Nullified non-consent

In DEMOCRATIC AUTHORITY, David Estlund rightly points out that non-consent, as well as consent, can change the landscape of permissions and obligations.  If you ask to touch me (his case) and I say “No,” then you are not permitted touch me.  This could change a default prior condition in which, say, each is allowed to touch each other in a certain way.  However, he also claims that “[if] there were some conditions that nullified non-consent, the result would be morally equivalent to consent” (i.e., in my terms the landscape of permissions and obligations would be the same in the two cases) [p. 9].  But why think this?  This seems more likely to be true:  antecedent conditions of permission and obligation still hold.  This is the same as for nullifying conditions for consent:  if I consent to give you my car under the conditions of your threatening my life (nullifying condition for the agreement) then whatever permissions and obligations that were there prior remain (probably you are not permitted to use my car).  If this is right, then Estlund’s nifty “symmetry” argument for normative consent generating authority does not work.  It does not work to start with only the intuitive notions that consent can generate authority, that non-consent as well as consent has the relevant sort of “moral power,” and that if one then both should have moral-power-nullifying conditions.  This shortcut argument failing, the “long cut” of giving and explanatory account of why non-consent that one is morally obligated to consent to can generate authority (and under what conditions) seems unavoidable if we want a strong argument for obligatory non-consent generating authority.

Not Born in the USA

I did the last of my immigration-enforcement events yesterday at Felician–this one really a mini-event, intended for my seminar-sized criminal justice class. The guest speaker this time was my former Felician student Maria Lopez-Delgado.

Quick intro: Maria graduated as a philosophy major from Felician in 2013 (thesis topic: “The Marxian Critique of Capitalism”; advisor: Khawaja), went on to law school at UNC School of Law, did a stint at the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender, and for the past year or so has been back in North Carolina with North Carolina Legal Aid’s Battered Immigrant Project, where she works with victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.* Since she was in North Carolina and we were in Jersey, we spoke by Google Video Chat.  Continue reading

The Fragility of Badness

Due to a scheduling conflict, I missed my opportunity last week to see Jonathan Haidt plugging his most recent book, The Coddling of the American Mind (co-authored with Greg Lukianoff). In compensation, a colleague told me a story at lunch about a snowflake student she had to deal with.

The student, a military veteran, objected to the presence of Carol Gilligan’s In a Different Voice on the professor’s syllabus, the objection being that the book glorified abortion, and was in various and sundry respects hostile to men. Apparently, triggered by the book, the student cornered the professor in a small room, yelling at her about it, and demanding its exclusion from the syllabus. Continue reading

Is authority based on reasons to obey or reasons to agree to obey?

The plane has crashed.  People are seriously injured, but you are not.  A stewardess, directing things, barks an order at you, “Go get the first aid kit from the overhead compartment!”.  Intuitively, you are obligated to follow her order, due to her issuing it, even if it is not the best order she could have made (maybe the first order of business should have been finding water or finding the radio to call for help).  In other words, something about the situation gives her authority over you (and the other passengers).    Continue reading

She Fights the Law and She Wins

Joyce Phipps, Esq. is the founder and director of Casa de Esperanza–a non-profit legal aid and social service organization in Bound Brook, New Jersey, created to serve immigrants and refugees. I met her last February at the vigil for immigrant detainees I described in an earlier post.

We met more or less by chance: lost in thought, I wandered away from the vigil to prowl around the perimeter of the facility, and poke at its edges; Joyce, who was doing the same thing, noticed me, and struck up a conversation. It took just a few minutes of conversation to convince me to invite her to Felician to talk about her work defending the rights of immigrants and refugees. It took less time for her to accept. Continue reading

Deportations with Benefits

I invited two agents from  ICE’s Newark, New Jersey Field Office to speak to my cross-listed Philosophy/Criminal Justice class today. The topic? “Enforcement and Removal Operations 101,” or less euphemistically put, “Deporting People in the Name of the Law: An Introduction.”

The two agents more or less made the arguments you would expect agents from ICE to make: ICE is empowered to search, seize, detain, and deport those who violate the nation’s immigration laws; some or many of these illegals are bad actors, whether of a criminal or terrorist variety; and though the media like to focus on the most problematic or controversial actions that ICE undertakes, media coverage doesn’t adequately explain the legal rationale or ICE’s enforcement/deportation operations, or give a balanced account of what it is that the average ICE agent does on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Continue reading

“Little Drummer Girl”: The Lowdown

I spent a fair bit of my Thanksgiving holiday watching the “Little Drummer Girl” mini-series on BBC/AMC, apparently the second film version of the John LeCarre novel of that name. Whether you’ve seen it or not, I’ve done the hard work in this post of distilling everything about it that you need to know.

On the plus side:

  • Yes, the cinematography is as lush and captivating as everyone is saying.
  • Yes, Florence Pugh is hot, and does a great job portraying her character, Charlie.
  • Yes, Alexander Skarsgard is hot, and does a great job portraying his character, Gadi.
  • Yes, they have good chemistry.
  • Yes, Michael Shannon is credible as a Mossad agent, or at least as credible as he needs to be to an audience consisting primarily of non-Mossad agents.
  • Yes, the series is worth watching, even with all of its flaws and at 6 hours’ showing time, and yes, it whets your appetite for the book (which I haven’t read).

Continue reading

“Bohemian Rhapsody”: A Rhapsody

The year is 1977–maybe late October or November. I’m eight years old, having dinner in a pizzeria with my immigrant family in Blairstown, New Jersey–Dominick’s, I think it was. Suddenly, the stereo system at Dominick’s pipes out the unforgettable bass-snare drum beat of the latest hit on the radio:

BOOM BOOM Clap

BOOM BOOM Clap

BOOM BOOM Clap

BOOM BOOM Clap

Buddy you’re a boy make a big noise
Playin’ in the street gonna be a big man some day
You got
Mud on yo’ face
Big disgrace
Kickin’ your can all over the place

Everyone in Dominick’s but us–maybe two dozen Warren County rednecks–starts stomping their feet and clapping their hands in time to the music. Somebody yells out, “Fuckin Yankees!” (The Yankees had won the World Series that year.) And then, two dozen voices in unison, between bites of Jersey Neapolitan pizza, sing in commemoration of the Yankees’ victory over the Dodgers, and anything else that comes to mind:

Continue reading

No Easy Road: Easements and Occupation in the West Bank

Anyone who’s spent time in libertarian circles has probably encountered the notorious debate over easements. Here’s an interesting iteration of the debate from about a decade ago, involving Walter Block, Stephan Kinsella, and Roderick Long. Roderick’s position nicely summarizes the basic issue involved:

I’ve long argued that one property owner cannot legitimately buy up all the land around another’s property and thereby either keep the latter prisoner (if she was on the property at the time) or bar the latter from her own home (if she was away) – since one cannot legitimately use one’s own property to interfere with the liberty and property of others.

I read the debate with intense interest when it came out, but never quite settled on a position, in part because I found the thought-experiments involved too distant from anything I could think about with any degree of confidence. Also because I wasn’t sure I agreed with the underlying assumptions that got the debate off the ground. Continue reading