From the monthly archives:

May 2010

Apropos of recent proposals to stop giving Miranda warnings to terrorism suspects, Glenn Greenwald observes[1]

, the reaction is still exactly the same to every Terrorist attack, whether a success or failure, large- or small-scale. Apparently, 8 years of the Bush assault on basic liberties was insufficient; there are still many remaining rights in need of severe abridgment. Even now, every new attempted attack causes the Government to devise a new proposal for increasing its own powers still further and reducing rights even more, while the media cheer it on. It never goes in the other direction.

This kind of policy “ratchet” is quite common, but I haven’t seen a fully satisfactory, or general, analysis of either the metaphor or the phenomenon.

[click to continue…]


by Henry on May 20, 2010

getting interesting …

Wolfgang Schäuble in the “Financial Times”:

bq. Indeed, far from reflecting a growing German Euroscepticism, Mr Schäuble and Ms Merkel have both revived calls for closer political union to underpin economic and monetary union. “When we introduced the euro in the 1990s, Germany wanted a political union and France did not. That is why we have an economic union without a political union,” he says. “Political union naturally means a bit of federalism in the German sense of federal. It means that one can no longer take certain decisions on a national level. That is very hard for the UK. It’s often not so simple for France, but France finds it easier to take European decisions.

bq. “Germany has a lot of experience with federalism, more than the UK or France. If you want to create a federal organisation, you must be ready to have a certain amount of redistribution within it. You can dismiss that by rudely calling it a “transfer union”. But strong and weaker states both have their responsibility. We are asking a lot of the weaker ones, but the strong also have their responsibility, and we must explain that as well.

bq. “We must say very clearly to Germany: we can play our role, but we must know that means there will be decisions taken against us. The weekend before last [in the negotiations over the eurozone stabilisation mechanism], we saw that it was not in the German interest to be standing alone. That is also a good learning process for the German public.”

British Tory-lite deputy-PM Nick Clegg, has announced a very limited programme of democratic and civil-libertarian reform in the following terms:

bq. I’m talking about the most significant programme of empowerment by a British government since the great reforms of the 19th Century. The biggest shake up of our democracy since 1832, when the Great Reform Act redrew the boundaries of British democracy, for the first time extending the franchise beyond the landed classes. Landmark legislation, from politicians who refused to sit back and do nothing while huge swathes of the population remained helpless against vested interests. Who stood up for the freedom of the many, not the privilege of the few.

Over at The Virtual Stoa, “Chris Brooke asks”:

bq. If you were marking examination papers on nineteenth century British political history, what mark would you give someone who described the 1832 Reform Act in these terms?

Indeed. And see especially, Ted Vallance’s response in comments to Chris’s post.

The struggle of the suffragettes for female emancipation, the extension of the franchise after WW1, all are as nothing compared to Clegg’s plans to curb CCTV cameras and biometric passports ….. An elected second chamber, sounds good. Electoral reform – subject to a referendum in which the dominant party in the coalition will campaign for the status quo. Talk about overselling yourself.

Bellesiles Returns

by Henry on May 19, 2010

And Scott (at IHE) is “not happy with his new publisher”:

bq. It is true that he drew the ire of the National Rifle Association, and I have no inclination to give that organization’s well-funded demagogy the benefit of any doubt. But gun nuts did not force Bellesiles to do sloppy research or to falsify sources. That his scholarship was grossly incompetent on many points is not a “controversial” notion. Nor is it open to dispute whether or not he falsified sources. That has been exhaustively documented by his peers. To pretend otherwise is itself demagogic.

bq. If a major commercial press wants to help a disgraced figure make his comeback, that is one thing, but rewriting history is another. The New Press published many excellent books by important authors. It is out of respect for that record that I want to invite it to make a public apology for violating the trust its readers have in it.

Jerry Cohen memorial events

by Chris Bertram on May 19, 2010

There are two upcoming events in memory of G.A. (Jerry) Cohen, who died last year. The Philosophy Department at University College London, where Jerry taught from 1964 to the mid-1980s, is holding a reception at 5pm on Thursday 17 June at 19 Gordon Square (“details”: ) and two days later, on Saturday 19th June, there will be a memorial service at at All Souls College Oxford, where Jerry spent the remainder of his career ( 2.15pm in the Codrington Library). Myles Burnyeat, John Roemer, T. M. Scanlon, and Philippe Van Parijs will be
speaking at the All Souls memorial.

A discussion at Leiter’s site, prompted by an admittedly alarming letter from an anonymous correspondent focuses on whether teaching counts for anything in a large research university. Here’s the prompt:

(1) “Teaching counts for nothing.” It was a shock to me how dishonest research schools are about teaching: on the brochures, to parents, in official pronouncements the line is that we care about teaching deeply. But in private all my colleagues, even at the official orientation, have said teaching counts for virtually nothing for tenure purposes, for merit raises, etc. (Exception: if your student evaluations are truly awful that might hurt a bit.) In other words, there is hardly any institutional concern for teaching, i.e. concern that manifests itself in aligning incentive structures with good teaching. It’s not 50-50 research/teaching, it’s 100-0 or maybe 90-10. Experiment: try explaining to your non-academic friends, neighbors, legislators that our top universities basically ignore teaching in their evaluation of teachers. I often wonder whether our actual policies could survive publicity.

Zemsky, Wegner, and Massy, in their excellent Remaking the American University muse about why it is that despite the fact that tuition costs, especially for elite colleges, have risen fast over the past couple of decades there has been no evidence of improved quality of instruction over the same period. They give what seems to me the most likely explanation:

Critics of higher education, and to some extent higher education itself, have misunderstood the core business of these institutions. Whereas most believe the task of universities and colleges is to supply quality educations at reasonable prices, their real business is to sell competitive advantage at necessarily high prices.

[click to continue…]

Frequent CT commenter John Protevi has an excellent piece about the proposed closure of the the Philosophy Department at Middlesex University at IHE and the THES. For those who don’t know, the University administrators are proposing to close the Department despite the fact that it is the highest ranked department in the University according the RAE, and seems to be heavily in the black. Of course, that it is in the black turns out not necessarily to work in its favour: apparently, due to a quirk in the RAE system, the university will continue to receive its RAE money from Philosophy for the next 6 years even if it closes the department. Protevi explains:

Philosophy at Middlesex received the highest rating of any programme in the university in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, a periodic exercise conducted by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which determines disbursement of government funds for research. Middlesex Philosophy had 65 per cent of its research activity rated “world-leading” or “internationally renowned”. This put Middlesex philosophy 13th of 41 programmes in the UK, at the top of all the other ex-polytechnics or “post-1992 universities”, and ahead of established heavyweights such as Sussex, Warwick, York, Durham, and Glasgow. To cut such a programme, while bragging on its website about its commitment to research excellence – that was just too much administrative hypocrisy for even many hardened American academics to bear.

When word got out that at Middlesex from 2008 to 2009 academic staff has fallen from 748 to 733, while administration has risen from 888 to 890; that the number of senior staff with total compensation above £100,000 increased from 7 to 13; and that total compensation for the VC increased from £223,000 to £246,000 – all these facts rang an all-too-familiar note with American academics as well. And it certainly didn’t help the administration’s image when people learned that consultant fees increased from £2,321,000 to £3,122,000 in that time period. (Details on these figures may be found here, in the university’s financial statement.)

Another outrage was learning that philosophy produced a yearly revenue of some £173,260 for the university from its excellent results in the 2008 RAE. Incredibly, the university will continue to receive that sum yearly until the research excellence framework, to be held in 2014 or perhaps even 2016, even if it has closed the philosophy programme! This was an all too blatant case of ripping off the labour of the philosophers. Then it came out that the “subject group” composed of philosophy (six faculty members) and religious studies (one member) contributed 53 per cent of its revenue to central administration in 2009-10 and was projected to contribute 59 per cent in 2010-11. The central administration requires 55 per cent, so it is willing to cut its most highly rated research programme for a temporary 2 percentage point shortfall. Veterans of penny-pinching, short-sighted, and arbitrary administrations winced with sympathetic familiarity at this sort of “reasoning”.

[click to continue…]

Rodrik’s trilemma and the OBR

by Chris Bertram on May 17, 2010

I’m grateful to commenters Lemuel Pitkin and Bill Gardner, who pointed me towards Rodrik’s trilemma the other day. In his latest Project Syndicate piece, Rodrik represents the trilemma thus:

bq. economic globalization, political democracy, and the nation-state are mutually irreconcilable. We can have at most two at one time. Democracy is compatible with national sovereignty only if we restrict globalization. If we push for globalization while retaining the nation-state, we must jettison democracy. And if we want democracy along with globalization, we must shove the nation-state aside and strive for greater international governance.

Possibly for pedantic reasons, I’m not all that happy with this formulation. After all, national sovereignty is pre-eminently a legal concept and democracy might be defined merely in procedural terms, and it isn’t at all obvious why regular elections, legal sovereignty and globalization would be incompatible in the way Rodrik suggests. However, there’s a more careful version in his 2000 paper “How far will international economic integration go?” (J. Econ Perspectives 14:1) where the trilemma is expressed as being between international economic integration, the nation state, and “mass politics”, where the latter refers to

bq. political systems where: a) the franchise is unrestricted; b) there is a high degree of political mobilization; and c) political institutions are responsive to moblized groups. (p.180)

In the 2000 article, Rodrik discusses Friedman’s “Golden Straitjacket” where “mass politics” is the disappearing bit:

bq. the shrinkage of politics would get reflected in the insulation of economic policy-making bodies (central banks, fiscal authorities, and so on) from political participation and debate …. (p. 183)

Cue Stephanie Flanders on the UK’s new Office for Budget Responsibility.

This should really be a comment to Henry’s post, but I have the keys to this car, so I’m going to drive it, too. We have Zuckerberg’s remark:

[click to continue…]

So I deleted my Facebook account about a week ago – the most recent changes to their privacy policy were one step further than I wanted to go (and it seemed certain that there were going to be many such steps ahead). This “post today”: by Michael Zimmer does a nice job of capturing the reasons that Facebook was making me ever more uncomfortable.

bq. But, today, I found a new statement that brings Zuckerberg’s hubris to a new level.

bq. SocialBeat has a very thoughtful piece urging Zuckerberg to be forthright and explain what he truly and genuinely believes about privacy. While searching for evidence of Zuckerberg’s broader philosophy of information, a passage from David Kirkpatrick’s forthcoming book, The Facebook Effect, is quoted:

“You have one identity,” he emphasized three times in a single interview with David Kirkpatrick in his book, “The Facebook Effect.” “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly.” He adds: “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

… Zuckerberg must have skipped that class where Jung and Goffman were discussed. Individuals are constantly managing and restricting flows of information based on the context they are in, switching between identities and persona. I present myself differently when I’m lecturing in the classroom compared to when I’m have a beer with friends. I might present a slightly different identity when I’m at a church meeting compared to when I’m at a football game. This is how we navigate the multiple and increasingly complex spheres of our lives.

To Goffman, I’d add Richard Sennett, whose brilliant but elliptical _The Fall of Public Man_ (Powells, Amazon) is all about the collapse of people’s ability to create public personae for themselves that differ radically from their private selves. Sennett’s idealized version of coffee house culture is in a way an idealization of the Internet before its time – a place where no-one, as the New Yorker cartoon put it, knows that you’re a dog. Facebook appears to be deliberately and systematically making it harder and harder for people to vary their self-presentations according to audience. I think that this broad tendency (if it continues and spreads) impoverishes public life. Certainly, the self that I present on this blog is very different from the self that I present in private life (I’m a lot more combative, for better or worse, in electronically mediated exchanges, than I am in person). It’s also very different from the self that I present on the “political science blog”: that I contribute to. Both differ drastically from the self I present to my students. I don’t think I’m unique in this. And one of the things I like about the Internets is that I _can_ present myself in different ways. This isn’t the result of a lack of integrity – you need to present different ‘selves’ if you want to engage in different kinds of dialogue.

As an aside – this may be a good place to note one of my other selves. I now do a lot of the round-up ‘this is interesting but I don’t have time to blog on it’ link selection that I used to do on Crooked Timber when I had time via a Google Reader feed (apart from the brief Buzz debacle, I’m generally more comfortable with the ways that Google intrudes upon my privacy than Facebook). People who are interested can find my feed at “”: (if you have Google Reader or whatever, you can subscribe to this in the usual ways). The latest item shared is this great “Boston Review”: symposium on the corrupting influence of money on medical academia.

No Particular Reason

by John Holbo on May 14, 2010

I just found this one on Flickr. It’s pretty great.

Mike Harding

by Harry on May 13, 2010

Mike Harding is good this week. Around 45 minutes in you can hear an astonishing version of Ewan Macoll’s Moving On Song (by the internet-unfriendlily named Pbs 6 — go on, try googling them); then, at 56 minutes, a song I’d never heard about Desperate Dan (that makes 3 songs I know that refer to DD, the others being by the Kinks and the Bonzos — any more?).

Two points in lieu of an argument

by Henry on May 12, 2010

Have just finished writing two papers with hard deadlines – now in the throes of grading – so two quick points, which either sort-of-resonate-with or half-contradict each other in ways that I don’t have time to think or write about.

First: ungovernability. Or, rather, “ungovernability.” Chris got a lot of flak in comments for suggesting that centrists and center-right people in the media were going to come out with suggestions that a bit of dictatorship might not be a bad idea. As he pointed out, there used to be a lot of people on the right and center-right who made these arguments – and not just about countries in the developing world. Crouch and Pizzorno’s _The Resurgence of Class Conflict in Western Europe_ is particularly good on this, as I recall. That said, unlike Chris, I don’t have strong expectations that this set of rhetorical tropes is going to emerge in the very near future (although it may in the medium term). The old crop of center-right dictator-fanciers were fans of dictatorships not because they were opposed to democracy _tout court_, but because they were opposed to certain parts of the economy being subject to political control. This is not so much of an issue these days. From a certain point of view, the European Central Bank is a more-than-acceptable functional substitute for General Augusto Pinochet. Indeed, being less publicly embarrassing, it is arguably superior. One of these days soon, by the way, I’m going to write my post on the editorial policy of the _Economist_ during the Irish Famine – it wasn’t one of its finer moments.
[click to continue…]

Here’s how it ends …

by Chris Bertram on May 12, 2010

So how will the new Tory-Lib Dem coalition work out? Here’s my prediction. The Tories are supremely political, and they will be looking for an opportunity to go to the country again and secure an overall majority for themselves before they have to implement voting reform. Easier said than done, of course, if you are in the middle of implementing unpopular spending cuts. But Europe could provide an issue: pick a fight with Brussels over “British sovereignty” and force the Lib Dems to take a pro-European stand and bring the coalition down. Then have the election on the single issue of Britain versus Europe. Result. The Lib Dem vote collapses as those who oppose the coalition’s record vote Labour and (Labour supporters, burned by Clegg this time, refuse to vote tactically again).

Via Yglesias, Dave Weigel takes a look at the new Maine GOP platform, which ain’t exactly Olympia Snowe all over. But neither of them mentions how the authors of this document take the text of the Preamble to the Constitution and wrench it around in ways contrary to an originalist reading of the text. Example: in order “to insure Domestic tranquility”, the Maine GOP prescribes “a. Promote family values. i. marriage is an institution between a man and a woman. ii. Parents, not government, are responsible for making decisions in the best interest of their children, whether disciplinary, educational, or medical. iii. We recognize the sanctity of life, which includes the unborn.”

Here I was, thinking the Framers were worried about Shays’ Rebellion-type stuff.