09 September 2022

Ends in "I-S-Y"

It's election season, therefore something beginning "hypocr" is rampant.

  • One of the most intractable problems with land-use policy is one that is seldom acknowledged: Who gets the blame when things "go wrong"? Attacks on gentrification provide an excellent example. Conversely, consider the futility of shrieking "habitat preservation" schemes that do not consider broader questions like "Will climate change make this futile? More importantly, is there something we should change — not preserve in a 'natural state' — to provide habitat within reasonable adaptation scope?"

    One good local example is the mandate concerning salmon accessibility to historical upstream spawning grounds… many of which have lower, warmer waterflow than they did a couple of decades ago and therefore are unlikely to result in "preservation" (to be fished and eaten, so, so tasty!). There's a current controversy over removing dams on the Snake River in which both "sides" are completely ignoring changed overall environmental conditions — and because they're ignoring the change that has already happened and is already inevitable, neither side is very convincing. (Hint to one side, though: Investors are not entitled to a risk-free positive market-competitive return on passive investments. That, however, is the fundamental assumption behind your radio commercials. The whole point of an "investment" is "favorable risk/reward" — and when one of them is zero… go ahead, do the math.)

    None of this would be at issue but for the misbegotten ancestry of (real) property law, both under the common law and under civil law.

  • Somewhat more amusingly, from the Department of When You Opened Your Mouth You Made My Point, consider the arrogance and hypocrisy of claims that "student loan debt relief insults those who paid theirs off or don't have any." Like this one, which runs right into the speaker's personal history. Scroll down to "Leadership," where we find that "In his youth, Alfredo studied economics at Pomona College and received his MBA from the University of Michigan," which leaves one (or more) of three possibilities:
    • Those immigrant parents had enough money to pay for tuition, fees, books, living expenses, etc. at Pomona (nearly $80k per year last year) and at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business (about $175k for the two-year on-campus program last year for non-Michigan residents, and Michigan is notoriously strict about student residency requirements) out of pocket
    • He was able to obtain truly significant scholarship and grant support, by some combination of "outstanding individual" and "fit a specific gift criterion," which were designed to allow a few of those below top-20% incomes to attend private and out-of-state-graduate-school programs — perhaps, but only perhaps, combined with working while in school or prior to attending the respective programs (but see the preceding point in that instance)
    • Without affecting his ability to take a job at a nonprofit lobbying organization, he was able to earn enough to pay off whatever loans he took

    Or, I suppose, he could have a (completely unmentioned) Miss Havisham in his life. Most likely of all, he could completely discount the value of "college" in personal success (in which case why he mentions the specific programs in his bio is a bit unsettling). No matter what explanation one offers, though, there remains the smell of money behind this particular complaint — and there's a definite waft of weasel pheromone to this particular piece of utter hypocrisy.

    n.b. Go ahead. Attack my lack of student loans from my undergraduate education… so long as you acknowledge the indentured servitude thereafter, in which my starting salary was less than that of a parochial school teacher, with the additional work condition of having my uncle (Sam) tell me what to wear every day (with no right or ability to quit for a better-paying job, and definitely no telecommuting or passive-investment management).

  • And from a departmental seminar on Is the Pope Catholic? we have musings from a conflict-of-interest-laden publication concerning whether the publishing industry is broken, asked and answered with no sense of irony whatsoever. Leaving aside that there isn't a single "publishing industry" (any more than there is a single "ore-to-finished-product metals industry" or a single, undivided "finance industry"), the piece never asks the most important question: Is whatever we identify as "broken" worth saving, or should we accede to Schumpeterian creative destruction of creatives? I'll leave my dark muttering about "exactly what kind of 'culture' does this 'gatekeeping function' benefit, anyway?" for another time. If trade publishing as an industry is broken, I welcome the new horseless-carriage industry, and warn it to be more aware of the fate of the buggywhip industry than were, well, the 1980s versions of the horseless-carriage industry.
  • Or one could try to engage with the hypocrisy inherent in 'originalism' as a mandated or dominant theory in constitutional law. Ponder, for just a moment, the problem of how the Founders — a substantial minority of whom personally were slaveowners, and most of whom were landowning white males in the top 5% of personal wealth — would have treated the personal opinions of Amy Coney Barrett, Elana Kagen, Sonia Sotomayór… or Clarence Thomas. Or consider that three of the Justices who joined in Chief Justice Marshall's aphorism that "it is a constitution we are expounding" — while explicitly noting, as a matter of Constitutional interpretation, that the document must be intepreted, and in light of changing circumstances — were themselves "Founders" in the sense of having participated in debates on and adoption of that very instrument.

    The problem is not that originalism is entirely irrelevant; it is not the ignorant and irrelevant reference to the humors of the body (politic). But just as Pasteur's germ theory of disease cannot account for allergic reactions, trauma, malnutrition, and genetics as causes of bodily ailments, originalism cannot resolve inquiries that arise outside the contemplation — even by analogy, even in the imagination — of those who wrote he document. Silly distinctions like Black men educated at Yale's law school, and women educated at all. The hypocrisy is in the pretense of determinism; and the theological implications of dragging that problem of the Enlightenment into a twenty-first century that also contains the so-called Prosperity Gospel is itself a rather definitive rejection of originalism, for the simple reason that theology has no place in implementing the Constitution (see Art. VI cl. 3).