Saturday, July 4, 2015

Q&A - 4/7

The Atlantic

[Researcher] Mogahed said it’s “kind of an obvious point” that [ISIS] uses Islamic texts to justify its brutality. “But I want to answer a slightly different question, which is: If Islam did not exist … would a group like ISIS, with all the other realities as they are, exist today and do the same things?”

“My answer to that hypothetical question is a resounding yes.” Discussing global terrorism at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Mogahed, who formerly led research on Muslims with the polling organization Gallup, said that extremist groups all over the world commit the same kinds of violence using what she called “the local social currency” to justify it. “That is sometimes Christianity. That is sometimes Judaism. That is sometimes Buddhism. And it is sometimes secular ideologies. So a world without Islam would still have a group like ISIS—they would just be called something else that may be less catchy.”

Exactly

The Independent

Schools are using “dubious practices” and even cheating to achieve better performance results because of the intense pressure of the Government’s test and exam system, a major study for the largest teaching union has found.

One teacher told of being pressured repeatedly to redo GCSE assessments for pupils until the students achieved their target grades, the study by emeritus professor Merryn Hutchings of London Metropolitan University for the National Union of Teachers (NUT) found. Another teacher told of a colleague who boasted of helping their class of 11-year-olds with the answers in their SATs.[..]

The study concluded there was “evidence that teachers in England are ‘gaming the system’, because they are under pressure to achieve good results. In some cases they are being told to cheat. Such practices are increasing in response to the intense pressure on school leaders and teachers to raise attainment as measured by tests and exams.”

Standardization

Gallup

The percentage of U.S. employees engaged in their jobs averaged 31.5% in May. This reading is on par with 31.7% recorded in January, March and April, but is the lowest monthly average for 2015.

So ~70% are not engaged at work

The Economix Blog

The libertarian economist David Friedman, son of Milton Friedman, and Professor Zwolinski, the philosopher, have both expressed sympathy for Paine’s idea that everyone today suffers from past injustices in terms of property rights. A universal income might be an appropriate reparations payment, they say.

Phew

This is some heavy stuff.. Here is the argument in Friedman's words:
[T]he existing state of the world is in part a result of past rights violations. Land claims [..] in the real world run back to an initial seizure by force. Similarly, claims to other forms of wealth must be justified, in libertarian moral theory, by a chain of voluntary transactions back to a first creator. In at least some cases that chain is interrupted by involuntary transactions. Consider a house built by slave labor. Is the legitimate owner the person with the present title to it or the heir of the slaves forced to build it, or is it perhaps partly the legitimate property of one and partly of the other? What about property in other forms inherited through a chain that leads back to a slave holding or slave trading ancestor who owed, but never paid, compensation to his victims?
Oh BTW who is this coming from? David F**king Friedman. Who is the son of Milton F**king Friedman. Can anyone be more free-market oriented than these two guys?

Jeremy Rifkin, The Zero Marginal Cost Society

In 1995, I published a book [..] in which I made the argument that “more sophisticated software technologies are going to bring civilization ever closer to a near-workerless world.” The Economist ran a cover story on the end of work in which the editors suggested that we would have to see if my forecast will turn out to be prescient. In the interim years, the projections I had made back in 1995 of IT-generated automation leading to technology displacement in virtually every sector of the economy became a troubling reality, leaving millions of people unemployed and underemployed across every country in the world. If anything, my original forecast proved to be a bit too conservative.

In 2013, in the United States, 21.9 million adults are unemployed, underemployed, or discouraged and are no longer counted in the official statistics. Worldwide, 25 percent of the adult workforce was either unemployed, underemployed, or discouraged and no longer looking for work in 2011. The International Labor Organization reports that more than 202 million people will be without work in 2013. While there are many reasons for the unemployment, economists are just now waking up to the fact that technology displacement is a primary culprit. The Economist, among others, revisited the issue of the end of work 16 years after I published the book, asking, “What happens . . . when machines are smart enough to become workers? In other words, when capital becomes labour.” [..]

It wasn’t that I was clairvoyant. The signs were everywhere, but in the growth years, most economists were so attached to conventional economic theory—that supply creates demand and that new technologies, while disruptive, reduce costs, stimulate consumption, spur more production, increase innovation, and open up opportunities for new kinds of jobs—that my message fell largely on deaf ears. Now, economists are taking notice. In the period of the Great Recession, economists discovered that while millions of jobs were irreversibly lost, productivity was reaching new peaks and output was accelerating around the world, but with fewer workers at their stations. [..]

Between 2008 and 2012, while the Great Recession was bleeding workers, industry was piling on new software and innovations to boost productivity and keep profitable with smaller payrolls. The effect of these efforts is striking. Mark J. Perry, a University of Michigan economics professor and visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C., ran the numbers. By the end of 2012, according to Perry, the U.S. economy had made a complete recovery from the 2007–2009 recession, with a gross domestic output of $13.6 trillion (in 2005 dollars). That was 2.2 percent higher, or $290 billion more real output, than in 2007, just before the recession, when the GDP was at $13.32 trillion. Perry observes that, while real output was 2.2 percent above the recession level in 2007, industry churned out the increase in goods and services with only 142.4 million workers in 2012—or 3.84 million fewer workers than in 2007. Perry’s conclusion: “The Great Recession stimulated huge productivity and efficiency gains as companies shed marginal workers and learned how to do ‘more with less (fewer workers).

Although Perry and others are just now discovering the disquieting relationship between increased productivity and fewer workers—again, economists always believed in the past that increased productivity drives growth in jobs—evidence of the disconnect was building for more than 50 years [..].

We are just beginning to hear the rumble of what’s likely to become a global policy debate on automation and the future of jobs. In part, that discussion is starting to happen because of the jobless recovery that followed the Great Recession. The disconnect between a rising GDP and diminishing jobs is becoming so pronounced that it’s difficult to continue to ignore it, although I’m still somewhat amazed at how few economists, even at this stage, are willing to step forward and finally acknowledge that the underlying assumption of classical economic theory—that productivity creates more jobs than it replaces—is no longer credible [..]