Thursday, May 14, 2015

Two variables are not reality: private prisons vs. universities

The US apparently boasts the most extensive prison system with the highest incarceration rate per capita in the world. A fair share of the prisons are private companies running for and actually making profit, so in terms of market efficiency they are probably world's best. SCORE! Let's all go private! (in my best Eric Cartman's voice) That would however ignore that such a system is fed by the judicial systems where too many people are incarcerated long-term for minor felonies, that private prisons are allowed to select "low-cost" inmates and have access to funding, the slavery-like labour exploitation (re. the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution), the poor staff training and low wages, the lack of oversight and accountability, the inhumane living conditions due to cost-saving, etc., etc.

This is merely to illustrate the point that describing reality in terms of two variables, i.e., no state funding = high success of universities (most cited research papers + high rankings), is a formal logical fallacy. That and treating social and environmental costs as "externalities" are exactly the kind of destructive pseudo-scientific thinking that Economics and Political Science students are indoctrinated in, and which is, unfortunately, is presently the language of power and self-proclaimed "science".


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