December 28, 2004

Posner on Religion and Public Policy

See here, and his response to comments here.  Some highlights:

  1. "I do not think we would do better to have a government run by academics, which is the implicit model of government held by political philosophers, law professors, and the like. Would we really have done better over the last half century with Presidents Stevenson, Humphrey, a second-term Carter, Mondale, and Dukakis? And haven't the universities, in their overwhelmingly liberal orientation (in most fields relating to public policy), forgotten John Stuart Mill's dictum that ideas become flabby and stale when they are not exposed to vigorous challenge?"
  2. "What is true about the United States is that certain issues agitate our legal system for religious reasons, such as abortion, stem-cell research, gay marriage, pornography, prayer in the public schools, public recognition of the Ten Commandments, financial support of parochial schools (as by means of a voucher system), the teaching of evolution. Yet as a result of the Supreme Court's rather heavy-handed enforcement of the Constitution, most of these issues when they get into court as so often they do are resolved as they would be by the ordinary political processes in more secular nations. The startling result is that the most salient difference, so far as the intersection of religion and public policy is concerned, between the United States and the more secular nations is that many of them have established churches! (Hume favored established churches because he thought they would deaden religion belief. He was right, at least in the Western European context.)"
  3. "When a brilliant philosopher like Rawls gets down to the policy level and talks about abortion and campaign financing and the like, you recognize a perfectly conventional liberal and you begin to wonder whether his philosophy isn't just elaborate window dressing for standard left liberalism."

Posted by Old Benjamin at 02:11 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

August 07, 2004

Normative Theory

The AnalPhilosopher has posted an interesting explanation of consequentialism and deontology.

Posted by Old Benjamin at 01:53 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

June 08, 2004

Negative v. Positive Rights

Or, stated differently, liberty v. tyranny. Professor Bainbridge writing at TCS:

[P]rivate property and freedom of contract are at the center of the debate over positive and negative rights. You cannot achieve positive rights of the sort Saletan likes without infringing on someone's negative rights to private property and/or freedom of contract. As a result, achieving a system of positive rights comes at a very high cost not only to individuals but also to society as a whole.

As societal decision making norms, private property and freedom of contract do more than just promote economic growth. These economic liberties have almost always gone hand in hand with other personal liberties. Private property and freedom of contract, moreover, have been a major factor in destroying arbitrary class distinctions by enhancing personal and social mobility. When we infringe on private property and freedom of contract in the name of creating positive rights, we thus infringe on the very engine of democracy. As Russell Kirk observed, "freedom and property are closely linked: separate property from private possession, and Leviathan becomes master of all." Ronald Reagan surely agreed.

Reagan's great legacy is that he restored protection of private property and freedom of contract to the political debate as legitimate social goals. In doing so, he fortified the other freedoms William Saletan and the rest of us so often take for granted. We owe him our thanks.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh critiques Bainbridge and Bainbridge and others chime in (follow the links backs).

Posted by Old Benjamin at 11:39 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

June 03, 2004

Having It Both Ways on Abortion

Keith Burgess-Jackson makes a good point about those who claim that abortion should be "legal, safe, and rare":

If you truly believe that fetuses have no moral status, then you should not care how many abortions there are, for nothing morally significant (in your view) is being sacrificed. An abortion is the moral equivalent of having an appendix removed. You might care about the risk to the woman or about the cost of the procedure, but those aren’t moral reasons. Abortion-rightists, to be consistent, should either stop saying that abortion should be rare or start condemning those abortions in which the fetus’s interests are ignored by its mother. They’re trying to have it both ways, and logically speaking they cannot.

Read the entire post if you're interested in the issue.

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May 22, 2004

Would whup-ass be called for?

T'would indeed.

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May 17, 2004


Some ideas on how to find it. (Via Milt's File.)

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May 12, 2004


"The spread of evil is the symptom of a vacuum. Whenever evil wins, it is only by default: by the moral failure of those who evade the fact that there can be no compromise on basic principles."

-- Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal

Posted by Old Benjamin at 10:44 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

May 11, 2004


There is no safety for honest men but by believing all possible evil of evil men.

Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, p. 249.

Posted by Old Benjamin at 08:03 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

April 23, 2004


John Kekes:

Egalitarians believe that inequality is unjust and justice requires a society to move steadily toward greater equality. This is the aim and the justification of proportional taxation, affirmative action, equal opportunity programs, and of the whole panoply of anti-poverty policies that bring us ever closer to the socialist dream of a welfare state. These policies cost money. The egalitarian approach to getting it is to tax those who have more in order to benefit those who have less. The absurdity of this is that egalitarians suppose that justice requires ignoring whether people deserve what they have and whether they are responsible for what they lack. They suppose it just to ignore the requirements of justice.

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