Saturday, November 08, 2008

Hither and yon, warm weather edition: two talks at UCLA

Thursday, November 13, 7 pm, public lecture in 2232 School of Public Affairs: "Freedom and Federalism." More information here.

Friday, November 14, noon, workshop in School of Public Affairs Building room 5391 (Faculty Lounge): "Contra politanism: against the moral teleology of political forms." (Please e-mail in advance for a copy of the paper.)

Friday, November 07, 2008

Senior fellowship at CREUM

Thursday, 6 November 2008 in Fellowships, Notices by Martin Blanchard | No comments

The University of Montreal’s Centre de recherche en éthique (CREUM) is proud to announce its senior fellowship grant. We are inviting applications of professor-researchers for residential fellowships which can vary in length according to individual circumstances. Fellowships up to 40,000 $ will be awarded for the academic year 2009-2010.

CREUM’s mission is to contribute to interdisciplinary research and graduate training in the areas of fundamental and applied ethics.

We encourage applications from researchers working in the principal research domains of CRÉUM : fundamental ethics, ethics and politics, ethics and health, ethics and economy, ethics and the environment. We also accept applications from different domains, inasmuch as their research has a direct link with ethics.

The University of Montreal is a francophone institution. Applicants are expected to have at least a working knowledge of French.

The CREUM will offer to its senior fellow :

- A research grant up to 40 000 $ ;
- An individual office ;
- Access to the services of the University of Montreal (libraries, sports center, etc.) ;
- Assistance for material organisation of the stay.

In return, the fellow will be expected :

- To pursue the research project submitted in their application ;
- To participate in the Center’s activities (conferences, seminars, lectures) ;
- To present their work in progress in the context of Center’s seminars and workshops.

Applications will be judged according :

- To the significance of their proposed research and its relevance to CREUM’s mission ;
- To the quality of candidates’ previous research and their ability to benefit from the activities of the Center.
Applicants must submit all of the following to the CREUM by December 31, 2008 :

- A curriculum vitae ;
- One scholarly paper or publication written in the course of the last three years ;
- A statement (1 500 words or less) describing the proposed research project ;
- Two letters of reference (sent directly to the Center before the deadline) ;

Postmark deadline is December 31, 2008. Send applications to :

Daniel M. Weinstock, director
Centre de recherche en éthique (CREUM)
University of Montreal
C.P. 6128, succursale Centre-Ville
Montreal (Quebec)
Canada H3C 3J7
Quote of the day, special 1L edition

"Oh, I don't believe in hypothetical situations, Mr Donaghy. That's like lying to your brain." Kenneth, 30 Rock, November 6 2008.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Remember, remember...

when, a year ago, Ron Paul raised a whole lotta money on Guy Fawkes Day? It's forever ago in political time, and hard to remember that it seemed particularly interesting interesting. But my post about Ron Paul, Guy Fawkes, and V for Vendetta was one of the most-read things I've ever written, oddly enough. And I still think that the migration from the defense of the British state through Alan Moore's anti-Thatcherism to Ron Paul, the fact that a traditional British celebration of the defeat of the enemies of the state could end up animating an agenda of radical anti-statism, is one of the stranger things I've ever seen in political symbolism. So, for this year's Guy Fawkes Day, a link to look backward at.
Do Libertarians Fit in a Liberal World?

Todd Seavey has written an article for Reason about the liberalism and libertarianism conference at Princeton a coupleof weeks ago.
The challenge is structuring inter-faith dialogue: Indonesia in comparative perspective

Today at McGill: The challenge is structuring inter-faith dialogue: Indonesia in comparative perspective

Thursday, 6 November 2008
9:00 am ― 2:00 pm
Thomson House
3650 McTavish Street

Co-sponsored by the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia; Department of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, Ministry of Religious Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia; McGill University’s IAIN Indonesia Social Equity Project and the Centre for Developing-Area Studies.

9:00 am. – Introduction: Professor Phil Buckley (McGill University, IISEP);

-Welcome from McGill University: Prof. Christopher Manfredi, Dean, Faculty of Arts
-Opening comments: His Excellency Djoko Hardono, the Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to Canada

-Opening comments: Bpk Andri Hadi, Director-General for Information and Public Diplomacy, Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Indonesia

9:30: Framing the question of Inter-faith dialogue
Prof Patrice Brodeur, Canada Research Chair on Islam, Pluralism, and Globalization at the Faculty of Theology and the Science of Religions, University of Montreal
Professor Phil Oxhorn (CDAS, McGill University)

10:20-12:00 Panel 1 (Moderator: Professor Jamil Ragep, McGill University)

1. Prof. Franz Magnis Suseno: Pluralism and Relations Between Religions: The Focus on Indonesia (25 minutes)

2. Prof Wayan Wita : Some Concepts of Local Genius and Culture for Universal Interfaith, Hinduism Perspectives (25 minutes)

Responses: Professor Davesh Soneji; Professor Jacob Levy

12:20-2:00: Panel II (Moderator: Professor Erik Kuhonta, McGill University)
1. Prof. Dr. Bahtiar Effendy: “Interfaith Dialogue: The Indonesian Perspective.”
2. Dr. Arif Zamhari Rohman PhD

Respondents: Professor Ellen Aitken; Mr. Jaime F. Opazo Sáez

2:00pm: Closing remarks

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Now online

The special issue of Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy devoted to a symposium on David Miller's National Responsibility and Global Justice, including my National and statist responsibility,among many other pieces. (Institutional subscriptions likely necessary.)
Readings for the day after

Fabio Rojas, "why i admire the obama i know and fear for the obama that is to come"

Franklin Foer, "Hail to the chief, any chief"

Todd Seavey, "Time for Obama Honeymoon to End" (NB: in parliamentary procedure, the time to reconsider something that's just happened isn't until a member of the previous majority says so!)

David Bernstein, "The end of white supremacy"

Mike Potemra at the Corner, "The View From Harlem, worth quoting:
Why was I, a John McCain voter, there [at the Obama celebration in Harlem]? A bit of personal history. I was born in 1964, and on the day I was born the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Prince Edward County in Virginia had to reopen its public schools. The county had closed the schools because they decided it was better to have no public schools at all than to have to admit black kids into them. Here we are, just 44 years later, with an African-American president, a president elected with the electoral votes of that very same Commonwealth of Virginia.

I voted for John McCain because I admire him immensely as a person, and agree with him on many more issues than I do with Senator Obama. And I ask a rhetorical question: Can we McCain voters, without embarrassment, shed a tear of patriotic joy about the historic significance of what just happened? And I offer a short, rhetorical answer.

Yes, we can.

[Update:] Will Wilkinson, "One night of romance"

Scattered thoughts on the day after:

I keep seeing the phrase "record turnout" thrown around. It's not true. I don't think turnout is an end in itself, and don't think that lower turnout signals an unhealthier democracy. But those who disagree shouldn't then take it on faith that an inspirational candidate automatically translated into higher turnout. It appears that turnout will be lower both in absolute terms and as a proportion of the electorate than in 2004. McCain got about 7 million fewer votes than Bush; Obama got about 3 million more than Kerry. The disspiritedness and disillusionment of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents mattered, a lot. A Republican base, faced with the catastrophic failure of a presidency they had rooted for and the nomination of a candidate they'd always disliked, stayed home-- not in droves but not in trickles either. [Update: This Politico story is claiming turnout of 130 million, but I don't see how to square that with any other reported numbers.]

Ted Stevens is winning? That's repulsive. And it's a very bad omen for the rebuilding of a sane, honest, principled Republican Party that a smart decent guy like John Sununu got thumped while Ted Stevens got reelected. More broadly, the extinction of New England Republicanism seems to me a bad thing-- the GOP that is the regional party of the resentful South is a particularly unattractive opposition party. On the other hand, it's a wonderful thing that (apparently) three states of the Confederacy voted for Obama.

Yay for the marijuana referenda, boo for the marriage referenda-- and I really hope that California Prop 8 isn't construed retroactively so as to annul existing marriages.

The Bob Barr campaign was a mess, and by any reasonable measure the enterprise of trying to advance libertarian ideas with third-party presidential candidates seems overdue for retirement. (The teenage LP activist who still lives in my memory is very angry at me for writing that sentence.) But I can't help it-- I'm pleased to see Barr's vote exceed the two-party gap in an important state that then tilted Democratic, North Carolina. (And southern Libertarians are traditionally more likely to be Republican voters otherwise, so it's very plausible that Barr tipped the state.) That does at least send a tiny little but audible signal to the Republicans that the big-spending, trade-undermining, civil-liberties-attacking path of the Bush years cost them some small-government voters who they can't take for granted.

Twenty years ago I hadn't heard of Barack Obama, so I don't have twenty years worth of belief that he could never be president to overcome. Twenty years ago I very much had heard of Joe Biden, and watching the scene in Grant Park on TV my brain kept skipping a beat at seeing him up there. I have twenty years worth of accumulated belief that he was never rising above his Senate seat, and changing that belief is taking some work.

While I think Obama will be more purely his own man and less the product of competing pressure groups on his staff than any president since, well, let's say LBJ, I'm still very happy to hear of the Rahm Emanuel invitation. It's good news for the fight to save NAFTA from Obama's Ohio primary rhetoric, since Emanuel was one of the champions of NAFTA ratification in 1993.

I hear a lot of commentary about Obama seeming subdued last night, all of it at least mildly negative but noting that it's understandable less than 24 hours after the death of his grandmother. I have to say that I liked it; I like it when he's serious and sober and professorial, which is a lot of the time. (I didn't understand "professorial" being used as a term of abuse after the third debate.) Though it's hard to rank Obama and Bill Clinton as political orators, I enjoy listening to Obama more, in large part because of his calm seriousness. When Clinton feels someone's pain, he increases mine. His smile and warmth can occasionally be infectious but often strike me as flippant or self-satisfied. I loved Clinton's 2004 convention address, but always hated watching his State of the Union talks and eventually just quit doing so; and in presidential debates he always left me feeling like I was being lied to even when I wasn't. (All of this is totally compatible with the praise I sometimes heap on the Clinton presidency, the Clinton years, and the Clinton brand of New Democratic politics, by the way.) The happiness of the sneaky kid who's getting away with something never seemed far from him-- except when he exploded in anger at not getting away with something. The contrast between Clinton's heat and Obama's cool is already a commonplace, but it's true, and I'm much more at ease with Obama's style.

Moreover, to be sober about the duties and responsibilities that are now his seems entirely in order.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Tarr, "Subnationalism and Constitutional Space," Friday November 7 at McGill

Friday, November 7, 12-2 pm, G. Alan Tarr will present a paper, "Federalism and Subnational Constitutional Space" in the Gold Room at McGill's Faculty Club. Responses will be provided by Professor Filippo Sabetti and by Erin Crandall, both of McGill Political Science, prior to a general discussion.

Alan Tarr is the foremost scholar of constitutionalism in American states. He is the Director of the Center for State Constitutional Studies, and Chair of the Department of Political Science, Rutgers University, Camden. He is the author of Understanding State Constitutions (Princeton) and the editor of numerous volumes on state constitutions and constitutional politics. This year he is Fulbright Visiting Chair in Public Policy, Governance and Public Administration
at the University of Ottawa, where he is studying subfederal constitutionalism in comparative perspective.

If you are interested in attending, please e-mail me at for the paper.
I hope that I'm the first...

to offer the claim that the new Starbucks offer merges the theory of instrumentally rational voting and the theory of expressovist voting.
Elsewhere on election day

My friend Todd Seavey has decided to devote his blog this week to denunciations, in his inimitable style, of quisling Obamatarians and liberaltarians like, well, me.

And another college friend (and my onetime newsroom boss) Naomi Camilleri wrote up a thoughtful post on "Why don't we vote?" In the comments thread there I speak up for the nonvoter.

Monday, November 03, 2008

I am not an economist...

and Greg Mankiw is.

And yet, I'm pretty sure about this bit.

Mankiw writes:

On a regular basis, I am offered opportunities to make some extra money. It could be giving a talk, writing an article, editing a journal, and so on. What incentive is there to put forward that extra work effort?

To a large extent, the beneficiaries of that extra effort are my kids. My lifestyle is, as a first approximation, invariant to my income. But if I make an extra few dollars today, I will leave more to my kids when I move on. I won't leave them enough so they can lead lives of leisure, but perhaps I will leave them enough so they won't have to struggle too much to afford a downpayment on their houses or to send their own kids to college.[...]

Let's suppose Greg Mankiw takes on an incremental job today and earns a dollar. How much, as a result, will he leave his kids in T years?

The answer depends on four tax rates. First, I pay the combined income and payroll tax on the dollar earned. Second, I pay the corporate tax rate while the money is invested in a firm. Third, I pay the dividend and capital gains rate as I receive that return. And fourth, I pay the estate tax when I leave what has accumulated to my kids.

Let t1 be the combined income and payroll tax rate, t2 be the corporate tax rate, t3 be the dividend and capital gains tax rate, and t4 be the estate tax rate. And let r be the before-tax rate of return on corporate capital. Then one dollar I earn today will yield my kids:


Mankiw goes on to analyze the different long-term returns ostensibly generated by the tax plans of Obama and McCain.

Let's look at something again:

"On a regular basis, I am offered opportunities to make some extra money. It could be giving a talk, writing an article, editing a journal, and so on. [...] Let t1 be the combined income and payroll tax rate[...]"

Obama is proposing a significant hike in the payroll tax on people who earn more than $250,000, and it's fair to note that this would elevate top marginal tax rates considerably above the Clinton-era rates that people often refer to Obama as reinstating. It's also fair to note that it makes Social Security much more redistributive (it's always been somewhat redistributive) and much less like the insurance or pension plan the average voter perceives it to be. Indeed it makes Social Security so much more redistributive that we may see a test of a longstanding article of faith among left-leaning opponents of means-testing: that Social Security that taxed some in order to give to others would be politically vulnerable, and that keeping the program universal with payouts tied fairly closely to "contributions" was a necessary part of the political strategy of keeping the program untouchable and immortal.

But nothing in Obama's plan involves changing the fact that the payroll tax is a payroll tax, that is, a tax on wages and salaries. The honorarium Mankiw receives for giving a talk or writing a commissioned article, the royalties he receives for writing a book-- these things aren't subject to the payroll tax. The payroll tax is paid on the check he receives every month from Harvard, and not on those other bits and pieces.

Now I understand that he's trying to model the general case of "incentives to do a little more work for a little more compensation." But most people can't fine-tune their work-income tradeoffs the way a famous academic with lots of discretionary paid speaking engagements and writing assignments can. A regular salaried white-collar worker can work hard in the pursuit of whatever merit raises are on offer next year, without knowing precisely what they'll be. A working-class worker is going to be far below the threshold that's needed to make Mankiw's model work (top income tax brackets as well as maxed out on current consumption, so the marginal dollar is entirely invested and subject to compounded taxes on investment as well as inheritance taxes later). So the choice of these little lumps of extra work-for-income was important for the simulation to proceed. And it proceeds on a false basis: that extra lump of work is not taxed at the (payroll+ top income tax) rate, but only at the top income tax rate.

It also seems to me that one has to be pursuing a pretty odd investment strategy if one is paying capital gains taxes on the dollar investment every year. It may be worth noting the distorting effect created by the incentive not to realize your gains every year-- but given the existence of the tax, behavior adjusts accordingly, and people don't realize their gains every year and subject themselves to the tax. Maybe that means they forgo the chance to maximize each year's return by switching around-- but you only maximize that way if you're an omniscient forecaster. Mortals maximize expected value by buying and holding index funds. The omniscient forecaster who would otherwise be capable of getting a 10% return won't continue to chase it at the price of paying capital gains taxes every year, unless he's awfully dumb for an omniscient guy; he'll do what us mortals do and live with the market-tracking return that isn't taxed every year.

The capital gains oddity might be a tolerable approximation; the misrepresentation of marginal lumps of income and the payroll tax seems to me entirely out of bounds.
Newly or recently purchased

Justinian, The Digest of Roman Law

Justinian, The Institutes of Justinian

William of Ockham, A Short Discourse on Tyrannical Government (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)

John of Salisbury, Policraticus (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)

J.H. Burns, ed., The Cambridge History of Medieval Political Thought c.350-c.1450 (I had really thought that I already owned this, and now wish that I'd bought it on sale at APSA!)

Conciliarism and Papalism (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)

Gratian, The Treatise on Laws (Decretum Dd. 1-20 With the Ordinary Gloss)

Marsilius of Padua, The Defender of the Peace Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)

Syllabus-building time is expensive! But at least this year I can usefully combine my book purchases for the undergrad class (Medieval and Renaissance) and the grad class (Foundations of European Studies).