Today I made a “mocha” with my moka pot coffee.  I really like my coffee setup.  In terms of happiness per dollar, it’s some of the best money I’ve ever spent.  Even the shape of my $7 coffee scoop make me feel like a badass when I use it.

I’m reading a book right now called “Equal is Unfair.”

It was written by two Republican nerds.  I think I initially found it via some kind of Ayn Rand mailing list I ended up on years ago.  Obviously, it’s looking at America from a very different POV than books like “$2 a day” and “The Truth about the Drug Companies.”  Like those books, I listen to it carefully, and in particular I try and come up with situations, facts, or discussions that are omitted.  The book has a very high rating, but I suspect that’s b/c of the passion with which the reviewers agree with the authors POV rather than the absolute quality of the book.

The basic premise of the book is that government restrictions on freedom suppress the creation of value, and that the problem with America is not so much favors granted by the government to rich people as it is the fact that the government has enough power to grant substantial favors to anyone.

There is some light discussion of Piketty’s book,

… but that book is 704 pages, and the primary sources from which its conclusions were draw are probably over 10,000  or 100,0000 pages, so although a person can look for internal consistency throughout the work, you really have to dedicate your life to studying that data to have a well formed opinion on the book.  “Equal is Unfair” attacks the book simply by questioning Piketty’s treatment and assumptions about what counts for income and quality of life.  They don’t yet point out a specific gripe, so it’s kind of the same old “cast generic doubt to discredit” strategy we see often in the mainstream media.

“Equal is Unfair” believes that a capitalist market that generates greater value for those at the top eventually lifts everybody up, and that when you conceive of the economy as a non-zero-sum-game, more wealth to those at the top doesn’t hurt those at the bottom.  The problem then is not inequality – the problem would be poverty.  It has kind of a trickle down POV.

I think I remember one passing sentence, where the authors discuss the government restricting parents from finding their kid a better education.  This brings to mind the current nomination for secretary of education, who believes in school choice and school vouchers.  Charter schools and private schools appeal to my love of experimentation.  But I can’t ignore the other stuff I’ve seen in education, that certain regions or school districts are full of poor people, and the best teachers don’t want to work there and deal with the accompanying issues.  That some schools don’t have enough money for basic science equipment.  That some parents don’t give a shit about where their kid goes to school because they’re too wrapped up in struggling for their own survival.  A free market isn’t compatible with the more communist idea that every child deserves a quality education.  But I don’t see how in 2016, you can say that everybody has equal opportunity in the US when some people are starting in a deep educational shit hole.  For adults, I can be mean and say they need to handle their shit.  For kids, I think schools need public money.  They need to feed kids with lame parents who can’t take care of business, and they need to stay open late for kids with dysfunctional families (and to educate struggling adults).

Total expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools in the United States amounted to $620 billion in 2012–13, or $12,296 per public school student enrolled in the fall (in constant 2014–15 dollars, based on the Consumer Price Index). These expenditures include $11,011 per student in current expenditures for the operation of schools; $931 for capital outlay (i.e., expenditures for property and for buildings and alterations completed by school district staff or contractors); and $355 for interest on school debt.

This is not enough.  For sure, the number is already high vs. the median income of the US, but if we assume self replacements, You’ll actually just pay for 12 years of student life over more like 35 years of working life, so it’s not as bad.  Also, I think we could squeeze out some more efficiency by getting rid of Unions, privatizing benefits, etc. even while we raise salaries.


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