Logical Inconsistancy and the NSS

A question regarding promotion of Democracy. During the Iraq reconstruction, the Iraqi people came together and wrote their own Constitution. Critics in this country soundly criticised that document because it didn’t establish freedom of religion, that is Islamic religious principles and separation of Church and State was not firmly established. In the recent National Security Strategy document released by the Administration the same curious thing occurred. In adjacent sections Mr Obama states that two primary objectives with regard to promoting human rights abroad include supporting democracy and women’s rights. These two ideas are in conflict.

The document states the importance of:

Recognizing the Legitimacy of All Peaceful Democratic Movements: America respects the right of all peaceful, law-abiding, and nonviolent voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them.

and

Supporting the Rights of Women and Girls: Women should have access to the same opportunities and be able to make the same choices as men.

It seems to me quite clear that one of the notions held throughout much of the world is that women should not have the same access to the same opportunities as men. And this is an idea expressed by peaceful, law-abiding, and non-violent voices in places around the world, one with which however we disagree. This is just the same as the criticisms rendered after a democratic government forms a Constitution which does not separate Church and State.

Here’s the thing, you can support the idea that people should be free and able to set up their communities and the laws and customs by which they are run. You can want people to have certain ways of governing themselves and modes of setting up those communities. You can’t have both.

50 responses to “Logical Inconsistancy and the NSS

  1. 1) Nobody’s talking about pure, mob-rule democracy. In a democracy with a Constitution or similar set of rules, it’s easy to forbid certain abuses of the tyranny of the majority, including sex discrimination.

    2) Coming from you, this is rich. Your religion keeps women from having the same access to opportunities (e.g. in leadership/ministry) as men do. Yes, of course you have your rationalizations, but so do the Muslims. The only difference is that we have a separation of church and state. I guarantee you that if our leaders and people were all members of your religion, and we didn’t have a wall between church and state, women wouldn’t have the same rights that they do today.

  2. JA,
    You’re missing the point. You can be for self-determination “even if those ideas are ones with which you disagree” or for particular issues (that is, the one’s with which you agree) to be spread. Not both.

    Or at least not both and remain consistent.

  3. When you say a majority don’t want women to have the same opportunity is that the majority of people or the majority of men? A system where only men get a vote is not, technically, a democracy.

  4. Boonton,
    When I say majority I include the women. JA for example cites the case of Eastern Orthodoxy in which women have different paths to church leadership, i.e., women cannot be priests or bishops. (he wrongly contends this means women cannot have important leadership roles) The point is that the women within the church also think that women should not be priests. The point is that a similar situation often arises in other countries in which a majority (including women) thinks that unequal opportunities based on gender is right. Your notions of equality and democracy cannot be reconciled. So why pretend you can push for both?

  5. Mark,

    You can be for self-determination “even if those ideas are ones with which you disagree” or for particular issues (that is, the one’s with which you agree) to be spread. Not both.

    I am for democracies that disallow certain kinds of tyrannies of the majority. You’re saying I can’t be?

  6. he wrongly contends this means women cannot have important leadership roles

    PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STOP SAYING I SAID THINGS I DID NOT IN FACT SAY

  7. JA,
    I re-read your statement, you’re right, you didn’t say that women cannot be leaders in my church. I’m sorry.

    What you cannot say is that you would like democracies to encode and support ideas with which you disagree and at the same time say that they can’t encode and support ideas with which you disagree. Well, you can say it, but you cannot say it and be internally consistent.

  8. JA,

    The only difference is that we have a separation of church and state. I guarantee you that if our leaders and people were all members of your religion, and we didn’t have a wall between church and state, women wouldn’t have the same rights that they do today.

    Well, if the leaders and people were all members of my religion they might not have the same “rights” that they do today … but then again they might not want them either.

  9. Mark,

    I re-read your statement, you’re right, you didn’t say that women cannot be leaders in my church. I’m sorry.

    Thanks. :-)

    What you cannot say is that you would like democracies to encode and support ideas with which you disagree and at the same time say that they can’t encode and support ideas with which you disagree. Well, you can say it, but you cannot say it and be internally consistent.

    Democracies should not be allowed to encode discrimination based on gender, religion, sex, sexual orientation, etc. (Also, slavery, child abuse, torture — all human rights violations.)

    Everything else is allowed, no matter if I agree or not. Flat taxes, painting all exteriors blue and blue only, washing dishes allowed only on Tuesdays, driving on the right on Mondays and on the left the rest of the week — all allowed.

    Note that I’m pretty much taking the position of the founders, albeit a more enlightened version (no slavery, equality of women, of LGBTs, etc.) Some things we recognize as human rights. Everything else is fair game. Yes, we might disagree on what those human rights are. Such is life.

  10. When I say majority I include the women. JA for example cites the case of Eastern Orthodoxy in which women have different paths to church leadership, i.e., women cannot be priests or bishops. (he wrongly contends this means women cannot have important leadership roles) The point is that the women within the church also think that women should not be priests.

    But the Eastern Orthodox Church is not a democracy and by definition it could not become one unless it were to make radical changes. Didn’t Locke or Hume have a famous discussion once over the question of whether or not a man could sell himself into slavery? Anyway, from a theoretical position I think there have to be constitutional (written or unwritten) limits on a democracy’s power. For example, a majority may vote to set up an unlimited monarch but that wouldn’t be a democracy. Even if a majority of men and women don’t want women to have an equal say, they nonetheless must have an equal say for the system to be a democracy.

    The other fact is in modern usage democracy or democratic countries means a combination where the people vote AND the political system is set up to respect various civil and human rights. It is not used to mean the ancient Greek system where ‘the mob’ got to vote any policy it pleased (such as executing Socretes).

  11. Well, if the leaders and people were all members of my religion they might not have the same “rights” that they do today … but then again they might not want them either.

    Oh believe me, I have no illusions that religions are incapable of indoctrinating their subordinate classes into believing in their own subordination — whether we’re talking about females or homosexuals in Abrahamic religions or the lower castes in Hinduism or the non-Levites in ancient Judaism. I never underestimate religion, the power of denial, or Stockholm’s syndrome.

  12. JA,
    You’re copping out. Basically, if you recall the discussions of dogma/adiaphora, your stating that you support their ability to disagree with you on things you don’t think matter. Well, that’s a non-statement, i.e., you really don’t think they can disagree with you on any issue of real importance.

    Boonton,

    Anyway, from a theoretical position I think there have to be constitutional (written or unwritten) limits on a democracy’s power. For example, a majority may vote to set up an unlimited monarch but that wouldn’t be a democracy. Even if a majority of men and women don’t want women to have an equal say, they nonetheless must have an equal say for the system to be a democracy.

    My suggestion was that if the cell door is unlocked you cannot be imprisoned against your will. So if Littletown, Kansas wants to elect their mayor as “prince for life” that is right if every resident of Littletown is free to leave freely and remains without coercion. Sovereignty is just if it is not coerced.

    But that’s not the point. The point being made is that the two statements in these passages are inconsistent. They remain so.

    The other fact is in modern usage democracy or democratic countries means a combination where the people vote AND the political system is set up to respect various civil and human rights.

    Yes, and what rights are required and what are not is the subject of discussion. You’ve decided that these different democracies have to agree with you on what constitutes is rights are important how they should be set up. That is in discordance with your notion that they are free to set up said system even if you don’t agree.

  13. Mark,

    This is not a radical new position I’m taking. I’m saying there are some rights I see as universal, which even democracies cannot violate.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    Now, “self-evident” is a stretch and the Creator business is wishful thinking, but I think the idea is good. It sounds like you’re being contrary just to be contrary.

    If you argue that other people have different sets of Human Rights than I do, I readily concede. And I can’t even bootstrap the rights in via appealing to God the way the founders did. But all that means is that different people will disagree on what those rights should be. Well, duh. We disagree with even the hallowed founders, for example when it comes to race. Anybody who tells you their values are Objective or from God, you can be sure he’s feeding you a load. (My, what a coincidence! I just talked to God, and it turns out he agrees with me!)

    If you want to argue with my specific set of Human Rights, well that’s another discussion.

  14. JA,
    I agree that’s not a radical position. This is however not consistent with that:

    Recognizing the Legitimacy of All Peaceful Democratic Movements: America respects the right of all peaceful, law-abiding, and nonviolent voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them.

    It is unclear how equality of women’s opportunity or that a society cannot encode features favoring one religion is necessarily a priori inconsistent with Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Recall that society which you suggested in which the citizens are 100% Eastern Orthodox. Constitutional recognition of the liturgical calendar and its observance violates separation. Explain to me how it is inconsistent within that society of L/L&pH.

  15. Yes, and what rights are required and what are not is the subject of discussion. You’ve decided that these different democracies have to agree with you on what constitutes is rights are important how they should be set up. That is in discordance with your notion that they are free to set up said system even if you don’t agree.

    Well the quote you cited from the document that you feel is problematic states:

    Recognizing the Legitimacy of All Peaceful Democratic Movements: America respects the right of all peaceful, law-abiding, and nonviolent voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them.

    This is not quite the same as saying the US feels such groups should win or even be allowed to carry out their desired policies if they should win in a democratic system. A ‘king for life’ political party has a right to exist and ‘be heard’ but it probably doesn’t have a right to carry out its preferred policy even if it happens to win some elections.

    The document is clever in that it may leave the impression that it isn’t asserting people shouldn’t be able to set up their communities according to ‘laws and customs’ that are old but it does imply that. You may have had a despotic king for the last ten thousand years but the US’s stance is that is not a gov’t we support. You may, if you wish, have a democratic gov’t that has a peaceful “bring back the despotic king” political party…but that’s not very appealing to rabid despotic king fans.

  16. Recognizing the Legitimacy of All Peaceful Democratic Movements: America respects the right of all peaceful, law-abiding, and nonviolent voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them.

    As Boonton pointed out, recognizing legitimacy is not identical to approving 100%.

    This whole post smells of you trying to play gotcha rather than something more substantial.

    Recall that society which you suggested in which the citizens are 100% Eastern Orthodox. Constitutional recognition of the liturgical calendar and its observance violates separation. Explain to me how it is inconsistent within that society of L/L&pH.

    I don’t limit my rights to L,L, and PH. I explicitly mentioned freedom of and from religion as well.

    Perhaps where you go wrong is imagining a society of 100% Eastern Orthodox. This is of course not possible. Even if you start that way, by year two somebody will have lost his faith and by year 20 you’ll have a whole bunch of adolescents who have left the faith, either for apatheism/atheism/agnosticism/secularism or for another religion or denomination. I’m not sure exactly what observance of the liturgical calendar means, but it sounds like forcing a young Muslim or atheist or Jew or Jehovah’s Witness to do it would violate that person’s religious freedom.

  17. Boonton,
    I’m not sure that’s the tack you want to take … or is it? Because you’ve essentially capitulated. That is to say you’ve offered that the idea that other countries self-determination and democracy should be ignored … that you’re particular ideas of what rights are important and necessary to a well functioning society are better formed and more “right” than any contrary opinion and that this statement to the contrary is a lie.

    As I had pointed out to be consistent you can take the first or the second and you’ve definitively stated that the second is preferred. Now, I’m unclear as to whether Mr Obama agrees with you, after all he placed self-determination prior to the other in the list.

    I’m thinking your notion that this was put into the NSS as a deceit is troubling. I don’t like the idea of supporting nascent democracies dishonestly, i.e., telling them supporting them without intending to do so just because they don’t share our social anthropological conceits, especially because 70% of the world (everyone but Western Europe and America) is in the other category.

    JA,

    As Boonton pointed out, recognizing legitimacy is not identical to approving 100%.

    That’s irrelevant. The question is do you support and defend their right to do so. As I stated you cannot simultaneously defend that right and defend the individually stated rights which conflict with what they want.

    This whole post smells of you trying to play gotcha rather than something more substantial.

    Ethics is all about weighing conflicting goods and bads. The point is here was stated in close proximity two incommensurate notions both expressed as good. These two notions were pushed as incompatible by both libertarians and the left in the context of the content of the Iraqi Constitution, that we did not put our own peculiar stamp and for example force separations of Church/State into their Constitution, which was a thing they felt necessary and we would not. This is not a “gotcha” but a thing which comes up. I’m discussing it because I think there is an important core point here, which we are dancing around by sticking to ephemera.

    I happen to think that when you let freedom roll you no longer have the ability to force the outcome. At that prior time I quoted a Donald Kingsbury novel The Moon Goddess and the Son which was Sci-Fiction book written in the early 80s speculating about the fall of the Soviet regime. I mention it because I think the thesis that picking particular forms and statements in new democratic movements as being something undesirable is well defended in the context of that novel.

    You happen to think separation of church and state and the equality of opportunity for women are essential for the rights and health of a society. This is the basis on which your (our) society is formed so it is natural to support it. I offer that it may not be correct, and that the H/S societies which while not as wealthy are happier. In the context of L,L and PoH …. I guess it depends on whether you think the 2nd or third is more important. Eh?

    I’d also offer that by forcing those rights on people you are restricting their liberty in a particular way so it might be argued that in defending individual liberties you are at the same time taking other liberties which they hold equally (or more) valued.

    Note: Edited slightly.

  18. That is to say you’ve offered that the idea that other countries self-determination and democracy should be ignored … that you’re particular ideas of what rights are important and necessary to a well functioning society are better formed and more “right” than any contrary opinion and that this statement to the contrary is a lie.

    Democracy means, in the non-ancient sense, that certain rights are necessary to a well functioning society. That’s not optional or contingent on the society’s ‘self-determination’.

    Now, I’m unclear as to whether Mr Obama agrees with you, after all he placed self-determination prior to the other in the list.

    I’m not sure the order is meant to indicate which takes priority. The sense I get is that they compliment each other.

    I’m thinking your notion that this was put into the NSS as a deceit is troubling. I don’t like the idea of supporting nascent democracies dishonestly, i.e., telling them supporting them without intending to do so just because they don’t share our social anthropological conceits, especially because 70% of the world (everyone but Western Europe and America) is in the other category.

    Well actually he says we support peaceful groups “even if we disagree with them”. Should they really, really be shocked if, well we disagree with some of their aims?

    You happen to think separation of church and state and the equality of opportunity for women are essential for the rights and health of a society. This is the basis on which your (our) society is formed so it is natural to support it. I offer that it may not be correct, and that the H/S societies which while not as wealthy are happier.

    So what does their happiness have to do with it? To paraphrase Plato, if we are chained in caves for our whole lives we may be happy with some stray shadows that appear on the wall. No one says that H/S cultures can’t exist, does that mean, though, that they can troump basic freedoms (let’s assume we can agree on what those freedoms are)? I don’t think so.

    I’d also offer that by forcing those rights on people you are restricting their liberty in a particular way so it might be argued that in defending individual liberties you are at the same time taking other liberties which they hold equally (or more) valued.

    But do they have such liberty? In theory if 100% of women think women shouldn’t work why outlaw women working? But if 100% of men think that and 50% of women then you have a case where 25% of the population is being pushed around by 75%. Upon what is that based on?

  19. Boonton,

    Democracy means, in the non-ancient sense, that certain rights are necessary to a well functioning society. That’s not optional or contingent on the society’s ’self-determination’.

    Equality of women and separation of church and state was not one of the required pre-conditions for a functioning democracy in the non-ancient sense. That sense came with our founders and some of the theorists they based their thinking on, e.g., Locke. Democracy is not defined by Locke, but a particular form of it is.

    The sense I get is that they compliment each other.

    In the last post you offered that perhaps the first was a sham. Now they compliment. Your post-modernism is showing. Which is it?

    Well actually he says we support peaceful groups “even if we disagree with them”. Should they really, really be shocked if, well we disagree with some of their aims?

    So, what do you do when you disagree with them, e.g., they don’t support separation or women’s equality. Do you try to force them to acquiesce to those or do you continue your support?

    So what does their happiness have to do with it? To paraphrase Plato, if we are chained in caves for our whole lives we may be happy with some stray shadows that appear on the wall. No one says that H/S cultures can’t exist, does that mean, though, that they can trump basic freedoms (let’s assume we can agree on what those freedoms are)? I don’t think so.

    I think Plato would not argue that if they left the cave they’d be happier. Your problem is that you suggest this freedom will further their pursuit of Happiness. I’m troubled by the notion that might instead be a detriment. My point on H/S culture is that they (a) don’t agree on the necessity of some of those rights and (b) are happier. So given that on what is your argument that such rights are necessary based?

  20. That’s irrelevant. The question is do you support and defend their right to do so.

    I don’t. Problem solved?

    Ethics is all about weighing conflicting goods and bads. The point is here was stated in close proximity two incommensurate notions both expressed as good. These two notions were pushed as incompatible by both libertarians and the left in the context of the content of the Iraqi Constitution, that we did not put our own peculiar stamp and for example force separations of Church/State into their Constitution, which was a thing they felt necessary and we would not. This is not a “gotcha” but a thing which comes up. I’m discussing it because I think there is an important core point here, which we are dancing around by sticking to ephemera.

    Ok, fair enough.

    You happen to think separation of church and state and the equality of opportunity for women are essential for the rights and health of a society. This is the basis on which your (our) society is formed so it is natural to support it. I offer that it may not be correct, and that the H/S societies which while not as wealthy are happier. In the context of L,L and PoH …. I guess it depends on whether you think the 2nd or third is more important. Eh?

    I think it’s crazy to allow rights to be restricted because you think average happiness will increase or something. That’s right out of Stalin.

    I’d also offer that by forcing those rights on people you are restricting their liberty in a particular way so it might be argued that in defending individual liberties you are at the same time taking other liberties which they hold equally (or more) valued.

    I don’t recognize the “right” to abuse other people’s rights as a right. Obviously, by outlawing slavery it not only pissed off all the slaveholders, but it cost them real money. Should I be boo-hooing about how they lost their right to own slaves? I don’t think so.

  21. JA,

    I think it’s crazy to allow rights to be restricted because you think average happiness will increase or something. That’s right out of Stalin.

    I don’t “think” average happiness will be increased, there is data. Less depression, mental illness, and suicide in H/S cultures than in individualistic ones. Speaking of Stalin, recall in Lives of Others the importance of the government concealing the high rate of suicide in the GDR. This was a sign of the lack of the society to provide an environment fostering happiness of the people. So … returning to the original point, if people are less happy when having these freedoms … what is the reason for having them or promoting them as necessary?

    I don’t. Problem solved?

    Well, you’ve settled the logical fallacy problem, you reject the first.

    I don’t recognize the “right” to abuse other people’s rights as a right. Obviously, by outlawing slavery it not only pissed off all the slaveholders, but it cost them real money. Should I be boo-hooing about how they lost their right to own slaves? I don’t think so.

    I don’t see how this is relevant. Happiness? Are you arguing that the slaves where happier in their lot?

  22. Consider two people. One person is a weak guy. The other person is an emotionally strong woman. The guy wants to marry the woman, the woman doesn’t want to marry him. If he can’t marry the woman he will commit suicide. But the woman, being emotionally strong, will not kill herself if she should have to suffer an unhappy marriage.

    Now consider two possible universes this couple could reincarnate into. One is an H/S culture where he can force the marriage, the other isn’t. The first culture will appear ‘happier’ because it has a lower suicide rate. Is that just though?

    This is not to say, though, that we live in the best of all worlds. The ideal culture would recognize the man’s weakness and try to help him emotionally so he won’t kill himself or suffer needlessly.

  23. I don’t “think” average happiness will be increased, there is data. Less depression, mental illness, and suicide in H/S cultures than in individualistic ones.

    And you’ve identified the active ingredient as… fewer rights?? Come on.

  24. JA,

    And you’ve identified the active ingredient as… fewer rights?? Come on.

    No. I’ve identified the active ingredient as the H/S culture one feature of which is less requirement/need for individual rights.

    Boonton,
    You’re still thinking from your own cultural biases. Look at those cultures and the positive aspects. You’re a movie buff. Recall movies in which strong family traditions are shown in a positive light, like the cooking scenes from Juno. Or try to stop wearing the Satan Hermeneutic hat and try to understand the positive aspects to an H/S culture and how that might foster happiness, belonging and family traditions and filial love.

    Look I’m a product of my culture. However the part of being self-examined is that you have to honestly inquire about your preconceptions and the basis of your beliefs. If you reject a priori other ideas …. you aren’t being self-examined but are self-deluding yourself into thinking that you are in fact self-examined. One good way to go about honestly doing that is to accept other hypothesis as valid and examining the consequences. I’m exploring the suggestion that my (our) Western individualism while producing wealth very well is not so good at producing happiness.

    I’ve asked you if happiness is not increased by the defense of certain rights … what is the reason for supporting them? By what principle do you advocate establishing rights alien to a culture that decrease happiness in that society when enforced?

  25. Again, though, why does the woman have to be forced to marry the man she doesn’t want if this is what would make everyone in that culture happy? You seem to be saying H/S cultures cannot exist in the context of a free society. I am skeptical. I think you can have such cultures in modern, free societies (do not some aspects of Japan fit the bill?)

  26. Boonton,
    How is imposing equality of opportunity on a culture that doesn’t want it more free?

    You seem to be saying H/S cultures cannot exist in the context of a free society.

    No. That’s not what I’m saying. There may exist H/S cultures which can exist and be imagined which for example have equality of opportunity for women. Just because there aren’t any in existence doesn’t mean its impossible. I don’t care if it “can” exist, I’m asking why in H/S cultures within democratic societies in which equality of opportunity does not exist why do you insist that that equality be offered if the society in question is happier than our own in the absence of our wealth, especially if the individuals within that society feel that such equality is harmful to their culture?

    You are still avoiding my fundamental question. If there exists rights that decrease happiness, on what basis do you support them?

  27. If there exists rights that decrease happiness, on what basis do you support them?

    First, you’re talking about some sort of statistical measure of happiness, which has a host of problems. Surely not *every* member of H/S societies are happier. Presumably girls forced into marriages with 40-year-old cretins aren’t very happy, nor are Christians forced to observe Islam or homosexuals forced to hide their homosexuality.

    Second, even if an individual wants to make a choice that we know will make him less happy, what gives us the right to force him to make a different choice? Is he a child and we the parent? Are we gods? What gives?

  28. JA,
    On first, uhm, bad argument. Not *every* member of our society is happy either. I’m not claiming H/S societies are perfect but that they are happier. A suggestion of some of their problems does not help, as must then be put alongside a similar litany of problems within our own society. This point is irrelevant. Surely a statistical measure of happiness has some relevance. If not, why was the GDR suicide statistic meaningful? I think it was. Don’t you? Why is then irrelevant as a comparison between the West and H/S societies.

    Second, you are exactly right. “… even if an individual wants to make a choice that we know will make him less happy, what gives us the right to force him to make a different choice?” So, let me paraphrase. If a society wants to make a choice which we know will make them more happy, what gives us the right to force them to make a different choice? Are we gods? What gives?

  29. JA,
    On consideration of personal vs society large measures of happiness, it seems to me you have a choice of attempting to set policies to aid the aggregate/mean happiness levels or trying to raise the minimum (the floor). However, given that suicide rates are higher in individualistic (Western) societies that would seem to imply that H/S societies have chosen the second choice. Are you trying to suggest our individualistic societies have a poor management of the floor but our mean happiness level is better, perhaps on account of our larger capacity for wealth creation?

  30. Mark,

    Individuals matter. They’re not just cogs in societies. Even if we could prove that murdering one innocent individual would raise the overall happiness level of the society, you wouldn’t support murdering him, right? Because you and I agree on the right to life. So all we’re quibbling about is *which* individual human rights we deem to be necessary. You don’t find freedom of religion or equal opportunity to be necessary, but I do. Pointing to average happiness factors or suicide rates is irrelevant.

    On consideration of personal vs society large measures of happiness, it seems to me you have a choice of attempting to set policies to aid the aggregate/mean happiness levels or trying to raise the minimum (the floor).

    Either concern is orthogonal to protecting individual rights.

    You’d really want to tell some Christian living in Iraq, sorry, the law says you have to practice Islam? Everybody’s just happier that way?

  31. JA,
    Iraq? Here (pdf). I think you’re referring to article 2.

    Even if we could prove that murdering one innocent individual would raise the overall happiness level of the society, you wouldn’t support murdering him, right?

    Murder or legal execution? Even if we could prove that by executing John Wayne Gacy that would raise the overall happiness of society should we? Hmmm. I think you’re cheating by using the term murder when we are talking about state activities. States, especially democratic ones we are discussing, do not murder. They can take life but that is via legal organs and not termed murder.

    And I want to point out that “You don’t find freedom of religion or equal opportunity to be necessary, but I do” is not quite accurate. I’m entertaining the hypothesis that for H/S societies those rights may not be necessary and that contrary to our assumptions their society holds many advantages to people within that culture not afforded us, that is our move to a individualistic, wealth driven society is not a winning proposition all around. We do not live in that sort of society, if you hadn’t noticed. The question at hand is whether such rights should be imposed on them.

    I guess the question regarding Iraq is whether because their Constitution violates your notions of separations of Church/State, does that mean they are not a democracy? Are they a tyranny? Should we support them as a democratic nation or not? Should we attempt to pressure them to change their Constitution and society to our norms because “we disagree with them”.

    Pointing to average happiness factors or suicide rates is irrelevant.

    Please answer the questions regarding suicide rates in the GDR and why if it i relevant there it was not relevant here? Where lies the difference? Are are you suggesting that it was not relevant … because it was for the Germans both in power and out in the GDR.

  32. JA,

    Because you and I agree on the right to life. So all we’re quibbling about is *which* individual human rights we deem to be necessary. You don’t find freedom of religion or equal opportunity to be necessary, but I do. Pointing to average happiness factors or suicide rates is irrelevant.

    When you stop debating for a minute you’ll come to realize that you know just as well as I do that every single thing that governments do, which they do for the aggregate good by and large, infringes on and restricts rights of individuals and groups within that society. So you can drop the pretense that that is any such thing as an unqualified right.

  33. How is imposing equality of opportunity on a culture that doesn’t want it more free?

    How does a culture say it doesn’t want equality of opportunity? For example, do Saudi women really do not want to drive, always want to be escorted by a family member in public? If this is so why does the regime need an army of religious police to pounce on people violating its rules?

    I don’t care if it “can” exist, I’m asking why in H/S cultures within democratic societies in which equality of opportunity does not exist why do you insist that that equality be offered if the society in question is happier than our own in the absence of our wealth, especially if the individuals within that society feel that such equality is harmful to their culture?

    Again let’s go to the woman who is being forced to marry a man she does not want. Do we know the net happiness of her culture? No we do not. Can we know the happiness of her or her collective culture if we give her aslyum or if we argue that she not be forced to marry someone she doesn’t want? No we cannot. From an ethical POV this sounds a lot like a consquentialist theory. It’s ethical to save a baby about to get hit by a train if he will grow up to be the next Salk, but if he will grow up to be the next Hitler it’s ethical to let the train hit him. But how does one know?

    From the POV of the immediate action, though, saving the baby is ethical. Likewise its unethical to support religious police hitting women over the head or agreeing to force a woman to marry someone she doesn’t want. If you have an H/S society that doesn’t require violence and force to keep people in line I don’t see the issue. If you have one that does, though, supporting it is a compromise in our ethics (granted that may be justified by other considerations).

  34. Mark,

    I don’t know anything about the GDR and its suicide rate.

    There can exist a democracy that does not allow for the separation of church and state. Such democracies can even be recognized by the U.S. as “legitimate.” I just think it’s a violation of the rights of those citizens who do not wish to be members of the national religion.

    I said an innocent man, not John Wayne Gacy. Let’s say I could prove that murdering, say, Rupert Murdoch, would increase average happiness in the U.S. significantly, as well as lowering the suicide rate. (I AM NOT ADVOCATING THIS.) Wouldn’t you agree with me that it would still be wrong for the state to kill Mr. Murdoch? If yes, that demonstrates that you and I both hold that certain *individual* rights trump the state’s interest in raising average happiness levels. The only distinction is that you and I have different sets of individual rights in mind.

    When you stop debating for a minute you’ll come to realize that you know just as well as I do that every single thing that governments do, which they do for the aggregate good by and large, infringes on and restricts rights of individuals and groups within that society. So you can drop the pretense that that is any such thing as an unqualified right.

    Obviously. Only some individual rights should be absolutely uninfringeable by the government. It’s perfectly acceptable for the government to infringe upon one’s right to make huge amounts of noise at 2 in the morning in a public area, for example. Or upon one’s right to live and earn income in a state without paying taxes. It’s not acceptable for the government to kill innocent people, or to force them to follow one religion (or forbid them from following one) etc.

  35. Boonton,

    If you have an H/S society that doesn’t require violence and force to keep people in line I don’t see the issue. If you have one that does, though, supporting it is a compromise in our ethics (granted that may be justified by other considerations).

    It’s nice to see you using my arguments. I won’t disagree. The thing that makes a state ethical is if it has been granted the authority to do what it does. Coercion is the factor that distinguishes granted from seized authority and marks the line between ethical and unethical governments.

    For myself, I’d go so far as to offer that democracy or not is less relevant than whether coercion is required. I would prefer to live in a non-democratic state that had less coercion than one that was democratic and required coercion to keep factions and its minorities in check.

  36. JA,
    I’d assumed you’d seen the film. Consider that the in the GDR (East German) regime both the state and those were subjects thought the high suicide rate an inflammatory and and important statistic that was a telling point against the legitimacy of the regime. I’d recommend the film (and I’m guessing Mr Boonton will concur at that).

    I said an innocent man, not John Wayne Gacy. Let’s say I could prove that murdering, say, Rupert Murdoch, would increase average happiness in the U.S. significantly, as well as lowering the suicide rate. (I AM NOT ADVOCATING THIS.) Wouldn’t you agree with me that it would still be wrong for the state to kill Mr. Murdoch?

    The problem here is that the reason that this is wrong is that it makes no sense, to you or to me. Look at the example below in my reply to Mr Boonton. Their practice make sense to those people. That sense trumps their notions of any rights to gender equality. You need to grok that first. How and why would you advocate going into that culture and try to insist there must be full gender equality in occupational roles. By what argument would you base that idea? Forcing that on them is taking their liberty not defending it.

    Boonton,
    Your Saudi Arabian women and religious police is the same bad example that arose eariler. Look one could point out that German fellow that auctioned himself off to be murdered and eaten as a horrible consequence of our secular individualistic wealth driven culture. You can’t compare our norms with their extremes (or can’t do that and be fair). Examine instead for example the gender dichotomy in roles in rural Japan. You don’t have women (any?) blacksmiths or many men diving for pearls. In that culture there are strong gender roles in the society which are rarely (if ever) broken. How does that arrive? How is it enforced? How did that culture say they don’t want equality of opportunity, for they indeed have done so. You ask how a culture votes on such things. Well look at that culture and consider how it is done.

  37. Mark,

    You need to look at the individual whose rights are being violated. Think of the woman who is as qualified and as motivated as a man to do a given occupation, but forbidden from her society from doing it. You’re telling me that a constitution or similar means of enforcing her rights to equal opportunity is a bad thing? You think it’s okay that she be forced to marry some guy she may or may not love, pump out babies (with no access to contraception or abortion, of course), and put dinner on the table every night even if that’s not what she wants? Because that’s what many of these “H/S” societies do. It’s practically slavery, or perhaps it is slavery.

    It’s easy for some to talk about society and abstractions, but I’m talking about real people who are given no autonomy, no right to self-determination, just because they were born with a vagina. It’s monstrous, regardless of average (alleged) happiness levels or suicide rates.

  38. JA,
    And you need to do a little of what I asked. Remember in H/S cultures people think of the group (family, village, etc) ahead of themselves. So, look at that individual … who isn’t thinking primarily of herself.

    It’s easy for some to talk about society and abstractions, but I’m talking about real people who are given no autonomy, no right to self-determination, just because they were born with a vagina. It’s monstrous, regardless of average (alleged) happiness levels or suicide rates.

    Uhm, you’re the one talking about abstractions (kill an innocent raise happiness in a nation, look at this abstract individual woman and yada yada). The non-abstract is rural Japan the example which I’m using here.

    Because that’s what many of these “H/S” societies do. It’s practically slavery, or perhaps it is slavery.

    Suicide rates dude. Happiness. You keep denying that’s relevant. Slaves in hopelessness and misery would have higher not lower suicide rates.

    Have you seen Juno? Do you recall the cooking scenes. That’s a snippet of the positive aspects of H/S. There are similar scenes in hundreds of movies and in literature. Help me out here. Boonton?

  39. Your Saudi Arabian women and religious police is the same bad example that arose eariler. Look one could point out that German fellow that auctioned himself off to be murdered and eaten as a horrible consequence of our secular individualistic wealth driven culture.

    Possibly but so what? Consequences do not drive ethics, or I should say consequences cannot drive ethics since we usually unable to do better than make slightly educated guesses at consequences.

    To me this sounds like cheesey cultural and moral relativism. Is Germany sending cops out to enforce contracts of people who auctioned themselves off but now have cold feet? No. But maybe you’re saying this fellow tried to pull off this stunt because he lives in a secular society. If he was a Saudi or Afghan he wouldn’t. OK, so how many women have to be oppressed for the sake of self destructive wannabe cannable victims? Unless you can show me beating a woman over the head with a stick will save a life, I can’t ethically say its ok for me to do nor can I say its ethical for me to approve of someone else doing.

    Examine instead for example the gender dichotomy in roles in rural Japan. You don’t have women (any?) blacksmiths or many men diving for pearls. In that culture there are strong gender roles in the society which are rarely (if ever) broken. How does that arrive? How is it enforced?

    1. You’re confusing equality of opportunity with equality of results. Could it simply be that there just aren’t any women there who have an interest in pearl diving or smithing just as there are few women in the US who are interested in becoming auto mechanics?

    2. “How is it enforced?” Hmmmm, well it doesn’t seem to be enforced with hundreds of religious police who beat people in the street and a legal system that goes all the way up to death to keep people in line. Between all the claims about different cultures having different norms and values this seems to be a real difference between Saudi Arabia and rural Japan.

  40. Mark,

    Remember in H/S cultures people think of the group (family, village, etc) ahead of themselves.

    You make it sound like the woman who doesn’t want to marry the man she’s been arranged to marry or to bear his children or to cook his dinner is just being selfish. Well, in a way, it’s technically true, but only in the sense that the man who wants to work for his own wages rather than solely for his owner’s benefit is.

    The women are not abstract. They are real people.

  41. Boonton,
    Consequences do not drive ethics. Right. (edit) Anticipated consequences drive policy.

    OK, so how many women have to be oppressed for the sake of self destructive wannabe cannibal victims?

    How many suicides? Are a higher suicide, depression and mental illness rates meaningful or not? Why not?

    Are you pretending there is an equality of opportunity base on gender in rural Japan (or other rural H/S cultures) an suggesting that this is all just an equality of results? You need to talk to some of the feminists in your midst about Title 9 justifications and gender norms setting a society up to deny equality of opportunity via entrenched social norms. They seem to think there is inequality of opportunity. Apparently you don’t.

    JA,
    Then why are those ‘forced’ men and women in those arranged marriages happier then we? Huh? The point is in many aspects of life their customs and ways work better for those within them then ours.

  42. Then why are those ‘forced’ men and women in those arranged marriages happier then we? Huh? The point is in many aspects of life their customs and ways work better for those within them then ours.

    1) It’s not clear to me that they are.

    2) There are many possible “active ingredients” for happiness anyway. For example, perhaps the fact that those societies still have communities is the active ingredient! Or extended families living nearby. Or the fact that they haven’t really experienced modernity and so the old, pat answers that religion provides are still satisfying. Perhaps carbs or HFCS is what leads to our unhappiness. Perhaps our economic success is the problem. Maybe it’s commuting. Etc. etc. To identify the problem, even if there is one, as “too many rights” is absurd.

  43. Consequences do not drive ethics. Right. (edit) Anticipated consequences drive policy.

    Actually no they don’t drive it. If I get up on the tower and start sniping at people the local SWAT team will put me down. Even if I have a super-computer showing the people I’m taking down will be future killers, that doesn’t alter the unethical nature of my conduct. (If this sounds unrealistic to you imagine shooting single mothers because you’re armed with some sociological research showing that they cause ‘net unhappiness’ or if shooting is too dramatic say a doctor at a hospital that quietly performs sterilizations on them without their consent)

    Consequentialism can only work in immediate relation to the act. It’s unethical to beat a woman over the head unless there’s some immediate circumstance that can justify it (like she’s holding someone hostage). Beyond that consequentialism simply becomes too useless to be viable. Saudi Arabia may be happier and have less suicides. Maybe that is a result of their beating women about the heads or maybe they can keep the happiness without the beating. Nonetheless it’s wrong for them to do it and wrong to assert it’s only a ‘cultural difference’.

    Are you pretending there is an equality of opportunity base on gender in rural Japan (or other rural H/S cultures) an suggesting that this is all just an equality of results? You need to talk to some of the feminists in your midst about Title 9 justifications …

    Possibly. Are there really no opportunities for a woman to become an auto mechanic? It seems to me a woman can still do it and if someone starts beating her over the head she can resort to the law to protect her, not enable her attacker. Even with perfect equality of opportunity every profession is not going to be a perfect 50-50 split between men and women. But yes an H/S culture that can’t even be flexible enough to accomodate one female pearl diver and requires an army of ‘religious police’ to prevent such a horror frome very happening has gone too far IMO to be accepted without criticism (note I’m not saying such a country needs to be invaded or whatnot).

    Then why are those ‘forced’ men and women in those arranged marriages happier then we? Huh? The point is in many aspects of life their customs and ways work better for those within them then ours.

    And no one is forced not to be fored so to speak. Many in Hindu and Orthodox Jewish cultures submit to arranged marriages because they have faith that such a system works. If 999 people want to do this I have no issue, I don’t see the justification for the 999 forcing the 1 into it on the grounds that some ‘studies’ supposedly ‘show’ everyone will be ‘happier’.

  44. Boonton,

    Consequentialism can only work in immediate relation to the act.

    Uhm. Policy. Every policy ever enacted was because it was perceived that the consequences of that policy or law would be better than alternatives. Policy actions are never direct. A Congress-critter voting on a bill doesn’t pull a trigger. You support the healthcare bill because you think it will have positive consequences on society. I do not support it because I think it both restricts rights and has negative consequences. Policy is all about consequences.

    I’ll let you recast your argument reasonably. Please do so. You need to tone your argument done from a completely asymmetric non-equal opportunities for women = no women can become X. If one rural Japanese woman (or other H/S rural culture) becomes an auto mechanic that means there is suddenly equal opportunity. Translate that attitude to racial and gender discussions here in the US and you’ll be tarred as white woman-hating racist scum.

    And I repeat I’m not talking about cultures/governments using coercion. Nobody is. … So stop referring to that!!!! It’s not relevant. And its pointless. Look at the US. We’ve got 50 years of gender legislation and policy all aimed at trying to reach gender parity all over. The lack of that in the presence of highly asymmetric gender roles like that in rural H/S cultures is what Mr Obama is trying to enact in his document as policy. It is that I an criticizing especially in the light of his claim he respects the other’s point even if he disagrees … and then goes on to point out that he really doesn’t even on points where he is very likely wrong like the gender/family practices of H/S cultures vs our own.

    And by the by most pearl divers (almost all I thought) are women. They were/are called the Ama, are free divers (no air/scuba) and often dive into their 60s.

    JA,

    1) It’s not clear to me that they are.

    Yes. That’s because you’ve decided that comparatively higher suicide, mental illness and depression signifies nothing. Whatever. Just drop the whole epistemic superiority thing you like wearing. It no longer fits. When data is presented that is contrary to your ideological dogmas you reject it or suggest its our diet not our culture.

  45. Mark,

    1) You keep talking about averages, I’m talking about the victims of the oppression you’re so eager to allow.

    2) It’s notoriously difficult to measure “happiness.”

    3) Looking at a list of countries by suicide rate does not bear out the conclusions you say it would. Japan is #5. The U.S. is #41. Yes, the Muslim states are towards the bottom, which is interesting, but it’s an incredible leap to say it’s because they allow the subjugation of women.

    4) There are so so so many confounding factors that to pick out rights as the active ingredient is preposterous. Let me list some other possible factors:

    Community. Huge.
    Alcohol. Huge.
    Firearms. Probably significant.
    Access to all other common tools of suicide: pills, cars, bridges, etc.
    The fact that men are much more likely to commit suicide than women, so policies which make many more women unhappy and a few men more happy might reduce the suicide rate. Huge.
    Religion. Significant but small.
    Reporting. What percent of suicides are recorded as suicides? Huge.
    Money. Probably big.
    Average age varies HUGELY among countries.
    Men to women ratio.

    Note that Haiti is at the absolute bottom of the list. Therefore, by your logic, they must be the most happy. Doesn’t that make your brain hurt?

    How many people — especially female people — want to move from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia, vs. how many want to go the other direction. Why is that — they want to be less happy?

  46. Uhm. Policy. Every policy ever enacted was because it was perceived that the consequences of that policy or law would be better than alternatives. Policy actions are never direct. A Congress-critter voting on a bill doesn’t pull a trigger. You support the healthcare bill because you think it will have positive consequences on society. I do not support it because I think it both restricts rights and has negative consequences. Policy is all about consequences

    Very true but both policies are ethically neutral in the sense we are only making some educated guesses about consequences. When a bill comes up to fund a group of thugs who will go around beating women with sticks for wearing too much makeup voting yes is not ethically neutral.

    If one rural Japanese woman (or other H/S rural culture) becomes an auto mechanic that means there is suddenly equal opportunity. Translate that attitude to racial and gender discussions here in the US and you’ll be tarred as white woman-hating racist scum.

    Actually I did say, or imply that there’s roughly equal opportunity for US women to become auto mechanics. No one has tarred me yet.

    And I repeat I’m not talking about cultures/governments using coercion. Nobody is. … So stop referring to that!!!! It’s not relevant. And its pointless. Look at the US. We’ve got 50 years of gender legislation and policy all aimed at trying to reach gender parity all over. The lack of that in the presence of highly asymmetric gender roles like that in rural H/S cultures is what Mr Obama is trying to enact in his document as policy.

    Again equality of opportunity != equality of results. I do not think that the portion of woman mechanics in the US or pearl divers in rural Japan has to mirror the overall portion of women in the population for equality of opportunity to be present (or imperfectly present). I think there’s a world of difference between that and, say, Saudi Arabia.

    Where I will differentiate myself from JA a bit is that I think we should be talking about ‘core rights’ here. Separation of Church and State wouldn’t necessarily be it, but religious freedom is. The first is more a cultural trait of the US based on our history and traditions. The UK, for example, has a Church of England but I wouldn’t say we should deem the UK to be violating human rights.

    Yes. That’s because you’ve decided that comparatively higher suicide, mental illness and depression signifies nothing.

    Why do so few people emmigrate to these H/S cultures? People worry about cancer clusters, particulates in the drinking water, the impact of hormones on the body….why do they not worry about ‘suicide clusters’? Could it be that even though these things have a public health dimension to them they are also partially the result of individual decisions and personal responsibility?

    In Buddhist doctrine suffering is universal for two reasons. One is that we can’t get what we want. The other is that when we do get what we want, we suffer with the knowledge we either won’t have it forever or even if we do our enjoyment of it won’t last forever. Western societies I suspect suffer a lot from this type of suffering which differs from the first in that it carries with it a type of hopelessness. If you don’t have a car you can still hope to get one some day. If you’re Jerry Seinfield with all the best cars in the world you know you’re unhappiness won’t be solved by buying one more car. When you run out of things to buy you come face to face with the delusion that happiness is not created by things.

    Western socieities are suspectible to the 2nd type of unhappiness while developing nations are mostly not. So you may think being at risk for two types of unhappiness is worse than being at risk for one. But I don’t think it’s quite so simple. Jerry Seinfield can learn how to enjoy a collection of 60 classic porsches. If he does he will be very happy since he has plenty of cars. Having nothing is hard. Having something has its pitfalls but something is still better than nothing. So I’m not sure I’d translate higher rates of ‘failure to deal with happiness’ as indicating Western society is less happy. On the contrary, I’d say it indicates higher chances to achieve happiness. Look at the set of a gameshow. It will have more people who lost the giant jackpot than won it, yet you’re more likely to win the jackpot on the set of the gameshow than by playing the home edition!

    This explains, IMO, why so many supposedly happy people in H/S leap at the opportunity to immigrant to places like the US or Europe.

  47. JA,
    1. Don’t you think that statistics and individuals are related? Why not?

    2. Yes. That’s why an aggregate thing like suicide and mental illness can be indicative.

    3. Japan is not all rural nor H/S. The rural and urban cultures are distinct.

    4. Why do so many H/S culture people want to emigrate here. They think their culture and ways of thinking will survive the transition and they can come here gaining prosperity without losing their identity. When in the 2nd or third generation they find that is not true it is too late. And I have not claimed that the only aspect was distinct gender roles leading to unequal opportunity (which by the by is not “oppression”). This facet is common to H/S cultures … that is the connection. Whether you can develop and create a H/S culture in the absence of gender roles is, I think, not so relevant seeing as it has not been done.

  48. Boonton,
    No bill is ethically neutral. Ever. Ethics involves decisions about what is good. So is policy.

    No one has tarred me yet.

    That’s because they think you’re one of them still.

    Why do so few people emmigrate to these H/S cultures?

    I think you can answer that.

    This explains, IMO, why so many supposedly happy people in H/S leap at the opportunity to immigrant to places like the US or Europe.

    My answer is above. It has to do with the notion you can get a free lunch, i.e., they can come here and retain their cultural identity and those H/S roots.

  49. Boonton,
    Actually, as a film buff, did you see the Jet Li movie Fearless. Recall the emigration to a H/S cultural context from a more individualized one and how it was treated.

  50. 1. Don’t you think that statistics and individuals are related? Why not?

    Related, yes. But if you make a minority very unhappy by turning them into slaves or second-class citizens and a majority happy at the same time, you have increased average happiness, but I’d argue it’s not a good thing. Individuals are too important to let some be mistreated so that others are happier.

    2. Yes. That’s why an aggregate thing like suicide and mental illness can be indicative.

    I don’t think they are indicative, though. Depression is not unhappiness, it is mental illness, one of whose symptoms is commonly sadness. Suicide is a result of depression. Higher suicide or depression rates don’t tell us anything about average happiness per se, except that the people who are depressed or suicidal are probably not happy. We can’t infer anything about the rest of the population.

    3. Japan is not all rural nor H/S. The rural and urban cultures are distinct.

    Aha! So maybe the issue is urban vs. rural. Most of those H/S cultures aren’t very urban, are they? Or suburban even.

    4. Why do so many H/S culture people want to emigrate here. They think their culture and ways of thinking will survive the transition and they can come here gaining prosperity without losing their identity. When in the 2nd or third generation they find that is not true it is too late. And I have not claimed that the only aspect was distinct gender roles leading to unequal opportunity (which by the by is not “oppression”). This facet is common to H/S cultures … that is the connection. Whether you can develop and create a H/S culture in the absence of gender roles is, I think, not so relevant seeing as it has not been done.

    So you have idea what the active ingredient is, okay. Maybe it’s computers. Maybe we should get rid of all the computers.

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