Daily Archives: 10/24/2010

God charged with God’s Creation Vs. What does a utilitarian approach to animal rights suggest?

The link below suggests you could make a case for pushing Gorillas to extinction because they contribute to malaria and Aids, the rejects the case as morally repugnant.


I agree.  Also, I think theological considerations would lead to reject this idea.  I don’t think God put us here to destroy his creation lightly.  The same point applies to may environmental issues.


Marginal Revolution

via What does a utilitarian approach to animal rights suggest?.

New Sharron Angle Ad: Harry Reid is…SuperMajority Leader! (via Nice Deb)

New Sharron Angle Ad: Harry Reid is...SuperMajority Leader! This is new Sharron Angle ad is kinda humorous… I love it when candidates get creative. … Read More

via Nice Deb

Unintended Consequences: The utilitarianism of industrial slaughterhouses vs animal rights activists

From  Modeled Behavior:

Conservatives like to focus on the gap in good intentions and results.  I think this might be an example of that.

You might assume that animal-rights activists would be better at animal welfare than industrial slaughterhouses. I’ve recently seen two pieces of evidence this is not always the case.

First, are animal lovers that have it wrong. Officials in Valley Forge park outside of Philadelphia are planning on culling the deer population from 1,277 to under 200. Sharpshooters will kill 500 this winter and next,  and 300 to 250 in the winters after that. Animal rights activists “Friends of Animals” are arguing, however, that the deer population should be culled naturally by encouraging the number of coyotes to grow. Officials are objecting because it would take a long time to bring the herd population down and require a large number of coyotes. But from an welfare perspective it’s a little strange of an argument. Surely being chased down and killed by a pack of coyotes must cause much more suffering than being picked off by a sharp shooter.

Next is the industrial slaughterhouses that have it right. Two U.S. chicken producers have begun knocking chickens out with carbon dioxide before they kill them, resulting in a lower stress and lower suffering death. One problem they are havingis that it is difficult to advertise, since buyers don’t like to be reminded that the animals are slaughtered in the first place. This is not encouraging, because it suggests that the current state of advertising is an equilibrium where all firms are hiding information about the actual slaughter. If you can’t brag that you’re being more humane because consumers want to be uninformed, then the market incentives to be more humane aren’t there.

via The utilitarianism of industrial slaughterhouses vs animal rights activists.

Juan Williams

I can’t help but think that the presence of someone like Juan Williams on NPR and Fox was a good thing. It allowed for some cross fertilization between conservative and liberal news outlets.

I think Juan’s presence was at least originally supposed to give some credibility to Fox’s claim of being fair and balanced, and at least early on I think he did that. Fox seems to me to be moving to be more explicitly a conservative network. Hannity and Combs is now just just Hannity after all. I admit in some recent occasions, he seems to have picked up the Fox style, especially in filling in for O’reilly, and I think he may have been planning to jump to Fox. Economically, it appears he will be better off for having been fired. Maybe he planned this incident, or something like it.

So I thought Juan’s presence on both networks might help provide some balance to both networks. But maybe the time for him to that was gone even if he had stayed. Still I think it was mistake that he was fired.

The joy of knowledge for its own sake


From:  ProfessorBainbridge.com

via The joy of knowledge for its own sake.



There was a highly annoying article in today’s WSJ about the way state governments are trying to turn universities into factories stamping out job ready proles. Not surprisingly, the charge is being lead by my fellow conservatives, who in the last 20 years have gone from prizing the life of the mind to prizing anti-intellectual morons.

“Every conversation we have with these institutions now revolves around productivity,” says Jason Bearce, associate commissioner for higher education in Indiana. He tells administrators it’s not enough to find efficiencies in their operations; they must seek “academic efficiency” as well, graduating more students more quickly and with more demonstrable skills. The National Governors Association echoes that mantra; it just formed a commission focused on improving productivity in higher education. …

At Texas A&M, things have gone particularly in the trade school direction:

A 265-page spreadsheet, released last month by the chancellor of the Texas A&M University system, amounted to a profit-and-loss statement for each faculty member, weighing annual salary against students taught, tuition generated, and research grants obtained. …

The concept of a productivity spreadsheet came from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank that Gov. Rick Perry invited to a state university summit in May 2008. The group suggested several reforms with a common theme: Let taxpayers see what’s going on at every public institution—and let them decide what’s worth subsidizing.

Bill Peacock, a vice president at the foundation, acknowledges that this approach could mean a radical reshaping of academia, with far more emphasis on filling students with practical information and less on intellectual pursuits, especially in the liberal arts.

That’s OK by him. “Taxpayers of the state of Texas,” Mr. Peacock says, should decide whether “they should be spending two years paying the salary of an English professor so he can write a book of poetry simply to add to the prestige of the university or the body of literature out there.”

When the choice is put that bluntly, Chester Dunning, a history professor at Texas A&M, wonders if he’d pass muster. Mr. Dunning teaches two classes a semester and has won several teaching awards. His salary of about $90,000 a year also covers the time he spends researching Russian literature and history. His most recent book argues that Alexander Pushkin’s drama “Boris Godunov” was a comedy, not a tragedy.

Mr. Dunning says his scholarly work animates his teaching and inspires his students. “But if you want me to explain why a grocery clerk in Texas should pay taxes for me to write those books, I can’t give you an answer,” he says.

His eyes sweep his cramped office, lined with books. Then Mr. Dunning finds his answer. “We’ve only got 5,000 years of recorded human history,” he says, “and I think we need every precious bit of it.”

John Henry Newman knew better, as he wrote in his magisterial work The Idea of a University:

It is a great point then to enlarge the range of studies which a University professes, even for the sake of the students; and, though they cannot pursue every subject which is open to them, they will be the gainers by living among those and under those who represent the whole circle. This I conceive to be the advantage of a seat of universal learning, considered as a place of education. An assemblage of learned men, zealous for their own sciences, and rivals of each other, are brought, by familiar intercourse and for the sake of intellectual peace, to adjust together the claims and relations of their respective subjects of investigation. They learn to respect, to consult, to aid each other. Thus is created a pure and clear atmosphere of thought, which the student also breathes, though in his own case he only pursues a few sciences out of the multitude. He profits by an intellectual tradition, which is independent of particular teachers, which guides him in his choice of subjects, and duly interprets for him those which he chooses. He apprehends the great outlines of knowledge, the principles on which it rests, the scale of its parts, its lights and its shades, its great points and its little, as he otherwise cannot apprehend them. Hence it is that his education is called “Liberal.” A habit of mind is formed which lasts through life, of which the attributes are, freedom, equitableness, calmness, moderation, and wisdom; or {102} what in a former Discourse I have ventured to call a philosophical habit. This then I would assign as the special fruit of the education furnished at a University, as contrasted with other places of teaching or modes of teaching. This is the main purpose of a University in its treatment of its students. …

Cautious and practical thinkers, I say, will ask of me, what, after all, is the gain of this Philosophy, of which I make such account, and from which I promise so much. Even supposing it to enable us to exercise the degree of trust exactly due to every science respectively, and to estimate precisely the value of every truth which is anywhere to be found, how are we better for this master view of things, which I have been extolling? …

I am asked what is the end of University Education, and of the Liberal or Philosophical Knowledge which I conceive it to impart: I answer, that what I have already {103} said has been sufficient to show that it has a very tangible, real, and sufficient end, though the end cannot be divided from that knowledge itself. Knowledge is capable of being its own end. …

I consider, then, that I am chargeable with no paradox, when I speak of a Knowledge which is its own end, when I call it liberal knowledge, or a gentleman’s knowledge, when I educate for it, and make it the scope of a University. … Knowledge, I say, is then especially liberal, or sufficient for itself, apart from every external and ulterior object, when and so far as it is philosophical, and this I proceed to show.

Stephen Fry makes much the same point, albeit more crudely, in Qi:


I’m willing to bet that Peacock never bothered to read Newman before embarking on his know nothing crusade. But maybe he’s got just enough of an attention span to view Fry.



Goolsbee, Deconstructed

This is worth watching for understand how a white house puts its best foot forward on the economy.  Most of the points made I agree with.  Goolsbee is doing his best to make a poor economic record look as good as it can. However, I think he neglects to mention that while the Bush administration was characterized by job growth, personal income per head was flat at best, and much of the bad performance of the last two years started before the end of 2008 and the Bush administration.

Still its a good illustration of how to make your points with graphs and statistics.


Greg Mankiw’s Blog

via Goolsbee, Deconstructed.