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May 11, 2008

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jerry

This cleans up real nice in Emacs if you replace every ">" with two line feeds.

M-x replace-string ">" "^J^J"

James Wimberley

I got the same result on the "low road", in Movable Type at any rate, by just copying the extract into a draft email in Thunderbird and then copying that into the blog editor.

Sands is a name to remember for President Obama's Independent Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of War Crimes by Officials of the Previous Administration.

David Lloyd-Jones

Wimberley,

Agreed. It's refreshing to run across somebody who is sane, effective, well-informed and decent.

As you point out, Obama is going to have to import this particular resource.

mike

I really like David Levine's comment and Brad Delong's reply to it.

These questions are broader than the case of John Yoo. It makes me wonder if academics might ultimately serve as more credible arbiters in political debate, and thus ultimately become more positively influential, if academics were held to higher professional standards by their peers and by their host universities.

The difficult question is how to determine whether an academic, when advocating normative positions in political discourse, is behaving unprofessionally and/or dishonestly. What is the standard by which professional behavior should be judged?

I expect that making this judgment would be extremely tough in economics. For example, I find positions of many Chicago-school types, including some Nobel prize winners, to be purely ideological with regard to both their research and policy positions. They strike me as unprofessional and wholly inappropriate unprofessional behavior for a scholar. Their research so often starts with their predetermined answer and works backwards for the assumptions that "prove" it. Yet these same academics have received the greatest accolades awarded in our field.

Note that I do not mean to dismiss all ideas forwarded by Chicago-school/libertarian types. Some Chicago-school/libertarian arguments are both interesting and persuasive, and many have clear academic merit. Rather, I find their approach unscientific, wherein conclusions are clearly written in their minds in advance, before analysis begins. One finds little of the Center economist's 'on the one hand..., on the other hand...' within Chicago-school analysis; one hand is conveniently ignored, in many cases. In my view, this approach is both unscholarly and unprofessional for an academic economist, akin to David Levine's examples. Indeed, I suspect such an approach to scholarly work would be deemed unprofessional in any hard science, despite the fact that these ideologues actually believe what they say. Yet such ideology still lives and thrives under a furiously waved banner of 'science' within the field of economics.

Yes, I fully recognize many (particularly Chicago-trained types) would strongly disagree with these last couple paragraphs. That's fine--it is meant as an example.

The point is that I'd like to see higher scientific and professional standards in law, economics, and the other social sciences. I'd like to see such standards enforced in a reasonable way by the academic and professional disciplines and by the universities that employ them. But I can see that fair and appropriate guidelines of behavior will be difficult to determine. And I would worry that such guidelines might be disingenuously interpreted for personal or political reasons, in some cases. Great care needs to be taken in considering such guidelines.

But I think this is a discussion well worth having because the potential social rewards could be substantial...

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