Thursday, March 27, 2008

Market Failure workshop

Z-260, Pavillon Claire McNicoll, 2900 chemin de la tour, Montréal
April 4

9.30 coffee
9.45 Introduction

10.00-11.30 Colin Macleod (Victoria), François Vaillancourt (Montréal)
There are circumstances where fixing market failures leads to a conflict with individual preferences. What are the justifications for, as well as the limitations of overriding individual preferences in such cases?

11.30 Lunch (Bistro Olivieri, Cote-des-neiges)

13.15-14.45 Geoffrey Brennan (ANU / Duke), Daniel Hausman (Wisconsin-Madison)
Can government intervention make things worse? If so, can we identify criteria to gauge the chances of government intervention to fix market failure?

14.45 Coffee break

15.00-16.30 Claude Montmarquette (CIRANO), Wayne Norman (Duke / Université de Montréal)
Companies regularly exploit and even exacerbate market failures in the search for profit. What is their responsibility in fixing market failure, and how can they be encouraged to live up to it?

16.30 Coffee break

16.45-18.15 Peter Dietsch (Université de Montréal), Jean-Marie Dufour (McGill)
What impact does market failure have on inequalities of income? Does market failure in this sense justify redistribution?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Good luck with that

Just got a "could you, or anyone you know, be on the radio" call-- for a French-speaking American Republican political commentator in Montreal.

I'm guessing that slot on the radio show will end up unfilled...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Marty on Wright

The Chronicle carries a striking tribute from one of the leading contemporary scholars of religion, Martin Marty.

Through the decades, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. has called me teacher, reminding me of the years when he earned a master's degree in theology and ministry at the University of Chicago — and friend. My wife and I and our guests have worshiped at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, where he recently completed a 36-year ministry.

Images of Wright's strident sermons, and his anger at the treatment of black people in the United States, appear constantly on the Internet and cable television, part of the latest controversy in our political-campaign season. His critics call Wright anti-American. Critics of his critics charge that the clips we hear and see have been taken out of context. But it is not the context of particular sermons that the public needs, as that of Trinity church, and, above all, its pastor.
Now, for the hard business: the sermons, which have been mercilessly chipped into for wearying television clips. While Wright's sermons were pastoral — my wife and I have always been awed to hear the Christian Gospel parsed for our personal lives — they were also prophetic. At the university, we used to remark, half lightheartedly, that this Jeremiah was trying to live up to his namesake, the seventh-century B.C. prophet. Though Jeremiah of old did not "curse" his people of Israel, Wright, as a biblical scholar, could point out that the prophets Hosea and Micah did. But the Book of Jeremiah, written by numbers of authors, is so full of blasts and quasi curses — what biblical scholars call "imprecatory topoi" — that New England preachers invented a sermonic form called "the jeremiad," a style revived in some Wrightian shouts.

In the end, however, Jeremiah was the prophet of hope, and that note of hope is what attracts the multiclass membership at Trinity and significant television audiences. Both Jeremiahs gave the people work to do: to advance the missions of social justice and mercy that improve the lot of the suffering. For a sample, read Jeremiah 29, where the prophet's letter to the exiles in Babylon exhorts them to settle down and "seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile." Or listen to many a Jeremiah Wright sermon.

One may properly ask whether or how Jeremiah Wright — or anyone else — experiences a prophetic call. Back when American radicals wanted to be called prophets, I heard Saul Bellow say (and, I think, later saw it in writing): "Being a prophet is nice work if you can get it, but sooner or later you have to mention God." Wright mentioned God sooner. [...]

It would be unfair to Wright to gloss over his abrasive — to say the least — edges, so, in the "Nobody's Perfect" column, I'll register some criticisms. To me, Trinity's honoring of Minister Louis Farrakhan was abhorrent and indefensible, and Wright's fantasies about the U.S. government's role in spreading AIDS distracting and harmful. He, himself, is also aware of the now-standard charge by some African-American clergy who say he is a victim of cultural lag, overinfluenced by the terrible racial situation when he was formed.

Having said that, and reserving the right to offer more criticisms, I've been too impressed by the way Wright preaches the Christian Gospel to break with him. Those who were part of his ministry for years — school superintendents, nurses, legislators, teachers, laborers, the unemployed, the previously shunned and shamed, the anxious — are not going to turn their backs on their pastor and prophet.
Now available

Jason Ferrell, Political Science, McGill: "The Alleged Relativism of Isaiah Berlin," Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy Volume 11, Issue 1 March 2008, pages 41 - 56.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Added to the reading list

From the new issue of the European Journal of Political Theory:

"Modern Natural Law Meets the Market: The Case of Adam Smith"
Amit Ron

Philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries who worked within the tradition of modern natural law became interested in political economy in part as they attempted to reconcile two conflicting images of economic activity. On the one hand, from the legal point of view economic activity was understood as a morally neutral and benign activity that could be regulated by simple and clear rules of justice. On the other hand, it was seen as a realm of political struggle, manipulation, deceit and the exercise of hidden forms of domination. This article examines the legal and moral contexts of Adam Smith's excursion into political economy by interpreting the roles played by these two images of the market in the theory of value articulated in book I of The Wealth of Nations.

"Commerce and Corruption: Rousseau's Diagnosis and Adam Smith's Cure"
Ryan Patrick Hanley

Modern commercial society has been criticized for attenuating virtue and inhibiting the ethical self-realization of its participants. But Adam Smith, a founding father of liberal commercial modernity, anticipated precisely this critique and took specific measures to circumvent it. This article presents these measures via an analysis of his response to the critique of liberal commercial modernity set forth by Rousseau. It principally argues that Smith's distinctions of the love of praise from the love of praiseworthiness, and the love of glory from the love of virtue, were elements of a normative moral education that sought to elevate civilized man's corrupted self-love, and thereby recover within modern commercial society a respect for ethical nobility.

"Locke, Waldron and the Moral Status of 'Crooks'"
Rebecca Kingston

This article provides an assessment of Jeremy Waldron's arguments (in God, Locke and Equality and his subsequent 'Response to Critics') that Locke provides us with a compelling version of liberal equality. A close examination of the case of the criminally convicted in The Second Treatise shows how Locke's commitment to the principle of equality is compromised. This is revealed in part through recourse to contextualist considerations. This leads to the suggestion that Waldron's principled rejection of contextualist approaches to the history of political ideas can lead to a distorted understanding. It also suggests a need for a more thorough consideration of how a substantive principle of moral equality should apply in the field of criminal justice and in liberal democracy more generally.