Tuesday, December 22, 2015

New website

It seems pretty unlikely that any of the 33 people who still subscribe to this blog via RSS are need to know this, or that if they need to, they don't already (am I FB friends will all 33 of you?), but it seems like proper online ettiquette to post this: I have a new website at http://jacobtlevy.com. I'm finally giving up on the frames-based one that has kept the same basic structure, look, and base HTML code (which I wrote myself) since late 1996. At some point, even I recognize that unselfconscious retro becomes kitsch becomes the suspicion that I'm doing the equivalent of putting my CV on a geocities page. This 2002-era blog will stick around for occasional use, though.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Free Thoughts podcast about Rationalism, Pluralism, and Freedom

I was interviewed by Cato's Aaron Ross Powell and Trevor Burrus for the http://libertarianism.org podcast "Free Thoughts" about Rationalism, Pluralism, and Freedom. Our hourlong discussion is available as a podcast or online audio here.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Political theory (and related) journals impact factors, 2014

This is one of those things I put here some years and not others, depending on whether it occurs to me. Folding together information from the poli sci, ethics, and law Journal Citation Reports (TM) from Thomson-Reuters Web of Science, on the journals that regularly publish theory, so that it's all available in one place for theorists. Note that Impact Factors have been shown by the Scholar General to be hazardous to your intellectual health. Use in moderation and with caution. Impact Factors can be useful to have on hand for reporting to various administrative bodies, but they are certainly overused and misused in a variety of ways. I mean to make the former easier, not to endorse the latter. This is not a substitute for a substantive assessment of quality, and this ranking has very close to no correlation with my own ranking of quality. Also note that, as always, a number of important journals including The Review of Politics and History of Political Thought are missing from these rankings altogether. American Political Science Review: 3.688, 2nd in Political Science
American Journal of Political Science: 3.269, 4th in PS
Annual Review of Political Science: 3.140, 5th in PS
Journal of Politics: 2.255, 9th in PS
Perspectives on Politics: 2.132, 11th in PS
British Journal of Political Science: 1.987, 15th in PS
Philosophy & Public Affairs: 1.273, 40th in PS, 10th in Ethics
Political Research Quarterly: 1.149, 47th in PS
Ethics: 1.140, 13th in Ethics
International Theory: 1.051, 52nd in PS
Political Studies: 0.939, 59th in PS
Journal of Political Philosophy, 0.870, 67th in PS, 21st in Ethics
Polity, 0.642, 92nd in PS
Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 0.641, 72nd in Law
Journal of Applied Philosophy, 0.588, 30th in Ethics
Political Theory, 0.576, 99th in PS
Law & Philosophy, 0.469, 34th in Ethics, 90th in Law
Ethics & International Affairs, 0.453, 110th in PS, 37th in Ethics
Contemporary Political Theory, 0.367, 124th in PS
Critical Review, 0.320, 130th in PS
Journal of Moral Philosophy, 0.275, 43rd in Ethics
Social Philosophy & Policy, 0.255, 44th in Ethics
Politics Philosophy & Economics, 0.214, 139th in PS, 47th in Ethics
Journal of Social Philosophy, 0.190, 49th in Ethics

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

AAAS 2015

Another year, another round of elections to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences that includes no political theorists. I'm not sure any theorist has been elected from within political science in the past six years. (There have been people elected from within philosophy, history, or law who are also political theorists.) That also means another year in which Michael Walzer in particular hasn't been elected. In the empirical fields we're starting to see a generation change in the people who are elected: PhDs in the 1990s are starting to turn up. In political theory, I don't immediately see anyone with a PhD after 1980, and there are still conspicuous omissions that ought to be rectified from the generation before that.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

RPF reviews

This seems a little too openly self-promotional for BHL, but: see Todd Seavey on my new book at his blog, and Melissa Schwartzberg at The New Rambler Review, a new review site edited by Adrian Vermeule, Blakeley Vermeule, and Eric Posner.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Comments on Indiana

Setting politics aside to start with: I'm unsurprisingly a strong supporter of the original Religious Freedom Restoration Act and its state-level counterparts that sought to protect religious believers against state interference of the sort that was legalized by Smith v Oregon. I'm much more uneasy about RFRA defenses in civil lawsuits between two private parties. There is a lot to be said for having a general, impersonal private law, such that I don't have to know the identity of the other party in order to know the law that will govern our transaction. I've quoted this before in a related context; recall Voltaire's classic statement of the doux commerce thesis:
Take a view of the Royal Exchange in London, a place more venerable than many courts of justice, where the representatives of all nations meet for the benefit of mankind. There the Jew, the Mahometan, and the Christian transact together, as though they all professed the same religion, and give the name of infidel to none but bankrupts. There thee Presbyterian confides in the Anabaptist, and the Churchman depends on the Quaker’s word. At the breaking up of this pacific and free assembly, some withdraw to the synagogue, and others to take a glass. This man goes and is baptized in a great tub, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: that man has his son’s foreskin cut off, whilst a set of Hebrew words (quite unintelligible to him) are mumbled over his child. Others retire to their churches, and there wait for the inspiration of heaven with their hats on, and all are satisfied.
That's a major, valuable civil accomplishment, and not to be thrown away lightly. If I can't transact with people on the same terms because each of us is potentially carrying around a religiously-specific contract or tort law, that's a real loss. I don't say that a unified private law is required by justice or abstract principle; I'm too much of a pluralist and a multiculturalist for that. But I think we have reason to be very nervous about abandoning it, and reason to treat lightly and deliberately. I do not get the feeling that the trend toward super-RFRAs that extend to private transactions has been adopted with due care. As to private-sector discrimination, I'm of the view that private businesses should be free to refuse customers, subject to two categories of exceptions: (a) if the firms are common carriers or (in the common law sense) public accommodations rather than ordinary private retailers and (b) in the United States, due to the constitutional and historical distinctiveness of Jim Crow and its melding of public and private discrimination, discrimination on the basis of race. I think the trend to treat bans on private-sector discrimination outside of public accommodations and common carriers as the rule, rather than a unique exception demanded by the unique shape of Jim Crow, has been a serious mistake. But just because I think that the florist and the wedding-cake baker ought to be free to refuse customers in general doesn't mean that I think "antidiscrimination statute governing sexual orientation plus highly particular religious exemption" is a good second-best. Sometimes a legal kludge can make for a tolerable compromise. Sometimes when one area of law is broken, bending another can get you roughly where you should be. I'm not at all convinced that that's the case here. Writing an exemption to antidiscrimination law specifically for Christians who don't approve of homosexuality is ugly; and the generalized version we see in RFRAs like Indiana's does damage (the scale of which we can't yet guess) to the generality of the private law. Now unbracketing the politics: A pox on both your houses. There's a tremendous amount of deliberate and inflammatory misinformation flying around-- on one side, as if the IRFRA were nothing but a license to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and on the other as if there were no relevant differences between IRFRA and other RFRAs. (Most state RFRas don't apply to horizontal suits between private parties; there's a circuit split on whether to interpret the federal RFRA as so applying, but the statute doesn't say that it does.) George Stephanopolous yesterday went after Mike Pence with what he clearly thought was the very clever demand to get a yes or no answer to the question of whether it's now legal to discriminate against gays and lesbians in Indiana, when a) It already was; Indiana doesn't have a statewide ban on private sector discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (there are city- and county-level laws), and b) the right answer is not to know the answer, as all RFRAs prescribe a standard for judicial review rather than predetermining answers. It's up to a competent court to adjudicate whether there is a compelling state interest in preventing discrimination against a particular gay person by a particular conservative religious believer in a particular transaction. On the other hand, Pence and the bill's legislative supporters are obviously being disingenuous as hell about the motivation for passing a RFRA with this particular shape at this particular time. It is no secret that, politically, in Indiana, right now, this RFRA is centrally about same-sex marriage. People who have, in the last two years, unsuccessfully defended a ban on same-sex marriage in federal court and unsuccessfully tried to constitutionalize that ban make unconvincing defenders of liberty; they're just switching legal strategies. By the same token, and as I've said before, the newfound desire for opponents of same-sex marriage to defend pluralism and compromise rings very hollow.
Both of those requirements — compelling government interest, least burdensome means — are open to a considerable degree of interpretation, which is of course by design: That is what allows a modus vivendi to emerge.[...] Gay-rights activism is, just at the moment, very much oriented toward preventing the emergence of any social compromise on the matter of homosexual marriage, which is why tradition-minded florists and bakers, generally conservative Christians, are being targeted for prosecution as enemies of civil rights.
The anti-same-sex-marriage movement during its ascendancy in the 1990s and 2000s was viciously and hatefully maximalist. Imagine the different history of America if conservatives in the late 1990s had energetically supported civil unions provided that they not use the word "marriage," instead of pursuing the most aggressive and restrictionist DOMAs they could get away with in each context, such that where conservative majorities were strongest even ordinary contractual rights that might seem too much like marriage were prohibited, instead of mobilizing boycotts of firms that offered same-sex couples employment benefits! As it is, their defense of private sector liberty and the pluralism it makes possible is many days late and many dollars short. It kicked in only when, starting in the mid-2000s, the political tide turned. That shouldn't change our view of the right outcome; some particular cake baker shouldn't lose his religious liberty because the movement that's defending him now makes hypocritical arguments. But it does mean that the violin I hear playing when conservatives complain about the supposedly totalizing and compromise-rejecting agenda of same-sex-marriage supporters is very very small indeed. Update: Michael Tanner offers some thoughts in a very similar spirit.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Book offer for students

I have some extra copies of books to which I contributed sitting around the office. Anthony Laden and David Owen, eds., Multiculturalism and Political Theory James Fleming and Jacob T. Levy, eds., NOMOS LV: Federalism and Subsidiarity Avigail Eisenberg and Jeff Spinner-Halev, eds., Minorities Within Minorities Will Kymlicka and Alan Patten eds., Language Rights and Political Theory Better to get them into the hands of people who will read them. So: The first eight current students (or postdocs) who buy a copy of Rationalism, Pluralism, and Freedom after this post goes up, and who forward me their proof-of-purchase e-mail, can name one of the above books and I'll send it to them. (Actually, please name a first and a second choice in case there's clustering; I'll also update this post to indicate when each of the volumes runs out.) The cheapest way to buy RPF is directly from OUP: go here, and use discount code ASFLYQ6 at checkout for 30% off. For a while, at least, OUP was giving an additional 10% off to people making their first direct purchase through the website. If that's still true, then it comes to $US 30 or so. E-mail address is jtlevy [at] gmail.com .

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Rationalism, Pluralism, and Freedom

Available in the US February 11 (in Canada and the UK, released December 2014). If you buy at that link, discount code ASFLYQ6 brings the price down to $35. For those who prefer Amazon: Canada, US