I have on my desk my copy of Hartley Rogers’s wonderful Theory of Recursive Functions and Effective Computability. I’ve been checking my memory that he says that, for effective computability, the steps in a particular algorithm must be idiot-proof at least in the weak sense of being executable by a computing agent with a “fixed finite bound” on his/her/its capacity. And yes, he does say that. Which is good, because that’s what I said he said in a talk last week!

Inside the front cover, there’s still the June 1970 pencilled stock date of Heffers (the wonderful warren of a bookshop that used to be in Petty Cury), and the price, 149 shillings. I guess it is, relatively speaking, the most expensive book I’ve ever bought. Going by the retail price index, that’s about £87: relative to academic pay, rather more. But it is a unique classic (and already established as such when I bought it a few years after publication); it is almost 500 pages; and the costs of production must have been enormous.

Zip forward to the present day. My young colleague Ben Colburn has just published an elegantly written and exceedingly interesting slim volume Autonomy and Liberalism. In pages, it is about a third of the length of Hartley Rogers, in words very much less than that: and the production costs were minimal given Ben had to send them an electronic file to their detailed specifications. Routledge are charging a quite absurd and shaming £70 (yes seventy pounds).

Which is, as the youff say, simply taking the piss.

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### 4 Responses to Routledge go mad

1. Gc says:

“Colburn argues that one should see liberalism as a political theory committed to the value of autonomy, understood as consisting in an agent deciding for oneself what is valuable and living life in accordance with that decision.”

Assuming that everyone is as responsible person as, say, a typical student of Cambridge, this political theory works just fine.

• Colburn says:

Damn! I wish I’d thought of that objection before I published.

• Gc says:

Im not sure are you being sarcastic, and did treat this topic, so if you had wrote or came up now with some arguments I would like to hear about them. I would like to see reviews of your books if they are online. Im not sure whats your stand on public healtcare, education and such. Are you by the way a somekind of libertarian?
What do you think about UKs infamous drinking problem? Should the goverment take a larger role e.g restricting autonomy of their citizens? If not, are the other people then responsible to pay the bill.

• Colburn says:

I was being sarcastic, yes.

An answer to the particular criticism you raise would involve going into far too much detail here, I’m afraid.

The core of it is that you implicitly rely on conceiving of autonomy as a deontological constraint of some sort; I argue that it should be thought of teleologically, as a valuable property which we would like people’s lives to instantiate. The full answer follows from that with some moderately competent philosophical spadework.

The practical policy issues you raise are good and interesting ones, and I’ve got lots to say about them (though I hadn’t realised, till I reread the last proofs, how skeletal my treatment is in A&L – lots of work to be done in getting it all explicitly down on paper). I agree with Peter that Routledge are charging far too much for it, so I don’t suggest you buy it yourself, but why not ask your friendly local public library to get a copy? Then you can write a devastating rejoinder.

I will say one thing: in no sense am I a libertarian.