Praesidium

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Organ Nudge

It seems that manadated choice concerning organ donation is a step closer, with proposals that those applying for a driving licence will have to say yes or no. (The BBC article gives the impression that this change has, or at least will, be implemented, but in fact it seems that it is simply a proposal at the moment.)

It's not much of a nudge, since it doesn't direct people towards answering yes, as some have proposed. Nonetheless, simply requiring people to confront the issue is likely I'd have thought to lead to more opting in, rather than simply passing over the issue. Even this, though, seems to have roused a lot of opposition, judging by the comments on the BBC story.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Legal Territorial Jurisdiction

I have a paper - hopefully forthcoming, details to follow - in which I claim that the law subjects everyone globally to coercion, because (for instance) a law requiring that people drive on the left in the UK applies equally to all persons driving in the UK. I think an awful lot of political philosophy/theory gets things wrong by focusing on people, rather than territory, though I understand that there have been recent moves to redress this (for instance Chris Bertram's Territory and Justice network).

Anyway, I was struck by this case, reported on the BBC. The case centres on George 'Star Wars' Lucas suing the man who originally made Storm Trooper helmets (Mr Ainsworth) for selling them, on the grounds that he (Ainsworth) no longer owned the copyright. As the BBC reports:

"Lucasfilm sued for $20m in 2004, arguing Mr Ainsworth did not hold the intellectual property rights and had no right to sell them - a point upheld by a US court.
But the judgement could not be enforced because the designer held no assets in the US, so the battle moved to the UK.
"

The interesting point, made explicit in an earlier version of the story, but not as clear now, is that the UK court upheld the US decision that Ainsworth could not sell the helmets in the US. This, I think, raises interesting issues, though I'm insufficiently clear on either the details of the case or the necessary legal theory. It looks to me though as if the UK court's decision binds a British citizen not to do something in US territory...

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cuts to Graduate Funding

New story on the BBC website suggesting cuts to PhD and Masters funding all round, not only in the humanities.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Shawcross on Expansion Consistency

One commonly accepted axiom of choice theory is what's often called 'expansion consistency', the idea of which is that if P is chosen from the set of P, Q, and R then adding S to the set shouldn't lead to P losing to either Q or R. (This is closely related to Arrow's Indepence condition.) To give a trivial example, suppose that you have the option of vanilla or chocolate ice cream and choose vanilla. Then you're told that strawberry is also available. To say 'oh, well in that case I'll have chocolate' would seem odd, since chocolate was available before.

Note, however, that one isn't required to stick with one's original choice when the expanded set of options includes more attractive alternatives: it would be quite understandable for you to switch to strawberry ice cream if that is your favourite. This point seems lost of Stoke's Ryan Shawcross, who apparently decided to commit his footballing allegiance to England before having the option of choosing Wales. Here's what he says:

"I made my decision a long time ago when the current rule wasn't in place that I could play for Wales.... My decision might have been different if the current rule was in place at the time but these things happen."

A FIFA rule change in 2009 means that, though Shawcross wasn't previously eligible for Wales, he now is. But it seems that he's unwilling to consider switching allegiance, having decided to commit to England (when Wales wasn't an option). This is rather odd.

In effect, he's saying that he chose X when only X was available, and now that he has the choice of X or Y he's unwilling to consider Y, because of that prior decision. Of course, I'm not criticizing him for choosing England over Wales, but he admits that he might now have chosen differently. To regard himself as bound by a past decision, which was hardly really a choice, now that he has a wider range of options seems irrational.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

The Qualifications Gap

Apparently 35% of adults in Glasgow North East have no educational qualifications whatsoever.

It's hard to know what to make of this study, however. The fact that more educated people tend to be in the south east and the less educated in the west midlands and north doesn't necessarily show that those in the north have less educational opportunities. It could be that all have the same opportunities, but the more educated move to London for work, leaving their less educated peers behind.

Another problem is that the 'adult population' is rather varied including, for instance, immigrants and those who left school 50+ years ago, not needing any qualifications. It's not clear, then, what these statistics mean for the opportunities facing today's youngsters. I'd think practically anyone is capable of getting at least a GCSE - it's not that hard - so it would be rather scary if that many youngsters today were failing to get any qualifications.

This highlights a further, more significant, feature: there's an awful lot of variation between those with 'some qualifications', between for instance a solitary GCSE and an undergraduate (or postgraduate) degree. Again, something not clear from this, rather simplistic, survey...

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Picking Journal Referees

I'm meaning to write something on refereeing sometime soon (when I get chance), but in the meantime this post at Leiter looks as if it could generate interesting discussion as to how editors go about approaching referees. I'm always curious how and why I get approached.

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