Police in my rear-view mirror

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No matter how much we contemplate our human ethical and moral systems, we don’t necessarily have rational control over which road our actions are going to take. A particular form of end-based ethics hits most of us when we have been driving a bit over the posted speed limit and we see a police car in our rear-view mirror, even if… Read more »

Private equity in the new tax world

Back in February I wrote a three-part series of posts about the abuses perpetrated by private equity (PE) takeovers of American businesses and their manipulation of the U.S. tax code for bad ends. A recent article in the Boston Globe by Evan Horowitz [1] describes how the shine is coming off PE investments, a welcome event, but Mr. Horowitz missed… Read more »

Telos: Seeking the “good end”

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“But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.” (Matthew 6:33-34 KJV) While many strains of philosophical and theological ethical thought lie roughly down a vector of deontology’s focus on rules… Read more »

Nuns, Gina Haspel and forgiving ourselves

On September 12, 2001, the day after the horrific act of terror in New York and Washington, the collective morality of the United States changed in regard to torture. Nearly seventeen years later, some people know this was a bad thing to do. And some people don’t. I’ve been experiencing severe déjà vu watching the confirmation hearings of Gina Haspel for CIA… Read more »

Primal morality and torture

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The morality of torture is back in the news with the confirmation hearings for Gina Haspel as director of the CIA, a woman with ties to post-9/11 secret rendition sites. In short, on September 12, 2001, the general moral consensus of the United States reverted to what I call “primal morality,” throwing out a couple of thousand years of rule-based,… Read more »

Are rules and duties sufficient?

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Deontology, which is the view that ethics and morality should be based on rules and duties, is the viewpoint that dominates a lot of conservative Christian and political thought, and it has been the focus of the last several posts in this series. [1] In its many forms and interpretations, deontology has long held a central role in ethical theory…. Read more »

Visualizing 7% investment risk

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A continuing theme in this blog is how the human brain is constantly evaluating probability and risk, and “acting” accordingly in controlling our bodies. Yet, most humans have a hard time visualizing what “risk” actually looks like. Even if we have a handle on the mathematics of probability, we can still have a hard time “seeing” it. Below is the… Read more »

If it’s not illegal…

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One of the great logic errors in ethical discussions is committed by people who shrug off a moral question by saying, “If it is not illegal, then it must be okay to do.” We see a lot of this thinking even among supposedly-conservative defenders of the current leadership in America. The corollary to that error tends to come from religious fundamentalists,… Read more »

Doing stupid stuff with the economy

President Obama’s foreign policy doctrine was famously characterized as “Don’t do stupid s— (stuff).” I won’t weigh in here on the current president’s foreign policy, but I can assert that his economic policy has clearly veered into “stupid stuff” territory. I spent the better part of twenty years in the academic publishing business attending far too many meetings of professors… Read more »