Category Archives: In the News

Hurricane Michael, F-22 jets and the Report from Iron Mountain

In the wake of the devastating Hurricane Michael, news reports from Tyndall Air Force Base, located just outside of Panama City, Florida, detailed extensive damage to somewhere between $5.8 billion and $7.5 billion worth of F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets left on the ground as the base was abandoned. [1] [2] This story reminded me of a 50-year-old book that was… Read more »

Education and the fixed-cost dilemma

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I wrote a post back in February that looked how an accounting problem called the fixed-cost dilemma skews many medical costs like drugs and ambulances. The same problem occurs in spades in higher education, and that is the focus of this post. If you are going to advocate for “free college education,” I suggest that it is very helpful to… Read more »

Education and the high price of the credential

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In a prior post, I noted that much of the pure “education” delivered by a college or university is alternatively available from other sources for little or no cost. What then are all of the tuition dollars, state funding dollars and student loan dollars paying for? If we are looking to fund “free college for everyone” then where is that… Read more »

Education has always been free

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I was representing my publisher employer at a technology meeting at the dawn of the commercial internet in the mid-1990s when I heard the popular technology guru Esther Dyson presciently say that “the price of information always trends toward zero.” That prediction was not good news for many book publishers like mine, but it has certainly come true in the… Read more »

Politics informed by math #5 – Small conspiracies

In an earlier post I suggested that you can likely doubt that most alleged grand conspiracies are real on probability grounds alone, as the number of one-to-one connections requiring “trust against a lie” grows factorially. By the same logic, the smaller the conspiracy, the better the odds of keeping the trust factor intact. In this post I will look at a… Read more »

Tax avoidance, tax evasion and Trump

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The New York Times recently published a deep dive into some of the questionable tax practices of the Trump Organization going back to the days of Donald’s late father Fred Trump and his transfer of many millions of dollars in assets to his children through methods of dubious legality. [1] The gist of the story is that first, the Trump… Read more »

Politics informed by math #4 – Grand conspiracies

The political fringes are dominated by conspiracy theories that far too often encroach on the usually more reasonable political middle. In this post I want to look at some math behind grand conspiracies, which involve many people keeping a secret, as contrasted with small conspiracies, which only require a small, tight group to maintain. One classic example of an alleged grand… Read more »

Politics informed by math #3 – “Money is speech”

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Supreme Court Justices may know the law, but I am not convinced that they know math. This post is a little exercise in the math behind the conservative dictum that “money is speech.” To cut to the chase, and if indeed, “money is speech,” then a family whose net wealth in 1963 was in the 99th percentile of U.S. families… Read more »

Politics informed by math #2 – Medicare-for-all

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“Medicare-for-all” has become a common campaign promise on the political left but it suffers in the details, first from any widely-accepted definition, which can range from a (not-so-simple) “public option” to a complete nationalization of the healthcare insurance payments system. Second, all of its configurations that I have investigated suffer from an apparent naivete or lack of understanding of some… Read more »

Brett Kavanaugh, moral luck and the veil of ignorance

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In this blog I have visited several times the intersection of mathematical probability with what we often call “divine justice” (also known as theodicy). For instance, the odds being diagnosed with any of several types of cancer resemble statistically the winning of a cruel lottery, with statistical annual diagnosis rates per 100,000 people eerily unchanged from year to year. Or take… Read more »