vrijdag 31 augustus 2018

On the duty to mind one's own business

There is a distinct tendency among ethicists in the West to stress a perceived duty to always help other human beings in distress. In many Western countries this has become—not co-incidentally—enshrined within the frame-work of legal dictates imposed by the government upon all persons. The very idea of the "obligation to help" is the fundamental ethical legitimation of socialist ambitions and in fact of all redistributative schemes. Some have even argued that it is a fundamentally Christian principle.

At most, it is a principle deriving from a deliberate misreading of Christian ethical traditions. There is, you see, a very powerful counter-argument to be made. The refusal to help does not stem (as the socialists like to claim) from an inherent lack of empathy, but from an opposite and more fundamental ethical obligation: the duty to mind one's own business. Why? Because we ought to treat other human beings as possessing moral agency (a notion which really is Christian). This implies that we must respect their choices, insofar as they render no harm upon the innocent, even when we believe those choices to be very poor indeed.

This is doubly important because in many cases, we lack sufficient knowledge to interfere in others' lives in ways that are actually helpful. Our (presumably well-meaning) tendency to coddle may very well do more harm than good.

A truly "Western" and also truly Christian ethical stance would be to leave people be, so long as they cause no harm to you or to any third party, and to only help them when they ask for it. And even then, you should provide aid on an individual basis, because you choose to. The moment you are forced into it (by, say, the government) your actions by definition cease being ethical— because at that point, moral considerations are taken out of the hands of the relevant party. We call that tyranny.

woensdag 29 augustus 2018

De misplaatste lof voor John McCain

Na het recente overlijden van de Amerikaanse politicus John McCain valt het op dat er uit allerlei quartieren plotseling lof voor hem is. Met overdreven geslijm wordt opeens gedaan alsof er enkel bewondering kon bestaan voor deze man. Zelfs de mensen die onder zijn dikwijls best lompe en achterbakse aanvallen hebben moeten lijden, worden meegezogen in deze opwelling van typisch Amerikaanse heldenverering. “Over de doden niets dan goeds,” heet het dan. Maar als de doden eigenlijk schoften waren, is het dan niet gepaster om dat eerlijk te zeggen?