Later On

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Archive for May 2nd, 2021

The clockwork universe: is free will an illusion?

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More and more I question the degree to which animals (and plants) have free will. Oliver Burkman in the Guardian summarizes some recent thinking on the issue.

Towards the end of a conversation dwelling on some of the deepest metaphysical puzzles regarding the nature of human existence, the philosopher Galen Strawson paused, then asked me: “Have you spoken to anyone else yet who’s received weird email?” He navigated to a file on his computer and began reading from the alarming messages he and several other scholars had received over the past few years. Some were plaintive, others abusive, but all were fiercely accusatory. “Last year you all played a part in destroying my life,” one person wrote. “I lost everything because of you – my son, my partner, my job, my home, my mental health. All because of you, you told me I had no control, how I was not responsible for anything I do, how my beautiful six-year-old son was not responsible for what he did … Goodbye, and good luck with the rest of your cancerous, evil, pathetic existence.” “Rot in your own shit Galen,” read another note, sent in early 2015. “Your wife, your kids your friends, you have smeared all there [sic] achievements you utter fucking prick,” wrote the same person, who subsequently warned: “I’m going to fuck you up.” And then, days later, under the subject line “Hello”: “I’m coming for you.” “This was one where we had to involve the police,” Strawson said. Thereafter, the violent threats ceased.

It isn’t unheard of for philosophers to receive death threats. The Australian ethicist Peter Singer, for example, has received many, in response to his argument that, in highly exceptional circumstances, it might be morally justifiable to kill newborn babies with severe disabilities. But Strawson, like others on the receiving end of this particular wave of abuse, had merely expressed a longstanding position in an ancient debate that strikes many as the ultimate in “armchair philosophy”, wholly detached from the emotive entanglements of real life. They all deny that human beings possess free will. They argue that our choices are determined by forces beyond our ultimate control – perhaps even predetermined all the way back to the big bang – and that therefore nobody is ever wholly responsible for their actions. Reading back over the emails, Strawson, who gives the impression of someone far more forgiving of other people’s flaws than of his own, found himself empathising with his harassers’ distress. “I think for these people it’s just an existential catastrophe,” he said. “And I think I can see why.”

The difficulty in explaining the enigma of free will to those unfamiliar with the subject isn’t that it’s complex or obscure. It’s that the experience of possessing free will – the feeling that we are the authors of our choices – is so utterly basic to everyone’s existence that it can be hard to get enough mental distance to see what’s going on. Suppose you find yourself feeling moderately hungry one afternoon, so you walk to the fruit bowl in your kitchen, where you see one apple and one banana. As it happens, you choose the banana. But it seems absolutely obvious that you were free to choose the apple – or neither, or both – instead. That’s free will: were you to rewind the tape of world history, to the instant just before you made your decision, with everything in the universe exactly the same, you’d have been able to make a different one.

Nothing could be more self-evident. And yet according to a growing chorus of philosophers and scientists, who have a variety of different reasons for their view, it also can’t possibly be the case. “This sort of free will is ruled out, simply and decisively, by the laws of physics,” says one of the most strident of the free will sceptics, the evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne. Leading psychologists such as Steven Pinker and Paul Bloom agree, as apparently did the late Stephen Hawking, along with numerous prominent neuroscientists, including VS Ramachandran, who called free will “an inherently flawed and incoherent concept” in his endorsement of Sam Harris’s bestselling 2012 book Free Will, which also makes that argument. According to the public intellectual Yuval Noah Harari, free will is an anachronistic myth – useful in the past, perhaps, as a way of motivating people to fight against tyrants or oppressive ideologies, but rendered obsolete by the power of modern data science to know us better than we know ourselves, and thus to predict and manipulate our choices.

Arguments against free will go back millennia, but the latest resurgence of scepticism has been driven by advances in neuroscience during the past few decades. Now that it’s possible to observe – thanks to neuroimaging – the physical brain activity associated with our decisions, it’s easier to think of those decisions as just another part of the mechanics of the material universe, in which “free will” plays no role. And from the 1980s onwards, various specific neuroscientific findings have offered troubling clues that our so-called free choices might actually originate in our brains several milliseconds, or even much longer, before we’re first aware of even thinking of them.

Despite the criticism that this is all just armchair philosophy, the truth is that the stakes could hardly be higher. Were free will to be shown to be nonexistent – and were we truly to absorb the fact – it would “precipitate a culture war far more belligerent than the one that has been waged on the subject of evolution”, Harris has written. Arguably, we would be forced to conclude that it was unreasonable ever to praise or blame anyone for their actions, since they weren’t truly responsible for deciding to do them; or to feel guilt for one’s misdeeds, pride in one’s accomplishments, or gratitude for others’ kindness. And we might come to feel that it was morally unjustifiable to mete out retributive punishment to criminals, since they had no ultimate choice about their wrongdoing. Some worry that it might fatally corrode all human relations, since romantic love, friendship and neighbourly civility alike all depend on the assumption of choice: any loving or respectful gesture has to be voluntary for it to count.

Peer over the precipice of the free will debate for a while, and you begin to appreciate how an already psychologically vulnerable person might be nudged into a breakdown, as was apparently the case with Strawson’s email correspondents. Harris has taken to prefacing his podcasts on free will with disclaimers, urging those who find the topic emotionally distressing to give them a miss. And Saul Smilansky, a professor of philosophy at the University of Haifa in Israel, who believes the popular notion of free will is a mistake, told me that if a graduate student who was prone to depression sought to study the subject with him, he would try to dissuade them. “Look, I’m naturally a buoyant person,” he said. “I have the mentality of a village idiot: it’s easy to make me happy. Nevertheless, the free will problem is really depressing if you take it seriously. It hasn’t made me happy, and in retrospect, if I were at graduate school again, maybe a different topic would have been preferable.”

Smilansky is an advocate of what he calls “illusionism”, the idea that although free will as conventionally defined is unreal, it’s crucial people go on believing otherwise – from which it follows that an article like this one might be actively dangerous. (Twenty years ago, he said, he might have refused to speak to me, but these days free will scepticism was so widely discussed that “the horse has left the barn”.) “On the deepest level, if people really understood what’s going on – and I don’t think I’ve fully internalised the implications myself, even after all these years – it’s just too frightening and difficult,” Smilansky said. “For anyone who’s morally and emotionally deep, it’s really depressing and destructive. It would really threaten our sense of self, our sense of personal value. The truth is just too awful here.”


The conviction that nobody ever truly chooses freely to do anything – that we’re the puppets of forces beyond our control – often seems to strike its adherents early in their intellectual careers, in a sudden flash of insight. “I was sitting in a carrel in Wolfson College [in Oxford] in 1975, and I had no idea what I was going to write my DPhil thesis about,” Strawson recalled. “I was reading something about Kant’s views on free will, and I was just electrified. That was it.” The logic, once glimpsed, seems coldly inexorable. Start with what seems like an obvious truth: anything that happens in the world, ever, must have been completely caused by things that happened before it. And those things must have been caused by things that happened before them – and so on, backwards to the dawn of time: cause after cause after cause, all of them following the predictable laws of nature, even if we haven’t figured all of those laws out yet. It’s easy enough to grasp this in the context of the straightforwardly physical world of rocks and rivers and internal combustion engines. But surely “one thing leads to another” in the world of decisions and intentions, too. Our decisions and intentions involve neural activity – and why would a neuron be exempt from the laws of physics any more than a rock?

So in the fruit bowl example, there are physiological reasons for your feeling hungry in the first place, and there are causes – in your genes, your upbringing, or your current environment – for your choosing to address your hunger with fruit, rather than a box of doughnuts. And your preference for the banana over the apple, at the moment of supposed choice, must have been caused by what went before, presumably including the pattern of neurons firing in your brain, which was itself caused – and so on back in an unbroken chain to your birth, the meeting of your parents, their births and, eventually, the birth of the cosmos.

But if all that’s true, there’s simply no room for the kind of free will you might imagine yourself to have when you see the apple and banana and wonder which one you’ll choose. To have what’s known in the scholarly jargon as “contra-causal” free will – so that if you rewound the tape of history back to the moment of choice, you could make a different choice – you’d somehow have to slip outside physical reality. To make a choice that wasn’t merely the next link in the unbroken chain of causes, you’d have to be able to stand apart from the whole thing, a ghostly presence separate from the material world yet mysteriously still able to influence it. But of course you can’t actually get to this supposed place that’s external to the universe, separate from all the atoms that comprise it and the laws that govern them. You just are some of the atoms in the universe, governed by the same predictable laws as all the rest.

It was the French polymath Pierre-Simon Laplace, writing in 1814, who most succinctly expressed the puzzle here: how can there be free will, in a universe where events just crank forwards like clockwork? His thought experiment is known as Laplace’s demon, and his argument went as follows: if some hypothetical ultra-intelligent being – or demon – could somehow know the position of every atom in the universe at a single point in time, along with all the laws that governed their interactions, it could predict the future in its entirety. There would be nothing it couldn’t know about the world 100 or 1,000 years hence, down to the slightest quiver of a sparrow’s wing. You might think you made a free choice to marry your partner, or choose a salad with your meal rather than chips; but in fact Laplace’s demon would have known it all along, by extrapolating out along the endless chain of causes. “For such an intellect,” Laplace said, “nothing could be uncertain, and the future, just like the past, would be present before its eyes.”

It’s true that since Laplace’s day, findings in quantum physics have indicated that some events, at the level of atoms and electrons, are genuinely random, which means they would be impossible to predict in advance, even by some hypothetical megabrain. But few people involved in the free will debate think that makes a critical difference. Those tiny fluctuations probably have little relevant impact on life at the scale we live it, as human beings. And in any case, there’s no more freedom in being subject to the random behaviours of electrons than there is in being the slave of predetermined causal laws. Either way, something other than your own free will seems to be pulling your strings.


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y far the most unsettling implication of the case against free will, for most who encounter it, is what it seems to say about morality: that nobody, ever, truly deserves reward or punishment for what they do, because what they do is the result of blind deterministic forces (plus maybe a little quantum randomness). “For the free will sceptic,” writes Gregg Caruso in his new book Just Deserts, a collection of dialogues with his fellow philosopher Daniel Dennett, “it is never fair to treat anyone as morally responsible.” Were we to accept the full implications of that idea, the way we treat each other – and especially the way we treat criminals – might change beyond recognition. [No, it wouldn’t: we don’t have free will to make other choices, remember? – LG]

Consider the case of Charles Whitman. Just after midnight on 1 August 1966, . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

2 May 2021 at 5:48 pm

The Lulz of Medusa: On Laughter as Protest

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Shira Chess is Associate Professor of Entertainment and Media Studies at the University of Georgia and author of Ready Player Two and Play Like a Feminist. The following, an extract from the latter, appeared in the MIT Press Reader:

The physical act of laughter is the ultimate tool of playful protest. It does not require props, screens, or any affiliated costs. Laughter has the ability to disrupt the status quo, extricating stifling hypocrisies. It is always available, regardless of your position of power. It works as an antiseptic and is clarifying. It is personal. Laughter has been used and mobilized by those in the past, and needs to reclaim its role in the protestations of the future. Laughter is a striking tool of resistance. If deployed properly, we can giggle, guffaw, chuckle, and snicker toward resistance and advancement.

But how do we laugh in the face of the terrible things that happen — things that strike us so deeply that we are immobilized with fear? In these moments, our first response to protest is often one of anger and deliberate, obstinate resistance. When this anger turns into overwhelming sadness, how do we locate the presence of mind to laugh without diminishing or undercutting our topic?

When I wrote about protest and laughter in my book, “Play Like a Feminist,” I wrote it in the shadow of a shooting in 2018, when 11 people were shot at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Like so many other shootings, this story feels unremarkable, with fresh gun violence occurring as frequently as our hearts beat. Last month, a gunman killed eight people in Atlanta, most of them women of Asian descent. Not a week later another killed 10 shoppers in Boulder. In the face of this, how do I find space for laughter? This year alone, there have already been 104 mass shootings recorded in the United States of America. How do any of us find space for laughter?

I laugh because laughter is power. Rebecca Krefting refers to “charged humor”: a form of disruptive laughter meant to reimagine communities and use comedy to “foment social change.” Krefting observes that in this way, laughter is an inroad toward social justice. Similarly, historian Joseph Boskin writes about the ability of comedy to disrupt the momentary zeitgeist and offset power. But he also suggests that political humor is often deployed ineffectively, and that rather than focusing on institutions, it tends to be directed at individuals. In other words, the target of derisive laughter should not be the politician who makes a public misstep but instead the political system that put that politician in power. This lack of institutional focus makes our laughter less effective as a weapon.

Nevertheless, laughter has been and can be weaponized. Charged humor, in addition to being a kind of communal glue, is personal and intimate. We can laugh in a crowded theater, to great satisfaction, but we can also laugh alone and unheard by others. Laughter can be deployed by the disenfranchised to reclaim their sense of the absurd world we live in while remaining a binding substance that can fortify relationships. We need more laughter.

Famously, in her essay “The Laugh of Medusa,” Hélène Cixous writes about the monstrous feminine as inhabited by the infamous mythological icon. Rather than casting her as a beast, Cixous reinterprets the character, noting, “You only have to look at the Medusa straight on to see her. And she’s not deadly. She’s beautiful and laughing.”

Medusa’s laughter is rebellious; it fights back against the gods and mortals who have left her in her predicament, and it is our own fear that keeps us from hearing that laughter. It is Medusa’s laugh that we need to . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

2 May 2021 at 4:53 pm

The US as a target of information warfare

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

In a hearing today [this was written on April 30 – LG] before a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee charged with investigating technology and information warfare, cyber policy and national security expert Dr. Herb Lin of the Hoover Institution told lawmakers that in the modern era we are not formally at war, but we are not at peace either:

“Information warfare threat to the United States is different from past threats, and it has the potential to destroy reason and reality as a basis for societal discourse, replacing them with rage and fantasy. Perpetual civil war, political extremism, waged in the information sphere and egged on by our adversaries is every bit as much of an existential threat to American civilization and democracy as any military threat imaginable.”

His warning comes two days after the power of warfare waged with disinformation once again became a top story in the U.S. On Wednesday, federal officials executed a search warrant on the home and office of Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani. To conduct such a search, investigators had to convince a judge that they had good reason to think a crime had been committed.

Investigators appear to be focusing on Giuliani’s successful attempt to get the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, recalled on April 24, 2019. Yovanovitch was one of our very top diplomats. She stood firmly against corruption in Ukraine, earning the fury of oligarchs connected to Russia, especially Ukraine president Petro Poroshenko; the country’s prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko; and the country’s former prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, who was fired for corruption. They wanted her gone.

On the surface, the case is about whether or not Giuliani was working for Ukrainian oligarchs as well as Trump when he undermined Yovanovitch. But it is really a story about disinformation. Giuliani wanted Yovanovitch out of the way because she refused to enable his attempt to manufacture dirt on the son of then-candidate Joe Biden, an effort designed to make it possible for Trump to win reelection.

A quick recap of the Yovanovitch part of the story: In late 2018, Ukraine-born American businessman Lev Parnas introduced Giuliani to Shokin, who was willing to say that he was fired because he was looking into Burisma, a company on whose board Hunter Biden sat (this was false). In December, Parnas and his partner Igor Fruman attended the annual White House Hanukkah party. Parnas later told people they had a private meeting with Trump and Giuliani, who gave them “a secret mission” to pressure the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation into the Bidens.

In January 2019, Giuliani tried to get a visa for Shokin to come to the U.S., but Yovanovitch denied it. So Giuliani, Parnas, and Fruman interviewed Shokin and Lutsenko where they were.

For the next three months, Lutsenko and Giuliani sparred over the announcement of an investigation into the Bidens, apparently in exchange for the removal of Yovanovitch. Meanwhile, in the U.S., journalist John Solomon, who was in contact with Lutsenko, wrote articles for The Hill attacking both the Bidens and Yovanovitch, and claiming that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election.

And then on April 21, Porosheko lost a presidential election to Volodymyr Zelensky.

On April 23, Giuliani announced on Twitter that Ukraine was investigating Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the DNC for conspiring with “Ukrainians and others to affect 2016 election.” And the next day, Yovanovitch was recalled.

The rest is history (sorry!): in the infamous phone call of July 25, 2019, Trump asked Zelensky to announce an investigation into the Bidens before the U.S. would release congressional appropriations to enable Ukraine to fight Russian incursions, a whistleblower complained, the Department of Justice tried to hide the complaint, and the Trump presidency began to unravel.

As the Ukraine scandal worked its way toward the president’s impeachment, Giuliani . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

2 May 2021 at 1:54 pm

The Invention of the Police: Why American policing got so big so fast

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Jill Lepore’s excellent article on the history of policing in the US was published in the New Yorker in July 2020. It begins:

To police is to maintain law and order, but the word derives from polis—the Greek for “city,” or “polity”—by way of politia, the Latin for “citizenship,” and it entered English from the Middle French police, which meant not constables but government. “The police,” as a civil force charged with deterring crime, came to the United States from England and is generally associated with monarchy—“keeping the king’s peace”—which makes it surprising that, in the antimonarchical United States, it got so big, so fast. The reason is, mainly, slavery.

“Abolish the police,” as a rallying cry, dates to 1988 (the year that N.W.A. recorded “Fuck tha Police”), but, long before anyone called for its abolition, someone had to invent the police: the ancient Greek polis had to become the modern police. “To be political, to live in a polis, meant that everything was decided through words and persuasion and not through force and violence,” Hannah Arendt wrote in “The Human Condition.” In the polis, men argued and debated, as equals, under a rule of law. Outside the polis, in households, men dominated women, children, servants, and slaves, under a rule of force. This division of government sailed down the river of time like a raft, getting battered, but also bigger, collecting sticks and mud. Kings asserted a rule of force over their subjects on the idea that their kingdom was their household. In 1769, William Blackstone, in his “Commentaries on the Laws of England,” argued that the king, as “pater-familias of the nation,” directs “the public police,” exercising the means by which “the individuals of the state, like members of a well-governed family, are bound to conform their general behavior to the rules of propriety, good neighbourhood, and good manners; and to be decent, industrious, and inoffensive in their respective stations.” The police are the king’s men.

History begins with etymology, but it doesn’t end there. The polis is not the police. The American Revolution toppled the power of the king over his people—in America, “the law is king,” Thomas Paine wrote—but not the power of a man over his family. The power of the police has its origins in that kind of power. Under the rule of law, people are equals; under the rule of police, as the legal theorist Markus Dubber has written, we are not. We are more like the women, children, servants, and slaves in a household in ancient Greece, the people who were not allowed to be a part of the polis. But for centuries, through struggles for independence, emancipation, enfranchisement, and equal rights, we’ve been fighting to enter the polis. One way to think about “Abolish the police,” then, is as an argument that, now that all of us have finally clawed our way into the polis, the police are obsolete.

But are they? The crisis in policing is the culmination of a thousand other failures—failures of education, social services, public health, gun regulation, criminal justice, and economic development. Police have a lot in common with firefighters, E.M.T.s, and paramedics: they’re there to help, often at great sacrifice, and by placing themselves in harm’s way. To say that this doesn’t always work out, however, does not begin to cover the size of the problem. The killing of George Floyd, in Minneapolis, cannot be wished away as an outlier. In each of the past five years, police in the United States have killed roughly a thousand people. (During each of those same years, about a hundred police officers were killed in the line of duty.) One study suggests that, among American men between the ages of fifteen and thirty-four, the number who were treated in emergency rooms as a result of injuries inflicted by police and security guards was almost as great as the number who, as pedestrians, were injured by motor vehicles. Urban police forces are nearly always whiter than the communities they patrol. The victims of police brutality are disproportionately Black teen-age boys: children. To say that many good and admirable people are police officers, dedicated and brave public servants, which is, of course, true, is to fail to address both the nature and the scale of the crisis and the legacy of centuries of racial injustice. The best people, with the best of intentions, doing their utmost, cannot fix this system from within.

There are nearly seven hundred thousand police officers in the United States, about two for every thousand people, a rate that is lower than the European average. The difference is guns. Police in Finland fired six bullets in all of 2013; in an encounter on a single day in the year 2015, in Pasco, Washington, three policemen fired seventeen bullets when they shot and killed an unarmed thirty-five-year-old orchard worker from Mexico. Five years ago, when the Guardian counted police killings, it reported that, “in the first 24 days of 2015, police in the US fatally shot more people than police did in England and Wales, combined, over the past 24 years.” American police are armed to the teeth, with more than seven billion dollars’ worth of surplus military equipment off-loaded by the Pentagon to eight thousand law-enforcement agencies since 1997. At the same time, they face the most heavily armed civilian population in the world: one in three Americans owns a gun, typically more than one. Gun violence undermines civilian life and debases everyone. A study found that, given the ravages of stress, white male police officers in Buffalo have a life expectancy twenty-two years shorter than that of the average American male. The debate about policing also has to do with all the money that’s spent paying heavily armed agents of the state to do things that they aren’t trained to do and that other institutions would do better. History haunts this debate like a bullet-riddled ghost.

That history begins in England, in the thirteenth century, when maintaining the king’s peace became the duty of an officer of the court called a constable, aided by his watchmen: every male adult could be called on to take a turn walking a ward at night and, if trouble came, to raise a hue and cry. This practice lasted for centuries. (A version endures: George Zimmerman, when he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, in 2012, was serving on his neighborhood watch.) The watch didn’t work especially well in England—“The average constable is an ignoramus who knows little or nothing of the law,” Blackstone wrote—and it didn’t work especially well in England’s colonies. Rich men paid poor men to take their turns on the watch, which meant that most watchmen were either very elderly or very poor, and very exhausted from working all day. Boston established a watch in 1631. New York tried paying watchmen in 1658. In Philadelphia, in 1705, the governor expressed the view that the militia could make the city safer than the watch, but militias weren’t supposed to police the king’s subjects; they were supposed to serve the common defense—waging wars against the French, fighting Native peoples who were trying to hold on to their lands, or suppressing slave rebellions.

The government of slavery was not a rule of law. It was a rule of police. In 1661, the English colony of Barbados passed its first slave law; revised in 1688, it decreed that “Negroes and other Slaves” were “wholly unqualified to be governed by the Laws . . . of our Nations,” and devised, instead, a special set of rules “for the good Regulating and Ordering of them.” Virginia adopted similar measures, known as slave codes, in 1680:

It shall not be lawfull for any negroe or other slave to carry or arme himselfe with any club, staffe, gunn, sword or any other weapon of defence or offence, nor to goe or depart from of his masters ground without a certificate from his master, mistris or overseer, and such permission not to be granted but upon perticuler and necessary occasions; and every negroe or slave soe offending not haveing a certificate as aforesaid shalbe sent to the next constable, who is hereby enjoyned and required to give the said negroe twenty lashes on his bare back well layd on, and soe sent home to his said master, mistris or overseer . . . that if any negroe or other slave shall absent himself from his masters service and lye hid and lurking in obscure places, comitting injuries to the inhabitants, and shall resist any person or persons that shalby any lawfull authority be imployed to apprehend and take the said negroe, that then in case of such resistance, it shalbe lawfull for such person or persons to kill the said negroe or slave soe lying out and resisting.

In eighteenth-century New York, a person held as a slave could not gather in a group of more than three; could not ride a horse; could not hold a funeral at night; could not be out an hour after sunset without a lantern; and could not sell “Indian corn, peaches, or any other fruit” in any street or market in the city. Stop and frisk, stop and whip, shoot to kill.

Then there were the slave patrols. Armed Spanish bands called hermandades had hunted runaways in Cuba beginning in the fifteen-thirties, a practice that was adopted by the English in Barbados a century later. It had a lot in common with England’s posse comitatus, a band of stout men that a county sheriff could summon to chase down an escaped criminal. South Carolina, founded by slaveowners from Barbados, authorized its first slave patrol in 1702; Virginia followed in 1726, North Carolina in 1753. Slave patrols married the watch to the militia: serving on patrol was required of all able-bodied men (often, the patrol was mustered from the militia), and patrollers used the hue and cry to call for anyone within hearing distance to join the chase. Neither the watch nor the militia nor the patrols were “police,” who were French, and considered despotic. In North America, the French city of New Orleans was distinctive in having la police: armed City Guards, who wore military-style uniforms and received wages, an urban slave patrol.

In 1779, Thomas Jefferson created a chair in “law and police” at the College of William & Mary. The meaning of the word began to change. In 1789, Jeremy Bentham, noting that “police” had recently entered the English language, in something like its modern sense, made this distinction: police keep the peace; justice punishes disorder. (“No justice, no peace!” Black Lives Matter protesters cry in the streets.) Then, in 1797, a London magistrate named Patrick Colquhoun published “A Treatise on the Police of the Metropolis.” He, too, distinguished peace kept in the streets from justice administered by the courts: police were responsible for the regulation and correction of behavior and “the prevention and detection of crimes.” . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

2 May 2021 at 1:45 pm

“9 Beginner-Friendly Books That Helped Me Get Out Of Debt”

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Rachel Kramer Bussel has an interesting column in Buzzfeed News, in which she points out 9 books that provided good financial guidance for her. She doesn’t include one book that I found very helpful: Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence, by Joe Dominguez and Vick Robin.

The list looks good. I didn’t grasp how to handle money well for a very long time. This column may well have helped me back then.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 May 2021 at 1:38 pm

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