Vile, Stupid, and Tenured

I rarely praise university administrators, but then, I rarely have the opportunity to do so. For once, an opportunity presents itself:

The provost did not mince her words about the opinions of a professor on her campus. His views were racist, sexist and homophobic, she wrote in a statement this week. They were “vile and stupid,” she said, and “more consistent with someone who lived in the 18th century than the 21st.”

But the provost, Lauren Robel of Indiana University Bloomington, was equally clear on another point: The First Amendment prohibited the university from firing the professor, Eric Rasmusen, for expressing those views. “That is not a close call,” wrote Professor Robel, who also teaches at the law school.

The unusually candid statement quickly drew attention from students, academics and lawyers, many of whom praised the provost for publicly excoriating the professor’s opinions while respecting one of the nation’s basic freedoms.

For once, a provost who’s struck the right balance between bureaucratic amoralism and opportunistic, pseudo-moralistic pandering. She’s absolutely right: firing Rasmusen is not a close call; neither is condemning him. The only close call is whether he should have been hired in the first place, but that ship has sailed. Continue reading

The Unwarranted Demonization of Scot Peterson (5): “It Was Chaos”

This article is (in most but not all respects) a useful corrective to the reflexive, unwarranted demonization of Scot Peterson over the Parkland shooting of 2018. The “chaos” to which the article refers arose because it was unclear where “the” shooter was, and how many shooters there were. Unfortunately, like so much journalism on this topic, the article seems to suggest that there was chaos for everyone but Scot Peterson, who infallibly knew that there was one shooter, and knew in real time exactly (or even approximately) where this shooter was. Just to be clear: there is no evidence in the public domain that indicates this. The evidence indicates the reverse: that he did not know how many shooters there were, or where any of these shooters were. Continue reading

Police Tailgating and Entrapment Revisited

Since I’ve been revisiting so many things lately, and Roderick just posted his PPE presentation from last year (which I missed), I figured I’d revisit the topic of police tailgating and entrapment that I mentioned here last year. Down below is the (alas, rejected) abstract proposal I sent to the forthcoming PPE conference.  Below the abstract, I’ve pasted a few interesting cases I’ve recently encountered of what I take to be entrapment on my account of it.

I gave an earlier version of the tailgating paper this past July at the NASSP conference in San Francisco, where it was mostly met with puzzlement. The main objection from the audience was that my account of entrapment-by-intimidation was, in some sense, too revisionary to count as entrapment. Police tailgating to induce a moving violation was, most people granted, a due process injustice of some kind–just not a case of entrapment. I was surprised to encounter a small handful of people who didn’t think that police tailgating was either entrapment or a due process injustice of any kind. But I guess weirdos like that are what conferences are for. Continue reading

Aristotelian Welfare and Libertarianism Revisited

I seem to be revisiting a lot of things lately–first reparations, now this. Anyway, you may have noticed this down on the pingbacks, but there’s a long response here to my November 2 post (and exchange with Roderick) on the tensions between Aristotelianism and libertarianism. The post is called “The Shallowness of Secular Ethical Systems,” the blog is called Politics and Prosperity, and the author’s pen-name is Loquitur Veritatem, or truth teller. This last piece of information will come as a shock to anyone who (like me) thought Policy of Truth was the repository of all truths worth knowing. Continue reading

The Virtue of Gaslighting

There are times when I read a passage of Ayn Rand’s and find myself rubbing my eyes to make sure that what I’m reading is real. I take a perverse pride in knowing my way around the Randian corpus, but I just read a passage of hers that I somehow seem to have missed before today, and am having trouble processing what I’ve read. It’s excerpted in a piece on the ARI website on the “moral foundations of the Berlin Wall.” The two prefatory sentences are by Tom Bowden, the author:  Continue reading

Lost in the Impeachment Shuffle

So one side in the impeachment dispute thinks it’s obvious that we should have been sending Ukraine $391 million in military aid to prosecute a proxy war against Russia, and the other side thinks it’s obvious we should have been doing the same to launch a Ukraine-based investigation of the Bidens. Whatever you think about impeachment, the one question sure to be lost in the impeachment shuffle is whether we should have been sending Ukraine $391 million in military aid in the first place.

One side thinks we should have because Bill Taylor said so. The other side thinks we should have because Donald Trump and Rudolph Giuliani thought so. If this is a test of comparative credibility, I guess the partisans of Taylor win, but it’s typical of our politics that at a substantive level, no matter who wins or loses, the outcome is the same. Even at its most ostensibly partisan, our politics ends up bipartisan.

In short, even if we remove Trump, we get Pence. High stakes.

Reparations Revisited

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post arguing that Nozickian libertarianism entails reparations.* The reparations in question follow from Nozick’s “principle of compensation,” which offers compensation for what Nozick calls “preventive restraints,” that is, coercive restrictions on individuals imposed in order to lessen the risk that they will violate others’ rights. So-called Terry stops are a paradigmatic example of a preventive restraint in Nozick’s sense (I argued), so that those on the receiving end of them would on Nozick’s view be owed compensation. If we assume (ex hypothesi, but still plausibly) that young black men (or black people generally) are disproportionately on the receiving end of preventive restraints, then young black men (or blacks generally) would disproportionately receive Nozickian compensation. That compensation, I suggested, is a form of what’s commonly called “reparations.” Continue reading

Baby, No More Times

I’m inclined to rant today. As readers have probably figured out, that doesn’t really differentiate today from any other day, but still.

Today’s rant is about Catholic education. Let me preface it by saying that I like Catholic education. I got my Ph.D. at Notre Dame. I’ve spent the last twelve years teaching at a Catholic-Franciscan university, “The Franciscan University of New Jersey,” no less. I just got a paper accepted at a conference at Sacred Heart University on the “Catholic intellectual tradition” wherein I defend the pedagogical legacy of Cardinal Newman. I teach the Catechism of the Catholic Church in my ethics classes. Some of my best friends are members of the Knights of Columbus.  Continue reading