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, May 16, 2016

Update on the Wisconsin GOP's unending efforts to thwart democracy

This is just a quick follow-up to my earlier post on the real aim of the recent GOP-passed Wisconsin 'voter ID laws': namely, to suppress the franchise amongst Democratic-leaning voters.

These laws presently are being challenged in court, and the former chief of staff to then-Senator Dale Schultz (Republican), Todd Allbaugh, has named names and presented some of the comments made by key Republican legislators in a 2011 closed caucus meeting. As Allbaugh makes clear, preventing (practically nonexistent) 'voter fraud' had nothing to do with the law; rather, it was all about suppressing the ability of people to vote in Milwaukee and on college campuses. Apparently, many GOP legislators were 'giddy' at the prospect of preventing many citizens from voting. (Unsurprisingly, the dim-witted and contemptible Glenn Grothman said this: "What I’m concerned about is winning. [...] [W]e better get this done while we have the opportunity"[.])

Update 1: Some further coverage at The New York Times and Talking Points Memo.

Update 2: My favourite American political commentator, Charles P. Pierce, has weighed in on the matter: "Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their Midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin, has conspired with his pet state legislature to make it harder for Wisconsinites to vote."

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Happy May Day!

I thought that I would mention that I have a paper coming out in the journal Philosophy, Politics & Economics somewhat related to this occasion. It's called, "Freedom, Money, and Justice as Fairness." (I'm not sure when it will appear in print; I submitted the final version less than a month ago, and I have yet to receive the proofs.) One of the things that I argue for in the paper is a basic right to discretionary ('leisure') time ("8 hours for what we will") for all citizens.

Here is the abstract:
The first principle of Rawls’s conception of justice secures a set of ‘basic liberties’ equally for all citizens within the constitutional structure of society. The ‘worth’ of citizens’ liberties, however, may vary depending upon their wealth. Against Rawls, G.A. Cohen contends that an absence of money often can directly constrain citizens’ freedom, and not simply its worth. This is because money often can remove legally enforced constraints on what citizens can do. Cohen’s argument – if modified to apply to citizens’ ‘moral powers’ rather than ‘negative liberty’ – threatens a core feature of Rawls’s conception of justice, as it is unclear why the parties within the ‘original position’ would endorse the lexical priority of the first principle over the ‘difference principle’ (which concerns the distribution of wealth) if both principles similarly shape citizens’ freedom. I concede Cohen’s point regarding the relation between freedom and money, but argue that it is not fatal to Rawls’s conception of justice if the ‘basic needs principle’ is understood to enjoy lexical priority over the first principle, and is modified to include a right to adequate discretionary time. Nonetheless, Cohen’s argument helpfully highlights the infelicitous nature of Rawls’s terminology with respect to liberty: the basic needs principle, the first principle, and the difference principle all should be understood as shaping citizens’ freedom to exercise their moral powers.

Growing up in Ontario, I regularly was exposed to commercials for "Lotto 6/49" on television. These commercials annoyed me to no end, but the slogan "Imagine the Freedom" became firmly imprinted onto my brain. Many years later, when I read G.A. Cohen's paper, "Freedom and Money," the slogan leapt back into my consciousness, as it seemed to express perfectly Cohen's core thesis (roughly: the more money one has, the more 'negative liberty' one has). So I became determined to incorporate a reference to those blasted commercials in the paper itself.

In case any readers are curious, here is a relatively recent Lotto 6/49 commercial: