Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Moral Arithmetic and Its Consequences

Steve Sailer recently brought up this post on Marginal Revolution:

Mistakes in moral arithmetic

1. For reasons of practicality and cost, nations should in many cases devote more resources to their own citizens than to foreigners.

2. Once the costs mentioned in #1 are taken into account, foreigners are still "worth less" than citizens.

#2 does not follow from #1, that is a mistake in moral arithmetic. #2 is false.


It seems to me that the #2 should read Once the costs mentioned in #1 are taken into account, foreigners are still "worth less to the government" than citizens.

It seems the issue here is not how much an individual is worth, but to whom is he worth? That is, I do not think that the life of an American is more valuable than the life of a person from, say, Great Britain. But I would regard him as more valuable because he is one of ours. The major paleoconservative principle that defines our position on this differently from other, more nationalistic (as opposed to patriotic) philosophoes, is that we believe that it is the moral duty of the person on the other side to feel the same way.

There are, of course, caveats here. One can morally one's own and one's country when one's country has turned evil (say, a defector from Nazi Germant or the U.S.S.R.). But in general it is moral to work firstly for the good of your own (family, country, etc.), all else being equal.

There are two dangers here from adopting Cowen's philosophy. The first is that a person will decide that he is a "citizen of the world," and lose the cultural and historic ties to one's country that make the world a truly diverse and interesting place.

The second is that one will decide to find other reasons to justify tie to kith and kin than simply kithship and kinship, and decide that his people are objectively better. And then he will decide that seeing as he loves his kith and kin because they are better, not because of the fact of their relationship to him, then there is no reason why the rest of the world should not love them better than their own kith and kin. And thus neoconservativsm is born.

That is all.

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