Jason Brennan – Bleeding Heart Libertarians http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com Free Markets and Social Justice Wed, 15 Nov 2017 17:16:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.3 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/cropped-site-icon-BHL-32x32.png Jason Brennan – Bleeding Heart Libertarians http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com 32 32 22756168 What Kneeling Athletes Reveal about Political Psychology http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/09/kneeling-athletes-reveal-political-psychology/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/09/kneeling-athletes-reveal-political-psychology/#comments Tue, 26 Sep 2017 18:37:43 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=12045 Today at the Princeton University Press blog, I have a post on the current controversy and what it tells us about how people “think” about politics.   Some excerpts:  ...

The post What Kneeling Athletes Reveal about Political Psychology appeared first on Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

]]>
Today at the Princeton University Press blog, I have a post on the current controversy and what it tells us about how people “think” about politics.

 

Some excerpts:

 

Both sides accuse the other side of hypocrisy and bad faith. And both sides are mostly right. Hypocrisy and bad faith are the self-driving cars of politics. They get us where we want, without our having to drive.

 

…Instead, as economist Robin Hanson likes to say, politics is not about policy. The hidden, unconscious reason we form political beliefs is to help us form coalitions with other people. Most of us choose our particular political affiliations because people like us vote that way. We then join together with other supposedly like-minded people, creating an us versus a them. We are good and noble and can be trusted. They are stupid and evil and at fault for everything. We loudly denounce the other side in order to prove, in public, that we are especially good and pure, and so our fellow coalition members should reward us with praise and high status.

 

 

….Now back to football players kneeling. My friends on the Right refuse to take the players at their word. The players say they’re protesting police brutality and other ways the U.S. mistreats its black populace. My friends on the Right scoff and say, no, really they just hate America and hate the troops. This reaction is wrong, but not surprising. Imputing evil motives to the other side is essential to politics. The Left does it all the time too. If, for example, some economists on the Right says they favor school vouchers as a means of improving school quality, the Left will just accuse them of hating the poor.

It’s worth noting that since 2009, the Pentagon has paid the NFL over $6 million to stage patriotic displays before games to help drive recruiting.[i] The pre-game flag shows are literally propaganda in the narrowest sense of the word. Personally, I think participating in government-funded propaganda exercises is profoundly anti-American, while taking a knee and refusing to dance on command shows real respect for what the country supposedly stands for.

Read the whole thing here.

The post What Kneeling Athletes Reveal about Political Psychology appeared first on Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

]]>
http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/09/kneeling-athletes-reveal-political-psychology/feed/ 36 12045
What James Buchanan Actually Thought http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/09/james-buchanan-actually-thought/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/09/james-buchanan-actually-thought/#comments Sat, 02 Sep 2017 18:43:06 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=12013     One might expect a historian going through Buchanan’s works trying to find his views on this subject to discover this letter, but no, it’s much easier I guess...

The post What James Buchanan Actually Thought appeared first on Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

]]>
 

 

One might expect a historian going through Buchanan’s works trying to find his views on this subject to discover this letter, but no, it’s much easier I guess just to insinuate stuff and provide literally no evidence for it.

The post What James Buchanan Actually Thought appeared first on Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

]]>
http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/09/james-buchanan-actually-thought/feed/ 39 12013
Immigration Points and the Fatal Conceit of Central Planning http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/08/immigration-points-fatal-conceit-central-planning/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/08/immigration-points-fatal-conceit-central-planning/#comments Thu, 10 Aug 2017 15:02:50 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11991 (Please excuse the improper spacing in this piece. Weird glitch. Don’t know how to fix it.) If you think Trump’s (or Canada’s or whatnot’s) points system for immigration is a...

The post Immigration Points and the Fatal Conceit of Central Planning appeared first on Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

]]>

(Please excuse the improper spacing in this piece. Weird glitch. Don’t know how to fix it.)

If you think Trump’s (or Canada’s or whatnot’s) points system for immigration is a good idea, you seem awfully confident in the government’s ability to engage in central planning.

 

Now, Trump is a mercantilist with little understanding of economics. But to my surprise, quite a few libertarians and supposed “free market economic conservatives” seem on board with his points plan. But here’s the problem:
Most of you recognize government is too stupid to plan shoe production. You need price signals and competitive mechanisms to tell you what, where, and how to produce. You can’t make a five-year plan for the whole economy because the economic problem constantly changes.

But many people who recognize that flip around say, “Oh, but no worries. We can figure out exactly how many and what kind of laborers the economy needs for the next five years using this artificial points scale.”

 

The best way to know whether “the economy needs an immigrant” is simple: If we allow people to hire the immigrant, do they choose to do so? If we allow people to rent houses or apartments to the immigrant, do they choose to do so? Let them do it, sit back, and let the market do its thing.

Now, granted, the government may have a legitimate worry about being able to afford certain kinds of welfare programs and publicly provided goods which immigrants might consume. But if that’s a worry, then find a keyhole solution. We don’t nationalize guitar production just because we worry about affording public schools for luthiers’ kids; similarly, we shouldn’t nationalize laborer production because of that worry.
Now, if you think the system improves upon the status quo, that’s fine. That’s not an argument that the system is good, just that’s better than what we had before.

The post Immigration Points and the Fatal Conceit of Central Planning appeared first on Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

]]>
http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/08/immigration-points-fatal-conceit-central-planning/feed/ 23 11991
Chris Freiman’s Unequivocal Justice http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/08/chris-freimans-unequivocal-justice/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/08/chris-freimans-unequivocal-justice/#comments Wed, 02 Aug 2017 15:19:00 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11965 Christopher Freiman  has just published a fabulous book, Unequivocal Justice, the first book in Routledge Press’s new “Political Philosophy for the Real World” series. It is a tour de force of philosophical...

The post Chris Freiman’s Unequivocal Justice appeared first on Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

]]>
Christopher Freiman  has just published a fabulous book, Unequivocal Justice, the first book in Routledge Press’s new “Political Philosophy for the Real World” series.

It is a tour de force of philosophical excellence. It may well be the best book of political philosophy published in 2017. I certainly haven’t read anything this year that comes close to competing with it.

Imagine a person said, “I have a solution to the problem of drunk driving. However, my solution works only in a world where alcohol hadn’t been invented.” There’s something deeply silly and incoherent about that.

Well, it turns out that the mainstream of political philosophy over the past 50 years has precisely this problem. The mainline of political philosophy, when it tries to defend or critique various institutions, has largely been a joke, Freiman shows us, though he’s too polite to put it that bluntly.

What Freiman shows is that Rawls, Freeman, Ackerman, Dworkin, and a number of other left-liberal philosophers are making this kind of mistake over and over. His critique is so devastating that you might as well take Rawls’s writings about institutions and throw them in the trash; they are now, thanks to Chris, nothing more than artifacts of historical interest.

Chris starts by saying,

A perfect state is a pointless state.

The point of a state is to mitigate injustice. If Rich would donate his 40% to the poor, the state wouldn’t need to tax his income. If Mimi would buy a hybrid instead of a Hummer, the state wouldn’t need to cap her emissions. But since virtue alone won’t do the job, the state needs to redistribute equitably and regulate efficiently.

…But here’s the problem: the very reasons why the state is needed are reasons why the state won’t work.

 

Rawls writes mostly at the level of ideal theory. But, Freiman shows, an ideal theory of the state is incoherent. (Yes, he responds to Kavka’s argument otherwise.) Under ideal conditions–in which people are stipulated to comply fully with the requirements of morality and justice–there simply is no need for a state, period. There is no need to create an institution which claims a monopoly on violence and which enforces rules through threats of violence. Ideal theory must be anarchist.

Coercion is needed to defend justice only when society is less than fully just. But when society is less than fully just, we cannot stipulate the ideal justness of the state itself. So we arrive at the dilemma for ideal theories of the state: either (i) society is fully just, in which case there is no need for a state, or (ii) society is not fully just, in which we case we may not stipulate the state itself is just.

In order to create a need for a state, Rawls (and his followers) equivocate. They posit bad behavior in the private sector. But then, in order to defend their favored regime and in order to avoid the criticism that the regime itself might be corrupt and make things worse, they imagine away all bad behavior in the public sphere.

For example, Rawls claims that we need to equalize incomes in order to prevent the rich from buying power for themselves. (Freiman thinks that’s a weird argument to begin with; in order to stop people from polluting, we don’t equalize income; rather we regulate pollution.) But here’s the dilemma.

…The only way to ground both (i) the need for regulation and (ii) the stipulation of the regulation’s success is to equivocate in precisely the way Rawls does.

So, to restore consistency, Rawls needs to resolve a dilemma: Either (i) the rich aren’t buying up state power, in which case equalization isn’t necessary, or (ii) the rich are buying up state power, in which case they can subvert equalization by buying up the state power unleashed to do the equalizing. Neither option justifies an a priori demand for equalization.

A few other philosophers, including G. A. Cohen and me, have pointed out that Rawls makes cartoonishly bad arguments like this here and there. But Freiman methodically goes through Rawls and a few others, and finds they make such arguments constantly. Rawls’s version of the public goods argument, his argument for redistribution taxation, his argument for the existence of the state, and so on, all have the same form: He’s giving us a theory about how to solve drunk driving, but his solution can only be stipulated to work in a world where alcohol had never been invented.

In the end, the mistake is that Rawls is trying to make a priori arguments for institutions, regime-types, and rules. These arguments all fail. They are no substitute for doing careful PPE-style empirical institutional analysis. Freiman closes by warning left-liberals not just to presume that empirical analysis will vindicate the exact institutions they were defending on entirely a priori grounds.

Again, the book is a tour-de-force. You should read it. It will make you a better thinker.

Here’s my blurb for the book:

Unequivocal Justice, with its delightful and engaging prose, is a devastating critique of the dominant arguments and methods in political philosophy. It shows that almost everything Rawls and other left-liberals have said about institutions over the past 50 years is not merely wrong, but incoherent. It should–if philosophers have an intellectual integrity–change the field forever.

Strong words, but entirely deserved.

The post Chris Freiman’s Unequivocal Justice appeared first on Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

]]>
http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/08/chris-freimans-unequivocal-justice/feed/ 32 11965
On the Value of Being a Producer http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/08/on-the-value-of-being-a-producer/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/08/on-the-value-of-being-a-producer/#comments Tue, 01 Aug 2017 13:37:58 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11958 Bas van der Vossen and I have a book, In Defense of Openness, forthcoming with Oxford University Press in 2018. Here’s a short excerpt from the penultimate chapter discussing the value...

The post On the Value of Being a Producer appeared first on Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

]]>
Bas van der Vossen and I have a book, In Defense of Openness, forthcoming with Oxford University Press in 2018.

Here’s a short excerpt from the penultimate chapter discussing the value of being a producer.

…In the 1990s film version of Great Expectations, protagonist Finn, then a young boy, encounters an escaped convict. He decides to feed the convict and gives him tools to remove his bonds. Years later, Finn becomes an artist. Not only do his paintings sell, but he sells every painting he puts in gallery. In the end, Finn learns that his paintings were all purchased by one collector—who turns out to be the escaped convict, now rich. In fact, Finn’s entire career is just a façade created by the convict to, in a sense, repay a debt.

When Finn learns this, he isn’t delighted to discover that he lives in a world of communal reciprocity. He isn’t delighted to discover that this his good deeds have been rewarded. On the contrary, if anything, he’s devastated. When Finn discovers the convict has been buying his art, he thereby learns that he, Finn, is a failure.

Finn wants other people to want his art for their own selfish reasons. He hopes others will want to buy it with their hard-earned money not as a favor to him, but because they believe the art is excellent and will enhance their own lives. He doesn’t want his customers to think, “Well, Finn, we don’t care for your art, but we want you to feel good about yourself and your little hobby, so out of our concern for you as an end in yourself, we’re buying your art.” That attitude expresses respect for Finn as a stomach, but not as an artist. What Finn craves is recognition, and he can’t get that unless his art is selling because the customers want it for themselves.

Sure, Finn wants to eat. Perhaps given the choice between A) being utterly destitute, or B) being paid to make art for people who don’t actually like the art, he’d pick B. But Finn wants a good life, not just a life. For most of us, having a good life means making our own way in the world. We want to be able to produce for others such that, in the end, we can say the world was better off with us than without us.

That thought probably applies to professional plumbers, auto mechanics, nurses, and philosophers. We don’t just want people to consume what we make as a way of letting us play at being good at our jobs. We want to actually be good at our jobs. Doing so means that people are willing to buy what we offer for their sakes, not ours. In virtue of acting on such selfish motives, our buyers do us a different of favor: they thereby show we’re making a real contribution, not just being tricked into thinking we’re contributing.

We’re not invoking this point in order to argue against the welfare state, though it is a consideration against make-work projects. (Make-work projects are a kind of Truman Show; they trick workers into believing, falsely, that they’re mostly contributing rather than just mostly receiving.) Rather, our point is just that for most of us, part of what it means to live well is not only to be fed but to help feed others, to make the world better off rather than worse off by our presence.[i]

[i] In Why Not Socialism?, G. A. Cohen claims that utopian, if not realistic, socialism realizes what he calls the “the principle of communal reciprocity,” which is “the antimarket principle in which I serve you not because of what I can get in return by doing so, but because you need or want my service, and you, for the same reason, serve me.”(Cohen 2009, 39) Cohen doesn’t imagine utopian socialists to be selfless, so he means here a principle in which one person serves another not simply out of self-interest but also out of a desire to serve others. Cohen of course provides no philosophical argument that this principle is somehow incompatible with markets or capitalism, and he provides no empirical evidence that this attitude is found less in market society than in socialist or non-market societies. (On the contrary, as Jason has pointed out in a number of papers, it appears this attitude appears more in market societies than elsewhere. See Brennan 2014, Brennan 2015, Brennan 2016.) We invoke Cohen here to illustrate that the personal value of being a contributor is not a value unique to capitalist or market ideologies. Indeed, Cohen likes it so much he seems to think it’s incompatible with market ideologies.

The post On the Value of Being a Producer appeared first on Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

]]>
http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/08/on-the-value-of-being-a-producer/feed/ 53 11958
The Problem of Pluralism Isn’t Real http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/07/called-problem-pluralism-isnt-real/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/07/called-problem-pluralism-isnt-real/#comments Mon, 10 Jul 2017 14:47:50 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11917   I recently read Linda Zerilli’s  A Democratic Theory of Judgment. The book explores and sort of gestures at a solution to what we might call the Problem of Pluralism....

The post The Problem of Pluralism Isn’t Real appeared first on Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

]]>

 

I recently read Linda Zerilli’s  A Democratic Theory of Judgment. The book explores and sort of gestures at a solution to what we might call the Problem of Pluralism. Here’s the problem, in the abstract, in my own words.

 

Many political theorists believe that democratic theory faces a puzzle or paradox. Democracy is supposed to answer to the differing worldviews, opinions, perspectives, and considered judgments of its citizens. But, we’re told, the polity has intractable value and perspective pluralism—citizens have myriad incompatible comprehensive worldviews and value systems. So we face the Puzzle of Pluralism: How can we pass any laws or even offer judgments about what is just or unjust, without thereby disrespecting our fellow citizens and running roughshod over their different worldviews?

Many political theorists think the idea of “truth” is a threat to democracy. To illustrate, suppose that utilitarianism is the objectively true theory of justice. By hypothesis the government should just do whatever utilitarianism requires. If the public disagrees, too bad—they’re wrong. But this strikes some theorists as undemocratic, as it seems to make citizens’ opinions irrelevant for deciding what to do.

On the other hand, if we dispense with the idea of an objective truth, we fall into skepticism or pernicious relativism. Rational argument is impossible. Debating justice is equivalent to arguing about whether the present king of France is bald or whether pineapple pizza tastes good. Denying truth leaves democrats defenseless against authoritarian critics of democracy—by hypothesis, it’s not true that democracy is better than other forms of government.

 

Zerilli’s book offers an extremely abstract sketch of a possible solution to this problem. It’s really unclear at the end what her view is and how it’s supposed to solve the problem.

But I don’t think that’s the major problem with the book. Rather, I worry that Zerilli, Rawls, Habermas, Arendt, Okin, and the countless other political philosophers and theorists who write about this problem are dealing with a pseudo-problem.* I worry this book, and those it builds upon, tries to solve a merely theoretical problem created by mistaken theory of democracy, rather than a real problem plaguing actual democracies.[1]  What Achen and Bartels call the “folk theory of democracy” holds that voters’ ideologies, political beliefs, and policy preferences explain their voting behavior and the outcome of elections.[2] The Puzzle of Pluralism presupposes a version of this folk theory, and holds that the diversity of ideology, political belief, and policy preferences is philosophically problematic. But the folk theory is false.

By analogy, consider that in Dungeons & Dragons, there is a monster—the Tarrasque– so powerful that it’s puzzling how any adventuring party could defeat it. A Google search indicates gamers have written hundreds of pages theorizing how to fight it. But while there really are better and worse theories about killing the Tarrasque, it’s merely a theoretical problem, because the Tarrasque doesn’t actually exist.

I worry something like that holds true of this book and others in the genre. Normative political theorists write book after book about how to solve the Problem of Pluralism. But after you read, say, Achen and Bartels’s Democracy for Realists, which provides a comprehensive overview of sixty years of empirical work on voter behavior, you realize they might as well debate how to kill the Tarrasque.[3]

Rawls, Arendt, Habermas, and others believe that citizens have diverse ideologies, incompatible perspectives, distinct values, and differing worldviews. Anyone pushing an agenda has to justify her favored policies to these different points of view.

Now compare this to Democracy for Realists: Empirical research finds the overwhelming majority of citizens in modern democracies lack an ideology or anything like a comprehensive political worldview. Most citizens have hardly any real political opinions—they have few opinions at all, and the few opinions they have are largely ephemeral. They are loyal to this or that party on the basis of identity politics—“people like us vote Democrat”—not because they accept, or even know which, ideas and policies the parties push. They sometimes engage in post-hoc rationalization that “feels like thinking”; that is, they sometimes temporarily convince themselves that they agree with whatever they mistakenly and temporarily believe their party believes. Citizens don’t have much in the way of political values, period, let alone competing or incommensurable values. They have few beliefs about politically salient facts, about recent or distant history, or about what causes what. Democracy is not a bunch of citizens with incompatible judgments about social scientific, historical, and moral matters; it’s more like a system which chooses government by periodically polling overwhelmingly judgment- and perspective-free citizens. Elections are “largely random events”.[4] And this is not some new development—democracy has been like this since political scientists started studying voter behavior.

The Puzzle of Pluralism is at best/worst a puzzle for a tiny subset of the citizenry. The modal, mean, and median voter lacks an “ism”; so there is little value or belief pluralism. We don’t have to worry about forcing our vision of the truth onto their differing worldviews, because they don’t have worldviews.

Democracy is not like a giant amateur political theory conference with interminable debates. It’s a system of agnostic know-nothing, opine-nothing Hobbits and party loyalist Hooligans.

The central problem of democracy is not “How do we justify policy when citizens have an intractable diversity of political beliefs?” It’s more like, “How do we justify policy when there is no ‘will of the people’, and further, the overwhelming majority of individuals lack any significant political beliefs?” If anything, democratic theory faces the problem of perspectival and ideological nihilism, not pluralism.

 

 

 

[1] Cf. Daniel Dennett, “Higher-Order Truths about Chmess,” Topoi 25 (2006) 39-41

[2] Achen, C. and Bartels. L., Democracy for Realist (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016), 1-10.

[3] Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels, Democracy for Realists (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016). My own Against Democracy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016), contains a less comprehensive summary of the same position.

[4] Achen and Bartels 2016, 2.

*Note that I think Jacob Levy’s work on pluralism is different, because it’s about identity rather than about belief.

 

The post The Problem of Pluralism Isn’t Real appeared first on Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

]]>
http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/07/called-problem-pluralism-isnt-real/feed/ 53 11917
Nancy MacLean Is Either Grossly Incompetent or a Liar http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/06/nancy-maclean-either-grossly-incompetent-liar/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/06/nancy-maclean-either-grossly-incompetent-liar/#comments Tue, 27 Jun 2017 13:37:31 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11886 Here, Russ Roberts finds MacLean purposefully removed lines from Cowen in order to stick him with saying the opposite of what he in fact said. Here, Christopher Fleming finds she...

The post Nancy MacLean Is Either Grossly Incompetent or a Liar appeared first on Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

]]>
Here, Russ Roberts finds MacLean purposefully removed lines from Cowen in order to stick him with saying the opposite of what he in fact said.

Here, Christopher Fleming finds she did the same to James Buchanan.

And here Phil Magness finds her inventing a connection between James Buchanan and a bunch of racist segregationist.

Read Greg Wiener’s review of her book here.

 

Expect to see more of this soon. Christ, I understand the government wants to buy itself an apologist for corporatism, but you’d think for $50,000 it could get someone better.

Imagine if an undergraduate read the following text:

Jason Brennan: “Calhoun asserts that racism is not wrong. But I, Jason Brennan, disagree with Calhoun.”

Now suppose the undergraduate wrote this in an essay:

“Jason Brennan writes, and I quote, ‘….racism is not wrong.'”

That’s what MacLean is doing, over and over again. She is either grossly incompetent or a straight up liar.

The post Nancy MacLean Is Either Grossly Incompetent or a Liar appeared first on Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

]]>
http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/06/nancy-maclean-either-grossly-incompetent-liar/feed/ 38 11886
Conspire Me This: Is Nancy MacLean a Hired Gun for the Establishment? http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/06/conspire-nancy-maclean-hired-gun-establishmet/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/06/conspire-nancy-maclean-hired-gun-establishmet/#comments Fri, 23 Jun 2017 17:30:49 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11875 Historian Nancy MacLean recently wrote a hit piece smearing James Buchanan and a number of other public choice theorists. What’s Buchanan’s basic message? Simple: Government isn’t magic. In representative democracy, small,...

The post Conspire Me This: Is Nancy MacLean a Hired Gun for the Establishment? appeared first on Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

]]>
Historian Nancy MacLean recently wrote a hit piece smearing James Buchanan and a number of other public choice theorists.

What’s Buchanan’s basic message? Simple: Government isn’t magic. In representative democracy, small, privileged special interests groups–such as the corporations–make deals with the government. The government then uses its power to distribute favors to the privileged at the expense of the everyone else. And it does so while telling the bald-face lie that “government is just the name we give to the things we choose to do together.” 

Buchanan won a Nobel Prize for fighting for the little person and for speaking truth to power.

Now the government sure wouldn’t want anyone making its dirty secret public, would it?

So, along comes Nancy MacLean. The government paid her over $50,000 to smear Buchanan and people like him. Rather than challenge his ideas, she accuses him of this and that. Yet, all the while, Nancy is quite literally a hired gun for the government seeking to rationalize its oppression and abuses.

Its a bad book, and you, might notice, not peer-reviewed. But keep in mind it is quite literally a piece of government-funded propaganda. There’s no more point in arguing with Nancy than there is arguing with one of Goebbels’s essays. Asking about its intellectual value is a category mistake.

 

UPDATE: Here, Russ Roberts catches Nancy “I lie for money, status, and power” MacLean straight up lying about Tyler Cowen. 

 

 

The post Conspire Me This: Is Nancy MacLean a Hired Gun for the Establishment? appeared first on Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

]]>
http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/06/conspire-nancy-maclean-hired-gun-establishmet/feed/ 61 11875
NDPR Discussion of Against Democracy http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/06/ndpr-discussion-democracy/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/06/ndpr-discussion-democracy/#comments Tue, 13 Jun 2017 14:02:25 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11856 The Pea Soup blog is hosting a discussion of Thomas Christiano’s review of Against Democracy here. Some comments on the discussion: It’s clear Christiano and I have different views of some...

The post NDPR Discussion of Against Democracy appeared first on Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

]]>
The Pea Soup blog is hosting a discussion of Thomas Christiano’s review of Against Democracy here.

Some comments on the discussion:

  1. It’s clear Christiano and I have different views of some of the political science literature. Like Achen and Bartels or Somin, I don’t think the shortcuts literature does much to vindicate democratic voting–I think it shows democracy “works” only by positing very low standards for “working” or by extrapolating from contentious examples. Christiano disagrees.
  2. Christiano and I both agree, though, that democracy overall has been the best form of government we’ve had so far. It looks like we both also agree that democracy performs better than we’d expect if the crudest form of the median voter theorem were true. But we disagree about why democracy over-performs in that sense.
  3. I’m still puzzled about what Christiano means about me having a simplistic “micro-theory”. Before writing Against Democracy, I read all the major political science works on democratic functioning and on how voter preferences/behavior translates into policy. There is significant disagreement about just how much voters matter and in just what ways, but there is not much disagreement over the claim that how voters vote does have a significant impact. In particular, the literature supports the view that democratic ignorance/misinformation/irrationality is dangerous and leads to worse quality government. If I waved a magic wand which made the majority of voters advocate even worse policies, that would lead to worse government; if I waved a different magic wand which made the majority advocate much better policies, that would lead to better government.
  4. In Against Democracy, I critique the non-instrumentalist/proceduralist arguments for democracy. I argue that democracy is not intrinsically just, and the only reason to accept it is if it functions/works better (according to the correct procedure-independent standards, whatever they are) than other forms of government. Christiano disagrees, but he doesn’t seem to criticize this part of the book in his review. But suppose, as I argue, that democracy is not intrinsically just, but also suppose that Christiano is right that voter ignorance/misinformation/irrationality is not that harmful. If so, we should still feel free to pick epistocracy (or futurarchy or whatnot) over democracy, if those other forms of government turn out to function even better.

The post NDPR Discussion of Against Democracy appeared first on Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

]]>
http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/06/ndpr-discussion-democracy/feed/ 8 11856
In Defense of Kathy Griffin http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/05/defense-kathy-griffin/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/05/defense-kathy-griffin/#comments Wed, 31 May 2017 15:39:46 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11841 I’m a big fan of stand up comedy. I listen to XM 94, 95, 99, or 168 on the way to work each day. I don’t find Kathy Griffin funny. She’s...

The post In Defense of Kathy Griffin appeared first on Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

]]>
I’m a big fan of stand up comedy. I listen to XM 94, 95, 99, or 168 on the way to work each day. I don’t find Kathy Griffin funny. She’s a comedian for people who read celebrity gossip magazines.

But now she’s in news for this:

And of course everyone is outraged! OMG, how could she do that?!?! Griffin apologized and said she went too far.

I don’t get it.  Donald Trump is fair game for pictures like this, as is every other president in my lifetime. Consider:

The ‘If You Blow Kids Up You’re Fair Game for Being Beheaded in Effigy’ Argument:
1. Donald Trump is responsible for blowing up at least one innocent kid in a way that cannot be justified according to just war theory.
2. If you are responsible for blowing up at least one innocent kid in a way that cannot be justified according to just war theory, then you are not entitled to much respect. You are fair game for being mocked, condemned, and burned/hanged/beheaded in effigy.
3. Therefore, Donald Trump is not entitled to much respect. He is fair game for being mocked, condemned, and burned/hanged/beheaded in effigy.

Premise 1 is true. Do you dispute premise 2? Are we supposed to treat people who blow up innocent children unjustly in a nice way?

One challenge to premise 2 holds that presidents are due greater respect in virtue of their office. But I don’t buy that. Consider this argument:

The Read a History Book Argument
1. Historically, pretty much every president (with a few exceptions) is responsible for a host of deeply unjust things, such as enforcing slavery, subjugating and slaughtering Native Americans, starting unjust wars, etc.
2. If an office is usually held by people who do evil things, then the office is not due much respect.
3. Therefore, the office of the presidency is not due much respect.

The American presidency is a parade of evil behavior. Trump, Obama, Bush II, Clinton, Bush I, etc., are each responsible for the mass murder of innocents, and so each of them is among the worst human beings who have ever lived. Now, I admit American presidents aren’t especially bad compared to many other historical world leaders, but as Acton said, “Great men are almost always bad men…”

One challenge to this whole line of reasoning holds that we cannot assess political leaders by normal moral standards. They take on great responsibility and have to make hard choices. It’s inappropriate to evaluate Trump and Obama as if they were civilians, because civilians don’t have to make these life and death hard choices. Etc.

In a forthcoming book, I’ll examine this argument at great length. I don’t think it works. But here I’ll just cite Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

 

That is, if anything, presidents and other leaders should be held to higher than normal moral standards. They have special obligations to discharge justice. If you voluntary take on the role of leading, you acquire a duty to behave better than normal, not a license to behave worse.

In Against Democracy, I criticize voters for their tendency to demonize everyone on the other side. But what’s especially strange about politics is that we demonize people over reasonable disagreements on hard problems (such as whether school vouchers work or whether the minimum wage helps or hurts the poor), yet we yawn and shrug at genuinely demonic behavior. Quoting Bryan Caplan:

 

Second, anyone in a position of political power has a greatly elevated moral obligation to perform…due diligence.  Yes, with great power comes great responsibility.  If you’re in a position to pass or enforce laws, lives and freedom are in your hands.  Common decency requires you to act with extreme moral trepidation at all times, ever mindful of the possibility that you’re trampling the rights of the morally innocent.

 

In the end, the real problem with Griffin is that she’s a partisan hack. She’s doesn’t hold Obama to the same standards that she holds Trump.

Now, I’m not recommending that we routinely start beheading presidents in effigy. But the reason we shouldn’t is selfish: It’s not good for our psyches. A day spent in anger is a wasted day; a life spent in anger is a wasted life.

The post In Defense of Kathy Griffin appeared first on Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

]]>
http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/05/defense-kathy-griffin/feed/ 210 11841