New Talk on the Architecture of Law

Sunday, 08-22-2021


I’ve just posted the audio recording of a talk on “The Architecture of Law” that I gave to the Sołek Academic and Cultural Center, Poznań, Poland, in June, 2021.  It’s the first item on the Listen to Talks page of this website, and yes, it’s in English, not Polish.

If you’d like to hear it, alas, you won’t be able to view the slides, but you can still understand what I’m talking about by keeping your eyes glued to this larger version of the diagram above.  Happy listening!  And fraternal greetings to all of my readers in Poland.


Why They Sputter Nonsense about Afghanistan

Saturday, 08-21-2021


Eminently quotable:

The truth is, it does not occur to our elites that the world they wish to impose on the Taliban might be only slightly less morally repugnant than the world the Taliban wish to impose on Afghanistan.  Our leaders govern societies that systematically deny the rights of the unborn and the elderly, that aggressively violate their citizens’ rights of free speech and free exercise of religion.  They seek to create a world where parents have almost no rights over the education and rearing of their children, where toxic ideologies about race and transgenderism are forced on young and old alike, and parents are afraid to oppose these ideologies for fear of the state.

In other words, they do not really believe the things they say about rights, equality, and dignity.  They are morally bereft.  That’s why, when confronted by the bloody moral absolutism of the Taliban, they sputter nonsense and do nothing.

John Daniel Davidson, “The Afghanistan Debacle Has Exposed the Moral Bankruptcy of the West,” The Federalist (19 August 2021).


Elmo’s Constitutional Adventure

Thursday, 08-19-2021


Elmo is trying to find a missing Constitutional rule.  It’s one of the following seven, but they are all so similar!  Can you help Elmo pick out which judicial doctrine is correct?

a.  A baby may be killed in a house, but not on a street.

b.  A baby may be killed in a park, but not in a museum.

c.  A baby may be killed in a bus, but not in a subway.

d.  A baby may be killed in a garden, but not in a yard.

e.  A baby may be killed in his mother’s womb, but not in her arms.

f.  A baby may be killed in a crib, but not in a stroller.

g.  A baby may be killed in an airplane, but not on a runway.

The answer is e, a baby may be killed in his mother’s womb, but not in her arms.  Did you get it right?  Great!  Good job!  You are on the way to high office.


How to Think About “Institutional” Racism

Monday, 08-16-2021


Not everyone who uses the term “institutional racism” is a fan of Critical Race Theory.  But almost everyone who uses the term is careless.  The term is highly effective for invective and for virtue signaling, but not very useful for analysis.

What’s “institutional” about institutional racism?  How is it different from ordinary racism?  One way people use the term makes sense; some make some sense; most are misleading.  We can discuss racism, but let us be more precise.

Meaning one.  Our institutions are racist because a lot of people in them are racist.

Certainly a lot of people are racist; certainly a lot of people aren’t.  Even if they all were, this way of speaking would commit the fallacy of composition, which is failing to distinguish individual from collective properties.  It’s like saying that the floor is square because a lot of its tiles are square, and so it still doesn’t answer our question:  What’s institutional about institutional racism?

Meaning two.  Some institutions are racist because they are all about the mistreatment of certain races.  For example, there might be an institution of enslaving or segregating black people.

Yes, this sort of thing can properly be called institutional racism.  But we no longer have slavery or Jim Crow, and it is difficult to come up with contemporary examples of such institutions.

Meaning three.  Some institutions are racist because even though they are not all about the mistreatment of certain races, at a given point in time they pursue policies and practices that might be described in that way.  For example, the worst teachers may be routinely assigned to the schools where black people live, or police may routinely stop and search black people just because they are black.

Certainly such policies and practices exist in some places.  However, it’s misleading to say in such cases that the institutions themselves are racist; the problem lies with the policies and practices.  After all, the cure for racism in teaching assignments isn’t to abolish the institution of schooling, but to abolish the practice of sending the worst teachers to disfavored neighborhoods.  And the cure for racism in stops and searches isn’t to abolish the institution of police, but to train police to stop and search only for cause.

Meaning four.  Some institutions are racist because they pursue policies and practices that have a different effect on different races even though they don’t target any of them deliberately.

As before, if there is a problem here it lies with the policies and practices, not with the institutions per se.  But is there a problem here?  That depends on what is meant by having a different effect.  Consider two cases.  Although I wouldn’t call a policy "racist" that for purely actuarial reasons denied health insurance coverage for sickle cell anemia, it would certainly be racially calloused, and ought to be reformed because it would defeat the social purpose of health insurance.  On the other hand, although black youths are statistically more likely to commit certain kinds of crimes, in this case the problem lies with behavior.  We don’t need to stop arresting people who commit crimes, although we ought to use the same standards for every race.

Meaning five.  Our institutions as a whole are racist just because the races are differently represented in the various social classes. 

Surely people are not to blame for being born poor, but it doesn’t follow that someone else is to blame for it.  The sheer fact of racial and class differences is not racist in itself.  The question is whether those with higher status use their advantages to prevent others from improving their lot, for example not paying poor black people (or for that matter poor white people) their just wages – and people should not be punished just because they have the same color of skin as certain other people who did bad things long ago.  The underlying principle is giving to each what is due to him, which is the definition of justice.  But shouldn’t we try to help people?  Sure.  Practicing a constant will to the true good of others, which is the definition of charity or love, is another underlying principle.  But make sure you don’t help in ways that really hurt, and make sure you don’t use “helping” as an excuse for injustice.

See also last Monday’s post:  Why Everything Is Racist Now


The Scientific Basis of Transgenderism

Thursday, 08-12-2021


Here is the evidence that trans women are really women, and that trans men are really men:  They say they are.  This has been confirmed in study after study.  So stop opposing Science, bigots.


Why Everything Is Racist Now

Monday, 08-09-2021


Some things, of course, are racist.  However, the Left’s claim that everything under the sun is racist is sheer delusion.

I don’t mean that the claim isn’t motivated.  Delusion is usually highly motivated.  Calling everything racist provides a convenient cover for the racially callous policies of the Left itself.  There are many such policies, such as trapping black kids in inferior public schools without opportunities to opt out.  But by far the most egregious example of racism on the Left is the promotion of abortion among blacks, on a genocidal scale, beginning with the eugenicist Margaret Sanger and continuing right into the present.

Besides serving as cover, claiming that everything is racist also serves as compensation, since guilt does funny things to people.  One of its effects is a raging compulsion to appear virtuous: “You racist!” cries the Left-wing racist.  Of course providing cover and providing compensation aren’t mutually exclusive, for the claim may do both of these things.  It may have other motivations too.  What it can’t be is a sane contribution to discussion.  You have to be willfully crazy to think everything is racist -- and at least willfully oblivious not to notice that one of the things that really is racist is today’s so-called antiracism.

We will always have a Left.  I am pretty sure, though, that we won't have a sane, non-delusional Left until progressives give up their love affair with making children disappear, especially the children of the dark-skinned and the poor.

In the meantime, whenever you see a guilty Leftist, do as you would do with a stage magician:  Don't look where he's pointing, but where he isn't.

Coming soon:

How to Think About “Institutional” Racism

Vice Is Unnatural

Monday, 08-02-2021


The nature of a creature is what it is for -- what fulfills its inbuilt purposes.  It is in the nature of a cyclops to have one eye, but in the nature of Odysseus to have two eyes.  If one of Odysseus’ eyes were put out, it wouldn’t give him the nature of a cyclops, because he wouldn’t be a cyclops, but an injured human.  Not even a defect in the genes that code for two eyes would change his nature, for otherwise we wouldn’t call it a defect.  Thinking that a defect implies a difference in essence is like thinking that a sick horse is a different species of horse.

Maybe that’s obvious, but when we have excuses to make, we tend to speak differently.  I am thinking of the adulterous man who says “Sure I have sex with women who aren’t my wife, but it’s just my nature.”  By his “nature” he means merely his desires.  All he is really saying is that he wants to have sex with women who aren’t his wife.  Adulterousness isn’t a nature, it’s a vice.

So what is his nature?  He is a rational animal of the sex that has the inbuilt potentiality for fatherhood.  Adulterous desires are unnatural, not in the sense that they are uncommon, but in the sense that they undermine this potentiality.  They weaken his children’s chances of being raised in the love of their mom and dad.  You can’t be good to your kids if you aren’t good to their mother.

My argument applies to all sorts of vices and disorders, not just the sexual kind that we are expected to applaud these days.  Sometimes we speak as though our defects give us a different nature.  Don’t blame me for getting drunk -- I can’t help how I’m made.  And sometimes we speak as though our defects are shared nature.  Sure I cheat people when I can get away with it -- it’s only natural.  No, and no.  To behave dishonestly toward other people, to let Whisky River take your mind – these are distortions of our nature, because ours is a rational nature.  That is what is meant in calling them vices.

Granted, every vice is more difficult for some people than others to avoid.  Maybe all your relatives were crooks; you would have found it more difficult to learn honesty.  Maybe your folks screamed and fought all the time; that would have discouraged learning patience.  Maybe you inherited predisposing genes for alcoholism; that would make drunkenness very tempting for you.  Even so, these things aren’t your nature -- they are misfortunes.  Misfortunes you should fight to offset.

To discourage you from making the effort would be callous and cruel.  Even in the name of diversity.  Even in the name of toleration.  Even in the name of self-esteem.