Non-profit organizations and expanded political power

I wrote recently about how “creative accounting shenanigans” can enable people to get rich while avoiding taxes using 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organizations in ways outside of their intended purpose. Now we learn that the IRS has decided to reduce regulations on a related form of not-for-profit entity called a 501(c)(4), making it much easier to hide millions of dollars of “dark… Read more »

Blind spots and political third parties

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Two recurring themes of this blog are that you need a realistic understanding of how probability works in this world, and that evolution happens to you whether you believe in it or not. Political third parties are my example today of people who suffer because they don’t understand the math of probability, nor understand how the unintended effects of cultural… Read more »

Non-profit accounting for fun and profit

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I had an accounting professor many years ago who would teach the various “creative accounting” shenanigans that clever accountants could use to cover up nefarious business practices. However, he would always precede the lecture with the disclaimer, “Only those of you planning to become auditors should listen to this. The rest of you, close your ears.” I hereby give you… Read more »

Is Iowa government decentralization a fantasy?

Note: This is a cross-post of a story that first ran yesterday in the great Iowa blog Bleeding Heartland. I have lived in Iowa for almost 20 years of my life in total, over several tenures, and for the life of me, I still can’t understand why the voters of the state allow the degree of governmental centralization that exists… Read more »

Why be ethical?

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I once viewed the assertion that we should all aspire to be ethical was a no-brainer, a universally-held social norm. I don’t believe so anymore. The election of a demonstrably-unethical businessman as president of the United States in 2016, supported despite his very public immorality by the most visible conservative, self-described religious voices, put the final nail in that coffin…. Read more »

Four economic “games” and higher employee wages

There is a lot of talk this summer about why wages in many industries seem stubbornly resistant to rising, even though we are nearly at full employment, and especially in places like central Iowa. [1] In this post, I will take a different whack at the problem through the lens of economic game theory and probability. In short, we appear… Read more »

“Signaling” our way out of an ethical dilemma

I have asserted in earlier posts about “Why good people disagree” that the human inter-brain “moral conversation” is likely one of biochemical probability evaluation. It is the end result of hundreds of thousands of “moral evaluator” brain neurons, representing the “rules” parts of the brain, the “good ends” parts of the brain, the “empathy” parts of the brain and the… Read more »

Your moral probability

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When encountering an in-your-face moral dilemma, say the imprisoning of refugee children apart from their parents at the southern U.S. border, you can likely predict which classic ethical justification certain people are going to throw out first. Some people will first speak of the damage done to the children, letting their “empathy flag” fly high. Others will shout, “But the… Read more »

Constantine, Putin, Trump and the co-opting of religion

The Australian kangaroo and the American white-tailed deer are said to have evolved to dominate a very similar ecological niche. Both comprise the greatest number of large, undomesticated, plant-eating mammals on their respective continents, and both are amazingly adaptable to the pressures of human appropriation of the land. They are both, however, less adaptable to the threat of the automobile…. Read more »