"Nonpersons" (was Re: [Fwd: THE TEARS OF THE MIGHTY])

JKSCHW at aol.com JKSCHW at aol.com
Wed Mar 22 22:16:57 PST 2000

In a message dated 00-03-23 00:30:45 EST, you write:

<< I agree that there _is_ a double standard in counting (even apart from an

empirical question of how to count). What happens under capitalism =

natural; what happens under socialism = unnatural. Isn't this double

standard inherent in theories of natural rights? The market is natural,

while the state is artificial; the former is a matter of economics, while

the latter falls under the purview of politics and ethics.

As the example you indicate below, defense of libertarian property rights, suggests, there is no tight fit here. Property rights and economic issues are subject to ethical appraisal even if you think, as I do, that the correctness of the appraisal does not depend on social consensus. Bourgeois ideology tends to regard "the market" as "natural," but we need not ago, and should not. And even if we do, we can ask whether what is natural is right. Even if a capitalist famine is like a hurricane, so that it cannot be regarded as ethically blameworthy in the way that a socialist famine might be, we can judge that capitalist famines, like hurricane devastation, are bad,a nd we should take steps to do the unnatural and avoid them.

> The concept of

natural rights, I think, emerged with the creation of separate spheres:

economics, politics, & ethics; and it is this very separation that protects

the market ideologically.

Perhaps. But seperate spheres are a reality, not an ideological construction. In any case the idea that morality is objective antedates the real emergence of seperate spheres. Plato and Aristotle both thought morality was objective. And the insulation the seperation provides to market outcomes by seperate spheres is pretty thin, considering that everyone agrees that we can talk about whether market outcomes are just or right or good.

> (The notion of free speech came into being at

the same time, with the separation of speech from action, intention from

consequence; we can say what we want, as long as what we say doesn't have

any direct consequence contrary to the maintenance of the social order.)

A cynical view, perhaps not entirely unjustified in view of the actual tendency of free speech protections to evaporate when the heat rises, in times of hot and cold war. But free speech originates in the debate ariund religious tolerance--that is its specific ideological home, see Locke's On Tolerance and Milton's Aeropagita. Bourgeois revolutionaries were worried about religious wars and wanted to create a space where we could agree to disagree on fundamentals without killing each other. That's not a bad thing.

> If rights trump welfare, why is it wrong to let people starve through the

workings of the market as long as you don't deprive people of rights?

Depends on what you think the rights _are_, no? Libertarians think we have no right to enough food to live unless we can pay for it. But they are wrong. Therefore, we cannot allow people to starve without violating their rights.

> John Rawls confines his social

contract to a fancifully autarkic heuristic of a closed economy.

He's a constructivist--his word--not a natural rights theorist. Charles Beitz has tried to extend a Rawlsian analysis to international justice. Rodney Peffer is working on a Marxist (he thiuks) Rawlsian account of international justice.

> Peter

Singer, being a consequentialist utilitarian, is actually more helpful, but

since he rejects Marxism, what he comes up with is a notion of charity and

international aid .

But utilitarianisn can accept a Marxist analysis of the social world and so is not stuck with Singer's results.

> Neither rights nor

utility helps us explain, much less fight against, the conditions that

produce famines.

There are not supposed to explain those conditions. They are moral theories. They are not pieces of socioeconomic analysis. However, since moral outrage and a coherent moral theory of why the harms we suffer are wrongs, unjust and not just unfortunate, is necessary to fighting the conditions that produce famines, they can help us fight those conditions.

People are starving! You say. So?, says Mr All Right Jack. I got mine. Why should I care? It's because of capitalism, you say. Here follows a good deal of empirical analysis. So? says Mr. ARJ. That's unjust, you say, because it violates the starving people's rights and produces unnecessary suffering! At this point Mr. ARJ has to say: --I don't care, in which case people will get mad at him, if they do care, or --Oh, it's just on my Nozickean theory, inw hich case we can argue with him, using our theory to geberate and focus outrage.

Maybe you think we will not persuade Mr. ARJ. I agree. But consider:

You are starving! You're telling me? says Juana or Anjali or Wu. We have always starved, it's the way has been around here. There's no point complaining. It's because of capitalism, you say. More empirical analysis. That's very interesting, say J/A/W. This doesn't put food on our families, as Shrub so eloquently put it. But, say you, it doesn't have to be this way. We can have socialism!

Now, you might think that J/A/W, being self-interested and concerned for their families, will say, Oh, in that case, where's the party, I want to smash the state. However, people are not self interested in this way, they will not respond mechanically to this sort of appeal. They have get mad.

To get mad, they need to become outraged, to think that there is something intolerable with the harm they suffer, to think it is wrong.

You say: Mr. ARJ doesn't care about you, he thinks it is OK for you to starve. Well, why shouldn't he. The lords and bosses are superior beings. Rubbish, you say, all people are equal. We have rights! Our interests count just as much as theirs! But what about property rights? say J/A/W, since they saw Thomas Sowell on TV. And anyway, markets are natural and produce the best possible social outcomes. You trash these theories as ideological. The right moral theory entitles you to a decent life! Hmm. You may be right. In fact, that explains this nagging feeling that something is wrong with our starving to death. Damn straight! Go girl! They have no right to wallow while we starve! They are no better than we are! Now, where's that party?

Obviously I abbreviate a few steps. But you see the point.


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