Property and the Creation of Value

DAN MOLLER

ECONOMICS & PHILOSOPHY, Volume 33, Issue 1

Abstract: Following Locke, philosophical discussion of private property has tended to focus on the acquisition of natural resources as central. In this paper I first pursue the idea that the resource paradigm doesn’t apply to most developed economies, and show how this creates problems for many accounts of property. My second ambition is to draw a normative conclusion by showing that redistribution of wealth generated in the context of services is more difficult to justify compared with the natural resource paradigm philosophers have often focused on.

Language Shapes People’s Time Perspective and Support for Future-Oriented Policies

EFRÉN O. PÉREZ & MARGIT TAVITS

AMERICAN JOURNAL OF POLITICAL SCIENCE

Abstract: Can the way we speak affect the way we perceive time and think about politics? Languages vary by how much they require speakers to grammatically encode temporal differences. Futureless tongues (e.g., Estonian) do not oblige speakers to distinguish between the present and future tense, whereas futured tongues do (e.g., Russian). By grammatically conflating “today” and “tomorrow,” we hypothesize that speakers of futureless tongues will view the future as temporally closer to the present, causing them to discount the future less and support future-oriented policies more. Using an original survey experiment that randomly assigned the interview language to Estonian/Russian bilinguals, we find support for this proposition and document the absence of this language effect when a policy has no obvious time referent. We then replicate and extend our principal result through a cross-national analysis of survey data. Our results imply that language may have significant consequences for mass opinion.

The Problem of Natural Religion in Smith’s Moral Thought

COLIN HEYDT

JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF IDEAS

Abstract: Adam Smith is one of the philosophers whose views on the relation of morality to religion have been very actively debated. It is accepted that Smith had unorthodox personal religious beliefs. The crux of the debate, however, is whether or not the God of natural religion is essential, in one or more ways, to Smith’s moral theory. A number of recent interpretations defend the description of Adam Smith as “a strong supporter of natural theology.”2 This paper argues [End Page 73] against that claim, using both novel evidence and familiar evidence applied in novel ways. I demonstrate here that Smith took positions at odds with a commitment to natural religion’s importance for morality. In particular, I show that it is hard to square Smith’s alleged support of natural religion with his account of conscience, his natural-rights theory, and his omission of piety from his catalogue of virtues.

Conditional Privacy Rights

MUNGAN, MURAT C.

JOURNAL OF INSTITUTIONAL AND THEORETICAL ECONOMICS JITE, Volume 173, Issue 1

Abstract: People have subjective valuations of privacy. Thus, absent further considerations, efficiency requires that a person be afforded privacy if, and only if, his subjective valuation of privacy exceeds the social value of the information that would be disclosed through a violation of that person’s privacy. Absolute regimes that either always allow privacy, or never allow privacy, cannot achieve this result. This article shows that a conditional privacy regime can lead to efficient separation among people based on their subjective valuations of privacy. Moreover, this regime need not inefficiently distort information collection incentives or incentives to refrain from various acts that may generate collectible information.

Does Situationism Threaten Free Will and Moral Responsibility?

MICHAEL MCKENNA & BRANDON WARMKE

JOURNAL OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY

Abstract: The situationist movement in social psychology has caused a considerable stir in philosophy. Much of this was prompted by the work of Gilbert Harman and John Doris. Both contended that familiar philosophical assumptions about the role of character in the explanation of action were not supported by experimental results. Most of the ensuing philosophical controversy has focused upon issues related to moral psychology and ethical theory. More recently, the influence of situationism has also given rise to questions regarding free will and moral responsibility. There is cause for concern that a range of situationist findings are in tension with the reasons-responsiveness putatively required for free will and moral responsibility. We develop and defend a response to the alleged situationist threat to free will and moral responsibility that we call pessimistic realism. We conclude on an optimistic note, exploring the possibility of strengthening our agency in the face of situational influences.

Robust Political Economy Revisited: Response to Critics

MARK PENNINGTON

CRITICAL REVIEW, Volume 28, Issue 3-4

Abstract: Robust political economy is the attempt to theorize about political institutions in such a way as to guard against the knowledge and incentive problems that we can expect will threaten the public good in the real world. An implication of this attempt is the need to reason symmetrically about whether a proposed institution is liable to be as prone to failure due to knowledge and incentive problems as the situations it is designed to address. Another implication is that one should be wary of ad hoc institutional or policy proposals, that is, proposals that are not grounded in systematic tendencies to mitigate the knowledge and incentive problems. With these implications in mind, I am not convinced that the alternative institutions, conceptions of the state, and conceptions of social justice defended by my critics meet the test of robustness that, I maintain, can best be met through decentralization of power down to the level of the individual.

What Makes a Utopia Inconvenient? On the Advantages and Disadvantages of a Realist Orientation to Politics

BENJAMIN L. MCKEAN

AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE REVIEW, Volume 110, Issue 4

Abstract: Contemporary politics is often said to lack utopias. For prevailing understandings of the practical force of political theory, this looks like cause for celebration. As blueprints to apply to political practice, utopias invariably seem too strong or too weak. Through an immanent critique of political realism, I argue that utopian thought, and political theory generally, is better conceived as supplying an orientation to politics. Realists including Bernard Williams and Raymond Geuss explain how utopian programs like universal human rights poorly orient their adherents to politics, but the realists wrongly conclude that utopias and other ideal theories necessarily disorient us. As I show through an analysis of utopian claims made by Michel Foucault, Malcolm X, and John Rawls, utopias today can effectively disrupt entrenched forms of legitimation, foster new forms of political identity, and reveal new possibilities within existing institutions. Utopias are needed to understand the political choices we face today.