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Is "The State" Immoral?

Morality Free Will

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6 replies to this topic

#1
ThomasDoubts

ThomasDoubts
  • 178 posts

     A few thoughts occured to me this evening which have rendered me incapable of sleeping until I put my them on paper, so to speak.  I fear my questions and ideas are entirely unoriginal, but I did a bit of due diligence, so please forgive me if I missed some of these questions raised elsewhere.  Free Will is an exhausted topic, so much so that I didn't want to spend the next week reviewing it all, particularly since I'm not interested in the free will/determinism dichotomy (preferring my free will).  I'm hoping someone can enlighten me, so here goes.

 

     I own my body, and endowed with free will, I am thusly the owner of the effects of my actions.  This seems entirely reasonable to me.  The implication being, that I would obviously not be morally responsible for the effects of my actions if I didn't possess the free will to choose.  Stefan makes it a point to hammer on this; that we should refuse to strip people of moral responsibility, and I agree. 

 

     My confusion arises when we start talking about the morality of abstractions made up of groups of individuals.  Can a moral judgement be made of Governments, of Armies, of Societies, of Corporations?  It seems clear to me that we can make judgements on actions and their effects, but this is where my certainty ends.  Consider the following scenarios:

 

>The State owns itself, and endowed with free will, owns the effects of its actions

>The State owns itself, but deviod of free will, does not own the effects of its actions

>The State does not own itself, and thus cannot exersize free will, nor own the effects of it's actions

>The State is unownable, simply an abstract entity made up of it's individual agents, exersizing the agents' free will in proportion, relieving the abstract entity of ownership over the effects of it's actions.

>The State is unownable, simply an abstract entity made up of it's individual agents, exersizing the free will of it's citizens, relieving the abstract entity of ownership over the effects of it's actions.

>The State is unownable, simply an abstract entity made up of it's individual agents, deviod of free will/choice, and not responsible for the effects of it's actions.

    

     For Corporations:  substitute Corporation->State; employees->agents; customers/shareholders->citizens

     For an Army:          Commander & Chief/General->state; rank & file soldiers->agents; funders/citizens->citizens                   

 

     Which, if any of these, is true?  Is it possible to make a moral judgement against a group, in the same manner that we would treat an individual?  If so, how ought the responsibility be aportioned?  If not, must we be contented with The State as an amoral entity?  It would seem so, as a moral judgement requires a choice, and choice requires a chooser(s?)  Absent the legal fiction of The Corporation, the owner of a business would be responsible for the effects of the actions of his business, which I believe to be preferable.  I'm reminded of Tolkien's preference for either monarchy or anarchy; at least you can kill the king, and hope the next one acts in his self interest. 

 

     My inclination is to hold all parties accountable, to the extent that they have a choice, and act with complicity.  As a Statist, I was unaware that Anarchism was a legitimate, rational, preferable, moral position.  I'd never heard or read an all encompassing, yet concise, persuasive argument for Anarchism.  One day Youtube presented me with a gem of a "related video", and I became an Anarchist very shortly thereafter.  As they say though, ignorance of the law is no excuse.  I believe we have a responsibility and duty to provide people with the choice, although I feel I've significantly underachieved in that respect so far.  Nonetheless, I suspect making converts out of government employees would be quite the fruitless endeavor, and it seems almost everyone I know personally is either a waiter, a waitress, or a government employee.  But alas, my need and reluctance to upgrade my own personal relationships...

 

     Enough of my rambling though, I'm curious what y'all think?  Am I missing some gaping chasm rendering all my thoughts drivel?  Must I grant an abstraction free will, in order to hold "it" accountable?  If groups of individuals are individually responsible, how can one escape the deterministic effects of the principal that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely?  Surely, that's a pillar in the argument for Anarchism, but it leaves me a bit depressed and pessimistic, if I'm being perfectly honest (could be due to my hunger and tiredness though, I can't say for sure :happy:  I know he was only a fictional hairy-footed child, but noble as he was, Frodo never tossed the ring in the fire.  What do you guys/gals think?


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---You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there.
---If you come to a fork in the road, take it.
---We made too many wrong mistakes.
 

---BTC: 1FaLSExuPM69T4ehGyTEXEMYTDPEfT1cDF    


#2
Emanuel N.

Emanuel N.

  • 79 posts

First of all, thank you for posting this, Rex. The way I approach this topic is: I don't look at the abstract ''group''. I only look for individuals and their individual actions. Then you can determine if they are acting morally. Since the collective is not an entity that really exists, I believe this is the only way to assess morality. 

 

Also, I don't think it's that we have a responsibility to inform others of their immorality, but that out of compassion, we want the world to be a good place. Sorry to hear about your personal relationships. What would you say are wrong with them? Also, I wouldn't say that the motto about power's ability to corrupt is deterministic. It's just that if you act immorally, you will automatically be immoral and either deny or rationalize your immorality.


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#3
Pepin

Pepin

  • 540 posts

The state is a collection of people who initiate force. A woman who hires a hit-man is guilty of murder just as the hit-man is. The idea of the level of accountability to those within is difficult to wrap the head around because of all the functions a monopolistic power has. I'd argue that any department head such as judges, military commanders, and the politicians would be most accountable as they have the most influence. I don't think this is something that can really be answered at the present time, especially in most western powers because the state is so large and has its claws in just about everything. It is as if there is a large grey cloud off in the distance, with black peaked mountains poking out from the top.


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#4
RestoringGuy

RestoringGuy
  • 1043 posts

But hiring the hit-man is just handing over money and speaking words, constructs of language.  These things are cultural precursors, apparently not objective initiation in itself.  It can be cloaked behind symbols, they can say to the hit-man "don't kill" followed by a wink.  The state is big on cloaked directives, saying things like you voted for it.  This is why I get confused by "initiated" because there is frequent flip-flop between initiating a personal act (which is perceived one-on-one as if in isolation) and initiating a social act (as a matter of downrange cultural consequence).   If downrange influence counts, then we must also hold everyone responsible: those who cook their meals, sell them a car, taught them how to speak.  Without these things they would not be healthy and mobile enough to do evil.


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#5
Mike Fleming

Mike Fleming

    Atheist Anarchist Determinist


  • 377 posts

As for the military commanders and other leaders etc, haven't we determined that following orders is not an excuse?  When I was young and at the bottom rung of the ladder at an IT company I remember very specifically a day I was told to do something immoral and probably illegal by both a manager and a director and I said no to both.   Everybody owns their own actions.  If a leader says to do something that is wrong and the follower does it, then both are culpable.  

 

As Stef likes to say we are all told as children what is moral.   We all know it.  Then we grow up and find out that the adults who told us these things are usually immoral.


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#6
ThomasDoubts

ThomasDoubts
  • 178 posts

Also, I don't think it's that we have a responsibility to inform others of their immorality, but that out of compassion, we want the world to be a good place. Sorry to hear about your personal relationships. What would you say are wrong with them? Also, I wouldn't say that the motto about power's ability to corrupt is deterministic. It's just that if you act immorally, you will automatically be immoral and either deny or rationalize your immorality.

 

 

     Thanks for the reply.  I want the world to be a good place.  If I don't spread the information, I don't feel like I can justify the frustration I feel towards people content with the status quo.  If I do justice to the arguments, and they are still rejected, my frustration may be justified; if they're accepted, then I've made the world a better place.  What seems irreconcilable to me is being angry or discontented with the status quo, and not engaging in the action required to alter it.  Perhaps responsibility is an improper term, but I feel impelled nonetheless, and probably more so than I would if I were surrounded by likeminded individuals.

 

     As for my personal relationships; I am dissatified with them.  I abandoned most of my friendly relations with people who had an unhealthy influence on me, which closely examined, turned out to be the vast majority of my friendships.  I feel a bit like I'm stuck in limbo at the moment; I've removed the bad things, but not yet replaced them with much. 

 

     Deterministic is probably too strong a term, but the connotation is closer to what I'm aiming at.  Absent incorruptable people, power attracts those wishing and willing to exersize it.  Having gained power, their integrity doesn't strengthen any over time.  In a given game, players play approximately within the rules, and the rules of government consist of lying, cheating, stealing, and killing.


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---You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there.
---If you come to a fork in the road, take it.
---We made too many wrong mistakes.
 

---BTC: 1FaLSExuPM69T4ehGyTEXEMYTDPEfT1cDF    


#7
ThomasDoubts

ThomasDoubts
  • 178 posts

As for the military commanders and other leaders etc, haven't we determined that following orders is not an excuse?  When I was young and at the bottom rung of the ladder at an IT company I remember very specifically a day I was told to do something immoral and probably illegal by both a manager and a director and I said no to both.   Everybody owns their own actions.  If a leader says to do something that is wrong and the follower does it, then both are culpable.  

 

As Stef likes to say we are all told as children what is moral.   We all know it.  Then we grow up and find out that the adults who told us these things are usually immoral.

 

I think I understand your position.

Would this be a fair implication:

     Every soldier who voluntarily participates in a war of aggression and initiates force by killing another is immoral?  As would be the commander/abstraction who "authorized" or initiated the war.

     This would presumably grant immunity to the cooks, engineers, and such.

 

     Was Hitler's declaration of war THE initiation of force, or AN initiation of force, followed by a gazillion others?  Having always (to my knowledge) delegated murder to others, was Hitler a murderer, or only those who directly commited murder?  Your post indicates you'd hold both responsible but Restoringguy's post demonstrates this conundrum.  If every soldier, when asked to kill, rejected Hitler's request, we'd have been left with an abused lunatic that tried to convince others to murder people.  He'd have never been a murderer, all else equal.  In fact, I'd be Hitler's equal if I simply gave you some propaganda and told you to kill someone, to which you would say "no."

 

    I have far more questions than answers but these are the things that illustrate my confusion when discussing abstractions.  I'm inclined to think that joining an Army, as we traditionally think of them, is thought of as an abdication of responsibility to abstract authority.  This is also demonstrated by the fact that Americans, for example, have shown a preference for less freedom in return for less responsibility.  The individual can be held to account for his actions, but if he gives up his responsibility to an abstraction, "it" cannot be held to account, nor can he (maybe).  I don't believe, however, than an individual can give up his "responsibility" to act with moral integrity, for morality is an abstraction itself.  It doesn't exist in reality, isn't universally binding, and requires a positive commitment.  All we could say is that the moral man who contracts himself out to an abstraction/authority rejects morality if immorality is a condition or forseeable consequence of fulfilling and abiding by the contract.  The immoral man who does the same, simply continues to reject morality.  At your bottom wrung IT position you were asked to do something that conflicted with what you anticipated would be required of you in your commitment to the organization/hierarchy.  Given the choice, you chose to maintain your commitment to morality rather than reject it.  Your leader, at that point, either had to give up, commit the immoral act himself, or find someone else willing to do so, but did the organization didn't commit the act.  This is disheartening to me; I'd prefer to argue that the abstraction is immoral, rather than argue that you (immoral person) are immoral, and should therefore do xyz.  Much more difficult...


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---You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there.
---If you come to a fork in the road, take it.
---We made too many wrong mistakes.
 

---BTC: 1FaLSExuPM69T4ehGyTEXEMYTDPEfT1cDF    





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