California’s Use of Force Law Offers Hope of Reducing Police Killing

The cornerstone of our constitutional democracy is the principle that no person can be deprived of life or liberty without due process of law. As the events of recent weeks have confirmed, there is no greater threat to due process than the arbitrary use of lethal force by the police; no clearer gap between the ideal and reality of our democracy than the police’s needless killing of George Floyd and so many other black and brown men and women. A number of proposals to reform, defund, and even abolish the police are being currently debated. This post will discuss one recent change in California law concerning police use of lethal force that could make a difference.

California in August 2019 changed its lethal force standard. Previously, in California, police officers were justified in using deadly force if a “reasonable” officer could have acted a similar way, following US Supreme Court precedent. Only if they failed to meet this reasonableness standard could they be criminally prosecut…

It's Personal

In the midst of our country’s current multi-crisis situation we are losing track of what people want and need the most, which is recognition as valid human beings.

Changes in laws or regulations alone have not – and cannot – eliminate our culture of divisiveness. Since the Civil War we have enacted numerous new laws – including three amendments to the Constitution and the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968. There have been a series demonstrations that go back to the 1963 March on Washington – some violent and some peaceful. But we have seen only incremental changes in the way that minorities are treated in our country, including by those who have been sworn to uphold our laws equally. 
Although we need new laws to curb the abuses of police, laws don’t change instinctive human behavior to see some people as dangerous or evil based on their color or background. Regulations don’t make people respect each other. When we see others only as members of their groups we fail to recognize that…

The Case for Taxing the Rich

The current pandemic has laid bare the extreme inequality in our society, including the shortage of food, health care, and other basic resources for many citizens who live paycheck to paycheck. Doing something about this will require us to turn to the complex and prosaic subject of tax reform. In their new book, The Triumph of Injustice (W.W. Norton & Co. 2019), Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, Berkeley professors and former advisors to Elizabeth Warren’s campaign, make a strong case for why the rich should be taxed way more than the US is currently doing, and how that can be done. Here are four big take-aways:

Taxing the Rich More Makes Good Economic Sense
Although it may seem intuitively obvious that taxing the rich a lot more will mean a lot more money flowing into government coffers, those on the right have argued that raising taxes on the rich is a bad idea, because it will discourage productive economic activity among the “job creators” and therefore lead to a loss of revenu…

Expertise and Democracy

This post is going to discuss the very modern topic of expertise and democracy, but let’s start with an ancient story. Those familiar with the Bible, or for that matter the musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber, know the story of Joseph and how he became the Pharaoh’s right-hand man. Pharaoh dreamed of seven fat cows devoured by seven scrawny cows, and seven healthy stalks of grain consumed by seven shriveled stalks. Joseph interpreted the dream as a prediction that there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh put Joseph in charge, he amassed a huge rainy-day fund of grain during the seven plentiful years, and during the seven years of famine, Egypt was good while the surrounding lands suffered.

The Problem of (with) Democracy
One way to look at the story is that it’s about joining political power with wisdom. That’s not a marriage to be taken for granted. Political power through the ages has been acquired in various ways that require little or no intellige…