The Least Empathic Lot

On standard tests of empathy, libertarians score very low. Yet, the world’s “well-known libertarian bias” coupled with many people’s unwarranted pessimism makes us seem like starry-eyed optimists (“how could you possibly believe things will just work themselves out?!”). Under the Moral Foundations framework developed and popularized by Jonathan Haidt, he and his colleagues analyzed thousands … Continue reading The Least Empathic Lot

The Philosophy and Ethics behind Blockchain (smart talk)

I have recently given a 7-minute smart talk on “the Philosophy and Ethics behind Blockchain” at the Saxion Smart Solutions Festival. The talk is intended for laymen who are interested in the intersection of Philosophy and Blockchain. What follows is a video and transcript of the talk. Purpose of my Smart Talk The purpose of … Continue reading The Philosophy and Ethics behind Blockchain (smart talk)

“Foucault’s Pendulum”: Social Scholarship, Ideology, and Libertarian Temptations

I’m no prophet. My job is making windows where there were once walls. ― Michel Foucault Martin Luther, a German Augustinian monk, is credited with triggering a profound spiritual movement in the minds of early modern Europeans.  Luther, who was an extremely pious Catholic, eventually became a reluctant rebel by channeling the frustrations of the … Continue reading “Foucault’s Pendulum”: Social Scholarship, Ideology, and Libertarian Temptations

Innovation and the Failure of the Great Man Theory

We tend to think about innovation as inventions and particularly about the inventors associated with them: Newton, Edison, Jobs, Archimedes, Watt, Arkwright.  This Great Man Theory of incredible technical innovation is mostly implicitly held by quite a few of us, celebrating these great men and their deeds. Matt Ridley, the author of The Rational Optimist and The … Continue reading Innovation and the Failure of the Great Man Theory

A short note on two types of political structures

I just came across an excellent review by Herman Belz of a book on American history recently published by Nicolas Barreyre, a French history professor. The main thrust of the book Belz is reviewing has to do with American Reconstruction, but the theoretical thrust of the book is all about state-building and political economy. The … Continue reading A short note on two types of political structures

Bernard Lewis, Edward Said, Facts, Ideology, and the Middle East

I recently came across an excellent interview conducted by Evan Goldstein, who is the editor of Arts & Letters Daily and the Chronicle of Higher Education, with Bernard Lewis, who is an eminent historian of the Middle East from Princeton. There were three things that stood out to me in the interview: 1) the potential for ideological … Continue reading Bernard Lewis, Edward Said, Facts, Ideology, and the Middle East

How to Achieve Peace in Gaza

Israel’s bombing of Gaza has not stopped its rocket attacks, so it is counterproductive. Instead, Israel should help the people of Gaza establish a communitarian democracy. The government of Israel would announce on radio, television, web sites, and leaflets, that it will be sending in troops, not to fight against the people of Gaza, but … Continue reading How to Achieve Peace in Gaza

The state alone cannot be blamed for “sham Arab democracy”

Rami Khouri has a great piece about the effects that The State has on Arab democracy in the Beirut-based the Daily Star. Khouri argues that states in the Arab world are designed for a top-down approach to governance whereas the traditional legal and political institutions of the Arab world are bottom-up (“indigenous” as well as “inclusive”) creations. The inability of Arab … Continue reading The state alone cannot be blamed for “sham Arab democracy”

Eurocraine and Russocraine

Elections are supposed to achieve social peace by providing a government that represents the people. But voting has not brought peace to Ukraine. Many people distrust the honesty of the elections, and many in Ukraine have disagreed with the policies of the government, both when policy favored association with Europe and when it favored association … Continue reading Eurocraine and Russocraine

Courting Campaign Money

The Supreme Court has overruled 5 to 4 the previous limit on total campaign contributions in the US. In the McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission case, The Court eliminated the limits on the total campaign contributions an individual could make to candidates and committees per election. Previously, in the Citizens United case, the Court struck … Continue reading Courting Campaign Money

California’s Neighborhood Legislature Initiative

In California, the voters are able to put proposed laws on the ballot if they gather enough signatures. This process is called an “initiative.” The legislature may also place propositions on the ballot, a process called a “referendum”. One of the ballot propositions for 2014 is “The Neighborhood Legislature Reform Act,” which would decentralize the … Continue reading California’s Neighborhood Legislature Initiative

Forward to the Failed Past

Some politicians like to use the slogan, “forward.” Sometimes it is more emphatic: forward! But one may well ask, forward to what? Time and the current of events are always moving us forward already, so evidently the forward-seekers want to change the existing flow sideways. The slogan “forward” has often been used by those who … Continue reading Forward to the Failed Past