The ethics of eight (babies that is)

All over the blogosphere people are discussing the California woman who gave birth to 8 babies.  The media was quick to call it a miracle, but it seems it only took a few hours before bloggers, journalists, and doctors began to seriously question the mother’s intentions.  It seems crazy enough to want 8 kids at once, but now rumor has it that the mom is single, living with her parents in a 2 bedroom house, and already has six kids (all under the age of 7 nonetheless).

If you want to be entertained (or appalled), I recommend reading the comments section on articles discussing this woman.  You’ll see a variety of viewpoints expressed, from those who think we should just leave this woman alone, to those who think the government should mandate how many kids a person can have and restrict who can receive fertility treatments.

I guess I fall somewhere in the middle.  Read the rest of this entry »


Who says our kids don’t learn anything in school?

The Baltimore Sun reports on a group of city high school students threatening to starve themselves unless their demands for taxpayer funds are met.  I wonder if it ever occurred to them to try raising the money themselves through voluntary donors?  Probably not.


Taxing Target Practice

The Maryland state legislature’s recent tax hike is less than a month old, has yet to take effect, and is already drawing loud complaints.  As the Baltimore Sun reports, the latest group to raise its voice comprises citizens involved in computer services.  The article presents the familiar arguments for why higher taxes will impair the competitive position of the subject industry, and the arguments are sound; however, the proper response is not to repeal this specific enactment and exempt computer services.  The correct course of action is to stop using the tax code as a means of implementing social policy and favoring certain sectors at the expense of others.  In other words, the correct course of action is to set taxes low, and apply them to as broad a base as possible.  This will minimize tax-induced distortions in the economy removing an extraneous and unnecessary factor in the complex decisions people must make on which industry to enter, which service to utilize, or which good to buy.  For a more thorough discussion of the woeful complexity of taxes in America, go here.


Self-fulfilling anti-Philanthropy Prophecy

Ezra Klein has a post up over at his blog criticizing the “conservative” view that many “liberal” government programs are misguided efforts to substitute the State in place of private charity. He claims that this is not true and that charity is different from social policy because one is “a way to demonstrate virtue or compassion” while the other is “at least in theory…a way to try and fix a structural problem.” He advances as evidence of this divergence the observation that “very little philanthropy actually goes into the areas that social policy focuses on.”

I see at least two problems with Klein’s views. First, he basically short circuits the entire debate with his casual dismissal of the divergence between the theory and practice of social policy. Regardless of what social policy should do “in theory” it very often ends up functioning as forced charity. What, precisely, are the structural problems meant to be solved by the National Endowment for the Arts? Second, I believe there is something called the “crowding out effect” that might help explain why we don’t observe private individuals contributing vast sums to areas the government has effectively claimed as its own prerogative. Why, after all, should I be donating my money to pay for health care for the elderly when the government is already taking 3% of everything I earn for that purpose?

If Klein’s discussion was meant to clarify and exonerate the “liberal” in contrast to the “conservative” he did a very poor job. The whole of his post consists of question begging and circular argumentation.