Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Greater Costs, Less Service

February 13th, 2017 by G.

This article from Scott Alexander may be the most important secular thing I’ve read recently. It’s about cost disease. In so many areas of modern life, things cost multiples of what they used to. Sometimes the service has improved slightly. Sometimes the service has gotten worse.

In public education, the scores are flat for decades. The costs have gone up 3x.

College is even worse. A degree is worth much less than it used to be. The cost of a degree has rocketed.

Health care. 5x cost increases, slight improvements in lifespan.

Housing. Costs are way up. Houses have gotten bigger, but commutes have also gotten longer.

You need to read the whole thing. A lot of instant explanations are false.

We are in the middle of a national malaise. The reason we got Trump is that our elites don’t know how to fix the problem, don’t even reliably know what the problem is, show little interest in fixing the problem, and repeatedly lie about the problem.

On education: while I believe that a lot of the rise in cost is bureaucratic and program bloat, a different perspective is that given the demographic changes over the last few decades, and given the cultural collapse of the family and of bourgeois values, maintaining the same scores for only 3x the cost may be better than it looks.

The same may apply in part to medical care. Demographic, familial, and values collapse means more lawsuits and more randomness in the delivery and receipt of medical care, which evokes a response of more rules and procedures and control–which makes a system less flexible and more expensive. The same factors may lie behind the shift to expensive private rooms in hospitals. The last two times my wife gave birth, we were probably the only married people on the floor. Everyone else was tatted up with rotting teeth. The nurses looked a lot more tired than they had before–they told us they had to lock the snack cabinet now, because patients’ boyfriends had taken to stealing it. They also had to watch while the new mothers ate their hospital delivered meal, to make sure the boyfriends didn’t eat it instead.

Comments (14)
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February 13th, 2017 07:57:38
14 comments

Bruce Charlton
February 13, 2017

Did you forget to provide a link, or have I just missed it?

Clearly, I haven’t read it – but the root problem behind all the alternative explanations to bureaucracy is also bureaucracy…

(aka ‘confiscating then spending other-people’s money’.)


G.
February 13, 2017

Thanks, @Zen. I regret the slip up.


Vader
February 13, 2017

“College is even worse. A degree is worth much less than it used to be. The cost of a degree has rocketed.”

I agree that the value of a degree is much less. I’m not sure the cost has actually increased, unless you consider only the monetary cost, and not the opportunity cost and the cost in effort.


James
February 13, 2017

“Having things be as efficient as they were a few decades ago” certainly sounds like a clumsy version of MAGA. Not endorsing here, just pointing out that Trump’s rise had a lot to do with regular Americans realizing that their country is getting a little bit crapper for them every year. Though S.A. cogentlyy argues that there are many causes and factors, Trump appealed with those factors (and a tag line) that were more obvious.


Zen
February 14, 2017

Credentialism means credentials are more important than ever, but the quality of the actual education has not improved. In most cases, things have become worse. Most people learn almost nothing in their college years. That surprised and horrified me when I learned that.


Huston
February 14, 2017

I’ve taught college classes for over a decade, and I can assure you that college is the new high school.


Zen
February 14, 2017

I teach college as well, and if I disagreed with what Huston said, it would only be because what we are teaching should be taught before high school.


JRL in AZ
February 14, 2017

@Huston and Zen: I taught at a community college as an adjunct once, and I thought the level of student quality was low and the curriculum was easy just because it was a community college.


G.
February 14, 2017

The last couple of years I was a college writing tutor, I noticed a trend of having to teach more basic grammar and spelling and organization than before.


Andrew
February 14, 2017

Ho! A system built on lies.

If we can’t honestly address the question of why a single stay-at-home-Mom’s can educate 10 children better than 10 credentialed teachers can educate 1 failing child, the system is doomed!

We’re not allowed to recognized family differences, traits, intelligence, hierarchy, etc.


Andrew
February 14, 2017

I think we were freshmen in Highschool when my cousin commented “I’m glad everything is so dumbed down, or we’d have to actually do real work.”

That said, my GPA wasn’t as good as his.


Zen
February 15, 2017

Zen
February 17, 2017

An additional post at SSC discussing insightful comments from the original post.
http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/02/17/highlights-from-the-comments-on-cost-disease/

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