Barackrobatics: In the Right Direction (September Update)

In response to this morning's news that July's unemployment rate was 9.6%, a slight increase from June's 9.5%, the President ventured out into the Rose Garden and spake:

Well, I will be addressing a broader package of ideas next week. We are confident that we are moving in the right direction, but we want to keep this recovery moving stronger and accelerate the job growth that's needed so desperately all across the country.
But the key point I'm making right now is that the economy is moving in a positive direction. Jobs are being created. They're just not being created as fast as they need to, […]
And the evidence that we've seen during the course of this summer and over the course of the last 18 months indicate that we're moving in the right direction. We just have to speed it up.
If you're keeping score, this makes September the seventh consecutive month in which President Obama has insisted at some point that the economy is headed in the right direction. (And 17 out of the last 18 months.)

Oh, one more quote:

[The President] stated today that the trend of employment had changed in the right direction. He announced after the Cabinet meeting that the Department of Labor had informed him ...
That's from the New York Times.

The date on the article is January 21, 1930.

And the quoted President is Herbert Hoover.

Plus ça change…

Bill Binnie Circles the Drain

The new Magellan Strategies poll on the New Hampshire GOP race for the US Senate nomination still has Kelly Ayotte in front by 13 points.

But the surprise is: the guy she's 13 points in front of is Ovide Lamontagne. Bill Binnie has faded into a sold third place. Magellan notes that Binnie's numbers have dropped 12 points since their last poll in May, when he was only 9 points behind Ayotte.

Given Binnie's all-summer onslaught of TV ads, this suggests that the more people see his ads, the less likely they are to support him. That certainly matches my own feelings.

Last Modified 2017-12-04 7:35 AM EDT

Elements of Justice

[Amazon Link]

Elements of Justice appeared on this list of the "Top Ten Pro-Liberty Books of the Decade", issued late last year. The author, David Schmidtz, is a professor at the University of Arizona, with positions in both the Philosophy and Economics department there. The book was available at the library of the University Near Here, so I decided to check it out. And (in my totally unqualified opinion) it's quite good.

Schmidtz has an easygoing, modest, and accessible style. He's charitable to his ideological adversaries, even as he (to my mind) destroys their arguments. There are flashes of humor, and some of the chapters have exercises for further discussion. (Valuable for classes, and those of us who have earnest debates with other personalities living inside our heads.) It might help if you've read Rawls' A Theory of Justice and Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia first, but they aren't really prerequisites. You can follow Schmidtz's discussion fine without them.

Schmidtz's first insight is implied by the title: justice is not a single thing, but more like a "constellation of somewhat related elements." The elements that Schmidtz explores are desert, reciprocity, equality, and need. Those elements are not just distinct; they can also contradict each other. So what "justice" demands in any particular case will depend very much on real-world context; not just the details of a particular happenstance, but the way the world operates, the way real people interact. Schmidtz devotes four long sections to each of the elements above; he then finishes up with a look at the theories of Rawls and Nozick (also considering the critiques of others over the past decades).

Political philosophy is not everyone's cup of tea, but I (kind of) like it. It reminded me of those long-past Usenet arguments on talk.politics.theory. If you would like to see of Schmidtz's expository style works for you, this article at Cato Unbound is adapted from a section of this book.

Last Modified 2012-10-02 2:33 PM EDT