Wednesday, 12 December 2007


The following blurb appeared in today’s Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

Joe Namath will graduate from Alabama on Saturday after leaving the school in 1965 some 15 credits shy of his degree. Namath worked toward his bachelor of arts degree for the past five years through the school’s External Degree program.

Congratulations, Broadway.

Addendum: According to the Wikipedia entry, Namath chose football over baseball because his mother wanted him to get a college education. How much do you want to bet that he kept a promise to his mother to earn his degree?

Ronald Dworkin on Jules Coleman’s Anti-Positivism

To summarize: Coleman’s version of legal positivism is best described as anti-positivism. He has wholly decamped from the philosophical heritage he undertakes to defend. He covers his retreat by claiming to remain true to the cardinal tenet of positivism, which is that law is always a matter of convention. But his use of convention pursues victory through surrender. His first strategy trivializes the idea of a convention and makes it practically and theoretically useless. His second strategy, which hopes to convert cooperation into convention, fails because cooperation need not depend on convention, and because a legal system need not, as a matter of conceptual necessity, depend on full cooperation. We have made no progress in understanding the persistence of positivism’s acolytes—in understanding why Coleman, for example, is so anxious to fly the flag of positivism that he is willing to abandon every article of its faith to do so.

(Ronald Dworkin, “Thirty Years On,” review of The Practice of Principle: In Defense of a Pragmatist Approach to Legal Theory, by Jules Coleman, Harvard Law Review 115 [April 2002]: 1655-87, at 1665)

Note from KBJ: At one time, legal positivism was a bold, revisionary thesis. It was supposed to show two things: that what some people took to be law wasn’t, and that what some people took not to be law was. In the hands of theorists such as Jules Coleman, it has become bland, conservative, and virtually indistinguishable from natural law (as I show here). The same thing happened to utilitarianism, which is now said to be able to accommodate rights and other commonsense deontological concepts. Utilitarianism was supposed to challenge and displace common sense, not rationalize it. Jeremy Bentham and John Austin are rolling over in their graves.

Hall of Fame?

Jose Mesa. (For an explanation of this feature, see here.)

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Paul Krugman’s repeated focus on the Democratic presidential candidates’ opinions regarding mandates to buy health insurance is distracting (“The Mandate Muddle,” column, Dec. 7).

The true policy difference on health care reform within the Democratic Party is between those who support incremental reform within our current financing system (represented by Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama) and those who support reforming our current financing system into a single-payer system (represented by Dennis Kucinich).

Mr. Krugman has devoted many columns to extolling the benefits of a single-payer system, so I am not sure why he is repeating politicians’ talking points about minor differences rather than asking why the three leading Democrats aren’t supporting the best reform policy.

Jeremiah Schuur
Cambridge, Mass., Dec. 7, 2007
The writer is an emergency physician.

Note from KBJ: If every wealthy progressive, including Paul Krugman and Jeremiah Schuur, provided health care for one poor family, there would be no health-care “crisis.” By the way, note the rhetorical sleight of hand. The usual contrast is between reform and revolution. The former means working within the system. The latter means replacing the system. The letter writer says “reforming our current financing system into a single-payer system.” What he means is “replacing our current financing system with a single-payer system.”

Note 2 from KBJ: Can anyone explain why the writer informed the New York Times that he’s a physician, or why the Times saw fit to describe him as such? His expertise is in medicine. His letter is not about medicine; it’s about what ought to be done as a matter of social policy. Is he trying to induce his readers to commit the fallacy of appeal to authority? In other words, is he trying to get people to think that, because he’s an expert in medicine, he’s (also) an expert on moral matters?

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