Archive for the ‘political philosophy’ Category

Form versus Outcome in the Polis

September 3rd, 2013 No comments

It would be useful for everyone, liberal, libertarian, and conservative, to confront the issue of which they’d prefer:
1. A dictator with the right policies (welfare state, free market, or promotion of virtue) or
2. A democracy with the wrong policies (free market and traditional values for the liberal, welfare state and traditional values for the libertarian, welfare state for the conservative). Read more…

I Want Comment Triage Software

July 23rd, 2013 No comments

Nobody comments here, so it’s not a personal need, but I want to see comments on blogs and articles organized differently. First I’ll say what I want to see, and then I’ll explain why.

Each comment will be directed to one of four triage categories. These will not be the traditional “Doesn’t need treatment now”, “Needs help”, and “Too hard to help–let him die” categories. Rather, they will be: Read more…

The 2013 Hyde Park Fourth of July Parade

July 4th, 2013 No comments


The McCoys again organized a 4th of July parade in our neighborhood. It’s probably a good thing when almost everybody is in the parade instead of watching it, even tho the reverse is what is common. Every neighborhood should do this— but you need the idea and the leadership.

Categories: holidays, political philosophy Tags:

The Conservative American Revolution

July 3rd, 2009 No comments

I would argue that the American revolution was conservative। The Colony’s position was that they, like Englishmen in England, were entitled by Magna Charta to not being taxed by the king without approval by their elected representatives।

They added that approval by Parliament, elected by people in England and Scotland, didn’t count। The Glorious Revolution had established that if the King tried to subvert the government, he could legitimately be overthrown. (Some– especially New Englanders– would say that the English Civil War had already established that. Others might point to such examples as Edward II, Richard II, Henry VI, and Richard III as what happened to kings regarded universally as bad.)

So the Colonies would have been content with the status quo of 1750। The innovation of a Federal Government, a navy, and an army were just the unfortunate consequences of having to ditch an irresponsible King (remember that formally the British army and navy and colonies were under the authority of the King and his Government, not Parliament)। And then it was necessary to restrain the Federal Government with a Bill of Rights।

Thus, the legal position of the American Revolution, from the American side, was not secession from England, or revolution, but replacement of the monarch by a new central executive.


Thomas Paine was far from mainstream. The conventional view in both Britain and America was that the King could impose taxes without the consent of the legislature, and if he did, he should be resisted with violence. English tories may have claimed they supported absolute obedience, but in 1688 they didn’t offer any help to King James and were clearly happy with his overthrow.

The Americans said that the appropriate legislature was the colonial legislatures; the British (including Blackstone, I think) said that the appropriate legislature was Parliament.

Thomas Jefferson, and perhaps everyone (I’ve just been reading Jefferson) made the parallel with England and Scotland in 1700, two nations with two legislatures and a common king. That was very common in Europe– a king would often hold several titles simultaneously, like a businessman who was president of several companies. Thus, while the King was the executive of the Colonies, Parliament was not the legislature. For it to become the legislature would take something like the Act of Union of 1707 between England and Scotland, a merger of legislatures approved by both sides. The Colonies would not have approved such a merger without big concessions on trade rules (as I recall, free trade with England and han proportional representation were inducements for Scotland to merge).

The Declaration is a conservative document. It says a lot about government being for the good of the people, but that is conventional Lockean Whiggism, not revolutionary sentiment. It has no objections whatsoever to the old government system. Rather, it objects to innovations introduced by George III. There were those in Congress who also objected to the restrictive trade laws that existed even before George III, but the Declaration omits those as grievances. Instead, the argument is that rule by a law-abiding king is unobjectionable, but that the present king is, with the acquiescence of Parliament, attempting to become a tyrant over the Colonies, and has thereby forfeited his authority. Indeed, “He has abdicated Government here,” the same argument applied to the flight of James II in 1688. The Crown being vacant, the Colonies could have chosen a different king– Frederick the Great, for example– but instead they chose to become a republic. (Recall that the Calvinist Netherlands offered their throne to Queen Elizabeth of England during their revolt from Philip II, who tried to conquer them with troops from his bigger kingdom, Spain. She turned it down, and they decided to become a republic instead.)

To see this, look at the Declaration. It is mostly about the bad innovations of George III, and makes no objection to the legitimacy of the pre-1763 link with Britain.

When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. … The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, …

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us….

A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us.

Categories: history, political philosophy Tags:

Filling In Potholes Yourself

April 10th, 2009 No comments

From the Chicago Tribune via Taranto at the WSJ:

Do you have gaping potholes on your street and feel the city is not fixing them quickly enough? How about patching them yourself?

That’s what a group of residents on Chicago’s West Side did Wednesday. Members of the South Austin Coalition bought eight bags of a pavement mix for about $100 and used shovels, rakes and a 250-pound push roller to fill 15 holes on the 4800 block of West Van Buren Street….

For starters, it’s not safe for people to work in the street without taking safety measures like putting up orange cones to warn traffic, said Brian Steele, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Transportation. Secondly, city crews are trained in the art of filling potholes—cleaning them out, pouring in the asphalt mix, making it compact and then rolling the patch with mechanical rollers, not the kind you can push.

The driveway mixture the group used in this case may have only cost a little more than $10 for a 50-pound bag, but the city says the $100-per-ton of high performance cold patch it purchases is worth it.

Rush Limbaugh, Disliked Because He Is Not Partisan Enough

March 5th, 2009 No comments

Jay Nordlinger in NR is good on Rush Limbaugh. One reason Limbaugh irritates people, I think, is precisely that he uses remorseless logic to rub it in when liberals go wrong. The other reason is that he uses humor. In both, he doesn’t pull his punches when he decides to go after something, and he has far more substance than more timid pundits. Ann Coulter is much the same in her style, except that she is more pointed and sarcastic. Both are also really unconcerned about winning elections. It is actually the more partisan Republicans who can’t stand them, because the partisans want to sound moderate so as to get swing voters. Also, the partisans think you should never criticize other Republicans.

One thing Rush has always been happy to do is engage with ideas.

Are his critics willing to engage with him? Or just sneer and resent?

Rush has had a considerable influence on people, for the good, I believe. In my time at National Review, I’ve interviewed a lot of young people, for jobs — internships and junior editorships. And I often ask how they became a conservative (presuming they are). And a good many people have said — sometimes sheepishly — “I listened to Rush Limbaugh.” And a good many of those have said, “I listened to Rush behind my parents’ back.”

Are these dumb kids who hate books and long to join up with the Klan? Not on your life — they are among the fanciest: Ivy Leaguers, brainiacs, world-beaters.

Robert Taft: A Yale Man, Not a Common Man

February 11th, 2009 No comments

NewMajority has a great story about Robert Taft:

Bill Buckley liked to tell a story about one of Taft’s reelection campaigns, when the Senator’s wife was asked at a rally whether her husband was a common man. “Oh no,” she retorted, “he is not that at all. He was first in his class at Yale and first in his class at Harvard Law School. I think it would be wrong to present a common man as a representative of the people of Ohio.” The political professionals blanched, but the crowd gave the Tafts a standing ovation.

It’s interesting that Taft *was* a man of his times– or a politician– supporting things such as the minimum wage:

Taft was not the uncompromising scourge of liberalism that many of his followers imagined…. He supported government-funded old age pensions, medical care for the indigent, an income floor for the deserving poor, unemployment insurance, and an increased minimum wage. Because he believed that a home was necessary for a decent family life, and because the free market was not supplying low-cost housing, he advocated urban slum clearance and public housing. Because he believed that all children deserved an equal start in life, he reversed his earlier position and called for federal aid to education.… As his brother Charles recalled in 1966, Taft was “an innovator of the first class in a number of welfare fields, going beyond what the Democrats had the courage to talk about in those days.”

Don’t take that last paragraph as complimentary.

President Obama’s Inaugural Address

January 20th, 2009 No comments

Thoughts on President Obama’s Inaugural Address.

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

A good start. He says “our ancestors”, and that is correct to do, even if his father was an immigrant, and would be correct to say even if both his parents were. And he is gracious to President Bush.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

A gesture of respect to God, which is good.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

“Khe Sahn”: very good. That won’t make the Clintons happy.

We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost.

“Its rightful place”? That’s an odd thing to say.

The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.

This sentence says a lot. Obama thinks that the purpose of government is to help you find a job and cheap health care and make you be dignified in your retirement (what he means, of course by, “a retirement that is dignified” is not a dignified retirement, free of internet porn, pant suits, and trips to Las Vegas, but a wealthy retirement). In the past, Americans would have thought that government was for things like crime prevention and national defense, and that a government worked if it just managed not to *prevent* your from finding a job or cheap health care. Of course, modern government makes it illegal for you to find a job if it would pay less than minimum wage, and it says you aren’t allowed to get health care from anybody cheaper than a graduate of a medical school.

Contrast with Jefferson’s First Inaugural:

[A] wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.

It’s such a parallel, and that Jefferson speech is such a famous Inaugural Address, that I wonder if the opposition to it in Obama’s speech is intentional. Jefferson also said:

Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.

Back to the present-day:

With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense,…

I hope he means that we won’t apologize for emitting lots of carbon dioxide or waver in defending our way of life, but I think this was probably just a mistake in editing.

We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers.

Interesting. Will Jews mind being demoted to third place? Hindus will like being included.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves.

Again a gracious gesture. Did Bill Clinton say things like this? It’s hard to image him doing so, but maybe I’m just forgetful.

But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true.

I dislike the word “values” as implying lack of intrinsic worth, but the word is pervasive, and we can imagine Bush saying the same thing. I like “These things are true”, though. It doesn’t exactly make sense, but I think he means that these good things are truly good, not just his personal preference.

They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

That’s the best sentence of the speech. The second “the” is the key.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

Another good phrase. It’s nice, too, because it reminds us subtly that he’s biracial.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

“Let it be told to the future world … that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it).”

A good section for a cold day, even if it’s not as effective in print.

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

A good ending.