Sunday, June 30, 2013

E-learning is coming of age!


I quote from a good article in The Economist on the spread of new technology in U.S. schools:
Adoption of education technology in America’s state-funded schools was given a boost by a requirement to measure pupil performance in the No Child Left Behind Act, signed by George W. Bush. Online learning was first picked up in some surprising places, including rural Idaho, where schools were looking for ways to expand the limited curriculums they were able to offer. Barack Obama’s Race to the Top initiative gave a further shove, making billions of dollars available to states willing to innovate. At the beginning of June his administration announced a plan to give 99% of America’s students access to high-speed internet within five years........ 
The Department of Education spent four years evaluating literacy programs; it concluded that Read 180, a program to help students who have fallen behind in reading, was good at combating adult illiteracy. A randomised control trial of Cognitive Tutor, which helps teachers identify weaknesses and strengths in maths, among 400 15-year-olds in Oklahoma found that children using the program reached the same level of proficiency as the control group in 12% less time. 
Meanwhile, the Khan Academy, a creator of online tutorials widely used as a form of home tutoring, is beginning to provide hard evidence for why it is considered one of edtech’s rising stars. At Oakland Unity, in tough inner-city Oakland, test scores for 16-17-year-olds in algebra and geometry have risen significantly in the two years since Khan courses were introduced........ 
According to GSV Advisors, a consultancy, investment in edtech soared to $1.1 billion in 2012. The Education Innovation Summit held in Scottsdale in April was crawling with would-be investors; presentations from new companies were packed. Investment in the education sector in 2011 was almost as high in nominal terms as the dot.com peak, and was higher in terms of volume 
As I teach now (at the graduate level) the classroom is wired with its own computer; students have laptops, and some use smart phones to photograph the blackboard. Guest lecturers use power point or other presentation software. The course is supported by Blackboard, with discussions and presentations uploaded. Some readings are just taken from the Internet and some are on Blackboard in e-Book format (taking advantage of the "long tail" to reach out of print materials). Videos are shown. Students all have computers, and submit papers in electronic form. 20 or 25 years ago that would not have been conceivable. 

I bet you didn't know that more than half the people in 26 other countries are richer than half of Americans


Source: The Huffington Post
The most telling comparative measurement is median wealth (per adult). It describes the amount of wealth accumulated by the person precisely in the middle of the wealth distribution -- fifty percent of the adult population has more wealth, while fifty percent has less. You can't get more middle than that.

A suggestion for an improved method from selecting applicants for medical school.


I have recently done a series of posts on the use of Baysian approaches to improve peer review:
The same approach can be used in university admissions. I discussed the complexity of such decisions in a post yesterday.

One might consider the admission decision in U.S. medical schools to be based on undergraduate grade point average and completion of an undergraduate pre-med curriculum, grades on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), and ratings of the applicant by several interviewers. Typically the applicant pool at that point would be divided into three groups: the highly qualified who will be admitted without further discussion, the unqualified who will be rejected without further discussion, and a group of acceptably but not outstandingly qualified applicants. Further discussion would focus on this third group, choosing those who complement the first group to produce a well balanced class meeting as many of the objectives of the college as possible.

The previous posts have described a Baysian approach to pool the information from individual reviewers which has the side benefit of weighing the judgments of the reviewers who have the best correlations with each other more heavily than those who are less in agreement with their peers. The approach as described can be used to combine the information from the interviews of medical school applicants into a distribution of the probability that the applicant would be admitted.

The approach can easily be extended to utilize information from the undergraduate GPA and the MCAT.

Mercedes Sosa with Milton Nascimento, Gal Costa, Caetano Veloso e Chico Buarque de Hollanda.


Mercedes Sosa sings Violeta Parra's Gracias a la Vida


Saturday, June 29, 2013

A thought about medical school admissions and the Bakke case.


I have been reading about The Regents of the University of California vs. Bakke. Bakke, a former Marine in his early 30s applied for medical school at UC Davis. The school admitted 100 students per class, setting aside 16 places for a special competition
to (1) reduce the historic deficit of traditionally disfavored minorities in medical schools and the medical profession, (2) counter the effects of societal discrimination, (3) increase the number of physicians who will practice in communities currently underserved, and (4) obtain the educational benefits that flow from an ethnically diverse student body.
Applicants for medical school are a pretty elite lot. Last year there were more than 600,000 applications but less than 20,000 matriculants in the schools. Thus there is an obvious problem that the schools face in selecting students to admit.

Clearly schools should not admit students who will not become physicians, dropping out for some reason or another. The schools maintain that they seek a composition of every class that will contribute to the quality of the education for all, and that makes sense to me since students have considerable influence on what their fellow students learn. Moreover, students from different backgrounds may help their classmates better understand and prepare for the diversity of patients that they will meet in practice. Unfortunately it is hard to predict the success students will have in a four year program, and I suspect harder still to predict the best combination of 100 students from hundreds of applicants. Test scores are unreliable and don't tend to predict into the distant future; there are known biases in that students from deprived backgrounds tend to do better when admitted than their ex ante test scores would indicate. Subjective judgement based on personal interviews is also unreliable.

Still the objective must be to select people who will graduate and become productive members of the medical community. Ideally the new entrants to the medical profession should match the needs of the patient population that are less served by the existing medical community. Note that the poor are more often sick, and often have less access to medical attention. Moreover, there is a general need for physicians in family practice to work in under served areas. Of course, there is a continuing need for physicians in other specialties, and for physicians everywhere. One of the issues that occurs to me is that patients often are better able to communicate with physicians with whom they do not face huge cultural or class differences. A physician that speaks the patient's native language is a plus.

Of course, medical students not only spend years in medical school, they spend more time interning, and most these days go on to specialize. Many find their vocation during this lengthly training, Thus it is hard to choose students who will not only be good physicians on completion of that training, but who will fill needs in the community.

Anyone who has worked with physicians will tell you that different specialties have different qualifications. Someone with limited vision might not be able to do some kinds of surgery, but might be fully capable of psychiatry; very few people are suited for the stress of pediatric oncology;  the personality that makes for good surgeons seems to differ from that found in most pediatricians or most pathologists. It is not only the case that medical schools must seek to provide basic medical education for people who will fill all these roles, but having people preparing for all these different specialties in the same class probably will help them as future practicing physicians to work effectively with physicians of other specialties.

In the case of the University of California, in which the state subsidized medical education, there was a legitimate interest to produce doctors who would stay in California and return services to the people of the state in return for the subsidy on their education. UC Davis is located in the California Central Valley, and would seem to have special responsibility to train professionals to work in that region and serve its population.

On the other hand, the University of California was established as a land grant institution with federal funding, and enjoys considerable federal funding in its operation. Thus the UC Davis Medical School also has an responsibility to fulfill national obligations.

I conclude that:
  • It would have been very difficult for UC Davis Medical School to articulate accurately and fully the criteria for selection students;
  • The actual selection process would necessarily only approximate the ideal, and would be based on heuristics rather than any algorithmic approach that would maximize fit of student body to school objectives.
  • Probably intensive review by medical educators is the best approach to the selection process.
The court
ruled unconstitutional the admission process of the Medical School at the University of California at Davis, which set aside 16 of the 100 seats for "Blacks," "Chicanos," "Asians," and "American Indians".
Most judges in their decisions found that race might be used as a criterion for admission under some circumstances, while others found that that question was not germane to the case.

The court also ordered that Allan Bakke be admitted to the school. Allan Bakke was clearly a superior student, who had served his country as a marine in Vietnam. He successfully completed medical school, graduating at age of 42 in 1982. He apparently became an Anesthesiologist, implying he went on to a residency and practiced in Minnesota. He apparently is now retired. I can only assume that the people of California would probably have gotten more medical service from their investment had they trained a different applicant than Dr. Bakke, one who was younger and more likely to practice in the state, especially one serving populations in need.

Perhaps courts should not substitute their judgement for that of medical faculties in making individual admission decisions.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Cultural Change Can Be A Good Think If It Makes Our Lives Better.


Culture is the characteristics of a particular group of people, defined by everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. Today, in the United States as in other countries populated largely by immigrants, the culture is influenced by the many groups of people that now make up the country.
I believe that not only do cultures change all the time, but that we should change cultures to make them work better for the people that they serve. While I am uncomfortable with people from one culture seeking to change another culture, even if the intent is noble, I think people within a culture have every right to try to change their own culture -- they own (at least temporarily). Lets think about the ideas.

The United States shows up tied for 33rd among countries in life expectancy. Thus it should be perfectly possible to help Americans to live longer, healthier lives. That might be an objective for cultural change. (Of course, there might be many other competing or complementary objectives, such as improving educational outcomes, or making us a more generous and thoughtful people.)

I could provide a more detailed description of the health problems that could and should be addressed. It would be useful to do so because different health problems have different causes in our culture, and some lesser health problems would yield to such simple cultural changes as to be "cost-effective" alternatives to attack.

Why are American health outcomes so poor as compared with those of other countries? I suggest several main reasons:
  • Food and exercise habits that produce too many obese and overweight people.
  • Lack of health literacy in the population.
  • Lack of access to curative health services for a large portion of the population.
  • Lack of technology to deal with cancer and other major causes of mortality.
So we want to change several aspects of culture:
  • What people eat and where they get their food;
  • How much people exercise.
  • What people learn about health, where and how they learn it, and how much they learn.
  • How diagnostic and  curative health services are offered, used and financed.
  • The amount of biomedical research that is done and the medical technology importation.
These changes would suggest changes in agricultural, food marketing, educational, medical and research institutions. Ultimately there would be necessary changes in economic and political institutions necessary to achieve the ultimate goal of helping people to live longer, healthier lives.

A thought about analysis



Take the first part of this talk as a metaphor. The flatlander sees events which he can not predict as he sees the world. However, if he expands his vision and sees a more full version of the world, he can predict how and why previously inexplicable events in his two dimensional projection occur.

It has been suggested that there are normal problems and wicked problems -- the first class yield to analysis and the second fail to do so. Perhaps there is a third class of problems that appear wicked initially, but as we change our perspective become more normal.

We think with our brain -- Consciousness & the Brain: John Searle at TEDxCERN


Medication therapy management: Timothy Ulbrich at TED


Is there a better way?: Thomas Ulbrich at TEDxUniversityatBuffalo



Published on Apr 18, 2013

Tom's professional career gives him a skill set that reflects over thirty years of education, communication, management, and public service experience. He possesses a demonstrated record of success as an entrepreneur and is CEO of Mow More Supplies, and e-Commerce company. He is a vocal advocate for small business and speaks frequently on subjects related to entrepreneurship and the importance of small business to the economy. He will talk about living in a world of rapidly increasing exponential change and how it is critical that we instill the transformational principles of entrepreneurial thinking throughout our entire educational system. Building an educational culture that attracts, motivated and incents young entrepreneurs is at the heart of beginning to tackle the healthcare crisis and other "wicked" problems we are faced with today.

 In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A thought about admissions in institutions of higher educationn.


The affirmative action decision of the Supreme Court this week got me to thinking about admissions to institutions of higher learning. I dislike the idea of racial quotas because I dislike the idea that Americans can be easily divided into distinct groups by race. But I also think that admissions decisions are hard!

Clearly different institutions have different purposes and the admissions criteria should reflect the purpose of the admitting institution. I am a product of campuses of the University of California. It is a land grant university, and as such has an obligation to seek to achieve objectives of the federal government. It is also a state university, with an obligation to fulfill the objectives of the state government and population. It fits within a network that also includes private colleges and universities, state colleges, community colleges, and other institutions and thus must provide services complementary to those institutions.

The University of California seeks to achieve a balance among teaching, knowledge creation and organization, and service. As a research intensive set of campuses, it seeks to produce doctoral level graduates who will staff other institutions of higher education. Different campuses have different components of the UC system objectives: Davis focuses on agriculture, all have interest in providing services to the people in the portions of the state in which they are located.

The UC system charges different tuition for California students and students from other states, in part because the state government subsidizes tuition for students who will stay in state providing external benefits to the state in addition to the things for which they will be paid in their post college working lives. But, for that reason it seems to me that the university should seek to admit students who will produce needed services such as medical and nursing services and educational services. Moreover, it should seek students in such fields who will be choose to serve where they are most needed (rather than best paid). Class and ethnic origin may be useful in predicting which students will meet that criterion.

The system's teaching objective suggests that the student body should be balanced to provide a rich learning environment for its members. I think the enrollment of foreign students contributes to such an environment. I also buy the argument that a student body that is diverse in terms of ethnic and class origins; much of the educational experience in a university is achieved through discussions and the diversity often improves the discussion content.

I would note that kids who don't reach college with great secondary school preparation often benefit a great deal from university education and contribute more to society in their adult, post college working lives. The admission process should clearly seek to admit such students, giving them preference over students better prepared in high school who will benefit less from college and contribute less in the years following college. Sometimes this will look like giving preferences to ethnic minorities or the poor.

I also see a roll for a public university in seeking equity. Some kids are subject to prejudice through no fault of their own, and the state has a role in redressing the disadvantages to which they have been subjected. Indeed, the discrimination that kid's parents have suffered may affect the kids as well. Racial classifications are crude ways to measure such disadvantages, but may contribute some information for the admissions staff.

Of course a private university such as the Stanford or USC has a different calculus, as does a state college or a community college.

Clearly we want to hold admissions officials to a high standard of performance in balancing and implementing admissions criteria. It is hard to see how a single student who feels discriminated against can make a good judgement, and indeed there are few judges who have the background and experience in higher education administration to provide "strict scrutiny" of the admissions process. Perhaps peer review might work, in a process similar to the accreditation process.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Reminding my readers of the Supreme Court decision in 1966


I quote from the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Miranda vs. Arizona:
The conclusion of the Wickersham Commission Report, made over 30 years ago, is still pertinent:
"To the contention that the third degree is necessary to get the facts, the reporters aptly reply in the language of the present Lord Chancellor of England (Lord Sankey):"
"It is not admissible to do a great right by doing a little wrong. . . . It is not sufficient to do justice by obtaining a proper result by irregular or improper means."........
We agree with the conclusion expressed in the report, that
"The third degree brutalizes the police, hardens the prisoner against society, and lowers the esteem in which the administration of Justice is held by the public."
And (footnotes removed):
The whole thrust of our foregoing discussion demonstrates that the Constitution has prescribed the rights of the individual when confronted with the power of government when it provided in the Fifth Amendment that an individual cannot be compelled to be a witness against himself. That right cannot be abridged. As Mr. Justice Brandeis once observed:
"Decency, security and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperilled if it fail to observe the law scrupulously. Our Government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that, in the administration of the criminal law, the end justifies the means . . . would bring terrible retribution. Against that pernicious doctrine this Court should resolutely set its face."
Olmstead v. United States, 277 U. S. 438, 277 U. S. 485 (1928) (dissenting opinion). In this connection, one of our country's distinguished jurists has pointed out: "The quality of a nation's civilization can be largely measured by the methods it uses in the enforcement of its criminal law."

A thought about Constitutional Law


I have been reading Great Decisions of The U.S. Supreme Court edited by Maureen Harrison and Steve Gilbert. Thinking about the book is leading me to a new way of understanding the law.

Supreme Court decisions are rather like Euclidean geometry. The Constitution sets forth a set of rules of law that may be considered comparable to Euclid's axioms. Cases are brought to the Supreme Court, and if they are accepted are analogous to hypotheses in Euclidean geometry. The decisions on these cases are then analogous to Euclidean proofs.

The accumulation of case law results in an elaborate tree of decisions, analogous to the structure of proven statements in geometry. The precedents set in previous cases are used by the court in making subsequent decisions in a way analogous to the way formerly proven hypotheses can be used in geometry in proving (or disproving) new hypotheses.

The analogy breaks down in that sometimes the Supreme Court comes to a decision that shows a law that is clearly erroneous is consistent with the Constitution. While treaties between nations have the weight of laws, in Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia, the Supreme Court ruling essentially empowered the government to break many treaties made with Indian tribes. In Dred Scott vs. Sandford the Supreme Court decided that people of African descent were not and could not be citizens. In Plessy vs. Ferguson the Supreme Court ruled that states could legally provide separate facilities for blacks and whites, accepting the dubious proposition that they could do so while assuring equality. Eventually these decisions were reversed, and the branching of decisions based on precedents from these decisions were pruned.

If recent decisions are as nonsensical as they seem (e.g. corporations have the same rights to freedom of expression as people, the voting rights acts of southern states need not be subjected to strict scrutiny) we may hope that some future court will reverse them or the Constitution will be amended and the tree of decisions will again become more reasonable again.

Incidentally, the book is a nice brief account of the decisions in a number of Supreme Court cases that were important in setting precedents for subsequent decades.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lets see bipartisan action by the Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act.



Quoting Reuters:
In a 5-4 ruling with the court's conservatives in the majority, the justices ruled that Congress had used outdated facts in continuing to force nine states, mainly in the South, to get federal approval for voting rule changes affecting blacks and other minorities.
This decision will tend to disenfranchise minorities who tend to vote for Democrats, and the conservatives were nominated to the Supreme Court by Republicans. Still I find some sympathy for their telling the Congress to do its job better. Now of course, there is the question of how the Supreme Court will enforce that instruction to the Congress.

I note that the legislation as it existed allowed for governments to petition to be relieved of "strict supervision" after a decade with no reported violations of voter rights and also for new areas to be included under "strict supervision" if they had been shown to violate those rights. I also note that effective restoration of voter rights that had been violated for a century under the law -- even for decades -- does not mean that southern whites will not now seek to restore laws to violate the voter rights of blacks.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
The right to vote is perhaps the most fundamental right in a democracy.  That right is made explicit in the 14th, 15th, 19th, 23rd, 24th and 26th amendments to the Constitution. It is the right that enables minorities to effectively demand their other rights.

Government in our democracy is obligated to protect this right, I would go further, and suggest that government has the responsibility for preparing people to vote intelligently and for encouraging them to do so.

A constitutionally defined right is a right. If it is infringed by a law, it doesn't matter if the intent behind the law was specifically to deprive people of that right or more benign. The New York law that required a non-denominational school prayer was probably well intended, but was declared unconstitutional because it deprived people of their right to freedom of religion. For a long time people didn't get court appointed lawyers in state courts (except for very serious charges); there was probably a lack of lawyers and of funds in state government to pay them, but the supreme court eventually decided that everyone charged of a criminal offense had a right to a lawyer. So too, it doesn't matter if the right to vote is denied intentionally or as a byproduct of a well intended law, it is a constitutional right that ought to be protected by the courts.

Source: Bureau of the Census
The figures above show that Hispanic and Asian Americans vote at much lower rates than do non-Hispanic white Americans. In 2010 only 33.8 percent of Hispanic Americans of voting age were registered to vote, as compared with 59.8 percent of all Americans of voting age. While too few Americans vote, the portion of white non-Hispanic Americans who vote seems comparable to the portion of black Americans who vote. Perhaps the focus on voting rights should move to focus more on the rights of Hispanic and Asian Americans.

I note that education is strongly correlated with voter registration. In 2010, only 30.1 percent of adults with 8 years or less of formal education were registered, as compared with 59.5 percent of high school graduates, and 76.8 percent of college graduates. Clearly governments that are to provide educational services to their citizens are not preparing those citizens to vote in many places; I suspect that it is especially in those places with high concentrations of poor and otherwise disenfranchised people that we find these low levels of registration.

Places With Low Turnout Now
Source: The New York Times
I quote from an MSNBC report:
In a statement issued hours after the ruling was announced, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott confirmed that thanks to the court’s decision, the state’s controversial voter ID law “will go into immediate effect,” and added that the redistricting plan that eviscerated Wendy Davis’s district “may also take effect without approval from the federal government.”
Both proposals had been stopped by federal courts under the voting rights act.

Source

Skip the Add and listen to Hans Rosling Explain the Problem the World Faces




Too many people today are poor and too many of the poor are dying. That is the urgent problem. By the end of the century, if things go well, there will be a lot more people and the people will produce and consume a lot more per person. The world will have to find a way to deal with the demand for resources and the threat of pollution so as not to destroy the environment. That is the longer term problem.

Big firms employ a lot of people to produce a lot of goods and services.


From an article in The Economist:
In America the 2008 census showed that 981 firms with 10,000 or more staff account for a quarter of all jobs.......There is a fat tail of very big firms: the 100 largest had sales equivalent to 35% of GDP in 2009, up from 30% in the mid-1980s. Their performance is volatile: sales fluctuate by an average of 12% a year. And the correlations between firms are low, suggesting shocks are firm-specific rather than economywide. Next Mr Gabaix examines how well shocks involving these big firms explain changes in GDP. Very well, it turns out. Up to 48% of the volatility of American GDP can be traced to the performance of individual big firms.
There seems to be a focus on small and medium enterprises, but big firms may be more important than our public discourse would lead the average citizen to believe. 

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.

There was a recent PBS Newshour segment about research which showed:
DACHER KELTNER: There are new data coming out on a daily basis from top laboratories showing, no matter how you look at it, the effects of inequality are pernicious upon things like bullying on school playgrounds, the quality of your physical health, how you handle disease.
PAUL SOLMAN: What's somewhat surprising, says Keltner, is that even the haves suffer.
DACHER KELTNER: One of the things that wealth and money does is it comes with a set of values, and if you want a deeper ideology, and one of them is, generosity is for suckers and greed is good. But it turns out, there are a lot of new data that show, if you're generous, and charitable, and altruistic, you will live longer, you will feel more fulfilled, you will feel more expressive of who you are as a person. You probably will feel more control and freedom in your life.
We think with our brains, not our minds! 

A thought about the legality of school segregation.


I have been reading about the Supreme Court decision, Brown vs. Board of Education, that resulted in the integration of schools.
For much of the sixty years preceding the Brown case, race relations in the U.S. had been dominated by racial segregation. This policy had been endorsed in 1896 by the United States Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson, which held that as long as the separate facilities for the separate races were equal, segregation did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment ("no State shall... deny to any person... the equal protection of the laws.").......
The key holding of the Court was that, even if segregated black and white schools were of equal quality in facilities and teachers, segregation by itself was harmful to black students and unconstitutional. They found that a significant psychological and social disadvantage was given to black children from the nature of segregation itself.....
I find this decision to be surprising. It accepts the hypotheses that schools were of equal quality in facilities and teachers, and that facilities and teachers determine the quality of  the schools. Everyone who has ever talked to a black person at the time knows that the schools for black kids were not equally good with the white schools. Everyone today knows that there are huge differences in the qualities of public schools in the United States. Look at test results.

Source
The decision seems reasonable in holding that for the black kids, being segregated in blacks only schools probably had a negative impact. Since there was discrimination against black kids, their separation into black only schools would tend to make them feel that they were inferior.

 It seems to ignore the negative impact on the white kids of being in whites only schools. Would they not get an equally unjustified feeling of being superior, and would that not also be an educationally undesirable outcome?

The decision also assumed that there was a difference between "white" and "colored" children that could be used reliably to allocate them to "white only" and "colored only" schools. That is clearly not genetically true. Indeed the distinction was purely social, dividing people by class. We still have class based distinctions in the schools kids are assigned to, largely because we send kids to neighborhood schools and housing is segregated geographically by class.

If the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment prohibits segregating colored kids into one set of schools and white kids into another set of schools even if the schools are equal, why does it not prohibit segregating poor kids into demonstrably poor schools and rich kids into demonstrably better schools?

Monday, June 24, 2013

If 2/3rds of our people live in urban areas that produce 3/4ths of our GDP why do we give so much political power to rural areas?



I quote from an interesting speech by Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution
The real heart of the American economy lies in 100 metropolitan areas that after decades of growth take up only 12 percent of our land mass, but harbor two-thirds of our population, generate 75 percent of our gross domestic product and, on every single indicator that matters—innovation, human capital, infrastructure—punch above their weight at dizzying levels. 
This is the power of concentration and agglomeration: the network effect of firms, universities, institutions fertilizing ideas, sharing workers, extending innovation, enhancing competitiveness and catalyzing growth.
And:
In the aftermath of the Great Recession, U.S. cities and metros are recognizing that with our federal government mired in partisan gridlock and most states adrift, they are essentially on their own to grapple with super-sized economic, social and environmental challenges. The cavalry is not coming. Washington is not riding to the rescue. 
Fortunately, cities and metros—and the networks of leaders who govern them—mayors for sure but also business, civic, community, business, labor and environmental leaders—are responding with pragmatism, energy and ambition to, as we say in America, “get stuff done.”

A thought about the economic basis of U.S. political epochs


Source
There have been a few moments in American history when a major shift occurred in political power. Consider"
  • While Washington was elected as an independent, the next five presidents were Federalists or Democratic Republicans (the two Adams presidents from Massachusetts, and Jefferson, Madison and Monroe from Virginia).
  • The election of 1828. Andrew Jackson was elected by the Democratic Party, representing the birth of that party. From then until 1860, elections were won by Democrats or Whigs.
  • From 1860 yo 1932, all the elected presidents were Republicans except Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson. Had Teddy Roosevelt not run as the Bull Moose candidate in 1912, Wilson would not have been elected that year.
  • In 1932, in the depth of the Depression, the Democrats took the White House, and held it until 1968 with the exception of the election of Eisenhower, a war hero.
  • The Civil Rights legislation under the Lyndon Johnson administration led to the southern Democrats switching to the Republican Party. From 1968 to 2008 Republicans held the White House, except for the one term presidency of Carter (elected after Watergate) and Clinton's two terms.
We will now see whether the Clinton, Bush, Obama trade offs will signal a new political domain.

I wonder whether there is an economic basis for the changes.
  • The British colonial policy kept colonies dependent on manufactured products from England, paid for with primary products. The British had after the French and Indian War tried to limit colonization to the eastern seaboard. Thus at independence the original states were agricultural, but divided between the plantation-slavery states of the south and the family farms of the north.
  • Obviously, the revolutionary period changed the governance system of the nation. Settlement was opened in the west, and the Jefferson administration completed the Louisiana Purchase.
  • The 1828 to 1860 period was marked by the increase in power of the population that had migrated west. The split between slave owning, plantation based export agriculture of the south and the family farm agriculture of the north continued. However, during this period railroads, clipper ships, the American System of Manufacturing and canals were being developed, as was iron and coal production. Large scale Irish immigration started in the 1840s. Texas joined the Union, the Mexican American War resulted in the addition of California and the South West to the Union, The California Gold Rush occurred and the Comstock Load of silver was discovered in 1859.
  • The Civil War ended slavery, and decimated the economies of the southern states. The Reconstruction resulted in a temporary shift of power in the south to Republicans, and the following period saw whites establish segregation, share cropping, and eventually Jim Crow laws. The The Guilded Age (1865 to 1900)  laid the groundwork for the modern U.S. industrial economy. By 1890, the USA leaped ahead of Britain for first place in manufacturing output. There was massive immigration from new geographic areas, but also of tycoons who became very rich developing very large scale corporations. 
  • Reaction to the excesses of the Guilded Age led to the creation of the Labor Movement and the Progressive Age beginning in the 1890s and continuing into the first World War.  (Teddy Roosevelt, Taft and Wilson were all progressive politicians).
  • The Roaring 20s saw the development of mass production of consumer products, including the automobile, the popularization of the stock market, radio based mass communication, and ended with the crash or 1929 and the beginning of the Depression.
  • The Democratic domination of the New Deal saw the recovery from the Depression, World War II, the beginning of the Cold War, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, as well as a period in which the United States produced half of the world's goods and services. It was the baby boom, the Civil Rights movement, and the anti-war movement.
  • The 1970s saw massive inflation, leading to the Reagan years in which inflation was controlled, and eventually the Cold War ended in the administration of Bush I.
Source

United States history saw the transformation of the economy from one based on agriculture, forestry and fishing (displacing the previous Native American hunting-gathering economy), through a manufacturing economy through the first and second Industrial Revolutions, to a service economy tied in part to the Information Revolution. Household technology was revolutionized and women entered the workforce in huge numbers. Life expectancy increased radically in the 20th century and birth rates declined, so for the first time the population includes a large and increasing portion of retired people.

During its history the United States expanded from a narrow strip along the Atlantic Coast of North America, to a continent spanning nation; its markets expanded from England and the Caribbean to globalization. The United States was transformed from a rural to an urban society. Not surprisingly, the political views of its people have changed. Importantly, suffrage has greatly expanded to include women, and slavery has been abolished and the descendants of the slave enfranchised. Political parties have changed and there have been third party movements.

However, we are left with some political institutions largely defined in the 18th and 19th centuries. Our constitution, once revolutionary and a model to be widely emulated, is now less progressive than those of many other nations. As the previous post showed, the electoral college favors rural over urban voters. States have used their power under the Constitution to define Congressional districts using modern computation and statistics in order to gerrymander districts so that members of the House of Representatives generally only depend on winning their party primaries, and thus are becoming more partisan. The Senate, using rules developed to protect slavery, has become gridlocked by the threat of filibuster.

Source

How much is your vote worth in electing a president?


Source: Yaman Salahi

The electoral college was created in the Constitution as a compromise between the large and small original states. In 1788 there were 22 electors corresponding to the 11 states in the Union and 59 corresponding to the representatives allocated on the basis of population.  Today there are 100 corresponding to the 50 states and 438 based on population. Thus the relative importance of the population based electoral votes had decreased.

In the figure above it is clear that voters in some states have much more influence in the election of a president than do others. California and Texas, having been taken from Mexico, now have very large populations and thus little representation per person in the election of the president.

Alaska and Hawaii, the last two states admitted to the Union in a compromise, have relatively small populations. Washington DC voters (surprisingly) carry a lot of weight even though there are no senators representing the District. Some of the original small states (Vermont, Rhode Island, Delaware and Maine) still have disproportionate weight in the presidential elections, as does West Virginia which became a state by seceding from Virginia during the Civil War in order to stay with the Union.

Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Nebraska became states in "Golden Age" when Republican dominated administration and Congress apparently sought to pack the electoral college with new Republican electors by giving statehood to new states with small populations.

The end result of the process is that the big cities in the United States, which tend to be more liberal, have relatively less influence in the election of the president than their populations would justify, and the small, mostly rural states, which tend to be more conservative, have relatively large weights per voter.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Did you realize? Can you project?

Maya Angelou on knowledge



The Evolution of Country Populations


Source: The Economist
Five of the 10 most populous countries in the world in 1950 were in Europe; none will be in 2050. China and India will retain the two top positions on the list, although India/s population is expected to overtake Chinas in about 15 years. Nigeria and Ethiopia are expected to increase in size to join the top 10 by 2050. However, if things work out as expected, six of the ten most populous countries in the world in 2050 will be in Asia.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Taxonomy is the basis of science.


One of the definition of culture is that it is the set of beliefs that you think are self evident, but turn out to be different from the beliefs held in other cultures; people in other cultures sometimes regard your own beliefs as strange and not at all self evident. Last night I watched "Two Spirits", a program from Independent Lens. The program took off from the hate killing of a Navajo kid, born male, who sometimes appeared as a boy and sometimes as a girl during his teen age years. The program pointed out that Native Americans had real problems understanding European American views on sex. The Navajo language for example distinguishes four genders: female, male, born female living as male, and born male living as female. But it is only one of a couple of hundred living tribal languages in the United States, and they too deal with gender differently one from another. It has taken English a long time to come to some kind of acommodation with GLTB as legitimate additions to male and female. Turns out that these may not be self evident concepts at all but deeply culturally determined classifications. Maybe, as the program suggested, it is better just to let people be people and not try to pigeonhole their inherent natures by some predetermined classification. Or at least, lets wait on the classification until we have some credible scientific basis for the one we use.

I have been reading about the Plessy vs. Ferguson decision of the Supreme Court -; the decision that established the acceptance of "separate but equal". The decision of course only could make sense if "black" and "white" were actually distinguishable conditions. The Supreme Court was undeterred by the fact, recognized in the decision, that different states defined the distinction between black and white differently. (Think of a train crossing a state line, and a whole group of passengers having to move from the "black" car to the "white" car because they were classified as "black" in the first state and "white" in the second state. Of course, the science has changed. We now recognize that every person, were s/he able to trace her/his ancestry back far enough, would find all of the ancestors of a generation to be Africans (or perhaps with one or two Neanderthals). What seemed to eight judges of the Supreme Court in the late 1900s to be a self evident classification (albeit fuzzy at the boundaries) turns out to have no scientific basis.

There are legitimate classifications of people that have significant benefits. For example, we seem to be pretty well able to divide students by the grade for which they are qualified in school, and putting kids into classes for which they are qualified seems likely to improve their educational outcomes. It makes sense to divide the world into doctors and non-doctors, permitting only doctors to perform certain medical tasks; to divide people into professional engineers and people who are not professional engineers, limiting bridge design to the former. Still, our culture is riddled with superstitious classifications and erroneous judgments made on the basis of those classifications.

Do our loan programs for higher education fuel the inflation of higher education costs?


College tuition has increased much faster than overall inflation, and indeed even faster than the cost of medical care.

Why do prices rise? Economists inform us that they do when demand exceeds supply.


College enrollment has increased, according to the graph above. That is an indication that more people are going to college. Enrollment depends on several variables:

  • The number of people who want to go to college;
  • The number of people that the colleges are willing to admit. When I went to the University of California (three campuses at one time or another), they severely limited the number of students that they would accept. With the growth in the number of institutions of higher education, there are more places for students.
  • The number of people who can afford to go to college.

The demand for college education may be related to the increase in use of student loans. The balance of student loans is not more than a trillion dollars. In general, student loans have looked pretty good since they have had lower interest rates than other kinds of borrowing such as credit card debt or even mortgage debt. This means of course that the students themselves now owe a trillion dollars that has gone into college and university coffers.

How about the supply of college educational services. Relatively little has been done to make college educational services more efficient by using improved technology. The numbers of students in relatively low cost two year colleges have remained fairly stable while the numbers in more expensive four year colleges has grown.

There is an expected lag in training college faculty to meet an expanded demand for college teachers. The lag is less for teaching assistants than for senior faculty, but the rate of increase in student populations for decades, and indeed there have been reports of overproduction of PhDs.

Perhaps we need to rethink our cultural approach to higher education.

  • There are a lot of students who would earn more during their lifetimes by developing a skill rather than receiving the college education that they seek. We need lab technicians as well as carpenters and electricians as well as white collar workers. Perhaps we should try harder to direct these folk away from universities and into training programs appropriate to their economic interests.
  • There are people who would be happier in these trades, and perhaps we should do more to help them find and train for the avocations.
  • There are professions that are needed by the nation, and many of these (by definition) have social benefits that are not captured in the remuneration of the practitioners. We should provide public subsidies for the training of these professionals and not depend on their funding their own education by borrowing.
  • There are people who want forms of education that we can see as consumer services -- the study of literature in foreign languages comes to mind. It seems to me that these folk should be allowed to buy all those services that they are willing to afford, and indeed to borrow within the limits of ability to repay to buy those services.

Nigeria sought to make a cultural transition in half a century that my Irish ancestors made in two or more.


I just read No Longer at Ease by Chinua Achebe. It is the sequel to the author's great Things Fall Apart. Unfortunately, it is years since I read the first which is tells the story of Obi's grandfather, an Ibo living in a village at the time of the English colonial impact in the Ibo lives.

In No Longer at East, Obi returns in 1956 from receiving his university degree in England to take a junior position in the colonial government of Nigeria. Nominally, the book tells the story of his unfortunate romance with a young Ibo nurse, his inability to deal with the simultaneous economic demands of his tribal and modern existence, his alienation from his parents, and the process by which he succumbs to the temptation to take bribes. I found that story rather touching. One can certainly see how a very young man finding himself alone with a good job in a big, corrupt and corrupting city could have such experiences.

I think the book is really about the process of cultural change that Nigeria experienced in the 1950s. It makes the changes intuitive for the western reader -- a major achievement.


Great traditions have incorporated foreign influences as artists and artisans adapt them to enrich their own traditions.


Traveling I have had the chance to spend entire days looking at objects that are beautiful and that seem to be deeply expressive of specific cultures. Among these kinds of expressions are Haitian paintings, Navajo rugs, Taxco silver, and Pueblo pottery. The origins of all these can be traced to something that was not integral to the culture that adopted, transformed and mastered the meme.


Haitian paintings are known from the 19th century, and British and French artists taught Haitian pupils in Haiti in that century. However
The arrival of an American named Dewitt Peters in 1943 marked the beginning of a true revolution of Haitian arts.  Dewitt, a watercolorist on a wartime assignment, wanted to open a centre to oversee the genuine development of the Haitian artists.  He observed that the country did not have any visible painting activity nor any art gallery. This was contrary to the great physical beauty of the country and with a people so gifted with "pictorial language of color and form."  Dewitt embarked on a mission that would modernize Haitian arts and introduced it to the world.  On May 14, 1944, the Centre d'Art was inaugurated in Port-au-Prince.  The founders of the centre were Dewitt Peters, Maurice Borno, Albert Mangones, Raymond Coupeau, Geo Remponeau, Gerald Bloncourt, Raymond Mavelanette and Philippe Thoby-Marcelin. 
In the modernization process, talented but previously unknown atrists such as Hector Hyppolite, Philome Obin, Rigaud Benoit, and Castera Bezile stepped forward to work with Dewitt.  Hyppolite a "hougan", a priest in the the voodoo religion, who wanted to start a new career was painting flowers with a brush of chicken feathers on doors in his local community of Saint-Marc and Mont Rouis.  Hyppolite is better remembered as the father of the Southern school of Haitian art. Obin, who painted Les Bourgeois du Cap-Haitien vers 1900-1919, shown here, was a self-taught master of architectural geometry and documented historicism. He was already known for painting religious illustrations and scenes of the United States Marine occupation, in which Obin depicted a violent struggle between the American forces and the Haitian peasants in Northern Haiti. Obin went on to found the Northern School of Painting, known for orderly composition and narrative works.  Benoit was more interested in illustrating his "barbed vignettes of Haitian life", and Bezile, was concentrating on bringing forth the miseries and the glories of the peasant existence.

According to Wikipedia
(M)any Pueblo sought refuge with their Navajo neighbors in the late 17th century to evade the conquistadors in the aftermath of the Pueblo Revolt. This social interchange is the probable origin of the distinctive Navajo weaving tradition. Spanish records show that Navajo people began to herd sheep and weave wool blankets from that time onward.
The Navajo greatly increased production of blankets and rugs in the late 19th century, selling many products into the market created by the railroads when they came through territory accessible to the Navajo.
Several European-American merchants influenced Navajo weaving during the next decades. The first to advertise Navajo textiles in a catalog was C. N. Cotton in 1894. Cotton encouraged professional production and marketing among his peers and the weavers whose work they handled. Another trader named John. B. Moore, who settled in the Chuska Mountains in 1897 attempted to improve the quality of textiles he traded. He attempted to regulate the cleaning and dyeing process of artisans who did business with him, and shipped wool intended for higher grade weaving outside the region for factory cleaning. He limited the range of dyes in textiles he traded and refused to deal fabric that had included certain commercially produced yarns. Moore's catalogs identified individual textile pieces rather than illustrating representative styles. He appears to have been instrumental in introducing new motifs to Navajo weaving.

Taxco, located about 100 miles from Mexico City, is one of the oldest mining sites in the Americas.Cortes staked his mining claim in Taxco in 1522
By the end of the century, silver from Taxco had spread across Europe, and remote Taxco was reknowed for its wealth of silver. It had become Spain's primary source in the New World of precious metals and had become a busy mining area. .......
 William Spratling, a U.S. citizen  and associate architecture professor from Tulane University arrived in Taxco to study Mexico and its culture. In1929 he moved to Mexico and was welcomed into the influential artistic circles of Mexico. In 1931 U.S. Ambassor Dwight Morrow commented to Mr. Spratling that Taxco had been the site of silver mines for centuries, but unfortunately had never been considered a location where jewelry and objects of silver were designed and made. This seemingly insignificant comment changed the course of Taxco's artistic and economic history.  
 Mr. Spratling discovered the potential talent in the locals and motivated the community artisans to create designs and rediscover the craft of silversmithing. With his own designs he created an apprentice system of training young silversmiths with artistic talent and gave them the opportunity to develope their skill. He brought in from Iguala a  highly regarded goldsmith to teach the art of working precious metal. 

Pueblo Indians had been making pottery for more than 1000 years, but in the 19th century most of the pottery that was made in the pueblos was utilitarian. Again, when railroads made wider markets available to the potters, they began to produce "tourist" wares. According to one source:
Prior to 1950, few Native American potters signed their work. In their own communities, the forms and designs of their pieces identified the work of the master potters easily. Regionally traders, collectors, and museums also appreciated these pieces. In the twentieth century benefactors from all of these categories began an earnest campaign to make the important artistry and beauty of these vessels and their makers known to the world. Contests that judged exceptional artistry such as the Gallup Intertribal Indian Ceremonial and the Santa Fe Indian Market began to have an impact. The early success and recognition of Pueblo pottery artist Maria Martinez at the St. Louis, San Diego, & Chicago World Fairs helped to pave the way for other exceptional Native American potters. In the latter half of the 20th century the art and names of Pueblo pottery artists like Maria Martinez, Lucy Lewis, Christina Naranjo, Fannie Nampeyo, and Margaret Tafoya were known worldwide. Exhibitions like the Seven Families in Pueblo Pottery, permanent recognition in important museums around the world, and the marketing techniques of the traders and other Native American arts dealers further cemented in art history these names and the names of many, many other fine and deserving potters, both historic and contemporary.
UNESCO approved of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions in 2005. More than 125 countries have signed up to honor its terms (not including the United States). I fear that, contrary to the wording of the Convention, some of these governments will use it to bar foreign influences on their national cultural products. The examples above suggest that the better plan is to allow the artists and artisans to absorb and adapt foreign influences to their own culture, thereby enriching it.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Where is the narative?


I was just watching Tom Brokaw on The Daily Show. In talking about the cable news network coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings, he said he kept asking himself, "where is the narrative". He went on to suggest that a narrative was necessary to tell the audience what they needed to know in addition to the information conveyed through the images that they were seeing.

It seems to me that one of the most important tools one has in analysis is to recognize that there is a pattern in what you are viewing that you can't explain. One says to oneself that there is either someone planning behind the scenes. or there is some kind of process that produces apparent pattern without planning/ (The obvious candidates are some kind of feedback process, or some kind of non random selection or weeding process.)

The detective novel aficionado uses this tool all the time. A detective novel presents a sequence of events and observations, and the detective susses out the cause hidden behind the events. Isaac Newton took an understanding of the patterns emerging from a huge set of astronomical observations, no doubt arranging the observations to highlight the pattern, and explained them with a theory of gravity -- the action of a hidden force from the sun on the planets. Chaos theory similarly seeks to find underlying patterns in seemingly random events such that certain kinds of equations can explain the pattern and the apparent randomness.

I suspect that often in real life we could benefit by saying:

  • Can I find a pattern here that I don't understand?
  • What could be behind this pattern? How could it come to exist?
  • What evidence could I find to help me believe in one more than other possible explanations?

More Americans in their early 20s are not in school and don't have jobs than average for developed nations.



Youth aged between 20 and 24 who are not in education nor in employment
As percentage of that age group

Source: The OECD
Twenty percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 24 are neither working nor in school. That is not only costing them big time, but it will cost the country for the next half century.

From the time I got my first job at 13 until I finished my PhD at 35, I was both working and going to school for 17 years. The two both contributed to my education. Now a lot of young people don't get both kinds of education simultaneously, they don't even get to choose one or the other.

One happy horse!



Not very useful data except that most "Hispanics" here were born here.


From the Pew Research Hispanic Center

Most Hispanics in the United States were born here. Incidentally, I speak Spanish after six years living in Latin America and many trips to Spanish speaking countries, but I am not counted as a Hispanic.

Country of Origin

The "country of origin" is a strange concept. The implication is that if one him/herself or one's ancestors came to the United States from Mexico, then one's country of origin is Mexico. Of course, most people in Mexico have Spanish as well as Indian ancestors, and many have ancestors from other European nations. (e.g. Anthony Quinn "was born Antonio Rodolfo Quinn Oaxaca in Chihuahua, Mexico, during the Mexican Revolution. His mother, Manuela "Nellie" Oaxaca, was of Aztec ancestry. His father, Francisco (Frank) Quinn, was also born in Mexico, to an Irish immigrant father from County Cork and a Mexican mother.")

So what? I would be more interested in some kind of breakdown on language ability in English and foreign languages. The nationality of our ancestors is so mixed, and so distant that I don't see any meaningful way to utilize it. It might be useful to know whether a person him/herself was born in the United States, and perhaps whether his/her parents were born here, but does anything carry over from two generations back?

What is really of interest to me is what energy, knowledge, skill and ability does a citizen, resident or immigrant bring to the USA. What can s/he contribute. "Hispanic" doesn't cut it!

Report: Diverse Origins: The Nation’s 14 Largest Hispanic-Origin Groups

Maryland working to transform research base into commercial success!


I quote from a WBALTV story:
Maryland leads the nation in how much it spends on research but the University System of Maryland -- which includes 13 colleges and universities -- is trying to take research to a new level by creating more small businesses off campus. The goal so far is to try and create more than 300 new businesses over the next decade. 
"We're making a very concerted effort to work with the state, with the governor's support, to grow our capacity, to start companies and to transfer this research into economic gain for Maryland and to build jobs," said William Kirwan, chancellor of the university system.
As a Maryland resident and a former University of Maryland faculty member, I am pleased!

Kyrie eleison




Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Technology of Corn Production: A thought


The population of the world continues to increase. Poverty rates continue to decrease, and the demand for food continues to increase. With affluence, people eat more meat, and the demand for feed goes up. Consequently food grain and feed grain production has increased and will have to continue increasing.

Source: Corn Grain Yields

I posted several weeks ago on a biography of Henry Wallace. He was very important in the improvement of agricultural productivity in the United States. Notably, he promoted hybridization of corn and was a founder of Pioneer Hi-bred, the firm that pioneered in the hybrid seed industry,

As Zvi Griliches demonstrated in a classic paper, hybrid corn began to be grown widely in Iowa in the 1930s, and spread through the corn belt and into other regions of the country in later years. The increased yields shown in the graph shown above are the result of the improved varieties, plus use of fertilizers to maintain soil fertility, more use of better pesticides, and better farming practices. More recently, genetically modified varieties have helped to continue the improvement of corn crops.

I would note that a quirk in the genetics of hybrid corn in the United States made it susceptible to a variety of blight that spread rapidly and destructively in the late 1960s and early 1970s, leading to significant reductions in yield over portions of the geographic area devoted to corn production.

This is an example of the improvement in crop varieties and farming practice that have kept grain prices low in the face of increasing demand.

The World Bank on Climate Change


The developing world’s fast-growing cities are vulnerable to climate change. What impacts could be upon us in the next 20 - 30 years?

See the infographic below, and read the new report "Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience" at www.worldbank.org/climatechange

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dark thoughts suitable for the midnight hour.


Many people are suggesting that the United States is going to have to develop capital for its long term economic health. We remain strong in the development of scientific and technological capital, although other countries are also strengthening their research and development capacity and increasing R&D expenditures.

We are not developing our human capital adequately. We allow a large portion of our youth to drop out of schools. A study in the news today documents that we are not preparing our teachers adequately. Out immigration policies are a mess and we are failing to import as many people with great human capital as we could. We are putting a lot of people in prison rather than helping them to prepare for contributions to the economy.

We are consuming too much and investing too little. Our infrastructure is falling behind and falling apart.

I worry that we are losing the capacity to transfer our capital into economic productivity. Our political institutions are increasingly promoting rent seeking by the one percent rather than investment in new enterprises or expansion of existing enterprises. We continue to increase regulations, making it harder to do business.

We are also running into environmental limits. Many of our non-renewable resources are becoming more expensive to exploit. We are going to have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if we are to prevent catastrophic levels of global warming. We are going to have to deal with environmental pressures such as water pollution, depletion of fisheries, deforestation, desertification due to the growth of population and economic growth in the rest of the world.