I agree with Paul Krugman about masking, but he’s wrong about public urination, and wrong to use the laws against it as an analogue of the laws requiring masking in the COVID-19 pandemic:
Relieving yourself in public is illegal in every state. I assume that few readers are surprised to hear this; I also assume that many readers wonder why I feel the need to bring up this distasteful subject. But bear with me: There’s a moral here, and it’s one that has disturbing implications for our nation’s future.
Although we take these restrictions for granted, they can sometimes be inconvenient, as anyone out and about after having had too many cups of coffee can attest. But the inconvenience is trivial, and the case for such rules is compelling, both in terms of protecting public health and as a way to avoid causing public offense. And as far as I know there aren’t angry political activists, let alone armed protesters, demanding the right to do their business wherever they want.
I’ll refrain from extensive commentary on these comments, but I will say this: I stand in awe at the pathetic quality of the parenting in our country, largely populated by middle class people. Such is the job that American parents have done that they’re falling apart over the dire prospect of leaving their kids home alone in their well-stocked, heated, accoutrement-centered homes. And the kids themselves are so not all right, that faced with the supposedly overwhelming prospect of not learning what they supposedly learn in school, they can’t bring themselves to get off their asses and do some learning on their own steam–not even with the beneficent resources of the Internet, Khan Academy, and the entire paraphernalia of high-tech learning at their finger-tips, so loudly valorized by ideologues until people actually had to rely on the much-hyped technologies to get anything done. Continue reading →
Ambiguity: is this a pure external imposition on Wal Mart, or is it one that Wal-Mart might well have imposed on itself?
Wal Mart’s PR interest in having a store that offers customers a safe shopping environment.
A purely institutional rule. Rights ARE violated if you put your dog in a cart.
More evidence that Wal Mart has a unilateral interest in public health and safety that gives it an incentive to adopt institutional rules that government “imposes” by mandate. So there’s rule-based over-determination here.
Do you violate rights if you flout this sign? YES
Is this a rights violation? YES.
Do I disapprove of the rights violation involved? FUCK YES
Note the ambiguity in Wal Mart’s posture. Is the mask mandate really an external mandate? Or is it something that Wal Mart has conveniently treated, in part, as an external mandate, but which it would have imposed as a purely private rule in the absence of a mandate?
Will Wilkinson is the most talented, insightful, and (incidentally) successful writer of the cohort of libertarians to which I once half-belonged back in the 1990s, when I was (sporadically) associated with David Kelley’s Institute for Objectivist Studies and the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University. His apostasizing critiques of libertarianism are among the best of their kind. He’s been derided as a mere “centrist,” but that often seems, in libertarian circles, a convenient way of attacking someone whose political views accommodate the actual constraints that arise in political life.
I started a conversation on Will’s piece on my Facebook page, but thought I’d put it here to encourage wider participation (including, perhaps, Will’s). The piece was actually published in late October; I just happened to encounter it a few days ago.
In a paper I’ve mentioned here before, Pierre LeMorvan and Barbara Stock discuss a moral dilemma that arises from the ubiquity, in health care, of what they call “the medical learning curve.” The idea is that neophyte health care workers face a learning curve that puts patients at risk: the earlier I am in my career as a health care worker, the less skilled and knowledgeable I’m apt to be, and the more prone to error. The more error-prone I am, the more likely to impose medically dangerous risks on patients. Since health care workers need to practice their knowledge and skills on patients in order to achieve proficiency, this situation is ineliminable, even with the best supervision by more experienced practitioners. Continue reading →
The New York Times article linked below exemplifies a general pattern that’s played out since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. The pandemic began, and started taking a terrible toll on many people rendered helpless by circumstances beyond their control. Calls for leniency were reasonably enough made to prevent such people from being swallowed alive by those circumstances–eviction halts, rent freezes, mortgage forbearance, changes to grading policies, diminished scrutiny on unemployment and insurance claims, and so on. But that leniency has brought with it huge amounts of moral hazard and other sorts of imprudence and dishonesty, incentivizing almost unimaginable levels of fraud, near fraud, and quasi-fraudulent but morally dubious claims. Until you look, or are personally affected, you’d be amazed by how many people are trying their hardest to exploit the chaos of the moment, or to exploit the noble intentions of this or that benefactor–always easiest when the benefactor has deep pockets, or appears to.
Here’s an idea: let’s take two of the most crucial, stressful jobs out there, teaching and nursing, push their practitioners past their limits, then complain when they fail to deliver the impossible. By all means, let’s clap for them, call them “heroes,” give them gold stars for their performance, and then push the burden of their difficulties onto another overtaxed profession, mental health counseling. But let’s not question our sense of entitlement to make idle, arbitrary demands of them in the name of our “freedoms,” our “needs,” and our “rights” to their satisfaction. Continue reading →
When I first read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics maybe thirty years ago, I was both puzzled and disappointed by his discussion of the moral virtues in Book IV–generosity, magnificence, friendliness, wit, and so on. It seemed a waste of space. A whole book on this? What were such banalities doing in a classic work of moral philosophy?
Aristotle’s (very brief) discussion of the place of humor in social life seemed a case in point. On Aristotle’s account, wit turned out to be a moral virtue, buffoonery and humorlessness, vices.
Those who go to excess in raising laughs seem to be vulgar buffoons. They stop at nothing to raise a laugh, and care more about that than about saying what is seemly and avoiding pain to the victims of the joke. …
Those who joke in appropriate ways are called witty, or in other words, agile-witted. For these sorts of jokes seem to be movements of someone’s character, and characters are judged, as bodies are, by their movements (NE IV.8, 1128a5-12).
Really? That’s what morality requires? Telling the right jokes at the right time, in the right way, for the right reasons, etc. etc.? Continue reading →