Can government solve Racism?

Have philosophical discussions about politics, law, and government.
Featured Article: Definition of Freedom - What Freedom Means to Me
GE Morton
Posts: 223
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: Can government solve Racism?

Post by GE Morton » April 7th, 2017, 2:37 pm

RuleOnu wrote:In my view an individual has a right to be racist. What a person, who is racist, doesn't have a right to do is obstruct any individuals constitutional rights or legal status.
I believe, even private businesses, private establishments, clubs or organizations have a right to operate as they fit for their own benefit, which can include conducting their business along racial lines.
-
So no, the government can't stop an individual from being racist, nor should it. The government has a moral and fiduciary obligation to conduct itself equally and make all laws equally applicable to all its citizens regardless of race or racial ideologies.
Citizens, people can, and will, function equitably without government intervention or force.
Fully agree. The 14th Amendment demands equal protection of the law, i.e., equal treatment of all citizens by the State. It does not demand that citizens treat one another equally, or authorize the government to enact laws forcing them to do so.

But of course, the US Supreme Court has ruled differently, on the absurd ground that a refusal to do business with someone adversely affects interstate commerce. (Never mind that the commerce clause authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not anything that affects interstate commerce --- which is virtually everything).
Consequently, individuals have a right to peacefully and legally object to any situation wherein race is used as a condition of conduct.
Not sure what you mean here. What would be the grounds for a legal objection?

BenMcLean
Posts: 50
Joined: January 17th, 2012, 11:42 am

Re: Can government solve Racism?

Post by BenMcLean » April 24th, 2017, 9:20 pm

Togo1 wrote:Depends if you hold to the old definition of racism, which was all about the attitudes you hold, or the new definitions of racism, which is all about the actions you undertake.
I disagree with the distinction you are making here. The old definition of racism (and there only was one) which Dr. Martin Luther King talked about was that racism is defined as a category of ideological doctrines which hold some human races as being inherently superior to and deserving to rule over others, or the corollary of holding some human races as being inherently inferior to and deserving to be ruled over by others. This could be called "the ideological definition of racism."

The new definition of racism is called "the sociological definition of racism" and it holds that racism is "power plus privilege" or as I like to put it, "power plus privilege times height divided by mayonnaise squared." This new definition of racism isn't about what you do: it's about who you are. Under this definition, black people can't be racist by definition because even though they might have wealth, they can't have power and privilege because they live in an oppressive system as the oppressed.

Similarly, if you are a white person then you can't avoid being racist under this defniition because even though you might be dirt poor, you live in an oppressive system as the oppressor. You are said to benefit from a mysterious "white privilege" which has nothing to do with wealth because it applies to all whites regardless of class, and the fact that you benefit from this makes you inherently racist no matter what you say, do or believe. This is because the "power plus privilege" definition makes it so that racism is not a choice you make: it is a position you hold in a system which is defined as being oppressive a priori.

Also, thanks to a wonderful term called "intersectionality" invented by the academics who developed the above theory, anyone who disagrees with them about any issue can also be classed as "racist" under this definition.

As for my own opinion, the ideological definition of racism makes sense and under this definition, I think that all racism is wrong and am not sure about whether the government can change it or not. The sociological definition of racism, on the other hand, deserves to be laughed at, not argued with.

-- Updated April 24th, 2017, 8:21 pm to add the following --

I think a good summary of my last post would be this: "Wealth privilege is real. White privilege is an ideological fantasy."

Alias
Posts: 2178
Joined: November 26th, 2011, 8:10 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Terry Pratchett

Re: Can government solve Racism?

Post by Alias » April 26th, 2017, 9:26 pm

BenMcLean wrote: I think a good summary of my last post would be this: "Wealth privilege is real. White privilege is an ideological fantasy."
That's an interesting distinction.
The statement would be true, had there ever been a level or equal or even reasonably equitable field of competition for the wealth.

When, however, a good deal of inherited and entrenched wealth - which also makes or causes to be made, most of the rules for commerce, for regulation, for
infrastructure and employment - was acquired through the labour of black slaves, the suppression of black aspirations, the exclusion of black students from
education, of black workers from white-collar jobs, of black families from upwardly mobile neighbourhoods, denied black entrepreneurs licenses and bank loans
refused them membership in political parties, trade unions, clubs, fraternities and professional organizations where contacts and fortunes are made,
then wealth and privilege are so closely entwined as to render that statement nonsensical.

White privilege has supported white wealth and white wealth has safeguarded white privilege from the 15th to the 20th century.
The playing field doesn't become level, and the competition fair, in two generations, just because a half dozen laws are passed -
and sometimes enforced. Police files render that statement nonsensical in the most graphic way.

How much has changed in the distribution of wealth, success and political presence is a testament to the effort of courageous, exceptions persons, both black and white -
not any kind of proof that systemic racism no longer exists.
And it is still in the interest of entrenched wealth - still predominantly white and male, but with a spattering of colour to lend it a veneer of legitimacy -
to foster social racism in the ranks of the working class and underclass.
If the economically underprivileged were healed of their prejudice and joined forces against entrenched privilege, it would topple.

BenMcLean
Posts: 50
Joined: January 17th, 2012, 11:42 am

Re: Can government solve Racism?

Post by BenMcLean » April 26th, 2017, 11:13 pm

Alias wrote:That's an interesting distinction.
The statement would be true, had there ever been a level or equal or even reasonably equitable field of competition for the wealth.
No, the statement is just true. Period.
Alias wrote:When, however, a good deal of inherited and entrenched wealth - which also makes or causes to be made, most of the rules for commerce, for regulation, for
infrastructure and employment - was acquired through the labour of black slaves,
Excuse me, how many trust funds do you think there are which have been in continuous operation since the 19th century? How much land has stayed in the same families? Do you really think there are extended families of white people who haven't worked a day in their lives in 150 years?

You do have one valid point though, and that is the fact that stable families build wealth, which explains why blacks haven't tended to be successful in doing this. They bought into the Sexual Revolution in the '60s which means buying into poverty.
Alias wrote:refused them membership in political parties, trade unions, clubs, fraternities and professional organizations where contacts and fortunes are made
Where are all these organizations that only white people can join!? I remember there were organizations and scholarships specifically dedicated to blacks when I went to college, and absolutely none specific to whites.
Alias wrote:If the economically underprivileged were healed of their prejudice and joined forces against entrenched privilege, it would topple.
Are you the economically underprivileged?

-- Updated April 26th, 2017, 10:15 pm to add the following --

Oh, by the way, my pointing out that blacks-only organizations exist was not meant as an argument for any need for whites-only organizations. I think all such racially divisive organizing is cancer, no matter which race it's for.

User avatar
LuckyR
Moderator
Posts: 2713
Joined: January 18th, 2015, 1:16 am

Re: Can government solve Racism?

Post by LuckyR » April 27th, 2017, 11:45 am

Lark_Truth wrote:By decree of law and having it upheld by law enforcement, can government stop racism in any nation?

My opinion is that racism would be an impossible thing for a government to try and control. It can enforce penalties, lay down laws, but it will not be able to change the hearts and opinions of the people, especially if it tries to force people to do so.
Too vague to answer. If you mean institutional racism, then: yes, the government can pass laws that make those illegal. Not that everyone will follow those laws, just like any other law has lawbreakers. but at least the government can move from being a promoter of racism to a force against it.

If you mean personal bias along racial lines, everyone knows you can't legislate thought, though such laws would be one of many, many fragments of information that make up an individual's experience so in a an extremely small way it would promote against racism, but not in a draconian, universal and immediate way.
"As usual... it depends."

BenMcLean
Posts: 50
Joined: January 17th, 2012, 11:42 am

Re: Can government solve Racism?

Post by BenMcLean » April 27th, 2017, 11:55 am

I think if you take a closer look at how "institutional racism" is defined, you'll recognize that laws can't end it either, because "institutional racism" is just another term for the sociological definition of racism I described previously. It defines the problem in such a way that the problem can never be solved by definition, in order to guarantee that race-baiting political acticists will always seem necessary.


“There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs – partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.”
-- Booker T. Washington

User avatar
LuckyR
Moderator
Posts: 2713
Joined: January 18th, 2015, 1:16 am

Re: Can government solve Racism?

Post by LuckyR » April 27th, 2017, 12:03 pm

BenMcLean wrote:I think if you take a closer look at how "institutional racism" is defined, you'll recognize that laws can't end it either, because "institutional racism" is just another term for the sociological definition of racism I described previously. It defines the problem in such a way that the problem can never be solved by definition, in order to guarantee that race-baiting political acticists will always seem necessary.


“There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs – partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.”
-- Booker T. Washington
You are holding up a false goal. It isn't about solving or ending a problem, it is about helping with the problem. No one would argue that criminal laws should be abandoned because statutes against murder are on the books, yet there are murders.
"As usual... it depends."

BenMcLean
Posts: 50
Joined: January 17th, 2012, 11:42 am

Re: Can government solve Racism?

Post by BenMcLean » April 27th, 2017, 12:09 pm

Is there a continuous need for political activists to campaign against murder?

Oh wait, don't answer that. The answer is yes. They're called the Pro-Life movement.

-- Updated April 27th, 2017, 11:16 am to add the following --

My point is that in a legitimate political movement based on ideas, there is an end goal, after which the government's policies now match the movement's agenda and the movement is over. The anti-slavery movement ended because their goal was achieved. The sufferage movement ended because their goal was achieved. The civil rights movement ended because their goal was achieved. The "social justice" movement will never end, because they do not have that type of goal. They aren't like any of those previous movements. They don't really know what they want. They're like the Joker from the Dark Knight in that their goal is just to see the world burn.

GE Morton
Posts: 223
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: Can government solve Racism?

Post by GE Morton » April 27th, 2017, 2:31 pm

Alias wrote:When, however, a good deal of inherited and entrenched wealth - which also makes or causes to be made, most of the rules for commerce, for regulation, for
infrastructure and employment - was acquired through the labour of black slaves . . .
Not sure what you include under "entrenched" wealth, but inherited wealth is a minor, and declining, fraction of the wealth of the wealthiest individuals in the US (31%, per the Forbes 400). Moreover, most of that is 2nd-generation wealth, i.e., the original fortune was made by the person's father. 69% of the wealthy persons on Forbes' most recent list are "self-made." Nor was any substantial portion of that wealth acquired "through the labor of black slaves." Cotton may have been king in 1860, but those fortunes have long since dissipated. There is no plausible relationship between 19th century slave labor and contemporary wealth.
. . . the suppression of black aspirations, the exclusion of black students from education, of black workers from white-collar jobs, of black families from upwardly mobile neighbourhoods, denied black entrepreneurs licenses and bank loans refused them membership in political parties, trade unions, clubs, fraternities and professional organizations where contacts and fortunes are made, then wealth and privilege are so closely entwined as to render that statement nonsensical.
I'm curious --- how did those jobs, neighborhoods, banks, unions, clubs, etc., come to be in the first place? Who launched the businesses, built the neighborhoods, organized the unions, founded the banks? In California in 1900 bankers were unwilling to lend to Italian immigrants, many of whom wished to grow grapes for wine. One of them, Amadeo Giannini, a former produce dealer, decided to launch a bank to serve his fellow immigrants. He called it the Bank of Italy. After the San Francisco earthquale of 1906, his bank was the first to offer loans for rebuilding. In 1928 Giannini re-named his bank, to Bank of America. It became the largest bank in the US.

If someone else does not wish to do business with you or admit you to his club, your remedy is not to run to the gummint and demand it force him to do so. It is to launch your own business, form your own club.
The playing field doesn't become level, and the competition fair, in two generations, just because a half dozen laws are passed -
and sometimes enforced.
The "playing field" has never been level, and never will be. The talents, skills, knowledge, interests, ambitions, and drive each player brings to it determine its contours, and those vary enormously from person to person. The only kind of equality anyone can rationally expect, and government has any duty to assure, is equal protection of the law.
Police files render that statement nonsensical in the most graphic way.
How so? Surely you're not alluding to the nonsensical thesis that black incarceration rates are due to "racism." Are you?

Alias
Posts: 2178
Joined: November 26th, 2011, 8:10 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Terry Pratchett

Re: Can government solve Racism?

Post by Alias » April 27th, 2017, 7:46 pm

No, I'm not alluding to any nonsensical thesis.
But I am seeing a pattern here.

-- Updated April 27th, 2017, 6:48 pm to add the following --

I feel the sudden, urgent need for a very long, very hot shower.
Those who can induce you to believe absurdities can induce you to commit atrocities. - Voltaire

Dolphin42
Posts: 885
Joined: May 9th, 2012, 8:05 am
Location: The Evening Star

Re: Can government solve Racism?

Post by Dolphin42 » April 28th, 2017, 3:50 am

Ben MacClean:
Is there a continuous need for political activists to campaign against murder?

Oh wait, don't answer that. The answer is yes. They're called the Pro-Life movement.
It seems odd that you suddenly feel it necessary to throw into the discussion your opinion that abortion should be legally re-classified as murder. Probably doesn't help because it makes it easier for people to put you in a box and stick some kind of label on it like "religious right" or something. Just as another person might bring up another irrelevance like climate change or gay rights which would cause their particular box to bear the label "lefty, liberal". Always best to stick to the point as far as possible if you want to stay out of the box, I think.

-- Updated April 28th, 2017, 9:02 am to add the following --

G E Morton:
In California in 1900 bankers were unwilling to lend to Italian immigrants, many of whom wished to grow grapes for wine. One of them, Amadeo Giannini, a former produce dealer, decided to launch a bank to serve his fellow immigrants. He called it the Bank of Italy. After the San Francisco earthquale of 1906, his bank was the first to offer loans for rebuilding. In 1928 Giannini re-named his bank, to Bank of America. It became the largest bank in the US.
If someone else does not wish to do business with you or admit you to his club, your remedy is not to run to the gummint and demand it force him to do so. It is to launch your own business, form your own club.
I don't want to encourage Italian-American stereotypes, but I guess one problem with drawing this lesson from this example - the lesson that you should "form your own club" and that the government has no role - is that there's a danger of creating "clubs" that consider themselves to have been rejected by mainstream society and who therefore see nothing wrong in rejecting that society's norms and behavioural standards and living by their own set of standards. I'm thinking of the mafia. To be exact (stereotype alert), I'm thinking of Marlon Brando talking to Al Pacino (the scene were Don Corleone is getting old and handing over to Michael - advising him how to spot who will betray him) and explaining why there is nothing morally wrong in following their own internal system of ethics, having been rejected by mainstream America.

-- Updated April 28th, 2017, 9:25 am to add the following --

G E Morton:
The "playing field" has never been level, and never will be. The talents, skills, knowledge, interests, ambitions, and drive each player brings to it determine its contours, and those vary enormously from person to person. The only kind of equality anyone can rationally expect, and government has any duty to assure, is equal protection of the law
It may be true that this is the only kind of equality that anyone can rationally expect as a right, but isn't there a slightly different question of what kind of society we want to live in?

Suppose, for the sake of argument, we have a minimalist government which only imposes the minimum amount of taxation required to enforce basic laws. No publicly funded services other than police and prisons. Suppose the end result is increasing monopolies in which there are vast differences in wealth. Suppose the end result of this is a society in which a small number of very wealthy people live in fortress communities protected from rampant crime by private security forces.

The question is: do you think that a potential end-result like this is justification for making decisions about laws, now, on such things as taxation and the funding of public services? Do you think that we should be influenced by thinking about the kind of society we want to live in? Or do you think the only consideration should be the protection of current individual freedoms?

Do you think that, just like the free market and evolution, society should be fundamentally non-forward-looking?

-- Updated April 28th, 2017, 9:53 am to add the following --

Alias:
I feel the sudden, urgent need for a very long, very hot shower.
Come on Alias, don't resort to lazily labelling your interlocutors as morally abhorrent. Make an argument.

Personally I don't regard myself as strongly either left or right wing. But (here in the UK at least) I often hear right-wing commentators (e.g. Melanie Phillips) complaining that left-wing commentators don't make arguments but simply see themselves as being the natural occupiers of the moral high ground. Prove them wrong!

GE Morton
Posts: 223
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: Can government solve Racism?

Post by GE Morton » April 28th, 2017, 8:00 pm

Dolphin42 wrote:
I don't want to encourage Italian-American stereotypes, but I guess one problem with drawing this lesson from this example - the lesson that you should "form your own club" and that the government has no role - is that there's a danger of creating "clubs" that consider themselves to have been rejected by mainstream society and who therefore see nothing wrong in rejecting that society's norms and behavioural standards and living by their own set of standards. I'm thinking of the mafia. To be exact (stereotype alert), I'm thinking of Marlon Brando talking to Al Pacino (the scene were Don Corleone is getting old and handing over to Michael - advising him how to spot who will betray him) and explaining why there is nothing morally wrong in following their own internal system of ethics, having been rejected by mainstream America.
"Society" has no norms --- only individuals have them --- and there is no "mainstream." There are only a thousand rivulets, which may converge with others for a time and separate again a few miles further downstream, perhaps to merge with others for a time.

There is an almost universal assumption among politicians, pundits, and even political philosophers to conceive of "society" as an organic unity, and even as a moral agent with goals, interests, and a welfare distinct from those of the individuals who constitute it. That is an ontolological mistake. Civilized societies are not organisms --- not tribes, not giant communes, "teams," or "big happy families." They are not collectives. They are randomly-assembled groups of unrelated, independent, autonomous, polycultural individuals who happen, by accident of birth, to occupy a common territory. They have no universally shared interests, no overriding concern for one another's welfare, and no a priori obligations to one another.

One cannot reject "society's" norms, because it has none. He can only reject someone else's norms. And since no one has any duty to conform his behaviors and lifestyle to someone else's norms, each person is perfectly free to do that, as long as the rejection does not entail violation of anyone else's rights.

So Don Corleone was right.
It may be true that this is the only kind of equality that anyone can rationally expect as a right, but isn't there a slightly different question of what kind of society we want to live in?

Suppose, for the sake of argument, we have a minimalist government which only imposes the minimum amount of taxation required to enforce basic laws. No publicly funded services other than police and prisons. Suppose the end result is increasing monopolies in which there are vast differences in wealth. Suppose the end result of this is a society in which a small number of very wealthy people live in fortress communities protected from rampant crime by private security forces.

The question is: do you think that a potential end-result like this is justification for making decisions about laws, now, on such things as taxation and the funding of public services? Do you think that we should be influenced by thinking about the kind of society we want to live in? Or do you think the only consideration should be the protection of current individual freedoms?

Do you think that, just like the free market and evolution, society should be fundamentally non-forward-looking?
The trouble with "forward thinking" is that it is necessarily nothing but tea-leaf reading, informed primarily by prejudices and cultural conditioning. There is no rational basis for assuming that a minimalist State will result in the consequences you fear. Indeed, the historical evidence suggests otherwise. By 1900 the US became the first country in history a majority of whose citizens were not poor. And of course, at that time the US government was minimalist (American governments at all levels at that time consumed 7% of the US GDP, compared with 43% today).

Monopolies in free markets cannot endure, unless they are protected by the State. A minimalist State does not protect them.

Dolphin42
Posts: 885
Joined: May 9th, 2012, 8:05 am
Location: The Evening Star

Re: Can government solve Racism?

Post by Dolphin42 » April 29th, 2017, 6:14 am

GE Morton:
"Society" has no norms --- only individuals have them --- and there is no "mainstream." There are only a thousand rivulets, which may converge with others for a time and separate again a few miles further downstream, perhaps to merge with others for a time...
The term "society" is a generalization, like such terms as "left wing" or "right wing" - single terms for broad classifications of people. All generalizations have pros and cons but we all use them. If we didn't then the only way we could say anything descriptive about these large collections of people would be to describe all those thousands (or millions or billions) of "rivulets" individually, with all their almost infinite variety. It would take forever to say anything! So we have to generalize. We talk about particular societies having collective characteristics. Obviously we know that not every single member of that society shares those characteristics to the same degree, or at all. But that's the downside of all generalizations. They sacrifice precise detail in exchange for brevity.
There is an almost universal assumption among politicians, pundits, and even political philosophers to conceive of "society" as an organic unity, and even as a moral agent with goals, interests, and a welfare distinct from those of the individuals who constitute it. That is an ontolological mistake.
Why is it any more of an ontological mistake than talking about a single person as an "organic unity", or talking about the collective behaviour of any group of related interacting things? An individual person is a collective of billions of individual cells. He/she has many facets to their personality and is, in a very real sense, a different person as time passes. If you abandon the whole idea that a collection can have properties then you abandon much more than the particular example of "society".
Civilized societies are not organisms --- not tribes, not giant communes, "teams," or "big happy families." They are not collectives. They are randomly-assembled groups of unrelated, independent, autonomous, polycultural individuals who happen, by accident of birth, to occupy a common territory. They have no universally shared interests, no overriding concern for one another's welfare, and no a priori obligations to one another.
So, in the above, you appear to recognize the concept of a "tribe" as being a collection of people with shared interests. Is the USA (for example) not in any sense a tribe? When the US president says "America First" isn't he declaring his allegiance to his tribe? Isn't the US Constitution a statement of some shared values of a tribe? Do not the members of tribes such as the USA and the UK have a tendency to want to protect the interests of their own members more than the interests of members of other tribes?
One cannot reject "society's" norms, because it has none. He can only reject someone else's norms. And since no one has any duty to conform his behaviors and lifestyle to someone else's norms, each person is perfectly free to do that, as long as the rejection does not entail violation of anyone else's rights.

So Don Corleone was right.
So the USA (for example) cannot be said to have any collectively agreed norms and values?
The trouble with "forward thinking" is that it is necessarily nothing but tea-leaf reading, informed primarily by prejudices and cultural conditioning.
So you don't think any kind of forward planning for the good of your community is worthwhile?!? No investment in infrastructure which individual players in the market don't have an individual interest in maintaining?
There is no rational basis for assuming that a minimalist State will result in the consequences you fear. Indeed, the historical evidence suggests otherwise. By 1900 the US became the first country in history a majority of whose citizens were not poor. And of course, at that time the US government was minimalist (American governments at all levels at that time consumed 7% of the US GDP, compared with 43% today).
This is an interesting assertion about a specific statistical fact and may be a good point. I'll look into that one.
Monopolies in free markets cannot endure, unless they are protected by the State. A minimalist State does not protect them.
So do you think that anti-trust laws, laws to protect against monopolies and cartels, are a waste of time? Political and economics freedoms can, and do, destroy themselves, don't they? People can freely elect a dictator who then removes their freedom. Companies don't have to be protected by any state to form a monopoly. They simply have to be successful enough to use their economy of scale to nip competition in the bud.

GE Morton
Posts: 223
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: Can government solve Racism?

Post by GE Morton » April 29th, 2017, 12:19 pm

Dolphin42 wrote:
The term "society" is a generalization, like such terms as "left wing" or "right wing" - single terms for broad classifications of people. All generalizations have pros and cons but we all use them. If we didn't then the only way we could say anything descriptive about these large collections of people would be to describe all those thousands (or millions or billions) of "rivulets" individually, with all their almost infinite variety. It would take forever to say anything! So we have to generalize. We talk about particular societies having collective characteristics. Obviously we know that not every single member of that society shares those characteristics to the same degree, or at all. But that's the downside of all generalizations. They sacrifice precise detail in exchange for brevity.
If the term is intended merely as a generalization it is harmless and may be accurate. But it is often used to denote an ontologically distinct entity, with goals and interests which are contrasted, and which may conflict, with those of individuals. Such contrasts make no sense if the term is meant as a generalization, since the "interests of society" are nothing but the interests of the individuals who constitute it.

Groups (of any kind) have no properties, other than statistical ones, not traceable to the properties of its members, and propositions sbout groups are non-cognitive (they have no determinable truth values) unless they can be translated into propositions about the members of the group. E.g., we can say, "Utah is a Mormon state," if we understand it to mean that some significant fraction of its population are Mormons. It is they who have that property, not the state per se. On the other hand, if we say, "Utah has a population of 3 million," we are then speaking of the state per se (no member of that group has a population of 3 million).

Any proposition purporting to contrast the "interests of the state" with the interests of individuals must be translatable into statements contrasting the interests of some individuals with those of other individuals. And that always raises the question: Does Tom have any duty to pursue the interests of Dick and Harry?
There is an almost universal assumption among politicians, pundits, and even political philosophers to conceive of "society" as an organic unity, and even as a moral agent with goals, interests, and a welfare distinct from those of the individuals who constitute it. That is an ontolological mistake.
Why is it any more of an ontological mistake than talking about a single person as an "organic unity", or talking about the collective behaviour of any group of related interacting things? An individual person is a collective of billions of individual cells. He/she has many facets to their personality and is, in a very real sense, a different person as time passes. If you abandon the whole idea that a collection can have properties then you abandon much more than the particular example of "society".
That is an excellent question. Not all groups of interacting things qualify as "organic unities." Living organisms are, of course, the paradigm examples of organic unities, but there are many others --- the many parts of an airplane or automobile, when arranged in the proper way, are also organic unities. The constituent parts of an organic unity are chosen, organized, and interact per some sort of design. They all work together in pursuit of a common goal because they are designed to do so. For a living organism the design is spelled out in its DNA; for the airplane, in a set of blueprints. The component parts of organic unities are tightly coupled; they can perform no functions other than those they were designed to serve, and have no degrees of freedom other than those permitted by the design. The cells of a walrus, for example, cannot leave their host and decide to join up with a whale. Nor can a heart cell function as a kidney cell. An airplane's fuel pump cannot function as a beverage dispenser.

Human societies, on the other hand, are complex adaptive systems (CAS) --- collections of autonomous agents with individual goals and interests who find it to their advantage to remain in a setting where they can interact with others of their choosing for certain purposes. The members of CAS's are only loosely coupled; relationships between them are discretionary, unpredictable, and often temporary. Each member's role in the group is chosen by him and is mutable.

CAS's tend to organize themselves into some sort of spontaneous order, a dynamic one which adapts to changing external constraints and to the ever-changing needs and desires of its members.
So, in the above, you appear to recognize the concept of a "tribe" as being a collection of people with shared interests. Is the USA (for example) not in any sense a tribe? When the US president says "America First" isn't he declaring his allegiance to his tribe? Isn't the US Constitution a statement of some shared values of a tribe? Do not the members of tribes such as the USA and the UK have a tendency to want to protect the interests of their own members more than the interests of members of other tribes?
Real tribes do have shared interests. From a previous post of mine:

-----------

Homo sapiens, if the anthropologists are right, has been on Earth for about 200,000 years. Until the last 10,000 or so of those years, he lived in small tribal villages, consisting of a few dozen to a few hundred members — small enough that all of its members knew all of the others; indeed, had known each other all of their lives. They midwifed one another’s births, tended one another’s illnesses, shared one another’s possessions, and married one another’s cousins. They knew and trusted one another, and had dense, intimate relationships among one another. They needed no formal ethics nor any political structure to govern their affairs, simply because each was and had always been a part of every other’s life.

The organic model is a good approximation of the structure of such societies. But with the rise of civilization — societies characterized by cities — that model began to break down. People found themselves living in communities in which most of the people around them were strangers, with whom they had no familial or other personal ties, and often very little in common. People began to take notice of the differences among them — differences in coloration and bone structure, in choices of dress, in temperament and mannerisms, in interests and tastes, in the habits and practices of daily life, and eventually even in religion and language. They acquired individuality.

In tribal societies there is no free will, and no individuality. All the myriad choices we today are constantly obliged to make are prescribed by the tribe; they’re part of the tribal consciousness, codified in tribal tradition, the “folkways” of the tribe. How one dresses, what one eats, where one lives, how one earns a living, the choosing of mates, the Gods to be worshipped and the rituals for worshipping them, all the petty rules governing the tasks of daily life and the “standard methods” for performing them, are absorbed from the tribe, without question and without the need for thought.

There is no individuality to speak of in these groups because all members have known and interacted only with each other since birth, and they are locked into a resonance. There is no politics, no debate, no alternate point of view on any matter — and as a result, almost no innovation. Tribal cultures can remain all but static for thousands of years, with only a slight refinement in spear points to indicate any time has passed at all. Australian Aborigines, for example, when encountered by Europeans in the 18th century, were making didgeridoos indistinguishable from those made 2000 years earlier. In 40,000 years they never added another instrument to their musical technology.

That resonance, however, cannot be maintained in larger groups, because the required intimacy is impossible. The group becomes too large for everyone to know and interact constantly with everyone else; hence one soon finds oneself in the company of strangers — individuals with whom they’ve had no prior contact and whose habits, preferences, and beliefs cannot be predicted in advance. And because they’ve all been subject to different combinations of influences, they begin to differ in all the ways indicated above.

The breakdown of that resonance represented a huge transformation, not merely of the social structure, but of the human psyche. The traditional tribal control mechanisms, based on age and personal stature, gave way to formal systems of governance — politics. The tribesman’s intuitive sense of right and wrong, which derived primarily from his personal ties to and commonality with his fellows, gave way to formal systems of ethics. Indeed, ethics, like law, is a code for regulating behavior among strangers — among people who have no personal interest in one another’s welfare. As Jared Diamond pointed out in Guns, Germs, and Steel, “With the rise of chiefdoms around 7,500 years ago, people had to learn, for the first time in history, how to encounter strangers regularly without attempting to kill them.”

Every utopia conceived in the last 5000 years has been an attempt to recapture the tribal consciousness. The Garden of Eden story embodies this “fall from Grace” — the loss of mankind’s oneness with God and Nature, his “alienation,” his exile into a world of strife and temptation, where he seems to have free will and must constantly choose between good and evil, between this course of action or that, relying only on his own judgement, and must suffer the consequences when his judgments go awry.

All these laments of lost innocence and alienation are atavisms, psychic echoes of our tribal heritage, the social form honed over the course of our 3 million year primate history. All of our fellow primates still practice that form, and until the rise of civilization, so did all humans. It would be surprising were our brains not adapted to that social form. They have evolved syncronously with that form, and thus may be expected to function optimally in that environment, in many ways. So it is not surprising that we miss that form, or that we long to regain it. We are ducks out of water, trying to find our way back to the pond.

We remain “wired” for tribal life. We long for it, unattainable though it may be. And often we try to recreate or or substitute for it, by immersing ourselves in cults or joining in totalitarian movements. The cult seeks to insulate itself from the “society of strangers;” the totalitarian movement seeks to subdue it and impose a tribal-like conformity, a synthetic common identity and purpose — usually resulting in much bloodshed.

But civilized humans are individuated; they are no longer interchangeable instances or exemplars of a tribal identity, and cannot be forced into that mold. That individuality is what drives the dynamism of civilized societies; what enables it to change more in 100 years than tribal societies might in 10,000. It is what has permitted humans to overcome the famines, diseases, disasters, and other idiosyncrasies of Nature which beset them and all their primate cousins for millions of years, and to transform the natural world to better meet their needs and better satisfy their ever-evolving and proliferating desires.

What worked for pre-civilized societies never worked very well, and cannot work at all for the unrelated, individuated members of civilized societies. There is no longer a collective consciousness, and in communities of more than a few hundred members, not even any common goals. Modern societies are meta-communities — public venues for personal interactions. They provide opportunities for individuals to forge relationships with others, but supply no content for those relationships. They are like public playing fields; they offer space and seating, but each team brings its own gear, its own personnel, and its own game with its own rules. The house rules are few and general: “No reservations accepted: first-come, first served,” “Do not intrude on others’ games,” and “Pick up your litter.”

The organic society that continues to beckon to the professor from our long primate ancestry is lost to history. It is irrecoverable. Contemporary social theorists need to let it go, and craft theories applicable to societies and to persons as we find them today.

---------------

Many people believe their society is a tribe, and politicians pander to that belief, in the hope that they can induce others to support, or at least tolerate, some proposal in which they actually have no interest. But modern civilized societies do not have that structure; that belief is mistaken. Anything promoted as in the "public interest" is always in the interest of certain people only.
So the USA (for example) cannot be said to have any collectively agreed norms and values?
Correct. It has no "collectively agreed" norms and values, but there are certain norms and values fairly widely held. Those are, like all norms and values, the norms and values of particular people.
So you don't think any kind of forward planning for the good of your community is worthwhile?!? No investment in infrastructure which individual players in the market don't have an individual interest in maintaining?
The "good of the community" must be analyzable into the good for specific people, or it is meaningless. Are you suggesting there is some infrastructure in which no individuals have an interest, yet is in the interest of the community?
This is an interesting assertion about a specific statistical fact and may be a good point. I'll look into that one.
You can find the government spending history here:

http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/past_spending

Poverty rates for the early 20th century are harder to come by, since official statistics were not compiled until 1959 (when the rate was 22%). Several estimates cite 1900 as the (approx) point when the rate in the US fell below 50%.
So do you think that anti-trust laws, laws to protect against monopolies and cartels, are a waste of time? Political and economics freedoms can, and do, destroy themselves, don't they? People can freely elect a dictator who then removes their freedom. Companies don't have to be protected by any state to form a monopoly. They simply have to be successful enough to use their economy of scale to nip competition in the bud.
They can form, but they can't endure. The point of of seeking a monopoly is to assure high profits. But those high profits immediately attract others into the industry, which soon destroys the monopoly. The monopoly can persist only if the government subsidizes it or restricts entry into the field. (I assume, of course, that the monopolists are not maintaining their monopoly by force or fraud).

Dolphin42
Posts: 885
Joined: May 9th, 2012, 8:05 am
Location: The Evening Star

Re: Can government solve Racism?

Post by Dolphin42 » May 1st, 2017, 10:11 am

G E Morton:

There is too much interesting and meaty stuff in that last post of yours for me to be able to reply to all, or most, of it in a single reply. And unfortunately I don't have much time and am currently sitting in a very noisy children's play area which makes it hard to concentrate! So I'll just pick a couple of low-hanging fruit for now, just to act as a placeholder and come back to the more important and interesting central points that you've made later.
Groups (of any kind) have no properties, other than statistical ones, not traceable to the properties of its members, and propositions sbout groups are non-cognitive (they have no determinable truth values) unless they can be translated into propositions about the members of the group. E.g., we can say, "Utah is a Mormon state," if we understand it to mean that some significant fraction of its population are Mormons. It is they who have that property, not the state per se. On the other hand, if we say, "Utah has a population of 3 million," we are then speaking of the state per se (no member of that group has a population of 3 million).
A general point about the properties of collections/groups: Physics, I think, illustrates that statistical properties can take on a life of their own which it makes no sense to trace directly back to the properties of their constituents. Thermodynamic properties like entropy seem to me to illustrate the point. Entropy is a statistical property of large collections of particles. It makes no sense to talk about the entropy of an individual particle. Yet it is a profoundly important property in understanding such things as the passage of time and non-reversible processes.

I can't, at this moment, think of a way to make a direct analogy between this and properties of groups of people. But I think it does at least illustrate that it is logically possible that collections of people can have properties that are not simply the same properties of a certain percentage of the individuals in the group.
The "good of the community" must be analyzable into the good for specific people, or it is meaningless. Are you suggesting there is some infrastructure in which no individuals have an interest, yet is in the interest of the community?
No, I mean that there is some infrastructure which no individual or small group, acting in a free market, can afford to invest in maintaining, even if well-maintained infrastructure benefits them. I think it's sometimes referred to as the "tragedy of the commons". Using your playing field analogy, these are the space and seating, and the turf, the floodlights etc. I think it is a matter of debate, with no obvious right or wrong answer, which public services come under this heading.

-- Updated May 2nd, 2017, 11:15 am to add the following --

Another quick one:
They can form, but they can't endure. The point of of seeking a monopoly is to assure high profits. But those high profits immediately attract others into the industry, which soon destroys the monopoly. The monopoly can persist only if the government subsidizes it or restricts entry into the field. (I assume, of course, that the monopolists are not maintaining their monopoly by force or fraud).
I'm no economist so I may be wrong about this, but monopolies do indeed seem to endure without government subsidy and have to be broken up by government action and/or prevented from forming by specific legislation. Having a monopoly isn't just about profit. It means higher profits for the same expenditure, or the same profits for lower expenditure.

Once a company reaches a certain scale and has control of most of the market, surely it can use its economies of scale to create barriers to entry by potential competitors. Economies of scale and the fact that the larger company already has all of the groundwork in place means that any other company that is only just trying to enter the same industry will have to spend more money to make the same profit and can be driven out of business before it's got a proper foothold.

So there have to be a whole load of anti-monopoly and anti-cartel ground rules set by government - rules to prevent price fixing, rules against "predatory pricing" (using one's size to make prices artificially low for a short time until the competition goes bust) and other "anti competitive" behaviour. Don't there? Simply having rules against force or fraud isn't enough.

Post Reply