The Daily Bork

August 10, 2005

Rawling on the river

Che Tibby is off on another tangent about minority groups, or at least the ones he is "worried" about. Another prime example of taking a concept too far out of its intended area of application.
Anyway, catharsis over, and what Sandel had to say was pretty interesting. In a nutshell, he built upon the thought of this other smart-guy, John Rawls, and talked about the issue of knowing too much. Not too much in general, but too much about risk.

So, originally this post was going to talk details about what Sandel had to say, but I can boil it all down to the simple statement that the future does not lie in organising life around the individual to the exclusion of collective, public ventures.
No, really? I can boil this down to setting up the false dichotomy of politics being the "thoughtful, caring about the collective" left and the "libertarian to the point of anarchy" right.
What he lectured on was the danger that private health care (for example) will become too risky for private companies because of advances in genetic identification of probable hereditary diseases.
Of course the way is not clear on that issue, it does however ignore the great benefits gained in knowing predispositions to diseases, the concurrent advances in treatments etc etc. But abuse of information is always a problem, but it is not necessarily insurmountable.
This issue is potentially huge, and if you extend it out to the question of making our society cohesive, then it becomes incredibly tricky. What happens if in another scenario, people simply aren't interested in paying taxes to support another group that has a history of poor health?
Quite apart from the issue of how do you make society cohesive, in this instance why does the group have poor health? Is the group defined by the poor health, possibly because of personal choices, or is it a, for example, racial group with inherited tendencies to a disease? It makes a lot of difference.
This isn't so far fetched, half the time the right refuses to pay money to beneficiaries because they see it as funding dole-bludging minorities.
Oh lordy, can he not help himself? You could take his entire question about the treatment of groups, expounded on further on, and apply it right here to his attitude to "the right". I somehow suspect that the attitudes of "the right" are axiomatic in his mind so some strawman argument is all that is required to use this as a proof for his previous dodgy example.
The question I tried (unsuccessfully) to bring to the discussion concerned religious minorities. What happens if a minority is considered too risky to have in or near our society? Rawls' idea is that you design your political system so that it remains ignorant of specific content like religion or race, and just provides equally and justly to all.
That would seem to be the ideal case, but I would have thought it argued towards smaller government with less power. It seems that the larger the government the more entangled it gets in issues of religion, race, group identity, etc etc.

However, what do you do when you have a group, religious or otherwise, who has a stated intent of destroying the society you so value? When that group has no interest in your Rawlsian ideal and couldn't give two stuffs about equality and justice, however it is delivered? Can you really afford to ignore them and treat all equally? It would be like having cancer but refusing to go to the doctor for fear of the diagnosis.

Curiously, Rawls also argued against the same principles being applied internationally. Here he favoured limited assistance only but argued countries with sound economic policies had no duty to aid those that did not. I wonder if Tibbs is so keen on that idea from his smart guy.
But what happens if this neutrality is undermined by a popular predisposition to distaining groups in our society?
It depends on the cause of the disdain rather, doesn't it? Ghetto living Jews causing every woe of European history. Or organised crime families in New York. Or Islamist revolutionaries in Britain. What is the difference?
After all, people are starting to really hate Islam.
A rather contentious claim, with no real backing.
Does this mean that in time that entire Muslim communities will be marginalized and excluded in places like Britain?
It would seem to depend on how the faction dedicated to destroying Britain are handled, would it not?
Will they be forced to entirely shut down their contribution to public debate, say in opposing things like the levelling of Falluja?
Nope. But they should also be forward in their opinions on, say, blowing up subways, the murder of Israeli schoolchildren, the murder of Iraqi children, the murder of Russian children, etc so that everyone knows where they stand for better or worse.
It's a worry.
Only when you are using those minorities you are so terribly worried about to push your own agenda.

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