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C20710

Ew, pragmatism

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I think I speak for all Objectivist hardliners here when I denounce pragmatism as described by Rand, for the purposes that pragmatists generally try to action (everything belonging to the "distribution of..." category).

Right now I'm in a rather large debate in another community. I created a thread that got over 900 replies two weeks ago, and ever since then the whole board has been buzzing with libertarian subjects. Most of them are very cut and dry, as Objectivism has clear and consistent answers to fundamental problems. However, lately some part of the debate has moved in a better direction. While many remain hostile to the idea of free markets, some have made tentative steps to come on board.

Recently, the question was raised about access to information. Someone mentioned the UN's move to declare broadband internet access a basic right, and as a related subject - access to books and newspapers. My response was what you'd expect. I said that these things have to be produced by somebody's time and effort and that nobody has a basic "right" to what is produced by others.

However, the way the question was framed is what made the next part interesting. In despotic, backwards nations, the only hope of improvement comes from the development of the right kinds of ideas - philosophy and economics amiable to the development of good government and the production of wealth. I was asked if it was right for the UN to put pressure on these nations to have broadband internet access made available at places like public libraries.

I started running the context through my head immediately. For starters, the kinds of nations that need the most work typically have governments that would be resistant to any ideas inimical to their regime. Because of that, even if the internet was made available, I would anticipate so many content restrictions as to severely limit what good it might do anyways. Quite likely, at best, all that would be managed is that some company (probably even a public one) would be legally obliged to install the lines (or print and distribute the books/newspapers), wasting money on goods that would be heavily censored. So, probably case closed right there?

But he was angling at something else that IS interesting. Unlike the usual sort of hypotheticals thrown at Objectivists (like those in "The Ethics of Emergencies"), this one is more realistic. It's the style of problem that DOES exist in the general challenge of transitioning from what is, to what should be. That is to say, on the trip from "X" (where "X" is any existing society today) to an Objectivist paradise, there are real transitional problems inherited from past injustices.

So, let's assume then, hypothetically, that you could bring the right ideas into a part of the world that sorely needs it by successfully pressuring those governments to spend public funds making those ideas freely available. The hope is that this would speed the removal of bad government, and develop the protection of genuine liberty rights years in advance of what otherwise would have transpired, ultimately culminating in the removal of something as silly as "a right to internet", along with a whole host of bad statist effects.

This would be a sort of pragmatism though; but of the type employed for genuinely good purposes. Personally I think the answer is clear: it should be done, given those assumptions. Anybody disagree?

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So, let's assume then, hypothetically, that you could bring the right ideas into a part of the world that sorely needs it by successfully pressuring those governments to spend public funds making those ideas freely available. The hope is that this would speed the removal of bad government, and develop the protection of genuine liberty rights years in advance of what otherwise would have transpired, ultimately culminating in the removal of something as silly as "a right to internet", along with a whole host of bad statist effects.

This would be a sort of pragmatism though; but of the type employed for genuinely good purposes. Personally I think the answer is clear: it should be done, given those assumptions. Anybody disagree?

Yes, I disagree. This is the same line of thinking that all pragmatists use: "MY laws will be employed for genuinely good purposes."

This post demonstrates why it's useful to act on principle when you're unsure; it's exactly WHY we have principles. The ends don't justify the means. The solution to an invasive government is not to "temporarily" make the government more invasive. In this particular case, if the government forcibly diverts taxpayer funds into providing Internet access, that money has to come from somewhere. Someone who is providing a product or service that's actually wanted will lose a job, in order for someone else to provide a service that the market doesn't want at it's true price.

If you had the power to pressure a government into making changes, the right kinds of changes are the ones that get the government out of people's lives; that protect individual rights and promote laissez-faire Capitalism. Repeal cronyist regulation; open previously closed markets; lower taxes. Make choices that support and increase freedom, not that limit it.

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The dictatorships that don’t already provide controlled access to the internet are a particular type of country in the first place – A poor dictatorship that likely doesn’t have the resources to begin with. To advocate that these countries take what limited wealth they have and install an internet infrastructure would be immoral and cruel to its citizens. It’s not like Nicaragua or Iran is going to cut their military budgets to do something like this – It will come out of some domestic program that it’s helpless citizens are likely forced to use for basic necessities.

The idea that internet access should be provided for free, even as a hypothetical short term benefit to gain freedom, is a convenience of those of us living in comfort in first world countries. Day to day necessities isn’t an issue for us so it is easy to take such lofty goals as possibly good. But the truth is those citizens don’t need internet access – They need freedom wholesale right now so they can actually live. Third generation garbage pickers in Nicaragua don’t need the internet and if you installed it locally they would not leave their piles of city refuse to go use it. If the poster that proposed the question really wants the government to spend money while ignoring the elephant in the room, then he should at least advocate medicine and food.

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I look at it at as a form of warfare. The kinds of nations we are talking about should not be our friends, and forcing them to educate their slaves into revolting is just a strategy in defeating these kinds of nations without having to commit to actual combat.

I just think the UN would screw this up and start making demands of civilized nations while backwards ones refuse to meet the standards. Like usual

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