Friday, December 28, 2007

Starting today

Annual Meeting of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy

December 28-29, 2007, Baltimore MD

Friday, December 28

GIV-2. American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy
Location: Falkland, Fourth Floor
2:45-5:45 p.m.
Topic: Loyalty

2:45-4:10 p.m.
Chair: Sanford Levinson (University of Texas)
Speaker: Daniel Markovits (Yale University)
"Lawyerly Fidelity"
Commentators: Lynn Mather, Martin Lederman

4:20-5:45 p.m.
Chair: Donald Horowirz (Duke Unversity)
Speaker: Nancy Sherman (Georgetown University)
"For the Sake of Comrades"
Commentators: Ryan Balot; Phillip Carter

6-8 pm: Reception: Kent A, Fourth Floor

Saturday Morning, December 29

Dover B, 3rd floor
8-8:50 am: Breakfast reception
8:50-9 am- Business Meeting. Note: not 8-8:50 am as indicated on some schedules
Group Session VII – 9:00-11:00 a.m.

GVII-1. American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy
9:00-11:00 a.m.
Topic: Loyalty
Chair: Nancy Rosenblum (Harvard University)
Speaker: Russell Muirhead (University of Texas–Austin)
"Partisan Loyalties"
Commentators: Richard Pildes; David Estlund
(Preceded in same room by ASPLP breakfast, 8:00-9:00 a.m.)

(I'll miss the first session because I'll be giving a paper at "IV-D. Symposium: Iris Marion Young.")

Sunday, December 23, 2007

It's all true!

The reason why in recent years the British constitution has been altered beyond recognition-- abolishing the ancient and honorable hereditary lords, undoing the Union of 1707 that was the guarantee against Jacobite invasions from the north, and the carving up of the duties of the even more ancient and honorable office of Lord Chancellor-- is that there was a crypto-papist in 10 Downing Street!

Conspiracy theorists of the world, know your moment of triumph. We now have clear proof that, if you let your guard down for even a moment, 200 or so years later your prophecies will all come true.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Reforming graduate education

Via Fabio and Tyler, and Inside Higher Ed article about Harvard GSAS under Theda Skocpol initiating important reforms that rest on the premise that "graduate students need to get on to a life where they have their own careers or income before they are entering middle age" and that grad school simply should not take 9 or 10 or more years.

The reforms and results also make plain that the onus is on departments and advisors. When departments were provided with appropriate incentives, time to degree started to fall...

Sunday, December 16, 2007


Todd pointed this one out to me: the New York Times has a funny bit on recommended science fiction reading for the presidential candidates. Sample:

Senator from Arizona

Should tell reporters he’s read “Starship Troopers,” by Robert A. Heinlein: An impressionable young man is drafted into an intergalactic military campaign and finds that war solves all problems.

Might also consider reading “The Forever War,” by Joe Haldeman: An impressionable young man is drafted into an intergalactic military campaign and finds that war doesn’t solve anything.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Good for them.

As the hearings conclude,
the professors give a platform to the Muslim group that was absurdly attacked last year because a private commercial establishment wanted their business enough to serve them beans without pork.
Back in March, they were castigated in the populist media for insisting on praying at a Quebec maple-sugar shack and eating pork-free baked beans.

Yesterday, the same Muslims who organized that cultural field trip appeared before the Bouchard-Taylor commission and were gently asked to set the record straight.

Did they demand a change in the traditional menu of pork and beans, and did they force a small party in the next room to can its loud music so they could pray in peace? No, there were no unreasonable demands, just a mutual arrangement with the owner, said Akram Benalia, spokesperson for Astrolabe, the Muslim community association that organized the March 11 trip to the Érablière au Sous Bois, in Mont St. Grégoire.

"It was a commercial agreement that had nothing to do with reasonable accommodations," Benalia said.

"But it shows how people can use this kind of situation to denigrate Muslims and amplify Islamophobia, and that's what really sickened us." The owner of the sugar shack had agreed to make baked beans without pork for the 260 Muslims in the group, in order to meet their dietary restrictions, he said. And it was the owner who asked the party next door to turn off its music for a few minutes while some of the Muslims prayed.

The way it came out in the media, however, the Muslims were portrayed as unwilling to adapt to traditional Quebec customs, "imposing" their values on a Quebec archtype, the end-of-winter outing when families and friends go "sugaring off" in the woods.

Co-chairmen Charles Taylor and Gérard Bouchard sympathized with the group.

"It leaves us speechless - this was a myth which was invented and propagated and which caused a lot of harm," Taylor told the delegation, which included two women wearing hijabs.

"You realize, your generation has the thankless role to play these days," Bouchard told them. "There are some Quebecers who are learning the hard way about diversity - at your expense. And your role is to help us, all of us, to overcome the stereotypes and misunderstandings we have." "We'll do it for Quebec, for our Quebec, so that we can all live in harmony, and that our children can, too - it'll be our pleasure," Benalia replied.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A long way from American Political Thought 2004

Will Baude will be clerking for Chief Justice John Roberts. Congratulations!
I don't intend to make a habit of blogging links to YouTube...

but, via via Angus, this is bizarrely brilliant and highly entertaining for fogies of about my age.
New in the journals:

Michael Frazer, "John Rawls: Between Two Enlightenments," Political Theory December 2007. Persuasive, engaging, and exciting-- not a word that these days springs to mind about articles with "John Rawls" in the title. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I don't think that the faculty- grad student interactions at our department Christmas party yesterday bore much resemblance to this. But then, I would think that, wouldn't I?
A pleasant surprise

The Quebec government's proposed amendment to the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, Bill 63, has finally been introduced. Considering that its political purpose was to subordinate religious liberty to gender equality, and that the people supporting it appeared to think that it meant no gender-differentiated religious practice could be protected by religious liberty, I'm more than a bit surprised by its text. It says:

Bill 63


1. The preamble of the Charter of human rights and freedoms (R.S.Q., chapter C-12) is amended by replacing the third paragraph by the following paragraph:

"Whereas respect for the dignity of human beings, equality of women and men, and recognition of their rights and freedoms constitute the foundation of justice, liberty and peace;".

2. The Charter is amended by inserting the following section after section 49.1:

"49.2. The rights and freedoms set forth in this Charter are guaranteed equally to women and men."

3. This Act comes into force on (insert the date of assent to this Act).

Section 49 lies in the section of the charter covering rules of interpretation and construction.

Bill 63 doesn't single out religious liberty, and it doesn't subordinate any other claimed right to gender equality. It states as an interpretive principle something that was surely always true of the Charter, the provisions of which guarantee rights to "every human being" or "every person." It does not say that the rights must be exercised in accordance with gender equality, which is what the initial discussions were all about. There's nothing to object to in it-- which surely means that it won't do what its supporters set out to do.

I wonder what cases anyone thinks this language would change the outcome of. Perhaps the Liberal government, having grabbed hold of this one idea in order to keep up with the anti-accommodationists of the PQ and the ADQ but actually knowing better, has deliberately introduced a minimalist amendment designed not to change anything. But I can't believe they'll get away with it, while Mario Dumont is leader of the opposition.
Plus ca change watch

John McCain:
I was in a town in Iowa, and twenty years ago there were no Hispanics in the town. Then a meatpacking facility was opened up. Now twenty per cent of their population is Hispanic. There were senior citizens there who were—‘concerned’ is not the word. They see this as an assault on their culture, what they view as an impact on what have been their traditions in Iowa, in the small towns in Iowa. So you get questions like ‘Why do I have to punch 1 for English?’ ‘Why can’t they speak English?’ It’s become larger than just the fact that we need to enforce our borders.

The language politics of Quebec last month:
MONTREAL–The English option on automated government telephone menus has become a hot-button issue for some French-language groups in Quebec.

Language activists are decrying the fact that callers to many Quebec government offices are told to "press nine" for English before instructions are delivered in French.

Two hardline language groups are teaming up to launch a campaign calling on the government to put the English selection at the end of the message.

"Asking for the English option to come at the end of a message is not something extremist," Mario Beaulieu, president of Mouvement Montréal français, said yesterday.

The Quebec government's language watchdog – the Office québécois de la langue française – recently issued a pamphlet reminding agencies it is official policy to include the English option only after the French message has been delivered in its entirety.

For what it's worth: of all the discourtesies and worse involved in automated telephone menus, I can't see getting agitated about any arrangement here. Allowing a language decision moment early on-- whether that's an opt-out-of-the-following as in the Quebec case, or a choose-which-branch-to-follow as in the Iowa case-- seems efficient to me, even though it means that local majoritarian sensibilities may be offended by the reminder that there are other languages in the system. One sign of a less-badly-designed automated menu is that callers spend a bit less time listening to irrelevant-to-them possibilities, and it's only inefficient to insist on a long spiel in one language before allowing opting out into the caller's language.

But if listening to 45 seconds of French at the beginning of the call is the worst thing that happens to me on one of these phone calls, I'll count myself lucky. (I do try to interact in French in person, but feel no urge to select French options on automated menus or websites.)

While I'm here, might as well note that the Taylor-Bouchard commission hearings are nearing their rousing conclusion.

Limits should be put on religious clothing and symbols in Quebec, but not if they're part of Quebec's heritage, Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe said yesterday.

"We should have restrictions for reasons of hygiene - in operating rooms, for example," Duceppe told reporters after presenting a brief at the Bouchard-Taylor commission on reasonable accommodations of religious minorities.

"Also for reasons of safety - on construction sites" where hard hats must be worn, he added.

"And in functions that represent the neutrality of the state - the police, for example, or judges."

But Catholic symbols that are part of Quebec history and heritage - the cross on Mount Royal, for example, or roadside crosses - should be exempt from such restrictions, the Bloc leader added.

"We shouldn't turn ourselves into the Taliban and demolish all the Buddhas of Quebec," he said.

"We're not going to stop listening to Mozart's Requiem because it was written for a mass. All that is part of the heritage of humanity of Quebec."

In other words, yet again: any visible sign of any non-Catholic religion is too much; no visible sign of Catholicism can be too much.

(I can convince myself not to mind the cross on Mont Royal. It's was built on church property, and only entered the city's ownership on a trust agreement to keep it intact. I wish the city hadn't taken ownership, but I don't think the city should break its agreement to keep it. But it's tacky, lit up year-round. It's no Requiem or Buddha of Bamiyan. Not every bit of local kitsch becomes "heritage" through sheer venerability.)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Who's new

The McGill Reporter has a feature on new faculty this week, including profiles of political philosopher Iwao Hirose and political theorist Victor Muñiz-Fraticelli.
Granite memories

Since, for the first time in my life, I'm spending the presidential primary season outside the U.S., I've been a bit too detached from it for my customary New Hampshire primary nostalgia. (Lived there until 18, and then summers until 20; stayed registered to vote there all through grad school.) But this Ana Marie Cox vlog about important New Hampshire facts for outsider politicos (e.g. "Dunkin Donuts. Get used to it" and "third-largest legislature in the [English-speaking] world") brought it all back for me.

The disproportionately high number of vets she mentions-- which was especially disproportionately high in my hometown of Portsmouth, which during the Cold War was home to a major air force base in addition to the major naval base it's hosted for 200+ years-- was a major feature of the social and political world in which I grew up. It's been one of the most striking changes between life in New Hampshire and life in academia (excepting, of course, my year at the Australian Defense Force Academy). Almost the only vets younger than 70 I know in the academy are Israeli.

The Manchester nickname "Manch Vegas", which postdates my New Hampshire years, is, as the yankees call it, "humah."

Sunday, December 09, 2007

I've mentioned my skepticism

about this set of projections before, and there's added reason for skepticism when there's institutional self-interest and lobbying at stake. But noted for the record:

OTTAWA -- Universities need to increase their masters and doctoral students by 35 per cent in the next decade if Canada wants to avoid a crippling shortage in highly educated employees, including professors, warns a national post-secondary education group.

To that end, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada is lobbying the federal government for $319 million in new scholarship money annually, to be phased in over three years, to lure more masters and doctoral students from home and abroad.

Institutions are also increasing efforts to market Canada as an enticing destination for international students in hopes that if more come to study they will elect to stay in the country and join the high end of the labour force.

he association, representing 92 colleges and universities, recently made its pitch to the House of Commons finance committee as it hears submissions in preparation for the 2008-2009 federal budget.

"We're way, way, short. We need to produce more masters-trained and more PhD-trained students for the Canadian economy," Tom Traves, president of Dalhousie University and chairman of the association, said in an interview. "It's not a huge problem now, but it will be in 10 years."

Universities must turn out 500,000 new graduate students in the next decade -- 150,000 more than current projections -- if Canada is to keep pace internationally in the knowledge economy at a time when the country faces "a massive demographic problem" of an aging workforce, said Traves.

Not only are half the country's 40,000 professors on the retirement track and need to be replaced with other academics, the government and the private sector are also seeking more highly educated employees, said Traves.

Universities are pressing the government to create 2,500 scholarships for international students, which would cost $70-million annually when fully subscribed in three years.

On the domestic front, universities want Ottawa to pitch in another $105 million annually to entice students to pursue their masters and PhD's in Canada and another $144 million per year in scholarships for research.

On top of the scholarship funding, universities want another $50 million annually toward sponsoring new masters and doctoral graduates in work placements.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Online reading group

of interest to political theory and political philosophy folks: Public Reason is hosting a reading group on David Estlund's Democratic Authority over the next few months. Intellectually worthwhile, as well as a nice expansion of the boundaries of the scholar-blogospherically-possible. On the latter point, see also: the first book rolls of the presses of John Holbo's Glassbead Books.
In which I yet again show myself to be behind the geek pop-cultural times

He who sucked all the life and joy out of "Gilmore Girls" is really very good in "Heroes," isn't he? Goes to show how much a basically good actor can lose under a creator who treats him as a Gary Stu.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

There's been...

about 16" of snow in Montreal in the last 72 hours. None of it has melted away.

Forecast for today: light snow.
Forecast for tonight: snow showers.
Forecast for tomorrow: snow showers.
Friday: snow.
Saturday: "few snow showers".
Sunday: "few snow showers".

So begins what's slated to be the toughest winter in 15 years.

Curse you, Al Gore. Curse you for delaying our precious global warming by even a day.

With at least four work trips in the next eight weeks, I'm starting to look at plane reservations, and wondering how much possible-weather-delay-time to build into my travel plans. Must I always plan to arrive the night before?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Also from the Chronicle...

A report on what might be the first truly worthwhile activities of the McGill student General Assembly.
Tetlock wins Grawemeyer

From the Chronicle:

Berkeley Professor Wins Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order

Philip E. Tetlock, a professor of business administration and political science at the University of California at Berkeley, has won the 2008 Grawemeyer Award for “ideas improving world order,” the University of Louisville has announced. Mr. Tetlock will receive the $200,000 prize for his research on the accuracy of high-profile advisers on issues of public policy.

Predictions on political issues are frequently wrong, says Mr. Tetlock, which is unfortunate because lawmakers frequently rely on such analyses to shape policy. In a 20-year study of 27,000 predictions made by 284 “experts” cited in the news media, he found that, very often, the professionals were no more accurate in their crystal-ball gazing than ordinary people.

“In this age of academic hyperspecialization, there is no reason for supposing that contributors to top journals—distinguished political scientists, area-study specialists, economists, and so on—are any better than journalists or attentive readers of The New York Times in ‘reading’ emerging situations,” writes Mr. Tetlock in his 2005 book about the study, Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? (Princeton).

Experts need to receive more training and be held publicly accountable for their advice, he argues in the book.

Dan Drezner blogged about Tetlock's findings here, here, and here. Tyler Cowen called Expert Political Judgment "one of the (few) must-read social science books of 2005." I worried about the propensity of public-intellectual academics to make pronouncements as if their expertise went far beyond its genuine boundaries my very first substantive post on this blog (scroll down, permalinks that old seem to have rusted away).

Monday, December 03, 2007

DeLong on Schumpeter

at the Chronicle.
Moi je reste calme

I have no idea how to embed youtube videos, but have a look at this (sent to me as a "cautionary tale"). The song is in French, but non-francophones will still get the idea pretty easily.

Full lyrics. I've always thought that rhyming seems unfairly easy in French...

"Pour bien commencer
Ma petite journée
Et me réveiller
Moi, j'ai pris un café
Un arabica
Noir et bien corsé
J'enfile ma parka
Ça y est je peux y aller

«Où est-ce que tu vas ?»
Me crie mon aimée
«Prenons un kawa
Je viens de me lever»
Étant en avance
Et un peu forcé
Je change de sens
Et reprends un café

A huit heures moins l'quart
Faut bien l'avouer
Les bureaux sont vides
On pourrait s'ennuyer
Mais je reste calme
Je sais m'adapter
Le temps qu'ils arrivent
J'ai l'temps pour un café

La journée s'emballe
Tout le monde peut bosser
Au moins jusqu'à l'heure
De la pause-café
Ma secrétaire entre :
«Fort comme vous l'aimez»
Ah mince, j'viens d'en prendre
Mais maintenant qu'il est fait...

Un repas d'affaire
Tout près du Sentier
Il fait un temps super
Mais je me sens stressé
Mes collègues se marrent :
«Détends-toi, René !
Prends un bon cigare
Et un p'tit café...»

Une fois fini
Mes collègues crevés
Appellent un taxi
Mais moi j'ai envie d'sauter
Je fais tout Paris
Puis je vois un troquet
J'commande un déca
Mais recaféiné

J'arrive au bureau
Ma secrétaire me fait :
«Vous êtes un peu en r'tard
Je me suis inquiétée»
Han ! - J'la jette par la f'nêtre
Elle l'avait bien cherché
T'façons faut qu'je rentre
Mais avant un café

Attendant l'métro
Je me fais agresser
Une p'tite vieille me dit :
«Vous avez l'heure s'il vous plaît ?»
Han - Je lui casse la tête
Et j'la pousse sur le quai
Je file à la maison
Et j'me sers un - devinez ?

«Papa, mon Papa,
En classe je suis premier»
Putain mais quoi ?
Tu vas arrêter de m'faire chier ?
Qu'il est con ce gosse !
En plus y s'met à chialer !
J'm'enferme dans la cuisine
Il reste un peu d'café

Ça fait quatorze jours
Que je suis enfermé
J'suis seul dans ma cuisine
Et je bois du café
Il faudrait bien qu'je dorme
Mais les flics vont m'choper
Alors je cloue les portes
Et j'reprends du café..."

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Get smart

Fabio Rojas on the limits of "smarts" as a tool of academic evaluation. (I've seen at least one, er, very lively discussion at a hiring meeting about just this question.)

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Matt Yglesias follows up Megan McCardle's entirely justified complaint about the dearth of decent bagels in DC. The two New Yorkers commiserate about how New York has the only respectable bagels, though Matt rightly praises Bodo's in Charlottesville. (My wife is a UVA alumna, and pilgrimages to Bodo's are part of each return visit.)

But Matt, amusingly, illustrates his New Yorker's complaint with a picture that is undoubtedly of Montreal bagels coming out of a Montreal oven-- and that might well be from the St. Viateur six blocks from my house. If you're insisting on the evils of the huge puffy bread that passes for bagels in most of America, you want a picture of something visibly different-- something well-boiled with a hole that takes up half the total bagel-space. That means Montreal; New York bagels aren't so visually distinctive.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Noam Scheiber, over at TNR's Stump, notes the following from Barack Obama's Nightline appearance.

I think there's no doubt that the fact that my name is Barack Obama and that my father was from Kenya and that I grew up in Hawaii that there's that whole exotic aspect to me that people, I think, have to get past. But they also, surprisingly enough, even in rural Iowa, recognize the opportunity to send a signal to the world that, you know, we are not as ingrown, as parochial as you may perceive or as the Bush administration seems to have communicated, that we are, in fact, embracing the world, we are listening, we are concerned, we want to be engaged.

Noam reasonably notes that 'the "even in rural Iowa" part could stick in some people's craws' as unappealingly condescending. What jumped out at me was ingrown. As far as I know there's no use for the word "ingrown" that refers to people. So the question is what word Obama was reaching for to describe a stereotype about rural people (since the context is "they prove themselves better than that by supporting me")-- and I can't think of any possibility other than "inbred."

Update: I understand perfectly well that what Obama meant was something like "inward looking." But there's not a word that means that which is readily confused with "ingrown." As far as slips of the tongue go, it's better to have called people toenails than to have called them cousin-marrying yokels-- but I think the slip of the tongue has to have gone with a slip of the brain that thought there was some "in-" word that fit into the sentence.
Wishful thinking alert

November 15: France's Conseil constitutionnel judges unconstitutional a proposed law authorizing social scientists to gather statistical information on ethnicity, on grounds that it would violate Article 1 of the French Constitution:

"La France est une République indivisible, laïque, démocratique et sociale. Elle assure l'égalité devant la loi de tous les citoyens sans distinction d'origine, de race ou de religion."

(This is the same article that was used to strike down a law on Corsican autonomy/ As Jeremy Waldron has been telling us for years, an active court enforcing a written constiution will not necessarily protect minorities, nor will a democratic legislature necessarily imperil them. The complaints that follow are agnostic about whether the CC correctly interpreted Article 1; I'm willing to believe that it did, but am sure that Article 1 is the source of much constitutional mischief. If it means what the CC says it means, it ought to be amended.)

The last two nights: Immigrant-populated Parisian banlieues erupt in violence, again, this time with rioters bringing out guns. 77 police officers injured overnight, after two teenagers of African descent were allegedly (though the allegation doesn't seem very persuasive) killed by police in a hit and run.

While good social science analyzing the multiply-caused multiple ills of the banlieues won't by itself solve those ills, it well might be a prerequisite to such solutions. To the degree that the research can't seriously consider ethnicity because it can't ethnicity, the social science will be seriously impaired. There's a real level of ostrichness here.

That the French state normatively aspires to the irrelevance, invisibility, and non-existence of ethnic and racial distinctions within French society doesn't make such distinctions sociologically irrelevant. No matter how "imagined" categories like race and ethnicity are, they do not become unimagined just on the state's say-so.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Onto the reading list

Andrea Sangiovanni
"Justice and the Priority of Politics to Morality"
Journal of Political Philosophy (OnlineEarly Articles)

IT is uncontroversial that the limits imposed by existing institutions and practices are relevant in determining how best to implement a particular conception of justice. The set of precepts, rules, and policies that best realize the demands of justice (whatever one thinks they are) in Corsica will be different from those required in Poland. It is uncontroversial, that is, that information about institutional and political context is needed in coming to a concrete judgment regarding a particular course of action or policy. No one disagrees that constraints derived from particular institutional forms and practices should play a crucial role in the application of a theory to the ‘real world’.

Less well understood, by contrast, is whether existing institutions and practices should play any role in the basic justification and formulation of first principles.1 A common view holds that, in setting out and justifying first principles of justice, one should seek a normative point of view unfettered by the form or structure of existing institutions and practices. To assign any greater role to institutions and practices—to allow them, as I have said, to influence the formulation and justification of first principles of justice—is a fundamental mistake: constraining the content of justice by whatever social and political arrangements we happen to share gives undue normative weight to what is, at best, merely the product of arbitrary historical contingency or, at worst, the result of past injustice itself.

This article aims to bring to light, clarify, and defend the opposite view: existing institutions and practices, I shall argue, should play a crucial role in the justification of a conception of justice rather than merely its implementation. Our task is to explain both why and how. What I call the ‘practice-dependence thesis’ in its most general form is as follows:

Practice-dependence Thesis: The content, scope, and justification of a conception of justice depends on the structure and form of the practices that the conception is intended to govern.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

CFP: International Society for Utilitarian Studies

ISUS X – 11-14 September 2008
U.C. Berkeley - Berkeley, California, U.S.A.

The Tenth Conference of the International Society for Utilitarian Studies will be held on 11-14 September 2008, at the University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, California, U.S.A.). The meeting is co-hosted by the U.C. Berkeley School of Law and its Kadish Center for Morality, Law and Public Affairs.

The conference seeks paper and panel proposals concerning the study of utilitarianism and the utilitarian tradition broadly conceived. This includes scholarship (both positive and critical) on contemporary utilitarianism and consequentialism, as well as more wide-ranging scholarship concerning figures within the utilitarian canon and the leading social and political issues – such as democracy, law reform, political economy, welfare and equality, colonization and international law – which have figured centrally in the utilitarian tradition.

Scholars representing all disciplines in the humanities and social sciences are encouraged to participate. Past ISUS meetings have included faculty and graduate students in philosophy, political science, law, economics, history and literature. Conference highlights will include distinguished plenary lectures and panels, as well as monetary prizes awarded to the best graduate student papers presented at the meeting. Papers from younger faculty and advanced graduate students are encouraged.

The conference welcomes proposals for individual papers and encourages proposals for panels of 2-3 papers or round-table discussions linked to a common theme. All proposals should include a 200-word abstract for each paper and a 1-page C.V. for each participant, including current contact information and email address. Proposals for panels of papers and round tables also should include a brief précis of the panel topic as a whole. Please place the proposal and C.V. in electronic format and submit as an email attachment to: ISUS@

The deadline for application is February 18, 2008. Notification of conference participation will be made by the end of March 2008. Additional information concerning the conference program and travel information is available at Please send any inquiries concerning the conference or call for papers to: ISUS@

The University of California, Berkeley, is located in the beautiful San Francisco Bay area of northern California, and provides easy access to San Francisco and other regional attractions. The conference convener is David Lieberman ( Those unable to submit proposals electronically should mail their proposals to: Professor David Lieberman; School of Law; U.C. Berkeley; Berkeley, CA 94720-7200; U.S.A.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"La philosophie politique et la ville/Political philosophy and the City"

The Montreal Political Theory Workshop conference: "La philosophie politique et la ville/Political philosophy and the City"

November 30, 2007
9:30 to 5
Universite de Montreal
2910 Édouard Montpetit, room 422

9:30 - 10: Daniel Weinstock (UdeM): "An agenda for a political
philosophy of the city".

10:15 - 11:30: Loren King (WLU): "Cities, Citizens, and Democracy".

11:30 - 1pm Lunch

1 - 2:15: Frank Cunningham (UofT): "Urban Philosophy: An Approach".

2:15 - 3:30: Patrick Turmel (Laval): "Are Cities Illiberal: Municipal
Institutions and the Scope of Liberal Neutrality"

3:45 - 5: Martin Blanchard and Christian Nadeau (UdeM): "L'impasse
morale et politique de la voiture en ville/The moral and political
dead end of cars in the city"

5 - 5:15 Wrap-up

Reports like this have a very bad track record...

but for what it's worth. From the Chronicle.

The job market for Ph.D.'s who want to teach in Canada is hot and will get hotter over the next 10 years, according to the findings of a study that examined faculty trends.

The study, the second in a series called Trends in Higher Education, was conducted by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. According to a report released on Tuesday, the study found not only that universities were expanding but also that they will have to replace half their faculty members because of retirements over the next decade.

That means Canadian universities will need 21,000 new faculty members to replace the retirees, plus 3,600 to 13,600 new professors by 2016 to keep up with projected increases in student enrollment.

"It's a sea change in the hiring market," said Herb O'Heron, the report's author. He pointed out that in the mid-1990s, universities were forced to cut the ranks of full-time faculty members by 10 percent because of budget cutbacks. However, from 1998 to 2004, the universities hired 20,000 new full-time faculty members. In 2006 the number of full-time professors reached 40,800, representing a 21 percent increase over the number in 1998. About a third of the new appointees came from outside of Canada, and half of those were from the United States.

Now administrators at Canada's universities are worried about where they will find additional faculty members and senior researchers because other major democratic countries around the world will also be looking for replacements for retirees. Both Canada and the United States have the smallest proportion of faculty members younger than 40 and the largest proportion of professors over 55.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

See my messy office...

tonight on the 6 pm Global TV evening newscast, where ten minutes of highly intellectual discussion about the reasonable accommodation in Quebec will undoubtedly be cut to three words spoken at the moment when I was making a funny face.

Update: A sentence fragment, but not too funny a face. It's here, click on screen on the left that says "accommodation," and go to about 03:30.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Harold Berman, RIP

Scott Dinsmore reports that the great legal historian Harold Berman has died. Law and Revolution, vol. 1 was on my office desk already, next semester I'll be teaching more of it than I ever have before, and am looking forward to it tremendously. Berman's voluminous work in choice of law and conflicts of laws is on my medium-term to-start-reading list, as well. Never met the man, but have tremendous admiration for the scholar.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Rankings games, continued

In January I noted a new, annual, for-profit ranking system of Ph.D.-granting departments that relies entirely on productivity measures and not at all on reputation measures. The new round of rankings has been published. Political science is here; Chronicle subscription may be required. The top ten:

1. Harvard Government
2. Harvard Kennedy School
3. Berkeley
4. Michigan
5. Stanford
6. USC
7. UNC Chapel Hill
8. Columbia
9. Yale
10. Wisconsin-Madison

Compared that with last year's list:

Wash U
SUNY Stony Brook
U Kansas
U Maryland College Park

The only change in the formula I can find is that it seems the weighting of books:articles has been reduced from 5:1 to 3:1 in the social sciences. (I think that's been done.) But that's very strange. There's no way Wash U should drop from #1 to below the top 10 as a result of increasing the relative weight of articles. SUNY Stony Brook and UIUC should also be helped by that change, not hurt by it.

The new rankings look a bit more like what one would expect than the old ones did, though they're still not the same results as one would get with a reputation measure. But that suggests that the ostensibly objective measure has been tweaked to better fit preexisting intuitions (the way US News changed its formula after it reached the implausible result that Caltech was the best university in the US)-- which would seem to undermine the rationale for universities to pay large sums of money for the proprietary objective data being collected.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Full ride

One occasionally-recurring topic here has been private boarding schools and their relationship to class and perceptions of class. As an Exeter alum who was able to attend only because of massive financial aid, I was unendingly irked to go to my expensive private college (also on financial aid) and run into kids from wealthy suburban public schools that call their tuition "property taxes" and have them presume that it was prep schools that were the morally problematic reinforcers of class privilege. The affected moral superiority of the wealthy public school parent has bothered me ever since. On the positive side, I'm always happy to tout prep schools as an avenue of social mobility. Getting into Exeter with a scholarship was the most important event in my educational-professional life, and made everything that followed it possible.

So anyway, I'm happy to see this.
Phillips Exeter Academy is offering a free boarding school education to admitted students whose families earn $75,000 or less.
more stories like this

The change will take effect next fall for current and new students.

Principal Tyler Tingley says in addition to a full scholarship and room and board, the school will cover books, supplies, other mandatory fees and a computer.

"We want to be clear that money does not stand in the way of an Exeter education," Tingley said in a statement. "Students who qualify academically will find Exeter affordable."

The prestigious prep school already provides financial aid to nearly half of its 1,000 students and has a policy of offering no loans, so graduates can enter college debt free.

William Fitzsimmons, Harvard College's dean of admissions and financial aid, called the move "a very significant initiative."

"Colleges and universities depend on a pipelines that promotes opportunity and academic preparation for all students," Fitzsimmons said.

For boarding students, the full cost to attend Phillips Exeter is more than $38,000. The full cost for day students is nearly $30,000.

The school's endowment recently passed $1 billion. A recent $305 million fund raising campaign helped make the new policy possible.

(The "no loans" policy postdated me, and unfortunately was not made retroactive...)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The rankings game

From the Chronicle; rankings should of course be taken with liberal helpings of salt, but for what it's worth:
Montreal’s McGill University got a double dose of good news within the past 24 hours, as two sets of rankings gave it high marks. A ranking published by the Times Higher Education Supplement and Quacquarelli Symonds called McGill the top public university in North America, and Maclean’s, a Canadian news magazine, ranked it as the No. 1 institution in the medical-doctoral category.

The annual Maclean’s rankings were released this morning. The University of British Columbia and Queen’s University tied for second (last year they were fourth and second), and the University of Toronto slipped to fourth. Maclean’s noted that Toronto topped the rankings from 1994 to 2005 in the medical-doctoral category.
Question of the day

"What have you been reading lately that you learned from?"

For me, very lately: Richard Tuck, Rights of War and Peace, and Adrian Vermeule, Mechanisms of Democracy. And, yes, in the distinction between "edifying works" and "works that challenged me and taught me" Tuck qualifies as the latter-- it's a book that does teach a lot of new stuff but also unsettles a lot of old stuff in a very productive way. Not that there's anything wrong with reading just for the sake of learning new stuff...


I like this exchange from the comments thread, too:

Another equally important question, I think, is "what have you written about lately that you learned from?"

Writing is one of the best ways to learn, especially if it's about what you're reading.

Posted by: Adam | November 05, 2007 at 08:57 AM


Excellent point.

I have always enjoyed writing professional book reviews precisely for that reason ... it forces me to think about what I am learning from what I am reading.

My colleague Richard Wagner often says something to the effect that "Thinking without writing is little more than daydreaming." And Buchanan always stressed to us (his students) that "Writing is research."

Anyway, excellent point about writing and learning.


Posted by: Peter Boettke | November 05, 2007 at 10:19 AM

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Paper updates

Now forthcoming, Texas Review of Law and Politics: Three Perversities of Indian Law.

Newly posted on SSRN, and forthcoming in Hypatia: Self-determination, non-domination, and federalism.
Taylor-Bouchard Commission quote of the day

From CBC:
André Bissonnette described himself as a "frustrated Quebecer" who said he's tired of watching immigrants impose their religion on Quebecers.

"I'm not a practicing Catholic, so why would I yield to the religion of others? They can go worship in their churches, I have nothing against that, but don't make us follow you."

People keep saying things like this. I cannot begin to understand what they think they mean. The results of the polls on accommodation show that anti-minority-religion sentiment isn't just a matter of misunderstanding; it's not that all will be well if it's made clear that no one's proposing to make Islam the official religion of Quebec. But there does seem to be some portion of the populace who's convinced that that's exactly what's on the agenda.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


pro and con, by Scott Kaufman and Adam Kotsko at Inside Higher Ed.

I've only ever been an occasional long-distance observer of the Valve- Long Sunday disputes Kotsko discusses (and when I've peeked in, my sympathies haven't lain with him). But he seems to me to get at something important about a couple of shifts in the academic blogosphere, as comments sections have become ubiquitous and group-blogs have become the norm. The tendency toward institutionalization in such a fluid medium is kind of odd, really, and it may come at a price.
There are enough institutional turf wars in academe – if blogs are to play a productive role in academic discourse, they should not gratuitously recreate those same dynamics, and for me that means moving away from having quasi-institutional group blogs with stated missions and back toward conversations dispersed among many blogs.

I haven't ever articulated this to myself as my reason for ending up back here on my low-traffic, casual, comments-free solo blog. But I think he's onto something there.
Remember, remember

By now you've heard the mind-bending political news of the day-- multiply so for someone who, like me, is interested in early modern history and comic books and libertarianism.

Antiwar Republican presidential candidate and sometime Libertarian Ron Paul raised over four million dollars in one day yesterday, breaking the Republican one-day fundraising record and the online one-day primary fundraising record, thanks to a "moneybomb" [think googlebomb] organized by this independent website. The date selected for the concentrated donations was November 5-- Guy Fawkes Day, the old English holiday commemorating freedom from papism and the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot. Guy Fawkes Day did have a certain kind of place in the English Whiggish self-interpretation, since freedom from Catholicism was always understood as partly constitutive of and partly symbolic of English liberty. The fact that it was Parliament Fawkes had tried to blow up only made the symbolism starker-- thedevotee of a slavish religion who wanted to enslave good Englishmen tried to destroy the symbol of English liberty. And that anti-Catholic Whiggish ideology is one of the great-great grandparents of certain kinds of anti-statism in the Anglo-American world, something that entered the intellectual DNA of the U.S. in particular in the 18th century.

But the Alan Moore comic book V for Vendetta inverted the ideology. V dresses in the traditional Guy Fawkes Day mask while conducting his anarchistic campaign against a fascistic British state. "Remember, remember, the fifth of November," the beginning of an old English nursery rhyme about remembering Fawkes' treachery and the survival of the British state, got transformed into the creepily memorable slogan of the quasi-heroic freedom fighter who ends up successfully blowing up Parliament.

I take it that, in the comic (originally published for a British audience), this was all meant to be apparent. It was deliberate irony. The inversion was part of the point: it's now the British state that has become the enemy of British liberty, and those who once rooted against Fawkes should now root for him.

But that was mostly lost on American audiences, I think-- even the politically self-aware nerdy libertarians, anarchists, and socialists for whom V was a favorite work.

Some really weird confusion has resulted, with American anti-statist types celebrating Fawkes-as-commemorated-by-V using the words and imagery of the celebration of Fawks' defeat. ABC writes:

The catchy slogan comes from a nursery rhyme about Guy Fawkes, the 17th-century crusader for Catholics rights caught in the basement of parliament with 36 barrels of gunpowder. He failed in his mission to blow the place up. ["Crusader for Catholic rights" may well have been accurate after a fashion-- Catholicism was prohibited and persecuted in 1605 England-- but is hardly the position of the nursery rhyme.-- JTL]

[...]Asked if it is appropriate to invoke a nursery rhyme about a man who tried to blow up parliament in the 17th-century as a fundraising tool, Lyman said, "Some people want to go that way. We're not going in any way violent."

[...]The date Nov. 5 corresponded with the movie "V for Vendetta" and the Guy Fawkes rhyme.

"If you look at the pop culture feel-good message of the movie," Lyman said, "the people in the end say we are the deciders. That's the best way to describe it. And this is a country of and by the people."

Emphasis added. That sound you hear is my brain exploding and dribbling out of my ear. Over at TNR's Stump we get this quote:
Mr. Benton clarified that Mr. Paul did not support blowing up government buildings. “He wants to demolish things like the Department of Education,” Mr. Benton said, “but we can do that very peacefully, in a constructive manner.”

Something very strange has happened when one's uses of Guy Fawkes Day require some clarification that one doesn't actually wish to blow up government buildings.

Just to finalize the weirdness: notice that V portrayed a fable of a fascistic British state in the 1980s. Anti-Thatcherism ran through the work, in big, boldfaced, highlighted, and underlined subtext. Ron Paul is an anti-statist of an entirely market-oriented variety, who has said of Thatcher that she
"embraced American values such as freedom and limited government", and Thatcher is wildly popular among Ron Paul's conservative-libertarian fanbase.

By now I've lost track of the number of symbolic inversions. The world is a complicated place.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Taylor-blogging that doesn't involve the commission

hat-tip Henry: SSRC has created a new scholar-blog: "The immanent frame: secularism, religion, and the public sphere," and it currently features Professor Taylor among others blogging about A Secular Age.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Professional news

I don't do a lot of these kind of posts, but a blogosphere-jurisprudence-Chicago Law combination means this one's too noteworthy to pass up: Brian Leiter from Texas to Chicago.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln...

From time to time we run into the old discussion about academic book reviews: too many puff pieces, too little incentive to be critical when a book calls for it, vs. too high of stakes if (especially) a junior author gets a bad review in a major journal.
Brian Leiter excerpts from a review whose author is... not afraid to say what he thinks.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Today in the Chronicle

One of the better pieces that's been written surveying the controversy around and aftermath of Walt and Mearsheimer's "Israel Lobby" work: "'Waltheimer' on the Hot Seat" by Evan Goldstein.

It includes the following.
That explanation has not satisfied Walt and Mearsheimer's critics, who insist there must be a more-compelling explanation for why two scholars with deeply entrenched intellectual inclinations would push such an argument at this juncture in their careers. And so a parlor game of sorts is under way within the discipline to explain what many find so inexplicable. The theory enjoying the most credence holds that their crusading zeal against the Israel lobby is fueled by lingering resentment from the period leading up to the invasion of Iraq, when Mearsheimer and Walt were high-profile critics of the Bush administration's policy of militarized regime change.

In addition to writing a major article in Foreign Policy decrying the 2003 invasion of Iraq as an "unnecessary war," they published a flurry of op-eds and led the effort to place an open letter in The New York Times with the headline "War With Iraq Is Not in America's National Interest." Yet by all accounts, those efforts barely made a ripple in the broader public conversation. "I think this flummoxed the living hell out of them," says Daniel W. Drezner, an associate professor of international politics at Tufts University. "I think it was inconceivable to them that no one listened."

When asked about that analysis, Mearsheimer concedes that the debate over Iraq policy was "very frustrating." As he rehashes that period, it is evident that he continues to be irritated by the uncivilized terms on which he feels the debate was conducted. "Critics of the war were called all sorts of names — you were called soft on terrorism, you were called an appeaser, you were accused of not being very smart," he says. But both he and Walt emphatically reject the suggestion that Iraq is at the root of their recent work on the Israel lobby.

And Iraq does seem to be only part of the story. Spend some time talking with Mearsheimer and Walt, and it immediately becomes apparent that they are animated by a rather exalted belief in the critical role scholars should play in a democratic society. They use phrases like "speak truth to power" without a hint of irony or self-consciousness. "The reason we have great universities and tenured professors at those universities is to allow those individuals to enter into the marketplace of ideas and engage powerful policy makers," says Mearsheimer. A few weeks later, he adds, "At the high end of the academic enterprise, you should be asking important questions and providing answers to those questions that challenge the conventional wisdom."

It's not at all clear to me that the last paragraph contradicts the Iraq thesis (a thesis I've discussed before). Indeed, I think it emphasizes that thesis. The exalted view of the role (apparently only tenured) professors at great universities should play in a democratic society would only aggravate the sense of frustration that policymakers and the public didn't listen to them in 2002-03. The more sure you are that you're an authority and ought to be listened to, the more baffling and irritating you'll find it when you're not-- and, sometimes, the more you'll go looking for some extraordinary explanation for the anomalous situation that your wisdom wasn't listened to.

Now Walt and Mearsheimer were right to think they were right about the war. But they also seem to be struck with a certain sense of entitlement-- that when they speak truth to power, power will sit up and listen, because they are who they are, and they're right. The failure of power to do so seems to them inexplicable in normal terms. They spoke, loudly, in the run-up to the war; they perceive themselves to have been silenced, because their authority wasn't heeded. And so they went looking for a silencer, and convinced themselves they had found one. And their view that they're still being silenced seems impervious to money, fame, or the prominence of their national and international platform from which to speak.

A couple of other things struck me.
This month, Mearsheimer and Walt depart for Europe, where they will address audiences in Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, and Britain. In London alone, they have events scheduled at the London School of Economics and Political Science, the University of London, and the House of Lords.

I am for some reason terribly amused at the thought of the bien-pensants of Europe turning out to cheer authors whose stated concern is that the United States should pursue its own national security interest more effectively. In any other context, would an American IR realist receive the reception they may well receive? And I wonder whether either the authors or the audiences will notice that oddity if it arises, and what they will tell themselves about it.

Also: on Colbert, Mearsheimer spun the project as one of just looking at a lobbying group among other lobbying groups, as ordinary as the NRA or the AARP. We already know this isn't right; one would study the NRA by studying the NRA, but they study The Israel Lobby by studying AIPAC, and American Jews in the media, and neoconservatives in government, and Jews in think tanks, and Jews in academia... and the fundamentalst Christians who believe odd things about Israel's destiny. But the gap between "just another lobbying group" and the work is exposed here:

Mearsheimer and Walt are quick to acknowledge that realist theory fails to explain the outsize influence of the Israel lobby. "All theories face anomalies," Mearsheimer reasons. "There are always going to be cases that contradict a particular theory; this is true of all social-science theories." With a mixture of defensiveness and reassurance, he adds, "And this case is an anomaly."

He's right that there are always outliers, of course. And funny things sometimes happen when people turn to the study of outliers. If one's own theory doesn't explain the outlier, then one might want to learn some new theories if the outlier is particularly important, rather than engaging in a standardless, disciplineless, methodless inquiry about what makes this Lobby different from all other lobbies. (As I've noted before, there are political scientists who study the effects of domestic lobbying on US foreign policy-making, some of whom have found that AIPAC is decisively important and others of whom have not, and none of whom have been called anti-Semitic for their troubles. But qua realists, M&W aren't in that intellectual business.) But, even if one doesn't, there's something especially odd about then going in front of a general audience, putting on a "who, me?" face, and denying that you're treating the Israel Lobby as anything out of the ordinary.

Monday, October 29, 2007

News of the day

Canadian dollar tops $US 1.05, highest level since 1960, up 22% since January.
CFP: Political Hebraism

Political Hebraism: Jewish Sources in the History of Political Thought
Conference at Princeton University
September 7-9, 2008

Jewish, Christian, and Islamic thinkers -- philosophers, scholars, statesmen, theologians, and rabbis -- have historically drawn ideas with political import from the Hebrew Bible and from talmudic and later rabbinic writings. The derivation of political thought from the Hebrew Bible and later Hebrew sources coexisted and continues to coexist with better-known Greek, Roman, European, and Anglo-American traditions. As such, the Hebraic political tradition, broadly defined, constitutes an integral if understudied component of the history and legacy of Western political thought. The 2008 conference on political Hebraism invites proposals that examine various aspects of this Hebraic political tradition, including analyses and appropriations of elements of the Hebrew Bible and Jewish textual tradition in the history of political thought as well as constructive evaluations of some of their central ideas

While other submissions will be considered, we especially invite proposals that address the following topics:

Origins and Ends of Political Society
Thinkers with widely ranging understandings of the origins and ends of the political order have drawn on Hebraic sources: Some have looked to contractual agreements, and others believed the political order was divinely ordained. Whether the ultimate goal of politics was conceived as concord or salvation, these understandings could be grounded in Hebraic sources.

Papers in this section will examine such questions within the Jewish tradition as: To what extent is politics a response to human nature? Does the polity have a divine or messianic end, or does it serve the ends of its members or human society? To what extent is political virtue valued, and of what does it consist? Papers should also consider whether questions such as these arise within the Jewish tradition or outside it. These questions may be addressed with direct reference to Jewish texts, or it may explore how the tradition has been pressed into service to deal with them.

Monarchy and Republicanism
Questions surrounding political regimes -- which is preferable? how do they evolve? what are the roles of the key players? -- are issues central to Greek political philosophy; similarly, the question of which regime is preferable is often addressed within the Jewish tradition. To what extent is monarchy Judaism's preferred regime? Is there an essential nature to biblical monarchy as it was discussed and established? Is the Jewish tradition concerned with actual regimes and the mechanics of politics, or do these discussions tend to be symbolic? What is the role of the scholar-king within the Judaic tradition? Is there a relationship between philosophy and government within this tradition?

Papers in this section may represent the authors' own understandings and interpretations of the political thought of Hebrew sources as these address political regimes. Alternatively, papers may examine reliance on Hebrew sources by political thinkers throughout history.

Since the modern nation-state began dominating European politics in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, appeals to the Hebraic tradition and allusions to the people of Israel have become increasingly commonplace in political thought. Questions of nations and nationhood have recently regained prominence in political discourse, and there is now frequent talk of a "post-national world." Can Hebraic sources contribute to this debate? If so, is their contribution comparable to their place in the early-modern analyses and defense of the emergent modern state and new conceptions of the nation?

Papers may address the nation in Jewish thought or the Hebrew nation as it was taken to be a model for other nations in history; they may also develop or propose theories of the nation rooted in Hebraic sources

Law and Constitutionalism
It has been widely asserted -- at least since the New Testament missionary writings of St. Paul -- that the Jewish tradition is distinctly identifiable by its focus on the law. Those who valued as well as those who derogated the Jewish tradition often characterized it in this manner. To what extent is Jewish law political law? How within this tradition do the laws of the political system relate to religious laws? Is consent a necessary attribute of Judaic constitutionalism? Is there a relationship between contemporary jurisprudence and Hebraic -- biblical as well as rabbinic -- understandings of the "rule of law"? Does the Judaic legal tradition permit or even invite an interplay between positive and divine law? To what extent do theorists and jurisprudential scholars -- ranging from Grotius, Selden, and the authors of The Federalist to Robert Cover and perhaps even H.L.A. Hart and Ronald Dworkin -- who have incorporated Hebraic legal notions into their analyses of ! We! ! stern legal systems, succeed in transplanting Hebraic conceptions into new contexts? Where might Jewish conceptions of law provide alternative perspectives in discussions of legal issues today?

Theories of Justice
Greek political thought arguably begins with a search for justice rather than with the concern for order that may be said to characterize Hebraic political thought in the biblical period. How and how much is the Jewish political tradition concerned with justice? Is there a recapturable conception of justice that is peculiar to political Hebraism? In periods when Jewish rather than Greek and Roman texts served as sources for political thought, what if any alternatives to the classical notions of justice were found in the Jewish tradition?

Papers may address biblical ideas or ideals of justice broadly conceived, the idea of justice propounded by any rabbi or group of rabbis, or theories of justice that purport to draw from the Jewish textual tradition. Alternatively, papers may propose distinctively Hebraic theories of justice or compare Jewish and Greek and/or Roman, Christian, Muslim, Eastern, and Western thought on these and related matters

The Individual and the Collective
The relationship between the individual and the collective is among the most evident concerns that distinguish modern political regimes and ideologies from one another and from pre-modern forms of governance. How does the Hebraic tradition conceive of this relationship? Is there a single, unifying understanding of the individual-collective relationship in the various forms of Jewish political organization -- kahal, kehilla, and goy, for instance?

The Jewish textual tradition can be studied as a body of texts, coherent or not, just as the Bible may be conceived as a single book, but none of this can be taken as self-evident. By the same token, neither can readings of the Bible and of the Jewish textual tradition be offered as parts of the same field without encountering and contravening disciplinary conventions.

Papers in this section will pose and address methodological obstacles to the study of political Hebraism, proposing solutions and ideas that will assist scholars in the field.

Proposals, each including a 300-500-word abstract and a short letter of introduction, should be sent by e-mail to no later than December 15, 2007. It is presumed that all papers presented at the conference will also be submitted for publication in Hebraic Political Studies, subject to double-blind review. Authors should state their intentions with regard to publication in their initial proposals. Authors of papers accepted for presentation will be notified by February 1, 2008. Complete drafts of these papers should be submitted for distribution to conference participants by May 15, 2008.

Scholars and students whose papers are accepted for presentation, or who are invited to participate in the conference as discussants or panel chairs, will be offered financial support that will allow their participation. Acceptance of this support will entail a commitment to participate in the entire conference.

For more information, contact:
Meirav Jones
Associate Editor, Hebraic Political Studies
Managing Director, Institute for Philosophy, Politics and Religion
The Shalem Center
Perestroika and the Israel Lobby

This article [via] about political scientist Bruce Bueno de Mesquita includes a brief overview of the Perestroika movement in APSA, and reminds me how prominent among the Petestroikans were... Steven Walt and John Mearsheimer. At this point I find it a little odd to see both (or either!) of them mentioned in an article that's not at all about The Lobby-- which is of course unfortunate.

I wonder what there is to say about the path from Perestroika to The Israel Lobby. I think that there's something; I don't think this is mere coincidence. But I'm not sure what that something should be. There are cheap things that could be said about rigor, but I don't think they're the right things to say-- and, after all, while I'm no Perestroikan, I'm certainly not a rigorous scientist by BBdM's lights either. (I also don't think that the connection is to be found in M&W's ostensible martyrdom for free speech and intellectual openness about the Lobby, likened to the Perestroikan struggle for openness back then, though perhaps they think so.)

Something to puzzle over. Readers who can squint just right and see what the relationship is between M&W 2001 and M&W 2007 are encouraged to let me know.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Two very smart reviews of very important books.

Brad DeLong, Review of James Scott, Seeing Like A State. See also follow-up discussion at orgtheory .

David Bell, review of Pierre Rosanvallon, The Demands of Liberty: Civil Society in France Since the Revolution

And see also: Roderick Long on Kramnick on Burke's Vindication; and Brian Leiter on Randy Barnett's originalism; and Barnett's reply.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

On the one hand...

the Taylor-Bouchard commission hearings have been a train wreck-- a juicy opportunity for the most bigoted elements in Quebec society to get a live televised audience for their views. And the sense that they've been a train wreck is only compounded when Professors Bouchard and Taylor step out of information-gathering mode and into exasperated argument with the citizens they're supposed to be listening to.

On the other hand... they're right, and for that matter they're right to be exasperated, and it's cheering to have them express it.

Bouchard was talking to local retiree Henri Pepin, who had come to tell the commissioners publicly what he and many other Quebecers: that rising numbers of Muslims and other immigrants are swamping Quebec.

"In 100 years, I don't think there will be many Quebecois left," Pépin said.

"That, sir, is just a fairy tale," Bouchard retorted. "You're raising these fears for nothing."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, you say we're raising these fears for nothing," Pepin replied "But just wait until what's happening in France happens here."

Bouchard had heard enough, and spelled out how Quebec can avoid the strife that France - an officially secular state - has gone through with its millions of Muslim immigrants from the former colonies in the Maghreb.

In Quebec, "we have a duty to make sure that all immigrants become as integrated as possible in our society, that they share our fundamental values," Bouchard said.

"And the way to do that, sometimes, is to perhaps grant them an accommodation, to make their life easier, so that they stay in our milieu, in our 'bouillon de culture', that they submit to the lifestyle that is our own, and that they can more easily assimilate our fundamental values."

Assimilate - it was the first time either co-chairman had mentioned the term as something they wish for immigrants and minorities. "If you give them the means to go into the margins, they'll never have the opportunity to assimilate our fundamental values," Bouchard continued.

"It's a fact that you should keep in mind," he told Pepin, one of 11 people to address the commission today. "It's more complicated than you say."

Bouchard also chastised another speaker, a young engineer named Luc Lafreniere, who said Quebec should force new immigrants - especially those with special religious demands like devout Muslims - to settle in the regions rather than allow them to "take possession" of some Montreal neighbourhoods.

"That's a way to target Muslims," Bouchard replied. "All the time - it's Muslims, Muslims, Muslims."

To another speaker, a man who described himself as a "psycho-educator" and talked disdainfully of "multiculturalism a la Canadian" (pronounced in English), Taylor was dismissive.

"I don't think you've ever read the original texts of Canadian multiculturalism policy," he told Jacques Lamothe. "Never was it written that people who come here can apply their customs without making any changes to them."

Near the start of today's hearing, Bouchard made what he called "a kind of declaration" : He and Taylor has spent all last night in a private focus group with local residents - something they've been doing quietly in every city on their tour.

The focus groups are a "third way" - after the open-mike nights and daytime presentation of briefs - for the commissioners to hear how the "silent majority," people who don't attend hearings, really feel abut the issues, spokesman Sylvain Leclerc later explained.

But last night's meeting - with about 20 immigrants and refugees, mostly Colombians and others Latinos - impressed Taylor and Bouchard no end. It was a welcome antidote to two days of hearings dominated by the question of Herouxville, the Mauricie village whose controversial "code of life" aimed at religious immigrants grabbed headlines.

The people in the focus group sent the commissioners a different message entirely.

"We were extremely impressed by this spectacle of people who left everything behind, who arrived here completely destitute with the families and children, who didn't even speak French, who couldn't find work in their profession, who experienced xenophobia first-hand, and who showed extraordinary courage in rebuilding their lives," Bouchard said.

"In sum, theirs is a reality all Quebecers should know about, but which unfortunately is quite misunderstood."

If that reality was better known, "it would put an end to a lot of stereotypes," he added.

"It's a great misery that that reality is not better known."

Taylor agreed. The focus group, he said, "opened our eyes to aspects of life here that are being ignored by the population at large."

And, as if stabbing right at the heart of Herouxville, the commissioners concluded with an observation: that the immigrants they met didn't succeed here in a vacuum - they were helped by many local families and volunteers, every step of the way.

"It's true," Bouchard said, "there's a lot of compassion in Quebec - very true."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Of interest to several categories of blogreaders, because New England PSA is a very grad-student-friendly conference, is the regional PSA friendliest to jurisprudence and, along with Western, to political theory; and is, I think, the only American political science meeting to have a dedicated Canadian Politics section. Plus: this year, just down the hill from ye olde alma mater.

Call for Papers, New England Political Science Association, Providence, RI, April 25-26 2008

Program Chairs

Paul Christopher Manuel, New Hampshire Institute of Politics at
Saint Anselm College

Anne Marie Cammisa, Saint Anselm College

The New England Political Science Association invites proposals for papers and panels to be presented at its 2008 annual meeting at the Providence Marriott Downtown. Proposals should be submitted by email, with the proposal in the message text (do not send attachments), to the relevant section head. Those unsure on appropriate section may submit to more than one and should inform the relevant section heads of parallel submissions. The deadline for receipt of submissions is December 20th 2007.

Please include the following information in your submission:

For individual papers:
Year Ph.D. received or expected
Title of paper

For panels*:
Name of organizer
Year Ph.D. received or expected
Title of panel
Summary of panel theme
Information on panel papers or contributors
* Panel proposals must include panelists from at least three universities or colleges.

American Politics: James Carlson,

Comparative Politics: Mary Fran T. Malone,

International Relations: Christine Kearney,

Political Theory: Steven Michels,

Public Law: Peter Ubertaccio,

Public Policy: Robert Hackey,

Politics and History: Michael C. Connolly,

Canadian Politics: James T. McHugh,
2008 NEPSA President--Christopher Bosso, Northeastern University
Visit us at

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Vox pop

From The Gazette:

Hearings a Pandora's box of bigotry, groups say
Jeff Heinrich, The Gazette

Before they had even begun, Charles Taylor and Gerard Bouchard worried that the cross-Quebec series of open-mike hearings they were about to embark on would become a Pandora's box of bigotry, to be pried open live and unfiltered on national TV.

Now - six weeks after the 17-city "reasonable accommodation" road show got under way and derogatory remarks against Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and other religious minorities started flying - it seems that Quebecers think the chairmen were right to worry.

In a new poll, 62 per cent - rising to 74 per cent in central Quebec, scene of the Herouxville controversy - said the commission should have done something from the outset to prevent racist and anti-Semitic statements from being expressed.

And 40 per cent of non-francophones polled said those views are so objectionable that the hearings should no longer be carried live on Radio-Canada.

The concern echoes that of Quebec's Jewish community leaders, who told a national Jewish newspaper last week they fear the commission has become a forum for intolerance.

"A soapbox for venting racism and a beat-the-immigrant festival" - that's how Steven Slimovitch, national legal counsel for B'nai Brith Canada, described the proceedings to the Canadian Jewish News.

The proof was nowhere more evident than Sept. 24 in St. Jerome, north of Montreal, when speaker after speaker took the open mike to vent their frustration with Jews: their money, their kosher labels on foods, their cottages in the Laurentians.

The vitriol was "very painful," Rabbi Reuben Poupko of Congregation Beth Israel Beth Aaron told the Canadian Jewish News. The hearings, he said, had become "a magnet for some of the most extreme and dangerous voices in Quebec."

Bouchard and Taylor - who only once have cut a speaker off for making xenophobic remarks, and often engage in open debate with people who say they don't like Muslims or other "fanatics" - should intervene more when comments "go beyond the pale," Poupko said.

Do other Quebecers agree? Not quite.

The Leger Marketing poll, carried out for the Montreal-based Association for Canadian Studies, suggests that Quebecers are split on how well the chairmen are handling the proceedings.

Fifty-four per cent said Taylor and Bouchard have moderated the forums "in an efficient way" - an approval rating that, paradoxically, rises to 57 per cent for non-francophones. Only 16 per cent thought they were doing an excellent job.

Overall, 69 per cent said the hearings are worthwhile despite the racism and anti-Semitism that has shown through. Only one-third of Quebecers think the hearings are "a mistake."

Two-thirds of Quebecers think the hearings are a good way to "send an important message about the limits" of accommodations of immigrants and religious minorities - not the freedom they provide.

A large majority - 71 per cent - also say the hearings show how much Quebecers "value cultural diversity" - just not religious diversity.

Sixty per cent feel the hearings "will generate an important critique of the place of immigrants in Quebec" and will "help to better define what Quebec's identity is."

However, many people think the commission is blind to some of the province's oldest and long-established minorities: anglophones and aboriginals.

Two-thirds said they want to hear more anglos and First Nations people come forth and address the commission - and an even higher proportion of non-anglophones agreed.

Overall, 70 per cent said the hearings are a "healthy" way for opinions to be aired in public, although only half think those opinions reflect what most Quebecers believe.

"Clearly, most Quebecers hold a positive view of the hearings," said Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies.

"The commission has not lost credibility. People are concerned about the anti-Semitism and racist remarks, but they feel the deliberations are sufficiently important that we should look beyond them."

Thursday, October 18, 2007


via public reason:

ALSP: 27-29 March 2008 | CFP: 30 November 2007

The Association of Legal and Social Philosophy 2008 Conference will be held at the University of Nottingham from 27 to 29 March 2008. The conference theme is Global Justice. The deadline for abstracts and panel proposals is 30 November 2007. The deadline for complete paper submission is 1 March 2008. The plenary speakers are Margaret Moore, Queens University, Ontario; Stephen Gardiner, University of Washington; and Kok-Chor Tan, University of Pennsylvania. Call for papers.
CFP: British Society for Ethical Theory

Via Professor Solum, a call for papers for the British Society for Ethical Theory.

Call for Papers
University of Edinburgh, UK
14-16th July 2008

Invited Speakers: Barbara Herman (UCLA), Wlodek Rabinowicz (Lund)

Papers are invited for the annual conference of the British Society for Ethical
Theory, to be held at the University of Edinburgh. The subject area is open
within metaethics and normative ethics. Papers on topics in applied ethics or
the history of ethics may also be considered provided they are also of wider
theoretical interest.

Papers, which should be unpublished at the time of submission, should be in
English, no longer than 6500 words, readable in at most 45 minutes and in a
form suitable for blind review. Please send your submission electronically, and
include an abstract, as well as your full name, address and academic
affiliation. Those who submitted papers for our previous conferences
-successfully or otherwise - are welcome to submit again (though not of course
the same papers!).

Please tell us if you are a postgraduate student: submissions from postgraduates
are encouraged as our aim is that some such should be represented at the
conference. Selected conference papers will be published in the journal Ethical
Theory and Moral Practice. Please make clear in any covering letter whether you
wish your paper to be considered for publication here as well as for the
conference programme.

The deadline for submissions is 7th December, 2007.

Papers and accompanying particulars should be emailed to Dr. Elinor Mason:

Note that ONLY electronic submissions will be accepted.

The BSET conference is a major ethics conference held annually in or near the
UK. Our programme normally comprises around 11 papers, 2 invited, the rest
submitted. Submitted papers are blind refereed. All those we select for the
programme are assigned a generous time allocation (around 75 minutes, 45
minutes reading time, 30 for discussion) and all papers are given to plenary
sessions. We are a "British" society only as regards the geography of where we
hold our meetings and such trivia as the way we spell "programme"; we seek to
attract submissions from an international field. Submitted papers read to
previous conferences have included work by Robert Audi, Margaret Gilbert, Dan
Jacobson, Maggie Little, Rahul Kumar, Mathias Risse, Henry Richardson, Michelle
Mason, David Sobel, Valerie Tiberius, Jeanette Kennett, David Owens, Melissa
Barry and Garrett Cullity among many others.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Supreme downsizing

Adrian Vermeule is profiled and his work discussed in this article, from the Boston Globe's terrific Ideas section.

Monday, October 15, 2007

David Currie, 1936-2007

I only met Professor Currie on a few occasions, but I am a great admirer and beneficiary of his books in constitutional history (and learned conflicts of laws from his casebook). He was a major and multifaceted scholar, and an institution-builder at Chicago Law and of the Green Bag journal.

Chicago Law has a full obituary.
Final ASPLP Schedule

The schedule for the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy, held in conjunction with the APA East, is now final.

American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy: Loyalty
Baltimore Marriott Waterfront

Friday, December 28, 2007

2:45 - 4:10pm: "Lawyerly Fidelity"
Location: Falkland (Fourth Floor)
Paper: Daniel Markovits
Commentators: Lynn M. Mather; Martin S. Lederman
Chair: Sanford V. Levinson

4:20-5:45pm: " For the Sake of Comrades"
Location: Falkland (Fourth Floor)
Paper: Nancy Sherman
Commentators: Ryan K. Balot; Phillip Carter
Chair: Jacob T. Levy

6-8pm: ASPLP Reception
Location: Kent A (Fourth Floor)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

8-9am: ASPLP Breakfast
Location: Dover B (Third Floor)

9-11am: "Partisan Loyalties"
Location: Dover B (Third Floor)
Paper: Russell Muirhead
Commentators: Richard H. Pildes; David Estlund
Chair: Nancy L. Rosenblum

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Welcome to the blogosphere...

to Public Reason, a group blog on political theory and political philosophy with quite a list of potential contributors. The mission statement:

Public Reason is a new group blog for political philosophers and theorists. The purpose of the blog is to create an informal but professional online venue where members of the academic political philosophy and theory community can discuss their work. Academic blogging has undergone a remarkable growth lately. A number of group blogs have been created by philosophers and political scientists, but none is specifically dedicated to political philosophy or theory. Public Reason aims to remedy that deficit. Contributors to the blog will have the ability to post a number of items:

* Literature discussions. If you have something to say about a recent article in journals such as Ethics or the Journal of Political Philosophy, you can link to the article and post a discussion of it on the blog.
* Reading groups. Work through a book chapter by chapter with colleagues.
* Working papers. Upload or link to working papers you would like to receive feedback on.
* Conference announcements. Post information about forthcoming conferences or calls for papers.
* Teaching discussions. Unsure about how to best explain sovereign authority in Hobbes’s Leviathan or the constraints of deliberative democracy to students? Post ideas about conveying theoretical concepts in the classroom.
* Podcasts. If you are giving a talk or just want to read a paper for colleagues to listen to on their iPods over lunch, record an mp3 file, upload it here, and subscribe to Public Reason podcasts via iTunes.
* General issues. Raise an issue of academic interest not sufficiently addressed in any literature you can find.

Why should an academic blog? For the same reason you attend conferences, give talks, ask questions, chat with colleagues, read books, and publish papers. An academic group blog is merely an online tool used to continue the conversations begun on the journal pages and in the conference halls. In that respect, Public Reason is not intended as a vehicle for purely personal reflections, social observations, or “Friday night cat blogging.”

Via Brad DeLong, Bruce Bartlett said:
Under the best of circumstances, getting a tenured position at an elite university is very hard. Because you can't get rid of someone with tenure and may be stuck with them as a colleague for decades, it stands to reason that the process of choosing someone for such a position is going to be very intense. For the same reason, the choice is not entirely meritocratic--elite universities don't choose the best scholars as professors any more than they choose the best applicants as students. There are a lot of factors that go into a hiring decision that don't favor conservatives and go beyond simple ideology.

Just to mention one area, conservatives have a tendency to choose sub-disciplines within academic fields that are not very fashionable. For example, in political science, conservatives tend to gravitate toward political theory--a field that has been out of fashion since at least the 1960s. In history, conservatives often excel at military and diplomatic history--again, fields that have been out of fashion for decades.

One of the basic elements of liberalism is a greater affinity for things that are new and trendy. For conservatives, it is the opposite--an affinity for the familiar, the tried and true. This means that conservatives are always going to be behind the curve in any field where changing fashion is a key to advancement.


even setting aside the "out of fashion" part:

While there has been a steady flow of people who are in some sense conservative into political theory thanks to the existence of Straussianism, the subfield is no great magnet for conservatives. Impressionistically I'd say that, of the small number of (even-loosely-described) conservatives who enter political science, a large proportion end up in international relations, a somewhat smaller proportion in formal modelling/ institutions/ American politics.

Indeed, it's an often-discussed pedagogical problem that we have so little conservative political theory to match with liberal, libertarian, socialist, democratic, feminist, and multiculturalist theory on syllabi. One of the big themes of the ASPLP conference on "American Conservative Thought and Politics" in January was, "Why so little explicitly conservative political theory?"

Nor is it remotely the case that political theory, for all its affinity with great books programs, is immune to faddishness, fashion, or trendiness!

I can't imagine what Bartlett means by this.