Log inskip to content

Archive for the 'AP Introductory Materials' Category

Op-Ed on Referendums

Saturday, November 25th, 2017

I recognise that this is an unpropitious time to call for more referendums. But the Brexit vote was the worst possible model for popular decision-making. The government threw a massive question at an electorate that had almost no experience of direct democracy. Voters were rushed towards judgment day on a ridiculously short timetable, with no preparation except a series of giant lies.

Worse still, an issue of astonishing complexity was reduced to a crude binary choice. Because the only options presented were in or out, everyone knows what the majority voted against; no one knows what kind of Leave it voted for. Why could we not have had a multiple choice, presenting the different ways in which we could have stayed in or left Europe? Without permission to make a nuanced decision, we had no incentive to achieve a nuanced understanding.A lively and intelligent politics demands an active and empowered electorate that can hold its representatives constantly to account.

Read more from George Montbiut in the Guardian

Common vs. Civil Law

Saturday, October 21st, 2017

Just what is common law, and how does it differ from the civil-law system used in some other countries?

Common law is a peculiarly English development. Before the Norman conquest, different rules and customs applied in different regions of the country. But after 1066 monarchs began to unite both the country and its laws using the king’s court. Justices created a common law by drawing on customs across the country and rulings by monarchs. These rules developed organically and were rarely written down. By contrast, European rulers drew on Roman law, and in particular a compilation of rules issued by the emperor Justinian in the 6th century that was rediscovered in 11th-century Italy. With the Enlightenment of the 18th century, rulers in various continental countries sought to produce comprehensive legal codes.

Today the difference between common and civil legal traditions lies in the main source of law. Although common-law systems make extensive use of statutes, judicial cases are regarded as the most important source of law, which gives judges an active role in developing rules. For example, the elements needed to prove the crime of murder are contained in case law rather than defined by statute. To ensure consistency, courts abide by precedents set by higher courts examining the same issue. In civil-law systems, by contrast, codes and statutes are designed to cover all eventualities and judges have a more limited role of applying the law to the case in hand. Past judgments are no more than loose guides. When it comes to court cases, judges in civil-law systems tend towards being investigators, while their peers in common-law systems act as arbiters between parties that present their arguments.

Civil-law systems are more widespread than common-law systems: the CIA World Factbook puts the numbers at 150 and 80 countries respectively. Common-law systems are found only in countries that are former English colonies or have been influenced by the Anglo-Saxon tradition, such as Australia, India, Canada and the United States. Legal minds in civil-law jurisdictions like to think that their system is more stable and fairer than common-law systems, because laws are stated explicitly and are easier to discern. But English lawyers take pride in the flexibility of their system, because it can quickly adapt to circumstance without the need for Parliament to enact legislation. In reality, many systems are now a mixture of the two traditions, giving them the best of both legal worlds.

Source: The Economist

The end of capitalism has begun

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

Without us noticing, we are entering the postcapitalist era. At the heart of further change to come is information technology, new ways of working and the sharing economy. The old ways will take a long while to disappear, but it’s time to be utopian.

I’ve raised this question–albeit with much less clarity–in class. Read Paul Mason’s take in The Guardian. 

Mexico City tries to squat off the fat for free subway rides

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

In an effort to fight obesity, the government of Mexico City will begin offering free subway rides in exchange for 10 squats in front of a ticket-dispensing motion sensor. 

Avuncularism?

They did a similar thing in Russia…

The Global Geography of Internet Addiction

Friday, December 12th, 2014

How People Spend Their Time on the Internet

Happiness and Development

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

 

A survey of 43 countries published on October 30th by the Pew Research Centre of Washington, DC, shows that people in emerging markets are within a whisker of expressing the same level of satisfaction with their lot as people in rich countries. The Pew poll asks respondents to measure, on a scale from zero to ten, how good their lives are. (Those who say between seven and ten are counted as happy.)
In 2007, 57% of respondents in rich countries put themselves in the top four tiers; in emerging markets the share was 33%; in poor countries only 16%—a classic expression of the standard view that richer people are more likely to be happy.
But in 2014, 54% of rich-country respondents counted themselves as happy, whereas in emerging markets the percentage jumped to 51%.

What Europe Would Look Like If All the Separatist Movements Got Their Way

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

What Europe Would Look Like If All the Separatist Movements Got Their Way

Stop Multitasking: You’re not good at it

Friday, July 25th, 2014

“Evidence from psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience suggests that when students multitask while doing schoolwork, their learning is far spottier and shallower than if the work had their full attention. They understand and remember less, and they have greater difficulty transferring their learning to new contexts.”

“I don’t care if a kid wants to tweet while she’s watching American Idol, or have music on while he plays a video game. But when students are doing serious work with their minds, they have to have focus.”

“Under most conditions, the brain simply cannot do two complex tasks at the same time. It can happen only when the two tasks are both very simple and when they don’t compete with each other for the same mental resources. An example would be folding laundry and listening to the weather report on the radio. That’s fine. But listening to a lecture while texting, or doing homework and being on Facebook—each of these tasks is very demanding, and each of them uses the same area of the brain, the prefrontal cortex.”

Read the evidence from the Slate. AND STOP IT!

 

The Left-Right Political Spectrum Is Bogus

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

The arrangement of positions along the left-right axis—progressive to reactionary, or conservative to liberal, communist to fascist, socialist to capitalist, or Democrat to Republican—is conceptually confused, ideologically tendentious, and historically contingent. And any position anywhere along it is infested by contradictions.

Causation vs. Correlation

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Here are some friendly reminders that causation does not equal correlation.

Categories