Israel’s War on Interracial Marriage

Ugh:

The Israeli government has launched a television and Internet advertising campaign urging Israelis to inform on Jewish friends and relatives abroad who may be in danger of marrying non-Jews.

The advertisements, employing what the Israeli media described as “scare tactics,” are designed to stop assimilation through intermarriage among young Diaspora Jews by encouraging their move to Israel.

The campaign, which cost $800,000, was created in response to reports that half of all Jews outside Israel marry non-Jews. It is just one of several initiatives by the Israeli state and private organizations to try to increase the size of Israel’s Jewish population.

According to one ad, voiced over by one of the country’s leading news anchors, assimilation is “a strategic national threat,” warning: “More than 50 percent of Diaspora youth assimilate and are lost to us.” (…)

According to the campaign’s organizers, more than 200 Israelis rang a hot line to report names of Jews living abroad after the first TV advertisement was run on Wednesday. Callers left details of e-mail addresses and Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The 30-second clip featured a series of missing-persons posters on street corners, in subways and on telephone boxes showing images of Jewish youths above the word “Lost” in different languages. A voiceover asks anyone who “knows a young Jew living abroad” to call the hot line: “Together, we will strengthen their connection to Israel, so that we don’t lose them.”

Here’s the ad (in Hebrew, without subtitles):

If I didn’t already know what the ad was about, I’d assume something pretty nasty was happening to these “missing” young people. Instead, they’re choosing to live their lives as they see fit, unconstrained by stupid and bigoted notions of racial purity and national loyalty.

Sinead’s Hand

Democracy, you’ve got some splaining to do!

Individual Rights: Minority Imposing its Views on Majority

This from Jesse Reynolds at Biopolitical Times (repsonding to this from Ron Bailey) is one of the more stupid democratic totalitarian arguments I’ve heard (and yes, it does mention the Peter “The Root of All Evil” Thiel):

Public opinion surveys show that an overwhelming 85 to 90 percent of Americans are opposed to human reproductive cloning and would like to see it banned, whereas only a tiny percentage would like to engage in the activity. This opposition is certainly not a radical ideology.

Furthermore, the US’s lack of any governance of powerful reproductive and genetic technologies–a remarkable exception among industrialized nations–is praised by Bailey as

a good thing too, since lack of government intrusion allows for the expression of moral pluralism. So far, at least, with regard to many biotechnical advances, the majority in the U.S. doesn’t get to impose its values on the minority, as has happened in many other countries.

In other words: Fortunately, with regard to many biotechnical advances, the minority in the US has so far been able to impose its values on the majority, unlike what has happened in many other countries.

Such opposition to democracy is not surprising, given Bailey’s transhumanist agenda. He knows that his vision is not popular. In order to implement it, experts such as himself and fellow anti-democratic libertarian Peter Thiel must be trusted and given authority, lest the wishes of the unreliable and ideological masses actually be enacted.

If I’m reading this correctly, Reynolds sees the maintenance of a private sphere beyond the reach of majoritarian interference as repression of the majority by the minority. That seems to be a pretty common, and utterly insane, view among democraphiles.

Do these people really not see the difference between denying a person the right to live her own life and denying the majority, acting through the state, the right to control the lives of others? Bailey and Thiel don’t want “authority” over anything except their own lives.

Quote of the Day: Liberal Archipelago Edition

The metaphor offered here to supplant those already described [i.e. the 'body politic' and 'ship of state'] is one which pictures political society as an archipelago: an area of sea containing many small islands. The islands in question, here, are different communities or. better still, jurisdictions, operating in a sea of mutual toleration. Political society — and in particular, the good political society — is best understood not as a single body, or an ideal realm of the just, or a ship piloted by a skilful seaman, or even as a single island rightly ordered. It should be understood, instead, as something altogether less clearly bounded, marked by movement within those bounds, and movement across fuzzy boundaries.

The good society, it is argued in this book, is best understood as an archipelago of societies; and because the principles which best describe such a form of human community are the principles of liberalism, the good society is properly described as a liberal archipelago.

The liberal archipelago is a society of societies which is neither the creation nor the object of control of any single authority. It is a society in which authorities function under laws which are themselves beyond the reach of any singular power.

Chandran Kukathas, The Liberal Archipelago, p. 22. Of course, there are those who see this as more than metaphor.

Quote of the Day: Bigotry and Utilitarianism Edition

There are many who consider as an injury to themselves any conduct which they have a distaste for, and resent it as an outrage to their feelings; as a religious bigot when charged with disregarding the religious feelings of others, has been known to retort that they disregard his feelings, by persisting in their abominable worship or creed. But there is no parity between the feeling of a person for his own opinion, and the feeling of another who is offended at his holding it; no more than between the desire of a thief to take a purse, and the desire of the right owner to keep it. And a person’s taste is as much his own peculiar concern as his opinion or his purse.

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, Ch. 4, paragraph 12.

Liberals and libertarians need to think very carefully about the kinds of preferences/harms should be considered valid policy concerns. The are obvious cases: I wrong you when kick you in the shin, but not when I wear clothes you find distasteful. It seems that this is so even when you have a very high tolerance for shin pain and a low tolerance for fashion crimes, and the harm/disutility is equal in each case. Most people find it reasonable that people have a presumptive right not to be physically attacked, but no such right not to be visually offended by poor taste. There is a large grey area in between these two cases.  Utilitarianism as a moral theory is incapable of considering this question, or even admitting that it is a problem. This, more than anything else, is why I am not a utilitarian. The Mill of On Liberty was not a utilitarian in this respect either. On some readings, not even the Mill of Utilitarianism was really a utilitarian.

Update: Eric disagrees. Update 2: Not really. See the comments on Eric’s post.

Quote of the Day: Liberal Tolerance Edition

This type of tolerance does not mean wishy-washiness or the propensity to doubt one’s own position, the sort of thing Robert Frost had in mind when he defined a liberal as someone who cannot take his own side in an argument. It does not imply, or require, an easy relativism about the human good; indeed, it is compatible with engaged moral criticism of those with whom one differs. Toleration rightly understood means the principled refusal to use coercive state power to impose one’s views on others, and therefore a commitment to moral competition through recruitment and persuasion alone.

William Galston, The Practice of Liberal Pluralism, p. 4.

Mastery and Spontaneous Order

On this week’s Econtalk Russ Roberts talks to Political Scientist/Theorist Alan Wolfe about liberalism (of the modern American variety, including its relationship to libertarianism). The conversation is interesting throughout. Wolfe is very concerned with the individual’s mastery of their own life: the positive liberty to act on the world and to determine their own destiny. I broadly agree that positive freedom is the paramount value liberals should wish to promote (but unlike Wolfe, I think the best way to do so is to expand the scope of negative liberty).

This concern with mastery leads Wolfe to a peculiar reaction to the invisible hand and spontaneous order-type explanations of Hayek, et al. He is worried that because society is the product of human action but not of human design, results are emerging somehow ‘behind our backs’ in a way which gives us no control or mastery over our destiny. Wolfe sees government as capable of stepping in to make the social world more transparent and controllable and thereby enhancing people’s mastery over their own lives.

I’d never heard this argument before, and I think there two major things wrong with it. First, government is itself a spontaneous order. The State is not a unitary actor, but a complex system through which action emerges from the interaction of various agents (politicians, bureaucrats, voters, interest groups, etc). In all but the most tyrannical states, no person has the capacity to determine political outcomes singlehandedly.

Second, and more importantly, while decentralized voluntary action does not give any person or group mastery over the social system as a whole, it does give individuals a high degree of mastery over their immediate surroundings and their own life-course. The market precludes conscious human action at the level of aggregate outcomes, which are determined by the impersonal forces of supply and demand. At an individual level, however, choice and action remain intact. The fact that the aggregate outcome is unplanned does nothing to alter the fact that in our everyday lives we make numerous free and conscious decisions, foreseeing the consequences those decisions will have on our own lives.

Giving all individuals mastery over society-as-a-whole is entirely nonsensical. The environment with which we interact is populated by other humans. Since we each have different goals and preferences, any attempt to control the social world must place others in a position of domination. We all have to share the same aggregate outcomes and there’s simply no way, even in principle, to give more than one person control over the entirety of the social world. Unless you believe in a Rousseauvian collective will, which Wolfe doesn’t, you should prefer macrobehaviour be largely determined by the complex interactions of micromotives. That’s as much mastery as we’re ever going to get.

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