Dr. Aeon J. Skoble is Professor of Philosophy at Bridgewater State University. He is the author of Deleting the State: An Argument about Government (Open Court, 2008), the editor of Reading Rasmussen and Den Uyl: Critical Essays on Norms of Liberty (Lexington Books, 2008), and co-editor of Political Philosophy: Essential Selections (Prentice-Hall, 1999) and Reality, Reason, and Rights (Lexington Books, 2011). In addition, he has frequently lectured and written for the Institute for Humane Studies and the Foundation for Economic Education, and he is a Senior Fellow at the Fraser Institute. His main research includes theories of rights, the nature and justification of authority, and virtue ethics. In addition, he writes widely on the intersection of philosophy and popular culture, among other things co-editing the best-selling The Simpsons and Philosophy (Open Court, 2000) and three other books on film and television.
My social media news feed contained two stories this week that were sad in different ways. In the first story, a woman had her kids taken away by the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) because when the toddler was screaming about being in time-out, someone overheard the screams and reported abuse. She eventually got her children back, but not for several months, during which her newborn almost died from mistreatment. There was never any evidence of abuse or neglect by the children’s parents.In the second story, a 12-year-old girl committed suicide because of relentless bullying at
Did you get embroiled in all the social media debates last week about Trump’s tweets concerning transgender people in the military? I sure did. Today, I don’t want to talk about the substance of those presidential tweets, but about their authority — or lack thereof.Does the president even have the authority to ban transgender people from serving?I received some reactions along the lines of “well, Truman desegregated the military, so while I oppose anti-transgender discrimination, I guess he does have the authority” or “he’s the commander-in-chief, so he can run the military as he
Does the thought of Amazon buying Whole Foods make you speculate about the demise of competing grocers and fume about the online retailer’s plans for world domination? Or does it get you excited about a new era of affordable and convenient high-end groceries?On June 16, 2017, Amazon announced that it intends to purchase Whole Foods. By June 21, the New York Times had published an op-ed denouncing the acquisition. Evoking images of colluding railroad barons, scholar Lina Khan argues that antitrust officials should stop the acquisition.She notes that Whole Foods represents less than 5% of the grocery
It came across my news feed this morning that teens in Gardendale, AL, cannot mow lawns for a summer job unless they apply for a business license, which costs $110 (plus a day of dealing with city paperwork). This story is a perfect example of what licensure regulations are really about and why they are completely at odds with basic human rights. Let’s begin by noticing how this came up in the first place. Young Alainna Paris was mowing her neighbors’ lawns for $20–$40 each. Now, many teens earn extra money mowing lawns, and yet there don’t seem to be a lot of law-enforcement resources
In my previous column, I noted that if you go through Article II of the Constitution, “You might be surprised by how little power the executive actually has,” but that over the decades the legislative branch has willingly ceded much of its power to the president. When we learn about the Constitution in school, we are told that the separation of powers is a feature intended to keep any one branch from becoming too powerful. The legislature passes laws, but the executive can veto them. Presidential vetoes can be overridden, but the judiciary can invalidate laws too. The executive has administrative
The inauguration of President Trump was immediately followed by size comparisons. I’m referring, of course, to the size of the crowd gathered to watch the ceremony, which took on a partisan flavor, as Democrats noted that the turnout for President Obama’s inauguration was much larger, and Republicans complained that the media were misreporting the turnout. My response was exactly the same as it was in 2013, 2009, 2005, and 2001: extremely disappointed that these are regarded as Big Events at all. The inauguration of a President should not be a grand ceremony full of pomp and circumstance —
As surely everyone has now been reminded, US presidents are not elected by straight nationwide majority voting. Rather, the majority vote in each state is used to assign that state’s delegates to the Electoral College, which then votes for president a few weeks later. A state has as many electors as the size of its congressional delegation (and the District of Columbia is treated as a small state for this purpose, having 3 electors, the minimum possible). A person wins the presidential election by getting a majority of these electoral votes. It is therefore possible for all candidates to receive
Marco Rubio got a lot of press last year for claiming that “we need more welders and less philosophers” [sic]. But was he right? Some of the reaction to his statement was negative, not merely because of the bad grammar (“less” should be “fewer”) but because disparaging the liberal arts seemed anti-intellectual. Some of the reaction was positive, either from people who already think the liberal arts are a waste of time or from people who think that we shouldn’t emphasize liberal arts to the detriment of vocational training. Rubio’s condescension notwithstanding, this last point is
This past June, the US Senate approved a bill requiring women to register for the military draft. Although we do not currently have conscription, men have been required to register for conscription since 1980, the theory being that should the need for a draft arise, the government would be one step ahead of the game by already having eligible persons registered. (Besides the 85 senators who voted in favor, the change is also supported by former Senator Hillary Clinton.) The argument advanced in support of the change was that requiring only men to register for the draft was unfair, and that women
I was eating lunch today, a colleague of mine brought to my attention an article in Jacobin Magazine entitled “A Philosophy for the Propertied” – urging us to reject libertarianism as a utopian fantasy. My first response to my colleague was that I was too busy to make a full response, but then I wrote, “who am I kidding, I’ll have a look.” I predicted, just for fun, that most of what I’d find wrong in the piece would be based on misconception or caricature. I was correct. What follows are more than a dozen serious problems with the piece. Item 1: “right-wing libertarianism.” Libertarianism
What if I told you that some people were better than others? I don’t mean better at tennis or better at singing or better at math. I mean a better breed of person, entitled by nature to exercise authority over you. I’m guessing you would reject that claim, possibly even find it insulting. I would join you in rejecting it, and that’s one of the ways to understand freedom and its importance. When 18th-century thinkers said things like “we are naturally free and equal,” this is what they had in mind. If no one is naturally entitled to power over me, then I’m naturally free. Being
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