Friday, January 31, 2003

Second announcement:

On a trial basis I'm going to be blogging over at The Volokh Conspiracy for a month. Let me know what you think. Everything that's already here will remain here. (Remember, 'way back when, I speculated that group-blogs would someday triumph...) And I'll continue to update the blogroll to the left, including my reading list, links to my writings, etc as well as links to noteworthy blogs/

Bye for now...

Note: for those looking for posts about the Individual Indian Monies trust fund, look here and here.

UPDATE: You ought to be reading everything on the Volokh Conspiracy; it's good, smart stuff. But if you, my most faithful readers who are still coming to this site, want to be able to quickly look at just my Conspiracy posts as if they were a separate blog, click

UPDATED AGAIN: The Conspiracy has moved to My recent posts can be read at

Thursday, January 30, 2003


Because I complained about the omission of Boromir and Faramir's dream from the movie adaptation of LotR, people keep hitting this site from search engines when they're looking for the words of the prophecy. Those words haven't been here, but, hey, I'm eager to please.

Seek for the sword that was broken
In Imladris it dwells
There shall be counsels taken
Stronger than Morgul-spells
There shall be shown a token
That doom is near at hand
For Isildur's Bane shall waken,
and the halfling forth shall stand.
Around the web/ miscellany

Check out Eugene Volokh on whether a professor at a state university may refuse to write letters of recommendation for premed creationists; and this not at all nice but very funny Mark Kleiman post.

Everyone else has linked to them, too, but they're clearly the items of the day: the op-ed by the eight European leaders (complete round-up of coverage at Oxblog; and Josh Marshall's interview with Ken Pollack.

Following up on my TNR piece and on this post with further information on the Individual Indian Monies scandal.

Jonathan Adler, a law professor at Case Western, writes:

I enjoyed your TNR piece on the IIM trust issue -- as well as your hits
on the Interior Department's gross mismanagement on your blog. I agree
that this is an important story that the press has largely overlooked.

My one comment is that I think your conclusion is slightly unfair to many
in the conservative/libertarian/property rights crowd who have worked on
Native American issues for years. Not only are there some -- such as
Terry Anderson and the folks at PERC -- who have written on Indian issues
for a long time, but the conservative alternative is not allotment --
under which beneficial title remains in the hands of the federal
government -- but actual property rights. Allotment created a trust
relationship between the Indians and the government, so it did not
prevent the sort of mismangement and malfeasance which is endemic in the
management of Indian affairs. Actual property rights, however, would
remove BIA and the federal bureaucracy from the picture. While you are
right that many conservatives have been AWOL on this issue, the same
could be said of most liberals, and those conservatives who have
addressed the broader issues raised by federal mismanagement of Indian
affairs have proposed reforms far more meaningful than a replay of the
Dawes Act.

In any event, I'm glad to see that someone is giving this issue the
attention it deserves.

(PERC is the Political Economy Resource Center, which has indeed done a great deal of important and admirable work on Indian issues, especially property rights issues (including, Jonathan helpfully notes, this and this.)

All of which I basically agree with, and have written in support of myself elsewhere. But it remains true that even PERC has (as far as I can tell) said nothing about the IIM case; that Norton continues to be on the wrong side; and that there hasn't been much libertarian noise making the argument Jonathan described. I'm trying to get some noise started.

Note about the difference between alottment and real property rights, which Michael Carr also wrote in about: I didn't have space to go into this in the TNR column, but it's quite true that the kind of ownership created in 1887 was much short of freehold property. The individual Indians own the land in an incomplete sense, which is central to the problem. Not only are the resource rights held in trust by the federal government; the land cannot be sold to non-Indians. In addition, the semi-inalienable interest an Indian was given in these lands was divided equally among heirs, such that by now there are a vast number of fractional shares of the ownership of each such lot of land. This is a problem in its own right-- it means makes rational economic use ofthe land almost impossible. But it has also contributed to Interior's inability to manage the trust accounts, at the same time that it has become part of the profeered justification for trusteeship; keeping track of this complex pattern of fractional interests is absurdly complicated.

On a different note: in the TNR piece I said that Sam Donaldson and 60 Minutes had done extended segments on the Cobell case, but that otherwise television news had been almost entirely AWOL. My friend Todd Seavey reminded me that John Stossel's hour-long special "John Stossel Goes to Washington," had been intended to include a segment about the IIM accounts, but that when Stossel began questioning Bruce Babbitt about them, the then-Secretary of the Interior stormed off the set. (Therefore none of the relevant Nexis search words led me to Stossel-- in the actual event the special included only about two sentences about lost Indian money, followed by an extended on-camera "I'm going to fire whoever scheduled me to do this interview" bit from Babbitt..)
You remember Neal McCaleb, the former Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs I spoke so unkindly about just yesterday?

Destroyed documents.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Around the web and miscellany

Over at TAP, Richard Just has one of the best pieces on the State of the Union address. I think the following is exactly right:

President George W. Bush delivered two State of the Union
addresses last night: an unconvincing recitation of platitudes
about supply-side economics followed by a compelling -- even
grand -- articulation of America's role in the world... [I]t wasn't
just the policies of the first half of the speech that were unsatisfying --
so was the delivery, not to mention the prose itself. This was
the kind of speechmaking at which President Clinton excelled;
he made laundry lists of policy proposals come alive. Bush
doesn't have that gift... But then came Bush's transition
sentence -- "The qualities of courage and compassion that we s
trive for in America also determine our conduct abroad" -- and I
suspect that even the president's most skeptical critics would
agree that from that point on, he was masterful...It is not irrelevant
that Bush succeeded last night where Clinton had the most trouble
as a speechmaker. Clinton could make a bulleted policy list sound
inspiring, but when he tried to deal in broad themes and big visions,
his rhetoric sometimes felt flat, even empty.

I suspect that I agree with more of Bush's domestic agenda than Just does; but I agree entirely with this commentary on the style and feel of the speech. On the other hand, Just also says that Locke's

rebuttal was the finest opposition response in years to a State of
the Union... Someone should take note and put Locke on the fast
track to bigger and better things in the Democratic Party.

Locke struck me as a bland, inoffensive nice guy, giving a speech for student council president. The need to paper over Democratic divisions on the war of course hurt him. But the grandson-of-an-indentured-servant thing seemed appropriate for a personal campaign ad, not for the moment when Locke was supposed to be speaking on behalf of the party as a whole. The symbolism of having a governor speak this year was terrible. And the domestic agenda was reeeally uninspiring. Just and I watched the same SotU, but apparently not the same Democratic response.

Over at The Conspiracy: check out David Post on "the reverse tinkerbell effect." I wonder whether there's not a much more general kind of case at work in everyday market economics-- not just the specialized case of the efficient capital market hypothesis. The more people who think there's a killing to be made in x area of economic activity, the more will enter it-- gradually driving economic profits to zero. Crowdedness doesn't only apply to libraries and beaches; it applies to markets, too. That's basic to how markets work; from the system's perspective it's a feature, not a bug. It looks different from the perspective of the individual producer. And it looks very different if the market in question takes some time and preparation to enter. The more early-stage graduate students who think that there's room in the literature to make a striking contribution on a particular topic, the more books there will be trying to occupy that intellectual space 3-6 years hence, and the less of a splash any one of them will make. Kieran Healy notes that the idea of the self-defeating prophecy has a long history.

Mark Kleiman, Ted Barlow, and Kieran Healy, among others, are blogging actual empirical matters-- you know, the kind with numbers. How much does wealth (as distinct from income) contribute to the black-white education gap?
Hi there!

I’d like to offer a welcome to those visiting the site for the first time via TNR. Like many blogs, mine is a combination of writings about: stuff I can claim some expertise in (political philosphy, political science, multiculturalism, the rights of ethnic minorities, freedom of association), stuff I care passionately about (academic freedom and academic governance), stuff that I find fun (Lord of the Rings, science fiction), and stuff about which I don't necessarily know any more than any other news addict, though sometimes my poli sci/ political theory background means I have an idiosyncratic take on it (i.e. everything else).

Here's the basic story o' me.

My first TNR column is on something I can claim expertise in: the law, politics, and justice of indigenous rights, in this case the rights of American Indians. (My other writings on indigenous rights include two chapters in my book The Multiculturalism of Fear, one of which also appears in Kymlicka and Norman, eds., Citizenship in Diverse Societies; and a chapter on "Indians in Madison's Constitutional Order" in Samples, ed.,
James Madison and the Future of Limited Government

To expand on a few points from the column:

Trusteeship, in the case of Individual Indian Money accountholders, is supposed to refer to the straightforward fiduciary-responsibility concept. This is also true when the landowner is a tribe. But "trusteeship" also refers to something more general and amorphous as the underpinning of the federal government's relationship to tribes. Both are paternalistic in their origin. But the tribes have an interest in not doing away with the idea of a trustee relationship, since it underlies the federal government's commitment (such as it is) to act in the interest of the tribes. Back before the Eleventh Amendment turn in federalism jurisprudence, it also solidified the federal commitment to protect tribes against the states when necessary. This understanding of trusteeship-- which predates the Revolution, and can also be found in the other Anglo-settler states of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand-- is notoriously difficult to pin a precise legal meaning to. The duties it imposes aren't nearly as well-specified as the duties of an ordinary financial trustee. But a reluctance to jeopardize the idea of trusteeship has, I think, some effect on how the tribes view the Cobell litigation. If the plaintiffs were to propose terminating the trust relationship over the IIM accounts altogether (rather than placing them into a receivership with a different trustee) the tribes might be more worried still. I nonetheless think that such a termination is the right thing to do. The federal government has no business posing as the trustee of Indians' money, when it is itself the greatest threat to that money.

Another concern from the tribes' perspective-- and this is inference on my part, not based on anything that has been said in public-- is budgetary. In principle, the IIM mess should be entirely separate from other Indian affairs, just like the IIM accounts should be separate from other governmental outlays and revenues. But, politically, if the Cobell suit results in billions or tens of billions of dollars in (what looks like) new spending to compensate for past misappropriation, the separation probably won't be so clean. The squeeze will probably be put onto appropriations for other BIA functions, for tribal colleges, and for the rest of the federal government's Indian activities.

So, altogether, one wouldn't expect tribes to expend too much of their finite lobbying capital on forcing a fair, speedy, generous settlement. Tribal organizations have been supportive, and have filed amicus briefs on Cobell's side, but they just don't have much incentive to make it a top priority of their relationship with Congress or the BIA. And, as I've said, there are aspects of trusteeship and the relationship with the BIA that they're understandably more interested in protecting than the Cobell plaintiffs are.

Gale Norton has no such excuse for betraying her alleged commitment to the rights of property-owners...

Shortly after Lamberth held Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Neal A. McCaleb in contempt, the latter announced his retirement, complaining that "the litigation has taken first priority in too many activities, thus distracting attention from the other important goals that could provide more long-term benefits for Indian Country." As I've blogged previously, I don't have a lot of sympathy for this complaint. Coming into compliance with Interior's fiduciary obligations, and ensuring that individual Indian property-owners get the full value of their resources, would do more for Indian self-reliance than would coming up with another BIA program. Being reminded that the department wasn't fulfilling its obligations apparently took all the fun out of it.

If the lawsuit is so unpleasant and time-consuming, then Interior ought to quit dragging its feet.

UPDATE: Resigning hasn't freed McCaleb from the lawsuit entirely; he can still get in trouble for having destroyed documents.

I should note that a few Republicans in Congress-- including John McCain and Ben Nighthorse Campbell-- have been on the right side here, and have treated the issue seriously.


Some links:

Complete information on Cobell v. Norton can be found at The Department of Justice maintains its own site on the case here.

The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development is an indispensable resource for information on tribal governments, and the problems tribes confront from two directions: external limits on self-government, and internal institutional failures, violations of the rule of law and separation of powers, and obstructions to economic development.

The National Council of American Indians is the most important tribal lobbying group. The Native American Rights Fund is involved in the Cobell litigation.

The BIA website "as well as the BIA mail servers have been made temporarily unavailable due to the Cobell Litigation. Please continue to check from time to time. We have no estimate on when authorization will be given to reactivate these sites." The story: at one point Interior slapped together a new computer system to handle the IIM accounts. Lamberth found that the system was woefully insecure and prone to hacking. Interior took it down-- and, in a fit of spite, stopped issuing all checks to IIM account-holders for months, saying that they couldn't do without the new computer system what they had always done without the new computer system. This was more than a year ago. I'm pretty sure that Lamberth's order didn't require BIA to take down its public webpage with contact information and the like.

UPDATE: See this follow-up post above.
Announcement time

Sometime today, my first monthly online-only column at The New Republic website will go up. Another scholar-blogger will be writing with the same frequency, offset by two weeks; but I'll let him or her reveal his or her identity in due course. UPDATE: It's up.
Around the web/ miscellany

Joseph Epstein has a lovely essay in Commentary on his teaching career.
Mickey Kaus says, of the Think Group's World Trade Center proposal:

(So what if every suicidal teen with a pilot's license is going to try to
hang his Cessna from the latticework? They can mount AA guns on
the top! It'll be quite a show.)

This reminds me of something Jonah Goldberg wrote just days after September 11. It doesn't come across so well anymore, I guess, but it stuck with me like nothing else Goldberg's ever written-- jokey but in a distinctively defiant fashion that was much needed at the time. The column as a whole is, I think, one of his best; but this sentence in particular lodged itself in my brain and replays there every time I read or think about the design of the restored site.

But if we must have a shrine or monument for
our remorse, let's put it on the 200th floor, right
next to the antiaircraft guns.

I don't, finally, agree, but it's still always the first thought in my mind when WTC questions come up.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Via Brian Doherty: Virginia Heinlein has died.
My old colleague at WBRU news (95.5 FM in Providence), Aaron Schatz, has a piece telling the Democratic presidential contenders to stop trying to be John McCain, over at the American Prospect.
Stay tuned; the first of those two big announcements I mentioned last week is coming up in the next 24 hours.

Friday, January 24, 2003

Eric Muller asks a difficult question about Korematsu, as part of his ongoing reflections about the relationship (or lack of relationship) between the internment of Japanese-Americans and events of the past year and a half.
Eugene Volokh's been standing up for truth which, in this odd case, means standing up for Cynthia McKinney's reputation.

It's generally been the case that the internet has worsened the old "falsehood around the world/ truth putting on its boots" thing. By the time a correction had been made, the lie, rumor, or urban legend had been forwarded from e-mail to e-mail hundreds of thousands of times. Bloggers, at least sometimes, can give the truth a serious acceleration boost. For all that blogging seems like amateur pundits commenting on professional reporters, one of the most valuable services we provide is simple but public fact-checking.
John Lott, scholar

I haven't said much about the John Lott affair directly; just this rumination on the Mary Rosh thing. But I've been reading Tim Lambert's updates as well as associated commentary by folks such as Kieran Healy. The IRB question Kieran raises had occured to me, but I didn't follow up. Here's how it now looks to me:

Even if Lott conducted the survey exactly as he says he did, it was sloppy, shoddy, and pretty dramatically invalid. It shouldn't have been used as the basis even for one sentence in the book, much less for a claim that he repeated over and over and over again. If, as seems likely, he didn't go through the IRB (one would think that if he had, he'd by now have gotten a copy of his proposal back from them and released it; they keep such things), then he violated professional rules. If he used the methodology he described, then he has no more business conducting surveys and using them as evidence in his scholarly writings than, well, I do. But I know better. Even if I had a spare couple of grand burning a hole in my pocket *and* a point that I wanted to make using opinion data, I wouldn't just spontaneously make up a survey and hire students to conduct it. (I should note that, given the way things are done here at Chicago, I find the notion that he paid out of pocket with no records particularly implausible.) I'd work with someone who knew what he or she was doing. There are plenty of such people at Chicago.

In short: if Lott's not a liar, then he's a very, very sloppy researcher who violates rules of professional conduct. Not good, and not someone who ought to be defended, regardless of how much we may want his conclusions to be true.

UPDATE: I've received additional confirmation of Lambert's suggestion that IRB procedures aren't SOP in law schools in general. (The confirmation didn't come from colleagues here at Chicago, whom I haven't asked.) At some point, this may well blow up in someone's face. When my friends in business complain that their lawyers won't let them do stuff they want to do, I always remind them: Your lawyers are there to protect you against making mistakes, and against other people being able to say later that you screwed up. Now I'll start saying the same to law professors about IRBs.

Lott's defenders, and Lott himself, are making a great deal out of the peripheralness of the 98% figure. But that makes it all the stranger. Why keep repeating and repeating a claim for which one has no valid evidence, when it would be no great sacrifice to drop it? Why misattribute it, and fail to cite the existing studies that show different results, when it matters so little?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Mark Kleiman hits many of the same points.
Perfidious Marianne

Reading this and this, I'll confess that I can't quite understand what happened on Monday. It's not that I don't understand French public opposition to a war that they privately think will come and want to be on the right side of. I can't understand the diplomatic move: publicly humiliating Colin Powell, cutting him off at the kneecaps. Precommitting, in the case of Germany, to voting against the resolution. This all seems tailor-made to drive the U.S. off the Powell-Security Council path altogether. The maneuver on Monday didn't advance any French or German objective: tying the U.S. to the Security Council, strengthening Powell, preventing a war, protecting French interests in Iraq. It seems to have petulant, spiteful, and self-defeating.

"Perfidious Marianne" has a nice ring to it; it's time to do away with the undeserved slur on Steadfast Albion's character...
Remembering BuckPAC

The Note writes:

William F. Buckley (whose appearance at the Lieberman announcement
in Stamford has still not been fully explained)

Well, I didn't know about it, but I can explain it.

The key words: Lowell Weicker.

That former Connecticut Senator, more despised by conservatives in his day as a RINO (Republican In Name Only) than even Jeffords was when he belonged to the GOP, had a constituent-- we'll call him WFB-- who was, well, rather more conservative than he. WFB also happened to be a man of some prestige among conservative Republicans, for a variety of reasons. When, in 1988, Weicker was challenged by a Democrat names Joe Lieberman, WFB (and his nonpoor family) swung into action. WFB endorsed Lieberman, who sort-of ran against Weicker from the right. WFB's clan embarked on some serious fundraising for the Democrat, even creating a "BuckPAC" for the purpose. And WFB made sure that his fellow conservatives knew to vote for the pro-death-penalty anti-Communist Orthodox Jew, against the tax-raising Republican who wanted to lift the embargo on Cuba. Lieberman won the race, and the victory was attributed to Republican crossover.

Even if there's no eventual endorsement this time, it's hardly a surprise that WFB would be invited to, and would, turn out to show moral support on announcement day for the homestate Senator whose career he did so much to advance, and to whom he is no doubt still grateful for dispatching Weicker. "Longtime supporters" do that kind of thing.
Around the web/ miscellany

Heh. Sometimes one wants more than snark, but when snark is called for, Kinsley does it well. (I would have thought than "sanctimonious" has more the right flavor than "pious.")

Thursday, January 23, 2003

An intersection between two of my cornerstone interests, comics and political philosophy, was revealed by the search engine words that brought someone to this site: It appears that John Rawls' grandson Tyhib (whose name was on this site as one of the philosopher's survivors, from an obituary) is the artist and co-writer of a SF/ martial-arts comic, Smoke.

The things one learns...
Readingthis article about the Democrats at the NARAL dinner, I couldn't help remembering the wisdom of Bloom County.

Who remembers what "Gephardtization" referred to? To which lead character was it done?

(And: does anyone happen to have any of the relevant strips scanned in or otherwise electronically accessible?)

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Christopher Caldwell thinks that the Bush brief amounts to "the most important substantive defense of affirmative action ever issued by a sitting president. If the Court accepts the president’s reasoning, it will have rescued affirmative action from what appeared to be a terminal constitutional illogic. More than that–it will have secured for this rickety program an indefinite constitutional legitimacy."

Quick response: read Josh Chafetz's analysis. By making up new standards of the importance of state interests, the brief manages to be rhetorically pro-"diversity" [i.e. racial diversity] while arguing neither for nor against the key claim: that diversity is a compelling state interest even in the absence of prior discrimination. Calling it an "entirely legitimate" interest is a kind of constitutional damning with faint praise. Caldwell has only noticed the praise.
Tapped writes:

As discussed earlier, the low-population Red states in the Western/Mountain areas --
while they send a fair number of Democrats to the Senate these days -- vote Republican
in presidential elections. That's important, because electoral votes are allocated by giving
states one vote for each member of the House they send (which correlates roughly to a
state's population size) plus one for each senator. So a state like South Dakota, which
as only one representative but two senators, gets three electoral votes. That gives states
with small populations an edge, and most of the states with small populations go to the GOP.

If you strip each state of its two Senate electoral votes, and add up the 30 states George W.
Bush and the 21 (including D.C.) Al Gore won in 2000 (awarding Florida to Bush), guess who
wins? Gore, with 224 electoral votes to Bush's 211.

The question of how the Electoral College biases outcomes is old hat among political scientists-- and it has two components that can't be taken in isolation from each other. One is the one Tapped notes-- the massive increase in the relative voting power of small states because every state (large or small) gets two more electoral votes than its number of Representatives. The other is the fact (not dictated by the Constitution but by the state law of 48 states) that electoral votes are awarded on a winner-take-all basis by state. Notice that 224-211 is a much bigger margin than Gore's popular-vote plurality (c. 6% vs. <1%). That's driven by awarding all of the electoral votes from California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Illinois to Gore. (Bush won fewer big or very big states-- Florida, Texas, and Ohio. IIRC.) Given that, currently, cities vote Democratic and rural counties tend to vote Republican, the electoral college over-rewards Democrats for their urban majorities in states such as New York, and denies Republicans any benefit from their large rural votes in such places.

The Electoral College increases the proportionate weight of very small states; but also creates massive returns to even tiny pluralities in very big states. One overweights for rural constituencies, one for urban constituencies. They don't perfectly cancel out; but they come closer to cancelling out than Tapped's math suggests.
Women and Muslim minorities in Europe

Two news stories today about women's rights and immigration to European countries. From the NYT, continued coverage of the Muslim dissident woman running for Parliament in the Netherlands. Via Best of the Web, this story from Norway about an immigrant's sentence for the rape of a mentally handicapped woman being reduced to a fine (from an initial, whopping, sixty days in prison) "on the grounds that he had only lived 12 years in Norway and so had difficulty understanding the victim's condition."

The Norwegian case is pretty dismaying, though that doesn't make it easy.

The accused, a 22-year-old taxi driver originally from the Middle East,
explained that he found nothing odd about the woman's appearance or
behavior. The woman used a 'TT-card' - a transport sponsorship arrangement
for the handicapped - when paying for the ride.

The accused also argued that cab drivers often talked about easy sex offers
from female passengers, especially late on weekends. He also believed that
it was easy to sleep with Norwegian girls one had just met.

The court ruled unanimously that the accused should not serve jail time, but
was ordered to pay the woman NOK 25,000 in damages and to replace her
ruined coat.

The court found that the man's comprehension of the Norwegian language was
worse than that expected of someone resident since 1990 and could not rule
out that his age, cultural background and immaturity could have contributed to the assault.

The thing is that-- as conservatives are eager to remind us in the case of allegations of date rape on college campuses and so on-- mens rea and intent are relevant to our thinking about rape. Someone' s failure to understand someone else's incapacity to give consent-- or someone's genuine misunderstanding about whether someone else has given consent-- matter. How, and how much, such things matter are vexed questions in both law and philosophy. But if and to the degree that they matter, then the courts shouldn't rule out considerations of culture in sorting them out. It's pretty dismaying if some Middle Eastern men in Norway are so isolated from Norwegian society that they believe women are likely to have sex with their taxi drivers at the drop of a hat. And it's pretty dismaying if immigrants are so isolated that twelve years isn't enough time to allow the courts to assume that an immigrant has basically figured such things out. (And, frankly, it's pretty dismaying that, in the absence of such extenuating circumstances, the trial court only handed down a sixty-day sentence.) But if those things are true, then it seems to me they do affect mens rea and intent. Cases such as this are different from pure cases of what's referred to as the "cultural defense," in which a violent act is actively defended as being a genuinely appropriate cultural tradition-- Hmong betrothal-by-capture-and-rape, female genital mutilation, the killing of unfaithful spouses, kidnapping and beatings as part of initiation rites into an Indian tribe. In those cases, the defense isn't "I didn't understand that my victim didn't consent" but "I deny that the court's standards of consent are relevant, because the practice in question has a cultural justification that doesn't depend on consent." I think that defenses of the latter sort can't be accepted, but that defenses of the former sort are at least sometimes relevant to any system that in general considers intent as part of the criminal law.

I've written on such matters further in The Multiculturalism of Fear, especially chapter 2.
Rosh to judgment

From time to time I worry about the permanent virtual paper trail created by a decade's worth of e-mails, listserv postings, Usenet postings, and now blogging. I have moments of wondering: "When I'm trying to impress readers of my book, professional colleagues, etc, do I really want to be worried that they might turn up x bit of writing from a thorough web search?" I know people who, for that reason, use online pseudonyms for everything that's not stictly professional. A few academic bloggers, especially junior faculty whose political views differ from the mainstream of their disciplines', blog pseudonymously to protect themselves. I've never gone that route; as a result, if someone wants to discredit an argument from my academic writings by quoting from something I once said on rec.arts.comics.dc.vertigo, they're able to do so. As I said, I sometimes wonder about the wisdom of this.

But the cloak of anonymity is sometimes too tempting; the liberation provided by no one knowing you're a dog can loose internal constraints that really ought to stay put. To wit:

Julian Sanchez noticed that his comment section included a number of defenses of John Lott by one Mary Rosh; and that some of these defenses depended on non-public knowledge about who had or hadn't personally corresponded with Lott. Julian then noticed that Rosh's IP address matched Lott's precisely; and that Rosh's voluminous Usenet postings were entirely made up of defenses of or posts about John Lott. Indeed, some of them provided character testimony ("Lott was very nice when he taught me in class," that sort of thing).

Lott subsequently confirmed that he used the Rosh sock puppet "as a way to respond to points in online discussions... without the time commitment posts under his real name might have required."

The lesson, I guess, is that it's probably wiser to make the time commitment to say what you have to say under your name, and not to be tempted by the laxness that's possible behind a cloak of pseudonymity. If you use such a cloak-- and I do understand that there can be good reasons for it-- use it to talk about things other than yourself. But that cloak can offer false safety, and I'm going to stick with the business of attaching my name to what I write.

I've been doing reading about Destutt de Tracy and Thomas Jefferson. Tracy's book-length commentary on Spirit of the Laws couldn't safely be published in Napoleonic France. Jefferson translated it and arranged for its anonymous publication in the U.S.-- that is, neither Tracy's nor Jefferson's name appeared. Jefferson then wrote a great many letters praising the book, commending it to students and universities and friends, and generally talking about how wonderful and impressive it was. And, frankly, those letters now seem a little weird, almost creepy-- even though keeping Tracy anonymous was clearly necessary. (NB: I haven't been able to determine whether Jefferson derived any financial benefit from sales of his translation, but I suspect that he did not.)
Iraq on campus

The Chronicle asks: "Should Faculties Take a Stand?" ("A stand" means "a stand against war with Iraq," which I take not as a sign that the Chronicle's biased but as a sign that it understands which way faculty senates, in general, would vote; "faculties" means "faculties as corporate bodies," i.e. faculty senates, not individual professors.)

I've quoted from it before, but I think there is much wisdom in it and I'll quote from it again. My university's Kalven Report, which has quasi-constitutional status around here, says:

The mission of the university is the discovery, improvement, and dissemination of knowledge.
Its domain of inquiry and scrutiny includes all aspects and all values of society. A university
faithful to its mission will provide enduring challenges to social values, policies, practices, and
institutions. By design and by effect, it is the institution which creates discontent with the
existing socal arrangements and proposes new ones. In brief, a good university, like Socrates,
will be upsetting.

The instrument of dissent and criticism is the individual faculty member or the individual student.
The university is the home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic. It is, to go back once
again to the classic phrase, a community of scholars. To perform its mission in the society,
a university must sustain an extraordinary environment of freedom of inquiry and maintain an
independence from political fashions, passions, and pressures. A university, if it is to be true
to its faith in intellectual inquiry, must embrace, be hospitable to, and encourage the widest
diversity of views within its own community. It is a community but only for the limited, albeit
great, purposes of teaching and reseacrh. It is not a club, it is not a trade association, it is not a

Since the university is a community only for these limited and distinctive purposes, it is a
community which cannot take collective action on the issues of the day without endangering
the conditions for its existence and effectiveness. There is no mechanism by which it can
reach a collective position without inhibiting that full freedom of dissent on which it thrives.
It cannot insist that all of its members favor a given view of social policy; if it takes collective
action, therefofre, it does so at the price of censuring any minority who does not agree with
the view adopted. In brief, it is a community which cannot resort to majority vote to reach
positions on public issues.

The neutrality of the university as an institution arises then not from a lack of courage nor out
of indifference and insensitivity. It arises out of respect for free inquiry and the obligation to
cherish a diversity of viewpoints. And this neutrality as an institution has its complement in
the fullest freedom for its faculty and students as individuals to participate in political action
and social protest. It finds its complement, too, in the obligation of the university to provide
a forum for the most searching and candid discussion of public issues.

In other words: no.

UPDATE: The very next day, Stanley Fish quoted from the same passage here, in his Chronicle column on related subjects.
Laloca has the rundown on last night's NARAL dinner, and the speeches by the Democratic presidential candidates.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Remember this lovely, classy post from John Derbyshire in The Corner last week?
(Andrew Sullivan commented on it.)

"A friend in DC emails to tell me that there are 100,000
antiwar protestors on the Mall. I am reminded of watching
the New York St. Patrick's Day parade once with a friend
of Ulster Unionist sympathies. As the massed ranks of
Irish marched past, my friend sighed and said: 'The things
you see when you don't have a gun!'"

Well, it's gone down the memory hole, as noted by Gene Healy and Jesse Walker.

Of course, NRO is entirely within its rights, and indeed entirely right, to remove content from its website that violates its norms, editorial message, and sense of propriety. Any magazine, and any magazine's website, properly exercizes discretionary control over its own content. And NR in particular has a history of seeing itself as policing the boundaries of respectability in the conservative movement (a history that long predates the Ann Coulter brouhaha).

What this latest event puts into stark relief is: NRO is willing to take down Derb's comments when it deems them offensive and over-the-line-- which means that it doesn't consider his constant racial vitriol and venom against gays to be over the line. As I've asked before, when Jonah Goldberg criticized libertarians for not properly policing their own boundaries: What about Derbyshire?
Bob Bartley contemplates the rise of a Republican Establishment, comparable to the Democratic Establishment of the second half of the twentieth century. But he seems to think that, from a conservative perspective, this would be a good thing. Didn't conservatives used to indict the Democratic Establishment for being sclerotic and bereft of ideas and incapable of fresh thought? Is it really such a victory to gain that status oneself? In this context, recall this George Packer article from the Nation.
Brink Lindsey's back in blogging action, talking about his current trip to east Asia.
I've gotta admit: I love this story (blogged by Eugene Volokh but also covered in yesterday's WSJ) about a court deciding against the humanity of the X-Men. Other good stuff from the Conspiracy: Eugene shares a free sample of his guide to writing law review articles.

Monday, January 20, 2003

The best stuff I read over the weekend and this morning was mostly from the left-blogosphere: Josh Marshall on Confederatistas, Mark Kleiman on lots of stuff including the coverage of Condaleeza Rice's position on affirmative action; Matthew Yglesias on lots of stuff from Eldred to Kymlicka to Scanlon; Chris Bertram's syllabus on public reason and justification.

I'm on leave this year, so I won't be posting any new syllabi anytime soon. On the other hand, most of my syllabi are already out there in public on the web, here.

This will be a light blogging week, but there are two announcements coming up within the next ten days...
A new feature, inspired by laloca: my current, recent, and upcoming pleasure reading, at the bottom of the sidebar to the left. I've also updated the blogroll in general.

Friday, January 17, 2003

In the new National Review, John O'Sullivan has an article (not online) in which he says what a shame it is that the "self-righteous mob" of "libertarians, conservatives, and neoconservatives," especially bloggers, succeeded in hounding poor Trent Lott from office. I'm going to comment more extensively next week. But to begin with:

"Into this political gap [between the national and the southern Democratic party] stepped the Republicans-- including Trent Lott-- to persuade a resentful reagion to accept a steady movement toward racial equality. In order to soothe the South into accepting the Civil Rights Act, such politicians had to treat their constituents not as bigots but as essentially good people open to change... [T]hey had to make speeches to bodies like the White Citizens' Council.
"What did those speeches say? Usually, behind closed doors, they went like this: 'Look, boys, I know you all are decent folks. But we gotta admit we treated the Negroes badly, and there have to be some changes. Some of those changes I don't like any more than you. Others-- let's admit it-- are long overdue. And all of them will help us attract new industries and make everybody, white and black, better off. But we need responsible leadership. And that sure as hell doesn't mean the northern Democrats.'
"This kind of politics is uninspiring, which explains why a master of it, like Trent Lott, strikes Charles Krauthammer, Andrew Sullivan, and the philosophers of the blogosphere as insincere and opportunist."

This sounds like Georgia. It doesn't sound like Mississippi. And it sure doesn't sound like Trent Lott.

Is there anyevidence that Lott was a master of this sort of politics? That he ever lifted a finger to bring his fellow white southerners along in this way? That he ever told them that any of the changes of the civil rights era were "long overdue"? In his floundering statements after the Thurmond speech, I did not hear someone who knew in his heart that Jim Crow was wrong, but had had to compromise with the sensibilities of those who didn't know. I heard someone who was only just then beginning to think about Jim Crow at all. Lott's astonishment and befuddlement, as much as anything else, indicted him and makes O'Sullivan's portrait implausible.

Now I've never been tro a meeting of a White Citizen's Council; maybe O'Sullivan has and knows what he's talking about. But even if--if!-- this was the message that some enlightened southern Republicans were spreading to their neighbors, I don't see anything in Trent Lott's public career that would suggest that he was one of them.
Don't miss Virginia Postrel's "State of the States" posting. She quotes the following from USA Today on those poo, impoverished state governments:

The printed sidebar includes a great chart, unavailable online,
that shows the average annual change in each state's budget
from 1997 to 2002 and the projected change for 2003. Examples:
California's state budget grew 9.4% a year from 1997 to 2002
and is projected to shrink by 0.2% this year; Colorado's grew
8.1% a year and is shrinking 2.7% this year; Virginia's grew
8.0% a year and is projected to grow 1.6% this year.

A 9.4% annual growth rate means a doubling of the state budget every seven-and-a-half years.

Regardless of how one feels about Keynesian stimuli, state spending ought to be countercyclical on simple grounds of responsiveness to need. There is something perverse about having to cut spending (even if by .2%) at the moment when legitimate claims on unemployment insurance and poverty relief are rising. But that means that spending should fall during the flush times. Instead, the states went on an astonishing spending binge during the second half of the 90s.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Best of the Web often seems to be a bit sarcasm-and-irony impaired. Witness:

[Quoting Will Saletan:]
You know this isn't going to be a standard Democratic presidential
campaign kickoff when the guy introducing Sen. Joe Lieberman asks
everyone to stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance. With cameras
rolling, Lieberman turns to the wall and recites the magic words:
allegiance, flag, America, God. Stepping to the podium, he speaks
of our "God-given talents." He says he feels "blessed by God" and
believes "God's work must truly be our own." "My faith is at the center
of who I am," he continues. "I'll not hesitate to talk about faith when it's
relevant or to invoke God's name. . . . If the spirit moves me occasionally
to say a word or two of faith, I think it's a very American thing to do."

He smiles and sips from his glass as the audience applauds.
Nobody's going to out-Christian Joe Lieberman.

[now this is Taranto's comment:]
Lieberman is not Christian at all. He's Jewish. Then again, Saletan may be better off for not having known this fact. It would've sounded really bad if he'd written: "Nobody's going to out-Jew Joe Lieberman."

It's sometimes tricky to explain the blindingly obvious without sounding stupid oneself, but let me give it a shot. Will Saletan knows perfectly well that Joe Lieberman is Jewish. That's why he wrote what he wrote. Y'see, the whole point is that one might think that Lieberman's Judaism was going to be a problem in a majority-Christian country-- that some other candidate would "out-Christian" him because, well, he's not Christian. But Lieberman's shtick is to use his religious Judaism as an asset, because it allows him to demonstrate how much he has in common with believing, church-going Christians. He can pre-empt anyone who tries to out-Christian him because he'll out-religion them.

A question for readers. Did anyone besides James Taranto fail to immediately understand what "Nobody's going to out-Christian Joe Lieberman" meant?
Pejman is impressed by this story about an alleged shift in American public opinion against abortion. I'm not. Abortion polls are notoriously sensitive to changes in wording, and "are you in favor of restoring legal protection for unborn children?" is hardly a careful or subtle way to phrase the question. The sponsoring organization didn't publish the precise results or the list of questions asked-- never a good sign. The reputability of the pollster isn't at issue. The best pollster in the world, if commissioned to conduct a survey using loaded questions, will yield loaded results. The most professional sampling and phoning and weighting won't fix the bias in the questions.

This USA Today poll shows that the shift against abortion has been a matter of a few points. As I recall, the traditional rule of thumb was that the population could be divided into thirds-- a third would answer that abortion should always be legal, a third never or close to never, and a third would be in the middle (oppose public funding, or oppose third trimester abortions, etc, but not want early abortions to be banned or regulated based on the reason for the abortion). The hardcore pro-life answer is up to 38% (plus or minus 3%). Only about 30% (same margin of error) oppose a ban on partial-birth abortion (NB: stipulated to be "during the last six months of a pregnancy"-- a thirteenth-week abortion is hardly the image circulated by proponents of the partial-birth ban), which I think we can take to be the hardcore pro-choice constituency. That's a shift, but not an overwhelming one. The remaining 32% or so remain in the middle. I think it's worth noting that the ban-partial-birth-abortion figure is virtually identical to the "are you in favor of restoring legal protection for unborn children?" figure from the other survey. This suggests to me that when people heard that question, they were thinking about partial-birth abortion (or even, e.g., about the questions involving criminal assault or murder against both mother and fetus), not about all abortion as such.

Advocates and opponents of affirmative action both seem to me to have overinflated expectations about the importance of the Michigan case. As long as O'Connor is the swing vote in affirmative action cases, we're not going to get a sweeping, dramatic statement from the Court one way or the other. We're going to continue in the Bakke/Powell holding pattern-- probably steadily reducing the number of approved policies, but never flatly ruling out state-sponsored affirmative action. In the Michigan case, O'Connor's opinion will abstain from judging whether diversity is ever a sufficient rationale for racial preferences in university admissions but will hold that the Michigan policy crossed the Bakke line of acceptability even if the diversity rationale is legitimate. The policy will be struck down (certainly the undergrad policy, likely the law school policy as well), but the diversity argument won't be decisively disallowed or decisively allowed.

Tapped is keenly interested in getting opponents of affirmative action to talk about legacy admissions. I'm much more interested in athletic admissions-- a problem that interacts with affirmative action in complicated and unpleasant ways. I can't understand why the current degree of atheletic admission-preference (much greater than either race or legacy preference) isn't treated as an obvious scandal requiring action long before the hard question of affirmative action is even reached...
As part of my ongoing interest in the fate of liberal parties, I'd been planning to post something about the Israeli party Shinui, its recent upturn in the polls, and about what good news that is. Matthew Yglesias has gotten there first, praising Shinui's foreign policy. I'm a bit more interested in their domestic platform-- resolute secularism combined with moderately market-oriented economics. But, in any event, keep a hopeful thought for Shinui's prospects. It would be very good if Shinui emerged ahead of Shas, and very very good if it emerged ahead of Labor-- and both now seem at least possible. (Beating Likud isn't in the cards-- this time...)

UPDATE: See Noah Millman's guide to Israeli parties.
The inspectors have found warheads for chemical weapons. CNN doesn't say, but I think it's safe to assume that, even empty, these warheads are on the list of prohibited items. It's also safe to assume that they weren't in the disclosure, or finding them wouldn't have mattered much...

UPDATE: Iraq claims that the warheads were listed in the disclosure.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Rod Dreher asks

Turkish authorities are investigating a Catholic priest who baptized
a Muslim who later turned on him. According to the news organization
Zenit, Turkish authorities have seized the Capuchin's passport...Can
anybody imagine the government of any historically Christian EU
member state putting an imam under investigation for receiving a
Christian into the Muslim faith?

to which the answer is: of course. Throughout the lands of the Eastern Empire, through the areas governed either by Islam or by Orthodox Christianity, the traditional understanding of freedom of religion for those not of the dominant faith is: you may believe (though we'd rather you didn't), you may practice (under severe constraints), but you may not attempt to convert a member of the dominant faith. Proseletyzation, apostasy, and conversion have all been deeply frowned upon from Russia to Greece to Muslim India to Indonesia. Greece's statute, overturned by the European Court of Human Rights in 1993, prohibited anyone who was not Greek Orthodox from speaking about their beliefs to anyone who was. [Kokkinakis v. Greece (25 May 1993), Strasbourg 3/1992/348/421 (Eur. Ct. H.R.)]

In Turkey this inheritance is mixed together with the Ataturkish legacy of hostility to all religion. In any event, Greece was admitted to the EU, despite its Byzantine tradition of suppression of religious liberty; then the ECHR struck the laws down. If there's a civilizational breaking point between tolerant west and intolerant east, then Bosporus is the wrong place to draw it; and several states that lie on Turkey's side of the line are now officially in the queue (in addition to one, Greece, that's already a member).

Turkey has plenty of genuine human rights problems; but we should avoid making them seem unique, or overlooking the fact that some EU states have had to change rather a lot, or exaggerating the differences between Turkey and its neighbors to the west.

[Compare religious freedom in contemporary Russia.)

Mark Kleiman has a laugh-out-loud funny resolution to Newcomb's [-and-Nozick's] Problem. Well, at least I laughed out loud, though maybe that tells you more about me than about the resolution.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

A thought on Tim Noah's ongoing coverage of the are-the-poor-relatively-undertaxed question and associated problems about how to interpret the payroll tax.

It seems to me that Larry Lindsey's argument,

The way Social Security is set up, is when I pay another
dollar for Social Security tax, I buy an explicit, legislated
amount of benefits. … I pay the money in, I get the money
out, and that's all there is to it. Now, as a first pass, therefore,
it wouldn't make sense to me to call the OASDI contribution a
tax, even though we all do. … I can't see a logical reason why
we should include the Social Security OASDI portion of that,
in its entirety, as a tax. I think we should write our [distribution]
tables without it there. It is purely a private good.

(which Noah characterizes as "Lindsey invited the audience to think of the Social Security portion of the payroll tax as not being a tax at all, but rather something like a Christmas Club") is a very problematic one for Social Security privatizers. In perpetuating the myth that the "OASDI contribution" is something other than a tax, and Social Security something other than a redistributive spending program Lindsey risks making privatization look superfluous. After all, if Social Security is already structured as individuals paying into their own accounts and purchasing a private good (an annuity), then what's the big deal? Of course it's not. The Supreme Court has held that there is no property right (no "private good") in one's Social Security "account," that the "explicit, legislated amount of benefits" is subject to revision at Congressional whim. This is part of the problem with Social Security. It would be better if Social Security were organized in the way Lindsey describes, but it's not.

On the other hand, opponents of privatization typically like to characterize Social Security in a way similar to this. (No one's going to touch "your" Social Security benefits.) The pretense that payroll taxes are special and have some intimate link with future Social Security benefits is typically made by defenders of the system. Open admission that the payroll tax is just like any other source of revenue and Social Security is just like any other spending program is likely to do serious damage to the sacred status of Social Security. In other words, the argument being made on the left right now in the context of tax distribution could come back to bite them when talking about Social Security in particular.

One more complication: When payroll taxes are understood as having a tight relationship to future benefits, then the regressivity argument becomes more complicated, because the benefits structure on the other end is tilted progressive. (Once I was told by people who studied this sort of thing that the regressivity of the tax and the progressivity of the benefits pretty nearly balance out, though I certainly didn't do the math myself.) If, on the other hand, the payroll tax is just a tax, then it's clearly a regressive one.
Updates below on Senate rules and wacky web searches.
Don't miss Josh Chafetz on John Derbyshire.
Run, Dennis, run! In a largish primary field, anything that splits the Gephardt protectionist vote is a very good thing.
Quoth Mark Kleiman:

Glenn Loury makes an observation on the Trent Lott affair I haven't heard anyone
else make. While Lott was thrashing about madly in an attempt to keep his head
above water, he more or less offered to make concessions on various race-related
policy issues in return for support from African-Americans and those who identify
with their aspirations. That offer was not merely rejected, it was mocked. That seems
to Glenn to have been an unwise move, in purely interest-group terms.

That conservatives should have opposed any such deal is obvious. Lott's stepping
down was no great loss to them, and they certainly wouldn't have wanted to see
those concessions made. But why should Lott's overtures have been rejected with
such contempt by most of the black political leadership and its white allies? Was
it really so much more important to punish Lott than to secure practical advantage
from his misstep?

Even if his proclaimed rebirth as an anti-racist was insincere, he might still have
kept whatever deal he made. Now the Republicans have cast all their racist sins
onto this scapegoat, and neither he nor his party is left owing African-Americans

I haven't seen or heard the relevant Loury argument, so I can only comment on Mark's synopsis of it. The Bennie Thompson route would have been smart interest-group politics only in the shortest of short terms. To be seen to be cutting a deal of this sort with Lott would have left "the [left-progressive] black political leadership and its white allies" with their moral capital terribly diminished. This would amount to a public reconfiguring of race politics from a moral and a moralized issue into publiclu-acknowledged spolis system of interest-group politics. It would have made, for example, affirmative action come across as no different from the Robert Byrd National Gallery in West Virginia or Lott Air Force Base in Mississippi, or ADM's subsidies. The public knows and cares so little about those kinds of pork that they get through. There's a well-established base of opposition to affirmative action, and a largish group of people who are sympathetic to affirmative action despite finding it distasteful because they think it's the right thing to do. The latter would have been disspirited and alienated, and the former greatly energized, by this reconfiguring of the politics around affirmative action. For affirmative action to be publicly reunderstood as pure pork isn't in the medium- or long-term interest of affirmative action advocates; for civil rights groups to take on the public image of extortionists such as Sharpton isn't in their interest. The moral high ground is strategically useful.

I would add: this is as it should be. 'Tis better to at least try to make principled arguments in politics than to abandon the attempt...

Monday, January 13, 2003

Julian Sanchez has a very nice post about scholarly inquiry, the capacit5y to revise one's views, and public political commentary. The urge he's talking about represents an honorable part of the paradox of the public intellectual, to wit:
1) A good scholar is attracted to questions to which he or she does not yet know the answer.
2) This leads most good scholars to do something with their research other than writing elaborate justifications for the views of which they are already most certain. These views may be bedrock moral and political principles.
3) In public commentary, the scholar may:
a) comment on the areas of his or her primary expertise-- which ex hypothesi are the topics about which, at least at some point, the scholar considered the answers to be unclear, the disagreements to be interesting, the results to be interestingly nuanced and complicated-- which is likely to lead to public statements that the scholar knows to be oversimplifications or at least legitimately controversial;
b) comment on the topics about which his or her views are pretty firmly settled, which ex hypothesi aren't the topics on which the scholar has genuine professional expertise.

There are obvious easy cases. An economist doesn't have to be a specialist in rent-control to make professionally-informed public statements about its consequences; nor does he or she have to simplify or ignore ongoing debates and controversies. Those consequences are part of the well-established disciplinary knowledge of economics. A biologist needn't specialize in evolutionary biology to comment on the "only a theory" creationist claptrap. But across a wide range of subjects, I think this is a genuine problem.
Matthew Yglesias responds to Nick Denton's critique of libertarian hawks. But they both seem to me to miss some important points.

Both of them suppose that American hawkishness has some innate connection with antidemocraticness, as though the central case of U.S. intervention these days were an invasion to overthrow the elected Chavez. This allows Nick to say that libertarians trust individuals at home but distrust the people abroad, and Matthew to say that libertarians trust individuals but not the people as a collective body.

I'm hardly going to defend the administration's Venezuala screw-up. But is it even the teensiest bit relevant that Taliban wasn't and the Ba'ath regime isn't a democratically elected government? That it's against such overseas dictatorships that the libertarian hawks are advocating the use of force? It seems to me that regardless of whether one trusts individuals or democratic populaces, there's no argument derived from "trusting the people of Iraq" against an invasion. There are plenty of important arguments, but that's not one of them. (Nor is any argument based on the related idea of national self-determination.)

Now all libertarians, hawkish and otherwise, understand the paradox of libertarian hawkishness. It has nothing to do with trusting "the people." it has to do with trusting the state-- the government of the United States. The same agent that libertarians distrust in almost all circumstances, the agent whose failings they document all the time, the agent whose warped incentives and limited knowledge and political character and greed for power makes it so untrustworthy, is the agent that undertakes wars. Moreover, there's an especially strong tendency for even domestic state size and power to expand during wartime. For these reasons the standard libertarian position has traditionally been anti-interventionist. Roderick Long continues to argue for the primacy of those considerations, and for the libertarian moral theory that rests on the prohibition on the initiation of force (by states or anyone else). Brink Lindsey has argued at length that such considerations are provisional and of a ceteris paribus character and that there's no argument from libertarian principle prohibiting the use of force to increase the freedom of others. Tom Palmer and many others think that the balance of considerations justified action against Afghanistan but does not against Iraq.

But even Brink acknowledges that there are tensions and countervailing considerations. They're just not the ones Nick or Matthew pointed out.
I have little that's new to add to the discussions of the Illinois death sentence commutations. But I do want to register my tremendous relief; for a while it looked as if Ryan was going wobbly under massive political assault from prosecutors and victims' families. In the end, having no political future anyways freed him to do the right thing, the thing that he knew was right.
Political science news: Gabriel Almond has died at 91.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

Parliamentary procedure doesn't, in general, baffle me; and three months interning on the Hill 'way back when, plus my permanent news obsession, have left me with a moderately clear understanding of Congressional procedures. (My Ph.D. in political science added nothing to that knowledge; I must've been sick the day we covered Congress in class.)

But I have no understanding of the rules governing the Senate organizing resolution. How can it possibly be that committee chairs can't turn over without Democratic approval? Could an outgoing-majority party just hold onto committee chairmanships (and budgets, and majorities) forever? Is this a norm of civility-- "because we like to think of the Senate as a gentlemanly club we like to agree on the rules of the game in advance"? Or is it, as reports seem to suggest, an actual procedural rule that both parties must agree to the organizing resolution?

I remember that in 2000 Lott agreed to an organizing resolution that Republicans were none too happy with, and that it governed the change in party control a few months later. If he'd negotiated harder, could he have gotten a resolution that would have preserved Republican control of committees after Jeffords' switch?

In short: at what point could a floor majority ram through an organizing resolution? Is there any such point? What's the longest it's ever taken to get the resolution approved?

Congress trivia junkies and Congress scholars (overlapping but non-identical groups), whaddayknow?

UPDATE 1: Decided to look around for the answer. What seems to me the relevant section of the Senate standing rules doesn't mention anything about supermajorities or consensus rules. But the words "organizing resolution" don't appear, so I'll keep looking. Elsewhere, I see the following:

ch. 25 section. 4 par. (c) By agreement entered into by the majority leader and the minority leader, the membership of one or more standing committees may be increased temporarily from time to time by such number or numbers as may be required to accord to the majority party a majority of the membership of all standing committees. When any such temporary increase is necessary to accord to the majority party a majority of the membership of all standing committees, members of the majority party in such number as may be required for that purpose may serve as members of three standing committees listed in paragraph 2. No such temporary increase in the membership of any standing committee under this subparagraph shall be continued in effect after the need therefor has ended. No standing committee may be increased in membership under this subparagraph by more than two members in excess of the number prescribed for that committee by paragraph 2 or 3(a).

But that only seems to apply when the sizes of committees are being increased.

UPDATE: Chris Lawrence says that there's nothing especially obscure or exotic going on.

I think the issue is that the organizing resolution, like almost everything else
in the Senate (except, I believe, conference reports), is subject to filibuster.

Since the organizing resolution is your basic party-loyalty activity (like voting for your party's leader for Speaker of the House), the options are: a) one party has 60 votes and can pass the resolution unanimously; b) unanimity, as dictated by agreement between the party leaders, or c) paralysis.

Reader David Isaacson independently suggested the same thing.

Makes sense to me-- except in that it-doesn't-really-make-any-sense-at-all way...

UPDATE AGAIN: This makes rather more sense to me. A Congress scholar who wishes to remain anonymous writes:

Regarding your query, the answer likely lies in the fact that the Senate
is considered to be a "continuing body" unlike the House, which must
pass (or re-pass) its standing rules in each Congress. Only a third of
the membership is new each Congress, so the rules carry over from
Congress to Congress. If you parse the rules closely, you will see that
there is generally little reference to parties (majority & minority).
In particular, there are no rules against having minority party members
chair committees, a condition we witnessed as late as the early 20th C...

Binder and Smith have a good discussion of the continuing body issue in
Politics or Principle (Brookings, 1997). They discuss the issue in the
context of the difficulty of enacting cloture reform (reform of Rule
XXII). As a pragmatic matter, the Democrats won't be able to hold on
the committees indefinitely, but they are trying to extract as much as
they can.

The filibuster seemed insufficient as an explanation; it couldn't account for the continuing validity of the old organizing resolution since, in general, one Congress cannot bind its successor. But the Senate isn't ever binding its successor; it's binding "itself." Very interesting...
There'd something a little odd about Princeton economist Alan Krueger devoting his whole NYT column to plugging the research of currently-on-the-job-market Princeton grad student, Erica Field-- if not for the fact that she's working on a really exciting and important topic, the impact of Hernando de Soto's land-titling reforms on labor market participation in Peru, and for the fact (not mentioned in his column, but apparent from her CV) that he's not one of her advisors.

I'm a big, big believer in de Soto's title-reform agenda for Peru and most of the rest of the developing world. As Krueger notes, the effect Field has found isn't the main one de Soto predicts. But the effects are all of a piece; property titling lends security and stability to the lives of the most vulnerable. It makes sense that protection of basic physical security and protection from invasion precede labor market entry, which in turn precedes credit market entry. More former squatters having regular and documentable sources of income now means more former squatters who make plausible mortgagors in a few years; collateral is a necessary but often not sufficient condition for credit market access, since creditors would rather know how the loan is going to be serviced than to know that they're going to end up foreclosing.

Oddly, Krueger only mentioned Peruvian government studies of the credit market access question, and he reports that there's been no evidence of an improvement yet. But Field's list of working papers includes one on this question, and while the results aren't huge, they do seem to be present.

Do Property Titles Increase Credit Access among the Urban Poor? Evidence from Peru”(with Maximo Torero, mimeo, Princeton University, September 2002)

Abstract: The Peruvian urban titling program provides a dramatic natural experiment for testing the theory that credit rationing can be remedied by strengthening institutions governing property rights and increasing the collateral value of landholdings. This paper conducts an evaluation of early program impact on the likelihood of obtaining formal credit and on the interest rate at which formal credit can be obtained. Staggered program timing within cities enables us to construct comparison groups in program and non-program neighborhoods via propensity score based on observable criteria in loan applications. We then estimate the average treatment effect of property titling on credit access using kernel-based and nearest neighbor matching methods, looking separately at the impact among commercial and non-profit lenders. Our results suggest that among non-profit lenders land titles increase loan acceptance rates by 12% but have no influence on borrowing costs. Meanwhile, loan acceptance rates of both standard commercial banks and informal lenders are unaffected by residential ownership status, although interest rates in commercial banks appear slightly lower for title-holders. We attribute this pattern to the higher profitability of small loans for microfinance lenders with localized strategies for dealing with informational and enforcement costs and to greater public sector familiarity with the government titling effort.

NB: This is not an area of academic expertise for me; I read de Soto's translated works, but those aren't pieces of technical economics. I gather that Field is among the first economists to subject the reforms to rigorous testing; I haven't read her papers, and they don't seem to have been through peer review yet. With that proviso noted, here's the paper Krueger is talking about.

UPDATE: Brad deLong is impressed with Field's work as well.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Every so often bloggers self-indulgently list wacky combinations of search words that have led people to their sites.

My recent results yield some politics, some political philosophy, and some Lord of the Rings stuff (especially Haldir, for some reason-- maybe his name doesn't appear online as frequently as those of most characters, and so this site pops up early on the web searches). The one I really can't figure out combines politics and LotR:

narsil sword pakistan

What on earth was the occasion for searching for these words in combination?

UPDATE: According to reader Bert Wiener:
Pakistan is where a lot of replica
and fantasy 'cutlery' is produced. Perhaps someone is
looking for a site that's producing the shards of
Narsil. Now THAT's a serious collector!

More plausible than anything else I've heard. This year I've been bombarded by catalogs selling replica elven-rings and Lorien-brooches and Sting and so on. I don't remember anything selling a replica of the sword that was broken when it was still broken, though...

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

With the Democratic presidential field almost complete, I offer my first NH primary prediction, 55 weeks in advance. Richard "Eyebrowless Man" Gephardt, who utterly failed to connect with NH voters in 1988, will utterly fail to do so again in 2004. Protectionism, unionism, and midwestern agriculture subsidies just aren't the core issues for NH Democrats. He will finish no better than fifth, behind at least Kerry, Lieberman, Edwards, and Dean. In the 1984 NH Democratic primary there were Democrats who finished behind write-ins for Ronald Reagan on the Democratic ballot. Success for Gephardt in NH will be finishing ahead of write-ins for Bush, and ahead of Al Sharpton; and he might not pull those off.
The NYT has mostly lagged behind the Washington Post on coverage of the Indian trust fund scandal, but it gave the most recent developments the coverage they deserve.
Dan Drezner has a round-up of coverage of the American Economics Association and American Historical Association annual meetings. The last couple of weeks have also, of course, seen the annual meetings of the American Association of Law Schools, the American Philosophical Association (East), and the Modern Language Association (see coverage here). This means grad students in all those disciplines have been going through the hazing ritual known as conference interviews. Dan's happy that the APSA meets at the beginning of the school year because over Labor Day the reporters who write snarky academic-mocking articles are still on their August vacations. I'm happy about it because it means that political scientists are spared that miserable (for candidates and interviewers alike) intermediate step in the job search process...
If you're near a radio, go listen to Tom Palmer, Jonah Goldberg, and my colleage Richard Epstein on WBEZ's Odyssey, discussing libertarianism. UPDATE: So far I've heard mention of Kant, Locke, Pareto, Jeremy Waldron, Joseph Raz, "the crooked timber of humanity" (Isaiah Berlin's favorite phrase), and Cosmo the Wonderdog. UPDATE AGAIN: A couple of thoughts about Jonah and libertarianism. First, Jonah complains that libertarians get a lot of mileage out of emphasizing drugs as an issue (i.e. by appealing to pot-friendly college students). But, in a discussuion of the difference between conservatism and libertarianism, it seems to me that it's Jonah who's getting mileage out of emphasizing drugs, and the supposed libertarian premise that all individuals are always rational that's neatly disproven by drugs. Conservatives have also: supported sodomy laws, opposed gay marriage and adoption, supported censorship of a variety of sorts (Jonah's proud of this), and supported criminalizing scientific research involving the use of stem cells. Conservatives and libertarians also (by and large, not perfectly) disagree about abortion. In none of these cases is the intuition "drugs=irrationality" available as an argumentative shortcut. Second, Jonah complains that libertarians do less policing of the movement's boundaries than do conservatives (or at least the conservatives at NR). It's true that there hasn't been one libertarian organ that has held the quasi-authoritative position that NR has traditionally held among conservatives. When one wanted to know the conservative position on whether Pat Buchanan was an anti-Semite, one went to NR.

On the other hand, libertarian factions have had no shortage of mutual policing, reading each other out of the movement, etc. Picking up the habit from the Ayn Rand circle, many libertarians have been quite eager to declare where the boundaries are. The Rothbard group tried to read Cato and everyone affiliated with Koch out of the movement; Misesians declare Hayekians to be apostates; anarchists vs. minarchists, and so on. I've got my own boundary: the gang of confederatistas and apologists for slavery, police brutality, and immigration restrictions lie outside of it.

I'd've been curious to hear the rest of what Jonah had to say. Who is it he thinks libertarians should have been excluding but haven't been? And what's the argument that all this policing (easily ridiculed as the narcissism of small differences, letting the best be the enemy of the good, the enforcement of ideological litmus tests, and simple factionalism) is an unalloyed good.

ONE MORE UPDATE: Of course, NR's policing of its boundaries sometimes leaves something to be desired. John Derbyshire, anyone?

Friday, January 03, 2003

Regarding Chris Bertram's ongoing discussion of racial intermarriage rates: it's worth noting that the two groups whose out-marriage rates are being compared ("blacks"-- i.e. African and Afro-Caribbean immigrants and descendants of immigrants-- in the UK and "blacks"-- those two groups plus African-Americans-- in the U.S.) are of different sizes. Blacks in the UK are, I believe, something in the neighborhood of 2-3% of the total population. Blacks in the U.S. are something in the neighborhood of 10-12% of the population.

All else being equal, out-marriage rates tend to be much higher among smaller populations. There are fewer in-group members to choose from, fewer whom one meets at school or at work or at play. Of course marriage isn't a matter of randomly selecting a mate from the population at large. But those elements of it that resemble randomness push in the direction of higher exogamy rates from proportionately smaller populations.

Note too that the way the statistic is being expressed-- proportion who marry out-- may be biased. It's very likely that if you asked what proportion of whites marry blacks, the answer would be higher in the U.S.-- because, again, of the different relative populations. (There are many fewer whites relative to blacks in the U.S. than in the U.K.) Would the answer be as much higher as the black share of the U.S. population is higher than the black share of the British population? I have no idea. I know there are ways to statistically normalize for this sort of thing, but I don't offhand remember what they are...

I doubt that these population-proportion differences are the whole story. But they're undoubtedly part of it. The raw comparison of exogamy rates among British and American blacks doesn't show very much.

FInally, the BBC article Chris draws his inferences from isn't very carfeul about this kind of thing. The claims made on behalf of Britain are:
1) "one of the fastest growing mixed-race populations in the world"
2) "Data from the 2001 census due to be released later this year is expected to confirm that Britain has one of the highest rates in the world of inter-ethnic relationships and, consequently, mixed race people. By 1997 already half of black men and a third of black women in relationships had a white partner according to a major study of ethnic minorities published by the Policy Studies Institute (PSI). It also revealed that other inter-racial relationships were flourishing with a fifth of Asian men and 10% of Asian women opting for a white partner."

I can't find the PSI study. But notice that there's no mention at all of white rates of exogamy. Nor is there any mention of interracial marriages as a share of all marriages. The inference that the UK has an especially high share of mixed race people in its population is therefore especially dubious. It might be true; but I doubt it, and even 100% exogamy rates among blacks wouldn't necessarily make it true.
Don't miss this comment on Paul Craig Roberts (and, indirectly, on pseudo-libertarian confederatistas like Lew Rockwell) by Eugene Volokh. I might have, had Mark Kleiman not drawn attention to it.

On the other hand, that Eugene piece does some damage to Mark's notion that "liberals have less appetite than conservatives for spending time listening to affirmations of what they already believe. We're the non-church-going group, remember?"

This idea strikes me as utterly implausible; but of course I lack data to back up my intuition. I will relate one anecdote, though. Most of the regular New Republic readers I know are conservatives or libertarians or Republicans, not left-liberals or progressives or socialists-- despite the fact that I know more of members of the latter group of groups. And it's not because the conservatives and libertarians find more that they agree with in TNR; it was, after all, a magazine-length campaign brochure for Al Gore for a couple of years. But a bunch of progressive-left folks I know are so uninterested in reading anything pro-Israel or anti-identity-politics or New Democratic that they haven't picked it up in years, preferring instead the American Prospect or the Nation. For me, TNR is at the top of the must-read pile; it's smart and witty and insightful and often important. It seems to me that people who read only NR or Reason are fewer and further between than are people who read only the Prospect or the Nation.

And please, avoid the jokes about TNR really being a right-wing magazine...
John Derbyshire has been Cornering away on how much he liked Bored of the Rings, the Harvard Lampoon-published parody. In one of his posts he comments

I mis-remembered the last name of Dildo, hero of Bored of the Rings. His full name was, in fact,
Dildo Bugger. Any suggestions that my mis-recollection of that name is yet more evidence of my
well-known obsessive aversion to certain practices, will be sturdily refuted.

I'm open to contradiction here. Maybe it's a generational thing. But I think this post is more accurate than Derbyshire understands. I, at least, found BotR dumb and, well, boring. Like a great deal of Lampoon material, it reads like something Beavis and Butthead would have written after they learned to write. ["Heh. Hehheh. Dude, you wrote 'dildo.'"] And I think that level of humor gets a lot of its appeal (for those to whom it appeals) out of the laughing embarrassed shock of reading even allusions to sex in general and to sex one takes to be kinky or perverse in particular. In short, it's not the misrecollection that provides evidence of Derbyshire's obsession; it's the fact that he found the book funny in the first place.

For what it's worth: laloca beat Andrew Sullivan to the punch on expressing the suspicion that Herb Ritts' death, reported as being caused by pneumonia in the papers, was HIV-related, and the concern that the major papers are returning to HIV-euphemizing.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Geekdom stuff that's funny, insightful, thought-provoking, or interesting: Pejman on Star Wars here and here. David Brin on Tolkien.