At Zeit Online, I argue that rich countries are much better able to protect their citizens from the disastrous consequences of global warming. If we are to enable poor countries to meet the challenges of the coming decades, sustained economic growth will have to be a big part of our tool kit.
UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, my original article has triggered a bit of a debate, and Zeit Online has now published an article-length response by Benjamin Ewert.
In the Wall Street Journal, I review Mark Mazower’sGoverning the World. His intellectual history of world government is a very impressive and highly compelling piece of scholarship. Even so, I have some disagreements:
“Universalism,” Mr. Mazower concludes, “is in the eye of the beholder.” But this is too extreme—and too easy—a lesson to draw. Though supposedly universalist norms have often been invoked in bad faith, it is not always impossible to distinguish just from unjust laws, or to extract colonialism from humanitarian intervention. Unless we resign ourselves to total moral relativism, there is little alternative to striving for relations between states that are governed by universal rules. Early enthusiasm about the emancipatory promise of world government now seems hopelessly naive. But the imperative to build an order capable of safeguarding peace and protecting individual rights has hardly become less urgent.
At the New York Times’ Room for Debate, I argue that we should allow performance-enhancing drugs in sports:
The distinction we currently draw between which substances should be allowed, and which should be prohibited, ultimately says a lot about our own arbitrary assumptions – and precious little about anything else. Fans admire athletes for their amazing skill and boundless determination. As long as all athletes have access to performance-enhancing drugs, winning would still require that awe-inspiring skill and determination. So, while there are good reasons to ban those drugs that pose significant health risks even when taken under medical supervision (dinitrophenol comes to mind), all other substances – like erythropoietin (EPO) and propranolol, for example – should be allowed.
Over at Zeit Online, I try to give some philosophical perspective to the ongoing debate about intellectual property in the age of the internet.
In the article, I argue that both many proponents and many opponents of intellectual property make false libertarian assumptions. If we take John Rawls’, not Robert Nozick’s, justification of private property as our starting point, we can stop the IP culture war - and finally have a pragmatic debate about the right balance between the interests of artists and the interests of their audiences.
(Note: the article is of course in German.)
A few months ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the wonderful philosopher Tim Scanlon for what, I believe, turned into the most extensive interview with him available so far. The result has now been published on The Utopian (as well as over at Books & Ideas and La Vie des Idées.)
You can see a condensed version of the interview here.
Philosophers, political theorists and intellectual historians may instead want to consult the full version. (If you want to print the interview out or load it onto your e-reader, you can also download a PDF version.)
Over at the blog of the London Review of Books, I wrote a short review of Thilo Sarrazin’s latest work, “Germany Doesn’t Need the Euro.”
Sarrazin’s arguments are far from convincing. But he has, once again, struck a nerve. Many Germans agree that the euro’s introduction was a misguided form of penance for the past. German newspapers rarely discuss the euro’s contribution to German growth, or the effects that a chaotic breakdown of the single currency might have for Germany. There is surprisingly little discussion of how the country’s self-interest might, in the long run, be served. Cheered on by Sarrazin, people instead ask themselves whether, 67 years after the end of the Third Reich, Germany still has a moral obligation to pay for Greece’s profligacy. Once the question is put in those terms, it’s hardly surprising that, according to a recent poll, 60 per cent of Germans want to see Greece leave the eurozone and 79 per cent oppose the introduction of eurobonds.
I have become a regular contributor to a live debate show about current affairs, philosophy and culture on French public radio - La Grande Table, which airs on France Culture.
So, if you can tolerate my poor French accent, you can now hear my views on such topics as Jürgen Habermas’s “Constitution of Europe”; what it is to be right-wing; or fiction’s attempts to deal with the financial crisis.
I have written a few articles for Slate in the last months. This one, for example is an assessment of the continuing ascendance of Europe’s far-right, as evidenced by the ugly tone of the French Presidential elections.
Update: Here’s another recent article for Slate, on the most overlooked crisis in Europe: depopulation.
Absolute monarchs are able to cow their courtiers into submission by wielding the implicit threat of pain, imprisonment or execution. Berlusconi never had such tyrannical powers. Even so, his underlings acted as if they were mere courtiers—apparently, the hope of getting rich was quite enough to keep them in line. This makes the Italian case all the more relevant at a time when the superrich and their political enablers seek to wield ever more influence over democracies in a climate of austerity. It seems that to achieve their purposes, our would-be masters need not impede our rights or liberties: the promise of a farthing of their vast riches might be quite enough to turn many of us into docile servants.
(The article is behind a paywall. Non-subscribers can view it here.)
On Walter Laqueur and the European Dream, in the Wall Street Journal.
If the years following the end of the Cold War now seem an era of dreams, then our current moment may one day be known as the era of nightmares. Just as Mr. Fukuyama and others once predicted that the West’s ideas would soon be ascendant the world over, so commentators like Niall Ferguson are now fretting about the West’s descent into irrelevance […]
But the embattled dream that most Europeans truly care about might not be such a bad model for Europe’s—and indeed America’s—future after all. Even if, one day, we will no longer be able to impress faraway nations with the might of our armies, hope remains that we can still provide our citizens a decent life.
A review of David Gilmour’s interesting history of the Italian penninsula at bookforum.
Berlusconi has contributed more than anyone alive to turning Italy into a paese di merda. But his rule, too, shall pass. If the Italian peninsula has remained an enchanted place despite Caligula, Nero, Cesare Borgia, Vittorio Emanuele and Benito Mussolini, it will also manage to weather a grubby little corrupter of men by the name of Silvio Berlusconi.