0) Charles van Doren (see here) passed away recently. For those who don't know he he was (prob most of you) he was one of the contestants involved in RIGGED quiz shows in the 1950's. While there was a Grand Jury Hearing about Quiz Shows being rigged, nobody went to jail since TV was new and it was not clear if rigging quiz shows was illegal. Laws were then passed to make them it illegal.
So why are today's so-called reality shows legal? I ask non-rhetorically.
(The person he beat in a rigged game show- Herb Stempel (see here) is still alive.)
1) The college admissions scandal. I won't restate the details and how awful it is since you can get that elsewhere and I doubt I can add much to it. One thing I've heard in the discussions about it is a question that is often posted rhetorically but I want to pose for real:
There are people whose parents give X dollars to a school and they get admitted even though they are not qualified. Why is that legal?
I ask that question without an ax to grind and without anger. Why is out-right bribery of this sort legal?
a) Its transparent. So being honest about bribery makes it okay?
b) My question said `even though they are not qualified' - what if they explicitly or implicitly said `having parents give money to our school is one of our qualifications'
c) The money they give is used to fund scholarships for students who can't afford to go. This is an argument for why its not immoral, not why its not illegal.
But here is my question: Really, what is the legal issue here? It still seems like bribery.
2) Big Oil gives money to congressman Smith, who then votes against a carbon tax. This seems like outright bribery
a) If Congressman Smith is normally a anti-regulation then he could say correctly that he was given the money because they agree with his general philosophy, so it's not bribery.
b) If Congressman smith is normally pro-environment and has no problem with voting for taxes then perhaps it is bribery.
3) John Edwards a while back and Donald Trump now are claiming (not quite) that the money used to pay off their mistress to be quiet is NOT a campaign contribution, but was to keep the affair from his wife. (I don't think Donald Trump has admitted the affair so its harder to know what his defense is). But lets take a less controversial example of `what is a campaign contribution'
I throw a party for my wife's 50th birthday and I invite Beto O'Rourke and many voters and some Dem party big-wigs to the party. The party costs me $50,000. While I claim it's for my wife's bday it really is for Beto to make connections to voters and others. So is that a campaign contribution?
4) The creators of HUGE ASS BEER are suing GIANT ASS BEER for trademark infringement. I am not making this up- see here
All of these cases involve ill defined questions (e.g., `what is a bribe'). And the people arguing either side are not unbiased. The cases also illustrate why I prefer mathematics: nice clean questions that (for the most part) have answers. We may have our biases as to which way they go, but if it went the other way we would not sue in a court of law.