Shadow Socialism

Some socialists are “market” socialists, others are “planning” socialists. “Planning” usually means central planning, though not always. Robin Hahnel and others have for a while been advocating a system of democratic economic planning, though I think it would be fairest to say that this is somewhere in between a planning and a market system. The rough idea is that different social units – individuals, workers’ councils, neighbourhood “consumption councils”, federations, etc. – submit information about what they would like to consume and what work they are willing to do, then receive back a set of indicative prices based on the inputs offered and outputs demanded. In light of these prices (which they most likely won’t accept) they revise their offers – e.g. increasing the work supplied or reducing the goods demanded – and, feeding in these new offers, receive back a new set of indicative prices. The process iterates until some critical mass of units have accepted the resulting prices.

Continue reading “Shadow Socialism”

My Letter to Birkbeck’s VCs on cuts to Philosophy

To Whom It May Concern,

I am a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of St Andrews. I completed my PhD in Philosophy at Birkbeck in 2012. I had a wonderful time there, and without the opportunity Birkbeck provided me I would never have been able to end up in my current position. I would like, first of all, to express my gratitude for the institution and everything it stands for. I am also keen to help make sure that others after me have the same opportunity that I did.

Continue reading “My Letter to Birkbeck’s VCs on cuts to Philosophy”

From Protestant Toleration to Capitalist Neutrality

Liam Bright’s recent post – Why I Am Not A Liberal – was exciting, and I want to get in on the action. But others better qualified than me have replied to the philosophical points. Liam is linking some of those on the original post as he sees them. So I thought maybe I could make a historical-philosophical point. This is a rush job, and I’m shooting from the hip, so don’t hold me too hard to anything I say here.

Liam follows many contemporary liberals in tracing the roots of modern liberalism to early modern arguments for religious toleration. There’s a canon of big names that liberals are accustomed to dropping (let’s call it the Online Library of Liberty). The real big fish tend to be Protestants: John Locke and Pierre Bayle, for example. Modern liberals trace to them the notion that the state should be neutral on what Rawls called “comprehensive doctrines” and what early modern tolerationists would have called “confessions of faith”.

Continue reading “From Protestant Toleration to Capitalist Neutrality”

Pinker and Van Norden on Irrationalism and Relativism

Case A: Steven Pinker’s new book on rationality attempts to make a cogito-esque argument for the absolute necessity of believing what ‘reason’ commands. Arguments “against reason”, he believes, end up defeating themselves:

When it comes to arguing against reason, as soon as you show up, you lose. Let’s say you argue that rationality is unnecessary. Is that statement rational? If you concede it isn’t, then there’s no reason for me to believe it — you just said so yourself. But if you insist I must believe it because the statement is rationally compelling, you’ve conceded that rationality is the measure by which we should accept beliefs, in which case that particular one must be false.

Continue reading “Pinker and Van Norden on Irrationalism and Relativism”