First sandpit for 2011

The blog and author are recovering from the floods and other disasters, and getting back to normal. Here’s a new sandpit for lengthy side discussion, rants on idees fixes and so on.

28 thoughts on “First sandpit for 2011

  1. John, I am surprised at your remarks on Jack Strocchi in the thread on house prices.

    Is it offensive to refer to a racial group who are intelligent or high performers?

    How might you express this idea in a way that is not offensive or is that in your view impossible?

    I don’t like racism either but is Jack’s type of claim that?

    Genuinely puzzled.

  2. Harry, this is an idee fixe for Jack, as witness its appearance in a discussion about demand for housing. Other comments he’s amde, endorsing absurdities like The Bell Curve are worse. I’m sick of having my discussions disrupted by this sort of thing.

    Jack, no discussion or response on this please

  3. To Alan,

    First things first, I never said I was absolutely against Arab democracy, only that I had some concerns that I hope to be proven wrong about. My hope is that exposure to democracy will also produce a liberalising impulse, which would silence all my concerns.
    Secondly, I believe last time I responded to you (on the actual Arab democracy post) you didn’t challenge me. Why not? And why wait until now? Nevertheless, I’m not one to back away from an argument so i will take you on about this.

    By the way, the words I used were “ethically challenged,” not “charged.”

    Let me give an example of the sort of concerns I have with a radicalised arab muslim democracy. Take first the question of apostasy, the act of giving up one’s religious faith. Presently in Egypt this is not considered a crime by the state. However, 75% of people surveyed (in the recent Pew survey I cited) believe it ought to be a crime -indeed, one punishable by death. A fully democratic Egypt would duly change the laws to reflect this.

    If you are not a moral relativist and you are a westerner, you likely believe it is morally wrong to make this a crime at all, much less a capital one. Thus you morally disagree with the majority of people in this country. You ask Who authorises the minority to proclaim themselves ethically charged? (sic). Well sir, you do. What then? It seems to me you have three options.
    1 You can say: “It is morally bad for this to be a crime in most countries, but not Muslim ones” – a morally relativist position if ever I heard one.
    2 You can say: “Democracy is good, making apostasy a crime is bad, but democracy outweighs apostasy” – a defensible position in my opinion but not one which every person must agree with, or
    3 You can say: “Democracy is good, making apostasy a crime is bad, but apostasy outweighs democracy.”

    If apostasy were the only problem to be considered here, I might plump for option 2. However, there is also the problem of Muslim attitudes to women, “adulterers,” jews, homosexuals, and yes – Israel. On all five questions, Arab Muslims give consistently the wrong answer. By “wrong,” I mean they opt for a policy response which would dramatically increase the total suffering in the world, which is all that matters when one is discussing morality. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the wonderful carefree lives that women in Saudi Arabia live. No, that’s not a democracy, but it’s misogynistic policies enjoy very popular support. Look at the 13 year old boys hanged for homosexuality in Iran in 2005 to widespread acclaim. Look at the hugely popular Hezbollah movement, whose banner now depicts a mushroom cloud with an explicit written threat to the jews and Israel underneath. Look at all those things, and tell me as a moral absolutist, with a straight face, that these things are not to be worried about. Tell me that the moral good of democracy automatically trumps all these concerns put together, and that I have an “objective moral disorder” for raising them.

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