"It is the highest impertinence and presumption, therefore, in kings and ministers, to pretend to watch over the economy of private people, and to restrain their expence, either by sumptuary laws, or by prohibiting the importation of foreign luxuries. They are themselves always, and without any exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society. Let them look well after their own expence, and they may safely trust private people with theirs. If their own extravagance does not ruin the state, that of their subjects never will." ~ Adam Smith
Column by tzo.
Exclusive to STR
Any rational conversation on ethics must begin with the following caveat:
If you, as an individual human being, are interested in creating and maintaining a society based on justice, cooperation, freedom, and equal human rights, then there exists a set of objective, ethical rules that can be discovered. Let’s explore them.
But if you, as an individual human being, are not interested in creating and maintaining a society as described above, then those of us who are, are not particularly interested in your point of view, do not invite your participation, and are, frankly, a bit perplexed by your apparent attachment to injustice, non-cooperation, unequal distribution of human rights, and subjective ethics.
You are free to create your own little coercive societies within the confines of your own justly-acquired plots of land, where you can have at one other. Of course, since you do not value the ethical principles that form the basis for just society, you will not be persuaded to confine your coercive activities to justly-acquired plots of land, because who’s to say how land is justly acquired anyway?
See how that works? Subjectivize ethics and anything goes. But arriving at subjective ethics is not some profound philosophical revelation, it is merely the excuse for the age-old Might-Makes-Right method of organizing society. If you are not interested in the rational ends that follow from the assumption of equal human rights and the desire for a just society, you simply do not believe in equal human rights and do not want a just society. This is not profound, or very clever.
The wicked cleverness lies in disguising the coercion behind a façade of benevolence. Herein lies some disturbingly profound thinking.
And if you subscribe to this deceptive doctrine, you will attempt to grab as much of the planet as you can through force, and you will hide behind grandiose tales that purport to justify your actions—a strategic, calculated appeal to the better angels of the masses, who will bend over backwards to believe such inanities if it means they can partake in the general plunder. Of course you will always have the iron fist underneath to fall back on in case the velvet glove doesn’t successfully persuade.
Eventually, you may even succeed in claiming ownership of the entire planet through this “offer you can’t refuse” bribery scheme, even if this monumental task has to be done through multiple regional coercive agencies. The same ideological basis of all these patchwork entities will unite them all into a single integrated quilt that will cover the Earth.
At this point, conversations on ethics will be, according to general consensus, subjective and quite moot. All of Earth's resources, at this point, will be yours.
But there will always be some people interested in discovering and understanding ethics in a logical and rational manner, and even if they have no real standing in the world community, they will be happy to converse with anyone regarding objective ethics, as long as the following caveat is observed:
If you, as an individual human being, are interested in creating and maintaining a society based on justice, cooperation, freedom, and equal human rights, then there exists a set of objective ethical rules that can be discovered….