Economics

On Free Trade Ideology

According to conventional “wisdom” free trade leads to prosperity. Usually the idea is based on a version of David Ricardo’s (1817) theory of “comparative advantage” which is taught in most high-school economics classes. There is, however, a fundamental problem with that theory, as was shown by Frank Graham in 1923, and unfortunately that problem tends to be ignored. In the following, I will briefly summarize Ricardo’s theory and Graham’s correction thereof, and discuss why the latter is ignored and the effects and implications of that neglect. Ricardo’s model Assume a world with two countries, “country A” and “country B”, and...
Social Issues

Fascism, Anti-fascism, and Violence

Surprisingly many people seem to think that anti-fascists are just as bad as the fascists they oppose. (According to one rather unreliable source even Chomsky recently made critical comments about “Antifa”.) One would think that even a little bit of historical knowledge would prevent such strange ideas, but apparently this isn’t the case. Criticism of the anti-fascists and their tactics comes in – roughly – two kinds. One kind argues that violent tactics are bad because of their bad consequences. The other kind of argument appeals to (implicit) principles rather than to consequences. This short essay discusses – and rejects...
Social Issues

What’s there to be proud of?

Pride plays an important role in most – if not all – ideologies on the right of the political spectrum. National pride and racial pride are the most obvious examples. The former is, of course, the core feature of nationalism or patriotism; the latter is the foundation of racism. The dominant kind of pride in contemporary right-wing thought seems to be civilizational pride, however. That is, one of the key aspects of the alt-right and right-wing populism as well as more mainstream contemporary conservatism is pride in Western civilization. This pride in Western civilization, let’s call it “Western pride”, is...
Social Issues

No, you’re not entitled to your opinion

Nearly everyone seems to believe that they are entitled to their opinion, but it is not exactly clear what that means. This commonly claimed entitlement is some kind of supposed right, but neither the action it is supposed to allow, nor the duties it entails are clear. All rights imply duties. Often these are negative duties – that is, duties not to do something. For example, if you have a right to free speech, then the government has the negative duty not to arrest you for speaking your mind. And if you have a right to life, then everyone else...
Social Issues

On Gender Chauvinism

abstract — Male chauvinism is the belief that men are morally superior to women. Female chauvinism is the belief that women are morally superior to men. Both depend on the assumption of essential or natural gender differences between men and women with regards to thinking styles, most easily summarized as male principle-based thinking and female empathic thinking. There is no evidence for such a gender difference, however, but there is evidence that differences in experience and circumstances can lead to relevant differences. People who care (often women) become more caring, for example. By implication, gender chauvinism is based on false...
Philosophy

The Nature of Philosophy and its Relation with Empirical Science

In his Confessions, Saint Augustine (5th ct.) wrote: “What is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If someone asks me to explain it, I do not know.” You can substitute “philosophy” for “time” in this quote and it will remain true: “What is philosophy? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If someone asks me to explain it, I do not know.” Perhaps I should refine this claim: the application of Augustine’s quote to “philosophy” is true at least for me. I don’t know what philosophy is. And that is a source...
BuddhismPhilosophy

Book Review of Jay Garfield’s Engaging Buddhism — Extended Version

When the Australasian Journal of Philosophy (AJP) asked me to review Jay Garfield’s (2015) book Engaging Buddhism I didn’t realize that they have a 400-word limit for “Book Notes”. That’s the book-review equivalent of a haiku, which posed an interesting challenge, but which also required cutting 90% of the things I have (or want) to say about Garfield’s book. This “extended version” of my review includes both the pre-publication version of my “Book Note” for AJP and a some additional, more detailed comments. pre-publication version of my “Book Note” for AJP In the preface of his book Garfield observes that...
Economics

Greece, Europe, and the Hegemony of Psychopathy

Question: Why can’t Greece repay its debts? Answer: Because its economy is in shambles. Question: Why is its economy so bad? Answer: Because the EU destroyed it. That’s the short answer. It’s not the answer you’ll read in most newspapers or hear on the TV – those will tell you that it’s all the Greeks’ own fault. Their incompetent politicians and low productivity are too blame, they’ll tell you, or something similar. While it is undoubtedly true that Greece – like most other countries, by the way – has had its share of incompetent politicians, the story the mainstream press...
Philosophy

Anarchism as Metaphilosophy

Near the end of the prologue of Plato’s Republic, Socrates says to his opponent Thrasymachus that what they are discussing is “no ordinary/insignificant matter, but how we ought to live” (1.352d). As in many of Plato’s writings, Socrates here played the role of his mouthpiece: “How we ought to live” was indeed no insignificant matter for Plato, but the starting point and ultimate purpose of his philosophical investigations. Relegating the pre-Socratic philosophers to the discipline’s prehistory, it is sometimes suggested that Western philosophy started with Plato. Alfred North Whitehead even claimed that the history of Western philosophy “consists of a...