Friday, 2 November 2007


I leave you this fine evening with a column by John Lott.


Did we need a study for this?


Billary Clinton is playing the sex card. Barack Obama bin Laden is playing the race card by denying that he would ever stoop to playing the race card. See here.


Carlos is not pleased with Barry. See here and here.


Here is a paragraph from Barbara H. Fried’s essay “Left-Libertarianism: A Review Essay,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 32 (winter 2004): 66-92, at 68-9 (footnotes omitted):

It is hardly surprising that the redistributive proposals that have surfaced in the current political climate are ones that self-consciously fly under a libertarian banner. The last significant strain of left Lockeanism in British and American political thought arose during a period (the 1880s through the 1930s) in which economic laissez faire enjoyed widespread support in both countries. Our own times are more hospitable to laissez faire, and less to egalitarianism, than any since that period. In this political climate, strategic motives surely counsel rewrapping the aims of equality in libertarian garb, and it is not hard to detect such motives at work in left-libertarianism. Yet self-ownership, the “libertarian” part of left-libertarianism, clearly holds a genuine allure for many on the left. The question is, why? G. A. Cohen suggests one answer: the embrace of self-ownership reflects adaptive preference formation for the “politically bereaved.” Faced with a world turning increasingly to the right, many on the left may have been driven to rethink whether there might not be something they can live with in resurgent libertarian premises. For many others on the left, however, the allure of self-ownership is clearly heartfelt, as Cohen himself poignantly demonstrates in Self-Ownership, Freedom and Equality, his Bunyanesque chronicle of his own, ultimately victorious, struggle to free himself from the grip of the self-ownership thesis.

Fried distinguishes between two types of left-libertarian: (1) those who are attracted to self-ownership (“genuine allure”) and (2) those who are not attracted to self-ownership but appeal to it for strategic reasons. Fried is puzzled by the first type. How could a leftist be attracted to self-ownership? I’m puzzled by Fried’s puzzlement. Here is Michael Otsuka’s formulation of the “libertarian right of self-ownership” that left-libertarians and other liberal egalitarians (as well as right-libertarians) endorse:

A very stringent right of control over and use of one’s mind and body that bars others from intentionally using one as a means by forcing one to sacrifice life, limb, or labor, where such force operates by means of incursions or threats of incursions upon one’s mind and body (including assault and battery and forcible arrest, detention, and imprisonment). (Michael Otsuka, “Self-Ownership and Equality: A Lockean Reconciliation,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 27 [winter 1998]: 65-92, at 69 [footnote omitted])

Why is Fried puzzled that a leftist is attracted to this? Is she a consequentialist, like Peter Singer? Does she believe that a person may be used as a mere means to collective ends? Otsuka’s libertarian right of self-ownership is nothing more (or less) than an agent-centered restriction (in Samuel Scheffler‘s terminology). Deontologists accept such restrictions; consequentialists do not. It seems to me that left-libertarians and liberal egalitarians are on firmer ground than strict egalitarians such as Fried, if the latter are committed to consequentialism.

“The Giuliani Hate Fest”

Will Nehs sent a link to this, which is interesting. It occurred to me while reading it that we Americans don’t elect people we like. We elect the person we hate the least. We hated George W. Bush less than we hated John Kerry; ergo, the former was elected.


Here is the latest on the University of Delaware’s attempt to indoctrinate its students.

A Year Ago


Theodicy and Defense

There are two types of explanation. In the first, one explains why something is the case. In the second, one explains how something can be the case, given such-and-such. The difference is between actuality and possibility. Only the second sort of explanation is philosophical in nature. Consider the problem of evil. A theodicy is an attempt to explain why God allows evil. It presupposes the existence of both God and evil. A defense, by contrast, is an attempt to explain how evil can exist (logically), given the existence of God (who is assumed to be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent). It presupposes neither the existence of God nor the existence of evil. Obviously, if both God and evil exist, then it’s possible for both God and evil to exist; but not conversely. Theodicies are given by theologians, or by nontheologians when acting in a theological capacity; defenses are given by philosophers, or by nonphilosophers when acting in a philosophical capacity.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Everybody vs. Hillary,” by Gail Collins (column, Nov. 1):

The reason Hillary Rodham Clinton is in the sights of other Democratic candidates is that she is the front-runner.

Clinton supporters complain about a bunch of men ganging up against her. But either she is running as the most viable candidate to win the election, in which case being a woman had nothing to do with it, or she’s running as a poor, defenseless girl against all those nasty men. The voting public won’t buy the latter position.

Michael Grant
Moriches, N.Y., Nov. 1, 2007

Note from KBJ: Hillary wants to be a woman when it helps her, but not when it hurts her. Heads I win; tails you lose.

Talking to Myself

I’m 50 years old. Twenty-eight years ago today, on 2 November 1979, I wrote the following paragraphs in my journal (bracketed material was added 20 years after the fact, i.e., on 2 November 1999):

11-2-79 This first semester [of law school] is now 70% complete, with the hardest part (exams) yet to come. It was another pleasant day, crispy-cool and sunny. This kind of weather is invigorating.

Here is an open letter to a 50-year old Keith Jackson on this date in 2007: hey guy, you made it; that’s a half century. How has your career gone? Are you President [of the United States], or a professor at Bowling Green [University], or a fine attor­ney (or a combination)? Are you happy; do you have a family life? Life as I now know it will surely have changed by 2007; perhaps I can’t now comprehend the magnitude of the changes: are there still automobiles? Has the world population levelled [sic; should be “leveled”] off, or is starvation a dire threat? What about politics? Has the American experiment in democracy proven to be a suc­cess? It surely has had to accomodate [sic; should be “accommodate”] changes in attitudes and technology. Have the last [sic; should be “past”] 28 years been peaceful, or do men still seek out differences among themselves to exploit? Are women and peoples of all nationalities living EQUALLY, at last? Surely there has been a woman president (as well as a black) by then? I could go on forever . . .  Here’s to you, guy; hope to see you in 28 years. Good luck.

Thanks. I’m not president of the United States yet, but I may have to run in order to prevent Hillary Clinton from being our first woman president.