Saturday, December 27, 2003

THe American battle for same-sex marriage
US Judge Richard Posner, in an essay appearing on the New Republic, considers the wisdom of pushing the US Supreme Court to decide whether the right to same-sex marriage exists. The right of gays and lesbians to marry has taken the spotlight in the US lately with the decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Court in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health that such right does in fact exist. Posner argues that the court is the wrong venue to settle the matter, because if the US Supreme Court declares that such a right exists it will be making a discretionary moral judgment that is odious to American public opinion, which currently is adamantly opposed to same-sex marriages. Rather than judicialiazing the issue, a better alternative would be social experimentation, " the democratic way to handle this explosive issue, an issue intractable to legal analysis and inappropriate for judicial resolution." What Posner is recommending is that Americans should sit out the battle, observe first Vermont's (the only state with civil unions) and Massachusetts's same-sex marriages/civil unions and proceed from there. That rather than dubious legal reasoning from the federal Supreme Court, according to Posner, is the democratic way of settling the issue.

Irrational gift-giving
An Australian daily has an amusing article on the economic irrationality of gift-giving. Consider this: "... when I give up $50 worth of utility to buy a present for you, the chances are high that you'll value it at less than $50. If so, there's been a mutual loss of utility. The transaction has been inefficient and "welfare reducing", thus making it irrational. As an economist would put it, "unless a gift that costs the giver p dollars exactly matches the way in which the recipient would have spent the p dollars, the gift is suboptimal".

Lately, I have been thinking of this question: Which would you appreciate more, a gift you really like but which the giver thinks of no value, or a gift which you do not like but which the giver dearly values? I will be happy with the first, but touched by the kindness of the second.

The Weekly Standard disses The Return of the King
I have read rave reviews of the Return of the King, but this review by Jonathan Last on the Weekly Standard is the first one I have read dissing the last installment of the Tolkien trilogy. I have not seen it yet so I can not really comment just yet. Last though violently dislikes it.

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