Friday, August 30, 2013

Scientific Determinism, Part III: Knowledge and Certainty

The assumption made about the limits of our knowledge is key to developing further theories on how we process information to come to an understanding of higher-order problems, as well as our construction of choice sets when faced with choices (whether ethical or preferential in nature). Here I will argue the skeptical view that we may know nothing infallibly. It is important to specify what constitutes knowledge, then subsequently to realize that we do not possess it.  Finally, I will consider the implications of this - if we do not possess knowledge, what do we possess?

To know a fact is to say that the fact cannot possibly be incorrect. Consider an object in front of you. If you were to close your eyes, you would expect that object to remain in front of you when you were to open them again. Nevertheless, it is conceivable that the object may no longer be there. There are myriad explanations for why this might have occurred - in fact, there are infinite possible explanations, just as we can conceive of infinite explanations for why an action did not cause a reaction, as we have seen.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Escheat Law: The Revenue Motive

Modern escheat law is the process by which the state designates property held by one party but owned by another as "abandoned" and seizes it from the current holder. Most people have heard very little about modern escheat law, and for good reason: While states claim that the escheatment of unclaimed property is intended to look out for the rightful owners of the property, many would be surprised to know how much revenue is generated for state governments in the process.

Aside from the obvious criticisms that can be made against the state being an effective protector of property rights (see: eminent domain, asset forfeiture, property taxation, etc.), I will argue here that the primary, and perhaps sole motivation for modern unclaimed property law is the revenue motive. The various points of evidence toward this conclusion are: (a) the low percentages of property reunited with owners once in the hands of state treasuries; (b) court opinions which have explicitly referred to these laws as revenue raisers; (c) the large percentage of property abrograted which goes to the state's general fund rather than a dedicated trust fund for claimants; and (d) recent moves by state governments to shorten the period of inactivity required to deem property as "abandoned."

Friday, August 23, 2013

Scientific Determinism, Part II: Determinism, Defined

Having defined science, I should revisit first a prerequisite to applying this definition of "science" to the construction of problems and their solutions. It is necessary to understand what is implied by ex-post "certainty", which may be more accurately described as determinism.

Determinism simply describes the concept that a process (X) will lead to some outcome (Y). X may be concrete, such as in the case of an object striking another. X may also be abstract, such as the calculation of an arithmetic expression. In either of these cases, the result will be Y chosen from a range of all possible outcomes (the possibility set). Note that, insofar as it is a concept, Y may be "nothing" and still would constitute a valid outcome for X, as would the complete end of existence for all objects and concepts related to X. In short: Define a process X to be an event in time, space, or mental construct which must result in an outcome Y. We can assume that only one outcome Y can possibly occur, creating a one-to-one mapping from X to Y (more on this below).

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A-Rod: A Story of Unions, and the Sanctity of Contracts

Much has been written about MLB's investigation of the Biogenesis clinic, and the several players who have been banned pursuant to the investigation under the league's drug policy. Most that has been written has focused on the legacy of the sport itself, the ethics of the use of performance-enhancing drugs, and the appropriateness of the suspensions in light of what little is known of the evidence.

What is less talked about is the nature of baseball's employer-employee relationship and the contractual obligations of clubs to players after these suspensions have been handed down. The labor market for athletes has operated in much the same way as the market for film actors has for the last 30 years or so - which is to say, it has operated in a much different fashion than the labor markets you or I are familiar with. Individuals with such specialized skill sets, and employers which demand exactly those skill sets, would alone result in higher clearing rates in these professions. But these labor markets are also notable because of the relative stranglehold that unions have on the supply side. One cannot act in a major studio production without paying dues to the Screen Actors Guild1, and one cannot play in the major leagues without membership in the MLB Players Association

Unions are a highly politicized issue in other industries. Even setting aside the recent controversies involving public unions in Wisconsin and elsewhere, private unions have been the subject of scrutiny from the right side of the political spectrum in the automotive industry (among many others). In key political battleground states, right-to-work laws have become hot topics in recent elections. Yet, in baseball and other sports, unions seem to have produced substantially higher wages for workers without compromising the business model of the business (team) owners. The MLBPA is a shining example of success for union backers to hold up. Right?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Scientific Determinism, Part I: Science, Defined

The study of epistemology attempts to separate what we know from what we merely believe. This distinction can take on various forms, but generally the things we "know" without equivocation are rather few and are not very interesting things, if anything at all. We know of existence - of ourselves, of others, of objects. But when it comes to relationships between things that exist - and specifically, interactions between things that exist through time and space - we find that there is very little that is definite. How can we know, without a doubt, that the laws of gravity and the natural world will hold in the future, that the sun will rise tomorrow? First, let us put aside the nature of knowledge itself to revisit later. It will be essential to fully define terms for use in later constructs.

I prefer to make a clear distinction between science and (for lack of a better term) non-science. Here I use "science" to mean the study of any process in time, space, or mental construct which has a deterministic outcome - or, to be more precise with terms, the study of deterministic processes. This does not mean that the outcome was infallibly predictable at a time prior to the interaction. In fact, it does not mean that the outcome was even observable to us. It simply means that the interaction resulted in an outcome which conceivably could have been predicted with certainty