Subsidies Increase Tuition: Exhibit B

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I offer you Exhibit B…”

In July of last year, I wrote about a study that found subsidized loans to be the culprit behind rising tuition. Now, a newer study comes to similar conclusions:

With all factors present, net tuition increases from $6,100 to $12,559. As column 4 demonstrates, the demand shocks— which consist mostly of changes in financial aid—account for the lion’s share of the higher tuition. Specifically, with demand shocks alone, equilibrium tuition rises by 102%, almost fully matching the 106% from the benchmark. By contrast, with all factors present except the demand shocks (column 7), net tuition only rises by 16%.

These results accord strongly with the Bennett hypothesis, which asserts that colleges respond to expansions of financial aid by increasing tuition (pg. 36).

“Remarkably,” writes economist Alex Tabarrok, “so much of the subsidy is translated into higher tuition that enrollment doesn’t increase! What does happen is that students take on more debt, which many of them can’t pay.” This just provides further evidence that “the Econ 101 insight that subsidies increase prices (even net for those who are not fully subsidized) holds true.”

Education, IQ, and Mating

I’ve written about assortative mating and income inequality before, pointing out that the more educated tend to marry each other and therefore increase their economic earnings. Ronald Bailey at Reason weighs in on the discussion, adding to the mix evidence that shows assortative mating isn’t just about education, but intelligence. Quoting a 2015 study, he writes,

For example, if spouses mated randomly in relation to intelligence, highly intelligent women would be just as likely to mate with men of low as high intelligence. Offspring of the matings of women of high intelligence and men of low intelligence would generally be of average intelligence. However, because there is strong positive assortative mating, children with highly intelligent mothers are also likely to have highly intelligent fathers, and the offspring themselves are likely to be more intelligent than average. The same thing happens for less intelligent parents. In this way, assortative mating increases additive genetic variance in that the offspring differ more from the average than they would if mating were random. The increase in additive genetic variance can be substantial because its effects accumulate generation after generation until an equilibrium is reached. 

He concludes, “To the extent that intelligence is correlated with socioeconomic status, assortative mating will further exacerbate trends to greater income inequality.”

University of Washington professor Tony Gill once shared a thought experiment he employs in his classes during a Facebook discussion:

Most students are for higher marginal taxation on the rich (defined as the dollar amount of people who have a wee bit more than them).

I propose centrally planned sorting by either IQ or socio-economic status (noting some studies that show how IQ might have a hereditary component and how IQ might be related to long-term income potential). I also note that we tend to marry people who are educationally and socially close to us (e.g., people meet at Harvard or in the same upscale neighborhood bars). Some of us use mail order catalogues, but we usually get a box on education to check.

Students freak out. First, they say that this has never been done. Then I note how arranged marriages are not an uncommon fixture in history. Then they say it isn’t possible because of data concerns, and I remind them about all those tests they took in 3rd, 7th and 11th grade and their “permanent record,” not to mention all the income data the IRS has on their parents.

Then they squeal that this isn’t right because it limits their freedom to do what they want. And then I say, “Oh, so now you’re worried about centrally-planned limits on freedom, eh?”

So, next time you get the social justice itch to redistribute wealth, ask yourself the following:

  • Are the adjectives smart or intelligent used to describe your spouse? Are they some of the reasons given as to why you love them?
  • Did you meet your spouse at college?
  • Would it have a negative influence on your choice to date an individual if they were a waiter/waitress, barista, fast food employee, Walmart cashier? (And not one who is working there part-time while they go to school.)
  • Would you date someone you thought was uneducated?

If you answered “yes” to the first three and “no” to the last, congrats: you’ve officially contributed to income inequality.

Escaping “The Box” Through Families

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey series.

The 1949 film noir The Third Manstarring Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles and written by Graham Greene–is considered by many to be one of the greatest films ever made. Given the fact that the film came out nearly 70 years ago, I’m not overly concerned with spoilers. The movie centers on the supposed death of Orson Welles’ charming, but nefarious character Harry Lime, which we learn was faked due to Lime’s involvement in a penicillin racket. Given the scarcity of penicillin outside military hospitals in war-torn Vienna, Lime began selling stolen penicillin on the black market. However, Lime diluted his product, leading to the death of thousands of penicillin-dependent war victims. In one of the most famous scenes of the film, Lime meets with Cotten’s Holly Martins at the famed Wiener Riesenrad. Aboard the giant Ferris wheel, Martins attempts to talk some sense into his old friend. Unfortunately, he is unsuccessful:

Lime continues: “Nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don’t. Why should we? They talk about the people and the proletariat, I talk about the suckers and the mugs – it’s the same thing. They have their five-year plans, so have I.” Martins responds with, “You used to believe in God.” Given Lime’s outlook in the clip above, his next response becomes all the more frightening: “Oh, I still do believe in God, old man. I believe in God and Mercy and all that. But the dead are happier dead. They don’t miss much here, poor devils.” The reason this is so frightening is summed up well by fellow DR contributor Allen Hansen in a blog post from a couple years ago:

What is particularly chilling about Harry Lime is that he still cares (somewhat) about (certain) people, he feels pity, and believes in God, yet makes a very profitable living from swindling children’s hospitals. Innocents die, and Harry knows. This is a very human evil, an evil that can be rationalised and made to fit- or improve- one’s lifestyle. Harry isn’t even exceptionally fearless or desperate, and he certainly isn’t certifiably insane. What Graham Greene does best, in my opinion, is to avoid black and white thinking when it comes to people, all the while never forgetting that there clearly is both good and evil, right and wrong. Evil is scary not because it is is distant and alien, but because it occupies the same sphere as we do. It could be present in our best friends, in our lovers, or scariest thought of all- it could even be part of ourselves.

What Lime engages in is a kind of objectification or dehumanization of others. Flesh-and-blood human beings become mere abstractions, caricatures, or “dots.” I thought of this film as I was reading through the Arbinger Institute’s The Anatomy of Peace. It is a modern fable that is used to relay concepts for conflict resolution. It explores the various ways in which we delegitimize and eventually dehumanize those we don’t know, those we work with, and those even within our own families (what the book calls being “in the box”). Most of us recognize what the story describes as the “better-than box” as the most common form–if not the only form–of dehumanization: I am superior or better than another. I am more important or perhaps more virtuous. By implication, they are inferior, irrelevant, and wrong. The other methods of dehumanization, however, are a bit more subtle and easily overlooked. The “I-deserve box” views oneself as victimized, entitled, and unappreciated, and therefore sees everyone else as mistreating, ungrateful, and unfair. The “must-be-seen-as box” requires one to be thought of well, to play a role. This turns everyone else into an audience; a threatening, dangerous, and judgmental one at that. Finally, the “worse-than box” beats oneself down as broken and deficient. This automatically makes others privileged and advantaged. These worldviews lead to feelings of indifference, disdain, anxiety, or bitterness. To move out of “the box” toward people is not so much a way of acting (though this is obviously important) as it is a way of being. Genuine connection with others requires that we recognize their inherent worth and dignity as people and as individuals. This is the anatomy of peace. This is what love starts to look like.

Thomas S. Monson’s story about a boy Jack and his father in the 1971 April conference reminded me of the content above. As Jack storms out of the house following a quarrel, his father calls out to him, “Jack, I know that a large share of the blame for your leaving rests with me. For this I am truly sorry. I want you to know that if you should ever wish to return home, you’ll always be welcome. And I’ll try to be a better father to you. I want you to know that I’ll always love you.” The words later ring in Jack’s ear as he rides the bus to his distant destination, inspiring him to return home and reconcile with his father. “Here,” says Monson, “was a father who, suppressing passion and bridling pride, rescued his son before he became one of that vast “lost battalion” resulting from fractured families and shattered homes. Love was the binding band, the healing balm. Love—so often felt; so seldom expressed.” Jack’s father stepped outside of “the box” in order to truly see his son. He could have easily painted Jack as wrong, ungrateful, disrespectful, a burden, but he didn’t. Instead, he tried to be with him. In the Book of Mormon, Alma preached that to be baptized was to covenant to “to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:9). In both Christ’s Sermon on the Mount in Matthew and Sermon at the Temple in 3 Nephi, he states, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:9; cf. 3 Nephi 12:9). Notice the similarities of His teaching and the blessings toward the end of the same chapters: “Love your enemies [who else do we really make peace with?], bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be children of your Father which is in heaven…Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:44-45, 48; cf. 3 Nephi 12:44-45, 48). “As the context makes clear,” writes New Testament scholar Craig Evans, “the imperative “Be perfect” means to demonstrate a complete love, a love that expresses itself toward enemies as well as toward family and friends. This is the kind of love that our heavenly Father has.” Is there a better example of “mourning with those who mourn” than the Savior’s Atonement when he “descended below them all” (D&C 122:8)? Did he not die for “the natural man” (i.e. all of us), which “is an enemy to God” (Mosiah 3:19)? Implicit in John’s declaration that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16) is the notion that God thought “the world” was worth saving despite being under the control of Satan (see John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). This is why Monson states, “In reality, each one of us is numbered in what could well have been the lost battalion of mankind, even a battalion doomed to everlasting death.” With the angel’s pronouncement at Christ’s empty tomb, “the “lost battalion” of mankind—those who have lived and died, those who now live and one day will die, and those yet to be born and yet to die—this battalion of humanity lost had just been rescued.” Monson reminds us to follow Christ and seek to rescue other “lost battalions” such as “the handicapped, even the lame, the speechless, and the sightless…the aged, the widowed, the sick…mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, who have, through thoughtless comment, isolated themselves from one another.” And finally, those that “struggle in the jungles of sin” or “wander in the wilderness of ignorance.”

I think Monson’s story connects well with a couple other talks from the Tuesday morning session on the importance of family. Not merely the form of family, but its potential and necessary power. James Cullimore lays out the Church’s position quite well when he says, “Marriage is a sacred relationship entered into primarily for the rearing of a family, in fulfillment of the commandments of the Lord. Marriage with children, and the beautiful family relationship which can come of it, is the fulfillment of life” (italics mine). This last part is reinforced by a quote from President Joseph Fielding Smith that Cullimore employs: “[Marriage] is the foundation for eternal exaltation, for without it there could be no eternal progress in the kingdom of God” (italics original). The why behind marriage and family is beautifully laid out by Marion D. Hanks. Setting aside the “duty or commandment or admonition” of family life, Hanks instead “speak[s] of invitation, of opportunity, of privilege, of love, of gratefully taking time while there is time to enjoy the blessing of our family and home. How much joy are we missing that we could be having and are meant to have, joy that we could experience only in our own home and no other place, only with our own family and with no other group?” In my interpretation of Hanks’ remarks, marriage and family provide the context for divinization (“eternal exaltation”). It is where we (should) learn to be godly:

Kindness, consideration, courtesy, care, laughter, unselfishness, prayer, thoughtfulness, doing things for each other, forgiving each other, sustaining each other, loving each other—these are notes that form a family symphony happily enjoyed and eternally remembered. If a family loses its cherished human values and deteriorates into only the form of a family, it has lost what a family is for. Whatever changes are said to have occurred in our time, there is left to the family the most important purpose of all—the satisfaction of the basic emotional and spiritual needs of its members. In any era, one has written, society is a “web of which the family forms the central strands.” In home, family, and love lie the resources that fulfill the life of the individual and the life of the community; indeed, the resources that would redeem our troubled world and bring it lasting peace. Children must be safeguarded and reared. Only in the home can children be assured of the love and direction they need to live life, and only parents who genuinely love can meet those needs. But it must be more than a preached or pronounced love; it must be love that takes time, makes the effort, listens patiently, gives freely, forgives generously, “provides the amenities that will grace and adorn and make beautiful the relationships of family life” (bold mine).

To move out of “the box” is to recognize the basic emotional and spiritual needs of others and then seek to meet them. And it is within the family that we first learn this fundamental attribute of divinity.

To say the least, the last three talks of the Tuesday morning session gave me quite a bit to chew on.

These are the other posts from the General Conference Odyssey this week:

Saving the Lost Battalions

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey series.

Until last week, I had never heard of Dietrich von Hildebrand. Then my father told me that it was important for me to read one of this books, The Heart, and lent me the copy that had been traveling back and forth between his study and my mother’s.

Von Hildebrand was a Roman Catholic philosopher and theologian who live in Germany until his outspoken criticism of Adolf Hitler meant he had to flee to Austria. He fled to France next, after Hitler annexed Austria, and then from France to the US (by way of Brazil) after the Germans invaded France as well. Pope Benedict respected him so much that he said “When the intellectual history of the Catholic Church in the twentieth century is written, the name of Dietrich von Hildebrand will be most prominent among the figures of our time.”

In The Heart, Hildebrand argues that the heart (by which he means the metaphorical heart, the “affective sphere” or, more simply, our emotions) has been “under a cloud throughout the entire course of the history of philosophy.” Going back to the ancient Greeks, the emphasis has always been on rationality, with reason regarded as a weakness or a defect. Hildebrand argues that—while of course emotions are susceptible to error—that the heart is an equally important aspect of our human experience.

In particular, Hildebrand separates different kinds of feelings. On one end of the scale, you’ve got raw biological facts: things like hunger or exhaustion which we call “feelings.” On the other end of the scale, you’ve got the reaction we feel to exquisite music, or to stories of great moral courage and sacrifice, which we also call “feelings.” Using the same word to describe such disparate events, is, according to Hildebrand’s argument, a major reason that we don’t take the heart as seriously as we should.

For Hildebrand, the heart is capable of great nobility when it unites intellect and emotion in a response to truth and beauty. So much so, that loving the good is superior to merely knowing or recognizing the good. As he writes:

The transcendence proper to the value-response reaches even further than in knowledge. The fact that our heart conforms to the value, that the important in itself is able to move us, brings about a union with the object which goes even further than in knowledge. For in love the totality of the person is drawn more thoroughly into the union established with the object then in knowledge. We must not forget, moreover, that the type of the union proper to knowledge is necessarily incorporated in love.

This echoes something that Anglican bishop and scholar N. T. Wright wrote in Surprised by Scripture:

Just because it takes agape to believe the Resurrection, that doesn’t mean all that happened was that Peter and the others felt their hearts strangely warmed. Precisely because it is the love we are talking about, not lust, it must have a correlative reality in the world outside the lover. Love is the deepest mode of knowing because it is love that while completely engaging with reality other than itself, affirms and celebrates that other-than-self reality.

So, according to both Von Hildebrand and Wright, love surpasses knowledge, for one. And, as a corollary, affective (i.e. emotional) responses can be full of nobility. Quoting Hildebrand one more time:

To be moved by some sublime beauty in nature or in art or by some moral virtue, such as humility or charity, is to allow ourselves to be penetrated by the inner light of these values and to open ourselves to their message from above. It is a surrender which implies a reverence, humility, and tenderness.

Why am I sharing all of this with you? Simple: this is what I had in mind as I found myself crying while I read the last talk from the Tuesday Morning session of the April 1971 General Conference. That talk in question is Lost Battalions. The title is fairly familiar, but I’m pretty sure that’s because I have read about the Lost Battalion in question. The talk, as far as I can tell, was completely unknown to me before I read it last week as part of the General Conference Odyssey.

Now, I’ll have a hard time quoting you my favorite passages because after a while I gave up highlighting the talk on It just looked like a wall of yellow. For that, y’all will just have to go read it yourselves. Instead of specifics, I want to talk about the overall arc of the piece.

I wondered, at the outset of the piece, about the juxtaposition of the story of the Lost Battalion with the Christ’s message of love. Juxtaposing a story of military heroism with Christ’s message of love in the Gospel of John was, to put it mildly, arresting. If your model of Christlike love is fighting in combat, then you’re going to be raising some fairly difficult questions.

But it was I who was missing the point, because instead of treating the story of the Lost Battalion as the pinnacle of the story—the example to which we strive—instead the talk turned immediately from the literal Lost Battalion of World War I to the lost battalions all around us. First: the “lost battalions” of “the handicapped, even the lame, the speechless, and the sightless.” Next came more “lost battalions”: the elderly, the sick, and broken and estranged families.

In these cases there was a stark challenge, and it was one perfectly tailored to a nation steeped in a tradition of deference of military heroism: if you admire the heroism of World War I stories, then be a hero by donating your time to help the people who need you in your own neighborhood. Go read to the blind. Go give food to the hungry. Quench your anger and reach out in love to your family. The conventional narrative of militaristic self-sacrifice was slowly being co-opted into a message of practical, mundane, every-day service.

These passages were beautiful, both the prose and the stories, but it didn’t stop there. The biggest “lost battalion” is all of us. All of us who “struggle in the jungles of sin” or “wander in the wilderness of ignorance.”

In reality, each one of us is numbered in what could well have been the lost battalion of mankind, even a battalion doomed to everlasting death.

But our battalion isn’t lost. It’s already been saved. The talk cites the angel’s words to the women at Christ’s empty tomb, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” and then concludes:

With this pronouncement, the “lost battalion” of mankind—those who have lived and died, those who now live and one day will die, and those yet to be born and yet to die—this battalion of humanity lost had just been rescued.

I’d had misgivings at the outset about using a war story as the model for Christ-like love, but by the end I realized I had it all backwards. The real war—and the real war story—is the Gospel. The true struggle is the spiritual one, and the one true hero is Jesus Christ.

I haven’t mentioned the author yet. That’s because I read the talk without checking the author first. And so at the end I scrolled back to the top. It makes sense now—given the preponderance of stories and the overall style—but I was surprised when I read the name of Thomas S. Monson. My favorite talk of the odyssey thus far was given by the man who is currently the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Now, here are a couple of snippets from other talks that I particularly liked.

“The Spirit Beareth Record” (Elder Boyd K. Packer)

There are those who hear testimonies borne in the Church, by those in high station and by members in the wards and branches, all using the same words—“I know that God lives; I know that Jesus is the Christ,” and come to question, “Why cannot it be said in plainer words? Why aren’t they more explicit and more descriptive? Cannot the apostles say more?”

How like the sacred experience in the temple becomes our personal testimony. It is sacred, and when we are wont to put it into words, we say it in the same way—all using the same words. The apostles declare it in the same phrases with the little Primary or Sunday School youngster. “I know that God lives and I know that Jesus is the Christ….

To one who is honestly seeking, the testimony borne in these simple phrases is enough, for it is the spirit that beareth record, not the words.

I had this very much in mind today as I listened to the testimonies in my ward. Men and women, old and young, stood and bore their testimonies, saying at the conclusion of each: “I know that Jesus is the Christ”

And I was struck by Elder Packer’s observation, that both the General Authorities of the Church and the kids in primary express their testimonies in the same way. It’s kind of beautiful, if you think about it, and I definitely kept Elder Packer’s warning in mind: “We would do well not to disregard the testimonies of the prophets or of the children.”

Practicing What We Preach – Elder Marion D. Hanks

I was struck by a story Elder Hanks told about his sister’s family holding family home evening in the hospital, around his gravely ill sister’s bed:

Her husband and family were surrounding her bed, holding their family home evening, led by their fourth missionary son just returned from foreign fields. I joined them, and then went home rejoicing and thanking God for that kind of example, and met my own family who were waiting, and prayed that we might do a better job of practicing what we preach.

I was struck by a General Authority telling a story of a family that, implicitly, was doing things better than his own family. Of a General Authority telling us, over the pulpit, that he looked up to his sister’s family, and wanted to do better a job with his own. It was refreshingly humble, vulnerable, and real.

Marriage Is Intended to Be Forever – Elder James A. Cullimore

I highlighted an awful lot of this talk, but in general two things stood out.

First, I was surprised at how clearly the same points that the Church has brought up in the recent debates over same-sex marriage were clearly articulated back in 1971 when same-sex marriage was the last thing on anyone’s mind. There have been many who believe that the Church’s position is either inertia at best (well, this is how things have always been done) or outright bigotry at worst. But, reading this talk, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that the Church’s emphasis on the role of the family as it was expounded in the recent political debates is exactly the same as what Elder Cullimore was talking about when the biggest perceived threat to marriage was divorce. For example:

Marriage is a sacred relationship entered into primarily for the rearing of a family, in fulfillment of the commandments of the Lord.


President McKay said, in reference to the seriousness with which we enter the marriage contract: “… to look upon marriage as a mere contract that may be entered into at pleasure in response to a romantic whim, or for selfish purposes, and severed at the first difficulty or misunderstanding that may arise, is an evil meriting severe condemnation, especially in cases wherein children are made to suffer because of such separation.”

I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind with these quotes. That’s not my point. My point is simply that the Church’s stance on this issue—whatever you think about it—is pretty clearly based on genuine, sincere, and serious religious commitment rather than ignorance or hate.

The second thing that struck me was the way Mormons insist on having their cake and eating it too when it comes to romantic and pragmatic views of marriage. And I mean this in the best way possible.

The most amazing thing is that, in general, I think we manage it. We have both the romance and the pragmatism. Maybe it’s even because of the pragmatism that we have the romance. A firm foundation provides the basis for trust and vulnerability that allows romance to flourish. And it’s possible that it’s because of the romance that we have the pragmatism. Mormons are willing to make sacrifices and concessions to preserve what we value so highly: marital romance.

One thought along those lines:

I suppose there is no surer need in marriage than constant compromise. It is through compromise that we grow closer to each other. As we acknowledge our own faults and recognize the virtues in the other and make the adjustments, we strengthen our marriage.

I’ll just add my own perception to this: there’s very little that is more toxic to a marriage than an emphasis on fairness, equality, or justice. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying those things don’t matter. But in a relationship where abuse is not a concern, then emphasizing justice is basically the absolute worst way to handle conflict in your marriage. Justice is about what you deserve. It means that disagreements are seen as conflicts. And justice automatically mitigates against compromise and flexibility. If it would be “fair” for your spouse to do something, then if you give in and your spouse doesn’t do that thing, it’s unfair. You are a victim, your spouse is an aggressor, and there is now a rift between you. The result is either bitterness or recrimination. The best way forward—and again, I’m talking about marital problems in a relationship without abuse—is to abandon fairness as a concept. Instead, trust your spouse. Focus on making them happy and forgetting anything that bothers you. More than anything else: trust your spouse. You married them for a reason. Your love your spouse. Your spouse loves you. Chances are, anything you could complain to your spouse about, he or she already knows and is already working on. Give him or her a chance to do that without pressure or a sense of obligation. (And definitely without a sense of guilt! Leave justice out of it.) And then concentrate on doing the same yourself: you already know what you need to work on. So work on it.

Two people who are both trying to improve for eachother and both trying to give the other slack are two people who are going to be happy and in love and at peace a long, long time before either one of them is anything that looks like perfect. But two people who are constantly evaluating the other’s actions and behavior against an “objective” standard are going to find that even if they were on the very threshold of perfection there would still be conflict, strife, and hostility.

These are the other posts from the General Conference Odyssey this week.