Computational behavior theory and cultural evolution

Tag Archives: politics

Mentally Ill, Inc.

The debate about corporate personhood—the legal recognition of corporations as persons—rose again to prominence in the U.S.A. when, in 2010, the United States Supreme Court ruled that corporations can fund political parties under the same rules as people (they were formerly severely restricted from doing so).

If corporations are persons, they may also have health problems. Corporations themselves take all possible steps to care about their own physical health, such as having enough food (money, supplies, etc.) and keeping internal organs (administration, production, logistics, etc.) in good shape. This is what people usually mean when they say that a corporation’s health is good or poor. Corporations as people, however, may also have mental health issues. As many psychiatric patients, they may need significant external intervention to get better.

Consider, for instance, antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), or the “pervasive disregard of, and violation of, the rights of others” (this definition and most of the following on ASPD is from Wikipedia). According to the American Psychiatric Association, three or more of these symptoms indicate antisocial personality:

  1. failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors, as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;
  2. deceitfulness, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;
  3. impulsivity or failure to plan ahead; irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;
  4. reckless disregard for safety of self or others;
  5. consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;
  6. lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another;

How many corporations can be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder? And what would be the treatment?


The next time someone claims to be “going rogue,” they should first look up the meaning:

From the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:

Main Entry: rogue
Pronunciation: \ˈrōg\
Function: noun
Etymology: origin unknown
Date: 1561

1 : vagrant, tramp
2 : a dishonest or worthless person : scoundrel
3 : a mischievous person : scamp
4 : a horse inclined to shirk or misbehave
5 : an individual exhibiting a chance and usually inferior biological variation


From the Online Etymological Dictionary:

1561, “idle vagrant,” perhaps a shortened form of roger (with a hard -g-), thieves’ slang for a begging vagabond who pretends to be a poor scholar from Oxford or Cambridge, perhaps from L. rogare “to ask.” Another theory traces it to Celtic (cf. Bret. rog “haughty”); OED says, “There is no evidence of connexion with F. rogue ‘arrogant.’ ” Rogue’s gallery “police collection of mug shots” is attested from 1859.

A Fine Example of Sexism in Italian Divorce Law

In italy, a woman cannot remarry until 300 days after a divorce. This norm intends to avoid paternity disputes by making sure that, upon remarrying, a woman is not expecting a child from her previous husband. Such intent is apparent from the provisions, stated in the same law, that allow to cut the 300 days short if:

  • The woman proves she is not pregnant.
  • The woman proves that she did not legally live with the former husband in the 300 days after divorce.
  • The previous marriage has been terminated because of the sterility of either partner.

How many flaws can you find in behind this norm? I have found the following:

  1. A divorcing man is not required to prove that his former wife is not pregnant, hence the norm is sexist.
  2. The law assumes that a woman has sex only with her husband.
  3. The law assumes that a woman has sex with a man only if they live together.

All this makes the norm ineffective in its intent, i.e., preventing paternity disputes. The law was written around 1980, mostly by men born in the 1920s and 1930s. Those aging, somewhat sexist, democratically elected lawmakers could not anticipate that paternity tests would obsolete their hard work in a few years. While point 1 above is, in theory, sufficient to make the law unconstitutional in Italy, the law itself has not, apparently, been challenged in court, and thus stands as of today, August 20th, 2009.

I have been able to find other similar cases: Puerto Rico, Lousiana before 1970 (remarriage laws in the U.S.). Do you know of other similar legislation elsewhere?


European Parliament elections, taking place these days, are a perfect example of the constant struggle between continental cooperation and localistic parochialism in the European Union. Europeans are called to vote for their representatives in "the only supranational institution whose members are democratically
elected by direct universal suffrage
," which "represents the people of the
Member States
" (source). Yet they can only vote for citizens of their own country (or the country of residence, if living abroad). The implicit assumption is that someone can be fairly represented only by her or his own nationals (or those who live nearby), which is exactly the kind of localistic thinking that the EU should strive to overcome. Personally, I would be glad to be able to vote for non-Italian politicians.