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Economic inequality is unjust

October 14, 2004 Articles, Princeton writings
I had a discussion with an economics professor about the growing inequality of American society last year.  My theme in that conversation was that the United States, like Brazil, is embarking on a path of becoming a nation of haves and have-nots. The Gini coefficient — familiar to economics students — is a widely quoted measure of the inequality in a nation.  A value of zero represents a perfectly equitable society, whereas a value of one describes an economy in which one person owns all the resources. Japan and the Scandinavian countries are the world's most income-equitable countries.  They have income Ginis of about 0.25. On the other hand, Brazil's figure is 0.61.  Closer to home, Canada has an income Gini of 0.32, while here in this country it was 0.41 when last measured in 1998 and it is growing quickly.  By most estimates, this number now probably stands close to 0.45. But all these numbers are really abstract.  What exactly does it mean for a country to have a Gini of .25 as opposed to .61?  To get a sense of the disparity between rich and poor, in Japan the richest 10 percent earns five times as much as…

A budding academic’s take on why academics support Kerry

September 28, 2004 Articles, Princeton writings
Your friends, as they say, are the best judges of your character. Indeed, a healthy dose of criticism is cathartic, and heeding the advice of friends is a quality we all need. Besides, as the Biblical verse says, people cannot see the plank in their own eyes. Recently, a poll cited by the BBC showed that worldwide support for the presidency favored Kerry. Among the 35 countries surveyed, only Nigeria, the Philippines and Poland preferred Bush. Regardless of differences in world opinion over Iraq and how the war on terrorism is being fought, Americans should remember that these disagreements are over politics, and not with Americans themselves. Among traditional allies such as Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Japan — of which, two backed the Iraq war — John Kerry was preferred by up to 66 percent over George W. Bush. In Canada Kerry is up 61 to 16 percent. In France, it's 64 to five. In the United Kingdom, Kerry leads by 47 to 16 percent, and in Japan, Bush is down 32 to 43 percent. But the margin is largest in Germany: Kerry outpaces Bush 76 to 10 percent. So why is the world so staunchly behind Kerry?…

In politics, religious zeal can be blinding

September 16, 2004 Articles, Princeton writings
One must tiptoe through the tulips of religion with twinkle toes. Recently, a colleague and I discussed the French ban on conspicuous religious displays. I argued that although not perfect, the ban was appropriate. My friend, who is originally from a Muslim country but not religious, deplored the law. In fact, he so fiercely opposed the ban that he became belligerent in what was supposed to have been a civil debate between two educated persons. I referred to some anecdotal evidence that demonstrated some French-Muslim women might actually be happier with this law in place. At this point he lost his composure and began yelling: "You are not Muslim! So how do you know what (French) Muslim women think? I am Muslim, and I can tell you that the vast majority of (French) Muslim women are opposed to the ban!" In any case, he became so bellicose that a friend stepped in to calm his nerves. With that said, let me plod my size nines through the garden. What makes some people so fanatical about religion? It has the power to turn otherwise intelligent people into irrational ideologues. And lest we think that this zeal is confined only to Muslims,…

Can’t understand the preceptor, eh?

Ask anyone about his thoughts on the precept system and you will be sure to get an earful. For my part, I have precepted three undergraduate courses over the years. Although it can be rewarding, precepting does have its downsides. One annoying aspect is that every year I will read an opinion in the 'Prince' by someone who is unhappy with her preceptor. Invariably she will rail about her preceptor's dearth of talent in teaching and poor command of English. Some of the beefs that students have are legitimate, but sometimes they are just inane. I recall an incident several years back that amused and angered me. A former colleague of mine, John Woo (not his real name), related an interesting story to me. Born and raised in upstate New York, Woo is as American as apple pie. When Woo was "serving his time" he was a very popular teacher. Indeed, in the year prior to us meeting, he had won a distinguished award in teaching. Students would pack the classrooms where he taught, and there were always more students who wished to be enrolled in his section than the registrar's office would permit. One day, early in September several…

A few of the many reasons to envy Canada

December 1, 2003 Articles, Princeton writings
Admit it. All of you secretly wish that you were Canadian. From flag-waving American undergraduates to overseas graduate students, you are all envious of the Canadian mystique. I do not blame you for being jealous. I understand that it is this jealously that leads you to tease us "poutine" and "beaver tail" eaters. Some of you may be sheepishly asking what is so good about Canada that others would be envious. For sure, most of you are not envious of having winter nine months of the year, and neither is it that you care for eating mooseburgers or cod tongue (although they are tasty!). But if you think about it, Canada really is a great place. In addition to pristine wilderness and the best damn maple syrup in the world, Canada is a progressive country that produces progressive people. In what other country can you be in a part of a city known as Little Italy yet dining in an Indian restaurant that is owned by a Jew, albeit eating Vietnamese food and drinking "Maudite" with your half-Brazilian, half-Croatian date, while being served by a Chinese waiter, watching Anson Carter (who is black) score for team Canada to win the…




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