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With regards to the recent events in US and European politics — Trump's triumph, Brexit, etc. — Is populism an *inevitable* consequence of democracy, or is it avoidable by means such as educating the people?

Populism, however understood, may not have been the only thing behind "Trump's triumph". And Brexit was not just an exercise in populism. There were genuine issues of national sovereignty with Brexit, in a narrow legal sense, unlike with Trump, about which there were genuine differences of political opinion. The parliamentary monopoly on law-making in the UK is guaranteed by the Coronation Oath, but denied by EEC and then EU legislation from 1972 on. In addition, there were plans ("Dokument UE-2", co-authored by the Foreign Ministers of Germany and France), in the event of a "Remain" vote, for a common European Army and police force, though the plans were concealed before the referendum. It is hard to imagine too many of the United States wanting a common army with Mexico and Canada, say, or a common legal system. The EU executive, though appointed by elected legislators, is not itself elected. Yet it has the power to issue "directives" having the force of law in the member states with no oversight or...

The First Amendment says that the government protects the right of the individual of free speech. But, should the government protect the individual's hate speech?

According to the US Supreme Court, there are certain categories of speech or expression that are not protected by the First Amendment, for example "fighting words" or those that incite people to riot or cause a breach of the peace; the "fighting words" are also "insulting", and they are "those that by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace". These "have never been thought to raise any constitutional problem" (Chaplinsky v New Hampshire 1942). Slander is another example. "There are certain well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which have never been thought to raise any constitutional problem. These include the lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or "fighting words" those that by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight...

Say I smoke marijuana not just because I find it pleasurable but because it is a form of counterculture expression. That is, smoking marijuana is a political act. I think that some in the 60s might have subscribed to that notion. I insist that weed is speech (and why not since money and flag burning seem to be), and the government cannot deny me exercise of that right. How do we square the general right of expression with problematic individual cases like the one above? Surely my exercise will get me arrested in many jurisdictions.

I have consulted an authoritative legal friend, who suggests the following line of thought. Is smoking marijuana a form of speech protected by the First Amendment? I cannot simply engage in an act and make the act a protected form of speech because I think or claim it is. There is also the objective test as to whether it has that meaning in the culture at large. In the 1960s smoking pot might have been taken as a protest, and yet today it might not, if only because its use is common. Besides, not any act, even literal speech, is protected under the First Amendment. One could not take unlawful killing, say, or "fighting words", for example incitements to criminal activity, to be protected. So far the law. It seems to me that very similar points apply, minus the Constitutional formulation, if the question is taken morally rather legally, in spite of the fact that the preservation of the democracy is not at the heart of morality.

On a answer dated February 2, 2016, philosopher Michael Lacewing distinguishes between "the right" and "the good". In common usage "right" and "good" often mean the same thing: "do the right thing" means "do the good thing". Could he or others explain that distinction? Thank you.

If I pass the butter, that might be the right thing to do. It might also be a good thing to do, though to my ear it sounds strange, even incomprehensible, to say that it is "the good thing to do", rather than "a good thing to do". "The right thing to do" or "Doing the right thing" are phrases the tell us that an action conforms to a moral rule specifying what is right. The word “right” typically appears in principle- and rule-based connections and contexts, such as legal ones, or the rules of an organization such as a school or a military organization, or a profession with a code of principles or ethics, where what it is right to do is expressed as a given or fixed set of standards of behavior. There is as a result more of a suggestion of a present or potential criticism, so that the word “right” introduces a context in which what is wrong is something that is definitely being ruled out or is not in accordance or conformity with the principle or standard, or because it does not conform. There is some...

Would a just world be one where people get what they need, or one where people get what they deserve?

In the context of crime, justice is getting what one deserves (twenty years hard labour, hanging, if anyone deserves hanging), and so criminal justice includes retributive justice. In the social context, since there is the assumption that everyone deserves to be treated as a human being should be treated, justice can assume the form of the meeting of basic needs, for example housing and education. This is sometimes called distributive justice. The two forms of justice are complementary rather than inconsistent, however. What underlies both is the concept of desert. Some conservative thinkers find the whole idea of distributive justice a confused one. To think that a way of cutting a cake is unfair makes complete sense, because there is a central distribution. But the world of labour is not like this, and the concept of fairness has no application; there is no cake waiting to be divided if I do no work, these thinkers say. Liberal thinkers, on the other hand, work from the admittedly abstract...