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Random Political Observation

So just for fun, I gave out my e-mail address to both the Edwards and the Clinton campaigns. (I'll probably do the same with Obama...I've just not gotten around to it yet.) Read more »

Double Standards and the Yglesias Doctrine

I've decided that it's time to break out of my new pattern. You know, the one where I wave my hands at some problem and then sitting back and watch as my more competent co-bloggers to do all the serious analysis. That, however, will mean staying away from anything related to economics, since hand-waving is about all that I can do there. So I'll take a stab at saying something interesting about the Yglesias Doctrine. And yes, I know I'm late to the party on that one (see, for example Jane Galt's discussion of the "Condorcet Doctrine").

The gist of Yglesias' post is that the fundamental problem with nation-building in general and with the Iraq war in particular

isn't that the United States is insufficiently virtuous to remake the world, but that no country is sufficiently virtuous to wield the level of power that would be required to remake the world. The exercise of power needs to be constrained by some kind of widely acceptable rules.

Yglesias goes on to suggest that war is justified

  • In direct self-defense.
  • In defense of another country (i.e., we assist Costa Rica in repelling a Nicaraguan invasion).
  • When authorized by a UN Security Council resolution.
  • When called for by a relevant (i.e., the OAS can't authorize an invasion of Burma) regional organization.
  • In many ways, this isn't a bad doctrine. I actually liked it a bit better when I first read it in Just and Unjust Wars...which, come to think of it, was probably right around the time that Matt was worrying about whom to take to the 8th grade prom. So calling it the Yglesias Doctrine is maybe a bit problematic. Still, that's just a quibble.

    My real concern stems from the fact that it's not clear to me that Matt's third and fourth principles actually justify a war. Read more »

    How Not to Do History of Philosophy

    Start with political philosopher A. Then find two more contemporary figures B and C. Show that both B and C say things that are similar to (parts of) things that A says. Then conclude that B and C are really the same and that anyone committed to B-like things must, by implication, also be committed to C-like things. Example:

    Using the Law to (Gasp!) Protect Liberty

    Just in from Catallarchy's new (very small and extremely underworked) Department of Good Uses of State Law:

    Medical marijuana advocates have sued the federal Department of Health and Human Services, accusing it of lying to the nation about the drug's lack of accepted medical use despite scientific studies showing its efficacy.

    Mandatory Vaccines

    At TAPPED, Ann Friedman makes a case for mandatory HPV vaccination. I'm sure that this sort of proposal isn't going to do all that much for most people here at Catallarchy. I, however, am of mixed feelings. It seems to me that when it comes to something like vaccination, states do have something of an advantage over markets. Consider:

    War Crimes

    From CNN:

    A U.S. soldier was sentenced to 100 years in prison Thursday for the gang rape and murder of an Iraqi girl and the killing of her family last year.

    Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, 24, also was given a dishonorable discharge. He will be eligible for parole in 10 years under the terms of his plea agreement.

    Academic Freedom

    Via Hit & Run, I see that academic freedom is under assault in Arizona once more. Read more »

    Misunderstanding Madison

    Andrew Sullivan reprints a letter from NRO on Republican reservations about John McCain:

    The big problem with McCain is that he repeatedly takes a high profile stand for the Democrats on important partisan issues. He does this on important policies like W's tax cuts and torture legislation, and of course campaign finance. Even on the war he has often given credibility to the left's rhetoric about Rumsfeld, torture, administration incompetence, etc., even though he's been solid on the core substance. Its not just that he occasionally votes with the Democrats, its that he's willing to become their chief spokesman when he does it. Sure he may hold conservative views on 80% of the issues, but the other 20% seems to be what he really cares about.

    Sullivan rightly points out the worrisome partisanship. According to (at least some of) the Republican base, there is no attempt to analyze the rightness or wrongness of the positions in question. There's no attempt to question whether maybe, just maybe, McCain was right to offer criticisms of the Bush administration. No, the problem with McCain is that he refuses to toe the party line even when the party line is pretty clearly immoral (e.g., its torture policy), inept (e.g., anything having to do with Iraq), or simply incoherent (e.g., tax cuts combined with huge spending increases). Read more »

    Shall We Dance?

    At Tapped, Mark Schmitt is entertaining himself by making fun of the newly-released Third Way strategy paper, "The New Rules Economy." Lots of really competent people have already weighed in on this, so I’m not really going to say all that much about the substance of the thing except to note that I more or less agree with Schmitt about the actual policy proposals it contains. It’s hard to see any real reason to get behind, say, tax deductions for college tuition; it’s a program for redistributing funds from the upper middle class to the lower middle class, nothing more. Well, nothing more unless you realize the significant extent to which “lower middle class” and “swing voter in Ohio” overlap.

    Besides, I’m not really a policy guy, anyway. I’m a theorist, so the parts of the paper that I find interesting aren’t so much the policy parts. No, what I find far more interesting is the extent to which the opening sections of the paper extend an olive branch to libertarians. Yes, I know that the Democratic Party has its fair share of shrill leftists. To be fair, though, the Republican Party, where many libertarians have found their home since the days of Goldwater and Reagan, has its fair share of theocratic warmongers. Neither party has a lock on insanity. That leaves libertarians with a few options.

      A. Side with Republicans for their stance on fiscal matters and hold our nose and try to ignore the religion-based social nuttiness.
      B. Side with Democrats for their stance on social matters and hold our nose and try to ignore the neopopulism.
      C. Reject both major parties and vote for the Libertarian Party.
      D. Bail on politics entirely and wait for the revolution.

    Frat Boy Humor Isn\'t Funny, Dammit!

    You know, we liberals really have enough baggage without getting tagged -- as we so often do -- as humorless. So it doesn't help things all that much when Amanda Marcotte takes time out of her busy day to point out that this shirt Just Isn't Funny. Because rape is Serious Business.

    Funny, funny college boy

    More Free Trade Confusion

    In poking about the internet looking for commentary on the whole South Korea FTA/John Edwards thing, I came across this gem at Read more »

    Edwards on (Not So) Free Trade

    A statement from John Edwards on a free trade agreement with South Korea:

    Thousands of American autoworkers learned this week that they will lose their jobs because of ill-conceived and poorly enforced trade agreements - and what is the Bush Administration doing? It's working overtime to sign a trade agreement with a country that refuses to open its market to American cars.

    Jobs and Yglesias on Tenure

    Following-up on Jonathan's post on Jobs and Dell dishing on education, I noticed that Matt Yglesias has a discussion of this point here. Yglesias makes the (not unreasonable) point that having the ability to hire and fire teachers will be useful only if there's actually a big backlog of would-be teachers who can't manage to get hired thanks to tenure. Read more »

    Patrick Goes to Hollywood

    I'm concerned that Catallarchy is getting just a tad too lighthearted, what with the ongoing discussions of things like organ donation and abortion. So I figured that in my inaugural post as a full-time Catallarch, I'd help us all...relax...with a nice little discussion of torture. Hey, wait, don't skip to that next post just yet. Read more »

    A Word from the Opposition

    Joe Miller is a professor of philosophy. Or maybe a Democratic political consultant now---I didn't get an updated blurb. He maintains a blog at Bellum et Mores.

    So here’s my dilemma: how do I, a non-classical liberal, a philosopher with very little in the way of economics background, an academic-turned (of all things)-Democratic political consultant go about writing a tribute to Milton Friedman? On an anarcho-capitalist blog with a readership far more knowledgeable about Dr. Friedman’s writings than I, no less. The answer: I don’t. Instead, I’m going to lament the extent to which Milton Friedman has made my own life far more difficult.

    You see, back in the 1960s, we liberals were completely ascendant. Conservatives had, by and large, been banished to the John Bircher and white sheet wearing types. The New Deal had given way to the Great Society; egalitarianism and civil rights were breaking out everywhere; hell, even when the Republicans managed to win the Presidency, they did so by electing a wage-and-price-control Keynesian liberal. Yes, Conservatives were banished for good. Read more »


    Over this past weekend, I caught a television ad by a committee supporting incumbant Michigan Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm. The spot focused on opposing Republican challenger Dick DeVos' anti-abortion stance.

    I was only half paying attention... but I did notice once they mentioned he is pro-life, they added this tagline with a scary, ominous voice-over: "...even in the case of rape and incest." Read more »

    On Natural and Non-Natural Rights

    My last couple of posts have (indirectly at least, and sorry for the bad pun) addressed utilitarianism generally and hedonism more specifically. I've been arguing that hedonism (a theory of the good which holds that pleasure and only pleasure has value) is a natural basis for normativity (that is, a theory of the right -- an account of what we ought to do), and that it's a far less spooky basis for the right than is a theory of natural rights. Read more »

    Spare the rod, enslave the child.

    The litter problem on this campus, though greatly reduced since I first came, still bothers me. Some will immediately jump up with "it's a tragedy of the commons," but this is a dodge. Properly, it's a tragedy of socialization: I and many others, without any more incentive, consistently deposit our trash in the proper receptacles. The solution to this is usually to impose stiff fines for littering. These fines, however, can be criticized in that they disproportionately impact the poor*, the wealthy don't mind a fine so much. Read more »

    Congratulations are in order.

    Even though many of this blog's readers probably know that Cory Maye has won a new sentencing trial, it is news too good to not repeat. Congratulations are in order to his legal team and Radley Balko, who has followed the proceedings and agitated on Maye's behalf with a tenacity beyond admiration.

    End of an Era 2

    Last week, I wrote a somewhat self-indulgent post lamenting the end of an era, as Randolph-Macon Woman's College voted to go coed. Now I see that about 1/3 of the current students have been refusing to attend class or eat in the dining hall to protest the decision. (Odd, isn't it, how willing students are to sacrifice for a good cause. I mean, skipping class and not eating dining hall food. Oh, the humanity!) Read more »