Letter and Spirit

April 16, 2012

First, a link to the Yahoo news piece:

A 17-year-old varsity baseball player in suburban Cleveland is being banned from walking at his own graduation for racking up two too many unexcused absences. While those circumstances might be considered the fault of the athlete in most cases, Carrollton (Ohio) High senior Austin Fisher’s case is a rather extraordinary one: His absences were all brought on by time he spent caring for his mother, who has spent the past six years battling breast cancer.

Notice that actions have consequences.  Having been through the public school system myself, administrators are fairly good at annoying the student about every absence and also pointing out excessive absences.  At some point, I’d guess before the 12th or 13th absence, Fisher was told that 14 was the most he could have and be permitted to walk for graduation.  I am very confident that at some level he was aware that missing an X amount of days from school would have severe, negative consequences.  He made the choice instead to care for his mother.  He now lives with the consequences of his actions.  That how life works.

But there’s no reason to stop there.  Most people would agree that he made the right choice.  I certainly think so.  Even though he has no control over the fact that his mother is not married (be it some reason so frivolous as “I didn’t love him anymore” or something so serious as his father died tragically) and therefore does not have a partner for emotional, physical, and financial support, he stepped up to fulfill needed roles to the best of his ability.  I believe he made the right choice given his circumstances.  Family is more important than walking down the aisle with your graduating classmates.  While many people may say this, he actually had the courage to do this.

This brings us to the matter of the rules.  The rules state that missing more than 14 days of classes (unexcused) means a student will not walk on graduation night.  This rule seems very lenient (14 days–that’s 8% of the school year!) and is meant to keep bad, lazy students from being perceived as good, industrious students.  While this rule alone will not insure that this happens, it can at least weed out the fringes, one would hope.

But this breaks down, like many other rules which regulate intentions.  This is not some moral law or some variation of a moral law, rather, this rule is made to codify actions with intentions and penalize the presumed intentions.  However, if the intentions are different than what the actions normally would signal, the rules violate their very spirit and thus become illegitimate.  This is not to argue against rule of law, but to argue against law of rules.

Rules are made to provide a mechanism for good to occur in specific situations.  Unlike Laws (by this I mean Laws based on morality and ethics), rules are good or bad depending on the situation and the underlying morals.  While rules may function well in 99% of the situations, in the !5 of situations they do not they should be recognized for what they are: regulations which failed in guardianship of their intentions.

Rich People Degrees

January 24, 2012

It is entirely possible that people who are born into the upper-class just happen to choose some of these degrees (like the economics crowd) and use their parents’ connections to land awesome salaries.  Some degrees are so specific that few dare obtain them and thus the supply is low and expertise becomes more valued (art, physics, math).

However, I would like to make the point, or maybe just speculate a bit, about the groupings of most of these degrees.

Notice that pre-med is big bucks (duh) as well as molecular biology and chemistry–popular choices for working for a pharmaceutical company.  Poli Sci and International Relations are tracks into law school or government.  Accounting, finance, and business are all Wall Street type career paths.

These three main areas, medicine, government, and corporations, are rampant with regulations and bureaucracy only necessary because of government malfunction.  Medicine is regulated insanely.  Doctor licensing crimps supply of doctors, driving up prices.  Pharmaceutical companies are hampered by FDA processes that mostly creates extra hoops to jump through.  Government regulations mess with the pricing for insurance companies.  Government is just one big handout machine that creates suffocating bureaucracy and thrives on constricting the private money supply to waste money on projects so not valuable enough to be undertaken by private companies.  And the Wall Street crowd needs to be educated in how to understand the confusing regulations and loopholes and paperwork demanded by government.  The same government which bails out fraud and encourages insane risk-taking and even allows fake wealth to be created for the sole purpose of increasing GDP and tax coffers.

Government has distorted the market such that it, in a soft sense, picks winners and losers.  I have nothing against the 1% (as long as they aren’t committing theft or fraud–most doctors don’t), they just responded to the incentives in society.  If you were offered $1,000,000 a year if you obtained a certain degree, would you take it?  Of course.  You wouldn’t refuse an offer like that, so the 1% is no more immoral than you for responding to incentives.

I do have a problem with the government for skewing incentives and effectively creating classes of workers who are more likely to make it into the 1%.  If the 1% was determined by the market, by the collective choices of consumers, I’d have no problem with whoever made it into the bracket.  But the deck is stacked towards certain professions–professions in groups that have been caught making out with the government.