Arnold Kling  

Two Follow-Ups

Hayek and Central Planning... Ignorance, Incentives, and Mea...

I want to respond to two comments on previous blog posts. On the issue that I call "market failure," meaning the ability of incumbents to block trial-and-error innovation, I mentioned education. It turns out that Michael Strong has a nice essay on the topic.

Microsoft will constantly face challenges to its standard (the transition from DOS to Windows was due to the challenge presented by Apple; Java and the web represent a different challenge). By contrast, the government school educational standard possesses a larger market dominance than does Microsoft; depending on how it is defined, one could argue that more than 96% of students are educated at schools that adhere to the dominant standard. Moreover, unlike Microsoft's dominance, the government school standard is enforced by law in dozens of ways, including property tax support for government school funding, state-sanctioned teacher credentialing systems, federal financial aid for those enrolled in state-certification programs, and obstacles to for-profit management of education.

[UPDATE: See also This piece on law schools.

the accreditation process gives law schools a virtual lock on bar admission. Rather than considering lower cost alternatives - like on-line education, allowance for accelerated coursework or a two-year curriculum - the virtual monopoly on bar admission accorded to the 200 ABA approved law schools excludes prospective attorneys who cannot afford the cost of a legal education in the way in which it is currently delivered. There are many who could be qualified to practice law by reason of skills and knowledge they could acquire by alternative means.

Another commenter asks how I can attack Jonathan Gruber, since he is such an excellent health care researcher. Well, his research did not predict that the Massachusetts health care reform would drive up health care spending. Mine did. In fact, health care spending in Massachusetts did rise sharply. Nothing personal against Gruber--I am sure he honestly believes what he says. But he isn't being paid the big bucks because he is right. He is being because his work can be used to promote greater concentration of government power.

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CATEGORIES: Political Economy

COMMENTS (7 to date)
SydB writes:

" But he isn't being paid the big bucks because he is right. He is being because his work can be used to promote greater concentration of government power."

I'm not sure that's fair. He--along with the administration and many others--have a different view of how to address health care in our society. And because their views differ, they are, to Mr Kling, morally rotten.

This is not constructive.

Blakeney writes:

"Morally rotten"? I wouldn't say that, and I don't think Professor Kling is saying that either. I've met Professor Gruber, and he's a bright and earnest young economist. I'd buy a used car from him. However, I still don't want him designing my insurance plan, thank you very much.

"Dangerously disingenuous" perhaps, or "childishly ignorant of economic reality". Those both seem to fit the bill.

SydB writes:

Mr Kling was very clear about it: moral rot is at the center of the elite in our society and he has used Gruber as an example of that moral rot. Hence Gruber, in Kling's eyes, is morally rotten.

Anyway, this is all politics. Perhaps someday economists will actually do some economics?

Joe Calhoun writes:

Arnold "did" economics when he predicted what the result of the MA plan would be. It is you and Gruber who are engaging in politics.

GU writes:

I posted this a couple months ago, seems relevant to the update piece on law schools.

Maybe the J.D. & M.D. cut down on competition for jobs in law & medicine, but a "college degree"? With all of the lawyer/doctor bashing that goes on in libertarian circles (much of it justified) many seem to forget that law and medicine are both for the most part really difficult professions to practice.

When only 10-20% of the population has the cognitive skills needed to perform reasonably in skilled professions like law and medicine—and with much fewer willing to put in the hard work learning the skills, and long work weeks associated with, law & medicine—the supply of competent lawyers and doctors is never going to be very large. Do current licensing regimes restrict supply? Yes, but only a small bit, especially if you restrict "supply" to competent practitioners (and not everyone who claims they want to be a doctor or lawyer).

My point: libertarians (of which I am one) should drop the doctors/lawyers are evil rent-seekers canard. There are much more important things to worry about/try to change. We are never going to have competent human-provided medical care or legal services for $20/hour. C'est la vie.

George X writes:

Arnold wrote: Nothing personal against Gruber--I am sure he honestly believes what he says.

That's a far cry from "they are, to Mr Kling, morally rotten."

Syd wrote: This is not constructive.

In the case of your comment, agreed. What would be constructive? We could start with responding to things Arnold actually wrote. His point is somewhat subtle: there's a spread of opinions in most fields, with the opinion-holders sincerely believing their respective positions. Then some of those opinion-holders are selected, with a bias toward certain of their opinions. It's the selection where the bias comes in.

An analogy: I can show you a set of ten fair coins that all landed heads in their last fair toss. All I have to do is toss twenty or so, and remove the ones that come up tails. So there's (extreme) bias, even though all the coins and all the tosses were fair.

(Interestingly, Noam Chomsky makes a similar point about how one gets to be a New York Times columnist. One of the columnists was offended, and defended his sincerity and independence of thought, even though that was pretty much granted in the assumptions of the argument.)

SydB writes:

George: Arnold has said clearly that there is a moral rot in our society (in previous posts) and he points at Gruber as one of the rotten. Hence one need not work to hard to connect the dots. Gruber is morally rotten.

As far as Arnold's point: It's trite. No kidding. He's telling us about human nature. And then he's using his narrative about human nature--it isn't subtle at all, it's old and well known--to rant about the people who currently have the upper hand politically. Foucault discussed power long ago (as twisted and long-winded as he was). It's nothing new.

And while I agree with many of Mr Kling's arguments regarding health care (high deductible, saving plans, etc) I find the level of vitriol aimed at public officials unconstructive. Why would any public official listen to Mr Kling when he thinks they're all idiots? Answer that.

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