Sunday, January 14, 2018

Trump’s Tax Act and Rawls’s Difference Principle

There is no real controversy that the Republican tax act will redistribute wealth upwards. Its best friends have persuaded themselves that it will, however, benefit not only the Republican donor class, but the whole country. Most taxpayers will get some tax cut, at least in the first years. Yes, many will become medically uninsured. (That is, they will be “free to choose” between no insurance and insurance they could not begin to afford.) And the cost of health insurance will rise for everyone more than it otherwise would. Still, these and other disadvantages for the poor and middle class will, it is contended, be swamped by the tidal wave of new jobs and other benefits wrought through the economic magic of the supply side.  It will not be a trickle down, but a Niagara. People, especially politician people, can persuade themselves of the darndest things when those things coincide nicely with their self-interest. 

Let us throw all caution to the wind and make the assumption that this is not wishful fantasy, but reality. The tax cut will benefit the poorest among us. It might then seem that the act would pass muster under John Rawls’s difference principle, which permits measures that increase inequality so long as they benefit the least well off social class.  Would the tax cut in fact be just if it benefited everyone at least a little, but increased inequality substantially?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Attainder Clause Prohibits Senate Expulsion of Al Franken and Roy Moore.

And Even if it didn’t their expulsion would still be unconstitutional, and even if it weren’t it would still be a sin against sound political theory

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Status of Women in Anthony Trollope's Science Fiction

Although we are now well past the seventh decade of the 20th Century, there may still be some instruction in reflecting on the long-range predictions about the 1980s made by a leading light of English letters. Everybody knows George Orwell’s pessimistic vision 35 years in advance of 1984.  Anthony Trollope’s 1880 imaginings a century into the future are familiar to at best a thousandth as many.   Trollope was, however, a widely published and sometimes celebrated literary figure. There are more than twenty pages of mostly Trollope works on Amazon.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Proving Abandoned and Malignant Heart Murder: The Zarate Case

The gunshot death of Kathryn Steinle on San Francisco’s Pier 14 in July, 2015, became a chief exhibit in Candidate Trump’s “bad hombre” attacks against sanctuary cities. The claim that San Francisco would be a safer place were it not a sanctuary city is almost certainly wrong as is the claim that unlawful immigrants have a higher percentage of bad hombres than the general population. I will not, however, further discuss those well discussed issues.

My focus will be on the murder trial now under way and in particular on proof of the element of “malice aforethought” for second degree murder in California. (The charge is not first degree murder because it is not alleged that it met any of the special requirements of that offense“. . . a weapon of mass destruction, . . . poison, . . . torture,  . . . arson, rape, carjacking, …” California Penal Code Sec. 189.) The question in my mind is whether there is any way that the prosecution can prove murder beyond a reasonable doubt and whether this offense should even have been charged.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Not knowing what you are sure of: e.g. “π + e is irrational.”

It is as unexceptionable as philosophical principles ever are that we can claim to have knowledge if, in addition to belief, we have the proper sort of justification. It seems we can have excellent justification for believing that that π + e  is irrational, leading to high confidence that it is. Yet no mathematician would say that we know the sum is irrational. Why is that?

Thursday, August 24, 2017

What Antifa Gets Right, and Wrong

Antifa groups are not centrally organized and do not have established doctrines.  There are, however, common themes and practices that warrant some praise and some condemnation.

Monday, August 21, 2017