Democracy and Unipolarity

by Henry on August 22, 2007

Jack Snyder, Robert Shapiro and Yaeli Bloch-Elkon are presenting a “paper”:http://www.henryfarrell.net/unipolarity.pdf at the APSA meeting next week that’s of considerable interest in its own right, but that also sheds some light on the recent debate between “Dan Drezner”:http://www.danieldrezner.com/archives/003456.html and “Glenn Greenwald”:http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/08/20/drezner/index.html. [click to continue…]

Kamm versus Anscombe

by Chris Bertram on August 22, 2007

For the past week I’ve been crouching behind a bush, metaphorically speaking, waiting to ambush Oliver Kamm who was unwise enough to announce his intention to defend the use of the A-bomb at Hiroshima against its moral critics. Of course, I spent some of that time anticipating what Kamm might say and, it turns out, I anticipated wrongly. I had expected Kamm to concede, against people like Elizabeth Anscombe, that Hiroshima involved the murder of innocents, but then to argue that such murder was necessary. I’d then intended to invoke Orwell’s critique of Auden from _Inside the Whale_, a passage that contains _inter alia_, some acute comments on the Kamm mentality.

But I was wrong. It turns out that “Kamm denies the claim that it was murder”:http://oliverkamm.typepad.com/blog/2007/08/hiroshima-and-e.html . The trouble is, he can’t bring himself to face the issue directly, and, despite quoting Anscombe _in extenso_, gives a seriously inaccurate account of her view.

[click to continue…]

No rush to sign T. rex

by Chris Bertram on August 22, 2007

The BBC “tells us”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6956867.stm

bq. Tyrannosaurus rex would have been able to outrun a footballer, according to computer models used to estimate running speeds of dinosaurs.

But which one? Outrunning some footballers would be no great achievement. More to the point, would T. rex have been able to control the ball and get a decent cross into the box? Those who have followed the career of the Danish winger Dennis Rommedahl know that speed isn’t everything.

Genuine vs Fake Economics Blogs

by Kieran Healy on August 22, 2007

Via a slightly ticked-off Max Sawicky comes this ranking of economics blogs, in which (like MaxSpeak) Crooked Timber does not feature. The author remarks,

bq. Only genuine economics blogs are included. … [and later, in a comment] By genuine, I meant not spam blogs or useless stock tips blogs, and not blogs that claim to be about economics but are really about politics (there are quite a few of those).

Usually, in the U.S., the key test of whether one is a real economist is a simple credential: you must have a Ph.D in economics. Choice of substantive topic certainly can’t be the discriminating factor, as is made clear by the position of the Freakonomics blog at the very top of the list. But by my count, we have at least as many Economics Ph.Ds writing here at CT as several of the blogs on this Top 10 list, and more than at least one of them.

If I were a cynical person — which of course I am not — I might say that the dividing line between what’s “really” economics and what’s “really” politics is itself something of a political question. (As Abba Lerner remarked, an economic transaction is a solved political problem.) Perhaps we often see instances where _I_ hold policy positions informed by scientific economics whereas _you_ are a mere advocate, pushing a political line. There was a pretty entertaining example on Mankiw’s blog the other week.

Anyway, on the measure used, Crooked Timber would be fourth on the list, if only the likes of John or Daniel or Ingrid (whose Ph.D was supervised by someone or other) could be thought of as having an informed point of view about economics.

_Update_: Aaron, the list compiler, comments below and is maybe a bit nicer than this somewhat irritable post merits. I think it was the “genuine economics” comment that set me off.

“Jindal on Religion”

by Henry on August 22, 2007

There’s a lot of “excitement”:http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/8/21/16478/6735 in the netroots over a piece written by Bobby Jindal in which he tries to persuade Protestants of the benefits of Catholicism. After reading the “piece in question”:http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/1609536/posts, I’m at a loss to understand what all the fuss is about. It seems to me to be a standard – even banal – exercise in Catholic apologetics. That the Catholic church considers itself to be the one true church, to hold the apostolic succession, to believe that works are important as well as faith etc etc … isn’t news. Nor is it news that a conservative Catholic politician would believe these things It might be mildly politically awkward – but given that Jindal explicitly _isn’t_ arguing that Protestants worship a different God, and is merely asking them “to consider seriously the claims of the Catholic Church,” I don’t think that there’s very much traction in this (there seems to me to be a tacit deal among conservative Christians whereby fundamentalist Protestants are softpedalling the Whore of Babylon stuff in return for Catholics not pushing their line on the magisterium too hard).

But if the netroots are blowing it out of proportion, the ‘Jindal on Religion’ “website”:http://www.jindalonreligion.com/ and accompanying TV ad, put up by Louisiana’s Democratic Party, are actively dishonest. The website says that Jindal argues that

Jindal states non-Catholics are burdened with “utterly depraved minds” and calls individuals who ignore the teachings of the Catholic church intellectually dishonest.

The actual quotes in their proper context are:

the alternative is to trust individual Christians, burdened with, as Calvin termed it, their “utterly depraved” minds, to overcome their tendency to rationalize, their selfish desires, and other effects of original sin.

and

I trust I have provided enough evidence to indicate that the Catholic Church deserves a careful examination by non-Catholics. It is not intellectually honest to ignore an institution with such a long and distinguished history and with such an impressively global reach.

The first rather obviously _isn’t_ a claim that non-Catholics are utterly depraved. It’s a mildly clumsy attempt to hoist Protestants on their own petard, building on earlier discussion of how Reformation Protestants believed people to be depraved, and saying that it’s a bit odd then that Protestants should trust them to interpret religion on their own. The second is a claim that it’s intellectually dishonest to ignore the Catholic Church, and that Protestants should consider converting to it very carefully. This manifestly isn’t a claim that those who don’t follow the Catholic church’s teachings (which is the everyday meaning of “those who ignore the teachings”) are ipso facto intellectually dishonest.

I don’t know very much about Jindal’s politics, and I imagine that there’s a lot that I would disagree with. He may indeed have taken political stances that I would find absolutely reprehensible. That doesn’t change the fact that this is an obviously dishonest attack.

[modified to correct a stupid error following an email from a reader]