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Deservingness

Jeremy Waldron: Equality of Opportunity, 19 September 2002

Against Equality of Opportunity 
by Matt Cavanagh.
Oxford, 223 pp., £25, February 2002, 0 19 924343 3
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... In 1974 Robert Nozick shattered the political complacency of the philosophical establishment when he published Anarchy, State and Utopia, a book arguing that justice had nothing to do with equality. Justice is about individual property rights, Nozick argued. You get what you make or find or work on (if no one else has made or found or worked on it first), and you get what you bargain for or what others choose for their own good reasons to give you or leave you in their wills ...

What to Tell the Axe-Man

Jeremy Waldron: Hypocrisy and Mendacity, 6 January 2011

Political Hypocrisy: The Mask of Power, from Hobbes to Orwell and Beyond 
by David Runciman.
Princeton, 272 pp., £13.95, September 2010, 978 0 691 14815 1
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Virtues of Mendacity: On Lying in Politics 
by Martin Jay.
Virginia, 241 pp., $24.95, April 2010, 978 0 8139 2972 9
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... When American politicians are caught having illicit sex – like Eliot Spitzer, who resigned as governor of New York in 2008 after it was revealed that he was using a call-girl when he went to Washington, or Mark Sanford, governor of South Carolina, who got into trouble when his aides discovered that he was really visiting a divorcée in Buenos Aires when he said he was hiking in the Appalachians – a lot of people say that it’s not the cheating or the fornication that bothers them ...

Whose Nuremberg Laws?

Jeremy Waldron: Race, 19 March 1998

Seeing a Colour-Blind Future: The Paradox of Race 
by Patricia Williams.
Virago, 72 pp., £5.99, April 1997, 1 86049 365 3
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Colour Conscious: The Political Morality of Race 
by Anthony Appiah and Amy Gutmann.
Princeton, 200 pp., £11.95, May 1998, 0 691 05909 8
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Race: The History of an Idea in the West 
by Ivan Hannaford.
Johns Hopkins, 464 pp., £49.50, June 1996, 0 8018 5222 6
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... Race is something which shouldn’t matter, but which has mattered and therefore has to matter. In a world uncontaminated by injustice, we could regard heritable differences in skin pigmentation, physiognomy, hair texture and body morphology as superficial traits. We could be, as they say, ‘colour blind’, treating those traits, as we treat the green in someone’s eyes, as features that point to nothing beyond themselves, above all nothing that would warrant different treatment or differences in respect ...

The Plight of the Poor in the Midst of Plenty

Jeremy Waldron: John Rawls, 15 July 1999

Collected Papers 
by John Rawls, edited by Samuel Freeman.
Harvard, 627 pp., £24.95, June 1999, 0 674 13739 6
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... John Rawls is best known as the author of a large book of ‘grand theory’, A Theory of Justice, that changed the face and refreshed the spirit of political philosophy when it was published in 1971. He is also the author of about forty scholarly articles, beginning with a chapter on ethics from his Princeton dissertation in 1951 and culminating with a short piece on Hiroshima, published in Dissent on the 50th anniversary of the first use of nuclear weapons against civilian targets ...

A Mistrust of Thunder and Lightning

Jeremy Waldron: Hobbes, 20 January 2000

Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes 
by Quentin Skinner.
Cambridge, 477 pp., £15.95, July 1997, 0 521 59645 9
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... He that hath good thoughts, and cannot clearly express them, were as good to have thought nothing at all.’ The quotation is from a speech by Pericles in an English translation of The History of the Peloponnesian War that Thomas Hobbes published in 1629. The sentiment expressed is one that haunted him throughout his intellectual endeavours. Hobbes regarded himself as one of the first philosophers to engage in genuine political science, by which he meant not only the analysis and observation of political systems but the practical ‘skill of making, and maintaining Commonwealths ...

Privatising the atmosphere

Jeremy Waldron, 4 November 1993

Beyond the New Right: Markets, Government and the Common Environment 
by John Gray.
Routledge, 195 pp., £19.99, June 1993, 0 415 09297 3
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... By instinct and by reputation, environmentalists tend to be socialists. They are hostile to private industry, they scorn the profit motive, and they are profoundly suspicious of any claim that societies work best when economic decisions are made in the medium of unregulated markets. By emphasising the dire consequences for the environment of unrestrained industry, they present themselves as champions of big government, large regulative agencies and strict legal controls ...

What about Bert?

Jeremy Waldron: Equality, 9 August 2001

Sovereign Virtue: The Theory and Practice of Equality 
by Ronald Dworkin.
Harvard, 511 pp., £23.95, June 2000, 0 674 00219 9
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... In the 13th chapter of this formidable collection of Ronald Dworkin’s writings on equality, we are asked to consider a problem about health cover. The chapter is entitled ‘Playing God: Genes, Clones and Luck’, and the problem has to do with the availability of health insurance to those who are revealed, by genetic testing, to have a higher than ordinary risk of contracting some disease that may require expensive medical treatment ...

Boutique Faith

Jeremy Waldron: Against Free Speech, 20 July 2006

Courting the Abyss: Free Speech and the Liberal Tradition 
by John Durham Peters.
Chicago, 309 pp., £18.50, April 2005, 0 226 66274 8
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... I have always liked hanging around courtrooms. In the Crown Court in Oxford in the late 1970s, I happened on the trial of a racist agitator, who had festooned the streets of Leamington Spa with posters depicting Britons of African ancestry as apes. He was charged under the Race Relations Act with inciting racial hatred. Leamington Spa at that time was home to Robert Relf, a leader of something called the ‘British Movement’, who had made a name for himself earlier in the 1970s by advertising his house for sale ‘to a white family only ...

Reality Check

Jeremy Waldron: The One Per Cent Doctrine, 10 April 2008

Worst-Case Scenarios 
by Cass Sunstein.
Harvard, 340 pp., £16.95, November 2007, 978 0 674 02510 3
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... Two months after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, Dick Cheney was told about a meeting that Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri had had a month before the attacks around a campfire in Kandahar with Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, a past chairman of Pakistan’s atomic energy commission. Cheney’s intelligence advisers began speculating about the probability that Mahmood was offering to assist al-Qaida in obtaining information that might enable them to construct or acquire a nuclear device ...

Politics can be Hell

Jeremy Waldron, 22 August 1996

Machiavelli’s Virtue 
by Harvey Mansfield.
Chicago, 371 pp., £23.95, April 1996, 0 226 50368 2
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... Man, said Aristotle, is a political animal; it is his nature to live in a state. Men and women may live in political communities, modern liberals have retorted, but there’s nothing particularly political in the nature or character of most people. In every society there are some who have a taste for politics, some who want to be rulers or representatives; but they are a tiny minority ...

By the Roots

Jeremy Waldron, 9 February 1995

The Anatomy of Anti-Liberalism 
by Stephen Holmes.
Harvard, 330 pp., £23.95, November 1993, 0 674 03180 6
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... The day will come, and perhaps it is not far off, when John Locke will be universally placed among those writers who have perpetrated the most evil among men.’ If Locke has a competitor in this, it is David Hume, ‘the most culpable of these fatal writers who will not cease to damn the [18th] century in the eyes of posterity, the one who has used the most talent with the most composure to produce the most evil ...

Quibbling, Wrangling

Jeremy Waldron: How to draft a constitution, 12 September 2019

Revolutionary Constitutions: Charismatic Leadership and the Rule of Law 
by Bruce Ackerman.
Harvard, 457 pp., £25.95, May 2019, 978 0 674 97068 7
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... Framing​ a constitution for a country undergoing political upheaval is a messy and dangerous business, and it is by no means guaranteed to succeed. We think of South Africa in the early 1990s as a heartening example. ‘A relatively conservative Afrikaner leader decided to negotiate before he had lost,’ the journalist Colin Eglin said, ‘and an imprisoned leader of a liberation movement decided to negotiate before he had won ...

The Edges of Life

Jeremy Waldron, 12 May 1994

Life’s Dominion: An Argument about Abortion and Euthanasia 
by Ronald Dworkin.
HarperCollins, 273 pp., £17.50, May 1993, 0 394 58941 6
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... Do trees have rights? Radical conservationists who oppose the logging of redwoods in the American North-West, or the destruction of the tropical rain forests, sometimes claim that they do. The forests, they say, have been here much longer than we have, and have as much right to exist as the rapacious human species that is destroying them. Arguing that trees have rights is their way of insisting that there is something to be said on the trees’ behalf in environmental disputes, quite apart from what we say on behalf of the humans involved (who may or may not have an interest in letting the trees live ...

Rock Bottom

Thomas Nagel: Legislation, 14 October 1999

The Dignity of Legislation 
by Jeremy Waldron.
Cambridge, 210 pp., £35, July 1999, 0 521 65092 5
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... book has a chip on its shoulder, hence the title. In the academic culture of legal theory that Waldron partly inhabits, legislatures come in for a lot of distrust or even contempt, by comparison with courts. Courts are widely thought to arrive at their results by reasoning, whereas legislatures are thought to operate by the crude clash of partisan ...

Unlike a Scotch Egg

Glen Newey: Hate Speech, 5 December 2013

The Harm in Hate Speech 
by Jeremy Waldron.
Harvard, 292 pp., £19.95, June 2012, 978 0 674 06589 5
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... probably not the sort of email that often drops into an All Souls professor’s inbox but, as Jeremy Waldron tells us, some people take the doctrine of free speech literally, and cut up rough when they think it has been slighted. All the same, one assumes that the sender of the email would defend to the death ...

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