Sunday, October 26, 2014

Practical Center-Right Social Policy?

Some excellent suggestions from David Brooks:

Relocation subsidies

I love this one. Very innovative. Instead of promising dying cities that tinkering with the economy in just the right way will bring them back (Detroit, Buffalo), instead help people escape to more promising areas. This is definitely not a magical approach, relocation is a big deal, especially for the poor, and especially if it is relocation to an area where the relocatee lacks a support network. But it is definitely seems like one useful took in the toolkit.

Bus subsidies

In the wealthy suburbs, there is starting to be a shortage of entry-level service workers. My own teens and their peers are complaining how many hours are being pushed on them in their part-time jobs. What a tragic mis-match of demand and supply. So long as housing remains highly segregated by income, getting those in need of employment out to where the jobs are is a helpful compensation.

Human Capital Investments

Less innovative than the other two, but still valid. The whole gamut here, early childhood education, intervention, better schooling, better vocational training. Still a continuing struggle to make cost-efficient progress. If I had to pick two things, I think it would be early-childhood and vocational. If I had to pick one thing, it would be vocational.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cruz Staffer Tweet Linking Obamacare and Ebola

This is just such a massive case of dumbshittery. I do believe that even a Cruz staffer doesn't actually take the assertion seriously. But it also doesn't really work as a joke, as Nick Muzin claims. So my conclusion is a sadly typical case of instinctive, knee-jerk, relentless, ankle-biting. It just becomes a partisan reflex to immediately fling any dung at hand, any time the opportunity presents, at one's opponent. It's a terrible habit, in my worldview, it pretty much disqualifies those who engage in it from ever receiving any credence, for anything.

Deliberate, repeated sins of counter-factuality, by those fortunate enough to have public prominence, are unforgivable.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Mobile fashion trucks may be the next thing after food trucks. It's an intriguing idea. The thing I really like is how it slashes overhead. It fits my belief that we can improve society by more often doing things the cheap way. And slashing overhead is at the top of the list for making that happen.

I have an idea for an app to support this industry. Somewhat similar to the apps that alert you when a favorite performer is coming to your town.

Obviously, both the mobile stores and their "fans" register with the service.

Most simply, mobile trucks can share their location real-time (e.g., Google+, Facebook). So users can search for it. But users can also elect to be push-notified when the mobile store is stopped within X distance of them.

An obvious complication here is that you really don't want to be notified when the truck is whizzing by on the road with no intention of stopping. A partial work-around would be for the notification to occur only when the vehicle has been stationary for 10 minutes or so. There are still problems with that, though--you may wind up chasing the truck to the garage, for instance.

That's part of the reason I think a more full-blown app is needed. The app would allow the service to explicitly indicate that they are stopped and open for business. For extra-credit, they could indicate how long they intend to be there. As a value-added bonus, the app should be activated by NFC (touch a dot with your phone). Better yet, it should be connected to a simple, physical, analog piece of hardware--i.e., flip a switch when you are at your destination and ready for business.

That's the supply side. I think an app will also be useful on the demand side. It could allow users to indicate a desire for the store to come by within X distance of X location. This approach is kind of interesting within a large metro area, but it could be even more interesting out-state. In smaller cities that wouldn't be visited as often, if ever, a critical mass of requests would give the proprietor a hint that they have a receptive geographic market to go after..

I tend to think the market for mobile stores is pretty limited. If anything, it would have been a somewhat better idea pre-eCommerce. But with the ability to order anything you want--and variations thereof that you didn't even know existed, until you started online shopping--I don't see the markets extending beyond things that are perishable in some sense, or perhaps things that are really, really important to see and touch in person.
 I suppose a mobile food truck might be one remedy for the urban "food desert" problem. It also might be a way to test-market a geography--if demand is high enough, then open an outlet.

Pet Topic: The Tenuous-at-Best Link Between Mental Illness and Creativity

The shopworn notion of the tormented, suffering, often half-mad artist continues to be commonly held. This article does a very nice job surveying the scientific research on the subject and concludes the question is not completely settled, but the preponderance of the data does not favor the hypothesis. For ordinary, run-of-the-mill creativity, the link appears to be negative. For the "super-genius" (Beethoven, van Gogh, Wagner)--maybe there is something to it.

The theme I want to build on this research is: the deleterious effects of this addled notion on the young and aspiring. Notably the young people who yearn for artistic greatness that they will never possess. Such types may be drawn to mimic the dysfunctional, self-medicating behavior of the truly disturbed. The results may be a few wasted years, or occasionally, greater tragedy resulting from utterly pointless self-destructive behavior.

Then there may even be a feedback loop onto the truly gifted. A young person who is genuinely artistic may be drawn to the notion of the tormented, suffering, self-destructive artist. Either because they simply think that is how they are supposed to be, or perhaps because they believe that is the necessary price to pay to grow in their art. Either way, it can lead to more unnecessary suffering.

I would love to see a popular movie explore this theme. It would be the single most likely way to start excising it from the mass psychology.