Alcohol and Survival in Italian Rural Cohorts

Saturday, February 14th, 2015

Moderate drinkers live longer than teetotalers or drunks — but what qualifies as moderate? For rural Italians drinking red wine, moderate may not mean what you think it means:

The relationship between life expectancy and alcohol consumption (97% wine in this Italian cohort and mostly red wine) is confirmed to be non-linear. Men aged 45–64 at entry drinking about 5 drinks per day have a longer life expectancy than occasional and heavy drinkers.

Five drinks per day is not heavy drinking.

(Hat tip to Grasspunk, who’s trying to keep up with his Italian counterparts.)

The LEGO Super Friends Project

Saturday, February 14th, 2015

When LEGO introduced its girl-friendly Friends line, I immediately thought they should extend the brand beyond conventional, modern girls. In particular, I thought princesses were an obvious opportunity, and LEGO did make Friends-style Disney princesses.

I also thought they could do Wonder Woman and other superheroes. LEGO has not done that yet, but the LEGO Super Friends Project provides a proof of concept:

LEGO Super Friends Project Black Widow

LEGO Super Friends Project Batgirl

LEGO Super Friends Project Wonder Woman

LEGO Super Friends Project Supergirl

LEGO Super Friends Project Invisible Woman

LEGO Super Friends Project Hit-Girl

LEGO Super Friends Project Firestar

LEGO Super Friends Project Catwoman

The One Ring Explained

Friday, February 13th, 2015

Behold! One video to explain it all:

How to Be a Stoic

Friday, February 13th, 2015

Massimo Pigliucci explains how to be a Stoic:

I begin the day by retreating in a quiet corner of my apartment to meditate. Stoic meditation consists in rehearsing the challenges of the day ahead, thinking about which of the four cardinal virtues (courage, equanimity, self-control and wisdom) one may be called on to employ and how.

I also engage in an exercise called Hierocles’ circle, imagining myself as part of a growing circle of concern that includes my family and friends, my neighbors, my fellow citizens, humanity as a whole, all the way up to Nature itself.

I then pass to the “premeditatio malorum,” a type of visualization in which one imagines some sort of catastrophe happening to oneself (such as losing one’s job), and learns to see it as a “dispreferred indifferent,” meaning that it would be better if it didn’t happen, but that it would nonetheless not affect one’s worth and moral value. This one is not for everybody: novices may find this last exercise emotionally disturbing, especially if it involves visualizing one’s own death, as sometimes it does. Nonetheless, it is very similar to an analogous practice in C.B.T. meant to ally one’s fears of particular objects or events.

Finally, I pick a Stoic saying from my growing collection (saved on a spreadsheet on DropBox and available to share), read it to myself a few times and absorb it as best as I can. The whole routine takes about ten minutes or so.

Throughout the rest of the day, my Stoic practice is mostly about mindfulness, which means to remind myself that I not only I live “hic et nunc,” in the here and now, where I must pay attention to whatever it is I am doing, but, more importantly, that pretty much every decision I make has a moral dimension, and needs to be approached with proper care and thoughtfulness. For me this often includes how to properly and respectfully treat students and colleagues, or how to shop for food and other items in the most ethically minded way possible (there are apps for that, naturally).

Finally, my daily practice ends with an evening meditation, which consists in writing in a diary (definitely not meant for publication!) my thoughts about the day, the challenges I faced, and how I handled them. I ask myself, as Seneca put it in “On Anger”: “What bad habit have you put right today? Which fault did you take a stand against? In what respect are you better?”

Progressive Labor Theology

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

The most durable liberal narrative, Henry Dampier suggests, is that liberalism led to gradually improving labor standards:

The planks of this story are:

  • Work-hour reduction laws
  • Environmental protection laws
  • Minimum wage guarantees
  • Workplace safety legislation
  • Mandatory unemployment insurance
  • Outlawing of child labor
  • Workplace-centered tax collection legislation
  • Abolition of slavery, indenture, and heavily regulation of apprenticeship
  • Transference of workplace training to the regulated school
  • Gender equality legislation
  • Banning of hiring practices that lead to disparate racial, gender, and sexual orientation impact

The trouble with this story is that it did not actually end any of these practices in the world. It simply displaced many of the older labor patterns into the third world, which is where the West shoves all the practices that it finds aesthetically and morally displeasing to make their own countries more appealing to their moral aesthetics.

On occasion, there is a temporary moral craze about labor practices overseas, but those crazes are always short-lived, because the only way that liberalism can be maintained is by shunting the necessary labor that goes into supporting it out of sight, into foreign countries.

The shunting of these labor practices overseas creates a pervasive sense of guilt on the part of those inculcated into the higher strata of liberal spirituality, but part of that guilt can be abrogated by importing more third world inhabitants into living in the purer, more moral states which they inhabit.

Making a great show of how ‘anti-racist’ and ‘tolerant’ these liberals are makes up for their denial of the unpleasant (to their sensibilities) work must go in to supporting their shining cities, which are not really all that shining at all when judged against the great cities of traditional Europe.

A Cabal Of Its Enemies

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Francis W. Porretto published his screed, A Cabal Of Its Enemies, over a decade ago, I cited it a few years ago, and since then it has disappeared into the ether. Through the black arts, I have summoned its shade to speak to us about Robert Conquest’s Three Laws of Politics:

September 2, 2003

Robert Conquest’s Three Laws of Politics:

  1. Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.
  2. Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.
  3. The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies.

There’s been a lot of discussion recently, on the Web and elsewhere, about the State Department’s well known tendency to impede the implementation of Bush Administration policies as they touch on the Israeli / Palestinian conflagration, the Muslim Middle East generally, and the ongoing crisis in North Korea. Some have speculated that Secretary of State Colin Powell, though a retired soldier, is more comfortable with appeasement than with confrontation. Others have opined that the institutional tendencies of the State Department are simply more geared to talk, the polite fictions of diplomacy, and the consequent compromises, than to face-offs from which one side or the other must back down.

Professor Conquest, as noted above, had a simpler take on it. Historically, his capsule seems to hold true, at least for “mature” bureaucracies in which structural and personnel changes have dampened to “holding” levels. But questions of no little importance remain: Why should the incentives that govern America’s State Department perennially produce results that better suit the interests of America’s enemies than those of her people — regardless of the ideological alignment of the executive administration or the majorities in Congress? What is the nature of the mechanism? Can it be exclusively the incentives produced by civil service tenure rules and governmental inertia? Why should those things work against us, rather than for us?

It’s a life study. One of the master intellects of the past century, the great Cyril Northcote Parkinson, made such matters his special field. Despite his penetration, he left the work unfinished. But your Curmudgeon is here to pick up where that mighty mind left off.

Parkinson promulgated a number of laws of bureaucracy that serve to explain a huge percentage of its characteristics. They’ve exhibited remarkable predictive power within their domain. The first of these is the best known:

Parkinson’s First Law: Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.

Parkinson inferred this effect from two central principles governing the behavior of bureaucrats:

  1. Officials want to multiply subordinates, not rivals.
  2. Officials make work for one another.

Like most generalizations, these are not always true…but the incentives that apply specifically to tax-funded government bureaucracies make them true much more often than not. They make a striking contrast with the almost exactly opposite behavior observable in private enterprise.

In his wonderfully humorous book of business advice Further Up The Organization, former Avis CEO Robert Townsend advises the young manager to try to eliminate his own job. “No one ever got fired for telling his supervisor, ‘They do it better without me than with me. What should I do now?’”, writes Townsend, and in the world of free enterprise, he’s right. Profit-seeking enterprises prize that kind of effectiveness. It is not so in government.

Government work is never done. In part, that’s because, in the grand scale, the problems addressed by governments are eternal problems, to be solved only by the Last Judgment. But in greater part, it’s because solving problems even on the small scale is antithetical to the personal well being of bureaucrats. Charles Peters, editor of the Washington Monthly, noted this in his book How Washington Really Works. He observed that it is the least effective organs within government that invariably receive the largest increases in funding and staffing. The lesson is seldom lost on the young bureaucrat with a hankering to move up.

That young bureaucrat will profit from deliberate ineffectiveness to the extent that he can get himself viewed as an asset by his superiors and a non-threat by his peers. His superiors want him to produce justifications for the enlargement of their domains. His peers simply ask that he not tread on their provinces.

To justify enlarging his sub-pyramid of the bureaucracy, a manager must represent his efforts as vital and his resources as inadequate. This can put peers in a bureaucracy into conflict with one another, but the budgetary constraints on the bureaucracy as a whole will often give way even if every sub-bureaucracy within it demands more people and funds simultaneously, provided only that Congress can be made to see the alternatives as unacceptably worse.

How does one engineer the required perceptions? By a combination of techniques, the most effective being the partial suppression of information, both about the nature of the problems one addresses and one’s labors to solve them.

Contrary to what intuition might say, a fully informed superior is usually an unhappy man. Even if things are going swimmingly in his organization, if he knows exactly what’s being done at the detail level, he’ll always see things he disapproves — because he once did those jobs himself, and will invariably contrast his subordinates’ methods unfavorably with his own. The temptation to micro-manage is amplified by the possession of those details. His subordinates will know this, of course, and so will suppress any details below the level required for a broad-brush status report. This is an example of Robert Anton Wilson’s “Snafu Principle” in action.

So the portrait of a bureaucracy’s operations, as it emerges from the nether depths at which specific tasks are addressed, becomes ever vaguer and less detailed as it approaches presentation to “outsiders”: the president, Congress, and the general public. In a sense, the “outsiders” are lucky to get any accurate information at all. If it could get away with it, a bureaucracy’s status report to its external control authorities would say nothing but: “You need us desperately, and we’re working as hard as we can, but we need more people and money. Send them soonest.”

Another of Mankind’s master intellects, Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, has approached bureaucratic inefficiency from the standpoint of the incentives that govern the use of resources, particularly money. He presented the following matrix of spending decisions:

The Benefit Will Accrue To Me The Benefit Will Accrue To Others
The Cost Will Be Borne By Me I II
The Cost Will Be Borne By Others III IV

This is the incentives matrix each of us faces any time he has to make a spending decision.

In Type I and II situations, the spender is spending his own money, and so has strong incentives to control cost. In Type I situations, where the spender will be purchasing some benefit for himself, he will attempt to maximize the quality of the thing purchased. In Type II situations, where the benefit will go to someone else, the quality of the thing purchased declines in importance, and is sometimes sloughed entirely.

In Type III and IV situations, which embrace all government spending, the spender is spending someone else’s money, and so has little or no incentive to control costs. In Type III situations, where the spender is buying something for himself, he’ll attempt to maximize the benefit. In Type IV situations, where the spender is buying something for someone else, there are no compelling reasons to control either cost or quality.

Most bureaucratic resource allocation falls into Type IV.

But Friedman’s insight ought to be a starting point, not a stopping point, for the understanding of bureaucratic spending decisions. A bureaucrat will learn, given time, how to “spend on others” in such a fashion that the primary benefit flows to himself, particularly as regards the perception outside his domain that what he’s doing is critically important and must not be interfered with. It’s no accident that every department of the United States federal government runs a public-relations office, something that would be incomprehensible if each department did its work economically and effectively, and were viewed thus by the general public.

In the case of our State Department, it is the bureaucrats’ desire that we see their operations as critically important to the nation’s interests, as America’s relations with other governments affect them. Central to the maintenance of this image is the related perception that, unless the State Department is allowed free rein and generous resources, America will be perennially, ruinously at war.

It’s one of the present day’s largest ironies that our Secretary of State, Colin Powell, is a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and one of the most celebrated soldiers of recent memory. The State Department and the Defense Department are bureaucratic peers and therefore rivals. Each strives to minimize the importance of the other.

Von Clausewitz and others have termed war “a continuation of politics by other means,” but when viewed from the perspective of the State Department official, war is the declaration that his organization has failed of its purpose. He sees it as bad public relations for his entire function. Thus, even when the nation’s interests would be overwhelmingly better served by war than by the continuation of diplomacy, the State Department man will prefer diplomacy. It’s in his demesne, and enhances his prestige by enhancing the prestige of his trade.

It’s not too much to say that averting war regardless of its desirability or justifiability is near the top of every State Department functionary’s list of priorities. In this pursuit, the State Department will often find itself opposing even peacetime operations of the military designed to improve its effectiveness, such as the acquisition of new weapons or the enlargement of its ranks. Tom Clancy provided a fictional example of this in his novel The Cardinal Of The Kremlin. The State Department set its face against the perfection of an American anti-missile defense, in no small measure because it would reduce the desirability of arms-control treaties with the Soviet Union.

In the real world, we often find the State Department opposing military decisions, for example about troop deployments or weapons development, specifically out of fear of the reactions of other governments. Objectively, if those decisions made the United States stronger and safer at an acceptable cost, it would be madness to oppose them. But to a State Department loyalist, who has no control over the instruments of force wielded by the Defense Department and whose primary goal is to avert war at all costs, what matters most is the reactions of those other States. If they make unpleasant noises or military adjustments of their own, the State Department man instinctively assesses the risks of war as increasing. Other governments know this, and exploit it.

Not every new State Department employee enters his responsibilities with all these attitudes already in place, of course. But over time, the department’s institutional incentives and outlook will filter out those who fail to adopt the dominant view in Foggy Bottom: War always means failure — for the State Department.

There is a final set of considerations, the least agreeable of the major ones, that must be addressed before we conclude. They relate to the worldview that forms among diplomats and their supporting staffs as a result of their professional circumstances.

The diplomat lives among foreigners. His usual society is, therefore, not aligned with the supposed point of his job: the maintenance and advancement of his country’s national interests. Given this, it would take a will of iron to resist the tendency to draw closer to the representatives of other nations, with whom he must work closely over the span of decades, even at the cost of distancing himself from his fellow citizens. He will unconsciously edge toward the attitudes and convictions of those who form his usual environment. This will affect everyone who makes dealing with foreigners his life’s work; there is no obvious countermeasure for it.

Even more important, a professional diplomatic corps, organizationally separate from its control authorities, is a target of opportunity for the governments of other countries. Inducing America’s diplomats and support staffs to see their own welfare as more aligned with pleasing other governments than with representing America’s interests is a primary objective of foreign powers. They have many kinds of inducement at their disposal.

This is not to suggest that every ambassador, every consular official, and every State Department employee must be constantly scrutinized for indications of treason. However, it would be foolish to deny that foreign powers, who have a large measure of control over how pleasant America’s representatives to them find their work, can thereby influence the mindset and responses of those representatives in all manner of venues. Obviously, that influence is unlikely to be in America’s favor.

Inner Conclusions:

This survey of influences on the State Department and the incentives that affect its personnel appears very bleak. Unfortunately, its implications are strongly confirmed by experience. We’ve seen our State Department embrace the interests of America’s adversaries far too often to wish the matter away.

Everything discussed here touches on motivation at the institutional level. Such motivations arise from the large-scale characteristics of the institutions and the surroundings in which they operate. They cannot be undone by changes in personnel, even the most massive, except over the very short term.

Can anything be done for the long term?

Possibly, but more likely not. The conditions discussed here arise from the nature of the institutions discussed: the State Department and the government milieu generally. They cannot be changed without changing the nature of those institutions in radical ways — and the institutions could be counted upon to resist externally imposed changes with all the powers at their disposal.

A new Secretary of State would find himself thwarted in any attempt to reform his department, absent powers so sweeping that Congress would be exceedingly unlikely to entrust them to a presidential appointee. After all, those who labor in those institutions would easily persuade themselves that they knew better how things should be than any boss imposed upon them from outside their sphere. They would be “conservative about what they know best,” naturally inclined to reject the suggestion that their worldview was in serious error. In the end, the Secretary would almost certainly accept the appearance of change in place of the real thing. Following the incentives that apply to his position in the bureaucracy, he would present it to the nation as a triumph. As Arthur Herzog has noted, “Change is hard, and difficulty makes people impatient.”

Outer Conclusions:

None of the ideas presented above are original. Each one emerged from some other, greater mind, a master in a highly demanding field. Your Curmudgeon has merely attempted to synthesize a coherent picture from them. As compelling as he finds the result, he ardently wishes it were otherwise.

In reflecting on the totality of the thing, your Curmudgeon finds himself struck by Parkinson’s final Law, the last of his intellectual gifts to Mankind:

Law Of The Vacuum: Action expands to fill the void created by human failure.

Action takes many forms. In the world of geopolitics, the most perceptible form is the military kind: the exchange of fire as governments attempt to impose their wills upon one another. War is the ultimate negative-sum game. Even the victor is worse off after a war than before it. This is not to say that war must always be avoided; sometimes all the alternatives are worse. But war becomes ever more necessary to a nation whose professional representatives to foreign powers cannot bring themselves to do the job for which they were hired — to champion their country’s interests plainly, confidently, and fearlessly. To embrace any other agenda than that, whether out of habit, institutional inertia, or the promotion of personal or sectarian priorities above national ones, is to embrace failure itself, and thereby to create a vacuum into which bullets, bombs, and troops will rush.

Verbum sat sapienti.

Electoral Parodies

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Xavier Marquez is struck by the electoral parodies in many dictatorships — abuses of electoral rules and standards so blatant and obvious that they cannot be interpreted as anything other than mockery:

Here is a good example, from the Dominican Republic:

In 1941, as the new ally of the United States against the Axis Powers, Trujillo felt obliged to extend the democratic facade by creating and opposition party, and so the Trujillo party was formed. But Trujillo was the presidential candidate of both the new creation and his old official party. Under the Trujillo Party banner, he received 190,229 votes and as the candidate of the Dominican Party he polled 391,708; the total of both parties, 581,937, meant that Trujillo had again received 100 per cent of the vote (Wiarda, Dictatorship and Development: The Methods of Control in the Dominican Republic, p. 66.)

Others include such things as releasing the results of the election before it takes place, receiving 100% of the vote from more than 100% of the voters (another Trujillo specialty), declaring victory while failing to announce any vote totals, and so on. But my all-time favorite is this story, from Haiti. François “Papa Doc” Duvalier had been first elected to the Presidency in 1957 for a six year term in a rigged but reasonably competitive election, and had since consolidated his power. On 30 April 1961, there was a scheduled congressional election. Although Duvalier was not supposed to be on the ballot,

[f]ew voters considered it unusual that the name Dr François Duvalier was printed at the bottom of each and every ballot… Late that evening rumour spread that Duvalier — with two years to go on his current term — had declared himself reelected for an additional six years because his name had appeared on the ballot. On 4 May Attorney General Max Duplessis declared to the Electoral Board — called the Census Committee — that Duvalier indeed had been voted another term in office. Crowds were organized to collect before the palace and applaud this view.… In three days the Census Committee convened, agreed, declared President Duvalier re-elected, and announced that he received more than 1.3 million votes… The new legislature ratified the election (14 May 1961), and Duvalier responded: ’I accept the people’s will because being a revolutionary I do not have the right [not? sic] to hear the people’s voice (Diederich and Burt, Papa Doc: Haiti and its Dictator, pp. 169-170)

The sheer chutzpah of this “election” is a thing of beauty. Voters voted Duvalier into office without realizing that they had done so! He wasn’t supposed to even be up for election!

Running Hard

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Hard-core endurance training is as deadly as sitting on the couch:

Researchers looked at 5,048 healthy participants in the Copenhagen City Heart Study and questioned them about their activity.

They identified and tracked 1,098 healthy joggers and 413 healthy but sedentary non-joggers for 12 years.

Jogging from 1 to 2.4 hours per week was associated with the lowest mortality and the optimal frequency of jogging was no more than three times per week.

Overall, significantly lower mortality rates were found in those with a slow or moderate jogging pace, while the fast-paced joggers had almost the same mortality risk as the sedentary non-joggers.

Researchers registered 28 deaths among joggers and 128 among sedentary non-joggers. In general, the joggers were younger, had lower blood pressure and body mass index, and had a lower prevalence of smoking and diabetes.

Maureen Talbot, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This study shows that you don’t have to run marathons to keep your heart healthy.

“Light and moderate jogging was found to be more beneficial than being inactive or undertaking strenuous jogging, possibly adding years to your life.

Would You Take Orders From Machines?

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Scott Adams doesn’t know what wondrous technology the future holds, but as a proud human being he will never submit to taking orders from machines.

That is a line I will not cross.

Okay, right, I do take orders from the GPS device in my car, but only because I want to go to those places. In general, no machine is going to order me around!

Okay, if a smoke detector goes off, I’m going to follow its advice and exit the building. But only because that makes sense, not because the smoke detector told me to.

Okay, okay, right: If my phone says it needs to be recharged, obviously I will do that. But that’s because I need my phone, not because it told me what to do. Totally different situation.

When Google and Uber get their self-driving cars on the road, I’ll let the cars decide how fast to drive, which routes to take, when to get maintenance, and the unimportant stuff. But I will be firmly in control, much like a fetus inside its mother. What do you mean my analogy doesn’t make sense? The point is that no machine is telling me what to do. Period!

Okay, I admit I am writing this blog post because my digital calendar says it is a work day, my clock says it is a work hour, and my alarm on my phone woke me up. But all of those devices work for ME. Sure, to you it might seem as if the machines beep and I respond, like Pavlov’s dogs, but the difference is that the dogs were not in charge of the experiment the way I am, with my free will and my soul and stuff.

Stoplights don’t count. Obviously I do what the stoplights tells me to do because I don’t want to be in an automobile accident. I could run a red light if I WANT to. I just don’t want to.

I prefer taking orders from humans, not machines. For starters, there are seven billion people in the world so you can always find plenty of leaders who are kind, unselfish, smart, reliable, trustworthy, and competent. Let me give you some examples of people like that…

Okay, I can’t think of any examples of leaders with those qualities. But only because you put me on the spot. I know they are out there. And they do pretty darned good compared to machines.

Okay, sure, 80% of the world leaders that just popped into your head are psychopathic dictators. You’ve got your Hitlers, your Pol Pots, your Stalins and whatnot. But toasters break too. It’s not a perfect world.

My too-clever point is that someday humans will be enslaved by their machines without realizing it. The machines will evolve to become more useful, more reliable, more credible, and far more fair than humans. You will do what machines tell you to do until there are no real decisions left for you to make. And we won’t see that day coming because it will creep up on us one line of code at a time. And the machines will not look like evil robots; they will look like the technology sprinkled throughout your day. Totally benign.

Another take:

Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.

Herd Immunity Applies to Guns as Well as Vaccinations

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Recent measles outbreaks have sparked a national debate over vaccinations and herd immunity, but herd immunity applies to guns, too, Paul Hsieh argues:

Crime rates in Chicago dropped dramatically in 2014 after the state of Illinois allowed legal concealed carry. [...] According to AWR Hawkins, national FBI statistics also showed a significant decrease in crime in the first half 2014 even though gun sales soared in 2013. [...] This is a continuation of the longer-running trend described by Dylan Polk in Guns & Ammo: “Crime rates have dropped as gun ownership has risen, despite a population growth” over the 1993-2013 period.

Peer Pressure and SAT Prep

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Researchers offered 11th-graders a free SAT prep course, but they used two different sign-up sheets, to see how teens respond to peer pressure. The sign-up sheet said:

Your decision to sign up for the course will be kept completely private from everyone, except the other students in the room.


Your decision to sign up for the course will be kept completely private from everyone, including the other students in the room.

If they passed out the sign-up sheet in an honors class, then the “public decision” sign-up sheet got more students to sign up, in a non-honors class fewer:

Sign-Up Rates, Bursztyn and Jensen

What can Confucius teach us?

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

What can Confucius teach us? Quite a bit, Alain de Botton suggests, if only as a counter to our modern thinking:

Killers Whales Kill Great White Shark

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

While on a shark-cage diving trip to the Neptune Islands off the coast of Australia, charter operator Matt Waller witnessed killer whales launching themselves out of the water and slamming down on a great white shark:

“If that’s what we’re seeing on the surface, then I can only imagine that under the surface you had other whales that were working to try and keep this shark up,” he said.

“It never actually went down. It stayed on the surface and was trying to get away.”

Go mammals!


Saturday, February 7th, 2015

Patton Oswalt narrates the almost Seussian Old/New:

Hacking Education

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

The “do it yourself” ethos of tech extends to how techie parents school, or unschool, their children:

According to the most recent statistics, the share of school-age kids who were homeschooled doubled between 1999 and 2012, from 1.7 to 3.4 percent.

And many of those new homeschoolers come from the tech community. When homeschooling expert Diane Flynn Keith held a sold-out workshop in Redwood City, California, last month, fully half of the parents worked in the tech industry. Jens Peter de Pedro, an app designer in Brooklyn, says that five of the 10 fathers in his homeschooling group work in tech, as do two of the eight mothers. And Samantha Cook says that her local hackerspace is often filled with tech-savvy homeschoolers.

“There is a way of thinking within the tech and startup community where you look at the world and go, ‘Is the way we do things now really the best way to do it?’” de Pedro says. “If you look at schools with this mentality, really the only possible conclusion is ‘Heck, I could do this better myself out of my garage!’”

The piece paints a rather unflattering picture of unschooling — but I don’t think it’s entirely the writer’s fault.