Re: Tolerance strategies (was: Two Essays on the violence...) (fwd)

From: Lee Daniel Crocker (
Date: Wed Oct 24 2001 - 12:52:17 MDT

> > > Given that intolerant and absolutist memes can by definition exist
> > > within a tolerant and relativist society, but not vice versa, what
> > > strategies can the tolerant and relativist society use to survive?
> > > Will these strategies require it to relinquish some of its tolerance
> > > and relativism?
> >
> > The tolerant and relativist societies can maintain substantial military
> > superiority using superior economic and technological capabilities.
> > That's why Afghanistan hasn't conquered America.
> 1. This is criticized as a contradictory stance-- not only a
> relinquishment of tolerance and relativism, but a selective
> relinquishment...

You are confused. First, I'm not sure the absolutist/relativist
distinction has any relevance here. Tolerance is about allowing ideas
to be expressed by others, and allowing peaceful actions of others,
even if you judge those ideas and actions to be wrong. Absolutism
and relativism are about your criteria for judging them: I am an
absolutist, for example. I beleive one should judge the rightness
or wrongness of ideas and actions on objective criteria, not on
local culture, custom, or prejudice. But that doesn't in any
way affect my tolerance of other to speak and behave in ways I
judge to be wrong. SO I am a tolerant absolutist; I've met many,
many, intolerant relativists as well.

A tolerant society allows all ideas to be expressed; it even allows
actions many people find objectionable so long as they are done with
consent of all parties affected, but even the most liberal society
cannot tolerate coercive and violent actions except in self-defense,
and even to most peaceful society must occasionally itself respond
to such actions with defensive force. It is not acceptable to allow
murderers to run free, for example; they must be forcibly detained
and prevented from killing others.

Eli's point is quite valid: a tolerant society in which ideas are
expressed freely will result in better technologies, including those
technologies that are useful for defense. And such a society will
recognize that using them is necessary.

> In order to maintain this strategy, it is shielded
> from public debate and scrutiny. The resulting lack of accountability
> allows instruments of the open society's foreign policy to lose sight
> of their original goals and even act in opposition to them.

No, an open society is totally up front about its technical capabilites
and its military power, and uses them openly for publicly-stated
reasons, and is accountable for their use. To the extent that our
society keeps foreign policy secret, that needs to change. But that's
not a failure of the open society idea, that's a failure of our
specific society to live up to the idea.

> 1a. Furthermore, when an ends-justify-means calculus is employed, you
> end up with the problem of entrusting somebody with the priviledged
> position of deciding which ends justify which which means. Your
> friendly AI might do it Eliezer, but even the best intentioned humans
> inevitably lapse into "MY ends justify the means".

Again, how is this at all relevant to the argument given? Yes, evil
people do evil things. No kidding. How is this in any way related to
the idea that tolerant societies will have a better military AND more
open policies.

> 3. Superior technology and economy does not necesserily trump a
> superior strategic position. Witness American Revolution, siege of
> Stalingrad, Italy's invasion of Ethiopia, Vietnam War, Chechnya, and
> of course our current war against a delocalized enemy with wide
> popular support.

In the long run, it does. Sure, there will be setbacks, but a closed
society is self-defeating: even if it wins one war, its closedness
will cause it to fall even further behind and lose the power to
maintain itself. It will be beseiged by rebellion from within. Even
tolerant-minded people will not stand idly by while government use
force to oppress and murder their citizens--they can and will rebel,
and establish new order, just as we did here, or else they will
leave for somewhere else, and the remains of the intolerant society
will collapse from brain-drain.

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC

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