Family Values, Image Sought

by Harry on August 7, 2007

You can help! I’m giving a brownbag talk at UW Madison’s Center for the Humanities in December, and the administrator, despite knowing me well enough to know that I have no aesthetic or design sense at all, has asked me for an image to go on the poster for my talk. The title is “What so great about the family anyway?”, and the description is as follows:

The phrase “family values” is often associated with a conservative political agenda, and liberals, committed as they are to ideals of personal freedom, have tended to shy away from being judgmental about the different familial arrangements people choose. Recent work in egalitarian political philosophy has focussed on the moral justification of the family; what “family values” are actually justified? Harry Brighouse will talk about this work, showing that there is interesting common ground between some conservatives and some egalitarians, and will discuss the significance of abstract theorising about values for family policy.

So far, we have between us come up only with three flippant ideas, based on very quick googling, but worth sharing: the Reagans; the Bushes; and these guys. Any better ideas? In deference to my lack of good sense, it would be kind to flag flippancy.

Ian Gillan Superstar

by Harry on August 7, 2007

August is the time for our annual household argument about Jesus Christ Superstar. We’re all fans (apart from #3 whose tastes are not yet his own), but disagree about its meaning. Before elaborating on the disagreement I should make a preemptive strike against two charges – the charge of liking Andrew Lloyd Webber (can’t stand anything else he’s done, not even Joseph, which I had always thought I liked until hearing it recently) and the charge of snobbery that response naturally prompts (I’m a snob about some things, no doubt, but when it comes to culture I revel in my lower-middle-browness).

The disagreement is basically this. My wife thinks that JCS is fundamentally anti-Christian, because it presents Judas as the most sympathetic character, and Jesus as vain and rather directionless. I disagree – Judas is, indeed, presented with the maximum sympathy compatible with Christianity, but ultimately his failing is a lack of trust in a power and mystery that is beyond his understanding. Jesus? Well, when I watch the movie (a very good deal at the moment, more on that later), and even when I listen to the soundtrack, I can sort of see her point. But my reading of Jesus Christ Superstar was a response not to the movie or soundtrack, but to the original concept recording.

[click to continue…]

The New Skrullicism

by John Holbo on August 7, 2007

Kip Manley directs us to a very worthwhile discussion of the ‘intentional fallacy’ and ‘bad readers’, Helen Vendler and Plato’s “Euthyphro”. I’ll just dunk you in the middle: [click to continue…]

Tom Russell – *genius*

by Chris Bertram on August 7, 2007

I saw “Tom Russell”: last night, for the third time in the last two years, and he was simply marvellous. Funny, crotchety, gritty, and (this hadn’t struck me so much before) with a wonderfully strong and clear voice. He played some new material, together with stuff from recent albums and some of his songs that others have covered on an album he’s reluctant to call a “tribute”: Wounded Heart of America. Like the old stuff, the new featured the usual cast of characters: cowboys, Mexicans, Welsh sailors etc, all superbly observed and changed to suit audience and place. And there were the usual anecdotes about Bukowski, Rambling Jack Elliot, etc., together with some reminiscences I hadn’t heard before (on his experiences in Nigeria during the Biafran war).

(Sometimes when going along to hear an act with others, I feel slightly unsure of their reaction: I like this but maybe they won’t, and I can see why and I might feel the urge to explain or say that X was better last time. No such worries with Russell: if someone doesn’t like him then there’s something wrong with _them_ .)

Russell is on tour in the UK at the moment, and you can catch him in Newcastle tonight, in Edinburgh on Saturday and in London next Monday (along with a bunch of other places in between and afterwards).

Quiggin on Bush

by John Q on August 7, 2007

Autogoogling, as you do, you find out interesting things about namesakes around the world. My most prominent namesake is Canadian terrorism expert Tom Quiggin, who is a good source of information on quite a few topics. Now, Technorati tells me, he has a blog His opening posts seem very promising

Why Bush Has it Wrong
Intelligence and the Moral High Ground

Why France has VAT and America doesn’t

by Henry Farrell on August 7, 2007

“Bruce Bartlett”: is advocating the introduction of Value Added Tax to America. This is a perennial proposal on the right, but it doesn’t appear to ever gain much political traction. The obvious reason why is that VAT is unpopular because it’s a regressive tax (the more people earn, the less they pay). However, this doesn’t explain why European countries which one would expect to be more attracted to progressive taxation systems have VAT, often at quite high levels.

Former CT guest blogger (and current GWU colleague and friend of mine) Kimberly Morgan has written a nice historical paper (Word file “here”: )with Monica Prasad looking at how the US came “to have a tax code that is on many levels more hostile to capital accumulation than its peers” while France “which in some opinions has “never really been won over to capitalism” ” found itself relying on taxes that hit workers and consumers unusually hard. Simplifying drastically, she and Prasad argue that it can be explained by timing. Industrial capitalism arrived in the US before a real national state came into being, while the state preceded capitalism in France. The weak state in the US, and the willingness of business to ride roughshod over consumers, “led to an intense public interest in disciplining capital, which underpinned a movement toward income taxation that would punish capital and the wealthy.” In France, in contrast, well-founded fears of state intrusion led French citizens to fear direct taxation, and tax advocates to work against “fiscal inquisition” and the further expansion of the state into private life. This left French left-wingers ambivalent about the virtues of income taxes, so that a state crippled by war expenses had to turn to a sales tax to raise money. If this is right (and they provide a lot of historical evidence), some of the verities of left and right about France and the US should be turned on their head (this is one of the reasons why it’s a fun paper, for values of fun that include ‘detailed historical institutionalist arguments about causation.’)