The Classical Liberal Constitution

That is title of Richard A. Epstein’s latest book. We are attending a colloquium in Philadelphia this week-end to discuss various aspects of Epstein’s book with other legal scholars.  We will keep you posted.

Fair or foul?

Was the Facebook mood experiment “fair” or “foul” from an ethical perspective? Is it even possible for ethics to produce a determinate or “right” answer to this question? Several armchair philosophers, for example, have concluded that Facebook’s recent study of user behavior is “scandalous,” “violates accepted research ethics,” and “should never have been performed.” Michelle Meyer, by contrast, recently wrote this well-reasoned defense of Facebook’s research methods:

But if it is ethically permissible for Facebook to offer a service that carries unknown emotional risks, and to alter that service to improve user experience, then it should be allowed — and encouraged — to try to quantify those risks and publish the results.

Although we agree with Professor Meyer’s analysis on the grounds that more knowledge is generally better than less knowledge, what about the problem of consent? That is, even if these secret online experiments are useful from a consequentialist perspective, are they not still unethical (illegal even) from a contractarian or Kantian perspective?

Sept. 18 Tweet Chat

Why isn’t “Constitution Day” a holiday?

Moreover, why do we celebrate “Labor Day” instead of Constitution Day? We propose the following: Instead of celebrating Labor Day on the first Monday of September, why not abolish this meaningless holiday and celebrate Constitution Day every Sept. 17 instead? (On that day in 1787, most (but not all) of the delegates attending the secret Philadelphia Convention signed the first draft of the U.S. Constitution, which was later submitted to local State conventions for formal ratification.)

Questions for Roger Goodell

Where are you hiding? (Your last tweet was two weeks ago; see below.) Have you replied yet to this letter dated Sept. 10 from several members of Congress? Also, what are you waiting for in the Adrian Peterson case? A video?

“The moral tragedy of Scottish independence”

That is the melodramatic title of this short essay by Emile Simpson, an English scholar and former British infantry officer. (Thanks to Tyler Cowen for the pointer.) Although we are not certain when a tragedy becomes a “moral tragedy,” Simpson’s paper is worth reading because he explains why tomorrow’s independence referendum is not really democratic at all, since the voting rules establishing who gets to vote — and who doesn’t get to vote — are arbitrary and thus questionable. (As an aside, we tentatively agree with Prof. Cowen when he writes: “Regardless of the result [of tomorrow's historic referendum in Scotland], allowing this referendum to go forward likely will go down as one of the greatest unforced errors in recent times.” We say “tentatively agree” because of the “ex ante” vs. “ex post” problem.) In any case, will the case of Scotland set a precedent for other regions in the world, such as Catalonia in Spain or California in the U.S., for that matter?


High-Five Social Experiment

Have you ever seen a crazy-looking bearded man high-five random strangers? Neither have we, until now … Meir Kalmanson is a genius.

Vampiric Medical Technology


We are re-blogging for our vampire friends our guest blog post below on the subject of “Vampiric medical technology.” Our post builds on our chapter (“Buy or Bite?“) in the book The Economics of the Undead in which we make the case for legal markets in blood sales between vampires and humans. In our blog post below, we extend this argument even further …

Originally posted on Economics of the Undead:

Guest Post by Enrique Guerra-Pujol

In Chapter 12 (“Buy or Bite?”) of The Economics of the Undead, I observed how most members of the vampire race resort to coercion, compulsion, and confiscation to procure fresh supplies of blood — an essential staple of the vampire diet — and I posed the following fundamental question: “Are vampires ‘bad’? Are they inherently evil or unethical creatures?”

My main argument in “Buy or Bite?” is that vampires are not necessarily bad, that without a legal market for the purchase and sale of blood, vampires have no other choice but to steal their supplies of blood through fraud and force. I thus proposed the creation of legalized “blood markets” to allow us humans to transfer our property rights in our blood to vampires on a consensual and contractual basis.

The domain of my argument, however, was limited to the fictional world of vampires…

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