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Tag Archives: Economic Philosophy

Two Questions on Sunkara’s Book

One of the readings in the colloquium on socialism last weekend was an excerpt from Bhaskar Sunkara, The Socialist Manifesto. In preparing my questions for discussion, I highlighted two sentences from his book. Here they are, along with the question I asked about each. On page 234, Sunkara writes, “The socialist record on oppression is uneven but still better than that of any other political tradition.” Is there any evidence from the 20th century we could look at to...

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Meanings of Liberty: A Contested Concept

It was my singular good fortune to serve as the editor for the April 2021 Liberty Matters forum, “Meanings of Liberty: Aron, Constant, Berlin.” What is liberty, and what does it mean (to each of these thinkers)? This, in essence, is the question that April lead essayist Daniel B. Klein and two respondents, Daniel J. Mahoney and Helena Rosenblatt, set out to explore in this particular edition of Liberty Matters. (If you are not yet familiar with the Liberty Matters...

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Anti-Communism and Anti-Racism

I hate Communism.  I consider Communists to be the moral approximates of Nazis.  I might talk to a youthful Communist, but after the excuse of youth passes, I deem Communists beyond redemption. Even so, if George Mason University adopted an official Anti-Communist policy, I would oppose it. Why?  All of the following reasons. 1. George Mason University is part of the government, and as such ought to scrupulously respect freedom of speech, thought, and association. ...

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Dual Anthems

Ayn Rand‘s Anthem only takes about an hour to read.  So while it’s her weakest novel, the literary value per minute of reading is high.  And it definitely belongs on any list of classic dystopian fiction.  Only recently, though, did I discover that there are two graphic novel adaptations. 1. The 2011 adaptation by Charles Santino and Joe Staton. This version heavily edits the text, and has exactly three panels per page.  The illustrations are basically just...

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Boudreaux’s Aged Hypothetical

The noble Don Boudreaux builds on my ageless hypothetical: To avoid the many challenges with calculating the value of a statistical life, think of the matter in the following way: Suppose that a society, identical to ours, will – with 100 percent certainty – be stricken with one of three deadly pathogens. But this society can choose which of the three to suffer. Each pathogen will kill the same number of persons, with this number being significant, potentially as high...

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Age and the Value of Life: A Further Reply

“Old Lives Matter.” I fully agree with the title of Jeremy Horpedahl’s latest reply on the value of life.  To say that the life of an 80-year-old is worth 1% or .1% as much as the life of a 10-year-old is not deny the high value of elderly lives, because 10-year-old lives are immensely valuable. However, I disagree with almost all of Jeremy’s arguments.  To wit: Let’s start with Caplan’s three reasons, which he calls “iron-clad”: young people have more years to live,...

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Does Spending Your Own Money on Yourself Create a Negative Externality?

Tyler Cowen thinks so. In a post this morning, economist Tyler Cowen writes: Now consider some older people who have a lot of wealth but very little human capital.  These (selfish) individuals still will pay a lot to avoid death or risk of death, but in essence there is an externality.  They treat their wealth as “disappearing with their death” when in reality that wealth simply is transferred to others.  Therefore they overspend to keep themselves around on planet...

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Walter Oi and Armen Alchian on Value of Life

I’ve enjoyed Bryan Caplan’s recent two posts (here and here) about how the value of life varies with age and I’m inclined to agree with him. I think about my own situation. My mother died of cancer in December 1969 at age 53. My brother committed suicide in July 1970 at age 22, just shy of 23. My father died in June 1997 at age 87. And my sister died in November 2018 at age 72. When I think about my degree of sadness and loss, it corresponds with what Bryan says....

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The Problem in Bertrand de Jouvenel

At Law and Liberty, Daniel Mahoney has an interesting and often challenging article on Bertrand de Jouvenel. Mahoney, like Jouvenel, tries to reconcile the danger of the state (“the Minotaur” in Jouvenel’s terms) with the ancient philosophical ideal of a “common good” that political authorities are supposed to protect. My own reading of Jouvenel, specifically of his book On Power, has been mainly classical-liberal or libertarian, although I have emphasized the...

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An Ageless Hypothetical

Suppose you could either save one 10-year-old, or X 80-year-olds.  What value of X is morally indifferent? That is, if you wanted to make the world as morally valuable as possible, when should you switch from saving one youth to X elders? I suspect that people’s modal answer will be 1.  Not the median, and certainly not the mean.  But probably the mode. Why would X=1 be such a popular answer?  Charitably, people set X=1 because they sincerely believe that all lives...

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