Thoughts on politics



What is it that always makes left tending people rave about fairness? I mean, that it just isn’t fair is one of the primary pinkish motives to go about changing things, and forcing people to go against their own will. If something truly isn’t fair, and it’s somebody’s intentional doing, that is certainly something to be worried about. But to take at face value someone’s word that an injustice has been perpetrated, and to go on passing laws based on that? A bad idea.

The funniest thing is that most of the time, what is not fair is perfectly Fair in actuality. Think about the case for redistribution of wealth. Those in favor of it usually make their case by pleading to fairness: it just isn’t right that some people have so much and others so little. But never once do they think about why some people really are wealthy: it’s usually because they’ve made well in the market. Doesn’t seem nice if you don’t actually know how the market operates. But it is painfully clear that the market amply rewards people who are of use to the society as a whole—it’s an indisputable fact that nobody can legally be forced to participate in a commercial transaction, and so people only participate in them if they perceive an imminent benefit. Sure, there can be lots of Really Good Reasons to, like avoiding starvation. But the fact remains, one always has the choice of going back to hunter‐gatherer ways of life, and participation in an economy only happens when the deals are perceived as benefiting all participants. When this is the case, the only way to get rich is to do good, and lots of it too. As for inherited wealth, it is the choice of the original wealthy person to provide for her progeny, in essence doing a lot more than many people ever do. Looking at wealth this way leaves little doubt about it: it is not only fair and just that some people get rich, it is honourable as well.

Of course, similar arguments can be constructed against most leftist justifications for governmental/societal involvement in people’s affairs. It is the nature of free markets to stabilize and optimize themselves unlike any. This means providing the largest total amount of good, as judged by the populus, to the largest total amount of people, thus promoting the common good far more effectively than letting Big Brother bureaucracy intervene.

Finally, if getting rich is a commendable feat, using the wealth for good is even more so. No sane liberal would say that a stingy, unsociable, armed‐to‐the‐teeth anarcho‐capitalist is the model for an ideal existence. While one has the choice of such a way of life by right, few would argue that there aren’t better ones. Most of those involve a lavish charitable component if fortune is to come one’s way. But whatever a person’s choice, there must be a certain minimum respect for his rights and views. Going to his wallet to ease some abstract feelgood notion of injustice is simply beneath that minimum level of respect, disposing of the person’s inviolable right to private property. That’s what is truly unfair.

Current politics

The WTC tragedy

After the tragedy of the WTC, the Americans are now supposedly at war with terrorism. Fine, that is a worthy cause, and has the sympathy of any decent person. However, I’m terribly frightened of what the result of such a war will be.

Somehow I think many of the actions called for in the aftermath of the WTC deal are excessive, and at worst rash and ill‐advised. We’re hearing how the US government rallies for an international expedition against terrorism, and classifies non‐cooperating nations as the enemy. Surveillance capabilities are being heightened and anti‐cryptography policy is being seriously considered for the first time since the export battles of early nineties. Massive investigations are under way in the US, with FBI, CIA, NSA, FAA, ATF, and whathaveyou, all participating. Safety measures are being upped, and ridiculous sums of money are consumed to prepare the American nation for a long‐term military involvement in the Middle‐East. Similar, if not quite as widescale, preparations are being made all around the world.

It seems likely to me that this terrorism ordeal will eventually seriously affect people’s freedom. In fact, it’s probable that more damage will be done by the reaction than the terrorist acts themselves. I sure hope we do not wake up ten years from now and view the events of this week as the beginning of a new era of terror, only this time in the original sense of the word of government scare tactics.

Cultural imperialism

Osama what?

Among other things, I hang around Unicode consortium’s primary mailing list which deals with issues in multilingual text. A couple of days ago, an interesting issue was raised: with all this terrorism scare going on, how does one spell the name of the probable culprit right? That is, how do you write Osama bin Laden or al‐Qaida, in Arabic?

Now, it came to me that not one of the major news outlets seems to have taken the time to acquaint itself with the fact that neither America’s most wanted man nor his organization really have names which can be transliterated in the Latin alphabet. Sure, you can sort of write the name and even pronounce it more or less correctly, but that there is an original Arabic form behind all this has been completely forgotten. So has the fact that there are standard transliteration rules for Arabic text.

So, am I saying that incorrect spelling could offend Osama? Am I calling for political correctness? Absolutely not. That would be totally ridiculous under the current circumstances, especially as I’m not a big fan of PC anyhow. However, I am questioning the way this incident is being reported. From what I see, many of the most crucial facts about bin Laden, like who he is, where he comes from and what prompted his anger against the United States, are being silenced to death. There is a whole pile of crucial omissions in bin Laden’s media image, and the consistent negligence shown for his totally un‐American roots is a big part of it.

What I see here is the very essence of cultural imperialism.

Even when it is becoming evident that bin Laden is responsible for the death of an awesome number of innocent Americans, and with most likelihood deserves the harshest of legal punishments there are, the fact remains that his viewpoint is not irrelevant. Even after a crime has been perpetrated, the criminal still does retain his rights, and mostly does have something to say. This should first and foremost affect the reporters, who, I was taught, carry a journalistic responsibility to the truth. To get to that, you definitely need to consider cultural issues. You need to look at the bigger picture. This is not being done now.

So I think أُسامة بِن لادِنUsama bin‐Ladin, and his اَلْقَاعِدَةal‐Qaida network should be treated with more accuracy and insight. Spelling in itself is of course pretty much insignificant in all this. But if you get even that wrong, what does that tell about the rest of your work?