November '08 Open Thread

Monday, November 03, 2008

Have you a news tip, an interesting random thought, or something you'd like to bounce around?

If so, feel free to leave a comment here!

-- CAV


Rational Jenn said...

Much has been made of Alan Greenspan's association with Ayn Rand. Has he ever publicly stated that he considered himself an Objectivist, particularly in the last 25 or so years? I haven't read his book (Age of Turbulence? can't recall the title just this second), maybe he claims to be an Objectivist in that book.

The reason I bring it up is that those who wish to use Greenspan's antics and recent remarks about flaws and such to discredit Objectivism would have a much stronger argument if Greenspan had actually claimed to be an Objectivist during his Fed tenure. But his association with Ayn Rand and Objectivism was long over with before he became the Fed Chairman, yes?

I used to be Catholic, but the Pope isn't responsible for my changing my ideas.

Gus Van Horn said...

I am pretty sure (but am guessing) that Greenspan has not been actively holding himself out as an Objectivist. He has, however, doubtless profited from allowing people to treat him as if he is some sort of financial guru by not making it clear that he is NOT an Objectivist.

This would be similar to one of us -- yes, I used to be Catholic, too -- finding ourselves in a situation where it was widely supposed we were Catholic and obtaining some benefit due to people acting on such a supposition, even though to act on principle would require one to be clear that he is not Catholic.

(Were Greenspan in disagreement with Rand, why should he allow his "expertise" to make HER look good?)

Now that you bring this up, I see his actions as further evidence that he is a pragmatist, philosophically.

Burgess Laughlin said...

I have never studied law. I have a question for lawyers, historians of law, and philosophers of law.

My question is: In a proper society, how should a supreme court interpret the meaning of the constitution? By what historians say the writers of the constitution meant in their time (objective or not); by possibly subjective "evolving standards" of the community; or by other standards such as the objective meaning of concepts as they should be logically created?

My question arose while reading this brief weblog article.

That article refers, in turn, to an article by Thomas Bowden, writing for The Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights.

This issue matters to me, even though I am a layman, for the simple reason that I live in this society and I would like to know the basis of law, especially the fundamental laws that ultimately affect the quality of my life.

Gus Van Horn said...

These are interesting and important questions and, although I am not a lawyer and am pressed for time this evening, I know of some good writing on this very question by Tara Smith, who specializes in philosophy of law.

First, there is this op-ed piece, "The Need for an Active Supreme Court Justice", in which she argues that:

"To be qualified to sit on the Supreme Court, a person must, at minimum, understand three basic facts: First, that individual rights are broad principles defining the individual's freedom of action. The familiar rights of life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness subsume a vast array of particular exercises of this freedom, some explicitly named in the constitution (e.g., the freedom of speech) and some not (the right to travel). Second, he must understand that the government's sole function is to protect individuals' freedom of action. As Jefferson explained, it is "to secure these rights, [that] governments are instituted among men." Third, he must recognize that our government properly acts exclusively by permission." [some formatting lost]

And second, there is this academic article from the Duke Law Review, "WHY ORIGINALISM WON'T DIE -- COMMON MISTAKES IN COMPETING THEORIES OF JUDICIAL INTERPRETATION".

Burgess, I hope you find these useful.

And, to any legal professionals out there, feel free to chime in!