Wednesday, January 03, 2007

In memoriam

Two major losses to the American academy in the past few days; two insightful and iconoclastic scholars passed away.

Elizabeth Fox-Genovese

Seymour Martin Lipset

John Holbo, as evidenced by his MLA talk, is very, very smart. I hope he brings this level of A-game to the other conference at which he's presenting before he returns to Singapore.

My favorite line:

"First, necessity is not the mother of subventions."

(It's not just a good pun-- it's really powerfully important to the point he's making.)

Now this kind of thing isn't my kind of thing. I'm a cloth-and-paper traditionalist, and I haven't been in any hurry to see blogging as more than a sideline to scholarship and an efficient means of information distribution. But John makes an excellent case. Often more-moderate arguments are more-effective ones, but not, I think, here. He's not arguing in an apologetic spirit for blogging to be seen as a kind-of-okay thing for scholars to be doing that they shouldn't be embarrassed about or denied tenure for. He's arguing in an aggressive, almost confrontational manner that blogging and related phenomena can be central, and can help fix a lot that is currently broken. He's directly challenging the romanticized image of the monograph-journal-and-library institutional framework, and pointing out that it doesn't work as imagined now, and couldn't work as imagined givem the various constraints, so rearguard attempts to conserve it are likely to be counterproductive.

I've known, since before The Valve got launched, that John was up to something big that I didn't quite get. I'm starting to get it.

Go read.
What I'll be doing this semester

Borrowing a blogging idea from Brad De Long, since I enjoy it when he does it.

Political Science 613: Hume, Smith, and the Scottish Enlightenment

This is a graduate seminar on the political and moral thought of David Hume and Adam Smith, and as a secondary matter on their contemporaries and intellectual context in the Scottish Enlightenment as well as in France. It aims to convey, through close readings of primary texts, supplemental readings of secondary texts, discussion, and a research paper, both a broad understanding of the intellectual currents of the Scottish Enlightenment, and at least a moderately deep grasp of Hume and Smith. The most important themes of the course will include justice and sympathy; the theory of commercial society and its development; the relationship between private morality and public benefit; the critique of 17th-century contractarianism; and Hume’s and Smith’s contributions to political economy and political science as descriptive and explanatory disciplines.

1. January 3: Introduction
2. January 10: Locke, Hutcheson, Mandeville
John Locke, Two Treatises of Civil Government, Peter Laslett ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1960 [1688]: Second Treatise chs. 2, 3, 5, 7-9, pp. 269-282, 285-302, 318-363

Francis Hutcheson, Philosophical Writings, R.S. Downie ed., London: Everyman, 1994 [1755], pp. 155-88, 191-7

Francis Hutcheson, An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections, with Illustrations on the Moral Sense, Aaron Garrett ed., Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002 [1728], pp. 22-9, 110-137

Francis Hutcheson, An Inquiry Into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue in Two Treatises, Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2004 [1725], pp. 85-134

Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, vol 1, F.B. Kaye ed., Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1988 [1725], pp. 3-57, 85-93, 107-172

3. January 17: Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws; all but Books 27-28, 30-1 but with greatest attention to Books 20-21.
Recommended: The Fable of the Troglodytes, from Montesquieu, Persian Letters

4. January 24: Hume, Treatise
5. January 31: Hume, Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals— with discussion of the Treatise continued.
February 7: Hume, Essays, essays #1-26 (recommended: the remaining ‘withdrawn’ essays)
February 14: Hume, History, selections TBA

February 28: Ferguson, Civil Society.
Course packet:
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Discourses and Other Early Political Writings, Victor Gourevitch ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997 [1755]; Second Discourse, pp. 114-188

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, William Payne ed., Amherst NT : Prometheus, 2003 [1762], pp. 259-308

March 7: Smith TMS, entire
March 14: Smith TMS, discussion continued
March 21: Smith LJ
March 28: Smith WN—read as much as possible, but at least Books I, III, and IV
April 4: Smith WN, discussion continued; read the rest of the work

April 15: Special Montreal Political Theory Workshop daylong symposium on Hume and Smith, with papers by Samuel Fleischacker, Sharon Krause, Sankar Muthu, and Andrew Sabl.

Core recommended secondary reading:

Alexander Broadie, ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Scottish Enlightenment
Athol Fitzgibbons, Adam Smith's System of Liberty, Wealth, and Virtue
Samuel Fleischacker, Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations: A Philosophical Companion
Charles Griswold, Adam Smith and the Virtues of Enlightenment
Knud Haakonssen, The Science of a Legislator
Knud Haakonssen, Natural Law and Moral Philosophy
Knud Haakonssen, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Adam Smith
Istvan Hont, Jealousy of Trade
Istvan Hont and Michael Ignatieff, eds., Wealth and Virtue: The Shaping of Political Economy in the Scottish Enlightenment
John Stewart, Opinion and Reform in David Hume’s Political Philosophy

Science of a Legislator, Wealth and Virtue, and Philosophical Companion should be considered just shy of being required reading to finish befor the end of the semester.

Additional recommended secondary reading:

Jonathan Israel, Radical Enlightenment and Enlightenment Contested
J.G.A. Pocock, Barbarism and Religion, especially vols. 2 and 3
John Robertson, The Case For The Enlightenment
Jerome Schneewind, The Invention of Autonomy

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A different question about federalism

Matt Yglesias writes:

States seem to differ primarily in how they deal with some fairly trivial regulatory matters. Each state's rules governing alcoholic beverages differ somewhat from its neighbors, cigarette taxes and where (if ever) you're permitted to smoke indoors vary, but you don't see a ton of policy variation. No state, no matter how right-wing, has just voted to dismantle its public school system nor have we seen a state attempt single-payer health care. I wonder if this is parasitic on the fact that there's shockingly little institutional variation among American states.

US federalism is somewhat unusual in that the states have essentially total autonomy in terms of how they want to arrange the institutions of state government. The federal constitution only contains a vague requirement of a "Republican form of government" which seems to offer a lot of leeway. Nevertheless, 49 out of 50 states choose bicameralism. Zero states out of fifty opt for parliamentary-style governance where the state executive must maintain the confidence of the legislature. All fifty states, including tiny Rhode Island, implement a an interstitial country (or "parish") level of government between the state and towns and cities. All the states elect their legislators on the basis of single-member constituencies. You'd think that some state, at least, would try something different along some of these dimensions and see how it works out.

As a number of his commentators note (and see also Will Baude), there really is a fair amount of variation o those policy questions that haven't been taken away from the states by either Congressional preemption or federal judicial constraints. And some of the range of permissible institutional variation got removed in the 1940s-60s. (This is one of those assaults on federalism that I think was necessary to break Jim Crow but that we should still recognize was constitutionally costly-- ideally the 14th Amendment, 15th Amendment, and Voting Rights Act should not be interpreted to constrain institutional choice as tightly as they have been read in the last half-century, but otherwise southern states seemed likely to use their institutional leeway to concoct further ways to keep blacks out of political power in perpetuity.) Moreover, the different systems fo selecting judges and the different rules about initiatives, referenda, and recalls do make for very different kinds of political systems.

But still-- he's right, there's been no radically green or libertarian state government, no state government that was operationally socialist no matter how aspirationally socialist some of the old Scandianvian midwestern states were, etc. And every state has a separately-elected unitary governor, only one state has a unicameral legislature, no state has tried to get a PR or statewide STV system through VRA approval. Two observations.

One is that there was much more institutional variation during the period 1776-89. After the federal constitution was ratified, it became a focal point for how Americans thought about constitutional organization.

The second is that, as far as I can tell, this is actually very common in federations. So I doubt that "shockingly little" and that "somewhat unusual." I think the U.S. is typical here. I know a lot about a lot of federal systems (though of course not everything about all of them) and this kind of isomorphism between provincial governments and the federal government is, to the best of my knowledge, universal. To take the simplest case: I don't know of any federation with a presidential form of government that has even one province with a parliamentary one, or of any federation with a parliamentary form of governance that has even one province with an independently-elected executive.

Some federations do constrain institutional choice more than the "republican guaranty" clause does in the U.S. constitution-- India, for example-- but in general the constraint just seems to be familiarity. There might also be party issues at stake. Federations are hard on parties to begin with-- any parties that aren't explicitly provincial/ regional (e.g. the Parti Quebecois) have to juggle their national and their provincial positions, trying to appeal to the very different median voters of each province severally as well as of the country as a whole. If parties had to compete in completely different electoral environments from one province to another, I imagine that the task would become hopeless. First past the post rules send you toward the median voter; proportional representation rules and STV rules mandate very different strategies. If I were a political party, I wouldn't want my strategic calculations to be rendered impossible like that. So the dominant political parties in any system might have a strong interest in isomorphism between the central and the provincial governments.

Indeed as a constitutional designer I'd worry that different electoral systems from state to state would encourage the growth of very different party systems at the state and the federal levels. (This turns out to be bad. See Mikhail Filippov, Peter C. Ordeshook and and Olga Shvetsova, Designing federalism: A theory of self-sustainable federal institutions, one of the best political science books on comparative federalism.) But that worry can't explain the isomorphism, just justify it. I suspect the explanation lies in some combination of party self-interest and sheer familiarity.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Five things

Dan tagged me with this game (it's not a "meme," people-- it's just a blogospheric parlor game). Five things most people don't know about me:

1) I type using two index fingers and my right thumb for the spacebar. People call this "hunt and peck" but I don't look at the keyboard, and I move along at 60-65 words per minute. I started typing very early, both because of my terrible handwriting, and because my grandfather was determined to introduce me to computers early on (so I spent a summer when I was six or so pointlessly writing programs in BASIC on his Commodore PET-- I had fun and learned a lot of math while learning what BASIC's math functions did, and it's only in retrospect that the pointlessness is apparent). So I was typing long before anyone was going to teach me to touch-type, and the habits were way too ingrained to unlearn later.

Unfortunately, other than the PET my typing was done on a manual typewriter-- and one of the habits I've been unable to unlearn is pounding on the keys much too hard. It's not only noisy; in the long run it's bad for the keyboards.

2) Career paths not taken, part 1: from the ages of 9 through 17 or so, I was almost constantly involved in theater, stage, performances, etc. I took a couple of years of kids' acting lessons from this guy (and he was in most of my earliest plays-- local Equity stock theaters that cast area kids in choruses and extra parts). When I was 10 I appeared in a TV ad for my uncle's race for a Florida judgeship [judicial elections-- shudder]; indeed I gave a 29.5 second testimonial to him, and he appeared only to speak the final two words ["Thanks, Jacob!"] I was never what you would call a good actor; and I didn't have my first dance lessons until I was 16, which was way too late for getting very far in musicals. The crowning moment was my honest-to-god Broadway tryout, for Oliver!-- which happened to come during the ten-day period when I dropped from soprano to bass. (Think Peter Brady singing "Who Will Buy?")

For a couple of years I was in one of those kids' song-and-dance troupes that goes around singing at malls, outside the entrance to Fanieul Hall, and so on. For several months we were the opening act for a solo tour by "Maria of Sesame Street," as she was billed. One of the other kiddie performers in the troupe (and someone I also went to high school with) was future CBS News correspondent (and an operatic singer to boot) Trish Regan.

3. Career paths not taken, part 2: politics. Let's see: I was, at 18, an elected delegate to the New Hampshire Democratic Convention. (My birthday was after the filing deadline but before the election; no one filed; I ran a write-in campaign.) At 21 I ran for the NH House of Representatives as a Libertarian, winning 12% of the vote. At 16, when my hometown had a Charter Commission (the local equivalent of a Constitutional Convention), I wrote, circulated petitions for, and spoke at Commission meetings on behalf of the creation of a nonvoting seat for a student from the local high school (which I didn't attend) on the school board-- as far as I know the provision's still in place. The first holder of that seat was Chip Griffin, now a blogger and political consultant. I was a tireless teenaged letter-to-the-editor writer, was heavily involved in one city council race and one gubernatorial race, and interned for a term in the Washington office of then-Congressman (now-Senator) Byron Dorgan. My own State House race was my test to see whether I really liked electoral politics and wanted to carve out a place for it in my life. The answers were no and no.

4. Career paths not taken 3: journalism, radio, and business administration. After three years as a reporter for my college radio station, I became its CEO for a year-- during the 91-92 recession, with bankruptcy looming. (The station is an independent corporation and depends on commercial ad revenue.) I've fired two people (non-student full-time staffers); one filed suit purporting discrimination on the grounds of anti-Semitism (yes, I'm Jewish, and so was her immediate supervisor); and I still authorized paying her a settlement because it was much, much cheaper than paying our lawyers for a suit would have been. Glad I've had to make payroll in my life, and glad I don't have to do it on a regular basis.

5. I was pretty isolated and out of the loop as a kid-- and, in pre-internet days, geeky kids didn't always have a way of finding out what other geeky kids did. When I went to math geek camp [a.k.a. Johns Hopkins' CTY program] at age 13, that was my first exposure to Dungeons & Dragons. 1984 is shockingly late for a kid as geeky as I was to have first played D&D...

Tag: (Ah, fun with exponents! You tag five people, then they tag five people, and so on, and so on until you're in a Clairol commercial that has used up all the atoms in the universe.) Belle Waring, laloca, Aeon Skoble, Andrew Norton, and Fabio Rojas.

In Washington this week: the annual meetings of the American Association of Law Schools, the Federalist Society, and the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy. I'll be giving "Three Perversities of Indian Law" at the Federalist Society Friday morning. The ASPLP program follows. As always, to join the ASPLP and receive the volume of Nomos that will follow from this volume, click here and e-mail me.


Friday, January 5, 2007

3:30-5:15 pm: "American Conservative Thought and Politics: Perspectives from Political Science"
Washington 4, Exhibition Level, Marriott Wardman Park

Paper: Nathan Tarcov, Professor of Social Thought and Political Science, University of Chicago
"Leo Strauss and American Conservative Thought and Politics"

Commentator: John Holbo, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, National University of Singapore
Commentator: Arthur Jacobson, Max Freund Professor of Litigation & Advocacy.

Chair: Melissa Williams, Professor of Political Science and Director, Centre for Ethics, University of Toronto

6:30 pm: Wine and Cheese Reception
Washington 3, Exhibition Level, Marriott Wardman Park

Saturday, January 6, 2007

8:00-9:00 a.m: American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy Breakfast
Marriott Salon III, Lobby Level, Marriott Wardman Park

9 am- 10:40 pm: "American Conservative Thought and Politics: Perspectives from Law"
Marriott Salon III, Lobby Level, Marriott Wardman Park

Paper: Richard Garnett, Associate Professor, Notre Dame Law School, Notre Dame University
"“Two There Are”: Church-State Separation and Religious Freedom"

Commentator: Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University
Commentator: Elizabeth Harman, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and the University Center for Human Values, Princeton University

Chair: Sanford Levinson, W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr. Centennial Chair,
University of Texas Law School; Professor, Department of Government, University of Texas

10:50am- 12:30 pm, "American Conservative Thought and Politics: Perspectives from Philosophy"
Marriott Salon III, Lobby Level, Marriott Wardman Park

Paper: David Sidorsky, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Columbia University
"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Pluralist Perspectives "

Commentator: Patrick Deneen, Associate Professor of Government and Markos and Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis Chair in Hellenic Studies, Georgetown University
Commentator: Elizabeth Emens, Associate Professor of Law, Columbia University

Chair: Jacob T. Levy, Tomlinson Professor of Political Theory, McGill University