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The argument is undercut when it is understood that the concept of private property can only exist when there is a state to enforce property rights.

I think it's more complicated than that. If you combine Might Makes Right with private property you get that particularly nasty ideal of 'I'll take what I like, and if you get in my way I'll kill you.'

This has more or less been the real foundation of US foreign policy for the last forty years or so, and seems to be a big part of the rightward leaning parts of the US collective psyche.

It's possible other nations would play fair in comparison. It's hard to tell because the only real control sample was the Soviet Union, and that had its own complicated pathologies.

I think a more fundamental problem is the impossible gap between the world view of those with empathy, and those who have either never been born with it or have had it brutalised out of them. Isms like Libertarianism and Fascism rationalise and intellectualise these differences. But the differences are more primal than the ideologies, and they exist before the names and the narratives do.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jan 2nd, 2007 at 09:17:08 PM EST
In `generous welfare states' we find also this idea of the undeserving beneficiaries of the plenty of society. In Sweden, for some people, they are the immigrants. The argument for why they are undeserving goes a bit like this, sometimes:

They are not like us. Not honest, upstanding people who want to do right. They are happy to receive free money and don't want to work.
We can't help everyone. There are so many people suffering, it is too much, they can't all come here. They have to stay and work it out at home. (Like we, the good Swedes, did.) Why should `they' get to come here to get the benefits of what `we' as a people have built over generations? They drain societies resources that could be better spent on some deserving person. Like your grandmother. She is growing old. Should she not have the best available old-age care? She (and those like her) who worked all her life to build this welfare for our society. If `they' get some money, that is money that your grandmother does not get.

And so on. Highly emotional appeals, made by people who consider themselves good people, compassionate people, people who feel they want the best for everyone. People who have voted for the social-democratic party all their life (except perhaps in the last election). How does one counter this? In part it is a very practical question for me, as I am just paraphrasing things said to me by people I am unfortunately related to. What do we do with people like this, and how many of them are there?

I think they might be similar in some respects to the pro-`freemarket', against social spending, pro-charity crowd. They also consider themselves good, compassionate people. I don't think the issue is that they are lacking in empathy as much as how they can maintain an image of themselves as good, compassionate people, and argue that the things they advocate are actually in the best interest of all, even the ones those policies disadvantage.

Taking again a quick look at Sweden and the last elections when the Sweden Democrats got more votes than ever before on a xenophobic platform. They spent a lot of campaigning efforts on showing themselves as compassionate people. They argued that tougher rules would benefit immigrants, that this was in fact the only way, the only compassionate way of approaching the problems the immigrants face in Swedish society. They did not go out and talk about how "Sweden is for the Swedes", and "we must remove those dirty foreigners". Instead, it was a soft line of, "we must care for the people already here, Swedish or not". With tougher immigration rules, yes.

I don't think the problem is always one of lack of empathy. No one (or very few) like to say: "Let the poor suckers starve". More often, they will come up with 'compassionate' policies that do in fact "let the poor suckers starve", but let us believe that things are in fact getting better because of those very policies, and that we are all good, compassionate people.

by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Thu Jan 4th, 2007 at 01:28:32 PM EST
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