Charles Murray: Get rid of the SATs

Can I believe that the SAT scores correlate very highly with the achievement tests? Sure. The correlation though isn't perfect (.83 is high, but it isn't that high and there will surely be cases where the SATs add critical information). The question how big that benefit is relative to the cost and I don't think that Murray really answers that question.

There is good reason to think that a world in which achievement tests have replaced the SAT is not going to be a world in which motivated high-ability students from bad or mediocre schools have less opportunity to get into the college where they belong. It may be a marginally worse world for a small number of unmotivated high-ability students who want to attend selective colleges, but that outcome is not necessarily undesirable.

But why get rid of the SAT? If it works just about as well as the achievement tests in predicting college success, what’s the harm in keeping it?

The short answer is that the image of the SAT has done a 180-degree turn. No longer seen as a compensating resource for the unprivileged, it has become a corrosive symbol of privilege. “Back when kids just got a good night’s sleep and took the SAT, it was a leveler that helped you find the diamond in the rough,” Lawrence University’s dean of admissions told The New York Times recently. “Now that most of the great scores are affluent kids with lots of preparation, it just increases the gap between the haves and the have-nots.”
Almost every parent with whom I discuss the SAT believes these charges. In fact, the claims range from simply false, in the case of cultural bias, to not-nearly-as-true-as-you-think, in the case of the others. Take coaching as an example, since it seems to be so universally accepted by parents and has been studied so extensively. . . . .

UPDATE: From a reader:


My response: The question is why the top schools make this requirement. Apparently, they must believe that they get enough new information that they can separate out what must be a lot of pretty close calls on who to admit.


My response: I agree on both points. I think that the reason that Penn State and some other public universities put little weight on standardized tests is for affirmative action reasons. If you use GPAs, you end up with a more racially diverse student body with respect to African-Americans. There are a number of high schools where most of the students are African-Americans so if you take the top 10 percent of the class you know that you will pick up some African-Americans. Unfortunately, if you purely use the SAT African-Americans don't do as well.

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The EU is upset that the Czech use castration in a few very limited cases

This is very weird. Murders who are repeat offenders for sex crime are asked to voluntarily get castration. The EU is upset because this isn't "voluntary" because if these creeps don't agree to the surgery, they will be locked up until they are no longer viewed as a threat to others. You can really see that most of Europe has no notion of deterrence or punishment.

Surgical castration was confined mainly to offenders who had committed murder, and only with their consent.

But the committee cast doubt on how free that consent could be, if the alternative for the prisoner was indefinite confinement in a psychiatric hospital.

The committee said it was concerned about the overlap between the doctors treating the offenders and the panel of experts responsible for approving the operation.

The Czech government said castration procedures were carried out according to law, but improvement in legislation would be debated this year.

One of the hospitals involved said the procedure was only used for repeat offenders, many of whom were alcoholics and individuals with learning disabilities.

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More on Freedomnomics

More mentions of my book here and here. Ann Coulter's review is still being picked up on blogs and in various newspapers.


What Feminist Candidate?


Do these guys understand any economics?

WASHINGTON--AT&T's exclusive right to sell the Apple iPhone drew complaints on Wednesday from Democratic politicians, though it was unclear whether they were planning to do anything about it.

"The problem with the iPhone is that the iPhone with AT&T is kind of like a 'Hotel California' service," Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey said--in a nod to the Eagles hit, of course--during a hearing. "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave." . . . .

So why did Apple give an exclusive deal to AT&T? That is not a tough question: Apple wanted AT&T to let Apple design how the phone worked. Doing that presumably imposed significant costs on AT&T. What type of phone do you think that Apple would have been able to design if this type of regulatory threat had kept AT&T or any other carrier from making a deal with Apple? Would the market have been better for consumers if the regulatory environment had kept the iPhone from turning out the way that it did?

There is a second problem with the Democrat's reasoning. Let's assume that they are concerned about some type of monopoly power caused by the agreement. In fact, it is hard to see how that creates any more monopoly power than Apple already has. Apple is still the single producer of the iPhone.


Still More Reviews of Freedomnomics

Cao has a nice review of Freedomnomics over at her blog:

Freedomnomics explains a lot of things in an easy-to-understand conversational way. He surprises the reader with fascinating information. I’d never stopped to think, for example, that there is a relationship between the increasing number of out-of-wedlock births and abortion and increasing crime statistics.5 Did you know that? Or that there is a relationship between single parent and cohabitating unmarrieds and children who are not engaged in school, children who cut school, children who don’t perform well in school, etc. . . . .

David Henderson also has a nice review of Freedomnomics:

For the first years of its existence, radio seemed like an economic loser without government subsidy. No one could figure out how to make listeners pay, and, consequently, radio hosts and entertainers usually worked for free. In 1922, Herbert Hoover, then Secretary of Commerce, asserted, "Nor do I believe there is any practical method of payment from the listeners." But that same year, AT&T discovered that it could make money by selling ad time on radio. It sounds obvious now, but it wasn’t then. After that, radio thrived and is still thriving.

John Lott tells that story and many others – and tells them well – in his latest book, Freedomnomics. . . . .

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Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich under fire

John Fund: "Airhead's Night Out"

John Fund writes at Political Diary that:

Al Gore certainly can't claim his series of eight concurrent "Live Earth" concerts designed to raise consciousness about global warming were a stunning success last weekend. NBC's three-hour special broadcast scored ratings even below the traditional rerun programming for a summer Saturday.

It may have been just as well. Mr. Gore's call for a seven-point pledge to cut carbon emissions received only lukewarm endorsement from the performers on stage. Other than Melissa Etheridge, most of the overheated rhetoric about a pending global warming catastrophe had to be supplied by a handful of political wannabe participants. Typical was Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of the environmental group Waterkeeper Alliance and son of the late New York Senator. He screamed himself hoarse at the New Jersey Live Earth concert, urging viewers: "Get rid of all these rotten politicians that we have in Washington, who are nothing more than corporate toadies." As for anyone who opposes Mr. Gore's climate agenda: "This is treason. And we need to start treating them as traitors." . . . . .

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Texas Legislator doesn't practice what he preaches


"Is America ready for a president with a trophy wife?"

Is the New York TImes a serious newspaper?

Now, with the possible candidacy of Fred D. Thompson, the grandfatherly actor and former Republican senator from Tennessee, whose second wife is almost a quarter-century his junior, comes a less palatable inquiry that is spurring debate in Internet chat rooms, on cable television and on talk radio: Is America ready for a president with a trophy wife?

The question may seem sexist, even crass, but serious people — as well as Mr. Thompson’s supporters — have been wrestling with the public reaction to Jeri Kehn Thompson, whose youthfulness, permanent tan and bleached blond hair present a contrast to the 64-year-old man who hopes to win the hearts of the conservative core of the Republican party. Will the so-called values voters accept this union? . . . .

Is Jeri Thompson just some good looking airhead whom Thompson carries around on his arm? Hardly. Everything that I know about her indicates that she is extremely smart. Is the fact that a beautiful, very smart woman who is twenty-four years younger than Thompson loves him enough to marry him a bad sign? Surely Jeri Thompson could have married many men much nearer her own age. I would think that it shows that this guy must really have something going for him. I would also bet you that she keeps him much younger than he would be otherwise. Can someone name one single similar article that the NY Times has run on any Democrat's spouse?



Book Signing at Heartland Institute

What do workplaces owe their workers?: Banning Perfume?


Why are milk cartons square or squarish, but soda bottles round?

Have you ever wondered why milk cartons are square but containers for soda bottles are round? I have. I was talking to a former engineer that I know recently and he suggested a simple explanation. First, one would think that there is a benefit to make all the containers square because less space will be wasted in stacking the containers. Rounded containers end up having a lot of air space between them, and the extra air space also would make it harder to keep the milk cold. So why aren't soda containers square? In a single word: pressure. Round containers deal much better with pressure than square ones. Even if you put the soda in a square container, the pressure would push out the sides so that the container would become more rounded in any case.


On the returns to studying at University

1) Eric Rasmusen raises the question of why student grades can't be posted with their names next to them. When students' grades are posted they have to use an ID number that makes it difficult to identify who got the grade.

The question is: wouldn't posting of grades create even more of an incentive for students to work harder? It is not really clear to me what the downside is, though I suppose that it would create even more pressure for grade inflation. In any case, Eric points to England where posting of names with grades has been allowed at least at Cambridge for 300 years. There is a push to end it because:

"It just adds to the stress . . . ."

But that is another way of saying that it adds to the incentive to do well.

2) I was talking to my second oldest son today about studying at universities. He has been taking summer school classes, and he pointed out to me that the range in ability in his university classes seems narrower than was the case in high school. Given the sorting that goes on as you move up through different levels of education, I don't think that claim is too surprising. The question that we discussed is what does that do to your incentive to study and the implication seems pretty clear. In high school, if there is a large gap between yourself and the next student, you could slack off some with out it making much difference. But if all the students are really tightly packed in terms of ability, the returns to studying would be higher.


More Discussions of Freedomnomics

In a discussion about "Why Did Crime Fall in the 90's?" Mikeroeconomics writes that:

John R. Lott offered a rebuttal in his book, Freedomnomics, on why crime fell in the 90'2. Lott's explainations include the death penalty, better law enforcement, the right to bear arms. This book is a fast read and exceptionally well written. . . . .

While he hasn't yet read the book (though he says that he plans to listen to it on tape), Rogue Genius did listen to a radio interview and offers a less flattering review of my discussion on abortion:

I downloaded a podcast of Micheal Medved's program today. It said in the listing that he was interviewing the author of Freakonomics... Actually, it didn't. What it really said was the author of Freedomnomics. A guy well known in gun-nut circles, John Lot (who is now, suddenly, an economist). So, I got suckered. Anyway, I'd already downloaded it, so I listened.


Now, as you know, I'm not much impressed with what passes for intellectualism on the right. But if anyone - and I do mean ANYONE - can't 'out logic' the arguments presented in this podcast (and, presumably, the book) that person must turn in their social security card: they can no longer be considered human.

Rogue Genius and I have a bit of an exchange at the end of his posting.

Lemuel Calhoon and SayUncle promise reviews of my book soon. The Pittsburgh Tribune also ran Ann Coulter's review of my book.

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People Don't Even Go to a FREE Concert?: Gore's Global Warming concert a flop

Former US vice president Al Gore took a swipe at global warming doubters Saturday as he opened the Washington leg of the worldwide Live Earth concerts that he helped organize. . . .

A few hundred spectators turned out for the concert, which began at 10:30 am (1430 GMT). . . . .

A "few hundred" people showing up for this event in Washington DC is an amazingly bad turnout. I had to read this a couple of times to make sure that I had read it correctly. I assume just using the staff of one or two environmental organizations in Washington could have provided this many people. To make matters worse, this was even the event that Al Gore showed up for. Can't Gore get more than a few hundred people to turn out for one of his talks?

UPDATE: Small UK Television audience

ive Earth has been branded a foul-mouthed flop.

Organisers of the global music concert - punctuated by swearing from presenters and performers - had predicted massive viewing figures. . . . .

The BBC blamed the poor figures on Saturday's good weather and said its Wimbledon tennis coverage had drawn away afternoon viewers.

Critics said however that the public had simply snubbed what they saw as a hypocritical event. . . . .

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"SoCal founder of No Guns pleads not guilty to gun crime"