How to Use Census Microdata to Analyze High Speed Internet in Kentucky

This post is a start to finish descriptive analysis of high speed internet access in Kentucky, including tables, graphs, and maps. All of the detail of cleaning the data and iterating while exploring the data is included. This makes for a rather lengthy post, but it also makes it relatively unique in including all of those steps. We go through five attempts at making a table of high speed internet before finally getting it right! There’s quite a bit of cleaning work and then also a detour into calculating standard errors via bootstrap so we can correctly display uncertainty in our visuals.

Meritocracy is Unjust

Meritocracy tends to confuse a very practical sense of merit with a more abstract and moral one. An individual may deserve a high-paying job or admission to a selective college because they are productive or qualified. However, in a moral sense, individuals do not merit the skills and abilities they are born with, nor do they merit the environments they were born into that allowed them to develop those skills.

Baltimore Riots and Racism

I should be writing term papers, but I’ve been stunned at the amount of casual racism floating through social media and the internet in the wake of riots in Baltimore. An overwhelming number of people seem to believe one can explain riots and protests in Baltimore simply by saying people are making the choice to riot. But this explains precisely nothing when the question is why people are making those choices.

Non-Market Values and Policy Analysis

Many of the things that are most valuable in life are not things that can be traded on the market. Love, friendship, the respect of your peers, and a sense of belonging are all incredibly important parts of life, and they’re also impossible to incorporate into economic analysis. Now, since they’re not economic goods, it normally wouldn’t be a problem that they aren’t subject to economic analysis. Unfortunately, economists have not been content to restrict themselves to economic goods, but instead attempt to provide analysis of public policy choices using economic methods.

Rational Fools: Amartya Sen’s Critique of Economic Theory

The formalizing of self-interest as an economic principle was largely the work of Francis Edgeworth. It is sometimes wrongly traced back to the work of Adam Smith. While Smith wrote about self-interest, he actually had a much, much more nuanced view of both when people would behave out of self-interest and when self-interested behavior could be good for society then he is usually given credit for. (He most certainly did not claim either that individuals are always self-interested or that self-interest always leads to optimal outcomes, and cited limits to self-interest in both Theory of Moral Sentiments and Wealth of Nations; see here, here, and here for more on the misinterpretation of Smith.

Jayber Crow

Wendell Berry’s fictional novel, Jayber Crow, provides a number of interesting passages that relate well to the major themes of this blog. Jayber is the barber (and church janitor) in Port William, the fictional small Kentucky town that serves as the setting for most of Berry’s fiction. As a child at a religious orphanage, Jayber winds up going to seminary. There, he begins to have theological questions and doubts that most of his professors are unprepared to answer.

By Nate Kratzer in Books

October 5, 2013

Economics and A Theory of Moral Sentiment

Adam Smith is largely responsible for starting the field of economics as an academic subject. His magnum opus The Wealth of Nations is considered the first work of modern economics, and Smith is sometimes referred to as “the father of modern economics.” I tell you this because I think Smith would be at least mildly ashamed of his academic progeny. Smith is perhaps best known for his famous statement on mutually beneficial trade:

What I Believe

Between Relativism and Universalism First, it is important to start by saying that getting one’s beliefs correct is not, repeat not, the key to salvation (and we’ll discuss what I mean by salvation in a bit). One of the worst things that has happened to the church is that works-righteousness, the idea of earning ones way into heaven, was replaced not with grace, but with beliefs-righteousness, the idea that if one only believes the correct things fervently enough and without doubt one can earn their way into heaven.

By Nate Kratzer in Religion

August 20, 2013

What is Education For?

STEM often (at the undergraduate level) teaches a certain type of thinking, which is a very effective and practical way to solve problems. STEM fields seek answers, while the humanities focus first on training students to ask the correct questions, and to take an extremely broad view of any problem. A lot of damage has been done by narrow, practical solutions. The technology we have is an engineering marvel, and the economic abundance we possess is a tribute to the efficiency of solving practical problems. And yet for all our abundance we still have massive poverty and environmental degradation, as well as a society that is becoming increasingly polarized, distrustful, and distant.

Race in the US

I do not know what happened between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. No one does. A great deal, however, is known about race in the United States. If, as media reports continue to say, this case raises questions and starts a discussion about race then surely the place to start is with those who have already been asking and answering questions about race for a long time. There is a vast academic literature on the impact of race in the U.