Arkiv for ‘Historie’

Svar til Ulstrup Larsens ”Den moderne liberalisme”

Sunday, September 17th, 2017

Af Ryan Smith

Rasmus Ulstrup Larsen (Ulstrup) skriver i Den moderne liberalisme – En indføring og diskussion, at ”Rawls [er] selve nøglen til at forstå, hvordan liberalismen kan forsvare individuel frihed, lige og ukrænkelige rettigheder for borgere, samt upartiske og værdineutrale myndighedsbeføjelser og prioriteringer.”

Det er en omfattende artikel, som rejser mange spørgsmål. Jeg vil i denne kommentar koncentrere mig om to kritikpunkter og et spørgsmål:

  1. Individuel frihed behøver (som hos Rawls) at blive begrundet transcendentalt.
  2. Ulstrups kritik glipper en del af Rawls’ overvejelser.
  3. Er højre- og venstreliberalisme den samme filosofi?

1. Individuel frihed behøver ikke at blive begrundet transcendentalt

Overordnet sagt kan man sige, at nutidens liberales svar på spørgsmålet om, hvor individuelle rettigheder kommer fra, kan inddeles i to hovedgrene: Den transcendentale og den konsekventialistiske.

  • I den transcendentale forståelse er disse rettigheder en slags præ-eksisterende størrelser, der blot venter på at blive opdaget gennem tanken. Rettighederne har – sat på spidsen – altid ligget der og ventet på at blive opdaget som en slags politikkens love, ikke ulig den klassiske forståelse af algebra, tyngdekraft og geometri. Den mest raffinerede og stringente filosofiske analyse vil derfor af sig selv afdække dem, og enhver der følger tankerækken ærligt og uden forudindtagethed bliver i sidste ende nødt til at støtte op om dens konklusioner.
  • Men i den konsekventialistiske forståelse er ingen transcendental retfærdiggørelse påkrævet. Rettighederne er ikke evigt uforanderlige størrelser, man deduktivt kan analysere sig frem til. De er snarere resultatet af en partikulær historisk process, hvor man gradvist har gjort sig den erfaring, at opretholdelsen af sådanne rettigheder har positive konsekvenser for samfundet såvel om individet.

Ulstrup skriver, at ”en afsværgelse af Rawls’ filosofi, er derfor for liberale, at afsværge [deres] eget fundament.” Men dette udsagn bliver kun relevant (ikke engang nødtvendigvis korrekt), hvis man som liberal begrunder sin støtte til individuelle rettigheder transcendentalt. Konsekventialistisk orienterede liberale kan således allerede her melde hus forbi – de behøver ingen transcendental hjemmel for deres position.

Rawls’ projekt er, som Ulstrup rigtigt skriver, et opgør med en tredje liberal tænkemåde, nemlig utilitarismen. Ulstrup blander i sin argumentation utilitarisme sammen med konsekventialisme, men da Rawls også selv gør det, kan Ulstrup siges at være undskyldt. Dog vil få (højre)liberale i dag begrunde deres liberalisme utilitaristisk, da utilitarismen uundgåeligt vil komme i konflikt med den liberale støtte til negativ frihed og individuel selvbestemmelse. Igen kan man derfor anføre, at mange højreliberale vil opleve, at Rawls’ kritik vil ramme udenfor skiven.

Endelig er der spørgsmålet om, hvorvidt liberale der begrunder deres støtte til individuelle rettigheder transcendentalt nødvendigvis bliver nødt til at acceptere Rawls’ analyse. Locke begrundede, som Ulstrup påpeger, disse rettigheder med henvisninger til Gud. Teistiske liberale behøver således ikke få sved på panden – ganske vist er vi ikke skabt lige, men det er dog Gud, der har skabt os ulige, og det giver ikke mening for mennesket at bestræbe sig på at omstøde dette.

Ulstrup har ret i at Rawls’ analyse, der ikke begrundes i Gud, men i hvad der måtte synes retfærdigt i den oprindelige position bag uvidenhedens slør, har større almen gyldighed end Lockes teologiske begrundelse. Ligeledes indrømmer filosoffen Robert Nozick, der forsøgte at formulere en transcendental retfærdiggørelse af støtte til højreliberale frihedsrettigheder, at han ikke ved præcis hvor sådan en transcendental retfærdiggørelse skulle komme fra. Dog betyder det ikke, at man som transcendentalt orienteret liberal nødvendigvis må acceptere Rawls’ argumenter for omfordeling og positiv frihed: Som Nozick anfører, er folk forskellige. De har forskellige værdier og mål i livet og hverken absolut ”retfærdighed” eller almen transcendental gyldighed kan efter Nozicks mening udledes af Rawls’ analyse.

Hvad angår retfærdighed via udligning kan man ikke nødvendigvis sætte en absolut værdi på ressourcer. En (omfordelt) pengesum eller ”affirmative action” uddannelses- eller jobmulighed har ikke nødvendigvis samme værdi for A som for B. Hvad angår almen transcendental gyldighed er det efter Nozicks mening ikke sikkert, at alle ville være enige med Rawls, ej heller i den oprindelige positon bag uvidenhedens slør.

  1. Ulstrups kritik glipper en del af Rawls’ overvejelser

En betydelig del af Ulstrups artikel beskæftiger sig med den praktiske uladesiggørlighed af Rawls’ ideer. Her anføres det, at såfremt civilsamfundet og kulturen ikke understøtter og sympatiserer med ideen om individuelle rettigheder, vil disse rettigheder ikke kunne opretholdes i praksis.

Det er korrekt. Spørgsmålet er dog, om Rawls ville være uenig. Rawls hører som nævnt til den transcendentalt orienterede type politiske tænker. Han skriver eksplicit, at en pure idealistisk afdækning af, hvad det rette politiske ståsted burde være for ham altid vil gå forud for forsøget på at forene resultaterne af denne analyse med den praktiske virkelighed. Med andre ord: At en masse mennesker med en anden kultur og andre værdier kommer hertil, forringer ganske vist de empiriske betingelser for udbredelsen af disse værdier. Men at folk i praksis vil modsætte sig den tankerække, der førte frem til Rawls’ støtte til individuelle rettigheder, ændrer ifølge Rawls ikke på deres sandhedsværdi. Det kan kun en endnu stækere noumenal tankerække gøre. Ulstrup skriver, at individuelle rettigheder bliver irrelevante, hvis de ikke kan opretholdes, men Rawls ville være uenig: For ham har opdagelsen af disse rettigheder (via tanken) værdi i sig selv.

Rawls forsøger dog at give en form for svar på den kritik, Ulstrup rejser. Hans svar er, at samfundets indbyggere bliver nødt til at være hæderlige og fornuftige. Hver borger har sin idé om det gode, men da forsøg på at påtvinge andre disse rettigheder logisk må indebære, at disse andre så også har retten til at påtvinge det transgresserende individ deres ideer om det gode, må alle hæderlige og fornuftige borgere blive enige om, at de ikke har ret til at påtvinge andre deres personlige ideer om det gode. Rawls’ filosofi stiller således ikke kun krav til staten (som Ulstrup antyder) men også til borgerne og kulturen i det land, hvor hans teori om retfærdighed skal fungere. Alle bliver de nødt til at støtte op om individuel selvbestemmelse. Og derfra er der kun ganske kort til individuelle rettigheder.

Ulstrup rejser efter min mening en korrekt kritik af Rawls, som jeg personligt er enig i, hvad angår den empiriske del af hans filosofi. Imidlertid synes Ulstrup dog at misse en del af Rawls’ egne overvejelser vedr. disse svagheder. Rawls indrømmer, at det dennesidige udgangspunkt for hans teori må være den politiske kultur, der allerede er fremherskende i det pågældende (demokratiske) land, hvor hans teori skal anvendes. Denne politiske kultur definerer Rawls som det pågældende lands politiske hovedværker, forfatning, domstole, regeringsdesign, m.m.. Rawls medgiver, at ikke alle vil være hæderlige og fornuftige, men han mener, at flertallet dog vil være det, hvis det pågældende lands politiske kultur allerede er befordrende for individuelle rettigheder.

Rent empirisk kan man derfor sige – som Ulstrup også gør – at Rawls’ teori (a) faktisk er afhængig af en præ-eksisterende konsensuskultur og (b) sandsynligvis vil fejle i et samfund, hvor en gruppe tilvandrere med en radikalt anden kultur står til at blive så stor, at den kan erstatte værtslandets – hvis da ikke værtslandets borgere anvender demokratiets dynamik til at begrænse denne indvandring.

***

En interessant videre pointe i så henseende blev nævnt for mig af Otto Brøns-Pedersen, analysechef i CEPOS: At mange indvandrere kommer hertil med en kultur, som ikke understøtter det grundlæggende individualistiske og liberale politiksyn, gælder endnu bredere end blot de pågældende invandrere. Også mange i den vestlige kultur har aldrig anerkendt dette syn på politik. Indvandringen fra andre kulturkredse sætter blot ovennævnte svaghed på spidsen.

  1. Er højre- og venstreliberalisme den samme filosofi?

Vi slutter af med at vende tilbage til det indledende spørgsmål: Er Rawls, som Ulstrup skriver, ”selve nøglen til at forstå, hvordan liberalismen kan forsvare individuel frihed”? og er ”en afsværgelse af Rawls … derfor for liberale, at afsværge [deres] eget fundament”?

Vi har allerede set, at konsekvenstialistisk orienterede højreliberale ikke behøver Rawls. Men denne gang vil vi nærme os spørgsmålet fra en anden vinkel: Er højre- og venstreliberalisme overhovedet den samme filosofi? Præmissen for Ulstrups udsagn er, at Rawls’ retfærdiggørelse af individuelle rettigheder (hvad enhver ville have valgt i den oprindelige position bag uvidenhedens slør) også nødvendigvis må være indmaden i den højreliberale retfærdiggørelse af individuelle rettigheder (da højreliberale tænkere ikke selv har produceret bedre hjemmel for samme). Men er det korrekt?

Fra venstreliberal side er det værd at bemærke, at minimalstatsliberalisme faktisk slet ikke kvalificerer som liberalisme for Rawls. Rawls mener, at ethvert liberalt samfund vil kredse om værdierne lighed, frihed og fairness. Fra disse udleder han så:

  • At ulighed kun kan tillades hvis det kan påpeges, hvordan den kommer de dårligst stillede til gavn [da minimalstater fører til stor økonomisk ulighed, der tilsyneladende ikke kan retfærdiggøres således, er de dermed ikke liberale].
  • At borgerne skal udstyres med midler til at gøre brug af deres frihed. Ellers kan de ikke realisere sig selv på lige fod med andre [da minimalstater ikke sørger for den slags omfordeling af midler, er de ikke liberale].

Så burde højreliberale i virkeligheden være venstreliberale? Er højreliberale i virkeligheden bare venstreliberale, der ikke har taget den fulde konsekvens af deres egen filosofi?

Selv hvis vi accepterer Rawls’ præmisser ser minimalstatstilhængere ikke overraskende en del problemer med denne argumentation. Hvis individer skal bindes sammen, som Rawls foreslår, og den rige skal betale til den fattige, så kræver fairness ifølge dem også, at begge partner indstiller sig på at honorere forbindelsens natur. Den rige skal betale, så længe han er rigest, men den fattige skal gøre en ærlig indsats for at forbedre sit lod og ikke free-ride på de ressourcer, han får omfordelt fra andre. I praksis er det dog kun muligt at håndhæve omfordelingen politisk. Man kan ikke bevise, at en person, der i virkeligheden har evner til at tage et mere krævende job end sit nuværende, har afstået fra at tage jobbet grundet manglende motivation. Da aftalen dermed ikke kan håndhæves for begge parter er den ikke reciprok. Dermed er den en forbrydelse mod fairness.

Sådan kunne man blive ved, og sådan har mange højreliberale argumenteret siden A Theory of Justice udkom i 1971. Højre- og venstreliberalisme taler på overfladen om mange af de samme begreber og støtter tilsyneladende mange af de samme politiske prioriteringer (individuelle rettigheder, individet før fællesskabet, osv.). Men i praksis mener de to forgreninger ofte noget forskelligt dermed. Rawls støtter f.eks. individuelle rettigheder udfra et almengyldigt moralsk synspunkt – fællesskabet skal kunne spejle sig i og acceptere allokationen af individuelle rettigheder. Men mange mange højreliberale støtter individuelle rettigheder af helt andre årsager. Her er det alene individet, der besidder rettighederne uden skelen til fællesskabet. Således har individet f.eks. retten til frugterne af eget arbejde i en højreliberal optik, mens det hos de venstreliberale må retfærdiggøres, hvordan ulige resultater i sidste ende også kommer de dårligst stillede grupper (ikke individer) til gode. Ligeledes kan man sige, at begge liberale forgreninger henviser til retfærdighed som en central politisk prioritering, men at højreliberale forstår retfærdighed som process (er en given udveksling frivillig og uden snyd?), mens venstreliberale forstår retfærdighed som sluttilstand (vil en given samfundsorden bevirke meget stor ulighed?). Dermed kan man sige, at højreliberale faktisk ikke kan bruge Rawls’ retfærdiggørelse af støtte til individuelle rettigheder til ret meget. Som Nozick påpeger i Anarchy, State and Utopia, er Rawls’ scenario med det fritsvævende valg i den oprindelige position bag uvidenhedens slør ikke en neutral deduktion, men et biased scenarie, der er uløseligt bundet sammen med en venstreliberal forståelse af flere centrale begreber.

Sådan kunne man som sagt blive ved. I sidste ende er det måske mest illustrative faktum, man kan henvise til, ikke fra filosofi, men fra samfundsvidenskabelig forskning. Her har den amerikanske socialpsykolog Jonathan Haidt og kolleger på baggrund af empiriske studier analyseret sig frem til, at mens alle hovedgrupperinger i amerikansk politik ser sig selv som tilhængere af fairness, så forstår højre- og venstreorienterede i praksis helt forskellige ting derved: Venstreliberale ser fairness som lighed, mens højreliberale (og frimarkedskonservative) ser fairness som proportionalitet (dvs. at den der arbejder smart og hårdt skal belønnes proportionalt herfor).

I A Theory of Justice ønskede Rawls ikke kun at gøre op med utilitarismen. Han ville også gøre op med intuitionismen, dvs. den synsmåde, at menneskets intuitioner i sig selv kan afgøre politiske spørgsmål. Det er et godt spørgsmål hvorvidt Rawls (eller nogen politisk retning overhovedet) nogensinde har fået frigjort sig fra de intuitioner, der ligger dybt i os alle, og som indledningsvis ansporer os til at formulere mere ekstensive teorier, argumenter og filosofier. Rawls skriver som sagt, at ethvert liberalt samfund vil kredse om værdierne lighed, frihed og fairness. Han skriver sågar, at der i praksis altid vil være et væld af fortolkninger af, hvad disse værdier vil indebære, når de skal appliceres politisk. Alligevel kan han (som vi har set) ikke rumme den højreliberale fortolkning af disse værdier, og ender implicit med at afvise højreliberale som en paria, der ikke hører til i den liberale familie. Man kan ikke fortænke højreliberale i at mene det samme om Rawls.

Foucault and Liberalism

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

WATCH AS VIDEO

When the philosopher Michel Foucault died of AIDS in Paris in 1984, he was one of the world’s most famous intellectuals. In his native France, he had managed to obtain the special French superstar status, which is only granted to a chosen few, such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus.

Foucault’s works were read and discussed in most of the academic world. In the years after his death, his status has only grown, and today his scientific methods have long since spread beyond the narrow circle of historians and philosophers to every corner of the university. Foucault’s thoughts have managed become a sort of default in every branch of social science (except perhaps economics). At several Western universities, he is today the most cited social science theorist. It is hard to overstate his importance. The entire strand of philosophy known as ‘postmodernism’ or ‘poststructuralism’ owes Foucault something, and frequently quite a bit more than something.

Foucault also laid the foundation for one of the most commonly used methods in social science education: Discourse analysis. Here it is superfluous to mention that he is an obligatory part of every curriculum in the social sciences and the humanities, and even at some non-academic educations. Personally, I’ve seen instances of Foucault’s philosophy being peddled as mandatory for nurses and paramedics too.

If you read his works, it can be difficult to understand how they could have spread across the globe; how they could be read and purchased in the hundreds of thousands and discussed ad nauseam. His books are unbearably cryptic, incredibly difficult to decipher, and the insights you can squeeze from them are often contradictory and sometimes meaningless.

Foucault’s success is partly due to his timing. He wrote his works in the 1960s and 1970s, when the growing countercultural movement won more and more popularity within the intelligentsia. His anti-essentialism and rejection of Enlightenment thinking was well received by the greater part of a generation of European intellectuals that pined for a confrontation with established bourgeois truths, Western imperialism and the old authorities. These were to become the basis for what has since become known as the youth rebellion.

Among the many incomprehensible sentences found in Foucault’s books, one finds a particular anti-authoritarian message which has undoubtedly has swayed many people who felt a need to do away with the old standards. But this anti-authoritarian message is fettered to a totalitarian Siamese twin. And if the two should be separated from each other, they will both die.

Accepting Foucault’s theories of knowledge, power and man means that you will have to renounce to any belief in humanity’s ability to comprehend objective reality, as well as any belief that individual liberty can be achieved within the norms of established society. The notions that individual human beings have a personal responsibility for their actions has to go out of the window as well.

Foucault’s theories are some of the best and purest instances of culturalism one can find in modern thinking. If one gives pride of place to these ideas, one must also necessarily place the entire foundation for liberal democracy and human rights in the trash. To someone who has truly understood Foucault, such ideas are even more odious than straight up dictatorships. His philosophy is fundamentally incompatible with belief in democratic government and individual rights.

Today it is quite normal that the term ‘positivism’ is used as a slur. A ‘positivist’ is someone who lives within the established consensus. He is a naive, altmodisch figure. A ridiculous figure, who believe there is an objective reality which can be comprehended through formal and uniform scientific inquiries. These are beliefs that even today may evoke laughter from humanities students and faculty. No, they say, reality is not ‘objective’, it is created by power. It is the power structures in a given society that shape all our knowledge through linguistic, discursive processes. The only way to be able to establish any type of remotely credible knowledge, is through the critical analysis, in which we look at language and discourse and how they shape our way of thinking.

All of this is a legacy that can be traced back to Foucault. And it is actually an excellent means of critical correction. A good counterweight for theorists on a blind empirico-quanitative rampage. It is never a bad thing to be aware of the power of perspectives and linguistic, discursive processes surrounding one’s research.

But when this approach alone is dominant, instead of just a critical correction, it paradoxically becomes its own normative hegemony, and when that happens, we end up with a serious intellectual problem. It leads to every kind of vulgar social constructivism where university graduates think they can solve deep problems just by doing a bit of textual analysis. It leads to a new naivety, where one imagines that the underlying realities of the world can be changed if we just talk differently about surface signs and signifiers. But worst of all, it leads to the total rejection of any ethical universalism  and any common standard of knowledge, to a monstrous culturalism, in which the individual disappears in favor of large, collective, discursive currents, and the complete dissolution of the subject.

It is possible that Foucault did not intend for his work to end up being used in this manner, but if so, he never did anything to guard against this being the outcome of what he produced.

Foucault’s project was not particularly normative or ethical, but more philosophical, historical, and political. His primary aim was to break the spell of enlightenment thinking, which in his opinion, had created an implicit normativity in the modern social sciences, often leading scholars to deal with how everything should be in stead of how it actually is. He saw himself as carrying on the work of Nietzsche, where ethics is a lie that only weak-minded losers believe in.

It was this approach that Foucault adopted. He was interested in discovering how knowledge was created and how it could be converted into power in the form of discipline, which could again be used to control people. He went against the Popperian – and someone might mockingly say: ‘positivist’ approach to knowledge – where one methodically, soberly and rigorously embarks on a journey leading one closer and closer to the ‘truth’.

Foucault never wrote a line  about methodology. Yet it is his method, which has enjoyed the greatest acclaim.

The Contradiction in Modern Feminism

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

Watch as video here.

On New Year’s Eve of 2015/2016, mass sexual assaults took place against women in several cities across Germany. Most famous is the incident in Cologne, where 2000 men of Middle-eastern and North African descent sexually assaulted 1200 German women.

Coordinated mass sexual assaults by men against women should be a feminist cause if there ever was one. Yet to the surprise of most Europeans, many familiar feminist bloggers, pundits and writers across northern Europe did not come out to denounce the attacks. Instead, many talked about how these mass sexual assaults were no different from what white European men do to women every weekend at clubs, how there is rape in every culture so it would be irresponsible to just single out these Middle Eastern perpetrators, and so on.

How could we have come to a point where leading European feminists cannot bring themselves to speak out against mass coordinated sexual assaults against women? The answer has to do with what we call the contraction in modern feminism.

Feminism was originally a movement rooted in the broader values of the age of enlightenment. The foundation of classical feminism was the belief that all citizens should be treated equally by the state and be able to lay claim to the same rights, privileges and responsibilities, regardless of gender. At the time when feminism was conceived, the application of this principle meant expanding women’s rights to be on par with men’s.

The values of the enlightenment were universalist and went both ways: If men had somehow been the ones to be short-changed by society, then the same principle could have been applied to further men’s causes. Enlightenment feminism wasn’t about being a man or being a woman. It was about being equals as human beings. Enlightenment values were also individualist. If certain traditions, cultures, and religions mandated that men or women be treated differently, then these collectivist social structures had to be combated, since the individual’s free choice was unequivocally more important.

However, in recent years, feminism has also absorbed ideas from movements very different from the enlightenment. Some of the names used to describe this type of feminism 3rd and 4th wave feminism, intersectional feminism, and so on.

Where enlightenment feminism had been universalist and individualistic, many modern feminists regard the whole tradition of the enlightenment as suspicious, exclusively Western, and perhaps even imperialistic. If other cultures have different gender roles, then who are we to say they’re wrong?

In other words, the philosophy inherent in much of modern feminism has more to do with the philosophical responses and counter movements to the enlightenment, than they have to do with the enlightenment. Specifically, much of it is indebted to the philosophy of the romantic era, where it was thought that the individual’s values could not be formularized as a list of abstract rights and ideals, but were deeply rooted in culture, community, and personal identity.

In other words, where the enlightenment was universalist, rational, and impersonal, the philosophy of the romantic era was particularistic, experiential and personal. They are and were two completely different ways of viewing the world.

So where Western feminists used to be unequivocally opposed to traditions, cultures, and religions that stood in the way of their enlightenment values, the picture is now less clear cut. It is not that modern feminists don’t care about the plight of women outside of their own culture and ethnicity, as right-wingers often like to accuse them of being. Rather, it is that modern feminists tend to see the traditions, mores, and religious of individuals belonging to other cultures as vulnerable components of their identity. If these were steamrolled by Western pundits, this might result in an empowered majority culture subjugating a vulnerable minority. In the eyes of many modern feminists, lecturing people of other cultures about what values they should have can very easily border on cultural imperialism and be disempowering to minorities.

This is where the confusion comes in: Prosaically speaking, worrying about steamrolling minority cultures has very little to do with women’s rights and very much to do with an overall agenda of fighting racism, where modern feminists see themselves as the defenders of vulnerable minorities.

This is why leading feminist pundits all over northern Europe were left speechless when 2000 Middle Eastern and North Africa men stage a massed sexual assault on 1200 European women.  Obviously these men were trampling the rights of women underfoot. But they were also part of what many modern feminists perceived as a vulnerable minority culture. They wouldn’t risk being the enablers of cultural imperialism.

In this way we can see how modern feminism is trapped in a contradiction between two philosophical traditions that simply cannot be synthetized. The enlightenment one, that cares about equal rights and is rational, individualistic and universalist. And the romantic one, which places more stress on the personal, the particular, and on protecting minorities from cultural hegemony and imperialism. And this is what we call The Contradiction in Modern Feminism.

Roger Scruton i den danske idedebat

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

RESUMÉ
Den britiske filosof Roger Scruton (1944 – ) fremhæves ofte som konservatismens mest indflydelsesrige nulevende filosof. Som forfatter til mere end 40 bøger, der behandler alt fra arkitektur og æstetik til seksualitet, græsk-romersk historie og britisk retspraksis kan Scruton lægge navn til  et vidtrækkende og komplekst livsværk, hvis facetter alle danner baggrund for hans politiske konservatisme. Scruton er imidlertid ingen doktrinær konservativ, men slår ofte til lyd for en forbrødring mellem konservative og klassisk liberale (mens han dog forsager de rene liberale, da de efter hans mening ikke har tilstrækkelig respekt for traditionelle værdier og den historiske proces).

Dette notat præsenterer en samling kortere essays fra borgerlige meningsdannere i Danmark, der hver skriver om Scruton på baggrund af deres personlige position i idedebatten herhjemme: Professor Nicolai J. Foss fra Copenhagen Business School vil nærme sig Scruton fra et klassisk liberalt perspektiv, der indeholder både liberale og konservative elementer. Teolog og formand for Trykkefrihedsselskabet Katrine Winkel Holm blev bedt om at vurdere Scrutons tænkning set med dansk-konservative øjne. Endelig tilfalder det antropolog og forfatter Dennis Nørmark at imødegå nogle af de Scruton’ske kritikker af den værdipolitiske liberalisme i sin rene form.

Samtlige skribenter finder tankegods hos Scruton, de er enige i, men også punkter, der mødes med reservationer og ægger til yderligere debat.

Scruton Notat Final

ORIGINALISM: THE LESSER EVIL by Antonin Scalia

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

By Antonin Scalia**

 

I refer to the Chief Justice’s opinion for the Court in Myers v. United States,8 which declared unconstitutional congressional attempts to restrict presidential removal of executive officers….

 

What attracts my attention about the Myers opinion is not its substance but its process.  It is a prime example of what, in current scholarly discourse, is known as the “originalist” approach to constitutional interpretation.  The objective of the Chief Justice’s lengthy opinion was to establish the meaning of the Constitution, in 1789, regarding the presidential removal power.  He sought to do so by examining various evidence, including not only, of course, the text of the Constitution and its overall structure, but also the contemporaneous understanding of the President’s removal power (particularly the understanding of the First Congress and of the leading participants in the Constitutional Convention), the background understanding of what “executive power” consisted of under the English constitution, and the nature of the executive’s removal power under the various state constitutions in existence when the Constitution was adopted….

 

It may surprise the layman, but it will surely not surprise the lawyers here, to learn that the originalism is not, and had perhaps never been, the sole method of constitutional exegesis.  It would be hard to count…the opinions that have in fact been rendered not on the basis of what the Constitution originally meant, but on the basis of what the judges currently thought it desirable for it to mean.  That is, I suppose, the sort of behavior Chief Justice Hughes was referring to when he said the Constitution is what the judges say it is.  But in the past, nonoriginalist opinions have almost always had the decency to lie, or at least to dissemble, about what they were doing–either ignoring strong evidence of original intent congenial to the court’s desires, or else not discussing original intent at all, speaking in terms of broad constitutional generalities with no pretense of historical support….13

 

The principal theoretical defect of nonoriginalism, in my view, is its incompatibility with the very principle that legitimizes judicial review of constitutionality.  Nothing in the text of the Constitution confers upon the courts the power to inquire into, rather than passively assume, the constitutionality of federal statutes.  That power is, however, reasonably implicit because, as Marshall said in Marbury v. Madison, (1) “[I]t is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is,” (2) “[I]f two laws conflict with each other, the courts must decide on the operation of each,” and (3) “the constitution is to be considered, in court, as a paramount law.”24  Central to that analysis, it seems to me, is the perception that the Constitution, though it has an effect superior to other laws, is in its nature the sort of “law” that is the business of the courts – an enactment that has a fixed meaning ascertainable through the usual devices familiar to those learned in the law.  If the Constitution were not that sort of a “law,” but a novel invitation to apply current societal values, what reason would there be to believe that the invitation was addressed to the courts rather than to the legislature?  …Quite to the contrary, the legislature would seem a much more appropriate expositor of societal values, and its determination that a statute is compatible with the Constitution should, as in England, prevail.

 

…If the law is to make any attempt at consistency and predictability, surely there must be general agreement not only that judges reject one exegetical approach (originalism), but that they adopt another.  And it is hard to discern any emerging consensus among the nonoriginalists as to what this might be.  Are the “fundamental values” that replace original meaning to be derived from the philosophy of Plato, or of Locke, or Mills, or Rawls, or perhaps from the latest Gallop poll?  This is not to say that originalists are in entire agreement as to what the nature of their methodology is; as I shall mention shortly, there are some significant differences.  But as its name suggests, it by and large represents a coherent approach, or at least an agreed-upon point of departure. . . .

 

Finally, I want to mention what is not a defect of nonoriginalism, but one of its supposed benefits that seems to me illusory.  A bit earlier I quoted one of the most prominent nonoriginalists, Professor Tribe, to the effect that the Constitution “invites us, and our judges, to expand on the . .  . freedoms that are uniquely our heritage.”25.  I think   it fair to say that that is a common theme of nonoriginalists in general.  But why, one may reasonably ask–once the original import of the Constitution is cast awide to be replaced by the “fundamental values” of the current society–why are we invited only to “expand on” freedoms, and not to contract them as well?  Last Term we decided a case, Coy v. Iowa,26 in which, at the trial of a man accused of taking indecent liberties with two young girls, the girls were permitted to testify separated from the defendant by a screen which prevented them from seeing him.  We held that, at least absent a specific finding that these particular witnesses needed such protection, this procedure violated that provision of the Sixth Amendment that assures a criminal defendant the right “to be confronted with the witnesses against him.”27  Let us hypothesize, however (a hypothesis that may well be true), that modern American society is much more conscious of, and averse to, the effects of “emotional trauma” than was the society of 1791, and that it is, in addition, much more concerned about the emotional frailty of children and the sensitivity of young women regarding sexual abuse.  If that is so, and if the nonoriginalists are right, would it not have been possible for the Court to hold that, even though in 1791 the confrontation clause clearly would not have permitted a blanket exception for such testimony, it does so today?  Such a holding, of course, could hardly be characterized as an “expansion upon” preexisting freedoms….

 

Let me turn next to originalism, which is also not without its warts.  Its greatest defect, in my view, is the difficulty of applying it correctly….But what is true is that it is often exceedingly difficult to plumb the original understanding of an ancient text.  Properly done, the task requires the consideration of an enormous mass of material–in the case of the Constitution and its Amendments, for example, to mention only one element, the records of the ratifying debates in all the states.  Even beyond that, it requires an evaluation of the reliability of that material–many of the reports of the ratifying debates, for example, are thought to be quite unreliable.  And further still, it requires immersing oneself in the political and intellectual atmosphere of the time–somehow placing out of mind knowledge that we have which an earlier age did not, and putting on beliefs, attitudes, philosophies, prejudices and loyalties that are not those of our day.  It is, in short, a task sometimes better suited to the historian than the lawyer….

 

Research conducted years later by Professor William Winslow Crosskey would have been helpful to Taft.  Referring to the royal prerogatives as described in William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, which had been published in Philadelphia in the early 1770s, Crosskey noted that many–indeed, almost half–of Congress’ enumerated powers had been considered royal prerogatives under the law of England at the time of our Constitution’s adoption.42  For example, Blackstone wrote that the king had “the sole power of raising and regulating fleets and armies,”43 whereas, of course, these powers under our Constitution reside in Congress by virtue of article I, section 8, clauses 12 through 14.  The Constitution also expressly confides in the President certain traditional royal prerogatives subject to limitations not known in the English constitution.  Thus, for example, the king’s absolute veto of legislation became a qualified veto subject to override by a two-thirds vote of Congress,44 and the king’s ability to conclude treaties became a presidential power to negotiate treaties with a two-thirds vote of the Senate needed for ratification.45

 

It is apparent from all this that the traditional English understanding of executive power, or, to be more precise, royal prerogatives, was fairly well known to the founding generation, since they appear repeatedly in the text of the Constitution in formulations very similar to those found in Blackstone.  It can further be argued that when those prerogatives were to be reallocated in whole or part to other branches of government, or were to be limited in some other way, the Constitution generally did so expressly.  One could reasonably infer, therefore, that what was not expressly reassigned would–at least absent patent incompatibility with republican principles–remain with the executive….

 

…Taft’s opinion contains nothing to support that point, except the unsubstantiated assertion that “[I]n the British system, the Crown . . . had the power of appointment and removal of executive officers. . . .”  That is probably so, but the nature of the relationship between the Crown and the government in England during the relevant period was a sufficiently complicated and changing one, that something more than an ipse dixit was called for.48

 

….Nowadays, of course, the Supreme Court does not give itself as much time to decide cases as was customary in Taft’s time.  Except in those very rare instances in which a case is set for reargument, the case will be decided in the same Term in which it is first argued–allowing at best the period between the beginning of October and the end of June, and at worst the period between the end of April and the end of June. . . . Do you have any doubt that this system does not present the ideal environment for entirely accurate historical inquiry?  Nor, speaking for myself at least, does it employ the ideal personnel.

 

I can be much more brief in describing what seems to me the second most serious objection to originalism:  In its undiluted form, at least, it is medicine that seems to strong to swallow.  Thus, almost every originalist would adulterate it with the doctrine of stare decisis–so that Marbury v. Madison would stand even if Professor Raoul Berger should demonstrate unassailably that it got the meaning of the Constitution wrong. . . . What if some state should enact a new law providing public lashing, or branding of the right hand, as punishment for certain criminal offenses?  Even if it could be demonstrated unequivocally that these were not cruel and unusual measures in 1791, and even though no prior Supreme Court decision has specifically disapproved them, I doubt whether any federal judge–even among the many who consider themselves originalists–would sustain them against an eighth amendment challenge.  It may well be, as Professor Henry Monaghan persuasively argues, that this cannot legitimately be reconciled with originalist philosophy–that it represents the unrealistic view of the Constitution as a document intended to create a perfect society for all ages to come, whereas in fact it was a political compromise that did not pretend to create a perfect society even for its own age (as its toleration of slavery, which a majority of the founding generation recognized as an evil, well enough demonstrates).50  Even so, I am confident that public flogging and handbranding would not be sustained by our courts, and any espousal of originalism as a practical theory of exegesis must somehow come to terms with that reality.

 

One way of doing so, of course, would be to say that it was originally intended that the cruel and unusual punishment clause would have an evolving content–that “cruel and unusual” originally meant “cruel and unusual for the age in question” and not “cruel and unusual in 1791.”  But to be faithful to originalist philosophy, one must not only say this but demonstrate it to be so on the basis of some textual or historical evidence.  Perhaps the mere words “cruel and unusual” suggest an evolutionary intent more than other provisions of the Constitution, but that is far from clear; and I know of no historical evidence for that meaning.  And if the faint-hearted originalist is willing simply to posit such an intent for the “cruel and unusual punishment” clause, why not for the due process clause, etc.? . . .

 

Having described what I consider the principal difficulties with the originalist and nonoriginalist approaches, I suppose I owe it to the listener to say which of the two evils I prefer.  It is originalism.  I take the need for theoretical legitimacy seriously, and even if one assumes (as many nonoriginalists do not even bother to do) that the Constitution was originally meant to expound evolving rather than permanent values, as I discussed earlier I see no basis for believing that supervision of the evolution would have been committed to the courts.  At an even more general theoretical level, originalism seems to me more compatible with the nature and purpose of a Constitution in a democratic system.  A democratic society does not, by and large, need constitutional guarantees to insure that its laws will reflect “current values.”  Elections take care of that quite well.  The purpose of constitutional guarantees of individual rights that are at the center of this controversy–is precisely to prevent the law from reflecting certain changes in original values that the society adopting the Constitution thinks fundamentally undesirable.  Or, more precisely, to require the society to devote to the subject the long and hard consideration required for a constitutional amendment before those particular values can be cast aside.

 

I also think the central practical defect of nonoriginalism is fundamental and irreparable:  the impossibility of achieving any consensus on what, precisely, is to replace original meaning, once that is abandoned.  The practical defects of originalism, on the other hand, while genuine enough, seem to me less severe.  While it may indeed be unrealistic to have substantial confidence that judges and lawyers will find the correct historical answer to such refined questions of original intent as the precise content of “the executive Power,” for the vast majority of questions the answer is clear.  The death penalty, for example, was not cruel and unusual punishment because it is referred to in the Constitution itself; and the right of confrontation by its plain language meant, at least, being face-to-face with the person testifying against one at trial.  For the nonoriginalist, even these are open questions. . . .

 

Now the main danger in judicial interpretation of the Constitution–or, for that matter, in judicial interpretations of any law–is that the judges will mistake their own predilections for the law.  Avoiding this error is the hardest part of being a conscientious judge; perhaps no conscientious judge ever succeeds entirely.  Nonoriginalism, which under one or another formulation invokes “fundamental values” as the touchstone of constitutionality, plays precisely to this weakness.  It is very difficult for a person to discern a difference between those political values that he personally thinks most important, and those political values that are “fundamental to our society.”  Thus, by the adoption of such a criterion judicial personalization of the law is enormously facilitated. . . .

 

Originalism does not aggravate the principal weakness of the system, for it establishes a historical criterion that is conceptually quite separate from the preferences of the judge himself.  And the principal defect of that approach–that historical research is always difficult and sometimes inconclusive – will, unlike nonoriginalism, lead to a more moderate rather than a more extreme result.  The inevitable tendency of judges to think that the law is what they would like it to be will, I have no doubt, cause most errors in judicial historiography to be made in the direction of projecting upon the age of 1789 current, modern values–so that as applied, even as applied in the best of faith, originalism will (as the historical record shows) end up as something of a compromise.  Perhaps not a bad characteristic for a constitutional theory. . . .

 

The vast majority of my dissents from nonoriginalist thinking (and I hope at least some of those dissents will be majorities) will, I am sure, be able to be framed in the terms that, even if the provision in question has an evolutionary content, there is inadequate indication that any evolution in social attitudes has occurred.51  That–to conclude this largely theoretical talk on a note of reality–is the real dispute that appears in the case:  not between nonoriginalists on the one hand and pure originalists on the other, concerning the validity of looking at all to current values; but rather between, on the one hand, nonoriginalists . . . and pure-originalists-accepting for the sake-of-argument-evolutionary-content, and, on the other hand, other adherents of the same. . . approaches, concerning the nature and degree of evidence necessary to demonstrate that constitutional evolution has occurred.

© 1989 by Antonin Scalia.  All rights reserved.

* This address was delivered on September 16, 1988 at the University of Cincinnati as the William Howard Taft Constitutional Law Lecture.

** Associate Justice, United States Supreme Court.

8 272 U.S. 52 (1926).

13 Humphrey’s Executor v. United States, 295 U.S. 602, 628 (1935).

24 5 U.S. (1  Cranch.) 137,177 (1803).

  1. I..TRIBE, supra note 15, at 45.

26 108 S. Ca. 2798 (1988).

27 Id. At 2800.

42 See I.W. CROSSKEY, POLITICS AND THE CONSTITUTION 428 (1953); see also U.S. CONST. Art. 1 § 8.

43 2.W.BLACKSTONE, COMMENTARIES ON THE LAWS OF ENGLAND 262 n. 33 (Tucker ed. 1803).

44 Compare 2 W. BLACKSTONE, id. At 260,260-62 n. 30, with U.S. CONST. art, II, § 2,cl. 2.

45 Compare 2 W. BLACKSTONE id. At 257, 257 n. 21, with U.S. CONST. art. II, § 2, cl. 2.

48 See F. MAITLAND, THE CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY OF ENGLAND 387-400 (1908).

50 See Monaghan, Our Perfect Constitution, 56 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 353 (1981).

51 See e.g., Thompson v. Oklahoma, 108 S. Ct. 2687, 2711 (1988) (Scalia, J., dissenting).

 

 

 

Rawls vs. Nozick på dansk

Monday, February 1st, 2016

En af det tyvende århundredes væsentligste filosofiske skærmydsler var striden mellem de to Harvard-filosoffer John Rawls (1921–2002) og Robert Nozick (1938–2002). Konflikten udfoldede sig især på baggrund af bøgerne A Theory of Justice (Rawls 1971) og Anarchy, State and Utopia (Nozick 1974).

1970’ernes USA var en tid præget af intellektuelt og politisk vemod. Den lange og opslidende Vietnam-krig (1955–1975) havde svært ved at mønstre folkelig opbakning, og Watergate-skandalen (1972) havde kastet smuds på præsidentembedet og fået den amerikanske præsident Nixon til at trække sig i vanære. Folk nærede mistillid til den bestående orden og ledte efter nye politiske løsninger.

Det var her, Rawls og Nozick meldte sig med to skelsættende bøger om politisk filosofi. Rawls bød ind med en socialliberal vision, hvor individuel frihed forenes med et mål om økonomisk lighed, mens Nozick slog til lyd for en libertariansk samfundsindretning, hvor økonomisk omfordeling opfattes som en krænkelse af den personlige frihed. Dog skriver de begge i en liberal politisk tradition, hvor individet kommer før fællesskabet, og hvor individuel frihed opfattes som det højeste politiske gode.

Selvom Rawls og Nozick ligger i hver deres ende af det liberalistiske spektrum, så tackler de begge spørgsmål om retfærdighed, fordelingspolitik og hvordan det perfekte samfund bør se ud. Det gør striden mellem dem til en frugtbar debat.

RAWLS NOZICK

Piketty’s Critique of Capitalism

Saturday, January 23rd, 2016

Thomas Piketty has caused a stir with his predictions about increasing inequality and private and inherited wealth growing at higher rates than incomes. This essay discusses the assumptions behind Piketty’s projections, which are far less certain than Piketty often implies. As this essay will show, even if private fortunes should continue to grow as predicted, Piketty is still unable to substantiate his “grand narrative” about the postulated threats to democracy. Furthermore, this essay will show that Piketty’s calls for steep increases in taxes on income and capital would have adverse economic effects – not only for savers, but wage earners as well. Like Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century,” this essay aims to be accessible to the general public.

Otto Piketty Essay

Et svar på Poppers ”Poverty of Historicism”

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Det kan synes mærkeligt at jeg har argumenteret for en anvendelse af falsifikationslignende metoder indenfor historiefaget eftersom netop historiefaget udpeges som uegnet for falsifikation i Poppers egen Poverty of Historicism (1957). Jeg mener imidlertid ikke, at der er nogen større modsætning mellem den brug af falsifikation i historiefaget som jeg har advokeret i dette essay og så Poppers tese i Poverty of Hisoricism. Poppers kritik af historicismen tager sig primært ud som en kritik af Hegel og Marxs historiske determinisme der opererer ud fra betragtningen om, at historien bevæger sig mod et mål. Det er rigtigt, at selve historicismen ikke kan determineres og falsificeres. Men det er heller ikke det jeg har argumenteret for i dette essay. Jeg har argumenteret for, at historikeren kan falsificere forskellige bestanddele af sit arbejde, og at man skal bruge falsifikation hvor man kan. Poppers tese er altså, at historisk kausalitet ikke kan falsificeres. Min argumentation er, at hjælpemidler såsom korrelationer, indicier og enkelte kildetekster kan falsificeres og bør falsificeres. Eller sagt meget sloganistisk, så har jeg i dette essay argumenteret for, at historikeren skal bruge falsifikation hvornår end han kan, vel vidende at historikerens konklusioner vdr. historisk kausalitet ikke er falsificerbare.

Så vidt jeg kan se er dette standpunkt kun i strid med Poppers præmis II fra afsnittet Common Inconsistencies in the Arguments of Historicists: Historicists are bad at imagining conditions under which an identified trend ceases.[i] Hertil vil jeg indvende (1) at hvis viden besidder sin egen immanente rationalitet, så vil effekterne af i sig selv vil være underkastet effekterne af falsifikation (2) at alle er sårbare overfor confirmation bias, hvilket blot gør applikationen af falsifikation hvornår end det er muligt den endnu mere nødvendig.

Popper her overså en af styrkerne ved sin egen epistemologi, nemlig hans videreudvikling af den Sokratiske metode stadige forfining af uperfekte fortolkninger.

Når jeg alligevel går på tværs af Popper i denne sag er det fordi hans analyse efter min mening er unødvendigt finalistisk: Jeg er enig i Poppers kritik af Platon-Hegel-Marxes historicisme i den forstand at historisk determinisme for nuværende må afvises på det kraftigste. Jeg er også enig med Popper i, at historiefaget for nuværende må benytte sig af en ”pragmatisk historicisme” afledt af observérbare korrelationer. Men hvor Popper mener, at historisk determinisme er umuligt, ”there is a barrier to what we can know about what we will know in the future” mener jeg, at vi endnu ikke ved om det er muligt at determinere fremtiden ud fra tilstrækkeligt komplekse studier af fortiden.

Jeg mener også, at Poverty of Historicism trækker linierne for hårdt op: Her er det vigtigt, at etablere, at der er forskel på determinisme og sandsynlighed via korrelation. Popper argumenterer for, at man bør introducere en ”pragmatisk historicisme” når determinismen er uopnåelig. Der mener jeg, at Popper skelner for hårdt mellem videnskab og ikke-videnskab: Selv hårde videnskaber som Fysik løber ind i problemer der ligner historikerens: Man observerer korellationer og ser mønstre gentage sig, men kan kun gisne om disses kausalitet. Historiefaget kan med andre ord kun komme et stykke ned af den Popper’ske epistemologis vej.

[i] Popper, Karl: The Poverty of Historicism section 28



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