Thursday, November 29, 2018

Looking for a Cover Artist

I am nearly finished with Legal Systems Very Different From Ours and am in search of a cover. There seems to be general agreement that my ideas for what to put on the cover, discussed in a previous post don't work, so I am looking for something better.

The book consists of thirteen system chapters, each of which looks at some legal system, past or present, plus additional thread chapters, each of which looks at some issue that runs through multiple systems. A late draft is webbed for comments and probably worth looking at for anyone who might consider designing a cover.

Another Economics Joke

I have a very small collection of economics jokes, not jokes about economics but jokes that teach economics. It just occurred to me that there is another I should add:

An economics professor is in a car driven by one of his students; she asks him to put on his seat belt.

"Why do you want me to put on my seat belt?"

"To make it less likely that you will be injured in an accident."

"Then why don't you take yours off?"

I got this one from Allen Sanderson, who teaches introductory economics at Chicago. It may, for all I know, be a true story.

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Eugenic Bogeyman

It looks as though some scientists in China have produced two infants from ova edited using Crispr. The objective was to disable a gene associated with vulnerability to AIDS. A good deal of the commentary on the report is negative, with talk of eugenics and risking the human gene pool and such. I find it hard to see much basis for such concern. There are obviously risks which the parents should have been, it is claimed were, informed of, but then there are risks to producing a child by the usual technology as well. 

I am particularly unsympathetic with the way in which “eugenics” is used as a bogey word, since it confuses two quite different things. Eugenics in the sense of some people deciding what children other people will have is a bad thing, especially when it involves some people deciding that other people will not be permitted to have children. Eugenics in the sense of couples trying to improve the quality of the children they have seems like a reasonable and unobjectionable activity. At the individual level it happens every time someone includes, in the choice of whom to marry, the consideration of what sort of children the proposed spouse will produce.

My favorite version of eugenics is the one described in an early Heinlein novel (Beyond This Horizon). It was a technology that let a couple select on both egg and sperm, thus choosing, among the children they could have, which ones they did have.

Comments? Any readers inclined to defend the arguments against this sort of technology?

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Pope Francis: A Conjecture

The central facts of the current Catholic crisis appear clear. By the time Francis became Pope, it was well known in Vatican circles that Cardinal McCarrick had engaged in extensive homosexual activity with young adult seminarians. The previous Pope had, on that account, restricted McCarrick's activities in a variety of ways, details of which are still controversial. When Francis became Pope whatever restrictions had been imposed were lifted and McCarrick became one of the Pope's chief advisers. Then ...
On July 19, The New York Times published an article based on the story of a man named James, whose last name was withheld. A New Jersey man whose uncle had known McCarrick since high school, James alleged that McCarrick had sexually abused him beginning at age 11. ... On July 27, 2018, Pope Francis ordered McCarrick to observe 'a life of prayer and penance in seclusion' and accepted his resignation from the College of Cardinals.

The obvious puzzle is how to explain this pattern of events. I offer the following conjectures:

1. Pope Francis, like many moderns, does not regard homosexual activity as morally different from heterosexual activity. His view is in that respect inconsistent with current Catholic doctrine and he has prudently concealed it.

2. Pope Francis believes that requiring clerical celibacy is a mistake. This view is inconsistent with current policy but not, as I understand the matter, with theological doctrine.
3. Pope Francis strongly disapproves of adult men having sex with children.

All three of these positions fit modern progressive attitudes, which which Francis seems largely in sympathy. They also explain his behavior. So long as McCarrick's offenses were limited to consensual sex with adults they appeared to Francis as insufficiently serious to justify restricting the activities of a talented priest with views on the church close to those of the Pope. Only when evidence of sex with a minor appeared did that change.

I am not a Catholic, am evaluating the situation from the outside. Readers with more information or insight are invited to comment.


Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Win One, Lose One

My prediction of the election outcome was wrong—it turned out about as the polls predicted. On the other hand, I got my preferred outcome, with the House controlled by one party, the Senate by the other, making it less likely that Congress would do things.

The one negative outcome was the defeat of Dana Rohrabacher. Fifty years ago he was a young libertarian troubador and babe magnet and a friend of mine. I have a verse from one of his songs at the beginning of my first book.

But he's seventy-one, so perhaps due for a rest.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Who Do I Expect To Win?

I expect that the polls will turn out to be wrong—but I do not know in which direction. Politics has changed enough in the past two years so that rules for predicting outcomes based on past experience, such as those for identifying likely voters, can no longer be trusted. 

If the polls are wrong in one direction, the Republicans hold the House and increase their majority in the Senate. If they are wrong in the other direction, they lose the house by a substantial margin, probably lose the Senate as well. We will have to wait and see.

Who Do I Want to Win?

It is the natural question to ask on the night before the election. The emotional answer is that I want the Republicans to do better than the polls predict. Humans naturally see the world as us vs them and while Trump doesn't fit very well in my picture of us, the Democrats are pretty clearly them. 

My rational answer, as before the previous election, is that I prefer a divided government, since things the government does are likely to make the world worse, not better. The polls suggest that the Democrats will end up in control of the House, the Republicans of the Senate. That means nothing will happen unless both sides agree to it, which at the moment does not seem likely. So it is probably the least bad outcome.

But I can't help remembering the story of someone explaining American politics to a group of visiting Russians:
In America, there are two parties, the evil party and the stupid party. I am a proud member of the stupid party. Once in a while, the two parties get together to do something that is both evil and stupid.

We call that bipartisanship.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Speaking Trips Next Year

I currently have plans to be on the east coast twice,  to speak at the annual ISFL get together in D.C. on January 19th and at Saint Vincent college in LaTrobe, PA, on March 13th. I don't think either event is open to outside guests, although I don't actually know. The reason for this post is that, since I am going to be flying across the country anyway, I could give a talk somewhere else in the area a day before or after at relatively little cost for either myself or my hosts. 

It occurred to me that there might be readers of my blog who would be interested in organizing something.