The Kosovo (non-)precedent

by Chris Bertram on February 26, 2008

Various European governments (and sundry commentators) are exercised by the Kosovan declaration of independence, on the grounds that this creates a dangerous precedent and will undermine the integrity of sovereign states. If Kosovo gets independence, they worry, then the Scots, the Welsh, the Basques and the Catalans won’t be far behind. Well that would indeed be a worry if the right principle is one that national groups may simply elect to separate on the basis of some supposed right of nations to self-determination. But as I’ve blogged before, there are other candidate principles that we could invoke. If we follow Allen Buchanan, and see secession as a remedial right for groups that have suffered serious injustice and sought and failed to obtain a remedy, then things will look different. The Catalans, Welsh and Basques may have been in this position in the past, but it is hard to see that they are now, given the combination of regional autonomy and language rights that they enjoy. The Kosovo Albanians, on the other hand have both suffered injustice and have no good reason to believe that a just settlement is possible within Serbia. Buchanan’s principle seems to discriminate in a plausible way.

Hamlet without the Prince

by John Quiggin on February 26, 2008

In the February edition of Prospect, William Skidelsky has a piece on the decline of book reviewing. As is standard for any adverse trend in the early 21st century, blogs get a fair bit of the blame. The write-off (lede for US readers) says

the authority of critics is being undermined by a raucous blogging culture and an increasingly commercial publishing industry

and the conclusion is

blogging is best suited to instant reaction; it thus has an edge when it comes to disseminating gossip and news. Good criticism requires lengthy reflection and slow maturation. The blogosphere does not provide the optimal conditions for its flourishing.

As a slow, mature critic, I’m sure Skidelsky is well placed to make authoritative judgements of this kind, based on the kind of lengthy reflection unknown to gossipy bloggers. Still, it would help us instant-reaction types to follow him if he had, you know, cited some actual blogs, perhaps even some that run book reviews.

Teh awesome

by Henry on February 26, 2008

Hilzoy, “rejoicing the departure”: of the truly odious William J Haynes II, provides this mind-squirbling story from Haynes’ earlier career.

In this amazing brief, Haynes argued that bombing a nesting site for migratory birds would benefit birdwatchers, since “bird watchers get more enjoyment spotting a rare bird than they do spotting a common one.” Moreover, he added, the birds would benefit as well, since using their nests as a bombing range would minimize “human intrusion”. The judge’s comment on this novel line of argument: “there is absolutely no support in the law for the view that environmentalists should get enjoyment out of the destruction of natural resources because that destruction makes the remaining resources more scarce and therefore more valuable. The Court hopes that the federal government will refrain from making or adopting such frivolous arguments in the future.” (pp. 27-8)”

I once voiced my suspicion that Fafblog had retired because nothing, not even an entity with the godlike powers of the Medium Lobster, could out-lunatic Norman Podhoretz. I was wrong. William J Haynes II could out-lunatic Norman Podhoretz without raising a sweat. Sadly, the Medium Lobster isn’t even in the race.