Friday, February 24, 2017

Michael Harrington: democratic socialist

Edward Michael ‘Mike’ Harrington, Jr. (February 24, 1928 – July 31, 1989) was an American democratic socialist, writer, author of The Other America [1962], political activist, political theorist, professor of political science, radio commentator and founding member of the Democratic Socialists of America.”
* * *

“People speak of socialism. We should speak of socialisms. There is an amnesia about the socialist tradition that abandons entire definitions of that ideal made by serious mass movements. [….] What is needed, if socialism is to find a new relevance for the twenty-first century, is some sense of its enormous diversity and complexity. [….] 

It was no accident that utopian socialism was rediscovered in the 1960s and had a significant impact on important political movements in the West a century and a half after it began. […..] Utopian socialism also took on a new incarnation in ‘African’ socialism. And it pointed toward a new history of the nineteenth-century past in which the long-forgotten struggles of artisans suddenly came to life because scholars now lived in the age of the computer.” — Michael Harrington
* * * 

The Atlantic (August 2000)

By Harold Meyerson 

“From the mid-1950s through the late 1980s one of the high points of life on the American left was a Michael Harrington speech. For thousands of listeners, in fact, a Harrington speech marked the starting point of their own life on the left. Harrington was a more accomplished and prolific writer than either Eugene Debs or Norman Thomas, his two predecessors in the role of America’s pre-eminent socialist, but like Debs and Thomas, he won the majority of his converts through the power of the spoken word.  

A Harrington speech was both a tour de force and a tour de horizon—an argument, invariably, for the moral vision and practical advantages of democratic socialism, tailored to the causes and controversies of the moment, buttressed by a scholarly consideration of social trends and statistics, strengthened by Harrington’s habit of entertaining opposing arguments before dispatching them. He provided listeners with something that was none too easy to find elsewhere on the left: a sense of historical context, of how their own activism fit into a larger pattern they might otherwise have trouble discerning, of where they stood, broadly speaking, in the flow of history. And he provided them with one thing more: an overwhelming sense of the moral urgency that underlay his critique of capitalism.” [….] Please see the entire article here.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

George Padmore: Pan-African “communist”

Courtesy of my Verso Radical Diary: On this date in 1934 George Padmore (Malcolm Ivan Meredith Nurse) is expelled from the Comintern (although arguably remaining a ‘communist,’ or at least a socialist) and shifts his focus to African independence struggles.

“An anecdote suggests [George Padmore’s] power of persuasion. [Cyril C.] Ollivierre [a fellow West Indian student at Howard University and president of the campus Garvey Club] and Padmore met as dishwashers at Camp Kinderland, a resort for leftwing working-class Jewish New Yorkers which had opened in 1923 in Hopewell Junction. When washing up for a large party, the two fell behind. As the stacks of dirty dishes mounted in the steaming kitchen and the waiters’ voices became more and more abusive, Nurse [i.e., Padmore] grew indignant. Ollivierre, a more pliant man, commenced to scant his efforts, merely dipping plates for a cursory swish, a course of action which brought about his downfall, but in the meantime earned him a respite. Nurse refused to do so. Instead, he stopped, rolled down his sleeves (always one for proper dress) and marched to the dining room where he excoriated the startled diners for abetting the exploitation going on beneath their noses. Some of the men marched back through the swinging doors and helped catch up under Nurse’s supervision.”

According to James Hooker, “[George] Padmore’s strength was his indefatigable nature, remarkable memory and sense of organization. He was able to state his aims concisely, collected statistics avidly, read the capitalist press in detail and quoted from the generally accepted academic sources when he touched upon sensitive issues.” Several of these virtues are exemplified in Padmore’s Life and Struggle of Negro Toilers (London: Red International of Labour Unions, 1931), “the back cover of which showed a gigantic Negro hovering over the United States, West Indies and Africa, snapping the links in the slave chain which connected these distant places,” while its contents displayed “an amazing amount of information on the condition of black men in three continents, described their various organisations, showed statistical tables of the black man’s role in the various militaries of the great powers (including the United States), and explained the role of the new section of the RILU [Red International of Labour Unions]. The book, though on occasion lapsing into jargon, is in the main straightforward journalism which conveys a feeling that the black men of the world are at last awake, with the appropriate weapon of their deliverance at hand. Of his ten books or extended pamphlets, this and his last, Pan-Africanism or Communism? [London: Dennis Dobson, 1956], are probably the best known.” — from James R. Hooker’s Black Revolutionary: George Padmore’s Path from Communism to Pan-Africanism (Praeger Publishers, 1967). 
Recommended Reading:
  • Adi, Hakim. Pan-Africanism and Communism: The Communist International, Africa and the Diaspora, 1919-1939. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2013. 
  • Baptiste, Fitzroy and Rupert Lewis, eds. George Padmore: Pan-African Revolutionary. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers, 2009. 
  • Hooker, James R. Black Revolutionary: George Padmore’s Path from Communism to Pan-Africanism. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1967. 
  • Makalani, Minkah. In the Cause of Freedom: Radical Black Internationalism from Harlem to London, 1917-1939. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2011. 
  • Padmore, George. How Britain Rules Africa. London: Wishart Books, 1936. 
  • Padmore, George. Pan-Africanism or Communism? The Coming Struggle for Africa. London, Dennis Dobson, 1956. 
  • Robinson, Cedric J. Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2000 (1983).
More—but not all—of Padmore’s writings are found online at the Marxist Internet Archive.

An “Agrihood” in Detroit: the agroecological utopian praxis of “democratization from below,” or, the radical prefigurative politics of a “micro-public” in civil society

 Please see my post today at the Agricultural Law Blog.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Malcom X (May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965): Black Self-Determination & Black Solidarity [revised ed.]

Painting by Trevor Jenkins

[This is a slightly revised version of a post from a couple of years ago.] 

 On this date in 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City.

“… [T]oward the end of his life [Malcolm X] argued that blacks should put aside religious and philosophical differences and recognize they had a common oppressor. Antiblack racism, he argued, negatively affects all blacks, regardless of faith or party affiliation, and thus blacks should unify to resist racial oppression on nonsectarian and non-ideological grounds. Although he continued to believe in the necessity of autonomous black institutions, he did come to relax his opposition to alliance with progressive whites.

Malcolm X’s ideas of internal colonization, black communal self-determination, skepticism toward the black elite and the Democratic Party, and racially autonomous political organizations influenced a generation of black activists and have had a significant impact on the contemporary political culture of African Americans. As Manning Marable remarked, ‘Dead at the age of 39, Malcolm quickly became the fountainhead of the modern renaissance of black nationalism in the late 1960s.’ Indeed, shortly after his assassination in 1965, many of Malcolm X’s ideas were developed and promoted by several black leaders under the slogan ‘Black Power,’ a phrase popularized by Stokely Carmichael.”—Tommie Shelby.

With analytical acuity, Shelby proceeds to examine the “philosophical content and social-theoretic underpinnings” of Black Power nationalism so as to ascertain its contributions to, hence its contemporary relevance for, a “pragmatic black solidarity” in which “there must be room…for disagreement over the precise content of political action and policy initiatives.” On this account, neither black self-determination nor black nationalism preclude the extension of “solidarity to other racially stigmatized groups and even to committed nonracist whites.” And the ideal of black self-determination, “at least with respect to blacks in America, requires a sharply delimited trans-institutional and decentralized form of black political solidarity.” Shelby insists that “black political solidarity must be noncorporatist,” meaning “[n]o black party, association, or institution can legitimately claim to speak for black people as a whole. Instead, there should be multiple and independent black organizations and advocacy groups that take up particular issues that affect black interests.”

This political solidarity nonetheless has principled grounding insofar as it entails joint commitment to particular values and goals, “understood as the faithful adherence to certain political principles, including antiracism, equal educational and employment opportunity, and tolerance for group differences and individuality, and to emancipatory goals, such as achieving substantial racial equality—especially in employment, education, and wealth—and ending ghetto poverty.” Finally, pragmatic black nationalism “is a form of black solidarity that aims, ultimately, to transcend itself.” Please see Shelby’s We Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity (2005).

As Zaheer Ali writes in his contribution, Malcolm X in Brooklyn,” to the “Remembering Malcolm” (Feb. 20, 2017) forum at Black Perspectives, Malcolm himself contributed to the “transcendence” (in the Hegelian sense of Aufhebung or ‘sublation’) of black nationalism: “one of Malcolm X’s enduring legacies is his effort to internationalize the Black freedom struggle by linking it to Third World anti-colonial movements.

Suggested Reading:

  • Breitman, George. The Last Year of Malcolm X: The Evolution of a Revolutionary. Ney York: Pathfinder Press, 1967.
  • Breitman, George, ed. Malcolm X Speaks. New York: Grove Press, 1966.
  • Breitman, George, ed. By Any Means Necessary: Speeches, Interviews, and a Letter by Malcolm X. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970.
  • Carson, Clayborne. Malcolm X: The FBI File. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1991.
  • Clark, Steve, ed. Malcolm X Talks to Young People: Speeches in the United States, Britain, and Africa. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1991 ed. (1965).
  • Malcolm X (Clark, Steve, ed.) February 1965: The Final Speeches. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1992. 
  • Cone, James H. Martin & Malcom & America: A Dream or A Nightmare. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991.
  • DeCaro Jr., Louis A. On the Side of My People: A Religious Life of Malcolm X. New York: New York University Press, 1996.
  • Dyson, Michael Eric. Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
  • Epps, Archie. The Speeches of Malcolm X at Harvard. New York: William Morrow, 1968.
  • Goldman, Peter. The Death and Life of Malcolm X. New York: Harper & Row, 1973.
  • Johnson, Cedric. Revolutionaries to Race Leaders: Black Power and the Making of African American Politics. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.
  • Karim, Imam Benjamin, ed. The End of White World Supremacy: Four Speeches by Malcolm X. New York: Merlin House/Monthly Review Press, 1971.
  • Malcolm X (with the assistance of Alex Haley) The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Grove Press, 1964.
  • Malcolm X. Malcolm X on Afro-American History. New York: Merit Publishers, 1967.
  • Malcolm X (Bruce Perry, ed.) Malcolm X: The Last Speeches. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1989.
  • Marable, Manning. Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. New York: Viking, 2011.
  • Sales, William W., Jr. Malcolm X and the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Boston, MA: South End Press, 1994.
  • Shelby, Tommie. We Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005.
  • Terrill, Robert E., ed. The Cambridge Companion to Malcolm X. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
  • Wolfenstein, Eugene Victor. The Victims of Democracy: Malcolm X and the Black Revolution. London: Free Association Books, 1989.
  • Wood, Joe, ed. Malcolm X: In Our Own Image. New York: St Martin’s Press, 1992.

* See too this “reading list” at Black Perspectives.

The Social & Political Context of Integrity

Thinking about integrity should not be reduced to simply talk about personal moral virtue, an attribute of character, a marker for an integrated (or integrating or individuating) self, or its role as indicative of moral purpose and commitment. These are all invaluable dimensions or possible conceptions central to the concept of integrity, but they are frequently silent about their existing or possible relations to and relevance for wider the social and political world. At least that’s one lesson to be drawn from the substantively revised entry on “integrity” in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP).

[….] “[Susan Babbitt’s account of integrity] ... enables us to raise questions about the relationship between social structures and personal integrity. The most general question is what kinds of society and what kinds of practice within a society are most conducive to personal integrity?

If society is structured in such a way that it undermines people’s attempt at either knowing or acting upon their commitments, values and desires, then such a structure is inimical to integrity. And if integrity is connected to well-being, then adverse social and political conditions are a threat—not merely an ultimate threat, but also a daily threat—to well-being. The twentieth century technical term for this mismatch is alienation. Alienation results when people are so confused or conflicted—are relentlessly exposed, for example, to the social manufacture of incompatible desires—that they take on roles they mistakenly believe they want or deceive themselves about wanting.

Are political and social conditions in contemporary liberal democracies conducive both to acquiring the self-understanding necessary for integrity and, more generally, to the business of acting with integrity? Historically, one of the governing ideals of liberal democratic societies is to provide its citizens, not with the goods they desire, but with certain primary goods, such as freedom, and with political/social/cultural structures (laws, codes, institutions, practices, and so on) that facilitate their capacity to obtain goods they desire for themselves. This is one reason education has always played a prominent role in discussion of liberal-democratic forms of life. Education is seen as a crucial structure in the facilitation of individuals’ pursuit of chosen goods. Such an instrumental view of education is rather narrow and omits any role for inculcation of the means to choose goods wisely. Integrity requires more than facilitation of an instrumental capacity to acquired desired goods. It requires the wisdom and self-knowledge to choose appropriate goods, worthwhile goals, and so on. It is, perhaps, hard to see extant social educational structures playing a very significant role in this process, and harder still to imagine real institutions—institutions compatible with the demands and limitations of contemporary life—that would.

If social educational structures fail to facilitate the life of integrity, other structures may be positively hostile to it. Arguably, and despite what might seem like overwhelming choice, job markets are structured by financial and other incentives, restricted opportunities and economic rents. The result is that many people choose careers they do not really want and for which they are barely suited. There are other perhaps more straightforward ways in which social and cultural structures may be inimical to the pursuit of integrity. The ideology of love, for instance, may undermine the integrity of lovers, as it may undermine the possibility of genuine and realistic love. In professional life, people may be called upon (not only tacitly) to lie, bluff or manipulate the truth in ways that directly or indirectly affect their integrity. The construction of a mission statement or a strategic plan is in some ways an open invitation to dissemble, pander and obfuscate. The expectation that one ‘sells oneself’ or ‘sells the company’ provides explicit reward for hypocrites and sycophants. And there are many kinds of assessments, reports and application processes that foster both deception and self-deception. If this is right, then contemporary society is inimical to a life of integrity in many small-scale ways. Broad social structures also have a deleterious effect on our capacity to live with integrity and here, of course, the effects of totalitarian regimes are more extreme than those liberal democracies.

Those who are oppressed seem to be in a paradoxical relation to integrity. On the one hand, members of oppressed groups would seem to be deprived of the conditions for developing integrity: the freedom to make choices how to act and think. As Babbitt (1997: 118) notes, one needs to be able to make choices in order to develop the kinds of interests and concerns which are central to leading a life of integrity. On the other hand, oppressed people are often able to reflect on political and social realities with the greater insight because they do not benefit from them. They have no incentive to adopt self-deceptive/self-protective attitudes about circumstances of oppression or to see past them with convenient blindness. Oppressed groups therefore have all the more scope to think about social reality with integrity, and to act out of this understanding with integrity. A capacity for reflection and understanding enables one to work toward integrity even if it does not ensure that one achieves an ideal of integrity.” [….]

Friday, February 17, 2017

I’d like a bowl of cream of wheat and a soy latte please.

Please see my post on the National Milk Producers Federation’s attempt to introduce into both bodies of Congress the “Dairy Pride Acts” at the Agricultural Law blog and cross-posted at Religious Left Law.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Who will harvest the crops?

Farmworkers in Santa Maria, California - Ivette Peralta

Please see my post today sharing two articles that address this question (with a short list of recommended reading) at the Agricultural Law blog and cross-posted at Religious Left Law.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

On this date in 1855, Muktabai, a fourteen-year old Dalit, publishes what is likely the earliest surviving piece of writing by a Mang (‘untouchable’) woman


I first learned of this from my Verso Radical Diary, although I’m not sure how they arrived at the precise date. Muktabais essay was published in 1855 in an Ahmednagar journal, Dnyanodaya which, in addition to “disseminating information” on emerging scientific fields, also published pieces on morality and religion. The following is a snippet from “About the Griefs of the Mangs and the Mahars:

[….] “Now obviously, if the Vedas are only for the brahmins, they are absolutely not for us. Teach us, O Lord, thy true religion so that we can all lead our lives according to it. Let that religion, where only one person is privileged and the rest are deprived, perish from the earth and let it never enter our minds to be proud of such a religion. [….] O learned pandits, wind up the selfish prattle of your hollow wisdom and listen to what I have to say.”[….] —translated by Maya Pandit 

Muktabai (1841 -?) (not to be confused with this earlier Muktabai, a saint in the Varkari tradition) was only fourteen years of age when she wrote an “About the Griefs of the Mangs and the Mahars.” This is said to be the earliest surviving piece of writing by an “untouchable” [the preferred term today is ‘Dalit’] woman. We have precious little biographical information about her, although we know she was taught by Savitrabai Phule (1831-1897), a famous Indian social worker, reformer and poet.

Further reading: The Varna and Caste System in India: A Basic Bibliography, and B.R. Ambedkar: A Basic Bibliography.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Frederick Douglass (c. February 1818 - February 20, 1895)


Although we do not know his actual birth date, today we celebrate the birthday of Frederick Douglass (Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey — c. February 1818 - February 20, 1895) because that is the date he chose: Douglass “was an African-American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, gaining note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writings. In his time, he was described by abolitionists as a living counter-example to slaveholders’ arguments that slaves lacked the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens.”

THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF SLAVERY
The Constitution of the United States. — What is it? Who made it? For whom and for what was it made? Is it from heaven or from men? How, and in what light are we to understand it? If it be divine, divine light must be our means of understanding it; if human, humanity, with all its vice and crimes, as well as its virtues, must help us to a proper understanding of it. All attempts to explain it in the light of heaven must fail. It is human, and must be explained in the light of those maxims and principles which human beings have laid down as guides to the understanding of all written instruments, covenants, contracts and agreements, emanating from human beings, and to which human beings are parties, both on the first and the second part. It is in such a light that we propose to examine the Constitution; and in this light we hold it to be a most cunningly-devised and wicked compact, demanding the most constant and earnest efforts of the friends of righteous freedom for its complete overthrow. It was “conceived in sin, and shapen in iniquity.” But this will be called mere declamation, and assertion — mere “heat without light” — sound and fury signify nothing. — Have it so. Let us then argue the question with all the coolness and clearness of which an learned fugitive slave, smarting under the wrongs inflicted by this unholy Union, is capable. We cannot talk “lawyer like” about law — about its emanating from the bosom of God! — about government, and of its seat in the great heart of the Almighty! — nor can we, in connection with such an ugly matter-of-fact looking thing as the United States Constitution, bring ourselves to split hairs about the alleged legal rule of interpretation, which declares that an “act of the Legislature may be set aside when it contravenes natural justice.” We have to do with facts, rather than theory. The Constitution is not an abstraction. It is a living breathing fact, exerting a mighty power over the nation of which it is the bond of the Union.

Had the Constitution dropped down from the blue overhanging sky, upon a land uncursed by slavery , and without an interpreter, although some difficulty might have occurred in applying its manifold provisions, yet so cunningly is it framed, that no one would have imagined that it recognized or sanctioned slavery. But having a terrestrial, and not a celestial origin, we find no difficulty in ascertaining its meaning in all the parts which we allege to relate to slavery. Slavery existed before the Constitution, in the very States by whom it was made and adopted. — Slaveholders took a large share in making it. It was made in view of the existence of slavery, and in a manner well calculated to aid and strengthen that heaven-daring crime.

Take, for instance, article 1st, section 2d, to wit: “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and including Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons.
 

A diversity of persons are here described — persons bound to service for a term of years, Indians not taxed, and three-fifths of all other persons. Now, we ask, in the name of common sense, can there be an honest doubt that, in States where there are slaves, that they are included in this basis of representation? To us, it is as plain as the sun in the heavens that this clause does, and was intended to mean, that the slave States should enjoy a representation of their human chattels under this Constitution. Besides, the term free, which is generally, though not always, used as the correlative of slave, “all other persons,” settles the question forever that slaves are here included.

It is contended on this point by Lysander Spooner and others, that the words, “all other persons,” used in this article of the Constitution, relates only to aliens. We deny that the words bear any such construction. Are we to presume that the Constitution, which so carefully points out a class of persons for exclusion, such as “Indians not taxed,” would be silent with respect to another class which it was meant equally to exclude? We have never studied logic, but it does seem to us that such a presumption would be very much like an absurdity. And the absurdity is all the more glaring, when it is remembered and the language used immediately after the words “excluding Indians are not taxed,” (having done with exclusions) it includes “all other persons.” It is as easy to suppose that the Constitution contemplates including Indians, (against its express declaration to the contrary,) as it is to suppose that it should be construed to mean the exclusion of slaves from the basis of representation, against the express language, “including all other persons.” Where all are included, none remain to be excluded. The reasonings of those who are likely to take the opposite view of the clause, appears very much like quibbling, to use no harsher word. One thing is certain about this clause of the Constitution. It is this — that under it, the slave system has enjoyed a large and domineering representation in Congress, which has given laws to the whole Union in regard to slavery, ever since the formation of the government.

Satisfied that the view we have given of this clause of the Constitution is the only sound interpretation of it, we throw at once all those parts and particulars of the instrument which refer to slavery, and constitute what we conceive to be the slaveholding compromises of the Constitution, before the reader, and beg that he will look with candor upon the comments which we propose to make upon them.

“Art. 5th, Sect. 8th. — Congress shall have power to suppress insurrections.”

“Art. 1st, Sect. 9th. — The migration or importation of any such persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight; but a tax or duty may be imposed, not exceeding ten dollars each person.”

“Art. 4th, Sec. 2nd. — No person held to service or labor in one State, escaping into another, shall in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.”

“Art. 4th, Sec. 4th — The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican form of Government; and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the Legislature, or of the Executive, (when the Legislature cannot be convened,) against Domestic violence.”

The first article and ninth section is a full, complete and broad sanction of the slavetrade for twenty years. In this compromise of the Constitution, the parties to it pledged the national arm to protect that infernal trade for twenty years. While all other subjects of commerce were left under the control of Congress, this species of commerce alone was Constitutionally exempted. And why was this the case? Simply because South Carolina and Georgia declared, through their delegates that framed the Constitution, that they would not come into the Union if this traffic in human flesh should be prohibited. Mr. Rutledge, of South Carolina, (a distinguished member of the Convention that framed the Constitution,) said, “if the Convention thinks that North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, will ever agree to the plan, unless their right to import slaves be untouched, the expectation is vain.” Mr. Pinckney said, South Carolina could never receive the plan, “if it prohibits the slavetrade.” In consequence of the determination of these States to sand out of the Union in case of the traffic in human flesh should prohibited, and from one was adopted, as a compromise; and shameful as it is, it is by no means more shameful than others which preceded and succeeded it. The slaveholding South, by that unyielding tenacity and consistency which they usually contend for their measures, triumphed, and the doughface North was brought to the disgraceful terms in question, just s they have been ever since on all questions touching the subject of slavery.

As a compensation for their base treachery to human freedom and justice, the North were permitted to impose a tax of ten dollars for each person imported, with which to swell the coffers of the national treasury, thus baptizing the infant Republic with the blood-stained gold.

Art. 4, Sec. 2. — This article was adopted with a view to restoring fugitive slaves to their masters — ambiguous, to be sure, but sufficiently explicit to answer the end sought to be attained. Under it, and in accordance with it, the Congress enacted the atrocious “law of ’93,” making it penal in a high degree to harbor or shelter the flying fugitive. The whole nation that adopted it, consented to become kidnappers, and the whole land converted into slave-hunting ground.

Art. 4, Sec. 4. — Pledges the national arm to protect the slaveholder from domestic violence, and is the safeguard of the Southern tyrant against the vengeance of the outraged and plundered slave. Under it, the nation is bound to do the bidding of the slaveholder, to bring out the whole naval and military power of the country, to crush the refractory slaves into obedience to their cruel masters. Thus has the North, under the Constitution, not only consented to form bulwarks around the system of slavery, with all its bloody enormities, to prevent the slave from escape, but has planted its uncounted feet and tremendous weight on the heaving hearts of American bondmen, to prevent them from rising to gain their freedom. Could Pandemonium devise a Union more inhuman, unjust, and affronting to God and man, than this? Yet such is the Union consummated under the Constitution of the United States. It is truly a compact demanding immediate disannulment, and one which, with our view of its wicked requirements, we can never enter. — Frederick Douglass, The North Star, March 16, 1849

Monday, February 13, 2017

Natural Law “Externalism” v. Natural Law as “Moral Aspiration”

I have one more paper that I’ve corrected and revised (including the title!): Natural Law “Externalism” v. Natural Law as “Moral Aspiration.” It is not about the well-worn legal positivist v. natural law debate but rather discusses how best to characterize natural law theory with regard to its intrinsic relation to justice and morality. The paper is in response to a contrary characterization of the natural law tradition made by Professor Thom Brooks so as to contrast that tradition with Hegel’s “internalist” theory of natural law. I argue that the natural law tradition is not properly described as “externalist” but is in fact “internalist,” even if not in the sense Brooks ascribes to Hegel. The revised paper is now available on my Academia page here.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Analogy & Metaphor: An Idiosyncratic Introduction (in two parts)

This paper is divided into two parts: the first on analogy and the second on metaphor. I still think it holds up well after several years, at least by way of an introduction to the material. I've corrected some errors in the original draft and added a bit more spacing (with a few other formatting changes) to make it easier to read (and of course comments welcomed, provided they come with a spoonful of sugar!). It is available on my Academia page here.

Lessons from Milwaukee’s voucher program: our “country’s first contemporary voucher initiative and a model for other cities and state programs”

There is an excellent—because informative, incisive and concise—op-ed in today’s Los Angeles Times by Barbara Miner, “a Milwaukee-based reporter and the author of Lessons from the Heartland: A Turbulent Half-Century of Public Education in an Iconic American City (The New Press, 2013). Here is a snippet from her piece, “If you care about our public schools and our democracy, beware of Betsy DeVos and her vouchers:”
[….] “Because they are defined as ‘private,’ voucher schools operate by separate rules, with minimal public oversight or transparency. They can sidestep basic constitutional protections such as freedom of speech. They do not have to provide the same level of second-language or special-education services. They can suspend or expel students without legal due process. They can ignore the state’s requirements for open meetings and records. They can disregard state law prohibiting discrimination against students on grounds of sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, or marital or parental status.
Wisconsin has sunk so deep into this unaccountable world that our voucher program not only turns a blind eye toward discrimination in voucher schools, it forces the public to pay for such discrimination.
I attended Catholic schools, and believe that this country’s long-standing defense of religious liberty is a hallmark of our democracy. But the voucher program has distorted this all-important concept of religious freedom. In the guise of governmental noninterference in religious matters, the voucher program allows private schools to use public dollars to proselytize and teach church doctrine that is at odds with public policy — for instance, that women must be submissive to men, that homosexuality is evil, that birth control is a sin, and that creationism is scientifically sound.
Privatizing an essential public function and forcing the public to pay for it, even while removing it from meaningful public oversight, weakens our democracy. And we aren’t talking about insignificant amounts of money. Since 1990, roughly $2 billion in public money has been funneled into private and religious schools in Wisconsin, and the payments keep escalating. This year alone, the tab is some $248 million.” [….] The full article is here.