Rights Angles

[Amazon Link]

Back in the previous century, I bought, and read, a book plugged at Reason: Persons, Rights, and the Moral Community by Loren Lomasky, then at the Duluth campus of the University of Minnesota. It was a strong defense/explication of the underpinnings of classical liberalism and (so-called) "natural" individual human rights. Lomasky's insight was was that humans are project pursuers as part of their core natures; when the state proposes to override such (presumably peaceful) pursuits in order that the individual serve instead some collective goal, it violates some of the person's moral space. Which is wrong.

I was convinced. But the world, unfortunately, was not. (Lomasky, by the way, does not love the term "classical liberalism", with its connotation of old ideas fixed in amber; he'd prefer a term that reflects something more dynamic. He has a point, but "classical liberalism" seems to be the best label we have.)

Anyway, Persons, Rights, and the Moral Community was back when Reason, and I, were more concerned with political philosophy. This 2016 book, Rights Angles, is a collection of fifteen scholarly papers Lomasky published between 1983 and 2011 on various topics in political philosophy, still circling around the core of classical liberalism. There's also a leadoff new essay with an overview of the current state of affairs. It will run you a cool $43.99 at Amazon; fortunately, the University Near Here Library got a copy.

Speaking from my vantage point (strictly a philosophical dilettante, and even that may be an overestimate): The essays are of varying degrees of difficulty, depending on one's familiarity with the field. I'd recommend at least a nodding acquaintance with the major works of John Rawls (A Theory of Justice) and Robert Nozick (Anarchy, State, and Utopia. But even then, some I just bounced off. (But, honest, Professor Lomasky, I looked at every page.)

I learned a word: optimific. No, you go look it up. I had to.

URLs du Jour


Proverbs 17:4 appears to be Blaming the Victim:

4 A wicked person listens to deceitful lips;
    a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.

Hey, Proverbialist, it's not my fault that I believed all that stuff I heard from …

Well, you can finish that sentence yourself. In so many ways.

■ The Skeptical Libertarian, Daniel Bier, asks and answers: Is Climate Change Killing Coffee? Not So Far. It's a short review of actual data (with graphs!), in response to Yet Another Article predicting Imminent Caffeine Armageddon. Bottom line:

I’m not playing Pollyanna to Cassandra here. I’m not saying climate change is a good thing. I’m not even saying that climate change won’t present challenges for coffee farmers in the future — as long as global and regional climates are changing, of course industries will have to adapt.

But it’s ridiculous to go around prophesying the imminent doom of an industry (based on papers written by non-economists and non-specialists) without even attempting to square that prediction with the observable reality of that sector.

And the reality is this: the coffee industry (as shown by prices, production, and yield rates) is quite healthy. If you think it’s actually on its deathbed, you have to explain why that data doesn’t matter and what everyone with a financial stake in it is missing. It’s bad journalism to report on the demise of coffee without even mentioning that production and yields are at all time highs — and coffee futures prices aren’t.

If you think Bier is wrong, he offers to bet.

■ Big trouble over in Hooksett, as reported in the Daily Signal: College Republicans Say Conservative Speaker Was Treated ‘Unfairly’ at Southern New Hampshire University.

Conservative activist Matt Walsh came to Southern New Hampshire University at the request of the SNHU College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation, but Walsh and College Republicans believe his speech was not treated fairly.

It's a script we've seen elsewhere: advertising posters torn down, people reserving "tickets" for an event they had no intention of attending, interested students not allowed access because they couldn't get tickets.

■ At AEI, Michael R. Strain writes a manifesto for A Limited, Energetic Government. He bills it as "an alternative to both Trump and Sanders." Sounds good! And his vision seems solid:

It’s a society in which free markets reward individual initiative, public policy advances opportunity and empowers people to earn their own success, and dynamism and energy characterize our economic lives. It’s a society that demands personal responsibility, self-reliance, and self-discipline, but also recognizes human imperfection and uncertainty and therefore allows no one to fall too far. And it’s a society in which the “mediating institutions” between citizen and government, most especially the family, are strong and vibrant, and in which social trust is high and bonds of solidarity are strong.

Only problem: solid opposition from Democrats, and unprincipled spinelessness from Republicans.

Well, I guess that's two problems. But you know what I mean.

■ What would happen if you put an AI to work writing a novel based on a corpus of famous best-sellers? Fortunately, that burning question has now been answered; you would get Chapter 13 of Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash.

Mental Floss will tell you The Most (and Least) Expensive States for Staying Warm This Winter. (It's based on a Wallet Hub article from July.)

Michigan, which ranks 33rd overall, outdoes every other state in the natural gas department with an average bill of $60 a month. Alaska is close behind with $59, followed by Rhode Island With $58.

People living in Maine prefer oil to heat their homes, spending $84 a month on the fuel source. All six New England states—Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts—occupy the top six spots in this category.

New Hampshire is #9 in overall energy cost, #5 on monthly home heating-oil cost.

2018-05-22 UPDATE: A gentleman wrote in from a company called "Choose Energy", its mission to "change energy consumers' lives for the better by providing education and tools, empowering people to take control of their choices in a confounding multibillion-dollar industry." He notes the Wallet Hub data is old, and recommends you go to this frequently-updated page for comparing state average electric rates.

As I type: among the 50 states, New Hampshire is #6 for high residential electric rates, a dizzying 19.84 cents/kWh. New England dominates the top 10 for electricity expense: MA is #2, RI #3, CT #4, VT #9, and ME #10.

Thanks to "James G" at Choose Energy for the pointer.

■ NHPR notes that the ACLU has pointed out something that we shouldn't need the ACLU to point out: Border Patrol Checkpoints On I-93 Violated N.H. Constitution

Gilles Bissonnette, legal director for the ACLU-NH, says those stops, and the use of drug-sniffing dogs, violated the New Hampshire Constitution because there was no warrant or reasonable suspicion.

“Border Patrol simply used these dog sniff searches on everyone that went through the checkpoint, and that’s violative of New Hampshire constitution, which is more protective of privacy than even the Fourth Amendment to the Federal Constitution,” he said.

During the multi-day checkpoints, Bissonette believes that hundreds and possibly thousands of individuals were subjected to illegal searches by the dogs.

“So we just think this is incredibly problematic, and hardly consistent with New Hampshire’s ‘Live Free or Die’ approach to these issues.”

This story brought to you by my Google News Alert for LFOD invocations.

■ Also triggering the LFOD alarm bell comes all the way from Colorado, in a publication called the Mountain-Ear Newspaper. (Mounain-Ear. Get it?) Stage Stop fair welcomes locals

Derik Stevens, of Ward, brought in his hand made fur hats, saying this was his first time at the Fair. Derik was featured on the National Geographic series, “Live Free or Die,” representing the Mountain Man.

Derik's unusual name allows us further Google research, and brings up this story from 2007:

Ward's self-proclaimed "Giant Killer Blacksmith" — and "undefeated champion" of the mountain town's daylong slugfest, "Hammertime" — has been ordered by a Boulder judge to give up his weapons.

Derik Leif Stevens, 36, who makes battle axes and spears for a living, is slated to begin serving a Boulder County Jail weekend work-crew sentence today after pleading guilty last week to felony menacing. Stevens also was sentenced to four years of probation by Boulder County District Judge D.D. Mallard and cannot posses any weapons during that time.

The LFOD spirit is strong with Derik, and if that involves having a certain number of felony menacing convictions on your rap sheet, so be it.

Last Modified 2018-05-22 5:29 PM EST