Sunday, April 28, 2013

Privacy is overrated

by Richard A. Posner

New York Daily News

April 28, 2013

This past Monday, Mayor Bloomberg said that in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, the country’s interpretation of the Constitution “will have to change” in order to enable more effective prevention of and response to terrorist attacks and other violence, such as attacks on schoolchildren.

In particular, he wants a more welcoming attitude toward surveillance cameras, which played a crucial role in the apprehension of the Boston Marathon bombers — and would have been crucial had Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev come to New York to detonate a bomb in Times Square, as they apparently planned to. (Bloomberg has also announced a “Domain Awareness System” that will consolidate and distribute information received by the cameras and other tracking devices.)

All of which is to say that he wants concerns with privacy to take second place to concerns with security.

I strongly agree, though I’m not sure that the Constitution will have to be reinterpreted in order to enable the shift of emphasis that he (and I) favor. Neither the word “privacy” nor even the concept appears anywhere in the Constitution, and the current Supreme Court is highly sensitive, as it should be, to security needs. The Court can and doubtless will adjust the balance between privacy and security to reflect the increase in long-run threats to the lives of Americans.

There is a tendency to exaggerate the social value of privacy. I value my privacy as much as the next person, but there is a difference between what is valuable to an individual and what is valuable to society. Thirty-five years ago, when I was a law professor rather than a judge, I published an article called “The Right of Privacy,” in which I pointed out that “privacy” is really just a euphemism for concealment, for hiding specific things about ourselves from others.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Η Γραφειοκρατική Τανάλια

του Αθαν. Χ. Παπανδρόπουλου

European Business Review

2 Απριλίου 2013

Το γραφειοκρατικό τέρας δεν παίζεται, στην Ελλάδα και χλευάζει κυριολεκτικά υπουργικές δηλώσεις και κενά περιεχομένου νομοθετήματα. Την ώρα που πολύς λόγος γίνεται για fast track και άλλα παρόμοια, το τέρας γελάει σαρκαστικά και περιμένει τους αφελείς που πιστεύουν υπουργικές εξαγγελίες.

Έτσι, σήμερα, για να ανοίξει μία επιχείρηση αποθήκη ή να προεκτείνει ήδη υπάρχουσα, η ταλαιπωρία δεν έχει προηγούμενο. Ο ενδιαφερόμενος επιχειρηματίας θα χρειαστεί περίπου 90 ημέρες για να εξασφαλίσει άδεια εγκατάστασης, 45 ημέρες για να συνδεθεί με το δίκτυο της ΔΕΗ, ενάμιση μήνα για να συνδεθεί με την εταιρεία ύδρευσης, μία εβδομάδα για να αποκτήσει αποχέτευση και τηλέφωνο και τρεις ημέρες για να λάβει τις απαιτούμενες άδειες από την αστυνομία και τις δημοτικές αρχές. Μέσα από την οδύσσεια αυτή, ο επιχειρηματίας έρχεται σε επαφή με όλο το μεγαλείο της ελληνικής δημόσιας διοίκησης, καθώς γνωρίζει από κοντά τον δικηγορικό σύλλογο της περιοχής του, το οικείο επιμελητήριο και υποθηκοφυλακείο, την τοπική τράπεζα, την εφορία, το ΙΚΑ, τον ΟΑΕΔ, την νομαρχία, τον δήμο, μέχρι και την πυροσβεστική υπηρεσία. Σε κάποιες δε περιπτώσεις δεν αποκλείεται να χρειαστεί να περάσει και ιατρικές εξετάσεις.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Science on Same-Sex Marriage

by Ronald Bailey

Wall Street Journal

April 3, 2013

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases challenging legal restrictions on same-sex marriage. Proponents and opponents sought to cudgel one another with sociological and psychological studies aiming to prove that science is on their side. Well, what does the science say?

Impact on Traditional Marriage

Some opponents told the court that same-sex marriage will undermine conventional marriage among heterosexuals. So what do the data say about how legalizing gay marriages affects conventional marriages?

A 2009 study by University of Sherbrooke economist Mircea Trandafir investigated the effect of the legalization of same-sex marriage in the Netherlands, the first country to recognize same-sex marriage. In 1998, the Dutch created registered partnerships, which are open to all couples, and in 2001 a law allowing full same-sex marriages. His analysis found that same-sex marriage leads to a decline in the different-sex marriage rate, but not in the different-sex union (marriage plus registered partnership) rate. In other words, Dutch heterosexual couples are taking advantage of the “marriage lite” registered partnership alternative.

At the time of Prof. Trandafir’s study, the chief difference between registered partnerships and marriage was that the former could be dissolved at the civil registry by mutual agreement. In a 2012 West Virginia Law Review article, Mercer School of Law professor Scott Titshaw shows that the political compromises provoked by the initial refusals to extend full marriage rights to same-sex couples result in a proliferation of civil union alternatives. Prof. Titshaw agrees with Prof. Trandafir that different-sex couples increasingly find the new marriage alternatives attractive; in effect, refusing to give full legal recognition to same-sex couples ends up diminishing the status and benefits associated with conventional marriage for everyone. Ironically, conservatives, by opposing the extension of full marriage rights to gay people, have ended up weakening the institution they sought to defend.


Brain Scans Predict Who’s Likely to Commit Crime

by Daniel Akst

Wall Street Journal

April 3, 2013

Researchers using magnetic resonance imaging have found that they can predict which inmates are likeliest to break the law again after they’re released.

In a study of 96 male offenders in New Mexico, scientists found during a four-year follow-up that those with low activity in the anterior cingulate cortex were twice as likely to commit another offense as those who had high activity in this brain region. The researchers figured this out by asking participants to take a “go/no go” test that involved pressing a button every time they saw the letter X on screen, but being careful not to press when they saw the letter K. MRIs performed during this test mapped brain activity.


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