When one makes one first steps into public philosophy, one quickly encounters a challenge: as academic philosophers, we are used to writing in a slow, careful, sort-of-boring-but-at-least-precise way: to hedge our claims, to qualify the scope of our theses, etc. For public philosophy, editors want the opposite: brief, succinct sentences, never mind a bit of exaggeration and a polemical tone. And often, they request more: “We really need a concrete example here.” “This is too abstract, we’ve taken the liberty of rewriting it a bit.” “Can you please do a photo session, for a nice picture?” For many of us, these things feel a bit awkward. Different people draw the line in different places – but it seems unavoidable to play this game, at least up to a point, if you want to reach a broader audience. And as I will argue, there is a matter of justice at stake here.
Category: Distribution (Page 1 of 4)
A cross-post with crooked timber – written with Ingrid Robeyns.
Political philosophers often engage in thought experiments, which involve putting hypothetical persons in hypothetical scenario’s. However, it is often challenging to find ways to involve real, non-hypothetical, people with the questions we are dealing with, aside from the more traditional ways to engage in outreach such as debates and opinion pieces. On the evening of Friday the 5th of October, the Fair Limits team – which studies the plausibility of upper limits in the distribution of economic and ecological resources – attempted a new way to engage the public by making use of a participatory “veil-of-ignorance” thought experiment.
As I am finishing yet another application for a position with limited chances of success (I did my statistics homework), I am reminding myself again that I shouldn’t get too emotionally invested: I shouldn’t picture myself with this specific position in this particular place just yet. I should take a potential ‘No’ lightly as a sportive challenge and not see it as a fundamental rejection of my work and my value as a member of the academic community. I know all of that. But it is emotionally exhausting. It requires energy and time to deal with the anxieties and insecurities this process brings up. And, importantly, it often requires the support and care of people that are close to me.
My colleague at Stanford’s Center for Ethics in Society, Johannes Himmelreich, is a philosopher who investigates agency and responsibility in contexts of collective collaboration and technological augmentation. Here, I ask Johannes about the ethical issues raised by the development of self-driving cars – one strand of his current research.
FN: Can you tell those of us who know less about the technology behind self-driving cars a little bit about where it’s currently at and how fast the development is going?
JH: In my view, the automotive sci-fi future will not come to your city within the next eight years. I would be very surprised if the majority of driving will be much different from what it is now. I expect we will see gradual improvements of systems that assist human driving. But, honestly, that’s more of a guess than a prediction. I actually can say very little about where the technology is at, since there is not much to go by that is publicly available and that is not just boisterous over-promising. This will change in the next 12-18 months. Google offshoot Waymo is starting a taxi service with self-driving cars in Phoenix, Arizona this year and General Motors’ brand Cruise say that they will start a similar so-called “robo-taxi” service in San Francisco next year. That’s when the rubber hits the road.
Our recent book Do Central Banks Serve the People? sheds a critical light on the actions of central banks in the wake of the 2007 financial crisis. Using the US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, and the Bank of England as examples, we show how they have stretched their mandate beyond their traditional tasks of price stability and financial stability. This short introduction to the book summarizes the argument that the expanded role of central banks has three serious drawbacks.
While Justice Everywhere takes a break over the summer, we recall from our archives some of our memorable posts from 2017-2018.
Here are three good reads on issues commonly associated with left-wing politics that you may have missed or be interested to re-read:
Lisa Herzog’s interview with Isabelle Ferreras on ‘Workplace Democracy‘
Lasse Nielsen’s ‘Sufficiency on Political Inequality‘
Miriam Ronzoni’s ‘On Striking as a Privilege‘
If you consider yourself a political philosopher, it seems that you must be doing political philosophy. What does this political constraint imply? To me, it does certainly not imply that you are not allowed to used farfetched hypothetical thought-experiments, or that you take a specific stand on ideal contra non-ideal theory. Nor does it imply that it is morally impermissible for us to raise certain philosophical questions, if we foresee a reasonable chance that answering these questions could make the world worse or more unjust, as some activists claim. What it implies is that you should acknowledge the political relevance of your philosophical work, and that you have a commitment to make this relevance explicit.
For an excellent example, see Lisa Herzog’s recent post on the blog. But I wish here to briefly present an analysis of my own on the reasons for concern with political inequality (“What is Our Real Concern with Real Inequality?”, Policy Studies Journal).
Have a few thousand bankers made the world more equal than it had been for a hundred years? In this blog post, I will investigate the distributive impact of the 2008 financial crisis and show that today’s inequalities are more complex than we think: if political philosophers want to understand the repercussions of the crash, they need to team up with economists and track down the hidden divides in post-crisis societies.
It was on 14 September 2007 that the general public first noticed that something was wrong. Hundreds of desperate customers queued in front of the branches of mortgage lender Northern Rock, fearing that their savings were already gone.
Beyond Primary Goods
How should we distribute atypical goods of justice?
The Third Munich Workshop in the Philosophy of Institutions
February 14th – 16th, 2018
International Graduate Student Workshop at the Technical University of Munich/ Bavarian School of Public Policy, Munich, Germany
In his kick-off contribution to the latest EUDO-Forum debate, Maurizio Ferrera engages with a challenging question raised by Rainer Bauböck in his State of the Union Address (5 May 2017, Florence): can the integrative functions of EU citizenship be enhanced and how? Ferrera identifies flaws of the EU citizenship construct, focusing on its social dimension, and concludes with “some modest proposals for ‘adding stuff’ to the EU citizenship container”. His proposals include a compensation of non-mobile EU citizens for the negative economic and social externalities of intra-EU mobility, i.e., of the mobility of workers in the EU. While I agree with much of what Ferrera says, I am unconvinced of this particular proposal. The argument presented here is a short version of the one published on the EUDO website.