From the monthly archives:

February 2022

Sanctuary for Ukrainians, sanctuary for all

by Chris Bertram on February 28, 2022

Thousands of people, at this stage mainly women, children, and the elderly, are fleeing Ukraine and seeking safety in neighbouring countries. The European Union seems to grasp what is required and is offering them sanctuary; UK ministers are briefing the media that they are doing things but aren’t doing very much. People crossing border to neighbouring countries from conflict zones is what usually happens in circumstances like this. This is why the vast majority of the world’s refugees are in countries bordering Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. When countries like Pakistan, Iran and Turkey take in refugees from war they are partly just accepting the inevitable; they are also, to some degree, sensitive to their own populations who (at least initially) may feel an obligation to people who are like themselves in religion and culture.

The European Union (and the UK) have a pretty bad recent record when it comes to refugees. They have put in place measures to prevent people from escaping their tormentors and have paid dubious regimes such as Libya to act as buffer zones and prisons. While some European countries such as Germany and Sweden can point to things they can take pride in during the Syrian war, attempts to get others such as Poland and Hungary to accept refugees failed. Denmark has pursued a zero-refugee policy, with the goal of sending people back to places like Syria. The UK is currently introducing legislation to criminalize refugees and the current Home Secretary, Priti Patel, would like to follow the Australian model of sending them off to remote locations. Ascension Island in the Atlantic has been mooted by the pro-Tory think-tank Policy Exchange.
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Sunday photoblogging: Liverpool fountain

by Chris Bertram on February 27, 2022

Fountain, William Jessop Way, Liverpool

Russian invasion of Ukraine

by Maria on February 24, 2022

This is basically an open thread on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

I’ve been to Ukraine, met a clutch of its early 2000s political and student leaders, a couple of writers, sat at a board table in Crimea and eye-balled the deputy governor as he refused to answer my question about mistreatment of the returning Tatars (Stalin expelled them en masse and the returning few post-1989 suffer terrible discrimination). So many of us are just nauseous this morning, worried for people we know and horrified by what it means for Ukraine and all of Europe (and Taiwan, and and and). All I will say is you’re lucky if you don’t live in a country whose ruling party has been bought and paid for by dirty Russian money. And we’re all lucky now, who aren’t sitting on a blocked road, fleeing, or clutching our children in a metro station underground, or wondering what good a rifle is against a motorway full of tanks.

The Trojan Horse Affair

by Harry on February 23, 2022

I listened to the whole of the Trojan Horse Affair last week. I have some scattered thoughts below that, I imagine, include spoilers, so everything is below the fold. You should listen to the show, it is fantastic and if you are going to listen maybe you should wait to read this till later.

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Sex-segregated Spaces as Minority Rights?

by Miriam Ronzoni on February 22, 2022

A while back I wrote a post on the gender wars, where I argued that there are reasons for both parties to acknowledge that the other might have a standpoint which they themselves (partly) lack, and that – relatedly – gender dogmatism is a double-edged sword. [click to continue…]

Limitarianism: a philosophical dispute

by Ingrid Robeyns on February 21, 2022

In my last post, on the public debate on limitarianism, I responded to Matt’s philosophical doubts about limitarianism by saying that there was a debate on this matter forthcoming in The Journal of Political Philosophy, and that I would post it once published in Early View. So, here it is.

Robert Huseby wrote a critique on limitarianism arguing that we don’t need that idea, given that we have egalitarianism and sufficientarianism. I responded in two ways. First, by saying that there are other ways to judge a philosophical idea than looking at philosophical distinctiveness (in other words, Huseby and I have different views on what we want political philosophy to do, and I argue that this has implications for judging the value of limitarianism). Second, within the meta-theoretical choices made by Huseby, I object to his arguments.

Those interested in this intra-academic-philosophical debate, feel free to chime in. If anyone wants to read the paper by Robert Huseby (since unlike mine, it’s not open access), I’m happy to send it to anyone dropping me an email.

NB: Luigi Caranti and Nunzio Alì published in the Italian Journal Politica e Società a paper with the same title as Huseby’s paper, voicing overlapping criticisms. Email them or me if you want to get hold of a copy.

Sunday photoblogging: pheasant

by Chris Bertram on February 20, 2022


Time for the four-day week ?

by John Q on February 18, 2022

For more than a century after the achievement of the eight hour day (around 1850) in Australia and New Zealand standard hours of week were reduced steadily, with the shift to a five day week, annual leave and more. But progress came to a halt with the resurgence of neoliberalism in the 1980s. I’ve been writing about the need for shorter weekly hours, more holidays and so on ever since, mostly with no apparent impact.

But the pandemic may have changed things, if only by making us all feel more exhausted than ever. After I published this piece in The Conversation advocating a four-day week, I was deluged with interview requests. It’s not perfect, and some of the most striking turns of phrase are the editor’s, not mine. But it seems like a good way to start the discussion.

Royal Liver Building, Liverpool. Reflected.

Summers stumbles

by John Q on February 9, 2022

There’s been a lot of debate lately about whether tightening of anti-trust legislation might be a useful response to inflation. Underlying this question is that of the relationship between monopoly and inflation more generally. The dominant view among mainstream/neoclassical economists seems to be that there is no such relationship. That view is stated by one of the most prominent mainstream theorist, Larry Summers as follows

There is no basis in economics for expecting increases in demand to systematically [cause] larger price increases for monopolies or oligopolies than competitive industries.

Summers goes on to describe the opposite view as ‘anti-science’.

Readers of this blog will be devastated to learn that Summers is dead wrong. It’s quite straightforward to show, in a simple neoclassical model, that imperfect competition amplifies the inflationary effects of demand shocks. Here’s a paper I’ve just written with my colleague Flavio Menezes which makes this point using the concept of the strategic industry supply curve. The same result can be presented, less elegantly in our view, using the standard tools of comparative statics to be found in any intermediate microeconomics test.

We also show that, contrary to a suggestion by Elizabeth Warren, imperfect competition is likely to dampen the impact of cost shocks. There isn’t, however, any equivalence here. Warren’s background is in law, and she isn’t making a claim just observing that monopoly power might be a problem. The distinction between cost shocks and demand shocks is unlikely to have been relevant to her, whereas it should have occurred immediately to a leading theorist like Summers.

I’m not sure about the lessons from all this. For me, it’s to think carefully before making dogmatic statements from authority. If all experts agree on something, we should say so, but be careful to make sure we are right.

The end of hope

by John Q on February 9, 2022

If you want to mark the end of hope for US democracy, last weekend was as good a date as any. Both Trump and the Republican National Committee made unequivocal commitments to supporting the insurrection.

The response, on the Republican side, was much the same as in every previous step along the road to dictatorship. The usual handful of serving politicians, like Romney and Hogan (MD governor) objected, as did sometimes-Trumper Mitch McConnell, but none (not even Cheney and Kinzinger, the targets of the censure) even hinted at changing parties. A rather larger group of retired Repubs signed a statement, again failing to urge rejection of their party. Most current Repubs dodged the issue, claiming not to have read the news for a while. And, a couple of days later, it’s just about forgotten.

The result is that the overthrow of democracy has become, as far as the political culture is concerned, a routine issue of disagreement between the parties. In these circumstances, the par outcome is that the opposition party will do well in the midterm elections, and all the evidence suggests that 2022 won’t be an exception. So, unless effective legislation to prevent election subversion is passed this year, it never will be. It seems highly unlikely that reforms to the Electoral Count Act, if they pass, will be enough.

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