Altruism as an Organizational Problem

by Kieran Healy on August 27, 2004

The University of Arizona’s “news service”: has done a little “press release”: covering a “recent paper of mine”: about the social organization of cadaveric organ procurement in the United States. One way to think about the paper is in relation to ongoing debates about offering commercial incentives to donor families. These debates are conducted in individual-level terms — they are about appealing people’s to selfish rather than their altruistic impulses — and they rely on a straightforward contrast between giving and selling. By doing so these arguments (both for and against markets) miss the role of organizational infrastructure and logistical effort in donor procurement, and the wide range of variation in procurement rates associated with it.

Light a single candle

by Ted on August 27, 2004

A point that’s possibly worth reiterating:

The Islamic world has ample reasons for legitimate criticism. Anti-Semitism, sexism, lack of democracy, lack of opportunity, nurturing of terrorism… these are sad realities, not the hallucinations of right-wingers. Anger and criticism are appropriate, but our approach has to start with the assumption that Muslims are not going away. Short of deliberate genocide, there’s no way forward in the long run except for “hearts and minds.”

There is much, much more to say about this. Luckily, an organization called Americans for Informed Democracy is taking a few steps in this direction. They’re putting on a series of thirty events in September and October on the subject of US-Islamic world relations.

The series will finish on October 12 with six “Face to Face” videoconference dialogues between young leaders at six universities in the U.S. and six in the Muslim world, including in Egypt, Indonesia, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, and Turkey.

The series is intended to commemorate the three-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks with a call to action out of the ashes of tragedy. As you know, the recently released report by the 9/11 Commission stressed that the U.S. must “act aggressively to define itself in the Islamic world” and to share America’s “vision of opportunity and hope.” We hope that our efforts can help to build understanding between non-Muslims and Muslims in the U.S. and then to extend that understanding to the relationship between the U.S. and the Muslim world.

No one initiative like this will change history. But what other option is there, really?

Debating comprehensives

by Chris Bertram on August 27, 2004

Our very own Harry Brighouse — who is away from the internet at the moment — features in “the latest Times Educational Supplement”: . Harry is engaged there in a debate with … his dad. But since Tim Brighouse is commissioner for London schools and Harry has written extensively on justice in education, that’s just as it should be. The subject of the debate: for and against the comprehensive ideal in Britain’s schools. (To read the whole thing, you’ll need to buy the paper version.)


by Chris Bertram on August 27, 2004

I managed a mere 39 per cent on “Chris Lightfoot’s estimation quiz”: I’m sorry to say. Instructive and entertaining it is though. (Hat-tip “Dave Weeden”: ).

Silence on Najaf

by Chris Bertram on August 27, 2004

“Four posts on al-Sadr: it’s getting to be an obsession isn’t it?” writes a commenter on “John Quiggin’s post below”: . Not really, one might think, since the continuing events in Najaf look to be of enormous significance for the future of Iraq and for the nature of whatver regime emerges. I’ve just done a tour of the various British blogs that supported the war from of liberal/lefty pov, and I find, amazingly, that they haven’t been discussing Najaf at all. Not a mention! (I’m sure commenters will dig up exceptions.) Perhaps events have deviated too far from the script? Data does not compute! What I do find is generic comment on the war or on the “war on terror”, derogatory comment on opponents of the war, occasional mention of “good news” from Iraq, and links to unreliable sources suggesting Iranian or Syrian nefariousness. The American pro-war blogs seem to have dropped everything in favour of endless comment on the Kerry/SBV affair. Those interested in the detail of what is actually happening in Iraq will, of course, continue to consult “Juan Cole”: .

The political economy case for Kerry

by John Q on August 27, 2004

Brad de Long gives a rather unenthusiastic case for thinking Kerry will be a better economic manager than Bush. The first and most convincing of his proposed reasons is that

The Bush administration always does much worse than you anticipate, no matter how low your expectations are

The others are the quality of his team and the fact that he will restore proper processes.

The reason Brad doesn’t display more enthusiasm is that Kerry hasn’t given much ground for it. Kerry has a plan to cut the deficit in half, but then, so does Bush[1].

I’d like to offer an argument based on political business cycles to suggest that Kerry has to do better than Bush.

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Taking out the trash

by Chris Bertram on August 27, 2004

A cleaner at Tate Britain has taken a “work of art”: that takes the form of a bag of rubbish, and thrown it away.

Ignoble Lies

by Henry Farrell on August 27, 2004

Over the last couple of months, Brad de Long has been documenting how difficult it is to find independent academic economists who are prepared to defend Bush administration policy. I haven’t seen anyone else saying this, but the same is true of international relations scholars. For a long while, the consensus among right-leaning realists, as well as liberal and lefties, has been that the invasion of Iraq was a disaster. I don’t know of any serious IR scholars who are prepared to defend Bush’s foreign policy (I’m not counting policy wonks in AEI etc, who face what we may politely describe as a different incentive structure). There have to be some out there – but as best as I can tell, they’re keeping very quiet.

Which is all by way of context for John Mearsheimer’s “paper”: on “Lying in International Politics,” to be presented at the forthcoming APSA meeting in Chicago (thanks to Martin Weiss for bringing it to my attention).

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