an in-between move

Cool kids read The Bellman.


Don't read this blog!

I mean, thanks for dropping by my little corner of the blogospheric backwaters, but the blog you should be reading is The Bellman. The stuff I post there is much, much less likely to be imbued with dormitive powers.


[German, from zwischen, intermediate + zug, move

Literally an "in-between move". A move in a tactical sequence is called a zwischenzug* when it does not relate directly to the tactical motif in operation. |source|

image copyright TWIC

From this position, black played a zwischenzug: 19…d5
(Linares 2002, 1-0)


about your blogger

David Rowland studies philosophy at the University of Illinois - Urbana / Champaign, where he's an active member of the Graduate Employees Organization. He used to play a lot of chess, but wasn't all that good. He has a blog. And email.



Travelling man
Time to take off the dust covers
Moore on Torture
On the phenomenology of deliberation
Even more deliberation day
more deliberation day
Deliberation Day run-down
He made a porch for the throne where he might judg...
Blogger zwichenzug sells out, loses three punk poi...
He made a porch for the throne where he might judg...


error log

January 2004  
February 2004  
March 2004  
April 2004  
May 2004  
June 2004  
July 2004  
August 2004  
September 2004  
October 2004  
November 2004  
December 2004  
January 2005  
February 2005  
March 2005  
April 2005  
May 2005  
June 2005  
July 2005  
August 2005  
September 2005  
October 2005  
November 2005  
December 2005  


$zwichenzug$ sell-out zone





Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under
a Creative Commons License.

Union Label

Direct Action
Gets the Goods!


some folks I know

Mark Dilley
a daily dose of architecture
Safety Neal
January Girl
mimi jingcha
Hop, Skip, Jump
ambivalent imbroglio
Brooke & Lian


some blogs I read

strip mining for whimsy
It's Matt's World
School of Blog
Fall of the State
Dru Blood
Echidne of the Snakes
Colossal Waste of Bandwidth
Running from the Thought Police
Bionic Octopus


some philosoblogs

Fake Barn Country
Freiheit und Wissen


some labor blogs

Confined Space
Working Life
Dispatches From the Trenches
Labor Blog
Eric Lee


some A-list blogs

This Modern World
Matthew Yglesias
Andrew Sullivan
Political Animal
The Volokh Conspiracy


some other links

Rule 33
This Week in Chess
War Nerd
National Priorities Project
Bible Gateway
Internet Archive
A Weekly Dose of Architecture
Orsinal: Morning Sunshine
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Safety Sign Builder
Get Your War On


some philosoblogging

Six views about reasons
Seidman on reflection and rationality
And another thing
Tiffany's argument for strong internalism
Internalism v. Externalism
What do internalists believe anyway?
Rationalism and internalism
The experimental method in philosophy
Advertising to children
On moral skepticism
A linguistic argument
More on Williams
Williams on reasons
General and particular
Normativity and morality
Political intuitions
What it is, what it was, and what it shall be
Objectivity and morality
Thinking revolution
Abortion and coercion
Moore on torture
On the phenomenology of deliberation
Even more Deliberation Day
more Deliberation Day
Deliberation Day run-down
He made a porch for the throne where he might judge, cont.
He made a porch for the throne where he might judge
Every shepherd is an abomination
Droppin' H-bombs
ad hominem

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


Exciting news from the world of accounting

In a front page story in Monday's New York Times it was reported that:

New accounting standards will require state and local governments to acknowledge the full cost of health benefits promised to retirees, putting immense pressure on public employers to reduce their liabilities by scaling back benefits or shifting more o the cost to retirees, government officials and accountants say.| link |

One thing that should be said is that it's obviously good practice to account for expected future liabilities. In fact, it's kind of mind boggling to learn that most governmental entities don't track the future cost of benefits that have been promised (It turns out, by the way, that tracking these sorts of liabilities didn't become standard practice in the private sector until about 1990). Absent information about future liabilities, there's no way to engage in effective long range planning or budgeting, so it's pretty clear that the change in standards is a good thing.

Overshadowing this, however, is the suggestion that the way for governments to handle these liabilities is by cutting benefits to retirees. That's just outrageous. The retirees are people who took a government job – probably paying less than they could have made in the private sector – on the understanding that if they put in their time then they would continue to receive benefits once they had retired. Now they are told that because their former employers didn't account for the cost of holding up their end of the bargain those benefits will be taken away. This is government rewarding personal responsibility with a slap in the face.

It would be bad enough if the employer were a business. For one thing, a business doesn't act on behalf of citizens, and so its behavior doesn't reflect on all of us or embody our operative ethical standards. Moreover, a business that takes on liabilities that it can't meet will, in theory, fail. In that case you can at least say that some of the consequences of irresponsible promising fall on the organization that made the promise. But the government isn't going to go out of business. It can run a deficit or bring in revenues to meet the cost of rising liabilities. The choice to cut retirees off is a political decision to the effect that it is more important to control the cost of government than to fulfill the obligations that it has undertaken. It is a choice to break a promise because breaking the promise is more politically expedient than keeping it.

Some might say that this indictment is too severe. Government has competing duties in such a case, the objection goes. As asserted, government has a duty to the retirees such that they be given the benefits they were promised. In addition, though, government has a duty to spend taxpayer dollars responsibly. This doesn't mean that promised benefits should be entirely eliminated but, the objection concludes, they may need to be constrained in accordance with this duty of fiscal responsibility.

The plausibility of this line of thought depends on the sorts of cuts that are made in benefits. If, for example, a government institutes a modest co-pay for doctor visits or prescriptions or something like that it may be that this is justified by appeal to the duty of fiscal responsibility but doesn't amount to a violation of the obligation the government has to the retirees.

Problems arise at the point where the duty of fiscal responsibility is thought to be capable of overriding the duty of keeping promises. That is, when cuts in benefits are so severe that the cuts amount to the breaking of a promise. In such cases, I claim, it's a mistake to think that the duty of fiscal responsibility can legitimately trump prior obligations.

The crucial fact to notice is that the violation of the duty of fiscal responsibility occurs when a government takes on liabilities that it can't meet, not when those liabilities come due. Just imagine telling your creditors that the reason you won't be paying your bills is that it would be fiscally irresponsible for you to do so. You don't get to start fresh every day, and neither does government.

That's about all I have to say about that, but I would be remiss not to mention the disappointing response of organized labor to this issue. From the Times article:

Unions contend that the standards will force public employers to overstate their liabilities for retiree health benefits, because the standards ignore the fact that employers can reduce or eliminate health benefits in the face of fiscal pressures.

As the Minneapolis Transit Strike illustrated, governmental agencies will leverage cuts in benefits promised to retired workers against the wages of present employees, and unions face an uphill battle in fighting those cuts. Insofar as unions adopt the policy ascribed to them in the Times, they're just giving up the ghost. They're saying 'promise us the moon, but don't worry about delivering.' That may make for impressive looking contracts, but in the long run it doesn't help workers.

+ - + - + main + - + - +