Are liberals confused by economics?

I’m saddened to see this Buturovic and Klein survey treated credulously on a philosophy blog. The survey has problems that should worry anyone who has thought about the difference between facts and values.

The basic idea: Buturovic and Klein asked a bunch of people to classify as true or false a list of propositions considered true by a broad range of economists. Liberals were much more likely than conservatives to label propositions false, thereby contradicting the consensus view of economists. The upshot, according to Klein, is that conservatives are better informed about economics.

But the questions in the survey are terrible. Continue reading “Are liberals confused by economics?”

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Sex Offenders and the Law

AmberalertlogoJaycee Dugard was only eleven years old when she was kidnapped, raped, and subsequently held captive by a previously convicted sex offender named Phillip Garrido. Last week, eighteen years into her captivity, Jaycee was serendipitously found and freed — along with two (of Garrido’s) children that she had given birth to while still a teenager. Despite the happy ending, the case of Jaycee Dugard suggests that sex offender registries are simply not enough to ensure that children are protected from those who would do them harm: Garrido had been on such a registry at the time of Jaycee’s kidnapping and throughout her captivity. Consequently, as detailed in a recent NYTimes article, some are making vociferous calls for more stringent laws on crimes that involve the sexual exploitation of children.

What determines whether society should heed these calls depends, at least in part, on answering a variety of philosophical questions about the purpose of government and the proper scope of law more generally. For instance, any justification that one might give for adopting more stringent sex offender laws will need to assume (if not establish) three claims: (i) the government has a duty to protect the welfare of children; (ii) making sex offender laws more stringent is necessary for the government to discharge this duty; and (iii) making sex offender laws more stringent neither violates some more fundamental duty, nor requires the sacrifice of something that has greater (moral) value than the protection of those children whose welfare depends on the adoption of such laws. Although political philosophy (as a discipline) will probably not answer these questions for us, it can certainly give us guidance as we attempt to answer these questions — as we must — for ourselves.

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