Elective Affinities

by Kieran Healy on March 24, 2004

Interesting, but also a bit demoralizing, to see “the bloggers”:http://fedsoc.blogspot.com/2004_03_01_fedsoc_archive.html#107931360182005218 of the Harvard Law Federalist Society “on the side”:http://fedsoc.blogspot.com/2004_03_01_fedsoc_archive.html#10793772196490613 of “Intelligent Design Theory”:http://fedsoc.blogspot.com/2004_03_01_fedsoc_archive.html#107942332680013733. (See “Cosma Shalizi”:http://bactra.org/weblog/archives/000212.html and “Brian Leiter”:http://webapp.utexas.edu/blogs/archives/bleiter/000956.html for context.) Maybe it’s only a short hop from originalism about the Founding Fathers to creationism about God the Father. They’d probably describe themselves as being on the side of “free speech and free thought”:http://fedsoc.blogspot.com/2004_03_01_fedsoc_archive.html#10793772196490613 rather than pseudo-science and sophistry, though their hysterical description of “Leiter’s criticisms”:http://webapp.utexas.edu/blogs/archives/bleiter/000878.html as “thuggish,” “vicious,” “naked threats” leads me to think that Harvard Law students are a lot more thin-skinned than they ought to be. My own view is that people who subscribe to Intelligent Design theory “need”:http://www.talkdesign.org/faqs/hunch/IDnotes.html#14 to have the perverse mechanics of childbirth explained to them.

*Update*: For somewhat more in-depth and “professional”:http://www.pandasthumb.org/pt-archives/000002.html commentary on ID and evolution, check out the newly-formed “Panda’s Thumb”:http://www.pandasthumb.org/ group blog.

Principia Ethica

by Brian on March 24, 2004

Does anyone know if there’s a free electronic copy of Moore’s _Principia Ethica_ online anywhere? It should be out of copyright, so there’d be no legal reason it wouldn’t be posted, but maybe no one thought it important enough to convert to electronic form. I wanted to cut and paste some long sections because I got interested in the role of necessity and a priority in Moore’s meta-ethical views, and it would be more convenient to (a) not have to transcribe things and (b) be able to refer readers immediately to the passages I’m talking about.

More of the Same

by Kieran Healy on March 24, 2004

Henry’s post on “Microsoft as a monopolist”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/001571.html is generating a lively discussion. A side-point popped up that I think is worth discussing. As a libertarian, “Micha Gertner”:http://www.catallarchy.net/blog/cgi-bin/archives/001191.html doesn’t like Henry’s argument that “sometimes (as here) the maintenance of competition requires vigorous state intervention”. Micha asks,

bq. So the solution to a monopoly is … a monopoly? […] Henry’s proposed solution—vigorous state intervention—is no solution at all; it merely sweeps the problem under the rug.

Leaving aside the empirical details — Henry isn’t arguing that the State become a _manufacturer_ of operating systems, Micah equivocates in his use of the word “monopoly” and also understates heroically when he says “the only advantage Microsoft has over Mozilla in this respect is that Internet Explorer comes preinstalled with the Windows operating system” — I just want to focus on Micha’s implication that Henry is arguing in a circle. As it turns out, this kind of argument is a mainstay of social theory. And libertarians are the people _most_ likely to make it in other contexts, as with the claim that the solution to a market failure is more markets. That is, when they acknowledge the reality of market failure at all, free-marketeers often want to argue that the problem isn’t that the market has run amok but that it hasn’t been allowed enough room to work its magic. For example, a market failure in one area — say, negative externalities due to pollution — can be remedied by introducing another market — say, for pollution credits.

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Cereal with a Fork

by Brian on March 24, 2004

Over at Anggarrgoon, “Claire”:http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/anggarrgoon/2004/03/23#a63 is worried about losing the hidden benefits of graduate school.

bq. I finished my dissertation today. … What excuse will I use now when I try to eat cereal with a fork? or have no clean clothes? or when I eat porridge for dinner? probably that I’m making the most of it before I stop being a grad student and have to be respectable… , dissertations are so useful….

Here’s a true story. When I was reading that a few hours ago, all the talk of food made me kinda hungry. So I headed over to the kitchen, washed a bowl, pulled out the cereal box, and then looked at the clock and realised a bowl of cardboard-flavoured cereal wasn’t what I needed at that time of day. But had I not noticed the clock, I think I’d think that being an academic would have been a pretty good excuse in the circumstances. So provided the job market for Australian linguists is as strong as it should be, Claire will have all the excuses she needs for a long long time.

More seriously, congratulations to Clare on finishing the thesis. I wonder how many people there are so far who have finished a PhD while maintaining an academic blog?