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    « Rumsfeld's Coming Court Problem | Main | Plame Flame »

    May 02, 2006


    Adie Mahony

    Love your site! Error today: Everybody lead should have been LED, even though,of course, you were talking about the "LEAD".

    Adie Mahony

    My previous comment related to your column in Slate today. I should have been more specific. It(the misspelling) was undoubtedly THEIR error but there is no way I can reach them. Again, kudos to you for great opinion/reporting!

    Adie Mahony


    Is the answer really so self-evident? Let's take another hypothetical:

    Suppose you were setting criminal procedure policy from behind that veil of ignorance. Which of these would you choose?

    (1) Restricting application of the death penalty even though the risk of being unjustly executed is no more than 8 percent, if that.

    (2) Expanding application of the death penalty to benefit most Americans by permanently removing dangerous members of society while also giving some Americans living in dire poverty the chance to increase their disposable income by saving on taxes that would have been spent on appeals and prisons.

    Why is the "self-evident" answer 2) in Tierney's case but not in the hypothetical?

    I'm not at all anti-immigration. I'm just anti-glib thinking. For example, when going behind the veil of ignorance to set policy, who are you setting policy for? In this case, presumably Americans; after all, it's American immigration policy. That being the case, people who aren't Americans would be excluded from the calculation, so the dire poverty of non-Americans would be irrelevant.

    By the same token, telling "lower-income workers" (stripped of euphemism, "the working poor") that their already sub-poverty level wages would "only" be cut by 8 percent is not only callous (unsurprising coming from Tierney), it's peeking behind the veil. You don't know behind the veil of ignorance how drastic the effects of one's policy decisions might be, which is the whole point of the exercise. You have to assume that some people are going to lose their livelihoods entirely, and set policy to take that into account. This would presumably entail a policy of job retraining to minimize the impact of discovering that you, the policymaker, are going to be one of those unfortunate souls once the veil is lifted. Otherwise, you aren't in the "original position" at all. You are just dealing from the bottom of the deck.

    Anytime someone says you don't need to "slog" through a book to understand how to apply its principles, it's probably because that person doesn't know how to either. And that goes double for a nitwit like John Tierney.

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