Dada is the sun, Dada is the egg. Dada is the Police of the Police.

1/30/2005

Conservative Philosopher says: Do your job!

Anal/Conservative Philosopher Keith Burgess-Jackson says that much havoc is wreaked by people not doing their job:

Many problems would be solved and much controversy averted if people would simply do their jobs. If you’re a teacher, teach. Don’t indoctrinate. If you’re a judge, apply the law. Don’t make it up to suit your inclinations. If you’re a scientist, stay within the confines of your discipline. Don’t expound on matters outside your ken. If you’re a journalist, report the news. Don’t interject your opinions about the events you cover.

Of course, being a conservative, KBJ thinks that liberals are more likely to offend in this regard:
liberals (I used to be one) have a more difficult time doing their job than conservatives do. Liberal judges are not content merely to interpret and apply the law. They want to shape it. Ronald Dworkin argues that constitutional law is nothing more (or less) than moral theorizing. Judges are philosopher kings!

KBJ states Dworkin's view as if it is self-evidently scandalous, echoing Ann Coulter's favorite phrase: judges as "philosopher-kings". Of course, having a degree in law, Burgess-Jackson should know that in saying that in linking moral principles with law, Dworkin is hardly departing from traditional philosophy of law (though Dworkin does of course depart in other ways). Whether Dworkin's view is closer to positivism or natural law is a matter of some debate, but simply viewing the legal as a subset of the moral, as natural law theory does, is not only not a radical departure from tradition, it is the philosophical underpining of the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

This is not a "liberal" view. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is himself a natural lawyer. As were Locke and Jefferson. So on a very mainstream intepretation of jurisprudence, judges who look to moral principles in order to make decisions regarding constitutional law are doing precisely what their job requires of them.

He goes on:

Liberal reporters could not resist the temptation to try to influence the recent presidential election. Day after day, news stories in The New York Times and other newspapers were biased against President Bush and in favor of John Kerry.

I agree that media bias is a problem; however, the claim that the media were by and large biased in Kerry's favor is preposterous. Since 9-11-01, the media has played lapdog to the Bush adminstration, never questioning the legitimacy or the coherence of its "war on terror" and mindlessly parroting administration rhetoric about bring "freedom" to the Middle East. During the campaign, the media focused relentlessly on terrorism, which should have been a minor issue in the campaign, which played to Bush's strengths.

The attention given by the mainstream media to the Swift Boat Veterans nonsense should alone suffice to demonstrate the absence of any pro-Kerry bias.

A/CP continues:

What do all of these cases have in common? The answer is: a captive audience. Students are in class to be taught ... Reporters have readers who expect to be given the news ... Scientists such as Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins have avid followers who enjoy their popularizations of science. They abuse their readers (violate their trust) by interjecting political and moral bias into their discussions.

I fail to see how any of these are instances of "captive audiences". You might be able to make the case for students, but even that is a stretch; no one forces students to go to university (I assume KBJ is talking about higher education here). But in what sense are readers of the New York Times a captive audience? It's not like they don't have conservative alternatives to that supposedly liberal paper. They can turn on Fox News, or buy the New York Post instead.

And readers of Gould and Dawkins? That makes even less sense.


Moreover, the underlying premise behind KBJ's complaint is a flawed one. He assumes that there exist fairly rigid categories of "jobs" for which there are fairly rigid lists of responsibilities. Such categories and lists might exist only in official policies of universities, for instance, but these rarely prohibit the expression of political opinions, so I assume that's not what he has in mind. Other than these official guidelines, jobs are what people make of them. It is written nowhere that a professor's job is to provide information without bias.

If there is a specific reason why someone in a specific job ought not to act in a certain way, then that argument needs to be made. Simply declaring that the person is "not doing their job" won't do it.


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