Category Archives: Politics vs. math

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

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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Trinity College Library

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 »

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”

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 »

Politics informed by math #1 – Voter fraud

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This is a first in a series of posts looking at issues in the current political landscape where a better understanding of some basic math principles would likely change the direction of the discussion. We are an innumerate nation (the mathematical equivalent of illiterate). When we make political decisions based on bad math we are harming our fellow citizens, and… Read more »

Update: The gun violence lottery

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The most-viewed post in the short history of this blog was a February post entitled “The gun violence lottery”. In the wake of the Las Vegas mass shooting, I posited a rather cold math question: What if there is no single “cause” of mass shootings in the U.S. beyond “an unsecured gun was available, and we have millions of unsecured guns… Read more »