Creative Destruction

April 17, 2013

The Nature of Man (or Mankind)

Filed under: Art,Content-lite,Environment,Ethics — Brutus @ 2:20 pm

Long time no blog posts. I’ve been fairly active at The Spiral Staircase but not at all here. However, I got hipped to an animator, Steve Cutts, whose style and content fits my thinking. Gotta share it. In a recent video, he shows humanity to be pretty hideous in the way we treat the world (ours to kill, consume, and trash at will) yet blithely ignorant about it right up to the end, when we deserve to get stomped ourselves (like the bug at the beginning):

There are other animations at his website with similar themes. The mixture of truly baleful criticism and jokey tone, with mildly distorted drawings and silly though evocative music, makes them simultaneously entertaining and hard to watch. But we have a vicarious, rubbernecking streak in us, so it’s doubtful anyone will look away to preserve their innocence (if anyone can be said to have any).

BTW, to categorize this as content-lite is undoubtedly a mischaracterization, but since the content comes from elsewhere and requires little analysis, I’ve got nothing much to add.

January 16, 2011

Esteem Needs

Filed under: Current Events,Ethics,Navel Gazing,Popular Culture — Brutus @ 1:09 am

I gave a speech a bit over one year ago that cited Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (physiological, security, social, esteem, and self-actualization), though I modified it slightly to conform to needs as we now experience them. Primary attention for many of us who identify with the dominant culture has shifted to esteem needs, which include personal worth, social recognition, and accomplishment. However, those values are frequently distorted by seeking empty and vacuous fame and false social recognition. This is especially prevalent among the young, whose physiological and security needs are typically satisfied by parents. Indeed, the young have difficulty imaging scenarios where those needs aren’t met passively, which is to say effortlessly, though the recognition is dawning on many in their 20s that the living standards enjoyed by their elders are difficult to replicate.

A recent study reported on in USA Today describes the very thing I mentioned in my speech, namely, that esteem needs for today’s youth trump other concerns. They prefer praise over things like sex, alcohol, money, or even a best friend. This comes as no surprise to anyone paying attention, as evidence abounds that an entire generation of people have been encouraged to believe the world revolves around them. Similar charges have been levied on baby boomers, but as narcissism indices show, the parents got nothin’ on the kids.

March 7, 2008

Outsourced Memory

Filed under: Education,Ethics — Brutus @ 1:15 pm

Cheating on a standardized test isn’t exactly unheard of, especially when competition is tough and the stakes are high. (Otherwise, who cares?) Recently, a student in Bangkok used a watch-phone capable of receiving text messages to take university entrance exams, which resulted in a variety of watches with similar capabilities being banned from test sites. The educational establishment is (so far) unwavering in its insistence that students learn and commit material to memory prior to taking exams. A chink in that armor appeared with the approval of using calculators on tests. An argument can be made, however, that open-book or open-source (as in electronics) testing should be considered for the future.

A student who has mastered and memorized a body of knowledge has indisputable advantage over another who has to search for that same information, but it’s a sign of the times that fewer students, and more importantly, fewer businesses, believe that it’s worthwhile to possess information except in the rarefied instance of test taking. In the real world, looking something up and problem solving on the fly is challenging the notion that acquired knowledge and skill give people better (read: more efficient) job performance.

I’ve yet to see any substantial evidence that the Google effect or the Wiki effect — the outsourcing of memory, in short — has significantly diminished the value of traversing a large body of knowledge to be prepared for adult life, be it the level of a high school diploma or an advanced university degree. However, it’s clear that the communications age and its technologies have placed at our fingertips amazing information resources that many of us consult daily. Ironically, that has inadvertently cheapened the value of expertise in many walks of life, as most anyone with a few functioning brain cells can easily acquire the information to handle most of life’s tasks and quite a few job requirements. Our attitudes toward what constitutes cheating have been similarly degraded as the obvious utility of all types of workaround sweep aside ethical considerations. It remains to be seen whether educators, who themselves are known to indulge in cheats of one sort or another, can uphold the value of learning the traditional way. If it were left to business, we’d all be cheating.

December 16, 2007

Presented Without Comment

Filed under: Ethics — Off Colfax @ 4:12 am

This.

Hoax. Link in comments.

[T/S: Insty]

November 15, 2007

Shameless self-promotion

Over at Sophistpundit I’ve written up a pretentious little call to arms against media regulation.  Enjoy!

October 13, 2007

To Advocate Equality

Filed under: Ethics — Off Colfax @ 6:56 am

[In response to this, yet I will not comment on what Jeff Fecke says or the logical flaws of his diatribe.]

It is not proper for any American to remove any rights from any person without due process. Period. Ad infinitum. Ad astra. Ad nauseum. Forever and ever. Amen. It was a fundamental error by our ancestors to pretend that the color of one’s skin or the location of one’s gonads determined whether or not the fundamental rights of, much less membership within, Homo sapiens applied to them. As such, it is just as fundamental of an error for anyone else to do so, regardless of what motivation is behind the movement.

I cannot disagree that there has been injustice performed by some of those who are, as I am, white and male. That is a simple fact that only the blind cannot see and only the ignorant can ignore. Still to this day, women are treated as if they are less than a human being simply due to their lack of a Y-chromosome: the glass ceiling, income inequality, the removal of personal autonomy, objectification, mutilation, humiliation… The list of offenses that short-sighted individuals have performed unto women is a long and miserable one. It has been codified into our laws. It has been decreed among our religions. It has been solidified in our societies. It is pervasive. It is subconscious. It is everywhere. And this is but a single example that does not touch racial discrimination, religious discrimination, ethnic discrimination, sexuality discrimination, or any of the myriad of other forms of discrimination that exist in human society.

There is no reason to excuse rape. There is no reason to excuse spousal battery. There is no reason to excuse child abuse. There is no reason to excuse oppression. There is no reason to excuse any crime, of any type, perpetrated on someone because of their gender or the color of their skin or their political views or their religion or even what they had for breakfast the day before yesterday.

Likewise, there should be no reason to automatically expect those things to occur against you because of those factors. That is against the principle of equality.

One does not combat injustice by ensuring more injustice. As Mohandas Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Subjecting another to the same violations that you were forced to endure is to fall under the same trap, the same impossible fallacy, as you purport to fight against.

To strive for all humans to be treated equally is frustrating. Being what we are, we attach our certain circumstances to our declarations, whether it be for our gender or for our ancestors or for our religion or for our nationality. It ranges from men’s rights, women’s rights, sexual preference rights, hyphenated-American’s rights, yet it boils down to the same thing. We want the right to be free to choose. To be free to decide. To be what we so desire to be, without anyone to gainsay against us or stop us from making the attempt.

And that is the true basis for equality: freedom. So long as you do not actively cause harm against another person with your choices, a truly free society should never stand in your way.

Yet with any of the various groups advocating such freedom for their members, it must come at the expense of those that allegedly already possess such freedoms. It is not enough that the privileged must give up their privilege, but that they must become the underprivileged in recompense.

And that is not the definition of an equal society. To punish someone for the accident of their ancestry is the same fallacious argument that the various advocacy groups are fighting against. And when another group rises in order to counter the presumed subversion of their own rights, they are decried as being short-sighted and bigoted and wrong.

Here is a basic test.

[___________] promotes the rights of their members at the expense of [___________] group’s rights.

Fill in the blanks with any of the advocacy groups and their opposite number, and it will match perfectly. Gender. Race. Religion. Ethnicity. Sexual orientation. Even right- or left-handedness, should it come to that. They will, naturally, disagree with such a statement when it comes to themselves while at the same time voicing full-throated agreement with the statement relating to their opposite number.

The only way to avoid such contradiction is to promote equality for all, regardless of identifiers.

I regret to say that, with humans being humans, I will not hold my breath for such a happy occurrence.

[Crossposted from Left Off Colfax]

September 17, 2007

The Man With No Brain

Filed under: Ethics,Science — Robert @ 1:49 am

Fascinating.

June 5, 2007

Woe, Despair, Agony on Me

Filed under: Environment,Ethics — Brutus @ 12:00 am

From a blurb called The Earth is Dying:

At the heart of the modern age is a core of grief.

At some level, we’re aware that something terrible is happening, that we humans are laying waste to our natural inheritance. A great sorrow arises as we witness the changes …

… changes [that] signal a turning point in human history, and the outlook is not particularly bright. The anger, irritability, frustration and intolerance that increasingly pervade our common life are symptoms associated with grief. The pervasive sense of helplessness and numbness that surrounds us, and the frantic search for meaning and questioning of religion and philosophy of life, are likewise often seen among those who must deal with overwhelming sorrow.

I’ve been reading too much recently about disaster, catastrophe, and threats poised to overtake us. The quote above describes how I feel better than I can.

This post is a follow-up of sorts to my previous posts called Malicious Ecophagy and Steamrollers. My latest awful discovery is something that won’t take time to manifest — it’s already a fait accompli:

A vast swath of the Pacific, twice the size of Texas, is full of a plastic stew that is entering the food chain. Scientists say these toxins are causing obesity, infertility … and worse.

The article this second quote comes from is fairly complete and doesn’t appear to require advanced scientific training to evaluate and appreciate. How any naysayers can explain away large portions of ocean (in each of the four principal bodies, the article informs) ruined and wrecked by human waste is beyond me, but let them try.

We’ve heard recently about how the decimation of the bee population could affect agriculture. How would the disruption of the aquatic food chain (from plastic waste), starting with plankton and proceeding up the cycle, affect a planet that is roughly 2/3 water? Although the article raises the specter, I’m not sure that anyone really knows, just as we don’t really know with certainty how global warming will play out.

At some point, perhaps I’ll stop reading these reports and adopt the attitude of the typical American: don’t worry, be happy. I’m not there yet, though, and in the meantime, I think it’s still worthwhile to bring these baleful prognostications to light so that we might actually consider heeding the warnings.

May 3, 2007

Problems of Social Organization

Filed under: Environment,Ethics,Philosophy — Brutus @ 10:54 pm

We’re a species tragically marred by our own success. This article by Jeremy Rifkin presents the depressing numbers. Similar disaster is predicted everywhere these days. Here’s just one other example. (You’ve got to be living under a rock not to be aware of other, similar reports.) Some are considering how to face coming catastrophe: see here and here and here. The picture is bleak, and it’s been looming over the horizon for no short time.

The overarching story is that humankind and human nature has run its course and that, like the virus that eventually destroys its host, we have unwittingly sealed our own sad fate and ruined the planet for human habitation (and most other habitation with it). Unfortunately, unlike a virus, we can’t simply leap to a new host. In short, our basic form of social organization in the modern world, capitalist industry, has wrought changes in the ecosystem so vast that they’re now unrecoverable, and we’re too committed to our current paradigm to change in time to avoid catastrophe. In addition, our sheer numbers have been gained through a base exploitation of everything at our disposal, as though no other living creature has any right to survive.

Lost somewhere in the detritus of my abandoned and unfinished blog posts is the notion of maximizing, minimizing, and optimizing. Whereas most of nature occupies a niche in relative balance with the rest of creation — or at leasts lacks the wit and tools to overcome the cycles of ebb and flow — mankind since the Industrial Revolution (and perhaps since the Enlightenment) has been hellbent on maximizing its ecological niche. (Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs, and Steel demonstrates rather unequivocally that this has ever been our modus operandi. Human expansion in prehistory was always the trigger for local extinctions. Basically, we ate everything.) We’ve succeeded marvelously. Now, in this our latest stage of development, our impact is astonishing. Industry has provided us the means to wrest from the Earth everything we can, and no morality has effectively suggested that a more restrained approach to living, establishing, for example, an optimized or balanced harmony with the rest of nature, might ultimately be a better way of living.

I’ve been reading on the subject for over a year now and am still struggling to get my head around it. The extrapolation of current trends is almost too depressing to contemplate, and I can’t profess to having the hopefulness of many others who have similarly recognized our dilemma. However, the ethical response is to at least acknowledge what’s happening in the wider sweep of human history and hopefully alleviate some suffering down the line.

The best statements on this topics I’ve come across so far are two essays in Orion Magazine: “The Idols of Environmentalism” and “The Ecology of Work” by Curtis White. They are beautifully written and lack the sort of doom and gloom that is inescapable for me. They suggest the basic response that Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael and other books, has been recommending: that we walk away from civilizational culture.

April 24, 2007

Because CEO Pay Isn’t High Enough Yet …

Filed under: Economics,Ethics,Politics — Brutus @ 11:39 pm

According to this article in The New York Times business section, Demoncrats Democrats have introduced (again) a bill that would give shareholders of publicly held companies a nonbinding vote on pay packages and so-called “golden parachute” compensation plans for senior executives. It is an idea whose time has come. Indeed, shareholders of British companies have held this power since 2002 but only voted against an executive pay package once.

What’s especially interesting to me, and probably predictable, is that Republicans oppose the measure. Although the article suggests that such a vote would permit shareholders to exercise considerable influence, I can’t see how a nonbinding vote would be too difficult to ignore. Indeed, decision-makers who award executive pay have ignored economic reality at lots of companies even while those companies are unprofitable or in bankruptcy. And besides, everyone already knows that pay packages have grown from tens of times the lowest yearly company wage to hundreds of times that wage in the span of about 25 years.

If that weren’t rich enough, how about this argument by Representative Spencer Bachus of Alabama of the House Financial Services Committee:

“How many times has this Congress substituted its judgment for the American people? For people in business? That is again what this legislation is doing. Congress should never rush in and begin to change the free-enterprise system, our system of competition between companies.”

Isn’t Congress empowered to substitute its judgment for that of the American people? Isn’t that in fact its job? Bachus is clearly a market fundamentalist, believing that regulation, restraint, and any impediment to free enterprise is uncalled for. Considering just how toothless this proposed legislation is to begin with, why is it necessary to fight it so hard with such overblown rhetoric?

Update: Fixed misspelling of Democrats. And in case my arguments lacked currency, it was announced yesterday that the Chief Executive Edward Whitacre of AT&T will be retiring in June and will receive a $158.5 million retirement package.

According to a proxy filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Whitacre’s retirement package will include $24,000 in annual automobile benefits, $6,500 each year for “home security,” access to ATT&T’s … corporate jet for 10 hours a month and $25,000 to cover his country-club fees ….

That report also provides this link to a report last year about CEO pay. Finally, a NY Times column by Paul Krugman titled “Gilded Once More” (sorry, Times select, so no link) reports that income inequality is back to levels known in the Gilded Age. He has a particularly outrageous case in point:

<>Last year, according to Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine, James Simons, a hedge fund manager, took home $1.7 billion, more than 38,000 times the average income.

So I was wrong in saying that some folks make hundred of times the average yearly wage, it’s now thousands of times.

April 19, 2007

The Tragedy Network

Filed under: Current Events,Ethics — Brutus @ 11:10 am

I’m thinking of starting a new television channel, maybe on cable, called The Tragedy Network. Because this world is a virtually unlimited vale of tears, reporters will fan out across the globe and bring humanity’s worst atrocities into everyone’s living rooms. And because the boob tube is so ubiquitous, we’ll have access in cars, bars, airports, offices, pretty much everywhere. I’m confident there are enough grieving survivors that The Tragedy Network can always locate someone and shove a camera in his or her face to ask “How do you feel right now?” The byline can be “All Tragedy, All the Time.” Luckily, because the pitch of the channel will be hysterical at all times, there is no possibility of being preempted by a bigger tragedy. Breaking news stories can just be laid on top of old ones. The focus on human tragedy will relieve reporters of any need to make ethical reports or avoid rushes to judgment. By recycling and repackaging the same conjecture and lack of hard information every half hour, the audience will be riveted, practically slavering for any shred of real information that comes out in the aftermath of events. And by not holding back prurient details found amongst the media packages prepared by perpetrators of atrocity, The Tragedy Network can pretty much assure a succession of criminally insane narcissists pinning their hopes (justifiably) on immortality in the public mind once they commit their crimes and are shuffled off this mortal coil.

Think anyone will watch?

April 17, 2007

Depths of Journalistic Integrity

Filed under: Ethics,Popular Culture — Brutus @ 12:57 am

The Washington Post recently published a fairly lengthy article called “Pearls Before Breakfast” that answers a question no one in particular was asking: would subway commuters take better notice of music performed in a subway hallway if the busker were a world-class concert artist? I’m late getting to this topic so there have already been plenty of bloggers offering their two cents. Of those I’ve read, none really speaks to my take on the subject, which is this: what on earth is The Washington Post doing staging its own news so that it can then report on it?

Media critics and laypersons alike have been complaining more bitterly of late that much of what the news media provides is utter garbage. Either reports are full of conjecture rather than fact because the rush to publish requires stories be told before enough time has elapsed to do the necessary legwork or reports are outright lies served up by those in government or business who have an interest in spinning stories to their own purposes and managing the perception of the public. The Post article is an example of manufactured news, and despite the interest it has generated, the article deserves heaps of scorn for being stunt, a staged event, created by an ethically bankrupt institution to provide falsely provocative content.

If the idea of putting a concert artist into the subway to play for tips had been hatched by, say, researchers at the sociology department at the University of Maryland, perhaps it would have been better conceived and more methodologically rigorous. The research paper that came out of it might have offered some worthwhile answers, but again, who is asking the questions? In truth, just as we have political theater, we now also have news theater, which is why in the modern day the media is so self-absorbed in reporting on itself and selling its product through the power of celebrity reporters. Where is the journalistic integrity that would forestall the circus-like salesmanship described above, and where are the voices of reason taking the Post to task over its blunder?

April 6, 2007

Frauds Perpetrated on Children

Filed under: Content-lite,Ethics — Brutus @ 2:44 pm

Easter is almost here, and what’s foremost in most of our minds? Chocolate, the Easter Bunny, jelly beans, colored eggs, plastic green grass, brunch, bonnets, and if we have time to get around to it, there’s also this little thing called the Resurrection. For the purposes of this post, I don’t really care about the abandonment of religious meaning underlying many holidays or the coopting of religious holidays by commercial interests. I’m really interested in the dominant icons associated with holidays and fairy tales, especially those that we encourage children to believe up until they’re no longer gullible enough to sustain those beliefs.

Christmas has Santa, Easter has the Easter Bunny, St. Patrick’s Day has leprechauns, and Valentine’s Day has Cupid. Charles Schultz made a run at establishing the Great Pumpkin for Halloween, but it’s unclear just how subversive he was being. Children also believe in the tooth fairy, unicorns, the sandman, and all sorts of talking animals (thanks, Disney!). What connection these characters have with their respective holiday or activities is frequently confused, especially in the mind of a child.

As adults, we’ve mostly left all these beliefs behind (except, um, that one). Yet we perpetrate substantial frauds on children by encouraging them to believe in these magical characters. What we find charming and innocent in a child’s willingness to believe may not be so innocent on inspection, and many parents feel some sadness when their children no longer believe in, for instance, Santa. I remember my own mixed emotions when I “found out” about Santa: there was a sort of elation that I was growing up and thinking more like an adult and resentment that my parent had lied to me for no apparent reason. The clumsy steps we took to hide the truth from our younger siblings was laughable in hindsight, except that it’s also a little tragic. My transition wasn’t traumatic, but I’ve been hearing more and more stories from resentful adults who were confused as children as to why, for example, on Easter, when we ostensibly celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, we also have some mute, human-sized bunny running around hiding eggs. (And where do the eggs come from? Other bunnies? It really is that confusing to a kid.) The really terrifying story is the fundie kid who comes home after school to an empty house and believes he/she was left behind when the rest of the family was “raptured up” to heaven.

Kids’ imaginations are terrifically fertile ground. In fact, their brainwave patterns up to the age or 8 or 10 (or thereabouts) indicate that they exist in a waking dream state such as adults experience in sleep. That makes them incredibly vulnerable to manipulation. Yet we have these traditions, shifting slightly but mostly deepening over time, where we smile approvingly on children’s adoption of our deceptions. And for whose enjoyment?

April 4, 2007

Malicious Ecophagy

Filed under: Environment,Ethics,Science — Brutus @ 11:01 pm

I recently stumbled upon a really nasty threat in emergent science called “malicious ecophagy” that probably should have gone onto my earlier post called Steamrollers except for the fact that this threat doesn’t have the slow-moving inevitability of those I identified before. Rather, ecophagy (the consumption of the ecosphere) would most likely happen suddenly. The threat stems from the race in nanotechnology to create an assembler, a nanobot able to take apart material at the molecular level and reassemble it. Think of replicator technology contemplated in Star Trek fiction for a possible application.

The promise of such technology, which is partly the impetus for developing it, is the hope that, using nanotechnology, we would be able, for instance, to create corn from lawn clippings or clean up a toxic dump by merely rearranging the molecules. It could potentially be the end of want. An array of nanomedicine applications are also contemplated. The potential danger, however, is that if we manage to create an assembler, and if we can’t turn off the molecular transformation, the assembler could then go on to recreate itself ad infinitum until a swarm of biovorous nanobots have literally consumed the totality of biomass and reduced it to dust or some sort of gray goo. It has suitably been termed the “gray goo problem.” Science fiction has already suggested the problem, though of extraterrestrial origin, of an all-consuming biomass in the movie The Blob.

This passage from K. Eric Drexler’s Engines of Creation describes the issue further:

Though masses of uncontrolled replicators need not be gray or gooey, the term “gray goo” emphasizes that replicators able to obliterate life might be less inspiring than a single species of crabgrass. They might be superior in an evolutionary sense, but this need not make them valuable.

The gray goo threat makes one thing perfectly clear: we cannot afford certain kinds of accidents with [self-]replicating assemblers. Gray goo would surely be a depressing ending to our human adventure on Earth, far worse than mere fire or ice, and one that could stem from a simple laboratory accident.

This spells out the stakes fairly succinctly. Yet in their hubris, scientists appear to be confident that they can avoid the problem, and research continues apace because there is no regulatory agency to oversee and halt the development of potentially dangerous technologies. Indeed, weaponization of nanotechnology is virtually assured. It reminded me that in the dawning atomic age, the creators of the first atomic bomb considered the possibility that detonating a device might accidentally ignite the atmosphere. The danger was calculated to be sufficiently low, though, that the gamble appeared to be worth it. (We’re certainly comfortable with that particular doomsday scenario in hindsight.)

Everyone to whom I’ve described the gray goo problem has responded fairly simply that, well, we just shouldn’t go there then. We don’t want an “oops” we can’t recover from. That’s also the argument made by Bill Joy in his lengthy article in Wired titled Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us. His preferred term is “relinquishment,” and he includes genetic engineering and robotics in a triumvirate of “GNR” (Genes-Nanotech-Robots) technologies that we should give up on before we outwit ourselves and alter something irrevocably. Joy’s credentials and scientific acumen are far better than anything I can bring to bear on the issue, and I rather trust his conclusions (and recommend reading the article). However, despite a few good examples of historical relinquishment, I have my doubts that we can muster the necessary humility and restraint to avoid delving ever deeper into the Pandora’s Box of science and technology. Like the so-called shot heard around the world, that “oops” muttered in a lab somewhere could be a signal event.

March 15, 2007

Why Bother With Civic Involvement?

Filed under: Ethics,Navel Gazing — Brutus @ 5:34 pm

In response to comments by nobody.really in a previous post, I’ve been pondering (not very actively, I admit) reasons why I bother to participate in civic affairs. More specifically, I mentioned that I perform in public concerts, usually during the summer months, mostly without remuneration. He offered that I must derive some sort of satisfaction out of the activity, whereas I characterized it as work done at my own expense and sacrifice without much satisfaction.

I’m familiar with the twisted logic that altruism is really a mask for self-interest, but I don’t really want to argue that point. Nor do I want to make mistake of characterizing charitable work done for the public good as backbreaking labor. Both of those approaches are hyperbole. Rather, the question that needs to be addressed, in my view at least, is why bother making any contributions to the greater public good if no tangible reward accrues, be it financial or public esteem or self-esteem or what-have-you? My conclusion is simple: I’m not sure.

Being a musician is frequently a relatively anonymous activity. Whatever hours are spent onstage performing, multiply that by four or more for rehearsal time (in ensemble) and another two or three for practice time (alone in the studio or at home). It’s clearly a financial disincentive to bother unless you’re already among the relatively few superstars who are well paid and adored by the public. Rank and file musicians labor entire careers in nameless obscurity for the art, lost in the sea of faces on stage or hidden in the orchestra pit, and lots of them give away their time and effort to free concerts.

Why do I do it, specifically? I guess I’ve internalized the idea that if I don’t contribute my skills to underfunded (or simply unfunded) activities, and others similarly withhold their participation, then those activities simply won’t exist anymore. It’s already happening, in fact. Lots of municipalities used to approve, say, $100K for a summer park band, and because there are all manner of administrative bills to be paid first, little of that money went to performers. But it’s like sponsoring a parade or a fireworks display on July 4th, which is to say, it’s a public good that creates community and involves citizens in public affairs on some level. Well, lots of municipalities are now running sizeable budget deficits, what with prisons and schools and infrastructure, among other things, gobbling up chunks by the millions. So what goes unfunded? The summer band. Those administrative costs never do go away, so even if people were willing to show up totally for free, the event still won’t happen. The public tends increasingly to stay away, too, huddled in the living room around the TV or in the den at the computer. Live performance can scarcely compete with electronic media, and it’s slowly ebbing away.

In a wider sense, civic involvement is an aspect of being a good citizen. In childhood, I earned Boy Scout merit badges for Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the Nation, and Citizenship in the World. I no longer remember much about them, but the ideal has stayed with me, namely, that participation in different levels of the public arena is a worthwhile and necessary part of our being — even when (perhaps especially when) it required some sacrifice. For instance, I also participate in a free speech forum by researching and delivering speeches (topics may be political or merely general public interest). There is some gratitude and appreciation that comes my way, sure, but it’s all out of proportion (underwhelming) compared to the three months of preparation I do to be able to speak knowledgeably and without wasting the audience’s time. To the climbers among us, it’s a futile and quaint notion to bother investing time and effort for others’ enjoyment or edification. The controlling question is always “What’s in it for me?” My answer is “nothing” — at least not directly. The idea of being a community, society, or civilization means collective action toward the public good balanced against individual freedom from burdensome obligation. In my view, we’ve strayed pretty far toward one side of the continuum. My guess is that you can guess which one.

February 7, 2007

Problem, AND it’s A-GONe

Filed under: Blogosphere,Election 2008,Ethics — Off Colfax @ 7:24 pm

(The below is my more detailed response to Robert’s high-traffic posts on the subject. Crossposted from Left Off Colfax.)

Well, Amanda Marcotte definitely is fulfilling her main aspirations these days. First, getting hired onto the Edwards ’08 campaign is probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever read. (And her campaign co-blogger, Melissa McEwan of Shakespeare’s Sister, is one of the more interesting flaming liberals on my reading list.)

Second, she’s caused one heck of a ruckus over the last two days.

Now, before I go any further, let me state a few things right off the bat. I don’t like Amanda. I don’t like her writing style. I don’t like her political stance. I don’t like her language choices. I don’t like her rabid anti-Y-chromosomal rants. I really hate her constant rushes to judgment and her over-the-top-and-back-again in-your-face attitude.

But this post isn’t complaining about what she wrote about the accused members of the Duke lacrosse team. That’s the whole freedom of speech, civil-liberties absolutist in me. She has the right to say what she wants to say on her own forum. C’est la vie.

But no. She went and deleted what she had written after she caused all kinds of controversy. (Here. Here. Here. Here, plus her deleted comments. Here again. Here for a change. Oh, and here too.)

And that, to me, is a cardinal sin in the blogosphere. If you can’t stand by what you have written about a topic, that’s one thing. Hells, that’s what HTML’s strikethrough command is for: getting rid of stuff you can no longer support by the evidence and facts. But you bloody well leave it up! No cleaning. No purging. No memory-hole. No jack-all deletions. No clarification of “official stance” that is a complete and total rewrite. Nothing. You leave it, you strike it through, you update on the bottom or the top of the post, and you leave it so you can go back to it and say “My god, what a frickin’ idiot I was for writing that!”

But this happened on her blog. Not the Official Edwards Presidential Campaign 2008 Blog. So no, she shouldn’t be fired for it. What you do on your own time should never affect your job. (Again. Civil liberties absolutist.) Particularly when it happens before you officially start the job in question.

But if there’s a single whiff of any whitewash emanating from her job site… Then we rise in arms for termination. If Edwards doesn’t cave in to Bill Donahue’s clarion call for her head on a silver platter, that is. And if he doesn’t cave…

We will be watching.

January 23, 2007

Is the Vatican a Rogue State?

Filed under: Criminal Justice,Ethics — Brutus @ 3:38 pm

This link to a story in Spiegel International Online offers this juicy first paragraph:

The Vatican’s attorney general Nicola Picardi released the astounding statistic at the start of 2007: The tiny nation’s justice department in 2006 had to contend with 341 civil and 486 criminal cases. In a population of 492, that measures out to 1.5 cases per person — twenty times the corresponding rate in Italy.

How ironic is it that Vatican City has the highest per capita crime rate? Apparently, a lot of it is the result of pilgrims, tourists, and visitors to St. Peter’s Cathedral. And besides, Vatical City is completely surrounded by Italy, which has developed a reputation in recent years for brazen pickpocketing and victimization of visitors.

December 9, 2006

Watch the hands, people

Filed under: Ethics,Race and Racism — Tuomas @ 10:30 pm

There has been lot of back and forth on affirmative action in this site. As an outside observer, I have noted something:

Affirmative action is supported from the premises of:

1) Whites (or white men) are historically privileged

2) Blacks are historically and currently oppressed [added the word currently as an edit]

3) In addition, other groups are sometimes supported with the point 1 while replacing “Black” with something else

4) Whites, and the government, are responsible for fixing points 1 and 2.

Okay. Let’s assume this is true (to some extent, I think it is). Now, the government, and thus whites via proxy are going to compensate this to Blacks.

This compensations is called “affirmative action”, or “positive discrimination”. It is argued that it doesn’t hurt Whites as a group. This is strictly speaking true, depending on how one defines group.

Let me demonstrate this with an example (names via this (pardon the male-centredness, for the sake of example).

Now that the audience is led to believe that whites and the government are going to give something to blacks to compensate for past and present injustices, and this is exactly what the audience thinks they are seeing. Watch the process:

***

Jake, Connor, Tanner, Wyatt and Cody decide that they feel bad for treating DeShawn like crap , and decide to compensate this to DeShawn.

As a result, Fred who was in the closest competition with DeShawn loses his place to DeShawn.

DeShawn is happy, Jake, Connor, Tanner, Wyatt and Cody are happy, having shown their generous nature to each other and DeShawn. Only Fred is not happy.

Even if Fred agrees that DeShawn should be helped, but wonders what exactly Jake, Connor, Tanner, Wyatt and Cody gave up, and why should he be the only one who suffers, they can answer:

“Sorry Fred, we already did our part. We decided that DeShawn should get your place. Now shut up and don’t be so darn entitled.”

***

The fact that neither the government, Jake, Connor, Tanner, Wyatt or Cody haven’t actually given anything of their own is obscured in this process. The collective moral responsiblity — that is established in premises 1 and 2 — is externalized to inviduals who are then scapegoated for the whole process should they dare to complain.

The system is perfect. Only a tiny minority of whites have to actually give up something, while the vast majority of whites get to feel moral about it. And they also get to feel morally superior to the tiny minority who actually have to do something if they are not being “team players” about it.

Or, in leftspeak:

Anti-affirmative action lawsuits are not put forward by whites who would have gotten in to a selective college if only affirmative action didn’t exist. They’re put forward by whites who have such a strong sense of entitlement that they can’t admit they failed to gain admission because, on the merits, they didn’t deserve admission.

Add to this the fact that the cost is also externalized to Asians.

Added: In the surface, Affirmative Action is is about giving “points”. This is a smokescreen, the points can be adjusted just as needed. They are the acraba dabra of a magician. The only thing that changes hands in the real world are the college admissions of Fred (or Ling) and DeShawn.

[edited to make the thing clearer and addendums]

[fixed the allegory]

December 4, 2006

Jose Padilla Update

Filed under: Current Events,Ethics,Politics — Brutus @ 6:53 pm

I blogged before about Jose Padilla, who has been detained since 2002 as an “enemy combatant” until earlier this fall when he

was added as a defendant in a terrorism conspiracy case already under way in Miami. At the time, the Supreme Court was weighing whether to take up the legality of his military detention — and thus the issue of the president’s authority to seize an American citizen on American soil and hold him indefinitely without charges — when the Bush administration pre-empted its decision by filing criminal charges against Mr. Padilla.

The quote above is from a December 4 article in the New York Times.

My prior concern was with Padilla’s being held without charge and the court’s refusal to review this denial of civil rights. Padilla is a U.S. citizen. My new concern (considering the old one was obviated by both the court and the Bush Administration) is that during his detention, Padilla was held in isolation and deprived not only of society (other than his interrogators) but of sensory stimulation. According to the New York Times article,

his cell was electronically monitored and his meals were passed to him through a slot in the door … windows were blackened, and there was no clock or calendar; and … he slept on a steel platform after a foam mattress was taken from him, along with his copy of the Koran.

Further, when he was taken from his cell for dental care, he wore noise-blocking earphones, blacked-out goggles, and manacles at the ankles and wrists. Although military apologists insist that he was provided food, clothing, shelter, sleep, and medical care, thus treated humanely, that standard is such a low threshold that over the course of several years the logical result was realized: Padilla was rendered unfit to assist in his own defense and is unconvinced that his attorneys are actually on his side and not merely another interrogation technique. In short, his captivity was so torturous and inhumane that he is a ruined man.

I cannot fathom a compelling state interest in ruining people in this manner. Since Padilla’s ordeal began, we have revised our policies and laws to legalize (though not legitimize) torture and detention and in the process absolved Padilla’s captors of any liability for their actions. This is just one case; and as with Abu Ghraib, there is plenty of reason to believe that many, many other cases that haven’t drawn public scrutiny are occurring as well. And the response of the American people? Very little. In our failure to protest and agitate against such awfulness committed in our names, we give tacit consent. Indeed, many people believe that Padilla is merely an example of the collateral damage necessary to prosecute the war on terror and further believe that useful intelligence can be obtained with such tactics. I remain utterly unconvinced any good can come from torture. Our government’s abandonment of humane treatment of prisoners (among other things) speaks to the growing power of the police state already upon us.

Cross-posted at The Spiral Staircase.

November 28, 2006

Mum Microwaves Baby

Filed under: Ethics — Daran @ 6:37 pm

Allegedly:

Mom China Arnold, 26, stands accused of aggravated murder after bringing her dead infant daughter, Paris, to a hospital, with a “high body temperature”. The woman was arrested, and later released.

“We have reason to believe, and scientific evidence to support, that a microwave oven might have been involved in the death of this child,” Montgomery County Coroner’s Office Director Ken Betz is quoted as saying

My immediate thoughts, beyond a general sense of tragedy, are to wonder what the actual effects would be. Obviously one effect would be the same heating that results (eventually) in cooking. The temperature is raised rapidly to a depth of several centimetres through direct microwave action. Heat then conducts inward.

Unlike a meat joint, a living body will attempt to compensate. However an infant’s ability to do so is limited. Even in adults, the brain is vulnerable to even a small rise in temperature. I think death would be rapid, and would occur long before the flesh began to cook.

It’s not clear to me what other effects there would be, that might distinguish such a death from other causes. For example, it’s not clear whether the baby would suffer a skin burn, assuming microwaving no more than sufficient to cause death.

It’s also not clear to me how one would go about testing any hypotheses about the likely effects (other than the obvious unethical ways). I would be very concerned if someone were to be convicted on the basis of untested conjecture.

November 17, 2006

Conservatives Generous and Full of Love, Liberals Grasping and Cold, Says Author

Filed under: Economics,Ethics — Robert @ 2:50 pm

OK, I’m just kidding about the headline. But Syracuse University professor Arthur Brooks (the guy who opined that the liberal-conservative birth divide was going to doom liberalism) has a book coming out that argues conservatives (specifically, religiously-believing, nuclear-family-dwelling, welfare-state-disliking conservatives) are the most generous Americans, in terms of charitable giving, volunteerism, and blood donation.

I’ve written before about this (but am not going to dig for the link, because I’m just going to say the same thing again) – assuming the professor’s analysis is correct, I suspect that the reason has to do with the differing view of human nature espoused by liberals and conservatives. Oversimplifying for the sake of pithiness (and if we can’t oversimplify for pithiness, what can we oversimplify for?), liberals believe that people are basically good and will take care of one another. Conservatives believe that people are basically heartless bastards who will kill orphans to harvest their organs if they have the opportunity.

So why the heck would that result in conservatives being more generous? Easy peasy: the psychology of the individual. A decent liberal sees a problem and thinks that society should do something, and further, assumes that someone will help (people are good), so “I don’t need to get personally involved”. A decent conservative sees a problem and thinks that the other callous pricks who comprise society will point and laugh, and so if anyone is going to help, “it’s gotta be me. ” Result: conservative check, liberal raincheck.

That’s my theory. What’s yours?

May 14, 2006

Gay Marriage; or We Are all Traditionalists

Filed under: Debate,Ethics,Human Rights,Philosophy,Politics — Adam Gurri @ 1:19 pm

Gay marriage is one of those issues, like abortion, where I generally cannot stand the pat-answers on either side.

I got thinking about this subject again because I saw the discussion on the "slipperly slope" argument that Ampersand linked to, using polygamy as the example here.

(more…)

April 23, 2006

Abu Ghraib and “What Are We becoming?!”

Filed under: Ethics,Free Speech,Human Rights,International Politics — Adam Gurri @ 3:20 pm

From Amp's recent link farm, I mosied over to this post.

This paragraph could have been downloaded from any given right wing blog over the last three years. Of course Abu Ghraib was bad (if we are allowing that it happened, and isn't just some kind of fiction), but Saddam Hussein/Iran/Hu Jintao/Soviet Russia was much, much worse, so quit yer bitching.

(…)China, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea are all dictatorships whose governments employ or employed various degrees of tyrannical means, including torture, in order to remain in power. They are not, however, considered role models for compliance with international human rights. No one points to China as a model for emulation in respect for human dignity.

(…)The United States, however, IS a model for human rights emulation. When states and governments look at the international system for a set of appropriate behaviors, they look first at the United States, then at the advanced European democracies and Japan. The United States is deeply identified with the international human rights regime that it took pains to construct in the post-war years and has maintained, with more or less success, since then. Thus, when the United States engages in torture, extra-legal detention, and murder of prisoners, it matters. A lot. In fact, it matters a lot more than what happens in Tehran or Pyongyang. If the United States can ignore human rights practice in dealing with those it declares its enemies, then any country can.

This is why the US deserves the criticism it receives on this point. We have the right to expect better from the United States, and, indeed, if we value human rights then we NEED to expect better from the United States. If the US doesn't take human rights law seriously, then no one will.

I find much to agree with in this post, except for what passes as an example of government-sanctioned human rights violations.

I understand criticism of the higher ups who allowed Abu Ghraib to happen in the first place.  But talking about it as though it were either sanctioned by our government, or even interrogational in nature, is I think unsupported by the evidence.

This wasn't about disciplined, overbearing officers beating information out of their prisoners.  This was a pack of uncontrolled young officers throwing a depraved party at their prisoners' expense.

What is more, they were exposed for what they did, and held accountable.  Not only are they no longer a part of our military, they are serving jailtime.

If anything, Abu Ghraib is a good example of what differentiates us from those regimes which we are often compared with.  Like them, we are human, and humans are capable of cruelty for their own selfish reasons.  Unlike them, when this cruelty is brought to the light of day, it is expected that the perpetrators will pay for what they have done, and their actions will be condemned.

As for things like Guantanamo Bay, or "extra-legal detention", there's a lot of conflicting evidence circulating around, and unlike Abu Ghraib, we don't have something as solid as a photograph to demonstrate one way or the other.  All we have are a pack of interest groups, be they political critics, or the military trying to cover for itself, either way, I haven't seen too much to inspire confidence in any particular diagnosis of the situation.

But there are plenty of critics making their arguments in prominent public places none the less, and that in it of itself puts pressure on our politicians and seperates us by yet another degree from the tyrannical regimes of the world. 

April 13, 2006

Comedy Central will not air an image of Mohammed

Filed under: Ethics — Adam Gurri @ 8:44 pm

And here I thought I was being paranoid.

This isn't CNN or the New York times trying to posture as being respectable.  This is Comedy Central,  which will allow an animation of Jesus defacating all over the president, but won't allow a scene with Mohammed handing someone a football helmet.

Am I the only one who thinks this is rather ridiculous?  Well, I'm gonna put this little fella up whenever I hear about something like this.

 Mohammed

March 30, 2006

To Be Or Not To Be (Anonymous)

Filed under: Blogosphere,Ethics,Navel Gazing — Off Colfax @ 11:21 am

Ah yes. That does seem to be the question these days, does it not?

This started percolating in my brain the very moment I read Garance Franke-Ruta's post over on TAPPED on her personal policy to no longer link to bloggers that post under a pseudonym. Which, come to think of it, includes my own humble little efforts. (Of course, all this effort is to disguise my true identity as Captain Bloggzorz Of Teh Blogosphere!)(NSFW) (Sorry, but I couldn't resist revealing my source.)

Here it is, in her own words, snipped for space reasons:

First, let me lay out the problem. Unlike reformers' worries about soft money dumps into online candidate advertising, which remain theoretical, bloggers whose work for candidates or committees is undisclosed have already proved nettlesome. Indeed, undisclosed political consultants writing blogs to influence public opinion, often negatively, about a candidate and to attack the coverage of the traditional, independent media have been with us for at least two years.

. . .

Further, the disclosure problems in the blogosphere are so broad and diverse in nature that they would seem to require addressing on their own apart from the FEC rules, which, even if broadened slightly to include disclosure by paid campaign consultants, would have no impact on the larger problem. For example, DailyKos's "Adam B," who decided to use me as a straw man last week in his quest to generate online opposition to H.R. 4900, is, I learned over the weekend, Adam Bonin, the attorney representing leading liberal bloggers from DailyKos, Atrios, and MyDD, which have conducted a lobbying campaign against that bill.

. . .

With power comes responsibility. A happy solution to the vexing problem of inadequate online disclosures was suggested to me by a blogger friend who also routinely publishes pieces in major newspapers. This is his personal policy, and I now adopt it as my own:

I will no longer link to any writer who does not disclose his identity and affiliations in an obvious place or manner, or reply to online commenters who decline to disclose their names.

In so doing, I will be extending the same standards this publication uses for publishing and replying to letters to the editor to the online comments, which have functionally replaced letters to the editor to a great extent, and the same standard this publication uses for all other sources to online ones. (This won't be site policy, just mine.) No publication considers a truly anonymous source — one whose identity is unknown to both reporter and readers — a usable one for any purpose other than further inquiry. And yet reporters, including myself, have routinely cited the writings of pseudonymous commentors, in grave violation of that standard.

To me, this sounds like painting every single one of us with the same broad brush. Franke-Ruta has had some truly pathetic experiences with some of the pseudonymous bloggers out there, and I can't fault her for being a mite peeved at them for that. In fact, I can understand it completely, as there are some truly unmitigated idiots out there. Some of those idiots might even be on the payroll of a political organization, at that. (I wish I was.)

And yet, not all of us are. Just as Atrios said, there are perfectly valid reasons for not wanting to put your actual name in connection with your thoughts and analyses. As far as my reasons, it is very simple.

We participate in a world that has almost-instantaneous access to information of all kinds. All it takes is a name, possible place of residence, and ten dollars to this website and, just like magic or high technology, you can access pretty much everything of importance to the average muckraker. Which means that, for those of us who have uncommon last names, we are fully exposed to anyone and everyone with the willpower to expend the effort and resources to find it.

And yes. I am listed in that site's database. The entire search took me one minute, and all I used was my last name and my state of residence. Not only that, but with a wider search using information that can be gleaned from that other blog I write, it spits out my entire family for three generations. That, as they say in the security world, is an extreme and unacceptable level of risk. And it is one I have already fallen victim to.

Back in the days before the now-common http://, we had local bulletin board systems which, thinking about the genealogy of the concept, are more closely related to sites like Daily Kos and RedState than anything else. All it took to access most of them was your modem and their phone number. Registration was usually instant, and almost always free. And I, in my youthful naivety, posted my comments using my real name.

There is a technical term for doing something like that: WHOOPSIE!

Within 6 months, I had enough difficulties to make me physically move, change and delist my phone number, and cancel my bank account. I received many threats upon my person, some of which were considered credible; numerous credit cards were issued in my name; and I received at least sixty indecent solicitations from complete strangers. Regretfully none of the latter were from the gender I'm attracted to, and the subsequent rejections were, more likely than not, one of the sources of the physical threats. And the end result of all this was a declared bankruptcy at the age of 19, as this was before the concept of strong identity-theft regulations came into being.

All of this was due to a single bored hacker who decided s/he didn't like what I wrote.

The old adage about the burned hand teaching best is probably one of the most accurate sayings we have in the English language. And mine was not only burned, but shoved into a thermonuclear reactor with the resulting ashes scattered upon salted earth.

Ever since that point, I have never revealed any facet of my actual identity in a public-viewable forum, and been very careful with the various private websites I have had access to over the years. Period. Ad infinitum. Ad astra. Ad nauseum. Until the ends of the world. Omayn. I have even taken the steps of creating a vast multitude of free e-mail accounts, with at least one per on-line identity I have created over the years. I go even further and not have those accounts gathered by a mailreader and instead go to each of the websites manually. (Yes, bookmarks count as manual input. At least in my view.)

Will I do so again at some point in time? Possibly. But the only reason I will break this rule is if I have a moral or contractual obligation to do so, such as a by-line in a newspaper or magazine article or taking a paid position in a political organization. And that is one of the hard-and-fast rules of the worlds of media and politics: Admit who you are. Duncan Black remained anonymous well past that point in time, being a paid fellow of Media Matters For America while still being pseudonymous, thereby being in violation of that ethical rule for that specific length of time.

Yet for us, the average-joes of the Internet, we do not have that moral obligation of full identity disclosure. Only if and/or when our action, words, and ideas cause a definitive impact on the life and livelihoods of other people should the rule of full disclosure apply, as should have been the case in the Thune blogger case as reported in this Personal Democracy Forum piece. Or the cases that Mrs. Franke-Ruta cited in the paragraphs I blockquoted from her post.

A vast majority of us are not paid attack dogs. Nor are we all libelous plotters, spewing out half-truths and total fictions upon an unsuspecting population.So until our blogging patterns fall under the moral requirements for full disclosure, let us maintain the presumption of innocence for pseudonymous bloggers.

After all, some of us actually have reasons to separate our public work from our private lives. And if a certain blogger (for that is what she is, in addition to her dead-tree-form writing) cannot understand this concept, then perhaps she should take a closer look at the medium she is participating in.

March 29, 2006

American vs. European Social Models

Filed under: Blog Status,Debate,Ethics,Human Rights — Brutus @ 10:23 pm

Update: This post continues to draw traffic even after five years and despite this group blog being abandoned. It is cross-posted at The Spiral Staircase, which is my personal blog and is still active. Feel free to comment either place.

Original post: The comment by Bazzer about flattened tax structures, my rejection of the idea, and Adam Gurri’s invitation to expand on the topic prompts me to describe more fully why I reject Reagan’s success in flattening the tax structure — a process that continues unabated today. Let me start by contrasting the American and European social models, albeit briefly.

I attended a lecture last month by T.R. Reid called the “European Social Model.” That term refers succinctly to the welfare state, which in Europe has none of the negative connotations it does in the U.S. High tax rates in European support a variety of human services, including socialized medicine, unemployment insurance, welfare, and free public education through university. Although the specific levels of support vary among European states, Europeans are justifiably proud of their collective accomplishment in caring for each other and creating a humane social contract. Recent uprisings in France over employment rules make a great deal of sense from within that context, though from an American perspective the agitators appear positively insane.

In the U.S., considering our history of tax revolt, we categorically flee from the idea of socialized anything. Nonetheless, we have socialized education (through high school), socialized defense (we should go back to calling it the Dept. of War, IMO), socialized roads, and socialized medicine in the form of Medicare/Medicaid. Levels of support and benefit for human services are considerably lower in the U.S. compared to Europe, and our overall tax rates are lower. It’s more of a continuum than a toggle switch.

However, I doubt anyone in the U.S. could be justifiably proud that we frankly allow our fellow citizens to literally live on the street and die of exposure and/or starvation. In that respect, we are inhumane, and Europeans think we’re insane for allowing it to persist in what is arguably the richest country in the world. Of course, the rich and powerful, who stand to gain from tax rates lower than those in Europe and lower than U.S. tax rates from the 1960s, say, have succeeded in flattening the U.S. tax structure. What used to be a fairly progressive structure (high earners paid a high percentage) has moved incrementally toward a regressive structure (low earners pay a higher percentage when various penalties are factored in, such as the inability to exploit tax loopholes for not having enough money, or Social Security taxes on all of one’s income instead of the first $84K only, or even sin taxes on alcohol and cigarettes).

The flabbergasting thing to me is that the poor have been convinced that possibility of hitting it big (winning the lottery or being a rapper, mostly), which only happens to a miniscule number of people, makes protecting immense wealth advantageous to them even when they don’t have it. Hope is kept alive — and the underclass with it. The range from top to bottom of the socioeconomic scale has been widening for 50 years in the U.S., whereas in Europe, except for a few royal and aristocratic families, it’s been narrowing.

Which model delivers better social justice? For my money, the European social model.

Blog at WordPress.com.