simply not feasible for the United States. Europeans can get away with it only because they benefit from the external military protection America provides; we, however, have no similar guardian to turn to. We do not live in a Kantian world of perpetual commercial peace. Were America to retreat from global competition, sooner or later those who oppose our values would become strong enough to take away our wealth and freedom.

To tell you the truth, my first impulse is to ridicule this as the fantasies of a paranoid. Is there any nation state that really "opposes [America's] values"? What could that even mean? The temptation is to say that a global war is now impossible, simple because of trade links, what would anyone gain?

The thing that prevents me from doing so, is that there seems to be no greater predictor for a world war than the consensus that modern trade makes it impossible.
posted by atrazine at 6:31 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Salmon: The problem is a higher-education lobby which is secretive, powerful, and which won’t let change happen. [...] Individuals can’t do any kind of cost-benefit analysis on college educations, which means that the government must [...] if the colleges won’t move in the right direction, the government’s job is to step in and force the issue.

"Won't let change happen" my ass. Colleges around the country are bending over backwards to develop systems of accountability, because they know the alternative is having flawed systems thrust upon them that were designed by non-educators. It's called institutional assessment and it permeates every level of higher ed, from presidents to TAs. It isn't even mentioned by Felix Salmon or the author he cites, Kevin Carey.

Carey: Spellings took one more bite at the apple, this time focusing on accreditation. The accreditors, who depend on the institutions they regulate for funding, had historically declined to ask colleges for any evidence of how much students learn. Spellings proposed changing federal regulations to call on accreditors to require colleges to report some such information to the public; what information would be up to the college. Accreditors just had to require something. One Dupont Circle went back to Congress and made that illegal, too.

What he fails to mention is that assessment is still happening anyway. Accreditors must be kept happy. Whether they say "you are required by law to provide this" or "it's not a legal requirement, but we would really like it if you provided this," the results will be the same. Also, quite a few academics became academics because they (get ready for a strange concept) "care," and some departments/institutions already had pretty robust assessment practices in place before Spellings.

If too many colleges fail to "move in the right direction"--and they very well may--it will be due to garden-variety academic administrator incompetence, not The Higher Ed Cabal and its "veil of secrecy." And in that worst case scenario, government will step in and mandate that colleges start employing standardized tests of the same toxic type that we're seeing in elementary and high schools.

Best case scenario: higher ed institutions succeed, develop and implement a universally-applicable assessment system (it can be done, and more simply than you might think) ... and then we can use it in the similarly-broken elementary and high schools.
posted by AugieAugustus at 6:33 AM on December 22, 2009


[f]rom 1980 through today, America's share of global output has been constant at about 21%. Europe's share, meanwhile, has been collapsing in the face of global competition — going from a little less than 40% of global production in the 1970s to about 25% today. Opting for social democracy instead of innovative capitalism...

You say this like it's a bad thing. Won't it be wonderful when we measure civilization not by how much detritus it produces but how happy the people are?
posted by DU at 6:35 AM on December 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


I couldn't make it all the way through without skimming a bit but I felt like him throwing innovation around like some panacea for America's declining production is misguided. Innovate all you want, people will do it in Bangladesh for way cheaper. Unless unobstructed innovation means vastly reduced wages and eroded worker protections in the US. No doubt there is improvement to be made but at some point we need to ditch the idea of American exceptionalism and realize that we just had a head start on the rest of the world and now they're catching up.

Also "Were America to retreat from global competition, sooner or later those who oppose our values would become strong enough to take away our wealth and freedom."

They hate our freedom! :eyeroll:
posted by ghharr at 6:36 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


America doesn't have an edge. It has a bloody great hammer.
posted by Hogshead at 6:37 AM on December 22, 2009


those who oppose our values would become strong enough to take away our [...] freedom

Somebody has obviously never seen Braveheart.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:49 AM on December 22, 2009


America is still a great thing but it's time has past.

Like the British Empire passed, but we still owe a lot to it.
posted by bardic at 7:42 AM on December 22, 2009


The pervasive prudishness of the piece limits some of its recommendations. Out of wedlock births for the lower classes are assailed, yet the assumption remains that they will just continue. With more attention paid to proper family planning education, access to birth control and abortions much of this can be limited. Not all of those births are unwanted or unplanned, but the ones that are can be reduced..
posted by caddis at 7:45 AM on December 22, 2009


it's time has past.

Schooled in the US and being all arch about your point, are we?
posted by joe lisboa at 8:06 AM on December 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I flagged this for being op/eddy on the front page and for being a grab-bag of articles that have little to do with each other except for being vaguely thinky and vaguely on the right.

But since it looks like it's staying, let me say one thing about this Felix Salmon piece. Top 50 U.S. public universities, guided by our state legislatures, price our product in such a way that many more people are willing to purchase our services than we can accommodate, and we have to have a special admissions office just to decide which segment of the demand to satsify. Salmon's contention is that if we switched to a for-profit model and priced to market, college costs would go..... down?
posted by escabeche at 8:36 AM on December 22, 2009


Salmon's contention is that if we switched to a for-profit model and priced to market, college costs would go..... down?

No. His contention is that if better information was available about the value of those institutions, then the prices of many would go down. The way the rankings currently work means that the amount of money spent is weighted highly in the total score.

The pervasive prudishness of the piece limits some of its recommendations. Out of wedlock births for the lower classes are assailed, yet the assumption remains that they will just continue. With more attention paid to proper family planning education, access to birth control and abortions much of this can be limited. Not all of those births are unwanted or unplanned, but the ones that are can be reduced..
posted by caddis at 7:45 AM on December 22 [+] [!]


I think this may be a product of what you "expect" to see from someone on the right, because that isn't what he's saying. This is made clear when he says that you can't compare those rates to the even higher rates in Europe, because in Europe unmarried parents often still live and raise children together without being married. In the US, most unmarried parents do not live together.

So he's promoting two-parent families, not marriage.
posted by atrazine at 8:49 AM on December 22, 2009


-America's broken colleges

Executive summary: What higher education really needs is the sea of mandates and pervasive oversight that have made American K-12 education the powerhouse it is today.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:05 AM on December 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


This is an immensely important article not because it outlines some new conservative agenda, but because it starkly presents the choices that confront us for what they are - tradeoffs. You cannot have European social welfare and American economic dominance.

I think that the article presents a new reality for hte republican party as well - that they must engage key problems of the underclass -education and economic integration - in a real way rather than with condescending and base-pandering "family values" pap.

Thanks for posting this, kliuless. This is one of the best fpp's on politics and economics in a long time, and I would have missed this article if not for this post.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:01 PM on December 22, 2009


America is still a great thing but it's time has past.

Like the British Empire passed, but we still owe a lot to it.
posted by bardic at 10:42 AM on December 22


It's time has passed? And whose time has arrived?
posted by Pastabagel at 1:04 PM on December 22, 2009


中國
posted by caddis at 1:24 PM on December 22, 2009


It's time has passed? And whose time has arrived?

It's not necessary for anyone to arrive in order for the U.S. to be past its prime. Separate phenomena, on separate tracks. See history, f.ex. the Roman Empire fell, but no single power rose in its place, just a bunch of states with shifting borders and shifting power. Sort of reminds me of today, though China sure does seem to be on a rather steep ascent.
posted by VikingSword at 5:17 PM on December 22, 2009


Its! Its! Good god, people, where were you educated?

China, Pastabagel. All of the financial growth potential, none of the distracting theater-of-freedom.
posted by ellF at 5:42 PM on December 22, 2009


Its! Its! Good god, people, where were you educated?

Whom are you referring to? I hope it was not to me - I used it correctly both times - my first "it's" is correct in that it's(!) a contraction of "it is", and the second "its" again correctly "in its place".

And if you're referring to Pastabagel - c'mon, this is a quick moving board, people post and don't proofread, because it's(!) an informal place.
posted by VikingSword at 7:11 PM on December 22, 2009


This article is the same old Manhattan Inst. blather. An antidote, well worth the effort, can be found here.
posted by carping demon at 8:05 PM on December 22, 2009


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