The Idea of Public Reason Rejected

From this article in The New York Times. Michael, David, and I were making fun of Rawlsian public reason last night in our weekly philosophy discussion group, but then stuff like this comes down the pike, and you think, “Hey, we’re not denying that Rawls was addressing a real problem…”

The zeal to embody the whole truth in politics is incompatible with an idea of public reason that belongs with democratic citizenship.

–John Rawls, “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited,” Collected Papers, p. 574.

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Which Eternity?

Rand held her axiom Existence exists to include that the universe as a whole “cannot be created or annihilated, that it cannot come into or go out of existence” (1973, 25).[1] One would naturally suppose Rand was thinking that immunity from creation or annihilation means the universe has existed an endless time in the past and will exist an endless time in the future. Plausible as that picture appears, might the axiom Existence exists not strictly entail the endless duration of Existence? Continue reading

How to Face Down the Secret Service

More or less like this:

And not just the Secret Service, but any law enforcement agency that treats you as these officers treat her.

On the whole, I’d say she gets things just right. Some minor criticisms:

I would not have bothered to ask the agent about any charges the Secret Service might be contemplating; unless they’re formally making a charge, they won’t truthfully tell you what charges they have in mind. In any case, they have the legal authority to lie and bluff about whatever charges they’re contemplating, so there’s no reason to believe anything they tell you before they arrest you. If they have a formal charge to make, they’ll make it if and when they arrest you (or even more precisely, if and when you’re arraigned); otherwise, asking about prospective charges is a waste of time, and a good way of getting needlessly drawn into an unintentionally incriminating conversation with them, which is what they’re here for, and the last thing you want to do. Continue reading

from fair contribution to authority

Here is a quick argument for non-voluntary (and hence non-consent-based) normative authority.  No doubt this needs some tightening-up or is otherwise flawed. And I have to do a lot more reading about the various “fair play” approaches to political authority (and authority generally).  But right now, something like this seems pretty compelling to me.

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Unreasonable Suspicion

I just called the cops on a guy who drove a van up to my garage, jumped out, took a picture of it, hurriedly jumped back into his van, and drove away with the tires screeching. With full certainty that the motherfucker was casing our house to burglarize it (as Rashida Tlaib might put it), I grabbed my phone and got a picture of the van driving away, doing my best to memorize what I could about it. I told the police dispatcher that the guy was taking a picture of the keypad to my garage.  The cops put out an APB on the guy, and sent an officer to our house. Continue reading

what I should have said before about “nullified” non-consent…

One problem with Estlund’s argument (Ch. 1, p. 9) is that only the denial of consent, not mere non-consent, is an event that typically changes the landscape of relevant permission/obligation.  Let’s look at two cases. Suppose that the initial conditions are that we are allowed to touch each other on the shoulder in order to get the attention of person who would be touched. We now have two cases:

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From the anti-vigilante principle to authority (a good intuitive argument for authority)

In Ch. 8 of DEMOCRATIC AUTHORITY, David Estlund argues for a certain kind of political authority on a purely intuitive basis (as a run-up to a more-principled or intuition-vindicating defense of political authority).  His argument starts with the intuitive (and Lockean) anti-vigilante principle (AVP):

when there is a system that serves the purposes of judgment and punishment without private punishment, then private punishment is morally wrong  

The idea here is that the obligation not to engage in relevant sorts of private punishment (even when the public verdict is known to be wrong) is generated by the system of public justice forbidding private punishment or vigilante behavior.  Since forbidding-generated as well as command-generated obligation (to obey) suffices for authority, what we have here is a kind of political authority. (Notice that, despite my language here, the system need not be public in anything like the governmental sense. The system could be privately-run but dominant in a geographic area.) Continue reading

Anarchy in Manhattan


The Molinari Society will be holding its mostly-annual Eastern Symposium in conjunction with the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association in New York City, 7-10 January 2019. Here’s the schedule info:

Molinari Society symposium: New Work in Libertarian and Anarchist Thought

G5C. Tuesday, 8 January 2019, 9:00 a.m.-12:00 noon, Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, 811 7th Ave. (at W. 53rd St.), New York NY, room TBA

     Roderick T. Long (Auburn University)

     Jason Lee Byas (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), “The Political Is Interpersonal
     Dylan Andrew Delikta (Memorial University of Newfoundland), “Anarchy: Finding Home in the (W)hole
     Alex Braud (Arizona State University), “Putting Limits on Punishments of Last Resort
     Roderick T. Long (Auburn University), “The Anarchist Landscape: Social Anarchism, Individualist Anarchism, and Anarcho-Capitalism from a Left-Wing Market Anarchist Perspective

Regrettably, our session is scheduled opposite a session on Elizabeth Anderson’s book Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives, with comments by Jacob Levy and Jessica Flanigan. This is unfortunate both because many members of our potential audience will probably be lured away by this session, and because we’d like to go to it ourselves. But as good anarchists, we must bear our sufferings like Rakhmetov.