June 2010


Second, it would make the problems regarding international ethics a bit less troublesome. We know that autocratic, mismanaged countries can pose quite a moral dilemma. What obligations do democratic, rich countries have towards the citizens of these countries? Should we leave them to their possibly gruesome fates in the hands of a corrupt and violent government? Or should we violate the sovereignty of the country, possibly against the will of a large part of its population and certainly in a violent manner, Bush-style, hoping to do more good than bad?

I would like to see these problems handled on an individualistic, rather than collectivist basis. That is, from a philosophical point of view that an individual is not legally or morally bound to his or her country, but is free to make his own choices.  And is, of course, free to buy services as he sees fit.

An export-oriented security industry would tackle this problem in an interesting manner, as long as these companies could operate without ties to any one nation. You could contract a defense firm to protect you, possibly against your own government. This way there would be no oppressed or free citizens, only people with high or low defense premiums.

What if we had our defence handled on a for-profit basis? This is an interesting question, since national defence is considered to be one of the most fundamental functions of a state. Any aspiring stateless society needs to think hard about its implications. There are two observations I’d like to make on this subject.

First, this arrangement would certainly mean that military capacity would be in the hands of those capable of paying, rather than in the hands of democratic institutions. I would argue that, since democracies are quite capable of abusing their power, this arrangement could be a viable alternative. Certainly the discussion can be framed solely around the concept of legitimate violence, as if democratic countries’ use of violence were somehow more justified from a moral point of view. But in the end democracy is just a group of people imposing their will on a smaller group, no matter what you want to call it.

So, wouldn’t privatized defence lead to rich  people being free to wage war against the poor? This would be unlikely, since unlike, say, Hitler, these people whould pay for the whole war effort from their own pockets. And they would have very little to gain. As the saying goes: “Rich men shouldn’t pick quarrels.” On the contrary, by taking defence from the hands of the government, this arrangement would serve to decrease opportunistic warfare. Think weapon manufacturer lobby!

But let’s suppose a crazy billionaire would do it anyway. A hawkish Richard Branson going on a genocidal rampage, perhaps. Then the little-less rich would just have to pool their resources to organize a defence. At least they could, unlike the subjects of a rogue state, which could just make its subjects do just about anything. You might say it would achieve the republican maxim: “A well-armed populace is the best guard against tyranny.” And this without the implicit arms-race between the private citizens and the police.

Reading about Finnish nuclear power discussion causes me elevated blood pressure time after time. Like anti-capitalism, anti-nuclear attitude is just one of those persistent fallacies that refuse to die no matter how much evidence you throw at them. Indeed the issue is not about evidence at all. In order to understand the facts involved not only would people have to understand rudimentary nuclear engineering, but also economic basics. As in, if you build a nuclear power plant as a private venture, its cost overruns will not be paid by the taxpayers. Lacking that, people instead opt for misguided value judgements.

I could list all the (very compelling) arguments for nuclear power, but why bother? As far as I’m concerned , this is just one of those areas where democracy fails spectacularly. Who has the time to refute all the misinformed opinions these idiots hold? They’re like mosquitoes, you kill one and two come to take its place (the opinions, not the people). And they’re always the same ones

Do these people even deserve the benefits of affordable energy? I for one would be happy to see them building wind power, and paying for it in their energy bill. Same goes for socialism. Let them do things their way, and let them fail. We don’t need to subsidise them. And they don’t need to drag us down with them. Hence the concept of competitive governance.

An ironic result of decades of anti-nuclear regulation and hysteria in the western world is the present energy crisis. I’m quite convinced we would have no problems phasing out fossil fuels (an effort we are willing to spend billions on) if we would have allowed a competitive nuclear industry to develop since the 80’s. Not only would we have less coal-based power production to begin with, but also more advanced nuclear technology, as it would have been developed for-profit over 30 years, and also less CO2 in the atmosphere, making the transition less urgent. But at least this way we have something to protest against, something certain people seem to hold as a value in itself.

Van Rompuy criticized the markets for overreacting to rumors and thus, apparently, facilitating the financial crisis. When someone accuses the markets of acting in an immoral fashion, I’m reminded of the story of king Xerxes, who after having his fleet destroyed by a storm,  orders his servants to lash the sea for defying him.

Let’s consider further the probabilities involved by considering the case for the existence of unicorns. We would assume that unicorns are physical creatures, composed of atoms. There is a no doubt large number of atom configurations that would produce a creature we would recognize as a unicorn (we must think like statistical physicists here). It’s completely plausible that, possibly through convergent evolution, a unicorn might exist somewhere in the universe, no matter how exactly we define a unicorn. A universe where a unicorn exists is a finite subset of all the possible states a universe might be in, also a finite group. Ergo, the probability of a unicorn existing is at least finite as far as we know.
If, on the other hand, we accept the existence of supernatural creatures, universe is no longer composed of a finite number of possible states. Basically it means that we accept everything is possible. But since there is still a finite number of states a universe must be in for it to have a creature we would even remotely recognize as the God, the a priori probability of God’s existence is 0.
This means that God, gods, or any other supernatural phenomena for which we have no evidence for, almost certainly does not exist. I for one am not impressed with the evidence presented, therefore I say God almost certainly does not exist.

Take almost any debate about God’s existence between an atheist and a theist and you can pretty much summarize it in a simple exchange: “Can you prove that God exists?” “No, but can you prove that he doesn’t?” And of course the atheist cannot. Unless she’s Ayn Rand in which case she’ll just state that “you are never called upon to prove a negative.” But that’s cheating. Clearly we are in this case, you can’t just define the problem away with your own axioms. And in a strict sense there’s no way to disprove the existence of God scientifically, since scientific methods cannot disprove (or even prove) anything with a 100% certainty.
But that’s not the whole truth. We can, in fact, start by examining any evidence that does support the existence of God. This is all well within the domain of applicability of science. Visions of afterlife? Nah, your brain is probably just lacking oxygen. A burning bush? Well, there’s this plant in the Levant region that emits these flammable oils. And so on. And if by some miraculous feat we could disprove all the possible scientific evidence for the existence of God, we could say: “Sure, God might exist, but since he has never interacted with the physical world (mind you that the existence of even supernatural events could be established scientifically), your concept of him is based purely on guesswork and thus, even if he does exist, statistically speaking, he’s almost surely not like you imagine him to be.” So in the end it comes down to scientifically examining the evidence available, for and against.