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Grumble. Terrence wrote: "I call it a dodge. Why? Because it's not necessarily the better bet. There is no evidence that allowing individuals to spawn as much evil as they please (except violence) results in less evil. There is no evidence that governments, given the constitutionally-limited power to quash evil, will all turn into versions of Nazi Germany. In addition, the conservative can agree with the libertarian that governments given an unlimited mandate to quash evil will themselves become evil. But that is not what the conservative wants; what he wants is not unlimited power but some power; not the ability to crush evil no matter the cost, but the ability to nibble at evil, around the edges, and to keep it on a leash." I think there's a few things wrong with that. Which is why I'm grumbling. For one, there's some sort of category error going on here. People smoking pot, or doing drugs, hardly counts as "evil" in my book. I'm more inclined to call that a "bad" not an evil. It's part of what I think distinguishes one sort of conservative from one sort of libertarian -- the willingness to call certain things evil that can only be squeezed under that category with a lot of effort. It's my dispute with another kind of libertarian too -- the Randian sort. Both the conservative and the Randian like to play loose with "evil." Immanuel Kant is evil? Hardly. Fort two, it's not a dodge. It's a statement of an empirical belief that may be false, but it doesn't dodge the question, it addresses it. If you care about evil, and think all sorts of stuff is evil -- like failing to separate newspapers from cardboard when recycling -- then it matters whether or not governments can, in fact, nibble away at the margins of this evil. The truth and trouble is that the sort of conservatives Terrence makes reference to are more interested in signalling than in substance. Convictions and their expression matter more than acts and consequences (wasn't there some sort of squabble amongst Protestants over this?). When we're busy trying to praise or blame people, then that's the right way to go. But when we're busy assessing whole states of affairs, we're busy making a different moral judgment. And in the latter case, it doesn't really matter if, for example, our intention is to generate more evil, but whether or not some policy actually leads to more evil. And, as Hayekians are sure to know, sometimes our intentions and the outcomes come right apart. There's just too much stuff to know (alas).
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westernstandard is now following Werner Patels @ The Right Comment
May 25, 2009