Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Looking at us

A problem we have relating to one another is that we tend to look at one another through the lens of ourselves. By that, I mean we assume that because we are similar, we are the same; that if we do a particular thing, our motivation to do it must be the same; that if we say we feel something, it must feel the same.

We do not well understand that we can be different. An extreme of this inability to put ourselves in others' shoes comes when we look at the truly bad. We try to imagine how we could kill, how we could torture, and of course we cannot picture it at all. So we invent possession by "evil", as though there was an elementary force that could enter and twist another until they could do what we cannot.

Sometimes that force, that impulse, is not "evil". We believe it is religion, or colour, or culture that makes a person do or be what we cannot. Those things do go to make us what we are but I think that we do not understand that were we religionists, or that colour, or brought up in that culture, we might not do the same things, feel the same way. After all, people are not homogenous, even when they seem the same to us. One is cruel; the other kind. One is generous; the other mean. Of course, these things mould the material we are composed of. I believe we are born relatively formless and become what we are. But that does not mean that the same circumstances make us the same.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Flogging the nukes

I'm probably not alone in feeling that MPs should be regularly whipped, preferably with a cat o'nine tails, but sadly, in parliamentary terms, it simply means that Labour MPs will be forced to vote to keep Britain nuclear.

Which is a great message to send to Iran. We, the "democratic" people who insist that you, the autocratic bad boys, should increase freedom and not develop nuclear weapons, are not allowing our elected representatives freedom to decide the question of, erm, developing nuclear weapons.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Vale Friedman

If there is a more evil tenet in economics than that greed should be allowed to govern the course of human relations, I don't know of one.

The man who most strongly espoused it
has died.

Freedom is of course a wonderful thing. But those who advocate its increase conveniently ignore a truth about it: the more money you have, the more freedom you have. Increasing choice sounds great, but when you need to pay for that choice, increase means decrease for those without means. It's curiously Orwellian.

In a Rawlsian world, or one in which there were not the huge imbalances in personal worth that our world not only tolerates but encourages, perhaps allowing the markets to make our choices and restricting governments simply to manipulating the means of exchange would be good ideas. But in this one, they simply lead to richer rich people and poorer poor. The market does not put a price on sharing, nor on many intangibles that matter to us, nor, importantly, on anything that is not traded here and now, such as our future.