Friday, 23 May 2008

Twenty Years Ago

5-23-88 It was another hot one: 103 degrees [Fahrenheit]. I lectured on abortion this morning. When Craig Gabriel asked his students last [sic; should be “this past”] summer what subjects they’d like to discuss, they did not select abortion even though it was on the list. Craig and I talked about this and concluded that for many students, abortion is a dead issue. Conservatives hold that the fetus is a person with an absolute right to life, while liberals hold that it has no moral status whatsoever. Many people see no room for rational discussion in a climate like this. But of course there is. I didn’t give my students a choice, like Craig did; I decided in advance that we would discuss abortion. Today we examined the radical feminist view of abortion, which emphasizes the unequal distribution of power between males and females in this society. So long as men have power and women don’t, reproduction will be something imposed on women rather than chosen by them. The decriminalization of abortion can be seen as a means to improve men’s sexual access to women. Without the risk of pregnancy, sex is less costly and hence more accessible. Of course, feminists don’t advocate the recriminalization of abortion; they claim that women, not men, should make reproductive decisions. Deciding whether (and if so, when) to have children gives women control of their destinies, thus equalizing power in society.


How bad have things gotten in American presidential politics? Forget about giving your opponent the benefit of the doubt. It’s now obligatory to give him or her the detriment of the doubt. In other words, assume the very worst about your opponent’s intentions, motives, beliefs, and desires. Hillary Clinton makes a comment that can be taken in a bad way or in an innocent way. Barack Obama’s supporters take it in a bad way.


Here is a scene from today’s stage of the Giro d’Italia. Here is tomorrow’s stage, which will send a chill down every cyclist’s spine.

“A Worldwide Freshman-Year Tyrants Tour”

Here is Charles Krauthammer’s latest column. Barack Obama scares the living daylights out of me. The most I would entrust to him is a university, or perhaps a small city. I would never entrust the United States to him. Would you?

A Year Ago



You’re in luck. You get five songs today rather than the usual one.

1. “Dominance and Submission,” by Blue Öyster Cult, from Secret Treaties (1974).

2. “Kill Me (Ce Soir),” by Golden Earring, from Switch (1975).

3. “Sweet Jane,” by Lou Reed.

4. “Rhythm of Love,” by Yes, from Big Generator (1987).

5. “No More Tears,” by Ozzy Osbourne, from No More Tears (1991).

Have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend.


Here is Peggy Noonan’s latest column. Here is Peg Kaplan’s latest post.

Addendum: Noonan, as usual, hits the nail on the head. I have some advice for supporters of Barack Obama. You do not like being called sexist merely because you supported Obama rather than Hillary Clinton. You know that there are many reasons to oppose Clinton besides her sex. Please remember that this fall. People will not like being called racist merely because they supported John McCain rather than Obama. There are many reasons to oppose Obama besides his race.


What is the best sports town in the United States? Support your answer.

Addendum: The correct answer is here. Don’t read it until you’ve made your choice.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

I disagree with Paul Krugman’s analysis, for two reasons.

First, Europe has a much greater population density than the United States, so it’s more cost-effective for European countries to build and maintain public transportation.

Second, the coming alternative-energy-powered cars will change everything, allowing widely used private transport to be cost-effective once again.

James W. Voelz
Des Peres, Mo., May 19, 2008

Robert Nozick (1938-2002) on Taxation

The man who chooses to work longer to gain an income more than sufficient for his basic needs prefers some extra goods or services to the leisure and activities he could perform during the possible nonworking hours; whereas the man who chooses not to work the extra time prefers the leisure activities to the extra goods or services he could acquire by working more. Given this, if it would be illegitimate for a tax system to seize some of a man’s leisure (forced labor) for the purpose of serving the needy, how can it be legitimate for a tax system to seize some of a man’s goods for that purpose? Why should we treat the man whose happiness requires certain material goods or services differently from the man whose preferences and desires make such goods unnecessary for his happiness? Why should the man who prefers seeing a movie (and who has to earn money for a ticket) be open to the required call to aid the needy, while the person who prefers looking at a sunset (and hence need earn no extra money) is not? Indeed, isn’t it surprising that redistributionists choose to ignore the man whose pleasures are so easily attainable without extra labor, while adding yet another burden to the poor unfortunate who must work for his pleasures? If anything, one would have expected the reverse. Why is the person with the nonmaterial or nonconsumption desire allowed to proceed unimpeded to his most favored feasible alternative, whereas the man whose pleasures or desires involve material things and who must work for extra money (thereby serving whomever considers his activities valuable enough to pay him) is constrained in what he can realize? Perhaps there is no difference in principle. And perhaps some think the answer concerns merely administrative convenience.

(Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia [New York: Basic Books, 1974], 170)

Note from KBJ: I’m one of the people who “prefers the leisure activities to the extra goods or services he could acquire by working more.” My contract with UTA runs from 1 September to 31 May. The other three months—June, July, and August—are mine, to do with as I please. I always have the opportunity to teach in the summer to earn additional money, and I always turn it down. I could practice law all summer. I could do many things. I choose not to. Is it fair that I am not taxed, whereas the person who chooses to work is taxed? Nozick is arguing (I take it) that the two people should be treated alike. But there are two ways to treat them alike. The first is to stop taxing those who choose to work. This is Nozick’s preference. The second is to start taxing those (such as me) who choose not to.


John Hawkins of Right Wing News has come to the same conclusion I did. He cannot support John McCain. See here for his rationale. I might add that McCain will almost certainly win my state (Texas), so it’s not as though my lack of support will hurt him. What it does is help me maintain my integrity.