Sunday, January 18, 2009
So, I'm trying to start up a school club -- the "Owning Our Ignorance" club -- devoted to fun and logic, in that order. I've put up a blog for it over here.
Check it out. Please join if you're interested.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
- So what exactly was dangerous about the Pinto?
- Here's a law review article debunking some of the misconceptions about the Pinto court case.
- Here's the full version of the 1977 Mother Jones investigative report on the Pinto that we read for class.
- Ralph Nader came up a few times in this section of our textbook. He first became known for his consumer safety advocacy and his book on car safety.
- Is it inappropriate to put a dollar amount on the value of life? Well, it's been done for a while, there's a whole field devoted to it, and it turns out that the amount varies from job to job and industry to industry.
- There are still some Pinto enthusiasts out there.
Second, here's a fictional version of an exploding Pinto from the comedy Top Secret!:
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
A simple goal of this class is to get us all to recognize what counts as good evidence and what counts as bad evidence for a claim. I think we're getting better at that. But it's not clear that we're caring about the difference once we figure it out.
Getting us to care is the real goal of this class. We should care about good evidence. We should care about it because it's what gets us closer to the truth. When we judge an argument to be overall good, THE POWER OF LOGIC COMPELS US to believe the conclusion. If someone likes an arg, but still stubbornly disagrees with its conclusion, she is just being irrational.
This means we should be open-minded. We should be willing to let new evidence change our current beliefs. We should be open to the possibility that we might be wrong. This is how Todd Glass puts it:
Admitting when we're wrong, or simply ignorant, is a very important step in intellectual honesty. Here's an excerpt from a podcast I listen to called Jordan, Jesse GO! about owning our ignorance:
Here are the first two paragraphs of a great article I just read on this:
Ironically, having extreme confidence in oneself is often a sign of ignorance. In many cases, such stubborn certainty is unwarranted.
Last week, I jokingly asked a health club acquaintance whether he would change his mind about his choice for president if presented with sufficient facts that contradicted his present beliefs. He responded with utter confidence. "Absolutely not," he said. "No new facts will change my mind because I know that these facts are correct."
I was floored. In his brief rebuttal, he blindly demonstrated overconfidence in his own ideas and the inability to consider how new facts might alter a presently cherished opinion. Worse, he seemed unaware of how irrational his response might appear to others. It's clear, I thought, that carefully constructed arguments and presentation of irrefutable evidence will not change this man's mind.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
- The first is about the underlying intellectual dishonesty in even the most honest of ad campaigns.
- By the way, if you're into advertising, that entire blog is great. I'm a bit biased, though, since I used to work with the guy who writes it.
- Here's a radio interview with the director of FactCheck.org, a great website devoted to debunking claims in political ads.
- I also used to work with the guy who interviewed FactCheck's director. Yup, I'm a pretty big deal.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Below are links to these articles. (As you can see, she reads a lot of Newsweek.) The assignment is to write a short (about one-page) response to one of these articles. The response should include the following:
- A brief summary of the article (no more than a paragraph).
- An explanation of your opinion regarding the ethical issue the article brings up.
- A defense of your opinion. Support your opinion with good reasons!
-How Much Privacy Do You Have at Work? (Newsweek)
-Humane Fast Food? (Newsweek)
-Salmon Fishing Crash (Newsweek)
-The Business Behind Niagara Falls (Newsweek)
-The Financial Crisis Disproves Libertarianism (Slate)
-The Invisible Hand Still Works (Newsweek)
-David Foster Wallace: Consider the Lobster (Gourmet)
-Nudge: Government Paternalism (Chronicle of Higher Education)
-You Don't Deserve Your Salary (San Francisco Chronicle)
-How Obvious Was Enron? (New Yorker)
-Free Market for Organ Donations? (New York Times Magazine)
-Company Rewards Workers... with Its Profit! (MSNBC)
Saturday, November 29, 2008
- Legally speaking, are workers entitled to email privacy? Not really.
- But wait: there's a recent court ruling on employee text messages that could start changing things. (Thank Mama Landis for that link!)
- Here's the interview on the radio show I used to work for with the ESPN employee who was fired after ESPN monitored his emails.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Worth: 15% of your overall grade
Logistics: Write an argumentative essay on one of the topics below. Papers must be typed, and must be between 600-1200 words long. Provide a word count on the first page of the paper. (Most programs like Microsoft Word & WordPerfect have automatic word counts.)
Assignment: Explain and evaluate a pair of articles from our textbook that we do not go over in class.
- First, briefly explain each main argument in the two articles you read. (Choose pairs from those listed below.)
- Then, evaluate each argument. Are the premises true, false, or questionable? Is the structure good or bad? Consider criticisms to each argument, along with responses to these criticisms.
- Finally, explain and defend your opinion on the issue. Which side—if either—do you think is correct? Why? Be sure to defend each of your opinion with reasons.
1. Can restructuring a corporation’s rules make a moral difference?
-Josef Wieland (25-37) and Ian Maitland (38-53).
2. Is it a mistake to urge corporate managers to be moral?
-John Boatright (74-81) and Jack Guynn (82-90)
2. Is privatizing Social Security good business?
-David Altig & Jagadeesh Gokhale (94-112) and Thomas Bethell (113-119)
3. Should the states regulate appropriate business behavior?
-Eliot Spitzer (122-131) and Alan Yuspeh (132-142)
4. Is “employment-at-will” good social policy?
-Richard Epstein (221-226) and John McCall (227-244)
5. Is direct-to-consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals bad for our health?
-Sidney Wolfe (281-285) and Alan Holmer (286-290)
6. Should we require labeling for genetically modified food?
-Philip Bereano (322-328) and Joseph Levitt (329-338)
7. Are multinational corporations free from moral obligation?
-Manuel Velasquez (342-347) and John Fleming (348-351)
8. Should patenting life be forbidden?
-Jeremy Rifken (354-359) and William Domnarski (360-364)
9. Do environmental restrictions violate basic economic freedoms?
-John Shanahan (368-377) and Paul Ehrlich & Anne Ehrlich (378-386)
10. Is bottling water a good solution to problems of water purity and availability?
-Julie Stauffer (389-392) and Brian Howard (393-405)
11. Should the world continue to rely on oil as a major source of energy?
-Red Cavaney (408-411) and Howard Kunstler (412-417)
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
"The Office" titled "Business Ethics." You can watch the entire episode online.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
- Is Wal-Mart good for the working class? Here's a great debate between an economist who says yes and an activist who says no.
- How did Wal-Mart become the biggest retailer? What we read for class said Sam Walton's big idea was that lower prices would increase total sales and lead to higher profits. But another important development was how Wal-Mart streamlined its inventory process.
- Yes, Wal-Mart has low prices, and apparently the prices at other stores also go down in the long run when a Wal-Mart comes to town.
- Here are many of the common criticisms of Wal-Mart.
- Beware of false dilemmas! This isn't a zero-sum game: Wal-Mart doesn't have to raise its prices to raise its wages.
- Here's the full episode of South Park about a "Wall-Mart" coming to town. Below are some clips from the episode.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
- A concise article on Milton Friedman, from a free online economics encyclopedia. (How many free online encyclopedias do you think I know about?)
- Friedman played a big role in making libertarianism and laissez-faire economic policies seem cool again...
- ... although the current financial collapse might be killing libertarianism.
- How did the subprime mortage crisis happen? The radio show This American Life gives a great explanation, and radio host Terry Gross asks Michael Greenberger to explain it.
- Why did the mortgage crisis lead to the collapse of huge financial companies? This American Life gives another great explanation. OK, Greenberger does, too.
- There's also this short play on the role that credit default swaps and netting (or hedging) played in the collapse of those huge financial companies.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
- An advanced overview of the writings of Karl Marx, from my favorite free online philosophy encyclopedia.
- An advanced overview of the writings of Adam Smith, from another free online philosophy encyclopedia.
- George Will gives an explanation of the invisible hand's emergent control of a free market.
- Wait, what's emergence?
- Is America's economy capitalist? Well, not exactly. So what should we call it?