The title of the new book by Nelson Tebbe, professor of law at Brooklyn Law School and visiting professor of law at Cornell Law School, is a giveaway. The book surveys the challenges that religious freedom, a stubborn relic of another “age,” poses for an “egalitarian” one. Tebbe offers a method of moral reasoning to mediate the “conflict” between religious liberty and equality norms. He then uses this reasoning to reconceive religious liberty jurisprudence so that it can perform the role of political mediation. At every turn, the analysis suggests that Tebbe does not value religious liberty for its own sake,…
Political Political Theory is no misprint. Jeremy Waldron’s stuttering title well expresses his intention. In the last generation, observes Waldron, “political theory” has become synonymous with considering the moral foundations of political life; the writings of John Rawls and Robert Nozick have framed much of the discussion. With the phrase “political political theory,” he signals the need to direct some philosophic attention to the actual operations of political life—particularly the forms, structures, and institutions by which we rule ourselves or are ruled by others. Philosophers used to think institutions too important to be left to the political scientists, and they should…
It was Milton Friedman who said: “a corporation’s responsibility is to make as much money for the stockholders as possible.” Despite his Nobel Prize, Friedman definitely hasn’t persuaded our business schools of that. In fact much of the literature on the social responsibilities of business was produced as a retort to that 1962 assertion of his.
When it comes to voting by citizens in a democracy, there are four essential questions, as I see it, in marrying up the “should” and the “is.”
So this is really interesting: The Court, according to John McGinnis, doesn’t really deliberate about the law when it comes to high-profile cases. It functions instead as a “cognitive elite”— the aristocratic part of a mixed regime. It’s job, I guess, is to supply wisdom and virtue to counter popular and legislative ignorance and expediency. First off: I don’t know about the virtue part; after all, they were trained to be lawyers and not philosopher-kings. And if what they were doing were “cognitive” in the sense of listening to reason, why do they so often divide 5-4 on the high-profile cases? All reasonable men and women should assent to the truth. when they hear it.
In my last post, I discussed why one should care about economic mobility for the poor rather than income equality. The basic point is that we should care how well the poor are doing rather than their relative position compared to the rich. If we can increase the wealth of the poor by $100, we should do so even if that involves giving the rich an extra $200.
So why do some people on the left focus on income equality rather than mobility for the poor. One possibility is that focusing on income equality allows them to argue directly for the result that they like – equality. If they had to discuss whether certain institutions, such as free market institutions, helped the poor, it would at best make their arguments messier and at worst sometimes support free markets. It is safer and simpler to argue for income equality and implicitly assume that money provided to the rich is always taken out of the pockets of the poor.
But this explanation simply moves us back a step: why don’t these people on the left care enough about the poor to focus on their situation, even at the risk of allowing these “argument costs.” There are several possibilities.
Hovering like a stern schoolmarm over much of our political discourse and decision-making is a sort of lurking censor, monitoring political decisions to ensure that they are based on “secular” grounds and purposes. Let us call this regulator “the secularism constraint.”
In many cultural neighborhoods, the secularism constraint seems almost as natural and ineluctable as the law of gravity. Legal scholars and political theorists argue for one or another variant of the constraint (a/k/a “public reason”), or more often just take it for granted. Constitutional doctrine– the so-called Lemon test, from the case of Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971)– provides at least ambiguous validation with its “secular purpose” requirement for government action.