Tag Archives: Conflicts

More Complicated

In chapter 6 of The Tragedy of Religious Freedom, I discuss Cass Sunstein’sThe Tragedy of Religious Freedom work on judicial minimalism and focus on a particular variation–Burkean minimalism.  The method that I adopt for resolution of various religious liberty disputes draws on Burkean minimalism in several respects, but also departs from it in significant ways.  My differences with Professor Sunstein are summed up in the aphorism, “Less Burkeanism, More Burke,” and the discussion in that chapter considers the ways in which Sunstein’s views about minimalism–which are pragmatically grounded–differ from my own–which are grounded in the reality of the complexity of political affairs, the conflict of human aspirations, and the irreducibility of human interests to any overarching theory.  The method that I describe and defend is motivated, in part, by these complications.

Notwithstanding my admiration for judicial minimalism–and, indeed, for Simplerminimalism as a general, guiding ethic of political life–I am not the first to suppose that Sunstein’s attachment to it was always less than entirely secure.  It was, as he himself acknowledged, strategic and instrumental.  This is why I am somewhat disappointed, but not very surprised, to see that Sunstein has recently published Simpler: The Future of Government.  Of course, the book is not about the judiciary; it describes Sunstein’s time at the head of OIRA.  Its overall claims seem to rest on the assertion that government has become simpler during the last four years, that it will or ought to become simpler still, and that this is a wonderful thing.  I have not read the book, and will of course defer to Professor Sunstein on the question whether the government has issued fewer regulations as a numerical matter.  Government during the last four years does not seem so very much simpler to me than it was before, but I’m prepared to be persuaded otherwise.  But apart from these descriptive issues, I have the distinct feeling that I will resist in particularly strong terms the normative claim–which seems to be made in the book–that the simplification of government is for the best.  Indeed, it seems to me that a true minimalist would press just the opposite point: we are complex, and we need a government that can account for, and accommodate, that complexity.  We don’t need simpler; we need more complicated.

Forst, “Toleration in Conflict”

This month, Cambridge University Press will publish Toleration in Conflict: Past and Present (2013) by Rainer Forst (Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt).  The publisher’s description follows.Toleration in Conflict

The concept of toleration plays a central role in pluralistic societies. It designates a stance which permits conflicts over beliefs and practices to persist while at the same time defusing them, because it is based on reasons for coexistence in conflict – that is, in continuing dissension. A critical examination of the concept makes clear, however, that its content and evaluation are profoundly contested matters and thus that the concept itself stands in conflict. For some, toleration was and is an expression of mutual respect in spite of far-reaching differences, for others, a condescending, potentially repressive attitude and practice. Rainer Forst analyses these conflicts by reconstructing the philosophical and political discourse of toleration since antiquity. He demonstrates the diversity of the justifications and practices of toleration from the Stoics and early Christians to the present day and develops a systematic theory which he tests in discussions of contemporary conflicts over toleration.