What Could Be Bad?

Chris Matthews opines: “I think we’re always right to back nationalism.”

He’s talking about the ongoing Middle Eastern revolts, but the claim as it stands is perfectly general – and seems open to the occasional counterexample.

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6 Responses to What Could Be Bad?

  1. Bob February 22, 2011 at 10:28 pm #

    This seems insane, even coming from him. In the two-dimensional world of popular left/right politics, lefties are supposed to be *opposed* to nationalism. I guess I’m inclined to say that he must not have been thinking when he said that, but then again, with Chris Matthews, that judgment generally has a more than 50% chance of being true.

  2. Sheldon Richman February 23, 2011 at 6:43 am #

    Murray Rothbard used to distinguish “revolutionary nationalism” from counterrevolutionary nationalism.” So if a national group seeks to throw off a foreign ruler, great! But if a national group (typically in control of a State) moves to suppress secession or otherwise strengthen the State in the name of national sovereignty, not so great. American nationalism seems counterrevolutionary by that standard.

  3. Neil February 23, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/jan-june11/govcuts_02-21.html

    Let’s keep the dream alive!

  4. Jeff G. February 23, 2011 at 11:32 pm #

    Hey Roderick,

    Any chance you would weigh in on this issue? It seems to be screaming for an actual moral philosopher. I’m curious if you would view saving the world from an asteroid to be a sufficient rights-weakening emergency situation. Would “emergency” taxation be morally permissible to any extent in this case? Or is this one of those instances where technically an individual has the right to not contribute to a world-saving laser, but this inaction would be broadly immoral from a ‘unity of virtue’ perspective?

    • Jeff G. February 24, 2011 at 9:34 am #

      In your piece “On Making Small Contributions to Evil,” you mention that “[I]f legal restrictions on greenhouse emissions are not permissible, then c) no one has a right to prevent people from taking actions that might wipe out the human race, which seems surprising.”

      You ultimately conclude that the imperfect moral duty “to refrain from making small contributions to public bads…becomes perfect as soon as it becomes subject to legitimate legal constraint. However, this qualification applies only to that subset of public bads that would constitute rights-violations.”

      It seems not contributing to a world-saving laser could be seen as contributing to a public bad, but not necessarily by way of rights-violations.

      So, now I’m even more curious to know you’re view of this hypothetical.

  5. Bob February 23, 2011 at 11:54 pm #

    I’m not sure whether Prof. Long will weigh in on this issue, and though I’d be thrilled to read his thoughts on it, to my mind it’s a nice way to show why the quasi-voluntarist deification of consent is absurd. Sometimes, lack of consent is sufficiently unreasonable that justice doesn’t preclude coercion. In a case like this one, to refuse to contribute to the only reasonable way of preventing the eradication of human life on earth would be unjust by virtue of its outstandingly negligent disregard for the good of others and as imprudent an act as one could conceivably imagine. When no good reason can be given for an act or omission which would kill loads of people, why should any theory that leaves the permissibility of coercion an open question be given serious consideration?

    Of course, this doesn’t really pose a great problem for anarchists, since it seems unlikely that the technological means necessary to detect and blow up an asteroid could only be supported by the state. People already privately donate incredible amounts of money to research that has no such practical applications; why expect that they wouldn’t give more?

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