# The Politiconomist

Where Politics and Economics Hang Out

## On Privilege, Debate, and Critique

I normally wouldn’t do a post about The Atlantic’s piece “Does Traditional College Debate Reinforce White Privilege” by Jessica Carew Kraft. It’s certainly within the purview of this blog, I just probably wouldn’t have. Except several of you have asked my opinion and I have marginally more insight than the average person.

Now, that isn’t because I was there. Oddly, I was within a few hundred yards of this tournament and met a number of the debaters, but I wasn’t there. I was working down the hall in an adorable coffee shop—I saw none of the action. My insight simply comes from my experience as a high school debater and, subsequently, an occasional judge.

When I was team captain I heard a lot of complaints along of the line of “I totally won this round but….” I didn’t have much patience for it, to be honest. The response for 99% of complaints of that form is: “Why didn’t you connect with your judge, but your opponent did?”

There is simply no secret here. Debate rounds are decided by actual human beings who are sitting in front of you (hopefully) listening to the round. Of course it’s arbitrary and weird biases show up. I still get a chuckle about the teammate who lost a round, I kid you not, because his opponent quoted Batman and his judge liked Batman. True story. But, for the most part, your judges are judging in good faith. If your opponents are winning because they connect on a human level, it’s because debate is a human endeavor.

Now, this piece makes much ado about how these critiques are novel, and that’s actually only half true. In debate, a Critique is some kind of objection to the round itself. They’re a bit unusual, but there are some forms that pop up. One can critique the resolution, arguing it has some implicit bias or doesn’t ask a meaningful policy question. One can critique the relevance of policy forms, often with respect to the resolution. For example, one could argue that a resolution about abortion is a loaded resolution because the judge likely has unusually passionate biases. Likewise, one could argue that it is inappropriate to provide empirical evidence because abortion is usually viewed as a moral one. For the most part, the governing bodies of debate don’t open themselves up to these kinds of critique, and in turn, judges are somewhat hostile to them.

Now, privilege critiques of debate forms are (more or less) new, at least in debate spaces. The Atlantic piece alludes to two takes on it, both of which have won national tournaments. The details are scant, at best, but the first it mentions was this:

On March 24, 2014 at the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) Championships at Indiana University, two Towson University students, Ameena Ruffin and Korey Johnson, became the first African-American women to win a national college debate tournament, for which the resolution asked whether the U.S. president’s war powers should be restricted. Rather than address the resolution straight on, Ruffin and Johnson, along with other teams of African-Americans, attacked its premise. The more pressing issue, they argued, is how the U.S. government is at war with poor black communities.

As a judge, I’m personally hostile to this mode, at least in the High School form. Most policy has a topicality burden. You have to be on topic. Without seeing the round, this kind of derailing should not fair well. As a former debate team captain, I have to ask their opponents: why did it work if it should be a sitting duck?

My guess is that their opponents firstly didn’t conduct themselves well and secondly didn’t take down the actual threads of topicality very well—all symptoms of endemic privilege. The quotes from the piece aren’t impressive responses against this line of argument:

“Having minimal rules is not something that reflects a middle-class white bias,” [someone for "policy-only" debate] said. “I think it is wildly reductionist to say that black people can’t understand debate unless there is rap in it—it sells short their potential.”

If someone responded with this condescending strawman, I’d start taking a serious look at voting for their opponent. The complaint here is that the entrenched, largely white interests want to keep out non-traditional styles and evidence by rule when the judging pool has failed to. It’s also wildly reductionist to think that judges can’t tell the difference between a nuanced privilege argument and derailing. The complaint is the former:

Liberal law professors have been making this point for decades. “Various procedures—regardless of whether we’re talking about debate formats or law—have the ability to hide the subjective experiences that shape these seemingly ‘objective’ and ‘rational’ rules,” said UC Hastings Law School professor Osagie Obasogie, who teaches critical race theory. “This is the power of racial subordination: making the viewpoint of the dominant group seem like the only true reality.”

Seems Professor Obasogie is using his full potential to argue a critique. Again, without seeing the rounds, its hard to say if the debaters themselves could be held to these standards. The Atlantic piece has some innuendo that they can’t, but we’re not told how they fared on the days they employed the less decorous tactics. Voting against people because of what they did in other rounds (especially if you weren’t judging that one) is a cardinal sin of judging. It doesn’t matter if they yelled, “Fuck the time,” two weeks ago. If they’re on point this week, they’re on point.

These arguments are probably connecting for judges because their opponents are going on to demonstrate that there’s something to them, right there. Sure, it’s probably not the most topical argument, but if their opponents are arguing against the critique in ways that are casually, insidiously, and reductively racist, it lends credence to the critique.

Stepping away from the highly formalized world of debate, I think there is a lesson here. “I think we need to stay on task and talk about substance” can be itself a form of derailing. Knowing the difference—and being critical about the fine line between racial bias and white guilt, of which most of my readers, like me, have both—is important. Sometimes stopping mid-process to examine the process is an important part of any process.

The Atlantic was ultimately silent concerning the judging pool, but they’re buying these critiques. And the debaters losing to them need to ask: Why are they connecting? Why is asserting the process is broken working better than using that process? What am I doing in round that is lending itself to this line of critique?

Of course, the nature of privilege is ultimately that its easier to pass a rule saying you’re not allowed to critique the process.

Written by Rick Stark

April 23, 2014 at 6:55 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

## Is Democracy Really for Sale?

If you believe the conventional wisdom, Democracy is dead and 9 Justices killed it.

The evidence doesn’t quite match the wisdom, though.

At the very top level, spending between 2008 increased in 2012, but not out of line with historic trends—inflation and a growing government have meant spending numbers have been steadily climbing. Shouldn’t money by you an election? Would we expect otherwise? The Political Science literature gives an answer that will surprise many.

How much would you pay for this?

### Framing the Question

There are two seemingly easy but ultimately very fraught “gross” facts to contend with. First, the one who raises the most campaign cash, wins. Second—though less clear—those who fund the winners often get what they want legislatively. Insofar as our questions are “who will win the election?” and “what bills will pass?”, relative campaign donations are a good measure.

But, if we want to make causative claims, things get thorny. Would you donate to a candidate who you didn’t like? Probably not; the more popular candidate will earn more money. Would you fund a candidate who didn’t share your interests? Probably not; platforms with support are the ones which get passed on to Congress. Teasing out how much money actually influences outcomes as apposed to follows those outcomes is a much more difficult task.

The way this is done is by estimating the effects of possible other explanations and hoping what’s left over is the how much campaign donations influence outcomes. It’s a science, sure, but its also an art. The picture it paints is an interesting, nuanced one. I’ll be focusing on elasticity studies—studies which measure the relative changes between factors.

### What’s the Going Price on an Election?

Before I begin reporting the findings, I’m going to translate them to a more reader friendly number. If elasticities makes sense to you, great—and I’m giving them too! But I’ve seen tenured econ professors who write papers centered around them fumble with elasticities when put on the spot. (No disrespect here; manipulating elasticities and seamless lecturing are both reasonably difficult!) Unfortunately, I found only two studies that dealt with elasticities in the US, and a third for Israel.

From Open Secret’s 2012 election data, I calculate that the average congressional campaign spent about 4.3 million dollars. For the sake of consistency, I’ll report how much additional money an “average campaign” would have had to spend to swing a race that was 5% of voter share away from winning. Not all campaigns face the same sized hurdle, of course, but putting a dollar price tag instead of an elasticity finding gives a concreteness I at least find useful.

The first study is “Tainted Money? Contribution Limits and the
Effectiveness of Campaign Spending
” by Thomas Stratmann. It estimated the elasticities a number of ways, but found more or less the same results: it’s hard to buy an election and limits make it harder. Our hypothetical average campaign would have to raise 1.9 million dollars in an unlimited environment or “just” 1.3 million dollars in a limited environment. (Vote share elasticities to finance of .11 or .16, respectively.) Also, different modeling methods found that Republicans may or may not have a slight edge in either environment.

Before I get into the next study, “Deep Pockets, Extreme Preferences: Interest Groups and Campaign Finance Contributions“, I want to complain that this study is obscenely unreadable. With that out of the way, we can dig—and I do mean dig—into their findings. They found an appreciably lower, though still high number. Our hypothetical campaign would need to raise 1.1 million dollars to swing the election. (Elasticity of .25). Worth noting, however, is that they controlled for less—which is informally line with the previous study.

If we move into the Israeli experience, we find very low elasticities. “Does Campaign Spending Affect Electoral Outcomes?” should be cautiously ported to the American experience, but it was interesting to see that another nation had low returns. If we uncritically use their finding of .034 for elasticity, our poor campaign would have to raise 6.3 million dollars, well in excess of what they had raised as a baseline. I peaked at a few other international papers, and this kind of low finding seems to be the norm in developing world.

One interesting study I found, by they way, is “The Money Primary: Political Prediction Markets, Campaign Contributions, and Expenditures“. This is, lest I be accused of in-transparency, an undergraduate honors thesis answering a different question. Still, it suggests that the elasticities of front-runner candidates in primaries is lower than the elasticities of candidates trailing behind. There are some pitfalls to modeling campaigns using a single-elasticity model; circumstances change. If I may extrapolate a bit, Citizen’s United likely changed the playing field more than elasticity models suggest, but probably not as much as the cynics would have you believe.

### Conclusion

Populist horror at Citizen’s United is unquestionably on firm grounds ideologically. Insofar as we believe that money alone shouldn’t influence elections, anything that makes it easier for money to sway elections is worth our ire.

But, insofar as we believe that policy should be crafted rationally and political resources moved against things we can show harm, campaign deregulation has probably had only a small effect. The surprisingly thin literature on voting elasticity gives us some qualitative insights:

• Elections can be bought.
• The cost is very prohibitive if the election is not very close.
• Republicans benefit very slightly from deregulation.
• The effect on Democracy is probably very small as a whole.

That is to say, if given a costless chance, I’d go back to a more regulated environment. On the other hand, a major progressive campaign to turn back the political system is probably a waste of resources compared to other progressive causes.

Written by Rick Stark

April 17, 2014 at 7:38 PM

## The Problem with The Problem with the Gay Community

Edit: I spelled Mr. Guenther’s name wrong; the piece now accurately reflects his name.

The Indiana Daily Student has run a troubling piece by Andrew Guetner that warrants a famed Politiconomist line-by-line. I’ll be going through each of his points one-by-one and responding with my usual critical eye.

Unlike most of my line-by-lines, this one had passages that resonated, passages that irked me, and passages that managed to do both at the same time. It’s a fascinating study in both internalized homophobia and clarity of social-justice vision. There are unhealthy tendencies in Bloomington’s gay community. There are unhealthy ways to articulate them.

When you grow up as a member of the LGBT community, your peers often tell you “Just be yourself” or “Individuality is a beautiful thing.”

Though these beautiful, philosophical nuggets of wisdom would look great crocheted on a pillow, they don’t prepare members of the LGBT community for the harsh realities of the gay community.

This thesis is thorny: gay culture erases individuality. Hang onto your seats kids, because this is a crazy ride.

When you first enter it, which is in college for some, you’re in for a culture shock. The happy-go-lucky “It gets better” image projected in public is worlds away from the behind-the-scenes version of the gay community.

I think this is an excellent moment to address a certain in-group tendency by minority groups to circle the wagons when this kind of dirty laundry is aired. I’m interested in doing no such thing; there’s dirty laundry and a noticeable portion of the community isn’t ready to do the needed cleaning.

Of course, we circle the wagons because we still have to worry about bigots quoting this conversation to FIGHT AGAINST THE GAY AGENDA!!!

In reality, some people are rejected from the culture just because they don’t conform to the standards that exist. If you don’t dress a certain way, if you don’t enjoy certain music or TV shows or if you simply don’t look a certain way, it’s common that the gay community will just brush you aside.

So many mixed feelings here!

First of all, a hardy bit of solidarity for addressing classicism in LGBT spaces. The stereotype of gay (and bi) men standing around a party discussing sunglasses that cost more than I pay on rent is not made out of whole cloth. For whatever reason, being openly gay in Bloomington in particular, though it seems in most places I’ve come in contact with, comes with a huge pressure to purchase and display status symbols. The unexamined economic privilege among certain circles is not unique to gay culture, but I at least feel it is more prevalent.

“More prevalent” and “tendency”, though, gets you into trouble when you try to say things like…

Now, it’s important to note that being gay is different from being a part of gay culture. Being gay means you’re attracted to someone of the same sex, while being part of gay culture means you follow a monolithic, culturally-formed “ideal” for what being gay means.

No.

We have a word for people who reduce groups of gay people down monoliths: homophobic. And that word can apply to gay people. It is sadly common to be an out gay man who believes that other out gay men are, on balance, inferior to straight people.

Mr. Guenther can try to make a distinction between the “good gays” who don’t follow the “ideal” set out by society and the “bad gays” who do, but there are two problems here. The first is the generic difficulty in claiming this kind of stereotyping isn’t harmful.

But more specifically, it falls into precisely the kind of trap many out (and closeted, by the way), gay and bi men fall into: fetishization of “straight-acting” and “masculine” traits. To Mr. Guenther’s credit, he doesn’t make such a distinction and I don’t know him or his personal politics on this matter. Regardless, his disdain for people who “act gay” in accordance with our ideas of “gayness” is a homophobic one that is present in both gay and straight spaces. That he’s at times hooking his argument up to actual problematic structures in gay circles doesn’t get him out of the burden of navigating other problematic structures.

Gay culture as a whole is a racist, male-dominated social structure that inherently is discriminatory against people of color, women and those who are religious. Besides being a disgusting way to discriminate against those who come to the community to feel accepted, these social barriers hold us back as a community as well.

We now return to my previously scheduled ambivalence. If this quote appeared as part of a critique that didn’t also explicitly value not acting like society’s image of a gay man, it would resonate fully. Anecdotally, I can tell you that gay spaces are far too often hostile to people of color and misogynistic. This is a problem and it needs to stop. Neither racist comments and sexualization nor the creation of gay boys clubs are appropriate. Both are happening right now in Bloomington.

I quibble a bit on the comment about religion. Many gay people are insensitive about matters of faith. Of course, people of faith are usually objecting to our existence as a matter of faith, so the hostility is (at least partially) warranted self-defense. But both sides of that extraordinarily unproductive conversation are actually erasing the liberal churches who are working hard to fight for their right to legally marry same-sex couples. In my experience, when you get most LGBT people to calm down and look past the very legitimate pain faith has inflicted on our community, LGBT folks are not only majority religious themselves, but respect faith that is not based on attacking others.

The Angry Godless Fag is a stereotype and mostly a myth—and in Keeping with Mr. Guetner’s internalized homophobia. Likewise, there are many members of the gay community who speak up when they see racism and misogyny and try to limit their own participation in those structures. (HI!)

While the LGBT community is often the first to reject the heteronormative culture that most of the country follows, we’ve created our own little culture of exclusion and conformity.

I’d submit that the sub-culture within the community I think a more nuanced critique would be addressing is heteronormative. I could probably write a post about this alone, but let’s look to his previous paragraph for a taste. Apart from all of the homoeroticism, how is Mr. Guetner’s description different from Frat Culture*? Boys club? Classism? A complicated relationship with race involving broad stereotyping and tokenization? Closed to outsiders? Fetishization of appearing straight?

Not only are these problems endemic to college life as a whole and not just the gay community, they are the same heteronormative problems.

It’s not uncommon that gay men and women will come out of the closet just to discover that they then have to battle against their own community to maintain their identity.

And when people are unwilling or unable to battle their own community, they
conform.

This resonated even in spite of the context, if I’m being honest. Many of the easiest to find gay spaces place an enormous value on conformity. Maybe I’m the chubby, nerdy feminist who hates talking about clothes, but I have had my moments of internalized homophobia where it felt like me versus the gays for who I was. I’m not proud of the time when I held this kind of thing as more than a passing thought, but I can tell you there are LGBT spaces where this pressure is looked upon unkindly.

This conforming leads to caricatures of the gay community, which grow into hurtful stereotypes.

And then I remember the context!

No piece of this genre would be complete without some victim blaming! You see, it’s not a homophobe’s fault that they have stereotypes about us. It’s our fault. If only we’d acted more straight!

To be honest, it was the this paragraph that made me perfectly fine with linking up Mr. Guetner’s opinions with the tendency to look down on people who aren’t “straight-acting”. Whether he explicitly holds that view or not, it underpins the notion that gay people are responsible for their attackers’ actions.

Now, I’m not judging people who just happen to dress a certain way or who happen to like Madonna.

Fine, you’re just defending those who do. Forgive me if I still think that’s homophobic.

However, people who purposely put out this aura of conformity, of racism or of exclusion are no better than the conservative Republicans who vote to strip the LGBT community of their rights.

Yes, acting a certain, possibly inauthentic way is the same thing as actively trying to hurt other people.

I think Mr. Guetner is getting lost in his inconsistent attempts at nuance. If at issue is the harmful enforcement of norms by gay people on each other—something I’ve more than conceded is a real issue—then the comparison is apt. Possibly overblown, but apt.

But Mr. Guetner is forgetting that’s the auspices under which he’s attacking those people who don’t act straight enough for his tastes and comparing them to those hurting others.

You cannot create a community based on the idea that all people are equal, that everyone is beautiful in their own way, and then pollute and sour that community with conformity and hatred.

Agreed, but with the ongoing caveat that I think this comes from a place of homophobia in Mr. Guetner.

Creating tangents from mainstream society, such as gay fraternities or restaurants, already creates an image that we are separate from the rest of the world.

The politics of gay separation are much more complicated than this little quip can capture—a fact we could generously chalk up to word count, though why breach it in that case?

Gay separation serves two functions. First, it allows us to create spaces where we don’t have to put up with microagressions and outright homophobia. As these things have become less of an issue, the need for gay spaces has worn down and, I’d argue, has the divide between straight and gay people. Second, and this is less obvious to straight people, it gives us spaces where our odds of finding romantic partners are more in line with our straight friends odds most everywhere else.

To whit, some straight people still insist on separating us and what I’ll term “dating pool spaces” will forever serve a function.

I have never encountered a “gay restaurant”, though I do support local gay-owned businesses when possible because, hey, someone else is probably boycotting them. IU’s first gay fraternity**, Sigma Phi Beta, was founded to explicitly combat homophobia in the Greek system here; if it survives past the unlikely end of Greek homophobia we’ll talk. (Also, many of you know I feel they have worked hard at times to outdo the problematic aspects of Greek community. No, those displays of heteronormitivity haven’t gotten them into the fold of bros.)

The point is, this fight isn’t won and we won’t win it by pretending we’re we’re straight and blending in with straight folks. Gay guys! Do us a solid and stop acting like women are poisonous and straight people have nothing to offer. But let’s not pretend that it’s totally out of the blue either.

You may not like the way a person dresses, the fact that they go to church or that they don’t do drugs or drink, but we all belong to the same community. We all have struggles—some more so than others.

Let me hedge my commentary a bit. Insofar as gay men are actually shaming Mr. Guetner for going to church or being a bit straight edge, that is wrong. As is the classism, racism, misogyny, and other ills I’ve candidly acknowledged many of my gay friends and acquaintances (and myself) need to do a better job addressing.

Insofar as this erases the actual segments of the gay community which try to navigate issues of class, respect your choices of faith and body, and are respectful of those of different backgrounds, Mr. Guetner is way out of line.

The reason that the LGBT community has the potential to have such beauty in unity is that it can bring together people from all walks of life. Stop tearing the community apart with how you “think” people should act. Start bringing the community together with who we are.

Indeed. But let’s start with the tendency to reduce the gay community down to the people who participate in these structures. Let’s next stop valuing “straight” construction of identity as somehow more valuable and authentic. Once we’ve done that, we can construct an argument about the very real problems that gay people have inherited from wider society.

If you’re wondering what that argument looks like, by the way, you should check out Rohin Guha’s “The Myth of the Fag Hag and the Secrets of the Gay Male Subculture” at Jezebel. This is the piece I wanted Mr. Guenthner’s to be. While I think Mr. Guha occasionally falls into a few of the pitfalls that Mr. Guenthner did, the piece navigates the interplay between problems and expectations much more masterfully. Where it succeeds is showing that what’s wrong with these groups isn’t gay culture, but straight culture repackaged for gay sexuality. (Where it fails is giving the impression that the gay community is still homogeneous, though I still got the inexplicable sense his exasperation is because he’s seen other kinds of LGBTQ spaces.)

As for Mr. Guenthner, I urge him to seek out the (often activist) spaces that have out, proud, sometimes-femme-because-they-want-to-be gay men. He might learn a thing or two about how there isn’t one, monolithic gay community.

*You’re allowed two jokes each about homoeroticism within fraternities before I cut you off.

**You’re allowed two more jokes each about homoeroticism within fraternities before I cut you off.

I know, Jezebel. What can I say? When they’re on, they’re on—and this was on.

Written by Rick Stark

April 14, 2014 at 8:03 PM

## Was The Mother put in the fridge?

Didja hear?  How I Met Your Mother ended its 9 year run on March 31st, and lots of people are upset about it!  Obviously…

Not only did the finale confirm a long-held, dreaded fan theory – that The Mother had died before Ted started telling his kids the story – it provided a really contrived ending that managed to essentially undo the entire message of the show.  I’m going to try to set aside my personal indignation at the last few minutes for a second (though, seriously, if my dad had pulled some shit like that when my mom died, I would not speak to him again), and focus instead on The Mother’s death.  Which, incidentally, the finale barely did.

Before I launch into all of that, a brief explanation of the term in the title.  “Women in Refrigerators” Syndrome is when  a female character is killed, maimed, or stripped of her power/agency as a way to further a male character’s story arc, usually by motivating a revenge plot.  There’s a whole website called Women in Refrigerators that lists instances of this trope in comics…it’s a long list.  The term is a reference to Green Lantern #54, when the hero, Kyle Raynor, came home to discover that the villain had dismembered his girlfriend and, you guessed it, stuffed her in the refrigerator.  Now that we’ve defined our terms, let’s move on.

Although people have been predicting for years that The Mother, Tracy, was dead, the show only confirmed it in the last few minutes of the final episode.  Ted makes a vague reference to Tracy’s illness, we see a single shot of her in a hospital bed with Ted by her side as he tells us in voice over how much he loved her, and that’s that.  That’s all the time given to the death of this woman that we’ve spent nine years watching him try to find.  The problem is not that Tracy died.  That could have been a meaningful look at loss, recovery, and the love that survives death.  The problem is that Tracy’s death is treated like a non-event.  It was one last cheap twist designed to pull at our heartstrings. There was plenty of time devoted to Barney’s trite metamorphosis into a non-womanizer following the birth of his daughter, but no details about Tracy’s death.  We don’t even learn what she died from.  There are so many ways the writers could have given her death some context.  They could have shown us the moment that Tracy got diagnosed, or a scene of her and Ted talking about what his life will be like without her.  They could have shown the moment when they decided to revisit Farhampton for the weekend in Vesuvius.  They could have shown the gang getting together again to support Ted at Tracy’s funeral – another one of the “big moments” Lily always talked about.  But for whatever reason, the writers weren’t interested in those things.  Instead, we got a shallow, predictable “twist.”

Of course, Tracy’s death is missing the violence usually associated with fridging, but the most important element is there: her death had no meaning on its own.  It only served to free up Ted to ask out Robin.  So…yeah, they did fridge her.

Aside from, but related to, fridging The Mother, the ending the show gave us treated Robin and Tracy as interchangeable.  It doesn’t seem to matter that Robin and Ted completely lack the romantic chemistry that he had in spades with Tracy; Robin’s a hot lady that Ted has always had a crush on, so she’s in!  Let’s also ignore that the problems that broke Ted and Robin up in the first place – like the fact that she doesn’t want to have children, or that her job takes her all over the world – are still going to be there.  The only difference now is that Ted actually has children, so getting together with Robin is an even more shortsighted choice.  In fact, let’s all just ignore the entire point of the show!  This isn’t supposed to be the story of how Ted realized that love is about more than grand romantic gestures and childish lists of arbitrary qualities.  It’s certainly not about how true love is based on compatibility of temperament, goals, and values.  Nope, this is the story of how everyone ends up with someone, and it doesn’t really matter who.

Let’s all just enjoy this fan edit instead.

Written by Kelly

April 10, 2014 at 12:01 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

## Can Circular Effects Justify a Wage Hike?

I couldn’t help but notice Ben Studebaker was doing one of his old saws about how circular effects can justify a minimum wage hike.

I know, I shouldn’t get sucked back into this. But I am. I have a new perspective I want to come at it with, and I was actually planning a similar post before Mr. Studebaker posted his. Down the rabbit hole we go!

I’m going to make a simple point in a very exacting way. The heart of my claim summarizes neatly: If the problem is a broken link between consumption and wages, you cannot fix the problem by trying to exploit that link.

I will first look at the underlying accounting model Mr. Studebaker employs. I’ve never been one to leave out explicit accounting equations when doing accounts, so I will develop it with a Social Accounting Matrix (SAM). This is nothing more than addition. I will show that it is impossible for the problem to be strictly a private sector model and still comport with the facts at hand.

I will then show that Mr. Studebaker’s analysis of the 1950s and 60s economies holds even when we include government accounts.

Next I will move onto an open economy model to establish the plausibility of other explanations. This, of course, only shows Mr. Studebaker is wrong to assume a tight consumption/compensation link and suggest alternatives. I will have to link this to his empirical considerations to evaluate which model we ought take.

I will then wrap together his empirical points as well as a few of my own to show that the problem rests very much in the Current Account. The money available for wages is very likely being sent abroad. I acknowledge this isn’t a perfect model, and I offer some other accounts to look for the difference in, but I think the case for it is compelling.

Finally, I’ll put the New Labor findings in a wider context so as to more fairly judge them. It is my position that both the statistical methods and conceptual explanations for those findings are flawed, as outlined above.

### A Compensation-Consumption Model

Let me turn your attention to an early claim of Mr. Studebaker’s:

As productivity rises, the economy is able to supply more and more goods and services with the same number of workers. However, increases in the capacity of the economy to supply goods and services are not sufficient to grow the economy–to do this, consumers must be able to purchase those additional goods and services. Until the 1970′s, consumers were able to do this because their wages rose alongside productivity. Instead of firing workers or reducing their hours and salaries, businesses in the 1950′s and 1960′s increased wages and worker benefits, allowing workers to purchase the goods and services they were producing. As a result, the economy expanded quite rapidly during that period. Productivity and wages helped one another in a virtuous cycle.

(Emphasis mine.)

Broadly I agree, but I’ll take exception to the bolded part when the time is ripe.

As a simple thought experiment, let’s imagine we resided in a closed libertarian economy. The macroeconomy is divided into three sectors—households, firms, and investment. Each pays the other. This is traditionally shown as a so-called Societal Accounting Matrix. As I’m presenting it, you read it as [row] pays [column] [entry].

$\begin{array}{c|ccc} & H & F & I \\ \hline H & & C & S \\ F & W & & \\ I & & I & \end{array}$

For example, Households pay Firms Consumption, C. W stands for Total Compensation, I for investment, and S is Household Savings.

The beauty of the SAM is that rows must equal their corresponding columns. There is no great mystery to this; by accounting identities everything bought must be paid for. This is the essence of the argument Mr. Studebaker is making; supply must meet demand*. Firms obviously cannot claim any payment on things not bought; consumers cannot buy things with wages unpaid!

We find ourselves facing three identities:

$\begin{array}{l} W=C+I. \\ W=C+S. \\ I=S. \end{array}$

Notice that from the first equation we can deduce that production (Y=C+I) is equal to compensation. Households drive the economy. Mr. Studebaker is unequivocally correct in a closed libertarian economy about consumers driving the economy.

The trouble is that productivity is locked into compensation! The break in compensation from productivity that he presents, as a matter of accounting, is impossible without other sectors of the economy! I will make the case for this in a moment.

But first, let’s tackle another of Mr. Studebaker’s claims:

The economy attempted to make up for the absent wage growth by making it much easier for consumers to borrow money. Instead of paying for goods and services with wages, consumers paid for these things with credit, which took the form of household debt:

Now, if we look back to our accounting identities, this is a conceivable argument. Borrowing for consumption must be credited to Consumption. (I mean, accounting tautology is a tautology.) In order to keep wages from rising proportionally, we must then debit savings. The trouble with this is that savings (investment) has increased empirically:

Granted, this data is not from a closed libertarian economy. Granted, Personal Savings—the account that better corresponds to the question Mr. Studebaker asked in a more open economy—has fallen with Compensation.

But that’s the point. We can also take this as a partial analysis model of an open economy with a government. We can assume these are the only accounts able to move, as Mr. Studebaker’s analysis implicitly does.

The logic Mr. Studebaker employs does not bear out either the claim that wages fall with falling productivity or that their fall necessitates more borrowing unless we include more accounts.

*The argument that supply creates demand is a stronger one. Instead of supply equaling demand, it says any increase in supply will be met with a increase in demand; we now know there are reasons to believe this is generally not true. Despite often claiming I fall back on Say’s Law, this is precisely what he is doing!

More complicated SAMs are, well, more complicated. As the number of sectors increases, the number of sub-accounts tends to increase faster, meaning that we have to make behavioral assumptions to make claims. This comes with the downside that behavioral assumptions lack the tautological umph! that comes with just being able to point to a simple accounting truth.

Still, we can still see some similar consequences from a 4×4 SAM with a government:

$\begin{array}{c|cccc} & H & F & I & G \\ \hline H & & C & S_H & T_H \\ F & W & & & T_F \\ I & & I & & \\ G & G_H & G_F & S_G & \end{array}$

There are now 4 accounting identities:

$\begin{array}{l} W+G_H=C+S_H+T_H. \\ W+T_F=C+I+G_F. \\ I=S. \\G+S_G=T. \end{array}$

Now, these equations more or less describe the state of affairs pre-1971 when the economy was much closer to closed*. Regardless, they offer a theoretical insight into how the state effects accounts without being muddied by international effects.

Mr. Studebaker’s proposal is that an increase in compensation suggests an increase in consumption is still plausible from the first two equations. I would like to point out the identities it does not necessitate it! An increase in wages could be balanced by any of the other accounts, including state ones.

However, the claim is borne out in the data he puts forward. I’m inclined to agree: prior to 1971, compensation increases meant consumption increases. The first paragraph I pulled above I believe is a fair analysis of that state of affairs.

*I will explore this in more detail in the next section. The barriers to trade in that era came down in 1971, offering an excellent natural experiment.

### International Accounts

Yep, it’s time for a 5×5 SAM. We’ll add in an A account for Abroad.

$\begin{array}{c|ccccc} & H & F & I & G & A \\ \hline H & & C & S_H & T_H & \\ F & W & & & T_F & \\ I & & I & & & NL_P \\ G & G_H & G_F & S_G & & NL_G \\ A & NX_H & NX_F & & & \end{array}$

This gives us 5 accounting equations:

$\begin{array}{l} W+G_H+NX_H=C+S_H+T_H. \\ W+T_F=C+I+G_F+NX_F. \\ S=I+NL_P. \\ G+S_G+NL_G=T. \\ NX=NL. \end{array}$

This is where things start to get very interesting.

It remains a possibility that a consumption increase will end an increase in compensation. But Mr. Studebaker’s own evidence suggests this has not been the pattern of things since 1971.

In my first quote from his piece, I bolded the part about consumers. As it turns out, there is a whole host of possibilities. If compensation increases any of the following things must happen: an increase in consumption, household savings, household taxes, total investment, government subsidies to firms, or net exports by firms; or a decrease in government subsidies to households or on taxes on firms. (All of this is delightfully confounded by the fact that there is a lot of noise from other trends and policy changes.)

Let’s look at where we’re at. Neither a simple Compensation/Consumption model nor a more nuanced one involving the state is sufficient to explain the post-1971 trends. Further, there are a deluge of possible suspects present in an open economy model.

### The Narrative in the Facts

Mr. Studebaker is very fond of the following graph:

For what it’s worth, I’m also very fond of this graph. I’ve written about it before—both independently of this ongoing discussion and in a previous response. It shows, quite clearly, that something happened in 1971 to cause the already drifting wage-productivity relationship to unhook. There’s no mystery to all of this!

That’s the year that Nixon ended Bretton Woods in favor of a more open regime. Prior to that, currency revaluations kept the Current Accounts of nations much closer to balanced. A look at the data shows that the Current Account wasn’t completely balanced pre-1971, but it was much closer to 0:

I want to draw your attention to a few similarities between this and the wage trend, but with a word of caution. Eyeballing time series data is doubly dangerous. Eyeballing any data opens you up for bias and false pattern spotting. Further, seeing lagged effects is more or less impossible. Still, both follow a pattern that I think merits some examination. Post-1971, both briefly rise and then fall together. (I’m not sure why the Current Account briefly went positive after the fall of Bretton Woods; it seems we were a significant lender to nations hit by the fallout?)

There’s also a period in the 90s where this hypothesis fails. I’ll print the graph momentarily, but this is not fully explanatory. Wages aren’t simply going abroad—which I’ll admit I’ve previously represented. While the R2 if calculated isn’t likely to be terribly impressive, the graph between wage share (vertical axis) and balance of trade as a fraction of GDP (horizontal axis) makes me think it’s part of a good model:

I’d be comfortable doing estimations on the fly with a rule of thumb along the lines of:

$\frac{W}{Y}=\frac{CA}{Y}+0.48$

but I’d also clearly be missing something. Those clusters indicate some other variable is shifting around.

Again, without doing any formal statistical analysis, we can look at the Personal Savings account against the wage share. This is pretty weak, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it fit into a more complicated model robustly:

We find a much closer relationship—though, it’s hard to say how close without firing up R—between government subsidies to persons and wage share:

The point being, a lot of things are at work here, and they may well be working with and against each other.

How would I summarize these findings?

1. The fall in the wage share cannot be a direct issue of the private, domestic market.
2. Current account imbalances, including those driven by the deficit, are contributing to the wage shift. Because of the sharp change in the accounts following the demise of Bretton Woods, they are the single clearest explanation for wage decline, but they cannot be the whole story.
3. Government subsidies and personal savings also have something to do with it, but teasing out causation is a bit harder. I’m inclined towards the argument that says that, at very least, government subsidies are helping keep wages low by keeping wage-earners from having to push for higher wages on the supply end and sending wages abroad on the demand end. I’m inclined to view the much weaker personal savings relationship as an obvious corollary of stagnated wages and rising debt, but I’m open to other ideas.

### Wait, So What Happens if We Raise the Minimum Wage?

A full detailing of my thoughts on the state of the relevant empirical literature has been published, but it summarizes nicely enough. I don’t buy that it’s appropriate to control for being a state which raised the minimum wage and then report no correlation when the minimum wage is raised. Of course not—you implicitly controlled for it. This means I fall on the side that says there is a significant decrease in employment (in terms of wage-hours) following a minimum wage hike.

To be fair to Mr. Studebaker, those controls have a respectable acceptance among a minority of economists, but let’s not overstate his position. Most studies, including some which employ the New Labor methods, find that employment falls as the minimum wage rises. For a thorough, 150 page study detailing of the state of the literature, have this bit of light reading. The money quote starts at the bottom of page 114:

This wide range of estimates makes it difficult for us to draw broad generalizations about the implications of the new minimum wage research. Clearly, no consensus now exists about the overall effects on low-wage employment of an increase in the minimum wage. However, the oft-stated assertion that this recent research fails to support the traditional view that the minimum wage reduces the employment of low-wage workers is clearly incorrect. The studies surveyed in this paper lead to 91 entries in our summary tables (in some cases covering more than one paper). Of these, by our reckoning nearly two-thirds give a relatively consistent (although by no means always statistically significant) indication of negative employment effects of minimum wages—where we sometimes focus on results for the least-skilled—and fewer than 10 give a relatively consistent indication of positive employment effects. In addition, we have highlighted in the tables 20 studies that we view as providing more credible evidence, and 16 (80 percent) of these point to negative employment effects. Correspondingly, we have indicated in our narrative review that, in our view, many of the studies that find zero or positive effects suffer from various shortcomings.

To whit: the lit’s there for Mr. Studebaker, but it’s not a robust majority in any sense. And it goes on for several pages detailing specific trends that are very damning to any claim of New Labor ascendency. So, while for much of the preceding I’ve just assumed a compensation hike, it seems that may have been far too generous to Mr. Studebaker’s position.

And that follows from more careful accounting and the evidence he provided.

If the accounting doesn’t speak to you, let me pose it in a more essential way. Mr. Studebaker’s explicit position is that the wage-rate is not necessarily linked to either production or consumption, and presents evidence to this effect. But, he asserts that an increase in the wage-rate would, through this same broken link, increase both compensation and production as a whole.

It simply doesn’t follow.

Written by Rick Stark

April 10, 2014 at 12:00 PM

## Tyler Cowen Doesn’t Deserve Your Ire

People trying to derive irony out of Tyler Cowen getting pepper-sprayed don’t have the irony they think they have:

• Well, okay, they have the irony that he was teaching a class about vigilante justice when someone placed him under citizens arrest and then turned pepper spray on him. But it doesn’t hook up to Cowen’s politics.
• Libertarinism is complex. By my count, there are 3 distinct traditions—with a fair number of variations on each—with force in the United States. (Misesean/Rothbardian, Nozekian, and Hayekian if you’re wondering. Some would include a fourth, the Randian Objectivist tradition, but that gets complicated.) These have some pretty fundamental disagreements considering they all have claim to a single unified idea. Rothbard was essentially an anarchist; Hayek believed in state-implemented guaranteed income. The point being, “libertarian” doesn’t tell you much about what a person believes.
• Cowen is something of an a-la-carte, as-the-evidence-suits-it libertarian. Consistent data and analysis will get him to take a statist position if the evidence so warrants. Yes, he thinks that’s less often than liberals—no surprise. But if you read his blog, you’ll get a taste of what a wonky libertarian argument looks like. If all well-respected lefties were this intellectually honest and thoughtful, we’d have the movement snide, morally superior liberals making jokes about how backwards the right universally is think we have.
• His belief that libertarianism is on balance a good philosophy comes from two observations, both of which are borne out in many empirical cases. First, the state is bad at implementing programs. His objections are essentially Hayekian—the state has trouble collecting as much information as the private markets to make a decision. He doesn’t believe that’s universally true.
• Second, policymakers often substitute their own preferences for objectively good ones. For example, at this point, I would say that Mayor Bloomburg should just stuff himself with straw and be done with it. His habit of enforcing bourgeois values on lower income citizens of New York is pretty much the libertarian boogeyman come to life. Again, Cowen doesn’t imagine this is universally happening, but it is endemic to the liberal project, and Cowen rightly engages it!
• Cowen believes in state institutions that protect property rights. Like most libertarians, he’s wary of the police in practice. But unlike some, he doesn’t take that to believing the world would be better if, say, anyone could walk into a college classroom and spray the professor with pepper-spray and “arrest” him. As far as he’s argued previously, that’s the reason we let the state prosecute criminals. Sorry, this isn’t likely to be a wake-up call or an exercise in cognitive dissonance. His worldview squarely takes this kind of event into account.
• Yes, I would enjoy someone doing this to Rand Paul. Yes, that’s probably wrong and in bad faith and something-something what about decorum. But Rand Paul doesn’t believe it’s his place to tell his supporters to not beat people on the street on his behalf, so how outraged can you really get? It would be actually be the irony people imagine Cowen’s incident involves. And it would be delicious.

In short, the left is poorer for writing Cowen off as a simple-minded, straightforward libertarian. Even if we reject his conclusions—and as a lefty I don’t even think that’s always warranted—he is attacking actual weak-spots in left-wing theory and practice.

We are stronger for treating Cowen as the intellectual force he is.

Written by Rick Stark

March 28, 2014 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Thought Dump

## Why are We Mourning Common Core Again?

For those who have been watching, Indiana formally pulled out of the Common Core requirements in favor of setting their own.

As a first answer to the question posed by the title of this piece, we really ought not mourn the passing of Common Core because, for most purposes, Indiana remains a Common Core state. The General Assembly is reserving the right to deviate from Common Core if it so chooses—and in some minor ways, has chosen to exercise that right in the new standards.

While I’m naturally suspicious of the GOP controlled Indiana General Assembly setting any education standards, this strikes me as a fairly sensible course to take. (Acknoweledged: “sensible” has not characterized the Republican backlash against Common Core.) Fixing our course to national standards but preserving the power to set education at a level our citizens can more directly impact is the kind of compromise I wish Indiana was undertaking for the right reasons.

This picture of the Statehouse is Old-Timey, dated, and backwards—like the IGOP’s stance on everything.

With Common Core achieving victory in all but name, I must also ask why the left would mourn it if it really had done worse? In short, it is exactly the kind of corporate driven, amoral, standards-oriented swill we’ve been saying is poisoning our education system for years. Even if I’m suspicious of its supposed murderers, why would I show up for its funeral but to dance on its grave?

### Tomorrow’s Workers

What is the purpose of our education system, anyway?

According to the front page of the Common Core organization’s web page:

Preparing America’s students for success.

This is so nebulous as to be meaningless, so they helpfully divided proposals into two kinds:

First, the college- and career-readiness standards, which address what students are expected to know and understand by the time they graduate from high school

Second, the K-12 standards, which address expectations for elementary school through high school

Success, in other words, is only concretely defined in (presumably measurable) facts obtained and subsequent economic life. Take President Obama on the subject:

Of course, it’s not enough to train today’s workforce. We also have to prepare tomorrow’s workforce, by guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education…

and later in the same State of the Union address:

We’re working to redesign high schools and partner them with colleges and employers that offer the real-world education and hands-on training that can lead directly to a job and career.

And while the details remain enough to stop the whole process, Cathy McMorris in her official response to Obama’s State of the Union seemed to agree in broad strokes with the idea that our schools need to do a better job making workers:

Every day, we’re working to expand our economy, one manufacturing job, nursing degree and small business at a time. We have plans to improve our education and training systems so you have the choice to determine where your kids go to school…so college is affordable…and skills training is modernized.

There is a crisis in American education, it seems. Namely, our corporations aren’t happy with the final product.

### Why Education?

The whole idea is faintly ridiculous. Imagine if instead the President had said:

We’re working to create a 13-year core job training program to make sure today’s 5 year-olds are, in a decade and a half, ready to work positions at a major corporations which may or many not currently exist. Given that that is usually inadequate, we’re trying to make the following 4-10 year training program more affordable. This is all done with taxpayer money to subsidize corporate interests.

The left would throw a temper-tantrum. And rightly! The idea that corporate America’s agenda is in some way a sacred measure of whether or not we’ve successfully raised the next generation is the kind of lunacy usually reserved for free-market fundamentalists! Say it with me: I am more than my job!

This blog, of course, is a (left-leaning) capitalist affair. I think we need to give some deference to the charge that our students aren’t leaving school prepared for the work-force, even if it’s coming from corporate America. It’s a piece of the puzzle of what is wrong and is indicative of such. We’ll bear it in mind as we discuss the shortcomings of Common Core.

So, to raise the question of purpose one more time: Why education in the first place?

The answer is complicated and multi-faceted. It spans 13+ years of a citizen’s life and has room for a myriad of goals. Yes, preparation for economic life is one of them, my exasperation with the primacy of that answer notwithstanding. That goal hardly needs any defense from most of the political spectrum at this point.

But there are also humanistic and liberal reasons for educating people—ones that create a tension with economic goals. I’ll get into specifics below, but there are enormous benefits to studying our cultural inheritance, grappling with what it means to be human, solving abstract problems, acquiring a working knowledge of science and history, and learning the language of a foreign culture that extends beyond the economic benefits to the state.

Common Core has no time for these things.

### The Liberal Objection to Common Core Language Arts

Common Core has this to say for it’s changes to the Language Arts curriculum:

Students must be immersed in information about the world around them if they are to develop the strong general knowledge and vocabulary they need to become successful readers and be prepared for college, career, and life. Informational texts play an important part in building students’ content knowledge. Further, it is vital for students to have extensive opportunities to build knowledge through texts so they can learn independently.

In K-5, fulfilling the standards requires a 50-50 balance between informational and literary reading. Informational reading includes content-rich nonfiction in history/social studies, sciences, technical studies, and the arts. The K-5 standards strongly recommend that texts—both within and across grades—be selected to support students in systematically developing knowledge about the world.

In grades 6-12, there is much greater attention on the specific category of literary nonfiction, which is a shift from traditional standards. To be clear, the standards pay substantial attention to literature throughout K-12, as it constitutes half of the reading in K-5 and is the core of the work of 6-12 ELA teachers. Also in grades 6-12, the standards for literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects ensure that students can independently build knowledge in these disciplines through reading and writing. Reading, writing, speaking, and listening should span the school day from K-12 as integral parts of every subject.

At first blush, no objection here! Students should be reading more than The One True Textbook in Science and Social Studies courses. A major problem with how we approach these subjects is giving students the impression that these issues subjects are based on Facts, instead of academic consensus that almost always has dissenting opinions. This is simply untrue. Reading more non-fiction of varying opinions in those subjects could only do our students good in evaluating the world we live—understanding that science and history aren’t discrete piles of facts, events, and definitions.

But Common Core is trying to take this problem on in the classes we’ve traditionally called “English”. Perhaps we need to do more arithmetic in our Language Arts classes to address math deficiencies? No, of course not. And it’s also silly to think we should fix what’s rotten in Science and Social Studies in time we usually spend on our cultural inheritance. If Common Core wants to take that on, it should address those subjects—there’s a lot to get done.

The purpose of English class isn’t (just) to prepare students to write memos and read tax-forms. It is a chance for students to interface with some of the greatest thinkers in human history. The traditional canon extends back before English was English and includes the Viking saga of Beowulf and the midivil stories of Chaucer. Sure, reading them is good for literacy that will help you understand written instructions at work. But Chaucer in particular puts forward ideas about faith and hypocrisy, fealty and impulse, and justice and injustice that bear discussion to this day.

Chaucer is not alone. Questions of justice are central to Shakespeare’s histories. The complexities of the South are present in Huckleberry Finn (and more interesting for knowing Twain’s vision was romanticized). The Crucible explores fear and paranoia in closed groups. These kinds of dilemmas come to life in a way “factual” presentations can’t—morality and justice aren’t facts*. People aren’t just facts.

And more, there is a literary tradition that fits no where else that is valuable simply because it is our artistic tradition. The last thing schools need to be doing—at least us lefty liberals should be able to agree—it’s cutting arts. This is a window into how people at other times and places thought and lived. I’ve focused on the Western literary tradition, but this goes for most places and times.

Common Core replaces the humanistic elements of challenging students to approach problems we all face with more factual readings. We would be poorer for its success.

### The Liberal Objection to Common Core Mathematics

My guru of choice notwithstanding, Common Core falls prey to the same mistake as Language Arts: it fundamentally fails to understand it as a subject in its own right. Where Language Arts tries to become a reading class for Science and History, Common Core makes the mistake of trying to make Mathematics the computational class for science. This emphasizes arithmetic over the actual mathematical concepts—their promise to emphasize concepts thrown to the wayside.

For a concrete example, we can look to the ellipse. The ellipse was studied as an object in its own right, a mathematic fancy cut out of a conic. The beauty of the Ellipse isn’t that Johannes Kepler fit Tycho Brahe’s data to it, but rather the actual properties of an ellipse. By all means, physics is an excellent time to reinforce the relevant properties and discuss the ellipse in the heliocentric model. (Also, given the primacy of the parabola in other physical problems, discuss the conics’ importance to motion as a whole.) But the ellipse is an object worthy of its own attention outside of the physical realm.

What we don’t need more is “word problems” in math. We need actual, honest problems. These will of course come in the form of words, but not the contrived boring word problems that people dread. “Are all sections of an ellipse with the same angle the same size? If true, prove it. If false, give a counterexample.” That should keep students working in groups interested and engaged for at least few minutes.

Instead, Common Core confuses “applicability” for actual math. Most mathematical discoveries are made not for the sake of applications, but because mathematics, when not cluttered by the sciences, is an interesting and worthwhile subject on its own. And one that can expand the liberal mind’s ability for problem solving.

### In Conclusion

Of course, the corporate entities dissatisfied with public school alumni are not interested in students who take literature’s questions of ethics, justice, and morality seriously. They don’t need people who see mathematics as a worthwhile pursuit in their own right, an art on its own terms. And since it is their agenda President Obama is taking seriously, are we surprised he endorsed Common Core?

To reiterate, the IGOP’s reasons for scuttling Common Core in Indiana aren’t the thoughtful considerations above. It’s the kind of poisonous, reactionary politics that have come to define our society. But the enemy of the my enemy is not always my friend—Sun Tzu wrote on warfare, not statecraft. Just because the IGOP wants the state to call the shots, that doesn’t mean Common Core would call good ones in their stead. (Nor am I naïve; scuttling Common Core may well turn out to be a prelude to the depreciation of Indiana’s standards. Hardly a reason to celebrate Common Core.)

But we should demand our public school system be more than an expensive, prolonged job-training program. It should also be a chance for students to grapple with real problems and timeless ideas—some of which corporations will be deeply uncomfortable with.

It is with that I say we not mourn the passing of Common Core in Indiana, should it ever really be defeated.

*There’s been a good deal of writing about empirical findings relating to justice and morality that don’t clearly belong in either the Science or English curricula. I’m am enthusiastic about those kinds of readings happening in English classes. But let’s not go crazy.

Written by Rick Stark

March 27, 2014 at 2:00 PM

Posted in Uncategorized