Justice Everywhere

a blog about philosophy in public affairs

Category: Governance (Page 1 of 3)

From Fact-Checking to Value-Checking

Fears over ‘fake news’, targeted disinformation, and the rise of post-truth politics have met with a central mainstream solution: ‘fact-checking’. Fact-checking is featuring prominently in coverage of the 2019 UK General Election. ITV News, for instance, will use FullFact.org to analyse the claims made by Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn in their forthcoming leadership debate, with the aim of better informing their viewers by exposing misleading statements.

This reflects the wider embrace of fact-checking as a panacea against the rise of anti-expert politics. It has been employed in coverage of US presidential and primary debates, as well as the parliamentary theatre of Brexit. Third party fact-checking organisations have also been championed by social media companies in response to demands by regulators and legislatures that they take responsibility for the content circulated on their platforms. Indeed the use of ‘independent’ fact-checkers to flag content was highlighted by Mark Zuckerberg, during his various appearances before Congress, in defence of Facebook’s practices.

However, the concept of fact-checking frames the problems of post-truth politics in narrowly positivist terms – as reducible to a lack of information (‘facts’), leading to sub-optimally rational decision-making by electorates. It has not been underpinned by a sophisticated account of the epistemic conditions for the exercise of democratic citizenship. Fact-checking occupies an increasingly central place in our political culture, but the justification for it remains largely implicit and untheorized.

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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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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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People versus Parliament: an interpretation

Motto: Would it not be easier

In that case for the government

To dissolve the people

 And elect another? 

(from ‘The Solution’ by Bertolt Brecht)

The UK Parliament has been prorogued from the 9th of September to the 14th of October 2019 – days before the UK’s scheduled exit from the European Union. On its final day before suspension, the Parliament acknowledged Royal Assent on the Benn Bill (which effectively turned an act blocking No Deal into law), made a formal request to the Government to acknowledge obeying the rule of law regarding Brexit, and passed a binding motion for the Government to disclose private communications concerning its decision to prorogue Parliament and its No Deal plans.

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From the Vault: Good Reads on the Ethics and Politics of Technology

While Justice Everywhere takes a break over the summer, we recall from our archives some memorable posts from our 2018-2019 season.

Here are some good reads on issues relating to the ethics and politics of technology that you may have missed or be interested to re-read:

Justice Everywhere will return in full swing on 2nd September with fresh weekly posts by our regular authors. If you have a suggestion for a topic or would like to contribute a guest post on a topical subject in political philosophy (broadly construed), please feel free to get in touch with us at justice.everywhere.blog@gmail.com.

Nudging and Market Influence: Why the focus on government nudges?

Most moral objections to nudging–the practice of altering choice environments in order to subconsciously steer behavior–have been grounded in the value of personal autonomy. The autonomy of the nudged are claimed to be undermined because the control individuals have over their evaluations, deliberations and decision-making is effectively reduced, if not fully bypassed. More so, nudging seems autonomy-threatening because the architects look to supplant the wills of their targets with their own.

When nudging was first discussed by its main proponents Thaler and Sunstein in their book Nudge in 2008, it was proposed as an innovative supplement to government policy-making. In response, most of the autonomy-related objections focused on the paternalism of governments carrying out the nudging. Surprisingly, few have paid much attention to similar forms of influences in the market setting–behavioral techniques used in advertising, pricing, and other market interactions. I claim the standard autonomy-based objections against nudging raise more worries about current market practices than emerging and prospective policy practices.

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What would it take to turn Facebook into a democracy?

by Severin Engelmann and Lisa Herzog*

When the relation between “Facebook” and “democracy” is discussed, the question usually is: what impact does Facebook – as it exists today – have on democratic processes? While this is an urgent and important question, one can also raise a different one: what would it mean to turn Facebook into a democracy, i.e. to govern it democratically? What challenges of institutional design would have to be met for developing meaningful democratic governance structures for Facebook?

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Public Ethics for Everyone: The Routledge Handbook of Ethics and Public Policy

In this post, Andrei Poama discusses the rationale for and contribution of a new book that he’s edited, together with Annabelle Lever on ethics and public policy. Andrei is Assistant Professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

The Routledge Handbook of Ethics and Public Policy: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

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On the Ethics of Self-Driving Cars: An Interview with Johannes Himmelreich

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.

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From the Vault: Good Reads in Left-Wing Politics

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

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