Justice Everywhere

a blog about philosophy in public affairs

Should governments care about the fertility gap?

In most rich countries, and increasingly in low and middle income countries, there is a ‘fertility gap’: people say they want to have more children than they end up having. For example, two-thirds of Australian 44 year olds have fewer children than they intended to, working out at one and a half children per parent. While the size of the discrepancy varies from place to place, the pattern is the same in most of Europe and the US: 

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Announcement: MOOC on ‘Inequality and Democracy’

This is an announcement on behalf of the Private Property and Political Power project at Utrecht University. Its members have developed a freely-available Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) entitled “Inequality and Democracy” that may be of interest to our subscribers, readers, and/or their students.

Most countries are getting more and more unequal. But the core of democracy is political equality: that everyone should have an equal say in how their country is run. Can we really expect these things to go together? Can people have equal political power while economic inequality grows and grows? Take this course and decide for yourself.

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Multi-parenting: what would it take for it to work?

Earlier this year I published a short article arguing that multi-parenting can provide a solution to a contemporary conundrum: on the one hand, many people are increasingly worried about climate change and environmental destruction. They know that having fewer children is, for a majority of people, the most effective individual action they can take to reduce their carbon footprint. Some women go on “birth strikes” – they decide not to bring children into the world. On the other hand, life without children can be terribly impoverished. Parenting may be the most important – and creative! – act one can engage in, a non-substitutable occasion for personal growth and, for many, the central source of meaning in life. (Which is not to deny that, for many other people, a childless life is perfectly fine.)

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Should We Be Cheering the Death of al-Baghdadi?

On the Sunday morning of 27 October, President Trump sent out a flurry of tweets, announcing to the world the death of one of the most hunted terrorists: ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The full detail of the assault is still emerging, as is expected with any covert operations. One thing is clear. The US and allies view al-Baghdadi’s killing as a positive news. I, however, think we should be cautious in uncritically celebrating his death. By this, I mean we should first assess this act of killing through a critical lens. In other words, we should ask: was this act of killing permissible?

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The Women Men Don’t Hear

“The female lead never stands out”, Rosalind Franklin’s character bitterly remarks in Anna Ziegler’s play, Photo 51, right before the curtain drops. With the unlikely topic of the first image of human DNA as its central theme – an image captured by Franklin and illegitimately acquired by Watson and Crick to develop their famous DNA model – the play is a brilliant depiction of the various levels at which sexism in science operates. One such level, of diminishing or erasing women’s contributions, was recently instantiated by a series of newspaper headings referring to Esther Duflo, a co-recipient of this year’s Nobel Prize in Economics, solely as the wife of another recipient, Abhijit Banerjee, sometimes without even mentioning her name (here and here).

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Call for Applications: Stanford Center for Ethics Postdoctoral Fellowships

Applications are now open for several Postdoctoral Fellows at the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society, Stanford University. The application deadline is 9th December 2019. Below is the call: 

“For 2020-21, the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society seeks to appoint up to two postdoctoral fellows. Selected fellows will be designated as either General Ethics Fellows or Interdisciplinary Ethics Fellows. The two types of fellows have some distinct training opportunities and responsibilities, but they form a common community at the Center and participate together in the Center’s intellectual life. The programs are described in detail below. All applicants will be considered for both types of fellowships and do not need to tailor their application for one or the other fellowship.

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The Farewell: What You Don’t Know Can’t Hurt You?

In this post, guest contributor Laura Specker Sullivan discusses the cross-cultural ethics at the heart of the recent film, The Farewell.  

Lulu Wang’s 2019 film The Farewell revolves around an actual lie: when Wang’s grandmother was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, her family agreed that she ought not be told. For Wang, who grew in the United States but had been born and lived in China for several years, this came as a shock. As the character representing Wang, Billi, says at one point, what if her grandmother has things she wants to do? What if she needs to make plans?

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Private Wrongs and Public Resignations

Public officials are often called to resign their posts if they commit grave moral or legal wrongs as private persons. Consider a few cases. It is discovered that a Minister of Education had plagiarized multiple parts of his academic work before taking up his position in the government. Another high official is caught expressing bigoted ideas against ethnic and religious minorities in personal Facebook comments and posts. A county prefect is charged for beating his wife. Should such acts call for resignations? Can they ground the decisions of political bosses to sack these individuals, or justify the general public in exerting pressures on the government to drive them out of office?

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Response: Against a Second Referendum

This is a guest post by Adelin Dumitru, responding to a recent post by Anh Le, “In Defence of a Second Referendum“. 

In a recent Justice Everywhere contribution Anh Le argues that a second referendum should be organised in the United Kingdom, in order to present voters with more options than the Leave–Remain dichotomous choice. Although the other variants mentioned by Le, such as a Norway plus model, would overall be better for the UK citizens as well as for the rest of the European Union, dismissing the outcome of the first referendum would be problematic for two distinct reasons – one pragmatic, one moral.

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My pension fund, my conscience

In some situations, society permits individual citizens to not fulfil otherwise binding requirements when the latter conflict with the individual’s deeply held ethical convictions. The classic example are pacifists who obtain an exemption from military service. I submit that an argument along these lines also applies to collective pension plans. Such plans need to offer their participants a minimal level of influence over their portfolios to be legitimate.

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