Saturday, October 04, 2008

Does the free market corrode moral character?

Amon those writing essays for a Templeton Foundation "Big Questions" symposium on this topic: Michael Walzer, Jagdish Bhagwati, Tyler Cowen, Garry Kasparov, BHL, Michael Novak, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, John Gray. The responses are just two pages each, which means that they don't allow for the kind of depth and seriousness some of these writers are known for, but still: worth a look.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

McGill political science finding of the day

Ethnic conflict stoked by government economic intervention, not globalization: McGill researchers

Economic globalization and liberalization have been blamed for numerous social ills over the last two decades, including a sharp rise in interethnic violence in countries all over the world. Not so, say the results of a study conducted by researchers from McGill University and published in the current issue of the journal International Studies Quarterly.

In fact, according to Dr. Stephen Saideman and his former McGill Master’s student David Steinberg – now pursuing his doctorate at Northwestern University – the more government intervention there is in the local economy, the more likely interethnic violence and rebellion becomes. Conversely, the more economically open a society is, the less likely such violence becomes.

“Our study counters the idea that a liberalized economy is worse for ethnic groups. Minorities are more likely to be on the outside of the political system,” explained Saideman, associate professor and associate director of graduate studies in the Department of Political Science, and Canada Research Chair in International Security and Ethnic Conflict. “So, if the government is involved in the economy, minorities are more likely to be affected by the whims of the state than by the whims of the market.”

Utilizing their own original research, along with the Minorities at Risk dataset compiled by their colleagues at the University of Maryland, Steinberg and Saideman’s results show that government intervention in the economy leads to a spiral of political competition among groups to gain control of the state and the economic spoils it distributes.

“Thus groups on the outs feel threatened because they have no control, which can lead to open rebellion,” Saideman said, “while those who are in power become terrified of losing control, as occurred in Serbia. Before the war the Serbs controlled a large hunk of the Yugoslav political system and it was their fear of losing it that led to war.”

Moreover, the researchers said, their results were reasonably consistent in virtually every society they studied, regardless of political system.

“We’re not just talking about command economies like the old Soviet Union or Yugoslavia,” he said. “We control for regime type, so whether a country is a democracy or not, statistically and probabilistically, the more government involvement there is in the economy, the more likely ethnic conflict is.”

Though interethnic violence is somewhat more likely to occur in less-developed economies, Saideman said, similar interventions even in the industrialized world have the potential to sow serious intergroup tensions.

“Ironically, look at how the government of the United States is now in the process of buying up a large hunk of the economy to bail out Wall Street,” he said. “In the future this will give people who are denied loans or who have other economic grievances an incentive to blame the government. They won’t consider factors like oil shocks and housing bubbles, it will all be laid on the government’s doorstep.”
Title of the day

"But Mom, Crop-Tops Are Cute!": Social Knowledge, Social Structure and Ideology Critique

(by Sally Haslanger, Philosophical Issues, Volume 17 Issue 1
Fellowship Announcement: Post-Docs at Stanford

Stanford University: 2009-10 Post-Doctoral Fellowships

The McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society and the Program in Global Justice at Stanford University seek five post-doctoral fellows for 2009-10. We welcome candidates with substantial normative research interests from diverse backgrounds including philosophy, the social sciences, environmental studies, and professional schools. One of the fellowships will be housed entirely in the Program in Global Justice, and one will be jointly sponsored by the Center and Program: candidates for these positions should additionally have research interests in international topics. Three fellowships will be housed entirely within the Center for Ethics in Society. Fellows will teach one class (typically a seminar), participate in the Political Theory and/or Global Justice Workshops, and help in developing an interdisciplinary ethics community across the campus. Salary is competitive. Appointment is for one year, but may be renewed for an additional year.

Applications will be accepted between November 15, 2008 and January 10, 2009.

Applicants should send a cover letter, CV, three letters of recommendation, and a short writing sample (about 25 pages) to:

Post-doctoral Fellowship Committee
Bowen H. McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society
482 Galvez Street
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305-6079

Stanford is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Best thing I've read today

Sha-na-na and the invention of the Fifties. (h/t)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Tocqueville the humorist, on the influence of Rousseau

If you're enough like me that that title catches your eye or makes you smile, go read this quick and fun Nick Troester post. Guaranteed 100% free of financial meltdown commentary or Sarah Palin jokes.
Now in the sidebar:

An ongoing google calendar of workshops, seminars, and conferences at McGill or around Montreal in political theory and related fields. A calendar-view can be found at
Separately noted this morning:

" John McCain secures his own daughter’s endorsement" and "Sarah Palin gets crucial endorsement from... her parents.