Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Today's briefing

I'll begin with the bad, very bad in fact. Early reports on the Iraqi Constitution are not very promising. Fred Kaplan of Slate, in an essay appropriately entitled Articles of Consternation, points out the various problems. One item stands out near the beginning:

The charter is vague to the point of vacuousness in its most basic proclamations. Article 2 reads:

Islam is the official religion of state and a fundamental source for legislation.
(a) No law may contravene the essential verities of Islamic law.
(b) No law may contravene the principles of democracy.
(c) No law may contravene the rights and basic liberties enumerated in this constitution.

Among the "rights and liberties" enumerated are:

There are noble things in this constitution as well. Article 7 forbids racism, terrorism, and ethnic cleansing. Article 35 guarantees "human freedom and dignity." Article 36 guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of the press. But, again, it's hard to square these provisions with the rest of the document. There is also the occasional silliness, for instance Article 22, which guarantees all Iraqis the right of employment.
It really is difficult for me to understand why, when we have such an excellent example in our own Constitution, the U.S.-supported government there does not try to emulate it as some more intelligent commentators have suggested.
As Fred Kaplan correctly points out in the last sentence:
...it is not at all clear—with or without this constitution—what kind of government, what kind of nation, this war and this process have wrought.
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Those who are still confused on the issue of Libertarianism vs. Objectivism would benefit by reading this excellent post by Paul Hsieh at NoodleFood. Paul discusses academic libertarian philosopher Randy Barnett's views on the compatibility of Libertarianism with different moral foundations. Paul quotes Barnett:
Libertarians need not choose between moral rights and consequences because theirs is a political, not a moral philosophy; one that can be shown to be compatible with various moral theories, which as we shall see is one source of its appeal. Moral theories based on either moral rights or on consequentialism purport to be "comprehensive," insofar as they apply to all moral questions to the exclusion of all other moral theories. Although the acceptance of one of these moral theories entails the rejection of all others, libertarian moral rights philosphers such as Eric Mack, Loren Lomasky, Douglas Rasmussen and Douglas Den Uyl on the one hand, and utilitarians such as Jan Narveson on the other can embrace libertarian political theory with equal fervor. (Page 6 of PDF file.)
The subjectivist foundation of Libertarianism is thus explicitly admitted to.
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Finally, hat-tip to The Secular Foxhole for bringing to light the fact that there already a link on the Cambridge University Press website for Tara Smith's upcoming book Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist. Despite the rather steep list price ($80 !!) for the hardback edition, I can't wait for it to get published.

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