What is this blog about?


What is this blog about?

I am a political philosopher. My 'political philosophy' is a form of 'liberal egalitarianism.' So in this blog I reflect on various issues in political philosophy and politics (especially Canadian and American politics) from a liberal egalitarian perspective.

If you are curious about what I mean by 'liberal egalitarianism,' my views are strongly influenced by the conception of justice advanced by John Rawls. (So I sometimes refer to myself as a 'Rawlsian,' even though I disagree with Rawls on some matters.)

Astonishingly, I am paid to write and teach moral and political philosophy. I somehow manage to do this despite my akratic nature. Here is my faculty profile.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Academic corruption at George Mason University ('Koch U')

Finally, the corrupting influence of the Charles Koch Foundation at George Mason University has been publicly acknowledged:
"Virginia’s largest public university granted the conservative Charles Koch Foundation a say in the hiring and firing of professors in exchange for millions of dollars in donations, according to newly released documents.
The release of donor agreements between George Mason University and the foundation follows years of denials by university administrators that Koch foundation donations inhibit academic freedom."
(From: "Documents show ties between university, conservative donors" [AP]. See also: "George Mason president: Some donations ‘fall short’ of academic standards" [WaPo].)

*Sigh*... As someone who has been following the growing pernicious influence of the 'Kochtopus' in American academia for many years now, this is thoroughly unsurprising. But I'm glad that a court compelled this public university to at least be honest about its past academic corruption.

(It is worth noting that the GMU Economics Department is where the libertarian misogynist Robin Hanson works. Small world...)


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Members of Parliament for non-resident citizens

Parliamentary democracy is based on territorial representation: Members of Parliament are elected to represent citizens who reside within certain geographically-defined electoral districts (called ‘ridings’ in Canada).

One problem with this system concerns the representation of citizens who reside abroad. Insofar as such persons remain citizens of the country in question—the state remains the ultimate protector of such citizens’ rights and interests; it is the one place that they can go to if denied residency elsewhere—it would seem that they should have some kind of representation in their country’s legislature.

Many countries allow non-resident citizens to continue to vote within the electoral districts wherein they last resided, at least for a certain period of time (currently, Canadians can vote in federal elections so long as they have not resided abroad for more than five years). But a better form of representation, I think, would be to allocate a certain number of MPs to represent directly non-resident citizens.

Or so I have proposed in the past—viz., that there should be a number of MPs within the Canadian federal Parliament to represent Canadians abroad. (Such forms of representation, it should be noted, already exist for French and Italian citizens.) Interesting, a Briton residing in Spain recently has made a very similar proposal, and has started a petition to get the proposal debated within the UK Parliament. I wish him luck!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Libertarian misogyny

So ... a 'libertarian thinker’ tries to attack a straw man caricature of ‘distributive justice’ (some implausible version of ‘luck egalitarianism’, as far as I can tell), but instead reveals himself to be a grotesque misogynist.

(For the record, I think that the ‘argument’ fails miserably against any plausible version of luck egalitarianism. But even if I were wrong about that, I would be untroubled, as I belong to the ‘relational egalitarian’ camp—along with thinkers like Elizabeth Anderson, John Rawls, Samuel Scheffler, Joshua Cohen, among others—for reasons explained here.)

And as for libertarianism’s claim to be concerned with ‘liberty’, I found this recent post from Existential Comics rather amusing.

UPDATE: for a clearer explanation of this brouhaha, see "Own Troll" by John Holbo at the Crooked Timber blog.

UPDATE 2: Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo weighs in on the matter.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Justice and leisure time

In a recent piece in the Washington Post (25 April 2018), Elizabeth Bruenig helpfully explains the importance of free time: "America is obsessed with the virtue of work. What about the virtue of rest?"

Bruenig's article coheres nicely with my view, outlined in a couple of academic articles now, that leisure time should be regarded as a basic requirement of justice -- a 'primary good' in 'Rawls-speak'.

Specifically, Rawls acknowledges that leisure time could be treated as a primary good -- one interchangeable with income/wealth, and thus distributed via the different principle. (See Justice as Fairness, p.179.) My argument is that a certain amount of leisure time should be regarded as a 'basic right' -- to be included as part of the 'basic needs' principle (which has lexical priority over even the first principle of justice). (On the 'basic needs' principle, see Political Liberalism, p.7.) Above that threshold, though, it should be distributed via the difference principle. (So I partially agree with Rawls.)

For a longer explanation of my view, see section 4 of my article, "'The Kids are Alright': Political liberalism, Leisure Time, and Childhood."

Monday, March 19, 2018

Threat to democracy: Cambridge Analytica

This undercover report on Cambridge Analytica from Channel 4 News is well worth watching.

(It is, of course, no surprise that this vile organization was instrumental in helping Trump win the electoral college vote in the 2016 US election...)

UPDATE [2018-03-20]: Here is C4 News' report on the role of Cambridge Analytica in the Trump 2016 campaign.

Monday, March 12, 2018

'The Kids are Alright': Political Liberalism, Leisure Time, and Children

Three articles on political liberalism and children are now available at Philosophical Studies. I'm delighted to have my work in the company of excellent papers by Christie Hartley and Gina Schouten.

My contribution is entitled: 'The Kids are Alright': Political Liberalism, Leisure Time, and Children. Here is the abstract:
Interest in the nature and importance of ‘childhood goods’ recently has emerged within philosophy. Childhood goods, roughly, are things (including kinds of activities) that are good for persons qua children independent of any contribution to the good of persons qua adults (although they may also be valuable in this way). According to Colin Macleod, John Rawls’s political conception of justice as fairness rests upon an adult-centered ‘agency assumption’ and thus is incapable of incorporating childhood goods into its content. Macleod concludes that because of this, justice as fairness cannot be regarded as a complete conception of distributive justice. In this paper I provide a political liberal response to Macleod’s argument by advancing three claims. First, I propose that political liberalism should treat leisure time as a distinct ‘primary good.’ Second, I suggest that leisure time should be distributed via (a) the ‘basic needs principle’ and (b) the ‘difference principle’ for all citizens over the course of their complete lives, including their childhoods. Third, the provision of leisure time in this way supports the realization of childhood goods for citizens.
The entire paper can be read (online only) here.

I may not have kids myself, but I know what's good for them: leisure time!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The essence of the Trump regime in 2018

The intellectual and moral essence of the current Republican regime in Washington, summed up in a single tweet: