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9/25: Professionalism in College Sports

With the college football season well underway, we’ll take up one of the “sports topics of the year.” Not Deion Sanders and the Colorado Buffaloes, but the question of how/whether “amateur” college athletes should be compensated and educated.

Here are a handful of articles and other resources to get the discussion started:

Starter questions:

  • Should college athletes be amateurs or paid for their performances?
  • How should education be prioritized for college athletes?
  • What limits to types of compensation should be applied to college athletes? Where on the spectrum from “can be compensated for washing dishes in the college cafeteria” (unrelated to athletics) to “can be compensated for performance on the athletic field” (directly related)?
  • How can/should third party (i.e., booster group) interactions with athletes be regulated?

9/18: Effectiveness of DEI Programs

In recent years, there has been an increasing emphasis in the corporate, academic, and government worlds for “DEI”–Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion–programs. In efforts to increase the diversity of their workforces and other stakeholders, these entities have established DEI departments, training, report cards, and other initiatives to push the effort forward.

  • How effective are these programs, really?
  • What efforts have been successful (and which have not), and why?
  • Can successful programs be easily replicated, or are the reasons for the success confounded with entity-specific attributes?
  • How strong is the evidence that a diverse workforce is a “better” (whatever that means) workforce?

To get the discussion started, below are two links to two “Freakonomics” podcasts–with transcripts if you would prefer to read–and skip to the relevant bits–rather than to listen. As with most of the Freakonomics episodes, the associated web pages include links to the academic research cited during the discussion.

I recall reading some similar-themed articles in the NY Times and the Washington Post, but can’t put my hands on them at the moment. I’ll post them later if I have the time.

8/28: U.S. Legal System Costs

One offshoot of our discussions about the various Trump indictments has been a discussion about the U.S. legal system in general. In particular, we’ve discussed the costs to individuals of defending themselves in criminal (and civil) cases. See, for example, Rudy Giuliani.

The high cost of mounting a defense appears to generate a number of game-theory approaches to pursuing criminal and civil cases:

  • (Implicitly) using the high cost of defense as a cudgel to elicit a plea bargain, potentially from parties who are actually innocent, but cannot afford an effective defense.
  • Effectively punishing a defendant (via economic cost) who is ultimately found not guilty of the crime.

The questions we might address could include:

  • Cost of legal representation: Are public defenders (in general) a satisfactory substitute for “paid” attorneys? If not, how can the current system realistically be adjusted to make it so?
    • Should co-conspirators be restricted somehow in their ability to pay for each others’ defenses? (See, for example, Walt Nauta)
  • “Entry” into the criminal legal system. Is it too easy for a prosecutor to obtain an indictment from a grand jury? (“Easy” indictments put the accused on a path to substantial economic costs in mounting a defense.)
    • Is the grand jury process otherwise working well? poorly?
  • Civil cases. What about civil cases, in which those with substantial resources (like large corporations) can often overwhelm individuals (whether they are plaintiffs or defendants)?
    • How well do class action lawsuits address this issue?
    • What other “playing-field-levelers” might be employed?
    • Is arbitration a suitable way to reduce court costs in civil cases?
      • How (if at all) should enforced arbitration provisions in contracts be regulated?

I’m sure there will be more to cover (there always is).

See you next Monday.

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