Friday, February 01, 2013

Why is there a Mexican Immigration Problem?

 Answer: because of the massive subsidies to grain farmers in the US by the federal government. Go to Google, type in "immigration and corn subsidies," and check it out. The following are typical of what you will find:

Remember NAFTA?  That's when the big problems began.

Hmmmm! Why don't we cut off these subsidies?
a. failure of the political process
b. corruption of the political process
c. a and b
d. all of the above

Too simple?  Yes, and some progress is being made, But we are many years too late.

PS Senator Obama of Illinois voted consistently for corn subsidies. (Iowa and Illinois are the two biggest corn producing states.)

See also post of October 15, 2009.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Second Amendment Is a Curse

Whatever its historical merit,  the Second Amendment in 2013 is a hindrance  that we would be better off without. That every discussion of gun rights has to be mediated through this anachronism is an unmitigated disaster that serves no useful purpose.

Even if it were repealed, the legislatures of the land could not be counted on to produce laws that would help much. The problem is much deeper. It lies in our culture. In the final analysis, culture governs politics.

While Newtown may generate  helpful changes in laws and practices, the fundamental transformation that is needed awaits the dissolution of our perverse fascination with guns and our fanatical pursuit of individual rights to the neglect of social responsibility. It waits for the willingness to sacrifice a personal pleasure in owning and shooting instruments of mass murder like  assault rifles if it would reduce their availability to criminals and mentally and emotionally sick people.

I do not see any evidence of that basic reordering of ideas, habits, values, and practices yet. I expect that we will continue to be the worst example of child killing with monstrous weapons among the nations we would like to be compared with.

This is a form of American exceptionalism that we cannot be proud of. How many more Newtowns will it take to produce the kairos that is needed, that right and ripe moment when all the preconditions of  redemptive transformation are present? Enough, I expect to break our hearts many more times.

See also posts of  12/23/2012 and 1/22/2013

Monday, January 28, 2013

Letters and Logic: Fallacies Galore

Many decades ago a colleague of mine suggested that students in his logic class look in the letters to the editor section of the paper for examples of sloppy thinking. His advice still works.

It would take a textbook to cover all the errors in thinking. But read the letters critically, and you should have no trouble finding a treasure of  sloppy reasoning.

A common error  is identifying  correlation with causation. If a state with the death penalty has a higher murder rate than a state that does not, some take this to mean that the death penalty has no or little deterrent effect.  Maybe, but there could many causes that affect the murder rate in a given state besides the presence or absence of the death penalty.

Perhaps even more widespread is drawing too large a conclusion from too few facts, too big a generalization from too few particulars.  If the first ten people you see entering a new town are white, you might  conclude that the population is mostly white, whereas they might be the only whites in a village  with twelve  hundred blacks.

On and on it goes.

Thinking is hard work, and few of us do it well. Just take a look at tomorrow's newspaper.