To be governed is to
be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated,
enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued,
censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the virtue
nor the wisdom to do so.
To be governed is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished.
It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then at the slightest resistence, the first word of complaint, to be repressedm fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed;
And to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonoured. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.
Even the reader unconvinced by my arguments should find that, in the process of maintaining and supporting his view, he has clarified and deepened it. Moreover, I like to think, intellectual honesty demands that, occasionally at least, we go out of our way confront strong arguments opposed to our views. How else are we to protect ourselves from continuing in error? It seems only fair to remind the reader that intellectual honesty has its dangers; arguments read perhaps at first in curious fascination may come to convince and even to seem natural and intuitive. Only the refusal to listen guarantees one against being ensnared by the truth. (x)
It may be that correctness in ethics is not found in what we naturally think.
What about persons distinguishes us from animals, so that stringent constraints apply to how persons may be treated, yet not to how animals are treated? Could beings from another galaxy stand to us as it is usually thought we do to animals, and if so, would they be justified in treating us as means a la utilitarianism? Are organisms arranged on some ascending scale, so that any may be sacrficed or casued to suffer to achieve a greater total benefit for those not lower on the scale? Is an organism, if defective, to be placed at its species level? (p45)
There is a distinction between private and wrongs having a public component. Prviate wrongs are those where only the injured party need be compensated; persons who know they will be compensated fully do not fear them. Public wrongs are those people are fearful of, even though they know they will be compensated fully if and when the wrongs occur. Even under the strongest compensation proposal which compensates victims for their fear, some people (the nonvictims) will not be compensated for their fear. Therefore it is a legitimate public interest in eliminating these border-crossing acts, especially because their commission raises everyone's fears of its happening to them. (p67)
May a person emigrate
from a state that has institutionalized some wealth redistribution system?
Consider a nation having a complusory scheme of minimal social provision
to aid the neediest. No one may opt out of participating in it. None may
say, "Dont compel me to contribute to others and don't provide for me via
this compulsory mechanism if I am in need." Everyone above a certain level
is forced to contribute to aid the needy.
But if emigration from the country were allowed, anyone could choose to move to another country that did not have complusory social provision but otherwise was (as much as possible) identical. In such a case, the person's only motive for leaving would be to avoid participating in the compulsory scheme of social provision. And if he does leave, the needy in his country will receive no (compelled) help from him.
What rationale yields the result that the person be permitted to emigrate, yet forbidden to stay and opt out of the compulsory scheme of social provision? If providing for the needy is of over-riding importance, this does militate against allowing internal opting out; but it also speaks against allowing external emigration.
Would it also support the kidnapping of persons living in a place without compulsory social provision, who could be forced to make a contribution to the needy in your community? (p.173)
We should note Ayn Rand's theory of property rights wherein these follow from the right to life, since people need physical things to live. But a right to life is not a right to whatever one needs to live; other people may have rights over these other things. At most, a right to life would be a right to have or strive for whatever one needs to live, provided that having it does not violate anyone else's rights. (p.179)
If nothing of moral significance could flow from what was arbitrary (e.g. natural assets) then no particular person's existence could be of moral significance, since which of the many sperm cells succeeds in fertilizing the egg cell is arbitary from a moral point of view. We should be apprehensive about any principle that would condemn morally the very sort of process that brought us to be, a principle that therefore would undercut the legitimacy of our very existing.
Thus it is that Williams
says the only proper criterion for the distribution of medical care is
medical need. Presumably, then, the only proper criterion for the dist
of barber services is barbering need. But why must the internal goal of
the activity take precedence over the person's particular purpose in performing
the activity? If someone becomes a barber because he likes talking to a
variety of different people, and so on, is it unjust of him to allocate
his services to those he most likes to talk to? Why may not a barber use
exactly the same criteria in allocating his services as someone else whose
activities have no internal goal involving others? Need a gardener allocate
his services to those lawns which need him most? Need a householder allocate
his business to those gardeners which need it most?
In what way does the situation of a doctor differ? Why should he bear the costs of the desired "needs" allocation, why is he less entitled to pursue his own goals than everyone else?
So it is society that, somehow, is to arrange things so that the doctor, in pursuing his own goals, allocates according to need, eg the society pays him to do this. Presumably, because medical care is important, people need it very much. What we are arriving at is the claim that society should make provision for the important needs of all its members. This claim has been stated many times before. Despite appearances, Williams presents no argument for it. Like others, he looks only to questions of allocation. He ignores the question of where the things or actions to be allocated and distributed come from, and whether other people have prior entitlements over them.
What if we introduce "schmoctoring", an activity just like doctoring exceot that its goal is to earn money for the practitioner; Is there any reason why schmoctoring services should be allocated according to need? (p.234)
A person having lesser
opportunities would be better off if some particular person having better
opportunities didnt exist. The person having better opportunities can be
viewed not merely as someone better off, or as someone not choosing to
aid, but as someone blocking or impeding the person having lesser opportunities
from becoming better off. Impeding another by being a more alluring alternative
partner in exchange is not to be compared to directly worsening the situation
of another, as by stealing from him. But still, cannot the person with
lesser opportunity justifiably complain at being so impeded by another
who does not deserve his better opportunity to satisfy certain conditions?
(Let us ignore any similar complaints another might make about him [or
if this zero-sum actually exists in economics] )
If the woman who later became my wife rejected another suitor (whom she otherwise would have married) for me, partially because (I leave aside my loveable nature) of my keen intelligence and good looks, neither of which did I earn, would the rejected less intelligent and less handsome suitor have a legitimate complaint about unfairness?
Would my thus impeding the other suitor's winning the hand of fair lady justify taking some resources from others to pay for cosmetic surgery for him and special intellectual training? (I here take for granted the impermissibility of worsening the situation of the person with better opportunites eg by disfiguring him or injecting him with drugs). No such consequences follow. (Against whom would the rejected suitor have a legitimate complaint? Against what?)
The case is even easier for comsumption goods which cannot plausibly be claimed to have such impedence effects. Is it unfair that a child rasied in a home with a swimming pool, using it daily even though he is no more deserving than another child whose home is without one? Should such a situation be prohibited? (Are we to ban Love? Is a child deserving of Love?) (p.237)
# THE TALE OF A SLAVE
Consider the following sequence of cases... and imagine it is about you.
1. There is a slave completely at the mercy of his brutal master's whims. He often is cruelly beaten, called out in the middle of the night, and so on.
2. The master is kindlier and beats the slave only for stated infractions of his rules (not fulfilling the work quota, and so on). He gives the slave some free time.
3. The master has a group of slaves, and he decides how things are to be allocated among them on nice grounds, taking into account their needs, merit, and so on.
4. The master allows his slaves four days on their own and requires them to work only three days a week on his land. The rest of the time is their own.
5. The master allows his slaves to go off and work in the city (or anywhere they wish) for wages. He requires only that they send back to him three- sevenths of their wages. He also retains the power to recall them to the plantation if some emergency threatens his land; and to raise or lower the three-sevenths amount required to be turned over to him. He further retains the right to restrict the slaves from participating in certain dangerous activities that threaten his financial return, for example, mountain climbing, cigarette smoking.
6. The master allows all of his 10,000 slaves, except you, to vote, and the joint decision is made by all of them. There is open discussion, and so forth, among them, and they have the power to determine to what uses to put whatever percentage of your (and their) earnings they decide to take; what activities legitimately may be forbidden to you, and so on.
7. Though still not having the vote, you are at liberty (and are given the right) to enter into the discussions of the 10,000, to try to persuade them to adopt various policies and to treat you and themselves in a certain way. They then go off to vote to decide upon policies covering the _vast_ range of their powers.
8. In appreciation of your useful contributions to discussion, the 10,000 allow you to vote if they are deadlocked; they commit themselves to this procedure. After the discussion you mark your vote on a slip of paper, and they go off and vote. In the eventuality that they divide evenly on some issue, 5,000 for and 5,000 against, they look at your ballot and count it in. This has never yet happenned; they have never yet had occasion to open your ballot. (A single master also might commit himself to letting his slave decide any issue concerning him about which he, the master, was absolutely indifferent.)
9. They throw your vote in with theirs. If they are exactly tied your vote carries the issue. Otherwise it makes no difference to the electoral outcome.
The question is: which transition from case 1 to case 9 made it no longer the tale of a slave?"
- From "Anarchy, State, Utopia" by Robert Nozick, p.290-292 (1974).
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