Beware of “Trust” as a Sign of Performance

Our class at HILR this week revolved around looking at a lot of data expressing trust in government as a potential explanation for the recent election results and some longer-range trends reflecting societal satisfaction. The survey documents were not available so I have to guess what kind of questions these data were based on. The labels on many of the figures suggest that the primary label was “government,” whether at the federal, state, or local level. For me, this means both the data and the discussion are suspect. The first problem comes in the use of trust as the operative concept. Trust is always some sort of assessment about the… Read More

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Piercing the Smithian Veil of Invisibility

One of the most familiar ideas bandied about in both academic and popular conversations is Smith’s “invisible hand.” This concept is almost solely responsible for the rise of libertarianism, in particular, and free market economics, in general. It simply removes all responsibility for one’s acts by arguing that some magical force guides uncoordinated acts toward providing some common good. No one need to bother worrying about anyone else: just act as if you were the only person in the world and you will be contributing to the benefit of everyone else. One consequence of thinking and acting in this way is a worldview of isolated, autonomous individuals, in the last… Read More

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High Crimes and Lies Misdemeanors

Shut your eyes for a minute and imagine living in a world without valid facts. If you are not sure what a fact is, you can stop right now because what follows will not make any sense. Well, maybe not. Read the next few paragraphs very carefully as I try to define “facts.” There are only two kinds of facts and they are very different from each other. The first are what the philosopher, John Searle, calls brute facts. They are verbal descriptions that correspond to some part of the real material world. I am a male is an example. So is that the Earth is about 93 million miles… Read More

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Another Step Down the Slippery Slope and Back Again

One of the headlines today pointed to a bill bubbling up in the US Congress that would require employees to provide genetic testing data on themselves and their families to their employers. It is tied in with wellness programs, which I do not quite understand. > House Republicans are proposing legislation aimed at making it easier for companies to gather genetic data from workers and their families, including their children, when they collect it as part of a voluntary wellness program. From the [NYTimes](https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/10/health/workplace-wellness-programs-health-genetic-data.html) today (3/11/2017). What I do understand is that this fits into a long slide that is taking the human beings that comprise most of the United… Read More

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