Tuesday, 25 December 2007


I leave you this fine evening with a column by Tom Piatak.

Capital Punishment

I am proud to live in a state that values innocent human life.

Addendum: Here is John Stuart Mill’s speech in favor of capital punishment (for aggravated murder). Key passage:

Much has been said of the sanctity of human life, and the absurdity of supposing that we can teach respect for life by ourselves destroying it. But I am surprised at the employment of this argument, for it is one which might be brought against any punishment whatever. It is not human life only, not human life as such, that ought to be sacred to us, but human feelings. The human capacity of suffering is what we should cause to be respected, not the mere capacity of existing. And we may imagine somebody asking how we can teach people not to inflict suffering by ourselves inflicting it? But to this I should answer—all of us would answer—that to deter by suffering from inflicting suffering is not only possible, but the very purpose of penal justice. Does fining a criminal show want of respect for property, or imprisoning him, for personal freedom? Just as unreasonable is it to think that to take the life of a man who has taken that of another is to show want of regard for human life. We show, on the contrary, most emphatically our regard for it, by the adoption of a rule that he who violates that right in another forfeits it for himself, and that while no other crime that he can commit deprives him of his right to live, this shall.

Italics added.

R. M. Hare (1919-2002) on Education

The educator is waiting and hoping all the time for those whom he is educating to start thinking; and none of the thoughts that may occur to them are labelled ‘dangerous’ a priori. The indoctrinator, on the other hand, is watching for signs of trouble, and ready to intervene to suppress it when it appears, however oblique and smooth his methods may be.  The difference between these two is like the difference between the colonial administrator who knows, and is pleased, that he is working himself out of a job, and the one who is determined that the job shall still be there even when he himself retires.

(R. M. Hare, “Adolescents into Adults,” chap. 5 in his Applications of Moral Philosophy [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1973], 48-66, at 66 [italics in original] [essay first published in 1964])


Here is a New York Times story about global warmism. The thing you must remember about academia is that it loves fads, fancies, and fashions. Global warmism is simply the latest.

The Sidney Awards, Part 1

David Brooks used to hand out “Hookie” awards. Now he hands out “Sidney” awards. (I believe they’re named for Sidney Hook.) Here is the first batch of Sidneys for 2007. By the way, it’s appalling that Brooks and his editors used “crackup” instead of “crack up.” The former is a noun, as in “Jones suffered a crackup,” while the latter is a phrasal verb, as in “Jones is starting to crack up.” If the Old Gray Lady can’t distinguish between the two terms, there is no hope for our language.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Bob Herbert quotes the observation by Andrew L. Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, that Americans today “cannot see where the jobs of the future are that will allow their kids to have a better life than they had.” Mr. Stern adds, “And they’re not wrong.”

But when could Americans of any generation foresee future jobs? Did the blacksmith in 1890 foresee jobs in the auto industry? Did the corner grocer in 1940 foresee his son prospering as a regional manager for Wal-Mart?

Did the telegram-deliverer in 1950 foresee his child designing software for cellphones? Did the local pharmacist in 1960 foresee his daughter’s job as a biomedical engineer?

Our inability today to see the details of the future is no more worrisome than was the same inability of our grandparents.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Fairfax, Va., Dec. 22, 2007
The writer is chairman of the economics department, George Mason University.

Note from KBJ: Things have changed. People used to understand that, to succeed in life, they had to (1) develop marketable skills and (2) adapt to changed circumstances. Today, people want guaranteed, high-paying jobs. It’s the Age of Entitlement.

A Year Ago


A Green Christmas

Our weather of late has been wonderful. The mornings are cold, but it quickly warms up under sunny skies. I spend my mornings reading, either in front of the fireplace or on my back patio, and then fire up the computer for the day. I run every other day, either 3.1 or 4.3 miles. Today’s reading consisted of Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan (I’m still wading through the chapters on Christian commonwealth), Michael Oakeshott on Jeremy Bentham, and Richard Posner on the Hart-Dworkin debate. My back yard is green and lush. I need to mow it soon. The trees are shorn of leaves, but my stand of bamboo, which blocks the wind, is verdant. It hardly feels like Christmas. I guess I’ll have to rely on my memories of a white Christmas in Michigan. How is the weather in your neck of the woods?