Sometimes a Fantasy Is All You Need: The NCAA Tackles COVID-19

A recent article in The New York Times illustrates the magical thinking that prevails in the NCAA, and indeed, throughout much of higher education, on the topic of the coronavirus:

When Kansas State opened the doors to its athletic facilities, welcoming its football players back to campus starting the first weekend in June, administrators breathed a sigh of relief once the first batch of coronavirus tests came back.

The first wave of athletes spent a week in quarantine before voluntary workouts, as all players were required to do, and the scorecard was pristine: 90 tests, zero positives.

Another six players straggled in a day or two later and were swabbed. Again, no positives.

Then by June 12, the final group of 24 arrivals–largely freshmen–was tested. But just a week later, Kansas State shut down its workouts until at least mid-July after two positive cases in that final group morphed into four and then eight before leaping to 14, as nearly half the team needed to be checked again.

With its announcements on Saturday, Kansas State became the first school from a Power 5 conference to shut down football activities. Two other Football Bowl Subdivision schools did the same after outbreaks among their athletes, with Houston making the decision on June 12 and Boise State on Monday.

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Epistemic and Ethical Justification: A Puzzle

Here’s a puzzle for the philosophers out there, a request for your intuitions.

  1. Suppose that we accept a minimal moral realism according to which moral propositions are bivalent on a correspondence theory of truth.
  2.  Now suppose that I’m epistemically justified in believing that p, where p is a moral prescription of some kind–an injunction to take a particular action. It doesn’t matter what the action is.

Puzzle: Does being epistemically justified in believing that p entail that I am morally justified in taking the action enjoined by the prescription? Or is the moral justification a separate issue? Put another way, is it coherent to say that I am epistemically justified in believing that p, but not morally justified in taking the action recommended by p? Continue reading

a puzzle and a solution regarding the rational ‘ought’

One might think that it being the case that X rationally ought to A (exhibit some action or attitude in response to relevant items) is a straight-forward function of the reasons that X has for/against A-ing. And one might think that the sort of normative reason that is relevant here is of the subjective or psychological sort (specifically a broadly cognitive mental state — e.g., a belief or a perceptual experience). One supporting thought for this last thought is that normativity is, at its core, the direct guidance of responses via rational causal tendencies in the mind of the agent (we might call this the “direct rational guidance” view of normativity).

However, quite plausibly, the rational ‘ought’ is, in some respects, a function of appropriate response to facts, not just mental states.

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Libertarian Bloggers Are Failing Us

From Marginal Revolution:

Our regulatory state is failing us

CA requires 664 hours of training to become a Police Officer, but 1,600 hours of training to become a cosmetologist.

That is from Sheel Mohnot, sources at the link.

The 1,600 hours of training required to become a cosmetologist are the 1,600 that are required to remain one for the duration of one’s career. Are the 664 hours of training required to become a police officer the number that are required to remain one for the duration of a career in law enforcement? For instance, are there mandatory in-service certification/continuing education requirements in cosmetology as there are in policing? If not, how meaningful a comparison is this?

The “sources at the link” regarding cosmetology say:

5. Are continuing education credits needed to maintain a license?
No. The Board does not require continuing education credits to maintain a license.

Whereas here are the California requirements for police officers. Here are the ones for New Jersey. New Jersey is now proposing a licensure requirement for police officers over and above basic training. Some police departments require a BA; some require it for advancement within the department, and many aspiring police officers get a BA so that they can go to other parts of law enforcement past the municipal police department. None of that is true of cosmetology.

Not sure why so many jabs at “the regulatory state” have to consist of misleading talking points that don’t inform, but simply give the appearance of winning The Clever Derby.  Consumer demand?

COVID-19 Narratives (8): Pizza and Public Works in a Pandemic

Pizza and Public Works: Making Ends Meet in a Pandemic
Anonymous DPW Guy from Monmouth County, New Jersey

I’ve been privileged to able to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. You might think that “privileged” is the wrong word, since anyone going out to work during the pandemic is probably at risk of getting infected. But “privilege” seems like the right word to me: millions of Americans are unemployed right now, unable to support their families. Unlike them, I have two jobs–one in public service, and the other in the food industry, both regarded as “essential” by the government, both state and federal. Continue reading

Hayek at the Hospital: The Use of Knowledge in Hospital Discharge Decisions

A live update from The New York Times on the COVID-19 situation in Peru:

Peru has more than 170,000 confirmed cases, despite taking the virus seriously early on. The president, Martín Vizcarra, ordered one of the first national lockdowns in South America. Though the official virus death toll stands at around 5,000, Peru had 14,000 more deaths than usual in May, suggesting that a growing number of people are dying at home as hospitals struggle to handle a flood of cases.

So should the Peruvians be taking to the streets to express outrage at the incompetence of all those heads of households where excess mortality has taken place? Or alternatively, should Peru’s hospitals just have warehoused up to 14,000 post-acute COVID patients in the excess space they had as they were struggling “to handle a flood of cases”? Continue reading

Cowen on Nursing Homes: A Postscript

I continue to be baffled by Tyler Cowen’s views on the COVID-19 nursing home controversy. Here’s a relevant excerpt from a piece of his that’s just come out in Bloomberg Opinion:

If I have learned one thing over the last few weeks, it is that the psychology of the American public is weirder — and perhaps more flexible — than I ever would have thought.

Consider, as just one example among many, the issue of nursing homes. According to some estimates, about 40% of the deaths associated with Covid-19 have occurred in nursing homes, with more almost certain to come.

You might think that those 40,000-plus deaths would be a major national scandal. But so far the response has been subdued. Yes, there has been ample news coverage, but there are no riots in response, no social movement to “clean up the nursing homes,” no Ralph Nader-like crusader who has made this his or her political cause.

Nor has there been much resulting vilification. There are plenty of condemnations of technology billionaires, but very few of nursing-home CEOs. Many of the state and local politicians who oversee public-sector nursing homes have been rewarded with higher approval ratings.

As if all this weren’t bad enough, of those 40,000 deaths, surely a considerable number are African-American (data by race is hard to come by). This could be an issue for Black Lives Matter, but somehow it isn’t.

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Suicidal Tendencies

For decades now, Americans convinced of their moral superiority to the rest of the world have sat around wondering what could possibly motivate someone to engage in suicide bombing. Who could do such a thing? How? Why? The insanity of it all!

Now consider the last few months: under duress, Americans, whether left or right, have taken to the streets to protest various things, oblivious to the fact that in doing so–whether violently or peaceably–they’re likely spreading a lethal disease vector amongst themselves and others. When the right does it, the left attacks them. When the left does it, the right attacks them. But no ideological group seems entirely immune to the temptation to take to the streets in the middle of a pandemic. Continue reading

Coronavirus Diary (61): Tyler Cowen on the Nursing Home Controversy

In a much-read and much-discussed interview in The Atlantic, the economist Tyler Cowen argues that the COVID-19 crisis proves that “the regulatory state is failing us.” Here is his Exhibit A for that claim:

Friedersdorf: What are the most significant failures of America’s regulatory state as it relates to the pandemic?

Cowen: Let me give you a few examples:

  1. New York state regulations, until very recently, forced nursing homes to accept COVID-19-positive patients being discharged from hospitals. Nursing homes, especially in the northeast, have been an epicenter for COVID-19 casualties. By law, they were forced to accept more than 4,500 COVID-19-positive patients, often without proper PPE for their staff.

I don’t find this convincing. Why, exactly, does this very partial description of the issue prove that government failed? And why does Cowen regard the matter as so obvious that a summary this brief should suffice to make the case? Continue reading