From the monthly archives:

February 2007

Redesigning Distribution

by Harry on February 28, 2007

The newest book in the Real Utopias Project series is Redesigning Distribution (UK). The books are all based on conferences held at Madison, and each one focuses on a particular “real utopian” proposal – an institutional proposal which is supposed to embody or further some egalitarian ideal but is supposed to be in principle implementable in the real world and, more importantly, to be self-sustaining in some hard-to-specify way. This volume compares Basic Income Grants with Stakeholder Grants. Philippe Van Parijs makes the case for a BIG, a universal grant that all citizens would receive on a regular basis from the age of majority, funded most likely out of general taxation; Bruce Ackerman and Anne Alstott argue by contrast for a Stakeholder Grant, a one-off payment of (in the US at current rates) $80k paid to all high school graduates at the age of majority, funded by an inheritance tax (and returnable, with growth, to the Treasury at death).

I’ll assume some familiarity with the proposals (for the details of BIG see here and for the details of the Stakeholder Grant see Ackerman and Alstott’s book). I’ll also say at the outset that although I’ve been familiar with both proposals for a long time, and find both very appealing, I haven’t got a stake in the debate really. But I was surprised how much new and interesting stuff was in the book, so I thoroughly recommend it whether you are a newcomer to the debate or an old hand.

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Frenzied in Firenze

by Eszter Hargittai on February 28, 2007

.. is precisely what I don’t plan on being, but I liked my colleague‘s email subject line so I decided to use it here. Point being: I’ll be in Florence this weekend and am looking for suggestions for what not to miss. As a bit of background: 1. I’ve been already and have visited the relatively obvious touristy musts; 2. I have six guide books in my office with suggestions.

Of course, you could then say “so what do you need us for?”. Well, I’m looking for suggestions of that hole-in-the-wall place you found at the end of your trip having hoped in retrospect to have had more time to enjoy it. Or that specific sidestreet on which the view to some place is especially magnificent. Or whatever. There are hidden gems in every city so I thought it was worth asking.

And if anyone around here happens to be in Florence this weekend, let me know.* This is a work trip, but the meeting doesn’t start until Monday so I have Fri-Sun for fun.

For anyone curious, I’m going there for an OECD meeting on “new millennium learners”. Thanks to INDIRE for sponsoring this. We’ll also have a public meeting next Wednesday on this topic.

*I have another post in the works about how to keep people posted of one’s whereabouts.

The fall and fall of the House of Sadr

by John Q on February 27, 2007

One of the many useful services performed by Glenn Reynolds is his chronicling of the relentless decline of Moqtada al-Sadr. Some past instalments

The murders are the first sign of organised Iraqi opposition to Sadr’s presence a apr 29, 04

those who thought Sadr represented a mass movement among Iraqis were seriously mistaken. [May 5, 04]

ANOTHER BAD DAY for the increasingly irrelevant Sadr. [May 26, 04]


Demonstrators shouted chants denouncing al-Sadr, including one that equated him with deposed dictator Saddam Hussein. [Sep 3, 04]

Bush has successfully mitigated the perils of having to grapple with two insurgencies simultaneously– through a nuanced combination of sophisticated counter-insurgency efforts and attendant political machinations contra Moktada al-Sadr. [Nov 1, 04]

And now:

Moqtada al-Sadr doesn’t like the surge. That he’s saying so from a secret location may explain why. . . .

I think it’s time for Glenn to let up on the guy. Hated, with no public support, isolated, irrelevant, outfoxed by the sophisticated Bush and now a lonely fugitive, surely by this time he’s too unimportant for a post.

Kenneth Horne Centenary

by Harry on February 27, 2007

Kenneth Horne was born 100 years ago today. My earliest memory is battling with my parents to be allowed to get to bed in time to hear Round The Horne. I even remember when it went off the air because of his untimely death (though in my memory it was replaced by These You Have Loved with Cliff Morgan, which can’t be right). In latter years my daughters have shared the joy of Horne with me courtesy of BBC7. Julian and Sandy, Rambling Sid Rumpo (and here), Charles and Fiona, and, bemused in the middle, the calm tones of Horne himself. BBC7 is celebrating with an episode of Much Binding in the Marsh, a feature-length musical dramatisation of Three Men on A Boat (with Leslie Phillips as a bonus!) and a fun-packed 3-hour history of Beyond Our Ken and Round the Horne.

Mostly Harmless

by Kieran Healy on February 27, 2007

Via “Atrios”:, a quote from Laura Bush:

bq. Many parts of Iraq are stable now. But, uh, of course, what we see on television is the one bombing a day that discourages everyone.

Would this also be the talking point if we had one Iraqi-style car bombing per day anywhere in the entire United States for a month or two? Or indeed a day or two? I’ve sometimes wondered about this question: What level of domestic terrorism woud it would take to send the United States to the point where its citizens would accept a highly repressive domestic government response in order to feel safe? The immediate public reaction after the September 11th attacks was very calm. Of course people were shocked and appalled, but there was virtually nothing in the way of random reprisals or what have you. But thanks to the rhetoric of the GWOT and associated scaremongering in the media, my fear is that the threshold is by now much lower. Substantial numbers of Americans really do seem to believe that Al Qaeda might bomb their local mall.

Ergo, an obvious strategy for any terrorists would be to go and do this a few times, in more or less random locations. Not terribly spectacular, but they’d probably get a hell of a payoff in terms of public hysteria. And shutting down open societies has always been part of Al Qaeda’s agenda. We’ve seen something like this (though not in a sustained fashion) with the bombings in Madrid and London. The fact that it hasn’t happened in the U.S. suggests either that there aren’t any Al Qaeda cells in the country, or that if they do exist they are fixated on doing something extremely big, and presumably extremely difficult. Perhaps they have bought into the “24 Mindset”: too.


by Scott McLemee on February 26, 2007

As of today, Political Theory Daily Review is sponsored by Bookforum magazine. For a while now, PTDR has provided the widest and deepest pool of links to late-breaking, scholarly, and/or esoteric articles available on the web.
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Three Card Monte

by Henry Farrell on February 25, 2007

This “short, funny paper”: on the “denialist’s deck of cards” by Chris Hoofnagle does a pretty good job at identifying a stock set of lobbyist/glibertarian responses to various proposals for consumer legislation.

Most of these arguments can be cogent in certain contexts. Sometimes the industry is correct on the facts and the issues. In others, the arguments [are] not. … The point of listing denialists’ arguments in this fashion is to show the rhetorical progression of groups that are not seeking a dialogue but rather an outcome. As such, this taxonomy is extremely cynical, but it is a reflection of and reaction to how poor the public policy debates.

Not as short and to the point as “Whale Central Station”: but pretty useful nonetheless. Via “Larry Solum”:

The Daring Fireball Non-Experience

by Kieran Healy on February 25, 2007

This post is kind of a personal customer-service gripe, so feel free to skip it.

_Update_: Within an hour of posting this, I got an email renewing my DF membership and a note from John. Apparently the t-shirt gnomes are in the process of being re-engineered (I’m paraphrasing) and improved models will soon be managing his t-shirt delivery needs. Thanks to John for his quick response.

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by Kieran Healy on February 24, 2007

Weekend in Dublin
Wilkinson won’t save you now

Vote for your favorite academic haikus

by Eszter Hargittai on February 24, 2007

Jim got such great response to his academic haiku contest that he decided to categorize the submissions by field. You are requested to cast your vote in the following categories:

I’m surprised by some of the classifications, but I’m sure it wasn’t easy with some of those submissions. Why my paper that was published in Social Science Quartery was not classified as social science is beyond me, but perhaps Jim needed some excuse to create a fourth category to make things manageable and thus put some entries in the the fourth interdisciplinary tech/computer/Internet-related, but otherwise unrelated group. Even in the realm of academic haikus my work lands in a heap of confusion, the story of my academic life.

In any case, this was a really fun exercise and I thank Jim for inspiring so many of us to think about our work in 17 syllables. If you haven’t done it yet, I recommend playing with the concept even if you are too late to enter this contest. Go read the submissions and vote to get inspired.

Discounting the future, yet again

by John Q on February 24, 2007

Felix Salmon gnashes his teeth at yet another incorrect report on discounting and the Stern review, by David Leonhardt in the New York Times.

Using his discount rate and other assumptions, a dollar of economic damage prevented a century from now is roughly as valuable as 7 cents spent reducing emissions today. (In fact, it’s less than that, because Stern adds another discount rate, called delta, on top of eta.)
Leonhardt says that “spending a dollar on carbon reduction today to avoid a dollar’s worth of economic damage in 2107 doesn’t make sense” – but this is a straw man, since Stern never comes close to saying that we should do such a thing. Leonhardt also spends a lot of time on the academic qualifications of Stern’s opponents, but neglects to mention that Stern himself, a former chief economist of the World Bank, is actually a real expert on discount rates, and understands them much better than most economists do.

Salmon is right, both about the Leonhardt piece and, unfortunately, about the limited understanding of discounting issues on the part of economists in general.

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Pains-taking Plus Metropolis

by John Holbo on February 24, 2007

A bemused follow-up to my Frankenstein post. Here’s what you get tangled in, trying to edit this stuff into shape (plus YouTube goodies!). [click to continue…]

Rethinking Gender Egalitarianism

by Harry on February 24, 2007

I’ve been at several of the Real Utopias Conferences that have been organised out of the Havens Center. The latestI attended part time, and, I must admit, not without a certain amount of bad conscience. The topic was Rethinking Gender Egalitarianism, and I was leaving my wife at home much of the weekend with a 4-week-old baby and the girls. So, I missed some of the best bits. It was also odd because I rarely attend a conference where I know almost no-one; and although Johanna Brenner is a very old friend, I knew none of the other out-of-towners except through their work, some of them being people whose work I started reading 2 decades ago. Rosemary Crompton, I’m pretty certain, mistook me for my dad. He should be flattered.

Nevertheless it was, in some ways, the best conference yet. Everyone was nicely on task, and although debate got quite excitable it was always good-natured. The lead document, by Janet Gornick and Marcia Meyers, authors of Families that Work: Policies for Reconciling Parenthood and Employmenr, argues for a mix of improved daycare provision, labour market regulation and parental leave at generous replacement rates; and the argument is that this will improve the quality of family life and increase gender equality. The proposal is less utopian and more real than some of the real utopian proposals (perhaps less utopian than I would have preferred) but I think that may have been an unavoidable feature of the subject matter; get too far away from what is feasible in the short-to-medium term and it is hard to say much that is supportable.

The papers are all here.

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Question 74

by Henry Farrell on February 23, 2007

The TRIPS survey of over 1,000 international relations faculty members is now “available in full”: I suspect that much or most of the public attention it gets will be paid to the answers to Question 74: Do you agree or disagree with the statement, “The ‘Israel lobby’ has too much influence on U.S. foreign policy.”

2006 US 2006 Canada
Strongly Agree 28% 31%
Somewhat agree 38% 36%
Neither agree nor disagree 14% 12%
Somewhat disagree 11% 13%
Strongly disagree 9% 9%

Which suggests either that (a) some two thirds of US and Canadian IR faculty members are conscious or unconscious anti-semites on the definition of anti-semitism that “some people”: are trying to push, or (b) there’s grounds for a serious public debate about the US-Israel relationship. Since that serious debate ain’t going to be happening in the comments section here on past form, I’m keeping comments closed.

Academic blogs link-begging

by Henry Farrell on February 23, 2007

I’m pretty happy with how the “Academic Blogs wiki”: that I started last September is working out. From a selfish point of view, it’s relieved me of the responsibility of manually updating the list (I do keep a regular eye on it to weed out spam etc). But more importantly, it provides serious coverage of parts of the academic blogosphere that I personally don’t have a clue about. CF for example the burgeoning list of blogs in “religion and theology”: ; also the “list”: of blogs in French, German, Danish etc. All this said, I’d like the list to be even more comprehensive than it is. The only way to do this is to get the word out, so I’m politely asking people who like the general idea of this resource to consider linking to it, in a post, in their blogroll, or (ideally) in both. The more people know about the wiki, the more people are likely to enter in details of academic blogs that they write themselves, or read. What I’d like to do in a few months is use the information in the wiki as the initial basis for a rough census of the academic blogosphere; who is blogging in what disciplines, at what stage of their careers and so on. I think this would make for pretty interesting reading, and the more comprehensive the wiki is as a map of the academic blogosphere, the more accurate the census will be.