Sunday, 30 July 2017 - 5:46pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 30/07/2017 - 5:46pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Meritocracy: the great delusion that ingrains inequality — Jo Littler: When the word meritocracy made its first recorded appearance, in 1956 in the obscure British journal Socialist Commentary, it was a term of abuse, describing a ludicrously unequal state that surely no one would want to live in. Why, mused the industrial sociologist Alan Fox, would you want to give more prizes to the already prodigiously gifted? Instead, he argued, we should think about “cross-grading”: how to give those doing difficult or unattractive jobs more leisure time, and share out wealth more equitably so we all have a better quality of life and a happier society.
  • ‘When I Was Your Age, We Used A Thing Called Cash’: And Other Ways to Fight Back Against The Banks — Warwick Smith in New Matilda: We need to stop seeing housing as a way to accumulate wealth and start to see it as… well, housing. This is largely a government policy responsibility and not something we can do as individuals. However, as individuals we can claw back a little bit of control and cut out the banks as middle men by using cash when we spend. This is particularly useful for the small local businesses where we shop. It could be the difference between them surviving and going under – or being able to pay staff versus working 12 hour days themselves. Those staff could be your kids or your friends.
  • Mortality Crisis Redux: The Economics of Despair — Pia Malaney, Institute for New Economic Thinking: Case and Deaton estimate that the upturn in mortality rates in the US is starkly divergent from other developed countries, and accounts for 96,000 deaths that could have been avoided between 1996 and 2013. Their latest work delves deeper into the underlying causes of this decline. “Deaths of Despair” — by suicide, drug overdose or alcohol abuse — cannot be completely explained simply by stagnant or declining incomes. Income profiles for middle aged blacks and Hispanics look similar, without a corresponding rise in mortality. Rather, the authors posit, it can be traced to a “cumulative disadvantage over life”, where declining labor market opportunities have led to declining outcomes not just in the labor market but also in health, marriage, and child rearing. In other words, the stress accompanying the shock of downward mobility is likely driving this health crisis. And:
  • America’s prison population is getting whiter — Keith Humphreys: The 21st century has witnessed remarkable decay in the well-being of many non-Hispanic white Americans. In a new report, economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton document that non-Hispanic whites who have a high school education or less have experienced reduced life expectancy and increased rates of suicide and addiction. Recent correctional system data highlight another dimension of this population’s travails: they are increasingly spending time in jail.
  • After 12 Rejections, Apple Accepts App That Tracks U.S. Drone Strikes — Josh Begley, the Intercept: Smartphones have connected us more intimately to all sorts of data. As Amitava Kumar put it recently, “The internet delivers ugly fragments of report and rumor throughout the day, and with them a sense of nearly constant intimacy with violence.” Yet information about drone strikes — in Apple’s universe — had somehow been deemed beyond the pale.
  • One weird trick for dealing with government-bashers — Jen Sorensen at Daily Kos:
  • Oh, Jeremy Corbyn — Neil Wilson on Medium: Student loans are not really loans. It’s just a list of people who are liable to a form of additional taxation after graduation. Even then it is only paid by those who managed to get a decentish job after graduation. Two thirds of the loans will likely be written off anyway. Scrapping tuition fees and the loan system is simply a tax cut for those who have bettered themselves and managed to get a reasonable job. Getting rid of the albatross around their necks and the necks of thousands, if not millions, of ex-students who were not quite so lucky in the jobs market will increase their capacity to spend in the economy. The resulting expansion and multiplier effect throughout the economy will absorb that spend via additional production and job expansion.
  • The Top Ed-Tech Trends (Aren't 'Tech') — Audrey Watters: In 2012, I chose “the platforming of education” as one of the “top ed-tech trends.” […] Platforms aim to centralize services and features and functionality so that you go nowhere else online. They aspire to be monopolies. Platforms enable and are enabled by APIs, by data collection and transference, by data analysis and data storage, by a marketplace of data (with users creating the data and users as the product). They’re silos, where all your actions can be tracked and monetized. In education, that’s the learning management system (the VLE) perhaps.
  • Announcing Unpaywall: unlocking #openaccess versions of paywalled research articles as you browse — Heather Piwowar and Jason Priem of Impactstory, the team behind Unpaywall, on the LSE Impact Blog: Today we’re launching a new tool to help people read research literature, instead of getting stuck behind paywalls. It’s an extension for Chrome and Firefox that links you to free full-text as you browse research articles. Hit a paywall? No problem: click the green tab and read it free! The extension is called Unpaywall, and it’s powered by an open index of more than ten million legally-uploaded, open access resources.