Occasional Notes: Revisionism
History has no meaning, I contend. But this contention does not imply that all we can do about it is to look aghast at the history of political power, or that we must look on it as a cruel joke. For we can interpret it, with an eye to those problems of power politics whose solution we choose to attempt in our time… Although history has no ends, we can impose these ends of ours upon it; and although history has no meaning, we can give it a meaning. — Karl Popper
Reasonable Doubts are a function of data, and thus of time. Radley Balko writes:
More than 270 people have been cleared by DNA testing in the last 30 years, a strong indication that our criminal justice system is more error-prone than much of the public likely believes. Most of the rest of the developed world has done away with capital punishment. And there’s now strong evidence that at least one state executed an innocent man.
Why, after all of this, do more than six in 10 Americans still support the death penalty?
A reasonable question, but also one we’ve mulled recently in the comments. I’d like to ask a related question: What does DNA evidence say about the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of guilt? We seem to have a choice these days. Either we revise what “reasonability” is and just declare that a reasonable person might want to consult DNA evidence, at least for some cases — or we stick to the old definition and in effect pretend that DNA evidence doesn’t exist.
It seems clear to me that the “reasonable” level of doubt beyond which a jury is told to go can and indeed should change over time. This will no doubt make conservatives uncomfortable.
Revisionism Is Good for the Soul, or so a history professor once told me. Steven Horwitz writes:
Politicians and pundits portray Herbert Hoover as a defender of laissez faire governance whose dogmatic commitment to small government led him to stand by and do nothing while the economy collapsed in the wake of the stock market crash in 1929. In fact, Hoover had long been a critic of laissez faire. As president, he doubled federal spending in real terms in four years. He also used government to prop up wages, restricted immigration, signed the Smoot-Hawley tariff, raised taxes, and created the Reconstruction Finance Corporation—all interventionist measures and not laissez faire. Unlike many Democrats today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s advisers knew that Hoover had started the New Deal. One of them wrote, “When we all burst into Washington … we found every essential idea [of the New Deal] enacted in the 100-day Congress in the Hoover administration itself.
An argument that could obviously cut both ways.
Your Money Is Your Own, and Will Wilkinson explains why:
One thing I’d like progressives like Elizabeth Warren and Robert Frank to get through their heads is that this deeper moral/cultural infrastructure makes possible both tax-financed public goods and wealth-producing market institutions. You can’t buy with taxes the cultural prerequisites of the productive collection and expenditure of taxes.
So, if you live in a wealthy country and made some money last year, there is some sense in which much of that wealth is an “unearned return” on your cultural patrimony. Does that have any implications for what counts as “your money”? I doubt it.
As my former colleague Tom Palmer likes to point out, nobody could make any money at all if they didn’t have any food to eat, but that doesn’t imply that any of us owe farmers a penny more than we already paid for our grub. If it turns out we can’t buy the institutional infrastructure “that makes our wealth possible” in exactly the same way we buy the food “that makes our wealth possible,” we’ll need to buy it somehow. Taxation seems like a good way to do that. But the fact that it might be necessary to have a government that forces you to pay for some necessary public goods doesn’t mean it’s not “your money” you’re paying with. The money I spend on bacon didn’t really belong to pig farmers all along.
Government Contains Bullies, in just about every sense of the word. I suspect people would begin to think differently about government if they found the following not aberrant, but all too typical:
A second video has emerged showing NYPD Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna recklessly unleashing pepper spray on non-violent protesters as well as fellow officers at the ongoing Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.
Bologna, who was identified as the cop who pepper sprayed a pair of women who were already detained on Saturday, apparently keeps his pepper spray canister in his hands at all times, unleashing streams of pepper spray on unsuspecting citizens before disappearing back into the crowd.
I’ve got to admit I didn’t see the act in the first clip I viewed. Slowed down however, it’s very, very clear:
And finally, because it’s no fun to end on an outrage…
Liquid Salad — gross or intriguing? I’m tentatively going for the latter, because raita is pretty yummy.