Monday, April 18, 2016

Convention and ethics

Mathematics is a convention, but not an arbitrary convention. You cannot make a coherent mathematics in which the Peano axioms of arithmatic do not exist, or fail to define the natural numbers, addition, subtraction , multiplication and division. Likewise, ethics is just convention, but not arbitrary convention. Specifically, you cannot have a fully rational ethic in which it is acceptable to treat people as purely means to ends, or to consider their needs and desires fundamentally less important than your own. It follows that rape is wrong in any truly rational ethical convention, as is murder, and even dishonesty. Evil is just the persistent choice of an irrational ethical convention for your personal convenience, or perhaps for that of an ideology you hold. It is like insisting that 1+1 = 0 when adding up what you owe to others, but that 1+1=3 when adding up what others owe to you.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Paris, November 14th, 2015

The attacks on Paris are horrific, and evil.  There is no question about that.  They also greatly sadden anybody with human sympathy, including me.  I cannot express how sad they make me.

Part of me thinks, and I am sure many others completely believe, that the Parisians are entitled to their grief ... that what they should here from the world now is sympathy - not little notes giving a wider context.  Those posts could be viewed as downplaying the tragedy, or (worse still) exploiting it to make political points.

Thought part of me thinks that, however, I recognize that it is a short sighted view.  We live in a world filled with tragedies, mostly unacknowledged.  If I love my neighbour as myself, then surely I must love Syrians as much as Parisians - yet Syria has experienced the equivalent of 10 Paris attacks over the month of October alone (counting just civilian deaths).  If the 14th of November was a great human tragedy in Paris (as it undoubtedly was), then October 2015 was ten times the tragedy in Syria - as was the month before, and the month before that, for five years now.

If I ignore the manifold tragedy in Syria out of sympathy for Parisians - I reject the golden rule and the ethic which underlies it.  If I do that, I turn my sympathy into mere tribalism, on which basis I have no basis to reject the views of those who delighted in 9/11, or who have no sympathy for the Parisians.  Paris deserves better than that, and so do the Syrians.

On that basis I also reject the view that Paris shows we should not provide shelter to Syrian refugees.  On the contrary, while it may show a need to upgrade security measures, our common sympathy for human kind means that Paris brings home to us the prolonged tragedy of the Syrian war, and should increase our sympathy for its victims, and our willingness to give them a place of refuge from that war.

The civilian death toll
Syrian Government 793
Russian Forces 263
Kurdish Forces 10
ISIL 53
Al Nusra 1
Armed Opposition 45
Unidentified Groups 50
==================
Total  1215

http://www.iamsyria.org/death-toll-october-2015.html
http://sn4hr.org/wp-content/pdf/english/1771_people_were_killed_in_October_2015_en.pdf

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Hoax e-mails about Centrelink benefits

The following was posted on Face Book by my sister Kathleen.  The block quoted section is copy and pasted from the "A Just Australia" website, which provides an exhaustive set of links to Centerlink payment rates, verifying the claims.  I will note that while the hoax emails may be passed on in ignorance, they are started because of racism.  Anybody wanting to have a legitimate debate about Australia's refuge intake would not resort to such easily falsified lies.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Politics

FWIW, although I disagree on specific policy positions based on my own analysis, my political sentiment is broadly the same as that found in the Green Left Weekly that my cousin helped found.  More specifically, I am what I call a democratic, market socialist.  

Democratic because it is the only political system compatible the moral principle that you should always only act as though people were ends in themselves, and never merely means to an end, which I consider fundamental to ethics.   On that basis I consider the US very imperfectly democratic, primarily due to the undue influence from campaign funding, but also due to some peculiarities of the constitution.  On the same basis I would strongly support reforming the General Assembly so that each nation had a number of its seats proportional to the population to which it gives the vote (such that, for example, if they deny votes to women, they halve their number of seats), and were the representatives are directly elected, along with other democratizing reforms for the Security Council.

Socialist because I believe radical title to all property rests with the people, and more formally with the government acting on the peoples behalf; and that the rights accruing from that radical title (including the right to regulate and tax) should be excercised on behalf of the people generally rather than on behalf of special interest groups.

Market because I accept that to the most part, a free market is the most efficient distributor of goods where 'free market' is implicitly defined by the fundamental argument to that effect, and therefore requires:
  1. No coercion, including no coercion resulting from the pressure to make trade on disadvantaged terms due to declining economic circumstances;
  2. Perfect knowledge of the outcomes;
  3. Perfect competition, in the sense that anybody making a trade has at the time of the trade an infinite number of alternate trades with marginally different properties in respect to all aspects of the trade; and
  4. No negative externalities.
The argument presented by capitalists that markets are the most efficient form of distribution of goods (where efficiency is defined as Pareto Optimality) assumes these conditions, and therefore they are the implicit requirements that a market be 'free' as assumed in their arguments.  It is blindingly obvious that unregulated markets are not always, indeed are not typically free in this sense.  IMO, the principle economic role of governments is to regulate with a light touch to ensure that markets are as 'free' as possible (using my special definition of 'free').  Further, it is evident that 'pareto optimality' is not the same as a maximum utility outcome, and hence not the desired policy outcome for any government working 'for the people'.  Specifically, income disparities decrease the utility function of a market outcome; so governments should also work to decrease income disparities, and to increase individual control of economic activity.

On top of all the above, I am a conservative in the original sense that I believe that change should be implemented gradually, except where it must be made with the utmost urgency.  That is because the more rapid the change, the more harmful side effects, and also the greater probability the outcome will not be the intended outcome.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

On role playing elves

Those who know me best know that no body of fiction has captured my imagination as have the works of J.R.R.Tolkien.  As part of that, I have thought about, and roleplayed at various times different elves, including the elf, Cutholen on Lord of The Rings, Online (LOTRO) during which times I was a member of the Tinnu uin galadhrim, a group who were excellent company.  As part of that group, I once wrote on what is involved in roleplaying elves.  The post, I think, helps understand what makes elves different to humans - or at least some of it.  I wrote:

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Hi

This is my second blog, the first being dedicated to the discussion of climate change, and the Brisbane flood of 2011.  Recently I have been taking an interest in genealogy, and in reminiscing about my youth.  I thought some of that material might be of interest to a few people (mostly in my family) but thought the material unsuitable for the first blog.  Hence this blog.

I do not promise to stick religiously to those to subjects.  I suspect I shall use this blog more freely, branching out into discussion of philosophy, politics and the nature of elves - and indeed, anything that catches my fancy.  Further, unlike my other blog, I shall not strive for great accuracy of presentation.  I will try to avoid errors, but will not let the possibility of error when I am uncertain on an issue prevent publication.  Who knows, that may result in a more than glacial posting rate ;)

Anyway, that is my intention.  We shall see how it develops ...