Thursday, April 23, 2015

Thinking out loud: Fairness and Ethics

A close friend of mine sent me this interesting Planet Money article the other day

The Fall And Rise Of U.S. Inequality, In 2 Graphs

I don't see why they needed 2 graphs, because they seemed pretty redundant to me. Either way, here's the graph:

It's a really nice way of showing the income inequality in the US, and how's it's changed over time. The take home point is that the richest 1% have seen a huge increase in their income while the middle class has been more or less stagnant for the last 20-30 years.

We talked about this for awhile, but I kept coming back to a question that I come around to in most discussions:

Is this bad? 

This is so tricky for me to answer. I have the gut reaction that most people probably have, and I say to myself "that's not fair!" But then I ask myself, "So what? Life's not fair."

In my discussion with my friend, I realized that this is a topic in which we have vastly different opinions. His approach to determining whether something is ethical often involves asking how fair it is. The more fair it is, the better. And less fair things are bad things.

I find it better to detach myself from questions of fairness in this instance, since my opinion of fairness comes from an emotional reaction, which is often very irrational.

However, I'm sort of a hypocrite, because I think questions of fairness have a place in many other issues. Here's a few of them where I think fairness is really important:

  • The gender pay gap
  • Racial profiling by police
  • Mass incarceration of minor crimes with mandatory minimum sentences

But can I have it both ways? Can fairness be important some times and not others?

I'm not sure that I have an answer to that question yet.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Florida to North Carolina

So we're settling into our new place in Raleigh, North Carolina. Raleigh is such a nice change from the heat and congestion of Miami.

The move felt like it took forever. We tried to find someone to take over our lease, but in the end we had to pay a penalty to get out of lease in Miami. Then my boss, Brian Mapes, was very generous and let us stay in a little building behind his house in Coral Gables that he referred to as a "mother-in-law cottage". It was a very cozy little spot that were are eternally thankful for, since it made our transition much easier.

On our way to North Carolina, we stopped for a night in South Carolina. Andrea's aunt and uncle from Iowa have a house near Mrytle Beach that another Aunt and cousin just happened to be visiting while we were passing through. It was great to see them and have a nice (and free!) place to stay.

The trip was about 12 hours of driving, which was not bad. The hardest part is that we had to drive separate cars, since we had 2 cars and 2 drivers. We listened to a LOT of podcasts. What did people do before podcasts?!?! Andrea listened to one about beer called Strange Brews, which was pretty interesting. I found that it can get boring though, since it's just a couple guys talking to each other about beer. Apparently there's a few podcasts about beer out there. I would never have guessed!

The most addicting podcast was called "Serial". It's one story, told in a dozen episodes or so. The story was about this guy who got convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend. The problem is that the evidence for convicting him was really spotty. But on the other hand, there's no better explanation for why someone would kill her. I highly recommend this podcast for anyone needing to kill a lot of time.

We made it to Raleigh, safe and sound. We found a nice little apartment and that in a really great location so we can bike almost anywhere that we need to go! Andrea got a job at a local bottle shop. I'm still wrapping up research from my last job, but I'm really enjoying work these days.

That's all the news for now!