Saturday, October 25, 2008

To change behavior you have to change incentives watch, continued

In point of fact, the dirty little secret of the banking industry is that it has no intention of using the money to make new loans.

See prior installment here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Today: Jon Elster and Marie-Claude Smouts at 50th Anniversary of Political Science Department at Université de Montréal

Science politique a 50 ans

Les célébrations du 50e anniversaire auront lieu les 22 et 23 octobre 2008. Nous avons invité des sommités mondiales de notre discipline pour les entendre et discuter avec elles des nouvelles frontières et des idées provocantes que soulève la recherche de pointe en science politique. Programme du 22 octobre: Marie-Claude Smouts CERI, Paris "Les idées dangeureuses en science politique: l'exemple des études postcoloniales " Jon Elster Columbia University "La rationalité en politique" 1

4h à 17h, salle JAB-1035, Pavillon J.-Armand-Bombardier

Monday, October 20, 2008


I've made pretty plain that I'm not voting Libertarian in this presidential election, though I wish Barr and the LP well and wish them many votes. I've voted Libertarian for President several times, and will vote Libertarian downticket when possible this year. I'd be thrilled to see Barr win 49.9% of the vote and crush McCain for second place. But I don't will that Barr be elected president, and that prevents me from voting for him.

But this sure does warm the cockles of my heart, and is the sort of thing that couldn't be allowed to go unnoticed on this blog.
He is fifty-nine but has the stamina of a college freshman—he consumes up to fifteen shots of espresso a day, typically in five-shot installments.
By contrast, the guy I'm actually voting for sometimes smokes cigarettes. If I were voting with the "people who remind me of me" standard that, for example, people invoke when explaining their support of Sarah Palin, then the fact that Obama and I have both taught courses at Chicago Law might well be trumped by the difference between cigarettes and 15 shots of espresso per day.

(At some point I'd like someone to ask some voter who invokes the "people who remind me of me" standard about the arrogance and narcissism of it-- what makes you so great that similitude to you is a relevant criterion for the presidency? I know that there are answers to the question and defensible reasons for identity-politics voting: "people who remind me of me are more likely to take the interests of people like me into account, and I think people like me are unjustly neglected by a system dominated by liberal elites/ whites/ Christians/ the professional class/ etc." But even when those reasons are adequate ones, there's often also a level of narcissism that goes unexamined. But now I've wandered far off-topic.)
How to paint yourself into a corner

Draft of an introductory paragraph for remarks to the "liberal and libertarians: common cause or separate agendas?" panel at Princeton.

Now, the timing of our session is odd, for this argument. On the one hand, I have arguments I’ve been developing for many years about why libertarians belong not in a great fusionist alliance with conservatives but rather in common cause with our fellow liberals. I think that’s been an interestingly hard argument to make, but we meet at a time, a few weeks before an election, when I think the immediate conclusion to draw is boringly easy. No libertarian can hope to see the party of torture, denials of habeas corpus, indefinite detention without trial, and boundless unsupervised executive power returned to office. If our core root liberalism, if our roots in the struggles of common law against absolutist king or in John Locke or in Montesquieu or in the American Revolution mean anything at all, then it means a four percentage-point difference in marginal income tax rates is less important than removing the party of torture and detention without trial from power. That’s morally so overwhelmingly important as to make my traditional arguments about libertarians leaving the fusionist alliance seem kind of silly.

"Therefore, I now sit down and thank you for your attention"? Doesn't seem quite satisfactory.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hither and yon: "Liberals and Libertarians" at Princeton

"Liberals and Libertarians: Common Ground or Separate Agendas?"
"Liberals and Libertarians: Common Ground or Separate Agendas?" will be the subject of a panel discussion at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 23, held at the Woodrow Wilson School in Dodds Auditorium, Robertson Hall, on the Princeton University campus.

Panelists will include a mix of self-described liberals and libertarians, including:

-- Douglas Massey, the Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Woodrow Wilson School;
-- Paul Starr, the School’s Stuart Professor of Communications and a Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs; and
-- Jacob T. Levy *99, the Tomlinson Professor of Political Theory at McGill University;
-- Brink Lindsey ’84, Vice President for Research at the Cato Institute; and
-- Will Wilkinson, Cato Research Fellow and Managing Editor of Cato Unbound.

Two “undeclared” scholars will join the discussion: Paul DiMaggio, a Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at the School, and John Tomasi, Associate Professor of Political Science at Brown University

Unfortunately, it appears that we're scheduled against Ruth Bader Ginsburg.