Is Watching Football Unethical?

Over at Reason, Stephanie Slade has a nice, thoughtful piece on whether watching football - providing the NFL and college football programs with revenue - is unethical, given the immense harms to players through traumatic brain injuries and the diseases they cause. A selection: A person can believe an action is wrong even if she … Continue reading Is Watching Football Unethical?

Legal Regimes for Secession: Applying Moral Theory and Empirical Findings

My paper on the political philosophy of secession is now out in Public Affairs Quarterly, an open-access journal. Read it here. Teaser: The United Kingdom currently sets the gold standard for management of secessionist politics. The British and Scottish governments negotiated in good faith over the terms of the independence referendum that Scotland held on … Continue reading Legal Regimes for Secession: Applying Moral Theory and Empirical Findings

Update and Further Analysis of the New Hampshire Legislature

With this post, I'm reporting updated results on the ideological ideal points of New Hampshire legislators, introduced previously here. In that analysis, I found that libertarians in the New Hampshire House in 2014 tended to vote with the right (and vice versa) on most roll-call votes scored by the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance. That included … Continue reading Update and Further Analysis of the New Hampshire Legislature

Constitutions and Secession

Constitute.org is a useful website designed by political scientists to let researchers search for and compare constitutional texts on particular topics. Here for instance is a search on secession clauses. Although one of the site's creators, Zachary Elkins, says that 22 states contemplate some process for state divorce, only three constitutions expressly authorize some part … Continue reading Constitutions and Secession

CIA Torture and Politician Grandstanding

So the U.S. Senate report on CIA interrogation methods is out, and now we know that the CIA tortured detainees, including the use of violent rectal assault: Some of the detainees were terrorists; some were probably innocent. We'll never know because they were never tried in a court of law: Some neoconservative torture apologists oppose … Continue reading CIA Torture and Politician Grandstanding

This Is What a Legislature with a Bunch of Libertarians Looks Like

The New Hampshire Liberty Alliance does a Liberty Rating each year in which they analyze liberty-related roll-call votes of state representatives and senators and grade them. (The NHLA is a great government accountability organization, by the way, and well worth supporting; a lifetime membership is only $100.) I used their roll-call votes for the 2014 … Continue reading This Is What a Legislature with a Bunch of Libertarians Looks Like

*The Once and Future King* by F.H. Buckley

Frank Buckley was kind enough to send me a copy of his new book, The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in America, and now seems like an appropriate time to post my review. Buckley argues persuasively -- and surprisingly -- that the Founders intended to establish a semi-parliamentary form of government … Continue reading *The Once and Future King* by F.H. Buckley

Catalan President Lays Out Road Map to Independence

Catalan President Artur Mas gave a major speech tonight, which fortunately Liz Castro live-translated on Twitter. To review, here's where we are now: Catalonia held an informal plebiscite on independence on November 9, which the Constitutional Court had suspended, and 81% of voters supported independence. The Spanish state has refused to negotiate any constitutional revision … Continue reading Catalan President Lays Out Road Map to Independence

Announcing Ethics & Economics Education of New England

I am pleased to be a part of a new initiative to teach moral philosophy, economics, and public policy to high schoolers and policymakers, Ethics and Economics Education of New England (E3NE). High schoolers get too little instruction in economics and usually none at all in moral philosophy, at the moment when they are first … Continue reading Announcing Ethics & Economics Education of New England

Catalan Elections Bet

We've been having a lively debate in the comments to these two posts about the true level of support for independence in the Catalan population. I say a plebiscite on the question would yield a clear majority in favor; others disagree. So it seems like a good opportunity for a friendly bet! I propose the … Continue reading Catalan Elections Bet

What Next for Catalonia?

Participation in the November 9 "participatory process" in Catalonia exceeded my expectations. According to reports, 2.3 million people participated in a nonbinding vote organized by volunteers, a figure that would amount to over 40% of the electorate. (No electoral roll was used for this election because of Spanish Constitutional Court rulings prohibiting the support of … Continue reading What Next for Catalonia?

New Hampshire Election Report

While Republicans nationally enjoyed a wave election, Republican federal candidates in New Hampshire underperformed relative to other states. Scott Brown lost very narrowly to incumbent Jeanne Shaheen, dogged throughout the campaign with the "carpetbagger" label. The highly conservative, hawkish Marilinda Garcia also lost in the second congressional district, my district and the more left-leaning one … Continue reading New Hampshire Election Report

New Hampshire Liberty Forum

Registration for the next New Hampshire Liberty Forum is now open. It will take place March 5-8, 2015 in Manchester, N.H. Sponsored by the Free State Project, the Forum is an excellent opportunity to find out what is going on in the burgeoning liberty movement in New Hampshire. At this year's forum, in addition to … Continue reading New Hampshire Liberty Forum

Dispatch from Catalonia

Last week I was in Barcelona for two days, giving a talk at an event on "the right to decide," sponsored by the Centre Maurits Coppieters (nonprofit arm of the European Free Alliance, the European Parliament group for ideologically mainstream minority nationalist parties) and by the Fundació Josep Irla (nonprofit arm of the Catalan Republican … Continue reading Dispatch from Catalonia

Changing American Views on Federalism

The Cato Institute has conducted a new poll of Americans' attitudes toward federalism. Apparently Americans have become much more favorable to federalism and decentralization over the past 40 years. The Cato Institute commissioned YouGov for the poll. They asked respondents questions about which level of government should have primary control over each issue area, using … Continue reading Changing American Views on Federalism

Big Story on the Free State Project

The Sunday edition of the New Hampshire Union-Leader featured a front-page, above-the-fold story on the Free State Project after 10 years in New Hampshire. The story gives a good sense of the wide range of activities, interests, and views of FSP participants who've moved to the state. A taste: "I honestly don't ever advertise it," … Continue reading Big Story on the Free State Project

Speaking This Week at Barcelona Conference on the Right to Decide

On Friday the 17th of October I will be speaking at the annual conference of the Josep Irla Foundation in Barcelona, Catalonia. The theme of the conference is "Catalonia's right to decide." I will be in town Thursday and Friday and would enjoy meeting with any Pileus readers while I am there. Please contact me … Continue reading Speaking This Week at Barcelona Conference on the Right to Decide

Vote Labour, Get SNP?

Since the Scottish independence referendum, the Scottish National Party has seen its membership treble and its poll ratings climb. This boost to pro-independence forces after their referendum failure departs from the script established in previous referendums on autonomy or independence. After the failed 1979 referendum on devolution (due to a turnout requirement - the measure … Continue reading Vote Labour, Get SNP?

Will the U.S. Ever See a Strong Secession Movement?

Ten days ago, the Washington Post published an op-ed of mine on whether the United States will ever see a strong secession movement like that in Scotland. I took the "yes" position and also took the opportunity to boost the Free State Project, while also making clear that it does not support secession. While it's … Continue reading Will the U.S. Ever See a Strong Secession Movement?

Aftermath of the Scottish Referendum

A few takeaways from the 55-45% victory for No in the Scottish independence referendum: The polls overestimated support for independence, just as in the 1995 Quebec referendum. Secession from a well-established democracy is extremely difficult due to voters' risk-aversion and status quo bias. Scotland's right to decide elicited salutary promises of decentralization from the British … Continue reading Aftermath of the Scottish Referendum

The Inanity of the Anti-Secessionists

To favor creating a new state somewhere is to be a dirty nationalist. To favor keeping all existing national states precisely as they are is very progressive and enlightened and not nationalist at all. How do these people believe this stuff? Even though independence would be bad for Scotland in the short to medium run, … Continue reading The Inanity of the Anti-Secessionists

On Eve of Scottish Vote, Another Look at Capital Markets

Unless the polls are systematically biased or there is a late-breaking surge in support for "Yes," the "No" campaign looks set to squeak by with a narrow victory in the Scottish independence referendum. On the betting markets, a "Yes" vote has plunged below an implied probability of 20%. What has this decline in the prospects … Continue reading On Eve of Scottish Vote, Another Look at Capital Markets

More on Economics of Secession

The Oxford Review of Economic Policy has a brand-new special issue on the economics of independence. The entire issue seems to be open-access right now, so check it out. (HT: Doug Irwin) In Scottish news, polls have turned a bit against independence, and betting markets now price a "Yes" at around 22-24%. I will take … Continue reading More on Economics of Secession

Scottish Independence and the Markets

What can we learn from capital markets about the likely consequences of Scottish independence? A trio of recent polls has shown the "Yes" side to have pulled roughly even with "No." With momentum on their side, it's not unthinkable at all that "Yes" will pull it out, resulting in the first secession from a Western … Continue reading Scottish Independence and the Markets

Michael Huemer, *The Problem of Political Authority*

University of Colorado philosopher Michael Huemer's book The Problem of Political Authority deservedly made a large splash when it was released last year. The book consists of two parts, the first making the case that states enjoy no moral right to rule and that subjects have no moral duty to obey them, and the second … Continue reading Michael Huemer, *The Problem of Political Authority*

A Realist’s Guide to Grand Strategy

International relations scholar William Ruger has a nice review of Barry Posen's book Restraint in The American Conservative that is well worth checking out. Posen's book is an attempt to sketch out a hard-nosed, moderately noninterventionist grand strategy for the United States. Excerpts: Restraint, Posen’s alternative to liberal hegemony, is developed in the second chapter. … Continue reading A Realist’s Guide to Grand Strategy

Don’t Lay Down Your Arms, Aceh Edition

As part of a new paper, I've been doing research on decentralization in Aceh, Indonesia. Bringing to a conclusion an approximately 20-year insurgency, the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and Indonesian government came together in a spirit of comity following the devastating Indian Ocean Tsunami and signed a peace deal giving the region ample new autonomy. … Continue reading Don’t Lay Down Your Arms, Aceh Edition

How Dogmatic Libertarians Drive People Away

At the Daily Beast, Keli Goff has a piece on "Why Blacks Aren't Libertarians." In fact, however, she may be a libertarian; at least, nothing in this piece shows why she cannot be. However, she definitely rejects a kind of dogmatic, absolutist libertarianism that she has encountered - and reasonably so, in my view. Here … Continue reading How Dogmatic Libertarians Drive People Away

New NH PAC Seeks to Transform GOP into “Party of Liberty”

And there's real money behind it, with more (hopefully) to come: As for its goal, here is how Day put it in his news release: “Crushing debt, unfunded entitlements, the government takeover of healthcare, overregulation, the decaying of our public schools, and massive government intrusion into our private lives are a direct assault on our … Continue reading New NH PAC Seeks to Transform GOP into “Party of Liberty”

Scottish Independence Debate

UK Labour MP and former Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling and Scottish First Minister and Scottish National Party MSP Alex Salmond last night debated independence for Scotland as part of the campaign leading up to a referendum on September 18. While the "Yes" camp remains slightly behind in the polls, they have been catching … Continue reading Scottish Independence Debate

“Good Corruption”

Thomas Edsall: Covering Baltimore politics some 45 years ago, I was struck by how newly empowered ethnic groups used political power to acquire economic power, often dodging city laws and rules to benefit favored constituencies with city contracts, engineering and architectural awards, bond counsel, and so forth. These deals made headlines. But there was a … Continue reading “Good Corruption”

grade inflation experiment

Via Eric Crampton:

orgtheory.net

A recent article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives reports a recent attempt to curb grade inflation. High GPA departments at Wellesley College were required to cap high grades. The abstract:

Average grades in colleges and universities have risen markedly since the 1960s. Critics express concern that grade inflation erodes incentives for students to learn; gives students, employers, and graduate schools poor information on absolute and relative abilities; and reflects the quid pro quo of grades for better student evaluations of professors. This paper evaluates an anti-grade-inflation policy that capped most course averages at a B+. The cap was biding for high-grading departments (in the humanities and social sciences) and was not binding for low-grading departments (in economics and sciences), facilitating a difference-in-differences analysis. Professors complied with the policy by reducing compression at the top of the grade distribution. It had little effect on receipt of top honors, but affected…

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Marijuana: The Political Class vs. Everybody Else

Marc blogged the other day about the New York Times editorial board's endorsement of repealing federal marijuana prohibition, just months after having rejected that step. Now, this isn't quite the same as endorsing marijuana legalization - just returning it to the states - but it is a significant step nonetheless. Still, they are well behind … Continue reading Marijuana: The Political Class vs. Everybody Else

A New Measure of Political Risk: The DOG Factor

Governments behaving badly... We've all seen it. Get a bunch of libertarians from around the world together, and each seems to take perverse pride in proving that her own government is the worst of all. How can we quantify governments' badness? On the economic side, we might look to the Economic Freedom of the World … Continue reading A New Measure of Political Risk: The DOG Factor

All Atheists Are Agnostics, and Most Theists Are Too, So the Term Is Almost Meaningless

This topic is way beyond the official remit of this blog, but what the heck, I'm hoping we'll get some interesting comments on it. I've been trying to grasp the distinction between atheism and agnosticism for some time, and I've come to the conclusion stated in the title of this post. My reasoning follows. Define … Continue reading All Atheists Are Agnostics, and Most Theists Are Too, So the Term Is Almost Meaningless

Putting Economic Inequality in Perspective

Many people are concerned about income and wealth inequality. I am not concerned about economic inequality as such; I care about absolute poverty (how many people live in misery because of wretched physical conditions), and I care about a broad distribution of opportunity (everyone's having a "fair shot" at economic success), but I don't see … Continue reading Putting Economic Inequality in Perspective

America’s License Raj

The "license Raj" is an epithet often used for India's byzantine code of rules and regulations on businesses under the central-planning system finally dismantled in part in the 1990s. The Economist applies the term to the United States, which buries entrepreneurs under layers of federal, state, and local red tape. According to the Competitive Enterprise … Continue reading America’s License Raj

PorcFest Roundup (Updated)

I returned Sunday from the Porcupine Freedom Festival, and here's a selection of PorcFest stories that have come out so far (I will continue updating this post over the next days and weeks - I know New York Times Magazine, Concord Monitor, and The Economist will have stories as well): Union-Leader on the "DIY" theme … Continue reading PorcFest Roundup (Updated)