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A Gravity Model of Civic Deviance: Justice, Natural Duties, and Reparative Responsibilities

This paper presents a ‘gravity model’ of civic deviance and the principle of reparative responsibilities, addressing the question of when citizens are justified in shirking their civic obligations. Provided an unjust state, I raise the proposal that principled civic deviance (CD) should be, at the very least, permissible to varying levels as determined by a gravity equation. In select cases, I argue that CD may be obligatory. The gravity model, which sets to define the degree of permissible CD, features considerations such as the unfairness of the basic social structure, the individual extent of injustice faced, and the balance of CD-enabling natural duties against CD-restricting natural duties. In responding to one’s natural duty of justice, I claim that reparative responsibilities (RR) consign varying degrees of CD obligations, depending on the individual’s stake in injustice, beneficiary and contributory status, capacity to prevent and respond. Hence, individuals affected by an unjust state may permissibly, or necessarily, shirk their civic obligations only in line with their natural duties and RR.

April 30, 2021

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Can You Rationally Disagree with a Prediction Market?

This paper brings together two literatures: That of the efficient
market hypothesis in economics and the relatively recent literature
on disagreement in epistemology. In economics, there has been a substantial discussion of how markets aggregate knowledge through prices. In the philosophy of disagreement literature, there is significant agreement that you should defer to those with more knowledge and better judgments than you. I argue that, given these
two conclusions, we are epistemically bound to defer to prediction
markets in most situations, though I discuss possible exceptions.

April 30, 2021

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No Place Like Home: Extending the Equity Home Bias Theory to Foreign Portfolio Investment in Emerging Markets

Introduction:
Modern technology has allowed investors, especially in developed markets, to gain access to a wealth of information about events that affect equity prices almost instantaneously, ultimately making it more difficult for investors in developed economies to ‘beat the market’. Such markets, where prices fully reflect all available information, are considered to be efficient; according to the efficient market hypothesis, opportunities for arbitrage in efficient markets are scarce, if not impossible. In this context, the typical investor could only generate higher returns by taking on greater risks. If this was the case, inefficient markets would be fundamentally more profitable for the informed investor as arbitrage opportunities are abundant and riskless profit can be made once the investor correctly identifies mispriced assets. This line of reasoning suggests that inefficiency in emerging markets might attract foreign portfolio investment (FPI) inflows, since investors in the developed world would seek to exploit the arbitrage opportunities in those inefficient markets.

Market inefficiency in emerging economies is often at least partially due to poor property rights and weak institutional arrangements, such as unstable and corrupt political systems, not fully as a result of economic fundamentals, such as lack of financial development and domestic investor behavior. If inefficiency in an emerging market were to be largely a result of poor property rights and weak institutions, the ability of foreign investors to properly exploit arbitrage opportunities would be low and the institutional risk borne by investing in the market would be high, as unstable political environments foster volatile asset prices. Under such conditions, one might very well expect inefficient markets to drive away FPI. However, if the institutional quality of an investing environment is held constant and market inefficiencies are a result of economic fundamentals, then one should expect such a market to attract FPI.

This paper finds evidence that, after accounting for a given level of institutional risk, potential simultaneity, and time of information absorption, there is no significant relationship between market inefficiency and FPI. To explain the inconsistency between theory and empirical evidence, I suggest an extension to the equity home bias theory. Since capital is abundant in wealthy nations where markets are efficient, investors that account for a majority of FPI inflows into emerging economies would be more familiar with and thus more optimistic about efficient markets since they more closely resemble their domestic investing environment. If a large enough number of foreign investors show a clear preference for efficient markets, the magnitude of their actions may very well offset that of unbiased investors looking to exploit arbitrage opportunities in inefficient markets. The paper proposes that, while market inefficiency should theoretically attract FPI, holding institutional risk constant, empirical evidence fails to show this relationship because foreign investors from the developed world exhibit a preference for more efficient markets that they are familiar with.

April 30, 2021

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State-Owned Banks and the Promise of an Equitable Financial Sector

This paper will propose that state-owned banks resolve many of the issues facing commercial banks today. To substantiate this claim, it will investigate specific areas where a state-owned bank would produce more favorable outcomes than a commercial bank, trace the steps required to establish such a bank, and evaluate a contemporary example of a state-owned bank, the Sparkassen.

April 30, 2021

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The Panacea Problem: Indifference, Servility, and Kantian Beneficence

Kant’s account of the duty of beneficence as a wide, imperfect duty initially seems at odds with our intuitive belief that helping others is, at least in some cases, morally obligatory. Various Kantian philosophical accounts have constructed different ways to address this problem. In this paper, I adopt and expand on Karen Stohr’s account of the duty of beneficence as a two-part duty composed by a wide duty to help others and a narrow duty to avoid indifference. After observing that merely adopting this view seems to result in over-stringency, I then argue that perfect and imperfect duties to others and the self act as counterarguments to claims of indifference.

April 30, 2021

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We the Prisoners: Considering the Anti Drug Act of 1986, the War on Drugs and Mass Incarceration in the United States

Introduction
America was founded upon the notions of equality of opportunity, success through perseverance, and the idea that anyone, if they are hard-working and driven, can ascend socially and economically. Currently, however, the United States finds itself diametrically opposed to these ideas. The prison system in the United States contradicts rights guaranteed in the Constitution along with the promise of social mobility and the American Dream. “Mass incarceration” is a phrase frequently thrown about the political arena. These two words, however, represent 2.3 million American citizens who are in jail or prison today. To contextualize the gravity of this statistic, consider this: while the US has about 5% of the world’s population, it has about 25% of the world’s prison population. The majority of the victims of mass incarceration are Black and Latino men, who, despite having been promised equal protection under the law and a right to life and liberty, find themselves trapped in a system marked by racial disparity. One out of every three black boys and one out of every six Latino boys born today will go to prison at some point in their life while white boys born today have a 1/17 chance to go to prison in their lives. Despite being subjected, on average, to lower living standards in terms of housing and schooling, minority men are held to higher standards in the criminal justice system. While African Americans and whites report using drugs at similar rates, there are six times more Black men serving time for drug possession charges.

The United States, a country founded on the notion of opportunity, get to these gruesomely imbalanced statistics through a series of public policy decisions. The minorities who make up these statistics have been disproportionately targeted by one of the Reagan administration’s keystone programs: the War on Drugs. While the policy battle against drugs was certainly started during the Nixon years and Nixon’s policies certainly influenced the oppression of minorities, the most detrimental and consequential laws of the War on Drugs were enacted during the years of the next administration. The Reagan White House, which controlled the executive branch during the 1980s, pushed policies that attacked drug possession and use with stringent criminal punishment. The administration was able to do this by stimulating public support for the War on Drugs; this mobilized Congress to act. The public angst the White House strived to create was based on largely ungrounded facts meant to instill fear in the general public. Impacts of policies implemented through this formula of fear mongering are felt today in the form of racial disparities in the American Criminal Justice System and the institution of mass incarceration.

The Anti-Drug Act of 1986 imposed mandatory minimum sentences on the possession and distribution of certain drugs, allocated $2 billion to the crusade against drugs, involved the military in narcotic control, allowed for the death penalty for certain-drug related crimes and bolstered the authority of law enforcement. This policy was only strengthened in the coming years, and parts of this legislation remain in place today. Going to prison in America as a minority male, even when the crime is minor, constitutes a figurative life sentence due to the punitive nature of the Criminal Justice system, which taints a permanent record, complicates employment, ruptures family units and removes voting clout for prisoners. One of the most detrimental legacies of the War on Drugs, however, is the ostracization of former prisoners by American society. The institution of mass-incarceration is the outcome of policies like The Anti-Drug Act of 1986; this paper will analyze how this policy was born, implemented and how its hateful roots permeate the American society today. The legacy of The War on Drugs today is seen in the racial-biases in every step of the American criminal justice system: from investigation to sentencing to serving time.

The shameful condition of American Criminal Justice doesn’t need to exist. Hundreds of thousands of people do not need to be imprisoned for minor charges, namely drug possession. In fact, this essay will argue, the American conscience cannot be clear so long as the institution of mass incarceration and its suffocating consequences are allowed to continue. The pillars and promises of our democracy must be restored and the way to do this is found in Portugal. Portugal’s drug legislation took a completely opposite perspective than the United States’ did when faced with a similar drug crisis; this essay will try to answer why that is the case. On July 1st, 2001 the country chose to “decriminalize the use and possession of all illicit drugs” and has since successfully reduced “problematic use, drug-related harms, and criminal justice overcrowding.” The values promulgated by this public policy emphasize recovery, safety and above all else, human dignity. By passing similar legislation, America would ameliorate the shameful condition of our discriminatory prison system and thus hold true to the roots and morals it was founded upon and has now seemingly forgotten.

The United States’ current social, economic, and political climate makes the passing of such legislation unlikely. The institutional and cultural factors which influenced the Anti-Drug Act of 1986 (and their contribution to mass incarceration in the United States), compared to the same institutional or cultural factor when applied to Portugal, makes American unwillingness to rectify its broken criminal justice system evident. Ultimately, this reflects a very deep inconsistency between the notions American was founded upon and the values its government actually promulgates. The vantage points through which this essay will consider the opposite policy reactions of the United States and Portugal to drug use and possession are (1) Party Systems, (2) Welfare States, and (3) the role of religion in politics in America and Portugal.

This essay will compare America and Portugal within the scope of three lenses: party systems, welfare systems and religious foundations. The vantage points will reveal Portugal’s proportional representation system is more responsive than the American two-party system; its universal health-care system has stronger infrastructure with which to implement a widespread drug policy; the common Catholic faith brings communities together and unifies public opinion. These factors combine clearly when considering the policy decision Portugal implemented in June 2001. A morally-unified public saw a clear issue in the rise of heroin use and asked their coalition-style government for a solution. Legislators turned to and trusted technical expertise to find a creative solution: decriminalization of drug possession and use. The country’s National Health Service was readily prepared and built on pre-existing welfare infrastructure, to implement the policy’s prevention and recovery programs. Once implemented, the public supported it fully. Now, drugs have ceased to be a controversial issue in Portugal and any mention of returning to a War on Drugs style approach is shot down.

May 1, 2021

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