Monday, October 31, 2011

NCAA Eligibility Requirements at Division II level

I wanted to catalog this for easy find later, but also because I think it speaks for itself.  To be eligible to play, a D-II student:

  • Must earn 24 hours a year, counting summer courses.  
  • Of those 24 hours, 18 must be earned during regular academic year (so, must be non-summer courses).
  • A student must earn a minimum of 6 hours credit the previous semester.  
  • Division II student-athletes must complete their four seasons of eligibility within the first 10 semesters (5 academic years) of full-time enrollment. 
  • GPA requirements: 
    • After first year (24 hours): 1.80 
    • After second year (48 hours): 1.90
    • After third & fourth years (72+ hours): 2.00

Developmental (read: remedial) courses only count toward hours for NCAA eligibility in the student's first year of college.

The way I see this play out for fall sports (ie: football) is a coach will have a student take 12-15 hours in the Spring, with an additional 6 in the summer.  Then, a student need only pass 3-6 hours in the fall to get 24 for the year (they have to be enrolled in 12 hours).  So, the student will flunk all but 3-6 of his hours and play all he wants to.  If something goes wrong, he can make up the difference in spring or the following summer.

Of course, that doesn't bode well for the student's degree track. But a lot of those kids aren't going to graduate, that's not what they're recruited for.  Many fall within the 6 hours needed to walk across the stage but just short of a diploma.

Coaches also utilize the redshirt option, to help a student raise the GPA or take 15-18 hours so that the student can be cut to 12 hours a semester in other years.

Students who don't meet the minimum entrance requirements of a university can enroll in a Junior College.  So long as they fulfill the 24 hour 1.8 GPA requirement they can transfer and be immediately eligible to play in the fall.  Often they will take remedial courses (since they count in the first year) and other easier credits (Weightlifting and Human Sexuality are two I see most frequently along with a lot of Physical Education courses.  Football, basketball, etc. also count as a one-hour credit course) to get to 24.

I've also seen a student allowed to play without having an official transcript sent from a previous university-- no official proof that he met the above requirements for the previous academic year.  The student had played for two previous colleges and sent a transcript from the first school but not the second.  He declined to give answers why when repeatedly asked.  He transferred again after the season, having flunked all of his classes but played rather well.

DII schools are not subject to the same Academic Progress Rate evaluation that DI schools are.  DIII schools have no minimum eligibility standards other than those set by the university.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Triumph of NGDP Level Targeting

I've been busy with too many things to blog.  My more fluid thoughts are found on Twitter or on Google Plus. But a significant event has been the triumph of Scott Sumner's years-long push to get NGDP targeting on the forefront of discussions of optimal monetary policy, which I've commented on several times here.  I started incorporating ideas from Sumner's posts in my Macro, International, and Money & Banking classes two years ago. Two weeks ago, Goldman Sachs' economists published a paper advocating the Fed to adopt the target, and since then several news outlets have picked up the story as other economists have jumped on the wagon publicly.  Many of the relevant links are on David Beckworth's post today, he also deserves a good deal of credit for being a "market monetarist" pioneer, and he's taught me as much via his blog as the other market monetarists have.

It's truly a bipartisan affair.  Obama's former CEA Chairwoman, Christina Romer, Brad DeLong and Paul Krugman on the Left.  Mitt Romney's economic adviser-- Greg Mankiw-- Robert Hall, and Scott Sumner on the Right.  That's partly why the Fed was made to be independent-- it's not beholden to political whims and wrangling like Congress is. There are theoretically no political constraints to it adopting Pareto-optimal monetary policy.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Taylor Branch on the NCAA

Whether you're a sports fan or not, I encourage you to read "The Shame of College Sports" by Taylor Branch in last month's The Atlantic. Branch gives a fascinating history of the NCAA, and how it has tried to maintain its monopoly position by enriching a relative few and destroying some college athletes' careers.  I've discussed these issues on this blog several times, this post being among the most recent. Branch shows how a series of lawsuits is currently trying to expose that the NCAA's rulebook contains clauses that trample very basic civil rights in an unprecedented fashion.

The first question I find myself asking in reading the article is why so many religious colleges, who have a faith-based mission statement that they supposedly take seriously, would give obeisance to an institution like the NCAA?  The answer is that it's about the money but also about college presidents and donors who demand strong athletics.

The second question is why so many people can sit by and watch it happen. Why don't pastors think about this more?  Why doesn't Occupy Wall Street add this civil rights abuse to their list of grievances, along with the increasing divide between what college coaches make next to the athletes that make them their money and faculty who uphold the mission of the schools?

As a Christian, I believe we're to test everything, examine everything. The NCAA is very problematic to a growing number of examinations.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

On World Food Day

Today is World Food Day.  A day to recognize that many people on earth do not have enough.  I've been thinking about it this week because last Sunday night PBS aired a Sesame Street special on hunger. It was a different take on hunger than ones I grew up with because it focused on fresh produce. Not only are some people in America unable to earn income to feed themselves, many do not have access to healthier options.

The show first highlighted an unemployed single dad on Martha's Vineyard, where an aunt housed his family in a guest room. He visited a local food bank where someone donated shares in a local cooperative farm specifically to his family.  As a result, his kids were fed and began cooking and enjoying fresh vegetables instead of canned ones or processed materials. He was overwhelmed because his kids were not only fed, but were now connoisseurs.  Eventually he got a job as a bus driver and they got their own place.

The show then switched to the Bronx, where a mother was desperate to find cheap fresh food for her daughter. They went into some neighborhood groceries to highlight how bananas were over twice as much as they would be outside the Bronx.  The cheap stuff were the processed things and potato chips.  In this scenario, the protagonist was a charity that provides fresh produce and meals made from them.  There was a line around the block of locals eager to partake. The mother was a volunteer in the organization, and her daughter also decided to help.

Elmo visited a community garden worked by volunteers in an urban setting, and it appears the producers wanted to promote this idea as a way of encouraging an increase in the supply of produce and healthier options.  In many of my travels around the world I've found that urban dwellers often have a plot of land either near their apartment or outside the city where they grow some food for themselves, or for sale. This doesn't happen as much with America's city-dwellers. Why is that?

If I were an alien visiting America I would find this bizarre. Much of America lives in houses with acreage used solely for growing grass. Most could support seasonal gardens growing crops of some variety. Most don't because of the opportunity costs involved-- the time and resources it takes to grow a garden are high enough that people are better off working their regular jobs and then trading with those who produce vegetables. If people in a city are lining up around the block for access to vegetables, it signals that somehow the market isn't functioning properly. If many people in non-urban areas are unemployed and not growing their own food, it tells me the opportunity cost of their time still isn't low enough for it to be worth it to them. Maybe because they can just go to a food bank instead?

Why are prices so much higher in Bronx stores than in others?  Why isn't supply meeting demand?  Is it because NYC has so many restrictions on businesses and so little viable space for them?  Why do cities like New York work so hard to keep Wal-Mart out, when it could provide goods and services much more cheaply?  (Some people criticize Wal-Mart's produce for being unripe when picked and such, but I think something is better than nothing.  And Wal-Mart's relatively unpublicized buy local initiatives have put a lot more fresh local produce in their stores than in previous years.)  

Why do so many of the unemployed in non-urban America not grow food on their lawns? (I'm thinking about my immediate area in SW Missouri).  Even the Martha's Vineyard dad was living in his aunt's large house which appeared to be on a large farm plot, capable of growing food. It struck me as bizarre that he'd be totally dependent on someone else's land. Was the opportunity cost really that high?

These are various unresolved questions I had while watching the show.  I'm sure there is research with answers to all the above, but opportunity cost for me to look them up is currently too high.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Book Review (#32 of 2011) The End of Loser Liberalism

One way to get me to read your book is offer it for free, and the other is to have a nice blog. I found Dean Baker's The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive to be a pleasant read. Baker works for the liberal CEPR and is a shill for the unions. His blog, Beat the Press, applies basic economics principles to debunk various articles in major outlets, which is why he's linked on this blog.

If you can get past comparing every cost-saving measure he proposes to how much the "Bush tax cuts for the wealthy" cost, and get past his overlooking of various economic problems with unions, you'll like this book.  Baker's goal is to move the goalposts and argue that Progressives are not and should not be anti-markets.  He highlights ways Conservatives have disguised various policies as "free market," when in reality they are not. In that, he does everyone a valuable service. Baker's ideas are quite Hayekian. He generally sees the market as favoring Progressive outcomes:
"Progressives should want a free market" (141).  "In the same vein, we can structure the market more generally to produce progressive outcomes. The enormous growth of inequality over the last three decades did not come about as the result of the natural workings of the market; it came about through conscious design. The job of progressives is to point this out in every venue and in every way we can. It is not by luck, talent, and hard work that the rich are getting so much richer. It is by rigging the rules of the game" (154). 

Trade deals, for example, are never "free trade" as they are labeled and trumpeted in the media. They always contain a large number of restrictions, usually involving patents and "intellectual property rights," and containing provisions that open the market for our financial services. Most of these clauses favor people who work in higher-skill industries, while the trade deals generally lower barriers for goods produced in low-skill industries. Other high-skilled workers (doctors, accountants, etc.) are in services that are not easily tradable, so trade deals don't increase the competition they face.  This could be offset if we allowed freer flows of labor along with goods and services. Most high-skilled immigrants (doctors, engineers, etc.) to the U.S. are unwilling to take low-skill jobs in farming and construction. But due to visa laws and making it onerous for employers to sponsor visas, the supply of these workers in the U.S. is relatively small. Hence, wages for these sectors are high. In the 1990s, physicians groups argued against increasing visas for foreign physicians because these physicians were willing to work for less, and hence would lower physicians' wages via competition.  Meanwhile, low-skilled workers in manufacturing are increasingly faced with tougher competition and making the same complaints-- but the situation currently favors the doctors over the factory workers.

In this there is no daylight between Baker and a Libertarian. We'd all be better off if all barriers were removed. But as far as immigration goes, a Milton Friedman quote comes to mind: "You can't have open borders and a welfare state."  So, Baker argues that we should take advantage of the fact that every other country in the world pays less for healthcare than we do, and find a way to increase trade in services.  If we signed trade agreements in health care, where Medicare would pay for services in places like Singapore as well as the U.S., we'd see incredible savings.  Someone could have a heart bypass for $40,000 in Singapore as opposed to $100,000 in the U.S., and the taxpayer or the insurance customer could save.  The market would develop ratings for international hospitals and insurance companies could build PPO networks just as they do in the 50 states. Government agreements could work out how lawsuits are handled.

The basic Ricardian analysis of comparative advantage typically leads teachers and students to conclude that the U.S. will continue to shed manufacturing jobs and gain more higher-skilled service jobs. But Baker points out that this broad process cannot be indefinite:

"There is no logic whatsoever in the view that somehow the United States will remain dominant in highly skilled occupations, exporting the services produced in these areas to the rest of the world while importing manufactured goods from the rest of the world. It is perhaps a racist conception to believe that workers in the developing world somehow lack the capacity to compete effectively in skilled professions with people in the United States...To imagine that the United States can maintain an advantage over these countries in international trade involving these occupations would require a view that these engineers and designers can be effective when working in Silicon Valley or Seattle but suddenly become 80 or 90 percent less efficient if they return to their home countries or the countries of their forebears. The United States is destined to import major quantities of highly paid professional services in the decades ahead, just as it now imports major quantities of manufactured goods. The argument for the benefit from these imports is the same as the argument for the benefit of importing manufactured goods: it allows us to buy these items at lower prices than if we relied on domestic production. This frees up income to purchase other goods and services, making us richer and increasing growth" (97)
Any sector of the economy where you see increasing gains over time raises a flag that the market must be kept from functioning properly. Whether it be a tech stock bubble, or a housing bubble, or CEO pay.  The fact that U.S. CEOs has increased relative to the median worker, and they are paid roughly twice as much as European counterparts without a noticeable difference in value added, is evidence somehow they are being shielded from competition:

"This pay gap suggests the possibility of large gains to the U.S. economy and to groups of workers who are not in top corporate management from taking advantage of lower-paid top management at foreign companies wherever possible...(T)he public has no patriotic obligation to favor contracts with U.S.-based companies simply because the companies have a headquarters in the United States. Where foreign-based companies like Fiat can offer lower costs, at least in part because their executives are lining their pockets much less amply at the company's expense, progressives should jump at the opportunity to bring them on board."
Baker is not promoting nationalism, but rather economic efficiency, as Progressive which is refreshing.

Baker's hypothesis for why these ideas aren't widely embraced by the public is that the media and political class consists mostly of high-skilled, highly-educated workers who want to see their salaries, and the salaries of their equally high-skilled friends and neighbors, shielded from competition.  Meanwhile, they aren't as connected to lower-skilled workers and don't care as much.  It's also true that many large Progressive donors work in finance (George Soros) or Hollywood, both of which are highly protected sectors, so some Progressive politicians don't want to hurt their financial position.  Baker also just believes the general population lacks economic literacy, as seen with his macroeconomic chapters.

Baker takes the time to give an overview of how the Fed works and to explain the national income approach to the balance of payments because he believes most Progressives are ignorant about how these things work (I can't disagree!).  Treasury Secretaries' and political candidates' "strong dollar" rhetoric polls well because people have nationalistic sentiments about their currency, but the fact that the U.S. has run a trade deficit for the last 30+ years indicates that the dollar has been consistently overvalued. We'd likely be doing more manufacturing if the dollar was worth less.  He takes time to criticize the China-bashing of recent years by pointing out that:
"At the end of the day, the U.S. Treasury has enormous ability to influence the value of the dollar. It is certainly capable of forcing the dollar down against the Chinese RMB and other important currencies, if this is a major goal of economic policy. So far, a lower-valued dollar has not made the cut. A high valued dollar is in the interest of the financial industry and other powerful actors, and so the Treasury Department has not pursued a lower-valued dollar as major goal in negotiations with China or anyone else." 

Conservative politicians who are hawks over the U.S. budget deficit cannot logically simultaneously demand a "strong dollar" policy, something which I've pointed out a few times on my blog. Increasing national saving leads to an increase in net exports via a real depreciation of the currency.

Baker would like to see a Fed that pursues higher inflation and worries more about unemployment. He's not terribly far from market monetarism on some points.

Baker's final point is about patent monopolies. He is a champion of the government buying research patents from pharmaceuticals and providing other incentives-- like prizes-- for the development of drugs rather than seeing consumers hurt by higher drug prices as pharmaceuticals recoup the costs of their research. This is an approach discussed by libertarian thinkers like Tyler Cowen.  The reason we don't do that, according to Baker, is that it would mean more government spending on scientific research and conservatives paint this idea as central planning. He also applies this concept to music and the arts, which gets a little hard for me to fathom as reality. But I like the ideas and intention-- the way we have set up our patent monopolies have become very onerous and ridiculous as companies like Apple and Amazon, as well as "patent trolls," hire armies of lawyers to sue each other over patenting the most basic of ideas.  This system is slowing innovation and hurting consumers, while benefiting lawyers (regressively).

Baker wisely avoids talking about taxes and income redistribution. He wants Progressives to take up causes that Conservatives can't logically or genuinely argue against on the merits. The caricature of Progressives is that they are anti-market and pro-redistribution. Baker wants to change that.
"Conservatives' complaints about the economic distortions created by high taxes have some basis in reality, even if they are often hugely overstated. Progressives should steer clear of the potential for being seen as having an agenda that means slower growth and less job creation. Shifting attention to before-tax issues of income means talking about the big policy items, most importantly the Fed and the dollar, that have the greatest impact on economic outcomes." 

I give this book 4 stars out of 5.  Since I read his blog, I liked the full elucidation of Baker's ideas that he usually only alludes to in his posts for brevity's sake.  I'd rather have policy designed by a Progressive economist than one created by a Conservative non-economist.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Book Review: Treatise on Moral Sentiments, Parts 1 & 2

Since tackling Wealth of Nations in the spring, I felt like I needed to read the Treatise, since so many people remark on its contrast.  I wanted to see Das Adam Smith Problem for myself and see if I could see things the way Halteman does, that Smith's system contains a telos.

However, I find this book extraordinarily dry and unmotivating and probably will move to other more pressing things. But here's what I've gotten so far:
Part 1 deals with Smith's idea of sympathy -- "our fellow-feeling with any passion whatever" (8).  What makes us rejoice with someone or grieve with someone, or them with us?  Basically, when we're like-minded with them and can put ourselves in their shoes or they can do the same with us.  We judge others by our own standards:
"I judge of your sight by might sight...I neither have, nor can have, any other way of judging..."

Anger repulses us unless it's righteous anger, with righteousness shared universally (appealing to the "impartial spectator"):
"We admire that noble and generous resentment which governs its pursuit of the greatest the indignation which they naturally call forth in that of the impartial spectator...which never...desires to inflict any grater punishment, than what every indifferent person would rejoice to see executed" (37). Smith continues:

"As to love our neighbor as we love ourselves is the great law of Christianity, so it is the great precept of nature to love ourselves only as we love our neighbour, or what comes to the same thing, as our neighbour is capable of loving us" (37). 

Smith believes that contrary to common opinion "(O)ur propensity to sympathize with joy is much stronger than our propensity to sympathize with sorrow" (79).

What is love, what is passion?  Why do we feel the way we do?  Is it better to be loved by all quickly, like an instant celebrity, or to slowly build esteem and reputation over time?

The similarities between Smith's Moral Sentiments and Wealth of Nations are that they are both a compilation of his own observations about life.  One is about the feelings of the people, the other about their economic interactions.  Inasmuch, Smith strikes me as someone who had too much time on his hands. Smith's optimism also comes across in both books:

"What can be added to the happiness of the man who is in health, who is out of debt, and has a clear conscience?...This situation, however, may very well be called the natural and ordinary state of mankind.  Notwithstanding the present misery and depravity of the world, so justly lamented, this really is the state of the greater part of men" (81). With the caveat that "Though little can be added to this state, much can be taken of it."

Since Locke and the Enlightenment taught us that government arises from the consent of the governed, I found this quote interesting:
"That kings are the servants of the people, to be obeyed, resisted, deposed, or punished as the public conveniency may require, is the doctrine of reason and philosophy; but it is not the doctrine of Nature. Nature would teach us to submit to them for their own dread their displeasure" (100).

I think many of us resonate with this idea:
“Are you in earnest resolved never to barter your liberty for the lordly servitude of a court, but to live free, fearless, and independent? There seems to be one way to continue in that virtuous resolution; and perhaps but one. Never enter the place from whence so few have been able to return; never come within the circle of ambition; nor ever bring yourself into comparison with those masters of the earth who have already engrossed the attention of half mankind before you" (105). 

I liked Smith's observations about contemporary politics.  Politicians aren't the brightest or best public servants-- they're the most electable celebrity. The good ones make sure to hire a good support staff to do the heavy lifting and policymaking. We submit to our superiors because we wish we were them, not because we wish them well (paraphrasing, pgs. 95 and 113-114).

Part 2 gets more into the idea of what is kindness, what is justice?  Why do we punish someone caught trying to break into a home much less than someone who actually broke into the home? (II.III.17)  It illustrates Smith's belief in a God that would allow justice to be meted out in the afterlife, if not in this one:

"As every man doth, so shall it be done to him, and retaliation seems to be the great law which is dictated to us by Nature," (II.II.10).  "But if the murderer should escape from punishment...he would call upon God to avenge, in another world, that crime which the injustice of mankind had neglected to chastise upon earth" (II.II.25).

Justice is desirable because we see it as holding society together. The rebellious youth problem is universal across generations:
"We frequently hear the young and the licentious ridiculing the most sacred rules of morality, and professing, sometimes from the corruption, but more frequently from the vanity of their hearts, the most abominable maxims of conduct...and the consideration which first occurs to us, is the disorder and confusion of society which would result from the universal prevalence of such practices" (II.II.22).

What is misfortune?  How do all these affect our feelings and why?  These are the questions Smith is asking and answering.  (It's not even as interesting as this post makes it sound.  )

Monday, October 03, 2011

Occupy the Board of Governors

I'd like to ask all of the Occupy Wall Street protestors to read some Scott Sumner:

"One of the great mysteries of this recession is how the Fed has been able to get away with doing “the wrong thing” for three years in a row.  The BOJ would often claim to be unable to boost NGDP.  It was wrong, but the explanation sort of made logical sense.  But Bernanke could never make that claim, as his academic research showed the Japanese explanation was preposterous.  For instance, why did the BOJ repeatedly tighten monetary policy in the 2000s?
Of course the Fed never claimed to be out of ammo; indeed they have argued the exact opposite.  This makes the Fed’s public relations success an even bigger mystery.  Why have they gotten away with this stance?"
Read his piece in National Affairs, too.  Then, go occupy the Board of Governors and demand adequate monetary policy.  It's the Fed's fault.  And don't blame Wall Street for lining up at the trough when Treasury and the Fed offered them conditions-free life lines.  That was also arguably the Fed's fault.  Demand the Fed adopt an NGDP growth rate target and use its unspent ammo.  The whole world is watching.