Monthly Archives: March 2018

A legislator’s guide to tax reform

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The Iowa state legislature is back at the table trying to tackle tax reform for the umpteenth time. Prior business tax preferences have not had their anticipated effect of raising total revenues. Indeed, the total cash available for crucial government spending has fallen well short of the estimates of the Republican-dominated revenue prediction team for the last several years. So,… Read more »

Zeno’s paradox and the infinitesimal

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In a recent post I wrote about the split among neuroscientists between the “determinists” and the “compatibilists.” The former see choice/free will/volition as an illusion created by our brains, while the latter see an active role for our “minds” in determining our future actions, although not necessarily as the “master decision-maker” that our personal “homunculus” often perceives. In that post… Read more »

The “double taxation” myth

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The debate over the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 resurrected a lot of conflicted thinking about what a corporation is and is not. It has become a common talking point that corporate profits are “double taxed,” first at the corporate level and then as part of the owner’s income. This particular code revision has expanded this theme in… Read more »

Ethics or morality – Is there a difference?

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‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – – that’s all.’ —Lewis Carroll, Through… Read more »

The power of “magic spells”

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I don’t believe in magic. But I have become convinced that some very real psychological state exists that can only be a “magic spell” without the magic. I have watched friends and relatives become so enraptured with Donald Trump that they have cast aside many of their most treasured religious and cultural norms in order to attest to the man’s… Read more »

Free will, determinism, and “the nudge”

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Over thousands of years, humans have placed a lot philosophical and theological baggage on the overlapping concepts of free will, choice and volition. We have developed elaborate systems of ethics and religions to articulate “the right” choices to be selected from the array of options open to us daily. Yet there remains a split among neuroscientists as to the nature… Read more »

North Korea and Game Theory

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A recent post on this blog noted that the current North Korea nuclear showdown is not far afield from what I call “the first ethical dilemma.” This dilemma dates from the time in our distant hunter-gatherer past when our emerging extended-family “mini-civilization” was threatened by the encroachment of another extended family group into “our space.” I presented a 2×2 decision matrix… Read more »

The first ethical dilemma

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The discipline of Ethics is not really about “good actions versus bad actions.” Murder is bad. Got it. The most interesting and vexing ethical questions are those issues where good people disagree about basic issues of human volition (i.e., “choice” or “free will”). And beneath the conscious volition there are different parts of the human brain doing probabilistic survival planning, with… Read more »

Health insurance at Fox News

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There has long been a wide gap between the conservative view of “the insurance I want” versus “the insurance I want you to have.” You would think that some of the “free market” bastions in American media would institute “message-appropriate” forms of health insurance for their own employees, but you would be wrong. I have made several inquiries regarding the… Read more »