Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

On Inequality

May 11, 2017

Since at least, the bought and paid for result in Bush v Gore (2000), a saying of mine has been, “Never has an increase in public cynicism failed to benefit the Republican”.   Today, reading Joseph Stieglitz The Price of Inequality, he explains it in easy-to-understand terms.  On p. 120:

If the belief takes hold that the political system is stacked, that it’s unfair, individuals will feel released from the obligations of civic virtue… In the United States today and in many other democracies around the world, mistrust is ascendant.

The irony is that the wealthy who seek to manipulate the political system for their own ends welcome such an outcome.  Those who turn out to vote are those who see the political system working, or at least working for them. …

Moreover, if voters have to be induced to vote because they are disillusioned, it becomes expensive to turn out the vote; the more disillusioned they are the more it costs. But the more money that is required, the more power that the moneyed interests wield.  For those with money, spending to shape the political process is not a matter of civic virtue; it is an investment, from with they demand (and get) a return … That, in turn increases the sense of disillusionment that pervades the rest of the electorate and boosts the power of money further.

I’d leave it there but for an anecdote.  I’ve volunteered to make phone calls for John Wisniewski, NJ Assemblyman, and a candidate for the June 6 Democratic primary.     We use a robo-dialer with prepared lists of likely supporters or likely persuadable.  On the evening before the first TV debate we were using the latter.   I happened on a citizen whose standard reply was “they’re all crooks”.   Realize this is not an opportunity to debate with such an attitude, I offered that she might challenge herself and tune in and see how she felt after the debate.   “They’re all crooks” — Thank you for your time.

At the risk of disappointing my candidate and supporters, having watched the debate on Stockton University’s Facebook live stream, I’ll offer this judgement:  the least among the Democrats will be a much better public servant than any of the Republicans.    A bit of background. My support for Wisniewski is for his being the Assembly leader in the “Bridgegate” investigation, attempting to hold Gov Christie responsible for the actions of his immediate subordinates.   Wisniewski’s strongest points, in summary, are his plan to right the state’s troubled pension system, protect our environment, make good the Irene/Sandy recovery,  and reduce the influence of the state’s political county chairs.    I think he was unique among the four Democrats in calling for eliminating one of the state’s standard tests, the PARC, which he says the test-preparation costa the students and teachers 15 days/yr of valuable education time.  Depending which poll you follow, he’s either 2nd or 3rd, behind Phil Murphy, the latest Goldman Sachs gubernatorial candidate.   I’m feeling good about my choice.

So, bottom line, I’m invigorated by a Nobel Prize economist having illuminated the cause of political cynicism.   It’s important to me …






On the Papal Encyclical (almost)

June 20, 2015

I’ve promised myself to refrain from commenting on Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudauto Si”.  So, “what’s this?” you might ask. This is a comment on a comment: “The Pope’s Climate Error“, in today’s (6/20/15) NY TImes.

I was captivated by the title.   (in my print edition, it differs from the current on-line).  Further by the author’s credentials: philosophy, University of Toronto. And interestingly, his argument is honed with economic reality, and the pragmatic: don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the practical.

My plan was, and remains, to read the encyclical.   And the next thing I’ll do. Since i’m one of those influenced by the last word i’ve read, especially if it has a liberal bias,Heath’s argument is now my point of reference.   One might think from the title that Heath disagrees with Pope Francis in principle.   He doesn’t. In summary:

Here he reveals the limitations of his own approach.  The problem of climate change is so urgent that we cannot wait for people to come to some kind of spiritual agreement.

And that would be my only quibble with Heath’s argument.   Who says we have to wait for people to come to some kind of agreement.   Stephen Carter offered the way through this apparent dilemma.  paraphrasing, at best:  in the marketplace of ideas, let’s allow all value systems, and especially not discount those arriving from a faith perspective.

In Heath’s behalf, he offers the necessary philosophic (mathematical logic, really) perspective:

 This commitment can be found at the heart of the “polluter pays” principle, which Pope Francis also endorses.  Most people like this idea when it’s read forward: “If you pollute, then you should pay.”   They dislike it, however when read backward:  “if you’re willing to pay, then you should be allowed to pollute.”

I’d not spent much time with this idea, and now realize my discomfort in it.   Hearkening, back to my teaching geometry at Benedictine, in the curricula of the time, this is where elementary boolean logic was taught.   “If A, then B, does not imply if B then A”, and so forth.   I used to challenge the students, “How may you answer ‘At a fork in the road do you turn right or left?'”   Most students, thinking for a few seconds would choose either obvious answer, some would still be scratching their heads.   I don’t think anyone got “Yes” as a possible response.  There are many ways to phrase such a choice.  The challenge is recognizing similar forks in the logical road.

Heath has shown me one I failed to recognized.