Monday, January 11, 2010

TNR "The Book"

The New Republic has launched an online review section, "The Book."
Thoughts on prorogation, of various levels of seriousness

1) "Plus de 100 intellectuels dénoncent la prorogation". Daniel Weinstock's letter charging Stephen Harper with betraying democratic principles and constitutional norms gains widespread support among legal scholars, philosophers, and political scientists.

2) The silver lining: via the Gazette, a list (scroll to the bottom of the page) of the bills that were in progress during the 2009 session of Parliament that are now scuttled. Prorogation wipes the pending legislation from the last year out, undoing or at least delaying a substantial portion of the government's legislative agenda.

Among the 'losses' are, most importantly, new mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses (C-15), but also a bunch of expansions of police powers (C-19, C-31, C-34, C-46, C-47, C-55) and a bunch of the kind of "cracks down on" and "close criminal loopholes" legislation that I consider guilty until proven innocent (C-27, C-35, C-36, C-42, C-43, C-45, C-52, C-53, C-54, C-58). Anything that sabotages Canada's march toward American-style narcotics policies can't be all bad.

Looks to me like the only serious losses on the list are the FTA with Jordan and the end of Canada Post's monopoly on international first-class mail. On net, a win. After all, "no man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the Legislature is in session" (attr to Mark Twain, but apparently predating him.)

3) Some thoughts from the revolutionary tradition that was rejected by the Loyalist ancestors of many of today's anglophone Canadians.

John Locke:
Sec. 155. It may be demanded here, What if the executive power, being possessed of the force of the common-wealth, shall make use of that force to hinder the meeting and acting of the legislative, when the original constitution, or the public exigencies require it? I say, using force upon the people without authority, and contrary to the trust put in him that does so, is a state of war with the people, who have a right to reinstate their legislative in the exercise of their power: for having erected a legislative, with an intent they should exercise the power of making laws, either at certain set times, or when there is need of it, when they are hindered by any force from what is so necessary to the society, and wherein the safety and preservation of the people consists, the people have a right to remove it by force. In all states and conditions, the true remedy of force without authority, is to oppose force to it. The use of force without authority, always puts him that uses it into a state of war, as the aggressor, and renders him liable to be treated accordingly.

Thomas Jefferson:

[among King George III's long train of abuses justifying revolution are that] "He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

"He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The next two weeks in Montreal political theory

Thursday, January 14:

Charles Larmore (Brown)
"Reflection and Morality"
2 pm, Local 422, 2910 boul. Édouard-Montpetit
Universuty of Montreal

Friday, January 15:

conference on "Persuasion, Politics, Law"
Arts 160, McGill University

Coffee, pastries 8:30 – 9:00 am

9:00 am - 10:30 am: Robert Howse, NYU Law School, "On Leo Strauss's Philosophy and Law"

10:45 am - 12:15 pm: Jill Frank, University of South Carolina, "The Power of Persuasion in Plato"

Lunch Break
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm: Nina Valiquette MOREAU, "Musical Persuasion: Rousseau's Platonic Democracy"

3:00 pm - 4:00 pm: Douglas Hanes, "The Problem with One Self: Freedom, Persuasion, and Changing Desires

(Please note: The Afternoon session is also the first GRIPP graduate student workhop of the semester.) Papers will be available in advance. Please contact

Friday, January 22
Nancy Rosenblum, Harvard University
"Partisanship and Independence: The Moral Distinctiveness of 'Party ID'”.
2-4 pm, Arts 160, McGill University