Rethinking Credentialization

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton want to make college “free” (i.e., paid-for by taxpayers) for many, or even all, Americans. In other words, they want a college education to become an entitlement – along with medical care, food and, soon enough, housing; these people really like giving away other people’s money.

I have a different idea: for most people, we ought to make college (as we now know it, anyway: hugely expensive, four-year residential programs where many if not most students take courses that teach them few, if any, usable skills) obsolete. Before we get to my idea, though, I would like to (again – the first time was here, in 2013) quote Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit on the topic of government subsidies of higher education:

“The government decides to try to increase the middle ...

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The Fragile Society

Our society is increasingly fragile. Brittle, even.

What would happen if the North Koreans – or the Iranians, take your pick – took out our electrical grid with an EMP attack? Or if the Chinese or Russians took out the Internet – a possibility that they seem to be exploring: https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2016/09/someone_is_lear.html?

Or maybe there will be another great war beginning with a flareup in the South China Sea or the Baltics; those scenarios look all too possible.

(What, you don’t think modern nations would do such nasty things, even if they thought it suited their interests? Consider this: for the last sixty years or so, the Chinese – seemingly reasonable fellows who believe in the peaceful rise of their country – have kept half of Korea in abject slavery...

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A Little Escape

The sky was bright blue this morning, the air was warm and there was little wind so I decided to explore an estuary on the western, far side of the river. I had noticed its mouth from my kayak a week or so ago and wondered where it led, but at that time I had been too hurried to go take a look.

When I put in, the tide was at about three quarters, ebbing. I crossed Lord Cove, exited at the cut and crossed one of the wider reaches of the Connecticut River, not far north of the Baldwin bridge. The water was placid and no boats were heading north or south. On summer weekends, the traffic on this section of the river can make it feel like Route 95, and kayakers like deer, but today the river was quiet...

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Free Stuff or Freedom

Healthcare is blithely proclaimed to be a right; Hillary, following Bernie’s lead, declares that college should be free. We all deserve lots of stuff, you see, and somebody else should pay for it.

***

There is, famously, no such thing as a free lunch – or free healthcare, or free college. Other than the air we breathe, everything that we use or consume is, in large part, the product of human labor. Even natural resources are useless until people mine them or refine them, grow them, process them and bring them to market. In every moment of every day, we benefit from the labor of others.

And they won’t work for nothing: people need to be paid for their efforts – in cash, or its equivalent – so they, in turn, can purchase the fruits of others’ labors...

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An Adventure on the River

(Note to readers: I have slightly edited the following text, originally published on Friday, August 19th, and added the posts I later wrote about the rest of the journey so the whole story can be read sequentially).  

Last winter some friends and I decided that we would spend five days this summer kayaking on the Connecticut River. Two days would be near the river’s source, where the border between New Hampshire and Vermont meets Canada, one would be through Springfield, Massachusetts, and the final two days would take us from just south of Hartford, Connecticut to my home near the river’s mouth. These sections would give us looks at three very different kinds of New England riverscape.

The main participants in the adventure would be my friends Larry, John, Sam, Aidan and me; we hired ...

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Relative Worth

We measure our wants on a relative basis.

On an absolute basis, in material terms today’s poor are far, far better off than the kings of yore. Indoor plumbing. Clean water. Vaccinations. Heat and air conditioning. Fruit and vegetables out-of-season; proteins from around the world. Communications devices and travel possibilities that could only have been crazy fantasies to medieval aristocrats; innumerable facts on virtually any topic available instantly through the Internet. Dramatically longer lifespans. America’s poor – or most of them, anyway – have access to all these things.

The rich have them too, of course, but better. Not more calories, better ones. More comfortable cars. Snappier electronic devices. Vastly bigger homes. Longer, securer and more predictable lives...

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Social Justice?

When somebody starts talking to you about social justice, run.

The phrase has little to do with the traditional meaning of justice. (“Justice was done” said the marshal after a jury trial, as the horse thief swung in the breeze).

Instead, the phrase social justice generally signifies that the speaker perceives him or her –self as having an elevated, aggrieved and group-oriented sense of how society works. Not only do Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) want to change the world, theirs, they insist, is the path of Moral Rectitude.

The sanctimony, it burns, but why does it burn? Most of us would prefer to ignore their self-conscious righteousness and smile on SJWs – just idealistic kids, we want to say to ourselves, trying to make the world a better place...

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Character

I learned a long time ago that I was not necessarily the smartest guy around.

There are few purer tests of a certain kind of intelligence than chess, and no matter how hard I tried, my slightly older brother almost always won our contests. When it came to the kind of raw computational power needed for the game, he had me beat.

Nor, as I would learn over time, would I ever be the strongest, the best looking, the richest or the most accomplished of men. And even if I had had the capability to become one of those things, I would only have held the distinction for an instant.

My brother’s ability to beat me at chess said nothing about which of us would have a better life...

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Illusory Conclusions?

A friend sent me this http://notrickszone.com/2016/07/25/software-expert-exposes-potential-nasa-climate-data-fraud-trend-completely-fake-and-manipulated/#sthash.KoHQdmCQ.dpbs link to a talk recently given by a global warming doubter named Tony Heller. I found the video both credible and utterly fascinating, and strongly suggest that you give it a look.

Heller makes a highly persuasive case that the official agencies of the US Government – particularly NASA and NOAA – are presenting climate data that they have altered in a manner designed to increase alarm about global warming...

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Disagreements

I had dinner with friends the other night.

Perhaps 100 of us were invited to an elegant party, the stated purpose of which was to “Celebrate Life … Before Hillary or Trump”.  The host – who plainly shares my sense of gloom about the leading candidates – used the election as a pretext for pulling together what he hoped would be a festive, mid-summer gathering of friends.

For all our pleasure at enjoying a fine meal and each others’ company, though, much of the conversation, at least at my table, actually did end up consisting of downbeat observations about the major party candidates. Nobody had a good word – or even a noncommittally neutral word – to say about either one. A sense of despair about the political process hung over us...

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