AMINTAPHIL 2018 Conference: Democracy, Populism, and Truth

August 16-19, 2018
Boston University, Boston, MA
Due Date: June 30, 2018

We invite submissions for the 2018 biannual conference of the American Section of the International Association for Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy (AMINTAPHIL) on the topic of Democracy, Populism, and Truth. Suggestions for specific paper topics have been developed by the Program Committee and are listed below.

AMINTAPHIL is an interdisciplinary society of philosophers, legal theorists, political scientists, and economists who are interested in normative questions about justice, society, the economy, and democracy. It is affiliated with the International Association for the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy (IVR), which meets biannually in years opposite to AMINTPHIL meetings. All members of AMINTAPHIL gain membership in IVR.

AMINTAPHIL conferences follow a distinctive format, in which “principal papers” are submitted and distributed in advance. “Comment papers” are then submitted, also in advance of the conference, and the meeting proceeds in discussion format. Attendees are expected to read the papers prior to the conference. The Program Committee will group papers on related themes into distinct sessions for the conference, and all sessions are plenary (i.e., there are no breakouts). This conference format lends itself to gaining deep, multi-faceted and multi-disciplinary perspectives on the chosen topic, and engaging in rich dialogue with other attendees. All on-topic submitted papers are included in the conference, and selected papers are published in a subsequent, peer reviewed volume of essays by Springer.

AMINTAPHIL members are eligible to submit papers. (Membership information is now online at Principal papers, due by June 30, 2018 should be no more than 5500 words, and should begin with a brief abstract; comment papers will be due by August 5, 2018 and should be no more than 2200 words. All members of AMINTAPHIL will be notified when principal papers are available for download. Submit papers to Mark Navin at with the subject line: “AMINTAPHIL 2018 submission.”

Please direct inquiries to:
AMINTAPHIL Executive Director: Prof. Mark Navin, Department of Philosophy, Oakland University
Local Host: Dean Ann Cudd, Dean of Arts & Sciences, Boston University,

Suggested Topics
The following is a list of topics and sub-topics for the AMINTAPHIL 2018 conference. The list serves to provide suggestions and give more definition to the general topic of the conference. It is not intended to be either exhaustive or exclusive. Nor is it intended to be the template for the final program of the conference or the grouping of papers and commentaries into sessions.

Populism and Democratic Institutions

  • What is populism?
  • How does populism relate to democratic and anti-democratic social movements, e.g. nationalism, isolationism, religious factionalism, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, Black Lives Matter, disability rights, health care rights?
  • How is populism given voice by federalist systems of voting partition, e.g. the Electoral College?
  • How is populism enhanced or triggered by election district gerrymandering?
  • What is the threat or benefit of populism to political parties?
  • Given populism’s reliance on emotional appeals, to what extent is the role of emotions in politics good or bad?
  • What is the relationship between populism and publicly-funded education?
  • Does populism only or mostly reflect uneducated preferences?


Truth, Media & Populism

  • How do (more or less) traditional news media sources support populism?
  • What role should news media play in informing populist debate?
  • What obligation(s) do members of the news media have to be truthful?
  • What obligations do politicians and citizens have to be truthful in advancing their political goals and policy preferences?
  • How has social media transformed populist leadership and populist movements?
  • How does social media foster and sustain populist protest movements/social movements?
  • What are the ethical responsibilities of social media providers, such as Facebook, Google, and other online platforms in the fight against misinformation, fake news, and false attributions of fake news?
    • (How) Should participants in political debates be identified, e.g. as lobbyists, agents of foreign powers, government contractors, ‘sock puppets’?
    • (How) Should social media companies regulate participation in online political debates, e.g. to prevent participation by people with particular ideological commitments or (foreign) funding sources?
  • Are there (or should there be) norms of public reason governing our behavior as social media consumers: as individual purveyors, transmitters, and recipients of social media messaging?


Democracy, Truth, & Public Political Discourse

  • (How much) has partisan politics undermined truth or truthfulness in political and/or public discourse?
  • How does a permissive legal environment for campaign and political cause expenditures tend to benefit or harm truthful political discourse?
  • How can we control more effectively for truth in political discourse and respond more effectively to its absence?
  • Should there be legal constraints on who may participate in political debates? g., should foreign actors be excluded? What about corporations, hate groups, or government employees who occupy (highly) politically sensitive roles?
  • Is truthful public political discourse a reasonable aspiration in a democracy?

2016 Conference on Privacy: Room and Travel Information

Conference Registration Site:

Room and Travel Information for 2016 AMINTAPHIL Conference (Winston-Salem, NC, Oct. 13-16, 2016)

Local Host: The Philosophy Department, Wake Forest University (Tel: 336-758-5359). Department

Administrative Coordinator: Donna Simmons

Room: Call Graylyn Conference Center (1-800-472-9596) directly to make room reservations. Ask for reservation and mention “AMINTAPHIL Conference” when you make the reservation. Do not use the website for conference room reservations. The rate is $159/night (single occupancy) plus a $15 estate/facility charge. There is a $20 charge for an additional person in the room. The room rate also includes a full buffet breakfast. For your information, the website for Graylyn is

We have contracted a block of rooms for the AMINTAPHIL Conference for three nights (Thursday, Oct 13 to Sunday, Oct. 16). You are encouraged to book all three nights for the duration of the conference. If you are interested in staying longer than those three nights, you might want to ask Graylyn to see whether they can give you the same room rate or contact the Philosophy Department Administrative Coordinator Donna Simmons for options.

Travel: The regional airport at Greensboro NC (GSO) serves this area. It is served by several major airlines: Delta, American, United, Frontier, and Allegiant. Direct flights are available from a number of cities, mostly in the eastern half of the US including New York (La Guardia), Washington DC (Reagan National and Dulles), Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chicago, Newark, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Miami, Orlando and Denver. If you are flying in from outside of these cities, most likely you will need to make one stop for connecting flights.

The Greensboro airport (called Piedmont Triad International Airport, albeit without international flights) is located about 20 miles east of Winston-Salem. Your ground transportation to and from this airport will be covered by Wake Forest at no charge to you. (Information will be provided later regarding how to make reservations with the shuttle company contracted to provide this service.) Car rentals are available at the airport.

If you are flying in and out of the Greensboro airport, you might want to make airline reservations as soon as you can. There is a brief overlap between our conference and a major international trade show (the furniture market) in High Point (one of the three cities that form the Piedmont Triad). There might not be much of a problem if you fly in on the Thursday and fly out on the Sunday of our conference, as most of you would. But you might still want to book early just to be sure.

You might want to consider using Charlotte (CLT) or Raleigh-Durham (RDU) airports. These are major hubs (especially Charlotte) where you can find more direct flights, including international flights. But both airports are between 80-90 miles away from Winston-Salem. So you would either need to rent a car or use the more limited and expensive shuttle services for these airports. (You are on your own for ground transportation to and from these airports.)

For those considering driving, Winston-Salem is located between Washington DC and Atlanta — about 300 miles from each of the two cities. Amtrak stops in Greensboro twice a day. Transportation between the train station and Graylyn will be a bit challenging.

Local Transportation: You would need a car if you are interested in sight-seeing in the area or in the region. Otherwise, we will provide shuttles for conference events. Graylyn Conference Center is also within walking (a very nice walk) distance from the university campus (20-30 minutes), where the Friday and Saturday sessions will be held. Taxi cabs are available by phone. Graylyn also provides individual shuttle services. For questions regarding local arrangements: please contact Win-chiat Lee or Donna Simmons

Dates, location, and theme of 2016 AMINTAPHIL Conference

The 2016 AMINTAPHIL Conference will take place Oct. 13-15 at Wake Forest University, where Win-Chiat Lee will be our host. The theme of the conference is Privacy.

The Program Committee consists of Mark Navin, as chair, John Francis, Wade Robison, and Jessica Flanigan. They are just beginning their work refining the topic into sub themes, which will be reported in due time.

Panels at IVR 2015

If you are putting together a panel for the 2015 IVR meeting and you would like to add participants from AMINTAPHIL, please post your panel title/description as a comment to this post.

AMINTAPHIL Early Career Scholar Prizes for IVR 2015

This is an announcement of the competition for the Early Career Scholar prizes for the 2015 IVR conference in July 2015. I am attaching a pdf of the annoucement to this post. Please circulate widely!Early Career Scholar Paper Award – IVR 2015

Mark Navin will chair the awards committee.

Here is the text of the announcement:

AMINTAPHIL Early Career Scholar Prizes for IVR 2015

The American Section of the International Association for Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy (AMINTAPHIL) will award prizes to four early career scholars who submit the best papers for the World Congress of the International Society for the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy (IVR), to be held in Washington, D.C., from 27 July to 1 August 1 in 2015. The writer of each winning paper will receive a $750 cash award. For the purpose of this prize competition, an ‘early career scholar’ includes any scholar who doesn’t currently (in AY 2014/15) hold a tenured position.

Those who wish to apply for the prize should submit a paper, prepared for anonymous review, of no more than 5500 words along with an abstract of no more than 400 words to the Executive Director, Ann Cudd at Applicants should also submit their 400 word abstracts to the IVR program committee: Applicants must be members of AMINTAPHIL to be eligible for the award. Membership rates currently begin at $30, for a two-year term. You may join AMINTAHIL here.

The theme for the 2015 IVR World Congress is “Law, Reason, and Emotion.” While any paper within social and legal philosophy will be considered for the award, papers that fall within the conference theme will be given special attention.

The deadline for submissions is February 15, 2015. Winners will be notified before March 31, 2015. Awards will be distributed at the IVR meeting.

Session VII Conceptions of Citizenship

Conceptions of Citizenship
Steven Lee, Cosmopolitan Citizenship
Emily Gill, National Citizenship and Civil Marriage: Ascriptive and Consensual Methods
Moderator, Helga Varden
Rapporteur, Stephen Nathanson
Emily Gill discusses two types of criteria that might be used for granting (or not granting) citizenship to immigrants and likens this issue to similar questions about criteria for recognizing (or denying) the status of being married to same-sex couples. In one case, society either allows or denies a person’s attempt to acquire the status of citizenship while in the other, it either allows or rejects the attempt by people of the same sex to have the status of marriage.
Gill describes two types of criteria: a) ascriptive criteria that focus on qualities of the people seeking a certain social status and b) consensual criteria that focus on whether or not members of a society support giving people or groups the status that they desire, whether it is citizenship or marriage.
Gill notes that it is often believed that ascriptive criteria for citizenship are more rigid and exclusionary. This is based on the fact that in the past, ethnic, racial, and religious criteria have been used to deny citizenship to people. In the marriage case, ascriptive criteria have limited marriage to couples of different sexes.
A central claim made by Gill is that ascriptive criteria can be more inclusive than consensual criteria. Consensual criteria, which derive from liberal theories that emphasize the importance of agreement by members of a society, will be exclusionary whenever members of a society oppose granting a desired status to people, whether it is marriage or citizenship.
Ascriptive criteria can be friendly to granting citizenship to aspiring immigrants or marital status to same sex couples. This would be the case, for example, if living with another person provided the ascriptive basis for recognizing a marriage and living in a country for a certain period of time provided the basis for recognizing people as citizens.
Gill does not argue that one type of criterion is necessarily more inclusive than the other in granting the status of citizenship or marriage. Rather, she concludes with the more modest view that “the consensual model can function to exclude, whereas the ascriptive model can be more inclusive.” Apparently, then, both ascriptive and consensual criteria can take inclusive or exclusionary forms.
Finally, Gill noted that there is a tendency to favor married over unmarried people, and she saw this an unjust form of inequality. Just as marriages with male and female partners should not have higher status than same sex marriages, so too married people should not have a higher status or access to important benefits that are denied to unmarried persons.
One focus of discussion was the contrast between ascriptive and consensual criteria and the claim that ascriptive criteria can be more inclusive than consensual ones. Given the importance of criteria for recognition of valuable status, it was suggested that there is a need for a normative theory about which types of features are (in)appropriate for making status decisions about citizenship and marriage.
One key question is what counts as an ascriptive feature. Must ascriptive features be inherited traits such as race, gender, or ethnic group? Or can relational features—like living in a particular place or living with a partner—be ascriptive as well? In fact, various relational features—such as the chances of people’s adapting to a new country by sharing its language and values—have been accepted as relevant to citizenship claims. Similarly, in the past, couples were often recognized by their society if they possessed relational features such as living together or having children.
One problem raised is that basing citizenship on participating in a society overlooks the fact that non-citizen resident may be excluded from participation in relevant social relationships. A non-citizen, for example, may be denied the right to serve on a local school board. Gill noted that even if particular roles or activities are denied to non-citizens, they may have other ways of acting as members if, for example, they have children in a school system. This may allow the parents to participate in more informal ways.
Responding to her use of the analogy between citizenship and marriage, one person asked whether citizenship is like marriage in having a commitment to one partner. A related question involved polygamy. Suppose that we accept as a criterion for marriage the fact that people have a stable relationship and live together. Would meeting this criterion provide grounds for recognizing polygamous marriages? Should it? Gill said that she “would consider” the legalization of polygamy.
It was pointed out that in considering relationships as a basis for recognition of marriages, there is a tendency to stress the love and affection that same sex couples may have for one another. This tendency obscures the fact that people may marry for practical benefits and that this motivation can be as legitimate as romantic love. It would be a mistake to assume overly romanticized conceptions of marital relations. In response, Gill said that she accepted this and did not support the idea of a narrow list of ascriptive features.
Regarding benefits and harms, it was pointed out that gay persons often suffer various harms when their traits and relationships are not recognized as legitimate. These harms can be far from trivial, as shown by high levels of suicides among gay people who live in societies that reject same sex relationships. Social recognition help to alleviate the harms generated by anti-gay policies and attitudes.
A further question was raised about the nature of ascriptive criteria and their relations to consensual views. Once relational criteria are accepted as relevant, can’t features such as “being accepted by one’s society” or “provoking hostility in many people” be seen as ascriptive? But if they can be, then one may wonder whether there actually is a contrast between ascriptive and consensual criteria. At a minimum, the contrast needs to be clarified, especially when ascriptive criteria are broadened to include relational properties.
On the issue of marriage, it was noted that common law marriages can generate moral obligations even though they have not been legally recognized.
Finally, returning to a point made by Gill, it was suggested that there is a need to avoid “couplism,” the tendency to grant special recognition and privileges to married people. Being married can be an advantage for people who seek to immigrate and become citizens in a new country. While the value of marriage has been emphasized in the same sex marriage debate, the view that unmarried people are somehow less valuable should be avoided. As Gill noted, we should avoid seeing married people as privileged insiders and unmarried people as outsiders.
Steven Lee defends the view that there can be such a thing as cosmopolitan citizenship even though there is no global political structure and no legal standing for claims to global citizenship. A key argument for his claim involves a comparison with the status of slaves in the pre-Civil War United States. Before the Civil War, slaves did not have the legal status of being persons, yet we would all recognize that they were persons. Similarly, people can be cosmopolitan citizens in a moral sense even though this status is not recognized by current laws.
Lee responds to several criticisms of the idea of cosmopolitan citizenship developed by David Miller. According to Lee, in spite of the lack of legal status, the idea of cosmopolitan citizenship has moral content. It contains three important features that are realizable in the absence of legal status: a) a recognition of basic rights and duties that belong to all people, b) involvement in political activities that aim for the good of the global community, and c) the psychological benefits of “feelings of belonging and a sense of identity, and…a sense of solidarity with their fellow [world] citizens.”
1. Among the comments, some combined both challenges to the idea of cosmopolitan citizenship and sympathy with its underlying motivation. Three points that expressed this combination were:
a) That although the concept of cosmopolitan citizenship does not designate a factual status, it is a valuable metaphor that suggests that all persons have equal worth independently of the particular community they belong to.
b) That cosmopolitan citizenship is an aspirational concept, the expression of a wish for something that does not yet exist because it is not recognized by existing institutions.
c) That cosmopolitan citizenship suggests an equal concern for all people but mistakenly ties this to the concept of citizenship, which is something quite separate.
One person linked cosmopolitan citizenship with the notion of “civitas,” the ideal of an association that is dedicated to the pursuit of justice. From this perspective, perhaps (in the spirit of Lee’s paper) cosmopolitan citizenship can exist when there are people who are associated in the pursuit of global justice even if the association is moral and personal rather than legal or institutional.
Similarly, one suggestion was that the aspiration toward cosmopolitan citizenship reflects the need for ways of grappling with global problems and the lack of adequate institutions for dealing with these problems. The people, for example, who gathered in the September 2014 climate march—over 300,000 in New York City and many others is cities around the world—were trying to act as global citizens in spite of the lack of institutions that are capable of protecting the world environment. This event may be described either as aspirational or as creating genuine citizen-like activities.
2. While much of the discussion focused on issues concerning the idea of individuals being cosmopolitan citizens, other comments focused on cosmopolitanism’s implications for institutions.
One question that was raised concerned the implications of adopting cosmopolitan citizenship. Would adopting this idea create genuine demands on existing countries? What would be the practical implications of accepting this?
This question is related to issues that often arise in discussions of cosmopolitan institutions. Do cosmopolitans support a world government? And if so, is this a good thing? Would it do away with local and national institutions? Would its decisions trump all decisions made by lower level institutions?
A few people suggested that we already have these types of institutions. The U.S., for example, has a federal system that includes both a central federal government and as well as state and local governments. Each level may have final say on different types of issues. Similarly, we already have various international institutions such as the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund. These exist without doing away with lower level institutions. This shows that aspects of a world government already exist and can develop further without overthrowing national systems.
3. One challenge, offered in the spirit of a devil’s advocate, suggested that nation states were better than cosmopolitan, global institutions. Nation states are better vehicles, for example, for deciding issues regarding governance and for protecting the rights of their citizens. Nations can also promote global justice when they recognize that although their primary obligations are to the nation and its citizens, they also have genuine but weaker obligations to outsiders. This combination can help to achieve global justice while avoiding the confusions generated by the idea of cosmopolitan citizenship.
Two criticisms were made in response to this challenge. One, by Steven Lee, challenged the idea that nation states were better for achieving global justice. In fact, nation states have failed to deal effectively with global issues. Second, it was urged that a stronger global government is needed in the same way that in U. S. history, the federal government had to intervene when individual states failed to protect the civil rights of all citizens.
Finally, it was noted that citizenship need not be connected with only one institution or group. People can be and are citizens of units at different levels, including their neighborhoods, towns or cities, states, and countries. Adding a level of global citizenship is possible and, as several people suggested, can be desirable.

Session III: Immigration and the Benefits of Membership

Session Moderator: Tim Sellers
Rapporteur: Richard De George
Theresa Beaumier, “At the Borders of Society: Border Control and the Perpetuation of Poverty Among Immigrant Communities”
John Francis, “Who Else Should Vote in Local Decision-Making: Enfranchising Part-Time Residents and Non-Citizen
Richard Barron Parker, “Two Visions of Democracy: Immigration”

Theresa Beaumier discusses the plight of unregistered immigrants. John Francis argues that even unregistered immigrants should be allowed to vote in local elections. And Richard Parker presents a compromise that could be accepted by both Houses of Congress and by the President and that would ease the plight of undocumented immigrants by granting them legal residence but would stop short of giving them citizenship. The three papers can be linked together. Yet the three papers evidently did not seem sufficiently similar to foster a discussion of common issues or themes during session III. Hence the session consisted of three discussions going on more or less simultaneously. For purposes of clarity I shall report each of the three as if the papers had been discussed serially, and then briefly draw a conclusion that the three discussions suggest.
On Theresa Beaumier’s “At the Borders of Society: Border Control and the Perpetuation of Poverty Among Immigrant Communities”
Theresa’s paper argued that many immigrants—especially undocumented immigrants– who come to the U. S. because of poor economic conditions in their home countries are disadvantaged and remain poor in large part because of U.S. walling, restrictions on employment, and lack of public benefits. In some cases the actions and policies are adopted to discourage others from seeking illegal entry and in the hope of encouraging the immigrants to voluntarily return to their homeland. In other cases, the negative effects on poor immigrants are unintended, but nonetheless damaging. After documenting many of the facets of the problem and the role the U.S. government plays in exacerbating the problem, she concludes that “At the very least, I hope I have demonstrated that the interplay between border control and immigrant poverty merits further exploration . . . .”
Tim Sellars started the discussion with a brief summary of her paper, and Theresa took the opportunity to emphasize that the problem of the continuation of immigrant poverty was a complicated issue, in part even a global issue, and that her paper dealt with only one portion of it. Reinforcing this, Matt Lister added that additional factors include, among other things, the fact that many immigrants struggle with English (which impedes employment), that they often suffer from discrimination, and that they are seen as a competitive threat to those who have low paying jobs. Theresa agreed, but insisted that government policy is the most important cause of continuing poverty. Moreover, immigrants suffer not only economic poverty but also lack of adequate health care and schooling for their children.
Deirdre Golash added that one reason we don’t have more effective immigration enforcement is the opposition of those who do not want to pay more for enforcement. In response to Richard
De George’s question about what she saw as alternatives to current policies, Theresa replied that she favors open borders. This would remove the stigma that undocumented immigrants carry, as well as eliminating other problems such as living in the constant fear of raids and deportation.
The upshot of the discussion was an acknowledgement that the problems that she raises are serious, but their solution seems to hinge on a revision of US policy which may or may not come with a new comprehensive immigration policy.

On John Francis’s “Who Else Should Vote in Local Decision-Making: Enfranchising Part-Time Residents and Non-Citizen
John’s paper argues for an expansion of the suffrage in American local government elections to include resident non-citizens and to allow those who live in two local area jurisdictions to vote in both districts. The paper cites the notion of dual citizenship accepted by many countries and the voting that some countries permit by people who do not even reside in the country. These at least show that his suggestions are not unthinkable and unworkable, and the change in dual residency would simply acknowledge a fact about both American and international mobility. The basic argument is that people should have a voice, and so a vote, on issues concerning their everyday affairs, especially on the local level.
Win-Chiat Lee started the discussion by asking John why he restricted the argument of his paper to voting on the local level, since many of his comments and the logic of his arguments would seem to apply on the national level as well. John’s reply was that although he hoped the precedent would lead to changes on the state and national level in the U. S., he was a moderate reformer and that reform on the local level was more likely to succeed and be seen as less threatening to the status quo than reform on the state and national level. That led Kenneth Henley to remark that reapportionment of congressional districts is based on population not on the number of citizens in a district, and that members of the House should take the interests of all in their districts into account—an apparently friendly addition to Win’s question. John agreed with the first part of Ken’s comment adding that in the Constitution slaves counted as 3/5 of a person, but Congressmen did not consider representing them as part of their job. Kenneth Kipnis noted in a similar vein that Arizona imports people into its private prisons and they are counted for reapportionment purposes.
Joan McGregor suggested that John’s proposal for voting in dual locations seemed to privilege the wealthy who have two homes. John replied that although they would be included, the rule also applied to the many people who work in one county and live in another as well as to migrant workers and other similar groups.
John concluded that although citizenship matters especially on the national level, at the local level policies should be determined by those involved. The paper seemed to have few critics, and possibly a good deal of support.

On Richard Barron Parker’s “Two Visions of Democracy: Immigration”
Richard’s paper applied the framework he developed on two visions of democracy for the previous Amintaphil meeting. He describes the U. S. as equally divided between those who see democracy as based on an ideal of free self-governing individuals who form self-governing political associations (Type A) and those who envision a society in which social and economic equality among all members of society is primary and in which the state has the final responsibility for the welfare of the individual citizens (Type B). Both types agree that immigration is a matter for the federal government and that the presence of eleven million people living illegally in the U.S. is undesirable. Both want a reform of the present immigration. But Type A democrats believe it is morally wrong to allow people to become citizens who are in the U.S. through breaking the law and Type B democrats believe the morally right thing to do is to allow illegal immigrants who are here to remain as legal residents. Richard therefore suggests a compromise that he believes both Type A and Type B democrats could agree on, namely, allow current illegal immigrants to receive a “blue card,” similar to the current green card with all its privileges, but to exclude them permanently from becoming citizens.
Although he believes that such a compromise would pass both houses of Congress and be signed by the President, his proposal was greeted skeptically by a number of participants. Discussion centered on his division into Type A and B and his related argument that the U.S. is not a nation but a people held together by allegiance to the country and the system, and on his blue card compromise.
Ann Cudd voiced opposition to the blue card suggestion because it would stigmatize those who carry it and subject them to the harms that come with stigmatization. Richard conceded her point, but replied that 1) he was presenting a compromise and the illegal immigrants reap the enormous benefit of remaining legally in the U.S. for the rest of their lives and 2) the group of blue card holders would continuously shrink and eventually disappear. The reply did not satisfy Emily Gill who reiterated that the blue card was stigmatizing, that it made its holders permanent outsiders, and that she had strong moral objections to it. Matt Lister added that although Richard noted that one-third of the illegal immigrants aren’t interested in naturalization, that leaves two-thirds who are, and that is not an insignificant number. Helga Varden added to the chorus stating that the U.S. is a place where people have a future, and that a compromise that excludes people from citizenship is incompatible with the promise of the U.S. and therefore something she opposes. John Francis was more sympathetic to the proposal and indicated he could support it if the blue card was something an immigrant could choose and not something forced on him. Stephen Nathanson added some support to the blue card suggestion saying he might accept it if it applied only to adults and not to children brought here by their parents, since many immigrants just want to be left alone and to live without constant fear, although the blue card may bring with it some of the unforeseen consequences that Theresa described earlier.
In one of his responses Richard said that the U.S. was not a nation. The population of the U.S. does not have enough in common to be called a nation. A nation state is ethnicity with a state. The U. S. is a country held together by allegiance to the country and the political and legal system. Hence citizenship became especially important for the U. S., which is why the Type A democrats do not want to grant citizenship to those who broke the law in coming here. It is not clear how important this point is to his proposed compromise, but the statement drew a notable number of comments. Carol Gould added that the U.S. is not the only country that is not a nation. Germany, for instance, has repudiated blood as a basis for citizenship. Emily Gill claimed that the U. S. was a civic nation. John Francis added that Brazil says it is a nation of immigrants, and that if we are not a nation, many other countries are also not nations. In that respect we are not unique. The issue was left unresolved, perhaps since it was not central to Richard’s blue card proposal.
Laurence Houlgate raised the last question: why wouldn’t Type A democrats object to the blue card suggestion just as vigorously as they object to granting citizenship, since it involves a kind of amnesty? Richard had the final word. Neither the Type A nor the Type B democrats have proposed it or support the blue card idea. It is not the first choice of anyone. But that is its virtue. It is a compromise which gives both sides most of what they most want, just as it gives those here illegally most of what they also want.

Had the session been long enough to consider the three papers together we might have been surprised by the way the three papers form a coherent whole. The discussions highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of each of the papers. If we take the best parts of each of the three we get a solution to the current impasse on immigration reform. The paper by Theresa documents the plight of the undocumented immigrant and paints a picture of the morally intolerable situation current policy fosters. This provides the needed motivation to seek a just remedy, which must, if it is to be successful and enduring, be bi-partisan. In his blue card proposal Richard offers a compromise solution that respects the moral commitments of both the right and the left. The major objection to it was that it tends to stigmatize blue card holders and makes them permanent outsiders in what should be an inclusive society. John’s paper offers a remedy for that defect. By making residency and not citizenship the criterion for local voting and political participation paper, blue card holders become insiders and have a place and a voice in their local communities. That removes the stigma of the blue card and alleviates the immigrants’ alienation by including them as active members of the community. They would now have a path for them to live free of fear of deportation, enable them to seek employment with a future, and give their children a chance to pursue the American dream. The combination of the three papers sounds more promising than any of them taken alone does. Together they suggest that there are imaginative ways to break the gridlock that currently characterizes immigration reform. The joint result is worthy of an Op-ed piece to the major newspapers.

Session VIII: Equality and Responsibilities in Citizenship

Gordon Babst and John Compton, “Equal Citizenship and Religion”
Joan McGregor, “Why Food Citizenship?”
Moderator: Leslie Francis
Report by Mark Navin


I have organized my summary of this session’s discussion thematically. I hope that what I have sacrificed in chronological accuracy is made up for by a more accessible format. (Thanks to Ken Kipnis for suggesting that I write my report in this manner.)


On Joan McGregor’s, “Why Food Citizenship?”

Food Citizens

Richard De George asked what we gain by thinking about the agents who are responsible for food justice as citizens rather than as human beings. Joan McGregor replied that talking about food citizenship foregrounds the fact that food choices are not merely private choices, i.e. they are not beyond the scope of ethics or justice, but they are means by which we discharge our responsibilities as members of political communities. Mark Navin suggested that talking about food citizenship may make more sense in contexts in which public political institutions have failed to promote food justice (and in the face of a reasonable belief that these institutions will continue to fail to promote food justice). So, ethical (and political?) consumerism is not mere vigilantism, but is virtuous citizenship, in such contexts (see e.g. Hussain 2012). Helga Varden continued the discussion about why food citizenship matters: It helps us to see that we are talking about more than the duty to act with kindness towards our fellow community members, but that we are ultimately focused on making laws to regulate a food system in which we all participate. The food system is a system, and not merely a matter of transfers between individuals, and so it falls under considerations of justice and within the concern of persons considered as citizens. Joan McGregor was largely sympathetic with these friendly suggestions.

Laurence Houlgate also wondered whether there was only one kind of ‘food citizenship’, i.e. whether the only food citizens are people who have the ‘right’ views about food policy. Or can there be deep disagreement among people who are nonetheless all food citizens? McGregor replied that food citizenship requires a commitment to public engagement and deliberation about the causes and effects of food systems, but that food citizens might be committed to any number of policy positions.



Deen Chatterjee worried that Joan McGregor was committed to a kind of communitarianism, but that communitarianism was unnecessary and unhelpful for her project. If locavorist forms of food citizenship are inconsistent with cosmopolitan forms of moral thinking, then we have reasons to reject locavorism. In particular, Chatterjee observed that we need to have a global perspective to explain why a person should act contrary to the food practices of his community, when those food choices do not promote justice, for example, if we want to give reasons why a person from Nebraska should be a vegetarian. On this point, Heidi Malm wondered what Joan would say about locavorism when local food cultures are morally problematic – and when local political practices are unjust. Malm said that we surely need a way to criticize parochial views and practices. Ann Cudd also worried that a commitment to locavorism may encourage parochialism – making our worlds even smaller than they already are. And Yi Deng observed that food trade often provides opportunities for small-scale producers from isolated rural areas to access consumers elsewhere. So, there may be much to commend ‘distant food’. John Francis continued by suggesting that it may not be helpful to see local food practices as existing in tension with commitments to national and global projects. So, even if we want to accommodate contemporary interests in locavorism, perhaps this is consistent with – or even required by – our commitments to national or global concerns (see e.g. Navin 2014).

Joan McGregor replied that she was a communitarian in the sense that she thinks that it is important for each community to get to define what it cares about, including its own food culture. However, McGregor does not endorse a justificatory communitarianism that rules out cosmopolitan forms of moral thinking. Furthermore, McGregor insists that the value of locavorist forms of food citizenship depends upon their tendency to promote good consequences. In that way, food citizenship is much more sophisticated than the simple invocation to ‘eat local’.


Policies for Locavorist Food Citizenship

Peter Higgins wondered what food citizenship looks like for people who do not have access to local food, e.g. people who live in food desserts. Nicolaus Tideman observed that McGregor focused on personal activism and public regulation, but he wondered whether better-functioning markets might play a prominent role in food citizenship. In particular, Tideman wondered whether we might best promote food justice by using price mechanisms to force people to pay for the real costs of their food, i.e. internalizing the externalities of current food production methods (see e.g. Buller and Morris 2004). Laurence Houlgate observed that well-intentioned policies may not work well. Consider the new federal nutrition standards for school lunch programs, i.e. that require students to take fresh fruits and vegetables. These policies are commendable, but what do we say about the fact that ~60% of the fresh vegetables and ~40 of the fresh fruits that are served to children are thrown away (see e.g. Watanabe 2014)?

In reply to these concerns about policies, Joan McGregor observed that food citizens may promote a variety of different practices, including personal and community gardens, Farmers Markets, activism aimed at corporate agriculture, etc. And food citizens need not be committed to any one kind of local food practice. Also, it seems likely that early interventions will be necessary; children who are raised on sugary, salty and fatty processed foods may find it more difficult to develop good eating habits later in life.


On Gordon Babst and John Compton’s, “Equal Citizenship and Religion”

Where to Draw the Line?

Matt Lister asked how far back the jurisprudence ought to be pushed back – how radical are Babst and Compton’s conclusions? John Compton replied that they would like to see a return to 1980s jurisprudence on religious exemptions, when the courts were less sanguine about religious exemptions in economic activities. So, for example, they would support a ministerial exemption, but not exemptions for individuals or corporations engaging in economic activities. Emily Gill suggested that any time public money is being received by a religious organization the religious organization should abide by nondiscrimination laws. John Compton agreed with Gill. Richard Parker shared his sense of unease about the courts assessing the sincerity and centrality of religious objections. Gordon Babst shared this concern.


Issues with Hobby Lobby

Ed Abegg suggested that what is troubling about the Hobby Lobby case is that health insurance belongs to the employee and, therefore, that a business’s attempt to tell a worker how to use her health insurance is tantamount to a business telling her how to spend her money. In reply, Bruce Landesman suggested that workers consent to the content of their insurance policies, i.e. through their employment contracts. But John Compton countered that, in the Hobby Lobby case, the changes to health insurance policies were not the objects of voluntary consent, but of statutory requirements and legal challenges.

Robert Van Wyck observed that the Hobby Lobby decision provided an interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). But the problems that this statute was meant to address (e.g. the liturgical use of legally prohibited drugs) seem far removed from claims about the religious conscience rights of businesses. John Compton agreed and noted that the RFRA received near unanimous bipartisan Congressional support, but that this would not have happened if members of Congress understood the RFRA to be establishing religious exemption rights for corporate persons.


Broader Issues

Stephen Nathanson worried that the US Constitution seems to grant great latitude to religious expression, even if there are good reasons of justice not to permit exemptions like those protected by the Hobby Lobby decision. In particular, the 1st Amendment seems to protect an expansive scope for religious exemptions and it seems to build a priority for religious objections into the law. In reply, John Compton observed that the 1st Amendment has been interpreted (and, therefore, can be interpreted) in many different ways. In particular, there has been a radical change between 1980s 1st Amendment jurisprudence and recent Supreme Court decisions. Ken Henley suggested that while Hobby Lobby was disturbing, we should worry more about religious exemptions that cause harm to children. In particular, Wisconsin v Yoder is still law, and it allows parents to act in ways that radically close off the futures of their children, since it permits them to remove their children from school after the eighth grade. John Compton agreed that there are many problems with current US law regarding religious exemptions.

Proposed Constitutional Amendment discussion


I sent the document with track changes in an email earlier today, Oct. 12. Please comment on this post if you wish. [update 10.13.14: I just linked the document to this post. See above link.]

The discussion will continue until Nov. 11. On that date I will send the final proposed amendments. You may vote any time on the proposed amendments after that date until Dec. 11, giving us a month as required by the constitution.

Here is a brief summary of the proposed amendments:
A new position of Treasurer is proposed. This is in anticipation of more significant fundraising to enable Amintaphil to create an endowment for potential new prizes and travel awards for early career scholars.
It is proposed that there be only one candidate for Vice President nominated by the Nomination Committee. This is to avoid having a losing candidate, in recognition that this is an honorific post that is to be spread around the membership. However, the possibility of the membership proposing additional candidates is preserved.
It is proposed that the elections take place at the Business meeting, allowing for advance email voting by having the slate of candidates proposed at least one week in advance of the meeting. This is proposed in order to engage a larger number of voters and in recognition of the centrality of the meeting itself to the membership.
It is proposed that the fiscal year be changed to January, and the membership dues message be sent out in October to be valid for January, for all those whose memberships will expire by then.
The membership of the Nominating Committee has been specified to consist of the three members who would normally not be considered for office, namely the Vice President, President, and Past President.