The Quarks

by Henry Farrell on May 25, 2009

“Three Quarks Daily”: has an announcement.

we have decided to start awarding four prizes every year in the respective areas of Science, Arts & Literature, Politics, and Philosophy for the best blog post in those fields. Here’s how it’s going to work: Starting next month, the prizes will be awarded every year on the two solstices and the two equinoxes. So, we will announce the winner of the science prize on June 21, the arts and literature prize on September 22, the politics prize on December 21, and the philosophy prize on March 20, 2010. … Just for fun, the first place award will be called the “Top Quark,” and will include a cash prize of one thousand dollars; the second place prize, the “Charm Quark,” will include a cash prize of three hundred dollars; and the third place winner will get the honor of winning the “Strange Quark,” along with two hundred dollars.

Voting rules etc explained at the post in question. Just to be clear, I personally don’t think you should be voting for a CT post in any of these categories. The value of competitions like this is in highlighting bloggers who people would be unlikely to come across otherwise, and we’re high profile enough that we really aren’t a deserving case. But I am very happy that 3QD is taking this initiatve increase the profile of the more intellectual side of the blogosphere (which doesn’t usually do well in larger competitions), and strongly recommend that you nominate good posts, read other nominees, and vote for whoever seems best.

That’s Some High-Quality Wank There

by Henry Farrell on May 25, 2009

Clive Crook “positions himself as a reasonable moderate”: between the extremes of Republican torture-and-detention-porn crazies, and people who, you know, who take civil rights seriously.

The left’s complaints make far more sense than Mr Cheney’s. Mr Obama is adjusting the Bush administration’s policies here and there and seeks to put them on a sounder legal footing. This recalibration is significant and wise, but it is by no means the entirely new approach that he led everybody to expect.

Mr Obama is in the right, in my view, but he owes his supporters an apology for misleading them. He also owes George W. Bush an apology for saying that the last administration’s thinking was an affront to US values, whereas his own policies would be entirely consonant with them. In office he has found that the issue is more complicated. If he was surprised, he should not have been.

The signature intellectual defect of the non-compromisers on each side of this debate is an inability to recognise conflicting ends. The Democratic party’s civil libertarians seem to believe that several medium-sized US cities would be a reasonable price to pay for insisting on ordinary criminal trials for terrorist suspects. There can be no trade-off between freedom and security, because the freedoms they prioritise trump everything. To many on the other side, no trampling on the liberty of ordinary citizens, no degree of cruelty to detainees, no outright illegality is too much to contemplate in the effort to stop terrorists. On this view, security trumps everything.

The “seem to believe” is a weasel-phrase, which would (to use his own dubious phrasing) “seem” to be nicely calculated so as to allow him to make very nasty insinuations and accusations without having to prove them, and the “several medium-sized US cities would be a reasonable price to pay for insisting on ordinary criminal trials for terrorist suspects” bit is a common-or-garden shameful and disgusting slur. If Crook has _any_ substantial evidence that ‘several medium sized cities’ have been put at risk, or are likely to be put at risk, because of civil libertarians’ tiresome insistence on trials and such, I invite him to produce it. And no, “hypothetical ticking bomb scenarios”: don’t do it, thank you very much.

The underlying claim of this shoddy exercise, such as it is, has three parts. First, that the people who are insisting on civil liberties in the GWOT are wild-eyed and extremist zealots, fundamentally similar in kind to the members of the lock-em-up-and-torture-em-to-death crowd on the other side. Second, that a difficult balance has to be struck between civil liberties for terrorists on the one hand and the need to avoid the destruction of medium-sized American cities on the other. Third, that the only people capable of making the necessary complex choices are sceptical moderates like Clive Crook who realise, as others don’t, that differing ends are incompatible, there are unavoidable trade-offs in life &c&c. In its fully fledged form, this might be described, after the example of Isaiah Berlin, as High Table Liberalism – that anguished and serious engagement with the difficulties of political choice in a world of irreconcilable and competing values which occurs somewhere between the end of the main course and the serving of the port and Stilton. But it reminds me even more of a radio comedy sketch I remember from my youth in Ireland, where a punter representing the Plain People of Ireland and a nun are discussing how best to deal with football hooligans. The punter says that they’re a pack of bastards, and the only solution is to chop off their goolies. The nun says no, we need to think too of the principles of charity and forgiveness, of Christian love etc – and the only solution is to chop off their goolies. Clive Crook is taking the part of the nun here.

Betting with Bryan Caplan

by John Q on May 25, 2009

Bryan Caplan responds to the data on US and EU-15 unemployment by offering a bet.

The average European unemployment rate for 2009-2018 (i.e., the next decade) will be at least 1 percentage point higher than U.S. unemployment rate. The bet will be resolved when Eurostat releases its final numbers for 2018.

Betting is usually unwise, but nonetheless I’m willing to take Bryan on, with one amendment. I will take the bet provided that people in prison are counted as unemployed. By my estimate, that raises the US rate by about 1.5 percentage points and the the EU-15 rate by about 0.2 percentage points. That is, assuming current imprisonment rates remain unchanged, the bet is that the Eurostat measure of unemployment (which excludes prisoners) should be no more than 2.3 percentage points higher in the EU-15 than in the US.
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