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Letters...Why don’t you return to the status quo ante?

Behavior has a learning curve

One quibble I have with Richard Thaler’s argument, as described in Sharla Stewart’s “Can Behavioral Economics Save Us from Ourselves?” (February/05), is how little weight he seems to give to learning curves.
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Forget Sweden

So now Social Security has become the latest plaything for economists to try out their pet theories. Forget the fact that it has been handled quite nicely by statisticians for the last 75 years, to the point where Social Security takes in more than it pays out and will do so up until 2042 (2052 if you believe the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office figures). Even after 2042 it will pay 80 percent of benefits.
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Lettuce logic

About your article on behavioral economics that says, radically, against classic economics, that human rationality has its limits: one thinks of a classic biology holding that dogs eat only lettuce, faced with an upstart version of biology, saying that dogs also eat meat.

Dan Lyons, AM’62, PhD’67
Fort Collins, Colorado

Know thy self-interest

The assumption of self-interest (“Can Behavioral Economics Save Us from Ourselves?”) is flawed because knowing what is in one’s best interest and doing what is in one’s best interest are both exceptions rather than the rule (in part, because true self-knowledge is such a rarity). Furthermore, isn’t it reasonable to assume that persons able to know and do what’s best for themselves ultimately reach a point of full and stable satisfaction? What happens next? As long as this condition is protected (an objectively measurable assumption), pure altruistic selflessness is a distinct possibility. A system of abundance contradicts one of scarcity. Yet, at least in relative terms, it is a reality that burdens many, to whom economic theory offers little guidance.

Robert Kenmore, MBA’93, PhD’02
Long Island, New York

Mirrored attitudes

Ronne Hartfield’s article (“Too Late in the Day,” February/05) describing how the older generation in her family and others on the South Side reacted to Emmett Till’s murder rang a bell. My mother, Ursula B. Stone, PhD’29, then taught at George Williams College here in Hyde Park, where many of her best students were black city kids who went on to important positions in Chicago and elsewhere.
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Funding higher education

In “From the President” (February/05) Don M. Randel states, “But no matter what one believes about the need to control the mushrooming deficits…it cannot be supposed that reducing support for access to the world’s best system of higher education and reducing support that has produced the world’s most powerful economy and strongest defense is the solution.”
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Question about the questions

In regards to “Question Authority” (“College Report,” February/05): I’m sure other alumni have brought this up, but that question (“Suppose you were an astronaut on Mars whose spaceship had broken down...”) came up at least as early as the 1982–83 application year. I clearly recall picking that question in fall 1982.
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Cultural encounters

Trust Pays Off” (“Investigations,” December/04), about Professor Zingales, et al., triggered my recognition of overlap with a scholarly interest of mine. That is, how culture—with trust central—is entangled with other major determinants that influence the prospects for social and economic development in poorer, third-world nations.
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Dispatch from the pro-war zone

Thank you for including “War Stories” (October/04). I believe I speak for many U of C alumni who are thankful for the efforts of Paul Wolfowitz, John Ashcroft, and the thousands of other men and women with the Bush Administration and in our military who are working hard to win the war on terrorism.
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Cataloging offenses

I am unsure whether you are trying to give needless offense to University of Chicago alumni. You claim that books by alumni take up too much room in your magazine (“Editor’s Notes,” October/04), yet you ran reviews of books by faculty members across four pages of your February/05 issue (“Investigations”). Does this suggest that you place a higher valuation on faculty than alumni?
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Why help the competition?

It is bad enough that books written by Chicago graduates are being relegated to the cyber version of the Magazine, but now you are running ads for Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, Harvard’s summer-school program for secondary students, and Yale’s MBA executive program.
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The beauty of days gone by

I was delighted when my daughter Adena applied to the University of Chicago, because I assumed the College still adhered to the same high standards it did in my day. When she told me she wanted to major in gender studies, I chuckled and said the U of C doesn’t have those trendy new majors, just tried and true character-building classes like classics, history, math, and gym.
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Chaplain's resignation

In light of the recent resignation of Father Michael Yakaitis [See “Chicago Journal,”] and the subsequent community response, we, as a group of Catholic students and leaders on campus, desire to express our reaction and to hope that all who read this letter will come to an understanding of why many in the Catholic student community feel the way they do.
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Author's query

As a resident, instructor, and since 1957 a professor in the University’s Department of Pathology, I am writing a history of the department and solicit help from alumni with reminiscences to share. I look forward to the help of past colleagues and can be reached at 5642 South Kimbark Ave., Chicago, IL 60637.

Francis H. Straus, MD’57

Department of corrections

In “Confessions of a Scholar-Blogger” (February/05), an editing error resulted in a change of alma mater for assistant professor of political science Daniel W. Drezner; he received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Stanford University.

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