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Twenty-eight years ago me and my horrible hair graduated @sunyplattsburgh, thanks to the mentorship of Professor David Mowry. We lost him yesterday. Read my very emotional tribute to him at #philosophy #collegife Hi listeners! Do you want to see our host Jack Russell Weinstein (@diasporajack) in person as he deejays fun and exciting music? Come down to @ojatadogmahal records this Saturday for the fourth installment of Ska and Waffles! Rehearsing for Tuesday night! Want to hear #Klezmer music live? Come to Why? Radio’s 10th anniversary party, Tuesday at 6:30. Details at @prairiepublic @diasporajack @empireartscenter Above two folds! Thanks @gfherald @prairiepublic ❓📩❓📩❓📩❓📩❓📩
#philosophy #ask #morals #advice #questions #help #curious #hardquestions #anything #podcast #discussion #currentevents #philosophyiseverywhere #whynot #politics #ethics #art #metaphysical #religion  #myund #questionoftheday WHY? Philosophical Discussions About Everyday Life, the Prairie Public radio show is celebrating its 10th birthday and we’re all invited to think philosophically about music with them!

Join the party for food, an interview with legendary Jazz flutist Mark Weinstein, and live Klezmer music! All for free!

For more information, visit or go to
Award winning Jazz Flutist Mark Weinstein plays World Jazz and Straight-Ahead with world-class musicians rooted in the music of Cuba, Brazil, Africa, Argentina and his Jewish heritage. A Latin Jazz innovator, Mark was among the first jazz musicians to record with traditional Cuban rhythm sections in an epic album, Cuban Roots, released in 1967 with Chick Corea on piano. He also has a Ph.D. in philosophy and is a professor of Education at Montclair State University, in New Jersey. His music is the soundtrack to Why? Radio. You can learn more about him at 
Stay after the recording for a live concert, as Mark joins the Balkansi Klezmer Band for a jazz-infused exploration of the classic Jewish folk music, Klezmer. Balkansi is an ensemble based in Grand Forks that specializes in traditional music from one of the richest and most diverse musical regions in the world. The members of the band include Tamara Auer on violin, Haley Ellis on clarinet, Edward Morris on guitar, Zephaniah Pearlstein on cello, Michael Ferrick on bass, Rachel Agan Muniz on percussion.

And then stay even longer for an informal Q&A with Why? Radio host, Jack Russell Weinstein. 🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼
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What is Philosophy?


The United States is in a frenzy these days about taxes. Despite the fact that we have the lowest average tax burden since 1970, many people want to pay fewer taxes, and one of the consequences is that states and counties are no longer providing universal coverage for different services. In response, some might suggest that people could choose to pay for what they want to support. Some might refuse to pay for the military; others may not want to pay for public schools. It is therefore worth considering what a government might look like that has an a la carte menu.

Look no further. A Tennessee man recently watched as his house burned down, right in front of firefighters, and while they ended up putting out the fire once it spread to his neighbor’s house, the fire fighters just watched his house burn. The reason: he hadn’t paid his subscription fee.

His county, it turns out, doesn’t offer fire service, but residents could pay a nearby county $75 for fire protection. He didn’t. He neighbor did. When the fire started, his neighbor’s house was saved, his wasn’t, and despite his offer during the blaze to pay any amount of money, the fire department refused.

There are a whole host of philosophical questions that arise here. First and most obviously: was the fire department morally correct in refusing? Some might say they weren’t since a person’s house was at stake – why not make an exception, and why not charge him afterward? Others might retort that the homeowner is a consenting adult, and if the firefighters made an exception in his case, no one would pay the fee, and everyone would expect coverage anyway. On the one hand, fire departments could make a killing charging for their services when they are most necessary… say $7500 instead of $75. On the other hand, this might be considered gouging. Is this exploitation or just capitalism at its finest?

For me, the more interesting question, however, is the very nature of a la carte governance. John Rawls famously wrote that part of what it means to live in a community is to “share one another’s fate.” Is this shared fate possible if each person has different coverage? Additionally, a la carte governance means, as usual, that the wealthier citizens have more chance of comprehensive coverage than the poorer. This seems like a recipe for factionalism and injustice. (It is also how the world actually is, so, some would ask if this scenario is meaningfully different than the world as it is.)

On the other hand, there are a multiplicity of government services that are voluntary right now – we in North Dakota can choose whether or not to have federal flood insurance – and saving this money may actually help the poor. It’s all a matter of risk, one might say, no different than the millions of Americans who choose not to have health insurance. (As with the health insurance, some might object that the benefit to the poor is short term, but in the long run, it’s more harmful.)

So, the question before us is whether justice is possible in a world of different governmental coverage and whether managing risk and saving money are suitable alternatives to forcing tax payers to pay for something they might not want. Finally, should freedom to choose trump mandatory tax laws? As always, I’m curious as to your opinions.

2 comments on “Is “selective” government possible?

  1. Grant D. says:

    Fighting moral hazard with actual hazard. Marvelous.

    I really don't understand the calculus here. The city government must have felt some (moral?) obligation to provide service to residents outside the city limits in the first place. If you're going to let one house burn, why not just let the whole county fend for itself?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Nice post.

    Since the neighbor's house did catch fire (and presumably endured some damage) who is to blame? Is it the fire department for adhering the letter of the “law” rather than its spirit (which is presumably to manage the risk for the community by putting out fires before they become dangerous) or the family who didn't pay their subscription (whose “negligence” led to the damage of the neighbor's house?). I've heard it said that in the US people where those little face-mask thingees to keep from getting sick from their neighbor's germs; in Asia it is more common for people who ARE sick to wear them to prevent the spread of illness.

    This is the same debate that circulates about universal health insurance. It's not really about the poor getting something for nothing, it's to prevent a pestilent, writhing, mass of indigent sick people from contaminating the comfortable middle class and wealthy.


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