RE: capitalist religion (was: NANO: _Forbes_ cover story)

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Sun Jul 22 2001 - 12:12:10 MDT

Michael Wilk writes

> Lee Corbin wrote:
>> Many people on this list are under the influence of some powerful
>> memes that have proven their value over hundreds, if not thousands
>> of years: never steal; never encourage indolence or lack of
>> success; always mind your own business; never lie.
> When is taking the opposite of this the best policy?

Only under vanishingly rare conditions, so far as I can see.
A nation might rightfully steal wealth from some of its
individuals in a time of national emergency---if it's either
that or be conquered by an enemy army, then I'd find it
justified. Taking the second point, I guess that I can't
see any case where indolence should be encouraged.

Here is a case where I might not mind my own business: say in
my small community a certain man is known to beat his wife so
savagely that she is actually afraid to protest; in the market
place we repeatedly reminded by the constant bruises on her
countenance. I'm not opposed to some citizens going to this
individual and demanding that he stop; and if he refuses, I'm
not opposed to discussing means to make him stop.

> Under what conditions is it morally right to steal,
> encourage indolence, and lie?

Probably this isn't what you mean, but sometimes *individuals*
have the legal right to lie, especially in the making of so-called
white lies. But I totally agree with your drift.

> Further, who gets to decide the conditions under which
> such an opposing approach is called for?

For some countries in some situations, as I said, there
can arise extraordinary circumstances that threaten the
well being of everyone. I'm not opposed in principle to
nations' governments having such emergency powers. But
I will grant that perhaps the dangers of implementing
institutions that can execute such policies may outweigh
their benefit: look at what has happened to the United
States since Abraham Lincoln suspended citizens legal
rights, and even started drafting them? The extremely
substantial loss of liberties formerly enjoyed by Americans
does, I admit, illustrate the risks of ever letting government
get so strong.

But in the final analysis, it boils down to the character
of the people as a whole: liberty could work in early Colonial
America and in the early nation. Since then, either we've had
too many immigrants (like my own ancestors) who just don't get
it, or there are such high population densities now that
individual responsibility has become too diluted.


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