Libertarian Litmus Test

by Kieran Healy on November 6, 2005

Over at Volokh, the “puppy blood”: is flying again. This time, “it’s Juan Non-Volokh”: who defends “America’s network of secret, overseas torture centers”: against the vicious charge that they resemble Soviet gulags:

bq. I would like to underline my ultimate position: Not every mass murder is comparable to the Holocaust. By the same token, not every secret detention is comparable to the Gulag. In my view, the overuse of such comparisons undermines our ability to recognize the varying magnitudes of various evils. Such hyperbole deadens the sensitivity to moral distinctions in public discourse. Again, I am not excusing the conduct of our government. Some of the allegations are quite serious and, if true, merit condemnation, but that does not make Gitmo and other U.S. facilities equivalent to the Soviet Gulag.

Nice to see a fine legal mind at work on such a hard problem. How difficult is it to enumerate the differences between what the U.S. is doing at the moment and what the Soviets did? Let’s see. Millions of people are not being spirited away to labor camps in Siberia. Whole segments of society are not being brutally annihilated. Dick Cheney doesn’t even speak Russian! QED, they are not gulags.

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Mine enemy’s enemy

by John Quiggin on November 6, 2005

I haven’t got enough information on the riots in France, to make any useful comment on what’s happening, except an obvious one, that the Chirac government has made an awful mess of things.

In this context, there’s an expectation about that leftists should defend Chirac and his government, and therefore be embarrassed by his failures. The first time this expectation arose was when (thanks to poor performance and co-ordination on the left) Chirac ended up in a run-off against Le Pen for the presidency in 2002. Hence it was necessary for the left to campaign for a strong vote against Le Pen and, necessarily, for Chirac. Then in 2003, Chirac’s government led the opposition to the Iraq war at the UN, by virtue of its permanent membership of the UNSC, rather than because of its great moral standing. Still, the war had to be opposed, and Chirac therefore had to be supported.

But this can only go so far. Much of the reason why French Gaullists annoy US Republicans is that they have so much in common. There’s little doubt that, if Chirac had the kind of global power that Bush does, he’d abuse it in exactly the same way. Australians and New Zealanders, who’ve seen Chirac and his predecessors throwing their weight around in the South Pacific (long used as the site for French nuclear tests), are well aware of this. The same kind of heavy-handedness is evident in domestic policy and seems to have contributed to the riots.

New Rousseau biography

by Chris Bertram on November 6, 2005

A friend alerts me by email that a new Rousseau biography is out in the US. “Jean-Jacques Rousseau: An Unruly Mind”: by Leo Damrosch is “reviewed in the books section of the NYT”: today. It is hard to see how this will better Cranston, although Cranston unfortunately died before he completed his final volume (it was finished by someone else and is the thinnest of the three). I’m off to the US tomorrow, and will get myself a copy of Damrosch’s book asap.