Monday, March 31, 2008

Brandt and Who's Responsible for War

Brandt's article (see the post just below this one) leaves out of discussion the point about which side in a war is responsible for the war: which side is the wrongful aggressor. The moral obligations of the innocent side depend on the fact that it is the victim and not the perpetrator. But Brandt ignores this. When you ignore this, it doesn't matter what follows.

In the middle section of the article, Brandt's tactic is to show that his utilitarian position entails various common-sense moral judgments. Of course, these are the utility-promoting ones, and it shouldn't come as a surprise that the many utility-promoting judgments embraced by common-sense ethics are entailed (or "explained," as if they needed explanation) by utilitarianism. So, the tactic has no success is supporting Brandt's utilitarianism.

The kinds of common-sense judgments entailed by utilitarianism are three. There are (1.) humanitarian restrictions on doing harm to the enemy when no military gain will result from it, (2.) humanitarian restrictions that might exact a military cost, and (3.) humanitarian restrictions that will entail military losses. Utilitarianism and common-sense agree perfectly that violence done to the enemy for no foreseeable gain is wrong; but utilitarianism is not needed to explain that. Brandt runs into trouble with the other two kinds of judgments.

When refraining from the use of military violence might require foregoing a military gain, it might still be obligatory to refrain, and reasons of utility will be at play here. One ought not destroy 500,000 million enemy souls just in order to increase the chance of keeping a insignificant stronghold occupied by one of one's platoons. There utilitarianism and common-sense agree. But Brandt never proves that non-utilitarian moral principles shouldn't come into deliberations such as this, as well. Perhaps Brandt looks down his nose at the hodge-podge of common-sense moral principles and wishes to substitute for them something simpler. But why anyone would want to do that, though it seems to be the primary goal of many normative moral theorists, is a mystery to me. A pet theory has no weight at all against a common-sense moral judgment. Common-sense moral judgments are the only data normative moral theory has, and there is never any reason for the theorist to wax theory-driven.

Let's take a closer look. Brandt says that when the outcome of the war is certain, the side that everyone knows will win has an obligation to refrain from taking tolls on the enemy "so heavy as to be out of proportion to the estimated cost of further struggle to both sides." If causing Japan to surrender by invading it would have cost the lives of only five American soldiers and a few hundred Japanese, then the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have been wrong. That's common sense, and here again common sense and utilitarianism are in harmony. However, suppose that subduing Japan would have cost, say, 10,000 American soldiers' lives. Then, should the U.S. have refrained from the bombings? No. The point is that Japan was at fault for starting the war. When you unjustly start a war, you should accept that your victim has a right to protect 10,000 of its souls from your violence, even if this costs you 150,000 of your own souls. Brandt provides no evidence that utility alone should be the guide in these cases. He says only that it is in both sides' interest to refrain from this sort of disproportional harm. Well, it isn't in the interest of the side that stands to lose the 10,000. Behind the veil of ignorance we can reasonably maintain that any wrongly and unprovokedly attacked country has the right to finish the enemy off without needlessly losing 10,000 of its citizens. There is no reason that an impartial being standing behind the veil should agree not to reserve this right when he steps from behind the veil.

Behind the veil, the right not to suffer wrongful and unprovoked attack has weight. The right not to sacrifice one's citizens for the sake of maximizing net utility counts. Veil theorists, such as Brandt and Rawls, want to imagine what an impartial and rational being with no morals would choose behind the veil. They imagine different things and nobody should care what they imagine, because nobody should care which morals a person without morals would choose.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Brandt, Utilitarianism, and the Rules of War

In "Utilitarianism and the Rules of War" (1972) Richard B. Brandt, like any rationalist, misconstrues a constraint on rule acceptance as a source of rules. Of course, any acceptable moral rule must meet the constraint that they be acceptable to impartial and rational people; no acceptable moral rule would be unacceptable to them. But there is a large range of mutually inconsistent moral rules that would be acceptable to them. The constraint simply won't determine which rules are right.

Brandt believes that only his preferred rules would be acceptable to them: utilitarian rules. His reason is that it is in the interests of anyone self-interested, impartial and rational to prefer these when he doesn't yet know who he will be: when he is behind the Rawlsian veil of ignorance. If we have an altruistic fellow behind the veil, then he should choose utilitarian rules, too, as they are in others' interests. Utilitarian rules maximize the chance of maintaining his own and others' welfare. So, they are the right moral rules.

There are two problems with this position. One is that Rawls draws different conclusions when he steps behind the veil. He chooses rules that would minimize the maximum loss of welfare he might suffer. This minimax position is inconsistent with Brandt's utilitarianism. So, apparently the impartial and rational space behind the veil does not lead to the determinate conclusions even amongst those philosophers who claim that it does. When the experts' divinations disagree, one concludes that divination doesn't work.

Also, an impartial and rational agent can also prefer not to treat a few people badly as a means of maximizing the net welfare. Or he may not wish to allow the aggressor in the war mercy sufficient to maximize utility because such mercy comes at the expense of the aggressor's innocent victims. Or he may make distinctions between the treatment of enemy non-combatants and the treatment of enemy soldiers on the grounds of decency, knowing full well that these distinctions may reduce his chances of survival when he emerges from behind the veil and enters the war. There is a variety of moral principles which can come into impartial and rational decision making. This is because there is a variety of anti-utilitarian moral principles that impartial agents might embrace. This is the simple fact that refutes the Rawlsian (Kantian) theory of moral deliberation.

Brandt himself admits that there will be a restriction on the rules. The only acceptable rules are those that are consistent with any country having the right to exert force sufficient to overpower the enemy. For it is a fact that no country will not exert such force. But if there is this restriction issuing from human nature, why are there not more restrictions issuing from human nature, such as those I've listed above? Brandt allowed for one, and I listed three. There are more. This is sufficient to refute Brandt's case for utilitarianism. All attempts to divine moral principles out of the thin air of the space behind the veil fail. They have done so since the first emerged with Kant. Only human beings can determine moral rules, not abstract agents.
The Founders' Constitution

It's like a bible. Only, the Bible you can read in a year and is sacred.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Verificationism in Epistemology

This occasional series on verificationism (one on mind, one on social philosophy) turns to epistemology. The idea is to apply verificationism to epistemology. As it happens, I see one interesting application: to skepticism, as the position that no one has any justification to claim empirical knowledge.

The skeptic need only point to our record of mistaken beliefs and our realistic dreams, as Descartes did, to motivate his argument that nothing we seem to know is in fact knowledge. (How do you know there is a computer before you? You've been mistaken in the past and you've dreamed of things that aren't there. Perhaps it is also so in this case. Etc.) Skepticism recommends that we doubt that our evidence warrants our beliefs in commonly accepted descriptions of the world, in the results of science, or even in the existence of the physical world. Call these three beliefs "common beliefs".

Here's the problem with skepticism. Skeptics have not and cannot offer evidential criteria by which we could verify that the common beliefs are not justified. Skeptics first need to answer a question: What would you take as evidence that the common beliefs are without justification? More to the point, What sort of facts would count as evidence that the ordinary evidential standards (call them "OES") which we use to justify common beliefs do not in fact yield any justification? This is a general question to which the skeptic must have an answer before proceeding to claim that he has any such facts. In other words, we want to know what sort of evidence would prove skepticism before we move on to the task of deciding whether there is any evidence of that sort. Now, the skeptic cannot reply that the evidence he has in mind is simply the same as that warranted by the OES, because this would imply that he could obtain a warrant from a source that gives no warrants. So, what kind of evidence does the skeptic have in mind? None.

In short, the skeptic has no idea what he means by "evidence that the application of OES dos not yield justification." You can formulate the case in the form of an open-question argument, if you like. For example, "By the OES, Joe has sufficient warrant for his belief; but is he justified in his belief?" The question seems open. It has an "open" ring to it, like the question, "My mom has acted normally all these years; but is she perhaps a zombie?" But it is not open. No one has any concept of evidential standards required for justification in addition to the OES, just as no one has concept of zombies.

Of course, the skeptic could reply that he accepts only the OES and merely proposes that we never satisfy them in any case. Okay, so we move to a case-by-case examination of common beliefs, rather than skepticism at the level of principle. In each dispute, the skeptic will have to point to discoveries of facts that refute the particular belief in question, such as "I discovered that it was only a shadow, not a monster," "I woke up an realized that I'd been dreaming and it was not actually summertime," or "my fever subsided and found out that I'd hallucinated the bear." All of these discoveries are comprised of common beliefs, such as "there is a shadow," "it is winter now," and "there is no bear in this room." As you can see, no one has any concept of what would count as a finished refutation of the set of common beliefs. Therefore, no one has any concept of what it would take to justify skepticism.

Skepticism has its appeal to the philosopher in adolescence because it's fun to seem to pop all the old bubbles. But after that it becomes merely tiresome. The reason is that it pretends to have substance when in fact it doesn't.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Virtue, Rightness and Human Nature

Virtue, of course, is goodness of character, and rightness is the property certain acts have of being morally permissible, rather than wrong. Some philosophers maintain that virtue is the more fundamental concept, rightness being derivative of it. Not so, I reply. Virtue is reducible to the disposition to do what is right. We wouldn't think that an act is right because it is what a virtuous person would do. We would, however, think a character trait virtuous because it results in its possessor's doing what is right. Is that too quick? Then let us consider.

One might persist in maintaining that virtue is the more fundamental concept, but then the puzzle arises, what makes the virtuous character traits virtues if it is not rightness? The virtue-primacy theorist must appeal to human nature, but the account is incomplete unless more is said. "Why, human nature, of course" is an insufficient explanation. One must appeal in addition to purposes that inhere in human nature: our reasons for being. The candidates, suggested to me variously by adherents of Aristotle, Aquinas, Darwin, and Ayn Rand: (a.) thriving, survival, or something like that, or (b.) glorifying God. (These are not mutually exclusive. Last night, for example, I enjoyed disputations with a Rand-cum-Aristotle virtue-primacy theorist.) The acceptance of a certain purpose of human beings is what drives the virtue-primacy theorist to suggest that rightness is the epiphenomenon of virtue, rather than vice versa. Yet, we have no purposes other than those set by our desires. Our purposes are goals the achievement of which will most satisfy the largest and most practically coherent set of desires. The God-based view entails that we have no purpose if God does not exist; but that isn't so. The thriving-based view has to cope with the fact that thriving doesn't map neatly onto what is right. Hobbes failed to reduce right to self-interest because there are cases in which doing wrong is in one's interest: cases in which one won't get caught. Similarly a person or society can in some cases promote its level of thriving or increase its chance of survival by doing wrong. No, the examination of human nature can help us understand our purpose only because human nature is a set of dispositions to desire certain ends and examining that set is helpful in discovering which resultant preference, after the fashion of an elaborate vector sum, our most coherent set of desires is likely to generate.

I suppose the virtue-primacy theorist has one or the other cherished view about desire-independent human purposes; my interlocutor of last night is partial to the Randian. This commitment drives him to try to maintain it while presenting sensible positions about the logical relation of virtue and rightness. It's a stretch, requiring that he reverse the logical order or rightness and virtue, so that his preferred purpose drives the entire set of positions. My tactic, on the other hand, is not to import any favorite purposes but, like Hume, to assume that desire-independent purposes do not to exist until their rather inscrutable existence is proven, and thereafter to accept whatever purposes remain. There's no proof yet of the desire-independent ones. As Hume said, if we set desire on the sidelines, "'Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger." He hasn't been refuted.

If you think that the rejection of virtue-primacy ill-fits the obvious fact that the examination of human nature and virtue are important components of moral inquiry, fear not. Of course they are. As I've said, they enable us to see more clearly what is most desirable to us and how to cultivate dispositions to achieve it.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Racism in America

There is a malignant tumor in this country: racism. It is a diseased amalgam of guilt and resentment. These forms of self-loathing masquerade as claims of injustice. It's a tumor that will not allow itself to be removed. The only power we have over it is simply to let it go. Then it dies.

No one is responsible for the fact that some people are born into disadvantageous circumstances in this country. There are poor subcultures in this country which make it difficult for people born and raised in them to have a good life. Neither are the people in poor subcultures responsible for their subculture's moral failures, nor are the people lucky enough to live outside those subcultures responsible for those failures. There is no debt of the culturally lucky to transfer any of their goods to the unlucky. (There is a duty to help those who fall into poor health through no fault of there own, but that conservatively narrow requirement of distributive justice is the only requirement.) A dysfunctional culture, by the very nature of culture, can be remedied only by its members' taking steps to improve it. No transfer of any goods into the poor culture can substitute for that inner improvement.

God I love this country. The wide sea of American beings in this land, the ways of life so varied in breadth, so deep in talents, character and creative achievements. I've been a professional jazz musician for 28 years, which has given me to swim deeply in the sea. I've lived in eight cities, visited forty-four states, been educated in predominantly black elementary schools in St. Louis, worked blue-collar hard-labor jobs, as well as white-color jobs. My heart beats for it. It's beautiful. When you add to the list of goods the political tradition that helps make all this possible, you fall in love with it. So much to cherish, so much to conserve.

It has this tumor, however, which won't leave until millions upon millions of us stop getting upset or bothered by race in this country. It seems that only those of us in Generation X and younger can fathom that, and even many of those that young just don't get it. Simply leaving our racist past behind is not fair? You can't just turn the corner on our racist history? Yes you can, because that history can be overcome, and the only way to overcome it is by simply turning the corner on it. Yes we can. Justice does not demand redress of any grievances. Nobody is responsible for bad luck. End of story. It's a story we've wanted to end for generations, and this is the only ending that can be written for it: stop getting upset and move forward with the cultivation of respect, self-reliance, courage and other virtues so important to the good cultures of America.

It's not easy; the tumor is recalcitrant. And, of course, one must maintain a society in which there are ample opportunities for members of poor subcultures to escape them. If you are a member of a poor subculture, you also might stay in it and contribute to improving it. Both of these salutary avenues require dropping guilt and resentment. There is no other way forward and justice requires nothing more.

It's not easy. The guilt and resentment are demons. They cling deeply. By their very nature they disallow one's extricating oneself from their clutches. Guilt requires that one tarry with it and do its bidding - on pain of guilt. Resentment requires certain redress of its grievances, not its mere disavowal. These demons are psychosomatic phenomena, which is to say passions. Escape therefore requires calming oneself until they subside. Excited states of inordinate glee or hope can mark attempts to feel free of guilt and resentment by some distraction (intoxicants and various diverting preoccupations, for example) or by accepting a promise from someone in power that you can be free of the demons if you give him more power to do the things, once and for all, which those demons make us imagine can and should be done (but which in fact cannot and should not.) Excited hope for relief from racism is therefore an indication that you're being hoodwinked by demons; watch for it.

The loudest racist hatred-mongers amongst us are sociopaths: mechanisms of the tumor that feed it's festering guilt and resentment. They need to be shunned, rather than supported and revered. We certainly should not accept a man as president who has just spent his adult life supporting them without having uttering a word of dissent and who continues to support them.

There are millions upon millions of Americans who are already free from racism. God bless them. We marvel at them. The rest of us need to catch up. Racism in America's case is a vice that won't let go. Vices are for the vicious themselves to leave behind and allow to die.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Barak Obama is a Member of a Racist Church

Barak Obama still supports the church. He immerses his daughters in its social disease. It is a black separatist, racist church. He still belongs to it. It's new minister defends the vile bigot Wright.

If McCain still belonged to a white racist church that required its members adhere to a "White Value System" and cheered by the thousand at racist vitriol, then his public life would be over. No one would believe that he didn't know it was a racist church.

Obama is getting a pass because he is black. His audience feels too guilty to hold him to basic standards of decency.

If you can't hold Obama to the same standard you'd hold McCain, then he has you right where he wants you. You feel guilty about taking notice of the fact that the gentle-sounding black man's rhetoric doesn't square with his membership in a racist church. Obama's audacious racism has angered you, but you feel guilty and loathe yourself for being angry at a black man who speaks so gently of social harmony. So you surpress the anger with the guilt and accept Obama. This post angers you because it disturbs the deal with the devil that you have made in order to protect yourself from your own cowardice, guilt and self-loathing. Believing lies and saying you're sorry is easier in the short term for you than doing what you know in your own heart to be right. Obama has a psychosomatic influence on you via guilt, anger and self-loathing, evident in the excitement and agitation the topic causes in you. He belongs to a racist church. He's got you.

Sowell: There was no way that he didn’t know about Jeremiah Wright’s anti-American and racist diatribes from the pulpit. Someone once said that a con man’s job is not to convince skeptics but to enable people to continue to believe what they already want to believe.

UPDATE: I'm not the only one: Kathleen Parker.

UPDATE: Andy McCarthy.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

More Demagoguery from Obama

Here's his speech. It does not answer the question as to whether he was aware that he was a member of a racist and hatred-mongering church. A few days ago, in an interview with Major Garrett, he said that he was not aware of any such content in his church and would have left if he'd heard it more than once there, so he cannot come clean now without admitting that he has been lying about it until now. He admits only that he heard some "controversial" things from Wright. Perhaps his audience won't discern the difference?

Are you making the distinction? Does the long discussion of slavery at the beginning of the speech tend to make you feel guilty for doing so?

Obama simply has not admitted that supporting a hatred-mongering church was wrong or that he knew that he was doing it. If you still think he is lying, then the rhetorical structure of this speech implies that you should feel guilty about rejecting the candidate of racial unity who is healing the nation after its legacy of racism. After all, as Obama reminds us, some are trying to bring up race in this campaign, moving us back to the old days, and you do not want to be one of them. Perhaps you feel that his church is "too black." After all, Obama says asking him to reject Wright would be like asking him to reject "the black community."

Being scandalized by Obama's twenty-year membership in a hatred-mongering church might just be a case of moving us back to the old days when we need to go forward. And here is the candidate of racial unity who admits that his pastor went over the line, so how far do you want to push this? And Obama said a couple of days ago that he never heard Wright say the wicked things. Do you have any proof that he did?

The candidate who supported a racially hate-mongering church for twenty years is portraying himself as the candidate of racial healing. If you see through this, you better be careful not to be made to feel guilty about it by Barak Obama's rhetoric. After all, hasn't he reminded you sufficiently that black people do, after all, have a reason to be so angry with you?

Obama says his rejecting Wright would be like rejecting either his grandmother, who was a little bigoted, or "the black community." A true leader would have either spoken out against a hatred-mongering church or left it. Obama, however, draws a moral equivalence between a privately bigoted old grandmother and all blacks, on the one hand, and a minister who preaches hatred to thousands, on the other. The moral equation is staggeringly obtuse.

Obama simply has not admitted that what he did was wrong or that he knew that he was doing it. Wouldn't you feel guilty about requiring him to leave his grandmother or leave the black community? Do you feel guilty, then, to require that he leave his hatred-mongering church?

Of course, the speech is peppered with points about blacks that make millions of white people guilty, and millions of black people resentful, to hear them. This has the effect of making it difficult for his audience to analyze what he is saying sufficiently to see that he has not admitted that what he did was wrong or that he knew that he was doing it.

The speech was pure demagoguery.

UPDATE: I'm not the only one. VDH: ...Obama will enlighten you, as your teacher, why you are either confused or too ill-intended to ask him to disassociate himself from Wright. [SNIP] Obama is right about one thing: We are losing yet another opportunity to talk honestly about race, to hold all Americans to the same standards of public ethics and morality, and to emphasize that no one gets a pass peddling vulgar racism, or enabling it by failing to disassociate himself from its source — not Rev. Wright, not even the eloquent, but now vapid, Barack Obama.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Roger L. Simon is "pointing out the obvious": that anyone who finds moral equivalence between Wright's racist screeds and his white grandmother's admitting to him in private that she feared black men on the street has got a serious problem.

UPDATE: John Derbyshire: You can go through Obama's speech pulling out questionable points like that from nearly every paragraph. The speech is slippery, evasive, dishonest, and sometimes insulting.

Read the whole thing.


Obama denies that he heard Wright spew his monstrous venom during the twenty-year relationship. His speech today covers over the fact that he denies it. He simply isn't believable.

Obama exposed his children to a church which inculcates hatred of the middle class, of whites, and of America. In my opinion, that's child abuse.

Obama never spoke up about Wright's hatred-mongering, as a leader who disagrees with Wright would have done. Until he got caught last week, that is.

Obama laces his apology for his failure of judgment and leadership with multiple reminders that blacks have reason to be angry. This is the psycholgizing of a demagogue.

If one must judge a man by his deeds and not just his words, then we must conclude that Obama is a black separatist and racist, as well as a leftist. If thinking of that innocent face and noble-sounding voice makes you feel guilty about drawing this conclusion, then he's got you.
Cult of Personality

This is based upon a foundation of hypnotic states induced in its devotees. The hypnotic leader, be he an abusive husband, religious leader, or politician, induces these states by inciting resentment and guilt in his subjects and manifesting charisma that induces an excitement in them by causing them to believe that he can free them from these painful emotions. Their guilt, resentment and excitement are sufficient to cause the subjects to to deny various obvious facts, as they must do if they are to persist in believing that they should follow the hypnotic leader.

There are three ways to disrupt the hypnotic state. The first is epistemic: reasoning, thinking, and re-evaluating the evidence. Obviously, by the vary nature of the hypnotic state, it isn't likely to work. Also, it doesn't make one resilient to the next attempt to prey upon one's resentments and guilt.

The second way to disrupt the hypnotic state is psychosomatic: by sitting quietly and refocus the hypnotic state upon one's own conscience, body and mind, training it away from thoughts of the leader, allowing the excitement to abate and the guilt and resentment dissipate. This way is more prophylactic, making future encounters with hypnotic leaders unlikely to have the pernicious effect.

The third way is to tire of the hypnotic leader's charisma and allow one's hypnotic focus to be captured by another hypnotic leader or by preoccupations with behaviors that offer temporary respite from the resentment and guilt (intoxicants, television, and other diversions, even one's career or hobbies.) Of course, this third way offers no freedom from pernicious hypnotic states. It merely disrupts one in order to substitute in another.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Obama is Racist Degenerate

Barak Obama is an asshole. If you haven't heard the sermons Obama has been adoring for 20 years, go give them a listen. Obama gets paraded about as Mr. Nice Guy. He's not. You don't attend that church for 20 years, get married by its racist degenerate, have your kids baptized by its racist degenerate, and give its racist degenerate $20K in 2006, without being a racist degenerate yourself.

“It sounds like he was trying to be provocative,” Obama told the paper.

That's as weak as it gets. Obama is as subtly bombastic a charlatan as they come.

UPDATE: Obama is now turning out to be a liar. He heard the hatred in his congregation and from his pastor. He had no revulsion to it. Now, in order to get elected, he claims to find it worthy of faint condemnation. He doesn't find it worthy of condemnation and he never did. He's a liar and a longtime member of a racist and hatred-filled church.

I expect better of black people.

UPDATE: VDH: It doesn’t seem to matter that there is more than enough evidence in Obama’s own memoirs and past interviews and puff pieces—as well as the common-sense deduction that one does not frequent a church for 20 years and remain oblivious to the ratings of its preacher—that Obama knew what went on.

It doesn’t seem to matter that Obama’s assertion he will stay on at the church due to Wright’s departure is problematic, since Wright’s successor Otis Moss III, in a recent CNN interview, simply defended Wright and gave no evidence that he would distance the church from his message.

UPDATE: O'Beirne: Too bad Michelle Obama's litany of her husband's faults included morning breath and smelly socks but not nodding off during sermons. It seems to me the senator has a believe-me-not-your-lying-eyes problem. Rev. Wright's enthusiastic congregation gives standing ovations to his vitriol. Had Barack Obama been present he alone would have been sitting in slack-jawed disbelief?

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds: We are seeing a pattern of double-talk.

UPDATE: William Kristol: [I]t’s becoming clear that Obama has been less than candid in addressing his relationship to his pastor....[SNIP]...the pretense that over all these years Obama had no idea that Wright was saying such things is hard to sustain.

UPDATE: Peter Wehner: Senator Obama, whose campaign only last year said that he was “proud of his pastor and his church,” is now saying that he wasn’t aware of the angry, reckless, anti-American, and racially divisive comments by Reverend Wright. But that claim stretches credulity. [SNIP]This is the worst crisis the Obama campaign has faced. It has done deep and perhaps long-term damage by calling into question the judgment and credibility of the junior senator from Illinois. And it badly undermines Obama’s claim that he is a figure who can bind up America’s racial wounds.

UPDATE: Juan Williams: ...the notion that Barack Obama wants to advance that he didn't -- or wasn't aware of it, I find that unbelievable....

UPDATE: Jim Geraghty: For most, the idea that Jeremiah Wright hid these views and statements from Barack Obama over the course of a 23-year relationship as mentor and pupil strains credulity.

UPDATE: Thomas Sowell:In all that time, he never had a clue as to what kind of man Jeremiah Wright was? Give me a break! [SNIP] Equality means that a black demagogue who has been exposed as a phony deserves exactly the same treatment as a white demagogue who has been exposed as a phony.

UPDATE: Shelby Steele: And yet, in the end, Barack Obama's candidacy is not qualitatively different from Al Sharpton's or Jesse Jackson's. Like these more irascible of his forbearers, Mr. Obama's run at the presidency is based more on the manipulation of white guilt than on substance. [SNIP] The fact is that Barack Obama has fellow-traveled with a hate-filled, anti-American black nationalism all his adult life, failing to stand and challenge an ideology that would have no place for his own mother.

UPDATE: National Review: The problem for Obama is that the length and depth of his relationship with the Rev. Wright and his unconvincing attempts to distance himself from his mentor tell Americans far more about his values and judgment than his compelling campaign speeches about racial harmony do.

UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg: Obama preaches unity. Well, real unity requires real truth-telling and the ability to tell right from wrong, and Wright from right.

UPDATE: Richard Cohen: [H]e has been less than forthright or responsible about Wright.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Libertarianism and Liberal Fascism

Goldberg has posted this. I emailed him this.

Goldberg became more libertarian in writing the book. I became more libertarian in reading it.
Health and Distributive Justice

I've been arguing that one must have ill-health (including insufficient food and shelter) in order to have a claim to distributive injustice. (The other kind of justice is procedural, having to do with fairness in transactions, theft, contractual fulfillment, and so forth. If you're keeping score, "social justice" is the leftist term for "distributive justice.")

However, ill-health is not sufficient for distributive injustice. There is a value placed on people not suffering ill-health. There are other values, too, however: the self-reliance and personal responsibility of the one with ill-health, the property rights of those who have the wealth necessary to to remediate one's ill-health, the chance of any remediation's creating social structures and systems that will be detrimental to society in the future, the corrosion of healthy people's self-reliance, etc. If offering help to someone with ill-health we reward the foolishness which got him into the predicament, cause healthy people to take less responsibility for their health in the future, create a bureaucracy that makes our government worse, or deprive the healthy and wealthy of large amounts of money, then we ought not to offer the help. If offering the help does only one or some of those bad things, then we need to examine further whether we ought to offer the help; deliberation over the trade-offs will tell. But it certainly doesn't follow from the fact that someone has ill-health that he deserves help.

The baseline of health is therefore not a right in any general sense. There are many people in our society who have a right to assistance in remediating their ill-health; there are many who have ill-health and who do not have a right to remediation. Policy makers need only consider the various values at stake (such as those named above) and decide how to target assistance at those who have a right to help and avoid giving assistance to those who have no such right, either because under no circumstances would they deserve the help or because, though they have a prima facie right to help, it is outweighed by other considerations.

It seems unlikely that a national health plan is just, therefore. It seems very likely that government should do whatever prudence dictates to make health insurance cheaper. It should consider liberating the health insurance market from regulation and the medical industry from its litigation load. But the widely believed notion that health care is a right is groundless.

The scope of distributive justice for a conservative is very narrow. The welfare net it prefers is very lean. Where it targets the deserving, the net may be serious and robust, indeed, however, because it is, after all, a genuine matter of justice.
Monkey Clitoris

Dang, y'all come here looking for "flipper babies" and "natural law and divine command theory" a lot. This week I'm getting an unusual amount of search hits for the latter from all over the world. Must be an online philosophy course's paper topic this week. Bottom line, there is no such thing as a natural purpose outside of God's command. Just saying.

Anyways, nothing beats monkey clitoris. Best. Search. Hit. Joke. Ever.