Monday, 5 March 2007

The Supreme Court

Here are Stuart Taylor’s predictions.

Julian H. Franklin on Animal Rights

I don’t expect that many readers will be converted to the cause of animal rights by reading this book. Indeed, the ability of intelligent and educated people to avoid confronting the issue, or to offer endless evasions and rationalizations of delay on a question as straightforward as vegetarianism, even when they have heard and (reluctantly) accepted the argument in favor, is astonishing as well as depressing. If they are to be swayed, the change is likely to come from witnessing the realities of the fate endured by animals. I have not reviewed these horrors here, because so many powerful accounts exist. Nor have I dealt with advances in the legal protection of animals both in practice and in theory. I have focused exclusively on moral theory.

Nevertheless, I believe that a good theoretical argument is worth the effort. It can reassure the committed, help the uncertain to decide, and arm the debater. There is a vital long-term benefit as well. If the idea of animal rights continues to be recognized intellectually, and if it grows in acceptance as a classroom subject, a good theory will help to solidify a cultural change toward greater concern for animals—a change that is already under way. I hope that this book will help this cause along.

(Julian H. Franklin, Animal Rights and Moral Philosophy [New York: Columbia University Press, 2005], xvii-xviii)

Misplaced Blame

Once again, the editorial board of The New York Times blames the tempter rather than the person who succumbs to the temptation. What part of “responsibility” does the board not understand?


Here is John Fund’s column about the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Best of the Web Today


Twenty Years Ago

3-5-87 . . . I’ve finally read Richard Epstein’s lengthy article on strict liability. This article is widely cited and discussed. Oddly enough, it is spoken of as a conservative or libertarian article; but I don’t see why. Epstein’s concern is tort liability. He argues that one person should be liable to another whenever he or she causes harm to that other. Period. The courts should not concern themselves with whether the harm was caused intentionally or even with whether the actor’s behavior was reasonable. In other words, liability should be strict, rather than limited to intentional and negligent acts. But why is this conservative? If anything, it will deter the wealthy and productive members of society from imposing costs on others. Traditionally, limited liability has benefitted [sic; should be “benefited”] these classes, for they are the ones who are active, who engage in risky activity. Morton Horwitz (in The Transformation of American Law) has gone so far as to argue that economic development in this country was carried on the backs of the poor, the laboring classes. [Morton J. Horwitz, The Transformation of American Law, 1780-1860 (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1977); I finished reading this book on 19 October 1980.] So Epstein’s theory would reverse this bias. Both rich and poor, after all, are capable of harming others.

So in this sense, at least, Epstein’s theory is nonconservative. In another sense, however, it is nonliberal. [H. L. A.] Hart, [John] Rawls, [Joel] Feinberg, and others would argue (I think) that liability in either crime or tort should be conditioned on at least reasonableness. That is, if a person acted reasonably in a given situation, he or she should not be liable, even if harm ensues. Since Epstein would rule out pleas of reasonableness, his theory is nonliberal. Perhaps critics have inferred from this nonliberality that his theory is conservative. If so, that would be a mistake. On the whole, I found Epstein’s theory interesting and stimulating. He has challenged me to rethink the grounds of tort liability. Jules Coleman, of course, has spent a career doing this. The next item on my agenda is his two-part article entitled “Moral Theories of Tort: Their Scope and Limits.” I’ll withhold my verdict on Epstein until having read Coleman.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “In a Fat Nation, Are Thin Mints on Thin Ice?,” by Peter Applebome (Our Towns column, Feb. 21):

The essence of the Girl Scouts is a 90-year tradition that empowers young women to practice leadership skills, self-reliance, community service, respect for self and others and entrepreneurship.

A campaign to discourage people from buying Girl Scout cookies would cripple our ability to serve the girls who need us most.

Without revenue from the cookie sale, we could not provide Girl Scouting to our more than 21,000 girls ages 5 to 17 every year in New York City.

In the five boroughs, 67 percent of our members come from low-income homes. More than 1,200 of our members are in Housing Authority projects. We have a troop in a homeless shelter.

Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. has eliminated trans fats from Girl Scout cookies. The Girl Scout Council of Greater New York applauds this achievement and believes that all snacks—even our favorite Girl Scout cookies, available only once a year—should be eaten in moderation as part of a healthy diet.

Carmen Dubroc
President, Board of Directors
Girl Scout Council of Greater New York
New York, Feb. 22, 2007

Note from KBJ: That’s it: moderation. If you’re fat, it’s your own fault: You’re eating too much relative to your exercise level. Stop blaming those who sell foods!

Dissecting Leftism

Dr John J. Ray, my polymathic friend Down Under, has enabled comments on his blog. That should stir things up.

A Year Ago