Academic Philosophy – 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 Academic Philosophy – Bleeding Heart Libertarians http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com 32 32 22756168 CFP: Social Trust http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/10/cfp-social-trust/ Mon, 09 Oct 2017 21:16:40 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=12051 Call for Abstracts The Bowling Green Workshop in Applied Ethics and Public Policy Social Trust April 20th-21st, 2018 Keynote Speakers: Cristina Bicchieri (University of Pennsylvania) and Ted Hinchman (University of...

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Call for Abstracts

The Bowling Green Workshop in Applied Ethics and Public Policy

Social Trust

April 20th-21st, 2018

Keynote Speakers: Cristina Bicchieri (University of Pennsylvania) and Ted Hinchman (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee)

Political scientists and economists have studied social trust for decades, but social trust is seriously underexplored in philosophical contexts, despite a sizeable literature on personal trust in ethics, psychology, and epistemology. Yet given the centrality of social trust for social order, it seems natural to think that analyses of social trust and its value could help answer some of the central questions in social and political philosophy. The purpose of this workshop is to generate a cross-disciplinary discussion on the nature and value of social trust among philosophers, political scientists, and economists working in the area or interested in doing so. We invite a range of submissions from any theorists, social or normative, working on topics concerned with social trust.

Those interested in presenting a paper are invited to submit a 2-3 page abstract (double-spaced) by Dec. 15th, 2017.

Only one submission per person is permitted. Abstracts will be evaluated by a program committee and decisions will be made by the end of January 2018.

Please submit abstracts to Sally Pietrasz (pietras@bgsu.edu).

Information about previous workshops is available at the workshop website: https://www.bgsu.edu/arts-and-sciences/philosophy/workshops-and-conferences.html. Information about the 2018 workshop will be posted soon.

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Libertarianism for Luck Egalitarians http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/09/libertarianism-luck-egalitarians/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/09/libertarianism-luck-egalitarians/#comments Thu, 28 Sep 2017 15:38:27 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=12048 Luck egalitarianism is, roughly, the view that inequalities in life prospects resulting from luck are unjust. (There’s a lot to nit pick about that characterization, but it’s a start.) If...

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Luck egalitarianism is, roughly, the view that inequalities in life prospects resulting from luck are unjust. (There’s a lot to nit pick about that characterization, but it’s a start.) If Amy has better job opportunities than Bob because she happened to have parents who could afford to send her to a fancy private school, that’s unfair.

You might even think it’s unfair that Rob Gronkowski makes so much more money than, say, me simply because he was gifted with 6’6” height and fast-twitch muscle fibers that enable him to run a 4.68 40 yard dash. Even if we both work equally hard at our crafts, Gronk will earn more than me because his natural talents are more marketable than mine. But it’s not like Gronk earned those talents; he just got lucky and won the genetic lottery. So it’s wrong for him to make so much more money than I do.

Suppose, for argument’s sake, this account of distributive justice is correct. What institutional conclusions follow? Luck egalitarians suggest that the income disparities between people like me and Gronk show that free markets are unjust. It’s the job of the state to correct for these kinds of market-generated inequalities via regulation and redistribution.

As I detail in my book, luck egalitarians (and fellow travelers who might not apply the label to themselves) are nearly unanimous in their rejection of free market regimes. Here’s a small sample:

“Laissez-faire capitalism (the system of natural liberty) secures only formal equality and rejects both the fair value of the equal political liberties and fair equality of opportunity.” (John Rawls)

“Market allocations must be corrected in order to bring some people closer to the share of resources they would have had but for these various differences of initial advantage, luck and inherent capacity.” (Ronald Dworkin)

“Desert as a principle of justice, then, rather than justifying the distributional consequences of free market choices, requires precisely the elimination, or at least the minimization, of the differential brute luck that characterizes the free market […]. The adoption of desert as a principle of justice seems to result in a much more demanding requirement, as far as its implications for the regulation of the market are concerned, than a commitment to voluntariness as a legitimating condition for the imposition of obligations, even when this is suitably revised so as to square up with a defensible account of voluntariness and force.” (Serena Olsaretti)

I could go on, but you get the point: the market generates luck-based inequalities and the state reduces them.

One problem with this argument is that you don’t clinch the luck egalitarian case against free markets by simply showing that they create luck-based inequalities. What you need to do is show that the alternative is better. To use an old analogy of mine, showing that Steph Curry misses over half of his three point shot attempts doesn’t justify benching Steph Curry. To justifiably bench Steph Curry, you’d need to show that his replacement would do better. Similarly, luck egalitarians need to show that a highly regulated market with extensive redistribution will have less luck-based inequality than a libertarian regime.

Here’s a reason for doubting that claim: those who benefit from inherited wealth, elite education, and natural talent in the market also benefit from those factors in politics. Put very roughly, political power will concentrate in the hands of the rich—the very people the political power was created to regulate and restrain. Thus, we might naturally expect such power to be used to increase rather than decrease the advantages of the rich.

Interestingly, this is Rawls’s own view. He says that a

“reason for controlling economic and social inequalities is to prevent one part of society from dominating the rest. When those two kinds of inequalities are large, they tend to support political inequality. As Mill said, the bases of political power are (educated) intelligence, property, and the power of combination, by which he meant the power to cooperate in pursuing one’s political interests. This power allows a few, in virtue of their control over the machinery of state, to enact a system of law and property that ensures their dominant position in the economy as a whole.”

By Rawls’s own lights, the rich will use their “(educated) intelligence, property, and the power of combination” to acquire political power and “enact a system of law and property that ensures their dominant position in the economy as a whole.” But now we can see a problem for Rawls’s view. The people that Rawls wants the state to control (those with property, education, and so on) are the same people that Rawls thinks control the state itself. So how can the state control the rich if the rich control the state? Shouldn’t we instead expect state intervention into the economy to favor the rich? Indeed, this is exactly what we see in many cases: subsidies, licensing, trade restrictions, housing regulations, and so on tend to benefit the rich at the expense of the poor.

Of course, we cannot definitively establish a conclusion about the effects of regulation and redistribution on luck-based inequalities by doing a priori institutional analysis. But at a minimum, luck egalitarians shouldn’t rule out libertarianism as a viable institutional option at the level of philosophical theory. Perhaps libertarianism and luck egalitarianism are compatible after all.

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Rawls, Ideal Theory, and the Public Goods Argument for the State http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/08/rawls-ideal-theory-public-goods-argument-state/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/08/rawls-ideal-theory-public-goods-argument-state/#comments Mon, 21 Aug 2017 15:14:19 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=12004 It’s been a while since I blogged here and I figure that some shameless self-promotion is the best way to ease back in. As discussed in Jason’s review, I’ve got...

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It’s been a while since I blogged here and I figure that some shameless self-promotion is the best way to ease back in. As discussed in Jason’s review, I’ve got a new book out titled Unequivocal Justice. The book builds on work from other BHL contributors, including Jason, Jacob Levy, and Will Wilkinson.

“Ideal theoretical” analyses of political institutions face a dilemma. In an ideal world in which everyone fully complies with the principles of justice, then coercive state intervention isn’t needed to secure justice. People will do the right thing out of the goodness of their hearts. On the other hand, in a nonideal world where people are not fully compliant with justice, state intervention may have a role to play, but the people running the state itself might not act justly. In brief: if we rule injustice out, then the state isn’t needed; if we rule injustice in, then we may not assume that the state itself is just.

This dilemma poses a problem for an ideal theorist like Rawls who assumes that the state is both needed to secure justice and will operate justly and effectively. Rawls and others resolve the dilemma illicitly; namely, they rule injustice in to give the state a job to do and then (implicitly) rule injustice out to ensure that the state does that job well.

The public goods argument for the state makes the problem particularly clear. Rawls starts with a textbook explanation for why people won’t voluntarily contribute to public goods—they have a strong incentive to free ride. As Rawls puts it, “Where the public is large and includes many individuals, there is a temptation for each person to try to avoid doing his share. This is because whatever one man does his action will not significantly affect the amount produced” (A Theory of Justice, 236). Better to let everyone else pony up for a Tesla and buy a cheap gas guzzler for yourself; this way you get the clean air produced by others without paying the costs yourself. But everyone else is thinking the same thing, so they all buy gas guzzlers, too. The result is polluted air for everyone. Since the market won’t provide public goods, Rawls concludes that “the provision of public goods must be arranged for through the political process and not through the market” (A Theory of Justice, 236). For instance, the state can enforce a cap-and-trade system to reduce emissions.

How, though, will the political process arrange for the provision of public goods? Suppose that the election pits a candidate who favors cap-and-trade against a candidate who favors no environmental protection whatsoever. Will I, as a voter, do my share and contribute a vote for the cap-and-trade candidate? By Rawls’s own assumptions, the answer is “no.” Better to let everyone else research the candidates’ platforms, read the experts’ opinions on the effectiveness of cap-and-trade, and spend time at the polls while I stay at home watching TV (or perhaps cast a thoughtless, uninformed vote at the last minute). But everyone else is thinking the same thing, and so they too fail to vote for the cap-and-trade candidate. Thus, the behavioral assumption that Rawls invokes to generate a need for state intervention—that people are motivated to free ride—simultaneously undermines the state intervention itself. People have just as much temptation to free ride on the thoughtful, informed votes of others as they have to free ride on the emission reductions of others.

To resolve this problem, Rawls (implicitly) resorts to using different behavioral assumptions to model nonpolitical behavior and political behavior. We free ride in the market but not in politics. But this move violates what Geoffrey Brennan and James Buchanan call “behavioral symmetry”—that is, we should apply the same behavioral models across different institutional contexts to ensure a fair, apples-to-apples comparison of those institutions.

Here’s how Rawls will reply. Ideally just people are only “conditional cooperators.” They prefer to do their share so long as others do the same. But they won’t be “suckers” and contribute when others aren’t contributing. Thus, they prefer to reduce their emissions when others also reduce their emissions, but they need state enforcement to get assurance of reciprocation.

This reply won’t work because the state introduced to solve the assurance problem simply creates another assurance problem. Think back to the voting case. Suppose you’re on your couch deciding whether to spend the day with your family at a park or to spend it looking up experts’ opinions about environmental policy, candidates’ voting records on the environment, and so on. You are happy to do the latter so that you can cast a thoughtful, informed vote on election day—but only if you have assurance that others will too. However, no such assurance is available, and so you head off to the park instead of putting time and effort into your vote. Other citizens do the same and, as a result, just and effective environmental policy goes unprovided. Here again, Rawls’s reason for thinking that state intervention is needed is equally a reason for thinking that the intervention won’t work.

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The Bourgeois Argument for Freer Immigration http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/08/bourgeois-argument-freer-immigration/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/08/bourgeois-argument-freer-immigration/#comments Wed, 09 Aug 2017 03:38:08 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11983 Donald Trump wants to make immigration merit-based. While many people will reject that view on a variety of grounds, some nonetheless think that admitting educated, wealthier persons is preferable to...

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Donald Trump wants to make immigration merit-based. While many people will reject that view on a variety of grounds, some nonetheless think that admitting educated, wealthier persons is preferable to admitting folks who will take low-end jobs.

This idea, however, is mistaken for empirical and moral reasons. Educated middle-class immigrants are not the only ones that create wealth. The economies of California and Arizona, for example, are literally sustained by millions of immigrants who perform low-paid, low-level jobs in farms, restaurants, and factories. Immigrants who take low-end jobs are as beneficial to the United States as those who take high-end jobs. I suppose the numbers are too complicated to compare the benefits of each class, but I have little doubt that the immigrants the president wants to exclude create great wealth (the White House says they receive state benefits, but it does not say that the wealth they create outweighs those costs.)

In addition to these well-known economic reasons, there are moral reasons to reject merit (high education, wealth, and so on) as a basis for immigration. One is this: The state should liberally admit immigrants because they are entitled to better themselves by trading their skills and entrepreneurship with willing trading partners across the border. Those skills may be specialized or non-specialized; the principle applies to all migrants willing and able to work. I borrow the underlying principle, the ethics of trade-tested betterment, from Deirdre McCloskey, who developed it recently (albeit as a historical, not normative, thesis) in her massive volume Bourgeois Equality. She calls it the bourgeois ethics, and for that reason I call my thesis the Bourgeois Argument for immigration. (This post summarizes my contribution to an upcoming volume by CUP, The Future of Classical Liberalism, edited by Todd Henderson).

The idea is that persons who seek to better themselves by offering their labor or entrepreneurship to willing buyers across borders should be accorded the same dignity and respect to do so that natives enjoy. The argument is consistent with, though not reducible to, two standard pro-immigration arguments: the recognition of migrants’ right to free mobility, and the recognition of the immense economic benefits of immigration. McCloskey argues that the enormous jump in global prosperity (the Great Enrichment) between sometime in the early- or mid-eighteenth century to the present day was caused, not by technological advancement or the establishment of property rights, but by a Gestaltic change of ideas originated in Northwestern Europe. She argues, first, that contrary to the conventional wisdom advanced by the intellectual and artistic elite (which she calls the “clerisy”), the middle-class of traders, inventors, and managers, far from being selfishly materialistic, was much more ethical than its critics recognized, and has been so for much of human history. For McCloskey, a radical change in social mores was the real cause of the Great Enrichment. This novel ethical outlook is simply the recognition of a new liberty and dignity of commoners and the activity on which they specialized: the ethics of trade-tested betterment.

I adopt McCloskey’s idea with three friendly amendments. First, I treat the bourgeois ethics as a normative principle, and not just as a historical ethical development that had enormous beneficial consequences (although I largely agree with McCloskey’s account.) The bourgeois ethics is, I think, a proper way to treat others above and beyond whatever relational bonds (compatriots, friends, family) we may have with them. Respecting their right to better themselves through trade is a special case of according them dignity and respect. Second, borrowing the bourgeois ethics does not commit me to accept McCloskey’s controversial claim that institutions had a minor role in the improvement of people’s lives around the globe. I suspect (but will not argue here) that McCloskey exaggerates the differences between her approach and that of institutionalists like Acemoglu and Robinson. Be that as it may, my argument here is ethical, not historical, so I don’t need to take sides in that dispute. And finally, I extend the Bourgeois Argument to immigrants. McCloskey, I think, is content to describe the surge of the bourgeois ethics within nations. It is entirely unclear that those who promoted and practiced the bourgeois ethics were thinking of elevating foreigners to the equal treatment that local traders now enjoyed.

The Bourgeois Argument, I said, is a special case of a principle that mandates treating others with dignity and respect, which means treating them as rational free agents. But the literature offers divergent interpretations of the principle. Ronald Dworkin, for example, thinks that the state has a duty to treat everyone with dignity and respect, and that the way to do this is to erase the unfair effects of citizens’ differing starting points. A redistributive tax policy secures to people the material benefits that erases such unfairness and allows them to pursue their life plans with chances of success. Whatever the other merits of this approach, it treats persons as passive beneficiaries of the transfer of resources. As such, the state’s benefits cannot in itself embody respect for the beneficiaries, since such transfer has at best an indirect relationship with the beneficiaries’ agency, dignity, or autonomy. The thought is that, thanks to the benefit, the beneficiaries’ prospect will be equalized, as it were, and they will eventually be capable of functioning as productive members of society.

In contrast, the bourgeois ethics sees persons as agents, as masters of their own destinies. Instead of payments, individuals receive the recognition of their agency and the encouragement to offer their skills in the market to better themselves and their families. The bourgeois ethics sees persons, not as passive beneficiaries, but as active agents. In contrast to Dworkin’s view, the Bourgeois argument emphasizes ethical equality: the equal freedom of every person, native or not, to offer their skills and talents in the market. For that reason, the bourgeois ethics is, I believe, closer to the core notions of dignity and respect than mainstream egalitarian ethics. It encourages persons to work and innovate, and it discourages resentment and misplaced feelings of entitlement. If McCloskey is right that the bourgeois ethics has been a main factor in global prosperity even with relatively closed borders, then affirming the Bourgeois Argument for immigration portends even greater things to come. This is where the Bourgeois Argument nicely dovetails with the economic findings on immigration. Recognizing the migrants right to better themselves through trade is the right thing to do, and it is also a sure recipe for significant (indeed, massive) increase in prosperity and the corresponding alleviation of poverty.

The bourgeois ethic replaced the old hierarchical ethic that forced traders to remain in their assigned social places. Joseph Carens defends open borders by pointing out that immigrant status is “the modern equivalent of the feudal class privilege.” A person who has immigrant status lacks standing to better herself through trade with the natives. Immigration status means denial of bourgeois status in McCloskey’s sense and it is in that sense, as Carens suggests, a remnant of the feudal hierarchical ethic. Notice that this objection is different from the luck-egalitarian objection given by progressive supporters of freer immigration. The luck-egalitarian argument for free immigration is that someone born in a poor country does not deserve such fate, and therefore immigration controls should be relaxed to undo the arbitrariness of persons’ having been born there rather than here. I do not pass judgment on this argument, although I am generally skeptical of luck egalitarianism. Here I simply notice that the inequality created by immigration laws is a legal inequality, not an inequality caused by the accident of birth. This is why the luck-egalitarian argument is not needed to condemn these laws.  The immigrant’s access  is denied him by armed guards at the border.   It is not that we should grant him access to nullify accidents of birth. Maybe that consideration applies, maybe not, depending on one’s evaluation of luck egalitarianism as the basis of a sound political theory. But regardless, surely every liberal, progressive or classical, will agree that coercively enforced inequality is presumptively wrong.

 

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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...

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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.

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The Ethics of Funding Disclosure and the Argumentum Ad Kochum http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/07/ethics-funding-disclosure-argumentum-ad-kochum/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/07/ethics-funding-disclosure-argumentum-ad-kochum/#comments Wed, 12 Jul 2017 15:57:30 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11925 A question for my colleagues in ethics and related areas: what are the obligations to disclose funding sources and possible conflicts of interest in an academic setting? Some are obvious:...

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A question for my colleagues in ethics and related areas: what are the obligations to disclose funding sources and possible conflicts of interest in an academic setting?

Some are obvious: if I write a study on smoking funded by a tobacco company or on climate change funded by ExxonMobil, the obligation is clear. The principle here is that the results of the study could have a direct effect on the sponsor’s financial situation, which at least gives a reason to be suspicious of the study (though not to reject it out of hand). That suspicion would seem to require disclosure.

But what about those of us who have taken money from and worked with Koch-funded organizations? Here are several scenarios and I wonder what the ethical obligation is in each to disclose that we are have connections to Koch funding:

  1. A Koch-funded organization gives me money to conduct a specific study on an area of the economy in which Koch Industries is a participant (e.g., the energy sector).
  2. A Koch-funded organization gives me money to conduct a study on an area of the economy in which Koch Industries is not a participant (e.g., a study on Uber).
  3. I am the PI for a Koch-funded grant for student programs at my institution and I write a scholarly or popular article defending the Kochs’ investments in higher education.
  4. I am the PI for a Koch-funded grant for student programs at my institution and I write a popular article criticizing a book critical of the Kochs for getting aspects of the Kochs’ beliefs or activities wrong.
  5. I have a history of working with and being funded by Koch-funded organizations and I write an article or blog post defending public choice theory, economics in general, or libertarian ideas in general, with no reference to the Kochs, from attacks by a book that criticizes any or all of those as well as the Kochs.

It seems to me that I have an obligation to disclose my Koch relationships in cases 1, 3, and 4 for sure. I am not persuaded I need to do so in cases 2 and 5.

If there’s no clear relationship between the work and the bottom line of the Kochs, why is there a need for disclosure?

Case 5 is of interest at the moment because of the controversy over Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains. Her defenders have invoked the “argumentum ad kochum” in their responses claiming that the Koch connections of the critics undermine the legitimacy of their criticisms. They also claim that we are being deceptive in not revealing those connections.

Again, I can be persuaded I’m wrong here, but it’s simply not clear to me why a defense of public choice theory, or an attempt to show that aspects of MacLean’s book that have nothing to do with the Kochs and have everything to do with her misreading of the textual and historical evidence about the work of various scholars, especially James Buchanan, require that I state my Koch connections. (I have no problem doing so, but the question is whether it’s an ethical obligation.)

It strikes me that one reason MacLean’s defenders think we have an obligation to disclose and that those relationships undermine our arguments is that they believe that any argument for freer markets or critical of government intervention is ipso facto “pro-business” and therefore enhances the bottom line of Koch Industries. So, by definition, defending things like public choice theory or Austrian economics are suspect because everyone knows that the biggest beneficiaries of a free economy are the owners of capital. Therefore, we are simply shills for the Kochs and should disclose that.

If I’m right, this only adds to my view that the MacLean book is one long exercise in question begging. She already knew libertarianism is wrong. She already knew free markets benefit “oligarchs” exclusively. She already knew that people who like markets must be racists. I could go on. Once you take those as your operating assumptions, it’s easy to find, often creatively, evidence their favor. Your priors will adequately be supported by a combination of confirmation bias and the conviction that you are fighting off the forces of evil. But it all begs the questions as she assumes her conclusions.

In any case, I’m genuinely curious how others see this set of issues. I’m totally open to persuasion about the obligation to disclose on cases 2 and 5. I only ask that the comments stay civil. It does no one any good to give fuel to the cause of MacLean and her defenders.

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Hart, Dworkin, and Trump http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/06/hart-dworkin-trump/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/06/hart-dworkin-trump/#comments Sat, 24 Jun 2017 15:57:17 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11882 Two federal appeals courts have now held that Trump’s Executive Order temporarily banning immigration from certain countries is unconstitutional. The 4th Circuit thought that the EO was discriminatory, while the...

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Two federal appeals courts have now held that Trump’s Executive Order temporarily banning immigration from certain countries is unconstitutional. The 4th Circuit thought that the EO was discriminatory, while the 9th Circuit opined that the President had exceeded the congressional mandate (recall that immigration has always been the province of Congress, not the Executive, so the President’s authority in this field is delegated authority.) It is unclear what will happen if the case goes to the Supreme Court.

I was and continue to be of the opinion that:
1) The EO is wrong and counterproductive.
2) The legal precedents, however, support the constitutionality of the order (I also think these legal precedents are dangerous and should be overturned.)

In these pages I suggested that those who purported to rely on precedent to invalidate the order were just doing advocacy, and that the public would be better served if courts and commentators candidly admitted that they were making up new law, that is, trying to overturn the applicable precedents.

Today I’d like to suggest a new angle. Whether the EO order is constitutional depends on your theory of law. If you are a positivist, then you cannot honestly argue that the EO is unconstitutional, because precedent strongly indicates the opposite. Herbert Hart, a leading positivist, argued that  legal propositions derive in one way or another from the legal materials as created by lawmakers. Moral reasoning, while important, is separate from legal reasoning. Hart, therefore, would have said that the EO is lawful but immoral, and that perhaps immigrants who break the law and sanctuaries who receive them are upholding a moral obligation that prevails over their legal obligation.

But if you are not a positivist, then moral reasoning is part and parcel of the law. Ronald Dworkin famously defended such a view. As against Hart, he argued that legal materials (the Constitution, statutes, judicial precedent) should be read in their best possible light. This means consistency, of course, but it also means making the legal materials be the best they can be. And by “best” he meant “the best they can be under the most plausible moral-political theory that explains he Constitution.” Such theory would then be part and parcel of law, and not, as Hart thought, something separate from it.

So, if you are like me and object to this EO, you are in better shape if you are a Dworkinian rather than a Hartian. If the best available moral-political theory entails the immorality of the EO, then the EO is not just immoral: it is illegal as well. (Of course, some will say that the EO is perfectly moral. For them the problem I identified doesn’t arise.)

The reason why the Dworkinian approach is not prevalent is that most lawyers are anxious to appear as objective positivists, as applying and not inventing law. That leads them to dishonesty, to pretend they are applying and not inventing law when they are, in fact, doing exactly that. I regard this as evidence that some form of natural law theory (Dworkinian or not) is superior to positivism.

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CFP: Palgrave Studies in Classical Liberalism http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/06/cfp-palgrave-studies-classical-liberalism/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/06/cfp-palgrave-studies-classical-liberalism/#comments Tue, 13 Jun 2017 23:06:13 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11861 Readers of this blog might be interested in a new series, published by Palgrave and edited by David Hardwick and Leslie Marsh: Palgrave Studies in Classical Liberalism. Here’s a description from...

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Readers of this blog might be interested in a new series, published by Palgrave and edited by David Hardwick and Leslie Marsh: Palgrave Studies in Classical Liberalism.

Here’s a description from the publisher’s website:

This series offers a forum to writers concerned that the central presuppositions of the liberal tradition have been severely corroded, neglected, or misappropriated by overly rationalistic and constructivist approaches.

The hardest-won achievement of the liberal tradition has been the wrestling of epistemic independence from overwhelming concentrations of power, monopolies and capricious zealotries. The very precondition of knowledge is the exploitation of the epistemic virtues accorded by society’s situated and distributed manifold of spontaneous orders, the DNA of the modern civil condition.

With the confluence of interest in situated and distributed liberalism emanating from the Scottish tradition, Austrian and behavioral economics, non-Cartesian philosophy and moral psychology, the editors are soliciting proposals that speak to this multidisciplinary constituency. Sole or joint authorship submissions are welcome as are edited collections (conference proceedings excluded), broadly theoretical or topical in nature.

If you’re interested in submitting a proposal to the series, please email Leslie Marsh.

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Democracy and Prosperity http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/05/democracy-and-prosperity/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/05/democracy-and-prosperity/#comments Wed, 24 May 2017 16:31:43 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11812 Tom Christiano, a leading theorist of democracy, has just reviewed Jason Brennan’s Against Democracy. In it, he accuses Jason of having an ill-equipped micro-theory that fails to account for the...

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Tom Christiano, a leading theorist of democracy, has just reviewed Jason Brennan’s Against Democracy. In it, he accuses Jason of having an ill-equipped micro-theory that fails to account for the phenomena Jason addresses. In particular, Tom thinks that the book cannot explain why actual democracies are as successful as they are. He doubts such success could have been led by Jason’s hobbits and hooligans. Here’s Tom:

[T]he modern democratic societies of Europe, North America, and East Asia have actually been quite successful; and the democratic element in them is a large part of what seems to explain that. First, there is a great deal of data marking out the remarkable differences between reasonably high quality democracies and other kinds of societies. Brennan mentions these but I don’t think he takes the full measure of the evidence. Democracies do not go to war with one another and respect the rules of war better than other societies.  They are responsible for the creation of the international trade system, the international environmental law system, and the human rights regime.  In fact, democracies do massively better on basic human rights than other societies, and it appears to be more their majoritarian character that explains this than their systems of checks and balances. Democracies prevent famines and, since the onset of universal suffrage, have developed powerful welfare states that have been enormously productive, have greatly reduced poverty, and have smoothed out the disastrous economic crises that occurred in their more free market ancestor societies.  Further, they have generally protected the interests of workers and lower economic classes, done a better job at producing public goods than other societies and generally have higher rates of per capita growth than their free market ancestors. Most of us hope for much more progress than this, but these achievements are extraordinary and are hard to square with the idea that hooligans and hobbits are at the helm.

 

Of course, I will let Jason defend himself. Here I want to examine the larger issue raised by Tom’s macro-theory: why are actual democracies successful?

There are reasons to doubt the accuracy of Tom’s story. Modern democracies have three components: a rights-constrained majoritarian component (universal suffrage and bill of rights), a redistributive component (the welfare state), and a capitalist component (robust markets). I do not quarrel with Tom’s observation that actual democracies do much better in terms of, well, democracy and human rights. But Tom thinks that these societies’ majoritarian and redistributive components are the key contributors to economic success, including poverty alleviation. This is entirely unclear to me and to those who have addressed the issue. For one thing, the Latin American experience shows that democracy and redistribution do not always lead to success. For another, the “free-market ancestors” managed to exclude many people from the market. So I think it is plausible (to put it mildly) that the great leap in prosperity and poverty alleviation occurred when modern democracies established secure property rights and allowed everyone the opportunity to better themselves through trade, as Deirdre McCloskey has claimed.

It may well be that, as Tom suggests, the introduction of universal suffrage is part and parcel of the ethics of equality that allowed everyone to attempt success. But it is much less clear that, with important exceptions such as publicly-funded education, redistributive institutions have contributed to the great enrichment and poverty alleviation in the modern world, and especially in successful democracies. Plausibly, these impressive achievements stem from the unprecedented opening of domestic and international markets, that is, from the capitalist component of successful democracies. Certainly, economic theory seems more congenial to this explanation (see here and here, and Lomasky’s and my discussion here.) If development economists are right, Tom’s argument sounds like a post hoc propter hoc fallacy.

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Why the “Conceptual Penis” Hoax is Just a Big Cock Up. http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/05/conceptual-penis-hoax-just-big-cock/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/05/conceptual-penis-hoax-just-big-cock/#comments Sat, 20 May 2017 01:58:15 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11802 After the revelation that a paper on “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct” was submitted as a hoax to the journal Cogent Social Sciences there’s sure to be a...

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After the revelation that a paper on “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct” was submitted as a hoax to the journal Cogent Social Sciences there’s sure to be a lot of merriment at the expense of Gender Studies departments. But it turns out that the joke’s on the hoaxers themselves–both for failing to spot some very obvious red flags about this “journal,” and for their rather bizarre leaps of logic.

In brief, two academics, Peter Bognossian and James Lindsay, submitted an obviously silly article to a journal Cogent Social Studies. It was accepted after what seems to be very cursory peer review, and, from this, they’re claiming that the entire field of Gender Studies “is crippled academically by an overriding almost-religious belief that maleness is the root of all evil.”
It might be. But their hoax gives us absolutely no reason to believe this. First, let’s look at the “journal” that they were accepted at.  Like all the digital, open-access journals run by Cogent (a house most people have never heard of before now) it charges authors fees to publish. No reputable journal in the humanities does this. Worse yet, it allows authors to “pay what they can”. This appears to signal that this journal publishes work from authors who can’t get institutional support to publish in it. (Or, if they could, don’t seek this as they would prefer it not be widely known that they’re paying to publish.) The journal boasts also that it is very “friendly” to authors (a clear sign of a suspect outlet) and notes that it doesn’t necessarily reject things that might not have any impact. (!) It also only uses single blind review. The whole thing just screams vanity journal.
Now, the hoaxers are aware of all of this. But they try to duck the “facile” objection that they submitted to a junk journal by noting that it’s part of the Taylor and Francis group, and that it’s “held out as a high-quality open-access journal by the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)”. Yet even a quick perusal of the journal’s website makes it clear that it operates entirely independently of Taylor & Francis, and that its publishing model is utterly different to theirs. And the DOAJ is a “community run” agency with (it seems) no official standing–and whose express criteria for something being a peer-reviewed journal with quality control is that it “must exercise peer-review with an editor and an editorial board or editorial review…. carried out by at least two editors”. As far as I know, most vanity presses meet this very minimal standard.
Having managed to pay for a paper to be published in a deeply suspect journal the hoaxers then conclude that the entire field of Gender Studies is suspect. How they made this deductive leap is actually far more puzzling than how the paper got accepted.  (It’s thus more than a bit embarrassing that one of them’s a philosophy professor–who, ironically, teaches critical thinking.) I’ve no doubt that there are many things to criticize about Gender Studies. But that a suspect journal published a hoax paper whose topics was gender studies-ish isn’t one of them.
UPDATE: The first journal that Bognossian and Lindsay submitted their hoax paper to, and that rejected it, was NORMA: The International Journal for Masculinity Studies. This journal doesn’t even hit the top 115 journals in Gender Studies. So, what happened here was that they submitted a hoax paper to an unranked journal, which summarily rejected it. They then received an auto-generated response directing them to a pay-to-publish vanity journal. They submitted the paper there, and it was published. From this chain of events they conclude that the entire field of Gender Studies is “crippled academically”. This tells us very little about Gender Studies, but an awful lot about the perpetrators of this “hoax”…. and those who tout it as a take down of an entire field.

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