“This”:http://www.economist.com/blogs/charlemagne/2009/03/do_not_believe_this_talk_of_eu.cfm seems pretty plausible to me.

The opening hours of EU summits can often be a little slow (so can the closing and middle hours of some of them, to be frank). But the sense of calm, even drift, is a little eerie this time. … behind this time of phony war there lurks the prospect of a proper policy fight. Not about stimulus plans, but about future regulation of the financial sector. And, to simplify things, what is really, really going on is that the camp led by France and Germany are determined that Europe’s common position, going into the G20 summit, should be to bang the table and demand an end to light-touch regulation, of the sort that flourished for so long on Wall Street and in the City of London, and which they see as more or less the sole cause of the current mess. But the French and Germans do not trust the British to support that common position. Once the Americans are in the room in London, they fear the British will scuttle away from the European position, side with the Americans, and seek to defend the wheeler-dealers of the City.

The post finishes with some obligatory Economist-style harrumphs about how the unregulated bits of global capitalism aren’t really the problem &c &c, but its analysis of the underlying politics seems spot on. Differences between national regulatory systems are still enormously important, and help explain why we have seen so little international coordination on common frameworks for financial regulation. Not only are differences in regulation associated with different national interests, but also with very different analyses of what the underlying problem is (which of course in part stem from those interests). Abe Newman at Georgetown and I have a paper on historical institutionalism in international relations that talks a _lot_ about the persistence and importance of these national level differences in explaining international outcomes. Our framework (as others, such as Dan Drezner’s) would predict likely stalemate in negotiations of this sort. I honestly hope that we’re wrong (although I suspect that we are not). But even if we are, the problems that the EU faces in coordinating a regulatory response are, of course, dwarfed by the problems of coordinating such a response at the global level, which is where it _really_ needs to take place (but is highly unlikely to, for the reasons given).

The Greatest Living Englishman is Guilty

by Harry on March 19, 2009

Most of you have probably seen this when it first aired on BBC 4, but just in case anyone mentioned it I thought I’d link to it anyway. Part 1, part 2 and, perhaps best of all, part 3. Unsurprisingly, he is a man of great discernment, listing Stanley Unwin, Georgette Heyer, Delia Smith and Led Zeppelin. And you’ll never feel bad about swearing again (he makes me feel a bit better about the fact that one of the little monster‘s first sentences, when asked to do something, was a very calm and direct, “F**k it, Dadda do it”). Hugh Laurie fans? well, there’s a lot of him in it too.

Cohen on Rescuing Justice from the Facts (ch.6)

by Jon Mandle on March 19, 2009

Part I of Rescuing Justice and Equality consisted in a series of chapters designed to rescue equality from the arguments of Rawlsians who sought to dilute an underlying egalitarian commitment with the incentives argument, the Pareto argument, the restricted focus on the basic structure, and then the difference principle itself. In each case, the structure of the argument was a kind of imminent critique. As far as I recall, Cohen nowhere directly defended the egalitarian commitment itself. Rather, he pointed to alleged tensions in the Rawlsian edifice and submitted that they should be resolved in the direction of greater egalitarianism than Rawls’s position recommends.

Part II aims to rescue the concept of justice itself, and the argument is structured very differently. The critique does not proceed from tensions within Rawls’s work. Rather, we get an argument in defense of a certain meta-ethical position. Cohen remarks that “the meta-ethical literature says very little about the question pursued in the present chapter. But a notable exception is the work of John Rawls, who argued that fundamental principles of justice and, indeed, ‘first principles’ in general, are a response to the facts of the human condition” – which is exactly the position that Cohen rejects. (pp.258-259) Rawls is simply mistaken, Cohen thinks, because he confuses “the first principles of justice with the principles that we should adopt to regulate society.” (p.265)
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Josh Cohen on Deliberation and Power

by Henry on March 19, 2009

I liked this discussion of the relationship between deliberation and power from a forthcoming piece by Josh Cohen1.

the importance of background differences in power is not a criticism of the deliberative ideal per se, but a concern about its application. Deliberative democracy is a normative model of collective decision-making, not a universal political strategy. And commitment to the normative ideal does not require commitment to the belief that collective decision-making through mutual reason-giving is always possible. So it may indeed be the case that some rough background balance of power is required before parties will listen to reason. But observing that does not importantly lessen the attraction of the deliberative ideal; it simply states a condition of its reasonable pursuit.

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Cheap Talk

by Henry on March 19, 2009

Tyler Cowen has a “couple”:http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2009/03/should-you-bet-your-views.html of “posts”:http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2009/03/should-you-bet-your-views.html arguing that columnists (and others) should not be required to bet their views. I’ll confess to having mixed feelings on the underlying question – which is whether you should make cheap talk on politics etc more expensive. On the one hand, if you view public opinionators as political actors (as they surely are), then they ought to be held accountable for their screw-ups. A certain degree of epistemological caution is entirely warranted, for example, when advocating major wars and the like, and I’d dearly love to see people who screwed this up (for what were at the time entirely obvious reasons) held properly accountable. On the other hand, if you view public opinionators as providers of novel heuristics etc, there may still be some value to their arguments even if they are wrong much or most of the time, as long as they are wrong because of ways of viewing the world that are (a) under-represented in public debate, and (b) help one grasp features of situations that are not immediately obvious given other heuristics. In other words, even if these ways of viewing the world are usually wrong, they can potentially supplement and improve other ways of viewing the world that are more usually correct. How to calibrate the balance between these two desiderata is not immediately obvious to me. One can still say that in an ideal world, one would see people who are _both_ more likely to be right than not _and_ provide relatively novel and interesting ways of viewing situations enjoy a prominent place in public debate. The continued prominence of e.g. Thomas Friedman (who is both often wrong _and_ the Davos Consensus Made Flesh, and Dwelling Amongst Us) suggests that the real world incentives don’t run in this happy direction.

Inside inside the echo echo chamber

by Michael Bérubé on March 19, 2009

<i>Exclusive to Crooked Timber but also cross-posted <a href=”http://www.michaelberube.com/index.php/weblog/inside_inside_the_echo_echo_chamber/”>here</a></i>.

My extensive online <a href=”http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0309/20086.html”>research</a> has uncovered the existence of a secret Internet cabal of reporters, journalists, bloggers, writers, and reporters.  Apparently, their self-assigned mission is to ignore major news stories, pass silently over rampant corruption in American government and business, and ridicule wonks and elected officials who take “issues” seriously.  Instead, they seek — often by fawningly citing each other’s work — to inundate American media with inane, trivial bullshit and deliberate stupidity.

The group is called “Twit,” and it is allegedly responsible for innumerable stories and op-eds about Michelle Obama’s biceps, Hillary Clinton’s cleavage, Al Gore’s wardrobe, and Barack Obama’s flag pin.

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Here’s the latest in my series on theoretical and policy doctrines in economics that have been refuted, or at least rendered highly problematic by the global financial crisis. Mainly of technical interest, I think, but I’m posting it here to keep numbering continuous.

The idea that central banks can and should act independently of governments is, fairly clearly, inoperative for the duration of the crisis in many countries. The combination of massively increased liquidity provision and large-scale bank bailouts requires close co-ordination between central banks and national treasuries, though the form of this co-ordination is inevitably different in different countries.
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