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About Jason Brennan
He is the author of ten books, including Cracks in the Ivory Tower: The Bad Business of Higher Ed (Oxford 2019), with Phil Magness; When All Else Fails: The Ethics of Resistance to State Injustice (Princeton 2018); In Defense of Openness: Why Global Freedom is the Humane Solution to Global Poverty (Oxford 2018), with Bas van der Vossen; Against Democracy (Princeton 2016); and Markets without Limits (Routledge 2016). He is currently writing, with Chris Surprenant, Injustice for All: How Financial Incentives Created America's Dysfunctional Criminal Justice System and How to Fix It, for Routledge Press.
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Do you want to go to graduate school? Then you're in good company: nearly 80,000 students will begin pursuing a PhD this year alone. But while almost all of new PhD students say they want to work in academia, most are destined for disappointment. The hard truth is that half will quit or fail to get their degree, and most graduates will never find a full-time academic job.
In Good Work If You Can Get It, Jason Brennan combines personal experience with the latest higher education research to help you understand what graduate school and the academy are really like. This candid, pull-no-punches book answers questions big and small, including
• Should I go to graduate school—and what will I do once I get there?
• How much does a PhD cost—and should I pay for one?
• What kinds of jobs are there after grad school, and who gets them?
• What happens to the people who never get full-time professorships?
• What does it take to be productive, to publish continually at a high level?
• What does it take to teach many classes at once?
• What does it take to succeed in graduate school?
• How does "publish or perish" work?
• How much do professors get paid?
• What do search committees look for, and what turns them off?
• How do I know which journals and book publishers matter?
• How do I balance work and life?
This realistic, data-driven look at university teaching and research will make your graduate and postgraduate experience a success. Good Work If You Can Get It is the guidebook anyone considering graduate school, already in grad school, starting as a new professor, or advising graduate students needs. Read it, and you will come away ready to hit the ground running.
A bracingly provocative challenge to one of our most cherished ideas and institutions
Most people believe democracy is a uniquely just form of government. They believe people have the right to an equal share of political power. And they believe that political participation is good for us—it empowers us, helps us get what we want, and tends to make us smarter, more virtuous, and more caring for one another. These are some of our most cherished ideas about democracy. But Jason Brennan says they are all wrong.
In this trenchant book, Brennan argues that democracy should be judged by its results—and the results are not good enough. Just as defendants have a right to a fair trial, citizens have a right to competent government. But democracy is the rule of the ignorant and the irrational, and it all too often falls short. Furthermore, no one has a fundamental right to any share of political power, and exercising political power does most of us little good. On the contrary, a wide range of social science research shows that political participation and democratic deliberation actually tend to make people worse—more irrational, biased, and mean. Given this grim picture, Brennan argues that a new system of government—epistocracy, the rule of the knowledgeable—may be better than democracy, and that it's time to experiment and find out.
A challenging critique of democracy and the first sustained defense of the rule of the knowledgeable, Against Democracy is essential reading for scholars and students of politics across the disciplines.
Featuring a new preface that situates the book within the current political climate and discusses other alternatives beyond epistocracy, Against Democracy is a challenging critique of democracy and the first sustained defense of the rule of the knowledgeable.
American criminal justice is a dysfunctional mess. Cops are too violent, the punishments are too punitive, and the so-called Land of the Free imprisons more people than any other country in the world. Understanding why means focusing on color—not only on black or white (which already has been studied extensively), but also on green.
The problem is that nearly everyone involved in criminal justice—including district attorneys, elected judges, the police, voters, and politicians—faces bad incentives. Local towns often would rather send people to prison on someone else’s dime than pay for more effective policing themselves. Local police forces can enrich themselves by turning into warrior cops who steal from innocent civilians. Voters have very little incentive to understand the basic facts about crime or how to fix it—and vote accordingly. And politicians have every incentive to cater to voters’ worst biases.
Injustice for All systematically diagnoses why and where American criminal justice goes wrong, and offers functional proposals for reform. By changing who pays for what, how people are appointed, how people are punished, and which things are criminalized, we can make the US a country which guarantees justice for all.
- Shows how bad incentives, not "bad apples," cause the dysfunction in American criminal justice
- Focuses not only on overincarceration, but on overcriminalization and other failures of the criminal justice system
- Provides a philosophical and practical defense of reducing the scope of what’s considered criminal activity
- Crosses ideological lines, highlighting both the weaknesses and strengths of liberal, conservative, and libertarian agendas
- Fully integrates tools from philosophy and social science, making this stand out from the many philosophy books on punishment, on the one hand, and the solely empirical studies from sociology and criminal science, on the other
- Avoids disciplinary jargon, broadening the book’s suitability for students and researchers in many different fields and for an interested general readership
- Offers plausible reforms that realign specific incentives with the public good.
But as Jason Brennan and Phillip Magness show in Cracks in the Ivory Tower, American universities fall far short of this ideal. At almost every level, they find that students, professors, and administrators are guided by self-interest rather than ethical concerns. College bureaucratic structures also often incentivize and reward bad behavior, while disincentivizing and even punishing good behavior. Most students, faculty, and administrators are out to serve themselves and pass their costs onto others.
The problems are deep and pervasive: most academic marketing and advertising is semi-fraudulent. To justify their own pay raises and higher budgets, administrators hire expensive and unnecessary staff. Faculty exploit students for tuition dollars through gen-ed requirements. Students hardly learn anything and cheating is pervasive. At every level, academics disguise their pursuit of self-interest with high-faluting moral language.
Marshaling an array of data, Brennan and Magness expose many of the ethical failings of academia and in turn reshape our understanding of how such high power institutions run their business. Everyone knows academia is dysfunctional. Brennan and Magness show the problems are worse than anyone realized. Academics have only themselves to blame.
Why you have the right to resist unjust government
The economist Albert O. Hirschman famously argued that citizens of democracies have only three possible responses to injustice or wrongdoing by their governments: we may leave, complain, or comply. But in When All Else Fails, Jason Brennan argues that there is a fourth option. When governments violate our rights, we may resist. We may even have a moral duty to do so.
For centuries, almost everyone has believed that we must allow the government and its representatives to act without interference, no matter how they behave. We may complain, protest, sue, or vote officials out, but we can’t fight back. But Brennan makes the case that we have no duty to allow the state or its agents to commit injustice. We have every right to react with acts of “uncivil disobedience.” We may resist arrest for violation of unjust laws. We may disobey orders, sabotage government property, or reveal classified information. We may deceive ignorant, irrational, or malicious voters. We may even use force in self-defense or to defend others.
The result is a provocative challenge to long-held beliefs about how citizens may respond when government officials behave unjustly or abuse their power.
- Offers a succinct yet thorough survey of personal freedom
- Explores the true meaning of liberty, drawing philosophical lessons about liberty from history
- Considers the writings of key historical figures from Socrates and Erasmus to Hobbes, Locke, Marx, and Adam Smith
- Combines philosophical rigor with social scientific analysis
- Argues that liberty refers to a range of related but specific ideas rather than limiting the concept to one definition
Nothing is more integral to democracy than voting. Most people believe that every citizen has the civic duty or moral obligation to vote, that any sincere vote is morally acceptable, and that buying, selling, or trading votes is inherently wrong. In this provocative book, Jason Brennan challenges our fundamental assumptions about voting, revealing why it is not a duty for most citizens--in fact, he argues, many people owe it to the rest of us not to vote.
Bad choices at the polls can result in unjust laws, needless wars, and calamitous economic policies. Brennan shows why voters have duties to make informed decisions in the voting booth, to base their decisions on sound evidence for what will create the best possible policies, and to promote the common good rather than their own self-interest. They must vote well--or not vote at all. Brennan explains why voting is not necessarily the best way for citizens to exercise their civic duty, and why some citizens need to stay away from the polls to protect the democratic process from their uninformed, irrational, or immoral votes.
In a democracy, every citizen has the right to vote. This book reveals why sometimes it's best if they don't. In a new afterword, "How to Vote Well," Brennan provides a practical guidebook for making well-informed, well-reasoned choices at the polls.
In this timely new entry in Oxford's acclaimed series What Everyone Needs to Know®, Brennan offers a nuanced portrait of libertarianism, proceeding through a series of questions to illuminate the essential elements of libertarianism and the problems the philosophy addresses, including such topics as the Value of Liberty, Human Nature and Ethics, Economic Liberty, Civil Rights, Social Justice and the Poor, Government and Democracy, and Contemporary Politics. Brennan asks the most fundamental and challenging questions: What do Libertarians think liberty is? Do libertarians think everyone should be selfish? Are libertarians just out to protect the interests of big business? What do libertarians think we should do about racial injustice? What would libertarians do about pollution? Are Tea Party activists true libertarians? As he sheds light on libertarian beliefs, Brennan overturns numerous misconceptions. Libertarianism is not about simple-minded paranoia about government, he writes. Rather, it celebrates the ideal of peaceful cooperation among free and equal people. Libertarians believe that the rich always capture political power; they want to minimize the power available to them in order to protect the weak. Brennan argues that libertarians are, in fact, animated by benevolence and a deep concern for the poor.
Clear, concise, and incisively written, this volume explains a vitally important philosophy in American history--and a potent force in contemporary politics.
What Everyone Needs to Know® is a registered trademark of Oxford University Press.
Libertarians often bill their theory as an alternative to both the traditional Left and Right. The Routledge Handbook of Libertarianism helps readers fully examine this alternative without preaching it to them, exploring the contours of libertarian (sometimes also called classical liberal) thinking on justice, institutions, interpersonal ethics, government, and political economy. The 31 chapters--all written specifically for this volume--are organized into five parts. Part I asks, what should libertarianism learn from other theories of justice, and what should defenders of other theories of justice learn from libertarianism? Part II asks, what are some of the deepest problems facing libertarian theories? Part III asks, what is the right way to think about property rights and the market? Part IV asks, how should we think about the state? Finally, part V asks, how well (or badly) can libertarianism deal with some of the major policy challenges of our day, such as immigration, trade, religion in politics, and paternalism in a free market. Among the Handbook's chapters are those from critics who write about what they believe libertarians get right as well as others from leading libertarian theorists who identify what they think libertarians get wrong. As a whole, the Handbook provides a comprehensive, clear-eyed look at what libertarianism has been and could be, and why it matters.
Con frecuencia damos por sentado que la democracia es la única forma justa de gobierno y creemos que es honesto y de sentido común que todos tengamos derecho a voto. Este libro demuestra que esto no es así.
Con una lógica implacable, Jason Brennan afirma que la democracia se valora sólo por sus resultados y que éstos no son buenos. El votante medio suele estar mal informado o ignora la información política básica, lo que hace que apoye medidas políticas y candidatos con los que en realidad no está de acuerdo, o incluso, van en contra de sus propios intereses. A menudo también ocurre que la participación en la deliberación política nos vuelve más irracionales, sesgados y crueles.
En contra del pensamiento mayoritario, Brennan considera que una buena solución a estos problemas sería experimentar con lo que llama «epistocracia»: el poder de los que saben. Pero no se trata de eliminar los derechos políticos universales para entregárselos a una pequeña élite de sabios. Su propuesta se basa en asumir que quizá resultaría más eficiente dar un poder político – de voto – distinto a cada persona. Éste se establecería en función de los conocimientos, la capacidad para comportarse de manera racional y el compromiso con el interés general.
Contra la democracia es una demoledora pero sensata crítica de las democracias verdaderas y un conjunto de poderosos argumentos basados en los datos y las ciencias sociales. Pero es, además, una magnífica y polémica obra que pretende hacernos pensar más allá de las convenciones y lo políticamente correcto.
Most economists believe capitalism is a compromise with selfish human nature. As Adam Smith put it, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest." Capitalism works better than socialism, according to this thinking, only because we are not kind and generous enough to make socialism work. If we were saints, we would be socialists.
In Why Not Capitalism?, Jason Brennan attacks this widely held belief, arguing that capitalism would remain the best system even if we were morally perfect. Even in an ideal world, private property and free markets would be the best way to promote mutual cooperation, social justice, harmony, and prosperity. Socialists seek to capture the moral high ground by showing that ideal socialism is morally superior to realistic capitalism. But, Brennan responds, ideal capitalism is superior to ideal socialism, and so capitalism beats socialism at every level.
Clearly, engagingly, and at times provocatively written, Why Not Capitalism? will cause readers of all political persuasions to re-evaluate where they stand vis-à-vis economic priorities and systems—as they exist now and as they might be improved in the future.