Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Pigeon Politics?

Are pigeons political animals? The subtitle of this Conversation article would suggest so, though the term 'politics' does not seem to appear in the original research that it reports.

The research is concerned with hierarchies, but it's plausible that not all politics involves hierarchy - a society of equals could still be political. But what of the reverse? Can there be hierarchies that are not political?

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Publication: Altruism and Organ Donation

I have a new paper, forthcoming in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

I made a word cloud, to illustrate the main ideas:

You can also view this word cloud here. If you prefer the more traditional abstract, here it is:

"It has traditionally been assumed that organ donation must be altruistic, though the necessity of altruistic motivations has recently been questioned. Few, however, have questioned whether altruism is always a good motive. This paper considers the possibility that excessive altruism, or self-abnegation, may be intrinsically bad. How this may be so is illustrated with reference to Tom Hurka’s account of the value of attitudes, which suggests that disproportionate love of one’s own good—either excessive or deficient—is intrinsically bad. Whether or not we accept the details of this account, recognising that altruistic motivations may be intrinsically bad has important implications for organ procurement. One possible response is to say that we should take further measures to ensure that donors have good motives—that they are altruistic is no longer enough. An alternative is to say that, since altruistic donation need not be intrinsically good, we have less reason to object to other motivations."

Those with access to the journal can access the full paper, ahead of its print publication.

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Fines and School Holidays

I saw this article about truancy fines for term-time holidays on the BBC website. I don't know about the content of the review being reported on, but the first two sentences of the article seem clearly contradictory:

"Fining parents for taking children out of school in term time in Wales has had no effect on overall absence rates, a review has found.
It shows the number of unauthorised family holidays actually increased after fixed penalty notices were introduced in 2013."

If there was an increase, then there was an effect on absence rates, though perhaps not the one expected. (It might perhaps be that the increase was attributable to something else, and the fine judged to have no effect either way, but there's no indication in the article that anything else was responsible for this increase.)

This isn't so surprising if you're familiar with the literature in the area. One of the most referred to studies is this one, concerning the introduction of fines for late collection of children from day care centres. Again, the study found that more parents were late to collect their children after the introduction of fines.

The usual interpretation is that the extrinsic motivation provided by the fine 'crowds out' intrinsic motivation provided by a sense of duty. Without the fine, people feel a moral obligation to collect their children on time. When there is a fine, they feel that they are paying for being late, so the feeling of moral obligation not to be late recedes. It seems there may be a similar effect in the case of term-time holidays.

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Friday, March 23, 2018

Electoral Tie-Breaking

I've not seen national news coverage yet, but a (council?) by-election in Ockendon, Thurrock has been resolved by drawing a name out of a box. Local coverage can be found here and here.

So far, I'm not clear on the facts of the case. The Thurrock Gazette reports the first count gave a one-vote difference, before a recount led to an exact tie (696 each) and a lottery. In that case, I'd expect another recount, to confirm whether it really was a tie or not, before the lottery.

However, reports that there were three recounts. (I don't know whether they actually mean an original count and two recounts, or whether they really mean three recounts, i.e. four counts total.)

Predictably, comments sections show some opposition to lotteries, but I'm pleased to see that they continue to play a part in our democracy.

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Thursday, March 01, 2018

Age-based Voting in the EU Referendum

In the aftermath of the EU ('Brexit') Referendum, there was a lot of talk about the disparity between the old (who it seems voted in larger numbers and mainly to leave) and the young (who mainly voted to remain, but many of whom did not vote - or for under 18s were not eligible to do so).

Here is Sean Lock, proposing to include those over 10 but exclude those over 65. You'll need institutional access to Box of Broadcasts.

If you don't have that, my TV guide says it was from Series 4, Episode 6 of 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, which seems to be confirmed by 4OD. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to square with what I can find on Youtube, where episodes seem to be wrongly labelled. It featured Bill Bailey and Josh Widdicombe as guests.

A more serious, academic take on the issue is provided by this Van Parijs article (which I've shared before) but I think I might use Sean Lock in my lectures.

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Thursday, February 08, 2018

Votes for Immigrants

A nice blog here, arguing that the right to vote should not be restricted to citizens, but rather should extend to resident foreigners.

Some would go even further, questioning why even residency should be required, if people can be affected by decisions. It's been suggested, for example, that everyone in Latin America should get to vote on the US president. This would probably have made quite a difference to the 2016 election, where the Mexican border wall was one of Trump's main campaign promises.

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Monday, January 22, 2018

Taxes for Children

The BBC just led me to this HMRC video explaining taxes for children (roughly 8-11). From around 3:30, it highlights that the target audience pay tax (VAT). This could be interesting in a discussion of voting rights.

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