Gus diZerega over at Liberty & Power has made a couple of posts arguing not only in favor on the democratic peace thesis (about which I have posted before; see here) but also, and far more incredibly, that democracies are spontaneous orders. See his posts here and here. I commented on the latter, offering a partial critique of his arguments on both counts. I don’t think he is entirely wrong, but on the important points, and particularly on democratic peace, he is. I won’t be getting into his feud with Robert Higgs, however.
I recently submitted abstracts for two papers to the APSA for their August 2006 annual conference. I’ll know in a few months whether either of them has been accepted. The abstracts are reproduced below. One of the papers is a work in progress, the other is one that I plan to right before the conference.
Also, my department’s GSA (Graduate Student Association) started publishing a one page newsletter for the graduate students of my department not too long ago, so I submitted these abstracts as well as a short blurb on my research interests for it. They’ll probably be appearing within the next month or two, although The POLIgraph is hardly a publication of note.
POLIgraph blurb on my research interests:
Geoffrey Plauché, 4th Year Ph.D. Student, Political Theory
My interests are fairly broad and varied, but my current research is primarily in the areas of philosophy of science, Aristotelian ethical and political thought, and liberalism (in the classical/libertarian sense of the word).
In philosophy of science, I am particularly exploring dialectics as a methodological “orientation toward contextual analysis of the systemic and dynamic relations of components within a totality” (Chris Matthew Sciabarra, Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism, Penn. State U. Press, 2000; p. 173). In short, it is the art of context-keeping. A dialectical analysis of social phenomena involves three conceptually distinct but interrelated levels of generality: 1) the personal (psycho-epistemological, ethical), 2) the cultural (linguistic, ideological), and 3) the structural (economic, political). I am also exploring praxeology, the exact and a priori general science of human action; it is the distinctive method of the Austrian School of economics and is, I think, the proper foundation for economics (its most developed branch) as well as ethics (see http://praxeology.net/praxeo.htm).
Although not set in stone yet, as I will be taking my comprehensive exams in April 2006, my dissertation will likely be on the subject of Aristotelian liberalism. It will contribute to the relatively new but growing body of work attempting to synthesize the best features of Aristotelian ethical and political thought and liberal political and economic thought. Perhaps the most prominent thinkers in this field are Douglas Rasmussen and Douglas Den Uyl. Aristotelian liberalism attempts to transcend the liberal/communitarian debate by embracing liberalism’s commitment to pluralism, diversity, and the free market while grounding politics in a eudaimonistic theory of virtue ethics and natural rights. Aristotelian liberalism, I believe, avoids the specters that continue to plague communitarianism – paternalism and totalitarianism – and the traditional communitarian and conservative criticisms of liberalism – atomism and license – while promoting freedom in community and human flourishing.
Abstract for “On the Social Contract Theory and the Persistence of Anarchy”
By Geoffrey Plauché
Traditional social contract theory holds that the origin and purpose of government is to escape the state of nature and its perceived deficiencies. The state of nature is conceived of as being anarchic, meaning that there is no monopolistic common authority to provide security, determine the law, and adjudicate conflicting claims and secure compliance. It will be the argument of this paper that this attempt at justifying the State with social contract theory ultimately fails. We can never really get out of anarchy. The formation of states does not eliminate anarchy but rather transforms natural anarchy into other types, the most well-known and widely recognized of which is international anarchy (i.e., the anarchic relationship that exists between states in the international system). Even the formation of a World-State will not eliminate anarchy. It will be argued that there are at least four major types of anarchy, determined in large part by the structure of the power relationships within them. In light of this, the fundamental issue ceases to be whether the State or anarchy is to be preferred, but rather becomes which type of anarchy is to be preferred.
Abstract for “Moral Legislation and Democracy: The Devlin-Dworkin-Hart Debate Revisited”
By Geoffrey Plauché
In the latter half of the last century, the prominent legal theorists Lord Patrick Devlin, Ronald Dworkin, and H.L.A. Hart engaged in a debate over the issue of moral legislation and democracy. Lord Devlin argued for the right of society, through democratic institutions, to protect and preserve its moral traditions. Dworkin and Hart each effectively criticized Devlin’s arguments in their own way, but it will be argued that even Dworkin and Hart do not completely close the door to moral legislation. More importantly, it will be argued that Devlin’s argument for the right of society to enact moral legislation fails on its own grounds. Political and economic theory and history inform us that granting the power of moral legislation to the State, even a democratic one, actually has the opposite effect Devlin expects. Rather than preserve existing moral institutions, the power of the State tends inevitably to be commandeered by (coalitions of) vocal minorities who favor alternative institutions, giving them a disproportionate influence over legislation and the vast coercive power of the State compared to that of the silent majority. This leads to significantly faster change in traditional institutions than would result from moral suasion and laissez-faire social evolution. It will also be argued that Devlin’s rights-based argument suffers from two logical fallacies: composition and misplaced concreteness. Finally, a distinction will be made between vices and crimes, and it will be argued that only the latter should legally justify the use of force.