• Free Library Author Event: Richard Vague on Financial Crises

    Event Title: Richard Vague, *A Brief History of Doom: Two Hundred Years of Financial Crises* Date & Time: Mon, Oct. 7, 2019, 7:30 P.M. Cost: $15 To buy tickets, go to: https://libraryphila.tix.com/m/Event.aspx?EventCode=1148726 About the Author: Venture capitalist and longtime Philadelphia-area philanthropist Richard Vague serves on the Penn Medicine board, is Chairman of the University of Pennsylvania Press, and is the president of the Philadelphia Live Arts and Fringe Festival. He is the author of *The Next Economic Disaster: Why It’s Coming and How to Avoid It*, an examination of the role of public debt in financial crises. In his latest book, Vague employs insights gained through years spent in the banking industry and analysis of historical economic disasters spanning the last two centuries in order to illustrate how our current system can break the cycle of calamity. Richard Vague will be joined by Joe Torsella, State Treasurer for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, who will act as interviewer & moderate the Q&A portion. About the Free Library Author Events: The Author Events program at the Free Library of Philadelphia offers the opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue with today’s most celebrated voices in the humanities and sciences. While most Author Events are held at Parkway Central Library, this special event will be held at the Irvine Auditorium at 3401 Spruce Street in Philadelphia, and feature a presentation by the author and Q&A with the audience. Books are sold on-site & there is often a book signing following the event. Doors open 45 minutes prior to event start times. * For more information, call the Author Events Office at[masked] or email [masked] or go to: https://libwww.freelibrary.org/programs/authorevents/?id=91524

  • Bi-Weekly Discussion - Do Our Banks Need Reform... Or A Revolution?

    We're currently hosting our discussions at Café Walnut, near the corner of 7th & Walnut in Olde City, just across the street from Washington Square Park. The cafe's entrance is below street level down some stairs, which can be confusing if it's your first time. Our group meets in the large room upstairs. Since we're using the cafe's space, they ask that each person attending the meetup at least purchase a drink or snack. Please don't bring any food or drinks from outside. The cafe is fairly easy to get to if you're using public transit. With SEPTA, take the Market-Frankford Line & get off at the 5th Street Station (corner of 5th & Market), and walk 2 blocks south on 5th and then turn right on Walnut Street and walk 2 blocks west. With PATCO, just get off at the 9th-10th & Locust stop and walk 3 blocks east & 1 block north. For those who are driving, I'd suggest parking in the Washington Square parking deck at 249 S 6th Street which is just a half block away. ---------------------------------------------- DO OUR BANKS NEED REFORM... OUR A REVOLUTION? ANALYZING THE DEBATES OVER FIAT CURRENCIES, THE FEDERAL RESERVE, FRACTIONAL RESERVE BANKING & "TOO BIG TO FAIL" BANKS INTRODUCTION: The 2008 financial crisis & the political divisions over the TARP bailouts and multiple rounds of economic stimulus deeply damaged many Americans' faith in the banking system. Even though a decade has passed and the economy has mostly recovered, the anger & mistrust that the crisis engendered have continued to influence politics in successive waves, starting with the rise of the Tea Party in 2009, then the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011, then the dueling populisms of Bernie Sanders & Donald Trump in the 2016 election both of whom promised radical banking reforms, and now in the recent Democratic presidential debates where several candidates - namely Bernie Sanders & Elizabeth Warren - have promised renewed action to reign in the power of Wall Street and reduce the risk of another financial crisis. When the financial crisis hit in 2008 and 57% of Americans said the "Troubled Asset Relief Program" (TARP) was the right thing to do. However, by 2012, public opinion shifted so that 52% of Americans thought bailing out the banks through TARP was the wrong thing to do. By 2013, sizable majorities said government policies have helped large banks, large corporations and wealthy people, while roughly seven-in-ten said government policies did little or nothing to help the poor, the middle class and small businesses. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/09/20/majority-of-americans-say-banks-large-corporations-benefitted-most-from-u-s-economic-policies/ Interestingly, polling within the last 2 years shows that both the Democratic & Republican party coalitions are divided on impact of banks & financial institutions. Within each party, it appears that people with more "populist" views have lower trust in banks and financial institutions, and that's true internationally as well. https://www.people-press.org/2017/10/24/4-governments-role-and-performance-views-of-national-institutions-expertise/4-3-2/ https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2018/07/12/populist-groups-across-the-ideological-spectrum-have-low-trust-in-institutions/pg_2018-07-12_westerneuropepolitics-5-03/ XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX RELEVANT MATERIAL FROM PAST MEETUPS: In October of 2018, the Skeptics had a meetup entitled "Globalization & Conspiracy Theories" and in the 2nd & 3rd sections they discussed Naomi Klein's book "The Shock Doctrine" and John Perkins' book "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" which made a lot of allegations about unethical & illegal activities by investment banks in the Third World: https://www.meetup.com/Philly-Skeptics/events/255269097/ Later in October of 2018, the Skeptics had a meetup entitled "Do Bankers Rule the World" where we examined how political enmities & widespread financial illiteracy has given rise to conspiracy theories about the Rothschilds, J.P. Morgan, the gold standard, and Goldman Sachs. The Skeptics will resists this topic later today with a slightly altered discussion outline that addresses misconceptions about the Federal Reserve instead of the gold standard. Here's a link to the 2 discussion outlines: https://www.meetup.com/Philly-Skeptics/events/255695734/ https://www.meetup.com/Philly-Skeptics/events/rgrhxqyznbjb/ Back in June of 2019, the Skeptics had a meetup entitled "Neoliberals, Neocons & NWO 2.0" and in the 1st & 2nd sections they discussed Bill Clinton's "Third Way" economic policies - including the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act - and role of the World Economic Forum at Davos at promoting "neoliberal" economic policies internationally. https://www.meetup.com/Philly-Skeptics/events/nfbkqqyzhbjc/ ----------------------------------------------- DIRECTIONS ON HOW TO PREPARE FOR OUR DISCUSSION: The videos & articles you see linked below are intended to give you a basic overview of some of the major debates over banking policies. As usual, I certainly don't expect you to read all the articles & watch all the videos prior to attending our discussion. The easiest way to prepare for our discussion is to just watch the numbered videos linked under each section - the videos come to about about 48 minutes total. The articles marked with asterisks are just there to supply additional details. You can browse and look at whichever ones you want, but don't worry - we'll cover the stuff you missed in our discussion. In terms of the discussion format, my general idea is that we'll address the topics in the order presented here. I figure we'll spend about 30 minutes on each section. ---------------------------------------------- I. THE DEBATE OVER COMMODITY CURRENCIES VS FIAT CURRENCIES & THE RISE OF CRYPTOCURRENCIES: - SECTION 1, QUESTION 1: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX - SECTION 1, QUESTION 2: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX - SECTION 1, QUESTION 3: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX - SECTION 1, QUESTION 4: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX - SECTION 1, QUESTION 5: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX 1a) Scott Sumner vs Larry White, "Econ Duel: Fiat Money vs. the Gold Standard" (video - 9:58 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbDZ0ObRXfE 1b) PBS Above the Noise, "Cryptocurrency: The Future of Money?" (video - 8:06 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ng7xdsWR3N4 * IGM Experts, "Gold Standard" http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/gold-standard * IGM Experts, "The Dollar" http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/the-dollar * IGM Experts, "Bitcoin" (Apr. 2013) http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/bitcoin * IGM Experts, "Bitcoin II" (Dec. 2017) http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/bitcoin-ii * Euro. IGM Experts, "Bitcoins" (May 2018) http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/bitcoins * Barry Eichengreen, "A return to the gold standard will not win Trump's trade war: The president’s nominee for the Fed [Judy Shelton] believes pegged exchange rates will fix the US trade deficit. Not so..." https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/aug/15/trump-foolish-think-gold-standard-age-fed-nominee-pegged-rates * John H. Cochrane, "Forget the Gold Standard and Make the Dollar Stable Again: Precious metals no longer make sense as a store of value. Instead, peg money to goods and services." https://www.wsj.com/articles/forget-the-gold-standard-and-make-the-dollar-stable-again-11563404235 * Panos Mourdoukoutas, "What Will It Take For Bitcoin To Replace The Dollar In Everyday Transactions" https://www.forbes.com/sites/panosmourdoukoutas/2018/02/23/what-will-it-take-for-bitcoin-to-replace-the-dollar-in-everyday-transactions/#10e[masked]db * Kinsey Grant, "Cryptocurrencies Will Never Replace the Dollar - Fed's Kashkari Explains Why - Bitcoin's bulls say the cryptocurrency is immune to inflation, but this Fed leader disagrees." https://www.thestreet.com/story/14444820/1/cryptocurrencies-will-never-replace-the-dollar-fed-s-kashkari-explains-why.html . II. THE DEBATE OVER CENTRAL BANKING VS FREE BANKING & THE FEDERAL RESERVE'S MONETARY POLICIES: - SECTION 2, QUESTION 1: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX - SECTION 2, QUESTION 2: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX - SECTION 2, QUESTION 3: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX - SECTION 2, QUESTION 4: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX - SECTION 2, QUESTION 5: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX 2a) Jacob Clifford & Adrienne Hill, "Crash Course Economics: Monetary Policy and the Federal Reserve" (video - 9:24 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dq7mMort9o 2b) Larry White, "What Is Free Banking, And Why Should I Care?" (video - 3:21 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVK-kgSQMPs * IGM Experts, "Fed Policy" http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/fed-policy IGM Experts, "Congress and Monetary Policy" http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/congress-and-monetary-policy IGM Experts, "Inequality and Monetary Policy" http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/inequality-and-monetary-policy * IGM Experts, "Inflation Target" http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/inflation-target * IGM Experts, "Central Banks and Productivity" http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/central-banks-and-productivity * European IGM Experts, "Central Banks and Productivity" http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/central-banks-and-productivity-2 * European IGM Experts, "European Fiscal and Monetary Policy" http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/european-fiscal-and-monetary-policy * Gerald P. O'Driscoll Jr., "Why Do We Have a Central Bank?" https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/why-do-we-have-central-bank * Sarah Foster, "8 misconceptions about the Federal Reserve — debunked" https://www.bankrate.com/banking/federal-reserve/federal-reserve-misconceptions/ * Robert E. Litan, "What ‘audit the Fed’ really means – and threatens" https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/what-audit-the-fed-really-means-and-threatens/ * John Cassidy, "The High-Stakes Battle Between Donald Trump and the Federal Reserve" https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-high-stakes-battle-between-donald-trump-and-the-fed . III. THE DEBATE OVER FRACTIONAL RESERVE BANKING VS FULL RESERVE BANKING & LEVERAGE RATIOS: - SECTION 3, QUESTION 1: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX - SECTION 3, QUESTION 2: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX - SECTION 3, QUESTION 3: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX - SECTION 3, QUESTION 4: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX - SECTION 3, QUESTION 5: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX 3a) Alex Tabbarock, "[Fractional Reserve Banking and] The Money Multiplier" (video - 6:55 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93_Va7I7Lgg 3b) Bloomberg w/ Dan Alpert, "Capitalization Key to Stemming Bank Risk" (video - 4:57 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8-KIF9o-L8 * Thorsten Polleit, "The Faults of Fractional-Reserve Banking" https://mises.org/library/faults-fractional-reserve-banking * Wendy McElroy, "Fractional-Reserve Banking: Not Fraud, Not Folly" https://dailyanarchist.com/2013/05/13/fractional-reserve-banking-not-fraud-not-folly/ * James R. Barth & Stephen Matteo Miller, "Benefits and Costs of a Higher Bank Leverage Ratio" https://www.mercatus.org/publications/financial-markets/benefits-and-costs-higher-bank-leverage-ratio * Paul H. Kupiec, "The major flaw in big banks’ argument against the leverage ratio" http://www.aei.org/publication/the-major-flaw-in-big-banks-argument-against-the-leverage-ratio/ * John Glover, "Loose Leveraged Lending Is Storing Up Economic Trouble, BIS Says" https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-09-23/loose-leveraged-lending-is-storing-up-economic-trouble-bis-says . IV. THE DEBATES OVER UNIVERSAL BANKING VS COMMERCIAL/ INVESTMENT BANKING SEPARATION & BREAKING UP "TOO BIG TO FAIL" BANKS: - SECTION 4, QUESTION 1: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX - SECTION 4, QUESTION 2: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX - SECTION 4, QUESTION 3: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX - SECTION 4, QUESTION 4: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX - SECTION 4, QUESTION 5: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX 4a) Marketplace APM, "How did banks get 'too big to fail'?" (video - 4:05 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xjAmbqjePo 4b) Glenn Hubbard, "Why Glass-Steagall Shouldn't Be Reinstated" (video - 4:52 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GC8XhChJNQ 4c) The Atlantic, "Why Trump Wants to Make Banks Risky Again [by repealing Dodd-Frank Act]" (video - 4:00 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjRYwE_0POY * IGM Experts, "Too Big To Fail" http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/too-big-to-fail * IGM Experts, "Big Banks" http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/big-banks * IGM Experts, "Breaking Up Banks" http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/breaking-up-banks * John Reed, "We were wrong about universal banking: Few cost efficiencies come from merging many functions in a single bank" https://www.ft.com/content/255fafee-8872-11e5-90de-f44762bf9896 * Scott Sumner, "Why does the Fed oppose narrow banking?" https://www.econlib.org/why-does-the-fed-oppose-narrow-banking/ * David Shirreff, "What Would Breaking Up the Banks Even Look Like? The phrase 'break up the banks' is often tossed around as though it’s some sort of abstraction. Here’s a sensible approach to how it could work in practice." https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/03/breaking-up-banks/473295/ * Nathan Schneider, "Breaking up the banks might make things worse. Instead, let's take ownership: Some of the country’s biggest financial institutions would still need public bailouts if they failed. But it’s not their size that’s the problem, it’s how they’re run." https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/14/breaking-up-banks-public-bailouts-ownership * Jim Zarroli, "Fact Check: Did Glass-Steagall Cause The 2008 Financial Crisis?" https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/10/14/448685233/fact-check-did-glass-steagall-cause-the-2008-financial-crisis * John Berlau & Daniel Press, "Why Wall Street Loves Glass-Steagall: Reviving Depression-Era Banking Law Would Shatter Community Banks and Main Street Businesses" https://cei.org/content/why-wall-street-loves-glass-steagall * Aaron Klein, "No, Dodd-Frank was neither repealed nor gutted. Here’s what really happened" https://www.brookings.edu/research/no-dodd-frank-was-neither-repealed-nor-gutted-heres-what-really-happened/ XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

  • NCC Event: SCOTUStalk - A Supreme Court Preview

    National Constitution Center

    Event Title: "SCOTUStalk: A Supreme Court Preview" Date & Time: Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, 6:30-7:30 P.M. Cost: $18.00 To purchase tix, go to https://14948p.blackbaudhosting.com/14948p/tickets?tab=2&txobjid=db9222de-e814-42eb-ac96-52dc577beb2f About the Event: Don't miss a special live podcast recording of "We the People with Jeffrey Rosen", the National Constitution Center's weekly show of constitutional debate, featuring hosts from SCOTUStalk, the podcast from SCOTUSblog, that takes a "plain English" look at events and topics relating to the Suprene Court. Jeffrey Rosen, host of "We the People", will join John Elwood & Amy Howe of SCOTUStalk for an in-depth discussion about the upcoming Supreme Court term. Event & Parking Information: - Registration is recommended for all programs. Call[masked] during museum hours or click “Get Tickets” above to reserve your seats. - Seating begins one hour prior to program start time. Programs begin promptly and latecomers may not be admitted. - For faster check-in you can now present your eTicket for program entry. - Programs are subject to change. Please check our website for the most up-to-date information. - Parking availability at the Center's garage will be posted two weeks prior to the program.

  • Free Library Author Event: Malcolm Gladwell on "Talking to Strangers"

    Event Title: Malcolm Gladwell, *Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know* Date & Time: Thur, Sept. 26, 2019, 7:30 P.M. Cost: $30, or $60 with book Buy tickets here: https://libraryphila.tix.com/m/Event.aspx?EventCode=1148722 About the Author: Malcolm Gladwell is a long-time staff writer for The New Yorker and best known for popularizing concepts from sociology & psychology in his bestselling books, *The Tipping Point*, *Blink*, *Outliers*, *David and Goliath*, and *What the Dog Saw*. Since 2016, he's hosted the Revisionist History podcast which begins each episode with an inquiry about a person, event, or idea, and proceeds to question the received wisdom about the subject. In his latest book, *Talking to Strangers*, Gladwell draws on Richard Nisbett & Lee Ross's social psychology classic *The Person and the Situation* and Tim Levine's more recent work on "Truth-Default Theory" and offers a powerful examination of our interactions with strangers -- and why they often go wrong. Why did Montezuma underestimate the threat posed by Hernan Cortez and his band of conquistadors? Why did Neville Chamberlain think he could appease Adolf Hitler at Munich? How did Fidel Castro fool the CIA for a generation with a team of Cuban double-agents, and why did the Defense Intelligence Agency fail to detect one of Castro's moles (Ana Montes) for over 15 years? Why are campus sexual assaults on the rise, and what can we learn from the Brock Turner case? Do television sitcoms like Friends teach us something about the way we relate to each other that isn’t true? *Talking to Strangers* is a challenging and controversial excursion through history, psychology, and scandals taken straight from the news. He revisits the deceptions that propped up Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, the unusual behavior that led Italian police to suspect Amanda Knox of murder, the untimely suicide of poet Sylvia Plath, the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal at Penn State University, and the routine traffic stop that led to the arrest & death of Sandra Bland in police custody—throwing our understanding of these and other stories into doubt. Something is very wrong, Gladwell argues, with the tools and strategies we use to make sense of people we don’t know. And because we don’t know how to talk to strangers, we are inviting conflict and misunderstanding in ways that have a profound effect on our lives and our world. About the Free Library Author Events: The Author Events program at the Free Library of Philadelphia offers the opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue with today’s most celebrated voices in the humanities and sciences. While most Author Events are held at Parkway Central Library, this special event will be held at the Irvine Auditorium at 3401 Spruce Street in Philadelphia, and feature a presentation by the author and Q&A with the audience. Books are sold on-site - there will not be a book signing following the event, but each book comes with a signed bookplate. Doors open 45 minutes prior to event start times. * For more information, call the Author Events Office at[masked] or email [masked] or go to: https://libwww.freelibrary.org/programs/authorevents/?id=91049

    3
  • NCC Event: Should Roe Be Overturned?

    National Constitution Center

    Event Title: "Should Roe v. Wade Be Overturned?" Date & Time: Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019, 6:30-7:30 P.M. Cost: $18.00 To purchase tix, go to https://14948p.blackbaudhosting.com/14948p/tickets?tab=2&txobjid=e780a317-c01d-4807-a081-cffacb0bac13 About the Author: Should Roe v. Wade be overturned? Join legal scholars and reproductive rights experts Catherine Glenn Foster of Americans United for Life, Melissa Murray of NYU School of Law, and Mary Ziegler of FSU College of Law for a timely discussion exploring the question: What does the Constitution say about reproductive rights? Event & Parking Information: - Registration is recommended for all programs. Call[masked] during museum hours or click “Get Tickets” above to reserve your seats. - Seating begins one hour prior to program start time. Programs begin promptly and latecomers may not be admitted. - For faster check-in you can now present your eTicket for program entry. - Programs are subject to change. Please check our website for the most up-to-date information. - Parking availability at the Center's garage will be posted two weeks prior to the program.

    1
  • Bi-Weekly Discussion - Is Predictive Policing "The Minority Report"?

    We're currently hosting our discussions at Café Walnut, near the corner of 7th & Walnut in Olde City, just across the street from Washington Square Park. The cafe's entrance is below street level down some stairs, which can be confusing if it's your first time. Our group meets in the large room upstairs. Since we're using the cafe's space, they ask that each person attending the meetup at least purchase a drink or snack. Please don't bring any food or drinks from outside. The cafe is fairly easy to get to if you're using public transit. With SEPTA, take the Market-Frankford Line & get off at the 5th Street Station (corner of 5th & Market), and walk 2 blocks south on 5th and then turn right on Walnut Street and walk 2 blocks west. With PATCO, just get off at the 9th-10th & Locust stop and walk 3 blocks east & 1 block north. For those who are driving, I'd suggest parking in the Washington Square parking deck at 249 S 6th Street which is just a half block away. ---------------------------------------------- IS "THE MINORITY REPORT" THE FUTURE OF POLICING? ANALYZING THE DEBATES OVER MASS SURVEILLANCE, CRIMINAL PROFILING, PREDICTIVE POLICING & "PRE-CRIME" INTRODUCTION: Back in 2002, Steven Spielberg directed the film "The Minority Report" based on a short story by sci-fi author Philip K. Dick. It was set in the United States in the year 2054 and where the crime rate has almost dropped to all-time lows because a specialized police department called "PreCrime" is able to use the foreknowledge provided by three psychics hooked to a supercomputer to detect & stop potential criminals before they've committed their crime. The film also showed how the Precrime division was able to use other types of advanced technology to aid in law enforcement. For example, they had access to a network of cameras with optical recognition that could locate a person almost anywhere they went. And since all cars were now self-driving, they could be easily overridden & rerouted by police to prevent criminals from fleeing. The film was widely praised for the way it presented the moral dilemma posed by the clash between the utilitarian goal of preventing crime and the basic rights that were sacrificed like the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial. Ultimately, when the protagonist (played by Tom Cruise) is falsely framed for a murder and he eventually proves his innocence, the whole PreCrime system is abandoned. In this meetup, we'll discuss some emerging technological trends in law enforcement that could be leading us towards something like the "pre-crime" system from Minority Report. In the 1st section, we'll discuss how mass surveillance has shifted from the NSA to local law enforcement. In the 2nd section, we'll discuss how big data is being used for various types of criminal profiling. In the 3rd section, we'll look at how the "broken windows policing" of the 1990s has shifted into "predictive policing" with the aid of computer programs that allow police to focus their manpower on "hot spots". In the 4th section, we'll look at various examples of "pre-crime" interventions that amount to punishing suspects before they've committed a crime. RELEVANT MATERIAL FROM PAST MEETUPS: Way back in September of 2016, where we discussed some of the legal questions raised by police mass surveillance, such as the way the 4th Amendment ties into a broader "right to privacy", the "plain view doctrine" which allows a warrantless search based on anything witnessed in public that's incriminating enough to generate probable cause, and the "open-fields doctrine" which allows a warrantless search outside a property owner's "curtilage" (i.e. the land immediately surrounding a dwelling). https://www.meetup.com/Philadelphia-Political-Agnostics/events/mchjxlyvmbdc/ Back in April of 2018, we had a meetup entitled "Understanding Gun Violence". We looked at gun homicides in America and addressed some of the common misconceptions that people have when they try to parse the statistics presented in the news media. This task is made difficult both by the general public's poor understanding of statistics and the frequent "massaging" of statistics by both sides in the gun control debate to try to fit them into their preferred narrative. One of the points we discussed which is relevant to today's discussion is that most violent crime is committed by a very small percentage of repeat offenders, and even low-income urban neighborhoods with lots of risk factors become much safer if "hot spot policing" focuses on removing these career criminals. https://www.meetup.com/Philadelphia-Political-Agnostics/events/249126047/ Back in April of 2018, the Skeptics in the Pub had a meetup entitled "Racial Bias in the Police Use of Force". They examined the data on racial bias in police use of force incidents in the U.S. Two of the basic takeaways was that the data collection & aggregation on police use of force isn't very comprehensive, and as with the statistics on gun violence there is a lot of dishonest "massaging" of statistics -- in this case, to either support or counter the charges of systematic racism by police depending on the ideological biases of the journalists & pundits telling the story. https://www.meetup.com/Philly-Skeptics/events/249125196/ The Skeptics in the Pub meetup had a meetup in December of 2018 entitled "Is Mass Incarceration a Conspiracy?" that fact-checked various allegations about the prison system in the U.S. Many laypeople are unaware that private prisons only hold a minority of prisoners and didn't cause mass incarceration, that prison labor is mostly used for routine tasks within the prison or state work not private corporations, that several aspects of the "school-to-prison pipeline" are overstated, and that very few prisoners are locked up for non-violent drug offenses. While there are problems with the prison system, especially the unusually high percentage of citizens that are incarcerated, this appears more like a policy failure than a conspiracy. https://www.meetup.com/Philly-Skeptics/events/lckqkqyxqbvb/ ----------------------------------------------- DIRECTIONS ON HOW TO PREPARE FOR OUR DISCUSSION: The videos & articles you see linked below are intended to give you a basic overview of some of the major debates over mass surveillance & predictive policing. As usual, I certainly don't expect you to read all the articles & watch all the videos prior to attending our discussion. The easiest way to prepare for our discussion is to just watch the numbered videos linked under each section - the videos come to about about 53 minutes total. The articles marked with asterisks are just there to supply additional details. You can browse and look at whichever ones you want, but don't worry - we'll cover the stuff you missed in our discussion. In terms of the discussion format, my general idea is that we'll address the topics in the order presented here. I figure we'll spend about 30 minutes on each section. ---------------------------------------------- I. THE RISE OF MASS SURVEILLANCE FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT: - HOW DOES SCOTUS CURRENTLY INTERPRET THE 4th AMENDMENT RIGHT TO PRIVACY & THE LIMITS ON SEARCHES? - SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED ABOUT POLICE SURVEILLANCE THAT CAPTURES AUDIO & VISUAL IN "PLAIN SIGHT" IN PUBLIC AREAS, E.G. BODY CAMS & RED LIGHT CAMERAS, LICENSE PLATE READERS, ETC? - IS AERIAL SURVEILLANCE AN INVASION OF PRIVACY SINCE IT CAPTURES IMAGES OF PEOPLE ON PRIVATE PROPERTY? - DO POLICE USE STINGRAYS MERELY TO TRACK CELL PHONES, OR TO LISTEN IN ON CALLS & READ TEXTS? DOES THEIR USE QUALIFY AS A WARRANTLESS SEARCH, SINCE IT INTERCEPTS ALL CELL PHONES IN A GIVEN AREA? - CAN LAW ENFORCEMENT REMOTELY ACTIVATE CELL PHONES' MICS & CAMERAS TO SPY ON PEOPLE? DOES THIS REQUIRE A WARRANT? - IS IT AN INVASION OF PRIVACY FOR POLICE TO HARVEST USER DATA FROM SOCIAL MEDIA, OR WAS IT SHARED IN A PUBLIC AREA? - TO WHAT EXTENT DOES THE NSA SHARE ITS METADATA FROM TEXTS & EMAILS WITH THE DEA & OTHER LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES, AND SHOULD THIS QUALIFY AS AN ILLEGAL SEARCH? DOES LAW ENFORCEMENT OFTEN CONCEAL THE ORIGIN OF INFORMATION OBTAINED FROM THE NSA THROUGH "PARALLEL CONSTRUCTION"? 1a) Ilya Shapiro, "Carpenter v. United States: Does the Fourth Amendment allow for a warrantless search and seizure of cellphone location data by the police?" (video - 3:50 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARmiXYBrzoI 1b) PBS, "New police surveillance techniques raise privacy concerns" (video - 7:44 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbR-1H7YPCc * Glenn Greenwald, "The Digital Surveillance State: Vast, Secret, and Dangerous" (and response essays) https://www.cato-unbound.org/print-issue/500 * Frances Adams-O'Brien, "Is There Empirical Evidence That Surveillance Cameras Reduce Crime?" https://www.mtas.tennessee.edu/knowledgebase/there-empirical-evidence-surveillance-cameras-reduce-crime * Rachel Levinson-Waldman, "Hiding in Plain Sight: A Fourth Amendment Framework for Analyzing Government Surveillance in Public" http://law.emory.edu/elj/content/volume-66/issue-3/articles/hiding-plain-fourth-amendment-government-surveillance-public.html * Aaron Smith, "More Than Half of U.S. Adults Trust Law Enforcement to Use Facial Recognition Responsibly" https://www.pewinternet.org/2019/09/05/more-than-half-of-u-s-adults-trust-law-enforcement-to-use-facial-recognition-responsibly/ . II. CRIMINAL PROFILING AND THE RISE OF TERRORIST WATCH LISTS, GANG DATABASES & THE "NEW COINTELPRO": - HOW DO PEOPLE END UP ON AMERICA'S TERRORIST WATCH LIST? HOW MANY OF THEM HAVE NO TERRORIST TIES? HOW MANY ARE AMERICANS? IS THERE AN ELEMENT OF RACIAL BIAS? - HOW DO PEOPLE END UP ON GANG DATABASES? HOW MANY OF THEM HAVE NO GANG AFFILIATION? IS THERE AN ELEMENT OF RACIAL BIAS? - HAS BIG DATA HELPED LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES TRACK DOMESTIC EXTREMIST GROUPS? TO WHAT EXTENT HAVE LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES TARGETED POLITICAL ACTIVIST GROUPS LIKE THE TEA PARTY, OCCUPY MOVEMENT & BLACK LIVES MATTER IN A WAY REMINISCENT OF "COINTELPRO"? - HAVE SEX OFFENDER REGISTRIES HELPED REDUCE SEX CRIMES BY MAKING NEIGHBORS AWARE OF POTENTIAL DANGER? COULD POTENTIAL SEX OFFENDERS BE PROFILED PRIOR TO COMMITTING A CRIME, E.G. BY MONITORING ONLINE PORN CONSUMPTION & INTERNET SEARCHES? - IS IT TRUE THAT POLICE CAN SEE WHO HAS MEDICAL MARIJUANA PRESCRIPTIONS WHEN THEY READ THEIR LICENSE PLATE? COULD THIS LEAD TO LAW ENFORCEMENT HAVING ACCESS TO ALL OF OUR MEDICAL RECORDS? - HOW ADVANCED ARE FACIAL RECOGNITION PROGRAMS? CAN THEY PREDICT WHO MIGHT BE A CRIMINAL BASED ON GENETIC MARKERS, AS THE ISRAELI STARTUP "FACEPTION" CLAIMS? 2a) NowThis World, "Do Terrorist Watchlists Work?" (video - 2:58 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlLpveA6Io4 2b) Young Turks, "Useless 'Gang Database' To Be Destroyed" (video - 5:39 min, start at 0:30) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTvIz6bqqxU&t=30s * Gaby Del Valle, "What Happens Now to the More Than 1 Million People on the U.S.' Terrorist Watchlist? A federal judge said the Terrorist Screening Database is unconstitutional. But that doesn’t mean it’s dead." https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/7x585e/what-happens-now-to-the-more-than-1-million-people-on-the-us-terrorist-watchlist * Emmaneul Felton, "Gang Databases Are A Life Sentence For Black And Latino Communities" https://psmag.com/social-justice/gang-databases-life-sentence-for-black-and-latino-communities * Jesse Kelley, "The Sex Offender Registry: Vengeful, unconstitutional and due for full repeal" https://thehill.com/opinion/criminal-justice/376668-the-sex-offender-registry-vengeful-unconstitutional-and-due-for-full . III. FROM "BROKEN WINDOWS POLICING" TO "PREDICTIVE POLICING": - DOES THE EVIDENCE SUCH AS NYC'S CRIME DROP IN THE 1990s SUGGEST THAT "BROKEN WINDOWS POLICING" - I.E. CRACKING DOWN ON MINOR CRIMES LIKE PUBLIC DRUNKENNESS, LITTERING, VANDALISM, TURNSTILE HOPPING, ETC. - REDUCES THE RATE OF MORE SERIOUS CRIMES? OR DOES IT LEAD POLICE TO HASSLE INNOCENT PEOPLE & ERODE THE COMMUNITY'S TRUST, PERHAPS EVEN CREATING A BACKLASH? - DID "TERRY V. OHIO" IMPROPERLY SHIFT THE BURDEN OF PROOF POLICE NEED TO CONDUCT A "STOP & FRISK" FROM "PROBABLE CAUSE" TO "REASONABLE SUSPICION"? DID "ILLINOIS V. WADLOW" LEGALIZE CLASSIST/RACIST BIAS BY ALLOWING POLICE TO LABEL A POOR NEIGHBORHOOD A "HIGH CRIME AREA" AS PART OF THEIR "REASONABLE SUSPICION" FOR STOPS? - DOES THE EVIDENCE SUGGEST THAT "STOP & FRISK" IS EFFECTIVE AT CATCHING ILLEGAL FIREARMS & REDUCING VIOLENT CRIME? OR DOES IT LEAD TO HASSLING TOO MANY INNOCENT PEOPLE & CREATE THE SAME PROBLEMS AS BROKEN WINDOWS POLICING? - CAN FACIAL RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGIES ALLOW POLICE OFFICERS TO TARGET REPEAT OFFENDERS WITHOUT HASSLING OTHERS? WOULD THIS HELP ENSURE EX-CONS DON'T RECIDIVIZE, OR DOES IT CREATE A SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY BY STIGMATIZING THEM? - CAN BIG DATA BE USED TO PREDICT CRIME "HOT SPOTS" TO WHICH POLICE CAN BE SENT TO PATROL PROACTIVELY TO DETER CRIME? DOES THIS REDUCE CRIME OR JUST DISPLACE IT TO OTHER AREAS? - CAN "PROACTIVE POLICING" BE COMBINED WITH "COMMUNITY POLICING" IN A WAY THAT IMPROVES TRUST IN LAW ENFORCEMENT? 3a) David Weisburd, "On Proactive Policing" (video - 7:38 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=va2jdnsRo4U 3b) Wired, "How Cops Are Using Algorithms to Predict Crimes" (video - 12:29 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lpCWxlRFAw * NAS, "A Number of Proactive Policing Practices Are Successful at Reducing Crime; Insufficient Evidence on Role of Racial Bias" http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=11092017 * Matt Stroud, "Chicago’s predictive policing tool just failed a major test: A RAND report shows that the ‘Strategic Subject List’ doesn’t reduce homicides." https://www.theverge.com/2016/8/19/12552384/chicago-heat-list-tool-failed-rand-test * Ben Grunwald & Jeffrey Fagan, "The End of Intuition-based High-crime Areas" https://racism.org/articles/law-and-justice/criminal-justice-and-racism/134-police-brutality-and-lynchings/2799-the-end-of-intuition-based * Kyle Peyton et al., "A field experiment on community policing and police legitimacy" https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2019/09/10/1910157116 . IV. THE RISE OF "PRE-CRIME" INTERVENTIONS & THE "PREVENTIVE STATE": - IS PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE ALWAYS WARRANTED? DO THE 5th & 14th AMENDMENT PROTECTIONS OF "DUE PROCESS" & "EQUAL PROTECTION" PREVENT PUNISHING A PERSON WHO HASN'T BEEN CONVICTED OF A CRIME - AND SHOULD THEY? - HOW ARE THE TERRORIST WATCH LIST AND "NO-FLY" LIST RELATED? IS THERE ANY EVIDENCE FLIGHT BANS HAVE PREVENTED ANY HIJACKINGS OR TERRORIST ATTACKS? - IS THERE ANY EVIDENCE TO SUGGEST "RED FLAG LAWS" THAT ALLOW POLICE TO SEIZE GUNS FROM SUSPICIOUS PEOPLE WITHOUT A TRIAL CAN PREVENT VIOLENT CRIME? - HAVE SEX OFFENDER RESIDENCY RESTRICTIONS HELPED REDUCE SEX CRIMES? SHOULD THEY BE EXTENDED TO OTHER TYPES OF EX-CONS? - SHOULD MEDICAL MARIJUANA USERS LOSE THEIR GUN LICENSES? SHOULD THEY LOSE OTHER RIGHTS, E.G. RIGHT TO DRIVE, BASED ON CONCERNS THEY MAY BE INTOXICATED? - IN WHAT CASES CAN SOMEONE BE INVOLUNTARILY COMMITTED FOR MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS? COULD SOMEONE WHO VOLUNTARILY SEEKS COUNSELING FACE RESTRICTIONS OF THEIR RIGHTS? - DO ALGORITHMS THAT ESTIMATE FLIGHT RISK & RECIDIVISM FOR DETERMINING BAIL & PAROLE AMOUNT TO "PRE-CRIME"? - CAN AMERICAN CITIZENS BE HELD WITHOUT TRIAL IN "PREVENTIVE DETENTION" IF THEY'RE SUSPECTED OF BEING INVOLVED IN TERRORISM? IF SO, FOR HOW LONG CAN THEY LEGALLY BE HELD? SHOULD PREVENTIVE DETENTION BE EXPANDED TO OTHER CRIMINAL SUSPECTS? 4a) CGTN w/ Susan Hu, "Anti-terrorism 'no-fly' lists: are they constitutional?" (video - 7:17 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxKP8an-5qs 4b) Newsy, "Can 'red flag' laws stop mass shootings?" (video - 4:49 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8b5ISKuW19M 4c) NBC, "Can An Algorithm Save America's Justice System?" (video - 2:22 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWDpOpnONL4 * Hina Shamsi, "The U.S. Government Is Putting Americans on Its No-Fly List on a Hunch - And it won’t even tell them why." https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2015/08/the-u-s-government-is-putting-americans-on-its-no-fly-list-on-a-hunch-and-it-wont-say-why-they-are-grounded.html * David A. Graham, "How Obama's Gun-Control Push Inverted the Politics of the No-Fly List: Democrats, once critics of Bush-era terror policies, have decided they're a useful tool, while Republicans have rediscovered the importance of due process." https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/12/no-fly-list-inverted-politics/419172/ * Leigh Paterson, "Poll: Americans, Including Republicans And Gun Owners, Broadly Support Red Flag Laws" https://www.npr.org/2019/08/20/752427922/poll-americans-including-republicans-and-gun-owners-broadly-support-red-flag-law * Madeleine Carlisle, "The Bail-Reform Tool That Activists Want Abolished: They worry that algorithms used to determine a person’s flight risk will only perpetuate racial discrimination." https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/09/the-bail-reform-tool-that-activists-want-abolished/570913/ * Jared Meyer, "States Need To Give Ex-Cons A Fresh Start" https://www.forbes.com/sites/jaredmeyer/2018/01/21/states-need-to-give-ex-cons-a-fresh-start/#661b617b2fad * Steven Yoder, "New evidence says US sex-offender policies are actually causing more crime" https://qz.com/869499/new-evidence-says-us-sex-offender-policies-dont-work-and-are-are-actually-causing-more-crime/ XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    2
  • Philly Fringe Fest Event - "Know Thyself" - with Afterparty

    Kismet Cowork Spring Arts

    Event Title: "Know Thyself" Date & Time: Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, 8:30 P.M. Cost: $25.00 ($27.24 w/service fee) To buy tix, go here: https://knowthyself.bpt.me * Note: Tickets go on sale August 1st, 2019. There's only 12 spots, so don't wait to the last minute because tickets are almost guaranteed to sell out ahead of time. About the Presenter: Jessica is an immersive experience and game designer. She is a professor of serious and experimental games at Drexel University and the founder of IKantKoan Play/s. Jessica has worked on Broadway, up mountain trails, and recently gave a TEDx talk on gamifying chaos and embracing uncertainty through play. Her work has been presented at BostonFIG, HERE Arts Center, The Franklin Institute, FringeNYC, and Bandwi/d/th International. She is a 2019 game-designer-in-residence at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park and 2020 artist-in-residence at The Arctic Circle Artist & Scientist Residency Program. A lot of her work is centered on transforming abstract science and philosophy into playful, interactive experiences. For instance, she has worked with the National Parks Service on games about climate change, and she has a tabletop game called Schrödinger's Cat that gamifies the quantum physics thought experiment in the form of an infinite, tabletop game. About the Event: "Know Thyself" is a game-based philosophy salon that turns ancient and contemporary philosophies into a series of social, multi-player games that are designed to dig into how individuals and groups make meaningful decisions for society. Participants will gain a greater sense of their own agency by exploring philosophy through these games, contending with the good, the bad, and the confounding aspects of each decision they make. The event runs roughly 1 hour, after which we'll meet with Jessica for drinks and a Q&A session where we can ask her questions about her ideas behind the event as well as how this applies to broader issues in science & philosophy. About the Fringe Festival Events: Each year, the Fringe Festival brings local, national and international art to Philadelphia with a more than two-week-long extravaganza drawing upwards of 40,000 people. This year’s lineup features more than 100 theater, dance, comedy, visual art and spoken word shows curated by festival organizer FringeArts. The 2018 Fringe Festival sees some of these celebrated Philadelphia acts return with groundbreaking world premieres. * For more information, go to: https://www.ikantkoan.com/know-thyself.html

  • Bi-Weekly Discussion - First Principles & Thought Experiments

    We're currently hosting our discussions at Café Walnut, near the corner of 7th & Walnut in Olde City, just across the street from Washington Square Park. The cafe's entrance is below street level down some stairs, which can be confusing if it's your first time. Our group meets in the large room upstairs. Since we're using the cafe's space, they ask that each person attending the meetup at least purchase a drink or snack. Please don't bring any food or drinks from outside. The cafe is fairly easy to get to if you're using public transit. With SEPTA, take the Market-Frankford Line & get off at the 5th Street Station (corner of 5th & Market), and walk 2 blocks south on 5th and then turn right on Walnut Street and walk 2 blocks west. With PATCO, just get off at the 9th-10th & Locust stop and walk 3 blocks east & 1 block north. For those who are driving, I'd suggest parking in the Parkway Walnut garage near the corner of 8th & Walnut. ---------------------------------------------- FIRST PRINCIPLES & THOUGHT EXPERIMENTS: WHAT SHOULD BE OUR STARTING POINT FOR THINKING ABOUT POLITICAL SYSTEMS? INTRODUCTION: Our meetup has been invited by Drexel professor Jessica Creane to participate in her Fringe Festival event on Friday, Sept. 13th where we'll play some live-action, multiplayer games based on philosophical thought experiments. I thought it might be a good idea to "warm up" for this event by reviewing some classic thought experiments in political philosophy, all of which try to answer the fundamental question: "What is the best political system?" In the 1st section of our discussion, we'll briefly review the way Enlightenment-era philosophers like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke & Jean-Jacques Rousseau used an imagined "state of nature" in prehistory to theorize how a primordial state might emerge through an implicit "social contract" where we voluntarily sacrificed some individual freedom for collective security. We'll look at how modern-day philosopher Michael Huemer has tied their work into a conundrum he calls "the problem of political authority" - i.e. how can individuals delegate powers to the state like taxation & conscription that they can't justly perform themselves? In the 2nd section, we'll look at John Rawls' use of what he calls the "original position" - i.e. a fair and impartial point of view that is to be adopted in our reasoning about fundamental principles of justice. He asks us to imagine a "veil of ignorance" that separates us from the world before we're born, so that we don't know which position we'll occupy in society, and then to design the type of world we'd like to be born into. In the 3rd & 4th sections, we'll shift from imagining the origin of society to considering what we should learn from history... The 3rd section will look at the "Lindy effect" - i.e. the tendency of non-perishable things like a technologies & social norms to have a life expectancy proportional to their current age - and consider whether it justifies "Chesterton's fence", a principle that reforms should not be made until the reasoning behind the existing state of affairs is understood. The 4th section will consider whether political systems that haven't proven very successful when they were implemented in the past to be relegated to the "dustbin of history" and also whether political systems that have never been implemented should, at some point, be considered too impractical. We'll see how this ties into social critic Mark Fisher's notion of "capitalist realism" - the widespread sense that capitalism is the only viable political & economic system - and political pundit Michael Lind's "one question for libertarians" - i.e. why are there no libertarian countries? RELEVANT MATERIAL FROM PAST MEETUPS: We've had several past meetups that looked into political philosophy... Back in the summer of 2017, we had a meetup entitled "Locke & Mill Revisited" where we addressed two fundamental questions in political philosophy from a "classical liberal" perspective: (1) When can the government legitimately use force against its citizens, and when can citizens legitimately use force against each other or against the government? (2) What type of cultural values & social norms (if any) are a necessary precondition for a free society, and to what extent should government protect or promote them with formal laws? https://www.meetup.com/Philadelphia-Political-Agnostics/events/zgmddnywkbfc/ We had a follow-up meetup entitled "Classical Liberalism & Property Rights" where we addressed some fundamental questions about property rights from a "classical liberal" perspective: (1) How do people come to legitimately own property? (2) How should we treat cases of stolen property transferred to innocent third parties? (3) Can we legitimately exclude someone from our property? (4) Can a government legitimately levy taxes, and if so, how can it legitimately spend tax revenue? https://www.meetup.com/Philadelphia-Political-Agnostics/events/242037334/ Back in January, we had a meetup entitled "Can & Should We Be Politically Agnostic?" where we discussed the limits of our ability to conceive of the ideal political system, and how this can lead to a somewhat conservative "realist" position based around trying to preserve law & order and avoid catastrophic failures or a somewhat progressive "pragmatist" position based on using trial & error and gradual reform to improve society over time. https://www.meetup.com/Philadelphia-Political-Agnostics/events/dxmsjqyzcbrb/ And back in January of 2018, we had a meetup entitled "Human Freedom & Social Progress Measured". In Part 4 of the outline, we looked at Will Wilkinson's argument that the political landscape revealed by examining the libertarian "Human Freedom Index" and progressive "Social Progress Index" defy any orthodox political ideology. Wilkinson suggested that "ideal theory" is a philosophical dead end and that "non-ideal theory" is better because it's more empirically grounded in the the variety of political systems that have actually existed. He argues that the indices suggest a hybrid "libertarian welfare state" may be the best current political system in terms of promoting the human wellbeing: https://www.meetup.com/Philadelphia-Political-Agnostics/events/zgmddnyxcbkb/ ----------------------------------------------- DIRECTIONS ON HOW TO PREPARE FOR OUR DISCUSSION: The videos & articles you see linked below are intended to give you a basic overview of some of the major philosophical debates over the correct starting point for theorizing about the optimal political system. As usual, I certainly don't expect you to read all the articles & watch all the videos prior to attending our discussion. The easiest way to prepare for our discussion is to just watch the numbered videos linked under each section - the videos come to about about 45 minutes total. The articles marked with asterisks are just there to supply additional details. You can browse and look at whichever ones you want, but don't worry - we'll cover the stuff you missed in our discussion. In terms of the discussion format, my general idea is that we'll address the topics in the order presented here. As you can see, I've listed some question under each section to provoke reflection. We'll do our best to address most of them in our discussion. I figure we'll spend about 30 minutes on each section. ---------------------------------------------- I. THE ENLIGHTENMENT-ERA CONCEPTION OF "THE STATE OF NATURE" & THE "SOCIAL CONTRACT" AND MICHAEL HUEMER'S "PROBLEM OF POLITICAL AUTHORITY": - ARE HUMANS NATURALLY GOOD, EVIL, OR NEUTRAL/MIXED? WHOSE CONCEPTION OF THE "STATE OF NATURE" ACCORDS BEST WITH WHAT WE KNOW OF PREHISTORIC HUNTER-GATHERER BANDS: HOBBES' VISION OF A "WAR OF ALL AGAINST ALL", ROUSSEAU'S IDEA OF THE "NOBLE SAVAGE", OR LOCKE'S INTERMEDIATE VIEW? - DOES ANTHROPOLOGICAL EVIDENCE ON EARLY STATE FORMATION SUGGEST HUMANS BANDED TOGETHER WITH NON-KIN FOR VOLUNTARY COLLECTIVE GOALS (E.G. INTENSIVE AGRICULTURE, DIVISION OF LABOR & TRADE, MUTUAL DEFENSE) OR DUE TO INVOLUNTARY PRESSURES (E.G. CONQUEST, PROTECTION RACKETS, ENCLOSURE OF COMMONS, DEBT SLAVERY)? - ASIDE FROM THE ABILITY TO AGGRESS AGAINST OTHERS, WHAT FREEDOMS SHOULD WE SACRIFICE FOR THE SECURITY WE GAIN BY JOINING A STATE? DO HUMANS HAVE "NATURAL RIGHTS" WHICH WE JOIN A STATE TO PROTECT, OR DO OUR RIGHTS ONLY EMERGE FROM THE STATE'S LAWS? IF IT'S THE LATTER, CAN THE STATE RESCIND OUR RIGHTS ARBITRARILY? - IS STATE FORMATION PARTLY INTENDED TO ENFORCE PROPERTY RIGHTS PEOPLE GET THROUGH THE "HOMESTEADING PRINCIPLE" (LABOR ADDED TO FREE RESOURCES) AND/OR VOLUNTARY TRADE? IF SO, ARE THOSE RIGHTS PREMISED ON PRIVATE PROPERTY, COMMUNAL PROPERTY, OR EITHER/BOTH? - DO WE IMPLICITLY AGREE TO A "SOCIAL CONTRACT" MERELY BY BEING IN A STATE'S TERRITORY, OR MUST IT BE EXPLICIT? ONCE ALL LAND IS CLAIMED BY STATES, DOESN'T THIS REMOVE OUR ABILITY TO OPT OUT BY MOVING? - CAN INDIVIDUALS DELEGATE POWERS WE DON'T RIGHTLY POSSESS TO OTHERS? IF NOT, HOW CAN A COLLECTION OF INDIVIDUALS CREATE A STATE WITH THE POWERS TO TAX, CONSCRIPT, REGULATE BEHAVIOR, ETC.? IS EVEN A DEMOCRATIC STATE MERELY A "TYRANNY OF THE MAJORITY"? 1) Academy of Ideas, "Political Authority - An Examination" (video - 9:28 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7zaR-qwZz4 * Peter B. Josephson, "Hobbes, Locke, and the Problems of Political Economy" http://www.aei.org/spotlight/human-flourishing-hobbes-and-locke/ * Guy Dammann, "For Rousseau, man is born free, but kept free only by compassion: A fundamental tenet of Rousseau's The Social Contract is that it is human institutions that set mankind free." https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/jul/11/rousseau-man-born-free-social-contract * Michael Huemer, "The Problem of Authority" https://www.cato-unbound.org/2013/03/04/michael-huemer/problem-authority * Nicole Hassoun, "Authority is Not the (Only) Problem: People Have Positive as Well as Negative Rights" https://www.cato-unbound.org/2013/03/11/nicole-hassoun/authority-not-only-problem-people-have-positive-well-negative-rights . II. JOHN RAWLS' ORIGINAL POSITION, THE VEIL OF IGNORANCE & THE DIFFERENCE PRINCIPLE: - IS THE "VEIL OF IGNORANCE" A GOOD WAY TO ENSURE PEOPLE DESIGN A JUST SOCIETY, OR ARE SOME OF ITS CRITERIA TOO RESTRICTIVE (E.G. NO KNOWLEDGE OF HISTORY, NO KNOWLEDGE OF ONE'S TASTES OR CONCEPTION OF THE GOOD LIFE)? - WOULD EVERY RATIONAL INDIVIDUAL CHOOSE A SOCIETY WITH MASSIVE WEALTH REDISTRIBUTION (PRIORITARIANISM) TO MINIMIZE THE POTENTIAL HARM OF BEING BORN POOR (A.K.A. MAXIMIN STRATEGY)? COULD A MORE RISK-TOLERANT PERSON RATIONALLY CHOOSE HIGHLY UNEQUAL WEALTH DISTRIBUTION WITH ONLY MINOR REDISTRIBUTION TO ENSURE POVERTY ISN'T CATASTROPHICALLY BAD (SUFFICIENTARIANISM) & TAKE A LONG SHOT ON BEING BORN RICH (A.K.A. MAXIMAX STRATEGY)? - WHAT POLICIES WOULD ONE CHOOSE IF ONE WANTED TO MAXIMIZE THE SUCCESS OF THE OVERALL SOCIETY INSTEAD OF ONESELF? COULD THIS INVOLVE PREEMPTIVELY CHOOSING TO SACRIFICE ONESELF (AND OTHERS) IN CERTAIN SITUATIONS? - IS RAWLS' "DIFFERENCE PRINCIPLE" - I.E. WEALTH DISPARITIES ARE JUSTIFIED ONLY INSOFAR AS THEY BENEFIT THE LEAST WELL OFF - A REALISTIC CONCESSION TO THE NECESSITY OF A PROFIT MOTIVE TO MAXIMIZE TOTAL WEALTH PRODUCTION FOR REDISTRIBUTION? - DOES THE FACT THAT RAWLS' MODEL YIELDS A SLIGHTLY IDEALIZED VERSION OF THE SOCIETY HE WAS BORN IN - I.E. LIBERAL DEMOCRACY & WELFARE STATE CAPITALISM - INDICATE A FAILURE OF HIS IMAGINATION? 2) PBS Ideas Channel, "How Do You Design a Just Society? Thought Experiment: The Original Position" (video - 13:53 min, listen to 11:45) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3gWGtf_w_s * Fred D’Agostino, “Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Original Position” https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/original-position/#ArgForPriJusOriPos * Benny Markovitch, "Are We Too Irrational for Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance?" https://areomagazine.com/2019/05/09/are-we-too-irrational-for-rawls-veil-of-ignorance/ * Kevin Vallier, "Rawlsian Trash" https://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2013/06/rawlsian-trash/ . III. THE LINDY EFFECT, THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE & CHESTERTON'S FENCE: - DOES THE "LINDY EFFECT" HOLD TRUE FOR SOCIAL NORMS, LAWS, TECHNOLOGIES, COMPANIES & POLITICAL SYSTEMS - I.E. CAN WE ESTIMATE THEIR FUTURE LIFE EXPECTANCY BASED ON HOW OLD THEY ARE? - TO THE EXTENT THAT THE LINDY EFFECT HOLDS TRUE, IS IT MOSTLY DUE TO ABSOLUTE ADVANTAGE (I.E. THAT WHICH IS MOST WIDELY USED IS THE BEST ALTERNATIVE) OR NETWORK EFFECTS (I.E. IT'S USEFUL TO USE WHAT MOST OTHERS USE, EVEN IF IT'S NOT THE BEST QUALITY)? - IS THE "PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE" VALID - I.E. SHOULD WE HESITATE TO INTRODUCE A NEW TECHNOLOGY OR SOCIAL REFORM UNLESS WE'RE ALMOST CERTAIN IT WILL DO NO HARM? OR IS THIS SELF-REFUTING, SINCE NOT INTRODUCING IT MIGHT CAUSE HARM? - WHO SHOULD BEAR THE BURDEN OF PROOF IN POLITICAL DEBATES - REFORMERS OR TRADITIONALISTS - OR SHOULD IT BE EQUALLY SHARED? - CAN THE LINDY EFFECT GIVE US A SOUNDER VERSION OF THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE - I.E. "CHESTERTON'S FENCE" - WHICH CAUTIONS US AGAINST DISMANTLING SOMETHING OLD UNLESS WE CAN SHOW WHY IT WAS FIRST ERECTED & WHY IT'S NO LONGER NEEDED? OR THIS AN EXAMPLE OF STATUS QUO BIAS & THE NATURALISTIC FALLACY -CONFLATING "IT'S EXISTED FOR A LONG TIME" WITH "IT OUGHT TO EXIST FOR A LONG TIME YET"? - ARE PRAGMATISTS RIGHT THAT "INSTRUMENTAL RATIONALITY" TRUMPS "EPISTEMIC RATIONALITY" - I.E. ARE MANY BELIEFS USEFUL EVEN IF THEY'RE NOT FACTUALLY TRUE? IF SO, SHOULD WE ALLOW SOME USEFUL FICTIONS TO PERSIST? - IS SOCIAL & POLITICAL PROGRESS REAL OR MERELY AN ILLUSION? IF IT'S REAL, HOW DO SOCIETIES DETERMINE WHAT TO PRESERVE & WHAT TO CHANGE? IS BENEFICIAL CHANGE MOSTLY DUE TO REVOLUTIONS OR INCREMENTAL CHANGE? AND IS IT USUALLY A CENTRALIZED, TOP-DOWN PROCESS OR A DECENTRALIZED, BOTTOM-UP PROCESS? - DO MODERN SHIFTS IN SEXUAL NORMS (E.G. CONTRACEPTION, DIVORCE, GAY MARRIAGE) VIOLATE CHESTERTON'S FENCE? CAN WE DISMANTLE THE OLD TABOOS BECAUSE THEIR ORIGINAL PURPOSE (I.E. PRO-NATALISM) IS NO LONGER NECESSARY? - ARE BORDER CONTROLS A FORM OF CHESTERTON'S FENCE, OR ARE THEY TOO NEW (MOSTLY 19th CENTURY) TO COUNT? 3) Carneades, "What is Chesterton's Fence?" (video - 8:00 min) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_fZZM2an_Y * Tom Chatfield, "The simple rule that can help you predict the future" http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20190624-how-to-think-about-the-far-future * Noah Smith, "Does America's survival mean that it's a resilient country?" https://noahpinionblog.blogspot.com/2014/01/does-americas-survival-mean-that-its.html * Scott Alexander, "The Argument From Cultural Evolution" https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/07/07/the-argument-from-cultural-evolution/ * Equal Marriage LiveJournal Forum, "The Question of Chesterton's Fence" https://equal-marriage.livejournal.com/2507.html * John Lee, "Tearing down Chesterton’s fence: the bigotry of border controls." https://openborders.info/blog/tearing-chestertons-fence-bigotry-border-controls/ . IV. MARK FISHER'S "CAPITALIST REALISM" AND MICHAEL LIND'S "ONE QUESTION FOR LIBERTARIANS": - ARE ANARCHISM, DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISM, LIBERTARIANISM, MATRIARCHY, POST-SCARCITY ECONOMIES, ETC, "DISPROVEN" BECAUSE WE HAVEN'T SEEN ANY FUNCTIONAL EXAMPLES YET? OR DOES THIS INCORRECTLY PRESUPPOSE WE'VE ARRIVED AT THE "END OF HISTORY"? - SHOULD WE FOCUS ON "ACTUALLY EXISTING" VERSIONS OF POLITICAL SYSTEMS, EVEN WHEN MESSY & INCOMPLETE, RATHER THAN CLAIMING "TRUE X HAS NEVER BEEN TRIED"? IS THE LATTER CLAIM JUST AN EXAMPLE OF THE "NO TRUE SCOTSMAN" FALLACY? - IS SWITZERLAND OR SOMALIA A BETTER EXAMPLE OF "ACTUALLY EXISTING LIBERTARIANISM"? IS DENMARK OR VENEZUELA A BETTER EXAMPLE OF "ACTUALLY EXISTING SOCIALISM"? - IS WHAT'S POLITICALLY POSSIBLE LARGELY A PRODUCT OF WHAT WE COLLECTIVELY BELIEVE? IF SO, CAN "HAUNTOLOGY" (NOSTALGIA FOR LOST FUTURES) POINT THE WAY TO POSSIBLE FUTURES BLOCKED BY "PREFERENCE FALSIFICATION"? COULD A "PREFERENCE CASCADE" LEAD TO A REVOLUTION THAT WOULD SUDDENLY MAKE NEW POLITICAL SYSTEMS POSSIBLE? - DOES HISTORY SUGGEST THERE ARE "IRON LAWS" THAT CONSTRAIN THE POSSIBLE WAYS FOR HUMAN SOCIETIES TO ORGANIZE? IF SO, ARE THESE "IRON LAWS" MOSTLY BASED ON TECHNOLOGICAL & ECONOMIC LIMITS (E.G. LAW OF DIMINISHING RETURNS, IRON LAW OF WAGES) THAT MIGHT BE OVERCOME WITH HIGHER PER-CAPITA PRODUCTIVITY, OR SOCIOLOGICAL LIMITS THAT MIGHT BE OVERCOME WITH COMPUTERIZATION (E.G. ECONOMIC CALCULATION PROBLEM, IRON LAW OF OLIGARCHY), OR ARE THEY MORE ROOTED IN ASPECTS OF HUMAN PSYCHOLOGY THAT ARE VIRTUALLY IMMUTABLE? 4a) Beautiful Dystopia, "Capitalist Realism" (video - 11:26 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AEZfIZasXQ&t=24s 4b) Steven Pinker, "Why are there no libertarian countries?" (video - 4:18 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obts3Y-XRjg * Matt Zwolinski, "Is Crony Capitalism Inevitable?" https://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2019/04/is-crony-capitalism-inevitable/ * Robert Tracinski, "The Top 5 Forms of Socialism Denial" https://thefederalist.com/2017/05/01/top-5-forms-socialism-denial/ * Michael Lind, "The One Question Libertarians Just Can't Answer" http://www.salon.com/2013/06/04/the_question_libertarians_just_cant_answer/ * Will Wilkinson, "Libertarianism and Experiment: Michael Lind's Bad Argument Against Anything" http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2013/06/libertarianism-and-experiment * Kevin Carson, "The Question Michael Lind Won't Answer" https://c4ss.org/content/34050

    3
  • Bi-Weekly Discussion - Should We Abolish Factory Farming?

    We're currently hosting our discussions at Café Walnut, near the corner of 7th & Walnut in Olde City, just across the street from Washington Square Park. The cafe's entrance is below street level down some stairs, which can be confusing if it's your first time. Our group meets in the large room upstairs. Since we're using the cafe's space, they ask that each person attending the meetup at least purchase a drink or snack. Please don't bring any food or drinks from outside. The cafe is fairly easy to get to if you're using public transit. With SEPTA, take the Market-Frankford Line & get off at the 5th Street Station (corner of 5th & Market), and walk 2 blocks south on 5th and then turn right on Walnut Street and walk 2 blocks west. With PATCO, just get off at the 9th-10th & Locust stop and walk 3 blocks east & 1 block north. For those who are driving, I'd suggest parking in the Washington Square parking deck at 249 S 6th Street which is just a half block away. ---------------------------------------------- SHOULD WE ABOLISH FACTORY FARMING - AND PERHAPS PHASE OUT MEAT ENTIRELY? INTRODUCTION: In this meetup, we'll review the debates over meat-eating and "factory farming" - i.e. large-scale industrial facilities that raise large numbers of farm animals in minimal space - often in confinement, and that use various techniques to speed up milk, meat & egg production and use automation to minimize labor costs. See Wikipedia for a brief overview: https://en.wikipedia.org/Intensive_animal_farming From polling, it appears that most Americans have some contradictory views about factory farming, animal welfare & meat-eating. A 2015 Gallup poll indicates about a third of Americans now say animals should have the same rights as humans, while a little over 60% say animals shouldn't have equal rights but deserve some protection. Only 3% say animals deserve little or no protection. However, the general view that animals deserve some protection hasn't motivated most Americans to forgo meat. A 2016 Pew Research poll show that only about 9% of Americans are vegetarian or vegan, although this number is 12% among those under 50. As you can see from the above chart, while per capita meat consumption in the US has declined a bit in the last decade, it's still among the highest levels in the world. A view of animal welfare being subsidiary to human welfare still predominates - for example, a 2018 Pew Research poll shows a majority (57%) of Americans favor genetically engineering animals to grow human organs for transplant. I found a few polls that asked Americans directly about factory farming and claimed somewhere between 50-80% favor banning it, but these polls came from advocacy groups like the ASPCA & Sentience Institute, so I'd take them with a grain of salt. But regardless of what most Americans think, is drastic action on factory farming called for? Do ethical, medical & environmental concerns demand gov't intervention? RELEVANT MATERIAL FROM PAST MEETUPS: We've had several previous meetups that have addressed dietary & environmental issues... Back in July, we had a meetup entitled, "Environmental Justice & Healthier Cities". In the 4th section, we talked about healthy food as a human right and cities' efforts to eliminate "food deserts" and crack down on fast food. Unfortunately, building more grocery stores in working-class neighborhoods hasn't proven very effective in encouraging people to eat more fresh produce, and bans on fast food restaurants & junk food taxes have a dubious track record as well. https://www.meetup.com/Philadelphia-Political-Agnostics/events/txqhxqyzkblc/ Back in March, we had a meetup entitled "Is the Working Class Dying from Despair?" In the 3rd section, we discussed the role of obesity in reducing life expectancy among working class Americans. While there's a connection in the US between lower incomes & obesity, it's not clear what the causal mechanism is. Simple explanations like "food stamps cause obesity" or "Southerners are fat because of fried foods" don't appear to hold up. In Section 4, we talked about the "Hispanic paradox" - i.e. Hispanic Americans are poorer on average than whites but tend to live longer. One of the plausible reasons for this is Hispanics tend to eat more beans which reduces their risks of heart disease. This ties into the health issues we'll discuss in Section 2. https://www.meetup.com/Philadelphia-Political-Agnostics/events/wpjnnqyzfbwb/ Back in June, we had a meetup entitled "How Should We Deal With Climate Change?" In the 2nd section, we discussed the connection between environmental sustainability & economic growth - i.e. in the short term there's a tradeoff, but in the long term they're connected. In terms of climate change, we compared the solution of a carbon tax which allows the market to determine the best mitigation methods vs more top-down technocratic solutions that try to pick the best mitigation methods & subsidize them. Those 2 approaches apply to reforming farming as well. In the 3rd section, we discussed several reasons that it's difficult to reach political compromises on climate change. One of those reasons is that the benefits of climate change mitigation are diffuse, but the costs would be concentrated on certain industries with powerful lobbies determined to resist it. That dynamic applies to factory farms, which will probably resist taxing them for their negative externalities. https://www.meetup.com/Philadelphia-Political-Agnostics/events/chrnnqyzjbmb/ ----------------------------------------------- DIRECTIONS ON HOW TO PREPARE FOR OUR DISCUSSION: The videos & articles you see linked below are intended to give you a basic overview of some of the major debates over factory farming. As usual, I certainly don't expect you to read all the articles & watch all the videos prior to attending our discussion. The easiest way to prepare for our discussion is to just watch the numbered videos linked under each section - the videos come to about about 54 minutes total. The articles marked with asterisks are just there to supply additional details. You can browse and look at whichever ones you want, but don't worry - we'll cover the stuff you missed in our discussion. In terms of the discussion format, my general idea is that we'll address the topics in the order presented here. As you can see, I've listed some questions under each section to stimulate discussion. We'll do our best to answer most of them. I figure we'll spend about 30 minutes on each section. ---------------------------------------------- I. THE ETHICS & MORAL PSYCHOLOGY OF LIVESTOCK FARMING & MEAT-EATING: - SHOULD WE TRY TO REDUCE ANIMAL SUFFERING? IF SO, SHOULD WE BE MORE CONCERNED WITH THE QUANTITY OF ANIMALS KILLED OR THEIR LEVEL OF SENTIENCE - E.G. IS IT BETTER TO KILL 1 COW OR 200 CHICKENS OR 20,000 SHRIMP FOR THE SAME AMOUNT OF MEAT? - ARE FREE-RANGE FARMS MORE ETHICAL THAN CRAMPED FACTORY FARMS BECAUSE THEY'RE LESS STRESSFUL FOR THE ANIMALS? - IS IT ETHICAL TO SLAUGHTER ANIMALS PROVIDED IT'S DONE QUICKLY & PAINLESSLY? - IS IT ETHICAL TO MILK COWS OR GATHER EGGS, SINCE IT DOESN'T KILL THEM? IS IT ONLY OK IF THEY'RE FREE RANGE, OR IS IT STILL EXPLOITATIVE? - WOULD IT BE ETHICAL TO GENETICALLY ENGINEER ANIMALS TO MAKE THEIR MEAT OR MILK MORE NUTRITIOUS? HOW ABOUT TO "DISENHANCE" THEIR BRAINS SO THEY DON'T SUFFER? - IS IT ETHICAL TO EAT MEAT GROWN FROM CELLS IN A BIOREACTOR? - WOULD IT BE ETHICAL TO LET SOME FARM ANIMALS GO EXTINCT IF HUMANS NO LONGER WANT TO RAISE THEM FOR MEAT & THEY CAN'T SURVIVE IN THE WILD? - DOES THE INEVITABLE KILLING OF INSECTS & OTHER PESTS IN THE COURSE OF FARMING MAKE EVEN VEGANS COMPLICIT? - TO WHAT EXTENT ARE PEOPLE'S VIEWS ON ANIMAL WELFARE & MEAT-EATING SHAPED BY UNDERLYING PSYCHOLOGICAL TRAITS? AND WHY ARE 79% OF VEGANS WOMEN? - HOW CAN WE EXPLAIN THE "MEAT PARADOX" - I.E. THE OFTEN UNRECOGNIZED MORAL DILEMMA FACED BY THOSE WHO LIKE ANIMALS BUT ALSO LIKE EATING MEAT? IS IT DRIVEN BY COPING MECHANISMS LIKE DISSOCIATION & AVOIDANCE? - IS A LOW-MEAT "FLEXITARIAN" DIET MORALLY ACCEPTABLE FOR THOSE WHO HAVE A HARD TIME QUITTING MEAT ENTIRELY, OR IS IT JUST AS BAD AS EATING LOTS OF MEAT? - IS CHARLES C. MANN CORRECT THAT ENVIRONMENTALISTS ARE DIVIDED INTO "PROPHETS" & "WIZARDS" BY PERSONALITY AND THIS MOTIVATES THEM TO ADVOCATE FOR AUSTERITY OR INNOVATION? HOW MIGHT THIS CONNECT WITH VIEWS ON MEAT & FACTORY FARMING? 1a) Hank Green, "[Ethics and] Non-Human Animals" (video - 9:42 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3-BX-jN_Ac 1b) Emilia Lujan, "The Psychology of Eating Meat" (video - 4:13 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TUKxr4bJvI * James McWilliams, "Can Eating Meat Be Ethical? Maybe! Here’s why we should care." https://psmag.com/social-justice/can-eating-meat-be-ethical * Rachel Krantz, "'Wild-caught,' 'organic,' 'grass-fed': what do all these animal welfare labels actually mean?" https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/1/30/18197688/organic-cage-free-wild-caught-certified-humane * John Hadley, "What a pain: the ethics of killing animals humanely" https://theconversation.com/what-a-pain-the-ethics-of-killing-animals-humanely-1751 * Neil Levy, "So you’re too ethical to eat meat; but should cows go extinct?" https://aeon.co/ideas/so-youre-too-ethical-to-eat-meat-but-should-cows-go-extinct * Julia Shaw, "What the 'meat paradox' reveals about moral decision-making" http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20190206-what-the-meat-paradox-reveals-about-moral-decision-making * Jayson Lusk, "Wizards and Prophets" http://jaysonlusk.com/2018/5/21/wizards-and-prophets . II. HEALTH EFFECTS OF MEAT & DAIRY-BASED DIETS VS VEGAN DIETS: - IS THE RDA OF 0.8g OF PROTEIN PER KG OF HEALTHY BODY WEIGHT ACCURATE - I.E. ~56g/DAY FOR SEDENTARY MEN, ~46g/DAY FOR SEDENTARY WOMEN, DOUBLE FOR ATHLETES? - DOES OVERCONSUMPTION OF PROTEIN CAUSE HEALTH PROBLEMS, OR ARE EXCESS FAT & CARBS THE BIGGER PROBLEM? - DOES RED MEAT CAUSE CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE & CANCER, OR ONLY WHEN PRESERVED WITH NITRATES? - ARE FISH A HEALTHY SOURCE OF PROTEIN & OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS, OR ARE THEY LOADED WITH TOXINS FROM INDUSTRIAL RUNOFF? - ARE EGGS A GOOD SOURCE OF PROTEIN, OR TOO HIGH IN CHOLESTEROL? - ARE MILK & DAIRY PRODUCTS A VITAL SOURCE OF PROTEIN & VITAMIN D & CALCIUM, OR CAN WE EASILY GET THIS FROM PLANT-BASED SOURCES? ARE NUT & SOY MILKS A GOOD SUBSTITUTE? - DOES FACTORY FARMING'S USE OF ANTIBIOTICS & HORMONES MAKE ITS MEAT & DAIRY PRODUCTS UNHEALTHY? IS "ORGANIC" MILK & MEAT HEALTHIER? - EVEN IF LEGUMES CAN PROVIDE AMPLE PROTEIN, IS IT DIFFICULT TO GET THE ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS, VITAMINS (B12, D) & MINERALS (ZINC, IRON, CALCIUM) ONE NEEDS WITH A VEGETARIAN DIET? - ARE ANTI-NUTRIENTS IN PLANTS LIKE LECTINS & PHYTATES A BIG PROBLEM FOR VEGANS, OR ARE THEY MOSTLY BROKEN DOWN BY COOKING? - ARE NUTRITION STUDIES SERIOUSLY DISTORTED BY FUNDING BIASES? OR IS THE LACK OF RANDOMIZATION & RELIANCE ON SELF-REPORTING OF DIET A BIGGER PROBLEM? 2a) Kurzgesagt, "Is Meat Bad for You? Is Meat Unhealthy?" (video - 10:04 min, listen to 8:53) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouAccsTzlGU 2b) Seeker, "Is Veganism Really Healthy?" (video - 2:58 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yloy0MG7gVc * Harriet Hall, "Red Meat: Is It Hazardous to Health?" https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/red-meat-is-it-hazardous-to-health/ * Steven Novella, "Organic vs Conventional Meat and Milk" https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/organic-vs-conventional-meat-and-milk/ * Julia Belluz, "How we got duped into believing milk is necessary for healthy bones" https://www.vox.com/2015/4/19/8447883/milk-health-benefit * Bret Stetka, "Unscrambling The Nutrition Science On Eggs" https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/03/06/518152471/unscrambling-the-nutrition-science-on-eggs * Chase Purdy, "If the entire US went vegan, it'd be a public health disaster" https://qz.com/1131428/if-the-entire-us-went-vegan-itd-be-a-public-health-disaster * Ginny Messina, "Betraying the Science on Vegan Nutrition" https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/betraying-the-science-on-vegan-nutrition/ * Julia Belluz, "Debunking 'What the Health', the buzzy new documentary that wants you to be vegan" https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/7/25/16018658/what-the-health-documentary-review-vegan-diet * Julia Belluz, "I asked 8 researchers why the science of nutrition is so messy. Here’s what they said." https://www.vox.com/2016/1/14/10760622/nutrition-science-complicated . III. LOCAL ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE & CLIMATE CHANGE DUE TO FACTORY FARMING: - ARE LIVESTOCK RESPONSIBLE FOR ONLY A SMALL PART (~15%) OF GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS, OR IS IT CLOSER TO 51%? - DO COWS EMIT MORE GREENHOUSE GASES THAN CARS? IS THIS INEVITABLE, OR CAN IT BE REDUCED BY SWITCHING THEM TO A GRASS-BASED DIET? - ARE COWS & OTHER RUMINANTS A NECESSARY PART OF SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE BECAUSE THEY CAN BE RAISED ON ARID GRASSLANDS UNSUITABLE FOR AGRICULTURE & THEY FERTILIZE IT WITH MANURE? - DO FACTORY FARMS PLAY A MAJOR ROLE IN BREEDING ANTI-BIOTIC RESISTANT BACTERIA? CAN FREE-RANGE FARMING AVOID THIS? - IS FREE-RANGE FARMING PROBLEMATIC BECAUSE IT REQUIRES MORE LAND? - HOW BAD ARE THE ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS OF MANURE & URINE RUNOFF FROM FACTORY FARMS? - IS AQUACULTURE A GOOD SOLUTION TO OVERFISHING & TOXINS IN THE NATURAL BODIES OF WATER? - COULD LAB-GROWN MEAT EVER SCALE UP TO MAKE MEAT THAT'S AFFORDABLE & ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE? 3a) PBS, "Should plant-based meat replace beef completely?" (video - 9:05 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaS1zc8SoWo 3b) PBS, "How industrial farming techniques can breed superbugs" (video - 9:37 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9b4KTJM8ps 3c) Syracuse.com, "See how a manure lagoon works and why farmers want to build even more of them" (video - 3:44 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSEYfs1V1JY * Doug Boucher, "Movie Review: There's a Vast Cowspiracy about Climate Change" https://blog.ucsusa.org/doug-boucher/cowspiracy-movie-review * Giorgia Guglielmi, "Are antibiotics turning livestock into superbug factories?" https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/09/are-antibiotics-turning-livestock-superbug-factories * Sacoby Wilson, "Rural Americans' struggle against factory farm pollution find traction in court" https://theconversation.com/rural-americans-struggles-against-factory-farm-pollution-find-traction-in-courr-98226 * Amy Westervelt, "Ethical farming dilemma: should we be helping the chicken or fixing the egg?" https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/eggs-environment-farming-health-cage-free * David Bowman, "Saving the world with cows: why simple ideas don’t work" https://theconversation.com/saving-the-world-with-cows-why-simple-ideas-dont-work-16818 * Keir Watson, "The Case for Sustainable Meat" https://quillette.com/2018/04/05/case-sustainable-meat/ * Graham Mair, et al, "Sustainable aquaculture is possible, with the right science" https://theconversation.com/sustainable-aquaculture-is-possible-with-the-right-science-67912 * Sigal Samuel, "Is lab-grown meat actually worse for the environment? A new study raises uncomfortable questions." https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/2/22/18235189/lab-grown-meat-cultured-environment-climate-change . IV. THE ECONOMICS & POLITICS OF SUSTAINABLE FARMING REFORMS: - HOW MUCH DO LIVESTOCK FARMS RECEIVE IN AGRICULTURAL SUBSIDIES FROM THE U.S. GOV'T? IS THIS "CRONY CAPITALISM" THAT SHOULD BE ELIMINATED, OR DOES IT HAVE SOME BENEFITS? - SHOULD THE GOV'T MONITOR ANIMAL WELFARE ON FARMS? SHOULD WE REPEAL "AG-GAG LAWS" SO PRIVATE WHISTLEBLOWERS CAN HELP WITH THIS? - IF WE TAXED FARMS FOR THEIR ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS, WOULD THIS MAKE FACTORY FARMED MEAT MORE EXPENSIVE THAN FREE-RANGE MEAT? - SHOULD GOV'TS LEVY A "SIN TAX" ON RED MEAT FOR THE HEALTHCARE COSTS IT CREATES? - SHOULD PLANT-BASED MEAT ALTERNATIVES BE ALLOWED TO MARKET THEIR PRODUCTS AS "MEAT"? - SHOULD THE GOV'T SUBSIDIZE PLANT-BASED MEAT ALTERNATIVES TO HELP THEM DISPLACE ANIMAL MEAT FROM THE CONSUMER MARKET? - WOULD IT BE UNETHICAL IF GOV'T POLICIES MADE ANIMAL MEAT AN EXPENSIVE LUXURY GOOD MOSTLY CONSUMED BY THE RICH? - WOULD MEAT TAXES INEVITABLY PROVOKE A POPULAR BACKLASH? - ARE VEGANS & ENVIRONMENTALISTS INFLUENCING VOTERS, OR ARE THEY CREATING A BACKLASH? 4a) Climate One, "The Economics of Meat Production" (video - 2:29 min.) https://youtu.be/yI8qvpEB9_k 4b) CBC, "Should meat be taxed like alcohol and cigarettes?" (video - 4:06 min.) https://youtu.be/u0ZEflf7aKY * Arthur Allen, "U.S. touts fruit and vegetables while subsidizing animals that become meat" https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/us-touts-fruit-and-vegetables-while-subsidizing-animals-that-become-meat/2011/08/22/gIQATFG5IL_story.html * John Stossel, "How 'Ag-Gag' Laws Stifle Free Speech" https://reason.com/2019/07/17/how-ag-gag-laws-stifle-free-speech/ * Lou Del Bello, "Experts Say We Should Tax Meat Eaters the Same Way We Tax Smokers - But others say a 'meat tax' would only harm the poor." https://futurism.com/experts-should-tax-meateaters-same-way-tax-smokers * Kelsey Piper, "Want to help animals? Focus on corporate decisions, not people’s plates" https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2018/10/31/18026418/vegan-vegetarian-animal-welfare-corporate-advocacy * Menios Constantinou, "Why the rise in 'militant' vegan activism is likely hurting the cause" https://www.impact.acu.edu.au/lifestyle/why-the-rise-in-militant-vegan-activism-is-likely-hurting-the-cause XXXXXXXX

    4
  • Bi-Weekly Discussion - The Urban Housing Crises

    We're currently hosting our discussions at Café Walnut, near the corner of 7th & Walnut in Olde City, just across the street from Washington Square Park. The cafe's entrance is below street level down some stairs, which can be confusing if it's your first time. Our group meets in the large room upstairs. Since we're using the cafe's space, they ask that each person attending the meetup at least purchase a drink or snack. Please don't bring any food or drinks from outside. The cafe is fairly easy to get to if you're using public transit. With SEPTA, take the Market-Frankford Line & get off at the 5th Street Station (corner of 5th & Market), and walk 2 blocks south on 5th and then turn right on Walnut Street and walk 2 blocks west. With PATCO, just get off at the 9th-10th & Locust stop and walk 3 blocks east & 1 block north. For those who are driving, I'd suggest parking in the Washington Square parking deck at 249 S 6th Street which is just a half block away. ---------------------------------------------- THE URBAN HOUSING CRISES: HOW SHOULD WE ALLEVIATE HOMELESSNESS, LOW-INCOME SEGREGATION/ DISPLACEMENT & THE MIDDLE-INCOME AFFORDABLE HOUSING CRISIS WITHOUT REINFLATING THE BUBBLE? INTRODUCTION: In our last meetup, entitled "Environmental Justice & Healthier Cities", we discussed how local policies affect air & water quality, traffic safety, and food security, and how environmental concerns have to be balanced against economic constraints & personal freedoms. To review what we covered, check out the discussion outline: https://www.meetup.com/Philadelphia-Political-Agnostics/events/txqhxqyzkblc/ In this meetup, we'll discuss the issue of urban housing from the perspective of ethics, economics, sociology & political science. As the subtitle above suggests, we'll look at 4 interlocking issues that have all been characterized as a "housing crisis" in many of America's major cities - i.e. homelessness, the residential segregation & displacement of the urban working class through "gentrification", a shortage of affordable housing for the urban middle class - especially young professionals, and the risk of another housing bubble & market crash if we get housing policy wrong again. URBANIST SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT: For those new to urban planning debates, there's several schools of thought that only roughly align with the left-right political spectrum. The first 2 schools of thought are mostly defunct at this point, but their influence continues: 1) High Modernist Urbanism: An outgrowth of early 20th-century urbanist movements like "City Beautiful" and the "Garden City", High Modernism was a post-WWII school of top-down urban planning that rezoned cities into distinct residential, commercial & industrial districts, built big urban attractions like sports stadiums, theaters & museums, accommodated suburban middle-class commuters with major highways into downtown, and "helped" the poor by demolishing slums & segregating them in high-density housing projects. 2) New Urbanism: This was a reaction against High Modernist urbanism that began in the 1960s-70s and attained prominence by the '80s-90s which focused on giving citizens greater input into urban planning and enabling walkable, moderate-density, mixed-use neighborhoods with parks & amenities to build social capital, and favored mass transit instead of car commuting. While this was a more decentralized & democratic approach, it also enabled NIMBY-ism in the form of exclusionary zoning policies & historic preservation that limited the housing supply, driving up its cost & maintaining de facto segregation. 3) Sustainable Urbanism & Smart Growth: This is an early 21st century combination of New Urbanism's focus on walkability & mass transit with High Modernism's top-down planning to address environmental concerns. It favors high-density, mixed-used neighborhoods with green spaces, and it aims to use 100% renewable energy. As a left-wing movement, it's suspicious of the free market and tends to have strict zoning, relies on rent control & gov't subsidies to make housing affordable, and favors publicly-owned mass transit, utilities, schools, hospitals, community centers, etc. 4) Antiplanning & New Suburbanism: This is a conservative & libertarian reaction against Smart Growth initiatives which sees car-centric suburbs as superior to high-density cities. It aims to makes suburbs more attractive by incorporating some New Urbanist ideas, like walkable "town centers" with bars & shops and revamped office parks with gyms & other amenities. 5) Lean/Market Urbanism & YIMBY: This is a new centrist movement of moderate libertarians & center-left liberals that sees the lack of affordable housing due to NIMBYism as a big problem. They see New Suburbanism as unsustainable & favor high-density cities with mass transit like Sustainable Urbanism, but they also think free market principles need to be applied to make the city gov't more efficient & the local economy more dynamic (e.g. privatized mass transit & utilities, school vouchers & charter schools, looser business licensing & zoning to allow innovation like Uber, Zipcar, AirBnB, dockless bikes, food trucks, pop-up events, etc.). RELEVANT MATERIAL FROM PAST MEETUPS: Way back in August of 2017, we had a meetup entitled "Classical Liberalism & Property Rights" where we discussed some basic ethical issues like how a person can come to legitimately own property, how we should handle cases of property accrued through theft or exploitation, when we're justified in excluding people from our property, and how taxation interacts with property rights. These issues all relate to the ethics of housing we'll discuss in the 1st section of this meetup: https://www.meetup.com/Philadelphia-Political-Agnostics/events/242037334/ Back in April, we had a meetup on taxes that included a discussion of the land value tax and Pigouvian taxes on negative externalities. This relates to the economics of housing we'll discuss in the 2nd section of this meetup: https://www.meetup.com/Philadelphia-Political-Agnostics/events/259946508/ Back in May of 2018, we had a meetup.entitled "Does America Offer Equal Opportunity?" and in the 1st section we looked at the economist Raj Chetty's work on the Clinton-era "Moving to Opportunity" program. It turns out that moving to a middle class neighborhood improves the educational outcomes & lifetime income of underprivileged children, suggesting this occurs through being socialized into middle class norms. We'll explore this more in the 3rd section of this discussion. https://www.meetup.com/Philadelphia-Political-Agnostics/events/xvbrznyxgbtb/ Earlier in June, we had a meetup entitled "Are Coastal Elites Living in a 'Bubble'?" where we talked about how residential segregation in cities can prevent the upper class from understanding & empathizing with both the people in rural areas and the lower class in their own cities. This relates to the 3rd section of this discussion. https://www.meetup.com/Philadelphia-Political-Agnostics/events/chrnnqyzhbjc/ Back in June, we had a meetup entitled "Coastal Cities & Climate Change" where we discussed how both urban design & economic reforms are needed to address the challenges that coastal cities faces from sea level rise & hurricanes. We also discussed how the fights over disaster relief funds & political corruption that sometimes follows in the wake of a hurricane poses problems for idealized policy models, and this dilemma relates to the political wrangling we'll cover in the 4th section of this discussion. https://www.meetup.com/Philadelphia-Political-Agnostics/events/txqhxqyzjbnc/ ----------------------------------------------- DIRECTIONS ON HOW TO PREPARE FOR OUR DISCUSSION: The videos & articles you see linked below are intended to give you a basic overview of some of the major debates over problems plaguing the housing market in major US cities. As usual, I certainly don't expect you to read all the articles & watch all the videos prior to attending our discussion. The easiest way to prepare for our discussion is to just watch the numbered videos linked under each section - the videos come to about about 54 minutes total. The articles marked with asterisks are just there to supply additional details. You can browse and look at whichever ones you want, but don't worry - we'll cover the stuff you missed in our discussion. In terms of the discussion format, my general idea is that we'll address the topics in the order presented here. As you can see, I've listed several questions under each section heading to stimulate discussion. We'll do our best to address most of them. I figure we'll spend about 30 minutes on each section. ---------------------------------------------- I. PROPERTY RIGHTS, FAIR HOUSING LAWS & THE RIGHT TO HOUSING: - DO WE ALL HAVE A NATURAL RIGHT TO USE THE LAND IN THE "STATE OF NATURE", AS JOHN LOCKE THOUGHT? IF SO, DOES THE "LOCKEAN PROVISO" SUGGEST THAT PEOPLE HAVE A RIGHT TO SOME COMPENSATION IF NO FREE LAND EXISTS? - IS THERE A POSITIVE RIGHT TO BASIC HOUSING? IF SO, DOES A TENANT IN SUBSIDIZED HOUSING HAVE ANY CORRESPONDING MORAL DUTIES, E.G. HELPING TO MAINTAIN THE HOUSING, WORKING & PAYING SOME MINIMAL AMOUNT OF RENT, ETC.? - ARE LANDLORDS EXPLOITING THEIR TENANTS, OR DO THEY FULFILL A USEFUL SERVICE BY OFFERING SHORT-TERM HOUSING & MAINTAINING IT? WHAT ARE "ABSENTEE LANDLORDS" & "SLUMLORDS" & ARE THEY UNETHICAL? - ARE LAND VALUE TAXES AN IDEAL WAY TO PREVENT UNPRODUCTIVE RENT-SEEKING & LAND SPECULATION, AS HENRY GEORGE ARGUED? OR ARE THEY UNJUST BECAUSE THEY CAN DRIVE PEOPLE OFF THEIR LAND IF PROPERTY VALUES RISE SO MUCH THEY CAN'T AFFORD THE TAXES? - WAS THE FAIR HOUSING ACT OF 1968 RIGHT TO PROHIBIT HOUSING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST PROTECTED CLASSES (RACE, RELIGION, NAT'L ORIGIN, SEX, AGE, DISABILITY, FAMILY STATUS, ETC.)? - DO WE HAVE A MORAL DUTY TO PURSUE RESIDENTIAL INTEGRATION BEYOND FOLLOWING THE FAIR HOUSING ACT, OR DOES "FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION" JUSTIFY EXCLUDING THE POOR BY OPPOSING LOW-INCOME HOUSING, TRANSIT STOPS, ETC.? - HOW MUCH CONTROL SHOULD WE HAVE OVER OUR NEIGHBOR'S PROPERTY? WHEN DOES ZONING ENFORCEMENT INFRINGE ON PROPERTY RIGHTS? - SHOULD THE GOV'T BE ABLE TO USE "EMINENT DOMAIN" TO FORCE PEOPLE TO VACATE THEIR PROPERTY FOR "PUBLIC USE"? IF SO, DOES "PUBLIC USE" ONLY MEAN GOV'T OWNED INFRASTRUCTURE LIKE ROADS & UTILITIES, OR CAN IT ALSO INCLUDE PRIVATE BUSINESSES THAT WOULD BE USEFUL TO THE AREA (E.G. GROCERY STORE IN A "FOOD DESERT")? 1a) Fox Business, "Ocasio-Cortez says housing needs to be a human right" (video - 3:06 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5Gxb4uBU9w 1b) CBS Sacramento, "Middle-Class Home Converted To Low-Income Housing Draws Neighbors' Ire" (video - 2:12 min) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITsHLlvS3y0 1c) NowThis, "Can The Government Seize Your Land?" (video - 2:57 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNlAFSKaEUg * Fabian Wendt, "Libertarian property rights and the Lockean sufficiency proviso" https://reason.com/2017/09/22/libertarian-property-rights-an/ * Dominic T. Moulden, Gregory D. Squires & Aristotle Theresa, "The Right to Stay Put" https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-right-to-stay-put/2018/09/21/395cc5d8-b90f-11e8-94eb-3bd52dfe917b_story.html? * Tom Reed, "Eminent domain abuse violates private property rights" https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/246691-eminent-domain-abuse-violates-private-property-rights . II. THE ECONOMICS OF THE HOUSING MARKET: - ARE ECONOMISTS RIGHT THAT THE UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF RENT CONTROL EXCEED THE BENEFITS & EXACERBATE AFFORDABLE HOUSING SHORTAGES? - WHY DO MOST ECONOMISTS SEE THE MORTGAGE INTEREST TAX DEDUCTION AS AN INEFFICIENT TRANSFER OF WEALTH TO THE MIDDLE & UPPER CLASSES? - CAN CITIES ALLEVIATE HOUSING SHORTAGES BY SIMPLY BUILDING MORE HOUSING, OR DOES THE RUN INTO "JEVON'S PARADOX" WHERE TEMPORARILY LOWER PRICES LEADS TO A SURGE IN DEMAND? - DOES GENTRIFICATION, ON AVERAGE, HELP OR HURT THE URBAN WORKING CLASS? - ARE THE LOW-INCOME HOUSING TAX CREDIT, HOUSING VOUCHERS & INCLUSIONARY ZONING GOOD WAYS TO MAKE HOUSING MORE AFFORDABLE, AS AARON CARROLL ARGUES? 2a) Tyler Cowen & Matt Yglesias, "Why Is the Rent So Damn High?" (video - 9:53 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcWZ8wHQIHM 2b) Nicole Gelinas, "Why Rent Control Hurts Renters" (video - 5:12 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJvTTGOHFkU 2c) Aaron Carroll, "[Exclusionary] Zoning Rules Can Keep People in Bad Neighborhoods" (video - 5:40 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jIlvz2e4Mc * IGM Experts, "Rent Control" http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/rent-control * IGM Experts, "Tax Reform [and the Mortgage Interest Tax Deduction]" http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/tax-reform * IGM Experts, "Gentrification" http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/gentrification * Matthew Yglesias, "America’s dual housing crisis, explained: A crisis of low incomes and a parallel crisis of tight supply." https://www.vox.com/2019/7/30/20681101/housing-crisis-democrats-2020-warren-harris-booker-castro * Noah Smith, "Poverty Is a Bigger Problem Than Gentrification: Millions of people languish in decaying cities, while a relative few are pushed out of reviving neighborhoods." https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-05-06/poverty-is-a-bigger-problem-than-gentrification * Scott Beyer, "The Great Urban Myth: 'Cities Can't Build Their Way To Affordable Housing'" https://marketurbanismreport.com/blog/the-great-urban-myth-cities-cant-build-their-way-to-affordable-housing * Matt Yglesias, "The most cost-effective way to help the homeless is to give them homes. Addressing housing directly is cheaper than relying on cops and emergency rooms." https://www.vox.com/2014/5/30/5764096/homeless-shelter-housing-help-solutions . III. THE SOCIOLOGY OF NEIGHBORHOODS & THE FORCES BEHIND SEGREGATION: - IS SEGREGATION DRIVEN BY IRRATIONALITY OR A RATIONAL DESIRE TO PRESERVE PROPERTY VALUES, SOCIAL CAPITAL & LOW CRIME RATES? - WHY DOES ECONOMIC & RACIAL SEGREGATION LEAD TO INTERGENERATIONAL POVERTY & CRIME? - HOW DO "MOVING TO OPPORTUNITY" PROGRAMS HELP AT-RISK YOUTH - I.E. IS IT BETTER JOBS FOR PARENTS, BETTER SCHOOLS, BETTER PEER GROUPS, ETC.? - DOES RACIAL INTEGRATION USUALLY RUN INTO A TIPPING POINT THAT CAUSES "WHITE FLIGHT", OR IS MORE OF A CLASS-BASED PHENOMENON? 3a) Tim Harford, "The Logic of Life: Racial segregation" (video - 2:04 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjfihtGefxk 3b) 13WMAZ, "VERIFY: Does affordable housing bring more crime?" (video - 2:24 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6-CfCALanA 3c) Nathan Hendren & Ed Glaeser, "Moving to Opportunity" (video - 4:29 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7DfTl9iMOc * Chris Bodenner, "What's So Bad About Segregated Housing" https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/06/housing-integration-segregation-/396605/ * Daniel Hertz, "Are racial 'tipping points' overblown?" http://cityobservatory.org/are-racial-tipping-points-overblown/ * Tom Jacobs, "Are People Kinder in Racially Diverse Neighborhoods?" https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/are_people_kinder_in_racially_diverse_neighborhoods * Justin Wolfers, "Growing Up in a Bad Neighborhood Does More Harm Than We Thought" https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/27/upshot/growing-up-in-a-bad-neighborhood-does-more-harm-than-we-thought.html . IV. THE POLITICAL FORCES PUSHING FOR MORE & LESS HOUSING: - DOES CLASS & RACIAL SEGREGATION AFFECT NATIONAL POLITICS? - IS GRASS-ROOTS NIMBY-ISM POLITICALLY STRONGER THAN THE CLOUT OF BIG DEVELOPERS? - CAN THE FEDERAL GOV'T REFORM HOUSING POLICY, OR IS THIS INEVITABLE A LOCAL ISSUE? - HOW MUCH OF THE MID-2000s HOUSING BUBBLE & 2008 FINANCIAL CRISIS WAS DUE TO THE FEDERAL GOV'T PUSHING HOME OWNERSHIP? - WOULD PRIVATIZING FANNIE MAE & FREDDIE MAC HELP AVOID ANOTHER HOUSING BUBBLE? 4a) BNN w/ Katherine Levine Einstein, "Study Examines Politics of NIMBY" (video - 9:57 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6Rcuxo3ZTI 4b) WSJ, "How Fannie and Freddie Prop Up America's Favorite Mortgage" (video - 4:29 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1V7H5pJY4U * IGM Experts, "Fannie and Freddie" http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/fannie-and-freddie * IGM Experts, "Factors Contributing to the 2008 Global Financial Crisis" http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys-special/factors-contributing-to-the-2008-global-financial-crisis * Eric Jaffe, "Toward a Stronger Theory of NIMBYism" https://www.citylab.com/equity/2016/02/nimbyism-define-club-chris-bradford/461946/ * Tanvi Misra, "Racial Segregation, Not Economic Hardship, Explains Trump" https://www.citylab.com/equity/2016/08/racial-segregation-not-economic-hardship-explains-trump/495950/ * Rick Jacobus, "Why Voters Haven’t Been Buying the Case for Building - It’s not because they’re stupid." https://shelterforce.org/2019/02/19/why-voters-havent-been-buying-the-case-for-building/ * Chris Edwards, "How Federal Housing Aid Promotes Fraud and Corruption" https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/03/federal-housing-aid-promotes-fraud-and-corruption/ * David Sanchez, "No, Lending To Poor People Did Not Cause The Financial Crisis" https://thinkprogress.org/no-lending-to-poor-people-did-not-cause-the-financial-crisis-8ba95ce23015/ * Julia Falcon, "Economists say 2020 recession likely, but housing market won't be the cause" https://www.housingwire.com/articles/49631-economists-say-2020-recession-likely-but-housing-market-wont-be-the-cause XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    3