Symposium on proportionality in Criminal Law and Philosophy

Crim law and philBy Mark D. White

The October 2021 issue of Criminal Law and Philosophy (15/3) focuses on proportionality, a  principle of just punishment that is often neglected by economic models of criminal punishment that focus instead of cost-effective methods of deterrence, especially in light of costly enforcement measures. As special issue editors Douglas Husak and John Hasnas write in their introduction:

The following papers reveal the diversity of scholarly opinion about the principle of proportionality. Several are skeptical that the principle can be defended at all; others are reluctant to abandon the principle but point out many well-known and not-so-well-known difficulties in punishing according to proportionality; and a few make significant efforts to try to resolve some of these problems. We hope and believe that this set of papers represents major progress in understanding the role, if any, that judgments of proportionality should play in a just system of penal sentencing.

This is a fascinating set of papers by an astounding group of scholars, and will surely reward close reading—proportionate to effort, of course!

Douglas Husak, "Proportionality in Personal Life"

Larry Alexander, "Proportionality’s Function"

Mitchell N. Berman, "Proportionality, Constraint, and Culpability"

James Manwaring, "Proportionality’s Lower Bound" (OPEN ACCESS)

Adam J. Kolber, "The End of Liberty"

Youngjae Lee, "Mala Prohibita and Proportionality"

Jesper Ryberg, "Retributivism and the (Lack of) Justification of Proportionality"

Göran Duus-Otterström, "Do Offenders Deserve Proportionate Punishments?" (OPEN ACCESS)

Kimberly Kessler Ferzan, "Punishment, Proportionality, and Aggregation"

Heidi M. Hurd and Michael S. Moore, "The Ethical Implications of Proportioning Punishment to Deontological Desert"


New book highlights Adam Smith's contributions to political theory

Adam smith reconsideredBy Mark D. White

A new book from Paul Sagar (King's College London), Adam Smith Reconsidered: History, Liberty, and the Foundations of Modern Politics, coming out in March 2022 from Princeton University Press, argues that Adam Smith should be understood as a pioneer in political theory as well as economics and moral philosophy (the PPE trifecta, so to speak). Furthermore, Sagar argues that this new focus significantly alters the way Smith's more widely acknowledged contributions should be understood.

From the publisher's website:

Adam Smith has long been recognized as the father of modern economics. More recently, scholars have emphasized his standing as a moral philosopher—one who was prepared to critique markets as well as to praise them. But Smith’s contributions to political theory are still underappreciated and relatively neglected. In this bold, revisionary book, Paul Sagar argues that not only have the fundamentals of Smith’s political thought been widely misunderstood, but that once we understand them correctly, our estimations of Smith as economist and as moral philosopher must radically change.

Rather than seeing Smith as either the prophet of the free market, or as a moralist who thought the dangers of commerce lay primarily in the corrupting effects of trade, Sagar shows why Smith is more thoroughly a political thinker who made major contributions to the history of political thought. Smith, Sagar argues, saw war, not commerce, as the engine of political change and he was centrally concerned with the political, not moral, dimensions of—and threats to—commercial societies. In this light, the true contours and power of Smith’s foundational contributions to western political thought emerge as never before.

Offering major reinterpretations of Smith’s political, moral, and economic ideas, Adam Smith Reconsidered seeks to revolutionize how he is understood. In doing so, it recovers Smith’s original way of doing political theory, one rooted in the importance of history and the necessity of maintaining a realist sensibility, and from which we still have much to learn.


Deirdre McCloskey on Humanomics

Bettering humanomicsBy Mark D. White

In case you missed it, there was a fantastic interview with Deirdre McCloskey—another of my main influences, as well as a longtime friend—conducted by Paolo Silvestri in the Spring 2021 issue of Erasmus Journal of Philosophy and Economics. Their discussion is wide-ranging and insightful, covering much of McCloskey's writing over the years, but a significant focus is on her book Bettering Humanomics: A New, and Old, Approach to Economic Science, released earlier this year by the University of Chicago Press.

In solidarity with Vernon Smith and Bart Wilson (including their recent book Humanomics), and all of them drawing ultimately on Adam Smith, McCloskey argues for a richer economics—"quantifiably serious, philosophically serious, historically serious, and ethically serious," as she writes in the preface to the book—that recognizes the subject of economics as human beings, not mathematical abstracts, which only gets us so far (and reasonable people can quibble about exactly how far that is).

McCloskey takes particular aim at behaviorism and positivism, "both top-down, infantilizing, as in nudging, and industrial planning, and other anti-liberalisms. And both are indefensible philosophically. And both are poor guides to understanding the economy" (p. 202 of the interview). For more on these points, see the discussion between her and Silvestri in the Journal of Institutional Economics (open access), which focuses more on her forthcoming book Beyond Behaviorism, Positivism, and Neo-Institutionalism in Economics (also from Chicago).


Symposium in Bioethics: "Health Rights: Individual. Collective. ‘National?’"

Bioethics 35-8By Mark D. White

There is a symposium in the latest issue of Bioethics (35/8, October 2021), edited by Michael Da Silva and Daniel Weinstock, on the topic of health rights that explores their ethical, political, and economics dimensions of "health rights"—the opening paragraph of the editors' introduction provides context and citations to supporting and critical literature:

‘Socio‐economic’ rights are a species of so‐called ‘positive’ right that call for performance of certain actions—most often the provision of particular goods and services—on the part of the rights claims’ purported corresponding duty‐bearers.1 Advocates of ‘socio‐economic’ rights to health, healthcare, or public health (‘health rights’) have produced several plausible theories that address some of the most pressing challenges for socio‐economic rights claims. Many critics still deny that moral health rights exist or that rights‐based approaches will best achieve health justice,2 but health rights theorists at least provide sophisticated answers to basic questions like ‘Who possesses the rights and their corresponding duties?’and ‘What are the nature, scope, and content of the duties?’Answers to these questions differ and will not convince all critics, but rights‐based approaches to the corner of bioethics devoted to health justice now at least constitute part of the scholarly mainstream.3 Regardless of their theoretical bona fides, in turn, health rights exist in many legal systems. The international right to health is well established and most domestic constitutions recognize rights to healthcare, if not broader rights to health or public health.4 Theorists should and do attempt to ‘make sense’ of this phenomenon.5

(The footnotes appear at the end of this post.)

As the rest of the introductory essay recognizes, and the papers in the symposium explore, a right to health, as with positive rights in general, is fraught with conflicts with negative rights (against interference and compulsion) as well as other positive rights that may compete with health rights in principle or along more practical concerns of resource scarcity.

- -- --- ---- ----- ---- --- -- -

Footnotes to opening paragraph of introduction:

1 For good summaries, see Rumbold, B. E. (2017). The moral right to health: A survey of available conceptions. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 20(4), 508–528; Hassoun, N. (2015). The human right to health. Philosophy Compass, 10(4), 275–283; Hassoun, N. (2020). The human right to health: A defense. Journal of Social Philosophy, 51(2), 158–179. On the less commonly discussed purported ‘right to public health’, see Wilson, J. (2016). The right to public health. Journal of Medical Ethics, 42(6), 367–375.
2 Gopal Sreenivasan provides one of the strongest arguments against moral health rights in Sreenivasan, G. (2012). A human right to health? Some inconclusive scepticism. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume, 86, 239–265 and Sreenivasan, G. (2016). Health care and human rights: Against the split duty gambit. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, 37(4), 343–364, though he recognizes that legal rights exist and may be justified. Cohen, J. (2020). Paradigm under threat: Health and human rights today. Health and Human Rights Journal, 22(2), 309–312 has a nice, succinct overview of criticisms of rights‐based approaches to health justice and attempts to respond to such critiques.
3 The last two comments build on sources cited in note 1. For a succinct discussion focused on theorizing the international rights, see Wolff, J. (2012). The human right to health. W. W. Norton.
4 United Nations. (1966, December 16). International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 993 UNTS 3, art. 12; Rosevear, E., Hirschl, R., & Jung, C. (2019). Justiciable and aspirational economic and social rights in national constitutions. In K. G. Young (Ed.), The future of economic and social rights (pp. 37–65). Cambridge University Press.
5 The language here is inspired by Nickel, J. W. (1987). Making sense of human rights: Philosophical reflections on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. University of California Press. Wolff, op. cit. note 3 is an example of an attempt to ‘make sense’ of existing laws from a philosophical perspective.


Amartya Sen's first volume of memoirs, Home in the World

Sen home in the worldBy Mark D. White

I'm sure it will come as no surprise that Amartya Sen was my primary early influence in economics-and-ethics. His book On Ethics and Economics was tremendously influential to my thinking, and I always mention his discussion of commitment in his seminal "Rational Fools" paper whenever I discuss my own approach to Kantian economics. I have had only one point of contact with him, an encouraging message from him in 2000 (!) during my earliest venture in economics-and-ethics, but I hope to touch base with him again. (I have tried, to be sure!)

This week I became aware of the impending publication of Home in the World: A Memoir, covering the first thirty years of his life (1933-1963). As such, it covers "only" his formative years, but you can see in this review by Umang Poddar how his experiences in those first three decades, traveling widely and meeting prominent intellectuals from many fields, shaped much of his academic work and popular writing to follow.

Of particular interest to academics will be Sen's experience with graduate school, journal publication, and his first academic position, as he describes in an excerpt published several months ago. At the age of 22, he completed his dissertation for Cambridge after just one year, short of the required three. He secured permission to go to India for the remaining two years, where he was soon invited to launch and head a new economics department in Calcutta, designing the curriculum and teaching most of the classes at first (as many as 28 hours of teaching per week). He confirms what many of us working in education know: "I was learning so much from teaching that I felt convinced I could not really be sure of knowing a subject well until I had tried to teach it to others."

I'll finish this post with a quote from the excerpt that shows not only Sen's humility but also how things may have changed a bit since 1956 in academic publishing (although perhaps not for him!):

Sen excerpt


Virtual Conference on "Teaching Ethics to Economists: Challenges & Benefits"

By Jonathan B. Wight

Conference Dates: October 21-22, 2021

Virtual Conference

LSBU Business School
&
London Centre for Business and Entrepreneurship Research

During the last 30 years, the conversation between economic theory and ethics has been restarted, after a period of interruption, generated by the positivist era in economics. We cannot ignore, in this revival, the role of the financial crisis, gender and racial inequality and now the divisions revealed by the unequal impacts of the pandemic. An important contribution has been the call for a professional economic ethics led by DeMartino (2011) and DeMartino and McCloskey (2016).

More recently, Dolfsma and Negru (2019) challenge the idea that ethics has no place in economics. Building on their ideas we ask: Is ethics important for the study of the economy and, if so, how should it be taught?

This two day conference will be of interest to lecturers and students in economics and business - and anyone with an interest in the future of the economics curriculum.

Link for the event & registration: 
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/teaching-ethics-to-economists-challenges-benefits-tickets-170298187463 


Programme

Day One: Thursday 21 October

9.45am - Virtual housekeeping & Zoom functionality - Neil Hudson-Basing, Corporate Events Manager, LSBU

9.55am - Welcome Craig Duckworth, LSBU Business School, UK

10am - Introduction to the day. Economics and Ethics - what is the agenda?

10.30am - Revisiting the analytical relationship of Ethics and Economics María Isabel Encinar & Félix-Fernando Muñoz, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain

11.15am - Theoretical and ethical reductionism and the neglect of subjectivity in economics and economic education - Giancarlo Ianulardo, University of Exeter, UK

12pm - Lunch break

12.30pm - Keeping alive non-individualistic ethics in political economy: a review of concepts from Aquinas to Habermas Stefano Solari, University of Padua, Italy

1.15pm - Racism, the economy and ethics: where does it all begin? - Paolo Ramazzotti, University of Macerata, Italy

2pm - Teaching economic harm to economists - George DeMartino, University of Denver, USA

2.45pm - Comfort break

3pm - The fate of moral philosophy in the age of economic scientism: ethics and welfare economics in mainline economics - Peter Boettke, George Mason University, USA

3.45pm - Plenary: Reflections

4pm - End of Day One

______________________________________________________________________

Day Two: Friday 22 October

9.45am - Virtual housekeeping & Zoom functionality - Neil Hudson-Basing, Corporate Events Manager, LSBU

9.55am - Welcome and intro to Day Two Craig Duckworth, LSBU Business School, UK

10am - Managerial decision making: consequences and Consequentialism - Malcolm Brady & Marta Rocchi, Dublin City University, Ireland

10.45am - Economic curricular, pluralism and the Global South Michelle Groenewald, North- West University, South Africa

11.30am - Accounting as applied ethics: teaching a discipline - Wilfred Dolfsma, Wageningen University, Netherlands

12.15pm - Lunch break

12.45pm - Purusharthas: the human pursuit of wealth and welfare. The Indian approach to ethics and economics - V P Raghavan, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, India

1.30pm - Economics, ethics and deliberation

  • Ioana Negru, Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Romania
  • Imko Meyenberg, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK
  • Craig Duckworth, LSBU Business School, UK

2.15pm - The kidney market debate: a retrospective on Becker and Elias - Jonathan Wight, University of Richmond, USA

3pm - Comfort break

3.15pm - Alfred North Whitehead on the education of the commercial class: its influence on Keynes Dennis Badeen, University of Hertfordshire, UK

4pm - Plenary: Reflections

4.15pm - End of Conference

*Times according to GMT

________________________________________________________________________________________________

This conference will be delivered virtually via Zoom. You will receive the joining instructions on the Monday before the event takes place.


On Edward Glaeser, urban economics, and economics-and-ethics

GlaeserBy Mark D. White

I'll start this post with an admission of ignorance: I've long had a casual interest in urban economics, although I've never had the opportunity to give the literature the attention it deserves. Given its policy focus, however, there would seem to be ample room for alternative ethical approaches, especially regarding property rights as well as the nature of welfare or well-being in an intrinsically and intensively social context. Whether or to what extent this is been done, however, I have no idea.

Evidence that such considerations are being addressed by urban economists comes from a feature on Harvard economist Edward Glaeser and his evolving views on the roles of the market and the state in the "life" of cities. (The piece was prompted by Glaeser's latest book, Survival of the City: Living and Thriving in an Age of Isolation, co-authored with his Harvard colleague, health economist David Cutler.) Whatever one may think of Glaeser's shift from his early libertarianism to his more recent endorsement of government intervention, his concern with not only growth, income, and employment, but also health, poverty, and well-being, suggests the kind of ethically nuanced approach the topic needs.

I find this very encouraging, and I look forward to investigating his work, and that of other urban economics, more in the future. (I do have to wonder, still, if more traditionally academic work in urban economics, by Glaeser or others, incorporates the same broader approach. If anyone knows of work along these lines, I would be more than happy to showcase it here.)


Symposium: Cost-Benefit Analysis at the Crossroads (LPE Project)

Lpe projectBy Mark D. White

The Law and Political Economy (LPE) Project recently launched a symposium that promises to examine cost-benefit analysis (CBA) under the critical lens of political science, law, and philosophy. The introductory post by legal scholar Frank Pasquale can be found here, and after surveying a number of the issues with CBA, summarizes the symposium's intent and future participants in its final paragraph:

The challenge to CBA is now clear. If it is to be a tool of policy evaluation worth supporting, we must embed it in political frameworks that make CBA just as prone to catalyzing regulation, as to derailing it. Moreover, the limits of quantification must be squarely addressed. Posts in this symposium demonstrate a way forward on both fronts, enriching CBA with both immanent and transcendent critiques of past OIRA missteps. We will be thrilled to welcome the symposiasts over the coming weeks: Beth Popp Berman, James Goodwin, Lisa Heinzerling, Zachary Liscow, Melissa Luttrell, Jorge Romano-Romero, Mark Silverman, Amy Sinden, and Karen Tani. Each has done important work in the field, and LPE Blog is honored to host their contributions.

The first full post, by legal scholar Lisa Heinzerling, discusses CBA in the context of the dual concerns of racial justice and climate change. She asks whether CBA can adequately appreciate the true benefits of action on these fronts, given its reliance on discounting of future benefits (which is highly sensitive to the specific discount rate chosen) and monetary valuation of benefits (which does not apply well to issues involving dignity and rights). She concludes by suggesting an alternative evaluative approach to these policy issues:

Discounting and monetary valuation are so central to the cost-benefit method that it is hard to imagine cost-benefit analysis without them. Happily, though, it is easy to imagine White House regulatory review without cost-benefit analysis. The vast majority of federal regulatory statutes do not require cost-benefit analysis. Many do not even allow it. Instead of evaluating major rules by asking whether they satisfy the test of formal cost-benefit analysis, the White House could ask whether the rules faithfully follow the relevant statutory framework and whether the agencies have rigorously analyzed the evidence in front of them. This simple reform would not only avoid the conundrums posed by cost-benefit analysis. It would also close the gap that has opened between the regulatory standards set by Congress and the cost-benefit metric that recent presidents have preferred.

This symposium is shaping up to be a valuable and fascinating survey of the numerous moral, legal, and political issues with cost-benefit analysis, and we'll likely be highlighting more contributions here as it continues.


A new Economics and Ethics, same as the old Economics and Ethics...

Small logoBy Mark D. White

Welcome to the new and improved, but basically the same, Economics and Ethics blog!

It's been nearly two years since this blog has featured any content, and for a long time up to that point Jonathan was carrying the ball on his own. (Thanks Jonathan!) But we have returned, spruced the place up a bit, and we're ready to get back to business.

As we slide back into "regular" posting again, we'll start by sharing any new books, articles, conference, and media that is relevant to economics and ethics—and I'm pleased to say there is a lot to share, if judging only by the number of tabs open on my browser at any given time.

Before long, I hope we can also resume offering short commentary and responses to new developments in the field, including longer discussions of academic work past and present—one goal is to have a bibliography or reading guide to complement Jonathan's teaching guide—as well as insights on real-world events from an ethically-informed economic perspective.

But Jonathan and I don't want to do this all by ourselves: We welcome contributions from interested and knowledgeable people from all backgrounds. I've reached out to some of very smart people—and again, I'm pleased to say I know a lot of them—but feel free to drop me a line at profmdwhite@hotmail.com if you want to be an occasional or regular contributor.

Also, this blog now has a dedicated Twitter account, @econandethics, which I hope you will follow and retweet when we've earned it.

Stay tuned...


Discrimination

By Jonathan B. Wight

  1. Here a great study of the origins of discrimination:

“The Dynamics of Discrimination: Theory and Evidence” by J. Aislinn Bohren, Alex Imas, and Michael Rosenberg. American Economic Review 2019, 109(10): 3395–3436

Abstract:  We model the dynamics of discrimination and show how its evolution can identify the underlying source. We test these theoretical predictions in a field experiment on a large online platform where users post content that is evaluated by other users on the platform. We assign posts to accounts that exogenously vary by gender and evaluation histories. With no prior evaluations, women face significant discrimination. However, following a sequence of positive evaluations, the direction of discrimination reverses: women’s posts are favored over men’s. Interpreting these results through the lens of our model, this dynamic reversal implies discrimination driven by biased beliefs [emphasis added].

  1. California Governor Signs Plan to Let N.C.A.A. Athletes Be Paid

No longer will athletes be discriminated against in California.  All other students (and non-students have the right to cut endorsement deals.  Why shouldn’t athletes?

“Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill to allow college athletes to hire agents and make money from endorsements. The measure, the first of its kind, threatens the business model of college sports.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/30/sports/college-athletes-paid-california.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage