If one is going to go after sacred cows, one should really go after sacred cows. Most of the people in our society who get credit for "going after sacred cows" are just going after unfashionable ones. At least ones that are unfashionable in the circles they want to appeal to. We live in a world of iconodules posing as iconoclasts.

Monday, October 19, 2009

High Society

ESR has some good thoughts on the subject of "Society":

no matter how hard you hunt for “society”, all you’ll ever find is individuals practicing ventriloquism – invoking the spook to justify what they want to do or think they have to do.

This is why there are no ethical claims in which the term “society” appears as a meaningful referent. You’ll find, if you try inventing some, that they fall into two categories: (a) disguised claims about the rights and duties of each and every individual in the society, or (b) vague and ominous nonsense.

This notion, that “society” actually exists as a sort of huge fictive person with rights, needs, and wants that are separate from and supersede those of individuals, is — and I’m choosing my words carefully here — evil and dangerous. It’s a way for power-seekers and parasites to cow others into submission, arrogating for themselves privileges nobody would grant them if they admitted wanting to meddle in order to gratify merely their own desires.

We’ve learned, painfully, over the last 400 years, that raisons d’etat is too dangerous and sweeping a pretext to let stand — that whenever you treat the authority of “government” as a solvent that trumps individual rights and claims, you are no more than a breath away from odious and grinding tyranny. The fictive personhood of “society” needs to be shot through the head for precisely the same reason.
Whenever a Progressive talks about "society" as in "shouldn't our society do X" or "don't you want to live in a society where Y is done?" it is always clarifying to replace "Society" with "State" or "the State".

This is not done because then Progressives end up sounding like what they are, something out of the 1930s. But they invariably mean "the State should do X" when they speak of Society in such a way.



Blogger Susan's Husband said...

What about reproduction? Clearly it is not the duty of every member of society to reproduce, but if no one does, the society collapses, well before everyone dies (who takes care of a population where everyone is over age X for X > 50 or so)?

Do individuals have any obligation to act in a way that supports the continued existence of their society past their own death?

I agree that ultimately, the powers of a society (or the State that governs it) must be judged by how this supports the individuals it comprises (i.e., the "good" of a society is a sum over the "good" of the members) but -- how does one count future members? Are we obligated to them in anyway? Is there a future discount?

October 19, 2009 at 1:31 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home