A cheerful bit of anecdata

I had lunch today with someone I knew well professionally thirty years ago but haven’t kept in touch with much since. He’s a lawyer in his sixties, a former prosecutor and judge, a native Virginian, and someone who identifies himself as a “compulsive centrist,” currently registered Independent. He has a more-than-comfortable income.

His basis for voting in this year’s Presidential race? “The very rich have been waging class warfare against the rest of us.” And the fact that Mitt Romney manages to pay a lower tax rate than he does on an income a couple of orders of magnitude higher than his really annoys him.


Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

13 thoughts on “A cheerful bit of anecdata”

  1. “An anecdatum”, Mark. Though the heavens part with the wrath of Kevin Drum, “datum” is still the singular of “data.”

  2. I think Mark is using “data” here as a non-count noun, like gold, wheat, or nonsense: a category in English grammar, not Latin.
    Google hits: datum 102 m, data 1.4 bn.

      1. Careful, Latin geekery incoming.

        We use “data” in its plural form because that is how Latin tends to substantivize adjectives.

        The Latin root that we’re working with is the verb “to give”: do, dedi, datum, dare. “Datum” is the perfect participle form (given), which is an adjective, and is substantivized by taking the nominative plural of the neuter form, which in turn is “data”.

        Note that this is not a hard and fast rule for substantivization, but it is very common. For example, sometimes adjectives are also substantivized by combining them with “res” (thing, matter, issue, affair); e.g. “res publica” = “public issue/affair”, from which we got the English word “republic”. “Res” is to Latin what “stuff” is to English; a filler noun that is inserted solely for grammatical reasons.

        In contrast, aurum, ferrum, and plumbum are bona fide nouns.

        For a similar phenomenon, see deponent verbs; these are verbs that only occur in the passive voice, such as “sequitur”.

        1. Katja, not to be unkind, but this is completely irrelevant to the issue of whether aurum etc are mass/material/non-count nouns or not. Of course datum is a nominalization of a past passive participle – but that’s never been in question here. The origin of a mass noun doesn’t determine its status qua mass noun. Also, I can’t see that you have made a case for the neuter plural being the standard nominalization. It’s a pluralization of the neuter singular, no more. Also, why distinguish say plumbum as being more of a bona fide noun than datum? What matters is the syntactical role that they play.

          1. No worry about being unkind, I’m a big girl and can deal with some criticism. 🙂

            That said, my point here was solely about the etymological origins of these words, which are different. Hence, different rules apply.

            The rest of what I wrote was merely an explanation of how that happened.

          2. The etymological origin of words also has nothing to do with the matter in question. It doesn’t remotely matter whether a noun originates as a pure noun or as a nominalized adjective or participle when it comes to its syntactic function qua noun. And I am still waiting for Wimberley to explain himself re: aurum etc!

  3. And you’ve got to figure that whatever Romney is hiding in his tax returns is worse than what he’s already released. This situation is just tailor-made for some high-profile Dem to pound Romney hard.

  4. Like garbage, “data” is a collective — and collected — noun. [Often like garbage in other ways.]

  5. http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/08/how-likely-is-it-that-romney-paid-no-taxes.php?ref=fpa

    This suggests that, by one reading at least, Romney might have paid no federal income tax, had he engaged in some illegal weaseling, and that, even without said weaseling, he might have got his taxes down very, very low indeed.

    “[I]t struck me as plausible,” said NYU tax expert Daniel Shaviro, who’s been a leading analyst of Romney’s public financial information. “The reason people have been saying he must have paid something is that they’ve figured he must have (as in 2010) had some dividend and interest income plus other ordinary (rather than capital gains) stuff such as speaker fees. Zeroing all that out, if he had such income every year, would have required tax shelter losses that would very likely be deemed (by the IRS and many legal experts) as abusive.”

    But hey, it’s only a tax expert speaking, right, Megan?

  6. The very rich have been waging class warfare against the rest of us

    Yes, indeed. This is why I have to laugh SO hard at Pollack’s conceit that he belongs to an elite of any consequence. Didn’t UC professors take furloughs and pay cuts a couple of years ago? Just ask them who’s in charge.

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