Sandpit

A new sandpit for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on.

To be clear, the sandpit is for regular commenters to pursue points that distract from regular discussion, including conspiracy-theoretic takes on the issues at hand. It’s not meant as a forum for visiting conspiracy theorists, or trolls posing as such.

31 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. Message for Ikonoclast,

    Perhaps I misunderstood when I say you try to make economics free of subjectivity. If I don’t misunderstand, then my message is you will remove the philosophical and ethical aspects of economics.

  2. one thing that always frustrates me is when people talk about education spending growth in inflation adjusted terms. The problem being of course that the cost of education is not the same as the cost of other goods in the economy (who cares if a pair of jeans is getting cheaper).

    I wonder if there are any attempts to accurately measure inflation in the cost of education. What’s important is not to measure how much the government or parents spend but what they get for each dollar of expenditure. I think it would be difficult to measure the human capitol aspect of education spending – whether the education profession is attracting relativity higher or lower quality of workers.

  3. Message for Ernestine Gross,

    I don’t think you misunderstand so much as I do not yet make myself properly clear. Rather than trying to make economics “free from subjectivity” I am actually saying retain democracy, science and ethics (moral philosophy) and jettison money and markets. Essentially, this is a call for the abolition of economics simpliciter and the removal of value-subjective “operations” from markets and back into democracy and ethics. Yes, it is at heart it is ultimately a call for the abolition of money and markets, in toto, albeit in a more distant future not yet easily envisionable.

    Money and markets are a necessary control and allocation system of our current socio-economy. They could not be abolished instantly without chaos and collapse. However, progressive and incremental abolition over time is envisionable and would be subject to empirical feedback. Instead of seeking a minimal state (the neoliberal goal), we should seek the minimal market (a democratic socialist goal). However, we should make the process subject to empirical checks (something neoliberalism never did) and specifically subject to empirical checks on scientifically measurable criteria for inclusive human and ecological well-being (also something neoliberalism never did).

    In practice, it would start with nationalizing public goods and natural monopolies on the one hand and reducing the ambit of free market operations on the other. Re-regulation and even the de-legalizing of some complex financial instruments would begin that process. Less and less goods and services would be permitted to be produced in the private sphere (or produced at all like tobacco products) and sold in markets. However, this process would be undertaken in slow, incremental manner. The minimizing of money use and free market operations would be subject to the test of empirical outcomes. Does each step of this minimization process improve measurable criteria for inclusive human and ecological well-being and sustainability (after allowing for flow-through of effects)? That would be the test. I will stop here to keep this post reasonably short.

  4. The situation in the USA is full of irony and symbolism as well as tragedy. A white policeman called Chauvin takes a knee on a black man’s neck, chokes and strangles him for over 8 minutes and so murders him. The “knee” gesture symbolically refers back to Colin Kaepernick’s taking-the-knee protest against standing for the national anthem while black and brown people remain oppressed. National chauvinism, encouraged by Trump, then dictated that Kaepernick become a non-employable pariah of the NFL. No team would hire him after his protest and sacking from the 49ers. “Chauvinism is a form of extreme patriotism and nationalism and a belief in national superiority and glory.” [1]

    This latest murder of a black person by police, the murder of George Floyd, took place over the issue of an alleged forged US$20.00 bill. Given the ease with which capitalists and their functionaries make and take money via all their money schemes from Q.E. to subsidies, excess CEO pay, share buybacks with Q.E. money, and also the rigging of gold prices, the LIBOR, the Paradise Papers and other scandals, the alleged tendering of a forged $20:00 bill is very small “beer” indeed. It’s no exaggeration to say that rich white men and their corporations can steal $20 billion and get off scot-free but let a black man be merely alleged to have tendered a forged $20:00 bill and he gets murdered. However, in these days of mobile phones it seems murder will out immediately.

    “The United States twenty-dollar bill is a denomination of U.S. currency. Andrew Jackson, the seventh U.S. president, has been featured on the front side of the bill since 1928; the White House is featured on the reverse. As of December 2013, the average circulation life of a $20 bill is 7.9 years before it is replaced due to wear. About 11% of all notes printed in 2009 were $20 bills. Twenty-dollar bills are delivered by Federal Reserve Banks in violet straps.” [2]

    As a Vox article of this title points out: “Andrew Jackson was a slaver, ethnic cleanser, and tyrant. He deserves no place on our money.”

    “After generations of pro-Jackson historians left out Jackson’s role in American Indian removal — the forced, bloody transfer of tens of thousands of Native Americans from the South — a recent reevaluation has rightfully put that crime at the core of his legacy.

    But Jackson is even worse than his horrifyingly brutal record with regard to Native Americans indicates. Indian removal was not just a crime against humanity, it was a crime against humanity intended to abet another crime against humanity: By clearing the Cherokee from the American South, Jackson hoped to open up more land for cultivation by slave plantations. He owned hundreds of slaves, and in 1835 worked with his postmaster general to censor anti-slavery mailings from northern abolitionists. The historian Daniel Walker Howe writes that Jackson, “expressed his loathing for the abolitionists vehemently, both in public and in private.”

    Jackson’s small-government fetishism and crank monetary policy views stunted the attempts of better leaders like John Quincy Adams to invest in American infrastructure, and led to the Panic of 1837, a financial crisis that touched off a recession lasting seven years. If that weren’t enough, he was a war criminal who suspended habeas corpus and executed prisoners for minor infractions during his time as a general in the War of 1812.”

    There we have Jackson’s crimes (as moral felonies and misdemeanors): Indian removal (ethnic cleansing), slavery, censorship, small-government fetishism and crank monetary policy views, and finally a war criminal. The symbolism is strking that Floyd’s murder happened over the issue of a pice of paper with Andrew Jackson’s face depicted on it.

    The symbolisms and ironies do not end with Jackson. They continue with the current President. This is the President who said of al-Baghdadi that “He died like a dog, he died like a coward.” It takes one to know doesn’t it? Trump huddles like a coward in his Whitehouse bunker while a nascent revolution occurs outside his gates. During all this unrest in the USA, I have heard nobody in the main media, including interviewees, directly mention the word “revolution”. Yet, this is the word that most needs mention.

    Nothing will change in the USA without a full revolution. It does not need to be a violent revolution (the current unrest is small beer compared to a genuine violent revolution) but Trump is trying to send American down the violence path by his inflammatory rhetoric and advice from his coward’s bunker. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts”. “We have vicious dogs and ominous weapons.” These are not just dog whistles from the segregation era, they are direct quotes and direct references.

    Nothing will change in the USA without a full revolution. We have seen all this (“mere” civil protests) before. If people calm down and go back to business as usual it means going back to oppression as usual. The civil protests have to be carried forward into a full revolution which hopefully is an ultimately peaceful revolution. We have already seen some cases in the U.S. where the police and the security forces have taken a knee with the protesters. This is a key sign. When security forces go over to the people, a revolution is possible and it is possible in a relatively peaceful manner.

    There are a lot of hopeful signs. The huge unemployed, underemployed, undocumented and outside-the-formal-economy cohorts really have nothing else to do, They have no normal lives and no normal incomes to return to. They have nothing to do but take to the streets indefinitely. This suggests this nascent revolution could maintain its momentum. If enough white people, security forces personnel, middle class back people and so on sympathize with the dispossessed on the streets, a peaceful revolution can occur. It time to meet real, legitimate and moral demands not with bullets, be they gel, rubber or lead but with concessions and real constructive change leading to a revolutionary democratic socialist overhaul of American oligarchic capitalism.

    Postscript A: China is NOT the model. China is also an oligarchic capitalist and chauvinist state with the added problem of a fully-fledged one party system, no free press or internet and a one-person dictatorship at the top. China is neither socialist nor democratic.

    Postscript B: The problem of looting, arson and damage in the US situation is of course real. It is generated partly by a kind of lumpenproletariat criminal cohort, of all colors, who know no better because they have been given no opportunities. Ninety percent of them, at a guess, are redeemable, reasonable and constructive people given a just chance in society. There seem to be other elements at work too including right-wing agitators, saboteurs and provocateurs along with anarchists, racists, opportunists and score-settlers.

    1. Wikipedia.
    2. Wikipedia.

  5. I just saw the original recording of the murder of George Floyd on Youtube the day before yesterday. This act is much more inflamatory than I had originally thought. This was clearly not an unplanned event. This was a premeditated event clearly designed to send a message to a portion of the American
    people. The message was do not even think about doing what you are thinking about doing. If you do what we think that you are going to do we are prepared. We have the capabilty to cause massive chaos and we will not hesitate to use that capabilty.
    How do we know that this is a premeditated act designed to send a message. Becuase the officers involved in this act knew that they were being recorded and they did not care at all. Because during the time that they were holding George Floyd down and strangling him they were publically taunting him to get in the police car. Because they kept the pressure on his neck long after he had pissed in the street and lost conciousness. Because by standards were pleading with them to reverse their course of action and the amount of value that they placed on those pleas, which were being recorded was absolutely ZERO. Those pleas were comming from African Americans and I think possibly one white woman.
    I bet that if a white man had come along and forcefully demanded that they get off of George Floyd they would have obeyed. No white man did that. But in defence of white men it appears that this tradgedy happened in a black neighborhood and if any white men would have been there they would have probably been just passing by and not seeing how the situation developed would not have understood what it was that they were seeing.
    Now why would the confederate continuing criminal enterprise that has ruled the USA since at least 1963 have felt the need to send a message and to send a message so indirectly to those that it wished to address? Because the members of this group feel threatened. They members of this group can not state what they want to say directly to who they want to say it to because they are not sure who their enemies are. If they should address those that they think are their enemies directly they could end up looking like idiots. This method was chosen because anyone who understands the context of this murder will understand the message.
    Why do the leaders of the confederate criminal enterprise feel threatened now? Because it is as obvious as hell that the coronavirus event is no accident or is something unrelated to other world events. And it is as obvious as hell that those that triggered this event have greater capabilities than any foe that these confederates have ever faced.
    The challengers have demonstrated that they have the capabilities to cause huge problems. But do they have the capabilities to rule? Do the challengers have the capability not only to gain power but to maintain that power and rule effectively?
    Hopefully a day of Judgement is near.

  6. I reiterate. During all this unrest in the USA, I have heard nobody in the main media, including interviewees, directly mention the word “revolution”. Yet, this is the word that most needs mention. The protests in the USA are not, or should not be, just about murderous racism, even though this is the prime proximal concern, very understandably, for black people, native Americans and latinx people.

    The word “revolution” has to be spoken and spoken loudly and frequently. Modern racism is very much a creation of the imperialism and capitalism of the last several hundred years. It won’t disappear without a democratic socialist revolution which also sweeps away late-stage (neoliberal) capitalism.

    There have been plenty of commentators all over the entire political left and the ecologically green part of the spectrum who predicted that neoliberalism was completely unsustainable on all levels; economic, political, social and ecological. They have now been proven 100% correct. As soon as the hollowed-out, highly-inequitable USA was subjected to a significant exogenous challenge, a natural challenge of pandemic in this case, it failed completely and utterly at all levels. It failed economically, medically, epidemiologically, civically (civil order), socially and politically. It failed miserably at every level, except at the level of a youthful generation with a revolutionary unwillingness to put up with more of the same social carnage, environmental carnage, exploitation, oppression and murder. They are the only ray of hope. This is despite the right-wing agitators, saboteurs, provocateurs, anarchists, racists, opportunists, criminals and score-settlers infiltrating legitimate and peaceful, insistent and firm protest.

    A complete people’s revolution is what is required. Nothing less will suffice. Systemic racism of the modern form will never be ended until capitalism of the modern form (and all forms) is ended. The only hope for the world is a genuine democratic socialist revolution in the USA. There is no hope from Russia and China at the present time. This needs to be said firmly and up front. They are still at a stage of historical political economy and human rights development way which is way behind the USA. Russia and China are absolute capitalist dictatorships far worse even than the very egregious USA.

    If any protests like the US protests had happened in Putin’s Russia or Xi’s China, there would already be thousands to tens of thousands dead by government action. This has not yet occurred in the USA although it still could occur. The bellicose, neo-fascist Donald Trump has promised “domination”, “ominous weasons”, brute force and the US army on the streets against the provisions and spirit of the Posse Comitatus Act. We can note that Trump has made not one statement about improving justice or reducing inequality for poor people. He sees the situation only in terms of total domination and absolutely no concessions.

    I hope for the people of the world, as well as for the people of the US, that the revolutionary youth of the US, with their parent-generation support can carry through a peaceful democratic socialist revolution in the US. This revolution must perforce start in the most advanced and most capitalist country, which is at the highest stage of capitalism, precisely as Marx predicted. Like all highest stages or high points in an unfolding graph of a real empirical trend, we won’t know the highest point until it has passed and can be seen in retrospect. But this looks like it. The future is now democratic socialism, first in the USA, or else the future is reactionary fascism followed by collapse and barbarism. This is it folks. Last chance for humanity.

  7. Ikonoclast says

    If any protests like the US protests had happened in Putin’s Russia or Xi’s China, there would already be thousands to tens of thousands dead by government action.

    How many dead in the Hong Kong demonstrations Ikonoclast? Over how many months? When and for how long were the army deployed? After how many days of demonstration did they start tear-gassing people in their homes and firing plastic bullets at the media? Who was the first journalist attacked in the HK demonstrations and by whom?

    So many questions you could be asking yourself …

  8. faustusnotes,

    I really wish you would cease your pro-totalitarian lies.

    1. Deaths are completely unknown because China is a closed, totalitarian society with no free press and no free internet.

    2. However, as a comparable event, the Tienanmen square protest period saw:

    “The number of deaths and the extent of bloodshed in the square itself have been in dispute since the events. Chinese authorities actively suppressed discussion of casualty figures immediately after the events, and estimates rely heavily on eyewitness testimony, hospital records, and organized efforts by victims’ relatives. As a result, large discrepancies exist among various casualty estimates. Initial estimates ranged from the official figure of a few hundred to several thousand.”

    China deployed its ARMY, including heavy tanks and machine gun weaponry, against its own people.

    3. Hong Kong Protests, what is known:

    Death(s) 2
    Injuries 2,600+ (as of 9 December 2019)
    Arrested ~9000 (as of 28 May 2020)

    Several suicide cases were also linked to the protests. Probably out of being cornered and knowing what was coming next.

    We don’t even know how many have been disappeared into concentration camps or graves because China is a closed, totalitarian society with no free press, no free internet.ans which expels foregin journalists.

    Again, China deployed its regular ARMY against its own people. The USA has not done that yet although there is a danger the neo-fascist Donald Trump will do that if he is not controlled by better people around him (if any).

    Totalitarian China’s behavior is indefensible. Stop lying about it.

  9. Ikonoclast, who killed those 2 people? Are you including the 2 men the demonstrators murdered (with stones and fire) in your estimation? Over how many months were the injuries and arrests? Why do you say that you don’t know how many were killed? Isn’t Joshua Wong giving daily updates to his friends Mike Pompeo and Marco Rubio? There’s video everywhere, media on the streets – I thought the whole point of Hong Kong was that it was free and had a free press?

    But let’s take these numbers as our benchmark, shall we? What are you going to demand if the US meets those numbers in one week?

  10. Hello Professor Quiggin

    1. Have there been any cost estimates from the LNP, as we approach the October state election?
    2. If so, have you analysed them at all (or if not, does it look like the LNP will use their 2017 costings, which greatly resembled their 2012 costings – ie. slash and burn – or is it not that simple)?

  11. As we have a new Sandpit, I am going to bring forward to it a continuation of a discussion from the previous Sandpit:

    J-D your principle is a recipe for a return to the era of monarchist banditry, when European states handed territory around between each other without regard for the impact on the residents of those territories. It’s a return to might makes right, and I’m surprised you can’t see it.

    You haven’t given any examples of how adopting the principle that it’s the preferences of the people of a territory which should determine the point at issue could result in the impact on them being disregarded. To me it sounds like saying ‘If you follow the compass to the north, you will end up further south.’ I suppose it would be possible to construct a description of circumstances in which something like that might happen, but it’s not the natural expectation.

    And of course under your system it’s almost always the poorer, non-white states who have to be torn apart to please the whims of rich white countries …

    The only significant number of examples I know of in which a serious effort has been made to allocate territory on the basis of the expressed preferences of the inhabitants are/were the plebiscites which were held to decide a number of boundaries in Europe after the First World War, so that would be the exact opposite of what you’re asserting here.

    When I said “about the 18th century” you know I’m referring to the colonial possessions of the colonialist bandits – the European states who stole land elsewhere. You know that the date I’m giving is not arbitrary, and that I’m simply referring to the approximate time in history when Europe began its banditry. I’m not, for example, suggesting that the UK should be returned to France. I’m talking about states that were stolen by the European colonialists from non-European territories, and not to the spoils of inter-imperial wars that happened hundreds of years ago.

    It’s a simple principle: colonial possessions should be returned to the states they were stolen from, and independence movements in those returned states should be ignored as the revanchist and reactionary holdovers that they are.

    The principle ‘colonised territories should be returned to the states which held them before the colonisation’ is not the same principle as ‘colonised territories should be returned to the states which held them before the colonisation, but only if the colonial power was a European power and only if the previous holder was not a European power and only if the colonisation happened during the last few centuries of European colonialism’. If your principle is the second one with the qualifying clauses, it’s not clear what the justification for the qualifications is supposed to be.

    If the principle that ‘colonised territories should be returned to the states which held them before the colonisation’ were applied without the qualifying clauses, then it would follow, for example, that the rule of Inca Empire should be restored to the territories over which it previously held sway; and it should also follow, for another example, that the rule of the Dzungar Khanate should be restored to the territories over which it previously held sway.

  12. J-D, there are no significant colonizing states that are not European, except Japan. And Japan’s colonial territories (with the exception of those it took from China …) have been returned to their original owners.

    It would not follow that “the rule of Inca Empire should be restored” because the Inca empire is dead, destroyed by the colonizers. What would follow is that the people living in that area would get their country back and the right to self determination, which is what they did get.

    You haven’t given any examples of how adopting the principle that it’s the preferences of the people of a territory which should determine the point at issue

    That’s because in general states aren’t as bloody-minded as you. But for example the UK could choose to dump the Isle of Wight into the channel, leaving it an independent country with no power or economy. This is a completely acceptable act under your principles! Or India could abandon Kashmir to Pakistan, or Pakistan could abandon Kashmir to India, or Australia could throw Tasmania away, or Ukraine could hand the Crimea to Russia to ease tensions, or Iraq could hand a piece of Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey to do with as they will … your ideal is madness.

  13. faustusnotes,

    You never answer my questions. Why should I continue to answer yours? I don’t deny the faults of the USA. You deny the faults of China. I make trenchant criticisms of the USA as well as of China. You make only excuses for China. There’s a clear pattern here.

  14. I wonder if there are any attempts to accurately measure inflation in the cost of education.

    Yes; for example, the Schools Price Index. I hope that helps.

  15. One day a single straw will break the camels back ,but this is a very strong camel. The only surprise for me so far from the US is that there havent been more right wingers out to attack demonstrators . Trump has asked them to, and they talk such a big game as far as using violence to defend freedom goes.

  16. Since my question was deleted from the UQ and China thread I’ll ask it here. John Quiggin, how do you know that the counter-protest on 24th July was organized by the Chinese embassy? No media outlet has reported on or even speculated on this possibility. Do you know something they don’t, or is it just supposition?

    Ikonoclast, you haven’t answered any questions. You said that China would behave worse towards a similar demonstration, and I pointed out that there is one currently happening in China and has been for a year, but the police haven’t killed anyone and the army hasn’t been deployed (I see reports in the Guardian today that the 82nd Airborne is in Washington, and I have seen video of the National Guard in both Washington DC and California). You claim 2 people have died in the Hong Kong protests and I ask if you are including the two people the demonstrators murdered in that count. You don’t seem to like these questions and rejoinders, so you posted a link to the amnesty international report on China, which is not an answer. I’m waiting for your comparison. This morning, btw, a Hong Kong movement leader, Jimmy Lai, tweeted that we shouldn’t compare the BLM demonstrations to the HK demonstrations because the US demonstrations are riots while the HK demonstrations are about freedom. Do you have an opinion on why the HK demonstrators won’t back up the US demonstrators?

  17. The “bad day” defence.

    A NSW police officer used a leg-sweep on an aboriginal youth, while holding his hands behind his back and body-slamming him face-first onto concrete or concrete pavers from a height of about 0.75 meters, approximately the height of the victim’s center of gravity. If one punch can kill, I think it’s a safe conclusion that one body-slam like this from this height, face-first onto concrete, with arms pinned behind the back, could also kill.

    A high-ranking police officer in the NSW Police Force has defended the officer involved with the “bad day” defence. He is a “good officer” who was simply having a “bad day”! This is plain ludicrous. Imagine what would happen to me if I body slammed a cop lighter than me, in the same manner, onto concrete and then raised the “I was having a bad day defence”. How well would this defence work for me?

  18. J-D, there are no significant colonizing states that are not European, except Japan.

    False. There are centuries of history of Arab, Chinese, Mongolian, and Turkish colonial expansion, probably as well as others that I am less familiar with.

    And Japan’s colonial territories (with the exception of those it took from China …) have been returned to their original owners.

    Again, false: Japan is still in possession of territory of the former Ryukyu Kingdom (which paid tribute to China but was not Chinese territory).

    It would not follow that “the rule of Inca Empire should be restored” because the Inca empire is dead, destroyed by the colonizers. What would follow is that the people living in that area would get their country back and the right to self determination, which is what they did get.

    I’m not sufficiently familiar with South American history to be sure, but I am sufficiently familiar to suggest that this interpretation is doubtful. When Spanish colonial rule was terminated, how much say did the Indigenous population get in the establishment of the newly independent states–wasn’t it the European colonists and their descendants who controlled that process?

    Also, if that’s your principle, why shouldn’t the same principle apply in the same way to the territory of the former Dzungar Khanate (and the people living there), mentioned in my previous comment?

    But for example the UK could choose to dump the Isle of Wight into the channel, leaving it an independent country with no power or economy. This is a completely acceptable act under your principles!

    So, what would be your basis for rejecting such a proposal?

    Under present circumstances, there is no realistic prospect of the people of the rest of Great Britain deciding that they no longer want to accept the arrangement where the Isle of Wight is part of the same country. Under present circumstances, that’s pure fantasy. It may be possible to imagine drastically different circumstances in which that became a realistic prospect, but it’s not possible to make a realistic assessment of the merits of the idea without those circumstances being specified.

    A less unrealistic prospect is the people of the Great Britain deciding that they don’t want to continue in a union with Northern Ireland, and I absolutely do think that they should be able to decide that if they want. I don’t think there’s any prospect at the moment of popular vote being taken in Great Britain to decide whether the continuation of the union is preferred, but it’s a less unrealistic prospect than the Isle of Wight one. I also have no idea how the people of Great Britain would vote on such a proposal if they were asked. Maybe they would favour the continuation of the union with Northern Ireland. However it’s not hard to figure what would be the case against continuation of the union (and I don’t mean from an Irish or a Northern Irish point of view, I mean from a specifically British point of view). One part of it would be that Britain has for decades borne a burden in various ways from being involved in efforts to resolve problems in Northern Ireland, and British people might reasonably feel that it does nobody any good for Britain to be tied indefinitely to Northern Ireland. Another part of it would be that the continuation of the union means the continued representation in the UK Parliament of purely Northern Irish parties (the Democratic Unionist Party and others) and that it’s better for the British people for these non-British parties to be removed from a direct say in British affairs.

    I’m sure that there are arguments to be made on the other side, and I’m not in a position to say which case I think is stronger, but I don’t think there would be anything unreasonable in allowing the people of Britain to judge that for themselves and express their preference.

    Having gone so far, there’s something else I think it’s important to say. I think in many cases, and perhaps in all, there’s a strong case that a former colonial power has continuing moral obligations to the people of a former colonial territory even after decolonisation. (Of course colonial powers often fail to live up to any such moral obligations, but the fact that moral obligations are not lived up to is not evidence that they are not moral obligations.) For example, the UK has continuing moral obligations to the people of Hong Kong (they probably should have been granted the right of residence in the UK). On a similar basis, if the link between Northern Ireland and Britain were terminated, Britain would probably (depending on the circumstances) have continuing moral obligations to Northern Ireland and its people; it’s just that those moral obligations wouldn’t extend to maintaining the union if that were (in a hypothetical but plausible scenario) against the known preferences of the people of Britain. Similarly, if the Isle of Wight (in some vastly less plausible scenario) became an independent country, Britain might (depending on the circumstances) have continuing moral obligations to the Isle of Wight and its people, even if those moral obligations didn’t extend to continuing to treat the Isle of Wight as part of the same country against the known preferences of the people (really, what do you think the chances of this are?).

    Or India could abandon Kashmir to Pakistan, or Pakistan could abandon Kashmir to India, or Australia could throw Tasmania away, or Ukraine could hand the Crimea to Russia to ease tensions, or Iraq could hand a piece of Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey to do with as they will … your ideal is madness.

    Applying my principle wouldn’t allow the people of one territory to determine the disposition of a different territory: the people of India could decide to abandon any Indian claim to Kashmir, and the people of Pakistan could decide to abandon any Pakistani claim to Kashmir, but the people of India couldn’t decide that Kashmir should be part of Pakistan if that were against the preference of the people of Kashmir, and the people of Pakistan couldn’t decide that Kashmir should be part of India if that were against the preference of the people of Kashmir.

    How do you think the issue of Kashmir should be resolved, on your principles?

    Likewise, applying my principle would allow the people of Ukraine to decide that Crimea shouldn’t be Ukrainian, but not that it should be Russian, and would allow the people of Iraq to decide that Kurdistan shouldn’t be Iraqi, but not that it should be Turkish, and so on.

  19. J-D, you’ll be aware no doubt of the popular rejoinder to demands for land rights for Aboriginal people in the 1990s: “Well, my ancestors were shipped out here by the British, can they have their home back” or “well the French took my land in 1066” blah blah. Your defense appears to be a wordier version of the same.

    You haven’t improved your principle with your clarifications here. You have stated that history is no way to judge how people should dispose of a territory; that justice should not be a guide; that democracy is not necessary for these deliberations; and that the restoration of lost economic rights or any reparations should also not be a guide; that the sole guide is that the people who live in a place can decide what should happen to them. Yet at the same time you don’t think the people of a nation should be able to decide what happens to a part of their nation. This is completely inconsistent. If democracy is no guide, and justice is no guide, then clearly if a nation wants to dump, give away or sell a piece of itself then they can do so under your principle – there is nothing stopping them. By this principle Japan could simply sell Okinawa to the highest bidder (which would lead to a bidding war between China and the USA). Since democracy doesn’t come into this (by your own admission!) the people of OKinawa themselves have no voice in the matter; and since there is no concern with justice or history then there is no particular reason Japan shouldn’t just sell these people off. It’s simply the return of premodern rights of kings.

    Now, I could give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you mean people actually living in a territory should get the say over what happens to it and no one else. Is that what you specifically mean? But by this token democracy cannot work. If I cannot have a say over my neighbour’s behavior there is no benefit to me in living in a society. How would nations even work under such a ridiculous idea? How would Japan manage its foreign policy if its foreign policy – indeed the composition of the borders from within which it makes its foreign policy – does not apply to any part of its territory of the ingrates living there so deem it? Obviously every nation functions by partially suppressing the political and economic desires of each portion of its territory. And how would we decide on even what should happen within a “territory” when all territories are by necessity subdivisible? If, for example, the “inhabitants of Ryukyu” want to leave Japan, what if the inhabitants of miyakojima specifically don’t want to? What if only the urban residents of Naha want to leave, and the rest of the main island don’t want to? Should we carve corridors across these pieces of land so that they can choose which territory they want to be part of?

    Your principle is completely incompatible with the way nations work. Your final idea – that a nation can choose to dump a part of itself, but cannot hand it to someone else – is almost libertarian in its glibness. Yes, Japan could dump Okinawa under your conception, but cannot sell it off to the USA. But what will actually happen after Japan dumps Okinawa, when Okinawa has a huge US military base? What will happen to the Isle of Wight if it is dumped by the UK, or Louisiana if it is dumped by the USA? Obviously they will just have to turn to a some other nation and become its tributary (as Okinawa once was). To say “A nation can dump a fragment of itself but can’t give it to someone else” is just a glib dismissal of the reality that as soon as a nation dumps a fragment, that fragment must turn elsewhere for the economic support it was previously getting from its master.

    Your principle just doesn’t work. It is not a healthy counter to a considered politics of decolonization.

  20. J-D, you’ll be aware no doubt of the popular rejoinder to demands for land rights for Aboriginal people in the 1990s: “Well, my ancestors were shipped out here by the British, can they have their home back” or “well the French took my land in 1066” blah blah.

    Characteristically, you express ‘no doubt’ about something when really you should have expressed doubt. No, I am not aware of those as being popular rejoinders, but even if they are I don’t see how they are supposed to be relevant to the discussion.

    Whatever other people may have said in the 1990s, or what they may say now, my position on Aboriginal land rights is that the kind of claims that are actually made are largely or wholly justified. Aboriginal people don’t claim that non-Aboriginal people should be expelled from Australia, or from their individual personal homes in Australia, nor do they claim that the non-Aboriginal population of Australia should be made into subjects in an Australia ruled by an Aboriginal government: as far as I can tell, nothing like that is part of their conception of justice. They do make other claims in addition to claims for land rights and again, as far as I understand them (which I have to confess I don’t always) I think those claims are also justified.

    All of that is entirely consistent with the principle I have been advocating, that the government of a territory should be determined in line with the preferences of the people of that territory: in this case, that means that the government of Australia should be determined in line with the preferences of the people of Australia, something which is not contradicted either by Aboriginal land rights claims (of the kind that Aboriginal people actually make) or by the other (just) claims of Aboriginal people.

    Equally, the principle that the government of a territory should be determined in line with the preferences of the people of that territory leads to the conclusion that the government of Britain should be determined by the people of Britain; it lends no support to any claims (if anybody really does make such claims) that Britain should be taken away from the descendants of the Norman conquerors so that it can be returned to the descendants of their victims or that Britain should be handed over to the descendants of transported convicts (and taken away from everybody else? or what? I don’t understand what is supposed to be the claim of the people you mention, if they said anything like what you describe). The transportation of convicts and the Norman Conquest were both wrong, and if people are still suffering the effects of either wrong (a point which isn’t clear to me) then redress may be justified, but justified redress wouldn’t take the form of changing how, or by whom, Britain is governed.

    You have stated that history is no way to judge how people should dispose of a territory …

    To be precise, I state that people are not entitled to have control of territory solely on the basis that they (or their ancestors) controlled it at one point or another in the past. I gather that you may not agree with this. Well, then, we disagree.

    I am prepared, at the same time, to accept also the looser statement that knowledge of history is useful in evaluating situations, including situations which involve disputes over the control of territory.

    … that justice should not be a guide …

    I made no such statement.

    … that democracy is not necessary for these deliberations …

    Again, I made no such statement.

    … that the sole guide is that the people who live in a place can decide what should happen to them …

    That would be both just and democratic.

    Yet at the same time you don’t think the people of a nation should be able to decide what happens to a part of their nation. This is completely inconsistent.

    It is democratic for the people of a territory to determine the government of that same territory, but that principle by itself provides no guidance on what the boundaries of different territories should be. I endorse the principle that the people should choose the government and not the government choose the people: that’s what I call democratic. But if a nation is going to choose a government for itself, there has to be some basis for determining who’s part of the nation and who isn’t. For people to be able to choose, to the extent that it’s feasible, whether they want to be part of a nation or not: that’s also what I call democratic.

    If democracy is no guide, and justice is no guide, then clearly if a nation wants to dump, give away or sell a piece of itself then they can do so under your principle – there is nothing stopping them.

    The principle I’m endorsing is often not respected, and certainly it’s not within my power to enforce it, but if it were respected then it would prevent the kind of thing you’re describing whenever it was not in line with the preference of the people of the relevant territory; for example …

    By this principle Japan could simply sell Okinawa to the highest bidder (which would lead to a bidding war between China and the USA).

    … it would be inconsistent with the principle I have described if Japan sold Okinawa to the highest bidder when that was not what the people of Okinawa wanted (it would be consistent with the same principle for Japan to sell Okinawa to the highest bidder if that’s what the people of Okinawa wanted, but do you seriously think that’s what they would want?).

    Since democracy doesn’t come into this (by your own admission!) …

    I made no such admission. What’s happening here is that you’re inventing statements I never made. I was only pointing this out earlier when I pointed out that you invented references using the term ‘democracy’ as if they had been made by me when they hadn’t. I didn’t use that term in this discussion until after you introduced it, and it was sheer invention on your part to pretend otherwise. I did use the term after you’d introduced it.

    the people of Okinawa themselves have no voice in the matter

    Again: the principle I am advocating is this: the fate of a territory should be determined by the people who live in that territory.

    The specific application to this case of the principle I am advocating is, therefore, that the fate of Okinawa should be determined by the people of Okinawa.

    How do you think it is possible to start from ‘the fate of Okinawa should be determined by the people of Okinawa’ and arrive at the conclusion ‘the people of Okinawa should have no voice’? I can’t figure how you imagine that’s possible. Spell it out for me, please.

    Now, I could give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you mean people actually living in a territory should get the say over what happens to it and no one else. Is that what you specifically mean?

    Well, I thought I’d stated that specifically and repeatedly. I’m not sure how I could have been clearer and I can’t imagine what else it was you thought I meant.

    More to follow

  21. I am interested in principles to be applied in the real world we actually live in, applied to the kinds of real problems and challenges which actually face us; not in principles for a fantasy world where trolley problems and experience machines are routine and the idea of your waking up to find your circulatory system plugged in to that of a famous violinist is plausible and not ridiculous.

    In the real world in which we actually live, most human beings desire to live in societies with other human beings. It’s true that there are some people who would prefer to live as hermits in the wilderness without social contact, and I don’t know of any reason why those people shouldn’t live as hermits in the wilderness, but that would still leave the rest of us to deal with living in societies with other human beings. Dealing with that means dealing with the fact that it’s impossible, in a society, for each one of us to have our own individual way all the time. Individually we have to compromise and make concessions, and (up to a point at least) we accept (meaning by ‘we’ that vast majority of the human race that doesn’t want to live as hermits in the wilderness) this as being worth it for the benefits we get in exchange. Obviously it isn’t true in all its particular for every particular individual in every situation, because every human society includes underprivileged, disadvantaged, marginalised, oppressed, or persecuted groups who suffer much worse from society as a whole than do privileged groups, but it’s still true in general that the necessary minimum cost of compromise that goes with living in any society at all is a price most people are generally willing to pay.

    More specifically, there’s nothing contradictory about a person living, for example, in Australia (as I do) accepting that there are benefits from living in Australia as part of Australian society under the Australian government and that these make it worth accepting that part of the price for that is that you can’t have exactly your own way all the time. There’s also nothing contradictory about accepting that and at the same time thinking that there are problems with both the particular government we have now and the governmental system in general, and that improvements are possible and worth working for. Those positions are consistent so long as it’s possible to believe that abolishing Australia and its government, or splitting it up into smaller pieces, would not be an improvement. As far as I can tell, approximately the position I’ve just described is generally accepted by Australians, even if they haven’t thought it out in exactly these words.

    As I mentioned in an earlier comment, in 1933 about two-thirds of Western Australians thought it would be an improvement for Western Australia to become a separate country. For what it’s worth, I think they were misguided and that secession would not have helped to solve their problems, certainly not enough to be worth the cost of the process. Still, for what it’s worth, it’s my opinion that if that’s what they wanted they should have been entitled to their choice. I have a sister who lives in Western Australia and I wouldn’t want it to involve the added trouble of international travel for her to visit me or for me to visit her, so I wouldn’t want Western Australia to secede. But if that was the wish of the people of Western Australia, I think they should be entitled to it. As a matter of fact, as far as I can tell, support for secession of Western Australia is currently the position of a tiny fringe only.

    As far as I can tell, in most of the countries in which the voters have at least some ability (even if limited) to change the government, people don’t want to abolish the country or break it up into smaller pieces. (it may be the same in other countries as well, perhaps, but in those cases it’s harder to judge because any potential expression of secessionist or separatist opinion is more likely to be repressed.) Even where there is support for separatism or secessionism, what people want, on the whole, is not to smash up countries or make them unworkable. The people who wanted an independent Ireland, once they’d got it, accepted being part of Ireland as a country; the people who want an independent Scotland seem, as far as it’s possible to tell, want Scotland to be united as a country, separating only from England. We don’t live in a world where, if people had their preferences, all countries would be shattered into fragments; that’s not what people show signs of wanting, and there’s no reason to think they would want it and plenty of reason to think they wouldn’t.

    It’s also not to be expected, and not anywhere the case as far as I know, that countries want to break off small parts of themselves (against the wishes of the people who live in those small parts). What happens commonly, and this is what is to be expected, is that it’s the small part that wants to break away from the large part. In practice, what is mostly meant by the principle that the people of a territory should be able to decide where that territory belongs is that smaller parts should be able to secede from larger parts if that’s what the people of the smaller part want. I can’t think of any good reason to limit this principle only to the people of the smaller part and deny the same consideration to the people of the larger part, but that’s not its main practical significance. If there’s a case where it’s the larger part that wants to break away, it’s probably going to raise some different practical considerations, depending on the circumstances, but I can’t figure how that’s an argument against the general validity of the principle. Under current circumstances, things like Japan dumping Okinawa or the UK dumping the Isle of Wight or the USA dumping Louisiana are not things those countries are going to want to do, and if you want to make a convincing case that such possibilities, under some changed circumstances, are an argument against the principle I’m advocating, you’re first going to have to explain what those changed circumstances might be. Otherwise you’re talking fantasy again, not reality.

  22. J-D you wrote in the last sandpit:

    I never used the word ‘democracy’ or ‘democratic’, except when it appeared in quotations from your comments! I described a principle of general applicability which I endorse; you chose to attach the words ‘democracy’ and ‘democratic’ to it.

    I took this to mean you don’t think democracy has anything to do with your principle. Do you now maintain democracy is important to your principle?

    I would like you to address the second part of my point (about the disastrous consequences of a stricter interpretation of your principle, which you seem to think is more correct).

    As for nations breaking off small parts of themselves – America bought Louisiana from the French. Ukraine has a bit of bother with the Crimea which it will over time be increasingly tempted to resolve. Japan has multiple territorial disputes with Russia, China and Korea (as does Korea with China and Japan, Vietnam with China and I think Japan, etc). The UK has to do something with the Chagas Islands after its adverse UN decision, and fobbing them off to the USA is the obvious option, especially if it will smooth a post-brexit trade deal. Dumping Gibraltar against the wishes of its inhabitants would probably help in that regard too – and it’s only a matter of time before they shed the Malvinas, against the will of their 10 inhabitants. It’s not exactly unheard of for nations to trade bits away for political or financial advantage, and if it hasn’t happened much since ww2 that’s probably because the world’s governments recognize how closely it was entangled with the imperial realpolitik of the pre-war era. But I don’t see anything in your principle that precludes it.

  23. I took this to mean you don’t think democracy has anything to do with your principle. Do you now maintain democracy is important to your principle?

    I maintain that the principle I am advocating is a democratic principle; do you disagree?

    I would like you to address the second part of my point (about the disastrous consequences of a stricter interpretation of your principle, which you seem to think is more correct).

    Perhaps I’ve lost track. I’m not clear on which disastrous consequences you are referring to.

    America bought Louisiana from the French

    The actual French renunciation (in exchange for payment, I know the history) of its claim to Louisiana was not, a a matter of historical fact, based on the preference of the people of France (or the people of Louisiana, either), so it’s not an example of the application of the principle I’m advocating. There’s no way of knowing what the preference of the people of France would have been. If I had to guess, I would guess that most of them would have had no preference one way or the other. However, if it had been the preference of the people of France to sever the link with Louisiana, I can’t figure what the objection to that is supposed to be. If I had to guess (again there’s no way of knowing), I would guess that it would have been the preference of the majority of the people of Louisiana at the time (although not in all parts of the territory).

    On the other hand, the transfer to the USA of control of Louisiana (or nominal control, anyway) would not have been consistent with the principle I am advocating unless it were in accordance with the preference of the people of Louisiana. If it had been their preference (which there’s yet again no way of knowing), I can’t figure what the objection would have been, but again my guess would be that it wasn’t their preference.

    Ukraine has a bit of bother with the Crimea which it will over time be increasingly tempted to resolve.

    It’s not clear to me what your point is. The present situation is that actual control over Crimea is exercised by Russia, but Ukraine maintains a legal claim on it which has significant international recognition. As far as I know, there are currently no signs that Ukraine is likely to abandon its claim. However, if the people of Ukraine did prefer to abandon that claim, I can’t figure what would be wrong with that.

    Japan has multiple territorial disputes with Russia, China and Korea (as does Korea with China and Japan, Vietnam with China and I think Japan, etc).

    Again, it’s not clear what your point is. It’s true that there are many territorial disputes now, just as there have been many territorial disputes in the past. If somebody said ‘These territorial disputes prove that it’s a bad principle to allow the control of territory to be determined by the preference of the inhabitants, because it’s applying that principle which caused all those disputes’, that would be false, because it’s not the case that applying that principle caused all those disputes. If somebody said ‘These territorial disputes prove that it’s a bad principle because applying that principle hasn’t solved these disputes’, that would be false because applying the principle to the disputes is something which generally hasn’t even been tried.

    The UK has to do something with the Chagas Islands after its adverse UN decision, and fobbing them off to the USA is the obvious option, especially if it will smooth a post-brexit trade deal. Dumping Gibraltar against the wishes of its inhabitants would probably help in that regard too – and it’s only a matter of time before they shed the Malvinas, against the will of their 10 inhabitants. It’s not exactly unheard of for nations to trade bits away for political or financial advantage, and if it hasn’t happened much since ww2 that’s probably because the world’s governments recognize how closely it was entangled with the imperial realpolitik of the pre-war era. But I don’t see anything in your principle that precludes it.

    Since the principle I am advocating is that control of territory should be determined by preference of the people of that territory, it would in all cases be inconsistent with that principle to grant control of a territory to a country or government against the preference of the people of that territory. Control of Gibraltar should not remain with the UK if that’s against the preference of the people of Gibraltar, and should not transfer to Spain if that’s against the preference of the people of Gibraltar; control of the Falklands/Malvinas should not remain with the UK if that’s against the preference of the people of the islands, and should not transfer to Argentina if that’s against the preference of the people of the islands.

  24. J-D, I’ll repost the second part.

    Your response on democracy is uncharacteristically imprecise. Are you saying this is a democratic principle or not? If it’s not democratic then e.g. the Northern Alliance could choose to leave Afghanistan on the basis that it knows what is best for its residents. If democratic then there needs to be some consultative process (a democratic process) for making this decision. But in this case you are placing the democratic rights of a minority of a country (a territory) over those of the whole country. How is it that on this one issue the minority get to decide the national policy of the whole country? [Losing a piece of your territory is essentially a national policy]. Either your “democratic principle” is not democratic within the nation, or the residents of the region don’t get to decide.

    I gave you examples not to say they should or shouldn’t happen but because you said that in practice territories are never given away:

    It’s also not to be expected, and not anywhere the case as far as I know, that countries want to break off small parts of themselves (against the wishes of the people who live in those small parts)

    I gave you examples of where this happens and might be expected to happen. The Treaty of Westphalia (and I think also the treaty of Versailles) are other examples of this. Further, at the end of ww2 there were some quite unpleasant negotiations on this topic between Stalin and Hitler, and there is of course the infamous example of Palestine. I give these examples not to say that they’re right or wrong or validate or invalidate your principle, but to show that they have happened and they could happen again, so discussing how your (or my) principle applies to them is important.

    Below is my discussion of what your principle entails if (as you now seem to have confirmed) it is specifically restricted to the denizens of a territory having sole authority over what happens to that territory.

    [B]y this token democracy cannot work. If I cannot have a say over my neighbour’s behavior there is no benefit to me in living in a society. How would nations even work under such a ridiculous idea? How would Japan manage its foreign policy if its foreign policy – indeed the composition of the borders from within which it makes its foreign policy – does not apply to any part of its territory if the ingrates living there so deem it? Obviously every nation functions by partially suppressing the political and economic desires of each portion of its territory. And how would we decide on even what should happen within a “territory” when all territories are by necessity subdivisible? If, for example, the “inhabitants of Ryukyu” want to leave Japan, what if the inhabitants of miyakojima specifically don’t want to? What if only the urban residents of Naha want to leave, and the rest of the main island don’t want to? Should we carve corridors across these pieces of land so that they can choose which territory they want to be part of?

    Your principle is completely incompatible with the way nations work. Your final idea – that a nation can choose to dump a part of itself, but cannot hand it to someone else – is almost libertarian in its glibness. Yes, Japan could dump Okinawa under your conception, but cannot sell it off to the USA. But what will actually happen after Japan dumps Okinawa, when Okinawa has a huge US military base? What will happen to the Isle of Wight if it is dumped by the UK, or Louisiana if it is dumped by the USA? Obviously they will just have to turn to a some other nation and become its tributary (as Okinawa once was). To say “A nation can dump a fragment of itself but can’t give it to someone else” is just a glib dismissal of the reality that as soon as a nation dumps a fragment, that fragment must turn elsewhere for the economic support it was previously getting from its master.

  25. Your response on democracy is uncharacteristically imprecise. Are you saying this is a democratic principle or not?

    I notice you don’t quote the text you consider to be imprecise. In my most recent comment I wrote (and I quote): ‘I maintain that the principle I am advocating is a democratic principle’. So, do you consider ‘I maintain that’ to be less precise than ‘I say that’, or ‘the principle I am advocating’ to be less precise than ‘this’, or what? (To be precise, I am saying nothing; I am writing these comments, or if you prefer typing them, but not saying them.)

    I asked you whether you thought it was democratic; you didn’t answer that question.

    If it’s not democratic then e.g. the Northern Alliance could choose to leave Afghanistan on the basis that it knows what is best for its residents.

    The principle I am advocating is that control of territory should be determined by the preference of the people of that territory, not that it should be determined by what is judged to be best for them by some subset of the people of the territory or some other group or individual. These two are not synonymous, if that’s not already obvious.

    If democratic then there needs to be some consultative process (a democratic process) for making this decision.

    An example of this would be the Scottish independence referendum. The majority vote in that referendum was against independence; that could reasonably be taken as an indication that independence was not the preference of the majority of the people of Scotland. Scotland did not become independent. Another example would be the South Sudanese independence referendum. The majority vote in that referendum was in favour of independence; that could reasonably be taken as an indication that independence was the preference of the majority of the people of South Sudan. South Sudan did become independent.

    But in this case you are placing the democratic rights of a minority of a country (a territory) over those of the whole country. How is it that on this one issue the minority get to decide the national policy of the whole country?

    But the question posed by real examples such as the Scottish independence movement and the South Sudanese independence movement is precisely that of what, or which, is, or should be, the whole country. If you reach the conclusion that Scotland should be treated as part of the United Kingdom by starting from the assumption that Scotland should be treated as part of the United Kingdom, you are arguing in a circle and have given no reason why your position should be preferred to the alternative, that Scotland should be treated as an independent country, separate from the United Kingdom. For Scotland to be independent should require the approval of only the people of Scotland, not the people of the United Kingdom, because if Scotland is to be independent then the United Kingdom is a different country from Scotland, and the national policy which applies to Scotland is Scottish national policy.

    I gave you examples not to say they should or shouldn’t happen but because you said that in practice territories are never given away:

    It’s also not to be expected, and not anywhere the case as far as I know, that countries want to break off small parts of themselves (against the wishes of the people who live in those small parts)

    I gave you examples of where this happens and might be expected to happen.

    The principle I am advocating is that control of territory should be determined in accordance with the preference of the people of that territory. You mentioned the example of Napoleon Bonaparte selling the Louisiana Territory to the United States. Napoleon didn’t act on the basis that it was the preference of the people of France to separate France and Louisiana, and he also didn’t do it on the basis that it was the preference of the people of Louisiana, so his sale of the territory is not an example of the application of the principle I’m advocating.

    There have been multiple examples in history of secessionist movements which were driven by the desire of a less numerous population to separate (with the territory they inhabited) from a more numerous population. It seems that the converse–that is, the more numerous population seeking to separate (with the territory they inhabited) from a less numerous population–is a historical rarity. There are obvious reasons for that, and there’s no reason to expect that such a thing would ever become common. Even if it did, however, I can’t figure how there’s a reason for denying that what would be justice for the less numerous population would also be justice for the more numerous population.

    The Treaty of Westphalia (and I think also the treaty of Versailles) are other examples of this. Further, at the end of ww2 there were some quite unpleasant negotiations on this topic between Stalin and Hitler, and there is of course the infamous example of Palestine. I give these examples not to say that they’re right or wrong or validate or invalidate your principle, but to show that they have happened and they could happen again, so discussing how your (or my) principle applies to them is important.

    How my principle applies to those cases is that in each case it would have been just for the borders to be determined in accordance with the preferences of the people of the territories in question. To the extent that that principle was followed, it justifies the decisions taken; to a far greater extent, it wasn’t followed, and the decisions made in violation of that principle weren’t justified. How do your principles apply to the cases you’ve mentioned? That’s something you haven’t explained.

    If I cannot have a say over my neighbour’s behavior there is no benefit to me in living in a society.

    If you and your neighbour both want to live in a society, then you and your neighbour both have to accept what inevitably goes with that, which is that neither of you gets to have all of your own way all of the time. I wrote about this point at length above, but I don’t mind repeating myself here, as follows.

    In the real world in which we actually live, most human beings desire to live in societies with other human beings. It’s true that there are some people who would prefer to live as hermits in the wilderness without social contact, and I don’t know of any reason why those people shouldn’t live as hermits in the wilderness, but that would still leave the rest of us to deal with living in societies with other human beings. Dealing with that means dealing with the fact that it’s impossible, in a society, for each one of us to have our own individual way all the time. Individually we have to compromise and make concessions, and (up to a point at least) we accept (meaning by ‘we’ that vast majority of the human race that doesn’t want to live as hermits in the wilderness) this as being worth it for the benefits we get in exchange. Obviously it isn’t true in all its particular for every particular individual in every situation, because every human society includes underprivileged, disadvantaged, marginalised, oppressed, or persecuted groups who suffer much worse from society as a whole than do privileged groups, but it’s still true in general that the necessary minimum cost of compromise that goes with living in any society at all is a price most people are generally willing to pay.

    More specifically, there’s nothing contradictory about a person living, for example, in Australia (as I do) accepting that there are benefits from living in Australia as part of Australian society under the Australian government and that these make it worth accepting that part of the price for that is that you can’t have exactly your own way all the time. There’s also nothing contradictory about accepting that and at the same time thinking that there are problems with both the particular government we have now and the governmental system in general, and that improvements are possible and worth working for. Those positions are consistent so long as it’s possible to believe that abolishing Australia and its government, or splitting it up into smaller pieces, would not be an improvement. As far as I can tell, approximately the position I’ve just described is generally accepted by Australians, even if they haven’t thought it out in exactly these words.

    As I mentioned in an earlier comment, in 1933 about two-thirds of Western Australians thought it would be an improvement for Western Australia to become a separate country. For what it’s worth, I think they were misguided and that secession would not have helped to solve their problems, certainly not enough to be worth the cost of the process. Still, for what it’s worth, it’s my opinion that if that’s what they wanted they should have been entitled to their choice. I have a sister who lives in Western Australia and I wouldn’t want it to involve the added trouble of international travel for her to visit me or for me to visit her, so I wouldn’t want Western Australia to secede. But if that was the wish of the people of Western Australia, I think they should be entitled to it. As a matter of fact, as far as I can tell, support for secession of Western Australia is currently the position of a tiny fringe only.

    As far as I can tell, in most of the countries in which the voters have at least some ability (even if limited) to change the government, people don’t want to abolish the country or break it up into smaller pieces. (it may be the same in other countries as well, perhaps, but in those cases it’s harder to judge because any potential expression of secessionist or separatist opinion is more likely to be repressed.) Even where there is support for separatism or secessionism, what people want, on the whole, is not to smash up countries or make them unworkable. The people who wanted an independent Ireland, once they’d got it, accepted being part of Ireland as a country; the people who want an independent Scotland seem, as far as it’s possible to tell, want Scotland to be united as a country, separating only from England. We don’t live in a world where, if people had their preferences, all countries would be shattered into fragments; that’s not what people show signs of wanting, and there’s no reason to think they would want it and plenty of reason to think they wouldn’t.

    How would Japan manage its foreign policy if its foreign policy – indeed the composition of the borders from within which it makes its foreign policy – does not apply to any part of its territory if the ingrates living there so deem it?

    Are there any significant secessionist movements in Japan? I’ve never heard of any, but I don’t claim to be an expert. If there are, however, i don’t see why they would either pose or face problems any different from any real secessionist or separatist movements. When South Sudan became an independent country, it faced the same general need to have its own foreign policy which faces any independent country, because the foreign policy of Sudan was no longer the foreign policy of South Sudan. Being independent didn’t make it impossible for South Sudan to develop a foreign policy (exactly the opposite was true); meanwhile, Sudan’s foreign policy didn’t suddenly collapse just because South Sudan was no longer part of Sudan and no longer covered by its foreign policy.

    On the other hand, so long as Scotland doesn’t become independent from the United Kingdom, it can’t have a foreign policy independent of the foreign policy of the United Kingdom; that situation is part of what was being accepted by the majority who voted in the referendum against Scottish independence.

    And how would we decide on even what should happen within a “territory” when all territories are by necessity subdivisible? If, for example, the “inhabitants of Ryukyu” want to leave Japan, what if the inhabitants of miyakojima specifically don’t want to? What if only the urban residents of Naha want to leave, and the rest of the main island don’t want to? Should we carve corridors across these pieces of land so that they can choose which territory they want to be part of?

    If the principle I am advocating were adopted, then the answer to the question ‘How would it be decided?’ is ‘In accordance with the preferences of the people of the territory’. Again, there’s no need to make up fanciful examples when there are real ones. One of the challenges which confronted or confronts the Quebec sovereigntist movement is that the northern part of Quebec is inhabited mostly by First Nations people who mostly don’t want to separate from Canada and there was serious advocacy of the idea that if Quebec separated from Canada the northern part of Quebec should separate from Quebec and remain part of Canada. The claim to have that proposal taken seriously has the same kind of merit as the claims of the Quebec sovereigntist movement to be taken seriously.

    But what will actually happen after Japan dumps Okinawa, when Okinawa has a huge US military base? What will happen to the Isle of Wight if it is dumped by the UK, or Louisiana if it is dumped by the USA?

    The answer to the question ‘What would have happened if the Wooden Horse of Troy foaled?’ is ‘The Wooden Horse of Troy was never going to foal’. The answer to the question ‘What will we do if the moon falls out of the sky?’ is ‘The moon is not going to fall out of the sky’. Unlike the real historical and contemporary examples I have discussed, the examples you are suggesting here are not going to happen unless, first, there is some drastic change in circumstances of a kind I cannot imagine. If you can explain to me the hypothetical circumstances which you imagine could lead to developments of the kind you describe, it might be possible to discuss those scenarios seriously; as it stands, they are too fanciful to merit serious consideration.

    There is a possibility, worth taking seriously, that a clear majority will develop in Scotland in favour of independence from the United Kingdom. If they decide that’s what they want, what would be the justification for denying it to them? There would be practical difficulties to be resolved, just as there were practical difficulties to be resolved when Ireland separated from the United Kingdom, but Ireland resolved those difficulties and there’s no reason to think Scotland couldn’t do the same; the United Kingdom survived the separation of Ireland, and there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t survive the separation of Scotland (although it might want to change its name). I don’t know whether there’s significant secessionist sentiment in Hawaii, but given its history there might be, or it’s not purely fanciful to imagine it arising in changed circumstances: there are plenty of countries in the world smaller (in population and also in economy) than in Hawaii, and they find ways to manage. There are a lot of small countries in the world, and there’s room for a lot more if that’s what people want, although as far as I can tell at the moment it’s not what people want. It’s not what I’d encourage, either. I think most of the time the advocates of secession are making a mistake. But what’s the solution to people making mistakes? It isn’t saying that people aren’t to be allowed to make decisions and that other people must make their decisions for them. That’s not justice.

  26. I am going to play Devil’s Advocate here on an issue or two related to COVID-19.

    Are the huge Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Australia today justified at every level of assessment or only at some levels of assessment? I have read articles which tell me I am not permitted to say (ever) that “All lives matter,” because I am white. I can understand the history and reasoning behind this and I would refrain, in most social, public and political situations, from ever saying that. However, I saw a young black man in a TV interview say “All lives matter.” I understand why is he “more permitted”, and has more right to say that, than I do. However, the question remains. Am I ever permitted to voice it? I mean without the blow-back accusation of racism.

    The questions which occur to me are these. Do the lives of people who may be threatened by a COVID-19 outbreak matter or not matter? Should the demonstrators have taken this into account? I know people are tired of being told “now is not the time” for almost all protests (from bush-fire issues to race issues for example). “Now is not the time” tends to add up in practice to “It’s never the time,” when it comes out of the mouths of conservatives. But is this present time a juncture where it truly is not the time?

    I saw quite a lot of potentially COVID-19 susceptible persons at the rally (on the TV footage) and many persons attending are no doubt linked personally to COVID-19 susceptible persons at home etc.. The potential that COVID-19 deaths will rise directly from this very large set of events in all capitals are significant.

    This raises further issues. Are people suffering social-distancing fatigue and “cabin fever” plus economic pain and lack of positive activities to such a degree that any “excuse”, even of a morally near-impeccable nature to break out, of quarantine is grabbed and sometimes exercised without a full understanding of personal motives? In any circumstances not of a pandemic nature I would applaud the huge rallies unreservedly.

    Are we seeing that Western liberal democracies, so-called, are not really capable of the extended social-distancing discipline necessary to suppress the pandemic and that this discipline was always destined to break and to be broken as soon as a compelling rationale for breaking it arose? It must be admitted that there has been an enormous amount of pressure from tourism, sports, restaurants and coffee shops to break discipline. BLM seems a much worthier cause by comparison.

    In the end, this is an unintended Darwinian experiment. There is, with examples;

    (a) Let it rip (USA, UK, Brazil etc);
    (b) Close belatedly for a while and then re-open for the non-essential economy (Germany, France, Italy?);
    (c) Quarantine until we crack (Australia); and,
    (d) Maintain discipline until the bitter or better end (China?).

    Which socioeconomy or political economy approach will be most successful? It probably depends on evolutionary and emergent phenomena which we cannot predict yet. I can imagine scenarios where the USA or China could come out best (to pick the extremes).

    Will allowing a lot of old and infirm folk to die (remember this is a post with the sulfurous devil’s advocate stench to it) actually prove to be a way to revive a capitalist economy? I can imagine ways in which it could prove so. Or will suppression mean less damage overall?

    Just to be clear, I have advocated the full lock-down path from the start and would have much preferred to see Australia maintain discipline until eradication despite the crucial importance of BLM. It seems clear now we are simply not socially or politically capable of lock-down to eradication and/or that BLM is a higher priority than VLM (vulnerable lives matter). If, as seems likely now, a second wave hits what will we do then? Let it rip like American, lock-down hard and long or “yo-yo suppress” being unable to stick to any decisive course of action for very long?

  27. Ikon,
    I think the answer at this point for America is to LOCK THE POLICE DOWN. I can not say for Australia because I have not seen any videos of the Police of Austraila in action.
    I have reached the point that if I was still living in the USA I would not call the police if I needed help under ANY circumstances. I would rather deal with any dangeerous situation, that might require the use of violence to solve, alone rather than call the police department. Of course if my house were on fire I would call the Fire Department, even though firemen are often arsonists. And if I were bleeding to death I would call for paramedics.
    In March of 2003 the US reached a point in which the entire military should have been fired and replaced by perhaps 10,000 retired members of the Irish and Finnish Armies to rebuild an actual professional military in the USA.
    I think that we can now say that the same is true in the USA for the Police. The every member of every police force in the entire country should fired and retired poiice officers from Germany and the Netherlands and Norway should be airlifted in to rebuild the miitary. Some of those who are currently police officers can certainly get their jobs back. But only after they have been properly vetted by people who have served a life time with a proffesional police force.
    I have learned more about the George Floyd case that has highlighted the bad training the police officers recieve in the USA. It is now reported that 2 of the officers on the scene of that tradgedy had only been on the force for 4 days. It is reported that one of those two told the higher ranking officer tha he should get off Mr. Floyd’s neck. But when that higher ranking officer did not respond the lower ranking officer deffered to his decision which is the way that people are trained in a system that is designed to maintain an empire. You are trained that you can resist authority that is not behaving as you think that it should but only up to point. Verbal resistance is allowed but nothing more.
    If I would have been there, and understood what was happening, I would have used force to prevent it from happening. But I am a white guy. I can not fault the African Americans who were on hand for not useing force. They would not have been able to approach the officers close enough to make a difference.
    Now lets say that this officer who had been on the force for only 4 days and had verbally resisted his supirior had been killed or paralyzed due to my actions.
    I would not have felt a shred of remorse. Because any injuries that he would have suffered would have been entirely the responsiblity of the man that needlessly created the dangerous situation in the first place.
    The airline industry has already learned that training people to be deferential to authority can lead to the loss of many innocent lives. (Does that require a footnote?)

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