Monday, December 12, 2011

International Conference on the Work of Charles Taylor on the occasion of his 80th birthday/ Colloque international en l’honneur de Charles Taylor à l’occasion de son 80ième anniversaire

March 29-31 2012, Musée des beaux-arts, Montréal

A conference of the Groupe de Recherche Interuniversitaire en Philosophie Politique [GRIPP] de Montréal, Centre de Recherche en Éthique de l’Université de Montréal (CRÉUM) and McGill University’s Research Group on Constitutional Studies [RGCS].

This conference will feature two and a half days of papers engaging with the many various themes in Charles Taylor's uniquely wide-ranging academic work, including agency, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, Hegel, political theory, modernity, Canada, and secularism and religion. It will also feature a special session on Taylor's career as a public intellectual and political actor, from his work in the early days of the New Democratic Party through his interventions in Canadian constitutional debates about the judiciary and about Quebec and federalism to his recent work on religious accommodation in Quebec. Professor Taylor will respond to the papers.

The final conference schedule is forthcoming. The current list of those giving papers at the conference includes (see the list below):


29 au 31 mars 2012, Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal

Un colloque international organisé par le Groupe de Recherche Interuniversitaire en Philosophie Politique [GRIPP] de Montréal et le Centre de Recherche en Éthique de l’Université de Montréal (CRÉUM) et le Research Group on Constitutional Studies [RGCS] de l’université McGill.

Ce colloque regroupera des chercheurs de réputation internationale dans le domaine des sciences humaines et sociales qui seront réunis pour commenter, comprendre et interpréter l’œuvre de Charles Taylor. Les grands thèmes de celle-ci y seront abordés, du multiculturalisme à l’interprétation de la modernité en passant par la philosophie de l’identité personnelle, la philosophie de l’esprit et du langage, la politique canadienne et la sécularisation. Il est à noter que ce le colloque sera complété par la tenue d’un évènement public portant sur l’engagement public de Taylor sur des enjeux comme l’avenir de la sociale démocratie et la pensée progressiste au Canada, la constitution canadienne, le fédéralisme, les accommodements raisonnables et la gestion de la diversité culturelle.

Programme complet à venir. La liste des conférenciers invités :

K. Anthony Appiah (Princeton University)
Ronald Beiner (University of Toronto)
Richard Bernstein (New School for Social Research)
Rajeev Bhargava (Delhi/Center for the Study of Developing Societies)
Craig Calhoun (New York University)
José Casanova (Georgetown University)
John Christman (Pennylvania State University)
William Connolly (Johns Hopkins University)
Nigel DeSousa (U. Ottawa)
Hubert Dreyfus (University of California at Berkeley)
Jeanne Bethke Elshtain (Georgetown University)
Rainer Forst (University of Frankfurt)
Shaun Gallagher (University of Central Florida)
Ian Gold (McGill University)
Joseph Heath (University of Toronto)
Nancy Hirschmann (U. Penn)
Cécile Laborde (University College, London)
Guy Laforest (Université Laval)
Jacob T. Levy (McGill University)
Dominique Leydet (Univeristé de Québec à Montréal)
Tariq Modood (University of Bristol)
Michelle Moody-Adams (Columbia University)
Michael Rosen (Harvard University)
Hans-Julius Schneider (University of Potsdam)
Evan Thompson (University of Toronto)
James Tully (University of Victoria)
Jeremy Webber (University of Victoria)

Conference co-organizers: Daniel Weinstock (Montreal), Jocelyn Maclure (Laval), Jacob T. Levy (McGill).

Paper titles and abstracts, a complete conference schedule, and registration information will be posted as they become available at

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Waldron on Dignity

The pieces in the forthcoming ASU Law Journal symposium on Jeremy Waldron's Schoen Lectures are gradually appearing on SSRN.

Jeremy Waldron, "Dignity, Rights, and Responsibility"

Brian Bix, "Rights, Responsibilities, and Roles"

Katherine Franke, Dignifying Rights

Jacob T. Levy, "The Right to be Dignified, or the Dignity of Liberty

I'll post more as I become aware of them.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Oxford graduate political theory conference

Theme: Political Theory and the ‘Liberal’ Tradition

Department of Politics and International Relations, Oxford University, 19-20 April 2012

Graduate students are invited to submit paper proposals for the inaugural Oxford Graduate Conference in Political Theory, to be held at the Department of Politics and International Relations on 19-20 April 2012.

The theme for this conference is “Political Theory and the ‘Liberal’ Tradition”, and there will be two keynote addresses, given by Jeremy Waldron (NYU; All Souls’ College, Oxford) and Charles Mills (Northwestern University). The theme may be broadly construed, and we welcome papers addressing any of the following themes:

• The ‘liberal’ tradition and history of political thought: The canon of great political works is still believed to offer crucial insights for current theorising, thanks to their perception as continuous sources of wisdom about the salient principles of good government. But why are certain thinkers traditionally included, whilst others are not? Why are most ‘great’ thinkers dead, white, and male? Has liberalism been insensitive to the grievances of minorities, and to certain forms of oppression and exclusion? Finally, is the ‘liberal’ tradition a retrospective construct, which paradoxically includes thinkers who never considered themselves ‘liberals’?

• The core values of liberalism: The basic liberal tenets of liberty, democracy, solidarity, and equal rights have often been used as the basis for analysis of contemporary issues such as multiculturalism, human rights, and concern for future generations. Liberal political thought has also been closely entwined with Western conceptions of statecraft and diplomacy, and has significantly shaped the development of international norms in an era of increasing global interrelation. But how have these fundamental values been interpreted and balanced, and what are the tensions between them? Can there be new ways to apply the core values of liberalism to key questions in contemporary political philosophy?

• Liberalism and ideology: Historically, the liberal tradition competed with, and evolved alongside, many other political ideologies—including conservatism, socialism, anarchism, nationalism, and green politics— with which it has often combined to form important new hybrids. Is it possible to write about a fixed substantive content of liberal ideology? What are the commonalities and overlaps between liberalism and other traditions? How have the various ‘liberalisms’ present in modern political thought developed historically and ideationally? And what is the relationship between liberal ideology and ‘real’ liberal politics at national and international levels?

Up to twelve papers will be accepted overall; each panel will be led by an Oxford Faculty member and include a graduate student as respondent.

Proposals of no more than 500 words are requested by 15 January 2012, with accepted papers to follow by 31 March 2012. Please submit abstracts formatted for blind review, along with your name, educational status, and institutional affiliation, to Details on how to register for the
conference to follow shortly.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Princeton Graduate Conference in Political Theory

Graduate Conference in Political Theory

Princeton University

April 6-7, 2012

Call for Papers (deadline January 16, 2012)

The Committee for the Graduate Conference in Political Theory at Princeton University welcomes papers concerning any topic in political theory, political philosophy, or the history of political thought. Papers should be submitted via the conference website by January 16, 2012. Approximately eight papers will be accepted.

The Graduate Conference in Political Theory at Princeton University will be held from April 6-7, 2012. This year, we are excited to include Professor Elisabeth Ellis, Texas A&M University, as keynote speaker and conference participant.

The conference offers graduate students from across institutions a unique opportunity to present and critique new work. Each session, led by a discussant from Princeton, will focus exclusively on one paper and will feature an extensive question and answer period with Princeton faculty and graduate students. Papers will be pre-circulated among conference participants.

Submission Information:
· Due date January 16, 2012
· Submissions must be made in PDF format via the conference website:
· Papers should be no more than 7500 words.
· Format for blind review; include title but exclude all personal and institutional information.
· Submissions by email or postal mail will not be accepted.

Papers will be refereed on a blind basis by political theory graduate students in the Department of Politics at Princeton. Acceptance notices will be sent in February.

Assistance for invited participants' transportation, lodging and meal expenses is available from the committee, which acknowledges the generous support of University Center for Human Values and the Department of Politics at Princeton University.

Questions and comments can be directed to:

For more information, please visit the conference website at
According to blogger, and with apologies to Bilbo

this is my eleventy-eleventh post.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Newly posted on SSRN

"The Right to be Dignified, or the Dignity of Liberty," forthcoming Arizona State Law Journal in a symposium on Jeremy Waldron's Schoen Lecture.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Other platform alert

I've been tweeting about the McGill protest and police response.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

I'm puzzled.

I'm also unsympathetic, but I mean to keep that separate from this puzzle.

Some Arts undergraduates are "striking" tomorrow to demand the abolition of tuition.

They are also mass-emailing professors asking the professors to cancel classes in support of the strike.

But if the professors cancel classes, in what way are the students on strike? The professors are then on strike for a day. Students-- if we continue to use the labor law language that doesn't really make sense in this context anyways-- are then being subjected to a lockout. But their refusal to show up becomes irrelevant, because there's nothing to show up to.

Conceptually, wouldn't faculty compliance with this request abolish the student strike and just turn it into a faculty strike?
Political philosophy rankings

The top 20 programs in political philosophy, from the new round of Leiter's Philosophical Gourmet Report

Group 1 (1): rounded mean of 4.5 (median, mode)
University of Arizona (4.5, 4.5)

Group 2 (2-9): rounded mean of 4.0 (median, mode)
Brown University (4, 4)
Duke University (4, 4)
Harvard University (4.25, 5)
New York University (4.5, 4.5)
Oxford University (4, 5)
Princeton University (4, 4)
Stanford University (4, 4)
Yale University (4, 4)

Group 3 (10-20): rounded mean of 3.5 (median, mode)
Australian National University (3.5, 4)
Queen’s University (Canada) (3.5, 4)
Rutgers University, New Brunswick (3.5, 3.75)
University College London (3.5, 3.5)
University of California, San Diego (4, 4)
University of Chicago (3.5, 3.5)
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (4, 4)
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (4, 4)
University of Pennsylvania (3.5, 3.5)
University of Toronto (3.5, 4)
University of Virginia (4, 4)

JTL: I have friends and colleagues who've been involved in the serious pushes and investments Arizona, Brown, and Duke in particular have made in political philosophy in the past several years, and am very pleased to see their excellence and progress recognized.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Reading list

Two former McGill theory faculty and one recent McGill theory visitor with new or forthcoming APSR pieces.

Alan Patten, Rethinking Culture: The Social Lineage Account.

James Booth, "'From This Far Place': Social Justice and Absence.

Andrew Rehfeld, "The Concepts of Representation

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


3-4 November, 2001

Colloque jeunes chercheurs organisé par le Centre de recherche interdisciplinaire sur la diversité au Québec (CRIDAQ).

Salle D-R 200 (pavillon Athanase-David)
Université du Québec à Montréal

8h45 : Mot de bienvenue

Première séance : Territorialité, identité, justice mondiale : perspectives théoriques
9h00 à 10h00
Quel territoire en partage? L’étude de la territorialité à l’heure de la mondialisation
Alexandre Germain, doctorant en science politique, Université du Québec à Montréal

Commentaire : Jean-François Thibault, science politique, Université de Moncton

10h15 à 11h15

Violence de masse et sécession : le cas du Kosovo
Philippe Roseberry, Doctorant, Université Queen’s

Commentaire : Frédérick-Guillaume Dufour, sociologie, Université du Québec à Montréal

11h30 à 12h30

Immigration, Territoriality, Societal Cultures and the Conceptual Limits of Liberal Multiculturalism
Arjun Tremblay, doctorant en science politique, University of Toronto

Commentaire : Christine Straehle, philosophie, Université d’Ottawa

Deuxième séance : Territoire et identités nationales
14h00 à 15h00
De sub-nationalisme à nationalisme : le nationalisme insulaire expliqué et appliqué au cas de Terre-Neuve
Valérie Vézina, doctorante en science politique, Université du Québec à Montréal

Commentaire : Daniel Kofman, philosophie, Université d’Ottawa


15h15 à 16h15
Les diasporas contigües et le multiculturalisme libéral
Jean-François Caron, postdoctorant en sciences politiques, Université Libre de Bruxelles

Commentaire : Stéphane Courtois, philosophie, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières

16h30 à 17h30

Grande conférence
Margaret Moore, science politique, Queen’s University
Commentaire : Arash Azibadeh, science politique, McGill University

19h30 Banquet


Troisième séance : Territorialité et nations autochtones
10h00 à 11h00

La collectivisation des droits des peuples autochtones et tribaux sur le territoire et les ressources naturelles : regard croisé des juges régionaux de protection des droits humains
Doris Farget, postdoctorante, section de droit civil, Faculté de droit, Université d’Ottawa

Commentaire : Ingride Roy, Université de Montréal.

11h15 à 12h15

Les rapports entre les nations autochtones et la nation québécoise en vertu d’objectifs concurrents
Jean-Olivier Roy, doctorant en science politique, Université Laval

Commentaire : Pierre Trudel, Collège du Vieux-Montréal

13h30 à 14h30
Grande conférence
Dominique Leydet, philosophie, Université du Québec à Montréal

Commentaire : Christine Straehle, philosophie, Université d’Ottawa

14h45 à 17h00 Table ronde présidée par Michel Seymour, philosophie, Université de Montréal

Call for applications: The Groupe de recherche interuniversitaire en philosophie politique de Montréal (GRIPP), spanning the departments of political science and philosophy at McGill University, l'Université de Montréal, Concordia University, and l'Université du Québec à Montréal, invites applications for its 2012 manuscript workshop award. The recipient of the award will be invited to Montreal for a day-long workshop in April/May 2012 dedicated to his or her book manuscript. This "author meets critics" workshop will comprise four to five sessions dedicated to critical discussion of the manuscript; each session will begin with a critical commentary on a section of the manuscript by a political theorist or philosopher who is part of Montreal's GRIPP community. The format is designed to maximize feedback for a book-in-progress. The award covers the costs of travel, accommodation, and meals.


A. Topic: The manuscript topic is open within political theory and political philosophy, but we are especially interested in manuscripts related to at least one of these GRIPP research themes: 1) the history of liberal and democratic thought, especially early modern thought; 2) moral psychology and political agency, or politics and affect or emotions or rhetoric; 3) democracy, diversity, and pluralism. 4) democracy, justice, and transnational institutions.

B. Manuscript: Book manuscripts in English or French, not yet in a version accepted for publication, by applicants with PhD in hand by 1 August 2011, are eligible. Applicants must have a complete or nearly complete draft (at least 4/5 of final draft) ready to present at the workshop. In the case of co-authored manuscripts, only one of the co-authors is eligible to apply. (Only works in progress by the workshop date are eligible; authors with a preliminary book contract are eligible only if no version has been already accepted for publication).

C. Application: Please submit the following materials electronically, compiled as a single PDF file: 1) a curriculum vitae; 2) a table of contents; 3) a short abstract of the book project, up to 200 words; 4) a longer book abstract up to 2500 words; and, in the case of applicants with previous book publication(s), (5) three reviews, from established journals in the field, of the applicant's most recently published monograph. Candidates are not required to, but may if they wish, submit two letters of recommendation speaking to the merits of the book project. Please do not send writing samples. Send materials by email, with the subject heading “2012 GRIPP Manuscript Workshop Award” to Arash Abizadeh . Review of applications begins 10 January 2012. Contact Arash Abizadeh with questions.

Previous GRIPP Manuscript Workshops:
May 2011: James Ingram (McMaster), Radical Cosmopolitics: The Ethics and Politics of Democratic Universalism
April 2010: Hélène Landemore (Yale), Democratic Reason: Politics, Collective Intelligence, and the Rule of the Many
April 2009: Alan Patten (Princeton), Equal Recognition: The Moral Foundations of Minority Cultural Rights
March 2009: Kinch Hoekstra (UC Berkeley), Thomas Hobbes and the Creation of Order



Appel à candidature: Le groupe de recherche interuniversitaire en philosophie politique de Montréal (GRIPP), qui réunit des chercheurs des départements de science politique et de philosophie de l’Université McGill, de l’Université de Montréal, de l’Université Concordia et de l’Université du Québec à Montréal, fait un appel à candidature pour son prix 2012 de l’atelier de manuscrit. Le lauréat sera invité à Montréal en avril ou mai 2012 pour un atelier d’une journée complète consacré au manuscrit de son livre. Cet atelier du type « l’auteur rencontre ses critiques » comprendra quatre ou cinq séances de discussions critiques sur le manuscrit ; pour chacune d’entre elles, un spécialiste de théorie politique ou un philosophe membre de la communauté montréalaise du GRIPP lancera la discussion par un commentaire critique d’une des sections du manuscrit. Ceci a pour but de faciliter les échanges sur un livre en chantier. Le prix couvre les dépenses de voyage, d’hébergement et de repas.

Éligibilité :

A- Sujet : De façon générale, le manuscrit doit traiter de théorie politique ou de philosophie politique, mais nous sommes tout particulièrement intéressés aux manuscrits qui correspondent à l’une des thématiques de recherche du GRIPP : 1) l’histoire de la pensée libérale et démocratique, et notamment du début de la pensée moderne; 2) la psychologie morale du sujet (ou encore de l’agent) politique, ainsi que la politique et les affects, les émotions ou la rhétorique; 3) la démocratie, la diversité et le pluralisme; 4) la démocratie, la justice et les institutions transnationales.

B- Manuscrit : Sont éligibles tous les manuscrits de livres en français ou en anglais, non encore publiés et non en version acceptée par une maison de presses, et dont l’auteur a reçu un doctorat avant le 1er août 2011. Les candidats devront avoir une version complète, ou presque (au moins 4/5e de la version finale), à présenter à l’atelier. Pour ce qui concerne les manuscrits coécrits, seul l’un des coauteurs est éligible.

C- Soumission : Vous voudrez bien fournir les documents suivants, en format électronique, dans un seul fichier PDF : 1) un curriculum vitae; 2) une table des matières; 3) un court résumé du projet du livre de moins de 200 mots; 4) un résumé plus long, de moins de 2 500 mots; et, dans le cas de candidats ayant déjà publié, 5) trois recensions parues dans des revues spécialisées et reconnues dans le domaine de la plus récente monographie publiée. Les candidats peuvent, s’ils le souhaitent, joindre deux lettres de recommandation présentant l’intérêt de leur projet de livre. Nous vous prions de ne pas envoyer d’extraits de manuscrit. Envoyez ces documents par courriel, avec le sujet « 2012 GRIPP Manuscript Workshop Award » à Arash Abizadeh . L’examen des candidatures commencera le 10 janvier 2012. Pour toute information supplémentaire, veuillez contacter Dominique Leydet

Ateliers de manuscrit précédents:
Mai 2011: James Ingram (McMaster), Radical Cosmopolitics: The Ethics and Politics of Democratic Universalism
Avril 2010: Hélène Landemore (Yale), Democratic Reason: Politics, Collective Intelligence, and the Rule of the Many
Avril 2009: Alan Patten (Princeton), Equal Recognition: The Moral Foundations of Minority Cultural Rights
Mars 2009: Kinch Hoekstra (UC Berkeley), Thomas Hobbes and the Creation of Order

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Egalitarianism workshop at McGill

Egalitarianism Workshop 2012
Call for Papers
Egalitarianisms: Current Debates on Equality and Priority in Health, Wealth, and Welfare

March 30th -31st, 2012

McGill University, Montreal, Canada

Confirmed Speakers

Nir Eyal (Harvard)
Iwao Hirose (McGill)
Nils Holtug (Copenhagen)
Dennis McKerlie (Calgary)
Shlomi Segall (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Workshop Description

Egalitarian theories of distributive justice have recently encountered fundamental challenges. Is egalitarianism susceptible to the leveling down objection? Is it less plausible than prioritarianism? Does it support reducing the inequalities resulting from brute luck, but not option luck? Does it aim to equalize the distribution of welfare at each time or over a lifetime? What does egalitarianism make of the strong correlation between inequalities in health and inequalities in socio-economic conditions? In this two-day workshop, we will discuss current theoretical issues and seek common and unified grounds for future research into egalitarian theories of distributive justice.

Call for Papers

We invite high quality papers on the recent philosophical challenges to egalitarian theories of distributive justice. We will include at least 5 submitted papers in the program. Papers should be suitable for blind-review and no longer than 6,000 words (must include a 200 word abstract in the first page). Please submit paper (Word or PDF file) through We welcome submissions from graduate students. For accepted papers, the organizers will cover the cost of accommodation (up to 3 nights in downtown Montreal) and workshop banquet.

Deadline for submission: November 20, 2011 (Notification of acceptance by December 20, 2011)

Click here to submit your paper

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Indians in Madison's Constitutional Order

This paper is now online. One of the two epigraphs is one of my favorite Madison quotes:

‘‘What’’—they [the Indians] may say—‘‘have we to do with the Federal Constitution, or the relations formed by it between the Union and its members? We were no parties to the compact and cannot be affected by it.’’ And as to a charter of the King of England—is it not as much a mockery to them, as the bull of a Pope dividing a world of discovery between the Spaniards and Portuguese, was held to be by the nations who disowned and disdained his authority?

Saturday, October 08, 2011

The Political Safeguards of Federalism: Dead or Alive?

The Center for the Study of Federalism at the Meyner Center invites paper proposals for the 2012 APSA Annual Conference

The Political Safeguards of Federalism: Dead or Alive?

Submission deadline: December 15.

The Center for the Study of Federalism at the Meyner Center invites papers on the vitality of the “political and institutional safeguards of federalism” conceived broadly. Consistent with the conference theme of Representation and Renewal, we invite papers that especially examine the extent to which the interests of state and local governments continue to be represented in and protected by the political safeguards of federalism, such as representation in the U.S. Senate, the electoral college, and Senate confirmation of judicial appointments. In its 1985 Garcia decision, the U.S. Supreme Court opined that states should rely on such political safeguards rather than on the Court to protect their powers. We invite a range of papers, from normative and philosophical to historical and empirical, that examine the effectiveness of these safeguards generally and across different branches of government and different policies. Possible questions to consider include: Are the political safeguards of federalism fundamental to the American federal system or has the United States evolved beyond them? How do federalism's political and/or institutional safeguards affect citizen representation? How have the political safeguards fared under united and divided government of the last two decades? Do the political safeguards protect states from unwelcome federal intrusions? Finally, given that 2012 will be the tenth anniversary of the demise of the Supreme Court’s so-called federalism revolution, one can ask what happened to that revolution and are there any signs of a federalism revival from the Roberts’ Court? Papers on other federalism topics will be considered as well, depending on CSF’s panel allocation.

Submit your proposals to: Troy Smith at

Friday, October 07, 2011

The McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society at Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship Opportunities for 2012-2013

For 2012-2013, we seek up to four new postdoctoral fellows. We welcome candidates with substantial normative research interests from diverse backgrounds including philosophy, the social sciences, and professional schools. We are especially interested in candidates with research interests in inequality, human rights, immigration, and environmental justice, but we welcome all applicants with strong normative interests that have some practical implications. Fellows will teach one class, participate in a Political Theory Workshop, interact with undergraduates in the Ethics in Society Honors Program and help in developing an inter-disciplinary ethics community across the campus.

The appointment term is September 1, 2012 - August 31, 2013; however, the initial term may be renewed for an additional year. Applicants must have completed all requirements for their PhD by June 30, 2012. Candidates must also be no more than 3 years from the awarding of their degree (i.e., September 2009).

Stanford University is an equal opportunity employer and is committed to increasing the diversity of its faculty. It welcomes applications from women and members of minority groups, as well as others who would bring additional dimensions to the university's research and teaching missions. Salary is competitive.

The application deadline is January 11, 2012 (5:00pm Pacific Standard Time).

To access the online application system, click here.

For more information on the Center and our fellowship program, click here.

For inquiries, please contact Joan Berry:

Sunday, October 02, 2011

The virtues and the economist

A series of exchanges on facebook about this comic with people trained in economics who seemed to me to miss the point of it entirely made me remember running across the abstract for this article, which I then dug back out and read and appreciated, and which I now recommend.

Lisa Herzog, "Higher and lower virtues in commercial society: Adam Smith and motivation crowding out," forthcoming, Politics, Philosophy, and Economics.


Motivation crowding out can lead to a reduction of ‘higher’ virtues, such as altruism or public spirit, in market contexts. This article discusses the role of virtue in the moral and economic theory of Adam Smith. It argues that because Smith’s account of commercial society is based on ‘lower’ virtue, ‘higher’ virtue has a precarious place in it; this phenomenon is structurally similar to motivation crowding out. The article analyzes and systematizes the ways in which Smith builds on ‘contrivances of nature’ in order to solve the problems of limited self-command and limited knowledge. As recent research has shown, a clear separation of different social spheres can help to reduce the risk of motivation crowding out and preserve a place for ‘higher virtue’ in commercial society. The conclusion reflects on the performative power of economics, arguing that the one-sided focus on models of ‘economic man’ should be embedded in a larger context.

My view about the cartoon itself, since Mike Munger misunderstood the punch line completely (hi, Mike!): The philosopher already knows the economist's arguments, having encountered them in week 2 of freshman intro moral philosophy under the names "Bentham" and "Sidgwick." That the economist is falsely assuming his ideas are new to the philosopher is made clear with the "fractions" joke.

The economist is violating lots of the official methodological pronouncements of economics, which is supposed to take preferences as exogenous and is not supposed to be a normative injunction to individual persons to maximize market value in all of their choices. It's supposed to be a way to model the decisions that are made among commensurable ends, whatever the decision process that goes into deciding what to value. So a good economist would have said, "ah, this is a question that comes before the questions I know how to answer; I need to put my toolkit away and see whether there's something interesting to learn here about how individuals do, or should, form priorities." And of course the economist is also violating the rule against engaging in interpersonal comparisons of utility; there's not even a pretense of showing Kaldor-Hicks efficiency (which itself is mighty dubious from the perspective of no-interpersonal-comparisons).

But the economist is talking like lots of people with some econ training talk, despite those methodological pronouncements. He's seeking aggregate welfare maximization, using only the welfare measures that are revealed in market prices. That this is a tail-swallowing rule for individuals to follow in making ethical choices was shown long ago by Bernard Williams. But it's also worth noting that it's Benthamite utilitarianism of just the sort that modern economics purports to have outgrown.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Hasana Sharp, Spinoza and the Politics of Renaturalization

Now in print.

There have been many Spinozas over the centuries: atheist, romantic pantheist, great thinker of the multitude, advocate of the liberated individual, and rigorous rationalist. The common thread connecting all of these clashing perspectives is Spinoza’s naturalism, the idea that humanity is part of nature, not above it.

In this sophisticated new interpretation of Spinoza’s iconoclastic philosophy, Hasana Sharp draws on his uncompromising naturalism to rethink human agency, ethics, and political practice. Sharp uses Spinoza to outline a practical wisdom of “renaturalization,” showing how ideas, actions, and institutions are never merely products of human intention or design, but outcomes of the complex relationships among natural forces beyond our control. This lack of a metaphysical or moral division between humanity and the rest of nature, Sharp contends, can provide the basis for an ethical and political practice free from the tendency to view ourselves as either gods or beasts.

Sharp’s groundbreaking argument critically engages with important contemporary thinkers—including deep ecologists, feminists, and race and critical theorists—making Spinoza and the Politics of Renaturalization vital for a wide range of scholars.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

When last we looked in on biking at McGill

... just over a year ago, there was a big public forum at which sentiment was strongly (though not unanimously) against the environment-unfriendly categorical ban on bikes on McGill's downtown campus. Associate Vice-President Jim Nicell dismissed the forum as drawing an unbalanced crowd, though without saying what drove the selection process, and though for weeks beforehand the upcoming forum had been used to tell bikers that their concerns would get a public airing.

Further dialogue and consultation was promised.

Like I said: just over a year ago.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hither and yon: University of Ottawa

October 5, University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, Fauteaux Hall room 147B, 4-5:30 with reception to follow.

John Hasnas (Georgetown University) - The depoliticization of law

Jacob T. Levy (McGill University) - Non-ideal constitutionalism

Scott Reid (Member of Parliament) - Examining of the roots of Canada's "Living Tree" doctrine

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pearson Chair at McGill University

The Katherine A. Pearson Chair in Civil Society and Public Policy

Applications are currently invited for The Katharine A. Pearson Chair in Civil Society and Public Policy tenable jointly in the Faculty of Arts ( and in the Faculty of Law (, McGill University. The appointment is expected to be at the rank of Full Professor. The Katharine A. Pearson Chair in Civil Society and Public Policy was created through a generous gift from the McConnell Foundation.

The Faculties of Arts and of Law seek applications from scholars of international renown with impeccable academic credentials in Arts and in Law, and demonstrated interdisciplinary expertise. The purpose of the Chair is to contribute to the teaching and supervision of undergraduate and graduate students in the two faculties. The holder of the Chair will also be expected to assume leadership within a new Civil Society Program at McGill University, develop new research directions in civil society and foster research grant applications to sustain the Program.

The Civil Society Program will rest on a broad meaning of civil society as an analytic term for the social sciences and humanities. Moving beyond the now-standard opposition of civil society to the State, the Program will explore both formal non-governmental structures and organizations (the “community sector”), and informal associations, practices, beliefs and values that mediate between the self and the State. The Program will study the role of individuals and non-governmental institutional forms, groups, communities and organizations in the development of legal and public policy. It will explore innovative, pluralistic and adaptive approaches to governance in meeting local and global challenges posed by health, environment, personal and economic well-being, social diversity and equity in a context of declining public resources.

The Civil Society Program will draw on McGill University’s identity as a socially important institution in public life in Canada and a respected voice internationally. McGill’s embrace of the advantages of study in Montreal – bilingualism, bicultural and bijural institutions, a cosmopolitan urban setting – are understood as central to the success of this venture. It will focus on Canada as a laboratory for study and public action, and recognize that Canada represents, at its best, a model setting for teaching, research and public outreach on matters relating to civil society in the international community.

Applicants shall provide a letter of intent, a summary of research interests (including proposed research program), complete curriculum vitae, copies of three representative publications, and the names of at least three references to the Staff Appointments Committee by October 15, 2011. However, applications will be accepted until an incumbent for the Chair is found. Email applications are preferred ( but hard copy applications can also be mailed to:

Staff Appointments Committee
c/o Dean’s Office
Faculty of Law
McGill University
3644 Peel Street
Montreal, Quebec, Canada, H3A 1W9

All qualified applicants are encouraged to apply; however, Canadians and permanent residents will be given priority. McGill University is committed to diversity and equity in employment. It welcomes applications from indigenous peoples, visible minorities, ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, women, persons of minority sexual orientations and gender identities and others who may contribute to further diversification.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

GRIPP: Bonnie Honig

Friday September 16, 2011:

First workshop of the year for the Groupe de Recherche Interuniversitaire en Philosophie Politique [GRIPP]. Paper by Bonnie Honig, Sarah Rebecca Roland Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University and Research Professor at the American Bar Foundation.

“’Antigone versus Oedipus?’ Feminist Theory and the Turn to Antigone."

Ferrier 456, McGill, 2-4 pm. Attendees are expected to read the paper in advance.

Followed by beginning of the year Research Group on Constitutional Studies/ GRIPP reception, 4 pm, Ferrier reading room (428B).

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sometime this week...

on the basis of the traffic I receive passively from google hits and blogrolls and old links and so on, this blog will get its 250,000th visit, very close to the ninth anniversary of my first substantive post. This post itself might trigger the 250,000th visitor just by RSS subscriptions. (In a meaningless coincidence of round numbers, I'm also nearing the 500 mark on followers on twitter. [Update: the 500 mark hasbeen hit.])

On the one hand, nine years is a pretty long time to hit the quarter-million mark; Mike Munger was crowing about his million after seven years this summer. On the other hand, this blog started out with an expression of ambivalence (within a day of the independently-written and now much more famous ambivalent first post from that other fellow down the hall), went more or less full-steam ahead for about four months, then went dormant when I migrated to the Volokh Conspiracy for most of three years, and then stayed almost-dormant for a long time while I blogged there and while I took a couple years off from blogging altogether except for occasional posts like my mostly-annual roundups of new books in political theory. Just when I was really getting going again, The New Republic launched Open University, which was a noble experiment with some interesting stuff (I greatly enjoyed reading Daniel Bell's, including this post about the launch of the Kindle. But in the end OU turned out kind of strange: academics engaged in parallel play, with Richard Stern writing as a diarist, Cass Sunstein promoting and defending Barack Obama's campaign, Sandy Levinson discussing the constitutional crisis of the Bush administration, and so on. My occasional attempts to engage in occasional intra-blog conversations were less than wholly successful. And OU petered out in 2008.

For a while now, what I've mostly blogged here have been political theory news (conference announcements, fellowship announcements, book lists, occasional book reviews), interspersed with bits of coffee-blogging and geek-culture blogging. My last real sustained use of the blog to develop and express my own views was during the Taylor-Bouchard commission hearings and report. I've had a few rounds of flamewars (e.g. with the odd law professor from Wisconsin who shall not be named lest she reappear) and have no appetite for them. And all those worries in that very first post still occur to me.

Overall, I think I've really blogged here intensively for the initial four months, and then in 2007-2009. I've never really committed to a view about this space. I try to do a lot of what Larry Solum does in terms of professional-service blogging. I worry about mixing that kind of space with a really active expression of views, as is done by the equivalent figure in philosophy; but then every so often I've got strong views about an obviously bloggable subject and go to it. When I have just a few substantive sentences to say about something these days, I put 'em on facebook.

The big spike in readership I get when I return to substantive blogging is nice-- but so are the expressions of appreciation I get from students and colleagues for the book recommendations and conference announcements and so on.

So: a quarter-million visitors in about three and a half years of real blogging spread over nine years, plus a few more years here and there of... whatever it is I do here most of the time. That's not bad. More importantly, I seem to mostly have the readers I want to have. I appreciate the readers who've stuck with me through my wanderings and ambivalences and passing fancies about what to do here, as well as those who happen by for one reason or another; and I appreciate most (though not quite all) of my various blogospheric interlocutors over that time. Thanks!

Monday, September 05, 2011

Hither and yon, youtube edition

My talk at the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney on "Rationalism, Pluralism, and Hayek's history of liberal thought" has been captured for the ages.

Friday, September 02, 2011

What I bought at APSA

Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy, George Klosko ed., OUP

Flanagan, Alcantra, and Le Dressay, Beyond the Indian Act: Restoring Aboriginal Property Rights, MQUP

Jonathan Quong, Liberalism Without Perfection, OUP

Avigail Eisenberg, Reasons of Identity, OUP (new in paperback)

Margaret Kohn and Keally McBride, Political Theories of Decolonization:
Postcolonialism and the Problem of Foundations, OUP

Farah Godrej, Cosmopolitan Political Thought, OUP

Catherine Zuckert. Political Philosophy in the 20th Century, CUP

Gregory Claeys, Imperial Sceptics, CUP

Gerald Gaus, The Order of Public Reason CUP

Stedman-Jones ed, Cambridge History of 19th century political thought, CUP

Floyd and Stears, Political Philosophy vs History?, CUP

Andrei Marmor, Philosophy of Law, PUP

Annabel Brett, Changes of State: Nature and the Limits of the City in Early Modern Natural Law, PUP

Isaac Nakhimovsky, The Closed Commercial State: Perpetual Peace and Commercial Society from Rousseau to Fichte, PUP

Duncan Kelly, The Propriety of Liberty, PUP

Jeremy Jennings, Revolution and thre Republic, OUP

Chad Rector, Federations, Cornell UP

(OUP= Oxford, CUP=Cambridge, PUP=Princeton)

Monday, August 29, 2011

ASPLP at APSA: Nomos: Federalism and Subsidiarity

2011 Annual Meeting of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy
“Federalism and Subsidiarity”
American Political Science Association
Saturday-Sunday, September 3-4, 2011, Seattle

Saturday, September 3
pre-8:00 am: Coffee

8:00 – 9:45 AM Panel I: The City and Federalism
The Conference Center LL1

Principal Paper: “Cities, Subsidiarity, and Federalism”, Daniel
Weinstock, Philosophy, University of Montreal

Commentator: Loren King, Political Science, Wilfrid Laurier University
Commentator: Judith Resnik, Law, Yale University
Chair: Nancy Rosenblum, Political Science, Harvard University

1:45 PM: ASPLP Business Meeting
The Conference Center LL4

2:00-3:45 PM: Panel II: The Constitution and Federalism
The Conference Center LL4

Principal Paper: “Federalism and Subsidiarity, Perspectives from Law”,
Steven Calabresi, Law, Northwestern University

Commentator: Jenna Bednar, Political Science, University of Michigan
Commentator: Andreas Follesdal, Philosophy, University of Oslo
Chair: James E. Fleming, Law, Boston University

7:30-9:00 PM: Annual Reception
Washington State Convention Center 306

Sunday, September 4
pre-8:00 am: coffee

8:00-9:45 AM: Panel III: Against Dual Federalism.
Washington State Convention Center 618

Principal Paper: “Defending Dual Federalism: A self-defeating
enterprise”, Sotirios A. Barber, Political Science, Notre Dame.

Commentator: Ernest Young, Law, Duke University
Commentator: Michael Blake, Philosophy, University of Washington
Chair: Jacob T. Levy, Political Science, McGill University

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hither and yon, down under

Rationalism, Pluralism, and Hayek's History of Liberal Thought, The Centre for Independent Studies, Level 4, 38 Oxley St, St Leonards, Sydney 2065, 17 August 2011, 6:00 pm - 7:15 pm

Conference, Between Indigenous and Settler Governance, University of Western Sydney, 18-20 August 2011. Paper: "Indigenous Rights, Modern Political Concepts, and the State."

Monday, July 25, 2011

Visiting Fulbright Chair in the Theory and Practice of Constitutionalism and Federalism, McGill University, 2012-13

Application deadline: August 1
Stipend: $25,000 for one-semester or yearlong visitorship
Eligibility and how to apply
Call for applications

Friday, June 03, 2011

Associational freedom

H/T Eugene Volokh: Apilado v. North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance holds that a gay softball league has the First Amendment right to limit the number of straight players per team.
Summer 2011 APT Virtual Reading Group: Not for Profit by Martha Nussbaum

Posting this on behalf of APT:

This summer, the Association for Political Theory will host its first virtual reading group (VRG). The purpose of the virtual reading group is to create a space for a profession-wide discussion on topics of shared interest to political theorists and philosophers, a discussion that will culminate in a round-table discussion during the meeting itself. All members of APT are invited to participate, including those who will not be able to participate in the conference this year. Part of the purpose of the virtual reading group is to expand the reach of the high quality conversations among APT members beyond the physical space of the conference.

The 2011 APT Program Committee has selected Martha Nussbaum’s Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities as the subject of discussion. We believe that the themes of the book connect to the professional, pedagogical, and political concerns that are of interest to many members of the organization, and we hope that Not for Profit will serve as a launching pad for a broader discussion in the profession.

APT members can participate in the VRG at , by submitting comments to the blog (please note that comments cannot be anonymous). Each week, from June 6-August 5, 2011, participants will discuss a new chapter of the book. All members of APT are invited to participate in virtual discussion. The VRG will culminate in a round-table session at the annual conference in October featuring Fred Dallmayr (University of Notre Dame) and Arlene Saxonhouse (University of Michigan). Both the virtual reading group and the round-table session will be co-chaired by Lisa Ellis and Peyton Wofford of Texas A&M University.

Our conversations will get started each week by a guest commentator who will post some reflections and provocations about the chapter. Then, APT members are invited to participate in the reading group by reading the relevant chapters and posting on the blog.

[APT membership is free; to join, visit].

June 6-10: Chapter One, “The Silent Crisis”
Invited commentator: John Seery, Pomona College

June 13-17: Chapter Two, “Education for Profit, Education for Democracy”
Invited commentator: Eric MacGilvray, The Ohio State University

June 20-24: Chapter Three, “Educating Citizens: The Moral (and Anti-Moral) Emotions”
Invited commentator: Lawrie Balfour, University of Virginia

June 27-July 1: Chapter Four, “Socratic Pedagogy: The Importance of Argument”
Invited commentator: Ryan Balot, University of Toronto

July 11-15: Chapter Five, “Citizens of the World”
Invited commentator: Roxanne Euben, Wellesley College

July 18-22: Chapter Six, “Cultivating Imagination: Literature and the Arts”
Invited commentator: Ed Wingenbach, University of Redlands

July 25-29: Chapter Seven, “Democratic Education on the Ropes”
Invited commentator: Bruce Douglass, Georgetown University

August 1-5: Wrap-up and conclusion

Please contact Lisa Ellis ( ) or Peyton Wofford ( ) of Texas A&M University if you have questions.

We look forward to a great discussion this summer!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hither and yon: Paris

May 31, "Rationalism, Pluralism, and Freedom, "Analyses Normatives contemporaines" series, Centre de Recherche Sens, Ethique, Société (CERSES).
Lost revisited

Apparently today is the one-year anniversary of the series finale of Lost, an event I've spent the last twelve months trying to purge from my memory. Here's why.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Toldja so.

The Canadian Philosophical Association is proud to announce the winners of its 2011 biennial Book Prize

Avery Kolers, Land, Conflict, and Justice: A Political Theory of Territory (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press) 2009.

Territorial disputes have defined modern politics, but political theorists and philosophers have said little about how to resolve such disputes fairly. Is it even possible to do so? If historical attachments or divine promises are decisive, it may not be. More significant than these largely subjective claims are the ways in which people interact with land over time. Building from this insight, Avery Kolers evaluates existing political theories and develops an attractive alternative. He presents a novel link between political legitimacy and environmental stewardship, and applies these ideas in an extended and balanced discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. The result is the first systematic normative theory of territory, and an impressive example of applied philosophy. In addition to political theorists and philosophers, scholars and students of sociology, international relations, and human geography will find this book rewarding, as will anyone with wider interests in territory and justice.

Arthur Ripstein, Force and Freedom: Kant's Legal and Political Philosophy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press) 2009.

In this masterful work, both an illumination of Kant's thought and an important contribution to contemporary legal and political theory, Arthur Ripstein gives a comprehensive yet accessible account of Kant's political philosophy. Ripstein shows that Kant's thought is organized around two central claims: first, that legal institutions are not simply responses to human limitations or circumstances; indeed the requirements of justice can be articulated without recourse to views about human inclinations and vulnerabilities. Second, Kant argues for a distinctive moral principle, which restricts the legitimate use of force to the creation of a system of equal freedom. Ripstein's description of the unity and philosophical plausibility of this dimension of Kant's thought will be a revelation to political and legal scholars. In addition to providing a clear and coherent statement of the most misunderstood of Kant's ideas, Ripstein also shows that Kant's views remain conceptually powerful and morally appealing today. Ripstein defends the idea of equal freedom by examining several substantive areas of law—private rights, constitutional law, police powers, and punishment—and by demonstrating the compelling advantages of the Kantian framework over competing approaches.

Of course, readers of some political theory blogs were told that Kolers' book is excellent some seven months ago.

Congratulations are in order!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Going to live forever.

I especially appreciate how many of these studies find that the health benefits occur primarily among drinkers of 5-6 or more cups a day.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Political theory at CPSA

Here's this year's lineup of theory panels at CPSA, as organized by Colin Farrelly and Loren King. Of special interest: Carole Pateman's plenary address, and the workshop on "Global justice and global governance":

This workshop explores the themes of global justice and global governance. What obligations and duties do we have to non–nationals? Which principles and (existing or possible) global institutions are best suited to address the diverse concerns that arise in the world today? And which historical figures in the canon of political theory (e.g. Aristotle, Hobbes, Kant, etc.) offer ideas and concepts that can help us address the challenges of today’s interdependent and complex world?

Over the course of the workshop we will examine these themes, and related issues, from all areas of political theory: normative analysis, history of political thought, applied theory. From cosmopolitanism and nationalism, to concerns of global health, immigration and international institutions, we aim to bring theory to bear on practical concerns that arise in an era of globalization.

Monday May 16, 10:30am- 12 noon
G2(b): Workshop/Atelier: Global Justice and Global Governance/Justice internationale et gouvernance mondiale: Arendt, Hegel and International Hierarchy
Chair/Président: Colin Farrelly (Queen’s) Room/Salle BA-209

Jacob Schiff (Toronto), From Global Justice and Global Governance to Global Judgment and Global Action: Rereading Hannah Arendt for International Relations

Alexander Lanoszka (Princeton), Beyond Simple Benevolence and Malevolence: Sharpening the Theoretical Differences between Various International Hierarchical Relations

Christopher David LaRoche (Toronto), Why Liberal Peace Theorists Should Stop Reading Kant (And Start Reading Hegel)

Monday May 16, 1:30 pm - 3:00 pm
G3(b): Workshop/Atelier: Global Justice and Global Governance/Justice internationale et gouvernance mondiale : Cosmopolitanism I

Chair/Président: Loren King (WLU) Room/Salle BA-209

David Wiens (Michigan), The Statist Implications of Cosmopolitan Commitments

Leah Bradshaw (Brock), Cosmopolitanism and Citizenship

Kathryn Walker (Montréal), The Problem with Transnational Approaches to Global Justice

Tuesday May 17 8:45 am - 10:15 am
G5(b): Workshop/Atelier: Global Justice and Global Governance/Justice internationale et gouvernance mondiale: Property and Territory

Chair/Président: Charles Jones (UWO) Room/Salle BA-209

John Boye Ejobowah (WLU), On Ownership Rights to Natural Resources

Rhoda Howard–Hassman (WLU), Reconsidering Property Rights: A Safeguard Against State–induced Famine

Nicholas Troester (Princeton), Putting the 'Jus' in Jus Post Bellum: Humanitarian Crises and their Aftermath

Tuesday May 17, 10:30 am - 12 noon
G6(b): Workshop/Atelier – Global Justice and Global Governance/Justice internationale et gouvernance mondiale: Health and Human Rights

Chair/Président: John Boye Ejobowah (WLU) Room/Salle BA-209

Lesley Jacobs (York), The Globalization of Human Rights to Health: Domestic Public Health Policy Dialogue With International Law and International Institutions

Kathryn Walker (Montréal), Is Rooted Cosmopolitanism Bad for Women?

Lynda Lange (Toronto), Can T. Pogge be Defended Against Feminist Criticism of His Philosophy of Human Rights?

Wednesday 10:30 am- 12 noon
G10(b): Workshop/Atelier: Global Justice and Global Governance/Justice internationale et
gouvernance mondiale: Cosmopolitanism II – Author Meets Critics for Richard Vernon’s
Cosmopolitan Regard (Cambridge University Press, 2010)

Chair/Président: Simon Caney (Oxford) Room/Salle BA-209

Charles Jones (UWO), Motivation and Jurisdiction

Neil Hibbert (Saskatchewan), Particularizing Obligation

Steven Lecce (Manitoba), Iterative Contractualism? Global Justice and the Social Contract
Discussant/Commentateur: Richard Vernon (UWO)

Wednesday 1:30 pm - 3:00 pm
G11(b): Workshop/Atelier – Global Justice and Global Governance/Justice internationale et gouvernance mondiale: Federalism and Terrority

Chair/Président: Neil Hibbert (Saskatchewan) Room/Salle BA-209

Thomas Hueglin (WLU), Federalism and Democratic Governance

Burke Hendrix (Franklin & Marshall College), What Are the Outer Boundaries of Aboriginal Sovereignty?

Margaret Moore (Queen’s), Global Justice and Territorial Rights

Helder De Schutter (K.U. Leuven), European Federalism

Wednesday May 18, 3:15pm- 4:45 pm
G12: Workshop/Atelier: Global Justice and Global Governance/Justice internationale et
gouvernance mondiale: Plenary Session on Global Justice and Global Governance

Chairs/Présidents: Colin Farrelly (Queen’s) / Loren King (WLU)
Room/Salle BA-209

Simon Caney (Oxford), What is a Fair Distribution of Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

Virginia Held (CUNY), Care, Justice, and International Law

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Hither and yon: Theorizing the Commonwealth

Volkswagen Fellowship Symposium: "Theorizing the Commonwealth"
Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 9:00am
Room 133, Barker Center
Harvard University

9:00 am

9:10 am
Hans Beck
McGill University
Federalism in Ancient Greece: Theories of the Unthinkable

9:55 am
Emma Dench
Harvard University
The Roman Empire: Theory and Practice

Coffee Break

11:00 am
Theo Christov
Northwestern University
The Republican Idea of Europe in the 18th Century

11:45 am
Detlef von Daniels
Universität Witten/Herdecke
Rudiments of Federalism in Kant

12:30 pm
Pierpaolo Polzonetti
University of Notre Dame
Omnes viae ‘Romam’ ducunt: The American Revolution in Mozart’s Vienna

1:15 pm
Lunch Break

2:30 pm
Jacob T. Levy
McGill University
The Accidental Innovation: From Ancient Constitutionalism to Modern Federalism

3:15 pm
James Tully
University of Victoria
On the Idea of a Commonwealth Today

Coffee Break

4:20 pm
Glyn Morgan
Syracuse University
The Failure of the European Alternative

5:05 pm
Alexander Somek
University of Iowa
The Cosmopolitan Constitution

Pre-registration: Detlef von Daniels,

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Hither and yon

Spatiality and Justice
Interdisciplinary Investigations on a Political Philosophy of the City
Montréal, 5 – 7 May 2011
Le Meridien Versailles
1808 Sherbrooke West
Metro Guy-Concordia

Thursday May 5th

8:45 Introductory remarks
Daniel Weinstock, CRÉUM,
Canada Research Chair in Political Philosophy

Justice, Cities and Spatiality I
Chair: Daniel Weinstock, CRÉUM,
Canada Research Chair in Political Philosophy

9:00 Patrick Turmel, Université Laval
Urban Justice and Equality

9:45 Nik Luka, McGill University
Justice, Public Space and Public Life

10:30 Cofee break

11:00 Larissa Smith & Tara Mrejen, McGill University
Autonomous Cities?

11:45 Martin Blanchard, CRÉUM
Housing, Justice and Philosophy: First Steps

Justice, Cities and Spatiality II
Chair : Victor Muñiz-Fraticelli, McGill University

14:00 Frank Cunningham, University of Toronto
Urban Citizenship

14:45 Avner de-Shalit, Hebrew University Jerusalem
Justice Within the City

15:30 Cofee break

16:00 Loren A. King, Wilfrid Laurier University
Claiming Lefebvre's Right: Urban Civilization and the Moral Salience of Everyday Life

16:45 Marie-Claude Prémont, ENAP
Les litiges post-fusion

Friday May 6th
Cities, Justice and Diversity
Chair: Hoi Kong, McGill University

9:00 Margaret Kohn, University of Toronto
What is Wrong With Gentriication?

9:45 Daniel Weinstock, CRÉUM, Canada Research Chair in Political Philosophy
The Ethics and Politics of Commemorative Space

10:30 Cofee break

11:00 Victor Muñiz-Fraticelli, McGill University
Big-City Values: The Normative Autonomy of Cities

11:45 Thad Williamson, University of Richmond
The City's Right to Capital: Property, Justice, and the Climate Crisis

12:30 Lunch

Power and Democracy in Urban Politics
Chair: Patrick Turmel, Université Laval

14:00 John Forester, Cornell University
Participatory Urban Planning, Mediated Negotiations, and the Construction of (Im)possibility

14:45 Clarissa Rile Hayward, Washington Univ. in Saint Louis
What's Wrong with the Mall? Power and Publicity in Democratic Politics

15:30 Cofee break

16:00 Hoi Kong, McGill University
Deliberative Municipalities

16:45 Roger Keil, York University
The Rise of the Suburbs and the Challenge of Metropolitan Governance

Saturday May 7th
Cities and Nation-States
Chair: Pierre-Yves Néron, CRÉUM

9:00 Richard Schragger, University of Virginia School of Law
Reviving the Regulatory City

9:45 Margeaux Ruellan, Université Paris IV-Sorbonne
L’espace public, un espace de démocratie ?

10:30 Cofee break

11:00 Laury Bacro, Université de Montréal
La banlieue française et l'émergence de la culture rap: comment un territoire urbain délimité inlue-t-il dans le processus de formation de l'identité et d'une pensée de la contestation ?

11:45 Jacob T. Levy, McGill University
Cities: The Birth of Intermediacy and the Problem of Territory

12:30 Group discussion: What Have We Learned?

to graduating senior political theorist and RGCS student fellow Mylène Freeman, newly elected NDP MP for the Quebec riding of Argenteuil--Papineau--Mirabel!

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Tory-PQ Alliance

The Parti Quebecois is riding high in the polls at the moment, though a provincial election is a long way off. And it seems to be filled with enthusiasm and vigor at the moment, coming off its convention this weekend-- though I can't say that I find the 93% vote in support of Pauline Marois to be quite so impressive as it's being made out to be. It sends the signal "in the face of a possible victory in the medium-term future, we are capable of acting as a basically unified and functional organization and not undermining our leader for no good reason." That's better than the PQ has sometimes done in the past, but it's not a dazzling accomplishment.

I fear that the real boost to the PQ's fortunes right now is coming from elsewhere: the Harper campaign.

To a first approximation, the median Quebec voter wants recognition as a distinct society, an advantageous fiscal relationship with Ottawa, and *not* to secede, have a vote on secession, or back into secession by a forced confrontation. That translates into a preference for voting for the Bloc as a substitute for voting for the PQ. The Bloc and the PQ are allies, of course-- but they are also rivals, in that the Bloc's success in extracting concessions at the center undermines the PQ's claim of urgency within the province. Voting for the Bloc thus becomes the safety valve, releasing nationalist-secessionist pressure and dampening fervor for the PQ and for secession.

As far as I'm concerned, this is a healthy dynamic. I don't like the Bloc; but I view them as a desirable feature of the Canadian political system, keeping pressure on the center to accommodate Quebec, and thereby keeping federation tolerable for Quebec.

But that dynamic only works if the Bloc is perceived to carry some weight in Ottawa. A Harper majority, and especially a Harper majority won on the basis of a nationwide attack on Quebec secessionist sentiment as manifested in support for the Bloc, will leave the average francophone Quebec voter with a sense of not having a voice, of having the desire to be maitres chez nous delegitimized in Canadian politics. Even if Harper doesn't win his majority, he's contributed to that delegitimation by making the thought of a de facto coalition with the Bloc anathema.

That can only be good for the PQ, two years out.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hither and yon, Montreal edition: today at ISA

1:45 PM (TC61)

Cosmopolitanism, Institutions, and Non-Ideal Theory

Room: Parlor Suite 2020, Fairmont

Chair: Catherine Lu (McGill University)

Discussant: Daniele Archibugi (National Research Council)

Luis Cabrera. "Is There a Duty to Support Unjust Institutions above the State?"

Ryoa Chung. "Soft Law, Soft Power and Smart Politics in the NonIdeal World: A Pragmatic Approach to Cosmopolitanism."

Jacob Levy. "Contra Politanism: Against the Moral Teleology of Political Forms"

Laura Valentini. "On the Duty to Create Just Global Institutions: Dilemmas of Non-Compliance"

Monday, March 14, 2011

March 18: Federalism, Security, Democracy, and the European Alternative

Federalism, Security, Democracy, and the European Alternative
Friday March 18
McGill, Ferrier 456, 840 Dr Penfield

Cosponsored by the Research Group on Constitutional Studies, McGill University
The Maxwell European Union Center, Syracuse University

1. 9:00-10:15: Federalism and Its Levels

Jacob T. Levy, "Federalism contra Subsidiarity"
Frank Pasquale, "Federalism in an Age of Fusion Centers"
Jason Sorens, “The New Economics of Ethnofederalism”

Break 15 Minutes

2. 10:30-11-45: Has Europe failed?

Daniele Archibugi, “Cosmopolitanism at Europe's Borders”
Cassiano Hacker-Cordon, “Europe’s Struggles and Global Justice”
John Hall,”Europe: "Banalities of Success"
Glyn Morgan, “The Failure of Europe’s Constitutional Alternative”

Break 15 minutes

3. 12:00-2:00: Security, Justice, and Democracy (Lunchtime Session)

Glen Newey, “Security’s Sake”
Laura Valentini, “Justice and democracy"
Patti Lenard, "Security, Justice and Democracy"

Thursday, March 10, 2011

It's the apocalypse

Time to panic, hoard, and acquire shotguns.
Political theory in Montreal

A busy couple of weeks.


Michael Zuckert (Notre Dame), public lecture, Concordia, Hall Building, Room H-767, ƒ455 de Maisonneuve W: "Slavery and the Constitutional Convention."

Tomorrow and Saturday:
Conference on Aristotle's Politics

Friday:Thomson House, room 406:








Saturday, Leacock 927



GRIPP: Catherine Zuckert, Notre Dame: 'Plato’s Philosophers: The Political Payoff.' New CHancellor Day Hall, 3644 Peel, room 200-- please read the paper in advance.

Tuesday March 15

Global Justice and Health Inequalities
Ferrier 456

Introduction and welcome (coffee served): 8:45-9:15am
Patti Tamara Lenard, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa
Jacob Levy, Department of Political Science, McGill University
Christine Straehle, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa

9:15-10:45 am: Responsibility and health inequalities
Who is responsible for health inequalities? Who should bear the responsibility for remedying inequalities? Is health inequality distinct from other forms of inequality, or it is it derivative of wealth inequality more generally?
Garrett Wallace Brown, University of Sheffield, Global Health Inequality and the Demands of Cosmopolitan Global Justice
Mira Johri, Ryoa Chung and Ted Schrecker, Department of Health, University of
Montreal, Department of Philosophy, University of Montreal, Globalization and Health Equity Unit, Institute of Population Health, University of Ottawa, Global health and national borders

Angela Kaida, Simon Fraser University, Women and HIV: Our collective moral obligation to improve the health of HIV-affected women and children in developing countries
Disc: Pierre-Yves Néron, Centre de Recherche en Éthique de l'Université de Montréal

10:45-11:15 – coffee break

11:15-12:30: Boundaries and health inequalities
What is the moral status of boundaries that include some and exclude others from adequate health care? Do boundaries matter for delineating who carries the obligation to remedy health inequalities?
Yukiko Asado, Dalhousie University, Population boundaries for health inequalities
Phillip Cole, University of Wales, Westport, ‘Illegal’ Immigrants and Access to Health Care
Disc: Anna Drake, Queen’s University

12:30-2pm – lunch

2-3:15 pm: Globalization and health inequalities
How does an emphasis on our shared humanity, or the shared global space of justice, affect our sense of what we owe to others from the perspective of health
Lisa Eckenwiler, George Mason University, An ecological conception of global health equity
Ted Schrecker, University of Ottawa, Cartographies of obligation: the global marketplace and global health ethics
Disc: Sarah Weibe, University of Ottawa

3:15-3:45pm – coffee break

3:45-5:15 pm: Vulnerability, humanitarianism and health inequalities
How does an understanding of vulnerability add to our sense of our responsibilities to remedy global health inequalities? How should we think about health inequalities in times of humanitarian disaster? Do health inequalities and the vulnerabilities they induce warrant being termed a “humanitarian disaster” in and of themselves?
Christine Straehle, University of Ottawa, Health Care Migration, Vulnerability and Individual Agency
Patti Tamara Lenard, University of Ottawa, Treating inequality in health care access as a humanitarian disaster
Ryoa Chung and Matthew R. Hunt, University of Montreal, University of Montreal/McMaster University, Health inequalities, vulnerability and humanitarian crises

Disc: Adina Preda, Centre de Recherche en Éthique de l'Université de Montréal

5:15-5:45pm: Wrap-up

Graduate Student “Rapporteurs”:
Cathy Nguyen, University of Ottawa
Kate Wood, University of Ottawa

Wednesday March 16 - Saturday March 19

Annual meeting of the International Studies Association. See schedule for the International Ethics section here.

Friday March 18
Federalism, Security, Democracy, and the European Alternative
Ferrier 456

1. 9:00-10:15: Federalism and Its Levels

Jacob T. Levy, "Federalism contra Subsidiarity"
Frank Pasquale, "Federalism in an Age of Fusion Centers"
Jason Sorens, “The New Economics of Ethnofederalism”

Break 15 Minutes

2. 10:30-11-45: Has Europe failed?

Daniele Archibugi, “Cosmopolitanism at Europe's Borders”
Cassiano Hacker-Cordon, “Europe’s Struggles and Global Justice”
John Hall,”Europe: "Banalities of Success"
Glyn Morgan, “The Failure of Europe’s Constitutional Alternative”

Break 15 minutes

3. 12:00-2:00: Security, Justice, and Democracy (Lunchtime Session)

Glen Newey, “Security’s Sake”
Laura Valentini, “Justice and democracy"
Patti Lenard, "Security, Justice and Democracy"

March 21-25
Jon Elster

Traité critique de l’homme économique - le désintéressement

Lundi 21 mars, 18 h
UQAM - Bibliothèque centrale
400, rue Sainte-Catherine Est, local A-M204 (niveau métro)

La théorie du choix rationnel et ses critiques
Mercredi 23 mars, 18 h
UQAM - Pavillon Thérèse-Casgrain
455, boulevard René-Lévesque Est, local W-5215

Justice, Truth and Peace

Jeudi 24 mars, 17 h
McGill - Moot Court, New Chancellor Day Hall
3644, rue Peel (entrée par le 3660, rue Peel)

Le rôle des émotions dans l’explication de l’action
Vendredi 25 mars, 10 h
UQAM - Pavillon Thérèse-Casgrain
455, boulevard René-Lévesque Est, local W-5215

Friday, March 04, 2011


I haven't written anything there yet, but I've joined with a great team of simpatico philosophers over at the new blog Bleeding Hearts Libertarians. More to come.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hey, look at that

Now that the earmark bans are in place, it's evident to everyone that earmarks affect spending levels.
When House Republicans were searching for cuts to offer Senate Democrats as part of a temporary spending plan to avert a government shutdown, they were able to reach into accounts set aside for earmarks and find nearly $2.8 billion that would have previously gone to water projects, transit programs and construction programs. No earmarks, no need for that money, and the threat of an imminent shutdown was eased.

Lawmakers said the absence of earmarks also allowed for a more freewheeling debate on the House floor during consideration of the Republican plan to slash $61 billion from this year’s budget since Democrats and Republicans were not caught up in protecting the special provisions they had worked so hard to tuck into the spending bill.

“This is a completely new experience, and a good one,” said Representative Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who had lost scores of attempts on the House floor to strip earmarks from spending bills.

While spending on earmarks is a tiny portion of the budget, critics like Mr. Flake and Mr. Boehner said they played an insidious role in pushing up federal spending through what is known in legislative terms as logrolling.

Top members of the Appropriations Committee might, for instance, grant a lawmaker’s request for a few million dollars for an important project back home. That lawmaker would then be obligated to support the entire multibillion-dollar bill despite possible reservations. Woe to the person who gets an earmark and then opposes the bill; chances for a future earmark would be somewhere between zero and none.

“You get millions for an earmark and end up voting for billions of dollars that you may oppose,” said Steve Ellis, a vice president at Taxpayers for Common Sense, a government watchdog group.

(For previous discussion, see here.)

Friday, February 25, 2011

On Liberty

Matt Yglesias:
[quoting] The Georgia dissidents rallied behind the revealing slogan “Liberty and Property without restrictions”—which explicitly linked the liberty of white men to their right to hold blacks as property. Until they could own slaves, the white Georgians considered themselves unfree. [/quoting] It’s a very interesting quirk of rhetoric. Freedom-talk tends, in practice, to have very little to do with any respectable notion of freedom.

Provides an occasion for two of my favorite quotes.

Samuel Johnson, on Americans: "How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?"

Orlando Patterson, on the general phenomenon:
The basic argument of this work is that freedom was generated from the experience of slavery. People came to value freedom, to construct it as a powerful shared vision of life, as a result of their experience of, and response to, slavery or its recombinant form, serfdom, in their roles as masters, slaves, and nonslaves.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Clever or pretentious?

My admiration for this idea, a riff on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue by Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes (and see the contributions of art museums to the idea here) was almost-- but not quite-- entirely undone by this: "Green confesses that he hasn't seen the Sports Illustrated version: 'The newsstand near me carries Cooks Illustrated, The Nation, Bookforum, The Chronicle of Philanthropy and The New York Review of Books. It seems not to carry Sports Illustrated.'"

You're already tweaking SI and propagating great works of art. Do you really need to further prove your high-culture bona fides with this kind of "I don't even own a television" tedium?

In addition to being absurdly and unnecessarily pretentious (look at that list! Surely you local newsagent carries something else; the only purpose of that list is culture-status grabbing), I just don't believe it. The kind of bookstore newsstands that carry The Chronicle of Philanthropy (not many!) carry pretty nearly everything. They might sell out of the swimsuit issue; they don't not carry it. And the places that can support such highbrow newsstands (big cities and some college towns) also support more than one newsstand. In that kind of place, one's eyes are eventually sullied by passing over the cover of a magazine that is less highbrow than one's own tastes. One grits one's teeth and endures; one need not fib about the experience.
Freedom of associations/ freedom in associations watch

Arizona is considering requiring universities to allow concealed-carry permit holders to wear their guns on campus, and Texas seems to be close to doing so.

One view: This fails to recognize the autonomy of universities as self-governing institutions. Merits aside, it is rightly a matter for universities to decide. Universities are much more likely than state legislatures to correctly understand the dynamics of classroom life, dormitory life, Greek systems and drinking, and much more that should go into making a decision about permitting firearms on campus. Public universities should be free (as private universities are) to decide that for themselves.

Another view: students and professors do not leave their freedom at the campus gates. The First Amendment directly applies to public universities: their self-government does not extend to passing hate-speech regulations, or discriminating against religious student newspapers, or judging candidates for employment based on their political views, or establishing a religion. In the many American states where the voters and/or legislatures have decided that individual freedom encompasses wide latitude to carry firearms in public places, the public universities don't have any authority to trump that judgment. Public universities, unlike private universities, must respect the freedom of their members as individuals. Their associational freedom to make their own internal rules is a lesser matter, and even somewhat suspect, since they are state agencies.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

It is probably not an accident

that the U.S. and Canada have the relative positions that they do on this chart, since it is based on data from after I moved north.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Oh, good.

Because the problem with purebred dogs is that they're not inbred enough, let's start thinking in terms of "endangered" breeds that should be rescued by breeding lots and lots of dogs from just four ancestors.

I'm a serious dog people, as those who know me will attest. But breed-fetishization holds no appeal for me. We've been mixing dogs' genes for thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of years, to meet our needs and desires at the time. There's nothing sacred about the sub-speciation that happened to be in effect when the Kennel Clubs came into existence. The otterhounds are cute, sure. But if we've inbred the otterhound to the point of epilepsy, and we no longer need dogs to hunt otters, why on earth should we go on inbreeding them and trying to create demand for them where none exists, instead of reshuffling the genetic cards and getting some healthier mutts and, eventually, new breeds? The need to have dogs available as props for historical reenactors and cosplayers doesn't really strike me as compelling. If there are enough of the cosplayers to sustain demand, that's fine, but if there aren't, I don't think the extinction of the breed would be an object of great concern. (The life of each individual dog is an object of concern, but not the fate of the breed.) Dogs' genetic differentiation and specialization is a human creation for human needs; the otterhound- polar bear analogy doesn't hold. And we will, happily, go on having, and making, lots of different kinds of dogs for the foreseeable future.
Sasha's asteroid

Sasha Volokh suggests, in accordance with orthodox libertarian rights theory, that
"taxing people to protect the Earth from an asteroid, while within Congress’s powers, is an illegitimate function of government from a moral perspective. I think it’s O.K. to violate people’s rights (e.g. through taxation) if the result is that you protect people’s rights to some greater extent (e.g. through police, courts, the military). But it’s not obvious to me that the Earth being hit by an asteroid (or, say, someone being hit by lightning or a falling tree) violates anyone’s rights; if that’s so, then I’m not sure I can justify preventing it through taxation.

This is met with a sensible rejoinder from Matt Yglesias and that blank look of incredulity that Brad DeLong sometimes affects in lieu of argument. But I can sympathize even with Brad here. The conclusion is absurd, and as Matt says, that means that something has gone badly wrong somewhere along the way.

I'll again quote from my argument about this kind of thing.

I propose to treat the state as a morally contingent form of social organization that is nonetheless pervasive in the world we inhabit and in any world we can reasonably imagine in the medium-term future.

If we do so, one consequence is that we should view state officials as wielding a great deal of power in our social world that is probably not justified all the way down. States did not come about by individualist contractualist consent; they are not the institutional form of morally foundational nations; religious, hereditary, and customary forms of legitimation may remain sociologically credible in some places but are surely not morally well-grounded accounts of the justifications for the organized use of violence. Yet states are such well-entrenched features of the political landscape that, if can constrains ought at all, we are probably not morally obligated to abolish the state form in favor of some other form of political organization or in favor of anarchy of any description. We must morally make the best of them, making do with what we have.

In a world filled with states, officeholders and officials should view themselves as having political responsibility as analyzed by Weber, which is much like [David] Miller’s remedial responsibility. They wield power that is not morally legitimated by its origins; the power exists because of morally neutral historical and social accidents. What remains is moral responsibility for what is done with the power.

State officials then confront a world in which their authority gives them unusual power over outcomes. In a world full of drowning children, they are unusually likely to have access to life preservers. As Miller stresses, it is important not to view the world as always only made up of drowning children; we must also be able to see ourselves as partly responsible for the creation of our circumstances, our social worlds, and our outcomes. But even with that caveat in mind, there are drowning children enough to go around. Miller draws on Virginia Held’s (1970) famous argument that a random collection of individuals can be held morally responsible, to suggest that if they can, surely more substantial collectives like nations can be. But Held’s “random collection” shouldn’t be passed by so quickly; it is a serviceable shorthand for the reality of fellow-citizenship in a modern state, who make up a random collection of individuals who happen to be socially organized in a particular, contingent but powerful, way.

The state’s first duty, the prevention of interpersonal violence, follows more or less straightforwardly from the kind of social organization that the state is: the agency that is able to claim and enforce a local monopoly on the legitimate initiation of force. Not all forms of political organization have been like that, and the responsibilities of officeholders under them differed accordingly. But the ability to prevent private violence is constitutive of the modern state, which just for that reason acquires a responsibility to do so in accordance with the background moral rights of persons to be free from violence. Similarly, it acquires a responsibility to protect against theft and against aggression from outside its boundaries. It has displaced all other possible protectors; it has both the greatest ability and (due to its own actions) the only ability to defend against force; and so it bears the responsibility to do so.

Orthodox libertarianism would hold that this first responsibility (understood to include the prevention of private theft, not only personal violence) also more or less exhausts the state’s responsibilities. But the creation of the social technology that can protect against internal and external violence—for example, the creation of a professional body of armed men trained for coordinated action and a financial apparatus that can support that body—means that there is a significant concentration of physical and fiscal power on hand. And there may well be an overprovision of that power, since an underprovision is irresponsible and generates political pressure for state actors to fulfill their duties, and “just right” provision at the level that would keep police and armed forces working at precisely their whole capacity would be an astronomically unlikely coincidence. Then, unavoidably, the slack in the system provides the state and state actors with situations in which they have a unique capacity to prevent or mitigate harms and suffering. The police force created to prevent crimes also has the ability to respond to car crashes. The public fisc created to fund an army also has the ability to feed the starving. I am sure that there is no morally decent way to insist that the police officer refuse in principle to aid people in danger even if the danger wasn’t caused by crime, even though that means that the taxpayers will be involuntarily funding some use of the officer’s time that is not connected to rights-protection, even if the resulting situation is a violation of the best understanding of taxpayers’ property rights. Nor will it just be a matter of the personal benevolence of the police officer who wants to be free to prevent non-criminal harms while on the clock. If capacity and proximity can generate outcome-responsibility, then it can be the officer’s responsibility to act—and, accordingly, the responsibility of the state of which the officer is an agent.
Once the public fisc can prevent non-criminal harms indirectly, by paying its personnel to do so, it is a difficult distinction to maintain that it may not prevent them directly, by, e.g., feeding the hungry. Indeed, the distinction is probably an impossible one, and so all non-autocracies will end by being in the business of distribution (Dahl 1993). Once states are distributing benefits—and even physical protection is a benefit about which distributive decisions are made, as is perfectly evident when looking at the geographic unevenness of police protection in all countries—they face moral constraints about how and to whom they should be distributed. That is, there are problems of political redistributive justice, even if redistribution is not in itself demanded by justice.

I do not suppose that these brief remarks will persuade my fellow libertarians that they ought to abandon their views on redistributive spending. But perhaps they will agree that the police officer on duty has a responsibility (and not just the responsibility borne by any natural person) to aid the drowning child, even though doing so is a drain on taxpayer resources that is not for the sake of the prevention of interpersonal rights-violations, even though doing so provides a kind of subsidized in-kind insurance against misfortunes that are not injustices. The subsidy is not itself a demand of libertarian justice but of public responsibility conditional on the fact of public power; but once the subsidy exists, it is constrained by concerns about justice. A state could not justifiably intentionally deploy police differentially according to the race of the children likely to be at risk of drowning.

(From Levy, "National and Statist Responsibility," Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, Volume 11, Issue 4 December 2008 , pages 485 - 499.)

In other words: it is obviously morally false that no steps may legitimately be taken to prevent the earth from an asteroid collision. It may be that in some alternate world without coercive states, alternate forms of social organization would have arisen that would have the organizational capacity to build the space cannon (or whatever). But we live in a world in which states have, for centuries, aggregated to themselves the function of the rapid large-scale organization of the means of applying great quantities of destructive kinetic energy. For good or for ill, they have displaced the social actors from that alternate world. If states may not act, then there is no one who both may and can, and that violates the premise at the beginning of this paragraph.

Say that I hold bad but effective land title-- if the property right to my land morally appropriately vests in an Indian tribe that may actually regain it someday, but hasn't yet. Indeed, I've been aggressively contesting their land claim; it is due in part to my own actions that they haven't reclaimed it. And then fire breaks out on a neighboring piece of land; my property is the appropriate place for a firebreak to protect much more area behind mine. (This could be a house in a city or a plot of forest.) But it is only likely, not guaranteed, that the fire will spread. So if I allow the firebreak on my land, I am knowingly and certainly destroying property value that might otherwise survive intact, on land that is not genuinely mine to destroy.

Or: I have stolen your car for a joy ride, and suddenly (god help me) see a trolley experiment unfolding in front of me. Instead of the fat man of some versions of the thought experiment, what I can put between the trolley and the people in peril is your car, probably totaling it.

In both cases, even if we concede that it was wrongful conduct that put me into the position of being the one able to prevent the catastrophic consequences, and even if the prevention will cause some moral harm, I have a clear duty to prevent the bad consequences. And-- for reasons familiar from Weber and Walzer, and fully articulated by Goodin in Utilitarianism as a Public Philosophy-- state actors have an exceptionally strong duty to prevent bad consequences that they're in a position to effect.

Sasha's rights theory is the one I object to with the policeman and the drowning child: the child's rights are not being violated, so the policeman may not spend taxpayer-supported time rescuing her. Still less may he commit some new act of expropriation-- grabbing your expensive suede jacket off a nearby park bench to wrap around the cold and wet child. But the asteroid case is even worse: it's as though the city has declared a curfew in the park, so no one but the policeman legally could be in a position to help the child at all. Given that state of affairs, the world that at that moment exists, the policeman not only may but must act.

The strict believer in property rights could still say: I'd be responsible for the value of your car if I totaled it in that way, even to save lives, since my being in that position was a consequence of my own actions. And that's right-- though it is fully compatible with the view that I have a moral duty to act. So maybe, in the science fiction future world in which state officials are all called on to pay damages for the harms their coercive actions caused over the centuries, they might be liable for the taxation in support of the building of the space cannon, even though they had a moral duty to build it. (The state has the right to create a firebreak without the owner's consent, under its duty to provide for public safety, but it owes damages afterwards.)

But now suppose that you were one of the people standing on the track whose life was saved. And try to calculate the who owes damages to whom, in the event that a handful of state officials coercively extracted some billions of dollars from hundreds of millions of people, with the consequence that all life on earth was saved.

What all of this means is: Sasha's theory of what rights we have is not the only premise needed to make his argument go. Not even fiat justitia ruat coelum will do the work. He also needs an implausible theory in which moral duties in a non-ideal world are absolutely identical to moral duties in an ideal world. To defeat it, we only need introduce a moral equivalent of the lawyerly concept of estoppel. If you believe in the libertarian alternate world of statelessness, and you believe that states have wickedly prevented us from reaching that world, you should think that states are estopped from suddenly pleading "let justice be done" come the moment when the heavens are literally about to fall.