Monthly Archives: June 2012

Education: Both overvalued and the Great Equalizer

I love political talk by my friends on Facebook (Even though posting a political rant on Facebook automatically makes you a moron regardless of the comment’s truth or idiocy). Facebook is a great moderately good way to check the pulse of a community. Recently, a guy that I often agree with, has been posting increasingly more political “junk” onto the web. This was a comment that I read and thought would provide an interesting discussion.

Education: Both overvalued and the Great Equalizer
Instead of diving into whether I think Andrew was right or wrong in his comment (which I fully expect you to do in the comments!) the more important issue at hand is the overarching problem with the current system and value attributed to higher education.

First off, education is perhaps the most important thing to all of society. It truly is the great equalizer, the great distinguishes of ignorance, and perhaps the quickest way to end violence and poverty in a society. People have fault and died for the opportunity to learn. That is undeniable.

However, what is education? Is the same education necessary for everyone in all walks of life? Does everyone need, want, deserve, or survive the typical college education? We all know the answer is no. There are multiple ways to educate oneself. There are trade schools, technical schools, skills passed down from one artisan to another, self taught geniuses and others. Perhaps the biggest problem is our overvaluing of the 4 year college degree and the under-valuing means of alternate education routes.

The Education Bubble
Right now we are experiencing with education the exact same thing we experience with the housing market – a bubble. Prices of a higher education are steadily climbing, demand has never been higher, the Government keeps prices artificially low via subsidies and grants, and in turn Universities will keep jacking prices up as long as people will pay. That is how it works. Soon this education bubble will pop.

Recently, when I visited Japan, I was astounded by how educated the entire population was. I was refreshing and I loved it; however, I was equally astounded at the competition for jobs. One women I met, who had a masters degree and spoke 5 languages, was passed up for a customer support position at the airport.

The problem: EVERYONE had an expensive college education, but trade schools were not valued. Almost all “menial” tasks and labor positions were outsourced. Electricians, maids, janitors, etc. were almost exclusively foreigners. I think this pressure to succeed with such competition in Japan is a result many poles show Japan as having a lower quality of life and statistically higher suicide rates.

Soon a college education becomes essentially valueless in the marketplace and the only thing you are left with is a lot of debt without the skills your marketplace is demanding all because of the perceived value of a degree.

Government and Education
I have a love/hate relationship with the Government and education. First off, I have to admit that I myself benefited from tax dollars. I received the Pell Grant and used every penny of it being as productive as possible. In return, I got an excellent job and I have currently paid a ton of tax dollars (far exceeding the amount the Government gave me). So I guess I was a good investment.

On the other hand, I have a cousin who received the same grant and pissed it away. He literally spent the money on beer and a new truck. He doesn’t have a degree – a bad investment for the Government.

The one thing the Government does is drive the price of education up AND give poor kids the opportunity to receive an education. I can’t decide if the Government is a good thing or bad thing – where is the balance? My instincts say that the Government should stay out of it and let the market and private organizations find a way. I would have went to college without Government help, my cousin would not have.

For example, in Georgia we have the Hope Scholarship. Every student with a 3.0 GPA receives a scholarship paid for by income generated by the Georgia lottery – NOT tax payers. I think that is a great system.

Summary
1. We overvalue the traditional 4 year degree and undervalue trade and technical schools.
2. We incorrectly assume that EVERYONE wants, needs, or can handle a traditional 4 year college degree.
3. The Government subsidies education to such a point that it become a bad investment and by increasing demand increases the cost of a college education for everyone.
4. Education can be funded without the help of the Government. Often more fairly and more efficiently.
5. Education is the cornerstone to society.

Adam Smith on the Role of Government

Here is what the father of economics had to say about the three roles of Government in the Market:

1. It should protect society against “the violence and invasion” of other societies.

2. It should provide and “exact administration of justice” for all citizens.

3. The Government has the duty of “erecting and maintaining those public institutions and those public works which may be in highest degree advantageous to a great society”, but which “are of such a nature that the profit could never repay the expense to any individual or small number of individuals.”  (Smith cited roads and schools as an example.)

Most of all Adam Smith declared that the Government should “let the market alone”.

Why this is interesting
These ideas are interesting because Adam Smith lays the groundwork for the basic ideas of a society based on liberty. He does not advocate anarchy nor the absence of Government, but rather the proper role of Government.

I tend to agree with this premise. There are certainly functions that are better satisfied by a Governing body aimed at benefiting everyone in an objective and non-biased way, while on the other hand the Government should almost completely stay out of the Market place (except for promoting fair play).

Perhaps this provides a good framework to begin thinking about our own Government.

In the time of Adam Smith there were no mega-corporations that could single-handedly effect the market, no businessmen as strong and as wealthy as an entire nation, yet Smith still saw the value of free markets and the dangers of those who may disrupt it. He saw the evil of monopolies, over regulation, and market manipulation. Yet he saw the brilliance of the market too – how when everyone works for their own self interest, fairly, it ironically serves to benefit society as a whole.

I think Adam Smith laid an excellent base for moderation when it comes to thinking about the role of government and the economy. Each serves their purpose and neither should be too powerful. Perhaps we can take some advice and use it to revamp our current system a little.

Why Conservatives shouldn’t watch Bill O’Reilly

Look, I know everyone carries a certain amount of bias and for some people it’s even their job, but Bill O’Reilly has redefined the term.  I can’t stomach watching him and his bully style is a blemish on every conservative.  The worst part is sometimes I think he truly believes all of the hatred he spouts.

Seriously, there is nothing wrong with a conservative point of view.  There is nothing wrong with defending your position either; however, when what you say and your “opinion journalism” crosses the line (at least constantly rides the line) with an out right lie there is a problem.

It is every political personality’s job to present facts and develop opinions based on those facts – anthing else is simply a fabrication of the truth.  When that fabrication reaches millions of people and is presented as fact – that is immoral!

Bill O’Reilly is a bully who slants the truth.  He is a violent man who should be taken off the air.  If it wasn’t so controversial - which drive ratings – he wouldn’t have a job.

Even if you disagree with the viewpoint of an individual it is important to show respect, tolerance, and decency.  That is how discussions grow into solutions.

Daddy Issues

I didn’t call my Dad on Father’s Day.  I haven’t called him in months, in fact.  My Mom tells me “his feelings were hurt”, but that is most likely a fabrication made by my Mom in an attempt to pretend things are normal.  I’m sure my Dad thinks I should have called him.  He is one self entitled bastard – he probably thinks I owe him 10% of my paycheck too.

The funny thing is he hasn’t called me, well, ever.  When I moved into my house from a three story walk up he stood me up after promising to help me move.  I’m not bitter though – I’m emotionless about the entire situation.  In fact, sometimes I wish I could wash my hands of the entire situation and stop pretending we are supposed to do these things – like call on Father’s Day.

Alright Honestly

Okay – I’ll be honest.  I’m not totally emotionless.  I have a mixture of love for my Dad for being my Dad and disgust for how terrible a person he is.  The worst part is he has not even the slightest idea that he is a piece of shit.  I’m not being biased either.  He really is a pretty terrible and selfish person.

He doesn’t support my Mom – leaves her to the Government, but is sure to take his fair share of the food stamps when the opportunity becomes advantageous.  He didn’t call my mother nor come home on their 25th anniversary, yet expects a phone call of love and admiration on Father’s day.  He shows up late for absolutely every event in his life – out of sheer selfishness and lack of concern for punctuality.  He hoards, doesn’t work, breaks the law, and honestly believes he is a good person.

Ignore it and it will go away

The problem with having parents you would most like to forget is that you can’t.  They keep reappearing like a case of herpes. I have two options.  I can continue doing what I am doing and ignore them until I have no choice but to acknowledge their existence OR I can try to resolve my issues with them and make up.

For me, I have resolved my issues.  I am comfortable with my detachment from them, but I know the truth.  The truth is complete resolution is the only real option.  I’m not saying we have to go to the park while my parents push me in a swing or bake pie together, but I have to get back on an even and healthy keel.

The hardest part is that I know I will be the one who has to change – they are incapable.  They do not have the mental capacity.  It will be me.  I have to accept their flaws and move on from it.  Let them do what they do, hold my nose to ignore the odor, and be content.

These things are easier said than done…

September 11, 2011

I was in 8th grade history class when my teacher ended the lesson and turned on the TV. “Whatever I teach you today will be less important than this – this will be history.” He said. He was right. I watched as the world trade center burned from what appeared to be an aircraft that had crashed into it.

At the time people still weren’t sure if it was an accident or not. Then a second plane hit tower 2 and everyone knew it was on purpose. Before that moment I can’t remember ever even thinking the word terrorist. Now it’s everywhere.

Conspiracy Theory

Ever since then I have always be skeptical about what happened that day. How did a second plane, that hit 30 minutes later, have the opportunity to hit the building? Why wasn’t it shot down? Why did a third building WTC 7 collapse? Why did no one see the plane that hit the pentagon? Is it strange that the section of the Pentagon that was hit was “under renovation” at the time and empty? How did fire from “burning office furniture” cause a steel building to collapse (the first in history)? Why do so many architects and engineers disagree with the 9/11 reports? These are just a few questions I have.

I never want to associate myself with 9/11 conspiracy theorist because a lot of those people are crackpots, but I have to admit that the whole situation seems off. People reported explosions in the basement. Traces of thermite, used in controlled demolitions to melt steel, were found in all three buildings. Key witnesses end up dead. I mean what is really going on?

Since I feel like a lot of level headed people read my blog I want to know what you think. Conspiracy theory? Is the government telling the truth? Does anything seem wrong at all? I think so.

Income, Education, Age, and Geography Determine Political Leaning. Religion not as important as expected.

Yesterday I posted about the correlation between people living in cities, having higher income, and more education being more liberal. Today I want to add into the equation the factors of age and religion. Again, I selected the states of Florida, Georgia, and Kansas at random to inspect the data. See below for the results and scroll to the end for the conclusion.

Georgia

Georgia by percent of population over 64
Georgia by religious practitioners

Florida

Florida by percent of population over 64

Florida by religious practitioners

Kansas

Kansas by percent of population over 64
Kansas by religious practitioners

Conclusion

As we can see from the data above and posted yesterday the major factors effecting political leaning are income, age, proximity to major cities (jobs), and education.  Religion, while it appears to have some impact, is not as critical as expected.

Religion:
In Florida and Georgia religion appears to have little to moderate correlation to political leaning. There are less and more religious counties all over each state. However, in Kansas we see a more direct correlation. Near the city of Topeka, a more liberal area, there are less religious practitioners. We can conclude then, if anything, the more religious an area is the more conservative and the less religious the more liberal – in general. (Also the more religious the less educated and poorer an area.)

More stuff to examine
I think the next step would be to examine what are the determining factors when it comes to voting.  Are people voting based on social issues of fiscal issues?  Do people self-identify as progressive or conservative?  How are people voting if there is a conflict between their fiscal beliefs and social beliefs?  What role are independents, libertarians, and members of minority parties playing?

For now, it seems we can safely assume that the individuals with higher income, are below the age of retirement, have a college degree, and live in close proximity to cities are generally more liberal than their older, less educated, lower income counterparts.

Resources:
US Map by Religions Practitioners
US Map by Age

Why are people who live in cities more liberal?

I examined three states (Georgia, Florida, and Kansas) chosen at random and examined their education, political leaning, and income levels. Below are the results of each state. Scroll to the bottom for the conclusion.

Georgia

Georgia by individuals with a college degree
Georgia Income Map

Florida

Florida by individuals with a college education.
Florida by income

Kansas

Kansas by individuals with a college education
Kansas by Income

According to the charts the highest concentration of income and individuals with college educations live in U.S. cities. So despite the popular misconception that rich people are all a bunch of Republicans, it appears that education and income actually make people more liberal (or visa versa). So are liberals just more intelligent or are we missing something all together?

Resources:
Map of people with college degrees
Map of Income by Location
Map of Political leaning by Location